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  • Spring 2019 URF Recipients

    • Title: Effect of Yogic Breathing on Microvascular Endothelial Function and Pain Perception in Participants with IBS

      Supervisor:  Dr. Stacy Hunter, Department of Health and Human Performance

      $999

    • Title: Effects of Increased Dissolved Oxygen Concentration on Beneficial Microbiology in Hydroponic Systems

      Supervisor: Dr. Nicole Wagner, Department of Agriculture

      $1,000

    • Title: Impacts of Utensil Distribution on Home Cooking Behavior Among Food Pantry Clients

      Supervisor: Ms. Hannah Thornton, School of Family and Consumer Sciences

      $750

    • TitleThe Outcomes of Therapy Delivered via Telepractice for a Child with Autism

      Supervisor: Dr. Maria Resendiz, College of Health Professions

      $500

    • Title: Community Health Screening and Education through Laboratory Science (CHS&E) Workshop Analysis

      Supervisor: Ms. Joanna Ellis, Clinical Laboratory Science

      $1,000

    • Title: Poly(lactic acid)-b-poly(ethylene glycol) (PLA-PEG) nanoparticles as agents for dual photothermal and chemotherapeutic treatment of cancer

      Supervisor: Dr. Tania Betancourt, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

      $1,000

    • Title: Functional Microbial Isolation From Complex Mixtures

      Supervisor: Dr. Shannon Weigum, Department of Biology

      $1,000

    • TitleAs the Water Gets too High: Texas and the Fight Against Sea Level Rise

      Supervisor: Dr. Cindy Royal, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

      $250

    • TitleGlobal Assessment of Mercury Concentrations in Whale Sharks

      Supervisor: Dr. Jessica Dutton, Department of Biology

      $1,000

    • TitleMolecular analysis of West Nile virus strains in Texas

      Supervisor: Dr. Ditmar Hahn, Department of Biology

      $1,000

  • Fall 2018 URF Recipients

    • Title: The Use of Raman Spectroscopy to Identify Postmortem Time of Human Remains

      Supervisor:  Dr. Daniel Wescott, Department of Anthropology

      $300

    • Title: The Effects of Direct Instruction versus Question-Based Instruction  on Exploratory Learning in Children

      Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer M. Clegg, Department of Psychology 

      $1,000

    • Title: Correlating Time Series of Biometric and Motion Capture Data by Building a Visual Interface Application

      Supervisor: Dr. Francis Mendez, Department of Computer Information Systems & Quantitative Methods

      $1,000

    • Title: The Effects of Calcium-Sensing Receptor Inhibition in Obesity-Associated Invasive Prostate Cancer

      Supervisor: Dr. Ramona Salcedo-Price, School of Family and Consumer Sciences

      $1,000

    • Title: A Tale of Two Tunnels: Exploring the Design and Cultural Difference Between the Houston Tunnel System and RESO (Underground City, Montreal)

      Supervisor: Dr. Russell Weaver, Department of Geography

      $1,000

    • Title: Computerizing the Texas State Observatory Telescope

      Supervisor: Dr. Blagoy Rangelov, Department of Physics

      $820

    • Title: Exploring Anthraquinone Derivatives for Non-Aqueous Redox Flow Batteries

      Supervisor: Dr. Todd W Hudnall, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

      $1,000

    • TitleImproved Methods for Continuous Manufacturing of Polymeric Nanoparticles for Drug Delivery Using a Fiber Fluidic System

      Supervisor: Dr. Tania Betancourt, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

      $1,000

    • TitleElectrospun Electroactive Polymer Nanocomposites for Water Purification via Photocatalysis

      Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Irvin, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

      $1,000

    • TitleABCC4's Effect on Pigment Granule Aggregation in Mice

      Supervisor: Dr. Dana Garcia, Department of Biology

      $1,000

    • TitleIncorporating Accessibility Into Theme Parks

      Supervisor: Dr. Floyd Quinn, Department of Management

      $1,000

    • Title: Adventures in Periodicals

      Supervisor: Dr. Kathryn R. Ledbetter, Department of English

      $1,000

    • TitleIdentity Performances of Minority Students at MSIs

      Supervisor: Dr. Eleanor Close, Department of Physics

      $500

    • TitleA "Tolkien" Opportunity

      Supervisor: Dr. Robert Tally, Department of English

      $830

    • TitleWeathering Patterns of Diesel

      Supervisor: Dr. William Hoffmann, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

      $1,000

    • Title: Investigating a Tumor Supressor Protein (p16INKa) in Danio Rerio (Zebrafish)

      Supervisor: Dr.Dana Garcia, Department of Biology

      $1,000

    • Title: Radio Communication with Satellites 

      Supervisor: Dr. Blagoy Rangelov, Department of Physics

      $1,000

    • TitleThe Intent of U.S. Sanctions: The United States’ Posture Toward Iran and North Korea

      Supervisor: Dr. Ronald Johnson, Department of History

      $1,000

    • TitleThe impact of "Global English" on Foreign Language Learner Motivation

      Supervisor: Dr. Peter Golato, Department of Modern Languages

      $1,000

    • TitleBacteriophage Mediated P. aeruginosa Biofilm Dispersal

      Supervisor: Dr. Manish Kumar, Department of Biology

      $1,000

    • Title: Testing The Limits and Damned Interfering Video Activists Television: Revivals of the Lost AIDS Generation

      Supervisor: Dr. Erina Duganne, School of Art & Design

      $1,000

  • Spring 2018

    • The research project focuses on the academic success barriers of first generation college students at Hispanic Serving Institutes compared to Non-Hispanic Serving Institutes. Data will be collected from students who attend Texas State University, St. Edward's University, Texas Christian University, and Sam Houston State University. Online surveys will be distributed to 200 participants. In addition to the online survey, we will conduct 10 in-depth interviews with students to have a better understanding of their experiences/barriers as a first college student.

      Supervisor: Dr. Hyunwoo Yoon, School of Social Work

    • This honors thesis project will explore the relationship between specific healthy behaviors (physical activity, quality sleep and healthy beverage choices) and physical/mental health status. A tool will be created to measure each independent variable in conjunction with a tool to measure mental and physical health status. Following the collection of data we will attempt to identify specific risk factors for poor mental and physical health. This research will contribute to the nursing field by helping to identify risk factors and improve patient education and outcomes.

      Supervisor:  Dr. Son Kim, St. David's School of Nursing

    • I will be studying how Acute and chronic predation can affect mating and mate choice.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • Open vertical posts have been shown to be hazardous to wildlife in several western states. Birds, reptiles, and small mammals, initially attracted to the open cavity become trapped in the fence post and die of starvation or dehydration. Additionally, birds which nest in vertical posts have been shown to have reduced nest success. This study examines the presence of these hazards at the Freeman Center, by searching for mortalities and monitoring birds nesting in fence posts. The Freeman Center has a large number of fences and contains a more wooded landscape than previous studies, which make it an ideal setting for these observations.

      Supervisor: Dr. Sarah Fritts, Department of Biology

    • I am applying the URF towards my attendance at the National Academy of Music's Summer Master Classes for Flute and Clarinet in Sofia, Bulgaria. This week-long program is in collaboration with Texas State University School of Music flute and clarinet students as well as those from the Conservatory in Sofia. I will be performing flute and observing hours of teaching, which will be largely beneficial in my studies as a Flute Performance major. I will apply all that I've learned to my own studies and playing as well as present my findings to Texas State's Flute Seminar class, with an added possibility of publishing an article in a magazine on the subject.

      Supervisor: Dr. Adah Toland Jones, School of Music

    • With this research I hope to provide for a more complete and accurate representation of the process of decomposition by providing a visual representation, and to be able to pinpoint any discrepancies the Megyesi et al scoring method (2005) may have. With the process of decomposition captured in its entirety using time lapse technology, I will be able to isolate any potential stages of decomposition that need further description and open up future research on the revision of the technique.

      Supervisor: Professor Sophia Mavroudas, Department of Anthropology 

    • We propose to investigate the use of compost tea and casting tea as an alternative to synthetic fertilizers that are commonly used in hydroponic systems.  Compost and casting tea could help establish an organic input method in hydroponics, as most hydroponic systems are not organic since they rely on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. These teas could be compared to the popular brand name Fox Farm and their hydroponic solutions.

      Compost tea, worm casting tea, Fox farm, and the control will be compared by measuring growth rate and yield.  These subjects will be tested on both low and high nutrient requirement vegetables and fruits from seed to maturity. The research will be able to confirm if compost tea and casting tea can be a feasible, organic replacement to commercialized, synthetic solutions, and which type of plants the replacement would work best on.

      Supervisor: Dr. Nicole D. Wagner, Department of Agriculture

    • More people in the US now die from Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections than from HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this study is to assess the prevalence of Staphylococcus species, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, in a student health center. The objective of this study is to evaluate and characterize the prevalence of MRSA, Staphylococcus aureus, and other Staphylococcus species found on different areas, utilities, and furniture using a point prevalence design with a longitudinal approach. A total of 360 swab samples will be collected from 10 areas over a span of 12 months from surfaces and other equipment. This longitudinal approach will allow for the tracking of environmental cleaning affect over time and will allow for tracking of colonization among single areas and equipment within the facility. The findings of this study can indicate potential exposure risks from Staphylococcus species in college healthcare facilities

      Supervisor: Dr. Rodney Rohde, Clinical Laboratory Science

    • I want to analyze a poorly understood aspect of the Bonfire Shelter archaeological site in West Texas. I will carry out the first in-depth analysis of a 4,200-year-old fire hearth with a stone heating element to determine what the Archaic people of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands were cooking and processing at this site. In addition, I will assess why this feature is morphologically different than other well-documented contemporary hearth features in the region, which show evidence of larger-scale intense food processing (Turpin 2004). I believe this investigation will be significant to better understanding the archaeological record of this site and region, and general prehistoric desert hunter-gatherer adaptations in general.

