UC Merced Graduate Studies: Mechanical Engineering

UC Merced Graduate Studies: Mechanical Engineering


Well, the program is Mechanical Engineering
and Applied Mechanics. It’s a multidisciplinary
program for Ph.D. and master’s students. The
fields of interest are usually in the thermofluids
area, the solid mechanics and controls.
We do all things related to mechanical engineering
I suppose. So everything that moves from transportation
to construction to small-scale devices.
We have a spirit of hands on participation,
our students design and they also actually
make things work. This is very important in
the sciences, you don’t just think about things,
you don’t just read about things, you actually
do them.
Not just performing the research and learning
the research tools, but presenting that research
publicly, writing that research in terms of
publication.
So perhaps when you first come in you’re reproducing
what’s already been done. But really, what
we hope is that every student that comes here
as a graduate, through the graduate program,
actually moves forward, moves the research
forward.
I’m a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering
and applied mechanics, I’m part of MESA Lab
here at UC Merced, and that’s mechatronics
embedded systems and automation. Currently
I am working on a hybrid VTOAL, which is vertical
take off and landing. Although platforms like
this have been developed, it’s based off of
a switch, and so what we’re doing is making
a mathematical model to basically control
the entire aircraft.
My current project that I’m starting is atomic
friction, using molecular dynamics simulation.
So for the friction at very small scales.
The course work I would say is to provide
a strong background for the methods and techniques
that are for mechanical systems, in all the
areas from experimental, computational and
analytical.
We really want to emphasize the research aspect
both in the master’s and PhD program so we
have a relatively low course work compared
to other places. For example if you come in
with a master’s, as a PhD we only require
four courses. So that means that you should
be making up for that in terms of more research,
and more focused study, but we do have a rather
low course load.
I’m doing research on multi-objective optimization,
any application if you have more than one
variable to tune, then it’s a good idea to
use this multi-objective optimization.
So my project here at UC Merced is involving
alternative energy sources, and we are working
on plasma glassification of waste.
There’s a lot of things that we teach and
that I provide via mentorship to the students
that isn’t just the classical — here’s a
research tool and here’s how you use it.
It was really hard for me to meet with my
professor when I was in my previous university,
so that is the case in all the universities
I guess, but here it’s very much better.
We care a lot about the students. We spend
social time with them, we have group parties,
occasionally I take my students with me to
conferences.
I never really thought about it as a mentorship
initially, then Dr. Chen’s like “I am your
mentor, like if you need anything you can
come to me, it doesn’t just have to be about,
you know graduate studies or any studies we’re
doing.” He’s more like a family member to
me, and that was something that was really
cool for me.
We hope, we expect and we try to mentor our
grade students to be able to make that step
beyond what’s already been done to moving
the field forward.
The place I am working, my lab, is very close
to the office of my professor. So anytime
in the day, just, I don’t even knock at the
door, I just go to meet him and he really
likes it. I love it.
A lot of the mentorship comes from fellow
students, fellow students are very good at
training each other. So the more experienced
students take on the less experienced students
and it’s a real good nurturing opportunity.
I was invited to speak to the board of trustee’s
on the things I do in my lab, and I thought
that was really cool and how they kinda of
are very involved with every graduate program
and every research program that is going on
at UC Merced, how they know the in’s and out’s
of it, and that to me is really special too.
Within engineering, pretty much all of our
students are completely supported, either
through teaching assistantship, a TA, a research
assistantship, an RA, or a school fellowship.
And because we are so small, we are able to
do that.
Housing is really cheap here, so compared
to all other places in California, you’ve
got the best rates for housing in Merced.
So that makes so much sense, and if you want
to get a lot of joy around, you can just drive
1.5 or 2 hours to go to San Francisco, to
go to Bay Area, to get to the Yosemite National
Park, Monterey, Sacramento. Everything’s just
two hours away.
When it comes right down to it, if you go
out into the world, mostly you are being given
a problem, for which there is not already
an answer. So, graduate school is not dissimilar
from real life.

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