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Undergraduate Research Center

Posters at the Capitol

Posters at the Capitol is a prestigious annual event, during which selected MTSU students present their research to state legislators at the Tennessee State Capitol alongside undergraduate representatives from other participating Tennessee universities.  Sponsored by the Tennessee STEM Education Center, the event showcases research from within STEM fields. 

MTSU’s 2024 Selected Participants

Audrey Lauerhass

Examining the Utility of Spatial Analysis of Artifact Distribution at a World War II Aircraft Crash Site

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tiffany Saul

Hometown: Murfreesboro, TN 

Abstract: At aircraft crash sites, the use of geographic information system (GIS) mapping technologies can allow for a greater spatial understanding of aircraft wreckage (ACW) distribution and improve the recovery of human remains. Creating predictive models assists with concentrating efforts and resources in areas likely to contain material of interest. At a World War II crash site, portions of the roughly 450 x 350 meter site were systematically scanned via metal detection, sampled, and documented. All ACW was analyzed based on its original location on the aircraft. The coordinates of positional ACW and the number of metal detection hits were entered into ArcGIS Pro with other spatial data. The creation of a detailed distribution map of the aircraft debris field guided excavation strategies in the third year of the recovery project and demonstrated that spatial analysis of large aircraft crash sites is an effective tool for maximizing resources for successful recoveries. 

Isaiah Kam

Extraction of sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua L.), a medicinal plant, and evaluation of its terpene content 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ying Gao

Hometown: Murfreesboro, TN

Abstract: Employed to manage fungal diseases, synthetic fungicides have occupied the market due to their accessibility and standardized usage. With the demand for a sustainable alternative, botanical fungicides became implemented into agricultural sectors. This study was aimed to promote further research on the medicinal plant, Artemisia annua L., also known as sweet wormwood, and how its bioactive compound, terpene, can be maximized and contribute to a larger botanical fungicide project. Known for their antifungal and antimicrobial properties, various extraction methods were implemented to maximize the biological properties of terpenes. These methods include Microwave-assisted extraction, Sonication-assisted extraction, and Soxhlet extraction. For the experiments, various solvents such as DI water, ethanol, and hexane were tested. These samples were then tested with the α, α-diphenyl-β-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) method to determine the antioxidant capacity of the extracts. The samples will be tested for their antifungal activity against Alternaria alternata using the agar dilution assay. Following the extractions Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) analysis will be performed to analyze the terpene molecules within the extracted samples. Providing new insights into future studies of sweet wormwood, the results of this study have enlightened our understanding of the compound, terpene, and what extraction method yielded the most efficient result.  

Rose Gutierrez

Electromagnetic Ionization and Radiation Creation in Neuroblastoma Cancer Cells  

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Erenso

Hometown: McMinnville, TN

Abstract: Neuroblastoma is a common childhood cancer that has one of the highest incidence rates for children less than one year with poor prognosis as children age. Although current radiotherapy treatments are efficient, many patients are left with unpleasant side effects. Laser trapping is a technique that traps dielectric objects as small as an atom and as big as 100 micrometers with a high-power laser. The laser trapping technique with the addition of magnetic beads was used in this study to initially provide a more efficient treatment for neuroblastoma. This study determined that the amount of radiation received in neuroblastoma cells through laser trapping was significantly reduced. However, it was discovered that these neuroblastoma cells could produce radiation emission, which lasted over six hours with a consistent amount of over 93% energy absorption of an infrared light (low energy) resulting in intense visible radiation (high energy light).  Using infrared laser light with neuroblastoma cells and magnetic beads has the potential to create a new source of energy of white light that has the blackbody radiation. The overall result of this study has indication of improving cancer treatment with significantly reduced radiation dose and also using cancer cells for harvesting solar energy. 

Eden Anderson

Detecting Estrogen Pollution in the Stones River Waterways using the Yeast Estrogen Screen (YES) test of “Saccharomyces cerevisiae”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Seipelt-Thiemann

Hometown: Lebanon, TN 

Abstract: Estrogen is a steroid hormone, most well-known as being associated with the female reproductive system. Estrogen is used in the dairy and livestock industry as a muscle enhancer and used to increase growth rates. Once in the environment, estrogen enters the estrogen transmission chain, and the effects have been connected with disruptions in waterway ecosystems. This study aims to identify the levels of estrogen pollution for each site at the Stones River Watershed. Using the Yeast Estrogen Screen (YES), “Saccharomyces cerevisiae” was scientifically engineered to carry one DNA (either ERα or ERβ) sequence and two estrogen-responsive sequences (ERE). The ERE controls the reporter gene, “lac-Z”, which encodes for the enzyme β-galactosidase, and in the presence of estrogens, is secreted. The lysis buffer contains chlorophenol red-β-D-galactopyranoside (CPRG). When cleaved by β-galactosidase, it produces a colorimetric product. This study distinguishes a practical way to identify said pollutions and promotes a better understanding of what estrogen pollution can do towards biodiversity. The study also confirms why testing our local Stones River Watershed is very important, as it improves our ability to protect against threats towards biodiversity and possible contamination.

Sydney Robbins

Electrochemical Detection of Fenthion for Forensic Analysis

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Charles Chusuei

Hometown: Memphis, TN

Abstract: Fenthion is an insecticide that has been widely used to protect crops against pests, however its toxicity has led to environmental and health concerns. Because of the harms fenthion presents, the ability to rapidly and accurately assay this pesticide is essential for forensic investigations of suicides, environmental violations, and poisonings. Electroanalytical techniques have been shown to be advantageous in detecting pesticides. Cyclic voltammetry is an electrochemical technique used to determine the reduction and oxidation of analytes in order to identify unknown compounds. The efficiency of cyclic voltammetry to detect trace amounts of fenthion is reportedly increased with the use of nanoparticles to modify the electrode used. The electrocatalytic capabilities of various nanomaterials drop-casted onto glassy carbon electrodes for fenthion detection will be presented to provide a non-destructive, cost efficient, time sensitive, and reliable method of fenthion detection that can be applied to forensic investigation, environmental protection, and public health efforts.

