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Undergraduate Research at the Capitol

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
9:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Pennsylvania Capitol Building
East Wing Rotunda
Harrisburg, PA

Penn State undergrads, along with students from other Pennsylvania colleges and universities, will have an opportunity to show legislators how they are engaged in research or scholarship. The "Undergraduate Research at the Capitol" event, scheduled for March 11th, 2014 in Harrisburg, is an opportunity for students to present posters about their work at the State Capitol, and for students and their faculty mentors to meet with legislators and their staffs.

According to Jacqueline S. McLaughlin, Penn State Lehigh Valley Associate Professor of Biology and Co-Chair of Undergraduate Research at the Capitol, Penn State prides itself in the faculty mentorship that it provides to its diverse undergraduate population throughout its unified and statewide university system. What is being showcased on March 11, 2014 in our state's capitol in the midst of our state legislators are some of university's finest examples of faculty-student collaborations in undergraduate research, as well as the real-world relevance of this research to society. Penn State, and all other institutions of higher education that partake in undergraduate research, help to shape well-informed, critical thinkers, and innovators of society who can meet the challenges of our future.

Penn State students will present posters with topics including:the relationship of breast cancer and breastfeeding, the portrayal of teen parenting and the media, robotic navigation for wheelchairs, intracellular molecular motors, invasive plant species, hemoglobin expression, artistic collaboration and culture, and the influence of religiosity on the quality of life.

More information about the event can be found at www.pasen.gov/URCPA.


Posters by Penn State undergraduates

POSTER 1
Student Attendee:
Ronald Mack

ABSTRACT BOOKLET INFORMATION:
Student Author(s): Ronald Mack, Jr., Zeynep Bostanci, Samina Alam, Sooyeon Lee, David I. Soybel Faculty Research Advisor Name and Email Address: Shannon L. Kelleher, slk39@psu.edu Institution: The Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus Department: Nutritional Sciences

Title & Abstract:
MARGINAL ZINC (ZN) DEFICIENCY IMPAIRS MAMMARY GLAND INVOLUTION, INCREASES OXIDATIVE STRESS AND DISRUPTS DUCTAL INTEGRITY ABROGATING THE PROTECTIVE EFFECT OF LACTATION ON BREAST TUMORIGENESIS IN A MOUSE MODEL

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. While breastfeeding can reduce breast cancer risk, several studies found no protective effect. Previously we showed that marginal zinc (Zn) deficiency compromises mammary gland (MG) expansion and function during lactation and is associated with hallmarks of pre-neoplastic lesions, including as collagen deposition, macrophage infiltration, and ductal hyperplasia in nulliparous mice. Herein, we hypothesized that marginal Zn deficiency modifies the effect of breastfeeding on breast cancer risk. C57BL/6 mice fed a Zn adequate (ZA; 30mg Zn/kg) or Zn deficient (ZD; 15mg Zn/ kg) diet were bred, and 2 wk post-weaning were gavaged with 7,12-dimethylbenzanthracene (DMBA; 1mg/0.1mL corn oil) or corn oil (control) weekly for 4 wk. Tumor progression was monitored for 24 wk. ZD mice had insufficient involution, shorter tumor latency (p=0.05), and tended to have greater palpable (35% vs 12% p=0.137) and non-palpable tumors (p=0.08). ZD mice had greater oxidative stress, e-cadherin expression and collagen deposition in the MG. Mammary tumors in ZD mice had significantly greater Zn content and characteristics of a more invasive phenotype. Our results suggest that consuming inadequate Zn may impair post- lactational regression and modify the protective effect of breastfeeding on breast cancer.


 

POSTER 2
Student Attendee(s):
Nicole Good
Samantha Mattingly
Mallory Pell

Faculty/Administrator Attendee:
Jaelyn R. Farris, Ph.D.
jfarris@psu.edu
717-948-6404

ABSTRACT BOOKLET INFORMATION:
Student Author(s): Jessica Homick, Nicole Good, Samantha Mattingly, Mallory Pell, Michelle Willis, & Anna Loy Institution: The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg Campus Department: Human Development & Family Studies

Title & Abstract:
PORTRAYALS OF TEEN PARENTING ON TELEVISION: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICYMAKERS

Although teen pregnancy and teen parenting are not new phenomena, in recent years they have captured the attention of the media, policymakers, researchers, and educators. Popular shows like MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom often form the foundation for people's perceptions about teen pregnancy and parenting, and may have resulting implications for how people treat pregnant and parenting teens. However, teen parents who gain notoriety in the media represent only a small fraction of the general population and are often paid for their roles in the shows; as such, these portrayals may not accurately represent the life of a typical teen parent. The present study provides a quantitative analysis of portrayals of teen parenting on the show Teen Mom and compares these depictions to empirical evidence in an effort to resolve questions about the accuracy of popular media portrayals of this important yet controversial topic. This poster will report results of the present study and discuss implications for policymakers who aim to enhance prevention and intervention efforts.


