Abstracts

The following list includes the abstracts submitted by undergraduates participating in MAURC 2019. Alphabetized by first name of the presenter.

Aashka Patel

Exploring the Serotonergic Regulation of Adult Neurogenesis in the Dentate Gyrus

Adult neurogenesis is the process through which adult neural stem cells (ANSCs) produce new neurons in the adult brain. The number of neurons generated from neurogenesis can affect learning, memory, mood, and can become dysregulated in mental illness. The neurogenesis hypothesis of depression states that decreased neurogenesis increases an individual’s vulnerability to depression, whereas increased neurogenesis contributes to resiliency. Therefore, understanding the regulation of neurogenesis is important in investigating the foundations of cognitive functions and mental illnesses. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin modulate neurogenesis; however, it is unclear exactly how serotonin regulates developmental stages of neurogenesis. We believe that the 5HT1a receptor (5ht1ar) is integral to serotonergic regulation of neurogenesis and hypothesize that administration of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) will increase rates of neurogenesis in a wild type model, but not in a conditional knockout model. Using in situ hybridization and gene trap reporter mice, we

confirmed the presence of 5htr1a in ANSCs. In our pilot experiment, we administered fluoxetine (a common SSRI) to a cohort of male and female mice over a period of 2 weeks and observed an increase in stem cell proliferation. We then took a functional genetic approach to conditionally delete Htr1a (the gene encoding 5ht1ar) using CreER drivers specifically in ANSCs and then used immunohistochemistry to determine how stem cells react to loss of Htr1a. This experiment showed a phenotypic difference in morphology and developmental stage of stem cell progenitors between wild-type and conditional knockout mice. The presence of the 5htr1a receptor shows a differential response in ANSCs to varying serotonin levels. Further knowledge on how serotonin and the 1a receptor modulate adult neurogenesis can help us have a better understanding of diseases, especially depression, that arise from serotonin deficiency

Adam Brock

Engineering graphene-based membranes for electromechanical sensor

To make the electromechanical transducer a viable choice for energy conversion and sensitive signal detection, it is necessary to identify a superior material for further optimization of the driving diaphragm. The diaphragm must be stiff to inhibit flexing, strong so as not to tear, non-resonant to maintain constant wideband frequency response, large in diameter to exhibit significant displacement, and possess a low mass of inertia for quick response. This must all be accomplished with a material that is stable, electrically conductive, and easily manipulated for diverse sensing configurations. These prerequisites make graphene-based materials a very promising substance for transducer diaphragms. Contribution: Employing the knowledge of graphene oxide (GO) properties, fabrication of graphene-based nanostructures, engineering design, advanced manufacturing and computer-controlled measurements, we investigated the potential to implement graphene nanocomposites in the design of a transducer diaphragm for the sake of creating electromechanical sensors that are more appropriate for modern applications in engineering and acoustical sensing. We practiced and optimized a few fabrication methods for custom-made graphene diaphragms as well as an enhanced testing device to evaluate their static and dynamic frequency response utilizing a photonic sensor (MTI-2100, MTI Instruments, NY) for a precise (better than 10 nm) measurement of displacement. Conclusion: Thus far, we have achieved an early-stage, yet robust process for engineering custom-built, homemade graphene membranes via hydrothermal reduction, as well as created a mechanical testing apparatus for measuring the membrane’s displacement-frequency response under a desired static or dynamic load. Now, it is possible to investigate the optimal conditions of our fabricated membranes as well as potential processing procedures that may augment a membrane’s characteristic response.

Agota Banks

Incentives in the Service Industry: Impact of Positive Consequences Using Extrinsic Motivators on Behavior

The behavioral impact of an extrinsic incentive/reward gratuity was evaluated systematically at various restaurants in a college town in southwest Virginia. Diners ate at a local restaurant under two conditions: Baseline (normal dining conditions) measuring intrinsic motivation, and Incentive (a 6” x 9” sign was placed on the table with the message, “Your Tip So Far”) measuring extrinsic motivation. One quarter was placed at the base of the sign, and quarters were added intermittently following positive server behavior and removed following negative server behavior. When asked about the sign, a diner replied, “Our gratuity with your service will be based on behavior; whenever we are pleased with your service behavior, we will add a quarter to the pile. However, if we are displeased, we will remove a quarter.” In both conditions, the diners used the same behavioral checklist to independently record designated service-related behavior, including the frequency of table visits to provide service and/or initiate polite conversation. Diners are encouraged to only remove quarters if absolutely necessary. At the end of the meal, each diner rated independently the overall quality of the service based on the total tip accumulated; and for the incentive condition, the server who delivered the final bill to the table was asked, “How did the sign make you feel and did it impact your performance?” Each diner recorded the response to this question on the checklist. 20 checklists per the two conditions will be completed and analyzed before the March conference.

Alexander Caughman

Fabrication of Cell Encapsulated Collagen Microparticles Using 3D Printed Molds

Islet transplantation has been shown to be a viable option for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. One strategy for implanting islets is to encapsulate them in microparticles prior to implantation. Encapsulation with ECM components such as type I collagen provides a scaffold on which the islets can grow and is an effective method to control cell distribution in a three dimensional environment. Collagen microparticles can be fabricated using a variety of methods; however, existing fabrication techniques either require special equipment and materials, or are time consuming. 3D printing micromolds provides a unique means to overcome these existing challenges by providing a fast, simple, and scalable method to produce highly customizable particle geometries for anyone with access to a 3D printer. We found that printing orientation had a large effect on mold quality, and utilizing a horizontal orientation with the face containing the wells parallel to the ground yielded uniform well size and shape, allowing for more uniform particles. The versatility of this fabrication technique was displayed when we successfully made 1000 µm, 750 µm, and 500 µm cylindrical particles as well as particles of more complex geometries such as stars, triangles, and cubes. Ins-1 cells, insulin secreting β-cells, encapsulated in collagen microparticles exhibited both high day 1 and day 7 viability and caused particle contraction. Particles without cells exhibited no size changes while particles with cells experienced between a 22% and 29% reduction in length and diameter after 7 days. Particle contraction eases the limitations of lower resolution printers because it allows the production of particles significantly smaller than the original molds. Future studies can look to incorporate proteins found in basement membrane of the pancreas, such as type IV collagen and laminin, into collagen microparticles to improve long term viability of encapsulated islets to make transplantation more feasible.

Alexandra Russel

Size Distribution of Rare Earth Elements in Fine Coal Byproducts

Alicia Crewey

Toward improving a neural network citation parser with large scale synthesized bibliography data

In this project, we aim at developing a bibliography parser that outperforms the state-of-the-art. Most of these unsourced papers are stored in PDF format. The new parser is built based on a recurrent neural network model called bidirectional long-short-term-memory (BLSTM). The key to the success is to synthesize a large corpus of citation strings using 5000+ citation styles, such as APA, IEEE, ACM, and MLA. We have transferred bibliographical records obtained from the ACM Digital Library, into BibTeX files, which will be used to synthesize citation strings that will further be used as training data. We have written Python scripts to transfer the data retrieved and stored in XML files to a MySQL database, then use the information stored in the database to generate BibTeX files. The database we built includes over 1 million conference proceedings and over 700,000 periodicals in ACM DL.

Allison Burgess

Analysis of Drinking Water Quality in Buildings at the University of Mary Washington

Today, less than 1% of the Earth’s water is freshwater available for drinking. This percent is expected to decrease over the next decades due to climate change, a decrease in hotspot biodiversity and heightened natural disasters. This makes it important to protect and maintain safe drinking water quality. This project analyzed drinking water from buildings on the campus of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, for pH, chlorine, and various metals including: aluminum, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, nickel, selenium, vanadium, and zinc. Water was collected from bathroom sinks from each building on campus using the EPA Quick Guide to Drinking Water Sample Collection by running the water for two minutes, rinsing bottles three times, and filling them. Samples were tested on-site for free available chlorine and total residual chlorine using EPA Approved test kits. Then, the pH of all the samples were recorded before being stored in a fridge at 4°C. The samples were then analyzed for metals using inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). Results show that pH ranged from 6.26 to 7.80, with a distinct decrease in pH occurring in all samples collected after November 18th; free available chlorine ranged from 0.1ppm to 2.0ppm; and total residual chlorine ranged from 0.8ppm to 3.0ppm. The EPA recommends pH to be between 6.5 to 8.5, total residual chlorine to be less than 4 ppm, arsenic to be less than 0.01 ppm, cadmium to be less than 0.005 ppm, and Lead to be at 0 ppm. The source of the water is the same for all campus buildings, and as a result the city of Fredericksburg gets its water from the Rappahannock River through Spotsylvania County Utilities so these variations might be a result of campus infrastructure. Possible trends and correlations will be determined with SPSS statistical analysis.

Andrew Savoia

Sulfasalazine as a Treatment for Acquired Epilepsy

Epilepsy affects approximately 50 million people worldwide and approximately 1-in-26 people will develop epilepsy within their lifetime. Current therapeutics, targeting neuronal networks, are not effective in 1-in-3 epileptics. A recent study from our lab revealed that glutamate release by primary brain tumors induce epilepsy in mice implanted with human glioma cells2. System xc (xCT), a glutamate/cystine antiporter, was identified as a major contributor to elevated glutamate levels, resulting in tumor associated epilepsy. Additionally, inhibition of xCT, via sulfasalazine (SAS), an FDA approved drug was shown to decrease glutamatergic hyperexcitability and decrease seizure burden. The effects of SAS on seizure activity have not been studied in other forms of acquired epilepsy. Several mechanisms such as neuronal death, inflammation and gliosis have been suggested to play a role in acquired epileptogenesis, however, no clear consensus has been reached. Previous studies, in Alzheimer and ALS disease models, have shown that activated microglial cells express increased xCT with a corresponding increase in extracellular glutamate3. This project aims to elucidate the role of xCT in acquired epileptogenesis and test whether SAS can be used as a broad acting anti-epileptic drug (AED). We hypothesize that xCT contributes to the pathogenesis of acquired epilepsy and that inhibition of xCT, via SAS, will decrease seizure activity in animal models of acquired epilepsy. To this end, we used the kainic acid (KA) mouse model of human temporal lobe epilepsy and the beta-1 integrin knockout (β1(-/-)) mouse model of acquired epilepsy to determine the anti-epileptic effects of SAS. Our preliminary results suggest that treatment with SAS reduces the seizure burden in β1(-/-) mice and decreases xCT translation in the KA model.

Angelos Angelopoulos

Visualization of Molecular Structures with Augmented Reality Goggles for STEM Education

Augmented Reality (AR) is an emerging visualization technology that has potential applications in many fields such as education, healthcare, and communication. We have created an augmented reality molecular visualization tool that allows the viewing of molecules, such as proteins, with the Dreamworld AR glasses. Molecules are displayed in a virtual environment in which the user can look around and move while wearing the AR glasses. There are three types of virtual environments: single-molecule environments (only one molecule displayed), custom environments (contain multiple molecules, user-defined) and premade environments (contain multiple molecules, created by the developers). We have implemented rotation of molecules and 6 DOF camera movement for navigation. A molecule is represented using the COLLADA ISO-standardized 3D interchange format that is ported from UCSF Chimera, a popular molecular viewer. Molecules are loaded dynamically at runtime by reading the COLLADA file and constructing the described mesh, allowing greater flexibility. Because of the runtime loading capability, users can also create their own virtual environments, with any molecules they want, using a JSON file with a simple schema. The purpose of this project is to make emerging technology accessible for K-12 STEM education, while also enabling educators to create their own tailored experiences via custom environments.

Anna Rader

The Intersection of ALS and FTD: A Computational Cell Model of Pathology

Characterized by the progressive neurodegeneration of the motor system, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) presents no features starkly reminiscent of dementia. However, significant clinical overlap between ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a type of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, has been identified in research, generating further inquiry into the ongoing research into each disease’s respective pathology. While the prevalence of FTD in ALS cases remains speculative, FTD-ALS, or FTD-MND (motor neuron disease), has been recognized as a subtype of ALS and FTD. Several cases of ALS and FTD share a common pattern of TAR DNA binding gene (TDP-43) proteinopathy, and mutations in the fused in sarcoma gene (FUS) have been found in ALS and FTD. In concert with the growing literature on the pathogenesis and progression of ALS, my research involves generating a math-based, research-driven model of FTD-ALS at the molecular level to aid the understanding of the clinical and pathological overlap of these diseases and to test various trigger points and possible treatments.

Annie-Marie Noblitt

Exploring Effects of Phosphorylation in Poltergiest

In a rapidly changing climate, food security and production requires new innovations to keep up with demand from a growing global population. Understanding the mechanisms behind stem cell regulation in plants can open doors to higher crop yield, and production. In working with Arabidopsis thaliana, this lab is looking into the effects of POLTERGIEST in the CLV1 pathway; CLV1 negatively regulates stem cell activity. POLTERGIEST upregulates WUSHCEL in the CLV1 pathway, which in turn allows for the proliferation of stem cells in the shoot meristem. It is thought that POLTERGIEST activity may be regulated by phosphorylation. Studying the effect of pol-6 pll1-1 mutants becomes difficult as the double mutant is seedling lethal indicating its importance in development. In our research, we are probing the function of POLTERGEIST based on changes in states of phosphorylation. We will survey the effects of phospho-memetic versus phospho-mute poltergeist genes and how they contribute to phenotype and plant survival. CLAVATA/POLTERGEIST signaling is highly conserved in planta, and understanding how this pathway regulates stem cells in a model organism may open greater understanding on how to modify crops to increase yield or production.

Annie Eick

How to Involve the Public in Community Policing: Employing Applied Behavioral Science to Improve Civilian-Police Relations

Current news portrays police officer-civilian relationships as uneasy at best. Thus, E. Scott Geller published a book, Actively Caring for People Policing: Building positive police/citizen relations, with Bobby Kipper (a former police officer for 25 years) which describes a program to promote positive police-civilian interactions. In the program, police officers wear blue Actively Caring for People (AC4P) wristbands and give them out to civilians as either feedforward or feedback. Examples of feedforward include the officer helping a civilian in some way and the civilian showing gratitude to the officer. For feedback, the AC4P wristband is passed on when the officer witnesses a civilian doing a kind act. To observe the interactions between civilians and police officers, research assistants participated in ride-alongs with officers at two different police departments in Southwest Virginia. The authors applied behavioral checklists to systematically record occasions when the observed police officer could offer feedforward or feedback. These ride-alongs provided data for 306 interactions between police officers and civilians with 89% being positive, 38% being feedforward, and 62% feedback. This indicates that there are many opportunities for AC4P wristbands to be passed on, which would increase positive perceptions of police officers in the communities sampled in Southwest Virginia.

Ashley Parkhurst

Synthesis, Optimization, and Bioconjugation of Electrochemically Synthesized Magnetic Nanoparticles to Induce Irreversible Damage to Glioblastoma Invasive Rim Cells

In the last ten years, there have been no significant advancements in the treatment of the aggressive brain cancer Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). This research describes an alternative method for the treatment of this cancer. Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles (SPIONs) have been synthesized and optimized for use in targeting and neutralizing invasive rim cells present in mesenchymal glioblastoma multiforme. The average sizes of the synthesized SPIONs are precisely tailored via a time-controlled reaction, making available an optimal particle size (OPS), having a single magnetic domain. At OPS, the SPIONs can release a maximum amount of heat when exposed to an external magnetic field. Using transmission electron microscopy, vibrating sample magnetometry, and thermometric analysis, the OPS was determined to be 20.6 nm +/- 5.9 nm. A heterobifunctional poly(ethylene) glycol polymer crosslinked to a targeting ligand (ITEM4) was added to the surface of the SPION and its presence on the SPION, was confirmed via fluorescence spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy. These SPIONs can now be modified to selectively target and destroy the cellular membranes of GBM cells.

