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McNair Scholars Program

Summer 2016 Research Projects

Scholar:  Benjamin Archibeque
Mentor:  Eleanor Sayre, Ph.D.


Student Behavior in the IMPRESS Program

The IMPRESS program is a two week, pre-college program that prepares first generation and deaf/hard-of-hearing students to major in a STEM field. In this program, students investigate models of climate change while improving their metacognitive skills and cultural preparation for college life.  In this research project, we observe IMPRESS students working in small groups to develop tabletop experiments about aspects of climate change. We are interested in how the minority composition of student groups affects how equitable their discourse is.  We follow several case study groups chosen to have a broad range of students to operationalize how discourse may be equitable. We look for moments when individuals are included or excluded and how the prevalence of those moments can create a more or less equitable environment during activities. We found that when white men are in a group they tend to marginalize other group members.


Scholar: Tera Brandt
Mentor:  Thomas Schermerhorn, Ph.D.


The Effects of Serum Tonicity on Diabetic Canine Red Blood Cells

Serum tonicity reflects the total osmotic effects of serum constituents and is important for cell volume regulation. Serum hypertonicity, the condition of elevated tonicity, promotes human diabetes but is undefined in canines. Raised serum glucose (hyperglycemia), a feature of diabetes, also causes hypertonicity. We hypothesized that canine red blood cells (cRBCs) in hyperglycemic environments will display different responses than cRBCs in normoglycemic environments when exposed to tonicity changes. RBC responses to hypotonic challenge were assessed using cRBCs incubated for 48-hr in 300mM NaCl containing 100, 300, or 600 mg/dl glucose. RBC fragility was determined spectrophotometrically by measuring hemoglobin released from lysed RBCs. RBC diameter (dRBC) was determined using a electronic cell-counting device. The results show that hyperglycemia (300 or 600 mg/dl glucose) protected cRBCs against lysis. cRBCs maintained in hyperglycemic conditions showed reduced fragility (3.4% vs 3.9% for control), however  dRBC was similar (6.27 μm vs 6.30 μm) to control.


Scholar: Tuesday Frasier
Mentor: Marta Alfonso-Durruty, Ph.D.


The Effect of Nutritional Stresses on the Cortical Thickness in New Zealand White Rabbits

Cortical thickness has been occasionally used as a non-specific indicator of stress to study past population's health status. However, further study, based on experimental models, is needed to assess cortical thickness potential as a non-specific marker of stress. Using an experimental animal model, this study evaluates cortical-thickness response to nutritional conditions. The cortical thickness was assessed in the osteological remains of 45 New Zealand White rabbits (NZW). During their developmental period, NZW were divided into three dietary groups; Control (normal diet), Experimental-1 (chronically undernourished), and Experimental 2 (periodically fasted). The left humerus and femur were CT scanned and the cortical thickness in the anterior aspect at the 40% maximum length site of both bones was measured in mm using the imaging software 3-D slicer. Cortical thickness in the femur showed to be similar the Control (x̅=1.22, SD=.25), Experimental-1( x̅=1.27, SD=.31) and Experimental-2 groups (x̅=1.48, SD=.28). Likewise, results for the humerus's cortical thickness showed the Control (x̅=1.39, SD=.36), Experimental-1 (x̅=1.30, SD=.39) and Experimental-2 (x̅=1.63, SD=.23) to be similar. Comparisons between the groups failed to reveal any significant difference between the groups (p>.05). Thus, preliminary results suggest that cortical thickness is not sensitive to general nutritional stress, or that the nutritional treatments were not severe enough to alter the cortical thickness of these NZW. Further analyses of other sites in these two bones are needed, and other experimental studies are also required to assess the sensitivity of cortical thickness to stresses, and its potential as a non-specific stress marker in past populations.


Scholar:  Marcus Gilbert
Mentor:   Jason Scuilla, M.F.A.


The Art of Aquatinting Through Commercial Airbrushing

"Aquatinting" is the traditional technique of creating continuous and graduated tonal variations on a degreased copper plate when creating artwork through Intaglio printmaking. The use of toxic materials such as rosin powder, aerosol spray paint, and different petroleum based solvents are common materials of traditional aquatinting. Under the mentorship of Professor Jason Scuilla, I have successfully replaced most of these toxic materials by implementing safer non-toxic methods into the printmaking shops at Kansas State University. This required the use of the commercialized airbrush gun in conjunction with a non-toxic etchant resistant. To achieve this goal, I have combined the research carried out by other non-toxic printmaking advocates with my prior professional commercial airbrushing skills. By researching, testing, and utilizing alternative materials, my research has proven that it is possible to create superior aquatinting results with less toxic alternatives that are safe for both the artist and our environment.


Scholar:  Dorian Jester
Mentor:  Don Kurtz, Ph.D.


