Abstracts of Undergraduate Student Projects (CURCA)

April 27th, at 12 p.m.
Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Preview
April 28th, at 12 p.m.
Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity

Arthur Absin ’16, Victoria Buckley ’18, Miles Dunlap ’15, Josh Feinbaum ’17, Jade Hunsberger ’16, Andy Moffett ’17, Joey Ngo ’17, and Howard Ott ’15
Majors: Computer Science (Arthur); Theater (Victoria); Art (Miles); Communication (Josh); Art (Jade); Communication and Philosophy (Andy); Liberal Studies (Joey); Art (Howard)
Faculty Mentors: Dr. James Brown, Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Digital Studies Center; Dr. Elizabeth Demaray, Associate Professor of Art; Dr. Robert Emmons, Associate Director of the Digital Studies Center, and Mr. James Mobley, Technical Director for the Department of Fine Arts 

The Typomatic creates two word poems (poésie à 2 mi-mots) by way of a specially designed typeface. The typeface was designed by French artist Pierre Fourny, and the Camden Typomatic was built in collaboration with Helene Caubel (of the ALIS theatre group) and Guillaume Jacquemin (of Buzzing Light).

An examination of the effect of gender, negotiator role, and type of negotiation on negotiation performance

Madeliene Alger ’16
Major: Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ioana Latu, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Negotiations play an integral role in determining not only an individual’s income, but also their status in society. Previous research has shown that men tend to outperform their female counterparts in negotiations. This research examines the effect of gender, negotiator role, and type of negotiation on negotiation performance. Twenty-five pairs of male and female undergraduate students participated in a mock negotiation in which they played the role of the candidate or recruiter negotiating salary, starting bonus, and vacation days. Salary was a distributive issue (zero-sum), whereas starting bonus and vacation days were integrative, such that negotiating a lower bonus was beneficial for recruiters, whereas obtaining more vacation days was beneficial for candidates. Two-way ANOVAs revealed significant main effects of gender on salary, and negotiator role on starting bonus and vacation days. The interaction between gender and role was not significant on salary, starting bonus, or vacation days. For salary, males performed better than their female counterparts. For starting bonus, participants in the recruiter role performed significantly better than the candidates. For vacation days, the candidates performed marginally better than the recruiters. These results are consistent with the literature on gender and dominance in negotiations.

Historical Documentary

Aaron Aningalan ’16, Kelly Banks ’17, Charles Chrisman ’17, Jessica Cieslewicz ’16, Joseph Ciurlino ’17, Alyssa Costa ’17, Eric Cutry ’17, Lisa Hannon ’16, Donnell Holland ’16, Alex Injaian ’18, Olivia Lassiter ’16, Gianna Leonardo ’16, William Skipper ’16, Phillip Tarricone ’17, Courtney Thornton ’17, and Peter Zanghi ’16

Majors: History (Aaron); History and Psychology (Kelly); English (Charles); History (Jessica); English and Theater (Joseph); Psychology (Alyssa); Management (Eric); English (Lisa); History (Donnell); Liberal Studies (Olivia); Criminal Justice and Sociology (Gianna); Teacher Preparation Program (William); History (Phillip); History (Courtney); History (Peter)

Minors: Anthropology and Museum Studies (Jessica); Film Studies (Joseph); Journalism (Courtney); Management and Marketing (Peter)

Faculty Mentors: Dr. Robert Emmons, Associate Director of the Digital Studies Center, and Dr. Janet Golden, Professor of History

This project is a collect of short documentary films produced by students in the America in the Fifties history class. Each student created a documentary based on a popular culture topics of the 1950s.

MreB Regulates Polar Geometry and Stalk Elongation in Caulobacter crescentus Stalk

Michael Bamimore ’16
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Eric Klein, Assistant Professor of Biology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

The variety of bacterial cell shapes and sizes found in nature are largely determined by the structure and composition of the peptidoglycan cell wall. Caulobacter crescentus, a Gramnegative bacterium, synthesizes a long thin stalk appendage at one pole that elongates in response to phosphate limitation. Though we and others have recently uncovered the mechanisms underlying stalk localization and the establishment of stalk diffusion barriers, the mechanism of stalk synthesis remains unknown. The cytoskeletal protein MreB is known to regulate peptidoglycan synthesis in the cell body and is required for stalk synthesis. Furthermore, we have shown that MreB localizes to the stalk pole in response to phosphate starvation. Based on recent reports that the motion of MreB filaments along the cell body mediates cell width, we hypothesize that polar MreB similarly can guide stalk diameter. Using a series of MreB point mutants with unique cell shapes, we have begun to correlate polar curvature with stalk diameter. Using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), we have measured stalk diameters in the mutant collection. When compared to wild-type cells, 7/9 mutants had statistically significant changes in stalk diameter (p<0.05) ranging from 88-121% of wild-type.

To correlate stalk diameter with polar curvature, we are expressing cytoplasmic GFP in each of the mutants and generating 3-D reconstructions of the cells using confocal microscopy. We are currently developing tools to quantitatively describe polar geometry to determine whether it is linked to stalk diameter. Our findings in this project will help to establish a basis for further characterization of the mechanisms underlying stalk biogenesis.

Quadrilateral Mesh Generation and Aspect Ratio Measurements

Colin Brown ’16 and Chris Gillespie ’17
Majors: Computer Science (Colin); Computer Science (Chris)
Minor: Mathematics (Colin)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Suneeta Ramaswami, Associate Professor of Computer Science

The manipulation of geometric objects is essential for many computing applications such as computer graphics, robotics, medical imaging, computer-aided design and manufacturing etc. The representation of geometric domains by discretizing them into meshes composed of small, simple shapes is critical for efficient and real-time computation in these applications. This project focuses on the generation of quadrilateral meshes, which are meshes composed of quadrilaterals. While extensive research has been done on triangle meshes, the generation of quadrilateral (quad) meshes with quality guarantees is not as well understood. We study two different ways to generate quad meshes. The first is a direct method that uses a quadtree data structure. The second is an indirect approach that takes an existing triangle mesh and uses its dual graph to convert it into a quad mesh. A particular focus of our project is on measuring aspect ratios of the quadrilaterals generated by each method. Aspect ratios are one way to measure the quality of the mesh. We use two methods to measure the aspect ratios of the quadrilaterals. The first method simply uses the ratio of the longest edge length of the quadrilateral to the shortest one. This method, while simple to implement, has the disadvantage that it does not take angle measures into account. The second approach, known as Robinson’s method, gives an alternative way of defining aspect ratio so that both edge lengths as well as angles are reflected in the measurement. We develop code to calculate aspect ratios given by the two methods, and evaluate the quality of the meshes by generating histogram plots to show the distribution of aspect ratios for the quadrilaterals in the mesh.

