Professor Bruce Blumberg was drawn to an academic career by the possibility of working with students. This dedication to his students has led him to mentor a number of undergraduates. He feels particularly rewarded by the fact that several of the students he has mentored have used their work in his lab to find or confirm the direction of their future careers. UROP commends Professor Blumberg for his passion for mentoring.

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

I have been a supporter of mentoring undergraduate research since I was an undergraduate student. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at the time. I took two classes with Professor Hsin-yi Lee, Embryology and Cell Biology, which fascinated me. He allowed me to work in the lab whenever I could (I worked my way through college and had no time for a full research commitment). This exposure to research had a profound effect on my career path and I feel a strong responsibility to provide this type of opportunity to my students. The projects in my laboratory employ a broad variety of interdisciplinary techniques that range from mass spectrometry on isolated molecules to biochemistry and molecular biology, through experimental embryology, to physiological experiments aimed at understanding the role of environmental endocrine disrupters on cancer and obesity. Undergraduate researchers have been involved in all areas of this research and have co-authored many publications from my laboratory.

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

I try to identify students who are genuinely interested in science, preferably a career in research. The ideal student is passionate about research and recognizes that working in the lab is much more than a typical undergraduate lab course. I expect them to be as serious about the research as the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are. I require a substantial, multi-year time commitment of the students and reward those who perform well with publications and all the support I can provide.

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

The typical student works directly with one of the postdoctoral fellows or graduate students and forms an integral part of their research teams. Occasionally, a more senior student with previous research experience can work directly with me on a project that I may be interested in, but is perhaps too preliminary or risky to give to a graduate student or postdoc. I am always available to talk with students, and meet with each one at least once a week and often more than that informally. It is my goal that each student develop his or her own project and achieve “Excellence in Research.” Not all do, but this is what we strive for.

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

My previous students have benefited from the training they received, the publications they have co-authored and more generally from gaining a first-hand perspective about how science really works. The majority of them have gone on to graduate or professional schools at UCI and other major research universities. More than a few students have figured out, or changed their career paths as a result of working in the lab, which gives me a lot of satisfaction.

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

I realized long ago that I very much enjoy one-on-one interactions with students, watching and helping them learn and grow into talented young scientists. Their enthusiasm and fresh outlook on life energizes me. The possibility of interacting with and mentoring students is what drew me to an academic career instead of a career in industry.

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

Find a mentor and project that inspire you, then give the project your full attention and effort. Make it your own, realize that this is a chance for you to make an impact, to perhaps discover something that no one else has. It is important to understand that what you get out of research is directly proportional to the effort, interest and passion you put into it. The possibility to do undergraduate research in world class laboratories is one of the very best things about UCI. Seize the opportunity. UROP is a great resource for you and aids undergraduate research in many ways, large and small.

Research Interests: My laboratory studies the role of nuclear hormone receptors in development, physiology and disease. Particular interests include patterning of the vertebrate nervous system, the differential effects of xenobiotic exposure on laboratory model organisms compared with humans; interactions between xenobiotic metabolism, inflammation, and cancer; and the role of environmental chemicals on development, obesity and diabetes.

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '09 Professor Donald D. Hoffman
Nov. '09 Professor Bruce Blumberg
Oct. '09 Professor A. J. Shaka
Sep. '09 Assistant Professor William M. Tomlinson
Aug. '09 Professor William C. Tang
Jul. '09 Professor Donald McKayle
Jun. '09 Assistant Professor Gillian R. Hayes
May. '09 Professor Jane O. Newman
Apr. '09 Associate Professor Mark P. Petracca
Mar. '09 Professor Richard T. Robertson