Observing Spikes and Trends in the Demand for Mental Health Services Among Some Marylanders

Natalia Alfaro
Mentor: Meryl Cozart, Public Health

Demand for mental health services has shifted in the last 5 years. Specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic, where there was an immediate influx of crisis mental health center calls, and surge in demands, yet a delay in demand spikes in long term therapy resources. This research dives into observing shifts in overall demand for mental health services in Maryland before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic: specifically focusing on non-crisis mental health demand, excluding substance abuse services. Along with shifts in demand we will be exploring trends in the demographics of gender; among what gendered groups were requesting these services, to observe any trends, by those of varying demographics to determine what gender groups demand is most prevalent in. Specifically, we will be analyzing data collected by the state of Maryland 211 resource line and data collected by a non profit mental health organization, Pro Bono Counseling to reflect trends in mental health demand from a large scale perspective and more narrow view.


Bitch Syndrome: Investigating How Masking, Late Diagnosis, and the Patriarchy Impact Autistic Women’s Social Experiences

Darcie Adams
Mentor: Drew Holladay, English

Late-diagnosed autistic women often experience “Bitch Syndrome”: when autistic women encounter a confusing social interaction that results in them being treated with anger and disgust. This negativity is constant and reinforces the damaging narrative that “something is wrong with them.” Being labeled as “bitchy” by their peers leads them to produce and sustain allistic (non-autistic) “masks” more successfully and for longer periods than male autists, a condition that reflects and reinforces gendered behavioral expectations. This study is a mixed-method approach to examine first-person narratives from autistic women discussing how they feel about negative interactions with allistic people. Using TikToks, Tweets, and other written narratives, this study identifies the words most commonly used negatively towards autistic women, and then seeks to qualitatively understand how the identified themes of anger and disgust permeate these interactions to reproduce stigma against autism and disability, patriarchal gender norms, and a culture of closeted silence for autistic women. This study contributes to a growing body of research into why autistic women are under-diagnosed. Importantly, this study is on a research topic of great importance to the autistic community itself, and participates a fast-growing movement for autism research to be done by autistic people.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Analysis of the Interactions Between QUEEN-37C and ATP

Anjayooluwa Adegboyo, Spencer Jacquet1, Nils Jeschik2, Chris Meier2, Songon An
1Department of Biochemistry, University of Maryland Baltimore, 2Department of Chemistry, University of Hamburg – Institute of Organic Chemistry
Mentor: Minjoung Kyoung, Chemistry and Biochemistry

To maximize the efficacy of prescribed treatment and minimize the occurrence of side effects, metabolic processes are studied. In our lab, we studied ATP metabolism regulated by enzyme complexes in different environmental conditions in live cell cultures using genetically encoded biosensors. One biosensor in particular, called quantitative evaluator of cellular energy (QUEEN-37C) was used in this study. QUEEN-37C is a protein with an ATP synthase and circularly-permuted green fluorescent protein (cpGFP) subunits. In the presence of ATP, its fluorescence intensity increases. To determine whether the biosensor detects ATP by binding to where it would bind to the ATP synthase pump in live cells, we mutated Arginine at position 126 to Alanine, what is known to be a key residue responsible for the biosensor’s binding to ATP to produce a form of the biosensor that does not bind to ATP. This would serve as a control in live cell studies of ATP metabolism. Once this mutated biosensor is purified in Escherichia coli cell cultures, we will examine its sensitivity to ATP. This will serve as a control for endogenous ATP levels.

This research was funded, in part, by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the lab (grant number R01GM134086), and grants through the Meyerhoff Undergraduate Program, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Scholars Program, and Undergraduate Research Initiative for Student Enhancement (U-RISE) Program.


Writing Interventions to Support Student Writing Performance on Advance Placement Tests

Mitchel Agate
Mentor: Linda Olivia, Education

This study investigated how targeted writing interventions affect students’ performance on Advance Placement (AP) style writing performance. Students were provided multiple stages of writing intervention to develop their skills beginning with a writing pre-assessment. Based on the pre-assessment, students needed more instruction on the expectations of AP writing. Students were explicitly taught how AP writing is scored, with an emphasis on the action verbs used in AP prompt. In the second stage, students received their pre-assessment writings back without the score attached. Students worked in pairs to score each other’s work, before checking their score against the teachers’ score. Students received individualized feedback on the interpretation and implications of their scores. In the last stage, student performance was assessed one month and after four months after the specified interventions. Sixty tenth grade students participated in the class, the fifteen lowest scoring students were the targeted group. Improvements were seen in both targeted student group and the class group, as students scores on the AP writing rubric increased by an average of thirty percent when compared with their pre-assessments.


The Infinite Language Well: Linguistic and Cultural Influences in Learning and Researching Quantum Physics

Layla Ahmed
Mentors: Nicholas Welcome, Sociology and Anthropology; Bambi Chapin, Sociology and Anthropology

Quantum physics is a field that is currently exploding with fresh and exciting contributions to science. It is gradually becoming known, however, as the most intimidating field to approach for physics students. Its appeal to physicists stems from its variety of applications ranging from MRIs to computation, but the first step to understand the theories behind the applications is a challenging one due to unfamiliar vocabulary and connotations from pop culture. Schrödinger’s wave equation, the superposition state of particles, perturbation in infinite square wells, and other topics in quantum sound dauntingly complicated. Films like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania also portray quantum as a brand new science that explains phenomena like time travel that have yet to exist. Through ethnographic methods including participant observation within undergraduate and graduate study groups, classrooms, and research settings, alongside interviews with students and faculty in the UMBC Physics Department, this project explores the difficulties that come with learning and researching quantum physics in terms of language and media. The findings from this study shine light on some of the barriers that may keep promising new scholars from becoming involved in this important line of scientific research and discovery.


The Effect of Nitrogen Source on Oxidative Stress in Chlamydomonas Reinhardtii

Betelehem Akalu
Mentor: Stephen Miller, Biological Sciences

Algal biomass can be converted to biodiesel to be used by cars, buses, and trucks. Biodiesel from algae is carbon neutral, with environmental benefits in which the CO2 released by vehicles serves as an input for the photosynthetic algae. Oxidative stress is detrimental to the growth of algae, which ultimately impacts algal biofuel production. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is used as a model to study mechanisms of stress tolerance in green algae for the purpose of enhancing biofuel production. This study aims to determine how nitrogen sources affect oxidative stress tolerance in C. reinhardtii. To this end, we inoculated C. reinhardtii, grown to mid-log phase into either NH4 or NO3 media containing hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) at different concentrations. Finally, we examined growth at different times (24, 48, and 72 hours) post-inoculation. Our preliminary results indicate that C. reinhardtii better tolerates stress when it’s grown in NO3 than in NH4 as a nitrogen source. Future directions will include testing other oxidative stress agents such as rose Bengal and paraquat, and other algae such as Chlorella. Our work should lead to improved methods of helping algae to resist oxidative stress, which should have a positive impact on algal biofuel production.

This work was funded, in part of REM supplement to NSF award 1332344.


Impact of Truist Bank Investments on Rural Jobs and Income

Tania Aktar
Mentor: Cristina Miller, Public Health

Rural areas have been struggling with aging populations, outmigration, and sluggish labor markets slow to recover in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Public and private investment in rural hard and soft infrastructure may help stimulate local economies through creating jobs, encouraging in-migration, and attracting firms. An example of private investment in rural America is Truist Bank, which has recently invested $60 billion in rural community development projects across the country. These projects are focused on low- and moderate-income (LMI) rural borrowers and in LMI rural communities. The grants are distributed over a three-year period from 2020 to 2022. We gathered publicly available information to show the geographical distribution of Truist Bank’s investments. We matched communities that received Truist Bank funding to similar communities, using socioeconomic and labor data from Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics, that didn’t receive funding and estimated the impact of the investments on local jobs and income. We hypothesize that these investments will show an increase in per capita income and may indicate an increase in local jobs. We anticipate that the investments may impact local jobs and per capita income for several years into the future.


Outsiders in Our Own Country: A Qualitative Examination of Muslim American Adolescents’ Responses to Islamophobia

Zainab Amjad, Salwa Shan1, Hatice Gursoy2, Anika Aquino2
1Psychology, UMD, 2Psychology, UMBC
Mentor: Charissa S.L. Cheah, Psychology

The Muslim population is one of the fastest-growing religious groups in the United States, especially its youth. Limited research on adults has found that Muslims respond to Islamophobia in various ways, including choosing to wear religious clothing, educating or confronting a perpetrator, connecting with their religious community, and avoiding public spaces (Agrawal et al., 2019). However, our understanding of these processes among Muslim American adolescents (MAA), who are undergoing key identity and belonging developmental processes, is limited. Using a strength-based approach, we explored how MAA cope with and respond emotionally to Islamophobia in eight focus groups with MAA (N=51; 52.9% females; Meanage= 15.86 years). The data were coded in NVivo by culturally sensitive research assistants using thematic analysis. MAA responded to interpersonal and group-level Islamophobia with three community-level themes, two behavioral themes, and five emotional themes. Across both genders, MAA expressed the importance of advocating for their religious groups through religious education and community engagement. Some gender differences were identified, for example, males expressed concern for family members’ safety and females shared personal experiences with religious dress. Implications for promoting protective factors and healthy coping in MAAs are discussed.


Understanding Exocyst-SNARE Complex Binding In Vesicle Fusion And Exocytosis

Sarah Arrieta
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Mentor: Mary Munson, UMass Chan Medical School

Vesicle trafficking is essential for cell growth and regulation. Exocytosis, the export of cellular material through vesicles, is the driving force behind processes such as cell migration, ciliogenesis, cytokinesis, and polarized growth. The key steps in exocytosis include vesicle budding, transport, tethering, and fusion. Exocyst, a hetero-octameric protein, is thought to tether secretory vesicles to the plasma membrane, thus creating the conditions for vesicle fusion. Soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) proteins constitute the machinery that brings about the fusion of the vesicle and target membranes. While the general role of exocyst in exocytosis is known, the overall mechanism of the complex remains to be better understood. We proposed that visualizing exocyst while bound to SNAREs could help characterize active conformations of exocyst. The complete exocyst complex was purified from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and two SNARE proteins, Sso1 and Sec9, were purified from Escherichia coli BL21. An exocyst-SNARE protein complex was formed between exocyst and a Sso1-Sec9 binary SNARE complex and was prepared for negative stain electron microscope (EM) imaging. EM images would provide further insights into molecular mechanisms of the exocyst complex and elucidate conformational changes exocyst may undergo to perform its tethering function and facilitate SNARE-mediated vesicle fusion.


Investigating the Mechanisms Underlying Reverse Hinge Point Formation During Neurulation

Ajeetha Arudchandran
Mentor: Rachel Brewster, Biological Sciences

Failure of the neural tube (the precursor of the brain and spinal cord) to close during neurulation often results in neural tube defects. The goal of my project is to investigate reverse hinge point (RHP) formation, which contributes to neural tube closure. RHPs are clusters of cells in the neuroepithelium that undergo basal constriction, thereby causing the tissue to narrow (converge) I hypothesize that the extracellular matrix protein Laminin, which underlies the neuroepithelium, provides a spatial cue that recruits contractile actomyosin machinery to the basal pole of the RHP cells, thereby enabling constriction. In support of this hypothesis, I have shown that depletion of Laminin causes severe brain morphological defects. Furthermore, I observed that the dorsal midline of the neural tube is disrupted in these embryos, suggesting that the neural tube doesn’t close properly after the depletion of Laminin. To further test this, I am currently examining younger embryos to determine whether the convergence of the lateral edges of the neuroepithelium to shape the neural tube is delayed when Laminin is knocked down. In summary, my data so far supports my hypothesis that Laminin is required for shaping the neural tube, possibly by regulating RHP formation.

This research was funded, in part, by a grant to UMBC from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Pre-college and Undergraduate Science Education Program.


U.S. Retirement Policy: A Research-Based Analysis

Benjamin Ault, Hans-Jacob Larsen Nesheim
Mentor: Douglas Lamdin, Economics

Reducing retirement concerns and financial fragility is a major policy issue in the United States and globally, especially as life expectancy increases. Being able to retire without a decline in living standards is a concern to many individuals and families in or approaching retirement. To address this, we examined survey data to gauge individuals’ perception of retirement security and fragility, and its demographic variation. The three-legged stool was our primary framework of analysis to conduct research on retirement and retirement policy. The three-legged stool of retirement income is comprised of government-sponsored programs (Social Security), employee-sponsored programs, and individuals savings. With this foundation, we conducted data analysis to develop a set of policy proposals designed to address the weaknesses of the three-legged stool. This analysis examined the importance of developments in behavioral economics, improved financial technology, changing work arrangements, and the role of financial literacy. Although the focus was on the United States, the proposals considered policies and lessons from other countries. Our findings provide constructive suggestions that aim to improve retirement security for Americans. By focusing on long-term rather than short-term solutions, these proposals will benefit both current and future generations.


PTEN Reactivation in a Mouse Model of Prostate Cancer

Abdullah Bajwah
Mentor: Charles Bieberich, Biological Sciences

With recent clinical successes of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), immune modulation has become frontline to treatment of some cancers. However, some cancers, including prostate cancer(PCa), do not respond to ICIs due to insufficient tumor immunogenicity or an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. To improve anti-tumor ICI responses in so-called ‘cold’ tumors, one strategy is to ‘alter’ the immune system to the presence of cancer. It has recently been shown that transient re-expression of the prostate tumor suppressor PTEN induces such immune cancer recognition. In this project, we proposed to explore whether nanoparticle(NP) delivery of PTEN mRNA together with an ICI would induce robust anti-tumor immune responses in a genetically engineered mouse model of PCa. To achieve this goal, we evaluated the anti-tumor efficacy of NP delivery of PTEN mRNA alone and in combination with anti-PD-1 immunotherapy in the immunocompetent BMPC mouse model. We also evaluated the in vivo safety of this combination treatment. The results of these ongoing studies will be reported. This strategy may be useful to identify other clinically targetable pathways to augment immune recognition of prostate cancer.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, and Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.


Where Birds Sleep At Night: Roosting Behavior Of The Puerto Rican Oriole

Ellie Bare
Mentor: Kevin Omland, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Birds spend about half of their lives in the dark. However, where and how they spend that time is largely unknown. This is especially true for the Puerto Rican Oriole, an understudied tropical songbird species endemic to the island of Puerto Rico. We studied eight Puerto Rican Oriole pairs and their nighttime behavior at sunrise and sunset, including the timing, location, and proximity to their mate during roosting. From a total of 19 observations, we found that seven of the eight pairs roosted overnight in current or former nest trees. In four of the eight pairs, at least one bird roosted directly on a nest. The use of old nests and/or nest trees during nighttime roosting is a surprising and useful novel discovery – we know of no information on other songbirds using old nests for this purpose. Understanding roosting behavior has important implications for their conservation, such as territory usage, pair-bond maintenance, and nighttime mortality.


Platinum-doped Graphene: The Next Gen Sensing

Asimit Bhattarai, Akram Ibrahim
Mentor: Can Ataca, Physics

Carbon-based nanostructures functionalized by transition metals have attracted attention as efficient sensors and storage mediums of H2 gas. In this project, density functional theory (DFT) was used to investigate hydrogen sensing and storage capacity on Pt-doped graphene. A hierarchy of models of Pt chemisorption to graphene including single Pt atoms, Pt13, and Pt55 atomic clusters were established. For the Pt clusters, the cuboctahedron geometry with its triangular side facing graphene, which is found to be energetically favorable compared to the icosahedron geometry was adopted. To investigate the sensibility at different levels of H2 adsorption, the changes in electronic transport properties upon the gradual adsorption of molecules to the energetically favorable sites were examined. These sites were identified by using a combined strategy of ab initio random search and molecular dynamics (MD). The result showed that H2 gas adsorption increases the resistivity of Pt-doped graphene in a decaying manner as we increase the number of adsorbed gas molecules increases. These results indicated that Pt-doped graphene can be utilized as the next-generation gas sensors.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Phosphochalcogenides as Tunable Ferroics

Joshua Birenzvige, Joseph Bennett
Mentor: Joseph Bennett, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Recently, 2D layered phosphochalcogenides of formula A2P2X6 have become an interest of investigation due to their tunable properties such as band-gaps and induced effects within an applied electric field. It is known that the layered material CuInS 2 P 6 exhibits behaviors such as having a high Curie temperature, favorable piezoelectric properties, and a reversible ferroelectric polarization against an applied electric field. Here we investigate all of the known members of A2P2X6 family by mining crystallographic data, highlighting compounds with multiple A-sites, and focusing on those where the valence charges of A and A’ are +1 and+3, respectively, or those that contain A-site vacancies. To investigate these potentially useful materials, it is evident that an exhaustive crystallographic search must be performed to elucidate known compositions, and then propose potentially functional unknown compositions and use this information to design new structure types. In doing so, it may be possible to identify gaps in literature and to highlight groups of compounds with similar A and A’ site radius ratios to be further examined for ferroic tunability.


What Was That? A Psycholinguistic Investigation into the Perception of Linguistically Ambiguous Song Lyrics

Karli Blanford
Mentor: David Beard, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication

The mishearing of song lyrics and miscommunications in everyday conversation demonstrate that there is not necessarily a direct relationship between what someone expresses and what is understood by their listeners. However, current knowledge of what causes these mishearings and miscommunications is limited and the majority of research has been conducted with English speaking monolingual participants. The current study addresses mishearings in English and Japanese song lyrics among bilingual speakers of English and Japanese, therefore widening the scope of investigation beyond previous studies. Participants included university students from three universities, one in the US and two in Japan. Students at the US university were studying Japanese and students at the Japanese universities were studying English. Both groups completed a transcription task and a language recognition task by listening to a set of recordings that contained song lyrics in three categories: clearly English, clearly Japanese, and language ambiguous. After each recording, participants determined the language they heard and wrote down what they heard to the best of their ability. Results speak to current discussions in psycholinguistics about how monolinguals and bilinguals organize and access their lexicons, and to what degree the process is language selective.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Engineering Fungal Growth Conditions to Create Mycelial-Materials

Nelanne Bolima, Kelsey Grey, Wanwei Pan
Mentor: Mark Marten, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

Global reliance on plastic and other non-renewable materials has begun to raise concerns about long term effects on public health. Consequently, global research efforts are now concentrating on plastic-mitigation strategies to reduce the overall detrimental effects of prolonged plastic use. One promising strategy is the use of filamentous fungi, such as Aspergillus nidulans, to create sustainable materials with properties similar to those of plastic, therefore creating a biodegradable alternative to plastic use. To begin characterization of A. nidulans-based mycelial material, assays were performed to measure glucose, growth, and chitin composition. The glucose assay was analyzed over a 120 hour period and served to understand when A. nidulans was most metabolically active. The growth curve and chitin assay mapped out the rate of growth and the chitin concentration over the same period. Chitin concentration is correlated with physical strength determined by the tensile strength. This study aims to determine the growth conditions necessary for mycelial-material made from A. nidulans to have material properties that parallels plastic. The results of this study served to provide an understanding of how adjustments to typical growth conditions correspond to variability in growth rate, chitin content, metabolic activity, and overall fungal strength.

This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIGMS/NIH) under National Research Service (Award T34 GM 136497) and also funded through the National Science Foundation (Award 2006189).


Energy Application Of Low-Temperature 2D Films Employed In Space-Based Energy Harvesting Systems

Tamia Bowers
Mark Marten, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering
Mentor: Swapnil Ambade, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Alternative energy sources and renewable energy systems are in considerable demand as present day technologies cannot maintain the needs of modern society without irreversible environmental damages. Carbon based nanomaterials stand out for their impressive natural abilities or intrinsic properties that garner high electrical conductivity, and as an Electromagnetic wave absorber. A recent addition to this family within the carbon nanomaterial realm are MXenes. These 2D materials examine exceptional charge capacity, tunable surface area, and are a viable medium for Electromagnetic wave absorption due to their ability to dissipate energy within its monolayers. With a versatile range of applications in energy storage, electrical systems, Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) Shielding, MXenes are viable candidates for advancing spaceflight technologies pertaining to energy storage systems. With the intention of examining the feasibility of introducing MXenes as an alternative to solar powered energy, the focus of this research is centered on the hypothetical effects of microgravity coupled with optimization of electrochemical properties of synthesized films.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Frequency of Extraneous Visual Elements in Beginning Readers Books

Jacob Brandt, Rachel Fischer, Huda Qalawee, Yuika Iwai1
1Psychology, UMBC Child Development Lab
Mentor: Karrie Godwin, Sherman Center for Early Learning in Urban Communities

Attention is a finite resource which needs to be used efficiently in order to learn new information. This is especially true for children, whose attentional resources are still developing. With books being a prominent method through which children learn and are exposed to new information, it is important that they are designed in such a way that supports their limited attentional resources. Previous research has demonstrated that aspects of a book’s design, including manipulative elements and extraneous visual material, can hamper children’s reading comprehension. The current study examines the frequency of different design elements in children’s books. We analyzed 102 beginning reader books from 29 publishers to examine key aspects of book design. These variables include: layout properties (e.g., illustration and text presentation and orientation), illustration elements (e.g., color, complexity, and congruence with the subject matter), text properties (e.g., location, saliency), as well as page design characteristics (e.g., border details). The coder was trained on the coding scheme by assessing examples and coding a practice set of books. A second coder re-coded 25% of the data to establish inter-rater reliability. The results of this study are pending.

This work was supported in part by a National Science Foundation award (BCS-1730060) to A. Fisher and K. Godwin. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Developing a Flexible Thermoelectric Generator for Applications in Wearable Electronics

Benjamin Brooks
Mentor: Deepa Madan, Mechanical Engineering

Waste heat is an inevitable byproduct of human activity. However, waste heat need not always be wasted. This project has targeted the development of flexible thermoelectric generators, or f-TEGs, which can be used to collect waste heat and convert it into useful electrical energy. Existing devices are rigid and as such are only useful for harvesting heat from planar surfaces. An f-TEG would be capable of conforming to a non-planar surface, enabling it to collect heat from a much wider variety of sources – including human skin. Work has primarily focused on fabrication of thermoelectric (TE) films and devices from p-type Bi0.5Sb1.5Te3 (BST) and n-type Bi2Te2.7Se0.3 (BTS). TE films were fabricated from metal powders combined with an organic chitosan binder, cured, and compressed. The films produced by our method have a figure of merit (ZT) of 0.89 and 0.5 for BST and BTS respectively, which is consistent with the highest reported value in literature. Using the same film fabrication technique we were able to produce an f-TEG with six BST-BTS film pairs. This device was capable of producing 360 μW of power, and with the help of a low voltage step-up converter, powered an LED.


Aromatherapy or Toxic Exposure: The Effects of E-Cigarette Vapor Exposure on the Olfactory Systems of Aging Mice

Caylee Brown, Bianca Lamptey-Mills, Shefra Shah, Tatsuya Ogura, Ph.D., Farhan Augustine, Tiffany Frimpong, Mufaro Chiduza
Mentor: Weihong Lin, Biological Sciences

E-cigarette use is often viewed as an adolescent issue. This prioritization has created knowledge gaps in the understanding of the effects of e-cigarette exposure on aging populations. As organisms age, the olfactory sensitivity declines partially due to accumulated environmental damage. To study the effects of e-cigarette aerosol exposure on the aging population in an animal model, we compared olfactory-guided behavior of cohorts of older and younger mice before and after an e-cigarette exposure period. We performed pre-exposure T-Maze behavior assays to determine each mouse’s ability to discern between competing odors and Buried Food behavioral assays to characterize their olfactory ability to guide food finding. Preliminary pre-exposure results show that older mice were less likely to initially approach an attractive scent when presented with the choice between it and a neutral scent. Additionally, the older mice took nearly twice as long on average to locate a piece of buried food. These results indicate reduced olfactory ability in aging experimental mice, consistent with published results. The data collected post-exposure will allow us to draw conclusions on any significant differences in the effects of e-cigarette aerosol exposure on the olfactory systems between younger and aging mice.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs. This experience was funded in part by the EDUCATE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) under award R25DA051338.


Trials of Time

Matthew Brown, Matthew Zheng, Jacob Delaney, Oluwagbemiga Ayeni, Thomas Tchaou, Jocelyn Truong
Mentor: Michael Satzinger, Visual Arts

A group of Art and Computer Science students are utilizing Unity and a suite of art programs to create a 2D Action-Adventure game with Stealth elements. The project will have us implementing a Combat System, Movement system, Inventory System and Player Detection systems. We will implement the following story as a basis for our project. On entrance to a location, our protagonist encounters the final boss. The final boss knocks our protagonist forward in time. The protagonist encounters an AI who assists the protagonist in figuring out what’s going on, what’s required to beat the boss and prevent the boss from continuing their tyranny.


Investigating Locomotion Decline in the Drosophila Model for Alzheimer’s Disease

Katrina Bucci
Mentor: Fernando Vonhoff, Biological Sciences

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by increased amyloid beta plaque formation. Lisinopril, a medication that lowers blood pressure, has been shown to decrease inflammatory processes and protein aggregation in aging flies. This study aimed to test the effect of lisinopril on the locomotion decline of Drosophila melanogaster, a model organism ideal for studying human diseases due to its short generation time, easy genetic manipulation, and conservation of disease-causing genes in humans. We used wild type flies and flies with the deletion of the APPL gene, the fly homolog of the Amyloid Precursor Protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease, exposed to food with and without lisinopril supplementation during adulthood. The climbing rate of flies at two-, ten-, and thirty- days old was measured according to the time it took each fly to climb to two different distances on a serological pipette. Preliminary data show that lisinopril lacks a significant impact on slowing the locomotion decline of wild type and Alzheimer’s flies as the climbing rate of the flies did not significantly change with the addition of lisinopril. We are currently testing whether neuroprotective functions of APPL are required for lisinopril to mediate its beneficial effects on aging flies.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Design Analysis of Rocket Tail Fins Aimed at Higher Apogee by Computer Simulation

Justyn Bunkley
Mentor: Guangming Chen, Mechanical Engineering, Morgan State University

Morgan State University’s Propulsion Lab is developing a single-stage liquid-propellant rocket (LPR) with a targeted apogee of 13,000 feet. Each component of the rocket must be studied to optimize parameters that play a role in achieving the design apogee. These parameters either directly affect or affect other parameters in the optimization space. A wide variety of research papers and peer-reviewed journals that deal with the rocket’s nose cone and airframe are already publicly accessible, but few in-depth studies address the design of the rocket’s tail fins. This paper focuses on how different factors, such as the planform shape of the fins – clipped delta and trapezoidal; fin materials – carbon fiber, aluminum, and fiberglass; and its geometric dimensions – root chord and sweep angle, affect the estimated apogee of a rocket and what is an ideal combination of design parameters. The simulation results collected using the software OpenRocket Simulator shows the possible outcomes of the rocket’s apogee. Furthermore, a factorial design methodology was employed using the collected data to perform statistical analysis to determine the significant factors. From the data, the best tail fin design for apogee was determined to be three clipped delta-shaped tail fins made of fiberglass.

This work was funded by the Maryland Space Grant Consortium (MDSGC).


