Research Scholars – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Research Scholars

Beyond the Walls of Our Classrooms: Creating Authentic Audiences for Students

Nicole Tooley | Research Scholars

When teachers extend the purpose of an assignment beyond the walls of a classroom, students begin to care. Through an exploration of creative-writing pedagogy and the latest advancements in technology and publishing, this research aims to explore how to implement authentic audiences in secondary ELA and creative writing classrooms. Whether that be through letter-writing, community-based projects, or submitting work out to literary journals, the hope is that students will be able to confidently answer questions like “Who are we writing for?” and “Why does this matter?” To make the findings of this research more accessible to the intended audience of secondary teachers and students, this research will adopt and be delivered through one of the proposed forms of publication: the zine.

BME Career Exploration: Examining Students’ Connection with the Field

Annie Wang | Research Scholars

Historically, BME undergraduate programs have been successful in exposing students to the broad spectrum of knowledge required to adequately address problems in engineering and medicine. While this has allowed for flexibility in the careers that undergraduate biomedical engineers can enter, many BME students believe that the broad curriculum can lead employers to perceive them as underprepared to enter industry positions upon graduation. Recent studies have validated this concern as BME students report fewer co-op and industry internship placements pre-graduation, enter the job market with fewer available jobs seeking BME graduates, and receive lower average annual salaries than other engineering disciplines. However, despite the challenges, students continue to pursue and persist through BME undergraduate degrees. If the perception is that their options are limited in industry, it is important to identify and understand the careers that students view as attainable and choose to pursue. To explore what students perceived as possible for a career upon graduation and how students understand possible careers in BME, this longitudinal study examined changes in BME students’ career aspirations over time. Fourteen (14) undergraduate BME students were interviewed three times over the course of their third year at a large R1, public university. A qualitative, open-coding approach to identify patterns of change at the individual and group levels. Findings indicated that most participants had a narrow initial view of possible careers in the field. Over the course of the study, changes in participants’ understanding of career possibilities were observed based on if they had already decided what career they wished to pursue or not. For those who had not decided on a career yet, concrete exposures to possible BME careers were important to their development of more optimistic BME career outlooks. Suggestions for future research to more broadly understand BME students’ career exploration is also presented.

Culturally-Situated Design Tools: Exploring Spirals and Adinkra Digital Carving as Methods of Ethnocomputing Education

Xiyu Zhong | Research Scholars

Representing different proverbs and aphorisms, Adinkra symbols are common in Ghanaian art and are drawn from deep observance and understanding of nature, where logarithmic spiral appears frequently. In the previous works, researchers have found that the Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDTs), which are coding blocks that teach programming principles while representing math principles in Adinkra symbols, enable more inclusive educational practices while inspiring students to actively engage the connections between computational thinking and cultural knowledges. This research project further explores ethnomathematics and ethnocomputing teaching. Through creating new coding blocks that simulate art creation, we incorporate more abstraction concepts in the log spiral pattern and fractals that appear in indigenous art. We explore the perception of learners who are engaged in the process and compare alternative designs of the teaching materials while evaluating previous designs. We expect these results to assist in facilitating the content-aware design process with interfaces that promote hands-on learning, creativity, and continued interest while teaching mathematical concepts, ultimately contributing to more profound connections and respect to indigenous culture. Further work includes continuing to evaluate and update the designs that performed well when translating the abstract principles, technologies, and skills with the combination of indigenous art.

