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Two UCR Students, Faculty Member Recognized for Research Accomplishments

Two UCR Students, Faculty Member Recognized for Research Accomplishments

(June 11, 1999)

Two students and one faculty member at the University of California, Riverside have received undergraduate research awards for studies on the effects of cigarette smoke on wound-healing and human reproduction and the sociological factors involved in academic performance of Chinese-American college students.

Harry M. Green, who will enter graduate school at Caltech after he completes his bachelor's degree at UCR, and Jonathan Lee, who will graduate with a triple major in sociology, ethnic studies and religious studies, are student recipients of the 1999 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. In addition, Prue Talbot, a professor of biology, received the award in recognition of her mentorship of undergraduates doing research.

The Chancellor's Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Research are given annually to recognize outstanding undergraduate research efforts and to encourage other students to become involved in research and scholarship beyond their coursework.

Many faculty members at UCR involve undergraduates in their academic research. In fact, UCR faculty are among the most proficient in the University of California system at seeking and winning National Science Foundation grants to involve students in research projects. Of the 31 NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduate grants awarded systemwide in early 1998, UCR and UC Santa Cruz led all other campuses with eight grants each.

"The close involvement of undergraduate students in scholarly research is one of UCR's best features," said David Warren, UCR executive vice chancellor. "This inclusion of undergraduates in research, where they work alongside graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty members, is one of UCR's answers to the challenge of bringing all of the advantages of a research university to the benefit of our students."

Green, who plans to earn a Ph.D. in biology and do research in an academic or industrial setting, has conducted laboratory research at UCR since he was a senior in high school. Last summer, he interned at the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Most recently, he has been studying the effects of both first-hand and second-hand cigarette smoke on the cells of connective tissues that are important in wound healing in the lab of his mother, Manuela Martins-Green, an assistant professor of biology. "We want to see how the smoke is changing the cells and how that will change the whole wound-healing process," said Green. This summer, before entering Caltech in the fall, he hopes to finish writing two journal articles reporting his results.

Research experience has "helped me so much in general knowledge about biology," he said. "You pick up a lot of stuff in the lab, it just sticks with you...I think my laboratory experience is what got me into a top-rate graduate school."

Lee, who was enrolled in the University Honors Program, received the award based on the three senior theses he completed. One was a comparison of family socialization, educational aspirations and attitudes, and education-related work habits of college students in Taiwan, first- and second-generation Chinese students in the U.S. and U.S. college students of European ancestry.

His findings contrasted markedly from previous studies of high school students that suggest students with strong family expectations will excel in school and that second- and third-generation students assimilate to lower levels of achievement. Lee found that students tend to rebel against intense family pressure to succeed and that first-generation Chinese students have the lowest aspirations and work habits of the four groups studied.

"Doing research as an undergraduate has been a wonderful experience for me," said Lee, who plans to pursue Ph.D. studies in Asian religions in America and East Asian religions. "I feel more prepared for graduate school and feel more confident about my aca demic abilities. In writing my theses, I realized my ability to think independently -- that, I think, is the most important realization I had."

Talbot, a faculty member in the UCR Department of Biology since 1977, has involved an estimated 40 undergraduates in studies of the effects of cigarette smoke on reproduction and the mechanism of a special coat surrounding eggs that prevents them from being fertilized by more than one sperm. Several of her students have appeared as lead authors on peer-reviewed, scientific journal articles -- a rare and valuable opportunity for an undergraduate.

One of Talbot's former students produced a research project that was recognized as one of the most 15 interesting papers at the 1994 annual meeting of the American Society of Cell Biology, a project that later was covered in the prestigious journal Science.

Undergraduates learn not only scientific research skills by working in a laboratory, but also how to work as a member of a research team and produce original data, and how to given oral presentations of their work, Talbot said. For some, the laboratory experience helps to better define a career path and develop self-confidence, she said.

"I have found in 20 years at UCR we are very lucky. We have a very talented pool of undergraduate students," said Talbot. "The graduate students and postdocs like to have them collaborate with us in the lab."

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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