CURCA Poster and Digital Display Presentations
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Time: Free Period
Location: Campus Center Multipurpose Room

 

About CURCA:

The College of Arts and Sciences and University College will again present CURCA, an opportunity to showcase and celebrate your research and creative activity. CURCA is part of the Faculty of Arts and Science–Camden’s second annual Research Week, which includes a graduate-level research celebration and a Faculty Research Fellow Lecture.

 

Undergraduate Research Projects:

Victoria Abrams ‘20
Major: Management
Minor: Marketing
Title of Project: Dead Social: Curating Your Own Death
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lee Ann Westman, Associate Teaching Professor of Gender Studies
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant* 

The platform of social media provides a powerful avenue for millions of users around the world to share their thoughts and ideas. This inherent power continues to leave a profound impact on our everyday lives. One such effect relates specifically to memorializing the dead. Social media has provided a resurgence for the inveterate concept of lamenting over the death of a loved one. The proposed presentation is intended to explain why one should consider using social media to reminisce and honor the deceased. We will analyze the pros and cons of using social media as a memorial and discuss the idea of the living creating social media memorials for themselves via Dead Social (www.deadsocial.org). 

Nidhi Baxi ’20, Rumkan Caur ’19, and Ruchi Patel ‘20
Majors: Biology
Title of Project: Terrorist Memorials: A Global Perspective
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lee Ann Westman, Associate Teaching Professor of Gender Studies
*Recipients of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant* 

The purpose of this presentation is to analyze terrorist memorials in a global context. It will identify the various qualities that make a terrorist memorial and the similarities and differences among these memorials. It will also show how each memorial contributes to the greater theme of terrorism as a global issue rather than concerning one particular community and invoke a sense of peace, humanity, and hope. These memorials represent a call for terrorism to stop and the global unity of people of all cultures and backgrounds healing together as whole. Questions such as why are terrorist memorials made, what purpose do they serve, and do terrorist memorials inadvertently memorialize the assailant, will be discussed.

Ethan Brudno ’19, Paul Kumpf ’20, and Phillip Kumpf ‘20
Majors: Psychology
Minors: Chemistry
Title of Project: The Importance of Mental Health in Self-Rated Health among Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes: Considerations for Public Health Interventions
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kristin August, Associate Professor of Psychology

Background: Self-rated health is a powerful predictor of health outcomes, including mortality.  As individuals age, their health perceptions become less focused on physical health and more focused on mental health.  Among individuals with type 2 diabetes (a serious public health issue increasing in prevalence), health perceptions may involve both disease-specific physical and mental health issues, as well as more general health issues.  The objectives of this study were to examine the unique contribution of diabetes complications, diabetes distress, and other chronic health conditions in predicting self-rated health.

Methods: We conducted two cross-sectional studies of middle aged and older adults with type 2 diabetes.  Sample 1 was collected between 2013-2015 (n = 119, mean age = 60.29).  Sample 2 was collected in 2019 (n = 158, mean age = 66.07).  Survey measures included number of diabetes complications, diabetes-related distress, number of other chronic health conditions, a 1-item self-rated health assessment, and sociodemographic characteristics.  Analyses were conducted using regression models, controlling for age, gender, race, education, and marital status.

Results: Diabetes distress was found to be the strongest predictor of self-rated health (sample 1 partial r = -.29; sample 2 partial r = -.28).  Diabetes complications and chronic conditions were also significantly associated with self-rated health in sample 1 (partial rs = -.22 and -.25, respectively), but not in sample 2. Interactions with sociodemographic characteristics were examined, but were nonsignificant.  However, age was significantly associated with self-rated health in both samples (sample 1 partial r = .22; sample 2 partial r = .28) and education level was significantly associated with self-rated health in sample 2 (partial r = .22). 

Conclusions: Our findings highlight the need for additional research examining the complex associations between mental and physical health among chronically ill individuals and practitioners’ role in supporting both. Further, findings suggest that public health interventions that focus more on the mental health of patients with type 2 diabetes should be implemented and evaluated.

David Bushta ’19 and Christopher Till ‘20
Majors: Computer Science (D. Bushta) and Computer Science and Digital Studies (C. Till)
Title of Project: Visualizing and Designing Multi-Agent Search Algorithms
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sunil Shende, Associate Professor of Computer Science

Various researchers have recently studied multi-agent search problems in geometric domains such as a closed disk, or a convex polygon. We present a new algorithm involving three unit speed mobile agents in a unit circular disk. The agents work cooperatively to find an exit hidden on the perimeter. In this model, the agent that finds the exit first may broadcast its location to the others. Among the three agents, two are designated to have “priority”, and the third simply helps. The algorithm terminates when at least one of the priority agents reaches the exit, and the goal is to find an exit strategy that terminates as quickly as possible. We describe a strategy to find the exit in no more than 3.55 time units; we can also show that this time is fairly close to optimal. Multi agent search algorithms can be applied in real life situations, such as deploying robots to search and evacuate people from an area in the event of an emergency. We set out not only to study these theoretical analyses, but to also create an animation framework to test existing algorithms. Our current implementation is built using Javascript and the D3.js visualization library. We studied much of the existing literature and essentially developed a language of movement and communication primitives for multi-agent search algorithms; whereby we can implement existing and new algorithms as independent, high-level scripts for visualizing these agents. As well as helping us visualize, the data we collect from the application also enables us to find improvements. Specifically, our testbed collects information about agent trajectories, and uses that data to determine worst cases and verify correctness of any given algorithm: our algorithm for the priority search came from analyzing such data.

