UCI Undergrads Take a Summer Dive into Research

SIRiPods students gain experience in framing questions, pursuing answers scientifically and presenting their findings

Undergraduate students in the Samueli Interdisciplinary Research in Pods program gather in the lobby of UCI’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building for a poster session to discuss their summer research projects. Brett Sanders / UCI

Oct. 6, 2022 - This summer, 12 UCI undergraduates participated in a monthlong program that culminated in one of the mainstays of academic life: a research poster session. The Samueli Interdisciplinary Research in Pods closing event was held, appropriately, in the first-floor lobby of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building.

Standing by their easel-mounted placards, the presenters offered details about their projects, which were in one of three areas, or “pods”: Medical Innovation With Virtual Reality, Building Beating Hearts, and Sustainable Energy and Fuels.

“SIRiPods challenges undergraduate students to frame and present a research question and then make a case that it matters,” says Brett Sanders, UCI professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We want to help position UCI undergraduates to excel at research in their upper-division courses, in graduate school and beyond.”

He launched SIRiPods in 2021 with the assistance of other faculty and staff in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and remains the program’s leader.

Through a mix of seminars, panel discussions, training sessions, individual meetings, and study and work time, budding scientists gain direct experience in the fundamentals and practice of research. One set of sessions covers the framing of a research question with published literature, oral and written communication of research ideas, developing high-quality graphics for research papers and presentations, planning and budgeting of research projects, and career development.

A second set of sessions introduces students to cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research; faculty mentors provide one-on-one guidance that helps each student dial into a specific research question worthy of future investigation.

“SIRiPods was an incredibly rewarding way to connect with a diverse group of like-minded peers and the caring faculty of UCI,” says participant Lanie Le, a second-year student majoring in biomedical engineering. “I’m excited about pursuing a career in academic research, so the skills, knowledge and experience I gained in SIRiPods will be a big help going forward.”

Le worked with Herdeline Ardoña, UCI assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, in the Building Beating Hearts pod. Her project was to develop conductive peptide-polymer hydrogels with customizable mechanical properties to be used in the treatment of cardiac conditions.

Sanders says he has been encouraged to see SIRiPods students become empowered with new skills and abilities to carry out research. “I hope to see SIRiPods grow and flourish in the coming years,” he says, “and I’m especially excited to follow the achievements of SIRiPods graduates.”

If you want to learn more about supporting this or other activities at UCI, please visit the Brilliant Future website at https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu. Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The Henry Samueli School of Engineering plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/the-henry-samueli-school-of-engineering.

- Brian Bell / UCI