Abstracts of Graduate Student Research Projects

April 25 at 4 p.m.
Celebration of Graduate Research and Creative Activities

April 26 at 12 p.m.
First Annual Faculty Research Fellow Lecture, with Dr. Paul Jargowsky*
*Registration Required for Fellow Lecture

Synchronous Photoluminescence Spectroscopy of Mesoporous Calcium Titanate

Azzah Alzahrani
Chemistry (MS)
Dr. Alexander Samokhvalov
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: Synchronous fluorescence will be used to study the mid-gap electronic states of a new synthesized  material cubic mesoporous calcium titanate at room temperature.

Abstract: The PL spectra of semiconductors are often complicated since several peaks are usually present due to the recombination of electrons in the conduction band (CB) with holes in the valence band (VB). The recombination involving “intrinsic” midgap exciton states, defects e.g. oxygen vacancies, and “extrinsic” states due to impurities and dopants could yield broad, poorly resolved “conventional” PL spectra of emiconductors. Synchronous fluorescence spectroscopy has been extensively used for analysis of various chemical compounds with similar “conventional” emission spectra.

We investigated the capabilities of high resolution synchronous photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy to learn about electronic midgap charge-trapping states in mesoporous calcium titanate CaTiO3, which is used as new highly promising photocatalyst for hydrogen generation.

Social Networking and the Mediation of Youth in Urban Guinea

Clovis Bergere
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Dr. Lauren J. Silver (Chair); Dr. Daniel T. Cook; Dr. Cati Coe
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: My research explores the changing social constructions of youth in Guinea, West Africa as mediated online, on social networking sites (Facebook and Twitter in particular). The concepts of ‘literacy’ and ‘address’ are used as devises to explore changing political, fiscal and social subjectivities of Guinean youth.

Abstract: My main goal is to explore the social constructions of youth as mediated by and mediating social media practices.  In Guinea, in recent years, having a page on Facebook or Twitter has emerged as a key ‘marker’ of youth, and these online practices are profoundly reshaping what it means to be young in cities such as Conakry or Labe. My dissertation focuses on two concepts (literacy and address) in order to explore the remaking of youth as mediated online.  Based on nearly two years of ethnographic fieldwork online, I explore practices such as correcting errors in French in official documents, street knowledge, the invention of new forms of literacy, # campaigns (such as #GuineeVote; #TaxeDeSuivisme or #5000CBon) or the recent introduction of an Internet tax as key mechanisms through which new forms of political subjectivities and relations of power are emerging in Guinea, a largely gerontocratic society.  My overall argument is that social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter are creating spaces that are both highly fluid, yet also provide new forms of permanence, and grounding for youth in Guinea. In the process, online practices point to new temporalities and modes of being young in Guinea.

The effect of CorA mutation on cobalt metabolism in Neurospora crassa

Zachary Borden
Biology (MS)
Dr. Kwangwon Lee
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: Examination of the physiological effect of increasing cobalt concentration on the growth of several strains of N. crassa in an effort to describe the mechanisms behind cobalt metabolism and resistance.

Abstract: In studies to discern the effects of metal toxicity, N. crassa adapted to increasingly hostile media in a matter of months and was even able to reverse the effects of excess environmental Co2+ and Ni2+ to return to a normal metabolic state once more iron was made available.  It has been suggested, due to the relative lack of cytoplasmic cobalt and high deposition on the external cell wall in the cobalt-resistant mutant that this is due to inactivation of an active transport mechanism.  However, the creation of a cobalt-resistant, wall-less mutant suggests some other mechanism aside from reliance on impermeability of the cell wall to avoid passive transport of toxic levels of metal ions into the cell.  In addition, knockout strains with the cobalt transporter CorA removed exhibit a hybrid phenotype, with rapid growth rate and high resistance to cobalt at low concentrations, but cessation of growth before a similar halt of metabolic activity is observed in the cobalt-resistant mutant.  This suggests some other compensatory mechanism is either working in concert with CorA or is activated upon removal of the cobalt transporter.

Youth Homelessness and Risk: A Population-Representative Study in a Large Urban Area

Jorge Carvalho Pereira
Debrielle Jacques
Psychology (MA)
J.J. Cutuli, Ph.D.

Description: This study examines homelessness and suicidality among high school youth.

Abstract: This study examines homelessness and suicidality among high school youth. Homeless youth had higher average suicide severity scores compared to non-homeless peers, and a risk gradient occurred for different typologies of homeless youth where unaccompanied homelessness represented the highest severity, family homelessness an intermediate level, and never homeless the lowest.

Effects of NADH Excluded Volume and Induced N-terminal Conformational Change on Ion Translocation Across VDAC

Sai Shashank Chavali
Biology (MS)
Dr. Grace Brannigan

Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: The primary focus of this project is to understand the gating mechanism of Voltage dependent anion channel (VDAC) in the presence of NADH. We are interested in understanding the effect of NADH on the conformation and ion translocation of VDAC.

Abstract: Effects of NADH excluded volume and induced N-terminal conformational change on ion translocation across VDAC The Voltage Dependent Anion Channel (VDAC) is a mitochondrial outer membrane protein that mediates transfer of ions and small metabolites. It also allows apoptotic factors like cytochrome C into the cytoplasm, thereby playing a crucial role in mediating programmed cell death (apoptosis). Previous studies have indicated that Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide in its reduced form (NADH) but not its oxidized form (NAD+) reduces conduction through VDAC. However, there is no available non-conducting structure of VDAC, and the mechanism of modulation by NADH remains poorly understood. Here we use long, fully-atomistic molecular dynamics simulations to study NADH binding to VDAC and its effect on channel dynamics and ion translocation. Simulations of VDAC were conducted using an NMR structure determined in the presence of NADH (and provided by Dr. Sebastian Hiller), and with NADH bound as in that structure, deprotonated in silico to NAD+, or removed entirely. We observed dissociation of NAD+ within 100 ns, while NADH remained bound, suggesting that insensitivity of VDAC to NAD+ reflects a significantly lowered affinity of NAD+ for the VDAC pore. In VDAC with NADH entirely removed from the complex before simulation, the N-terminal loop dramatically changed its conformation over the course of the simulations, eventually approaching its conformation in structures experimentally determined in an apo-state. The present results are consistent with a mechanism in which NADH reduces conduction by partial pore block, while concurrently forcing a conformational change of the N-terminus.

Potential direct contributions of the N-terminal loop to modulating conduction, such as reduction of the favorable ion density in the pore, are also discussed.

Community and Economic Development Strategies for Distressed Cities

Spencer Clayton
Public Affairs (PhD)
Marie Chevrier

Description: Alternative strategies to address poverty in Camden, NJ.

Abstract: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” (Burnham, 1893)   This was Daniel Burnham’s strategy for helping America transition into a well-developed “America the Beautiful.” Nearly 121 years later, many American cities continue to face urban decay and third world-like living standards. 

Distressed cities throughout the nation suffer from a variety of social problems such as unemployment, low educational attainment, and limited social services. In 2013, social service agencies across the country had their federal funding cut by at least 5%. This may be a leading contributing factor to the fiscal limitations of many organizations in Camden, NJ to offer services and implement projects that contribute to community and economic resiliency. This presentation examines diverse community and economic initiatives models to alleviate poverty in Camden, New Jersey.

DNA Crowding Effects on the Activity and Stability of Enzymes

John Collins
Chemistry (MS)
Dr. Jinglin Fu

Description: A study of the effects of DNA crowding on the activity and stability of enzymes, by employing the hybridization chain reaction to control the density of DNA around several model enzymes.