Therapy for the Technologically Advanced: A One-Act Play by Kelsey Brown

Kelsey Brown ’18
Majors: Music and Theater
Faculty Mentor: Mr. Paul Bernstein, Associate Professor of Theater
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

Therapy for the Technologically Advanced is a one-act play that I have written that combines stage comedy and drama with modern social media websites. These social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, are brought to life onstage and delve into the fine line of digital media and reality. Throughout this semester, I have focused on the dramaturgical side of the piece more than the digital, straying from my original intentions but still focusing on what I wanted to research. With the help of Professor Bernstein, my faculty advisor, we brought in a professional New York dramaturg and had her review my script and talk to me about what can be done to improve it. I will be talking to her again before this presentation on CURCA, and will be continuing to do more research with the dramaturgy of the piece and the digital media of it. I also aim to have the script copyrighted before the presentation.

My research presented at CURCA will include my original drafts of the script from Spring 2015, character sketches and biographies, sketches of what I would like to have as far as set, costume, and lighting design, the full reviews of the script by the professional dramaturg, rough character animations from Rutgers alumni Justin Silverman, and, finally and most importantly, the finalized script itself. The entire goal of my research was to finalize the script, and all of my research thus far as stayed true to that intention.

Re-circulation Apparatus and Controller for Bio 3D Printing

Christopher Cherfane ’17 and Shawn Hadid ’17
Majors: Biology (Chris); Computer Science (Shawn)
Minors: Chemistry and Psychology (Chris)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Salas-de la Cruz, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

Chemical reactions that involve complex molecules display high variability; environmental conditions strongly influence the characteristics of formed product. The dissolution of cellulose into a malleable intermediate is accomplished by the use of solvents; the temperature and ionic composition are integral to adequately disrupting the intermolecular bonds of the cellulose polymer. The dispersive effects from a primary solvent can be counter-acted by the introduction of secondary, non-solvent.  The mixture will simultaneously dilute and neutralize the primary solvent thus inducing the solidification of cellulose from solution. Our system manipulates the emergence of cellulose as to exhibit properties similar to industrial vinyl, oil-based polymer plastics. We can render objects and designs with modeling software, through the integration of a commercial three dimensional printer, we can direct a hierarchal matrix to coagulate from the dissolved, gelatinous cellulose substrate. The rate of nozzle movement in the x, y, and z plane are modified by the printer package and along with a compressed air supply, we can subsequently regulate the basic aspects of 3D protein/polysaccharide printing. An auxiliary heating system to control the temperature of dissolved cellulose and pump components to circulate the flow of non-solvent serve as implementations aimed to reduce error and improve build quality. Cellulose can be mixed with other proteins or lipids to create “green” amalgams that are dynamic, each with a unique blend and fully biocompatible. The implications of such technology enable the potential to revolutionize industries like agriculture, medicine, and manufacturing by being a sustainable alternative, reducing costs and waste.

Twine Platform Study

Joseph Ciurlino ’17
Majors: English and Theater
Minor: Film Studies
Faculty Mentors: Dr. James Brown, Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Digital Studies Center

This project is a platform study of the game design tool Twine. A platform study, as an academic approach, focuses on the underlying systems that support a creative work. The idea is to analyze these systems in relationship to the user; what does this platform allow the user to do? What are its limitations? How can we analyze, humanistic-ally and technically?  Twine is an increasingly popular tool for indie game designers and electronic literature writers due to its ease of use and the extensiveness of its reference materials. Essentially, the purpose of this platform study is to understand how Twine as a platform allows for its accessibility. This project examines Twine’s development history, its related references sites, its interface, the implementation of code, and the demography of the typical twine users.

All of this research is in turn documented in a Twine game; it is a study of Twine presented in Twine. Utilizing Twine’s various features and allowances, the product explicates the platform within the platform. In demonstration, it essentially functions as an interactive research paper that grants the user agency in how to parse it. Thus, the product features a study of Twine whilst demonstrating the uses of Twine.

Experimental and Computational Study of the Inhibition of Beta-Galactosidase

Anthony Cooper ’17
Major: Physics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Luca Larini, Assistant Professor of Physics

In this study, we combine experiments and simulations to design novel inhibitors of enzymes. We aim to characterize the inhibition mechanism which we show to be dependent on the aggregation of inhibitor peptides. As a model system we chose to use Beta-Galactosidase. We selected four peptides out of 10,000 initially screened using microarrays and that show the greatest Michaelis-Menten constant and highest solubility. Molecular dynamics simulations were performed to identify the exact mechanism of action of these peptides. We show that the positive residues, like arginine and lysine, are crucial for inhibiting enzyme activity. According to simulations, these residues are also responsible for the conformations adopted by the peptide in solution. Dynamic light scattering study revealed that the aggregation of peptides with the enzyme takes place and is responsible for inhibiting enzyme activity. 

Living the Experience: How Perspectives Can Change a War 

Brittany Eachus ’18
Majors: Criminal Justice, Psychology, and Spanish
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mauricio Castillo, Teaching Instructor of Spanish

This is an interactive Twine presentation intended to demonstrate the story and consequences of the Spanish-American war. The Spanish-American war began April 25th, 1898 and ended on August 12th of that same year. This war was, at the time of occurrence, very controversial. The presentation leads the participant through a series of choices which show the different cultural and political perspectives, and features viewpoints of artists and authors during this time. By selecting certain options, the presentation may continue from the viewpoint of an American, a Spaniard or a Cuban, each option having a political standpoint that the participant may choose as well. The presentation concludes by explaining how the war ended and the lasting effects that followed.

Gender Bias in the Writing and Design Lab

William Epstein ’18
Major: English
Minor: Linguistics
Faculty Mentor: Mr. Travis DuBose, Teaching Instructor of English

In recent years there have been two forces that have risen in popularity, each on opposite ends of the societal spectrum, yet surprisingly overlapping in many ways: technology and the women’s empowerment movement. To exist in the modern era, one needs a quick and efficient knowledge of technology, or else you will fall behind in society, and risk being branded a Luddite. On the other side of society, we have the humanist movement of feminism, promoting gender equality and rights for women. Both are important aspects separately, but when the two worlds collide an issue arises. This collision is apparent primarily in the education system.

