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Student Research Leads to New Discoveries

Searching for a cure from a parasite, utilizing stem cells to revive endangered species, exposing voter skepticisms and reducing exercise workout times without compromising results are among the top ten research and creative projects presented by CSUSM students at the 2013 Symposium on Student Research, Creative Activities and Innovation. The ten student finalists will now advance and represent the University at the 27th annual CSU Student Research Competition, held this year at Cal Poly Pomona on May 10-11. CSUSM students historically outperform their CSU peers at the statewide competition, often ranking first or second place in their respective division. “The research we conduct as CSUSM students is incredibly interesting and has practical applications that are advancing science and innovative thinking,” said finalist Mandi Roe, a biotechnology undergraduate. “It’s exciting for me to be able to represent our campus and share our high caliber of research at the state level.” THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGSBiological sciences junior Carlos Gonzalez earned first place last year at statewide for his research on the drug ketamine and its effects on spatial memory in adolescents. In May he will once again represent CSUSM; this time sharing his latest findings on adolescent susceptibility to addiction.“The statewide competition offers a great opportunity to not only hear about the research being conducted by other students, but it also gives me new ideas about methodology and techniques that could ultimately help me look differently at my research,” added Gonzalez.His latest research found that adolescents tend to be less sensitive to the aversive effects of the recreational drug ketamine than adults because of differences in neurobiology. His research also points out that in the case of ketamine, adolescents exhibit a greater stimulant response than adults, making the drug more alluring to use again. With greater rewarding effects and decreased aversions, adolescents are uniquely vulnerable to drug abuse and addiction, he said.CUT YOUR WORKOUT TIME IN HALFThe number one reason people cite for not exercising is lack of time, an obstacle that finalist and kinesiology major David McMillan hopes his research can overcome. Working with fitness beginners, McMillan studied resistance exercise and the length of resting intervals between sets. He found that participants could cut their workout time in half, completing a 55-minute workout routine in just 24 minutes without compromising results.“It’s a huge difference,” he said. “The idea that someone can burn the same number of calories in half the time is motivating and significant.”“When people hear this, they ask ‘should I be doing this at home?’ And that response is not surprising, considering that if you apply this exercise approach, an individual could save 17 hours in one month in comparison to the traditional one-hour workout routine.”A PARASITE MAY HOLD THE ANSWEROne in 12 people in the world suffer from an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system overreacts and attacks substances and tissues normally present in the body. One important step in treating autoimmunity could lie within the research of finalist Gabe Padilla. Studying the interactions between a parasite and its host’s immune system, Padilla examined the secretions that intestinal parasitic worms produce to manipulate and suppress the host’s T-cell response.“It’s fascinating to look at a parasite and, by harnessing its interaction with the host, explore the possibility of creating a new medication that mimics that interaction to treat autoimmune diseases,” he said.RESEARCH AT CSUSM“CSUSM has been a leader in advancing student research regionally and nationally,” said Gerardo González, dean of Graduate Studies and associate vice president for Research. “Under the guidance of our faculty, students learn hands-on skills and apply them to innovative research projects; and as result, our students are well-prepared and highly competitive for prestigious professions and graduate schools.”Learn more about student research opportunities by visiting the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.