      Supervisor: Dr. David Kilby, Department of Anthropology

    • To complete the presentation of my Honors thesis of Arts-based research, I would like to create prints of my paintings to hang in various coffee shops. Arts-based research has powers unique to this methodology due to the fact that art has the ability to empathetically engage, and thus viscerally capture people's attention and affect their personal perceptions. However, in order for Arts-based research to take effect, the art must be seen. Art galleries, like scholarly research, are only accessed by a subset of the population. They are typically attended by those who can afford to purchase art, or those who are creating art. I would like this work to be seen by all— not just the few who are seeking out art. I would also like to start a conversation by installing a journal with the paintings to invite viewers to share and log their experiences with inequality or privilege. By reading other's stories, viewers gain insight into other people’s personal experiences and perceptions of society.

      Supervisor: Dr. Rachel Romero, Department of Sociology

    • In 2011, Texas State University (TXST) began FACES: Foster Care Alumni Creating Educational Success. FACES is a campus-wide support initiative aimed at increasing college retention and graduation rates of foster care alumni. Research is needed to understand what risk factors contribute to students’ drop-out behavior so that FACES can make programmatic changes to better support these struggling students.

       

      This pilot, qualitative study will survey former TXST/FACES students through semi-structured phone interviews exploring what barriers these students faced, what they are currently doing and what, if any, future plans they still have to pursue an education.

      Supervisor: Dr. Christine Norton, School of Social Work

    • The goal of this study is to examine the impacts of worrisome thoughts on cognitive function and if it can be mediated by self-efficacy. This study will take these factors into account, as we assess participants self-efficacy by utilizing Neurotrax, in order to analyze executive functions. This study has two phases. 1) will be a mass-recruitment email sent directly to every student at Texas State University inviting them to take the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. In the event we do not get the participant goal from the university-wide email. 2) the top and bottom 25% of symptom severity on the Penn State Worry Questionnaire will be invited into the lab. There, participants will again complete the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, then the General/Cognitive Self-efficacy measures, Barkley Functional Impairment Scale,Depression Anxiety & Stress Scale, Neurotrax, and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory assessments. We believe the higher the anxiety scores, the lower the self-efficacy scores.

      Supervisor: Dr. Amitai Abramovitch, Department of Psychology

    • The goal of this research is to determine the feasibility and optimization of atmospheric water generation using thermoelectric cooling. A number of surface temperature sensors will be used to keep a thermoelectric cooler called a Peltier device at or below dew point so condensation will form. Other atmospheric sensors connected to a micro controller will be used to operate the device only when the environmental conditions are ideal for producing water.

      Supervisor: Dr. Bahram Asiabanpour, Ingram School of Engineering

    • The proposed study will seek to explore the construct of dyadic mind-mindedness reciprocity and the shared level of intimacy. By instructing the members of the dyad to describe their social partner (close friend, romantic partner), we will analyze their responses and determine the percent of mind-related comments (e.g., he's smart; she's always happy) compared to behavioral and physical comments (e.g., he plays soccer; she's very tall). The more mentalistic attributes they use to describe each other compared to behavioral and physical comments, the higher their mind-mindedness score.

       An understanding of the mental states of others is the foundation for interpreting behavior and interacting with others, so mind-mindedness is at the core of social understanding. Investigating this question may not only shed valuable light on observed variation in dyadic mind-minded reciprocity but also how the level of mind-mindedness relates to the quality of their social interaction.

      Supervisor: Dr. Katherine Warnell, Department of Psychology

    • This field project aims to compare the differences in acoustic recordings of varying detector height placements. This research will conducted at Freeman Ranch Center, and will also work towards measuring the abundance of bat populations at the ranch. Two detectors will be mounted on a pole at different heights and allowed to record over several nights at each selected location location. I will present the spring findings at the Spring 2018 Undergraduate Research Conference, and continue the study into the Fall 2018 semester, and analyze the temporal variation in bat activity over the year.

      Supervisor: Dr. Sarah Fritts, Department of Biology

    • The purpose of this project is to determine whether two different next-generation probiotics (NGP) affect the sporulation rate of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile). Specifically the transcription of sigH which helps to regulate the sporulation pathway. The two NGPs that will be looked at are Lactobacillus reuteri and Debaryomyces hansenii. We will compare the sporulation of a pure culture of C. difficile against the sporulation of a coculture with one of the NGPs.

      Supervisor: Dr. Manish Kumar, Department of Biology

  • Fall 2017

    • Does Container Size and Social Cues Impact Corticosterone Release Rates and Growth in Tadpoles?

      The goal of this project is to determine whether social cues and container size impact body mass, metamorphosis, and corticosterone release rates in tadpoles. This will allow us to alter our lab methods in future projects to ensure the highest accuracy of our assessment of hormones, and allow us to publish more precise and accurate data about corticosterone.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • Development of CRISPR-Cas tools for genetic manipulation in
      Clostridium difficile

      The specific aim of this project is to develop a genetic tool to edit C. difficile’s genome based on the CRISPR-Cas9 system that has been recently tested in other Clostridium species for gene deletion (Li et al., 2016). C. difficile is different from other Clostridia as it does not uptake DNA by electroporation and frequency of recombination of foreign DNA is extremely low. A CRISPRCas based tool will allow rapid targeted mutagenesis to study the genes involved in the pathogenesis of C. diffcile.
      I will target two genes for deletion, spo0A that initiates the sporulation pathway and pyrE which is an auxotrophic mutation used in other studies for genetic screening. These genes with their known phenotype will be used as controls (Deakin et al., 2012; Xu et al., 2015; Li et al., 2016). Successful removal of these genes will be proof of principle that can be further expanded for other genes. Sporulation is one of two pathogenicity factors and can be readily assessed with a sporulation assay. Mutation in pyrE gene results in uracil auxotroph and resistance towards fluoroorotic acid (5-FOA) toxicity that can easily be screened. This development of a novel technique to edit C. difficile will allow future research into C. difficile with highly accurate gene removals.

      Supervisor: Dr. Manish Kumar, Department of Biology

    • Pressurized Sulfate Attack

      Testing concrete samples under a given pressure to accelerate chemical reactions between the sulfate solution and a concrete mixture sample. The outcome is to compare the deterioration of the concrete specimen to normal sulfate attack conditions and contribute to standardization method to test sulfate attack.

      Supervisor: Dr. Federico Aguayo, Department of Engineering Technology

    • Feasting and Fasting: An Ethnographic Study of Food Insecurity during the U.S. Fall and Winter Holidays

      During the fall and winter holidays in the U.S., groups typically gather for a meal, granting them a sense of warmth and belonging... But, what if there were no food to begin with? I will investigate this and other phenomena through the implementation of ethnographic methods. Two central questions will guide the research: what holiday traditions do individuals interact in most? and, how does being food insecure affect those traditions?

      Supervisor: Dr. Nicole Taylor, Department of Anthropology 

    • The Genetic Effects of Long Term LED Light Exposure on a Transgenic Oryzias latipes (Japanese medaka) Melanoma Model

      The tg-mel medaka is a transgenic fish carrying the xmrk oncogene, over expression of which leads to tumor formation. Previous research comparing wild-type medaka with tg-mel medaka showed immune response suppression in tg-mel. Studies from our lab measuring the genetic response to specific wavelengths of light show 400-450nm up-modulates the immune response. We hypothesize that tumor based suppression of the host immune response facilitates melanoma progression. Therefore, it is possible that tg-mel medaka raised under 400-450 nm light, that produces an up-modulation of the immune response pathways, may lead to a decrease in melanoma progression. To test this concept, we propose to raise young age matched WT and tg-mel medaka in photobioreactors that are surrounded by LED lamps emitting either blue light (451nm) or white light as the diurnal light source. After 12 weeks, the genetic responses will be analyzed by comparing differentially modulated gene sets in tg-me data to WT medaka.

      Supervisor: Dr. Ronald Walter, Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center

    • Investigating the Existence of Amyloid-Beta Plaques in Adult Zebrafish Brains

      One of the most distinctive pathological features of Alzheimer?s disease (AD) is the accumulation of amyloid-beta (A?) plaques in the brain (O?Brien & Wong 2011). Zebrafish are a useful model for neurodegenerative research, however, the endogenous production of A? has not yet been examined in zebrafish brains (Newman et al., 2014). Studies show a correlation between lack of sleep and the accumulation of A? plaque deposition in mice (Kang et al., 2009; Xie et al., 2013). The goal of this project is to utilize sleep patterns to detect endogenous expression of A? peptides and amyloid-beta precursor proteins (APP) in adult zebrafish brains.

      Supervisor: Dr. Dana Garcia, Department of Biology

    • Developing an Ethical Service Abroad Project

      Volunteer abroad programs have recently garnered an exceedingly positive perception due to their tailored programs designed specifically for the development of the participants traveling abroad. However, due to this magnified focus on the volunteer experience, a vast majority of these companies have lost sight of the broader effects these programs have on the recipient communities and host nations. In most cases, these company-endorsed volunteer programs have negative impacts both socially and economically on the host community. Although these apparent effects have led many individuals to support the elimination of volunteer abroad programs, this thesis will attempt to find a successful and ethical solution. This thesis will attempt to justify the benefits of volunteering abroad, not only for the student participants but also for the host communities, through the analysis of existing ethical issues and the development of a new process for establishing a mutually beneficial program.

      Supervisor: Professor Joanna Ellis, Clinical Laboratory Science

    • Why We Socialize: Quantifying Social Motivation in Typical Adults

      The goal of the study is to help us better understand social motivation. The project seeks to (1) gain a more precise understanding of what human social motivation is composed of and (2) find character traits that can predict which component of social interaction (sharing or learning) is preferred. The project will employ a unique research paradigm which aims to mimic a naturalistic social interaction.

