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August 13, 2013 > Local student spends summer as researcher at UC Davis

Local student spends summer as researcher at UC Davis

Submitted By Charisse Ceballos

Increasingly summer is a time for high school students to work or study. For many, gone are the days of lounging around the pool, playing video games, or hanging around with friends. One local junior is spending her time off doing research at UC Davis through its Young Scholars Program, now celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.

Kevin Chen and Amit Patel of Irvington High School are among a select group of students attending the UC Davis Young Scholars Program this summer. The advanced science program, hosted each summer by the School of Education, introduces up to 40 high-achieving high school juniors and seniors to the world of original research in the biological and natural sciences.

Participants work one-on-one with research faculty in state-of-the art laboratories for six weeks. Each student works on an individual project and prepares a research paper and presentation about his or her work.

"Students work under the direction of real-world researchers," said Rick Pomeroy, program director and teacher educator in the School of Education at UC Davis. "In fact, these high school students are engaged in research that most college undergraduates don't have an opportunity to do."

Kevin's research aims to extract complex sugars (oligosaccharides) from cow and goat milk. Because human milk is not a viable source for mass extraction of these complex sugars, alternatives from cow or goat whey could help transform residue waste into health promoting products beneficial for people of all ages, including those with compromised immune systems.

Kevin says, "These sugars could enrich current food products and engender positive health effects, including lowered risk of gastrointestinal diseases and healthy cognitive development."

Amit is researching the biomarkers that make allow an egg cell to successfully undergo fertilization and form a healthy embryo. Amit's project focuses on the genes that the cumulus cells in the follicle around the egg cell express during the last 24 hours of the first stage of meiosis.

The knowledge gained with Amit's research will help researchers better understand oocyte competency, or the ability of the egg to produce a healthy offspring, which will make in vitro procreation much more viable.

The program, which began June 23, immerses students in the entire college experience. During the first two weeks, participants attend lectures on recent developments in biology and natural sciences in the mornings and conduct lab science every afternoon. During the last four weeks of the program, students work full time in their labs. Students live in campus dormitories and take field trips every weekend.

To qualify for the program, students must have a strong academic record, including biology and two years of college preparatory mathematics, and recommendations from teachers. In addition, applicants must write a personal essay.

"All of the participants are highly qualified academically, take honors or advanced placement courses, and have high GPAs," said Pomeroy. "Most importantly, though, they have all demonstrated a desire and ability to conduct original scientific research and have the potential to contribute significantly to the field."

The program ended August 3.

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