By Maureen C. Curran
San Diego, CA, July 20, 2007 -- A summer of full-time research for the Calit2 Summer Undergraduate Scholars began with the basics: a welcome get-together to kick things off, followed-up by two very pertinent how-to sessions in early July: one on how to conduct research and the other on how to present that research.
The scholars enjoyed the kickoff session where they learned more about the program and logistics, as well as Calit2 and each other. Ramesh Rao, director of the UCSD division of Calit2, Larry Smarr, director of Calit2 and Bill Hodgkiss, an associate director of the UCSD division welcomed the largest class ever, 28 students.
The welcome session was the first meeting of the summer and it gave the students an opportunity to meet each other and share information about their research projects. Several of the faculty advisors joined their students at the event.
"We are particularly excited about the breadth of your talents," Hodgkiss told the students. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of Calit2, the scholarship awardees are a diverse group with half majoring in a wide spectrum of engineering and computer science fields and the other half in fields ranging from biochemistry and microbiology to music, visual arts, psychology and political science.
Noting that "UCSD is an extraordinary research institution," Rao encouraged the undergraduates to make the most of this summer: "What you have got to do is knock on people's doors -- find out what they do and how they got there. There are many different approaches to scholarship and it's fascinating to listen to what people do and how they think. This program is designed, in part, to do that." Hodgkiss elaborated on the theme during his welcome, "it's a fascinating storybook here at Calit2 about what people's interests are."
Good things have already come from knocking on doors. Scot Desposato, a professor in political science had never heard of the Calit2 UCSD Summer Undergraduate Research Scholarship program. At the welcome session, he noted, "Interdisciplinary programs are great but the unfortunate reality of life for faculty members is that we just don't hear about them unless a student knocks on our door." Political science senior Andre Niemeyer did just that. Desposato continued, "I'm excited. It looks like a great program with good opportunities for the students, as well as for the faculty."
The purpose of the research scholarship program is to provide talented undergraduates with real research experience in order to help them better define their career goals and fields of interest, as well as make a contribution. The research experience is supplemented by weekly presentation sessions where the students will present their work twice over the summer and participation in multiple seminars designed to advise them on how to achieve career goals and success after college graduation.
"I am really happy I was accepted. I think I want to go to grad school," said Jose Garcia Moreno Torres, an exchange student at UCSD from the University of Granada, Spain, "and being able to experience a true research experience is a good way to see if I really want to attend grad school or not."
"I'm really excited, and a little bit overwhelmed because I know there's so much work to do," said third-year bioengineering major, Meena Siddiqui after the kickoff session, "With Calit2 giving structure towards how do things, it makes everything a little bit more manageable and doable."
Seminars on how to conduct research and how to present research were given the first week of July. Martha Stacklin, an instructional development specialist with the Center For Teaching Development at the UCSD Office of Graduate Studies, conducts the 'how to present your research' session. "I want them to know that talking very effectively about their work will help them in their careers," she said, "and that it's a lot of fun to know how and be able to tell people what you do on different levels."
"I think it's good that they give you these kind of talks at the beginning," commented Jason Najarro, a senior in cognitive science, "because ultimately your research isn't going to be any good if you can't communicate it. The focus is steering us in the right direction."
At the welcome session, Jerry Sheehan, manager of government relations for the UCSD division, introduced a special student implementation of the Calit2 Research Intelligence Portal designed especially for use by the summer scholars and asked them to be active beta testers of it. The goal is to build it into a tool that will be open to all the students at Calit2, hopefully in the fall. Using the latest in Web 2.0 tools, the portal is designed to showcase what research individual faculty are doing and aggregate what research is going on overall. The portal was developed to help Calit2's scientists and engineers find new funding opportunities and research partners.
Ginny Scott, Calit2's administrative projects coordinator, moderated the sessions and coordinates the scholarship program. This is the seventh year of the program, which ends September 3. A poster session showcasing the students' work will be held later in September during Welcome Week of the fall quarter; the date will be announced later in the summer.
Meet the 2007 Summer Scholars, published 7/26/07, introduces each student and briefly outlines their project, link below.