      Supervisor: Dr. Kate Warnell, Department of Psychology

    • Characterization of PIC 30 gene expression under biotic stresses in the model plant Arabidopsis

      This project will involve characterizing the PIC 30 gene under biotic stresses. The model plant used will be Arabidopsis. PIC 30 is a known member of the major facilitator family (MFS) leading us to believe it has various transporting abilities. It has been proven that PIC 30 transport nitrate ions and picloram, so the possibility of it transporting other substances in/out of the cells is likely. Previous work have demonstrated that PIC 30 is induced when exposed to salicylic acid (SA) or pathogens, so PIC 30 could have a role in the transportation of SA. We will be using mutants and transgenic lines of PIC 30 to understand the role of PIC 30 in response to biotic stresses.

      Supervisor: Dr. Sunethra Dharmasiri, Department of Biology

  • Spring 2017

    • Microclimate Gradient Effects of Forest Clearings

      This study’s primary purpose is to acquire knowledge on how the edge effect gradient changes as it penetrates from natural clearings into surrounding forest. Most studies on edge effects focus on those edges caused by anthropogenic forces. By studying the naturally occurring edge effect on microclimate changes I hope to gain insight on the potential effects to the floral and faunal communities within these areas of disturbed microclimate. This study will contribute to our understanding of the effective size and critical level of disturbance sustainable by interior forest habitat. Understanding the effects on microclimate of these forest margins will provide more accurate and practical knowledge for guiding future studies, and development of more informed policies for habitat preservation.

      Supervisor: Dr. Shawn McCracken, Department of Biology

    • The Effects of Season and Pre-weaning Diet on Pubertal Development in Doe Kid Goats

      Goats are rapidly becoming a popular and important livestock commodity, as they require less space than cattle for production purposes. The goal of this research is to determine the effects of bottle feeding and season of birth on age at puberty in doe kid goats. The information attained from this research has the potential to serve as a guide for increasing goat productivity to both small and large scale agricultural operations not only locally, but globally as well.

      Supervisor: Dr.Elizabeth Benavides, Department of Agriculture

    • The Systematic Oppression of Mexican American Women by Women in Sandra Cisneros' Fiction

      Lea's research will consist of critical analysis and examination of Mexican American women oppressing other women in their communities in Sandra Cisneros' literary fiction. Lea will extensively research Sandra Cisneros' perspectives on sexism among women in her fiction as well as her collection of diaries, personal letters to loved ones and fans, and her memorabilia within the Wittliff Collection archives at Texas State University. Lea will also examine Cisneros' personal correspondence at Stanford University, held in various collections at the Department of Special Collections at Green Library. Lea's examinations of the Ester Hernandez Papers, Arturo Islas Papers, and the Cherrie Moraga Papers at Stanford will help her to cultivate a deeper understanding of the Chicana feminist milieu that shaped Cisneros' authorial intent of addressing other women as their harshest oppressors.

      Supervisor: Dr. Geneva Gano, Department of English

    • LA Prep as Nexus-of-multimembership

      Jessica has been working with Dr. Eleanor Close for four years on a project studying Physics Learning Assistants (LAs). The LA program creates an overlap between the community of STEM majors and that of physics instructors, such that LAs are members of both communities. Jessica is interested in exploring how this overlap shapes LA identities. Jessica will analyze video from the weekly preparation sessions by coding the data in order to characterize different types of interactions. Jessica is particularly interested in looking for shifts in the ways LAs interact with each other and with faculty over time.

      Supervisor:  Dr. Eleanor Close, Department of Physics

    • Hantavirus and Sigmodon hispidus: A comparison of activity between infected and naïve individuals

      Daily and seasonal variation in activity patterns of S. hispidus have been investigated, revealing home range use patterns and site fidelity. However, no studies have determined the activity patterns, or quantified aggressive behavior through contact rates, of S. hispidus with know infection status in a controlled environment. Kristin proposes a study to investigate the activity and behavioral patterns of S. hispidus in outdoor enclosures on Freeman Ranch. Kristin will compare activity between hantavirus infected and naïve individuals, quantify aggressive behavior via contact rates, and contribute insight into the mechanisms of transmission in the hantavirus system.

      Supervisor: Dr. Ivan Castro-Arellano, Department of Biology

    • Music as a Mnemonic Device in Healthy Older Adults

      Previous literature has produced evidence that music works as a mnemonic devise for learning and memory. Although this aid is widely accepted as effective, there is not much information on why music works as a mnemonic device and its potential limitations. Prior studies demonstrated that musical mnemonics can be used as a memory enhancer for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy older adults. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have deficiencies when trying to learn and remember new information. This impairment can have negative implications for their daily lives, producing a demand for mnemonic devices that could improve their ability to learn and recall new information. Juliana will be investigating more about the role of music as a mnemonic device and how it can potentially help both healthy adults and Alzheimer’s patients.

      Supervisor:  Dr. Rebecca Deason, Department of Psychology

    • Helping Families Dealing with Military-Related PTSD

      Jade will construct the first part of her thesis with a literature review of research about families dealing with PTSD. Then, she will ask affected families to participate in a brief interview about the PTSD-related difficulties they face functioning as a family unit. Finally, Jade will use the collected research and interviews to write a children's book about families dealing with PTSD; this will be designed as a tool to help affected families bond, heal, and better communicate.

      Supervisor: Professor Stephanie Noll, Department of English

    • Seeking Asylum in the U.S.: The Story of Central American Unaccompanied Minors and Yong Women

      The intent of Daisy's research is to understand how and why the unaccompanied minors and young mothers who are migrating recount their motivations for migrating, which can ultimately influence their chances for asylum. Daisy is attempting to assess their access to pro-bono lawyers, as having a lawyer dramatically increases migrants' chances of obtaining asylum relief in the U.S. Jessica will communicate the results of her thesis into a report that she will share with advocacy lawyers who are working to help these recent immigrants from Central America gain asylum.

      Supervisor: Dr. Sarah Blue, Department of Geography

    • The Dissemination of Health Information to the Lower Socioeconomic Class: What Health Information and How Do We Disseminate It to WIC Benefit Recipients in Austin, TX?

      Ricky will conduct research on how health information is disseminated to the lower socioeconomic class of society. He will conduct a literature review on the available information. He will then focus on the WIC benefit recipient population in Austin, TX. Ricky plans on conducting onsite interviews and surveys of WIC staff and benefit recipients to determine what information is provided, how it is received, and whether or not it is effective.

      Supervisor: Dr. Jeff Housman, Department of Health and Human Performance

    • Documentary Filmmaking: Capturing Reality through Manipulation

      Taeler's project is a two part piece of work made up of a written thesis and a documentary. She will be researching methods documentarians use to manipulate a story in a film. She will be reading literature, watching films, and creating her own documentary to gather information for her research. Taeler’s motivation to make a documentary stems from her extensive experience behind the camera and a curiosity for film and videography. She wants to entertain other international students by creating a film to resonate with their experiences. Taeler plans to submit her film into film festivals and reach out to the international office at Texas State University to offer them the use her film to promote international students at Texas State University.

      Supervisor: Professor Alan Schaefer, Department of English

    • Anxiety on Self-Efficacy among University Students

      Kiara's project will explore the relationship between anxiety and self-efficacy among Texas State University students. Because anxiety sufferers display maladaptive attitudes and illogical thinking, there should be a significant correlation between the two. In order to test students, there will be two phases: online anxiety assessment and in lab self-efficacy and supplementary questionnaires.

      Supervisor: Dr. Amitai Abramovitch, Department of Psychology

    • Antifa in America: The Resurgence of the Antifascist Movement in the Age of Trump

      Rudy’s research aims to better understand the role that Antifa might play in the new landscape of leftist politics ushered in by the Trump era, and it will combine both research on past and contemporary antifascist movements with his own observations. Rudy will be traveling to D.C. to interview Antifa activists, civil rights attorneys, and the NLG (National Lawyers Guild), gather information about Antifa, and get updates as both the movement and new efforts to suppress the movement evolves.

      Supervisor: Dr. Ron Haas, Honors College

       

    • Cognitive Advantage in Bilinguals

      In her project, Gabriela will examine both monolingual and bilingual performances with the expectation of finding the evidence necessary to support the bilingual advantage. Four linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive tests will be administered to Spanish-English bilinguals and monolinguals to measure their cognitive skills.

      Supervisor: Dr. Peter Golato, Department of Modern Languages

    • En Quieridad Memoria

      En Querida Memoria is an art series that discusses the mythologizing of histories, particularly focusing on the use and abuse of personal and national history surrounding Mexico. This series questions how histories differ based on the person who "guards" it. Nancy is interested in the phenomenon in which history-specifically "monumental" and "antiquarian" as defined by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche-provides an escape to a fantastical past created through the mythologizing and preservation of war heroes, folklore, and nations alike.

      Supervisor: Professor Mark Menjivar, School of Art and Design

    • Effects of Fertility Awareness and Hormonal Birth Control on Relationships

      Through interviews and literature reviews, Mary Kate will compare the impacts of two methods of contraception, hormonal birth control and fertility awareness, on monogamous relationships. In the interviews, Mary Kate will ask women questions about the emotional and physical aspects of their relationship. A comprehensive literature review will also be completed and the results will consider the finding from both sections.

      Supervisor: Dr. Deborah Harris, Department of Sociology

    • The Effects of Vertical and Latitudinal Change on Beetle Diversity

      Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, the largest in all the animal kingdom. They are distinguished by the hardened wing casing that encloses their front wings. Beetles are found in virtually every habitat and can exploit many food sources. Though often considered pests, beetles can provide ecosystem services such as pollination, nutrient recycling, and pest control. Jacquelyn's research will take place over two locations; Freeman Ranch and Tiputini Biological Research Center. To see if vertical and latitudinal differences cause a difference in beetles, Jacquelyn will be placing black light traps along vertical transects in a subtropical and a tropical environment. Five trapping events will take place at Freeman Ranch and five trapping events will take place at Tiputini. For each trapping event, three traps will be placed on a transect up a randomly selected tree. One trap will be placed at the ground level, the next at mid canopy, and a final trap at the top of the canopy. The traps will be placed in the evening and checked at sunrise.

