March 7, 2003

Showcasing undergraduate research plays key role in UC Day

As part of UC Day, Winnie Chan of UC Santa Cruz talks about her research with her supporting professor, Martha Zuniga, left, and another UCSC delegate in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento.

Debbie Aldridge/Mediaworks

By Clifton B. Parker

Max Bell Alper is a fan of Superman — and a rising young talent himself.

Using the actor Christopher Reeves as a “cultural icon,” Alper, a senior in American studies at UC Santa Cruz, studied the roles of communications and technology in how society comes to view an issue like stem cell research. Stem cell research may provide some disabled people the ability to regain use of their bodies. Discussions on disabilities need “to be more nuanced and merge science and technology into culture,” Alper said. “We need to understand disability issues in their total contexts.”

Alper’s project, “En/Abling Technologies in Dis/Abling Structures,” was one of 18 undergraduate research topics selected for the annual poster competition at UC Day. For the past three years, the UC Office of the President has held an undergraduate research contest. Faculty deans from the UC campuses select top undergraduate researchers across a diverse range of disciplines, including the arts, sciences and humanities.

UC Davis student researchers included Yung Ching or “William” Chung, a psychology major who presented his cross-cultural study of nighttime fears and simple phobias from an evolutionary perspective. The subtitle was “Sexual Dinichism in Antipredatory Behavior.”

Julie Mai Tran, a biological sciences major at UC Davis, featured her work on analyzing HLA Class 1 genes in hepatitis C clearance.

Other UC student research topics included early childhood gender differences, computing for emergency responses, DNA oxidation, brain functions, migrant farm workers’ struggles for survival, xenophobia, age determination of bowhead whales, and the duality of Afro-American religion.

The Office of the President says supporting UC undergraduate research helps the state by:

• Preparing students for careers in science and technology, the cornerstones of California’s new economy;

• Providing opportunities for students to study firsthand the complex social issues facing California;

• Inspiring a new generation of qualified students to engage in the kind of high level graduate work that ensures continued innovation in California’s leading industries; and

• Preparing better-informed and prepared teachers who are committed to solving real-life problems in California’s classrooms.

Other UC students involved in the undergraduate research contest included Viengkham Malathong, Sterling Nesbitt and Leila Takayama of UC Berkeley; Winnie Chan of UC Santa Cruz; Roxana Hernandez and Roger Thompson of UC Santa Barbara; Emily Beth Slusser and Michael Williams of UC Irvine; Tauheedah Baker-Jones and Miguel Jimenez of UCLA; Lynell Gutierrez and Star Lee of Riverside; and Ernesto Martinez, Michael Moewe and Melanie Zauscher of UC San Diego.

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Dateline UC Davis is the faculty and staff newspaper for the University of California, Davis.