Crimson Frankum
Crimson Frankum interns with the Center for Environmental Biology and manages field trips at Crystal Cove State Park for fifth graders, who help her research group collect data for ongoing experiments. Steve Zylius / UCI

Crimson Jade Frankum loved coming to California to visit her mom and the beach when she was younger. At first, she thought she might become a marine biologist because of her love for the sea. Now, Frankum is in her second year at UCI, studying a different science, biochemistry, just five miles away from the Orange County shores.

Throughout her childhood, Frankum moved back and forth between living in Macon, Georgia with her father and San Diego County with her mother. She moved to the Golden State full-time two years before starting college. It was a big change for Frankum, but it was also a welcome one.

She was homeschooled through middle school and high school, where she had an emphasis on science and history, and she set her eyes on the UC system for college thanks to a friend of her mother’s, who was a professor at UC San Diego.

She applied to almost all the UC campuses, choosing UCI, where she is flourishing. To help with her tuition and expenses, Frankum is the recipient of the Rose Hills Foundation scholarship, which is awarded to high-achieving undergraduates pursuing degrees in Science Technology Engineering or Math (STEM).

Before choosing her path as a biochemistry major, Frankum was indecisive about which science she might pursue. Frankum loves to read, from science-fiction and fantasy novels to science news articles in Popular Science. One of the common threads she found in the articles that interested her most was the necessity of someone with knowledge in some sort of hard science, such as chemistry or physics and biology, leading her to choose biochemistry at UCI.

One of her favorite sci-fi and fantasy book series is the Artemis Fowl collection by Edin Colfer.

“One of the things that I really enjoyed was that though it acknowledges the existence of fantasy creatures and even magic, most of what happens has some grounding in technology,” says Frankum, “It’s even a little bit more dubious whether magic is magic, or just something that they don’t have a word for.”

What is appealing about science to Frankum is research, particularly collaborative research. She is currently pursuing research as an intern with UCI’s Center for Environmental Biology, harkening back to her original love of marine biology.

With a team of eight other interns, Frankum manages field trips at Crystal Cove State Park for fifth graders, who help her group collect data for ongoing experiments. She also visits restoration sites to help rebuild and gain an understanding of how the restoration works, and what factors will help that process run smoothly.

Recently, Frankum’s team has submitted a proposal for a major project she is currently working on, which they have designed and will implement together.

“Our project is looking at the trophic levels of different animals at Crystal Cove, specifically looking at the interactions between the plants, bugs and birds, because there’s been a lot of invasive species taking over Crystal Cove park,” says Frankum, “There’s plans for restoration in the future, but they need to figure out how best to do it.”

A project by the intern group prior to Frankum’s had already started to observe which new plants can survive in the park. The goal of Frankum’s current experiment is to determine which of those plants will make the best habitat.

“We can then give this information to the park managers, and they can use it to figure out what they’re planning when they remove the invasive species.” Frankum explains.

Frankum has enjoyed her time with the Center for Environmental Biology so far. Her internship brings back her initial love for the ocean. She is interested in the research aspects, but she also considers teaching as an avenue for the future. She hopes to pursue work in the future that has a basis in chemistry, but also hopes to merge that work with environmental research.

“I definitely get a sense that it is more rewarding when I’m working toward environmental causes,” says Frankum, “Regardless of the time investment or how tedious it was, I can look at it and be glad that I did it.”

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