Academics & Research
Experts Tapped for Wildfire, Climate Change Knowledge
Photo Credit: Eric Zamora, The FresnoBee
In early September, the leader of a national organization that reports and researches climate science gave a big shout-out to UC Merced.
“Perhaps the best untapped source of scientific knowledge on the many dimensions underlying California's tragic wildfire season trajectory: @ucmerced,” Climate Central Editor John Upton posted on Twitter. One could argue that UC Merced’s wildfire expertise was already well-tapped. The university has been a treasure trove of related knowledge since at least 2007, when the Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI) was founded.
Still, kudos are always was appreciated. And as California's destructive wildfire season burned on – more than doubling the state's one-year record for acres scorched – it seemed that anywhere you tuned in or clicked to for news, there was a UC Merced professor dropping knowledge about fire behavior, forest management and climate change. Television, radio, newspapers, online publications, journals. Los Angeles Times, CNN, MIT Technology Review. Three faculty members get extensive attention:
- John Abatzoglu, associate professor of climatology
- Crystal Kolden, assistant professor of fire science
- LeRoy Westerling, professor of applied climatology
Two SNRI veterans, Professors Roger Bales and Martha Conklin, also are interviewed often. And Ana Padilla, executive director of the university’s Community and Labor Center, has talked about the fires’ effects on undocumented workers.
Home are some examples below:
By Our Calculations, These Are Cool
The power of computing – its ability to unlock mysteries, drive research and inspire young lives – connects these three stories. Its influence is felt in San Joaquin Valley schools, in the crunching of data, and in the study of quantum physics:
“When it comes to inspiring young minds, computer science is today’s Tinker Toys and ERECTOR sets. We want students to see what doors computer science can open for them in the future."
Dean Mark Matsumoto, School of Engineering
Undergrads to Work with Teachers on Computer Science
A new program will connect UC Merced undergraduate students with middle and high school teachers who are trying new computer science curricula. The connections will be made through a course taught by Teaching Professor Angelo Kyrilov that will answer questions about the discipline and help build a network of San Joaquin Valley teachers and UC Merced undergrads.
The program, called START UP SJV, is supported by a two-year, $300,000 National Science Foundation grant. Kyrilov applied for the grant, along with computer science Professor Stefano Carpin and Chelsea Arnold, the university’s CalTeach program director.
Computer science and engineering is UC Merced’s second-largest undergraduate major, with more than 1,000 students enrolled per year.
“When it comes to inspiring young minds, computer science is today’s Tinker Toys and ERECTOR sets,” School of Engineering Dean Mark Matsumoto said. “We want students to see what doors computer science can open for them in the future.”
Supercomputing Cluster to Double Capacity
The university has secured funding that will more than double the capabilities of its research supercomputing center. The expansion will increase students’ access to the system and power research in areas such as modeling and simulation of complex systems, data-enabled science, and numerical optimization.
The National Science Foundation granted $700,000 for the expansion, which will occur over the next few years. The university’s Office of Research and Economic Development and Office of Information Technology supplied another $300,000.
The university's supercomputing cluster, called MERCED, can run more than 7.2 trillion calculations per second. MERCED is updated as researchers purchase nodes specific to their work, expanding capacity without buying a new cluster. MERCED has hundreds of users in the campus community.
“It’s actually a small expense for the number of people it supports,” Sindi said. “We have a huge impact on the campus.”
“It’s actually a small expense for the number of people it supports. We have a huge impact on the campus."
Professor Suzanne Sindi
“Physics students are highly sought at national laboratories, in industry and in many different fields because they have analytical skills that can benefit nearly any field. I would really like to see more students learn about quantum physics."
Professor Lin Tian
Working to Harness the Power of Quantum Computing
Professor Lin Tian’s research in quantum mechanics may open new avenues in supercomputing.
“Our field has evolved so that we can be faster, more accurate and more coherent, but we still haven’t reached a point where we can make large-scale quantum computers,” said Tian, a theoretical physicist. “We’re turning instead to quantum simulators, hoping to emulate effects that are too difficult for classical computers.”
Tian’s research team is working on three projects backed the National Science Foundation grants. All are designed to increase our knowledge about quantum computing, and all have educational components Tian said will help increase the participation of women and minority students in the field.
“Physics students are highly sought at national laboratories, in industry and in many different fields because they have analytical skills that can benefit nearly any field,” Tian said. “I would really like to see more students learn about quantum physics.”
