1. K-State home
  2. »Office of Student Success
  3. »McNair Scholars Program
  4. »Research Abstracts
  5. »Summer 2018 Research Projects

McNair Scholars Program

Summer 2018 Research Projects

Scholar:  Kayla Davis
Mentor:  Stefan Bossman, Ph.D.


Fighting Cancer with Intelligent Peptide Design

Nanotechnology is quickly becoming incorporated within the practicing medical field, particularly the employment of rationally designed peptides and anti-cancer drugs in collusion to form nano-sponge delivery systems for the purpose of combating disease in vivo. These delivery systems have become a key innovation of oncological medicine, for they allow for biologically occurring peptides to act as carriers for cancer-killing peptides, plasmids, nanoparticles, or small molecules drugs that would have otherwise not been possible to deliver to tumorous areas of the body through natural pathways. The following research reports upon a project that combined a tumor-homing peptide with modified peptide derivative and a rhodamine linked terminating peptide to enable formation of nano-sponge DNA-transfection delivery system. This delivery system is being created with the purpose of being infused with DNA-transfecting plasmid in order to change the genetic code of the cancer cell to permit immune activation.


Scholar:  Nicholas Gonzalez
Mentor:  Jeffrey Smith, Ph.D.


Understanding the Historical Evolution of Troost Ave. in Kansas City, MO

This research shows the historical evolution of Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri from the 1950s to present-day, and how it became a dividing line that separates people by race, education and income. It shows the different ways this division has continued to affect the area and its people today. It also examines the strained history of Kansas City including how it became the breeding ground for the first successful housing subdivisions in America, having landmark court rulings regarding integration of public schools, and the rapid racial transition of Southeast Kansas City due to white flight and racially-motivated real-estate practices. The author used online articles, books, fire-insurance maps, income maps, education-level maps, racial-demographic maps, modern street maps, census data, newspaper articles, and interviews during the research process. Although the racial transition and segregation of Southeast Kansas City happened over the span of just under three decades, little has changed since then, and the affects are still being felt by the residents almost 70 years later.


Scholar: Marissa Komp
Mentor: Butch KuKanich, D.V.M. and Ph.D.


Multiple Dose Pharmacokinetics and Clinical Effects of Oral Methadone with Fluconazole in Dogs

Because of the lack of oral opioid analgesics for dogs, there is a desire for a more effective medication for dogs to treat pain. Pain medication like tramadol, hydrocodone, and other opioids do not provide a long-lasting effect and lack consistent oral absorption in canines. These drugs have poor to variable effects in dogs and produce minimal durations of plasma concentrations. Injectable opioids are effective treatment for only about four hours and as such are not ideal. Because of the limitations of the current pain medication treatments for both acute and chronic pain in dogs, the use of methadone and fluconazole are being studied.

In this study, twelve Beagles were randomly assigned into two treatment groups with six dogs each. Oral capsules containing a fixed dose ratio of fluconazole, methadone and naltrexone were administered to both groups of dogs. Naltrexone was included to deter human drug abuse. Group 1 was administered doses approximately every 12 hours. Group 2 was treated with more frequent doses. Pharmacodynamic assessments included rectal and ocular temperatures, sedation scale scores, blood samples for plasma concentrations, and a mechanical stimulus (von Frey device).

All dogs tolerated both dosing regimens with variable sedation from none to moderate. Opioid induced decreases in body temperatures were significant, and the von Frey results were variable, but still showed a pattern of significant changes. The novel methadone formulation provided significant opioid effects in both groups and may be the first effective oral opioid formulation providing predictable analgesic effects in dogs.


Scholar: Donald (D.J.) Lawrence
Mentor: Michael Flynn, Ph.D.


Reducing Civilian Deaths during Military Interventions to Promote Stability in the Target State

There are two different opinions when it comes to military interventions and its effects on civilian casualties. Some scholars argue that small-scale military interventions are more effective at keeping violence contained while also reducing civilian deaths. Other scholars argue that large-scale targeted military interventions are better suited for providing security and lowering civilian deaths. While both have advantages and disadvantages, they are not equal in reducing civilian casualties. Small-scale interventions reduce costs and the operational burden of the intervening force in the conflict, but this small footprint doctrine protracts the length of the conflict and does not have the desired effect in deescalating the conflict, especially in the reduction of civilian casualties. Large-scale interventions combined with targeted offensive operations place the burden of human security on the intervening force and has immediate effects on the reduction of civilian casualties, but signal an escalation in the conflict and can prompt an influx of insurgents which will further endanger civilian populations. It is conceivable that an amalgamation of the two strategies may accomplish the goals of military interventions, whether they be in protecting civilians or a cessation of hostilities. By using a cooperative force, the military can conduct targeted offensive operations with small footprint special operations while the private contractors handle defensive security operations and non-governmental organizations engage in humanitarian and reconstructive operations. These elements used in conjunction with one another will reduce the burden on any one element without jeopardizing the security and stabilization of the target state.


