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McNair Scholars Program

Research Abstracts 1998

Scholar: Frank Blecha
Mentor: Daniel Andresen, Ph.D.

The Application of Vector Processing and Other Methods to Accelerate 3D Ray Intersection Determination

The phenomenal success of the movie 'Toy Story' and other computer- generated special effects scenes has generated an enormous interest in efficient means for generating accurate 3D images. One popular technique, ray tracing, generates an image by shooting an imaginary ray through the scene. By determining where and at what angle the ray hits an object in the scene, an accurate color and shading can be chosen. Millions of such ray/object intersection calculations are made for each image. In our studies we used several optimizations to construct an application that was significantly faster for this task.

Symmetric multiprocessing, using a dual processor system, was exploited early in our studies and was responsible for significant gains in execution speed. Vector processing, which was previously only available to supercomputer users, was another method used to accelerate our application. It is an inviting acceleration technique for algorithms that evaluate a series of mutually independent operations and is possible today using Intel's MMX technology. Restructuring of the source code was necessary to take advantage of the enhanced MMX instruction set. We also aggressively managed memory resources using hierarchical tiling, which reduced the performance degradation incurred with memory access, while increasing program performance by explicitly controlling the data movement in the memory hierarchy.

Through combining techniques in computer graphics and parallel scientific supercomputing, we diminish the rendering time associated with ray traced images by increasing the speed of the our application by 99%. We feel these results have the potential for widespread interests in both communities.


Scholar: Gavin Budhram
Mentor: Richard Beeman, Ph.D.

Pearl and White as Homologous Genes in Tribolium and Drosophila

Most of the economically significant pest insect species are either beetles or moths. The fruit fly, Drosophila, has served as the sole genetic model for pest insects by default, since other insect models have been unavailable. Because of the great diversity of insect adaptations, and genetic pathways, other pest insect species are needed as genetic models to supplement and enhance information gained from study of Drosophila. The widely distributed pest species, Tribolium castaneum ("Tribolium" means red flour beetle), is an extremely facile and tractable genetic model, and represents the most speciose of all animal Orders. Tribolium is twice as recombinogenic as Drosophila, and has a suitably small genome size of 200Mb. We have recently succeeded in cloning the white cDNA from Tribolium -- the first time this gene has been cloned in an insect outside the Drosophilid Order, Diptera.

There are several genes in the Drosophila genome that control the eye color of the individual. One of these genes, white, has the power to correct a common mutation in eye pigment. It is a recessive allele. Therefore an individual who is either homozygous wildtype or heterozygous will display the normal black eye pigment, while the homozygous recessive individual will display the mutant white eyes. It is believed that a homologous region exists in the Tribolium genome, called "pearl," after the mutation it causes in Tribolium. The objective of the research has been to study Tribolium with the pearl mutation and prove that their mutation can be traced back to an area on the Tribolium genome that is homologous to Drosophila. That is, pearl and white are homologous genes in Tribolium and Drosophila. The research began by mating a wildtype mother (homozygous dominant, with black eyes) with a mutant father (homozygous recessive, with white eyes.) The results of such a cross should produce offspring that all display the black phenotype, but carry the recessive pearl allele. That is, the offspring should all be heterozygous. Next, a daughter from this family was backcrossed to the father. This second filial generation would therefore produce progeny that are half white-eyed (homozygous recessive) and half black-eyed (homozygous dominant). In other words, they were either "pure white" or "pure black." One hundred white progeny and one hundred black progeny then underwent DNA extraction and PCR, amplifying the pearl genes in their genomic libraries. The primers Wh-ll and Wh-12 RC were chosen because they reside on opposite sides of the pearl gene sequence, and PCR using them would amplify the complete pearl sequence. The next phase was Single Strand Confirmation Polymorphism (SSCP). The purpose of this was to denature each insect's copy of the pearl gene (wildtype or mutant) and check to see which allele was inherited by which insect. As was expected, the black-eyed progeny displayed a middle band that the white-eyed progeny lacked. This indicates that the white-eyed progeny inherited two copies of the recessive pearl allele whereas the black-eyed progeny inherited only one.

