New Frontiers

Recorded five-minute presentations for the Undergraduate Scholarly Showcase in Category D: New Frontiers, Projects D-01 through D-15.

D-01: Electrocatalysis

Meena Timshina Timshina, Chemistry
Project Advisor: Dr. Sun Yujie
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This research intends to produce inexpensive renewable energy using the knowledge of electrochemistry. In order to generate both cheap and efficient materials, we need to utilize better electrocatalysts and affordable starting materials. As HMF is inexpensive and readily available, it was selected as our starting material. HMF will be converted into DFF using TEMPO as the redox mediator. In the process of optimizing heterogeneous pyrene-TEMPO, homogeneous TEMPO will be explored as a model study. To purify the synthesized pyrene/TEMPO, Column Chromatography was performed followed by NMR and HPLC. One challenge of this reaction is to selectively oxidize HMF to DFF which, has yet to be done successfully. To better understand the dynamics of this experiment, it's essential to acknowledge terms such as electrocatalysis, electrochemical cell, Current, Charge, Constant Potential, NMR, HPLC, and Nernst equation as they are being heavily used in this research to analyze and interpret the results of an experiment. Using the Potentiostat, current and charge of this homogenous solution was measured at a constant potential. So far, the yield of this experiment has not been optimized as this research is an ongoing process. This experiment can benefit the entire science community including electrochemists, environmentalists, and agriculturalists.

Aqueous solutions of SLSar and CAHS at their natural pH (7-8) were prepared in deuterated water at concentrations of 0.1, 1, 10, and 100 times the critical micelle concentration (CMC) of each surfactant and analyzed at room temperature by 1H-NMR. One SLSar solution was titrated to a pH range of 4.8-5.0 with citric acid and reanalyzed, and a 1:1 molar mixture of SLSar and CAHS at pH 4.8-5.0 was also studied. At the time of this writing we are analyzing and interpreting the 1H-NMR chemical shifts due to (1) protonation of the sarcosinate at low pH and (2) interaction of the sultaine with the sarcosinate at low pH. We hope to have more information by the time the project wraps up.

D-02: Light Triggers the Release of Molecules for Future Studies in Treating Cancer

Trinh Nguyen, Chemistry
Project Advisor: Dr. Yujie Sun
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Photocage molecule is a light-sensitive photo protecting group which couples with a bioactive molecule and hinder the function of that molecule. The hindered molecule is called caged molecule and it can be activated only by irradiation with light, without irradiation, the caged molecules remain inactive. Near infrared (IR) lights are the electromagnetic radiation wavelengths that invisible to our eyes. Near IR light is safe and less toxic when using in biological studies compared to UV light, it also has deeper penetration into tissue. The goal of this experiment is to synthesize a complex in which its caged molecule will be released when the complex is irradiated under UV light. In the future, caged molecules will be interchanged with pharmaceutical compounds that are important for treating cancer and near IR light will be used to create a less toxic treatment. This experiment is looking at synthesizing the Ruthenium complexes for caging bioactive molecules. The complex will be irradiated with UV light and UV-vis absorption will be recorded in some time intervals. The changes in UV-vis absorption data will be analyzed to see if the complex releases the caged molecules. Once the UV-vis spectra are proved, near IR light will be used for future experiments.

D-03: The Study of Biomarkers in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Alexa Amato, Neuroscience - Neurobiology Concentration
Project Advisor: Dr. Alberto Espay
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Awarded Excellence in Research Communication

The purpose of this study is to learn what causes types of neurodegenerative diseases and learn why the diseases are happening. The two diseases focused on in the study are Parkinson's disease(PD) and Alzheimer's disease(AD). The patient will be asked to give samples, complete questionnaires, and use devices during their yearly visits/clinical assessments. The concentration is to look at the environmental and genetic factors specifically using biomarkers. The study is ongoing and hopes to end before 2029. The goal is to slow or stop the progression of biological defined-types of neurodegenerative diseases.

