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URD@C 2017 Student Participants


LeAnna Cates

Hometown: Wildwood, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Naveen K. Vaidya
Mentor's Department: Mathematics
Funding Source: SEARCH, SUROP, & Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics

LeAnna Cates is in her fourth year at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, where she is majoring in Biology with an emphasis in Bioinformatics. Throughout her undergraduate career at UMKC, she has done research at several institutions. She began at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research researching the structure and function of centromeres in female fruit fly ovaries, and then earned an opportunity to research with bioinformaticians at Boston University, where she developed a custom bioinformatics pipeline to measure effects of multiple environmental variables on microbial communities. Currently, she is developing mathematical models to simulate Zika Virus transmission dynamics in the Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics Program. LeAnna is a General Chemistry Supplemental Instruction (SI) leader and was the Editor-in-Chief for the Vol. 10 Lucerna, the undergraduate research journal on campus. LeAnna is fascinated with the development of prevention programs against infectious diseases and plans to attend graduate school to earn a PhD in Public Health.

Mathematical Modeling of the Zika Virus Transmission Dynamics: Disease Characteristics and Prevention

Several outbreaks of the Zika virus (ZIKV), including the 2007 outbreak in Yap Island, the 2013-14 outbreak in French Polynesia, and the recent devastating spread of the virus across Americas, have become an international concern for public health. Therefore, there is an urgent need to characterize ZIKV infection and transmission among populations. In this study, we used a mathematical model to investigate the ZIKV transmission dynamics and to evaluate potential prevention strategies. Our model successfully predicts epidemic data from French Polynesia and Yap Island. Using our model, we estimated the key parameters related to ZIKV infection and transmission, such as incubation period, infectious period, and basic reproduction number. Our results show that the basic reproduction number, which is defined as the expected number of secondary cases produced by a single infection in a completely susceptible population, can range from 2.18 (Marquises Island in French Polynesia) to 3.77 (Yap Island). We found that the ZIKV peak prevalence occurs during the initial 5 and 10 weeks of infection. These epidemic peaks can be reduced to nearly 0% by reducing mosquito-to-human contact by at least 70% or increasing mosquito death by at least five times. With these levels of prevention programs, the final outbreak size is predicted to be negligible, thereby successfully controlling the ZIKV epidemics.

Jacob Gurera

Hometown: Raymore, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Psychology, Spanish, Political Science, & Sociology
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Diane Filion
Mentor's Department: Psychology
Funding Source: SEARCH & SUROP

Jacob Gurera is currently majoring in Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, and Spanish at UMKC. Jacob is an Honors student, a senior lab member of the Cognitive Psychophysiology Research Group, and a student member of the Society for Psychophysiological Research. After he graduates in May of 2018, Jacob plans to go on to a clinical psychology PhD graduate program to pursue a career as a researcher, clinician, and educator.

The Relationship between Locus of Control and Sleep in College Students

The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between sleep loci of control and sleep quantity and quality in college students measured by responses to information presented on sleep hygiene practices. This research builds on existing literature demonstrating that one’s perception of control over the result of a situation can impact the result itself, such as perception of influence over health-related outcomes. Little research has examined locus of control pertaining to sleep-related outcomes, a factor that is disproportionately affected in the college student population. This demographic is recommended to receive 7-9 hours of sleep per night; however, research has suggested the median to be little more than 6 hours per night. Research has also described presentations of sleep hygiene to participants receiving less than the recommended amount of sleep to be effective in general, yet students continue to engage in poor sleep hygiene despite their knowledge of the importance of sleep. In this research study, by dividing the population into two subgroups based on responses to a self-report sleep locus of control survey (internal sleep locus of control vs. chance sleep locus of control), the two populations would show significantly different responses to sleep hygiene information. Results may not show improvement if the populations were summed together, giving clinical use to finding out a participant’s sleep locus of control score. In the proposed study, undergraduate volunteers wear a FitBit activity band for a two-week period to obtain an objective measure of their sleep quality and quantity. Next we schedule them for a laboratory session in which we measure physiological responses to a sleep hygiene presentation using a photoelectric plethysmograph (PPG) to measure pulse rate and silver/silver chloride electrodes to measure skin conductance. Finally, we have participants wear the FitBit bands for a proceeding two-week period to create two distinct periods of sleep quality and quantity for comparison to reactions to the sleep hygiene presentation. We hypothesize that if a participant has a higher internal sleep locus of control (ISLC), then their physiological responses to a sleep quality improvement presentation will indicate high arousal/attention, with positive correlations between ISLC and both skin conductance and heart rate change, measured as a difference between highest and lowest scores during the presentation. Those with higher ISLC scores will show a statistically significant improvement in sleep quality from Period A to Period B, with a positive correlation with average minutes of sleep per night and a negative correlation to average minutes restless per night. This study has shown initial success and continues to be promising in showing support our hypotheses.

