Virtual Festival of Scholars

April 27 – May 1, 2020

Schedule of Events


McNair Scholars Program Poster Session


Student Abstracts

Student(s):
Vanessa Avalos

Faculty Mentor:
Jennifer Adair

Gene Editing in Blood Stem and Progenitor Cells via Targeted Nanoformulations
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CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat) gene editing in blood stem cells has high potential to treat many diseases. Current gene therapy approaches utilize electroporation (induces toxicity), cell purification, and may use viral vectors for delivery of new DNA(Shabahzi et al., 2019). A simpler process would greatly improve the availability of this treatment. Shahbazi et al. have created a CRISPR nanoparticle (AuNP) with components needed for gene editing, which avoids electroporation or viral vectors. Coupling AuNP passive delivery with a method for targeting delivery to hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) would open options for simplified treatment, possibly even in vivo (i.e. inside the body). To prove this concept, the original AuNP must be modified with targeting moieties. Potential targeting components are antibodies, ligands, and aptamers. Aptamers are more advantageous because they involve minimal contamination risk, cost less, have a long shelf-life, and induce little to no immunogenicity(Zhou and Rossi, 2017). A study by Shigdar, Qiao, and colleagues in 2013 identified two commercially available aptamers, A15 and B19, that bind to different parts of the CD133 protein – which was found to be an early HSC marker3 The human CD133 protein was the chosen target for this study due to their high HSC selectivity and low risk of expression in other tissues. This study aimed to determine if the original AuNP could display A15 and B19 aptamers alone or in combination, and whether an aptamer-targeted AuNP could preferentially bind to (and deliver CRISPR gene edits) to HSCs from healthy individuals.

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Student(s):
Christian Bustillos

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Chad Barber

The Identification and Analysis of Immune Cells Present in Canine Carcinomas
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The purpose of this study is to understand the identities and quantities of immune cells present in canine tumors. Specifically, we are looking into the kinds of cells present via cell surface proteins. Tumors were collected from a local veterinary clinic and brought back to the lab for dissection and disaggregation of cells. Cell culture was used to grow cells in order to have control cell lines to compare results and to ensure the healthy growth of tumor cells. Cells were stained with various antibodies to determine cell type; then assayed by a flow cytometer to determine identity. Data was then analyzed using a software called FlowJo in order to properly identify the cells. Flow cytometry data indicated that 42% of cells were lymphocytes and about 2% of cells were macrophages. It can be concluded that macrophages, B, and T cells have been identified in the tumor that was assayed. Understanding what cells are present within the canine carcinomas can help researchers implement new treatment methods that are better tailored to the cell types in the tumor; it may also be possible to give better prognoses for canines based on the cell identities and tumor location. Additionally, veterinary research is attempting to adapt immunotherapies used in humans to use in dogs.  We hope that this research can aid any current and future cancer researchers that are furthering the knowledge of immune cells in tumors.

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Student(s):
Patricia Del Rio

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Paloma Vargas

The Role of Type 2 Secretion System Protein LegP on Legionella pneumophila Temperature-Dependent Growth
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Legionella pneumophila (Lpn) is a gram-negative bacterium that is found in fresh-water or in man-made water systems, such as cooling towers. Lpn is an opportunistic pathogen that targets immunocompromised people, causing severe pneumonia (Legionnaire’s Disease), and a less severe form which is known as Pontiac fever. Lpn lives in environments ranging from 0°C to 60°C , but lives best between 37.5°C to 39°C (Konishi et al. 2006), which is the average temperature of the bacteria’s perfect niche, the human body.  Within the human host, Legionella has been shown to invade alveolar macrophages. Importantly, Lpn also colonizes freshwater amoeba. Previous studies (Cianciotto, 2008, Tyson et al. 2013) implicated the Type Two-Secretion System (T2SS) of Lpn in infection of both amoeba and human hosts. Moreover, the T2SS helps Lpn survive in low temperatures, and has been shown to be involved in biofilm production and intracellular infections of protozoans (Cianciotto et al. 2004). Subsequent studies identified the T2SS secretes 25 effector proteins, including LegP, which aid in the survival of Lpn. T2SS proteins PlaC and LapA are known to play a role in the nutrient acquisition within the Legionella containing vacuole (White et al. 2018); however, the function of the other proteins, such as LegP, are unknown. In this study, LegP was tested to assess the effect of temperature in Lpn growth at 17°C, 24°C, 37°C, and 42°C, using spectrophotometry. At 24°C, LegP does not appear to play a role in Lpn growth, the role of LegP at additional temperatures will be assessed.

