Research Week header image

Tuesday, April 11th
Time: 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Campus Center Multipurpose Room

The Graduate School is announcing its first annual Celebration of Graduate Research and Creative Activities, a part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences new Research Week. This is an opportunity for graduate students across all of our disciplines to present their independent research and creative pursuits to the campus community. 


Graduate Student Research Abstracts

Jessica Abramo, Andria Caruso, Megan Meszaros,
Physical Therapy (DPT)         

The Effects of Chronic Exercise on Lung Function in Adults with Cystic Fibrosis: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis         

Dr. Robert Dekerlegand        

Purpose: A progressive decline in lung function contributes to impaired aerobic capacity in cystic fibrosis (CF) which is linked to both quality and quantity of life. Exercise can improve aerobic capacity in CF; however, its effect on lung function is unclear. This systematic review investigates the effects of exercise on lung function in adults with CF.                               

Methods:  The CINAHL, Medline, and PubMed databases were searched with the keywords “Cystic Fibrosis” AND “Exercise”.  Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the effects of chronic exercise in adults with CF were included provided lung function was an outcome measure. The GRADE system was used to evaluate the literature. Meta analyses using standardized mean differences with a random effects model were performed on lung function using Open Meta-Analyst software (Brown University, School of Public Health).

Results: Four articles met our inclusion criteria. Interventions varied between studies and included aerobic and/or strength training protocols ranging from 3 to 12 months in length.  Meta-analyses were limited by high study heterogeneity; however, a non-significant effect for both forced expiratory volume in one-second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) was noted with trends favoring the exercise group. No adverse events were reported.  The evidence was of moderate quality based on the GRADE system.

Conclusion: A partially supervised exercise program may improve, or at least help preserve FVC and FEV1 in adults with CF.  Such programs are strongly recommended given their potential effect on lung function and low risk of adverse events in addition to the already known health benefits.  The strict inclusion criteria and the high heterogeneity of the included studies are limitations to this analysis. Large multi-center RCTs are needed to evaluate the effects of chronic exercise on lung function in CF.
Clinical Relevance: Exercise programs consisting of aerobic and strength training should be a standard intervention for all adults with CF. Though a specific exercise protocol could not be determined, published guidelines recommend adults with CF accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week.  Exercise programs should be partially supervised by qualified rehabilitation professionals to ensure safety as the disease progresses.

Alex Achille, Andrew Frazzini, Sarah Garman, Seth Gentile, Adam Huynh 
Physical Therapy (DPT)         

Influence of Neuromuscular Control and Strength Training of Core Musculature on Distal Extremity Function: a Systematic Review 

Dr. Richard Ferraro    

Purpose/Hypothesis: Our purpose was to perform a systematic review of neuromuscular control and strength training of core musculature to determine its effects on distal extremity function.

Materials/Methods: A search was performed on PubMed,CINAHL, Medline, and Google Scholar databases. Search terms included combinations such as “Transversus Abdominis” AND “Daily Activities”, “TrA” AND  “Activation”, and “TrA” AND “Strength”. Inclusion criteria included: randomized control trials and cohort studies utilizing neuromuscular control and strength training of the core musculature in various human populations. Exclusion criteria included: surgical procedures, back pain as an outcome measure, and previous transversus abdominis training. Nine articles met our criteria and were scored for internal validity by 6 reviewers using the MacDermid (2004) system (0-48 point scale). Discrepancies in scores were reviewed by all authors to achieve consensus for a final score. Reviewed articles and recommendations for practice were graded as per Sackett et al. (2000).

Results: Nine articles met our inclusion criteria (level of evidence: 1 article= 1b; 8 articles= 2b). The MacDermid scores ranged from 25-39, with a mean of 30.1, suggesting fair to good internal validity. Four studies used neuromuscular control techniques to improve the execution of forward steps, stair climbing, and forward reaching. Four studies support strength training to improve gait parameters, running performance, and upper extremity gross and fine motor skills. One study supported both intervention strategies for enhancing distal extremity function displaying single day training effects lasting 5 months post intervention.

Conclusions: Based on the limited evidence, neuromuscular control and strength training can have beneficial effects when offered as a foundation treatment to improve gait variability and distal extremity function. Same day neuromuscular training demonstrates a feedforward mechanism that results in physiological strength changes in core musculature over a 5 month period. Future research in this area should make efforts to clarify the long-term effects of the aforementioned interventions, increase size of the populations of interest, and include the use of controls to increase confidence levels in results.

Clinical Relevance:  It is recommended that physical therapy interventions across all settings include neuromuscular re-education of the core musculature as the foundation to facilitate efficient and functional distal movement patterns. While many treatment strategies focus on strengthening, neuromuscular activation training is time efficient and can result in improved functional outcomes.

Madeliene Alger
Psychology (MA)

The Effects of Open Body Postures on Power and Persuasion

Dr. Sean Duffy and Dr. Ioana Latu

Replication is an important part of the scientific process. In the current study we sought to replicate the popular finding that adopting open body postures increases subjective feelings of power, while also investigating the novel hypothesis that open body postures would increase openness to persuasive messages, thus leading to greater attitude change. Using a high-powered sample (N=200) we randomly assigned participants to hold an open or closed body posture while reading a strong or weak persuasive message. Results failed to replicate the previously found effect of posture on subjective feelings of power. Compared to weak messages, strong persuasive messages led to more persuasion, but body posture did not influence attitude change, openness to persuasion, or thought confidence. These findings suggest that power posture effects are not maintained under certain conditions (being persuaded instead of persuading), thus challenging the idea of a direct, causal relationship between open postures and power.

Nouf Alzahrani
Chemistry (MS)

Study Co-aggregations of Nucleic aAcid Nanostructures with Tetracycline Molecules and Their Potential Applications in Smart Drug Delivery

Dr. Jinglin Fu

In this project, we are exploring DNA nanoscaffolds for binding to a neuroprotective minocycline (MO) for its releasing to a diseased area. It seems challenge to study their reaction with depending on specific concentration of divalent metal, which is Magnesium (Mg2+). We have demonstrated that, the encapsulation yield of Minocycline with DNA changed depending on length, shape of DNA. Moreover, PH level of buffer play important role on the aggregations on DNA with MO, where the PH=7 or 6 are compatible with body physiological conditions. The study will have important impact on drug delivery for spinal cord therapy.

Monica Bonitatis, Jennifer Holly, Priyanka Patel, Alison Wong 
Physical Therapy (DPT)         

Effects of Equine-Assisted Therapy on Children With Cerebral Palsy: A Systematic Review        

Dr. Evan Cohen and Dr. Ashley Conklin      

Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the effects of Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT) on impairments of body structure/function and activity limitations in children with cerebral palsy (CP).

Backgrounds/Significance: Children with CP commonly present with abnormal muscle tone, compromised motor control, poor postural alignment, and impaired reflexes and righting reactions which can significantly impact gross motor function. Therapeutic interventions for children with CP often include strengthening and functional training through a variety of methods. One such method is equine-assisted therapy (EAT), also known as hippotherapy. EAT is a form of physical therapy in which the patient rides a horse, and that utilizes the horse’s movements to facilitate more normal movement patterns and postural control in the child. EAT is different than therapeutic riding, which is a recreational riding activity independent of physical therapy practice. Although the subjective benefits of EAT have been well established in the literature, the body of evidence objectively supporting EAT is limited. The purpose of this systematic review is to synthesize the currently available research on EAT for children with CP, and to make recommendations regarding its usefulness as a physical therapy intervention.

