May 6, 2014
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UC Merced students inspired by Laboratory visit

Kenneth K Ma, ma28 [at], 925-423-7602

UC Merced students spent Friday touring Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a place where some of them dream of working as a scientist or engineer.

The group included 20 undergraduate and graduate students from the university's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Resource Center. The purpose of the visit was for LLNL to strengthen its collaboration with the state's newest UC to provide students with internship and career opportunities.

"I thought it was very inspiring," UC Merced senior Calvin Ogbuefi said of the visit. "I saw all the diverse areas of science being put to work at Livermore. It really got me excited."

During the daylong visit, the students met with LLNL researchers and visited the National Ignition Facility as well as the Engineering Directorate's Center for Micro-and Nanotechnology and additive manufacturing lab.

Vic Castillo, an engineer in the Computational Engineering Division; Beth McCormick, LLNL's Strategic Human Resources Management's Diversity program leader; and Petia Gueorguieva, the coordinator of UC Merced's STEM Resource Center, organized the visit.

"By coming to the Lab, the students are gaining experience about real-world science," said Castillo, who's spending a portion of this year helping UC Merced engineering students with their Capstone projects as part of the Lab's Professional Research and Teaching Leave. "My goal at UC Merced is to enhance our collaboration with them at the student and research levels."

Gueorguieva said the visit was an excellent opportunity for her students to network with Lab researchers and learn about many careers in science and technology.

"We really hope we can establish ourselves with the Lab," she said, adding that her students anticipate finding STEM jobs in government and industry after they graduate from UC Merced.

Of the more than 6,000 students who attend UC Merced, 52 percent are STEM majors, Gueorguieva said.

Because the university is so new -- the first classes were held in 2005 -- LLNL has not hired many UC Merced students or graduates for internships or full-time positions, Castillo said. But he hopes that will change soon.

"Exposing them to us today is a good step in that direction," he said.

The Lab has hired many employees and interns from the UC's 10-campus system, particularly from the Berkeley and Davis campuses.

UC Merced sophomore Josephine Hovhannessian said the visit was fun and really interesting.

"I was really impressed by how much preparation went into building this thing," she said of NIF. "They made a miniature star that was the width of a hair, which was incredible."

Hovhannessian said she would be interested in a career at LLNL.

"I worked at an optics lab as a freshman," the physics major said. "A lot of the things I learned there apply here, and it's something that interests me. So I will definitely apply for an internship here."

Natalie Azevedo, another UC Merced sophomore who is interested in an LLNL career, said she was impressed by the variety of research projects the Lab is involved in.

"I think that would be a really incredible experience [working at LLNL]," the applied mathematics major said. "There are so many diverse people here. I think it will open a lot of doors and open my mind to the possibilities out there."