The fact that no recombination occurred during this experiment is strong evidence that pearl is closely linked to the white gene in Drosophila. The success rate of the experiment was so high that out of the 179 beetles prepped, all showed evidence of correct pearl segregation. That is, the fact that all the black-eyed progeny displayed a homozygous recessive genotype for pearl and all the white-eyed progeny displayed a heterozygous genotype indicates that the mutation can be traced to an area of the Tribolium genome that is homologous to the white gene in Drosophila.


Scholar: Latisha Daniels
Mentor: Craig Harms, Ph.D.

Impaired Lung Diffusion Capacity in Women During Graded Exercise

It has recently been reported that many active healthy women experience significant exercise-induced arterial hypoxemia (EIAH) and at a VO2max that is substantially less than those of their active male contemporaries (Harms et. al., J Physiol, 1998). Due to an excessive widening of the A-aO2 difference in those women with EIAH, we hypothesized that lung diffusion was impaired in women during exercise. To test this postulate, 6 physically active women (VO2max: 51.5 + 5.4 ml/kg/min) and 5 men (VO2max 59.0 + 5.3 ml/kg/min) all with normal resting pulmonary function each completed a graded incremental exercise test to VO2max. Metabolic measurements were determined via a breath by breath automated system (SensorMedics). Lung diffusion capacity (DLCO, corrected for [Hb]) and pulmonary blood flow (Qc; acetylene absorption) were measured at rest and during each exercise stage by the single breath exhalation method. As expected, in male subjects, DLCO increased linearly with increasing Qc during exercise. However, in our female subjects, DLCO was not related to Qc, and did not change from ~70% of VO2max (43.8 + 2.7 ml/min/mmHg) to maximal exercise (39.2 + 4.2 ml/min/mm Hg), and was significantly lower (p<0.05) than men. These preliminary data suggest that lung diffusion capacity may be compromised in active healthy women which may contribute to exercise induced arterial hypoxemia.


Scholar: Alexandra Farmer
Mentor: Stephen Benton, Ph.D.

A Comparison of States' High School Graduation Requirements, Their Documentation, and Goal/Objective Statements

Comparisons were made between U.S. states in high school graduation requirements, their documentation, and goal and/or objective statements. Three high-achieving and three low- achieving states were chosen based on students' American College Test (ACT) scores, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, percentage of students taking the tests, and high school completion rates. All variables were analyzed using matrices constructed along two dimensions: high and low student achievement by high and low high school completion rate. Then the matrices were compared to find states with high achievement and states with low achievement in all three categories (ACT scores, SAT scores, and high school completion rate). Kansas, Minnesota, and North Dakota were chosen from the high achievement group, and Florida, Georgia, and Texas were chosen from the low achieving group. For high school graduation requirements only small differences were found and no clear pattern emerged. However, a pattern was visible for the documentation and for goals and/or objectives among the states. Florida, Georgia, and Texas showed significant similarities to each other, as did Kansas and North Dakota. Minnesota showed some similarities to both groups. The report includes summaries of the high school graduation requirements of all six states, a short description of the documentation and its availability, and examples of goal and/or objective statements. The appendix includes complete data sets for the ACT scores, the SAT scores, and high school completion rates of all states.


Scholar: Sheyene Foster
Mentor: Steve Heller, Ph.D.

Interweaving Dialogues: A Student's Changing View of the Tapestry of Nonfiction

In his 1978 book, Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Author's Vocation, William Stafford said of writing, "Any little impulse is accepted, enhanced. . . . The stance to take, reading or writing is neutral, ready, susceptible to now. . . . Only the golden string knows where it is going, and the role for a writer or reader is one of following, not imposing." Indeed, many writers have referred to creative (or literary) nonfiction as a sort of tapestry of ideas and a process of weaving together many different threads of thought. I believe this metaphor may also apply to the difficult process of defining the genre, however, I do think ideas about nonfiction can be enriched and informed by examining the current dialogue concerning the genre; its rules and boundaries as seen by the authors themselves. Using excerpts from interviews I have conducted with three contemporary nonfiction authors, I hope to illustrate how participation in these dialogues has affected me as a student writer, as well as convey a sense of some of the more confusing and controversial issues surrounding the genre. I believe that by following each individual author's golden thread of thought and allowing a number of these sometimes very different strands to entangle themselves and interact, a sort of tapestry is formed. A picture perhaps not of the black and white limits of nonfiction, but a colorful montage revealing the rich possibilities of the essay form. It is my hope that this essay can provide a glimpse of this seemingly elusive tapestry.


