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Prof. John Hood, Advisor
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Previous Recipients

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Spring 2014

Jacquelyn Benner, Biology

Noroviruses are highly infectious viral agents that are responsible for acute gastrointestinal illness affecting both children and adults worldwide. Norovirus infections are being recognized more and more as a major cause of diarrheal illness in hospitals, long-term care facilities, day care centers, and among travelers. Because there is currently no vaccine for norovirus, detection is the key to controlling and preventing future outbreaks of this disease (6). Unfortunately, widespread access to diagnostic tests remains limited, particularly in resource-poor settings, due to the fact that existing methods are often time consuming and expensive (5). This project aims to create a novel method for detection of noroviruses that is rapid and inexpensive, while maintaining high sensitivity and specificity. Our approach will utilize a low-cost microfluidic device fabricated by wax printing to create patterned structures and channels within chromatography paper. In these devices, capillary action wicks fluids through the channels eliminating the need for expensive pumps and equipment found in traditional microfluidic devices. In addition, they are suitable for resource-poor settings since they use inexpensive materials, are simple to fabricate, require little sample preparation, provide a colored signal, and are disposable.

Eric Hough, Engineering

The bourgeoning field of smart fabrics and wearable electronics presents a unique set of engineering challenges and opportunities for the latest generation of engineering talent. Both public and private sectors demand devices that are not only effective and powerful, but lightweight, elegant and low cost. Of particular interest currently is the development of smart clothing that can measure an individual’s heart rate, core body temperature, and breath rate. There are several products currently in development, but none on the market as of the writing of this proposal. The aim of this project is to develop a functional smart shirt that accurately measures the wearer’s heart rate, core body temperature and metabolic rate and transmits that data to a smart phone of tablet via Bluetooth.

Luke Jenkins, Theatre and English

Theatre is an art form that should be available for everyone to enjoy, hate, or simply view. It is an exercise of expression that should not be limited by financial or social status. Theatre can inform, provoke, and build an audience of people who are not traditional theatre-goers. This project proposes to create a street theatre troupe that will perform in the free speech area of the quad at Texas State University, where performances of short (five to ten minute) plays will be easily accessible to all students. The series of five plays to be presented in April and early May 2014 will be comprised of original scripts and adaptations of public-domain plays. As members of the Texas State community walk by, they will be invited to stay, watch, and think about what is being performed and why it is being performed. These relatively low budget performances will introduce challenging and thought-provoking ideas to the Texas State community through dramatically engaging performances.

 

Patrick Lisk, Physics

I will be measuring the intensity of the light reflected from Jupiter using a solid state photometer which attaches to the eyepiece of the telescope. By “counting” the number of photons (light particles) entering the telescope/ detector, we will be able to measure drops in this intensity when the moons orbit between Jupiter and Earth. From the size and duration of these intensity differences, we will be able to derive the radius, orbital velocity and surface conditions of each moon. Once calibrated, we will begin the study of variable stars and orbiting binary stars, measuring surface emission variations and distances to these stars. This photometry technique is widely applicable in the growing study of variable stars and is currently the main detection method of exoplanets (around other stars) and is currently deployed on NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. 

 

 

Jessica Loechel, Public Relations

During the mid 1900s British philosopher, writer, and speaker Alan Watts inspired America’s youth to alter their perceptions of themselves and of the world. His work addressed issues pertaining to personal, social, and environmental well-being. Although he presented many pioneering concepts, Watts’ work has been given little academic recognition. Consequentially, both his name and his vision have nearly disappeared since his death. This thesis utilizes the portraiture methodology of social science research, which combines preliminary research, interviews, site visits, and personal narrative, to gain a thorough understanding of Watts and his message. With the aim of overcoming a general lack of awareness among my generation regarding Watts, the insights obtained during the research process will be documented via social media.

 

 

Jessica MacFarlane, Dance

I want to expand the study of performer-audience connections on an international level and specialize towards dancers from Texas State University's Dance Division with deeper consideration for twenty-first century technology and issues. An honest and respectful exchange between dancers and audience members increases the well-being of the Dance Division, the University, and the community because it increases academic and artistic growth. In June 2014 three dancers from Texas State University's official dance company, Merge, will be traveling to Guatemala City with two Dance Division professors, Ana Baer and Michelle Nance. They will be collaborating with a Guatemalan choreographer, Susana B. Williams, and performing four pieces on two nights for the 65th International Choreographers' Showcase. Using current social media I will study the three dancers' individual reaction and the international audience response from these four performances, as well as look at other University dance performances from the previous year, to further emphasis the importance of the dancer-audience symbiosis.

Nadine Oliver, Geography

This thesis examines the formation of the post-communist urban landscape in Bucharest, Romania, with particular emphasis on the use and design of Soviet-style urban planning strategies, civic infrastructure projects, and historical monuments. During his time in power, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu led a massive “systemization” project that demolished and reconstructed select areas of Bucharest in order to implement Soviet urban planning principles. This analysis uses case studies to analyze how the post- Ceaușescu Romanian state has adopted, removed, or altered communist style monuments, buildings, and civil infrastructure in order to form and reflect their post-communist national identity and to influence public memory of Ceaușescu’s political regime.