Methods and Materials: A search of the Scopus, Ovid Medline and CINAHL databases was conducted in October of 2015 using the keywords “hippotherapy” OR “equine-assisted therapy” AND “cerebral palsy”. A priori inclusion criteria were: randomized controlled trials limited to the English language comparing EAT to a control or alternative intervention in children (≤ 21 years) with CP. Articles were excluded if the intervention included horse-riding simulators or therapeutic riding rather than hippotherapy on a real horse. Because of the paucity of literature, an additional manual search was conducted through forward/backward tracking of cited references. Two members of the research team evaluated each study for threats to internal validity using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) Scale and developed a consensus rating. The PEDro scale is an 11-item questionnaire that uses a yes/no model to identify threats to internal validity. Each “yes” score was given a value of 1, with the highest possible score of 11/11 indicating the fewest threats to validity. The description of intervention and results of EAT from each study were summarized and presented.

Analyses: Median and interquartile range (IQR) values for consensus PEDro scores were determined. Descriptive analyses were conducted to tabulate findings from each of the research studies. RESULTS: Five studies were found that met the inclusion criteria. The median PEDro score for the five articles was an 8/11 (range 7 to 9, IQR, 1.5). Outcome measures varied between studies including the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM) (66- and 88-item versions), the Pediatric Balance Scale, electromyography, and formetric measurements of body posture and positioning. Positive effects of EAT were found across all studies. Improvements in gait were found including increased walking speed and stride length. GMFM (Dimension E) scores improved by approximately 3 points in EAT groups. The EAT groups also showed significantly improved sitting balance, decreased postural sway, and improved adductor muscle symmetry when compared to control groups.

Conclusions : When working with children with CP, it is essential to incorporate age appropriate and fun treatment strategies in order to maintain motivation and active patient participation. EAT provides an engaging and enjoyable yet physically challenging physical therapy experience. Although the benefits of EAT as an adjunct to traditional PT were apparent in the 5 studies reviewed, the small sample sizes and narrow scope of published RCT’s limits the generalizability of the findings to the population of children with CP as a whole. Additional research on larger samples of children with varied forms of CP utilizing clearly defined protocols are needed before EAT can be fully supported as an effective treatment method for children with CP. EAT should be considered as an alternative or concurrent therapy choice for children with CP, but should be recommended cautiously as a primary or exclusive treatment method.

Ryan Bunch
Childhood Studies (PhD)

Performing Objects, Child Subjects, and Disney’s It’s a Small World

Dr. Meredith Bak

The Disney theme park attraction It’s a Small World depicts world peace using audio-animatronic children singing an infectious song of unity. A number of scholars, including Stephen Fjellman, Laudan Nooshin, Katherine Baber, and James Spickard, have shown that It’s a Small World and its homogeneous simulacrum of a folk song symbolically colonize the world under a Western perspective and Western folk music aesthetics. The song, with its simple lyric and repetitive structure, presents a universalizing image of the child. The innocence signified by the recorded children’s voices erases strife, conflict, and disharmony, even as the costumes and instrumentation indulge in familiar national and ethnic stereotypes. However, consideration of actual children’s performances and interactions with the song suggests that the very folk-like repetition that promotes Disney’s transnational corporate agenda also makes playful subversion possible. Amateur videos made by visitors to Disney theme parks demonstrate that, through irreverent parody and musical poaching, children, as singing subjects, may reclaim their voices from the performing objects of the mechanized ride. In one such instance, musical counterpoint serves as both a metaphor and an actual strategy for resistance, as young visitors to Disney World sing a parody version of “It’s a Small World” from The Simpsons as a countermelody to the original song. Their countermelody, interweaving with the written score and forming consonances and dissonances with the official tune, aurally recreates the ways in which consumers of Disney products negotiate their own meanings with and against the grain of the company’s messages.

Jorge Carvalho Pereira       
Psychology (MA)       

A Population-Representative Study on the Associations between Youths’ Homelessness Experiences and Substance Use     

Dr. J. J. Cutuli            

This investigation examines poly-substance use risk factors associated with homelessness among high school youth. Creating a housing typology and poly-substance use index allowed testing of associations between youths’ housing status and poly-substance use risk scores. Findings indicate heterogeneity and higher mean index scores for homeless youth compared to non-homeless peers.

David Chen, Eliza Dorsey, Lauren Kelley, Lauren Walsh
Physical Therapy (DPT)         

The Effects of Six Minutes of Walking on Perceived Fatigue and Physical Performance in People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review        

Dr. Evan Cohen         

Purpose/Hypothesis: It is common for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to experience an increase in symptoms and a declination in physical performance in response to prolonged activities such as the 6-minute walk test (6MWT). The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the effect of the 6MWT as a standardized bout of work on perceived fatigue and measures of physical performance in people with MS.

Materials/Methods: A search of the Scopus, Ovid Medline, and CINAHL databases was conducted in October of 2015 using the keywords multiple sclerosis, fatigue and walking. The inclusion criterion was experimental or quasi-experimental research studies that measured perceived fatigue and/or measures of physical performance before and after a 6MWT in people with MS. Because of the paucity of literature, a manual search was also conducted through forward/backward tracking of cited references. Two reviewers developed a consensus rating of validity of each study using MacDermid’s Evaluation of Effectiveness of Study Design (MEESD). The MEESD has a range of 0-48, with 48 meaning the highest quality.

Results: Six studies met the inclusion criterion and were included in this systematic review. The median MEESD score was 38/48 (range 30-43, IQR=3.0). The studies included people with Extended Disability Severity Scale scores of 1.5-6.5 (low to moderate disability). Five of the articles measured perceived fatigue using a visual analog scale of fatigue (VAS-F). Performance measures in the six studies included Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Dynamic Gait Index (DGI), Mini Balance Evaluation Systems Test (MiniBEST), dynamic posturography, and reaction time testing.

Conclusions: The samples examined in the reviewed studies consistently had a marked increase on the VASF after the 6MWT, indicating an increase in the amount of perceived fatigue. Significant declines in physical performance were found after the 6MWT in BBS, DGI, and MiniBEST which indicate a decline in clinical measures of balance when in a fatigued state. Declines were also found after the 6MWT in reaction time testing and in measures of dynamic posturography.

Clinical Relevance: People with MS are susceptible to increasing fatigue and poorer performance on physical performance tests after bouts of relatively short activity such as the 6MWT. These may be the result of primary (i.e. MS-related) disease sequelae such as lassitude or diminished cortical activation, or secondary sequelae such as deconditioning. The physical therapist (PT) must consider whether the patient with MS is in a rested or fatigued state when conducting tests and measures as performance varies between these conditions. We suggest that the PT should conduct some tests and measures in both rested and fatigued conditions to gain a comprehensive understanding of each patient’s abilities in varied conditions. Using a standardized work bout, such as the 6MWT, will enable the PT to identify the impact of fatiguing activity on physical performance in a reproducible way.

Damiano Consilvio, Rebecca Grubb, Kristi Kollemacine
English (MA) 

The Complete Works of Edith Wharton

Dr. Carol J Singley     

As graduate students we have been working with Dr. Carol Singley on editorial work for the Complete Works of Edith Wharton. Our presentation will detail the work that each of us have done under Dr. Singley’s guidance. This includes archival work where we established the copy text of several of Wharton’s poems. As an example we will explain the transcription process of the manuscript text of “The Pomegranate Seed,” going over the careful process and consideration an editor must undertake when copying an author’s hand-writing to be put into type-script. When pen marks and page deterioration can make the writing obscure, multiple editors must work together in the proofing stage to ensure the preservation of the author’s intended meaning. Collations were done of the text to show the changes that take place in a piece of writing over time, from the drafting stage to its appearance in print. Additionally, we have been doing research to help write the introduction to Dr. Singley’s edition of Ethan Frome. This work has involved assembling all pertinent biographical information on Wharton and Ethan Frome; researching reviews of the book, to show how it was received at the time of its publication; and recording media adaptations made of Ethan Frome, to show its influence on popular culture throughout the years. We are also working with the online publishing platform Scalar to digitize enhanced editions of Wharton’s writing. The media capabilities imbedded in Scalar allow for the incorporation of reference materials that complement the text, like of photos and videos that containing reference information otherwise unavailable in a print book.

