Riana Brown, Senior, Psychology and International Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Debra Lieberman, Psychology
Less well studied is the information laughter conveys about the social environment. Given that ancestrally elder males would have been tasked with keeping watch for possible threats from out-groups, when elder males are engaging in laughter it may carry better information regarding the safety level of the social world than when elder females or young individuals are laughing. We predicted that male laughter will produce greater feelings of safety and be rated as more pleasant than female laughter, hearing older individuals laugh will produce greater feeling of safety and be rated as more pleasant than laughter of younger individuals, and laughter from older males will produce the greatest sense of safety. We had 30 University of Miami students listen to a selection of laughter recordings recorded from University of Miami students and faculty. After listening to each track (4 tracks: young men, young women, older women, older men) participants completed an experimental survey including questions about how threatening, safe, pleasant, and irritating the laughter tracks were perceived to be. We found that the laughter from younger individuals was perceived to be more pleasant than laughter from older individuals, opposite of our predictions. In addition, we found that there was no difference between the ratings of male and female laughter on safety or pleasantness.
Philip Corrado, Junior, Biomedical Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Chun-Yuh “Charles” Huang, Biomedical Engineering
I studied stem cells in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. I cultured human dental stem cells in flasks for a few weeks. I changed media so these cells would grow and divide. In my experiment, I treated these cells with chemicals (ATP and TGF-beta3) and kept them in a 3-d pellet culture for two weeks. Then I tested them for chondrogenic differentiation, to see if they had turned into cartilage cells. I did this by using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology. I spent most of my time doing the following three things: cell culturing, extracting RNA, and using the PCR machine. Cartilage has a very limited ability to repair itself so many people are looking at stem cells as a way to treat cartilage injuries and arthritis. My research led to some interesting findings. First, I was able to differentiate gingival tissue derived stem cells into chondrocytes (cartilage). These cells were discovered pretty recently and only in the past five years have they been used for research. Showing their chondrogenic potential is important and has not been firmly established by previous researchers. I also discovered that ATP might induce chondrogenesis. Unlike TGF-beta, ATP is not a known chondrogenic agent, so to show that it does turn stem cells into cartilage is a new finding.
Kathryn Doering, Senior, Marine Science Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Susan Sponaugle, Marine Biology and Fisheries
My research project was about the invertebrate zooplankton assemblages collected with light traps at Pulley Ridge, a mesophotic reef, in August 2012. I identified invertebrates in these samples to basic ecological groups in order to determine differences in the samples between depth (surface, middepth, and bottom) and location (North and South Pulley Ridge) of the traps. In addition to lab work, I spent time in the field. I collected additional light trap samples on deep (25 m) and shallow (10 m) reefs from the lower Florida Keys during the summer that I will later analyze for comparison to the Pulley Ridge samples. The continuation of this project will be my senior thesis. I also spent time on fieldwork that a graduate student was conducting. My duties included both boat tending and scuba diving. As a diver, I assisted with reproductive and behavioral studies on damselfish and I collected data on type of bottom cover and relief on the deep and shallow reef habitats of the damselfish studied.
Alexander Gonzalez, Senior, English and French
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joel Nickels, English
My research assignment was to look for examples of spontaneous, political self-organization in three texts that take place in early 20th century Argentina and Spain. In the case of Argentina and Spain, self-organization becomes evident in conflicts involving laborers and workers strikes. The inspirations for these discussions about labor occur in the backdrop of turning points in Latin American and Spanish history such as the Patagonia crisis and the Spanish Civil War. Images of these workers strikes represent moments when self-organization becomes apparent. The goal of this research was ultimately to begin finding instances that relate to my mentor Professor Nickels’ thesis that suggests the idea of dissident internationalism. Dissident internationalism refers to authors who imagine local communities as agents of a transnational network of self-governing people. Early 20th century Argentina and Spain provide a point of departure from which to consider the presence of non-state nations.
