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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Program sparks scientific pursuits

UA undergraduates will present results of the Undergraduate Biology Research Program  to students and faculty on Saturday.

The event will also be open to local high school students for the first time.

Cholla High Magnet School students will be attending the 22nd annual conference, where college students selected to participate in science research programs will present their findings at a poster conference.

Jacob Fijal,  who is in UBRP and spoke to the high school students who could be attending, works with microscopic roundworms that harbor bacteria to infect other insects through mutual symbiosis.

People curious about researching as a career possibility would greatly benefit from the event, according to Fijal, a chemistry and microbiology student.

“”I really appreciated my UBRP advisors and coordinator, Carol Bender, who are very helpful and informative people of great inspiration,”” Fijal wrote in an email.

Some students will also bring microscopes to show physically what is presented visually on their posters.

“”Every year is a little different because the research presented is all new, every year,”” said Carol Bender, program director of UBRP and its international counterpart, Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open.

Bender said a meeting with a teacher at a workout boot camp spurred the idea for the partnership, which aids high school students in fostering interest about science and facilitates college students in presenting their research to all kinds of recipients.

“”How do you translate science into something a ninth grader can understand,”” Bender said.

High school students who attend compete for prizes by seeing who best answers a series of questions based on the research presented.

College students aren’t required, but are encouraged, to utilize the program and the poster conference to connect with research faculty and get practice for larger national conferences.

“”If you do the experiments and you don’t tell anybody about it,”” she said, “”it’s like you’d never done them at all.””

Kurt Cox, a student majoring in chemistry and mathematics, works in molecular and cellular biology lab and has been with the UBRP program for a year and a half.

He acts as a UBRP ambassador for other students.

He has presented at conferences before but this is his first winter session conference.

“”I feel that these low stress conferences are excellent ways to hone your skills in explaining science to others, as well as learning about the large variety of science taking place at the university,”” Cox wrote in an email.  

Cox will present a therapeutic method focusing on difficult-to-target protein kinases, a cancer-causing enzymes on Saturday.

Once students are accepted into the UBRP program, they can stay until they graduate, which is why many students travel abroad with BRAVO and present research multiples times at the conference.

One such student is Alice Cai, a biochemistry junior who also studies microbiology and Near Eastern studies.

Cai said her first time presenting in the conference was intimidating, but this conference has aided her in preparing for the future.

“”I started with no practice in research and no plan,”” Cai said, “”and when I started in Dr. (Li-Wen) Lai’s lab, he really helped me assess where I wanted to go with my research.””

Lai is Cai’s mentor in the program. They work on chronic pain issues and how to stem the spread of pain, focusing on blocking receptors activated by spinal nerve damage. Cai is expanding her work with the program and continuing her research on live laboratory rats at University College in London.

“”(Returning UBRP students) are the students that then submit their work to regular scientific conferences around the country.””

Cai, like many students, according to Bender, is also attending a national conference to present work.

“”UBRP is just a really good partnership between faculty and students.””

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