An undergraduate student majoring in history and English who is analyzing the Marshall Plan and a biology student studying an element of nerve regeneration will be honored March 19 at the annual UC Day in Sacramento.
Participants in the third annual undergraduate research contest submitted posters for this year’s theme, “UC: Connecting With California’s Communities.”
George Fujii, a senior from Thousand Oaks, focused his research on the Marshall Plan, the U.S. government’s plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, in part because he was named after Secretary of State George Marshall. Grace de Guzman, a senior from Chino Hills, explored how some nerve regeneration occurs in the axon portion of a neuron, a theory contrary to what scientists previously believed.
“As always, I am impressed with the originality and high quality of the research being conducted by undergraduate students throughout the UC system,” said Lawrence B. Coleman, UC vice provost for research. “UC Day is an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the best of that research to California’s legislators and UC’s alumni and friends. We are extremely proud of them.”
The students will be honored at a luncheon in the state capital. Posters depicting their research will be on display. Their participation in UC Day underscores the many ways that UC’s undergraduate research helps the state: It prepares students for careers in science and technology, the cornerstones of California’s new economy, and provides opportunities for students to study firsthand the complex social issues facing California.
Fujii, 21, said he has a strong interest in history and decided to do his thesis about the man after whom he was named. He said his father wanted to name him after someone who was a soldier statesman; his other choice was General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines Insurrection and the Mexican Expedition, and was the overall American commander in Europe during World War I. Fujii’s project is called “Assessing the Marshall Plan in the United Kingdom.”
“It’s fascinating to learn how something like the Marshall Plan comes about through give-and-take from both sides, not just one side,” Fujii said.
Fujii’s faculty adviser, Jessica Wang, a UCLA associate history professor, noted that Fujii had the ability to do some archival research for his thesis, which led to his UC Day submission. Fujii, while in England, reviewed a portion of the British government’s archives about the Marshall Plan.
“It’s that kind of drive that makes him fun to work with,” Wang said. “He is really curious and thinks through the literature.”
De Guzman, 21, has been working in a pathology lab since she was a freshman. Her project that led to her UC Day submission, “Localized Protein Synthesis of Beta-Actin in Regenerating Adult Sensory Neurons,” involves the finding that axons of a neuronal cell can manufacture proteins. De Guzman’s work goes further and investigates one of the proteins that is synthesized in the axons.
“It is very important for me to present my work and get validation for my work,” de Guzman said. “It will be nice for the legislators to understand what we’re doing and to get a taste of what undergraduate research is all about.”
Jeffrey Twiss, a UCLA assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine who is de Guzman’s adviser and runs the lab where she works, described her as the “smartest undergraduate I’ve met.”
“She’s exceptionally talented and hard-working,” Twiss said. “She puts very careful thought into everything she does. She is very quick to learn.”
Both Fujii and de Guzman are planning to pursue professional degrees after they graduate from UCLA. Fujii plans to pursue a Ph.D. in history, and de Guzman is applying to attend a medical scientist training program that would allow her to pursue an M.D. and Ph.D. simultaneously.