2016 Cohort

Blackburn_Robertson.jpgAshley Blackburn - Public History
Public Awareness’ Effect on Preservation, Destruction, and Looting of Ancient Historical Sites in Iraq and Syria​
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. John Robertson
The archaeological field is currently facing a major problem. This problem is that the destruction and looting of ancient historical sites is happening more quickly than archaeologists can preserve the sites. This means that cultural heritage is being lost more rapidly than it is being saved. In order to prevent this loss of culture, archaeologists need more resources. One resource that has not been utilized to its full extent is the public. This research expects to illustrate the different methods of raising awareness, both on a local and global scale, on this topic, and the effect that increased education and awareness are having on the archaeological field and on the amount of looting of ancient sites in the Middle East. Though this is a worldwide problem, this project is focused in the Middle East, specifically Syria and Iraq, and includes data from projects in other areas, including Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Germany, and Bulgaria. By researching the various ways sites are being preserved, recreated, and projected to the public, this project aims to determine if there is a relationship between increased awareness of historical sites and the amount of looting at these locations. By identifying various projects that preserve and document historical sites, the goal is to document an increased public awareness and participation, as well as to determine if there is a possible relationship between increased awareness of endangered sites and destruction.

Bosley_Karp.jpgScott Bosley - Biomedical Sciences
Investigating Regulation of the Heterochronic Pathway in Caenorhabditis Elegan
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Xantha Karp
Stem cells are multipotent and have the ability to differentiate into various cell types. While stem cells have multipotency, stem cells tend to be non-dividing or quiescent state. This poses the question: How do stem cells maintain multipotency during quiescent periods. The microscopic nematode C. elegans was used to investigate this question. During development, stem cell differentiation is controlled through the heterochronic pathway. This pathway controls timing of development through the regulation of microRNAs by regulatory proteins known as Argonautes. In favorable environments, worms develop continuously from embryo to adult. However, if larvae develop in unfavorable conditions, they can enter a period of developmental arrest, known as dauer. If conditions become favorable, dauer larvae recover and complete development. Mutation of Argonaute causes penetrant cell fate defects during continuous development. However, worms that undergo dauer development do not have this defect, proposing that gene regulation differs between post-dauer and continuous worms. The transcription factor DAF-16 promotes dauer formation. Worms lacking daf-16 have a similar cell fate defect to those lacking an Argonaute gene. This leads to the hypothesis that daf-16 regulates gene expression in post-dauer worms and in alg-1(0) worms increases expression of a different Argonaute to compensate for the lack of alg-1. To test this hypothesis, daf-16 activity was reduced in Argonaute deficient worms. Preliminary data shows worms with reduced daf-16 and alg-1 have a higher penetrance of severe cell fate defects, suggesting that daf-16 does promote expression of alternate Argonaute genes in the heterochronic pathway.

Esparza_Juris.jpgAlec Esparza - Biomedical Sciences
Location of a Critical Binding Region in the ACD of the Vibrio cholerae MARTX toxin
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Stephen Juris
Vibrio cholerae is the primary cause of cholera, and it attacks cells through a variety of mechanisms. One of these mechanisms is the actin crosslinking domain (ACD) of the MARTX toxin, which targets the cytoskeleton. ACD crosslinks G-actin, thus causing depolymerization of F-actin, and eventual cell rounding and loss of function. In this study, truncated versions of ACD were synthesized and placed into solutions containing G-actin. ACD-specific extraction and SDS-PAGE gel were then run to test for the presence of actin binding. By observing at which truncation binding stopped, the location of an actin critical binding region was able to be determined. This study helps map possible critical binding regions on the ACD, as well as contributes to the overall understanding of cytoskeleton-targeting bacterial toxins.

Green_McDermott.jpgAshley Green - English, Psychology
Identity Through the Lens of Afrofuturism
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Kristen McDermott
Afrofuturism, also known as Speculative Fiction, is a genre where authors take the subjects of science, technology and science fiction to re-examine African and African American history. Speculative fiction also uses post-apocalyptic fiction to create a new identity and imagine a better future where Africans and African Americans are represented. Afrofuturists aim to challenge the social norms regarding African Americans by reflecting on race and culture while celebrating and emphasizing modernization and the history that has promoted social change. The purpose of this study is to conduct an overview of Speculative Fiction by writers of color to see how their novels address what happened to the African American identity, why identity is so powerful and how it can be used to ask critical questions regarding government criticism and social issues.