Digging into the education system, we can find that certain stigmas against women are still ingrained into people; such as that women cannot or do not understand how technology works.  While research has been done on this subject on college campuses across the globe, there is very little research found in the confines of a place where technology and education have some of the most overlap: writing labs. Especially in the Rutgers–Camden Writing and Design Lab (WDL), it would be near impossible to achieve our goals if the students who came to our lab believed that our female tutors did not understand the technology they were showing. My research sets out to understand how the gender of the tutor affects how the student receives and understands information regarding technology.

The Use of Religion to Oppress Indigenous American Tribes

Genesis Estrada ’16
Major: Spanish
Minor: Latin American Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mauricio Castillo, Teaching Instructor of Spanish

My project utilizes Google Maps to trace the Spanish Catholic Church’s use of religion as an instrument of social control on indigenous American tribes. Spanish conquistadors viewed the indio as uncivilized and subsequently oppressed them. This conquest resulted in a history of colonization due to language barriers, cultural shock and indifference. The impact of these factors led to the indigenous tribes’ lack of voice; nevertheless their beliefs were not lost but rather survived through syncretism. This narrative begins with Colon’s first voyage through the establishment of the missions in the Spanish colonies but I will also show examples of syncretism such as Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, Virgin of La Tirana in Chile, and Corpus Christi in Peru.


Jacob Foster ’17
Major: Art
Minor: Marketing
Faculty Mentor: Mr. Bruce Garrity, Lecturer of Art
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

There have been many psychological studies about relationship between weather and mood, but my goal is to put this idea to use with visual stimuli that create emotional responses. This was also the goal of artists of the Romantic Movement, and Hudson River School artists such as George Inness and Albert Bierstadt. Their work encompasses the basic ideals of Romanticism (emotion, spirituality and a deep connection with nature), in depicting the sublime beauty of a Landscape. I think these “skyscapes” will also be important as public art in our society that is constantly boxed in by buildings and disconnected from nature. I believe that skies and clouds are the perfect subject to invigorate these spaces with nature, as they’re the driving force of ecosystems and perhaps the one of the most visually expressive aspects of our planet. These paintings are also completely universal. Though knowledge of art history is useful in understanding these paintings in the context of other periods of art (such as the Baroque period, Romanticism, the Hudson River School and others), it is not necessary. In fact, too much focus on these links will be distracting to the main purpose. Regardless of race, ethnicity, language or creed, we all are linked to and dependent on nature. My methodology included studying skies in paintings from art history, taking my own photographs, drawing from life and painting studies. All of this visual research supported and informed the paintings I created.

Identity of the Neo-Pagan Community

Vasiliki Gallicchio ’16
Majors: Criminal Justice and Sociology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Laura Napolitano, Assistant Professor of Sociology

In its simplest form, religion can be defined as the belief in a spiritual being. There are numerous religions being practiced all around the world. Religions vary from country to country and within a nation. In the United States today, there are many communities with diverse religious backgrounds and/or beliefs. The assumption that Paganism and Neo-pagans are a rebellious social minority, representative of some religious cult, practitioners of Witchcraft, or worshippers of Satin is a misconception. Our society’s negative view on this community is due to the lack of knowledge on their belief system and the roles that they occupy in the South Jersey community.

Role of solvent polarity on the thermal behavior in MEH PPV polymer films

Molly Grasmick ’16
Major: Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Georgia Arbuckle-Keil, Professor of Chemistry
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

Poly (2-methoxy-5-(2’ethylhexyloxy)-1,4-phenylene vinylene) (MEH PPV) films are of particular interest for many device applications.  In order to be used in device applications, the thermal behavior and stability of MEH PPV polymer films must be clearly understood.  

Previous investigations have concluded that aromatic solvents influence the polymer conformation, thus affecting the thermal properties of the films.  In addition to aromaticity, according to literature research, solvent polarity also has an influence on MEH PPV film’s thermal behaviors.  Two solvents not previously studied in this lab were selected for MEH PPV film casting.  MEH PPV polymer films were prepared by dissolving MEH PPV powder in two different solvents (bromobenzene and 1,2-dichlorobenzene) under specific conditions (such as inert atmosphere (argon), in air, or in a vacuum desiccator).  In order to investigate the effect that the solvent polarity had on the polymer, Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) was used to evaluate the thermal behaviors and the molecular transitions in each of the films.  By casting polymer films using solvents exhibiting both aromaticity and increased polarity, the influence that these solvents have on the thermal behaviors and molecular transitions were investigated. 

3DO Research Project

Steven Gussman ‘17
Major: Individualized Major
Faculty Mentors: Dr. James Brown, Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Digital Studies Center, and Dr. Robert Emmons, Associate Director of the Digital Studies Center,

This research game is meant to give the player (I will use player in place of any similar term, such as reader or viewer as this is a multimedia piece) an overlook of the 3DO as a console and attempted standard.  It is meant to be a primer on every facet – history, hardware, and software.  Equally important is how it achieves this – through a 3D video game much like those the 3DO hardware was built to run.  Instead of reading a linear paper, this game drops the player into a 3D environment and allows them to walk in any direction and study any of the four main topics in whatever order they like.  As players do this, they are collecting 3DO components and placing them onto a 3DO’s motherboard, effectively teaching the player how the hardware is constructed.  The topics are GPU, CPU, NVRAM and CD-Drive.

Studies on Taxonomy & Early Developmental Stages of an Unidentified Polychaete of the Genus Eunice from the Florida Keys

Denise Hassinger ’16
Major: Biology
Minor: Mathematics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alejandro Vagelli, Lecturer of Biology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

A polychaete egg mass was collected during Dr. Vagelli’s summer course, Advanced Marine Field Ecology, in the Florida Keys. The egg mass was brought back to Rutgers–Camden for observational studies of developmental stages, taxonomy, and identification through morphological keys. Species identification is still underway, however, the genus was identified as Eunice.

The Patriarchy of the Corset

Mason Hopkins ’16, Leo Orock ’16, Tiara Adriatico ’16, Erin Doherty ’17, and Adela Ein ’17
Majors: English (Mason); Criminal Justice and Sociology (Leo); Psychology (Tiara); Criminal Justice and Sociology (Erin); Biology (Adela)
Minors: Women’s and Gender Studies (Mason); Women’s and Gender Studies (Leo); Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies (Tiara); Women’s and Gender Studies (Erin); Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies (Adela)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Gail Caputo, Professor of Criminal Justice

The research focuses on the corset (female undergarment) from a feminist perspective. Specifically, we want to explore the corset as a patriarchal mechanism of control over women. The corset is an undergarment that constricts the woman’s body, concealing it, minimizing it, reshaping it, presenting it as something different, perhaps even torturing the woman who wears it. Modern representations of the corset might appear as other undergarments and social expectations about women’s body size or expansiveness. Thus it follows that the corset, and by extension the modern representations, can be viewed as control mechanisms over women, including their sexuality, agency, and power; a woman with a corset is somehow different than a woman without.

