Elizabeth Blake
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: Does Nostalgia Reduce the Fear of Negative Evaluation?
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Andrew Abeyta

This study builds off of previous research which suggests that engaging in nostalgia promotes social striving to connect with others, as well as cultivating a sense of social connectedness (Abeyta et al., 2015; Cheung et al., 2016; Sedikides et al., 2016; Stephan et al., 2015). One important aspect of connecting with others involves being able to overcome anxiety or fear about social interactions. As such, one possible explanation for how nostalgia promotes social connectedness could be that nostalgia decreases anxiety and fear about interacting with others. To examine this possible explanation, the current study focuses on how nostalgia may impact fear of negative evaluation. We hypothesized that experimentally inducing nostalgia would decrease participants’ fear of negative evaluation regarding social interactions. Indeed, a nostalgia writing task decreased participants’ scores in fear of negative evaluation relative to a control, thereby supporting our hypothesis. These findings suggest that nostalgia decreases anxiety and fear about interacting with other people, which is an important part of being able to connect with others. Overall, these results further support and extend our understanding of the social benefits of nostalgia. 

Ryan Bunch
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Childhood and Youth Music Study Group
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Meredith Bak
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Ryan Bunch, a graduate student in childhood studies at Rutgers University-Camden and Sarah Tomlinson, a graduate student in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are cofounding a proposed Childhood and Youth Study Group of the American Musicological Society. We envision the study group as a forum for scholars interested in music and childhood, broadly conceived. Gender, race, sexuality, and disability have received increasing attention in recent decades, but musicology has largely overlooked children and youth. We aim to bring attention to the ways in which children and youth have played a central role in music history and institutions, shaping while being shaped by them. Because music for, by, and about children and youth has been marginalized in various canons, we believe that centering their agency as music makers, students, performers, and audiences will further our understanding of the cultural meaning of music. 

Katrina DeWitt
Biology (MS)
Title of Project: Community Assembly and trait distribution across spatial scales
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Angélica L. González, Dr. Jen Oberle, Dr. Katie Malcolm
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Functional trait variation among individuals in a community has become a fundamental component to understand how ecological communities are structured and function. Functional traits are morphological, biochemical, phenological, physiological and behavioral characteristics measured at individual level, which play fundamental roles in an organism’s performance. These traits respond to varying environmental conditions and determine the influence that organisms have on ecosystem function. Among these functional traits, the elemental composition of living organisms (i.e., carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) relates and responds to its environment, shaping community structure and biogeochemical processes. Despite these main ecological roles, organismal stoichiometry has rarely been analyzed from a functional trait approach. The aim of this study is to assess the stoichiometric trait distribution and diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates across scales, from local to regional. To do this, we will use the aquatic communities inhabiting pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea), which are distributed across North America, and represent an ideal model to study community structure across spatial gradients. Here we will assess variation in stoichiometric traits across two ecological scales: (i) local: between pitcher plants within a bog; and (ii) regional: among bogs within a region (NJ). We will address the following two questions: (1) what is the range of trait variation across spatial scales and (2) to what extent does the functional trait structure of different communities change along environmental conditions? This study can help understand how organismal traits and the assembly of communities may respond to environmental changes and affect the structure and functioning of ecological communities.

Kacey Doran
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Your Link to the Past: Children and Young Adult’s Video Game Connections to Nintendo’s Famous Hero of Time
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lauren Silver

An avid childhood player of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda video game series and a scholar of children’s literature and childhood studies, Kacey Doran has personal and academic investments in uncovering the separations and connections between childhood nostalgia, character attachment, and the embodiment experience during gameplay. Doran believes that player’s connections (and lack thereof) with the main character, Link, deserve a close look through transmedia, intertextuality, and play theories because of the popular Nintendo series’ ubiquity in video game and material culture. While scholars have previously interrogated the relations between players and their customized avatars, the body of work on relations between players and famous characters is sparser. Examining previous work on The Legend of Zelda series and the gameplay experience more broadly, Doran seeks to explore the potential impact of inhabiting a character known to thousands on the children, or young adults, holding the controller. Additionally, Doran will detail a qualitative pilot study for collecting the oral histories of adults and young adults who played and experienced the steady popularity of The Legend of Zelda series over the last thirty-two years. Moreover, Doran intends to interview those whose families were not able to afford the games but have encountered series through other means. Further considerations for these oral histories include the effects of nostalgia, the re-release of the characters (particularly the hero, Link), and the proven inaccuracy of memory. Ultimately, Doran intends to develop methods for negotiating the relations created by video game encounters with famous characters and their pervasive presence in popular culture.

Jamie Flannery
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: The relationship between quantity and quality of sleep and daytime externalizing behaviors in urban preschool children.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lauren Daniel

One key factor for child cognitive and behavioral functioning is an adequate amount of sleep. Some research suggests there is a relationship between daytime externalizing behaviors and an insufficient amount of sleep or poor sleep quality in children. We hypothesized parent reported indicators of poor sleep would be related to teacher reports of daytime sleepiness and daytime externalizing behaviors.

Participants included 93 caregivers of preschool children attending an urban childcare center. Caregivers completed a demographics questionnaire, the Brief Infant/Child Sleep Questionnaire, and the Sleep Disordered Breathing Subscale (SDBS). Teachers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the Teacher Daytime Sleepiness Questionnaire.

Parents reported that children received an average of 10.77 hours of sleep per day (SD=2.11). Children had an average sleep onset latency of 24.00 minutes (SD=15.92) and 38.20% had one or more night awakening. The SDBS scores were in the clinical range in 12.20% of the sample. Daytime externalizing behavior (M=4.95, SD=4.94) was not significantly correlated with 24-hour sleep (r=.10, p=.93), night awakenings (t(79)=-1.21, p=.23), or sleep onset latency (r=0.13, p=.24). However, daytime externalizing behaviors was significantly correlated with of daytime sleepiness (r=0.55, p<.01).

