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Three UCR students to be honored for their research

Three UCR students to be honored for their research

(March 2, 2001)

University of California President Richard Atkinson will honor three Riverside campus students for their outstanding research at a March 6 ceremony. The three seniors will be among 19 undergraduates from eight UC campuses to be recognized.

Leleua L. Loupe (pronounced LAY-LAY-OOH-AH LOOP), 25, an anthropology major; Caroline J. Sim, 22, a business economics major; and Elmer Thomas, 24, a computer engineering major, will travel with their faculty mentors to the 2001 UC Day ceremony in Sacramento. Displays of posters they designed explaining their research will be at the breakfast for alumni and guests to view and may later be displayed at the state capitol building, organizers said.

Loupe, who graduates this year, focused her research toward designing a museum exhibit for the Western Center for Archeology and Paleontology at UCR. It outlines the history of the San Jacinto Valley, including Native American perspectives. She found that much of the available written history of the area downplayed or ignored the role and significance of Native Americans in the development of the region. The Western Center is located near the Diamond Valley Reservoir at the south end of the San Jacinto Valley.

Sim, who graduates in June, researched new ways to promote environmental stewardship among companies while on a summer internship at the Democratic Leadership Council/Progressive Policy Institute in Washington D.C. She collected and analyzed information from a variety of federal and state sources to help internship coordinator, Debra Knopman, the council's environmental policy director, draft proposals that move environmental policy into the next generation of regulation. Sim's work proposed abandoning the ineffective, top-down model developed in the 1970s in which government agencies dictated how companies were to meet rigid environmental policy goals. She found that innovation was more effective in today's business environment. An example is the use of Transferable Discharge Permits (TDPs), which set limits on allowed pollution for companies, but also lets those that exceed their limits purchase unused permits from companies that don't pollute much.

Thomas, who expects to graduate in 2002, is doing research on vehicle automation using global positioning satellites to allow trucks to drive automatically along specially-equipped freeway lanes. He is developing software and computers for the test trucks, trying to shrink the system from a laptop to a handheld device. The California Department of Transportation hopes to make the technology useable in selected areas by 2010.

'The undergraduate students being recognized today are our future leaders in research that will impact the lives of California's citizens,' said Mark Kohn, vice president and regent of the Alumni Association of the University of California.

'Research is one of the University's fundamental missions,' he said. 'One third of UC's undergraduate students work with faculty on research projects while attending their university - that's 57,000 students.'

  • Leleua L. Loupe: e-mail
    Loupe's faculty mentor is Clifford Trafzer, professor of history and ethnic studies (909) 787-5401, extension 1974, e-mail
  • Caroline J. Sim: email
    Sim's internship mentor at UCR is Linda LaTendresse, placement developer at the Career Services Center (909) 787-3631, email Sim's internship contact at the Democratic Leadership Council/Progressive Policy Institute is Debra Knopman, environmental policy director.
  • Elmer Thomas: email Thomas' faculty mentor is Computer Engineering Professor Jay Farrell (909) 787-2159, email

Vignettes of the three students follow.


Leleua L. Loupe

Age: 25

Year/Major: Senior/Anthropology

Home Town: Seattle, Wash. and Honolulu, Hawaii

Leleua Loupe's research began as an effort to mount a museum exhibit on the history of the San Jacinto Valley, which lies about 85 miles southeast of Los Angeles. It is home to the Soboba band of Cahuilla Indians. The exhibit would be at the Western Center for Archeology and Paleontology near Hemet, the largest city in the valley. Her initial inspection of the written history of the region found very little mention of the Native Americans who live there.

'I wanted to lend a native voice to the history of the region,' she said. 'What I found was that the indigenous people had been ignored.'

She began interviewing tribal elders, relying on the help of her faculty mentor, and Native American history scholar Clifford Trafzer, to meet the right people. Luope recorded the oral history and traditions of the Cahuilla people of the region and is in the process of compiling a narrative from those interviews.

