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UC Merced Graduate Diversity News

Graduate Student Wins Award At 2015 SACNAS National Conference

November 12, 2015 

The UC Merced Graduate Division is pleased to congratulate Applied Mathematics graduate student Mario Banuelos, who won the certificate for Best Graduate Oral Presentation in Applied Mathematics at the 2015 Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Conference in Washington, DC late last month.

“I was thrilled to see UC Merced make such a strong showing at SACNAS this year, and proud to have one of our graduate students recognized in this way,” Vice Provost and Graduate Dean Marjorie Zatz said.

Banuelos is a second year student who works with Professor Suzanne Sindi. His presentation was titled “Modeling Size Distribution of Transposable Elements with Fragmentation Equations.” Both Banuelos and Sindi joined the UC Merced delegation of SACNAS 2015 attendees that included Zatz and School of Natural Sciences Dean Juan Meza.

“Our student’s successes this year at SACNAS reflect UC Merced’s commitment to research excellence through diversity,” said Meza. “In addition to Mario’s award, two of our undergraduate researchers won awards, and our student chapter was recognized for mentorship.”

Banuelos also joined Graduate Recruitment, Retention and Outreach Manager Iqbal Atwal at the UC Merced recruitment table during the conference to act as a graduate student ambassador to undergraduates who were interested in pursuing advanced degrees.

National Rankings Point to Growing Recognition for UC Merced

October 30, 2015

UC Merced is rapidly rising among the nation’s top universities, as evidenced by the campus’s growing number of appearances on national and statewide “best schools” lists. As the campus celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and looks toward its next phase of growth, at least four revealing references have been noted from various sources.

Two recent accolades pertain to the practical value of a UC Merced education.

The nonprofit Educate to Career, which studies the correlation between educational attainment and career outcomes at more than 1,100 four-year institutions, ranked UC Merced 16th among all schools nationally. UC Merced trailed only UCLA and UC Irvine among UC campuses in the rankings, which, use a methodology that focuses on workforce preparedness, employability and income.

In a similar vein, UC Merced was named the 38th “best value” among California colleges and universities by The ranking is based on such factors as acceptance rates, graduation rates, net price of a degree and earning potential after graduation. Eight other UC campuses also made the Top 50 list.

Earlier this year, UC Merced was cited as the nation’s 12th-most diverse university by, and its graduate programs in engineering and psychological sciences were ranked among the top 160 by U.S. News and World Report — the first appearance for UC Merced in the magazine’s closely watched and frequently referenced college rankings.

The campus has also appeared in numerous rankings of the “greenest” or most sustainable schools in the country.

As access to and the value of a college education continue to make headlines, it’s gratifying to be recognized in these newest rankings for the excellent value we’re providing to our students,” said Charles Nies, interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “Coupled with other recent citations for academic excellence, diversity and sustainability, these honors begin to paint a compelling picture of what it means to get a UC Merced education.”

Nies noted that survey organizations typically don’t reveal exactly how their rankings are developed, which makes it difficult to judge how meaningful any one ranking truly is. Taken together, however, the rankings are a clear indication of UC Merced’s growing reputation.

Just 10 years in, we’re already standing toe-to-toe with some of the nation’s leading institutions in certain key areas, and in some cases, we’re clearly among the leaders,” Nies said. “The recognition of our accomplishments is very encouraging.” 

UC Merced Recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

October 15, 2015

UC Merced is one of nearly 150 public and private sector organizations who answered the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ 25th anniversary call to action.

The campus has committed more than $750,000 through foundation support to the Gateway Scholars Program, which aims to significantly increase the number of first-generation, low-income and under-represented students. The program focuses on college readiness, matriculation, persistence and timely degree completion and has a special focus on early intervention strategies, scholarship support and retention efforts.

UC Merced, which has more than 40 percent of its undergraduate students identifying as Hispanic, is partnering with Merced High School, which serves 55 percent Hispanic students. “We are thrilled to receive recognition from the White House for this partnership with Merced High School that highlights our commitment to action around Hispanic education,” said interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies.

See even more here.

GEM Consortium Brings New Fellowship Opportunities

September 28, 2015

New fellowship opportunities are available to undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields at UC Merced, thanks to the university’s recent acceptance as a member in the National GEM Consortium.

GEM is a partnership between universities and industry with the common goal of increasing diversity in the STEM workforce, particularly in the areas of engineering and applied science. Industry and universities jointly recruit high-quality, underrepresented students for graduate studies in STEM.

Based on student qualifications and career goals, GEM awards fellowships to support students throughout their graduate studies. In addition, industry partners guarantee the students a paid summer internship during their graduate studies.

“GEM is a highly prestigious consortium of universities and industries,” Vice Provost and Graduate Dean Marjorie Zatz said. “It seeks to address the shortage of highly qualified students in STEM fields entering graduate school, and especially top students from underrepresented backgrounds."

Financial support can often be the deciding factor for such students when considering graduate school, so GEM aims to remove that from the equation while also helping students connect with major employers. There’s also a benefit for the university, which gains access to GEM’s database of high-achieving students and the potential to partner with industry leaders.