Contrary to hypotheses, daytime externalizing behavior was not related to parent report of sleep. Nonetheless, daytime sleepiness was strongly positively correlated with daytime externalizing behavior, suggesting that sleepiness may be negatively affecting preschoolers’ daytime behaviors. Other studies found similar results, where indicators of poor sleep were not directly related to daytime behavior, suggesting that the relationship of sleep and daytime behaviors may be more complex. 

Diana Garcia
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Beyond the Blackboard: Analyzing ICT usage in a Columbian rural school
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sarada Balagopalan
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Since the introduction of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) in the educational sector, there has been a rise of hopes, wishes and fears on the possible consequences of this relationship. In some cases, people have thought that if children have access to technology, they will be better prepared to face life (adult life, working life, social life, etc.). This group of supporters base their believes on the premise that if we are facing the information era in which children are already “wired” to know how to use technologies, granting them access to ICT’s will upgrade their social status and introduce them into the workforce better prepared. It is this notion which has prompted the emergence of policies such as Computadores para Educar (Computers for Education) in Colombia, or Un Computador por Niño (One Laptop per Child) in Uruguay. However, this type of policies focused on children and the use of ICT;s for educational purposes run the risk of believing that ICT’s are a quick solution to the structural problems of an inefficient and under-financed educational system.

Another underdeveloped are in the literature lies in the differences between the northern and southern hemisphere in relation to the use of ICT and media literacy. Almost all the research and conceptualization carried out in the field of childhood studies and ICT usa has been done in Europe or the United States (Woodhead, 2008). Therefore, this research sought to investigate the use of ICT in the Colombian, rural, context. The risk of taking a Canadian program and applying it in a country like Colombia is to create policies based on what Erica Burman calls “dominant childhood imaginaries” in which the actual location of specific forms of childhoods are often neglected (Burman, 2008).

Therefore, the main objective of this research was to understand how children use ICTs granted by the media literacy program Computadores para Educar, in the context of rural education in Colombia. But my interest is not only in the possible uses of ICT in the classroom. The second objective of my research was to determine the expectations that children have as beneficiaries of such governmental programs. Therefore, I also asked: what are the expectations that children have about the use of ICT in their schools?

By actively involving children in this research, I tried to determine not only what their expectations are, but to include them as part of the analytical process. This approach, known as the “child-centered approach” has been used by children’s media researchers such as Livingstone (2012) and Marsh (2010) in previous ethnographic studies. Livingstone points out that the two main reasons to take this approach into account is that they allow the researcher to know the context of the children in which they are using ICT’s and also, to know their own views and concerns about this context that is often designed and controlled by adults. Therefore, to know the children’s opinions about the purpose and use of ICT in the classroom, children played an active role throughout my research.

Amanda Gonzalez
Biology (MS)
Title of Project: Developing a Forensically Relevant Single-cell Interpretation Strategy for Human Identification
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Catherine Grgicak, Dr. Daniel Shain, Dr. Nir Yakoby
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Biological evidence submitted to the forensic DNA laboratory contains cells from an unknown number of contributors in unknown proportions, resulting in interleaved mixture profiles, which are difficult to interpret, affecting match statistics reported to the court.  

This can be mitigated by introducing single-cell systems into the forensic laboratory whereby the mixture is deconvolved at the front end of processing.  However, low-template signal is often obfuscated by confounding signal such as stutter— a polymerase chain reaction artifact; false negative detection allelic drop-out); and false positive detection (allelic drop-in). 

Given the need to probabilistically evaluate DNA signal for the court, characterization of this confounding signal is necessary.  As such, 556 single-source, single-cell profiles were analyzed, and the data were statistically evaluated to determine whether the distribution of confounding signal was significantly different from that of bulk-processed samples.  The results demonstrate that drop-out is cell dependent.  Stutter was found to be locus dependent and consistent with that of bulk-process samples; however, higher stutter ratios were indicated in the single-cell regime, and the frequency of drop-in appeared consistent with that of bulk-processed samples. These findings suggest that current probabilistic systems are ill-equipped to evaluate single-cell evidence and new probabilistic constructs are required.

To determine if single-cell pipelines can be implemented, a protocol was developed to desorb buccal cells from cotton swabs.  To measure its efficacy, hemocytometry was used to determine the percent of cells recovered.  The percent recovery of buccal cells was found to be analogous to that of DNA for bulk-mixture extraction. 

Gaylene Gordon
Criminal Justice (MA)
Title of Project: The Relationship Between Race, Ethnicity, and Crime in one of America’s Most Dangerous Cities
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Michelle Meloy
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

This investigation analyzes the geographic distribution and clustering of homicide, aggravated assault, armed robbery and other violent and property crimes in one of America’s Most Dangerous Cities and explores if a cultural effect or other factors explain the spatial crime patterns. More specifically, the researchers investigated if a protective element existed within predominately Hispanic neighborhoods compared with predominately African American neighborhoods located in this troubled city. This analysis utilized official crime statistics, demographic and socioeconomic markers, immigration data, public housing data, gang data, and responses from African-American and Hispanic city residents regarding their perceptions of public safety to examine lower crime rates in Hispanic census tracts within the city. Preliminary findings indicate the presence of several potential influences. Policy recommendations are offered.

Molly Hartig
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: An Examination of the Relationships Among Sex Roles, Outness, and Self-Esteem
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Charlotte Markey
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

Early research examining sex roles and self-esteem often found that masculinity was related to higher self-esteem (Lundy & Rosenberg, 1987; Johnson & McCoy, 2000). These early studies, however, did not take into account the sexual orientation of participants. More recent studies, (e.g., Tate, Bettergarcia, & Brent, 2015), included cisgender men and women who identified as queer or straight. This study found that for all groups, gender typicality, or having a gender expression that matched one’s gender identity, was related to self-esteem. Therefore, queer and straight women were likely to have higher self-esteem if they scored higher on femininity, and queer and straight men were likely to have higher self-esteem if they scored higher on masculinity.