Discrimination in Selective Enrollment Chicago Public High Schools

Laura Davalos | Research Scholars

On the surface, the CPS (Chicago Public Schools) selective enrollment system seems to provide students with many opportunities and offers students access to a quality education at a high-performing school. Recently, however, both students and teachers have been speaking up about discrimination at these schools. This study will evaluate the different types of discrimination that students experience within the top five selective enrollment schools and discuss possible solutions to ending discrimination. This study specifically examines the question: What are the impacts of selective enrollment school practices on educational equity in urban school systems, particularly in Chicago Public Schools? A qualitative mixed methods study was used to analyze the student experience at these schools. We collected data from instagram posts from BIPOC Instagram pages from four of the five schools that were studied. Teacher interviews and local school council meetings were also used to gather information on the student experience at these schools. From these sources we found that racism and other forms of discrimination from teachers and staff members often can make students feel as if they are not wanted or do not belong at their high school. In addition to the issue of white supremacy, students also report that these selective schools often don’t consider other struggles that their students face when it comes to socioeconomic struggles. Many students also felt like their schools did not support them when they faced sexual harassment in these schools. All of these types of discrimination lead to a culture of discrimination where students feel like their concerns are being ignored by the school. This paper also looked into possible solutions for these issues of discrimination which included anti-racist staff training, minority teacher recruitment/retention, listening to student input, anti-racist curriculum and creating an anti-racist culture at schools.

Effects of Social Determinants of Health on Infant Mortality in Washtenaw and Wayne County

Alyssa Cadez-Martin | Research Scholars

Infant mortality is the death of an infant within the first year of life, and this is a very useful indicator of population health. The United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates among developed countries, and while the reason for this remains unclear, it is hypothesized that social determinants of health play a large role. Social determinants of health are conditions in the lives of people that affect health risks and outcomes. It is still unclear how these determinants influence infant mortality, and which determinants have the most influence. In Michigan, the infant mortality rate as of 2018 was 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2018). This puts Michigan high on the spectrum within the United States, and just as these rates differ by country, they also differ by state and even county. It was hypothesized that by studying two counties with different infant mortality rates, the difference could be attributed to the social determinants of health that vary among these populations. Therefore, if it can be determined that particular determinants have a more significant influence on infant mortality rates, then vulnerable populations can be more easily identified, and implementation efforts can be better catered to these populations and their disadvantages. Infant mortality data were collected from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from 2010-2018 for both Washtenaw and Wayne County, Michigan. Additional data were collected from the United States Census Bureau from 2010-2018 regarding social determinants such as poverty rate, unemployment rate, uninsured rate, race, and education level for both counties. After performing a series of calculations including linear regressions and logistic regression curves to find odds ratios, no correlation was found between the infant mortality rates and any of the determinants. Therefore, it can be concluded that one social determinant of health is unlikely to be a good predictor of infant outcomes. Instead, high infant mortality rates are likely a result of interactions between several determinants that, together, increase an infant’s risk. Therefore, simultaneous targeting of multiple determinants is necessary to implement meaningful interventions.

Examining Resistance in Military Occupations

Edha Shirodkar | Research Scholars

The original research project in my first year of UROP was a historical analysis of different wars throughout history using factors outlined in Dr. Marcum’s research to determine whether a military occupation occurred, and then to determine whether or not the occupation failed. The current project is my independent research idea that looks at the military occupations from the perspective of the occupied countries rather than the occupiers. My initial goal of the project was to examine various cases of occupations and any instances of resistance from the occupied countries to figure out a framework for analyzing types of resistance. I used previous research done on resistance for occupations in Korea and Taiwan in Japan as my background research. In Resistance to alien rule in Taiwan and Korea (Hechter, Mateson, Hale 2009), the article conducts a comparative analysis of Japanese colonial rule in Korea versus Taiwan and how different factors of the colonial rule affected the duration and strength of the resistance in these two countries. Using this previous research, I examined resistance in the Mexican-American American War in 1846-1848 and the French Indochina War of 1858-1862 to see how the resistance strategies compared, and identified what factors contribute to the differences in resistance.

Filter Bubbles in Social Networks

Ashley Anderson | Research Scholars

This project will investigate how filter bubbles — groups that are filled with people that share similar opinions that are isolated from others — form in social networks. Through simulated social networks with human participants, the spread of opinions and information are assessed as participants alter the structure of their social network by adding and removing neighbors. The participants’ decisions in altering their social network is made after participants view their neighbors’ responses in controversial issues. As a result, the impact of disagreement and differing opinions is analyzed. This study not only investigates the importance of a participant’s needs to surround themselves with like-minded people, but also explores how participants view their neighbors. The overall structure of the social network is examined between the rounds as groups begin to form in the social network. By studying these group formations, we hope to pinpoint the factors that further cause filter bubble formation.

