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12th Annual ACSSA Undergraduate Research Symposium

WHEN: Thursday, May 17, 2018, 5PM - 7PM

WHERE: Natural Sciences Building

Abstract Submission Deadline: Tuesday, May 1st

The annual ACSSA-sponsored Undergraduate Research Symposium in Chemistry and Biochemistry is the key platform for undergraduate researchers in the chemical sciences to present their work to our academic community at UC San Diego.

We encourage ALL students – regardless of year or study or stage of research - to take advantage of this opportunity to practice scholarly communication, to receive feedback from faculty and peers, and to make new professional connections. See below for additional symposium details.

Our Abstract Booklet is now available for you to view online!

2018 ACSSA Symposium Abstract Booklet
2018 ACSSA Symposium Program

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Professor Valerie Schmidt

Professor Valerie Schmidt, originally from Maryland, earned her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Towson University. She then pursued graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a Burroughs-Wellcome and Venable Fellow she synthesized a series of oxygen-centered radical precursors to achieve olefin difunctionalizations as well as developed an N-haloamide reagent for selective aliphatic C-H bond halogenation. She subsequently studied as a NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University. While at Princeton, Valerie synthesized reduced iron and cobalt complexes supported by redox active ligands that catalyze [2+2] cycloadditions of unactivated alkenes. She then joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSD in July 2016!


The symposium will comprise a poster session and reception (5:00-6:30 PM in the NSB Foyer), followed by a plenary speaker and awards ceremony (6:30-7:00 PM in NSB 1205). Both academic and industrial judges will be present to give feedback on student’s posters.

ALL participants will be awarded a certificate in recognition of their scholarship. Additionally, cash prizes will be granted to the top poster presentations in each of the five divisions, and to the student who displays the most proficient use of chemical information skills. We will also honor the recipients of the Departmental Mayer and Urey awards.

These awards, and the event itself, are made possible by the generous support of our Department, the Division of Physical Sciences, the UC San Diego Library, and sponsors from the local chemical industry.

Additional guidelines on writing abstracts and designing effective poster presentations can be found here.


What should I have in my abstract?

Your abstract, when submitted, requires the following information:

  • Title
  • List of authors, in the order they would be included for publication, with the primary author(s)'s name(s) underlined.The abstract must include the names of all that contributed to the research as well as the hosting principal investigator (PI)
  • The abstract itself

How do I write an abstract?

It is sometimes said that once a student can successfully write an abstract, he/she is ready to graduate with his/her PhD. Unfortunately, reading this page will not allow you to skip graduate school...but hopefully it will help you write your abstract, especially if it's your first time doing so.

An abstract is an abstraction of the information you are trying to present. What does this mean? This means that the abstract is the extract of your paper, poster, or talk: a consise summary, and words about possible future work, perhaps. But why create a summary of your work? To save time. Abstracts are designed so that the busy scientist can read the abstract, and quickly determine whether or not the work is worth reading. (Note: As undergraduates participating in our symposium, we consider all of your work worth reading. I am generalizing to the "Real World.") As such, it is clear that your abstract should have the following qualities:

  1. It should be short. If the summary is too won't be read.
  2. It should be detailed - the reader of the abstract should get a good feel of what your work entails, what you have done, and how you have done it.
  3. If the abstract is for a poster or a talk, often times the date of the presentation of said poster or talk might be a long way away - weeks, or even months. In that case, your abstract should try to include all you expect to have completed by the time of the presentation, if your work is still in progress.
  4. It should be interesting, to pique the interest of the reader.
  5. It should be written technically and not informally.

Obviously, the qualities listed above conflict with one another, but therein lies the challenge: to summarize your research while finding a good balance amongst all the qualities above.

After writing your abstract, get your graduate student, postdoc, or even P.I. to take a look at your abstract! As someone who has been in academia, your advisors have experience with this sort of thing, and they might have more tips for you!

Finally, here is a sample abstract submission from a previous symposium year:
The crossover of avian influenza into the human population could potentially lead to a worldwide pandemic. Considerable effort has been directed towards finding inhibitors for the avian flu protein neuraminidase. Recently, an alternative binding site for the natural substrate, sialic acid, on the surface of neuraminidase has been identified. We are investigating the effects of the presence of this site on the association kinetics of productive binding to the active site with a computational approach utilizing Brownian Dynamics (BD) simulations. In addition to studying the natural substrate sialic acid, we are carrying out BD studies with currently utilized inhibitor osteltamivir. Preliminary simulations involving the binding of osteltamivir with the monomeric form of neuraminidase matched published experimental rate constants. Although experimental data is unavailable for sialic acid, it exhibited slower binding kinetics than osteltamivir. This is in accordance with physical intuition given sialic acid's less favorable electrostatic interactions with neuraminidase. We have expanded the scope of our investigations to study the more biologically relevant tetrameric form of neuraminidase. These studies have the potential to help direct efforts to rationally design small-molecule inhibitors for neuraminidase.

