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McNair Scholars Program

Summer 2007 Research Projects

Scholar: Katie Clowers
Mentor: Theodore Morgan, Ph.D.


The Genetics of Cold Tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster

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: Elise Gaines
Mentor: Lisa Tatonetti, Ph.D.


East Indian Women as immigrants through the eyes of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Through her writing, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni opens a window into the often overlooked experience of East Indian women as immigrants in fiction. Divakaruni addresses numerous issues that are faced by East Indian immigrant women. Among these issues, this paper will focus on Divakaruni’s presentation of three main conflicts commonly overcome by her characters after immigration. The conflicts include the American Dream vs. ethnic reality (when the characters idealistic impressions of America from afar, are challenged by American racism), culture retention vs. assimilation (characters struggle with identifying with a new American culture more than their traditional culture), and entitlement vs. sacrifice (the character subscribes to a belief that that their life is perfect according to American standards and they deny any connection with their cultural heritage).

In order to explore these conflicts, this paper will concentrate on selected stories from Divakaruni’s first short story collection Arranged Marriage: “Silver Pavements”, “Clothes”, “A Perfect life” and “Doors”. This first collection of stories includes a glossary of words from different Indian languages that have been used in her stories. This addition serves to ease the understanding of readers who are not familiar with Bengali or Hindi languages or who are a generation or more removed from them, widening Divakaruni’s audience. Whether intentional or not, Divakaruni’s writing serves as a foothold toward the mission of narrowing the rifts of misconception between East Indian immigrant women, their descendants and American women. Her stories offer a more intimate view of the struggles of East Indian immigrant women, often answering questions that many fear asking.


Scholar: Kyrie Graves
Mentor: Bronwyn Fees, Ph.D.


Generativity Among Relative Child Care Providers

The purpose of this analysis is to examine the relationship between relative caregiver demographics and their attitudes about the care they provide for their family members or friends. Using the Child Care Assessment Tool for Relatives (CCAT-R), a newly designed instrument that was made to fit the unique needs of relatives who provide childcare, I applied the definition of relative child care to further explore the roles of grandparenting and how it fits in with Erikson's eight stages of man. Grandparenting fits within the middle adulthood stage of generativity vs. stagnation. A generativity score was developed based on the theoretical description of generativity represented by responses to four questions in the caregiver interview. Bivariate correlations were conducted to examine the relationship between (age, income, education level and generativity). No significant relationships emerged. The generativity score had a negative but significant correlation with age and income. There was no correlation between the generativity score and education.


Scholar: Ben Gurtler
Mentor: Peter Pfromm, Ph.D.

Combining reverse osmosis and pulsed electrical current electrodialysis for improved recovery of dissolved organic matter from seawater

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the oceans is one of the largest dynamic carbon reservoirs on earth. The composition and fate of this carbon reservoir is of great interest to earth scientists, atmospheric scientists, and biologists who study global biogeochemical cycles and global warming. A recently introduced method for the retention and purification of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from seawater for research purposes provides recoveries exceeding 60%, by using a system combining electrodialysis and reverse osmosis. In the current study, this new method for the recovery of DOM from seawater has been refined by utilizing a pulsed electrical current during the final phase of electrodialysis, as part of the electrodialysis and reverse osmosis process. DOC recoveries for the two methods are approximately equal, but the pulsed electrical current electrodialysis method is able to retain the DOC to a significantly lower conductivity and thereby lower salt content. Low electrical conductivity of the final concentrated DOC sample is very desirable to allow simple post-processing by freeze drying. The shipboard results presented here demonstrate the usefulness of the new method employing pulsed electrodialysis and a physical explanation is proposed to rationalize the results.


Scholar: Marisela Gutierrez
Mentor: Rupert Klein, Ph.D.

Putting Psychopathy Back into "Autistic Psychopathy":  The Integrated Emotion Systems Model Applied to Autism

The amygdala theory of autism identifies the brain structure of the amygdala as the primary source of emotional impairment and lack of empathy observed in autism. However, studies have found that the amygdala is not entirely impaired in autism, suggesting that other brain regions may be involved. The integrated emotion systems model (IES), which was designed for psychopathy, may elucidate a more comprehensive understanding of autistic behaviors. The current review describes contradicting evidence against the amygdala theory of autism while simultaneously providing evidence supporting the use of the IES model in explaining this disorder. Additionally, the review suggests the possibility of psychopathy being the highest-functioning form of autism and why it should be included on a spectrum with autism.