Gene Editing for Combating Disease: Biology

Brett Silber | Research Scholars

The use of non-viral vectors to deliver the CRISPR/Cas9 complex to target cells is beneficial as they can potentially negate the immunological response that a host may have to the viral vector used in the present. In order to validate this, one must first identify the optimal guide RNA for the Cas9 complex to the target DNA sequence, which is done through PCR amplification and gel electrophoresis. The next phase is to image the cells by immunofluorescence. The transfected cells were then compared to the baseline cells to visualize the effects that the CRISPR/Cas9 complex on the cells.

Gene Editing for Combating Disease: Biology

Ann Gladstone | Research Scholars

The use of non-viral vectors to deliver the CRISPR/Cas9 complex to target cells is beneficial as they can potentially negate the immunological response that a host may have to the viral vector used in the present. In order to validate this, one must first identify the optimal guide RNA for the Cas9 complex to the target DNA sequence, which is done through PCR amplification and gel electrophoresis. The next phase is to image the cells by immunofluorescence. The transfected cells were then compared to the baseline cells to visualize the effects that the CRISPR/Cas9 complex on the cells.

Gene Editing for Combating Disease: Biology

Pramith Senaratne | Research Scholars

The use of non-viral vectors to deliver the CRISPR/Cas9 complex to target cells is beneficial as they can potentially negate the immunological response that a host may have to the viral vector used in the present. In order to validate this, one must first identify the optimal guide RNA for the Cas9 complex to the target DNA sequence, which is done through PCR amplification and gel electrophoresis. The next phase is to image the cells by immunofluorescence. The transfected cells were then compared to the baseline cells to visualize the effects that the CRISPR/Cas9 complex on the cells.

Imaging of the effects of GLP-1 on pancreatic ilets (morphometry, in vivo imaging…)

Chloe Ruscilli | Research Scholars

GLP-1 stands for glucagon-like protein-1. The GLP-1 is an incretin mostly secreted by intestinal epithelial endocrine L-cells, which are the cells lining the inside of the large intestine. It is secreted into the bloodstream when a meal is eaten. GLP-1 travels through the bloodstream to influence many different organs in our body such as our brain, liver, and pancreas. This research focuses on how GLP-1 affects islets in the pancreas. Since the GLP-1 protein has the ability to decrease blood sugar levels by promoting the production of insulin, the protein has been a topic of interest for pharmacological research. GLP-1 is currently being used in treatments for type 2 diabetes. The effects of the GLP-1 protein are known in adults, however, nothing is known about GLP-1 influence during development. This project investigates the effects of the GLP-1 protein on islets in the pancreas during development. We hypothesize that mice without GLP-1 receptors will have less islet cell mass and less proliferation. If there is no difference between pups with GLP-1 receptor and without the GLP-1 receptor, we expect to see no difference in mass nor proliferation of cells. Not much research has been done on the effects of GLP-1 during embryonic development, which is what this project is attempting to uncover. Further exploring this protein’s effect on islet activity in developing pups can supply the field with more important information.

Improving Mental Health, Manhood, and Social Support for Black Boys: The YBMen Project

