Undergraduate Research Day 2016

On this page you can see a preview of the work presented in the poster session and some of the oral presentations of the 2016 Undergraduate Research Day. Click on a students name to learn more about them and their project!

Maxine Weiss

OU Major: 
Petroleum Engineering
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
The research proposed is unique in that we plan to create a practical experiment in order to confirm the conclusions that have only been drawn from theoretical models and computer simulations. I will be examining a binary system of ethane and heptane in a PVT (pressurevolume-temperature) cell with and without volumetric confinement and I will compare my findings to both previous studies of phase behavior in nano-porous media and the results I obtain from a simulation program called SOPE (Simulation of Phase Equilibrium). These funds would allow me to etch the nano-channels that simulate nano-pores and obtain some of the experimental cell components, safety supplies and chemicals I need to begin experimenting. I expect to finish constructing the apparatus this semester and conclude the experiment during the fall of2015. I believe that the results of this experiment will support previous findings in terms of bubble point and in-situ density suppression because the additional variables such as mineral composition, wettability, adsorption and structural heterogeneity will be eliminated with the use of an artificial pore system. Further studies must be conducted to understand the role that each of these parameters plays individually in phase behavior.

Elliott Vanderford

OU Major: 
Biochemistry
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
Proteins are a fundamental building block on which life as we know it is based. Through proper folding and structural assembly, a protein is able to function selectively in many biochemical reactions. However, improper folding can lead to a plethora of illnesses, resulting from the inactivation of proteins and possible deleterious effects of the improperly folded state. One such effect is amyloid aggregation, the process by which proteins are induced to misfold and then aggregate into highly structured systems, which then seed further healthy proteins to aggregate in the misfolded state. This has been associated with multiple neurodegenerative illnesses, including Alzheimer's Disease, which is caused through the aggregation of peptide Amyloid beta (A~). Until recently, the structure of these aggregates could only be inferred through the use of dyes attracted to highly ordered systems. However, advances in spectroscopic techniques allow for the resolution of the aggregates' structural data to be gathered as an ensemble of potential states. This can be used computationally to create dynamic data on the structure of an aggregate that can then be used to guide further experimental work using the lowest energy state of an ensemble as a basis. A computational approach, in contrast to other methods, allows for modelling and prediction beyond the fidelity available to more conventional means.

Ariel Thomasson

OU Major: 
Bachelor's Musical Arts
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
Many infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, are premature and consequently suffer from chronic pain, increased heart rate, and typically develop slower than an at term infant. An infant is considered premature if gestation age is at or less than 3 7 weeks. Active music therapy programs are already present in 72% of hospitals. Music Therapists are board certified rehabilitation specialists who use musical components to achieve non-musical goals. In the NICU, music therapists use specific techniques to help premature infants with pain management, oxygen saturation levels, observed stress behaviors, and feeding. The three specific techniques are: PAL, MMS, and Developmental Music. PAL, or Pacifier Activated Lullaby, uses biofeedback from the infants sucking reflexes to record data. Only when the infant is sucking does the pacifier play the lullaby. This helps develop non-nutritive sucking by positive reinforcement which can transfer to nutritive sucking. This helps infants to build stamina with their sucking reflex to be able to improve feeding and receive the nutrients they need. The second technique is MMS, or Multimodal Stimulation. This works by layering different stimuli together to help an infant reach lower stress levels and eventually learn to self-soothe. The therapists starts a short melody "ooing," then humming, then adding real words. After that, the therapist incorporates touch, and finally rocking.

Kaitlyn Streight

OU Major: 
Biology/Pre-Medicine
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.

Hayley Severson

OU Major: 
Biology
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.

Emily Sarbacker

OU Major: 
Industrial and Systems Engineering
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.

Michelle Penrod

OU Major: 
Biology
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.

Christen O'Neal

OU Major: 
Biochemistry
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.

Mallory McMahon

OU Major: 
Economics, Pre-Med
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.

Lauren McGraw

OU Major: 
Geology
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
Traditional methods of quantitative analysis are often ill-suited to determining the bulk chemistry of high salinity brines due to their corrosive and clogging properties. Such methods are also often difficult to apply remotely in planetary environments. However, Raman spectroscopy can be used remotely without physical contact with the fluid and is not affected by many ionic brines. Developing methods to study aqueous solutes is vital to future study of brines on Mars and other planetary bodies, as they can reveal important information about modern and ancient near-surface aqueous processes. Both sodium carbonate standards and unknown samples from carbonate mineral dissolution experiments in high salinity brines were analyzed using a 532 nm laser coupled to an in Via Renishaw spectrometer to collect carbonate spectra from near-saturated sodium chloride and sodium sulfate brines. A calibration curve was determined by collecting spectra from solutions of known carbonate concentrations mixed with a pH 13 buffer and a near-saturated NaCI or NazS04 brine matrix. The spectra were processed and curve fitted to determine the height ratio of the carbonate peak at 1066 cm-1 to the 1640 cm-1 water peak. The calibration curve determined using the standards was then applied to the experimental data after accounting for dilutions. Concentrations determined based on Raman spectra were compared against traditional acid titration measurements.

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