Mark Matsumoto, who recently became dean of UC Merced’s School of Engineering, was involved with GEM in his previous position at UC Riverside and has seen the benefits the consortium can provide to students and universities alike.

GEM helps students not only financially, but perhaps more importantly, helps them pursue advanced degrees at outstanding research universities and then connects them to future career opportunities in industry,” Matsumoto said. “We are very honored to be the newest member of the GEM Consortium, and this will help us to attract the very best engineering and applied science graduate students to UC Merced.”

Explore GEM Fellowship opportunities in STEM

UC Merced Hosts Third Annual UndocuGrads Conference

August 5, 2015

More than 340 students, advocates, school representatives, and administrators were at UC Merced on Saturday, August 1, 2015 for the third annual UndocuGrads Conference.

The one-day event was designed to address the unique challenges faced by undocumented students — some of whom are covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — as they pursue graduate studies.

The conference was organized by Graduates Reaching a Dream Deferred (GRADD) and Services for Undocumented Students at UC Merced, and co-hosted by the UC Merced Graduate Division.

“UC Merced’s central location and the continuous support that we receive from the UC Merced Graduate Division made it the perfect location for the conference,” said organizer Diana Valdivia Ordorica, the UC Merced Undocumented Student Advisor. Valdivia noted that large groups of students were bussed in from as far south as Irvine and as far north as Santa Rosa to attend the event.

Keynote speaker Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn was UCSF’s first undocumented medical student when he began his studies there in 2014. He told his personal story to a packed room of conference attendees ­— a story that included college scholarships and medical school acceptances that were later rescinded because of his undocumented status.

Rather than be discouraged by these rejections, he refused to give up his goal of earning a medical degree. By the time he applied and was accepted to UCSF, Latthivongskorn said, “I was no longer afraid to own my undocumented status. It was because I trusted in my own experience that I was able to be successful. I was able to say, ‘My undocumented status adds value. It is a way that I can bring new perspective to your program, not something that should be overlooked.’”

During the conference, attendees were able to choose from a variety of panels on topics including how to be a competitive applicant, how to best prepare for graduate school, and the types of financial support that are available for undocumented students. Recruitment officers from law, medical and research-focused institutions were on hand to talk to interested students, who were also able to network with other students and advocates from around the state.

See more about the event here.


NIH Grant Charts Path to UC Merced Ph.D. for Fresno State Students

July 16, 2015

A new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will create a pipeline to UC Merced doctoral degrees in biomedical and behavioral sciences for underrepresented minority students from California State University, Fresno. 

UC Merced Professor Andy LiWang and Fresno State Professor Krish Krishnan were recently awarded a nearly $1.4 million Bridges to the Doctorate grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The program will recruit four to eight Fresno State students each year who demonstrate the commitment and potential to complete a Ph.D. program at UC Merced. The grant, which is the first of its kind at UC Merced, will support and train 36 students over a total of five years.

“The NIH Bridges grant adds to the growing list of competitive research and training grants UC Merced faculty members have received in recent years,” Vice Provost and Graduate Dean Marjorie Zatz said. “This demonstrates the caliber of our faculty in the eyes of the research community, as well as our strong commitment to expanding the pool of STEM scholars through explicit outreach to highly qualified members of underrepresented groups.”

Beginning this fall, students selected for the Bridges program will complete their master’s degree training with Krishnan and affiliated faculty members at Fresno State, including Professors Jason Bush, Alam Hasson, Lorin Lachs, Alejandro Calderon-Urrea and Joy Goto.

There, the students will receive financial support and academic guidance as they develop their scientific and research skills while furthering their training with summer internships at UC Merced. After completing their master’s degree, Bridges scholars will transition to more intensive research and study in a Ph.D. program at UC Merced.

“This is a great opportunity for students from the Fresno/Merced area to pursue both master’s and Ph.D. programs in biomedical or behavioral sciences right here in the Central Valley,” Krishnan said. “The Bridges program will strengthen the research collaborations and catalyze future interactions between students and faculty at Fresno State and UC Merced.”

The Bridges grant comes on the heels of the announcement of a $5 million grant from NASA to UC Merced to establish the new Merced Nanomaterials Center for Energy and Sensing, which also seeks to make an impact on underrepresented students. “This has been a record-breaking year in terms of new research awards, with UC Merced passing the $20 million mark for the first time,” said Juan Meza, dean of the School of Natural Sciences.

LiWang, a faculty member with the School of Natural Sciences and the Health Sciences Research Institute, supports undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers in his lab — leading to their publication in prestigious journals such as Science. He is also involved with a number of programs that seek to actively recruit students at all levels to scientific research.

Since 2009, LiWang has participated in the American Chemical Society’s Summer Experience for the Economically Disadvantaged (SEED) Project, a nationwide program to get high school students from poor families into university labs for hands-on research experience. He also participates in the Merced County Office of Education’s annual Dinner with a Scientist program, which seeks to excite middle school students about scientific research.

“I feel strongly about UC Merced’s mission to have a transformative effect on the San Joaquin Valley,” LiWang said. “In addition to helping students secure a well-paying job and career, advanced degrees in science boost our nation’s lead in creativity and innovation, producing knowledge and products that are in global demand.”

See more about the Bridges to the Doctorate program here.