UCI?s SURF-IT Students Plunge into Research Projects

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

SURF-IT scholars
SURF-IT undergraduate fellows

6.30.2005 –UCI’s first group of Calit2 undergraduate student research fellows were met with a challenge at the SURF-IT program’s orientation luncheon this week. “Get excited about your research!” urged Said Shokair, director of UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

“You could have made a lot more money with an internship this summer, but you chose research instead. The idea is not the money, it’s the experience,” Shokair said. “Hopefully, you can use this program to get a wide-angle view of things.”

Shokair shared his expectations for the undergraduate students as they began the 10-week Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Information Technology (SURF-IT) program. He informed the students that they should be taking the initiative and should already have started researching their topics on their own time.

“Mentors can get very busy,” Shokair said. “You have to take the initiative. Turn your curiosity into motivation.”

In order to succeed, students must have a certain level of excitement and ambition. They are expected to meet with their mentors in order to stay on track and use graduate students as valuable resources to learn from.

Shokair chatted individually with the students, challenging them to display their enthusiasm. With a little prodding, he managed to get a few “booyahs" and “woohoos” from the group.

Stu Ross, assistant director of research development, gave an overview of Calit2 and its purpose on the UC Irvine campus as a multidisciplinary research-promoting entity.

“As long as a professor has some type of cross-disciplinary project that we’re interested in, we’ll give him space to work in the building,” Ross said. “You’ll notice a lot of open spaces in the building, so that one person from a project might notice a different project going on and become interested in it.”

Students took turns describing their research projects to the group.

After the luncheon, Ross led the students on a tour of the new Calit2 building, showing off the state-of-the-art labs, special security features and open working environments.

             The 14 undergraduate students, who were selected from a field of 40 applicants, will be gaining first-hand research experience and training in high-tech facilities. Projects range from fingerprint data collection and analysis to stimulating empathy through computer games to building biosensors.

Shokair and students
Said Shokair exhorts students to "get excited"
about their research projects.

Every other Tuesday, students will meet for lunch and two 20-minute seminars led by different professors that will cover aspects of information technology. The seminars are designed to give students insight into a range of topics that intertwine with their own research.

Students will present their work to corporate sponsors on September 1, but their research will not necessarily be finished. Shokair encouraged them to continue their research during the year with UROP funding and into the next summer.

“We have people on this campus (who have been) working on the same project for 50 years, and they may die – heaven forbid – but believe me, their research won’t,” Shokair said.

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