Using Behavioral Assays to Study Genes Associated with Autism in Drosophila Fruit Flies

Francesca Burton, Eva Stanley
Mentor: Fernando Vonhoff, Biological Sciences

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability characterized by distinctive, abnormal behaviors. While a direct cause has not been identified, there are a variety of genetic mutations associated with this disorder. One of the most notable characteristics of ASD is low levels of sociability. Individuals with ASD typically have little to no desire to socialize, and often struggle with the meaning of nonverbal communication. We used the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as an animal model to study genes associated with autism at the cellular and behavioral level. We used a previously established behavioral assay to assess the effects of gene misregulation on sociability within our fruit fly model. We will compare the social patterns of control flies to those of flies with genetic mutations associated with the development of ASD in humans. Our goal is to determine which candidate genes have an effect on social patterns when misregulated in the fly brain. Future studies will further characterize the molecular role of the identified genes following anatomical and cellular approaches. Developing accurate and predictive animal models may be critical in further understanding the origin of this disorder, as well as developing a more definitive diagnosis test.

This research was partially funded by the USM LSAMP program, supported by NSF LSAMP Award #1619676, The EDUCATE Program, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) under award R25 DA 051338, and through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Engaging Writers through Multi-Modal Activities

Karen Carpio
Mentor: Cheryl North, Education

Being able to write clear, concise essays is an essential skill for high school students. However, essay instruction has remained generally unchanged. This study aimed for student essay scores to increase using multiple modes of representation that may be considered unconventional for essay instruction. During this study, fifteen tenth-grade honors students from a suburban school were administered a base-level essay written with little assistance. Then, students were administered instructional interventions consisting of “multi-modal” scaffolding activities that seemed to pique students’ interest such as color-coded sample essays and identifying and rearranging essay “chunks”. After engaging in these activities, the aim was for students to increase by six percent in their scores from the baseline data. By the end of the data collection, the students tracked demonstrated an improvement above the anticipated scores, and students, on average, increased their essay scores by eight percent. The data collected indicated an overall success, as students improved their essay scores above expectations. Besides being more engaged in class during essay writing instruction, the interventions administered proved, through the score improvement, a verifiable improvement in student essay performance.


Identifying the Role of Physical Tissue Features in Cell Migration in Fruit Flies

Alanna Carter, Alexander George1
1Biological Sciences
Mentor: Michelle Starz-Gaiano, Biological Sciences

The fruit fly is a model organism for understanding collective cell migration and can be used due to shared signaling pathways with humans. This coordinated process has applications in cancer metastasis and tissue repair. Within a developing fruit fly egg, a cluster of border cells migrate as a group through a substrate of germline cells before reaching the oocyte and contributing to egg development. Our lab observed a potential interaction between the border cell cluster and cytoskeletal ring canal structures within the substrate cells. These structures are misshapen in kelch mutant flies. Our previous data suggested that fruit flies carrying a null kelch mutation exhibit more variable cell migration than wild type flies. We hypothesize that this relationship may be more strongly established when using RNAi technology to localize loss of kelch to specific tissues of the egg chamber. We are also studying changes in size and structure of ring canals when kelch is downregulated. The disruption of ring canal size or shape may make it difficult for border cells to have enough traction to move efficiently. This study will further our understanding of the relationship between migratory cells and physical tissue feature interactions.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Pathological Consequences of Cytokine Expression in a Mouse Model of Chronic Prostatitis

Maheera Chaudhry
Mentor: Charles Bieberich, Biological Sciences

Chronic prostate inflammation is a very common histological finding in prostate cancer biopsies. However, the role of inflammatory insult in prostate cancer etiology is not known. We hypothesize that prolonged inflammation leads to premalignant or malignant changes in the prostate epithelium. To test this hypothesis, the Tet-On system was used to regulate the transcription of the cytokine Interleukin-1 Beta (IL-1β) and fluorescent protein GFP through prostate-specific expression of the reverse tetracycline transactivator (rtTA) to create an inducible mouse model of prostate inflammation (IMPI-1). The extent of inflammation in cohorts of IMPI-1 mice heterozygous or homozygous for all three transgenes was analyzed. To examine the inflammatory response induced by IL-1β and GFP, both groups were treated with doxycycline and histopathological analyses of prostate lobes was performed. Uninduced mice were used as controls. The extent of prostate inflammation in IMPI-1 mice with either zygosity will be reported. The effect of transgene zygosity on inflammatory phenotype is important in our investigation of the effect of chronic inflammation on development of premalignant or malignant lesions.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.


Individual Differences in Food Perception

Mufaro Chiduza, Stella Sun1, Zach Hutelin2, Mary Oster2, Mary Elizabeth Baugh2, Monica L. Ahrens2, Alexandra L. Hanlon2
1Blacksburg High School, 2Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Virginia Tech
Mentor: Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech

Compared to minimally processed foods (MPFs), ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are taking over the modern American diet. With the rise in consumption of UPFs compared to MPFs, we seek to understand why people favor UPFs more than MPFs. We hypothesized that UPFs contain greater rewarding properties than MPFs, which is driven by the gut-brain axis. We sought to generate a picture set that can be used to probe the role of food processing on food reward. We then used Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk) to collect data for our study. Participants were given a survey in mTurk and asked to rate 60 food pictures on various subjective variables. Utilizing these food ratings and mTurk survey participants’ demographics, these data demonstrate how an individual’s demographical background influences how much they like and value foods, whether these are UPFs or MPFs. From this research, future work includes participants completing an auction task, with concomitant fMRI to analyze brain activity while participants make these subjective food ratings. Combining fMRI data and participants’ food ratings, we seek to understand further how individuals value MPFs and UPFs differently, further answering why a food’s influence on reward & behavior is linked to the growing obesity epidemic.

This work was supported by the Seale Innovation Fund.


Development of a Novel Opsin-Chimera to Explore the G-Protein Signaling of Melanopsin

Ananya Choudhary
Mentor: Phyllis Robinson, Biological Sciences

The study of Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (IpRGCs) and melanopsin signaling suffer constraints due to the need for dark conditions and controlled illumination. IpRGCs detect environmental light to mediate non-image-forming vision. IpRGC driven behavior serves to entrain the circadian rhythm to the day/night cycle. The emergence of chemogenetic tools produced chimeric G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) which retain the ligand binding of the template GPCR, but mimic G-protein signaling of the spliced receptor. The chemogenetic GPCRs are termed Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs), activated by the inert ligand clozapine N-oxide (CNO). Here we demonstrate the development of a Melanopsin-DREADD chimera which utilized the hM3Dq DREADD backbone, but replaced the intracellular loops and C-terminus with those of mouse melanopsin. Further sequence optimization of the chimera via residue exchange in the transmembrane segments was necessary to mimic melanopsin Gq/11 signaling. Rational design of the improved melanopsin-DREADD referenced structural studies highlighting direct contacts for G protein binding. This melanopsin-DREADD 2.0 chimera expresses and mimics the G-protein profile of light-activated melanopsin in HEK293 cells. Without the need for light, CNO-containing food paired with AAV injections into mice would induce melanopsin activity without the need for controlled light conditions.


The Effects of Metal Supplement on Drosophila with Mutations in the Amyloid Precurssor Protein Gene

Anne-Cecile Choutedjem
Mentor: Fernando Vonhoff, Biological Sciences

Alzheimer’s disease is not only the most common cause of dementia among older adults, it is also the current seventh leading cause of death in the United States, targeting the elderly population. The most common symptoms that Alzheimer’s patients experience are memory loss and difficulty in performing simple tasks. Thus in this experiment, we used the animal model Drosophila melanogaster to test whether metal supplements have beneficial effects on flies that have mutations in genes associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Symptoms that these flies experience are shortened lifespan and impaired flight. As a result, we measured the flight performance and survivorship rates of flies carrying a deletion mutation in the Amyloid Precursor Protein-Like gene (APPLd flies) after their exposure to diets supplemented with different metals. We used two types of metals Copper (II) sulfate (CuSO4) in three concentrations (0.5mM, 1.0mM, and 1.5mM), and Zinc chloride (ZnCl) in three concentrations (5mM, 10mM, and 20mM) to observe these diets’ impacts on flight performance and survivorship rates of both wildtype flies (control flies) and APPLd flies. These results might provide information on whether supplementation diets may reduce symptoms observed in Alzheimer’s patients with the ultimate goal to develop better therapies and treatments through nutrition.



What we Carry

Emengini Chukwuma
Mentor: Ann Sofie Clemmensen, Dance

My senior capstone work, What we Carry, is an afro-contemporary dance piece that is centered on the question of how sexuality, confidence, and femininity are showcased through generations. The process involved three African-American college dance majors, chosen based on their previous experience in African dance, age, and closeness to one another which would portray the theme the best. Each dancer symbolized a different generation based on their ages. Central to the work was the examination into how different generations influence the qualities in one another, specifically in African culture. Throughout the process it became clear that each dancer influenced one anothers movement quality and/or how they approached movement. My creative research resulted in a choreographed dance that was performed in December 2022. The work aimed to bring attention to the fact that it is important for people to understand how those who came before and after us influence what we do.


Speak Up! Boosting Argumentative Skills using Historical Documents

Francesca Cohen
Mentor: Linda Oliva, Education

Oftentimes, Social Studies students struggle to analyze historical documents and select evidence to create a strong argument. In my classroom we held a series of debates to help students to increase their argumentative skills by having the opportunity to utilize supporting evidence from a historical document. The subjects of the study were 27 Gifted and Talented students at a suburban high school. Students were tasked with working collaboratively to complete an assignment meant to build argumentative writing skills. Students were expected to fully explain and effectively connect evidence to support their argument. Students then used the evidence they had collected to make their arguments stronger and more effective during the live debate. Between each debate, the teacher scored each student based on a rubric, and provided feedback to improve their ability to interpret and utilize various documents. Students were given three separate opportunities to practice analyzing documents with partner groups to foster discussion and to promote learning. To measure growth, the final assignment was compared to the baseline data. Students were expected to improve by two points compared to their baseline. Students showed improvement by developing evidence-based arguments that were presented during debate time and scored appropriately with the rubric.


Characterizing the Signature of a Lymph Node Sample using Low and High Resolution X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy

Jasson Crentsil
Mentor: Gayle Woloschak, Radiation Oncology, Northwestern University; Tatjana Paunesku, Radiation Oncology, Northwestern University

Radiobiological archives and tissue banks with formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded (FFPE) tissues from animals and human atomic-bomb survivors exposed to radioactive particulates are a resource for understanding the effects of radiation exposure. These FFPE samples that were analyzed are often decades old and were prepared using harsh fixation process limiting the options for sample imaging. In this study, we demonstrate the first use of low-, medium-, and high-resolution X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy (XFM) as a method to generate 2D elemental maps of around 35 year-old, canine FFPE lung and lymph node specimens stored in the Northwestern University Radiation Archives (NURA) documenting distribution of formerly radioactive micro-particulates. From our results, we were able to show that the use of XFM allows us to identify individual microparticles and detect daughter products of radioactive decay. Also, the results of this proof-of-concept study support the use of XFM to map chemical elemental composition in historic FFPE specimens from biobanks and conduct radioactive micro-particulate forensics.

This work was funded in part by the UMBC URISE Program as well as the Cancer-Focused Undergraduate Research Experience at Northwestern University.


The Role of Spase22-23 in Border Cell Migration in Drosophila Melanogaster

Gabriela Cruz, Alexander George
Mentor: Michelle Starz-Gaiano, Biological Sciences

Cell migration plays an essential role in the normal development and function of organisms. To explore the genetic mechanisms governing cell migration, we study the border cells, which cluster and migrate within the Drosophila melanogaster egg chamber. These cells use signaling pathways similar to those in humans and can be manipulated genetically and imaged live to understand how different genes contribute to cell behaviors. Border cell migration timing is regulated by the steroid hormone, Ecdysone. Many genes are activated downstream of ecdysone signaling that may impact cell migration, including Spase22-23, a component of the signal peptidase complex responsible for protein processing, transport, and ER-targeting. Spase22-23 is expressed in border cells, however, it is not known what role it plays in border cell migration. We hypothesized that Spase22-23 is required for border cell migration timing. We are comparing border cell migration in wild-type egg chambers to those that have Spase22-23 expression specifically reduced in border cells. Preliminary results show significant delays in early egg chambers that have reduced Spase22-23 expression. This study will evaluate the importance of Spase22-23 for controlling border cell migration, and further research will help in understanding the role of this well-conserved gene in cell migration, overall.

This research was funded in part by a grant from NSF-IOS-1656550 to MSG.


Crystallization and Structure Determination of Fluorogenic RNA Aptamer RhoBAST

Senali Dansou
Mentor: Deepak Koirala, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Fluorogenic RNA aptamers are important for RNA imaging in living cells. A recent study has reported that an RNA aptamer called RhoBAST activates the fluorescence of a dye molecule TMR-DN, allowing super-resolution RNA imaging in vivo. Compared to the same class of previous aptamers, RhoBAST provides multiple advantages, including fast kinetics exchange and low radioactive decay, which allows researchers to investigate cellular processes such as mRNA localization and DNA damage. However, the lack of a high-resolution 3-dimensional structure of RhoBAST has hampered our understanding of the structural basis of its fluorescence. This study aims to determine the crystal structure of RhoBAST using a Fab-assisted RNA crystallography approach. Multiple crystallization constructs of RhoBAST were designed with a Fab BL3-6 binding tag sequence 5′-GAAACAC, which allows the RhoBAST RNA crystallization in complex with the Fab chaperone. The RNA constructs were synthesized by in vitro transcription, purified by denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE), and characterized the Fab-RNA binding using native PAGE assays. The crystallographic quantities of Fab-RNA complexes were prepared to set up the crystallization trials. Although we have not obtained any crystals, we are optimizing the conditions and preparing the constructs designed to bind Fab BRG, which will increase shots on goal.

This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number T34GM136497. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


Bifurcation and Simulation of Cross Repression in a Migrating Cell

Joshua Davis-Carpenter
Mentor: Bradford Peercy, Mathematics and Statistics

Cell migration is important for many biological functions such as development, wound healing, and cancer metastases. Signaling within a cell will determine whether that cell will be motile or idle. Past research done on the biochemical interactions occurring inside Drosophila melanogaster egg chamber cells was the genesis of this research. The JAK/STAT receptor-transcription factor combination starts such a signal in epithelial cells. Then a cross repression system between APT and SLBO determines the paused or active cell fate.
We previously explored the model described by Ge and Stonko with seven variables for gene states, mRNA, and protein for APT and SLBO. These seven differential equations were then simulated within MATLAB to give a visual outcome for these biochemical processes over a period of time. We now explore the bistability between the two cell fate states in time by showing hysteresis in STAT level as well as tracking bifurcations in the system. We also show achieving either of the two steady states depends on initial state variables and a parameter for STAT level. Modeling mathematically the properties of JAK/STAT interactions could help us expand our knowledge of the initiation of cell migration.

This research was partially funded by the USM LSAMP program, supported by NSF LSAMP Award #1619676. This presentation supported in part by NSF #1953423 to BEP and MSG.


A Scoping Review of the Health Status of Undocumented Asian Immigrants in the United States

Meghan Dhond
Mentor: Sameera Nayak, Public Health

Undocumented immigrants from Asian countries (UAI) represent a growing population in the United States (US), but little is known about their health status. To gain a deeper understanding, a systematic literature search was conducted to identify and synthesize the existing research on the health outcomes of UAI in the US. The search initially identified 1,790 articles, but after screening for eligibility, the final sample size was reduced to 18 peer-reviewed publications. These studies found that UAIs experience higher levels of psychological distress and related mental health symptoms. Other themes included a lack of social capital, fear of deportation, and reluctance to seek medical care. These findings suggest that UAI are at risk of having poor health outcomes and lower healthcare utilization. However, given the small number of studies, there is a need for further research to better understand the health of this vulnerable population and develop targeted interventions to reduce inequities.


Analysis of Pandora Total Column Ozone Observations from the Washington-Baltimore Area

Sergio Diaz
Mentors: Belay Demoz, Physics; Maurice Roots, Physics, UMBC

Areas with large concentrations of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emission tend to have high concentrations of ozone in surface air which constitutes a serious concern regarding the perseveration of human health. In the Washington-Baltimore region, ozone concentrations depend on boundary layer chemistry, synoptic and local scale meteorological conditions, as well as anthropogenic activity. These factors attribute to the difficulty in accurately modeling and managing tropospheric ozone levels. We investigate multi-year variation in total column ozone measured by Pandora #31 from the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Ozone-Sondes, and Surface measurements from the Washington-Baltimore Area to understand the agreement and disagreement existing between the instruments. Furthermore, we compare these ozone measurements with previous measurements made at the GSFC by Pandora #9, a Brewer double monochromator, and Aura OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite data.

This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Educational Partnership Program, under Agreement No. #NA16SEC4810006. The authors would like to thank Howard University National Center for Atmospheric Science and Meteorology (NCAS-M) program and NOAA Office of Education, Educational Partnership Program (NOAA EPP) for fellowship supporting Mr. Maurice Roots and Mr. Sergio Diaz.


Enhanced Spin Echo Spectroscopy

Sergio Diaz
Mentor: Jason Kestner, Physics

A spin echo sequence consists of a 90° pulse followed by a 180° pulse. Within an electron paramagnetic resonance signal, a group of spins precess about an external magnetic field. The spins can be perfectly in sync or coherent with each other, pointing in the same direction. After applying an excitation pulse, the coherence lasts for a short period as the randomly distributed spins experience the external magnetic field generated by their neighboring spins. This inhomogeneity of the magnetic field causes some spins to precess slightly faster while other spins precess slightly slower. However, we can reverse the effects of the precession of the spins by applying a second pulse. The spin echo sequence allows us to measure the spin-spin relaxation time while removing the effects of the inhomogeneous magnetic field. We compare the use of a deep neural network, Fourier series, and Chebyshev series approach to create 90° and 180° pulses for our own spin echo experiment. The different pulse shapes are optimized against a cost function that encapsulates the desirable outcomes in a spin echo sequence such as sensitivity and absence of signal distortions while also maintaining physical constraints such as bandwidth and amplitude limitations.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Into the Great Outdoors: An Ethnographic Exploration of Hiking, Conservation, and Nature in Maryland

Tristan Diaz
Mentor: Bambi Chapin, Sociology, Anthropology, and Public Health, UMBC

Each weekend, people across the country head out “into the great outdoors” to “get away from civilization.” As they do so, they engage with ideas about nature that have a long and varied history in the United States, many of which conflict with each other. Further, these ideas underlie ways that individuals, groups, and governments interact with the natural world, shaping the environment, sometimes in ways that cause irreparable harm. This study explores how ideas about nature and human activity are vocalized and employed by members of one large and active Maryland-based hiking club as they head out on trails winding across parks, preserves, and urban areas. Through ethnographic methods, including participant observation and several forms of interviewing, this project demonstrates how participation with this hiking club shapes members’ views of nature and their activities within it. This qualitative data was principally collected during organized hikes of varying size and difficulty level. This investigation of hikers’ ideas about nature and their place within it has implications for building stronger community engagement with the environment as well as policies and practices that conserve it.


Unequal Treatment: A Systematic Review Of Implicit Bias In The Healthcare System

Thu Dinh, Maryamah Ndao, Jorge Saucedo
Mentor: Danielle Beatty Moody, Psychology

The primary objective of the current study was to systematically determine the impact of implicit bias from healthcare providers on patient health outcomes. Implicit bias can influence provider medical decision-making and adversely affect patient prognoses, particularly for those belonging to marginalized groups. We utilized several search engines to identify and compile studies that examined the prevalence of provider implicit bias and associated patient outcomes indicative of the differential quality of care. Six relevant studies were identified and altogether demonstrate that higher levels of provider implicit bias were linked to more patient-provider mistrust. In turn, patients experiencing greater distrust showed low rates of medication adherence, increased allostatic load, and overall poor perceived quality of care. These findings highlight the impact of implicit bias within the healthcare setting, as well as how they can contribute directly and indirectly to poor health outcomes in marginalized groups. Future research should determine how these biases may discourage patients from engaging in health-promoting behaviors, ultimately leading to all-cause mortality.


The History of Sexual Assault and Violence and Its Effects on Black Women

Ousmane Diop
Mentor: Michelle R. Scott, History, Africana Studies, Gender, Women + Sexuality Studies

The State of Missouri v. Celia, A Slave is a legal case that covers the 1854 murder trial of Celia, an enslaved woman in the state of Missouri, who killed her owner after years of sexual abuse. Celia’s story and her conviction is used as a case study to understand the history of sexual violence perpetuated against black women in the US during the mid to late 19th century. By analyzing a series of probate and court records, I reinforce that claims of self-defense did not apply to enslaved people, and that the 19th century American racial hierarchy ensured that sexual coercion of slaves was not a crime, legally. The case further sets precedent in the way in which enslaved people were treated in assault cases and is based upon stereotypical ideas that black women lacked honor and “virtue”. The purpose of this research is to articulate the untold stories of the enslaved, who are sometimes forgotten. Examining the 19th century historical records of violence inflicted upon African American women reveals that archives of the American historical past hold many more diverse narratives than previously thought, and that black women’s voices, although muted, can be found in historical legal records.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Assessing Campus Vegetation From Above

Bella Dongarra, James Faulkner
Mentor: Charles Kaylor, Geography and Environmental Systems

This presentation will present the method and findings from an ongoing effort by the GES 286 course to gauge the health of campus vegetation. Students collect data necessary to derive the Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI) by sending tethered weather balloons with a payload of two cameras (one color; the other, infrared) 450 feet above campus to observe vegetation at different locations on the UMBC campus. Results are then georeferenced using Geographic Information Systems to generate the NDVI using “map algebra”. This approach is analogous to imaging techniques used for research and policy purposes, introducing students to the data models and techniques used in remote sensing generally. Ultimately, by imaging repeatedly, we can observe how the overall health of campus vegetation is changing over time.


“She Went Away Healthy”: The Asclepieion Of Epidaurus, Disability, And Fiction As Reception

Tara Donovan
Mentor: Molly Jones-Lewis, Ancient Studies

Classical reception refers to the impact of Graeco-Roman culture on later periods; in the context of disability, reception largely fixates on the issue of infanticide. But disability had a multifaceted presence in the ancient world. One site that illustrates this is the Asclepieion of Epidaurus, a major healing shrine where sick people would go as suppliants to be cured. As a part of my research, I have analyzed the inscriptions and other material evidence found there in terms of their connection with the suppliants themselves, many of whom we would consider disabled. Fiction opens up these historical details to a broader audience. In this presentation, I will explain how my URA research, which allowed me to visit Epidaurus, informs the fiction I write.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Characterization of an Aspergillus Nidulans MpkA, HogA Double-Deletion Strain

Casey Douglas, Alexander Doan1
1Graduate Student, CBEE
Mentor: Mark Marten, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

Crosstalk between the Cell Wall Integrity Signaling (CWIS) and High Osmolarity Glycerol (HOG) cell signaling pathways in the model filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans is largely uncharacterized. In effort to better understand how these pathways work together to regulate responses to cell-wall stress, experiments involving phenotypic comparison of an ∆mpkA;∆hogA deletion mutant to wild-type and single-deletion strains were conducted. Specifically, the growth rate and average particle size of ∆mpkA;∆hogA were compared to the control strain. Because mpkA helps to maintain cell wall integrity, particle size was reduced in both the single mpkA deletion and double mpkA;hogA deletion mutants. However, while ∆mpkA grows slower than the wild-type fungus, ∆mpkA;∆hogA rescued the normal growth rate, implying the genes manipulate a common signaling pathway. Since Aspergilli interact with our daily lives in many ways, from use in industrial enzyme production to causing aspergillosis, a potentially life-threatening disease, there is much to be gained in our study of this organism.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Exploring the Effects of N-linked and O-linked Glycosylation on Membrane Trafficking and Signaling in Melanopsin

Taylor Drake
Mentor: Phyllis Robinson, Biological Sciences

The aim of this research was to create mutant melanopsin receptors lacking consensus glycosylation sites to interrogate the impact of N- vs. O-linked glycosylation on the activity and trafficking of melanopsin. Melanopsin is a light sensitive photopigment belonging to the opsin family of class A GPCRs. Glycosylation is a form of post-translational modification that is responsible for trafficking of proteins to the membrane. N-linked and O-linked glycosylation differentially contribute to additional functions including signaling, receptor dimerization, and folding. Interference of N-linked glycosylation results in the impairment of these functions, and eventual degradation of GPCRs. The first aim of this research was to examine the impact of N-linked glycosylation on melanopsin signaling and expression. N-linked null melanopsin constructs were generated that were unable to be glycosylated. These mutants were expressed in HEK293 cells where their expression was assayed via immunohistochemistry. The second aim of the project used an O-linked prediction tool to identify probable glycosylation sites to generate an O-linked null melanopsin. Results suggested that lack of N-linked glycosylation clearly impacts membrane localization and melanopsin activity measured using a calcium signaling assay.

This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIGMS/NIH) under National Research Service Award T34 GM 136497.


Math in Music – Solving Rhythm Equations Using Whole, Half, and Quarter Notes

Tim Edwards
Mentor: Kimberly Feldman, Education

The ability to recognize rhythmic symbols, as well as add the numeric values that they symbolize, is essential for students to be able to play music and stay in time throughout their performance. This study assessed seventeen 4th and 5th grade band and strings students in a diverse suburban elementary school and their ability to identify various rhythms and their corresponding numerical values. These seventeen students all earned a score below a 59/68 in the pre-assessment, and were expected to have improved their score by 15 points or attain a minimum score of 60/68 on the post-assessment. To aid their progress before the post-assessment, a more hands-on strategy was used to guide students through the work of the pre-assessment, as well as providing elementary-appropriate analogies and visual aids to practice note identification. The mathematical element was included in the assessment itself, using rhythmic symbols in lieu of the numeric values that accompany them. Students were encouraged to label the values under the symbols and show their work to complete the equations. Upon completing the post-assessment, fifteen out of the seventeen students achieved the goal of improving their score by 15 points or reaching the target of 60/68.


Expression Testing of Feod, a Novel Single-Pass Transmembrane Protein of the Feo System

Yassin El Alamy, Mark Lee1
1Chemistry and Biochemistry, UMBC
Mentor: Aaron Smith, Chemistry and Biochemistry

The ferrous iron transport (Feo) system is the most prevalent Fe2+ importer found in the bacterial domain. The canonical Feo system in Escherichia coli is tripartite and comprises two cytosolic proteins (FeoA and FeoC) and a polytopic, multi-pass transmembrane protein (FeoB). However, in many bacteria, FeoC is absent, ostensibly suggesting its lack of functional conservation. Recently, our lab has uncovered genomic data fin several bacterial feo operons, suggesting the presence of a new predicted single-pass transmembrane protein termed “FeoD”. The predicted amino acid sequence shows several Cys residues, including a CxxC motif that binds [Fe-S] clusters. Because [Fe-S] clusters are also present in some FeoC proteins, and genomic data suggest that FeoC and FeoD are mutually exclusive, we propose that these two distinct proteins may have analogous functions. However, the biophysical characterization of FeoD is unrealized. Before analyzing the structure and function of FeoD, we undertook expression testing to determine the optimal conditions for FeoD overproduction. The work shows that expression of a maltose-binding protein (MBP) fusion to the single-pass Streptococcus thermophilus FeoD results in good accumulation of the construct under certain conditions. These results provide a promising starting point for the future characterization of this small, novel membrane protein.

This work was funded, in part by the National Science Foundation Grant CHE 1844624 as well as the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for the Beckman Scholars Program.


