Babinchak, W. Michael, Junior, Chemistry

Faculty Mentor: James Wilson, Ph.D., Chemistry
My research involved the synthesis, quantification, and analysis of binding capabilities of six derivatives of a bifunctional cationic fluorophore. Each compound contains two stilbazolium dyes that allow for analysis through fluorescence upon binding to the norepinephrine transporter protein, which has been shown to have high plasticity in substrate binding. Each of the six compounds was synthesized using substitution of dibromoalkanes with picoline followed by a double Knoevenagel condensation reaction. All compounds were quantified via H NMR, C13 NMR, infrared spectroscopy, and high resolution mass spectrometry. The fluorescence was quantized using UV-vis and fluorescent spectroscopy in varying solvents, such that the quenching capabilities of each solvent on the six compounds could be examined as well. The binding capabilities were examined through the addition of each compound individually to a pallet of human epithelial cells and the addition of a desipramine inhibitor in order to examine the release of each compound. The fluorescent intensity on each pallet was recorded over time and analyzed to produce numerical binding and release rates. This research will continue using other derivatives of the fluorophores in order to further examine the plasticity of the norepinephrine transporter.

Barona, Melissa, Senior, Environmental Engineering & Chemistry

Faculty Mentor: Frank Millero, Ph.D., Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry
My research assignment consisted of the analysis of hydrographic measurements collected along section A22 in the Atlantic Ocean, which extends from Massachusetts to South America, as designated by the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE). Biological and physical parameters including potential temperature, salinity, nitrate, phosphate, oxygen, total alkalinity, total carbon dioxide, partial pressure of carbon dioxide, and pH were measured during cruises in 2003 and 2012. My research project utilized the data to determine the change in anthropogenic CO2 along section A22. The computer program Ocean Data View was also used to construct graphs and images that illustrate the distribution of the measured parameters. The internal consistency or accuracy of the measured parameters (total alkalinity, total carbon dioxide, partial pressure of carbon dioxide, and pH) that characterize the carbonate system of ocean was determined by comparing measured and calculated values. The project was finalized with a report that summarizes observations made on parameter distributions and estimates of the anthropogenic CO2 increase along section A22.

Dell, Jessica, Junior, Ecosystem Science and Policy & Biology  

Faculty Mentor: Alexandra Wilson, Ph.D., Biology
Antibody Validation for the Localization of Amino Acid Transporters at Pea Aphid/Symbiont Interface
Obligate symbiotic relationships between insects and bacteria allow both species to fulfill their needs through a partnership.  The pea aphid, a sap-feeding insect, is host to the endosymbiotic bacteria Buchnera aphidicola that reside within specialized aphid bacteriocyte cells.  Buchnera convert nonessential amino acids provided by the aphid into essential amino acids, supplementing the aphid’s diet with the essential nutrients it lacks.  Amino acid transporters facilitate the transfer of amino acids across the outer bacteriocyte cell membrane and inner symbiosomal membrane surrounding each Buchnera cell.  In order to understand the mechanism of this nutritional symbiotic relationship, it is necessary to determine the location of amino acid transporters expressed at the aphid/Buchnera symbiotic interface.  The aim of my project was to experimentally validate an antibody that will be used in future experiments to localize the amino acid transporter ACYPI001018 at the symbiotic interface.  I conducted a Western Blot Analysis on two yeast protein samples.  One sample was transformed to express transporter ACYPI001018 in the yeast membranes and an additional sample without transporter ACYPI001018 was the negative control.  The proteins contained in the yeast membranes, including the amino acid transporters, were isolated and probed with the antibody.  A fluorescent secondary antibody was then applied and the protein samples were scanned with light to detect the binding of the first antibody to the targeted transporter.  Because cross-reactivity between the antibodies and the amino acid transporter was detected only in the yeast containing transporter ACYPI001018, the antibody correctly bound to its target. In order to further understand the regulation of amino acids and specialization of amino acid transporters in this symbiotic relationship, this validated antibody will be used to localize the amino acid transporter ACYPI001018 at the aphid/Buchnera symbiotic interface.   

