Spotlights

Sonia Abarzak

OU Major: 
Biology
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Elizabeth Bergey
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

nails live in a variety of soil types and changes in soil structure due to human activity are common. In this experiment, we tested the preference of a soil-associated snail (Anguispira alternata) to soils with different organic matter content (simulating the addition of compost or the loss of organic matter in urban soils). Six soil mixtures were randomly assigned within a plastic ‘shoe box’ divided into six compartments, using plastic dividers that extended to just below the soil surface. Six replicates were created and two snails were placed in each compartment, for a total of 72 snails. Equal-sized pieces of lettuce were placed at the soil surface in each compartment. To collect data the number of snails in each compartment were counted and a chi square test was conducted to analyze the data. It was found that the snails avoided the two sandiest compartments and did not distinguish between the four compartments with higher or equal concentrations of coconut fiber.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

Abarzak, Sonia. "Habitat Preference of Anguispira Alternata for Difference Compositions of Sand and Organic Fiber." Curiosity to Creativity Spring Symposium, 25 April 2018, Oklahoma Memorial Union, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Jessica Ames

OU Major: 
Chemical Biosciences
Research Mentor: 
Christina Bourne
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

The ParDE4 cassette found in Agrobacterium tumefaciens is of particular interest because it is structurally identical to the Rel-type ribosome-dependent ribonuclease toxin family, but its inhibition of DNA gyrase is indicative of the Par-type toxin family. While it is known that ParE toxin activity results in DNA breaks, either by inhibiting DNA gyrase or by direct nuclease activity, there is a gap in knowledge regarding the specific mechanism(s) of its actions and how this may relate to function. Here, we demonstrate the deoxyribonuclease activity, gyrase inhibition, and translational inhibition activity of toxin. We have also shown that the toxin and antitoxin interact with high picomolar affinity and that the antitoxin does, indeed, neutralize the toxin activity when the two are co-expressed.

Awards and/or presentations:

Ames, Jessica. "Exploration of the Novel Functions of the Bacterial AtParE4 Toxin." Curiosity to Creativity Spring Symposium, 25 April 2018, Oklahoma Memorial Union, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Natalie Curtiss

OU Major: 
Social Work
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Julie Ward
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

I studied the Argentine film XXY through a variety of feminist lenses in order to understand how the visual format expands on the themes of gender, sexuality, and safety in the movie.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

I learned how to truly synthesize information from multiple sources into a more comprehensive understanding of an artistic project. My advice to other students starting similar projects is to get all of the information you can, and then see where that leads you.

Published Work:

n/a

Amber Morgan

OU Major: 
Chemical Engineering/Biotechnology
Research Mentor: 
Susan Walden
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

I have worked on a research project using the integration of a peptoid and a cholesterol as a possible preventative measure for Alzheimer's Disease. If this project is successful, it could be extended to include many of the neurodegenerative diseases that are currently being fought. I also got the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica as a part of a summer REU. I studied the driver behind the color change of a very rare water anole native to Costa Rica.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

There are many important things that I have learned in my undergraduate experience. The most important piece of advice that I would give to a student is to start early, and to take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. The earlier that a student gets started in undergraduate research, the more they can explore many different opportunities. This allows the student to find specific interests and find good fit for themselves for after graduation. I would also recommend to students to look for undergraduate research opportunities abroad instead of studying abroad through the university. This gives students the opportunity to travel the world and gain valuable life experience at the same time.

Awards and/or presentations:

Morgan, A.M., C. Hestekin and S. Servoss 2017. The Effect of Cholesterol and Peptoids on Membrane Properties of Bicelles. National Conference of Undergraduate Research, 2018. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference, 2017. Denver, Colorado. Louis Stokes Alliance For Minority Participation (OKLSAMP) Annual Research Symposium, 2017. Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Awarded first place in non-life sciences)Morgan, A.M. and L. Swierk. 2016. Hiding in plain sight: Rapid color change permits disruptive camouflage in the aquatic anole, Anolis aquaticus. AISES National Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science National Conference, Long Beach, California. OKLSAMP Annual Research Symposium, 2016. Stillwater, Oklahoma. Las Cruces Biological Station Research Symposium, Las Cruces, Costa Rica.

