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First-Year Students as Scholars Program (SAS-Program)

Funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation

Pepperdine student presenting her poster

Four stages of the SAS-Program

First-year Seminar in the fall semester, Apprenticeships in the winter open to a subset of students, Intensive Research during summer for the same subset of students, and Student Mentorship to a new cadre of first-year students the subsequent fall. The Fall 2 stage will also include the presentation of student research findings at an undergraduate research conference (SCCUR).

SAS-Program timeline

Key activities in the SAS-Program

The images below illustrate Pepperdine students:

  1. Engaged in service learning, removing exotic crayfish from Malibu Creek
  2. Team research project, measuring plant response to climate change estimates of carbon dioxide in the year 2050
  3. Poster presentation on spider web tensile strength, one year subsequent to her first-year seminar, at a regional undergraduate research conference (SCCUR)
  4. Research presentation at a symposium sponsored by the National Park Service for research scientists, one year subsequent to her first-year seminar.


Pepperdine SAS-Program service learning


Pepperdine SAS-Program team research project


Pepperdine SAS-Programposter presentation


Pepperdine SAS-Program research presentation

SAS-Program process

Key Benefits of the SAS-Program

Seminars promote cross-disciplinary interactions

First-year seminar students will be exposed to the benefits of cross-disciplinary interaction by attending a multidisciplinary, scholarly conference (Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research, SCCUR), which is entry level. We have found that the SCCUR experience has profound impact on first-year students for at least two reasons:

  1. First-year seminar students will be asked to critique and provide feedback on a subset of Seaver College upperclassmen seminar and poster presentations a few days prior to SCCUR. This provides mutual benefit and illustrates the value of dialogue and exchange of ideas among a learning community of scholars.
  2. First-year students are often inspired by the example and experience of learning about the scholarly achievements of their student-mentors, as role models, in a professional setting. In addition, they witness first-hand the improvement in the final presentations, and learn to value constructive criticism and outside review. Taken together, this experience will be an especially powerful and memorable for first-year students who eventually present their own work at a subsequent SCCUR.

Seminars provide opportunities for teaching, outreach, and service learning

First-year seminar students will experience the intrinsic challenges, joy, and pleasure of science teaching through one of several possible avenues. They will either host an open house to their research lab for school children or lead a nature walk for homeschool children and their parents to a wilderness area adjacent their college campus (e.g. Solstice Canyon, National Park). They will also have opportunity to participate in Pepperdine's annual Family Science Night held either at Malibu Middle School or Webster Elementary School.

Seminars inform students on research options

In order to address the most serious weaknesses in developing undergraduate research programs, first-year students will be introduced to a broad list of research options during their first semester on campus, and thus form a broader perspective on career options and their vocational journey during their most impressionable semester in college. Near the midterm of their first seminar they will participate in a rotating open house to visit at least five active labs in biological research. Departmental seminar speakers will also be asked to briefly meet with first-year seminar classes, describe their personal career path and how they became interested in science.

Seminars will conclude with a final poster presentation

The first-year seminar will conclude each semester with a final poster session, held in a professional atmosphere, where a wider audience than the class is invited. In addition, at least one other class will combine with the first-year seminar to increase the size and diversity of the presentations. As typical of professional conferences, each poster will receive a brief oral introduction. Also, a digital version of the poster will be placed in the digital archives of our libraries and abstracts made available through standard web-based search engines, such as Google Scholar. A few examples are listed below:

  • Booth, A., A. Corwin and M. Chung. 2014. The mechanical strength of Malosma laurina leaves corresponds to survivability during extreme drought. Poster Presentation for Partial Fulfillment of GSNS199.02, Fall 2014, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
  • Nakamatsu N., T.V. Ordog, and Kaitlyn E. Sauer. 2013. Correlation between freezing habitats in the Santa Monica Mountains and xylem vessel diameters in Malosma laurina and Umbellularia californica. Poster Presentation for Partial Fulfillment of GSNS199.03, Fall 2013, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA.
  • Szarzynski J., M. Biyendolo, J. Goldenetz, A. Alcazar. 2013. A comparison of water availability in coastal live oak (Quercus agrifolia) and California bay (Umbellularia californica) during severe drought in the Santa Monica Mountains. Poster Presentation for Partial Fulfillment of GSNS199.03, Fall 2013, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
  • Thorsen, V.A., M.E. Turner, C.P. Harriman. 2014. Effects of elevated CO2 on photosynthetic performance and stomatal conductance of Malosma laurina in the Santa Monica Mountains. Poster Presentation for Partial Fulfillment of GSNS199.02, Fall 2014, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA

Seminar mini-grant proposals, grant awards, and panel review

Students in first-year seminars will experience the advantage of teamwork in problem solving and crystallization of testable ideas, how to review the primary literature and critique professional presentations at scholarly conferences, as well as engage in the constructive criticism of poster presentations, oral presentations, and mini-grant proposals by their student-mentors, conference presenters, and peers. The latter will be realized by participation in a mock panel review for competitive grant awards by their peers. As a final exercise, that addresses the realities of the scientific process, each student will submit a mini-grant proposal for continued research, with the option of entering panel review for a competitive grant award. If the proposal is awarded, students will be offered an apprenticeship in an active research lab that will prepare them for an intensive research experience during the subsequent summer.