Student Research Symposium

Saturday, October 12, 2019


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Saturday, October 12, 2019
1:00pm - 2:30pm
Oral Presentations

Location: Lundring Events Center

2:30pm - 4:00pm
Poster Session

Location: Soiland Recreation Center

Structure Based Drug Design

Program: John Stauffer Research Fellowships in the Chemical Sciences
Faculty: Dr. Katherine Hoffmann, Biochemistry
Student: Madison Weaver

Desferrioxamines (“dfo”s) are iron-chelating compounds which have been used medicinally in cases of iron overload. The synthesis of dfoE involves an enzyme called DesD which is similar to enzymes in pathogenic bacteria, whose siderophores are virulence factors. We are studying DesD as a model for this family of enzymes and as a potential new drug target. 

Purpose:The purpose of this research is to analyze the co-factor specificity and large substrate verse small substrate specificity of DesD by comparing substrate binding constants (KD,wherea smaller number correlates to tighter binding) to analog binding constants. Future drugs will have to out-compete the substrates in binding, so we will use these studies to determine which substrate components contribute to maximum binding.

Methods:The binding properties of DesD were explored in a twenty-five percent glycerol Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) buffer. Prior experimentation with this protein was conducted in a buffer that resulted in precipitation of DesD out of the solution, thus prompting the need for repeated binding assays in a buffer that maintains synthase solubility. GraphPad Prism 8.0 will be used to analyze the dissociation constant (KD) and occupancy of DesD. 

Results:We confirmed previous resultsthat the Kof DesD binding to ATP is in the 10-6 M range, compared to non-ATP cofactors which result in KDis in the 10-3M range. Future studies will compare dfoG (substrate)binding to DesD compared to analog dfoB or product dfoE, and also explore smaller substrates, hydroxysuccinylcadavering, vs. analogs. 

Conclusion: We have confirmed that DesD has a strong binding preference for ATP over non-ATP cofactors. This data indicates that the phosphates are essential to tight binding in any future competitive inhibitors. Our next findings will expand our understanding of critical regions in the binding site, and further aid in developing new inhibitors that could block the NIS pathways and be lead drugs for a new class of antibiotics.

Determining the Kinetics of Desferroxiamine D from Streptomyces coelicolor using Isothermal Titration Calorimetry

Program: National Science Foundation Summer Research Fellowship in Chemistry
Faculty: Dr. Katherine M. Hoffmann, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Student: Eliana Goncuian


The long-term objective for this research is to create a new class of antibiotics that targets the non-ribosomal peptide synthetase independent siderophore (NIS) pathway in bacteria. The focus of my current research is to quantify the kinetic constants and obtain the kinetics curve of our model system, Desferroxiamine D (DesD), from Streptomyces coelicolor, reacting with its large substrate, desferroxiamine G (dfoG). To do this we used Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) to collect data and GraphPad Prism along with Malvern MicroCal Peaq ITC software to fit the kinetics curves, as well as, calculate the kinetics constants. We successfully gathered and analyzed ITC data for both the catalytic (wild type, Wt) and non-catalytic (mutant, R306Q) forms of DesD interacting with dfoG within variable amounts of ATP. We also gathered data regarding the activity of our Wt DesD enzyme in order to determine the lifespan and the time of optimal catalytic activity. We have found that our enzyme is still active within 96 hours where it was previously thought to have a 36-48 hour catalytic lifespan.


In conducting these experiments, we observed that an industry standard amount of magnesium chloride (MgCl2) in our solution caused an oscillating signal during equilibration of the ITC prior to enzyme injection. We hypothesized that the data reflects metal chelation of the Mg by our substrate (dfoG). We plan on conducting a binding experiment using the ITC in order to quantify the substrate (dfoG) and MgCl2 interaction, and ultimately recommend a new standard amount of MgCl2 to the field for future experiments. Other future directions include determining the kinetic constants of Wt DesD interacting with its small substrate hydroxysuccinyl cadaverine (HSC), and determining the catalytic role of two other residues in the active site by mutating them and repeating the kinetics experiment. This experimental assay and data will be the foundation for future drug designs to DesD.

Structural and Functional Studies of DesD Variants: E445A and H443A

Program: National Science Foundation Summer Research Fellowship in Chemistry
Faculty: Dr. Katherine Hoffmann, Chemistry
Student: Paven Gahir


Structural and Functional Studies of DesD Variants: E445A and H443A
Paven Gahir and
Dr. Katherine Hoffmann


Previous research has identified that virulent bacteria produce siderophores which are successful in competing for and chelating iron from their host environment; this characteristic is believed to contribute to the virulence of certain bacteria.  There are two known pathways via which siderophores can be formed: Non-Ribosomal Peptide Synthetase (NRPS) Dependent Pathway, and NRPS Independent Pathway.  Desferrioxamine E a siderophore formed by Streptomyces coelicolor via the NRPS Independent Pathway.  DesD, the protein of interest in this research project and a model protein overall, contributes to the catalytic formation of siderophore Desferrioxamine E.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether a mutant variant DesD would contribute to the formation of Desferrioxiame E in the same catalytic manner as the wild type DesD, thereby establishing their role in catalysis.
Method: Mutant DesD variants E445A and H443A were transformed into competent cells, which were then overexpressed.  The cells harvested from overexpression were then lysed and the protein obtained was purified using Fast Protein Liquid Chromatography (FPLC).  A combination of two columns, a nickel column and a desalting column were used to obtain separate DesD protein from other proteins in the lysate.  Pure DesD variant was then either concentrated and setup for crystallography studies, or it was run on the Isothermal Titration Calorimeter (ITC) to measure the catalytic reaction between a selected substrate.
Conclusion: Significant variations in reagent quality over the summer resulted in efforts focusing on troubleshooting overexpression.  While overexpression was successfully optimized, the structural studies and kinetic studies still need to be performed.


Integrating Culturally Inclusive Writing Pedagogies

Program: Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Scholar
Faculty: Dr. Scott Chiu, English
Student: Brianna Zaragoza

Integrating Culturally Inclusive Writing Pedagogies 

Brianna Zaragoza 

Dr. Scott Chiu 

As diversity rises in higher education, the current teaching methods, or pedagogies, must change to accommodate the diversity among the students on college campuses. California Lutheran University, a liberal arts, Hispanic Serving Institute, must examine its current practices in order to successfully align the curriculum with their education missions. Therefore, this research aims to determine if current teaching pedagogies, specifically writing assignments, empower Latina/o and/or Hispanic students at Cal Lutheran. In order to determine this, current practices will be compared to Django Paris & Samy H. Alim’s (2017) term, culturally sustaining pedagogies. Culturally sustaining pedagogies are teaching practices which encourage and validate experiential and cultural knowledge of diverse students. The research question asks how assignments in Cal Lutheran’s writing classes reflect culturally sustaining pedagogies. A mixed method including an online survey and follow-up interviews are administered to recruited traditional undergraduate students who identify as Latina/o and/or Hispanic. The quantitative portion of the methodology provides a Likert Scale survey to measure the extent to which students agree or disagree with given statements. The qualitative portion of the survey asks participants to elaborate on their responses in an in-person or over the phone interview. Participants are from two teaching contexts: a first-year writing course (an English 110 and/or 111 course) and the Writing Center one-on-one consultation. Preliminary results indicate that while diversity initiatives have greatly improved the experiences of Latina/o and/or Hispanic students, there are still many unique challenges such as understanding professors’ expectations and struggling with performance anxiety. Therefore, there is an urgent need to reexamine and change current writing pedagogies that will require creativity, flexibility, and cultural awareness to ensure equity. 


The Effect of an Anti-Sense P Transposable Element (P-Element) on the Mutation Caused by a P-Element Insertion in or near the singed Gene in Drosophila melanogaster

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. David Marcey, Biology
Student: Devin Romines

The extra eye (ee) mutation in Drosophila melanogaster produces head deformities which range from missing and/or duplicated bristles and head cuticle to supernumerary compound eyes and antennae. It is incompletely penetrant and conditionally dominant. Marcey (personal communication) has developed an epigenetic model to explain the exotic genetic behavior of ee, which is centered around a transposable P-element inserted in the 5’ exon of the Cytochrome p450 reductase (Cpr) gene in a reverse orientation with respect to the transcriptional polarity of Cpr. The model involves the tightly packaging of DNA, heterochromatization, at the site of the anti-sense P-element and all other P-elements in the genome. In order to test the model’s validity, the present study was designed to observe the effect of the anti-sense, ee P-element on mutations of the singed gene that involve P-element insertions in the regulatory region. It was expected that the anti-sense P-element introduced to flies which had these singed mutations would produce offspring exhibiting changed singed phenotypes due to the alterations in the packaging of the gene. Four lines of flies containing the singed mutation were collected and mated to a single line containing the ee mutation. Both males and females of the singed lines were crossed to the ee line. The F1 virgin female offspring were collected and backcrossed to ee males. Male F1 offspring from the original crosses containing female singed flies were scored for abnormal singed phenotypes as they were hemizygous for the singed mutations and heterozygous for the ee mutation. The scored F1 male offspring did not yield any altered expressions of singed. Some of the F2 male progeny of the backcross will be hemizygous for the singed mutation and be heterozygous or homozygous for the ee mutation. These males will be scored for abnormal expression of the singed mutation. This project is important as it provides further insight into the mechanisms of animal development, especially in understanding the role of transposable elements in gene expression.