John Carter ‘19
Majors: Computer Science and Economics
Title of Project: Empirical Investigation of Declining Birthrates: A Look at Psychosocial and Economics Conditions
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tetsuji Yamada, Professor of Economics
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant* 

For the past two decades, more and more women in certain European countries, Japan, and the United States are giving birth to their first child at a considerably later age than ever before. It remains unclear to what extent this age-related general fertility decline is affected by changing social and cultural norms. The first objective of this study is to investigate and assess social and cultural norms of the reasons for the declining birthrates. The second objective is to find out to what extent these changing cultures and socio-economic environments have impacted the birthrates and evaluate their policy implications.  This will help people understand why birthrates are declining, which is important because as fewer young people are entering the work force, it will get harder to support the current population in their old age.  As a result, governments must change their policies to achieve the required birthrates necessary to have a young population to contribute to a nation’s economic progress.

Erin Daly ’21 and Michael Maloney ‘21
Majors: English (E. Daly) and Accounting (M. Maloney)
Title of Project: From Pyramids to Patios
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lee Ann Westman, Associate Teaching Professor of Gender Studies
*Recipients of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant*

To begin the pet memorial presentation we will briefly discuss the history of Ancient Egyptians choosing to be buried with their pets. This was a way for Egyptians to assert their status in the afterlife and remain protected. The praise of animals as far back in history as in Ancient Egypt is connected to modern pet memorials. Next, we will present the pet memorials Balto, Hachiko, and Wojtek. We will analyze their purpose in society as well as their importance as memorials. Finally, we will present modern day personal pet memorials. We will discuss the conventions of personal pet memorials and the reasons a person may choose to have one made. Much of the analysis of personal pet memorials will connect to the ways in which capitalism has influenced them. To conclude the presentation, we will analyze the ties between modern day pet memorials and the pets buried in Ancient Egypt.

Stephen Fowler Jr. ‘19, Caitlyn Kliniewski ’20, and Tory Mascuilli ’20
Majors: Health Sciences (S. Fowler); Health Sciences and Psychology (C. Kliniewski); Psychology (T. Mascuilli)
Minor: Biology (S. Fowler)
Title of Project: “Wait, it’s not just a psychological?” The mental and physical health ramifications of internalized stigma on individuals living with chronic pain
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jamie Dunaev, Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology
*Recipients of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant* 

Approximately one in five adults in the US experience chronic pain and nearly 1 in 10 experience high impact chronic pain, or pain debilitating enough to limit daily capabilities (Dahlhamer et al, 2018). Pain in and of itself presents a difficult physical challenge but also leaves individuals at risk of opioid dependence, impaired interpersonal relationships, psychological disorders, and reduced quality of life. Alongside the various negative outcomes typically associated with experiencing chronic pain, these individuals are also the frequent targets of stigma and discrimination based on their condition.

The study looked to experiences of discrimination and internalized stigma to predict physical functionality, general health, fatigue level, emotional well-being, and self-esteem for individuals experiencing chronic pain. To better understand the lived experience of chronic pain patients and inform clinical treatment of pain, we surveyed 286 individuals (Mage = 36.75, SD = 11.56) living with chronic pain. Participants reported on their experiences of discrimination based on their chronic health condition, the extent to which they internalized stigma about their chronic condition, and their emotional well-being, physical functioning, and general health taken (taken from the RAND-36).

As expected, experienced discrimination and internalized stigma were significantly negatively correlated with each of the health outcomes. Furthermore, conduction of mediation analyses predicting emotional well-being, physical function, and general health indicated that internalized stigma mediated the relationship between experiences of discrimination and each health outcomes. In other words, individuals who self-direct negative attitudes about chronic pain experience more negative mental and physical health outcomes than those who do not. These findings present a potentially unexplored avenue for intervention among chronic pain patients: the reduction of internalized stigma. Helping patients reject negative stereotypes about their pain condition through both public health campaigns and individual-level interventions, could have important implications for the treatment of stigmatizing chronic pain. Given the prevalence and intractability of prejudicial attitudes, future research should focus on ways to help individuals reduce their international stigma about their chronic illness. 

Erika Frick ’20 and Jasmine Glover ‘20
Majors: Psychology (E. Frick) and Health Sciences (J. Glover)
Minors: Childhood Studies (E. Frick) and Psychology (J. Glover)
Title of Project: LGBTQ Couples and Adoption with Religious Exemption Laws
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Laura Napolitano, Assistant Professor of Sociology

The project that our group did was on the topic of religious exemption laws and LGBTQ families. A video was produced, depicting a skit of a young same-sex couple looking to adopt a child, and the roadblocks that they encounter due to religious exemption laws.

We chose at least one research article pertaining to the topics of religious exemption laws, LGBTQ families, adoption, or how LGBTQ couples are sometimes rejected from certain adoption agencies, primarily ones with religious affiliations. Some of these articles profiled same-sex couples that discussed personal experiences with adoption agencies and, just in general, struggles that they have had merely because they are in a same-sex relationship, anywhere from familial feuds to public ridicule and questioning. With this information, we collaborated our gained knowledge into a video of a skit about a young same-sex couple that is looking to adopt a child. Along their journey, they encounter discrimination from an agency and some disgruntled, ignorant people in a public setting. Our group used this skit to try and exemplify what one facet of religious exemption laws looks like. 

