Student Research Fellows
Summer 2013

(in order of presentation program)

 

Spencer Crittendon(Biotechnology)

Faculty mentor: Mark Thomson, Arts & Sciences, Physical Sciences

Project: Analysis of Yeast Available Nitrogen and its Effect on Wine Fermentation

In today’s quickly expanding industry of craft brewing and winemaking, the necessity for quality is an important factor in the techniques used by brewers and winemakers. A growing concern for winemakers, especially, is the level of yeast available nitrogen (YAN) before starting fermentation. Varying YAN levels can affect the flavors, aromas, and rate of fermentation of a wine. The response time and precision of these values can affect the final outcome of a wine. Currently, the only option to obtain YAN levels is to mail a sample to a lab out of state for testing. Often, results aren’t returned to the winemaker in time to adjust YAN levels before starting fermentation. The goal of this project is to provide accurate YAN level testing with more immediate results for the winemaker.

 

Tyler Felty(Psychology)

Faculty mentor: Rachel Foulk, Arts & Sciences, Humanities   

Project: Menerva in Etruscan Art: Warrior-hood, Motherhood, and the Role of Women in Ancient Tuscany

This project explores how the Etruscans conceptualized the warrior goddess Menerva and how they represented her in art. I argue that images of Menerva communicate that the Etruscans valued women greatly. While similar to Athena, the Greek goddess of warfare, the Etruscan Menerva is a more nuanced figure. She is both a warrior and a mother. This dual role reflects the relatively high status that women enjoyed in Etruscan society. Analyzing over one hundred works of art, I have established a typology that categorizes Menerva’s varied iconography. This research focuses on engraved bronze mirrors, which were used daily by the Etruscans and were likewise buried in their tombs. Menerva appears aggressive when she brandishes her spear or when she guards heroes. At the same time, Menerva demonstrates motherly qualities when she holds the hands of infants or watches over lovers. These varied myths show that Menerva could serve as a model to both Etruscan women and men, embodying masculine and feminine characteristics. A strong female figure, Menerva remains a symbol of empowerment in modern contexts.

 

Scott Kollmeyer(Pharm D.)

Faculty mentors: Stephen Lee and Kim Hanckock, Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences

Project: Determination of Estriol Concentration in Various Non-Pharmaceutical Preparations of Topical Estrogen Cream

Most estrogen-containing products are strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must be prescribed by a physician. However, consumers can obtain estriol-containing creams through commercial outlets, and these creams are often advertised with drug-like properties even though the FDA does not regulate them. Whether these commercial creams indeed contain the advertised quantity of estriol is unknown. This project aimed at determining the amount of estriol found in these non-pharmaceutical, commercial cream preparations. The estriol-containing creams were obtained from commercial sources for analysis. Estriol was separated from the other components of the commercial cream through a published and authoritative extraction method optimized for other estrogen containing creams. Quantitation of the extracted estriol was performed using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), a common and standard technology for such analysis.   Preliminary results indicated that these commercial creams do appear to contain some estriol. Current efforts include the further optimizing of the extraction methodology and potential sampling of additional creams from different manufacturers.  

          

Shaughna Langerak(Biotechnology / Environmental Bio)

Faculty mentor: Changqui Zhu, Arts & Sciences, Biological Sciences

Project: Dosage effect ofTGF-β signaling on aging regulation in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster)

Aging is a naturally occurring body changing process that every species has to face, including humans. How does aging take place? What factors could lead to accelerated or delayed aging process? To answer these questions, we specifically tested the potential function of Dpp/Gbb signaling components from the TGF-β family (Transforming Growth Factor- β) on aging and lifespan regulation in fruit flies, using a genetic approach this summer. Our data shows that heterozygous fruit flies carrying a mutated allele for individual signaling components of Dpp/Gbb signaling pathway displayed delayed aging process and prolonged lifespan when they were compared to near-isogenic controls. This data suggests that Dpp/Gbb signaling may have a dosage effect on aging regulation. Higher dose of Dpp/Gbb signaling causes accelerated aging and shorter lifespan while lower dose of the signaling delays the aging process and leads to longer lifespan.