The Effect of Neuroticism on Directed Forgetting and Forgiveness

Program: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFS)
Faculty: Dr. Andrea Sell, Psychology
Student: Cassandra Akers

This study was conducted to examine the effect of neuroticism in the processes of directed forgetting and forgiveness. Previous research has found that personality and emotion influence a participant’s ability to directly forget (forgetting on purpose) certain stimuli (Wong et al., 2008). In the current study, we used a two-by-two-by-three design to examine the effect of neuroticism on emotional versus non-emotional transgression stories. Participants were placed in one of six conditions in which the differing factors were the cue type (forget, remember, control) and the emotionality of the transgression (emotional or non-emotional). Participants were given a directed forgetting task where, depending on the condition, the participant either read an emotional transgression within the story or a non-emotional transgression and subsequently asked to forget or remember what they just saw. For example, an emotional transgression would be, “Your best friend cancels on you to hang out with your ex.” Versus a non-emotional transgression, “Your best friend cancels on you to visit her sick aunt.” Following the directed forgetting task, participants were asked how likely they were to forgive the transgressor on a scale of one to seven based on the previous story. Participants then took a personality assessment to measure their neuroticism levels. Results showed that the cue following the transgression sentence significantly affected whether or not the participant recalled the transgression.  Whether or not the participant neuroticism somewhat influenced the results of the emotional transgression and was marginally significant. Last, the emotionality of the transgression played a large role and almost all variance in the forgiveness scores was due to whether or not the transgression sentence was emotional. This outcome was in support of our hypothesis and previous research that emotional stimuli will be harder for participants to forget, no matter the cue (Wong et al., 2008).

Is Play Sexually Dimorphic in the Polygamous Squirrel Monkey?

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. Anita Stone, Biology
Student: Seta Aghababian

Play behavior is widespread in juvenile mammals and is considered an important mechanism for practicing skills needed later in life. In mammals characterized by strong adult male-male competition over females, males perform more social play than females, and such play may assist males in mating competition. The purpose my study was to test whether social play behavior is sexually dimorphic in a neotropical primate, the squirrel monkey.  Because of their polygamous mating system, I predicted that male squirrel monkeys would conduct more rough-and-tumble play than females and any sex-based play differences would be more evident in older juveniles.  I conducted a six-week field study of two groups of wild Samiri collinsi in Eastern Amazonia, Brazil (N=73 contact hours). Using the all-occurrence method, I video recorded juvenile play bouts and later scored variables such as: bout duration, age and sex of players, and specific play behaviors used (e.g. wrestle, pounce). The average rate of play was 0.76 bouts/hour (N=56 observations) and play bouts consisted mostly of biting, grabbing, and wrestling (87%, N=785 behaviors scored). Older juveniles were present in more bouts (79% of observations) than were younger juveniles (55% of observations) and juvenile males were included in more bouts (96% of observations) than juvenile females (38% of observations). Among younger juveniles, males and females played at the same frequency (50%, N=35 play minutes); however, among older juveniles, males played more frequently than females (89%, N=53 play minutes). Older juvenile males also were responsible for 67% of play initiations (N=57 initiations). These initial results indicate that juvenile play is sexually dimorphic in S. collinisi; specifically, males play more than females and sex differences are more pronounced in older cohorts. Play behavior is often associated with the juvenile period and further research into the characteristics of play can help uncover the significance of the juvenile period in animals.

Mapping the crybaby (cby) gene in Drosophila melanogaster

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. David Marcey, Biology
Student: Alyssa Abano

A screen for novel sources of epigenetic cryptic genetic variation (ECGV) in Drosophila melanogaster has been conducted (Marcey, personal communication). The screen is based on a model for the production of head defects by the extra eye mutation (ee), which is incompletely penetrant, variably expressed, and conditionally dominant. The model is based on a known P-transposable element insertion into the Cpr gene that will produce anti-sense P-element RNA within Cpr transcripts. These antisense P-element RNAs are thought to initiate RNAi-mediated heterochromatization of P-elements and genes that lie near them. A candidate for such transcriptional silencing is the Su(var)2-10 gene that lies near a P-element insert.  Su(var)2-10 encodes a repressor of STAT, a molecule implicated in embryonic eye field establishment, and downregulation of Su(var)2-10 expression may lead to supernumerary compound eyes as well as other heads deformities. The screen for new ECGV variants utilizes the anti-sense P-element present in ee strains to induce heterochromatization of P-elements and nearby genes at a variety of genomic locations in stocks derived from natural populations from diverse worldwide locations. A new variant, crybaby (cby), that displays characteristics expected of such epigenetic mutations has been recovered and is the subject of this project. cby produces phenotypically variable head defects, the most common of which is a pronounced underdevelopment of ventral eye regions.  Our first goal is to identify the chromosome on which the cby gene lies. We are crossing the cby line to lines containing genetically marked balancer chromosomes and generating genotypes that are hetero- or homozygous for chromosomes from the cby line. The results will allow us to determine which chromosome from the cby line carries the mutation. Data from this mapping experiment will be presented. Further study of the cby gene will shed light on mechanisms of eye development and gene regulation that may be of broad interest to the biomedical research community.


The Response of Cerebral Hemodynamics Following High Intensity Aerobic Exercise

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Allan Knox, Exercise Science
Student: Carlos Gonzalez

The Response of Cerebral Hemodynamics Following High Intensity Aerobic Exercise

Carlos Gonzalez

Dr. Allan Knox


Aims: High Intensity Aerobic Exercise (HIAE) is incorporated into many training regimens in professional sports and even in regular training programs. Previous research has reported that common carotid arterial hemodynamics during and following HIAE elicits reductions in blood flow, potentially attributed to increases in vascular resistance. However, data is lacking on the hemodynamic response of the Internal Carotid Artery (ICA) which is responsible for the blood supply to the Circle of Willis which distributes blood throughout most cerebral regions. This study has potential implications because these findings can help change the current narrative seen when prescribing and performing aerobic exercise. The aim of this study was to determine the response of the ICA hemodynamics following a single bout of maximal aerobic exercise.

Methods: Peak Systolic Velocity (PSV), End Diastolic Velocity (EDV), Pulsatility Index (PI), Resistance Index (RI), Diameter, and Flow at rest were calculated by Doppler Ultrasound of the ICA. Participants then performed a maximal aerobic capacity test (VOMax) with baseline ICA hemodynamics being calculated once the participant returned to resting state.

Results: A total of five participants (22±3.21 years) participated in the study. No significant changes following HIAE were observed in the ICA PSV (p= 0.554), EDV (p= 0.391), PI (p= 0.694), and diameter (= 0.156). However, statistical trends were observed suggesting a reduction in ICA blood flow (117.7ml/min, 95%C.I.: -86.87 – 322.27, p= 0.087) and an increase in RI (-0.11, 95%C.I.: -0.23 – 0.001, p= 0.051) following exercise.

Conclusion: The current data shows no significant changes in ICA hemodynamics following HIAE. This suggests that cerebral hemodynamics return to resting states when intense exercise has ceased. It is suggested that future studies increase statistical power by enhancing subject recruitment due to the evident statistical trends.  

Seeking Detector(HGCal) and Data Analysis(Higgs->cc) improvements in the search for Supersymmetry at the CMS experiment.

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Sebastian Carron Montero, Physics
Student: Javier Berjon de la Parra

Seeking Detector(HGCal) and Data Analysis(Higgs->cc) improvements in the search for Supersymmetry at the CMS experiment.

Javier Berjon de la Parra

Dr. Sebastian Carron Montero

The purpose of this project is to contribute to the ongoing multi-institutional effort (CLU, UCSB, CERN, and other institutions) in the search of yet undetected supersymmetric particles in the large Hadron Collider CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment on two different fronts: hardware and data analysis. Regarding hardware, we are contributing to the ongoing instrumentation improvement of the CMS calorimeter components by designing and currently building a coincidence particle scintillator to serve as the “trigger” to start data collection in test-beam experiments to characterize a particle calorimeter detector (The High Granularity Calorimeter-HGCal) being developed in a collaboration between our university, UCSB, The University of Minnesota, CERN and a few other institutions. This trigger will also be able to be used to test detectors in lab with minimum ionizing particles. Attached to this task, a mapping has been created and the plotting code has been modified to work specifically for the new 8in HGCal Silicon detector prototypes.
Regarding the data analysis, we are currently working on Montecarlo simulations of the Higgs decaying to charm-charm quarks. These simulations are very computing intensive, therefore at the moment we are adapting the simulations to be able to run at the CERN Grid, which is an array of thousands computers capable of doing very computing intensive work. After this is done, the effort will continue to simulate SUSY processes. It is important to mention that the search for SUSY is a collaborative effort done by a very large community of scientists, and it will take several years. Nevertheless, the work done and soon to come from this project are aimed to be a small aid for this gigantic search.

Investigating the Anti-Cancer Effects of Curcumin on Canine Osteosarcoma Cells

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. Chad Barber, Biology
Student: Issai Cisneros

The most common methods of treating cancer have been surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  Other methods such as immune system modulation and gene therapy are in development. Recent studies focusing on using plant-derived treatments may be effective supplemental therapies that might be less toxic than standard chemotherapies.  Curcumin has been proposed as a new anti-cancer agent for its anti-proliferative and apoptotic properties. Using canine cell lines, I hypothesize that as concentrations of curcumin within the cell culture media increase, both the proliferative capabilities and cell viability will decrease, and the total quantity of apoptotic cells will increase. I have conducted proliferation assays, migration assays, MTT assays, and flow cytometry to examine the anti-cancer effects of curcumin on a canine osteosarcoma (D17) cell line. Preliminary results have found that curcumin works in both a time-dependent and dose-dependent manner. Treatments with less than 20 micromolar curcumin, and trials that lasted less than 24 hours, seemed to have little impact on the proliferation and metabolic health of the cancer cells. But as both time and concentration increased beyond those points, the proliferation and cellular viability of the D17 cells decrease, while also triggering higher rates of apoptosis than in controls. Over two-day trials, the proliferation and migration assays showed a decrease in proliferation of the osteosarcoma cells as concentrations of curcumin increased. Similarly, the MTT assays demonstrated fewer viable cells in the treatment groups with higher curcumin concentrations, when compared to the DMSO control group. Flow cytometry data showed that apoptosis rates of the D17 cells also increased as both dose concentration and time of exposure to curcumin increased. Together, these results show that curcumin does seem to have anti-cancer effects, decreasing the growth and health of cancer cells, meaning that it may work as an effective alternative cancer treatment, for canines and humans alike.

