About 17 years ago, one of my students stopped by my office, asking if he could join my Research group, Initially, I was reluctant. First, his grade point average was about 2.3/4.0. Second, some of my colleagues warned me that I should not take undergraduate students to do research in my laboratories because they might become a burden not only on my graduate students but also on my research budget. However, that student was persistent in his request. As a result, I finally decided to let him work under my supervision. Surprisingly, he did a good job in my lab. Because of his background in mechanical engineering and design, he came up with good ideas that made contributions in terms of enhancing the efficiency of some of our mechanical testing machines. I was really impressed. He was taking four units with me, and as a result of his hard work, sincere dedication and strong interest in research, I gave him an “A.” He continued his work in my labs for five quarters. Because of the encouragement and the support he was receiving from my graduate students and me and because my graduate students began to tutor him, his performance in his courses improved. He started getting Bs and As in his upper division courses. One day he told me that by my allowing him to work in my lab, he gained his confidence and started to believe in himself. He graduated with a grade point average of 3.3/4.0. He was admitted as a graduate student at UCI. I suggested that he should work for another faculty member so that he could broaden his research interests beyond what he learned from my research projects. After some discussion, he agreed to my suggestion and worked under the supervision of one of our dynamic Materials faculty. He did well in his program and graduated after four years with a Ph.D. After several years of working in different places, he recently joined one of the major manufacturing companies in Orange County as a senior scientist. Amazingly, he has 15 patents. Still once in a while, he stops by my office asking me if he could join my research.” I say to him, “yes, you are welcome, but I cannot afford to pay your salary.”
This experience has led to my strong interest in mentoring undergraduate research. Also, I learned that encouragement and support via mentoring undergraduate research can make a difference in the academic progress of a student.
I have directed projects on: (a) the role of impurities during superplastic deformation and cavitation, (b) mechanical behavior of composite materials, (c) processing of ultrafine grained and nanostructured materials, (d) deformation mechanisms in nanocrystalline materials, (e) nanoscale softening, (f) corrosion behavior in nanostructured materials, and (g) correlation between behavior and microstructure using a variety of advanced techniques.