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Student(s):
Cortez Espinoza

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Travis Peterson

The Influence of Golf Shaft Stiffness on Measures of Golf Swing Generation
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Driving the golf ball toward a target downrange depends upon the generation of the swing from the ground up. This study aimed to investigate the influence of golf shaft characteristics on ground reaction forces. Seven highly skilled golf players (3 males, 4 females, 17-25 years old) volunteered to participate in accordance with the local institutional review board. The players performed 10 golf shots with golf clubs with different shaft stiffnesses as designated by the manufacturer (stiff versus extra stiff). Golf shots were measured using the players preferred address position with each foot fully supported by a force plate covered by a thin layer of artificial turf (1200 Hz, Kistler). Differences across the group of players between stiff and extra stiff shafts were determined using a paired t-test (α = .05). The shaft stiffness did not have an effect on peak reaction force magnitudes across the group. Reaction force generation was specific to the individual, but was not consistent across the group. Across the group, players generated greater peak reaction forces with the target leg compared to the rear leg in the mediolateral, anteroposterior and vertical directions for both shaft stiffnesses. The results of the study are important for golf players and coaches to understand how players generate the golf swing from the ground up with clubs of varying shaft properties. It could also help players choose club shaft characteristics to manage the subtle differences in reaction force generation that may cause large changes further downrange.

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Student(s):
Stephanie Figueroa

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Aaron Heresco

Viewers Perceptions of Homosexuality in Television
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This research explores the factors that affect television viewers’ acceptance of gay male characters in a diverse adult sample. This study examines 6 of the following current television shows at both the program and character level: Modern Family,Will and Grace, Game of Thrones, The Office, The Walking Dead, and American Horror Story. These shows were specifically chosen for their highly recallable characters and fell under either the comedy or drama genre. The study examines the results from an online survey taken by 416 participants involving the number of LGBT social contacts, amount of television viewing, parasocialinteraction with gay characters, and scores on the Modern Homonegativity scale, Religiosity scale, and Likability scale. Results are discussed in terms of the Parasocial Contact Hypothesis and Identification. Correlations found in this study require further replication due to changing demographics. 

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Student(s):
Emily Johnson

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Katherine Hoffmann

The Effect of Temperature on the Rate of Anaerobic Metabolism in Mytilus galloprovincialis  
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The anaerobic waste product succinate is produced by mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis duringperiods of low-tide.  What is not known is if anaerobic metabolism is suppressed or elevated during thermal stress.  This preliminary experiment assessed the effects of temperature on succinate production in mussels.  Mytilus galloprovincialis were collected and acclimated for 5 hours in three environments including anaerobic hot, anaerobic cold, and aerobic cold.  Following acclimation, each mussel was dissected and its gill tissue was tested for succinate levels using a colorimetric assay.  Results revealed a slight and non-significant elevation of succinate in the anaerobic hot condition. 

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Student(s):
Manuel Lira

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Jose Marichal

Universal Health Care Framing in the Media
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The term “Universal Health Care” (UHC) is a term used to describe a system that would medically insure everyone in the United States. There is lots of debate about what exactly a UHC system would entail. Naturally, there is also a split among proponents of UHC regarding the name of the policy. Some of the most prominent are “universal health care”, “single-payer”, and “medicare-for-all”. This research is intended to see how the specific terminology affects the political viability of the policy. We conducted a semantic analysis on headlines from Reddit, one of the largest social media websites in the world. Reddit was chosen because of its large user base in relevant “subreddits,” or topic-specific communities, including r/politics, r/news, r/usapolitics, etc., and the relative ease in which to collect data. After we collected the initial data, we then performed a sentiment analysis on the three searches using the Vader sentiment analyzer in the SciKit Learn python package. Sentiment analysis is a way of processing and categorizing opinion or emotion expressed in text.  The analyzer created a score for the positivity, negativity and neutrality of each headline that ranged from -1 (most negative) to 1 (most positive We found that “medicare-for-all” was the term used most often (n=224), while “UHC” was by far the most positively talked about term (87% of the headlines were rated “positive”). “Single payer” received slightly lower negative and positive sentiment than “Medicare-for-all” while having about 30 percent less data than “Medicare for all”. 

