2023 CURCA Project Abstracts


Caitlyn Auguste ’23, Lilia Ochoa ’23 School of Graduate Studies; Julianne Chan ’25 School of Engineering; Sadiyah Green ’23; Will Boni ’21 School of Graduate Studies
Major: Chemistry (CA); Chemistry (SG)
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Georgia Arbuckle-Keil, Professor of Chemistry and Dr. Nicole Fahrenfeld, Associate Professor in the Rutgers School of Engineering
*Recipient of the Chancellor’s Grant for Independent Student Research*

Title of Project: Microplastics Found in New Jersey Stormwater and the Raritan River

Polymer identification of microplastics (MPs) found in stormwater and surface water samples are limited, yet MPs have been found in the environment for over 50 years. Microplastics are generally classified as particles less than 5 mm. MP identification is important because the freshwater inputs such as stormwater runoff enters rivers, lakes, and ultimately the ocean. This research will identify the different MPs within surface and stormwater samples provided by the team in Rutgers-New Brunswick, which include Dr. Fahrenfeld’s team, from the School of Engineering at Rutgers-New Brunswick and Dr. Arbuckle-Keil, Professor of Chemistry, at Rutgers-Camden. To analyze these samples, attenuated total reflectance (ATR) Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy was used to identify MP particles. IR spectroscopy is a reliable, non-destructive approach to identifying plastics, by comparing the collected IR spectrum of a sample to the spectra in databases, such as OpenSpecy. The identification of the polymeric composition of each particle assists in understanding the source of MP found in the environment. Results will summarize the polymers found in the stormwater and surface water samples analyzed. The research will allow us to recognize what plastics may be associated with a specific source.  Comparing sources and surface water of the microplastics can inform mitigation strategies.

Blessing Awogbamila ’24
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kwangwon Lee, Associate Professor of Biology

Title of Project: Roles of Kinase STK-16 and Phosphatase PZL-1 in Photoperiodism in Neurospora crassa

Photoperiodism is the response of organisms to seasonal or annual changes in their environment, such as a change in day-length. Our lab sought to identify the specific genes that photoperiodism of Neurospora crassa are involved in because the photoperiodic conditions are not well described. Our previous study identified multiple candidate genes for measuring photoperiodism in N. crassa. In this current study, our lab developed the protoperithecia assay (PPA). Protoperithecia is a female sexual reproductive structure in N. crassa, and it is known that it is responsive to different photoperiods. Our working genetic pathway model is used to identify the complete genetic mechanism for measuring photoperiod in N. crassa. For this model we used previous data, published in the Fungi Database, and the PPA on the candidate genes. We were interested in kinase mutant stk-16 (FGSC#13072) and phosphatase mutant pzl-1(FGSC#11548). Kinase has a normal function of adding phosphate groups to proteins, phosphatase has a normal function of removing phosphate groups from proteins. As stated in the previous studies cited in Fungi Database, the kinase mutant causes a severely reduced amount of protoperithecia to be formed. The phosphatase mutant causes an increase in protoperithecia production. In this study, our aim is to repeat the experiment in order to replicate the data and generate new data with additional photoperiods. Understanding the mechanisms behind photoperiodism in N. crassa will provide insight in mechanisms behind circadian rhythms of a diverse eukaryotic organisms including humans.

Isabella Baduini ’23
Major: Biology, Minors: Chemistry and Forensic Science
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nathan Fried, Assistant Teaching Professor of Biology

Title of Project: Characterizing Thermal Nociception Behavior in Drosophila Larva to Study the Impact of Sleep Disruption on Pain

 Humans suffer from chronic pain worldwide. These pain states can be exacerbated by a variety of factors, such as disrupted sleep. The established research has proven fewer hours of sleep is associated with an increase in susceptibility to experiencing pain. This clinical phenomenon of sleep and pain is observed in humans but has not been critically defined in Drosophila melanogaster. To further assess the bidirectional aspect of sleep and pain, we must further our understanding of the molecular and genetic mechanisms behind this relationship. To this end, we adopted a thermal pain assay where we measured the latency to pain-related behavior in Drosophila melanogaster larvae as a proxy for their thermal sensitivity. We then adopted a puncture wound assay to identify the development of injured-induced pain as a tool to test the sensitivity of the sleep-inbred panel (SIP) line which is bred to feature a range of sleep durations. We found that wild-type Drosophila melanogaster exhibits a range of behaviors when exposed to noxious thermal stimuli including roll (0.01 < 0.05), whip (0.02 < 0.05), seizure (0.00 < 0.05), and paralysis (0.00 <0.05) at 95oC. Preliminary data suggest the latency of these nociceptive behavioral changes following tissue injury.

Ronald Barr Jr. ’24
Majors: Mathematics and Digital Studies
Minor: Physics
Faculty Mentor: Mr. Cory Trout, Teaching Instructor of Physics

Title of Project: Photocatalysis Properties of Bismuth-Based Nanoparticles in Pulsed Laser Ablations in Liquids

Bismuth nanostructures have gained attention due to their electronic and optical properties making them suitable candidates for photo and electrocatalysis applications. Pulsed laser ablation in liquids (PLAL) offers a tunable method of bismuth-based nanostructures production based on the liquid environment and laser parameters used. PLAL consists of focusing a pulsed laser onto a solid target submerged in liquid in which upon absorption, the target material is ejected into the surrounding liquid environment. Previous studies have shown the ability to produce plasmonic semimetal bismuth nanospheres, semiconducting bismuth oxide nanowires, and bismuth carbonate oxide nanosheets by controlling the concentration of dissolved gasses present in the ablation liquid. In this study, we seek to investigate the photocatalytic capabilities of these bismuth-based nanostructures by dye degradation under ultraviolet irradiation.

Lily Beck ’23
Majors: Art and Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Charlotte Markey, Professor of Psychology and Health Sciences

Title of Project: Medical and Nursing Students’ Motives and Intentions to Discuss Patients’ Body Image and Weight

Most healthcare providers come in contact with patients who are struggling with disordered eating, have an eating disorder, or whose weight is relevant to their health. Providers may need to communicate with their patients about their body image, weight, and related health behaviors. However, many patients report (Alberga et al., 2019) avoiding doctors’ visits due to anxiety about being weighed or because they feel a provider has shamed them about their weight in the past. In this study, we examine nursing and medical students’ motives and intentions to discuss these issues with their patients.

One hundred and eighty-three medical and nursing students (M age = 25.06, SD = 5.43, range= 18-56 years) participated in this study. The majority of the sample was female (76%) and approximately half of the sample (54%) indicated that they were in medical school. Participants were asked “Will you typically discuss your patients’ body image with them?” and “Will you typically discuss your patients’ weight status with them?” Participants responded on a Likert scale and were then prompted to explain their reasoning in a text box for open-ended responses. Not all participants provided an explanation, but available participants’ responses (N = 109 for body image and 110 for weight status) were coded using an inductive coding scheme. Participants were also asked to report their own height and weight and completed the Weight Concerns Scale (Killen et al., 1994) and the Antifat Attitudes Questionnaire (O’Brien et al., 2008).

The most common qualitative response to whether nursing and medical students would talk to their patients about body image and weight was “sometimes.” Nursing students indicated they would discuss body image with their patients to a greater extent than medical students, t (107) = 2.09, p < .05. A common reason nursing and medical students provided about when they would discuss body image was if patients expressed concern about their body image or brought it up during a medical visit. The most common reason students provided for when they would discuss weight was if they believed it was relevant to patients’ health or health risks.