Cities are not static dots on the map, but complex arenas of cultural, political, and economic interests that collectively create the lived urban experience. By dissecting the urban landscape, we can form a greater understanding of how the value systems of residents and political leaders can affect the design and structure of a city. This is especially true for post-Communist societies, which have to reinvent their national identity and develop strategies for managing public memory of past totalitarian regimes.

Silas Ott, Biology

The Western Gulf Slope is a known center for Cyprinid fish speciation from eastern forms, with many endemic species present in only a few drainages. Various mechanisms have been suggested for the dispersal of eastern forms into these waters. Less clear is what historic event(s) caused the present day distribution of endemic ichthyofauna in this region. One example of such a speciation episode occurs in the wide ranging Cyprinid Notropis atherinoides, leading to a species group of four distinct but closely related species living within a relatively small geographic area of the Western Gulf Slope. The historical timing, and ultimate cause, of this speciation event has yet to be established. To determine the timing of this speciation event I will extract DNA, use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify targeted gene regions, and then sequence the targeted regions using a DNA sequencer. The final edited sequences will be used to make a statistical model, that is, a phylogeny that illustrates the history of this recent speciation event. From this data, inferences can be made regarding historical events or patterns that brought about the speciation seen in the Notropis atherinoides subgroup.

 

Michael Tarver, Biology

Cryptosporidium is a waterborne protozoan parasite, which causes a disease known as Cryptosporidiosis. Its symptoms can range from diarrhea to death in immune compromised patients. Current diagnostic tools such as PCR, ELISA, and direct detection are either too time consuming or lack sensitivity. This unfortunately allows the spread of the disease due to the inability to diagnose infected individuals properly or in a timely manner. Development of a sample enrichment technique could increase diagnostic sensitivity and decrease the amount of time needed to make an accurate diagnosis. This could help in preventing infections and allow for proper isolation and treatment for individuals that are already infected. The goal of this project is to create a cheap and effective concentration method for Cryptosporidium. The proposed technique uses antibody functionalized hollow microspheres as “molecular buoys” to attach and float Cryptosporidium parasites on the surface of a liquid which would allow a sample to be easily concentrated from dilute solutions, such as watery stool, prior to detection.

 

Tia Turner, Education

What better way to identify the benefits of enhanced cognitive development than to ask the experts directly? My thesis is to show that improved learning and behavior in students due to the addition of structured exercise in the classroom outweighs the perceived costs of lost academic instructional time in our schools. Years of research proves a direct correlation between physical motion and brain growth. By looking through existing research data which has been performed in classrooms or laboratories, I will track documented forms of exercise and the variety of responses recorded. I will attend the Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco to learn specifically about “applying brain and social science to improve student learning.” Then I will survey education professionals to gauge their stance on issues related to student behavior, cognitive development, and standardized testing requirements. Once I have assimilated the information, I hope to ascertain if the benefits of adding exercise offsets any potential downsides. As a result, I expect to be able to design a series of suggested exercises which could be implemented in classrooms to help improve student performance without causing a disruption in a typical school setting.

This project is significant to the field of Education because researchers have yet to assimilate this data into an applicable form which can be utilized in the classroom. If the addition of motion is in fact beneficial, and simple and applicable practices can be applied in a typical classroom setting, then teachers and administrators could possibly implement standardized forms of exercise for the specific purpose of increasing cognitive development. Also, teacher education programs could train prospective educators to employ physical activities as they begin their careers, so this has the potential to start a movement from the top down.

Fall 2013

Joe Dominguez, Biology

Abstract:

Emotion is a conscious inner experience that is characterized by biological responses, psychophysiological expressions, and mental states. One of the most interesting aspects of music is its ability to evoke emotional responses in listeners. Sigur Rόs is an Icelandic post-rock musical group whose music has been reported to be highly emotive. Some listeners have reported high arousal and very strong connections to the music of Sigur Rόs. While this phenomenon may easily be attributed to taste or preference, I hypothesize that the emotional intelligence of the experiencer plays a significant role in the level of emotional response evoked. In this project, by collecting scaled self-reports on experience and electroencephalographic (EEG) data, I will study the relation between emotional intelligence and the level of response of twenty-four individuals while they listen to two musical tracks from the musical group Sigur Rόs. This project will become the research on which my Honors Thesis is written.

Aaron Grady, Psychology

Human memory is not an exhaustive record of one’s past experiences. Rather, some experiences are forgotten
whereas others last indefinitely. For a memory to endure, a consolidation process must ensue, wherein recent
memories are stabilized for long-term storage. This process is selective and optimally occurs during sleep. This
study will examine how mood state impacts the selection process. Participants will listen to a short story that
includes both positive and negative events. Next, some participants will listen to music and view scripted scenarios
to induce either a positive or negative mood. Assessments of mood obtained before and after induction will
confirm effectiveness. Participants will then take a 90-minute nap while brain waves are recorded. Upon waking,
they will be asked to recall the short story. It is predicted that a positive mood just prior to sleep will lead to better
memory for positive than for negative details from the story and vice versa for a negative mood.
2.2 Much remains to be learned regarding which of our recent experiences are selected for consolidation during
sleep, ultimately leading to long-term storage. This study uses a novel approach to pursue this objective by
determining how emotional state just prior to sleep influences this process. The results will provide important
constraints to an emerging theoretical framework regarding how memories are transformed during sleep, and may
also have practical applications for understanding and treating individuals with mood disorders such as depression.