Estevez, Nicholas, Junior, Management Science & Finance

Faculty Mentor: Edward Baker, Ph.D., Management Science
This summer I worked with Dr. Edward Baker, Chairman of the Management Science department, examining the financial performance of companies deemed ethical in comparison to those who have not been deemed ethical. The project consisted of three main stages: literature review, sector performance evaluation, and individual performance evaluation. In the literature review stage, I researched numerous pieces of academic literature on corporate social responsibility, shareholder wealth maximization, and the link between the previous concepts and corporate financial performance. In the sector evaluation stage, we divided the companies listed in Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical list into their different sectors using the Global Industry Classification Standards. Next we compared the performance of each sector each year from 2009 to 2012 to the FTSE 350 and S&P 500 sector indices. Likewise, we also created a composite graph for each sector and for the overall list. In the final stage of the project, we took each individual company from the World’s Most Ethical list and found the adjusted closing price for each stock from January 2005 to July 25, 2012, using the Bloomberg software. In addition, I randomly selected 150 companies from the S&P 500 to use as a control sample and obtained the closing prices for those stocks. Next, I converted the prices into compounded daily returns. Using those daily returns, we created a spreadsheet with all the companies including their daily returns and numerous indicator variables for the sectors and the WME list. We imported the spreadsheet into SAS and found regression and GARCH models for the data.

Fields, Thomas, Senior, Finance

Faculty Mentor: Juliano Laran, Ph.D., Marketing
Summary of Summer Involvements
- Did literature review and write-ups for 2 papers to find sources for background ideas
          - The 1st paper involved sadness and perception
          - The 2nd paper involved tendencies of sadness vs. fear driven action
- Did pretest statistical analysis on three studies, and made write-ups summarizing conclusions drawn, implications, and possible next steps.  Study names were:
          - Angrenity_MoodPT
          - Envy_ElectivesPhase2 (pretest)
          - Self_AffirmMetacognition
- Programmed/wrote a few tests/pretests on Qualtrics to be administered in the studies

Gabaldon, Michaela, Junior, Health Science  

Faculty Mentor: Mark Stoutenberg, Ph.D., Epidemiology and Public Health          
The research I conducted may stray from the quintessential “scientific method” type of research. I assisted in the development of a lifestyle modification program, called FOGO Wellness—a program intended to hopefully reduce the number of sedentary, inactive adults, and change the lives of its participants by educating them about the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet in one’s life. My role in the development of FOGO Wellness leaned more towards composing the curriculum for the 16 week program, which consists of a weekly lesson, activity, and assignment. I was responsible for collecting information and research from different sources, and compiling them into one, well-rounded, effective curriculum for participants to engage in. I created the lesson plans and activities planned for each week of the program. Increased fitness and wellness for participants is the ultimate goal of the FOGO Wellness program. The program’s success has the potential of positively affecting the lives of many in the future.

Gentile, Alexander, Junior, Nursing

Faculty Mentor: Joseph De Santis, Ph.D., Nursing
I worked under the supervision of Dr. Joseph De Santis in the Human Subjects Research Office (HSRO) in the SONHS. Dr. De Santis is currently conducting two pilot studies in order to gain more information about specific populations facing health disparities in the South Florida area, of which I assisted on both. The main study, entitled VIDA-II, focuses on recruiting Hispanic Men who have Sex with Men (HMSM), while the other study is focused on transgender females. I worked to prepare research tools, perform QA, enter data electronically using the VELOS system, and occasionally participated in the subject interviews. I also worked with several other professors, including Dr. Emma Mitchell, Dr. Sarah Lawson, Dr. Rosina Cianelli, and Dr. Maite Mena on their respective research studies when Dr. De Santis was out of town for recruitment and when he had to speak at a conference in Israel. 