Brooke Homovec, Junior, International Studies and Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Terri Scandura, Management
For this research endeavor, I worked under the supervision of two University of Miami Department of Management faculty: Dr. Terri Scandura and Dr. Chei Hwee Chua. The objective of the research was to conduct a questionnaire survey across international cultures to garner a better understanding of the relationships between leaders and their directly-reporting subordinates as well as the advantages and disadvantages of different leadership styles. The goal was to find ways to enhance employees’ job satisfaction and job performance. To begin, I completed literature reviews in several phases, acquiring past research on paternalistic leadership from conference proceedings, journals and books, and coding this information into a large spreadsheet to be used later when the paper is written. Afterwards, I created tables that isolated various characteristics of the studies (such as grouping together studies that included paternalistic leadership as an independent variable) for further analysis. Simultaneously, my research advisors and I used our preexisting networks to reach out to companies that we thought would be appropriate candidates for the study. Once companies agree to participate, we send two separate questionnaires to the company: one for subordinates and one for their direct bosses. After data is collected, the results will be coded and analyzed using computer software. Unfortunately, we are still in the process of gathering enough participants to make the study viable and therefore do not have any results to present. Though the fact that some companies have declined to participate is disappointing, remaining appreciative of their time and consideration is a great life skill – they may be perfect, consenting participants in a future study.
Dima Jaraki, Junior, Biology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Sung Yong Eum, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and
Dr. Michal Toborek, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
N-acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL) quorum sensing molecules, commonly produced by a wide variety of Gram-negative bacteria, are known to modulate homeostasis of host cells and induction of inflammatory responses. Intestinal epithelial cells form a selective barrier separating the luminal content from underlying tissues, which is maintained via a complex of proteins composing the tight junctions that are located on the lateral membranes. Little is known about the mechanisms of homoserine lactones (HSL) on intestinal epithelial integrity. The present study aimed to evaluate the impacts of N-(3-oxodecanoyl)-homoserine lactone (3O-C12-HSL), a pathogenic long chain AHL on intestinal barrier integrity with in vitro human intestinal epithelial Caco-2 cell cultures. Using reverse transcription real-time polymerase chain reaction technique, we found that 3O-C12-HSL upregulated mRNA expression of inflammatory molecules including CCL2, IL-8 and TNF-alpha. Pre-treatment of pharmacological specific inhibitors against matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), at least partially, prohibited these effects of 3O-C12-HSL on intestinal epithelial cells. These findings suggest that MMP-mediated molecular mechanisms underlie AHL-induced intestinal epithelial integrity disruption.
Ali Jessani, Junior, Communication Studies and Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Uscinski, Political Science
I spent my summer researching conspiracy theories, specifically the reasons why people believe in them and what factors play a role in leading people to have a conspiratorial predisposition. Dr. Uscinski and I began our research by conducting a content analysis of survey questions handed to people after they voted in the 2012 Presidential Election. The questions identified which people had the strongest predisposition towards conspiratorial thinking, and separated these people based on partisanship, race, gender, and a variety of other factors. The results of the study showed that people on the Left and the Right believe in conspiracy theories at an equal rate, and often accuse each other of conspiring. Dr. Uscinski and I also conducted additional conspiracy theory research in the form of content-analyzing over 2,000 Google searches related to conspiracy theories. We found that most conspiracy theories tend to be political and that most websites tend to view conspiracy theories in a negative light. Our research this summer has important implications on future conspiracy theory research, as we have shown that conspiracy theories affect people on both sides of the political spectrum, and that some people, more than others, have a natural disposition to believe conspiracy theories.
Nora Kandler, Senior, Marine Science Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. James Klaus, Geological Sciences
As part of my summer project, I assisted with the drilling, collection, and recording of a series of seven cores throughout the terraces along the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. The depths of these cores extended down to 150 meters, containing various corals and sediments within a vast time period. I also had the chance to explore quarries within the surrounding area. Within the quarries, I assisted in collecting coral samples and recording transect observations, learning to identify the species in both cases. Once the samples arrived at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, I assisted in preparing the cores for analysis. Plugs were drilled from the core and their ends sawed off to create 1.0- and 1.5-inch tall cylinders. The core was then cut vertically in half and imaged to save a record of the core. One half of the core was used for isotope and XRD analysis. A drill was used to collect powder, which was then turned into a paste for the XRD/carbonates analysis done by a machine. Further analyses have yet to be completed. I look forward to expanding my geological knowledge and continuing to learn as I work on this project under the direction of Dr. James Klaus this coming year.
