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Science mentors spark new ideas, interests

By May 25, 2010

Enterprise staff writer

Susan Matlock has one regret about taking Ann MoriartyÕs biotechnology class at Davis High School five years ago: She didnÕt take advantage of the internships the Regional Occupation Program offers.

ÒAt the time I was really busy with other extracurricular activities,Ó Matlock said. ÒLooking back, I wish I could have done it. You learn a lot of skills that you just canÕt get otherwise.Ó

But happily, Matlock now gets to experience a little bit of what she missed back then: As a senior at UC Davis majoring in biotechnology, she is now mentoring one of the students in MoriartyÕs class this year. DHS student Bryan Andrews has been working with Matlock since mid-February on ways to make the biofuel production process more efficient.

ÒI was really excited to get to mentor somebody who is taking the same class that I took a few years ago,Ó Matlock said.

The two are focused on isolating genes that they hope will better enable rice crops to be used as renewable alternative fuels.

ItÕs the kind of work that drew Matlock to biotechnology in the first place.

Matlock likes the variety of applications with potential Òto solve so many different problems in so many different fields,Ó she said. ÒThere are biotechnology discoveries every day.Ó

Matlock, 22, added that even without an internship, MoriartyÕs class definitely fueled her passion for biotechnology.

ÒI was interested in it before I took (MoriartyÕs) class,Ó she added, Òbut her class solidified my interest in the field.Ó

For her part, Moriarty said that while internships are not required, she does recommend them to her students.

ÒI do encourage students to complete an internship as it allows them to apply all the skills they have learned in my classroom and to really experience life in the lab,Ó she said.

According to Moriarty, Matlock is just one of several former students who have gone on to mentor kids in her class during their time at UCD.

Matlock said she has enjoyed working with Andrews, adding that Òhe is having a good time, and heÕs learning a lot in this setting. His skills have greatly improved.Ó

With graduation fast approaching, Matlock is actively looking for work in the biotech field. She graduates with her bachelorÕs degree next month and hopes to work in the biotech industry for a few years, before possibly returning to school.

She remains grateful for the education she received at Davis High.

ÒI just really like that Davis High has the biotech program,Ó Matlock added. ÒItÕs something unique, and IÕm just really grateful I had the opportunity to take it. I really enjoyed it.Ó

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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