Current Scholars

​​2017 Cohort

Jacob Bahry
Jacob Bahry - 
Biomedical Sciences
Effect of Autism-Associated NR2B Mutations on NMDA Receptor Function
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Shasta Sabo
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with evidence suggesting the etiology has a genetic component. Recently, ASD-associated mutations in the NR2B subunit of the NMDAR have been identified. This study aimed to determine the genetic contribution from these mutations to the pathophysiology that causes the observed characteristics of ASD.

Tariq Brown
Tariq Brown - 
Biomedical Sciences
Bioluminescent Optogenetics/Non-invasive Optogenetics
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Ute Hochgeschwender
We developed a technology which uses “biological” light, i.e. light produced by a protein, a luciferase, to activate optogenetic elements upon systemic application of a small-molecule substrate, coelenterazine (CTZ). Depending on the biophysical properties of the optogenetic element, light activation in neurons will result in increase or decrease of neuronal spiking. To move this approach of non-invasive photonic control of neurons closer to potential clinical applications, we need light production with substrate concentrations acceptable for human systemic application. We hypothesized that activation of fused opsins will be more efficient as the light emission of the luciferase increases. One way to increase light output of luciferases is to couple them to fluorescent proteins to take advantage of BRET (bioluminescent resonance energy transfer). We engineered fusion proteins of activating and silencing opsins with a synthetic luciferase coupled to a modified mNeonGreen fluorescent protein. We demonstrated robust expression of this new construct, increased light emission compared to other luciferase variants, and efficient activation of opsins by assessing increased and decreased spiking of cultured neurons in multi electrode arrays.

Tiniyja Burney
Tiniyja Burney - 
Communication Disorders
The Impact of Service Learning Programs on Undergraduate Students Working with Persons with Dementia in Long-Term Care Communities
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Natalie Douglas
This study focused on the impact that service learning had on undergraduate students working with patients with dementia.  Service learning programs combine classroom instruction with real world experiences. People with dementia in long-term care communities often need conversational partners and companionship. Students studying communication sciences and disorders need real-world experiences interacting with individuals with communication disorders. This match-up of needs led to positive outcomes for both groups of individuals.

Alesondra Christmas
Alesondra Christmas - 
Media Framing of the Flint Water Crisis
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Cedric Taylor
In April 2014 government officials in Flint MI, switched the city’s primary water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The result of that decision has been the poisoning of hundreds of thousands of residents. Understanding how the Flint Water Crisis occurred has understandably been a preoccupation of the general public both locally and internationally. Research has shown that media such as newspapers have the power to educate, raise awareness, and shape public attitudes with respect to disasters (Bullock, Wyche & Williams, 2001; Salwen 1995). Using a stratified sample from 15 news sources, this research employs content analysis to understand how the Flint Water Crisis has been covered, more specifically how that man-made disaster has been “framed”.

Moriah Cooper
Moriah Cooper- 
Exercise Science: Kinesiology
Accessibility and Advocacy in Midwifery Services in Racially Disproportioned Communities
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Rene Shingles
Midwifery is a healthy and natural option for any woman to deliver a child. The challenge with the movement is the lack of diversity and education offered to low-income women who could benefit greatly from midwifery care. This study will model a study conducted by Skyla Seamons research published in 2015.The focus of Seamans research is to bring awareness to the subject of the privilege of modern midwifery services and acknowledging women who aren't incorporated into the movement.  The results of this study will help with understanding barriers to midwifery accessibility for racially disproportioned communities. This information will allow us to advocate for midwifery services in racially disproportioned communities. The study will be a qualitative study, interviewing 5-8 midwives, doulas or Certified Nurse Midwives.

Nicole Dennis
Nicole Dennis - 
Effects of Environmental Variables and E. Coli on Native Freshwater Mussel Assemblages in a Tributary of the Chippewa River, MI, USA
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Daelyn Woolnough
We investigated freshwater mussel assemblage variation between the main branch of the Chippewa River, MI, USA, and one of its tributaries (North Branch). A total of 242 live individuals, representing nine unionid species were collected while sampling the North Branch (sites 1 to 7). Unionid density, aqueous ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N), and E. Coli most probable number (MPN) was higher in the North Branch than in the Main Branch, however, unionid density in the tributary did decrease by 98% with increasing proximity to sites highest in mean phosphorus (P) and mean E. coli MPN. Our results indicated that upwards of 4.20 mg total ammonia nitrogen (TAN)/L, 103.9 μg P/L, and 1116.8 MPN E. coli count were found among the sample sites, well above federal protective standards.