Hanewinckel, Marie, Junior, International Studies

Faculty Mentor: John Paul Russo, Ph.D., English  
My Honors Summer Research Project was to organize and catalogue the I.A. Richards collection in Special Collections at Richter Library.  I.A. Richards is known as the founder of modern literary criticism, and participated in groundbreaking work in aesthetics, semantics, literary criticism, elementary reading, and second-language training.  Although many of the materials in the collection were donated about twenty-five years ago, it was not organized or catalogued in detail.  I had to sort through all nine boxes and write down their contents.  After going through each box, I had to decide what needed to remain in Special Collections and what could be removed.  Most of the books were removed and placed in the regular collection in the library.  In addition, some of the film had to be removed because it had deteriorated beyond repair.  Whenever an item was removed, it had to be carefully documented so there was a record of its existence.  After deciding what to keep, I reorganized the collection.  Since the majority of the remaining materials were language instruction tools, most of the boxes were organized by language.  I then catalogued the contents of each box into Archon, the computer program used by Special Collections, so it could be uploaded onto the Richter Library website.  I also wrote a brief biography on I.A. Richards and a description of the collection for the website.  Once the Richards collection was finished, I did some work with the Italian-American collection.  The experience was incredible and I learned a lot about how Special Collections works, and the care required to maintain each collection.

Jakubowski, Andrew, Junior, Entrepreneurship, Finance, & Economics

Faculty Mentor: Tie Su, Ph.D., Finance
My project sought to determine the impact of a reverse stock split on the future prices of that security. To do this, we examined the cumulative abnormal return associated with the reverse split using the event study methodology, a common technique for assessing market valuations subsequent to key corporate actions. Such information may be beneficial to both the management and investors of publicly traded companies seeking to discern the probable effect of a reverse split on market prices. My personal contribution included a great deal of background reading of scholarly papers on the subject, which was useful not only for the creation of a review of literature, but also in determining ways to distinguish our project from others in the past. I was also responsible for making recommendations on which particular portions of academic journals should be cited in our work, as well as for scouring a number of databases in search of the various data sets we needed to perform our analysis.

Johnson, Natasha, Senior, Biology

Faculty Mentor: Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Ph.D., Ophthalmology-Bascom Palmer Eye Institute
Distinct protein and lipid changes as a consequence of Iron impaction on corneal tissue
The purpose of this project is to determine whether iron objects result in distinct changes in corneal protein and lipids using bovine, porcine, and cadaver human corneas. Enucleated bovine, porcine (n=300 each) and human cadaver eyes (n=6), deficient in protein synthesis, were exposed to iron, copper and lead. Laemellar dissection techniques were employed to isolate corneal layers. Protein amount was determined by spectrophotometry and protein profiles were visualized using SDS-PAGE analyses. Protein identification was carried out after protease digestion using a LCQ Deca XP mass spectrometer. Class specific lipid identification was carried out using ratiometric lipid standards on a TSQ Quantum Access Max mass spectrometer.  Our findings are consistent with iron impaction to corneal tissue resulting in cleavage of 1-phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate phosphodiesterase beta-2 variant (PLCB2; 134KDa) into a 36KDa species. Presence of epithelial layer is necessary for PLCB2 cleavage upon iron impaction. While iron impaction resulted in distinct changes in PLCB2, other metallic object penetration resulted in lower protein extractability from corneal tissue compared to controls. The changes in protein profiles were different for different metals. Depth of injury negatively affected protein extractability compared to controls. Protein profile changes were different for penetration to different depths and dependent on several other factors in a complex manner. Commensurate with PLCB2 cleavage, phosphatidylinositol (PI) but not phosphatidylcholine (PC) lipids showed significant changes in iron impacted corneal tissues. Iron impaction of corneal tissue for 24 hours results in cleavage of PLCB2 commensurate with significant changes in PIs but not PCs or other phospholipids.

My contribution to this project included corneal exposure to metal objects along with protein and lipid extraction. In addition, I took part in measuring the protein amount via Bradford’s method and visualizing protein profiles using SDS-PAGE. I also carried out immunohistochemistry and Western blot to confirm the presence and localization of PLCB2 in the epithelial layer of iron exposed cornea. Finally, I helped in digesting the gels in order to identify corneal proteins via mass spectrometry.

