Lessons Learned, Boundaries Expanded

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Eddie Vargas's sisters join in the celebration.

Irvine, Ca, August 30th, 2013 -- The days are getting shorter, Labor Day is approaching and a new academic year is looming. And yesterday, in the Calit2 Building, there was another irrefutable indication that summer is coming to an end.

The 2013 SURF-IT Fellows wrapped up their 10-week research experience with final presentations, award certificates, one last group lunch, and for most of the seven students, a modicum of relief.

Each gave a 10-minute formal presentation summing up his/her research results, then answered audience questions during the closing event, which was attended by family, friends and teachers.
“Since we were able to present once before and then get feedback on what we could change I’m more confident now,” said Payam Noshiravan minutes before the presentations began. “I could address all the parts [of my presentation] that were a problem earlier,” added the public health policy major, who evaluated the benefits of a community health clinic.

The Fellows, who spent the summer working full-time under the direction of faculty and/or graduate student mentors, comprised the 9th consecutive SURF-IT (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships in Information Technology) cohort.

The program is sponsored jointly by Calit2 and UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
Many of the students, whose projects ranged from organic semiconductors to computer network analysis, and from signal processing to apps for autism,  will continue to work on their projects during the coming academic year.

From left, Taylor Kisor-Smith, Helena Do and Payum Noshiravan present their research results.


Fellows and mentors gather for a group photo.

All said they benefited from their research experience, sometimes in surprising ways. “The amount of investment and passion I feel towards the work I have done is greater than I expected,” said Taylor Kisor-Smith, who analyzed the energy requirements of networked computers.
Eddie Vargas found the multidisciplinary approach enlightening. “Every single week, I listened to a different presentation and it brought me closer to realizing that my research and future career don’t have to follow narrow paths,” said the chemical engineering student, who worked on synthesizing organic compounds. “In fact, I need to constantly cross over into other disciplines.”

Calit2 Irvine division director G.P. Li commended the students for their accomplishments as he handed them well-earned certificates of completion. “We are very proud of all your hard work,” he said.

Program co-directors Stu Ross and Said Shokair also had words of praise. “I was very impressed with all of your research presentations,” Ross said. “Everyone did a great job. 

The students were equally positive toward the research program.

“My participation will greatly benefit me in the future,” Noshivaran said, ticking off newfound empowerment, skill sets, and the benefits of community partnership and collaboration.

For business student Sandy Pham, who helped design an app to benefit those with autism, the program exceeded her expectations. “Not many people are given the opportunity to participate in a project at this level or are given the same resources,” she said. “It made me more confident, especially in giving presentations. The weekly meetings were also very motivating and the lunches were great!”

From left: Gary Chang, Sandy Pham, Timothy Vu and Eddie Vargas