Scholar: Charday Long
Project Mentors: Yavin Shaham, Ph.D., and David Reiner, Ph.D. (National Institute on Drug Abuse, Baltimore, MD)


Relapse to fentanyl seeking after choice-based voluntary abstinence

High relapse rates are a core feature of addiction, but few preclinical animal models of drug relapse incorporate a critical component of human addiction and relapse: self-imposed abstinence. The Shaham lab developed a rat model of choice-based voluntary abstinence to more closely mimic the voluntary component of abstinence in humans. Sprague-Dawley rats (n=14 male, 14 female) were first trained to self-administer palatable food pellets for 6 days, followed by 14 days of intravenous fentanyl self-administration (2.5 μg/kg/infusion) for 12 days. During the voluntary abstinence phase, rats could lever press for palatable food or fentanyl in mutually exclusive choice trials. On day 1 and day 14 of abstinence, rats were tested for relapse to fentanyl seeking in the absence of the drug. Subsequently, rats were perfused, and brains were collected for Fos immunohistochemistry to identify brain regions associated with increased neural activity during fentanyl relapse. Results show that there are no sex differences in intravenous fentanyl self-administration, no increases in relapse responding from day 1 to day 14 (incubation of drug craving), and no differences in voluntary abstinence. Relapse to fentanyl seeking after voluntary abstinence is associated with increased Fos expression in including the Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC) and Insula. The causal role of the OFC and Insula in fentanyl relapse is currently being tested using reversible inactivation with GABA receptor agonists muscimol+baclofen.  Collectively, these results extend our previous findings that choice-based voluntary abstinence prevents incubation of heroin craving and future experiments will investigate the role of pain in fentanyl relapse.


Scholar: Kennith McLoud
Mentors: Gurpreet Singh, Ph.D., and Santanu Mukherjee, Ph.D.


Two Dimensional Materials, Transition Metal Dichologens and their application as supercapacitors

With the ever-growing use of portable electronic devices, the demand for energy storage is even greater now than before. Conventional electrodes have their own issues: insufficient charge storage, poor conductivity, complicated fabrication techniques and inability to last for sufficient cycles of operation. As such, the desire to develop more efficient, effective, and economically practical electrodes are of paramount importance. Fabrication of novel electrodes of high surface area provide a path forward for this ever-demanding industry.

Transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are a group of inorganic compounds that exhibit remarkable properties e.g. MoS2, WSe2 etc. These materials in their bulk form can be exfoliated rather easily to provide 2D layered structures. These layered structures have several advantageous properties from their precursor bulk material in particular: high surface area, greater number of electrochemically active sites, enhanced mechanical strength and a diverse range of electronic properties from semiconducting to semi-metal like. Also, another important advantageous property is their ease of fabrication and scalability; most of these TMDs needed for electrochemical energy storage applications are obtained by a simple liquid-based exfoliation of their bulk precursors. Consequently, TMDs are being looked at as for potential applications in supercapacitor and battery electrodes.

This research focused on the studying of TMDs (MoS2, WS2, MoSe2, MoTe2) materials for supercapacitor applications and the role of varying the transition metal as well as the chalcogen atom. Electrodes have been prepared using a thin film-based coating technique, whereby the slurries (containing carbon black, Polyvinylidene fluoride and N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone) of each electrode material is smeared/pasted on a stainless-steel mesh. A consistent mass loading was achieved, and a 3-electrode setup was used for electrochemical testing purposes; the TMD being the active electrode, Ag/AgCl reference electrode and Pt counter electrode with 1M Na2SO4 electrolyte. Cyclic voltammetry at various scan rates, and a potential of 0 – 1.2 volts.

Results have indicated that WS2 electrode performs the best at all scan rates and MoS2 and MoTe2 perform almost identically when just tested by CV. However, with GCD, MoS2 provides a better aerial capacitance than WS2. It is also observed that the sulfide electrodes consistently outperform the selenide and the telluride electrodes. The superior electrochemical performance of the sulfides may be attributed to uniformity of the electrodes during fabrication, better conductivity and lower diffusion coefficient.


Scholar: Scott Millar
Mentor: Briana Goff, Ph.D.


