Gilad Ashpis, Senior, Finance & Management Science
Faculty Mentor:  Edward Baker, Ph.D., Management Science
The purpose of my project is to develop a “smart” market for groundwater in South Florida. Currently, the government allocates water by a permit system to farms, factories, offices, and other users. A relatively low, fixed price is paid for large amounts of water that can be very valuable to these businesses. The proposed improvement is to implement an auction market where users freely trade water. This “smart” market uses a central computer to accept bid and offer prices for water and matches up the buyers and sellers. The user that pays the highest price will receive the water, creating a benefit to the economy. For example, instead of an unproductive farmer using his water to grow crops, he can sell his water at a profit to his neighbor, who is a much more productive farmer and needs that extra water to grow more crops. The implementation of this market requires a sophisticated groundwater simulation to determine the effects of groundwater pumping on the water systems of South Florida. It is essential that groundwater sources are not depleted, that sufficient water flow reaches the Everglades, and that saltwater from the coast does not intrude into freshwater sources. I used the simulation program MODFLOW to determine how pumping at various locations in South Florida would affect the water levels and flows in the rest of the region. Incorporating the groundwater simulation data and notional bid data for the proposed “smart” market, I used linear programming, an optimization technique, to demonstrate how the market should operate.


Alison Castle, Senior, Biology
Mentor:  Juan Young, Ph.D., Human Genetics
This past summer I worked in the human genomics laboratory of Dr. Juan Young.  The focus of my project was on Methyl CpG binding protein 5 (MBD5).  The function of this protein is currently unknown, but mutations in the MBD5 gene are associated with mental retardation.  In order to determine the function of a protein, the first step is to knock out the protein’s expression to determine the phenotypic effects.  I tested various small interfering RNAs which could be used to inhibit MBD5 expression.  Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) bind to the mRNA transcript if the sequence of ribonucleotides is exactly complementary to the MBD5 sequence.  This complementary binding leads the mRNA transcript to be digested by the RISC complex, stopping further production of MBD5.  I used three different alternative tests to determine siRNA efficiency; the real time PCR tested the mRNA levels of MBD5 after shRNA introduction; the western blot tested MBD5 protein concentration; the luciferase assay tested the protein activity of MBD5.  Unfortunately, the real time PCR data did not give expected results and the western blot was suggestive but inconclusive.  The luciferase assay did indicate that the shRNAs 2 and 3 are good candidates to decrease the amount of MBD5 and could be used in further experiments.


Jonathan Diaz, Senior, Legal Studies
Faculty Mentor:  Patricia Sánchez Abril, Ph.D., Business Law
This summer, I worked with Dr. Patricia Sánchez Abril on a research project comparing internet privacy rights in the United States and European Union. We focused on analyzing a new EU law which gives European citizens a “right to be forgotten” online, if and how it could be applied in the US, and its effects on US-based internet companies with European clients. The project involved a detailed analysis of the current legal landscape on the subject of internet privacy. After aggregating information from law review articles, recent court cases, international news publications, and US and EU legislation, I compiled an extensive comparison of privacy rights between the United States and European Union. Professor Abril and I also had the opportunity to meet with a law professor from Spain to discuss this new law and the differences in privacy between the US and the EU. With all the information we collected, we were able to come up with a logical analysis of the potential impact of the “right to be forgotten”, and the practicability of applying such a law.


Brandon Eckford, Senior, Legal Studies & Finance
Faculty Mentor:  Ann Olazabal, Ph.D., Business Law
My research was about general topic in business law. This may range from privacy rights, employment law, age discrimination, property rights, and international commerce. I had a wide range of responsibilities which included editing an employee handbook, reading and selecting cases that were relevant to my professor’s needs and editing law review articles.