SADNET: A New Paradigm For Undergraduate Research In Computer Science

Robert Emmet, Alana Reyes
Mentor: Geoff Weiss, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

The System Administration and Software Development Club Network (SADNET) is an in-house cloud development sandbox available to all UMBC students, free of charge. Access to SADNET grants students vast amounts of computing resources in the form of virtual machines, where they may further practice classroom teachings and prepare Internet applications for full-scale deployment. With the recent introduction of ARM-based personal computers, this network is capable of providing x86-based virtual machines to students who are unable to compute classroom instruction locally. When accompanied by our club’s weekly meetings, SADNET is also a great resource for learning valuable professional skills such as networking, network security, Linux administration, and full-stack software development. Thanks to this service being a club offering, students who attend meetings can find themselves in an environment ripe for teamwork and collaboration, making complex topics digestible at an extracurricular level. Ultimately, the main objective for SADNET is to encourage the students of UMBC to think beyond the scope of the classroom and gain meaningful insight by how the greater Internet works.


Deaths From Zoonotic Diseases: A Closer Look at the 2020 CDC Mortality Data

Leila Erickson
Mentor: Cristina Miller, United States Department of Agriculture

Deaths from zoonotic diseases—animal to human transmitted diseases—have been of increasing concern in the United States. Little is known about zoonotic disease deaths. This study examined zoonotic disease mortality, in adults 20 and older, by type of zoonoses, age group, farmer and rancher status, rurality, and state in 2020 using the CDC Multiple Cause Mortality data files. We conducted analysis using adjusted odds ratios to compare zoonotic deaths among rural versus urban and farmer versus non-farmer populations to find those at higher risk. We found that nearly 2% of all deaths in 2020, or 58,920 deaths, were caused by zoonotic disease, mainly from zoonotic septicemia, influenza, bacterial intestinal infection, and viral hepatitis. Zoonotic disease deaths were more prevalent in metropolitan counties. Those over 65 years of age contributed to 79% of these deaths. Texas, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York account for 31% of all deaths from zoonoses. Of the 38,000 zoonotic disease deaths in 2020, almost 600 of them were farmers and ranchers. Most zoonotic disease deaths are preventable and this study is the first to show deaths by zoonoses in the United States.


Structural and Biochemical Studies of the Unspliced Hiv-1 5’leaders

Kelvin Fadojutimi, Bethel Beyene, Jenny Thomas
Mentors: Michael Summers, HHMI; Dr. Xinmei Dong, UMBC, Chemistry and Biochemistry

HIV-1 is the causative agent of AIDS. Drug resistance to HIV prompts the development of novel therapeutic strategies. HIV-1 uses RNA as its genome. The 5´ leader is the UTR region located in the 5’ end of the genome, which regulates viral RNA functions and fates. Recent studies have shown that the 5’-Leader can adopt two different conformations which are held by the heterogeneity of the transcriptional start site. Due to NMR limitations, fragmented RNA is used for probing under a low salt condition which is not biologically relevant. Selective 2’ Hydroxyl Acylation by Primer Extension (SHAPE) can be a valuable tool to assist with NMR probing. SHAPE uses an electrophilic reagent that will attack the RNA backbone in flexible regions of RNA. Unfortunately, in physiological conditions, the 5’Leader is a mixture between monomer and dimer, and SHAPE requires a homogenous RNA sample. We tested different factors and found the optimal condition that allowed the 5’ leader to be homogenous. Our SHAPE experiments indicate that the dimeric leader structure is different from the monomeric structure which is consistent with NMR results. Our next step is to explore the possible reasons for inconsistencies between the SHAPE and NMR data.

Funding for this research is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the NIH/NIAID #8 R01AI150498-32.


Improving Performance on Constructed Response Questions

Ruth Ferguson
Mentor: Christopher Rakes, Education

This study aims to improve the ability of 29 eighth grade students to accurately solve and provide justification to constructed response questions in mathematics. The students were selected from three different on-grade math classes based on their performance on a constructed response question from the first quarterly assessment. Their responses were evaluated using the county-provided secondary mathematics Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) rubric. Each section of the rubric is worth up to one point for a total of three points possible. The students in the target group scored 0-1.5 points on the rubric. The growth target was for at least 22 students (approximately 75 percent) to improve their score by a minimum of one point from pretest to posttest. In between the pretest and posttest, two more data points were collected to assess their progress toward the target. Various instructional strategies were implemented to facilitate this growth, including explaining the CER rubric to students, giving them feedback on practice CER questions, and having students discuss how they would score sample responses.


Boosting Thermodynamic Performance by Bending Space-time

Emily Ferketic
Mentor: Sebastian Deffner, Physics

We were able to determine that the bending of space-time does boost thermodynamic performance. Black holes are arguably the most extreme regions of the universe. Yet, they are also utterly inaccessible to experimentation, and even just indirect observation poses significant technical challenges. The phenomenological approach of thermodynamics is uniquely suited to explore at least some of the physical properties of such scenarios, and this has motivated the study of so-called holographic engines. We show that the efficiency of an endoreversible Brayton cycle is given by the Curzon-Ahlborn efficiency, if the engine is fueled by a 2-dimensional ideal gas; and that the efficiency is higher, if the working medium is a (2 + 1)-dimensional BTZ black hole. These findings may be relevant not only in the quest to unlock the mysteries of black holes, but also for potential technological applications of graphene.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Quality with Quantity: Analyzing Purple Air Sensors’ Detection Of PM 2.5 in the Chesapeake Bay

Trisha Joy Francisco, Kylie Hoffman1
1Atmospheric Physics Department, UMBC
Mentor: Belay Demoz, Physics

Purple Air sensors are low-cost air quality sensors used by community scientists which have led to a significant increase in air quality observations across the world. However, Purple Air data has been shown to overestimate air quality index (AQI) values when compared to the EPA’s Air Quality Monitoring Network. Therefore, the focus of this research is to compare data being collected by Purple Air sensors with data from EPA’s Air Quality Monitoring Network for a one-year time period in the Chesapeake Bay Area. First, a nationwide correction model based on Clements et al. 2020 was applied to each Chesapeake Bay Area Purple Air site. Results show that with the correction model large trends are similar, but there are still significant statistical differences between Purple Air and EPA data. I hypothesize that Purple Air’s overestimation of PM2.5 is associated with changes in humidity and precipitation. Further steps for this research are to create a correction model specific to the Chesapeake Bay region, using relative humidity as a main correction factor. This research can be used to provide a more accurate regional correction model and to contribute to a better understanding of the effects of local air quality on the region’s population.

This work was funded, in part, by the NASA Science Activation Program specifically by the Student Airborne Science Activation for Minority Serving Institutions project based at NASA Ames Research Center (20-SCIACT20-0013).


Expressing Big Feelings and Challenging Maternal Blame: The Asian American Mother-Daughter Trope Reimagined

Megumi Fukuzawa
Mentor: Tamara Bhalla, American Studies

Since the 1970s, the Asian American mother-daughter story has waxed and waned as one of the defining tropes of Asian American literature. In the 21st century, this theme has exploded in popularity in Asian American literature, film, and television shows. This presentation examines a selection of Asian American mother-daughter stories across diverse genres to show how the Asian American mother-daughter trope in contemporary literature and media has changed in its modern incarnation. It elucidates two critical changes that distinguish the contemporary mother-daughter trope from its original form. First, the daughter figure, once silent and resentful towards her mother, now frequently expresses her feelings to her mother. Second, this project explores how the mother figure no longer serves as merely a foil in her daughter’s narrative as she once did. Now, she is given her own story which humanizes her beyond her maternal role, allowing the audience to sympathize with her. Combined, these changes may be attempts made by contemporary Asian American writers and directors to challenge the phenomenon of mother blaming (which was often seen in stories of the late 20th century). However, this presentation ultimately argues that there has been little progress in terms of departing from maternal blame.


Examining the Experiences of ED Patients Diagnosed with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: A Literature Review

Demetrie Garner
Mentor: Anushka Aqil, Public Health

People diagnosed with substance use disorders often co-present with a mental health disorder diagnosis. There is a strong evidence base that shows that people with substance use disorders often do not have access to adequate healthcare and as a result, are high utilizers of emergency departments (EDs). People diagnosed with mental health and substance use disorders (MHSUDs) that present to emergency departments cite that they have different experiences in terms of type of care received than non-presenting patients; these experiences have been documented to be exacerbated amongst racial and ethnic minorities. The purpose of this research is to conduct a literature review to examine the experiences of people who present with MHSUDs in emergency departments from 2012-2022.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Cat Culture in Germany: How German Law Promotes Responsible Pet Ownership

Emma Gebhard
Mentor: Susanne Sutton, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication

German law promotes responsible pet ownership. General animal welfare laws in Germany delineate rights and protections for both farm animals and house pets. This research explored how the legal framework regulating animal welfare informs responsible cat ownership in Germany. For this research, German laws guiding animal welfare in regard to cat ownership were examined. Secondary sources, such as German newsletters, newspaper articles, blogs about travel and animals were examined and then analyzed with a focus on house cat culture to investigate whether firm German law is a factor in modifying responsible cat ownership behavior. Topics investigated include animal shelters, cat adoption, pet immigration, declawing, indoor and outdoor cats, and cat owner responsibilities. Preliminary results indicate that there is a relationship between laws regulating animal welfare and responsible cat ownership. Answering this research question informs anyone, specifically cat owners, on the potential influence of animal welfare law on cat ownership responsibility and cat culture.


A Holistic Approach to Improving Mathematical Reasoning

Carly Gernert
Mentor: Christopher Rakes, Education

This study examined the ability of a holistic teaching improvement strategy to improve student ability to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others in mathematics. This study utilized multiple lesson experiences that maximize opportunities for reasoning. This study consisted of 25 high school students from an Honors Pre-Calculus class. The ability to effectively construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others are Common Core Mathematics practices and are important skills for developing critical literacy skills in all disciplines. When students construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others in mathematics, they show they have a greater conceptual understanding of the material. However, students often struggle to accurately critique the reasoning of others and struggle to provide a rationale with sufficient reasoning and vocabulary usage. This study implemented strategies like think pair share, debates regarding the mathematical works of peers, and allowing students to productively struggle. Students were assessed on a six point scale where zero to one represented limited proficiency and four to five represented proficiency on multiple tasks to assess their reasoning and critiquing ability.


Characterizing Zincergic Neuron Projections And Elucidating Their Role In Cocaine Mediated Behaviors

Leila Ghaffari
Mentor: Michael Michaelides, NIDA

Zinc (Zn2+) is an essential element of life that regulates neurophysiological homeostasis. Additionally, zinc has been understood to enhance the affinity for cocaine binding of the dopamine transporter (DAT), resulting in the enhancement of cocaine mediated behaviors. Synaptic, or free zinc, has also shown to be an endogenous modulator of dopamine neurotransmission in the striatum. It is not known, however, how zinc affects DAT activity between males and females, and whether such activity differs between the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens, or in regions where zincergic neurons originate. Our project aims to increase understanding of zinc in this context. First, we assess whether zinc affects cocaine related behaviors, known to be modulated by striatal activity following striatal zinc chelation. Our next goal is to study if zinc alters DAT and dopamine D1 receptor binding as a function of sex. Our third goal aims to understand the proportion of zincergic neurons that project to the striatum. Through these research goals, our hope is to characterize zinc as it affects sex-dependent dopamine neurotransmission in striatal circuits.


Utilizing Drosophila melanogaster to Evaluate the Effects of Genetic Variation on H3K4me3 Levels

Bethel Ghezai, Ahamed Chowdhury, Devonique Brissett
Mentor: Jeff Leips, Biological Sciences

The prevalence of chronic illnesses increases as a consequence of aging and accordingly, exploring novel avenues to address aging as a health issue is necessary to increase healthy lifespan. Histone modifications, such as trimethylation on histone 3 of lysine (H3K4me3), have the capacity to impact lifespan. Genetic variation is also known to contribute to differences in lifespan. The effect of genetic variation on changes in histone modification levels at different physiological ages remains unresolved. In this study, we utilized 2 genetically distinct fruit fly lines (DGRP 437 and DGRP 818) to investigate whether changes in histone modifications are associated with differences in lifespan. From performing survivorship studies with the two lines, we have seen 38% difference in lifespan between the lines and 15% difference between males and females. We have aged and collected physiologically young and middle aged flies. Western blotting with antibodies against H3K4me3 has revealed that levels are similar between the lines at young age in males. Our future work is focused on quantifying the H3K4me3 levels at middle-age between the lines. Increased knowledge on the patterns of histone modifications with age could permit the development of epigenetic treatments to address age-related chronic illnesses.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Investigating the Role of ADCK5 in Ovarian Cancer Carcinogenesis

Kevin Gibbons, Megha Pandya
Mentor: Achuth Padmanabhan, Biological Sciences

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecologic cancer. A lack of early-stage biomarkers and effective therapeutic strategies have resulted in the disappointing 5-year survival rate, ~30%, among patients, which highlights the urgent need to identify new therapeutic targets and novel factors that contribute to ovarian cancer carcinogenesis. One such uncharacterized factor is ADCK5, a kinase that is overexpressed in 40% of ovarian cancers and associated with a significant decrease in progression free survival among patients. We hypothesize that ADCK5 is a novel factor that contributes to ovarian cancer carcinogenesis and will be a potential therapeutic target. This will be achieved through two aims. In aim one, ADCK5’s impact on tumor progression, metastasis, and drug resistance of ovarian cancer will be investigated. Clinically relevant human ovarian cancer cell lines will be used to determine the impact of overexpressing ADCK5 on tumor progression, metastasis, and drug resistance. In aim two, substrates of ADCK5 will be identified in ovarian cancer cells. ADCK5 was purified and will be used for protein assays to determine its function, activity, and identify substrates. This work will establish ADCK5’s role in ovarian cancer carcinogenesis and identify a possible novel therapeutic target for treating ovarian cancer.

This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIGMS/NIH) under National Research Service Award T34 GM 136497. This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Supporting Critical Thinking Skills to Improve Understanding in High School World History Classes

Timothy Grooms
Mentor: Linda Oliva, Education

High school students struggle to implement critical thinking skills that would help them gain a better understanding of individuals and societies through the process of investigation. This study examined the progress toward developing more effective critical thinking of 31 students in a World History class in a suburban high school. The data collected reflected students’ ability to discuss concepts and issues, synthesize information to make valid arguments, analyze, write and evaluate a wide range of sources, and interpret different perspectives and their implications through three different document-based assessments. The target group was students that scored a two or lower on an eight-point Middle Year Programme (MYP) rubric. The goal was for 25 students (80 percent) to improve their score by two points on the eight-point rubric scale in one or more of the assignments on the Thinking Critically Category of the MYP rubric. Strategies used to improve student performance included modeling the process of critical thinking and document analysis, direct instruction of key vocabulary, culturally relevant connections, guided practice in document analysis, and peer discussion. Twenty-five of the 31 students showed an improvement on their critical thinking skills: six of the students improved by seven to eight points.


Phenotypic Characterization of Aspergillus Nidulans Protein Kinase PrkA

Garrett Hill
Mentor: Mark Marten, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

In the filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans, the protein kinase PrkA has yet to be characterized. Thought to be involved in cell-wall repair signaling, this project aims to gain insight into the function of this kinase by subjecting a mutant strain that lacks the kinase (prkA-) to various phenotypic assessments. By identifying growth and morphological deficiencies in the prkA- mutant, the function of the kinase can be revealed. This project utilized fluorescence microscopy to image cellular processes thought to be associated with PrkA, such as endocytosis, allowing us to determine if PrkA plays a role in regulating these processes. Identification of the function of PrkA may help to streamline the use of filamentous fungi in many industrial applications, ranging from the production of small molecule drugs to the use of fungal mycelium as novel, sustainable materials.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Nanoparticle-Based Sensor for the Detection of Lead Ions in Tap Water

Ryan Hoffman, Chanda Lowrance
Mentor: Marie-Christine Daniel , Chemistry and Biochemistry

Lead poisoning is a problem that people all over the world are battling. Although medicine has made vast improvements to help treat lead poisoning, the best way to avoid contamination is to detect lead and remove it from the population’s drinking source. The aim is to create a system of gold nanoparticles that changes color in the presence of lead, with the goal of detecting the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 10 parts per billion lead in drinking water. Gold nanoparticles were coated with glutathione, a molecule that selectively binds with heavy metal toxins such as lead. In the presence of lead, and with assistance from chloride salts, glutathione-coated gold nanoparticles change color from red to blue, thus lead can be detected through color change. Glutathione was added to the gold nanoparticle solution because it can bind to both the gold and lead. Additionally, chloride salts are used to help further induce color change. 20 nm gold nanoparticles coated in glutathione were able to detect 10 ppb lead ions in water. Thus, a system of gold nanoparticles, functionalized with glutathione and assisted by chloride salts, can detect lead ions within the WHO’s limit of 10 ppb in drinking water.

This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIGMS/NIH) under National Research Service Award T34 GM 136497.


Wildfire Response & Mitigation in the United States and the Russian Federation

Leo Hojnowski
Mentor: Brian Grodsky, Political Science

Significant variance has been found in wildfire mitigation and response policy, both across national boundaries and domestically. How does regime type influence the stakeholders of at-risk forests and in turn shape wildfire resilience? An analysis of existing research into the land management strategies of the United States and Russia, suggests this effect to be quite profound. The literature has described American wildfire policy as “a complex mosaic” of jurisdictions, often lacking the funding, infrastructure, and capacity to adequately tend to an increasingly dangerous fire regime. Meanwhile, Russia’s wildfire infrastructure has atrophied, with officials sparing minimal resources to mitigate and respond to fires while hindering non-governmental actors outright. What the two countries share is the escalating ecological, structural, and economic cost of wildfires. Overall, lack of coordination between the entities responsible for wildfire response and mitigation was found to be a common theme in both the United States and the Russian Federation by several scholars. Wildfire policy differentiates, however, in that American community-based land management nonprofits are vital in “reinforcing and reforming institutions across scales,” coordinating effective action between jurisdictions whereas Russian environmental nongovernmental organizations face significant economic and political resistance from the Russian government.


The Cardiovascular Impact of Natural Disasters– Property Loss

Antonio Holmes
Mentor: Lauren Clay, Emergency Health Services

As natural disasters are becoming more prevalent, the stress correlated with property loss is becoming a concern for individuals’ cardiovascular health. Worsening of the cardiovascular system leads to many heart problems which can total up to cardiovascular disease. Property damage results from a disaster’s severity and the impact varies by person. Damages include but are not limited to the partial or total destruction of your house or car. Families within the same community can have different ratings of property damage depending on the preparation done before the event. During this analysis, property loss will be divided into subcategories to measure which group is having a more significant correlation with hypertension. The categories are no damage, minor damage, mild damage, and major damage. We will look at the change in blood pressure continuously as property loss increases. The two datasets that will be used in this analysis are SHELDUS and REGARDS.


Watch Me Work: Baltimore Barbershops, Hair Salons, Stories & More

Kendal Howell
Mentors: Nicole King, American Studies; Tahira Mahdi, Psychology, UMBC

Picture this: a corner shop. You walk in and hear the buzz of clippers from a barber or a salon, the smell of burning flat iron, then some faint neo-soul music and real talk amongst the stylists and clients. What is this place? Why does it matter? Why is it here? What better way to know than to hear from the ones who run it? The right to the city can be defined in numerous ways, but this research dives into its culturally independent side. Black-owned businesses aren’t just for profit; they aim to create safe spaces and independence. The Watch Me Work project methodology is an interactive interview set up to hear the stories of Black Baltimore Salons and Barbershops from the owners. An article by the Huffington Post notes that “black salons are a social hub” and are “safe spaces” for people to be unapologetically black. This project focuses on how and why this space was created from the mouths of the creators. Video interviews with the owners are the most authentic way to capture the stories of these environments. In conclusion, the objective of this project is to explore the pursuit of Black Business in Baltimore.


The Impact Of Disaster Subcultures On Business And Community Preparedness In Coastal New Jersey

Nyla Howell
Mentors: Dr. Robin Leichenko1, Maravilla Clemens1, Katherine Cann1, 1Geography, Rutgers University – New Brunswick, Dr. Malgocia Madajewicz2, 2Columbia Climate School, Columbia University, Dr. William Solecki3, 3Geography and Environmental Science, Hunter College, Dr. Majorie Kaplan4, 4Rutgers Climate Institute, Rutgers University – New Brunswick, Jeanne Herb5, 5Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University – New Brunswick

Extreme weather events are increasingly affecting coastal communities, often leading to economic and social disruption within these areas. The businesses located within coastal communities are especially vulnerable to climate-related shocks, yet relatively little is known about how the experience of prior disaster events affects business preparedness and planning for future extreme events. This study applies the concept of a disaster subculture to investigate whether and how prior extreme events affect climate resilience practices among small and medium-sized businesses in coastal New Jersey. The methods for the study entailed qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with businesses and related stakeholders during the Spring of 2022. The results of the study indicate that elements of four possible disaster subcultures are present in the region and that these subcultures are influencing business mitigation and preparedness practices and community recovery. A future research direction could consider disaster subculture influence on an individual level and how subcultures may influence household preparedness.


Optimizing Deep Neural Network Architectures For Low-Power Autonomous Tiny UAV Navigation

Edward Humes
Mentor: Tinoosh Mohsenin, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

As artificial intelligence has dramatically advanced in capability over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in deploying them to a wide array of “smart” devices to enable a greater range of functionality. However, as smart devices are often computationally limited to fit a specific price point, energy footprint, and size, deploying a deep neural network without modification risks facing poor performance and high energy consumption due to being improperly optimized for the limited resources that are present on the smart devices being targeted. In this project, we addressed the challenges of deep neural network (DNN) implementation on resource-constrained smart devices with a focus on autonomous navigation for tiny drones, via a series of benchmarks on different DNNs for power consumption, memory, and processor usage. By comparing the various neural networks, we uncovered several factors that most strongly contributed to performance of the model when run on the low power hardware platform we chose. After we changed the model by incorporating changes that alleviated poor performance, we were able to achieve a nearly six-fold increase in performance, as well as reduce the system’s overall energy consumption, thus enabling our goal of autonomous navigation for low power drones.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory under Cooperative Agreement Number W911NF2120076.


Developing a 3D Colon Model

Raey Hunde, Victor Kehinde, Ezinne Ogugu1, Chiad Onyeje2, Ishanathan Guteng3
1eoguguo1@umbc.edu, 2conyeje1@umbc.edu, 3sguteng1@umbc.edu
Mentor: Erin Lavik, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

The screen-printing process has been around for thousands of years; it has been used to make graphic designs on T-shirts, art, and microelectronics. It is a simple, cost-effective, and reproducible method for printing structures. We were interested in investigating whether screen printing could be applied to making tissue models. The majority of 3D printing processes currently used for tissue models subject the cells to harsh ultraviolet radiation or significant shear stress due to fine needles which greatly impact cell survival. Furthermore, these processes are very slow and require specialized equipment making them less than ideal for printing reproducible tissue models for high throughput screening. This project focuses on developing a screen-printing process for a high throughput model of the colon For the development of the model, we focused on the human cell lines Caco-2 and HT-29 cells to recapitulate the epithelial and goblet cells. Preliminary results show that the cells can be printed and the 3D structure can be made in a reproducible manner. More experiments need to be conducted to replicate this study to further analyze the colon model, particularly with regard to the formation of tight junctions which are essential to the proper function of the tissue.

This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute of Gen-eral Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIGMS/NIH) under National Research Service Award T34 GM 136497.


A Comparison Between Russian and American Imperial Expansion

Aidan Hunter, Seth Greenberg
Mentor: Vira Zhdanovych, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication

Manifest Destiny and conquering Siberia; Comparing American and Russian Imperial Expansion. With Russian aggression and its unwarranted expansionism in the spotlight once again, an often forgotten warning is that this lack of diplomacy is a practice that the Empires of Russia have engaged in for centuries. Understanding a country universally begins with its history, as history informs current decisions and patterns, as we have found in both Russian and American history. From acquiring land to the treatment of natives, we have found that Russia and America have two histories with many mirroring trends. Starting in the 1600s, Russia had its own version of Manifest Destiny in its Expansion into Siberia. It settled vast amounts of land inhabited by natives, hunted animals for the global fur trade market, and Russia-too sought to reach the Pacific Ocean. What’s notable about Russian history, however, is its method of colonization. America’s Manifest Destiny was a voluntary settlement by thousands of immigrants who were seeking a plot of land to farm for themselves. Whereas the Russian state utilized Siberia as a wasteland for political dissidents [mostly its own subjects], the Imperial government directly controlled most of the land.


Impact Of Adverse Childhood Events On Adult Personality Traits In A Clinical Sample

Olivia Hutchinson, Eric Neutzling
Mentors: James Waltz1, Jacob Nudelman1, Adriann Lai1, 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine

Childhood Trauma is known to evoke important changes in brain function and the make-up of personality across the lifespan. It is not known whether Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) differentially impact personality in clinical and non-clinical samples.

As part of a larger study on the role of lifetime and acute stress on the symptoms of psychosis, we administered 50 people with a diagnosis of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder (SZ) and 29 healthy volunteers (HV; mean ages 39.6+10.1 vs. 41.2+13.7) a battery including the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and two questionnaires to query dimensions of personality: the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) and the Behavioral Inhibition System/Behavioral Activation System (BIS/BAS) scale.

Correlation analyses revealed an inverse relationship between self-reported childhood abuse (from the CTQ), and Cooperativeness in adulthood (rho=-0.442, p=0.001), and between neglect and Self-directedness (rho=-0.326, p=0.022). We also observed associations between types of childhood trauma and Harm Avoidance (from the TCI) and Behavioral Inhibition (from the BIS/BAS). Linear regression revealed that total neglect interacted with diagnosis (SZ vs. HV) in predicting harm avoidance.

Our findings suggest that ACEs may differentially impact personality as a function of clinical status.

This work was supported by NIH grant R01 MH115031 (PI: Waltz).


Fluorescence-based Multilinear Regression Models to Assess the Presence of Wastewater in Baltimore Watersheds

Diego Iglesias Vega
Mentor:s Lee Blaney, Jahir Batista-Andrade, Anna McClain, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) plays a major role in the global carbon cycle by serving as a food source for aquatic organisms, buffering surface water pH, and influencing solar light penetration. While DOM is often considered to be comprised of naturally-derived chemicals, failing sewer infrastructure can introduce another source of DOM, namely raw wastewater, to urban streams. Sewer failures also introduce fecal bacteria, such as Enterococci spp., to water resources. We hypothesized that fluorescence excitation-emission matrices (EEMs) and Enterococci spp. levels could be used to discriminate between natural and wastewater-derived DOM. To address this hypothesis, we created mixtures of deionized water, Suwannee River natural organic matter, stream water from a Baltimore watershed, and wastewater from sanitary sewers to develop multilinear regressions for wastewater content in stream water. In particular, the regional volumes under the EEMs and their associated ratios, specific ultraviolet absorbance at the wavelength 254 nm, and Enterococci spp. colony forming units were used to create the multilinear regression models. The models were applied to previously collected data from the Gwynns Falls watershed to estimate the wastewater contents in real streams and locate sites suffering from failing sewer infrastructure in Baltimore City.

This research was partially funded by the NSF Environmental Engineering program (#1653726).