Evaluating the Efficacy of Veteran Couples Retreats on Veterans and their Caregivers

PTSD can affect the quality of a couple’s relationship even long after separation from military service. Veteran couple retreats offer the opportunity for couples to interact with others facing similar relationship challenges as well as giving them exposure to various alternative treatment modalities. This study looks at a sample of 6 four-day retreat programs that took place over a three-year period. 197 of those participants responded to exit surveys with 94% expressing a belief that their goals had been met. Responses to questions about large and small group sessions as well as alternative treatment modalities were reviewed and coded to identify major themes. Participants found large group sessions to be informative and helpful, while they expressed a greater ability to open up and bond with members of their smaller groups. Animal assisted therapy was the most popular form of alternative treatment, and many participants expressed a desire to continue other methods once the retreats had concluded. Results support the overall efficacy of the retreat model in improving individual symptoms and relationship satisfaction for couples, but continued research will be needed to provide additional evidence supporting this conclusion.


Scholar: Michael Molloy
Mentors: Trevor Durbin, Ph.D., and Audrey Joslin, Ph.D.


Analyzing the Narratives of Environmental Change Occurring in Coastal Louisiana

This research project examines the literature of environmental changes in coastal Louisiana. Scholars and media sources agree that land loss, salt water intrusion, and marsh collapse is occurring in the coastal Louisiana, however land loss is the overarching theme in every paper. Currently land loss is happening at an average rate of 16.6 square miles annually. The land loss occurring is caused by both anthropogenic factors and non-anthropogenic factors. Some factors include salt water intrusion, channeling the Mississippi River, hydrocarbon extraction, wind driven pond expansion, and climate change. In the literature land loss is an extremely complex and interconnected issue. As land loss occurs ecosystems are being lost, and this  causes other significant anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic issues. For example certain species lose their habitats, which has negative effects on people. Some of these negative effects that humans experience from land loss include, fisheries loss, culture loss, hunting land deterioration, relocation, and less storm protection from hurricanes.  There were some solutions discussed throughout the literature. At the state / federal level solutions focused more on funding restoration projects. At the local level there was a focus on partnering local peoples with scientists and corporations to work on restoration plans.

Although land loss is an extremely complex and interconnected, this research has generated future research ideas. One example of future research is a study of how local governments comprehend and adapt to land loss could be effective in helping policy makers determine what solutions are more likely to be effective. 


Scholar: Adelina Parral Tummons
Mentor: Craig Brown, M.A.


CRISPR in Agriculture: Constructing a Theory to Challenge the Anti-GMO Rhetoric

A new form of food technology, CRISPR, is entering the agriculture industry and may hold enormous benefits for making food more nutritious and longer lasting. Furthermore, because CRISPR is not held under the same legal requirements as GMOs, it poses questions about the degree to which the public should be aware of its presence. This paper explores the implications of CRISPR by analyzing the anti-GMO rhetoric and applying it to this new food technology. Moreover, it explores the history of GMOs, including the creation of an anti-GMO rhetoric, understanding the role of public perception, media and viral images in influencing this rhetoric, and finally forms a theory that addresses the research question. Using corporate social responsibility as a framework, this paper proposes a theory that addresses the shortcoming of the GMO industry through transparency, engagement, and value-orientation.  Future research can focus on evaluating the degree to which these components have been effective in other industries to create positive perception in the public. 


Scholar: Cierra Roubicek
Mentor: Cassandra Jones, Ph.D.


Effects of iron injection timing on nursery pig performance and blood criteria

The objective of this study is to determine the iron injection timing effect on nursery pig growth performance and blood criteria. There were 6 different treatments. A control group receiving no iron and then treatment pigs that received 200 mg of GleptoForte on d2, d4, d6, d8, or d10. At weaning there was an increasing (P < 0.05) quadratic effect showing that the d4 and d6 pigs had higher weights than the other iron injected pigs. Average daily gain (ADG) for d 0 to d 42 improved (P= 0.001) regardless of injection day compared to those not receiving iron. F/G or the feed to gain ratio has only a decreasing (P=0.014) proving that there are no significant differences in feed efficiencies between the control pigs and the pigs receiving iron. At the end of the trial (d 42) their body weights improved (P=0.001) for the treatment pigs compared to the control pigs. Similarly, to the weaning body weights, the d4 and d6 iron injected pigs have the highest body weights from the all other treatments by d 42. Although there is a significant effect from treatment day for growth performance this is not seen for the hematological criteria. By d14 in the nursery the criteria’s have leveled out between all of the treated pigs. In summary, the combination of serum Fe and TIBC are good indicators of iron availability in nursery pigs. This research suggests pork producers should inject pigs with 200 mg GleptoForte on d 4 to 6 after birth for maximum growth performance during the suckling and nursery periods.


