UA Undergraduate Researchers Take to the Radio

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By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Relations - Communications September 4, 2014

KXCI, Tucson's community radio station, has partnered with the UA's Undergraduate Biology Research Program to highlight the work of undergraduate researchers weekly.

Ursula Tooley (right), a former UBRP student who earned her neuroscience degree from the UA in May, shares her research experience during "Thesis Thursday" segment.

Ursula Tooley (right), a former UBRP student who earned her neuroscience degree from the UA in May, shares her research experience during "Thesis Thursday" segment.

"When the community learns about the University's research, they become more scientifically literate, which is important for understanding the science and technology that surrounds us," said Shaina Hasan, an Honors College senior majoring in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology. (Photo credit: Beatriz Verdugo/UANews))

"When the community learns about the University's research, they become more scientifically literate, which is important for understanding the science and technology that surrounds us," said Shaina Hasan, an Honors College senior majoring in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology. (Photo credit: Beatriz Verdugo/UANews))

Victoria Farrar, a senior studying chemistry and ecology and evolutionary biology, said the KXCI show is an important program for two important reasons: it helps undergraduate researchers to articulate and share the value of their university-based research and helps to inform tax paying community members of the value of their investments in higher education. (Photo credit: Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)

Victoria Farrar, a senior studying chemistry and ecology and evolutionary biology, said the KXCI show is an important program for two important reasons: it helps undergraduate researchers to articulate and share the value of their university-based research and helps to inform tax paying community members of the value of their investments in higher education. (Photo credit: Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)

University of Arizona student researchers are now sharing their work in a public, nonacademic forum: on the radio.

The UA's Undergraduate Biology Research Program is partnering with KXCI 91.3 to produce "Thesis Thursday," a weekly segment featuring student researchers during "The Home Stretch," one of the station's shows.

"After the first segment, I got so many calls from people who were happy to hear students doing important work in the community," said Cathy Rivers, the host and producer of "The Home Stretch."

"We hear so much negativity in the media these days. Hearing about the students work and the excitement they have for their research, studies and future careers brings a very positive perspective to what our youth are doing in our community," Rivers said. "It gives our listeners a glimpse as to what is happening in different fields of study and what our future doctors and scientists are looking at today that will affect us in the future."

Shaina Hasan, an Honors College senior majoring in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology, discussed her research experience abroad through the UA's Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open! program. Hasan spent time in Singapore during the summer of 2013, investigating how interaction between two specific proteins could have implications in cancer development.

"It's important to share my research through the media because it makes science and research accessible to the public, getting them more interested about what UBRP and BRAVO! do for students and the impact research has on the community," Hasan said. "When the community learns about the University's research, they become more scientifically literate, which is important for understanding the science and technology that surrounds us." 

The segment airs at 4 p.m. each Thursday. Others planned include:

  • Sept. 11: Manny Vasquez, an Exceptional Research Opportunity Program student and now a UBRP student studying chemical engineering
  • Sept. 18: Stephanie Kha, an Honors College student studying biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology.
  • Sept. 25: Alec Perkins, an Honors College student studying molecular and cellular biology.
  • Oct. 2: Judith Menzl, an Honors College student studying molecular and cellular biology and linguistics.
  • Oct. 9: Baltazar Chavez-Diaz, an Honors College student studying biochemistry, mathematics, and molecular and cellular biology.
  • Oct. 16: Wonn Pyon, an Honors College student studying chemistry and neuroscience and cognitive science.

Segments are planned through the end of November.

"Humanizing the research that is done at the University is extremely important to ensure community support," said Ursula Tooley, a former UBRP student who earned her bachelor's neuroscience from the UA in May. She now works in Oregon.

On the show, Tooley spoke about her research with the UA Down Syndrome Research Group, under the direction of Jamie Edgin, an assistant professor of psychology. At the lab, Tooley aided in an investigation of sleep and language development in toddlers, contributing to the finding that inadequate sleep adversely effects language development among young children – something that can be even more complicated for toddlers with Down syndrome.

"I hoped that by sharing this in a more public forum – and with a different audience than those who read scientific papers – the information will reach parents of young children who might be able to use it," Tooley said. "Sleep is vitally important for the development of all kinds of skills, including those necessary to do well in school and interact with other children, so parents who might be concerned about how well their kid is sleeping should know that the earlier they act, the better.”

Victoria Farrar, a senior in the Honors College studying chemistry and ecology and evolutionary biology, was featured on the show over the summer and spoke about studying Gila monsters in Saguaro National Park in partnership with Kevin Bonine, the education and outreach director for Biosphere 2 and outreach initiatives director for the College of Science.

"Participating in the research was really valuable to me because I was able to share my work –which has local, ecological importance – with the broader community of Tucson," Farrar said. "I immediately realized this when a man called in after my segment was done about his own experiences with Gila monsters, and I was able to be brought back on the air to share even more information, especially ways that citizens could help our research.

"I think reaching out to the community is important, because as tax-paying citizens, they do fund the research we do at this university," she said. "Letting them know what we do, and how it is relevant to their lives, is critical."

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