Program Organization

The UC Davis AggieMentors program is facilitated by Pia van Benthem who is the Outreach Coordinator of the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. Scientific oversight is provided by Prof. Benjamin Houlton (Department of Land, Air and Water Resources) and Prof. Klaus van Benthem (Department of Materials Science), who both act as directors for the local chapter.

The close collaboration between the student mentors, the program coordinator, and the faculty advisors strengthens the relationship between science and mentorship and enables an interdisciplinary culture that is greatly beneficial for the research projects carried out by the high school students.


Prof. Houlton serves as chapter director for the Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program to engage underrepresented students in the ecological sciences. Past experiments have included genetic controls over plant community dynamics and responses of plants to changes in soil resources. For more information about Prof. Houlton’s research please visit his website.


Prof. van Benthem serves as chapter director for the UC Davis chapter. His research focuses on structure-property relationships of functional nanomaterial that he studies experimentally using electron microscopy techniques. Klaus has guided many classes of high school students through the microscopy facilities at UC Davis and continuously carries out high-resolution imaging demonstrations to the students using a scanning electron microscope. Together with other colleagues Prof. van Benthem has initiated the “Seeing in Science” program that is designed to introduce under-privileged high school students to scientific phenomena in the STEM disciplines through visualization of scientific processes such as chemical reactions, nanoscopic adhesion, phase transformations, and many others.  To learn more about Prof. van Benthem’s research please visit his website.


Pia van Benthem serves as Program Coordinator. With her BS. Degree in Education and her MS. in Engineering she is bridging the gap between science and education by translating University research to K-12 students and the general public.