Professor Quoc-Viet Dang sees research as a way for undergraduates to tie theoretical concepts from their classes with practical applications. He considers this experience to be a tremendous boost in preparing students for their future graduate studies and careers. For his part, Professor Dang is constantly inspired by his students’ creativity and new ideas. UROP is pleased to recognize Professor Dang for his passionate mentorship of undergraduate researchers at UC Irvine.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

One of my primary goals coming into UCI as a faculty member was and is to help our students connect theoretical with practical knowledge. It's amazing to see the level of engagement and ideas from students outside the traditional classroom environment. One of the regular continuing projects I advise each year is data collection and analysis software for vehicles (and moving toward autonomous vehicles) to help students connect their theoretical knowledge with practical knowledge. I also set aside research spots every year for students who want to work on sustainability problems. Last year, a group of students approached me with an idea for an autonomous beehive health monitoring system. This year, another group of students are prototyping a smarter and easier to use hydroponics system for students and campus departments—I would have never thought to work on projects like these!

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

I have a couple links to a series of tutorials related to autonomous driving I share with students on my faculty web page. Once they complete those tutorials, we have a meeting to discuss their interests, and I share with them any on-going projects I am currently supervising. From there, students are invited to join a team or start their own related project. Expectations are agreed upon by both me and the students involved at the beginning of each quarter. We set a long term goal (what they want to accomplish by the end of the year, why they want want to accomplish it, etc.) and quarterly goals that help them get closer to their goals.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

After we have set our long-term and quarterly goals, I schedule up to 1-hour weekly meetings (in-person or via online video conferencing/email) with my students. Depending on the students' and project's needs, my involvement varies. If I have the background to provide technical advice, I will do so. If I do not, such as for beehive behavior analysis last year, we work together to find articles and consult local community members who are more knowledgeable in the area. Each week we set a mini-milestone and discuss how we can achieve it. I prefer to give my students room to explore, grow, and try different techniques while still keeping them focused toward a common goal.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

Undergraduate research provides a unique experience that ties together theoretical and practical knowledge, and gives students a glimpse of working toward graduate level research. This opportunity provides students with a well-rounded view of the possibilities of higher education that is difficult to replicate in the traditional classroom environment.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

Undergraduate research and creative projects are like a giant brain-storming session all year round. It's a great low-pressure environment to generate ideas and test concepts on which I would have not otherwise have spent as much time. This is the fun part where you get to go beyond the classroom material. Although hard to replicate in any given individual course, some of the ideas realized in undergraduate research make their way into my teaching as case studies and points of motivation for students taking some of the core classes in engineering.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

Drop by open office hours of professors teaching courses you find even the slightest bit interesting and discuss the opportunities. There are so many resources available that it's sometimes hard to know where to start. Sometimes, it's as simple as talking with someone and improving or extending

Research Interests: Pedagogical research in the field of E‐Learning and developing new online curriculum

Faculty Profile: http://www.cecs.uci.edu/~qpdang

Email: qpdang@uci.edu

Past Faculty Mentors of the Month
  

2019
Oct. '19 Quoc-Viet Dang
Sep. '19 Maura Allaire
Aug. '19 Alyson K. Zalta
Jul. '19 Geoffrey W. Abbott
Jun. '19 Jacob P. Avery
May. '19 Natascha Trellinger Buswell
Apr. '19 Jenny Yang
Mar. '19 Susanne M. Jaeggi
Feb. '19 Zeba Wunderlich
Jan. '19 Miriam Bender
  
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009