Quais Hassan, Senior, Biology
Faculty Mentor:  Athula Wikramanayake, Ph.D., Biology
This summer, I studied the effect of lithium chloride (LiCl) on endoderm formation in the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Gastrulation is the process in which the two types of tissue form in N. vectensis. This process is regulated by the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. LiCl has been shown to inhibit a protein called GSK-3β which causes gastrulation and endoderm formation; embryos exposed to LiCl show an increase in endoderm formed compared to untreated control embryos. My lab hypothesized that the extra endoderm originates from an adjacent tissue section and we predicted that the pharynx region of the gastrula was the specific source of the extra endoderm that was formed. We used a protein, Frizzled 10 (NvFz10) to observe endoderm formation because it is known that NvFz10 is only expressed in the endoderm and not the pharynx. My responsibilities included collecting the N. vectensis embryos post-fertilization, preparing necessary solutions and dilutions, fixing the embryos at the appropriate developmental stage, whole-mount immunostaining the embryos, and observing them under bright field microscopy. My future plans to continue this research include using in situ hybridization to confirm mRNA transcription in the pharynx (which would correlate to the data collected in my summer experiments).


Kristina Jacomino, Senior, Biomedical Engineering-Premed
Faculty Mentor:  Ozacan Ozdamar, Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering
The Effect of Attention on High Rate Auditory Evoked Responses 1Kristina Jacomino, 2Daniel Hauth, 1Jorge Bohorquez, PhD, 1,2Özcan Özdamar, PhD 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, 2Department of Neuroscience, University of Miami The purpose of this study is to further understand and/or discover electrophysiological markers related to the brain states of attention and non-attention. It is hoped that eventually scientists may develop a better way to diagnose and/or categorize various attention disorders. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of attention on the auditory steady-state response (ASSR) and the middle latency response (MLR) in humans. Both are specific types of auditory evoked potentials (AEP) and event-related potentials (ERP). The ASSR and the MLR were chosen for this experiment because they are reliable responses sensitive to the brain’s state of arousal and resonate well when presented with 40 Hz stimuli. Using a soundproof room, the subjects underwent an “attentive” condition and a “non-attentive” condition. In the attentive condition, the participants were instructed to listen for the oddball (target) stimulus and press a handheld button when it was presented. In the non-attentive condition, participants were instructed to watch a subtitled movie with no sound inside the chamber while the same stimulus was presented. Two distinct protocols using the attentive and non-attentive conditions were utilized. The ASSR, MLR and the P300 were obtained using conventional time domain averaging of electroencephalograms (EEG). During processing, the data underwent continuous loop averaging deconvolution (CLAD), a general mathematical method that is able to deconvolve overlapping auditory evoked responses obtained at high stimulation rates. After the pilot protocol, there was no pronounced effect on the ASSR, however there was in increase in the amplitude MLR at 100 ms for the attentive condition. The population average of the second experiment showed certain slight differences between the two conditions in the ERP. However, on an individual basis, there were a few subjects whose P300 during the attentive condition was more latent than during the non-attentive condition. Furthermore, a few subjects showed an increase in the amplitude of the MLR potential that occurs at around 100 ms. It remains that the true effect of attention on the ERP, ASSR and MLR remains elusive due to the variability between subjects and their ability to remain attentive or non-attentive on demand. I held the responsibility of prepping participants for testing, as well as monitoring the data collection software during the procedure. Furthermore, I handled the data processing software that analyzed and graphed the data.


Yiwen Ji, Senior, Biology
Faculty Mentor:  Roger Leblanc, Ph.D., Chemistry
My research suggests that 24 h continuous physiological temperature (37  °C) heating and very basic (~pH 12) condition is required for the synthesis of the gold nanoclusters (AuNCs) in the matrix of Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA). It was confirmed by fluorescence spectrometry and Native gel electrophoresis. However, the circular dichroism(CD) spectroscopy implies the denaturation of BSA might occur when the solution was heated in the strongly basic condition.


