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Ph.D. Student Attending UC Merced on Prestigious USDA Scholarship

December 12, 2013

UC Merced doctoral candidate Irvin Arroyo might have been destined for his chosen career path studying water and agriculture from a very young age.

“Growing up on a farm, doing farm work and watching plants grow, I became interested in natural sciences,” he said.

His parents supported his interest, and teachers in the Madera schools where he received his early education encouraged him, as well.  Arroyo completed his undergraduate work as well as a master’s degree in chemistry at California State University, Fresno, then went to work as a biological sciences technician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Parlier.

“Fresno State’s great professors and their emphasis on research prepared me well for graduate research,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo now attends UC Merced with help from a particularly prestigious scholarship. The USDA and the CSU Water Resources and Policy Initiative jointly support his $40,000 award, which was created specifically for students in the natural sciences at federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Arroyo’s application for the scholarship underwent stringent review by a committee of representatives from the CSU system. Receiving the award was an honor he felt keenly, and he could have used it to attend any university in California. He chose UC Merced because it was close to home; he liked the idea of being able to pursue his doctorate without having to relocate his family.

The newest UC campus is rapidly gaining an excellent reputation in earth systems sciences and offered the program and advisor Arroyo needed. That made a great difference for his graduate school decision, as well.

“I’m doing my dissertation research with Professor Tom Harmon,” Arroyo explained. “My area of research deals with soil salinity [saltiness] in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Although he just began coursework in Fall 2013, Arroyo has already found that UC Merced offers him an outstanding scholarly community.

“I’ve found the faculty, particularly Professor Harmon, to be very helpful in my first semester here,” he said. “And I find that my fellow graduate students are highly motivated and extremely well prepared.”

After he completes his doctorate in Environmental Systems at UC Merced, Arroyo sees his career continuing on a related but elevated course.

“I do plan on continuing to work for the USDA,” he said. “The scientist I work for there has been instrumental in my Ph.D. pursuit.”

As a Ph.D. researcher for the USDA or any other institution, Arroyo would join a growing body of high-level scientists who can boast that their doctorates came from UC Merced.