Michael Kaplan, Senior, Microbiology and Immunology
Faculty Mentors: Dr. John Bethea, Neurological Surgery and Professor Anna Dellarole, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
The goal of this study has been to investigate the role of Schwann cells TNF signaling in the development of neuropathic pain that occurs in response to peripheral nerve injury. To this purpose we used conditional transgenic mice that selectively do not express TNFR2 in Schwann cells, and performed the chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve, a common model of neuropathic pain in rodents. Mice were sacrificed three weeks after surgery, at the peak of pain symptoms, and their sciatic nerves were collected for immunohistochemical analysis of myelin and axonal markers (MPZ and NF200, respectively). Our data show that our transgenic mice, did not developed allodynia, one of the main symptoms of neuropathic pain, when compared to wild-type mice at any time point after injury, suggesting that TNF signaling through TNFR2 in Schwann cells might have a role in this process. Moreover immunohistochemical analysis showed normal levels of MPZ and of NF200 in the injured nerves of the transgenic mice, compared to the contralateral sides, or to the WT injured nerves. This data indicates a decrease in both myelin loss, and in axonal degeneration, in mice that lack TNFR2 in Schwann cells compared to WT. Specifically, I processed the sciatic nerves, performed the immunohistochemical experiments, and analyzed the fluorescence microscopy results.
Yishen Li, Junior, Marine Science Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey, Biology and Ecosystem Science & Policy
My research project, supervised by Dr. Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey from the Department of Biology/Ecosystem Science and Policy, is focused on coastal ecologic disturbance and dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) loading on the Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas. Excess input of DIN into coastal waters has been proven to trigger eutrophication, hypoxia, and degraded ecologic functions. The ultimate goal of the project is to calculate the qualities of DIN discharged into coastal waters through different types of shorelines (sandy beach, rocky shore, mangroves, and human-altered shoreline), and link those quantities to coastal ecologic rankings to formulate a relationship of DIN input—Ecologic Disturbance Level that would provide suggestions for environmental regulation. I spent the first four weeks of study preparing for the trip to The Bahamas: used Google Earth and historical images to categorize the shoreline into segments, trained how to use different types of equipment to measure water quality, created datasheets and tide cycle table for measurements in the field, and started literature review on this subject. During our two-week stay in Great Exuma, I was in charge of water quality sampling and measurements at 17 sites along the island daily, conducted detailed landscape surveys at five locations while recording disturbance data with a GPS receiver, and participated in biodiversity surveys in various types of ecosystems. In the next two weeks, I organized all data we collected, and worked on the field log, metadata, attribute tables, and trip report necessary for further analysis.
Courtney Magnus, Senior, Marine Science Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Diego Lirman, Marine Biology and Fisheries
Surveys from 2005-2012 show an established harmful algal bloom (HAB) in Biscayne Bay made up of two species of a green macroalgae, Anadyomene. HABs are often associated with the anthropogenic input of nutrients and can have many long-lasting ecological and economic impacts, as they are capable of persisting for multiple years. The Anadyomene bloom in Biscayne Bay is typically found in shallow water, 2-4 m deep, in the central inshore section of the bay. It can be seen forming a thick algal mat covering the bottom of the bay and has been associated with a decrease in the presence of Thalassia testudinum and other seagrass species. The loss of foundation species, like seagrass, as a result of macroalgal blooms can result in the loss of the ecological services provided by seagrass. This can greatly impact the local ecology and economy as many fisheries species use seagrass habitats as nurseries. Macroalgal growth can be affected by many factors such as light, salinity, and nutrient availability. Over the course of my internship I conducted a series of experiments in which the blooming Anadyomene, collected in Biscayne Bay was subjected to a number of different treatments. The average daily productivity of the algae subjected to each treatment was then calculated in order to assess how light, salinity, and water-column nutrients impact algal growth and aid the bloom in persisting. A better understanding of the physical drivers for the observed bloom will contribute to the containment, management, and future prevention of such blooms.