Cole Huddleston

Biological Evaluation of Novel Tubulin Inhibitors for Treatment of Cancer

Faculty Mentor: Dr. April Weissmiller

Hometown: Goodlettsville, TN

Abstract: Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. Cancer cells are defined by uncontrolled and abnormal cell division. Therefore, inhibiting cancer cell division is a validated anti-cancer approach clinically. Both cell structure and cell division depend on active microtubule dynamics, which is a process in which alpha and beta subunits of tubulin polymerize and depolymerize. Small molecule tubulin inhibitors are used in chemotherapy cocktails to treat various cancers, however current tubulin inhibitors are toxic and cancer cell resistance can occur. To overcome these issues, I have been part of a research project to discover novel tubulin inhibitors that target the colchicine binding site on the beta subunit. Paneling of these novel small molecules that are potential tubulin inhibitors reveals that out of those tested, two compounds show the potential to inhibit tubulin polymerization directly and cause effects consistent with tubulin inhibition in cancer cell lines. The data from this research will help to understand which chemical structures function best to impair microtubule dynamics. Design and testing tubulin inhibitors like these may be able to overcome issues with those currently in the clinic and ultimately could be developed to aid patients in their fight against cancer. 

Tori Bascou

Investigation of Water Effect on Ignitable Liquid Residue Analysis by Coupling Solid-Phase Microextraction with Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mengliang Zhang

Hometown: Murfreesboro, TN 

Abstract: Arson investigation and explosive analysis is a subfield of forensic science that focuses on examining the physical evidence that is collected from a scene in which a fire occurred. Accelerants and ignitable liquids (ILs) are often used in arson fires to maximize the damage that the fire creates. Common ILs include lighter fluid, kerosene, and gasoline, with gasoline being one of the most volatile compounds. Direct analysis in real time-mass spectrometry (DART-MS) is known for its ability to analyze volatile compounds that have been exposed to weather conditions and its ability to demonstrate the sensitive detection of explosives. In recent research, the DART-MS was coupled with an extraction method called Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME), in order to aid in the analysis of IL residue on substrates (i.e., wood floor, paper). This study hypothesizes that water could interfere with gasoline residue analysis by DART-MS which is dependent on the gasoline to water ratios and the type of substrates. The objective is to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the water effect in gasoline residue detection by DART-MS method and is expected to provide results that will aid in the better understanding of water and substrates factors in the IL detection method.

Lindsey Tran

A Preliminary Study: Harvesting and Storing Electromagnetic Radiation using Animal Blood and Micromagnetic Beads

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Erenso

Hometown: Antioch, TN 

Abstract: Electromagnetic (EM) radiation, omnipresent in our surroundings, serves diverse purposes from cellular communication to medical treatments and space exploration.  Our research explores a preliminary study utilizing laser-trapping, micromagnetic beads, and animal blood for potentially revolutionizing EM energy harvesting and storage. The livestock industry annually generates an excessive 1.4 billion pounds of waste, primarily animal blood, representing a significant environmental concern. By utilizing blood samples from key livestock animals, including sheep, goat, chicken, bovine, turkey, horse, and porcine, our study produces enduring, self-sustaining EM radiation. The experiment involves a 3:1 mixture of animal blood and micromagnetic beads on a depression slide within an infrared laser trap, progressing through two phases: Plasma formation and Star-like radiation. In Plasma formation, exposure to the laser trap induces electric breakdown, ionizing blood cells and micromagnets, forming a dense plasma. The subsequent Star-like radiation phase accelerates the dense plasma, generating intense black-body radiation. The study attains 90-95% radiation energy absorption over 1.5 to 7.5 hours, marking a micro-level advancement in EM harvesting with animal blood. We envision this as a foundational step for macro-level applications like solar energy harvesting, offering potential benefits for the environment through waste reduction and enhanced safety in the livestock industry.

Ariel Nicastro

Ultrasound Forcing: Device Design and Applications in Neuromodulation

Faculty Mentor: Wolfgang Losert

Hometown: Franklin, TN 

Abstract: Neuromodulation, the manipulation of neural activity using focused ultrasound, is a growing interdisciplinary field with a major goal of noninvasively treating disorders in the brain such as epilepsy, chronic pain, and migraines. In order to advance towards these goals, it is crucial to study neural systems in isolation to directly observe the impact of neuromodulation. For this reason, an ultrasound forcing device that can create focused ultrasound waves was designed and assembled. This square-shaped device fits inside a petri dish, and the vibration of its piezoelectric ceramic plates when connected to a function generator creates waves that propagate through the medium. We patterned microbeads in order to characterize the strength and spatial pattern of the acoustic forcing. This ultrasound forcing device has been used in experiments attempting to stimulate calcium activity in human neural progenitor cells, and can be used to conduct further experimentation on neural networks.

Important Dates

Applications Open: Monday, October 30, 2023
Application Deadline: Friday, November 17, 2023
Notification Date: Monday, November 27, 2023

How To Apply To Present

The checklist of information needed to submit an abstract for Posters at the Capitol includes:

  • Student Presenter’s name and email
  • STEM discipline/field of study
  • Presenter’s hometown
  • Faculty mentor’s name
  • Poster title
  • Abstract (300 word max)

Event Media Coverage

On Wednesday, February 15, 2023, undergraduates from the nine Tennessee state universities presented their research posters to legislators and guests at Nashville’s Cordell Hull Building. The students were selected to represent the best of the undergraduate research at their own institutions.

The students selected for this prestigious event represent the best of undergraduate research in STEM disciplines at their own institutions. Participating Universities include:

  • Austin Peay State University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee Technological University
  • University of Memphis
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • The University of Tennessee, Martin

Read event coverage from MTSU News. 

Janna Abou-Rahma

Mechanism of Action of Antifungal Peptoids

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kevin Bicker
Hometown: Carthage, TN

Abstract: Due to the rise of drug resistant strains of fungal pathogens such as Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans, there has been a need to identify new antifungal agents. In comparison to naturally produced antifungal peptides, antifungal peptoids mainly differ in structure, which prevents protease recognition giving higher bioavailability. Previous studies have shown that peptoids are effective fungicides. RMG8-8 and RMG9-11, two peptoids recently discovered in the Bicker Lab, have proven to be effective antifungal agents against C. neoformans and C.
albicans, respectively. Reported here will be studies to determine the mechanism of action and other vital therapeutic properties of RMG8-8 and RMG9-11 using various biochemical and microbiological assays. Preliminary results of critical micelle concentration testing indicate that RMG8-8 as well as RMG9-11 do not exist as micelles at their minimum inhibitory
concentrations, but rather function unimolecularly. Using a parallel artificial membrane permeability assay, it was found that RMG8-8 is likely unable to penetrate the blood brain barrier. However, RMG9-11 demonstrated good permeability, indicating that it may be able to penetrate the blood brain barrier to treat dangerous neurological infections of fungi. Subsequently, assays will be conducted in order to further understand the mechanism of action of both peptoid compounds to address the rising concern of drug resistant strains of fungal pathogens.