Biophysical Characterization of BqsS, Part of the Pseudomonas Aeruginosa BqsR/S Two-Component System

Chioma Iheacho
Mentor: Aaron Smith, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Pa), a Gram-negative bacterium best known for infecting the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, is one of the major causes of chronic nosocomial infections and can grow as biofilm. Biofilms are a health threat because bacteria living within these environments are antibiotic resistant. Studies have uncovered a novel two-component system (BqsR/S) that regulates biofilm formation/decay in P. aeruginosa through extracellular Fe2+ binding. PaBqsS is a transmembrane sensor kinase that is proposed to bind Fe2+ through an RExxE motif in its periplasmic domain. However, PaBqsS has not been structurally characterized and details of how it interacts with Fe2+ remains unknown. My project investigates the structural and biophysical properties of PaBqsS. My goal is to alter the RExxE motif into three different variants (RAxxE, RExxA, and RAxxA) through site-directed mutagenesis and perform in vitro metal-loading experiments to determine the metal-binding capabilities and stoichiometry of metal bound PaBqsS. Since the RExxE motif is needed for iron binding, mutating the motif may result in a decrease in iron binding at the motif. These results will be an important step towards understanding this two-component system, which could be a future target for novel therapeutics aimed at disrupting biofilm formation.

This work was funded, in part, by a grant to UMBC from the National Institute of Health through the U-RISE Program.


Structure-Function Analysis of Zing-Finger Protein 217 (ZNF 217)

Kamden Iverson
Mentors: Achuth Padmanabhan, Biological Sciences; Kathryn Wardrup, Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-associated deaths among women and is the most lethal gynecologic malignancy (American Cancer Society 2019). This can be attributed to the fact that in approximately 60% of ovarian cancer cases, it is not diagnosed until later stages once the cancer has metastasized. Zinc-finger protein 217 is an alternatively spliced Kruppel-like protein that has recently been implicated to play a role in cancer, specifically ovarian cancer. Collectively, previous research and studies implicate that ZNF217 may contribute to ovarian cancer progression, invasion, and metastasis. However, it is still unclear how the ZNF217 is regulated in the cell. Characterizing the structure and regulation of ZNF217 will provide critical insights into whether it represents a novel therapeutic target. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine how the key substructures of ZNF-217 relate to its stability and drug-targeting pathways. Using molecular cloning truncations of ZNF217, guided by the location of its 8 zinc finger domains, will be created and used for the identification of structurally significant regions in drug-mediated ZNF217 depletion.

This work was funded in part by USM LSAMP program, supported by NSF LSAMP Award #1619676.


Analyzing Antibody Transfer Response To COVID-19 Vaccines And Impact Of Concomitant Cytomegalovirus Seropositivity

Stephen Isabell
Biological Sciences
Mentors: Mark Schleiss1, Claudia Fernández-Alarcón2, Kanokpan Tsriwong2, Yuying Liang3, Qinfeng Huang3, 1University of Minnesota Medical School, 2Department of Pediatrics, UMN, 3College of Veterinary Medicine, UMN

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) seropositivity could contribute to SARS-CoV-2 infection. We looked at the effect of CMV seropositivity in guinea pigs, both measuring its impact on COVID vaccine antibody response in pregnancy, and in the context of transplacental transfer of antibodies following vaccination. 19 pregnant guinea pigs were vaccinated with either a Pichinde virus-vectored SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein vaccine, or a purified pCAGGS-expressed S protein (RBD) vaccine co-administered with Addavax adjuvant. Sera from dams and pups at birth were collected for CMV and RBD ELISA and western blot. Four low-level CMV-seropositive pregnant-dams (geometric mean titer [GMT] ≤6.3 log2) who received the Addavax adjuvanted protein vaccine (intramuscular route, IM) had a higher RBD GMT (16.3 log2), compared to high-titer CMV-seropositive pregnant dams (titer ≥7.3 log2) that received the virally-vectored vaccines (GMT 13.8 log2) via intranasal route (n=5) or IM route (n=5). Mann-Whitney analyses demonstrated no differences in GMT RBD ELISA titer (13.3 log2) in pups, regardless of vaccine route or maternal CMV serostatus. RBD placental antibody transfer ratios were between 0.8-1.2 in all the pups. In conclusion, pre-existing CMV seropositivity may impact the immune response to subunit vaccines delivered by IM route.

This work was funded, in part, of Summer Research at the University of Minnesota Medical School, NIH HLB R25 grant support: R25HL088728. PI’s: Dr. Colin Campbell & Dr. Craig Henke.


Capstone Team Game Development

Janae Jacobs, Charmain Su, Bodhi Arnold, Eli Kawecki, Stephen Vaudreuil, Lujane Elkhatib, Ikee Chandler
Mentor: Michael Satzinger, Visual Arts

Our artists and computer science majors have combined together to make a 2.5Dimensional point and click game. We plan to craft this game in the program we are currently learning, which is Unity. So far, our idea is to create a mystery game with an interactive storyline. In our game, the player will be of a lower socioeconomic class in the midst of the Great Depression during the Kidnapping Years, in which the children of rich families were targeted and kidnapped for ransom money. We will use C sharp within Unity as well as the technological suites available within the program to create an immersive experience that combines with our narrative, sound, and visuals. This will include a dialogue system. The artists will use various digital art software to create graphics, sprites, and backgrounds for the game. The game will be 2D+ such that the 2D world can hide clues within objects.


Analyzing the Causes Behind Immigrant Under/Unemployment in Baltimore

Casey Jillson
Mentor: Kerri Evans, Social Work

Being employed does far more than just provide income, but promotes emotional wellbeing, allows people to expand their social networks, and much more (Redekopp & Huston, 2019). This research sets out to better understand the barriers immigrants in the Baltimore community face when finding and maintaining employment. Participants include roughly 75 participants ages 18 and older, who have both immigrated to the United States and utilize services at the Esperanza Center in Baltimore. The research questions are: 1) What barriers to employment exist for immigrants in Baltimore? And 2) To what extent do discrimination, self-efficacy, and language skills impact immigrant employment success? The survey will be administered through the use of a tablet, and participants can complete the survey in either English or Spanish, receiving ten dollars for their participation. Results will indicate the severity of employment barriers in the Baltimore community. These results will allow for community programs, specifically the Esperanza Center, to create professional development opportunities for immigrant clients to enhance employment success, as well as help better quantify to what extent immigrant workers need assistance. Data are being collected in February 2023 and preliminary results will be presented at URCAD.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


The Effect of Redlining on Neighborhood-level Poverty and Homeownership in Columbus, Ohio

Victoria Joya Euceda
Mentor: Alia Dietsch, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University; Eric Toman, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University

This presentation focuses on testing the lasting effects of redlining on current poverty and housing values of neighborhoods in Columbus Ohio. To conduct this analysis, data were first obtained from the publicly available website, Social Explorer, to represent demographics during 1990 and 2020, approximating at least one and two generations removed from the passing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the legal prohibition on overt redlining. These census data were then unionized in ArcMap to a spatial layer representing the HOLC “redlined” map. Combined data were then exported into a software package (SPSS) for analysis (e.g., correlation, regression). Results demonstrated that neighborhoods graded as less desirable in 1933 had fewer rates of homeownership in both 1990 and 2020, though there was no effect on poverty. This finding may in part be due to the definition of poverty changing over time and that poverty may be a temporary circumstance for many people, whereas homeownership represents the primary way by which many Americans accumulate wealth. Results underscore the importance of understanding how past policies impact today, which can inform the development of future policies aimed at equitable homeownership and improved economic outcomes for all residents.

This work was funded, in part, by UMBC McNair Scholars Summer Research Institute.


The Role Of RLS1 In Oxidative Stress Resistance By The Green Algae Chlamydomonas Reinhardtii

Maeva Kalombo
Mentor: Stephen Miller, Biological Sciences

Biofuels are an important renewable energy source that can help solve both climate and energy security issues. Algae can produce substantial amounts of lipids to convert into biodiesel, so are a promising source of biofuels. In this project, the model green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was investigated to learn how to improve algal growth and lipid production by enhancing growth during conditions of oxidative stress. The experiment’s hypothesis was that the RLS1 gene increases stress resistance, specifically against hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). It has been observed that under oxidative stress, RLS1 expression is induced in Chlamydomonas. Hypothetically, improved stress tolerance should improve lipid production and reproductive ability. The oxidative stress resistance of two strains was tested, the wild-type (CC-4533) and a closely related strain with an insertional mutation in the RLS1 gene. To compare their degree of tolerance we tested their growth at different concentrations of H2O2 and with different initial cell concentrations. If the hypothesis is correct, the wild-type is expected to have better growth than the RLS1 mutant in the presence of H2O2, and the application of RLS1’s stress-resistant attributes could be used to boost lipid production in Chlamydomonas and other algae engineered to over-express the RLS1 gene.

This project was funded by a grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF EFRI1332344) to S.M.M.


Observing Bonding Rates Between Single Quantum Dots and Viologen Molecules

Elizabeth Kane
Mentor: Matthew Pelton, Physics

This project looked to investigate the bonding rates of charge accepting molecules on spherical nanocrystals commonly referred to as quantum dots (QDs) to contribute towards the understanding of how QDs create and maintain bonds. This was observed by watching the changes in fluorescence of single QDs as they create and break bonds with viologen molecules in real time. The fluorescence was monitored based on the emission of photons from electrons moving from an excited state to an alternate state over a given time frame. The photon count vs time graphs produced fit an exponential decay curve with the time constant indicating the time it takes an electron to move from an excited to alternate state and emit a photon. Without viologen, the electrons mainly switch between excited and ground states. However, with viologen, electrons now have another path to move from the excited state onto the viologen molecule. This alternative path has been observed to shorten the time constants proportionally to how many viologen molecules are attached to the QD surface. Current measurements are being taken on single QDs where the viologen molecules can attach and detach rather than remaining fixed to better characterize how these bonds change over time.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Enhancing the Neurodiverse Workforce

Rokhaya Kane, Amina Abubaker
Mentor: Meryl Cozart, Public Health

Individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities have the ability, willingness and desire necessary to be an asset to any workplace. Evidence shows that individuals with neurological differences in the workplace enhance internal culture and increase employee engagement. Despite this, their national unemployment rate remains high (Neurodiversity at work, 2023).The Neurodiversity at Work program, offered at Kennedy Krieger Institute, is trying to change this dynamic. Located in the Baltimore-Washington area, the purpose of this program is to support individuals with disabilities using a person-centered approach. There are several community programs within Neurodiversity at Work including Project SEARCH and CORE Foundations. CORE Foundations supports individuals with disabilities obtain and maintain meaningful employment and community engagement for lifelong success (Core Foundations, 2023). Project SEARCH is a 10-month, transition program for individuals 18 through 24 years of age that provides hands-on job training through integrated worksite rotations, career exploration, innovative adaptations and mentoring from experienced staff (Project SEARCH, 2023). Individuals in both programs will have the ability to enhance their employability and independent living skills, leading to a more diverse and inclusive workplace and community. The goal of this project is to analyze these two employment support programs in terms of enhancing the neurodiverse workforce.


Exploring Gag and Rev RRE Interactions in HIV-1 Through a Multimodal Biochemical Approach

Arjun Kanjarpane, Lucia Rodriguez1
1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UMBC
Mentors: Mike Summers, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Jan Marchant, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UMBC

HIV-1 replication requires the nuclear export of unspliced RNA transcripts. However, host cell surveillance systems prevent such export. HIV-1 bypasses these restrictions by coding for the nuclear-cytoplasmic shuttle protein, Rev, which binds to a structured genomic RNA element, called the Rev Response Element (RRE). Two high-affinity Rev binding sites have been identified, termed Stem 1A (S1A) and Stem 2B (S2B). Gag, a viral cytoplasmic protein that mediates genome packaging, has been shown to bind to the RRE near or overlapping with the S1A site, giving rise to the possibility that Gag: RRE interactions destabilize the Rev: RRE complex, thereby enabling Rev recycling. This project seeks to stoichiometrically, thermodynamically, and structurally characterize these events, including the possible competition between Rev and Gag for the RRE S1A binding site. We employ a series of truncated Stem 1 RNA constructs, a Rev ARM peptide, and the nucleocapsid domain of Gag, NC, in EMSA, ITC, SEC, and NMR experiments. We find that NC may preferentially bind S1A over Rev Peptide, and the purine-rich bulge is crucial for Gag:RRE binding. Understanding this interaction could establish a physiologically relevant basis for RRE-Gag binding and provide insight when designing therapeutics that target HIV proteins or RNAs.

This work was funded, in part, by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, NIH/NIAID, CRNA, NIH/NIGMS, and a UMBC Undergraduate Research Award.


Recovering from Hypoxia-Induced Metabolic Suppression: Role of NDRG1 in Na+/K+/ATPase Restoration to the Plasma Membrane

Polina Kassir
Mentor: Rachel Brewster, Biological Sciences

Oxygen’s critical role in ATP synthesis makes ischemia (lack of oxygen delivery) a potentially fatal injury. Zebrafish embryos, however, can survive nearly fifty hours in a zero-oxygen (anoxic) environment by entering a state of metabolic suppression characterized by metabolic arrest of ATP-demanding processes, such as ion pumping driven by the Na+-K+-ATPase (NKA). The Brewster Lab has previously shown that the N-myc Downstream Regulated Gene 1 (NDRG1) mediates NKA downregulation in the embryonic kidney and ionocytes; I demonstrated that this response is reversible and hence adaptive. Here, I explore the question of whether Ndrg1a promotes the return of membrane NKA levels upon re-oxygenation, using the proximity ligation assay (PLA) to detect whether these proteins interact in situ. My preliminary data reveal that the PLA signal intensifies in the anterior kidney and ionocytes with increasing time post re-oxygenation, which is consistent with a potential role for Ndrg1a as a versatile adapter protein and environmental oxygen sensor. Identification of the subcellular compartments where these proteins interact will further our understanding of the role of Ndrg1a in hypoxia adaptation. Overall, this research may lead to novel therapeutic approaches for the mitigation of hypoxic and reoxygenation injuries.

This work was funded, in part, by the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Health/NICHD.


The Effects of Different Birth Rates Upon Industrial Output within Nigerian States

Nardos Kebede
Mentor: Cynthia Hody, Political Science

The effects of different birth rates upon industrial output within Nigerian states. The importance of this research to political science is in its ability to further the understanding of how Nigeria’s dramatic population increase will likely harm or aid its economic development, which is especially relevant as Nigeria remains on track to becoming the world’s second most populous country by the next century. This study includes a correlational research design with quantitative research, where the predictor variable is the birth rate in different Nigerian states and the criterion variable is the industrial output of the most prominent industries within those Nigerian states, measured by nominal gross domestic product. This quantitative research involves performing descriptive statistics, bivariate analysis, and an ordinary least squares regression. The quantitative analysis will then determine whether there exists a correlation between the birth rates and the industrial outputs of different Nigerian states, and if so, in what direction and to what magnitude.

This work was funded, in part, by UMBC McNair’s Spring Scholars Research Institute.


Crippling Defeat or New Opportunities? Evaluating the US Withdrawal from Afghanistan in American and Russian Print Media

Matthew Kelbaugh
Mentor: Vira Zhdanovych, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 sparked a flurry of intense coverage from both Russian and American print media to determine the cause and the consequences of the American defeat. After insisting upon keeping his predecessor Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban, which projected a deadline for the United States to leave Afghanistan, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, withdrew American troops from the country in the summer of 2021, leading to the country spiraling into chaos thanks to a renewed Taliban assault and the collapse of the US-backed government. As a result of the withdrawal, American and Russian print media discussed how the American defeat will impact the legacy of the United States within the global order, whether the evacuation was properly executed, and what role Joe Biden directly played in the disastrous unfolding of the drama. Ultimately, both source types agree that the withdrawal was not a positive development for the region and the world, and they to varying degrees portrayed the Biden administration as directly responsible for the chaos.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Investigating the Role of Rho1 in Bacterial Clearance in Drosophila Melanogaster

Nimra Khan, Karis Weisgerber, Marvin Onwukwe
Mentor: Jeff Leips, Biological Sciences

As we age, the ability of our immune system to respond effectively to infections and vaccines declines, a phenomenon called immunosenescence. While immunosenescence is a general hallmark of aging, little is known about the role of its individual genes. In this study we examined how the gene, Rho1, played in the immune response to bacterial infection in young and old, using Drosophila melanogaster, as a model system. The purpose of this experiment was to corroborate earlier findings in our lab, which identified Rho1 to play a role in the ability of the flies to clear infection at older age. In this experiment, we altered the expression of Rho1 in blood cells using a GAL4/UAS system. We used one and five week old virgin females, and injected them with streptomycin-resistant Escherichia coli. The flies were given 24 hours to clear the infection, and surviving flies were homogenized and plated on LB/agar plates containing streptomycin. Plates were incubated and the colonies grown on the plates were counted. The number of colonies grown determined how well the flies were able to clear the infection. With these results we can find new ways to improve or maintain function in the elderly population.


Targeting Influenza by Inhibiting Palmitoylation

Lillian Kidd, Brooke Nelson
Mentor: Paul Smith, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that continues to be a global health risk. Palmitoylation of the viral protein hemagglutinin allows its localization to the cell membrane, a process that plays a critical role in the viral infectivity of influenza. Given there are few effective treatments available, our research proposed the design and synthesis of palmitoyltransferase inhibitors as potential therapeutics for influenza. It has been shown that (hydroxyphenyl)benzoxazoles, particularly those containing hydrophobic substituents, are effective against various strains of influenza H1N1. Therefore, we hypothesized that molecules containing both (one) a zinc-binding moiety and (two) a long alkyl chain to mimic the palmitoyl group would be effective inhibitors of human palmitoyl transferases. To elucidate how different benzoxazole orientation and alkyl chain length affects the enzymatic mechanism, we proposed synthesis of two isomeric sets of inhibitors with these structural qualities. Progress toward the syntheses of our target compounds will be presented.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Nurturing Socialism: Krest’ianka and Feminine Identity During the Virgin Lands Campaign

Tyler Kruzshak
Mentor: Mirjam Voerkelius, History

Following Nikita Khrushchev’s rise to power in the Soviet Union, there was a major shift regarding agricultural policy in the form of the Virgin Lands Campaign. The Communist Party abandoned many aspects of agricultural collectivization which had resulted in a disheartened peasantry, as they sought to improve their relationship with and further integrate the peasantry into the Party’s goals. Additionally, following the Second World War, women became increasingly important in Soviet society, particularly in agriculture, due to the male death toll from the war. While historians have studied many aspects of the Virgin Lands Campaign, they have overlooked gendered imagery during the Campaign. In recognition of these facts, my work analyzes the journal Krest’ianka (“peasant woman”) to examine the ways the Communist Party sought to appeal to the female peasantry.
My research argues that Krest’ianka sought to redefine the Party’s historic, worker-centric representations of the peasantry to portray a more realistic, but idealized, nurturing, and maternal peasantry that was important for socialism as its own class. The Soviet Union is renowned for its rich visual culture, and my work analyzes how this crucial journal’s illustrations catered to and depicted peasant women with the aim of winning them over for building socialism.


The Analysis of Bacteriophage SoJo through DNA Extraction and Isolation via Host Bacteria Streptomyces Mirabilis

Soven Kumar
Mentor: Steven Caruso, Biological Sciences

SoJo is a bacteriophage that was isolated from a soil sample collected at Lake Elkhorn in Columbia, Maryland. Following extraction from the soil sample by washing with a phage buffer and filtering with a 0.22 um filter, the sample was plaque purified six times using the host bacteria Streptomyces mirabilis. When plated with host S. mirabilis, plaques were typically formed within 24 hours of incubation at 30°C. These plaques usually ranged from 2-3 mm in diameter and were turbid with smooth edges. Crude lysate was harvested from a nearly fully lysed plate of the host for TEM imaging and DNA extraction. Images from the TEM allowed us to conclude that Streptomyces phage SoJo has a non-contractile tail approximately 126 nm long, consistent with a siphoviral morphotype. Host range testing indicated that SoJo was only able to infect S. mirabilis when tested on a selection of Streptomyces species. Isolated phage genomic DNA was sequenced by the Pittsburgh Bacteriophage Institute using the Illumina MiSeq platform. SoJo has a 39kb circularly permuted genome with a GC base pair content of 71.5%, and is a member of the BC cluster.


Video Games as Cultural Artifacts: How Pathologic Communicates to Players the Trauma-Induced Nostalgia of Russians

Maria Kutishcheva
Mentor: Mary Laurents, History

Recent global events stress the importance of preservation and analysis of Russian political culture. Historically, Russian and Soviet citizens have had their political culture and civic life repressed throughout modern history, most typically through violence and oppression. However, during a brief time after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian citizens could, for a moment, freely their opinions. Pathologic was a video game released by developer Ice-Pick Lodge in 2006, during this very time of partial political freedom. As such, Pathologic could serve as a cultural and political relic of Russia. This paper explores video games as a storytelling medium that provides a player with a unique and interactive perspective that cannot be simulated with other forms of media. Content-based analysis of other video games reveals their ability to serve as cultural artifacts, such as through the video game Never Alone, as well as political commentary for current events, alluded to in the video game Papers, Please. In Pathologic, the player needs to save a town from a plague through the perspective of two main characters, “The Bachelor” and “The Haruspex”. Analysis of Pathologic would provide insight into the collective identity of the Russian people.


Creating a 2D Simulation of a Cluster of Cells Migrating in the Drosophila Melanogaster Egg Chamber

Meghan Kwon
Mentor: Bradford Peercy, Mathematics and Statistics

The phenomenon of clustered cell migration can be observed in numerous biological processes. The importance of this mechanism is demonstrated in development, tissue healing, and cancer metastasis. We have developed a model and implemented it numerically to simulate this movement of cells through an egg chamber of the Drosophila melanogaster. Cell migration was recently modeled imposing an adhesive, repulsive, volume, and spring force in the simulation. However, we observed flattening of the migration cells, a behavior that did not capture the appropriate biophysical behaviors for this process. To avoid cusp-like corners, we derived an equation for a curvature force. We are investigating ways to optimize the implementation of this force. The simulation requires a specific balance of forces which are controlled by various parameters. We are implementing Uncertainty and Sensitivity Analysis using the Latin Hypercube Sampling (LHS) and Partial Rank Correlation Coefficient (PRCC) in which we investigate our forces using the High Performance Computing Facility (HPCF) at UMBC. Parallel simulations are run in which a different set of parameters generated using the LHS method are tested. Our aim is to arrive at a range of values such that our forces most realistically capture the interactions occurring within the egg chamber.


What Effect Does a School University Partnership Have in Urban Baltimore City Public Schools?

Hilary Grace Lahoury, Amber Brock
Mentor: Susan Sonnenschein, Psychology

Many children, in urban school systems, especially those from families of color or low-income households lack adequate learning opportunities (Anyon, 2014), which affects their academic progress and success. A school-university partnership which included the Literacy Fellows Program (volunteers) was implemented between Fall 2019 and Spring 2022 in two local schools to improve first and second graders’ literacy skills. We interviewed classroom teachers (N= 14) and undergraduate volunteers (N= 26) to examine the implementation and effectiveness of the program. We considered the nature of instruction, relations between the teacher and volunteer, and relations with the students in the class. Teachers and volunteers were highly positive about the program. Volunteers stated they enjoyed working with students on literacy tasks. Their assistance allowed the teachers to give much needed individualized attention to more students than when volunteers were not there. Volunteers also helped manage behavioral issues, formed meaningful relationships with the students with whom they worked, and served as role models for them. Teachers mentioned how they benefitted from an extra set of hands for students to receive extra individualized attention and to improve their reading skills. Among negative comments were insufficient training and difficulties maintaining relations with students during COVID-19.


Methods of Parameter Identification and their Applications to In Vivo HIV Drug Models

Matthew Lastner, Mac Luu
Mentor: Kathleen Hoffman, Mathematics and Statistics

The US Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have pledged to end the HIV epidemic. Mathematical models of disease dynamics play an important role in understanding the impact of intervention methods. We focus on in vivo models of HIV represented by a system of ordinary differential equations and determine whether the model parameters can be uniquely identified from experimental data. These models capture the dynamics of CD4+ T-cells and virions in the presence of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). The identifiability of several HIV models was studied to determine the identifiable parameters such as drug efficacy rates in treatment models in the literature. Applying differential algebra, we determine whether a model’s parameters are structurally identifiable with respect to sample data without noise. If these models are structurally identifiable, Monte Carlo simulations and the Fisher Information matrix method are applied to determine if the parameters can be identified through stochastic data. An in vivo model with identifiable parameters can be coupled to a population level model in which infectivity of an individual is determined by their viral load. Through this coupling, this multiscale model can potentially impact the end of the HIV epidemic.

This work was supported by grant DMS-2000044 from the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Behavioral Analysis Pipeline for a T-Maze-Based Mouse Odor Choice Test

Naiyah Lewis, Farhan Augustine, Caylee Brown
Mentors: Weihong Lin, Biological Sciences; Tatsuya Ogura, Biological Sciences, UMBC

The ability to smell odorants is a function of the mouse olfactory system and is assessed by a behavioral assay, T-maze, with three arms. At the ends of the left and right arm are 35 mm Petri dishes containing solutions. Mice can explore the T-maze and sniff the Petri dishes for five minutes. The tests are recorded and require manual analysis to retrieve the number of sniffs the mouse takes, the duration of the sniff, and which side the mouse spends the mouse side on from the videos. Due to the many mice in a study, data analysis takes a long time. Therefore, we created a behavioral analysis pipeline that uses machine learning to analyze the T-maze videos. We created a training script using DeepLabCut (DLC), a software package, to track the X and Y positions of the mouse head, nose, and tail base in each frame. We also used SimBa (Simple Behavioral Analysis), a pipeline algorithm, to calculate the number of sniffs and the duration of each sniff. Using this pipeline, we have decreased the time needed to spend on each video and the number of people analyzing the videos, and it is as accurate as manual analysis.

This work was funded, in part, by the EDUCATE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) under award R25DA051338.


Exploration of Genetic Compensation in Algal Lipid Production Genes

Sophia Liberto, Robin Bridgman
Mentor: Stephen Miller, Biological Sciences

The microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii produces triacylglycerol (TAG) as a stress response to environmental conditions. TAG is of interest due to its easy conversion into biodiesel. We are investigating a mechanism of TAG compensation in C.reinhardtii mutants. To do this, the mutants of pdat and ∆vtc1/pdat are crossed with a upf3 mutant. UPF3, within the nonsense-mediated decay pathway (NMD), is proposed to influence genetic compensation (GC) via NMD. NMD is when a mutation induces mRNA degradation, and GC via NMD is when these fragments trigger the transcription of a homologous gene to maintain the initial function. Two genes of interest are phospholipid: diacylglycerol acyltransferase (PDAT) and the vacuolar transport chaperone (VTC). PDAT catalyzes the acyl-CoA-independent pathway of TAG synthesis; the VTC complex is involved in polyphosphate synthesis. Recently, we have determined PCR conditions to identify mutations and have progressed in mating upf3 with pdat and ∆vtc1/pdat. Once progeny with desired genotypes are identified, TAG gene expression will be measured by RT-qPCR and TAG content by thin-layer-chromatography (TLC). Our goal is to understand why TAG compensation was seen in ∆vtc1/pdat mutants and further the development of cost-effective algal strains for biofuel production.

This work was funded, in part, by the NSF REM supplement to NSF award 1332344.


