The University of California, Merced is a blossoming research institution in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. However, compared with some of the other UC’s that claim the title of the best research universities in the world, how can UCM compare? What does UC Merced have to offer that other universities don’t?

The truth is, there is a kind of appeal of conducting research at UCM. People come from all over the world to work at the newest UC, from undergraduates to postdocs. In order to investigate this appeal and why people choose UC Merced, I asked a few members of the Edwards Lab, an integrative evolution and conservation genetics lab on campus, for their personal reasons.

Dr. Danielle L. Edwards is the head of the Edwards lab and an assistant professor here at UCM. Dr. Edwards, or Dan as her friends call her, is originally from Australia and chose to begin her own lab on our little campus. Her lab and research has attracted scientists from India, France, and all over of the USA.

Dr. Justin Yeager is an evolutionary biologist and postdoc in the Edwards Lab. Dr. Yeager has traveled all over the world and has worked with one of the most famous scientist and naturalist in the world, Sir David Attenborough. Going from working with Attenborough and the BBC to research at our humble campus, it may cause some people to ask why. Why come here, to the newest UC, when Berkeley or UCLA is an option? Dr. Yeager explains his reasoning for choosing UC Merced and the Edwards lab:

“The prospect of working in a new and young university, and working with someone’s who’s work I was interested in and whose work would meld well with mine appealed to me–[it is] a dynamic lab at a university that is finding its footing and that I would be able to add something to it has a lot of appeal.”

Megha Suswaram is a graduate student at UCM and a graduate student in the Edwards Lab. She is originally from India, and came to work at Merced for a variety of reasons. When asked about why she chose UCM for her graduate education, she says:

“I can write volumes about that …It is a young and energetic campus, as well as intellectually challenging. I saw potential in Dan that she could focus my talents into achieving my fullest potential.”

She goes on, noting that “…the average staff age is so young here.” It’s true that the faculty that works at UC Merced is relatively young for most research universities, but youth does not mean inexperience. In fact, researchers at UC Merced have accumulated over 83.6 million dollars in research grants alone.

UC Merced may be the youngest University of California, but being new has its advantages. It provides a clean slate and an opportunity to contribute to the foundation that generations of researchers will build on. The possibilities of growth at UCM makes the university shine bright in the shadow the other UC’s cast over it.

Picture Credits: Katrina Llanillo

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