CARD 2021 Posters & Creative Work


Have questions for the authors and creators? Join our Q&A session on Friday, May 7th, from 3:10pm to 4:00pm.


Art History & Museum Studies

“Domenico Beccafumi: Elevating the Italian Renaissance Printmaker and the Art of Printmaking” - Georgia Brabec, BA, advised by Professor Catherine Lusheck

In the final decade of his career, Sienese artist Domenico Beccafumi (1484/86-1551) turned his attention from painting and sculpture to the art of printmaking, producing an exquisite oeuvre of chiaroscuro woodcuts that pointed to new ambitions for the aging artist. Contextualizing his artistic aims, this research explores Beccafumi's printmaking oeuvre in relation to Italian Renaissance debates over artistic status and comparisons between the arts the evolving role and status of printmaking in Europe. I argue that Beccafumi sought to elevate the status of humanist printmaking from an arte minore to an arte maggiore, and by extension, to highlight his own status as an intellectual, divine maker on par with the greatest artists of the Renaissance.


“Modeling population responses of California serpentine flora in the face of climate change” - Alexandra Palacios, BS, advised by Professor John R Paul

Rare and endemic taxa are crucial to sustaining local biodiversity, but as climate change becomes more apparent, understanding how these key species will respond becomes increasingly important. In California, 14.7% of rare and endemic flora inhabit serpentine outcrops. Serpentine soils are known for being toxic to most plant species, as many of them contain high levels of heavy metals, high Mg:Ca concentration ratios, and greater temperature variation due to a lack of organic matter. In the context of climate change, one can hypothesize that species with an affinity to serpentine will be more able to handle increasingly extreme temperature variation than their non-serpentine relatives. However, serpentine outcrops have an island-like distribution, meaning that dispersal ranges and habitat suitability is limited for serpentine endemics. I used Ecological Niche Models (ENMs) to project how serpentine endemic, serpentine tolerator, and sister non-serpentine taxa will respond to climate change. Species occurrence data from the Calflora and California Consortium of Herbaria databases were collected for 25-30 serpentine endemics, tolerators, and sister non-serpentine species. Climatic and edaphic data were obtained from the California Basin Characterization Model and the USGS respectively. ENMs were created using Maxent software for current (2010 - 2039) and future (2070 - 2099) periods. Preliminary data shows that serpentine tolerators are most suited to climate change, since they are able to occupy serpentine and non-serpentine soils. Non-serpentine species had a projected reduction of their available range, but were still able to withstand the effects of climate change into the 2070 - 2099 period, while serpentine endemics saw a slight increase in their projected range. The implications of this research can be used to inform the conservation of rare and endemic species as climate change continues to threaten biota in California.

“A Systematic Review of the Application of Remote Sensing Techniques for Imaging Land Use Variation in Urban Environments” – Ashley Sango, MS, advised by Professor Naupaka Zimmerman

Urban land use has started to vary more widely over the last couple of decades to accommodate the increasing numbers of people moving into cities. The objective of this systematic review was to explore the breadth of current options available for mapping urban landscapes. This is because these landscapes are characterized by the presence of both built and vegetated spaces in compact areas where imaging is clearer when using remote sensing techniques. Using a modified PRISMA protocol, I searched through Google Scholar in December 2020 to identify studies detailing remote sensing methods for imaging vegetation in urban areas using a search string and enabling filters to define suitable parameters. I found 425 articles published in the last ten years that discussed the application of a remote sensing technique to imaging land-use variations in cities. Overall, maps developed using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data consistently characterized vegetated areas with sufficient detail to identify changes within the environment if they happen. The main limitation of the studies shared was that most of the research has focused on describing the built environment instead of the interspersed vegetated spaces. However, by cataloging the existing remote sensing tools that are used, this analysis will be able to help inform future policies to inform urban landscape planning in a changing climate.

“Role of serpentine soil in divergent selection and population differentiation in Mt. Tamalpais populations of native flower Erythranthe guttata” – Cate Gwinn, BS, advised by Professor John R Paul

Serpentine soils found on Mt. Tam provide a harsh, high metal environments that are inhabitable to most plants unless highly specialized. Native species Erythranthe guttata is unique in that it is able to survive on both serpentine and non-serpentine soils. With these drastically different selection pressures, we expect these populations to genetically diverge, but close proximity with high gene flow between populations may prevent this. My research tests if ecologically distinct populations of E. guttata on serpentine and non-serpentine soils are genetically distinct, deduced by molecular data found by genotyping via RADSeq methods. This molecular data will be used to better understand the roles of isolation-by-distance and isolation-by-adapttion in differentiation of populations of E. guttata in Marin County, and further our understanding of evolutionary relationships between E. guttata ecotypes.

“Hidden Consequences: The Effects of Daikon Radish on the Microbial Communities of Purple Vetch in Cover Crop Mixtures” – Marcello B. Kuan, BS, advised by Professor Naupaka Zimmerman

Many microbes live in and on plants. Some of these microbes are mutualists, and help the plant, while others are pathogenic and cause harm. It is not always clear which will occur, because the outcomes are influenced by the host, the microbe, and their shared environmental context. A previous study from our lab of the microbes associated with cover crops at the oldest continually-operating organic farm in California, Star Route Farms, found that leaves of cover crops were frequently inhabited by fungi in the classes Dothideomycetes, Leotiomycetes, Sordariomycetes, and Agaricomycetes. Using the recently-published FungalTraits database, I determined the commonly observed lifestyles of these classes of fungi. I found that they were generally found either as endophytes (not causing disease) or plant pathogens. Another interesting observation from our previous study was that the composition of foliar fungal communities in purple vetch (Vicia sp.) were significantly altered if they were planted near daikon radish (Raphanus sativus). This project sought to analyze the composition of these two microbial communities in vetch leaves—planted with or without radish—and infer their potential ecological effects. I found that there were two primary fungal families that could explain these differences in vetch when planted with or without radish: the Protomycetaceae and the Sclerotiniaceae. The sequences of family Protomycetaceae appeared in more purple vetch leaf samples (and at higher sequence abundances) when purple vetch was planted with daikon radish, compared to when purple vetch was planted without daikon radish. Sequences from the family Sclerotiniaceae appeared in higher frequencies when purple vetch was planted without daikon radish. Work is ongoing to assess the statistical support for these findings. The FungalTraits database suggests that families Protomycetaceae and Sclerotiniaceae both primarily contain species that act as plant pathogens, which may indicate that the decision to use daikon radish as part of a cover crop mixture has more complex implications than previously thought. The findings provide new insight on the effects of planting of daikon radish as a part of cover crop mixtures, which could help to inform organic agricultural practices elsewhere.