Gina DiSalvo
Chemistry (MS)         

Wavelength Tunable Cargo Release from Polymersomes Mediated by Single Pulse Irradiation

Dr. Daniel Bubb, Dr. George Kumi, Dr. Georgia Arbuckle-Kiel      

Polymersomes are spherical vesicles that self-assemble from diblock copolymers due to their amphiphilic nature. In this work PBD-b-PEO (polybutadiene(1,2 addition)-b-ethyleneoxide) is the diblock copolymer, chosen for its abilities to remain stable over large temperature and pH ranges. This diblock copolymer yields a hydrophobic membrane of about 8-10nm in thickness giving an advantage of carrying much larger hydrophobic cargo than liposomes. Polymersomes also have an aqueous core that can encapsulate hydrophilic cargo, making them extremely versatile carriers. There is great need for high spatial and temporal resolution in targeted drug therapy and many stimuli responsive polymersome systems have been developed to try and achieve this. Light is a particularly attractive trigger because it is minimally damaging yet deeply penetrating at certain wavelengths and intensities. We have generated photo-responsive polymersomes by the inclusion of gold nanoparticles(AuNPs) into the membrane or core, selectively. The surface plasmon resonance (SPR) varies with the size and shape of the AuNP, giving us the ability to “tune” the wavelength. Our laboratory has a laser-microscope setup gives us the capability to irradiate a single vesicle with a femtosecond pulse of desired wavelength and intensity. Ultimately, cargo is released into the surroundings resulting in a highly controllable cargo delivery method.

Michelle Dixon Palmer
Psychology (MA)       

Personality, Person Perception, and Impression Management: Does Impression Efficacy and Motivation Predict Change in Personality Presentation?  

Dr. Christopher Nave

This study examines how individual differences in impression motivation (IM) and impression efficacy (IE) relates to presenting one’s personality during an interaction and one’s reflection of how they presented themselves after an interaction. The study combines work in the fields of self-presentation and person perception. The aims of this research include: 1) to understand what personality characteristics people attempt to change, are successfully able to change, or remain constant during an interaction, 2) determine if IE and IM predict change in personality presentation. Participants (N=100) completed personality surveys (e.g., HEXACO60 SMSE scale) and engaged in a brief live interaction.  Linear multiple regressions were run and indicated that IM predicts individuals wanting to be perceived as more honest/humble and thinking they were perceived as more extraverted. The pattern of results for IE was less clear in its relationship with HEXACO before and after the interaction. Implications will be discussed.

Renee Ann Drouin, Brynn Kairis
English (MA)

Sound Writing: Enabling and Enacting Tutor Training for Audio Essays    

Dr. William FitzGerald          

Recent years have seen a rise in audio essays in FYC. Such projects often ask students to write reflectively, and encourage them to consider the nuances of sound as a medium. While there is no lack of scholarly interest on the topic, there is a gap in understanding how writing centers can support them and a lack of critical research. As a genre that requires technical prowess, the audio essay presents challenges for writers and tutors alike. Tutors must consider and balance both rhetorical and technical skills when approaching these projects. With this research poster, we hope to identify best practices for training undergraduate tutors to support audio essays.

We use a newly-developed Writing & Design Lab to analyze how the writing center prepares its tutors to engage with writers drafting audio projects. We ask the following: How are tutors trained to support audio essay composition? Does this preparation reflect a priority on technical skills or a deeper understanding of the rhetorical conditions of composing? What challenges do tutors encounter when enacting this training, and how do they overcome these obstacles?

Our research has two major phases. First, we interview the WDL’s Managing Director for his rationale behind developing the tutors’ audio training. Next, we surveyed half a dozen tutors of various experience levels (both first year and second year tutors). This survey aims to understand their perspectives on the training process, their potential concerns before tutoring, the questions posed by writers, the support they required, the challenges/obstacles they overcame, and how adequately their training prepared them. We use a blend of qualitative and quantitative data to reveal emergent understandings of the tutors’ experiences and preparedness.

Through this poster, we hope to foster conversations regarding the diversity of FYC assignments and the support students need to complete them; how technical projects affect tutor/writer relationships; and how we might effectively prepare tutors to navigate those relationships. By drawing from tutor-reported data, we hope that our research can influence conditions for change in writing center training.

Nicole Ferris 
Psychology (MA)       

Is Novelty a Trigger or a Stimulus? A Study of Novelty as a Cue in Irrelevant Cue Discrimination Tasks

Dr. Bill Whitlow        

Previous research suggests that novelty can serve as a stimulus feature in discrimination tasks. This study asks whether novel cues can serve as irrelevant cues in a simple discrimination task. Performance on pairs with novel irrelevant cues was compared to performance on pairs with irrelevant cues. The results are discussed in terms of whether novelty is a stimulus feature that acquires associative strength or serves as a trigger that directs responding towards a particular outcome.

Katherine Fredricks
Childhood Studies (PhD)      

“My good little Christian girl shouldn’t act like this”: Girlhoods, Sexual Regulation, and the Neoliberal Subject in Lifetime Network’s Preachers’ Daughters    

Dr. Kate Cairns          

From across a dinner table in Tennessee, 16 year old Kolby Koloff stares with disappointment and disbelief through red, tear-filled eyes at her 30 year old sister who has just announced to her three female siblings and Christian preacher mother that she was not a virgin when she got married. The Koloff women are devastated by this news. They are shocked and saddened to learn that their family member has compromised her purity and committed, what is to them, one of the most egregious sins against God and herself.

This intensely dramatic scene from the 2013 first season of Lifetime Network’s reality program Preachers’ Daughters spans just a couple of minutes, but distills several themes that permeate the season. This confessional display of “real life” includes mutually constitutive of discourses about what qualifies as appropriate girlhood, appropriate sexuality, and appropriate modes of self-regulation.

Unlike documentary, reality TV is a genre that presents rather than unpacks, leaving interpretation of a media text entirely up to the viewer to decode. In my decoding of Preachers’ Daughters, I argue that the show strengthens discourses which construct teen girls and girlhoods as needing protection from the threat of sexual temptation. Through the deployment of neoliberal values of surveillance and self-regulation in the name of freedom and success, the show’s subjects enforce the notion that, while heterosexuality is compulsory, sexuality expressed at “too young” an age and extra-maritally will destroy girls’ capacities to be whole, responsible, future citizens. Girl subjects are central (for the purposes of watchful control) while girl resistance is tightly constrained.

While I’m fascinated by this program’s uniquely feminized and Christianized enactment of neoliberal values, and while, as a childhood studies scholar, I find the attempt to locate agency through examining girls’ resistance very important, what follows will focus only on one branch of my analysis—the show’s ever-present themes of age-appropriate sexuality and sexual protection.

Darleen Garcia
Public Affairs (PhD)  

Capacity Building as an Agent for Social Change    

Dr. Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn  

Community organizing has a strong progressive potential if it is done well.  Everything that community leaders do in favor of building capacity should have a strategy and a purpose.  This however involves the capability of handling the capacity of targeted goals for social change. Very often groups are indeed successful in challenging political agendas and getting the answers they were looking for.  However, they may lack the capacity to plan and implement the changes they advocated for.  This is an example of how some efforts then become a subject of good journalism than social change and mobilization. 

What are some of the limitations found in building capacity?  What specific frameworks for civic participation have contributed to community development models still used in present day? How may capacity building help incentivize a community?  Why is social mobilization necessary? These are some of the additional questions I will address in this review.  For the purpose of this analysis, synonyms of community participation will include:  civic engagement, civic participation, and citizen participation.

