UC Merced Engineering News | Spring 2022
Dear Colleagues,

Greetings from the School of Engineering at the University of California, Merced. I am pleased to announce that our graduate engineering programs in the School of Engineering continue to rise overall in the U.S. New and World Report rankings. This steady rise, from being unranked just a few years ago, is directly linked to the talent and tenacity of our faculty to pursue excellence.

The School of Engineering is ranked No. 116 in the nation by U.S. News, up three spots from 119 last year, after debuting at No. 140 in 2015. Computer engineering (part of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Group) ranked 94, up from 97; computer science (also part of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Group) ranked 115, up from 119; materials engineering (part of the Materials and Biomaterials Science Engineering Graduate Group) ranked 91, up from 97; and Mechanical Engineering ranked 122, up from 127. Biomedical engineering (Bioengineering Graduate Group) ranked 118; electrical engineering (part of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Group) ranked 128; and environmental engineering (Environmental Systems Graduate Group) ranked 84.

This Spring semester 2022, notable faculty highlights for the School of Engineering include:
  • Mechanical engineering Professor Sachin Goyal received a CAREER award for his research into how the arrangements of atoms and interatomic bonds affect the deformability of biological filaments such as those that control gene expression.
  • The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering elected founding faculty member Professor Kara McCloskey into its College of Fellows for outstanding contributions to biomaterials for cell and tissue engineering, and meritorious commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Engineering Professor Ming-Hsuan Yang has been elected one of the 71 new fellows recognized by the Association for Computing Machinery ─ the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society.

Our goal is excellence in research and teaching, striving to be better each year. UC Merced is truly building the future in the heart of California, and the School of Engineering is proud to be a major part of the university’s success.
Prof. Goyal, front, with several of his students, will receive $500,000 over the next five years for the project “Understanding the Deformability of Biological Filaments from their Atomistic Level Details.”  
Mechanical Engineering faculty, Professor Sachin Goyal, receives prestigious CAREER Award

Mechanical engineering Professor Sachin Goyal has received a CAREER award for his research into how the arrangements of atoms and interatomic bonds affect the deformability of biological filaments such as those that control gene expression, and whether it’s possible to design them for desired deformation behaviors by simply changing the atomistic configurations.
Faculty Elected to AIMBE
Prof. Kara McCloskey, pictured above, is the first faculty member from UC Merced to earn this honor.
Professor Kara McCloskey Earns a Place Among Fellows in Prestigious Bioengineering Organization

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has elected founding faculty member Professor Kara McCloskey into its College of Fellows for outstanding contributions to biomaterials for cell and tissue engineering, and meritorious commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. She is the first faculty from UC Merced to earn this honor.
Faculty Elevated to Fellow of IEEE
Professor Sarah Kurtz, center, poses with graduate students Aaron Wheeler and Dalia Martinez behind a solar panel.
Computer Science and Engineering Faculty Receives Prestigious Recognition and Ranking Acclaim
UC Merced Leaps Up in Nature Index’s Young University Ranking
UC Merced is being recognized among the world's best young universities. UC Merced has earned the distinction of ranking No. 20 among the world's Rising Young Universities, according to the just-released Nature Index 2021 Young Universities — the only U.S. institution to place in the top 25.

Among the leading 150 Young Universities, UC Merced ranks No. 80, and for Leading 50 Young Universities in Life Sciences, it ranks No. 43. These rankings are a jump from 2019, when the campus placed No. 92 among Top 175 Young Universities.