A Fallen Voice: Family Narratives of those under Correctional Control

This paper presents Narrative Criminology, an ideology, which posits that stories are more than a means of communication; they help us mold our identities, make sense of the world, and assemble others to action. This research explores the personal narratives of offenders under community correctional control. My main goal in this research is to answer the following question: how do those under correctional control use stories or narratives to explain their unique experiences? Interviews were conducted from the Manhattan, Kansas, community to assess participants' stories related to criminal behavior, correctional intervention, community stigma, and family stories around our justice practices. Participants were given full informed consent and the questions were geared towards their life situation and not about specifics of criminal behavior. The final analysis of data includes a review of all transcribed interviews, coding for specific narratives or themes that developed from participant responses. The final analysis included two men and two women on probation for various drug-related crimes. After interviewing my participants, I analyzed each narrative.  The following themes emerged from transcribed interviews:  loneliness, vulnerability and self-image, signals as doubt, and complexity and change.  Oftentimes these narratives seem contradictory, and sometimes they are, but this fits with literature on the nature of self-narration.


Scholar:  Hannah O'Neil
Mentor:  Gayle Doll, Ph.D.


Elementary Student Outcomes from an Intergenerational Kindergarten Experience

This retrospective study discovered how intergenerational programs affect the children that participate later on in their life. This program is located in Coffeeyville, Kansas, and is comprised of a kindergarten classroom inside of a nursing home. An open-ended survey questionnaire was sent to parents of children that completed the program seven and eight years ago in order to see if the effects of the program followed the children into the later years of their elementary career. The study found that the parents viewed the program as an overall success for their child, their family, and the community. Children that were involved in this program proved to be less prejudiced toward older adults and more comfortable with them. Staff from the school district were also questioned and they stated an overall success in the program.  

Scholar:  Karen Palacios
Mentor:   Chardie L. Baird, Ph.D.


The Relationship between the Employment and Education History of Hispanics/Latinos Who are First Generation Immigrants and Their Expectations and Aspirations for their Children's Education and Employment

 Despite an increase in the number of Hispanics/Latinos immigrating to the United States since the 1990’s, the number pursuing higher education is not comparable to the White population. Research on the race/ethnic gap in college degrees tends to focus on the societal barriers to explain this problem. However, research on Salvadorians acculturation in Canada suggests that Hispanic/Latino parents experience immigrating and assimilating to this new country may have an important effect on how they guide their children. Through in-depth, semi-structured interviews, I examine how Hispanic/Latino immigrant parents make sense of their current and past work and education experiences and their expectations and aspirations for their children’s future educational and occupational outcomes. I find that the Hispanic/Latino parents in my sample tend to have high expectations for their children because they view the  educational system in the US as an improvement to the educational system of their country of birth. Despite their own negative work and educational experience within the United States, and a desire to return to their home country, they express a seemingly contradictory concern that their children will experience the same barriers the parents faced.  While first generation immigrants hope and encourage their children to attain higher education, in many subtle ways they communicate to their children that a more realistic goal may be to pursue immediate employment after high school.


Scholar: Alonso Peña
Mentor:  Tushabe wa Tushabe, Ph.D.


Decolonizing Knowledge: Self Construction of SuperQUEERoes through Disidentification and Witness

Superheroes have epistemologically tied superpower to white male identification to negate and subjugate marginalized individuals. White male superhero identities are colonial and manifest violence against queer people of color and people who do not fit the rigid molds of identity created by colonialism. However, as a child I was able to imagine myself as super powerful to survive systemic oppression and negation. Because I am unwilling to forfeit this sense of imagination, I argue that to bear witness to my experiences and the experiences of other queer people of color, we must dis-identify with superheroes and their attachment to white masculine strength and domination. Queer people of color who are negated and erased can imagine themselves as superQUEERoes as a praxical way of transforming oppressive knowledge and relationships into ways erased and negated people can activate their own agency to embody change in themselves and their communities.


Scholar:  Baylee Porter
Mentor:  Thomas Mueller, Ph.D. 


Establishing Behavioral Paradigms to Functionally Characterize the Zebrafish Amygdala

Altered smell sensation is a hallmark of human affective disorders. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are characterized by deficits in odor discrimination. Despite their medical relevance, the neural circuits mediating olfaction and emotion in higher forebrain regions is barely understood. Zebrafish, due to its small size and amenability to genetic manipulations is an important model to dissect neural circuits of sensory processing and behavior. We have investigated neural activity patterns with an antibody against phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (pERK) as a readout of neural activity in odor-driven experimental paradigms. We then compare expression patterns after inducing specific emotional states such as fear, anxiety, and appetitive behaviors. The different paradigms reveal distinct expression patterns supporting an overall conserved functional forebrain organization. This methodology can be used to functionally characterize the zebrafish forebrain in regard to odor-processing nuclei. This provides the foundation to dissect neural circuits of odor-induced emotion in this model organism.