Separation and Characterization of Drug Metabolites and Associated Biotransformation Pathways

Program: Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Scholar
Faculty: Grady Hanrahan, Chemistry
Student: Kaitlyn Marquez

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.

Optimized Chemical Separations for Improved Dose-and Time-Dependent Urinary Metabolite Screening

Program: Aperture Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Grady Hanrahan, Chemistry
Student: Sara Ortiz Ramirez and Bryan Villalobos


By investigating metabolic interferences that provides insight into the carcinogenic and toxic modes of action, foreign compounds and their metabolites can be detected. Therefore, to allow proper investigation, the development of sensitive and selective chemical instrumentation is warranted, especially as it relates to metabolite screening. Here, the importance of chemical separation, computational modeling techniques including neural networks, and efficient optimization is crucial to this success. Moreover, our hypothesis states that improvements in chemical separation technology will lead to enhancements in the ability to separate, select, and characterize changes in urinary metabolites in response to toxic compound(s) exposure. We expect to achieve this via three primary objectives: 1). Development of novel computational modeling platforms; 2). Use of developed models to optimize instrumentation parameters, and; 3). Efficiently separate and characterize example toxic chemicals (phenols and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s)) and metabolite pathway elucidation. 


In order to investigate and test our hypothesis, we first conducted a thorough search of the literature using scientific databases. Next, theoretical examination of both GC-MS and CE was covered, followed by practical studies on the instruments using reference phenolic and VOC standards. Concurrently, we assessed the theoretical pathways for phenolic and VOC transformation via the human cytochrome P450 system. Next, relevant statistical methods were employed to assess instrument reproducibility and standard calibration sensitivity and robustness, as well as comparing model and actual experimental runs. Future studies will focus on developing and optimizing neural network computational platforms and particle swarm optimization algorithms to aid in future instrumental studies. Optimization studies will follow using the computational techniques described above. Lastly, toxicity values based on chemical makeup and reactivity will be predicted. As a result of this study, we anticipate success in utilizing novel computational techniques to optimize our chemical separation technology and an extraction method using electronegative salts. This is expected to allow the complete separation and characterization of complex chemical compounds (e.g. chlorinated phenols; aromatic hydrocarbons) associated with deleterious human health effects. Importantly, it is also expected to be able to detect and screen possible reactive metabolites and elucidate probable biochemical mechanisms that mediate their formation. Ultimately, it will lead to an enhanced understanding of underlying disease mechanisms and related toxicity exposure important for industrial workers and the general public.

The Role of Type II Secretion System Protein LegP on Legionella pneumophila Growth

Program: Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Scholar
Faculty: Dr. Paloma Vargas, Biology
Student: Patricia Del Rio

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 that the T2SS secretes 25 effector proteins,  including LegP, 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 24°C, 37°C, 42°C, and 17°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.

The Effects of Introductory Philosophy Education on the Critical Thinking Skills of Pre-College Students

Program: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFS)
Faculty: Dr. Brian Collins, Dr. Cynthia De Martino, Philosophy
Student: Augustus Wachbrit, with assistance from Katie Knapp and Lindy Ortiz

Philosophy programs across the country have long claimed that their programs will aid students in the development of healthy, productive mental patterns–– i.e., most programs claim that they can help students foster their critical thinking abilities. Furthermore, producing students who are able to think critically is a common goal among educators, regardless of discipline or student age. If critical thinking is a goal of education, it seems necessary to know which sorts of learning experiences help students to think critically. My research is therefore important in that it seeks to offer substantiation to the claims of philosophy departments and aid educators in their efforts to help students foster their critical thinking abilities. Dr. Collins runs the SoCal Philosophy Academy, a yearly summer program wherein pre-college students from all over the area are invited onto campus for a week of introductory philosophy education. This year, 55 students were in attendance. We administered two critical thinking skills tests to all of the students in order to gauge whether or not the program led to any changes in their critical thinking abilities. We gave students two versions of the 40-question Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Skills Test in the form of a pre-test (one before the academy) and a post-test (one following the academy). The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Skills Test tests students in three abilities: argument evaluation, assumption recognition, and conclusion drawing. Currently, our sample size is 27. While the 27 students averaged 19.7 points on the pre-test, they shot up to 21.8 points on the post-test. Scores were, on average, 2.1 points higher on the post-test. In terms of specific abilities, students improved 0.7 points on assumption recognition and 3 points on argument evaluation. They lost 1.6 points on conclusion drawing. For the 2.1 point increase, our p-value is 0.07. We hope to improve the sample size over the next few months in order to reach statistical significance.

Influence of Newsroom Procedural Changes on Corrections Issued due to Editing Errors

Program: Culver Behavioral Science Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Kirstie Hettinga, Communications
Student: Helena Long

In the 1990s, several newspapers across the country implemented changes to the multi-layered process of editing standard at most major publications (Russial, 1998). These changes often involved reducing or even eliminating the copy desk (Russial, 1998). Some saw change as necessary for modernizing the industry in the dawn of the digital age (Miller, 1992), while others had concerns that accuracy could decline (Mensing, 2005). In May 2017, The New York Times announced extensive changes to its editing process, including the elimination of the public editor position (Victor, 2017) and nearly halving the number of copy editors on staff (Mullin, 2017). This research examines how editing changes at The Times affected corrections issued because of editing errors. The majority of corrections in The Times do not state a cause of error, with its stylebook noting “the effort might appear defensive or insincere” (Siegal and Connolly, 1999, p. 85). However, an exception is made for errors appearing “under the byline or credit of a blameless staff member or news agency,” which allows an editing or transmission failure to be cited. (Siegal and Connolly, 1999, p. 85). This research uses a subset of data from a larger project examining the effects of the May 2017 changes to focus exclusively on corrections attributed to editing errors. These corrections (N=124) underwent two rounds of qualitative thematic coding to determine common features of corrections issued due to editing errors, as well as to note any apparent differences between 2017 and 2018. Following these rounds of coding, themes were identified and discussed in the context of the procedural changes. The results of this study may shed light on how changes at The Times influenced journalistic accuracy, which is particularly relevant at a time where only 32 percent of Americans trust mainstream press (Mourao et al., 2018). Results may also be relevant to publications considering similar editing procedural changes and suggest better practices for editors to reduce future errors. 

The impact of a defendant's race and gender on a potential jurors' willingness to discard a confession

Program: Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Scholar
Faculty: Dr. Amanda ElBassiouny and Dr. Julie Kuehnel, Psychology
Student: Jade Moore

Previous research on magnetic massive stars has shown that the rotational velocity of these stars can decrease (spin down) over time due to an effect called magnetic braking, which explains how stars with magnetic fields lose their angular momentum as the stellar wind material interacts with the field. The purpose of this research is to determine if there is a change in the rotational period of the magnetic O-type star Plaskett’s star, using long-term spectroscopic observations. The spectral data for this study came from 5 different telescopes (located in France, Poland, and Hawaii) over a period of 5 years. The data was analyzed using several programs written in IDL. The reduced image data was converted to text format and then normalized. Data sets with contamination (e.g., cloud cover) were removed. For this study, we focused on the hydrogen spectral line Hβ at 486.1 nm, as it is the strongest line least contaminated by wind emission. The equivalent width (EW), or the measured total area above and below the normalized continuum was calculated for every Hβ profile. The EW measurements were then used to check for any changes in the period. Over time, the equivalent width measurements form a periodic pattern. Each time the pattern repeats itself, the star is beginning a new rotation. We have compared the timing of the pattern from each data set to check for a change in the rotational period, which would cause the pattern to shift in phase. The result is that there is a significant change in the phase, even in a time span as short as a year. This implies that there are intense and complex interactions between the stellar wind and the magnetic field. Because we have a more accurate determination of the rotational period, this research will provide scientists currently working on this unique object improved models of the magnetic structure and a better understanding of the wind-field interaction and its consequences for the case of both a strong wind and high rotation.

Risk & Resilience: Overcoming Neighborhood Disadvantage

Program: Culver Behavioral Science Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Molly George, Criminal Justice
Student: Laura Reyes

The goal of our multi-methodological project is to measure the efficacy of on-going community policing and educational intervention program with at-risk children living in Thousand Oaks. Safe Passage is a coordinated effort led by local law enforcement as well as the city’s recreation and parks department. The two collaborators have combined community policing with after school tutoring to support vulnerable elementary school children living in two specific apartment complexes with the highest rates of gang membership and crime in the community. These are neighborhoods with concentrated disadvantage, meaning the residents are primarily low income, have low levels of formal education, and have limited English proficiency. Scholars have consistently documented the detrimental effects of disadvantaged neighborhoods on children, including increasing their risk for academic failure and gang membership. Positive “buffers,” such as well-organized after-school programs, opportunities for recreational activities, as well as the presence of supportive adults can insulate youth from some of the negative effects of a dangerous residential environment. The main focus of our research has been to evaluate this “community intervention” in the hopes of replicating the program elsewhere. Program evaluation is done through analysis of crime data, educational assessment data and surveys with multiple subsets of participants. Our current aim has been on analyzing survey data collected from parents of at-risk children who are the focus of Safe Passage programming. Preliminary findings suggest that due to the community policing and on-site tutoring, families in these communities feel an increased sense of safety. Results also indicate that although parents may not trust the police, they do believe the majority of their children are trusting of law enforcement. Such results are promising, as they suggest that the right interventions can improve the quality of life for all families in a community, deter youth from offending, and change the trajectory of a young person’s life,

The Superconducting Properties of Strontium Ruthenate

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: John Deisz, Physics
Student: Johanna Paine


How do the electron interaction inside strontium ruthenate, Sr2RuO4, produce its superconducting properties? How can we better understand strontium ruthenate through improving our modeling techniques? The unusual superconducting state in strontium ruthenate  has long been viewed as being analogous to a superfluid state in fermi liquid He3, in which the paired particles form spin triplets. However, recent experimental evidence suggests that strontium ruthenate superconducts with spin singlets. We hypothesis that models based on the creation of spin singlets rather than spin triplets will match new experimental results. We propose a simple model to match some of the fundamental properties of strontium ruthenate superconducting with spin singlets. The model uses C++, GNU scientific libraries and Make Utility to calculate the Hamiltonian, magnetization and electron interactions.  Our model starts with the initial conditions of temperature, net magnetic field, potential energy, and number of atoms. The potential energy value allows for the lowest energy configuration to be electron singlet pairs. This is an early version of such a model, but we have successfully shown the suppression of paramagnetism due to spin singlets at temperatures below the superconducting temperature. In the future, we hope to add specific heat calculation and include the effects of stress on the strontium ruthenate. Through improving the modeling of strontium ruthenate, we better understand the odd phenomena and have a more complete theory of superconductivity. A better theoretical understanding of superconductivity will aid in the choice of materials could be used in the future to make new superconductors. 