Noah Gregory ‘21
Major: Social Work
Minors: Digital Studies and Psychology
Title of Project: The Sustainability of Solar Panels and How They Work
Faculty Mentor: Dr. James Brown, Associate Professor of English

The main purpose of my research is to learn what happens on both the technical and the molecular level to enable the harnessing of solar power. I wanted to find out exactly how ‘green’ this technology really is. Solar panels are marketed as one of the pioneering renewable energy systems of the modern age. However, what I learned in the Digital Trash course was that all technology has a price of some kind. There is an effect that each process has on people as well as on the earth. I started with how a solar panel is built, which ended up becoming research on the chemical properties of photovoltaic cells, or PV cells (the main component of solar panels). After that I looked at how these cells were made, which turned out to be mostly with silicon in addition to some alternatives. Overall, I found that while there are effects on the environment from the manufacturing of solar panels, these effects are minimal in comparison to the waste created from other, more common energy sources.

Alexis Kapij ’20 and Khyia Ward ‘20
Majors: Psychology
Minors: Sociology
Title of Project: Lifespan Experiences of Interpersonal Violence Associated with Suicide Attempts among Women in the United States
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh, Associate Professor of Psychology

Background: Suicide is a leading cause of death among women. Both childhood abuse and intimate partner violence have been positively associated with suicide attempts among women, but there is a paucity of studies testing lifespan interpersonal violence victimization and suicide attempts among women. This study tested the influence of childhood psychological abuse, childhood physical abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and intimate partner violence on attempted suicide among women. Methods: Data were used from wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a national study in the United States. The sample consisted of 19, 723 women who participated in that study and who were not missing data on the variables of interest. The logistic regression model tested controlled for age, race/ethnicity, family income, and lifetime history of mental disorders including major depressive episode, posttraumatic stress disorder, and alcohol use disorder. Results: In the adjusted models, women who reported having experienced childhood psychological abuse (AOR=1.75), childhood physical abuse (AOR=1.73), and childhood sexual abuse (AOR=2.80), and intimate partner violence (AOR=2.35) had greater odds of having attempted suicide during their lifetime. Discussion: These findings extend the extant literature by testing the influence of both childhood abuse and intimate partner violence experiences with women’s attempted suicide in a nationally representative sample of women. Findings may inform related suicide prevention interventions.

Harjit Khaira ‘21
Major: Computer Science
Title of Project: Quantitative Genetics Study of Conidiation of Neurospora crassa 
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kwangwon Lee, Associate Professor of Biology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant* 

Conidia, the asexual progeny of filamentous fungi, is one of the main means of spreading diseases to valuable agricultural crops and humans.  Thus, understanding the mechanisms of how fungi produce abundant conidia is not only important for our knowledge of fungi living in nature, but also for intervening the spread of the diseases. The current research project aims to study the underlying genetic mechanism of conidiation in Neurospora crassa. Neurospora has been established as a successful model organism representing many agricultural and human pathogenic fungi. Our data suggest that the quantitative production of conidia is a multi-gene trait. Our goal in this specific experiment is to identify the major gene(s) that are responsible for the quantitative variation of conidia production. Our previous study showed that there is a considerable amount of variation in the number of conidia among the progenies, which allowed us to perform QTL study. The QTL map showed three major QTL regions. Initially, we focused on identifying the gene in chromosome 1 since there was a strong candidate gene in the region, conidial-separation-1 (csp-1). Our preliminary study showed that csp-1 may not be the causative QTL gene in Chr.1. We also found that the QTL effect is less in back-cross populations due to the other major QTL in Chr. 4 from the recurrent mother genetic background (FGSC2224). We screened the number of conidia phenotype in the knockout strains in the target QTL region of Chr.1, and identified three potential mutants that showed a statistically significant difference. We analyzed further on these three mutant strains in the current study.  

Milosz Krupinski ‘21
Majors: Digital Studies and History
Minor: Computer Science
Title of Project: Digital Trash, Right to Repair, and Sustainability
Faculty Mentor: Dr. James Brown, Associate Professor of English

The inspiration behind project was brought about when my mouse repeatedly broke in the same way. When it breaks I get a replacement from Logitech. Currently, I’m on my 4th mouse, and not the only one with this problem. This problem is discussed by many on the internet but despite this there doesn’t appear to be a fix.

To figure out what the cause is I took apart the mouse and came up with two possible reasons for the malfunction, both involving the switch. The first one is that the switch used simply wears out. As I use the middle mouse button a lot, probably a lot more than the average user, it wears out faster than expected. The second possible reason is that the switch simply gets dirty, blocking the switch from making an electrical connection. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if this is the case as the switch cannot be opened, and this also means that it’s impossible to clean it and possibly fix the issue.

This issue perfectly demonstrates the problems in today’s electronics industry. Devices are made to last a certain amount of time with no way for the user to fix issues that may occur. This is not sustainable and bad for the consumer. For companies, the benefits outweigh the cost of sending a replacement to the few people that experience issues and ask for a replacement within the warranty period. It is just cheaper to do this than to fix the issue and make longer lasting products. Every time a poorly made product breaks, it costs the consumer money.

Just as important is the environmental impact of such practices. Knowing more about our devices and how they work is a more sustainable approach to digital life, allowing us to choose longer lasting devices and possibly fixing issues that arise.

This mouse serves as a good example that the average consumer could easily understand, but this problem exists throughout the industry with much more complex devices. But unless consumers become more aware and start demanding change companies will continue on the same unsustainable path. 

Remi Leibovic ‘19
Majors: Art (Graphic Design) and Digital Studies
Minor: Sculpture
Title of Project: Eco Iso, the Ecological Isolation Chamber
Faculty Mentor: Dr. James Brown, Associate Professor of English
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

Eco Iso, the Ecological Isolation Chamber is a sculpture piece that people can interact with. It is a physical call to realization. People that live in urban spaces do not always have easy access to public lands or green outdoor spaces. Eco Iso is meant to theoretically bring all the health benefits of being in the outdoors into someone’s space. Eco Iso does best in community gardens, on rooftops or even in a home. This piece is meant to keep the bond between human beings and nature. Also, it is the start of a much larger conversation regarding public lands and who has access to them.