“Climate as a driver of divergence in soil-specialist plants” – Nicole Ibañez, MS, advised by Professor John R Paul

The global climate is changing rapidly, and stochastic events like droughts are becoming increasingly frequent and severe. It is important to understand how communities are affected by climate, especially in rare, fragmented ecosystems. The California Floristic Province provides a unique landscape with a dramatic precipitation gradient. Within that gradient, serpentine soil ‘islands’ dot the landscape. Serpentine soil is characterized by harsh abiotic factors that make it difficult for plants to grow. Plants that can tolerate serpentine soils can be found growing on and off of serpentine soils in sympatry, and are a model system for studying local adaptation via stress-tolerant traits. Plants that grow in stressful environments often have adaptive traits to help them tolerate or avoid such stressors, and these adaptations often trade off with competitive ability. One such trait is accelerated phenology, or the timing of flowering, a response to low soil moisture. Phenology has important implications for gene flow and reproductive isolation between populations. Here, I leverage heterogeneous landscapes to study how precipitation mediates local adaptation and reproductive isolation in plants that occur in specialized habitats. I predict that the amounts of drought stress and competition stress within serpentine and non-serpentine habitats are more divergent in regions with higher precipitation. I hypothesize that this larger difference in environmental stress will result in more divergence of certain traits, i.e. those associated with the drought-competition tradeoff, in wetter regions. I predict that nearby populations of a plant growing on serpentine and non-serpentine soils will have more divergence in phenology and higher genetic differentiation in wetter regions. These results would suggest that climate is a driver of divergence via local adaptation to specialized edaphic habitats. This information is important to our understanding of how soil specialist plants have evolved in the past, and how different plant communities may be affected by changes in climate in the future.


“Activation of Jurkat T Cells with CD3/CD28 beads and analysis by CD69 markers” – Allan Nojadera, MS, Mary Casis, MS, advised by Professor Cary Lai

Jurkat T cells have been used as a model cell in CAR-T engineering for cancer research. T cells function in the immune response of the body to rid it of infections and disease. CAR-T is able to bind to cancerous cells and turn on the immune response to kill tumor cells. The goal of this experiment is to activate Jurkat T cells using CD3/CD28 beads and to measure activation by CD69 expression. Artificial activation was measured by CD69 antibody staining with phycoerythrin (PE) and analysis by flow cytometry. By analyzing activation of T cells, we are able to determine the sensitivity of its activation. Results will be used to help design and develop a more sensitive CAR-T therapy.

“Molecular and Bioinformatic Approach to Investigating Epigenetic Control of DAX-1 Expression in Cancer” – Caroline P. Riedstra, MS, John Anderson, MS, advised by Professor Christina Tzagarakis-Foster

Nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs) control a wide range of functions during development and disease progression. Dosage-Sensitive Sex Reversal, Adrenal Hypoplasia Congenita, Critical Region on the X chromosome, gene 1 (DAX-1 or NR0B1) is an orphan nuclear hormone receptor predominantly expressed in the testes, ovaries, breast, adrenal cortex, and lung. As an orphan NHR with a unique molecular structure, DAX-1 can interfere with gene expression by repressing transcription. Playing a key role in growth and development by modulating hormone function, DAX-1 has been implicated in Adrenal Hypoplasia Congenita (AHC) and Dosage Sensitive Sex Reversal (DSS). Previous research has also shown that DAX-1 is a suppressor of tumor growth in breast cancer. Thus, DAX-1 may serve as an indicator of aberrant growth. Here we hypothesize that DAX-1 is epigenetically regulated via methylation, specifically in cancer cells, thereby reducing its expression. In a survey of various human cancer cells we determined whether inhibiting DNA methylating enzymes released epigenetic control of the DAX-1 gene, resulting in an increase in expression. We carried out molecular assays such as methylation specific restriction enzyme analysis, to differentiate degrees of methylation between lung, breast, liver, cervical, and adrenal carcinoma cell lines. Additionally, by implementing bisulfite sequencing we determined the precise methylation sites in the DAX-1 gene. Following confirmation of these sites, we utilized chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) in order to identify the modifying proteins present on the DAX-1 CpG islands. To complement our experimental data, we pursued a bioinformatics approach analyzing methylation status in the promoter region of the DAX-1 gene across tissue sample data acquired from The Cancer Genome Atlas Program. The results of this research could lead to a translational application of understanding of where this orphan NHR fits into the development and progression of cancer.

“How Flow Cytometry and FlowJo Can Be Used to Analyze T-cell Phenotype” – Emily Humphrey, MS, advised by Professor Cary Lai

It is common in industry to analyze T-cell data with flow cytometry and FlowJo. Flow cytometry is a technique used to detect and measure physical and chemical characteristics of a population of cells or particles. FlowJo, is the software program that is used for analyzing flow cytometry data. Both are essential techniques and tools used to evaluate T-cell characteristics and phenotypes. There are several different states of T-cells: naïve, memory, and effector. There are different surface markers that help to differentiate one stage from another. Knowing what state the T-cell is in can give you an indication of what is going on in the immune system. My research position at PACT Pharma has allowed me to investigate the applications and troubleshooting of both Flow Cytometry and FlowJo. The goal of this project was to become more experienced by gaining practical experience with flow cytometry techniques to evaluate T-cell state from patient samples and then use FlowJo to understand and format the data to impart my knowledge and findings to others.


“Effect of Tunneling on 6-Electron Electrocyclizations” – Angela Dawn Castile-Krasuski, BS, advised by Professor William Karney

Density functional methods have been used to study the mechanisms for the sequential electrocyclic ring closures of [16]annulene, with a goal of determining the likelihood of heavy-atom tunneling. Using M06-2X/6-31G*, we computed barriers of 27 and 13 kcal/mol for the first and second electrocyclizations, respectively, compared with 21 kcal/mol for the parent cyclization of 1,3,5-hexatriene. The second cyclization is predicted to have a lower and narrower barrier than the first cyclization, which suggests a higher probability of tunneling. However, if [16]annulene undergoes the first cyclization by passage over the 27 kcal/mol barrier, then it would have more than enough energy to pass over the second cyclization barrier as well, implying that tunneling would be insignificant.

