Fair showcases cultural research

The Cross Cultural Center and the Academic Enrichment Program presented the Sixth Annual Multicultural Research Conference on Nov. 7, showcasing the research UCSD students have conducted in the last year under the McNair Program.

The McNair Program is a one-year program under which students perform academic research with a faculty member, work at a summer internship, and write and present a scholarly research paper.

“”The purpose of this conference is to show that there are people who are doing amazing jobs and amazing things with research, as well as being full-time students,”” said Armando Abanilla, a senior at Thurgood Marshall College who is a diversity peer educator at the Cross Cultural Center.

The first presenter was Cindy Nam, a John Muir College senior. Nam videotaped 3- to 12-month-old autistic infants interacting with their parents during 15-minute sessions. She created computer models from the infants’ patterns of social interaction. From these models, researchers will construct a robotic head to train infants in social learning processes.

Susie Bennifield, a Muir college senior, conducted her research while working at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, which developed educational videos on cancer for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Bennifield worked with her colleagues to distribute these videos by contacting churches, who were invited to participate by showing the videos.

According to Bennifield, the church is a viable way of educating the deaf community.

“”The deaf community has been neglected for so long, and the problem should be eradicated,”” she said.

Briseida Elenes, a senior at Revelle College, did her research on “”how Mexicans became criminalized as progenitors of disease.”” According to Elenes, Mexican immigrants were blamed for several epidemics in the 20th century. She argued that political, business and economic factors facilitated the blaming of Mexicans as disease carriers and that these stereotypes continue to exist today.

“”A lot of the stereotypes that are around today stemmed from the past, and people continue to have them,”” Elenes said. “”I think it’s just so embedded in society that we have a long time to go before we actually break those barriers.””

Jillian Medeiros’ research focused on the decline of Gross Domestic Product volatility, marked by the stable growth of the economy for the past decade. Medeiros examined and analyzed GDP statistics from the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom from 1955 to 2000. She concluded that both structural changes in the economy and improved monetary policy are responsible for the decline in GDP volatility.

Maribeth Ruiz, a junior at Marshall college, presented biological research on the interaction between protein kinase C and heat shock protein 90.

Ruiz provided background information on each protein, and the methodology that she used in the Newton Lab to gather her data. This segment of her research focused on finding the specific region of HSP 90 that actually binds to PKC.

“”This was a really, really tiny part of my whole gigantic research on the interaction between the two proteins,”” Ruiz said. “”You never know what you’re going to find out.””

Micaela Smith, Brandi Forte and Denise Pacheco all presented research on current educational systems and educational reform.

For her research, Smith interviewed community members who had voiced resistance to the Blueprint for Student Success educational reform implemented by the San Diego superintendent of city schools in 1998. Smith believes that the resistance stems from a “”collective memory of an oppositional culture.””

Forte performed a quantitative analysis of students from the Preuss School, UCSD’s charter school. She collected and analyzed data such as attrition rates, SAT 9 scores, grade point average and reasons for withdrawal in order to assess the effectiveness and value of the charter school system.

Pacheco examined curriculum development in public education. She also worked under the Summer Bridge program as a social justice educator in a classroom of 21 students. From her research, she gathered that the educational system tends to favor certain racial groups, and developed ideas of the role of the social justice educator.

“”The greatest thing that I’ve learned so far in my development as a social justice educator is that I am a student in my classroom,”” Pacheco said. “”If I’m not in the mode for learning, then who am I to be teaching?””

Abanilla felt that the conference had been successful.

“”I thought the presentations were really good,”” he said. “”I was glad that we got a good variance. I was really afraid that we were going to get presentations from just one field.””

Students and faculty who attended the conference felt the same way.

“”I think they did a good job of representing their work and talking about the research they did,”” said Jon Sallunga, a first-year graduate student.