D-04: Investigating the Effects of Dampening Nucleotide Production in Lymphoma Models

Samantha Zumwalde, Biochemistry
Project Advisor: Dr. Tom Cunningham
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Within MYC-overexpressing lymphoma cells, there is a transcriptional and translational increase in levels of nucleotide synthesis enzymes, leading to an upregulation of nucleotide production to support the increased metabolic demand of these cells. When these enzymes are genetically targeted, it causes a decrease in overall cell viability. Specifically, the PRPS2 enzyme has seen to negatively impact cell viability when its expression is decreased or diminished. When this enzyme is lost, the redox homeostasis in these lymphoma cells is altered, specifically by decreasing levels of reactive oxygen species. The nucleotide synthesis and NAD synthesis is linked to PRPP, because it uses PRPP as a substrate. The expression of these NAD synthesis enzymes is downregulated when PRPS2 is lost. This project is trying to determine if these NAD biosynthesis enzymes influence lymphoma cell viability and if they add or recapitulate the effects seen upon PRPS2 loss. The effects of these enzymes on overall redox homeostasis in these cell models is also being investigated. The critical enzymes being looked into in this study are NAMPT, NAPRT, and QPRT among others. The expression of these enzymes will be knocked down using a lentiviral CRISPR cas-9 approach. These cells will be used to run assays that can show the level of redox homeostasis and levels of apoptosis. This project will look into leveraging any differences in cell viability that can then improve therapeutic approaches.

D-05: The Study of Proteins' Role in Cancer Cell Growth Ultraviolet Light Treatment

Sarah Parks, Biological Sciences
Project Advisor: Dr. Daniel Buchholz
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Ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal gynecological cancers due to its difficult detection and high rates of therapy resistance. The proteins MED1and JAB1 have shown to work together to promote pro=cancer gene expression in hormone receptor positive breast and ovarian cancers. Whether these proteins promote resistance to DNA damage, however, it remains poorly studied, despite DNA damaging agents being a therapy mainstay. As such, the goal of this research project was to determine whether MED1 and JAB1 also promote cellular resistance to DNA damage induced by ultraviolet (UV) light. To address this question, we used shRNA technology targeting either MED1 or JAB1 for knock-down and characterized the impact on cell growth following UV treatment in a cell line model of ovarian cancer. After verifying successful MED1 and JAB1 reduction by western blot and RNA analysis, both knockdown and control cells were plated at a low density followed by treatment with increasing doses of UV radiation. Cells were then allowed to grow and form colonies, which were fixed, stained, and counted for analysis. MED1 knockdown cells were found to have reduced colony forming ability following UV treatment when compared to control cells. Interestingly, JAB1 knockdown cells were incapable of forming colonies even without UV treatment. These findings suggest that MED1 is essential for colony growth following UV light, but that JAB1likely has additional roles that are essential to ovarian cancer colony growth.

D-06: Role of MED1 in Tumor-Infiltrating Macrophage Recruitment of MMTV-PyMT Mammary Tumors

Katie Hallinan, Biomedical Sciences
Project Advisor: Dr. Xiaoting Zhang
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Awarded Excellence in Research Communication

Breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, with Estrogen Receptor α (ER) positive cancer subtype making up 70%-80% of all breast cancers. Mediator subunit 1 (MED1) is an essential coactivator of ER, and elevated MED1 expression has been shown to promote cancer growth, metastasis, and therapy resistance. In recent years, the recruitment of immune cells such as macrophages in the tumor microenvironment has become of great interest, as greater macrophage recruitment can be associated with poor prognosis. The goal of this project is to test the hypothesis that MED1 plays an important role in the recruitment of tumor-infiltrating macrophages. To test that, mouse tumor samples from either wild-type or MED1 loss-of-function mutant MMTV-PyMT mammary tumors were sliced into 5-micrometer slices and mounted onto slides. The tumor slices were then subjected to H&E staining and immunohistochemistry staining of a macrophage marker F4/80 to determine the location and number of these cells in the tumor tissues. Our preliminary data indicate a decrease in the macrophages in the MED1 mutant tumors compared to that of wild-type MMTV-PyMT tumors, supporting a role for MED1 in the recruitment of tumor-infiltrating macrophages.

D-07: CRISPR and Altering the Immune Response

Michael Thompson, Biological Sciences and German Studies
Project Advisor: Dr. Daniel Buchholz
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CRISPR is often use in genomics as a way to alter genome giving more desirable traits or eliminating the undesirable. It has been brought into question the ethics of this altering DNA as eugenics but there is more CRISPR actually is beneficial when it comes to health of civilians ailed with certain diseases.

