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McNair Scholars Program

Research Abstracts 2008

Scholar: Lindsay Ahalt
Mentor: Elizabeth Fallon, Ph.D.


Health Care Provider Attitudes towards Counseling Diverse Patient Populations for Preventative Health Behaviors

Compared to White/Caucasian populations, minority populations have increased morbidity and mortality from obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Because these conditions can be preventable through proper diet, physical activity, and weight management practices, it is important to develop and implement cost-effective interventions that successfully promote these health behaviors. Initial studies were successful in training primary healthcare providers to counsel patients for preventive health behaviors, but most were conducted with primarily White/Caucasian populations. Furthermore, minority patients report that healthcare providers lack the cultural competencies to effectively counsel them. Formerly overlooked, however, is the healthcare provider’s perspective on counseling patients from different ethnic backgrounds and their ability to demonstrate cultural competency during such interactions.

The purpose of this study is to better understand providers’ attitudes concerning their abilities to effectively counsel patients who may be of a different ethnic background. Using the Kansas list of state-licensed health professionals, surveys were sent to 1000 randomly selected Physicians, 1000 randomly selected Nurses, and all 647 Physician Assistants. Preliminary results indicate that most health care providers are confident they have the cultural competencies necessary to effectively counsel patients of a different ethnic background. Men report more confidence in their cultural competencies than women, and physicians were more confident than physician assistants. Thus, there is a stark contrast between the providers’ perspective and their minority patients regarding the providers’ cultural competencies and ability to provide effective counseling. This suggests it may be important to provide further experiential training to increase the cultural competencies of health care professionals.


Scholar: Samuel Brinton
Mentor: Kenneth Shultis, Ph.D.


An Initial Study on Modeling the Future Global Necessary Nuclear Reprocessing Capacity

The United States produces 2,000 tons of nuclear spent fuel every year from its 104 reactors. This amounts to over 57,000 tons of spent fuel in storage, which may seem excessive, even though it is the byproduct of one of the most environmentally friendly electricity-producing technologies currently available. However, spent fuel is an international problem and it must be disposed of properly for public and ecological protection.

The current plan for spent fuel is transportation to, and storage in, a geologic disposal site for underground secure placement. However, high nuclear decay heat is limiting the amount of nuclear fuel that can be stored in the proposed Yucca Mountain site in southern Nevada and other analogous locations around the world. Nuclear reprocessing technologies should be used in conjunction with geologic disposal. Reprocessing is used in some areas of the world and can reuse 96% of the material in most spent fuel from reactors. Thus, a mere 4% would be sent to Yucca Mountain and similar repositories, extending their service period significantly.

This research concentrated in the construction of a model of the growth of reprocessing centers based on reprocessing the total spent fuel produced by currently operating and future constructed nuclear power plants (NPPs). The MIT “Future of Nuclear Power” report was used to find the construction rate of future reactors. Two models based on the operation license lengths of 60 and 80 years were used to study the different storage requirements of spent fuel before reprocessing centers can accept it. It was found that both models require a reprocessing center of 1800 tons per year capacity be built roughly every 3.5 years.


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


The Genetics of Cold Tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster: Molecular Variation in SMP-30 Influences Phenotypic Variation in Cold Tolerance

Drosophila melanogaster is historically a tropical African species that succeeded in colonizing novel environments in Europe and Asia, and recently, expanded its range to all continents. Since insects are isothermal with their environment, how individuals cope with temperature extremes represents a set of important and ecologically-relevant phenotypes. The first step towards understanding these phenotypes is to identify the genes influencing them. However, to understand the evolutionary dynamics of these phenotypes we must identify the genes which are genetically variable within natural populations.

We sought to link preliminary data documenting large amounts of natural phenotypic variation in cold tolerance with cold-inducible genes. The goal was to determine if SMP-30, a highly inducible gene in cold susceptible lines, harbors genetic variation that influences natural variation in cold tolerance. We determined that molecular variation in SMP-30 is associated with variation in cold tolerance, suggesting SMP-30contributes to variation in cold tolerance in nature.


Scholar: Elise Gaines
Mentor: Jonathan Holden, Ph.D.


Yusef Komunyakaa’s Search for Truth

The realities of American social structure and belief systems are often washed over by tropes of the American Dream and the great Democracy. When the U.S. experiences a social or political failure, the situation is constantly re-approached through the lens of these tropes, obscuring the characteristics of those involved and never addressing the situation’s outcome. The poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa does not avoid addressing the social and political failures of the United States. Researching Komunyakaa’s background and analyzing his poems (specifically those pertaining to America’s tradition of racism and the Vietnam War) allows readers to see how Komunyakaa’s discussion of these failures undermined America’s heroic narrative created to cope with the social failure of racism and political and military failure of the Vietnam War.


Scholar: Daniel Kirksey
Mentor: Douglas Patterson, Ph.D.


