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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Undergraduates showcase their latest projects??

From analyzing access to critical medications to exploring the development of diabetes, many UC Davis students presented health and medical-related research at the 22nd Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference on Friday and Saturday.

The conference highlights research-in-progress and studies completed in the last year.

“It’s great to give the students the exposure to presenting,” said Professor David A. Hawkins, a veteran moderator of the research conference.

One of the students Hawkins is sponsoring is Kelsey Collins, a recent exercise biology graduate. Collins is doing her research project on quantifying ground reaction forces during locomotion in young adults. She wants to know how the body hits the ground as a person moves.

Through the use of activity monitors, similar to pedometers and equations measuring their actions, Collins’ goal is to learn more about how young adults can exercise more effectively. She hopes that the future of her research may be able to “address the problem of repeated stress fractures” in addition to overuse injuries, osteoporosis and general physical activity.

Using exercise as a different means for his research was Massud Atta, a senior nutrition science major who assessed levels of a biomarker for fatty acid oxidation in different groups of mice before and after “an exercise bout.” Data from this research could assist in understanding the development of Type II (noninsulin-dependent) Diabetes.

Atta wishes to pursue a career in cardiology, and he feels that if he does attend medical school, he would have to do a fellowship in cardiology eventually, so doing research early on would help his career.

Similarly, Micaela McNulty, senior international relations major, hopes to continue her research on access to HIV and AIDS medication during her pursuit of a master of public health.

“Using data from 31 sub-Saharan African countries between 2007 and 2009, I statistically analyze the relationship between antiretroviral [AIDS medication] prices and access to treatment,” McNulty said.

McNulty also factored key variables from the country’s economic, political and health status.

Student research at this conference was not limited to bench work or data analysis though. Junior critical economics major, Rajiv Narayan, chose to use his lived experience of obesity to critically analyze weight-related research in academia, which he felt only looked at the phenomenon of obesity and “removed the actual experience.”

Having lost 80 pounds since his first year here at UC Davis, Narayan wanted to reconstruct obesity in terms of “movement, language and localized perception.” In other words, he is looking at the daily lives of obese people.

For his sponsor, he sought Jon Rossini, Ph. D, from the department of theater and dance.

“People don’t normally think about theater and dance,” said Narayan.

He wanted to address the question, “how do regular people perform obesity?”

Students at UC Davis are given the chance to be creative in their research, or they may help a professor with their investigations.

Hawkins said that for his lab’s research, prospective students may “piggyback” onto existing research projects and even split into their own proposed research.

The research conference was divided into two days. Some students chose to showcase posters on April 29 while other students preferred to present their presentation in an oral format on April 30. Students were recognized for their work with a certificate as an Undergraduate Research Scholar.

Since 1990, the first year the research conference was established, the number of students presenting has been steadily rising, from 19 students the first year to this year’s 353 students. Researchers from all majors at UC Davis can present at this conference.

Tammy Hoyer, conference chair for the Undergraduate Research Center, says that that the next step for students who have completed their research is to submit a full length research paper to the UC Davis undergraduate research journal Explorations for potential publication of the paper’s abstract.

Research abstracts from this year’s conference can be read at undergraduateresearch.ucdavis.edu.

EVA TAN can be reached at science@theaggie.org.

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