Ten (Students) for Ten (Weeks)

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Shokair urged the students to take the initiative, along with a little
risk, as they embark on their research projects.

Irvine, CA August 11, 2014 -- Another season of undergraduate research is now officially underway at Calit2. The 10th consecutive Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Information Technology (SURF-IT) program kicked off yesterday with a lunchtime orientation session.

SURF-IT, co-sponsored by Calit2 and UC Irvine’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), pairs UCI undergraduates from a variety of majors with faculty mentors to conduct 10 weeks of hands-on information technology-based research.

This year’s SURF-IT class comprises 10 students who are working with their mentors on projects ranging from wireless sensor networks and graphene transfer processes to vestibular system optimization, software sustainability, aquaponics, Google Glass, and technology to support under-resourced NGOs.

UROP Director Said Shokair, who directs the summer program, opened the orientation by ramping up the excitement level among his protégées. “I can’t feel the energy,” he teased, making them repeat his “hoo-yah” greeting several times, until it met pre-determined volume levels.

Shokair emphasized the goal of the summer program: to expose students to research and allow them to peek into their futures. “You will get a taste of research and hopefully some research results, you’ll grow and meet new people and you’ll get a taste for what you want to do in the future,” he said. “Anything less is unacceptable.”


New SURF-IT Fellows (from left) Joseph Mehrabi, Will Stone and Stefan Wenthe (far right) contemplate
as Devin Held  introduces herself and shares details of her project.


Diane Shin (center right) volunteers to share, while Dominic Scarmardo, John Delshadi 
and Vasu Sharma (far right) listen.

Other advice – proffered by Shokair, as well as faculty mentors in attendance: learn to communicate, take the initiative, go above and beyond expectations, network with other students and faculty, and learn to manage time effectively. Students also were advised to be passionate and brave, have fun, and speak up with their ideas and insights. And finallly: “Take risks. You can’t lose at this stage of your life,” Shokair advised.

The students introduced themselves and their projects to each other, learned of “housekeeping” details from program coordinator Brittany Gray, met Calit2 Irvine division Director G.P. Li, and socialized over a buffet lunch.

"I'm excited," Shokair told the students in closing the program. "I think it's going to be a great summer.

"We wish you continued success and we are here for you,” he added. “We expect you to do whatever you have a passion for.”