UC Merced Update mastehead


Welcome to this edition of UC Merced Update, providing you with an inside look at recent campus news and developments.


May 11, 2007


Editor's note: This will be our last issue of Update for the semester.
We're taking a break over the summer but will return in August with more news!



Wednesday, June 27, 2007

UC Merced Foundation
Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees
University of California, Merced
5200 N. Lake Road, Merced

More information will follow in your mailing packet and on the Board of Trustees Web site. Contact Mare Widger for password information.



Here's a look at the latest news from our Alumni Affairs Office:

Class Gift
UC Merced’s Class of 2007 has chosen to give the university a statue of the school mascot, the Golden Bobcat. The graduates have raised nearly $2,500 with the help of the San Joaquin Valley UC Alumni Network.

For more information or if you would like to make a donation to the class gift, please call Alumni Affairs Coordinator Stefani Martinez at (209) 228-ALUM.



Graduation Fast Approaching

2006 graduation students

Last year, three Bobcats received diplomas. This year, about 75 are scheduled to graduate!


The Commencement Committee has been working hard to plan UC Merced’s second graduation ceremony, which will be quite different from last year’s.

First, there are many more graduates this time around. Last year there were three, and this year, there will be between 70 and 80 students walking in the ceremony, said organizer Stefani Martinez.

“This year, it’s a completely different ballgame,” Martinez said.

Second, graduation will be held on the quad this year, starting at 9 a.m. May 18, instead of in the Dr. Lakireddy Auditorium.

Josh Bolin was selected to deliver the student speech, following the theme, “We came here to make history, but we leave having changed our own.”

This year’s graduation ceremony will tie in with the university’s opening day in 2005, in that graduates will walk from the quad back across the Scholars Lane bridge. On opening day, all the students walked up from the dining commons across the bridge and into the tent where the ceremony was held. This time, they’ll go the other way, signifying completion, Martinez said.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Sr., the founding chairman of the UC Merced Board of Trustees, will be this year’s keynote speaker, and Chancellor Steve Kang will serve as emcee.

The graduates will formally announce their class gift to the university – a statue of the Golden Bobcat – for which they are now raising money.

New Research Partnership Aiming to Provide Agricultural Leadership

Chancellor Kang presents Legacy Vase

Chancellor Steve Kang presents a Legacy Vase to Henry te Velde, Richard Piper, Joe Mauzy and Fred Souza from the Yosemite Farm Credit for their vision and leadership that led to the development of the AFSER partnership.


To help ensure the San Joaquin Valley’s agricultural economy remains vibrant and sustainable, UC Merced has joined forces with Agriculturalists for Scientific Environmental Research (AFSER). Members of the agricultural community visited UC Merced on April 25 to announce a collaboration aimed at promoting crucial scientific research that addresses Valley agricultural issues.

The partnership with AFSER, a group of prominent agricultural leaders, was conceptualized and orchestrated by Yosemite Farm Credit and will provide students and faculty with yet another avenue to help determine the Valley’s bright future.

Sam Traina, vice chancellor for research, director of graduate studies and director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced, said the partnership evolved out of two years of dialogue between the new campus and the agricultural community about ways the university could contribute its research expertise to the entire San Joaquin Valley’s agricultural needs, from dairy to tree crops.

“The goal of the partnership is for UC Merced faculty and students to develop tools and conduct research relevant to the local agricultural community,” Traina said. “The research will help identify challenges and opportunities facing the agricultural community and will provide them the information they need to make informed decisions.”

The Merced County Community Foundation funded UC Merced’s first AFSER grant of nearly $200,000, payable over the next 18 months. Using that support, engineering Professor Tom Harmon is leading a team of students exploring ways to test nitrate levels in soil and water. Harmon’s group is working on pilot testing a sensor-based nitrogen and salinity monitoring system for agricultural producers that would help dairy operators better understand and precisely manage the way they fertilize their soils.

“We have the expertise and bright students who can do the research and find the answers the agricultural industry needs,” Harmon said. “Dairymen and farmers have opened up their dairies and farms to enable us to develop the tools and provide the research necessary to support sustainable agricultural practices.”

“UC Merced is a natural partner to provide research that is relevant to farming in the Valley,” said AFSER President Henry te Velde, who owns three dairies in Merced where he milks about 4,200 Holsteins. “Once the tools are in place, we can better measure the environmental impact that farming has on the environment.”

Te Velde said that AFSER consists of dairies and farms in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, but the group strives to get more involved throughout the Valley.