Mussels contain microfibers

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Huvard, Environmental Science
Student: Mia LeClerc

How are large amounts of microfibers in oceans influencing the nutritional input of filter feeders like the California mussel? Are filter feeders near the channel delta or further inland eating more plastic than plankton? It is expected to find higher amounts of microfibers in M. Californianus that are located more inland compared to samples found near channel delta. Because inland is closer to run off water (for example, the water from our washing machines) it contains microfibers from residential areas. My procedure consisted of eighteen mussels were collected from the different sites along the Southern California coast. The mussels were put in containers and transferred to the laboratory. The mussels were transferred to the tanks and left for at least 24 hours and were then ready for dissection. During mussel dissection, the shell length and weight of each mussel were recorded. To dissect the mussels, the valves were cut open by inserting a metal scalpel between the two valves on the dorsal side, and the anterior adductor muscle. The organs of 2-3 mussels were placed into 1 L individual glass beakers. All equipment was cleaned using 0.22 μm membrane filtered Millipore water and all liquids used, such as freshwater, saltwater, and hydrogen peroxide, were filtered using 1 μm filter paper. A Hydrogen peroxide treatment was done and depending on the weight of the soft tissue in each beaker, about 50 mL 30% H2O2 were added to digest the organic matter (Kolandhasamy et al. 2018). For 48 hours, the beakers were covered and placed in a water bath incubator at 65 °C. After digestion, a saline solution was added to each beaker to separate the microfibers from the dissolved liquid of the soft tissue via flotation. About 100 mL of filtered NaCl solution was added to each beaker. The mixture was left for 24 hours. Next, the surface water was filtered over a 5 μm cellulose nitrate membrane filter. The filter was placed in a clean Petri dish for further observation under a microscope. All microfibers caught on the filter papers were examined, counted, and characterized under a dissecting microscope and images were taken. A visual assessment was used to identify and record the microfibers based on their physical characteristics, such as color, width, and shape. My results showed that the mussels at Newport Beach Harbor contained the most amount of microfibers inside of them. I believe that this is due to the little movement in the water area and the microfibers coming from our laundry machines are dumping the microfibers here causing the mussels to take in a large amount of fibers. My hypothesis was correct, more microfibers were found in mussels inlands waters that are closer to residential areas where our washing machines are poluting the run off water. In conclusion microfibers are poluting the mussels along the Southern California coast and this is negatively affecting humans because we are consumming these contaminated mussels. If mussels are just one small organism that is being negatively affected by microfibers then we should research how the consumption microfibers are affecting humans. 

A Look Into Topology

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Nathan Carlson, Mathematics
Student: Luis Perez

In the late nineteenth century, mathematicians were looking to generalize the notion of distance to a more abstract setting. By the early twentieth century, the notion of a topological space was established to accomplish this.Some questions that will be explored in this research include, “What is a topological space and what are their fundamental properties?”. Through these questions, I seek to understand the basics of the field of topology. Extensive readings, exercises, and conversations in meetings and correspondence will be used to make connections, understand definitions and concepts in solving methodology. In this project, we gain an understanding of basic topological properties of open sets, closed sets, continuity, homeomorphism, separation axioms, and countability axioms.

Automated Control of a Laser Engraving Machine

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Craig Reinhart, Computer Science
Student: Milad Malakooti

Do It Yourself (DIY) projects have gone viral in the past decade, and many people have saved money by doing projects on a DIY base. Thanks to social media like Facebook and YouTube, recently Instagram, people are now making almost everything. From making an art piece, table couch, cell phone stands, etc. to technology such as DIY robots and machines. When 3D printers were introduced to the market, it was expected to be more popular than it is now. The cost was a primary reason. Later on, people invented DIY 3D printers which now are sold on online markets as a kit for people to assemble them. It is evident that they do not have the premium quality, but are suitable for the majority of people, and there are tips and tricks to make the final project look like a premium 3D printer render.  Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines as used in DIY 3D printers later found its way into laser engraving machines. Unlike 3D printers, DIY laser machines have a smaller audience. In my research, I compared a commercial Laser machine with a DIY laser machine. My focus was to find similarities and differences between the two kinds of machines and found that the significant difference is the way the machines are packaged. The commercial laser machine is a rectangular, enclosed box that accepts the material to be engraved. The DIY machine is open, lacking safety projects provided by the commercial enclosure. Safety is suggested by the inclusion of protective goggles. As such, the DIY machine can accept large engraving material while the commercial machine is restricted by the size of the enclosure. The precision of engraving is dependent on the provided stepper motor and therefore is identical in each machine (selectable stepper motors in the DIY machine.) The primary difference between the two is the user interface. Commercial machines utilize pre-packaged software that is well tested and easy to use. DIY machines are forced to use software to use low-level communication libraries (e.g. GRBL) and generic applications (e.g. Benbox) which are not well refined and thus difficult to use. The focus of this research project is to understand the DIY laser engraver and develop a user-friendly interface that can be adapted to various platforms, thus promoting the use of DIY machines.

Plastic microfibers in farmed Mytilus trossulus and wild Mytilus californianus from Southern California harbors, beaches, and supermarkets

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. Andrea Huvard, Environmental Science
Student: Chloe Mankin


Microfibers are an emerging threat to terrestrial and aquatic habitats worldwide. They are equivalent in size to planktonic organisms, making them available to a range of marine invertebrates. In past studies, bivalve molluscs have been shown to accumulate and retain these plastics through ingestion, digestion, and adherence. These organisms are often used as bioindicators of marine pollution due to their minimal ability to excrete pollutants through their organs and tissues. Through previous CLU student research, an abundance of microfibers were identified in the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California for the first time. Purpose: In this study, we aimed to determine the frequency and characteristics of microfiber pollution in wild Mytilus californianus communities from Southern California beaches and harbors, and farmed Mytilus trossulus samples collected from local supermarkets. Methods: In total, 4 docks, 4 beaches, and 4 farmed samples were examined. The mussels were dissected, and their organic matter was digested using 30% hydrogen peroxide. The mixture was poured into 500 mL individual glass beakers, covered with aluminum foil, and placed in a water bath incubator at 65 °C. After adding a saline solution, the liquid was filtered by vacuum filtration. The remaining fibers were examined under a Nikon Stereo Microscope. Results: Throughout the short-term survey, the abundance of microfibers by weight and by individual showed no significant difference between the beach and harbor sites; the farmed mussels have yet to be analyzed. Statistical significance was accepted at p<0.05 and the mean differences between the sites were determined by independent-samples T-Test. Conclusion: Our study indicates widespread microplastic pollution and uptake by California mussels in these locations. In addition, it confirms that bivalves can continue to be used as a bioindicator of marine pollution. Further work is needed to completely assess the levels of microplastic contamination in Southern California.


Program: Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Scholar
Faculty: Dr. Kwasi Connor, Biology
Student: Emily A. Johnson


Johnson, Emily.1*

 Connor, Kwasi.1


The anaerobic waste product succinate is produced by the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis during periods of low tide. Mytilus galloprovincialis must endure frequent changes in its environment due to the oceanic tidal cycle.  What is not known is if anaerobic metabolism is suppressed or elevated during thermal stress.  In the preliminary experiment, succinate was analyzed in a climatically stressed environment. The 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. Data were analyzed using an ANOVA with a Tukey test. The optical density found in the anaerobic hot condition was 11.9 nm per mg of gill tissue. The optical density found in the anaerobic cold condition was 7.3 nm per mg of gill tissue. The optical density found in the aerobic control was 8.5 nm per mg of gill tissue.  Results revealed a slight and non-significant elevation of succinate in the anaerobic hot condition, P=0.28. Mussels are important foundation organisms and the study of them allows valuable insight into the health of the intertidal zone. Since mussels are keystone species researching the species grants a unique view on how climate change is affecting the intertidal zones.  Temperature does not appear to have a significant effect on the rate of reaction of anaerobic metabolism in Mytilus galloprovincialis. It seems that the highly adaptable bivalves  Mytilus galloprovincialis are resistant to climate change. Experiments with larger sample sizes are needed to finely elucidate how mussels adjust their anaerobic metabolic pathways under varying temperature.

