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The UCLA Library Prize for Undergraduate Research recognizes and honors excellence in undergraduate research at UCLA.

The inspiration for the UCLA Library Prize for Undergraduate Research came from Ruth Simon, lover of books and libraries.

Simon earned her BA in English at UCLA and served as UCLA's campus counsel for many years until her retirement in 2003. Her many memories of her college years include countless hours spent in the undergraduate library, studying for classes and exams or enjoying classic works of English literature.

Guided by her passion for reading and research and wishing to share her love of libraries, Simon established the Ruth Simon Library Prize for Undergraduate Research, the first endowment of its kind at UCLA, to inspire and reward UCLA undergraduates for outstanding library research now and for generations yet to come.

For more information about the Library Prize, including submission guidelines, please visit

Cover page of The Direct and Indirect Effects of HIV-1 on Cells of the Central Nervous System

The Direct and Indirect Effects of HIV-1 on Cells of the Central Nervous System


Abstract: HIV-1 is the most common Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It attacks the body’s immune system and kills CD4 cells. Antiretroviraltherapies (ART) have been developed to combat HIV-1, however HIV-1 persists is due to reservoirs of latent virus in the body. Inaddition, up to 50% of patients on ART will develop motor/memory impairments later in life withHIV-1 associated neurocognitive diseases (HAND)(Rai2020). Previous experiments have found that cells in the central nervous system (CNS), such as astrocytes andmicroglia, are potential reservoirs for latent HIV in the body and could contribute to HAND (Wallet 2019). However, the results are conflicting as to which cell types can be infected. Targeting these reservoirs in vivo is challenging due to the blood-brain barrier preventing drugs from reaching these reservoirs (Wallet 2019). In the lab, the mechanisms of HIV infection can be studied using the replication competent strain, AD8 or dEnv, a virus pseudotyped with an envelope from Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) that has a different entry mechanism to infect cells, but cannot replicate (Hastie 2013). In my research project, I hypothesize that AD8 will selectively infect microglial cells. Microglial cells infected with either AD8 or dEnv will then lead to reactive changes in astrocytes and neurons leading to the pathology seen in HAND. In this study, the production of human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) derived microglia, neurons, and astrocytes was optimized using immuno histochemistry (IHC) and qPCR. The effects of HIV infectionon microglia proliferation and migration was determined. After successful  differentiation of neural progenit or cells (NPCs) to neurons and astrocytes, atri-culture system was then optimized to study the indirect effects of HIV infection, via the consequence of infected microglia on other cells in the CNS.

Cover page of Soviet Simulacrum: The Almaty Metro and Kazakh Independence

Soviet Simulacrum: The Almaty Metro and Kazakh Independence


Kazakhstan has spent much of its newfound independence searching for an identity destroyed and warped by decadesof Russian influence.This tension is represented in the physical form via the Almaty Metro. The Metro in the former capital and largest cityin Kazakhstanserves as a powerful symbol and microcosm for how Russian cultural influences still manifest themselves in post-Soviet Kazakhstan.Opened twenty years after the collapse of the USSR, the Almaty Metro maintains striking visual and operational similarity to its Soviet counterparts.Previous scholarssuch as Beissinger, Stefany, and Jenks1have discussed both the relationship between Kazakhstan and Russia in the Soviet period as well as the symbolic importance of the Moscow Metro, but none have examined the continuity of such relationships and symbols through the lens of post-Soviet infrastructure in Kazakhstan. Metros hold a particular importance in the post-Soviet worldfor both what they are and what they represent. Seeing asthe Almaty Metrowas the second metro opened since the fall of the USSR, and the first outside of Russia, the product and the processof the Metroprovides valuable insight to Kazakhstan’s political motivations and continued path of independence. This thesisexamines Soviet urban planning, the history of Kazakhstan, an analysis of the construction and design of the Almaty Metro and uses each of these elements tobetter understand each other.

Cover page of Food Sovereignty as Purpose and Strategy: the Role of Agriculture in the Zapatista Approach to Indigenous Autonomy and Governance from Below

Food Sovereignty as Purpose and Strategy: the Role of Agriculture in the Zapatista Approach to Indigenous Autonomy and Governance from Below