Tim Heller, Theatre

In my thesis, I am exploring and revisiting the key events in my life that have made me who I am, then turning all of that into a one man show to be performed live near the end of the Spring 2014 semester. I intend to fly to Newark, NJ to visit with a friend, Alexander Kariotis, who has had a very successful one-man show perform in New York City that he wrote about his personal life. While there I will be rehearsing a scene from my play I have written and having a feedback session with him. I also intend to attend the Broadway production of Billy Crystal’s one man show, 700 Sundays, which is an autobiographical account of all the people in his life who made him who he is today. I also intend to attempt arranging an interview with Billy Crystal. Through these experiences, I will gain a better roadmap of how to write my play and tell my stories.

Dylan Hall, Chemistry

Applicant/PI:  J. Dylan Hall

College of Science and Engineering, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Advisor: Dr. Rachel E. Booth
 
Title: ”Identification of Genes Essential for ENaC Assembly, Trafficking, and Membrane Localization”
 
Abstract:
The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is a protein residing within the cellular membrane of mammalian cells. This transmembrane protein forms a pore that permits the passage of sodium ions across the membrane of those cells where it is found. Because an increase in sodium ions within the circulatory system causes hypertension (high blood pressure), mechanisms for the regulation of sodium concentrations are of great importance in maintaining a healthy physical state. Although much is known about the structure of ENaC’s (1-3), the precise mechanisms responsible for its proper function are still not well understood. Using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model system, this project aims to identify a small number of genes involved in assembly, trafficking, and localization pathways to gain a greater understanding of regulatory mechanisms that lead to insertion of ENaC into the cellular membrane.

Daniel Newton, Biology

This study will 1) estimate the frequency and 2) determine the chromosomal basis of facultative parthenogenesis (virgin birth) in a species of gall forming insect. The new knowledge to be uncovered will add to our understanding of the evolution of complex life cycles in animals. The experiment, to be conducted in winter/spring 2014, will involve laboratory manipulation of females of the sexual generation of a locally common gall-forming wasp. Virgin sexual generation females, which typically rely on males to effect fertilization of their eggs, will be reared in isolation away from males and provided habitat to lay eggs. The development of eggs produced by unmated females will be observed and compared to sexual females that were allowed to mate with males. Any offspring produced by females in isolation indicate facultative parthenogenesis. Offspring from mated females and offspring from virgin birth will then be collected, their sex identified, and their genome size estimated using flow cytometry to determine the number of sets of chromosomes and provide information on the chromosomal mechanism giving rise to facultative virgin birth.

Sunny Tompkins, Business

Applicant/PI: Tompkins, Sunny  

McCoy School of Business, Management Department
Advisor: Dr. James Bell
 
Title: ”Investigating the Feasibility of Urban Permaculture Forests: A Sustainable Guide to Changing the Way We Eat”
 
Abstract:
In my thesis, I will research and write a feasibility study, complete with in-depth permaculture designs and curriculum, for a permaculture program for children. Permaculture is the philosophy of working with, rather than against nature. This means growing food in “forests” rather than rows, producing zero waste, and living holistically. My research will include visiting local community and school gardens, as well as Guatemalan gardens; traveling to Guatemala to complete coursework to receive my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC); researching Guatemalan permaculture and how to apply it in the states; learning how to effectively construct a curriculum for different age levels, and researching non-profit management and start-up strategies. Once I have completed my research, I will have 1) hands-on experience in permaculture, 2) a PDC, 3) sufficient knowledge to create a curriculum, and 4) sufficient knowledge to write a working feasibility study. The PDC bestowed by the Yoga Forest in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala is internationally recognized by the Permaculture community, and covers the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia’s PDC Curriculum. For the purposes of this proposal, the project is researching permaculture in Guatemala and receiving my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). The project supports the larger goal of completing my thesis.
 

 

 

 

Jose Reyes, Biology

I will study the connection between the steroid hormone 11 Ketotestosterone (KT) and the mate choice in a livebearing fish system consisting of both a bisexual and a unisexual species. The bisexual species has both sailfin mollies, Poecilia latipinna, consist of males and females and the unisexual species, the all female Amazon mollies, Poecilia formosa, need to mate with males of sailfin mollies but the sperm does not fertilize the eggs. In this system male sailfin mollies prefer to mate with females of the same species, supporting the idea that there is some method with which males can recognize females of their species. I will measure the KT hormone production of males and females of both species before and after mating and examine KT production in relation to male mate choice. I will examine the total KT production and the component parts to see if one component shows greater correlation with male mate choice. I predict that males and females of the same species will show greater KT production when they mate together then when males mate with Amazon mollies. Possibly one component of the KT will be more directly correlated with male mate preference for their own species.