“Our inaugural project funded through the partnership is the first of what we envision as a wide range of research areas looking at water, air and soil concerns,” Traina said. “This is just the beginning of a monumental collaborative effort.”

A Day in the Spotlight for UC Merced Research

UC Merced’s first annual Research Day on April 16 provided a useful opportunity for students and the community to learn about opportunities on campus associated with research and discovery.

Thirty students shared their findings on topics like groundwater, stem cells and early childhood learning in the morning poster forum. Six professors opened their laboratories for a tour allowing reporters to see research facilities first-hand – an opportunity well received by regional media.

In the afternoon, Professor Sherwood Rowland of UC Irvine, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry, visited campus. A founding professor at Irvine, he acknowledged the quirks and opportunities of starting a new UC campus.

Rowland delivered a technical seminar and a public seminar in the Dr. Lakireddy Auditorium. The public seminar audience responded with thoughtful questions about the public perception of global warming and the potential of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Rowland was the inaugural speaker in the Vital and Alice Pellissier Family Distinguished Speaker Series, a new tradition established by a gift from the Pellissiers’ descendants to the university.



See views of Bobcat Day

See views of Bobcat Day at UC Merced.



Literature Professor’s Unique Anthology Set for Publication

Cristían Ricci

Cristían Ricci


Professor Cristían Ricci and colleague Ignacio López Calvo from the University of North Texas have compiled a new anthology entitled “Caminos para la paz: literatura Israelí y Árabe en castellano,” or “Paths to Peace: Israeli and Arabic Literature in Spanish,” and recently found out it is to be published this summer by the prestigious Editorial Corregidor, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The anthology features about 40 Israeli authors and 25 writers from the Arab world and is the first of its kind. Authors included must be Jewish or Arab and be current or past residents of Israel or any Arab country. The texts also had to be originally written in Spanish.

“Dr. López Calvo and I were inspired by the spiritual legacy of Jewish-Argentine conductor Daniel Boremboim and Palestinian academician and essayist Edward Said, who founded a school of music for Palestinian and Jewish children,” Ricci said. “We are sure the anthology will not only represent a very important event in the Hispanic world, but also in other places such as Israel, Palestine, and Northern Africa (where the majority of the Arab authors included in the anthology come from).”

They have been invited to present the book in Buenos Aires, Madrid, Cadiz, Jerusalem and Tetouan (Morocco). Ricci said the anthology presented many challenges but has already yielded positive outcomes before it has even been published, such as a blossoming friendship between an Israeli novelist and a Palestinian poet. They are looking forward to being able to meet someday when barriers, such as politics and war, are tempered.

“Even if this friendship is the only positive outcome of our anthology, the effort has definitely been worth it,” Ricci said. “Our dream is coming to fruition little by little and this is the first step toward a dialogue for hope. As the Chinese proverb says, the longest journeys begin with a single step.”

No Experience Required: Newsam Approaching Radio through Service Learning

Shawn Newsam

Shawn Newsam


Professor Shawn Newsam, who specializes in computer science and engineering, didn’t have any radio experience when he had the idea for a service learning course to start a radio station at UC Merced.

That didn’t stop him.

“It makes a good service learning project that way,” he said. “I can be more of a hands-off guide and let the students do the work.”

UC Merced’s radio plans have come a long way since Newsam first started talking about the project with a fellow faculty member. His service learning class has spent two semesters on long-term plans for how a campus radio station will proceed if they are able to get an FCC license – including technical specifications, a business and management plan and choosing appropriate programming.

It’s a little different from other service learning classes, though.

“The usual service learning course has a client – a nonprofit organization or company the students can interview to find out what they need,” Newsam explained. “Our client is the campus and the community.”

The team has collaborated with the student-run Radio Club to produce two successful radio events. Most recently, they broadcast on Bobcat Day using a low-power transmitter that made music and interview programming available all over campus.

“The students seemed pretty excited that we could get the transmitter to do that,” Newsam said, adding that his class did all the work to connect their computers with the transmitter and with the roving reporter who walked around talking to different Bobcat Day exhibitors. The day’s programming was simultaneously broadcast online.

“Each time we do an event, we seem to get better,” he said.

They’re also incorporating information they’ve gathered from other campus radio organizations. Last semester, they visited the campus radio station at UC Davis, and they still hope to make a trip to Berkeley to learn how radio operates there.

When the students present their end-of-semester results, they’ll be able to share recordings of Bobcat Day programming as well as the progress they’ve made on their long-term planning, providing good evidence that UC Merced radio is indeed on its way.