Two-hundred and eighty-eight participants (N = 144 women identifying as lesbian and N =  men identifying as gay) participated in this study. Measures included the Bem Sex Role Inventory (1974), the Outness Inventory (Mohr & Fassinger, 2000), and Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale (1965).

Analyses examined associations among the three constructs of interest: sex role, outness, and self-esteem. Masculinity was significantly, positively associated with self-esteem among both men and women. This association was actually stronger for women.  The potential role of outness and sex role orientation also appears to be worth considering.

Findings reveal that masculinity is more strongly associated with high self-esteem for both men and women. Practitioners may keep this information in mind when treating more feminine-identifying LGBTQ individuals, given the known links between self-esteem and a variety of other mental and physical health outcomes

Smruthi Bala Kannan
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Rhetorics of Sanitation and School Toilets
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sarada Balagopalan
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Discussions of toilets in media and activism often throw a spotlight on the availability of toilets for children in “developing” countries. Children are imagined both as vulnerable at the moment and as promises of the country’s future – they are both recipients of instruction on sanitation and  the reason why a society needs better sanitation. This rhetoric plays out in schools through the state designed curriculum and pedagogy on sanitation, and in its (un)built toilets.

In this paper, I explore the rhetoric of sanitation and narratives of toilets in school through a discourse analysis of excerpts from textbooks, and audio-visual and text material published in Tamil and English through the last decade in South Asia in general, and with particular emphasis on Tamil Nadu. I read these texts through a post-colonial lens for continuities from the health and sanitation policy of the colonial Madras Presidency in India in the late 19th century, through the development projects around the late 20th century. I focus on how these discourses engage with the relationship between (un)built environment, and children’s bodies through ideas of the safety of the “hygienic” and the risk of the “contagious.”

The sanitation discourse lies at the intersection of childhood (life-stage), gender, ecology, climate, and access to resources. It centers normative narratives of safety, shame, education, and health of children. My paper calls for an understanding of the school toilets and sanitation curriculum in the context of the post-colonial politics of children’s bodies, environment, and culture.

Samuel Kaslon
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: The Existential Function of Apocalyptic Beliefs
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Andrew Abeyta
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

The present research explores the existential function of apocalyptic beliefs. We hypothesized that the need for meaning in life motivates apocalyptic beliefs, particularly among people who are disillusioned with the conditions of their life. In Experiment 1, we assessed presence of meaning, threatened or bolstered meaning in life, and then measured belief in an article’s argument of an impending apocalypse in a sample of undergraduates (N = 141). Meaning threat, relative to meaning bolster, increased belief in the impending apocalypse among people low, but not high, in presence of meaning. In Experiment 2, we assessed cynicism, subjected participants to a meaning threat or control manipulation, and then measured doomsday-prepping beliefs in a sample of undergraduates (N = 206). Meaning threat, relative to control, increased doomsday-prepping beliefs among people high in cynicism, but decreased doomsday-prepping beliefs among people low in cynicism. Both studies support the argument that apocalyptic beliefs can serve as a source for meaning, particularly for people who lack a sense of meaning in life or are cynical about the conditions of the world.

Kristin Kelly
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: An examination of life online before and after #MeToo
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Charlotte Markey

The #MeToo movement was energized in the United States on October 16th, 2017, when dozens of well-known public figures spoke out about their own experiences with sexual assault using the hashtag “#MeToo” in their social media posts. The movement inspired women throughout the country to share their own experiences of sexual assault. Some women just shared simply “#MeToo,” which speaks to the symbolism of the hashtag to represent the many people that have also experienced a form of sexual assault. The movement was designed to bring awareness to the unfortunately common experience that women face and the fact that many perpetrators aren’t held accountable for their actions. Our research seeks to assess the social response to sexual assault following the initial reporting of the Harvey Weinstein case by comparing Google search data before and after October 16th, 2017. Using this Google data analysis, we will compare the changes in hypothesized search terms relevant to this historical moment (i.e. “harassment”, “consent”) to explore how the social media movement of #MeToo may have impacted sexual assault definition-seeking and awareness. The causal impact strategy indicated a statistically significant increase in the number of searches for #MeToo-related search terms.  In fact, from October 17, 2017 forward, an approximate increase of 38% in searches for “consent,” “harassment,” “statute of limitations,” and “#metoo” occurred. These findings provide support for the popular conception that #MeToo brought about awareness regarding the prevalence of sexual assault. This suggests an increase in concern and awareness about sexual harassment following #MeToo.

Morgan Kelly
Biology (MS)
Title of Project: Global stoichiometric trait diversity of terrestrial and aquatic animals
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Angelica Gonzalez
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Living organisms display an extraordinary amount of phenotypic variation driven and constrained by environmental and evolutionary pressures. The relevant aspect of that phenotypic variance are functional traits. Specific trait combinations may reveal ecological strategies of covarying traits that evolved in response to selection pressures. The elemental content of living organisms (carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) are the building blocks of life and they represent key functional traits because they demonstrate a strong influence over organismal form and function. Using a global database of elemental traits of animals, a multidimensional niche space was quantified to answer the following questions (i) What is the overall size and shape of the stoichiometric trait space of animals? (ii) Are there stoichiometric niche differences between animals occupying different habitats? (iii) Are there stoichiometric niche differences between animals occupying different trophic guilds? The observed multidimensional trait space of animals was significantly smaller than the potential niche space, which suggests the occurrence of trait correlations. Carbon and nitrogen were correlated, while phosphorus was independent, giving the niche an elliptical shape. The stoichiometric trait space of invertebrates and vertebrates occupying different habitats and trophic guilds varied in their size and shape but displayed a significant degree of overlap. These findings suggest that stoichiometric traits are evolutionarily conserved in animals because they were relatively invariant with the habitat in which the animals lived or the trophic guild they occupied (what they eat). Due to these evolutionary constraints, animals converge towards a limited amount of stoichiometric trait combinations.  