Our research will explore the problem in various methods and mediums. We will investigate the historical imagery of the corset, including its development over time. The research will consider the representation of the corset and of women in corsets from literary works, in film, and from a sociological perspective. We will investigate the changing impossible beauty ideal that corsets attempt to reach in harmful ways, the positioning of women as submissive, and the literal constriction of women. We will research how women’s power and sexuality are controlled with the corset (and modern representations of the corset) and also how the idea of women becoming sexual agents while wearing one plays into patriarchal stereotypes of women. At the same time, we will explore how women might resist the patriarchy of the corset and express agency in power and control.

Monday Syndrome

Kyra Jenkins ’16
Major: Mathematics
Minor: Psychology
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Maria Laura Delle Monache, Post-Doctoral Associate of Mathematics, and Dr. Benedetto Piccoli, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

In today’s society, traffic patterns are extremely important because they impact the everyday life of motorists. Congestion can cause several problems such as pollution, consistent repair of roads because of the high volume of travelers. New technologies allow us to examine networks more closely and accurately and therefore easing congestion. The traffic flow on the networks will be described using fluid dynamics. Two important variables are p, the density of the mean traffic, and v, the average speed of the cars. These two variables will give the flux function f(p) = vp which is the flow of traffic on the road. The flow and density of the traffic will give another important element, the fundamental diagram. The fundamental diagram is the behavior of the motorists at a specific time and position on the road. We will study if the fundamental diagram is independent of time which is usually assumed.

Testing Two Different Reporter-Genes for Expression in Drosophila melanogaster

Nayab Kazmi ’16
Majors: Biology and Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nir Yakoby, Associate Professor of Biology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

Gene expression in tissues is regulated by DNA elements, which together with regulatory proteins, control the time and location of expression. The purpose of this project was to compare two reporter-genes (pStinger and EGFP) by examining their expression patterns of GFP in the Drosophila eggshell. We were able to determine the patterns using previously confirmed regulatory elements. It was found that the two reporter-genes did alter the expression patterns in different ways with pStinger having nucleus-localized expression and EGFP having cytoplasmlocalized expression.

“Monday Syndrome”: Understanding and Analyzing the Implications of Traffic Flow in California and Minnesota

Millicent Kipp ’17
Major: Mathematics
Minor: Computer Science
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Maria Laura Delle Monache, Post-Doctoral Associate of Mathematics, and Dr. Benedetto Piccoli, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

The hypothesis of “Monday Syndrome” relates to traffic. While most people assume that the weekdays, Monday through Friday, have very similar traffic patterns, in fact, our hypothesis states that Monday has a different traffic pattern, with more congestion, then the other week days. In order to see if this hypothesis is indeed true, I collected data from both California and Minneapolis, Minnesota from a multitude of traffic radars. With the data, the different flow patterns of traffic and speeds were calculated using my program on Python, and then these figures were separated into files for different days of the week in order to be able to analyze the data as detailed as needed. With the data separated, statistical analysis is used to understand the traffic flow more precisely for different cities across the world. This research will provide insight on the traffic flow patterns relating to the “Monday Syndrome” hypothesis around the country, and will hopefully provide statistically significant proof of our hypothesis.

Enhancing Condom Use by Exposing Women to a Variety of Different Condom Types

Alyssa Long ’16, Tia Baranosky ’16, Christopher Knight ’17, Nur Syazleena Ghani ’17, Samantha Saraczewski ’17, and Mary Ellen LaRosa ’17
Majors: Psychology (Alyssa); Psychology (Tia); Health Sciences (Christopher); Psychology (Nur); Psychology (Samantha); Psychology (Mary Ellen)
Minors: Biology and Childhood Studies (Alyssa); Psychology (Christopher); Childhood Studies (Mary Ellen)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh, Assistant Professor of Psychology

HIV continues to affect women’s morbidity and mortality in the United States. Thus, there is an ongoing need for HIV prevention interventions that improve condom use among women. One important part of enhancing women’s condom use and intentions involves first exposing them to different types of condoms. Condom variety empowers women by giving them choices (Gollup, 2006). Also, exposing women to a variety of different condoms enhances women’s comfort with touching and learning about condoms, helps women identify potential condom preferences, and improve women’s views of condoms as fun and erotic, all of which improve attitudes towards condoms which in turn improve condom use and intentions (Bogart et al.., 2005; Calsyn, Meinecki, Saxon, & Stanton, 1992; Sterk, Klien & Elifson, 2004). This presentation will provide a demonstration of one activity of an NIH-funded HIV prevention intervention for women in domestic violence shelters and discuss reactions to this activity from both research and shelter staff and residents.

Preliminary Findings from the Implementation of SISTA Survivor: An adapted evidence based intervention for reducing HIV for women in domestic violence shelters

Alyssa Long ’16, Tia Baranosky ’16, Christopher Knight ’17, Nur Syazleena Ghani ’17, Samantha Saraczewski ’17, and Mary Ellen LaRosa ’17
Majors: Psychology (Alyssa); Psychology (Tia); Health Sciences (Christopher); Psychology (Nur); Psychology (Samantha); Psychology (Mary Ellen)
Minors: Biology and Childhood Studies (Alyssa); Psychology (Christopher); Childhood Studies (Mary Ellen)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Women who experience intimate partner violence are at increased risk for contracting HIV. However, there is a paucity of evidence-based interventions (EBIs) for reducing HIV for this population of women. In order to address this gap, an EBI for reducing HIV, Sisters Informing Sisters about Topics on AIDS (SISTA), was adapted for women in domestic violence shelters (Cavanaugh et al, in press). This presentation will describe preliminary findings from the first implementation of a nationally funded adapted EBI for women in domestic violence shelters, which is called SISTA Survivor, and describe some of the factors that may affect the interventions implementation that were assessed.