Marzea Akter

Effect of Acute Oxytocin Administration on Social Behavior in Male and Female Mice

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tiffany Rogers
Hometown: Murfreesboro. TN

Abstract: Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and hormone with a well-established role in prosocial behaviors in animals and humans. It is currently being tested in clinical trials for the treatment of social symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders. However, the behavioral effects of oxytocin treatment have been variable with both prosocial (increased empathy) and antisocial (increased competitiveness) behaviors resulting in humans. Previous studies in our lab have shown increased anxiety-like behaviors in mice treated chronically with oxytocin (1 12 ug dose per day for 14 consecutive days, data unpublished). The current study aims to see the effect of
acute oxytocin administration on social behavior in male and female mice to determine if the schedule of oxytocin administration affects behavioral outcomes. Adult C57BL/6J mice will be acutely pretreated with saline or oxytocin (12 μg) an hour before the behavior tests. Saline or oxytocin will be administered either intranasally (i.n., 12 ug in 12 uL, 6 uL per nostril) or intraperitoneally (i.p., 12 ug in 120uL). Mice will complete a battery of behavioral tests including the elevated plus maze (EPM), three-chamber sociability task (3C), and free dyadic social interaction (FDSI) after drug administration to determine changes in social behavior and anxiety-like behavior. Noldus EthoVision XT and human coders will code anxiety-like behaviors, social preference, and social novelty. I expect to find that acute oxytocin administration will increase sociability as measured by the 3C and FDSI tasks while avoiding increases in anxiety-like behaviors, as measured by the EPM task, associated with chronic administration.

Hunter Brady

Investigation of the Anti-viral Properties of Chlorine Dioxide Gas using the MS2 Bacteriophage

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anthony Newsome
Hometown: Murfreesboro, TN

Abstract: Since the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the etiological agent that causes COVID-19, the need to identify antiviral agents for disinfection purposes has dramatically increased. Chlorine dioxide gas has previously been identified as an antibacterial agent with strong oxidizing capabilities. The MS-2 bacteriophage has previously been identified as a suitable surrogate for the development and application of virucide decontamination methods by the Environmental Protection Agency. This study aimed to identify and assess the antiviral properties of chlorine dioxide gas and to identify optimum physical conditions for potential deployment in support of current antiviral disinfection needs. Using the MS-2 bacteriophage model system, preliminary studies used the double-layer agar plaque assay technique to evaluate
the antiviral activity of chlorine dioxide gas. Results revealed up to a six-log (99.9999%) reduction of the MS-2 bacteriophage off of porous surfaces. These results suggest that chlorine
dioxide gas is a suitable antiviral agent.

Emaa Elrayah

Development of Size-Discrete PLGA Nanoparticles for Uterine-Targeted Drug Delivery

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Herington
Hometown: Nashville, TN

Abstract: Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of infant mortality, yet there are no effective treatments. Current tocolytics have poor specificity and readily cross the placental barrier, causing harm to both mother and fetus. Uterine-targeted nanoparticles have emerged as a potential drug-delivery
system for the treatment of PTB. Poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid (PLGA) is an FDA-approvedbiomaterial with the capacity for use in obstetric therapies. Due to the size-exclusivity of the placental barrier, the design of drug-encapsulated nanoparticles must consider particle size. Here we show the development of a procedure to formulate monodispersed PLGA nanoparticles with
discrete size populations. Using an oil-in-water emulsion technique adapted from Haycook, et al (2020), we compared two different methods using either ethyl acetate (EtAc) or dichloromethane (DCM) as the organic phase. Furthermore, we tested different homogenization methods. We then developed a purification method using serial centrifugation to isolate discrete size ranges. The nanoparticles were analyzed for size and polydispersity via dynamic light scattering and verified via scanning electron microscopy. We found that the DCM formulation produced particles with a lower polydispersity index (PDI) than EtAc (0.20199 +/- 0.07 vs. 0.3037 +/- 0.03). We determined that homogenizing the emulsion at 45 seconds produced the most discrete size populations, with low PDIs (0.0813 +/- 0.0441). Here we show that we successfully employed a bench-top emulsion to create and isolate PLGA nanoparticles within specific size ranges. This approach holds strong potential for the development of a nanoparticle drug delivery system for PTB, for which novel therapies are desperately needed.

Lacon Parton

Antibiotic Resistance eDNA in the Stones River Watershed

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Seipelt-Thiemann
Hometown: Woodbury, TN

Abstract: From the beginning of antibiotic use, antibiotic resistance with associated complications has been sweeping the nation. While bacteria can evolve antibiotic resistant genes by repeated exposures, they can also acquire existing genes encoding antibiotic resistance proteins by taking up environmental DNA fragments that originate from dead antibiotic-resistant bacteria present in the environment. Alternatively, bacterial viruses can carry antibiotic resistant genes which could
transfer the resistance through infection. It is important to identify and track valid, local sources of antibiotic resistance genes in the environment as they represent not only presence of resistance, but a source of acquiring resistance. The purpose of this study is to track four
β-lactamase antibiotic resistant gene alleles (Bla-1, Bla-TEM, Bla-SHV, and BlaCTX) in the Stones River Watershed and compare the prevalence to land uses that are known to utilize antibiotics such as hospitals, veterinary clinics, and urban/agricultural sites. Environmental DNA will be isolated from obtained soil samples. These soil samples will be further cleaned inpreparation to perform polymerase chain reaction followed by agarose gel electrophoresis which will determine the presence of the variants of the β-lactamase antibiotic resistance genes. Acomparison of antibiotic resistance gene allele presence/absence with land use will reveal if any particular land use should be prioritized in the local battle against antibiotic resistance bacteria.

Jesse Scobee

Investigating the Significance of the N-MYC-WDR5 Interaction in Pediatric Neuroblastoma

Faculty Mentor: Dr. April Weissmiller
Hometown: Antioch, TN

Abstract: Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common solid-tumor pediatric cancer, and high-risk cases associated with N-MYC amplification show a 50% 5-year survival rate. N-MYC is an oncoprotein transcription factor that causes the transformation of a healthy cell into a tumor cell, and thus functional inhibition of N-MYC is a sought-after therapeutic goal. Recently, the chromatin regulator WDR5 was discovered as an important MYC co-factor that can modulate MYC target gene expression, and evidence in N-MYC amplified NB cell lines shows extensive co-localization of N-MYC and WDR5 at genes involved in multiple important biological functions. These data suggest that the N-MYC-WDR5 interaction may control a variety of important N-MYC related functions, however a clear analysis focused on any single function individually is currently lacking. Thus, this study was designed to determine if blocking the N-MYC-WDR5 interaction alters expression of genes linked to apoptosis, a well-studied function of N-MYC. Using multiple engineered NB cell lines, we performed mRNA analysis of pro- and anti-apoptotic gene expression. Interestingly, results of this study reveal that blocking the N-MYC-WDR5 interaction does not cause overt changes in apoptotic gene expression, suggesting that blocking the N-MYC-WDR5 interaction may not be sufficient to induce apoptosis. However, future studies using different cell lines or alternative methods may be useful to confirm these results. Given the extent of N-MYC and WDR5 co-binding at genes involved in essential biological processes, future investigation is warranted to deduce the totality of cellular consequences that occur when WDR5 cannot bind N-MYC in these deadly malignancies.