Tory Mascuilli ‘19
Major: Psychology
Title of Project: Finding the Meaning: Measuring the Salience of Religious Coping Words Following Disasters
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Hart, Distinguished Professor of Psychology 
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant*

Historical research has shown that communal responses to the Black Death largely attributed the plague to the divine retribution of God. This idea was propagated by the Church and has become instantiated in European literature (Dols, 1974). Recent work has revealed that historically during difficult and unpredictable events such as natural disasters, people will turn to religious coping to make sense of what has occurred (Bentzen, 2018). Matthews and Marwit (2006) describe this phenomenon as “meaning reconstruction,” through which we attempt to map meaning onto or instill value within events that are life-altering. Based on these findings, we hypothesized that there would be an increase in the salience of words and phrases reflecting religious coping and meaning during more modern epidemics. Specifically, we chose the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 and the swine flu pandemic of 2009.

To test these hypotheses, two studies were performed in which an automated textual analysis was applied to two distinct sources. The first, Google N-Gram, is a collection of five-word phrases drawn from millions of books digitized by Google. The second, Google Trends, is a collection of internet searches on Google; these searches can themselves be searched. We inspected each data base for the relative frequency of words selected to represent religious coping for years before and after each epidemic. Specifically, a set of ten words and phrases were compiled that adhere to the theory of religious coping developed by Pargament (1997). These words and phrases were: “judgment,” “rapture,” “Revelation,” “Tribulation,” “redemption,” “significance,” “coping,” “how to cope,” “religious coping,” and “how to pray.”

In the first study, data were drawn from Google N-Gram, focusing on books published in the United States. We searched for the frequency of the words and phrases identified above before and after the outbreak of the Spanish flu, using a time frame from 1900 to 1940. To measure the impact of the Spanish flu on the American psyche, an interrupted time-series analysis was performed on the data. Specifically, we utilized the method laid out by Brodersen et al. (2015), in which the causal impact of an intervention is measured by constructing a time-series model, which can then be used to predict the counterfactual. The intervention, here the outbreak of the Spanish flu, was measured against a time-series in which the event did not occur, or what Brodersen et al. identify as the synthetic control. The synthetic control for our research was constructed by examining the frequency for the same dictionary of words but in books published in the United Kingdom. The analysis suggested that counter to our preregistered hypothesis, the cultural salience of these words did not increase in American literature in the period following the Spanish flu.

In the second study, data were drawn from Google Trends. The frequency of the dictionary of words included in search queries was measured surrounding the period of the swine flu pandemic, with a time frame set from 2004 to 2018. To analyze the data, we used the same Bayesian structural time-series approach as in study one. Here, the intervention was the outbreak of swine flu. Our synthetic control was the same set of words and phrases as search queries, again in the United Kingdom. In line with our hypothesis, the data revealed evidence of an increase in the salience of these words as search queries in America following the swine flu.

Religion can serve as a resource for people in creating a functional answer to their existential questions of meaning (Park et al., 2013). Utilizing a novel method, our research revealed that this may still be the case in modern times, with religious coping words as Google search queries increasing in salience following the swine flu. We did not find a parallel trend in American books; perhaps the many events occurring around the flu outbreak of 1918—a world war, and so on—obscured the impact of the epidemic on American culture. We discuss the implication of our findings for examining the consequences of traumatic events on minds and cultures.

Tory Mascuilli ‘19
Major: Psychology
Title of Project: More than just a milk factory: Women’s views on breastfeeding and their postpartum bodies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jamie Dunaev, Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology

Considering the changes in the shape and size of a woman’s body associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and (for some) breastfeeding, this is an important period for body image research. Previous studies of women during the postpartum period emphasize body dissatisfaction. These studies point out that the process of growing, birthing, and feeding a child often results in bodily changes that are viewed negatively. Many of these studies are limited in scope due to small sample sizes and overlook an important parallel narrative: women’s positive body image experiences. We hypothesized that women would have both positive and negative experiences of their body across the pregnancy and postpartum period. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of pregnancy and breastfeeding on women’s body image utilizing a large sample size of recent mothers.

Participants were recruited through social media, email, and on a university research website for a study on early motherhood health. The study was open to mothers who birthed babies aged 0 – 12 months. Data were collected through an online questionnaire. Participants responded yes or no to: “Has breastfeeding your baby affected the way you feel about your body?” If yes, they were asked to describe how.

Results showed that many women experienced simultaneously positive and negative feelings about their body during the postpartum/breastfeeding period. Postpartum changes were overall more negative when compared to breastfeeding. Many breastfeeding women expressed more solely positive feelings. Conversely, women expressed more solely negative feelings and less solely positive feelings about the postpartum period.

Women during the postpartum stage have mixed feelings toward their bodies. Many women indicated they felt empowered by what their body did while also being disappointed in their appearance changes. Potentially important from this data, those who breastfed expressed more positive emotions about their body. Future research should examine the protective role of breastfeeding for women’s mental health during the postpartum period. Considering the overwhelmingly negative feelings expressed by women about their postpartum bodies, health care providers should place more importance on mothers’ body-related feelings.

