UC Merced Update mastehead


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


September 21, 2007



On Oct. 17, UC Merced will host the Foundation Board of Trustees meeting at the recently opened Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto. The day’s events will include Focus Area, committee and full board meetings, as well as a private tour of the Gallo Center.

The day’s meetings will be capped off by a reception from 5:30-7 p.m.

Hotel rooms have been reserved at the Modesto Doubletree at the special rate of $84/ room. Please call (209) 526-6000 and ask for the UC Merced Board of Trustees room block.

More information will follow in your mailing packet and will be posted to trustees.ucmerced.edu. Contact Shannon Blackwood at (209) 228-4401 or via e-mail: sblackwood@ucmerced.edu for login information.



UC Merced Meets World

International graduate students

International graduate students gathered for a special orientation in August.


This is the year UC Merced becomes an international campus.

About 40 international students are on campus this semester under F-1 visa status.  These students hail from Bolivia, China, Colombia, England, Germany, India, Japan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Nepal, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey. Many of these students are graduate students who have chosen UC Merced because of the expertise of a particular faculty member. Some are also international undergrads.

Nineteen of them gathered on Aug. 24 in the Kolligian Library for an orientation session sponsored by the International Students and Scholars Office to learn about maintaining their visa status as well as practical information about Social Security, banking, taxes, driver’s licenses and housing. They heard from administrators and staff as well as continuing international students who could offer been-there, done-that advice and support.

“One of the hallmarks of University of California campuses is being international,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Keith Alley in his address to the students. “International students can be catalysts who inspire others to seek out international learning experiences.”

Alley said the international grad students were in a particularly good position to influence undergraduate students in their jobs as teaching assistants.

Some UC Merced undergrads are already pursuing international studies. Through the UC Education Abroad Program, 22 students will be out of the United States this year enriching their lives and minds.

Some grad students from other countries have already banded together to create an informal international house off campus.

In addition, UC Merced’s growing faculty can boast an increasingly international set of experience and expertise. While several of these professors are now citizens of the United States, their diverse heritage and experience still enriches the culture on campus.

“It’s important to show the benefits of diversity, both for our campus and for the community around us,” said Sheryl Lichtig-Wyan of the International Students and Scholars Office.

Yosemite Research Pays Off Next Year for 8 Top Undergrads

Yosemite National Park

The Yosemite Research Training in Environmental Science will welcome its first eight students next summer.


Undergraduate students need research opportunities, and the Sierra Nevada need researchers to explore and document their wonders and challenges.

In a new program funded by the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program and sponsored in collaboration with the United States Geological Survey and Yosemite National Park, University of California, Merced professor Benoît Dayrat has found a way to bring those needs together.

The UC Merced REU program, officially named Yosemite Research Training in Environmental Science, will welcome its first eight students next summer. Dayrat anticipates they'll be an even mix of students from UC Merced, other San Joaquin Valley colleges and universities, and other institutions around the United States.

Dayrat said he thinks even in its first year, the UC Merced REU program will be very selective. The eight students who are chosen based on academic standing, research-related experience and career goals and mentor recommendations will experience a summer of well-paid research work with housing and food provided; field trips and classes to build background knowledge; and research in the park and on the UC Merced campus.

"The nature of environmental science includes dealing with a variety of topics," explained Dayrat, who served as an REU mentor during his postdoctoral research at the California Academy of Sciences. "We are offering broad research training in almost every discipline you can think of in relation to the Sierra Nevada."

As they apply for the program in the spring, the students will state their preferences among a list of potential research projects in geology, hydrology, biodiversity, economics, fire ecology and more.

The program is already set to run for its first three years on Dayrat's NSF REU grant of $234,606.

"A priority for NSF is to make sure the students get research experience and learn that their work is rewarded financially," Dayrat said.



14 New Professors Join UC Merced for Fall Semester

Fourteen new professors have joined the faculty lineup for UC Merced’s fall semester, bringing the total number to 91.

"This round of faculty hiring adds significant depth to our research and teaching capabilities," said UC Merced Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Keith Alley. "All three of our schools - and all of our students - will benefit from the experience and knowledge these new professors bring and the work they will do here in teaching and research."