Pitching the Future: Student Accepted to Prestigious Grad-Prep Program

Mike Oliveira

Mike Oliveira


Not every college sophomore would describe their feelings about an intensive, two-year research program with the word “stoked.”

It helps a little bit that the UC Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees (UC LEADS) program will let UC Merced’s Mike Oliveira live in San Francisco for the summer, just minutes from Giants Stadium by train. Oliveira is a founding member of UC Merced’s competitive baseball club and a big fan.

“I’ll probably be there every weekend,” said Oliveira, a bioengineering major from Turlock.

But the real pull of UC LEADS is the outstanding preparation it offers Oliveira for his academic future. This summer, he’ll work with a UC San Francisco researcher in a field of his choice – he likes biomedical imaging, cancer research and immunology – attending weekly science seminars, leading group discussions and even presenting his research at national conferences and symposia.

He’ll return to UC Merced in Fall 2007 for UC LEADS-funded work with a faculty mentor of his choice 10 to 15 hours each week. Next summer, he’ll get to choose another campus for his work, and he’ll finish his senior year with more research back in Merced.

“I’m telling everybody about this now, and my friends are excited for me,” he said. “It’s big to pitch to freshmen and sophomores, because it takes a few years to complete the program.”

Oliveira said the goal of UC LEADS is preparing students for grad school and increasing Ph.D.s awarded in technical fields. The program even offers a GRE test preparation course for free.

For grad school, Oliveira is eyeing UC San Diego or UCSF – he says he can’t imagine leaving the UC system.



New Web site Features

UC Merced has added two new features to its Web site homepage.

Four campus Webcams, called CatCams, provide visitors with 12 live views of what is happening on campus. The project was supported by the Provost’s office and was a collaborative effort led by the Office of Communications.

Also recently added to the UC Merced homepage is a “Meet Our Graduates” link.

The page has profiles of many of this year’s graduates with details of their post-graduation plans and some advice for incoming students. New profiles will be added each week, so be sure to check back often.

To view the CatCams or Meet Our Graduates pages, visit www.ucmerced.edu. The two links are on the lower left hand side of the homepage.



Founding Faculty Member’s Gift Will Make a Lasting Mark at UC Merced

The Colvin Family

The Colvin Family


Michael and Phung Colvin share a strong commitment to helping students and are dedicated to making a difference at UC Merced. Mike is a founding faculty member in UC Merced’s School of Natural Sciences, where he teaches computational biology. Phung works with students to prepare them for science degrees as the Excel! coordinator for the School of Natural Sciences.

Both work closely with students and wanted to find a way to help them further.

After Mike’s parents celebrated their 70th birthdays last year, he and Phung decided to pledge a gift to UC Merced to establish the Michael and Arline Colvin Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor his parents’ lifelong commitment to education.

“My parents were our first inspiration to give a scholarship gift to UC Merced,” Colvin said. “My dad teaches medicine at Duke University and my mom was an English teacher. Both have dedicated their careers to education, so we felt that this was a great way to honor them.”

Dr. Michael and Mrs. Arline “Macey” Colvin are originally from Indiana and lived in Baltimore for more than 35 years. They now reside in Chapel Hill, N.C. Living across the country hasn’t stopped them from being excited about the UC Merced campus. They flew out and attended the convocation ceremony in 2005 and have visited the campus several times since.

Dr. Colvin has studied and taught medicine for more than 45 years. Although he recently stopped seeing patients, he continues his research in hematology and oncology and serves as emeritus director of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Mrs. Colvin taught English in Baltimore County Schools for six years before moving to North Carolina. She is involved in volunteer work with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program as well as various clubs and committees.

The Colvin family is enthusiastic and optimistic about UC Merced’s future and is delighted to make a contribution that will have a lasting effect.

“We wanted to give something to the university that would last beyond our years,” Mike Colvin said. Colvin recalled receiving a small scholarship in college and hopes the gift his family gave is something the recipients might remember 25 years from now.

The scholarship is designated to be awarded annually to a junior-level student who started as a freshman at UC Merced and has a course of study that links the sciences and humanities. “We felt it was important to recognize the accomplishment of students who started at UC Merced and also embody the multidisciplinary emphasis of the campus,” said Colvin.

The first scholarship will be awarded in fall 2007. The scholarship is merit based and the criteria for the award will be determined by the Office of Financial Aid.

