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Southern California Edison Gives $250K for Energy, Water Research

April 28, 2011
Gift will provide scholarships and fellowships for 50 students over two years in UC Merced's Sierra Nevada Research Institute and Solar Power Forecasting Initiative

Dozens of students at the University of California, Merced, will be able to research new ways of increasing energy efficiency and protecting our environmental resources thanks to a $250,000 gift to the campus from Southern California Edison (SCE).

Between two installments of $125,000, one in 2010 and one in 2011, the gift will benefit a total of 46 undergraduate and four graduate students in UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI) and Solar Power Forecasting Initiative. In addition, two UC Merced students will receive internships with SCE.

“Our campus is establishing itself as a leader in renewable energy and sustainability research,” Chancellor Steve Kang said. “This generous gift from Southern California Edison will help us continue to train the next generation of global leaders in these very important fields.”

Les Starck, SCE’s vice president of local public affairs, said the gift is an investment in future technologies that will ultimately improve energy efficiency and water resource management on a global scale.

“UC Merced is already making great strides in areas of study that are critical to our future as an energy provider and our ability as a society to deal with the extreme challenges we face,” Starck said. “The work being conducted by these future engineers and scientists means so much to Californians and to the world of energy and water.”

To be eligible for the graduate fellowships, students must have an interest in the fields of hydrology modeling or energy research. For undergraduate scholarships, students must have a financial need and be majoring in environmental engineering, earth systems sciences, biology or mechanical engineering. The gift is already making a difference in students’ lives.

Peter Kirchner is one graduate student who has benefited from the SCE gift. He’s currently working with mountain hydrologist and SNRI Director Roger Bales, studying the impacts of climate change on the hydrology of mountain ecosystems and developing new ways to quantify and predict California’s water resources.

Ashley Graham, a senior majoring in molecular and cell biology with a minor in professional writing, moved from Florida to San Diego with her family and arrived at UC Merced by way of Modesto Junior College. The SCE scholarship she received last year allowed her to continue working in the Garcia-Ojeda Immunology Laboratory, where she assists with studies on stem cells and T-lymphocyte development.

“Scholarships have helped motivate and sustain my commitment to education, as they allow me to work fewer hours outside of the classroom,” Graham said. “This means I have been able to focus more on studying and spending time in the lab, both of which are important to my professional development and future success.”