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Student(s):
Sienna Magdaleno

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Lorenzo Ramirez

Conflict Behavior of Captive Tufted Capuchin (Sapajus) Troop in Food & Non-food Conditions
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Tufted capuchins (Sapajus) are generally found in group living, a likely setting for aggression and competition to occur, and tend to form  hierarchies based on within-group interactions. Understanding the impact of aggressive competition on food intake can be used to provide indications of dominance.  The influences of both diet and dominance ranking may implicate the temporal distribution of activity patterns.The effect of the presence of food on social interactions and competition was analyzed for six individuals of a captive tufted capuchin troop living at America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College. Trainers provided an assumed dominance hierarchy, a higher frequency for conflict behavior was expected among the higher-ranking individuals during food conditions. Data were systematically collected for each condition through instantaneous focal samples by utilizing a coding system from pre-selected behaviors recognized ad libitum. Analysis of condition comparisons for each behavior revealed ingestion and conflict behaviors occur significantly higher in food conditions, as opposed to self-rewarding behaviors that are significantly higher in non-food conditions. The assumed most dominant group member exhibited a statistically significant higher frequency of conflict behavior compared to the assumed least dominant group member (*p = 0.0205). Higher-ranking individuals exhibiting more frequently agonistic behavior may explain this significant value. These findings support the current framework which suggests the notion that within-group food competition serves as a measurement for social structure.

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Student(s):
Kaitlyn Marquez

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Grady Hanrahan

Separation and Characterization of Drug Metabolites and Associated Biotransformation Pathways
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The goal of this research is to elucidate the biotransformation pathways and chemical separation of common medications, dietary supplements, and their associated urinary metabolites. Gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) will be utilized to separate, quantify, and characterize all chemical components. In addition, we will develop a theoretical biotransformation pathway as an aid in identifying associated urinary metabolites. Expected outcomes include the identification of reactive metabolites, the elucidation chemical structure as it relates to possible toxicity, and a greater understanding of metabolite screening. As a result, this study will provide expanded knowledge in the field of metabolomics and provide critical information on the human health aspects of medicinal metabolism. 

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Student(s):
Alia Martinez

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Sharla Berry

How Undergraduate Students Create and Perceive Community In Online Courses
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Online education is becoming more common in undergraduate university programs. However, there is currently little understanding of the impact that online courses have on students and their sense of community, defined as a sense of belonging and closeness. This paper will look at the community aspect of college life in online undergraduate courses, as well as students’ perceptions of online learning at a small liberal arts university. Understanding what students value and take away from an online course, in regard to their social well-being, will be beneficial when designing these increasingly popular classes. Institutions with online courses may utilize the results from this study to increase student success in online courses.

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Student(s):
Jade Moore

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. ElBassiony

Impact of a Defendants Race and Gender on a Jurors Willingness to Discard a Recanted Confession
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Bias in the criminal justice system toward certain race-ethnicities and genders is an issue in today’s legal system. This research examines the impact of the defendant’s race-ethnicity and gender on a juror’s willingness to discard a confession that has been recanted by a defendant. It is hypothesized that jurors are more likely to discard a confession recanted by a woman versus a male and a Caucasian versus Black or Hispanic. It is expected that the race-ethnicity and gender of a defendant will interact to influence the willingness of a potential juror to disregard a confession recanted by a defendant. Participants read a vignette describing a situation where a defendant, either male or female and either Caucasian, Black, or Hispanic, has confessed to a crime during interrogation, but later recants that confession.  After reading the vignette, the participants respond to a survey which determines if they are willing to discard the confession, how guilty they perceive the defendant and their confidence for both. While there were no significant results concerning the participants perception of guilt and their willingness to discard the confession, there were significant differences in their confidence when determining guilt and their willingness to discard the confession. False confessions are a reality in a legal system which shows controversial levels of justice which may result in wrongful convictions. Therefor it is imperative to understand how gender and race-ethnicity may bias potential jurors for or against a defendant who has recanted a confession (Scheck, Neufeld, & Dwyer, 2000).