Joshua Moorman, Junior, Finance and Mathematics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alexander Dvorsky, Mathematics
Dr. Alexander Dvorsky of the Mathematics Department and I researched the potential profitability of an option trading strategy known as dispersion trading. Dispersion trading utilizes options to make bets on the volatility of individual stocks within different business sectors and their indices. In short, dispersion trading is a bet that the stocks within an index are either more or less correlated than the market believes them to be and is done by selling short index options while buying options on the individual stocks composing the index or vice versa. In order to test this, we first determined the prices of individual stock options and index options. To do this, I coded a Monte-Carlo option pricing strategy as well as the mathematically accurate Black-Scholes option pricing model. The Monte-Carlo method tracks how a stock or index performs over a specified time, determines the option’s payoff, and finally, determines that payoff’s present value. This simulation is run one million times and the average present value payoff is the option price. While the Black-Scholes method is more accurate, for low interest rates, such as those currently present in the United States, the two methods provided nearly identical prices for the same option. Once it was determined that the Monte-Carlo method could be used, I combined the code with another piece of code that represented a simplified stock market, tracking stock and index prices based off individual stock volatilities, beta values, and total market performance. Therefore, for each simulation, I began with a control test in which I would determine the original stock and index option prices, subsequently weighting the individual stock options so that we were spending the same amount buying the individual stock options as we were making from selling the index options (or vice versa). I then changed the individual volatilities of the stock as well as the time to expiration, representing a real life change in volatilities over time. Using the weights determined in the control test and the new prices based off the updated volatilities, I concluded whether a profit or loss was made. In the end, it was deduced that dispersion trading could be a profitable trading strategy. In the upcoming semester I plan to include transaction costs, add put options, and adjust for the costs of hedging all to make the model less theoretical and more realistic.
Syed Hamad Sagheer, Sophomore, Microbiology and Immunology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Zhibin Chen, Microbiology and Immunology
I completed research under the supervision of Dr. Zhibin Chen in the Microbiology and Immunology Department at the Medical Campus. Autoimmunity can play a powerful force in antitumor immunity and possibly bring society one step closer to fighting cancer. My research involved using splenocytes from a diabetic mouse that were efficient at clearing an islet derived tumor (NIT-1). By looking at a CD4+ restricted T-cell receptor, specific for beta-cells, we see that they are alone capable of destroying the tumor. CTLA4 is a protein receptor that modulates this antitumor response, which is correlated with specific changes in cellular motility. By reducing the presence of CLTA4 on T-cells through a knockdown in gene expression, there is an increase in the response time against the tumor mass. CTLA4 is commonly found on regulatory T-cells to “push the brakes” on a response against a tumor to prevent killing normal cells, but may also hamper the body’s ability of quick killing. My portion of the independent research primarily dealt with analyzing and imaging the movies between the interactions between the T-cells and tumors. During my free time after working on my project, I helped with various tasks around the lab, such as with real-time polymerase chain reactions, grinding mice organs, and counting cells under a microscope.
Heidi Savabi, Senior, International Studies and Latin American Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Justin Stoler, Geography and Regional Studies
Historical Mapping of the Lebanese in Accra (HMLA) aims to enumerate Lebanese commercial activity in Accra, thus laying the groundwork for a future community-led economic census of Lebanese business interests, as well as generate the first historical map of these businesses. The project employs a geographic framework to collect, map, and track key business metrics with the overarching goal of creating aggregate measures of the Lebanese economic legacy and helping put this business community “on the map.” Information gathered will be used to establish basic aggregate economic indicators for these activities by sector. To assist with the specific aims of HMLA, I helped maintain a project blog as a reference tool for anyone interested in the project, particularly participants who want to track our progress online. The page features contact information for project leadership, summary documents, progress updates, and links to other similar projects that have helped put under-represented communities “on the map.” I also collected data for specific businesses including the year founded and broad industry code that are mapped to the business location. Ultimately we will create a Google Maps mash-up with a slider bar that controls the animation of business locations over time for a particular industrial sector, or in total. To contribute to the project’s map, I drew polygon shapes to display the location, shape, and size of each Lebanese business.
Harrison Seeman, Junior, Finance
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrea Heuson, Finance
Houses in Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) regions with more limited supply due to regulatory restrictiveness and/or geographical constraints feature higher returns than houses in less restrictive MSA regions. The objective of this research is to understand the relationship and predictive value between a region’s return and its regulatory restrictiveness and geographical constraints for commercial real estate. Specifically, the research establishes a numerical relationship between a region’s return and its regulatory restrictiveness and geographical constraint for commercial real estate land uses. To find this relationship, commercial real estate return data from NCREIF (National Council of Real Estate Fiduciaries) was combined by MSA region with data from a study by Wharton School of Business on regulatory restrictiveness and another study by Albert Saiz on geographical constraints. After combining the different sources’ data sets, the information was separated by returns in 2003, 2005, and 2009 to represent a normal market, boom market, and a bust market respectively. Multiple regressions were used to understand the relationship between commercial real estate return, regulatory restrictiveness, and geographic constraint by MSA. The primary application of the research is to provide new investing and valuation tools for commercial real estate.
