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University Honors Program Capstone Projects - Spring 2015

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Each semester, UMD undergraduate students in the University Honors Program present their research. Below is a list of research presented in spring 2015.

Visit the University Honors Program website to learn more about the program.

Allison Athmann
Are Current Popular Children's Books An Effective Tool in Language Intervention For Preschool-Aged Children?
The popular children’s book, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, which was published in 2013, was examined to determine its effectiveness with preschool-aged children with language impairments. The examination included qualitative measures based on the physical appearance of the book and quantitative measures involving an analysis of the book’s syntactic and semantic content. This book was then compared to previous research done by Kent Brorson and Kristin Lee Milbrath, to determine if Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is as appropriate as other books identified as in stimulating language development in language impaired preschool aged children.

Kasandra Cedergren
Campus Awareness of Communication Disorders at the University of Minnesota Duluth
The field of speech-language pathology is one that growing tremendously in our world today because of the demands of client's in need. Unfortunately, not many individuals know that the field exists or what exactly the field entails. Both independently and on interdisciplinary teams, speech-language pathologists work with many people in their careers from other fields of study.  As part of the Communications Sciences and Disorders department here at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I sent a campus-wide survey to students to find out what knowledge they have about communicative disorders on a basic level. From the 127 responses collected, I was able to analyze and sort their answers into statistics that are worth the read.

Shane Gilman
Halftime is our Time: The Importance of High School Marching Band Programs
Marching band programs are often criticized as not being necessary for a well-rounded music program. I believe that there are many positive aspects to these programs, and students can learn valuable life skills by being involved in their high school's marching band. Using my own experiences as a member and a captain of UMD's Athletic Bands, my experiences as a volunteer with Denfeld High School's marching band, and research from various academic journals, I will argue why I believe these programs are a benefit to any high school music program.

Aubrey Hagen
The Origins of Attraction
Have you ever wondered why you are attracted to the physical features you are in a potential partner? Our preferences for the physical traits we consider ideal are undeniably shaped by our culture, but what are the main origins of these preferences? This ethnographic study surveys a group of male and female college participants in order to investigate where their personal preferences for physical traits in the opposite sex might have originated from, examining factors such as media influences, and experiences in childhood, and family dynamics.

Daniel Harren
A Comparison of Attitudes towards Entomophagy  
With an estimated world population of nine billion people by 2050, global food production will have to double. Insects are a viable way to fill this need but the Western societies’ view of entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, is with disgust. Whereas, other cultures from around the world eat insects regularly to meet their nutritional needs. Why is there this gap and how does the undergraduate body at UMD compare?

Alicia Hayes
Understanding consumer behaviors: how changes in content information increase web traffic.
The broader context of the experiment is to gather consumer preferences and behaviors when using university websites through conducting interviews of college undergraduates, academic advisors, parents, and high school students. Then apply these inclinations to the Cultural Entrepreneurship website and use Google analytics to track and understand whether the information gathered and the changes made to the website had any effect on website traffic.

Teresa Heck                  
Optimization of a Palladium-Catalyzed Reaction
Palladium is a metal that is widely used as a catalyst in chemical reactions. It is more expensive per gram than gold, but its unparalleled catalytic efficiency makes it a coveted and indispensable addition to metalloorganic synthesis laboratories. This capstone presentation will discuss the methods and reasoning behind the optimization of a specific palladium-catalyzed synthesis experiment. Above all, this capstone presentation will give you a behind-the-scenes look at how research proceeds in a University chemistry lab.

Kevin Hughes
Development of Novel Drugs for High Risk Triple Negative Breast Cancer Treatment
High consumption of glucose for energy production (glycolysis) is the hallmark of all advanced stage tumors. The end products of glycolysis are energy rich nutrients such as pyruvate and lactate.  These nutrients are transported in and out of the cells by monocarboxylate transporters 1-4 (MCT1-4) for further energy production.  MCT inhibition results in the disruption of the glycolysis and consequently the cancer cells will not be able to proliferate and metastasize. Since glycolysis is a common factor in all the cancer cell lines, this strategy should also be applicable to the treatment of several other cancers. MCTs are upregulated in many breast cancer cell lines, and hence their inhibition has tremendous clinical potential. Our work involves the synthesis and in vitro evaluation of novel small molecule based MCT1/4 inhibitors for TNBC.

