UC Merced

UC Merced Programs Enhance Students’ Success in High School

Araceli Hernandez could have been playing video games, swimming or sleeping in over summer break, but instead she was doing math. And she’s happy about it.

Hernandez took part in one of three summer programs on campus developed by UC Merced’s Center for Educational Partnerships with funding from U.S. Department of Education Trio grants aimed at increasing the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their postsecondary education.

The Bridging the Gap to Mathematics academy provided incoming ninth-grade students with four weeks of intensive math instruction by local high school teachers.

“When we saw the low number of kids getting threes or higher on the AP Calculus exam, we realized we needed to do some form of intervention,” Assistant Director for the Center for Educational Partnerships Ismael Serrano said. “We’re front-loading the students in math, so they can be successful in high school. The end goal is to catch them younger, so they are better prepared.”

Hernandez’s motivation for attending the program was to get ready for high school in a subject she finds tough.

“I really have a difficult time with math. This program has helped with my confidence,” said Hernandez, who attends Le Grand High School. “I feel I would have regretted it if I hadn’t come.”

CEP expanded its long-standing partnership with Le Grand Union School District and partnered with Merced Union High School District and Delhi Unified School District to bring students a college-going experience. More than 100 students from the Delhi, Le Grand, Merced and Planada have participated in the math academy in the past two summers — of those, 80 attended this year.

Award Will Help Professor Predict How Species Respond to Climate Change

Paleoecology Professor Jessica Blois recently became the campus’s 19th recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program award.

The NSF describes the CAREER as its “most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their organizations.”

The award provides Blois with $782,449 over the next five years to pursue an agenda that includes research and outreach.

Blois will use the CAREER to study how species respond to climate change. Her ultimate goal is to develop models that allow scientists to predict how animals and the environments they inhabit will change in response to the warming climate.

“We’re on the doorstep of a huge shift in global climate, and science and society are grappling with how exactly species are going to respond,” Blois said. “Species might go extinct, move locations or change behaviors. They can respond in lots of different ways.”

To understand what might happen in the future, Blois will look to the past. She’ll examine how animals responded to the last major climate shift, which began some 21,000 years ago as the planet warmed and the glacial ice sheets that covered much of the Earth’s surface began to recede. It was also around that time that some of the most well-known megafauna — mammoths, saber-toothed cats and giant sloths, among others — went extinct.

By probing the fossil record and exploring how animal communities and genetic diversity changed in different locations over the past 21,000 years, Blois hopes to find patterns that govern how species respond to warming temperatures and changing environments. Identifying these patterns might help scientists predict how species alive today will respond to the warming climate.

Research isn’t the only facet of Blois’s work that the CAREER will support. The award will also fund her education and outreach efforts. Working with UC Merced’s CalTeach program, Blois will develop “Research in Action” modules to help local teachers explain some of the trickier concepts in paleoecology and paleogenetics to their students.

Blois will also develop modules targeted toward UC Merced undergraduates. She hopes to add a lab to the undergraduate paleoecology course in which students will work with real scientific data.

“We want to give students the real paleo experience,” Blois said. “Working with real data gives students practice using the actual tools of the trade. They might even ask a question or discover something that we never thought to look for.”

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the campus’s Public Relations team. To contact the team, email PR@ucmerced.edu.

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