Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Challenger: A McNair Scholars Paper Series aims to further the access and representation of underrepresented students through the dissemination of research produced by McNair Scholars at UC San Diego. The purpose of this publication is to organize, implement, and maintain a scholarly research journal that represents diverse perspectives across multiple fields of study.

Our publication's name was inspired by Dr. Ronald E. McNair and his contributions as an outstanding scholar and representative of underrepresented communities of color in higher education. Unfortunately, Dr. McNair passed away in the Challenger space shuttle. This publication was founded to further his legacy of excellence and to support students who, like Dr. McNair, have the potential to exceed in future doctoral education.

To view our full volumes, visit

For more information about the paper series, visit:

For questions and/or concerns, please contact us at

Challenger Paper Series Interview | Part 1: The Editors

Challenger Paper Series Interview | Part 2: The Authors

Cover page of Investigation into potential range shifts of murrelet species in the Southern California Current Ecosystem

Investigation into potential range shifts of murrelet species in the Southern California Current Ecosystem


Anthropogenic climate change is warming our oceans and thus has the potential to dramatically alter marine ecosystems. Recent ocean temperatures have been shown to impact the distribution and availability of prey species, which may lead to periodic or permanent range shifts of the predators relying on them. Since seabirds are solely dependent on marine prey, changes in seabirds’ distribution may be valuable alerts for ecosystem health. We expand upon previous investigations of range and seabird community composition within the California Current Ecosystem (CCE) form 1980-2017 by selecting a “warm water” and “cool water” seabird species. We investigated these potential trends in Craveri’s murrelets (CRMU), the “warm water” species, and ancient murrelets (ANMU), the “cool water” species, as their northern and southern range, respectively, overlap in the southern CCE region. They are comparable in size, natural history, and prey type. We hypothesized that the trends in their distribution would reflect the northward expansion of warm water over time and periods of warm water associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). We expected CRMUs to increase in frequency and northward distribution over time and during El Niño events. For ANMUs, we expected to see a decrease in their frequency and a shift northward over time and with El Niño events. We calculated multiple linear regression models to analyze the relationships between species density (frequency of sightings/km2) with latitude, upwelling, and year. We found a decrease in density of both species and that latitude was the only significant predictor for both species’ density. This research will provide a foundation for future investigations of seabird range shifts in the CCE and assist in further understanding changes in upwelling ecosystems.

Cover page of Memoir and Writing and Intergenerational Trauma: The Reparative Powerof Personal Narrative

Memoir and Writing and Intergenerational Trauma: The Reparative Powerof Personal Narrative


This research seeks to examine memoir writing as an extension of expressive writing, which can be used to alleviate the psychosocial e!ects of intergenerational trauma, namely sociocultural dislocation and a lack of agency. With a detailed analysis of two memoirs – In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner – in relation to the scholarship on intergenerational trauma and writing, I demonstrate that memoir writing can act as a long-form, communal version of expressive writing, which can help a person su!ering from the e!ects of inherited trauma to reclaim their unique narrative and to begin to restore an individual connection to their cultural history. Throughout both works in memoir, the cra" and storytelling choices that Machado and Zauner make allow them to engage with their trauma in a meaningful process of creation, organization, and transformation.

Cover page of Use of Inclusive Language and Coordination of Bias Reporting Mechanisms Creates a Better User Experience

Use of Inclusive Language and Coordination of Bias Reporting Mechanisms Creates a Better User Experience


This study researches the e!ect of inclusive language when used in online bias reporting mechanisms as defined by forms-based data intake webpages specifically, and how it increases or decreases the reporting of these incidents. In dialog with prior research, a correlation has been found where victims are more inclined to report bias and feel more encouraged to report such incidents when inclusive language is used. Non-reporting can also be based on fear of reprisal or vaguely worded privacy statements. Title IX regulations delineate data privacy requirements and, as such, are a valuable educational resource in best practices for data collection and dissemination. ADA Law, enacted in 1990, has roots deeply embedded in the fair housing, civil rights, and disability rights movements, which serve to ban bias, harassment, or discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, sex, or ability. Guidelines from these laws, along with a comparison of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) O"ce of Students with Disabilities (OSD) and the O"ce for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD), are the basis of this study. Thus, inclusive language, coordination between relevant webpages, and greater transparency regarding data privacy will result in more inclusive and positive experiences for students with disabilities.