New faculty members who have joined UC Merced's team of top-notch professors (in alphabetical order):

  • Gregg Camfield comes to UC Merced from University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he has been director of the university's honors program. He joins the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts (SSHA) as an English professor. He has published several books including "The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain" and "Sentimental Twain: Samuel Clemens in the Maze of Moral Philosophy."

  • Miguel Carreira-Perpiñan is a new member of the faculty in the School of Engineering. A native of Spain, he previously distinguished himself on the faculty at the Oregon Health and Science University researching learning and vision issues related to artificial intelligence.

  • Michael D. Cleary completed his Ph.D. at Stanford and a postdoctoral position at the University of Oregon before accepting his new position in the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences. He specializes in time-related signals that regulate cell development - an important aspect of stem cell research - and gene expression in the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.

  • Yarrow Dunham, who has been teaching psychology at Harvard, adds his expertise in human development to the psychology program in SSHA. He has published numerous articles on race and prejudice and self and identity. He is fluent in Japanese.

  • Maurizio Forte comes to SSHA from Rome, Italy, where he has been the director of and a senior scientist at CNR, the national research council. He has degrees in ancient history and archaeology, specifically studying the Etruscans, and has been a professional archaeologist since 1981.

  • Ignacio López-Calvo, formerly of the University of North Texas, joins the faculty in SSHA to research and teach in his field of Spanish-language literature. He has studied California Chicano/a literature and Cuban literature, among other literary subgenres.

  • Songhwai Oh completed a Ph.D. and a postdoctoral research appointment at UC Berkeley and joins the School of Engineering at UC Merced to expand the Computer Science and Engineering faculty's expertise in distributed networked sensing and control systems.

  • Jason Raymond joins the faculty of the School of Natural Sciences following his appointment as an E.O. Lawrence Fellow at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He studies the evolution of metabolism and how microbes interact with their environment, along with broader evolutionary questions.

  • Wolfgang F. Rogge, a specialist in air pollution engineering and science, is an associate professor in the School of Engineering. His previous faculty job was in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Florida International University in Miami.

  • Jian-Qiao Sun, formerly of the University of Delaware, applies mechanical engineering principles like modeling of human-machine interactions, nonlinear adaptive controls, sensor and actuator studies, signal processing and "sandwich" material design, to "smart" devices for physical therapy and sound-control panels for airplanes.

  • Meng-Lin Tsao is a new faculty member in the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences following a postdoctoral appointment at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. His work focuses on organic chemistry questions including how organic compounds react to lasers.

  • Jan Wallander joins SSHA as a psychology professor after several years as the vice president of Sociometrics Corp., and a psychology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has taught psychology and nursing since the early 1980s.

  • Vicki Wedel joins SSHA from UC Berkeley. A bioarchaeologist and forensic anthropologist, she studies the experiences of life and events of death that are recorded on the skeleton to help provide richer context for describing human biology and historical perspectives. 

  • Tao Ye is a new professor in the School of Natural Sciences who recently completed a postdoctoral research appointment at Penn State. His research encompasses chemistry-driven nanoscale devices like molecular rotors, linear molecular machines and light-driven, single-molecule motions.

Five more faculty members have signed acceptance letters indicating their intention to join the UC Merced faculty Jan. 1, 2008. More professors may still join that group.

A few professors arrived mid-year last year, including Stefano Carpin, a robotics expert; David Noelle, who specializes in cognitive science and artificial intelligence; and Jennifer Lu in materials science and engineering.

Faculty hiring is vital to the growth of the newest UC campus.

"An outstanding faculty with a broad range of research and teaching interests is the key to developing attractive, rigorous academic majors and coursework," said Alley. "That's the single most important way for us to draw students to our campus and to grow the research opportunities for our students."

“Bones” Professor Finds Clues to Lives, Deaths in Skeletal Remains

Vicki Wedel

Vicki Wedel


Vicki Wedel might have been an amazing doctor, except for one minor problem. “The only patients I wanted to be around were the dead ones,” she said.

That’s why she spends her time examining bones:  prehistoric bones, bones from Colonial America, and even more recent – but unidentified - skeletons as she works on police cases.

