1. K-State home
  2. »Office of Student Success
  3. »McNair Scholars Program
  4. »Research Abstracts
  5. »Summer 2019 Research Projects

McNair Scholars Program

Summer 2019 Research Projects

Scholar: Paul Ambrose
Mentor: Alissandra Stoyan, Ph.D.


Justice for all? Judicial independence and ethnic discrimination

Political scientists have consistently found evidence that judicial independence is positively associated with human rights protections. However, relatively few studies have sought to explain how independence affects the rights of racial and ethnic minority groups in particular. This paper bridges this gap and explores court independence in the context of ethnic minorities. Using recent measures of de facto judicial independence and discrimination data from the All Minorities at Risk (AMAR) dataset, this study employs multiple regression models to test the relationship between independence and ethnic discrimination. The results demonstrate a strong, negative relationship between the two concepts, suggesting that court independence is an effective barrier to violations of rights for minority groups.


Scholar: Tiffany Bowers
Mentors: Sara Kearns, Ph.D., and Charissa Powell, M.L.S. (University of Tennessee-Knoxville)


Enhancing first-generation college students’ use of Kansas State University Libraries

With the enrollment of first-generation college students (FGCS) steadily declining at Kansas State University (K-State), it is increasingly important to offer vital institutional support to this population. FGCS’ success is correlated to academic library services, resources, and networking. As an FGCS, I relied heavily on the K-State Libraries to navigate and cultivate my college experience. To better understand the experiences of other FGCS and how they interact with the K-State Libraries resources and services, I assessed community needs by conducting semi-structured interviews with FGCS and analyzed the transcripts using Corbin & Strauss’ grounded theory methodology. Through my lived experience as a FGCS and the interview results, I identify and recommend collaborative next steps between the central first-generation support units and the K-State Libraries. These recommendations should improve the success of FGCS at K-State and potentially provide a model for service offices at other universities.


Scholar: Janae Brown
Mentor: Rebecca Miller, Ph.D.


The effect of flour particle size on the baking characteristics of white pan bread

The particle size of flour is an important flour characteristic for bread making because it affects the starch damage and water absorption of the flour. Flour that is milled to a finer particle size typically has a higher level of starch damage, which causes the flour to absorb more water. Starch damage and water absorption combined can affect the quality of bread. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of flour particle size on the volume, texture, and cell characteristics of white pan bread. Eight different varieties of flour of varying known baking quality were milled into both coarse and fine particle sizes. Bread was baked using a no time straight dough process. The baked bread was analyzed the day after baking based on volume, texture, and cell characteristics. There was no significant effect (p < 0.05) of particle size on any of the measured bread quality characteristics. 


Scholar: Lindsay Chassay
Mentor: Kristen Kremer, Ph.D., M.S.W.


The role of social support on mental health outcomes of prisoners

This study sought to examine the mental health outcomes of prisoners and the role that social support has in improving/worsening their mental health outcomes. Data were used from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities collected by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. Approximately 3,700 inmates across 148 federal prisons were interviewed. The final analytic sample included 3,451 prisoners. Logistic and linear regression models predicted mental health diagnosis, if the prisoner considered suicide, and mental health evaluation scores for prisoners. Controlling for demographic covariates, odds of mental health diagnosis were lower among prisoners with children who had more frequent calls with their children. Similarly, mental health evaluation scores were higher among prisoners in the full sample who made and received more frequent calls. Prisoners with children who received more frequent visits from their children also had higher mental health evaluation scores. Future research should explore additional variables that impact prisoner’s mental health, such as overcrowding, length of sentence, and whether there are differences based on the type of individual providing support (e.g. spouse, children, parents, or other family members).


Scholar: Colin Chun
Mentor: Michael Chao, Ph.D.


