2014-2015 Newkirk Fellows

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Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine
More than fat-Understanding biochemical and vascular changes during exercise in obese children

Abraham Chiu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Pharmacology and a 2014-2015 Newkirk Graduate Student Fellow. His research is entitled “More than fat- Understanding biochemical and vascular changes during exercise in obese children.” Abraham’s study looks at changes in two types of white blood cells – monocyte and neutrophil – in obese vs healthy children that link with blood vessel health to describe how exercise and fat-ingestion affect modulators of cardiovascular health. Abraham is currently focusing his study on the surface expression of one specific protein (CD11b) related to monocyte and neutrophil activation, as an increase in this particular surface marker has been linked to cardiovascular disease and obesity in adults. Some of the initial findings of the study show that immediately after an intense exercise challenge, obese children had a higher number of monocyte and neutrophil in circulation compared to non-obese children. However, the average surface expression of CD11b in neutrophils and monocytes was (surprisingly) decreased in obese children compared to non-obese children. This suggests a complex immune alteration in obese children that perhaps adapts to higher number of white blood cells by lowering their activation. Understanding the complex biology behind the biochemical and cellular changes due to pediatric obesity will enable researchers and clinicians to develop better tools to combat cardiovascular changes and improve the health of both obese and non-obese children.

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Bemmy Maharramov, Department of Planning, Policy and Design, School of Social Ecology
Innovative links between “on-the-ground’ environmental stewardship and local environmental policymaking

Bemmy Maharramov is a PhD candidate in the Department of Planning, Policy & Design and a 2014-2015 Newkirk Graduate Student Fellow. Her research project is entitled “How can ‘on-the-ground’ environmental stewardship facilitate links with local environmental management and policymaking in an urban setting?” Bemmy is working with a local Southern California community-based environmental organization (CBEO) and their high school student interns to test a mobile application that helps monitor canyons in a local watershed, thus promoting community partnership and civic engagement in environmental policy/management processes. The CBEO uses environmental science to empower young people from urban and diverse backgrounds to transform their lives, their community, and the world as scientific and environmental leaders. Although the central focus of Bemmy’s research is the mobile application and its ability to collect, analyze and share data about the canyons with local organizations and governmental agencies, she is also looking at the organization and community, and how they interact with their natural environment. Some of the preliminary themes emerging from the data include 1) corroboration that education is a strong strategy for gaining entry and securing community participation; 2) evidence that urban settings can be emblematic of a social-ecological systems approach; and 3) the compelling idea of “making the invisible visible”, whereby the community canyon cleanups have made visible “green” spaces that were previously more or less invisible from a community stewardship, management and policy perspective.

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Colleen Nell, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences
Avian predation as a means for regulation of damaging insects in a Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystem

Colleen Nell is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a 2014-2015 Newkirk Graduate Student Fellow. Her research is entitled “Avian predation as a means for regulation of damaging insects in a Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystem.” Colleen spent four months working at local conservation lands with UCI undergraduate researchers, landowners, and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy to closely observe the interactions between the bird and plant species in the local Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystem. Colleen’s research is focused on determining the relationship between species and how it influences their success; how birds use plants as a source for their insect diet and what plant traits or features correspond with high bird use. By using bird exclusion nets on 12 different characteristic plant species of the Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystem, Colleen and her colleagues were able to collect and measure what birds are eating by comparing the insect communities to areas without the netting. They also took data on avian foraging behavior and plant traits like size, branching structure, and plant chemistry to depict the relationship between bird foraging, insect communities, and the plant species. Colleen is now analyzing the large amount of data collected and hopes to provide valuable insight for both conservation and agricultural purposes in Orange County, and to continue to work with the local community in these efforts.

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Jennifer Long, School of Education
Ecohydrology citizen science: Can youth develop an understanding of systems by engaging in authentic research?

Jennifer Long is a PhD candidate in the School of Education and a 2014-2015 Newkirk Graduate Student Fellow. Her research project is entitled “Ecohydrology Citizen Science: Can Youth Develop an Understanding of Systems by Engaging in Authentic Research?” Jennifer is examining the programmatic components necessary to cultivate systems thinking in youth as they participate in citizen science research. Her study involves students from a local elementary school, scientists from UCI’s School of Education and School of Biological Sciences, and staff from Crystal Cove State Park in a Citizen Scientists’ After-school Club (“Club”). During the Club, 9 – 11 year old students engage in authentic, community-based research focusing on the study of ecohydrology, the interaction of water and the local ecosystem. Jennifer’s research to date has shown that youth learning was influenced by the activity sequence; time distribution across the activity sequence; students’ access to tools; and students’ ability to collaborate to build understanding. These findings have been incorporated into a redesign of the Club, and Jennifer will continue to examine and monitor student learning and engagement.
This study has been used to support development of other organizations’ projects around Orange County in implementing theory-based approaches to citizen science as a part of Education & Outreach initiatives. In addition, this project served as the proof-of-concept pilot work in support of a proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal Science Learning, which seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understandings of the design and development of STEM learning experiences.