“Bones tell the story of a life,” she said. A bioarchaeologist and forensic anthropologist, Wedel is one of 14 new  faculty members at UC Merced this fall, and the campus’s first  in her field. As an undergrad, she studied biochemistry and planned to go to medical school. But near the end of her studies, she realized her passion was in studying the lives of those who have already died.

Instead of medical school, she chose a master’s in criminal justice, and worked with Oklahoma City Medical Examiner's Office two years after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

While working death scenes, she made another important discovery:  she liked looking at bones that had been around a long time – especially the ones that hadn’t yet been identified.

She went back to school and got another master’s, this one in anthropology, worked with prehistoric remains from Arkansas, and then went onto get her Ph.D. at UC Santa Cruz, where she assisted with police cases from around the state.

Once she’s established here at UC Merced, she said, she plans to do the same work for the Valley, in addition to teaching.

“It makes for a good community service aspect for the work I do,” she said.

From her analyses, she can determine a lot, including health and nutrition, height, sex, and age at death. She can tell if the individual suffered any trauma or disease. One of her favorite projects has been working with the New  York African Burial Ground Project. She examined sections of thigh bones from enslaved people from 1646-1790 in what was then the colony of New York, and compares the samples with similar sections of thigh bones from freed slaves and free born Blacks who lived in Philadelphia just before the Emancipation Proclamation (1810-1841).

She can tell that while enslaved people lived difficult lives and often died young, those who had been freed did not have significantly  better health or nutritional status. They lived a bit longer, probably because they had social support networks and lived among their families, but many were still ravaged by long-term infections and iron deficiency anemia.

She and her husband, Matt, and their 2-year-old son, London, moved to Merced this summer, and she begins teaching her Intro to Biological Anthropology course on Tuesday. She’s excited to help develop the anthropology curriculum, build the school’s skeletal teaching collection, and work with faculty who are as enthusiastic about building the university as she is.

Her husband will also teach here. He loves bones, too. But the ones he likes once belonged to dinosaurs.

“I think I have the coolest job ever,” she said. “Of course, my paleontologist husband would disagree.”



Excelling Student Gets Help from Gates Foundation

Salysia Perez

Salysia Perez


Not everyone can say Bill Gates came looking for them, but Salysia Perez can.

As a senior in high school, she was recruited by the Gates Millennium Scholars program to apply for the group’s college scholarship. Now, three years later, she’s still receiving money each year to cover everything her financial aid does not.

“It even gives me some extra for books and supplies and housing,” she said.

As an excelling student at her Fresno high school, she worked hard to make sure she was eligible for college. She was rewarded with a letter in the mail from the Gates Millennium Scholars group asking if she wanted to apply for the award.

The scholarships are designed for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential. The scholarships began in 1999 with a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the goal of promoting academic excellence and increasing the number of minority students in education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and the sciences.

The scholarships require a lengthy application including nine essays, Perez said.

“It’s pretty intense,” she said. Once someone becomes a Gates scholar, they must fill out renewal paperwork each year to continue receiving the money, and maintain a 3.3 GPA. For Perez, a 4.0 student since her freshman year, that’s no problem.

Now, as a junior, the 20-year-old is making plans for her future. She’s majoring in human biology and plans to go to UC San Francisco for dental school. Some Gates scholars can continue receiving money even through their doctoral programs, depending on their choice of post-undergrad work. Lynette Ramirez, a grad student here at UC Merced, is also a Gates scholar.

For Perez, the Gates scholarship won’t be an option, but she’s not worried. She said she’s just happy to have this scholarship to help her get through her undergraduate degree.

“It has been a real blessing,” she said.



Gottschalks Gift Helps UC Merced Students Dress Professionally

Career Services open house

Students learn about the services available at the Career Services open house on Sept. 5.


Two lucky UC Merced students will soon be able to dress for success thanks to Gottschalks department store in Merced.

Shaun Ekhause and Elizabeth Victor were the winners of a prize drawing held during the Career Services open house on the UC Merced campus. Each winner received a $75 gift certificate towards their next professional attire purchase.