Aubree Marshall

Neutrophil/Lymphocyte Ratio as a Measure of Immune Response in Humans Exposed to Novel Microbiomes

Much research has been done on the long-term adaptive consequences of migration; however, less attention has been focused on short-term health effects of human travel. When traveling, individuals may experience new environments and new microbiomes that impact their health. While this travel might be short-lived, there may be longer-term consequences. What happens to an individual’s immune response when they are introduced to a new environment? How might this impact immigration patterns and spread of disease across native and immigrant populations? This research examined the physiological changes that a group of 16 North Americans in 2017 and 15 individuals in 2018 experienced while traveling in the Peruvian Amazon, as well as 9 individuals in 2019 while traveling to Patagonia, Chile. Specifically we examined weight, body temperature, and neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio. These variables were measured before the expedition, at the end of the expedition, and after their return to the United States. All collected data was analyzed using ANOVA and PCA. Initial results suggest an increase in immune response without any documented illness and potential negative correlations between immune activity and weight loss. This may suggest that the human body will initiate an immune response simply from exposure to a novel microbial environment, not solely in response to illness.

Autumn Peterson

Understanding Cupressaceae evolution: A new anatomically preserved cone from the Paleogene of North America

Cupressaceae is a type of conifer consisting of 130 species within 30 genera and is split into two groups; Basal grade and Cupressaceae sensu strictu (s.s). Each group presents morphologically distinct characters however, morphological evolution is poorly understood due to lack of fossils that reveal differentiating characteristics. Biogeographical reconstruction of Cupressaceae s.s. indicate that Western North America is known for the modernization of these conifers. Modern fossil evidence can benefit clade morphology by providing insight on how it diverges over time. In this study, we characterize a new cupressaceous conifer from the Paleogene (66-23 Ma) of the Olympic Peninsula in North America that exhibits a character mosaic that resembles the basal grade and Cupressaceae s.s. This specimen is based on a seed cone attached to a leafy shoot. The cellulose acetate peeling technique was used to create small serial sections of the fossil. Light microscopy and photo imaging software were used to create pictures that help characterize its systematic relationships using a phylogenetic analysis with maximum parsimony. Results show that the seed has helically arranged leaves with four cone scales and makes up characteristics from Cupressaceae s.s. and the Basal grade. We believe that this specimen is a new genus and species that stems from a member of Cupressaceae s.s. This study will help shed light on the morphological evolution of modern Cupressaceae s.s.

Avital Savin

Immune Evasion by Neisseria gonorrhoeae using human complement regulatory proteins

Baylee Westbury

Optimization of Western Blotting via Gel Cast Mold

Western blotting is a widely used technique for analyzing proteins and their post-translational modifications that is highly sensitive and specific, but is notoriously difficult to multiplex. The microwestern blot was developed as a meso-scale multiplexed western blot, but requires an expensive and difficult to use piezo-electric pipetting apparatus that imposes strict, non-standard sample preparation requirements and can be mechanically unreliable. Here, we 3D printed a gel-casting mold that enables highly multiplexed microwestern blotting without piezo-electric pipetting. The resulting polyacrylamide gel contains 210 sample wells that each hold 1 microliter of sample arranged with 5 rows by 42 columns, and is designed to be loaded by a low-cost, easy to use automated pipetting robot (Opentrons). Proof-of-concept experiments using infrared-fluorescent molecular weight ladder demonstrated proteins loaded in cast microwestern gels were amenable to the standard western blotting steps of gel electrophoresis followed by transfer to a membrane for imaging. Current and future work is optimizing parameters of electrophoresis and transfer, along with application to cell lysate measurements. Because the gel mold is 3D printed, users have significant design freedom for custom layouts, and we expect that the technique could be easily adopted by any typical cell and molecular biology laboratory already doing western blots.

Ben Clark

Quantifying Nucleic Acid Association to Nanoparticles

The goal of this project is to investigate if nanoplastics and gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) will sorb nucleic acid such as DNA. Nanoplastic wastes potentially originate from consumer products that are common to households, such as face washes, body washes, and cosmetic products. These nanoscale plastic particles potentially interact with their surrounding environment as they are discharged to wastewater treatment facilities and ultimately to water bodies. In wastewater treatment facilities, there is potential for the creation of recombinant genetic material to potentially propagate antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We hypothesize that nanoplastic wastes could alter AMR propagation by sorbing and later releasing AMR promoting genetic materials. In this study, negatively charged gold nanoparticles of 13 nm in diameter were used as a model nanomaterial and were synthesized via citrate reduction. In addition, positively charged AuNPs were synthesized in lab to investigate the interaction of surface charge in respect to DNA samples. Both AuNPs and purchased polystyrene nanoparticles (PSNPs, representing nanoplastics) were characterized using UV-Vis spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and dynamic light scattering. Extracted DNA samples were exposed to these nanoparticles, incubated for a fixed period of time, and then the nanoparticles were removed via centrifugation and the DNA that remained in the supernatant was quantified using a Qubit fluorometer. The results from this project will provide a greater understanding on the fate and the adsorption behavior of DNA onto these nanoparticles in the environment.

Benjamin Zook

Modeling Bending of F-actin Using Engineering Beam Theory

Filamentous actin (F-actin) drives cell motility and supports large-scale tissue movements during embryonic morphogenesis. Scientists study these filaments in vivo, in vitro, and through simulations. These computational simulations involving F-actin assume infinite bending stiffness. This implies that the shape of the filaments is rigid even when external forces are applied. Experimentalists, however, have shown that F-actin is often highly bent. Additionally, recent research has supported the hypothesis that if the motors bound to F-actin cause too much bending, then the filament will depolymerize or shorten. Without an accurate model to describe bending and depolymerization, computational simulations will continue to be limited in their representation of F-actin. Here we model the bending of actin filaments using Euler-Bernoulli engineering beam theory in MATLAB. Furthermore, a depolymerization deflection threshold was chosen to further improve the applicability of the modeling tool.

Benjamin Heidebrecht

Analysis and Modification of the Kim-Forger Models Describing the Mammalian Circadian Rhythm

Many organisms spanning every biological kingdom possess endogenous circadian rhythms (CR, ~24 h period), which are used to coordinate a myriad of physiological functions with the day-night cycle. A number of mathematical models have been developed to study the circadian clock pathway, as well as different features of the pathway. In this study, I use bifurcation theory to explore the properties of modified Kim-Forger models of the CR in mammals (Kim and Forger, Molecular Systems Biology, 2012). The original Kim-Forger models contain a simple negative feedback (SNF) loop between a regulatory protein PER and its transcriptional activator (BMAL), optionally supplemented with a second negative feedback loop (NNF) and/or a positive feedback loop (PNF) based on regulated transcription of BMAL by REV-ERB and/or ROR, respectively. In my work, each of these Kim-Forger models was modified with a Michaelis-Menten rate law for the degradation of PER in the nucleus and a multistep reaction chain for the complex (likely multistep) post-translational regulation of PER. These simple modifications significantly increase the robustness of oscillations (i.e., increases the size of the oscillatory domain in parameter space) in all three feedback constructs. Of particular interest is the observation that oscillations in my models persist for values of the binding constant of PER to BMAL that are >1000-fold larger than the required value in the original Kim-Forger models. This change circumvents an unphysical parametric constraint on oscillations in the Kim-Forger models. Additionally, an introduction of realistic reversible binding kinetics between transcription factors and regulatory elements to the model induced unexpected opposite effects of NNF vs. PNF on the robustness of oscillation. The new model will be used in the future to explore the effects on CR of Per-antisense RNA expression and of DNA damage.

Bennet Yunker

Understanding Aspects of Nutrition Influencing Polyphenic Traits: Hedgehog Modification and Nutritional Input in Beetle Horn Growth

Bingham Liu

The Sensors of Autonomous Vehicles and How They Relate to Data Privacy

This project researches the possible privacy implications of the Apollo autonomous vehicles. Recent laws prohibit the usage of the personally identifiable information of any individual without their express permission, which presents problems for the constant data collection essential to an autonomous vehicle. Data is collected through three main sensors: the camera, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), and Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging). The research is conducted by examining the data collected from these three, as well as by examining the source code for the location where data is stored, if at all. The results of the research were found through analyzing the sample data released by Apollo for personally identifiable information and searching through the code for potential data storages.

Bradley Dash

Water Quality of Rivers and Related Applied Mathematical Projects

In this research we present a classical coupled differential equations mathematical model for river pollution. The development of the model is studied starting with a single water quality component C(x, t). Further, the interaction between a pollutant P(x, t) and dissolved oxygen Q(x, t) is shown, modeling the diffusion, advection and the reaction between them.

Steady state solutions of simplified models as well as the general coupled system of differential equations are shown. For the latter, closed form formulas can be obtained for different components: the velocity of the stream, dissolved oxygen levels etc. They are used to compute values that are compared against results obtained by implementing other models. Lastly, changes of the model in the part of the differential equation that is responsible for the reactions between the studied components are implemented and the effect of those changes to the model and the computed results is studied.

Cameron Sammons

Mapping the essential DNA damage repair pathway using modern bioinformatics to contextualize mutant data

The mushroom species Coprinopsis cinerea is a useful model organism for studying the processes of meiosis and DNA damage repair. Proteins interact in order to carry out functions, and a pathway of these interactions can be established and compared among different organisms. This study uses modern-day genomics to answer earlier questions about meiosis through the use of predicted protein interactions. This research began with identifying the C. cinerea predicted gene for Rad53, a protein involved in DNA damage repair and cell cycle arrest, and then branching off to find its functional partners using bioinformatics tools to compare the interactions in C. cinerea with well-characterized genetic model organisms. Originally, 48 high-scoring predictions were narrowed down to those potentially relevant to meiosis and their identities were further established. Along with the Rad53 protein, predictions for cell cycle arrest and DNA damage repair proteins have been characterized and placed within a map

Caroline Nicotra

The Evolution and Expression of the Transformer-2 Gene in Mosquitoes

Knowledge of sex-determination mechanisms in mosquitoes is vital to the future of vector-borne disease control, as only female mosquitoes feed on blood, therefore spread disease. Manipulation of these mechanisms allows for the possibility of eradicating invasive mosquito species, such as Aedes aegypti, or the Zika vector, in Central and South America. Transformer-2 (TRA2) is a gene found ubiquitously across insect species, and it is responsible for the sex-specific splicing of downstream genes. An in-depth bioinformatics analysis was conducted to identify or assemble novel TRA2 sequences across many mosquito species. Based on the identified protein sequences, a molecular phylogeny was created to observe evolutionary relationships between species. A comprehensive RNA-seq analysis was conducted to analyze the differential expression of the duplicated forms of the TRA2 gene (called TRA2 alpha, beta, and gamma) in Aedes aegypti, Anopheles gambiae, and more. Based on the bioinformatics analysis, TRA2 was found to have a single duplication in Anopheles species, while it had two duplications in most Aedes species, creating a potential for free mutation and altered function of the gene. It was found that the alpha form of TRA2 is associated with female development, while the beta form is associated with male development, indicating possible sexual antagonism of the gene. Differential expression was also observed in various tissues and across various developmental stages, which could point to a functional difference between the forms of TRA2.

Casey Kalinowski

Topical Analysis of the Enron Emails

Traversing large, uncategorized or unorganized collections of text is very difficult, even with today’s technology. One way of solving this is to manually tag each item, but this becomes impossible to do with collections that are too large for a human to manually traverse. This paper introduces three different techniques to analyze and topicalize an entire dataset automatically. Two techniques utilized open source Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning tools and the third uses a simple keyword search algorithm and serves as the control for this research. The Enron email corpus serves as the data set that is analyzed and tested for the research. The Enron emails provide adequate variety for testing with its 500,000 emails from over 150 different employees spanning three years. The results of the research are shown through the comparison of the time it takes to topicalize the data and the accuracy of the topicalization by the three topical analysis techniques. To further demonstrate the ability of the techniques, the topically annotated emails are used to create a social network graph connecting Enron employees to each other based on the topics of their email correspondence.

Christine Gatto

Using Matlab To Quantify Extracellular Matrix Fiber Alignment By Migrating Cells

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is the non-cellular part of tissues and organs that is composed of water, proteins, and polysaccharides. The significance of the ECM in regards to this research is that the ECM is a medium for cell migration. One of the most significant roles of the ECM is to serve as a medium for cell migration. Cells move through the ECM by adhering to the various fibers comprising the ECM. Experimentalists have shown that when the cell adheres to these fibers, the fibers move closer together, becoming more aligned. Understanding how cells align ECM fibers could be used to prevent the spread of diseases because if diseased cells cannot move from their location, then the cells cannot spread the disease or infect other cells. It is not clear how a cell’s ability to align fibers will impact its movement through the ECM, however, the hypothesis is that the ability of cells to align fibers in the ECM is related to how fast they are able to move through ECM. Identifying how aligned ECM fibers are currently depends on an analysis which varies from researcher to researcher. The ability to quantifying the degree of alignment of ECM fibers would greatly improve benefit the analysis of experimental studies that perturbing cells moving through the ECM by correlating the alignment of ECM fibers to speed and direction of migrating cells. In order to quantify co-alignment of ECM fibers, we have developed an image analysis algorithm to allow identification of fibers in an experimental image, then define series of line segments so fiber lengths and co-alignment can be determined in order to determine the degree of co-alignment of the fiber.

Clara Frazier

Characterization of the Eastern hellbender proteome

The Eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) is an aquatic salamander native to the streams and rivers of the eastern United States and is regarded as an endangered species. The health of the hellbender is an excellent representation for the robustness of the Appalachian regional environmental systems. The characterization of the hellbender proteome reveals proteins that are instrumental in the hellbenders survival and reproductive success. One such protein is vitellogenin, which is associated with reproducing females. For this study, vitellogenin was characterized using LC-MS analyses of serum collected from wild hellbenders.

Clem Poole

Modulus of toughness vs. Coldwork

Our research examines the effect that a cold work process has on the properties of mild steel. Specifically, our samples were cold rolled to six different degrees ranging from 0% – 15%, this was followed by tensile testing to measure material properties. Our primary objective was to observe the effect of cold rolling on the modulus of toughness in order to determine if the modulus of toughness remained constant.

Materials Engineering textbooks indicate that cold work has the effect of increasing strength while reducing ductility. Since the modulus of toughness is reasonably approximated as the product of strength and ductility it appeared plausible to the researchers that the modulus of toughness remained constant as strength and ductility were “traded off” during a cold work process. To investigate this notion a test was devised in which six samples of 1018 steel were initially annealed and then were treated to different levels of cold work via cold rolling; the levels of cold work were 0%, 3%, 6%, 9%, 12%, and 15%. Each specimen then underwent tensile testing and hardness testing. The modulus of toughness was calculated from the stress/strain curve associated with each specimen.

Our research demonstrated that cold work had the effect of decreasing the modulus of toughness from about 28000 psi in the “as annealed” state to about 5000 psi in the case of 15% cold work. Furthermore, the effect was shown to be well described linear with a rate of decrease of about -1700 psi/% cold work.

Cole Faulkner

Extraction and Identification of Alkaloids in Dieffenbachia seguine

Alkaloids are synthesized by a variety of organisms. Commonly they defend predation, an important role in many plants. We have been interested in whether Dieffenbachia seguine (Araceae) might produce alkaloids in association with calcium oxalate crystals in specific tissues. We developed a method to isolate putative alkaloids from D. seguine, and analyze them by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Thus far, indole and other alkaloids have been identified in the reproductive tissues of the plant.

Colin Dominick

Tail feathers: What are they good for? Interactions between Spinus tristus

Collin Tanchanco Ocampo

Age-dependent effects on the peripheral immune transcriptome following traumatic brain injury

While age-at-injury influences chronic recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI), the varying effects of age on early outcome remain unanswered. Our previous findings demonstrate an age-dependent neuroprotection in the juvenile brain following TBI. Disruption of the blood brain barrier allows peripheral immune cells to infiltrate and elicit inflammatory events. To test whether this protection is due, in part, to the differential response of the immune system we used next generation RNA sequencing analysis of peripheral blood from adult and juvenile mice. We observed 238 genes to be upregulated in juvenile peripheral immune cells while only 14 genes were upregulated in adult cells at 4 days post-cortical contusion impact (CCI) injury compared to sham controls. It was also observed that the injured juvenile immune cells showed increase gene expression related stress, proteolysis, metabolic process, and transport when compared to injured adult cells. Moreover, the juvenile cells showed reduced expression of genes involved in cell migration, cytokine signaling, inflammatory response compared to adult. These findings suggest that TBI induces differential gene response in the peripheral immune compartment that is age-dependent. This could have a significant impact on their migration to and functional response within the brain.