Abstract: DNA is an excellent building block for the construction of nanoscale devices, due to its highly programmable structure, well defined structural features, and ease of functionalization. This allows for DNA to be used a scaffolding material to site-specifically incorporate, with nanoscale precision, functional elements onto DNA nanostructures such as nanoparticles, antibodies, and enzymes. Several published studies have demonstrated that enzymes attached to DNA nanostructures have enhanced catalytic activity, as compared to free enzymes in solution. It is believed that the poly-anionic surfaces of DNA nanostructures stabilize the enzymes attached to them, causing the enzymes to catalyze their reactions at an enhanced rate, as well as protecting the enzymes from degradation. Although these effects have been known for some time, there has been no detailed studies into why this phenomena occurs. We hypothesize that these observed effects are tied to the density of DNA surrounding the enzyme. In this work, we plan on studying the effects of molecular crowding, caused by DNA, on the activity and stability of enzymes. Studies have shown that molecular crowding has a profound impact on enzyme structure, by restricting the available volume around enzymes, and affecting the structure of water molecules responsible for solvating them. To study this, we will employ what is known as the hybridization chain reaction, to grow varying densities of DNA around several model enzymes, and study the observed effects on the activity of the enzymes, as well as the resistance of these enzymes to degradation by both chemical and physical methods.

The Relationship between the HEXACO-60 Personality Factors and Impression Efficacy and Motivation

Michelle Dixon
Autumn Nanassy and Jenna Harvey
Psychology (MA)
Christopher S. Nave, Ph.D.
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: Describing the relationship between the HEXACO-60 personality factors and impression efficacy and motivation.

Abstract: Individuals possess unique levels of confidence and motivation in regards to how they present themselves to observers. Based off Self-Presentation Theory, a newer Social Motivation/Social Efficacy (SMSE) scale was examined in a person perception context. The current study examined whether personality was related to individuals’ impression efficacy (IE) and impression motivation (IM). Participants (N = 110) completed surveys involving the HEXACO60 and the SMSE scale.  SMSE responses showed little overlap between IM and IE constructs, and adequate variability in response, with 30 percent of participants low in IM and 39 percent low in IE.  IE was correlated to extraversion, conscientiousness, and emotionality (r’s = .51, .19, -.22, respectively). IM was related to conscientiousness, emotionality, and honesty/humility (r’s = .21, .36, -.19, respectively). These results indicate unique associations between personality, IM, and IE.  Future analyses will compare how IM and IE levels influence person perception judgments and successful interactions.

“You have to love yourself first?: Examining the effectiveness of a body image improvement intervention to reduce weight self- and other-directed bias.”

Jamie Dunaev
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Dr. Charlotte Markey
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee:

Description: This project uses an experimental design to test the effectiveness of a body gratitude exercise for improving body image and reducing weight bias.

Abstract: Negative attitudes toward obese individuals are deeply ingrained and resistant to change. Drawing on social comparison theory, anti-fat attitudes are suggested to be rewarding because they allow individuals to feel better about their own bodies through the negative appraisal of others’ bodies. In line with this theory, we hypothesized that increasing an individual’s own body satisfaction would lead to a reduction in anti-fat attitudes.

A total of 369 participants, 18-25 years old, completed this study online. After consenting to participate, participants were randomly assigned to either a control condition or a treatment group. Participants in the treatment group (N = 185) were asked to think about aspects of their body that they were grateful for (e.g., health, appearance, functionality). Following this prompt, participants were then asked to write down at least three of the things they thought about. Participants in the control group (N = 184) were asked to write about their ideal vacation. All participants then completed a number of body image, attitudinal, and demographic measures.

Results indicated that the treatment was effective at improving body image; participants in the treatment condition reported significantly higher body satisfaction when compared to the control condition. Contrary to predictions, this increase in body image did not result in lower levels of explicit anti-fat attitudes for either measure.

This study contributes to the literature by testing a novel weight bias reduction strategy. While this strategy was successful at improving body image, subsequent reductions in weight bias were not found. 

Puerto Rico: Political Economy and the Case for American Civil Rights

Darleen Garcia
Public Affairs (PhD)
Marie Chevrier

Description: This project discusses the relationship between Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, its sociopolitical and  political economic status, and the lack of civil rights that affect all American citizens living on the island and in continental USA.

Abstract: While Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has been making international headlines in recent months, it has been facing a larger dilemma for nearly 100 years post the adaptation of the Jones Act in 1917.  That is, it lacks the civil rights that are available to other American citizens, the US President, law makers, and veterans included. What are those rights and why does it affect all Americans? This presentation will review the consequences of colonization and potential solutions for socioeconomic mobility through political reform.

Translating Science to Practice: Development of the HIV Risk Assessment and Safety Plan for Survivors of IPV

Jenna Harvey
Psychology (MA)
Courtenay Cavanaugh 

Description: This project involved translating academic research related to the intersection of intimate partner violence and HIV risk.

Abstract: Women who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) are at an increased risk of contracting HIV due to a culmination of risk factors related to contact with high-risk partners, mental health problems, substance use, and even sexual assault. Despite increasing knowledge of the interaction between IPV and HIV, there remain few, if any, HIV prevention interventions readily available to professionals who serve this population. The present work outlines the creation of an HIV Risk Assessment and Safety Plan for women who have experienced IPV, which translates relevant research on HIV risk factors related to mental health, substance use, consensual sexual activity, and non-consensual sexual activity into a low-cost tool that may be implemented in shelter settings with minimal effort on the part of shelter staff. Rationale for the design of the tool as it relates to the AIDS Risk Reduction Model (ARRM) and preliminary usability data from shelter workers in states with the highest HIV prevalence will be presented.

The Use of Music as a Symbol of Brígida’s Psychological Evolution in “The Tree” by María Luisa Bomba

Krysta Herrera
Teaching Spanish (MAT)
Professor Carla Giaudrone

Abstract: This presentation examines Chilean writer Maria Luisa Bombal’s (1910-1980) “The Tree” (1939) and its incorporation of instrumental music expressions as a possible means of challenging a male-centered discourse. Drawing from Hélène Cixous’ idea of a dominant (phallogocentric) language and system of rules confined by patriarchal ideals, I propose that the use of instrumental music in Bombal’s short story not only promotes the musical language as being both universal and translatable but also provides the female protagonist with an alternative way to express herself outside a binary system that always devaluates women.

Implications of Social Network Member Involvement for Exercise-Related Outcomes Among Patients with Diabetes

Reid Hlavka
Kiersten Westley
Psychology (MA)
Dr. Kristin August

Description: We examined the effects of social network member involvement in relation to exercise behaviors and emotional responses.

Abstract: Management of a chronic illness, such as type 2 diabetes, requires adherence to healthy behaviors such as exercise in order to successfully control symptoms and prevent long-term complications. Many individuals living with type 2 diabetes are nonadherent to their exercise regimen, however.  Social network members may attempt to influence these exercise behaviors by providing health-related social support (HRSS) and exerting health-related social control (HRSC).  The dual effects hypothesis suggests that these attempts may be related to both behavior change and emotional responses in response to such attempts. Thus, this study sought to examine how HRSS and two types of HRSC (positive and negative) are related to exercise behaviors and emotional responses. We examined this idea in a racially-diverse sample of middle-aged and older adults (45+) with type 2 diabetes through in-person interviews and self-report questionnaires. Multivariable linear regressions revealed that HRSS was associated with increased confidence in patients’ ability to exercise (p<.01), more frequent exercise behaviors (p < .05), and more appreciation for exercise support (p<.01).  The findings for HRSC suggest that both positive and negative HRSC were significantly associated with more guilt in response to exercise control (p<.01), and are significantly related to behavioral resistance to exercise (p<.001), while only negative HRSC was significantly associated to less frequent exercise behaviors (p<.05).  This study will further explore potential moderators of these associations.  The findings from this study highlight the importance of incorporating positive encouragement through health-related social support, and minimizing health-related social control in promoting exercise behaviors in the context of diabetes management.

MOST-Visualization: Software for Creating Diagrams of Reaction Networks to Assist in Engineering Microbes

James Kelley
Computational and Integrative Biology (MS)
Dr. Desmond S. Lun

Description: MOST-Visualization is an extension of MOST (Metabolic Optimization and Simulation Tool), a software package for engineering microbes. MOST – Visualization creates diagrams of reaction networks to assist in engineering microbes.

