Outstanding UCLA undergraduates present research

December 04, 2003

More than 30 UCLA undergraduates presented original research at the annual Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research at UC Irvine Nov. 22. The students represented many fields, including the sciences, humanities and the social sciences. Among them were:

  • Omid Michael Foladi, a fourth-year history major with minors in public policy and education. Foladi is a Wasserman Undergraduate Research Scholar and his senior thesis focuses on medieval Jews and the Spanish Inquisition. His research evaluates the role that the Spanish Inquisition played in the lives of Jews and conversos living in medieval Spain -- more specifically, in the Kingdom of Castile and in the Crown of Aragon.

    His research paper addresses the question of whether those persecuted, tortured and often executed were actually guilty of secretly practicing Judaism or simply the victims of violent mob mentality and mass paranoia towards non-Catholics. Foladi is studying the time period spanning from the establishment of the Inquisition in 1478 to the mass expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492. His research project takes into account the works of several leading experts in the field of medieval Spanish Jewry. He is a pre-law student, studying under the guidance of Professor Teofilo Ruiz, chair of UCLA's history department.

  • Alana Lerner, a microbiology major, presented her research on prenatal stress from alcohol. Working in the laboratory of neurobiologist Anna Taylor, Lerner is researching how the immune system is impaired in rats whose pregnant mothers consumed alcohol. The thymus is significantly smaller in these rats, Lerner said.

    "Research and class lectures complement each other," Lerner said. "I learn techniques in class that I use in my research. Dr. Taylor is always available, and treats everyone in her lab like equals."

    A junior, Lerner plans to earn her Ph.D. in microbiology, and to conduct applied research on infectious diseases. She is a scholar in the UC Leadership Excellence Through Advanced Degrees program, and is also a member of UCLA's Center for Academic Research Excellence; both programs encourage undergraduates to pursue careers in research. In October she won the outstanding scientific poster presentation in neuroscience at a national Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science conference, held in Albuquerque.

  • Martha Webber, a fourth-year English major and philosophy minor, and a Rose Gilbert Research Scholar. Her senior thesis focuses on an aspect of British literature in the late 19th century. French writer Charles Baudelaire and German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote texts that "posited a new role for art and redefined how both the artist and audience should understand the visual and literary arts. These texts encouraged the creation and reception of art that focuses upon sensual experience and avoids moral and didactic themes," Webber said. Poet Algernon Charles Swinburne was one of the first British poets to integrate these new conceptions of art into his poetry, and literary critic Walter Pater created the first critical work in English that emphasized these new artistic conceptions as well. Writers like Arthur Symons observed this artistic trend in Britain and perpetuated its message in later critical works and poetry. Webber's thesis examines the function of intoxication as depicted in late 19th-century British literature.

    After she graduates in the spring of 2004, Webber plans to earn her Ph.D. in English and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. "Literature has been a life-long interest of mine because of its ability to depict human thought imaginatively," she said. Her specific interests in literature include literary theory, cultural studies, fashion theory and literature, and the representation of illness in narratives. She hopes to teach English and American literature at a college or university, and to contribute critically and creatively to the field of literature.

  • Giselle Galang, who majors in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and will add an English minor. She presented research she conducted last summer at UC Riverside on a signal transduction pathway that eukaryotes use to respond to environmental stimuli. The protein involved in the pathway is composed of three subunits, and Galang studied the interaction of two of these subunits. Currently, Galang is working in the laboratory of Richard L. Weiss, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, where she is characterizing two mutants of a carrier protein involved in eukaryotic metabolism and regulation. She had already cloned and sequenced these two mutants. "The research is very hands-on," Galang said. "I am applying techniques I learned in molecular biology classes. You understand the material better when you combine research with your classes.

    "UCLA's been great," she said. "The access available to students is wonderful." Galang, a senior, is a scholar in the UC Leadership Excellence Through Advanced Degrees program. She plans to attend graduate school to earn her Ph.D.
    -end-


    University of California - Los Angeles

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