Scholar: Erick Saenz
Mentor: William Hsu, Ph.D.


Using Trigrams for Recipe Extraction 

Here we discuss the techniques, processes, and potential for text mining through the Naïve Bayes Classifier’s machine learning algorithm. The text in question would be the ingredients from recipes within chemistry documents. Additionally, we also demonstrate how the quality of data is superior over quantity when training the classifier for text-analytics. Initially, we converted text from documents into their respective parts of speech using the nltk pos tagger. Next, we combine four previously converted tags/tokens into quadruple-grams and identify consistent patterns for ingredients. Then we created a training set for the classifier made up of those patterns. Lastly, we imported and trained the Naive Bayes classifier and annotated chemistry papers to compare preciseness or the accuracy of the classifier’s results. The training set was modified multiple times throughout the research, but these manipulations led us to conclude that a training set must be carefully crafted for quality of training set, instead of how vast it can be. The point of this research is to improve scientific communication and increase the efficiency of absorbing knowledge. As more and more publications become available worldwide, this tool may save time by dozens of hours per individual for automatically extracting structured information for us. With the abundance of time and precision, it will allow for more time to collaborate on more complex ideas.


Scholar: Brianna Salgado
Mentor: Kate KuKanich, D.V.M. and Ph.D.


Development of Local Kansas E.Coli UTI Antibiograms to Improve Antimicrobial Stewardship in Companion Animal Medicine

Urinary tract infections are common in dogs, but rare in cats.  Antimicrobial susceptibility testing of urine isolates is required to determine optimal antimicrobial therapy, but empirical antimicrobial guidelines are needed while culture is pending or if testing is declined.  Antibiograms are summaries of susceptibility trends that assist clinicians in selecting empirical antimicrobial therapy. Antibiograms were developed from E. coli feline (N=138) and canine (N=640) urinary isolates submitted by the KSU Veterinary Health Center and private veterinary practices from 2013-2017. Results showed a high prevalence of resistance among feline isolates to amoxicillin-clavulanate (99.3%, S≤0.25) and ampicillin (99.3%, S≤0.25), but lower prevalence among canine isolates (amoxicillin/clavulanate 7.7% S≤8), ampicillin 46.7%, S≤8). Resistance to other antimicrobials was uncommon, with no antimicrobial agents demonstrating resistance above 6% in feline isolates, or above 14% in canine isolates. Canine isolates from private veterinary practices had increased resistance as compared with KSU isolates to orbifloxacin (9.5% vs 0.1%) and pradofloxaxin (9.4% vs 0.1%). Application of different breakpoints and differences in antibiotic exposures may explain the disparity of Beta-Lactam resistance between cats and dogs. Different use patterns between hospitals may explain the disparity between fluoroquinolone resistance. These findings emphasize the need for definitive urine culture and susceptibility testing in pets with UTIs, so that appropriate and effective antimicrobial therapy can be prescribed. Veterinary clinicians in Kansas can use these antibiogram results as part of stewardship programs to maximize successful UTI therapy for veterinary patients and minimize development of antimicrobial resistance for the One Health community. 


Scholar: Loan Tang
Mentors: Richard Rosenkranz, Ph.D., and Sara Rosenkranz, Ph.D.


Primary Cancer Prevention Intervention for Youth Development Programs

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States; however, research is mainly focused on cancer treatments leaving research in primary cancer preventions to be sparse. The World Cancer Research Fund predicts an increase of cancer deaths to be from 8.2 million deaths in 2012 to 13 million deaths by 2030, but the total number of deaths can be reduced since 30% to 40% of cancers are preventable. Furthermore, the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research have created guidelines for lifestyle implementations for reducing the risk of cancer. More importantly, behaviors and habits formed during youth are found to translate into adulthood. Therefore, a behavioral intervention program targeting youth and adolescents is beneficial for long-term behavioral health changes and outcomes. The goal of our research is to create a comprehensive primary cancer prevention intervention to address a wide array of topics such as being a healthy weight; being physically active; eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and beans; limiting “fast foods”; limiting red and processed meat; limiting sugary drinks; and limiting alcohol. This primary cancer prevention intervention was developed using various behavioral theories, such as the Self-Determination Theory. Once fully developed, our goal is to disseminate it in youth development programs such as the Girl Scouts of America and the 4-H youth development program. The combination of behavioral-based theories and other previously created evidence-based behavioral interventions will allow us to build and refine an effective primary cancer intervention prevention.


Scholar: Abena (Wallace) Taylor
Mentor: Sara Luly, Ph.D.