While this abstract is in no way a perfect abstract, it finds a general balance of the qualities of a good abstract. It is relatively short, yet gets the point of the poster accross. It is, however, also sufficiently vague that it gives some leeway for more experiments to be done between the submission of the abstract and the actual presentation. It is also not written informally. Also no chart or graphs in the abstract, plain text only

Two more examples of abstract

Introducing two different functional groups into metal-organic frameworks through pre- and post-synthetic methods

Jack Boissonnault, Min Kim, Phuong V. Dau
Principal Investigator: Seth M. Cohen
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCSD

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a class of materials with applications stemming from their porosity and the chemical tunability of the pores. We can introduce functional groups into a single MOF crystal, but it is difficult to control the positions of multiple groups within the framework. We accomplished positional control by placing two orthogonal functional groups on single ligands, controlling position in the ligand synthesis. These regioisomeric ligands were introduced into two different Zn2+ based MOFs. The first was the flexible DMOF-1 (DMOF = dabco MOF) system where, depending on the regioisomer used, flexibility of the MOF was changed giving different gas sorption properties. The second framework was the more porous and rigid UMCM-1 (UMCM = University of Michigan Crystalline Material) framework where we observed that the regioisomer had an effect in the synthesis of the UMCM-1. Postsynthetic modification (PSM) was performed on these UMCM-1 derivatives with several reagents. We found that the rate of PSM was dependant on the reagent size and not the pore size.

Development of a p27-GFP Reporter Fusion Protein to Detect Transition Across the G1 Phase Restriction Point

Eric C. Warren, Manuel Kaulich
Principal Investigator: Steven F. Dowdy
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCSD

The widely accepted model of G1 cell cycle progression proposes cyclin D:Cdk4/6 inactivates the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein (Rb) during early G1 phase by progressive multi-phosphorylation or hypo-phosphorylation to release E2F transcription factors, resulting in the activation of cyclin E:Cdk2 and transition into late G1 phase. However, due to the use of supra-physiologic overexpression studies, this model remains largely unproven biologically and there has been no method to microscopically view cells as they transit across the restriction point in real time. To help address this problem, I designed a GFP fusion protein with p27, a protein that is stable in early G1 phase, but rapidly degraded at the restriction point due to phosphorylation by active cyclin E:Cdk2 complexes. Transfection of the p27-GFP fusion reporter into cells shows cell cycle specific expression. The p27-GFP fusion protein allows for the first time, the potential to visually dissect events that occur before and immediately after the restriction point.

Hopefully this page gives you some idea of how to write your abstract! Best of luck!

There's more than one author?!

Science is a collaborative endeavor. In this modern day and age, scientists don't work completely alone in some secret laboratory behind a bookshelf. Thus, it is necessary to credit everyone who was involved.

The primary author(s) consist of all of the primary undergraduate researcherss involved on the project.

Other authors include any graduate student or postdoctoral fellow advisors, any collaborators, and the P.I.

When filling out the form, please only mention primary authors in the "Primary Author(s)" field. However, in the actual abstract, please include the full au thor list.

In addition, the authors on the paper are required to have seen your abstract and poster before you present it

Note: typically, the author list is in order of amount of work put into the project, with the final author being the P.I.

For example, "Sung JC, Van Wynsberghe AW, Amaro RE, Li WW, McCammon JA" would most likely mean that J. C. Sung was the main worker on the project, while A. W. Van Wynsberghe, R. E. Amaro, and W. W. Li were advisors, colleagues, and/or collaborators.J. A. McCammon would most likely be J. C. Sung's PI.

Which emails should be included?

In the "Primary Author(s) Email(s)" field of the abstract submitter, only the emails of the primary undergraduates involved on the project need to be given.

Only the primary author(s)'s email(s) need be included in the actual abstract itself as well.

If it is more than one person's email, please include in the abstract only and include only 1 email on the submission form.

Who's my PI?

In the context of scientific research, P.I. stands for "Principal Investigator."

The P.I. for a specific project is the person whose funding pays for the project. Even if you do more of the investigating, you are not the P.I.

Generally, the head of the lab is the P.I.

What Division should I enter?

If your research is interdisciplinary, simply choose any one of the fields your project is a part of. Division include

  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemsitry
  • Inorganic Chemsitry
  • Physical Chemsitry
  • Chemical Education

What's the Best Poster Competition?

As an attendee of ACSSA's Annual Undergraduate Chemistry Research Symposium, you have the option of participating in the Best Poster Competition.

Each competition participant's poster is judged amongst the other competitors in his/her division. The top poster in each division wins a cash prize!


Tuesday, May 1st

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