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Julie Kim, Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences
Elucidation of what marriage migration means in transnational brokered marriages across dimensions of gender, power, labor and emotions

Julie Kim is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and a 2014-2015 Newkirk Graduate Student Fellow. Her research project is entitled “The Global Purchase of Intimacy: Voices of Women in Transnational Marriage Migration.” Julie’s research focuses on transnationally brokered marriage (TBM), which refers to marriages arranged between men in developing countries (i.e US, Japan, South Korea) and women from developing regions such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and the former Soviet Union. Her study explores the meaning of marriage and migration to women in these arrangements, utilizing South Korea as a case. Her research is designed to answer two questions: (1) how do women in TBM understand their marriage experience? Particular attention is paid to how women’s own understanding of the relationship between intimate ties and economic transactions within those ties impact their life experiences and (2) how do conditions in home countries, social class background, and formal/informal brokerage of marriage influence women’s marriage experiences? Julie’s results will contribute to the literature on the intersection of intimacy and economy and globalization.

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Lynn Dombrowski, Department of Informatics, School of Information and Computer Sciences
How various perspectives on social justice affect the visioning and design of systems and technologies aimed to address issues of food justice

Lynn Dombrowski is a PhD candidate in the Department of Informatics & Computer Science and a 2014-2015 Newkirk Graduate Student Fellow. Her research is entitled “How various perspectives on social justice affect the visioning and design of systems and technologies aimed to address issues of food justice.” Lynn’s research seeks to support designers who want to develop socially beneficial technologies and work alongside local communities on the issue of food justice…Her research addresses how implicit notions of justice affect how challenges are framed and solutions are understood in the design process. Lynn has organized design workshop groups both in Atlanta and Southern California with participants ranging from community members, nonprofit community workers and urban farmers. For each group, she will be delivering a summary of their workshop and a design document that will assist the group in moving forward with their ideas. Lynn has presented her early results at the Generative Justice Conference hosted by RPI and will be presenting a poster at the iConference this year.

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Mariam Davtyan, Program in Public Health
Educating healthcare workers about HIV-stigma: A novel approach using PhotoVoice

Mariam Davtyan is a Ph.D. candidate in the graduate program in Public Health and a 2014-2015 Newkirk Graduate Student Fellow. Her research project is entitled “Educating healthcare workers about HIV-stigma: A novel approach using PhotoVoice.” PhotoVoice is a process by which patients use photos to critically reflect their experiences with HIV-stigma. Mariam will train women of diverse backgrounds who are employed as UCI and LAC+USC Medical Center healthcare professionals to use PhotoVoice in an effort to combat ignorance, stigmatization, and other negative notions they may have about patients with HIV/AIDS. Pre-training data gathering from focus group discussions and structured interviews with healthcare workers indicate that HIV-Stigma exists due to ignorance and lack of education, social conditioning and cultural myths, and misdirected shame. Mariam has been working with expert groups, including women of color living with HIV/AIDS , to create valid pre and post training surveys to measure attitudes regarding care of HIV/AIDS patients. Mariam will now proceed with participant screening and recruitment, key informant interviews, pre-intervention surveys, and PhotoVoice training sessions.

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Sana Sadiq, Department of Anthropology, School of Social Sciences
Female safety and public transportation in Indonesia

Sana Sadiq is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology and a 2014-2015 Newkirk Graduate Student Fellow. Her research is entitled “Modernity in Transit: Female Safety and Public Transportation in Indonesia.” Sana did her ethnographic fieldwork in West Java, Indonesia during the summer and fall of 2014. Her study looks at the relationship between urban transportation systems and violence against women who use it, specifically focusing on observing, researching, and interviewing working women, non-governmental organizations and government officials to understand the importance of transportation in the lives of urban women and develop counter narratives to victimization.

Her studies so far indicate that for women, taking public transportation entails specific types of knowledge. This gendered knowledge includes strategies to avoid harassment. Such knowledge about traveling in the city is complex, gendered, and acquired through social interaction and experience. In showing how women negotiate urban space, Sana’s research hopes to counter narratives of victimization and seeks to open new spaces for thinking about the importance of transportation in the lives of urban women.