Millennium SportsClub Donation Helps Initiate Childhood Obesity Study

Experts say poor eating habits and inactivity, the main causes of obesity, could mean children face shorter life expectancies than their parents. The increasing problem of childhood obesity in the San Joaquin Valley has prompted a $5,000 gift from Millennium SportsClub to the University of California, Merced, to help fund a study by Professor Rudy Ortiz in the School of Natural Sciences.

“The Millennium SportsClub mission is to develop programs and services for our members and community that enhance bodies, renew minds and nurture bodies,” said Millennium SportsClub Vice President and General Manager Peggy Hollister. “We are very passionate about helping our community battle obesity and realize that we need to start by educating parents and children.”

Now in its early stages, the Merced County Child and Adolescent Nutrition and Health Study proposes to survey the health and nutritional behaviors of children and adolescents ages 8-18 in Merced County. Ortiz is conducting the study in collaboration with Dr. Srikanth Sundararajan, assistant clinical professor of medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco – Fresno.

Ortiz said the study will analyze multiple risk factors to evaluate overall health and help predict metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes in children.

Ortiz said prevention is the key.

“We are hoping to develop a suite of parameters we can use to predict the manifestation of metabolic disorders before they become too complicated,” Ortiz said. “It is much easier to work with children and issues of prevention proactively before they become overweight or obese. Once children begin having issues with their weight, there will very likely be related complications associated that compound the issue, making it that much more difficult to address.”

Overweight children face greater risk of health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood lipids, asthma and sleep apnea than do their non-overweight peers. They can also experience psychosocial problems such as social stigma, discrimination and low self-esteem.

UC Merced sophomores Jana Mowrer and Ruben Rodriguez, who are supported through a Great Valley Center Fellowship, recently began performing health surveys at four local high schools: Merced High School, Golden Valley High School, Buhach Colony High School and Atwater High School. The study will eventually be extended to include Livingston High School, and pending school district approval, elementary schools in Merced County.

Students are asked take a nutritional and behavioral health survey and to have height, weight, waist circumference and blood-pressure measurements taken.

“I want to create awareness and teach people in the community about such issues as diabetes, obesity, and the silent killer, hypertension,” Mowrer said. “This research will give me hands-on experience with these issues as well as the opportunity to collaborate with people in the community.”

Teachers will also be asked to consent to a nutritional and behavioral health survey to evaluate their involvement in promoting good health and lifestyle choices.

“Because of the diversity of school-aged children in Merced County, the study will also identify risk factors that are associated with certain ethnic groups,” Ortiz said. “A number of cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors present in obese children and adults have been identified, but not all have been characterized for Hispanic or Hmong populations, which are predominant in the San Joaquin Valley and have been poorly studied on a national scale.”

“This study will provide valuable information about our local demographics and the best way to help our population develop active lifestyles,” Hollister said. “We are honored to donate to UC Merced to position ourselves in our community as a leader in fighting childhood and adult obesity.”

Ortiz is looking for future funding sources to expand the program to include more diagnostic examinations, including taking blood samples to evaluate a number of risk factors such as elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, C-reactive protein and insulin. He also envisions securing funding to support intervention programs.

“Our goal is to use the data to help guide regional legislation aimed at establishing good nutrition and health policies for San Joaquin Valley residents in an effort to promote awareness, intervention and environmental change as recommended for national remedies to the increasing obesity epidemic,” said Ortiz.



Exploring the Limits of Fiber Optics May 19

Professor Jay Sharping of the School of Natural Sciences will offer the next installment in the Frontiers of Science and Engineering Lecture Series at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education Auditorium in Atwater on Saturday, May 19 at 10 a.m. He will speak about recent developments in the field of fiber optics, a field that has been growing rapidly for the last 30 years. He will address the development of microstructure fibers and photonic bandgap filters and discuss several applications of these innovations - for example, specific types of lasers and fiber-optic deliver of very-high-power laser energy for machining applications. The lecture is free and open to the public at 3460 Challenger Way in Atwater.

Other events:
May 18: Commencement
May 28: Memorial Day (UC Merced closed)
June 18: Summer Session Begins
See the Events Calendar for more listings.



• Total amount of proposals this month: $5,340,263
• Total amount of awards this month: $215,817

• Total amount of proposals from July 1, 2006 to date: $118,664,852
• Total amount of awards from July 1, 2006 to date: $8,449,726


CAPTION CORRECTION: A photo caption in the March issue incorrectly identified Jane Bernstein. We apologize for the error.


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