Spring 2013

Tricia Edgel, English

Exploring Global Solutions for Long-term Residential Care of Adults with Special Needs

The purpose of this project is to learn how three different first-world countries manage
long-term residential care for adults with mild to moderate cognitive impairments. Research will include
interviewing and photographing special needs adults living in long-term residential care facilities in
England, Ireland, and The United States of America. The interviews and photographs will also include
family members, facility caretakers, and the actual home or residence. The interviews and photographs
will be compiled into a published narrative photo-essay to be presented at the Annual Undergraduate
Research Conference. The best and hoped for result is to gain new ideas and approaches for helping
adults with mild to moderate cognitive disabilities live in the least restrictive environment, with maximum
independence and dignity. These new insights can then be shared with members of the Austin special
needs community, specifically The ARC of the Capital, The Mary Lee Foundation, and the Texas
Legislature as they discuss housing programs and funding for long-term residential care for adults with
cognitive disabilities.

Jessica Guenther, Biology

Predator Recognition in Gambusia geiseri

In its natural habitat, the Largespring mosquitofish, Gambusia geiseri, comes in contact with many different predators, including both native and introduced predator species. This project will test whether G. geiseri can recognize and respond to novel predators, which could have important implications for the survival of this species in human-altered habitats. Using behavioral observations and hormone sample collection before and after a predator stimulus, I will test if G. geiseri can recognize native and novel predators and respond to them, either through changes in their behavior or in stress-hormone production.

Christina Heinich, Computer Science

Affordable Eye Movement-based Therapies for mTBIs

At least 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries occur in the United States every year, and about 80%
of those are considered minor (mTBI). (CDC) These injuries are caused by a blow or jolt to the head that
results in disrupted brain function. People suffering from a mTBI often experience headaches, difficulties
with vision and hearing, feelings of dizziness and being off-balance, changes in thinking, and sleeping
disorders such as hypersomnia (feeling constantly tired) and narcolepsy. These symptoms are often
lingering and tend to not go away without medical help.

Justin Joe, Public Relations

Try to Follow Me: Branding Korean Wave's Music

This undergraduate thesis will investigate the popular culture phenomenon known as the Korean Wave
(Hallyu), specifically focusing on its musical aspect known as K-Pop. In detail, this thesis examines KPop's
originations starting from the late 1990's, covering its history during the most recent decade to the
present day, the future of K-pop as a growing and influential entertainment sector, and its role in
rebranding and repositioning South Korea as a globalized power. This thesis also examines the South
Korean music celebrity, their definition in the South Korean and Asian markets, and reception of said
celebrities in the West. This thesis will also explore these music celebrities' role in South Korea's
rebranding and repositioning campaign. This thesis does not reflect the personal opinion of the author or
any individual company or perform, but rather seeks to investigate the role of K-Pop and South Korea's
music celebrities from business, political, communicative, and popular culture perspectives.

Elissa Myers, English (Lit.)

The Politics of Place: Amy Levy's Urban Feminism

Amy Levy can be seen as a poet of modernity, of the time of dramatic change that made itself felt particularly in Western European cities in the 1880s and 90s. Much of Levy’s work takes the city of London not only as its setting, but as its focus. In her works, she explores many issues that were beginning to affect the everyday lives and the ideas of people living in London at this time, including the place of women and Jewish people in society, and the place of people in this rapidly changing city. Though Levy’s status as a feminist and as an urban poet have been established, my thesis furthers this work by arguing that there is a connection between these two vectors of her identity. Levy’s politicization of female experiences and her discussion of urban modernity are inextricably linked.

Levy politicizes the city of London by showing how it was or was not accessible to women. She explores how increased mobility could confer on women increased intellectual and emotional freedom. While Levy affirms that the urban environment was increasingly becoming a more liberating place for women, freeing them from the confining mores of the past, she also affirms that certain women are still confined within narrow spaces and mores even within the city. She identifies Jewish women, middle class women, and women who are both Jewish and middle class as particularly vulnerable to this kind of confinement. Thus, Levy ultimately advocates the act of being in transit as the ultimate liberator of women. For Levy, the place of women is in between places.

 

Jonathan Palmer, Finance

Microenterprise: Bolivia, Burma and the United States


I propose to investigate The Burma Connection’s impact on the Burmese economy. TBC is 501 (c) (3) nonprofit humanitarian aid organization founded in 2004. My goals are to (a) study
TBC’s MFI (microfinance institution) model to juxtapose microenterprise in Bolivia with
microenterprise in Burma and the United States, and (b) incorporate strengths found in each
country’s microenterprise sector into an MFI model that is sustainable long-term, and serves
Americans below the poverty line.
 

This internship will place me on the frontlines of the international microenterprise sector,
East Asia and the Pacific, where I will be participating in ongoing projects TBC has undertaken,
have the opportunity to propose a new project of my own design, and continue research to be
used in my thesis. Because TBC is a young MFI, I will be learning with them as they continue to
root themselves in Burma. My research and work in Burma will progress a philanthropic
microcredit program and give me a more wholesome understanding of MFI models with
humanitarian applications. Working with TBC will provide invaluable insight, concrete
qualitative data, and empirics that will contribute to the relevance of my thesis. Through
internship with TBC, I will acquire hands on experience, and develop an understanding of MFI
management.