“Effect of Ligand Side-chain Identity on the Electrochemical Properties of Eu(III) Complexes” – Chance Christian, MS, Matthew Derfus, MS, Marisa Poveda, MS, advised by Professor Osasere Evbuomwan

The reduction/oxidation (redox) potential of tissue is strictly monitored by electron transfer agents and redox couples to maintain normal physiological processes. However, diseased tissue and cancerous cells disrupt this equilibrium towards more negative potentials. The development of biomedical imaging techniques that allow for non-invasive mapping of tissue redox potentials would enable the detection and diagnosis of diseased tissue. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a biomedical imaging technique that is non-invasive, and produces three-dimensional images of soft tissue with high spatial resolution. MR images can be further enhanced by contrast agents (CAs), most of which are Gd(III) complexes, that provide contrast by a T1 mechanism. However, Gd(III) complexes suffer from a few drawbacks that limit their application as responsive imaging agents. Eu(III) complexes have been widely studied as responsive paramagnetic chemical exchange saturation transfer (PARACEST) MRI agents, while Eu(II) complexes have been found to exhibit T1 MRI properties due to their electronic similarities with Gd(III). Thus, the Eu(II)/Eu(III) redox couple can be taken advantage of in the design of redox-responsive MRI contrast agents. The goal of this project is to acquire a better understanding of the impact of ligand side-chain identity on the redox potential of the Eu(II)/Eu(III) couple. To date, Eu(III) complexes consisting of four acetamide-, glycinate-, and aspartate side-chains were altered by substituting one of the four side-chains with a pyridine or quinoline moiety. The resulting complexes were analyzed by cyclic voltammetry at pH 7.5. The results obtained so far showed that on average, the redox potentials of each complex registered a +67mV and +176 mV shift upon replacement of one side-arm with a pyridine and quinoline, respectively. These results were consistent for all complexes regardless of whether the other side-chains were acetamides, glycinates, or aspartates, and suggest that “softer” donor atoms that are part of highly conjugated systems are better at stabilizing the Eu(II) oxidation state upon reduction of the Eu(III) complex.

“Synchrotron Photoionization Study of the O(3P) + Alpha-Angelica Lactone (AAL) at 298, 550, and 700K” – Golbon Rezaei, MS, advised by Professor Giovanni Meloni

The purpose of this research is to study the oxidation of alpha-angelica lactone (AAL) initiated by O(3P) using the synchrotron radiation from the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The reaction species are investigated by multiplexed photoionization mass spectrometry. Mass-to-charge ratios, time traces, and photoionization spectra are collected for each primary product to help in their identification. Their adiabatic ionization energies are also obtained. The observed primary products at 298 and 550 K are ketene (m/z 42), acetaldehyde (m/z 44), methyl vinyl ketone (m/z 70), methylglyoxal (m/z 72), 5-methyl-2,4 furandione (m/z 114). The same products with the exception of 5-methyl-2,4 furandione (m/z 114) are observed at 700 K.

“Investigating The Potential Arrhenius Behavior of 18 Base-Pair DNA Duplexes Via Electrostatic Denaturation” – Jeffrey Taylor, MS, advised by Professor Ryan West

Electrostatic melting is a recently developed electrochemical tool that can be used to interrogate DNA stability, allowing for discrimination of double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) by base-pair sequence or the presence of mismatches, deletions, and other mutations (1). In this work, we explore the dependence of temperature and potential on the kinetics of electrostatic melting in an effort to better understand the mechanism. Previous studies, by another group, have shown that the potential at which electrostatic melting occurs decreases with temperature in the range 10 – 18 °C, i.e. the melting becomes easier at higher temperatures up to 18 °C. On the other hand, the authors found no effect of temperature above 18 °C (2). Unlike previous studies, the work presented here examines the kinetics of electrostatic melting at relatively low melting potentials (300 – 500 mV vs Ag/AgCl reference electrode). We show that as the temperature increases, the rate of melting increases in the range of 20 – 50 °C. Notably, the kinetics follow Arrhenius behavior, thus allowing us to determine the electric-field modulated activation energies of melting as a function of melting potential. Based on these measurements, we hope to determine the activation energies of purely electrostatic melting due to an applied electric field.

1. S. Mahajan, J. Richardson, T. Brown and P. N. Bartlett, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 130, 15589 (2008).
2. E. Papadopoulou, M. Meneghello, P. Marafini, R. P. Johnson, T. Brown and P. N. Bartlett, Bioelectrochemistry, 106, 353 (2015).

“Computational Study of Tunneling in the Electrocyclic Reactions of Helical Systems” – Mariana Jimenez, BS, advised by Professor William Karney

Chemical reactions can proceed by passing over the reaction barrier and/or by tunneling through the barrier––the latter being a quantum mechanical effect. From biochemistry to astrochemistry, tunneling dominates the rates of many reactions, provided the reaction barrier is narrow enough. Tunneling by heavy atoms (e.g. carbon) is known to contribute to some pericyclic reactions. Helical systems give rise to electrocyclic reactions that are exceptions to the Woodward-Hoffmann rules. Solomek et al. observed that the electrocyclic ring closure of a cethrene derivative occurs via a forbidden pathway, and they reported a measured activation energy (14.1 kcal/mol) much lower than the calculated energy barrier, suggesting a significant contribution from tunneling. We report computational results on the potential energy surfaces and tunneling contributions for the electrocyclic ring closures of two model systems, C14H12 and C16H12, to further understand the contribution of heavy-atom tunneling in the electrocyclic reactions of helical systems. Barrier heights, distances moved by the reacting carbons, barrier widths, and tunneling transmission coefficients computed with Bell’s formula are presented and compared with the parent electrocyclization of 1,3,5-hexatriene.

“Contribution of Quantum Tunneling to Intramolecular Diels-Alder Reactions” – Mikail G. Alejandro, BS, advised by Professor William Karney

Intramolecular Diels-Alder (IMDA) reactions have been widely employed in the synthesis of complex organic compounds, and they comprise key steps in the enzyme-catalyzed biosynthesis of natural products. Tris(cyclohexeno)[12]annulene undergoes electrocyclization followed by Diels-Alder reaction to form a cage compound. Castro and Karney computed mechanisms for that and the analogous C12H12 system. Our work attempts to address whether formation of the cage product by IMDA reaction is partly due to heavy-atom tunneling––i.e. passage through the barrier rather than over the barrier––as a result of the reacting carbons needing to move only short distances. We report preliminary computational results (B3LYP/6-31G* level of theory) on two related IMDA reactions, including transition state structures, barrier heights, distances moved by the carbons, and relative barrier widths––a key parameter related to tunneling probability. We also present tunneling transmission coefficients computed using Bell’s formula in order to estimate the percentage of the rate due to tunneling at selected temperatures.

“Modulating the Cytotoxicity of DNA Alkylators through Intramolecular Deactivation” – Nathaniel Garrison, MS, advised by Professor Herman Nikolayevskiy

DNA-damaging natural products, despite their promising activity, are often too toxic for clinical use as anti-cancer chemotherapies. Novel strategies to effectively modulate their cytotoxicity could expand the arsenal of usable drugs. Ficellomycin, a cytotoxic, DNA-alkylating antibiotic with a rare and unstable azabicyclo[3.1.0] hexane core, undergoes an intramolecular cyclization to render itself inert outside of a narrow pH range. This bifunctional molecular architecture inspired the design of simplified derivatives containing a DNA-alkylating warhead tethered to a caged nucleophile by a flexible linker. An SAR study was conducted to determine the effect of structural changes on DNA alkylation and intramolecular deactivation kinetics using nitrobenzyl pyridine (NBP) as a model for DNA. The lessons learned from these simplified structures will serve to guide the future development of more complex agents with potential pharmacological applications.

