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June 6, 2005

Symposium showcases graduate research throughout campus

By Louise Donahue

There’s no doubt about it: UCSC’s first Graduate Research Symposium won’t be its last.

Chancellor and student

Ph.D. student Jean Waldbieser, left, discusses her research on amphiphilic polymers with Chancellor Denton on the Graduate Commons patio.

Photo: Louise Donahue
Research symposium winners named

“It’s succeeded beyond what we envisioned,” said associate dean of graduate studies Lisa Sloan as students, staff, and faculty crowded into the Graduate Commons on June 2 to look over research posters and view research presentations.

Sloan said the event had been optimistically titled the “first annual” symposium, but it is now a sure thing to return next year.

A series of 10-minute oral presentations highlighted the variety of research being conducted:

• Science and journalism came together in Max Boykoff’s analysis of global climate change and the U.S. mass media. Boykoff’s research forms the basis of an article he plans to submit to the journal Science.

Amyn Poonawala found a way to make his research on optical microlithography understandable to even the technologically-impaired.

• Research on sea otters’ physiological constraints, presented by Laura Yeates, provided interesting insights into the challenges these animals face.

And that was just a sampling of the 12 talks. (A complete list of presentations is available online at

Supplementing the oral presentations were a live soundscape presentation and presentations with computers, video, and television/DVD players.

Several graduate students also had the opportunity to explain their research projects to Chancellor Denice D. Denton, who circulated through the research displays, talking with students and visitors. She was joined by Interim Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger.

The event drew rave reviews from participating students. Sloan said several of the graduate students thanked her for organizing the event. “The graduate students really enjoy seeing what their peers are doing in other divisions.”

Alisa Neeman of computer science agreed. “For me, it’s a chance to see presentations on something other than computer science,” said Neeman, on hand to present her research on computer science digitization. “It’s a big eye-opener. It’s amazing that so many things are going on on campus that you don’t know about. And it’s all fun.”

Catherine Plesko of Earth sciences saw an additional benefit. “It’s great to see what’s out there for potential collaborations.” Standing in front of her research poster, Pesko explained that she is developing a technique using artificial intelligence to count craters of a certain size on Mars. The new method takes less than a second per image, while each image takes people about half an hour to count. “When you consider the number of images that need to be surveyed, it makes an impossible task possible,” she said. Her most recent paper is posted online.

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