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Student(s):
Joanna Portillo, McKenzie Kelly, Lauren McAllister

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. David Marcey

Molecular Mapping of P-Transposable Element Insertions in the Genomes of Drosophila melanogaster Strains
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Cryptic epigenetic variation may be an underappreciated component in the spectrum of natural variation upon which natural selection can act. To examine this phenomenon, we are studying a mutation known as the extra eye mutation (ee). Here we propose an epigenetic model for the production of head deformities by the extra eye mutation (ee), which is incompletely penetrant, variably expressed, and conditionally dominant. The model posits RNAi-mediated transcriptional suppression via epigenetic heterochromatization of a gene that encodes a repressor of activated STAT, a key molecule in the JAK-STAT signaling cascade implicated in embryonic eye field establishment. In ee strains, a P-transposable element insertion maps near a gene, Su(var)2-10, and is the putative target of RNAi-induced heterochromatization. This work uses a variation of the polymerase chain reaction, Splinkerette PCR, to capture genomic sequences that flank P-element inserts in the ee strain, which are then subjected to next generation DNA sequencing. The resulting sequences are aligned to the D. melanogaster reference genome with bioinformatic software. As one test of the model involving Su(var)2-10, we expect to precisely map the P-element insertion near this gene, and thereby determine the plausibility of its RNAi induced heterochromatization. In collateral studies, Splinkerette PCR of genomic sequences flanking P inserts in other putative P-element induced mutations is being conducted. To date, multiple Splinkerette PCR amplicons have been mapped and further analysis of these genomic fragments sequences is underway.

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Student(s):
Andrea Sanchez

Faculty Mentor:
Melissa Donovick

Examining Barriers to Mental Health Services Among Latino Immigrants, Age and Belongingness
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There are mental health disparities with access to mental health care among Latino immigrants living in low-income communities in the United States. The purpose of this study was to investigate factors that may serve as predictors of mental health service barriers in the Latino immigrant community. There was a total of 37 participants (9 males, 25 females and 3 declined to answer). This study examined whether age of arrival to the United States and thwarted belongingness were predictors for mental health service barriers. The participants completed the Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire, Barriers to Adolescents Seeking Help Scale for Mental Health Problems-- Brief Version and the Brief Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans-Ⅱ. Each participant had the option to complete the surveys either in Spanish or English, 19 participants completed the survey in English and 18 completed the survey in Spanish. It was hypothesized that as age of arrival to the United States increased, perceived barriers to mental health services would decrease. It was also hypothesized that as general belongingness increased, perceived barriers to mental health services would decrease. A multiple regression was run to predict mental health barriers from age of arrival to the United States and thwarted belongingness, however; the predictions were not statistically significant. The observed trends, although not statistically significant were that that as general belongingness increased so did the perceived barriers to mental health services and that as age of arrival to the United States increased, perceived barriers to mental health services decreased.

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Student(s):
Sana Shah

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Grady Hanrahan

Chemical Characterization of Pesticides and Associated Urinary Metabolites in Relation to Toxicity Assessement 
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This study describes the chemical characterization of pesticides in relation to associated biotransformation pathways. A gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) method for the analysis of pesticides after sample extraction was developed, optimized, and successfully implemented. In combination, and in order to investigate the formation and separation of model pesticides and their stable urinary metabolites, we developed individual mechanistic schemes based on cytochrome P450 metabolic-catalyzed oxidation. Here, detailed data on the pesticide lindane helped in identifying and characterizing chemical compounds that are crucial to health assessment. Overall, this study provides guidance for the development of a comprehensive approach towards dose- and time-dependent pesticide screening, which will ultimately lead to a greater understanding of underlying diseases.

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Student(s):
Brianna Zaragoza

Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Scott Chiu

Integrating Culturally Inclusive Writing Pedagogies 
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As diversity rises in higher education nationwide, the current practices and teaching methods, or pedagogies, must continue to advance in order to adjust to the needs of diverse, underrepresented students. Therefore, the guiding question of this literature review examines how current scholars and educators integrate culturally inclusive writing pedagogies in secondary and post-secondary classrooms in order to help situate my own research upon entering graduate school. Works under review include Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (2017)by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) by Paulo Freire, and Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994) by bell hooks. Additional scholars include Django Paris, Samy H. Alim,  Gloria Ladson Billings, Michael Dominguez, Jason G. Irizarry, Juan C. Guerra, Jodi Patrick Holschuh, Rasha Diab, Thomas Ferrel, and Neil Simpkins, Tara J. Yosso, and Daniel G. Sólorzano. Many of these scholars address the importance of using culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies and provide examples of how to implement them into the curriculum and instruction. From my findings, I hope to identify if there are any specific needs of students that have yet to be met, despite great efforts to include diverse experiences and perspectives into the curriculum and instruction.

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