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Student Research Fellows 2016

Paige Kramer, Biology Major, Pre-Med
Faculty Mentor: Christopher DeFraia, Arts & Sciences, Biological Sciences
An Arabidopsis Mutant with Drought Hypersensitivity

Water insecurity is a growing problem across the world. Drought stunts the growth and development of plants and reduces agricultural yield. Arabidopsis thaliana is a model organism that can be used to identify genes involved in drought responses. A screen of ~4000 mutated plant lines produced ~30 independent mutants with various defects in shoot development. One of the mutants had slightly elongated and serrated leaves. This mutant was also hypersensitive to drought, yet displayed normal Abscisic Acid (ABA) sensitivity and stomatal function. Future work will focus on identifying the mutated gene, and how this gene confers drought resistance. The development of plants with increased drought resistance can reduce crop loss and increase food security.

Danielle Winkler, Public Health Major
Faculty Mentor: Emmanuel Jadhav, Health Professions, Public Health
Characterization of Vaccination Trends in Young Adults

High vaccination rates are essential for maintaining herd immunity. Due to their importance, vaccinations are required to attend school; however, waivers are available. In young adults, who contribute to the next generation of herd immunity, the vaccination rates are declining, which is of concern. This study aims to (1) characterize the association between a young adult's pre-existing waiver and current vaccination status and (2) appraise the relationship between socioeconomic characteristics. To characterize individual characteristics by waiver status a Chi-square test of association was conducted and the Pearson Correlation Coefficient test was used to identify correlations between socioeconomic characteristics. Results show that there are statistically significant associations between vaccination waiver status and individual current vaccination status, the belief that vaccines cause autism, and beliefs about vaccine-preventable diseases. Significant co-relationships between counties by their poverty rate, primary care provider ratio and percent of the uninsured population are observed. Findings from the study suggest that individuals with waivers may likely remain unvaccinated, having doubts about its safety and ability to prevent diseases. This implies that young adult vaccination programs may be able to vaccinate a larger population by using a focused approach to individuals with preexisting waivers, in conjunction with the existing mass vaccination program strategy.

Nicholas Homant, Public Health Major
Faculty Mentor: Emmanuel Jadhav, Health Professions, Public Health
Leading change: Characterizing leader openness to change

Introduction: A characteristic of innovative strategy is leader openness to change. Leader demographical research in for-profit organizations has yielded valuable insight into leader openness to change. For LHD leaders the nature of the association between leader demographic and organizational characteristics on leader openness to change is unknown. This study examined the association between leader openness to change scores and the drive for accreditation, as well as the characteristics of leaders and their ACQ score. Methods: This study utilized previously collected data from health departments in the state of Kentucky. Population estimates were obtained from the census bureau, with revenue and expenditure data provided by the departments. Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney and Kruskal Wallis non-parametric tests were used to find variation in ACQ scores. Results: Higher ACQ scores appeared to be associated with higher education and those who applied for PHAB accreditation. It was also found that leaders who had experience demonstrated more openness to change. Likewise, more revenue from a health department related to higher openness to change. Conclusions: Public health training programs would benefit from demonstrating to their employees that leadership is a function of interaction between social situations and demographic characteristics.

Grace Stevenson, Environmental Biology Major
Faculty Mentor: Anne Spain, Arts & Sciences, Biological Sciences
Factors that Affect the Unique Surface Growth Pattern of Paenibacillus Isolates (strains A1 and A3)