D-08: Evaluating Repetitive Behaviors Using a Novel Behavioral Digging Assay in FMR1-KO Mice

Taila Trabue, Biological Sciences
Project Advisor: Dr. Christina Gross
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Fragile X Syndrome is an inherited intellectual disability often associated with autism. Fragile X Syndrome is caused by the reduction of Fragile X protein (FXP). To gain a better understanding of the behavioral effect of Fragile X Syndrome, we utilized FMR1 knockout (KO) mice in which the Fragile X protein is absent due to a mutation on the FMR1 gene. FMR1-KO mice exhibit abnormal behavior, including decreased impulse control, increased locomotor activity, and repetitive behaviors. These behaviors are similar to what is observed in patients with Fragile X Syndrome. In our study we would like to consider these behaviors in a treatment vs. non-treatment group. A common behavior assay used to evaluate repetitive and repulsive-like behaviors in this murine model is the marble burying assay, however, this assay has conflicting results across studies. Conflicting results are likely to occur due to inaccurate measures when performing the marble burying assay. In our study, we are using a novel behavioral digging assay to evaluate repetitive and compulsive-like behaviors in therapeutically treated and untreated FMR1-KO mice. During this digging assay, we quantify the time mice spend digging in their home cage over ten minutes with their nesting and ten minutes without their nesting. We hypothesize that the treated mice will exhibit less repetitive and compulsive-like behaviors compared to the untreated FMR1-KO mice.

D-09: Design and Construction of Syringe Pumps Using 3D-Printing

Gavin Beegan, Biochemistry
Project Advisor: Dr. Wei Liu
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The purpose of this project was to design and construct a set of three varying-diameter syringe pumps using the Creality Ender 3 3D printer, a small amount of other hardware, and various 3D printed pieces, as the cost of a set of syringe pumps is often too high for the budget of a smaller chemistry lab. The proposed design cost a total of less than $300. My strategy for achieving this purpose was following a thorough yet lacking set of hardware/software instructions in order to turn the 3D printer into the set of syringe pumps. This was achieved using basic engineering skills and forward, problem-solution-driven thinking, as well as occasional self-documentation on using the hardware and software supplied.

D-10: Characterizing Blunt Versus Blast Traumatic Brain Injury in Adult Mice

Vivian Lallo, Neuroscience
Project Advisor: Dr. Shelby Cansler
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In 2019, the CDC reported 61,000 traumatic brain injury (TBI) related deaths, nearly 166 deaths per day with even more hospitalizations. Implications of TBI extend far beyond the current knowledge and understanding despite the often-debilitating effects and visual deficits seen. The purpose of this study was to characterize and compare two different animal models of traumatic brain injury (blunt head trauma and blast TBI) to determine common and divergent characteristics of these models. Blast TBI models injury from a pressure wave such as caused by an improvised explosive device (IED) most common in the special forces whereas blunt injury mimics what is commonly seen in car accidents, sports injuries, and falls.   Blast and blunt injury were induced in adult male mice to observe and quantify visual deficits. Retinal ganglion cell loss and axonal degeneration in the optic tract, superior colliculus, and lateral geniculate nucleus were examined in an effort to trace injury outcomes throughout major vision-associated areas of the brain. Experimental groups included a control (sham) group, single blunt injury, single blast TBI, and repeat blast (second blast) TBI. Optokinetic responses, immunohistochemistry (myelin , histologic staining (Fluoro-jade) and western blots (GFAP and RBPMS) were performed and analyzed. Where a single blunt injury produces significant visual deficits a single blast injury appears to have less severe visual consequences. Visual deficits after repeat blasts are similar to a single blast. Single blast injury induces contralateral damage to right optic chiasm and tract whereas bilateral injury occurs from a single blunt.

D-11: The Use of Sensors to Measure the Energy Released From Cells in Different Areas of the Brain

Alexis Piciucco, Neuroscience
Project Advisor: Dr. Ryan White
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The creation of sensors that can measure the energy released from brain cells when they are stimulated. Specifically, the amount of energy released by cells from three different areas of the brain. Using sensors that are fabricated to be able to hold alive cells and measure the amount of energy released when a current is applied. There is a difference in the amount of energy released by the cells from different areas of the brain.

