Students’ genius on display for research week

Senior biochemistry majors John Hernandez, DaeSun Lee and Aubrey Ferguson stand near their research poster.
Senior biochemistry majors John Hernandez, DaeSun Lee and Aubrey Ferguson stand near their research poster.

June 7, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( Catalysts are all the rage in industry where scientists are using them to improve a huge variety of products including biofuel, fuel cells for electric vehicles, aerospace materials and even baby food. Three La Sierra University students are hoping their research with catalysts, guided by a former California Institute of Technology fellow, will reach fruition next year with a new aluminum catalyst for improving industrial production. The invention may attract the interests of business.

Biochemistry seniors Aubrey Ferguson, DaeSun Lee and John Hernandez displayed their two-year catalyst research project during La Sierra University’s Research Emphasis Week held May 31 through June 2. The annual research event showcases a plethora of intriguing discoveries made by students across disciplines, and includes presentations and lectures. The week’s activities are anchored by the traditional poster session and awards ceremony which this year took place on June 1. All told, 97 graduate and undergraduate students displayed 56 research posters at La Sierra’s Price Science Complex and Cossentine Hall.

“We’re trying to form a catalyst that is effective and cheap,” Ferguson said while standing in a crowded hallway near the poster she and her classmates created. The laminated document depicted their experimentation processes involving combinations of atoms. “Basically it’s a race to find the best magical compound,” for a more environmentally friendly and cheaper production process, she said, referencing industry’s intense focus on catalyst research.

A catalyst accelerates the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed in the process. This helps speed production of materials at a cheaper cost and with less toxic waste. The students are working under the direction of organometallic chemistry professor and former Cal Tech fellow Michael Malarek. Their work was recognized with a first place award in a ceremony following the poster session.

Down the hall, student Genevieve Garcia displayed a poster detailing a topic perhaps more commonly the concern of students' parents on how their children can succeed in college. On the whole, she discovered that time management was a greater predictor of academic success than motivation. College success was determined by grade point average and social connectedness, she said.

Senior psychobiology major Alphonso Smith investigated “how the position of false information about the beginning, middle and end of a video stimulus increases the vulnerability of individuals’ memories to error over the course of time about that video stimulus,” he explained in an e-mail. “I chose this research project because I was always interested in the malleability of memory and its vulnerability to the ‘misinformation effect’ and the ‘primacy and recency effect,’” he said.

La Sierra student Genevieve Garcia displays her research poster on "How to Succeed in College."
La Sierra student Genevieve Garcia displays her research poster on "How to Succeed in College."

Poster awards were announced following the viewing session with winners recognized in three categories. Winners were:

Comprehensive Literature Review
    First Place: Sang Hyun Rim and Tae Young Shim, chemistry

Course Project:
    First Place: “High-valent Molybdenum Complexes as Precursors to Olefin Metathesis  Catalysts” -- John Hernandez, Aubrey Ferguson, DaeSunLee, chemistry
    Second Place: “Health Literacy, Neuroticism, and Information-Processing as Predictors for Dental Anxiety” -- Gabriela Hernandez, psychology
    Third Place:  “Increasing Concentration of Caffeine Proliferate Development of Sea Urchin Embryos” --  Jorge Enciso-Carmona, Sonia Molina, Safia Ghaniezadeh, Esther Lee,  biology

    First Place:  “Isolation and Preliminary Characterization of Hypersaline Viruses” -- Eunice Choi, Tabitha Bayangos, Kephraim Codilla Kang-janaphumchai, Ricardo Lopez, Michael Aguilar, mentor Shereen Sabet, biology  
    Second Place:  “mtDNA Phylogenetic Haplogroups of Human Remains from Ancient Near Eastern Aite, Tall al ‘Umayri” -- Ronald Nance, Meagan Miller, with mentors Douglas Clark, Erv Taylor, Lee Greer, biology and religion, La Sierra University;
Keck Carbon Cycle Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, University of California, Irvine.
    Third Place: “Phylogeography of the Bent-Toed Gecko Cyrtodactylus Intermedius in Southern Cambodia Based on Two mtDNA Genes” -- Fawaz Tarzi, Rachel J. Salvador, Niraj A. Bhalani, Caitlin Hutchinson, Vian Tarzi, mentors L. Lee Grismer, Lee F. Greer, biology

Following the ceremony, Gary Chartier, associate professor of law and business ethics and associate dean of La Sierra’s School of Business delivered a lecture titled “Anarchism as a Research Program in Law.” His talk focused on the form legal research might take into the nature of peaceful, voluntary cooperation. This includes historical research, such as ways people organized themselves anarchically in the past; philosophical inquiry into such as matters as whether the notion of “law” entails reference to the state and whether the state is just; and social and behavioral-scientific inquiry that examines such issues as identifying the economics of self-organization.

Click here for a video link to his lecture:

Last year the university recognized Chartier’s work with the 2010 Distinguished Faculty Scholarship Award. His numerous published works include nearly 30 scholarly articles and three books: “The Conscience of an Anarchist” (2011); “The Analogy of Love: Divine and Human Love at the Center of Christian Theology” (2007); and “Economic Justice and Natural Law” (2009, Cambridge University Press). His legal scholarship has appeared in such top tier publications as the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Legal Theory and The American Journal of Jurisprudence. Additionally his work has been cited in many major legal publications including the Harvard Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Boston University Law Review and the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism.

Additional Research Week events on June 2 included an Honors program scholarship project involving interviews with students, and English and Communication undergraduate presentations on such topics as traditional ballads of Baja, California, studies of anti-tumoral plant compounds, William Faulkner book characters and nanoscale drug delivery for cancer treatment.


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  June 07, 2011