Isolates A1 and A3, which belong to the genus Paenibacillus, were isolated from soil adjacent to the Muskegon River in May 2012. Species within the genus Paenibacillus are known for their unique swarming patterns. Isolates A1 and A3 are potentially a novel species of Paenibacillus that display a pattern described as “scattering”. In this surface growth pattern, bacteria (when inoculated in the center of an agar petri dish) scatter across the surface to form separate colonies rather than spreading continuously over the plate. While previous research in our lab has investigated physical (e.g. temperature, pH, % agar) and nutritional factors that affect these isolates’ surface growth pattern, the research presented here focuses primarily on the effect of other microbial species on A1’s surface growth pattern and rate of surface growth movement. Over a series of three trials, isolate A1 was plated next to various test organisms on Mueller Hinton Agar, which has (through previous research) shown to inhibit the surface movement our A1 and A3. While some results indicate certain test organisms inhibited the surface movement of A1, none of the test organisms consistently increased rates of scattering. Over the course of these experiments, it was observed that A1’s rate of movement on Mueller-Hinton agar had increased, and A1 is no longer stagnant. While no explanation was found for this, nutritional factors that affect surface growth movement and pattern of A1 need to be precisely defined in order to develop media types that promote stagnant and scattering growth patterns. This will be necessary to accurately examine which test organisms promote and/or inhibit rates of surface growth movement. In its natural, soil environment, Paenibacillus does not grow in isolation, but rather, it grows along with other microbes in a diverse community. Its rate of surface growth movement and pattern will ultimately be affected by the presence of other soil microbes. Understanding how other microbial species affect these isolates will help us understand their ecological impact.

Matthew Murphy, Pharmacy Major
Faculty Mentor: Mark Young, Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences
A Comparison of Selected Closed System Transfer Devices

Purpose: To compare the efficacy of multiple drug transfer devices in containing hazardous medication. Methods: B. Braum Chemo Pin, PhaSeal, Equashield, and standard needle and syringe products were each tested five times by performing standardized manipulations in a negative pressure hood. The hoods were swabbed after each test and the swabs were placed into a buffer solution. The analyte was then concentrated through solid-phase Extraction with a 60 fold concentration. This concentrated solution was then analyzed by a high-performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry device. Results: Standard needle and syringe had the largest levels of recorded contamination with about 1500 mcg of 5-FU/ml being recoded. Next highest was the Chemo Pin with 845 mcg 5-FU/ml. At much lower contamination levels Equashield recorded an average of 1.3 and PhaSeal with 1.02 mcg of 5-FU/ml. Conclusion: Although it does not fully qualify as a closed system drug transfer device Chemo Pin helped to reduce contamination levels but not close to the levels that PhaSeal and Equashield were able to attain. More data would need to be collected to determine whether PhaSeal or Equashield was a more effective closed system drug transfer device.

Andrew Saul, Pharmacy Major
Faculty Mentor: Tracey Boncher, Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Solid Phase Synthesis of Antidepressive PPAR Receptor Agonists

In America, depression is a crippling disease that over 15 million people will suffer from every year.  The need for innovative therapies beyond what is currently on the market is immense.  The lead compound for Dr. Boncher’s research team, compound 9, has shown to have significant anti-depressive (AD) effects when compared to Prozac (fluoxetine).  Compound 9 is known to work through the PPAR delta/gamma pathway, as opposed to affecting the reuptake of serotonin in the brain like fluoxetine.  Because of this, we believe similar anti-depressant properties can be achieved without the same side effect profile associated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine.  Our research this summer has produced six compounds that will be tested for AD effects using a forced swim test (FST).  The results of this test will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Monica Pavlack, Biotechnology Major
Faculty Mentor: Sean McCormick, Arts & Sciences, Physical Sciences
The Assessment of Waterborne Pathogens in Mecosta County Recreational Waters using RT-PCR

In a given year, there is approximately 1.5 million deaths due to waterborne pathogen illnesses, mostly in young children. In a two part study, real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to detect and quantify the relative amounts of 5 common waterborne pathogens and 1 fecal contamination indicator.  In part I, the RT-PCR method for pathogens was developed and validated using standardized cell stocks for E. coli to determine the quantitative precision and accuracy of the method.  The EC23S287 sequence in E. coli has published genomic copy number of 7.00, and using the method developed the calibrator stocks determined a copy number of 8.08 which is within the EPA validation parameters. Blanks and no template controls were also successfully analyzed.  In part II, water samples were collected along with GPS information at various locations along the Muskegon River between Paris and Rogers Dam and lakes surrounding Big Rapids using the bottle sampling technique. Using the methods validated in Part I samples were analyzed for E. coli, Enterococcus, Shigella, Pseudomonas, Cryptosporidium and the fecal contamination indicator using bacterosides.  E. coli concentrations were analyzed for absolute concentrations all other organisms were discussed in relative terms due to pathogenic handling issues. Future efforts are underway to integrate the quantitative pathogen data with the GPS coordinates in order to examine point source information about contamination.