Cassius Blankenship ‘23
Major: History, Minor: Religion, Affiliation: Honors College
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nicole Karapanagiotis, Associate Professor of Religion
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Travel Grant * 

Title of Project: The Changing Faces of ISKCON

Krishna West is a recently created faction within the ISKCON movement. They remain unknown to many in the wider public; even those who are tertiarily familiar with the movement they spawned from remain relatively unaware of their existence. The group has a niche appeal, positing itself as a way for westerners to come to understand and grow their awareness of Krishna Consciousness and the power of transcendentalist teachings. On the surface, their theology is fundamentally the same as the movement they derived themselves from, yet, they have been thoroughly rebuked by the wider ISKCON structure. Many devotees to Krishna Consciousness see the efforts of Krishna West as an effort to steal genuine devotees from the mainline movement by siphoning off potential converts. Krishna West is a subset of mainline ISKCON that tries to rid the movement of “ethnic trappings” to pull in converts who are perhaps wary of the unfamiliarity of the traditional ISKCON service, which derives from Hindu religious traditions and symbolism. Krishna West employs forms of worship that would be familiar to many Americans such as guitar or piano music and wearing Polo shirts. Krishna West envisions themselves as heirs to the founder of the movements calls to proselytize and convert Western nations to Krishna Consciousness. Krishna West, whether because of its relative infancy, or due to other factors, has yet to adequately be studied. Little attention has been paid to the identity they are forging for themselves in a religious market that is in constant flux. How does a Krishna West devotee understand his faith and community? Why do these understandings inform their desire to separate themselves from the ISKCON movement, even though they view their role within Krishna consciousness not as separate. Rather, they are sub-members of the wider movement for transcendentalist Krishna Consciousness. It is grappling with this paradox that one can begin to understand the changing reality of life in ISKCON.

D’Erica Boskie ’23
Major: Biology, Minor: French, Affiliations: MARC Fellow
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Xingyun Qi, Assistant Professor of Biology

Title of Project: Functional Characterization of the Role of Subtilases 3.13 and 1.8 in Arabidopsis thaliana

Water scarcity is one of the most influential factors for crop production. Understanding how plants effectively use limited water resources is crucial for future food security under the global water crisis. When moving from water to land, plants developed various strategies to adapt to the dry environment over evolution, including developing more advanced root systems for higher water intake and decreasing stomatal density to reduce water loss.

Subtilases (SBTs) are serine peptidases that have influence over epidermal patterning and vascular development in plants. A CO2-inducible subtilase protein CRSP is reported to process the precursor of EPF2, an important protein for stomatal formation in A. thaliana; however, the functions of other subtilase family members are largely unknown so far.

In this study, we examined the T-DNA mutants of several SBTs that are expressed in leaves of Arabidopsis thaliana. Once a knock-out mutant of a SBT gene was confirmed, phenotypic analysis on root development, stomatal formation, and plant morphology and growth was performed under normal condition and drought stress to evaluate the function of the SBT gene in plant drought tolerance. During these experiments increased root growth, plant height, and seed production was observed. More phenotypes will be observed through repetitions of these experiments.

Duessa Red Bregaudit ’24
Major: Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jinglin Fu, Associate Professor of Chemistry
*Recipient of the Chancellor’s Grant for Independent Student Research*

Title of Project: Gold Nanoparticle Core for DNA-Dendrimer Particle

Gold nanoparticles have gained significant attention due to their unique physical and chemical properties, including its function as a colorimetric biosensor. DNA nanostructures incorporating the characteristics of gold nanoparticles have been of growing interest in the field of research. This project focuses on designing a DNA-Dendrimer particle with a gold nanoparticle core. This will be done by first binding an initiator strand with a stretch of adenine nucleotides in its sequence to a gold nanoparticle core by Freeze-Thaw method. The poly(A)-DNA will non-covalently bind to the gold nanoparticle. Once the poly(A)-DNA is successfully conjugated to the gold nanoparticle, the DNA-Dendrimer particle will be built by growing a shell of DNA onto the gold nanoparticle surface via hybridization chain reaction. After the growth of a long dsDNA from the gold nanoparticle core, drug molecules can be intercalated between the grown DNA strands and prepare for cell delivery by the DNA-Dendrimer particle. The use of gold nanoparticles as the core can be useful as the size of the DNA-Dendrimer particle can be controlled by the size of the gold nanoparticle being used. This controllable size of the DNA-Dendrimer particle will aid in targeted drug delivery to specific cells or tissues.

Matthew Brodsky ’24
Major: Political Science, Minors: Urban Studies and Philosophy, Affiliations: Honors College, Digital Studies, Civic Scholars, Student Government Association (SGA)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. James Brown, Associate Professor of English and Digital Studies

Title of Project: Well Played Project

Well Played is a digital research project that investigates the deeper mechanisms of video games and provides them to the public. A typical semester starts with a theme. This theme helps narrow down the wide variety of games and gives the researchers focus. Once the theme is selected four games are chosen. These games are the focal point and research is conducted. First the game has to be played, but under a different microscope. Then there is research outside of the game, how the game was developed, why certain choices were made, the software and hardware, what is a gameplay design/ mechanic that makes the game unique, etc. After the research period, a presentation is made to share our findings with the public and our data is documented.

Mariah Cherry ’24
Majors: Psychology and Childhood Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tamara Nelson, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: Superwoman Schema and Perceived Stress

The strong Black woman (SBW) or Superwoman Schema (SWS) is a culturally relevant gendered racialized role that resonates within the lives of Black women (Woods-Giscombé 2010; Woods-Giscombé et al., 2019). Operationalized as an obligation to manifest strength, an obligation to suppress emotions, resistance to vulnerability, an intense motivation to succeed, despite limited resources, and obligation to help others (Woods-Giscombé, 2010), researchers have found that SWS has been associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety (Nelson et al., 2022; Woods-Giscombé et al., 2019). Yet, there are positive aspects of SWS including perceived benefits such as: survival, preservation of self, and preservation of the African- American family and community (Woods-Giscombé, 2010). Further, findings have suggested that some aspects of SWS are associated with resilience (Nelson et al., 2022). Moreover, SWS is nuanced and tends to influence the lives of Black women in three major categories: strain in interpersonal relationships, stress-related health behaviors, and embodiment of stress. While Superwoman Schema has been explored extensively as a predictor of anxiety and depression, there is less research on the relationship between SWS and perceived stress among emerging adult Black women. Moreover, in this study we examine this relationship in participants that are classified as emerging Black adult women between the ages of 18 to 25. We predict that an obligation to manifest strength will be associated with lower levels of perceived stress; an obligation to suppress emotions will be associated with higher levels of perceived stress; resistance to vulnerability will be associated with higher levels of perceived stress; an intense motivation to succeed, despite limited resources will be associated with high levels of perceived stress; and an obligation to help others will be associated with high levels of perceived stress. The findings and implications of the study will be discussed.