Joe Haller

Hometown: Kearney, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Travis Fields
Mentor's Department: Mechanical Engineering
Funding Source: SUROP, SEARCH, & NSRDC

Joe Haller is a senior studying mechanical engineering at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. After serving in the United States Army as a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic, Joe returned to school to pursue a lifelong goal of becoming an engineer. After completing an M.S. in May 2018, he hopes to embark on a career in research and development of aerodynamic decelerator systems.

Development and Evaluation of Precision Aerial Delivery with a Steerable Cruciform Parachute

An inexpensive approach to precision aerial delivery capable of reducing deployment costs while retaining sufficient lading accuracy has recently become highly desirable. Massive humanitarian relief campaigns depend on an affordable means of delivering food and supplies to urban or otherwise cluttered environments. Current unguided parachute systems can severely drift off target causing significant collateral damage and civilian casualties as demonstrated in Operation Provide Promise during the Bosnian War. The research presented explores the use of an inexpensive cruciform canopy rigged for gliding with only a single actuator to effectively steer the system. Prescribed input maneuver-based testing was preformed to collect model information necessary for developing an accurate four degree-of-freedom simulation for tuning of a heading angle proportional-integral-derivative control system. Simulations were conducted with real wind data to evaluate the robustness of the controller and the developed guidance navigation system. Experimental testing was then conducted from both fixed-wing and multirotor aircraft to verify the simulation results and the applicability of a cross-based canopy for precision aerial delivery.

Jorgue Samuel Martinez

Hometown: Monett, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Biological Sciences
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. Leonard Dobens
Mentor's Department: Biological Sciences
Funding Source: NSF

Samuel Martinez was born 1995 in Joplin, MO. Within the Kansas City community, Samuel actively engages at the Boys & Girls clubs as a group leader and swimming coach. In addition to volunteering at the VA hospital, he has worked on aging and Parkinson’s disease research with Dr. Dobens. Currently, Samuel is part of the Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics group, and starting in Fall 2018 Samuel plans to begin investigating Tribbles role with respect to Cachexia (a terrible wasting away syndrome that 50% of cancer patients experience and 20% pass away from). He is an entering junior Biological Sciences major with a Bio-medical emphasis at University of Missouri-Kansas City and would like to thank Monett Cubs Athletic Booster club (especially April Smith), Huffmaster Insurance, and Shelby (Deines) Linahan for helping him after graduating from Monett High School.

Detecting the FOXO Transcription Protein During Insulin Signaling

In the larval fat body, the pseudokinase Tribbles modulates insulin responses by binding and degrading the kinase Akt. A key target of Akt is the transcription factor dFOXO that activates genes through a winged helix DNA binding domain known as the Forkhead box. The genes that dFOXO activates are involved in diverse functions such as metabolism, cell cycle, mitophagy, and oxidative stress. Under a starved state, the insulin signaling pathway is less active, and dFOXO is hypophosphorylated, whereupon it enters the nucleus to activate gluconeogenesis enzymatic genes such as G6Pase, whose function is to dephosphorylate glucose 6 phosphate and allow more synthesized glucose into the bloodstream. Given dFOXOs central role in Tribbles-regulated metabolism, we decided to develop a technique to examine dFOXO under fed and starved states in the model organism Drosophila (fruit fly) using a FOXO-GFP transgenic line. Drosophila oogenesis is highly sensitive to starvation, so we raised two sets of flies, one set on simple food (starvation conditions) and another on simple food supplemented by an extra layer of yeast medium for ~3 hours (well fed). The ovaries were dissected, fixed, and stained with primary antibodies anti-Phosphorylated FOXO (to detect phosphorylated dFOXO) and Anti GFP-Mouse (to detect expression of the FOXO-GFP transgene). Protocols were optimized for washing conditions. Ongoing work will test the role of Tribbles in regulating FOXO activity using these markers.

