Undergraduate Research Awards
2023-2024 Academic Year Provost’s Student-Faculty Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry Awardees
Morgan e. amos
Faculty Mentor: Karen R. Caldwell
Project Title: Model Studies to Guide Cleanup of Clandestine Methamphetamine Labs: Developing Reliable Controls
The number of homes in the U.S. condemned after the discovery of clandestine methamphetamine labs (“Clan Labs”) is growing. Clan Labs are found in residential dwellings, motel and hotel rooms, garages, barns, automobiles, etc. After law enforcement and first responders remove quantities of hazardous materials, further remediation must be done by property owners. Protocols for proper remediation have not been sufficient in protecting occupants from health and safety problems arising from high amounts of residue. Properties can be cleaned of nearly all lingering amounts of methamphetamines; however, the residual amounts of the different substances used in the production of the drug are still apparent. The decontamination process for chemical residues varies, and it is unknown which type of cleaning is the safest and most effective. This long-term project aims to determine how to remediate Clan Labs best. The more immediate goal of the project is to understand the chemical properties and surface reactions which dictate whether a particular cleaning method is effective.
Dyson | Biology
Faculty Mentor: Aaron B. Steiner
Project Title: Assessing Innervation of Nascent Sensory Hair Cells in Zebrafish
Hearing loss has become an increasingly prominent public health concern within the United States. Inner ear hair cells, which are responsible for sensory signal transmission to afferent neurons, do not regenerate in the adult mammalian ear. Damage or destruction of the inner ear hair cells is the most common cause of hearing loss. So far, the therapies used to treat hearing loss due to the damage or destruction of inner ear hair is cochlear implantation. Stem cell therapies for this type of hearing loss are currently being researched. Improving upon the current therapies by finding a pharmacological treatment would reduce the need for surgery or immediate access to the inner ear. We plan on using zebrafish as a model system to determine whether or not hair cells can be regenerated within the ear, and whether or not those newly formed hair cells have synaptic connections, which would indicate functional integration within neuronal circuits. The eventual goal is to help create a pharmacological treatment for hearing loss due to damage or destruction of inner ear hair that could restore hearing.
Liam T. Chentoufi
Dyson | Economics
Faculty Mentor: Mary Kaltenberg
Project Title: Understanding The Federal Reserve – Predicting FOMC Decisions Using Machine Learning
This research aims to explore the relationship between public communication of Federal Reserve Officials (FRO) and changes to market interest rates, in particular, the effective federal funds rate (EFFR), which is heavily influenced by decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy group. The Federal Reserve promotes financial stability, protects consumers, and fosters a reliable and vast payment system. One of its responsibilities is to ensure maximum employment and stable prices, or otherwise, low and stable inflation. Thus, its actions affect our day to day lives. The aim of this project is to analyze their forward guidance to predict monetary policy actions.
Ethaniel L. Curcio
Dyson | Acting
Faculty Mentor: Meaghan H. Brewer
Project Title: The Roots of Storytelling: Contemporary Actors and Their Relationship with Literacy
Storytelling is an innate need for our species; we can’t seem to make do without it. Acting, one form of storytelling that dates back eons, is an art form that many have tried their hand at, but few come to dedicate their lives to. For this project, I hope to explore the role that literacy plays in drawing contemporary actors to the performing arts, and the conceptions (and misconceptions) behind the craft of acting.
Dyson | Behavioral Neuroscience
Faculty Mentor: Eric Brenner
Project Title: Effects of Melatonin on Circumnutation in Arabidopsis Thaliana
Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) and auxin (indole-3-acetic acid/IAA) are tryptophan-derived hormones found in various parts of all plants. Auxin has been extensively studied in plants since its isolation in 1928 and is known to be involved in regulating circumnutation: an autonomous, endogenous movement without apparent stimuli (Stolarz, 2009). Melatonin, unlike auxin, has little known about its function in plants as the discovery of its presence in the plant kingdom is relatively new to the world of plant biology. Although some studies show that melatonin in plants contributes to abiotic stress responses, root development, light responses, interkingdom communication, and phytohormone and plant signaling (Murch & Erland, 2021), no study has been published solely regarding melatonin’s role in circumnutation, despite melatonin being involved with auxin biosynthesis and transport (Wang et al., 2016). This study aims to observe if treatments of melatonin within the range of doses reported to affect gene expression in the model plant organism A. thaliana (Arabidopsis) may have visible inhibiting effects on circumnutation due to melatonin’s role in regulating auxin biosynthesis and transport. Studying melatonin’s effects on circumnutation in the model plant can shed further light on this hormone’s role in plants, as well as its relationship with auxin, the 1st phytohormone to be discovered.
