Spotlights

Emily Sarbacker

OU Major: 
Industrial and Systems Engineering
Research Mentor: 
Samuel Workman
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

This project maps the rise of food system security as a boundary spanning policy problem and its prospects as an integrative component of food and agricultural policy in the United States. With the rise of terrorism as a national concern in the United States, there is increasing attention to issues that span the boundary of traditional policy areas such as food system security. Food system security has encroached on traditional conceptions of what constitutes national food and agricultural policy, both broadening and disrupting existing policy agendas. This project investigates the incorporation ofvarious elements of food system security (e.g., climate change, terrorism, critical infrastructure, agriculture, etc) into a coherent regime for public policy. The empirical foundation of this project is an original data set of 46,000 reports of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This data is coded by topic and agency according to the substantive dimensions of the food system security issue, the relevant set of players involved at the federal level, and the types of information generated in the policy area. Under each article, recommendations and matters of discussions are listed, as well as whether or not the subject has been closed and implemented, along with any additional comments. Using this detailed coding, the project assesses information processing in the area of food system security across time and institutions.

Awards and/or presentations:

Sarbacker, E. (2016, April). Food System Security in the U.S. Poster session presented at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Hayley Severson

OU Major: 
Biology
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Lawrence Weider
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

Climate change has left many biologists curious as to how species are adapting to changing environments, as well as the impact these changes have had on species' survivorship. Specifically, many lakes have experienced increased algal growth due to the run off of nutrients (i.e., eutrophication) from anthropogenic sources (e.g., fertilizers), which has resulted in decreased oxygen (02) levels via increased decomposition rates. This can have a profound impact on the species in these habitats; therefore, their survival depends on their ability to adapt. In our research project, we will be focusing on the "water flea", Daphnia pulicaria, which will serve as our model organism. We will be investigating several clones' responses and adaptations to 02 stress brought on by lake eutrophication.

Awards and/or presentations:

Severson, H. (2016, April). Differential Adaptation of Daphnia Clones to Oxygen Stress. Poster session presented at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Kaitlyn Streight

OU Major: 
Biology/Pre-Medicine
Research Mentor: 
Dr. David Durica
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

Ecdysteroids control growth, reproduction, limb regeneration, and molting in crustaceans through a signaling process mediated by transcription factors that facilitate honnonally triggered control of downstream gene expression. The Durica laboratory is currently exploring downstream gene action in response to hormonal regulation by ecdysteroids, specifically during limb regeneration relative to the molt cycle. Current methods to identify these genes in crustaceans involve blocking of hormone receptor translation (using double stranded RNA) followed by 1) observation of physiological consequences and 2) transcriptome comparisons between the disrupted and control states. While current research can depict a baseline of gene expression in crustaceans, the methods used to disrupt gene expression are limited A new model organism would facilitate the study of downstream gene action in response to hormone signaling and potentially open the door to new approaches to genetic manipulation. The objective of my research this semester is to perform experiments that assess the ability of the cherry shrimp, N denticulata, to serve as a new model organism for future decapod research. By testing the cherry shrimp's candidacy as a new model, I will potentially pave the way for the development of new transgenic techniques to study mechanisms of steroid hormonal regulation in crustaceans.

Awards and/or presentations:

Streight, K. (2016, April). Assessing the Candidacy of Cherry Shrimp as a New Model Organism. Poster session presented at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Sonia Merkel

OU Major: 
Environmental Sustainability
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Angela Person
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

My research seeks to understand the social and cognitive barriers which impede effective climate change risk communication in our country. I conducted a series of focus groups comprised of University of Oklahoma students and Oklahoma residents in which participants were asked to view a series of 10 evocative images and engage in a discussion on each image. During analysis of the transcriptions, three themes emerged. First, participants express a greater sense of urgency when events are perceived as both new and local. Conversely, participants were less concerned when events were perceived as local and normal. Second, a sentiment of “tacit blame” was commonly expressed by participants when a technological solution was cognitively accessible, but the participant was unsure of how to help. Third, fear based messaging appears to be less effective in motivating participants toward pro-environmental behavior than a hopeful, solution based message.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

Over the course of my nearly year-long research, I have learned the importance of scheduling your day around your research. Finding a routine which supports your most creative and a productive time is very helpful with keeping from falling behind. Additionally, finding a rhythm in reading papers related to your topic, while also maintaining focus on the central them can be challenging. It is easy to become overwhelmed with information, my project alone could have been taken in three or four directions. When I became distracted by something interesting or a new tangential topic, I tried to step back from my work, and just jot down the thought to get it out, re-read some of my earlier papers related to my topic, and then come back to my current project. Finally, make sure whatever you are researching is something that genuinely reflects your interest. It is easier to work on your project when it is something you enjoy.