SISTA Survivor is a group intervention for reducing HIV that is delivered in domestic violence shelters to residents by domestic violence shelter case managers and counselors. Two shelter staff attended an 8-hour training on how to deliver the intervention and then implemented the intervention with 5 shelter residents. The intervention consists of 2, 3-hour sessions that focus on the following: 1) gender, ethnic and survivor pride; 2) HIV/AIDS risk reduction education, 3) a personal HIV risk assessment and safety plan, 4) sexual assertiveness and communication training, 5) condom use demonstration and practice, and 6) coping skills. Before and after receiving the intervention, shelter residents completed survey questionnaires. The shelter staff who administered the intervention also completed questionnaires that assessed their self-rated fidelity to the intervention and factors that may influence whether the intervention is used in domestic violence shelters.

Participants were between 21-51 years of age (Mean=31.20). The majority were African American (60%), had some post high school education (60%), and were currently unemployed (80%). Pre-post intervention measures indicated that participants had greater condom use self-efficacy and intentions after receiving the intervention. They did not show greater HIV knowledge or perceived risk for contracting HIV after receiving the intervention. Also, participants reported high satisfaction with the intervention (M=32.80, Max=35).

The two shelter workers who facilitated the intervention reported the following: a) average self-efficacy for implementing SISTA Survivor of (Mean=15; maximum=25), b) agreement that the intervention was acceptable (Mean=5.46, Maximum=6), c) slight agreement that they understood the procedures and how to implement them (M=4.38, maximum=6) and that the intervention would be feasible (M=4.38, maximum =6), and d) they did not agree that additional supports (e.g., consultative, material supports) would be needed to implement the intervention (M=3.33; maximum=6).

SISTA Survivor will continue to be implemented at domestic violence shelters through the end of May. Resident-level, facilitator-level, and organizational-level factors that may influence the interventions implementation will be examined. This data will be used to support a larger grant application to test the efficacy of SISTA survivor in reducing abused women’s risk for contracting HIV.

Relative thermal tolerance, ecological performance and metabolic capabilities of urban & rural Pyrrharctia isabella caterpillars

Alexa Martinelli ’17
Major: Biology
Minor: Accounting
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amy Savage, Assistant Professor of Biology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

Pyrrharctia isabella is a moth that possesses adaptations for extreme cold conditions (Layne 1999). However, this species is common across urban to rural gradients across N. America. Thus, this species may have adaptations for high temperature tolerance as well as low temperature tolerance. If present, these adaptations could help us conserve other species adapted to cold extremes that are vulnerable to the effects of increasing temperatures. The first step towards determining if this species is adapting to global, human-driven temperatures is to assess P. isabella’s thermal tolerance across a gradient of temperatures, from extreme lows to extreme highs. In this study, I seek to determine if P. isabella caterpillars are able to exploit higher temperatures from urban warming by determining the thermal tolerance curves of urban versus rural caterpillars and assessing heat tolerance across both populations.


Jigar Patel ’18 and Anatoliy Lane ’16
Majors: Computer Science (Jigar); Computer Science (Anatoliy)
Minor: Mathematics (Jigar)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Desmond Lun, Associate Professor of Computer Science

Repetitive sequences in the human genome called short tandem repeats (STRs) are used in human identification for forensic purposes. Interpretation of DNA profiles generated using STRs is often problematic because of uncertainty in the number of contributors to the sample. Existing methods to identify the number of contributors work on the number of peaks observed and/or allele frequencies. We have developed a computational method called NOCIt that calculates the a posteriori probability (APP) on the number of contributors. NOCIt works on single source calibration data consisting of known genotypes to compute the APP for an unknown sample. The method takes into account signal peak heights, population allele frequencies, allele dropout and stutter­a commonly occurring PCR artifact. We tested the performance of NOCIt using 278 experimental and 40 simulated DNA mixtures consisting of one to five contributors with total DNA mass from 0.016 to 0.25ng. NOCIt correctly identified the number of contributors in 83% of the experimental samples and in 85% of the simulated mixtures, while the accuracy of the best pre­existing method to determine the number of contributors was 72% for the experimental samples and 73% for the simulated mixtures. Moreover, NOCIt calculated the APP for the true number of contributors to be at least 1% in 95% of the experimental samples and in all the simulated mixtures.

tRNA-Fragments and Their Targets in the Human AGO2 

Jacob Peacock ’16
Major: Computational and Integrative Biology
Minor: Mathematics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrey Grigoriev, Professor of Biology

tRNA-fragments (tRFs) have recently been shown to play a regulatory role similar to miRNA and implicated as a mechanism for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. Like miRNAs, tRFs are loaded into argonaute proteins to serve as guides for specific targeting of mRNAs. High-throughput experiments allow us to bioinformatically investigate tRFs and their directly associated targets loaded in vitro to human argonature proteins. We characterized the population of loaded tRFs by size and region of derivation from the original tRNA, confirming the presence of previously characterized tRNA-halves and tRFs derived from the 3′ and 5′ termini of the tRNA. We verified molecular indicators of tRF seed sites, analgous to miRNA seed sites which align the guide miRNA to the target molecule. Analyzing the sequences targetted by tRFs, we identified novel intronic mRNA targets, conventional exonic mRNA targets and targetting of lncRNA, rRNA and miRNA. Finally, we compared the observed target genes to those identified as active in transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of an acquired metabolic disorder possibly facilitated by tRFs.

Effects of Mercury on Fungal Branch Morphology 

Ngoc Pham ’16
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentors: Dr. John Dighton, Professor of Biology, and Ms. Katalin Malcolm, Teaching Assistant of Biology

Mercury is considered a global pollutant and can have toxic effects within the ecosystem? however, the impact of mercury on leaf surface fungal communities remains undefined. There is evidence that mercury can affect the growth of some fungal species. The purpose of this project was to investigate how mercury affects the hyphal branches of fungi grown in the presence of mercury. Annual values of wet deposition of Hg in NJ (15 ?g m­2yr­1) were converted to a per petri dish area. Known concentrations of HgCl? aqueous solution determined the treatments. The treatments (n=3) were a control (0X) in which only water was applied and a twenty­times ambient Hg (20X) concentration. Five leaf fungal species (Fusarium sp., Penicillium sp., Pestalotiopsis sp., Alternaria sp., and Epicoccum sp.) were grown and an image of was taken under a stereomicroscope at 50X magnification 7 days after fungal inoculation. Images were analyzed with ImageJ to measure branch density, branch length and branch angle. When analyzed together, Fusarium sp., Penicillium sp.,Pestalotiopsis sp., and Alternaria sp. showed a significant (p<0.05) increase in branch density in the presence of mercury. None of the species tested exhibited significant difference in branch angle or branch length. The results indicate that mercury can disrupt the hyphal branching of some species. Investigation of the mercury­ fungal relationship is crucial to the understanding the impact of mercury in the ecosystem.