      Supervisor: Dr. Shawn McCracken, Department of Biology

  • Fall 2016

    • Assessing Microhabitat Effect on Species Distribution of the Agarita Complex in Central Texas

      By studying two closely related species of Agarita (a type of shrub), and their intermediates in Central Texas, we hope to find some clues to the causes of speciation in populations of organisms.  Berberis trifoliolata and B. swaseyi present a unique opportunity to look at divergence of species in sympatry (in the same geographic area), and focusing on the microhabitat differences in the distribution of these two species may reveal some of the factors that cause this divergence.

      Supervisor: Dr. Noland Martin, Department of Biology

    • It’s a Blur: Exploring the Influences Behind Gender-Neutral Fashions

      Natalie is researching the influences of designers who create gender-neutral fashion items. She will conduct a literature review to understand what gender-neutral means and apply that research by organizing a fashion photoshoot.

      Supervisor: Dr. Gwendolyn Hustvedt, School of Family & Consumer Sciences

    • The Theological and Socio-political Relationship between Shia Islam and Christianity

      Jessica’s honors undergraduate thesis will consist of examining the intricate theological similarities between Shia Islam and Roman Catholic and Assyrian Christianity. She has been working on this project for a year and began traveling in mid October visiting Shia mosques to observe and describe through photos and videos of their rituals in prayer and worship and will do the same when she visits Catholic churches. Jessica will present her project to Texas State students and faculty at the Undergraduate Research Conference in April.

      Supervisor: Dr. Augustine Agwuele, Department of Anthropology

    • The Impact by MLB Players Through Community Involvement

      Samantha’s thesis is analyzing how MLB players impact the youth in the surrounding area through community involvement. She will be focusing on three MLB community engagement programs, BASE, RBI, and Diamond Project. Past literature and articles and her interviews from the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be used to answer her proposed questions. First, how does the community involvement of Major League Baseball players impact youth in the surrounding area? Second, what do these community service programs add to the children’s lives?

      Supervisor: Dr. Oren Renick, Department of Health Administration

    • Magnificat a sexti toni: Recording the Work of Sebastián de Vivanco

      This grant will fund a professional-quality recording of seventeenth-century Spanish composer, Sebastián de Vivanco’s Magnificat a sexti toni (1607) by the early music ensemble, Les Ancients. Andrew is interested in engaging in a recording of this piece because it was the basis for his thesis and he performed this work’s world premier with Les Ancients. This recording will serve to increase exposure of this work and the composer.

      Supervisor: Dr. Joey Martin, School of Music

    • Investigating the Role of MRP4 in Dark-Adapted Pigment Granule Movement

      In low light conditions, mouse eyes undergo retinomotor movements that cause pigment granules to aggregate away from rods, exposing them to optimum light. In intense light conditions, pigment granules disperse around the apical region of the rods to protect the cell from photobleaching. MRP4 is a multidrug resistant protein that may play a role causing these dark-adapted retinal changes.

      Supervisor: Dr. Dana Garcia, Department of Biology

    • Black History and Culture: A Conversation on Agency and Appreciation

      This research will investigate the implications of a nationally sponsored Museum for African American History in 2016 and how it effects the way people value Black History. Looking at the historical context and previous attempts at starting a nationally sponsored Museum for African American History, Tafari will evaluate the differences that have allowed for the success of this particular initiative. Through interviews with scholars, historians, museum faculty, and others directly connected to the conception of this museum, Tafari will develop a multimedia discussion on the cultural shifts implied by the opening of the new museum. He will also incorporate interviews with general attendees of the grand opening in order to gain a real world perspective on the way it affects their interaction with Black culture and history. The general interviews will include people of all races while also focusing on those involved with education or the otherwise spread of culture through their everyday jobs or lives (i.e. Teachers, Artists, Students, Musicians).

      Supervisor: Dr. Ron Haas, Honors College

    • Liver Cancer Cell Death Induced by Targeted-Nanoparticles Loaded with Doxorubicin

      This project uses an aptamer that can distinguish liver cancer cells from normal cancer cells. One of the main aims for the project is to further characterize the aptamer and determine the drug efficacy of the aptamer with the doxorubicin loaded nanoparticle.

      Supervisor: Dr. Shannon Weigum, Department of Biology

    • Heavy Metal Binding Affinity of Histidine-Rich Sequences from Plant Proteins

      The purpose of this project is to determine what some potential functions of the His-rich sequences in Arabidopsis thaliana. To do this a PAR assay will be established to determine the presence of metals bound to histidine-rich peptides commercially synthesized from Arabidopsis proteins. Then mutants of LARP6b protein will be directly tested (because of its His-rich sequences) in RNA and metal binding.

      Supervisor: Dr. Karen Lewis, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

       

    • Effects of a Brief Nap on Stress

      The study will use a validated psychological stressor (the Trier Social Stress Test) to induce moderate levels of stress in participants. The participants will then take a nap or perform a neutral activity as treatment. The resulting change in stress levels will be analyzed in order to determine if napping can be used as an effective stress reduction technique.

      Supervisor: Dr. Carmen Westerberg, Department of Psychology

  • Spring 2016

    • Effects of Ecological Light Pollution on Sperm Production

      Ecological light pollution (ELP) in urban environments arises from street lights, head lights, buildings, and antennas. Studies have found that ELP changes circadian rhythms in animals and has major ecological effects on organisms in the environment. Most research has been performed on terrestrial organisms but aquatic organisms are also affected by ELP.  ELP may affect hormones, reproduction, and behavior of fish. I propose to examine the effects of ELP on stress and subsequent sperm production in Poecilia latipinna (sailfin mollies). Poecilia latipinna is a live-bearing fish found in the head waters of the San Marcos River, TX.  In this cooperative project, we will expose male sailfin mollies and two females to either 24 hour light or 14:10h light:dark cycle (control). Prior studies with birds have shown that 24 hour ELP stresses birds and increased stress hormones can lead to decreased reproductive hormones. I hypothesize that a two-week exposure to 24-hour light will affect sperm production in male P. latipinna. I will use a non-lethal method to collect all available sperm from each male after the two-week exposure period and immediately after a water-borne hormone sample is obtained. I will count sperm cells from each fish on a hemocytometer. I predict that sperm production will be significantly lower when males are exposed to 24-hour light, than the males exposed to the control treatment.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • The Importance of Chemical Cues For Species Recognition by Male Poecilia Latipinna in a Bisexual-Unisexual Mating Complex

      Poecilia latipinna, sailfin molly, is a bisexual livebearing species of fish and one of the two parental species of the unisexual Amazon molly, Poecilia formosa. Amazon mollies can be found living in sympatry with sailfin mollies in some areas. Poecilia formosa is an all female, unisexual species, that reproduces by gynogenesis. They must mate with males of their parental species to initiated egg development. Male sailfin mollies use visual and chemical cue to distinguish between conspecific
      (sailfin mollies) and heterospecific (Amazon mollies) females. While male P. latipinna prefer to mate with conspecific females they still mismate with Amazon mollies. In the study, I will observe the importance of chemical cues for the recognition of conspecific vs Amazon mollies by male sailfin mollies. I predict that if male P. latipinna have their nares obstructed (with Orabase gel), then they will be unable to distinguish between conspecific and heterospecific females. I will record the mating behavior of anosmatic (not smelling) and normal male P. latipinna when exposed to conspecific and heterospecific females and whether they continue to show conspecific mate preference.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • Trinational Perspective to the Problem of Sustainability

      Our world is globalizing at a pace as never before and a problem of one person can become an issue for all of us. The core of this project is sustainability. This research is designed to help small businesses and people in Peru to overcome some important issues that they face on daily bases. My research will take place in three countries: Peru, the United States, and Russia. I will observe specific social structures of each country and approach to those social issues. From this tri-national perspective, I can significantly better design a campaign that can improve lives of citizens in Peru. Blood donation will be used as an example of a social issue in this proposal, however, it is a subject to change depending on the needs of the country and an organization by the time of arrival to Peru.

      Supervisor: Professor Janet Hale, Department of Modern Languages

    • Does the Presence of Roundup® in Aquatic Ecosystems Have an Effect on
      the Anti-Predator Response of Tadpoles?

      Glyphosate-based herbicide is a common pesticide used worldwide. While it may target specific plant species, it also has the potential to end up in aquatic ecosystems and affect nontarget species. As amphibian skin is highly permeable, glyphosate has been found to be harmful and toxic to amphibian populations. Rana berlandieri (Rio Grande leopard frog), a Texas native,
      is widespread among urban and agricultural areas. Therefore, it is commonly exposed to pesticides. Prior studies have found that glyphosate blocks chemical cues in frogs and fish. This study will explore the harmful effects of glyphosate by studying the anti-predator response of leopard frog tadpoles. Tadpoles respond to many predator threats by reducing movement to
      avoid detection and consumption by predators. If a tadpole cannot detect chemical cues from a predator, it cannot accurately respond. I propose that exposure to glyphosate will render tadpoles unable to detect predator chemical cues and as a result will fail to elicit an anti-predator response. If tadpoles show little to no reduction in movement after predator cues are introduced,
      we can determine that the tadpole’s ability to detect predators has been altered.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • Binding Affinity of Epithelial Sodium Channel Subunits and Peptides Measured Through Surface Plasmon Resonance

      I will study the Epithelial Sodium Channel (ENaC), a protein composed of three subunits, and specifically, the interactions that occur between the subunits when combined in various ways. ENaC is a protein found in kidney cells that is responsible for the reabsorption of sodium from urine to the bloodstream. Improper structural formation can result from mutations to the amino acids in the subunits of this protein, ultimately causing a life plagued by disease, specifically, hypo- or hypertension for those with mutation. Current therapies for these ailments only provide short-term relief without the ability to cure. To develop better treatment of the disease, it is necessary to study the structural and functional aspects of ENaC to understand what the crucial elements to sustaining a functioning channel are. ENaC research currently focuses on determining the structure of the protein subunits, but the interaction between subunits, which are necessary for the protein to properly function as a channel, is rarely studied. I will study the subunit interactions and analyze the binding affinity via the use of a technique known as surface plasmon resonance (SPR). In my study, we will utilize light and its diffraction pattern off of a gold plated, GST-derivatized chip given from the SPR as a way to monitor interactions that are taking place between mutated GST tagged subunits. I predict that the subunit interactions will vary in strength for each different combination; some resulting in a strong affinity for each other while others demonstrate a weak affinity. Ultimately, this research will offer information as to which mutations in the subunits are more beneficial or destructive over others.