“A Synchrotron Photoionization Investigation of the Model Biofuel Dimethoxymethane” – Rory McClish, MS, advised by Professor Giovanni Meloni

Combustion is an often oversimplified process that in reality can encompass hundreds to thousands of fast, complex chemical reactions. Improving fuel efficiency, mitigating pollution, and implementing sustainably sourced fuels is of great societal interest in the effort to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Progress in rational fuel design necessitates detailed understanding of the web of gas phase reaction mechanisms that link molecular structure to fuel behavior. In this project, the first steps in the low temperature oxidation of a model biofuel candidate, dimethoxymethane, are studied first through experiments conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Advanced Light Source using VUV Synchrotron Radiation Multiplexed Photoionization Mass Spectrometry and then aided by theoretical computations performed on USF's supercomputer. Results of this study will "fuel" kinetic modeling efforts enabling the prediction of the combustion of longer chain, and therefore more practical, polyoxymethylene ethers.

“Absolute Photoionization Cross Section of Alpha-pinene” – Ryan Rodriguez, MS, advised by Professor Giovanni Meloni

The absolute photoionization cross section of the monoterpenoid, Alpha-pinene, is presented for the first time as well as the partial cross sections of dissociative fragments. Experiments are performed via multiplexed vacuum ultra-violet (VUV) synchrotron photoionization mass spectrometry in the 8.0 – 11 eV energy range. Experimental work is conducted at the Advanced Light Source at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This work is important in quantification of fuel reaction products in photoionization mass spectrometry as well as quantitative kinetic modeling in this biofuel combustion candidate. Experimental appearance energies of dissociative fragments are compared to the CBS-QB3 level of theory to determine potential dissociative pathways.

“Investigation of oxidation reaction products of acetylacetone using synchrotron photoionization carried out at the Advanced Light Source in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory” – Sara Gallarti, MS, advised by Professor Giovanni Meloni

This research project aims to investigate the oxidation chemistry of the gas phase Acetile Acetone (AcAc) + O 2 combustion reaction at specific pressure and temperature condition. The reaction is photolytically Cl-initiated in excess of bimolecular oxygen. These findings are expected to serve as the groundwork for improved fuel kinetic modeling, future investigations of other diketones, or even for justification of using AcAc as a fuel itself.

“Understanding Calcitermin and Metal interactions” – Sohee Choi, MS, advised by Professor Michael Stevenson

Currently, the Stevenson lab is researching Calcitermin (VAIALKAAHYHTHKE) a peptide found in the human airways. Calcitermin has antimicrobial properties against Gram-positive bacteria in acidic buffer (pH 5.4) due to the protonation of its histidine residues, which allow it to interact with the negatively charged bacteria.15 It has been shown to have increased activity in the presence of Zn(II) and Cu(II), but the mode of action as well as the binding sites are unknown. Furthermore, it has yet to be determined if Calcitermin has increased potency in the presence of other metals such as Ag and Ni. We are tackling these questions in our lab through analysis of the binding thermodynamics of AMPs to their native metal partners as well as analyzing their interactions with UV-vis and NMR.

“Barrier Width and Tunneling Probability in Dynamic Processes of Fluorinated Cyclooctatetraenes” – Tyler Raaymakers, BS, advised by Professor William Karney

Motivated by previous experimental results on fluorinated cyclooctatetraenes, we report calculations on ring inversion and pi bond shifting in these systems to determine the barrier width and tunneling probability. It is difficult for heavy atoms, such as carbon and fluorine, to undergo tunneling when they must move large distances during a reaction. Computed barrier widths are much larger for ring inversion than for bond shifting, suggesting that ring inversion has a much lower probability of tunneling than bond shifting. Tunneling transmission coefficients estimated with Bell’s formula will also be reported.

“Covalent Inhibition Against Sortase A Activity in Staphylococcus aureus Bacteria” – Umyeena Bashir, MS, Jaycee Peng, MS, advised by Professor Herman Nikolayevskiy

With an increase of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) caused hospitalizations, there is a need to explore novel antibiotics against this bacterial induced illness. However, because of the nature of MRSA, the development of new antibiotics could inevitably lead to new resistance in S. aureus, creating a more powerful “superbug”. Therefore, it is paramount to evaluate and explore novel pathways of drug treatment against this bacteria. Sortase A, a cysteine protease of S. aureus, enables it to maintain virulence from its functionality of covalently attaching surface proteins, responsible for the adhesion ability for infection. Inhibitory studies of this enzyme have gained prominent interest as a new pathway of drug development. Through the use of docking software, we have evaluated possible structures that can covalently inhibit Sortase A, which we plan to synthesize and study in future further research.

“Decoding the Mechanism of the Methionine ABC Transporter” – Yu-Chun Chen, MS, advised by Professor Janet Yang

ABC transporters serve a broad range of vital functions. Promiscuous ABC transportersIts dysfunctionality will cause cystic fibrosis and Stargardt disease, as well as certain medical complications like antibiotic drug resistance. Despite the importance of these transporters in crucial biological processes, the mechanisms of many transporters are yet to be solved.

To further understand the mechanism of ABC transporters, we focus on the E. coli methionine ABC importer MetNI. Since the bacterium needs to vary methionine import based on cellular needs, MetNI ATPase activity and coupled substrate transport must be properly regulated. Our current goal is to decode the mechanism of MetNIQ system using real-time ATPase assay and Anisotropy.

Here we present our preliminary work on analyzing the kinetics of MetNIQ system under various substrate conditions as well as nucleotide states. This detailed study of MetNIQ kinetics will ultimately provide insight into the mechanism of methionine import, which may bring insights on the overall ABC transporter superfamily.

Communication Studies

“See you Zoom!: How Online Communication Methods Have Changed the Way College Aged Students Perceive Nonverbal Behaviors Among Friend Groups” – Ciarra Nean-Marzella, BA, Nora Ward, BA, Leah Clatterbuck, BA, advised by Professor Eve-Anne Doohan

We conducted a qualitative research project that utilized a grounded-theory approach and the interpretive paradigm to build themes to answer our research question: How has the switch to online communication methods (such as Zoom) during the COVID-19 pandemic changed the perception of nonverbal communication dynamics within friend groups? We conducted semi-structured interviews via Zoom to gain their perspectives on how their nonverbal communication between friends has changed. Our inclusion criteria included individuals who have communicated with friends on Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. We utilized convenience sampling to collect our participants. Our participants were males and females over the age of 18 who were attending a college or university. Nora posted an “advertisement” on her Instagram story asking for participants for our research study. Leah used convenience sampling to recruit participants who fit the demographic. Ciarra sent out an advertisement to college students on her Snapchat. The data was transcribed and stored on a password protected computer in order to ensure the safety of our participants. Only Leah, Ciarra, and Nora are the only ones who have access to the data. We used Braun & Clarke (2006)’s approach of open coding and constant comparison. We looked for codes relating to changes in nonverbal behavior and the different perceptions of such behavior in an online environment.

