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06.27.13 - Summer Time is Research Time

(From top) Vargas, Kisor-Smith, Vu, Chang,
Noshiravan, Pham and Do are embarking on a 10-week
full-time research endeavor.




On university campuses, summer is often a pretty quiet time. Not so at Calit2, where two orientations for student summer programs took place on the same day this week.

SURF-IT, the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Information Technology, is now in its ninth year. A joint effort sponsored by Calit2 and UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), the 10-week experience immerses the undergrads in full-time hands-on research in an assortment of ongoing projects, under the tutelage of faculty and graduate student mentors.

Seven students were selected for this year’s program; their majors range from biological sciences, informatics and public health policy to business, chemical engineering, materials science and biomedical engineering.

At Tuesday’s orientation, program co-directors Said Shokair and Stuart Ross, along with several of the mentors, shared their expectations with the young researchers.

“Obviously you are going to work very hard,” said Shokair. “You might have to repeat a process multiple times because it keeps failing but that’s healthy. It’s okay to fail but it’s not okay to give up.”

Shokair also advised the new Fellows to develop healthy working relationships with their mentors and other program participants, and to keep the lines of communication open. “And don’t sit in your chair and say, ‘Tell me what I’m supposed to do,’” he cautioned. “You’re expected to take initiative – calculated, measured initiative based on the input and guidance of the mentors.”

(From left) Shokair: "You're expected to take initiative. Ross: "It's a time for full focus."
Kisor-Smith: "I'm hoping to gain a good understanding of the research process."

Mentor Debra Richardson, an informatics professor, urged the students to rely on their mentors as well as the other people in their research groups, and to learn as much as possible about the work in progress. “This is a time you can really explore all of the different challenges and different types of research; it’s a time to find out what you’re most passionate about,” she said.

Ross presented the new Fellows with details about Calit2 and the SURF-IT program, and reminded them that their research should remain at the center of their attention. “We emphasize that this is a full-time commitment,” he said. “It’s a time for full focus.” 

Chang: "I'm glad I get to step out and experience these other things." Pham: I'm excited to be surrounded
by people who are passionate about technology." Noshiravan: "It's this collaborative effort that really intrigues me."

This is a summer of “self-discovery and self-learning,” he added, urging them to take action with their questions or problems. “Ask your mentor. Ask us. Discuss. This is the time to learn not that you have to know all the rules but that you have to be a professional about raising questions and discussing the issues.”

Before taking them on a tour of the Calit2 Building, Ross also encouraged the new Fellows to get to know each other. “You are the best and the brightest,” he told the group. “You might as well get to know as many of the best and the brightest as you can.”

This year’s SURF-IT Fellows, their majors (and their mentors) include:

  • Gary Chang, chemical engineering and materials science (Alessio Pigazzi)
  • Helena Do, biological science (Shahram Lotfipour)
  • Taylor Kisor-Smith, informatics (Debra Richardson)
  • Payum Noshiravan, public health policy (Shahram Lotfipour)
  • Sandy Pham, business (Gillian Hayes)
  • Eriberto (Eddie) Vargas, chemical engineering (Alon Gorodetsky)
  • Timothy Vu, biomedical engineering (Leif Havton)


Vargas, Do and Vu explain their research projects to the group.


An orientation for a group of undergraduate and graduate students who will serve as researchers in the CalPlug Center at          Calit2 was also held Tuesday afternoon. CalPlug, funded by a grant from the California Energy Commission, seeks to promote energy efficiency in home appliances and consumer electronic devices, and awareness to the general public about energy consumption. 

Undergraduates and graduate students begin their summer research
commitments at the California Plug Load Research Center.

CalPlug technology manager Arthur Zhang said the CalPlug student-research program is “experiential study,” that includes team and project-based activities, bi-weekly progress meetings and results-oriented deliverables.

This summer’s group of 30 student researchers includes 13 newcomers: seven undergraduates, five graduate students and a high school student volunteer. Each will choose a specific CalPlug research team on which to focus his/her efforts over the summer. Options include: energy management systems, instrumentation and prototyping, demonstration and education, consumer study, set-top boxes, and Web and data interfaces.

Zhang told the students that he is also looking for five of them to work on writing a proposal for the “MaxTech and Beyond Design Competition for Ultra-Low-Energy-Use Appliances and Equipment, ” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The competition seeks to support the development of next-generation prototypes and the scientists and engineers who will design them. Should a CalPlug proposal be accepted, Zhang said, team members would be required to participate in the project during the upcoming academic year.

-- Anna Lynn Spitzer