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McNair Scholars Program

Summer 2014 Research Projects

Scholar: Obdulia Covarrubias
Mentor: Dorith Rotenberg, Ph.D.


Investigating the effects of elevated temperature on Tomato spotted wilt virus accumulation and expression of putative heat-shock protein genes in the insect vector, Frankliniella occidentalis

Scientists estimate that the increase in temperatures in terrestrial ecosystems will expand the geographical limits of arthropod vector-borne pathogens. Effects of elevated temperatures have been documented for arthropods that vector animal- and plant-infecting pathogens. We study the virus-vector relationship of Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and Frankliniella occidentalis. We hypothesize that enhanced efficiency of transmission at higher temperatures is explained, in part, by increased accumulation (titer) of TSWV in the vector, which may be associated with expression of heat-shock protein (HSP). For this, we designed an experiment to quantify the effect of temperature (19°C, 24°C, and 29°C) on TSWV titer during development and transmission efficiency as adults and to determine the relationship between titer and transcript abundance of HSP. We found an increase in virus titer and transmission at 24°C and 29°C compared to 19°C, and a significant positive correlation between titer and HSP70 at 29°C and 19°C.


Scholar: Alan Duong
Mentor: B. Terry Beck, Ph.D.


Optical Flow Measurement of Cavitation in a Converging-Diverging Nozzle

Cavitation is a phenomenon where liquids will vaporize when subjected to low pressures. Essentially, the pressure is reduced sufficiently such that the liquid boils at the given temperature. The highest pressure at which cavitation could occur is called the vapor pressure. However, the pressure associated with the onset of cavitation could be lower than the vapor pressure. This indicates the liquid exists under a meta-stable condition. The cavitation pressure can be significantly below the vapor pressure and the lowest pressure at which cavitation onset could occur is called the spinodal pressure. Cavitation can occur in external flow, such as flow around hydrofoils and propeller blades, and internal flow, such as capillary tubes and nozzles. For the present research a converging-diverging nozzle was chosen for analysis. There has been little to no research done on the detailed flow characteristics of cavitating liquids near the onset of cavitation in nozzles. The main objectives are to obtain measurements of both overall flow as well as more detailed velocity profile characteristics of cavitation onset in a converging-diverging nozzle using high-speed imagery and particle image velocimetry (PIV). The experimental set-up places the nozzle oriented vertically between two reservoirs. The upstream reservoir supplies liquid water flow entering the nozzle and is open to the atmosphere while the downstream reservoir is partially evacuated. The main region of study is the vicinity of the throat, near where the pressure is a minimum and cavitation onset occurs. This work provides support for on-going analysis of cavitation in converging-diverging nozzle flow.

Scholar: Monica Farfan
Mentor: Teresa Douthit, Ph.D.


Dosing of Horses with Megasphaera elsdenii and its Impact on Cecal Volatile Fatty Acid Production

The digestive system of a horse contains a large number of microorganisms, with the majority located in the hindgut. This microbial community is responsible for degradation of feedstuff to allow absorption and utilization of essential intermediate substrates—namely volatile fatty acids—while maintaining a normal pH level. Native bacteria, referred to as lactate-utilizing bacteria (LUB), prevent the accumulation of excessive lactate, which can cause laminitis, a debilitating and often life-threatening condition in the horse. One LUB found in the hindgut of the horse is called Megasphaera elsdenii (ME). Megasphaera elsdenii is a gram-negative bacterium that is being investigated as a probiotic supplement for ruminants, as it may provide benefits for energy balance and animal productivity. It is of biotechnological interest due to its capability of producing various volatile fatty acids, which are primary energy sources for horses. Measuring cecal VFAs from horses dosed with Megasphaera elsdenii will provide valuable information regarding ME’s ability to survive transit through the foregut and its subsequent ability to impact fermentation in the hindgut.


Scholar: Angela Glean
Mentor: Timothy Musch, Ph.D.