Catherine Guay
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)         

Single Embryo-Resolution Spatial Cis-Regulatory Analysis 

Dr. Jongmin Nam       

Cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) are essential for cell-type specific gene expression patterns and contain abundant gene regulatory information in their DNA sequences. The biggest roadblock for efficient utilization of gene regulatory information contained within CRMs is the lack of a high-throughput method for cis-regulatory analysis. To address this critical challenge, we have developed a novel high-throughput, quantitative method for spatial cis-regulatory analysis using sea urchin embryos as a test bed. The new method takes advantage of i) stochastic and mosaic incorporation of reporter constructs in early embryos upon transgenesis and ii) a novel method for high-throughput, single embryo-resolution measurement of the copy numbers of expressed and incorporated reporter constructs in many mosaic embryos. Because the level of reporter expression in an embryo is determined by a combination of the intrinsic activity of a given CRM and the cells that harbor the reporter construct at the time of measurement, we hypothesized that the profile of reporter expressions measured at single-embryo resolution in a sufficiently large number of mosaic embryos is determined solely by spatial activity of a given CRM. Our proof-of-principle experiment showed that the new method can rapidly classify ≥100 CRM::reporter constructs based on their spatial activities without relying on imaging tools. The new method has the potential to increase the throughput of spatial cis-regulatory analysis at least three orders of magnitude compared to traditional imaging-based analyses. We anticipate that the new method can vastly accelerate discovery of cell-type specific CRMs, identification of gene regulatory networks, and evolutionary comparison of CRM functions.

Denise Hassinger
Biology (MS) 

Utilizing Natural Components to Combat Anthropogenic Effects: Biodegradation of Polystyrene, Polypropylene, and Polyethylene by White-Rot Fungi          

Dr. John Dighton       

The most problematic plastics are the hydrocarbons: polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), and polyethylene (PE; and is represented by high-density polyethylene—HDPE—and low-density polyethylene—LDPE). They are highly recalcitrant in nature and are utilized frequently for single use items such as but not limited to cups, straws, bags, and food containers. Thus contributing to a large portion of plastic waste. Only a small portion of plastic waste is recycled and incinerated while the majority of it is landfilled. The aim is to identify which white-rot fungi are capable of utilizing hydrocarbon plastics as a carbon resource, and implement the results into a sustainable and practical way to dispose of hydrocarbon plastic waste. This study is focused on three hypotheses: 1) white-rot fungi can biodegrade PS, PP, and PE, 2) they can utilize PS, PP, and PE as a sole carbon source, and 3) the rates of biodegradation are dependent on three factors: type of plastic, white-rot fungal species, and soil quality.

Michelle Heinemann, Mark Krimmel, Matt Leusner, Stephanie Silva, Mike Spirito
Physical Therapy (DPT)         

The Effectiveness of Movement-based Therapy or Exercise on Gait in Persons with Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis          

Dr. David Kietrys      

PURPOSE: To explore the evidence regarding effectiveness of movement-based therapies or exercise on gait in patients with peripheral neuropathy.   

METHODS: Searches  were performed on PubMed, MEDLINE, and CINAHL using the following groups of terms: (diabetic peripheral neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, chemotherapy induced neuropathy, HIV neuropathy, HIV associated neuropathy, neuropathy, distal sensory polyneuropathy, polyneuropathy, OR peripheral nervous system disease) AND (exercise, exercise movement techniques, exercise therapy, rehabilitation, strength training, progressive resistance exercise, aerobic exercise, yoga, Pilates, OR tai chi) AND (walking, gait, OR gait analysis). Relevant articles were assessed with the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool. Meta-analysis was performed on gait speed and stride length, comparing treatment to control at times ranging from 4-24 weeks.  

RESULTS: The initial search yielded 70 articles. After exclusion of duplicates and non-relevant articles, and adding 1 article identified via hand-search, we retained 9 articles. Cochrane Risk of Bias scores ranged from 4 to 12 (out of 14) with a mean of score of 7.78. Five articles provided data for meta-analyses, with overall pooled effect (95% CI) as follows: stride length .056 (.008, .105) and gait velocity .509 (.072, .947). In both meta-analyses, the pooled effect favored exercise over control. Heterogeneity for meta-analysis of stride length was low (I2= 0%). Heterogeneity for meta-analysis of gait velocity was medium (I2=67%) and was most likely due to differences in study protocols. Several articles provided data that could not be entered into meta-analysis, but reported significant improvement in single limb support time, stride length, stride time, velocity, cadence, gait cycle time, average daily step count, and ambulation endurance.

CONCLUSIONS: Movement based therapies or exercise can improve gait in persons with peripheral neuropathy. We recommend movement-based therapies or exercise to improve gait speed and stride length (Grade A), and to improve single limb support time stride time, cadence, gait cycle time, average daily step count, and ambulation endurance (Grade B) in this population.  

Krysta Herrera
Teaching Spanish (MAT)       

Concept-Based Instruction: Internalizing Aspectual Distinctions to Mediate the Development of Ser and Estar in the Spanish L2 Classroom           

Dr. Próspero García   

Drawing from a sociocultural framework to second language learning (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006), this presentation examines the implementation of Concept-Based Instruction (C-BI) in the teaching and learning of aspectual distinctions in a k-12 context to mediate learners’ use of verbs, ser and estar. These two verbs have traditionally been taught in the Spanish classroom by exposing learners to ser & estar morphology first, and “rules of thumb” that correspond to particular contexts (Whitley, 2002). However, these rules do not represent the aspectual complexities of ser & estar as a whole (Negueruela & Lantolf, 2006), thereby constraining learners’ ability to make meaning in every communicative situation.

The present research intends to confront this pedagogical issue in a k-12 context by exploring the effectiveness of a C-BI approach to the teaching and learning of ser/estar in an intact Spanish II classroom. Participants (n=27) were exposed to seven consecutive sessions of 45 minutes of instruction distributed over the course of two weeks (315 minutes total). C-BI proposes using concepts as the minimum unit of instruction to present students with a way to master complex grammatical structures in the target language (Gánem-Gutierrez y Harun, 2010: 99). Hence, learners in this study were shown a didactic model that emphasized the concept of aspect and how Spanish ser & estar behaved in relation to the speakers’ aspectual perspective, allowing students to consciously manipulate the concept as a whole to make meaning with ser & estar and apply these to verbs to various communicative contexts. By using this model in varied communicative situations, students had the opportunity to apply this knowledge to the target language and transform it, resulting in a better understanding of this particular grammatical issue. Preliminary results indicate that learners exposed to this pedagogical framework increased their awareness and control over ser & estar usage and morphology.

Straso Jovanovski
Public Affairs (PhD)  

The Spatial Dimension of the Relationship Between Concentrated Poverty and Health: An Analysis of U.S. Metropolitan and Micropolitan Areas, 2001-2010    

Dr. Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn  

This paper aims to explore the spatial relationship between health outcomes and the distribution of concentrated poverty and economic segregation across U.S metro areas. There has been much attention afforded to the issue of rising inequality and pockets of intense poverty in general, and an ongoing debate exists on the magnitude and scope of the associated impacts on various societal conditions. Much of the attention has traditionally been placed on the link between economic inequality and health, particularly in social science research. This paper recognizes a gap in the research by way of looking at the effect of concentrated poverty on the processes furthering disparities in health attainment through economic isolation of neighborhoods and increasing marginalization of distressed urban population groups. The author constructs a multilevel model to analyze pooled data for the years 2001 and 2010 from the BRFSS and ACS national level surveys at both the individual and metropolitan/micropolitan (MMSA) scales. The second component to the analysis relies on spatial autocorrelation and the estimation of the Global Moran’s I index using GIS software to identify and quantify hot spots of high poverty (at the census tract level) within MSAs, as well as identify trends and changes over the time period of the analysis as these relate to health outcomes and risk factors. Preliminary results show a relatively strong, persistent, and significant association between the metro-level geographic distribution and patterning of poverty and the level of health disparities for a given MSA. Finally, the paper concludes with conclusions and recommendations for policy.

Mitchell Larson, Shelby Tucker, Wayne Webb

Criminal Justice (MA)

The Pathway Out of Socially Disorganized Neighborhoods and Into College Classrooms: Voices From Inner City Youth

Dr. Michelle Meloy    

Abstract coming soon.