Stephanie Montoya

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Business Administration
Faculty Mentor: Prof. Judith Ancel
Mentor's Department: Economics
Funding Source: Avanzando Scholars, SEARCH, & Student Government Fund

A graduate of Cristo Rey High School in Kansas City, Stephanie Montoya is a senior majoring in Business Administration at UMKC, where she participates in the Avanzando Scholars program. In 2016, she presented her research at the National Association of Chicana Chicano Studies Conference, and at UMKC’s 17th Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research & Creative Scholarship, she was awarded the Presentation of Distinction in the KC Works division, which recognizes interdisciplinary scholarship focused on the greater Kansas City region. Ms. Montoya has garnered financial support for her research from the UMKC Student Government Fund and SEARCH.

Wage Justice

The study's purpose is to research individuals who have been victims of wage theft and seek help at the Kansas City Worker Justice Center. I can personally relate to this because my father was once a wage theft victim, and since then I wanted to know why this happened. This social issue is not just a problem in Kansas City, but nationwide. With my research I was able to find the most effected occupations and ethnicities. The reasons for doing the research on wage theft, is to create awareness for other victims that may be going through similar problems. It occurs more often, that undocumented people are victims of discrimination in the labor force and wage theft, being the most targeted in wage theft cases. Many do not search for help because they are afraid. They deal with injustices all the time. The investigation was done within more than one hundred cases from local residents of Kansas City, Missouri and the state of Kansas in the Kansas City Worker Justice Center that supports wage theft victims.

Ronald Michael Morris

Hometown: Independence, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Mathematics & Statistics
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Majid Bani-Yaghoub
Menotr's Department: Mathematics & Statistics
Funding Source: SUROP

Scott Nickell

Hometown: Northmoor, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Computer Science
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Majid Bani-Yaghoub
Mentor's Department: Mathematics & Statistics
Funding Source: SUROP

Scott Nickell is a senior studying computer science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. After graduation, he plans to look for employment in analytics, or similar math heavy programming work. Beyond school, he chairs the Planning and Zoning Committee of his local municipality.

A Mathematical Model to Simulate and Analyze Crop Loss Due to Spring Freeze

Late spring freezes in Missouri have been extremely damaging to crops, in fact they account for the four of the most damaging freezes in the state since 1979. A late spring freeze is a phenomenon where we experience a warming period in late March and a hard freeze early to mid-April. A spring freeze becomes so damaging due to the early growth stage plants are in. Plants that have the ability to acclimate to the cold have also de-acclimated and readied itself for warmer temperatures. This effect is exacerbated by the unexpected warm period in late March. This is due to the plants de-acclimating and becoming more vulnerable to the cold. Many plants are capable of acclimating to cold weather, surviving otherwise harmful temperatures, however this acclimation takes months, where de-acclimation takes only days of warm weather. This combination results in a plant losing its cold weather protection prior to a freeze event, thus magnifying the destructive effects of the freeze. Looking at the most recent freeze event in 2007, Missouri crop losses reached an estimated 400 million dollars in Missouri with a total of 2 billion nationwide. Beyond magnitude, historical data of Missouri weather allows for an estimate of frequency, showing a significant event occurring on average once per every eleven years. By examining the warm period prior to the freeze and the freeze itself we hope to be able to offer a risk assessment/model for the year in question. By doing this farmers will know if a particular year carries increased risk of crop damage due to freeze, and they may choose to take precautions to mitigate that risk.

Monika Patel

Hometown: Lexington, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Chemistry
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Kathleen Kilway
Mentor's Department: Chemistry
Funding Source: SUROP & SEARCH

Monika Patel is a senior pursuing a B.S. in chemistry at UMKC. She graduated in 2009 from Lexington High School. Post-graduation, she plans to attend medical college or research at biomedical school to pursue a career as a cardiologist. Ms. Patel greatly enjoys volunteering at St. Luke’s Plaza Hospital in Kansas City and working in a research lab.