      Supervisor: Dr. Wendi David, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

    • Communicative Work and Shifting Illness Trajectories: An Examination of Individuals Coping with Chronic Lyme Disease

      This study focuses on the theory of illness trajectory and the concept of work. The Chronic Illness Trajectory Framework aims to describe the patient’s and their loved ones’ experiences of managing chronic illnesses overtime. The concept of work describes the numerous intricate tasks couples coping with a chronic illness must manage over the course of an illness. This study employs a qualitative approach to discuss how individuals living with chronic invisible illnesses effectively negotiate the stressors associated with communicative work within a romantic relational context. As chronic Lyme disease directly impacts patients’ relationships and quality of life, it is important to examine the ways in which patients and their support networks cope with the variety of stressors involved in managing this illness. Specifically, this study will address the various ways in which shifting illness trajectory influences intra-dyadic stressors that may arise from one partner’s experiences with chronic Lyme disease. This study will employ a semi-structured interview process to gain knowledge of the patient’s perspectives regarding the communication work, illness- management work, everyday life work, and biographical work which occurs around the negotiation of turning points in these individuals’ illness trajectories.

      Supervisor: Professor Kristen Farris, Department of Communication 

    • The Impact of Social Pressures on the Reporting of Sports-Related Concussions and Injury

      Research with athletes suggests that failure to receive treatment for an injury or returning to play too soon after an injury can have significant negative consequences for long-term health. An important but often overlooked aspect of this research concerns how social pressures may influence the decision to report injuries. The results of this project will fill an important gap in the literature by providing new perspectives on factors that influence the reporting of sports-related injuries.

      Supervisor: Dr. Carmen Westerberg, Department of Psychology

    • The Effect of Obesity on the Progressions of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Nutritional Intervention

      Understanding the impact of obesity on health is a significant public health issue. The prevalence of obesity is major health concern because it is associated with co-morbidities such as diabetes, metabolic disorders, liver disease, and cancer. Specifically, obesity is associated with nonalcoholic liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is characterized by an increase in adipose tissue inflammation, and fat accumulation in liver cells.  The mechanisms linking obesity, inflammation, adipocytes and its role in transforming liver cells remain unclear. The local inflammatory microenvironment has been linked to the progression of NAFLD to liver cancer. Obesity is characterized by increased adipocyte (fat cell) accumulation and can result in chronic inflammation and metabolic dysfunction. Interestingly, dietary polyphenols (chemicals found in plants) can decrease inflammation and improve the health of the liver. Therefore, we hypothesize that in the context of obesity, dietary polyphenols may reduce adipocyte infiltration and inflammation in the liver. To test this hypothesis, we will use a novel cell culture approach that mimics the obese environment.  Briefly, studies will aim to address the following: determine if obesity increases adipocyte infiltration and inflammation, and whether polyphenolic compounds can inhibit obesity-induced adipocyte infiltration and inflammation.

      Supervisor: Dr. Ramona Salcedo, Department of Nutrition and Foods

    • The Function of the Epithelial Sodium Channel Protein Complex in Mutant Yeast Absent of an Intracellular Protease Protein

      The Epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is a protein complex that is important for regulating blood pressure. ENaC can be found on the cell membrane in the kidney cells and serves as a tunnel to let sodium ions flow into the cell without using energy. ENaC’s function is measured by the ability of sodium ions to passes through the channel into the cell. A specific intracellular protease protein is known to enhance function of ENaC by cleavage of the extracellular region of ENaC subunits. Many other types of intracellular protease proteins are known, but have not been studied relative to ENaC function. While ENaC is found in mammalian cells, the effect of the absence of intracellular proteins on the function of ENaC will be tested in yeast or Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast cells are similar to mammalian cells in structure, but can be cultured much quicker and can be manipulated to take the DNA encoding for the mammalian ENaC complex. The goals of this proprosal are to study the effect intracellular protease proteins on ENaC function via pronging assay and to assess the quantity of ENaC produced in strains that show an effect on ENaC function.

      Supervisor: Dr. Rachell E. Booth, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry 

    • Conserved Cysteine Residues May Serve a Role in RNA Binding by the LARP6 Protein

      La Related Protein 6 (LARP6) is a sub-family of RNA binding proteins collectively known as La-Related Proteins (LARPs). The LARP6 protein in humans (“HsLARP6”) has been found to have a binding affinity for RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules that contain a particular stem loop structure. However, the structural features of the protein that govern how HsLARP6 binds to its ligand have yet to be determined. Preliminary data reveal three conserved cysteine amino acid residues in HsLARP6 thatmay form a covalent bond, known as a disulfide bond. We hypothesize that disulfide bonds serve both a structural and functional role for HsLARP6. Mutation of the gene at these three conserved sites to replace the cysteines with the amino acid serine will be accomplished using site-directed mutagenesis. Themutant proteins will be recombinantly expressed in bacteria, and the RNA binding activity of these mutated proteins will be measured using electrophoretic mobility shift assays. These studies will identify how the conserved cysteine residues contribute to RNA binding by HsLARP6.

      Supervisor: Dr. Karen A. Lewis, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry 

    • Using Thermal Imaging and Ultrasonic Sound Recording to Survey Bats

      The traditional method to identify species and estimate population sizes of bat communities is to conduct mist net surveys. Mist nets are a very large volleyball-like net system suspended in an area of bat activity meant to entangle and trap the bats. Due to the potential stress or death caused by handling of the bats, the special permits required for mist netting can be difficult to obtain and can limit research opportunities. Additionally, bats become “net shy,” where they avoid the net after the repeated sampling of an area, which introduces bias into the data and results in underestimates of populations sizes. We believe that with newly available commercial technology, a new, noninvasive survey methodology using ultrasonic sound recording and thermal imaging has the potential to provide both species identification and populations estimates while overcoming the limitations of permits, animal stress, and data bias inherit in the mist netting technique. We will deploy the Echo Meter Touch Ultrasonic recorder and the FLIR One thermal image recorder in the Ecuadorian rainforest to collect data to compare to traditional mist netting data to determine the validity of this new methodology as a replacement for mist netting. Our project is to explore the potential of changing how bats are surveyed in the wild using newly available technology, ultrasonic recording devices and thermal imaging recorders. These technologies have been used separately, but we may be the first group to use them together to conduct bat surveys. If successful, our project has the potential to reinvent the methodology behind how bats are surveyed while reducing the stress placed on the animals and enhancing the data collected by the researchers.

      Supervisor: Dr. Shawn McCracken, Department of Biology

    • Effects of Ecological Light Pollution on Species Recognition in Sailfin and Amazon Mollies

      This project is a collaboration with other undergraduates with each one of us performing a different part. I will examine the possible stress effects from ecological light pollution (ELP) on species recognition for males sailfin mollies, Poecilia latipinna. This is a bisexual species of live-bearing species fish that coexists with Amazon mollies, Poecilia formosa, a unisexual species that is a sexual parasite on sailfin mollies. Amazon mollies need matings with male sailfin mollies to start the development of their eggs but it doesn't fertilize their eggs so they are all female. Male sailfin mollies prefer to mate with conspecific females. One group of males will be exposed to a 24-hour light cycle, while the other will be subjected to their regular 14:10 hour light/dark cycle. Light treatment will extend for about 18 days. At the end of the light exposure both groups of males will be paired with two size-matched female mollies (one Poecilia latipinna, one Poecilia formosa), but separated by a clear barrier. Mating trials will begin with the divider being removed and the number of mating attempts (gonopodial thrusts) towards each species of female as an indication of male mate preference for one species or the other (species recognition). We hypothesize that stress associated with a 24-hour light cycle stresses males (increase cortisol) which then impacts male species recognition and results in males mismating more often with Amazon mollies. Water-borne hormone data will be collected by a collaborator and used to determine a baseline and change in cortisol (stress) levels after light exposure.