Two Approaches to Unrestricted Quantification

My purpose in this paper is to outline two approaches to problems encountered by attempts at unrestricted quantification. In order to do this I will utilize work from Richard Cartwright in defense of unrestricted quantification, and work from Michael Glanzberg in its opposition. Richard Cartwright is a generality absolutist and his view provides an example of a common approach taken by many contemporary philosophers in their defense of the intelligibility of unrestricted quantification. Michael Glanzberg holds the opposite view of Cartwright in his position as a generality relativist, which at its heart is a denial of the intelligibility of unrestricted quantification. His claim is that “there is a particular sense in which, as a matter of semantics, quantifiers always range over domains that are in principle extensible, and so cannot count as really being ‘absolutely everything’.”


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


Law from Government from Locke

Is the purpose of law to make men good? It may be important to look at this concept to gain better perspective on ideological roles of government. This paper tries to answer that question in part by looking at John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government and determine any possibility of good and then look at its relationship to the role of law. Through context analysis of original works, and by observing what other researchers have noted in the course of their investigations, I conclude that the purpose of law is not to make men good.


Scholar: NZinga Rasberry
Mentor: Sartoris Culbertson, Ph.D.


Leader-Member Exchange: Supervisor / Subordinate Interactions

Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) is a leadership theory stating that organizational leaders develop unique relationships with each of their subordinates. These relationships differ in quality, which may depend on numerous factors. The purpose of the ongoing study is to examine specific leader, member, and organizational influences on the quality of LMX. The research model to be tested proposes that leader and member job stress are related to leader and member stress (personal), which then affects the LMX quality. Additionally, member’s need for achievement is hypothesized to be positively related to LMX quality, but moderated by the employee’s perception on the organization’s decision to promote from within; if members perceive organizations to regularly promote from within, a positive relationship will result. Similarly, a leader’s perception of member need for achievement is hypothesized to be related to LMX quality, but moderated by the leader’s perception of the member as a threat. Leaders who perceive members as a competitive threat will show a negative relationship. Those who do not perceive members as a threat will show a positive relationship between perception of members’ need for achievement and LMX quality. Finally, member job security will be positively related to LMX quality, and mediated by the employee’s turnover intentions and member’s stress levels. A similar relationship is predicted for leaders, with a negative relationship between leader job stress and LMX quality mediated by leader turnover intentions and leader stress levels. Data are currently being collected. Correlations and regressions will be conducted to test proposed hypotheses.


Scholar: Kathleen Rivers
Mentor: Frederick Burrack, Ph.D.


Neurological Centers of the Brain Responsible for Creativity and Inhibitions Can Be Turned On or Off by Performing Jazz Improvisation

The prefrontal portion of the brain is directly influenced by music, more specifically jazz improvisation. Jazz improvisation can take students from the printed page of music and programmed thinking to accomplishing abstract thought (creatively), all the while internalizing the music with a decreased anxiety level. This hypothesis will be tested by observations and a series of non-invasive questions directed to sixth grade musicians who have been playing their individual instruments for approximately one year. The hypothesis is based on research done by National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) on prefrontal brain activity that was monitored by the use of a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on a jazz musician. This means of exploration will examine whether jazz improvisation can enhance the thinking ability of sixth grade musicians and their inhibitions about performing within a group.


Scholar: K'La Ruane
Mentor: Tiffany Kershner, Ph.D.

Language and Identity: Constructing “Dora the Explorer

With the increasing Latino population in the United States, Spanish/English bilingual education is rapidly becoming an important issue. This can be seen in the increase of preschool oriented television geared towards teaching young viewers Spanish and encouraging Spanish/English bilingualism. Of these shows, Dora: The Explorer is one of the most prominent, reaching 17 million preschoolers worldwide. This paper examines how Dora portrays Spanish/English bilingualism, second language acquisition and Latino representation through content analysis of 20 episodes. Results indicate that Dora: The Explorer presents Spanish/English bilingualism as something to be aspired towards, especially by monolingual English-speakers. As well, learning a second language is portrayed positively, but only means learning Spanish. Further, ethnicity is shown as a marker of bilingualism: most Latinos represented speak both English and Spanish. Finally, bilingual individuals are shown as teachers and translators of Spanish. In light of DTE’s socializing influence as a role model, analysis of how these views socialize viewers is a worthy endeavor for future research.


Scholar: Tracy Tucker
Mentors: Timothy Dayton, Ph.D.


Kansas Radical Poetry and the American Dream: A Comparative Study of Selected Works of Ralph Chaplin and Kenneth Wiggins Porter

Kansas’s history of political turmoil and social activism is inextricably linked with homesteading and that “American dream” of a Jeffersonian utopia of ruggedly independent farmers and craftsmen, and Kansas literature was born of that embattled tradition of idealistic individualism and social justice. Ralph Chaplin and Kenneth Wiggins Porter, two Kansas leftist poets of the early 20th century, utilize these Kansas themes within their poetry, and yet today go largely unrecognized. Today’s literary scholar has an important task – to recover and document the work of those authors who have, for reasons political and fashionable, fallen out of the public eye. In this study, I will compare Chaplin’s “Rubaiyat of a Harvest Stiff” with Porter’s “The Happy Farmer” and Chaplin’s “Preparedness” with Porter’s “Harvest: June, 1938,” as I examine the themes of farming, social activism, and the “American dream” as they are portrayed in these poems.