Mary Hunt
Cardiovascular Demands of Snowmobiling
My research analyzed the cardiovascular demands of snowmobiling. Participants completed a laboratory and field assessment. The laboratory assessment consisted of a maximal graded exercise treadmill test, and the field assessment consisted of a 20-minute snowmobile ride on a groomed trail. The methods of data collection included the objective analysis of heart rate and oxygen consumption. A chest strap heart rate monitor was used to measure the heart rates during both assessments. An oxycon mobile device was used to collect the participants' expired air during the assessments. Descriptive statistics of means and standard deviations were the method of comparison between the laboratory and field assessments.

Nicholas Jensen
The Idea of God: A View of the Transformation of Christian Religion and Atheism.
The world has been influenced by Christianity for the past 2000 years.  Looking back to the origins of, the transformation of, and the current day "style" of Christianity, one can see a change in the idea of faith and religion.  In addition, the trend of atheism transforms from a socially derogatory term to a proud label many use.  Between these two camps, we are treated to dogma from each side.  This capstone aims to view the transformation of Christianity, as well as Atheism, and see what common grounds can be found throughout the shouting on each side.

Ashley Kangas
Effect of temperature and timing on neural tube closure in zebrafish
This project entails raising developing embryos at a warmer temperature and then performing tests (insitu hybridization) to determine if the neural tube is open or closed (closed is normal).  This project is applicable to birth defects like spina bifida (where the neural tube doesn't close properly) and a mother that has a fever in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Shaun Mattson
3Dimensional Coaching: Fact or Fiction.
3Dimensional Coaching is a new way to look at the coaching of athletes. Typically you look at just the fundamentals of the game and stop there. 3D coaching wants you to go deeper. Look into things like motivations, goals, values, and several other similar characteristics that make up levels 2 and 3 of the 3D coaching model. Currently about 85% of coaches stop at the first level which is just the fundamentals of the particular sport. My goal was to see if coaching level 2 and 3 work. I did this through observation of a high school team and measuring sport psychological skills of some of the players. I then tried to see if the actual physical performance differed based upon these psychological skills. My observations of the team as a whole were used to see if 3D coaching has an effect.

Miranda Montez
How Do the Personalities of American Presidents Affect the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy?
The president of the United States is currently one of the most important international figures. As such, the ability to understand the process he takes in terms of foreign policy decisions is crucial. My capstone research examines the role that each president’s personality plays into these decisions. It provides a discussion of personality categorization systems, using three presidential case studies as examples. Through this it shows that not only does personality affect foreign policy decisions, but also that it does so in a significant manner.

Mary Nelson
Analyzing Google Flu Trends
This project focuses on analyzing Google Flu Trends. The goal of this project was to develop a model for predicting flu outbreaks using this data. The talk summarizes the research, methodology and both simple regression and time series models that were developed to predict outbreaks using R programming software. Limitations and future project extensions on this topic will be discussed.

Mattie Nieters
Malnutrition and Stunting in Guatemala
In 2000 the World Health Organization initiated the Millennium Development Goals to help eradicate poverty and hunger and empower women around the world by 2015. With the passing of the goal deadline, and the presence of malnutrition still at unacceptable rates, different approaches, guidelines, and goals are being created for implementation in September of 2015. The MDGs used the presence of underweight children under the age of 5 as an indicator of malnutrition. Using this indicator, many countries met the goal of halving the amount of children who were underweight, but they still have a high percentage of children who are stunted. Guatemala suffers from one the world's highest rates of stunting. Nearly 50% of children under the age of 5 in Guatemala are stunted. Research in the past decade has shown that stunting is actually an indicator of malnutrition during the first 1000 days of life. Because of this, focus on malnutrition has moved from preschool nutrition intervention to maternal and infant nutrition during the first 1000 days of life. Using strategies to combat and prevent stunting in infants will effectively help to eradicate the presence of stunting and malnutrition in Guatemala. Using my personal experiences with malnutrition in rural Guatemala and publications on treatment of malnutrition in Guatemala, this capstone evaluates and discusses the changes that need to occur so that the children of the country can lead happy, healthy, and productive lives.