This new issue of the Index, run by the prestigious Nature Publishing Group, highlights the National Science Foundation-funded CREST Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Machines (CCBM) in the context of UC Merced and features an interview with bioengineering Professor Victor Muñoz, who co-directs the CCBM with physics Professor Ajay Gopinathan.
The Science of Climate Change
This video was created for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute explaining the science behind and some of the solutions to climate change. The video was filmed, in part, on the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve and in nearby forest areas, and features Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe and Professor Crystal Kolden.
San Joaquin Valley Climate Change
Professor Joshua Viers, professor of Water Resources Management at UC Merced and director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, outlines the key findings of a UC Merced study on how climate change will likely impact agriculture and disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley.
A Leader in Water Energy Food & Technology Systems
UC Merced is Becoming Recognized as the Smart Ag University
The state of California, the University of California, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Science Foundation and others have awarded grants and allocations totaling more than $48 million, dramatically increasing the number of smart ag projects Merced's growing roster of faculty are pursuing. UC Merced researchers have long focused on the San Joaquin Valley as their living laboratory, working at the intersection of water, energy, food and technology.
Multi-Million Dollar Project with Turlock Irrigation District
Solar-Powered Canal Getting a Test Run in the San Joaquin Valley
Turlock Irrigation District board voted to bring a UC Merced research project to life. Funded by $20 million from the state, TID will build solar panels to cover a portion of its water canals to generate energy, reduce water evaporation and keep canals cleaner, reducing maintenance costs. a group of UC Merced researchers will analyze the project including studying the scalability, energy production and life cycle.
$1.5M from National Institute of Food and Agriculture
New Climate-focused Agriculture Program Aims to Train Students, Professionals and Farmers
A new $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will enable a new project, led by our Cooperative Extension Specialist Tapan Pathak ( designed to create an integrated program to develop multi-faceted pathways to climate-smart agriculture solutions. Pathak plans involve farmers and ranchers, technical service providers and students for a variety of training and educational activities.
$1.5M from CA Department of Food and Agriculture
Last Year’s Drought Cost Ag Industry More Than $1 Billion, Thousands of Jobs, New Analysis Shows
Funded by a $1.5 million research grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, School of Engineering professors Josué Medellín-Azuara, John Abatzoglou and Joshua Viers and colleagues have worked since last fall to develop an economic analysis of the impacts of the 2021 drought on the state’s agriculture. The new report shows direct costs of the drought are about $1.1 billion and nearly 8,750 full- and part-time jobs.
$1.4M from CA Energy Commission
Winston Cone Optics' Innovative Technology Garners State, National Attention
 Distinguished Professor and Director of the University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar) Roland Winston has created several devices for solar thermal energy that have grabbed the attention of the California Energy Commission.

Earlier this year the California Energy Commission awarded Winston’s company, Winston Cone Optics, $1.4 million to reduce emissions in the food processing industry. His company also has two technologies entered in the U.S. Department of Energy’s “American Made Challenges.”
Study Shows Climate-Driven Forest Fires on the Rise. UC Merced professors John Abatzoglou and Crystal Kolden, along with collaborators from the University of Washington, UCLA and the Cary Institute, published a paper in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment detailing their findings.
Poop Surveillance Proved Its Worth During Pandemic: Professor Colleen Naughton is helping set up testing in Merced, Modesto and surrounding Central Valley farm towns to further wastewater testing.
Climate change is warming Western nights and increasing the risk of more severe nighttime fires, and decreasing the ability of firefighters to depend on cooler nights to get control of fires, a new study by Professor John Abatzoglou and colleagues shows.
As wildfires like the Creek Fire devastate California forests each year, what effects do these blazes have on agriculture in the Central Valley? Professor Roger Bales contributes to this episode of ValleyPBS American Grown: My Job Depends on Ag - Burn Scars.
UC Merced Team Wins CITRIS’s Inaugural Student Aviation Competition
The winning team (which is advised by mechanical engineering Professor YangQuan Chen and management of complex systems Professor Spencer Castro) submitted a proposal for a “long endurance edge-AI platform for research opportunities and data gathering,” called Project LEAP-FROG. In addition to the 115-mile-long endurance flight, they proposed to measure the amount of residual dry matter, or old plant material left on the ground at the beginning of a new growing season, over 200 acres of rural environments.