Christian Medina ’21 and Cristopher Prieto ‘21
Majors: Digital Studies and English (C. Medina) and Global Studies, Political Science, and Spanish (C. Prieto)
Minors: Latin American Studies and Spanish (C. Medina) and Latin American Studies (C. Prieto)
Title of Project: Landscapes in Crisis: Representations of the Exploitation of Latin American Tropical Rainforests
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Carla Giaudrone, Associate Professor of Spanish

This virtual exhibition explores different visions of the exploitation of human and natural resources in Latin America’s tropical rainforests. It pays particular attention to deforestation and rubber extraction using different literary and iconographic works of the 19th and 20th centuries. Our project adopts literary critic Jens Andermann’s idea of a “Crisis of the Landscape” (2012). Our intent is to show how this concept is expressed in Latin American modernity and captured in various expressions of the region’s artistic works. The representation of the landscape becomes an expression of a crisis of political, economic, ecological, and cultural proportions in the use of natural resources, as well as the place that Latin America has had in global capitalism as a supplier of raw materials. The visual and literary sources used in this project include: Colombian José Eustasio Rivera’s novel, The Vortex; Venezuelan Rómulo Gallegos’ Canaima; and several short stories by Uruguayan Horacio Quiroga. These works register both the crisis of representation, as well as the resistance of the landscape and its native inhabitants.

This research project is part of a larger collection of exhibitions that appears in Dr. Carla Giaudrone’s Touring Latin American Landscapes, an interdisciplinary and collaborative online project that evaluates visual and written perceptions of nature and their relationships to culture in a variety of Latin American landscapes.

D’Angelo Milford ‘19
Major: Psychology
Minors: Biology and Sociology
Title of Project: To Know or Don’t Know: The relationship between parent knowledge of sleep and child sleep quality
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lauren Daniel, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Early childhood is an extremely important time for promoting healthy sleep. Prior research has shown that knowledge about healthy child sleep is limited for parents. It has been shown that when parents are unsure about their child’s sleep, children exhibit poor quality sleep similar to children with sleep problems. This study aims to examine the relationship that parental sleep knowledge (PSK) has on their children’s sleep quality and how parental uncertainty also affects their sleep outcomes. 141 caregivers of children ages 1-5 who attended the Early Learning Research Academy (ELRA) were surveyed in Camden, NJ. Each caregiver completed a packet of questionnaires in English or Spanish assessing demographics, basic child sleep knowledge, and child sleep behaviors. PSK, child sleep quality, and parental uncertainty on child sleep health were examined using bivariate Pearson and Spearman correlations. Parents on average answered 41.99% of the sleep knowledge items correctly (SD=19.12), ranging between 10% and 80%. The results suggest that PSK is positively correlated with the frequency of children leaving their beds after “lights out” (r=.189, p=.034). The amount of child nighttime awakenings (r=-.105, p=.231) and the total duration of time spent awake at night (r=-.108, p=.221) were found not to be related to PSK. Additionally, 24.1% of parents on average answered with the response “don’t know” (SD=19.55). A positive correlation was found between parental uncertainty and parentally reported child sleepwalking/talking (rs=.174, p=.043). The duration of child nighttime awakenings was also found to be not related to the amount of uncertainty parents possessed (rs=.168, p=.067). The findings suggest that the more parents are knowledgeable about their child’s sleep, the less child sleep disturbances (e.g., sleepwalking/talking) and bedtime problems (e.g., leaving bed) will be exhibited. A lack in PSK can perpetuate parents’ uncertainty surrounding healthy child sleep, ultimately affecting child sleep quality and the habits they develop. The results of this study suggest a need for the implementation of educational and/or behavioral interventions involving healthcare professionals to efficiently spread information to unaware parents in order to improve healthy sleep habits and reduce sleep problems among kids.

Leah Minuche ‘19
Major: Psychology
Minor: Childhood Studies
Title of Project: Nostalgia for Struggling First-Generation Students
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrew Abeyta, Assistant Profess of Psychology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant* 

First-generation students, or students who are the first in their families to pursue a post-secondary education, have a harder time adjusting to the college life than most. In particular, first-generation students tend to feel like they do not fit or belong in college and feel less confident reaching out for help from peers and professors, both of which can undermine college success. Nostalgia is an emotional experience that often involves reflecting on special past experiences. Several research studies have demonstrated that nostalgia has positive effects for social competence and belonging, and so the purpose of this study was to investigate whether nostalgia may be a helpful tool for first generation students and their adaptation to college. We investigated this potential by manipulating and measuring nostalgia, and assessing campus fit/belonging and confidence reaching out for support among a sample of first-generation students. First, to manipulate nostalgia, participants were asked to write about a nostalgic experience, whereas participants in a control condition were asked to write about an ordinary memory. Second, participants completed measures of campus fit/belonging and confidence in seeking support on campus. Finally, we measured how nostalgic people were for various aspects from their past. Manipulated nostalgia, relative to control, did not have a statistically significant effect on the college fit/belonging and confidence/comfort in seeking support measures. However, measured of nostalgia was positively associated with the college fit/belonging and confidence in seeking support.

Kristin Monckton ‘19
Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Biology
Title of Project: DNA Nanosensor for Preliminary Point-of-Care Diagnosis
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jinglin Fu, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant*

Our technology has developed a nanoscale molecular sensing device based on the DNA-medicated proximity assembly circuit (DPAC) of an enzyme/cofactor pair or DNAzyme nanostructures. The developed DPAC integrates together the mechanism of dynamic DNA nanostructure (sensing module) with the proximity assembly-actuated enzyme system (signal production), as well as molecular computing (e.g. ‘AND’ gate). The detection of target molecules can be identified by visible color change. The DPAC can be applied to the autonomous molecular devices capable of detecting multiple biomarkers and reporting easy-to-read signals for Point-of-Care diagnosis. The overall biochemical circuits can be readily extended to a low-cost, rapid and portable system, e.g. paper-based detection, which can be applied to Point-of-Care diagnosis.