Kasparis, Elena, Senior, Health Sector Management and Policy & International Studies

Faculty Mentor: Steven Ullman, Ph.D., Management
My analysis included an examination of the cost-saving motives for expanding the practice of international medical tourism and the role of insurance companies and employers in facilitating this growth. Quality, ethical, and legal issues in regards to international medical tourism were discussed with suggestions for reform to improve the safety and quality of the practice. I argue that the concept of forming an international regime to govern international medical tourism has great potential to provide appropriate and necessary oversight of medical tourism.

Midden, Aaron, Junior, Finance & Management

Faculty Mentor:  John Mezias, Ph.D., Management
For my research, I assisted Dr. Mezias in conducting reviews of the literature to decipher what avenues of research he should pursue. I completed the reviews on a variety of topics including: expatriate adjustment, international mentoring, international staffing, local expatriates, third country nationals, resource-based view and alliances, and corporate social responsibility. The process first involved conducting searches on Business Source Premier using keywords. Then Dr. Mezias and I would review the abstracts of each of the research articles and select the ones that were relevant. I read and analyzed the selected research articles and created an entry for each article in the summary journal. The summaries were formatted in standardized manner which included citation, abstract, type, hypotheses, sample, methodology, results, limitations, directions for future research, and conclusion. Some notations were made within the journal that exemplified conflicts and continuities within the existing research. I also analyzed and discussed what past researchers deemed important for future research. Throughout the summer, I met with Dr. Mezias to not only discuss results but also to learn from him. Furthermore, all research articles were integrated into the RefWorks database, which included giving each article a unique identifier for easy retrieval.

Nepomechie, David, Senior, Mathematics, Economics & Computer Science

Faculty Mentor: Professor Christopher Parmeter, Economics
Many models in the economic literature seek to identify factors which influence government spending, but there is little consensus on the relative accuracy and importance of these models. This summer research uses an empirical analysis to reduce this model uncertainty and evaluate the salience of potential determinants of government spending. Data from public sources was compiled into a panel dataset of 476 variables covering the period from 1960 – 2010 for 189 countries. In addition to estimating traditional panel models from this data, Bayesian Model Averaging was performed. This method computes the inclusion probability of variables in a well-specified model, and can as such identify influential and meaningful variables. Bayesian Model Averaging applied to government spending thus analyzes various purported determinants and evaluates their importance, thereby elucidating the appropriateness of various competing models.

Parsons, Graham, Junior, Economics

Faculty Mentor: Richard Grant, Ph.D., Geography and Regional Studies
For my honors summer research project work I assisted Dr. Richard Grant, head of the Urban Studies department, with his upcoming book Modern Africa: An Urban Revolution.  He hopes for the book to be used in academic settings for urban studies courses.  The book also synthesizes much of the information scattered over various stand-alone sources to provide a comprehensive examination of the African urban situation.  As his research assistant, my main work was researching, reading, and taking notes on African academic literature online, particularly concerning water in Africa.  The main other work was to proofread and format chapters such that the electronic version of the novel would be as close to what the editors wanted as possible.  Overall, the experience gave me the opportunity and challenge to improve my researching skills, as well as absorb much more information about the African water situation, and hopefully be a contributing part of an important book. 