Ben Chertkov ’26, Karen Louie ‘22, and Nicole Kanevski ‘24
Majors: Criminal Justice (BC), Accounting (KL), and Finance (NK)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Yuliya Strizhakova, Associate Professor of Marketing
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Travel Grant *

Title of Project: Telehealth and Teleradiology as a Post-Pandemic Normal

Telehealth and teleradiology are healthcare resources that have been proposed and implemented rapidly in developed nations. Telehealth uses technology to quickly transfer data between patients and healthcare providers over remote networks. The use of remote networks allows patients and providers to give/receive diagnoses, health statistics, prescriptions, and different forms of interventions. Teleradiology uses the foundations of telehealth but refines it for use in the general radiology field. Teleradiology uses technology to allow accessible communication between patients and healthcare providers in the space, allowing providers to interpret patients’ medical imaging (X-ray, CAT scan, CT scan, Etc.) moments after a patient’s in-person scan is complete. Patients can then send their initial imaging records to a different provider for a second opinion. These processes can then help reduce the reliance on medical tourism or at least reduce the number of trips taken. Telehealth and teleradiology have become available at an expedited rate in developed nations; even countries like Korea, where the government previously banned telehealth, have now reconsidered their decision and instated telehealth use. However, the main issue lies in developing countries which often have little to no access to telehealth and teleradiology. Likely the main issue is due to the minimal return on investment (ROI) developing countries expect and the lack of an expansive budget. Developing countries such as those in Africa have 40% of people living in rural areas; these areas do not have easy access to healthcare and could greatly benefit from a telehealth system. Our team interviewed Dr. Yuz, owner and CEO of Second Opinions, a company which works in the space of teleradiology. One of the most important factors our team determined from this interview is that patients in developing countries generally distrust doctors due to prior misdiagnoses. Breaking down each one of these issues, in this case accuracy, and researching them further allowed for more complex findings. Taking these and further issues into account, through our research and findings, our team shares potential limitations, benefits, and solutions for bringing telehealth to the global marketplace and making telehealth and teleradiology the future of tomorrow.

John Crespo ’23
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nathan Fried, Assistant Teaching Professor of Biology

Title of Project: Optimizing Next Generation Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-Cell Therapy

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) therapy has been a rising T-cell engineering strategy, utilized to target hematological malignancies and potentially, solid tumors. However, those infused with CAR T-cells can experience life-threatening complications, such as cytokine release syndrome and neurological toxicities. These are related to a lack of control over CAR T-cell function and activity after infusion. Additionally, manufacturing of autologous CAR T-cells is a time and resource intensive process. Two approaches are explored here to improve CAR T-cell therapy safety and accessibility. A strategy to improve control includes the usage of universal immune receptors (UIRs), which regulate T-cell function and target multiple antigens by modifying the extracellular element of the CAR. Instead of a single-chain variable fragment (scFv) that redirects the T-cell to a single target antigen, as used in traditional CART therapy, a UIR uses an adapter that binds to a tag, often conjugated to antigen-specific antibodies, in a dose-dependent manner. To improve accessibility of CART therapy, selective in vivo transduction of T-cells is being explored. In this pilot in vitro study, a novel type of lentivirus was introduced using envelope proteins derived from Nipah virus that have been engineered to specifically target CD8 T-cells. We produced viruses that encode for a HER2-targeting CAR and a UIR. We hypothesize that T-cells given  the CD8-targeted virus will have selective transduction in CD8 cells. Once this is validated, we can transition to demonstrating in vivo transduction of CD8 cells in mouse models.

Ryan DeLorenzo ’23
Major: Computer Science, Minor: Digital Studies
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Benedetto Piccoli, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, and Dr. Sean McQuade, Lecturer of Mathematics

Title of Project: CIRCLES

CIRCLES is a Department of Energy funded project that aims to implement a solution to the phenomenon known as “Phantom Traffic Waves.” Phantom Traffic Waves are oscillations in traffic speed that cause excessive braking. This uses more fuel and causes extra emissions from all the cars in the wave. These waves occur from normal human driving behavior, especially when there is higher levels of congestion. The leading vehicle breaks, causing the following vehicle to break more strongly than the leading vehicle, propagating upstream through traffic. The result is that cars may come to a complete stop, only to accelerate quickly and stop again.

Autonomous vehicles and adaptive cruise control systems can be modified to smooth these Stop and Go Waves. This is the largest experiment to implement this on interstate highways. It has been found that a small percentage of control vehicles can smooth the wave and improve traffic for all drivers locally. Our pilot experiment on I-24 in August 2021 was with a small number of control vehicles, which prepared the team to run a much larger experiment the following year.

The large experiment consisted of 100 control vehicles (150 trained drivers of the control vehicles) during rush hour traffic. The experiment was performed on I-24 during rush hour Southeast of Nashville where the I-24 motion system has been installed. This is a four mile stretch of highway with 300 high resolution cameras on extra tall 110-foot poles to get a better view of vehicles. Algorithms to turn the footage into vehicle trajectories are currently being used to evaluate the effect of the control vehicles on surrounding traffic.

My role: During my time on the project, I organized pipelines between teams during pilot experiment (such as drone piloting scheduling). I helped design models for aspects of the experiment for simulation, such as vehicles changing lanes, implemented code in simulators such as Matlab and Sumo to set expectations for the experiment and understand experimental parameters. I also managed drivers during 100 car experiment and processed data that came from pilot experiment using Python alongside various other duties. This project was done in collaboration with Temple, UC Berkeley, Vanderbilt University, Arizona State, General Motors, Nissan, Toyota.

Shreya Desai ’25
Major: Biology, Minors: Chemistry and Economics, Affiliations: Honors College
Faculty Mentor: Dr. James Brown, Associate Professor of English and Digital Studies

Title of Project: Disparities in Broadband Internet Use for Older Adults

Access to broadband internet has become necessary for accomplishing many daily tasks, including accessing education, searching for housing, communicating with family, and getting healthcare. Isolation from these ready activities was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, placing many households and individuals at a distinct disadvantage. Remarkably, the older population (those 65 years and older) exceptionally suffered, with limited visitation and lack of internet access to a social network or telemedicine portals. The elderly are now at increased risk of mental health conditions, and the digital divide has obstructed efforts to alleviate these conditions. Prior studies have highlighted this reality by reporting older adults as a cohort who use technology the least compared to other age groups. They also emphasize a lack of digital literacy skills required to use today’s technologies. To mitigate this ongoing digital divide, our study seeks to gather data about broadband access in Gloucester County and about older adults’ perceptions of their need for available internet access. Collecting this data from the senior population will inform us of ways to improve older adults’ access to broadband and digital skills.

Initially, Census Data of Gloucester County was obtained to understand the population of interest. The older population was more likely to live alone, have lower income status, lower employment status, and increased widowed rates, all exacerbating their ongoing isolation. Similarly, FCC Broadband Deployment data was examined in Gloucester County. Interestingly, there is a general limitation to the number of providers that provide sufficient internet speed to telecommunicate or video conference efficiently. This data collection served as a basis for generating interview questions for the elderly to obtain a detailed picture of the gaps in broadband access. These one-on-one interviews with subjects residing in living facilities shed light on how the older population perceives the importance of internet access. Coupling this qualitative data with demographic data, we researched how sharply the digital divide manifests toward the older population. Beyond the study’s impacts on ongoing research, this project allows us to make data-driven arguments for funding to address these broadband inequities among the more aging population.

Shreya Desai ’25
Major: Biology, Minors: Chemistry and Economics, Affiliations: Honors College
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nir Yakoby, Professor of Biology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Research Grant *

Title of Project: Evolution of 3’UTR between Drosophila Melanogaster and Drosophila Virilis.

