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Undergraduate Plant Research Underway

Eleven Undergraduate Students From Across the Nation do Plant Research at UCR

Grant renewal extends 3-year program another five years

(July 19, 2005)

Confocal microscopy image of the dandelion fruit, known as pappi.

Confocal microscopy image of the dandelion fruit, known as pappi.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — Eleven college students from around the nation are spending this summer at UC Riverside to conduct plant cell biology research with some of the top researchers in the field.

UCR’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, offers students an opportunity to gain research experience, make valuable mentor contacts, and possibly play a role in publishing articles about scientific breakthroughs.

The program’s $433,000 funding renewal in December, extended the REU’s initial 3-year life another five years, according to grant applicants Patricia Springer and Julia Bailey-Serres, professors of genetics in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences. The 2005 REU program began June 13 and runs through Aug. 19.
The final week culminates with a mini-symposium the REU students host for their professors, lab mentors and other interested biologists. The event is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m., Friday, Aug. 19, in room 240 of the Science Library.

The 10-week program teams up each of the 11 undergraduates with a mentor from the 30 faculty members at the Center for Plant Cell Biology at UC Riverside. The faculty mentor and a graduate or postgraduate student tutor the undergraduate while doing laboratory research.

While the program offers obvious benefits to the undergraduate participants, it also benefits UCR’s faculty, graduate and postgraduate students, said Springer, who is directing the program this year.

“The undergraduates bring unique perspectives to the research arena and that is a definite plus for our graduate and postgraduate students because it makes them think about effective ways of teaching while they do the research,” Springer said.

As for the program’s participants, REU offers invaluable experience, Bailey-Serres added.

“This is a real research experience. There’s a possibility that their work could end up in a research paper, they give an oral report, they keep a laboratory notebook, they design their own experiments and get involved in other aspects of scientific research,” she said.

The following is a listing of the 2005 REU participants, their college or university and their UCR faculty mentor. For a detailed listing of students and their research visit the 2005 REU Web page.

StudentHome InstitutionFaculty Mentor
Benjamin BecerraCal. Poly PomonaHarley Smith
Michelle BrownMt. San Jacinto Community CollegePatricia Springer
Hilary ChristensenCarleton College, MinnesotaMichael Pirrung
Robert DickIowa State UniversityJian-Kang Zhu
Candida FieldingFt. Valley State University, GeorgiaJeffrey Bachant
Janet LeeUCLAHailing Jin
Noelle OasSt. Mary's University, MinnesotaThomas Eulgem
Amy SainskiUniversity of Wisconsin, ParksideNatasha Raikhel
Ricardo SayeghChaffey Community CollegeThomas Girke
Quynh VuUniversity of Houston, TexasKatherine Borkovich
Naa-Darkua WellingtonXavier University, LouisianaDaniel Gallie

Not counting the current year’s contingent, 29 students have completed the REU program over the past three years. While many of the past participants remain undergraduates, seven students are now in graduate school, four of them at UCR.

“We’ve also had a number of community college students who have gone through the program and went on to attend UCR or other UC campuses,” Springer added.

The University of California, Riverside ( 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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