Aggregation Propensity of Critical Regions of the Tau protein

Dmitriy Prokopovich ’18
Major: Biophysics
Minor: Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Luca Larini, Assistant Professor of Physics

My computational study focuses on the effect of pseudo-phosphorylation and phosphorylation on the aggregation of the microtubule associated protein tau. In the axon of the neuron, tau regulates the assembly of microtubules in the cytoskeleton. This is important for both stabilization of and transport across the microtubules. One of the hallmarks of the Alzheimer’s disease is that tau is hyper-phosphorylated and aggregates into neurofibrillary tangles that lay waste to the neurons. It is not known if hyper-phosphorylation directly causes the aggregation of tau into tangles.

The goal of my research is to determine and compare the effects of phosphorylation and pseudo-phosphorylation on protein tau. Experimentally, pseudo-phosphorylation mimics the effects of phosphorylation by mutating certain residues of the protein chain into charged residues. It is used as an alternative to phosphorylation due to greater efficiency in producing desired results in real life laboratory experiments. The simulations of the two different modifications will attempt to either prove or disprove the validity of using pseudo-phosphorylation as an appropriate alternative for phosphorylation.

Light Induced Toxicity of Silver Nanoparticles Produced by Laser Ablation

Matthew Ratti ’16 and Joseph Naddeo ’16
Majors: Biophysics (Matthew); Economics and Physics (Joseph)
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Daniel Bubb, Professor of Physics; Eric Klein, Assistant Professor of Biology; and Dr. Sean O’Malley, Assistant Professor of Physics
*Recipients of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant and the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

Silver is one of the most studied metals in the biomedical field and has been used for centuries in various forms as an antimicrobial agent dating back to Chaldean dynasty c.a. 4,000 B.C.E.1 Silver nanoparticles (AgNP) are of particular interest due to their physical properties, which have been shown to strongly influence antimicrobial activity. Our lab used laser ablation in liquid to synthesize AgNPs, giving us the ability to make “bare” particles, free from precursors that are typically associated with chemical synthetic methods.2 A Nd:YAG laser operated at the fundamental wavelength (?=1064 nm) was used to ablate a pure Ag target immersed in a 60 mM sodium dodecyl sulfate solution. As some pathogenic bacteria form resistances to antibiotics, understanding the mechanisms behind AgNPs antimicrobial activity is paramount. A major problem that is preventing the universal application of AgNPs is their possible toxicity to higher organisms. Our current work supports the hypothesis that colloidal suspensions of silver nanoparticles, when irradiated with visible light, release a higher concentration of silver ions. Currently the consensus is that AgNPs are toxic due to their ability to release Ag+ ions. This increased toxicity is seen in the gram negative strain Escherichia coli as well as gram positive Bacillus subtilis. Therefore, an increase in ion release will cause an increase in antimicrobial activity that may allow for lower levels of AgNPs required when treating bacterial infections, thus, limiting off-target toxicity.

Big Business: The Interaction between Body Weight and Occupational Status on Judgements of Competence

Caitlin Rivenbark ’17
Major: Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Charlotte Markey, Professor of Psychology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant* 

Overweight and obesity is highly prevalent, yet so are negative attitudes toward higher body weight individuals. Although present in multiple domains, these negative attitudes may be particularly harmful in the workplace. Studies have found that overweight individuals face discrimination in hiring decisions, promotions, wages, and are judged more negatively by their colleagues. We found that targets perceived to be obese were rated as less competent compared to normal and overweight targets. This study used a within­ subjects design. Participants included 120 adults who were predominantly white (50%), female (56%), and normal weight (56%). Participants viewed a series of photographs depicting models of various body sizes (1 obese, 1 overweight, and 2 normal weight). Each of the four photos was repeated three times, primed with either a high ­occupation status label (manager), a low­ occupation status label (receptionist), or no status label. Participants rated each picture on a 6­item competence measure (intelligence, responsibility, confidence, trustworthiness, authority, and organization) using a 7­point Likert scale from 1 (‘Strongly Disagree’) to 7 (‘Strongly Agree’). Participants then completed a number of attitude measures and provided basic demographic information. Results confirmed study hypotheses? employees that were perceived to be obese were rated as significantly less competent when compared to both normal weight and overweight targets, across all levels of the prime. The obese ‘manager’ and ‘receptionist’ targets were rated as significantly less competent compared to their normal and overweight weight counterparts. No significant differences were found between the overweight and normal weight targets. Participants were also asked to report on what they thought the study was about, with a large majority (85%) responding that they believed the study to be about appearance, body weight, and judgements of people. This study demonstrates that body weight affects how individuals are perceived in the workplace. Furthermore, participants in this study rated the obese target as being less competent ­­ even though they seemed to be aware of purpose of the study, supporting notions of the social acceptability of weight bias. More research is needed to understand how people judge body size and at what point they begin to negatively appraise an individual due to their weight. Future studies should also explore other factors that might shape these processes in actual workplace environments.

Virtually (In)visible: Repairing the Online Female Subjecthood Fractures Through a School Curriculum

Marcy Rivera* ’16
*Currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish program
Major: Spanish
Minors: Childhood Studies and Latin American Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ana Laguna, Associate Professor of Spanish 

In this essay of female representation in the virtual world, video games will be (de)constructed to explore its effects in the real world with the hope to raise awareness that drastic changes must be made so that women can find their own space in it. The investigation looks at how women, such as Anita Sarkeesian, when speaking out about the involvement and representation of females in videogames, receives threats. Secondly, this essay touches the experience of a twelve-year-old girl named Maddie Messer, whose news article manages to gain free or more access to female characters in application games. Lastly, I explore the idea of how “the damsel in distress” representation of females fails to represent women to their full capacity.

