The UC Office of the President held its annual UC Day in Sacramento for alumni to meet, talk with legislators and become informed about UC events.
To highlight the research capabilities of the UC, two to three undergraduates from each campus are invited each year to showcase their research. Senior mechanical engineering major Tara Goddard, recently graduated chemistry major Krista Ehrenclou and senior physics major Gerald Miller represented UCSB this year.
“What we’re trying to do is share some of the intellectual excitement of research,” Dean of Undergraduate Studies Alan J. Wyner said.
The issues before legislators at UC Day revolved around budget. There is concern about the impact state budget cuts will have on the UC and displaying research was a means of lobbying on behalf of the UC, Wyner said.
The UC has an observation facility on White Mountain with an elevation of 12,500 feet. Miller will be spending the summer there continuing the research he has been doing with the Physics Dept. Miller is researching the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). This information could indicate how the universe behaved 300,000 years after the Big Bang, Miller said. Definitive data on the polarization of the CMB could make or break several modern cosmological theories.
“With this information we can get a better idea of how the universe acted,” Miller said.
Ehrenclou displayed her research toward improved methods of cancer drug administration with her project, “The Encapsulation of Taxol in Phospholipid Bilayers for Use in Intravenous Drug Delivery.” Taxol, a potent cancer drug, does not easily penetrate the cell membrane, impairing cancer treatment. The experiment involves coating the drug to allow the drug to enter cells more easily. Taxol makes cancer patients very sick during treatment because it affects healthy cells along with cancerous ones. This research has the potential to target cancerous cells, Ehrenclou said, potentially leading to a more effective and less strenuous cancer treatment method.
“If we are successful in this it could be a great thing,” Ehrenclou said.
Goddard’s project is an entry in the National Super-Lightweight Composite Bridge Competition. She displayed her design for a bridge constructed with composite materials, which are composed of very thin glass fibers glued together. The glass is brittle, and the glue is strong but soft. By changing the ratio of glue to glass, designers can control the malleability of the material.
Goddard said that lightweight composite materials are on the cutting edge of biomedical and aerospace technology, and consequently of interest to such organizations as NASA and Boeing.
“You name it, they’re interested,” said Goddard.
The Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering is holding the bridge competition May 12-16 in Long Beach, California. UCSB won two years ago and did well last year, Goddard said. A model of the bridge will be built and loaded to the breaking point during the competition. Goddard expects to do well.
The alumni and legislation at UC Day were impressed with the presented research, Wyner said. The sophistication of undergraduate research reflects the outstanding opportunities offered by the UC, he said.
Of the three years undergraduates have been invited to UC Day, this is the first year it fell during finals week. All three students studied while in Sacramento. Miller returned Tuesday and took three physics finals Wednesday. Ehrenclou studied at the party Monday night, but fared well in finals.
“It was a little tricky, but I made it,” said Ehrenclou.
However, the free stay in the Sheraton Grand Hotel and free quality food balanced out having to study, Goddard said.
“It was a good change from the usual finals food,” she said.