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McNair Scholars Program

Summer 2015 Research Projects

Scholar: Arlena Blum
Mentor: Don Kurtz, Ph.D.


The Power of Support: The Role of Parental Attachment in Reducing Juvenile Delinquency 

The purpose of this research is to measure the effect of differing family structures on juvenile delinquency rates. Relevant data was derived from the latest available Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) survey; the data set was downloaded from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPCR)website. The variables chosen had to connect with the research that was being conducted.  There were five delinquent variables as well as the three most common families defined as mother only, father only, and both mother and father.  The chosen variables were ran in the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software to find if they agree with our theory that living in an intact family will lessen the delinquent acts. The research also covers the attachment levels of the juveniles to their parents. For this research, we applied three theories: Supportive Theory, Coercive Theory, and Intergraded Theory and upon analysis of this data, it became clear that most of the data we have looked at thus far has proven our theory.


Scholar: José Covarrubias
Mentor: Deryl Troyer, Ph.D.


Surface-teathered Nonoparticles on Tumor Homing Cells

Several systems and strategies have been tested to develop a better way to deliver therapeutic drugs to cancer tumors. Unfortunately, the results obtained have been disappointing. A current method that has been developed is the use of monomer streptavidin neural stem cells (MSA-NSC) which can attach biotinylated therapeutic particles on the surface for targeted delivery, but a disadvantage is that the cells have to be genetically engineered. The goal of this project is to develop a new delivery drug method using neural stem cells (NSC). Biotinylated cholesterol polyethylene glycol (Biotin-Chol-PEG) will be attached to the cell, where the cholesterol will help stabilize the cell leaving the biotin on the surface. Then, the biotin on the surface will be used to attach avidin along with polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) particles loaded with therapeutic drugs, such as doxorubicin and salinomycin, to the surface of tumor homing neural stem cells for targeted delivery.


Scholar: Carolina Garcia
Mentor: Weipang Zhang, Ph.D.


Characterization of Adherence of Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) to Human Intestinal Cell Lines 

Escherichia coli (E.coli) strains producing enterotoxins, ETEC, are the most common bacterial causes of diarrhea1. ETEC cause 280-400 million cases of diarrhea in children < 5 years, and additional 100 million cases in children > 5 years, resulting in 150,000 – 300,000 annual deaths of young children.ETEC also cause 400 million cases of diarrhea in adult travelers2. Currently, there are no effective methods of preventing diarrheal diseases. Vaccines are considered the most effective and most practical against children’s diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea3. The goal of this study is to establish an in vitro assay to assess vaccine efficacy, particularly efficacy against ETEC colonization. We will screen cell lines, establish baseline of ETEC adherence to cell lines, and optimize in vitro assays; then apply selecting cell lines in antibody adherence inhibition assays to assess antibodies induced by vaccine candidates against ETEC bacterial colonization.

  1. Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). (2005, October 25). Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  2. Qadri, F., Svennerholm, A.-M., Faruque, A. S. G., & Sack, R. B. (2005). Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in Developing Countries: Epidemiology, Microbiology, Clinical Features, Treatment, and Prevention. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 18(3), 465–483. doi:10.1128/CMR.18.3.465-483.2005
  3. WHO (2006). Future directions for research on entertoxigenic Escherichia coli vaccines for developing countries. Wkly. Epidemiol. Rec. 81, 97–107


Scholar: Emmanuel Garcia
Mentor: Brad Behnke, Ph.D.


Tumor Host Tissue Vasoreactivity 

Studies designed to combat tumor hypoxia have utilized both ectopic and orthotopic tumor models.  Preliminary studies from our laboratory found a significant increase in blood flow to orthotopic prostate tumors versus a reduction in blood flow in ectopic tumors during moderate intensity exercise.  It was hypothesized that subcutaneous adipose arterioles and skin arterioles (ectopic tumor host tissue) in rats would have greater vasoconstriction versus prostate arterioles (orthotopic host tissue) in response to the alpha-adrenergic agonist norepinephrine (NE).  Arterioles from each location were harvested from male Copenhagen rats (n=20).  Vasoconstriction to cumulative doses of NE (10-9 – 104 M) were recorded.  There was a significantly higher peak vasoconstriction to NE in subcutaneous adipose arterioles (92 ± 7%) versus both skin (59 ± 8%) and prostate (55 ± 7%) arterioles.  There were no significant differences in vasoconstriction between skin and prostate arterioles. These data are critical in designing exercise studies using tumor models.


