Skip to main content

We Are Researchers!

Chengcheng (Merlin) Zhang and Emma Zhu

Melin and Emma worked with Dr. Curt Schurgers in the 2023 ECE Summer Research Internship Program. They are both Warren College students majoring in computer science. Merlin plans to graduate in 2024; Emma plans to graduate in 2026.

Merlin profile pictureWhy and how did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research? -

  • Merlin: I was motivated to engage in undergraduate research due to my passion for exploring the practical applications of Computer Science. Having taken project-based courses, I recognized the transformative power of research in shaping innovative solutions. Moreover, I want to make a tangible impact to my community. This is what motivated me to engage in undergraduate research.

  • Emma: I decided to get involved in undergraduate research because I was deeply passionate about my field of study and wanted to delve deeper into I felt that my coursework provided a solid foundation, but I yearned for practical experience and the opportunity to contribute to real-world projects. The idea of working closely with professors and experts in the field, as well as the chance to explore questions that intrigued me, greatly motivated me to engage in research. To begin, I reached out to my professors, attended seminars, and explored the university's research opportunities until I found a project that aligned with my interests.

How did you decide to apply to ECE SRIP?

  • Merlin: I decided to apply to the ECE SRIP program after some research. There are tons of opportunities even for pure software related projects that I can contribute with my skills and passion. Recognizing the program's strong emphasis on collaborative research and its alignment with my academic interests, I was eager to seize this opportunity.

  • Emma: I decided to apply to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Summer Research Internship Program (ECE SRIP) for several reasons. Firstly, ECE SRIP had an excellent reputation for offering valuable research experiences and mentorship in my specific area of interest. Additionally, the program provided a structured and well-supported platform for conducting research, which was appealing to me as an undergraduate. The opportunity to work alongside leading researchers and access state-of-the-art resources further motivated my decision to apply. Ultimately, I saw ECE SRIP as an ideal avenue to advance my research skills and gain invaluable insights into the world of electrical and computer engineering.

Emma profile pictureExplain the research you did for your ECE SRIP project.  

  • Merlin: I have been involved in the development of a centralized database and server infrastructure aimed at optimizing communication and operations across student makerspaces at UCSD. By streamlining data synchronization and enhancing consistency through a unified platform, our project seeks to revolutionize the educational environment at UCSD, particularly within hands-on learning spaces equipped with cutting-edge tools and technology.

  • Emma: I've been working on a solution to improve the efficiency and communication of makerspaces at UCSD. These makerspaces offer hands-on learning opportunities but are often inefficient due to a lack of coordination. Our solution involves a centralized database and server infrastructure that synchronizes information among local makerspaces, ensuring consistency and enhancing the student experience. We've implemented API calls to facilitate data sharing between makerspaces, even in cases of failed data propagation. We validated our system through tests at the EnVision Maker Studio and ECE Makerspace. This project aims to streamline makerspace management and communication for the benefit of UCSD students and the university as a whole.

What has been the most exciting/interesting thing you've discovered through this research? 

  • Merlin: Witnessing how our centralized database has facilitated seamless data relay and synchronization, thereby enhancing student experiences and communications across spaces, has been both exciting and inspiring!

  • Emma: One of the most exciting and interesting aspects of this research has been the potential to significantly improve the student experience at USD. The realization that our project could create a more efficient and user-friendly environment for all students to use has been incredibly motivating. Knowing that our work may lead to a positive impact on hands-on learning, making it more accessible and enjoyable for students across the campus, has been a rewarding and inspiring discovery. It highlights the real-world applicability and meaningful outcomes that research can bring to an educational institution.

Merlin and Emma standing with mentors

What did you gain from this program/experience?

  • Merlin: Through my participation in the ECE SRIP program, I have gained invaluable insights into the intricacies of database management, server infrastructure development, and also teamwork. I really appreciate our project supervisors and mentors: Curt Schurgers, Ramsin Khoshabeh, and Cham Yang who has guided us along the way and provided necessary help for us to keep moving forward. Also, I really like to thank my teammate Emma Zhu for every commits that we pushed to the GitHub as well as every meeting we had for writing and debugging code.

  • Emma: Participating in the ECE SRIP program has been an enriching I've not only honed my technical research skills but also learned about effective collaboration, communication, and project management. The mentorship and guidance from experienced leaders in the field have been invaluable in shaping my academic and career trajectory. Moreover, this experience has boosted my confidence and instilled a sense of purpose, knowing that the work I'm doing contributes to the broader goal of improving the student experience at UCSD. ECE SRIP has equipped me with practical knowledge, networks, and a deeper passion for my field.

What advice would you give to students starting research? 

  • Merlin: It is crucial to seek guidance from mentors and professors in the field, as their insights can provide invaluable direction and support. Moreover, communicating and fostering a collaborative spirit within research teams can foster a dynamic and healthy environment!

  • Emma: Firstly, be curious and open-minded; research often involves exploring uncharted territory, so don't be afraid to ask questions and challenge assumptions. Seek out mentors and experts who can guide and support your work. Effective communication and collaboration are crucial, so cultivate these skills. Be patient and persistent because research can be challenging and time-consuming. Finally, always maintain your passion for the subject matter, as it will be your driving force through the inevitable ups and downs of the research process. Embrace the journey and enjoy yourself!
Emma and Merlin with lab mates

What are your future goals? 

  • Merlin: In the future, I aim to contribute to the field of technology, with a specific focus on software engineering. My goal is to delve into the realms of large-scale software applications, exploring emerging technologies, and developing innovative algorithms. I am deeply committed to continuous learning and staying at the forefront of advancements in software engineering.

  • Emma: I hope to stay involved within research, exploring new fields and continually growing my I also hope to continue honing my software engineering skills within both research and industry!