Scholar: John Legg
Mentor: Louise Breen, Ph.D.


"A King in Satan's Kingdom [soon] to be Erected": George Burroughs, Minister and Witch of Salem Village

On August 19, 1692, five convicted witches were carted to their executions through the streets of Salem, Massachusetts. Such a sight was not out of the ordinary at the height of Salem's deadly witchcraft crisis. But this day of execution differed from others in that four of the five condemned malefactors were men; and one, George Burroughs, was a minister. Upon reaching the hanging tree, Burroughs made a speech that proclaimed his innocence, and then recited faultlessly the Lord's Prayer, a feat widely regarded as impossible for a witch. The scene was so affecting that many spectators began to question the justice of the verdict. Authorities, however, eager to still the crowd, explained that a "black man" sat next to Burroughs and told him what to say. The preeminent minister Cotton Mather rode up on horseback, and reminded onlookers that Burroughs did not deserve their sympathy. Though a preacher, Burroughs had not been properly ordained; and, besides, "The devil has often been transformed into an Angel of Light." Mather's presence and authority appeased the crowd and the execution proceeded without incident. After being cut down, the "witch" was stripped of his clothes, dragged by a halter to the outskirts of town, and dumped unceremoniously into a hole between some rocks. An old pair of trousers covered his nakedness, and his hands and chin were left sticking out from the make-shift grave. What was it that made a Harvard-educated clergyman vulnerable to charges of witchcraft?

In the last decade of the seventeenth century Massachusetts Puritans felt threatened both by meddling imperial officials and frontier "savages." Indian wars raged on the frontier; and, in 1691, the home government in London altered the colony's charter, diminishing local control and disallowing laws that provided for the persecution of Anabaptists and Quakers. The fears generated by the flexing of the imperial muscle, and the resistance of indigenous peoples, shaped the pattern of witchcraft accusations in Salem, and made Burroughs a likely suspect. In the last decade of the seventeenth century Massachusetts Puritans felt threatened both by meddling imperial officials and frontier "savages." Indian wars raged on the frontier; and, in 1691, the home government in London altered the colony's charter, diminishing local control and disallowing laws that provided for the persecution of Anabaptists and Quakers. The fears generated by the flexing of the imperial muscle, and the resistance of indigenous peoples, shaped the pattern of witchcraft accusations in Salem, and made Burroughs a likely suspect.

As the people of New England urgently sought to expose the witches who they thought must somehow have caused God to abandon his chosen ones, thereby allowing these tragedies to unfold, suspicion usually fell upon elderly women of low social standing. But this did not hold true in the case of George Burroughs, whose contentious personality and occupation of a whole series of sensitive social boundaries made it seem likely that he had forged an alliance with Satan -- an alliance that would culminate with the destruction of the godly society of Massachusetts and its replacement with a hellish "Devil's Dominion."

At a time when the ordinary young men of Salem were dying in the Indian wars, Burroughs lived in frontier villages and mysteriously emerged unscathed from devastating raids. At a time when elites feared the religious apostasy that would be unleashed when toleration became the law of the land, Burroughs was suspected of harboring Anabaptist views. And at a time when people of all social ranks saw the well ordered family as a bulwark against change and ungodliness, Burroughs proved unequal to his patriarchal duties and was even accused of having murdered a wife. The witchcraft trials, seen from this perspective, emerge not as the work of over-zealous ministers and magistrates, but as the product of a society bent on re-gaining a sense of control, and united in the effort to eliminate internal enemies believed responsible for unwanted social and political change.


Scholar: Lorenza Lockett
Mentor: Farrell Webb, Ph.D.

Familial Sources in Racial/Ethnic Prejudices

The growing racial tensions and redefinition of discrimination have generated a great deal of interests in the race knowledge and race related issues. Recent surveys have demonstrated that Americans possess a duality with regards to race. The purpose of this research project is to investigate what is the family's role in the production of racial attitudes.