Arushi Chandrakapure | Research Scholars

Conversations about mental health and masculinity and subsequent support in these realms is disproportionately low among Black males ages 18 to 30, and notably so at predominantly white, tertiary education institutions. Developed in 2008 by Dr. Daphne C. Watkins at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, The Young Black Men, Masculinities, and Mental Health (YBMen) Project was founded as an online social support and health education research initiative. Seeking to provide a safe space for young Black collegiate men to discuss mental health and identity concerns, the online format was shaped to decrease barriers to honest discussion. Given the historical reluctance of Black men ages 18-30 to discuss mental well-being and masculinity related issues in face to face settings, The YBMen Project in its current form mindfully considers the cultural sensitivity and gender norms influencing this trend to create a virtual space more suited to their needs. Targeting Black men in preclinical stages of mental health distress, the project focuses on attending to young Black men with a desire to express emotional and psychological needs within a cultural milieu that has not previously proven conducive to this process. Beginning its first phase in 2013, the YBMen Project has spread to multiple midwest college campuses to both implement and test the efficacy of the program in addressing a hegemonic view of Black masculinity and its related mental health issues. In the context of the previous work done on other campuses, this sub-study examines the feasibility of effecting the YBMen Project on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus and discusses the impact of Covid-19’s virtual world on the availability of resources for Black males at UM and perceptions of receptivity to an online e-health intervention. This research will address the willingness, needs, and methods best suited for the mental health and social support needs of Black men at the University of Michigan (UM) with respect to the intersectionality of their culture and identity.

Institutional Responses to Substance Using Pregnant Women

Kailyn Simmons | Research Scholars

Our research looked into institutional responses to substance-using pregnant women. Institutions include entities such as the criminal justice system, the medical system, the legal system, and the child welfare system. Data gathered from state laws and statutes, newspapers, court cases, medical guidelines, and more were examined to put together a picture of how different United States entities worked together and separately in cases of substance-using pregnant women. Historical responses, such as those used during the 1980’s “crack epidemic”, as well as modern responses, such as those being used during the “Opioid epidemic”, were examined.

Méliès and the Modern World

Olivier Bahizi | Research Scholars

This project looks in depth at the work of early filmmaker Georges Méliès who was a pioneer of special effects and story films during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Furthermore, we are looking to highlight the importance of Madeleine Malthête-Méliès, who had perhaps the longest active career of any film historian and whose main concentration was documenting her grandfather Georges Méliès, including locating his many lost films. Our focus has been supporting the publication of a translation of a key historical source that has long been unavailable in English, the late Madeleine Malthête-Méliès’ biography, Georges Méliès, L’Enchanteur, which is under contract with the University of Michigan Press. This book will make Méliès’ work better known to a wider audience including readers of English. We have worked to document the author’s work by arranging English subtitling of a video interview with Madeleine Malthête-Méliès, and have compiled a complete bibliography of the research publication connected with the organization she founded, Les Amis de Georges Méliès. We are summarizing relevant articles for discussion in the introduction to the biography and assisting in the publication of another book, Méliès Boots: Material Contexts for Early Film Manufacturing (University of Michigan Press, under contract). To further show how Georges Méliès has impacted the modern world, we are preparing a short film that will summarize research on Méliès at the University of Michigan undertaken since 2011 told from the point-of-view of a new generation of media makers who draw continuing inspiration from learning about Méliès and his work.

Mimicking the Architecture and Modulus of Native Brain Tissue onto Neural Implants to Improve Biocompatibility

Jadan Law | Research Scholars

The objective of this project is to increase longevity of microelectrodes, identify biomarkers to isolate the cause of neuroinflammation, and to analyze large banks of collected data using machine learning Matlab scripts. The data used for this project is collected from two groups of mice, wild type and CD14 knockout (mice with the CD14 gene repressed). Surgeries were conducted on both groups and data was collected two weeks after. Matlab scripts utilized machine learning to analyze the data and isolate patterns of unusual fold changes compared to set upper and lower standards (ie. 0.01 and 1). The scripts utilized to identify biomarkers are unique to this lab and the theory behind them have broad possible applications for other data analysis based on an initial condition to separate data with specific trends. Specific to our research, we find patterns in the up and down regulated genes and compare the mean fold change between different data groups. This project is a continuous work in progress – our goal is to continue to further narrow down the gene targets and identify more specific biomarkers to better target with therapeutic drugs. With successful identification, we hope to be able to decrease the inflammatory reaction due to insertion and increase the efficiency of intracortical microelectrodes. Developing a way to stop or mitigate the inflammatory response would increase the lifespan of devices that rely on the recording capabilities of microelectrodes. From prosthetic devices to increasing the understanding of the human brain, a decrease in the inflammatory response creates a longer period of time for a stable signal, meaning more opportunities for microelectrode applications.