Daniel Wines

Does Thiamethoxam, a Neonicotinoid Pesticide, Induce Antibiotic Resistance in Soil Bacteria

Thiamethoxam (TMX) is a neonicotinoid insecticide widely used in the United States and worldwide as seed coatings for a variety of crops to provide protection for seeds and young plants from insect damage. TMX is absorbed by plants and upon ingestion by insects can, cause overstimulation of neurons in their nervous system leading to paralysis and death. Neonicotinoids including Thiamethoxam have contributed to loss in diversity and population decreases for many species including the honeybee. Due to its close contact with the soil environment due to its seed coating TMX may impact soil microbial function in particular soil bacterial antibiotic resistance. A soil was incubated without and with TMX at 1 and 10 mg/kg for 0, 3, 10, and 30 days at room temperature. At the termination of an incubation experiment, the levels of TMX in the soil was analyzed using a high-performance liquid chromatography-UV detector (HPLC/UV) and soil bacterial resistance to two antibiotics, Chlortetracycline and Sulfadiazine, was tested using BIOLOG ECO microplates. The transformation rate of TMX in the soil will be presented. The impact of TMX on soil bacteria antibiotic resistance will be discussed.

Deanna Keen

Buffer Optimization for Voltammetric Serotonin Measurements in Human Stem Cells

Stem cell derived neurons provide the very exciting first step towards personalized medicine. Over the past decade fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) has been applied to in vivo models to measure serotonin which has greatly advanced our understanding of the neurotransmitter’s role in mood disorders. However, the use of primarily rodent models to address human disease raises issues of translatability. Therefore, for the first time we have employed FSCV for successfully measuring serotonin in stem cell derived serotonergic neurons. Performing in vitro FSCV measurements in induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) requires overcoming the challenge of the cell media environment. We confronted these challenges via a systematic analytical optimization of the cell buffer environment, and report the fouling effects of various matrix components. We determined that the optimal cell analysis buffer was comprised of 2.5 mM glucose, 130 mM NaCl, 5 mM CaCl2, and 30 mM HEPES. In the future, FSCV analysis of serotonin in iPSC-derived serotonergic neurons can be employed in translational studies to measure individualized pharmaceutical effects.

Dillion Cottrill

Spin-Selective Energy Level Modification Via the AC Stark Effect in a Charged Quantum Dot

Applying a strong laser far detuned from the resonance of a charged quantum dot causes an AC Stark Shift of the energy levels, where the magnitude and direction of the shift is dependent on the polarization, detuning, and intensity of the laser. The polarization also determines which spin manifold is shifted with circular polarization shifting only one spin projection. There is also a secondary energy shift, which is very likely caused by dynamic nuclear polarization from electron to nuclei, manifesting itself in the form of the Overhauser effect. In principle, the AC Stark effect in a Voigt geometry magnetic field will allow read out of the spin state of a quantum dot.

Dylan Willard

Skateboards as a Sustainable Recyclable Material

The exact number of skateboards manufactured every year is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the millions. Most skateboard decks are made from a high grade of maple (Acer spp.) veneer plywood and typically last only a few months before they break or deteriorate beyond use. Millions of used skateboard decks are discarded annually, ending up in landfills when, instead, they could be recycled into new products. But beyond artistic or aesthetic purposes, material properties of the used skateboard decks are unknown. The objective of this paper is to investigate the material properties of wooden composite panels created by reengineering the skateboard deck material. These aesthetically pleasing wooden panels may be a sustainable recycled product. This paper presents a method of analyzing material properties and structural aspects of used skateboard deck material. Tests were developed to measure the stiffness and strength in bending, moisture content, specific gravity, moisture durability, and species identification. The results show that this process of reengineering skateboard decks makes for a strong wood product and may be useful to those interested in developing new products from recycled materials.

Elizabeth Terry

The effect of spacer length variation on novel cationic bipyrimidine amphiphile antibacterial activity

Antibiotics play a critical role in efficiently treating various bacterial diseases that commonly affect humans. However, over-administration of drugs and varying adaptive mechanisms of bacterial pathogens contribute to the increase in antibiotic resistance. The rising prevalence of drug resistant pathogens on medical equipment increase patients’ susceptibility to acquiring nosocomial infections that are difficult to treat. Amphiphilic compounds, containing a hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail, have shown to express antimicrobial properties. By better understanding their ability to disrupt bacterial membranes, we hope to contribute to the development of effective antimicrobial agents to limit pathogen transmission. The synthesized novel cationic amphiphiles contain two bipyrimidine groups, each with a hydrocarbon tail and separated by a carbon linker of varying lengths (6-14). The focus of our study is to find the optimal carbon linker length that most effectively disrupts prokaryotic cellular membrane. We aimed to achieve maximum bacterial disruption at the lowest amphiphilic dilution concentration. The bipyrimidine amphiphiles with varying carbon linker lengths were diluted (500uM – 1uM) and tested against P. aeruginosa, E. coli, S. aureus, E. faecalis, S. agalactiae, and K. pneumoniae through minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assays. The results indicate that amphiphiles with 12 or 14 carbon spacers were the most effective at inhibiting bacterial growth. There were no obvious differences between the MICs of Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. The data suggest that antibacterial ability of amphiphiles increases with the length of the carbon spacer between bipyrimidine groups. Improved understanding of structure dependence and antimicrobial activity mechanism in amphiphilic compounds is the first step to developing practical applications for improving sanitation and decreasing transmission of nosocomial drug-resistant infections.

Elizabeth Tafoya

A Comparative Study of Bio-inspired Design Methods in an Engineering Curriculum

The goal of this research is to determine which Bio-Inspired Design (BID) Process is better for concept generation based on qualitative and quantitative data. Bio-Inspired Design is a resource and tool for engineers that uses biological functions as inspiration for sustainable concept generation. Two methods were taught in an engineering design course of 70 second year engineering students at James Madison University. Half of the students were taught the Biomimicry Institute (BI) method which focuses on a seven step process of Defining, Identifying, Integrating, Discovering, Abstracting, Brainstorming, and Emulating. The other half were taught the Concept-Knowledge (CK) mapping method, created by Dr. Nagel and prior undergraduate research students, that focuses on what traditional and biological knowledge students have and uses the knowledge for BID concept generation. This method helps break down the design task into a dichotomy, and then further break it down into rough ideas to select a concept and create a sketch. Both groups received the same lecture and assignment to determine which was more effective. Student generated concepts were assessed using decision flowcharts for the metrics of biomimicry, feasibility, practicality, and novelty. The two methods were statistically compared to determine which one created stronger concepts. Students were also asked three questions each about content and process. The student responses were broken down into codes which were categorized and put into themes to compare the two methods. In the qualitative and quantitative data sets it was found that more students understood BID and created stronger concepts with the CK method than the BI method and were more likely to use it in the future. Since BID is a relatively new topic in engineering, teaching methods are limited. We believe the results of this research can inform engineering educators on how to effectively teach BID to engineers.

Emily Matuczinski

Synthesis, optimization, and bioconjugation of electrochemically synthesized magnetic nanoparticles to induce irreversible damage to glioblastoma invasive rim cells.

In the last ten years, there have been no significant advancements in the treatment of the aggressive brain cancer Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). This research describes an alternative method for the treatment of this cancer. Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles (SPIONs) have been synthesized and optimized for use in targeting and neutralizing invasive rim cells present in mesenchymal GBM. The average sizes of the synthesized SPIONs are precisely tailored via a time-controlled reaction, making available an optimal particle size (OPS), having a single magnetic domain. At OPS, the SPIONs can release a maximum amount of heat when exposed to an external magnetic field. Using transmission electron microscopy, vibrating sample magnetometry, and thermometric analysis, the OPS was determined to be 20.6 nm +/- 5.9 nm. A heterobifunctional poly(ethylene) glycol polymer crosslinked to a targeting ligand (ITEM4) was added to the surface of the SPION, and its presence on the SPION was confirmed via fluorescence spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy. These SPIONs can now be modified to selectively target and destroy the cellular membranes of GBM cells.

Emily Plunkett

Reducing food packaging waste: Optimizing chitosan and γ-cyclodextrin for electrospinning

The amount of plastic and food waste produced are two big issues that our world faces. Electrospinning has the potential to address both of these problems. While many other biodegradable materials are being developed to replace common non-biodegradeable plastics, electrospinning can be particularly useful in addressing this problem because the process is highly adjustable and many different natural, biodegradable compounds can be used to produce nano-fiber films. Active packaging can reduce the amount of food waste by incorporating active molecules into packaging materials that extend the shelf life of food. Cyclodextrins are also commonly included to encapsulate unstable active compounds and control their release over time. Chitosan is desirable for both of these applications because it is a cheap, natural, food-grade polysaccharide, but it has proven hard to electrospin. In order to produce a chitosan/cyclodextrin nano-fiber that can be used as food packaging, the polymer blend must first be optimized for the electrospinning process. Solution viscosity and entanglement concentration are two important rheological factors in electrospinning that affect the quality of the nano-fibers. Chitosan/γ-cyclodextrin in acetic acid blends were characterized by examining rheology and conductivity of the solutions. Adding γ-cyclodextrin is shown to affect the viscosity, viscoelasticity, entanglement concentration, and conductivity of the chitosan solutions. Attempts at electrospinning chitosan/γ-cyclodextrin blends did not produce well-formed fibers. More work is needed to identify the optimum ratios of the components in this blend in order to produce films made of smooth nanofibers.

Emma Herdegen

Incentives in the Service Industry: Impact of Positive Consequences Using Extrinsic Motivators on Behavior

The behavioral impact of an extrinsic incentive/reward gratuity was evaluated systematically at various restaurants in a college town in southwest Virginia. Diners ate at a local restaurant under two conditions: Baseline (normal dining conditions) measuring intrinsic motivation, and Incentive (a 6” x 9” sign was placed on the table with the message, “Your Tip So Far”) measuring extrinsic motivation. One quarter was placed at the base of the sign, and quarters were added intermittently following positive server behavior and removed following negative server behavior. When asked about the sign, a diner replied, “Our gratuity with your service will be based on behavior; whenever we are pleased with your service behavior, we will add a quarter to the pile. However, if we are displeased, we will remove a quarter.” In both conditions, the diners used the same behavioral checklist to independently record designated service-related behavior, including the frequency of table visits to provide service and/or initiate polite conversation. Diners are encouraged to only remove quarters if absolutely necessary. At the end of the meal, each diner rated independently the overall quality of the service based on the total tip accumulated; and for the incentive condition, the server who delivered the final bill to the table was asked, “How did the sign make you feel and did it impact your performance?” Each diner recorded the response to this question on the checklist. 20 checklists per the two conditions will be completed and analyzed before the March conference.

Erica Chwalik

Searching for Prompt Emission from Fast Radio Bursts

The universe around us is constantly changing, and we are always finding something new when we look out into the night sky. One such discovery is that of the Lorimer burst by West Virginia University undergraduate student David Narkevic while working with his advisor Prof. Duncan Lorimer in 2007. This burst, along with others discovered in its wake known as fast radio bursts, are brilliant millisecond long pulses of radio waves coming from an unknown origin in deep space. Several theories have been presented on what their cause could be, ranging from magnetars to cosmic strings and even alien spaceships!

In an effort to pinpoint the sources of FRBs, simultaneous emissions of other wavelengths outside of the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum are being tracked to potentially catch one occurring at the same time as a fast radio burst. Seeing what other kinds of light are given off by the sources of FRBs at the same time as in the radio (so-called “prompt” emission) could give key clues as to what they may be. To accomplish this, we set up observations on the 20 meter radio telescope at Green Bank Observatory in tandem with observations being done by SWIFT, a multi-wavelength satellite telescope. In this way we ensure that if an FRB is found using the 20 meter, SWIFT will have prompt emission data from the source in other wavelengths.

Erich Miller

Assessing SSRI Prescription trends in the treatment of OCD: an empirical and meta-analytic approach

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic neuropsychiatric illness characterized by persistent and uncontrollable thoughts, urges, feelings, and emotions coupled with repetitive behaviors performed to eliminate obsessional distress. There are two first-line treatments for management of OCD: exposure with response prevention (ERP) and pharmaceutical augmentation with a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). There are 6 SSRI’s prescribed for OCD: escitalopram, citalopram, fluvoxamine, sertraline, fluoxetine and paroxetine. This survey study identifies the prescription rates and efficacy of these SSRI’s as reported by psychiatrists. 2757 psychiatrists were emailed a link to a five question online survey. The survey asked respondents (N=348) to identify: the SSRI medication they most commonly prescribe as a first-line treatment for OCD; the efficacy of their preferred first-line SSRI; and the reason for choosing a specific SSRI as a first-line medication. Results indicate fluoxetine and sertraline are prescribed at a significantly higher rate than the other medications, although the data also suggests there is no significant difference in the reported efficacy for each SSRI. This study also compiles and statistically quantifies the results of 42 published SSRI clinical trial experiments to assess if psychiatrist survey reports are consistent with clinical trial results. Statistical analysis of clinical trials will prove definitively if there is a difference among SSRI efficacy. We hypothesize that prescription rates are linked to the adverse effect profiles and underlying pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties of each SSRI rather than efficacy.

Ethan Boeding

Quantifying Nucleic Acid Association to Nanoparticles

The goal of this project is to investigate if nanoplastics and gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) will sorb nucleic acid such as DNA. Nanoplastic wastes potentially originate from consumer products that are common to households, such as face washes, body washes, and cosmetic products. These nanoscale plastic particles potentially interact with their surrounding environment as they are discharged to wastewater treatment facilities and ultimately to water bodies. In wastewater treatment facilities, there is potential for the creation of recombinant genetic material to potentially propagate antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We hypothesize that nanoplastic wastes could alter AMR propagation by sorbing and later releasing AMR promoting genetic materials. In this study, negatively charged gold nanoparticles of 13 nm in diameter were used as a model nanomaterial and were synthesized via citrate reduction. In addition, positively charged AuNPs were synthesized in lab to investigate the interaction of surface charge in respect to DNA samples. Both AuNPs and purchased polystyrene nanoparticles (PSNPs, representing nanoplastics) were characterized using UV-Vis spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and dynamic light scattering. Extracted DNA samples were exposed to these nanoparticles, incubated for a fixed period of time, and then the nanoparticles were removed via centrifugation and the DNA that remained in the supernatant was quantified using a Qubit fluorometer. The results from this project will provide a greater understanding on the fate and the adsorption behavior of DNA onto these nanoparticles in the environment.

None

Gabriella Tyler

King of All Fruit: Assessment of Durian Antioxidant and Cytoprotective Properties

Durio zibethinus (durian) is a thorny shelled, podded pulp bearing fruit indigenous to Southeast Asia. Durian shell and rind have been shown to have antioxidant activity; however, the antioxidant activity of durian pulp has not been examined. In this study, the durian pulp antioxidant activity was evaluated as well as a closely related fruit, Artocarpus heterophyllus (jackfruit). First, TEAC assays were conducted to determine durian and jackfruit antioxidant activity. Next, durian and jackfruit were introduced to PtK-2 cells at a 2.0% concentration (in DMSO) and to determine if these dosages could rescue cell death caused by hydrogen peroxide. Initial data supports the hypothesis that both species possess enough antioxidant properties to prevent total cell death cause during the rescue. However, the quantitative data suggests that jackfruit is a stronger antioxidant than durian because the population of viable cells treated with jackfruit was higher compared to the durian treatment.

