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Building Bridges Across Riverside

Recent outbreaks of salmonella and E.coli have made national headlines and have sickened hundreds of people and caused the produce industry to lose millions of dollars as consumers shied away from buying fresh produce in fear of picking up bad bacteria. At the University of California, Riverside's Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, undergraduate students are looking for answers that will help protect our national food and water supplies.

Dr. Sharon Walker/Assistant Professor, UCR Bourns College of Engineering:
In our laboratory, we are really interested in water quality and in particular, the fate of particles that can be a public health hazard that are transported in water and specifically, the particles we care about are bacterial pathogens - E.coli and salmonella and also nanoparticles, which are an emerging contaminant. And we're very interested in understanding the movement of these particles in the environment and with an understanding of those mechanisms, we can develop means of removing them.

Narrator: Professor Sharon Walker teamed up with Riverside Community College to offer under-represented students the chance to conduct research in her Bacterial Adhesion Research Laboratory.

Walker: It's my particular philosophy that research and outreach should not be mutually exclusive. In fact, I have found the best research comes from a very diverse laboratory. This level of diversity just makes the best science possible and in doing this, I've been able to bring in funding from federal agencies that also believe in this combination of good research and outreach.

Narrator: This includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture ...

Walker: I also received, in conjunction with Riverside Community College, a special grant from the USDA for Hispanic-serving institutions and we formed what is called the Building Bridges Across Riverside program that brings community college students into my laboratory, gives them the exposure to research and water quality, but more importantly, exposure to what a four year university is like, what research is like, to help motivate them and stimulate them to go on in careers in science and engineering.

Juan Lucio/Building Bridges Program: Through the experience I've had here with Dr. Sharon Walker, it really opened me up to what chemical engineering is and what the field is really like and it has really made me more excited to be a chemical engineer and want to aspire to be a chemical engineer.

Narrator: Recently, Walker's lab received funding from the National Science Foundation through their undergraduate research and mentoring programs.

Walker: We formed a program here called MY BEST, which stands for Mentoring Year-Round in Biological, Engineering and Science and Technology. 526 we make a real effort here to include students in cutting edge research. And in the program, we bring in five students a year from both the community college and UCR to do year-round research programs, but also to be mentored very specifically by faculty who do research in biologically-related projects. So the students are doing real legitimate, valuable work.

Yasmine Salas/Building Bridges Program: I get to work with Salmonella and we get to do a few things, we get to paralyze the flagellas in some of the samples, we also get to stress them out basically in separate conditions to see how the bacteria reacts to the environment and what, genetically, changes in the bacteria to kind of figure out what's going on in there since this type of research has never been done.

Lucio: I really think that professors, the research they do is really important because it's really applied - especially in chemical engineering, it's really to help humanity in some kind of way and it's really exciting to be at the forefront of something like that and I'd really like to be a part of it.

Narrator: For more information about these programs, visit their web sites ...

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