Lindsey Tran

Creation of electro-magnetic assisted “Star-like” formation from cancer cells using a laser trap

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Erenso
Hometown: Antioch, TN

Abstract: Cancer is the second leading cause of death among humans worldwide. Although radiation therapy has been the most effective course of treatment for cancer patients, it still has harmful and long-lasting damages on their bodies, ruining their quality of life. The initial purpose of this study was to minimize radiation damage caused from cancer treatment by finding the minimal amount of ionization required to eliminate a single BT20 breast cancer cell, using laser-trapping (LT) technology. However, amid experimentation, the discovery of two scientific phenomena
was made and given the titles “Dark-space” formation and “Star-like” formation. Both
phenomena have shown the ability to rapidly absorb and conserve energy. With the world’s continuing advancements in technology, these two discoveries can be used as an approach to improve microchip technology and solar energy harvesting. Thus, the purpose of this research
was expanded and separated into 3 phases: Single ionization, “Dark-space” formation, and “Star-like” formation. A 3:1 mixture solution of BT20 cancer cells and magnetic beads was poured onto a depression slide and placed onto the laser trap. For over 4 years, the same depression slide has been used to conduct measurements for each phase. In the single ionization phase, magnetic beads were used to minimize the amount of ionization required to eliminate a singular BT20 cell. It was found that the interaction between the laser’s radiation energy and the magnetic beads’ electromagnetism accelerated the rate of ionization. Thus, a significant reduction of approximately 83% was observed in the ionization period with the addition of the magnetic beads. Further on to Phase 2, a “Dark-space” forms once the mixture interacts with the laser trap and acts as an energy storage capacitor that rapidly expands as the increasing amount of radiation energy is absorbed. This expansion causes all surrounding matter to accelerate towards the dark region, yet it is never able to penetrate the space. Upon explosion, the energy of “Dark-space” causes the surrounding matter to form into a plasma, acting as a sea of positive and negative charges. Leading into Phase 3, a “Star-like” illumination forms once the plasma interacts with the laser trap. This interaction causes an emission of intense blackbody radiation that grows and becomes more robust as more energy is absorbed. Overall, applications of this study can provide improvements in cancer treatment, microchip technology, and solar energy harvesting.

Isaiah Osborne

S-Invertibility of Unicyclic and Bicyclic Graphs

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dong Ye

Hometown: Chapel Hill, TN

Abstract: A graph is an abstract mathematical model of a network, which has vertices and edges connecting vertices. Graphs can be used to model many networks, such as the internet, social networks, and molecules. For example, if a vertex represents an atom and an edge represents the bond between two  atoms, then a graph can represent a skeleton of a molecule; if a vertex represents a person and an edge represents a relation between two persons, then a graph can be used to represent a social network. Graphs can be represented mathematically using matrices, for example, the adjacency matrix of a graph 
with n vertices is an (n × n)-matrix whose ij-entry is the number of edges connecting the vertex i and the  vertex j. A graph is invertible if its adjacency matrix is invertible, and a graph is considered s-invertible if its adjacency matrix is invertible and its inverse is a matrix with each entry belonging to {−1, 0, 1}. While the concept of s-invertibility was introduced in the 1980’s, there has been very little progress toward characterizing s-invertibility of graphs. Buckley, Doty and Harary characterized s-invertible trees in 1988, and Kalita and Sarma characterized a sub-family of unicyclic graphs in 2021. In our research, we characterize s-invertible graphs based on feasible paths that are defined as paths whose vertex-removal results in a subgraph with a 2-matching. This characterization provides a tool for us to completely determine the family of s-invertible graphs with at most two cycles, which extends the results of Buckley-Doty-Harary for acyclic graphs and Kalita-Sarma for a sub-family of unicyclic graphs.

Jonathan Duke

Investigating Parameter Estimation and Tracking Functions Used in the Confirmation of Autonomous Vehicle Radar Detections

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jorge Vargas

Hometown: Joelton, TN

Abstract:Autonomous vehicles are required to perform in a variety of weather conditions to ensure the safety of the consumers. RADAR sensors tend to be a cost effective and reliable route for automotive engineers because they perform well in a variety of weather conditions. RADAR is an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging. RADAR works by using an antenna to emit and receive electromagnetic waves. When the antenna emits a signal, the power of that signal is completelydissipated into the environment. The electromagnetic waves then return to the receiver after it undergoes multipath propagation. Based on the environment surrounding the sensor, the electromagnetic wave will undergo change in either frequency or intensity. The receiver can provide information about the environment when compared to the emitted signal. There are several ways that these electromagnetic waves can be emitted and received, and it is one of the defining characteristics of a RADAR system. To explain further, Pulse RADAR measures the change in signal strength to calculate distance while Continuous RADAR uses the difference in frequency of the signals to calculate distance. Currently, one of the downsides with RADAR sensors is that their performance lowers in high traffic areas, meaning more false detections are made. Detections must be assigned to an object and class to make safe driving decisions without the input of the consumer. Once these detections are recognized and classified, they can be stored, discarded, or maintained depending on the parameter estimation and tracking functions. Improving the quality of RADAR detections allows for less false detections to be made, allowing for a safer driving experience for the consumer.

On Wednesday, February 16, 2022, undergraduates from the eight Tennessee state universities presented their research posters to legislators and guests at Nashville’s Cordell Hull Building. The students were selected to represent the best of the undergraduate research at their own institutions.

For more information on Posters at the Capitol including participating universities, a tentative schedule, directions/parking information, and poster information, please visit the TSEC website.

The students selected for this prestigious event represent the best of undergraduate research in STEM disciplines at their own institutions. Participating Universities include:

  • Austin Peay State University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee State University
  • University of Memphis
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • The University of Tennessee, Martin

Read event coverage from MTSU News.