Rashmi Kumari
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: A Dancing Body: Learning from the youth dance groups of tribal India.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sarada Balagopalan
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Artistic practices have displayed body in forms of subject, object, and abject entity, since ages. However, the dematerializing ambition of the conceptual art was realized only post 1960 and that was through the medium of the bodies. Bodies were often understood in terms of Bataille’s “base materialism”, being a site of vulnerability rather than beautification. Experts like Fahey, and Jones have argued that the work of artists, where the body is used as a site of spectacle, as a medium of art, has several implications. Being transgressive by nature it blurs the boundaries between artwork and artists, explores as it creates a tension between the notion of self and the other and self as the other. Human body as it is used as canvas brings an intense physical and emotional proximity to the artwork. Performance art makes the audience witness bodily traumas: as witnessed in Chris Burden being nailed to a Volkswagen (Transfixed,1974) or Marina Abramovic and Ulay collapsing, unconscious, lungs filled with carbon dioxide from reciprocal exchange of breaths (Breathing In/Breathing Out, 1977). This witnessing constitutes an intimate link with the audience that arises from the shock of witnessing these transgressive acts. (Jones 1999) How does one understand the transgression when the performing body, the dancing in this paper’s case, is of “disadvantaged youths”. By “disadvantaged youth” I mean the body of young tribal women/girl who stands at the cross-section of multiple marginalization. Based on my previous work on tribal youths of India, in 2015, I would like to analyze the meaning and conception of performance by youth groups when the performance is an exotic spectacle for the otherwise advantaged group. Locating the act of performance in the tribal history, I am interested in the instances where the act of performing continues to challenge the power and authority of the dominant group.

Ruchi Lohia
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Title of Project: Conformational effects of a disease-associated hydrophobic-to-hydrophobic substitution and histidine protonation state located at the midpoint of the intrinsically disordered region of proBDNF
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Grace Brannigan
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Val66Met substitution at the midpoint of the prodomain of precursor brain-derived neurotrophic factor (proBDNF) has been widely studied for its association with increased susceptibility to neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and unipolar depression. Previously, NMR studies demonstrated that the prodomain is disordered with different secondary structure preferences for V66 and M66 (Anastasia et al. 2013).

We carried out 128µs of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with temperature replica exchange (64replicas, 2µs per replica) of the 90-residues BDNF prodomain with and without Val66Met substitution to investigate its conformational effects. We observe that Val66Met increases the formation of long helices and decreases the formation of long beta sheets structure around residue 66. Secondary structure coupling is found in V66 at residue 66 and 92. Differential secondary structure in V66 and M66 leads to different pairs of dominating salt bridges which introduces slight differences in radius of gyration of the two forms.

HIS65 is located in a negatively charged region of the prodomain sequence and can exist in protonated form. We further probe the effects of protonated HIS65 on the conformational ensemble of V66 and M66 with MD simulations (128µs). Consistent with the previous simulations we find that Val66Met increases the formation of long helices. Additionally, protonated histidine increases the formation of long helices and eliminates the beta structure tendency around residue 66 in both V66 and M66 forms.

These results indicate that the neutral substitution may exert its effects by critically adjusting the entropic cost of local secondary-structure elements, which, in turn, affects the conformational ensemble via differential salt bridging patterns. Additionally, histidine protonation acts as a conformational switch between helix and beta sheet structures for V66 forms.

Michelle Lyttle Storrod
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: The Most Dangerous Places Online: UK and US Gangs and Social Media
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lauren Silver and Dr. Michelle Meloy
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Using offline and online qualitative research this paper will look at how gangs use social media in gang business. A comparison will be made between Camden, NJ, once known as America’s most dangerous city, and Lambeth a Borough of London that historically has the highest rates of gang violence. Similarities between the digital footprint of gangs in each area will be addressed in relation to gangs ‘branding’ themselves via YouTube and the corresponding popularity of gangs online. The contrast in the use of ‘digital collateral’ (videos posted online containing physical and sexual violence towards or by gang members) which incubates violence in Lambeth but is not a public feature online in Camden will be outlined. This finding will be contextualized through an analysis of key components that contribute to why and how social media has been underutilized by Camden gangs but conversely has become instrumental to those in Lambeth; the availability of internet access; differing age ranges of gang membership; differing rates of incarceration; differing access to social media whilst incarcerated; finally differences in how social media can be used by law enforcement and courts will be briefly discussed.

Katherine Martin
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Supporting the Whole Child Through Mindfulness with Process Focused Art
Faculty Advisor: Dr.Wenhua Lu
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

Materials, methods and sensory explorations are demonstrated as intrinsic to enticing young children’s artistic freedom. Dry art media, wet materials, their body within the environment, sound, and language come together to support an imperfect and flexible exposure to creative agency. The concentration of this research is to highlight process focused art as supportive and inclusive to a broad range of children, from a variety of social spaces. Process focused art is centered upon cultivating mindfulness and a positive creative experience, while encouraging development of the whole child within a variety of settings- from early education classrooms to the kitchen table. 

