Event Details

Tuesday, April 16, 2024
All in the Multi-Purpose Room
12 p.m. – 3 p.m.: Project presentations (click to jump to abstracts)
3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Paper competition winner keynote speeches
4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Poster exhibition (see Research Poster abstracts below)
Registration recommended for this event. Click here to register today.


2024 Research Posters


Aleece Siner – Biology

An organism’s ability to adapt to photoperiodic changes in day-length is an important factor in biological activities, including reproduction. This adaptation to the changing day-length, known as photoperiodism, maximizes reproductive success. The mechanisms of photoperiodic regulation of flowering have been well documented in plants. It is also known that other organisms including Neurospora crassa show photoperiodism. Although N. crassa has been a successful eukaryotic model organism in understanding the mechanisms of measuring the daily rhythm by the circadian clock, the mechanisms of photoperiodic regulation and its relationship to the circadian clock are not well understood. Based on the preliminary data from our laboratory, we hypothesized that there could be different mechanisms of photoperiodism in N. crassa. To test this hypothesis, we will perform the night-interruption experiment. It is known that under equinox conditions (12 hours light:12 hours darkness), the production of protoperithecia, the female sexual organ of the N. crassa, is higher than under the short-day condition (8 hours light: 16 hours darkness). In this study, we examine the critical night length required for fungi to discriminate between short day-light conditions (8 hours light:16 hours dark) and equinox light conditions (12 hours light:12 hours dark). The results of this experiment will contribute to our knowledge of the novel mechanisms through which fungi measure day-length.

Christina Suoto – Biology

The hippocampus, which includes the dentate gyrus and CA3 subregions, is responsible for many functions, including memory, pattern recognition, and learning processes. Fos proteins are a protein family that resides within the hippocampus and works alongside Jun family proteins to facilitate transcriptional regulation. C-Fos is a member of the Fos family that is used as biomarker for neuronal and behavioral activity that can be detected using immunohistochemistry. The expression of c-Fos can be increased via multiple mechanisms, including neuronal activity and the sex hormone estradiol. C-Fos is expressed throughout the brain in mammals, including the hippocampus in mice. Although previous studies demonstrated estradiol and c-Fos are correlated within ovariectomized rats, whether c-Fos is increased in the hippocampus of female mice during the natural estrus cycle is unknown. Here, we propose to quantify c-Fos expressing cells in male mice, female mice in proestrus with high estradiol levels, and female mice that are not in proestrus and have much lower estradiol levels. We are quantifying c-Fos in the dentate gyrus and CA3 subregions of the hippocampus in females at different estrous cycle stages to investigate whether differences in estradiol or neuronal activity increase c-Fos expression in females. We will also investigate behavioral differences in hippocampal function in males and females at different estrous cycle stages. In doing so, we hope to build a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of hippocampal function in males and females at different estrous cycle stages.


Center for Computational Integrative Biology (CCIB)

Siddharth Bhadra-Lobo – CCIB

Protein structure prediction algorithms such as AlphaFold2 and ESMFold have dramatically increased the availability of high-quality models of protein structures. Because these algorithms predict only the structure of the protein itself, there is a growing need for methods that can rapidly screen protein structures for ligands. In this work, we introduce SE3Lig, a model for semantic in-painting of small molecules in protein structures. Specifically, we report SE(3)-equivariant CNNs trained to predict the atomic densities of common classes of cofactors (hemes, flavins, etc.) and the water molecules and inorganic ions in their vicinity. While the models are trained on high-resolution crystal structures of enzymes, they perform well on structures predicted by AlphaFold2, which suggests that the algorithm correctly represents cofactor-binding cavities.

Joshua Chamberlain – CCIB

Liposomal drug delivery has been at the forefront of nanoparticle drug delivery systems for nearly 30 years. These liposomes and their components, including lipids, must be highly characterized to provide the ideal conditions for effective drug delivery. Among the commonly used lipids in liposome formation are ceramides and sphingolipids. Recent discoveries regarding bacterial ceramide synthesis have created opportunities to incorporate novel, previously uncharacterized, bacterially derived sphingolipids into these synthetic membranes. Here, we report on the development of various analyses to characterize the effects that novel sphingolipids have on membrane biophysical properties, as well as our efforts to purify and characterize the novel C. crescentus lipid, Ceramide Poly-Phosphoglycerate (CPG2).

Caden Comsa – CCIB

As the world’s “6th Mass Extinction” continues due to anthropogenic change, more and more species are driven to endangerment and become susceptible to the risks associated with small population sizes. One such species recently discovered in 2015, the Conception Bank Silver Boa (Chilabothrus argentum), is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with an estimated census population of 128 individuals (95% confidence interval of 78-246). Unfortunately, recent (2020) legislative changes in the Bahamas have made it highly untenable to continue most externally-funded ecological research, including fulfilling critical recommendations made by the IUCN in 2019 for conservation actions to protect the Silver Boa. To prevent a full shutdown of conservation efforts, we will perform whole genome sequencing of all currently existing samples taken from Silver Boas to assess the species’ population size and genomic health. Using Illumina short read sequencing, we have successfully obtained reads for 12 individuals out of only 20 existing specimen samples, each at an estimated 30X coverage. To obtain a closely-related reference for haplotype calling, we are assembling a high-quality reference genome from the Turks and Caicos Boa (Chilabothrus chrysogaster), the closest living relative of the Silver Boa. Using these genomes, we will begin by analyzing the Silver Boa population’s level of heterozygosity and degrees of relatedness between individuals. We then aim to determine the demographic history of the population, and whether the population experienced recent decline or has been at a small size for a longer time. With this information, we hope to evaluate whether the Silver Boa population is suffering from or at risk of inbreeding depression, or has had the fortune of undergoing purging of deleterious alleles and is genetically stable at a small population size. Besides contributing to our eventual goal of sequencing every living Silver Boa, our work will allow us to gain insights into the population’s genomic health and evolutionary history and thus better inform outstanding plans that include conservation management and a breeding program

Tanisha Dhakephalkar – CCIB

A common feature among nearly all gram-negative bacteria is the requirement for lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the outer leaflet of the outer membrane. LPS provides structural integrity to the bacterial membrane, which aids bacteria in maintaining their shape and acts as a barrier from environmental stress and harmful substances such as detergents and antibiotics. Recent work has demonstrated that Caulobacter crescentus can survive without LPS due to the presence of the anionic sphingolipid ceramide-phosphoglycerate (CPG). Based on genetic evidence, we predicted that protein CpgB functions as a ceramide kinase and performs the first step in generating the phosphoglycerate head group. Here, we characterized the kinase activity of recombinantly expressed CpgB and demonstrated that it can phosphorylate ceramide to form ceramide 1-phosphate. The pH optimum for CpgB was 7.5, and the enzyme required Mg2+ as a cofactor. Mn2+, but no other divalent cations, could substitute for Mg2+. Under these conditions, the enzyme exhibited typical Michaelis–Menten kinetics with respect to NBD C6-ceramide (Km,app = 19.2 ± 5.5 μM; Vmax,app = 2590 ± 230 pmol/min/mg enzyme) and ATP (Km,app = 0.29 ± 0.07 mM; Vmax,app = 10,100 ± 996 pmol/min/mg enzyme). Phylogenetic analysis of CpgB revealed that CpgB belongs to a new class of ceramide kinases, which is distinct from its eukaryotic counterpart; furthermore, the pharmacological inhibitor of human ceramide kinase (NVP-231) had no effect on CpgB. The characterization of a new bacterial ceramide kinase opens avenues for understanding the structure and function of the various microbial phosphorylated sphingolipids.

Truman Dunkley – CCIB

The ubiquity of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as the universal energy currency across almost all species underscores its pivotal role in facilitating life. Psychrophiles, cold loving organisms, face formidable challenges in ATP synthesis, given the temperature-dependent decrease of enzymatic rate, a phenomenon known as the Arrhenius relationship. Mesenchytraeus solifugus, is such a psychrophile which potentially utilizes a distinct strategy in overcoming this obstacle via a C-terminal extension of the mitochondrially encoded ATP6 subunit of the ATP synthase complex. To investigate the efficacy of this adaptation, we engineered a fusion of this extension and the homologous protein AtpB in E. coli (dubbed exAtpB), revealing a significant increase in the maximum velocity (Vmax) of the ATP synthase complex. Remarkably, this enhancement persisted across other bacterial species such as Caulobacter crescentus despite minor component and structural differences in the ATP synthase complex. The broad efficacy of this C-terminal tail across species underscores its potential as a simple yet potent modulator of ATP synthase catalytic efficiency.