Cover page of Achieving Sustainability in Aviation

Achieving Sustainability in Aviation


Over the past century, carbon emissions have continuously spiked to new levels every year. Subsequently the need for renewable and sustainable energy to be implemented into various industries is necessary now more than ever. The aviation sector is no exception; it remains one of the most popular forms of travel. Thus, it is crucial to consider its part in both carbon and overall emissions on a global scale. This report entails a comparative assessment of the benefits and flaws associated with aviation along with the advancement of incorporating sustainable aircraft technology. Additionally, I will be paying close attention to the patterns air travel emissions follow with respect to contributions from overall global emissions. Different forms of primary energy such as biofuels, electricity, and electrofuels are considered to analyze the benefits of their implementation. I also focus on methods of combustion, aerodynamics, design, and overall performance to aid me in comparing time sensitive implementations for the future of air travel. The Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and United Airlines’ use of a biofuel/jet fuel mixture is used as a case study to extrapolate emissions on a larger scale. Finally, I use short-term and long-term years (2035 and 2050, respectively) to conclude what reasonable implementations can support the decarbonization of air travel.

Cover page of The Impact of Climate Shocks and Women’s Empowerment on Child Undernutrition in Mozambique

The Impact of Climate Shocks and Women’s Empowerment on Child Undernutrition in Mozambique


Changing environmental conditions constitutes one of the greatest threats to human health by reducing agricultural yields and exacerbating the burden of undernutrition. Mozambique is a region characterized by a high dependence on agricultural productivity and an increasing prevalence of climate shocks in the form of droughts and floods. Low food availability as a result of changing environmental conditions can impair child development and long-term agricultural productivity, thus necessitating e!orts to understand and protect children’s health. Women’s empowerment is strongly associated with children’s nutritional status, such that disparities in maternal autonomy and educational attainment may explain variations in climate-related vulnerabilities in this regional context. The purpose of this research is to determine the extent climate shocks are associated with child undernutrition among di!erent populations in Mozambique by focusing on droughts and floods during the main crop growing season. In addition, this research investigates the potential of women's empowerment for mitigating climate-related vulnerabilities of children. Demographic health data is linked with regional gridded climate data using a stratified regression analysis to provide information on the impact of climate shocks on child undernutrition among livelihood subgroups of croppers and fishers. This cross-sectional study found that exposure to climate shocks during the main rainy season, from November to May, increases the risk of stunting in children under age five and that women’s empowerment may not be a mitigating factor in the protection of children’s health from climate shocks. Identifying population groups most adversely a!ected by climate change will be important for reducing social inequities and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals within Mozambique.

Cover page of Controlling Two Languages: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Immersion in Second-Language Learning

Controlling Two Languages: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Immersion in Second-Language Learning


One of the most efficient methods to learn a second language (L2) is through immersion in a country where that language is spoken. What aspects of language immersion enable adult learners to acquire an L2 more efficiently? An obvious consequence of immersion is more frequent and varied exposure to the L2, but another possibility is that immersion makes it easier to inhibit the first language (L1). If so, learning an L2 would involve cognitive mechanisms that lead to some benefits but also produce some cost to the learner, and if so, it would be of interest to know exactly how and to what extent does immersion negatively impact the learner? In this study, we tested a group of eleven English-speaking college students learning Italian through a study abroad program in Rome, Italy for a period of eight weeks. We predicted that language immersion would reduce fluency in the L1, in order to obtain the benefit of acquiring greater gains in fluency in the L2. To test this, participants completed a language history questionnaire and a verbal fluency task in both English and Italian on the first and last days of the term. On average, participants’ levels of Italian fluency increased and to a greater extent than any losses to their L1, which trended in the direction of an inhibitory effect, but not significantly so. These findings consider the possibility that foreign language acquisition is influenced primarily by frequency effects in the L2, and therefore not entirely due to an inhibitory mechanism on the L1.