Abstract: Diagrams of the chemical reactions in organisms provide a valuable visual representation of these reactions and how they interact, and hence these diagrams are widely used in biological research. Knowledge of these chemical reactions is important, for example, in biotechnology, where bacteria and other microbes are genetically manipulated to produce valuable products cheaply. There are many sources of these diagrams in textbooks and on the internet that are produced manually. Since the number of reactions that occur in organisms is very large, producing one of these diagrams manually is very time consuming, and because of this, most diagrams are generic and not organism-specific.

Mathematical models exist for many organisms and using computer programs to produce diagrams from these models would reduce the time required to produce diagrams and lead to a larger selection of diagrams for specific organisms. Programs exist that produce diagrams from these models, but most of the programs produce diagrams that are confusing and do not adequately show the interactions between reactions.

MOST-Visualization is an extension of MOST (Metabolic Optimization and Simulation Tool), a software package for engineering microbes. MOST-Visualization produces diagrams from mathematical models that are similar to those that are manually drawn, and adds additional features such as using line thickness to show the magnitudes of reaction rates, allowing the effects of genetic manipulation to be observed. MOST-Visualization produces detailed diagrams of the reaction networks of E. coli, an organism of great industrial importance, as well as yeast, human, and other organisms.

E-Flux2 and SPOT: Validated Methods for Inferring Intracellular Metabolic Flux Distributions from Transcriptomic Data

Min Kyung Kim
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Prof. Desmond Lun

Description: We developed a computational tool for inferring system-level and condition-specific intracellular metabolic flux distribution from gene expression data.

Abstract: Several methods have been developed to predict system-wide and condition-specific intracellular metabolic fluxes by integrating transcriptomic data with genome-scale metabolic models. While powerful in many settings, existing methods have several shortcomings, and it is unclear which method has the best accuracy in general because of limited validation against experimentally measured intracellular fluxes.

 We present a general optimization strategy for inferring intracellular metabolic flux distributions from transcriptomic data coupled with genome-scale metabolic reconstructions. It consists of two different template models called DC (determined carbon source model) and AC (all possible carbon sources model) and two different new methods called E-Flux2 (E-Flux method combined with minimization of l2 norm) and SPOT (Simplified Pearson cOrrelation with Transcriptomic data), which can be chosen and combined depending on the availability of knowledge on carbon source or objective function. We examined E. coli and S. cerevisiae as representative prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms respectively. The predictive accuracy of our algorithm was validated by calculating the uncentered Pearson correlation between predicted fluxes and measured fluxes. To this end, we compiled 20 experimental conditions (11 in E. coli and 9 in S. cerevisiae), of transcriptome measurements coupled with corresponding central carbon metabolism intracellular flux measurements determined by 13C metabolic flux analysis (13C-MFA), which is the largest dataset assembled to date. In both organisms, our method achieves an average correlation coefficient ranging from 0.59 to 0.87, outperforming a representative sample of competing methods. Easy-to-use implementations of E-Flux2 and SPOT are available as part of the open-source package MOST (http://most.ccib.rutgers.edu/).

Stepwise detection of antigens using aptamer triggered DNAzyme signal amplification

Tianran Li
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Jinglin Fu

Description: DNA aptamers are target-specific duplex sequences which change conformation after binding to target. Then such a change triggers a DNAzyme chain reaction initiated by the released initiator-sensing strand thus could potentially be used to sense target molecules in low concentrations with promising output.

Abstract: DNA aptamers are target-specific duplex sequences which change conformation after binding to target. Such property could be applied to engineer stepwise bio-sensing reaction cascades, for instance, introducing the releasing of the target sensing strand while the conformational change of aptamer-complement duplex is triggered from aptamer-to-target binding followed with triggered hybridization chain reaction (Figure 1). On the streptavidin bead surface, sequential assembled localized adenosine aptamer changes conformation after binding to adenosine or cocaine, thus releases the initiator-sensoring strand which is semi-complementary to the aptamer strand. The released initiator-sensing strand could act as the initiator of a hybridization chain reaction via binding to the sticky end of HCR hairpin 2 probe strand which is partially complementary to the initiator and the pre-conjugated to one unit of the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDH) and remains stable without initiator. The HCR hairpin 2 strand is then opened up and its newly exposed end nucleates at the sticky end of HCR hairpin 1, conjugated to the cofactor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), and opens the hairpin to expose the end of it. As conjugated hairpins propagate to form an elongated nicked double helix, the G6PDH and NAD+ are brought together thus form complete DNAzymes with amplified enzymatic signals. Such a DNAzyme chain reaction initiated by the released initiator-sensing strand, could potentially be used to sense target molecules in low concentrations with promising output.

Prediction of the Effects of the Val66Met Polymorphism on the Conformational Ensemble of an Intrinsically Disordered Protein, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor

Ruchi Lohia
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Grace Brannigan

Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: Investigating the effects of Val66Met polymorphism on the conformation of BDNF using large-scale fully atomistic replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations of the disordered region.

Abstract: Intrinsically Disordered Proteins (IDP’s) lack a unique tertiary structure and exist as conformational ensembles ranging from completely unstructured random coils to compact molten globules. The conformational ensemble and the dynamics of disordered proteins is highly sensitive to its surrounding environment, as well as coding variants such as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs). IDPs are critical for signaling in the Central Nervous System (CNS), since they can bind with both low-affinity and high-specificity as a result of folding upon binding, and over one-fifth of identified disease-associated SNPs are found in disordered regions. Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a neurotrophin that facilitates neurogenesis in its short (mature) form but apoptosis in its long (pro) form; the former is structured while the latter includes an intrinsically disordered region of over 100 residues. A common (found in 4% of the United States population) SNP that results in the Val66Met mutation in the disordered N terminus domain of the long form of BDNF (proBDNF) has been associated with various neuropsychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Although IDPs have been identified to change their conformations rapidly, many also exhibit some residual secondary structure, which might be biased towards the bound conformation. Given the low density of hydrophobic residues in IDP’s , even conserved mutation of such as Val to Met can have significant effects on its dynamics and available conformations. In order to explore the effect of this SNP on protein structure and dynamics, we conducted Molecular dynamics simulations to identify the effect of the above SNP on likely conformations of proBDNF. To construct the ensemble of proBDNF in both forms, large-scale fully atomistic replica exchange calculations of both the Val and Met forms of proBDNF were carried out. We found significant differences in the secondary structure available to Val and Met forms of the protein in the region surrounding the SNP, with results that agree with recent NMR studies. Apart for secondary structure , we see differences in the conformational space available to V and M forms mediated via differential tertiary contact formations.

Eggshell Patterning by Wishful thinking: Signaling with Positive Feedback

Robert Marmion 
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Nir Yakoby
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: I study how one developmental gene is turned on in the correct time and space.  This gene works to build the fruit fly eggshell but is largely conserved, even in humans.

Abstract: The Drosophila eggshell is an established model to study cell signaling, tissue patterning, and morphogenesis. The bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway is a crucial regulator of tissue growth during multiple stages of Drosophila development. We found the type II receptor, wishful thinking (wit), to be dynamically and non-uniformly expressed in the follicle cells, which are a mono-layer of epithelial cells engulfing the developing oocyte. Wit is necessary for BMP signal transduction and is regulated transcriptionally by BMP signaling within the follicle cells. We studied gene regulation by BMP via studying the cis-regulatory module (CRM) responsible for wit expression.  Here we describe a binding site for P-MAD, the transcription factor of the BMP pathway, which differs from the literature description.  We utilized D. virilis, a species separated by 45 million years of evolution from D. melanogaster, to study the evolution of wit regulation.  Interestingly, wit patterning differs both in width and dynamics between the species.  We recapitulated this pattern in D. melanogaster by expression driven by the homologous CRM.  We suggest that spacing between MAD & MED binding sites underlies the patterning differences.

Likes, Shares, and Retweets: Social Media and Marijuana use Behavior among inner city Youths

Michael Medina
Criminal Justice (MA)
Dr. Stacia Gilliard-Matthews

Description: This project analyzes social media usage and marijuana use behavior among inner city youths to explain any connections.