Alireza Ebrahimimojarad – CCIB

In recent times, nucleic acids self-assemblies have gained popularity as nanomaterials due to their ability to arrange themselves in a precise and resilient manner, offering specific shapes and versatile functions. Nonetheless, a significant obstacle remains in effectively purifying sizable amounts of DNA nanostructures or DNA-templated nanocomplexes for diverse applications. Current purification techniques often fall short in scalability or compatibility with tailored structures. To address this challenge, we present a dependable and scalable method for purifying DNA nanostructures utilizing Sepharose resin-based size exclusion. This approach enables manual column packing with the added advantage of reuse. Purification is accomplished through a gentle gravity flow process, wherein larger DNA nanostructures are initially eluted, followed by smaller impurities like single-stranded DNA and proteins. We have validated the efficacy of this method in purifying both DNA origami assemblies and protein-bound DNA nanostructures. In contrast to traditional agarose gel electrophoresis, which typically yields 1 µg or less of purified products, our technique can purify around 100 to 1000 µg of DNA nanostructures within 30 minutes, with consistent recovery rates ranging from 50% to 60%. The resulting purified nanocomplexes demonstrate improved precision in assessing enzyme functions and triggering antibody-mediated activation of complement protein reactions.

Cleo Falvey – CCIB

Project-based learning can significantly improve students’ understanding of science, particularly complex concepts such as evolution and change over time. In addition, project-based learning allows students to learn how scientists think about problems, working collaboratively to solve them. Here, we present the Urban Lizard Adaptation Challenge, which allows students to understand concepts of evolution and human-induced environmental change. This curriculum is one week-long and developed in partnership with two sixth-grade science teachers in Manhattan (MS-104). It starts with students learning about lizards, as well as the urbanization pressures that Anolis lizards have adapted to. Students then are able to construct a creative project of a lizard model with one or more adaptations and tradeoffs, highlighting some of the differences between an animal living in the city or the forest. Overall, the curriculum is aligned to New York Science Scope and Sequence and Next-Generation Science Standards. This curriculum was presented to two groups students, totaling over 400 students, in Spring 2022 and Spring 2023. Taken together, this project has served as a resource to bring a deeper understanding of human impacts on environmental change.

Cathryn Maienza – CCIB

Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is an evolutionarily ancient and widely conserved hormone produced by the tryptophan biosynthesis pathway. The hormone is renowned for its clinical use as a sleep-aid drug in humans, yet research into its molecular interactions leave much to be uncovered. Despite ongoing pharmaceutical research on human melatonin receptors MT1 and MT2, a simple eukaryotic model organism with orthologous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) to MT1/MT2 has yet to be identified. Such a finding could provide a powerful alternative to mammalian model organisms, possessing conserved mechanisms for molecular effectors of melatonin such as antioxidation and circadian regulation. In this study, 43 known GPCRs in the classic fungal chronobiology system, Neurospora crassa, were structurally predicted using AlphaFold2 and compared to the morphology of MT1/MT2 using Dali protein alignment. We identified a putative gene, gpr3, whose structure was most similar to human melatonin receptors and lacked a response to melatonin when tested experimentally. This is the first identification of a novel melatonin-related receptor in fungi and highlights the usefulness of AlphaFold2 paired with Dali for the identification of other novel genes across kingdoms.

Abneris Morales – CCIB

While cellulose and its derivatives have garnered significant attention for advanced manufacturing purposes, the interest in other bio-derived polymers for similar applications has also been on the rise. One such biopolymer is agarose, a linear polysaccharide composed of repeating agarobiose units extracted from red algae. Much like cellulose, agarose boasts natural abundance, non-toxicity, renewability, and biodegradability, and it possesses unique properties, such as the ability to form thermos-reversible gels and freestanding films. However, both materials share certain limitations, including brittleness, lack of flexibility, and fragility under low moisture conditions. To address these shortcomings, plasticizers have been employed to enhance the flexibility and stretchability of agarose films. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), owing to their crystalline nature, have been harnessed as reinforcing agents with the use of CNC with differing polymorphs as supporting agents for plasticized agarose films to exert control over folding behavior. In this study, agarose and cellulose nanocrystals, along with various additives and innovative techniques, will be utilized as promising avenues for developing versatile materials with enhanced mechanical and thermal properties, opening up exciting possibilities for applications such as actuating textiles.

Millaniyage Udari Hansika Peiris – CCIB

Changes in precipitation patterns due to climate change is a growing threat to global biodiversity and ecosystem functions. While water availability can affect the structure of ecological communities via changes in species diversity and species interactions, their effects can vary among taxonomic groups and trophic levels. However, our current understanding of the mechanisms underlying these distinct responses is limited. Further, synthesis work on the effects of water availability on ecological communities has been largely focused on selected trophic groups from a few habitats. However, the taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity of communities may differ in their responses to water availability. To address this issue, we conducted a meta-analysis on the responses of aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal communities to changes in water availability. We predict that taxonomic diversity will be affected more strongly than functional diversity since functional redundancy may counteract precipitation effects on functional diversity. In addition, we expected that decreased precipitation will reduce the percent cover and biomass of plant communities and that these responses will vary depending on functional groups due to their different sensitivity to precipitation changes. Here, we synthesize 981 observations worldwide and show that most studies on community-level responses to water availability were conducted in Asia (49.5%), Europe (29.1%), and North America (21.4%). To date, only a small number of studies have focused on aquatic invertebrates (4.2% of the total case studies). In terrestrial habitats, we found significant decreases in the taxonomic and functional diversity of plants and soil invertebrates in response to decreased water availability and vice versa. In contrast to our prediction, the functional diversity of animals responded more strongly than taxonomic diversity likely due to the turnover of functionally distinct species. However, plant communities did not show significant differences in functional and taxonomic diversity in response to water availability. In addition, macroinvertebrate diversity significantly decreased in response to decreased precipitation in aquatic habitats. Precipitation changes affected aquatic and terrestrial communities differently since the diversity of aquatic invertebrates responded more strongly than terrestrial invertebrates and plants, under decreased precipitation conditons. The results from this meta-analysis can be used to identify and address knowledge gaps in community-level responses to precipitation changes and the underlying causes explaining variation on these responses.

Jesse Sandberg – CCIB

The Envelope protein (E protein) of SARS-CoV-2 forms a pentameric viroporin and is found in high copy number in the host cell’s Endoplasmic Reticulum Golgi Intermediate Compartment (ERGIC) upon infection. Experimental evidence shows that the E protein induces ERGIC membrane curvature, participating in the budding process that allows for viral exocytosis and infection of new cells. The mechanism through which this small, integral membrane protein bends membranes remains unknown. Coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations of a membrane-embedded E-protein yield membrane deformations that are unusually long-range. Even more surprisingly, these deformations become more pronounced as the simulation box increases. Here, we test the effects of leaflet thickness on the amplitude of E protein-induced membrane deformations. We use our simulation analysis software nougat to quantify asymmetric thickness deformations and leaflet curvature. Furthermore, we compare these deformations with predictions from continuum elastic simulations to elucidate possible mechanisms.

Ezry Santiago-McRae- CCIB

The Pentameric Ligand-Gated Ion Channel (pLGIC) protein family, which includes essential neurotransmitter receptors, is well-known to exhibit sensitivity to their local lipid environment. Erwinia Ligand-gated Ion Channel (ELIC) is a prokaryotic member of the pLGIC family. We recently demonstrated that ELIC selectively binds POPG over POPC or POPE, and that this affinity is state-dependent by computing relative free energies of binding. Furthermore, our SAFEP methodology calculated the absolute free energies of binding between membrane proteins and lipids. Here, we build upon those results to estimate the functional effects of lipid binding on ELIC by comparing the absolute binding free energies for both conducting (active) and non-conducting (inactive) conformations.

Creston Singer – CCIB

In the field of biomaterial design there is growing interest in the development of new smart materials, materials that can be actuated by external stimuli to alter shape. Controlling a material’s shape by external stimuli allows objects to have additional functionality and imparts new methods of control. Agarose is one such actuating biomaterial that is additionally non-toxic, biodegradable, and readily alters shape with moisture, either expanding or contracting. These expansions and contractions are normally imprecise and chaotic, but with the addition of a passive material to act as a scaffold by which to direct agarose’s movement, precision and control can be achieved. Furthermore, scaffold design and integration into agarose films can be varied, being accomplished by either casting agarose gel onto a scaffold in a mold during film gelation, precisely extruding agarose gel onto a scaffold by 3D printing, or through the injection of a crystalizing solution into an agarose gel. Agarose film composition provides a further avenue to control shape through film composition with the addition of crosslinking agents and the formation of hydrogen bonds leading to variations in bending forces. Taken together, this study aims to examine agarose films of varying composition and intermolecular forces and combine them with scaffolds of varying patterns and polymeric materials to discover the connections between film composition, scaffold design and ultimate shape morphing capabilities. To understand the structural morphology of the agarose composites, various analytical techniques will be implemented including Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA), tensile strength, strain gauge measurements, and X-Ray scattering.