Justine Olson
Novel Therapeutics for Glioblastoma Multiforme
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a highly aggressive brain malignancy. Apart from surgical resection and radiation therapy, GBM patients are also treated with chemotherapy. However, the chemotherapeutic options are extremely limited, with only two drugs, temozolomide (TMZ, a small molecule DNA alkylator) and bevacizumab (an anti-angiogenic monoclonal antibody), being currently prescribed for this virulent form of cancer. In spite of these treatment protocols, the 5-year survival rate of GBM patients is dismally low. Novel chemotherapeutics that are selectively toxic to cancer cells and that extend the overall survivability of GBM patients are an unmet medical need. Cancer cells undergo aggressive glycolysis to meet energy requirements, producing large amounts of lactate and pyruvate. The removal of lactate from the cells is facilitated by members of the mono-carboxylate transporter family called MCT1 and MCT4.1 This presentation focuses on the evaluation of cytotoxicity of novel MCT inhibitors in a murine glioblastoma GL261-luc2 cell line. GL261-luc2 cell line has MCT1 expression and hence utilized for cytotoxicity studies. The goal in Dr. Mereddy’s lab is to synthesize generally nontoxic small-molecules that inhibit MCT1/4, leading to the deprivation of nutrients to cancer cells in hypoxic regions of the cancer tissue eventually to cell death.

Patricia Oyaas
College Student Perceptions of Peers with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Much of the emphasis on research regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been directed toward childhood, with much less attention paid to ASD order among adults. In particular, very little research has been done on college students with ASD making the transition to living away from home. Furthermore, little research has been done on the social skills of these students and the relationships with their peers. Past research has shown that labels of mental illness creates more stigma towards those with mental illness. The present study is a between subject design, which gave college students (n=129) an identical vignette that describes behaviors characteristic of a student with an ASD diagnosis either with the label of ASD or without. Participants then answered questions regarding their attitudes of the described student on a Likert scale of one to five with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree.” On average students reported more positive perceptions of individuals when they perceived the unique behaviors described in the vignette to be due to ASD, compared to students who did not attribute the unique behaviors to ASD (t(1, 125)=-2.026, p< .05). These results suggest that having a known reason to explain otherwise unusual or odd social behaviors, such as ASD, was associated with more positive perceptions compared to conditions in which participants had no such explanation. This suggests that knowing a person has a diagnosis of ASD may elicit more empathy from other student peers in a social situation for students transitioning to college.

Jeremy Primus
Seeing the Invisible: A Look into a Black Hole
Black holes are cold remnants of former stars that have collapsed to form a region of gravity so intense that not even light can escape.  If no light can escape, how can we see a black hole, or even be sure they exist?  The stuff of mystery and legend, black holes are an attractive topic among scientists and popular culture.  An enigma of astronomical proportions, black holes prompt the question--how do we separate scientific theory from science fiction?  Using observational data and principles of physics, this project investigates one of the most mysterious objects in our night sky, Cygnus X-1.  Using measured periodic variations of star HDE 226868, we can infer the presence of an unseen mass so large it exceeds the upper limit for the mass of a neutron star and is consistent with the physics of black holes.

Chad Reuter                   
Palladium-catalyzed C-3 Benzylation of Indoles with Benzyltributylammonium chloride
The indole scaffold probably represents one of the most important structural subunits for the discovery of new drug candidates. In recent years the transition metal induced-synthesis of indole compounds has gained increased popularity. However, simple alkylation of indole suffers problems such as regioselectivity at C-3, C-2, and N-1 positions.1 The purpose of this study is to study the benzylation of indole, specifically at the C-3 position, with benzyltributylammonium chloride (Fig. 1) using palladium catalysts.

Glen Ridlon
Exploration of Empathy in College Students Attending an Acting Class
Previous studies have suggested that theatre and empathy may have a relationship. To investigate further, this study was set up to find relationships of possible covariates when assessing empathy and acting. In a previous study by the primary researcher, subjects were separated by whether or not they willingly attended a live theatre production in the last two years, with findings suggesting that theatre goers have a higher capacity for empathy. In this study, subjects that participate in an acting class were being compared to subjects who were not participating in an acting class at that time. In this way, the study design is to see if there can be a difference in empathy over time due to participation in an acting class. The principal investigator hypothesized that participation in an acting class would increase empathy scores and decrease narcissism scores more than students in a non-acting class due to the nature of the acting process. Besides assessing empathy, this study uses measures to assess narcissism, psychopathy, personality, and defensive responding to see if any measures were covariables in empathy change over time. Although some statistical significance was found in the data, there are many limitations in this study, including a small number of participants whose data can be used.

Jesse Schmieg
Patterns of Non-Simple Continued Fractions
A continued fraction represents a number, a less common manner to do so compared to decimal form. The term continued fraction is often regarded as synonymous with the term simple continued fraction. This work deviates from that norm to visit the general case, working from first principles to allow positive rational numbers as the “numerator.” With this generalization, a number of properties and relations that hold in the simple case carry over elegantly with minor alterations. I show how these expressions can be used in new ways and give special attention to periodicity.

