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City Club of Eugene: UO Women in Science: The Annual Celebration of Undergraduate Researchers

Rachael McDonald
The City Club of Eugene meets Fridays at the First United Methodist Church in Eugene and airs Monday nights at 7 on KLCC.

Program date: May 13, 2022

Air date: May 16, 2022

From the City Club of Eugene:

Do pigs have a proper role to play in filbert orchards? Is the arrival of a Whole Foods store the cause or the result of gentrification? Does a technological miracle of modern science work as miraculously in Africa as in Oregon? What kind of public health messages increase willingness to follow COVID-19 mitigation procedures?

In recent years we have heard these and other interesting questions answered in presentations by University of Oregon undergraduates. In an extensive and robust program, UO engages undergraduates in serious work, apprenticing them to serious researchers in studies of importance to all of us in the state and maybe on the planet. This year four students, all women, all from the Clark Honors College, will describe the work they are doing. They will remind us that college life is not just about sports and partying—though we may recall those things had a role in our own experience—but is for many, if not most, a place to invest adult intelligence sharpened by education and mentoring in meeting very big challenges. Be warned: you may need Google Translate. These are very smart cookies.


Sanjana Basak is a sophomore majoring in biochemistry and a member of the Ambati lab at the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.  She is a 2022 Knight Campus Undergraduate Scholars fellow, 2022 Goldwater nominee, and 2021 First Year Research Experience Award recipient for her research work in ophthalmic biochemistry with faculty mentors Dr. Balamurali Ambati and Dr. Hironori Uehara. Her work involves developing a targeted gene therapy for treating late-onset Fuchs’ Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy, a genetic disease that results in loss of vision. Specifically, Sanjana examines how the recombinant endonuclease, OptiDicer, cleaves CUG RNA accumulation in corneal endothelial cell nuclei. Outside of lab, Sanjana enjoys watching shows, baking, reading, and taking long walks when the sun is out.

Karly Fear (she/her/hers) is a senior, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. As a member of the Hosseinzadeh lab in the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, Karly leads a project entitled “Protein Design for Bone Healing.” Funded by the University of Oregon Vice President for Research and Innovation Fellowship and the Knight Campus Undergraduate Scholars Program, Karly’s research focuses on improving bone fracture healing by applying biochemical principles. Specifically, she engineers proteins with a variety of methods to control the capture and release of molecules that direct healing from customizable materials. Outside of the lab, Karly is dedicated to making scientific research accessible to her peers at the University of Oregon as the co-founder of the Scientific Research Society and a peer mentor in the Affiliated Students for Undergraduate Research Engagement. In her free time, she also loves to kayak, hike, and paint birdhouses.

Audra McNamee (she/they) is a senior majoring in math and computer science, with minors in comics and cartoon studies. In 2020 Audra participated in the UO Science and Comics Initiative, creating the 8-page comic “A Trip into Serotonin” with computational neuroscientist Dr. Luca Mazzucato. This earned her a SURF fellowship to continue working with Dr. Mazzucato, developing their project into a graphic novel. Her honors thesis is called “Welcome to Computer Science: Designing a Comic Tour of Computers and Computing.” Outside of school, she makes short comics for fun, on topics ranging from the 60-year history of a libertarian billboard near I-5 to an abridged history of Jell-O. Audra, a Portland native, hopes to keep doing projects like this in the future by making educational comics for a living.

Jenna Travers (she/they) is a junior majoring in marine biology, with minors in geography, science communication, and legal studies. She works in the Glacier Lab, studying the effects of glacier retreat on salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest and the resulting impacts on local communities. Jenna grew up in coastal fishing towns in Alaska and Oregon, so researching the importance of salmon to communities and how they are responding to declines in populations is really close to her heart. Jenna received a Goldwater Scholarship for her thesis research looking into how a dual climate emergency like glacier retreat and salmon declines is framed for communities and stakeholders. In addition to this work, Jenna is also a writer with GlacierHub and a salmon-identifying artificial intelligence contractor with the Wild Salmon Center. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, swimming, and backpacking. She will spend the summer in a fieldwork position measuring glaciers in the North Cascades.

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