UC Merced

Students Take the Lead in LEED Certification of Science and Engineering 1 Building

The Science and Engineering 1 Building recently achieved gold certification under LEED Operations and Maintenance criteria. Certification is nothing new to the campus - every building at UC Merced is LEED certified or on track to be certified - but who has begun to handle the certification process is groundbreaking.

An Engineering Service Learning team composed of students from various disciplines spearheaded the SE1 certification process during the spring 2016 and fall 2017 semesters. The LEED Lab course takes students through the steps of the LEED O & M process and, by the end of the course, they are prepared to take the professional credential exam.

Students took part in the entire endeavor, auditing everything from indoor air quality to energy efficiency.

“It is a living lab; it’s not only documents and passing an exam,” said UC Merced Director of Energy and Sustainability Zuhair Mased. “Even if students don’t take the exam, it doesn’t matter, because they have the knowledge now and they take that with them.”

SE1 received LEED gold certification during construction, but the LEED O & M gold certification indicates the building is being operated in a highly sustainable manner.

The laboratories housed in SE1 made the gold certification different from previous ones. UC Merced’s Office of Sustainability said laboratories use roughly four times more energy than office buildings of the same size, so gold certification can bring huge energy and water savings to the university.

Senior Stephen Strug, who served as a project manager, said knowing a LEED certification was the end goal helped the team members take the job more seriously.

“It was a reminder, every time we stepped into a team meeting, that how well we did our work would affect the lives of the students that work in the SE1 building,” said Strug, who is majoring in management and business economics. “The certification process was very much a real-world experience and has had more impact on me than any exam ever has.”

$5 Million Cal-Bridge Grant Aims to Boost Physics, Astronomy Ph.D. Diversity

UC Merced is one of nine University of California campuses and 15 California State University campuses awarded a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to dramatically increase diversity in physics and astronomy over the next five years.

Cal-Bridge creates a pathway for students from CSU campuses to Ph.D. programs in physics and astronomy at UCs across the state. The new grant enables Cal-Bridge to expand from accepting about a dozen scholars per year to as many as 50 statewide. The national average of underrepresented minorities earning Ph.Ds. in these fields is about 80 per year.

Launched four years ago at Cal Poly Pomona, Cal-Bridge provides every student with two faculty mentors, one from a CSU and one from a UC, to assist with the graduate school process.

Jonathan Daniel from Exeter — who is attending graduate school at UC Merced — is one of them.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in physics at CSU Stanislaus, Daniel worked with Stan State Professor Wing To. When he was selected as a Cal-Bridge Scholar, he was also paired up with UC Merced physics Professor Jay Sharping. They met bi-weekly to check in on his course progress and to help him prepare for graduate school.

Throughout the year, Daniel participated in skill and professional development workshops, including Python programming and writing workshops.

“Cal-Bridge supported me financially, which allowed me to not worry as much about student debt,” Daniel said. “Academically it prepared me for the continuation of my academic career.”

In Sharping’s view, the program benefits UC Merced as much as it does Daniel and students like him.

“Jonathan’s past particle physics research projects don’t overlap with our research areas, so he might not have considered applying here,” Sharping said. “After visiting campus and learning more, I think he got excited about the science going on at UC Merced and we grew on him.”

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the campus’s Public Relations team. To contact the team, email PR@ucmerced.edu.