Capstone Competition

In the Capstone Competition, each student delivers a three-minute presentation of their capstone project live online using image-only slides (no text) and outstanding storytelling. The Capstone Competition is modeled after the Three-Minute Thesis format that is common at the graduate level.

Students deliver their presentations live via video. A panel of reviewers selects first, second and third place presenters to receive $300, $200 and $100, respectively, and all participants receive constructive feedback. MK Lamkin, PhD,  director for undergraduate research at the University of Cincinnati, hosts the session.

The 2021 Capstone Competition featured particularly good examples of presentations in the humanities. We invite prospective presenters in the humanities to view those presentations from the morning and afternoon capstone sessions in Microsoft Stream (UC login required).

2023 Presenters

The 2023 Capstone Competition took place on April 18. Due to a technical error, the first several minutes were not recorded that day and were re-recorded a few days later.

Ayesha Shaik, Neuroscience
Project Advisor: Dr. Nathan Evanson

Abstract: Abnormal light sensitivity is a common symptom experienced after traumatic brain injury (TBI). The diffuse forces of a TBI commonly lead to tissue damage to vision-associated regions including the eye, contributing to vison problems, so it is possible that TBI could lead to light sensitivity by injuring retinal cells. Normal retinal ganglion cell (RGC) function relies on proper input from cone cells at higher intensities of light to relay this visual information. It is possible that since TBI leads to RGC death, we might be able to assess aversion to light by testing visual acuity at varying light levels. We hypothesized that we could test for these RGC-driven light sensitivities in the mouse via the optokinetic response (OKR), which is an involuntary response triggered when the mouse follows a moving line. If OKR declines after injury at higher light intensities, this could indicate light aversion. Male mice experienced a mild-moderate TBI, and OKR was observed two days before injury, then after injury on days 2, 3, 7, 9, 21, 23, 35, and 37. Mice were assessed under four light intensities: low (80 lux), room (400 lux), medium (1100 lux), and high (3200 lux). We expect that the optokinetic response will be triggered less when mice are exposed to high light intensities post-injury implicating potential light sensitivity. This study could be used as a new assay to understand light aversion in mice which would allow us to develop treatments in a mouse model for the first time.

Addison Barta, Speech Language & Hearing Sciences
Project Advisor: Dr. Brittany Krekeler

Abstract: Have you ever wondered how your tongue plays a role when you swallow foods or liquids? Or how the tongue plays a role in swallowing when it comes to a person who has a swallowing disorder? These questions have been pondering between many speech-language pathologists at UCMC, so they have decided to study the tongue through ultrasound and x-ray imaging. The purpose of this ongoing study is to show how the tongue moves in real time when different kinds of food and liquids are consumed. From there, speech therapists can get a unique and personalized inference on what exercises may work best for the patient during therapy. This study looks at tongue movements in normal and abnormal patients.

Abraar Huq, Economics and Medical Sciences
Project Advisor: Dr. Vidya Chidambaran

Abstract: Persistent opioid use after surgery is a serious concern among adolescents and may increase risk for prescription opioid misuse. Spinal fusion for idiopathic scoliosis is a highly painful surgery that adolescents undergo, with high risk for opioid use and prolonged pain. Unlike claims data used in prior studies, we used TriNetX, which provides real-time big datasets of electronic medical records (Diagnoses, procedures, medications, etc.) from many healthcare organizations. The overall purpose of this study was to evaluate incidence and factors (sex, race and mental health) influencing prolonged opioid use (3-6 months) after spine fusion (POUS).   Methods: Index cases were those that underwent spinal fusion procedures (based on CPT codes) associated with idiopathic scoliosis (ICD-10) from 2016-2022. TriNETx was queried to include subjects aged 13-21 years of age with index events as above within 1 day of an anesthesia event, confirmed by use of opioids within 15 days after the index event. We excluded those with presence of an opioid (CN101 OPIOID ANALGESICS) in the 15-180 days prior to index event, or any post-index surgical event 1-180 days after the index event. Control group was age matched based on index event median date and who did not who did not undergo any surgical events. POUS was defined as presence of Opioid Analgesic Medication (CN101 OPIOID ANALGESICS) within 90-180 days after the index event. The outcome of the work will further our understanding of demographic connections to opioid use after surgery.