Translanguaging Practices of Multilingual Language Professors in the University Classroom Settings

Adelide Lombardi, Adrian Widener, Cortney Jeans
Mentor: Irina Golubeva, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication

Translanguaging is the act of using more than one language within one utterance in order to eliminate barriers in communication. The purpose of our research is to investigate how often professors use translanguaging when communicating with their students in the university classroom settings. In our research project, we first conducted semi-structured interviews with multilingual language professors to gather information regarding their attitudes towards translanguaging. We then observed their classes to learn how often they translanguage. We found out that there tends to be more use of translanguaging in lower-level courses as opposed to higher-level courses, and most professors apply translanguaging practices for explanations of complex grammar and vocabulary. Also, there is a clear disparity in how professors perceived the frequency of their translanguaging in comparison to how often they actually used multiple languages. Overall, translanguaging is gauged to be helpful in the language-learning classroom with further research needed with a larger and more varied sample.


Measurements of Temperature and Blood Perfusion Rate During Surface Cooling to Evaluate Cooling Penetration in Shoulder

Jacob Lombardo, Md Jawed Naseem
Mentor: Liang Zhu, Mechanical Engineering

Shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff tears and tendonitis, have affected more than 600,000 patients each year in the US, and surgical repair is an effective treatment. After the surgery, doctors recommend placing a cooling pad on the skin of the surgical site to reduce inflammation and to alleviate pain. In this study, we performed experiments on three healthy volunteers to record temperatures and blood perfusion on skin surface under a cooling pad. The experimental data were used as inputs to a whole-body heat transfer model. Finally, tissue temperature fields were simulated to evaluate whether cooling penetrates into the repair site in the shoulder region. Based on the simulation results, the model predicts a cooling penetration depth (<27°C) as 19 mm to the deep tissue region when ice-water mixture serves as the coolant. This penetration depth should be sufficient to reach the surgical repair site of rotator cuff tears and tendonitis and its surrounding tissue region (~15 mm in depth). Effective cooling may temporarily reduce nerve activity via disrupting the transmission of pain signals. This would be a cost effective approach to decrease taking pain-killer medications, thus addressing opioid epidemic crisis.

This work was funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation UMBC S-STEM program.


Changing Who We Design For: Examining Inclusion And Accessibility In XR Experiences

Isabella Lopez
Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Mentors: Reginé Gilbert1, Blessing Emole1, Lauren Chun1, 1Technology, Culture and Society, NYU Tandon

It is said that extended reality (XR) is the future, but where do those with disabilities fit into the picture? Despite over one billion people, or 16% of the world’s population, experiencing some form of disability, accessibility is often an afterthought. Presently, there are no methods of evaluation for usability problems for either virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or mixed reality (MR) technology. This research project aims to examine accessibility and inclusion within these spaces, with the intention of developing a set of heuristic evaluations for designers and developers to use to make their XR experiences more inclusive and accessible. Through the use of literature reviews, participant observation, use cases, and usability testing, this set of guidelines will be created, along with a toolkit and examples of accessible XR experiences to demonstrate how these guidelines can be applied to various experiences. The outcomes of this project will enable designers and developers to put accessibility at the forefront of their XR creations, changing the view of which humans we decide to focus on.


Influence of Father Involvement on the Relationship Between Maternal Postpartum Depression and Infant Self-Regulation

Victoria Manzo, Sarah Chen
Mentor: Nanmathi Manian, Westat

The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between maternal postpartum depression and self-regulation used in five-month-old infants and the moderating influence of paternal involvement in the infant’s life and home setting. This current presentation focuses on a subset of 120 mother-infant pairs from the National Institute of Health Dyadic Interactions in Depressed and Non-Depressed Mothers With Their Infants study (NIH IRB # 02-CH-0278). Five-month-old infants of 60 mothers clinically diagnosed with depression were compared with those of 60 non-depressed mothers on infant self-regulation. Infant self-regulation was observed during a Lab-TAB startle task, where infants sat through three brief five second-periods of a hairdryer being turned on and off. Coding of self-regulation included observations of attentional strategies such as gaze aversion and self-soothing behaviors such as hand clasping or object manipulation. Father involvement data was based on self-reports and coded based on behaviors of responsibility, interaction/engagement, and accessibility. The results of this study will provide insight on the effect of familial factors such as parental mental health and caregiver support on the development of essential regulation skills.


Behavioral Tracking Reveals Sexual Conflict is Elevated in Opiliones Species with Reduced Nuptial Gifts

Emily Marinko, Tyler Brown1
1Biological Sciences, UMBC
Mentor: Mercedes Burns, Biological Sciences

Sexual conflict occurs when males and females of a species have differing reproductive optima for a trait or behavior. Sexual conflict is nearly ubiquitous in sexually reproducing species and may take many forms, but the most conspicuous is behavioral. Leiobunum Opiliones present an ideal system for studying behavioral sexual conflict, yet remain extremely understudied despite being the third most common arachnid order. Leiobunum Opiliones have two primary mating morphologies: sacculate species with nuptial gift penile sacs, and non-sacculate species that lack nuptial gift penile sacs. We tested whether non-sacculate Leiobunum species would show higher levels of sexual conflict behaviors than sacculate species. We collected the sacculate species L. bracchiolum and L. aldrichi and the non-sacculate species L. vittatum and L. euserratipalpe from central Maryland and recorded mating trial videos. These videos were then scored for sexual conflict behaviors including female body angling and clasping time. It was found that non-sacculate males spent significantly more time in contact with conspecific females than sacculate males, more time clasping the females, more time guarding the females, were closer on average to females, and the non-sacculate females had higher body angling. Therefore, non-sacculate Opiliones showed significantly higher levels of sexual conflict than sacculate Opiliones.

This work was funded, in part, by the Washington Biologists’ Field Club.


Empowering Learners in Foreign Language Acquisition

Erlinda Martinez
Mentor: Linda Oliva, Education

This study investigated interventions to improve the ability of Spanish I students to express information in writing about themselves, their families, and places in the target language, Spanish. The participants were 25 high school students from an urban school. At the end of each instructional quarter, students demonstrated their ability to effectively communicate in the target language through an interpersonal writing task. Students were able to compose brief paragraphs about themselves within the specific curricular focused themes, incorporating specific grammar and vocabulary they had learned throughout the quarter. All student assignments and activities focused on providing explicit instruction and close reading practice for determining the meaning of words, phrases, and structures as they are used in context. Students examined multiple sources of simple texts, including maps and images, to support their analysis of what the text explicitly communicated along with being able to draw inferences from the text. Students examined their own performance data and devised personal goals for improvement in identified areas.


Improving Student Test Scores Through Pedagogy

Christopher Mavronicolas
Mentor: Cheryl North, Education

The purpose of the research was to investigate the twenty-four participants in an English class and their progress with these key educational objectives: presenting evidence, providing central ideas/themes, the interaction of ideas, vocabulary and language, structure, and point of view. Participants were given a pre-test that assessed their skills in these key educational objectives and were scored using the “ELA Test Rubric”. The teacher helped students improve these educational objectives by practicing the different objectives through assignments and readings by properly citing textual evidence, structuring ideas, and finding themes and figurative devices. Five months later, the participants were given the same structured test mid-year. Their scores for both tests were categorized into three groups: below/approaching seventh-grade level, grade level, and above grade level. The research results showed that all participants increased their performance by either, moving up categories, improving their score, or improving a sub-score in one of the key educational objectives. This research, along with other studies, was used to assess the effectiveness of teaching strategies, determine readiness, and determine where improvement is needed in the teaching curriculum.


The Effect of Selective Attention on Pain Tolerance in Children

Kaylee McDonald
Mentors: Anna Morningstar, Carly Berger, MA, Danielle Griffin, MA, Brianna Jehl, MA, Lynnda Dahlquist, PhD

Selective attention, the ability to focus on a specific stimulus, may facilitate better responses to acute pain in children by helping them focus attention on something other than pain. Maturation of selective attention may explain why, as children get older, their tolerance to pain increases. This study tested whether better selective attention and age predict higher pain tolerance. 36 children aged 6 to 13 years (M = 9.00, SD = 1.72, 50% male) completed a selective attention task and pain tolerance task. To evaluate selective attention, children completed a matching motor control game. Pain tolerance was assessed using a cold pressor test, where children placed their non-dominant hand in 7 °C water for as long as possible. Age was significantly correlated with selective attention, r = -.530, p .05). Future research should continue to examine inhibitory control, as it has the potential to be applied to childhood pain management in pediatric settings.


Design Of Heavy Lift UAV Airframe Using Additive Manufacturing

Lani McGuire, Ayush Khurana, Jordan Poehler, Jamie Gurganus, Jacob McCallum
Mentors: E. F. Charles LaBerge, Jamie Gurganus, Mechanical Engineering

This project is part of a larger group effort to design a heavy lift unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and in particular, explores the use of commercially available additive manufacturing methods such as 3D printing to build the airframe of the UAV and payload carrying mechanism. In today’s world, UAVs are used for a variety of purposes such as agriculture, surveillance, delivery, recreation, and military activities. The current conflict in Ukraine has spurred interest in the development of new UAVs that are able to carry out missions effectively while minimizing loss of resources and maximizing accessibility of manufacturing. In order to prove the viability of using commercially available additive manufacturing technology to build a heavy lift UAV, we have designed and printed a hexacopter airframe using the widely available Ender-3 3D printer. We will verify the feasibility of this method of manufacturing and design by conducting strength and durability tests on the frame and payload mechanism. Additionally, we will analyze the functionality of the UAV as a whole by conducting flight testing in conjunction with Controls and Automation, Navigation, and Propulsion teams.

This work was funded, in part, by Northrop Grumman.


PHunt – The Hunt For Promoters In Bacterial Genomes

Emmanuel Mekasha
Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Mentors: Ivan Erill, Elia Mascolo, Biological Sciences

Promoters are regions of DNA where the transcription of adjacent genes can be initiated. Gene transcription requires specific binding of the RNA polymerase holoenzyme as well as the unwinding of the DNA double helix. To facilitate the process, promoters tend to have sequences that are less thermodynamically stable than nearby regions. Identification of promoter regions is fundamental to our understanding of how gene expression is regulated. Many bioinformatics programs predict promoter regions by taking in information regarding the binding preferences of the transcriptional machinery; however, designing generic programs capable of finding promoters across different organisms remains an open challenge. Based on the PhiSite software, we have created a generic promoter hunter program that combines predictions of RNA polymerase binding sites with a measure of the thermodynamic instability of DNA. In this project, we put forward a statistically proper way to account for the role that the Gibbs Free Energy of melting (Gmelting) plays in promoters, and we demonstrate that it outperforms the available methods that inspired our work.

This work was funded, in part, by Merck.


Investigating The Neurological Links Associated With Immunity Using Drosophila Melanogaster As A Model Organism

JR Mkpasi
Mentor: Jeff Leips, Biological Sciences

Central nervous and immune systems respond interactively to infection. However, knowledge of genes that regulate this interaction is incomplete. In a previous study, Nicotinamide-mononucleotide adenylyltransferase (Nmnat) was identified as a gene affecting age-dependent immunity. Prior work has shown that Nmnat alleviates age-related health declines. Nmnat is evolutionarily conserved and plays a neural-protective role, apparently linking nervous and immune systems. My research objective was to investigate how reduced Nmnat expression in the brain affects age-related immunity of the fruit-fly, Drosophila melanogaster, an important model organism. I used the GAL4-UAS system to knockdown Nmnat expression in the brain, which was tested on infection-clearance abilities relative to a control with normal Nmnat expression. I aged one group for five weeks, and another for one. Flies from each genotype (Nmnat knockdown and control), age, and gender were infected with Escherichia coli. Twenty-four hours post-infection, flies from both genotypes were homogenized and plated to determine infection levels, testing for the knockdown’s effects on immunity. This study addresses knowledge on genetic mechanisms that may connect age-related declines in the brain and immunity. My research is meant to encourage more work on this topic so that treatments can be developed to reduce these deleterious effects of aging.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Presence Of A Key Nest Predator In Puerto Rican Oriole Territories

Bukola Molake
Mentor: Kevin Omland, Biological Sciences

The Puerto Rican Oriole (Icterus portoricensis) is a songbird species found only on the island of Puerto Rico. Predators of the species are unknown because orioles are significantly understudied. Our team traveled to Puerto Rico for two weeks in January 2023. We analyzed the distribution of a potential nest predator, the black rat (Rattus rattus). Rats are key nest predators for many island bird species. We established study sites within three habitat types: limestone forests, agricultural areas, and coastal forests. Our team placed wax baits and trail cameras in eight oriole territories to collect data on rat abundance. We found evidence the rats were present in each habitat type. Rats chewed on the baits in every oriole territory. Also, trail cameras recorded rats in all three habitats. We conclude that black rats could be nest predators in each habitat type. We plan to further our research to determine if rats predate on oriole eggs or young. We will place cameras at oriole nests to document black rats’ role in Puerto Rican Oriole nest predation.

Funding by NSF International Research Experience for Students.


Impact Of Bias On Birdsong Research: Male And Female Syllable Categorization In Orchard Orioles

D’Juan Moreland
Mentor: Kevin Omland, Biological Sciences

Much of birdsong research focused primarily on male song. Recently researchers have documented that most songbird species have female song, and now more attention is addressing the knowledge gap between male and female birdsong. For example, little is known about the form and function of female syllables as compared to males. We categorized syllables of male and female Orchard Orioles to better understand the function of song in females. We first categorized a syllable repertoire for males and females. We used 20 males and 16 females and selected three songs from each for syllable categorization. Using sound analysis software Raven Pro, we divided each song into syllables and visually categorized and labeled them into syllable types. We will then conduct a statistical comparison of syllable similarity between males and females which will provide insight into the function of female song. Ultimately, we hope to compare syllable use in the local Orchard Oriole to syllable use in the tropical Bahama Oriole. This research provides greater insight into an area of birdsong research that was long neglected.


The Relationship Between Pain Tolerance And Inhibitory Control

Anna Morningstar
Mentors: Carly Berger, MA, Danielle Griffin, MA, Brianna Jehl, MA, Lynnda Dahlquist, PhD

Inhibitory control, or the ability to override an initial impulse in favor of an alternate response, plays an important role in managing pain. This study aims to explore the relationship between inhibitory control and pain tolerance. It is hypothesized that children with increased inhibitory control will demonstrate better pain tolerance than children with lower inhibitory control. To measure pain tolerance, children completed a cold pressor test where they were asked to keep their hand in cold water for as long as possible. To measure inhibitory control, children completed the Stroop Color Word Test. An interference score was calculated for the Stroop Test by subtracting the time to read the second list from the third list. The sample included 39 children ages 6 to 13 years (M=8.92, SD=1.69; 53.8 percent male). Age was significantly correlated with pain tolerance (r=.438, p=.005), time to complete Stroop test (r=-.475, p=.002), and interference score (r=-.318, p=.048). Inhibitory control was not significantly related to pain tolerance (p > .05). Future research should continue to examine inhibitory control, as it has the potential to be applied to childhood pain management in pediatric settings.


Investigating Brain Regions Supporting Contextual Reward Learning

Sara Motamedi
Mentors: Tara LeGates, Biological Sciences; Anthony Rosenthal, Biological Sciences, UMBC

Making associations between rewarding stimuli and the circumstances in which they are encountered is important for obtaining future rewards. However, the neuronal mechanisms behind this relationship are poorly understood. Our goal is to examine hippocampus-nucleus accumbens (NAc) synapse activity in mice during contextual reward learning tasks using calcium-based fiber photometry. To test the feasibility of our photometry technique, we expressed the Ca2+ indicator GCaMP in the NAc and implanted fibers to monitor Ca2+ dynamics changes in the NAc. We used a brief stimulus to illustrate stimulus-induced Ca2+ transients. We also conducted a separate study using sucrose preference to evaluate motivation in mice. We deprived them of food and water, habituated them to a water spout, and placed them in an apparatus with two chambers, one containing a spout with 10% sucrose solution and the other with water, to measure how much water and sucrose they consumed and the amount of time they spent in each chamber. Understanding the reward pathway in the brain could have clinical implications for developing therapeutic measures for depression and addiction.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Increasing Student Ability To Collect And Analyze Scientific Data

Ethan Na
Mentor: Jonathan Singer, Education

A skill that is seen as a requirement in all scientific disciplines is the ability to collect and analyze data. Fields of science use these skills to reach a deeper understanding of scientific concepts. This study follows the progression of 47 high school students in two Biology classes. Over the course of 3 quarters, students participated in a series of performance tasks such as labs, simulations and analysis of data from reputable sources. During these various activities students were instructed on how to determine independent and dependent variables as well as, analyzing and interpreting bar and line graphs. Student learning associated with data collections and analysis was determined through a repeated measure design using a holistic rubric developed by the county school district. The goal was to have 100% of students in the Biology classrooms to show growth in the mastery of collecting and analyzing scientific data. Growth was determined by an increase in one rubric level by the end of the study period. Preliminary findings have shown that more than 50% of students have increased by at least one rubric level by the mid-year results.


Understanding Intracellular GPR162 Signaling

Sibani Nachadalingam, Shradha Darira
Mentor: Laurie Sutton, Biological Sciences

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest group of transmembrane receptors that transduce extracellular signals into the cell. Despite pharmaceutical relevance, a group of GPCRs, known as orphan GPCRS (oGPCRS), which have unknown endogenous ligands, remains poorly characterized. There is a big effort in studying these oGPCRs because they are significant in certain physiological processes and as drug targets. GPR162 is one such orphan GPCR that is expressed in the central nervous system, specifically in areas linked to hedonic tone and some reward-related behaviors. Currently, this receptor has no way of being activated since the ligand is unknown. A common approach to studying oGPCRs is by using a chimera where the exofacial domains (Extracellular loops, N terminus, and Transmembrane regions) of a well-studied GPCR and the intracellular domains (Intracellular loops and C terminus) of GPR162. This chimera is then transfected into HEK29∆3 cells and activated with a drug, and is used in a Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) Assay. A BRET Assay measures the activation of the GPCR, which can help identify the G protein that couples to GPR162. Once we identify the intracellular signaling, we can understand the importance this GPR162 plays in physiological processes.


Effects of APPL Mutation Gene on Male Drosophila

Simeon Nelson
Mentor: Fernando Vonhoff, Biological Sciences

The Appl gene encodes a protein that is similar to one found in humans, the amyloid precursor protein APP, which has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. We hypothesized that appl is involved in neurodevelopment and that the deletion of the appl gene (appld) would cause an increase in the effectiveness of the olfactory system in Drosophila melanogaster. Three chamber T-maze setups were used as olfactory assays. A central chamber containing ten flies led to the decision-making of flies to enter a chamber with an attractive or repulsive odor, or a control chamber. We used scents that are known to be attractive, apple cider vinegar, and repulsive, benzaldehyde, and recorded their responses. The flies utilized were control W1118 and Appld mutant male flies. Regardless of concentration or scent applied, W1118 flies had higher response rates than the mutant male flies. Appld flies do respond to the stimulus at rates comparable to W1118 flies however the response rate is lower or the preference index is altered. This means there is an observable change in their olfactory system during development. Future studies will focus on identifying the neuronal cell types and anatomical features that require Appl function for proper network function.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Creating 2D and 3D Mathematical Models of Cell Boundaries within the Drosophila Melanogaster Egg Chamber

Julia Neylan
Mentor: Bradford Peercy, Mathematics and Statistics

Cell migration is essential for various biological mechanisms such as wound healing and cancer metastasis. An experimental model for this phenomenon is the Drosophila melanogaster, where a cluster of cells migrates through the egg chamber during embryonic development. We seek to accurately capture the geometry of this model in two and three dimensions to simulate this process computationally. Using high-resolution microscopy, we have acquired a series of 2D images of the egg chamber which are then used to construct a 3D model through automatic rendering. The reconstruction can then be brought into MAYA where non-realistic holes can be filled in and patched. Afterward, the geometry was imported into Matlab where we worked on creating accurate slices of the egg chamber in 2D. We manually computed the slices in 2D from the 3D data sets, the next steps being to automate this process so that any egg chamber can be sliced along any desired plane. The findings of my research will assist in creating a simulation including that of chemoattractant in the orders of magnitude smaller extracellular space we have worked to capture also using Matlab.

This work was funded in part by NSF #1953423 to BEP and MSG.


The Role of Religious Discrimination and Religious Socialization in Muslim American Emerging Adults’ Mental Health

Melissa Nguyen, Hatice Gursoy, M.A.1
1Department of Psychology, UMBC
Mentor: Charissa Cheah, Psychology

Muslim American emerging adults (MAEA) are discriminated against for their religious beliefs, and these messages of being a socially devalued religious minority group can put them at risk for mental health difficulties (Balkaya et al., 2019). However, maternal religious socialization (MRS), which conveys knowledge and pride about their religious group, may buffer MAEA against the negative effects of religious discrimination (RD). This study aimed to examine: (1) the relation between religious discrimination experiences and Muslim American emerging adults’ depressive symptoms, and (2) whether maternal religious socialization moderated this association. MAEA (N=282, Mage =21.09, SDage =1.66; 69 female) reported their experiences of RD, MRS and depressive symptoms through an online survey. Moderation analyses showed that after controlling for age and gender, MAEA’s RD experiences were positively associated with their reported depressive symptoms (b=1.08, SE=.28, p=.0002) but only at low (b=0.48, SE=.10, p .05. The findings were consistent with established trends, revealing that as children get older, their task-switching ability and acute pain tolerance increase. This suggests a developmental underpinning to pain inhibition and EF capabilities and future research should continue to explore these relations.


The Role Of Sex And Executive Function On Pain Tolerance

Tiffany Nguyen, Ana Moreno, Bethel Ghezai, Daisy Youngmann
Mentors: Lynnda Dahlquist, Psychology, Brianna Jehl, Carly Berger, Danielle Griffin, Psychology

Executive functioning (EF), the ability to plan and organize information, likely affects pain management; however, there is limited knowledge regarding the role of task-switching, an EF dimension, on pediatric acute pain tolerance. It is hypothesized that participants with better task-switching abilities will have higher pain tolerance, regardless of sex. 43 school-aged children between the ages of 6 and 13 years (M = 9.05, SD = 1.71) participated in the study. To evaluate task-switching, children completed the Trail Making Task (TMT) by connecting alternating dots in numerical and alphabetical order. To assess pain tolerance, children underwent a cold-pressor task, and kept their non-dominant hand in 7 °C water for as long as possible. There was a significant correlation between age and pain tolerance, r = .464, p = .01, and between age and Trails B raw score, r = -.646, p = .01. There was no significant relation between sex or task-switching and pain tolerance, p > .05. The findings were consistent with established trends, revealing that as children get older, their task-switching ability and acute pain tolerance increase. This suggests a developmental underpinning to pain inhibition and EF capabilities and future research should continue to explore these relations.


Photolysis of Fluorescent Dissolved Organic Matter and Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Wastewater-Impacted Streams

Mary Nolan, Anna McClain, Jahir Antonio Batista Andrade
Mentor: Lee Blaney, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

Surface water provides drinking water for humans, habitat for animals, and space for recreational activities; therefore, wastewater infrastructure failures can have deleterious effects on water quality. Wastewater exfiltration (i.e., wastewater leaking out of sewer pipes) and sanitary sewer overflows (i.e., release of untreated sewage due to heavy rainfall, flushable wipes, and fats, oils, and grease) are two common issues that introduce raw wastewater and contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) into urban streams. The objective of my project was to examine the fate of wastewater-derived contaminants during photolysis to validate the use of fluorescent dissolved organic matter (FDOM) parameters as indicators of CECs in urban streams. We collected real municipal and septic wastewater samples from Baltimore City and County and analyzed them for FDOM and CECs. The FDOM composition and concentration, as well as the CEC levels, were monitored during photodegradation at 365 nm, which simulates natural sunlight. The kinetics of degradation of compounds within FDOM and of CECS were compared to determine which FDOM parameters degrade at similar or slower rates than CECs, an outcome that facilitates their use as wastewater indicators.


Characterizing the Distribution of GADD45b, a Candidate Mediator of Hypoxia-adaptation

Arian Nyandjo
Mentor: Rachel Brewster, Biological Sciences

Oxygen fulfills a critical role in cellular respiration, and when it becomes limited a change in metabolic priorities occurs. Anoxic (zero oxygen) conditions can cause cell death and tissue damage in ischemic stroke or can drive diseases such as chronic kidney disease. Zebrafish embryos can survive prolonged periods of anoxia by arresting energy-demanding processes such as development and cell cycle progression, presumably preserving ATP, a response termed metabolic suppression. Genes whose transcription increases under hypoxia are likely to play an adaptive role. RNA-seq provides information on the transcriptome of a cell and using this approach the Brewster lab identified a gene, gadd45ba, that is upregulated in response to anoxia. My research goals are to 1)examine the protein expression of this gene and 2) understand the role of gadd45b in hypoxia -tolerance. I performed whole-mount immunolabeling on embryos raised under normoxic and anoxic conditions, using an antibody directed against Gadd45b. My findings showed that anoxia causes an apparent deployment of gadd45b-expression cells from the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niches into the vasculature. These findings show a dynamic change in protein distribution during anoxia and reoxygenation. My future experiment will be knocking down both paralogs and examining morphants during post-anoxic reoxygenation.


The Flows and Frictions of Otaku Desire: Sexuality, Sociality, and Movement at the Anime Convention Otakon

Paul Ocone
Mentors: Bambi Chapin, Sociology, Anthropology, and Public Health, UMBC; Nicholas Welcome, Sociology, Anthropology, and Public Health, UMBC; Julie Oakes, Honors College, UMBC; Tomoko Hoogenboom, MLLI, UMBC

Anime fan conventions are spaces that are infused with desire and affect for the media of anime and manga and the characters within. They are also places where sexuality and erotic media are highly visible. This research sought to understand the role of desire and sexuality in anime conventions and in anime fandom in general through an ethnographic study of the convention Otakon, held in Washington, D.C. each summer. My methods began with several days of intensive fieldwork at Otakon, which included participant observation and short informal interviews. I then conducted formal, long-form interviews with seven participants. I also used archival research to understand the historical context and development of anime conventions. This study demonstrates ways that desire and affect, both sexual and non-sexual, permeate the physical and social space of conventions in multifaceted and interrelated ways. It explores complex relationships among media, desire, affect, cultural capital, sociality, physical space, movement, and social acceptability at Otakon. By exploring these relationships, this research advances the understanding of fan cultures in general and speaks to broader scholarly conversations about media, affect, space, and cultural norms.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and through a summer research award from the UMBC Honors College.


Effect of Utilizing Weekly Structured Review Sessions on Student Performance in IB Mathematics Classrooms

Siven Odenwald
Mentor: Christopher Rakes, Education

This research project focuses on instruction to improve student summative scores and in-school academic resource usage in one class of 30 inner-city high school students enrolled in an International Baccalaureate (IB) Mathematical Analysis I course. The class is composed of primarily sophomores and more female than male students, with diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. As students progress through IB mathematics programs, it is crucial they process and interpret new information quickly to gain an understanding of current and future content. With the program’s brisk pace, students may struggle to fully digest information before the course moves to the next concept. The research question for this study was: To what degree do weekly formalized in-class review sessions and weekly quiz structures improve student learning and work completion? Throughout the study, students engaged in weekly in-class review sessions to practice course material discussed over one week, culminating in a quiz on the discussed content. Student summative results, formative completion rate, and frequency of usage of in-school resources such as peer-tutoring and coach class will be collected and reviewed for changes based upon the implementation of the structures review sessions. Preliminary data observed student formative completion increased 226% after intervention strategies were implemented.