Giselle Nicole Rivero Ballon

Individual differences in stress susceptibility

Stress is a risk factor for mood disorders, including depression, but not all individuals who experience stress go on to experience depression. The social defeat stress model has indicated that individual differences in behavior can identify which animals are stress susceptible, and which are stress resilient. Using a behavioral endpoint, numerous studies have identified molecular and circuit related mechanisms that contribute to individual differences in the stress response. However, the majority of this work was performed on male subjects, despite the higher incidence of depression in women. The variable stress model allows researchers to expose both sexes to the exact same stress paradigm and examine behavioral responses across a test battery. The stress paradigm consists of 3 different stressors each given for an hour a day: foot shock, tail suspension and restraint stress. After 6 days of variable stress there are group effects on females but not males, following 28 days of stress both sexes engage in depression associated behaviors as measured by the splash test, novelty suppressed feeding, and forced swim test. The immune response to stress, which has been documented in patients with depression, is different in males and females, and may play a role in an individual’s susceptibility or resilience in a sex-dependent manner both centrally through microglial activation, and in the periphery via modulation of circulating cytokines. Following extension of the stress paradigm to 56 days, female mice, as a group, expressed a resilient behavioral phenotype, whereas males responded to the stress in a similar fashion to that of 28 days of stress. When both the 6 and 28day stress paradigms were altered to include a 30day recovery period prior to behavioral testing, both female and male mice exhibited behaviors suggesting spontaneous recovery. Ongoing work examining individual responses across multiple studies to identify individual behavioral an inflammatory indicators.

Gordon Walbert

Sponge Material made of Reduced Graphene Oxide: Synthesis and Properties

The construction of 3-D materials based on nano structural building blocks with programmable and well-controlled properties is a future direction in advanced manufacturing. We research 2-D graphene oxide sheets and their derivatives, and the potential held within the simultaneous change of physicochemical properties and formation of graphene oxide (GO)-based sponge structures by employing a hydrothermal reduction. For this, it is necessary to build a strong and comprehensive base of knowledge around the reduction of GO to form structures that can be applied to further research and development. This is accomplished by probing the controllable variables within the production process and investigating the resulting reduced graphene oxide (rGO) hydrogels.

Employing what is already known about the properties of GO and rGO as well as basic hydrothermal methods of rGO production, we investigate the effects of the initial aqueous concentration, the temperature, and time duration of the hydrothermal processes. Once an optimal range for each variable was found, we investigated the relationship between the container aspect ratio and different shapes including toroidal, on the shape, density and morphology of the resulting sponge. Also, we explored the nitrogen doping of GO using ammonium hydroxide and the effect on the formation of rGO internal structure. We have developed a robust base for hydrothermal synthesis of rGO sponges where we can control the size and aspect ratio of the resulting sponge. We are in the early stages of expanding control of the production to both shape and mechanical strength. The goal that we are working towards is to fully define correlation between the concentration of GO and the ammonia in solution that results in successful reduction, predicted dimensions, and physical properties. The ability to successfully modify the shapes and properties of the sponges during the hydrothermal synthesis will allow for production of application-specific material.

Grayson Gimblet

Synthesis of Scintillating Nanoparticles for Optogenetics

Optogenetics is a method for controlling cells in biological tissues through the use of light. There are proteins in the body that can be activated when exposed to light. By targeting these particular proteins, optogenetics allows for the manipulation of cells with an unprecedented level of precision. A material that scintillates is able to absorb high energy radiation and become excited, resulting in the emission of light. Because they are able to emit light, scintillating materials are promising for optogenetic applications. The use of scintillating materials is particularly promising for biomedical studies, as they can be implanted deep within the brain structure with minimal damage to brain tissue. Researchers have been attempting to produce scintillating materials through numerous methods including the use of single crystal growth, hydrothermal, sol-gel, ceramic, nanocrystallization, and solid state procedures. With these methods of synthesis, an issue arises because the materials require long periods of calcination which results in aggregation. This renders the resulting materials less promising at the nanoscale. A novel method to solve this existing problem utilizing a Salt-Supported High Temperature (SSHT) method, has been developed. This enables the nanoparticles to be calcined for long periods of time without aggregation. In this study Ce+3 doped Lu2Si2O7 nanoparticles were synthesized using a core-shell method to allow for control over the size and morphology of the nanoparticles, followed by the use of the SSHT method to produce fully reacted unaggregated nanoparticles.

Hanna Yu

The effect of spacer length variation on novel cationic bipyrimidine amphiphile antibacterial activity

Antibiotics play a critical role in efficiently treating various bacterial diseases that commonly affect humans. However, over-administration of drugs and varying adaptive mechanisms of bacterial pathogens contribute to the increase in antibiotic resistance. The rising prevalence of drug resistant pathogens on medical equipment increase patients’ susceptibility to acquiring nosocomial infections that are difficult to treat. Amphiphilic compounds, containing a hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail, have shown to express antimicrobial properties. By better understanding their ability to disrupt bacterial membranes, we hope to contribute to the development of effective antimicrobial agents to limit pathogen transmission. The synthesized novel cationic amphiphiles contain two bipyrimidine groups, each with a hydrocarbon tail and separated by a carbon linker of varying lengths (6-14). The focus of our study is to find the optimal carbon linker length that most effectively disrupts prokaryotic cellular membrane. We aimed to achieve maximum bacterial disruption at the lowest amphiphilic dilution concentration. The bipyrimidine amphiphiles with varying carbon linker lengths were diluted (500uM – 1uM) and tested against P. aeruginosa, E. coli, S. aureus, E. faecalis, S. agalactiae, and K. pneumoniae through minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assays. The results indicate that amphiphiles with 12 or 14 carbon spacers were the most effective at inhibiting bacterial growth. There were no obvious differences between the MICs of Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. The data suggest that antibacterial ability of amphiphiles increases with the length of the carbon spacer between bipyrimidine groups. Improved understanding of structure dependence and antimicrobial activity mechanism in amphiphilic compounds is the first step to developing practical applications for improving sanitation and decreasing transmission of nosocomial drug-resistant infections.

Hannah Flavin

How Does the Use of Digital Technology Impact Personal Health and Well-Being?

Digital technology (e.g., smart phones, computers, and video games) has dominated our culture, and affects happiness and well-being. Individuals scoring higher on neuroticism use more digital technology, especially social-media (e.g., Facebook), as these sites can validate feelings of self-worth. Life satisfaction and emotion regulation are also potential predictors of digital-technology use, given that such behavior can help people regulate their emotions, and individuals more satisfied with their life might pursue alternative activities, such as social gatherings or reading. These possibilities suggest four hypotheses: 1) Digital-technology use is negatively associated with psychological well-being; 2) Neuroticism is positively associated with digital-technology use; 3) Individuals scoring higher on emotion regulation use digital technology more often; and 4) Individuals scoring higher on life satisfaction use digital technology relatively less often. Participants (n=177) were recruited through the Virginia Tech SONA system whereby students in psychology classes receive extra credit for their participation. They completed surveys on Qualtrics that assessed their use of digital technology, well-being, certain personality traits, and emotion regulation. Regression models were conducted with the following dependent variables: self-esteem, positive affect (PA), and subjective happiness. We also conducted a model with digital-technology use as the dependent variable and personality traits, emotion regulation, and life satisfaction as independent variables. Having more Facebook friends, watching more TV and making more phone calls were associated with higher PA. Having more Facebook friends was associated with higher subjective happiness. However, watching more shows or videos with a personal laptop was associated with lower self-esteem. Plus, individuals scoring higher on extraversion, neuroticism, and life satisfaction reported using digital technology more often.

Ian Kenten

Restoring and Upgrading the Ethical Simulator

The Ethical Simulator was a website designed in the early 2000’s for promoting and teaching the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (5.2) by IEEE-CS and the ACM by providing a context to apply it. When combined with the different tools and helpers the website is meant to be a useful educational resource for teaching ethical principles. Especially to those that are seeking a future as a professional software engineer. The problem however, is that this website is no longer maintained by its original creators and has been taken down so using it as a teaching tool is unrealistic. Even if it was up, the design of the website is quite old fashioned in terms of where web development has come over the past decade or so and the ethical principles that it utilizes have been revamped.

With an update to the ACM Code of Ethics Associate Professor Michael Kirkpatrick, who works with other members of the ACM on the code, is seeking to restore and update the Ethical Simulator in the form of a new website. The goal of the website is still the same as the original with the aim to enhance the original concept by teaching based on a new ethical code with scenarios that are relevant to the broad world of computing machinery in a more engaging way. To accomplish this goal, a group of students and faculty from the JMU Computer Science department have come together to work on this project. Our collective efforts have enabled us to learn about different ways of teaching and approaching ethical scenarios, recover and clean up the original Ethical Simulator, experiment with different ways of storing and encoding information, explore different web development mediums, and how this project can take the original experience and make it more interactive.

Isabel Faust

Analysis of Drinking Water Quality in Buildings at the University of Mary Washington

Today, less than 1% of the Earth’s water is freshwater available for drinking. This percent is expected to decrease over the next decades due to climate change, a decrease in hotspot biodiversity and heightened natural disasters. This makes it important to protect and maintain safe drinking water quality. This project analyzed drinking water from buildings on the campus of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, for pH, chlorine, and various metals including: aluminum, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, nickel, selenium, vanadium, and zinc. Water was collected from bathroom sinks from each building on campus using the EPA Quick Guide to Drinking Water Sample Collection by running the water for two minutes, rinsing bottles three times, and filling them. Samples were tested on-site for free available chlorine and total residual chlorine using EPA Approved test kits. Then, the pH of all the samples were recorded before being stored in a fridge at 4°C. The samples were then analyzed for metals using inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). Results show that pH ranged from 6.26 to 7.80, with a distinct decrease in pH occurring in all samples collected after November 18th; free available chlorine ranged from 0.1ppm to 2.0ppm; and total residual chlorine ranged from 0.8ppm to 3.0ppm. The EPA recommends pH to be between 6.5 to 8.5, total residual chlorine to be less than 4 ppm, arsenic to be less than 0.01 ppm, cadmium to be less than 0.005 ppm, and Lead to be at 0 ppm. The source of the water is the same for all campus buildings, and as a result the city of Fredericksburg gets its water from the Rappahannock River through Spotsylvania County Utilities so these variations might be a result of campus infrastructure. Possible trends and correlations will be determined with SPSS statistical analysis.

James Rainone

Cultivating a Culture of Civility at a Military College: The Impact of an Actively Caring for People Thank-You Card Process

A culture marked by increasing incivility would benefit greatly if more people went beyond their normal routine to benefit the welfare of others. Such behavior reflects Actively Caring for People (AC4P), and behavioral scientists are researching ways to increase the occurrence of AC4P behavior. We designed an AC4P thank-you card (TYC), and applied an ABA-reversal design to study the impact of an AC4P/TYC system at a military college. The top portion of the TYC is designed for delivery to another person as supportive feedback for AC4P behavior observed. The bottom portion of the TYC includes: a) the location to return this half of the TYC, b) a space to record the AC4P behavior recognized, and c) questions to assess the reactions, gender, race, class/year, athletic status, and rank and company within the Corps of Cadets of both the deliverer and recipient of the TYC. Strategies to increase participation in the TYC process included role-play with feedback, and the awarding of an AC4P wristband to participants who deliver at least one TYC to someone outside the participant’s in-group. Over 90% of 56 participants delivered at least one TYC. The experiences of both the deliverers and the recipients of a TYC were consistently positive. Participants were more likely to deliver a TYC to cadets within their in-group such as class/year, gender (for men), and athletic status (for non-athletes). Participants reported greater pleasure giving a TYC to cadets of the same class/year, and they received more positive reactions from card-recipients of the same athletic status. Academic assistance was the most common AC4P behavior rewarded. The role-play intervention was ineffective; but email prompts resulted in marked increases in TYC-delivery. This research is ongoing, with additional findings to be available for the Mid-Atlantic Undergraduate Research Conference. Current findings support the potential of an AC4P/TYC process to cultivate a culture of civility at a military college.

Jessica Besnier

A Comparative Study of Bio-inspired Design Methods in an Engineering Curriculum

The goal of this research is to determine which Bio-Inspired Design (BID) Process is better for concept generation based on qualitative and quantitative data. Bio-Inspired Design is a resource and tool for engineers that uses biological functions as inspiration for sustainable concept generation. Two methods were taught in an engineering design course of 70 second year engineering students at James Madison University. Half of the students were taught the Biomimicry Institute (BI) method which focuses on a seven step process of Defining, Identifying, Integrating, Discovering, Abstracting, Brainstorming, and Emulating. The other half were taught the Concept-Knowledge (CK) mapping method, created by Dr. Nagel and prior undergraduate research students, that focuses on what traditional and biological knowledge students have and uses the knowledge for BID concept generation. This method helps break down the design task into a dichotomy, and then further break it down into rough ideas to select a concept and create a sketch. Both groups received the same lecture and assignment to determine which was more effective. Student generated concepts were assessed using decision flowcharts for the metrics of biomimicry, feasibility, practicality, and novelty. The two methods were statistically compared to determine which one created stronger concepts. Students were also asked three questions each about content and process. The student responses were broken down into codes which were categorized and put into themes to compare the two methods. In the qualitative and quantitative data sets it was found that more students understood BID and created stronger concepts with the CK method than the BI method and were more likely to use it in the future. Since BID is a relatively new topic in engineering, teaching methods are limited. We believe the results of this research can inform engineering educators on how to effectively teach BID to engineers.

Jessie Cook

Exploratory Study of the Boc Protection of the Primary Amine in Nucleosides

This research is currently being conducted in the development of pseudo-aptamers for cancer diagnosis and therapies. Issues that occur with natural aptamers can be due to the phosphodiester linkage in the nucleotides. Former research shows promise that replacing the phosphodiester linkage with a triazole linkage yields better results. In order to efficiently synthesize these molecules, the amine group on each nucleoside building block must first be protected. However, the use single tert-butyl carbonate (Boc) as a protection group of the primary amine is not easily constructed and often leads to the amine group di-substituted. While research has been conducted using different factors, none have been consistently effective. Therefore, a systematic investigation assists in determining optimal conditions. In this research, the use of different conditions allows us to better understand the protecting reaction. The optimized conditions that can be used in the protection of the primary amine is di-Boc protection. After purification and characterization, we can conclude that the use of 2-butanol as a solvent, and 4-Dimethylaminopyridine (DMAP) as base, when combined with 2-deoxyadenosine and di-tert-butyl dicarbonate anhydrous, and the use of a Sonicator to agitate yields the most promising outcome, higher than 90%. This result is an optimized condition for future construction of designed pseudo-aptamer development.

Jim Owens

In-situ Production of Hydrogen Peroxide via Electrochemical Reduction of Anthraquinone Electrodes

Jonah Huggins

Optimization of the Western Assay Via Mold Cast Gel

Western blotting is a widely used technique for analyzing proteins and their post-translational modifications that is highly sensitive and specific, but is notoriously difficult to multiplex. The microwestern blot was developed as a meso-scale multiplexed western blot, but requires an expensive and difficult to use piezo-electric pipetting apparatus that imposes strict, non-standard sample preparation requirements and can be mechanically unreliable. Here, we 3D printed a gel-casting mold that enables highly multiplexed microwestern blotting without piezo-electric pipetting.The resulting polyacrylamide gel contains 210 sample wells that each hold 1 microliter of sample arranged with 5 rows by 42 columns, and is designed to be loaded by a low-cost, easy to use automated pipetting robot (Opentrons). Proof-of-concept experiments using infrared-fluorescent molecular weight ladder demonstrated proteins loaded in cast microwestern gels were amenable to the standard western blotting steps of gel electrophoresis followed by transfer to a membrane for imaging. Current and future work is optimizing parameters of electrophoresis and transfer, along with application to cell lysate measurements. Because the gel mold is 3D printed, users have significant design freedom for custom layouts, and we expect that the technique could be easily adopted by any typical cell and molecular biology laboratory already doing western blots.

Jonathan Zheng

Atomically Dispersed Cu and Co Catalysts for Oxidation of Benzyl Alcohol

The oxidation of alcohols to higher-value chemicals is a common industrial process that is facilitated by using catalysts. Current candidate catalysts for this reaction are either too expensive or pose safety concerns. To that end, recent research has focused on catalysts consisting of nonprecious metals dispersed in nitrogen-containing carbon matrices (M-N-C), which have been shown to be catalytically in a variety of C-H activation reactions including oxidation of alcohols. The presentation will primarily discuss recent studies on copper M-N-C catalysts (Cu-N-C). Among the experiments conducted, we optimized the pyrolysis step and conducted a series of tests to determine the active site of the catalyst. The presentation will include a discussion of how we determined that atomically dispersed nitrogen-coordinated metal cation sites are responsible for most of the catalyst’s activity and that metal oxide nanoparticles are mostly inactive for the reaction. The talk will also touch on some secondary observations: namely that the catalyst was discovered to be active for propane dehydrogenation, and that tests on cobalt M-N-C catalysts (Co-N-C) exhibited a higher catalytic activity and higher thermal stability than the Cu-N-C. Finally, closing remarks will be made on how the results may be extended to develop more effective and selective catalysts in future studies. More information can be found in our publication: Xie, J., Kammert, J. D., Kaylor, N., Zheng, J. W., Choi, E., Pham, H. N., . . . Davis, R. J. (2018). Atomically Dispersed Co and Cu on N-Doped Carbon for Reactions Involving CH Activation. ACS Catalysis, 8(5), 3875-3884.