Abstract: The current study utilizes survey data with inner city African American and Latino youths to examine the relationship between their social media use, peer networks, and substance use behavior. Viewed through the lens of social learning theory, we examine the role of pro- and anti-marijuana use messages on social media in youths’ marijuana use. Utilizing data from 249 youth, our analysis reveals that social media messages, on- and offline peer and extended social networks, and marijuana use behavior are interconnected. Further, pro- and anti- marijuana use messages accessed on social media sites increasingly inform youths’ intentions to use marijuana. These findings can be used to leverage prevention and intervention programs and strategies with this population.

Demonstration of novel brain activity in adult male rats

Steven Moffett
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Dr. Joseph Martin, Dr. Dawei Hong, Dr. Sean O’Malley

Description: This work demonstrates high-frequency EEG readings from adult male rats. Further, the signal changes with the state of consciousness of the rat (waking vs. sleeping).

Abstract: Traditionally, electroencephalography (EEG) has been used in laboratory settings on rat brain to determine consciousness state, drug effects, and seizure behavior. EEG can further be used to identify an administered drug, or to reveal a correlation between brain activity and a behavioral consequence (e.g., the lack of rapid-eye-movement sleep will have a negative effect on consolidated memory). The frequency range of rat EEG signal relevant to most studies is approximately 0.5-100Hz, which reflects the synchronous oscillation of large numbers of cortical neurons.

Recent theoretical work addresses the lower-energy but higher-frequency changes in individual neurons. Mathematical models which represent synaptic delay and fast brain activity in collections of neurons have demonstrated that this combination of effects, which the modelers have termed “rapid random fluctuations” (RRF), ensure reliable propagation of signals in the brain. This type of brain activity has never been the subject of a targeted study in vivo.

RRF happen on a much shorter timescale than the synchronous, larger-scale effects observed in conventional rat EEG data. Therefore, our experiments have focused on the simultaneous collection of traditional EEG data as well as EEG in a higher frequency range, one reflective of the predicted observable RRF frequency range (250-1000Hz).

RRF frequency-energy spectra show a significant difference in the energy in the 250-1000Hz frequency range in rats during an EEG-defined wakeful state, versus that when the rat is in an EEG-defined sleep state. The presence, and variation, of this frequency range is the first demonstration of such novel brain activity to date.

Affinity Calculations for Exogenous and Endogenous Modulators Binding to Isolated Sites on GABA Receptors

Sruthi Murlidaran
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Dr Grace Brannigan

Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: My project involves working with neuroreceptors such as GABA(A) receptors, that are pentamers, usually heteromers, with subunit composition varying across tissue types.

Most anesthetics, some hormones and neurosteroids are known to modulate GABA(A) receptors.The exact binding sites of these modulators in GABA(A) receptor, the sites they occupy at clinical concentrations and how they affect gating and ion conduction in receptor are the questions we are trying to answer using Molecular Dynamics simulations.

Abstract: Type-A ?-aminobutyric acid receptors (GABAARs) are pentameric ligand-gated ion channels that are ubiquitous to the central nervous system (CNS) and critical for regulating neuronal excitability. These inhibitory receptors, gated by ?- aminobutyric acid (GABA), can be potentiated and also directly activated by certain exogenous and endogenous lipophilic small molecules. Among the various endogenous modulators are derivatives of cholesterol called neurosteroids; neurosteroids that positively modulate GABAARs can function as natural sedatives, anesthetics, anxiolytics and anti-convulsants. The mechanisms underlying modulation of GABAARs by neurosteroids and exogenous modulators like general anesthetics are still poorly understood, in part due to the location of likely quasi-symmetric interaction sites in the transmembrane domain of the receptor, as well as inconclusive results from mutagenesis experiments. In particular, the extent to which binding modes of positively and negatively modulating neurosteroids overlap is unknown. Here we use molecular dynamics simulations and the thermodynamically rigorous alchemical free energy perturbation technique to rank pseudo-symmetric intersubunit binding modes by affinity for the positively modulating anesthetics (Propofol and Sevoflurane) and the negatively modulating novel analog with complex dose-response: triiodothyronine (thyroid hormone). Differential rankings of intersubunit sites for positive and negative modulators, are interpreted in the context of their distinctive functional effects.

Investigating the Moderating Effect of Personality on Emerging Adults’ Online Social Behavior

Theresa Murzyn
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Daniel Hart

Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: My research is investigating the effect of select personality traits on emerging adult participants’ language within and self-reported impressions of an experimental online text-based conversation.

Abstract: My research is investigating the effects of select personality traits and generational communication trends on emerging adult participants’ language within and self-reported impressions of an experimental online text-based conversation.  My study incorporates a mixed methodology.  This approach enables me to both statistically measure correlations between participants’ self-ratings of personality traits and scale-based impressions of the online conversation as well as qualitatively assess the content of participants’ chat transcripts.  I intend, through the combination of these forms of assessment, to present with rich detail whether and how personality traits and communication trends contribute to participants’ impressions of and textual behavior within an online conversation with an unknown other.

For the celebration of graduate student event, I will share descriptive statistics of the study sample and preliminary results of correlations between participants’ personality traits and self-reported mood during the lab-based study session.


Personality and Social Support as Predictors of Health Symptoms among Gay Men and Lesbian Women

Autumn Nanassy
Jenna M. Harvey and Michelle R. Dixon
Psychology (MA)
Charlotte N. Markey, Ph.D., Christopher S. Nave, Ph.D., Kristin J. August, Ph.D.

Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: This research examined the role that both personality and social support have on physical health in gay male and lesbian individuals. Results suggest that emotional stability is the only unique predictor of health symptoms.

Abstract: Research suggests that gay men and lesbian women have more health problems compared to their heterosexual counterparts, likely related to their minority status and reduced social support system. This study examined whether gay and lesbian participants with high levels of social support indicate fewer health related problems.  Further, men and women’s Five-Factor Model personality traits were taken into consideration. Gay (n = 144) and lesbian (n = 144) participants completed the ENRICHD Social Support Instrument (ESSI), the Symptom Checklist, and the Big Five Inventory (BFI-10). Results indicated that personality was the strongest predictor of both men’s and women’s health symptoms. Specifically, men and women high in neuroticism reported more health problems, regardless of the amount social support they received. Findings will be discussed in terms of LGBT health and adaptive means of coping with health problems.

Logic-Gated Multienzyme Pathways Circuits

Sung Won Oh
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Dr. Jinglin Fu

Description: DNA Logic-AND-Gated circuits will be implemented on multienzyme pathways to control the release and activation of swinging arms to control the transport of intermediates in enzyme reactions.

Abstract: In biochemical pathways, many enzyme functions are regulated by inhibition byproducts, or product feedback inhibition. In this project, artificial swinging arms are designed to channel the transfer of intermediates in multienzyme reactions. Swinging arms play important role in multi-step, catalytic transformations in multienzyme complexes. DNA logic-AND-gated circuits will be implemented to swinging arms to control the release and activation of swinging arms to control the transport of intermediates in enzyme reactions. Logic gate circuits are composed of single-stranded DNA molecules to regulate the pathway activities and specificities. In order to regulate the multienzyme pathway, logic gate circuits will be implemented on DNA nanostructures for controlling and switching pathway activities to produce different final products depending on specific inputs. An ‘AND’ logic-gated swinging arm is designed then native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) is used to characterize the opening and closing of logic-gate circuits for release of swinging arm. Currently, DNA-based logic gated circuits for controlling swinging arms has been created with toehold design for DNA strand displacement, resulting in releasing of swinging arm. After logic-gated circuits are controlled, it will be characterized using FRET (fluorescence resonance energy transfer microscopy) to evaluate the release of the swinging arm and the activation of enzyme pathway by input of two key strands. Eventually, logic-gated NAD-swinging arm will be applied to detecting biotargets with signal amplification in a small test tube and visible color change.

