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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

A Good Day for Pi(e)

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More than 160 participants turned out for this year's Pi-Mile Run and Walk. 

Walk and Run Builds Community, Raises Funds for Science Education
San Diego, Calif., March 15 -- The camaraderie. The exercise. The pie. These were some of the reasons more than 160 people turned out for the second annual Pi-Mile Run and Walk at the Jacobs School of Engineering on March 14, also known as Pi Day.

Some were experienced runners. Many others were not. But they all decided to come out and support science education—proceeds from the race to go the San Diego Science Alliance. The event is organized by the Jacobs School Graduate Student Council and by the Triton Engineering Student Council. About 165 people registered for the event, raising upwards of $600.

Mathematicians tell us that Pi is an irrational number that never repeats itself, said Jacobs School Associate Dean Jeanne Ferrante, who gave the start signal for the race. “But today, Pi will repeat itself,” she said, because the race’s course called for two loops through the small forest located across the Hopkins parking structure and RIMAC.

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Mark Chapman, left, is one of the event's key organizers. Melinda Beyerle is the student life coordinator at the IDEA Student Center at the Jacobs School, which helps with the event.

Mark Chapman, a graduate student in bioengineering and one of the lead organizers for the event, wielded a megaphone and called out the winners’ times as they crossed the finish line. He cheered some of the runners on by name. “C’mon Luis, pick it up,” was one typical encouragement.

Greg Wagner, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, was the first to complete the race’s 3.14-mile circuit in just 17 minutes and 55 seconds. Wagner, who works in the lab of Professor Eric Lauga, said he is not training for anything at the moment. He is however partial to long-distance races and plans to run a 50-mile race in San Francisco this fall. He also has two marathons under his belt.

But his favorite accomplishment is his run across the Grand Canyon—and back—in 10 ½ hours. “It’s an amazing way to experience a beautiful place,” Wagner said. UC San Diego is a great campus for those who love the outdoors, he added. The ocean is nearby; there’s great climbing in the backcountry; and plenty of trails to run, he said.

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This sign helped guide runners toward the finish line during the race. 

Andrew Kovacevic, a staff member with The Temporal Dynamics Learning Center, got bib number two at registration and came in second behind Wagner, with a time of 17 minutes and 57 seconds. Kovacevic usually races ultra-marathons—anywhere from 50 to 100 kilometers and 50 to 100 miles. “It’s the off-season, so I decided to do this,” he said. Pacing yourself for a shorter race is tricky, he said.

His friend and fellow ultra-marathoner Dave Wargo, the facilities manager for the Computer Science and Engineering building, said he got some side pain during the 3.14-mile race. “I’d rather run an ultra-marathon than this,” Wargo said. “This is work.”

For others, including Stephanie Huelga, a graduate student in bioinformatics, the race was an opportunity to spend time with colleagues from their lab. Her research group, led by Gene Yeo, a professor in cellular and molecular medicine, regularly races on the track as part of their team-building activities. Yet others, including Jenny Huang, recruited friends to run with. “We’re excited about having pie afterwards,” she said.

Closing the event was Mandy Bratton, director of the Global TIES program at the Jacobs School. She and Greg Hattemer, a Jacobs School alum and fellow with the program, came in last. Hattemer expected the race to be so rigorous that he was wearing flip flops, the Global TIES Facebook page later joked.  

Watch this short video of the runner setting off.

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Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-822-0899
ipatrin@ucsd.edu