“Mood Talk to Mental Health Treatment: Conversations with Chinese and Latinx Patients in Primary Care Recorded Visits” – Nora Ward, BA, Maya Seo, BA, advised by Professor Evelyn Ho

Introduction: In the United States, depression is the second leading disease/illness. Although depression and mental health crises’ have been an exponentially growing, ongoing issue, many ethnic minority groups do not have access to the care that they need. Moreover, cultural stigmas and structural barriers including language concordance often discourage Chinese and Latinx communities from entering mental health facilities as well. The goal of this study was to understand how people in the Chinese and Latinx patients who screen positively for anxiety/depression discuss or do not discuss mental health in primary care clinician visits.

Methods: Data for this study came from a larger study of primary-care visits with Chinese and Latinx patients, language concordance, and use of medical/lay interpreters. For this paper, we examined a subset of 17 Latinx patient, and 19 Chinese patient audio-recorded conversations with their primary care clinician who either had a diagnosis of anxiety/depression or screened positively for anxiety/depression using the PHQ-2. Conversations occurred in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin or Toishan and were transcribed and translated by bilingual/bicultural research assistants. Data were analyzed using both an inductive and deductive thematic and discourse analysis. All transcripts were analyzed by at least two researchers. After comparing and contrasting important themes that emerged from the dataset, we met regularly as a team to reconcile differences.

Results: Our initial analysis focuses on four important types of conversational moves within these visits. First, there were open conversations between clinicians and patients about current and ongoing mental health diagnoses, assessment, and treatment. Second, we examined conversations where there were missed opportunities when either the clinician or patient initiated a possible entry into mental health talk that the other did not reciprocate. Finally, we examine the conversations where patients recognize the mental concerns and actively work to negotiate alternative treatments including complementary therapies, taking supplements, exercise and social outings. Notably, many of these same conversations included patient disclosures about worries about the cost of mental health medication and concerns about language concordance and/or cultural relevance of suggested therapy.

Discussion: Primary care visits are important touch-points for clinicians to check in with patients about mental health even when it is not the most pressing health concern. As such, it is important for clinicians to be aware of the various ways that patients may raise mental health concerns in subtle ways as part of the discussion of other health concerns. Further research should examine how to make mental health care more accessible for ethnic minority groups who may be concerned with issues such as cost of treatment and cultural resonance of mental health treatment.

“’It’s a Luxury’: The Privilege of Mental Health for 1.5 and Second Generation Korean Americans” – Maya Seo, BA, advised by Professor Evelyn Ho

The maintenance of mental health is becoming an increasingly popular issue (Livingston, 2018). While the importance of mental health is becoming more prominent, there should be a particular attention to Korean Americans (KAs); KAs are one of the fastest growing minority groups in the United States, and also report one of the highest levels of mental health issues as well (Oh et al., 2013). While the importance of cultural ideologies, influence of collectivist values, and the immigrant experience, have on KAs perception of mental health have been established, there needs to be more research on how KAs communicate about mental health. I then conducted interviews on nine KAs on their definition and understanding of mental health. Through coding and cultural discourse analysis on the transcripts, I found that the participants discussed mental health in two polar extremes. Moreover, they attributed their discomfort in disclosing mental health issues because of Korean norms, which was reflected in the language. Finally, I discovered that mental health is ultimately viewed as a luxury because of generational differences from an immigrants narrative. The future implications of my research call for the creation of a new hybrid identity for KAs to comfortably talk about mental health.

Computer Science

“Reducing Implicit Gender Bias Using a Virtual Workplace Environment” – Nicki Hashemi, BS, Kevin Beltran, BS, Cody Rowland, BS, Anh Nguyen, BS, advised by Professor Beste Yuksel

Implicit gender bias has costly and complex consequences for women in the workplace. We present an online desktop virtual environment that follows the story of a male or female self-avatar from the first-person perspective, who either experiences a positive or negative workplace scenario. Participants who experienced negative workplace experiences with a female self-avatar had significantly decreased levels of implicit gender bias compared to those who had a male self-avatar with evidence of perspective taking. Experiences of a positive workplace scenario showed no significant decreases in implicit gender bias regardless of self-avatar gender. We discuss the implications of these findings and make recommendations for virtual environment technologies and scenarios with respect to the reduction of implicit biases.

Environmental Science

“An Investigation of the Transport Behavior and Treatment Potential of ​Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)​” – Victoria Silverman, BS, advised by Professor Amalia Kokkinaki and Professor Osasere Evbuomwan

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals manufactured primarily for usage in industry, household products, and fire-fighting foams. These compounds do not break down naturally, which makes them persistent contaminants in the environment. PFAS can contaminate drinking water and pose health risks to those who are exposed to them. This research project aims to understand the various properties of these contaminants and their transport and retention behavior. In addition, the project aims to identify effective treatment conditions with the ultimate goal of removing PFAS from water resources. A literature review along with some computational work has been completed. Future work will include further modeling of experiments, eventually followed by batch and column experiments.


“The Effects of a Fitness and Wellness Course on Physical Activity Behavior and Intentions: Comparing In-Person Learning to Remote Learning” – Calia Hunter, BS, Carson Croel, BS, advised by Professor Stephanie Cooper

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to determine if the modality of content delivery for a university fitness and wellness course, in-person vs. remote, would impact changes in physical activity behavior and intentions across the semester.

Methods: Two cohorts of students enrolled in a university fitness and wellness course provided information about their physical activity behaviors and physical activity intentions at three time points throughout the semester. Of the 42 participants, 25 completed the course in-person and 17 completed the course online.

Results: The only physical activity behavior that was significantly different between the cohorts was walking. Students who completed the course on-campus walked significantly more than those who were remote (p = .05); however, there were not significant changes across the semester. The remote cohort reported significantly greater intentions to be physically active (p = .02), as well as, more positive attitudes towards exercise (p = .001). Lastly, perceived opportunity to engage in physical activity significantly decreased from Week 1 to Week 13 (p = .03) despite a significant increase in perceived resources from Week 1 to Week 13 (p = .05).

Conclusion: In-person course delivery provides an environment for students to engage in more walking during the semester compared to remote learning. Despite perceived resources becoming more apparent or abundant near the final weeks of a fitness and wellness course, the natural increase in coursework across all classes towards the end of the semester may reduce students’ perceived opportunity to engage in physical activity.

“The Effects of Class Breaks on Motivation and Behavior in a Remote Learning Environment: Does Movement Matter?” – Sarah Flores, BS, Sabrina Antunes, BS, advised by Professor Stephanie Cooper

The transition to a completely online educational platform has been implemented in universities across the United States to safely continue the facilitation of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. While this system allowed college students to continue their education, it likely reduced physical activity (PA) levels since students were no longer physically moving from class to class and could not access a campus recreation center. The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of two different types of class breaks (exercise vs. viewing a self-selected phone app) during a remote learning course on physical activity motivation, intention, and behavior in college students. It was hypothesized that including 10-minute exercise bouts during synchronous remote classes for one week would improve physical activity motivation, intentions, and behavior compared to a sedentary control. A total of 31 students completed the crossover study. There were no significant differences between conditions. However, the data indicated that moderate intensity activity (p = .09), and the injunctive norm (p = 0.08) and physical activity intention (p = .08) domains of the intention questionnaire may be area to focus on for future studies involving exercise-centered class breaks.