Mediation during Dynamic Assessment as a tool for Fostering In-service Language Teachers’ Microgenetic Conceptual Development

Madison Rogers ’16
Major: Spanish
Minors: English and Latin American Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Próspero García, Assistant Professor of Spanish

The curriculum that drives many foreign language classes in the United States follows a “rule-of-thumb” approach to the teaching of grammar (Negueruela & Lantolf 2006) that largely ignores how conceptual (i.e. grammatical) notions function. This is especially true in the case of aspect in the Spanish classroom (i.e. the relationship between the preterite and imperfect tenses), where in-service teachers – even native speakers of Spanish – usually adopt “rule-of-thumb” explanations as pedagogical frameworks, and eventually, as their own beliefs (Williams, Abraham & Negueruela 2013). Given the impact of teachers’ perceptions on how grammatical concepts are presented to second language learners (Andrews 2003, 2007; Williams, Abraham & Negueruela 2013), this project intends to explore an in-service teacher’s beliefs surrounding the grammatical notion of aspect before and after conceptual instruction. Data analysis revealed various shifts in her perception regarding aspect and the role of mediation during two Dynamic Assessment (DA) sessions, fostering a deeper understanding of how Spanish preterit and imperfect tenses are used in context. Results from this investigation suggest that (1) A conceptual approach to the teaching and learning of aspect during teacher training can yield a more critical understanding of the uses and relationship between Spanish preterite and imperfect tenses and; (2) Dynamic Assessment is an effective tool to promote and ascertain in-service teachers’ microgenetic development as a conceptual process.

Exploring Evidence-Based Attitudes among Domestic Violence Shelter Workers

Samantha Saraczewski ’17, Mary Ellen LaRosa ’17, Tia Baranosky ’16, Alyssa Long ’16, Christopher Knight ’17, and Nur Syazleena Ghani ’17
Majors: Psychology (Samantha); Psychology (Mary Ellen); Psychology (Tia); Psychology (Alyssa); Health Sciences (Christopher); Psychology (Nur)
Minors: Childhood Studies (Mary Ellen); Biology and Childhood Studies (Alyssa); Psychology (Christopher)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Evidence-based attitudes and practices are associated with the implementation of evidence based interventions (Aarons, Hurlburt, & Horwitz, 2011) and worker demographics (Aarons et al., 2010).  While domestic violence shelters are an excellent place for which to implement evidence-based interventions, we are unaware of any studies examining the evidence-based attitudes and practices of shelter workers even though these workers attitudes may affect the implementation of evidence based interventions. Aim: This study explored the evidence-based attitudes and practices of 10 case managers from 3 domestic violence shelters and examined associations between these workers attitudes and practices and their demographics.

Prior to participating in a training for an adapted HIV prevention intervention for women in domestic violence shelters, case managers completed questionnaires regarding their demographics and evidence based attitudes and practices. The survey questionnaires included the Evidence-Based Practice Attitudes Scale (Aarons, 2004), the Implementation Citizenship Behavior Scale (Ehrhart, Aarons, & Farahnak, 2015), Implementation Leadership Scale (Aarons, Ehrhart, & Farahnak, 2014), Implementation Climate Scale (Ehrhart, Aarons, & Farahnak, 2014), and the Effectiveness and Evidence Based Practice Questionnaire (Upton & Upton, 2006). Correlations and t-tests were run to test associations between worker demographics and their evidence based practices and attitudes.

Workers who reported never having facilitated an intervention for victims of domestic violence before were more likely than workers who had facilitated such an intervention to 1) report that they would adopt a therapy or intervention that was new to them if it was required by their agency, supervisor, or state and 2) keep informed of evidence-based policies, procedures, practices, and related evidence-based practice agency communications. Workers who were older, had less education, had provided DV services for a greater period of time, or who worked fewer average hours weekly were significantly more likely to report that their agency was less focused on evidence based practices, provided less educational support for evidence based practices, and recognition for workers who used evidence based practices. Higher education and less time provided domestic violence services were associated with greater evidence based practices. Of note, workers who were younger were more likely to have higher education and to have less time providing services to DV workers.

Based on these findings, domestic violence shelter workers who have never facilitated interventions for domestic violence residents, which was the majority of these workers (66%), may be more likely to adopt an evidence-based intervention. It also appears that workers who are younger may be more likely to adopt evidence based interventions. Next steps will include examining whether the evidence based attitudes and practices of these workers influence the implementation and perceived efficacy of an adapted HIV prevention intervention for women in domestic violence shelters.  Additionally, further research on attitudes of shelter workers towards evidence-based practices post-implementation should be conducted.

Investigating Relationships between Rejection Sensitivity, the Big Five, and Mood among Emerging Adults in a Social Study Context

Marissa Scribner ’19, Tina Nguyen ’17, Adan Lazo ’17, and Vernae Moore-Thompson ’16
Majors: Nursing (Marissa); Childhood Studies (Tina); Philosophy (Adan); Psychology (Vernae)
Minor: Sociology (Vernae)
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Daniel Hart, Professor II of Psychology, and Ms. Theresa Murzyn, Graduate Assistant of Childhood Studies

The data presented is part of a larger research project by Childhood Studies Ph.D. candidate Theresa Murzyn that explores emerging adults’ social behavior in a computer-mediated communication (CMC) context.  The intention of the study at large is to explore how various personality characteristics and generational trends bear on emerging adults’ social behavior within and self-reported impressions of a computer-mediated text-based conversation.  Previous research has revealed that rejection sensitivity leads individuals to anticipate rejection in social interactions and interpret ambiguous behavior as rejection.  Meanwhile, other research has found moderate correlations between rejection sensitivity and certain Big Five traits (e.g., a positive correlation with neuroticism and negative correlations with extraversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness).  Still other research has identified correlations between certain Big Five traits (extraversion and neuroticism) and state mood.  The data to be featured at the CURCA event will focus on correlations between participants’ rejection sensitivity scores, Big Five scores, and self-reported mood upon entering the study environment in which participants anticipate communicating via text-based software program with another participant.

Breast Cancer Prevention in High Income (USA) and Low Income (China) Countries with Different Healthcare Financing

Holly Sickler ’16 and Joseph Naddeo ’16
Majors: Economics (Holly); Economics and Physics (Joseph)
Minor: Political Science (Holly)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tetsuji Yamada, Professor of Economics

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in both the U.S. and China. The death rates of breast cancer patients are 13.3% in the U.S. and 26.5% in China. Breast cancer is a global problem and a leading cause of cancer mortality among women. However, half of cancer occurrences are preventable if women have knowledge of risk factors and behavioral changes.  The purposes of this study is (1) to empirically identify socio-demographic diversities, psych-economic disparities, difference in health insurances, and accessibility of healthcare services for women in both the U.S and China, (2) to evaluate preventive behaviors among women of different ages, and (3) to investigate preventive behaviors and awareness of risk factors and health knowledge, i.e. health literacy level.  A bi-variate logit model is used by controlling for socio-economic, demographic and physical/mental health factors in order to investigate outcomes vs. preventive behaviors. The U.S. data comes from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, BRFSS 2013 by the CDC, and the China data is the China Economic, Population, Nutrition and Health Survey from 2012. 