Assessing the Impact of a Student’s Class Level on Satisfaction with Study Abroad Programs

David Okereke 
Public Affairs (PhD)
Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn

Description: I examine how the academic level of students participating in study abroad programs determines the level of satisfaction with study abroad programs.

Abstract: Compelling research on the study abroad field is increasingly focused on examining the holistic impact of student satisfaction to study abroad programs in response to global demand for competitive internationalized experience. However, there is still a lack of analysis to examine and distinguish satisfaction within the context of student academic levels. Hence, in this paper, I examine how the academic level of students participating in study abroad programs determines the level of satisfaction with study abroad programs. I used pooled cross sectional data for students who participated in 2014 and 2015 study abroad programs. Initial results indicate a significant decrease in study abroad program satisfaction in graduate students. Also, this paper presents theoretical reasons to support my analysis to better understand the factors that affect student satisfaction amongst the different academic levels of students that participate in study abroad programs.
These findings have important implications in assessing the overall impact of study abroad programs on students with respect to their individual academic level.

The Role of Implicit Gender Stereotypes in Salary Negotiations

Vaani Pardal
Psychology (MA)
Dr. Ioana Latu

Description: This research seeks to understand the mechanisms that contribute to gender differences in salary negotiation outcomes. The study demonstrates how male interviewers’ implicit gender stereotypes predict their performance on a mock salary negotiation task.

Abstract: Women tend to negotiate lower salaries compared to men (Mazei et al., 2015). In the current study we investigated how stereotypes about men and women predict performance in salary negotiations during job interviews. In a laboratory study, we investigated how participants’ implicit gender stereotypes predict their performance on a salary negotiation task. The participants were invited for the study in pairs forming either same-sex or mixed-sex dyads. The pairs completed a computer task to measure their implicit gender stereotypes – the extent to which they associate men vs. women with power and competence. Each individual was then randomly assigned to either a recruiter role or a candidate role in a mock salary negotiation. Candidates were expected to negotiate the highest possible salary for themselves, whereas the recruiters’ goal was to offer the lowest salary in order to maximize their points in the task. On average female candidates negotiated worst salaries irrespective of their implicit stereotypes. Results showed that the level of implicit stereotypes predicted negotiation performance only for male recruiters. More specifically, the more male recruiters associated men with power and women with submissiveness, the higher was the salary they negotiated. For all other gender-role combinations (male-candidate, female-candidate and female-recruiter), participants’ implicit gender stereotypes did not predict negotiation performance. This research looks at different factors which contribute to gender differences in competitive negotiations. The findings are important for designing interventions to promote gender equity at the negotiation table and reduce the gender pay gap in the workplace.

Black, German, American and Adopted: The Children of the Post WWII Occupation

Rosemarie Pena
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Dr. Carol Singley, Dissertation Chair
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: My presentation will introduce the Rutgers-Camden community to my dissertation topic on the post WWII adoptions of Black German Children to the United States. I have presented on this topic internationally as a panel presenter at several conferences and also as an invited keynote speaker.

Abstract: The thousands of biracial German children who were adopted to to the United States comprise a finite cohort who were systematically expelled from their country of origin simply because of the color of their skin. My scholarly interest in these particular transnational adoptions is informed by my personal experience as dual heritage German-African American adoptee and my long-term professional engagement with Black Germans.

Between 1945 and 1956, an estimated 150,000 children were born to soldiers of the occupying forces and German women. More than 9,000 were the children of African American and North African soldiers. Many of the children were adopted by African American military couples who were stationed in Germany while others were selected by potential adopters from advertisements placed in African American periodicals. “By proxy,” closed adoptions were processed in Germany as part of Mabel Grammer’s “Brown Baby Plan,” and subsequently, the children were flown in groups to waiting adoptive parents in the U.S. whom they had never met.

Since connecting with each other and with their counterparts in Germany on social networks, the adoptees have learned much about the historic presence of Black people in Germany. It is within these transnational counter-publics and the personal relationships they have fostered, that many of the Black German adoptees have located a collective identity and, as individuals, have developed a sense of diasporic belonging.

Dynamic position of TGF-alpha ligand source shapes the patterning of EGFR activation in epithelial cells

Nicole Pope
Nastassia Pouradier Duteil
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Dr. Nir Yakoby and Dr. Benedetto Piccoli

Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: We are developing a mathematical model to understand how components of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) signaling pathway shape the structures on the mature eggshell of Drosophila species.  This model will enable us to identify the components that cause the variation seen in eggshell structures and test them experimentally.

Abstract: The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling pathway is an essential regulator of tissue development across animals.  In Drosophila melanogaster, the EGFR ligand, Gurken (GRK), is a central regulator of dorsal ventral and anterior posterior axes formation. During Drosophila oogenesis, Gurken is restricted around the oocyte nucleus.  The nucleus has a dynamic position: it is initially at the posterior end, and later moves to a dorsal  position. Consequently, the combination of nuclear movement  and ligand secretion generates a transient signal in the overlaying  follicle cells through a uniformly expressed receptor. The follicle  cells form the 3D eggshell structures, including the respiratory  filaments, or the dorsal appendages. These structures reflect the  numerous signaling pathways’ activities, including EGFR. Using experimental and computational tools, we identified several parameters that shape the distribution of GRK.  These parameters include the rate of diffusion, the internalization of the EGFR, and the effects of inhibitors on the pathway.  Using these parameters, we were able to model the distribution of GRK and the activated diphosphorylated ERK (dpERK).

Enfreaked Wombs: Cutting the Cord between Mother and Woman

Jessica Schriver
English (MA)
Jillian Sayre

Description: Examining how the space of “womb” disrupts kinship and gender norms, through the use of the post-human theoretical work of Donna Harraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” and the enfreakment literature of Katherine Dunn’s “Geek Love.”

Abstract: Wombs are the objects of much newsmaking recently. Headlines just this week tout the first transplant of a uterus in the United States. The womb is a space of seemingly opposing binaries: once obscured and now made visible, public and private, sacred and sinful, yours and mine. In this project, the womb is reimagined as a space that embraces both ends of the spectrum, and in that embrace, enacts a schism that must be rebuilt in ranges rather than binaries. Body modification becomes the route to the destabilization, or “breach” as Donna Harraway explains in her Cyborg Manifesto. When the womb becomes a transferrable object, separating it from a woman’s body, the human mother is no longer constrained to a gender – or a species. No longer is “motherhood” – that trope of Mother Nature in all her supposed feminized naturalness – available, as the prosthetic womb – an object manufactured of metal and rubber – is available for anyone to put on, and for any contents to be added: from human fetus to kitten litter. Harraway provides the groundwork in her Cyborg Manifesto for my critical readings of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, a story of intentional – and unintentional – enfreakment, as well as American culture’s current preoccupation with the inseparability of Womb from Woman, seen in the CDC’s newly-released alcohol consumption guidelines for sexually active women.

What Are the Physical Symptoms Associated with Postpartum Depression?  A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review

Tulsi Shah
Laura Paley, Maggie Townsend
Physical Therapy (DPT)
Dr. A. Simonds
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: The aim of this systematic/meta analysis was to determine what physical symptoms are associated with postpartum depression (PPD) in woman.


Purpose: The purpose of this review was to explore the physical symptoms associated with postpartum depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mood disorder experienced by up to 20% of women after childbirth. The physical symptomatology of major depressive disorder in the general population has been widely investigated, but the physical symptomatology of PPD is not well understood. Many PPD symptoms mimic “normal” physical recovery from childbirth and make it more difficult for practitioners and patients to identify mothers at risk. Understanding the common physical symptoms of PPD may facilitate earlier identification and improve care delivery to women with PPD. Physical therapists working with women during pregnancy and postpartum may have an important role in the screening and potential management of the physical symptoms of PPD. 

A literature search was conducted utilizing CINAHL and Medline databases from September to October 2014. Search terms included: “postpartum depression,” “physical symptoms,” and “pain.” Exclusion criteria were non-physical or prenatal PPD symptoms. The remaining articles were critically appraised by multiple reviewers and graded using the Oxford Center for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) Levels of Evidence. Where possible, meta-analysis was performed.

