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2011 Honors Summer Research Projects

2012 Honors Summer Research Projects

2013 Honors Summer Research Projects

2014 Summer Research Projects

Amelia Bahamonde, Sophomore, Biology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Emrah Celik, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

My research attempted to use normal cells and simulate different states of elasticity to determine if we could successfully isolate cancerous cells. The first part of the testing applied three different treatments (control, treated with paraformaldehyde to stiffen, and treated with cytochalasin D to disrupt the cytoskeleton and render soft) to simulate different physical states of the cell. In the next step, once equal amounts of the three different cell types were mixed (and labeled with red dye, red + green dye, and green dye, for the control, fixed cells, and soft cells, respectively), I used a syringe pump, at a set flow rate, connected to a 10- or 12-micron micro-filter to push the cells through it and isolate what is able to cross the membrane. The confocal microscope was used to obtain images of the cells after filtration. I used the atomic force microscope (AFM) for nano-characterization of the cells. After applying the different treatments, I measured the elastic modulus of the cells that passed through the membrane, using the force scan application of the AFM. More specifically, the microscope allows me to collect data on the elasticity and the Young’s modulus of the cell types that moved through the filter, which was also a way to affirm that the treatments worked properly.

Parth Bhatt, Senior, Microbiology and Immunology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathleen Sealey, Biology
Small island developing states (SIDS) throughout the Caribbean depend on tourism and tourism development to support their economies. However, coastal tourism infrastructure is at risk of flooding and storm surge damage. SIDS need to improve coastal resilience by understanding the potential extent of damage to coastal development, also looking for ways to mitigate or reduce storm and flood related costs. This study looked at coastal development on the island of Great Exuma, and evaluated the elevation of the buildings, proximity to the coast, and cost of re-construction compared to the income generated from tourism, and employment at resorts, hotels and rental properties. Areas with a high risk of flooding based on the elevation and coastal setting were compared to the potential tourism income generated to determine long-term viability and decision points for relocation vs. rebuilding after a storm disaster. When the consequences related to any storm may result in far greater losses than the total incomes generated, the decision to relocate the building may be required. Buildings on the island were attributed as to the ownership, use and income-generation potential. Once the survey of all coastline properties is completed, a larger model of economic sustainability can be addressed in the location and amount of coastal development that can be maintained on one island.

Richard Campbell, Senior, Neuroscience

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christopher Kuenze, Kinesiology and Sports Sciences

Our research was primarily focused on the detection and prevention of knee ligament injuries. I used the Microsoft Kinect in coordination with specific motion capturing software designed to measure skeletal kinematic data. Although the software has been used by a few other institutions, we are the first to use it as a possible means to assess athletes’ lower extremities for susceptibility to injury. Using this system, I recorded the lower extremity motion of the Men’s and Women’s UM basketball team as they performed squats and jump landings. We also measured each player’s single leg hop ability and their dynamic balance. Using this data we were able to assess each player’s susceptibility to knee injuries. My poster compares the Men and Women data from the series of performance tests.

Michael T. Connelly, Junior, Marine Science/Biology & Chemistry

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Schmale, Marine Biology and Fisheries

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) have emerged as an ideal model organism for the study of animal development, organogenesis, and cellular functions in aquatic systems. Transgenic lines of zebrafish containing vectors for expressing fluorescent proteins can be used to monitor gene expression, influence antibiotic selection, and can also act as reporter genes for the presence of environmental toxins and heavy metals. My summer project revolved around establishing primary cell culture techniques to demonstrate the feasibility of zebrafish cell culture.  Another focus of the project was monitoring cellular responses to external stimuli in culture. Zebrafish embryos collected from several different transgenic fish lines were sterilized and dechorionated before being subjected to growing conditions and stimuli in culture media. Using fluorescence microscopy, I examined the effect on BHB-37 cell cultures by taking time series photographs of green and red fluorescence in two paired cell cultures, one of which was heat-shocked for an hour. Increased red fluorescence was documented intensely after 24 hours following the heat-shock treatment, whereas no overall change in green fluorescence was noted. Results from BHB-37 and other transgenic lines indicate that embryonic cells in culture exhibit the same response to external stimuli as mature zebrafish, as expected but not documented prior to my project.  Other transgenic zebrafish lines exhibited a range of fluorescence phenotypes, including those that show variable green fluorescence in the presence of divalent metal cations such as mercury, zinc, cadmium, and lead. The expression of green fluorescence in embryonic cell cultures of these zebrafish could potentially lead to many applications, such the evaluation of heavy metal concentrations in water sources.