Fall 2012

Virginia Brown, Biology

Using plants and weather to predict species abundance

The aim of this project is determine whether it is possible to predict insect species composition in an area based on the
amount and types of vegetation in that area. A literature survey will be conducted to determine which insect species feed on the most abundant plant species in the Christmas Mountains, which are located in the Chihuahuan Desert. Bimonthly trips to the Christmas Mountains will allow sampling of local insect populations. Preliminary researchh as already been conducted to design a systematic methodology for the insect sampling. The samples that are collected will then be quantified and specimens will be identified and compared to the species list from the literature review. This data will be part of an on-going research project investigating whether herbivore biomass can be used to estimate the plant productivity of a given ecosystem.

Shelby King, Psychology

Comparative Analysis of Effects of Uncertainly and Mortality Salience on Religious Zeal

Reminders of death and personal uncertainty are so distressing that many individuals turn to religion as the most effective protection against the deep-rooted emotional fears these reminders can conjure. The interests of this study include not only investigating this phenomenon, but also comparing the effects both death and uncertainty have on religiosity to determine any difference in their behavioral outcomes. In this study, mortality salience and uncertainty salience were hypothesized to significantly increase participant religiosity. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that a significant difference would be found in effects of mortality salience and uncertainty on religiosity. A sample of 81 college students was selected to participate in this study. After completing a demographic and ideological beliefs questionnaire, implicit measures of attitude toward religion were measured using word-valence classification reaction times following presentation of religious images, or an affective priming task. Participants then completed an open-ended response to a writing prompt meant to prime mortality salience, uncertainty, or a non-prime control topic. Participants then completed the affective priming task post-manipulation to determine any changes in implicit religiosity after the writing prompt. Participants also completed the Revised Religious Fundamentalism scale following these tasks as an explicit measure of religiosity. A 3x2x2x2 ANOVA was used to compare reaction times between the three salience prompt groups, within repeated measures of both affective priming tasks, between religious and non-religious images within each priming task and finally between positive and negative words of each priming task. Data analysis is currently underway.

Timothy Rink, English (Creative Writing)

I will travel to and briefly stay in New Orleans to study Gothic architecture and the
historic city. While studying the architecture and locale, I will note everything that I see, hear,
smell, touch, feel, and think; then these details will be used in the poems. During the course of
composition, the verse will be peer-reviewed and read for audiences. once the revisions have been
made, a final review will be written on each poem. The poems and final reviews will be submitted
for publication. The resulting poems will promote the arts and the university. Write more. The
project will also encourage other students to participate in SURF. Through my work with both the
Persona, the student literary journal and the Front Porch, the online literary journal of Texas State
University's MFA program, creative writing students will see the opportunities for projects and the
plethora of resources available to complete projects.

Angelica Riojas, Biology

Identification of IBR5 interacting proteins in Arabdopsis


Auxin is a plant hormone that is vital throughout the plant life cycle for growth and development. Recently, IBR5, a gene that encodes a dual specificity phosphatase was identified as a negative regulator of plant auxin signaling. However, the exact molecular mechanism of IBR5 function in plant auxin response is unknown. One approach to understand the molecular mechanism will be to identify IBR5 interacting proteins. To this end we performed a yeast two hybrid screening using an Arabidopsis cDNA library. Two IBR5 Interacting Proteins (named IIP1 and IIP2) were identified in this screening. While yeast two hybrid screening is a powerful technique to identify new interacting proteins, results of this assay have to be confirmed by other biochemical or genetic techniques. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to further confirm the IBR5-IIP1 and IBR5-IIP2 interactions by using other molecular techniques. Confirmation of interactions was do ne by performing pull-down assays. IBR5 was expressed in Arabidopsis plants as a myc tagged fusion protein (IBR5-myc). IIP1 and IIP2 were expressed in E. coli as GST tagged recombinant proteins (GST-IIP1 and GST-IIP2). GST-IIP1 and GST-IIP2 proteins were purified from E. coli and added to Arabidopsis crude plant extracts containing IBR5-myc. GST tagged protein (along with any interacting plant proteins) were recovered and separated by SDS-PAGE. Interacting proteins were detected by western blot analysis using anti-myc antibody. Results indicate that IIP1 is a true IBR5 interacting protein.

Daniel Sharp, Electrical Engineering

Automated Soild Sample Collection Robot

This research project seeks to design an entry for this year's IEEE R5 Robotics Competition being held in Denver. The entry is being developed by the Texas State University IEEE student branch, and the team is determined to develop a highly functional robot in order to best represent Texas State's burgeoning Electrical Engineering program. Development will consist of a software team, focused on designing and implementing an efficient and effective algorithm for control and decision making of the robot, as well as a hardware team which will focus on developing various hardware setups at differing cost levels that will be evaluated to determine the most efficient components for our design.

Daniel Shay, Physics and Theatre

Voice Recognition in Theatre

Voice recognition in recent years has made major strides that have allowed it to be more usable in a professional setting. The dramatic changes that have occurred in the technology have led to an under utilization in many industries. This thesis will explore the feasibility of using Voice Recognition primarily in theatre but also in other related areas of live entertainment, media, and event planning/management. The application of voice recognition to these industries could significantly change how work is done and these related changes will also be explored.