Mark Nessel
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Title of Project: The importance of body size: scaling of body elemental content among vertebrates and invertebrates
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Angélica L. González
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Humans are drastically changing the proportions of important elements, such as carbon (C) nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), in the environment.  For us to understand the effects of these changes we must understand the mechanisms governing organismal elemental content.  Past studies have demonstrated that elemental content scales with body size in certain organisms.  However, this work has been limited to certain groups of organisms.  To make predictions of how elemental content will scale with body size across all organisms we can examine important tissues rich in these elements.  Previous work has established that important tissues such as lipids (carbon rich), protein (nitrogen rich), as well as vertebrate skeleton and invertebrate rRNA content (phosphorus rich) will drive organismal elemental content and have predictable size-scaling relationships.  Factors other then body size, including phylogenetic relatedness, are believed to play a role in organismal elemental content.  Here we take a macroecological approach and ask if global-scale variation in organismal stoichiometry (C, N, P) of invertebrates and vertebrates is consistent with scaling relationships predicted by these tissue-scaling relationships.  Using a global database of animal elemental stoichiometry, we ask: (i) Does nutrient content scale with body size as predicted by tissue-scaling relationships? (ii) What is the role of phylogenetic relatedness on body size scaling relationships?

Sung Won Oh
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Title of Project: DNA-Mediated Proximity Assembly Circuit for Regulating Biochemical Reactions
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jinglin Fu
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

Smart nanodevices that integrate molecular recognition and signal production hold great promise for the point-of-care (POC) diagnostic applications. Herein, the development of a DNA-mediated proximity assembly of biochemical reactions, which was capable of sensing various bio-targets and reporting easy-to-read signals is reported. The circuit was composed of a DNA hairpin-locked catalytic cofactor with inhibited activity. Specific molecular inputs can trigger a conformational switch of the DNA locks through the mechanisms of toehold displacement and aptamer switching, exposing an active cofactor. The subsequent assembly of an enzyme/cofactor pair actuated a reaction to produce colorimetric or fluorescence signals for detecting target molecules. The developed system could be potentially applied to smart biosensing in molecular diagnostics and POC tests.

Juana Paulino, Noelia Martinez, and Nayhelie Fermin
Teaching Spanish (MAT)
Title of Project: Title: “Encounters and discounters: the American landscape as a contact zone”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Carla Giaudrone

The course Touring Latin American Landscapes casts a panoramic view on literary and visual representations of landscapes in the cultural production of the Latin America region, from the pre-colonial times to the globalized present.This course examine how landscapes are represented in Latin American fiction, poetry, and visual culture, with particular attention to the relationship between landscape and identity. During the semester, the working group gathered a collection of selected textual and visual images of Spanish American landscapes over time to create the “Spanish American Landscape” virtual exhibit using the open source tool Omeka.

Omeka is a free, open source digital asset management system for online collections and exhibits. It was developed at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Omeka adheres to international standards, such as the Dublin Core Schema for metadata, and allows scholars, librarians, archivists, and curators to create digital content collections, simple web pages, and complex online exhibits. Omeka is a platform oriented to the visual and as our project contains landscapes we needed a highly visual oriented platform. Since Omeka is a digital platform and oriented to the visual, we use it in our project with the purpose of supporting the didactic content.

This exhibition presents a journey through the Caribbean landscape and some regions of the South American continent from the concept of “contact zone” with which the critic Mary Louise Pratt (1991) refers a space in which individuals separated by geography and history enter into contact with each other and establish asymmetric and permanent power relations. In these encounters, coercion, inequality and conflict generally prevail, as happens between colonizers and colonized or travelers and visitors. Our tour includes a collection of images (photographs, paintings, engravings and maps) as well as texts (poetry, travel chronicles, scientific books, autobiographies) that cover an extensive period that goes from the era of discoveries to the abolition of slavery at the end of the 19th century.


First encounters between Europeans and Indigenous people
Naturalists and European travelers before the American landscape
African slaves in the plantation

Shaylen Pearson
Teaching Spanish (MAT)
Title of Project: Dynamic Assessment in the Second Language Classroom: A Practical Template for Rubric Design
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Próspero García

Dynamic assessment is a tool used by second language educators in the field of sociocultural theory that combines evaluation and instruction into an ongoing, interactive process (Lantolf & Poehner, 2014). It differs from traditional, non-dynamic forms of assessment in that it actively encourages educators to engage with learners in order to identify their learning potential and provide mediation tuned to their zone of proximal development (ZPD). The ZPD is an important predictive marker for learner success, and functions more accurately than traditional IQ tests or classroom assessments in predicting scholastic achievement. It encompasses the factors of creativity, receptivity, diligence, and grit into a picture of the learner’s performance and, more importantly, the learner’s potential. In this presentation I show 1) the design of a research-based dynamic assessment rubric template for beginner-level second language classrooms that can be populated with a variety of content and which will provide a quantifiable, comprehensive score of learner performance and potential, and 2) implementation of the rubric template in various beginner-level second language classrooms and a discussion of the results. It is expected that this pedagogical tool will be a productive instrument for language educators to engage with students with the goal of fostering their ability to learn, retain and use a second language in an easily quantifiable way.

Rosemarie Pena
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Carol J. Singley
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

My dissertation research is now respected internationally, and I enjoy participation in multiple academic networks in large measure due to the support that I have received during my tenure as a graduate student in Childhood Studies from the Dean’s Conference Travel Grants. While studying for both my masters and PhD in Childhood Studies, I have presented at numerous conferences in both adoption and German studies. Through the many relationships cultivated at these events, I am regularly invited to give keynote talks on my research on Black German transnational adoption and to publish in edited volumes and scholarly journals. I am now recognized internationally as an interdisciplinary scholar and the sole adoptee expert on Post-WWII Black German adoption.

Importantly, my attendance at these conferences allowed me to garner the external institutional support that has enabled me to produce and host four international conferences for the Black German Heritage & Research Association (BGHRA), a NJ non-profit academic organization that I founded my first year in graduate school. I propose a digital display that will reveal a visual representation of these events, highlighting the most recent international conference, Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany, I produced and hosted at the University of Toronto in May 2018. The BGHRA conferences are especially generative and the filmed presentations from these events continue to be used in classrooms internationally to teach Black German Studies. My presentation will demonstrate the far-reaching impacts of the Dean’s Travel Grant in terms of supporting students’ academic career endeavors.