Morphology is a highly diverse trait in nature. The morphology of the Drosophila eggshells, the casing of the developing embryo, displays an exceptional morphological diversity among species. A prominent morphology is the dorsal appendage, a breathing tube for the developing embryo. The numbers, shapes, and sizes of the dorsal appendages differ among species. The formation of two main body axes (dorsal ventral and anterior-posterior) of Drosophila is traced back to Gurken (GRK), a TGF-alpha-like ligand of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling pathway. During development, GRK is translationally silenced in the oocyte until being localized to the dorsal-anterior. There, trans-factors relieve silencing, thus allowing GRK translation. Thereafter, it is secreted to activate EGFR in the overlaying follicle cells, which secrete and control eggshell morphologies. Hence, changes in EGFR activation will manifest on eggshell structures. Our main model organism is D. melanogaster. We noticed that grk from D.virilis (grkvir) is expressed and correctly localized around the oocyte nucleus of D. melanogaster, however, it fails to activate EGFR. Additionally, no dorsal appendages are formed on the eggshells due to the low translation of the mRNA. The 3’UTR of grk is known to regulate translation as a balance between activators and repressors. We hypothesize that the 3’UTR of grkvir evolved and is now incompatible in D. melanogaster. To test this hypothesis CRISPR/Cas9 was used to replace 3’UTR of grkmel with grkvir within the background of D. melanogaster flies. Similarly, the 3’UTR of grkvir was replaced with that of grkmel in D. melanogaster flies to understand if this combination is sufficient to rescue axis formation. Using a scanning electron microscope, images of the eggshell phenotypes following the 3’UTR swaps were taken to evaluate axes formation and eggshell morphological changes. It was found that the eggshells of the 3’UTR of grkvir with grkmel in D. melanogaster flies were still ventralized. However, virGRK proteins were detected, suggesting that evolution of 3’UTR did affect grk translation, but other factors changed during grk evolution to control axis formation.

 Laurel DiStefano ’23
Major: Psychology, Minor: Childhood Studies, Affiliation: Honors College
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kristin August, Associate Professor of Psychology and Health Sciences

Title of Project: A Dyadic Analysis of Anti-Fat Attitudes as Predictors of a Partner’s Diet-Related Influence among Gay Men

A culture among gay men centered on physical appearance may account for higher rates of body image concerns, disordered eating, as well as anti-fat attitudes. Given the role of dietary behaviors in maintaining a healthy weight, these attitudes may be important in understanding spouses’ efforts to influence dietary behaviors among these men. In this study, we sought to examine how men’s own, and their partners’ anti-fat attitudes were related to positive (control) and negative (undermine) types of diet-related influence. We also sought to examine the role of weight status in these associations. We examined our aims in a cross-sectional online survey of 450 gay married men aged 24-100. Results from Actor Partner Interdependence Models revealed that the greater one’s own fear of gaining weight, dislike of higher body weight people, and view of higher weight as a lack of willpower, the more individuals reported their partners undermined their diet. In addition, the greater one’s partner’s fear of gaining weight, as well as view of fat as a lack of willpower (among those whose partners were of lower weight status), the more individuals reported their partners controlled their diet. We also found that the greater one’s own fear of gaining weight and dislike of fat people (only among those whose partners were of lower weight status), as well as one’s view of fat as a function of willpower, the more individuals reported their partners undermined their diet. In addition, the more one’s partner’s reported dislike of fat people, the more individuals reported their partners undermined their diet. Our findings contribute to an understanding of gay couples’ diet-related interactions and may have potential implications for health promotion and intervention efforts.

Sashoya Dougan ’23
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anthony Geneva, Assistant Professor of Biology

Title of Project: Phylogenetic Analysis of the Origin of Novel Reptile-Infecting Adenoviruses

Adenoviruses (AdVs) are non-enveloped, DNA-dependent viruses that commonly infect a wide array of species. Most reptilian cases are caused by AdVs within the Atadenovirus genus, yet more recently two individuals of Anolis sagrei from the island of Staniel Cay were found infected with AdVs more closely related to the Mastadenovirus genus, previously known to primarily infect mammals. In hopes of better understanding the origins of these novel AdVs from Staniel Cay and resolving their relationships within the phylogeny of AdVs, we sampled additional individuals of this species, collected across the West Indies. This included a series of nested PCR tests to test for and amplify existing Adenovirus in the anoles, sequencing of the successful amplifications, and the comparison of the collected data using a newly generated phylogeny including all new and existing lizard Adenovirus sequences to analyze the new findings.

Our results indicate that Adenovirus has the potential to move between hosts based on the presence of AdV strains outside of the Atadenovirus genus being found in anoles. Furthermore, our newly generated phylogeny indicates multiple Atadenovirus strains are also present on Staniel Cay suggesting a history of transfer of Adenovirus infections between hosts. Future work will focus on deeper sampling to determine the degree to which Adenovirus strains infecting lizard populations are from single or multiple lineages to better understand the dynamics of disease transfer among and between species.

Gabriel Elias ’23 and Niki Kokolis ’23
Majors: Psychology and Biology (GE) and Psychology (NK), Affiliations: Honors College (NK)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lauren Daniel, Associate Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: Associations Between Knowledge, Distrust, and Intentions to Register for Be the Match Donor Registry

Be the Match is a national registry of potential bone marrow and stem cell transplant donors that helps patients with cancer or other hematologic conditions find suitable matches. By understanding what factors increase or limit people’s likelihood to sign up, steps can be taken to increase the amount of donors in the database. Consequently, the chances that more patients can receive stem cells will increase which could save more lives. Past research has found that knowledge about bone marrow/stem cell donation and distrust in the healthcare system are important factors in understanding whether participants enroll in the registry. We hypothesize that the higher knowledge an individual has, the more likely they are to register.

Additionally, the higher distrust an individual has, the less likely they are to register. This study surveyed 182 ethnically diverse college students (74% female; 52.8% non-white) who ranged from ages 18-35. 36.3% of students indicated an interest in enrolling in the registry. 35.8% of knowledge questions were answered correctly showing an overall low prior knowledge. Knowledge was higher in the group who reported they would enroll in the transplant registry compared to those who declined (F(1, 140) = 5.044, p = [.026]), but distrust was similar between the two groups (F(1, 162) = .061, p = [.805]). The findings suggest that incorporating campus interventions to increase knowledge on bone marrow donation could increase the likelihood to register for Be the Match.