 

Catherine Plischke(Pre-Med / Forensic Biology)

Faculty mentor: (Mary) Beth Zimmer, Arts & Sciences, Biological Sciences

Project: The effect of spinal cord injury on learning and memory

Spinal cord injury causes severe, lasting impairments in motor and sensory function below the site of injury. A recent study showed that spinal cord injury also causes damage to sites above the injury including regions involved with learning and memory. We hypothesized that a spinal cord injury will decrease the rat’s ability to learn and remember. We performed a C2 hemisection spinal cord surgery (n=7) and a sham surgery (n=7) on male rats. The rats recovered for 2-4 weeks. We conducted Morris Rat Water Maze time trial experiments to measure spatial learning and memory. This involved a large pool that rats would swim in trying to find a platform. There were four trials per day for six days. Once the trials were completed, the rats were euthanized and their brain and spinal cords dissected. Data showed that spinal cord injured rats took longer to find the platform and swam further than sham rats. We conclude that spinal cord injury causes disturbances in the rat’s ability to learn and remember. Future studies will examine the neural mechanisms underlying the impaired memory function.


Nathan Richmond(Tech and Professional Communication)

Faculty mentor: Paul Zube, Arts & Sciences, Humanities        

Project: Assessments of Content Quality: Comparing Typed and Voice-to-Text Technologies

Speech-to-text (StT) software has existed for several decades, but recent improvements have driven adoption rates of this interface. This research contributes to the understanding of potential cognition differences induced by producing and consuming content using a traditional keyboard interface or StT interface.   First, a journal was kept during the 8 week study period by the author chronicling thoughts and perceptions of the StT writing process. Second, user-generated comments were collected for analysis of audience perceptions of writing changes. Finally, audience members were surveyed (n=28) regarding their perceptions of writing quality during the study period and were asked to make direct comparisons of typed and StT generated content excerpts. Analysis indicated that the author was cognizant of the differences between type and StT in terms of both technological barriers as well as perceived cognitive process variations. Audiences also noticed a difference, but only when making direct comparisons between typed and StT content. Survey and comment analysis indicated that when simply consuming content, audience members were not sensitive to the mode of content generation. These findings open new avenues of inquiry concerning the affect interfaces have on cognition for content generation, as well as audience assessment of quality.


Melanie Ronquillo(Graphic Design)

Faculty mentor: Peter Zakrzewski, Business, Graphic Design

Project: Empathy in Design Research

The project investigates Empathic Design, an immersive approach to researching user needs, in order to find out whether such approach leads to improved user experience and higher rates of adoption of revolutionary social and technological innovations. By examining Empathic Design’s key practitioners and projects, we have discovered that themethodology affects three key outcomes of innovation: human impact on quality of life; social impact that influences cultural practices; and a strong business impact based on understanding and meeting latent user needs. Empathic methods applied to the front end of design projects inform the whole design process by allowing designers to look deeply into users’ behaviors,expectations and mental models. This helps uncover issues that may typically be overlooked by design teams working without the user insight. It also helps designers uncover new and unexpected solutions by avoiding designer-centered assumptions and looking at a situation from the perspective of the user. The research for this project is being written into articles that make up a blog ( www.empathicdisruption.com),which is intended for design students, practitioners and other scholars.

 

Daniel Tiesman(Pharm D)

Faculty mentor: Kim Hancock, Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences

Project: Develop a Bariatric In Vitro Dissolution Method

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is a commonly used surgical procedure in the treatment of obesity. Patients having undergone this bariatric surgery have an altered gastrointestinal (GI) tract physiology. The GI changes that occur include a large increase in stomach pH, from about 1.2 to 6.8, and a reduction in stomach volume from about 240 mL to 30 mL. Collectively, these changes may alter the dissolution of drug compounds within the stomach, and limit the action of the drugs. The goal of this project was to develop an in vitro method to test for drug dissolution under simulated bariatric conditions, in order to screen for drugs with potential dissolution issues in bariatric patients. A method to test for drug dissolution was developed using Ketoconazole, given its established pH-dependant dissolution properties. A UV-spectrophotometry assay was developed for the analysis of drug dissolution. Venlafaxine was then tested to establish the applicability of the system to other drug compounds. The data show that the dissolution method developed here favorably simulates the normal and bariatric stomach conditions, and may be used as a screening tool for the dissolution of other drugs under bariatric conditions.