Cover page of Investigating Neuro-cognitive Function in Individuals from Different Racial and Ethnic Backgrounds & its Interactions with Resilience

Investigating Neuro-cognitive Function in Individuals from Different Racial and Ethnic Backgrounds & its Interactions with Resilience


Neuro-cognition is our brain’s ability to perform context-appropriate cognitive functions, such as paying attention and maintaining information in working memory, which are associated with specific neural activations. The ability to generate context-appropriate, neuro-cognitively optimal responses to stressful life hardships is a shared aspect of resiliency across all races and ethnicities. We studied how resilience influence neuro-cognitive abilities and if a relationship exists with race and ethnicity. A series of rapid game-like, objective assessments were used to measure internal attention, working memory, distractor processing and emotion processing. We collected demographic characteristics (age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) and measured resilience using the Brief Resilience Scale (BRS). We used generalized linear mixed models to probe the association of demographic factors including race and ethnicity, and resilience with neuro-cognitive performance. Resilience scores alone was not a significant factor contributing to neuro-cognitive performance in these models; however, we found an interaction between multiracial participants and resilience scores for emotional processing consistency. Understanding how race/ethnicity and resilience interact to determine neuro-cognitive abilities can improve the quality of mental healthcare given to diverse Americans, serving to decrease the burden of mental healthcare disparities. 

Cover page of Setting the Table: An Exploration of Chamoru Fiestas as a Site of Indigenous Survivance in the Wake of White Settler Colonialism

Setting the Table: An Exploration of Chamoru Fiestas as a Site of Indigenous Survivance in the Wake of White Settler Colonialism


Within the multi-tones of blue that dress the waters of the Pacific Ocean lies Guåhan, the southernmost and largest island in the Mariånas archipelago. Guåhan and the other fourteen islands that make up this crescent chain are the collective ancestral homelands of the Indigenous Chamorus. Within Western hegemony, stories about Guåhan and Chamorus are inextricably rooted in a deeply colonial past and present. What began as Spanish “discovery” in 1521 turned into three-hundred years of theft of native land and livelihood. What began as Japanese “occupation” in 1941 turned into three years of unjustified violence and death of thousands of Chamorus. What began (and remains) as the facade of American “liberation” during World War II resulted in the division of the Mariåna Islands into the territorial and commonwealth statuses of Guåhan and the Northern Mariåna Islands, respectively—euphemisms for what can be concisely defined as white settler colonialism of Indigenous lands. These colonial histories remain reminiscent in the daily lived experiences of Chamorus, which is most evident when looking at American militarization of Guåhan. For instance, the United States military possesses nearly a third of the island, which includes natural resources and ancestral villages that are inaccessible to the Indigenous community. Chamorus, per capita, are the largest group of recruits enlisted into the American military, but as residents of an overseas colony, they are unable to vote in the presidential election for their commander-in-chief. This is just to name a few, but these facts alone paint a picture of how the status quo of white settler colonialism has been especially understood as a strictly militaristic event. My research does not seek to condemn or disregard this understanding; rather, it works to create a more holistic image of white settler colonialism within the context of Chamoru culture in Guåhan outside the hypervisibility of militarism, which I analyze at the site of the fiesta. By using the fiesta, a revered celebration in Chamoru culture, as the optic, I explore how its constituent parts partake in the ongoing vanishment of Chamoru indigeneity and perpetuates white settler colonial remnants. Most importantly, I look at how contemporary Chamorus have reclaimed the fiesta as a space of survivance.

Cover page of The Criminalization of Black Girls in K-12 U.S Schools: A Public Health Issue

The Criminalization of Black Girls in K-12 U.S Schools: A Public Health Issue


This research examines the criminalization of Black girls in K-12 schools in the United States and presents possible solutions to the issue. A series of interviews conducted with Black girls and women who attended elementary, middle, and high school throughout the United States were used to develop the following research. The interviews were semi-structured with a set of questions surrounding the interviewees’ relationships with school professionals, their experience with in-school discipline, and their sense of belonging within the school setting. Interviewees o en expanded on the set questions with in-depth anecdotes of their personal experiences and what they witnessed in school. The interview responses were used to understand what experiences Black girls are having in school in relation to discipline; in addition, Black Critical Theory was used to further analyze and explain the recurring anti-Black treatment targeted towards Black girls. Interviews repeatedly revealed that Black girls are having ongoing encounters with violence, intolerance, lack of support within school, and exclusionary discipline. Additionally, this research found that Black girls are experiencing adultification as early as kindergarten and have developed personal and shared trauma as a result of their school experiences. Furthermore, this study unveiled a strong need for school professionals and involved organizations to acknowledge the unique experiences of differing cultural and identity groups while constructing classroom environments and discipline policies.