Undergraduates from each University of California campus descended on UCSB this weekend to present their scientific research projects, with topics ranging from the “Effects of Cocaine, Amphetamine and Ethanol on Zebrafish Dopamine Neurons” to “Examining Stereotype Threat Among Asian-Americans.”

The eighth-annual UC Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees symposium, held at UCSB, offered UC L.E.A.D.S. students the opportunity to present their intensive research projects to their peers and professors. Featuring panel discussions, keynote addresses, workshops and poster presentations, this annual symposium is the largest such event of the year.

The UC L.E.A.D.S. program is a two-year undergraduate research program in which underrepresented UC undergraduates in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines are prepared for earning Ph.D.s in their fields, according to a press release. UC L.E.A.D.S. scholars work with a faculty mentor to prepare original scientific research, which many showcased throughout the conference.

Mahdi Diab, a second-year biopsychology major and UC L.E.A.D.S. scholar at UCSB, said the program is an excellent way to prepare for a career in the sciences.

“It’s such a great opportunity, because you get the exposure to the field as an undergrad,” Diab said. “This way you can shape your interests early and get a better sense for where you want to take your degree. It’s also a really good networking opportunity and gives you an idea about the graduate schools you want to choose.”

UCSB UC L.E.A.D.S. Coordinator Monique Limón said the program, which provides students with $7,900 in funding per year, allows them the opportunity to do intensive research at the undergraduate level.

“This program absolutely benefits students looking for research experience,” Limón said. “All the students get paid to do research as undergraduates.”

Additionally, UC Davis L.E.A.D.S. Coordinator Gloria Perez-Myers said allowing students to network with faculty and leading researchers in the UC system serves as the event’s main function.

“If the faculty attending see something valuable that is going to benefit their graduate program or research, then they come up and talk to you,” Perez-Myers said. “And if they talk to you, they want you in their program.”