UC Merced professor to learn about public policy

July 6, 2013 

Like many faculty members, Professor Katrina Hoyer is busy running a lab, teaching and researching.

This year, she adds another item to her to-do list — learning how public policy is implemented and how she can advocate for policy that affects her research.

Hoyer has been named one of 10 public policy fellows in the American Association of Immunologists Public Policy Fellows Program. The yearlong program offers post-doctoral and junior faculty the opportunity to learn about and participate in public policy and legislative activities affecting biomedical research.

"Now that I run my own lab, I see how important public policy is to my career and the careers of the students I mentor," said Hoyer, who researches auto-immune diseases. "And not just from a funding perspective, either. Yes, policy affects funding, but it also affects the kind of research we do."

In turn, that affects the community at large. Research grants not only buy equipment and supplies, often from area vendors, but they also pay the salaries of laboratory staff and graduate student researchers. Those students contribute to the local economy while in school, and can help enrich the community after graduation.

Additionally, the research — into such health concerns as auto-immune and inflammatory diseases like colitis, auto-immune anemia, lupus and pancreatitis )— could affect people locally and around the world.

Over the coming year, Hoyer will attend monthly teleconferences with other fellows and leaders from the AAI, who will help the fellows learn how to communicate about immunology for legislative audiences as well as how the processes of funding approval and legislation work.

At the end of the year, Hoyer will go to Washington, D.C., for an up-close look at legislators at work, and meet with officials who represent UC Merced, the region and the state.

Undergraduateswin coveted summer research fellowships

Two UC Merced undergraduates will spend the summer immersed in research after winning prestigious fellowships from the American Physiological Society.

Sophomores Debby Lee and Meagan Moreno competed on a national level for the 10-week, $4,000 fellowships that will support them during their first biomedical research experience. Both already have begun some preliminary work in the lab of physiology Professor Rudy M. Ortiz.

Lee, a biological sciences major from Wilton, will study elephant seals as a model to analyze the effect of prolonged food deprivation on insulin signaling as it relates to metabolic perturbations. Her APS fellowship targets undergraduates with little or no research experience.

Lee said she is considering medical school, possibly through the UC Merced San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education.

"It would be a great honor to serve the San Joaquin Valley," Lee said.

Moreno, a biological sciences major from San Jose, will focus her research on cardiovascular and renal diseases as they relate to metabolic disorders. Her APS fellowship is designed to encourage students from underrepresented groups to pursue research careers in biomedical sciences.

"I ran to the library to tell my friends that I got it," said Moreno, who plans to attend medical school somewhere in California. "I'm really excited to do this."

Both Moreno and Lee believe they've had access to more opportunities at UC Merced than they might have had at another university. Ortiz said those opportunities include campus-funded programs for undergraduates and other prospects beyond the APS fellowships.

The two students also agree that UC Merced was their best choice for college. Moreno said the campus environment has helped keep her focused on academics and preparing for medical school.

Lee said she decided to apply to UC Merced after meeting Ortiz during her senior year of high school. He was the keynote speaker at a symposium that she attended at UC Davis.

"Dr. Ortiz really inspired me to do research," Lee said.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email communications@ucmerced.edu.

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