Michaela Puryear
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: Examining Correlates of Past Year Major Depressive Episode among Black Men and Black Women in the United States
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

There is a need for studies that examine the effects of traumatic experiences on depression separately for Black men and Black women. This study was guided by intersectionality theory and examined the impact of traumatic experiences and protective factors for past year major depressive episode (MDE) separately for Black men (N=1,681) and Black women (N=2,437) who participated in wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. The traumatic experiences studied were ten adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), past year intimate partner violence, and past year racial and gender discrimination. The protective factors studied were religiosity and ethnic identity. Racial discrimination and intimate partner violence were the only two correlates of MDE for both Black men and women. The association between intimate partner violence and MDE was larger for Black men (Adjusted odds ratio (AOR) =2.95) than Black women (AOR=1.75). ACEs were positively associated with MDE among Black women only. Among Black women, gender discrimination was more strongly associated with MDE (AOR=2.21) than racial discrimination (AOR=1.46). Findings suggest the need for gender-specific trauma informed prevention interventions for depression among Black adults.

Breanna Ransome
English (MA)
Title of Project: Academic Writing in Professional Graduate Programs: Reaching the Writer in the Executive MPA Student
Faculty Advisor: Dr. William FitzGerald

The growing awareness of the need for academic writing support for graduate students and, overall, the need for academic writing instruction for undergraduate and graduate students across the curriculum is evident in movements like Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), Writing in the Disciplines (WID), and the implementation of graduate writing centers and professional writing programs at higher education institutions. Rutgers University–Camden provides Student Writing Assistance for all graduate students in programs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences via a Graduate Writing Assistant. For the 2017 to 2018 and 2018 to 2019 academic years, students in Rutgers–Camden’s nationally accredited Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) program exhibited the greatest need for and accounted for the highest percentage of student requests for writing assistance over students in other graduate programs the Graduate Writing Assistant serves (including students in the MPA program). It became clear that writing assistance for executive MPA students needed to be approached differently than writing assistance for students in other graduate programs. This project is a case study of the Rutgers University–Camden Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) program and its executive MPA student population. It identifies overlapping factors unique to the program and its students that contribute to these difficulties and suggests multilevel changes aimed to combat those factors and reconcile EMPA program goals with executive MPA student needs. It is presented as a website that traces the project’s investigation and discoveries in a dynamic and energetic space.

Heather Reel
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Feeding Black Girls in Post-War America: The Fultz Quadruplets and Pet Evaporated Milk
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Miller
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

In 1946, the Pet Evaporated Milk Company agreed to pay all medical, food, and housing expenses for the first known surviving set of African American quadruplets, popularly known as “the Fultz Quads.” In exchange, the quads became unofficial “brand ambassadors” for Pet Milk, appearing in countless print advertisements from infancy through adolescence and helping to promote Pet Milk products to African American consumers. Unique ad copy suggested that consumption of Pet Milk was responsible for the once-tiny quads’ continued growth and vitality. The Fultz quads thus became icons of a thriving and healthy Black childhood in post-war America.  

In this paper, I will analyze Pet Milk ads featuring the Fultz Quadruplets in three widely distributed African American publications between 1946 and 1965: The Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, and Ebony Magazine.  I will examine assumptions about children’s bodies, consumption practices, health and development that are embedded in the textual and visual language of the ads, and the ways in which Pet Milk engaged with medical knowledge regimes to promote and sell their milk products and “teach” parents how to produce ideal children through technologies of food.  I argue that Pet appealed to African American parents by suggesting that “foodwork” and attention to children’s bodily practices were viable tools for racial uplift.  Finally, I will consider how the Fultz phenomenon created a space for the transmission and circulation of knowledge about children’s health and nutritional needs among African American families. These networks of health were one way that African Americans countered the overwhelming disregard for Black children’s health and bodily integrity during the civil rights era.

Nicole Revaitis
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Title of Project: A quantitative analysis of EGFR dynamics during early Drosophila development
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Nir Yakoby
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

Organogenesis requires the coordination among multiple cell signaling pathways to develop tissues into functional organs. While the overall impact of ligands and their associated signaling pathways has been studied by many labs, the mechanisms behind the distribution of ligands remains widely unknown. During  development, ligand-receptor binding is causal to tissue patterning and morphogenesis. Receptor dynamics throughout development remains elusive throughout this process. In the Drosophila follicular epithelium, a uniformly distributed epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is activated by a localized ligand source to set the anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral axes of the fly. However, the quantitative changes in EGFR localization during this developmental time remain mostly unknown. Using CRISPR-Cas9, we generated a fully functional endogenously labeled EGFR with EGFP. This fly enabled us to determine the quantitative changes in receptor levels and localizations. Using ELISA, we determined the levels of EGFR from stages 8 of oogenesis to stage 5 of embryogenesis. As far as we know, this is the first quantitative analyses of EGFR in these tissues. Also, we used this fly to trace the localization of the receptor throughout oogenesis. Interestingly, we detected dramatic changes in EGFR localization in regions of high GRK. At stage 8, EGFR is restricted to the apical side of the follicle cells.  This localization is lost during later stages of development, where EGFR is found in the apical and basolateral sides of the cells. Using endosomal markers, we determined the localization of EGFR and EGFR-GRK complexes throughout the developmental stages. Using these data, we aim to better understand how GRK shapes the distribution of EGFR activation throughout oogenesis.