Hunter Brady

Assessment of Antiviral Activity of Chlorine Dioxide Gas

Faculty Mentor: Anthony Newsome
Hometown: Murfreesboro, TN

Abstract: Since the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the need to identify antiviral agents to disinfect large areas has greatly increased. Chlorine dioxide (ClO2) gas has previously been identified as an antibacterial agent with strong oxidizing capabilities. The MS2 bacteriophage has previously been identified as a suitable surrogate for the development and application of virucide decontamination methods. The purpose of this study was to identify and assess the antiviral properties of ClO2 gas and to determine optimum physical conditions for potential deployment in support of current antiviral disinfection needs. Using the MS2 bacteriophage model system, preliminary studies used the double-layer agar plaque assay technique to evaluate the antiviral activity of ClO2 gas. Initial results support the use of ClO2 gas as an antiviral agent. Reduction of up to six logs was observed with treatments of 200 ppm of ClO2 gas following overnight treatment on a non-porous surface such as steel coupons. Lesser exposure times studies were also effective in multiple log reductions of the MS2 bacteriophage. Studies are now being directed at the ability to inactivate MS2 phage imbedded in porous surfaces such as cloth. It has been determined that infective MS2 bacteriophage can be recovered after being imbedded on a cloth substrate. This can serve as a basis to evaluate MS2 phage inactivation when imbedded in porous substrates such as cloth.

Logan Carver

The Interaction of N-MYC and WDR5: Therapeutic Potential in Neuroblastoma

Faculty Mentor: April Weissmiller
Hometown: Nashville, TN

Abstract: Neuroblastoma (NB) is a cancer originating in the nerve cells and the most common extracranial tumor affecting children. The survival rate for high-risk NB is less than 50%. High-risk NB is associated with increased activity of N-MYC, a transcription factor that regulates thousands of genes involved in cell growth and metabolism. Unfortunately, blocking N-MYC directly has failed to be a viable option for therapeutics, necessitating a deeper investigation into new ways to inhibit N-MYC. One novel approach to target NMYC is to target an important co-factor that N-MYC needs to function as a transcription factor. Evidence in other types of cancers has revealed that WDR5 is a critical cofactor that recruits N-MYC to genes known to be essential for biomass accumulation. The present study sought to investigate the influence of the N-MYC-WDR5 interaction on the ability of N-MYC to bind chromatin and promote transcription in neuroblastoma cells using NB cell lines engineered to induce wild-type N-MYC (WT), a version of N-MYC that cannot bind WDR5 (WBM), or a green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a control. Results reveal that N-MYC expression in the induced cell lines is comparable to other N-MYC amplified cell lines and that inhibition of the N-MYC-WDR5 interaction using the WBM cell line reduces the level of N-MYC that binds chromatin. Consistent with a decrease in N-MYC binding, transcript levels of these same N-MYC-WDR5 targets are decreased in the WBM cell line as well. These results provide a solid foundation for the use of this model system to further probe the consequence of the N-MYC-WDR5 interaction on multiple facets of N-MYC function.

Maria Clark

Synthesis and Characterization of the Therapeutic Potential of Antifungal Peptoid β-5

Faculty Mentor: Kevin Bicker
Hometown: Murfreesboro, TN

Abstract: C. neoformans is a pathogenic yeast species that is one of the leading causes of Cryptococcal meningitis. This form of meningitis, which begins with the inhalation of yeast spores, has a significant mortality rate of 81% percent, with high incidence in those who are immunocompromised. Current antifungal treatments such as fluconazole and amphotericin B have detrimental side effects, leaving a significant need for better alternative treatments. Peptoids, which are mimics of the natural peptides found in living organisms, exhibit beneficial characteristics such as protease degradation evasion and therefore longer half-lives, offer an alternative route for antifungal compound development. Peptoid compounds discovered in our own lab, such as β-5, must be characterized by determining efficacy against pathogenic species such as C. neoformans as well as the toxicity of the compounds in the presence of mammalian cells. Herein, assays for determining these factors have shown that β-5 has low toxicity in several mammalian cell lines and significant and rapid inhibition of C. neoformans. These characteristics, which are linked to the compound’s structure, suggest that future investigation can focus on working to further enhance the compound’s overall efficacy through structural modification.

DaVonte Lewis

From superconductor to Anderson Insulator: harnessing disorder in quantum materials

Faculty Mentor: Hanna Terletska
Hometown: Camp Springs, MD

Abstract: Superconductors are 21st-century quantum materials that promise fascinating technological and societal benefits once properly harnessed. One of the hurdles we face towards that end is that of disorder: the inherent impurities and imperfections that exist in all real materials. Recently, there has been significant progress in the development of numerical tools capable of treating different ranges of disorder, allowing for a more robust investigation into its effects on the spectral and conducting properties of materials. In this work, using the in-house typical-medium theory of the single-site attractive Hubbard model on a Bethe lattice, we aim to explore the effects of strong disorder on superconductive properties. In particular, our focus is the study of disorder induced Anderson localization and the associated superconductor-insulator transition (SIT). We construct a phase diagram in the disorder and electronelectron interaction parameter space and demonstrate how sufficiently strong disorder can destroy superconductivity in materials. Studying this disorder-induced transformation of material properties is not only of intellectual interest, but also paves the way for the use of disorder as a means to tune material conductance—ultimately reframing disorder as an exploitable design parameter rather than a limiting factor in the development of novel quantum materials.

Sophia Taylor

Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry in Deep Eutectic Solvents

Faculty Mentor: Scott Handy
Hometown: Nashville, TN

Abstract: Electrochemistry is an increasingly well-known method of organic synthesis due to its sustainability. Organic electrochemical synthesis requires an electrolyte, or a salt, to facilitate charge transport in addition to a solvent. Both the electrolyte and the solvent are sources of waste in an organic reaction and thus contribute to its environmental impact. Deep Eutectic Solvents (DES) are increasingly well-known recyclable liquids that contain salts as at least one of their components. The use of DES as organic electrochemical solvents is explored for the first time. By performing various allylations of aldehydes using different DES and electrode pairings and analyzing percent yields of each round, reaction conditions are optimized. The recyclability of the DES is also explored. It is discovered that DES are excellent solvents to use for electrochemical allylations because each 2 mL of DES can be reused at least three times. The combination of electrochemistry and DES yields a doubly green synthetic reaction which can be replicated in many large-scale settings, such as the pharmaceuticals industry. Doing so would minimize waste production and allow for reusable materials, saving both money and the environment.