“Understanding Nationwide Uptake: An Analysis of SNAP Online Purchasing Program” – Angelina Polselli, BA, Charly de Nocker, BA, Charlotte Hoffs, Stanford University, Christopher Leboa, Stanford University, Isabelle Foster, unbox, advised by Professor Keally D. Mcbride

Many shoppers order groceries online to avoid COVID-19 exposure, but SNAP participants have less access to this option. Since March 2020, the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot (OPP) has expanded from 6 to 48 states and 8 to 12 retailers, but many still lack access. If improved, the program could increase fresh grocery availability in low-access areas and advance food security, nutrition, and health equity. In our research, we highlight barriers preventing the equitable expansion and use of SNAP OPP to inform policy and address income-based health disparities. Using data acquired through SNAP office communications and public records requests, we analyzed state-by-state SNAP OPP participation, and access barriers in California by age, race, ethnicity, disability, income, household composition, digital access, and rurality. In some states, 0.5-5.0% of SNAP transactions occurred online, and 1.5-19.4% of SNAP participants used the program. The average SNAP Online transaction constituted 31-76% of the average SNAP monthly benefit. Usage, however, appears to plateau after several months. In June 2020, 17% of California’s SNAP participants were not reached through SNAP online delivery, and program malfunctions were prevalent. SNAP OPP’s rapid uptake exhibits potential, but coverage gaps and technical and affordability-related barriers may prevent access. The USDA could approve additional retailers and regulate data and marketing practices to enhance SNAP OPP and prevent targeting of low-income and SNAP shoppers. Retailers can contribute by expanding fresh grocery delivery and improving online shopping interfaces. To take action, we created guides to help shoppers use SNAP online delivery.


“The Relationship Between Spiritual Connectedness, Organizational Religiousness, Self-Esteem, and Death Anxiety in Older Adults” – Aisha Mohammed, BA, Emily H. Caprio, BA, Miranda C. Poulson, BA, Elizabeth P. Ramirez Vega, BA, Dora E. Bezonsky, BA, John E. Pérez, BA, advised by Professor John E. Pérez

As people age, the reality of death can become more salient and may create feelings of anxiety. Reliance on religious community or belief in a higher power can offer relief from the distress caused by death anxiety. However, various dimensions of religiousness may affect death anxiety differently. Organizational religiousness is behavioral engagement in a religious organization, while spiritual connectedness is a personal connection with a higher power. Research indicates that self-esteem―confidence in one’s worth and abilities―is associated with decreased death anxiety. Thus, this study’s purpose was to examine organizational religiousness and spiritual connectedness as predictors of change in death anxiety, using spiritual connectedness as a moderator and self-esteem as a mediator. We conducted a secondary data analysis using data from the Religion, Aging, and Health Survey (Krause, 2006). The data are from 2001 and 2004, consisting of 1,024 Christian, Black, and White older adults (65+ years old). Two hierarchical multiple regressions were used. In Model 1, we hypothesized that higher levels of organizational religiousness would predict a decrease in death anxiety, moderated by spiritual connectedness. In Model 2, we hypothesized that greater spiritual connectedness would predict a decrease in death anxiety, mediated by self-esteem. Covariates associated with death anxiety―age, education, overall health, and baseline death anxiety―were included in the analyses. In Model 1, step 1, organizational religiousness did not predict decreases in death anxiety; however, spiritual connectedness did (Beta = -.09, p < .01). At step 2, the interaction between organizational religiousness and spiritual connectedness did not predict changes in death anxiety. In Model 2, step 1, greater spiritual connectedness predicted decreases in death anxiety (Beta = -.09, p < .001). At step 2, greater self-esteem also predicted decreases in death anxiety beyond spiritual connectedness (Beta = -.29, p < .001); however, self-esteem did not mediate the association between spiritual connectedness and death anxiety. Overall, Model 1 explained 6% and Model 2 explained 14% of the variance in death anxiety. Results suggest that, over time, older adults with a stronger sense of spiritual connectedness experience reduced death anxiety, and those with higher levels of self-esteem further experience decreased death anxiety.

“Is “They” a Truly Gender-Neutral Pronoun?” – Lara Nassar, BA, Saige Ferko, BA, Megan Schneider, BA, Jordan Mall, BA, Alex Dellar, BA, advised by Professor Lisa Wagner

The English language does not have a widely-used singular gender-neutral pronoun. Although "they" has been proposed to be a singular gender-neutral pronoun, some findings suggest that it carries a male bias, a phenomenon where a pronoun that is intended to be gender-neutral is assumed to reference a man (Lindqvist et al., 2019). Our study aimed to evaluate pronoun use on the perception of gender. We strove to: (1) investigate how people perceive different pronouns: “he or she,” “they,” and other (purportedly) gender-neutral identifiers — “the applicant,” “the student,” and “the older adult;” (2) understand whether the above listed pronouns and identifiers carry a male bias; and (3) examine whether perceptions of pronouns and other identifiers change in different topic areas. Preliminary results suggest that both "they" and other supposedly non-gendered identifiers such as "the applicant" show a male bias. Topic area may also play a role in the extent to which “they” and non-gendered identifiers elicit a male-bias.

“Children’s belief in a just world: Construct structure and associations with social adjustment” – Madison Badua, BA, Sabrina Ortiz, BA, Madeline Price, BA, Kealoha James, BA, Chy'enne Verrett, BA, Wesley Warren, BA, Augustine Provencio, BA, advised by Professor Aline Hitti

Whether individuals believe themselves or others are treated justly in the world has been associated with important outcomes such as self-esteem (Fox et al., 2010) and mental health outcomes (Dalbert, 1999). Originally developed for adults, the measure of beliefs in a just world was examined in a sample of adolescents by Fox et al. (2010). They found with 11-16 year-olds, beliefs in a just world (BJW) about one’s own treatment in the world (BJW-self) were distinct from beliefs in a just world about other’s treatment (BJW-other). In addition, BJW-self predicted adolescents’ self-esteem while the BJW regarding others predicted social attitudes. No research that we know of has examined beliefs in a just year in younger children ages 7 to 12. The current study tested the factor structure of children's beliefs in a just world as well as how BJW-self and BJW-other correlated with measures of psychological well-being and socio-emotional outcomes.

