May 2016 Newsletter: Social Science Students Address Critical Issues

This year, the College of Social Sciences established a Graduate Student Colloquia to share research, scholarship and creative activity (RSCA) accomplishments. The April event focused on “Environmental Factors and their Impact on American Communities.”

“In the College of Social Sciences, we value research that addresses critical issues facing 21st century society and beyond,” Dean Walt Jacobs said. “Our graduate students are the next generation to lead this effort, so we wanted to highlight their initial investigations. After our first graduate student research colloquium, a student approached CoSS Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Director Ruma Chopra to express her enjoyment of the event and to volunteer for next year’s colloquium, so we will definitely continue.”

The research projects undertaken by students and their faculty mentors investigated vulnerable populations in the community. Matthew Gloria-Dalton, a communications studies student, reviewed portrayals of mental illness in mass media. Christal West, a Mexican American studies student, explored the role of ethnic studies in informing trauma intervention for youth of color. Ida Wilson, an anthropology student, examined the underground economy in Oakland. Other presenters included John Linford and Joseph Holman, economics students who studied automobile collisions in California, and Ana Lucrecia Rivera, a geography and global studies student, who identified urban heat islands that can impact vulnerable residents in Santa Clara County.

The colloquia was supported by the Academic Affairs RSCA and Professional Development priority group work from 2014-16. Research opportunities are an integral high-impact practice in SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success student engagement pillar.

SJSU students awarded at biomedical conference

San Jose State students and faculty attended the Association of Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle in November.

San Jose State students and faculty attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle in November.

San Jose State students and faculty attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle Nov. 11-14, where five SJSU students received awards.

Fauna Yarza, a spring 2015 transfer student, received an award for her microbiology poster presentation. The trip was her first time to a national conference and her first time to give a poster presentation about her research.

“It gave me confidence in myself as a scientific communicator,” said Yarza, ’17 biological sciences with a microbiology concentration.

Yarza is part of the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program that promotes research opportunities for underrepresented minorities. Yarza’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and her mother has only a grade-school education.

“All she asked of me growing up was to get a college degree,” Yarza said.

Working with Assistant Professor Elizabeth Skovran, Yarza and other students are researching bacteria that appear to be able to take in rare earth elements that could be beneficial in recycling metals from electronics.

“I’d like to go for my Ph.D so research experience is crucial,” Yarza said.

Yarza  said through the RISE program “I get paid to do research.”

“Without it, I would need to take out more loans or get a part-time job,” she said. “I’m not sure I could balance classes, work and research.”

Yarza said the program has also given her access to mentors with whom she would not have had the chance to interact, including Professor Karen Singmaster who is the program director for SJSU’s RISE.

Students from the Maximizing Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC-USTAR) program, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, and the College of Science Research and Teaching Scholars (CoSRaTs) program also attended the conference. The programs are funded by federal grant. Singmaster is the SJSU program coordinator for LSAMP and program director of CosRaTs. Dr. Leslee Parr is the director of MARC-USTAR.

MARC students Jessica Ballin and Rebecca Sandoval, both psychology majors, presented research performed during the summer at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and Universty of Michigan, respectively. Awardees from the RISE program presented work done with faculty at SJSU.  In addition to Yarza, Elvia Silva, a biological sciences student working with Dr. Tzvia Abramson and Adrian Riives, a chemistry student working with  Dr. Gilles Muller, were also recognized with an award.

Students hold up the awards they received for research presentations.

Students hold up the awards they received for research presentations.

New Center to focus on applied atmospheric research

Sen Chiao

Sen Chiao

San Jose State’s College of Science Department of Meteorology and Climate Science is establishing a new research center that will give students more opportunities for research and educational activities in applied atmospheric sciences.

Associate Professor Sen Chiao successfully received a NASA Minority University Research and Education Project  (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) award of $1 million a year for up to five years to support the creation of the NASA MIRO Center for Applied Atmospheric Research and Education (CAARE) at San Jose State.

In his NASA proposal, Chiao wrote that the mission of CAARE is to “promote STEM literacy and to enhance and sustain the capability to support NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.” As the director of CAARE, Chiao is working with colleagues to establish research and educational opportunities for students, with a specific focus on supporting underrepresented minority students in the STEM programs.

Proposed educational activities for the center include training and hands-on field experiences and research involving faculty and students; workshops and short courses; summer internships at NASA centers; and expanding educational degrees and transfer opportunities.

Proposed research will focus on urban heat islands and climate variability; aerosol and its impact on air quality, weather and regional climate; wildfire impacts on air quality; and public health linkages to air quality, weather and climate.

Chiao’s proposal was one of 10 selected nationawide through a rigorous review of 75 applicants.