Carina Vazquez

Experimental Composition of Two Systems: Ring Resonator Structures and an Acoustic Demultiplexer

Faculty Mentor: William Robertson
Hometown: Shelbyville,TN

Abstract: In this work, we experimentally investigated two acoustic systems: the Y-shaped demultiplexer and the acoustic ring resonator. A demultiplexer separates and transmits specific frequencies from a broadband input signal. The acoustic demultiplexer investigated here is based on resonances created by sideattached waveguide stubs. The Y shaped waveguide sent broad bandwidth sound along an input line. Two output lines with a stub filter arrangement transmitted narrow bands of two different frequencies separated from the broadband input. Ring resonators are widely used in optics as filters and switches. Here we investigated the acoustic analog to the optical ring resonator. The acoustic ring resonators consist of a circular waveguide attached tangential to a straight waveguide. The ring waveguide has resonances whenever the path around the ring equals an odd half-integer multiple of the wavelength. We showed that this phenomenon can be used to create notch filters, add-drop filters, and broad acoustic bandgap reflectors. The experimental results were in good agreement with numerical models rendered in python and finite-element simulations using COMSOL.

Sydney Wilson

Analyzing the Spectral Characteristics of Propagations Teepees

Faculty Mentor: Chuck Higgins
Hometown: Smyrna, TN

Abstract: A high frequency spectral feature has been previously identified in ground-based spectrographs and recorded by a group of citizen scientists from the Radio JOVE project (Fung et al., 2020 GRL, 47, e2020GL087307; This feature is a teepee (TP) tent shape found in data between 15 to 30 MHz, where the spectral enhancement frequency increases and then decreases with time, hence the name (Figure 1). The presence of these features is currently being attributed to ionospheric reflection of VHF emissions from lightning activities in remote thunderstorms. In this study, we will analyze TP observations by studying their times (seasons) of occurrences, duration, apex frequency, upper cutoff frequency drift rates, and quality, to better understand these spectral features. Analysis was completed using the Autoplot software (, and these characteristics and statistics are presented in order to gain a deeper understanding of these peculiar spectral features.

On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, undergraduates from the nine Tennessee state universities presented their research posters to legislators and guests at the Tennessee State Capitol. The students were selected to represent the best of the undergraduate research at their own institutions. For 14 years, undergraduates have been presenting our state legislators with their outstanding research results in a wide variety of academic disciplines.

For more information on Posters at the Capitol including participating universities, a tentative schedule, directions/parking information, and poster information, please visit the TSEC website.

Participating Universities Include

  • Austin Peay State University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee Technological University
  • University of Memphis
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • The University of Tennessee, Martin

Read event coverage from MTSU News.

Aric Moilanen

Taming Disorder in Quantum Materials

Faculty Mentor: Hanna Terletska

Abstract:The discovery of new materials is a cornerstone of human civilization and development. We live in the era of quantum materials which offer tremendous opportunities for fundamental research and advances in new-generation technologies. Progress in this field will enable energy efficient storage and transmission, faster and powerful electronic devices, novel sensors, and quantum computers. Such research can bolster economies, advance the quality of life, and address the unprecedented growth in global energy needs. One essential part of such research is the accurate simulation and theoretical modeling of these materials. However, the very same properties that make these materials so useful also make them exceedingly difficult to simulate and understand. One major obstacle is understanding the effects of disorder, or imperfections, in a material. Disorder is ubiquitous in materials and can profoundly affect their properties and functionality. The focus of our research is how disorder turns a conductor to an insulator in a phenomenon known as the metal-insulator transition (MIT). Here, we propose a new, greatly simplified model for identifying MITs in a disordered system that both agrees with past simulations and significantly reduces computational complexity, bringing us one step closer to better modeling and control of properties of quantum materials.

Lillian Beck

Correlation Between Mean Length of Utterances in Preschoolers and Different Maternal Education Backgrounds

Faculty Mentor: Kathryn Blankenship

Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this study was to measure the mean length of utterances in typically developing preschool children and to identify whether maternal education is an influential variable in morphological development. The study also researched the relationship between mean length of utterance (MLU) and number of different words (NDW).

Methods: 13 preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 were recruited to participate in the study. To participate in the study, each participant had to be typically-developing in the area of language, nonverbal cognitive abilities and hearing. This was assessed using standardized measures. Then, a 15-minute language sample was taken and was analyzed for MLU and NDW.

Results: The results of this study showed that there was a medium correlation between MLU and maternal education and between MLU and NDW; however, statistical significance was not reached. The results suggest that as maternal education increased (e.g., mother’s with higher levels of education) so did the length of MLU in the participants such that the participants from higher maternal education families had longer MLUs. Additionally, the results suggest that there is a relationship between NDW and MLU such that as the participants who had larger NDW had longer MLU.

Jared Frazier

Practical Investigation of Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry for Fast Screening of Explosives

Faculty Mentor: Mengliang Zhang

Abstract: While the direct analysis in real time (DART) ionization source coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) is viable for the screening of trace explosives, current and previous methods have significant disadvantages for screening of explosives. This work demonstrates novel methods using DART-MS for the high-throughput and sensitive detection of nineteen organic explosive residues in four different categories deposited on several substrates. Explosive residues were selected based on their use in historical bombings that have tragically claimed the lives of civilians and the armed forces of many nations. To combat the threat of explosives to national security, several methods were investigated using DART-MS. The QuickstripTM sample card method was used to optimize DART gas heater temperature as well as dopants. Four sample introducing strategies for DART-MS including transmission, thermal desorption, closed mesh, and direct-insert methods were implemented to analyze liquid and dried samples deposited on five substrates. Fabric, leather, metal, plastic, and synthetic skin were selected to simulate realistic matrices for explosive residues. It was found that representative explosives from each category could be detected with nanogram sensitivity and in less than 1 O seconds. Therefore, the proposed methods using DART-MS provide prompt analysis of explosives for forensic applications.

Kayley Stallings

Effect of Tea Brewing Temperature and Tea Concentration on the Microbial Profile of Kombucha

Faculty Mentor: Keely O’Brien

Abstract: Kombucha, a fermented tea made with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), has been touted as a health beverage for years. Previously, the health benefits attributed to kombucha have been primarily anecdotal; however, as kombucha consumption has increased, scientists are beginning to question what causes the supposed benefits, with many researchers attributing the advantages to kombucha’s microbial ecosystem. Previous research examining kombucha produced with different types of tea demonstrated many variations in the microbiome. Therefore, manipulating the amount of tea used and the tea brewing methods may affect the microbiome of kombucha as well. This study was conducted to determine how different kombucha production techniques – tea concentration and steeping temperature – alter the kombucha’s microbiome. For this project, kombucha was made using varying concentrations of black tea and a range of brewing temperatures to determine if either had an effect on the microbial profile. The teas were fermented to the desired end-point and were then plated on selective agars to identify and quantify the types of microbes present. The results of this study will provide further insight into how different production practices affect the microbial profile of kombucha and how that might translate to the wellbeing of the consumer.