Kaplan, Michael, Junior, Biology
Faculty Mentor:  Juan Young, Ph.D., Human Genetics
Methylation of the Park2 gene in brain tissue samples
Parkinson’s disease and a number of other neurodegenerative diseases have been correlated to faulty proteins, coded by mutations in the genome. The Parkin protein is pivotal in the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway of dopaminergic cells. Errors in the Parkin protein, coded by the Park2 gene, confer one form of genetic parkinsonism.[1][1] Epigenetics is the study of the expression of the genome given factors such as methylation patterns, histone formation, and the distribution of heterochromatin. Epigenetic information may therefore be useful in screening for certain diseases, and in understanding the disease state. In particular, methylation of cytosines in cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) dinucleotides has been correlated with the suppression of genes.[2][2] We may therefore find abnormal methylation as the cause of faulty gene expression. Methylation patterns are unique to different tissues, despite having the same underlying genetic code. This is necessary and normal for the sake of cell differentiation. However, errors in the normal methylation patterns of certain tissues could lead to a variety of diseases. Through the use of a bisulfite conversion, I plan to map the pattern of methylation for the Park2 promoter region in the mid-frontal cortex, and the occipital cortex of the human brain. Following PCR amplification and gel electrophoresis, I will clone 10 colonies for each desired amplicon.  Each of these colonies will then be sequenced and analyzed to determine the probable methylation at each given region of Park2, for both regions of the brain.  These findings could thus serve as a template for comparison against Parkinson disease brain tissue.


[1][1] Hattori, Nobatuka and Mizuno, Yoshikuni. Pathogenetic mechanisms of parkin in

Parkinson's disease. The Lancet, Volume 364, Issue 9435, 21 August 2004-27

August 2004, Pages 722-724.

[2][2]Portela, Anna and Estellar, Manel. Epigenetic Modification and Human Disease.

Nature Biotechnology, Volume 28 Number 10, October 2010, pg. 1058.


Josh Kornfield, Senior, Political Science & International Studies
Faculty Mentor:  Jonathan West, Ph.D., Political Science
This summer I worked with Dr. West, a professor in the Political Science department. Instead of one major project, Dr. West assigned me a number of mini-projects. The most significant of these mini-projects involved updating textbook chapters that discussed human resource management. I had to research current statutes and statistics discussing employee benefits including flex-time, telecommuting privileges, and childcare services. I was also asked to read and edit several chapters and articles dealing with standards of community engagement in special districts. Dr. West also asked for research concerning the battles between public sector unions and state governments. Overall, we had a very productive summer. I am so grateful to the UM Honors Program for granting me this invaluable opportunity.


Ann Kurian, Senior, Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor:  Jennifer Hu, Ph.D., Epidemiology & Public Health
The Honors Summer Research program was an enriching experience through which I was able to gain meaningful professional experience and learn a great deal about conducting successful research. I worked closely with my research mentor, Dr. Jennifer Hu in Cancer Prevention and Control, and her staff in order to gain full understanding of the research process and actively participate in it. I began by conducting literature review of studies involving a chemotherapy drug administered in combination with a natural product drug in order to enhance the effects of the chemotherapy. I continued by working in conjunction with a graduate student to design and conduct a research project in which we treated pancreatic cancer cell lines with the natural product drug, emodin, in order to sensitize the cells and then treat with chemotherapy drug, Gemcitibine. We aimed to determine the optimal dosages of each drug and hope to further the project by eventually formulating clinical trials and testing the natural product enhancer on other cancer types. I learned how to culture cells and measure their growth rates after incubating them with different drugs. I also participated in another project that my research mentor was conducting, involving quality of life in breast cancer patients. I learned how to recruit patients for the study and assisted with data entry. Another endeavor I undertook as part of the research internship was co-authoring a chapter of a textbook about cancer genetics with Dr. Hu and three other members of her staff. I conducted literature research on a particular gene and its expression and implications in certain cancers, created a summary table on that research, to be included in the chapter and wrote a portion of the chapter involving my literature research. The program helped me gain skills in conducting research and exposure to professional opportunities in research.


Kaelyn Lynch, Sophomore, Marine Science-Biology
Faculty Mentor:  Lynne Fieber, Ph.D., Marine Biology and Fisheries
My research this summer involved studies with Aplysia nervous system toxicity.  After dissecting Aplysia ganglia and growing their nerve cells in a culture dish, the neurons were dosed with a well known toxin in the marine environment, TTX, and the effects on the individual cells were measured.  This research helped give insight as to whether Aplysia neurons are affected by TTX in a way similar to mammalian neurons, on which previous studies have been done.