When the Zapatistas, more formally the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional(EZLN), first declared their uprising in January of 1994, the militant group of Indigenous peoples and leftist intellectuals in Chiapas were responding directly to the signing of NAFTA by the United States, Mexico, and Canada (Marcos et al, 2008). The deal directly pertained to the land and livelihoods of peasant farmers in the region as it attempted to reshape the agricultural industry, particularly that of corn, along privatized, neoliberal lines opposed to the traditional, communitarian subsistence methods of peasant farmers and their milpa system that had existed for millennia (Marcos et al, 2008). The Zapatistas chose the start of their uprising to align with NAFTA’s implementation as they believed the agricultural reforms of the deal would be a “summary execution” for indigenous peoples in the region (Marcos et al, 2008, p. 34). Emerging primarily in response to these changes, the Zapatistas declared new rules and visions for land in Chiapas that would assert Indigenous values and practices over the state’s mission of increasing industrialized agriculture. Attempting to reassert the value of common property and cooperative production, the Zapatista uprising centered food sovereignty as both purpose and strategy. The role of agriculture in the Zapatista movement shows how the movement was not just a response to economic and social conditions of the time, but a move towards an alternative vision of Indigenous futures in Mexico centered around a traditional yet revolutionary commitment to self-reliance and environmental and cultural sovereignty based on land reform. In this paper, I argue that Zapatista agriculture and associated food sovereignty are an essential piece of the Zapatista attempt at governing from below in two key ways: these practices embody EZLN ideals by asserting Indigenous values over the logic of the state and neoliberal economics, while also providing the food that fuels the past, present, and future of the resistance itself.

Cover page of When Court-Made Rules Fail: Leveraging the Private Market to Stop Misinformation in Advertising

When Court-Made Rules Fail: Leveraging the Private Market to Stop Misinformation in Advertising


The internet has given large corporations huge platforms to spread misinformation in their advertising. Due to the statute of limitations defense, government agencies are unable to effectively discourage this misinformation by themselves. Companies using the defense are more protected from government-led lawsuits the longer they get away with spreading false information, giving them little reason to stop making those misrepresentations. Traditionally, for situations when the statute of limitations defense has produced seemingly inequitable results, courts have developed exceptions to the usual rules of the defense. However, none of the exceptions permit the government to discourage consumer fraud without dismantling the statute of limitations defense. This article argues that because of the statute of limitations defense, government agencies alone are unable to stop misinformation in advertising. Therefore, they should focus their broad investigative powers on exposing the fraud and stopping it with injunctive relief. Once the fraud is exposed, plaintiffs in the private market can seek their own relief. Their lawsuits face much lessrestrictive statute of limitations rules than government-led lawsuits. Corporations will be discouraged from committing fraud because they know that, even if they are successful for a long time, they will remain vulnerable to private plaintiffs. This joint action by the government and the private market will discourage misinformation in advertising without doing undue damage to the statute of limitations defense.

Cover page of Parsimonious Machine Learning Models to Predict Resource Use in Cardiac Surgery Across a Statewide Collaborative

Parsimonious Machine Learning Models to Predict Resource Use in Cardiac Surgery Across a Statewide Collaborative


Objective: We sought to several develop parsimonious machine learning (ML) models to predict resource utilization and clinical outcomes following cardiac operations using only preoperative factors.

Methods: All patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting and/or valve operations were identified in the 2015-2021 University of California Cardiac Surgery Consortium repository. The primary endpoint of the study was length of stay (LOS). Secondary endpoints included 30-day mortality, acute kidney injury (AKI), reoperation, postoperative blood transfusion and duration of intensive care unit admission (ICU LOS). Linear regression, gradient boosted machines (GBM), random forest (RF), extreme gradient boosting (XGBoost) predictive models were developed. The coefficient of determination (R2) and area under the receiver operating characteristic (AUC) were used to compare models. Important predictors of increased resource use were identified using SHapley summary plots.

Results: Compared to all other modeling strategies, GBM demonstrated the greatest performance in the prediction of LOS (R2 0.42), ICU LOS (R2 0.23) and 30-day mortality (AUC 0.69). Advancing age, reduced hematocrit and multiple-valve procedures were associated with increased LOS and ICU LOS. Furthermore, the GBM model best predicted AKI (AUC 0.76), while RF exhibited greatest discrimination in the prediction of postoperative transfusion (AUC 0.73). We observed no difference in performance between modeling strategies for reoperation (AUC 0.80).

Conclusion: Our findings affirm the utility of ML in the estimation of resource use and clinical outcomes following cardiac operations. We identified several risk factors associated with increased resource use, which may be used to guide case scheduling in times of limited hospital capacity.

Cover page of Liberate the Asian American Writer: Embracing the Flaws of Amy Tan's <em>The Joy Luck Club</em>

Liberate the Asian American Writer: Embracing the Flaws of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club


An Asian American bestseller and a required reading in many classrooms, The Joy Luck Clubby Chinese American author Amy Tan has prompted substantial debate—some zealously laudatory of its rich narratives and cultural insights, some seethingly critical of its Orientalist motives, some neutrally analytical of its cultural symbols—over its representation of Chinese and Chinese Americans in the literary mainstream. Unfortunately, few scholars have considered detaching representational power from ethnic texts and alleviating the burden on ethnic writers to represent their communities. This thesis uses cultural criticism and reception theory to examine three things: the novel’s cultural and linguistic inaccuracies, the role of shame in forming the Chinese American identity, and the cumulative influences of popular reviews, educational guides, and public commentary on readers’ tendencies to attach representational value to the novel. I find that the novel functions as a subjective (fictional) Chinese American experience more so than an all-encompassing Chinese cultural and linguistic lesson; there ispotential for Chinese Americans to transcend the “Chinese” and “American” binary and exist with nuance and without dual alienation; it is the novel’s reception, notTan herself, that has constructed its representational power. These findings suggest that the experiences and identities of American ethnic minorities are multifaceted and nuanced, and therefore incapable of being comprehensively represented and dichotomously regarded. To prevent absolute dependence on media for developing multicultural awareness, readers must consume critically and introspectively, maintaining the awareness of our reader subjectivity and of the limits of literature—especially fictional literature. 