A preliminary study to investigate the contribution of different tenderness factors to beef muscle tenderness

The objective of this preliminary study is to identify the relative contribution of each tenderness factors for 3 beef muscles of high economical values. Longissimuss dorsi (loin), Tensor fascia latae (tri-tip) and Gastrocnemius (heel) were collected from 10 USDA choice beef carcasses. Each muscle was fabricated into steaks and assigned to a 5 or 21 day aging period. Warner-Bratzler shear force (WBSF), proteolysis (troponin-T degradation), sarcomere length, collagen content, and lipid content were measured (n=60). Heel had the greatest WBSF, followed by tri-tip and loin with the least (4.38, 3.61 and 2.51 Kgf respectively; P < 0.01). Both loin and tri-tip increased in proteolysis from aging with tri-tip having slightly more degradation than loin (P=0.03). Contrarily, heel did not differ in the amount of proteolysis between the aging periods (P > 0.05). Tri-tip had the longest sarcomere, followed by heel and loin (3.01, 2.59 and 1.71 μm respectively; P < 0.01). Heel had the greatest collagen content, followed by tri-tip and loin (6.06, 3.98 and 2.76% respectively; P < 0.01). Finally, tri-tip and loin did not differ in lipid content (8.24 vs. 6.99%; P > 0.05), while heel had significantly lower (P < 0.01) lipid content than the others (2.68%). The results indicated that the 3 retail cuts have different profiles of tenderness contributors. Heel toughness is mostly contributed by the high collagen and low lipid content. Contrarily, loin toughness is mostly contributed by the muscle fiber status with tri-tip in between the two for most measurements.


Scholar: David Coria
Mentors: Chris Tinney, Ph.D., (University of New South Wales) and Christoph Bergmann, Ph.D. (Heidelberg University)


Simplified echellogram data reduction and spectral extraction via the Veloce Quick Look App

The Veloce spectrograph is Australia’s new, million-dollar, fibre-fed echelle spectrograph. Currently housed alongside the 3.9-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope, Veloce measures radial velocities for M-dwarfs and Sun-like stars to a sub-meter/second precision. Via Doppler spectroscopy, otherwise known as the “radial velocity method”, Veloce serves to detect exoplanets (planets orbiting a star outside our own Solar System). Veloce’s main purpose is to follow up on targets previously selected by NASA’s exoplanet-hunting TESS mission. The goal for Veloce Quick Look is to have a first glance at a star’s spectrum as soon as the data is recorded. Veloce produces a vast amount of raw data from its science targets, but the data is not looked at right away because the complete data reduction process is slow and non-trivial. The quick-look app takes raw echellograms, performs only crucial reduction processes at ~km/s precision (rather than sub- m/s precision needed to detect exoplanets) to shorten processing time and gives a simple, reduced spectrum as an output. The app was intended for real-time data processing, to be used as soon as new spectra are recorded. The finalized app successfully produces plots of the stellar spectrum at various stages throughout processing as a means of checking the quality of the data. The information the app yields at this stage may be used to discern true exoplanets from false positives (such as binary systems) and to identify unsuitable targets (such as fast rotators), thus allowing the Veloce team to instead focus their observations on other, more favorable targets. 


Scholar: Lauren Ewing
Mentor: Mike Finnegan, Ph.D.


Academic barriers in higher education

This study is an analysis of Kansas State University student experiences during their first semester which ultimately led them to dismissal. The researcher focused on participants that have been through the dismissal process, have been readmitted and are now involved in the SPARK program. With a phenomenological approach, the study aims to acquire knowledge and gain insight of how institutions can properly support students. Participant interviews helped to unfold the many different and unique academic barriers students face during their time at college. Data collected from the aforementioned interviews were coded to identify significant statements. These statements and themes were discussed as they relate to the phenomenon the participants experienced. The results showed a significant positive change in mindset and involvement of three students.


Scholar: Adrianna Gordey
Mentor: Dan Hoyt, Ph.D.


Tweens, teens, and the twenty-two-year-old in-between: appealing to the masses with young adult literature

As a twenty-two-year-old adult, I am still captivated by young adult (YA) literature, and I am not alone in this trend. The advertised age of the YA reader is twelve to eighteen, but the actual readership of the genre ranges in age from eighteen to thirty. My research project investigates this phenomenon in three ways: 1) exploration of YA books before and after the genre was officially established, 2) analysis of commonalities, and 3) application of the patterns in my own YA novel. In my novel, I implement common topics from the genre such as the development of the self, the creation of community, and the internal self’s introduction to the external world that I observed in other YA books. I will discuss the writing craft used to construct the novel and illustrate how the tropes of the genre appeal to readers beyond the target range. Tropes such as the development of self, the crisis of competing identities, and the sacrifices made in the name of progress. By reading and writing YA literature, I want to showcase the genre’s ability to translate from the page to real-life.


Scholar: Brianna Jackson
Mentor: Amber Vennum, Ph.D.