Lily Medley

Geochemical and Petrographic Attributes of Lavas Erupted at Small Volcanic Centers in Northern Oregon: Implications for Magma Formation Within an Intra-Volcanic Arc Graben

Faculty Mentor: Warner Cribb

Abstract: Quaternary volcanism in the northern Oregon Cascade Range is dominated by eruption of calc-alkaline andesite to rhyodacite lava flows and associated pyroclastic deposits at long-lived, subduction-driven composite volcanoes, such as Mt. Hood and Mount Jefferson. This study investigates small and more mafic Quaternary volcanoes in the Mt. Hood vicinity, including Clear Lake Butte (CLB), Pinhead Buttes (PHB), and Olallie Butte (OB). These volcanoes are located within an intra-volcanic arc graben, which developed approximately 7-8 Ma to the south and propagated northward to the Mt. Hood region. The research objective is to identify geochemical and petrographic similarities and differences among intra-arc graben lavas in order to better understand the conditions of magma formation at small volcanoes in the central to northern Oregon Cascade Range. This research is a comparison of geochemical and petrographic characteristics of Quaternary basalt and basaltic andesite lavas erupted at small volcanoes within the northern graben to those of primary and near-primary lavas, mainly erupted within southern graben regions.

Tia Shutes

Initiation and Cannabinoid Assessment of Trichomes on Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa) Tissue Callus

Faculty Mentor: John DuBois

Abstract: Industrial hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is a species of the Cannabaceae family, used for many medical and industrial purposes, which centers around the cannabinoids of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These compounds are produced in trichomes (microscopic plant hairs), located on the surface of the plant. The objective of this project was to initiate trichomes via callus of various industrial hemp varieties and assess the cannabinoid concentration within the trichomes. using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC analysis of the callus produced from the Cherry, Cherry Blossom, and Cherry x Workhorse varieties showed promising presence of CBD. By successfully achieving this objective, researchers will have the ability to more effectively study trichome growth and cannabinoid production under laboratory conditions, which could ultimately lead to breakthroughs in future botany research and holistic medical discoveries.

Dirhat Mohammed

Graduate Teaching Assistants’ Cognition Related to Teaching: A Comparison of STEM and Non-STEM Groups

Faculty Mentor: Grant E. Gardner

Abstract: Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) teach a large number of undergraduate students in many university departments, yet receive few opportunities for teaching professional development (PD). Understanding how to design effective, evidence-based PD requires scholars to first recognize graduate students’ perception of teaching and learning that they bring to the classroom. However, there is very little research dedicated to measuring these variables related to effective teaching in GT As. Given the wide spectrum of disciplines that GTAs teach in, to better enhance the undergraduate education quality, the quality of PD programs for the GTA must be improved. This study examines whether STEM and non-STEM GT As cognition related to teaching differ between cognitive subscales of the instruments used, as well as whether there is a change in cognitive subscales on these instruments between pre- and post-surveys. Five instruments were used with a sample of n = 52 GTAs from various departments at a large southeastern university: Teacher Beliefs Instrument, Pedagogical Discontentment Inventory, Teaching Self-Efficacy Beliefs, Goal Orientations Toward Teaching, and the Instructional Practices. Results showed that there is no statistical difference between STEM and non-STEM groups’ cognition related to teaching, and there were changes in the cognitive subscales over pre- and post-surveys.

Read event coverage from MTSU News.

Seven students were selected to represent Middle Tennessee State University at the 2019 Posters at the Capitol event on February 26, 2019, in Nashville, TN.

Student: Tessa Antonelli
Faculty Mentor: Molly Taylor-Polesky
Project Title: Violence of American Serial Killers in the 1970s Using the Criminological Psychology of John Wayne Gacy as the Model

Abstract: This paper examines the upbringing and crimes of John Wayne Gacy, and how his experiences in childhood and beyond shaped his sociopathic behavior, leading him to be exposed as one of America’s most prolific serial killers. Additionally, my objective in my research is to explore why in the 1970s, America was plagued by violence caused by a rise in serial killers. Throughout the paper, varying factors in childhood abuse and trauma among serial killers of the late-1960s through early-1980s are highlighted. In addition to the violent nature of the crimes, the research also argues that the sexual nature of these serial killers’ murders are rooted in the severely disturbing upbringings they share. Ultimately, through newspaper articles, first-person accounts, and courtroom testimonies along with historiographic research and psychology journals the landscape of American violence in the 1970s is proved to be entrenched in the home, and the societal lack for protection of children.

Student: Caldwell Charlet
Faculty Mentor: Seockmo Ku
Project Title: Whole Cell Biocatalysis of Major Ginsenosides in Ginseng Beer Wort Using Saccharomyces Cerevisiae

Abstract: Korean (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolius) ginseng are greatly valued plant medicines in the nutraceutical market. Ginseng contains phytochemicals such as triterpenoid saponins (a.k.a. ginsenosides), acidic polysaccharides, polyynes and volatile oils. Among them, ginsenosides are regarded as the key bioactive substances responsible for functional activities (e.g., anticancer, antitumor, antistress, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and antioxidant effects). As major ginsenosides, Korean ginseng contains Rb1, Rc, Re, Rg1 and Rb2; American ginseng contains Rb1, Re and Rc. Despite the diverse functional properties of major ginsenosides in ginseng, the physiological applicability of ginsenosides is limited due to their high molecular weight and poor lipid bilayer permeability. Therefore, this paper details a process developed to biotransform major ginsenosides to more bioavailable deglycosylated ginsenosides via yeast biocatalysis accompanied by wort fermentation (beer production.) To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work describing bioconversion of major ginsenosides via wort fermentation.

Student: Abigail Choisser
Faculty Mentor: J. Warner Cribb
Project Title: Insight into Interrelationships among Density, Viscosity, Crystallinity and Chemical Composition within Hypocrystalline Intermediate Lavas, Mt. Hood Volcano, Oregon

Abstract: Studying relationships between rheological properties, mineralogy, and chemical composition of magmas is important to understanding numerous processes, such as magma buoyancy, magma mixing, and rate of magma emplacement. This study examines the relationships between density, viscosity, chemical composition, mineralogical content, and percent crystallinity in intermediate magmas at Mt. Hood volcano in the Cascade Range. Most are two-pyroxene andesites (SiO2= 58 – 61 wt %) and basaltic andesites (SiO2 = 52 – 58 wt %). Temperature-dependent viscosities were calculated using the Giordano et al. (2008) method. Melt densities were calculated using partial molar volumes of oxide components using the Bottinga and Weill (1970) method. Both density and viscosity were calculated at temperatures ranging 700oC to 1200oC. Densities span 2.41 g/cm3 at 1200oC to 2.54 g/cm3 at 700oC. Viscosities span log η = 2.23 PaS at 1200oC to log η = 12.62 PaS at 700oC. Percent crystallinity of XRD sample spectra vary from 63% crystalline at log η = 2.23 PaS (SiO2 = 52.49 wt %) to 55% at log η = 3.58 PaS (SiO2 = 61.34 wt %). Density and viscosities when graphically correlated to crystallinity and chemical composition, provide insight into interrelationships among these physical properties within the volcano’s pre-eruptive magmatic system.