Jordan Oliver

Behavior-Based Gratuity at Restaurants: Impact on Serving-Staff and Diners

The behavioral impact of an extrinsic incentive/reward gratuity was evaluated systematically at various restaurants in a college town in southwest Virginia. Pairs of diners ate at a local restaurant under two conditions: Baseline (normal dining conditions), and an Incentive intervention (a 6’’x9’’ sign was placed on the table with the message, “Your Tip So Far.”). At the start of the dining session, three quarters were placed at the base of the sign, and quarters were added intermittently following positive server behaviors. When asked about the sign, one of the diners replied, “Our gratuity for your service will be based on behavior. Whenever we are pleased with your service behavior, we will add a quarter to the pile.”In both conditions (Baseline and Incentive), the two diners used the same behavioral checklist to independently record designated service-related behavior, including the frequency of table visits to provide service and/or to initiate polite conversation. At the end of the meal, each diner used a semantic differential to rate independently the quality of the service. For the incentive condition, the server who delivered the final credit-card form to the table was asked, “Did this sign influence you in any way, and if so how?” Each diner recorded the response to this question on the checklist. At this point, only one pair of diners had completed behavioral checklists in the two conditions, the results were promising, and as expected the Incentive sign influenced an increase in server visits to the table. At least 30 pairs of checklists per the Baseline and Incentive conditions will be completed and analyzed before the March conference. The first application of the Incentive sign was received with positive affect, enabling behavioral and subjective evaluation of a behavior-based gratuity contingency for a restaurant’s serving staff.

Jordan Capelle

A Comparative Study of Bio-inspired Design Methods in an Engineering Curriculum

The goal of this research is to determine which Bio-Inspired Design (BID) Process is better for concept generation based on qualitative and quantitative data. Bio-Inspired Design is a resource and tool for engineers that uses biological functions as inspiration for sustainable concept generation. Two methods were taught in an engineering design course of 70 second year engineering students at James Madison University. Half of the students were taught the Biomimicry Institute (BI) method which focuses on a seven step process of Defining, Identifying, Integrating, Discovering, Abstracting, Brainstorming, and Emulating. The other half were taught the Concept-Knowledge (CK) mapping method, created by Dr. Nagel and prior undergraduate research students, that focuses on what traditional and biological knowledge students have and uses the knowledge for BID concept generation. This method helps break down the design task into a dichotomy, and then further break it down into rough ideas to select a concept and create a sketch. Both groups received the same lecture and assignment to determine which was more effective. Student generated concepts were assessed using decision flowcharts for the metrics of biomimicry, feasibility, practicality, and novelty. The two methods were statistically compared to determine which one created stronger concepts. Students were also asked three questions each about content and process. The student responses were broken down into codes which were categorized and put into themes to compare the two methods. In the qualitative and quantitative data sets it was found that more students understood BID and created stronger concepts with the CK method than the BI method and were more likely to use it in the future. Since BID is a relatively new topic in engineering, teaching methods are limited. We believe the results of this research can inform engineering educators on how to effectively teach BID to engineers.

Julia Hutchens

Region Watershed Protection Planning: A multi-use plan to protect and preserve the environmental services provided by the Dry River Drainage Watershed

Water quality has become a major environmental and human welfare concern in the world today, it’s no longer just for developing countries. There have been many incidences in the US of health problems related to water quality and a shortage of water. Therefore, the City of Harrisonburg and the surrounding community also have a need for a well-developed watershed management plan. This plan will be focus around the Dry River because that is the main source of the city’s water. The Dry River area is threatened by illegal dumping, erosion from primitive roads and future road building sedimentation, a lack of awareness of the true value of the resource, and the potential for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. The full value of the Dry River watershed is not fully appreciated and accounted for in the public use plans of the City and US Forest Service. The goal of the proposed effort is to measure and assess the true value of the environmental services provided by the Dry River watershed, including both the land owned by the City of Harrisonburg and the GWNF. The research will establish supporting literature and definition for why a management plan is needed, relevant literature for ecosystem services models and benchmarking, methods for evaluation of ecosystem services specific to the Dry River watershed, and an estimated timeline for when each step will be completed.

Kaci Chlada

Stress And The Microbiome

IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder of the large intestine that causes cramping, constipation, pain, and bloating. Patients with IBS often suffer from neurological symptoms like stress, anxiety, and depression that greatly affects their quality of life. The gut microbiome is the population of microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract. Recent evidence suggests that the gut microbiome is related to IBS and neurological disorders. In the current study, we perform a meta-analysis of the current scientific literature on the relationship between IBS, stress, and the gut microbiome from mice to dogs to humans. We examined measures of microbial diversity, changes in specific bacteria, and functional microbiome shifts in each of these three populations. Often animal models inform clinical advancements in human medicine and this study aims to elucidate similarities and differences in animals models of IBS compared to the human disorder.

Katherine Polk

Testing novel antimicrobial peptides against Francisella strains

Francisella tularensis is a Tier 1, Category A biothreat agent that causes tularemia. Due to the highly infectious nature of this pathogenic bacteria finding new antibacterial approaches is of significance. Antimicrobial peptides (AMP) are a part of the innate immune system that has been evolutionary conserved throughout organisms. In the rise of antimicrobial resistance, AMPs are being investigated as possible antimicrobial therapies as they rarely confer antibiotic resistance and display wide structural and functional diversity. Alligator mississippiensis (American alligator) lives in bacterial laden environments and peptides of its serum have been studied for their antimicrobial properties. From antimicrobial peptides identified in A. mississipiensis synthetic peptide GATR-3 was derived. This project will confirm the antimicrobial effects of GATR-3 against Francisella novicida U112, Francisella holarctica LVS, Francisella philomiragia and Francisella tularensis NIH B38. This will be done by determining the minimum inhibition concentration (MIC) and performing EC50 assays to determine the effective concentration to kill 50% of the culture. Five other peptides predicted to have antimicrobial properties will also be analyzed. Lastly, we will develop a novel procedure to study peptide activity against Francisella tularensis NIH B38, which requires a blood-based media to grow. To do this a new media will be studied and adjusted to allow successful MICs and EC50 assays of F. tularensis NIH B38 to be performed. Determining the activity of different AMPs as potential antimicrobial therapies is crucial for combating the pathogen F. tularensis and the antimicrobial resistance crisis.

Katie Scott

MXene-based Synthesis of Gadolinium Carbide 2D Material

Because of their quantum-confined properties and high surface areas, 2D materials have attracted considerable interest lately, with particular attention to a family of 2D materials called MXenes. One distinguishing feature of MXenes from other 2D materials is their highly effective synthesis yielding nearly 100% monolayer samples. These thin layered structures are produced by etching the A element from MAX phases, leaving the 2D metal carbide lattice intact. Building on the synthetic concepts of MXenes, we show the first process of etching halides from a layered phase by dehalogenating Gd2CI. Computational simulations show structural similarities between Gd2CI and MAX phases, strong bonding interactions between Gd and C within a layer and weaker interactions with I connecting the layers. In Gd2CI, iodine acts as an A element that can be etched from Gd2CI. In contrast to MXenes that use the strongly oxidizing HF etchant, we use a strong reducing agent to etch the iodine layers. Gd2CI was synthesized at a high temperature and yielded black powder consisting of hexagonal plates 1-10 µm in size. SEM and XRD characterization confirmed the product to be layered and isostructural with MAX phases. To etch the iodine layer, we reacted Gd2CI with potassium vapor at 200°C. Also, we employed a solution-phase reaction using lithium naphthalenide as the etchant at room temperature. Using SEM to image the products, we find that these reductive etchings produce hollow, accordion-like morphologies like the structures often associated with etched MXenes. XRD revealed the formation of iodine-salts and successful extraction of iodine. Calculations using DFT show that there is electron density on the surface, much like known electrides contrasting MXenes’ surface-terminating functional groups. These experiments encourage further exploration of more efficient reducing methods. Current results indicate that a MXene-like etching approach can be applied to a broader class of materials.

Kedi Cao

Mathematical modeling of the circadian rhythm phase change under the effect of DNA damage

P53 protein is a transcription factor involved in cell cycle regulation which plays an essential role in repairing DNA damage. This essential gene is found under the control of circadian factor PER2. Cell-cycle progression and DNA-damage-response pathways are under circadian control. As a universal response to DNA-damage, circadian clock phase resetting is commonly presenting as advance. This phenotype is increasingly associated with the interaction of mechanisms between clock proteins and checkpoint components. However, we still do not know the underlying molecular mechanism which responsible for this phase advance in case of genotoxic stress. To begin addressing this unknown, we propose to build up a modeling-aided molecular study based on the core finding of PER2 forms a trimeric complex with p53 and MDM2 in the nucleus of unstressed cells. This research project will take advantage of existing mathematical models that predict the underlying interactions between PER2 and p53 that were reported by our group, simulate conditions to generate whole phase response curves, and reveal the minimum molecular criteria for DNA-damage to induce circadian phase advance.

Kelsey Clark

Using Socio-Normative Intervention to Reduce Food Waste on Campus

The principles of social psychology are used to explain many facets of human behavior and therefore applied as an intervention to increase the frequency of beneficial community behavior. Furthermore, the use of socio-normative intervention strategies have been shown to improve human behavior in various contexts. Social-influence principles, including socio-normative techniques, have been employed in a myriad of studies to increase the frequency of favorable behaviors and decrease the frequency of unfavorable behaviors. The socio-normative approach has been used to target unsafe or unhealthy behaviors. Recently socio-normative strategies have been applied to influence sustainable environmental behavior. We are adapting techniques to influence behavior in relation to reducing food waste on college campuses. For this field study, we plan to take an applied behavioral science approach to examine the effects of socio-normative intervention tactics on the amount of consumer food waste at Virginia Tech’s Dietrick Dining Hall. More specifically, the current study will combine the impact of socio-normative messages with moral, ethical, and logical approaches to reduce food waste among students. Our mission is to provide VT Dining with the most efficient and effective way to reduce food waste, and to lay the groundwork for future implemental strategies to reduce food waste in Virginia Tech’s dining halls.

Kerry Steed

Longitudinal white matter and cortical thickness changes in Corticobasal syndrome

Corticobasal syndrome (CBS) is a rare, Parkinsonian-like disease that shows marked neuronal degeneration, and manifests with both cognitive and motor symptoms. In this study, we conducted a longitudinal analysis of the microstructural white matter changes that occur in subjects with CBS, as measured by changes in diffusion tensor imaging parameters. We then analyzed the differences in the degeneration patterns between progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and CBS in order to unveil any potentially distinguishing patterns of degeneration. Lastly, we investigated cortical thinning in CBS, specifically looking at the areas that exhibited the most significant cortical thinning, and how this correlated with clinical presentation. We found that diffusion increase was widespread in CBS subjects, with an emphasis on the corpus callosum. Additionally, PSP degeneration is significantly different from CBS along the dentatorubrothalamic tract, specifically in the midbrain and superior cerebellar peduncle (SCP). Cortical thinning was most prominent in the motor cortex and supplementary motor area (SMA) in subjects with CBS, and this correlated positively with subjects abilities to perform day-to-day activities.

Kevin Chen

A New Optogenetic Tool for Investigating Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The field of optogenetics describes the use of recombinant light-responsive proteins to alter cell processes. Utilizing an optogenetic protein which regulates global protein synthesis, it is possible to investigate the effects aberrant protein synthesis in neurons. Previous research implicates dysregulated protein synthesis at neuronal synapses as the basis for many common brain developmental disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The validation of the optogenetic regulatory protein in mammalian cells is the next step towards developing a novel tool for studying mechanisms of protein synthesis and lead to future animal models to study translation in cognitive function and brain developmental disorders.

Kyla Scanlon

How Terrorism Impacts Consumer Sentiment: Evidence from Twitter Data

This project investigates how terrorist attacks impact consumer sentiment, utilizing social media to calculate a response from the public, specifically analyzing clusters and polarities. Twitter was used as a proxy in the analysis, gathering tweets from consumers to aid in determining the broad-based emotional stance of the public after an attack occurs. The data was collected using the Search Twitter function for Rapid Miner, and processed to extract keywords and deliver a word vector. The word vector then gets filtered into the Sentiment Analysis function using Meaning Cloud for Rapid Miner. A document was created to view the data, and the model was replicated for each attack. The tweets were analyzed for top keywords and hashtags, collected through topic sentiment analysis, and organized according to polarity, on a 5-point scale ranging from most negative (N+) to most positive (P+). Cluster analysis was implemented to put the keywords into families, and tweet traffic was examined to calculate the evolution of polarity over time. The results concluded that there was a contraction in emotion as time after the attacks passed, with N+ and P+ tweets becoming less prevalent. However, the absolute number of tweets continued to increase in the days following the attacks, which means that people were still discussing the attacks, but in a less emotive manner.

Leslie Maynard

Mechanical Actuation in Polymeric Bilayers

Smart materials are designed materials that have properties that can undergo controlled change by external stimuli and these materials are the foundation of sensors and actuators that are used increasingly for robotics and artificial intelligence systems. Within this study, polymeric bilayers acted as smart materials that could bend, curl, and twist after applying and releasing a mechanical strain. The polymeric bilayers were created using thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs). Ethylene octene copolymer TPEs with different degrees of crystallization were compression molded separately then adhered to one another through compression molding. Then samples were cut at varying length to width (L/W) ratios and tensile tested. Tensile testing allowed for a controlled application of strain. After release of the strain the various strips either bent, curled, twisted, or showed a combination of 2 responses depending on the elastic recovery ratio of the 2 layers and the applied strain. This study showed that easily processable TPEs can be used as actuators for mechanical strain applications and the deformations can be reversed through heat application at low temperature for a very short period of time.

Lisa Liu

The Sensors of Autonomous Vehicles and How They Relate to Data Privacy

 
This project researches the possible privacy implications of the Apollo autonomous vehicles. Recent laws prohibit the usage of the personally identifiable information of any individual without their express permission, which presents problems for the constant data collection essential to an autonomous vehicle. Data is collected through three main sensors: the camera, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), and Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging). The research is conducted by examining the data collected from these three, as well as by examining the source code for the location where data is stored, if at all. The results of the research were found through analyzing the sample data released by Apollo for personally identifiable information and searching through the code for potential data storages.

Madeleine Paulsen

How can a website increase user engagement: The relevant influence of diverse presentation modes

Given that the Internet has emerged as a primary means through which individuals receive and send information and communicate with others, this study explores how website organization and presentation influences user engagement. Websites were varied systematically to evaluate how the amount of visual (i.e., multimedia) information displayed influences user engagement – duration of time on a certain page, choices for particular follow-up information, and knowledge gained from specific displays. Four different websites were designed: a control website with only text (i.e., no images or visual animations), a second website with the addition of relevant images, a third website with images and visual animations, and a fourth website with images, visual animations, and relevant videos. Each website offers the same information about an approach to educate school children about applications of robotics. The websites were created through Wix in order to control for differences in user familiarity and avoid controversial topics. Data will be collected throughout January and February 2019. All participants will be university students at Virginia Tech where Internet usage is high. Participants will be given 20 minutes to browse the website and use a checklist to find certain information provided on the website. Afterwards, user engagement will be assessed with a “user engagement scale,” the amount of time spent viewing certain aspects of the website, individual choices for follow-up information, as well as performance on a quiz assessing the amount of information gained. It is hypothesized that the amount of user engagement will vary as a function of the amount of multi-media displays incorporated in the website. Of particular interest will be how the various measures of engagement correlate and indicate similar between-group differences.