Awards and/or presentations:

My research was presented at the Spring 2017 Curiosity Symposium. I have received two financial awards which helped support my research. First, I received a position as one of the University of Oklahoma Undergraduate Research Scholars for the spring semester. Second, my research project was accepted as part of the Oklahoma NASA Workforce Development Research Assistant program, which provided me the opportunity to continue my research over the summer of 2017.

Published Work:

The Role of Inter-generational Relationships in Climate Change Communication

Environmental Justice and Environmentalism - Life Versus Leisure

Academic Writing and Vulnerability

 

Shelby Ranger

OU Major: 
International Area Studies
Research Mentor: 
D. Gershon Lewental
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

I did my research for a final paper for the Arab Israeli Conflict class. I spent many hours and weeks looking for various book and article sources in the OU library and on the library website and reading them for relevant information. It was very hard work but I felt accomplished afterward.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

It is important to give oneself time to do the best work possible, rather than waiting until the last minute to look for materials. Time management is key. Make use of the library and read as much as possible, because you might find yourself interested in a subject you hadn't known existed before!

Awards and/or presentations:

I presented my paper at the 66th Annual Conference of Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians and Regional Conference of Phi Alpha Theta Oklahoma in March 2014.

Published Work:

Ranger, Shelby. "Sephardi Identity in Greater Syria in the Late Ottoman Period." OU Historical Journal, 4 (2015).

Elizabeth Knapp

OU Major: 
Classical Languages and Letters
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Kyle Harper
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

As a Classics student, I have had the opportunity to work on ancient manuscripts with Dr. Kyle Harper. I have studied published ancient papyri, particularly magical papyri, to understand ancient beliefs about magic and religion in Greek-speaking Egypt, and I am working on transcribing and translating an unpublished Greek papyrus that I hope to publish within the next year.I am also a Research Assistant for the Digital Latin Library (DLL) in the Department of Classics and Letters, which has given me the opportunity to work with manuscripts from another perspective, considering all of the variations in manuscripts and the work that goes into creating a published edition, as well as coding for the future DLL website and contributing to the growing field of Digital Humanities.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

I would like to be a professor of Classics, and my research experiences in Classics have given me confidence that I will enjoy and succeed in this field. I have learned that interesting research that contributes new information to my field requires a lot of dedication, but there is nothing more rewarding than completing this process, and I would like to devote my life to Classics research. Be confident! I believe that any university student with passion for their subject area and dedication to their work can successfully perform research that will contribute to their field. Research is, in my opinion, the most rewarding thing that an undergraduate student can do. If you see a need for research in your field, find a professor who can mentor you, and devote a significant amount of time to your project. Even working with a professor on a project that he or she is already working on is rewarding and can be a great way to begin to get involved in your field's research.

Awards and/or presentations:

I presented my work at the 2015 OU Undergraduate Research Day.I received a fellowship to study at Oxford University for two weeks this summer as a Logos Fellow.

Published Work:

[In press]

Mallory McMahon

OU Major: 
Economics, Pre-Med
Research Mentor: 
Dr. JP Masley
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

In internally-fertilizing animals, genitalia often evolve rapidly and may cause reproductive isolation that can give rise to new species. Female damselflies have plates at the top of their thoraxes that male damselflies latch on to in order to copulate. Males use on the ends of their abdomen to connect to the female's plates, forming a tandem. Once the tandem is created, and accepted by the female, copulation can begin. Male and female reproductive structures are species-specific, and fit together in a certain way that prevents most interbreeding among different species. However, two species, E. anna and E. carunculatum, occasionally interbreed in nature. Hybrid females' plates vary in both shape and the location of hair-like mechanoreceptors. The goal of this research is to examine the role of female plate morphology in the mating interactions of Enallagma damselflies. The first step is to quantitatively distinguish between purebred and hybrid species based on their plate morphology. To do so, cross-sectional data from micro-computed tomography scans is transformed into 3D models using the computer program Avizo. The plates are highlighted and segmented from a volume rendering of the entire thorax. Universal landmarks are then manually assigned to the computer-generated models, indicating unique regions of plate morphology and allowing for comparison of their 3-D shapes.