Parent and teen perspectives in parent-child sex communication

Parent-child sex communication is the communication between parents (or parent figures) and their children about sex-related issues including sex, sexuality, and sexual health outcomes. The sexual health of most adolescents and young adults is greatly influenced by the powerful role that parents play in children’s sexual socialization; the messages conveyed are influential in shaping adolescent sexual decision-making (DiIorio, Pluhar & Belcher, 2003). The purpose of this study was to gather and analyze responses from parents and adolescents about their sexual communication and identify any trends in the language that was used during the interviews to help better improve their conversations about sex and sexual topics. Total participants included four parents/caregivers and six adolescents. Participants were interviewed individually using an original semi-structured interview protocol. For both parents and adolescents, interview questions focused on parent-child sexual communication (PCSC) topics, comfort levels, prompts, barriers, judgments of good vs. bad PCSC, and suggestions for improvement of PCSC. Each interview was audio-recorded and transcribed via a third-party transcription service. From the adolescent interviews, some of the major themes that emerged included: comfort level, frequency of conversations, things they wished they learned from their parents, evaluation of PCSC, and advice for their parents. From the parent interviews, some of the major themes that emerged included: PCSC in the family of origin, family of origin influences on current PCSC, feedback from their children, and questions they want their children to ask.


Scholar: Luis Lopez
Mentor: Greg Aldrich, Ph.D.


Determination of minimum inhibitory concentration (mic) of sodium bisulfate, phosphoric acid and organic acids against three commonly reported salmonella serotypes ((s. Typhimurium (atcc 14028), s. Heidelberg (atcc 8326) and s. Enteritidis (atcc 4931)) in fat used to coat pet food

Using animal by-products in pet food adds value for material that would otherwise be considered “unusable” by humans. By-products like rendered fat are coated onto companion animal diets after the process kill-step. However, they may harbor pathogens like Salmonella spp., which could contaminate the final product. The purpose of this project was to determine the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of Sodium Bisulfate against 3 commonly reported Salmonellaserotypes in fat used to coat pet food. These included S. Typhimurium (ATCC 14028), S. Heidelberg (ATCC 8326) and S. Enteritidis (ATCC 4931). The MIC of SBS against individual serotypes and a cocktail of the serotypes were evaluated using a broth microdilution method (Cockerill, 2012). A single colony of each of three Salmonella serotypes ((S. Typhimurium (ATCC 14028), S. Heidelberg (ATCC 8326) and S. Enteritidis (ATCC 4931)) were inoculated in 10 ml of tryptic soy broth (TSB) and incubated at 37ºC for 24 hr. The culture was then centrifuged at 5,000 rpm for 10 min and the bacterial pellet was re-suspended in fresh TSB. A volume of 200 μL of antimicrobial solution consisting of twice the desired final concentration was dispensed in the first well of a 96-microtiter plate (triplicate wells) and 100 μL of sterile water in the remaining wells. A serial two-fold dilution of the antimicrobial was performed. One hundred microliters of bacterial culture containing ~ 6 logs CFU/mL (in TSB) was added to each well to make a final volume of 200 μL. A positive control consisted of Salmonella inoculum only (no antimicrobial) and a negative control consisted of TSB without Salmonella. The microtiter plate was incubated at 37ºC for 24 hr. The MIC for S. Enteritidis, S. Heidelberg, and S. Typhimurium was (0.313%) each and the same (0.313%) for the ‘cocktail’. Based on this MIC study and a previous study from this lab (Dhakal et al), the addition of SBS at low levels could yield a promising result for mitigation a multiple Salmonella spp. when applied to in fat used to coat pet food.


Scholar: Kassandra Procopio
Mentor: Marta Alfonso-Durruty, Ph.D.


Understanding urban and rural cultural changes through morphological disparities among cemetery gravestone markers

Current research on cemeteries have thoroughly connected gravestone marker physical characteristics like height, width, material and shape as indicators of cultural values like wealth, societal status and the deceased’s perceived social identity during time of interment. What has not been strongly researched is how gravestone marker data can be used to better understand cultural dynamics. This paper assesses the cultural differences between rural and urban communities through analysis of the morphological disparities between gravestone markers. Observations and data collection from Riley County, KS’s, Pleasant Valley Cemetery (rural) and Sunset Cemetery (urban) shows environmentally and physically similar communities but reveals distinct cultural differences. The data shows that Riley County’s urban cemetery Sunset Cemetery) has lower gravestone marker morphology variation and reveals a higher number of buried wealthier economic status individuals than the rural cemetery (Pleasant Valley Cemetery).