Makenzie Postma

Inflammasomes, Fibrosis, and Breast Cancer Progression

Clinically, both incidence and mortality of breast cancer remain significant, despite progress in our understanding of cancer, and advances in treatments. In particular, fibrosis is an independent prognosis marker of breast cancer, and cancer-associated fibroblasts promote cancer growth. Recently, the activities of the cytoplasmic multi-protein complex inflammasomes, present in multiple cells types within the tumors have been shown to promote an inflammatory microenvironment. Whether inflammasome activities within fibroblasts critically influence fibrosis remains unclear. Thus, we determined whether fibroblast inflammasome activation altered the secretions of pro-inflammatory cytokines and fibrosis associated proteins. We assessed (1) the expression of the inflammasomes’ proteins NLRP3, ASC1, and pro-caspase 1 and (2) the secretions of the pro-inflammatory inflammasome related cytokines IL-1ß and IL-18 along with collagen I secretions by L929 fibroblasts in vitro following incubations with known inflammasome activators and inhibitors. Importantly, to mimic the tumor microenvironment, the effects of conditioned media collected from the aggressive 4T1 mammary tumor cells were also assessed. Our data indicate that L929 fibroblasts express the proteins associated with functional NLRP3 inflammasomes. Inflammasomes of L929 fibroblasts, through incubation with LPS, led to secretion increases of IL1ß, matrix metalloproteinase 14, and collagen I. The effects of the NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor MCC950 on L929 fibroblast secretions of pro-inflammatory cytokines, their antagonists and pro-fibrotic extracellular matrix proteins are also presented. These results (1) confirm the presence and activity of inflammasome in fibroblasts, and (2) highlight the role of fibroblast inflammasomes in the generation of the pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic microenvironment in breast cancer.

Marilyn Steinbach

The Effect of Boredom on Physiological Activity

Boredom, as a behavioral and neuropsychological response, is a misunderstood and under researched phenomenon that pervades human experience. Research has shown that the feeling of boredom is associated with several psychological and medical health issues, including ADHD/ADD, depression, anxiety, and certain traumatic brain injuries. The proposed study hopes to understand boredom and the neural correlates associated with the experience of this state. To this end, a definition of boredom based on neuroanatomy, as opposed to the traditional psychological and philosophical understanding used most often, could help to elucidate certain psychiatric conditions, contribute to the development of new therapeutic techniques, and lead to a better overall understanding of the human condition. The aim of the study is to provide evidence for a physiological definition of boredom using the measures of galvanic skin response (GSR) and cardiac response (systolic, diastolic, and heart rate). Using a normed task demonstrated to elicit boredom in participants, biophysiological measures will be obtained. Based upon capacity theory and the proposed neural circuitry recruited during the boring task, it is hypothesize frontal regulatory control will decrease due to the neural resources required to maintain attentional control, resulting in cortical release of underlying neural structures responsible for sympathetic control, as measured by GSR and cardiac reactivity.

 

Max Hockenberry

Oncogenic KRas mutant K5N

KRas is a small 21 kD guanine nucleotide binding protein that plays a key role in regulating signaling pathways that control cellular growth, differentiation, and apoptosis.  Dysregulation causes developmental disorders and cancer.  Notably, Ras mutations are found in nearly nearly 30% of all human cancers. My research entails the investigation of an oncogenic Ras mutation, in which an asparagine is substituted for lysine at position 5.  This mutation has been identified in patients with gastric and lung cancers, as well as developmental diseases such as Noonan’s and Costello’s syndromes. However, the mechanism of action is unknown. We are applying biochemical, biophysical and structural approaches to elucidate how this mutation alters the intrinsic properties as well as interactions with regulatory proteins and effectors. My role in this project is to obtain a structure of the mutant by X-ray crystallography, as this information will aid in revealing the molecular basis for how this mutation promotes dysregulation of Ras signaling resulting in disease.

 

Megan Brickner

The Effects of Parenting Behaviors and Emotion Regulation on Substance Use Frequency of Adolescents with ADHD

Adolescents with ADHD experience impaired emotion regulation (ER) and report higher levels of substance use compared to adolescents without ADHD. Different parenting behaviors, such as parental monitoring (PM) and parental involvement (PI), have also been found to be associated with substance use in adolescents with ADHD. Furthermore, PM is associated with negative emotions, and regulation of such negative emotions is associated with substance use. The aim of this study was to examine the potential moderation effects of ER on the relationship between parenting styles (monitoring and involvement) and substance use. Data were collected from 197 high school students (76.6% male; age: M=15.11, SD=.88) diagnosed with ADHD. Stepwise regression analyses were used to examine potential moderation relationships between parenting styles and substance use. Both PM and ER predicted frequency of drug and alcohol use. The relationship between PM and drug use was moderated by ER (β=-.18, p = .01). Specifically, poor PM was associated with higher amounts of drug use only when adolescents also had difficulties with ER. The relationship between PM and alcohol use, as moderated by ER, approached significance (β=-.12, p=.085). PI was not associated with drug or alcohol use. Given the moderating role of ER on the PM and substance use relationship, parent training strategies to improve PM may be important for reducing involvement with substances among adolescents with ADHD and ER impairments. Thus, screening for ADHD and difficulties with ER in schools could help identify those at-risk populations. Future research goals include extending the moderation models described above to include social skills as a potential mediator.

 

Morgan Stephens

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that is used to describe medical disorders involving chronic inflammation of the digestive tract including Crohn’s Disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). IBD had previously been thought of as an autoimmune disease, however recently research has begun to point towards supporting IBD as a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks foreign harmless viruses, bacteria, and even food. Combined, CD and UC affect 1.4 million Americans and over 4 million people worldwide. Current treatments for IBD including infliximab and adalimumab target tumor necrosis factor (TNF) to regulate inflammation. However, a large proportion of patients fail to respond to or eventually lose responsiveness to these agents. In this study we investigated the noncanonical NF-kB pathway and the role that this pathway plays in disease pathogenesis as well as infliximab response. Partnering with Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, VA, biopsy specimens from subjects with IBD (both CD and UC) as well as non-CD/UC patients were collected and categorized based on their responsiveness to treatments. These samples were then quantified and analyzed to identify dysregulated genes associated with NF-kB signaling. It was found that noncanonical NF-kB signaling is significantly upregulated in patients with IBD and has been shown to be associated with gastrointestinal inflammation. Additionally, a link between the noncanonical NF-kB signaling pathway and patients who are non-responsive to common anti-TNF therapeutics was established. These genes identified and the noncanonical pathway provide hopeful new targets for IBD therapeutics and treatments.

Morgan Lane

Asymmetry in Autonomic Nervous System Responses to Visual Stimulation

A large body of research has demonstrated hemispheric asymmetries in cerebral control of sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system. In particular, light exposure has been used to study the autonomic nervous system. Light exposure has been shown to cause an arousal of the sympathetic nervous system due to contralateral retinocollicular projections to the right hemisphere. However, few studies have assessed hemispheric asymmetries of autonomic responses to monocular light stimulation in humans. In order to provide more data on the selective activation of one hemisphere through bright light exposure, this study seeks to implement a straightforward method of monocular light stimulation to investigate its effect on sympathetic nervous system activity.

Nash Vador

Studies of Dopamine Receptor 1 in Rett Syndrome Mice

Rett Syndrome (RTT) is a neurological disorder characterized by loss-of-function mutations in the modulator Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2. Since typical symptoms of RTT consist of motor coordination issues, RTT malformations may occur due to deterioration in the cerebellum. As the dopamine receptor influences movement, we theorize that the lack of motor coordination and motor control in RTT mice is due to the cerebellum’s defective dopaminergic signaling. Previously, there has been a small amount of research on dopamine pathways in RTT mice. Our lab has determined that the main dopamine receptor involved in motor function, dopamine receptor type 1 (D1), is found in Bergmann glial cells (BGCs) as opposed to the cerebellum’s main source of output: Purkinje Cells (PCs). We intend to investigate the dopaminergic fibers from the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc), their role in managing BGCs, and their effect on PCs. Through immunohistochemistry from slices of the mice brain, we discerned that dopaminergic fibers emerge in the SNc, which then extend to the cerebellum. AMPA receptors carry augmented levels of PCs along with BGCs as dopamine is a crucial regulator of the system. Thus, western immunoblot was performed in order to determine the levels of protein of the glutamate AMPA receptor. By analyzing the movement of mice, we observed that D1 defective mice traveled less, on average, than functional D1 mice. Future investigations involve complete removal of D1 receptors in the cerebellum of RTT mice, specifically removal of D1 in BGCs, to study the effects on behavior and motor function.

Nicholas Nguyen

The spatiotemporal dynamics of innate immune cell response to pathogen signaling in engineered microenvironments

Current diagnostic tests in clinics for infectious disease states mostly rely on the variation in the innate immune cell count, which is not entirely predictive of the disease state. Neutrophils and other innate immune cells are multifaceted cells that have a vast array of phenotypes. By quantifying these immune cell phenotypes, we will have a more accurate description of the disease state. To address this, in our work, we engineer a microfluidic device to simulate the in vivo host-pathogen interactions, primarily focusing on Neutrophil-Pseudomonas interactions. Here, we aim to quantify the neutrophil phenotypes such as phagocytosis, swarming and release of NETs (Neutrophil Extracellular Traps) during the pathogen-mediated infection. Our overall goal is to develop a robust, high-throughput microfluidic assay in which the host-pathogen interactions can be quantified in real-time at single-cell resolution in precisely controlled conditions. These microfluidic assays are significant in the context of clinical samples, as they need reagents or samples only in the order of microliters. They are also cost-efficient and easy to set up, with the advantage of being able to monitor the device parameters precisely. Besides, there is a repertoire of signaling molecules or chemokines secreted by the cells in the extracellular matrix, epithelial cells and other leukocytes in vivo that play a significant role in the activation and recruitment of neutrophils to the site of infection. Seeing that traditional assays fail to address the in vivo tissue-specific cell responses, we aim to use this device further to co-culture epithelial cells and other cells in microenvironment such as fibroblasts and resident macrophages to simulate infection-on-chip. Future studies will include incorporating on-chip biosensors to quantify the key regulators triggering the neutrophil decision-making and to mathematically model the host-pathogen interactions with the help of empirical data.

Nicole Wheeler

Asymmetry in Autonomic Nervous System Responses to Visual Stimulation

A large body of research has demonstrated hemispheric asymmetries in cerebral control of sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system. In particular, light exposure has been used to study the autonomic nervous system. Light exposure has been shown to cause an arousal of the sympathetic nervous system due to contralateral retinocollicular projections to the right hemisphere. However, few studies have assessed hemispheric asymmetries of autonomic responses to monocular light stimulation in humans. In order to provide more data on the selective activation of one hemisphere through bright light exposure, this study seeks to implement a straightforward method of monocular light stimulation to investigate its effect on sympathetic nervous system activity.

Olivia Young

Pulsar and FRB search with the 20m telescope at the Green Bank Observatory

Pulsars are neutron stars that are very dense and have high rates of rotation, resulting in beams of radio waves emitted from their magnetic poles. Pulsars can be used as probes to discover the composition of our galaxy and to detect the passing of gravitational waves. Fast Radio Bursts are millisecond long bursts of radio waves that have been confirmed to come from outside of our own galaxy. However, astronomers have been unable to discover their cause. My project focuses on detecting pulsars and FRBs using a pipeline that is triggered when the 20m telescope receives a signal that appears to be from a pulsar of FRB. I then process the data that is captured into readable plots to be searched through for potential candidates. In addition, these plots will also be used as a training ground for Machine Learning Code. Machine Learning is an up and coming area of astronomy that focuses on automating many tasks and helping to make the most of data that has been collected.

Orrod Zadeh

Optimization of western blotting via gel cast mold

Western blotting is a widely used technique for analyzing proteins and their post-translational modifications that is highly sensitive and specific, but is notoriously difficult to multiplex. The microwestern blot was developed as a meso-scale multiplexed western blot, but requires an expensive and difficult to use piezo-electric pipetting apparatus that imposes strict, non-standard sample preparation requirements and can be mechanically unreliable. Here, we 3D printed a gel-casting mold that enables highly multiplexed microwestern blotting without piezo-electric pipetting.The resulting polyacrylamide gel contains 210 sample wells that each hold 1 microliter of sample arranged with 5 rows by 42 columns, and is designed to be loaded by a low-cost, easy to use automated pipetting robot (Opentrons). Proof-of-concept experiments using infrared-fluorescent molecular weight ladder demonstrated proteins loaded in cast microwestern gels were amenable to the standard western blotting steps of gel electrophoresis followed by transfer to a membrane for imaging. Current and future work is optimizing parameters of electrophoresis and transfer, along with application to cell lysate measurements. Because the gel mold is 3D printed, users have significant design freedom for custom layouts, and we expect that the technique could be easily adopted by any typical cell and molecular biology laboratory already doing western blots.

Owen Callahan

Gratitude from Student to Teacher: Evaluating the impact of thanking a professor

At the end of the fall 2018 semester at Virginia Tech (VT), student researchers choose a classmate in one or more of their classes and gave him or her a Virginia Tech Thank You Card (TYC) to give the professor at the end of class and a mood survey to complete at the beginning of the class. Before the class began, both the research student and the other person with a TYC filled out the mood survey – a semantic differential with several different word pairs (e.g., motivated – unmotivated, unsociable – sociable, sad – happy, and tired – energetic). At the end of the class, the research student and the other person gave the top half of the TYC to the professor who taught the class. The top half of the TYC states, “I thank you for Actively Caring for People”, and the back of the top half includes examples of various Actively-Caring-for-People (AC4P) behaviors on the back. After giving the TYC, the research student and the other person filled out the bottom half of the TYC, which included two open-ended questions about the professor’s reaction to the card and the student’s experience giving out the card. After completing the TYC process, the two students completed the same mood survey they had completed at the start of class. Then the research student returned the pre- and post- mood surveys and the bottom half of the TYC to the Center for Applied Behavior Systems where the research project was designed and monitored. The TYC process was initiated during the last week of fall semester 2018. Therefore, only 13 TYC’s had been distributed when this abstract was prepared, but the results look very promising – with every professor showing a positive reaction to receiving the TYC and the relevant mood words were more positive after the TYC’s were distributed. We expect at least 50 TYC’s to be delivered at the start of spring semester 2019, enabling a comprehensive analysis of the interpersonal impact of this gratitude intervention.

Priya Vasan

Trim9 and Trim67 Regulation of Microtubule Dynamics

TRIM9 and TRIM67 are brain enriched E3 ubiquitin ligases that are crucial for proper neuronal development and function. Trim9-/- and Trim67-/- mice have altered brain morphology, behavioral abnormalities, and deficits in neuronal development and migration. TRIM9 and TRIM67 contain a COS domain, which is shown to be involved in microtubule-binding. However, if and how TRIM9 and TRIM67 regulate the microtubule cytoskeleton is not known. Proper regulation of microtubules is critical for the formation of synaptic connections and axon formation. Therefore, insight into TRIM9 and TRIM67 regulation of microtubule dynamics, such as through regulating tubulin post-translational modifications (PTMs) or by acting directly upon microtubules, is key. Live-cell total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy of cortical neurons transfected with MACF43-GFP, which binds to the +tip of growing microtubules, revealed changes in microtubule dynamics in Trim9-/- and Trim67-/- neurons. Loss of TRIM67 decreased the velocity of microtubules and increased the lifetime. Loss of TRIM9 showed location-dependent changes in the velocity and lifetime of microtubules. To determine if changes in microtubule PTMs may be contributing to the altered microtubule dynamics in Trim9-/- and Trim67-/- neurons, we quantified acetylated and tyrosinated tubulin using immunofluorescence of fixed cortical neurons. Trim67-/- neurons showed a decrease in the amount of tyrosinated microtubules with an accompanying increase in the percentage of acetylated tubulin, characteristic of stable microtubules. Trim9-/- neurons demonstrated decreased acetylated and tyrosinated microtubules. These results suggest that microtubules in Trim67-/- neurons are less dynamic, which agrees with the slower and more persistent microtubules observed with live-cell imaging. We are currently working to perform microtubule sedimentation assays to test a direct interaction between the COS domain of TRIM67 and microtubules.

