Physics & Astronomy Community Excellence

Peer Mentoring for All Students!

PACE (Physics & Astronomy Community Excellence) is a graduate student led mentoring organization - peer-mentoring programs by students for students. Our programs include - Exceleration (1-on-1 grad peer mentoring); Fire Up Fridays (workshops for incoming grads), Stride! (undergrad-grad mentoring centered on applying to graduate programs), and we are partnering with Resonance (undergrad-undergrad peer mentoring). Soon we will launch Attitude Thrusters (grad-grad peer mentoring & workshops). These programs aim to normalize a holistic approach to success as a UCI physics student and strengthen our community through trained mentors.

“No [human] is an island.” - John Donne. Research shows the benefits of peer mentoring are vast.1, 2 Participating as a peer-mentee increases overall success rates in academic studies, leads to increased research productivity and an increased probability of holding leadership roles. Our holistic approach to success focuses on mental health and spreading awareness of non-cognitive resources and best practices - all presented in an equitable and inclusive way. Our department is part of a world-class research institute, and we aim to strengthen our student community to reflect the success and diversity that our university embodies.

Program Descriptions


This 1-on-1 grad-grad peer mentoring programs pairs up more senior graduates in our department with our 1st year graduate students. The goal is to help guide the peer mentees through a healthy first year in our department, with an emphasis on becoming a contributing member of the department and navigating grad life. Mentors and mentees are provided with mentorship training, recommendations on meeting frequency and length (setting boundaries), conversation guidelines, and resources on being an effective mentee/mentor based on the UCI Mentoring Excellence Program (

Fire Up Fridays

Fire Up Fridays are monthly workshops for our incoming graduate students ran by more senior graduate students. These workshops provide a regular space and programming that is specifically in the interest of supporting and developing graduate students. This includes both structured and unstructured activities that will foster community and resilience in our graduate population. Our content for this program is influenced heavily by core curricula created by the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (, the UCI Mentoring Excellence Program ( and our previous experiences as beginning graduate students.


This 1-on-1 grad-undergrad peer mentoring program, plus grad organized workshop series, focuses on mentoring undergraduates in our department who are applying to graduate programs. Our goal is to provide mentorship and guidance through the graduate school application process. Rising seniors are matched with graduate students at the beginning of summer. Mentor-mentee pairs will meet on a regular basis (as defined by the pair) to navigate various aspects of the graduate school application process and the overall grad school experience. The panels and workshops aim to provide our undergraduate mentees with multiple grad student perspectives on topics including the following: Life as a Graduate Student, Picking a Graduate Program, The Graduate Program Application Process, Application Essays and Research as a Graduate and as an Undergraduate. Content for this program is heavily influenced by UCI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (


In the Resonance mentoring program, small groups of incoming undergraduate students meet with continuing physics majors who serve as mentors. The goal of the program is to provide community among physics and applied physics students, build excitement about physics, and help students navigate challenges of the first year.  Resonance’s eventual aim is to realize a vertical mentoring system in which everyone in the department -- undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty alike -- both serve as mentors and are mentored themselves, creating interconnections and community at all stages of academia. Learn more about the program and meet our mentors!


PACE Grad Student Leaders: 

Devontae Baxter (

Francisco Mercado (

PACE Faculty Advisors

Franklin Dollar (

Steph Sallum (

Resonance Faculty Advisor

Laura Tucker (


[1] Lueck, A. J., & Boehm, B. (2016). Graduate Student Peer Mentoring Programs: Benefitting Students, Faculty and Academic Programs. In G. Wright (Ed.), The Mentoring Continuum: From Graduate School Through Tenure. Syracuse University Press.

[2] Steiner, J.F., et al. (2004). Assessing the Role of Influential Mentors in the Research Development of Primary Care Fellows. Academic Medicine, Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, Vol. 79, No. 9.