Ruchi Lohia
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)         

Mechanism Underlying Conformational Effects of a Disease-Associated Hydrophobic-to-Hydrophobic Substitution on an Intrinsically Disordered Region           

Dr. Grace Brannigan  

Disease-associated Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) are common in the disordered regions of proteins (21.7 % of SNPs are found in the disordered region). In this study, we explore the local and global effect of a charge-neutral mutation between two hydrophobic residues, with known effects on function: the Val66Met SNP in the 100-residue disordered prodomain of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF). Val66Met is the most frequently found SNP in the BDNF disordered domain, and is associated with various neurological and psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, NMR studies demonstrated that the prodomain is disordered with different secondary structure preferences for Val and Met at 275K (Anastasia et al 2013). We attempt to elucidate this phenomenon at the microscopic level using large- scale, fully atomistic temperature replica exchange calculations of both the Val and Met forms of the BDNF prodomain. MD simulations indicate high propensity of secondary structure in regions similar to those identified in NMR studies. Interestingly, we observe reversed temperature dependence of the secondary structure around the SNP between Val and Met from 300K to 420K. With increasing temperature, Val66 is less likely to assume helical secondary structure, while Met66 is more likely, which is consistent with previous observations that entropy of the valine side-chain is significantly reduced upon helix formation. This cost likely offsets the entropic gain of nearby water molecules upon helix formation, associated with the hydrophobic effect and common to Val66 and Met66 helices. At room temperature, we also observe an increase in the radius of gyration of the Met66 prodomain relative to the Val66 prodomain, which can be reliably attributed to differential hydrogen bonding preferences of residues near in sequence to the SNP, affecting their likelihood of forming beta-bridges with distant residues. This is consistent with an experimentally observed higher hydrodynamic radius for the Met66 proregion than for Val66 proregion. These results indicate the seemingly subtle substitution may exert its effects by critically adjusting entropic cost of local secondary-structure elements, which, in turn, affects the conformational ensemble via differential long-range beta bridging patterns.

Eva Lupold 
Childhood Studies (PhD)      

A Girl Like Me: Disability and Gender in Media and Popular Culture        

Dr. Kate Cairns, Dr. Meredith Bak, Dr. Holly Blackford, Dr. Beth Haller

My project interrogates the discourses about disabled girlhood(s) that surface in media and popular culture, particularly in print news and online news sources.  It asks which kinds of knowledges about disabled girls are thus produced via these media channels, and as a result what kinds of knowledges remain invisible or discredited?  Moreover, how is such production of knowledge about disabled girls’ lives linked to power, particularly adult authority, and how does such power get performed and circulated within news networks?  Who are the imagined consumers of these media texts, and are disabled girls a part of that audience?  Are the discourses and narratives that circulate in media texts focused on “exceptional” stories about disabled girls, and do the discourses and narratives that emerge in disabled girls’ blogs contain such exceptional stories (or do they focus on everyday experiences)?

Moving forward, the project will then also ask the question: how do disabled girls negotiate such discourses and systems of power in their own online blogs?  Do disabled girls engage with dominant news media discourses of disability and gender in their online journals, and if so how?  What modes of discursive-positioning do they appropriate in their blogs?  In other words, what processes of appropriation, recontextualization, reconfiguration, association, oscillation, participation, and/or resistance do they engage in?  Moreover, do disabled girls engage with such systems of power by deconstructing discourses or systems of meaning-making in order to make room for new discourses and knowledges that are discredited or denied in popular news sources?  Do they engage in practices of intertexuality, combining media texts that contain various discourses, in order to formulate “bricolages”?  Such questions will be important to ask since an important consideration in the last chapter of this dissertation will be how disabled girls construct their own identities in relation to the discourses of disability and gender they find in news media.  Are they drawing from a variety of media texts and discourses to intertextually play with dominant media discourses or to combine such discourses to create new identities through practices of “bricolage?”

Tiffany Lutz
Biology (MS) 

Changes in the Food Web Ecology of Spiders Along an Elevation Gradient          

Dr. Angelica Gonzalez           

While food webs is a commonly studied area of ecology, not much information is known about trophic interactions among species along a temporal gradient (Morris, Sinclair, and Burwell 2015) Temperature determines an organism’s body size, which in return, can influence the complex predator-prey interactions. Web-spinning spiders (order Araneae) are the most prominent consumers and community stabilizers of invertebrates (Riechert 1974), and employ three different species-specific web-building techniques, orb, sheet-tangle, and basket architectures. Our aim is to understand changes in the Araneae food web structure and complexity along an elevation gradient, and determine if the spider-web architecture and intraspecific deviations in spider-prey body sizes affect spider-prey interactions. We also aim to understand if the stoichiometry and nutrient fluxes of spider-prey interactions change along an elevation gradient and between web architectures.

Nathaniel Marino
Psychology (MA)       

Incorporating Self-Presentational Concerns with Personality Judgment during a Get-To-Know-You Interaction

Dr. Christopher Nave 

While there is a robust self-presentation/impression management literature in social psychology, most models of personality judgement don’t account for goals and self-presentational concerns that targets may bring into an interaction. Using a self-presentation and personality judgment model, a multi-method approach, and HEXACO, targets (N = 110) rated how they typically see themselves, desire to be seen, and were perceived in a get-to-know-you interaction. Situation perception (e.g., DIAMONDS) and desired future contact with their interaction partner were also assessed. While 37% of participants desired to be seen by an interaction partner exactly how they typically perceive themselves, 35% of participants desired to be perceived more positively and 28% desired to be perceived more negatively than they typically perceive themselves. Participants who thought their interaction partner viewed them more positively than they desired, perceived the situation more positively, less negatively, and desired to interact with their partner again in the future.

Sean McQuade
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)

LIFE methodology: Virtual patients for Quantitative Systems Pharmacology Models

Dr. Benedetto Piccoli

Application of quantitative systems pharmacology models relies on creation of virtual populations for simulating scenarios of interest. Creation of virtual populations requires two important steps, namely identification of a subset of model parameters that can be associated with a phenotype of disease, and development of a sampling strategy from identified distributions of these parameters. We improve upon existing sampling methodologies by providing a means of representing the structural relationship across model parameters and describing propagation of variability in the model. This gives a robust, systematic method for creating a virtual population. We have developed the Linear-In-Flux-Expressions (LIFE) method to simulate variability in patient pharmacokinetic  and pharmacodynamics by using relationships between parameters at baseline to create a virtual population. We demonstrate the importance of this methodology on a model of cholesterol metabolism. The LIFE methodology brings us a step closer towards improved QSP simulators through enhanced capture of the observed variability in clinical drug and disease data.

Sruthi Murlidaran
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)         

Affinity Calculations for Exogenous Modulators Binding to Isolated Sites on GABA (A) Receptors

Dr. Grace Brannigan   

GABA(A), a pentameric ligand gated ion channel is critical for regulating neuronal excitability. These inhibitory receptors, gated by ɣ-amino butyric acid (GABA), can be potentiated and also directly activated by intravenous and inhalational anesthetics. Although this receptor is a widely-studied target for general anesthetics, the mechanism of receptor modulation remains unclear. These receptors are predominantly found in 2α:2β:1γ stoichiometry, with four unique inter-subunit interfaces. Here we use thermodynamically rigorous free energy perturbation (AFEP) techniques and Molecular Dynamics simulations to rank the different intersubunit sites by affinity. AFEP calculations predicted selective propofol binding to interfacial sites, with higher affinities for α-/β+ and β-/α+ interfaces than γ-containing interfaces; the strongest affinity (β-/α+), was about ten times stronger than propofol EC50, while the second-ranked affinity (α-/β+) was equivalent to EC50. The simulations revealed the key interactions leading to propofol selective binding within GABAA receptor subunit interfaces, with stable hydrogen bonds observed between propofol and α-/β+ or β-/α+ cavity residues. Propofol competed with water molecules for hydrogen bonding in the more hydrophilic β-/γ+ interfacial cavity, resulting in a lower affinity despite an increased number of hydrogen bonding partners.