Cover page of Metabolic Regulation of Cell Identity and Therapy Response in Prostate Cancer

Metabolic Regulation of Cell Identity and Therapy Response in Prostate Cancer


Prostate cancer growth is driven by androgen signaling using the androgen receptor (AR). Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is the gold standard for prostate cancer, but the majority of ADT-treated patients develop resistance, which often involves the loss of luminal lineage identity and AR-independent growth. Previous work has shown that modulating metabolism can regulate cell fate in many tissues. Therefore, it is important to understand the mechanisms behind how altered metabolism affects lineage identity and response to AR blockade, a common form of treatment for prostate cancer involving blocking AR signaling. Inhibition of mitochondrial pyruvate carrier 1, an essential metabolic enzyme, with small molecule UK5099 in mouse basalderived nonmalignant organoids blocked luminal differentiation and UK5099-treated organoids retained a basal phenotype. AR expression decreased substantially in vehicle-treated organoids, but had a more modest decrease in UK5099-treated organoids in castrated conditions. Expression of Tmprss2, an AR target gene, slightly decreased in vehicle-treated organoids, yet slightly increased with UK5099 treatment in castrated conditions. The organoid size assay was a useful tool in determining how modulating metabolism affected the impact of castration on organoid diameter in 3D ex vivo organoid culture. It shows that the number of days post-castration onset could affect the relative size of different treatment groups, but 6 days after castration vehicletreated organoids were smaller in castrated conditions than control conditions. Castrated UK5099-treated organoids, however, appeared slightly larger than the UK5099 control. An investigation into differentiation and metabolic pathways affected by UK5099-treatment revealed differential expression of phosphorylated p-65 (NFkB), changes in β-catenin nuclear translocation, and increased citrate synthase, OGDH, and MDH2 in the nucleus. This shows that UK5099 affects both differentiation and metabolism. Collectively, these results show that altering metabolism affects lineage identity and response to AR blockade. Modulation of metabolism appears to be a potential method of improving clinical outcomes for advanced prostate cancer.

Cover page of Coronal Hole Detection using Machine Learning Techniques

Coronal Hole Detection using Machine Learning Techniques


The detection and mapping of Coronal Holes (CH) in solar Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) images is useful for a variety of scientific and space weather prediction applications. Long-term averages of EUVI/STEREO A/B (195 Å) and SDO/AIA (193 Å) images are used to compute data-derived corrections for center-to-limb variations in images and intensity differences among instruments. The calculation of these corrections has been greatly simplified through modern database storage and querying techniques implemented in the image processing pipeline. After image processing, CH regions are detected using two primary machine learning methods: a convolutional neural network (CNN) and K-means clustering. Results are mapped on an image-by-image basis and merged to create EUV and CH maps. The merge-mapping process favors lower intensity data in areas of overlap, and an arbitrary number of images may be used, helping to mitigate the systematic issues of obscuration and evolution. With this flexible new framework and data-driven approach to CH detection, we explore methods for creating time-dependent coronal hole maps and evaluate their use for model comparisons.

Cover page of The Role of Diet and Exercise in the Gut Microbiota and Metabolism

The Role of Diet and Exercise in the Gut Microbiota and Metabolism


Diet and exercise have been established as contributors to human health, but less is known about how they interact to impact the gut microbiota. Based on scientific literature and evolutionary evidence, a combination of a minimally-processed fiber-rich diet and regular physical activity can benefit almost everyone. Diet and exercise affect one another; eating fiber-rich foods may increase the efficiency of physical activity and performing physical activity alters hormones that regulate food intake. This review explores the mechanisms by which diet and exercise affect one another as well as how they affect SCFA production, gut microbial diversity, and gut barrier integrity.

A Battle of Two Fronts: Effects of COVID-19 and Social Stigma on the Undocumented Latinx Community in California


By following the story of “Juan,” we have isolated a number of possible explanations as to how and why this stigma has had such a devastating result. This episode will focus on governmental regulation of and rhetoric towards undocumented immigrants that has perpetuated a cycle of mistrust, resulting in an epidemic of undocumented Latinx peoples who fear the healthcare system. In addition, by examining pre-existing conditions and access to healthcare in undocumented Latinx communities, we attempt to explain the connection between stigma, the pandemic, and adverse health outcomes in these communities.


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