For this project we worked in conjunction with the Rutgers I-Corps program, to learn about customer discovery, as well as understand the market for our technology.  We focused on targeting mi-RNAs found in breast and prostate cancer, and performed customer discovery research on various groups of people.  These people included healthcare professionals in primary care, diagnostic companies, and proactive patients.  Based on our research throughout the program, we will be able to deduce where our technology fits in the industry, as well as other possible target molecules we can apply to our technology that would be most beneficial in the market.

Elif Ozer ‘19
Major: Psychology
Minor: English
Title of Project: Digital Compensation? Exploring the Relations between the Need for Meaning, the Need for Social Belonging, and Problematic Internet Use
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrew Abeyta, Assistant Professor of Psychology   

Problematic internet use has serious implications for mental health, ranging from depression and anxiety to obsessive tendencies. In the present study, we focused on two potential motivational correlates of problematic internet use: the need for meaning and the need for social belonging. This focus was inspired by past research suggesting that people are driven to form and maintain social relationships and to discover and preserve a sense of personal meaning, and that the inability to satisfy these respective needs is predictive of poor psychological health (e.g., Abeyta & Routledge, 2018; Baumeister & Leary, 1995). The study consisted of 192 undergraduate Rutgers students. Participants were asked to complete surveys measuring need for meaning, need for social belonging, and problematic internet use. Specifically, we used two subscales of the Generalized Problematic Internet Use Scale: excessive internet use and social benefits (Caplan, 2002). The need for meaning and need for social belonging were both correlated with problematic internet use. The need for meaning was significantly and positively correlated with excessive use, whereas the need for social belonging was significantly and positively correlated with preference for online social interaction, measured using the social benefits subscale. These findings offer insight into the motives or desires that may drive problematic internet use, though future research is necessary to determine a causal link.

Sam Paulson ‘19
Majors: Digital Studies and Music
Minors: Animation and German
Title of Project: Wanderlust in a Soundscape
Faculty Mentors: Dr. James Brown, Associate Professor of English, and Dr. Robert Emmons, Assistant Teaching Professor of Theater

When a person is making a piece of music, a big decision they face is how they should render their idea. So what materials, instruments, or sound sources should be used to carry the artist’s message to the listener? Maybe they’ll record sounds of birds and later play them to convey a natural environment, or maybe they’ll have a gritty synthesizer play a dark melody to convey struggle, or maybe they’ll give a part to a trumpet because its timbre resembles that of a car horn. This project looks specifically at how we experience, respond to, and live in these various renderings.

I’ve written three separate pieces of music, all based on a single theme: coming home. Each piece renders that theme, but they render it with different means. The first uses all real-world sounds, recorded with a microphone; the second uses all representation sounds and melodies, which opens the door for the expression of things that we cannot necessarily hear in the real world, like emotion; and the third falls somewhere in between, using realistic and representational elements in harmony. In tandem these three pieces map a spectrum that spans between realism and representation.

Wanderlust in a Soundscape is an interactive digital utility that helps its user explore this spectrum. Blindfolded and wearing headphones, the user stands on a Wii Balance Board (a device that tracks a person’s center of balance), and as they shift their weight forward and back, they shift seamlessly between the three iterations of the theme. Using hearing and proprioception, they can choose how they experience “coming home.” They might live in realism, representation, or anywhere in between.

Morgan Pitock ‘20
Major: Psychology
Title of Project: The Effects of Chaos in the Home on Child Sleep Quality
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lauren Daniel, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Background: Previous research has shown that sleep and chaos in the home, when looked at separately, can each increase child risk factors, such as proneness to obesity and academic performance. However, little research has been done to test if sleep and chaos in the home may impact one another, which could shed new light to this issue.

Methods: A questionnaire, about sleep and family functioning, was distributed to the caregivers of students attending the Early Learning Research Academy. This study included 128 families, respondents being 96.4% biological parent, 1.5% stepparent, and 2.2% grandparent. Children were 50.4% female, with a mean age of 3.67 years of age (SD=1.16), and were 17% biracial (African American and Latino), 40.4% African American, .7% Caucasian, 39.7% Hispanic/Latino, 1.4% other.  Quality of sleep was determined by questions from the Brief Child Sleep Questionnaire (BCSQ) (how much total time does your child sleep at night, do you consider your child’s sleep a problem, how confident do you feel in managing your child’s sleep, please rate how well your child usually sleeps at night).  The mean score from the Chaos Scale of each family was used to determine level of chaos present in the household.

Results: There was no significant correlation found between a caretaker considering their child’s sleep a problem and mean score on the Chaos Scale (r= .04, p= >.05). For the total amount of time a child sleeps during the night and mean score for the Chaos Scale, a significant negative correlation (r= -.20, p= .050) was found. For sleep quality and mean score on the Chaos Scale, a significant positive correlation (r= .168, p= .05) was found. For caregiver confidence in managing child sleep and mean score on the Chaos Scale, a significant positive correlation (r= .25, p= .010) was found.

Conclusion: A more chaotic home environment may negatively impact children by reducing the average amount of sleep and sleep quality, while also making sleep management for caregivers more challenging. Interventions to reduce chaos in the home may be helpful in improving sleep in early childhood.  