Weaker affinities were measured for sevoflurane, consistent with its greater EC50. ‘Flooding’ molecular dynamics simulations identified stable binding modes in the accessible β-/α+ and β-/γ+ sites; of these, the β-/α+ site was shown via AFEP to have an affinity stronger than the sevoflurane EC50, while the second-ranked site, β-/γ+ was similar to sevoflurane EC50. These results are consistent with a requirement for binding of two molecules for the general anesthetic to have an effect. If so, the higher potency of propofol relative to sevoflurane would originate from its high affinity for its second-ranked site α-/β+; sevoflurane did not spontaneously bind to either α-/β+site.

David Okereke
Public Affairs (PhD)  

Assessing Economic Revitalization among NJ Municipalities: A Camden Case-Study       

Dr. Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn  

Camden, New Jersey, like most American industrial cities suffered decline in the latter half of the 20th century as the manufacturing base and middle income residents moved out to the suburbs. The urban deindustrialization triggered massive economic inequalities and concentrated poverty in cities that had driven America’s past economic growth. While some cities began to rebound in the 1990s, having made significant revitalization strides, others, like Camden, have continued to decline, with any asserted revival failing to trickle down to residents. In July of 2002, the state of New Jersey enacted the Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act (MRERA), which was mandated to initiate a major redevelopment effort for Camden. The Camden’s revitalization plan was a direct effort to approach the city’s poverty and unemployment issues at the highest level. For more than two decades, the State of New Jersey has funded a variety of initiatives aimed at spurring economic development and job creation in the City of Camden. A key empirical question arises, are the city and its residents really reaping the benefits of these initiatives and how do these efforts compare to those made in other similarly distressed municipalities in the state?

This paper hopes to accounts for the pronounced differences between Camden City and some of its comparable municipalities relative to their respective economic development trajectories; what forces have allowed other cities to redevelop at the same time that Camden continued its decline; what could Camden learn from other cities; what is Camden doing right or wrong?

We use public datasets to analyze all 565 NJ municipalities and 1996-2016 New Jersey Municipal Distress Index Rankings. We attempt to provide a detailed portrait of the underlying forces perpetuating distressed cities and provide the baseline for comparison between Camden and localities across the state.

William Owen, Amanda Palombo, Ayesha Rele, Lydia Rogers, Mathew Rosenblatt
Physical Therapy (DPT)         

What is the Effectiveness of Physical Therapy Intervention on Physical Measures of Health after a Cesarean Section Delivery? A Systematic Review        

Dr. Adrienne Simonds           

Purpose/Hypothesis: Over 1 million women in the United States deliver via CSD annually. CSD is a known risk factor for chronic pelvic pain and is associated with poorer measures of health compared to vaginal delivery. Women’s health physical therapists are uniquely qualified to address impairments after CSD, including pain, muscle function, mobility across the care continuum. However, CSD rehabilitation is not routinely implemented in the USA. Physical therapy (PT) interventions to improve physical measures of health post-CSD may decrease pain and improve function. Evidence for the effectiveness of PT interventions may improve patient care and mitigate poorer health outcomes associated with CSD.

Materials/Methods: Literature search was conducted from September to November 2015 using CINAHL, Cochrane Library, PubMed and Ovid Medline databases and utilized Cesarean section, post-operative pain, scar, abdominal strength, incision healing, and rehabilitation as search terms. Exclusion criteria were non-English language, Cesarean scar pregnancy, prenatal studies, uterine rupture, ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, oophorectomy, and hysterectomy, and non-PT interventions. Articles were critically appraised by multiple reviewers and graded using the Oxford Center for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) Levels of Evidence and Cochrane Risk of Bias Assessment Tool (ACROBAT).

Results: Ten studies were selected and scored as Level 2B to Level 4 (CEBM) and were determined to have a high risk of bias (ACROBAT). PT interventions were found to significantly decrease pain, decrease physical disability and increase functional mobility post-CSD. Interventions provided post-operatively significantly decreased time to ambulation, increased intestinal function and decreased analgesic use compared to usual care. Interventions provided between 3-6 months significantly decreased pain, increased abdominal muscle thickness and endurance and reduced inter-rectus distance. Soft tissue mobilization, exercise, functional mobility, kinesiotaping and electrical stimulation were utilized post-CSD at days 0-3, 3-6 months, and 5 years.

Conclusions: Significant improvements in pain, abdominal muscle function, mobility and bowel function were identified in women post-CSD following PT intervention compared to usual care. PT intervention resulted in decreased analgesic use in the immediate postpartum period. Improvements were found at days 1-3, 3-6 months, and 5 years. The lack of high quality studies on rehabilitation outcomes post-CSD limits the strength of this review. However, calculated effect sizes of interventions support the conclusion that PT is more effective than usual care. Future research should prospectively investigate long-term effects of early rehabilitation especially related to chronic pelvic pain.

Clinical Relevance: CSD is associated with post-operative pain and is a risk factor for chronic pelvic pain. PT interventions were found to improve physical measures of health post-CSD in both post-operative settings and beyond 3 months postpartum.

Vaani Pardal
Psychology (MA)       

The role of implicit gender stereotypes in face-to- face negotiations outcomes

Dr. Christopher Nave 

In one study using mock face-to- face negotiations, we investigated how implicit gender stereotypes predict performance for men and women in different power roles for different outcomes such as salary (integrative negotiation – win-lose) vs. bonus/vacation days (distributive negotiation – win-win). Fifty men and women participated in pairs forming either same-sex or mixed-sex dyads. Before negotiating, they completed a reaction-time measure of their implicit gender-competence stereotypes. Afterwards, they were randomly assigned to either a recruiter or a candidate role in a mock negotiation. Candidates obtained more points when they negotiated higher salary, vacation and bonus days, whereas recruiters obtained more points when they negotiated lower outcomes. Across roles, women negotiated fewer points for salary and vacation days. Implicit stereotypes predicted higher negotiated salary (integrative outcome), but only for male recruiters. Implicit stereotypes did not predict distributive outcomes, showing that stereotypes are more consequential in competitive (integrative) rather than collaborative (distributive) negotiation situations.

Rosemarie Pena
Childhood Studies (PhD)      

The Re-kinning: Black Germans in Reunion 

Dr. Carol Singley       

Silvia Posocco refers to the social apparatus that transfers children away from their original families as the “technology of kinning (1).” Drawing on her work in the Guatemalan context, I relate Posocco’s concept of re-kinning to the post-WWII international adoptions of dual-heritage Black German-Americans. Many in this finite generational cohort are now seeking to reunite transnationally or are in active reunion with their original family members. 

This historic adoptive cohort, since the last two decades, are also reconnecting among themselves and with other Black Germans in discourse and actuality. My digital display will depict the theme of reunification in the Black German-American context and the re-kinning of the Black German international community.

Nicole Revaitis
Computational and Integrative Biology (MS)           

Simple Expression Patterns are Regulated by Discrete CRMs During Drosophila Oogenesis         

Dr. Nir Yakoby          

Patterning of the Drosophila melanogaster eggshell has been extensively studied, however, the cis-regulatory modules (CRMs), that control the spatiotemporal expression of genes, are mostly unknown.  This study takes advantage of the Flylight GAL4 collection, composed of over 7000 lines generated from intronic and intergenic regions of DNA, and cross-listed the ~1200 genes that are contained within this collection to the 84 genes that are known to be expressed during oogenesis.  There are 22 genes, or 281 lines, common between the two lists. Of these, 61 lines recapitulate the full or partial patterns of their endogenous gene.  Using RNA-seq to identify isoforms expressed during oogenesis, we map the distribution of the 61 fragments to the corresponding gene model, and found an enrichment of fragments active in the first intron.  In addition, we demonstrate the use of different anteriorly active FlyLight lines as tools to disrupt eggshell patterning in a targeted manner.  Interestingly, while the average fragment is roughly 3 kB, there is usually only one component of the endogenous gene’s pattern in each fragment.  This follows our hypothesis that complex gene patterns are assembled by individual CRMs. 

