UC Merced Engineering News | Fall 2021
Dean's Message
Dear Colleagues,

Salutations from the School of Engineering at the University of California, Merced. As a highly diverse school and institution, we are always looking for new ways to engage students and broaden their paths to career and research opportunities. Our goal is excellence in research and teaching, striving to be better each year.

UC Merced remains in the top 100, rising to 93rd among national universities — up 72 spots over four years. The campus is 38th among public universities and 18th among R2 universities, and 4th among all universities in supporting social mobility.

For engineering, we are up 14 spots for our undergraduate program (to No. 131) and 19 spots (to No. 119) for our graduate program. We were unranked by the U.S. News & World Report in the 2016 listings and since our 2017 rankings debut, we have achieved an upward trend. This latest ranking is affirmation of the School of Engineering's commitment to excellence and continuing improvement. I am very proud of the hard work and effort of our faculty.

This Fall semester 2021 marks the debut of a new civil engineering major that emphasizes sustainable systems and infrastructure. Civil engineering is the first new undergraduate engineering major since Fall 2006, the year after the campus first opened, yet it is the oldest engineering discipline. Civil engineering is important for the future of the Central Valley and California. At UC Merced, particularly in the School of Engineering, we are focused on sustainability. Our goal for the civil engineering program is to train students with sustainability in mind when designing infrastructure for the futures such as transportation systems, water supply networks and smart buildings, among other things. 

UC Merced is truly building the future in the heart of California, and the School of Engineering is proud to be a major part of the university’s success.
USDA Funds $20M for Ag Institute
A machine developed in Professor Reza Ehsani's lab improves almond harvests by reducing the amount of dust stirred up as the nuts are gathered from the ground.
New AgAID Institute Expands UC Merced’s Smart, Sustainable Agriculture Effort

With a new $20 million federal grant, UC Merced becomes part of a multi-institutional research collaborative to develop artificial intelligence — or AI — solutions to tackle some of agriculture’s biggest challenges related to water management, climate change and integration of new technology into farming.

The new institute is one of 11 launched this year by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and among two funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The newly announced AgAID Institute is shorthand for the collaborative USDA-NIFA Institute for Agricultural AI for Transforming Workforce and Decision Support.
Meet the Team
Joshua Viers
Reza Ehsani
Jian Qiao Sun
Josué Medellín-Azuara
John Abatzoglou
California Appropriates $40M for UC Merced
Future of Food Innovation
$30,000,000 shall be provided to the University of California, Merced Future of Food Innovation Fund for the collaboration with California State University (CSU), Fresno and other partners to establish the Innovation Center for Research and Entrepreneurship in Ag-Food Technology and Engineering.
Experimental Smart Farm
$10,000,000 shall be available to UC Merced to establish a Center on Food Resilience through Equity, Sustainability, and Health (FRESH) and a Center of Analytic Political Engagement (CAPE).
USDA Funds $10M SWIM Project
The USDA has given UC Merced its largest single grant, $10 million over the next five years, to form the Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems through Innovations in Measurement, Management and Markets or SWIM collaborative, focusing on developing more robust, data-driven information systems for decision-makers such as land and water managers; train graduate students; and enhance UC Merced’s college-going pipeline to train future generations of researchers and decision makers.
What is SWIM?

SWIM, which stands for securing a climate resilient water future for agriculture and ecosystems through innovations in measurement, management and markets, is an innovative team of stakeholders, educators and scientists working together.

Project Goals

To understand, to enable, and to envision water management strategies empowered through data-enabled decision making.

UC Merced Team

Professors Joshua Viers, John Abatzoglou, Tom Harmon, Teamrat Ghezzehei, Josué Medellín-Azuara and Colleen Naughton | UC ANR Extension Specialist Safeeq Khan | CalTeach Program Lead Chelsea Arnold | Researchers: Leigh Bernacchi, Max Eriksson and Nicholas Santos.
NSF Awards $1M for Protein Folding Research
Engineering Professor Awarded $1 Million NSF Award to Study Protein Folding
Bioengineering Professor Victor Muñoz’s was awarded over $1 million from the NSF to study protein folding, a field that still contains many questions.
Rusu Lab Improves Database Query Results with NSF Grant
Computer Science and Engineering faculty, Professor Florin Rusu received $499,870 from the National Science Foundation to fund his research on Compass, a novel query optimization paradigm that uses sketch data synopses.
Prof. Hestir Turns NASA Technology Toward Earth's Biodiversity
From deserts to shrubland to montane forests, the diversity of life in South Africa’s Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) is the subject of NASA’s first biodiversity campaign led by UC Merced Professor Erin Hestir (pictured above).

The program is a collaboration with Professor Adam Wilson at State University of New York at Buffalo and local partners in South Africa such as the South African Ecological Observation Network and the South African Space Agency.
California is known for its beautiful coastline, where the Pacific Ocean meets sandy beaches and rugged cliffs. While many scientists have studied the land or ocean independently, less is known about the nexus of the two.
Engineering Professor Awarded NASA Grant to Study Impacts of Wildfires on California’s Coastline
With the help of a $750,000 award from NASA, Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Erin Hestir (left) and her postdoctoral scholar, Dulcinea Avouris, along with Civil and Environmental engineering Professor Thomas Harmon, will be studying how wildfires alter changes in carbon and sediment along California's coastline.
Professor Naughton Earns AAEES Grand Prize for "COVIDPoops19"
A Conversation with Multi-awarded Tribologist Professor Ashlie Martini
Spencer Lab Publishes New Technique for Live Imaging
Professor Joel Spencer's most recent publication began with an observation he made during his postdoctoral appointment at Harvard University. Spencer noticed that negative contrast, an inadvertent side effect of his live imaging technique, actually allowed him to measure things like blood velocity and blood vessel permeability within the bone marrow he was studying.
New this Fall 2021!
Civil Engineering
Some exciting news -- UC Merced has a new civil engineering major! The new major sits within the existing civil and environmental engineering major and is available to first-year students. The program also received a generous donation from Topcon Positioning Systems which will help prepare students for careers in the industry by giving them hands-on experience with top-of-the-line gear.
The materials science and engineering faculty are excited to announce this new opportunity for students to choose an MSE minor starting in the Fall of 2021. This new minor is the first, and currently only, engineering minor offered at UC Merced.

The bioengineering department is rolling out a new undergraduate program that is structured specifically around a curriculum consistent with ABET accreditation expectations. The new program offers students two distinct pathways to exciting careers in the bioengineering field.

Students Conduct Ag Tech Research on Campus for USDA Internships
FACTS Summer Bridge program is a six-week summer program, funded by USDA, which allows students to work with faculty mentors in a focused environment.

This is a great example of how UC Merced is equipping students with actionable tools they can use in the classroom and the workforce.

The program was put together by CITRIS and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) in collaboration with faculty from the School of Natural Sciences, School of Engineering, and the Department of Public Health.