Scholar: Bayleigh Smith
Mentor: Don Saucier, Ph.D.


To empower or disparage? Examining the perceptions of slurs targeting the racial identity of White individuals

Racial slurs are vile terms that disparage individuals on the basis of their race. Existing research has focused on how racial slurs negatively impact minority targets and why majority group members use such derogative language. However, research examining racial slurs targeting majority group members (e.g., White individuals) is scant, yet research on perceptions of these slurs is important in potentially understanding the effects of, and discriminatory responses to, racial slurs. In the current studies, we examined White individuals’ perceptions of White racial slurs used by a Black individual toward a White individual. When people are targeted by group-based slurs, group differences become salient and calls to mind stereotypes. Thus, while then terms may be perceived negatively by White individuals, there may be a side effect of making the majority group member’s race salient, reminding them that their social group is at the top of the social status hierarchy. Thus, we predicted that racial slurs targeting White individuals will be simultaneously perceived as derogative and empowering. Our results supported this hypothesis with White racial slurs being used by a Black individual toward a White individual being perceived as more negatively expressive, but also more empowering than a control condition. These findings have important implications for the continued marginalization of lower status groups. Specifically, majority group members may be empowered and seek to reinforce existing status hierarchies and the disparagement they feel may potentially lead to increased justification of future discriminatory acts toward minority ingroup members.


Scholar: Dariyan Springfield
Mentor: Thomas Schermerhorn, V.M.D., D.A.C.V.I.M. (S.A.I.M.)


Investigation of serum copeptin concentrations in diabetic dogs

Background: Copeptin is a peptide product of pre-provasopressin released simultaneously from the pituitary gland along with ADH (anti-diuretic hormone). Copeptin is a biomarker in serum that parallels ADH concentrations. Water balance in diabetic dogs is an important factor but the role and response of ADH is unknown. Our goal is to investigate the pathology and physiology of diabetes by exploring more about copeptin.

Hypothesis/Objectives: To validate a commercial ELISA for measurement of canine copeptin in serum.

Animals: Banked serum samples from diabetic and non-diabetic dogs presented to us from the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Methods: Diabetic and non-diabetic dog serum was analyzed with owner’s consent. A canine copeptin competitive ELISA from MyBioSource was used and the manufacturer instructions were followed. Samples were frozen at -20°C then thawed at 4°C before analysis. We used a computer-controlled spectrophotometric plate reader (EPOCH Biotek) at a wavelength of 450nm to analyze the ELISA and a 4-PL standard curve was created to view the linearity of standard concentrations.

Results: Our results revealed the diabetic serum contained a higher concentration of copeptin compared to the non-diabetic serum; successfully validating the ELISA. The limit of detection was 50 pg/mL with an inter-assay CV at 12% and an intra-assay CV at 14%. Linearity was determined by diluting samples into 1:2 and 1:4 dilution.

Conclusion: The validation of the ELISA gives us a resource to use for further studies in diabetic dogs and its relationship to copeptin.


Scholar: Eric Valenzuela
Mentor: David Grieger, Ph.D.


Determining the stage of embryo loss due to suspected lethal alleles in beef cattle

In dairy cattle, (Charlier, et. al. 2016) a segment of early embryo loss can be hereditary, specifically alleles that are lethal to the development of the embryo. It is likely that similar lethal alleles are present in beef cattle breeds. The focus of this study was to link known genetic pedigree to early embryo loss in beef cattle. The ability to successfully identify deleterious genes in an embryonic genome would provide early indication for greater selection against unwanted genetic parameters. This study included 10 cows from the Kansas State Cow-Calf Unit that were synched using a 7-day synchronization process. Only 3 of the 10 cows went into heat and were viable to take an embryo. Pregnancies were monitored for the following 42 days and closely analyzed for early embryonic loss. The purpose of monitoring pregnancies included determining the time of gestation for individual embryo loss and the attempt to collect aborted embryonic tissue for genetic analysis. Implications of this study included a delay in transferring embryos due to infertility in the first herd. The second herd utilized had numerous cows who had recently birthed calves and were not yet cycling. Due to the delay in the ability to transfer embryos, the results are incomplete.