Kimberley Mac Donald, Junior, Architectural Engineering
Faculty Mentor:  James Giancaspro, Ph.D., Civil, Architectural, & Environmental Engineering
I worked in the Advanced Materials Structural Lab for Dr. Giancaspro this summer.  My focus was on producing fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) composites with various dental products, especially articulation foil, with the intent of externally highlighting internal impact damages that are not usually visible.  In addition, I used the articulation foil to formulate a simplified method for surface profiling of concrete.  Additionally, I assisted a graduate student in preparing her FRP test specimens. I gained valuable knowledge about how to use some advanced machinery found in many materials research and development labs, and about the research process for graduate work in engineering.


Samantha McIntosh, Senior, Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor:  Amjad Farooq, Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
YAP2 transcriptional regulator mediates a plethora of cellular functions by virtue of its ability to recognize WBP1 and WBP2 signaling adaptors among a wide variety of other ligands. Our study sheds light on the molecular determinants of a key WW-ligand interaction pertinent to cellular functions in health and disease. Using isothermal titration calorimery (ITC) and circular dichroism (CD), we provide evidence that the WW1 and WW2 domains of YAP2 recognize various PPXY motifs within WBP1 and WBP2 in a highly promiscuous and subtle manner. We found that although both WW domains strictly require the integrity of the consensus PPXY sequence, residues within and flanking this motif are not critical for high-affinity binding.


Shannon Nurse, Senior, Accounting
Faculty Mentor:  Sundaresh Ramnath, Ph.D., Accounting
The Effect of Regulator Oversight on Firms’ Information Environment:  Securities and Exchange Commission Comment Letters This summer, I had the opportunity to do research with Dr. Sundaresh Ramnath from the Accounting Department.  Dr. Ramnath is researching the effect of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) comments, along with the companies’ responses, on investors’ confidence.  The research is being done in two parts.  In the first part, the types of comments from the SEC and the various responses from the companies were analyzed.  In the second part, the stock price of the company, after a SEC review, will be analyzed as an indicator of investor’s confidence in the company.  The objective of my research this summer was to complete the first tier of analysis necessary for the project. The results of my research will be used to determine what comments and resolutions affect investors and stock prices of the publicly traded companies.  Using the SEC’s website, I researched SEC comments letters regarding 150 different companies’ 10-K (annual) and 10-Q (quarterly) filings from 2004-2006.  I sorted the SEC’s comments into four different categories: Management Discussion & Analysis, Financial Statements, Footnotes, and Other.  I then analyzed the correspondence between the company and the SEC and recorded the resolution of the communication.  The communication could result in a variety of resolutions.  The company could explain their reasoning for the disclosure, inclusion, exclusion, or format that was commented on to the satisfaction of the SEC.  Alternatively, the company could agree with the SEC’s comment and amend the filing.  The company could also state that it would comply with the SEC’s comment in future filings.  Many times, the SEC and company would disagree on the interpretation of a regulation and have a long correspondence, each arguing a very viable interpretation.  Upon a final conclusion, I recorded the comment and resolution in the spreadsheet.    


Melissa Schakowsky, Sophomore, Political Science & International Studies
Faculty Mentor:  Louise Davidson-Schmich, Ph.D., Political Science
My research for Dr. Davidson-Schmich focused on female heads of the executive branch in Western Europe, Canada, and New Zealand. Dr. Davidson-Schmich argued that there is no clear consensus on how a woman leader is expected to act because there is an assumption of an idealized “women leader”. In order to prove this, we did a comparative case study of seven different female Prime Ministers. I was responsible for researching each of these women and looking at their upbringing and personal characteristics as well as the issues they dealt with while in office and how they dealt with “women’s issues”. I also researched each woman’s country in terms of the type of government each has and also the “gender context” of each country at the time each of these women came to power. By comparing these seven women and the context to which each came to power, we were able to prove that not all seven of these women had the same leadership style or approach to “women’s issues”. When looking at a female leader it is important to look at both her life experiences and the gender context of the country in order to analyze her leadership style.