Helen Stott – CCIB

Animal development is controlled by a tightly regulated network of gene expression where genes are often reused across multiple life stages and tissues (Cardoso-Moreira et al., 2020). The signaling pathways and genes making up this network show deep conservation across the animal family tree (Carroll, 2008). Our current understanding of the underlying mechanisms regulating the same gene in multiple tissues is limited to a few genes. Recent studies have also demonstrated that paralogous genes with co-expression can share cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) (Baudouin-Gonzalez et al., 2017; Bourbon et al., 2022, Lan and Pritchard 2016; Levo et al. 2022; Loker and Mann, 2022; Stevens et al. 2022). The T-box (Tbx) transcription factors are an ancient family of genes in animals (Sebé-Pedrós et al., 2013). The Drosophila Tbx20 homologs midline (mid) and H15 demonstrate conserved functions across arthropods, with roles in the determination of posterior fate during oogenesis, axis formation in the developing limbs, specification of neurons, and formation of the heart tube in developing embryos (Buescher et al., 2004; Buescher et al., 2006; Miskolczi-McCallum et al., 2005; Prpic et al., 2005; Pyrowolakis et al., 2017; Svendsen et al., 2009). Additionally, these two genes sit within an isolated topologically associating domain (TAD) that contains no other genes, making mid/H15 an excellent system for expanding our understanding of developmental gene regulation. We examined the roles of three CRMs on mid/H15 patterning and tissue development. Using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, we deleted combinations of the three CRMs. Two (G04 and F11) are associated with mid/H15 expression in the ovarian follicle cells. The third, the ventral leg enhancer (VLE), had been predicted to regulate their expression in the ventral domain of the leg disc (Levo et al., 2022; Revaitis et al., 2017, Svendsen et al., 2015). Impacts from the deletion of G04 and F11 were only evident in the ovaries (Stevens et al., 2022). Deletion of the VLE led to pleiotropic effects on leg and wing morphogenesis.

Chioma Uchendu – CCIB

Sphingolipids are essential components produced by most eukaryotes, playing significant roles in cellular process such as cell growth, programmed cell death, angiogenesis, and inflammation. Despite the previous belief that sphingolipids were uncommon in bacteria, recent bioinformatic analysis of identified bacterial synthesis genes suggest a broader production among microbial species. The sphingolipid synthesis pathway involves three key enzymes: serine palmitoyl transferase, which catalyzes the condensation of serine with palmitoyl-CoA; ceramide synthase, responsible for adding the second acyl chain; and a reductase, which reduces the ketone on the long-chain base. While the identity of these bacterial enzymes is generally agreed upon, the precise mechanism and order of chemical reactions for microbial sphingolipid synthesis remains quite unclear, two proposed mechanisms include following the well-characterized eukaryotic pathway, where the long-chain base is reduced before the addition of the second acyl chain, or an alternative model where the second acyl chain is added before the reduction of the long-chain base. To distinguish between these models, we investigated the subcellular localization of the three key enzymes. Our findings reveal that serine palmitoyl transferase and ceramide synthase are located in the cytoplasm, while ceramide reductase is found in the periplasmic space. This supports our previous model, suggesting that the second acyl chain is added in the cytoplasm before export to the periplasm, where the lipid molecule undergoes reduction.

Ujjwal Verma – CCIB

Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) stand out in nanotechnology with unique properties compared to bulk materials and small molecules, leading to diverse applications in various fields due to properties like high surface area, size-dependent effects, and specialized optical and catalytic behaviors. Recently, the emerging click chemistry technique has captured significant research interest, offering a versatile and efficient approach to chemical reactions and molecular modifications. This study elucidates a method to produce controlled, monodisperse alkyne functionalized gold nanoparticles via a technique called pulsed laser ablation in liquids (PLAL). Furthermore, a technique is presented to describe a method of assembling “clickable” Gold-nanoparticle (AuNP) functionalized with alkyne groups, which can be used as a building block for conjugation with azide-functionalized molecules via copper-free azide-alkyne [2+3] cycloaddition, i. e. a click reaction. We intend to employ this method to anchor these “clickable” AuNPs onto DNA origami structures.



Hannah Todd – Chemistry

Cannabidiol (CBD) products are increasing in demand, sold as health supplements, vapes and cosmetics in health stores and over the internet. They are sold with the claim that they provide relief from pain and other health benefits however, many of these products have no, or limited scientific data to support this. It has been reported in scientific literature that both CBD, Δ9- tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and other phytocannabinoids have been identified in these products however no meaningful assessment has been published of how these products vary in dose. Since CBD products were, and continue to be, sold as supplements, they do not need to meet the same standards as pharmaceutical products: there is currently no worldwide legislation standardizing production, dosage, or medical claims with respect to CBD products which has the potential to cause problems to the criminal justice system particularly with respect to roadside drug testing. Tablets with a label stating dose of CBD were purchased to establish if labelling on the containers was correct and if any other phytocannabinoids were present that could have pharmacological implications.

A gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS) method was created to detect eight cannabinoids, namely cannabidiol (CBD), Δ9-tetrhydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), Δ8-tetrhydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabidivarin (CBDV), and Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). This method was developed with the initial guidance of literature and validated using the ANSI/ASB standard 036 Standard Practices for Method Validation in Forensic Toxicology. There was an establishment of sample preparation including derivatization, the identification of cannabinoids utilizing their parent ions and their fragment ions, the determination of the quantifier ions for each cannabinoid and alterations of the method parameters used. The method was validated by assessing bias (accuracy), precision, calibration model, interference, limit of detection (LOD), limit of quantitation(LOQ), and robustness with no more than a 20% error allowance for the relevant validation parameter to be fulfilled. After validation, the method was utilized for the analysis of four different CBD tablets purchased online. This analysis was to detect any cannabinoids that may have been advertised and to see if there are any additional cannabinoids that were present. With the detection of these cannabinoids, the concentrations were found and calculated to show the estimated milligrams (mg) in the tablets. The results were assessed, and it was evident that there is variation within the tablets of the cannabinoids present versus the advertised information.


Childhood Studies

Elaysel German – Childhood Studies

This presentation explores the tensions between multiracial liberalism’s notions of care and a black feminist ethics of care. While the normative canon of care theory has been critiqued by leftist-structuralists for its “ahistoricism, cultural bias, and obliviousness to systemic power relations” (Thompson, 1998), I wonder about how practices and ideas of care that arise from acknowledging systemic injustice work to reproduce that very system. Liberal notions of care have centered on emotional labor with individuals in the quasi-private sphere (such as schools). This over-emphasis on the individual and the emotional sits in contrast with black feminist ethics of care which stress “not only emotional labor, but also political labor, physical labor, and intellectual labor” in community (Thompson, 1998).  I seek to investigate how the emotional labor involved in identifying systemic injustice serves as an alibi for multiracial liberalism’s practices of care in a resistant and progressive youth-centered urban farm program. 

In conversation with abolitionist anthropology as a practice of “reparative caring” (Shange, 2021) that seeks to be responsible for what is overlooked in social change projects, this presentation works to recognize a River City farm, its young urban farmers, and gardeners, within the “progressive dystopia” (Shange, 2021) of urban greening projects. Through interviews and participant observations with young black/latine urban farmers and gardeners, I make sense of how multiracial liberal notions of care are put to work in social justice coalitions. My fieldwork reveals how these practices of care enable antiblack racism and sexism even as they pursue social justice. By attuning to the schemes of care and learning between/within/beyond the young black/latine farmers/gardeners, I seek to understand a black feminist ethics of care and pedagogy that concerns itself with detecting the anti-black-girl structure of the Anthropocene and (re)orients black children, in pragmatic and strategic ways, toward survival and social change.  