Thirteen studies were selected for review based on inclusion criteria and scored as CEBM Level 2b or Level 2c. Studies utilized multivariate logistic regression, odds ratios, ANCOVA, and chi-square to explore associations among physical symptoms and PPD. A positive association between physical symptoms and PPD was found. Physical symptoms significantly associated with PPD included: pain (low back pain, pelvic girdle pain, perineal pain, dyspareunia, incision pain, severity of acute pain after delivery, headaches, GI pain, breast pain); incontinence; constipation; hemorrhoids; fatigue; sleep disturbances; decreased memory; and decreased sexual desire. Women with 5 or more physical symptoms were more at risk for PPD at 3 months (Adjusted OR=6.69, 95% CI:3.0-15.0) and 6-12 months postpartum (Adjusted OR=3.43, 95% CI:2.1-5.5). Physical symptoms were present in women with PPD up to 12 months after delivery. The relationship between physical symptoms and PPD was significant across studies at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months postpartum. 

Pain, bowel and bladder changes, sleep disturbance, and sexual dysfunction were significantly associated with PPD over the first 12 months postpartum. Healthcare providers across disciplines should screen women for physical symptoms immediately after delivery through the twelfth postpartum month. 

Clinical Relevance: 
Pain was the most frequent symptom associated with PPD. Postpartum physical symptoms were prevalent throughout the entire first postpartum year, indicating a continued need for monitoring women’s physical health beyond the 6-week postpartum visit and an increased attention to pain complaints after delivery.

Empirical Evidence Supporting a Systematic Approach to Network Identification

Sweta Sharma
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Dr. Desmond Lun

Description: We show computationally, using only in silico gene expression data for in silico gene regulatory networks (GRNs) under various conditions, that it is possible to identify functional relationships among genes through a systematic approach.

We also show this experimentally using a five-gene sub-network of the Escherichia coli GRN.

Abstract: A major cellular systems biology challenge of the past decade has been the development of a comprehensive model for gene regulatory networks (GRNs). Particularly, there is growing impetus for the extraction of regulatory information from expression data as it becomes increasingly available and accurate. The key is to decipher direct interactions (causation) from indirect ones (correlation). For instance, if gene A regulates gene B and gene B regulates gene C, then changing the expression of A will directly affect the expression of B while indirectly affecting the expression of C.

Recently, Birget et al proposed a systematic approach to the reverse engineering problem. They implement a binary model, using assignments (perturbations to the expression level of a single gene) and whole transcriptome steady-state expression profile measurements, that captures the non-linear dependencies of GRNs. They show that identification for an acyclic network with n genes is possible and can be achieved with quadratic complexity costs in terms of assignments and measurements.

We show the utility of this approach in reverse engineering a five-gene sub-network of the outer-membrane protein regulator (ompR) in E. coli. Through assignments achieved by gene deletions and local expression measurements from qPCR, we successfully identify the regulatory relationships and discern direct from indirect interactions. We also perform computational experiments on sub-networks derived from known regulatory relationships in Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae and thermodynamically modeled using a system of ODEs that was used to generate in silico data for previous DREAM challenges. We achieve 100% identification for noiseless acyclic networks of size ranging from 100 to 4,000 genes. For noisy networks of 100 genes, we achieved an AUPR of .95 compared to .75 for the DREAM3 top performer. Furthermore, we achieve this using approximately ten-fold fewer assignments and measurements.

Our implementation of the theoretical model of Birget et al demonstrates that network identification is not only experimentally feasible but requires reasonable resources. With our in vivo study, we provide a framework for identification that can be applied to studies of larger networks.

Effects of quasi-native lipid composition on membrane domain formation induced by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

Liam Sharp
Computational and Integrative Biology (MS)
Dr. Grace Brannigan

Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: Molecular dynamics research using a coarse grained force field to observe the direct and indirect lipid-protein interactions.

Abstract: Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are pentameric Ligand Gated Ion Channels that are critical to signaling across synapses and the neuromuscular junction; such signaling is facilitated by high densities of nAChRs in the post-synaptic membrane. Organization of nAChRs, including partitioning behavior in membranes containing distinct lipid domains, is poorly characterized. Numerous experimental studies have shown nAChR gain-of-function likely caused by direct interactions with cholesterol, but a significant role for lipid domains has been suggested by nAChR gain-of-function upon bulk cholesterol depletion. Furthermore, the opportunity for cholesterol to have a direct interactions will likely have a complex dependence on the extent of domain formation and lipid species in the membrane, which has not been previously addressed. In the present research, we use Molecular Dynamics Simulations with coarse-grained resolution via the MARTINI model to investigate concentrations of cholesterol and other lipids local to nAChRs embedded in complex model membranes with a range of head groups and degrees of unsaturation. Cholesterol and unsaturated lipids are observed binding in deep ‘non-annular’ sites in the nAChR bundle (based on the 2BG9 cryo-EM structure), consistent with our previous predictions. nAChR partitions, however, into cholesterol-poor phases, resulting in dynamic exchange between cholesterol and unsaturated phospholipids.

Pain, Pleasure, and Peril: Longitudinal Associations between Adolescent Chronic Pain and Substance Use in Early Adulthood

David Sherrell
Psychology (MA)
Naomi Marmorstein

Description: Chronic pain in adolescence is fairly common. Research explores whether experience of chronic pain predicts greater substance use in early adulthood.

Abstract: Introduction: Research indicates a link between childhood chronic illness and an increase in health risk behaviors during adolescence, including substance use. There has been minimal longitudinal research investigating the potential link between chronic pain in youth and later substance use. The goal of this study was to determine whether chronic pain during adolescence was associated with substance use during the transition to adulthood.

Method: Data were drawn from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Youth included (n=879; 46% male, 54% female; 45% African-American, 45% White) were ages 12-17 at the initial assessment (2002) and were followed-up 5 years later (2007). A single item was used to gauge frequency of pain at the initial assessment; frequency of alcohol and marijuana use and presence of tobacco use were measured at both assessments. Separate regression analyses were conducted for each substance, controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and time-1 use of the substance. Time-2 use of other drugs was assessed as well.

Results: Adolescents who reported more frequent pain during adolescence used both alcohol and marijuana more frequently five years later (alcohol: B=.11, SE=.04, t=2.58, p=.01; marijuana: B=.03, SE=.012, t=2.30, p<.05) and were more likely to smoke cigarettes (OR:.87, p<.05) and to use other drugs (OR:1.21, p=.001).

Discussion: Frequent pain in adolescence significantly predicts increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana in early adulthood. Findings support a call for focused longitudinal study of teens suffering chronic pain and development of prevention efforts geared specifically toward them. 

Iodothyronamines: Newly Discovered Neurotransmitter-like Derivatives from Thyroid Hormone

Rachel Sohn
Biology (MS)
Dr. Joseph Martin

Description: Our findings show that two known and six novel thyroid hormone derivatives are found in the adrenal medulla and nerve terminals (synaptomes); these derivatives are neurotransmitter-like in regards to release when stimulated with isotonic solutions containing high levels of potassium.  We predict that one or more of these compounds will produce affects similar to those of rapid adrenergic-like actions of thyroid hormone in the adult brain.

Abstract: Iodothyronamines: Newly Discovered Neurotransmitter-like Derivatives from Thyroid Hormone Rachel L. Sohn ABSTRACT Iodothyronamines are a family of novel decarboxylated derivatives of thyroid hormone. Prior to now, only two iodothyronamines, specifically 3-iodothyronamine (3-T1AM) and thyronamine (T0AM), have been isolated in brain tissue. Our studies have led to the identification of six novel iodothyronamines, along with the previously mentioned derivatives, in the adrenal medulla as well as brain tissue. Specifically, these novel compounds were found in a preparation of nerve terminals (synaptosomes) from rat brain. Furthermore, our studies have shown that these synaptosomal iodothyronamines are released in a neurotransmitter-like fashion in the presence of isotonic solutions containing high levels of potassium. Previous findings have shown that administration of 3-T1AM and T0AM result in decrease in body temperature and cardiac output; both body temperature and cardiac output can be rescued with the administration of beta adrenergic receptor antagonists. We predict that one or more of the newly isolated compounds will have actions congruent with those of rapid adrenergic-like actions of thyroid hormone in the adult brain (and counter to those of 3-T1AM and T0AM). Thus, we propose that various thyronamines have a spectrum of actions that resemble those of neurotransmitters.