Scale Up and Production Optimization of our Silorane-Based Bone Cement

Approximately 161,040 cases of joint replacements were observed only within the USA of year 2015 and are expected to rise in the years to come, according to American Joint Replacement Registry of 2016. A number of complications can occur including infections of the joint or the surrounding bone. In these cases, antibiotic-loaded acrylic bone cements, spacers, and beads are used to treat joint infections. The drawback to this treatment is that only heat and chemically stable antibiotics can be incorporated into these cements. We have developed a novel silorane-based bone cement that is non-toxic and non-exothermic. It maintains comparable mechanical properties to commercially available bone cement and addresses the limitations of antibiotic incorporation into acrylic bone cements. This biomaterial is composed of two monomers, CYGEP and PHEPSI, as well as a filler and initiation system. In order to investigate the efficacy of silorane bone cement as an antibiotic delivery device, our research was focused on two main parameters. The first one was the optimization of CYGEP and PHEPSI monomers. The second parameter was focused on quality control with an emphasis on assessing mechanical strength of the material. Optimization of the involved monomers was attempted by varying reagents and reaction conditions with proper purification techniques. The quality control procedures were then used to assess mechanical strength of the bone cement for its optimal success in its future use as an antibiotic delivery device. From this research effort, we were able to accomplish the goals set forth in this research and are now working toward the antibiotic and antifungal incorporation and elution studies, which would result in a material with a wider range of application toward infections.

Chelsea Pfaffly

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Civil Engineering
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Megan Hart
Mentor's Department: Civil Engineering
Funding Source: SUROP

Chelsea Pfaffly is a junior pursuing a B.S. in civil engineering at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. In addition to participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity (SUROP) program, she is active in many student organizations and holds leadership positions in Society of Women Engineers and American Society of Civil Engineering.

Acid Leaching of Pervious Concrete for Heavy Metals Recovery

Catastrophic release of heavy metals from Minas Gerais dam in Brazil and the lead released from aging pipes in Flint, Michigan has brought to the forefront the importance of heavy metal contaminant remediation techniques. Permeable reactive barriers are a method of remediating groundwater using a reactive media to remove contaminants. Previous research performed at UMKC has shown that permeable reactive concrete (PRC) is a novel, high performance material capable of removing lead, cadmium, and zinc from solution. PRC can be used to treat effluents from mine wastes, industrial processes, or as a preventative curtain for mining facilities; to intercept potential contaminants before the contaminants impact the environment. Breakthrough testing was performed for 8 months on two different concrete specimens to measure capacity of the sample mixtures and evaluate the rate of the reaction for removal of lead cadmium and zinc. This research was a follow-up project to measure the amount of metals retained in the PRC filter. Three concrete samples were extracted from breakthrough columns every 6 inches for a total of eighteen samples per column. Samples were then submerged in acid, allowed to react, filtered, and measured by ICP, EPA method 6010. Filtered samples were desiccated and weighted to provide a mass balance. Results indicated over 40% of the metals from Class C Fly Ash were contained within the first 6 inches and 60% from Portland cement in the first 6 inches. 95% of the metals from both mixtures were contained within two feet. This indicates a high concentration removal zone due to precipitation and coprecipitation of the metals within the initial contact area of the PRC. This data will be used to model the contamination front by estimating the depth of penetration for each mechanism of removal (precipitation, adsorption, ion exchange) and to evaluate the lifespan of the filter. Correspondingly, these results indicated a mineable region as metals within this first two feet are well concentrated and in the future could be economically beneficial.

Morgan Staudinger

Hometown: Greenwood, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Chemistry & Environmental Science
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Kathleen Kilway
Mentor's Department: Chemistry
Funding Source: SUROP

Morgan Staudinger is a senior pursuing a B.S. in Chemistry and Environmental Science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition to participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity (SUROP), she is the vice president in a student organization called the Student Environmental Coalition. After graduation she plans on attending graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry.

