As graduation nears, seniors are presenting their research and creative projects to represent their time and work on campus.
The Legal Studies Honors Program and the Rausser College of Natural Resources are showcasing undergraduate research, while the Department of Art Practice is hosting a collection of senior art projects.
“Something that I’ve always wanted to do since the beginning of my time at Cal was to engage in research in a meaningful way,” said Sydney Abelson, a campus senior majoring in microbial biology. “It’s really allowed me to take what I’ve learned and apply it to practice and allow me to delve into a field that I’m very much interested in.”
Abelson is presenting her project “The Effects of Phages on the Competitive Interaction Between Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae and Erwinia amylovora in Pear” at Rausser’s research Honors Symposium.
This research project studies two species of bacteria that infect pear trees around campus. Abelson said she found that competition between the two bacteria impacted their ability to develop cellular defenses, analogous to the human immune system, against phages.
“Doing honors and doing research fits in quite nicely because it translates pretty well to what I’ll be doing and my junior specialist bio technician role in my post-grad job, but then also for future PhD work,” Abelson said.
At the 16th annual Lauren Edelman Legal Studies Honors Research Conference, senior Leslie Macias will present her work “The Lived Experiences of Mexican Farmworkers: Workplace Injuries and Rights Mobilization.”
A double major in legal and global studies, Macias decided to pursue honors to “make space” for Latine students in the academic world who are underrepresented in legal research, she noted in an email. She plans to go to law school and become a work injury attorney.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Macias worked in agriculture in her hometown, Soledad, California, where she allegedly experienced labor violations and poor working conditions.
“It was a horrible experience for me, but I realized that while I was only working there for a few months, my coworkers had been working like that for their entire lives,” Macias said in the email. “Conversations about powerlessness with my coworkers are what inspired me to focus my research on Mexican farmworkers.”
For her research, Macias interviewed fourteen Mexican farmworkers in Soledad. She said she found they experienced injuries, pesticide exposure, mental health problems and harassment from employers at work.
She found that “unique barriers” such as fear of retaliation and legal status prevent many farmworkers from reporting injuries, Macias said in the email.
The Department of Art Practice is hosting a senior thesis exhibit “Textured Overflow.” Students are given the opportunity to present their art professionally, showcasing a small sampling of the work and “creative energy” they are producing, said Stephanie Syjuco, associate professor of art practice.
Nassirah Nelson is a double major in art practice and interdisciplinary studies with a focus on engineering and design. She is using the exhibit as a form of storytelling about a class she teaches that centers around exploring STEM through music technology.
“It means a lot for me to have the space to be able to mostly honor the students that are in the class,” Nelson said. “To give voice to those students and make them feel empowered … I find that this work is less about me.”
Nelson teaches the course on campus and at the June Jordan School for Equity in San Francisco.
The exhibit, which will be curated like an archival case, will include photos and videos of the class, controllers that the students built and QR codes to music they created.
Nelson noted she wanted to communicate watching people from different backgrounds come together through the “common bond” of music in her exhibit, as well as the importance of opening educational opportunities to the surrounding community, especially for marginalized or overlooked high school students.
“Ideally, I see myself helping other teachers and other community leaders bring this programming to their community,” Nelson said. “It’s about giving students or underserved groups access to education and skills.”