Ryan Geusz, Junior, Biochemistry

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cheri Stabler, Biomedical Engineering/Diabetes Research Institute

One strategy in the attempt to cure Type 1 diabetes involves the transplantation of insulin-producing islet cells into the body of a patient with the disease. However, a principal barrier to successful islet cell transplantation is a decrease in cell viability due to hypoxia, or lack of sufficient oxygen, at the transplant site stemming from an absence of blood vessels delivering nutrients and oxygen to the area. One possible way to combat this issue is to add to the transplant site an oxygen-generating biomaterial that will provide oxygen to the islet cells until sufficient angiogenesis can take place. In the experiment I performed, I sought to test the effects of calcium peroxide, a compound that reacts with water to produce oxygen, on the viability of extracted rat islet cells subjected to an oxygen-poor environment as would be found at a transplant site lacking blood vessels. To do so, I added a silicone disk containing calcium peroxide to the media of one group of islet cells, then incubated them in a chamber with low levels of oxygen. At various time points, I performed tests to measure the viability of the cells and compared these measurements with those taken from a control group of cells placed in the low-oxygen chamber, as well as a control group placed in a chamber with normal levels of oxygen. I found that the cells incubated with the silicone disks showed significantly more viability and more similar profiles to the control group in the chamber with normal oxygen levels than did the control group incubated in the low oxygen chamber without the silicone disks.

Elaine Golden, Senior, International Studies & Mathematics

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christopher Cotton, Economics
For my summer research project I researched academic journals and books identifying the role of access to legislators in the political process. Specifically, I identified, read and classified articles that addressed the role of money and political donations to the policy process. I also reviewed the literature to identify which special interests seek access, which politicians are likely to grant access to these interests, and what additional factors determine who gains access to politicians in the U.S. Congress. After completing this survey of the literature, I worked with Dr. Cotton to draft a literature review paper. I intend to continue to work with the professor to complete the publication and then potentially work on further projects related to the topic.

Miranda Goot, Junior, Management Science & Ecosystem Science and Policy

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Yongtao Guan, Management Science

With a surge in grant money funding harmful algal bloom research, there is a large collection of recent research covering the various aspects of Florida red tide, including the anthropogenic and natural causes, the environmental effects, the effects on animal and human health, the economic impact on the tourism industry, and the management and monitoring of algal blooms.  After recognizing a gap in assessing monitoring systems, Dr. Guan and I decided to delve further into this area.  We wanted to assess the effectiveness of the Beach Conditions Reporting System to see if it was effectively reporting instances of Florida red tide and to see if that impacted attendance at the beaches included in the system.  To accomplish this, I collected data on harmful algal blooms along Florida’s west coast over the past two decades in addition to daily reports of the System and daily attendance records for various Florida beaches.  I was able to carry out some simple statistical tests and look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Guan and other professionals across the state who specialize in Florida red tide research.

Alexandra Hussey, Junior, Legal Health Studies & Health Sector Management & Policy & Marketing

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sheryl Alonso, Management

As the economy becomes increasingly more globalized, so do work situations.  Teams are now comprised of contributors from diverse geographic regions, with individuals communicating via virtual means.  Research on the efficacy of virtual teamwork and methods of virtual communication identifies existing benefits and challenges.  This ultimately provides insights that can be used to optimize virtual teamwork to achieve greater productivity and better outcomes in a variety of industries. My research was a preliminary, qualitative study of virtual teamwork.  We conducted two studies of college students in simulated work situations.  In each study, students were randomly assigned to teams and were asked to complete a timed task.  No team members were allowed to work in the same physical area, thus necessitating the use of virtual resources. The first task asked students to solve a complex problem (assembling a puzzle).  The second activity asked students to think creatively and develop a presentation and proposal to address a given problem.  After each study was completed, participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire assessing their virtual teamwork experiences.  Overall, responses indicated that virtual teamwork is less efficient - and less preferred - than traditional in-person teamwork (particularly when communication media are not specifically prescribed).  The effectiveness of virtual teamwork also varies by the type of work being completed.  Ideally, these results will inform further research addressing more realistic and complex work situations.

