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July 27, 2010 > Fremont students participate in Davis research program

Fremont students participate in Davis research program

By Jerry Ting
Photos By courtesy of UC Davis, Education Department

Every summer, the University of California at Davis offers approximately 40 highly-motivated high school students the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art facilities and renowned professors to conduct research in the fields of biology and natural sciences. This year, four Fremont students, Jacqueline Chu, Roger Chen, and Merry Mou, all from Mission San Jose High School, and Prithvi Bomdica from Irvington High School, were chosen to be a part of the Davis Young Scholars Program (YSP).

YSP, which started on June 20, is one of the most selective summer programs in the state. To qualify, students must take advanced courses in math and science in high school, receive letters of recommendation from their high school teachers, and write a personal statement. Bomdica, Chu, Chen, and Mou represent motivated and talented Science students in the Fremont Unified School District.

Says Chu, "I joined YSP because you get to do advanced research, and the projects that you do are great for entering the Intel competition. I want to become a doctor some day, so this is really important to me."

The Young Scholars Program teaches its participants about the world of research by offering lectures on some of today's most important scientific advancements and partnering students with researchers on a one-to-one basis. Guided by their mentors, students embark on ambitious six-week-long research projects that cover a wide range of subjects.

Jacqueline Chu is using her opportunity as a Youth Scholar to prevent Lyme disease. She separates a protein, OspE, found on the surface of the sickness-causing bacteria, Borrelia burgdoferi, from its host and transfers the OspE protein to the common bacteria, E Coli. This cultivates the protein which is then used to create a vaccine for the disease.

Prithvi Bomdica is also trying to find a cure for an illness: Huntington's Disease. She is analyzing and identifying varying shapes of cell mitochondria with and without Huntington's Disease. Her research may eventually help cure the disorder that causes brain neurons to degenerate.

Unlike Chu and Bomdica, Merry Mou is not trying to cure a disease; she's trying to find new ways to create renewable energy. By using phenotypical and genotypical analysis of rice lines to trace genes that affect plant cell walls, Mou is hoping to create a new bioenergy crop.

Roger Chen is also doing extraordinary research. He's sequencing the genome of bacterium Chrysiogenes arsenates for the first time, even though the bacterium was discovered in 1996. By analyzing differences in genomes, Chen hopes to map the phylogenic tree of the bacterium and trace its evolution.

When asked what he learned most at YSP, Chen responded, "You can learn a lot from them [PHD mentors], for example, what it's like working in a lab, and what life is like as an undergrad; but mostly, that research isn't something easy. It requires time, effort, and dedication."

At the conclusion of the camp, all four Fremont students will formally present their research, write papers on their findings, and have weeks of advanced research under their belts. Even more important, they will have made friendships with other science-enthusiasts from across the state.

"There are so many interesting people who are interested in what they do. Everybody is really dedicated, and you can learn a lot from them. It's not just with the people at YSP; but also the people at the labs, the mentors. It's a healthy competitive atmosphere and it encourages you to do your best," says Mou.

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