Effects of nitrite infusion on exercising skeletal muscle vascular control in chronic heart failure rats

Diminished nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability in chronic heart failure (CHF) underlies, in part, impaired vascular control, reduced muscle blood flow (BF), and exercise intolerance.  Nitrite (NO2-) has been implicated as a major storage pool of NO.  We tested the hypothesis that NO2- infusion would increase exercising skeletal muscle BF and vascular conductance (VC) in CHF rats.  CHF was induced in 7 adult, male Sprague-Dawley rats (coronary artery ligation).  After 21 days, skeletal muscle BF (radiolabelled microspheres) and mean arterial pressure (MAP; carotid artery catheter) were measured during submaximal treadmill exercise (20 m/min, 5% incline) prior to (CHF) and following NO2- infusion (CHF+NO2-, 5 mg/kg).  Following microsphere infusion, blood was sampled to determine exercising blood [lactate].  Exercising skeletal muscle BF (CHF: 103±9, CHF+NO2-: 112±8 ml/min/100g; p=0.18) and MAP (CHF: 123±5, CHF+NO2-: 120±5 mmHg, p=0.33) was not different between groups.  NO2- increased exercising skeletal muscle VC (CHF: 0.86±0.10, CHF+NO2‑: 0.91±0.10 ml/min/100g/mmHg; p<0.05) and blood [lactate] (CHF: 1.5±0.2, CHF+NO2-: 3.4±0.4 mmol/L, p<0.05).  These data suggest that NO2- may improve exercising vascular control in CHF rats.  Further investigations are needed to determine doses that maximize vascular and metabolic function.

Scholar: Lucas Gorentz
Mentor: Byron Jones, Ph.D.


Field Measurement of Airflow through Aircraft Cabin Gaspers

The threat of contaminants being circulated by an aircraft’s air system is an increasing concern. This project’s goal was to develop a method of measuring airflow from aircraft cabin gaspers. Using a wide funnel balometer, it was discovered that the number of open gaspers and their position caused airflow patterns to change affecting measurements. Modifications, including a baffled insert and later an in-line flow mixer, were applied to disrupt airflow patterns that developed inside the device, and an anemometer housing tube extension was installed to provide more distance for the flow pattern to develop. These modifications did help, but the results still varied depending on gasper position. The final balometer design used a smaller air capture funnel, which could only take measurements from one gasper. This device provided consistent measurements and proved that a single gasper balometer could be used to measure airflow from cabin gaspers with decent accuracy.

Scholar: Simone Holliday
Mentor: Eva Horne, Ph.D.


Activity Levels of Plathemis lydia

Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) males are documented as being highly territorial, maintaining territories on the edge of streams and ponds where they display for reproductive females. In this study, I tested the hypothesis that P. lydia males spend more time defending landmarks than open water sites. Landmarks are defined as an object protruding from the water that functions as a central site for patrol. The study site was a human-made, spring fed pond on the Konza Prairie Biological Station in Riley County Kansas. Ten locations around the pond, with an average of 13m between locations, were selected and the behaviors of male P. lydia (flybys/activity, hovering, resting, fighting, and guarding) were recorded. Each location had a landmark and an open water site, an average of 3.5m apart. Over eight days there were 40 total observations, ten minutes at each site. The data indicate that there is a significantly positive correlation between temperature and activity levels. Guarding and fighting (p=0.043) were significantly more frequent at landmark sites than at open water sites. Activity levels (number of flybys) were significantly higher at open water sites than at landmark sites (n=40, p=0.0003). The increased activity over open water also suggests that males defend landmarks, allowing more animals to patrol outside those territories.


Scholar: Jessie Lyne
Mentor: K.C. Olson, Ph.D.


Effects of Prostaglandin Fα Injection at Breeding on Conception Rates of Beef Heifers Subject to Fixed-Time Artificial Insemination

The objective of this study was to determine if an injection of exogenous PGF2α at the time of artificial insemination (AI) increased pregnancy rate of beef heifers compared with heifers that did not receive an injection of PGF2α at the time of artificial insemination. A fixed-timed AI protocol (7-day Co-Synch + Controlled intravaginal drug release; CIDR) was used to synchronize beef heifers (n = 97; initial BW= 631 ± 58 lbs) originating from the Kansas State University Commercial Cow-Calf Unit in Manhattan, KS. Heifers were stratified by hide color, age, BW, and reproductive-tract score and assigned randomly to either a GnRH or GnRH + PGF2α injection at the time of AI. Fifty-four h after CIDR removal, heifers were exposed for timed AI; 2 fertile bulls were released with the heifers 48 h after AI. The bulls were removed 41 d after natural service exposure began. Heifers were examined for pregnancy by transrectal ultrasonography 43 d after timed AI. Conception to AI (41%) was similar (P = 0.47) between treatments; moreover, timed-AI + first natural service pregnancy rates (60%) did not differ (P = 0.90). Under the conditions of our study, injection of exogenous PGF2α did not influence pregnancy to timed AI or first natural service.


