Professor Michael Goodrich credits the undergraduate researchers he mentors with bringing tremendous energy, effort and talent to his lab. Because of this, he has found that mentoring undergraduates has provided him with considerable inspiration for his own research as well. In recognition of his commitment to his students, Professor Goodrich was awarded the 2016 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research for the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences.

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

I started my career as an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, which stresses integrating undergraduates into research. So when I joined UC-Irvine as a professor in 2001 I naturally carried that value here. In my case, since my research is in computer science, I have directed projects that involve the design, implementation, and analysis of computational solutions to challenging problems. For example, recent undergraduate research projects have included finding ways of hiding information in the links of social networks and in algorithms for determining how road maps evolve over time.

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

I am most interested in working with undergraduates who have strong abilities in mathematics and computer science. Ideally, I would like to work with students who are doing well in the classes, have done well in a class that I have taught, and are self-motivated. I expect such students to be able to carry out design and implementation tasks fairly independently.

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

My style of engagement is fairly loose, actually. I like to meet with undergraduate researchers approximately once per week, giving them general guidelines on how to complete their projects. Sometimes there are paper publication deadlines, however, when we would work more intensely to meet those deadlines.

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

I have been very fortunate to have worked with some incredibly smart and talented undergraduate researchers in my time at UC-Irvine. I have had the joy of seeing them achieve results that started out as mere ideas and have them develop into complete algorithmic solutions. I have also delighted in seeing such students go on to do graduate work at top schools, like Berkeley and MIT, and I even had some who went on to work with me at my home university.

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

I have found that there are several benefits for mentoring undergraduate research projects. When undergraduates get engaged in a research project, it is amazing the kind of energy and time that they are able to bring to it. I have personally benefited from such interactions by getting to know some amazing individuals and also in being able to publish peer-reviewed articles with them that describe our results.

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

My general recommendations for undergraduates interested in research is that they strive to find the ideal balance between creativity, diligence, and rigor. That is, they need to be able to come up with new ideas, work hard to see them through to achievable designs, and apply sound assessment methods to test them and/or prove them correct.

Research Interests: Algorithms, Computer Security and Privacy, Information Visualization

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '16 Miryha Gould Runnerstrom
Nov. '16 Allison Perlman
Oct. '16 John Billimek
Sep. '16 Wayne B. Hayes
Aug. '16 Aimee Lara Edinger
Jul. '16 Katherine Mackey
Jun. '16 Daniel Whiteson
May. '16 Wirachin Hoonpongsimanont
Apr. '16 Michael T. Goodrich
Mar. '16 Lonnie R. Alcaraz
Feb. '16 Kimberley D. Lakes
Jan. '16 Rocío Rosales