Dana Kajan, Junior, Microbiology and Immunology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Herman Cheung, Biomedical Engineering

The stimulus for myocyte contraction in vivo is the influx of calcium ions across t-tubules, which then activates ryanodine receptors on the sarcoplasmic reticulum membrane to release more calcium into the cytosol through calcium-induced calcium release. Using a biomimetic electrical stimulation bioreactor, neural crest stem cells will be stimulated in vitro to see what effect the stimulation will have on intracellular calcium cycling, and ultimately, if this stimulation will lead to contraction. NCSC’s will be electrically stimulated over a period of eight days with day 0 as the starting point and day 7 as the stopping point as previous research has indicated that contractile function can be assessed after day seven. To perform this experiment, neural crest stem cells are seeded onto a six-well plate and cultured in fresh media. Cells are loaded for imaging using Fluo-4 (calcium indicator), 0.05% Pluronic F-127 (helps solubilize the Fluo-4), and PBS (buffer). The cells are then incubated for twenty-five minutes. PBS is added again and the cells are incubated for another twenty minutes for complete de-esterification of AM esters before applying electrical stimulation. One minute representative videos of cells undergoing electrical stimulation are acquired on days: 0, 1, 3, 5, 7. Regions of interest are defined using ImageJ and mean grey value measurements are collected over the duration of the video. Normalized fluorescent intensity vs. time is then plotted using a custom written MATLAB code.

Dan Li, Senior, Physics-Applied & Mathematics- Applied

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Wangda Zuo, Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering

My research project is focused on modeling and operation evaluation for the innovative heat recovery system of the Grand Beach Hotel in Miami Beach. HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system design plays an important role in energy efficiency and system satiability. Commercial buildings such as hotels require large amounts of cooling and domestic hot water demand. Conventionally, the space cooling and heating system and domestic hot water system are separate. A heat recovery system is a combination of domestic water preheating system and condenser water reheating system. A heat recovery system can combine these two systems to achieve a more efficient solution. The waste heat generated by space cooling will be dumped to the outside environment in a conventional system. With heat recovery, the waste heat will be collected to preheat the domestic hot water. This solution only makes sense in cooling dominant region, such as Miami; however, the real system is much more complex. Currently, we are implementing the control and physical model and hope to optimize the system control and design in the future. If this design proves successful, it can be applied to all commercial buildings.

Scott McClinton, Senior, Marine Affairs

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sen Roy, Geography and Regional Studies

The goal of the research is to track the suitability of Malaria development based on temperature over the last thirty years. Mixing current ideas and trends of how to evaluate the relationship between temperature and parasite growth with daily measurements of weather conditions over the evaluated time period, the investigation that took place attempted to see if any possible trends emerged from this data record. This summer long research project consisted of five sections: a literature review, data collection, data processing, map creation, and paper writing &refinement.  The first section resulted in not only enhanced understanding and a survey of the field at present, but also a selection of conditions that can best be used to track malaria incidence based on temperature conditions and how they affect each vector in the process of parasite growth. Data collection was quite simply finding the best source material and gathering it from the Global Survey of the Day, a NOAA based assessment that includes the average, minimum, and maximum temperature for each day. Taking the over fifteen hundred stations with millions of aggregated days, the data processing period collapsed this massive collection of numbers based on a variety of factors, ending with 270 stations which on average had just over ten thousand days of data. Using the set of conditions found in the literature review, these days were designated as either located within the proper temperature constraints of continued malaria incidence or not. Aggregating this on a monthly time scale, and comparing these months over the evaluated time period, allowed for the next step: map creation. Together, all of the previous steps have culminated in a final paper that is still in production that will be submitted as part of a special volume of a journal.

Benjamin Morris, Senior, Composition & Theory and History

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lansing McLoskey, Composition and Theory
My project involved copying two of Dr. McLoskey’s handwritten scores, “Flux in Situ” for string quartet, and “Occam’s Razor,” a cello concerto with chamber orchestra, into Finale music notation software, providing up-to-date and clean digital scores and parts. In the act of re-writing the musical lines, textures, and vertical musical structures, sometimes for practical purposes (to secure a copy for an archive or personal collection, to provide multiple copies for a performance of the work, etc.), the composer absorbs a wealth of information on craft and structure, learning to examine both the broad scale and the details as well as the practical issues of notation, from articulation to dynamics to various general ways of communicating musical ideas to the performer and conductor. Nowadays, with digital technology, it is crucial for composers to use notation software, including Sibelius and Finale. Dr. McLoskey produced early, handwritten versions of the scores that he needed in digital form, which would facilitate the ability to email scores and parts, print them out for performance, and easily edit the details on the computer. My job was to translate these written scores into the computer notation software deliberately, with an eye for every detail on the score and parts. Ultimately, the work served a practical purpose, but it also helps with my own development as a composer, as I pick up countless tricks, notational methods, harmonies, rhythmic and orchestrational ideas, and greater mastery of the Finale notation software along the way.