Awards and/or presentations:

McMahon, M. (2016, April). Enallagma Plate Morphology and Mating Interactions. Poster session presented at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Christen O'Neal

OU Major: 
Biochemistry
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Anthony Burgett
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

Praxis, the ability to plan a skilled or learned movement, is a function of great concern to neurosurgeons due to the postsurgical consequences of disrupting a pathway utilized for praxis, as well as the uncertainty associated with the definition of specific praxis pathways. While extensive research has been conducted for the purpose of determining the anatomical correlates of praxis, far less has been done to connect these regions via the white matter tracts. Recent advances in technology have allowed the study of neuroanatomy to expand to include a more in depth look at the white matter tracts. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is an imaging method which utilizes anisotropic diffusion patterns near white matter tracts to create a visual representation of the connectivity of the tracts. A network model for the anatomical basis of praxis can be constructed by applying information about the connectivity of the white matter tracts from DTI to the data gathered from established literature that relate praxis to specific anatomical regions of the cerebral cortex. This literature review will consist of all relevant papers obtained through the PubMed database. Relevant papers will be defined as papers involving imaging studies with specific anatomical regions of the cerebral cortex that relate to a function associated with praxis or a dysfunction associated with an apraxia, a disorder involving praxis.

Awards and/or presentations:

O'Neal, C. (2016, April). Constructing a Network Model for Praxis. Poster session presented at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Michelle Penrod

OU Major: 
Biology
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Cameron Siler
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

Microsatellites are regions of DNA with multiple repeats of base pairs. Because these are noncoding regions of DNA, mutations are common and the number of repeats at a locus is variable within a population. Individuals with similar numbers of repeats are more closely related than individuals with dissimilar numbers of repeats. This quality of microsatellites makes them useful for population genetics studies. Microsatalite data can be used to analyze how geographic barriers and isolation affect genetic diversity. Our goal for this project is to determine how ecological factors are driving divergence in populations from varying ecoregions of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is an extremely diverse state with varying temperature, rainfall, and terrain. Throughout this study, we hope to observe how populations living in different ecoregions differ genetically.

Awards and/or presentations:

Penrod, M. (2016, April). Microsatellite study of Acris Blanchardi throughout Oklahoma. Poster session presented at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.

Published Work:

n/a

Marisa Brumfield

OU Major: 
Environmental Sustainability, Science & Natural Resources
Research Mentor: 
Mark Shafer
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:

During the summer of 2014, I was chosen as a research intern through the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program under Oklahoma meteorologist Mark Shafer. My internship took place in Lafayette, Louisiana at the USGS National Wetland's Research Center where I worked closely with Michael Osland and Richard Day. I assisted them with their research by locating, analyzing, and interpreting historical climate data that could help explain the evident expansion of black mangrove into native salt marsh along the gulf coast of Louisiana and neighboring states. I utilized three different organizations to attain climate data. I looked solely at daily minimum temperature records for multiple cities, forts, and co-op stations along the coast of Louisiana, primarily along a 25 KM gradient running from Port Fourchon inland. Over time, there have been periods of expansion and contraction of the mangrove, and my research on the local major freeze events over the last 200 years was conducted in an attempt to express the growth/dieback of mangroves as an effect of climate change. By pinpointing specific freeze events dating back to the 1820s, I was able to create tables and graphs that can now be used alongside aerial imagery from the same time periods. Doing so will allow Michael and others to visually analyze the expansion and contraction as it reacts to extreme weather events.

Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:

Perhaps the most important thing I learned while interning at the National Wetland's Research Center is how incredibly diverse the field of environmental studies is and how much it has to offer. Thanks to my supervisors and co-interns, I was introduced to a wide variety of career fields within the NWRC alone. It was extremely refreshing to witness a large group of individuals in one building, most of whom research extremely different topics but all truly enjoy their professions. In addition, I acquired better analyzation, communication, and writing skills through my research.My advice would be to always apply for any and all educational opportunities that interest you no matter how confident you feel regarding your credentials/experience. Everybody has to start somewhere, and you will never know unless you go for it!

Awards and/or presentations:

I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona in January 2015 to present a poster of my research at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting. The trip was funded through SCIPP.

Published Work:

n/a

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