Ribbon-like Molecules with Theoretical Interest

Molecules known as longitudinally twisted acenes (LTAs), are a class of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which exhibit chirality or “.” A molecule is chiral when its mirror image is non-superimposable on itself. Because LTAs adopt a helical conformation, akin to a molecular ribbon, they are inherently chiral. LTAs are formed in enantiomeric pairs—like your left and right hand—which we call a racemic mixture. But a racemic mixture may be resolved—separated—to isolate each enantiomer. A pure enantiomer, unlike its racemic mixture, interacts with plane polarized light and exhibits chiroptical properties. They make these compounds unique and potentially useful as substrates in novel LEDs, chiral separation architectures, and asymmetric synthesis. LTAs for use in materials need to be configurationally stable—their pure enantiomers must maintain their left- and right-handed configuration when separated—and efficiently synthesized—that is, made in high yields at low cost. Unfortunately, the few currently known LTAs that have displayed any configurational stability were available in yields too low to be of any practical use. But recently, our group has designed a synthetic protocol, one which has allowed for the efficient synthesis of LTAs. We now hope to exploit this approach in the design of configurationally stable LTAs, as well. The syntheses and calculated stabilities of several new LTAs will be presented.

Ada Thapa

Hometown: Katmandu, Nepal
Campus: UMKC
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Ryan D. Mohan
Mentor's Department: Biological Sciences
Funding Source: SEARCH & SUROP

Ada Thapa is majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and will graduate from UMKC in May, 2017. In addition to her research, Ms. Thapa currently works as a student assistant in the International Student Affairs Office, where she loves getting to help international students adjust to life at UMKC. She is currently in the process of applying to graduate school and hopes to earn a Masters degree in Public Health.

Identification of the Molecular Causes for Neurodegeneration

Devastating and incurable neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) are caused by genetic changes that alter the function of critical molecular machines called “multi-protein complexes”. However, why these alterations to protein function lead to neurodegeneration is unknown, making it difficult to design effective therapies. Our research focuses on understanding how dysfunction of these multi-protein complexes leads to establishment and progression of neurodegenerative disease. Using a combination of biochemical, genetic and proteomic approaches, our research group is identifying novel pathways that are disrupted, causing neurodegeneration. Ultimately, our goal is to find a suitable therapeutic treatment in patients.

Tevin Williams

Hometown: Waynesville, Missouri
Campus: UMKC
Major: Music and Business
Faculty Mentor
: Dr. Andrew Granade
Mentor's Department: Conservatory of Music & Dance
Funding Source: SEARCH

Tevin Williams is close to completing both Bachelor's of Arts in Music and Bachelor's of Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance. Actively involved with multiple interests, Tevin currently holds roles in digital advertising, radio broadcasting and regularly volunteers at live music events in Kansas City. Pending a five-year college career, Tevin intends to secure roles that will contribute to a large-scale community to include the funding of initiatives that promote fine-arts in public schools. While he enjoys the synergy between music and business, Tevin intends to merge both skills into an active participant of institutional organization in his later career.

Fela and Today: Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar and Us

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, popularly known as Beyoncé, is one of the most influential faces in today’s music scene. On the one hand, the singer and songwriter writes music that is fun, empowering and irresistibly danceable. On the other hand, Beyoncé releases work that reflects her strong social stances and approaches toward social change, including her most recent release, Lemonade. Similarly, artist Kendrick Lamar is staking his claim in the industry with a vengeful sound music and socially stigmatic lyrics. His sophomore album To Pimp a Butterfly, made its debut contesting the issues of racial discrimination to which his community is subjected. How do these two artists make political statements while delivering music that clears for chart toppers? They look to older African roots, particularly those grounded in Afrobeat. Fela Kuti, born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, revolutionized a relationship between music and politics through his invention of Afrobeat. Although known for his career in jazz, Kuti was more respected, and widely criticized, for the social ideas he packed into his own genre. Kuti’s Afrobeat is incomparable to most other forms of art; its intensity focuses on the experiences of the post-colonial Pan-African state. Through the comparative analysis on both context and compositional technique, we can then focus on how Bey and Kendrick Lamar have galvanized social activism within our masses, with music.