Art History Professor Named to
A professor who specializes in calling attention to significant but little-known U.S. artists has earned a seat on the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Board of Commissioners. ShiPu Wang’s research focuses on rediscovering and examining pre-WWII art and visual culture produced by diasporic artists of Asian descent. He was appointed to a four-year term on the board, which works to strengthen the museum’s mission to collect portraits of people who had an impact on U.S. history and culture. “Through ShiPu’s work, remarkable artists, who have remained previously under-represented, have been pushed into the spotlight,” said Jeff Gilger, dean of the School of Social, Sciences, Humanities and Arts. As an example, Wang curated a traveling exhibition seen by more than 500,000 that highlighted the work of Chiura Obata, a longtime UC Berkeley art professor and one of the most significant American artists of Japanese descent working on the West Coast in the last century.
"Grand Canyon" by Chiura Obata. From the catalogue of an Obata exhibition curated by Professor ShiPu Wang. (Credit: UC Press)
The patients we serve are too often left out by traditional health system models. Working with these communities to embed and encourage the use of telehealth technology will empower patients to manage their own health and experience greater health outcomes.
Leslie Abasta-Cummings, CEO of Livingston Community Health
Program to Ramp Up Telehealth in Rural Merced County
The San Joaquin Valley’s rural communities face some of the worst health disparities in the nation. Residents lack access to basic care. Traditional service providers have limited reach.
Some of these residents will be the beneficiaries of a public-private pilot initiative to bring telehealth services to underserved communities in Merced County.
Researchers at UC Merced’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the University of California’s Banatao Institute launched the program, partnering with Livingston Community Health, a clinic that serves mostly Latinx communities.
Program participants will receive health education and training in digital literacy as well as software and hardware (phones, tablets and other remote monitoring equipment) needed to connect with health care providers and to monitor chronic health conditions.
The goal is not just to provide the technology needed for telehealth and remote health monitoring, but to ensure patients are empowered to use it and see better health outcomes.
The program, called ACTIVATE, is co-led by Professor David Lindeman, director of CITRIS Health, and Katherine Kim, professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and the School of Medicine at UC Davis.
“The patients we serve are too often left out by traditional health system models,” said Leslie Abasta-Cummings, CEO of Livingston Community Health. “Working with these communities to embed and encourage the use of telehealth technology will empower patients to manage their own health and experience greater health outcomes.”
A Bold Prescription to Boost Medical Education
UC Merced made two confident strides this year in the university’s goal to expand its capabilities in medical education.
- In September, the UC Board of Regents approved a $12 million project to develop preliminary plans for a Health and Behavioral Sciences (Medical Education) building.
- In July, $15 million a year in the California state budget was approved for a medical education partnership between UC Merced, UCSF and UCSF Fresno.
The push to ramp up medical education in the Valley is a response to a pervasive shortage of health professionals in the region. The San Joaquin Valley fails to meet the ratio of primary doctors to residents for managed care required by California law, according to a 2017 study by UCSF’s Healthforce Center. Another Healthforce Center report says the number of registered nurses in the Valley will decline over the next decade while demand for them increases by 35 percent.
The proposed 180,000-square-foot building will house medical education and allied health care facilities, along with two of the university’s largest and fastest-growing academic departments – psychological sciences and public health. The departments are swiftly outgrowing their current research space.
Under the three-member partnership, UC Merced will development a bachelor of science pathway that leads to pursuit of a medical degree at the UCSF School of Medicine's San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME). UC Merced’s Thelma Hurd, director of medical education, and Betsy Dumont, dean of the School of Natural Sciences, are on a team from the three institutions that will propose a Charter for the Expansion of Medical Education in the Central Valley. The charter is expected to follow a 10-year workplan.
“Just as UC Merced has redefined who can go to college by enrolling more first-generation college students than any other campus in the UC system, this will redefine who can be a doctor,” Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced told The Fresno Bee.
Students enrolled in SJV PRIME commit to starting their professional careers in the San Joaquin Valley.
Just as UC Merced has redefined who can go to college by enrolling more first-generation college students than any other campus in the UC system, this will redefine who can be a doctor.
Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced
WELCOME Academic Personnel
AUGUST 1 - OCTOBER 31, 2020
- Rodrigo Alatriste-Diaz
- Dylan ArceJaeger
- Mauricio Calderon
- Abdullah Chaudhary
- Chang-Ying Chiang
- Cameron DeHart
- Laura Dev
- Angel Fernandez Bou
- Jennifer Frehn
- Apoorva Ghosh
- Alexander Guzman
- Ahmed Hemeda
- Luke Harmon
- Sean Horan
- Fumie Iizuka
- Nitul Kakati
- Seungjun Kim
- Emily Langdon
- Thanh-Ngoc Le
- Andrea Lopez
- Linda Navarro
- Ingrid Padilla Espinosa
- Nicosia Shakes
- Manuchehr Shahrokhi
- Junyi Yang
- Neha Zahid
- Lihong Zhao