Optimizing a Scalable Synthesis of (R)-2-Phenyl-N-Acetylaziridine for Future Synthetic Work

Program: John Stauffer Research Fellowships in the Chemical Sciences
Faculty: Dr. Jason Kingsbury, Chemistry
Student: Drew Miles

The opioid crisis and current trends in medicine require the development of more effective pain relievers with a lower addiction potential. The pharmacological relevance of medium ring azacycles which contain are ring compounds containing nitrogen is evident when one considers the reported analgesic proheptazine, a molecule shown to be twice as potent, but less addictive. We are interested in studying the stereocontrolled synthesis of a medium ring azacycle from (R)-2-phenyl-N-acetylaziridine by a tandem Takai olefination/3-aza-Claisen reaction. It would represent the first ever synthesis of 5-methyl-2,3-dihydro-1H-benzo[b]azepine by a [3,3]-sigmatropic rearrangement. This is a novel synthetic strategy to produce pharmacologically active imines. The starting material is complex and not commercially available; therefore, a scalable synthesis of (R)-2-phenyl-N-acetylaziridine is being optimized. All reactions were carried out with anhydrous solvents in dry glassware. In the first two steps of the synthesis, optically pure (R)-phenylglycinol is diacetylated upon treatment with acetyl chloride and triethyamine  and then subsequently saponified in the presence of KOH. Both have been reproducibly performed on scale up to 2- and one-half grams of starting material. Effective purification of the two products by simple recrystallization has been accomplished. The closing step of the synthesis calls for ring closure of the aziridine after activation of the primary alcohol. In the final synthetic step, the monoacetate is cyclized in the presence of KOH and mesyl chloride. Difficulties in purification arose in this final synthetic step. after the final synthetic step in which monoacetate is cyclized in the presence of KOH and mesyl choride. A proton NMR spectrum of the crude reaction mixture confirmed the presence of (R)-2-phenyl-N-acetylaziridine but attempts to purify the product by silica chromatography led to decomposition of the aziridine. In the future, activated alumina columns will be experimented with as an alternative purification method.



The California Mussel as a Microhabitat of Southern California; Biodiversity Comparison Between Coastal Riprap and Harbors

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Andrea Huvard, Bioloogy
Student: Morgan Griffith

Mytilus californianus, the California mussel, is widely recognized as an ecosystem engineer. As communities of Mytilus settle and grow on the rocky shores and human made structures that pepper the coastline of Southern California, they pave the way for settlement by countless other species of intertidal marine invertebrates. This ability to host such a vast array of invertebrates on their shells qualifies Mytilus itself as a microhabitat, supporting an entire ecosystem that exists almost entirely on the microscopic scale. There is extensive literature regarding Mytilus and its role in the succession of fouling sites published throughout the mid to late 1900’s and early 2000’s, however there is not much work regarding the diversity of the habitat it supports, especially in Southern California. My goal in this study is to compare the diversity of Mytilus communities associated with coastal rip rap to those associated with large human made fouling sites, harbors in particular. Diversity in this case is measured by identifying and counting the number of species present on the shells of mussels collected from harbors and the adjacent coast, and comparing the number of species found in each location. The results seem to suggest that fouling sites, i.e harbors, support greater diversity than the open coast, however the open coast supports a greater biomass than the harbors due to the extremely dense populations of Balinus living on the coastal mussels.

The Effect of Suppressors and Enhancers of Variegation on the extra eye mutation in Drosophila melanogaster

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. David Marcey, Biology
Student: Kaitlyn Hofmeister

Variegating phenotypes can be caused by the transition of loosely packed euchromatin into heterochromatin, a state in which the packaging of DNA is of higher order. Variegation occurs when this tight packaging causes transcriptional suppression of gene expression in some cells, leading to phenotypically mosaic individuals. When variegation is caused by the abnormal positioning of euchromatic genes near heterochromatin, position effect variegation (PEV) results due to heterochromatic spreading. PEV can be suppressed or enhanced by a variety of mutations. Suppressors of variegation [Su(var)] decrease heterochromatization and Enhancers of variegation [E(var)] increase heterochromatization. The extra eye (ee) mutation in D. melanogaster demonstrates properties of variegation: incomplete penetrance and variable expression. Marcey (personal communication) reports that the ee line contains a P-element in the Cpr gene in a reverse transcriptional orientation, producing anti-sense P-element RNA within Cpr transcripts. The antisense RNAs may initiate RNAi-mediated heterochromatization of P-elements and adjacent genes. A candidate for such transcriptional silencing is the Su(var)2-10 gene. Su(var)2-10 encodes a repressor of STAT, a molecule implicated in embryonic eye field establishment, and downregulation of Su(var)2-10 expression may lead to head deformities. In order to test this model of the extra eye mutation, we are examining the effect of [Su(var)s] and [E(var)s] on ee penetrance. An ee line was crossed to 8 lines that contained a Su(var) mutation and 3 lines that contained an E(var) mutation. When the ee line is crossed to the Su(var) lines we predict a decrease in the expression and penetrance of the ee phenotype. Conversely, we predict an increase in ee penetrance and expression when ee is crossed to the E(var) lines. Results of these experiments will be presented and discussed in the context of the epigenetic model of the extra eye mutation. Our results concerning novel mechanisms of gene regulation may be of interest to the biomedical research community.

Females rule, males drool: Patterns of intersexual dominance in a species of squirrel monkey in Eastern Amazonia

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. Anita Stone, Biology
Student: Claire Meuter

Most primates social groups are characterized by a pattern of intersexual dominance in which adult males are dominant over adult females. Female dominance, although typical of lemurs, is uncommon in anthropoid primates. Intersexual dominance patterns vary within squirrel monkeys (genus Saimiri)Preliminary field studies on the species S. collinsi have indicated that females may be dominant over males, while captive work suggests co-dominance between the sexes. The purpose of my study was to characterize the intersexual dominance patterns of S. collinsi, by collecting behavioral data in wild social groups. I hypothesized that if females are dominant over males, they would win most of the aggressive interactions and have feeding priority at food patches. However, if females and males are co-dominant, both sexes will win an equal proportion of contests. The study was conducted in Eastern Amazonia, 150 km east of Belém, Brazil. I followed twogroups of squirrel monkeys over six weeks (N=73.4 contact hours). I collected behavioral data on adults using focal animal samples in which all affiliative and agonistic social interactions were recorded. Using the all-occurrence method, I also recorded any observed social interactions between adult males and females, noting the winner and the context. Finally, I recorded the order of arrival of the sexes to dense fruit patches where the monkeys commonly feed. My preliminary results show that 99% of the interactions between males and females (N= 243 observations) occurred in a mating context rather than in contests over food items. Agonistic social interactions were mostly initiated by females (79%, N=101 observations) and females won most of these (95%, N=66 observations with a winner). Furthermore, when the monkeys visited dense fruit patches, adult females and juveniles arrived in a first “wave”, with adult males reaching the patch after the females had fed (N=37 observations of tree visits).  These early results suggest that S. collinsi is characterized by female dominance, a relatively uncommon pattern in primates.

Wind Data as Indicators of Wildfires in California

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Christopher Brown, Mathematics
Student: Miranda Norman

Throughout California, wildfires are a consistent threat to both the environment and residents year-round.  Specifically, Ventura County has experienced several major fires over the last decade. Many of these fires are preceded in the short-term by a set of specific weather conditions, which are in turn often caused by very specific weather conditions at a relatively small number of geographic locations inland of the county.  By utilizing fire data from the Federal Wildfire Occurrence and wind data from airport stations via Iowa State University, models can be made to interpret the role that wind plays in the creation and spread of wildfires. By analyzing the data through the computer program R, we have determined that while the frequency of wildfires has not been increasing, extremely large and destructive outliers have been becoming more common since the turn of the century.  Using a Random Forest model, we have been able to predict the weekday of any datapoint based on its associated acres burned, humidity, temperature, wind speed, and wind direction with 97% accuracy. While this discovery alone will not prevent wildfires, this model shows that wildfires are largely interdependent with wind activity, which acts as a catalyst for determining precisely how they are connected.  Further models and tests will be employed, including multivariate time series analysis, to better understand how humidity and wind affect fires as compared to other outside influences such as precipitation.  While these models have previously been primarily run using only data from Ventura County, they will also be applied to data throughout all of California to ensure that any conclusions drawn can be useful to policymakers and residents statewide, as differing geography and weather habits throughout California can lead to potential idiosyncrasies in outcomes.

Evaluating the Effects of Active Learning in a Math 110 Course

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Michael McCambridge, Interdisciplinary Educational Studies
Student: Jimmy Newell

The purpose of my research is to evaluate the effectiveness of active learning in a math classroom. Active learning is a hands-on, student-led, teacher-guided approach that interactively engages students in the learning process. If implemented correctly via a predesigned lesson plan, active learning is an effective method for increasing student understanding and confidence of mathematical concepts. To evaluate the impact of active learning quantitatively, a one group, pre/post-test design methodology was used. This was done in the following format O1---X---O2, where O1 represents the initial observation via a pre-test, X represents the active learning treatment, and O2 represents the final observation of the post-test results. The pre-test and post-test were parallel in order to obtain accurate data. To date, the quantitative results were gathered from the class average score for the pre and post-tests. The average score for the pre-test was a 43.3%. Following the active learning lesson, the students average score on the post-test was 81.1%. This data is a demonstration of the significant benefits of an active learning lesson, as the class average score nearly doubled, indicating that student understanding of absolute values and inequalities increased. To collect qualitative data, the students were later required to fill out a brief survey about the benefits of the active learning lesson and its usefulness in increasing engagement and confidence level in a math course. The majority of students indicated that the active learning lesson had them engaged in the learning process and was beneficial to their understanding of the math concepts taught. Both the qaulitative and quantitatve results highly suggest that active learning is an effective method of teaching mathematical concepts to learners. In the future I'd like to further my research by teaching with a base and treatment group to compare results between active learning and standard lecture.