'I never thought I'd do this,' she said. 'I was more into creative writing in school. History bored me, at least the way it was presented to me. In fact, I wasn't really a good student in high school. I came here with an (Associate of Arts) degree from a community college in Honolulu.'

But somewhere along the way, Loupe developed a curiosity about other cultures. Perhaps she and her twin sister, Alyta's upbringing in Hawaii, in a single-parent household, with an artist mother sparked her imagination.

'We grew up in a very culturally diverse environment,' She said. 'We were around a lot of interesting people. We learned a lot of life's lessons early on, some of them pretty tough, but that helps you grow.'

Her message to youngsters: Make learning a fun but serious journey. 'Be serious about college, cultivate yourself. Have fun but remember it's not just having a good time.'


Caroline J. Sim

Age: 22

Year: Senior/Business-Economics

Home Town: Arcadia, Calif.

Caroline Sim conducted her research to help develop the second generation of environmental policy initiatives during a summer internship at the Progressive Policy Institute of the Democratic Leadership Council in Washington D.C. Her collection and analysis of federal and state pollution control regulations and their effectiveness helped shape a February 7 article by Debra Knopman, director of the institute's Center for Innovation and the Environment, which calls for allowing industry and government more innovation in finding pollution solutions. Knopman also oversaw Sim's internship.

'My purpose was to show that though the first generation of legislation in the 1970s (the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act) had, indeed, gained ground in the fight for increased environmental quality, they were outmoded and ineffective in treating the pollution problems in the 21st Century,' she said.

Sim now wants to continue her studies in environmental law and either go to business school or law school: 'Or both,' she said. 'I'd like to go to school in New York.' Eventually she wants to either become a school administrator or a real estate developer.

'There aren't a lot of environmentally conscious developers out there and there should be,' she said.

Sim came to UCR after graduating from Arcadia High School but said she didn't like it too much at first. She had chosen UCR because it was close to home. Her mother, a registered nurse, became a paraplegic in a 1991 traffic accident, and Sim wanted to be available to help her if needed.

'She's doing well now and has a great support system so I don't feel so badly about going farther from home,' she said.

As for UCR, Sim said it grew on her as she got more involved with clubs such as the Korean American Students Association and with student government.

She hopes that her small role in shaping environmental policy will help many people. 'By cleaning up the air and water, we better our lives and reduce the chances of fighting over scarce natural resources,' she said.


Elmer Thomas

Age: 24

Year: Senior/Computer Engineering

Home Town: Lakeview Terrace, Calif.

Elmer Thomas transferred to UCR from L.A. Valley College in the Winter 1999 quarter. He originally majored in computer science but switched to computer engineering because he liked the idea of designing and building his own software and the devices to run the programs.

Thomas' research involves the development of special processors and hand-held devices to replace laptop computers now used in testing automated vehicle systems. The systems, when fully developed, would allow a delivery truck driver to focus on other things as his vehicle navigates the freeways guided by a global positioning satellite that trades real-time information with the computer in the truck. The system will keep the truck in a specially equipped lane and keeps the vehicle from crashing into the traffic around it.

'It's been a blast,' he said. 'And working with my faculty mentor, Dr. Jay Farrell, has been great.'

It hasn't been a smooth journey for Thomas either. His mother underwent a heart transplant. He toyed with dropping out of high school to work or to join the U.S. Marine Corps or maybe the Los Angeles Police Department before deciding - at an uncle's urging - to stay in school and go to community college.

'Math was my worst subject too,' he said. 'I was originally an administration of justice major in community college.' He changed his mind about math after a former high school teacher gave him a used computer and he began to see math as a way to solve software-programming puzzles.

'Once I saw math that way, it took on a whole new meaning,' Thomas said. 'This research has continued changing the way I view math.'

Today, Thomas mentors black freshmen to stay in science and engineering majors. He is the UCR chapter president of the National Society of Black Engineers. Thomas said he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer engineering at UCR and will work in Berkeley this summer as a UC LEADS scholar. The program is designed to get undergraduates into good graduate programs by promoting research.

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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