Patel, Shreyans, Junior, Neuroscience

Faculty Mentor: Ian Hentall, Ph.D., Neurological Surgery- Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
Title: Repair of Post Spinal Cord Injury Respiratory Dysfunction through Brainstem Electrical Stimulation
Respiratory diseases are the leading cause of death after a spinal cord injury (SCI).  The nucleus raphe magnus (NRM), located in the brainstem, is a principal center for the repair of CNS tissue, releasing trophic substances such as serotonin (Teng, 2005).  In this study the NRM was stimulated electrically for 3 weeks in rats with a cervical (C5) contusional spinal cord injury (SCI).  Adult female Sprague Dawley rats were injured using a New Horizons impactor. A stimulating electrode was then implanted stereotaxically into the NRM region of the brainstem.  Assessment of respiratory function was done over a 5 week period.  Whole body plethysmography was done using a bias flow controlled chamber designed for rodents, in conjunction with recording software (Buxco Electronics, Wilmington, NC).  Each rat acclimated to the chamber for a minimum of 15 minutes and 3 minutes of measurement ensued.  In the 4th week post-SCI, an atmosphere of 5% CO2 was also tested, to examine responses to respiratory stress.  Respiratory function returned towards normal (pre-SCI) in 4 weeks, although forelimb motor responses (grip strength and inclined plane stability) were depressed. Frequency and minute volume both increased after injury and slowly returned to normal whereas tidal volume decreased before returning to pre-injury values.  Thus spinal respiratory control adapts more rapidly to cervical injury than does forelimb function. This is consistent with published work on cervical hemisection (Reier, 2008).  Stimulation appeared to show a beneficial effect on respiration; minute volume was significant in repeated measures (ANOVA (P=0.017)).  We plan to repeat this study for mid- and upper-thoracic injuries, which directly affect spinal respiratory neurons, as opposed to the block of descending control that cervical injuries produce.

Sargsian, Shushan, Junior, Microbiology

Faculty Mentors: Joshua Hare, Ph.D. & Ivonne Schulman, Ph.D., Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute
Project title: The Effect of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Gender on Angiogenesis
Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are non-hematopoietic stem cells, meaning they are not formed in blood vessels or related to blood cells.  They can be isolated from virtually every tissue type, but bone marrow and adipose tissue are the principal sources for most preclinical and clinical studies. MSCs can be readily expanded in vitro and can differentiate into osteoblasts, chondrocytes, adipocytes, endothelial cells, vascular smooth muscle cells and cardiomyocytes. Previous studies have shown that mesenchymal stem cells from female donors possess higher therapeutic efficacy for the treatment of experimental heart failure than their male counterparts. The goal of this study was to examine the effect of hMSC gender on angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels. Because female stem cells were not available during the duration of the program, male stem cells were treated with the female hormone, estrogen (17-β-estradiol) to simulate a gender difference in the cells and to also study the role of estrogen in hMSC angiogenesis. We hypothesized that male hMSCs treated with estrogen would have a greater angiogenic potential than untreated male hMSCs, meaning those cells would form longer and more numerous tubes in various angiogenesis assays. Western blots were first performed to confirm the expression of two estrogen receptors, ER-α and ER-β, on the stem cells.

Bone marrow derived hMSCs were expanded and cultured for 14 days in α-MEM media not containing vascular endothelial growth factor, VEGF, which could promote endothelial differentiation. Experimental groups were treated with 10-7 M, 10-8 M, and 10-9 M concentrations of 17-β-estradiol 24 hours prior to three different assays for testing angiogenic potential. For the matrigel assay, hMSCs were grown EGM media (which does contain VEGF) for 24 hours and then plated on the matrigel gel; tube growth was observed after 5 hours. In the spheroid assay, hMSCs were grown either in α-MEM media or in EGM, and treated with 10-7 M estrogen. Cells were first plated in non-adherent wells and allowed 48 hours to form spheroids at which point they were suspended in collagen and transferred to different wells. Tube growth was observed 24 hours later. The 3D Co-Culture involved plating hMSCs and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) in separate layers of collagen in the same well in order to observe the interaction between them and how this influences migration and tube formation. The tubes that formed in the matrigel and spheroid assays were counted and measured using the ImageJ program. The vascular index for each group in the matrigel assay was calculated by multiplying the average number of tubes per frame by the average tube length. The highest vascular index in this assay was that of the male hMSCs treated with 10-8 M estrogen. The vascular index for the spheroid assay was calculated by multiplying the average number of tubes sprouting out from each spheroid by the average tube length. Male hMSCs grown in EGM media containing VEGF, but not treated with estrogen, had the highest vascular index in the spheroid assay. Not enough trials of the 3D Co-Culture were performed to quantify any data. Future goals of this study include repeated trials of the assays already performed, as well as acquiring hMSCs from a female donor to test against those from the male donor in order to achieve a better understanding of the gender difference in mesenchymal stem cells.