Daniel Russo
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Title of Project: Extensive data-driven modeling of food-derived bioactive peptides that inhibit the angiotensin I-converting enzyme
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Hao Zhu
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Approximately a third of all adults over the age of 20 have high blood pressure, a precursor to a variety of heart and kidney diseases and a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. In humans, blood pressure is regulated by the renin-angiotensin hormone system. The angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE), as a key component of this system,  catalyzes the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II which acts a signaling molecule to narrow blood vessels resulting in blood pressure increase. Compounds that inhibit ACE activity have successfully been developed as treatments for controlling blood pressure and rank among the most widely prescribed drugs on the market. Furthermore, small peptides from a variety of food origins such as milk, soy, or fish, have been delineated as ACE inhibitors. These food-originating ACE-inhibiting peptides have gained remarkable interest over the years due to their therapeutic potential, safe toxicity profile and little side effects. Unlike small molecules, there is no curated bioactivity data repositories for peptides, hindering further modeling studies. In this work, we present the results of a data-driven modeling study to investigate the ACE inhibition of small peptides. First, a large database of peptides with ACE inhibitions was compiled from a variety of sources. This database consisted of 4,529 peptide sequences with IC50 data for ACE inhibition and various lengths ranged from 2-50 amino acids. To our knowledge, this is the largest database characterization for ACE inhibiting peptides to date. These peptides were grouped by the number of residues and used as the basis for several quantitative structure-activity relationship model developments using a variety of machine learning algorithms combined with a variety of descriptors. Several models showed good correlation with the experimentally-derived activities through cross-validation (r2 > 0.6). Additionally, predictions of peptides, which were not included in the current database, showed cleared evidence for amino acid preference to strongly increase/decrease ACE-inhibitions, which also depended on peptide length. In summary, we show how  data-drive informatics modeling studies can be an applicable method to perform peptide virtual screening to select new ACE-inhibiting peptides which have potential therapeutical effects.

Steven Schulze
Biology (MS)
Title of Project: The first record of marine tardigrades from New Jersey, USA
Faculty Advisor: Dr. John Dighton, Dr. Emma Perry
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient 

Background:  There are few Records of Occurrence of marine tardigrades from the Cold Temperate Northwest Atlantic Marine Province.  Intertidal species are of particular interest in that they may clarify the transition of tardigrades from marine to terrestrial environments.  Here, we report tardigrades recovered from barnacles at Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey.

Results:  Thirty-eight specimens were examined with phase-contrast microscopy and an additional five with electron microscopy.  Those specimens whose full complement of claws could be resolved average an 8,8,8,7 configuration.  The average body length-to-width ratio is 2.52, which falls within the range expected for medium-size species.  Appendages appear on all legs; those on I and II are dome-shaped.  Black eyespots are present, as are internal and external cirri, cirri A and E, primary clava, and cephalic papillae.  The dorsal cuticle is warty, and stylet bases rest on the posterior part of the pharyngeal bulb. 

Conclusions:  We provisionally consider these specimens to be Echiniscoides cf. pollocki.  Within the genus, only E. pollocki and E. horningi have both a warty cuticle and an 8,8,8,7 claw configuration.  E. horningi has a pair of tertiary clava, however, which is lacking in our specimens and in E. pollocki.  Further examination of the anus and gonopore and analyses of samples from the type location are necessary to identify our species.

Keywords: Heterotardigrada, marine, Record of Occurrence 

Halle Singh
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Gendered Habitus: The Effects of Compulsory Heterosexuality on the Field of Education
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kate Cairns

The reproduction of inequality within educational systems and its consequent effects on limiting access to higher education necessitates an investigation into the qualities of cultural reproduction that creates its existence. For low income and minority students, the effects of cultural reproduction within the school system cyclically reestablish its prominence through teacher practices, curriculum configurations, and the organizational infrastructure of schools and districts. Sprouting from the cultural reproduction tradition, in large respect to Pierre Bourdieu’s work on the reproduction of cultural and social power through class dynamics and habitus for educational success, these theoretical concepts help center how the social construction of contexts creates differing levels of capital acquisition that dramatically affect an individual’s ability to attain higher levels of education.

The capital transmission through the institutionalization of a certain desired habitus for success within educational systems parallels the notion of compulsory gender performances instilled in the social contexts girls inhabit. With applying this parallelism, the shift to specifically studying gendered habitus becomes crucial to understanding how the girl subject experiences the educational system in ways that are different than the blanketing statements of cultural reproduction theory at large. By “appropriating” Bourdieuian concepts and employing them to study gender inequality within educational institutions, this paper helps reconceptualize gender as a social category that directly promotes or inhibits girls’ acquisition of cultural capital, social capital, and educational opportunities. Through the use of an ethnography case study with a first generation Latina, the real-life implications of these processes are thematically explored.

Amanda Steele
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: Attack, Reject, or Distance: Behaviors and Goals in Negative Interpersonal Emotions
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Ira J. Roseman

Emotions can be conceptualized as syndromes with emotion-specific response components (e.g., behaviors; emotivational goals) that differentiate certain emotions. Prior research supports anger as an attack emotion, and contempt a rejection emotion. Interpersonal dislike has also been proposed as a distinct distancing emotion. However, few studies have investigated these emotions simultaneously to test posited attack, rejection, and distancing behaviors and goals. This research aimed to determine if (a) attack responses are distinct to anger, (b) rejection responses distinct to contempt, and (c) distancing responses distinct to dislike. To test this, online questionnaires asked participants to think of someone who is currently making them feel anger, contempt, dislike or hatred, and answer questions measuring appraisals and response components. ANOVAs with linear contrasts tested particular behaviors and goals being differentially characteristic of anger, contempt, and dislike. Results support attack responses being characteristic of anger, and rejection responses characteristic of contempt: verbal aggression behaviors were highest in anger experiences, and certain disparaging behaviors were highest in contempt experiences. The goal of “wanting to make someone feel bad” was the hypothesized goal most characteristic of anger, whereas “wanting to exclude someone from a group that you belong to” was the hypothesized goal most characteristic of contempt. Limited support was found for dislike and distancing responses. However, interpersonal avoidance responses were supported and rated highest in experiences of dislike. These findings have important applications. Distinguishing action tendencies and goals for particular emotions could aid in understanding destructive behaviors like extreme violence, as well as relationship deterioration.

