UC San Diego: UC San Diego Announces 2022 Undergraduate Library Research Prize Winners

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Five UC San Diego students have been selected to receive the annual Undergraduate Library Research Prize (ULRP), an annual awards program that enriches the undergraduate student experience at UC San Diego by promoting innovative and collaborative research. Now in its 16th year, this annual award recognizes the outstanding scholarly work of undergraduate students who demonstrate critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategic use of Library services, resources, and expertise in support of the university’s mission. The prize is co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and UC San Diego Alumni.

“Each year, the Undergraduate Library Research Prize allows us to focus in and shine a light on how our students have utilized Library materials as they pursue their dreams in their respective areas of study,” said David Artis, Dean of Undergraduate Research Advancement and Director of the Undergraduate Research Hub at UC San Diego. “I am pleased to see such a diverse group of students take home the awards this year and want to extend my thanks to the Library for its steadfast commitment to our Triton community.”

Cash awards are given at the end of spring quarter each year—$1,000 and $500 for first and second place, respectively. To be considered for the prize, students must be nominated by a faculty member and must participate in either the annual UC San Diego Undergraduate Research Conference (hosted by the Undergraduate Research Hub), or in other university programs that foster and recognize student research and scholarship.

“Supporting our students is a top priority at the Library,” said Dani Cook, Associate University Librarian, Learning and User Experience. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve our service models and assessing the ease of access to materials in our physical and digital collections. I would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to this year’s ULRP winners. We are proud of you for many reasons, including continuing UC San Diego’s tradition of producing innovative and ground-breaking research.”

The UC San Diego students receiving the 2022 Undergraduate Library Research Prize are Daniel John, a second-year Bioengineering: Biotechnology student at Earl Warren College; Andy Trinh, a third-year Molecular and Cell Biology student at Earl Warren College and a Faculty Mentor Program participant along with research partner Erik Wieboldt, a first-year Neurobiology student at Revelle College and Masters Mentorship Program and Triton Research and Experiential Learning Scholars Program participant; Shiantel Chiang, a third-year Neurobiology student at Eleanor Roosevelt College and a Maryam Ahmadian Memorial Fellowship Program participant; and Alexander Perez de Leon, a fourth-year Nanoenginnering student at John Muir College.

First Place Winners
Daniel John won first place for his research project, “The Immune Landscape of COVID-19 and Cardiovascular Disease.” Daniel conducted his research under the mentorship of Weg M. Ongkeko, M.D., Ph.D., associate adjunct professor at the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Daniel’s research involved working with biomarkers and immune responses in the Ongkeko Lab. While normally focused on cancers, with the ongoing pandemic, he naturally turned his attention toward applying these ideas toward COVID-19 patients. His research led him towards studying the risk factors of breakthrough cases after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine(s).

Daniel turned to the Library directly, or to resources provided by the Library, at every stage of his research. He used a variety of handbooks, guides and articles to learn the bioinformatics and data analysis skills necessary to process clinical data and his desired results. Daniel also turned to the Library’s Data & GIS Lab to help process data he had collected.

Daniel is a recipient of the 2021 Undergraduate Research Scholarship (URS) and presented at the 2021 Undergraduate Research Conference (URC). He plans on applying for an M.D. program in the future, with the hopes of contributing to our understanding of immuno-oncology and how the immune system fights disease.

Research duo Andy Trinh and Erik Wieboldt also took home a first-place prize for their work on, “Examining Instructor Conceptions of Diversity.” Under the mentorship of Stanley Lo, associate teaching professor at the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, and graduate student Nicole Suarez, Trinh and Wieboldt developed a quantitative survey to examine instructor conceptions of diversity. The survey was aimed at addressing the equity gap in degree completion for underrepresented students compared with their white and Asian counterparts and how instructor-student interactions can be influenced by implicit biases.

Trinh and Wieboldt used Library databases, especially JSTOR and ERIC, to find and access full text publications. They consulted a librarian to help them filter through the search results and shore up the most relevant data.

“Given the quantity of published research, it can be difficult to identify the most useful articles,” Trinh confessed. “After working with a librarian, we were able to craft more accurate searches, which saved us a lot of time and led to a more relevant outcome. We also used the Library’s study spaces, Data & GIS Lab and loanable technology. Overall, the Library helped us successfully conduct our research and build a compelling hypothesis.”

Second Place Winners
Shiantel Chiang took home second place for her research project, “The Role of Gut Microbial Bile Acid Deconjugation on PCOS,” which involved investigating whether engineered bacteria in the gut microbiome can ameliorate polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). She was mentored by Amir Zarrinpar, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and a gastroenterologist at UC San Diego Health. She also received assistance from her program coordinator, Shannon Reilly, and her graduate student mentor, Erica Maissy and acknowledges support from the Maryam Ahmadian Memorial Fellowship program.

Both PCOS and the gut microbiome are subjects of intense research. With that comes a great deal of current literature on these topics in both clinical and animal model settings. The Library was able to address her challenges, such as identifying relevant research, narrowing down topics, identifying foundational studies and following citation trails using PubMed as well as more clinically focused tools like UpToDate. Chiang also incorporated some key citations that stemmed from Library resources and materials into her Summer Research Conference presentation.

“Shiantel has demonstrated enthusiasm, self-directed learning and intellectual engagement throughout her time in my lab, which began her freshman year,” Zarrinpar said. “When in-person presence was curtailed during the COVID-19 pandemic, she maintained regular attendance in our lab meetings and journal club virtually. Her perseverance is unmatched and I’m so pleased that she has been selected as a 2022 ULRP recipient.”

Alexander Perez de Leon was awarded second place for his project, “Realizing 2D and 3D Single-Crystal Perovskite Devices,” a study focused on optoelectronic devices utilizing perovskite materials, which are emerging as an important component of solar energy devices. In his project—which earned him the inaugural Fisher Scientific Scholar honor and the “Special Merit in Engineering” award at the statewide California Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) program—he described methods for growing these crystalline materials that can help make these devices more efficient and stable.

Perez de Leon was mentored by Professor Sheng Xu in the Department of NanoEngineering and worked for two years as an undergraduate research assistant in Xu’s lab.

In his ULRP submission, Perez de Leon described his use of the Library’s systems, navigating our complex authentication process and understanding how access to scholarly literature enables the sharing of research in the real world.

“For me, the most pivotal aspect of the Library’s resources is how they are able to facilitate my passions,” Perez de Leon said. “Without the Library, I would not be able to learn about the tools and the theories needed to solve the problems associated with battery energy density or solar cell chemical stability. The knowledge I’ve gained from the Library has allowed and continues to allow me to exercise my passion and begin forming a career in clean and renewable energy systems.”

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