Examining the Relationship between Learning Discriminations, Working Memory, Attentional Control, and Fluid Intelligence

Brianna Soreth
Psychology (MA)
Dr. Whitlow
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: This study focused on the relationship between cognitive processes and associative learning discriminations.

Abstract: Multiple cognitive processes have shown to be related to one another in recent studies. For example one study found executive functions such as working memory, attentional control, and associative learning are correlated with fluid intelligence (Kaufman et al., 2009). However, this is the first study to look at specific learning patterns in associative learning with the constructs of working memory, attentional control, and fluid intelligence. The specific learning patterns studied here include negative patterning, positive patterning, and biconditional discriminations. First, the goal of this study was to see if specific associative learning patterns were related to working memory, attentional control, and fluid intelligence. It was further hypothesized that those who learn negative patterning would have higher scores on working memory, attentional control, and fluid intelligence. Furthermore, this study aimed to add support to the notion that negative patterning is harder to learn than biconditional discriminations. Our results conclude that negative patterning is harder to learn than biconditional discriminations and positive patterning. We found that negative patterning was significantly correlated to working memory and fluid intelligence. Additionally, we found that biconditional discriminations were significantly correlated with attentional control. Therefore, the results of this study suggest that specific learning patterns are related to performance in important cognitive constructs such as working memory, attentional control, and fluid intelligence. This has practical importance because people constantly learn to associate stimuli together. This study suggests that those who are better at learning more complex association patterns also perform better on other related cognitive tasks.

Structure Property Relationships of Carbohydrate-Protein Biomaterials

John Stanton
Chemistry (MS)
David Salas-de La Cruz

Description: The study of different ionic liquids on carbohydrate-protein biomaterial films.

Abstract: A biomaterial is defined “as a substance that has been engineered to take a form which, alone or as part of a complex system, is used to direct, by control of interactions with components of living systems, the course of any therapeutic or diagnostic procedure” (K.W. Leon Elsevier). Using carbohydrates and proteins as biomaterials for 3D printing will lead to the fabrication of artificial tissues, organs, and coating for implants in the future. In this study, Ionic Liquid (IL) is used to dissolve the polymer blend and make the biofilms composite. IL as a solvent is reusable, making it cost effective. Here, cellulose represents the carbohydrate material component and Mori silk represents the protein material component in the composite. Varying ionic liquids were used to explore the possible results of the films and if different cation/anion relationships affected the films. Final films with different ratios of silk contents, ranging from 10% to 90%, in the composite film were evaluated. The results showed complete dissolution of the cellulose and protein materials into the ionic liquids. This study will show the correlation between the cation size and the anion size and how it affects the films. The first hypothesis is as the ratio between cellulose and protein increases, the potential of phase separation also increases. Cellulose controls the final morphology and structure property relationship of the regenerated biofilm by interfering with the secondary and tertiary structures aided by the coagulation process. The second as the size of the counter ion increases, the spacing between the backbone (db) increases resulting in a decrease in the thermal degradation and glass transition temperature  due to hydrogen bonding and increase in the charge area of the IL.

Utilizing Spatial Analysis to Measure Socioeconomic Change Around New Supermarkets in Urban Food Deserts

Danny Tarng
Public Affairs (PhD)
Lorraine Minnite
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: This longitudinal study utilizes spatial analysis to reveal socioeconomic changes in USDA-defined food deserts around three urban full-service supermarkets in Philadelphia, PA funded by the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. We discuss policy strategies that may empower the affected low-income populations and curb their displacement.

Abstract: Urban food deserts are defined as low-income neighborhoods that lack ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Since the initiation of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, many full service supermarkets have been built in these neighborhoods, leading to the so-called “eradication” of numerous food deserts nationwide. Despite the proximity of these new supermarkets, recent studies allege that some supermarkets fail to serve low-income residents and instead further accelerate the gentrification of urban core neighborhoods. However, few if any studies have tracked the economic and demographic change of food desert neighborhoods before and after this new inflow of capital and mainstream food retail options. Our study utilizes spatial and data analysis to assess the economic and demographic change around supermarkets in three different case geographies once known to be USDA-identified food deserts. We measure this change using American Community Survey Census data that spans the timeframe of before and after the inclusion of new supermarkets. While many food desert inhabitants welcome these new supermarkets into their neighborhoods, this data-driven longitudinal study attempts to answer whether or not these supermarkets actually serve existing, low-income residents or incoming residents of a higher socioeconomic status. We close by discussing policies and alternative food systems that may lead to more just outcomes for low-income urban dwellers.

If Learned Bilingualism Reduces Prejudicial Tendencies

Alex Titus
Physical Therapy (DPT)
Dr. van der Wel

Description: The proposed project is testing whether learned bilingualism reduces prejudicial tendencies.

Abstract: This study will specifically focus on the implicit mental judgments and considerations individuals have associated with one group or another in their native-language (L1) or learned second-language (L2). The hypothesis to be tested is, if learned unimodal bilinguals show a reduction of prejudicial tendencies as compared to monolinguals when presented with stimuli in their L2 language. We will use unimodal bilinguals, those who use two languages using only one modality, (e.g. spoken word). To test this hypothesis, an implicit association test (IAT) will be used to track categorization of stereotypically racial words and compare them to their neutral categorizations of words. If the hypothesis is supported, new perspectives will extend the growing effects bilingualism has on executive functioning.  The expected results could then predict social tendencies and negotiations in future research.   

Club Membership and Contraception Use: How Extra Curriculars Facilitate Successful Adjustment

Abigail Todhunter-Reid
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Dr. Daniel Hart

Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee:

Description: Secondary data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health is utilized to model the associations of extra curricular club membership, contraception use, and positive future outlook.

Abstract: Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, associations between club membership, contraception use (most recent intercourse: 1=Yes, 0=No), and positive future outlook (feel hopeful about the future:  All the time=3- Never=0) were evaluated with a sample of 2,534 sexually active adolescents.  Controlling for race, gender, age, family income, and neighborhood poverty, general regression revealed that extracurricular club membership was positively associated with positive future outlook (0.03, <.0001).  An interaction term of extracurricular club participation and parental education was incorporated to evaluate whether parental education moderates the association between club membership and positive future outlook.  The estimate for the interaction term was significant and negative, suggesting that club membership is most strongly associated with the belief in a positive future for adolescents whose parents had low levels of educational attainment.  A similar pattern was found in the prediction of contraception use among sexually active teenagers, suggesting again that the benefits of extracurricular club membership may be strongest for those from households with relatively little formal education.  The finding that the benefits of club membership is moderated by parental education suggests that facilitating entry into organizations may be particularly important for teenagers from families with relatively little formal education, even though these are the very teenagers least likely to join clubs.  Considerably more work is necessary to understand the mechanisms that bind club membership with successful conventional adjustment in adolescence.

Educational Success in the Most Unlikely of Places

Shelby Tucker
Wayne Webb
Criminal Justice (MA)
Dr. Michelle Meloy
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: This project looks to understand what factors led to the academic success of at-risk youth from one of the “most dangerous” cities in America.