Ryan Blanford, Sociology and Sports Journalism
Project Advisor: Dr. Oneya Okuwobi

Abstract: In the past decade, there has been an increasing trend in the use of equity and inclusion rhetoric in professional sports organizations. Especially during the pandemic and Black Lives Matter demonstrations of 2020, athletes across organizations regularly supported Black Lives Matter and the fight for racial equity in social media and television. NFL teams continue to rhetorically support racial equity through helmet decals and more.  While language and awareness does matter, so too does action. For my research capstone I reviewed public databases and held an interview with a Cincinnati Bengals employee to examine the alignment of equity and inclusion rhetoric with actionable steps they have taken toward addressing racism in their own organization. The results of this case study inform understandings of decoupling between organizational rhetoric and results.

Leah Rupp, Biological Sciences
Project Advisor: Dr. Ian Lewkowich

Abstract: Allergic asthma is an increasingly widespread disease that affects over 300 million people worldwide. It results from a maladaptive immune response to environmental factors that causes shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing. Research shows that asthma development is affected by genetics; however, the prevalence of this disease is increasing at a rate too rapid to be based on genetics alone. Recently, researchers began investigating the impact of environmental factors - particularly those present early in life - on the development and severity of allergic asthma. Human epidemiological data suggest that parental exposures (e.g., cigarette smoke and specific job exposures such as flour processing) may influence allergic asthma in children. Thus, our lab utilizes mouse models to investigate how parental exposure to the allergen, house dust mite (HDM), impacts the allergic responses of their offspring. Our data show that when mothers were exposed to the allergen during pregnancy, their offspring had more severe allergic asthma than those with unexposed mothers. On the other hand, when fathers were exposed to the allergen immediately prior to conception, their offspring had less severe allergic asthma than those with unexposed fathers. These findings further the understanding that genetics, the environment, and the interaction between the two play a significant role in allergic asthma disease, even before conception or during pregnancy. By continuing to investigate the impact of environmental factors, scientists can begin to understand the complex development of allergic asthma, identify the risks of disease, and work to improve patient outcomes.

Gargi Rajput, Medical Sciences
Project Advisor: Dr. Danny Wu

Abstract: Sleep is a major health concern in the college pre-medicine student population. The use of wearable devices such as Fitbit to monitor sleep quality is on the rise, yet there is a gap in evaluating the usefulness of its collected sleep data. In this study, we collected and analyzed sleep data from pre-med students, identifying user pain points. Then we conducted a focus group to ideate design-based suggestions to address the pain points. As a result, four considerations emerged to improve the usability of sleep data.  Further exploration of design guidelines and best practices of sleep data visualization will allow well-designed visualizations to enable health behavior changes.

Abe Kim, Medical Science
Project Advisor: Dr. Danny Wu

Abstract: Return to play (RTP) decisions in sports medicine are rarely based on medical factors alone. Decisions tend to consider player perspective, team needs, and contractual obligations as well. Athletes struggle with the mental repercussions of the inability to train and experience social pressure to recover as soon as possible. As a result, athletes prematurely RTP, leading to increased risk of reinjury, chronic injuries, and even lifelong inability to compete. Hence, physicians’ objectivity and reliability in return to play decisions is critical for ensuring long-term health of players. Despite widespread need for objective decisions, several studies show inconsistent RTP timeframes, indicating decisions may be based on non-medical factors. For my capstone project, I sought to better understand the degree to which predictive modeling, via advanced and powerful methods such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), may be used to support physician decisions. I statistically summarized the algorithms in the existing literature to characterize the trends regarding the existing models for predicting RTP and identify potential points of intervention for researchers. I reported the performance and methodology of the available algorithms utilizing ML or AI techniques to establish a baseline for creating a ML-based model with improved performance in the future.  This review will shed light on the current methods to create a systematic and objective means of RTP prediction, leading to a consistent and higher quality of care of athlete populations.