Sneak Peeks 2023

Tristan Diaz | Ousmane Diop | Tim Edwards | Leila Ghaffari | Kendal Howell | Polina Kassir | Maria Kutishcheva | Hilary Grace Lahoury | Riya Patel | Theo Reinert| Evelyn Yuen

Barren wooded forest
Image courtesy of Tristan Diaz.

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

Tristan Diaz
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.


A painting of a young african american woman under a noose
Image courtesy of Ousmane Diop.

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

Ousmane Diop
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.


Mathematical signs on a white board
Image courtesy of Tim Edwards.

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

Tim Edwards
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.


Scientific schematic
Image courtesy of Leila Ghaffari.

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.


A close up picture of plant cells
Image courtesy of Polina Kassir

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

Polina Kassir
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.


Two women at a hairdresser
Image courtesy of Kendal Howell.

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

Kendal Howell
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.


A dark hallway featuring a red and black door
Image courtesy of Maria Kutishcheva.

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

Maria Kutishcheva
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.


A teacher is reading to first graders
Images courtesy of Hilary Grace Lahoury

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.


A word cloud featuring text describing the plight of women in society
Image courtesy of Riya Patel.

Immigrant Attitudes Toward Women’s Participation in Politics in Maryland

Riya Patel
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.

two lego toy characters
Image courtesy of Theo Reinert

Language of Toys; Transmission and Circulation of Gender Ideologies

Theo Reinert
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.

Chinese protest in 1925
Image courtesy of Bitter Winter Magazine

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.