This investigation using an ecosystemic perspective examines how respondents developed their knowledge about others, who was most likely to influence what they knew and where they learned what they knew about others. A sample was drawn from a cadre of students from different classes across the Kansas State University campus during the spring and summer sessions resulting in a sample size of approximately 350 respondents. The sample represented all colleges including the graduate school. Student ages ranged from 18 to 49 with a mean age of 21 years. There was an imbalance in the gender ratio with females representing 83.7% and males 16.3% respectively. Racial group representations closely approximated the State's population with 90.1% European Americans and 6.6% African Americans. Other race groups accounted for 3.3% of the remaining population. At least three out of ten students reported membership in a fraternity or sorority.

There were four findings that our preliminary analysis revealed. First, students were able to identify, on average, at least twenty independent terms for all groups. Second, for each group represented there were at least 43 separate terms used (all negative). Third, 95% of the students reported using these terms at least once, with a mean usage of 6.58 terms and a median usage of 5.00 terms per student. Finally, although students did report learning some terms at home, a sizable number reported learning these terms outside of boundaries of their immediate families.

It is important to closely examine the sources of racial prejudices because they reveal much about why and how we ultimately define each other. This is vital because in a highly-developed society our social interactions must cross racial lines. Only by exploring and exposing racial fallacies can we hope to improve the quality of life for all Americans. A failure to expose and eradicate these problems will result in tension and a reduction in our standard of living.


Scholar: Lindsay Mallory
Mentor: Thomas Barstow, Ph.D.

Influence of Muscle Fiber Type on Oxygen Intake / Work Rate under Moderate Exercise

Previous studies have suggested that muscle fiber type and/or fitness may affect the efficiency of muscular contraction (as VO2/ work rate). The purpose of this study is to directly test the effect of muscle fiber type composition and fitness on VO2/ W during moderate exercise (below the lactate threshold, LT). Approximately 20 subjects (10 trained and 10 sedentary) will perform an incremental ramp test to volitional fatigue on a cycle ergometer. On a subsequent day, each subject will perform 6 minutes of cycling at work rates selected to bring them to steady states at 30%, 50%, 70%, and 90% of their LT. To assess the day- to-day and measurement variability, each subject will perform this protocol on 3 different days. VO2/ W will be determined independently for each day for each subject.

Minute ventilation, VO2, VCO2, and heart rate will be measured breath by breath throughout the exercise protocols. VO2 max from the ramp test will be used as an indicator of fitness, while muscle fiber composition will be determined from a muscle biopsy to be taken from the vastus lateralis at a later date.

At this point we have completed testing on 5 subjects. The mean (+/- Coefficient of Variation) of the slopes for each subject's constant load protocols were 8.97(6.8%), 10.93(3.2%), 9.43(7.8%), 11.00(12.6%), and 11.07(2.3%). In turn, the VO2/ W determined from the incremental ramp test over the same region of


Scholar: Benjamin Stone
Mentor: Steve Upton, Ph.D.

Cryptosporidium Parvum

Cryptosporidium parvum is the causative agent of cryptosporidiosis. In animals and humans C. parvum infections are transmitted through the environmentally resistent oocyst (egg) stage. Once inside the host, the parasite is able to reproduce rapidly, inundating the environment with millions of new oocysts in a relatively short period of time. These oocysts are then shed in fecal material and are transmitted to other organisms that come into contact, directly or indirectly, with the infected fecal material. Cryptosporidiosis has been known to be contracted through contaminated drinking water, produce fertilized with fecal materials, direct contact through patient and child care, and even through public swimming pools.

Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis include: severe watery diarrhea, nausea, low-grade fever, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, weight loss, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. In otherwise healthy patients, the disease is usually self-regulating and patients recover within seven to fourteen days. In immunocompromised individuals, such as individuals infected with HIV, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, or individuals who have recently undergone bone marrow or organ transplants, the disease can be life-threatening, usually due to complications of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance that accompany severe diarrhea. The oocysts are resistant to many disinfecting agents, including chlorine, and presently there is no know treatment for the disease.

Using the dideoxy sequencing method and purification protocols, proteins from the C. parvum genome have been sequenced. By gaining an understandment of C. parvum at the molecular level, we will be able to better understand and eventually find a cure to cryptosporidiosis.