Andrew J. Szeri
Andrew J. Szeri

In my April message (“Mentoring Comes of Age at Berkeley”), I mentioned that we would be piloting a new program this summer, called SMART, in which advanced graduate students would pair as mentors with undergraduate students to work on research of mutual interest. (The acronym stands for Student Mentoring And Research Teams.)

That pilot program is now well underway.

Twenty distinct research projects are being pursued by student partners from the departments of History and Physics. They range from creating anti-reflection coatings that can assist astrophysicists in measuring cosmic microwave background radiation (the afterglow of the Big Bang) to an analysis of the influence of facial hair on 19th-century American presidential politics. In other words, normal research for Berkeley, looking into fundamental questions about how things work, in the natural world and human society.

The SMART participants will wind up their research and make presentations in August. They will also share with us their observations about the program itself, what worked well and what could improve, which we’ll factor into our planning for the second, perhaps larger, SMART pilot next summer.

This pilot stage has come together with funding assistance from generous members of the Graduate Division’s Graduate Fellowships Advisory Board and some very speedy cooperation from the chairs and staffs of History and Physics. More than 90 undergraduates applied to take part in the initial pilot, so we’ve clearly tapped into a need.

We’ll build on what we learn this summer and next, and we hope in the future to scale the SMART Program up, into a really significant part of life for graduate and undergraduate students all across the Berkeley campus. I know from my own experience how valuable this kind of realistic exposure to research can be when it comes to applying to graduate school, and beyond.

I’ll keep you posted on its growth and progress — and how to take part, if you’re interested.

Best wishes,
Andrew Szeri signature

Andrew J. Szeri
Dean of the Graduate Division

SMART participants, Summer 2012
SMART pioneers: graduate and undergraduate students in the new program’s initial summer gathered to meet each other in June 2012. (Group photo: Andrea Sohn. Photo of Andrew Szeri: Karl Nielsen.)