Student: Joseph Gulizia
Faculty Mentor: Kevin Downs
Project Title: The Influence of Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) Age on In Situ Rumen Degradation

Abstract: Early and late season kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) leaves were collected to analyze dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), acid detergent fiber (ADF), and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) in situ rumen disappearance to assess kudzu quality. Four studies were conducted during different growing seasons [2 repeated early season (ES); 2 repeated late season (LS)] to determine age variability effects. Kudzu collected from 7 middle Tennessee counties were incubated in the rumen for designated lengths of time (0.25, 1, 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 h) to determine total rumen degradation (%) and rate of disappearance (% / h). Data were analyzed as a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with repeated measures. Regression analysis was used to determine degradation rate. Overall season effects (across incubation times) for dry matter disappearance (DMD) were significantly different (P < 0.0001). Significant season by incubation time interactions were exhibited for total DMD at 12 (P < 0.0001), 24 (P = 0.0004), 36 (P = 0.0055), 48 (P = 0.0209), and 72 h (P = 0.0384) incubation, with an average rumen degradability of ES kudzu being 9.75% higher than LS between 12 and 72 h. Slope regression between 1 and 24 h determined a rumen degradation rate of 2.41% / h across both seasons, with no significant seasonal difference (P = 0.3396). These results are indicative that ES kudzu is more highly rumen degradable than LS, as evidenced by the significant season by incubation time interactions between 12 and 72 h of incubation. Although there are significant seasonal effects on kudzu DMD during certain incubation times, DMD overall for ES and LS is still indicative of high rumen degradability with an average of 81.45% at 72 h across both seasons. Season effects were minimal for NDF, ADF, and CP rumen disappearance.

Student: Hannah Hall
Faculty Mentor: John Dubois
Project Title: Inducing Somatic Embryogenesis of Grape (Vitis aestivalis “Norton/Cynthiana”) Callus

Abstract: Vitis aestivalis ‘Norton/Cynthiana’ is a hybrid commercial wine grape that is not reliably propagated by vegetative propagation. Tissue culture provides an alternative method for plant propagation. Due to a fungal endophyte that exists within the plant V. aestivalis obtaining unorganized callus cultures is a major challenge. With the Wilson et al. (2016) protocol fungus-free callus cultures can be obtained from explant tissue. The next step towards plantlet regeneration is inducing somatic embryogenesis from callus cultures. In our most recent study, callus cultures of two-plus years-old, 7-8 months-old, and four-months-old were plated onto new media types containing different combinations of plant growth regulators. Experimental media types contained varying levels of auxin (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid or naphthoxyacetic acid) and cytokinin (benzylaminopurine), in the attempt to induce somatic embryogenesis. Phenylalanine was also added to increase rates of embryogenesis. Results showed no embryogenic responses. Media containing Murashige & Skoog salts showed higher rates of stress and death. Media with Lloyd & McCown salts produced compact callus with elongated growth. Younger callus showed a faster response to treatment, producing elongated and compact structures soon after receiving growth regulator treatment.

Student: Kaylee Lindgren
Faculty Mentor: Nikki Jones
Project Title: Service Dogs in the Classroom for Children with Autism

Abstract: In the United States, approximately 1 in 59 children born are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Baio et al., 2018). Children that are diagnosed with ASD experience cognitive, emotional, and social deficits, resulting in antisocial interactions, negative behavior, and repetitive tendencies. Additionally, medical complications can be present in a child diagnosed with ASD. Multiple studies have shown service dogs to be beneficial to the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of a child with ASD. These benefits are present not only at home, but in an educational setting as well. Current federal policy permits the use of service dogs in public locations, but due to inconsistencies, lack of support, and enforcement in the legislation, parents are still having difficulties accessing aid of service dogs inside of the classroom. Furthermore, Tennessee policy regarding service dogs is outdated, magnifying the barriers in which parents have to go through to access the use of ASD service dogs inside of the classroom. Until federal and state policies can be amended to ensure service dogs will be permitted in the classroom, children with ASD and other disabilities will be at an educational disadvantage.

Student: Sabrina Spicer
Faculty Mentor: Kevin Bicker & Erin McClelland
Project Title: Towards a Clinical Antifungal Peptoid; Investigations into the Therapeutic Potential of AEC5

Abstract: Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungal pathogen that causes cryptococcal meningitis in immunocompromised individuals. Current therapeutic options for cryptococcal infections are limited. Existing antifungal treatment plans have high mammalian toxicity and increased drug resistance, demonstrating the dire need for new, non-toxic therapeutics. Antimicrobial peptoids are one alternative to combat this issue. Structurally similar to antimicrobial peptides, AMPs capitalize on the efficacy of the innate immune response inherent of antimicrobial peptides while decreasing toxicity and drastically improving in-vivo stability. Our lab has successfully identified a tripeptoid, AEC5, with promising therapeutic potential against Cryptococcus neoformans. Studies into the mechanism of action, in-vivo half-life, and sub-chronic toxicity have further characterized AEC5 as a viable antimicrobial. Most notably, these studies determined an in-vivo half-life of 25 hours, as well as no in-vivo toxicity. This research represents an important step in the characterization of AEC5 as a practical treatment option against Cryptococcus neoformans, and also the development of new antifungal therapeutics as a whole.

Maia CouncilSeniorMolly PoleskeyHistoryCLARecover Nashville’s Past
Brooke FitzwaterSeniorDennis MullenBiologyCBASHabitat Selection by 2 Chilean Subtidal Blennies under Predation Pressure in a Chilean Coastal Ecosystem
Natalie FoulksSeniorKathryn BlankenshipHHPCBHSNarrative Discourse Performance in Older Adults
Lauren HennesseeJuniorDavid CarletonGlobal Studies and Human GeographyCLAWhy Do Some States in the Middle East Have a Higher Level of Democratization than Others?
Janie KullmarSeniorKathryn BlankenshipHHPCBHSWord Learning in Authentic Versus Explicit Conditions
Salman RahmaniSeniorNate CallenderAerospaceCBASFlow Control of 3-Dimensional Bodies Utilizing CFD
Benjamin YostSophDavid CarletonGlobal Studies and Human GeographyCLAUnderstanding the Modern Stage of International Adoption

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