Dyson | Biology
Faculty Mentor: Nancy A. Krucher
Project Title: Analysis of ACLY Inhibition in Melanoma Using 3D Tumor Models
Melanoma is the rarest, yet deadliest form of skin cancer, responsible for the majority of skin cancer mortality. In this disease, skin cells acquire mutations that promote uncontrollable proliferation, forming a mass of cancer cells, called a tumor. Recently, ATP-citrate Lyase (ACLY) has been identified in melanoma as an important new target responsible for promotion of melanoma cell growth, as well as resistance to drug therapies (1). ACLY converts cytosolic citrate into Acetyl-CoA, which acts as a precursor to fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis. Fatty acid synthesis is necessary for phospholipid synthesis and the construction of the phospholipid cell membrane required for cell proliferation and invasion. The aim of Dr. Krucher’s laboratory is to investigate the effect of new drugs that inhibit this enzyme on melanoma cells, alone and in combination with other treatments, with a specific goal to determine how ACLY inhibition effects proliferation (cell number) and invasion (the ability of cancer cells to spread).
Faith M. Gregory
Dyson | Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Meaghan H. Brewer
Project Title: Motivation of the “Good Student:” Students’ Perspectives on Their Assigned Readings
The proposed project investigates undergraduates’ perspectives on their assigned course readings to gain a better understanding of how students connect with and assign value to them. Scholarship on college reading indicates that undergraduates are reading less of their assigned readings than they were decades ago, which makes it important to investigate how motivation affects this decline (Del Principe and Ihara 2017; Horning 2018). Research defines motivation as the personal investment an individual has in reaching a desired state or outcome, and states that its importance in the context of learning cannot be overstated (Ambrose et al., 2010).
Seidenberg School of CSIS | Information Systems
Faculty Mentor: Catherine Dwyer
Project Title: Assessing the Transformative Influence of Ride-Hailing Applications on Urban Mobility Patterns
This research project will identify how ride-hailing apps have created a profound impact on the dynamics of urban transportation. Ride-hailing applications have begun an urban mobility shift. We seek to delineate the complex problems and opportunities that befall with respect to integrating these platforms into the urban transportation ecosystem. In particular, we want to know what they’ve done for traffic patterns, public transit systems, commuting behaviors, and the city at large. Although, previous scholarly works have examined various facets of urban mobility and transportation. However, the disruptive nature of ride-hailing apps is still an under-examined area, especially in terms of urban mobility patterns. From existing research within urban planning, transportation studies, and data analytics, this project will pull out insights that better define contemporary urbanscape. In order to appreciate this work one has to understand fundamental terminologies such as ride-hailing applications, urban mobility, traffic flow, and public transit. Additionally, familiarity with statistical analysis and data visualization techniques, particularly using Python, is vital for comprehending the methodology employed in this study.
Cailyn E. Mickelsen
Dyson | English Language & Literature
Faculty Mentor: Sid E. Ray
Project Title: Richard II as the Unman in Shakespeare’s Contemporary Sources
Envisioned as the next phase of my previous research inquiry into fourteenth century chronicles’ queer depiction of Richard II, this project would investigate queer discourse in the sources Shakespeare consulted in writing Richard II. These sources include the chronicles of Raphael Holinshed (1587), the poems First Four Books of the Civil Wars by Samuel Daniel (1595) and The Mirrour for Magistrates by William Baldwin and George Ferrers (1559), and the plays Edward II by Christopher Marlowe (1594) and the anonymous Thomas of Woodstock (1591-95?). Throughout these works, authors participate in existing queer discourse surrounding the disgraced king, as well as introduce new themes and motifs. Through common signals of excess, foreignness, and ambiguity, as well as analysis of the newly formulated idea of the king’s two bodies, these works unman Richard II, portraying him as queer.
Trinit'y D. Mitchell
Dyson | Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Rita K. Upmacis
Project Title: Carbon Capture: Investigating Carbon Dioxide Removal via Chemical Reaction
Anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are leading to global climate change, and it is necessary for us to develop technologies that enable carbon capture and its storage for later usage. A primary source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions is from the combustion of fossil fuels for energy (e.g., power plants). Significant quantities of CO2 emissions are also produced by our use of transportation and by the industrial sector as a by-product in the generation of consumer goods from raw materials. A promising approach is to capture CO2 using a process called postcombustion CO2 capture. Gases are produced from commercial plants and then these are scrubbed to remove the CO2 from entering the atmosphere. By 2016, it was reported that more than 30 commercial plants have been constructed that are capturing the CO2 from gaseous emissions.1 The largest plant is a power plant based in Lubbock, Texas, which can strip up to 1100 tons of CO2 gas per day from waste gas.2 The only technology that is being seriously considered for CO2 scrubbing from the exhaust of coal- and gas-fired power plants involves the use of various types of compounds containing amine substituents (-NH2), such as that found in the substance, monoethanolamine (HOCH2CH2NH2).1 The reaction relies on the amine portion of the substance reacting with CO2 to facilitate its capture. Importantly, the reaction is reversible at high temperature, such that the CO2 can be released and stored elsewhere or used in a subsequent process that requires this form of carbon. However, this technology is not widely implemented because of the expense involved in its installation and maintenance.
