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Grad Students Invited to UC Merced’s First ‘Nanoengineering Environmental Sensors’ Incubator Program

March 1, 2022
Graduate students stand before the Beginnings sculpture.
The first CONDESA cohort, from left to right: Anna Jurusik (Environmental Systems), Jorge Arteaga (Physics), Shelby Defeo (Environmental Systems) and Kyle Wright (Applied Math). Photo by Sayantani Ghosh.

Graduate students who are passionate about their research, concerned about the environment and eager to reach across disciplinary boundaries are invited to apply for a three-week summer program in which they will team up with like-minded scientists and engineers to design solutions to environmental sensing challenges.

Applications are being accepted online through March 20 for the first Science and Engineering of Environmental Signatures (SEES) Convergence Research Incubator. The program, designed by physics Professor Michael Scheibner and environmental engineering Professor Tom Harmon, is being organized by the Convergence of Nano-engineered Devices for Environmental and Sustainability Applications ( CONDESA ) program, designed to provide extensive training in research and professional development for graduate students.

Each incubator participant will attend seminars with guest speakers, work on multi-disciplinary team projects and take part in technical and professional development activities. Each participant will also receive a minimum of $1,000 for their own research-related travel.

“It’s a three-week incubator where they will be brought up to speed on nanoscience, be put into teams and try to come up with designs for specific challenges in environmental sensing, which we will set for them,” said physics Professor Sayantani Ghosh, who leads CONDESA.

Under the guidance of UC Merced faculty and Lawrence Livermore National Lab staff scientists, teams will research the current state of the science, develop concepts and perform feasibility studies to develop their proposals. The teams will pitch their proposals to a panel of experts and may be awarded additional funds for research-related expenses.

The incubator is limited to UC Merced students this year, but CONDESA members hope to be able to include California State University students in the future.

CONDESA students who joined the first cohort this spring will also be part of the incubator before they go off to work this summer with researchers at Lawrence Livermore Lab.

The first CONDESA cohort has four grad students from environmental sciences, physics and applied math, and Ghosh and her colleagues are recruiting for the next cohort, as well as for the incubator.

CONDESA is supported by a nearly $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation and aims to train about 200 graduate students over the next five years as they learn and work to develop nano-sensors to better manage resources.