Cody Stevens
Computational and Integrative Biology (PhD)
Title of Project: Pointed is necessary and sufficient for establishing the posterior end of the follicular epithelium
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Nir Yakoby
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

The anterior-posterior axis during Drosophila oogenesis is regulated by a small number of cell signaling pathways. The Janus-kinase/Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (JAK/STAT) is activated in both posterior and anterior ends of the follicular epithelium. Previously shown, JAK/STAT activation is required for the expression of decapentaplegic (dpp), the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling ligand, which consequently activates this pathway in the anterior follicular epithelium. In the posterior, JAK/STAT works in concert with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) to express the ETS-transcription factor pointed (pnt). Pnt was shown to control the dorsal midline width, which sets the distance between the two dorsolateral domains of the respiratory dorsal appendages primordia. Here we show that Pnt is necessary for determining the posterior fate of the follicular epithelium. In addition, our results indicate that Pnt is sufficient to repress anterior fate formation, as seen by the loss of BMP signaling. This complex signaling and transcriptional network provide insight into the establishment of the anterior-posterior axis of the fly.

Janice Stiglich
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Peruvian Working Girls-Making Movement
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sarada Balagopalan, Dr. Lauren Silver
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

Working girls in Movement of Working Children and Adolescents, Children of Christian Laborers (MANTHOC) are a child-led social movement which currently work to foment better girlhoods.  Trainings, as well as activities and participation in the valuation of their labor, more aptly equips girls to face the machista violence at the root of rising femicides in Peru.  Notions of purity and innocence which often confine girls to sexual roles, reproduce gendered violence-facets of which are being protested by women and girls across the country with #NiUnaMas marches.  Though their child-led social movement is not limited to girls, their orientation has been rooted in improving children’s lives. MANTHOC members take up a few topics each year working toward shifting power locally and globally, in favor of their members’ interests. 

Thus, their partnership to promote sexual and reproductive health education is a critical campaign meant to reduce the gendered violence of rape, femicide, and domestic violence.  MANTHOC is working to change the lived experiences of movement girls by constantly preparing them with liberatory knowledges which inform their protest, rally and actions towards the creation of children’s councils.  MANTHOCxs over time acquire decolonized views of themselves and their community, adapting to issues in the implementation sexual and reproductive health education in Peru.  In this project, working girls are attempting to reduce gendered violence through valuing their own multiple identities, and my project speaks to how their movement empowers them as protagonistas to affect change in the maintenance of their community.

Rachel Wagner
Psychology (MA)
Title of Project: Does reading fiction influence empathy?
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Hart

Empathy applies to everyone; it is crucial in understanding the development of human social relationships and behavior. Over the last decade, psychologists have proposed that reading fiction promotes development in theory of mind and empathy. When readers are genuinely engaged in fiction novels, it is theorized that they are simulating the perspective or emotions of another, which past research has posited to be one route to development in these domains. We hypothesized that book reviewers more frequently use empathetic words as they read more fiction books over time. To test this, empathetic language was assessed in 100,000 book reviewers from Goodreads.com. Empathetic trajectory was examined over substantial amounts of time, unlike past studies.

We constructed a dictionary of empathetic words from a variety of sources, such as those comprising a cluster of moral language said to characterize empathy (Graham et al. 2009). We also drew words intended to describe the personality trait of agreeableness, which is theorized to be associated with effective and cognitive empathy (Saucier 1997.) Using R, we counted the number of words from this dictionary that appeared in each review, and then divided this sum by the total number of words in the review.  

Our central finding is that the proportion of words in reviews that appear in the empathy dictionary increase as a function of the number of reviews written.  This finding suggests that reading fiction makes people more empathetic. Of course, our findings are correlation, and do not demonstrate causality.

Kiersten Westley
Pubic Affairs (PhD)
Title of Project: The Relationship Between Nature-Based Recreation and Happiness
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Adam Oulicz-Kozaryn

The environment in which we live can influence and shape our lives drastically. Happiness has been found to be higher for people who reside outside the confines of large cities in nature based locations. It is hypothesized that engaging in nature-based recreation could have a positive influence on happiness. We employ data from the 1993 General Social Survey (n=1,590) to explore the relationship between happiness and participation in outdoor recreation characterized by hunting/fishing, gardening and camping. The results confirm that participation in outdoor recreation may impact happiness in positive ways. The findings from this study show that overall, those who are actively partaking in nature based recreational activities are happier when compared to the general population. Overall, the results of this study is encouraging others to not only spend time in nature/green spaces, the goal is to be engaging in nature and exposing oneself through a nature based recreational activity to increase happiness. 

Samantha White
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: To Build a Body of Character: African-American Girls, YWCAs, and Physical Culture
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Miller
Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient

The Young Men’s Christian Association and the Young Women’s Christian Association sought to build the “spirit, body, and mind” of association members. Particularly within urban centers, these organizations helped to discipline, mold, and organize bodies who were deemed in danger of being corrupted by the influence of the city. YWCAs, interested in girlhood and womanhood, focused on the female body as a site in need of guidance and surveillance. My paper examines these implications for African-American girls in YWCAs in the Urban North of the United States during the early to mid twentieth century. I address the ways in which these organizations approached physical culture and African-American girlhood in YWCAs. Physical activity, sports, and recreation helped African-American girls build healthy bodies. However, these activities were also connected to emphasizing a moral and spiritual education. While these goals were similar to white YWCAs, my paper examines the racialized and gendered ways that physical culture was used to shape African-American girls into ‘respectable’ bodies who could serve as strong citizens, representatives of their race, and future wives and mothers. Finally, my paper analyzes the development of body centered pedagogies within African-American civic organizations in the urban North as interconnected to the anxieties felt by adult reformers towards girls migrating from the South during the Great Migration.