                                                                                                                                       Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • Impacts of Ecological Light Pollution on Stress and Mating Behavior

      I propose to study the effects of ecological light pollution (ELP) on the stress response and subsequent reproductive behaviors of male sailfin mollies, Poecilia latipinna. Males will be exposed to a 24-hour light cycle or remain under a 14:10 hour light/dark cycle. Males will be in the presence of (but separate from) two size matched female mollies during this time to provide natural social conditions. The fish will be exposed to the light treatment for about 3 weeks; during this time, three non-invasive water-borne hormone extractions will be performed on males from each treatment to determine baseline and changes in cortisol levels over time. Mating trials will begin 3 days after the last hormone collection. We will remove the divider and record number of mating attempts (gonopodial thrusts) toward each female. We hypothesize that stress from 24-hour light will have an effect on cortisol levels and the number of mating attempts made by males. Mating attempts may also be correlated with cortisol levels. We predict that cortisol levels will be higher in the 24-hour light exposed treatment and will be negatively related to mating behavior. This study is a collaborative project with other students who will combine my hormone data with their own data garnered from other parts of this experiment. The importance of this study is to determine if ecological light pollution (ELP) affects cortisol levels and mating behavior, and if those changes in cortisol levels are associated with changes in mating behavior; this will give us increased understanding on the effects of ELP on stress and mating behaviors on aquatic species, and highlight the need to manage urban light pollution in sensitive ecosystems.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • Assessing Parentage in a Reciprocal Transplant Study: Habitat Isolation in Louisiana Irises

      Speciation and divergence involve the evolution of reproductive isolating barriers resulting in the production of genetically distinct lineages (1). Reproductive isolation may arise due to prezygotic or postzygotic isolating mechanisms. Prezygotic isolating mechanisms such as temporal isolation, ecological/habitat isolation, and mechanical isolation can have a strong effect on reducing gene flow between incipient species. This study proposes to investigate the evolution of reproductive isolation, specifically in the context of habitat differences, between three recently diverged species of the Louisiana irises: Iris fulva, I. nelsonii, and I. hexagona. A reciprocal transplant experiment has been set up in the field to assess for local adaptation, but thus far only data on fitness proxies have been obtained. This proposal seeks to introduce a parentage analysis to this experiment in order to test the hypothesis that habitat plays a role in the maintenance of reproductive isolation. Once the plants in the experiment produce mature fruit, we will collect them and conduct parentage analyses on the seeds to assess for two main distinctions: selfing versus outcrossing, and conspecific versus heterospecific matings. The proportion of offspring of each type will be recorded and compared for each species in each habitat. We hypothesize that in general individuals in the experiment will mate with those of the same species, especially when they are in their native habitat. If this outcome is observed, it would suggest that habitat is playing a role in maintaining reproductive barriers in the Louisiana irises. This study will provide informative results that will contribute to our understanding of speciation and divergence.

      Supervisor: Dr. Noland Martin, Department of Biology

  • Fall 2015

    • Host-Plant Defense Against Root Gall Induction

      The ability of plant-feeding insects to induce the formation of a gall ---a 3-dimenstional structure composed of plant tissue but whose development is under genetic control of the insect ---is a remarkable trait that has evolved independently in multiple insect orders. Larval insects feed and develop within galls while protected from the external environment and natural enemies. Growing galls are models of extended phenotypes (expression of animal genes inside host plant tissue) and plant cell proliferation. Live oak trees in central Texas, predominately Quercus fusiformis, are galled by a diversity of insects including the gall wasp, Belonocnema treatae. This species forms galls on the expanding leaf buds and new root tissue of established live oak trees during fall and spring, respectively. Whether galls can be established on oaks during earlier life stages (seedling trees, germinating acorns) is unknown. However, determining whether gall formation is possible on these tissues is a vital first step toward understanding the development of host plant defense and susceptibility to gall formers. This study will explore this void by examining the ability of B. treatae to induce galls on the actively growing roots of newly sprouted acorns and emergent seedlings of live oaks.

      Supervisor: Dr. James R. Ott, Department of Biology

    • Identification of Amino Acid Residues Critical to Epithelial Sodium Channel Function

      The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is found (in humans) primarily in the kidney epithelium. ENaC is an integral membrane protein allowing passive transport across cell membranes that is responsible for fine-tuning sodium levels. Although the primary structure of ENaC's three subunits is known, the crystal structure of ENaC has yet to be determines and little is known about ENaC tertiary (three-dimensional) structure. The current working model is of a heterotrimeric protein with alpha, beta and gamma subunits all of which contribute to the channel's pore. The purpose of this research project is to determine which amino acids interact in subunit-subunit intersections. E. coli strain will be used to synthesize short peptides containing these amino acid residues on the neighboring subunits, the interaction between various peptides will then be measured using surface plasmon resonance.

      Supervisor: Dr. Rachell E. Booth, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

    • Avoiding the Inevitable: Overcoming Noise-induced Hearing Loss in University Marching Bands

      Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is result of prolonged sound exposure. When someone is exposed to excessive noise, his or her inner ear hair cells start to wear away. Once these cells deteriorate, they can never regenerate and they are what make hearing possible. Since musician are in an environment of consistent sound, they obtain NIHL quicker. This thesis aims to educate Texas State University marching band students on the severity NIHL in hopes to reduce its prevalence, which will lead to longer careers in the music industry

      Supervisor: Professor Lori Stiritz, Department of Communication Disorders

    • Characterization of Alpha ENAC Mutants

      The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is a kidney transport protein that is responsible for the reabsorption of sodium back into the bloodstream. In its functional form ENaC exists as a complex of three subunits (alpha, beta, and gamma) that together form the selective channel pore. Because mutant forms of the protein are associated with blood pressure diseases, studies to understand ENaC structure and function are of high interest as a potential mechanism in controlling these ailments. Due to the absence of efficient ENaC structural models, little is  known about which specific regions within the subunits are critical to the functional protein. Using yeast as a model organism, I propose to study different mutations in the alpha ENaC subunit    by determining how they effect protein expression and function. Characterization of mutants relative to the native protein will aid in determining specific sites that contribute to   ENaC activity.

      Supervisor: Dr. Rachell E. Booth, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

    • Hollow Silica Microspheres for Density-Based Separation of CEA Tumor Biomarker

      Detection of dilute proteins in blood or serum, such as tumor biomarkers or other disease indicators, often requires extensive sample preparation and/or concentration prior to analysis. Existing techniques involving centrifugation or magnetic separation can be time consuming and costly, which contributes to the restriction on diagnostic testing outside of centralized laboratories (i.e. at the point-of-care). In this work, we will explore a density-based bioseparation technique that relies on the passive flotation of inexpensive hollow silica microspheres for the enrichment and release of a common tumor biomarker, the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). Reversible capture/release from the glass microspheres will be achieved by means of thermally-responsive elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs). The ELP set will include a universal Protein-A/ELP capable of binding a target-specific antibody and a hollow microsphere-immobilized ELP. Qualitative assessment of colocalization of CEA onto microspheres' surfaces will be performed using confocal microscopy, and quantitation of the released CEA will be tracked using fluorescense spectrosopy to establish the percent recovery and degree of enrichment. The stimuli-responsive silica particle system examined in this work has the potential to provide an efficient and cost-effective alternative for bioseparation by means of hollow silica microspheres.

      Supervisor: Dr. Shannon Weigum, Department of Biology

    • 2015 Women's World Cup Shoe Traction Comparison

      Rotational traction is an important design factor in today's soccer cleated shoes. Innovation in footwear design has given soccer players the ability to run faster and cut quicker while reducing shoe-to-surface slippage, but have these shoe performance improvements may come at the cost of safety. Recent research reports that high rotational traction in soccer shoes increases lower limb injury by 2.5 times. Since women are two to three times more prone to ACL injuries a show with a high rotational traction might increase that risk even more. Women's soccer shoes will be tested for rotational traction and compared to their male counterparts. It is hypothesized the rotational traction will be similar between male and female shoes.

      Supervisor: Dr. Duane Knudson, Department of Health and Human Performance


  • Spring 2015

    • Our River Project: Exploring the Efficacy of Field Trips to Positively Influence Children's Attitudes Toward Science and Conservation

      Studies have shown that experimental learning is an effective instructional strategy, particularly for science. Likewise, outdoor education has been shown to improve children's mental and physical health, and environmental education seems to make children more likely to choose environmentally sound practices as adults. Field trips that teach biology in outdoor spaces unify these benefits. This project is to create such a field trip opportunity for upper elementary students in San Marcos, Texas and measure its impact on our students. Working in conjunction with the San Marcos Nature Center (SMNC), the Edward Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP), and Travis Elementary School, I will design and implement a day-long field trip for 4th and/or 5th graders that focuses on river ecosystems and water conservation. I will measure the efficacy of this field trip using pre-test/post-test research design: before and after the field trip, students will take a survey that measures science attitudes, conservation attitudes, and relevant content knowledge. I predict that student scores on all three measures will be higher after taking the field trip.

      Supervisor: Dr. Eleanor Close, Department of Physics

    • A Quantitative, Cross-Species Analysis of Acorn Oil

      This project will examine the uses of native oak trees in relation to their fruits' oil content. Acorns from tree native species of Quercus will be collected, crushed, and the oils will be heat extracted from the meats. The oils will then be measured and the weight of acorn per volume of oil percentages will be compared within the genus as well as compared to competing cooking oil sources. This study will reveal information about the potential of American Quercus species within the high-end cooking oil market.

      Supervisor: Dr. Ken Mix, Department of Agriculture

    • An Inquiry Regarding Contemporary Blacksmithing Practice and Education Systems in Europe

      I will investigate contemporary approaches in the creative application of blacksmithing techniques with regard to sculpture, architecture, and metalsmithing in the context of both academic institutions and field study. I have been invited to the HDK Steneby campus of the University of Gothenberg in Dalsland, Sweden, as well as Hereford College of Arts in the United Kingdom as a visiting student artist to participate in academic research and technical workshops. These represent the largest and most well respected and established blacksmithing education programs at the university level in the world. Following this phase of the project, I will travel across Europe visiting production studios working in iron and steel, and seeking temporary journeyman positions with established master craftsmen. The findings from this project will be documented in both photographs and writing. The photographs will be submitted for exhibition in the Gallery of Common Experience, and I will prepare a presentation to be delivered to the School of Art and Design upon my return in addition to submitting a written report to the Texas State Undergraduate Research Journal.

      Supervisor: Professor Beverly Penn, Department of Fine Arts and Communication 

    • Towards a Clearer Vision of Anti-Mrp4 Antibody Specificity in Zebrafish Eyes

      Multidrug resistance protein 4 (Mrp4) is a protein that ferries cyclic AMP (cAMP) and other molecules across the cell membrane out of the cell. Out lab is interested in investigating the role of Mrp4 in mediating signaling between retinal neurons and retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in zebrafish. A previous student showed that antibodies raised against the human version of Mrp4 bind to retinal neurons and RPE of zebrafish; however, an independent technique should be applied to verify that the antibodies recognize the zebrafish protein. I will use western analysis to test antibody specificity. Western analysis yields information about the size of the protein labeled by an antibody, which provides corroborative evidence that the antibody recognizes the expected protein. The secondary goal of this project is to test the viability of isolated RPE. Different treatments will be tested to determine if the specific phenomena observes in intact animals, specifically pigment granule aggregation and dispersion, occur in isolated RPE.

