Stories of research, excitement, and surprise at Graduate Research Symposium

Friday, June 24, 2016
gwenj@ucsc.edu (Gwendolyn Jourdonnais)

Graduate student researchers from across the divisions explained their work to a diverse audience during the 12th Annual Graduate Research Symposium at McHenry Library in April. The symposium included graduate student presentations in a variety of formats, including posters, short talks, films, and other media.

StoryCruz, UC Santa Cruz's oral storytelling project, was there to capture the stories of graduate students and their research.

Dan Killam and Carolyn Branecky, both of the Earth and Planetary Science Department, discussed their research and why they were sharing it.

“I wanted to share with the community what research was going on with my lab group in particular and share some of the research that happens in Antarctica, a place that people don’t get to visit,” said Branecky, who presented on a measurement of geothermal heat that a team of researchers collected in Antarctica.

Killam’s research is with unusual bivalves from the early Jurassic. He hopes to use the past to advocate for conserving unusual organisms that might not get as much attention as others in conservation efforts.

Jason Ostrove, a linguistics student, presented his research on an indigenous language of Mexico and his work to figure out how to write the language down, since it currently has no writing system.

“There are thousands of speakers of it right here, right now in Santa Cruz County, and there’s no real way to talk to them because most of them don’t speak Spanish,” said Ostrove. “The places where their language is spoken are mostly in the mountains of Mexico, places the Mexican government hasn’t tried very hard to access.”

Maho Morimoto of the Linguistics Department and Daniel Alves of Computer Engineering spoke of their research on communication.

“I’m generally interested in cross-linguistics phenomena, so borrowings between different languages and between speakers and listeners of different languages,” said Morimoto. “And I want to do something that may potentially contribute to the technology advancements these days.”

On the topic of why they chose to go to graduate school, Alves, who is Brazilian, said, “I want to have better opportunities of work when I go back home, and also I like research by itself.”

Paulo Quadri of the Environmental Studies Department and Eric Garcia of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program, both of whom are from Mexico, talked of how they appreciated presenting at the symposium because it offered them the chance to see a diversity of work from other departments and field unexpected questions.

“I like coming here because then you get people from all the departments and you get very different views and sometimes people who have never seen a similar study as yours can ask you the best questions,” said Garcia. “The simple questions are the best and are the hardest to answer, as well.”

When asked what was the most surprising thing he’d found about UC Santa Cruz, Garcia replied he was amazed at the relaxed atmosphere of his department. “Very 'Santa Cruzy,'” he said with a laugh.

“I thought you were going to say how good I was at soccer,” joked Quadri.

“Well … I think we know the answer to that,” replied Garcia.

It was the strength of UC Santa Cruz’s research that lured Quadri, who came from a professional masters at Yale University.

“What surprised me about UC Santa Cruz is how strongly research-oriented it is,” he said. “Here I found really deep research, both applied and basic, that I think contributes a lot to research worldwide. And I’m really proud of being here because of that.”