Samrawit B. Gebretensay ’23 and Andrea Sellers ’23
Major: Psychology (SG) and Childhood Studies and Psychology (AS), Minors: Childhood Studies (SG) and Gender Studies (AS), Affiliations: EOF (SG)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tamara Nelson, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: Superwoman Schema, Help-Seeking Attitudes and Intention among Black College Women

Generally, Black people underutilize mental health services and are reluctant to seek psychological help in part due to the negative consequences associated with the help-seeking process (Rene & Ben, 2019). Although cultural mistrust, stigma, discrimination, and spiritual practices may explain the lower rate of mental health services usage (Nelson et al, 2020; Mattis 2002; Poleshuck et al., 2013; Sabri et al., 2013), one important factor that has been less explored is Superwoman Schema (i.e., an obligation to display strength, resistance to being vulnerable, an obligation to suppress emotions, an intense motivation to succeed despite limited resources, and an obligation to help others) (Woods-Giscombé, 2010; Woods-Giscombe et al., 2019). Generally described as how Black women are expected to perform and embody womanhood, some aspects of Superwoman Schema have been associated with anxiety, depression, and stress among Black women (Nelson et al., 2022; Leath et al., 2022; Woods-Giscombé et al., 2019). Thus, it is plausible Superwoman Schema may moderate the relationship between help-seeking attitudes and help-seeking intentions. In this study, we explore the relationship between help-seeking attitudes and intention among a convenience sample of Black college women. We also examine the potential moderating role of Superwoman Schema. We hypothesize that positive helpseeking attitudes will be associated with help-seeking intentions. We also hypothesize that the positive relationship between an individual’s attitudes and intentions will be attenuated by the obligation to display strength, resistance to being vulnerable, an obligation to suppress emotions, an intense motivation to succeed despite limited resources, and an obligation to help others. The findings and implications of this study will be discussed.

Elizabeth Hardy ’24
Majors: Biology, Health Sciences, and Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nathan Fried, Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: Pilot Study Explores Dietary Monosodium Glutamates Effect on Nociception in Drosophila Melanogaster

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer commonly used as a commercial food additive, has anecdotally been associated with increased pain and migraine symptomology. Recently, this was tested in a mouse model where 21 days of MSG exposure induced hyperalgesia, potentially due to an increase in nitric oxide within the brain. However, the mechanism is still unclear with the potential for increased glutamate release, increased glutamate receptor expression occurring (NMDA and AMPA), or modified Ca2+/calmodulin signaling being the root cause. MSG is known to stimulate glutamate receptors, triggering umami, known as our fifth sense, further causing behavioral and afferent nerve responses. Studies have also demonstrated that glutamate receptor activation is key to the development of chronic pain and an increase in afferent nerve activity. Drosophila Melanogaster are an excellent model system to identify this mechanism because behavioral pain assays are readily accessible and they share several genetic components with humans, including glutamate receptor signaling. To explore the mechanism behind how MSG affects pain processing, we must first determine if similar to mice and humans, MSG induces increased nociception in Drosophila. Thus, we hypothesize that MSG will increase pain sensitivity in Drosophila due to systemically increased levels of glutamate causing nerve cell to overexcitation. We will test this by using a chemical, thermal, and mechanical nociception assay in Drosophila Melanogaster larvae where animals are exposed to noxious stimuli following MSG exposure and measuring the latency to a canonical pain associated rolling behavior. Our pilot data reveals that wild-type Drosophila larvae respond in 4.54 +/- 2.95 seconds to 10% hydrochloric acid. Using this baseline, we can then test whether the latency of rolling decreases (indicating greater chemical nociception) following exposure to a range of concentrations of MSG. We will then test whether this exposure changes their thermal and mechanical sensitivity under both acute and chronic pain conditions. Follow up studies will explore whether stimulation of glutamate receptors are a key component to the mechanism behind this phenomenon, essentially increasing sensitivity and leading to chronic pain. Further research on this mechanism, will allow us to understand why some patients differentiate in sensitivity to the effects of dietary MSG.

Simranjeet Kour ’24 and Alexis Winters ‘23
Majors: Chemistry (SK) and Biology (AW), Minors: Biology and Psychology (SK) and Chemistry, Spanish, and Psychology (AW), Affiliations: Honors College (SK and AW)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lee Ann Westman, Associate Teaching Professor of Gender Studies
*Recipients of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Research and Travel Grants*

Title of Project: National Collegiate Honors Council

We are the current co-leaders of the Rutgers–Camden Honors College Peer Mentor Program. We have taken the previous program that suffered greatly due to COVID and readapted it to better suit life back on campus. During the Spring 2021 semester we noticed there was extremely low engagement from both mentors and mentees, thus we decided there were many changes that needed to take place for the students in the program to thrive and grow. With the help of the Honors College staff, we altered the curriculum to make it mandatory for all freshman and transfer students to be a part of the peer mentor program while simultaneously being in another Honors College-mandated course that helps them become more involved on campus. We have also added a one-credit course that is mandatory for all mentors to take in order to hone their leadership and mentoring skills during their time in our program. With the help of Dr. Lee Ann Westman, we plan to hold this class once a week where mentors will not only give us feedback about how their relationship with their mentee is progressing but also tell us how we can better assist them. We will ensure our program is ever improving by having both mentors and mentees complete a pre- and post-survey, which will ask about leadership efficacy, teaching efficacy, and sense of belonging to the program and Rutgers as a whole. Now, these students are assigned a qualified mentor who has a similar career path, who can guide them in their journey at Rutgers. We hope to foster long lasting relationships in the Honors College and build a camaraderie between students. We envision this program to be a staple aspect of the Rutgers–Camden Honors College and culminate generations of student leaders.

Dolly L. Marshall ‘23
Majors: Africana Studies and History
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kendra Boyd, Assistant Professor of History
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Research Grant*

Title of Project: African American Women and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Movement

My research project was focused on the leadership and contributions of African American women in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Movement. The W.C.T.U. as it was known, founded in 1874 is an international religious based temperance organization that was composed of women who utilized social reform to promote abstinence from alcohol, illegal drugs, and tobacco as a way of life. The African American women of the W.C.T.U. have been ignored, underrepresented, and not fully researched by historians. Many Black women were leaders in the temperance movement which was a reform movement similar to abolitionism, where women activists campaigned for the protection of home and family through secular and religious-based strategies based on Christianity. I will give an overview of this history as well as highlight many known and unknown African American women within the W.C.T.U, such as Ida B. Wells, Frances Ellen Watkins, and Mother Isabel Shipley.

I utilized newspaper archives, cemetery investigation and state archives to conduct my research. I also contacted the archivist at the Frances Willard House Museum in Evanston, Illinois. The museum was the former headquarters and home of feminist Frances Willard, the president of the National Women’s Christian Temperance Union and her experiences with all its members. The museum houses a library of records and documents pertaining to WCTU activities across the United States. As my family’s genealogist, I even have women temperance leaders in my family. By 1890, the WCTU was the largest organization of women in the world and was composed of many African American women. However, Black women have historically not been given the credit nor recognition for their work. Many were activists, missionaries, and educators who used the platform of the WCTU to keep the Black Family unified by advocating for the stop of the “liquor traffic” which was destroying the Black and Brown communities. I will present a history of one Camden Black woman temperance worker as well against the national movement of what was called “colored women’s work.” I will showcase how this reform movement led by women bridged the gap between the suffragist movement and modern-day feminism.

Nonny Mbathane ‘24 and Nataly Lopez ’23
Majors: Psychology and Gender Studies (NL and NM), Minor: Philosophy (NL) and Childhood Studies (NM)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tamara Nelson, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: Pre-Colonial South Afrikan Perspectives of Sexuality

Pre-colonial indigenous history, norms, and customs of South Afrika have been successfully eroded by colonization through colonial partitioning, an act that renders any non-white individuals as belated beings, who are trying to catch up to complete civilization. Eurocentric norms regarding sexuality have informed our current understanding of ‘appropriate’ sexuality. Further, these norms underscore a colonial social script, which is described as civilized, and close to whiteness. As such, anything that compromises the dominant power structures’ must be neutralized and potentially othered. Consequently, by policing bodies based on sexuality, through the dominant (i.e., western) culture’s gaze, sexually variant individuals may internalize inferiority. However, pre-colonial South Afrika did not view sexuality as an orientation of being, that required announcements and or a revealing of sexual preferences to the larger society.