Carrie Gable
Carrie Gable - 
Race and Health: Are American Indians and Alaskan Natives Experiencing More Mental Health Problems than Whites?
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Elbert Almazan
The study investigated whether the American Indian and Alaskan Native (AI/AN) population was more likely to experience heavy drinking and depression compared to the white population. This study combined six years of data between 2010 and 2015 of the National Health Interview Survey. The data were analyzed through using multivariate logistic regression. The findings showed no race difference in heavy drinking, but found that the AI/AN population has a higher rate of depression than the white population. Future research should examine why the AI/AN population is more likely to experience depression than the white population.

Sydney Griffin
Sydney Griffin - 
Molar Size and Cranial Capacity of Late Pleistocene Hominins
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Rachel Caspari
A comparative study of the molar size and cranial capacities of microcephalic modern humans, normocephalic modern humans, and late Pleistocene specimens, Homo floresiensis (95,000 – 17,000 years old) and Homo naledi (age undetermined), in order to observe differentiated molar sizes in relation to their cranial capacities. The hypothesis that there are systematic differences in molar size:cranial capacity ratios between microcephalic and normocephalic modern humans was tested, with the null hypothesis that the growth rates and molar  development of microcephalic individuals was equivalent to that of normocephalics. 

Lillian Hendrick
Lillian Hendrick - 
Oarisma Poweshiek Database
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Anna Monfils
Oarisma poweshiek (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae), is a historically common, now federally endangered species of prairie skipperling. We have been working to help conserve the species by conducting studies that seek to elucidate the cause of the species’ decline. Yet, in order for these studies to be of maximum utility, more data was necessary.  As technology use is becoming more prevalent within the collections community, there has been a proliferation of organismal data ready to be used in answering scientific questions. These data need to be managed, mobilized, and linked into a digital format in order to be useful in studies. In our study we created a workflow for data management and digitization to fully incorporate the accumulated field and collections-based data to create a comprehensive dataset.

Jessica Lahr
Jessica Lahr - 
Progressive Ratio Schedules in Rats: Grain vs. Chocolate
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Mark Reilly
In a previous experiment in the lab rats displayed no difference in breakpoint using progressive ratio schedules for different flavored food pellets. However, when given a pellet choice, the rats preferred chocolate overall. If the demand for food is reduced, will the rats display a measurable difference using progressive ratio schedules? Due to the rats’ pellet preference in the previous experiment, the hypothesis is that the breakpoints under the progressive ratio schedule will be higher for that of a chocolate pellet in comparison to a grain pellet. This study ultimately aims to investigate the correlation between pellet flavor and preference in regards to weight change.

Devin Moore
Devin Moore - Biochemistry
Cross-Linking of the Mycobacterial Cell Envelope Using Unnatural Trehalose Analogs
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Benjamin Swarts
New drug resistant forms of Mycobacterium smegmatis have created an urgent need to find new ways to both diagnose and treat tuberculosis. One potential way to do this is through the exploitation of the essential cellular envelope using unnatural analogs of the disaccharide trehalose. In this project, the trehalose analog AzAlkTMM was assessed for its ability to simultaneously incorporate both an azide and alkyne group into the mycobacterial cell envelope. In addition, methods for performing in vivo-compatible CuAAC (IVC-CuAAC) in mycobacteria were developed, with the eventual goal to combine AzAlkTMM cellular labeling with IVC-CuAAC to enable potentially growth-disrupting covalent crosslinking between the azide and alkyne groups.

Morgan Robinson
Morgan Robinson - 
Thirst for the American Dream: Education and the Lost City of Flint 
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. A.E. Garrison
Flint, Michigan, was a booming city after the birth of General Motors. Citizens worked for the Company, and in turn, the Company provided a stable economy and a promising future. Education in the city taught children how to become workers, who eventually would join the workforce and continue the cycle. Homes were located just across the street from the plants, schools were nestled into the neighborhoods, wages were good, unions were strong. Flint was a place where the American Dream could be achieved. That was before General Motors decided to close most of the plants in the city. Today, Flint is a place filled with ghosts and forgotten people. In this paper, I will be exploring the history of this Lost City, specifically its history of racial containment, its relationship with General Motors, and the ability over time for residents to truly achieve the American Dream. This history will be used as a base from which I will discuss current events in Flint, such as the Flint Water Crisis, and the purpose of education in a city that no longer needs workers. 

Anna Shapland
Anna Shapland - 
Young Adult Literature: An Application of Genre Theory
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Anne Hiebert Alton
Most critics would argue that the genre of young adult literature (YAL) began in the 1950s. However, by identifying the elements of YAL, it becomes clear that this relatively new category of literature for this age group can apply to earlier works. The concept of identifying classic works of literature from before the 1950s as YAL has been absent from the debate over the genre’s merit, and it can be argued that valuable coming-of-age elements and discussions of social constructs are typical of works of YAL. By using genre theory, this essay aims to examine the significance of considering certain “classic” works of literature as YAL and discuss the implications that this argument has for the genre, its readers, and the concept of young adulthood.