Kickoff Week for the 2008 UCSD Calit2 Summer Undergraduate Scholars

By Maureen C. Curran

Anna Ostberg and Ramesh Rao
Summer Scholar Anna Ostberg (left) and Calit2 UCSD Division Director Ramesh Rao (right) playing the "Human Bingo" game, one of the "ice-breaker" activities at Monday's orientation.
Summer Scholars Kickoff Photo Gallery

San Diego, CA, June 25, 2008 -- The UCSD division of Calit2's Summer Undergraduate Research Scholarship program is off to a great start. On Monday, the 2008 Summer Scholars attended a fun and information-packed orientation session; on Friday there will be a barbecue for the scholars and their advisors.

The orientation was a chance for the students to meet each other and learn more about the logistics of the summer. It kicked off their 10-week adventure of being paid, full-time student researchers actively involved in the research of their faculty advisor's lab, hands-on work that is usually reserved for graduate students, senior researchers and faculty.

"Thanks for throwing such an awesome kickoff," said Jimmy Kan a second year Physics major who will be working with Deli Wang, of the electrical and computer engineering (ECE) department on an integrated nanoscale device for disease detection, tracking and elimination.

Students and their faculty advisors alike are excited about the coming summer's work.

"When I first visited UCSD as an admit, the labs at Calit2 had a demonstration for the engineering admits," explained Vishal Kotcherlakota, "and that's what convinced me to come to UCSD. So I'm looking forward to a chance to work in this building." Kotcherlakota, a second year electrical engineering major, will be doing a project on acoustic localization using microphones with Massimo Franceschetti of ECE.

2008 summer scholars orientation
2008 Summer Scholars at orientation.

"I look forward to working this summer with Toshiro Yamada on a project that will advance the audio capabilities of the StarCave at Calit2," said Peter Otto, the music department's technical director. "Toshiro's ICAM Music senior project was a hardware and software design project to implement a Wavefield Synthesis (WFS) speaker array. With refinements of materials and software, this project should yield noticeable advancements in Cave audio capabilities." Otto is also the head of Sonic Arts at Calit2.

A wide diversity of academic subjects is represented by this year's projects. The summer scholars are majoring in 12 different fields and the affiliations of the faculty advisors are in 12 fields across campus -- but not the same 12 as the students' majors (seven do not overlap). The theme for this year's class appears to be the number 12. Of the 19 different scientific disciplines represented by the 2008 participants, six are various engineering disciplines and computer science, one is Calit2's multidisciplinary visualization group and the remaining 12 are neither engineering nor computer science. These range from Anthropology, Art History, through Biology, Classical Studies, Communications, Physics and Psychology to new Media Arts. A complete list of awardees, their majors, advisors and project summaries can be found on the Summer Scholar website (see link below).

summer scholars lunch
The orientation session began with lunch and an opportunity for students to meet each other.

The scholarship program encourages students from all majors to participate; each successive year has brought a higher level of academic diversity in the applicants. Program coordinator Lovella Cacho expanded the outreach activities this year to include networking with student groups and "hitting the pavement" talking to undergraduate advisors in many disciplines across campus, resulting in a widely diverse, highly competitive applicant pool of 65. There were so many high quality applications, that for the first time in the program's eight-year history, 30 research scholars were admitted (just one more than last summer's 29 scholars).

In addition, more students are pursuing this unique full-time hands-on research opportunity earlier in their academic careers, getting a jump on preparing for their future in the private sector, industry, or grad school. Last years' scholars showed a trend towards more non-seniors participating with 19 seniors and 10 others. This years' class is spread roughly evenly between students who have just completed their second (10), third (8) and fourth year (11), and one first year student, taking the trend all the way to reversing the ratio, 19 non-seniors to 11 seniors.

The Calit2 UCSD Undergraduate Research Program has proven to have a strong positive impact on student's academic and post-graduation paths, with many finding it very rewarding and often, invaluable. Many students in the past have been coauthors on published papers, including some that have won conference and meeting honors. Also, because of the excellence of the research conducted at UCSD, students often have the opportunity to participate in truly cutting-edge work.

summer scholars play human bingo
Scholars play "Human Bingo."

"I am very happy to be working over the summer with Alex Dooraghi on a topic of much practical importance," said Prab Bandaru, a professor of materials science, "that of the utilization of heat. There are very few reliable heat transport/thermal conductivity measurements and Alex's work in these aspects will be probing a new frontier." Alex is a fourth year physics major.

"This is a new and growing field," said Agatha Man, who will be researching online-games communities with Noah Wardrip-Fruin of the communications department. She added: "I am very excited to contribute my studies to this area."

In addition to the research work with their advisor, a vital component of the Calit2 UCSD Undergraduate Research Program is the schedule of weekly sessions, which include colloquia, building tours and presentations. These sessions have been designed by a faculty committee to enhance the research experience. Research presentation sessions allow scholars to give updates and gain presentation experience. The colloquia offer insight into a number of aspects of academic research and career planning. The building tours will enable the summer scholars to witness the cutting edge research that is happening at Calit2.

To keep up on the scholars progress and activities, please see the 2008 class-wide blog (link below).

Related Links
Calit2 UCSD Undergraduate Research Program
2008 Summer Scholars Blog
2008 Summer Scholar List