Undergrad wins nat'l science recognition

Melanie Zauscher, an environmental chemistry major at UCSD, received an award at the national conference of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, which was held in Anaheim, Calif., in December 2002.

Tibora Girczyc-Blum

Zauscher received the $250 cash award and certificate of accomplishment for a research project she created based on her research during the 2001-02 school year.

While conducting research alongside professor Jeffrey Bada of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the research team worked to determine the age of certain whales.

Zauscher’s project was titled “”Age Determination of Bowhead Whales through Aspartic Acid Racemization.””

Zauscher said that she was inspired to do a research project with Bada when she took a class taught by him early in the 2001-02 school year.

“”I took a class called geochemistry and I liked the professor, so I asked him if he had any openings for undergraduates doing research,”” Zauscher said.

At the time, Bada had no openings, but several months later he asked Zauscher if she would be interested in working with him to date mammals, since he had discovered a way to do so.

“”The oldest whale dated was 211 years old,”” Zauscher said. “”The oldest one in our group was [120 years old], which is still pretty old.””

Zauscher is a participant in several undergraduate research programs facilitated by the Academic Enrichment Program, including the Faculty Mentor Program, the McNair Program and the California Alliance for Minority Participation.

C.A.M.P. is a federally funded program open to minority students in the sciences. It offers workshops on study tips, field trips, book scholarships and has a book exchange program.

C.A.M.P. also covers the costs of transportation for students like Zauscher to get to the conferences they attend.

As a participant in the Faculty Mentor and McNair programs run by AEP, Zauscher was given many opportunities to do research alongside faculty members, thus getting a taste for graduate studies, according to AEP Director David Artis.

“”We give students a chance to get some opportunities to do first-hand research,”” Artis said. “”That’s the kind of experience that will make it clear to you if you want to go to graduate school or medical school, or if you don’t want to. It takes it out of the abstract.””

In the Faculty Mentor Program, students enroll in a two-quarter course in which they do research with a designated faculty supervisor. They put in 10 hours a week of research, and are required to submit a research paper and do a presentation at the end of the program.

The McNair Program is similar, but takes place during the summer and requires 30 hours a week of research.

“”Once students get used to presenting, we encourage them to find other opportunities to present [their research],”” Artis said. “”In addition to the structured programs, we look for other opportunities for students to look beyond the bachelor’s degree.””