Nature, Passion, Desire: Sophie Albrecht; a Rebel

This article is about eighteenth century actress and poet Sophie Albrecht. There is little written about Albrecht, but she was a rebellious writer that didn’t conform to the expectations of a middle-class female at that time. In the eighteenth century, women wrote about innocence and virtue and were restricted to openly experience passion. According to Ruth P. Dawson, passion itself was an uncommon topic and when it was written about, it was by men. In this presentation, the poems “Im Junius” (In July) and “Sehnsucht” (Desire) are analyzed and Albrecht defies social norms and writes about passion in both poems. The common themes throughout each of the poems are also discussed as well as their meanings. Passion and desire, gender neutrality, nature, and emotion are the themes identified in both poems. Historical context was referenced from Mary Helen Dupree and Ruth P. Dawson. The word choice within individual quotes that have been taken from the poems are read closely to explain in more detail their relevance to a given theme.


Scholar: Brooke Wark
Mentor: Jennifer Francois, Ph.D.


Gender Differences in the Use of Prosocial Behaviors in Outdoor Settings

This study explores the diversity of prosocial and non-prosocial behaviors by observing 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls), 5-years in age, in order to observe the differences in genders.  Children were observed via recordings during playground activities. While teachers were within reach, they were not present during most of the interactions, allowing the children to make genuine responses.  Children’s behaviors were then categorized into 14 types of behaviors.  The results indicated that while both genders are using prosocial behaviors, girls are using them more often.  As for non-prosocial behaviors, boys are using them more frequently. Taken together, the findings provide introductory support for early childcare providers when differentiating play behaviors between genders.


Scholar: Ramona Weber
Mentor: David Poole, Ph.D.


Role of Adenosine Triphosphate Sensitive Potassium (KATP) Channel Function in Exercise Tolerance

ATP-sensitive K+ (KATP) channels found in muscle, pancreatic beta cells, and the brain contribute to a myriad of physiological and pathological processes. Paramount among which is vascular control. We hypothesized that the inhibition of KATP function via Glibenclamide (GLI) would cause a decrease in exercise tolerance because of reduced muscle(s) blood flow. Furthermore, as the density of KATP channels is high in vascular tissue we expected to see greater peripheral than central dysfunction. 10 young adult healthy female Sprague Dawley rats were used in these experiments. The menstrual cycle was tracked using vaginal lavage. Each test was performed at peak estrogen levels in order to distinguish estrogen effects when these intact rats were subsequently compared with ovariectomized counterparts (future study). Echocardiography and VO2 max (maximal exercise tests) were used to distinguish between central and peripheral effects of GLI. Measurements were paired across control and GLI conditions. Paired statistical analyses demonstrated no significant differences between either echocardiographic measurements of myocardial structure (control LV end-diastolic diameter: 0.711, GLI LV end-diastolic diameter: 0.714) and function (control ejection fraction: 81.94, GLI ejection fraction: 77.48) or VO2max (control: 71.58, GLI: 68.69). This investigation revealed and absence of GLI effects of myocardial or integrated cardiovascular-muscle function. These findings are germane to physicians assessing whether Type II diabetic patients should be prescribed GLI especially when there is the presence of concurrent heart failure.


Scholar: Savannah Winkler
Mentor: Anne Phillips, Ph.D.


Anchor, Compass, Sail: The Black Panther Party in African-American Children/Adolescent Fiction

In 2017, author Angie Thomas published The Hate U Give to immediate and enduring critical acclaim. In this novel, 16 year-old Starr Carter witnesses the death of her best friend at the hands of a police officer. She struggles not only with trauma caused by the encounter, but also with indecision about how to respond to the event. Her father, Maverick, is integral to her recovery and her discovery that her voice matters. His teachings largely focus on Black history, alluding to figures such as Malcolm X and Nat Turner, but also to the ideologies of the Black Panther Party.

Thomas is one of numerous authors of recent children’s and adolescent fiction who use their works to rewrite Black history and emphasize the achievements of African-Americans. This essay analyzes Rita Williams-Garcia’s Gaither Sisters series, particularly One Crazy Summer and P.S., Be Eleven, Kekla Magoon’s Fire in the Streets, and Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, with attention to the authors’ allusions to the Black Panthers. Scholar Rudine Sims Bishop asserts that accurate, culturally conscious representations of history act as “anchor, compass, and sail” for young Black readers by offering insight into the struggles they are facing (249). These representations enable all readers to understand what it means to be an American. Determining which Black Panther ideologies are most relevant for the protagonists, and studying how these ideologies continue to resonate in modern works, readers can learn about movements of the past while also seeing contemporary society with greater clarity.