Stimulus money helping research at California universities

When David Sternbergh teaches science to first- and second-graders in Fairfield, he shows them how the forces of nature draw a ball down a ramp.

This summer, however, his experience with science is a lot more complex. Sternbergh is spending the summer in a UC Davis laboratory where scientists are conducting stem cell research that ultimately could help people with multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

He is part of a wave of scientific research rolling out across the nation, as money from the federal stimulus package trickles into universities.

The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Barack Obama in February included $21.5 billion for scientific endeavors and $33 million to create paid research positions this summer and next for students and science teachers. The goal is to fuel the economy with new jobs while supporting innovations in alternative energy and new medical cures.

All spring, university professors applied for the stimulus money. Little by little, they're starting to learn whether they've won grants. So far, about $8.35 million has been awarded to Sacramento-area universities, with about $8 million going to UC Davis and $350,000 to California State University, Sacramento.

Sacramento State professor Katherine McReynolds is using her stimulus funds to create summer research jobs for two college students and a high school student. McReynolds, a chemistry professor, studies sugar-based molecules that eventually could be used to create treatments for people with HIV.

"This would be another drug that could be used to prolong the lives and give the individuals who are infected a better life," she said.

"It could also potentially be used if someone had an accidental needle stick."

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