CSU Student Research Competition | Spotlight

Seahorse feeding behavior? Saturn’s rings’ temperature?
—pair honored at CSU student research competition

Other Cal State L.A. projects at recent statewide event range
from Zapotec fiesta costumes to segmented space telescopes

With one focused on seahorses and another on Saturn’s rings, two projects by Cal State L.A. students received honors at the statewide 24th Annual CSU Student Research Competition held in San Jose April 30 and May 1.

Pictured: (l-r) Dominique T. Richardson and Coleman Dobson.
Pictured: (l-r) Dominique T. Richardson and Coleman Dobson.

Dominique T. Richardson of Lakewood, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental science, placed first in the graduate division for biological and agricultural research with her study of seahorse feeding behavior titled, “Incorporating Animal Behavior and Environmental Education into Conservation Biology.” Mentored by Paul Narguizian, associate professor of biological sciences, Richardson compared the feeding behavior and diet of seahorses in captivity with those in nature. The results offer insights that could aid conservation efforts. Richardson also developed a complementary – and fun – conservation-education activity for use at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro.

Coleman Dobson of South Los Angeles placed second in the undergraduate division for physical and mathematical sciences with “Ring Particle Temperature Variation with Changing Geometry.” Mentored by Susan Terebey, associate professor of physics and astronomy, Dobson reviewed thermal data on Saturn’s lit and unlit rings and, using a mathematical model, examined how heat is transported among clouds of particles in the rings. The research compared measurements to model predictions; and it considered solar phenomena, spacecraft elevation and other factors. Dobson is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in pure and applied mathematics, with emphases on optics and physics.

Also presented at the statewide session were eight other student projects from Cal State L.A.– including two on how mucus defends against respiratory infection and two on the cultural significance of clothing trends. Others examined fuel cells, space telescopes, rats’ adaptive behavior, and robot-assisted rehabilitation.

With students from throughout the 23-campus CSU system, the competition covered ten categories, each with undergraduate and graduate levels. Each student was given ten minutes to present to a jury, which then had five minutes to ask questions.

Cal State L.A.’s participants at the statewide competition were selected at a recent campus symposium on research and creative activities. The symposium encourages all Cal State L.A. students—undergraduate and graduate in every discipline—to showcase their projects and provides opportunities to network with administrators, faculty and peers.

Group picture of CSULA student researchers.
Pictured: (first row, l-r) Natalie Sandoval, Coleman Dobson, Jackie Kiwata, (second row, l-r) Juan Landeros, Dominique Richardson, Jessica Alvarenga, (third row, l-r) Hector Ramirez, Connie Lee, Charissa Kim, Erin Thomason, and Eden Chavez.

These are the other Cal State L.A. students who presented at the statewide competition:

Natalie Sandoval (La Mirada resident) – mentored by Edith Porter, assistant professor of biological sciences – presented “Novel Putative Function of the Host Defense Protein PLUNC: Carrier of Antimicrobial Cholesteryl Esters in Respiratory Epithelial Secretions” (biological and agricultural sciences category). The mucus in our airways are a first-line defense against invading microorganism; Sandoval’s results suggest that a recently discovered protein (palate, lung and nasal epithelium clone – or PLUNC) helps deliver the defenders across the cell membrane and into extracellular space, such as nostrils. Sandoval, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biology, received Cal State L.A.’s 2010 Phi Kappa Phi Travel Award of $1,000 for her paper.

Jessica Alvarenga (Alhambra resident) – mentored by Helen Boussalis, professor of electrical and computer engineering – presented “State Estimation of a Segmented Telescope Testbed Using a Kalman Filter Algorithm” (engineering and computer science category). Alvarenga’s research examined how a set of calculations and adjustments called the Kalman Filter Algorithm could be applied to improve the ability of massive parabolic mirrors to gather images for telescopes in space. The algorithm helps monitor systems, detect faults and track degradation. Alvarenga is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

Charissa Kim (Arcadia resident) – mentored by Alicia Izquierdo, assistant professor of psychology – presented “Effects of Pretraining Lesions of the Amygdala on Effortful Behavior in Rats” (behavioral and social sciences category). The amygdala, in connection with the prefrontal cortex and other structures, is critical to adaptive behavior due to its involvement in updating incentives and goals. In studying rats with inactivated amygdala and the rewards they pursue, Kim found that the rats’ tendency to avert work was transient. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Jacqueline Kiwata (L.A.-Highland Park resident) – mentored by Edith Porter, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Nazareth Khodiguian, professor of kinesiology – presented “The Effect of Exercise on Antimicrobial Cholesteryl Ester Concentrations in Upper Respiratory Tract Secretions” (health, nutrition and clinical sciences category). Kiwata examined how exercise can help the body build up the mucus secretions that defend against microbial invasions and subsequent respiratory infections. “While physical inactivity or excessive exercise may impair immune function,” Kiwata wrote, “consistent exercise performed at moderate to vigorous intensity has been associated with reduced incidence of infection.” Her data, she said, may be useful in developing exercise regimens that help prevent upper respiratory infections. She is pursuing a master’s degree in exercise science and kinesiology.

Juan Landeros (L.A.-Boyle Heights resident) and Eden Chavez (L.A.-90062 resident) – mentored by James Brady, professor of anthropology – presented “Fiesta Zoogochense: Evaluating Generational Identity of a Dispersed Zapotec Community in Los Angeles Through Ritual Clothing” (behavioral and social sciences category). For many Zapotecs and Zapotec decedents living in Los Angeles, their village of origin is the focus of personal and group identity, much of it celebrated in fiestas. Meanwhile, some traditional Oaxacan costumes are being modified and reinterpreted to reflect changing values and current issues in each Zapotec community. Chavez and Landeros are undergraduates in anthropology.

Connie Lee (Cerritos resident) – mentored by Ray De Leon, associate professor of kinesiology – presented “The Effect of Loose versus Rigid Robotic Assistance on the Hindlimb during Treadmill Stepping in Spinally Contused Rats” (biological and agricultural sciences category). Lee’s work examines ways to develop mobility in individuals with serious spinal injuries. According to her research, when leading a subject through an assisted-walking exercise, a robotically driven harness that allows an ankle to stray somewhat before being guided back on course prompted more electrical activity in the muscles – and better locomotor recovery – than did a more rigid harness that forced a fixed course for the ankle. Lee is pursuing a master’s degree in biology.

Hector Ramirez (Diamond Bar resident) – mentored by David Blekhman, associate professor of technology – presented “Root Cause Analysis of Low Fuel Cell Voltage Generation” (engineering and computer science category). Ramirez developed a test bench to assess fuel-cell performance, comparing cells amid varying conditions. Improving a cell’s cabling and connections reduced resistance and boosted output. From test results, he also extrapolated optimal gas pressures and operating temperatures for cell performance. Ramirez is pursuing a master’s degree in industrial and technical studies.

Erin Thomason (L.A.-Highland Park resident) – mentored by Kate Sullivan, assistant professor of anthropology – presented “Re-imagining China: Dress and Nationhood in the Remaking of China” (humanities and letters category). “In 1911, China’s leaders began wearing pants,” wrote Thomason. “Elaborately embroidered robes were put away and modified western-style suits were donned with clean, militarized lines. China has continued this pattern of utilizing clothing to formulate and communicate its emerging identities. As China’s national image has changed, so has the clothing.” She examined the symbolism amid the changing fashions and made a case for clothing as “a visual signifier of the ideas of the emerging nation.” Thomason is a graduate student in anthropology.

Learn more at the following links: