UC Irvine's undergraduate research programs receive $900,000 funding boost

01/31/05

National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health grants establish two new summer programs

Irvine, Calif., Jan. 31, 2005 -- With more than $900,000 in total funding, two new grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health will significantly expand undergraduate research opportunities this year at UC Irvine.

A three-year $275,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, announced this month, will establish a Research Experience for Undergraduates site in integrated micro/nanosystems -- a program beginning this summer that will allow students from colleges across the country to conduct research at UCI for 10 weeks. Beginning this spring, a second three-year grant -- $648,000 from the National Institutes of Health -- will allow UCI students to pursue interdisciplinary research in disease prevention and health promotion.

In stiff competition for both grants, UCI was among just five institutions nationwide to receive grants earmarked for these or similar purposes. Last fall, UCI was among 36 schools recognized for its "Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects" by U.S. News & World Report.

"These grants are a significant investment into our summer programs and reinforce UCI's place as a premier university to conduct undergraduate research," said Meredith Lee, dean of undergraduate education. "Further, the grants provide an extraordinary opportunity for undergraduates to put together what they've learned in a series of classes into a single, extensive and sustained research experience."

The two new programs will be administered through UCI's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which serves 1,700 undergraduates each year with advising and funding, and allows students to publish and present their research among peers through an annual journal and symposium.

Through the Integrated Micro/Nano Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, UCI will host juniors and seniors -- four from UCI and 12 from colleges across the country -- pursuing research interests in biomedical, physical and engineering applications using micro/nanotechnology. Students will use the campus's state-of-the-art facilities, including the Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility, according to G. P. Li, INRF director and principal investigator of the NSF grant.

"This program extends to undergraduate students the kind of interdisciplinary collaborations we have brought to local companies, faculty researchers and graduate students," said Li, professor of electrical engineering and computer science. "We will give undergraduates early exposure to emerging fields by emphasizing high-tech and interdisciplinary research."

Similarly, the Interdisciplinary Summer Undergraduate Research Experience will enable approximately 35 UCI undergraduates to explore health and wellness through a variety of disciplines – from sociology to biology. For example, students may look at the social inequalities in access to health care or the brain's chemical reaction to nicotine. Throughout the summer research experience, participants will come together to discuss how their individual projects explore health issues through different academic lenses.

"We want undergraduates to become familiar with the challenges of interdisciplinary research and also to realize the benefits of analyzing the same topic from different angles," said Daniel Stokols, co-principal investigator of the NIH grant and director of the UCI Health Promotion Center. The program is a joint endeavor of UROP, the School of Social Ecology and UCI Health Promotion Center.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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