Professor Sunny Jiang has mentored undergraduate students in many environmental and human health projects throughout the last 12 years, and her students have made vital contributions to many aspects of her research. She takes students who are enthusiastic and curious, with a passion for learning, and helps them see how their classroom knowledge can be put to real use. Through working in her lab, her students develop independent thinking and teamwork skills. In 2001, Professor Jiangís commitment to undergraduate research was recognized by her receipt of the Chancellorís Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

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

Mentoring undergraduate research is one of the most rewarding experiences in being a professor. It is great fun to see the excitement in the students when they have accomplished something that they thought that they could not have done before. I have directed UROP, SURP, CAMP, ID-SURE and MSP students in many different types of projects related to environmental microbiology and human health over the past 12 years at UC Irvine. Students are the inspiration in my daily teaching and research activity.

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

I look for enthusiasm, curiosity and desire to learn. I expect students to be independent thinkers, responsible, and to have a team spirit.

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

I meet each student once a week. Students are trained and supervised directly by graduate students and postdocs for lab techniques. Most of the students work on a section of the project independently. During our weekly individual meeting, we review research progress, troubleshoot problems encountered, and design new approaches for the next steps.

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

All research students have significantly improved independent research thinking ability. I teach them not to follow directions blindly but to think through processes independently. Most students report that after doing hands-on research, the materials that they learn in class start to make more sense.

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

I have learned that students are great resources. They can be very creative and responsible. Students have contributed to many important aspects of my research projects in the lab.

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

Start as early as you can to get involved in research. Although it seems demanding and time consuming at the beginning, it will make your studies easier because it gives you a new angle on learning.

Research Interests: Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '11 Louis DeSipio
Nov. '11 Anthony A. James
Oct. '11 Tiffany Willoughby-Herard
Sep. '11 Angela Lukowski
Aug. '11 Petra Wilder-Smith
Jul. '11 Ron D. Frostig
Jun. '11 Sunny Jiang
May. '11 Samuel L. Gilmore
Apr. '11 Sally Dickerson
Mar. '11 Shahram Lotfipour
Feb. '11 Mark Steyvers
Jan. '11 Benjamin F. Villac