Viewers Perceptions of Homosexuality in Television

Program: Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Scholar
Faculty: Dr. Janet Awokoya, McNair Scholar Program
Student: Stephanie Figueroa

This research explores the factors that affect television viewers acceptance of gay male characters in a diverse adult sample. This study examines six of the following current television shows at both the program and character level: Modern FamilyWill 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, amount of television viewing, parasocial interaction with gay characters, and scores on the Homonegativity, Religiosity, and Likability scales. Results are discussed in terms on the Parasocial Contact Hypothesis and Identification. Correlations found in this study require further replication due to changing demographics. 

Production and Purification of N-Hydroxy Succinyl Cadaverine (HSC)

Program: National Science Foundation Summer Research Fellowship in Chemistry
Faculty: Dr. Jason Kingsbury and Dr. Katherine Hoffmann, Chemistry
Student: Natalie Ruhl

Production and Purification of N-Hydroxy Succinyl Cadaverine (HSC)

Natalie Ruhl

Dr. Jason Kingsbury and Dr. Katherine Hoffmann

Purpose: Optimum conditions for the production and purification of N-Hydroxy Succinyl Cadaverine, HSC, were investigated.  HSC is not commercially available and is essential for research with an enzyme known as DesD.  This enzyme will allow HSC to be trimerized and macrocyclized into a siderophore.  The siderophore is capable of absorbing iron in the bloodstream that antibiotic-resistant bacteria use as a life-sustaining nutrient. 

Methods: Small-scale organic synthesis was involved in the process of producing the precursor to HSC, known as SC.  SC, succinyl cadaverine, is non-hydroxylated HSC.  A deprotection of Boc-protected succinyl cadaverine was performed.  Regular phase thin-layer chromatography (TLC) was used to check reaction progress while reverse phase TLC was used to determine solvent conditions for purification of SC.

Results: Previous attempts to create SC yielded orange-red puddles of oil. Reaction conditions were changed to theoretically yield white crystals, which indicates purity.  After decreasing the equivalencies of TFA, changing the solvent of the reaction, and increasing the run time, white crystals were achieved.  21.5 milligrams of SC were produced in total.  The appearance of the crystals increased confidence that the product was fairly pure.  Regardless, purification was necessary. The solvent condition for purification of SC was determined to be 100% dichloromethane.  This solvent condition yielded a Rf of ~0.5 on a reverse-phase TLC plate. High pressure liquid chromatography will be used to perform larger scale purification.     

Conclusion:  When SC is purified, the final step in the mechanism, creating HSC, will be investigated.  The trimerized and macrocyclized version of HSC, known as DFO-E, is $400/mg if purchased commercially, and HSC is not available at all.  If DesD, a potential new antibiotic drug target, is to be fully investigated, efficient, and cost-effective, means of creating HSC will be required.

Synthesis of Metal Organic Frameworks

Program: John Stauffer Research Fellowships in the Chemical Sciences
Faculty: Dr. Jesus Cordova Guerrero, Chemistry
Student: George Holmes

Metal-organic frameworks (MOF’s) are hybrid organic and metallic compounds that have a three dimensional crystalline structure.  MOF’s consist of organic linkers, that act like bars of a cage, that are connected by metal clusters, to connect the bars forming the cage.  MOF’s have high surface area, volume, and porosity and can be used to capture, store, and release molecules. MOF’s are fully customizable by changing the length, geometry, and functionality of the organic linker.  Some applications of MOF’s include gas storage, catalysis, drug delivery systems, and carbon dioxide capture. The ability of MOF’s to store large quantities of medicine with controlled release makes them a good candidate for cancer treatment.  


The goal of this research is to synthesize metal-organic frameworks from commercially available starting materials that will store a pseudo drug that will be released when the MOF’s are activated with high energy light.  The first part of the MOF synthesis is the formation of the organic linker which involves seven reactions that attach the pseudo drug, functionalize the organic linker, and extend the linker. Next, the complete organic linker is reacted with the metal clusters to create the metal-organic framework.  Finally, the MOF is activated with high energy light and the pseudo drug is released. As of August, 2019, the first five steps of the synthesis of the organic linker have been completed. To finish the organic linker, Suzuki coupling and oxidation need to be completed. This research could be important because MOF’s have many possible applications and by changing the functional groups on the organic linker, the function of the MOF changes.  The MOF being synthesized should be able to store any drug similar to the pseudo drug. The use of MOF’s as drug delivery systems could improve treatments by controlling when the drug is released in the body therefore increasing effectiveness of the dose.

The Effects of Aging on Laryngeal Function in Singers as Assessed by Vocal Timbre and Pitch

Program: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFS)
Faculty: Dr. Mark Spraggins, Music
Student: Julia Grace Garcia

As singers age, their voices eventually decline, with some giving up their careers.  It is evident that aging affects the voice, but does it alter the timbre and overtones and are there general trends?  Purpose: To study the singing voice as it ages, while assessing parameters of voice function, and documenting a visual representation of changes and similarities in the voice, via live recordings and graphs.  As singers age, their voice timbre and pitch should have general changes that can be observed and analyzed. Methods: Recordings took place in an acoustically controlled environment via Adobe Audition Software with a flat frequency response measurement microphone.  Up to 10 post-adolescent trained, local community singers were recorded per group, categorized by gender (male or female), age (18-30, 31-59, 60+), and voice (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass).  All participants sang vowels on notes in their lowest to highest range, a C Major scale, “Happy Birthday” in F Major, and an interval exercise. Instruments of String, Brass, and Woodwinds were also recorded as a discussion reference of comparison to vocal timbre.  Measurements were observed and analyzed using Sonic Visualiser 2019 Software and Microsoft Excel 2018.  Results: As overtone partials increased, there was a general decrease in overtone intensity and presence in all of the age groups, voice types, and notes (lower and higher registers). Overall, higher notes had less partials present. As age increased, there was a general decrease or loss of higher overtone partials (3&4) in higher and lower register notes in females, and in higher overtone partials (5+) in males.  Conclusion:  A difference in overtones is detected among different age groups and voice types, as measured by intensity and presence of partials in lower and higher register notes in respected voice types, attributable to differences in functionality in the aging larynx.  These findings can be vital for promoting vocal health and preservation for a prolonged singing career, and to help diminish and delay the aging of the voice in singers. 

The Influence of Acute High Intensity Resistance Exercise on Arterial Hemodynamics.

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Allan Knox, Exercise Science
Student: Michael Diaz

Introduction: Previous reports have observed that high intensity aerobic exercise elicits hemodynamic changes in the cerebral circulation. Resistance exercise is a major component of both performance and therapeutic exercise prescription. Current exercise guidelines recommend participating in moderate intensity resistance-based exercise at least twice per week. High intensity resistance exercise has received increasing interest within the scientific community due to its performance and therapeutic potential. However, our understanding of the cerebral hemodynamic responses to high intensity resistance exercise is limited. The aim of this investigation was to explore the response of the cerebral hemodynamics following acute maximal effort resistance exercise. These data may provide insight into the optimal prescription of resistance exercise. Methods: Resting peak systolic blood velocity (PSV), end diastolic blood velocity (EDV), time averaged mean blood velocity (TAMEAN), time averaged maximum blood velocity (TAMAX), pulsatility index (PI), resistance index (RI), and blood volume flow (FLOW) of the brachial artery (BA), common carotid artery (CCA) and internal carotid artery (ICA) were calculated using Doppler Ultrasound. A one repetition maximum strength test (1RM) with the leg press machine in adherence to the National Strength and Conditioning Association standard. Resting hemodynamics were also calculated following the strength test when participants returned to a resting state. Results: A total of seven individuals participated in the study. Both BA PI (p=0.029) and RI (p=0.022) reduced following high intensity exercise, as well as the ICA TAMEAN (p=0.035). However, the current data shows no significant changes in CCA hemodynamics (p> 0.05 for all). Conclusion: These data suggest that peripheral and cerebral artery hemodynamics remain altered following the cessation of acute high intensity resistance exercise.

Potential Racial Differences in Strain and Strain Rate between Caucasians and South Asians

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Allan Knox, Exercise Science
Student: Gabriella Guzman

Background: Cardiovascular disease is responsible for approximately 31% of all deaths worldwide.  Cardiac mechanics are much more efficient in healthy, active individuals than in sedentary individuals. Cardiovascular disease also has a hereditary component and there is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in South Asians (SA)  than in their Caucasians (CAUC)  counterparts. This is partly due to a higher rate of other risk factors such as obesity and diabetes. Currently there is a shortage of research comparing cardiac mechanics between the CAUCs and SAs. Increased research comparing the two populations may assist in the understanding of the mechanics in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease. The goal of this study was to identify the existence of any racial differences in the myocardial mechanics of the left ventricle (LV). Methods: Myocardial strains and strain rates were determined using 2D echocardiography by Doppler Ultrasound. Peak LV longitudinal, circumferential, and twist mechanics were established using apical 4 and 2 chamber views. Data were recorded for offline speckle tracking analysis which involved automatic frame-by-frame tracking of cardiac tissue within a region of interest corresponding to the chamber walls. Results: A total of 24 males participated (n=11 CAUC; n=13 SA). No circumferential differences were evident between racial groups (p>0.05 for all). Longitudinal peak strain was higher in CAUCs (16.28% ±2.10%) than SAs (13.96 ±3.08%, p= 0.04). LV peak diastolic filling strain rate was higher in CAUCs (1.24 ±0.25%) compared with SAs (0.98 ±0.34%, p= 0.04). Time of peak atrial systole was higher in CAUCs (0.54 ±0.15sec) compared with SAs (0.43 ±0.17sec, p= 0.04). Conclusion: This data supports the hypothesis that racial difference in myocardial mechanics exist. Future work should determine the clinical implications of such differences.