Regulator of G- Protein Signaling 7 (RGS7) Modulation of Kappa Opioid Receptor Signal-Induced Pruritus in Mice

Gloria Ogordi, Alyson Blout
Mentor: Laurie Sutton, Biological Sciences

Kappa Opioid Receptors (KOR), are expressed throughout the central nervous system. They have been implicated to suppress and promote itch-specific neural pathways, and KOR agonists were identified as novel targets for pruritus. However, the pharmacological use of KOR agonists are limited due to their aversive side effects. It’s also unclear which KOR downstream signaling pathway is involved in the modulation of itch. KORs have the potential to signal with G proteins and Betaarrestins. Regulator of G-protein signaling family 7 proteins (Rgs7) are widely expressed in the cerebrum and have the ability to switch off the signaling of G-protein subunits in KORs. Therefore, we utilized Rgs7 knockout and wildtype mice to analyze the effects of KOR downstream signaling and regulation of itch. For the purpose of this experiment, a litter of mice underwent an itch protocol and were administered an injection of Nor-BNI; a KOR antagonist used as an itch agent in previous studies. Behavioral analysis was conducted to examine the amount times the mice would itch at the site of injection. Findings will help establish a better understanding of KOR modulation and could lead to future research on the development of better therapies for pruritus, and several other physiological processes.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Health Disparities In LGBTQ And Transmen Communities Regarding PrEP Uptake In The USA And Mexico

Izzy Okojie
Mentor: Andrea Kalfoglou, Public Health

The research question was to identify reasons behind the low pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake by minority groups, transgendered people, MSM, and intravenous drug users in the US and Mexico. These populations have historically been marginalized, and they are high-risk groups for HIV infection. The purpose of this literature review was to identify barriers to the use of PrEP within these populations. This research supported the HIV Vaccine Trial Network. I analyzed selected articles in order to answer the research question. The results show that the low uptake of PrEP is due to a lack of awareness and education, stigma, discrimination, and limited access to healthcare services. The review also found that transgendered people face additional barriers to accessing PrEP, including a lack of trust in the medical community and the high cost of medication. The study findings can inform the development of targeted educational campaigns and interventions to increase PrEP uptake and reduce HIV transmission in these populations. Comprehensive and culturally sensitive approaches are needed to promote PrEP uptake and ensure that marginalized communities have access to a means of reducing the risk of HIV transmission.


Targeting Insulin Receptor in Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer

Oluwatomisin Olajide
Mentor: Jingran Cao M.S1, Douglas Yee MD2
1Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, 2Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

In the United States, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the cause of death among all the other cancers. In women, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer accounts for 40% of breast cancers in women and is mainly treated using endocrine therapeutics such as tamoxifen. Under normal conditions, estrogen, a growth factor created primarily by ovaries, will bind to the estrogen receptor (ER), activating downstream responses such as cell growth and proliferation. Tamoxifen, a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), disrupts the estrogen and estrogen receptor interactions, ultimately downregulating cell survivorship and growth. However, ER+ breast cancer patients will develop resistance to tamoxifen after 3 to 5 years of treatment. This resistance led to the development of the drug, AKS-130, a therapeutic that explicitly targets insulin receptors (IR) to help reduce tumor growth without disrupting normal glucose homeostasis. My research this summer is to investigate the growth-inhibitory effects of AKS-130 in ER+ breast cancer cells.

This research was funded, in part, by a grant to UMBC from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Pre-college and Undergraduate.


Polymer Microemulsions For Delivery Of Poorly-Soluble Drugs To Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells

Brandon Onochie
Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering
Mentors: Chun Wang1, Marcus Flowers2, 1University Of Minnesota, 2Biomedical Engineering Department, University of Minnesota

Biopolymers are unique in the way their structures, whether individual or combined with one another, are compatible with living organisms as well as other biological components. Typically, medicinal drugs cannot be directly inserted within the human body due to the aqueous nature of its blood. We aimed to develop a manipulative biopolymer consisting of both hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties as a way of enabling sufficient drug delivery within humans, specifically those with pancreatic cancer. Our model consists of a specific pancreatic cancer line, AsPc-1 cells. The biopolymer is uniquely comprised of a combination of poly (ε-caprolactone) as well as polyethylene glycol. The newly formed polymer is referred to as PA20. The utilization of these polymers collectively resulted in a chemically-based structural change that permits the entrance of hydrophilic drugs within certain aqueous environments of the human body to target the AsPc-1 cancer line. We hypothesize that with a poorly water-soluble compound, referred to as Nile Red, serving as a staining indicator of solubility, the potential effectiveness of the delivery of a drug within this certain pancreatic cancer line can be determined. Our future aim is to monitor the adequate solubility of this microemulsion through the utilization of Nile Red.


Investigating The Mechanisms Behind Large-scale CCTG DNA Repeat Contractions In Budding Yeast

Marvin Onwukwe
Biological Sciences
Mentors: Jane Kim1, Luis Hernandez1, David Papp1, 1California State University San Marcos

Microsatellite regions are areas that have simple repeat sequences of DNA. We concentrate on microsatellite regions consisting of CCTG tetranucleotide repeat sequences. The instability of these microsatellite regions can cause a heritable muscular disease called type 2 myotonic dystrophy (DM2). We’re studying the mechanisms behind the large-scale contractions of these unstable regions by performing knockouts of target genes we hypothesize are involved in the repair processes invoked from the instability of these microsatellites. The knockouts are generated via a direct replacement method, integrating our drug resistance selectable marker in the model organism’s genome (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Successful integration disallows phenotypic expression of the target genes mre11, exo1, rmi1. Observation of large-scale contraction rates was achieved by a fluctuation assay plating on selective and rich media for concurrent colonies. Preliminary analysis of the mre11 knockout, a gene that encodes an exonuclease important in the DNA resection step of homologous recombination, showed no significant difference in contraction rate compared to the wild-type control. Short-term future directions involve completing the experimental progression for the rest of the knockouts of our candidate genes. In the long-term, we hope our work serves as a basis for potential therapeutic means of treating DM2 by inducing large-scale contractions.

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Grant. Research in the Kim lab is supported by NIH SCORE Grant SC3 GM127198 and the CSUSM College of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.


Role of Ndrg1a in Mediating Hypoxia Adaptive Responses in the Inner Ear

Andrew Opincar
Mentor: Rachel Brewster, Biological Sciences

Hypoxic exposure has been linked to disorders of the inner ear, such as hearing loss and tinnitus. The three semicircular canals of the inner ear detect motion, gravity, and auditory signals from fluid flow against marginal cells of the canals. Perturbations in the activity of the Na+, K+-ATPase (NKA) pump in the inner ear affects fluid balance and, therefore, may underlie the sensory malfunctions causing Ménière’s disease. Hence, the ability to modulate NKA activity may lead to novel therapeutic options for treating inner ear disorders. NKA consumes copious amounts of ATP to establish ion gradients. Using the model of hypoxia-tolerant zebrafish embryos, the Brewster laboratory uncovered that stress response gene N-myc Downstream Regulated Gene 1a (Ndrg1a) degrades NKA in the kidney under hypoxia to preserve ATP supplies. Furthermore, in response to prolonged anoxia, we observed that Ndrg1a is upregulated severalfold in the otic vesicle, the embryonic inner ear, and NKA and Ndrg1a appear to spatially overlap in this organ. Based on this, I hypothesize that Ndrg1a suppresses NKA function in the otic vesicle. I will test whether the two proteins physically interact in the otic vesicle epithelium and investigate whether depleting Ndrg1a augments NKA levels.

This research was funded, in part, by a grant to UMBC from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Pre-college and Undergraduate Science Education Program.


An Exploration of the Relationship Between Local Economic Conditions and Hospital Prices in North Dakota

Yetunde Oshagbemi
Mentors: Morgan Henderson, The Hilltop Institute; Morgane Mouslim, The Hilltop Institute

In 2020, healthcare spending increased by 9.7%, a significant increase from the 4.3% growth rate in 2019 (AMA, n.d). Also in 2020, the median household income decreased by 2.9% from the median household income in 2019– the first statistically significant decline since 2011 (Census.gov, n.d). As hospital costs continue to rise and income inequality continues to be apparent in our society, hospital price transparency has become a key topic for policymakers and healthcare stakeholders. On January 1st, 2021, the federal government implemented the Hospital Price Transparency rule requiring most operating hospitals in the United States to provide accessible information on standard charges. Prior to this regulation, this data was confidential. This paper has two aims: using newly available hospital price transparency data from all hospitals in North Dakota, we will (1) investigate the association between hospital gross charges and local economic conditions, and (2) investigate the association between payer-negotiated prices and local economic conditions. While the analysis for this study is still in progress, this study will contribute to research on class stratification discrimination within the healthcare space, and we hope results from this study will inform policy discussions on the implementation of hospital charges.

This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Build and Broaden Grant.


Understanding The Link Between Blood Flow Dynamics And Atherosclerosis

Anita Osoh
Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Mentor: Guillermo Garcia-Cardena, Harvard Medical School

Atherosclerosis and its clinical consequences, heart attacks, and strokes, are the global leading cause of death. Atherosclerotic lesions arise in specific areas of the arterial tree in spite of the presence of systemic risk factors (e.g., hypercholesterolemia). These observations suggest that local hemodynamic forces present in these “hot spots” play a substantial role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. To study the effects of hemodynamic forces on endothelial cells, in vitro flow devices have been developed, but most can only perform a limited number of tests. We have developed a new high-throughput flow system that can perform 96 flow experiments simultaneously, and the goal of this project is to replicate in vivo blood flow conditions using this system. I tested the functionality of the system by exposing human umbilical vein endothelial cells to atheroprotective flow, atheroprone flow, or no flow for 24 hours and performing morphological assays. The results showed some variability in the effects of atheroprone and atheroprotective flow on endothelial cells, but no mechanical damage was observed. Future directions include quantitatively testing the system’s performance and assessing the expression levels of Kruppel-like Factor-2, which is upregulated only by atheroprotective flow.

This work was funded in part by the NIGMS grant #R25HL121029-08.


Role of Ndrg1b in Regulating Brain Development

Gabriel Otubu
Mentor: Rachel Brewster, Biological Sciences

For this project, I studied how N-myc Downstream Regulated Gene 1b (ndrg1b) regulates neurulation in zebrafish. In humans, neurulation, a process whereby a flat epithelium converges to shape the neural tube, can cause congenital disorders when impaired. To study neurulation, I used zebrafish embryos whose external development facilitates live imaging of early embryogenesis. Our lab discovered the knockdown of ndrg1b causes severe morphological defects, including incomplete forebrain closure, that appear similar to N-cadherin(N-cad), a cell-cell adhesion molecule, mutants. Based on these observations, I hypothesize that Ndrg1b promotes forebrain development through N-cad regulation. I tested this hypothesis by utilizing techniques, such as in situ hybridization, to examine the spatial and temporal distribution of Ndrg1b, and the developmental anomalies associated with its depletion. I discovered that ndrg1b is ubiquitously expressed in pre-24 hours post-fertilization (hpf) embryos and locally expressed in post-24 hpf embryos, consistent with signs of ndrg1b’s potential role in neurulation. I found that the forebrain closure defects in Ndrg1b morphants are likely caused by earlier neural convergence defects similar to those observed in N-cad mutants. These findings increase our basic understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control neurulation and potential genetic risk factors for human neural tube birth defects.

This research was funded, in part, by a grant to UMBC from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Pre-college and Undergraduate Science Education Program.


Characterizing a New Cell Line Derived from a Transgenic Mouse Model of Lethal Prostate Cancer

Emmanuela Otunuga, Alexander Chin1, Alexander Gwizdala1
1Department of Biological Sciences, UMBC
Mentor: Charles Bieberich, Biological Sciences

Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. men. The BMPC (Hoxb13-MYC|Hoxb13-Cre|PtenFl/Fl) transgenic mouse model of PCa develops tumors that are histologically similar to human PCa. BMPC mice harbor transgenes whose consequences are prostatic overexpression of the proto-oncogene MYC and loss of tumor suppressor PTEN, driver events in lethal human PCa that confer poor prognosis. We harvested BMPC mouse tumors, processed them into single cell suspensions, and grew single tumor cells into individual cell lines. Interplay between the immune system and tumors is an area of research that is garnering increased interest because tumor cells need to evade the immune system. To recapitulate a relevant tumor cell-immune system interaction, a cell line that can form a tumor in immune-competent mice is necessary. We sought to determine whether BMPC cell lines would generate orthotopic tumors in wild type mice of the same strain as the BMPC transgenic mice. We hypothesized that the cell line can generate tumors in vivo that are characteristically similar to tumors in transgenic mice. To date, we have successfully generated and histologically characterized orthotopically grown tumors derived from a BMPC cell line.

This research was partially funded by the USM LSAMP program, supported by NSF LSAMP Award #1619676.


The Puzzling Argument: Improving Student Scores for Document Based Questions

Julia Palmer
Mentor: Linda Oliva, Education

Historical research on all levels consists of interpreting primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. The skill of interpretation is relevant for understanding media and current events. My students being able to critically think about the present world is necessary for preparing them to lead the next generation. The ultimate assessment of interpretation is the Document Based Question (DBQ) which is using three or more provided sources in an argumentative essay in response to the prompt. This study examines the effect of various instructional strategies for improving DBQ scores from the first to third quarter. These strategies include whole class discussions to build historical thought processes, various written assignments to refine the gathering evidence and argumentation, and specific drill questions to foster creativity with a daily personal connection to the course. The subjects of this study were 20 students of an 8th grade American History class at a suburban magnet school. Student performance was based on a 24-point rubric divided into claim (4), evidence (8), reasoning (8), and conclusion (4). A score of a B-grade (20-points) and above demonstrates students’ mastery of this unique and challenging assessment. The goal of intervention is to have 50% or more of the students reach an A-B grade on their second DBQ.


Aspergillus Nidulans mpkA Deletion Strain Mycelium Material

Wanwei Pan, Kelsey Gray, Nelanne Bolima, Kirsten Crockett
Mentor: Mark Marten, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

While plastics are extremely versatile and relatively low priced, their prevalence and long degradation time have caused great harm to the environment. In contrast, materials made from fungal mycelial offer a possible solution. Toward this end, we are using a model fungus, Aspergillus nidulans, to produce “mycelial-material.” Our focus is on the mpkA deletion strain, which lacks the final kinase in the cell wall integrity signaling pathway and is responsible for cell-wall repair. We hypothesized that the MpkA- strain would have weaker cellular mechanical strength resulting in altered material properties. We designed an appropriate growth environment for this strain and tested its growth performance and material properties, and compared them with the MpkA+ strain. Our results suggest that although the mpkA deletion strain grows more slowly than the wild-type, and produces less cell-wall-polymer chitin than the wild-type, the deletion has a more robust cell wall (as determined via fragmentation assay). Currently, we are continuing to study other attributes of this strain which will allow us to more conclusively determine if knocking out this kinase has any benefit regarding mycelial materials made from this strain. This study demonstrates the potential of Aspergillus nidulans to be used as a biodegradable material.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Two Perspectives To Understanding The Post-COVID19 Inflation: A Recovery Phenomenon And A Classical Economic Tradeoff

Zinedine Partipilo Cornielles
Mentor: Salem Abo-Zaid, Economics

Macroeconomic disruptions tend to cause discrepancies between the expectation provided by economic theories and the actual data. With the economic downturn that started with the COVID pandemic, most, if not all of the world’s economies saw themselves facing a crisis. Unemployment skyrocketed, economic activity floundered, and consumer confidence and demand saw themselves heavily impacted by lockdowns and fears of the pandemic. Because of this, I aimed to study likely causes for the high inflation in what I considered the first “recovery” period, before the start of the war. My strategy was two-pronged. First, I studied the relationship between certain characteristics of countries’ economies and their respective inflation rates. Second, I assessed the presence of an inverse relationship between unemployment and inflation. I then found the following results. First, economies that recovered faster from the demand shocks, had higher inflation. Second, larger economies (with a larger real GDP) also faced higher inflation. Lastly, the relationship between inflation and unemployment that is implied by the simple, short-run Phillips Curve held, which could be another likely explanation for the abnormally large levels of inflation.


Police Perspectives on Identifying Behaviors Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saeed Pate
Mentor: Mirela Cengher, Psychology

A recent study found that by 21 years of age, approximately 20% of young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have had encounters with police officers that included being stopped, questioned, and arrested in some cases. (Christensen & Minich, 2021). This statistic makes apparent the need to train law enforcement officers to identify behaviors typically seen in individuals with ASD. This population fares best when the authorities they interact with have the poise and calm that comes from knowing that their actions are being guided by specific training. Using empathy-based, research-informed, training for police officers could have the effect of minimizing detrimental outcomes in interactions with police officers and individuals with ASD. This research will be informed by a series of interviews with top scientists in the field as well as police officers.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Immigrant Attitudes Toward Women’s Participation in Politics in Maryland

Riya Patel
Mentor: Felipe Filomeno, Political Science

Acculturation theory states that immigrants usually maintain some beliefs and values from their homeland during their adaptation process in a new country. Based on this theory, it is plausible that immigrants will hold onto the attitudes toward women typical of their home countries when developing their attitudes toward women’s participation in politics in the United States. Previous literature finds that the country of origin influences immigrant attitudes toward women. Few studies have examined immigrant attitudes specifically toward women in politics across multiple immigrant groups. This study investigates how homeland views on gender roles might influence the perceptions immigrants have toward women in politics in the United States. The study used a survey applied to 163 immigrant adults from multiple countries in Maryland. After conducting difference of means tests, single variable linear regressions, and multivariate regressions, this study finds that immigrants from countries with more egalitarian attitudes toward women are more likely to hold positive attitudes toward women’s participation in politics in the United States compared to immigrants from countries with more patriarchal attitudes toward women. Furthermore, the study also found that gender, political orientation, and age were strong predictors of immigrant attitudes toward women in politics in the United States.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Characterization of the Growth Rate and Mycelial Cell Size for Aspergillus Nidulans ΔmpkAΔnrc2

Tatiana Perez, Walker Huso, Andrea Sequeira, Garrett Hill
Mentor: Mark R. Marten, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

The cell-wall integrity signaling (CWIS) pathway is responsible for cell wall maintenance and repair. In response to cell wall stress, the CWIS pathway is activated. The final kinase in the CWIS pathway is MpkA, which mediates phosphorylation of many other protein kinases. Nrc2 has been shown to play a role in the CWIS response but is not well characterized. The aim of these experiments was to gain insight into the role of Nrc2, and its relationship to MpkA, by using phenotypic characterization of a double deletion strain (∆mpkA∆nrc2). This project used growth, particle size and fluorescent microscopy to make valuable observations of wall strength and other phenotypic characteristics. It was found that the double deletion mutant strain grows slower than the wild type and has a smaller cell size. This reveals that the cells grow normally in the absence of Nrc2 alone, but at a slower rate in the absence of both genes suggesting that Nrc2 cannot function without MpkA. These crucial insights have applications across many industries including antifungal drug manufacturing and bioprocessing.

This work was funded through the National Science Foundation (Award 2006189) and also through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Education.


Structural Assessment of a Ternary HIV-1 Complex: Gag Polyprotein, Cyclophilin A, and Genomic RNA

Caela Phillips
Mentors: Michael Summers, HHMI; Nele Hollmann, HHMI, UMBC

Packaging the genomic RNA (gRNA) is essential to HIV-1 replication. This process occurs when the nucleocapsid (NC) domain of the gag polyprotein binds to a portion of gRNA, termed the core encapsidation signal (CES). Despite knowledge of this binding interaction, the high-resolution structure of the NC-gRNA complex is unknown. Attempts to visualize this complex by cryogenic electron microscopy (cryoEM) are complicated by precipitation of the complex, and the relatively small size of the individual capsid and nucleocapsid (CANC) domains of gag. Therefore, cyclophilin A (CypA), a soluble, human protein that aids in HIV-1 replication by stabilizing mature capsid (CA) interactions, will be used to create a biologically relevant ternary complex. The complex consisting of the CANC domains of gag, gRNA, and CypA will help prevent aggregation and increase the complex size. We used a glutaraldehyde crosslinker to join CypA and CANC, and used SDS-PAGE to confirm the presence of this complex. We then isolated the crosslinked complex by using analytical size exclusion chromatography. In the future, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy will be used to assess the homogeneity of this sample. Overall, our research will provide structural insights on the process of early virus assembly.

This research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the NIH/NIAID #8 R01AI150498-32, and the U-RISE Program, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), NIH/NIGMS.


The Effects of Biological Sex and Political Ideology on Perceptions of Abortion in Americans Aged 18-35

Ojuswani Phogat
Mentor: Mejdulene Shomali, Gender and Women’s Studies

This study explored how one’s biological sex and placement on the left-right political ideological spectrum contributed to how they viewed abortion as either a justifiable or unjustifiable procedure. Abortion continues to be a divisive issue in American politics that is legislated by state rather than federal policies. By considering whether biological sex and political ideology impact individual perceptions, this study helps illuminate what populations are more or less likely to support pro-choice vs. pro-life rhetoric and why. The study focuses specifically on younger voting populations aged 18-35 because the data shows a stark generational difference between younger and older populations when it comes to abortion. This study collected and analyzed quantitative and qualitative data through statistical methods and content analysis, respectively. This study found that while neither biological sex nor political ideology were considered significant in understanding how abortion views are formed, the differences in lived experiences by gender and the tenets of political groups did impact individual perceptions of abortion in Americans aged 18-35.


Design and Synthesis of Telbivudine and Zidovudine Fleximer Analogues

Grayson Pipher
Mentor: Katherine Seley-Radtke, Chemistry and Biochemistry

The CDC reports 600,000 deaths annually due to Hepatitis B virus (HBV) related liver disease. In production, there is a highly effective HBV vaccine, but the global availability of the vaccine is limited. Contrastingly, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does not currently have a vaccine. Drug therapies for both viruses are hindered by viral drug resistance. To address these issues, L-nucleos(t)ide analogs have been developed.
In 2001, Dr. Seley-Radtke introduced a novel class of modified nucleosides called “fleximers,” which have proven to be potent and exhibit broad-spectrum antiviral activity. This breakthrough results from the flexibility added to the nucleos(t)ide by splitting the purine nucleobase into two separate rings connected by a single carbon-carbon bond. The additional flexibility may help overcome mutations within enzyme binding sites. Thereafter “reverse fleximers” were developed by binding the pyrimidine moiety to the sugar instead of the imidazole, which resembles substituted pyrimidines.
The purpose of this project is to apply fleximer technology to current L-nucleos(t)ides used to treat HBV and HIV. Telbivudine and Zidovudine are both common antivirals treating HBV and HIV, respectively, and the synthesis of their fleximer derivatives is featured here-in.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Determination of Planetary Boundary Layer Height From Radar Wind Profilers

Dahne-More Pluck, Maurice Roots, Kevin Carbajal-Rodriguez
Mentors: Belay Demoz, Physics; Ruben Delgado, Center for Atmospheric Sciences, Hampton University

We present a study on the Determination of Planetary Boundary Layer Height (PBLH) from Radar Wind Profilers. The Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL) holds nearly all energy, water vapor, and trace chemical species transported into the atmosphere. This layer changes periodically and experiences a sharp gradient at its peak— the PBLH— which determines the volume of aerosol dispersion within this layer. Wind profilers, an active remote-sensing instrument, measure vertical profiles of wind speed and direction. This instrument transmits radio pulses (915 MHz) into the atmosphere, which backscatters small amounts of signal after interacting with particulate matter. Antennas receive these backscattered signals, measuring the strength and frequency of the backscattered energy. We use the sharp gradient in Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) to identify the PBLH. Using the Covariance Wavelength Transform (CWT) to detect changes in signals containing sharp gradients and analyze this data creates accurate retrievals for the PBLH. Due to the harmful effects of particulate matter and ozone, forecasting air quality conditions is essential to public well-being. Since the PBL determines the dispersion of most aerosols, studying the PBLH is fundamental for accurate models for forecasting air quality conditions.

This work was funded in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.


Scalable Long-read sequencing Of genomes Provides A Comprehensive View Of Haplotype-resolved Variation And Methylation

Jesh Prabakaran
Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Mentor: Mikhail Kolmogorov1, 1NIH

Long-read sequencing technologies have the potential to overcome the limitations of short-reads, but they are too expensive, not scalable enough, or too error-prone for large-scale genomics projects. To address this issue, a team has developed an efficient and scalable wet lab and computational protocol for Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) long-read sequencing, offering a feasible alternative to short-reads. The team applied this protocol to cell lines and brain tissue samples as part of a pilot project for the NIH Center for Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias (CARD). They achieved better SNP detection than Illumina short-read sequencing using a single PromethION flow cell. Small indel calling remains difficult in homopolymers and tandem repeats, but is comparable to Illumina calls elsewhere. The team was also able to identify structural variants with similar accuracy to state-of-the-art methods involving Pacific Biosciences HiFi sequencing and trio information, but at a lower cost and greater throughput. The team’s protocol makes large-scale long-read sequencing projects feasible and is currently being used to sequence thousands of brain-based genomes as part of the NIH CARD initiative. The protocol and software are available as open-source integrated pipelines for generating phased variant calls and assemblies.

This work was funded, in part, by NIH, UC Santa Cruz.


Investigating the Role of Actin 57B Gene on the Age-Related Changes in the Immune Response

Yamini Ravi, Ellie Ober
Mentor: Jeff Leips, Biological Sciences

The age-related decline in the innate immune response, or immunosenescence, is highly variable among eukaryotes and has shown to have a genetic basis. Using Drosophila melanogaster as the model organism, previous studies have identified several candidate genes that could affect an organism’s infection clearance ability. One of the genes identified is Actin57B, which is upregulated in older flies. This gene has been studied for its involvement in embryonic muscle development, but little is known about its role in the innate immune response. To assess the role of Actin57B in immune response, we knocked down its expression in hemocytes using the Gal4/UAS system in Drosophila melanogaster to activate RNA interference against the gene. To evaluate the immune response, 1- and 5-week old flies were injected with an E.coli solution, and were given 24-hours to recover and clear the infection. The surviving flies were homogenized and plated on agar plates. The resulting bacterial colonies were counted and used as the phenotype that reflects the remaining infection. Through measuring the impact of Actin57B on the innate immune response, our results will validate findings that this gene contributes to immunity and aid in the development of more effective, personalized therapeutics to improve healthspan.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Language of Toys; Transmission and Circulation of Gender Ideologies

Theo Reinert
Mentor: Jason Loviglio, Media and Communication Studies

This research explores what makes a toy gendered, how it is gendered, and what it means for a material object to carry ideology. Toys are given to children to entertain and educate them on things such as gender roles. For a long time, separate toys were marketed and sold to girls and boys, until large chains such as Target and Walmart, two of the largest toy distributors in the country, removed gendered signage from their toy aisles. Despite these changes, many toys continue to reinforce the gender binary through their designs and marketing. 20 toys purchased from Walmart were analyzed through Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis (MCDA) and ideological analysis to see what gender ideologies they carry and how they are instantiated. Gender ideologies code toys to emphasize certain values, such as mobility for boys and socializing for girls. For example, toys that move, such as a fire engine, are more likely to be marketed towards boys. It is Walmart’s careful marketing that contributes which toys are sold and therefore which ideologies are circulated, affecting the lived experiences of the people who play with them.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Characterization of Hydraulic Conductivity of Soil and Saprolite Cores in Dead Run Watershed, Baltimore County, Maryland

Mitchell Richards, Mary McWilliams1
1Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education
Mentor: Claire Welty, Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education

The goal of this project was to characterize the variability of soil and saprolite hydraulic conductivity as a function of depth in the headwater area of Dead Run, Baltimore County, Maryland for use in groundwater models. To accomplish this, cores ranging from two to six meters in length were collected in 15-centimeter increments at eight hilltop locations and the resulting samples were bagged and marked by their top and bottom depths below land surface. Samples were then taken back to the lab to characterize them for hydraulic conductivity using a team-designed falling-head permeameter. The results demonstrated pronounced spatial heterogeneity with depth. Hydraulic conductivity varied by up to three orders of magnitude within the same core, indicating the presence of both high- and low-permeability zones close to the land surface. This study and its results are important for modeling precipitation that infiltrates the land surface because hydraulic conductivity influences preferential pathways taken by subsurface flow. This flow is significant to environmental research as it transports solutes such as nitrate and other pollutants from the land surface through the subsurface to groundwater and local streams.

