UC Merced Connect: Researcher’s path to success leads to UC Merced

Most students don’t arrive at UC Merced by way of Germany and Hawaii.

But graduate student Bodo Winter often takes different paths. Now in his third year as a doctoral candidate in cognitive and information sciences, Winter has immersed himself in research, collaborated and published multiple articles, and taught workshops on statistical methods around the world.

He has presented his research at several international conferences, including the International Cognitive Linguistics Conference in Canada and the Cognitive Science Society Meeting in Berlin.

“Two and a half years in, it’s been a great fit for him,” said Teenie Matlock, Winter’s faculty adviser and frequent collaborator. “After coming to us from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, he hit the ground not just running, but sprinting.”

Winter, who won an Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award in 2012, is part of an interdisciplinary program that integrates methods and approaches from linguistics, psychology, philosophy, neuroscience and computer science. Other awards include a fellowship from the Linguistics Society of America.

Some of Winter’s research relates to metaphors and how they are part of everyday thought and speech. He also is examining how people perceive numbers and numerical quantities, including the use of hand gestures to indicate big or small numbers.

“We tend to think about numbers in terms of space,” he said. Gaining a better understanding of the vital link between space and numbers could lead to development of therapies or teaching techniques that help people who struggle with numbers or have disorders relating to math.

USDA scholarship funds Ph.D. student

Doctoral candidate Irvin Arroyo might have been destined for his chosen career path studying water and agriculture from a very young age.

“Growing up on a farm, doing farm work and watching plants grow, I became interested in natural sciences,” he said.

His parents supported his interest, and teachers in the Madera schools encouraged him. Arroyo completed his undergraduate work as well as a master’s degree in chemistry at California State University, Fresno, then went to work as a biological sciences technician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Parlier.

“Fresno State’s great professors and their emphasis on research prepared me well for graduate research,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo now attends UC Merced with help from a prestigious scholarship. The USDA and the CSU Water Resources and Policy Initiative jointly support his $40,000 award, which was created for students in the natural sciences at federally designated “Hispanic-serving Institutions.”

Arroyo’s scholarship application underwent stringent review by a committee of representatives from the CSU system. Receiving the award was an huge honor for him.

He chose UC Merced because it was close to home, and he liked the idea of being able to pursue his doctorate without having to relocate his family.

The newest UC campus, rapidly gaining an excellent reputation in earth systems sciences, offered the program and adviser he needed, Arroyo said. Those were major factors in his decision to go to graduate school at UC Merced.

“I’m doing my dissertation research with Professor Tom Harmon,” Arroyo explained. “My area of research deals with soil salinity in the San Joaquin Valley.”

After he completes his doctorate in Environmental Systems at UC Merced, Arroyo sees his career continuing on an elevated course.

“I do plan on continuing to work for the USDA,” he said. “The scientist I work for there has been instrumental in my Ph.D. pursuit.”

As a researcher for the USDA or any other institution, Arroyo would join a growing body of high-level scientists who can boast that their doctorates came from UC Merced.