Abstract: Over 100 university students and alumni from one of America’s “most dangerous cities” were interviewed about their educational, familial, and community level experiences living among the city’s 19 U.S. Census tract neighborhoods. To better understand how the residents achieved educational success despite numerous structural barriers we utilized a mixed methods approach consisting of in-depth semi-structured interviews, participant observations examining the city’s neighborhoods, agencies, and schools, as well as secondary data analysis investigating education, crime, employment, housing, construction and demolition data. The majority of the sample identified as Latino American, with lower percentages of Black and White respondents. Results indicate an over representation of respondents from just one of the possible 19 neighborhoods. Preliminary analysis also indicates that parenting styles, educational choices, and perceptions of collective efficacy may help explain the educational success of these seemingly disadvantaged students.  Policy and research recommendations are offered.


Natural variation in cellulase and ethanol production in Neurospora crassa

Joshua Waters
Biology (MS)
Kwangwon Lee, Eric Klein, Desmond Lun

Description: We screened for natural variation in cellulose metabolism and fermentation of ethanol in strains of the model fungus Neurospora crassa adapted to different environments. We observed 10-fold variation in cellulolytic enzyme production and 4.5-fold variation in fermentation of glucose.

Abstract: Natural variation is a fundamental tenet of biology. In all systems, across all species variation exists in many traits and processes. Evolutionarily, those organisms which excel at certain processes have gained advantages over their predecessors when subjected to certain pressures, and passed on their advantages to their progeny. Thus has evolution pushed biological systems to levels of proficiency beyond comprehension. Natural variation has been extensively studied in the model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, however, variation in cellulose metabolism has scarcely been investigated. N. crassa is a cellulolytic, fermenting fungi that grows on woody biomass following fires. Despite increasing interests in cellulolytic enzyme production and fermentation of cellulose due to sociopolitical demands for green energy, very little effort has been made to characterize the variation in potential that occurs naturally among strains adapted to different environments. Cellulose metabolism is a complex process involving secretion of a large variety of catabolic enzymes, transport of different liberated sugars into the cell, further degradation, and fermentation to ethanol by multiple subsets of enzymes. The large variety of cellular machinery required for this process generates vast potential for variation to occur. Therefore, we sought to screen for natural variation in secreted enzyme production and fermentation among strains of Neurospora crassa adapted to different environments. We observed variation in both processes with 10-fold variation in secreted cellulolytic enzymes and 4.5-fold variation in fermentation of glucose. Top performing strains have been selected for breeding experiments to attempt to enrich these desired traits for potential biotech applications.

Native American and Alaskan Native Suicide Methodology

Kiersten Westley
Brenna Stone, Madeliene Alger
Psychology (MA)
Dr. Sean Duffy

Description: Suicide methodology of Native American & Alaskan Native (NAAN) females compared to African American, Caucasian & Hispanic females in the United States between 2000-2014. Mortality data collected from CDC’s WISQARS uncovers NAAN females significantly have increased with suffocation. The changes in suicide methods exposes need for specialized preventive measures and interventions. 

Abstract: Suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death for Native American and Alaskan

Natives (NA/AN) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). Research shows that NA/AN experience the highest rate of suicide among all minorities in the United States. Prior research has examined suicidality among NA/AN, but has not compared suicide methodology to other ethnic groups. Little is known about the suicide methodology of NA/AN people.

The purpose of this study is to synthesize publicly available data on suicide methodology among various ethnic groups to better understand the epidemiology within NA/AN, Caucasians, African Americans and Hispanic females. Understanding the differences in suicide methods is critical because it exposes the need for specialized preventive measures and interventions. Mortality data collected from the National Center for Health Statistics which is reported by the CDC’s WISQARS. Bar graph charts were created to expose changes in suicide rates by ethnicity, categorized by firearm, poisoning, and hanging/suffocation 2000-2014.

NA/AN females have the highest method of suicide using suffocation. African American and Caucasian females rank highest in poison, unlike NA/AN and Hispanic females whose poison rates rank lowest. Firearm and suffocation are almost equally lethal, but access is easier for suffocation materials. Clinicians, researchers, policymakers and Reservation laws need specialized interventions female suicide on Native lands. Clinicians working with NA/AN females should promote efforts to reduce access to lethal means of suffocation, and awareness of this suicide trend when treating suicide attempters.

Metropolitan Size and Housing Affordability Stress in U.S. Metropolitan Counties

Christopher Wheeler
Public Affairs (PhD)
Dr. Paul Jargowsky
Dean’s Conference Travel Grant or Research Grant Awardee

Description: My study analyzes and reveals the major influences on renter and owner housing affordability stress in metropolitan counties grouped by metropolitan area size.

Abstract: The housing affordability literature has had much to say on the underlying influences on housing affordability over time. Yet today there remains a curious lack of studies that examine influences across different size classes of metropolitan areas over the long term. Utilizing a dynamic panel system Generalized Method of Moments (GMM) estimator, I analyze 1980-2010 Decennial Census and American Community Survey data to reveal influences on renter and owner housing affordability stress in metropolitan counties grouped by metropolitan area size. I find long-term demographic shifts, such as rising minority and immigration concentrations, an aging population, and declines in marriage rates have different implications for owner and renter housing affordability. Moreover, long-term income gains and housing development within large metropolitan areas can be expected to reduce owner affordability stress, but not renter stress. In addition, income gains have larger effects on renter and owner affordability stress in small metro counties than mid-size and large counties. The results show that number and strength of influences on housing affordability stress can vary greatly by the size of the metropolitan area.

The Criminalization of School Discipline

Curtis Williams II
Public Affairs (PhD)
Lorraine Minnite

Description: The purpose of this project is to synthesize the research that exists regarding the ways in which school discipline has been criminalized and contributes to the existence of the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Abstract: In 2013, Florida High School Student, Kiera Wilmot, was expelled from school and arrested for two felonies after she caused a small explosion by demonstrating a science experiment to her friends. Her story highlights the ways in which schools across the US are relying more on exclusionary discipline practices and referrals to law enforcement to address behavior problems. One underlying explanation is that crime control has become the prism through which officials address student behavior, causing them to treat student misbehavior as comparable to criminal activity. Rather than administering developmentally appropriate consequences, school officials dispense severe punishments, including suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement.

At the same time, both the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems have adopted harsher approaches when dealing with people who are charged with crimes. These simultaneous developments in the education and justice systems have often been referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline, which is characterized by a journey that perpetuates failure from the time a student enters school until they are finally captured by the criminal justice system. The purpose of this project is to synthesize the research on the school to prison pipeline, particularly focusing on how the criminalization of school discipline has contributed to its growth, and to raise potential questions for future research.

An Experimental Investigation of Gradual and Simultaneous Approaches to Weight Loss among Late Adolescent Females

Arielle Wolinsky
Psychology (MA)
Dr. Charlotte N. Markey, PhD

Description: The current study compares the effectiveness of these two weight loss approaches (gradual versus simultaneous) using a sample of late adolescents. Participants in the gradual group lost weight across three weeks of implementing their behavioral goals while participants in the simultaneous group gained weight across this period.

Abstract: Late adolescence is an especially vulnerable period for unhealthy habit adoption and weight gain due to residential instability and increased independence. Because these habits may result in serious consequences across adulthood, interventions aimed at establishing healthy weight management are of importance.  The current study compares the effectiveness of two weight loss approaches (gradual versus simultaneous) using a sample of late adolescents.

Late adolescent female participants (MAge= 22, SDAge= 5.7, n=58) were recruited for a 5-week study of weight loss and randomly assigned to either the gradual or simultaneous goal condition.  During the first two weeks, participants were required to track their daily eating and exercise habits; researchers discussed these and helped participants establish individualized weight loss goals.  Those in the gradual condition added one diet- or exercise-oriented goal each week across the last three study weeks. In the simultaneous condition, participants applied all three goals throughout the entire three weeks.  Height and weight were assessed and used to compute body mass index before and after goal implementation.

Results from this study indicate that the difference in pounds lost between the gradual (n = 29) and simultaneous (n = 29) groups was statistically significant (t (56) = -1.79, p = .039. Specifically, participants in the gradual group lost weight across three weeks while participants in the simultaneous group gained weight across this period.   These findings suggest that a gradual approach to weight loss may be more effective than the simultaneous approach that requires more drastic alterations to health behaviors.