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McNair Scholars Program

Research Abstracts 2006

Scholar: Morgan Bonds
Mentor: Tonia Von Ohlen, Ph.D.


Regulation of the ind Homeobox and Dorsalventral Patterning of Drosophila Embryos

Expression of the ind homeodomain protein in the Drosophila embryo is regulated by the global dorsalventral patterning pathways Dorsal, Egfr, and Dpp. It is also regulated by Vnd; Vnd limits the expansion of ind ventrally by its position on the ventral border of ind. We searched the Exelixis deficiency collection out of Bloomington, Indiana for mutated expression of Ind. We found deficiencies that deleted known components of the signaling pathways had mutated or lost ind expression; these deficiencies removed screw, dpp, and egfr. We also found a pair of overlapping deficiencies that gave us ventralized embryos. Transheterozygotes of these two deficiencies were also ventralized. The overlap contained seven genes including CG11582 which encodes a twisted gastrulation like protein. These two deficiency also resembles the shrew mutants. A transheterozygote of shrew mutants and these deficiencies resembled the shrew mutant as well. We are now characterizing these deficiencies to identify the genes responsible for shrew phenotype.


Scholar: Brandy Gaitan
Mentor: Asad Esmaeily, Ph.D.


Evaluation of a Confined Concrete Model under Cyclic Loading

Prediction of the performance of reinforced concrete structures requires knowledge of the stress-strain relationship of the material. The strength and ductility of concrete can be improved by applying lateral pressure using conventional reinforcement such as steel spirals and bars, or other material such as Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP).

Various models have been proposed to simulate the stress-strain behavior of confined concrete. Sakai proposes a model to simulate the cyclic stress-strain response of confined concrete. The experimental test performed evaluates the cyclic stress-strain relationship path of confined concrete compared to real performance.

Three FRP confined specimens were constructed and tested under cyclic loading with different loading rates. The results show that the proposed model can capture the general performance of FRP confined concrete, but fails to predict the real stiffness and plastic strain during cyclic loading. The effects of factors such as concrete type, confinement type, loading rate and creep history have not been considered in the model.


Scholar: Felicita Garza-Basaldu
Mentor: Linda Trujillo, Ph.D.


Bilingualism and Academic Success: the relationship between native language proficiency of administrators and administrative policies

This research investigated possible links between bilingual administrators and the academic success of their English Language Learners (ELL). Ten principals of ten randomly selected elementary schools in Kansas were interviewed. Five of the principals are bilingual and the other five are monolingual. Each person interviewed was asked the same set of questions. This research was based on the assumption that bilingual principals would have a personal understanding of the stages of second language acquisition and would be more likely to implement successful ELL programs in their schools. The findings of this research disclaim the assumption that a person must be bilingual to provide and implement successful ELL programs. This research also revealed a common view of student progress among all of the administrators that were interviewed. Student success was not measured by standardized and formal assessments. All administrators interviewed viewed student success as a student's intrinsic drive to gain knowledge.


Scholar: Justin Gomez
Mentor: Dale Schinstock, Ph.D.


LIDAR Digital Elevation Modeling

Light detection and ranging (LIDAR) is a method utilizing laser light for remote sensing. One common application of LIDAR is digital elevation modeling. For this project, a LIDAR module was mounted to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with the intent of generating digital elevation models (DEM's).

In order to generate a DEM, the UAV must be properly equipped with avionics that both determine and log the position and orientation of the aircraft during flight. The avionics must also log the LIDAR-derived distance. Seven pieces of data are collected for each reading: yaw, pitch, roll, altitude, longitude, latitude, and distance. In order to derive a DEM from the raw data, each distance is expressed as a vector in three-dimensional space. This vector is rotated and translated based on the other six pieces of data; this is done for each reading. The result is a collection of points with each point representing an actual point on the Earth's surface. These data can be represented in any coordinate system desired by utilizing additional rotations and translations, and organized into a uniform grid using a simple algorithm.

The results of this project vary based on the quality of the data received. The main problem encountered was the LIDAR module's tendency to interfere with the GPS signal, resulting in numerous false altitude values. Fortunately, these false values were easily detected. The resulting DEM was accurate to within approximately five meters. However, greater accuracy is expected upon further development.


Scholar: Erica Hutfless
Mentor: Lorena Passarelli, Ph.D.


