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UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 4| Apr. 1, 2004

Undergraduate Students Conduct Research Too

By Michelle Cook

If you thought graduate students were the only ones on campus doing all the hard-hitting research, think again. This year’s Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference showcased 90 projects conducted by undergraduates.

Topics ranged from a study of anorexia nervosa in Victorian England to a look at pediatric injuries in modern-day Pakistan. Awards were given for the best research presentations, and a full list of winners can be found at http://www.research.ubc.ca/students/conf-upcoming.htm.

Here’s a quick peek at some of the other subjects undergraduates tackled this year.

Magic Mushrooms

If you go out in the woods today, you may be in for a big surprise. Integrated Sciences student Jana Sebelova drew on her interest in ethnobotany and a love of mushroom hunting cultivated while growing up in the Czech Republic for her exploration of the antibiotic potential of some of B.C.’s estimated 10,000 mushroom and fungi species. Sebelova collected samples of almost 200 Pacific Northwest mushrooms to get a better understanding of the prevalence of antibiotic compounds in local fungi, and their distribution across fungal genera. The results astounded her. Almost 20 per cent of the 195 species sampled showed some antimicrobial activities. “It blows my mind to even think of all the amazing fungi out there that just might produce the next great antibiotic,” Sebelova says.

Hippy Hippy Shake

Metal and materials engineering students Trevor Pearce, Leon Chow, Frankie Wong and Shawn Wu constructed an analytical model of a prosthetic hip joint to try and to predict the life span of an implant based on the materials used to make it and the patient’s level of activity, weight and other factors. The team’s foray into the field of biomedical engineering found that an implant’s life span is affected by these factors and they’re recommending that an interdisciplinary database of material and patient data be constructed for use in future studies on retrieved implants.

The Case of Kimberly Rogers

Kat Kinch was just learning about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when Kimberly Rogers died in Sudbury in 2001. Rogers was eight months pregnant and under the terms of her sentence for welfare fraud, confined to her apartment in a heat wave. Her death sparked nationwide media coverage. Kinch, now a third-year Law student, documented Rogers case from her sentence to her inquest and analyzed it for specific human rights violations.

She found that, despite strong evidence that banning people convicted of welfare fraud from receiving future benefits regardless of the need was a harmful policy, the policy remained in effect in Ontario until there was a change of government. In B.C., similar regulations were put in place even after Kimberly Rogers died, with no consideration of Charter rights to life, security of the person and equality.

I say, could you please pass the salt?

It’s well known that the Victorian era was a period of extravagant entertaining for the upper-middle and high classes of England but few have analysed the social role that elaborate Victorian food rituals played. Through an examination of the work of Isabella Beeton, the era’s brightest culinary star, history student Ginnie Mathers explored the complex social purpose of the Victorian dinner party.

She found that the highly refined food rituals of the late 1800s created a civilized and sophisticated identity for upper class Victorians designed to counterbalance the primal and physical characteristics of food consumption. The complicated system of dining manners, rules and menus masked basic human instincts and passions, and differentiated them from the savage act of “eating” carried out by the lower classes.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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