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March 18, 2002

Two undergraduates to be honored at UC Day in Sacramento

By Kristin Cobb

Each spring, alumni from UC's nine campuses meet with state lawmakers in Sacramento as part of the annual UC Day legislative conference. At this year's conference, March 18-19, two UCSC students will be honored for work they submitted for the UC Research Poster Competition.

Patrice Friedmann's research focuses on fluid flow within the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean offshore of Costa Rica. Photo: William Parsons
Haivan Ngo is studying European beach grass, which is invading California beaches. Photo: Johnny Wang
Patrice Friedmann and Haivan Ngo will travel to Sacramento to be recognized at the UCSC alumni reception and dinner and to present posters on their research.

Friedmann's research focuses on fluid flow within the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean offshore of Costa Rica. She is a senior from Santa Maria, Calif., majoring in Earth sciences. Andrew Fisher, associate professor of Earth sciences, is the faculty mentor overseeing her research.

Ngo is studying European beach grass that is invading beaches in California. She is a senior biology major from Alhambra, Calif., and was born in Vung Tau,Vietnam. Her mentor is Julie Beckstead, a postdoctoral researcher in biology.

The UC Day conference, sponsored by the Alumni Associations of the University of California (AAUC), focuses on the importance of state support for the mission and programs of the University of California. The theme of the 2002 UC Day is "UC: Connecting with California's Communities."

Three years ago, the AAUC began inviting UC undergraduates with the best examples of student research to the conference.

"We wanted to get the message to legislators that undergraduates should be part of the research enterprise," said Lynda Goff, UCSC vice provost and dean of undergraduate education. "Undergraduate students come to UC to do research, and it's an incredibly important part of their careers."

Friedmann will present a poster on "Evidence for hydrothermal circulation and alteration on 20-25 Ma crust about to be subducted in the Middle American Trench." The study looks at how fluid circulation affects a large plate of the Earth's crust on the ocean floor that is diving down beneath another plate in Central America. Her work may be useful in predicting where earthquakes will occur.

"This award is a real honor," Friedmann said. "I'll be able to talk to people outside of science and give them an idea of what we are working on and why it's important. Presenting my work to a nonscientific community challenges me to look at it on a bigger scale."

Ngo's research focuses on an aggressive European grass that is invading coastal dunes in California and eliminating the native beach grass. Her poster is titled "Is the invasive success of Ammophila arenaria explained by pathogenic fungi? A test of Koch's postulates." Her research showed that the European beach grass is susceptible to certain types of fungi and that its invasive explosion cannot be explained by resistance to fungal diseases.

"This award means a lot to me," Ngo said. "I'm a single parent, and I was rejected from a lot of labs because I am a parent. I'm hoping that my being honored at UC Day tells the next parent not to be discouraged."

At the conference, the UC Office of Research acknowledges the work of outstanding undergraduate researchers on all of UC's eight undergraduate campuses. Each campus nominates four undergraduate students for their research in any field; of these four, the UC Office of Research chooses two or three per campus to attend the conference and display a poster illustrating the research conducted.

"It's a fabulous honor," Goff said.

Each award winner will display a poster illustrating the research conducted and have an opportunity to discuss that research with alumni, legislators, and policy makers at UC Day. After the conference, the posters will be displayed at the UC Office of the President in Oakland.


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