Thomas A. Panzera
Dyson | Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Erika Crispo
Project Title: Genetic Analyses Reveal Biogeographical Patterns in the Greater Earless Lizard from the Southwestern United States and Mexico
Genetic diversity is undeniably crucial to the continued wellbeing of not only every individual species, but to the whole broader ecosystems and world that they belong to. This being the case, understanding how gene flow and isolation vary locationally and temporally is an important step in identifying which environmental and geographical features play which roles in promoting diversification. Taxa from the arid Nearctic have already been discovered to have significant geography-based structure to their distribution, which has resulted in subsequent research with the goal of ascertaining which factors are responsible for driving localized isolation. Geographic features like the Colorado River as well as Western Continental Divide are hypothesized to be barriers to gene flow, but it is important to note that recent studies have indicated that barriers to genetic diversification may not be as significant as other factors in determining how species diversify, such as local climate/weather patterns, or environmental factors like predation or relationship to other organisms in a food web. The particular Nearctic organism whose trends of genetic variance we intend to study is the greater earless lizard, or Cophosaurus texanus. Phenotypically, this organism can be identified by its lack of visible ear openings on its head, smaller lower jaw, and flared upper labial scales, as well as in the case of males, bright pink and green coloration and black banded tails. This organism prefers to live in arid locations, being native to the Chihuahan desert and ranging in scope from regions of the Southwestern US (like the lower portions of Texas, Nevada, and Arizona) to Northern Mexico. Mitochondrial DNA sequences have already been collected from a number of specimens by collaborators.
Katherine O. Pappas
Dyson | Communications and Media Studies; Acting International Performance Ensemble
Faculty Mentor: Emilie D. Zaslow
Project Title: The Ladder Podcast
Lack of representation in leadership and the arts stems from external and internal factors. Society imposes artificial boundaries and barriers, some of which are being acknowledged and slowly removed, However, the years of oppression have been internalized by many of us. This only compounds the engagement dilemma! We Gen Zs are digital natives; we were born into a world of technology and have not developed our emotional intelligence and soft skills, which are critical for leadership. The Ladder seeks to expose the internalized barriers and address the skill deficits as a method to grow the new generation of leaders and artists. My goals for The Ladder Podcast are to connect, inspire, educate, motivate, pique curiosity, share feelings, improve soft skills/leadership skills, and ultimately create a community of confident young leaders and artists. I intend to grow The Ladder Podcast by increasing its following and subscriber base and monetizing the series to expand its availability on all podcast platforms and to ensure the project’s sustainability.
Seidenberg School of CSIS | Computer Science
Faculty Mentor: Tom M. Schmidt
Project Title: Enhancing Computer Organization Through Distributed Hardware Access
This research project aims to introduce FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) labs to undergraduate computer organization students, with the goal of promoting student engagement. Computer organization can be a highly abstract and theoretical course, hindering students that benefit from more tangible examples of concepts discussed in class. To aid with this, the course is often supplemented by hands-on components to benefit student comprehension. These labs will be developed with a focus on deepening student understanding of key concepts in computer processor design, such as binary operations, ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit) design, and ISA (Instruction Set Architecture.) To assist learning, students will be acquainted with Verilog, an HDL (Hardware Description Language) that facilitates fast and efficient descriptions of hardware designs. LabsLand, an online platform that offers 24/7 remote access to FPGAs housed at various institutions, will be used to enable students’ participation in the lab exercises.
Daniel K. Welden
Dyson | Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Timothy P. Waligore
Project Title: Prison Abolition in Relation to Justice for Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, Genocide & Ethnic Cleansing
Crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and ethnic cleansing are the worst of the worst crimes a human can commit. When post-conflict societies navigate the aftermath of such events the victims frequently rely upon the International Criminal Court and in past cases International Criminal Tribunals such as the ICTY, ICTR, and the first instance of international justice the Nuremberg trials. These avenues for justice assume that carceral punishment is the answer to achieving justice and moving a society past its conflict days, but what if it is not the answer; at least not in every case, that is? Prison abolition is a movement that is derived from a long history of prisons and policing oppressing, and often committing state violence against primarily Black people and other people of color as well as anyone who lies within the margins of society within the United States. The conditions in which the prison abolition movement started within the United States may not be capable of crossing borders and implemented as a theoretical framework that would provide a new way of viewing and achieving justice for the gravest of crimes on an international level.
Dyson | Psychology
Faculty Mentors: Tommy T. Nguyen
Project Title: Comics Exhibition
This project will focus on the preparation and production of a Spring 2024 contemporary comic art exhibit for the Pace University Art Gallery. Through this exhibit, we will promote diverse innovations and also cultural evolutions through the graphic arts that appear frequently in everyone’s daily life. Comics may not seem to have in-depth meaning, but because it is a type of art that appears in daily life, many people reflect upon the images cartoonists make. Art does not have to be something that only a few people have the passion to enjoy and understand, it can be as simple as a comic book that readers enjoy for entertainment or something that challenges their preexisting opinions–sometimes even bringing new ideas to viewers in fun ways.