Racial Differences in Cardiac Mechanics Following Short-Term Resistance Training

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Allan Knox, Exercise Science
Student: Madalyne Nolte

Introduction:Previous research has suggested that the South Asian population possess greater cardiovascular (CV) risks than the Caucasians. Cardiovascular risk may be detected within the cardiac mechanics that differ from those who are healthy or at risk.  Resistance exercise has an inverse relationship with CV risk. It has been reported that there are racial differences in physiological response to exercise. However, the effect of race on resistance exercise response of cardiac mechanics are yet to be determined. Thus, the aim of this study is to determine if racial differences exist in the response to short-term resistance exercise between Caucasian and South Asian males. The findings may help determine the potential of resistance exercise on the cardiac mechanics and to provide evidence towards possible need of revision of current exercise guidelines. Methods:Myocardial strains and strain rates were determined using 2D echocardiography by Doppler Ultrasound. Peak LV longitudinal, circumferential, and twist mechanics were established using apical 4 and 2 chamber views. Data were recorded for offline speckle tracking analysis which involved automatic frame-by-frame tracking of cardiac tissue within a region of interest corresponding to the chamber walls. Subjects then participated in a 6-week supervised progressive resistance exercise protocol. Baseline variables were then repeated following the completion of prescribed exercise. Results:A total of 24 males participated (n=11 CAUC; n=13 SA). Group x time interactions were evident for circumferential peak strain (p= 0.006), circumferential peak early diastolic filling rate (p= 0.011), longitudinal time of peak strain rate (p< 0.001), longitudinal peak early diastolic filling (p= 0.037). Statistical trends were evident for group x time interactions for twist time of peak strain rate (p= 0.057) and twist time of peak systole (p= 0.057). Conclusions:These data suggest that short term progressive resistance exercise influences cardiac mechanics with racial difference in response evident. Future work should provide insight into the potential clinical impact of such exercise and race induced adaptations.

Observation of HR 7355’s Magnetospheric Material Through Analysis of High Resolution Infrared Time-Series Spectroscopy

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. Mary Oksala, Physics
Student: Blair Martin

Long-term studies of hot, massive stars have revealed the existence of large-scale magnetic fields with continuing stability. Due to its rapid rotational velocity and its magnetic field stability, HR7355 is one of the prototypical stars that shows material trapped in its magnetosphere. Observations in the infrared (IR) have seldom been made for these particular objects despite evidence suggesting that emitting material may be more detectable at these wavelengths.To investigate the use of IR spectra, high-resolution observations were obtained with the European Southern Observatory’s SINFONI IR spectrograph on the VLT 8-meter telescope. We obtained a series of 15 H-band (centered at ~1.65 micrometers) spectra covering the full rotation of the star. Because the observations are of the full rotational phase, emission features in the spectra will change as the star rotates creating an image that is exceptionally representative of all emitted material within the magnetosphere. The IR observations of HR7355 were cleaned using the ESOreflex software environment with the SINFONI-developed pipeline. Data reduction recipes for the respective instrument were applied to remove instrument and optical imperfections from the dataset. The resulting observation data was then examined with QFitsView to extract the full spectrum of each star and telluric standard star. Using a modeling software package, telluric features or atmospheric contamination were removed from the extracted observational spectra. By comparing the optical and infrared datasets, differences in spectral features were determined. Using these datasets, the structure of the magnetosphere can be mapped through tomographic imaging. The results of this project further substantiate the viability of hot star magnetosphere observations in the infrared spectra. Furthermore, the outcome of the tomographic mapping will inform the changes to theoretical models of magnetic massive stars, as well as advancing the growing field of massive star magnetism.

The Influence of Sloped Address Positions on Reaction Force Generation during the Golf Swing

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Travis Peterson, Ph.D., Exercise Science
Student: Ariana Valdez

During competition, golf players are often faced with shots that may be played from inclined (toes above heels), declined, uphill (lead leg above trailing leg), or downhill address positions. While the player's initial configuration may change, the mechanical requirements of the shot stays the same. Players must regulate reaction forces as well as linear and angular impulse to successfully complete the swing. Previous research shows that the center of pressure shifts toward the lower foot when on uphill or downhill slopes. Additionally, target leg horizontal force was found to be larger when the target leg is lower than the rear leg. 8 skilled golf players (3 male, 5 female, avg. handicap=5.125) volunteered to participate in this study. Players performed 10 golf shots with a 6-iron in the flat, uphill, downhill, inclined and declined conditions. Golf shots were initiated with each foot supported by an artificial turf covered force plate with custom ramps orienting them into the modified address positions (5° increments). Players wore their own spiked golf shoes. Reaction forces (RFs) were calculated in the mediolateral (ML), anteroposterior (AP), and vertical (V) directions by identifying peak values during the downswing. Differences amongst the group between conditions were determined using a repeated measures ANOVA (α = 0.05). In the frontal plane, the lower leg provided more ML RF as compared to other conditions. For example, uphill rear leg ML RF was significantly greater (0.244 ± 0.056 BW, p < 0.034) than all other address positions. In sagittal plane slopes, more AP RF was pushed into the slope. In the declined condition, the magnitude of AP RF was greater in the target leg (-0.312 ± 0.073 BW, p < 0.012) than all other address positions. No significant changes in peak V RF were found (p=1.000). The results of this study can benefit golf players and coaches in understanding how the golf swing is generated under different sloped address conditions. These results also have implications towards balance impaired populations that may face similar balance challenges.

Ball Kinematics of Golf Shots from Sloped Address Positions

Program: Aperture Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Travis Peterson, Exercise Science
Student: Jesus Aguilar & Janelle Zamora

During the course of play, golf players must often hit shots from address positions that are different than playing shots off flat ground. Proper ball flight trajectory must be achieved for successful shot placement. Golf ball trajectory is affected by kinematic measurements such as: ball speed, launch angle, backspin and lateral spin (Wallace et al. 2007). The goal of this study was to determine the changes of ball kinematics at impact when hitting golf shots from different sloped address positions. Eight skilled golf players (handicap: 5.125 ±4.123) volunteered for this study. Players performed 10 golf shots toward a target downrange with their own 6-iron at their preferred distance in the Flat, Uphill, Downhill, Inclined and Declined conditions. A launch monitor (GC2 Foresight) calculated golf ball launch measurements (loft, lie, spin, etc.) at impact. Custom ramps oriented the force plates into the modified address positions (increments of 5°). Force plates were covered with a thin layer of artificial turf to mimic conditions on the course and allow players to use their own spiked golf shoes. Differences across the group between conditions were determined using repeated measures ANOVA (α = 0.05). Launch Angle was significantly greater in the Uphill Condition (19.32°±3.32°, p < 0.029) than all other conditions and significantly smaller in the Downhill Condition (12.69°±2.59°, p < 0.024) compared to Flat, Uphill and Incline. In the sagittal plane we see a significant difference in Lateral Spin between Incline Condition (-289.43 rpm ±613 rpm) and Decline Conditions (378.78 rpm ±701.51 rpm, p = 0.008). Golfers were more likely to hit with a greater launch angle in an Uphill condition and a lower launch angle in a Downhill condition. Players also hit shots that spun more to the left in an Incline condition and spun to the right in a Decline condition. With these results, it may be advantageous for golfers to practice hitting from these slopes with the understanding of the various outcomes in ball kinematics. 

The Inner Workings of BlockChain Programming

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Craig Reinhart, Computer Science
Student: Sheryl Zelaya

The Inner Workings of BlockChain Programming

Sheryl Zelaya

Dr. Craig Reinhart


Today’s rapidly growing online network has called for a crucial understanding of web security, the protection of users, providers, as well as what it means for law enforcement when dealing with cybercrime. The purpose of this study was to understand how BlockChain technology supports the secure creation/trading of cryptocurrencies. More specifically, how to ensure security by the blocks and making online transactions, or digital tokens, hash-block protected. The procedure in general was to develop software to implement blockchain technology to process transactions. Using Java Security I applied a secure hash algorithm to create a digital signature/fingerprint for a block containing digital transactions. This method gave way to the following results. In theory, network participants have keys that allow them to view transactions they make and this created a personal digital signature. The hash function included a class with objects and functions and a constructor that allocates data, sets values and initializes them. I also added a previous hash to reference any other blocks or transactions, creating a chain. I was able to index the data, timestamp to show the date and time the hash was created and add a place for the string data or message itself. In conclusion, since blockchains are decentralized and distributed across peer-to-peer networks that are continuously updated and kept in sync, it is hard to invalidate a chain. They are not contained in a central location so they do not have a specific weak point to be attacked from. It is also more difficult to attempt to change the information in one block instead of many, so the more quantity of transactions in your cryptocurrency the safer it is. The upkeep and further research on cybersecurity allows for more innovative ways to disarm cyberattacks and keep users as well as businesses safe.