Teresa Vargas, Junior, Psychology and English
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ruben Rabinsky, Philosophy
Our research project originates and is based on Dr. Rabinsky’s development of and teaching a new course on Business Ethics for the College of Arts and Sciences. We interviewed a series of successful Hispanic Entrepreneurs (mostly in person, but some also through Skype) using a set of questions to explore the philosophical dimension of the project, and a separate set of questions (and a personality inventory) to explore certain personality traits we hypothesized the entrepreneurs would have in common. From the philosophical aspect of the interviews, all of our hypotheses were supported. We found that, without exception; (1) our sample of Hispanic entrepreneurs is highly individualistic; (2) they believe in wealth creation as a noble and worthy human endeavor; (3) all of the Hispanic entrepreneurs rejected and criticized socialism and all varieties of collectivism or government control of the economy; and (4) all of the Hispanic entrepreneurs favor some variety of capitalism and free market economy. The psychological aspect of the project yielded the following results: Although we did not find the entrepreneurs to have significantly lower levels of introversion or higher levels of openness to experience as was hypothesized, the majority of them reported to have experienced flow states, as we hypothesized. We also found the entrepreneurs to have lower than average levels of emotionality, and higher than average positive emotion.
Anneliese Vitha, Junior, Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dorraya El-Ashry, Internal Medicine
This summer I was given the opportunity to work at Sylvester Cancer Research Center doing breast cancer research. In the specific laboratory I was assigned, I worked with Dorraya El-Ashry, Ph.D. and Amy Plotkin, an M.D. Ph.D. student at Miller School of Medicine. In this lab, we worked with estrogen receptor (-) breast cancers. ER (-) breast cancers are generally more aggressive and have a worse prognosis for treatment than ER (+) breast cancers. The re-expression of ER receptor would allow ER (-) breast cancers to be treated with endocrine therapies and therefore, have a better prognosis. The loss of ER receptors is due to different epigenetic means that block the expression of the receptor. This lab researches different means to overcome the epigenetic blockers. I worked with four different breast cancer cell lines, SUM-149, SUM-159, MDA 231 and MCF-7s. I used these cell lines in tissue culture, DNA and RNA extraction, luciferase assays, centrifugation, and in the Nano-Drop machine throughout different experiments. Also, I used different cancer treatment drugs, such as tamoxifen, ICI (antioestrogen), and Scriptaid to treat the cells. I am very grateful to both the Sylvester Cancer Research Center and the Honors Summer Program for giving me the opportunity to have hands-on experience working with all of these breast cancer cell lines, experiment techniques, and breast cancer drugs. Through this experience I also learned a good amount of information about tissue culture and different research techniques that will be useful to me in my future career.
Brooke Zarouri, Senior, Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Priyamvada Rai, Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are produced naturally as byproducts of aerobic respiration in the mitochondria. DNA damage repair proteins are essential for a cell’s survival because ROS may cause base alterations, mutations, and DNA strand breaks. Cancer cells produce higher levels of metabolic ROS than normal cells, and accordingly they have higher levels of DNA repair proteins. This marked difference makes the DNA damage response pathway a logical target for inducing death or growth arrest in cancer cells. Loss of function methods such as small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) can be used to suppress specific proteins in the damage repair pathway and subsequently investigate how each protein individually affects cell survival. A shRNA clone library was obtained comprising of OGG1, NTHL1, APEX1, MUTYH, and FEN1, five proteins playing important functional roles in base excision repair, a DNA damage response pathway. The objective of the research project was to isolate the DNA and confirm the successful incorporation of the shRNA plasmid. To achieve this, DNA was isolated and concentrated from bacteria that incorporated the shRNA plasmid effectively, and the validity of the plasmid was confirmed through gel electrophoresis and sequencing of the DNA. Once a sample is validated through both methods, it can be introduced into lung cancer cells to investigate how the target protein affects cell survival and tumor growth.
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:
- Envy_ElectivesPhase2 (pretest)
- 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.
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, an