Published Work:

Morgan, A.M and L. Swierk. 2016. Hiding in plain sight: Rapid color change permits disruptive camouflage in the aquatic anole, A

Sidney Bernbaum

OU Major: 
Art, Technology, and Culture
Research Mentor: 
Todd Stewart and Robert Bailey
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

We went on a two week road trip through the American southwest. We followed the US-Mexico border as a basis for our trip. Our focus was on space/place and the way that it is handled in real life. It was eye opening to see the effect that borders imagined by humans had on people's lives.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

For this trip, be prepared to be tired and to camp. We had multiple places to go each day, and didn't always have time to see everything. I camped for the first time in my adult life, and I found out that I love it. This experience is well worth the exhaustion.I can't put into words what this trip did for me, but I feel like it really put into perspective some ideas that I had about the world. I met some people with different world views, some that I liked and some that I didn't, and that is always something to strive for.Oh, and if you ever go to the library at Slab City, don't take pictures of people's dwellings. Caveman will kick you out of this town with no rules.

Published Work:

n/a

Spencer Gallucci

OU Major: 
Mechanical Engineering
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Yingtao Liu
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

My research this semester was to begin the design of an under actuated prosthetic hand. What this is, is a prosthetic hand that operates using only 2 motors, or actuators, and due to the small number of actuators it is under actuated. Internal mechanisms for the fingers and the thumb had to be designed along with a palm to encase all of it.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

I learned how to operate 3D printers, and how to design for 3D printing through this project. Sometimes the best design you have, will fail when you try to actually create it outside of just a computer program. This research also tested my time management skills heavily, because i did not have nearly enough time to actually fully accomplish the desired goals due to my 16 credit hours of class i was attending at the same time. It was a fun learning experience regardless however.

Awards and/or presentations:

Gallucci, Spencer. "Under Actuated Prosthetic Hand." Curiosity to Creativity Spring Symposium, 25 April 2018, Oklahoma Memorial Union, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Tamiko Murphy

OU Major: 
Biomedical Engineering, Pre-med
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Christina Bourne, Dr. Meena Muthuramalingam
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

Toxin-Antitoxin systems are components found on bacterial plasmids and chromosomes that code for protein pairs. The toxins interact with cellular machinery and send the cell into a dormant growth state. This dormant state allows the cell to survive harsh conditions, such as antibiotic treatment, and can be reversed by interaction of the antitoxin with the toxin. My project examines the binding interaction between the ParD antitoxin and the ParE toxin using site-directed mutagenesis. I performed several point mutations on hydrophobic amino acids that were thought to be important to protein function, and examined the effect of these mutations on binding affinity. The goal is to determine which portion of antitoxin is critical to function because interrupting binding interaction would allow ParE to degrade the bacteria’s genomic DNA, eventually causing the cell to self-destruct. In conjunction with antibiotics, blocking the antitoxin would improve treatments for bacterial infections.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

Through my research experience, not only have I learned valuable lab techniques, I have also developed more general scientific skills, such as troubleshooting, and learning how to ask the right question. I want to help other undergraduates get involved in research because it will open so many doors for them. It’s a great way to figure out if academia is the right path, and it’s important to have research experience if you want to go into any sort of STEM field. I want other students to know how valuable an undergraduate research experience can be, and I want everyone to know that they should go for any lab position they are offered, even if it’s a little intimidating at first.

Awards and/or presentations:

Presentations:Site-Directed Mutagenesis of the ParDE Antitoxin to Examine Binding Interaction with ParE Toxin (presented at Great Plains Infectious Disease Meeting, 2017, and scheduled to present at NCUR 2018); Purification of Functional DNA Gyrase (FYRE poster session, 2016)Prototype of a Tourism App for the City of Arezzo, Italy (Mayor's office, Arezzo, 2017); Awards: Mentored Research Fellowship Scholar (2017), Dean’s Honor Roll for OU Gallogly College of Engineering (2016, 2017), National Merit Scholar (2015)

Published Work:

n/a

Kathryn Jerome

OU Major: 
Anthropology & Linguistics
Research Mentor: 
Samuel Duwe
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

During the 1200s and 1300s CE, drought and unrest catalyzed dramatic cultural upheaval in the Southwest and led to the reorganization of ancestral Puebloan society, with disparate groups coming together to form new ways of life—sometimes immigrating long distances to do so. Ancestral Tewa Pueblos eventually formed large, culturally unique settlements in the northern Rio Grande. But how did these groups initially interact and coalesce? How were identities drawn and changed? Ceramic analysis can help us understand identity and interaction over landscapes. Comparing different pottery-making techniques, materials, and styles can illuminate possible social networks. I’m currently working on describing and comparing the ceramics from two ancestral Tewa Pueblo sites: Palisade Ruin (LA3505), a smaller site occupied for only a little over a single generation in the early 1300s, and Tsiping’owinge (LA 301), a much larger, longer-occupied site.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

