Hundreds of undergraduates displayed their research projects at the 2015 Undergraduate Research Colloquium. The following description is from The UCSB Current, dated May 20, 2015 and with the title above:
“More than 200 UC Santa Barbara undergraduates took advantage of the opportunity to display their research prowess at the 2015 Undergraduate Research Colloquium held in Corwin Pavilion. The projects covered a wide variety of research, from the impact of sundowner winds in Santa Barbara to game mechanics in online language learning platforms, among many others.
The colloquium included judging in the Emeriti Association Undergraduate Research Awards competition. The awards covered three disciplines: humanities and fine arts; physical science, math, and engineering; and social sciences and psychology. In addition, the Undergraduate Research Colloquium Activities (URCA) featured the first URCA Slam, with 15 undergraduate students making five-minute presentations about their research to a panel of UCSB faculty members. The top three students received prizes of $750 for first place, $500 for second place, and $250 for third.”
Geography Professor Leila Carvalho proudly notes that Sophia Macarewich, a sophomore majoring in Geography, tied for first place in the URCA Slam: “Anyone attending the Slam will recognize that students participating in this competition are amazingly professional. I was deeply impressed by their performance and capacity to communicate their research in 4 minutes. Not many senior scientists would be able to do the same great job!
Sophia has been my undergraduate research assistant and URCA grant awardee for the past year. She examined in detail changes in frequency and intensity of extreme offshore winds locally known as "sundowners." These events are characterized by late afternoon-to-early evening episodes of downslope surface gusty winds accompanied by rapid increase in temperature and decrease in relative humidity. Gale winds, relative humidity of less than 10%, and temperatures above 85F, even in the winter, are not uncommon during these events. Sundowner events have played a significant role in the evolution of all major fires that frightened Santa Barbara, such as the Painted Cave Fire (1990), the Great Gap Fire (2008), the Teahouse Fire (2008), the Jesusita Fire (2009), among others, and are consequently of major concern for the National Weather Service (NWS) and City Fire Department."
"Sophia examined 14 years of data and showed that frequency of these events has increased in recent years, with the greatest contribution from winter and spring seasons. She has been working in collaboration with the NWS who provided the data. There is strong evidence that these events significantly impact evapotranspiration, potentially reinforcing drought conditions in the county. The next step of her research is to further evaluate the impact of these extreme events over land and also how these offshore winds can affect coastal circulation. Sophia's passion, dedication, and perseverance will certainly continue opening new frontiers for a successful career and demonstrate the potential of our students to significantly contribute to science. Congratulations, Sophia!”
Geography Professor Jennifer King pointed out that several of the undergraduate presenters were Geography majors or majors in closely related fields, “including Beatrix Jimenez who participates in my group and did her work for this symposium with Josh Schimel's lab (Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology). Another of my students, Rachel Scarlett, also presented a poster.”