Justine Schramel
N-terminal tail of annexin A2: A switch into intrinsic disorder
Dysferlinopathies (e.g. Limb Girdle muscular dystrophy, Myoshi Myopathy) are muscle wasting diseases that develop from reduced levels or absence of the protein dysferlin. Dysferlin is known to be the Ca2+ sensor in membrane repair, a process involving a number of proteins, one of which is annexin A2 (A2). The interaction between these two proteins is unclear, but previous studies have shown dysferlin to be marginally stable. Because of this, we proposed that A2 is marginally stable as well in order to maximize the information flow between the two proteins.  Specifically, we hypothesized that the N-terminal tail of annexin A2, a region unique to each annexin isoform, acts as a switch into intrinsic disorder where this N-termini destabilizes the core of the protein to allow more potential conformations of the protein. This would enable this protein to respond more acutely to signals from dysferlin as its binding partner. Using calorimetry and spectroscopy, we showed the presence of this disorder region generates protein with greater plasticity (compared to a protein in the absence of this disordered region), creating a means by which dysferlin and annexin A2 can coordinate in membrane repair and shedding light how mutations in either protein can lead to miscommunication, and potentially, disease.

Stephanie Schramel
Intracellular Ca2+ as a binding modulator for annexin A2
Calcium ions, Ca2+, serve as important signaling molecules specific for the eukaryotic cell for multiple purposes including propagating signal transduction pathways and initiating muscle contractions.  In the presence of Ca2+, the family of membrane binding proteins called annexins have an enhanced ability to bind to negatively charged phospholipids within the cellular membrane. A member of the annexin family, annexin A2, is suggested to play a role in muscle repair by interacting with the protein dysferlin which is associated with diseases called dysferlinopathies.  Dysferlinopathy is a type of muscular dystrophy in which the muscle is weakened or atrophied due to a reduction or absence of dysferlin. In order to better understand the role of annexin A2 in membrane repair, it is necessary to examine the binding properties of this protein in response to the initiating trigger for membrane repair, the influx of calcium ion.  Therefore, the interaction between annexin A2 and Ca2+ was investigated.  Isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) was used to identify the number of Ca2+ molecules that annexin A2 binds, the sensitivity of annexin A2 to calcium (its affinity) and the thermodynamic mechanism by which this protein senses and responds to calcium ion (enthalpy). Describing details of calcium ion binding by annexin A2 will lead to a better understanding of muscle membrane repair mechanism which can be applied to diseases such as muscular dystrophy. As in this disease, the damage is due to an influx of too much calcium ion, essentially poisoning the cell in a way that is not understood.

Erica Strom
Juvenile and adult Daphnia magna survival in response to hypoxia
Daphnia magna is a species of zooplankton that resides in freshwater lakes. At night, D. magna feed on algae near the surface, but during the day they migrate lower into the water column to avoid predation -- a behavioral pattern called diel vertical migration (DVM). Going deeper into the lake exposes D. magna to a hypoxic (low-oxygen) environment. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there was a difference in survival rates between juvenile and mature D. magna in hypoxic conditions. D. magna and other similar species are an important food source for small fish and large zooplankton such as the invasive spiny water flea, Bythotrephes longimanus. A better understanding of D. magna and other zooplankton hypoxia tolerances could help to develop better management techniques for aquatic invasive species.

Katelyn Tessier
Predictive Models of the Amount of Physical Activity Across the United States
How physical activity affects individuals' health across the United States is an important topic for the well-being of the country. The purpose of this study is to examine how certain factors influence the amount of physical activity performed by adults in each state. Using statistical analysis techniques, such as linear regression and model selection, a model of physical activity was constructed. The final model consists of four variables which are obesity, refund, uninsured and poverty. This model can be used to predict how the percent of physically active adults changes as these four variables change.

Joseph Toninato
Viable Betting Strategies for Roullette and Other Games
This project involved testing varying betting strategies in the attempt to find one that could result in a profit each time, if such a strategy exists.  Through the use of theoretical expected values and thousands of computer simulations I was able to determine, that while none of the strategies tested produced a profit every time, certain ones did produce a profit under specific constraints.  In addition to this, my research provided a model that future researchers can use to study other strategies.  This is applicable to not just gambling, but also to things like the stock market, and game theory as a field.


September 2015.

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