“Meanwhile, before the Eurasian contact with Africa, the issue of human sexuality was well recognized as an individual right which is subject to group norms and values. The elderly members of the society initiated the individual members of the society into the concepts and the act of human sexuality through a well-organized and consistent socialization process” (Okechi, 2018). Moreover, sexuality was part of the individual, and not an aspect that was othered in the lives of those individuals, by the community or society. In other words, sexuality was not marginalized nor considered a deviation. Nonetheless, post-colonial perspectives of sexuality (i.e., heteronormativity, heterosexism) inform how certain bodies are treated, and are expected to behave for the dominant culture to maintain control over groups with sexual identities viewed as deviant. One way in which this has been achieved is through language, which forms social terms and narratives that create beliefs, which in turn affect the attitudes held by others and the environment in relation to sexual variation. Thus, understanding how the changes in pre-colonial attitudes and beliefs about sexuality via colonization have created a culture that is oppositional, punitive, and violent toward sexually diverse individuals is a much-needed analysis to investigate the connection between sexualities as they were in pre-colonial South Afrika and today’s mental health challenges among the LGBTQIA+ community who also identify as South Afrikan.

Sarah Mireles ’23 and Reese Mabolis ‘25
Majors: Psychology and Criminal Justice (SM) and Psychology (RM), Affiliations: Psi Chi, Tri-Alpha, and APA Law Division (SM) and Honors College (RM)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh, Associate Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: Examining Whether Gender Moderates the Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Intimate Partner Violence, and Discrimination on Mental Disorders among Hispanic Adults

Introduction: This study examined whether gender moderated the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), intimate partner violence (IPV) and discrimination on any lifetime mood, anxiety, or substance use disorder among Hispanic adults in the United States. Methods: Data was used from participants in wave II of the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions who identified as Hispanic and were not missing data (3.8%) on the variables of interest. The final analytic sample was comprised of 6,119 Hispanic adults (3,492 women and 2,627 men). Logistic regression tested the main effects of six adversities [(i.e., any child abuse (psychological, physical, or sexual), any child neglect (emotional or physical), any child household dysfunction (parental divorce, witnessing maternal battering, household substance abuse, household mental illness, household incarceration), IPV, gender discrimination and ethnic discrimination, as well as the child abuse-gender, child neglect gender, IPV-gender, gender discrimination-gender, and ethnic discrimination-gender interactions on any lifetime mood, anxiety, or substance use disorder. Results: Gender moderated the associations between 4 adversities on mood disorders, 3 adversities on anxiety disorders, and 5 adversities on substance use disorders. The impact of adversity varied by both type of abuse and gender. Any child neglect associated with greater odds of lifetime mood (AOR=1.43), but lower odds of lifetime SUD (AOR=0.72) among women than men. Conclusions: Gender moderated the associations between ACEs, IPV, and discrimination and the effects varied by type of adversity and mental health outcomes. Additional studies are needed to better understand the developmental impact of adversity on mental health by gender among Hispanic adults.

Kelly Nguyen ‘23
Major: Chemistry, Minor: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Salas-De la Cruz, Associate Professor of Chemistry
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Travel Grant*

Title of Project: Morphological and Physiochemical Effect of Cellulose Polymerized Ionic Liquid as a Function of Alky Chain Length

 Cellulose, composed of β linked d-glucose units in a linear chain, is the most abundant natural organic polysaccharide that makes up most of a plant’s cell walls. For this study, the backbone of microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), a purified cellulose, is functionalize with ionic liquids (ILs) to create a new natural material with tunable morphology and physicochemical properties including ionic conductivity. The following characterization tests are conducted to understand the properties of the new synthesized cellulose-based poly ionic liquids: Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), X-ray scattering, and ionic conductivity. Results demonstrate that the morphology is affected by alkyl chain length and type of anion. Specifically, microphase separation seem dependent on alkyl chain length which affect ionic conductivity. These newly synthesized cellulose can be used as electrolyte membranes, filtration membranes to remove carbon dioxide, and even as bionics in the medical field.

Acer Paiste ‘24
Majors: Sociology and Global Studies, Minors: International Politics and German
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joan Mazelis, Associate Professor of Sociology

Title of Project: Comprehensive Review of Disparities Faced by Transgender Individuals in the United States

This project will explore the disparities faced by transgender individuals across a variety of spheres in the United States. As trans people gain visibility within contemporary society, the backlash to changes surrounding gender norms and traditions have been substantial. It is important to highlight the particular disparities experienced by transgender people in relation to access to health care, education, and employment, in the perpetuation of poverty and discrimination, and in the particular ways in which these dynamics influence policy making around transgender bodies in the United States. I will be discussing the mental and physical health outcomes of transgender adults in comparison to their cisgender counterparts, the relationship between gender nonconformity and experiences of youth homelessness, as well as the intersection of “passability” and experiences of discrimination. The systemic discrimination experienced by transgender individuals must be acknowledged as the discourse around trans bodies and the subsequent questions around the worth of trans people remains relatively unchallenged by society. The exposure to such volatile discourse is already associated with lower mental and physical health outcomes among trans individuals, as I will demonstrate, making the dispelling of such narratives a crucial catalyst for social progress and change.

John Perks ‘23
Major: Art, Minor: Art History
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Pilliod, Assistant Professor of Art History

Title of Project: Reconstruction of a Lost Wonder: Phidias’ Cult Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The cult statue was the piece of art that was at the center of religious worship in the ancient Greek world. These marvels of ivory and gold were of the highest status of any statue or indeed any singular artwork. It is such a shame then that no examples of ancient Greek cult statues survive today. As the traditional ancient Greek religion fell out of favor and was supplanted by Christianity, these masterpieces were either destroyed for depicting pagan gods, were left to decay as their followers abandoned them, or had their golden ornamentation stripped to be melted down and repurposed. To give a glimpse into what these most central of artworks could have looked like, I have decided to attempt to recreate, as accurately as possible, a 3D CGI rendering of one of the most famous cult statues, Zeus at Olympia by the master sculptor Phidias. To create an accurate as possible rendering, one must examine firsthand accounts, other works of Phidias and his workshop, and historical documentation concerning the construction of the statue. The statue of Zeus at Olympia is considered one of the wonders of the ancient world, however high quality depictions of it have been relegated to two-dimensional sketches and prints. By using modern digital sculpting, 3D modeling, 3D texturing, and 3D rendering/lighting software, I hope to create a depiction that is more accurate, more detailed, and viewable in the round in hopes of giving us the slightest peek into this masterwork’s lost glory.

