Two UC Riverside Students Finalists for International Academic Award

Brandon Tran and Spencer Salazar named Highly Commended in Undergraduate Awards 2015

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Brandon Tran (’16) and Spencer Salazar (’15) from the University of California, Riverside have been named Highly Commended entrants in the Undergraduate Awards 2015.

“I feel blessed to have had my paper reach the highly commended category on an international level,” said Salazar in response to the distinction.

Brandon Tran ('16)

Brandon Tran (’16)

The Undergraduate Awards is the world’s only pan-discipline academic awards program that identifies leading creative thinkers through their undergraduate coursework, according to Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, the director of student success programs in Undergraduate Education. It is open to all junior and senior undergraduate students in a degree course from all disciplines. Tran and Salazar, both in the University Honors programs, and students in the Psychology department, have come in the top 10 percent of this year’s 5,117 submissions.

“Undergraduate Education promoted this opportunity campus wide during the spring, and there were over 50 submissions from our campus. So, we are very excited that UCR students are being recognized at an international level, and that two are coming out of Honors and the Psychology Department,” said Herrera-Berkowitz.

Tran’s project, Pronoun Usage by Doctors and Patients in Surgical Consultations, examined physician-patient interaction and how doctors talk to their patients. Specifically, whether doctors use of group association pronouns (we/us), versus singular person pronouns (I/me), were associated with positive health outcomes for patients.

The results of his study suggested that when doctors use “we/us” more often, patients reported significant increases in hopefulness after meeting with their physician and doctors rated the consultation as more productive overall. Tran said he believes these benefits may be due to a team-oriented mindset, which in turn provided a sense of support. He hopes his research will help innovate techniques to strengthen physician-patient communication and improve the quality of modern healthcare.

Spencer Salazar ('15)

Spencer Salazar (’15)

“It has been a great honor to represent UCR on an international level. I was originally skeptical reading the email inviting me to fly to Dublin, but I am proud to have worked with such great people encouraging me to apply,” said Tran.

Salazar’s paper, titled Morphine Induced Feeding via Intracranial Injection into the Lateral Septum: Identification of the Neural Substrates, looked at the behavior of the neurological system. His experiments were carried out in Dr. B. Glenn Stanley’s lab said Salazar.

As Highly Commended, Tran and Salazar have been awarded a certificate, will have their work published in the new online Undergraduate Library that will be launched early next year, and have been invited to attend the exclusive Global Summit in Dublin, Ireland from November, 10–November 13. Unfortunately, both have prior obligations, and will not be able to attend the summit.

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