The present study sampled children ages 7-12 years old (n = 29, Mage = 8.86, SD = 1.52). 44% of participants identified as Black, Indigenous, Person of Color (BIPOC). Participants were presented with a total of 14 items; seven questions asking about beliefs in a just world with respect to others (BJW-other) (ex.‘I feel that people get what they should in life’), and seven questions regarding beliefs in a just world with respect to themselves (BJW-self) (ex. ‘I feel that I get what I should in life’). Participants also responded to the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (Fischer & Corcoran, 1994) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman et al., 1998) as measures of psychological well-being and socio-emotional development. Exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis were conducted to explore the factor structure of the 14 items. This was followed by a correlational analysis to examine the association of BJW with measures of psychological well-being and socio-emotional development.

Results were both consistent and inconsistent with what was found in the Fox et al. study. For example, just as in the Fox et al. (2010) study, exploratory factor analysis revealed a two-factor structure explaining 44.8% of the variance. Items for BJW-other loaded on one factor and items for BJW-self loaded on another. The confirmatory factor analysis however, showed poor fit X2 (N=29)=97.1, p<0.001, RSMEA=0.169, TFI=0.567, and CFI=0.652. Additionally, while Fox et al. (2010) found that BJW-other was predictive of anti-bullying attitudes (2010), in the current sample BJW-other was significantly positively correlated with conduct problems (r=0.400, p=0.031). In the current sample, BJW-self was negatively correlated with self-esteem (r=-.307, p=.106), although not significantly. This inconsistency could be due to the small sample size and the ethnic make-up of the current sample. Jost & Burgess (2000) found that people of lower status tend to show different patterns of associations between system justification beliefs and psychological outcomes compared to higher status individuals. Future research should focus on obtaining a bigger sample of 7-12-year-olds to understand these inconsistencies.

“Does mental simulation of alternative research outcomes reduce bias in predicted results?” – Megan Schneider, BA, Bresh Merino BA, Marci Adolfo, BA, Milo Martinez, BA, Erica Divinagracia, BA, advised by Professor Edward Munnich

Can mental simulation of alternative research outcomes reduce bias? We attempted to extend Hirt et al.’s (2004) finding of debiasing when alternative basketball standings were easy to simulate and participants were low in need for structure (NFS). Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) participants explained why taking notes by hand might improve test scores, then three groups of them explained different outcomes: Consider-opposite participants explained benefits of laptop notetaking, and two transfer groups explained either a plausible or an implausible outcome for unrelated research. None of the three groups differed from a baseline group in test score estimates or likelihood that taking notes by hand leads to higher test scores. However, low-NFS participants estimated marginally lower likelihood that notetaking by hand is superior, suggesting less bias to their initial explanation. We consider whether variation in participants’ psychology backgrounds might have overwhelmed effects, and discuss a replication with students taking introductory psychology.

“Viral Moral Outrage” – Robin Hyun, BA, Samantha Plancarte, BA, Leila Camus, BA, advised by Professor Seara Khan

With the creation of the internet, people are able to connect with one another from across the globe in more accessible ways than ever before through social media and the web. Moreover, with the internet, people are exposed to all kinds of behaviors, statements, and actions, including those that could be perceived as offensive material or moral violations. With the creation of the internet, social activism has become a prominent development in social media engagement. Social activism includes holding individuals, organizations, and leaders accountable for their actions. Following this accountability, a digital phenomenon known as "callout/cancel culture" has become a way to openly express and apply pro-diversity, politically correct ethos, and the “callout” or “cancelling” of oppressive, wrong, inappropriate opinions. With the accessibility to connect with various people and different opinions on the internet, including exposure to potential offensive stimulus’, subsequent responses to immoral/wrong behavior on the internet has been addressed through the phenomenon of callout/cancel culture. However, the repercussions of such callout/cancel behavior may lead to overlooking a real person with every-day flaws and mistakes. Thus, this phenomenon of callout/cancel culture has brought upon consequences from moral violations exhibited by offenders in their professional and/or personal life. In this current study, we raise the question whether an offender should be educated for their wrongdoings or simply called out/cancelled for it. Moreover, we also bring inquiry upon if a person’s desire to participate in callout/cancel culture can play a role in a person’s moral outrage levels when viewing offensive behavior online. Other factors that are brought into investigation is if a person’s perception of a victim’s feelings for a perpetrator's offensive behavior can influence a viewer’s moral outrage, as well as how different group affiliation (religious, social activist) of a viewer can play a role in sympathy levels for the offender receiving viral moral outrage.

In this research, we investigated the following variables and their relationships with one another in on the topic of viral moral outrage; (1) the relationship between desire to participate in callout/cancel culture had a relationship with participants moral outrage levels (2) the relationship between the perceived outrage of the victim had a relationship with participant’s moral outrage levels (3) the relationship between whether participants who identified as social activists were more likely to participate and endorse cancel culture compared to neutral or non-social activists, (4) relationship between whether social activists believed the offender needed to be educated and their willingness to provide the education compared to the other two groups (neutral and non-social activists), (5) the relationship of affiliation with activist status ((high social activist status, low social activist status, neutral) and sympathy levels for the offender receiving viral outrage (6) the relationship of affiliation with religious group (religious affiliation and non-religious affiliation) and sympathy levels for the offender receiving viral outrage.

The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of USF campus culture and social media events. This survey observed the phenomenon of “callout/cancel culture” in which students publicly judge others for their level of knowledge or particular stance on an issue. This research explored multiple factors and if they had a significant influence in ways students engage with viral moral outrage.

“Gender is Prioritized Over Race in How Children and Adults Assign Occupations” – Sabrina Oriz, BA, Madison Badua, BA, Madeline Price, BA, Kealoha James, BA, Wesley Warren, BA, advised by Professor Aline Hitti

Discrimination in the workplace driven by occupational stereotypes continues to exist today (Daniels & Thorton, 2019). Determining when these occupational stereotypes form and how they may change over development is critical in understanding how they persist. The current study, aimed to investigate children’s and adults’ perceptions of occupational stereotypes as they relate to intersectional identities based on race and gender and whether they rely on one social category more than another or use both. The present study sampled children (n = 49, Mage = 8.45, SD = 1.80 ), and adults (n = 132, Mage = 18.82 , SD =1.48 ). Participants were presented with eight pictures of child and eight adult faces, both male and female, that represented four ethnicities (Asian-American, African-American, European-American, and Latinx-American). Participants were asked which occupation they thought the child will grow up to have or which occupation they think that the adult has. Participants had to choose between cook, scientist, housekeeper, firefighter, doctor, and teacher which represented low- and high-status occupations that were either stereotypically female, male, or gender neutral (Teig & Susskind, 2008; Bigler et al., 2003).