Anthony Sbarra ’23
Majors: Chemistry and Philosophy, Minor: Mathematics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Benedetto Piccoli, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Research and Travel Grants and the Chancellor’s Grant for Independent Student Research*

Title of Project: Validation of Epidemiological Models Coupled with Variant Dynamics and SIR Model Analysis for Assessing Viral Load

 During the primary course of this research, methods for validating an epidemiological model SIR coupled with variant dynamics were developed for understanding how these affect the spread of infectious diseases. Here this original SIR model uses Markov chains for predicting a discrete number of variants and how these will each determine the spread throughout the population. For validating the model real-world data is used to fit the model parameters. Pandemic waves can be visualized from these simulations which validate that waves of increased infection occurred at times of virus mutation. In conjunction with this work the Markov chain is being utilized for looking into how the sociodemographic variables can determine how the virus will spread and just what this means at a smaller scale than previously looked into. Most models have looped at the county or state level while looking into the sociodemographic effect at the county level will be the new approach in that area. Further methodology is in development for coupling viral load dynamics with SIR models and how these influence the spread of viruses. Having a high viral load since the time of infection amongst the population correlates to an increased number of infections. Simulations such as these are able to provide powerful insight into different aspects of infectious diseases while also being able to validate mathematical models that describe the system.

Andrea Sellers ’23 and Samrawit B. Gebretensay ’23
Major: Childhood Studies and Psychology (AS) and Psychology (SG), Minors: Gender Studies (AS) and Childhood Studies (SG), Affiliations: EOF (SG)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tamara Nelson, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: Colorism and Texturism Among Black Emerging Adults: The State of Field and Future Directions

Colorism, light skin tone preference, has existed within the Black community since the trans-Atlantic Slave trade. Scholars have linked the origins of colorism to pseudoscientific ideas about race, racism, and white supremacy as ideology (Dixon & Telles, 2017). For example, many enslaved Black women, who were considered the property of their White slave owners, birthed White passing children resulting from sexual assault (Hunter, 2007). In short, these children were given advantageous opportunities on the plantations that created a racial and social hierarchy between lighter skin and darker-pigmented enslaved Black people (Hunter, 2007). Currently, researchers have found that Black individuals with European phenotypic features experience fewer experiences of racial discrimination compared to prominent Black features (Adams et al., 2016). Furthermore, researchers have linked colorism with texturism, a preference for hair with a smoother or looser texture that results in discrimination based on hair type. Notably, the Perception Institute (2016) conducted the first study that examined explicit and implicit attitudes about Black women’s hair (MacFarlane et al., 2017). Utilizing the hair IAT, scholars assessed attitudes and beliefs about Black women’s hair Hair IAT. Findings revealed explicit biases against Black women’s natural hair as well as a social stigma for wearing textured natural hair (MacFarlane et al., 2017). While scholars have found that colorism and texturism are associated with explicit bias in employment and media representation), less is known about colorism and texturism among Black emerging adults given the increase in discourse about and acceptance of natural hair. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to synthesize the research literature on colorism and texturism among Black emerging adults with a focus on scholarship that has highlighted outcomes of these constructs. I will also explore how these constructs may impact romantic attraction within this specific population.

Ajay Shah ’24
Major: Chemistry, Minor: Physics, Affiliation: Honors College
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Julianne Griepenburg, Assistant Professor of Physics, and Mr. Cory Trout, Teaching Instructor of Physics
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Research Grant*

Title of Project: Membrane disruptions in light-responsive nano-polymersomes in response to pulsed laser irradiation

Cancer has found a way to impact almost everyone in the world whether it be afflicting oneself or a loved one. From personal experience, it’s not always the cancer itself that is most brutal but rather the side effects associated with chemotherapy. Nanocarriers have been a novel topic of study in the past couple of years due the utility they hold. Nanopolymersomes (NPS) are synthetic nanocarriers made from a diblock copolymer. This copolymer has a hydrophobic and a hydrophilic region which allow it to self-assemble when in the right conditions. The use of copolymers can allow for high levels of tunability of the membrane thickness or how large the aqueous core of the NPS can be. This is extremely important when considering that different chemotherapy drugs have different molecular weights and sizes. The ability to change how big or small the NPS can be will allow for a broad range of chemo medications to be used and administered. The tunability of the membrane can come in handy as well when thinking about pain killers, since the many pain killers are hydrophobic, they can placed in the membrane and released as the chemo is released to help alleviate pain the patient may experience. In addition of placing materials in the tunable membrane, targeted DNA can be added to the membrane in order to direct these NPS to go to the affected part of the patients body. The NPS were also incorporated with gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). The incorporation of the AuNPs allows for the NPS to be ruptured by a specific wavelength of light. In this case a PULSE laser produces green light that interacts with the AuNPs and cause the NPS to rupture or porate. This means that light which is a clean stimulus can be used to NPS.

Akshay Shah ’24
Major: Chemistry, Minor: Biology
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Jinglin Fu, Associate Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Julianne Griepenburg, Assistant Professor of Physics
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Research and Travel Grants*

Title of Project: Plasmonic Activation of DNA Assemblies via Pulsed Irradiation

Creation of nanopores on DNA origami with spatiotemporal control is important for the control of smart carriers. Plasmonic nanomaterials such as gold nanoparticles (AuNP) can use its plasmonic properties to modify the surfaces of nanostructures upon laser irradiation. Laser irradiation the gold nanoparticle will heat up and directly transfer the thermal energy from the gold nanoparticle to the DNA origami structure and the gold nanoparticle will dissociate from the original nanostructure. This heat transfer will cause an expansion of the origami and the formation of nanopores. To control the exact placement of these nano pores. The testing of this research has yet to be completed, however, the testing of the gold nanoparticle dissociation is currently underway. The use of nano pores on nanostructures can be useful in the biomedical research by having a smart carrier deliver therapeutics to specific areas of the body with the therapeutic not reacting with unintended organs and organ systems.

Priyal Shah ‘24
Majors: Biology and Psychology, Minors: Childhood Studies and Chemistry, Affiliations: Honors College
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lauren Daniel, Associate Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: The Relationship Between Self-Esteem and Altruism and Intentions to Join the Bone Marrow Transplant Registry

Bone marrow transplants are stem cell transplants to treat individuals diagnosed with blood-based cancers and other hematological conditions. It is challenging to find genetic matches for many different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, it is difficult to cater recruitment efforts when individuals’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are unknown. Prior research suggests that altruism, self-esteem, and other personality traits impact charitable behaviors. Still, little is known about altruism and self-esteem levels in people who choose to donate. This study aims to examine the relationship that self-esteem and altruism have on the intentions and motivations of college students to join the bone marrow transplant registry. 198 students (69.2% female, mean age=19.97) from the Rutgers Camden Psychology Participant Pool completed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale and the Altruism measure through an online survey.

The participants displayed average self-esteem (M=17.04, SD=2.79), with a self-esteem score between 15 and 25 in the normal range. The participants also displayed low altruism (M=31.97, SD=12.82), where an altruism score between 50-70 is considered in the normal range. Of these participants, 40.8% indicated they would register with Be The Match. Contrary to hypotheses, self-esteem [t (167)=0.87, p=0.386] and altruism [t (167)=1.21, p=0.227] were similar between groups who agreed to register with Be the Match and those who reported they would not register. The preliminary results of this study suggest that self-worth and altruistic behaviors do not influence registration for the Bone Marrow Transplant Registry. Further studies are needed to understand what factors impact this registration to tailor recruitment efforts effectively. One limitation of the survey was that students were unfamiliar with bone marrow transplants, which may have limited their ability to make an informed decision. This ongoing study will be beneficial in understanding what drives individuals to sign up for the bone marrow transplant registry based on their personality and intrinsic motivations.