Joseph Roman ‘19
Majors: Digital Studies and English
Minor: Anthropology
Title of Project: Straight from the Underground: (Anti-) Heroism in Hip-Hop and Literature
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aaron Hostetter, Associate Professor of English

This project studies the social and literary construct of a hero using an alternative lens; specifically, the idea of a hero’s journey is restructured as an anti-hero’s journey using hip-hop as a basis when compared to a heroic text such as Beowulf. First, I establish that hip-hop is more than a genre of music – it is indeed literature worthy to be studied academically because of both its popularity and its purpose of bringing representation to minority populations that would typically be ignored. Additionally, the rapper’s “voice” in hip-hop has many parallels to the stereotypical hero’s journey, but they are not considered as heroic because of the controversial actions that these individuals take in order to survive and achieve their goals. Rap music is filled with stories of drugs, sex, and violence, all typically pushing against the social norm – yet the rise in its popularity around the world is a testament to how these “unheroic” figures are idolized and revered as successful. Why is this genre so popular and how does the social construct of an anti-hero relate to these artists? Using research methods such as literary analysis and discourse analysis, I compare three well-known rappers and their works (Kendrick Lamar, Biggie Smalls, Nas) with three iconic heroic epics; Beowulf, The Tain, and The Odyssey. I demonstrate how the values that are praised in these classical texts directly correlate with the actions that the rapper takes in their respective works. I conclude that hip-hop is a rich source of literature that has yet to be studied thoroughly. Also, I conclude that the rapper should not be perceived as a villain, as many may suggest, but as an anti-hero in an oppressive, capitalistic America that has neglected them.

Veronica Rosselli ‘19
Major: Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Title of Project: Identifying Reporters of Surface Sensing in E. coli
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Eric Klein, Assistant Professor of Biology
*Recipient of the Sandy Stewart Undergraduate Research Grant* 

E. coli form pili to attach to a surface, where a subsequent change in gene expression can be observed. These changes vary between species, some of which alter the physiology of biofilms, while others initiate virulence at mucosal surfaces. Although it is well understood that gene expression changes after attachment, the mechanisms and specific stimuli responsible for these transductions are not known. It is known that these changes in gene expression is not a result from specific receptor-ligand interaction, but rather, we suspect due to the tension of the pili on the bacterial membrane. We deduce that this tension is a result of the pili being anchored in a fixed location in both the bacterial protein membrane and the attachment medium, and the subsequent growth of the bacterium which would pull on the bacterial membrane thereafter, creating tension. With the synthesis of a reporter line, we can further explore these and other potential mechanisms of adhesion-mediated signaling.

Janelly Santos ‘21
Majors: Global Studies, Psychology, and Spanish
Minor: Latin American Studies
Title of Project: Nostalgic Influence in Undergraduate College Students
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrew Abeyta, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Nostalgia is a mixed emotional experience that typically involves reflecting on cherished or personally meaningful experiences from one’s past. Past research indicates that reflecting on nostalgic memories benefits well-being by promoting a sense of social belonging and bolstering a sense of meaning in life. The purpose of this study was to test whether nostalgia promotes constructive student outcomes. Specifically, we hypothesized that reflecting on a nostalgic memory would promote a sense of campus belonging and encourage students to perceive their education as contributing to their sense of meaning in life. To test this prediction, we conducted an experiment where undergraduate research participants either brought to mind and wrote about a nostalgic memory or an ordinary memory, and then completed a measure of college belongingness and a measure of how meaningful they find studying in college. The results of the study were that participants who brought to mind a nostalgic memory reported a greater sense of campus belonging and a stronger sense that college is meaningful, compared to participants who brought to mind an ordinary memory.

Nitan Shanas ‘20
Major: Psychology
Title of Project: Residential Instability, Homelessness, and Executive Functioning of Preschoolers
Faculty Mentor: Dr. JJ Cutuli, Assistant Professor of Psychology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant* 

Children who experience homelessness and residential instability are at risk for poor developmental outcomes across domains of functioning, including components of school readiness like worse self-regulation and poor cognitive functioning. Nevertheless, many children who experience residential instability demonstrate resilience by showing developmental competence, likely the result of protective factors in the child’s life like positive relationships. This study tests for risk associated with housing instability on executive functioning (EF) of preschoolers. We hypothesized that both housing conditions and protective factor scores will be significant predictors of EF competencies of preschool students. Children completed four measures of executive functioning in the NIH Toolbox (Flanker task, Dimensional Change Card Sort, Forward Digit Span and Head-Shoulders­Knees-Toes). Parents completed questionnaires that included demographic information and the Shortlist of Assets and Resources (SOAR) which includes 15 items asking parents to rate the degree to which established protective factors are present in their child’s life in addition to providing self-report of their housing/living situation.

Neither homelessness/housing instability nor SOAR protective factor scores were significant predictors of EF when considered simultaneously as main effects. Given the limitations of this study (i.e. self-report of housing situation), further research needs to test our hypothesis.

Manpreet Singh ‘20
Major: Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Title of Project: Controlling the Growth Rate and Size of Polymersomes Formed by the Gel-Rehydration Method
Faculty Mentor: Mr. Cory Trout, Teaching Instructor of Physics

Polymersomes are vesicular structures that self-assemble from diblock copolymers and are a synthetic analogue to cellular membranes. They are of particular interest due to their broad range of applications including microreactors and drug delivery. Interest in polymersomes lays in their ability to encapsulate and transport a variety of molecules in an unreacted state. Independent of application, it is important to gain control over the self-assembly process so that particular sizes and dispersities can be selected. For example, applications in drug delivery will require monodisperse nano-scale vesicles which will be applicable in vivo. However, applications for microreactors may require micron-scale vesicles of various sizes to encapsulate different molecular concentrations. Thus, we are working towards developing methods for controlled growth rate and size of polymersomes through the use of a technique known as the gel-rehydration method. In this method, a dried agarose film is used as a gel support to facilitate polymersome self-assembly upon rehydration. We have shown that varying the temperature during the self-assembly process results in different growth rates and size distributions. Generally, polymersome sizes increased as a function of time and temperature. Additionally, we are investigating the effects of membrane encapsulant concentration on size. 