Val Yerby, Biology

Managing Agricultural Ecosystems for the Conservation of Declining Bee Populations

Wild bees provide pollination services crucial to the economy and the environment. Many factors threaten bee populations, but the focus of this study is habitat modification by agroindustry. Specifically, how do land management practices effect bees and what modifications could be made to promote conservation in areas not in active crop production. A bee's habitat must provide adequate forage and adequate nest sites; because bees are mobile, these resources may have different spatial distribution and describable characters. I collected data concerning distribution of bees and foraging resources; I require data on nest sites. I will use SURF funds to return to the Oregon research site to augment my previously collected data, and confirm my bee identifications with an expert. My product will be a set of recommendations for land managers describing change to be made along field margins to facilitate bee conservation. Its recommendations will nb simple, low tech solutions tailored to areas not experiencing active land management.


Spring 2012

Laura Bright, International Studies

Monet on the Normandy Coast: Astronomy and Art

 The proposed project will use an interdisciplinary approach to study several famous paintings done by Claude Monet on the Normandy coast. Our principal activities will include astronomical calculations, analysis of tides, obtaining meteorological records, translating Monet’s letters, collecting 19th century photographs and post cards from Monet’s time, topographical analysis using 19th century maps, and a site visit to the Normandy coast. Our expected results will include the dates, times, and precise locations depicted in Monet’s paintings.

 

Nadia Dowla, Electrical Engineering

 Effective Low-Cost Biometric Eye Recognition System

This research project seeks to design a low-cost three-point biometric recognitions system revolving around eye-movement tracking, ocular motor plant characteristics, and iris pattern recognition. One hundred test subjects will be used to gather eye-tracking data and various hardware setups at differing cost levels will be evaluated to determine the most efficient components for our design.

Daniel Gray, Art and Design

Meaning and Materiality: An Investigation into the Artistic Meaning of Natural Materials from the Big Bend of Texas

Daniel Gray's research considered what do materials mean in the context of art. He writes the following about his creative project: As an artist, I frequently use natural materials in my mixed media paintings. My favorite natural materials include sand, dirt and vegetation from the Big Bend region of Texas. For me, these materials carry particular meanings — for example, Rio Grande silt is an artifact of the Indian wars as well as a symbol of contemporary immigration issues. I draw these meanings from my experiences collecting the materials and the histories I attribute to them. These meanings inform their use in my paintings. Likewise, for my wife, artistic partner and Co‐PI, these meanings inform the appearance of Big Bend subjects in her photography and writing. We share an academic interest in materiality — a quality of art that includes both the physical mass of created objects and the select materials used to create them. For this project, we want to expand on what the materials of the Big Bend region mean. To investigate this subject, I and my Co‐PI will travel to the Big Bend region; document the native environments and contexts of the materials we use in our art; document my collection process; conduct and record interviews with local residents and artists regarding the meanings they attribute to native materials; and create a video installation, as well as an essay and visual presentation, to expound on the expanded meanings of the materials.

Learn more about Daniel Gray's research and see a video.

Kristin Horst, Nutrition

Does vitamin A increase PTEN activity?

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer and cause of death due to cancer in the United States [1]. Death is not typically due to the initial tumor, but due to the metastasis or spread of the cancer to new tissue in the body, generally the liver. Previous research conducted in Dr. Lane’s laboratory has found that Vitamin A (retinol) inhibits colon cancer metastasis. However, Vitamin A cannot be utilized in new drug development or supplementation until we know the exact pathway and can determine a physiologically effective dosage. The principal activity of this research is to determine if Vitamin A (retinol) inhibits colon cancer metastasis by increasing the activity of the protein PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog). PTEN inhibits the PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase) pathway. Activation of the PI3K pathway is responsible for colon cancer metastasis. Low PTEN activity is associated with higher levels of metastasis not only with colon but many other cancers [2]. This research will be performed using two cultured human colon cancer cell lines (HCT-116 and SW620) with and without retinol treatment. Protein will be harvested from these cells and separated using Western blot analysis. Total PTEN and phosphorylated PTEN antibodies will then be used to determine the amount, activity and location of PTEN. We expect that retinol treatment will increase PTEN activity and the amount of membrane-associated PTEN. This data will help us understand the mechanism by which Vitamin A inhibits colon cancer metastasis.

Silas Ott, Biology

 Revealing the historical biogeography of isolated native fish populations through analysis of molecular genetic variation

Within Texas many fish species have isolated populations that are separated by great distances from their continuous population. These isolated populations have been tentatively classified as the same species as their respective continuous populations. Observations by Dr. Bonner have questioned the genetic relationships between these pairs of isolated and continuous populations. To gain insight into the biogeographic history of these isolated populations I will assess mitochondrial genetic similarity between population pairs. Isolated populations from each of five freshwater fish species have been identified for sampling. To compare each isolated population with its continuous population I will extract DNA, use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify targeted sequences, and then sequence the targeted regions with a DNA sequencer. The final edited sequences will be used to make a statistical model, that is, a phylogeny that illustrates the biogeographic history of these isolated populations in relation to their continuous populations.

Katie Tritsch, Geography

Permaculture at Texas State

         Permaculture is an ecological design system aimed at remaking our human communities based on natural ecosystems in order to create stable, diverse, and abundant landscapes. My intention is to travel to a three-day permaculture conference in June 2012 in order to gain insight on how to implement permaculture design onto university grounds.