Scholar: Ora McIntosh
Mentor: Katherine Karlin, Ph.D.


The Language of Trauma: Empathy and Identity Formation in Young Adult Novels 

In literature the element of trauma will cause change in the character experiencing the event. However, through the characters and language utilized in novels readers may also be subject to change. This seems especially true of young readers who come into contact with depictions of trauma in Young Adult (YA) novels. This is because these readers are already at a sensitive time in their lives when they are discovering and developing their own identities and therefore they may internalize what they read in YA novels in regards to trauma and how it can be dealt with. Through research of literary articles about trauma and by close reading passages from the YA novels Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Smoke by Ellen Hopkins, I will demonstrate how the language of trauma in YA novels can influence young readers.


Scholar: Mary Muckey
Mentor: Scott Beyer, Ph.D.


Effect of anti-inflammatory drug sodium salicylate on fatty acid or LPS induced cellular stress of mammary gland epithelial cells

Sodium salicylate (SS) has been widely used as an anti-inflammatory drug, and is thought to act in part by mitigating stress within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). To initiate cellular stress, palmitic acid (PALM) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) were used. We hypothesized that SS would have a protective effect against PALM and LPS treatment in mammary gland epithelial (MAC-T) cells. In the first experiment there were 4 treatments: control, SS (50 μM), PALM (250 μM), and their combination. Treatments were applied during a 24-h incubation before analysis of apoptosis with TUNEL assay. In the second experiment, MAC-T cells were treated with control, SS (50 uM), low or high doses of LPS (50 μM and 100 μM), or in combination of SS with low or high doses of LPS. First, SS was applied, then after 5 min, LPS was applied to MAC-T cells. After 24 h of treatment, RNA was isolated and reverse transcribed to cDNA for quantitative real-time PCR analysis of transcript abundance of both IRAK1 (p< 0.05) and NRF2 (p <0.01), two genes that are activated in response to inflammation or oxidative stress. Surprisingly LPS did not significantly induce IRAK1 transcript abundance and it decreased abundance of NRF2 (p< 0.05). Overall, SS had a limited protective effect on stressed MAC-T cells.


Scholar: Tobi Omedehinde
Mentor: Karen Myers-Bowman, Ph.D.


Coping and Resilience in Families with Chronic Childhood Illness

How do families of chronically ill children cope? To investigate this question, six families who currently have a chronically ill child participated in 30-60 minutes interviews consisting of open-ended questions about their challenges and coping strategies employed to tackle them. Transcripts of interviews were then analyzed for main themes. Some of the coping strategies utilized by families of chronically ill children included learning more and becoming more informed about the child’s condition, employing the help of family members and the support of friends. Some families relied heavily on faith as a means of coping. In general, families of chronically ill faced a number of challenges including strenuous family relationships. Another challenge faced was having to deal with multiple medical conditions. These families provided recommendations for other families going through similar situations.


Scholar: June Ramirez
Mentor: Tanya Gonzalez, Ph.D.


Legacies of Settler Colonialism: Latinx Immigration and Attrition through Enforcement 

While the U.S. congress consistently fails to pass any variation of a comprehensive immigration reform policy, states have begun to move towards attrition through enforcement, or self-deportation, immigration policies. This essay explores the ways in which ideologies of settler colonialism are reflected in these state-based attrition through enforcement immigration policies. I reviewed a body of literature that discusses the structure of settler colonialism and U.S. immigration practices. In addition I chose the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act (H.B. 56) as a case study. I collected data surrounding the passage and partial repeal of H.B. 56 and the response that the Latinx community had to its passage. I found that attrition through enforcement policies are not effective at decreasing the Latinx population but they are effective at creating the conditions for the exploitation of the Latinx population.