Karli Sipps ‘19
Major: Chemistry
Minors: Mathematics and Physics
Title of Project: Spectroscopic Characterization and Quantification of Microplastics in the Raritan River
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Georgia Arbuckle-Keil, Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Nicole Fahrenfeld, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant* 

The enormous amounts of plastic waste that, ultimately, end up in the ocean have become an increasingly large threat to aquatic life and humans.  Most plastics are of low degradability and, rather than breaking down, will fragment into tiny particles, known as microplastics (MP) that can contaminate waterways.  MPs, defined as being plastic fragments 5 mm or less in diameter, are difficult to distinguish from organic materials upon visual inspection and require a more complex method of analysis to be properly identified.

This project aims to identify MPs in samples acquired from the Raritan River in northern New Jersey; this is a collaborative project with Dr. Nicole Fahrenfeld, School of Engineering, Rutgers–New Brunswick.  Both Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) and Raman microscopy are accepted analytical methods used for characterizing such particles.  Each of these methods involves monitoring the incident radiation-sample interactions and uses the data to produce a plot known as a spectrum.  Spectral peaks can be correlated to specific organic functional groups and cross-referenced against a spectral database to, ideally, produce a match to a specific polymer.

Most samples that have been analyzed thus far have been polyamides or polyesters.  Because we have been studying river bed sediment samples, it is likely that these types of polymers are most abundant because they are more dense than other, more commonly industrially-used polymers, such as polyethylene (PE) and polyvinylchloride. (PVC)

The identification of polymers in the samples is critical for source tracking of plastic waste, which can help identify ways in which to reduce the amount of plastic that enters waterways.  Additionally, a specific identification of a polymer is necessary in order to assess its potential to be hazardous when introduced in the environment.  Many of the samples that we have studied are very complex and likely to be either copolymers or polymers that have organic contaminants adsorbed to their surfaces.  These contaminants, referred to as persistent organic pollutants, (POPs) are an additional environmental concern; MPs are hypothesized to act as a medium of transportation for POPs through aquatic environments, so the identification of these POPs is critical as well.

Christopher Till ‘20
Majors: Computer Science and Digital Studies
Title of Project: TwEpoch – The Twitter Trends Archive
Faculty Mentor: Mr. Travis DuBose, Teaching Instructor of English

Every day, social media is used by people all over the world to talk about current events. On Twitter, one of the most popular social media platforms currently, if a topic is particularly popular somewhere in the world or region it will become a trend on Twitter. As new trends rise in popularity, older ones get removed and lost. I present an application whose purpose is to analyze trends on Twitter each day, and create an archive of the most popular trends. This application attempts to capture these moments in history where a certain topic was trending so that when looking back on it we can see what caused it to trend. This project originated as a simple data collection project using Python, and since then I have created a web interface that displays this archive using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Lioubov Voronova ‘19
Majors: Biology and Psychology
Title of Project: Identifying the Perspective of Senior Students and the Effects on Campus Favorability: An Analysis of Rutgers–Camden Campus Satisfaction
Faculty Mentor: Dr. J. William Whitlow, Professor of Psychology

Student satisfaction in their choice of higher education helps college administrators understand and maintain a successful long-term relationship with its students. The purpose of this study is to identify the student’s experiences with Rutgers University–Camden and to assess the students’ outlook of the campus by identifying the favorability ratings of the campus involvement.  The study used a correlational survey research design and collected data from a convenient sample of 100 Rutgers–Camden senior students. The research showed a negative correlation between the amount of problems identified by the students and their favorability view of the campus, meaning that the more problems a student experiences with the school the less likely they are to return to for graduate school or give donations to the alumni fund.

Kristi Zaleski ‘20
Major: Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Title of Project: Polymersomes
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Julianne Griepenburg, Assistant Professor of Physics

Polymersomes are synthetic carrier vesicles that are analogous to liposomes. They self-assemble from a variety of diblock copolymers into vesicular structures which have two distinct compartments: an aqueous core where hydrophilic cargo can be incorporated, and the hydrophobic center of the bilayer membrane where hydrophobic cargo will partition. These vesicles are of significant interest because they have broad applications in nanotechnology and biomedical engineering. For example, one particular effort in our group is to design light-responsive polymersomes that will release their contents in response to a specific wavelength of light. While many efforts in this field are going towards developing applications, there are equally important fundamental questions of how to control the self-assembly of these vesicles into predictable and well-controlled sizes, patterns, and quantities. I have been working to answer these questions for the past year by fabricating patterned agarose surfaces for polymersomes to form through a technique known as the gel-rehydration method. The gel-rehydration method typically generates a polydisperse population of giant unilamellar vesicles, however, the goal of patterning is to create size-controlled spaces to govern formation. Due to the micron-size and ability to incorporate fluorescent encapsulants, polymersomes can be imaged via fluorescent microscopy to analyze the formation response to patterning. It has been demonstrated that polymersome formation can be affected by a number of factors including diblock copolymer concentration and hydrogel thickness. A variety of different patterning techniques are being explored including recessed grid lines as well as linear channels within the hydrogel substrate.

 

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