Linh Nghiem, Senior, Finance & Mathematics- Statistics

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tallys Yunes, Management Science

Scheduling band concert tours is an important and challenging task faced by many band management companies and producers. A band has to perform in various cities over a period of time, and the specific route they follow is subject to numerous constraints, such as: venue availability, travel limits, and required rest periods. A good schedule must consider several objectives regarding the desirability of certain days of the week, as well as travel cost. We developed and implemented a heuristic algorithm in Java, which is based on simulated annealing, to automatically generate good schedules that both satisfy the above constraints and improve objectives significantly, when compared to the manual schedule created by the client. Our program also enables the client to see and explore trade-offs among objectives while choosing the best schedule that meets the requirements of his business.

Ryan Nolan, Senior, Health Sector Management & Policy

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Steve Ullmann, Health Sector Management and Policy
My project began by conducting a literature review on medical tourism. Examining existing research, along with data on patient flows and incentive structures set in place through employers and insurance companies, allowed me to acquire a general understanding of medical tourism in the United States and around the globe. My project then evolved to working with The Bascom Palmer Eye Institute towards establishing a sustainable healthcare system in Haiti by implementing a new self-sustaining model of medical volunteerism at the eye clinic at Hospital Bernard Mevs in Port-au-Prince. We are working towards expanding existing ophthalmic services, but more importantly, we intend to train future ophthalmologists capable of maintaining the developed eye care infrastructure. Our ultimate goal is to achieve skills transfer from volunteer surgeons to local physicians so that Haitian ophthalmologists can support the country’s eye care needs on their own, instead of the current model of relying significantly on foreign surgical volunteers and supplies. As part of the project, I drafted a grant proposal and identified local resources in Haiti to support our business model. I am continuing my project into the semester, and plan on taking a trip to Haiti in the near future to get a more accurate sense of what resources we currently have in place, and what others we need to procure. From there we will move into the implementation phase and begin to see our business model materialize.

William Quinlan, Junior, International Studies

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Parent, Political Science

My research with Dr. Joseph Parent looked at how countries react internally to foreign military dynamic threats, by ways of innovating or copying military technologies. The hypothesis rests on the geopolitical nature of the state’s defense. I had to define a categorical list of military innovations, first by consensus among the literature, and confirmed by particular reading into the widespread adoption and countering of the innovation by other states. I turned away from geopolitical characteristics to ideological characteristics of the states that were most innovative, using a sliding scale of autocracy versus democracy registering the ideologies of governments dating back to 1800.

Renuka Ramchandran, Sophomore, Microbiology and Immunology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kunjan Dave, Department of Neurology

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. When patients are given glucose-reducing medications or are under intensive insulin treatment, they are at a higher risk of suffering from severe hypoglycemia, which can lead to a vicious cycle of recurrent hypoglycemia due to defective counter regulation to the subsequent hypoglycemia that leads to hypoglycemia unawareness. The objective of this study was to analyze two major brain glucose transporters, GLUT1 and GLUT3, in order to understand how recurrent hypoglycemia affects these glucose transporters. To achieve this goal, we measured GLUT1 and GLUT3 levels in hippocampus of insulin-treated diabetic rats exposed to recurrent hypoglycemia (RH) by Western blotting. Throughout the summer, I ran and processed these blots in order to measure the levels of glucose transporters. The preliminary data showed that there was an increase in the levels of GLUT1 and GLUT3 when exposed to recurrent hypoglycemia. However, further studies must be done to confirm these results and determine what possible effects this can have in patients with this condition.

Jonathan Rodemann, Senior, Marine Science/Biology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. James Klaus, Geological Sciences

My research focused on comparing modern and ancient freshwater microbial mud. The comparison is accomplished through means such as total organic carbon (TOC), x-ray diffraction (XRD), stable isotopes, and inductively coupled plasma (ICP). I prepared and ran these tests this summer, which involved homogenizing (grinding into powder) samples from the field and then doing various things with the powder such as weighing it out and acidifying the sample. I also participated in 3 trips to the Everglades that were used to collect the modern freshwater microbial mud through push cores.

