NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Fourteen UCR graduate students have won 2013 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships for having demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research.

Each fellowship consists of three years of support usable over a five-year period. For each year of support, NSF provides a stipend of $30,000 to the fellow, given in increments of $2,500 per month, and a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to the degree-granting institution.

Fellows include numerous individuals who have made transformative breakthroughs in science and engineering research, become leaders in their chosen careers, and been honored as Nobel laureates.

The UCR fellows this year are: Chen Wang (chemistry), Seyede Irene Shivaei (physics and astronomy), Molly Schlesinger (STEM education and learning research), Thanh Yen Vuong Nguyen (engineering), Maricela Maldonado (engineering), Elbert David Mai (engineering), Christina Jogoleff (social sciences), Miguel Isarraraz materials research), Leopold Noel Green (engineering), Cynthia Alice Dick (life sciences), Lauren Kathleen Dedow (life sciences), Barbara Davis (life sciences), Sarah Lillian Davenport (life sciences), and Amanda Kay Admire (social sciences).

NSF accords honorable mention to meritorious applicants who do not receive fellowship awards — also a significant national academic achievement. Fourteen UCR graduate students made the honorable mention list this year.

Mary Nguyen Receives the 2013 Goldwater Scholarship

2013 Goldwater Scholarship Recipient Mary Nguyen

2013 Goldwater Scholarship Recipient Mary Nguyen

Mary Nguyen, a junior in chemistry and a University Honors student, has been selected as the 2013 Goldwater Scholarship Recipient. The scholarship provides $7,500 for juniors to encourage them to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering and to foster excellence in these fields.

Nguyen’s research interest in chemical synthesis comes from a compelling personal experience: assisting her mother while she was treated for colon cancer. It led her to question existing cancer therapies and to realize that improved methods are necessary to synthesize both new and existing therapeutic agents.

Nguyen has conducted research primarily under the guidance of Catharine Larsen, an assistant professor of chemistry and a former Goldwater Scholar. The focus of the research is on the development of a new catalytic system that could allow for a direct synthesis of ketone-derived propargylamines. Nguyen’s work on this project has led to a publication in Angewandte Chemie, a prestigious journal in chemistry.

“Mary knows the importance of expanding direct access to novel compounds,” Larsen said. “The development of new, more efficient reactions is of fundamental interest to chemists, and we are particularly interested in this relatively unexplored field, both for the high impact of the resultant methodology and the therapeutic potential of the products.”

In addition to research, Nguyen has served as a math academic coach and a student leader for the Medical Scholars Program. She is a science ambassador in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and is a passionate violinist and pianist. She is pursuing a career in science as a teacher and researcher.

New Books by CHASS Faculty

Three CHASS scholars have published new books in recent months. They include:

  • Juan Felipe Herrera, professor of creative writing and California Poet Laureate — “Senegal Taxi” (University of Arizona Press), a multilayered collection of verse that tells the story of three children trying to escape war-torn Sudan.
  • Co-authors Raymond Russell, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology; Robert Hanneman, UCR professor of sociology; and Shlomo Getz, research associate at the Institute for Kibbutz Research at the University of Haifa — “The Renewal of the Kibbutz” (Rutgers University Press), an examination of the waves of economic reform that have swept Israel’s kibbutzim since 1990.
  • Jennifer Doyle, professor of English — “Hold It Against Me — difficulty and emotion in contemporary art” (Duke University Press), an exploration of the relationship between difficulty and emotion in contemporary art that treats emotion as an artist’s medium.

Yes We Can

Rebecca Bertram, Climate Network program dsirector of the Heinrich Boll Foundation, North America, will discuss governmental policies and practices as Germany attempts to convert to sustainable energy on Friday, April 26, from noon to 2 p.m. in Orbach Science Library, Room 240.

With the fifth-largest economy in the world, Germany’s policies represent a game-changing new approach, said Steve Mitchell, distinguished librarian.

“Germany’s plans are to be almost completely reliant on clean, renewable, sustainable energy sources by 2050,” he said, adding that the program will include a discussion of the implications of this effort for California.

Leading the discussion will be: Jim Stewart, co-chair of the Sierra Club California Energy-Climate Committee, and Yassamin Kavezade of UCR CalPIRG.

The event is sponsored by the Librarians Association of UCR, the UCR Office of Sustainability, and UCR CalPIRG.

Global Food Systems Forum Held in Ontario

The University of California, through its Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR), brought together some of the world’s leading experts on April 9 in Ontario, Calif., for a Global Food Systems Forum. The full day of programming addressed how to sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025 and related questions. The forum featured researchers, policymakers, economists, farmers, environmentalists and geopolitical experts in two moderated panel discussions.

UCR plant biotechnologist Alan McHughen participated in the forum as a member of the California Panel. A public sector educator, scientist, consumer advocate, and a molecular geneticist with an interest in crop improvement and environmental sustainability, McHughen has helped develop US and Canadian regulations covering genetically engineered crops and foods.

“California agriculture faces severe challenges in continuing to provide safe, sustainable, good quality, affordable, accessible food, and we must prepare to meet those challenges using whatever tools may be available, including biotechnology,” he said. “For example, water will continue to be a diminishing resource in high demand by both rural and urban communities, so we can expect reduced availability, higher prices and lower quality. Biotechnology is being adapted to make crop plants more water use efficient, producing more food with less water.  Similarly, with more specific threats such as Huanglongbin in our citrus crops, and Pierce’s disease in grapevines and other crops, biotechnology may be the best or only tool to overcome these devastating diseases. With climate change, increased populations and affluence, we can no longer rely on Mother Nature to feed us sustainably.”

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