Madona Soliman ’24
Majors: English and Digital Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Robert Emmons, Associate Teaching of Film

Title of Project: The Haunting of the Briar Hill Estate 

For my Digital Studies Capstone project, I created a Choose Your Own Adventure-style interactive story website. The reader can choose between three different story routes, “The Medium,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Detective.” Each of these will have a different mission and the outcome of the mission will depend on the choices the reader makes. There are a variety of endings, some good and some bad. The website was designed using Wix software and I used an AI image-generating website known as Novel AI to create the images used in this project. All characters and story aspects were my own creation and this project serves as something of a prologue for a novel I am currently working on.

Tasjané Taylor ’23 and Britney Dang ‘24
Majors: Health Sciences and Economics (TT) and Economics (BD), Minor: Computer Science (BD), Affiliations: Honors College (BD)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tetsuji Yamada, Professor of Economics

Title of Project: Assessment of Obesity-related State Programs for Childhood Obesity Prevention: Quasi-Experimental Study

The study assessed the effects of various state obesity programs including obesity-related school standards, obesity-related program options, and obesity-related state initiatives. The study was done in the context of a behavioral model using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System by the CDC. The implementations of state obesity programs are likely to reduce childhood obesity. State enforcement of health education in schools is the most effective program option in obesity-related school standards. For obesity-related state program options, the dominant program is associated with private insurance coverage for obesity treatment and prevention. The obesity-related state programs are heavier among African American children than Hispanic and white children. The obesity burden is concentrated more heavily in white children who live in states with fewer obesity-related state programs than Hispanic and African American children. Unlike African American children, obese Hispanic and white children are more evenly spread throughout income levels. Sports activities, exercises, and TV/video watching are strongly associated with children at risk of obesity. The effects of sports after school on obese and overweight children are about four times larger than those of unstructured physical exercises. TV/video watching hours demonstrated that an increase in one hour per day of watching TV/video on a school day would increase obesity in children by 4.1% (aged 6-12 years old) and 7.3% (aged 13-17 years old). An important contribution to the literature is the finding that state health education enforcement is a prime and effective tool which will provide guidance as to the scale and scope of the local obesity epidemic of school children. Obesity related state programs are more effective towards African American and Hispanic children than towards white children in general.

Tracy Tse ‘23
Major: Art, Minors: Art History and Digital Studies, Affiliations: EOF
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Pilliod, Assistant Professor of Art History
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Research Grant*

Title of Project: Materializes Fashion from Portrait 

The clothes-making process is a design operation that includes the consideration of the wearer. As a result, a garment can retain a wealth of information about the history and beliefs of the people who wear them. The structure of a garment can help indicate the function, occasion, social status, gender, age, marital status, economic trade, climate, time periods, etc. Therefore, fashion history is a valuable area to research since it embodies cultural heritage and is a visual marker of societal changes. For those reasons, my creative research focuses on recreating garments from master paintings. The project aims to create a replica of outfits from paintings to help visually organize information from 2-dimensional into 3-dimensional visuals. The process includes analyzing paintings, researching, drafting patterns, and sewing together the outfit will create valuable informative reference models. Looking at an image isn’t enough to understand the complexity compared to a physical object. Often many details are overlooked and not considered due to a lack of visual comprehension. Paintings are good references to study history, and a sample display can help improve future studies. Portrait paintings have always been more than just recording the appearance of someone but a symbol of power, importance, virtue, beauty, wealth, taste, and qualities of the model. The models in portraits are often people of high status and trendsetters of their time. Studying portraits can help us understand their social standards.

The result will be beneficial to historians, clothing/textile technologists, historical period production, museum restoration, and fashion history.

Orgelys Vasquez-Home ’24 and Skylar Rucci ‘23
Majors: Psychology and Criminal Justice (OV) and Psychology (SR), Minor: Philosophy (SR), Affiliations: Honors College (OV)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh, Associate Professor of Psychology
*Recipients of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Travel Grant*

Title of Project: Examining Whether Gender Moderates the Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Intimate Partner Violence, and Discrimination on Mental Disorders among Hispanic Adults

Background: Little is known about whether gender moderates the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or intimate partner violence (IPV) on nicotine dependence (ND). AIM: This national study examined whether gender moderated the impact of ACE types (i.e., child abuse, child neglect, or child household dysfunction) or IPV on past year ND. Design: Cross-sectional study of wave II of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Setting: United States of America. Participants: A total of 33,524 participants (n=19, 383 females, 20-90 years old). Measurement: Lay interviewers conducted computer-assisted interviews that included survey questions about ACEs, IPV, and assessed ND according the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders IV. Findings: Gender moderated the impact of child abuse, child neglect, child household dysfunction and IPV on ND. Specifically, child abuse, child household dysfunction and IPV were associated with significantly greater odds of ND among women than men, but child neglect was associated with significantly lower odds of ND among women than men. Conclusions: The associations between ACEs and ND are moderated by gender among adults in the United States.

Destiny Williams ‘23 and Jeniska Rivera ‘24
Majors: Psychology (DW and JR), Affiliations: TriO SSS (DW) and Honors College (JR)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh, Associate Professor of Psychology

Title of Project: Does Gender Moderate the Impact of Adversities and Mental Disorders on Alcohol Use Disorder

Background: Little is known about whether gender moderates the impact of adversity and mental disorders on alcohol use disorder (AUD) among Black adults. Study Aim: This study examined whether gender moderated the impact of six adversities (i.e., child abuse, child neglect, child household dysfunction, intimate partner violence, past-year gender discrimination, past year racial discrimination) and three types of mental disorders (i.e., lifetime mood disorder, lifetime anxiety disorder, or lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder) on past year AUD among Black adults. Method: Data were used from participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions who identified as Black (N=6,372). Logistic regression tested the main effects of child abuse (i.e., psychological, physical, or sexual), child neglect (physical or emotional), household dysfunction during childhood (i.e., parental divorce, witnessing maternal domestic violence, household substance abuse, household mental illness, or household incarceration), intimate partner violence, past-year gender discrimination, past-year racial discrimination, lifetime mood disorder, lifetime anxiety disorder, and lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder on alcohol use disorder as well as the interactions between these variables and gender. Results: Gender moderated the impact of all adversities and lifetime mood disorder on AUD. Specifically, child abuse, child household dysfunction, gender discrimination and lifetime mood disorder were associated with greater odds of AUD among Black women than men. In contrast, child neglect, intimate partner violence and racial discrimination were associated with greater odds of AUD among Black men than women. Implications: Findings suggest gender differences in the correlates of AUD for Black adults.

Alexis Winters ’24
Major: Biology, Minors: Chemistry, Spanish, and Psychology, Affiliations: Honors College
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anthony Geneva, Assistant Professor of Biology
*Recipient of the Arts and Sciences Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Undergraduate Research and Travel Grants*

Title of Project: Phylogenetic Analysis of Adenovirus found in Podarcis siculus

Adenoviruses (AdVs) infect a wide range of hosts, and they have undergone recent and ancient host transfers multiple times. In reptiles, AdVs have been found in many captive individuals, and have been implicated in morbidity and mortality in several species. Yet the pathogenicity, transmission, phylogenetic distribution, and source of AdVs in wild populations are still unknown. These mysterys are slowly being unlocked on an individual species basis via nested PCR and DNA sequencing. There has been no previous work done on the invasive Podarcis siculus, this project aims to identify the AdV strains that infect Podarcis, and to phylogentically analuze them to better understand the evolution of squmate Adenoviruses.



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