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October 6, 1997

Natural Sciences Division holds symposium for summer researchers

By Robert Irion

Senior John Sanchez had no trouble keeping the audience's attention recently as he discussed his summer research in South America. It wasn't just his engaging stories of Amazonian adventures. Credit also must go to his subjects: venomous long-haired caterpillars, whose "urticating" (itch-producing) secretions show promise as antibacterial compounds.

Sanchez was one of 19 UCSC undergraduate students feted at a Natural Sciences Division symposium on September 26 at the Earth and Marine Sciences Building. The students all completed a summer research program sponsored by the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) and Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS), initiatives designed to increase the number of science degrees received by underrepresented minority students. Other support came from Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP).

Judging from the pride with which the students displayed posters about their research, the summer's activities bore fruit.

"This program has helped our students go from classroom scientists to real scientists," said professor of chemistry Glenn Millhauser, regional director of CAMP programs at UCSC. "That's when the bug bites you, if you find out that you love being in the lab."

David Kliger, dean of the Natural Sciences Division, noted that the summer program gave students "the opportunity to carry out state-of-the-art research in their chosen fields." Students also formed important mentoring relationships with their faculty supervisors, Kliger added.

All of the 19 students received stipends from CAMP or MBRS, allowing them to focus full-time on their research activities. Faculty worked with students on their projects in several different departments, including biology, chemistry, computer science, computer engineering, earth sciences, mathematics, and physics. Many of the students will continue their projects as senior theses.

An important part of the summer program was reaching closure on projects and preparing posters to display at the symposium--a miniature version of the ubiquitous scientific meetings at which researchers communicate with their colleagues. James Willis, instructional laboratory coordinator for the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and codirector of the summer program, helped the students learn how to make their posters and kept things running smoothly.

A quick look at poster titles in the building's lobby that evening revealed just how rich the UCSC undergraduate research experience can be: "The effects of lead on bone loss and the efficacy of hormone treatment," "Optical studies of polymer light-emitting diodes," "Decoding the language of lizard land." And, of course, those urticating caterpillars.

"Thanks to MIRT (Minority International Research Training) and CAMP for supporting me and making a dream come true," said Sanchez, speaking for many of his fellow students as well.

UCSC serves as one of eight regional centers for CAMP, which earns $1 million in funding each year from the National Science Foundation. About $100,000 of that amount comes to UCSC for the summer program and several other uses, including tutors for the ACademic Excellence (ACE) program, collaborative efforts with MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) at Cabrillo College, and funds to send students to scientific conferences.

For more information, go to the CAMP Web site.

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