One thing I wish I had known at the start of my research is to embrace the feeling of almost helpless ignorance that comes with a new project. When beginning a project, it can be easy to feel like you know nothing and you’re supposed to know everything. But the beauty of undergraduate research is that you aren’t expected to know everything. Instead of being overwhelmed by what you don’t know, be curious. Ask lots and lots of questions, and learn to use the resources available to you to get answers. This means using the library, but also making connections with the people around you: your lab partners, for instance, or people your advisor knows. This will not only help your understanding of your research subject, it will also give you a fair amount of exposure to your chosen research field and the other people that work in it. And that, barring any discoveries, is what undergraduate research is really all about.

Awards and/or presentations:

Awards: Mentored Research Fellowship 2016-2017; Presentations: Coalescence and Transition: The Black-on-White Pottery at Palisade Ruin (Poster at C2C Symposium, Spring 2017)

Published Work:

n/a

Elijah Robertson

OU Major: 
Engineering Physics
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Liangzhong Xiang
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

I have had the incredible privilege of working on an entirely new biomedical imaging technique founded by my mentor: X-ray-induced Acoustic Computed Tomography (XACT). XACT runs off a groundbreaking new physics discovery, that X-rays can generate ultrasound waves within tissue. In conventional X-ray imaging methods, such as mammography, X-rays are used to generate two-dimensional images of tissue while effecting some radiation upon patients. XACT, in contrast, can generate a three-dimensional image using a single X-ray projection, providing vastly more information at an even lower radiation dose. As a pre-med student, being a part of this project has allowed me to combine my interest in medicine and engineering, two fields that are significantly interdependent in modern medical practice. I’m very excited to see the future applications of this new technology in medicine.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

When undecided students are advised about career paths, they are most often told: “do what you love.” I would say exactly the same about research. Research, simply put, is difficult; if done in a field that a student has little interest, the most likely result is ongoing exasperation. If done in a field the student can enjoyably relate with, the experience itself will be rewarding. My advice to all students interested in research is to do it in a field that can be related with, and if a certain lab does not seem to inspire them, they should not be afraid to switch projects. Research is most effective when there is heart in it.

Awards and/or presentations:

Curiosity to Creativity Symposium: My poster for XACT was awarded the Broader Impact Award. 2017 OUHSC Biomedical Engineering Symposium Poster Finalist: My poster/abstract for XACT was named in the top-10 of all participants. I have also received funding from the Mentored Research Fellowship program.

Published Work:

Submissions under review

Paul Delgado

OU Major: 
Biology
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Sara Mata and Dr. Robert Con Davis-Undiano
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

The growing Latino population is often plagued with a great deal of economic, social, and health needs unique to this community. Latinos have become the largest minority group in the U.S. They also bear a burden of social inequality in the U.S. suggesting that they might expect higher rates of illnesses and overall health problems. My research explores the perspectives and knowledge of type 2 diabetic patients in the urban community of Oklahoma City. The project began with a pre-survey allowing participants to self-report their attitudes and knowledge regarding diabetes. The purpose of the study was to test whether medical information provided in a populations’ native language can alter outlooks and behaviors to prevent diabetes progression and improve health. Although not generalizable, the findings provide unique insight into the knowledge, behaviors, attitudes, and perspectives about diabetes self-management and the coping of the illness in the Latino community of Oklahoma City.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

Something that helped me through my research was thinking on all the people in my community that could be benefited from this project. Although it started as a small scale project, the impact it has had on the participants is a greater recompense. Therefore, I would say to see research as a bigger purpose than yourself.

Awards and/or presentations:

Delgado P. A., Mata, S, Undiano, R. (April 2017). A Perspective on Diabetes in the Oklahoma City Latino Community. Presented at the 2017 Health Disparities, Social Science and Humanities of Health Symposium at University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Oklahoma City, OK.Delgado P. A., Mata, S, Undiano, R. (September 2017). A Perspective on Diabetes in the Oklahoma City Latino Community. Presented at the MKN McNair Heartland Research Conference, Kansas City, MODelgado P. A., Mata, S, Undiano, R. (March 2018). A Perspective on Diabetes in the Oklahoma City Latino Community. Accepted for presentation at the 23rd Annual Research Day at the Capitol, Oklahoma City, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

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