Newest MDP Fellows attend orientation

By Sharon Henry

Teams are made up of students with different backgrounds and skills. The Jan. 13 orientation was the first opportunity many students had to met the members of their team.

Irvine, January 20, 2015

The most important thing mentors can teach UC Irvine students is how to fail, Calit2 Irvine Director G.P. Li told the newest group of Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP) fellows at the group’s orientation this month.

Li, also an MDP mentor, says, UC Irvine students are accustomed to achieving academic success. “In your whole life, you never failed, but in real life, you will fail many times,” he said. “That’s the only way we learn. Don’t be afraid of your failures.”

Now in its fifth year, MDP is sponsored by Calit2 and UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). It is open to high-achieving UCI undergraduate or graduate students in any discipline with a strong drive to pursue multidisciplinary research as part of a team with different backgrounds and skills. MDP fellows receive hands-on collaborative research opportunities exploring fields of energy, environment, healthcare and culture.

This year, 72 fellows were selected from a field of 114 applicants.


Engineering professor Mark Bachman, who is mentoring two teams this year, says it takes four basic ingredients to be an innovator. “People need to learn how to be risk-takers. They need to learn to be adaptive and creative. And they need to know how to execute,” he said. Execution is key. Bachman urged students to “hone your skills. If you can’t turn those ideas into reality, unfortunately, it’s all wasted.”

MDP Orientation was the first occasion many students had to meet their team members and tour their Calit2 workspace. The MDP Lab is equipped with multi-user work stations, interactive white boards, computers with video editing and CAD software, as well as analog soldering stations, waveform generators and oscilloscopes.

MDP sponsor and UROP Director, Said M. Shokair, reviewed expectations with the fellows. “Students are expected to develop  healthy working relationships with their mentors. Your job is to impress them.” Shokair also advised students to embrace their team’s diversity. “You are expected to cherish the differences, not aggregate with people who are alike. Otherwise the whole team will fail,” he said.


The 14 projects proposed – with topics ranging from ballet to bladders – offer students novel and creative design opportunities.

DanceChemistry, a visual video teaching aid uses live dancers to represent chemical interactions at the molecular level. A half-dozen DanceChemistry videos have been produced to date. A study of 1,200 UCI undergraduate chemistry students found those who watched the dance videos scored an average of 30 percent higher on a chemistry quiz than classmates who had not watched the video.

The primary goal of a project titled “Radio frequency ablation in the application of treating overactive bladders” is to develop a non-surgical device to treat overactive bladder — a condition that affects about 33 million Americans.

Third-year biology science major, Anthony Ibrahim choose a project that will research rehabilitation of the inner ear’s vestibular system using Ocular Rift goggles. When asked what compelled him to apply for this particular project, he said, “I’m not going to lie, it was the goggles.” Ocular Rift, virtual reality head-mounted display equipment, made news last year when Facebook announced it had agreed to buy the company for about $2 billion.

Over the winter and spring quarters, MDP teams will develop solid designs of their proposed projects. Participants will demonstrate the results of their work at the UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium, Saturday, May 16, in the UCI Student Center and at additional Calit2-sponsored events.