The conference is being held at University of Massachusetts (UMass) at Amherst, which is home to one of the first and most successful permaculture initiatives in the United States. My intention is to build upon my knowledge base in the field by meeting some of its most successful pioneers in order to generate ideas that explore the potential for these types of initiatives at TxState through what UMass is calling the Permaculture Your Campus Plan (PYCP). Being that my Honors thesis is also about the potential of permaculture to increase ecological stability, this conference will serve as a strong interactive research opportunity from which to draw much inspiration and structure for my writing in the fall.

Learn more about Katie Tritsch's research and see pictures of her trip.

 


Fall 2011

Salina Bassitt, Psychology

How Does Body Image Awareness Change During the Transition to College?

This study will use online surveys to assess changes in college students’ body image perceptions during the transition from home environment o college life, as well as the relationship of these changes to physical and psychological health. Participants will include a culturally diverse sample of male and female freshman. The study will include students who have come to Texas State University from a range of rural, urban and sub-urban settings. Based on previous studies, we predict that students who lived in a more urban setting before moving to Texas State will be less satisfied with their current body type and have poorer body image as they make the transition to college life. The relationship between the size of a students’ hometown and their body image at Texas State may be mediated by socioeconomic status and moderated by gender. Our results will enhance understanding of how body image relates to health and could improve health promotion efforts on college campuses.

 

 

Elliott Brandsma, English (Lit.)

Sheep, Volcanoes, and International Conflict: Mapping the Twentieth-Century Icelandic
Consciousness through Fiction

Settled over a millennium ago by the Norwegian dissident Ingolfur Arnarson, Iceland boasts an extensive body of literature that remains largely unexplored beyond the island nation's desolate shores. Recent scholarship in Icelandic literature focuses almost exclusively on the

Icelandic sagas. These ancient legends about bloodthirsty Vikings and their irascible gods no doubt provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of a pagan European culture. However, focusing solely on Iceland's medieval works ignores the nation's contribution to contemporary fiction, particularly the literature of the twentieth century. The goal of this project is to identify aspects of the modern Icelandic novel that are universal and, hopefully, begin entering it into the greater dialogue of world literature. International wars, economic depression, and disillusionment with mankind all characterize the early twentieth century, and two of Iceland's foremost authors, Halldor Laxness and Gunnar Gunnarsson, capture this decadence in their novels Independent People and Seven Days' Darkness. Independent People enacts the tragedy of Bjartur, an intransigent sheepherder who, after being released from eighteen years of servitude, clings to his independent way of life,

even as his farm, family, and homeland's social order crumble around him. Seven Days' Darkness portrays the philosophical war between pious doctor Grimur Ellidagrimur and cynical philosopher Pall Einarsson, a war after which Einarsson's bleak modernist worldview ultimately prevails. Besides demonstrating the intellectual currents of the time, the Icelandic novel also serves as a unique testament to the endurance of the human spirit. By studying depictions of

Icelanders' endless struggle against the elements, we learn about survival, how human beings are capable of persisting even in the most forbidding circumstances.

 

Learn more about Elliott's research and see pictures of his trip to Iceland.

 

 

 

 

Dominic DeSantis, Wildlife Biology

Behavioral response of a neotenic salamander to chemical stimuli of novel congeners

Many species are of conservation concern due to a wide assortment of causes, primarily habitat modification and decreases in both water quality and quantity. Eurycea nana is a surface dwelling, aquatic salamander endemic to the San Marcos Springs and headwaters of the San Marcos River, Hays County, Texas. During periods of extreme drought, it is believed that many surface dwelling species of Eurycea, will use subterranean cave environments as refugia. However, these cave environments typically contain other species of Eurycea which are troglobitic (or cave-adapted). Eurycea rathbuni is one such troglobitic salamander which inhabits the Edwards Aquifer below San Marcos Springs, and is considerably larger in size than E. nana. If E. nana uses cave environments as refugia during periods of drought, it is possible that these two usually non-overlapping species come in contact with one another. As a result, it is possible that agonistic or predator-prey interactions between these two species may arise. We will test both the behavioral and stress hormone response of E. nana to chemical stimuli from two similar species and a blank water control to better understand potential interactions when refugia are used. Insight into these behaviors may allow for better management of these species during periods of extreme drought.

Ashleigh Gauntner, Communication Disorders

Parent Knowledge of Prelinguistic Communication Development

Auxin is the most crucial plant hormone involved in growth and development. The role of auxin in plant growth and development has been studied extensively in Arabidopsis, a non-cereal model plant. Nevertheless, most of the world food supply comes from cereals. Most cereal crop plants are not good experimental models due to their large genome size, longer lifespan and non-availability of gene sequences. Brachypodium distachyon is a relatively new model plant for cereal crops. Its genome sequencing was completed recently. Plant has a short lifespan and has a small genome size making it an ideal model plant for cereal type crops. However, extensive studies on auxin responses of Brachypodium have not been conducted so far. My research involves initial studies of auxin responses of this plant and will design a better and easy genetic transformation system for Brachypodium. Additionally, this study will generate biosensor transgenic lines that can be used in many auxin related research in our laboratory and elsewhere.

