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UC Riverside Hosts Special Event for Minority Undergraduates Interested in Gradu


UC Riverside Hosts Special Event for Minority Undergraduates Interested in Graduate School

Visiting students attend presentations by UCR faculty, tour science and engineering labs

(September 30, 2010)

Joseph Childers, dean of the Graduate Division, welcomes the audience. Photo credit: L. Joel, UCR Strategic Communications.Enlarge

Joseph Childers, dean of the Graduate Division, welcomes the audience. Photo credit: L. Joel, UCR Strategic Communications.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The University of California, Riverside hosted 170 undergraduate students today from all over the country in a special orientation to the university’s graduate programs.

The visiting students, who spent the morning on campus, are attending the annual conference of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), taking place at the Anaheim Convention Center, Calif., Sept. 30-Oct. 3. UC Riverside is a platinum sponsor of this year’s SACNAS conference.

Nearly all the 3,500 students attending the SACNAS conference are from underrepresented minorities majoring in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“We would like the visiting students to get an idea of what a great place UC Riverside is to do graduate work,” said Joseph Childers, the dean of the Graduate Division at UC Riverside. “We would like our visitors from SACNAS to think about UCR as a place where they can pursue their careers. The SACNAS conference is a really important event because currently there are far too few students of color doing graduate work in science.”

Nationwide, only a few students from Hispanic, African American, and Native American backgrounds earn advanced degrees in the STEM fields. For example, of the doctoral degrees awarded in these fields in 2007, only 3.2 percent were to Hispanics and 2.9 percent were to African Americans, whereas 60 percent were to Caucasians.

Jordan Belknap, a student visiting UCR from Trinity University, Texas, is interested in pursuing graduate work in sedimentary geology. “For me, studying sedimentary rocks is like reading a history book about past life and processes. I signed up to visit UCR because the presentations on research going on at the university sounded very interesting.”

At today’s breakfast event, Cheryl Hayashi, a professor of biology specializing in spider silk, gave a presentation on her research that earned her a McArthur Fellowship, commonly known as a “genius award.” Her talk, which spelled out the properties of spider silk and its applications, was followed by a presentation by Jodie Holt, a professor of plant physiology and the botanical consultant for James Cameron’s film Avatar. Holt spoke about the importance of communicating science to a broad audience through popular media.

Donne Estipona, a biochemistry undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, was particularly excited by Holt’s presentation because he plans to pursue graduate study in plant biochemistry, specifically using plants to find alternative fuels. “I am interested in harnessing the photosynthetic abilities of plants for alternative fuel sources,” he said.

After the breakfast presentation, which took place at the Highlander Union Building, the students went on tours of UCR departments in which they are interested in doing graduate work.

SACNAS is a national society with a 37-year history of supporting minority scientists and science students. The society is comprised of more than 3,000 paid members along with more than 20,000 affiliates and partners from a diversity of disciplines, institutions, and ethnic backgrounds.
Undergraduates from all over the country visited UC Riverside, Sept. 30. Photo credit: L. Joel, UCR Strategic Communications.Enlarge

Undergraduates from all over the country visited UC Riverside, Sept. 30. Photo credit: L. Joel, UCR Strategic Communications.

Cheryl Hayashi, a professor of biology, talks to the visiting undergraduates about her research on spider silk.  Photo credit: L. Joel, UCR Strategic Communications.Enlarge

Cheryl Hayashi, a professor of biology, talks to the visiting undergraduates about her research on spider silk. Photo credit: L. Joel, UCR Strategic Communications.

Jodie Holt, a professor of plant physiology, talks about her involvement with the film <i>Avatar</i>. Photo credit: L. Joel, UCR Strategic Communications.Enlarge

Jodie Holt, a professor of plant physiology, talks about her involvement with the film Avatar. Photo credit: L. Joel, UCR Strategic Communications.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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