The Gottschalks in Merced has long been a part of the Merced community. Store representatives said they wanted to show their support for the newest UC campus as Bobcats begin to make their marks on the community, as well.

“Gottschalks is proud to partner with UC Merced in developing the leaders of tomorrow,” said Assistant Store Manager Lisa Boudreaux.

Students who wanted to win the new outfits had to complete each of the stations at the Career Services open house, learning about the kinds of services the office offers, such as career counseling, refining interviewing skills, planning internships, developing job search campaigns and more, for undergrad and graduate students alike.

Leslie Lawson, the employer relations and internship coordinator for UC Merced’s Career Services office, said it’s important for students to be able to present themselves well when they go searching for internships and jobs.

“Most college students don't own anything that they could wear for an interview,” said Ekhause, a senior who is planning to apply for graduate school. “Gottshalks donating this gift certificate is a big help to students that normally don't have any professional clothes.”



H. Rajender Reddy Health Center dedication

 View photos from the H. Rajender Reddy Health Center dedication

On Aug. 30, the H. Rajender Reddy Health Center was formally dedicated in a ceremony recognizing Dr. H. Rajender Reddy and H. Jhansi Reddy of Hanford who donated a $1 million naming gift to the university. Attendees were able to see first-hand the many services offered at the Health Center, which occupies the second floor of the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center.

View photos from the event.



Mind, Technology, and Society Interdisciplinary Talk Series

Maneesh Agrawal from UC Berkeley
Thursday, Sept.  27, 6 p.m., Classroom Building, Room 116

UC Merced is pleased to host a series of lectures on the "Future of Cognitive Science," funded by the National Science Foundation. This series will bring prominent cognitive scientists from around the world with interests in the cognitive sciences, especially as it relates to engineering, natural sciences and the social sciences. The goal is to build and maintain connections with colleagues from other research universities and encourage cross-school interaction on campus.

Upcoming Talks
Oct. 4- Stefano Carpin, UC Merced
Oct. 11- Rich Ivry, UC Berkeley
Oct. 18- Victor Zordan, UC Riverside

For more information, visit the Cognitive Science Web site, or contact Teenie Matlock tmatlock@ucmerced.edu.

Community Involvement Fair, Oct. 3

The UC Merced Office of Student Life and the Kat Kares Volunteer Center invite local businesses, non-profit organizations and faith-based groups to take part in the Community Involvement Fair on Oct. 3 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.  The fair will be held outside of the Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center on campus. Community groups and businesses may register by completing the application form. For more information, call Jim Greenwood at (209) 205-0873, or e-mail jgreenwood@ucmerced.edu.

Research Meets Policy in Next Frontiers Lecture Oct. 20

Research Meets Policy in Next Frontiers Lecture Oct. 20 We see scientists and mathematicians on TV and in the movies solving puzzles, playing with numbers, testing soil at far away planes and even catching criminals, but what do these kinds of professionals do in real life? How do they contribute, and are they really integrated into the framework of today's society? Find out at the October installment of the Frontiers of Science and Engineering Lecture Series at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Atwater. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, Tokman, a professor in the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced, will share insights into her research as well as her experience in Washington, D.C. as a fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. The lecture is free and open to the public. The Challenger Center is at 3460 N. Challenger Way, near UC Merced's Castle facility.

Building a Durable Future: Community, the Campus and a Deep Economy, Oct. 24

Webcast hosted by Society for College & University Planners
9-10:30 a.m., UC Merced, Kolligian Library, Room 232
RSVP to Mark Maxwell at (209) 228-4465

Other events:

Sept. 4 – Oct.  22- Living Under the Trees photodocumentary by David Bacon



• Total amount of proposals this month: $10,166,341
• Total amount of awards this month:  $1,311,462
• Total amount of awards from July 1, 2007 to August 30, 2007: $2,178,937


Contact Us

We want to hear from you. Do you have a question or comment about your UC Merced Update? Is there a campus-related topic or issue you’d like us to address? Or would you like to unsubscribe? Please contact Brenda Ortiz by e-mail bortiz@ucmerced.edu or call (209) 228-4203 with your questions, feedback and requests.

UC Merced logo