Rahil Shah, Junior, Microbiology and Immunology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sharon Elliot, Department of Surgery

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are pluripotent, able to differentiate into a variety of cell lineages: adipocytic, chondrocytic or osteocytic. Adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells (ASCs) as easily isolated compared to bone marrow derived MSCs and are currently being investigated for multiple applications. With future experiments in mind, my mentor, Dr. Sharon Elliot assigned me the task of finding the best way to harvest ASCs and the optimal conditions for culturing them. I performed growth curves to test three different media: 1% HSA (Human Serum Albumin), Lonza, and 3:1 DMEM;F-12 (Dulbecco’s Modification of Eagle’s Medium: Ham’s F-12 Media). To characterize the cells, I performed a Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) assay on the samples to determine the presence of specific MSC surface markers on the cells (CD 90.2, CD 105, CD 29 and Sca-1) as well as the absence of markers (CD 79α, CD 45, CD 14 and CD 11). Overall, my project consisted of harvesting ASCs, maintaining the cells, executing growth curves, and performing a FACS analysis to characterize them as MSCs.

Brandon Theall, Junior, Microbiology and Immunology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Roland Jurecic, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
I researched how chemotherapy can affect hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) growth and differentiation over a prolonged period. Chemotherapy is a staple treatment against cancer so understanding the long term effect it has on the body is of great interest.  We used a mouse model in order to study the long term effect of chemotherapy on HSC function and the body’s immune response to disease: in this case, influenza. We observed the immune responses of mice over several months to see exactly how HSC and progenitor cells were affected.  Using flow cytometry we were able to observe a significantly reduced number of HSC and progenitor cell in mice that underwent chemotherapy. The main purpose of this study is to find a chemotherapy treatment that is effective at eliminating cancer while also having a less detrimental effect on the immune system’s ability to fight off disease.

Esha Vallabhaneni, Junior, Microbiology and Immunology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Roland Jurecic, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
I worked with Dr. Roland Jurecic to research alternative methods for treatment of Acquired Aplastic Anemia (AA). AA is a disorder of the blood that results from a loss of blood cell precursors. This immune-mediated disease causes hypoplasia of bone marrow, RBCs, WBCs, and platelets, which is a life-threatening form of bone marrow failure (BMF). Current treatment is either ineffective or unusable by all patients as the two options are (1) matched sibling or unrelated BM transplant or (2) immunosuppressive therapy (IST) with anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) and cyclosporine A (CyA), as well as erythropoietin, a granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulant. In order to explore more effective methods, we are testing a novel approach using murine models due to their similarities in development of the disease to human AA. This approach includes the use of leukadherins, a new class of β2 integrin agonists with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties that activate Mac-1 on dendritic cells. The activation of Mac-1 on DCs should reduce their T cell activating capacity, resulting in reduced T cell-mediated apoptosis of HSCs and BM cells, and as a result, reduction of fatal BM hypoplasia and pancytopenia. My role in lab was to extract bone marrow from the treated mouse models and run panels/lineages to compare the differences in number of hematopoietic stem cells, number of multipotent progenitor cells, etc., between the control and treated mice.

Michael Venincasa, Senior, Neuroscience

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Julia Dallman, Biology
For my summer project, I utilized the zebrafish (Danio rerio) to better understand the workings of anesthesia as they relate to glycine encephalopathy (GE), a disease found in human infants. Patients with GE possess nervous systems containing excess glycine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and show symptoms of hypotonia and sensitivity to anesthesia. My work utilized a zebrafish mutant, shocked, as a model for GE; shocked larvae show many of the same characteristics as humans with GE, but have a much simpler nervous system for study. Throughout the summer, I exposed zebrafish larvae—both mutant and wild type—to propofol anesthetic and varying treatments. In some trials, for example, I surgically removed high-glycine cerebrospinal fluid bathing the shocked brain to relieve some of the mutant’s excess inhibition. After removal from anesthetic, I quantified the amount of time required for each genotype to recover. The expected result is for shocked to have a pronounced delay in recovery, but some treatments were successful in reducing or even abolishing this delay. In a separate experiment, I began videoing larvae of different genotypes; the Dallman lab will be working closely with UM’s Syed lab to analyze these videos, looking for signs of the arousal pathways involved in anesthetic recovery.

Gabriela Wagener, Senior, Pre-Physical Therapy & Psychology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Moatax Eltoukhy, Kinesiology and Sports Sciences

This study investigated whether high-velocity (power) resistance training affected the gait patterns of 7 child subjects with Cerebral Palsy. Each subject used pneumatic resistance machines as part of their individualized training program. The gait pattern of each subject was recorded both pre and post-test using a 3D gait analysis system. The hip and knee joint angles of each subject were then analyzed and compared to those of a typical child and another child (not a participant in the study) with CP. In this study, I directly helped with the training of the children. I began helping a little bit with the study in March, a few weeks after it had begun. In the summer when I became more involved, I filled out training sheets, analyzed power outputs, organized the data, and later began to determine progressions. I also made graphs of the hip, knee, and ankle joint angles for every child involved in the study.