Construction of Latina Identity Among First-Generation College Students in Ventura County

Program: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFS)
Faculty: Dr. Akiko Yasuike, Sociology
Student: Maria Reyes

Through the literature review, four themes were identified in the construction of Latina/o/x identity. Language barriers were seen to cause lower feelings of ethnic identity, while the connection to older relatives and the experience of first-generation children traveling back to their parents’ home country seemed to increase pride. Programs and classes which focused on the students' culture also helped to build a more concrete identity. Purpose: This study examines the construction of identity, based on in-depth interviews on first-generation Latina students in Ventura county. Methods: Five self-identified Latina women were interviewed in a span of 2 months. All five participants are students from California Lutheran University, and ages ranged between 20-21. Interviews were recorded and transcribed for analysis. More themes and other subcategories were identified, such as the importance of participants’ complexions. Results: Family stories and heritage narrated in Spanish have helped these participants become closer to their parents’ identity. However, the differences in histories cause hesitation to identity as their parents do because experiences and struggles are different. Their identities are fluid and dependent on social environments. Transnationalism is significant because those who have had the chance to travel back to their parents’ country have felt a stronger connection to their roots and heritage. The differences between American and Latina identities depend heavily on social, cultural or familial expectations. Finally, to be Latina means to be empowered. The participants expressed pride and empowerment to be a woman of color in predominantly white spaces. Feelings of privilege over their family members, however, also cause hesitation to connect even within their own family. Conclusion: There seem to be two sets of requirements first and second generations must meet in order to fit into two cultures. In certain situations, some women had been told they are not American enough, or not Latina enough. It is important to understand the challenges and barriers because it is significant in the development of the person, personally and academically. Resources can be drafted to help these students cope with the expectations of two very different worlds. A deeper understanding of this new up and coming diverse Latinx generation will ensure the success of first-generation students.
Twitter Mining Sentiments Related to Brexit and Their Connection to Currency Exchange Rates

Program: Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowships
Faculty: Dr. Christopher Brown, Mathematics
Student: Makenna Drye



Brexit is the referendum that was passed in June 2016 directing Britain to exit the European Union.  This was a highly controversial decision that appears in discussions throughout Twitter.  The purpose of this project was to determine if there was a correlation between those Twitter sentiments and currency exchange rates.


The data set was developed by collecting 10,000 tweets a day from Twitter, based off of the keyword of Brexit.  The data was filtered by pulling retweets from the data and the tweets were then compiled into one file that included the day and time of each tweet as well as the text of the tweet.  For correlation, currency values were pulled from the corresponding dates for the Euro, Pound, Yuan, Ruble, and Franc.  This data was cleaned, reformatted, and grouped by day in a programming language called ‘R’.  In order to get a better result and avoid seeing a lot of fluctuation in the currency data, a smooth moving average was used. Correlation tests and plots were made to see what significance the currencies had on each other. These tests showed that some currencies have a large impact on each other, while others have little to no impact.  This was made clear by the correlation tests and highlighted in the plots.  Additionally, a function was created that coded the rate of currency exchange and the sentiment for each tweet.   These sentiments were compiled by day in order to see how many positive, negative, and neutral tweets occurred on each day.  To analyze these results, plots were made and correlation tests were executed to see how the daily sentiments of the tweets corresponded with the rates of currency exchange.  The results of this project will influence how we continue with economic research and data mining on Twitter. It could assist the British government in knowing the effects of the media on Brexit prior to Britain leaving the European Union.




The Meaning-Making Process of an ESP Experience through a Cultural Psychological Lens

Program: Culver Behavioral Science Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Rainer Diriwächter, Psychology
Student: Micaylen Brenner

Extrasensory perception (ESP) is the attainment of information regarding an external object or influence without the use of known sensory systems. This encompasses telepathy, precognition, and, the focus of this study, clairvoyance. Cultural psychologists take into account the influence of the person’s culture when examining human conduct and the mind. Culture is constructed and reconstructed through social interactions and can be found through a person’s inter-personal and intra-personal psychological functionsAs humans interact with their environment, there is a persistent state of ambiguity present. This ambiguity is a result of the tension between “what is” and “what could be” (i.e., the present and the unknown future). Human beings are in a constant state of development (i.e., transformation) while acting towards the future and creating meaning through every experience. The purpose of this exploratory study will be to examine how people construct meaning within the microgenetic domain the here-and-now context) while completing a seemingly impossible clairvoyance task. The clairvoyance task will involve the research participant attempting to clairvoyantly figure out what object is hidden inside of an opaque envelope. We will be using the partnership approach which emphasizes the research participant’s role as an active collaborator in knowledge construction, rather than just a passive subject. Using the think aloud method, in which the research participant verbalizes all thoughts as they arise, will allow for the examination of the meaning-making process. We will be qualitatively analyzing the think aloud data to gain an understanding of how the research participants create meaning about ESP experiences. This study, being conducted during the fall of 2019, will give us further insight into how people deal with ambiguity and the process people go through when attempting to do something that seems impossible.

Exploring Gender Representation and Newspaper Accuracy Through the Use of Sports/Entertainment-Based Corrections

Program: Culver Behavioral Science Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Hettinga, Communication
Student: Erin Niemi

Previous literature has suggested there is a difference in gender-based media coverage such as the amount of media coverage, type of media coverage, and frequency of coverage between genders. 

Purpose: The purpose of this research is to explore what newspaper corrections between the years of 2017 and 2018 reveal regarding media coverage of different genders. 

Methods: Newspaper corrections from The New York Times from the first three months of 2017 and 2018 were gathered as a part of a larger project. This project focused on corrections regarding sports and entertainment (N=94) using a qualitative approach. Using thematic analysis, keywords from the corrections were pulled and examined. The author looked for commonalities such as the subject’s gender and specific content written within the correction. After extracting said information, thematic commonalities were analyzed and noted. 

Results: We anticipate identifying differences regarding genders with themes such as the number of corrections between genders, nature of the correction (such as whether the correction is regarding a sports or entertainment story), and the time frame of the correction (i.e., at what point in history did each type of correction occur?). We also anticipate to differences in overall accuracy between genders as well. 


A Look into Topology

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Nathan Carlson, Mathematics
Student: Luis Perez

In the late nineteenth century, mathematicians were looking to generalize the notion of distance to a more abstract setting. By the early twentieth century, the notion of a topological space was established to accomplish this.There are important interactions between topology and set-theory. Deep set-theoretic tools are used to examine properties of topological spaces, and some set-theoretic objects, such as ordinals, can be topological spaces in their own right. The pinnacle of this project aims to build knowledge to investigate an example of such an interaction. Extensive readings, exercises, and conversations in meetings and correspondence will be used to make connections, understand definitions and concepts in solving methodology regarding topics in topology. Some questions that are explored in this research include, “What is a topological space and what are their fundamental properties?” Through these questions, I seek to understand the basics of the field of topology. In this project, we gain an understanding of basic topological properties of open sets, closed sets, continuity, homeomorphism, separation axioms, and countability axioms. This will allow for future exploration in the following set-theoretic concepts: ordinals, cardinals, cardinal arithmetic, countability, cardinal functions on topological spaces, cardinal inequalities, and cardinality bounds.Receiving training in these fields will allow for the investigation of set-theoretic topology, specifically, a proof of a basic cardinality bound. 


Assessing Nitric Oxide status: Is capillary blood adequate

Program: ALLIES in STEM Summer Research Fellowship
Faculty: Dr. Louise Kelly, Exercise Science
Student: Anderson Lindow

Assessing Nitric Oxide status: Is capillary blood adequate?

Anderson Lindow 

Dr. Louise Kelly

As increased interest in nitric oxide arises the need for reliable measures has become necessary. Currently, venous blood is the gold standard for nitric oxide testing however capillary blood has shown many advantages such as cost efficiency and less invasive which will allow more nitric oxide studies to be performed on neonatal obese and pediatric populations.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine if capillary blood renders similar nitric oxide uptake levels as venous blood after beetroot juice consumption. 

Methods: Thirty volunteers over the age of 18 were consented to the study. Each trial lasts about 3 hours and consisted of a pre beetroot juice capillary sample by finger lancing.  to increase vasodilation to the fingers participants soaked their arm in warm water for two minutes then let the arm hang off of an incline for 2 minutes then blood was collected. A California certified phlebotomist would then collect an intravenous sample from the same arm that finger lancing was done. Participants then consumed 140 ml of inorganic beetroot juice then rested for 2.5 hours. After the waiting period, blood samples were recollected on the opposite arm as the pre beet juice collection. Prior to collection participants body composition height and hip waist ratio were collected. For a volunteer to be included in this study they could not have any current illnesses, infections putting them at risk, disorders of the hematopoietic system, cardiovascular disease, use toothpaste or mouthwash 24 hours’ prior exercise 24 hours prior and could not eat for 12 hours prior to testing.

Results: Data collection is still in progress. Data will be quantified at the University of Western Scotland then analyzed using linear regressions and Bland-Altman tests to see relationships and agreements between the variables. 

Conclusion: We hope to provide evidence that supports capillary blood as a reliable alternative to Venous blood in collecting nitric oxide uptake levels. 

Construction of Latina Identity Among First-Generation College Students in Ventura County

Program: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFS)
Faculty: Dr. Akiko Yasuike, Sociology
Student: María Reyes

Based on in-depth interviews with five first-generation Latina college students in Ventura County, this study examines the construction of their ethnic and racial identities. I identified five self-identified Latina college students through snowball sampling. I also conducted follow up interviews when necessary. I recorded and transcribed the interviews for analysis. I identified several themes in the ways they construct their ethnic and racial identities. Family stories and heritage narrated in Spanish have helped these participants become closer to their parents’ ethnic identity. However, the differences in personal experiences cause hesitation to identify as their parents do. Growing up in the United States, they do not share the struggles their parents experienced in their home countries and in the United States as an immigrant. Their identities are fluid and dependent on social environments. Latina, Chicana, and national identities are interchangeable depending on their audience. Transnationalism is significant because those who have had the chance to travel back to their parents’ country have felt a stronger connection to their roots and heritage. Whether they identify as American or Latina depends heavily on social, cultural or familial expectations. Finally, to be Latina means to be empowered. The participants expressed pride and empowerment to be a woman of color in predominantly white spaces. Their parents and older relatives’ strength and perseverance in establishing a new life in a foreign country despite multiple obstacles are a source of inspiration and pride. Feelings of privilege over their family members, however, also cause hesitation to connect even within their own family. Thus, the construction of ethnic and racial identities is fluid and dependent on social and familial circumstances. Understanding identity development is important because the studies show that solid and positive ethnic identities are connected to academic and professional success. More dual-identity research should be conducted to spread awareness of a new generation of students and how to provide assistance in developing their identity and ensure success.