Scholar:  Gennifer A. Riley
Mentor:  Melanie Derby, Ph.D.


A Snapshot of Oil-Water Flows in Mini-Channels

The separation of oil and water is a time and energy consuming process since corrosive salt water must be separated from oil. In oil-water flows through a mini-channel, surface tension forces dominate and can produce flow regimes that separate the oil and water (i.e., annular flow). This study investigates the effects of tube diameter on mineral oil and water flows by measuring pressure drops and observing flow patterns in 2.1-mm and 3.7-mm-diameter borosilicate glass tubes. Results are presented for varying water superficial velocities and a constant oil superficial velocity of about 3.4 m/s. Flow regimes in the 2.1-mm tube remain stratified or annular at more test conditions. Recorded pressure drops are lower in the 3.7-mm tube compared to the 2.1-mm tube.


Scholar:  Bianca Rodriguez
Mentor:   Norma A. Valenzuela, Ph.D.


Which Way Home? Push/Pull Factors in Unaccompanied Children’s Journey Towards the American Dream

Latin American immigration to the United States has become an increasingly hot topic, especially with the upcoming presidential election. Often, unaccompanied alien children (UAC) are disregarded in their struggles in an unfamiliar country without adult guidance. Their numbers have drastically increased in recent years due to extreme violence and poverty in their home countries and hopes of attaining work and education in the U.S. Upon arrival, government agencies apprehend and place UAC in either the homes of family members, foster homes, or detention centers. Each of these comes with potential threats to UAC physically, mentally and emotionally. Once reaching age eighteen, UAC are removed from their sponsors’ homes and are provided the grim realities of either immigration court to proceed with deportation or homelessness. With the current systems in place, UAC are criminalized from early ages that prevent them from realizing their potential and attaining the American Dream in adulthood.


Scholar:  Chelsea Sink
Mentor:  David Haukos, Ph.D.


The Influence of Raptor Abundance on Lesser Prairie-Chicken Habitat Use

Lesser Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicintctus) are subject to predation by many opportunistic mammalian and avian predators. Many studies have addressed Lesser Prairie-Chicken reactions to avian predators at leks and the avoidance of tall structures that could serve as perching sites, but little is understood about how birds react to a change in predator abundance over time. Using data collected during the 2014 and 2015 breeding seasons (March 15 – September 15) from western Kansas, I compared female Lesser Prairie-Chicken mortality and vegetation characteristics of habitats used by females use during weeks of above and below average raptor abundance. Results from my study indicate that predation risk as well as female habitat use varies by location and management plans developed to provide Lesser Prairie Chickens with adequate vegetation cover should be tailored to each ecoregion.


Scholar:  Claudia Tedoni
Mentor:  Jared Anderson, Ph.D.


The Mediating Factors in the Pathways between Differentiation and Sexual Desire 

This study examined the mediating role of sexual communication apprehension, general anxiety, and body image in the pathway between differentiation and sexual desire. Data was collected, via a survey on Mechanical Turk (MTurk), from 463 participants who were in committed relationships. The participants in this study were an average age of M=35.8 years and had an average relationship length of M=8.5 years. Three significant indirect pathways to sexual desire were found using a multivariate path model. These pathways were: differentiation → sexual communication apprehension→ sexual desire, differentiation → body image self-consciousness→ sexual desire, and differentiation → body image self-consciousness→ sexual communication apprehension → sexual desire. A significant pathway mediated by general anxiety symptoms was not found in the model created for this study. The findings offer potential target points for professionals working with clients dealing with problems concerning low(er) sexual desire.

Scholar: Amanda Woolley
Mentor: C.B. Rajashekar, Ph.D.


Nutritional Quality of Lettuce and Spinach Grown in High Tunnels and Open Fields

In this study, we examined the nutritional qualities of commonly cultivated leafy-vegetables, lettuce (Lactuca sativa, vars. New Red Fire and Two Star) and spinach (Spinacia oleracea, vars. Bloomsdale Long Standing and Avon Hybrid), grown in high tunnels and open field. Seeds of two cultivars of lettuce and spinach  were germinated in plastic trays, containing Premier Promix soil medium, in growth chambers. After 2weeks, the plants were then transplanted into the open field and high tunnel. The experiment was conducted using a completely randomized block design (CRBD) with three replications. Each replication contained 12 seedlings. Under high tunnel, photosynthetically active radiation  (PAR) was reduced by more than 15% while UVA was reduced by more than 30% and UVB by about half compared to the  open field. Lettuce was harvested after 4 weeks and shoot and root biomass was measured. Samples were prepared for analyses of mineral composition and phytochemical content in the leaves. Due to high temperatures in the field during July, the seedling establishment in spinach was poor.