Scholar: Zuleica Gerardo
Mentor: Spencer Wood, Ph.D.


Imagining Nature: How People of Color Experience the Great Outdoors

How do minorities use their interactions with nature and green spaces to create their own identity? This pilot study involves the incorporation of race into environmental sociology, an understudied aspect of the field.The researcher interviewed three women and two men at parks in Manhattan, KS and Kansas City, KS to explore counter narratives of the minority experience in the outdoors. Using NVivo, the five interviews were transcribed and analyzed. Preliminary findings show that 4 out of 5 respondents acknowledged a spiritual tie to nature. All respondents spoke of nature being a teaching medium, whether teaching about appreciation or stewardship or learning life lessons from being in nature. All the respondents also believe their respective social circles are active and enjoy the outdoors, mostly more than themselves. The full study will consist of a revised interview instrument and a more diverse pool of respondents.


Scholar: Lucas Gorentz
Mentor: Warren White, Ph.D.


Design and Construction of a One-Wheeled Self-Balancing Robot

Control of mechanical systems is a vital subject for many everyday operations and industries. Effective control is key to increasing the efficiency of complex systems. In controls education, physical models provide students with the ability to visualize how systems operate and react to various conditions.

Physical models of underactuated systems are popular in controls education, particularly because they are more complex and present interesting aspects like natural instability. Several specific systems are used to examine underactuation, including inverted pendulums and multi-wheeled balancing robots. One system that is not as common due to its complexity is the unicycle.

This project describes the process of developing a self-balancing unicycle robot that may be used in controls education and research. Some notable steps in the development of this device include Solidworks design, physical construction, and LabVIEW development. Although the majority of the Unicycle has been created, the system's control is still being developed.


Scholar: Raymond Greer
Mentor: Lisa Melander, Ph.D.


Mothering and Co-parenting in Prison

The number of mothers in the prison system has been a growing problem for many years. Some of the concerns associated with maternal incarceration are what happens to the children and who takes care of them upon incarceration. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between mothers and the caretakers of their children on the outside. Thirty-four semi-structured interviews with inmates actively participating at the Topeka Correctional Facility's Women's Activity and Learning Center (WALC) were conducted to investigate the relationship between the inmates and their co-parents. The initial themes that are arising within the study are whom the co-parent was, how well they worked together or got along, and understanding the quality of the inmate co-parent relationship. Future qualitative and quantitative research will explore the parent/co-parent relationship and how that in turn affects the inmates' behavior in prison and their relationship with their children.


Scholar: Ka'Juan Moore
Mentor: Lisa Melander, Ph.D.


Mothering Behind Bars: The Role of Contact Maintenance Programs on the Mothering Identity of Incarcerated Women

The purpose of the present study is to explore how participation in prison based contact maintenance programs impacts female inmates with regards to their mothering identity. Interviews were conducted with 34 incarcerated women who were either current or former participants of Women's Activity and Learning Center (WALC) program. There was also 1 interview with a prison administrator and participant observation conducted at a retreat where 12 inmates and 31 children were present with 15 UMW volunteers. Each in-depth interview, lasted 10-50 minutes and was conducted in a semi-private area in the WALC visitation areas in maximum and minimum security units. The average age of these inmates was 32 ½ years of age with a range of 24 to 53. The majority of the participants were white (82%) and the average number of kids per inmate was 2.5 with a range of 1 to 7. In the end, the interviews were transcribed verbatim. Once the interviews are transcribed, coding will commence.


Scholar: Jennifer Peelen
Mentors: Gayle Doll, Ph.D. & Migette Kaup, Ph.D.