This work was funded, in part, by National Science Foundation.


Conspiracy Theories & Their Implications on Politics: Understanding the Canadian Freedom Convoy

Sebastian Ritschel
Mentor: Thomas Schaller, Political Science

The Canadian Freedom Convoy was a conspiracy driven anti-government, anti-masking, and anti-lockdown protest that shut down downtown Ottawa for three weeks. Conspiracy theories have dramatically altered the political landscape on a global scale, from pandemic misinformation and disinformation, to Q-Anon, and election denialism, all having an international impact on social and political discourse. By exploring some of the key figures behind the Freedom Convoy, this presentation hopes to better illuminate the effects of conspiracy theories on modern political movements. A comparison of the motivations that were international in nature, such as COVID-19 misinformation and the uniquely Canadian anti-government conspiracies about Justin Trudeau, will help better understand how conspiracy theories are not only spread but how they have become front and center in modern politics.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Assistantship Support (URAS) Award from the UMBC Office of the Vice President for Research.


AI Fairness In Medicaid

Anthony Rivera
Mentor: James Foulds, Information Systems

The Maryland Department of Health has deployed an AI system, developed by the Hilltop Institute at UMBC, that prioritizes the Medicaid waitlist based on need. However, it is now understood that AI systems can potentially be biased, e.g. along lines of race or gender, so it is important to ensure that this system is fair. The primary goal of this work is to determine the impact of this system on disadvantaged and minoritized groups and to test whether an AI fairness intervention can solve these issues. This project leverages prior work from the Foulds research lab on algorithmic fairness, utilizing a multi-attribute definition of fairness that aims to implement the principles of intersectionality. By empirically studying the behavior of the AI system and an alternative system with an AI fairness intervention, using concepts of group, individual, and intersectional fairness, we are working towards the development, and ideally the deployment, of a truly fair needs-based ranking system.


Understanding the Nutrigenomics of Alzheimer’s Disease Using Drosophila Melanogaster

Roshnee Roberts
Mentor: Fernando Vonhoff, Biological Sciences

Early Life Stress (ELS) and Adverse Life Experiences (ALS) tend to be associated with negative and lasting life experiences. Some of these lasting effects of ELS and ALS may include depression, anxiety, or even illnesses such as schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s Disease. These experiences typically occur during childhood, from birth to adolescence, and are normally experienced the most by children and families who fall into a lower socioeconomic status or poverty. Though these experiences occur during early life, their effects normally show up later in life. Some ELS or ALS can be related to food insecurity due to a lack of resources for many families in poverty. In this project, we aim to observe the effects of food insecurity, particularly related to high-fat and nutrient-deficient diets as they relate to the onset of genetic changes, specifically related to Alzheimer’s Disease. We will use the Drosophila fruit fly as a powerful genetic model to identify molecular and cellular changes that are said to occur due to these poor diets. Due to the high conservation in molecular pathways among species, results from this project may be relevant in understanding the genetic changes experienced due to lower socioeconomic status and poverty in humans.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Identifying Barriers that Can Deter Access to Higher Education Among Refugees and Immigrants in the DMV Area

Josue Rodriguez
Mentor: Kerri Evans, Social Work

An estimated 13.4% of the population of the DMV region are immigrants, roughly 2,097,350, and most of them are likely to be working-age compared to their U.S.-born population (Higher Ed Immigration Portal, 2019). The purpose of this research is to understand how refugees and other displaced learners face hardship, struggles and barriers when they try to enroll or attend institutions of higher education in the United States, specifically, the areas of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Data has been collected through 6 focus groups with refugees, and the work of a community advisory board (CAB) of 10 refugees. Preliminary results indicate that there are financial barriers, lack of knowledge around the enrollment process, and a desire for degree recertification. While refugees and asylum seekers face and encounter barriers trying to access higher education (Evans & Unangst, 2020; Unangst et al., 2022), little to no research is aimed to change or modify this situation. To meet this need, and at the request of the community advisory board, I have developed a matrix of funding opportunities for immigrants and refugees seeking higher education.


A Tutorial on Neural Networks and Gradient-free Training

Turibius Rozario
Mentor: Ankit Goel, Mechanical Engineering

This paper presents a compact, matrix-based representation of neural networks in a self-contained tutorial fashion. Although neural networks are well-understood pictorially in terms of interconnected neurons, neural networks are mathematical nonlinear functions constructed by composing several vector-valued functions. Using basic results from linear algebra, we represent a neural network as an alternating sequence of linear maps and scalar nonlinear functions, also known as activation functions. The training of neural networks requires the minimization of a cost function, which in turn requires the computation of a gradient. Using basic multivariable calculus results, the cost gradient is also shown to be a function composed of a sequence of linear maps and nonlinear functions. In addition to the analytical gradient computation, we consider two gradient-free training methods and compare the three training methods in terms of convergence rate and prediction accuracy.


Lizard Size Influences Intraspecies Territorial Behavior in the Western Fence Lizard

Isabella Salguero Cespedes, Rashel Cazares1, Sophia Elizalde2, Destiny Mendoza3
1Cal Poly Humboldt, 2Yale University, 3California State University, East Bay
Mentor: Abraham Borker, University of California – Santa Cruz

Territorial animals can use a range of honest and dishonest signals to minimize physical altercations in competitive interactions, including size and behavior cues. The ability to choose between non-aggressive and aggressive behaviors in intraspecies confrontations is energetically beneficial (Smith, et al. 1973). We studied how visual cues and size influence intraspecies territory competition among western fence lizards in Big Sur, California. We observed 25 territorial confrontations between new-comers and territory defenders. In each confrontation we measured the defender and intruder behavior (posing, push-ups, striking and fleeing), and traits (coloration, length, and weight). We found intruding lizards at a size disadvantage displayed more aggressive behaviors than lizards with size advantage. Defending lizards at a weight disadvantage were less likely to do push-ups than defenders at a weight advantage. Shorter lizards were more likely to strike their opponent. Expected energy costs may have a role in preventing physical conflict, as larger lizards were less likely to engage in costly aggressive behaviors and rely on size visual displays (push-ups) to prevent conflicts. Further research is needed on additional factors that may influence confrontation decision-making in territorial animals.

This work funded, in part by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number T34GM136497. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


Investigating Epigenetic Regulation of Lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster through the Analysis of Core Histone Changes

Hadia Saroya, Karen Griffin, Devonique Brissett1
1Biological Sciences, UMBC
Mentor: Jeff Leips, Biological Sciences

Aging is the greatest risk factor for several chronic diseases. Epigenetic alterations within the genome are a hallmark of aging. Trimethylation on histone 3 of lysine 4 (H3K4me3) is a histone modification associated with lifespan differences. Elevated core histone expression promotes lifespan extension. Alterations in H3K4me3 and core histone levels can result in epigenetic changes contributing to differences in aging and lifespan. However, the role of genetic variation and its influence on H3K4me3 patterns with age and between sexes is unclear. Using three Drosophila melanogaster genotypes with differing lifespans (DGRP 73, DGRP 304, and DGRP 229), we generated survivorship curves to assess whether lifespan is influenced by sex and genetic background. To test whether H3K4me3 and H4 levels are associated with lifespan, we performed histone extractions followed by Western blots on male fly abdomens at different chronological ages (young-age 7 days and middle-age 52 days). Our data show an increase in H3K4me3 levels and a decrease in H4 levels with age. Our future goals are to replicate this method for female flies. Understanding how H3K4me3 contributes to lifespan differences based on sex and genetic background may provide insight for developing personalized strategies to treat age-related diseases and encourage healthy aging.



Jacob Schoenberger, Wei Yan, Timinye Willis, Myunghoon Cha, Patch Hatley, Iriejah Allen
Mentor: Michael Satzinger, Visual Arts

A team of programmers and artists worked together using Unity to create an immersive 2D horror game which utilizes gameplay elements such as but not limited to: exploration, point and click survival horror, and visual novel concepts. The program was written in C# and the art was created using multiple different software such as After Effects, ClipStudio, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Animate. This project will detail a point and click base movement of getting from point A to point B while facing obstacles that the player must overcome.


A History of Baltimore’s LGBTQ Nightlife

Ava Sekowski
Mentor: Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies

I conducted an Undergraduate Research Award project on the history of gay nightlife in Baltimore. My objective was to explore the community impact of Baltimore’s gay club closures. I was curious about what these clubs provided for the Baltimore LGBTQ+ community, whether that was fundraising for AIDS research or providing a safe space of expression. I wanted to know why many of these clubs closed their doors. To do this, I interviewed people involved in the scene, such as archivists, patrons, owners, workers, and journalists. I paired this with the Baltimore Gay Papers to gain a better understanding of the former popular places, what was advertised, and the bar maps. After collecting content, I compressed my research into a short film to address my questions. My research project was important to me and the larger community, as it shed light on the history of Baltimore’s gay nightlife and the impact it had on the city.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Assistantship Support (URAS) Award from the UMBC Office of the Vice President for Research.


Characterization of ΔmpkAΔsnf1 Deletion Strain in Aspergillus Nidulans

Andrea Sequeira
Mentor: Mark Marten, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

Filamentous fungi play an important role in the production of large-scale commodity chemicals as well as causing large-scale crop damage and human disease. The cell wall plays an important role in all of these applications and industries. The cell-wall integrity signaling (CWIS) pathway is responsible for mediating wall repair. Existing research shows that MpkA, the terminal protein kinase in the CWIS cascade, plays an important role in this regulation. Snf1 has been linked to the CWIS pathway through previous characterization using cell-wall perturbants. This study focuses on the phenotypic assessment of a ∆mpkA∆snf1 double deletion mutant to make important discoveries about the role of Snf1 in the CWIS cascade. This project aims to better understand the CWIS pathway through the characterization of the phenotype of the ΔmpkAΔsnf1 double deletion strain. This was done using phenotypic experiments such as growth curves and particle size analysis, which helped to determine how the double deletion affects the growth rate and cell wall strength and size. These results will help to characterize and further understand the CWIS cascade, which has wide-ranging implications across multiple industries.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Super Palette Swapper

Scott Serafin, Sarah Chen, Evan McRae, Sydnee Conigland
Mentor: Marc Olano, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

Super Palette Swapper is an action video game in which players control an art student. Players complete levels by locating a hidden paint bucket and using it to paint a blank canvas found at the end of the level. The player can use the paints in their palette to use an array of color-coordinated abilities. This game is intended to be a sequel to the first game ever developed by the project lead. Development of this new game was a valuable but very much worthwhile learning experience in team-based game development. Programmers and artists communicated their thoughts and ideas with each other in a very efficient manner, most likely due to both a greater understanding of the game engine and an exceedingly large amount of pre-production done through a living document. The concept of the game was able to draw in those who wanted to help assist the game’s development, including those who were learning to program for the first time. Writers were able to create a narrative that gave context to the player’s actions and backgrounds to the game’s characters. They also provided the player with reasons to keep playing.


Investigating Ethanol and its Neuroprotective Effects in Aging Drosophila Flies

Christina Shrestha, Dina Hadj-Mabrouk, Omer Sherif
Mentor: Fernando Vonhoff, Biological Sciences

Neurodegeneration has been associated with aging in a lot of organisms. Examples of devastating neurodegenerative diseases in humans include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are associated with accelerated degeneration. The purpose of this research is to use Drosophila to test if the constant exposure to a low dosage of ethanol would provide neuroprotective effects and slow down aging-dependent neurodegeneration. We will study wildtype flies and flies expressing genetic manipulations associated with Alzheimer’s disease in cohorts exposed to different ethanol concentrations in addition to a control cohort that is not exposed to ethanol. For this, adult flies will be exposed to ethanol in their food throughout their lifespan. In uniform intervals, we will use behavioral tests to observe signs and the extent of behavioral decline in all cohorts. We will perform flight tests, negative geotaxis or climbing assays, and test the righting reflex after tapping. We will also perform sedation experiments to test their tolerance after the constant ethanol exposure. Future studies will analyze anatomical differences in specific flight motoneurons as the flies age to determine the effects of ethanol on neuronal anatomy. Our results may be relevant in understanding the beneficial effects of ethanol exposure on aging-dependent neurodegeneration.

URA grant.


Spectral Analysis of MOFs For Decontamination of Chemical Warfare Agents

Sukhvir Singh
Mentor: Lisa Kelly, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Chemical warfare agents (CWAs) can spread rapidly and contaminate their surroundings if left unchecked. To those exposed to CWAs, reusable protective equipment would be critical for their safety. It is hypothesized that using polymer-bound metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) can catalyze the breakdown of sulfur mustard, a deadly CWA. The MOF produces singlet oxygen which oxidizes sulfur mustard upon exposure to UV light and repeatedly undergoes this reaction when embedded into a polymer. The MOFs used for this project contain pyrene-based organic linkers which can be modified, resulting in differing yields of singlet oxygen. To determine the amount of singlet oxygen produced, the organic linkers of the MOFs were examined for their singlet oxygen quantum yield. It was found that organic linkers containing a meta chlorine group to the benzoic acid and ethyl benzoate derivatives produced the largest amount of singlet oxygen, causing the most oxidation of sulfur mustard. Each organic linker produced varying yields of singlet oxygen due to different functional groups and their locations, the results for each will be presented.

This project was in collaboration and funded by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) through MSRDC (contract W911SR-14-2-0001-0045) and by UMBC’s Undergraduate Research Award conducted under the guidance of Dr. Lisa Kelly for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.


Synthesis and Evaluation of Flex AT-527 Nucleos(t)ide Analogue as a Potential Antiviral Therapeutic

Viviana Smart, Charlie Waters1
1Chemistry and Biochemistry
Mentor: Katherine Seley-Radtke, Chemistry and Biochemistry

The COVID-19 pandemic has given renewed cause to the production of novel antiviral therapeutics to combat a broad range of diseases, including SARS-CoV-2. Nucleos(t)ide analogues have been an effective class of antiviral therapeutics as they have shown remarkable activity in inhibiting the biological functions of numerous families of viruses. To overcome the spread of viral infectious diseases, the Seley-Radtke lab has synthesized modified nucleos(t)ide analogues that possess flexible purine base moieties, known as Fleximers. The Fleximer technology involves a single carbon-carbon bond between the pyrimidine and imidazole components of the bicyclic purine nucleobase moiety. The additional flexibility introduced to the bicyclic purine base moiety allows the nucleos(t)ide to bind to enzymes in alternate conformations and interact with secondary amino acid residues within an enzyme’s active site. One such analogue with potential to be modified into a Fleximer is AT-527, an experimental antiviral therapeutic in phase III clinical trials that is a double prodrug of a guanosine nucleotide analogue. The aim for the current project is to synthesize and incorporate the Fleximer technology into the AT-527 parent nucleotide analogue and expand upon its biological activity against RNA-dependent RNA polymerases in viruses.

This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIGMS/NIH) under National Research Service Award T34 GM 136497; National Institutes of Health NIH/NIGMS T32 GM066706 (KSR and CW); NIH/NIAID R21AI135252 (KSR); MD MII/TEDCO (KSR).


UMBC Jazz Ensemble Performance

Henry Smith
Mentor: Matt Belzer, Music

A performance by the UMBC Jazz Ensemble directed by Matt Belzer featuring the music of Jonathan Barber and student composers.


Reflections on Lighting

Allison Smock
Mentor: Erin Hogan, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication

We view moving images on a regular basis, but how often do we stop to think about their construction and impact? In this audiovisual essay, entitled “Reflections on Lighting”, I showcase scenes that “shed light” on the importance of civil liberties in Spanish-language films with child protagonists (1962-2020). The child protagonist is a vessel to see society as a whole, and for the directors to act out either true stories or reflections on their society. All of the films take place during periods of dictatorial rule, or deal with the repercussions. Cinematic lighting helps to reflect different moods, meanings, and different feelings for the audience. Directors present scenes from dark black, signifying lies and grief, to gray, bringing on an eerie sense of the unknown or untrue. At other times, fireworks contrast childhood with adult themes on a dark night sky, and golden light brings a golden memory. My purpose is to showcase scenes that show child protagonists dealing with repressive situations and feature lighting that can bring the child’s true feelings or deeper meaning into view. You may find that lighting tells you a story completely different from the actor, or adds another unexpected dimension!


Practicing to Perform

Patrick Smolen
Mentor: Kimberly Feldman, Education

The ability to effectively perform as a musician is an important skill that requires attention to tone, rhtyhm, intonation, and other technique. The ability to perform is learned with a mixture of individual practice as well as participating in performances. The purpose of this study was to see if teaching students practice strategies and techniques will improve the students’ ability to perform. Some of the strategies used to help them improve included using added rhythms, isolating difficult rhythms, clapping and counting rhythms, effective usage of a metronome, and methods to aid in self reflection. This study took place at the high school level with 20 violin students in a ninth grade orchestra class. The study assessed the students using three playing tests where they were assessed in categories in which they need to be proficient in order to be effective performers. These categories are tone, rhythm, intonation and technique (technique consists of left hand, bow arm, and posture). Findings suggest that of the twenty students, twelve of which improved by a scale of 0.4 or more (out of 4), six students in range of a 3 or higher were able to perform at the same level or higher.


Assessing the Effects of E-Cigarette Based Zinc Exposure on Mitochondria of Mouse Olfactory Epithelial Cells

Sean Starkloff
Mentor: Weihong Lin, Biological Sciences

This project aims to understand how zinc exposure, at levels similar to what electronic cigarette (E-cigarette) users may experience, impacts olfaction using an animal model. Zinc is a neurotoxic heavy metal that is commonly found in E-cigarette aerosols. Previous studies have found correlations between mitochondrial dysfunction and environmental zinc exposure, though research concerning this in the context of E-cigarettes on olfaction is missing. Mitochondria serve many key cellular functions including energy production and maintaining calcium homeostasis, so investigating zinc’s effects on mitochondria of olfactory epithelial cells can provide insight into the potential harms of E-cigarette based zinc exposure at the single-cell level. The experimental workflow of the project included isolating mouse olfactory epithelial cells and incubating them with zinc at concentrations representative of daily E-cigarette exposure levels. Cells were also incubated with mitochondrial membrane potential-dependent MitoLite fluorescent dye in order to analyze the effect of one-hour zinc exposure on mitochondrial morphology and health. Preliminary data show that zinc exposure may alter mitochondrial dynamics. Further experiments will determine the dose-dependent effect of Zn and other heavy metals to provide a better understanding of metal neurotoxicity associated with E-cigarette vaping.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Analyzing Strategies for Successful Expansion of Healthcare Policies to Undocumented Residents

Zachary Starr
Mentor: Sarah Chard, Sociology and Anthropology; Katie Birger, Sociology, Anthropology, and Public Health, UMBC

Undocumented residents have the highest uninsured rate for health insurance relative to other U.S. population groups. Approximately 47 percent of Maryland’s estimated 244,700 undocumented residents were uninsured in 2021, compared to less than six percent of Maryland’s general population, a significant coverage gap. Lack of health insurance limits healthcare access and contributes to adverse health outcomes. Although the majority of states have excluded undocumented residents in expansions of health programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program over the past decade, several state legislatures have successfully expanded access to healthcare programs for undocumented residents. This project examines the factors that contribute to the successful adoption of state bills that extend health insurance coverage to undocumented residents. This project involved an analysis of legislation and interviews with key stakeholders in the policy-making process. Legislation was identified through a review of government reports, news articles, and state archives. Once relevant legislation was identified, lawmakers and stakeholders that worked on these bills were identified for semi-structured interviews using public-databases. The analysis of the legislation and interviews reveal that successful bills tend to be narrowly focused on specific population subgroups, cover limited services, and use various legislative vehicles to achieve passage.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Analyzing Privacy And Utility Tradeoffs In Smart Homes

Tartela Tabassum, Luke Zimmermann, Ruhshana Bobojonova, Joshua Cheeks
Mentor: Roberto Yus, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

The goal of this research is to explore the trade-off that exists between privacy and utility when using smart devices at home. Smart speakers, doorbells, and TVs are becoming pervasive but raise important privacy concerns. For instance, by collecting audio and video, one could learn private information about us such as our age, emotions, socioeconomic status, and health conditions. To increase trust, there is a need to inform people about potentially sensitive inferences that can be made about them by smart devices and give them a choice to consent to it. We have built a prototype of a framework, using open-source code and AI/ML algorithms, that generate inferences about an individual based on audio (e.g., speech data collected by a smart speaker) and video (e.g., images collected by a smart security camera). The framework also allows the user to select which of these inferences should be “hidden”. We have explored different mechanisms to hide those inferences while preserving utility such as: removing specific portions of audio/video that can lead to whether the person might be facing a respiratory disease or modifying the pitch/tone to hide their age and mood.


Exploration of Associations Between Chinese American Parenting Style and Child Food Consumption and Inhibitory Control

Raina Tam
Mentor: Charissa Cheah, Psychology

Inhibitory control, or suppression of goal-irrelevant stimuli and behavioral responses, is crucial for positive child development. Studies found children’s balanced eating habits and positive parenting practices contribute to children’s development of inhibitory control. Given differences in dietary habits between the host and culture of origin, we explored Chinese Americans and whether children’s healthy food consumption can lead to their parents’ authoritative parenting, and in turn to children’s inhibitory control. The participants included 159 Chinese immigrant mothers and their preschool (age 3-6) children. Mothers completed measures assessing: (1) their children’s healthy food consumption (consumption of fruits and vegetables relative to sugary sweets/snacks); (2) children’s inhibitory control; and (3) their engagement in authoritative parenting (warm, autonomy-supportive, and regulatory). We conducted a mediation model using PROCESS, controlling for child age, gender, and maternal acculturation towards the American culture. We found that the consumption of good food was linked to higher inhibitory control in children, via more authoritative parenting. Authoritative parenting promotes balanced eating through encouragement which allows for good food consumption and higher inhibitory control. Findings shed light on the mechanism between food consumption and child self-regulation within the Chinese American cultural context and point to the utility of promoting authoritative parenting styles.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Assistantship Support (URAS) Award from the UMBC Office of the Vice President for Research.


Adsorption Reactivity and Electronic Band Structure Analysis of Vermilion Surfaces in Art Conservation Science

Aria Tauraso, Amalthea Trobare, Lillian Kidd
Mentors: Joseph Bennett, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Zeev Rosenzweig, UMBC – Chemistry and Biochemistry; Jessica Heimann, UMBC – Chemistry and Biochemistry

Mercury sulfide, HgS, the primary component of cinnabar and the pigment vermillion, has been found to photodegrade in the presence of chlorides and other small molecules. To uncover the potential mechanisms of degradation, the noninvasive computational probe density functional theory (DFT) was implemented to map out atomistic information about the initial degradation steps of cinnabar and vermilion in the context of art conservation. A range of vermillion chemical environments were probed by adding a wide set of test adsorbates to the surfaces and investigating their adsorption reactivity for different surface areas, cleavage planes, and surface terminations. Surface transformations were investigated using comparative electronic band analyses structure and a first-principles thermodynamics analysis that includes solvation. Different surface terminations and cleavage planes were found to have varying degrees of stability that depended on surface area and adsorbate density, where the variable stability of different surfaces might contribute to the photo-reactivity of mercury sulfide in the presence of chlorides and small molecules. These results suggest that come cleavage planes of HgS crystal might be more unstable than others, and thus having a higher propensity towards reacting with atmospheric adsorbates to cause degradation.

This work was funded, in part, by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Baltimore SCIART program.


The Impact of Reinforcement on Mating Preferences in the Tessellated Darter, Etheostoma olmstedi

Katherine Taylor
Mentor: Tamra Mendelson, Biological Sciences

Sexual selection theory postulates that females are the choosy sex in mate choice due to energetic costs, and so it is often thought that females have higher preferences for same-species mates than males. However, there has been an increasing interest in the evolution of male mate choice in evolutionary biology research. One evolutionary process that can favor male mate choice is reinforcement, where behavioral isolation is strengthened between species based on natural selection against hybrid offspring. This experiment evaluated whether Etheostoma olmstedi, the Tessellated Darter, displayed a signature of reinforcement through examining their mating preferences. Wild-caught E. olmstedi were presented with an opposite-sex member of their own species and an opposite-sex member of the closely-related species Etheostoma flabellare, the Fantail Darter, in dichotomous mate choice trials. Mating preferences were estimated from the time focal fish spent associating with each stimulus. Through examining the mating preferences of two populations of E. olmstedi, this research challenged traditional sexual selection theory and investigated male and female roles in mate choice, which is essential to understanding mating behavior and speciation. It also gave further insight to the processes of reinforcement and behavioral isolation, and how mating preferences are impacted as a result of these forces.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


The Amish Project: An Examination of Theatrical Lighting Design

Renata Taylor-Smith
Mentor: Adam Mendelson, UMBC Senior Lecturer

This presentation of the lighting of The Amish Project is the culmination of a four stage project which centers around playwright Jessica Dickey’s work. The Amish Project is a fictional story based on the 2006 shooting of an Amish Schoolhouse. I was the Assistant Lighting Designer for this production that was intended to take place in Germany. The show was postponed due to Covid, so I restructured my research into four phases. In phase one, I assisted my mentor in designing the Amish Project lighting and in phase two I assisted another professional lighting designer in the Baltimore area. Both experiences gave me a comprehensive understanding of the design process. In phase three I attended a theater conference and participated in seminars taught by industry professionals. These phases culminated in a fourth phase, where I transitioned from assistant to head designer by using the knowledge gained from meeting and assisting professionals to hang and focus the plot my mentor and I created for the Amish Project in UMBC’s Black Box Theater. The intent behind this work is to undergo a practical study in the role of a designer and to further my training and education as a theater-maker.