I invite attendees to (re)story this North-eastern River city as an “embodied self-in-relation” (Styres, Haig-Brown, and Blimkie 2013) to colonization, slavery, and indigenous and black onto-epistemologies (Nxumalo, 2019, Cairns, 2021). We will work to sense the animating force of (urban) Land through its sounds, vibrant colors, textured pavement, metal, and greenery, in pursuit of the political dimensions of care that are needed rather than possible. By looking at and sensing the ordinary flooding and decay of foodways in this River City, we will contend with what care needs to, rather than can, be for urban youth within an expansive learning eco-system. We will ask, how do outdoor-encounters in the bustling streets, towering buildings, and diverse cultural spaces of the city stimulate our senses and trigger our emotions and responses thus shaping our perception of (urban) Land. We will consider how a self-assured and shy black girl’s insistence that the River City community “learn how to plant food” runs counterintuitively to the social reform project of the urban farm which limits the realm of care to the individual and the emotional consequently foreclosing care practices that labor politically, physically, and intellectually for communal survival and transformation. 

Anusha Iyer – Childhood Studies

This poster examines the effects of the ideologies of a right-wing State on young people’s nationalistic and political attachments. Focusing on a context like India where right-wing dogmas are currently framing the contours of nationalism, I show that elements of fun and humour are emerging as valid and productive ways of engaging with the political sphere for young people. Drawing upon interactions from a brief period of fieldwork in Gujarat, India in December 2023 and secondary literature, I demonstrate how young people – irrespective of their political allegiances tend to define their ideologies by doing ‘masti’. Masti, an equivalent of several terms from the English language such as fun, playfulness, light-heartedness, humour, or mischief, is not only a mode of political engagement for young people but also a responsive approach to the all-pervasive Neo-Hindutva discourse in contemporary India.

The Neo-Hindutva discourse in India has been defined as the “idiosyncratic expressions of Hindu nationalism which operate outside of the institutional and ideological framework of the Sangh Parivar” (Anderson, 2015). This definition has brought forth the various ways in which Hindutva has begun to permeate newer spaces. Through an intensified and far-reaching focus on forming the Hindu nation, the Neo-Hindutva discourse diffuses its logic of Hindu nationalism in an organized covert fashion leading to, what is termed as the ‘banalization of Hindu nationalism’ (Jaffrelot, 2018). As the crucible of the Hindu nation, children and youth have been entrusted and/or have taken on the responsibility of disseminating, reproducing as well as resisting such right-wing ideologies in and through everyday practices and ways of being. I will be presenting the various ways in which youth across a broad political spectrum are responding to this ‘everyday nationalism’ by engaging in masti. This poster builds upon Udupa’s argument of fun as a meta practice shaping right-wing mobilization (Udupa, 2019) and responds to Jeffrey’s call to examine humour as a tactic adopted by young people in political and economic contexts (Jeffrey, 2012). I argue that masti, with all its connotations, has emerged as a coping, mobilizing as well as radicalizing strategy in the face of the meditative yet normalized version of the Hindutva discourse in contemporary India.


Data Science

Ojobo Agbo Eje – Data Science

In the United States and globally, Type 2 Diabetes presents a public health challenge. Early and accurate prediction of T2D can facilitate timely interventions, thereby mitigating the risk of long-term complications. Traditional statistical methods, while valuable, often fall short of capturing the intricate relationships among various T2D risk factors. Machine learning (ML) models, with their ability to handle large, multidimensional datasets, offer promising alternatives. This study explores the application of ML in T2D prediction, leveraging a broad spectrum of predictors from lifestyle habits and socioeconomic backgrounds to environmental exposures, aiming to identify the model that best predicts T2D risk.

The study analyzed data comprising 129,024 individuals, including 21,303 with type 2 diabetes, from the Center for Disease Control, 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, annotated with variables including BMI, age, exercise frequency, smoking status, sleep duration, socioeconomic status (SES), healthcare access, and geographical factors. The data was split into 80% training and 20% testing sets. Five Machine Learning models (Logistic Regression, Gaussian Naive Bayes, Random Forest, Gradient Boosting, and Decision Trees) were trained, and their performances were compared based on accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, and the Area Under Curve (AUC). Feature importance analysis was conducted to identify the most predictive variables. 

The predictive models used achieved a high area under the curve (AUC ranging from 0.69 to 0.81). However, the Gradient Boosting Model (GBM) outperformed others with an accuracy of 0.86, specificity of 0.99, and AUC of 0.81. The Gaussian Naive Bayes model presented a balanced sensitivity-specificity trade-off (Accuracy: 0.80, Sensitivity: 0.43, Specificity: 0.87, AUC: 0.75) but fell short in overall accuracy and AUC compared to Gradient Boosting. This study highlighted that people who are unable to work (Coef = 0.5649), or who had a Health Care Coverage with the Alaska Native/Indian Health Service (Coef = 0.6096), or who have not had a medical checkup in the last 5 years or more (Coef = -1.0077) have higher risk for type 2 diabetes. 

The gradient boosting model showed the best model performance with the highest AUC value; however, the naive Bayes model is preferred for initial screening for type 2 diabetes because it had the highest sensitivity and, therefore, detection rate. The superior performance of GBM can be attributed to its ability to handle complex interactions among a range of risk factors, from biomedical to socioeconomic and environmental. Notably, the study confirms previously reported risk factors like BMI, Age, gender, etc. by Gary Collins et al, it also identifies employment status, healthcare coverage type, and frequency of medical checkups as 3 new potential risk factors related to T2D, highlighting the potential for machine learning to uncover nuanced insights into disease prediction. By integrating these broader determinants of health, machine learning models can offer a more comprehensive tool for early disease detection, thus highlighting the critical role of machine learning in advancing personalized medicine, health informatics and public health strategies.



Nicholas Markellos – English

For my graduate course in Native American Horror at Rutgers University–Camden in the Spring 2023 semester, I decided to dig a little further into the issue of why some teachers do not cover Native American literature. To begin, I sent out a survey to the four teachers of American literature at Paul VI High School. Two of the teachers have honors sections, while the remaining two only teach what the school labels college prep (regular core class). The results of this survey revealed that there was indeed a varying degree of how Native American literature was covered, but also confirmed my initial hypothesis that much of the history and culture of the Indigenous communities were not being taught at this level.

This discovery led to the question: To what extent would a curriculum unit on contemporary Native American literature, which uses pedagogical techniques to embrace both historical and cultural topics, help students at the High School level understand the plight of Indigenous communities in America? Through the creation of a curriculum unit, which focuses on contemporary Native American Horror, this research aims to explore how teaching stories in this genre can provide cultural and historical significance for the Indigenous communities of America.


Forensic Science

Liliana Berrios – Forensic Science

Interpreting electropherograms can be an arduous task as bulk mixture pipelines produce electropherograms containing information from any number of, potentially partial, contributors, rendering Weights of Evidence (WoE) that approach zero as the mixture becomes more complex. Single cell treatments offer a way forward, by isolating, amplifying, and analyzing each cell, individually. This creates a set of electropherograms (EPGs) for each cell isolated, which are then grouped by similarity into clusters, where it is reasonable to assume a single common donor. By supposing the group of single cell EPGs (scEPGs) are replicates of one another, the logarithm of the likelihood ratio – i.e., WoE – for the cluster can be determined by comparing the probabilities of the cluster given a Person of Interest (PoI) contributed divided by the probability given a random person contributed. Though a variety of clustering approaches exist, we accomplish this by the model-based clustering application mclust in R. Once clustered, the group of scEPGs are evaluated and the LR for each cluster was calculated with EESCItTM, which stands for Evidentiary Evaluation of Single Cells. With EESItTM being able to rapidly and reproducibly assess any number of scEPGs in any number of clusters in seconds, we perform a large-scale analysis on the implementation of two models to the EESCItTM system: that of the normal and log-normal distributions to describe peak heights. 

Specifically, 1,210 single cells were processed through a validated single cell pipeline to produce 1,210 scEPGs. The scEPGs were tested in EESCIt against the true contributor, strue, and a false contributor, 𝑠false, to produce logLRs with both models. As a result, there were 1,210•4 = 4,840 outcomes that were explored. When testing a sample against its true contributor, a positive logLR value is expected. Similarly, when testing a scEPG against a false contributor, a negative logLR value is expected. 