Christina McClung, Biology

Characterization of Auxin Responses of Brachypodium distachyon, A Cereal Model Plant

Auxin is the most crucial plant hormone involved in growth and development. The role of auxin in plant growth and development has been studied extensively in Arabidopsis, a non-cereal model plant. Nevertheless, most of the world food supply comes from cereals. Most cereal crop plants are not good experimental models due to their large genome size, longer lifespan and non-availability of gene sequences. Brachypodium distachyon is a relatively new model plant for cereal crops. Its genome sequencing was completed recently. Plant has a short lifespan and has a small genome size making it an ideal model plant for cereal type crops. However, extensive studies on auxin responses of Brachypodium have not been conducted so far. My research involves initial studies of auxin responses of this plant and will design a better and easy genetic transformation system for Brachypodium. Additionally, this study will generate biosensor transgenic lines that can be used in many auxin related research in our laboratory and elsewhere.

Alysha Moore, Biochemistry

 Purification and characterization of DszB using substrate analog Thiourea Dioxide

Recent government regulation changes have required that the amount of sulfur in the diesel fuel be lowered. The current methods of desulfurization cannot handle the new demand so a method was developed using enzymes from a metabolic pathway found in a bacteria. An enzyme is a protein that does specific chemistry and the enzymes in this pathway remove sulfur from the fuel without loss of fuel value. Before this pathway can be made commercially available, its mechanism must be fully understood. In my project, I will study the mechanism of the crucial enzyme, DszB, in that metabolic pathway. To test the mechanism I will use a chemical, thiourea dioxide, that will allow me to test how exactly the enzyme interacts with the molecules in the fuel. In conclusion, my results will aid in understanding this metabolic pathway which will lead to commercialization of this biodesulfurization process, and discover more about a possibly unusual chemistry that is happening because of this enzyme (3).

Krystle Moore, Biology

The Mechanism of Auxin Resistance in Arabidopsis pic59 Mutant

Auxin is and indispensible plant hormone that regulates growth and development. It is of high interest in the field of plant biology. Synthetic forms of auxin have been used as bericides for decades. The purpose of this research is to study the mechanism of resistance of Arabidopsis auxin resistant mutant (pic 59). The mutation has been identified and the mutant protein has been expressed in transgenic plants. Experiments have shown that transgenic plants highly expressing the mutant protein are not resistant to picloram while those with lower expression are resistant. The purpose of this research is to discover why.

David Ortego, Biology

Generating Herbicide Resistant Tomato Using Plant Tissue Culture and Agrobacterium-mediated Genetic Transformation

Developing a general method for transformation of tomato plants is challenging because different tomato varieties respond differently o genetic modification and tissue culture attempts. However, once established, genetic transformation and regeneration follows a clearly defined path to completion which has already been implemented for the variety “Micro-Tom” on two preliminary projects in our lab. The process follows: germination of seeds, selection and surgical removal of leaves from seedlings, inoculation of seedling leaves with a strain of Agrobacterium carrying the desired gene, development of tissue generating callus culture, exercising candidate plantlets from callus culture, a shoot and root development period along with transformation screening utilizing antibiotics, transplanting of the regenerated plant into soil, a secondary genetic analysis to confirm that the inserted gene has been properly introduced, and finally application of herbicide and observation of its effects on the transformed plant. The Principle Investigator, David Ortego, is the sole researcher for this project under the guidance of Drs. Nihal and Sunethra Dharmasiri.

Sarah Roark, Biology

Investigation of Unexpected Fluorescence in Zebrafish Optic Nerve

This study aims to determine whether or not unusual expression of green fluorescent protein in zebranfish optic nerve is linked with the aging process. The major goals of this study are to image Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) in the optic nerve of geriatric zebrafish and correlate this expression to the aging process. Because GFP is used as a marker for GFAP expression, no GFP is seen in the optic nerve of zebrafish as these cells express cytokeratin, not GFAP. Fish tissue will b fixed and sectioned before immune-labeling and confocal imaging. Some preliminary work(photos in attachments) has shown no GFP expression in young adults (5-8 months) zebrafish optic nerve, and filamentous like GFP expression in geriatric (18 months) nerve. All imaging and prep work is preformed in the Supple science building using the confocal microscope and lab areas assigned to Drs. Garcia and Koke. 

 

Dori Thompson, Biology

A Tale of Giants: A New Cretaceous Redwood from New Mexico

Examination of other Cretaceous redwoods is necessary to determine if the McRae conifer represents a new species or genus. Additionally, the dataset generated in this study will be used to support my undergraduate thesis, and will benefit other paleobotanical, paleoclimate, and evolutionary studies because the redwoods are often used as a model study system. Ralph Chaney’s seminal paper in 1950 was the last comprehensive revision of fossil redwood classification (2), but many species have been described since 1950, and the important characteristics for recognition have been expanded. Lui et al 1999 compared the published descriptions of fossil Metasequoia, but did not directly examine specimens or include the other genera of redwoods (3). I will travel to Washington, D.C. to study at the USNM for four days. I will locate, examine, and photograph fossil specimens critical to my analysis (Table 1). I will measure their characteristics using the image processing software ImageJ, compile the results into a data matrix, and compare the character trait values to determine if the McRae redwood represents an un-described taxon. Goals: Update the record of Cretaceous redwoods based current understanding of leaf and cone characteristics; determine if the McRae redwood represents a new species/genus.