Alumni Weekend: A cornucopia of Slugs come home, seeking thrills and techno-inspiration

Returning Slugs will get an immersive look at the Baskin School of Engineering during UC Santa Cruz's Alumni Weekend, with many exciting activities taking place from April 26-28.

A student stands inside of the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE). Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta
Preparing a pipette takes steady hands. A glimpse at Camilla Forsberg’s laboratory.

Spring in Santa Cruz bears witness to many great migrations: fluttering orange clouds of monarch butterflies float home, the Monterey Bay fills with whale spouts and superpods of dolphin while seabirds flock above, but few are as spectacular as the annual return of the Slugs. This April 26–28 a cornucopia of Banana Slugs will return home for UC Santa Cruz’s Alumni Weekend 2019.

Among the most anticipated events are those put on by the Baskin School of Engineering, a relatively new (in collegiate terms) wing of the university that has grown to encompass more than a quarter of the campus’s 16,952 undergraduates since its founding in 1997.

This year engineering festivities begin at 6 p.m. on the school’s Silicon Valley Campus in Santa Clara (3175 Bowers Avenue): Silicon Valley Game Night will feature a plethora of games created by students and faculty, which range from traditional entertainment games to serious games designed for health, education, industrial training, and activism. Enjoy a reception featuring demonstrations of virtual reality and other Slug creations, plus a panel discussion and a mixer.

Register here for Silicon Valley Game Night.

Saturday is an opportunity to learn from faculty about the exciting research taking place at Baskin Engineering. There will be three simultaneous teach-ins, beginning at 11 a.m. (doors open at 10:30 a.m.). Unusual for teach-ins, these will be small, seminar-style classes with ample opportunity to engage with the professors directly.

More information and registration for teach-ins, and here is a video of last year’s teach in.

David Bernick, assistant adjunct professor of biomolecular engineering, will be discussing “Fuel, Food, and Pharma: Can Synthetic Biology Empower Social Change?” He works with biofuels produced with “reengineered extremophiles” and is an authority on next-generation sequencing applications, particularly virus discovery and single molecule sequencing of highly structured/modified tRNA and novel halo virus discovery.

His teach-in, like all the others, is designed to be enjoyed by all curious Banana Slugs—no matter their major or career path.

Lise Getoor, professor of computer science and engineering, will be discussing “Responsible Data Science.” Getoor is a preeminent authority on machine learning and data science. As credit decisions, sentencing outcomes, and other complex decision-making processes are increasingly decided by algorithms, Getoor is deeply concerned with educating the general public about the benefits and shortcomings of this new discipline.

Abhradeep Guha Thakurta, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, will be discussing “Decoding Genetic Privacy.” He describes his work as being at the intersection of machine learning and data privacy, particularly in designing privacy-preserving machine learning algorithms with strong analytical guarantees. He brings his experience in industry and academia to create unique insights into some of the most confounding problems facing people today.

Following the teach-ins will be a special treat: at noon, enjoy an intimate lunch with Baskin School of Engineering Dean Alexander Wolf. Lunch will be served al fresco in the courtyard between the two engineering buildings. Wolf will highlight the school’s recent significant accomplishments, and discuss entrepreneurial thinking and experiential learning. It’s an opportunity to meet the current dean and hear about the future being created at UC Santa Cruz. (There will be an $8 fee to cover the cost of food.)

More information and registration for lunch.

Perhaps the most exciting event of all comes after lunch. From 1:30–3 p.m., three engineering labs will offer tours and presentations of amazing work being done at Baskin School of Engineering. As with the teach-ins, these tours are designed for anyone to enjoy.

More information and registration for lab tours.

The CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) is akin to the Star Trek Holodeck. UC Santa Cruz is one of the few universities in the country with one installed. Sri Kurniawan, professor of computational media, and Mircea Teodorescu, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will discuss how they use this unique machine and its many applications in design, restorative health, literature, and more. Watch the video.

The Hybrid Systems Lab will also be opening its doors. A must-see for anyone interested in robotics or automation, hybrid systems describes some of the most complex and interesting (and spectacular) processes in nature and technology. Ricardo Sanfelice, professor of electrical and computer engineering, will be giving a presentation and discussing some of the ways his team uses the lab. Watch the video.

The Institute for the Biology of Stem Cells is offering a chance to see the future of medicine in action. Camilla Forsberg, professor of biomolecular engineering, will be guiding visitors through the equipment they use and some of the fascinating work being done in the lab. Observe the way tissues are sampled, cultured, and examined; watch demonstrations; and meet the people working with the building blocks of life.

Afterwards, Slugs seeking refreshment after a long day reminiscing and slithering around the redwoods are cordially invited to imbibe fruit juice at the BE (i.e., Baskin Engineering) Happy Juice bar, open from 3–4 p.m. Be seeing you!

Here is the schedule of Baskin Engineering events during Alumni Weekend.

Check out the full schedule of Alumni Weekend events.