May 8, 2000
Undergraduates share research experiences with local high school classes
By Tim Stephens
Each of the student presenters took part in the ACCESS Summer Research Institute, an eight-week science internship for community college students operated out of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
"They are all hard-working, successful college students who are committed to the task of motivating more young students to go to college and think about a career in science," said Lisa Hunter, who directs the ACCESS program together with professor of chemistry Phillip Crews.
Leading with Research is part of a major outreach effort by UCSC to increase the diversity of the campus's student population. The program is funded by UCSC Transfer Partnerships and a contribution from Seagate Technology. Some of the participants are also involved in "Research Saturdays," a new program sponsored by the UCSC Educational Partnership Center that gives high school students a picture of UCSC science, scientists, and students through a variety of activities held on campus.
Erika Angel, a Cabrillo College student and graduate of Santa Cruz High, is one of the students who will be visiting local high schools. Angel's summer research project focused on the purification of soybean lipoxygenase, an enzyme related to a human enzyme involved in asthma, atherosclerosis, and cancer. She worked under the guidance of assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Theodore Holman.
"The ACCESS program was invaluable to Erika because she had never been exposed to research and had no idea what was available to her," Holman said. "I daily saw the wonder and excitement in her eyes as she discovered new results and related them back to her undergraduate instruction. By the end of her stay in my lab, scientific research became a viable career path for her."
Angel will be transferring to a four-year university this fall and is currently deciding between several options, including UCSC. She has also been accepted to UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, and Saint Mary's College and is waiting to hear from UC Berkeley.
Another student, Malika Moutawakkil, has already visited many classes this year, ranging from 6th to 12th grades, and hopes to continue to inspire young students to pursue science. The presentation Moutawakkil gives to high school students is called "College, Sea Sponges, and Your Future." Her research, under the guidance of Crews, focused on marine sponges as a source of potential anticancer drugs. Moutawakkil graduated from Santa Cruz High School, attended Cabrillo College, and transferred to UCSC in the fall of 1999 as a chemistry major.
Local high school teachers have been impressed by the students who visited their classrooms. Watsonville High School science teacher Bill Callahan said the presentation in his class by San Jose City College student Kassandra Rossiter was "the best thing for my kids."
Rossiter, who visits classrooms in the San Jose area as well as in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, will transfer to UCSC this fall and has received a $20,000 scholarship through the Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Awards Program. Aptos High School teacher Anita Natale, whose class Rossiter also visited, said she thought her students were most impressed by the idea that someone only a few years older than themselves could be actively involved in scientific research.
"It was a poised, professional, inspiring presentation and the students could really relate to it," Natale said.
Angel, Moutawakkil, Rossiter, and 15 other community college students took part in the 1999 ACCESS Summer Research Institute. This year, another 18 students from Cabrillo, Hartnell, Gavilan, and Monterey Peninsula Colleges will participate.
The goal of the ACCESS program is to increase the number of underrepresented students who transfer from community colleges to four-year universities and pursue degrees in the area of biomedical research. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Bridges to the Future program and the UCSC Transfer Partnerships Program. ACCESS offers services and support for all students at participating community colleges.
The Summer Research Institute is a highly selective component of the ACCESS program, and students who complete this portion have been tremendously successful, Hunter said. After completing the summer, each student is prepared to attend conferences, present their research findings, and apply for other internships.
"Working in a lab helps students to understand the information they get in their courses and gives them an entirely different perspective on textbook information," said professor of biology Barry Bowman, who has sponsored undergraduates in his lab for many years.
Bowman also directs UCSC's Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) program, which gives students hands-on experience in research labs and helps them prepare for graduate school. "These programs have been very successful in exposing students to new ideas about careers," he said. "One of the best measures of the impact of our minority programs is that more than 95 percent of our participants successfully complete degrees in biology and chemistry."