Sreelekha Revur
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)         

Identifying Novel Stalk Specific Penicillin Binding Proteins in Caulobacter Cressentus     

Dr. Eric A Klein

Caulobacter crescentus is a Gram-negative bacterium with a polar stalk. The stalk synthesized during an asymmetric cell division is significantly elongated in response to phosphate starvation. The stalk has been characterized as an extension of the cell pole, containing all three layers of cell envelope. However, the mechanism(s) involved in stalk elongation are not well characterized. The stalk envelope contains peptidoglycan, thus identifying the penicillin binding proteins (PBPs) involved in the process would shed light on the mechanism of stalk elongation. Koyasu et al. (Microbiology 1983) identified two inner membrane PBPs, PBP-X and -Y which appear to be stalk-specific, although the genes encoding these two proteins are unknown. Using the fluorescent penicillin analogue, Bocillin FL, we have replicated these experiments and identified a novel PBP whose overexpression results in ectopic stalk formation. We are currently expanding this work to identify additional PBPs involved in Caulobacter stalk peptidoglycan synthesis using Bocillin FL.

Madison Rogers 
Teaching Spanish (MAT)       

Teaching Aspect to Foster Production and L2 Conceptual Understanding of Spanish Preterite/Imperfect

Dr. Próspero N. García

The curriculum that drives many foreign language classes in the United States follows a “rule-of-thumb” approach to the teaching of grammar (Negueruela & Lantolf, 2006) that largely ignores how conceptual, and thus, grammatical, notions develop in the L2 language. This is especially true in the case of aspect in the Spanish classroom (i.e. the relationship between the preterite and imperfect tenses), where teachers and students alike – even heritage/native speakers of Spanish – adopt “rule-of-thumb” explanations as pedagogical frameworks to orient their performance (Negueruela & García, 2016). Given the importance of students’ perceptions on how grammatical concepts function in the internalization of L2 categories of meaning to reach high levels of accuracy in the target language (Williams, Abraham & Negueruela, 2013), this project explores the effect of a concept-based instruction approach to teaching the grammatical notion of aspect in a K-12 environment. The study took place over 5 consecutive sessions of 80 minutes each in an intact classroom of second year Spanish students (n=14) who had not been previously introduced to the use and morphology of Spanish preterite and imperfect forms. Data analysis revealed increased precision in the use of preterite/imperfect both morphologically as well as with correct conceptual justification. Results from this investigation suggest that the implementation of concept-based instruction to the teaching and learning of aspect can yield a more critical understanding of the uses and relationship between Spanish preterite and imperfect tenses in novice L2 learners.

Catherine Rosenberg
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)         

Optimization of Limb Volume Calculations using Circumferential Measures and Water Displacement      

Dr. Desmond Lun      

Lymphedema is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system.  This condition can sometimes be associated with post cancer treatments most frequently occurring in patients who have been treated for breast cancer.  Currently, there are a few surgical and non-surgical interventions available to assist patients with maintaining control of their swollen limb and, for effective treatment, it is imperative for various facilities to be able to monitor their patients’ individual post-surgical progress in an identical way.  This monitoring can be done using various methods, some requiring specialized equipment available at only certain facilities. To enable identical, accurate monitoring of patient post-surgical progress, numerical methods that are quick, easy, and cost-effective are being explored.

Currently, all the numerical methods available to date assume that individual limb cross sections are perfectly circular, when in practice they display more of an elliptical shape.  Our hypothesis is that we will be able to identify an accurate numerical method for determining limb volume that does not rely on a specific number of intervals nor assume that the circumferences are perfectly circular for each cross section. Our long-term goal is to generate a numerical method for clinicians to use that is within 1-2% of the volume determined by water displacement, a gold standard in volume calculation, which can be implemented as a national standard for lymphedema therapists.

Daniel Russo
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)         


Dr. Hao Zhu   

Accurate predictive computational models for complex toxicity endpoints, e.g. oral acute toxicity and hepatotoxicity, have remained elusive. The difficulties in model development for these endpoints can be attributed to the complex mechanisms relevant to the toxicity phenomena.  Recent work has shown that incorporating biological data into model development has resulted in better predictivity and allowed for intuition on mechanisms of action for toxicants. However, in the current big data era, finding and characterizing relevant biological data to evaluate the chemical toxicity of interest is a major challenge.  The Chemical In-vitro, In-vivo Profiling portal was created to use big data sources for the prediction of new compounds ( As a major advancement of the CIIPro project, we present CIIProCluster, a new read-across approach for creating predictive toxicity models based on the available bioassay data for chemicals of interest. Briefly, all available biological data for the target compounds are automatically extracted. Chemical features relevant to each bioassay testing are identified by using Fisher’s Exact Test (p < 0.05) to rank chemical fragments existing in the target compounds of each bioassay dataset. The available bioassays can be clustered by the chemical fragment features that contribute to their activation.  In this study, PubChem bioassays were prioritized and clustered based upon the chemical-in vitro relationships described above for rat oral acute toxicity. Several clusters of PubChem bioassays not only are able to predict acute toxicity for new compounds but also show toxicity mechanisms for toxicants containing the relevant chemical features. This new read-across approach can be easily applied to generate predictive models for other animal toxicity endpoints.

Liam Sharp 
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)         

Interactions Of Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors With Liquid-Disordered Domains Rich In Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids  

Dr. Grace Brannigan

Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are pentameric Ligand Gated Ion Channels critical to signaling across synapses and the neuromuscular junction. nAChR function is particularly sensitive to the surrounding lipids, with numerous experimental studies showing native function of reconstituted nAChRs only in membranes with cholesterol. It has been expected that cholesterol serves as a boundary lipid by binding to the nAChR in annular and possibly non- annular (embedded) sites; given the expectation of annular cholesterol it was further hypothesized that nAChR likely partitions into liquid-ordered (raft) phases of domain-separated membranes, but this has not been observed experimentally in simple domain-forming mixtures containing cholesterol. Furthermore, although n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are abundant in both the native nAChR torpedo membrane and the neuron, the role of these acyl chains in nAChR has not been studied experimentally.

In the present research, we use Coarse-grained Molecular Dynamics Simulations via MARTINI to investigate spontaneous partitioning of nAChRs in domain-forming lipid mixtures based on the native torpedo lipid environment. We observe that, contrary to expectations, nAChR partitions into the liquid-disordered phase rich in n-3 PUFAs and low in cholesterol. When nAChR is partitioned into a cholesterol-poor liquid-disordered phase, binding of annular cholesterol is not observed, but cholesterol is stable in some non-annular embedded sites at some cholesterol concentrations. One origin of nAChR’s preference for the liquid-disordered phase becomes clear upon examining the equilibrated systems: the more flexible liquid- disordered phase can accommodate the deformation induced by the cone-shaped nAChR.

Janice Stiglich
Childhood Studies (PhD)      

We are not Invisible in Dignified Work: Constructions of Working Children in Lima, Peru           

Dr. Kate Cairns          

The ways in which children are often characterized as innocent in campaigns by nongovernmental organizations allows for the duality with protection to be reified, while often ignoring children’s capacity and will to work in their cultural and social contexts.  La Casa de Panchita, a grassroots NGO in Lima, Peru, focuses on educating domestic workers on their rights and puts forth desensitizing campaigns to advance their rights.  Their ongoing slogan “No Somos Invisibles” (We are not Invisible) attempts to mobilize local, national, and international players to abolish child labor by constructing child workers as innocent victims.  Through the work of compassion andtheir radio show, the producers of No Somos Invisibles attempt to captivate individuals and organizations by recognizing the “problem” of child domestic work.  This paper explores the ways in which rhetoric surrounding anti-child labor activism simultaneously inserts the topic of children’s rights into global consciousness (allowing for international and national donations to help with school scholarships for girls) while this kind of compassion work reproduces discourses of children’s innocence ignoring the presently active child-led social movements like MANTHOC.  These issues with subject-oriented rhetoric of dignified work as a contribution to society and the child’s “place” in traditional trajectories of education and no work make these two groups seem disparate.  If both organizations are against the exploitation of children, then how could their visions of children’s rights converge?  Who determines the best interests of the child?

