Campus: San Francisco State University -- March 5, 2004

SFSU Science Students Honored with Scholarships

Seven master's students in the College of Science and Engineering at San Francisco State University were honored during a ceremony last month with highly selective scholarships from the ARCS Foundation, which is dedicated to "helping the best and brightest" U.S. undergraduate and graduate students in the natural sciences, medicine and engineering.

When Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite, was launched in 1957 it started more than the now legendary "space race" between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. It prompted four Los Angeles women to bolster science education and create the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation, which decades later continues to support science students at universities such as SF State.

The highly selective ARCS scholarships are awarded at only 45 colleges and universities in the U.S., and only seven in Northern California. SFSU has participated in the scholarship program since 1991, receiving about a half dozen awards annually. This year, seven master's students in the College of Science and Engineering (COSE) were honored with Northern California ARCS Foundation scholarships of $5,000 each at an awards luncheon held Feb. 6 in San Francisco.

The scholarship recipients -- who were recommended to ARCS by COSE faculty based on strong academic records and needs -- represent the departments of mathematics, physics and astronomy, chemistry and biochemistry and biology. They are:

  • David Ai of Foster City (mathematics), who is conducting research in the invariant theory subfield of computational commutative algebra;

  • Karen Aiken of San Francisco (physics and astronomy), who is hunting for very distant quasars, the star-like sources of radio wave emissions that reveal the existence of black holes;

  • Jennifer Carah of San Francisco (biology), who is pursuing research in plant ecology, rarity, conservation and restoration;

  • Leslie Lazarotti of San Francisco (biology), who is studying the processes behind habitat succession and how one environmental community shifts into another;

  • Julie Patricia Nygard of San Francisco (conservation biology), who is examining the impacts of an invasive species (argentine ants) on a natural system (Northern California willow trees);

  • Jessica Posada of San Francisco (cell and molecular biology), whose research is focused on the molecular genetic basis of plant-pathogen interactions;

  • Diana Shem of Albany (chemistry), who is conducting a computational study of the catalysis of an enzyme involved in the synthesis of DNA.

Since its founding in 1971, the Northern California ARCS chapter has raised nearly $10 million for 1,726 scholars attending seven northern California universities. In addition to San Francisco State University, the Northern California institutions include Stanford University, University of San Francisco, and UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCSF and UC Santa Cruz.

Media Contact: Ellen Griffin, (415) 338-1665,

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