Adhering to SWGDAM’s guidelines for the validation of probabilistic genotyping systems, we tested the sensitivity of each model by calculating the proportion of scEPGs for which the logLR(𝑠𝑐𝐸𝑃𝐺, strue)>0 and tested the specificity by calculating the proportion of scEPGs for the logLR (𝑠𝑐𝐸𝑃𝐺, 𝑠false)< 0. Preliminary results show that the normal peak model resulted in a logLR (𝑠𝑐𝐸𝑃𝐺, strue)>0 of 89.4% and a logLR (𝑠𝑐𝐸𝑃𝐺, 𝑠false)< 0 of 94.3%. The log normal model resulted in a logLR (𝑠𝑐𝐸𝑃𝐺, strue)>0 of 88.4% and a logLR (𝐸𝑃𝐺, 𝑠false)< 0 of 92.4%. Notably, the reported sensitivities and specificities include the results when the scEPG carried minute levels of information or contained much allele drop-out. Therefore, in this study we go further and will report the robustness of these models by evaluating the logLR for each state, strue or 𝑠false, across total peak intensity. Additionally, Type I and Type II errors will be explored by genotype. The results for both models will be compared in the aggregate to determine which one to implement for single-cell applications.

Jacki Gross – Forensic Science

The aim of this research is to study the mammalian decomposition rates in the presence of fungi native to the New Jersey Pine Barrens. This research is significant because it provides information regarding fungal interactions within decomposition in areas of acidic soil. Because biological processes are different depending on location and environmental factors, this provides a basis for New Jersey and the eastern side of the United States regarding fungal interaction and how it can affect total body score (TBS) interpretation which affects postmortem interval (PMI) calculations. The specific research questions of this study are: How does fungal species interact in mammalian decomposition? Does the presence of these fungi accelerate the decomposition process? How does decomposition compare between burial in a soil matrix and surface deposition? And does a soil matrix accelerate or inhibit decomposition? It is hypothesized that in the presence of fungi the mammalian specimens will decompose at an accelerated rate compared to a sterile soil matrix and compared to surface deposition.

Soil derived from the New Jersey Pine Barrens was used for this study as was fungal species specific to this environment. As cited in various scientific articles, the main area of fungal focus during decomposition is ammonia metabolizing fungi and/or keratinase metabolizing fungi [1, 2]. For this study, keratinase metabolizing fungi that can be found in the New Jersey Pine Barrens was chosen, in particular: Fusarium oxysporum, Trichoderma viride, and Chrysosporium keratinophilum [3,4,5]. The soil used for the study was dug up from a wooded area in Winslow Township, New Jersey. The soil consisted of soil horizons O, A, and B mixed together to simulate the burying of a body. The mammalian specimens chosen for the study were mice. In particular, thirty mice were chosen and split into five categories and given a subject number: negative control one, negative control two, positive control, specimen species one, specimen species two, and specimen species three. Negative control one were mice left unburied to simulate surface deposition. Negative control two were mice in sterilized soil. Positive control were mice in unsterilized soil. Specimen species one were mice in Fusarium oxysporum inoculated soil. Specimen species two were mice in Trichoderma viride inoculated soil. And specimen species three were mice in Chrysosporium Keratinophilum inoculated soil. Decomposition of the mice was documented on days 0, 3, 6, 9, 13, 20, and 30. Documentation includes the weight of each subject number to track loss of mass, the soil pH, and TBS. Results of the study showed that the fungi did have an impact on the decomposition process.

This research will greatly benefit the forensic community by allowing crime scene investigators to have more available methods for detecting bodies and pathologists to determine time of death. Research such as this has been sought out throughout the forensic and mycology fields. Authors such as M. Tibbett and D.O. Carter have stated in their book Soil analysis in forensic taphonomy: “We hope mycologists and forensic scientists will collaborate to take the concept of forensic mycology forward into an accomplished and effective forensic science tool.” [1]

Sarahy Magdaleno – Forensic Science

This research examines and analyzes false negative results in presumptive blood testing methods on leather, specifically leather prepared with quebracho extracts. The Phenolphthalein Assay (Kastle-Meyer test) was performed on dried bloodstains on leather containing quebracho extracts. Based on published studies, the Kastle-Meyer test will produce false negative results due to the antioxidant properties of quebracho. However, this research shows that while very dilute bloodstains did produce a false negative, quebracho leather had a minimal impact on Kastle-Meyer efficacy. Therefore, forensic analysts need not be concerned with leather producing false negative results for the presence of blood.

Juliet Mendoza – Forensic Science

Pollen prints gathered on different surfaces other than textiles may give palynologists relevant sampling data and increase the number/type of candidates for pollen evidence. Evidence from crime scenes is gathered and sampled leading to the extraction of a pollen profile, in which geological information of where an object or person has gone can be interpreted from the botanical origins of each pollen type. Understanding the variability of pollen collected on different surfaces can contribute to recognizing novel pieces of evidence. Which can be helpful when palynology is needed and optimal pieces of evidence, i.e. fabrics, are unavailable. Common surfaces like that of plastic, glass, and plastic may offer sufficient pollen collection however they may retain an uncommon composition of pollen that does not signify the original environment. “Sticky” pollen such as entomophilous pollen may cling to nonporous surfaces with ease or anemophilous pollen may deposit on surfaces at a higher rate leading to better retention through sheer abundance are examples of uncommon compositions possibilities. Though a comparison of short-term collection of pollen on porous and nonporous surfaces we can start to understand the impact surface texture has on the pollen profile collected in the field.

Non-porous and porous samples were set out for 4 hours at different elevations during each season, after which the samples pollen was harvested, processed, and mounted on slides for observation. Using controls during the cleaning and harvesting periods for each season to see the ambient pollen as well as any contamination that could have occurred during these steps. This method was devised to ensure that most if not all of the pollen gathered on the samples were from the timed exposure. Glass surfaces seem to gather more pollen than the plastic, or aluminum surfaces used for the trials. Finding the pattern in pollen deposits at such a brief time can give insight to how short-term pieces of evidence can be candidates for forensic palynology. This could increase the amount of information gathered from evidence as short-term evidence could produce a pollen profile in addition to any other trace evidence, DNA, or fingerprints left behind.

Kyra Miller – Forensic Science

The goal of this project was to determine if the yellow fever virus (YFV) could be detected in historical remains by analyzing the proteins found in the dental pulp. Previous studies have detected blood proteins and viral proteins in dental pulp, although these methods have never been applied for the purpose of yellow fever virus detection. These past studies serve as a justification for this current study and validate the idea that identifying the virus through the dental pulp could be possible. Typical yellow fever virus diagnostic techniques rely on blood or liver tissue, so when these sample types are not recoverable, yellow fever detection is limited. In order to meet the objectives of this study, a retrograde collection method was used to extract dental pulp on modern teeth and teeth from a historical cemetery site. The modern teeth serve as a control to determine if blood is detectable in dental pulp. The historical remains are possible victims of the YFV. Following dental pulp extraction, the pulp was subject to a protein extraction methodology and was analyzed via liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Although no known yellow fever virus proteins were detected in the samples tested during the study, the methodologies used throughout this study were successful and could be used in future studies. The findings indicate that yellow fever proteins could be detectable if present in dental pulp samples and also expands upon current knowledge of the general proteins found within dental pulp. This research and its applications could prove valuable for the fields of archaeology and paleomicrobiology.


Prevention Science

Morenike Alugo – Prevention Science

The rapidly increasing drug poisoning crisis in the United States has become a critical public health problem in recent years. As such, understanding its underlying causes requires a holistic approach that encompasses various connected elements. The current study seeks to examine the complicated interrelation between socioeconomic factors such as county-level economics connectedness and the percent of the population below median income. The complex interrelation of several dimensions seeks to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the interplay between economic and social determinants in place and public health outcomes, especially in the context of the drug poisoning crisis. As a result, this study is expected to contribute to the scientific discussion of public health and social factors and provide policy- and intervention-related insights that can help alleviate the negative consequences of drug poisoning and related issues in different communities.

The study utilized two comprehensive datasets: one containing county-level social capital indicators by Chetty et al., measured by economic connectedness, and the other detailing County-level Drug Overdose Mortality in the United States obtained from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). A linear regression model was employed to assess the direct and interaction effects of social capital and median income on drug overdose mortality in the United States. Social capital acted as a predictor variable along with the percentage of individuals at the county level who earn below the median income. This study captures the potential moderation effect of income on the association between social capital and drug overdose mortality.

A linear regression analysis revealed a moderate negative relationship (-21.176) between economic connectedness and drug poisoning death rates, suggesting that the Model-based Death Rate decreases by approximately 21.176 for every one-unit increase in economic connectedness. The result also revealed a significant interaction (43.334) between economic connectedness and income in predicting drug-related mortality. Notably, holding economic connectedness constant, the study revealed an inverse relationship between counties below the median income and drug poisoning death rates. This result highlights the various dimensions of social capital, which include elements of community cohesion, support networks, and access to resources, in contrast to considering economic prosperity solely in understanding public health challenges.

