UC Merced Connect: Virtual tour opens campus

July 22, 2013 

The best way to explore what UC Merced has to offer is to see it firsthand.

However, for prospective students and their family members who can't make the trip, there is a new online tool that helps viewers get a glimpse of the state-of-the-art campus and see what it's like to be a student.

The newly launched virtual tour — admissions.ucmerced.edu/ virtualtour — will make it easier to experience campus, whether a prospective student wants to see the campus from afar, a community member is deciding where to park for an event or a current student is learning more about the campus.

"The interactive map will not replace in-person tours; it will complement them and provide access to locations where normal tours are not able to go," said Dustin Noji, associate director for marketing and analysis in the Office of Admissions and Outreach.

"With the virtual tour, we have the ability to show off the campus as well as aggregate videos, pictures, faculty profiles and information associated with tour stops," Noji said.

The virtual tour — available online and eventually as a mobile app — features a full walking tour of the UC Merced campus with admissions staffers Georgie Smith and Mark Greene serving as tour guides at each stop. Tours are available in English and will be available in Spanish soon.

Refining solvent use

In a move that will save the campus money, improve campus safety and help save the environment, Professor Jason Hein set up a new solvent purification system.

This project is similar to his previous efforts to reduce hazardous waste generated by his lab by capturing and recycling acetone.

The UC Merced provost's office approved spending $42,000 to purchase the six-tank purification-and- drying system that cleans chemical solvents, providing high purity, water-free solvents for research. This system stores the solvent and cleans the impurities using rechargeable cartridges.

"It's like a beer keg meets a Brita water filter," Hein said. "It's basically a zero-waste system."

The bench-top filtration system is one more way UC Merced is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and environmentally responsible practices.

Wet labs need high-purity solvents to perform experiments or materials synthesis, but they are expensive to buy, and once opened, become impure and unusable.

Another common system research labs adopt is to set up dedicated glass solvent stills. But those require large fume-hood space and mean large quantities of flammable solvent are stored over highly reactive compounds.

"Many disastrous lab accidents can be attributed to improper handling and usage of lab stills. This system represents a major safety improvement for our campus," Hein said.

The purification system, which uses pressurized argon gas to drive solvent through the cartridge, can save campus labs thousands of dollars in solvent costs.

"Our annual anhydrous solvent expenditure was on the order of $2,000 last year and is expected to increase," Hein said. "This system represents a major cost and time savings."

Plus, because the used cartridges go back to the manufacturer for cleaning and recharging, the campus will no longer have the cost of storing and disposing of the hazardous waste from many solvents.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email communications@ucmerced.edu.

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