      Supervisor: Dr. Dana Garcia, Department of Biology

    • Survival Dilution Growth Assay of the Epithelial Sodium Channel Protein Subunits

      I will study the Epithelial Sodium Channel, a protein comprised of three subunits, and observe the interactions between combinations of the subunits. The Epithelial Sodium Channel (ENaC) is a kidney protein involved in sodium reabsorption from urine to the bloodstream. Mutations of these subunits may result in improper structural formation of the protein, leading to lifelong diseases which cause hypo- or hypertension for many. To develop new therapies for these ailments, it is necessary to gain a better understanding of what structural and functional aspects of ENaC are crucial to sustain a functioning channel. Current research of ENaC focuses on determining the structure of subunits, but little is known of the interactions between these subunits and which are required for proper channel formation. I will examine subunit interactions by transforming yeast with different groupings of subunits and use a survival dilution growth assay to reveal which interactions result in high or low sodium transportation. I predict that subunit interactions will vary between subunits, with some resulting in better sodium transport over others. This will offer information to serve as the basis for future research related to which mutations may effect these critical subunit interactions.

      Supervisor: Dr. Rachell E. Booth, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry 

    • Get Real: Honors Thesis

      This project will examine the journey of creating an album, detailing every step along the way: from an analysis of the creative thought process behind songwriting, to a commentary on the leadership skills required to organize a well-rehearsed band and schedule studio dates, to a scientific explanation of why specific microphones when places as a particular distance from a particular instrument will record an arguably higher-quality sound than alternatives. The resulting product of the investigation will be Get Real: a 40-minute professional-quality album and an essay providing readers and listeners with personal commentary on every detail of the process. Get Real will strive to serve as a stepping-stone from inspiring the fostering of one's creativity, as the completion of the project will be an exciting opportunity to embrace all project participants' artistry.

      Supervisor: Professor John Hood, Honors College

    • A Correctional Study on the Neurodevelopmental Theories of Human Sexuality

      Previous studies of human sexuality have suggested that family relationships and birth order may influence sexual preference. However, the research literature remains contentious with regard to the relevance of these theories in human populations. This project will use online survey methods to test two established theories of human sexuality (i.e., kin selection hypothesis and male birth order effect) and to explore potential correlations between brain lateralization (using handedness as a proxy) and sexuality, as well as child-parent relationships and sexuality. The ultimate goal of this research is to explore the relevance of existing neurodevelopmental theories of sexuality to the growing LGBQT community and to explore potential genetic and environmental factors associated with human sexuality.

      Supervisor: Dr. Natalie Ceballos, Department of Psychology 

    • MRP4 Localization in Mouse Retinas

      The eye's adjustment to varying light intensities is an important biological process, enabling vision over a wide range of lighting conditions. There are many different mechanisms for these adjustments as observed in different organisms. Not all the mechanisms are well understood, however, they all involve the exchange of signaling molecules among cells in the retina. MRP4 is a protein that may be involved in the transfer of signals from photoreceptor cells to retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells as MRP4 is known to transport known signaling molecules. The localization of MRP4 in the mouse retina, a process some vertebrates use to adapt to low light conditions, is regulated. In order to visualize the location of MRP4 in the mouse retina, we will use a technique -immunohistochemistry -in which secondary antibodies with clumps of gold attached bind to primary antibodies which in turn fasten to MRP4. The gold enables one to see where the antibodies are using a transmission electron microscope (TEM). We have used a similar approach on zebrafish retinas, and we observes MRP4 on photoreceptors and RPE cells. We anticipate a similar distribution of MRP4 in mice.

      Supervisor: Dr. Dana Garcia, Department of Biology


  • Fall 2014

    • Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart": An Exploration of Theatre-Making with Activist Intentions

      Through the task of mounting a fully-stages production of Larry Kramer's play, "The Normal Heart," I will be striving to understand Kramer's intent behind the play as he originally wrote it in 1984, exploring innovative ways in which to clearly convey my own interpretation of that intention to an audience within the context of 2014. As the director of the play, I will be working in collaboration with actors and designers to present the play as a full-blown theatrical event, with an emphasis on engaging as many members of the San Marcos community as possible. In having a talkback session with the audience following the performance, I will gain an understanding of the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of my work to convey Kramer's intent to an audience. I will leave the evening armed with a greater sense of the relationship between audience and play.

      Supervisor: Professor Jeremy O. Torres, Department of Theater and Dance

    • A Historical Study: Examining Sex Differences in Human Rib Microstructure

      In anthropology, the identification of skeletal remains is dependent upon methods developed with a strong understanding of normal human biological variability. The purpose of this study is to quantify the variability between females and males in human bone microstructure (histology) to gain a better understanding of the effect of sex on histological variability and to improve bone histology identification methods. Bone histology involves the measurement and observation of microscopic structures called osteons. Currently, there is no consensus on normal osteon variation in human ribs due to sex. As a result, histological methods vary in their reliance on sex specific variables. This project will quantify the effect of sex on osteonal remodeling by collecting this sections from the mid-shafts of N-40 left sixth ribs from the skeletal collections at the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas Sate (FACTS). Histological variables will be measured to obtain quantitative data. This data will be compared with known sex to quantify the relationship between sex and osteon remodeling and create more accurate methods for identification in biological anthropology.

      Supervisor: Professor Sophia Mavroudas, Department of Anthropology

    • Stress, Sex, and the Maintenance of a Unisexual Sperm-Dependent Vertebrate Species

      Asexually reproducing organisms are predicted to be short lived because the accumulation of deleterious alleles should result in a lower fitness (Maynard Smith 1978). This is not the case for the Amazon molly (Poecilia formosa): a species of fish composed of only females who reproduce by gynogenesis. Gynogens are of hybrid origin and must rely on males of a sexually reproducing parental species for sperm; however, no genetic material is passed on to offspring. Due to this dependence on male Sailfin molly (P. latipinna) and male Atlantic molly (P. mexicana), the Amazon molly is considered a sexual parasite, as males gain no benefits. My experiment will examine the effects of predation on permissiveness to mate with these parasites by male P. latipinnia from a physiological perspective. The sex steroid hormone, 11-Ketotestosterone (11-KT), and stress hormone, cortisol, have been found to have an inverse relationship within circulating blood. I predict to find an inverse correlation between 11-KT and cortisol and an increase in mate permissiveness, in treatments where males experience a simulated predation when compared to control treatments lacking predation.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • Diversity, Sexuality, and Family Impact: Exploring the Impact of Sexual Orientation on Family Dynamics Through Theatrical Fiction

      Sexual orientation is a very prevalent issue in society today, one of the biggest issues people face when discovering and understanding their sexuality is the effect that it will have on their families and the people that they are close to. This is a legitimate worry considering the impact that these things can have on personal relationships, especially when dealing with parents from an older and more conservative generation. In this Project, I will be producing an original musical -A Game of Chess -to display family dynamics as a boy struggles to understand his sexuality and gain support from the people around him. This piece was written based on autobiographical experience, personal knowledge, and second hand knowledge of dealing with diversity in a very conservative environment and mindset. Essentially, I hope that developing a higher understanding for this form of diversity and its struggles will help families, friends, etc. to create a more cohesive and empathetic environment when working through similar adverse situations.

      Supervisor: Professor John Hood, Honors College

    • Clandestine Cultural Censorship in Contemporary Culture: The Curious Closure of the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art

      My thesis will analyze how the closure of the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (MoCHA) in 1991 in tandem with its final exhibition, The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s in 1990, relate to instances of underhanded cultural censorship. The Decade Show, partially funded by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), was co-organized and simultaneously hosted by MoCHA, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Studio Museum of Harlem. Today, the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem remain open and continue to receive NEA support. MoCHA, whose contribution to The Decade Show was very politically outspoken, especially about the concurrent NEA Four Controversy, closed in 1991. Its collection and all related documents were subsequently sealed and stores at Hostos Community College Library in South Bronx, NY, and the history they contained essentially lost. MoCHA's archives have recently been opened for researchers, and -with funding through SURF -I plan to visit these archives so that I may access the resources I need for my analysis of this institution's unusual closure.

      Supervisor: Dr. Erina Duganne, Department of Art History

    • Group Coalition in Video Games: How Gender Discrimination Influences How We Choose Our Factions

      The study will examine how gender stereotypes influences video game players' choices for a coalition within a game. Women are a growing force in the gaming industry, with 45% of players and 46% of game purchases being females ("Essential", 2003). However, within actual games, women are conceptualized as sexual objects included for the enjoyment of males. Being exposed to a typical female gaming avatar may cause players to view women as less capable leaders of a coalition regardless of expertise. To test this, participants in the study will complete a questionnaire about their gaming habits, then will read an overview of the video game industry. The reading will include one of three female game avatars: over-sexualized, average, or masculine. Participants will be told this is the typical avatar of women. Participants will play an online game with one male and one female confederate. During the game, participants will twice be forces to choose to follow either the male or female down a forked path. Upon completing the game, participants will indicate who they followed and why. It is hypothesized that exposure to the over-sexualized avatar will cause participants to follow the male confederate more than exposure to the other avatars.

      Supervisor: Dr. Judith A. Easton, Department of Psychology 

    • Collaborative Game Design: An Interdisciplinary Video Game Production Team

      Video game studios maintain a collaborative effort between all departments involved in the creation of an Intellectual Property (IP). This project will bring together a small, interdisciplinary production team that will work together to conceive an original video game IP. This team will be comprised of writers, artists, composers, and programmers who will take the IP idea and develop it into a High Level Design Document (HLDD), which outlines and details ever aspect of the video game. The production team will also create a 30-minute playable demo that will exhibit the collaboration between the various disciplines by weaving together narrative, musical scoring, and visual aesthetic on the foundation of video gaming code. The demo will include a dialogue tree, where the player-character (PC) may ask questions of a non-player-character (NPC); a compat sequence, where the PC will fight enemies; and a branching path, where the PC makes a decision that affects the course of the game's story.

