UCSC interns among top high school presenters at Sigma Xi Student Research Conference

Five high school students participating in UCSC's Science Internship Program took top honors for geosciences and for physics and astronomy in the high school division

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SIP interns Justin Cai and Iris Xia presented their research on 'The effects of burrowing animals on marine ecosystems through Earth history.' Their mentor was paleobiologist Matthew Clapham, professor of Earth and planetary sciences.

High school students who participated in the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program (SIP) made a strong showing at the 18th annual Sigma Xi Student Research Conference held October 26-27 in Burlingame, California.

Approximately 125 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students competed in a research poster presentation competition at the conference, which was held in conjunction with the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting. The vast majority of the high school students in the competition were SIP interns, according to the program's faculty director Puragra (Raja) GuhaThakurta, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

"As many as 21 of the posters at the conference were led or coauthored by SIP interns, 40 of whom attended the meeting," GuhaThakurta said.

Five SIP interns were among the top presenters selected by judges in each division and research category. Iris Xia of Monta Vista High School in Cupertino and Justin Cai of Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose worked together on their project and were the top high school presenters in the geosciences category. A tie in the physics and astronomy category resulted in shared top honors for Arushi Sahai of Menlo School in Atherton and co-presenters Bryan Wang and Rishi Dange of the Harker School in San Jose.

SIP is a 10-week summer research internship program for high school students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The students participate in existing research projects at UC Santa Cruz and receive one-on-one mentoring from UCSC faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers. GuhaThakurta is also a cofounder of the Global SPHERE Network, which promotes programs like SIP that provide research experience for high school students.

Sigma Xi is one of the oldest and largest scientific organizations in the world. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. Joel Primack, professor emeritus of physics at UC Santa Cruz, is the current president of Sigma Xi.