 

POSTER 3
Student Attendee:
Anthony Trezza

Faculty/Administrator Attendee:
Dr. Sean Brennan
snb10@engr.psu.edu
814-441-2388

ABSTRACT BOOKLET INFORMATION:
Student Author: Anthony Trezza
Institution: The Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus
Department: Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

Title & Abstract:
LOW COST SENSING APPROACH TO SIMULTANEOUS LOCALIZATION AND MAPPING OF PERMANENT MAGNETIC FIELDS FOR INDOOR ROBOTIC NAVIGATION

There have been long-standing dreams of using robots to provide extra functionality, care, and comfort to our living environments, offices, factories, and warehouses. However, this dream is thwarted by the difficulty of a robot to know its position indoors. GPS signals are not reliable inside buildings; lighting conditions for camera-based guidance are highly variable; modifications to the built environment can be expensive and intrusive.

This research investigates the use of low-cost, highly sensitive magnetometers to accurately measure the passive magnetic field strength produced in indoor environments. Such fields have distinct fingerprints due to distortions caused by near-by magnetic materials at discrete locations such as door frames, electrical conduit, rebar within slabs, etc. By measuring the magnetic fields within a building at known positions, a three dimensional plot can be produced depicting the shape of the magnetic field. This creates a unique map that the robot could then use for navigation. Using a common localization approach such as particle filtering, the robot's position can be approximated by matching the instantaneously measured values with the known map. This research is prototyping the use of this technology to develop low-cost guidance systems for wheelchairs with the intent to assist ALS patients maintain mobility.


 

POSTER 4
Student Attendee:
Nathan Deffenbaugh

ABSTRACT BOOKLET INFORMATION:
Student Author: Nathan Deffenbaugh
Faculty Research Advisor: William Hancock, wohbio@engr.psu.edu
Institution: The Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus
Department: Biomedical Engineering

Title & Abstract:
HIGH RESOLUTION TRACKING OF SINGLE-MOLECULE KINESIN MOTOR PROTEINS BY TIRF MICROSCOPY

Kinesins are intracellular molecular motors that use energy from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) hydrolysis to perform directed movement along cytoplasmic filaments called microtubules. Kinesin proteins facilitate axonal and intraflagellar transport, and play a critical role in mitotic spindle formation during cell division. Their dysfunction has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Additionally, kinesin's role in mitotic spindle formation makes it a relevant target for anti-cancer therapies aiming to inhibit cancer cell division and proliferation. There are numerous subfamilies within the kinesin protein superfamily, and the details of their diverse molecular mechanisms are not well understood. We use total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy to image individual kinesin proteins moving along fixed microtubules in vitro, followed by systematic fitting of their point spread functions to 2D Gaussian profiles in order to achieve position tracking on the order of 1-10 nm resolution and detection of individual motor domain steps. This allows us to uncover details of different kinesin protein's molecular mechanisms, which is critical for understanding their diverse cellular roles.


 

POSTER 5
Student Attendee(s):
Stacy Koperna
Harnoor Singh

Faculty/Administrator Attendee(s):
Dr. Rod Heisey
rmh11@psu.edu
570-385-6063

Dr. Darcy Medica
dlm56@psu.edu
570-385-6176

ABSTRACT BOOKLET INFORMATION:
Student Author(s): Stacy Koperna and Harnoor Singh
Institution: The Pennsylvania State University, Schuylkill Campus
Department: Biology

Title & Abstract:
WHY DOES TREE-OF-HEAVEN PRODUCE TOXIC CHEMICALS?

Many plants brought into the United States from other countries have invaded wild habitats. These invasive species are a serious problem because they displace native species, sometimes causing them to go extinct. Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) was brought into the United States from China in the 1700s and is invasive in Pennsylvania. We are trying to determine why it is such a successful invader. Tree-of-heaven contains chemicals in its seeds that may be toxic, and we hypothesized they enable tree-of-heaven to inhibit the growth of neighboring plants or harm insects that eat its seeds. We tested extracts of tree-of-heaven seeds on native and non-native plants. Laboratory tests in petri dishes showed that the seed extracts strongly inhibited the growth of both plants, but non-native plants were more sensitive. Surprisingly, tree-of-heaven seeds did not inhibit plant growth when tested in soil, a more natural condition. Seed extracts did have toxic effects on mosquito larvae. A concentration of 0.1g/L caused 87% mortality and concentrations of 0.2g/L or more caused 100% mortality, compared to 33% mortality in the distilled water control. We conclude that chemicals in tree-of-heaven seeds may contribute to its invasiveness by preventing insects from eating them; however, more research is needed.