      Supervisor: Professor Anne Winchell, Department of English

    • Female Science Anxiety: Causes and Concerns for Elementary Educators

      Our country has some of the finest educational institutions that produce some of the world's most innovative thinkers. However, our K-12 public school system science achievement levels are far behind many of the other leading industrialized countries; our enrollment into STEM higher education degrees is well below par; and women receive far fewer degrees than men in these fields. Mathematics education studies have found links between teacher math anxiety, teacher gender, and student learning by gender; few such studies have been done in the context of science education. In this study, I will analyze pre-service and practicing teachers' responses to the Sate-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) to determine their levels of general anxiety and their level of anxiety specifically about teaching science. These relationships will contribute to the body of research addressing the question of whether science anxiety, like math anxiety, is perpetuated through a gender-specific cycle in which anxiety is transmitted from teacher to students beginning in elementary schools.

      Supervisor: Dr. Eleanor Close, Department of Physics

    • A Novel Approach to Quantifying Water Sources for Trees in Karst

      Limestone Karst landscapes such as the Edwards Plateau offer unique challenges to ecologists investigating water usage by plants due to their rocky and porous subterranean structure. The soil scarcity and uncertain distribution of cavities and fissures below the soil makes the patterns of water acquisition difficult to assess. One successful method for inferring depth of water uptake is the stable isotope analysis of plant stem water. Enrichment of stem water in heavier isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen (2H and 180) indicates water uptake from sources close to the surface where water is subjected to evaporation. Here I evaluate the hypothesis that the rooting depth of plants can be estimated by collecting samples at two sites from the Edwards Plateau species Juniperus ashei, Acacia farnesiana, Prosopis glandulosa, and Quercus fusiformis across three size classes. I will also test if the rainwater that collects below the soil in fissures can be simulated above ground by collecting rain water in specialized open buckets. These methods, if successful, will allow researchers to more easily evaluate the water use of plants in Karst and possible consequences for aquifer recharge.

      Supervisor: Dr. Susan Schwinning, Department of Biology

    • Identification of Interactions Governing the Formation of Biologically Active RNA Structures Using LARP6

      RNA constitutes one of the three macromolecules that are essential for all forms of life and plays a critical role in the final step of gene expression. The three dimensional structure of RNA, created by folding, is vital to its functionality. LARP6 is a protein that is known to help RNA folding and contains a highly conserved sequence found in all eukaryotes. To date, the mRNA of type 1 collagen is the only known LARP6 ligand. The conservative of LARP6 ligand as a template, this study aims to design a library of novel RNA sequences. The identification and analysis of other LARP6 binding ligands will give insight into the highly important and poorly characterized mechanisms of RNA regulation by LARP6.

      Supervisor: Dr. Karen Lewis, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry 

    • Identifying Edge Patters on Lithic Artifacts

      Most stone tools are manufactured by reducing a rock to the desired size and shape by flaking off the excess stone. This flaking processes leaves behind a pattern of scars where flakes were removed. This project is designed to use pattern recognition software (MATLAB) in order to identify characteristic edge patterns of flake scars on lithic artifacts, and to determine whether or no these patterns of scars are diagnostic of particular artifact types. The project will also develop and test a methodology for the use of MATLAB for the identification of artifact types and manufacturing techniques. The expected result of this project is the MATLAB will be able to identify characteristic patters on the edges of artifacts, and that a methodology will be created that uses the software to aid in identifying diagnostic patterns of flake scars on the edges of artifacts.

      Supervisor: Dr. Michael Collins, Department of Anthropology 

    • Economic Impact of Tax Rebates: Tax Rebates as Non-Traditional Monetary Policy

      We propose to use mathematical modeling and scientific computing to examine the economic impact of the American government’s use of tax rebates as part of an economic stimulus package. More specifically, we intend to investigate these ‘cash transfers’ as a form of monetary injection during the recent recession. We expect a comparative study relative to more traditional monetary injections using traditional financial intermediaries to reveal that these tax rebate payments help mitigate the negative experience of consumers during economic  recession. This research extends previous research conducted by Dr. Vacaflores by making multiple modifications to his theoretical model to more realistically represent the American economy.  

      Supervisor: Dr. Diego Vacaflores, Department of Finance

    • The Stuff of Dreams: Analysis of the Melatonin Receptors in Zebrafish Retina

      Melatonin is a hormone associated with sleep patterns and regulation of circadian rhythms, which are the daily patterns of activity we all experience (for example, our tendency to wake up every day at the same time). Although it has long been known that melatonin levels rise at night and drop during the day, the overall circadian rhythm of the receptors on which melatonin acts is relatively unknown. For my SURF-funded project, we will test whether the amount of melatonin receptor 1A (MTR1a) produced by cells changes between day and night in the retina of zebrafish, a commonly used scientific model organism. We will be using antibodies to identify and bind the MTRN1a protein, which will allow for us to observe properties about the protein. If we observe circadian changes in the pattern of expression of the MTR1a receptor, we can correlate them with changes in hormone levels and use the normal patterns as a basis to understand disturbances to sleep-wake cycles associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's Disease.

      Supervisor: Dr. Dana M. Garcia, Department of Biology

    • Validation of Human Antibody Binding in a Zebrafish Model Organism

      Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system with high specificity and affinity for binding to foreign proteins. These characteristics allow antibodies to be used as a tool in biochemistry research for identifying specific proteins of interest. A wide variety of antibodies are commercially produced and sold as biomarkers for identifying human proteins (anti-human antibodies), but animal models are often used to study biological processes that occur in humans. Animal models such as Danio rerio (zebrafish) are easy to study, but there are few antibodies available for use in zebrafish. This project aims to evaluate an anti-human melatonin receptor antibody for binding to zebrafish melatonin receptors. The zebrafish melatonin receptor binding regions will be synthesized using molecular cloning techniques, and the antibody will be analytically tested for binding specificity to each receptor subtype.

      Supervisor: Dr. Karen Lewis, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry 

    • Theoretical Study of the Thermal and Volumetric Properties Associated with Solid-State Zinc Blende and Rocksalt Indium Nitride Crystals

      Indium Nitride (InN) is a semiconductor crystal that packs in both hexagonal and tetrahedral unit cell formations. Within these two unit cell formations, InN forms three distinct crystal types: Wurtzite (WZ), Zincblende (ZB), and Rocksalt (RS). Because each of these distinct crystal structures is representative of a different atomic environment, they will each certainly have unique physical properties. Characterization of the unique physical properties associated with each independent crystal structure of this compound will allow for future research to focus on the application of this material as a semiconductor in electrical and medical devices. By using experimental data on InN systems as optimization parameters, this project aims to use computer simulations as methods of producing novel data that characterizes the physical properties of InN's Zincblende (ZB) and Rocksalt (RS) structures.

      Supervisor: Dr. Luisa Scolfaro, Department of Physics


  • Spring 2014

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Shannon Weigum, Department of Biology

    • 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 or tablet via Bluetooth.

      Supervisor:  Dr. Yihong Chen, Department of Psychology

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Professor John Hood, Honors College

    • 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. 

      Supervisor:  Dr. David Donnelly, Department of Physics

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Professor Laura Ellis-Lai, Department of English

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Professor Michelle Nance, Department of Theatre and Dance

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Richard Earl, Department of Geography

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Chris Nice, Department of 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Shannon Weigum, Department of Biology

       

    • 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.


      Supervisor: Dr. Lori Czop Assaf, Department of Curriculum and Instruction


  • Fall 2013

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Reiko Graham, Department of 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Carmen Westerberg, Department of Psychology

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Professor John Hood, Honors College

    • 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.
       
      Supervisor: Dr. Rachel E. Booth, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. James Ott, Department of Biology

    • 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.
       
      Supervisor: Dr. James Bell, Department of Management
    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology


  • Spring 2013

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Nancy Wilson, Department of English

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology 

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Oleg V. Komogortsev, Department of Computer Science

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Professor Judy Oskam, Department of Journalism

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Kathryn Ledbetter, Department of English 

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Ruby Kishan, Department of Finance and Economics


  • Fall 2012

    • 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 research 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Michael Huston, Department of Biology

    • 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.

      Supervisor(s): Dr. Reiko Graham, Department of Psychology & Dr. Heather Galloway, Honors College

       

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. John M. Blair, Department of English 

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Nihal Dharmasiri, Department of Biology

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Larry Larson, Department of Electrical Engineering

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Professor John Hood, Honors College

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Noland H. Martin, Department of Biology


  • Spring 2012

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Donald Olson, Department of Physics

    •  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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Oleg Komogortsev, Department of Computer Science

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Michelle Lane, Department of Nutrition and Foods

    • 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.

    •  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.

      Supervisor(s): Dr. Timothy Bonner & Dr. Chris Nice, Department of Biology

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Ken Mix, Department of Agriculture


  • Fall 2011

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Natalie Ceballos, Department of Psychology

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Professor John Hood, Honors College

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Caitlin Gabor, Department of Biology

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Alisha Richmond, Department of Communication Disorders

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Nihal Dharmasiri, Department of Biology

    •  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).

      Supervisor: Dr. Linette Watkins, Department of Biochemistry

    • 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Nihal Dharmasiri, Department of 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.

      Supervisors: Dr. Nihal Dharmasiri & Dr. Sunethra Dharmasiri, Department of 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. 

      Supervisors: Dr. Matthew Davidson & Dr. Dana Garcia, Department of 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.

      Supervisor: Dr. Garland Upchurch, Department of Biology