Tiffany Newman, Biotechnology & Forensic Science Major
Faculty Mentor: Sean McCormick, Arts & Sciences, Physical Sciences
The Assessment of Volatile Organic Compounds in Mecosta County Recreational Waters using GCMS

A study was performed in order to detect the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in Mecosta County recreational water sources. VOC’s are low molecular mass compounds (<500Da), many of which have been found to be carcinogenic or otherwise detrimental to health, and therefore it is important to monitor their presence in the environment to ensure that they do not exceed the acceptable limits as determined by the EPA.   Mecosta and surrounding counties have experienced an increase in activities associated with VOC contamination such as fracking and waste water treatment. In this study, water samples were collected for analysis from nine Mecosta County recreational sources including the Muskegon River, Mitchell Creek, Chippewa Lake, Townline Lake, Canadian Lakes, Jehnson Lake, Clear Lake, and two local ponds.  A total of 123 samples were extracted using C18 solid phase cartridges and the extracted samples were then analyzed using GCMS. Concentrations of analytes were determined using standard curves prepared from commercial standards. Of the 51 analytes examined, 21 compounds were detected in at least one recreational water source. These compounds include Benzene, Bromodichloromethane, m-Butylbenzene, sec-Butylbenzene, Chloroform, Chloromethane, Chlorotoluene, 1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane, 1,2-Dibromoethane, 1,3-Dichlorobenzene, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, 1,1-Dichloroethane, 1,2-Dichloroethane, 1,1-Dichloroethene, p-Isopropyltoluene, Naphthalene, Toluene, 1,2,3-Trichloropropane, 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene, 1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene, and Xylene. The results of this study will be used by future student researchers to monitor changes in contamination over time.

Abigail DeMaet, Chemistry Major
Faculty Mentor: Daniel Adsmond, Arts & Sciences, Physical Sciences
Investigation of potential conformers for sulfa drug cocrystal formation

Cocrystallization is a way of changing the physical properties of a material by incorporating another chemical compound, a coformer, into its crystal.  Cocrystallization holds great significance in the design of new organic materials and in the modification of drug properties such as shelf life and solubility in the bloodstream. Sulfa drugs, which are known for their antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties, have been previously cocrystallized with carboxylic acids which are known for their hydrogen-bond donating abilities. Because only two of eleven sulfa drugs tested were able to consistently form cocrystals with carboxylic acids, we sought to find a more effective set of coformers. Here we take advantage of the hydrogen-bond donating ability of the sulfonamide hydrogen, selecting coformers that are good hydrogen-bond acceptors. In this study 200 cocrystallization experiments were carried out using eleven sulfa drugs and nine different coformers in search of a compound that would cocrystallize with a wide range of sulfa drugs.

Parker Sperstad, Biochemistry Major
Faculty Mentor: Daniel Adsmond, Arts & Sciences, Physical Sciences
The design and synthesis of ternary cocrystals using carboxyphenols

Cocrystals, which contain two or more different compounds in a single crystal, can be used to make new materials and to change the properties of pharmaceuticals. The goal of this project was to design and synthesize a new ternary cocrystal using a carboxyphenol and two different hydrogen-bond accepting compounds. After running many experiments using a range of compounds under a variety of experimental conditions, multiple cocrystals were synthesized. These cocrystals were analyzed using proton nuclear magnetic resonance to determine the identity and ratio of the components and by infrared spectroscopy to identify a change in hydrogen bonding which was indicated by a shift in peak position. In all, 14 new binary cocrystals and 1 new ternary cocrystal were synthesized.