Scholar: Daniel Kirksey
Mentors: Marcelo Sabatés, Ph.D.


The Problem of Free Will

After careful evaluation, one will find that the assumption of having free will cannot be easily made. “Free will” is characterized with minimal controversy as a specific capacity of a rational being to choose among diverse alternative actions. However, with considerably increasing controversy, most feel intuitively compelled toward the reality of a metaphysical assumption that our universe is regulated by causation and natural laws. This alluring assumption produces a tension when placed vis-à-vis the need to define the aforementioned “specific capacity.” The endeavor to reconcile this tension effects three main views to be discussed. My conclusions are stimulating and perhaps unsettling.


Scholar: Clinton Medovich
Mentor: Laurie Bagby, Ph.D.


The Relationship of Good and Law in the mind of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Is the purpose of law to make men good? This research paper tries to answer a portion of that overall question by focusing the question into: in St. Thomas Aquinas’ view, is the purpose of human law to make men good? Through context analysis of Aquinas’ original works, and by noting what other researchers have found in the course of their interpretations, I conclude that Thomas Aquinas would support the affirmative.


Scholar: Samuel Ornelas
Mentors: Thomas Barstow, Ph.D.


Influence of muscle fiber type on O2 uptake kinetics during moderate intensity cycle exercise

Motor units are recruited sequentially, beginning with type I, transitioning to type II. Changes in work rate from baseline to one in the lower domain of moderate-intensity work rates would express low gain and fast time constants, consistent with type I motor unit recruitment, transitions in the upper domain would express a higher gain and slower time constant, consistent with type II motor unit recruitment. If this interpretation is true, these differences should be exaggerated in subjects with different muscle fiber types. This study will determine if endurance athletes (possessing predominantly type I muscle fibers) will express faster time constants and lower gains than sprinters (possessing predominantly type II muscle fibers) in the upper domain of moderate-intensity work rates. Each subject will perform nine separate testing trials on a cycle ergometer. The first test will be an incremental ramp test to fatigue to establish peak VO2 and estimate the lactate threshold. Each subject will perform 8 more exercise tests.


Scholar: Sarah Trabert
Mentors: Brad Logan, Ph.D.


Steed-Kisker Ceramics: Analysis of the Scott Site (14LV1082) Assemblage

One of the defining traits of the Steed-Kisker phase, a Late Prehistoric culture of the Central Plains tradition, is its ceramics. They differ from the ceramics of other Central Plains tradition cultures in that they exhibit shell-tempering, smooth surface treatment, and limited decoration. Previous data collected from the Scott site (14LV1082) indicates Steed-Kisker occupation, and the ceramics support this conclusion.

Both attribute and dimensional data were collected from a sample of the sherds from the site, and compared to the Steed-Kisker site (Wedel 1943), type site of the culture, as well as the Crabtree site (23CL164), another recently excavated occupation. Comparison showed variation not only among sites, but within the Scott site assemblage. The Crabtree site shows no indication of contact with an outside influence, whereas the Scott site assemblage includes three examples of the Nebraska phase, another culture of the Central Plains tradition. The Scott sample contains mostly Platte Valley Plain ware, with relatively few examples of Steed-Kisker Incised.


Scholar: Ashley Wheeler
Mentor: Ricardo Castaño-Bernard, Ph.D.


Symplectic topology of Hamiltonian systems with one degree of freedom

Given a symplectic surface, is there a Hamiltonian differential equation, H, with any predetermined equilibrium set? We give a simple example of a non-compact symplectic surface which represents the level sets of solutions to Hamilton's equations for a simple pendulum. We then consider a compact example, the torus. From there, we construct more complicated surfaces; based on the geometric properties of these symplectic surfaces we examine where we can place elliptic and hyperbolic singularities. We then use "gluing" maps to study their Hamiltonian differential equations and identify those equations which are physically meaningful.