Greene_Kinney.jpgAlyssa Greene - Sociology
The Effects of School Climate on Academic Behavior
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. David Kinney
Middle school students experience numerous changes in terms of their physiological, cognitive, psychological and social development. In addition, these early adolescents are experiencing structural (e.g., new building, a different teacher for each class, larger student body) and educational changes (e.g., higher expectations, more complex work) that pose new challenges. Taken together, these aforementioned changes create a school climate that strongly shapes early adolescents’ social and personal identities. One of the central identities that the school climate shapes is one’s academic identity which influences their effort and perceptions of themselves as a student. This research project focuses on several key factors that theoretically create a comfortable school climate which positively shapes early adolescents’ academic identities that motivate them to try hard in school and achieve academically. In this study, I focus on three key variables, teacher-student interactions, social relations with peers (with a major focus on bullying), and personal identity; more specifically, how each of these individual variables have an impact on students’ academic performance during the middle school years. Using a quantitative survey of 417 seventh and eighth grade students, paired with in-depth qualitative interviews of a sample of these same students, I examine the impact each of these variables have on the larger academic climate of the school and on individual students’ academic identity.

Hannah_Hartshorne.jpgMichael Hannah - Psychology
Stepfathers in Complex Stepfamilies
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Timothy Hartshorne
Remarriage is a common occurrence but not simple like a first marriage. If one partner enters the new marriage with a child from a previous relationship, this is known as a stepfamily. A complex stepfamily is when both partners enter a new marriage with children from previous relationships. Complex stepfamilies are considered difficult to navigate and there is a lack of research available on them. This study aims to add to the literature by focusing on the role of the stepfather in complex stepfamilies and exploring their experiences through interviews. In addition to interviews the Family Health Index and Family Member Well-Being Index are used. This information can be used to help counselors when assisting complex stepfamilies or men in complex stepfamilies.

Holland_Morelli.jpgAndrew Holland - Computer Science
Gesture-Based Authentication: A Memorable Alternative
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tony Morelli
Authentication today primarily relies on plaintext passwords. The average user is generally forced to remember an increasing quantity of passwords to secure their multiple accounts or applications. Human memory generally struggles when it attempts to recall long strings of randomized characters, numbers and symbols. Gesture-based authentication using Quick Reference (QR) codes, mobile devices, and internal computer-generated passwords allow for sustaining a more user-friendly, memorable, and low expense alternative to plaintext password authentication. In this paper we present a technique for users to capture movements of their mobile device by analyzing accelerometer data. We describe these motions as the user’s gesture. Gestures can be used to identify a user, whilst QR codes can be used to indicate a specific machine a can attempt to authenticate with. Gesture-based authentication allows for advanced computer generated passwords to be applied to an entire computer network allowing for stronger general security.

Mrozek_Quirk.jpgMelanie Mrozek - Psychology
The Effects of Emotional Activation on the Eye Behavior of Socially Anxious Individuals 
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Stuart Quirk
Individuals with socially anxiety react differently in social situations than non-socially anxious individuals. These individuals give off social cues that may show their discomfort in a conversation, for example. One of these social cues is the individual’s eye contact, or lack thereof. We predicted that: (1) socially anxious individuals would break eye contact sooner and more often than non-socially anxious individuals and (2) emotional activation will affect their eye behavior; that is, when the emotional activation is notably sad or intrusive, socially anxious individuals will alter their gaze behavior in reaction to increasing social tension. Using an eye tracker, we tracked the participants’ eyes while they listened and responded to questions.

Peacock_Ampaw.jpgJennifer Peacock - Cultural and Global Studies
First-Generation Students Journey to College 
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Frim Ampaw
The purpose of this study is understand the various journeys first generation students took to apply and enroll at a 4 year institution and we were guided by the research question: How does the first generation student discover college and navigate their journey into college? Using a narrative approach guided by Perna (2006) conceptual model of college choice, which built on Hossler and Gallagher (1987) three-phase model of college choice, the research explores the journey to college of first generation students.

Santos_Rosca.jpgJoel Santos - Biomedical Sciences
Alterations of Mitochondrial Respiration in Cultured Cardiomyocytes Incubated in Diabetogenic Conditions​
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Mariana Rosca
Healthy heart function is a major contributor to longevity of human life. Type I and Type II diabetes can cause a major change in heart metabolism, which causes metabolic inflexibility. This is described as the inability to swap between glucose and fatty acid breakdown. Mitochondria facilitate this breakdown and provide energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, to continue healthy heart function. Our study uses a pluripotent rat stem cell line, H9C2, under healthy and diabetic conditions to assess the function of the mitochondria. We evaluate these organelles by measuring their oxidative phosphorylation, as well as producing mitochondrial stains to visually see the shape and size of the mitochondria.