It is not uncommon for this fine college campus to be criticized for being a “party school.” However, while it is known for its sun, surf and significant contribution to Natural Light’s market share, the University of California at Santa Barbara is also one of the top research universities in the nation. The campus’ surroundings provide desirable conditions for all sorts of experiments, attracting world-renowned scientists to the university and allowing a variety of scientific disciplines to come together and broaden the scope of their research. (Also, it’s a pretty sweet locale for a sabbatical.) Think organic chemists, materials engineers, environmental scientists and marine biologists can’t work together on the same project? Then you’re just not thinking!

UCSB has been host to a slew of awesome research projects, with topics ranging from quantum computing to fishery management. Over this past year, scientists at UCSB along with international researchers produced an artificial pancreas that regulates a patient’s blood sugar automatically using sensors and insulin pumps. The Hawker group developed a method to create extremely thin films for microprocessors using cheap organic compounds, and the Ruoslahti group discovered a series of improved drug delivery systems that can augment a medication’s efficacy while resulting in fewer side effects. These are not trivial advances.

Great strides in human knowledge and progress are being made here at UCSB, and one doesn’t have to hold a Ph.D. to participate. The academic departments at UCSB tend to offer internships and opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research on campus. Students who wish to join a research group should find a project that interests them and that is somewhat relevant to their major and then speak with the head professor of the project and ask if there are available positions. The Faculty Research Assistance Program directory on the UCSB Web site is a useful tool for students that would like to find research projects that they may be interested in, as well as the listserv for each department, which will periodically e-mail registered students with research, job and internship opportunities within the scope of the department.

In addition to research and internships, there are outreach programs on campus that students may join and work with. For example, the Research Experience and Education Facility provides students at local grade schools with an opportunity to learn about ocean life and careers in marine science while also allowing undergraduates to intern for the program.

So don’t think that UCSB is just a place for beer pong and casual relations; it’s also a place to mix volatile chemicals, fire things at high velocities, fry stuff with lasers, hang out with animals, grow plants, psychoanalyze test subjects, write proofs, optimize economic situations and much, much, much more. Well, and beer pong and casual relations. Now that is having your cake and eating it, too.