Three variables were created for analyses: one counted gender-only stereotype consistent assignments across child and adult faces, one counted race-only stereotype consistent assignments, and one counted the number of race by gender stereotype consistent job assignments (e.g., White male assigned to doctor or scientist). Both adult and children participants made the same amount of gender consistent assignments, but adults compared to children were more likely to make assignments based on race-only (t(98.63)=4.05, p <.001) and race by gender intersectional category stereotypes (t(92.49)=3.54, p = .001, see Figure 1). Paired-samples t-tests were conducted to compare the stereotype consistent assignments made by children and adults based stereotypes associated with gender-only, race-only, and the intersection of race and gender. Both adults and children were making more gender stereotype consistent assignments compared to both stereotypic consistent responses based on race (Adults: t(131)= -4.24, p <.001, Children: t(48)= 4.08, p <.001 ) and based on both gender and race (Adults: t(131)= 3.47, p =.001; Children: t(48)= -5.02, p <.001, see Figure 2).

Therefore, gender-only stereotypic occupational assignments were made more than race-only and gender by race stereotype-consistent assignments, across both age groups. However, race-based and gender by race stereotype consistent assignments were made more by adults than children. Findings suggest that gender stereotypes related to occupation remain consistent across development but race-based stereotypes and those associated with race by gender intersectional categories are learned with age.

Rhetoric and Language

“Raise the Roof: permanent supportive housing” – Nico Bruno, BA, advised by Professor David Holler

This presentation takes the reader through the process and laws regarding Los Angeles homelessness. The discharging, what they are more likely to face being homeless and how factors such as race, sexuality and gender may be involved.How hospitals only care about money and not the patients themselves. Resources in which to help them such as recuperative care centers and shelters. The process of harm reduction and why it works so well. Why permanent supportive housing has the ability to work but what is hindering it from taking action. A focus on debunking the mindset of people in regards to those individuals experiencing homelessness and to get rid of the negative stigma that is being put on these individuals.

Creative Work


Centivax: Antibody Engineering and Pilot Studies” – Joel Christian Andrade, MS, Naomi Davidson, MS, Chaitanya Wagh, MS, Gabrielly Lunkes Di Melo, MS, advised by Professor Cary Lai

Primer on the work Centivax is getting into clinical studies and a glimpse of the adaptation of that technology to pilot new therapeutic indications


“Exploring the Mechanism of the Electrostatic Denaturation of Double-Stranded DNA” – Gayatri Raghu, MS, advised by Professor Ryan West

Electrostatic melting is an electrochemical tool that can be used to analyze the stability of the DNA double helix, allowing for the detection of the presence of various DNA mutations in double stranded DNA (dsDNA)1. Here we explore the effect of the formation of the double layer on the electrostatic melting of the DNA double helix in an effort to better understand the mechanism of the aforementioned category of melting. Previous studies by our lab have shown that the electrostatic melting curve produced can be used to distinguish between fully complementary 34-bp strands and single mismatch strands of the same length.2 Additionally, other papers have shown that when the potential on the electrode is pulsed at varying frequencies between an attractive and repulsive potential, at frequencies higher than a certain value, the ions in solution are unable to react quickly enough form the double layer.3 From this, we drew the conclusion that we could get a better insight on the exact mechanism of electrostatic DNA melting by replacing the melting step of our standard melting procedure with a fast potential pulse routine which alternates between a potential at which melting will occur and a potential too weak for melting to occur. The results of this research have shown that the time taken for melting to occur (τ) has remained constant regardless of frequency, which implies that the mechanism of electrostatic DNA melting is not due to the generation of the electric field caused by the formation of the electrical double layer thus indicating that the melting mechanism is not purely electrostatic. Additionally, we have verified that probe desorption does not have a significant impact on signal loss at the potentials used and that the ion response time is significantly slower than the fastest pulse time used in this work.

1. Mahajan, S.; Richardson, J.; Brown, T.; Bartlett, P. N.; SERS-Melting: A New Method for Discriminating Mutations in DNA Sequences, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2008, 130(46), 15589-15601, (Accessed 28th March 2020)
2. Ho, D.; Hetrick, W.; Le, N.; Chin, A; West, R. M.; Electric Field-Induced DNA Melting with Detection by Square Wave Voltammetry, Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 2019, 166(4), B236, (Accessed on 16th February 2020)
3. Ulrich Rant et al., Dynamic Electrical Switching of DNA Layers on a Metal Surface, Nano Lett., 2004, 4, 12, 2441-2445, (Accessed 20th February 2020)

Communication Studies

“Lessons in Social Media Coping & COVID-19” – Karina Tran, BA, advised by Professor Marthinus van Loggerenberg

While COVID-19 has undeniably impacted numerous amounts of people worldwide in an infinite amount of ways, one particular experience stands out: the experience of the digital natives, specifically college-aged digital natives. Generation Z has long been defined by their familiarity with technology and "addiction" to social media, and because the oldest members of Gen Z in the U.S. are now in college, it is crucial to explore how social media use has redefined itself in this historical period of time. As a member of this demographic, this research takes a hands-on approach on understanding how and why Generation Z college students are using social media platforms to cope with COVID-19 and other related issues (movements, violence, and normative shifts spread through social media), as well as how Generation Z responds to certain pillars of popular content.

Performing Arts and Social Justice: Theater

“GAPS” – Kelli Westad, BA, advised by Professor Eli Nelson

In 2020 America, our society has adopted the phrase “Alone Together,” but I’ve observed much more separation than ever before. GAPS is a short film of performance art that explores the physical, mental, political, and social disconnects that surround us.


“Who Owns Ideas?” – Paolo Rainier Sayas, BA, advised by Professor Gerard Kuperus

Currently, intellectual property (IP) law recognizes two main philosophical justifications for patents (i.e. useful inventions) and copyright (i.e. original works of authorship): utilitarianism and labor theory. The former holds that IP incentivizes innovation and creativity; the latter holds that because someone produces an idea, the idea is subject to their ownership. This paper will examine, on first principles, if such justifications for property rights in the ideal objects (i.e. intangible goods) placed in patents and copyright are legitimate, and to demonstrate why ideal objects are, in effect, ideas and cannot be legitimately owned (much less owned at all) according to the first-user basis common in libertarian views of legitimate property rights. To determine whether an idea is subject to ownership, we ask the following: is it still (1) scarce (i.e. not abundant), (2) rivalrous (i.e. cannot be simultaneously used by more than one person without creating the possibility of conflict), and (3) private (i.e. exclusive to a person or group’s control) once the originator of the idea places it in a tangible medium and consents to its release into the public sphere? Since ideas expressed in patents and copyright do not meet all these conditions, they are not subject to ownership. Moreover, patents and copyright show that access is an essential form of possession. Without indefinite access to (i.e. the freedom or ability to obtain or make use of something) and full possession of (i.e. having full physical control over) something, there is no legitimate claim to ownership over it. Some of the philosophical implications in maintaining patents and copyright are also explored, including why, even considering some concerns that might follow from the absence of IP rights (e.g. concerns about secrets and attribution), patents and copyright are still illegitimate property rights and a detriment to legitimate claims of ownership. Essentially, ideas are unownable.