D-12: VoMo: Voice Monitoring App for Smartphones

Rachel Roberts, Speech Language Hearing Sciences
Julie Panstares, Speech-Language Hearing Sciences
Project Advisor: Dr. Victoria McKenna
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People with chronic voice problems (dysphonia) require frequent medical visits to monitor therapeutic progress. At home health monitoring has become possible through smartphone technology, but there are few applications (apps) that help to monitor voice disorders. Therefore, the overarching purpose of this study is to develop an app to help monitor chronic voice disorders. The goal of the present study was to understand how holding a phone in different positions impacted the accuracy of voice acoustic measures. Patients with healthy (n=7) and disordered (n=17) voices were recruited from the University of Cincinnati outpatient Voice Center. Recordings were made with the patient's smartphone at different distances, including holding the phone i) to the ear, ii) directly in front of the mouth (8.5 cm away), iii) as if talking on "speaker phone", and iv) as if reading from the phone. Concurrent recordings were made with a headset microphone and handheld recorder, as a clinical recording comparison. Acoustic measures were compared between the four phone positions, the handheld/phone recordings, and different speech tasks said. Analysis showed that both pitch and duration were not impacted by the type of recording device (handheld, phone). However, there was a statistically significant interaction between apparatus (phone, handheld) and task when considering its effect on harmonic-to-noise ratio, in which the phone recordings had lower values. Next steps of this study are to investigate more acoustic measures and apply our findings to the design of the VoMo app.

D-13: Irrigation Tracker

Akshat Saladi, Computer Engineering
Xavier Veselovec, Mechanical Engineering
Petar Acimovic, Electrical Engineering
Rugved Myakal, Computer Science
Project Advisor: Dr. Cedrick Kwuimy
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The big picture of our project for as students, is to engage in various engineering challenges and community problems in culturally diverse teams. This was achieved by the students collaborating from both University of Cincinnati and Bahir Dar University. From this collaboration we as a team purued an engineering problem of irrigation tracking that can be solved with an adruino. As our team started the design process, we determined we wanted to measure air temp and humidity, soil temp, sunlight, and trigger a bot to release water. The sensors that 'll allow us to realize this irrigation tracking is a DHT11 temp/humidity sensor, regular temperature sensor, photo resistor, LCD screen, servo/motor.

D-14: Development of an Accessible Weather Condition Warning Alert and Prediction System

Giuliana Romani Cabrera, Biomedical Engineering
Daniel Kassahun Wassie, Electrical Engineering
Dasash Endalk Belay, Electrical Engineering
Project Advisor: Dr. Cedrick Kwuimy
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Through the years, public weather condition warnings have been implemented in many cities to alert people of when one should stay inside and avoid exposure, driving, or even evacuate the area for cases like hurricanes and tornadoes. These messages are usually broadcasted through sirens, radio, televisions, phones, and more. However, there are various places around the world where these weather warnings are inaccessible because of a lack of signal or inaccurate due to their distance to the sensor. Our idea for this project is primarily concerned with finding a solution to this problem by creating a weather condition predictor and suggestion/alert system that uses a different and more accessible kind of sensor so that these predictions can be as effective in rural areas just as much as urban areas. Plus, this system will be principally adapted to work with a smartphone with the idea that predictions and warnings can be easily seen by the user nowadays. The project is being carried out in collaboration between members of Bahirdar University and the University of Cincinnati. We're utilizing a variety of components in this project, including Arduino, temperature sensors, a Wi-Fi module, a breadboard, an LCD display, and more. After the project is completed, the creation can be implemented in areas that don't have an accurate weather warning system so that all kinds of people can be live safer.

D-15: Coordination in an Online Randomness Sequence Production Task

Rediet Negatu, Neuropsychology Pre Dental
Project Advisor: Dr. John Holden
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Bimanual Coordination is the coordination observed between the movements of the left and right hand. It is important in carrying out day-to-day activities and is influenced by a variety of environmental factors. Many studies have used human cognition tasks to study coordination but there is a lack of focus on when environmental factors come into play. In this quantitative study, the goal is to investigate the consequences and influence of uncertain environmental circumstances on coordination. This was achieved by asking participants to produce random patterns to see if we could manipulate the degree in which participants relied on one attractor or the other when creating any pattern. It was predicted that bimanual coordination attractors would interfere with individuals' ability to produce random sequences. Coordination resembling bipedal locomotion is preferred when confronting these uncertain environmental circumstances.