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Diverse Undergraduate Research Spotlighted at Upcoming Conference

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Undergraduate students at UC San Diego will soon present their scholarly work at the 36th annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) on April 22. As one of only a handful of UC San Diego conferences featuring the research of students from all disciplines, URC celebrates undergraduate academic excellence and highlights the vibrant research taking place across campus. 

Back in-person for the first time since 2019, this year’s URC will be held on April 22, 2023 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Ida & Cecil Green Faculty Club. Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Simmons will welcome researchers and attendees at 8:30 a.m.

The URC is hosted every year by the Undergraduate Research Hub, which offers undergraduates numerous opportunities to become part of the UC San Diego research community and develop communication and leadership skills that will make them a standout candidate for graduate and professional school. In addition to leading several undergraduate conferences, the team supports students in applying for prestigious competitive scholarships and fellowships, become engaged in experiential learning outside the classroom, and receive faculty mentorship in preparation for doctoral study.

“The conference spotlights the highest level of undergraduate research conducted on campus because students must be nominated by faculty to present their work,” said Beverly Fruto, Faculty Mentor Program coordinator and conference coordinator of this year’s URC. Approximately 200 students were nominated to present their work this year. 

Following is a preview of some of the scholars who will be presenting their work at the conference; their disciplines range from psychology to computer science and marine biology to literature. 

Portrait of four students profiled in story
A selection of undergraduate scholars who will be presenting their work at the conference. From left to right, Abigal Wright (literature and writing); Alexandria Garcia (neuroscience); Aaron Deans (marine biology and music); and Luowen Yu (cognitive and behavioral neuroscience).

Riveting research

Abigail Wright, a literature/writing major, chose to present her research at the URC in order to raise awareness around violence faced by Mexican women throughout history. Wright’s research investigates how the ways that literature portrays La Malinche—the Nahua woman who translated for the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés during the time of the Inquisition—reflects a misogynistic culture that is grounded in colonial gender roles. 

“My project connects La Malinche in literature to the treatment of Chicana lesbians in real life,” Wright explained, adding that her research was driven by a want to understand Mexican femicide. “As a Chicana queer woman myself, I want to represent the violent atrocities committed against this marginalized demographic.” 

McNair Scholar Alexandria Garcia was also drawn to her field of research—neuroscience—by wanting to make a change. Garcia explained that she hopes to destigmatize mental health disorders in the Latinx community. She hopes to educate her community about the connections between physiological neural circuits and complex emotional states to highlight how mental health disorders are rooted in biology and can be managed with proper treatment. 

As a marine biology and music student, Aaron Deans has found a way to marry his two interests; as an intern at the Scripps Acoustic Ecology Laboratory, Deans researches marine mammal ecology with PhD student Natalie Posdaljian. 

“I’ve known for a while that I wanted to present my research at URC,” Deans said. “I’ve been working on my main project—estimating sperm whale density in the western North Atlantic—for a full year now, so I have plenty to share!”

Luowen Yu is also excited to present her research with her peers and more experienced scholars. As a cognitive and behavioral neuroscience major with a minor in general biology, Yu is interested in memory processing. 

“I’ve always been curious about how the human mind perceives and interacts with the surrounding world,” she explained, adding that this curiosity led her to her field of study and her role at the Neural Crossroad lab investigating spatial association. “The URC is a great opportunity for undergraduate researchers like me to have a platform to share and summarize our research findings.”

Aside from the URC, the Undergraduate Research Hub also hosts the Conference for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the Online Undergraduate Research Symposium (OURS), the Medical Education for Diverse Students (MEDS) conference and the Summer Research Conference (SRC). 

“I’ve always been curious about how the human mind perceives and interacts with the surrounding world. The URC is a great opportunity for undergraduate researchers like me to have a platform to share and summarize our research findings.”
Luowen Yu, cognitive and behavioral neuroscience major

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