Effects of Iodothyronamines on Internal Body Temperature and Locomotion in Mice

Jacy Southern ’16
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Martin, Professor of Biology

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 significant increase in locomotion. We predict that administering injections at 5 and 10 mg into mice will have these same effects. Our findings show that along with 3-T1AM and T0AM, T2AM and T3AM significantly decreased the internal body temperature in the mice.

Sex, Sexual Orientation, and Humor Preferences

Brenna Stone ’16
Majors: Criminal Justice and Psychology
Minors: Childhood Studies and Security Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sean Duffy, Associate Professor of Psychology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant*

It is often argued that men are funnier than women. And while there are far more male comedians than females as evidenced by the fact that 85% of the comedians listed on Wikipedia List of comedians are men. But the history of humor has also witnessed many humorous women. In an earlier study, Duffy, Smith, and Allred (submitted) show that men predominantly prefer humor produced by men, while women prefer male and female comedians with equal frequency when you account for the base rate of male comedians. Unknown so far is the effect of sexual orientation on humor preferences.  Because sexual selection likely plays a role in humor (Miller, 2000) we predict that the effect of sexual orientation might reverse the preference for male comedians among gay men, but less so for lesbian women given that women do not show the bias men exhibit in their preference for male comedians.

385 people participated in the study. In an effort to increase the sample size of gay men and lesbian women, research assistants sampled participants in areas known for having high proportions of such populations. Ultimately, the sample was comprised of 146 heterosexual females, 124 heterosexual males, 66 gay males, and 48 lesbian females. Participants were surveyed in public locations (e.g. bus station, malls, parks) in urban and suburban areas of Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. The mean age of participants was 42.60 years (range: 18-103, SD= 17.63). Respondents were asked to choose their favorite comedian from a list of 14 comedians (7 male, 7 female) and report the name and gender of their first, second, and third funniest person they know.

Twelve participants did not indicate a preference and were removed from the analysis. A substantial majority (78%; 169/214) of men selected a male comedian as their favorite. Women selected men and women comedians equally (46%; 54%) This suggests that women do not have a clear sex preference. In terms of the homosexual data, gay males and lesbian females prefer humor produced by women, not men. Gay males showed a preference for female comedians as opposed to male comedians (57%; 43%). Lesbian females were similar in choosing males over females (54%; 46%). These findings demonstrate that sexual orientation impacts perceived humor. It is unclear what this data means for comedy and sexual selection theory. In a sense, evolutionary psychology’s perspective on homosexuality is complex and controversial, as it is unclear why homosexuality benefits evolutionary progress.

Synthesis of Copper Zinc Tin Sulfide (CZTS) by Laser Ablation in Aqueous Solution

Cory Trout ’17
Majors: Mathematics and Physics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sean O’Malley, Assistant Professor of Physics

The need for cheap pollution free energy has increased the demand for solar cells. Copper Zinc Tin Sulfide (CZTS) is a novel material that can be used in the construction of these cells. CZTS is composed of easily sourced abundant materials e.g. copper. The majority of solar cells are made out of thin films of photovoltaic semiconductors composed of layers of nanoparticles. The size of these nanoparticles are what control what range of colors of light “activate” the solar cell. Light from the sun that reaches the earth’s surface is composed of mostly visible light (this is why our eyes evolved to see the wavelengths we can). Therefore being able to tune a solar cells optimal operating wavelength can greatly increase their efficiency. Laser ablation in liquids solution offers a unique “green” alternative to the more widely used chemical methods for synthesizing nanoparticles, which produces nasty chemical byproducts. We employed this technique to synthesize nanoparticles composed of pure CZTS. We were able to check the composition of the nanoparticles by performing raman and UV-Vis spectroscopy. The size of the particles were determined by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS). The next step will be to take these CZTS nanoparticles are create thin films to test how effectively they convert solar light into usable energy.

Health Literacy among College Students

Ryan Webb ’16
Major: Economics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tetsuji Yamada, Professor of Economics

College represents an important stage in their transition from adolescence to adulthood during which students are making more health-related decisions such as food choices, and health information seeking behaviors. Despite the research pointing to college as a critical period for developing behaviors that may impact one’s long-term health outcomes, few studies consider students’ level of health literacy before crafting important communication. This study was to assess health literacy levels among college students in urban settings. An anonymous survey was conducted via email to undergraduate students in an urban university in the U.S. (n=300). Three rounds of data collection took place to ensure the completion. Factors such as socio-demographic characteristics, educational achievements, health literacy level, risky health behaviors, and their health education expectations were measured. A multivariate regression analysis was conducted to identify the impacts of health literacy on college achievement after controlling aforementioned influential variables. Results: A relative increase in health literacy among college students shows clear-cut positive influences on school achievement and a decrease in risky health behaviors. Health literacy needs by college students suggest their lack of perception of health knowledge and concepts. Their health literacy needs are positively associated with their revelation of health education wants. While this particular population is frequently presumed to have adequate levels of health literacy, preliminary findings indicate some college students may actually struggle with obtaining, understanding, and acting on health information.

Tongue Tied: The Linguistics of Power, Politeness and Name-calling in Online BDSM Erotica 

Alexis Wilson ’16
Major: Psychology
Minors: English and Women’s and Gender Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Richard Epstein, Associate Professor of English

This research analyzes how vocative use in Online BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, D/s, Sadism, and Masochism) erotica communicates power and negotiation between characters.  For the purpose of this paper all media was found via the online erotic story sharing website Literotica.com.  This research utilizes multiple primary source samples of writing, it also compounds upon previously done research in the area of BDSM and linguistics by Rebecca Dwyer.  Prior research is limited as the intersection of sexuality and linguistics mainly focuses on sexuality as it pertains to sexual orientation, the previous research by Dwyer used here pertains specifically to BDSM and vocative use.  Stories are categorized by their relationship dynamic and fall into one of either three categories: Caregiver/ little, Master/slave, and Dominant/submissive.  The nuances between each theme communicate power differently and this paper speaks to these specific nuances.  Specifically concepts of power and politeness will be explored for a stories use of both vocatives and speech acts. Vocatives referring the names characters use to refer to one another and speech acts referring to the ways speech are used alternatingly. This paper and the research is reflects seek to deliberately intersect two otherwise separate fields not often entwined.  By analyzing the way BDSM erotic writing employs linguistic principle we are able to add new dimension to a field not often observed.  The insights of this research show the complexity of the ability to discuss power through writing albeit through unconventional medium.