Alex Titus 
Psychology (MA)       

The Effects of Unimodal Bilingualism on Reducing Prejudicial Tendencies           

Dr. Robrecht van der Wel      

This study will specifically focus on the implicit mental judgments and considerations individuals have associated with one group or another in their native-language (L1) or learned second-language (L2). The hypothesis to be tested is, if learned unimodal bilinguals show a reduction of prejudicial tendencies as compared to monolinguals when presented with stimuli in their L2 language. We will use unimodal bilinguals, those who use two languages using only one modality, (e.g. spoken word). To test this hypothesis, a mouse tracking task will be used to track the continuous categorization of stereotypical words and compare them to their neutral categorizations of words. If the hypothesis is supported, current literature will extend the effects bilingualism has on executive functioning.  The expected results could then help influence future studies with regard to duel processing models of language, negotiations, and better inform the extent to which bilingualism’s effects can be tracked using a new paradigm.

Shelby Tucker 
Criminal Justice (MA)

Surviving the Dark Times: The effect of Mentors on College Attendance of At-Risk Youth

Dr. Michelle Meloy    

Growing up in dangerous communities often present youth with many obstacles including failing schools, poverty, and crime. What about the youth who have beat the odds? Understanding the factors that have aided in the college attendance of residents from challenged neighborhoods could be key to breaking the cycle of poverty and violence in these high crime areas. Using interviews of college respondents (n=20 Male; n=20 Female) who grew up in one of America’s “most dangerous cities” this research focused on the effects of informal and formal mentors in encouraging educational attainment among these at-risk youth. Gender differences are explored, policy and research recommendations are offered.       

Kiersten Westley 
Psychology (MA)       

The Relative Contribution of Diabetes Vs. General Life Stress for Overall Psychological Distress

Dr. Kristin August     

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that is reaching epidemic proportions around the world. A number of disease-related factors put patients at risk for experiencing diabetes-specific stress that may contribute to patients’ overall psychological distress. Further research is clearly needed that identifies ways in which patients’ are most affected by their disease to intervene appropriately. Our study sought to contribute to this area of the literature by exploring how different types of disease-specific stress relate to overall psychological distress (depressive and anxiety symptoms) among individuals with diabetes. This study further sought to understand whether experiencing general life stress changed the nature of these associations. This study used survey data collected from a community-based sample of 118 middle-aged and older adults with type 2 diabetes (mean age = 60.5) in the greater Philadelphia area. The average age of participants was 60.45 (SD = 9.76). Racial/ethnic characteristics of the participant sample were 74.2% non-Hispanic white, 28% African American, 2.5% Hispanic, and 4.2% Asian/Pacific IslanderTo assess depressive feelings, the 11-item version of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977) was used (α = 0.83). To assess anxious feelings, the Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS; Zung, 1971) was used (α = 0.85). Multivariable regression analyses were conducted to examine the main and interactive effects of diabetes-specific and general life stress in predicting psychological distress (anxious and depressive symptoms). Covariates considered were age, sex, race/ethnicity, and marital status. The results revealed unique main effects for diabetes-related frustration, burden, and general life stress in predicting depressive symptoms (all ps < .02). The results also revealed significant interactions between all three scales of diabetes-related stress and subjective stress ratings of stressful life events in predicting anxious symptoms (all ps < .02). The findings suggest that there are unique effects of different types of stress on depressive symptoms, whereas general life stress impacts the relationship between diabetes-specific stress and anxious symptoms. Identifying the unique contributors to mental health symptoms is important in understanding how these symptoms may interfere with successful chronic disease management.

Christopher Wheeler
Public Affairs (PhD)  

Race, Land Use Regulation, and Housing Affordability Stress in Metropolitan America   

Dr. Paul Jargowsky    

Today there is a prodigious and expanding literature on the relationship between land use regulation and housing prices. Yet at the moment there are only a few studies that examine the influence of land-use regulation on housing affordability, taking into account the cost of housing relative to incomes. Even more uncommon is a focus on the distributional impact of such regulation on housing affordability by race. Utilizing a multilevel regression design analyzing Wharton Residential Land Use Regulation Survey and 2005-09 American Community Survey and Public Use Microdata Sample data, this study illuminates the impact of various kinds of exclusionary land use regulation on metropolitan housing affordability by race. It specifically examines the influence of housing supply and density restrictions on housing affordability for African-Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic white households in 65 metropolitan areas.  The study finds that one-acre minimum lot sizes and multifamily development limits have negative effects on African-American renter affordability, but no discernible effects on Hispanic or non-Hispanic white affordability.

Samantha White                
Childhood Studies (PhD)      

Negotiating Female Athletic Identity in Educational Spaces Through the Works of R.R. Knudson

Dr. Susan Miller

The intersection of young adult literature and sport literature often leaves girls and young women at the margins. However, a historical interrogation of past literary texts illuminates an important legacy of the role of young fictional female athletes. Through an analysis of work by R.R. Knudson, who emerged as the leading writer of girls’ sport fiction in the 1970s, this paper traces the literary construction of the contested femininity of female athletes within educational institutions?

Curtis Williams              
Public Affairs (PhD)  

Breaking the Rules or Breaking the Law?: The Criminalization of School Discipline          

Dr. Lori Minnite         

In 2013, Florida High School Student, Kiera Wilmot, was expelled from school and arrested for two felonies after she caused a small explosion by demonstrating a science experiment to her friends. Her story highlights the ways in which schools across the US are relying more on exclusionary discipline practices and referrals to law enforcement to address behavior problems. One underlying explanation is that crime control has become the prism through which officials address student behavior, causing them to treat student misbehavior as comparable to criminal activity. Rather than administering developmentally appropriate consequences, school officials dispense severe punishments, including suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement.

At the same time, both the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems have adopted harsher approaches when dealing with people who are charged with crimes. These simultaneous developments in the education and justice systems have often been referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline, which is characterized by a journey that perpetuates failure from the time a student enters school until they are finally captured by the criminal justice system. The purpose of this project is to synthesize the research on the school to prison pipeline, particularly focusing on how the criminalization of school discipline has contributed to its growth, and to raise potential questions for future research.

Linlin Zhao                
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)         

Experimental Errors in QSAR Modeling Sets: What We Can Do and What We Cannot Do 

Dr. Hao Zhu   

Numerous data sources have become available for quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) modeling studies. However, the quality of various data sources may be different based on the nature of experimental protocols. In this study, we explored the relationship between the ratio of questionable data, which was obtained by simulating experimental errors, in the modeling sets and the QSAR modeling performance. To this end, we used eight datasets (four continuous endpoints and four binary endpoints) that has been extensively curated in our lab to create over 1,800 various QSAR models. Each dataset was duplicated to seven new modeling sets with different ratios of simulated experimental errors (i.e. randomizing the activities of part of the compounds) in the modeling process. The five-fold cross validation process was used to show the model performance, which becomes worse when the ratio of experimental errors increases. All the resulting models were also used to predict external sets of new compounds which were excluded at the beginning of modeling process. The modeling results showed that the compounds with relatively large prediction errors in cross validation process are more likely to be those with simulated experimental errors. However, after removing certain number of compounds with large prediction errors in cross-validation process, the external predictions of new compounds did not gain improvement. Our conclusion is that the QSAR predictions, especially consensus predictions, are able to indicate those compounds with potential experimental errors. But removing those compounds will not result in better model performance due to overfitting. Apparently extra experimental testing is necessary for those compounds found to be questionable by QSAR predictions.