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For Immediate Release
August 28, 2014

Moreno Valley College Graduates to Present at
Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative


MVC Student

Moreno Valley College (MVC) graduates Erika Brock and Rozalyn Wood will present their undergraduate research projects at the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) National Poster Session on September 29 in Washington, DC.

The National Science Foundation Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM Type-III grant funds the CCURI. With CCURI's support more than 3,000 community college students have participated in undergraduate research experiences since 2011.

Brock, a 1997 graduate of Paloma Valley High School in Menifee, CA and a 2014 graduate of MVC, currently attends UC Berkeley studying integrative biology. She spent the school year researching soil samples in the San Jacinto Wildlife Area, a 9000-acre wetland, testing to see if shotgun cartridge litter (specifically the brass components) was leaching lead into soil. Her conclusion was that over time, bioaccumulation of initially low levels of soil lead could potentially threaten the health of predators. The results indicate that soil under all shotgun litter, with or without brass, contain elevated levels of lead compared to bare ground.

Meanwhile, Wood, a Yucaipa High School graduate who is attending the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, researched gene expression in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a model organism for molecular genetic studies. The focus of her research was to determine the expression pattern of two Arabidopsis' genes throughout plant development in order to learn about the function of these genes. The studies conducted in collaboration with University of California, Riverside confirmed the function of a one gene, while the second gene appears to have novel functions not defined in the national databases. Wood, who is majoring in molecular biology, graduated from MVC in the spring with an associate of science degree in math and sciences, and a degree in social and behavioral science.

During the conference the two students will also visit the offices of California senators and congressional representatives to discuss the benefits of their research experiences to STEM education.

STEM education reforms are needed to increase recruitment and retention and address projected increases in STEM jobs and a shortage of qualified workers, said Joanna Werner-Fraczek, associate professor of biology. It has been widely documented that STEM students who are exposed to an early undergraduate research experience are more likely to continue their education in STEM fields--especially groups that have not traditionally stayed in STEM.

The undergraduate research in community colleges represents a method of teaching in the STEM area that is strongly supported by National Science Foundation (NSF). In 2011, a proposal by Werner-Fraczek was selected for the sub-award from CCURI. The NSF project promotes development of undergraduate research experiences at 31 community colleges across the United States. Currently, faculty with the support from CCURI and the STEM program at MVC, have incorporated undergraduate research experiences into biology and chemistry courses. In addition, an honors biology major course that is research-based has been developed. The course exposes students to research in collaboration with UCR. In the spring of 2014, the course saw 16 students graduate and students enrolled in the course have either transferred to a four-year university or have continued their education in the STEM area. In Fall 2013, MVC had 2,001 students enrolled in STEM courses.