Undergraduates to Showcase Research in Chemistry and Religious Studies

Larock Undergraduate Research Conference

The outstanding research of undergraduates in the Department of Chemistry will be featured at the 11th annual Richard Larock Undergraduate Research Conference on May 20. A full day of student presentations will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Warren and Leta Giedt Hall. The event is open to all undergraduates performing research in the Department of Chemistry. 

During the event, 44 students will present their research results during concurrent sessions modeled on an academic conference. Faculty will moderate the sessions and facilitate brief discussions following each presentation. A keynote address and awards ceremony are scheduled for the early afternoon. 

The conference will feature work across a wide variety of disciplines, including thermoelectric materials, iron arsenide superconductors, antibiotics, gene expression, nanoparticles and more economical and environmentally-friendly chemical manufacturing. The plenary speaker is UC Davis alumnus Kevin Gardner, the Einstein Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the City College of New York and inaugural director of the Structural Biology Initiative of the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center.

“The Larock Undergraduate Research Conference is an important part of the chemistry research training received by undergraduate chemistry majors at UC Davis,” said James B. Ames, professor of chemistry and head of the conference organizing committee. “Many former outstanding UC Davis undergraduate students from the chemistry department have gone on to become some of the very top scientific investigators in their respective fields, due in part to the research training they received at UC Davis.”

The conference is supported by a generous financial gift from Richard Larock (B.S. ’67), distinguished professor emeritus of chemistry at Iowa State University in Ames.

Undergraduate Research and Study of Religion Conference

Looking at the religious research landscape of Northern California, the faculty of the UC Davis Department of Religious Studies saw a need and opportunity to enhance the educational experience of undergraduate students and the quality of religious studies programs. The result is the first Undergraduate Research and Study of Religion Conference on May 20 and 21 at UC Davis. It will include 20 presentations by students from 10 California universities and colleges.

religious studies conferenceThe conference aims to examine how people “do religion” in politics and law; in spaces of colonization and resistance; and in relationship with nature, their bodies and technology. Presentation topics will include the religion and politics surrounding abortion and assisted suicide, accounts of early Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the use of Native American symbols by the Boy Scouts of America, and how cultural tourism legitimizes conquest narratives.

“We have the strongest religious studies program in the region and UC Davis is uniquely positioned to be a center for the study of religion in the area,” said Archana Venkatesan, chair of religious studies.

The department’s proposal to hold a conference received a positive response from departments, faculty and students around the state.

“Everyone we contacted agreed to take part without hesitation,” she said. “There are many conferences for graduate students, but undergraduate students are doing very significant research that deserves great attention.”

Early in the process, students were partnered with faculty mentors at more than one college or university and across disciplines so the conference has a reach that goes far beyond the two days of meetings and presentations.

“We could expose them to scholars outside their field, faculty from other schools and to new ways of thinking,” she said. “It’s been a nurturing process.”

The conference takes place at the UC Davis School of Education.

A keynote address will be given by Jeff Sharlet, an associate professor of English at Dartmouth College and best-selling author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible, Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country In Between and C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy. His talk will be at 5:45 p.m. May 20 in the Student Community Center Multipurpose Room.

 — Becky Oskin, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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