Caitlyn Scherr, Junior, Legal Studies
Faculty Mentor:  Sheryl L. Alonso, Ph.D., Management
May the forcefulness be with you:  An empirical investigation of the force of influence tactics There is a great deal of research on social influence in the psychology, management/leadership, and communications literature. However, direct empirical evidence concerning the categorization of influence tactics into meta-categories of forcefulness is lacking. The current investigation involves a quantitative field study to investigate the level of force of the six different social influence tactics.  Specifically, a survey will be conducted among 200 mid and upper level managers to assess their perceptions of tactic strength. Survey data will include both a ranking section and a likert-type scale. The results will be analyzed using SPSS to analyze support for the hypotheses. Ultimately, as we learn more about influence through empirical studies, managers, leaders, and even subordinates could learn how to best influence others for positive outcomes and most effective leadership.


Karina Somohano, Junior, Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor:  Allison Lee, M.D., Anesthesiology
The research project that I participated in with my mentor, Dr. Allison Lee, deals with patient’s attitudes, beliefs and knowledge towards labor epidural analgesia. This includes concerns and questions that they would like answered by the health care team, their cultural influences, behavioral beliefs, control beliefs, self-efficacy and current sources of information. An epidural is an effective technique used to relieve the pain of labor. Although the use of the epidural has increased dramatically over the past decades, women still choose not to use this option during childbirth. Patients at Jackson Hospital are multi-ethnic, with the majority not highly educated and lacking the ability to comfortably speak or read English. Prior to admission to the hospital for delivery, patients receive minimal information regarding labor epidural analgesia. Increase in the information received about this pain relief method can improve patient knowledge and satisfaction with labor pain control. In the study, patients were given a questionnaire via a face to face interview in a private space adjoining the waiting area in the antenatal clinic, where they were asked about their beliefs about labor epidurals and what kind of information they would like to get about labor epidurals in an educational video. My role in the research project was to approach and interview the patients that qualified for the study in order to complete the questionnaire. I also input the data obtained from the questionnaire into the protected database and made sure that the information input into the database matched with the answers found in the questionnaire.


Robert Stacey, Senior, Finance, Management Science & Economics
Faculty Mentor:  Andrea Heuson, Ph.D., Finance
With all of the interest in the housing market and particularly the interest in how other bubbles could be avoided, this research sought to determine what the major causes of real estate licensee complaints were.  This study – “Regulation and Consumer Complaints: Do Quality Controls Matter for Real Estate Licensees?” – sought to determine what factors affected the number of complaints issued against real estate licensees. Various measures were examined including the pass rate on the state real estate licensing exam, the OFHEO (Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight) house price index, and the percentage of real estate licensees who are members of the National Association of Realtors. I gathered and compiled data from the ARELLO (Association of Real Estate License Law Officials) database, the National Association of Realtors, the US Census Bureau, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. I created two indexes measuring each state’s licensing requirements. One index measured how difficult it is for individuals to obtain a real estate license and the other index measured how difficult it is to retain a real estate sales license. With this data I ran various multi-variable time-series and cross-section regressions to determine the explanatory value these variables had on the number of complaints issued against real estate licensees.


Sebastian Verne, Senior, Biomedical Engineering-Premed
Faculty Mentor:  Chun-Yuh Huang, Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering
Differentiation of Periodontal Ligament Stem Cells into Insulin-producing Cells The periodontal ligament, a derivative of the neural crest, contains neural crest cells which are being studied for their pluripotency.  This study used different treatments to attempt to differentiate these cells into insulin-producing pancreatic cells, cells from the endodermal lineage.  One treatment showed promising results with a large production of insulin and up-regulation of other insulin-producing pancreatic cell gene markers.  If more experiments confirm the ability of these neural crest cells to differentiate into cells from the endodermal lineage, they may one day be seen as a source of pluripotent adult stem cells for use in medical treatments.


Yucan Zhao, Sophomore, Biomedical Engineering
Faculty Mentor:  Herman Cheung, Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering
To set the groundwork for future therapeutic transplantation of periodontal ligament (PDL) stem cells for the treatment of DPN, finding an optimal protocol for the induction of PDL cells into neural-like cells is the first step. In this project, PDL stem cells were treated with epidermal growth factor (EGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) for ten days. Neurogenic gene expression of the cells was checked using qPCR and immunohistochemistry techniques and it was found that our protocol significantly increases the expression of neurogenic genes.