In vivo characterization of a baculovirus lacking a functional fibroblast growth factor homolog

Baculoviruses are large double stranded DNA viruses and the nucleopolyhedroviruses; the best-characterized baculoviruses mainly infect larvae of Lepidoptera. The genomes of all baculoviruses of Lepidoptera sequenced to date encode for fibroblast growth factor (fgf) homologs.

A mutant of Autographa californica M nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV) lacking fgf was characterized in Trichoplusia ni. Our results showed that in neonates, the fgf deficient virus took 10 hours longer to kill its hosts compared to wild-type, while fifth instar larvae, infected via intrahemocoelic injections had no significant differences.

These initial findings support the hypothesis that fgf may aide in the spread of baculovirus systemically. Additional studies of these and more insects will be conducted to have a more complete picture of the effects of FGF on pathogenesis.


Scholar: Stacy Johnson
Mentors: Rollie Clem, Ph.D.


Expression of Recombinant Hepatitis C Glycoprotein

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a positive, single-stranded RNA virus that infects more than 200 million people worldwide. HCV is a contributory agent of liver cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, liver failure, and, in 1-5% of all cases, death. Since its discovery in 1989, HCV has been shown to enter cells through an interaction between HCV's envelope glycoprotein, E2, and a cellular receptor, CD81. While this method of entry is widely acknowledged, the role of this interface in the viral life cycle of HCV continues to remain ambiguous. Structural analysis and mutagenesis studies have indicated that the region of CD81 that binds to HCV-E2 is on the solvent-exposed face of helix D, found in CD81's second extracellular loop. Employing this knowledge, imidazole-based compounds were created that mimic the helix D region of CD81, thereby acting as competitive inhibitors of HCV-E2 binding to human CD81. The results of this experiment provided significant evidence that the use of CD81-based mimics can disrupt the interaction between CD81 and HCV-E2, thus inhibiting the entry of HCV into cells.

In the current study, a recombinant baculovirus is being constructed that expresses HCV E2 protein. The E2 protein will be purified for use in further bioassays. These bioassays will be used for supplemental screening and optimization of the CD81 mimics. The purified E2 protein will also be used in characterizing CD81 mutants to determine the effect of the mutations on CD81 binding to E2.


Scholar: Megan Mascorro-Jackson
Mentor: Sally Bailey, M.F.A., M.S.W.

Adolescent Needs Specific to those Individuals with Special Needs

This research discusses the needs exhibited by six adolescents in the Manhattan, Kansas, area. These adolescents have a variety of special needs of varying degrees. The six adolescents were observed in their natural environment at Super Summer Creative Arts Camp, to examine what needs they were exhibiting. Parents and guardians of the campers were interviewed to discover if they were informed of their child's needs. The answers to the interview questions were then compared to observations made to find differences and similarities. These differences and similarities will be explored in the data analysis.


Scholar: Sompathana Phitsanoukanh
Mentors: Janet Benson, Ph.D.

Moving On Up: Education, Economic, and Social Mobility in Lao Families from Southwest Kansas

Since the 1960s there have been reports proclaiming that Asian Americans are "model minorities" because of their disproportionate success in areas such as achieving in academics, receiving higher incomes, and participating in high-status occupations relative to their racial minority contemporaries (Osajima 2000) . However, this is not true to newly arrived Southeast Asian immigrants, who lack the previous human capital to live up to this materialist ideal of economic success. The popular stereotype has masked the struggles of these later Asian immigrants acculturating into American society.

Considering the typecast, this research project aims to study the educational attitudes of Lao students from Southwest Kansas. These students and their families come from a refugee background, where their families escaped the war torn areas of Laos from the neighboring Vietnam War. This study includes cluster of well-developed Lao ethnic communities in relation to the surrounding beef industry in Kansas.


Scholar: William Studer
Mentor: Gerad Middendorf, Ph.D.


American Attitudes, the Corn-Heavy Diet, and the National Eating Disorder

In this research project, I cover the negative effects of abundant industrial corn—the quintessential product of the American industrial food chain—on the American diet, before going back to look at the key factors behind the problem: the history of corn and its aptitude to become the quintessential industrial food product, and the various aspects of both American agriculture and the U. S. food industry that have led to the general alienation of the consumer from the industrial food process and the national “expanding waistline.”