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Research Notes headline

Professor Studies Vietnamese-American Youths

Social work Assistant Professor Brian Lam has an interest in the concept of the construction of self and the coping strategies of Vietnamese-American adolescents that go beyond his research as a scholar.

He learned to adjust his identity and to cope with major physiological and psychological changes as an adolescent when he came to this country as a refugee from Vietnam in 1985. “I was one of the boat people,” said Lam.

In addition to his interest in biculturalism, Lam also examines the impact of perceived discrimination and cultural identity on psychological distress among Vietnamese American young adults. In a recent article published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, he found that perceived discrimination weakened individuals’ sense of self efficacy and challenged their senses of belonging and identity, which, in turn, might lessen their ability to perceive their world as comprehensible and meaningful.

Conversely, he found that when these Vietnamese American young adults perceived positive public attitudes and were valued for their cultural group membership, their sense of coherence and ability to cope with adversity were greatly improved.


Biology Professor Published in Journal Nature

The fungus Ustilago maydis, commonly called corn smut fungus, is the bane of maize farmers around the world. But for others, particularly in Mexico—where maize was first domesticated centuries ago—the infected ears of corn are a culinary delicacy called huitlacoche.

The genetic basis for how this particular fungus operates was the topic of a study titled “Insights from the genome of the biotrophic fungal plant pathogen Ustilago maydis,” published in the Nov. 2 issue of the science journal Nature by an international team of 25 researchers including CSULB biological sciences Associate Professor Flora Banuett.

“It is a very serious disease because it destroys grain yield. One of the major findings is that there are clusters of genes that code for secreted proteins, and these appear to be major virulence factors. We don’t know what they do, but they appear to be induced in the infected plant,” Banuett said. “They are not expressed to a high level when you grow the fungus in the lab. It’s only when it’s growing in the plant.”

The eventual goal is to figure out what these genes do, she said. “The other major finding is that Ustilago does not contain a battery of enzymes that destroy the plant cell wall like many other pathogens that destroy plant tissues,” she said. “We think it is because it doesn’t kill the host. Ustilago is biotrophic, meaning that it lives in a certain harmony with the plant host until later in the infectious process.”