This work was funded, in part, by the UMBC Theatre Department’s William T. Brown Shakespeare on Wheels Research Award and through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


The Preparation and Characterization of Cisplatin-Loaded Gold Nanorattles

Taylor Thorsen, Tohid Baradaran Kayyal
Mentor: Marie-Christine Daniel, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Modern chemotherapy methods are deficient in providing specific targeting to cancer cells in the body. Due to the usual intravenous administration of the drug, there is no specific way to focus delivery without a drug delivery agent. Gold nanoparticles have been researched for their functionality and tunability, both important characteristics for a drug delivery agent. Gold nanorattles, a gold nanocore surrounded by a gold nanocage, can aid in both delivery and targeting. The gold nanocore was dendronized and loaded with cisplatin, a common chemotherapy drug. This structure was prepared from citrate-coated gold nanoparticles that experienced a ligand exchange with cisplatin-carboxylic poly(propyleneimine) (PPI) dendrons. A silver coating was prepared around the core, and with the addition of gold salt, underwent galvanic replacement to create the porous gold nanostructure. By measuring the concentration of platinum in each solution using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS), the presence of cisplatin inside the structures can be confirmed.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Investigating Learned Associations Between Contextual Cues and Aversive Stimuli

Maya Tondravi, Eden Beyene
Mentor: Tara LeGates, Biological Sciences

Aversion to threatening stimuli is an evolutionarily conserved behavior critical to survival. The ability to associate aversive stimuli with contextual cues within one’s environment is necessary to anticipate and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Altered motivation, deficits in learning, and disrupted processing of motivating stimuli are associated with psychiatric disorders. However, the neuronal mechanisms mediating contextual learning remain elusive. By conditioning mice to associate different environments with an aversive stimulus, we developed a model of contextual based learning to study the neuronal mechanisms responsible for integrating aversive stimuli with related contextual information. We utilized an arena with two chambers distinguished by visual cues connected by a middle corridor. A group of mice were conditioned to associate visual cues with physical restraint. We found that the mice spent less time in the restraint-associated chamber demonstrating that mice can learn to associate this aversive stimulus with contextual cues in their environment. We then sought to determine the brain regions that are specifically activated during restraint context pairing by measuring cFos expression, an immediate early gene that serves as a proxy for brain activity. Our findings will be important in understanding the neurobiological basis of aversion with implications for how we understand psychiatric disorders.

This investigation was sponsored by the U-RISE Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number T34GM136497. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


Self-Expression: A Reckoning of Identity, Sexuality, Society, and Culture

Khoa Tran
Mentor: Jules Rosskam, Visual Arts

The boundaries of gender identity and expression are currently being pushed in liberal areas such as larger cities and well-established brands but are also being met with resistance from conservative action from the government and traditionalists. The ‘ordinary’ person would easily be judged or viewed a certain way for expressing themselves in a manner that is not traditional in society’s eyes. There is praise and acclaim that follow ‘inclusive’ fashion campaigns, but judgment follows the everyday person who participates and explores their identity and expression. To aid in resolving and exploring this disparity, this project is a series of photographs that display a singular subject in a myriad of expressions and settings that illustrate the breadth of an individual’s capabilities within the gendered range of self-expression. With a small team of two, this project is resemblant to fashion editorials but is created with few resources showing that the world of fashion is not solely in the hands of large corporations but within the everyday grasp as well. This project sets out to reframe the perspective taken on societal, cultural, and personal values in an attempt to create an inclusive and accepting environment.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


First-Principles Calculations as a Noninvasive Probe of Vermilion and Cinnabar Surfaces in Art Conservation Science

G. Amalthea Trobare
Mentor: Joseph Bennett, Chemistry and Biochemistry

HgS is the primary component of cinnabar and the pigment vermilion and has been known to photodegrade in the presence of chlorides. To uncover the likely sources of chloride, and compounds responsible for initiating the degradation process, a noninvasive computational probe called DFT was employed. Variations in surface areas, cleavage planes, and surface terminations were explored through comparing adsorption energies. A test set of adsorbate molecules including pollutants, chloride-containing compounds, and water products, with varying oxidation states of the central atoms, were screened to determine which adsorbates cause surface transformations that coincide with lower adsorption energy. Relevant surface interactions were identified by analyzing atomistic and electronic information such as the making and breaking of bonds, bond distances, surface transformations, changes in oxidation states, and adsorption energy. Multiple surface terminations and cleavage planes provided varying degrees of stability, thus comparing surface-adsorbate interactions on multiple surfaces provided a more complete understanding towards the reactivity of different classes of molecules on cinnabar and vermilion. Across multiple surfaces, the oxidation state and species of the adsorbates central atoms contributes to the degree of surface interactions, as well as the magnitude of adsorption energy.

This work was funded, in part, by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Baltimore SCIART Program.


Escape from Cartoon Planet

Talia Trunk, Robby Dews, Matthew Shuck, Kwame Dodiar, Jason Polon, Will DeStaffan
Mentor: Michael Satzinger, Visual Arts

Game design has a variety of principles and elements that span from artistic to technical. Using the game engine Unity, our team of artists and programmers will create a game prototype that uses these principles to create an engaging experience. “Escape from Cartoon Planet” outlines the central goal of the game: survive and escape. The player is a human from a universe of science fiction and space exploration who has crash landed in a cartoon world. The native fauna of this planet are impacted by the sudden introduction of technology and become hostile, and the player must use a sci-fi mech suit to defend themself. The game itself is a first-person shooter that features a main character interacting with a three-dimensional environment, defending themself from enemies. Technically, this introduces a number of issues to resolve, such as the algorithms for the enemies’ artificial intelligence, managing the movement and shooting systems, implementing the in-universe user interface, and more. As a team, we will synthesize our concepts, themes, and story with the mechanics of the game, and make sure that together they provide a challenging game with stakes and inherent fun.


Using Nanocapsules that Decrease Blood Loss in Traumatic Injuries as an Extended Drug Delivery System

Ayeoritse Tuedon, Tolulope Ale
Mentor: Erin Lavik, Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering

In the event of an injury that produces blood loss, mechanisms in the body trigger activation of platelets at the site of injury where they form fibrin mesh to form clots. However, in the case of a severe traumatic injury, this system may not be able to control bleeding. PEGylated polyurethane nanocapsules with GRGDS peptide have been found to decrease clotting time and may decrease blood loss. In this work we encapsulated Pirfenidone – an FDA-approved anti-inflammatory drug- in our nanocapsules to help reduce inflammation post injury at the affected area. To characterize our nanocapsules we utilized nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, transmission electron microscope (TEM) imaging, dynamic light scattering (DLS), and rotational thromboelastography (ROTEM) to determine the characteristics of nanocapsules and test their viability in vitro studies. Our findings will be pivotal in providing effective, and safe therapies for treatment of traumatic injuries where blood loss is the major cause of death.

This work was supported by Merit Review Award #5I01BX004529-02 from the United States (U.S.) Department of Veterans Affairs, Biomedical.


Influence of Social Determinants of Health on Healthcare Access in Adults with Asthma

Arpita Tuladhar
Mentor: Cristina Miller, Public Health

Asthma, a common chronic respiratory illness characterized by inflammation and narrowing of
the airways, is a highly burdensome disease with severe and debilitating consequences,
impacting 262 million people in 2019 and causing approximately 455,000 deaths worldwide. In
the United States, in 2020, 21 million adults had asthma, causing around 4,200 deaths. Studies
have shown the risk for asthma varies for each individual, accounting for differences in
healthcare quality, access and utilization, and exposure to environmental and behavioral factors.
Little is known about the variations in social determinants of health and barriers to accessing
healthcare for adults with asthma, who experience higher mortality risks, as the focus has
primarily been on children. We utilize the National Health Interview Survey data from 2010 to
2018 in this study to compare adults with and without asthma. Using means and adjusted odds
ratios, we examine the differences between adults with and without asthma and locate the
barriers and facilitators they face in accessing healthcare from Levesque’s conceptual
framework. In addition, using a probit model, we examine how risky behaviors and other social
determinants of health may increase the likelihood of emergency room visits for adults with
asthma compared to adults without asthma.


Job-Induced Stress And Affectivity Of Minorities In The Workplace

Sarah Turner
Interdisciplinary Studies, Psychology
Mentors: Angela Hall1, Judy L. McDowell2, 1Department of Human Resources, Michigan State University, 2Business Administration/HR Management, Roosevelt University

Job-related stress is on the rise in the modern workplace and is the driving force of stress for working Americans, as it has been linked to heart attacks, mental health struggles, hypertension, and more. (The American Institute of Stress, 2022) Our study focuses on the differences between minority and non-minority workers, as there has been evidence showing daily instances of discrimination experienced by African Americans. While stress has negative effects across populations, the task of coping with discrimination presents additional risk factors for African Americans. (American Psychological Association, 2013) These occurrences of discrimination have been correlated with negative impacts on mental health and well-being. (Deitch et al., 2003) Our study aims to identify resources that minorities can use to cope with work-related stress and bring awareness to organizations so they may prevent these negative experiences. This study was conducted by sending out a survey asking 224 participants about their reported job-induced tension and affect.


Determining Regions in USP15 that Regulate its Stability and Turnover in Ovarian Cancer Cells

Pavan Umashankar, Noel Amadu
Mentor: Achuth Padmanabhan, Biological Sciences

Due to lack of early diagnostic markers and effective therapeutics, human ovarian cancer remains the most lethal gynecologic malignancy. This unfortunate clinical reality highlights the urgent need to identify novel therapeutic targets and more effective treatment strategies. Recent studies show that the deubiquitinase USP15 plays an important role in ovarian cancer progression and therapeutic response. Despite this, mechanisms that govern USP15 stability and turnover in cells have remained unknown. My project aims to address this knowledge-gap by identifying regions in USP15 that regulate its stability in cells. I will clone full-length and truncated USP15 mutants with either N- or C-terminal epitope tags into the mammalian expression vector, pCDNA3.1. These plasmids will be transfected into TYK-Nu human ovarian cancer cell line and the half-life of the full length and USP15 mutants will be measured using cycloheximide chase assay. A small-molecule drug called MCB-613 was previously identified to impact USP15 stability. I will determine how MCB-613 impacts the stability of full-length and truncated USP15 mutants. The above structure-function studies will determine regions within USP15 that regulate its stability. The discovery of mechanisms that regulate USP15 stability will allow the development of new therapeutic strategies that target USP15 in ovarian cancer cells.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and through the Padmanabhan Lab START-UP.


Restoring Homeostasis In Activated Microglia

Anya Viswanathan
Biological Sciences
Mentor: Matheus Victor, MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department

Chronic neuroinflammation plays a key role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis, implicating immune cells as potential targets for treatment. Microglia are brain-resident macrophages that initiate inflammation. In healthy patients, microglia remain homeostatic, but in the presence of a pathogen, dying neurons, amyloid, or tau, microglia become activated and initiate a multicellular response to clear cellular debris, later returning to homeostasis. However, in AD patients, microglia are chronically activated and sustain neuroinflammation which, combined with amyloid and tau pathology, promotes neuronal damage and cognitive decline. Given that homeostatic microglia are associated with high purinergic receptor (P2RY12) expression and enriched ATP sensing compared to activated microglia, we hypothesized that overexpressing transcription factors (TFs) associated with high P2RY12 may restore homeostasis in activated microglia. Here, we investigate the overexpression of homeostatic-state microglial TFs in activated IPSC-derived microglia (iMG) cells by defining calcium dynamics in response to ATP. Live imaging revealed that overexpressing homeostatic TFs in activated iMGs evoked greater amplitudes of calcium transients compared to untreated iMGs, indicating increased ATP sensing and P2RY12 (both markers of homeostasis). These observations suggest these TFs drive homeostasis in activated microglia, which is significant because identifying regulators that reverse chronic neuroinflammation is crucial to developing AD therapeutics.

This research was funded, in part, by a grant to UMBC from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Pre-college and Undergraduate Science Education Program, and in part, by the U-RISE scholarship program at UMBC.


Civic Minded Writing Tutoring: Tutors, Students, and Teachers as Whole People

Clair Volkening
Mentor: Elaine MacDougall, Academic Success Center

Our use of language, and thus our writing, is inescapably tied to our identities and our participation in society. This presentation will discuss the importance of training tutors to see and understand their own self-agency and civic responsibilities so that those tutors can then better help other students. Through my undergraduate honors research at UMBC I am creating a training course that brings in research and theory from traditional WC scholars, the UMBC Center for Democracy and Civic Life, and other UMBC faculty members such as Dr. Earl Brooks and Professor Lia Purpura. The work that Writing Centers do is extremely broad, covering any subject or writing obstacle that a student might bring into the center, and writing is often intensely personal for any number of reasons (often both societal and internal). Therefore, it is impossible to expect any one teacher of a tutor training course to know and teach every aspect. At root, this presentation will focus on the idea that globality refers both to the global nature of writing and communication, writing and communication within higher education, and within individual people learning and working within those institutions.


Exploring the Relationship Between Finding Community/Sense of Belonging and Depression in College Students at UMBC

Khady Wade
Mentor: Laura Ting, Social Work

Depression levels in college students have increased recently due to multiple factors. Many college students lack a sense of community and a sense of belonging. Racial and ethnic differences also come into play, as Latinx and Multiracial students are more likely to be more severely depressed relative to Non-Hispanic White students. Black/African American and Latinx students are more likely to demonstrate anxiety level relative to Non-Hispanic Whites students, and Asian American students. Black/African American and Latinx students are more likely to screen positive for suicide risk. Understanding the role community plays in depression is important. In this study, approximately 100 UMBC undergraduates will be recruited and surveyed on their feelings of social support from friends and family, their depression symptoms, and their sense of community connectedness. They will respond to flyers posted around campus. We expect results to indicate a negative correlation between depression and sense of belonging/community connectedness. Preliminary data will be presented with discussion on implications. Understanding reasons behind levels of high depression in college students can lead to different approaches within the higher education systems to help college students maintain their mental health all while working on their degree/degrees.

This work was funded, in part, by UMBC McNair Scholars Spring Research Institute.


The Role Of dp1 in Cell Division Symmetry and Number in Volvox Carteri

Zakarya Wahed
Mentor: Stephen Miller, Biological Sciences

The green alga V. carteri possesses ~2000 cells and just two cell types, reproductive and somatic, and is a model organism used for the investigation of the evolution of multicellularity traits, including cell division number and symmetry. Here we investigated the role of the retinoblastoma pathway protein Dp1 in regulating these traits in conjunction with GlsA, which interacts with Dp1 and is required for asymmetric divisions in V. carteri embryogenesis. Previously others showed that a dp1 mutant makes many fewer cells than the wild-type, and performs asymmetric division at earlier stages of development than the wild-type does. We determined that the ratio of reproductive to somatic cells is greatly increased in the dp1 mutant. We also used CRISPR to make a dp1-glsA double mutant and found that it makes early asymmetric divisions, indicating that glsA is not essential for these early asymmetric divisions in the dp1 mutant. Our results provide insight into Dp1 function in V. carteri, which should lead to better understanding how cell division number and symmetry can evolve.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Shroom People: An Experiment in Storytelling through Material Performance

Tommy Waldo
Mentors: Robert Pawloski, Economics Department; Colette Searls, Theatre Department

The goal of Shroom People was to experience the pre-production, production, and post-production stages of filmmaking, and ultimately produce a 20-minute film. Through use of material performance, the film creates relatable characters inspired by various species of fungi. Material performance involves design and interaction with material to bring a character to life. The film’s “Mushroom People” take human form, hoping to understand humanity’s desire for constant growth. Just as these “Mushroom People” must rethink their way of life in contrast to humanity, Shroom People encourages the audience to rethink its own position on this planet, especially in light of environmental and mental health crises. The film was produced in collaboration with many artists who were compensated using the budget of URA funding. Pre-production involved continuous revisions to the script as well as costume construction which repurposed newspaper and old fabrics to embody the recycling spirit of mushrooms. Production relied on maintaining an organized crew and planning dates to shoot around busy schedules. Post production is still ongoing, involving collaboration with musical artists and voice actors to create the film’s ambience. We have created a short trailer and look-book to showcase this creative work and pursue further funding.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Political Obedience in Democracies: How Educational and Conservative Environments Foster Trust of Governments

Molly Walker
Mentor: Carolyn Forestiere , Political Science

As the modern political climate in the U.S. rapidly changes, it is important to understand how individuals think about and participate in the country’s democratic process. This study researched how education and political ideology influence young Americans’ beliefs that obeying a leader is an essential characteristic of democracy. The political obedience of Americans could dictate the way the rule of law is followed and the sensitivity to the abuse of power. The design for this study included both quantitative and qualitative methods. Data from over 1,000 individuals from the World Values Survey were used to study the interaction between education level, political ideology, and political obedience. The results suggest that education and ideology correlate with attitudes about obeying leaders. Respondents with more education and respondents who lean right were associated with beliefs that obeying a leader is an essential characteristic of democracy. In comparison, respondents with less education and respondents who lean left are associated with beliefs that obeying a leader is not an essential characteristic of democracy. Following this research, conservative and educated individuals should be further examined as the perceptions of American values were evidently different among groups of Americans.


Using Preschool Classroom Libraries to Promote Mathematics Engagement

Carly Weaver, Jeniffer Khorsandian
Mentors: Susan Sonnenschein, Psychology; Michele Stites, Education

Most books in preschool classroom libraries do not have mathematics elements despite research showing that introducing mathematical concepts in early education has developmental advantages (Claessens et al., 2021; Ginsburg et al., 2008). This study explored whether preschool children would choose to interact with mathematics-based books if they are made available in their classroom libraries. The researchers of this study implemented an experimental design with children at a Baltimore City Head Start center. Four classrooms were observed. Two (intervention) received 75 traditional storybooks and 75 mathematics books while the two (control) received no changes to their library. An average of 10 observations were performed in each classroom during library time in which children had the freedom to interact with any book available to them.
The study is still currently underway however, there are preliminary noteworthy findings. Teachers encouraged children to read and explore books, in general, but not specifically mathematical books. Students in the intervention classrooms chose mathematical books more often and explored them for longer on average than children in the control classrooms. These findings suggest that we are not doing all we should when it comes to introducing mathematical elements in early education.


How Twilight’s Target Audience’s Relationship to the Franchise Has Evolved

August Wichmann
Mentor: Liz Patton, Media and Communication Studies

This qualitative research study examined Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight franchise as a text and how readers’ responses to the text have changed over time. I used content analysis, a survey, and ethnographic interviews to examine the material of the text and evaluate the target audience’s experiences then and now. This methodological approach differed from previous studies as it used data collection and analysis in conjunction with theory, such as feminist perspectives and critical analysis that are essential for working through Twilight’s place in and effect on contemporary culture. This study also examined the disparity between initial audience responses to Meyer’s work, her own beliefs about its intended impact, and the concerns of critics, such as the social impact on young people, which has not been directly addressed in previous research. Ever since Twilight entered the market, people have had concerns about how the tweens and teens the series targeted would be affected, and my research aims to examine how those now adult relationships with the Saga has evolved in order to understand how younger audiences metabolize content that is considered problematic.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


The Impact of the ACA Individual Mandate Repeal on Coverage and Costs: Evidence from Cross-State Enrollment and Premiums

Peter Wilschke
Mentor: Pietro Veronesi, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

I examine the impact of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s individual mandate. From its 2014 introduction to its 2019 abolition, the most controversial part of the ACA was its individual mandate, requiring most individuals to obtain a certain level of healthcare coverage or pay a fine. This penalty was introduced to reduce premium costs by incentivizing healthy people into purchasing insurance, making the overall insured population healthier and reducing the level of adverse selection present in the health insurance marketplace. Previous research has found that the mandate’s implementation led to increased coverage and reduced costs, but no scholarship exists on the effect of the federal repeal of the individual mandate. Differentials in statewide mandate implementations following the federal repeal allow me to exploit a differences-in-differences model to find the change in enrollment and premium prices attributable to the removal of the individual mandate. I find that the removal of the mandate has not had a significant effect on enrollment or prices, and propose two possible reasons for this result as well as directions for future research. The fact that the mandate repeal had little to no effect on the individual market has implications for future healthcare policy.

This work was funded, in part, by the Leadership Alliance Summer Early Identification Program.


Examining the Impact of Market Concentration on Hospital Pricing

Peter Wilschke
Mentors: Morgan Henderson, Economics; Morgane Mouslim, Hilltop Institute

This study examines the impact of hospital market concentration on hospital pricing. A better understanding of factors that affect hospital prices is important to inform healthcare policy proposals aimed at reducing healthcare costs, particularly as healthcare spending and costs continue to rise. Previous research has indicated that policies focused on increasing hospital competition may help to lower hospital prices. Using a sample of healthcare referral regions (HRRs), which are geographically delineated healthcare market regions, with varying numbers of hospitals per HRR, I take data from hospitals’ machine-readable standard charge files to assess the relationship between hospital market concentration and hospital pricing. In order to determine the association between market concentration and prices, I regress the average gross charges and discounted cash prices from all hospitals in each HRR on the number of hospitals in each HRR. I expect that the fewer hospitals in an HRR, the higher average prices for hospitals in that HRR. Fewer hospitals in a given geographic region means that patients living in that region have fewer choices as to where they can receive healthcare, and the hospitals in that region each face a less elastic demand for services.

This work was funded, in part, by a Build and Broaden grant from the National Science Foundation.


Music Around the Words: A Comparative Analysis of Translations and Adaptations Of Japanese and English Songs

Sandra Wilson
Mentor: Tomoko Hoogenboom, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication

This research aimed to answer the question, how do translators balance and adapt songs from a source language to a target language while accounting for rhythm including synchronization and lyrics. Though many linguistic and cultural features appear similar or even identical in different languages; these linguistic features often have different nuances, making translation or adaptation challenging. Expanding on linguist Vermeer’s Skopos theory (1970), Franzon (2008) formed a series of “choices” for adapting and translating songs. Based on Franzon (2008), this research examined translation and adaptation strategies of songs in Japanese and English. This research’s main purpose included determining how and if English and Japanese translators adapted or translated songs especially when working with concepts that do not translate between languages or cultures. The researcher analyzed and compared adaptations and translations of pop songs in English and Japanese similarly to data collection methods of Tekin (2022), and Trisnabudi and Setiajid (2022). Though this research only presented a small sample, music and song serve as a cross cultural means of communication throughout the globe and translation has a significant impact on cross cultural communication.


Ghost Station: An Interactive Exploration of Time, Alienation, and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Vivian Yeh, Christina Lukaszczyk
Mentor: Ryan Zuber, Imaging Research Center

Three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still experiencing its continuing ramifications for our mental health and quality of life. Ghost Station is a 3D game that examines themes of time, mortality, and social alienation in relation to the pandemic. The game is set in a subway station, a liminal space symbolic of transition and a reprieve between the past and the future. Navigating an underground platform together with a series of train cars created using Maya and Substance Painter, assembled in Unreal Engine, the user can investigate artifacts to decipher a narrative that collages college students’ stories about the pandemic and months of lockdown. These stories were gathered using a survey administered to 68 students and recent graduates who attended U.S. colleges, primarily from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the Maryland Institute College of Art, as well as follow-up interviews with a few respondents. Virtual environments allow people to connect in ways that traverse geographical boundaries, and Ghost Station aims to provide a space for users to reflect on their experiences with the pandemic and depart with increased optimism for the future.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Development And Optimization Of A Novel, Multi-material Scaffold Manufacturing Process

Sarah-Fatime Yoda
Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering
Mentor: Yonghui Ding, Northwestern University

The use of biomaterials scaffold in combination with bioactive factors offers a promising alternative to grafts that are used for damaged tissue repair and regeneration. Many advancements in manufacturing technology have been made to improve scaffold design and counter their potential risks. Such advancements include the introduction of 3D printing as a scaffold manufacturing technique, providing faster, cheaper, patient-specific products. Digital light processing (DLP)-based 3D printing holds great promise for scaffold fabrication due to its high resolution and fast fabrication rate. However, fabrication of multi-material scaffolds with DLP-based 3D printing remains challenging. To address this issue, we aim to develop a facile manufacturing strategy to fabricate multi-material scaffolds by integrating DLP-based 3D-printing and atomized spray coating techniques. Bioresorbable vascular scaffolds were 3D-printed using a photo-polymerizable, citrate-based polymer and spray coating them with various polymers to produce multiple material scaffolds and varying characteristics. The spray coating parameters were optimized to achieve uniform coating of each polymer on the 3D-printed scaffolds. The physical and mechanical properties of the multi-material scaffolds were evaluated to determine the impacts of various polymer coatings on the scaffold properties. This study provides an effective strategy to manufacture multi-material scaffolds, which will benefit tissue engineering applications.


Christians, Politics, and Diplomacy: The Anti-Christian Movements of 1922-1927 in the Republic of China

Evelyn Yuen
Mentor: Meredith Oyen, History

Christianity had played a central role in the diplomacy between China and Western Powers since the late nineteenth century. The propagation of mission work, and sometimes the death of missionaries resulting from anti-Christian attacks, gave Western Powers the excuse to further their encroachment through unequal treaties. As the young Republic of China (ROC) struggled to find a new national identity and achieve national unity in the warlord era (the 1920s), left-leaning skeptics and critics’ accusations against Christianity of being the forerunner of imperialism popularized. Thus, the Anti-Christian Movements between 1922-1927 began. These Anti-Christian Movements were vastly different from the 1900 Boxer’s Rebellion in that they eventually led the ROC to restore national sovereignty over education and catalyzed the independence of the Protestant churches from missionaries’ leadership. This research aims to explore Chinese Christians’ response to the Movements and the Movements’ impact on domestic politics. Furthermore, this research will shed light on U.S.-China relations as missionary schools in China were predominantly American-funded and operated; thus, it explores how the “special relationship” between the U.S. and China changed after the Anti-Christian Movements.

This work was funded, in part, through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


Mapping 100+ Years of Baltimore’s Asian Restaurant History

Evelyn Yuen
Mentors: Nicole King, American Studies; Sarah Fouts, American Studies

Asian cuisine has been served in Baltimore for more than a hundred years. Restaurants are one of the first establishments Asian Americans made in the city. They have offered job opportunities to new immigrants, interpreted Asian culture to Baltimoreans, and introduced new flavors to the Baltimorean palette. Their location, menu, and operations collectively reflect the changes in Asian American history. These restaurants’ popularization within the city and later dispersion to the county parallel U.S. urban history. This project seeks to survey all the searchable Asian restaurants in Baltimore from the first establishment until the present. It will employ archival research and data visualization to unearth stories about Asian restaurants and examine their changing roles and impact on the city’s history. A few restaurants, takeouts, and fast casuals will be highlighted for case studies. Overall, this interdisciplinary project will shed light on the history of Asian restaurants in Baltimore.


Examination Of Masculine Components In Game Capital And Epic Glory Of Diablo Players

Ethan Zoz
Mentor: Steven Dashiell, Humanities

The game Diablo has a fervent following, many of whom enjoy the challenge of hundreds of enemies thrown at them. For some players, there is a desire for greater challenge because of game difficulty rather than other phenomena, such as new versions or expansion packs. Blizzard/Activision invented the hardcore setting, which makes the game character mortal, meaning that when it dies, the character is forever lost. Moreover, the company denotes external factors, such as “(a)cts of God, your little sister, or any other reason whatsoever” which cause a loss of character would be permanent. Given that Diablo requires time and investure, what forces would encourage players to want to play in this way, where there is a clear heightened risk, but little social or structural reward? This research interrogates the interviews of twenty (20) Diablo players who use the hardcore setting, to investigate reasons why they favor this situation. Through phenomenological analysis, we investigate how game capital has an impact on the choice for individuals. While there is little social reward, full completion of the game on the hardcore setting can provide a masculine epic glory that lifts social standing, particularly the game is discussed (Martin et al, 2015).