 

POSTER 6
Student Attendee(s):
Paolo Flauta
Matthew Mekolichick

Faculty/Administrator Attendee(s):
Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlin;
jshea@psu.edu
610-285-5109

Melissa Coyle
msg110@psu.edu
610-285-5177

ABSTRACT BOOKLET INFORMATION:
Student Author(s): Paolo Flauta and Matthew Mekolichick
Faculty Research Advisor(s):
Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlin, jshea@psu.edu
Melissa Coyle, msg110@psu.edu
The Pennsylvania State University, Lehigh Valley Campus Department: Biology

Title & Abstract:
HEMOGLOBIN EXPRESSION IN ARA-C INDUCED LEUKEMIC K562 CELLS

K-562 is a cell line from a patient in the blast phase of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) and is commonly used as an in vitro experimental system to study the effects of anti-leukemic drugs. Cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C) is frequently used to treat cancers by disrupting DNA synthesis as it is similar enough to cytosine to be incorporated into DNA and disrupt mitosis. Normally, Ara-C treatment is fatal to cancer cells; however, in the K-562 cell line, Ara-C has been found to induce erythroid (red blood cell) differentiation in a sub-population of cells. Herein, to better understand hemoglobin induction (which globin genes are expressed and whether it is of adult or fetal origin) by Ara-C, quantitative cell counting, benzidine staining and immunofluorescence (IF) was performed. Results localized the presence of ?, ?, and ? globin subunits in treated K562 cells and substantiated the claim that as exposure to Ara-C increases, Hb presence increases. Drug induced expression of fetal globin genes are of keen interest, not only for treatment of individuals with various types of leukemia, but also for individuals with abnormalities of hemoglobin structure like sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia.

Research Sponsor(s):
Penn State Lehigh Valley; Olympus; Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc.


 

POSTER 7
Student Attendee:
Erica Lampe

Faculty/Administrator Attendee:
Yvonne Love, Assistant Professor
ymm1@psu.edu
215-262-0373

ABSTRACT BOOKLET INFORMATION:
Student Author: Erica Lampe
Institution: The Pennsylvania State University, Abington Campus
Department: Art

Title& Abstract:
ARTIST COLLABORATION IN CUBA

This project researches the collaborative process between female artists in the US and Cuba. The project explores how artists respond to place, culture, diaspora, identity and boundaries, and how the arts can create bridges between separated cultures. Traveling to Cuba twice, we observed eight working artists, four from the US and four from Cuba and also developed our own series of collaborative pieces. Some of the ideas explored in the collaborations were: observing how a concept develops and changes, observing how the experience of collaboration changed viewpoints, exposed metaphoric boundaries, borders and identities and opened a richness of shared experience between the artist's physical and artistic juxtapositions.


 

POSTER 8
Student Attendee:
Neha Nagpal

ABSTRACT BOOKLET INFORMATION:
Student Author: Neha Nagpal
Faculty Research Advisor: Steve Zarit; z67@psu.edu
Institution: The Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus
Department: Human Development and Family Studies

Title & Abstract:
THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGIOSITY ON QUALITY OF LIFE: INDIVIDUALS WITH DEMENTIA AND THEIR FAMILY CAREGIVERS

Religion has been cited as a positive coping mechanism for dealing with chronic illnesses and stress. Studies yield mixed results on the role of religion for family caregivers of individuals with dementia. Research concerning religiosity of individuals with dementia has not been extensively explored. One hundred eleven individuals with mild to moderate dementia (IWDs) and their family caregivers were interviewed to evaluate IWDs' values and preferences, including religious preferences. Using multiple regression and multi-level modeling, we examined how measures of religiosity (attendance, prayer, and subjective ratings of religiosity and its importance) influence quality of life (QoL) in IWDs and their family caregivers. Regression analyses indicate that religiosity is not significantly associated with caregivers' QoL. However, religiosity is associated with higher QoL in IWDs. To examine the findings for IWDs further, an actor-partner multi-level model was used to account for the interdependent relationship of dyads. IWDs' self-reported importance of religiosity was positively associated with self-perceived and caregiver-perceived IWD QoL. These findings suggest that people with early-stage dementia use religiosity as a positive coping mechanism as they face a catastrophic illness. Given the dependence of IWDs on caregivers to participate in religious activities, it is important that caregivers understand IWDs' religious values.