MSRIP Celebrates 30 Years of Preparing Students for Graduate Research Careers

The eight-week summer program culminated with a symposium in which 38 students presented research projects to faculty, staff, and their peers 

Vanessa Montezuma, 20, a UCR biology major, presented her MSRIP project on August 18, 2017. sandra baltazar martínez

UC Riverside’s Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program (MSRIP) helped celebrate its 30th anniversary this year by honoring the 38 participants who completed the free eight-week session designed to prepare them for graduate school.

The cohort joined the 1,108 students who have participated in MSRIP since it was established in 1987.

MSRIP, which gives graduate-level research experience to students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, is hosted by UCR’s Graduate Division and is a collaboration with other programs. Rising juniors, seniors, and some master’s students are eligible to enroll and receive mentorship from faculty members who volunteer their time over the summer. The program’s primary goal is to help students from diverse backgrounds pursue doctorate degrees.

“Your summer experience was intensive and ambitious with a GRE course, weekly seminars, and most importantly, the research you conducted with support and direction from our mentor,” Shaun Bowler, dean of the Graduate Division, told the cohort.

Students presented their research results to faculty, staff, peers, and family at UCR’s Alumni and Visitor Center on Aug. 18. The symposium and evening dinner celebration also included live entertainment.

Vanessa Montezuma, 20, a UCR biology major, was one of the presenting students. Her research focused on e-cigarettes and their possible long-term health effects. Montezuma, who worked under the guidance of Prue Talbot, professor of cell biology, became inspired to work on the project after watching her grandmother and uncle suffer severe health effects from tobacco use.

Another presenter was Christian Udealor, 19, a UCR biochemistry major who focused his research on breast cancer. He interviewed 185 local women undergoing a breast biopsy and tracked their patterns of social support as they underwent treatment.

“I wanted to know how much information they were sharing with family and friends,” Udealor said.

His mentor, Kate Sweeny, an associate professor of psychology, said Udealor’s research touched on topics she had been wanting to pursue.

“He came to me with a question and moved forward,” Sweeny said. “He came back with a very exciting data set.”

The symposium included research areas that ranged from engineering, to public policy, to nature. Within the nature group was Bianca Salazar, 20, an environmental science student at Cal State Channel Islands. Her project focused on geographic variations of “Anna’s Song,” a particular hummingbird tune.

Assistant Professor of Biology Christopher Clark worked with Salazar on the project, which demonstrated in preliminary research that “Anna’s Song” does in fact vary from region to region, much like peoples’ regional accents, Salazar said.

The 38 students came from UCR, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Merced, Cal State Channel Islands, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly Pomona, Jackson State University, Michigan State University, Alabama A&M University, Florida A&M University, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores del Occidente (ITESO), Middle College High School, and San Bernardino Valley College.

“By the time students leave the program, they are ready to apply to graduate school,” said Maria Franco-Gallardo, director of MSRIP and Academic Preparation and Outreach within Graduate Division. “The longevity of the program is a testament to the commitment of our faculty.”

Rachel Wu, assistant professor of psychology, said she was proud to volunteer as a mentor.

“The MSRIP program is invaluable to undergraduates, not just to introduce them to research, but also to provide opportunities for personal and academic growth. I participated in a similar program when I was an undergraduate and have been passionate about research ever since,” said Wu, who worked with a student conducting neuro-psychological studies in her lab.

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