None

Raanan Gurewitsch

Using Machine Learning and GIS to Locate Lead Plumbing in Public Water Systems

Struggling to respond to elevated lead levels in residential tap water, cities like Flint, MI and Pittsburgh, PA are undergoing large-scale efforts to replace the lead pipes that bring water service to their residents. However, limited geographic data on plumbing materials throughout housing stocks present a logistical challenge for local authorities to locate and replace their remaining lead service lines. This study tests whether available geographic data on housing conditions and plumbing materials can effectively inform risk assessment and bolster replacement efforts. To do so, we trained multiple machine learning classification models with property assessments data to predict the presence or absence of lead service lines at properties in Pittsburgh without existing plumbing records. The results show that the probability of having a lead service line increases for houses built before 1930 and demonstrate the significance of parcel age as a predictive feature for locating these lead hazards. Accurate targeting of high-risk housing may inform the strategy of decision-makers working to ensure that residents of aging American homes have safe drinking water.

Rachel Kelliher

Home: Why people practice at a community-based yoga studio.

Yoga is a is an ancient mind-body practice that is quickly gaining popularity in the United States as a mind body practice and a fitness trend. To date, there is limited research on the motivating factors that underly why individuals regularly practice yoga in a yoga studio instead of at home or at a gym. The aim of this four-week community-based study, was to determine the various factors that motivated individuals living in rural Southwestern Virginia to regularly practice at a yoga studio that partnered with researchers. As part of a larger study, individuals who practiced at the partnering yoga studio were asked to film video testimonials in an effort to capture qualitative data that described their perceptions of the studio. Out of 138 participants, 18 (13%) individuals volunteered to film video testimonials and were asked the simple question of: “Why do you practice at [participating yoga studio]?” The eighteen testimonials were transcribed verbatim and analyzed for meaning units, which were clustered into themes. Major emergent themes in this study included the mental (n=9), physical (n=9), and health (n=9) benefits of yoga in addition to the sense of community (n=13) at the yoga studio. Minor themes were a love for the instructors employed at the studio(n=4), as well as the opportunities offered at the studio for mindfulness (n=4). The data suggests that there are several variables that bring people to practice at the participating yoga studio, including being part of a community, the holistic benefits of yoga, and their overall health. This study implies that the health benefits of yoga and a sense of cohesion are two of the leading motivating factors that bring people to practice at the participating yoga studio, as well as the opportunities for mindfulness and the teaching staff. Future studies should include more studios to determine if the themes identified in this study are motivating themes among individuals at other yoga studios.

Raghav Sawhney

Measuring business innovation using non traditional data sources

Working at the Social and Decisions Analytics Laboratory (SDAL) and being a part of their Data Science of Public Good made me realize the importance of statistical and data analytics in shaping public policies in order to understand and tackle social issues. During this experience, I had the opportunity to contribute to an NSF sponsored project that aimed to aimed to identify and measure product innovation in the pharmaceutical sector using non-survey data sources. We worked with databases provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and text-based sources such as trade journals and news articles scraped from the web to identify FDA approvals and product launches of companies. We used machine learning tools to identify news articles that mention new products, as well as the associated company. Our work involved labeling relevant articles that are about a launch or an approval and, using this training data, developing a decision tree to identify features that are predictive of a launch article. The literature review along with discovery of non-traditional data sources gave me insight into the different approaches of past researchers working on similar projects.

Rawaz Rahim

Restoring and Upgrading the Ethical Simulator

“The Ethical Simulator was a website designed in the early 2000’s for promoting and teaching the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (5.2) by IEEE-CS and the ACM by providing a context to apply it. When combined with the different tools and helpers the website is meant to be a useful educational resource for teaching ethical principles. Especially to those that are seeking a future as a professional software engineer. The problem however, is that this website is no longer maintained by its original creators and has been taken down so using it as a teaching tool is unrealistic. Even if it was up, the design of the website is quite old fashioned in terms of where web development has come over the past decade or so and the ethical principles that it utilizes have been revamped.

With an update to the ACM Code of Ethics Associate Professor Michael Kirkpatrick, who works with other members of the ACM on the code, is seeking to restore and update the Ethical Simulator in the form of a new website. The goal of the website is still the same as the original with the aim to enhance the original concept by teaching based on a new ethical code with scenarios that are relevant to the broad world of computing machinery in a more engaging way. To accomplish this goal, a group of students and faculty from the JMU Computer Science department have come together to work on this project. Our collective efforts have enabled us to learn about different ways of teaching and approaching ethical scenarios, recover and clean up the original Ethical Simulator, experiment with different ways of storing and encoding information, explore different web development mediums, and how this project can take the original experience and make it more interactive.”

Rhiannon Takemoto-Jennings

Pedestrian Gratitude at Crosswalks: Evaluating prompting techniques to increase the frequency of positive communication

Undergraduate research assistants evaluated pedestrian-vehicle communication by observing whether pedestrians using a designated crosswalk waved a sign of gratitude to drivers who stopped for them. Throughout a Baseline and two Intervention phases, a primary observer, a reliability observer, and a third observer with a tally clicker collected these data. Baseline data were collected daily at a busy crosswalk on the Virginia Tech campus for ten consecutive weeks. After Baseline, a prompting intervention was implemented by having a research student hold a poster adjacent to the crosswalk that read “Please Thank Drivers with a Wave”. This prompting intervention was alternated weekly with Baseline for four consecutive weeks. The prompting intervention continued throughout the fifth week of this Intervention phase, but the poster was not held by a student but was placed on a stand next to the crosswalk. For the next consecutive six weeks the poster intervention was alternated weekly with a Baseline week. During the Baseline weeks (the initial ten weeks and the Baseline weeks alternating with the Prompting Intervention): an average of 7.9% of pedestrians (n = 34,722) displayed a sign of gratitude to the driver. During the first Prompting Intervention (i.e., a research assistant held the poster), 23% of the pedestrians (n = 3,798) displayed gratitude to the driver who stopped at the crosswalk. During the second Prompting Intervention (i.e., the poster was placed on a stand at the crosswalk): 12% of the pedestrians (n = 10,585) displayed a sign of gratitude to the driver. Thus, this behavioral field study showed that a sign of gratitude from pedestrians to drivers is relatively low on a college campus, but a Prompting Intervention significantly increased occurrences of this desirable behavior. This field study will continue next year with an A (Baseline) B (Intervention) A (Withdrawal) design to evaluate the target behavior with several weeks per condition.

Riker Lawrence

Employees’ Psychological Capital, Well-Being, and Attitudes toward Work

Positive work attitudes can lead employees to value their organization and focus harder on their work, subsequently increasing the organization’s success (Robertson et al., 2012). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943), which can be applied in a workplace setting, serves as a foundation to understand human needs that must be satisfied to reach one’s full potential. Psychological Capital (PsyCap), which impacts employees’ workplace attitudes, is comprised of their self-efficacy to achieve tasks, optimism about the future, ability to preserve and adapt to achieve goals, and demonstration of resiliency when faced with problems (Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007). The purposes of this study were to (1) examine associations between PsyCap, well-being, and how employees write about their jobs, and (2) explore the usefulness of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943) in coding participants’ writings about their jobs. Participants living in either the United States (US) of the United Kingdom (UK) completed a two-part, online survey. Part 1 consisted of quantitative measures (US n = 78; UK n = 82); Part 2 consisted of free-response questions (US n = 52; UK n = 54). Analyses revealed that PsyCap, well-being, nor their interaction, played a role in predicting how employees wrote about their workplaces. There may have been a ceiling effect because most employees felt positively about their organization. When examining the specific themes of how participants wrote about their jobs, participants noted that “meaningful work” predominately meant feeling fulfilled by their work. These findings suggest that people ideally choose their work and organizations based on an intrinsic value of what makes them feel good. This study is a first step in examining these associations and encouraging researchers to consider various theoretical models in their development of qualitative questions and thematic coding of workplace attitudes.

Riley Manthey

Analysis of Drinking Water Quality in Buildings at the University of Mary Washington

Today, less than 1% of the Earth’s water is freshwater available for drinking. This percent is expected to decrease over the next decades due to climate change, a decrease in hotspot biodiversity and heightened natural disasters. This makes it important to protect and maintain safe drinking water quality. This project analyzed drinking water from buildings on the campus of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, for pH, chlorine, and various metals including: aluminum, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, nickel, selenium, vanadium, and zinc. Water was collected from bathroom sinks from each building on campus using the EPA Quick Guide to Drinking Water Sample Collection by running the water for two minutes, rinsing bottles three times, and filling them. Samples were tested on-site for free available chlorine and total residual chlorine using EPA Approved test kits. Then, the pH of all the samples were recorded before being stored in a fridge at 4°C. The samples were then analyzed for metals using inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). Results show that pH ranged from 6.26 to 7.80, with a distinct decrease in pH occurring in all samples collected after November 18th; free available chlorine ranged from 0.1ppm to 2.0ppm; and total residual chlorine ranged from 0.8ppm to 3.0ppm. The EPA recommends pH to be between 6.5 to 8.5, total residual chlorine chlorine to be less than 4 ppm, arsenic to be less than 0.01 ppm, cadmium to be less than 0.005 ppm, and Lead to be at 0 ppm. The source of the water is the same for all campus buildings, and as a result the city of Fredericksburg gets its water from the Rappahannock River through Spotsylvania County Utilities so these variations might be a result of campus infrastructure. Possible trends and correlations will be determined with SPSS statistical analysis.

Roderick McNeill

Spectroscopy of Ar and Ar/Cl_2 Plasmas Used for the Processing of Superconducting Radio Frequency Cavities.

The current processing of Superconducting Radio Frequency (SRF) Cavities involves a hazardous and expensive wet chemical treatment. Our research at Old Dominion University has shown that plasma etching is a viable alternative that provides competitive results while being a safer, more cost-effective method. In order to understand the plasma etching process, a full description of the plasma system must be attained. Here we outline two spectroscopic techniques used to ascertain pertinent information, such as the gas temperature (T¬g) and excited state densities. Specifically, we employed a laser absorption spectroscopy technique that utilizes the Doppler broadening of spectral lines, and an emission spectroscopy method that uses ratios of observed spectral line intensities. The laser is much more accurate, however only one excited level density can be calculated. The emission spectroscopy is a crude measurement, but yields comparable results while providing several important density populations simultaneously. We compare these two methods over a wide variety of plasma etching parameters to determine the relationships between these parameters and the plasma state. This information will be used to design an ideal plasma etching environment for SRF cavities.

Samantha Jones

Calcium oxalate crystals in the bud scales of native and non-native trees.

Calcium oxalate crystals are found throughout the plant kingdom. It is generally assumed that these crystals in leaves discourage herbivory, although other roles in leaves and other parts of the plant have been proposed. Another plant part that would be valuable to protect would be the future leaves and flowers enfolded in winter buds. Insects could be a problem in late fall and early spring. In the winter, insects might not be a problem, but mammalian herbivores would be. We hypothesized that the scales enfolding the developing leaves and flowers might be armed with crystals to discourage herbivory. To test this, we collected buds from 25 native and non-native local trees, dissected off the bud scales and cleared the scales for microscopy. Crystals were abundant in some species, but apparently absent in others. In some species, they were found primarily at the base, or primarily at the tip. Both flat plates, and druses (star-like aggregations of plates) were seen.

Samuel Bowers

Modulus of Toughness vs. Coldwork

Our research examines the effect that a cold work process has on the properties of mild steel. Specifically, our samples were cold rolled to six different degrees ranging from 0% – 15%, this was followed by tensile testing to measure material properties. Our primary objective was to observe the effect of cold rolling on the modulus of toughness in order to determine if the modulus of toughness remained constant.

Materials Engineering textbooks indicate that cold work has the effect of increasing strength while reducing ductility. Since the modulus of toughness is reasonably approximated as the product of strength and ductility it appeared plausible to the researchers that the modulus of toughness remained constant as strength and ductility were “”traded off”” during a cold work process. To investigate this notion a test was devised in which six samples of 1018 steel were initially annealed and then were treated to different levels of cold work via cold rolling; the levels of cold work were 0%, 3%, 6%, 9%, 12%, and 15%. Each specimen then underwent tensile testing and hardness testing. The modulus of toughness was calculated from the stress/strain curve associated with each specimen.

Our research demonstrated that cold work had the effect of decreasing the modulus of toughness from about 28000 psi in the “”as annealed”” state to about 5000 psi in the case of 15% cold work. Furthermore, the effect was shown to be well described linear with a rate of decrease of about -1700 psi/% cold work.

Our poster will include a description of our processes (pre-annealing process and cold work process) as well as the tests and analyses performed to determine properties. We will also present the stress-strain graphs and the resulting modulus of toughness values for each sample.”

Sara Eghtessadi

Enhanced Resource Recovery from Secondary Wastewater by Integrating Algae in a Submerged Forward Osmosis System

An osmotic membrane photobioreactor (OMPBR) consisting of a submerged forward osmosis (FO) module and autotrophic microalgae was designed and operated for the purpose of recovering resources, especially nutrients and water, from secondary wastewater. In this OMPBR, Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) and Monoammonium Phosphate (MAP) were selected as draw solutes to extract water towards direct fertigation. Autotrophic microalgae in the feed tank harnesses natural sunlight and converts remaining nutrients (e.g. phosphorus and nitrogen) in the wastewater into biofuel. The microalgae provide further control of the salinity buildup issue caused by reverse solute flux (RSF) in OMPBR through reducing membrane fouling and enhancing biological assimilation. The efficiency of the proposed OMPBR was measured in the water flux across the membrane, which was calculated using this equation: (mass/1000 L)/(25/10000 m^2× time) in the units of L m-2 h-1.

Sean Gholson

Small Landau-Ginzbug theories

We classify (0,2) Landau-Ginzburg theories that can flow to compact IR fixed points with equal left and right central charges strictly bounded by 3. Our result is a (0,2) generalization of the ADE classification of (2,2) Landau-Ginzburg theories that flow to N=2 minimal models. Unitarity requires the right-moving supersymmetric sector to fall into the standard N=2 minimal model representations, but the left-moving sector need not have supersymmetry. The Landau-Ginzburg realizations provide a simple way to compute the chiral algebra and other characteristics of these fixed points. While our results pertain to isolated superconformal theories, tensor products lead to (0,2) superconformal theories with higher central charge, and the Landau-Ginzburg realization provides a model for a class of marginal and relevant deformations of such theories.

Sean Leonard

Real-Time Immersive Explorative Visualization of Large Volume Flow Data

Scientific visualization is an important application of computer graphics to scientific computing, providing deep insight into the pattern underlying big data. Flow visualization plays a crucial role in a wide variety of areas such as oceanographic-atmospheric modeling (for studying ocean currents and hurricanes), computational fluid dynamics simulation (for designing aircraft and watercraft), and diffusion tensor imaging analysis (for exploring the human brain and various cardiovascular structures) by providing deep insight into the pattern underlying massive vector data. There have been many methods for visualizing flows ranging from steady to unsteady and from planar to surface and further to volume, while streamlines (i.e., field lines or flow lines that are point-wise tangent to the flow) remain a straightforward and efficient approach for investigating large steady flows. We present ExActiveFLOVE, real-time user-driven streamline placement coupled with evenly-spaced streamline (ESS) placement to facilitate explorative volume flow visualization in virtual environments for big data analysis. A seeder is a 3D rectangular lattice of uniformly-spaced seed points which is “attached” to, centered at, and dynamically moves with the user who navigates within the data volume via Virtual Reality device. A collection of streamlines, one originating from each seed, “driven” by the user allows for comprehensive investigation of local structures. On the other hand, the user is informed of the location, view direction, movement direction, surrounding context, and the global pattern of the flow by means of LIC (a dense image), ADVESS (an aesthetic layout of adjustable density), and arrow plots (sparse representation) on cutting planes in combination with a 3D view of evenly-spaced streamlines for improved mental reconstruction. Thus, the proposed work enables an experience as if the user were positioned in real data volume, exploring and understanding complex flows.

Shreya Dayal

Self Assembly of Actin Like Filaments

Actin filaments (F-actins) are long, double-stranded, helical biopolymers that make up the cytoskeleton along with microtubules and intermediate filaments. In order to better understand the self-assembly process of actin filaments, a coarse-grained model of their building block to recreate the geometry of filaments was developed, which was motivated by the wedge model of microtubule self-assembly.

