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March 5, 2007

UCSC undergraduates win awards at statewide research symposium

By Tim Stephens

Two UCSC undergraduates received Special Merit in Research Awards at the 2007 Statewide Undergraduate Research Symposium of the California Alliance for Minority Participation in Science, Engineering and Mathematics (CAMP).

Milana PeBenito was recognized for her presentation on tumor suppressor genes in mouse mammary gland. PeBenito works with Lindsay Hinck, associate professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology, whose research includes investigations of mammary gland development. The mouse "Slit" genes have a homologue in humans that is less active in breast cancer cells than in normal cells, and PeBenito is investigating the function of the proteins made by Slit genes. Her talk was entitled "SLITs function as tumor suppressors in mouse mammary gland."

Deborah Ortiz was recognized for her work on the interactions of semiconductor quantum dots with biomolecules. Ortiz works with Jin Zhang, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, whose research focuses on nanomaterials with novel physical and chemical properties. Ortiz's project is part of an investigation of bioconjugation of semiconductor quantum dots to proteins for biomedical detection based on photoluminescence. Her talk was entitled "CdTe quantum dot interactions with yeast in the absence of a specific binding molecule."

The CAMP program supports underrepresented students through peer mentoring and tutoring and faculty-mentored research opportunities. It is a statewide program funded by the National Science Foundation.

"By integrating research and undergraduate education, CAMP creates a cohesive set of experiences that fully prepares undergraduates for graduate education and influences career choices," said Russell Flegal, CAMP regional director and professor of environmental toxicology at UCSC.

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