The University of California is known around the world for its pioneering research. Less well known is that UC’s graduate students play an essential role in those groundbreaking discoveries.

Graduate students from across the UC system will meet today (March 12) with California Gov. Jerry Brown and other Sacramento lawmakers to talk about the work they do and how their research advances state and national priorities.

UC President Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Nobelist Randy Schekman and graduate deans from every campus will join them in Sacramento, to make the case that graduate research deserves more state support.

“These students bring the research dollars, they bring the new ideas and they inspire the next generation of scholars,” Napolitano said  “They also go on to contribute to the highly educated workforce California needs to be competitive in the 21st century,” she said.

Twenty-two students will attend, including at least two students from each of UC’s 10 campuses. The work they will present to lawmakers spans the gamut, from research into alternative energy sources to developing techniques for earlier detection of autism.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of graduate students to the university's research mission. Among the facts that students will share with the governor and others:

  • UC graduate students bring in $4.2 billion in research funding to California.
  • More than 650 start-ups have emerged from UC research, many of which grew from innovations furthered by graduate student work.
  • UC graduate research has helped create and grow entire industries, including biotechnology, telecommunications, nanotechnology and film industry speciali effects — creating job opportunities for millions of Californians.
  • UC students earn 8 percent of the nation’s Ph.Ds and garner more than 20 percent of the top awards in the arts and humanities.

Despite the tangible impact of UC’s graduate programs, they are under financial pressure as never before.

Uncertain federal funding has made it harder for graduate students to secure research funding. At the same time, increased teaching loads leave faculty with less time for mentoring graduate students and UC stipends for graduate students have become less competitive with other institutions.

Napolitano will make the point that increased state investment in graduate research will pay dividends for California.

“Maintaining strong graduate programs is essential to UC’s continued leadership in research and higher education,” Napolitano said. “State financial support to support graduate students and basic research is an investment in the public good and the future of the state.”