Why UC Merced?
It's rare that as an undergraduate, you have the opportunity to make real changes to a school. UC Merced is new and constantly improving, so there are tons of opportunities available! I truly believe that UC Merced allows students to get as much out of the experience as they want to put in.
Why Your Major?
Choosing Computer Science and Engineering was always a "natural" choice for me. I spent much of my childhood and free time in high school building things, from Raspberry Pi clusters, to websites for friends and organizations I was a part of. I realized that as a CSE major, I would have the ability to continue working on the types of projects I find interesting while also learning the concepts behind them at a deeper level.
Inspiration and Mentors
Both Professor Erin Hestir and Professor Xiaoyi Lu have been wonderful mentors to me. I took a spatial analysis course taught by Professor Hestir not knowing what to expect. I originally found the course because it fulfilled a degree requirement, but I ended up finding the course incredibly interesting. She offered me a position in her lab as an undergraduate research assistant, though which I was able to apply my programming experience and knowledge of computer science to real problems with real impact. I can't thank her enough for helping me navigate poster submissions for conferences and the application process of wonderful programs like NASA DEVELOP. Professor Lu helped me realize that pursuing Systems in graduate school was possible by giving me the opportunity to work in his lab on a real research topic.
Memorable Academic Experience
Many of the courses I have taken here include a team-based project of some kind. Depending on team dynamics, skill levels, and the amount of time everyone has to devote, these projects can go extremely well or extremely poorly. I consider myself "lucky" enough to have experienced leading teams in both scenarios, and I think my leadership skills are better for it.
I was lucky enough to be accepted to multiple graduateprograms and had to make the difficult decision of choosing just one. Because of my positive experiences with research as an undergraduate, UC Merced won out, so I will be starting this coming fall as a first year PhD student.