Celebrating Slug success

Richard Hughey, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Spring quarter always has a focus on accomplishments – commencements and other ceremonies, of course, but also Student Achievement Week, our recognition of undergraduates who take particular advantage of the opportunities here to engage in research, projects, and performance.

Undergraduate research provides students with the opportunities to develop their own ideas, techniques, designs, expressions, leadership styles, analyses, and experiments. These experiences help students explore their interests and career options, enhancing portfolios that can launch careers or serve as stepping stones to graduate school.

As an undergraduate, I spent the summer working on a tough graph-theory problem with a mathematics professor. We never did quite solve the problem, but the work honed my skills in programming and developed my sense of open-ended experimental computing. That exposure to the collaborative nature of working to discover and invent convinced me that academia was the place for me.

At UC Santa Cruz, I see students transformed by their research experiences and internships every year. I remember Soraya Danesh, the first and only Chancellor’s Undergraduate Intern to work with the fire department. She and her mentor designed her internship, and she promptly developed a passion for emergency preparedness training. That led to a second year with the department, a collaboration with film students to produce Ready Slug videos, and ultimately to a master’s degree in Public Health focused on risk management.  

Another student, Ariel Anders, participated in a summer research program in computer engineering and then joined one of the Stem Diversity Programs to work in the new area of dental robotics. Today, she is working on her doctorate at MIT, the university tied with UCSC for first in the world in research impact.  

Finally, I remember talking with a student before a Student Union Assembly meeting. He was thrilled to be taking part in one of History Professor Alan Christy’s projects, because as an undergraduate he was not just learning history, but becoming an actual historian.  

Undergraduate research shapes lives and careers for students from all backgrounds.  Research opportunities and internships provide new experiences and leadership, and they broaden students’ understanding of what is possible in college and beyond. They can help shape career paths, as in Soraya’s and my case; I am delighted to be in a position today to help increase research opportunities for UCSC students.

By the time they are graduating seniors, 73 percent of our students have taken part in undergraduate research by assisting or participating in research or creative activities under faculty guidance. This is an exceptional level of participation and engagement. As we approach Student Achievement Week, please take the time to congratulate all of this year’s participants.

Looking ahead, let’s work together to help every undergraduate realize the full potential of their UCSC education by engaging in research, creative expression, and internships. If you are a continuing student, ugr.ue.ucsc.edu is a great place to start.