The regression analysis indicated that higher economic connectedness at the county level is associated with lower drug poisoning death rates, supporting the notion that economic stability can serve as a protective health factor. Interestingly, a higher proportion of the population below the median income was unexpectedly correlated with lower drug poisoning death rates, suggesting the potential influence of unique social dynamics in lower-income areas. These findings underscore the complexity of socioeconomic factors in public health, indicating that both economic and social elements crucially shape outcomes. The study highlights the need for holistic public health policies that address economic conditions, income disparities, and community support systems to effectively tackle health crises like drug poisoning.

Nishan Dhungel – Prevention Science

While experiential avoidance (ExA) is an umbrella term which represents the natural human tendency to avoid all kinds of threatening and uncomfortable cues, ExA most commonly applies to the avoidance of emotional experiences, i.e., emotional avoidance (EA; Hayes et al., 1996). Bardeen et al. (2015) pointed out the need to build upon existing research focused on the relation between anxiety sensitivity (AS), a possible vulnerability factor, and PTSD symptom severity by the moderating role of EA and ExA. The aim of the present study was to clarify and differentiate the moderating roles of ExA and EA between AS and PTSD symptom severity in a sample of 216 trauma-exposed undergraduate students (64.8% female, age M = 19.5 years). Using the PROCESS macro, results indicated that ExA significantly moderated the relations between all three subscales, physical (t = 2.61, p < .01, ΔR2 = .013), cognitive (t = 2.78, p < .01, ΔR2 = .013), and social (t = 2.37, p = .02, ΔR2 = .011) of AS and PTSD symptom severity. Both positive EA and negative EA failed to significantly moderate the relation between AS and PTSD symptom severity. The results emphasize the differential role of various types of avoidance strategies in the context of AS and PTSD symptom severity.

Catherine Heitz – Prevention Science

Trauma and stress from life events and during police interactions, such as questioning or reporting a crime, have shown to be a primary deterrent for community connectedness and accessing services or reporting a crime. However, research suggests that trauma-informed care (TIC) training increases community connectedness, trauma understanding, and use-of-force incidents, improving community-police relationships. This study aims to explore the impact of a TIC policing initiative on violent crime rates in Kensington, Philadelphia. The Police Trauma Training Pilot Program recruited officers in Kensington Police District 24 for training sessions in Summer 2021 focusing on trauma-informed policing, adverse childhood experiences, and community engagement. This will serve as the intervention variable. Violent crime data from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2023, will be accessed via the Philadelphia Police Department and used to assess the Program’s impact using an interrupted time series (ITS) design. The study aims to evaluate whether this Program is effective in relation to community violence.  

Fatemeh Mahdinia – Prevention Science

We typically feel in control over the actions we produce. For example, if I reach for a glass of water, I feel a sense of ownership over my action as I grasp the glass and drink from it. View this in contrast to accidentally knocking a glass of water on the floor‒I caused the outcome but might not have controlled it. These seemingly simple motor actions and their related outcomes can show us a phenomenon named Sense of Agency (SoA), which is a core and fundamental aspect of human consciousness. Our ability to veridically experience this link between our actions and their outcomes is important for child development and has been linked to several clinical disorders, e.g., schizophrenia. SoA is also thought to play a role in voluntary movement. Notably, a better understanding of SoA has important implications for neurorehabilitation and socially cognizant robotics.

Explicit and implicit measures have been used to study SoA. While there is a wealth of research on SoA, it has recently come to the fore that the most common implicit measure of SoA (temporal binding (TB) may reflect memory processes rather than SoA. To address this issue, we introduce and present data on a novel approach to understanding common measures of SoA (including TB). Here, we implemented two TB measures and an explicit measure in a novel goal-directed extended action task to better understand SoA measures. Participants either watched or produced dot movements to a target of choice and then estimated the duration between two tones that played either upon movement completion (TB1, akin to traditional TB studies) or based on the start and end of movements (TB2). Participants reported stronger explicit SoA during active than passive movements. Results from neither TB version aligned with prediction based on TB-accounts as a reflection of SoA. We discuss memory-based and scaling accounts as alternative interpretations for our data.

Megan Mason – Prevention Science

  • Objective: Create and evaluate a virtual intervention to improve dietary habits, social interaction, and stress management among persons with disabilities (PwD). Assess validity and reliability of survey instruments to measure intervention constructs.
  • Design: Pre- and post-intervention surveys; post-intervention focus groups.
  • Setting: Virtual sessions from home kitchens.
  • Participants: Adults ages 18 and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities (n=27) and their caregivers (n=15).
  • Intervention: Eight 75-minute sessions included preparing and eating a healthy snack, a nutrition game and discussion, and a guided relaxation activity.
  • Main Outcome Measures: PwD’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors; and caregivers’ perceptions of PwD’s attitudinal and behavioral measures were assessed.
  • Analysis: T-tests, correlational analysis and McNemar’s tests were used with quantitative data. Thematic analysis was used with focus group data.
  • Results: Reliability and content validity were acceptable for perceived stress, loneliness and sleep quality assessments, but not for dietary factor assessments. Caregivers were reliable proxies for assessing PwD. Post- session knowledge was demonstrated most frequently for Mindful Eating and least frequently for Portion Sizes. No significant changes in dietary habits were measured post-intervention.
  • Conclusions and Implications: The online intervention was well-received and feasible. Valid and reliable survey instruments for dietary factors are needed for the disability population.


Psychological Sciences

Thembile Gola – Psychological Sciences

Stem cells donated by younger adults have been found to increase positive treatment outcomes post-transplant (Nayaranan et al, 2016). Research has found altruism as a trait  and knowledge on stem cell donation as separate, yet major factors in influencing participation in registry (Nayaranan et al, 2016; Liao et al, 2020). The college population has significant congruency with the desired donor profile. Thus, the study examined the relationship between altruism and knowledge together, on transplant registry participation. The study hypothesized that (1) knowledge on stem cell donation will strongly increase the likelihood to register than altruism, and (2) knowledge of stem cell donation will be strongly related to willingness to help others . Data from a college sample of 361 participants (mean age 21.12 (4.154) range 18-37 years) were analyzed. Measures used the Knowledge Questionnaire (Vasconellos et al, 2011), Self-Report Altruism Scale (Rushton et al, 1981) and two questions asking participants to rate their likelihood to join the transplant registry. Pearson correlations were run on SPSS for altruism, knowledge, and likelihood to register. The results of the study showed altruism has a stronger influence than knowledge on the likelihood to register. These findings are significant as they contribute towards creating effective interventions to increase participation in stem cell transplant registry amongst college students, and consequently, an increase in positive transplant outcomes.  


Public Affairs

Prakash Kandel – Public Affairs

It is still unclear if there is an overall net economic benefit following the enactment of recreational cannabis laws in the United States. Supporters anticipate social equity and economic gains, while opponents’ express concerns about public health and safety. Public policy researchers often gauge the overall impact of cannabis legalization by studying changes in property values, yet previous studies yield mixed results, possibly due to local contextual variations. This is the first study to focus on New Jersey’s cannabis legalization, where over 40% of municipalities opted to allow cannabis-related businesses starting in the fall of 2021. The research aims to answer two key research questions: factors influencing municipalities’ decisions to allow or ban cannabis businesses and the effect on residential home sale prices. Our study finds that more populated, less affluent, and more liberal municipalities are more likely to permit cannabis businesses. We also find that municipalities are more likely to permit these businesses if neighboring towns do the same. Using a differences-in-differences approach, the study finds a positive association between allowing cannabis businesses and home sale prices, with a 2.7% average increase, equivalent to a $10,343 rise for the average home sale price. The findings underscore the economic impact and social considerations surrounding cannabis legalization, offering valuable insights for policymakers. 

Yanan Li – Public Affairs

While the association between affordable housing and social capital has been widely discussed in academic circles, the analysis of this relationship has often been limited to the same neighborhood or geographic area. Social capital could be built through networks beyond the boundaries of a particular neighborhood or community. Thus, affordable housing developments might have direct or indirect effects on the social capital in surrounding neighborhoods. To examine such connections, this study utilizes the Spatial Autoregressive (SAR) model and draws on data from the American Community Survey, National Housing Preservation Database, and the Opportunity Insights dataset, with the zip code serving as the unit of analysis. Preliminary results indicate a small yet statistically significant positive relationship between the number of affordable housing units per one hundred low-income households in surrounding neighborhoods and people’s social activities, even after including relevant controls. This finding has policy implications regarding location decisions that result in the geographic concentration in the construction of public housing.