 

Ashley Wachowicz(Biology)

Project: Effects of IWR on Melanocytes After NCP Treatment

Faculty mentor: James Hoerter, Arts & Sciences, Biology

Melanoma, the leading cause of death from skin disease, is thought to develop from damage accumulated in the melanocyte stem cells. There is also a well-established connection between solar radiation and melanoma, although the exact mechanism has yet to be discovered. Zebrafish are an excellent model organism for studying these connections. In addition to having the ability to regenerate melanocytes, about 80 percent of zebrafish genes are similar to those of humans. The goal of this experiment was to determine if a chemical (IWR), known to block progression of stem cells into differentiated cells, could be used to increase the time an activated melanocyte stem cell can be exposed to solar radiation. First, neocuproine (NCP) was used to destroy adult melanocytes, therefore activating melanocyte stem cells. IWR was then added to determine if it could hold the activated stem cells and prevent them from differentiating into adult melanocytes. My preliminary data shows that IWR can be used to accomplish this objective. This conclusion opens up opportunities to observe how solar radiation can damage melanocyte stem cells over an extended period of time.


Lauren Clements(Biotechnology)

Faculty mentor: James Hoerter, Arts & Sciences, Biology       

Project:   Autofluorescent Melanocyte Damage Probe Test

Scientists have recently been developing techniques to help diagnosis the early forms of human melanoma before it develops and spreads. One technique that may hold promise is based on the different fluorescent patterns emitted by the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in human skin after they have been excited by various wavelengths of light. Such a test would prove an invaluable tool to predict the likelihood of melanoma without having to wait months or years for it to develop, especially if the technique can be applied to a model organism in a research setting. Zebrafish are used to study melanoma because of the similarities in the genes of their melanocytes and those of human melanocytes. Some of their melanocytes, called autofluorescent melanocytes, fluoresce under normal conditions. We wanted to determine if treatment with ultraviolet A (UVA) light or ultraviolet B (UVB) light (both of which are linked to melanoma) would increase the number of melanocytes that fluoresce.   In this study, the changes in the quantities of autofluorescent melanocytes under normal conditions and after treatment with either UVA or UVB light have been determined. This data will serve as a basis on which more experiments can be performed to determine if indeed autofluorescent melanocytes can be used as an early indicator that melanocytes have been damaged and will eventually participate in the formation of melanoma.

 

Trevor Fosso(Optometry)

Faculty mentor: Amy Dinardo, Optometry

Project: Investigation of the common factors that contribute to multifocal contact lens success

This research project was designed to determine the commonalities amongst successful multifocal contact lens patients in an attempt to increase the success rate of patients who are interested in wearing these lenses. Surveys analyzed contact lens use, quality of life, and the individual personality of the patient. A clinical examination of the patient included various methods of visual acuity assessment, wavefront aberrometry, topography, pupil size, refraction, and a contact lens and corneal health assessment. It was found that our patient population wore their lenses successfully despite high near vision demands, significant visual aberrations, and highly conscientious personalities. Patients who are successful in multifocal contact lenses are highly motivated with little concerns about initial and ongoing costs, medical complications, discomfort, or complications associated with caring and maintenance of the lenses. The ability of the lenses to meet the patients’ visual demands was highly correlated with an increased quality of life. Additionally, success with multifocal contact lenses was not necessarily related to wear time. When fitting a patient who is a candidate for multifocal contact lenses, it is important that the eye care practitioner fully consider visual demands and patient motivation as well as successfully address cost, contact lens maintenance, and comfort and eye health concerns.