Savarin, Ajda, Junior, Meteorology & Mathematics

Faculty Mentor:  Shuyi Chen, Ph.D., Meteorology and Physical Oceanography
The research I did for the internship was a continuation of what I did during the spring 2012 semester for Professor Shuyi Chen. It involved data processing from the DYNAMO (Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation) field campaign occurring in November and December 2011. Lots of data was collected using plane sensors and radar and dropsonde data to try and learn more about the phenomena.

The part that was particular to what I did in the summer was my boundary layer recovery time. The boundary layer is the layer of the atmosphere closest to the surface, that gets most affected by daily changes in temperature, moisture, etc.  The MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation) is a wave of precipitation moving eastward in the tropics (mostly Indian and Pacific oceans), oscillating between suppressed and active phases depending on the amount of rainfall. When rain is falling, the air around it is cooling down, producing more stable air and conditions that suppress the rainfall for a while, so I was trying to calculate, based on physical models, how long it takes for the boundary layer to recover back to the state it was in, before the rainfall started, so the whole thing can start over again.

What I did was design a set of equations that were obtained from various academic sources that would allow me to calculate that time - I was using software called Matlab to write code for the calculations, and various project-specific software that were written to analyze the radar data in various ways. The data I was using was collected during the field campaign.

The research I have done so far is more of a general conclusion, and I will keep working on improving it, refining it and finding new results at least until the end of this semester. At that point, there’s an American Geophysical Union conference happening, that Professor Chen thought would be good for me to attend, as part of it is also focusing on the same phenomenon, meaning it would give me the opportunity to meet other people who are doing similar things or things connected to MJO, and put the whole thing into better and broader perspective.

Sterwald, Christopher, Senior, Neuroscience

Faculty Mentor: Jutta Joormann, Ph.D., Psychology
This summer, I worked in Dr. Joormann’s Mood and Anxiety Disorders laboratory in the Psychology department. The project I was most involved in over the summer concerned emotional regulation strategies and the psychophysiological response to stressful situations. Although the full study also involved different attentional training paradigms, for the purposes of my poster I focused on the correlation between the emotional regulation strategies known as experiential avoidance, cognitive reappraisal, and expressive suppression and the psychophysiological measures of heart rate, respiration rate, and skin conductance. I examined correlations between these variables at baseline and during a stressful speech task, as well as the difference between the stressor and baseline situations. The actual work I did in the lab this summer involved data cleaning. To do this, I used Mindware software to clean and prepare the psychophysiological data for analysis.

Suarez, Sophia, Junior, Political Science

Faculty Mentor: Jonathan West, Ph.D., Political Science
Dr. West of the Political Science Department has been working on a new book entitled Public Service Ethics: Individual and Institutional Responsibilities with his colleague, Dr. Bowman of Florida State University. The book is intended to be used as a core text for upper-level undergraduate and beginning graduate students. Dr. West and Dr. Bowman utilize cases, charts, and graphs in order to instruct individuals studying public service ethics by clarifying moral experiences, analyzing individual decision making strategies, and assessing organizational ethics programs. As Dr. West’s research assistant this summer I was responsible for a variety of tasks. Namely, I used internet databases to find pertinent laws, commissions, policies, and scandals as supplemental material for each chapter. I drafted fictional and nonfictional cases on relevant individuals and situations in order to clarify and exemplify chapter objectives. Additionally, I created graphs, charts, and other visual aids to facilitate understanding of concepts. I also worked on creating PowerPoint presentations on Human Resource Management. Dr. West was also in the middle of setting up the annual South Eastern Conference on Public Administration which he is the chair of this year. As a result, I read all the submitted abstracts and organized them by topic and panel, drafted a conference program, and e-mailed the conference participants with important notifications. I learned how to use internet databases, develop cases, and organize a large conference.