2024 Research Presentations

Presentation time – 12:10PM
Sterling-elizabeth Gingerich – MFA

Poems: Over summer of 2023 I conducted research towards a long poem about driving, by driving across the country. For my presentation, I would like to discuss my compositional process and read a selection of the resulting poems.

Presentation time – 12:20PM
Sakae Kikuchi – MFA

Sociologist Paul Gilroy wrote that the 20th century was “a century of camps,” defined by the hardening of boundaries along ethno-nationalistic lines. Gilroy posed a question about the promise of the 21st: whether we would repeat, intensify, or learn from the horrors of the 20th. Contrary to the seduction of nationalism, Gilroy offered the concept of diaspora as balm – of making home where one is, rather than relying on a fixed notion of culture or place as a source of identity.

I write with Gilroy’s concepts in mind – the dangers of “encamped thinking,” and the strategic outsider status of diaspora – to shape my approach to identity and belonging in my writing. My short story collection explores notions of in-betweenness and the interpersonal cost of treating troubling bodies as contaminants. In one story, a family tries to practice a “containment strategy” to deal with a grandmother’s mysterious malady; in another, a family grapples with whether to shun or embrace a member who is implicated in state violence. The stories draw on elements of magical realism and ideas of trans ambivalence, intergenerational Japanese American legacies, Buddhist theology, and landscapes of urban and rural Midwest.

At the Symposium, I will read an excerpt from my short story collection and argue for the importance of a dialectical materialist approach to contemporary literary aesthetics.

Presentation time – 12:30PM
Elizabeth Nelson – Childhood Studies

Over the past couple decades participation and citizenship rights for children and youth have begun receiving increased attention across various disciplines in academia and in the public eye. Due to ableist and adultist assumptions about what constitutes a “voice” and participation, infants and young children tend to be marginalized in these discussions, though a few scholars have shed light on their unjust omission. With these scholars, I argue that infants do in fact actively participate in their social worlds, and their rights require more attention, development, and recognition. In this paper, I contend that the most effective way to approach participatory citizenship rights for infants is through a childist decolonial theory of rights. This is because: 1) decolonial theories most directly name and challenge adult power as the colonial enterprise it is; and 2) childist signifies the centrality of the oppression of children in the colonial narrative. To support this claim, I turn to second wave feminists’ tenet that the personal or private is political, forward an intersubjective or interembodied concept of the self, describe the colonial narrative of the infantalization of indigenous people, analyze the works of four decolonial theories of rights (Faulker and Nyamutata, Moosa-Mitha, Dar, and Cordero Arce), and then present why childist is a necessary attribute to decolonial theories of rights for infants.  

Presentation time – 12:40PM
Christine Eskander – Childhood Studies

For the completion of my MA program in the Childhood Studies department, I explore the epistemic measure that negates childhood from its rationality. The main claim is that rationality is not properly understood as a gradual quantitative process. Rather, both adulthood – in its expertise – and childhood – in its newness – can be mutually understood as sharing a dialogic process of rational meaning-making. The paper presents the problem of the epistemic arrogance of adultism. The second section deconstructs this widely-held assumption of the quantitative measure of epistemic rationality. In the last section, the paper presents a non-binary perspective on the shared rationality of childhood and adulthood, which I call fresh rationality. Throughout the paper, I apply the interdisciplinary approach of childhood studies in examining the philosophical trajectory of rationality towards a non-binary lens between childhood and adulthood. 

Presentation time – 1:00PM
Shaghayegh Poursabbagh – Psychology

This study investigates the effects of biofeedback-guided Muse meditation on relational thinking, learning quality, mind-wandering, and working memory (WM) capacity. While previous research has extensively explored the impact of meditation on cognitive functioning, little attention has been given to its influence on relational thinking, a crucial cognitive ability. 21 college students were recruited for the study. Using the Muse portable EEG system, participants engaged in biofeedback meditation (Muse meditation) and were asked to practice mind Muse meditation for three sessions. Baseline assessments measured their relational reasoning, mind-wandering, WM capacity, learning ability, and mindful attention. Following the practice sessions, post-test assessments were conducted within one week. Jamovi was used for data analysis, including mean, standard deviation, paired sample T-test, and Repeated Measures ANOVA.

Short Muse meditation mindfulness intervention showed significant improvement in learning ability, controlled sustained attention tasks including Stroop as well as very little improvement in Simon, Flanker, and WM. However, our data indicated no enhancement in relational reasoning and mindfulness awareness. Overall, our research provides evidence that short Muse meditation practice can be effective for controlled-sustained attention and learning ability. Future studies with larger numbers of participants, more sessions for Muse practice, more time for meditation, and controlled groups may examine Muse meditation practice as an effective intervention for improving cognitive abilities. This research contributed to understanding the potential of biofeedback-guided meditation in enhancing learning ability and academic performance as well as cognitive abilities necessary for higher education.

Keywords: relational reasoning, relational thinking, the Muse EEG system, working memory, mind-wandering, breathing meditation, learning, controlled attention

Presentation time – 1:10PM
Mika Maharaj-Gouveia – Criminal Justice

The rise and spread of deepfake technology has brought about a host of ethical, legal, and social issues, particularly in the realm of deepfake pornography. While deepfakes have been around for a short period of time, it is only recently that they have gained mainstream attention due to their increasing sophistication and accessibility. Deepfakes allow for the manipulation of visual media to create highly realistic and often explicit content, without the consent or knowledge of the individuals depicted. The difficulty in taking down deepfakes is the issue of finding where they lie on the internet as well as detecting them. The harm as a result of deepfake pornography manifests in many ways. Victims may lose their jobs or lose friends as a result of the shame and humiliation socially contrived (Kugler & Pace, 2021). Because of the reputational loss, victims will also suffer psychologically and emotionally (Kugler & Pace, 2021). These factors make victims financially insecure as a loss of income in addition to future prospects. If they seek reparations for the damages they faced their story may gain traction, further placing focus on a person and subject matter they have been traumatized by. They may also receive threats and other forms of harassment for simply being a victim of a deepfake (Kugler & Pace, 2021).

This paper will explore the effects of deepfake pornography on individuals, society, and legal contexts. Furthermore, the technological challenges in detecting, combating deepfakes, and the possible solutions to this growing problem. By examining the current state of deepfake technology, the legal landscape, and the potential for technological solutions, this paper seeks to answer the question, “Is there a need to regulate deepfake pornography? If so, what is the best framework to do so?” Through a comprehensive overview of the legal framework of deepfake pornography, the problems associated with it, this paper will provide evidence to support the need to regulate deepfake pornography. Concurrently, stronger regulations can aid in the creation of a framework which prohibits deepfake pornography and its reinforcement of misogynistic attitudes.

Presentation time – 1:20PM
Michael Ditalia – Public Affairs

This study constructs and validates a novel tool for measuring personal agency, a widely discussed topic across the social sciences that lacks consensus regarding its definition and operationalization. Personal agency is situated within the broader scholarship on human agency its essential characteristics are identified before a list of personal agency items is extracted from the Midlife in the United States dataset. Relationships between items are assessed through calculation of Cronbach’s alpha and correlational analyses before item reduction using exploratory factor analysis produces a scale with all items salient on a general, dominant personal agency factor. The resulting General Personal Agency Scale (GPAS) is tested for latent subfactors, and a two-factor model comprised of intrinsic and instrumental agency and a 3-factor model consisting of autonomy, internal locus of control, and self-efficacy are identified. Internal consistency and reliability of the GPAS and its subscales is examined, and findings are tested for robustness using alternative EFA methods and tests of multicollinearity. Model fit is assessed through confirmatory factor analysis; good fit of bifactor models indicates the effectiveness of the GPAS for measuring personal agency and its identified subfactors. Together, findings provide substantive evidence of the GPAS’s construct validity and its potential utility for social science research.

