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Scholarship Recipients 2008

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This year, PBKNCA awarded nine $5,000 scholarships out of twenty-three applicants from the nine northern California schools. My thanks to the scholarship committee: Jeff Fenton, Lynne Fovinci, Jean James, Gerry Richard


Manisha Bahl (Elizabeth B. Reed Scholarship),

UC San Francisco (Medicine), is working on a new, non-invasive method of diagnosing non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease, a common cause of chronic liver disease in North America. A goal of future work is to lead efforts in immunology and to shape policy related to biomedical research. Manisha also has a passion for patient care, especially in providing care to the medically underserved (exhibited in her work in free clinics) and for teaching (exhibited in her development of an interactive learning module for teaching anatomy and radiology in the first-year medical school curriculum). Her letters of recommendation cite her humility and kindness, creativity, originality, dedication, and initiative.


Matthew Fujita, UC Berkeley (Integrative Biology)

UC Berkeley (Integrative Biology), is studying asexual Australian geckos, whose existence represents a major conundrum in evolutionary biology. Such research can provide critical insight on the origin and evolution of many genetic mutations that induce pathological disease. Outreach is also important to Matthew: he developed lessons for a seventh-grade biology curriculum at Adams Middle School in Richmond, a school serving a largely Hispanic and disadvantaged population. His letters of recommendation cite his dedication, deep motivation, rigor and passion about communicating science to multiple audiences.


Lauren McGeoch, UC Davis (Ecology)

is focusing on habitat edges, on understanding the nature, causes, and consequences of edge interactions, especially important as habitats worldwide become more fragmented. Results of her study in Kenya have important, non-intuitive implications for plant community ecology, livestock productivity, and biodiversity conservation. Lauren was on the Collegiate Water Polo Association's Women's All-American Team; she hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail in 2005.   Her letters of recommen-dation cite her focus, efficiency, curiosity, computer sophistication, talent – and guts.


Elizabeth McGuire, UC Berkeley (History)

UC Berkeley (History), is exploring the relationship between the Russian and Chinese revolutions through the experiences of individual Chinese Communists in the Soviet Union. Her study shows the mismatched assumptions between the two revolutions. It is based on archival research and interviews with children of famous international revolutionaries who were sent to school at the Interdom – opened in 1933 and still operating. Her work renders "the Sino-Soviet romance" useful to international, cross-cultural, or comparative scholars seeking to conceptualize this relationship.    Letters of recommendation cite her diligence, conceptual acuity, creativity, resourceful-ness, fearless enthusiasm, and tact.


Victor Menaldo,Stanford (Political Science)

Stanford (Political Science), is conducting research that challenges the Tocquevillean thesis that extending the franchise in unequal societies shifts the decisive voter to the left, causing redistribution of wealth. His study also overturns conventional wisdom: in the long run, he has found, there is no relationship between natural resource reliance and authoritarianism. "Democracy in and of itself may not be the panacea for remedying inequality that it has been purported to be." Instead, populist politicians, unable to raise taxes on the wealthy, raise revenue by expanding the money supply, thereby causing inflation. "The ultimate result is a cruel irony: democratization trends to worsen income inequality."   Letters of recommendation cite his creativity, energy, enthusiasm, and sense of humor.


Joanna Nelson, UC Santa Cruz (Environmental Studies)

is studying the interactions of nitrogen pollution and sea-level rise in salt marsh habitats, investigating the multiple drivers of ecological change, and incorporating different knowledge systems to shed light on the changes. Joanne examines the linked roles of biological diversity and cultural diversity, connecting scientific knowledge with local knowledge. In her teaching role, she designed and taught “Pathways from Research to Conservation” at the Hopkins Marine Station.  Letters of recommendation cite her remarkable research intuition, adeptness at spotting flaws in thinking (including that of her professors), energy, creativity, and patience.


Veena Singla, UC San Francisco (Cell Biology)

is studying stem cell models of disease to uncover the molecular bases by which mutations result in disease, thereby – it is hoped – providing insight into the development of novel treatments. As a teaching assistant for UCSF biochemistry classes, she designed interactive and engaging lessons – for example, having students pretend to be base pairs of DNA undergoing a repair mechanism. For such ingenuity, she was awarded the UCSF Richard Fineberg Memorial Teaching Award.   Letters of recommendation cite her exceptional talent, initiative, and tenacity, and her quirky, outside-the-box way of looking at problems.


Jessica Walter, UC Berkeley (Physics)

UC Berkeley (Physics), is studying cellular metabolism and the balance of energy in living cells. At the beginning of her studies at Berkeley, she had to set up her own lab on campus, where her advisor wasn't yet a faculty member. As a result of this early research, scientists can now directly influence the organisms they wish to study in order to test their hypotheses. Jessica is co-inventor of (patented) biologically derived nanorobots and their use. She is the recipient of several teaching awards.   Letters of recom-mendation cite her intelligence, independence, creativity, and willingness to take risks.


Leslie Wang, UC Berkeley (Sociology)

s studying the "missing children" in China in an era of "high quality" citizens. As a result of the state's population policies, healthy "excess" daughters and disabled or special-needs children (mostly boys) have been abandoned. Whereas the healthy girls have been adopted by affluent Westerners, the vast majority of special-needs children will remain in orphanages - some run by the state, some by Western evangelical Christian NGOs. The study analyzes the issues that emerge when processes of globalization enable Westerners to become embedded in the local dynamics and politics of developing countries. Letters of recommendation cite her depth of sociological insight, analytical intelligence, thorough empirical work, and strong motivation.