The model monomer has the shape of a bent, twisted rod with binding sites on its lateral and top/bottom surfaces. The longitudinal binding through the binding sites on the top/bottom surfaces of the rod allows the formation of strands, while the lateral binding between the rods enables the strands to adhere laterally to form double-stranded helical filaments. Such a design captures the assembly behavior of G-actins into F-actins. With molecular dynamics simulations, we explored the self-assembly of these bent-rod monomers.

A variety of assembled phases were observed when the strengths of the binding interactions between monomers were varied. Our simulations indicate that only a narrow range of binding strengths yields double-stranded helical filaments resembling F-actins. Furthermore, the structure of the assembled filaments is much more robust and resistant to fluctuations and defects when the strength of the longitudinal binding interaction is stronger than that of the lateral binding between monomers. Finally, double-stranded filaments are found to be much more stable structurally than single-stranded ones. Our results reveal fresh insights into the fact that actin filaments are predominantly double-stranded.”

Skylar Johnson

Choroid plexus perfusion MRI indicates cerebrospinal fluid production changes after surgically-manipulated vascular tone: implications for glymphatic flow

Recent studies have provided evidence in support of a CNS lymphatic drainage system in vertebrate animals, in which communication exists between brain parenchyma (e.g., tissue and blood microvasculature), paravascular and interstitial spaces, and CSF. This glymphatic system is believed to operate to clear interstitial solutes and in coordination with meningeal lymphatic vessels to clear CSF and metabolic waste products toward draining lymph nodes. The hypothesis to be investigated is that by improving paravascular flow via neoangiogenesis, less CSF production will be required for waste clearance, and choroid plexus activity will reduce if communication exists between paravascular flow and CSF dynamics. We performed a cross-sectional study in which sequential measurements of intracranial CSF volume were obtained, as well as cortical and choroid plexus function. All measurements were repeated (i) after indirect surgical revascularization, which elicits neonangiogenesis within the fronto-parietal cortex (n=23; age=41.8±2.8 years), or (ii) in a similar cohort of age- and sex-matched participants at two time points without interval surgeries (n=10; age=41.7±3.4 years). Regression analyses were used to evaluate dependence of CBF and volume parameters on state (time 1 vs. 2) with p<0.05 required for significance. Post-surgery, fractional intracranial CSF volume increased slightly but significantly by 2.8%. The increase in CSF volume was found to be significantly related to the success of the revascularization as quantified by fronto-parietal CBF change. In this cohort, fronto-parietal cortical CBF increased and choroid plexus CBF decreased after surgery. In participants without interval surgeries, fronto-parietal CBF reduced and choroid plexus CBF increased between time points. These findings are consistent with a homeostatic mechanism whereby improved paravascular flow and more robust waste clearance prompts decreased choroid plexus CSF production.

Sophie Troyer

Molecular and Mucin-Binding Characteristics of Innate Lung Protein LPLUNC1

Surya Gara

Overall aim is to quantify overall neutrophil decision making during an infection

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that causes life-threatening infections in immunocompromised individuals. The bacterium possesses two states, planktonic and biofilm, with the latter exhibiting immune evasion and increased antibiotic resistance. Being a major lung colonizer in immunocompromised patients, primarily those with cystic fibrosis,Pseudomonas biofilm infections present huge clinical challenges. These patients are prone to chronic lung infection and damage to lower respiratory airways. Our body deploys various defense mechanisms to combat P. aeruginosa infection, of which neutrophils are one of the first responders. Neutrophils migrate to the site of infection as guided by the chemokines such as LTB4, IL-8, and IFN-γ, to begin inflammation. Neutrophils respond to diverse pathogenic factors and trap or neutralize the pathogen via phagocytosis, degranulation, oxidative burst and NET (Neutrophil Extracellular Traps) release, which form a potent defense. Besides, they also cluster around the bacteria in swarms, communicating among each other in the process. While there is adequate literature discussing the individual neutrophil behaviors, there is still conjecture about coordinated decision-making of neutrophils during infection. To address this in our work, we aim to quantify neutrophil decision-making in response to the various infection states of Pseudomonas (planktonic and biofilm) and with changing MOI (Multiplicity of Infection). Here, we employ pH-sensitive dyes specific for bacterial phagocytosis, and live dead fluorescence tracking of neutrophil swarms and NETs through time-lapse technology and image analysis using ImageJ. Further, we aim to collate this data to observe differences in neutrophil decision-making in healthy individuals and immunocompromised patients. This study of coordinated neutrophil decision-making is paramount in the effective screening of novel immunotherapies, serving as a valuable tool in precision medicine.

Tarik Tsegaye

The Expression of Dopamine-Associated Genes is Altered in an Animal Model of Adolescent Traumatic Brain Injury

The pathology of traumatic brain injury (TBI) adversely affects many brain regions, often resulting in the development of comorbid psychiatric disorders that persist throughout the patient’s life, including substance use disorders (SUDs). Epidemiological data show the risk of experiencing a TBI peaks across populations aged 0-18, whereas the age most likely to experiment with illicit drug use is 18-25. While these clinical findings indicate that risk of TBI peaks prior to risk of problematic drug use, preclinical investigations examining the effects of early-life TBI on subsequent development of SUDs demonstrates a gap in the literature. Furthermore, to date, little is known about how TBI-induced molecular changes affect brain structures essential for reward perception and processing drug-induced euphoria. It is hypothesized that the neurophysiological changes after early-life TBI play a critical role in remodeling of the brain, particularly within the reward circuitry, increasing the susceptibility to the development of SUD. The goal of the current study is to investigate potential underlying mechanisms mediating the link between TBI and SUD by utilizing RT-qPCR to evaluate TBI-induced changes in gene expression, particularly dopamine-associated genes involved in signaling in the mesolimbic regions of the brain directly responsible for the reward response of the brain. This data highlights changes to the brain’s reward pathway or signaling in these regions that occur due to injury. The significance of these studies is to offer crucial insight to understanding how early-life TBI affects vulnerability to the development of SUD.

Tessa Posey

The Synthesis of Scintillating Nanoparticles for Optogenetics

Optogenetics is a method for controlling cells in biological tissues through the use of light. There are proteins in the body that can be activated when exposed to light. By targeting these particular proteins, optogenetics allows for the manipulation of cells with an unprecedented level of precision. A material that scintillates is able to absorb high energy radiation and become excited, resulting in the emission of light. Because they are able to emit light, scintillating materials are promising for optogenetic applications. The use of scintillating materials is particularly promising for biomedical studies, as they can be implanted deep within the brain structure with minimal damage to brain tissue. Researchers have been attempting to produce scintillating materials through numerous methods including the use of single crystal growth, hydrothermal, sol-gel, ceramic, nanocrystallization, and solid state procedures. With these methods of synthesis, an issue arises because the materials require long periods of calcination which results in aggregation. This renders the resulting materials less promising at the nanoscale. A novel method to solve this existing problem utilizing a Salt-Supported High Temperature (SSHT) method, has been developed. This enables the nanoparticles to be calcined for long periods of time without aggregation. In this study Ce+3 doped Lu2Si2O7 nanoparticles were synthesized using a core-shell method to allow for control over the size and morphology of the nanoparticles, followed by the use of the SSHT method to produce fully reacted unaggregated nanoparticles.

Thomas Ferguson

Modulus of toughness vs. Cold work

Our research examines the effect that a cold work process has on the properties of mild steel. Specifically, our samples were cold rolled to six different degrees ranging from 0% – 15%, this was followed by tensile testing to measure material properties. Our primary objective was to observe the effect of cold rolling on the modulus of toughness in order to determine if the modulus of toughness remained constant.

  Materials Engineering textbooks indicate that cold work has the effect of increasing strength while reducing ductility. Since the modulus of toughness is reasonably approximated as the product of strength and ductility it appeared plausible to the researchers that the modulus of toughness remained constant as strength and ductility were “”traded off”” during a cold work process. To investigate this notion a test was devised in which six samples of 1018 steel were initially annealed and then were treated to different levels of cold work via cold rolling; the levels of cold work were 0%, 3%, 6%, 9%, 12%, and 15%. Each specimen then underwent tensile testing and hardness testing. The modulus of toughness was calculated from the stress/strain curve associated with each specimen.

Our research demonstrated that cold work had the effect of decreasing the modulus of toughness from about 28000 psi in the “”as annealed”” state to about 5000 psi in the case of 15% cold work. Furthermore, the effect was shown to be well described linear with a rate of decrease of about -1700 psi/% cold work.

  Our poster will include a description of our processes (pre-annealing process and cold work process) as well as the tests and analyses performed to determine properties. We will also present the stress-strain graphs and the resulting modulus of toughness values for each sample.”

Timothy Bushman

Influence of a dietary yeast supplement on intestinal epithelial-associated microbial communities in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

In order to meet the food needs of a rising global population, aquaculture is an important sustainable alternative to wild-caught fisheries. The microbiome of a fish is an important aspect of the animal’s health, growth rate, and nutrition. The fish microbiome is influenced by exogenous factors such as diet and the rearing environment. As a sustainable alternative to fish meal, yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) has been shown to yield fish with similar growth rates and fillet quality as ones fed commercial fish meal. In order to investigate the effect of supplemented yeast on the structure of the intestinal epithelial-associated microbiome, rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were fed either a commercial diet as a control, or one of four experimental diets containing 0%, 20%, 40%, or 60% of menhaden fishmeal substituted with yeast. Prior work has shown that the 0% supplement-fed fish had decreased survival versus the other groups for unknown reasons. Additionally, the 20% supplement-fed fish had the highest average weight gains in comparison to the other supplemented groups. To understand the effect of the yeast-supplemented diet on the intestinal epithelial-associated microbiome, intestinal samples were harvested and DNA from those samples was subsequently extracted. Following DNA extraction, the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene was PCR amplified. Samples were then gel purified and later sequenced using the Illumina MiSeq platform. Preliminary QIIME results have shown little community variation between treatment groups.

Tristan Ingersoll

Promoting the Actively Caring for People (AC4P) Movement: A Systematic Evaluation of a Social-Media Intervention

This research was designed to inform more people about the AC4P Movement (www.activelycaringpeople.org), and to get them involved in this worldwide Movement–initiated in 2005 to foster an AC4P community of interpersonal civility, empathy, interdependency, and human welfare. The social-media intervention evaluated in this innovative research project was the impact of an AC4P Twitter page (@p_ac4), introduced initially to a class of 31 research students, and two large introductory psychology lecture classes at Virginia Tech (VT), one with ~600 students and a second class of ~400 students. These two introductions resulted in 56 followers the first day. Thus, we expect to gain many more followers and commentaries over the next three months. A time-series approach will be applied to record systematically the number of followers, likes, comments, and retweets per week for three consecutive months (December 5, 2018-March 5, 2019). Retweets of the AC4P Twitter postings will also be analyzed per likes and comments. When the spring semester at VT starts in mid-January, announcements of the AC4P Twitter account will be given in other classes, and the subsequent participation will be tracked and evaluated systematically. In addition, demonstration tables to promote the AC4P Movement and Twitter account will be placed and staffed in the center of the VT campus, and their impact will be evaluated with a time-series analysis. At the same time, the research team will be conducting content analyses of the comments received on the AC4P Twitter page (and retweets) in order to obtain people’s opinion about the AC4P Movement and evaluate their suggestions for further dissemination of the AC4P Movement. Given the relatively high number of followers and likes already obtained during the final week of the fall 2018 semester, we expect substantial participation on the AC4P Twitter account for systematic analysis before the Mid-Atlantic Undergraduate Research Conference (March 2018).

Tyler Wahl

A Comparative Study of Bio-Inspired Design Methods in an Engineering Curriculum

The goal of this research is to determine which Bio-Inspired Design (BID) Process is better for concept generation based on qualitative and quantitative data. Bio-Inspired Design is a resource and tool for engineers that uses biological functions as inspiration for sustainable concept generation. Two methods were taught in an engineering design course of 70 second year engineering students at James Madison University. Half of the students were taught the Biomimicry Institute (BI) method which focuses on a seven step process of Defining, Identifying, Integrating, Discovering, Abstracting, Brainstorming, and Emulating. The other half were taught the Concept-Knowledge (CK) mapping method, created by Dr. Nagel and prior undergraduate research students, that focuses on what traditional and biological knowledge students have and uses the knowledge for BID concept generation. This method helps break down the design task into a dichotomy, and then further break it down into rough ideas to select a concept and create a sketch. Both groups received the same lecture and assignment to determine which was more effective. Student generated concepts were assessed using decision flowcharts for the metrics of biomimicry, feasibility, practicality, and novelty. The two methods were statistically compared to determine which one created stronger concepts. Students were also asked three questions each about content and process. The student responses were broken down into codes which were categorized and put into themes to compare the two methods. In the qualitative and quantitative data sets it was found that more students understood BID and created stronger concepts with the CK method than the BI method and were more likely to use it in the future. Since BID is a relatively new topic in engineering, teaching methods are limited. We believe the results of this research can inform engineering educators on how to effectively teach BID to engineers.

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Wenting Shi

Development of Drug-Loaded Optical Fibers for Cancer Therapy

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women. Among the many subtypes of breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer is considered highly invasive with an increased risk of recurrence. To address the relapse of this type of tumor, a triggerable and sustained drug delivery system is desired to develop. During the research, we build a flexible polymer/ drug integrated optical fiber which can respond to external energy sources for drug delivery over an extended duration. The fiber is coated by biodegradable polymers, such as PLA and PLGA, together with a therapeutic agent – verteporfin. The coated fiber can continuously provide verteporfin in vitro over two weeks within the desired drug concentration all the time. Then, based on HPLC analysis, we perform a drug delivery profile which quantitatively relates the released drug concentration versus time. According to the nature of verteporfin as a photosensitizer, the near-infrared (NIR) light is applied to activate the drug and then trigger the cancer treatment as NIR shining onto the target tumors. This drug delivery system successfully provides therapeutic agent under an external energy control and over a long period. Therefore, it achieves the ideas of triggerable and sustained drug delivery and then attains significant benefits for cancer therapy.

William Armstrong

Expediting image analysis for novel biological application with an automated matlab program

Image analysis involves decomposing an image into its most basic components in order to extract statistical data. With image analysis, it is possible to quantify how something changes as opposed to just visualizing the change. For example, the quantification of the number of cells in a set of consecutive images can be used to find the rate of cell division over the time course of the experiment. Counting the number of cells in an image by eye, however, is physically intensive and prone to error. To combat this, we have developed a MATLAB algorithm for automated image analysis to allow quantification of biological images with applications including, amount of actin expression, cell enumeration, cell nucleus area, and orientation angle of actin filaments. The program provides an easy to use graphical user interface to allow the end user to operate the program with little to no prior experience in image analysis tools or techniques.

William Interiano

Optimization of the Western Assay Via Mold Cast Gel

Western blotting is a widely used technique for analyzing proteins and their post-translational modifications that is highly sensitive and specific, but is notoriously difficult to multiplex. The microwestern blot was developed as a meso-scale multiplexed western blot, but requires an expensive and difficult to use piezo-electric pipetting apparatus that imposes strict, non-standard sample preparation requirements and can be mechanically unreliable. Here, we 3D printed a gel-casting mold that enables highly multiplexed microwestern blotting without piezo-electric pipetting.The resulting polyacrylamide gel contains 210 sample wells that each hold 1 microliter of sample arranged with 5 rows by 42 columns, and is designed to be loaded by a low-cost, easy to use automated pipetting robot (Opentrons). Proof-of-concept experiments using infrared-fluorescent molecular weight ladder demonstrated proteins loaded in cast microwestern gels were amenable to the standard western blotting steps of gel electrophoresis followed by transfer to a membrane for imaging. Current and future work is optimizing parameters of electrophoresis and transfer, along with application to cell lysate measurements. Because the gel mold is 3D printed, users have significant design freedom for custom layouts, and we expect that the technique could be easily adopted by any typical cell and molecular biology laboratory already doing western blots.

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Zachary Fisher

Azide reduction by DTT or thioacetic acid provides access to amino and amido polysaccharides