Presentation time – 1:30PM
Daniel Assamah – Public Affairs

Multinational investment has attracted mixed reactions from scholars and policymakers concerning their role and impact on job creation in host countries, particularly in developing economies. Using Ghana as a case study, this paper examines the impact of greenfield investment on job creation. Proponents of multinational corporations (MNCs) argue that foreign direct investment (FDI) leads to economic growth, creates technological spillover, increases exports, and creates jobs, among other benefits. This has encouraged developing economies to adopt developmental strategies around MNC activities. Although most researchers have analyzed the impact of FDI on job creation, the unanswered question is: does greenfield investment in Ghana lead to significant job creation in the formal sector? Extant literature considers FDI monolithic, without adequately differentiating between green and brownfield investments. Using granular data from the fDi Markets, this research paper fills this gap by empirically analyzing the greenfield investment by 386 multinational companies in Ghana from 2003 to September 2020. Over the specified year range, these companies engaged in 500 projects across Ghana. Adopting the ordinary least square analysis (OLS), the study demonstrates that greenfield investment has a statistically significant and positive impact on job creation in Ghana. Out of the 31 sectors, only the following sectors contribute significantly to job creation through greenfield investment in Ghana: Consumer Products, Food &amp; Beverage, Industrial Equipment, and Non-automotive transport OEM. This paper contributes to a better understanding of how government investment in fixed assets (GCF) such as roads, railways, and industrial buildings in the local economy should be managed efficiently not to spur inflation, which correlates negatively with jobs. Finally, this paper analyzes Chinese investments in Ghana, comparing them with U.S. investments, and examining their broader geopolitical implications, which highlights the importance of aligning foreign investments with national development strategies and adhering to international norms and standards.

Presentation time – 1:40PM
Shriya Subedy – CCIB

Many diseases (neurodegenerative, infectious, among others) have been linked to improper protein interactions. Predicting protein-protein interactions (PPIs) comprehensively requires a description (explicit or latent) of the specific biological context, including factors such as pH, ionic strength, post-translational modifications, and the availability of interaction partners. However, many of these factors are inadequately represented within the available structural data, and need to be extracted from in vivo functional data.

To leverage both sources of data, we are developing SE(3)-equivariant convolutional neural networks that are pre-trained on protein multimer structures from the Protein Data Bank and refined on high-confidence AlphaFold multimer structures for which interaction data from high-throughput assays are available. The addition of interaction data enhances the learned features and better encodes for protein properties affecting PPIs in situ. We show preliminary results for the yeast proteome, using data collected from BioGrid and Yeast Kinome. We investigate the usefulness of both structural and functional data when generating meaningful representations for predicting protein properties associated with PPIs.

Presentation time – 2:00PM
Siddharth Bhadra-Lobo – CCIB

Protein structure prediction algorithms such as AlphaFold2 and ESMFold have dramatically increased the availability of high-quality models of protein structures. Because these algorithms predict only the structure of the protein itself, there is a growing need for methods that can rapidly screen protein structures for ligands. In this work, we introduce SE3Lig, a model for semantic in-painting of small molecules in protein structures. Specifically, we report SE(3)-equivariant CNNs trained to predict the atomic densities of common classes of cofactors (hemes, flavins, etc.) and the water molecules and inorganic ions in their vicinity. While the models are trained on high-resolution crystal structures of enzymes, they perform well on structures predicted by AlphaFold2, which suggests that the algorithm correctly represents cofactor-binding cavities.

Presentation time – 2:10PM
Christopher Denaro – CCIB

Simulations of metabolic networks provide insights into key metabolites – illuminating potential therapeutic targets. Simulations of these networks can be costly when testing a wide range of parameters. Deep learning models, the Transformer architecture – which was originally designed for natural language processing – were trained on randomly generated datasets to predict quantitative and qualitative characteristics of metabolic networks. Using the Erdős-Rényi model for random graphs, we create 40 million cases of random networks in order to train the model. The trained models are able to predict network the existence of equilibria on random graphs in more than 98% of cases. They can also be generalized to graphs with small-world, scale-free, or different edge density structures. Finally, they can predict the equilibria of a small set of known biological networks to within 10% tolerance. The approach is very economical in terms of experimental data and uses only a small and shallow deep-learning model. Such results pave the way for the larger use of deep learning models for problems related to biological networks in key areas such as quantitative systems pharmacology, systems biology, and synthetic biology.

Presentation time – 2:20PM
Nasira Tajamal – Biology

Sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 3 (S1PR3) is a G protein-coupled receptor that binds to the lipid signaling molecule sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P). S1PR3 is found in various tissues and cell types throughout the body, including the central nervous system (CNS). While its exact role in anxiety is still being elucidated, research suggests that S1PR3 may play a role in modulating anxiety-related behaviors and neurobiology through its actions in the CNS [3] S1PR3 is expressed in certain regions of the brain, including the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex, which engage in anxiety regulation. Activating S1PR3 in these brain regions may contribute to neurotransmission and neuronal activity associated with anxiety pathways Corbett et al., 2019. However, the role of S1PR3 in the hippocampus and mPFC in male and female mice and comparison during the estrus cycle has never been studied. Therefore, we proposed to compare the concentrations of S1PR3 in males and females during the proestrus and proestrus stages. We performed immunohistochemistry on hippocampus and mPFC of brain and collected the confocal images, then counted the cells on image J. The data we obtained was subjected to analysis on R. We performed the behavior test on male and female mice. We used an S1PR3- specific agonist, CYM5541, and an antagonist, CAY10444, to activate or inhibit S1PR3 specifically and systemically. This served as an important preclinical trial and allowed us to lay the groundwork for determining the translational potential of using pharmacological S1PR3 modulators. We found that in both males and females, activating S1PR3 systemically using CYM5541 increased time interacting with a stimulus mouse in the social interaction paradigm, indicating that CYM5541 reduces social anxiety-like behavior. Inhibiting S1PR3 using CAY10444 reduced social interaction in females, but not males. This anxiety-like effect might only be observed in females because they have higher levels of S1PR3 in the mPFC, so they are more sensitive to the effects of inhibiting S1PR3. The sex-dependent differences in stress-related behavior are of great interest to the stress neuroscience community since stress-related disorders are twice as prevalent in women compared to men.

Presentation time – 2:30PM
Joseph Abbas – Prevention Science

In the evolving digital landscape, health applications (apps) like Health E-Livin are pivotal in shaping wellness among university students. This study, rooted in the interdisciplinary nexus of health informatics, prevention science, behavioral psychology, and educational outreach, seeks to illuminate the digital pathways that enhance student well-being through app engagement. Reflecting on the critical role of digital health platforms, our research navigates the dynamic relationship between social media health app usage and student health choices, spotlighting Health E-Livin’s influence on key health concerns such as stress management and nutritional guidance. Employing a mixed-methods approach, our investigation sheds light on how in-person versus digital engagement strategies—including flyer distribution, tabling, online interactions, and the utilization of Medicat—encourage Health E-Livin app downloads and sustained usage. This approach is designed to unearth nuanced insights into students’ preferences and motivations, leveraging tailored survey questions and interview prompts to gauge the drivers behind app adoption. Preliminary findings reveal a strong positive correlation between in-person promotional activities and app download rates, highlighting the unmatched value of direct engagement in fostering digital health adoption. Statistical analysis grounded in a linear regression model, revealed a significant correlation (R² = 0.8148) between in-person scans and app downloads, suggesting that nearly 81.5% of the variance in app downloads is attributable to these in-person strategies. This evidence underscores the critical importance of blending traditional engagement methods with digital initiatives to optimize health app utilization among young adults. By contributing empirical evidence on the effectiveness of integrated engagement strategies in digital health adoption, our research underscores the necessity of a nuanced, student-centered approach to health promotion. Such strategies not only promise to revolutionize wellness efforts on campus but also align with the Graduate Research & Creative Works Symposium’s commitment to showcasing innovative, interdisciplinary research. Our study anticipates significant outcomes for Rutgers University-Camden’s student health services and sets the stage for advancing digital health interventions and policies that resonate across academic landscapes. 

Presentation time – 2:40PM
Nicholas Markellos – English

For my graduate course in Native American Horror at Rutgers University Camden in the Spring 2023 semester, I decided to dig a little further into the issue of why some teachers do not cover Native American literature. To begin, I sent out a survey to the four teachers of American literature at Paul VI High School. Two of the teachers have honors sections, while the remaining two only teach what the school labels college prep (regular core class). The results of this survey revealed that there was indeed a varying degree of how Native American literature was covered, but also confirmed my initial hypothesis that much of the history and culture of the Indigenous communities were not being taught at this level.

This discovery led to the question: To what extent would a curriculum unit on contemporary Native American literature, which uses pedagogical techniques to embrace both historical and cultural topics, help students at the High School level understand the plight of Indigenous communities in America? Through the creation of a curriculum unit, which focuses on contemporary Native American Horror, this research aims to explore how teaching stories in this genre can provide cultural and historical significance for the Indigenous communities of America.