Scholar: Victoria Sears
Mentor: Brent Maner, Ph.D.


Writing Nationalism: Thomas Davis and Education Reform in Ireland Under the Union

This project began in seeking to understand the role of the Protestant Irish Nationalist and writer Thomas Davis in promoting Irish nationalism in 1840s Ireland. This process included identifying the condition of the national consciousness of Ireland following the Act of Union and the measures taken by Irish nationalists prior to Davis, such as Daniel O’Connell. The next step was to identify the specific nationalist movements Davis was involved in—the Repeal Association, the Young Ireland Movement, and The Nation newspaper—and their characteristics. In addition to this, a span of research was done in seeking to understand the different genres of nationalism expressed in Ireland throughout the nineteenth century. The goal of this project was to review the writings of Davis alongside these secondary sources in order to understand his significance in the development of Irish nationalism. An analysis was conducted of four essays written by Davis, all published in The Nation between July 1844 and May 1845, regarding education reform in order to establish an Irish national consciousness capable of obtaining independence from Great Britain. These four essays and the development of Davis’ overarching argument for education reform depict the shift that was occurring in Ireland from constitutional nationalism to revolutionary nationalism. This shift can be seen by the turn Davis makes in his writings from appealing to institutions to appealing directly to the people to take responsibility for their education and the education of Ireland. In addition to this, Davis portrayed himself in these writings as taking on an even more significant role as a romantic nationalist through his push for the development of an Irish national consciousness.


Scholar: Stevie St. Clair
Mentor: Elaine Johannes, Ph.D.


Kansas Operation Military Kids Summer Program Evaluations: From Effort to Effectiveness

Kansas Operation: Military Kids (OMK) is a federally funded program of K-State Research and Extension, which provides non-formal education and social activities to military connected youth and their families. Kansas OMK conducts day camps, retreats and community events for on and off installation military-connected youth, but these programs have not been systematically evaluated. The McNair researcher designed, piloted, and implemented an evaluation process of Kansas OMK programs to assess their impact on science knowledge, health awareness, social/emotional learning, and positive relationship development among youth participants. The program evaluation used a participatory approach and included triangulation of information collected through participant pre/post surveys, direct observations, and After Activity Reviews (AAR) with staff and stakeholders. Evaluation data was collected during three Kansas OMK day camps, which served thirty-five youth (ages 7-12), primarily from civilian communities. Frequency and content analysis of evaluation data led to recommendations that will aid Kansas Operation: Military Kids program staff in program improvement.


Scholar: Derrick Till
Mentor: Donald Saucier, Ph.D.


The Political and Racial Divide: Potential Consequences for Racial Inequality Instruction

Instructors teach about racial inequality in several university courses, often framing it as majority privilege (i.e., White privilege) and minority disadvantage. Framing affects the extent to which White participants feel personally responsible for racial inequality (Powell, Branscombe, & Schmitt, 2005), while political orientation (PO) affects the extent to which White participants feel that minorities are responsible (Kay, Czaplinski, & Jost, 2008). In this study we manipulated racial inequality framing as personal or collective White privilege, or as Black disadvantage. PO predicted several attitudes related to WP regardless of inequality framing. However, feelings of remorse and a willingness to confront WP were related to PO only when the framing allowed for participants to avoid personally contributing to or taking advantage of WP, i.e., in the collective privilege condition. As the framing made it harder to dismiss or avoid responsibility for racial inequality, PO became less predictive of the acknowledgement of WP.


Scholar: Shai Washington
Mentor: Andrew Long, Ph.D.


Factors Influencing Global Public Opinion of U.S Drone Strikes

Interest in global public opinion of the United States is on the rise. Organizations such as the Pew Research Center ask foreign populations a variety of questions related to the United States and perceptions of the country and people. Existing literature on what influences foreign public opinion is widespread, but there is little previous research that specifically looks at public support for drone strikes. Quantitative data on trade ties, economic aid, religion, intergovernmental organizations, regime type, and alliances were collected on China, Germany, and Pakistan. These variables were then compared between those countries to determine if there was a relationship between those variables and foreign public opinion for United States drone strikes.