The Effects of Intergenerational Activities on Children and Older Adults


The purpose of this pilot study was to take a fresh look at Intergenerational Programs and observe what they could offer both Children and Older Adults, in hopes of coming across a trend, pattern, or new observation that could inspire future research for graduate school. The Intergenerational (IG) Program was observed for two non-consecutive weeks, and notes were taken from live observations of IG activities and archival data, as well as semi-structured interviews with residents, family members, and parents of children.  Recurring situations observed from the nearly 400 observations and five interviews included activities based around Teaching and/or Learning (116), Relationship Building (223), and instances of Joy (299). Unexpected observations included the level of modeling of a sense of community, and the participation, enjoyment and benefit of those other than the intended participants. 


Scholar: Mayra Perez-Fajardo
Mentor: Hula Dogan, Ph.D.


Function and Mechanism of Action Soluble and Insoluble Fibers in Dough Systems

By incorporating fiber into baked products, consumers would be able to meet the recommended daily fiber intake; however, the addition of fiber into dough systems changes the rheological properties which in turn affect the final quality. The purpose of this study was to understand the effects of soluble and insoluble fibers on dough development and function. Control dough containing no fiber, as well as, doughs containing one of six different fibers (oat, inulin, dextrin, resistant starch, pectin, fiber gel) at 2, 5, or 10% replacement levels were tested. The Mixolab and Kieffer Dough Extensibility Rig tests were conducted to assess the mixing and pasting behavior, and the extensional properties, respectively. Results indicated that insoluble fibers minimally affect water absorption, while soluble fibers decrease the water absorption, and gel forming fibers increase the water absorption. Both insoluble and gel forming fibers increased the peak viscosity while soluble fibers decreased it.


Scholar: Matthew Reynolds
Mentor: Placidus Amama, Ph.D.


Kinetic Model of CVD Growth and Carbon-Nonotubes on Different Catalysts

Carbon nanotubes are a quickly emerging new material with promising characteristics. These nanostructures have applications in biomedical areas via field emissions, sensing, and detecting technologies as well as applications in optics and computational engines due to their semi conducting capabilities. These properties are useful only when we are able to produce this material on a large scale, which requires an understanding of their growth mechanism. With this understanding, it will be possible to study the chirality of CNTs and how it is related to the growth conditions. The type of CNT produced is effected largely by the chirality and this will control which applications can be used.  This research turns towards this understanding and how we can predict the chirality of the produced CNTs.


Scholar: Loren Taylor
Mentor: Amber Vennum, Ph.D.


Relevate: The Relationship Education App for Young Adults 

This study was conducted to see what people would want in a relationship education app. We used two survey samples: one using University students, and the other using emerging adults, not in school and without a degree. The first set of non-demographic questions asked about romantic relationships; questions varied from relationship status, length of relationship, possible events they or someone they know have experienced, and what type of relationship they would want in the future. To dive deeper, we asked about possible features such as photo storage, tracking personal values, tracking progress, quizzes, a relationship timeline, etc. We asked about app features such as receiving feedback, a message board, linking to other social media accounts, etc. To give Relevate its tailoring feature, we asked participants which variables should be considered. Responses included age, race, sexual orientation, relationship goals, etc. Lastly, we asked what type of notifications and privacy features they would like. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences software (SPSS) was used to conduct data cleaning and analysis.


Scholar: Carlos Tupaz
Mentor: John Devore, Ph.D.


VisiBoole, A KSU HDL; Implementing Subdesigns and Unidirectional Language Translation

VisiBoole is a program, which is being used in Kansas State University, designed to simulate digital logic circuits by taking user-inputted Boolean expressions and converting it to color coded clickable text. VisiBoole allows a user to work with complex projects without programming hardware. The drawback to interactive text is that keeping excessive lines of text in a single window requires a scroll bar to traverse. To overcome this, I implemented subdesigns in VisiBoole which will let a user compact multiple smaller designs inside their main design and view each subdesign in its own form. Lastly, while VisiBoole can simulate a circuit, it cannot program hardware. Other HDLs such as VHDL, Verilog, and AHDL can be used to program hardware. To produce the same result of programming hardware, I implemented language translation from VisiBoole's language to AHDL.