NASA TESS Mission: Eclipsing Binaries Among Herbig Ae/Be Stars

Marlee Rapp | Research Scholars

Herbig stars of spectral type Ae/Be are young stars of 1.5-10 solar masses. Current models of young stars’ temperatures and radii as a function of mass are not well calibrated. In binary star systems, a transit, or a periodic dip in apparent brightness of the star, occurs when the one star passes in front of the other star, blocking some of the light of the primary star, creating an eclipse effect. These eclipsing binary star systems allow us to obtain estimates for parameters of the orbiting objects such as the masses, radii, orbital period, orbital inclination, semi-major axis, et cetera. Obtaining these parameters for these young stars will allow for better calibration for models of young stars’ properties. In general, researching stars unlike our sun is important because it gives the context that our solar system exists in and gives us a broader understanding of the universe. We reduced, analyzed, and modeled the Herbigs’ light curves, which are plots of flux versus time, from the NASA TESS mission. We identified and examined the light curves of stars that showed evidence of orbiting companions using Python packages such as Batman, Eleanor, and Phoebe. Using these packages we were able to create and fit model light curves to the data and obtain estimates of parameters for our stars of interest.

Role of STING pathway in photosensitivity and interferon-kappa responses in keratinocytes

Jon Musai | Research Scholars

Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE) is an autoimmune disorder marked by scarring skin lesions, often triggered by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light resulting in a significant loss of quality of life for CLE patients. Better understanding of the molecular mechanisms driving CLE is needed as currently, the lack of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved therapies for CLE presents a fundamental challenge in the treatment of CLE patients. The outermost layer of the skin is known as the epidermis, which consists of mostly keratinocytes. Interferon kappa (IFN-?), a member of the type I IFN family, is constitutively expressed in keratinocytes. IFNK overexpression in lesional lupus skin predisposes CLE patients to inflammation and photosensitivity, thus it is an intriguing target for novel therapeutics. Previously, we had observed a significant delay in IFNK expression relative to IFN-ß, another member of the type I IFN family, following stimulation with poly-IC, an activator of the antiviral TLR3 signaling pathway, or UVB. In addition, upregulation of IFNK was dependent on STING, an endoplasmic reticulum adaptor protein. We thus sought to further understand the regulation of different IFNs in keratinocytes. Using CRISPR-Cas9, we generated knockout keratinocytes for IFNB expression. Here, we reveal that in the absence of IFN-ß, IFNK expression is significantly reduced in keratinocytes treated with poly-IC or UVB. Elimination of mediators downstream of the type I IFN receptor, such as STAT1, also abrogated IFNK but not IFNB expression. Further, IFNK, but not IFNB, expression remained dependent on STING signaling upon UVB-irradiation. Given this information, therefore, we suggest that early triggering of IFNB is required to drive a STING-mediated upregulation of IFNK. Currently, we are examining whether this regulation is aberrant in CLE vs. healthy control keratinocytes, which would provide a mechanism for dysfunctional overexpression of IFNK in CLE skin. If so, this pathway would serve as a target for reducing inflammation and photosensitivity in CLE patients.

Roles of Migratory Neural Crest Cells in CHARGE Syndrome

Ashley Gorris | Research Scholars

CHARGE Syndrome is characterized by a number of congenital abnormalities (Coloboma of the eye, Heart defects, Atresia of the choanae, Retardation of growth, Genital abnormalities, and Ear abnormalities). The primary cause of CHARGE is mutations of the gene CHD7 (Chromodomain Helicase DNA binding protein 7). One of the main hallmarks of CHARGE is deafness, but the etiology of hearing loss in CHARGE is unknown. Defects in neural crest derived tissue has been linked to other aspects of CHARGE syndrome. Here we look at the connection between CHD7 mutations and their effect on neural crest cell migration in the development of the inner ear. We used a neural crest specific CHD7 knockout mouse line (Wnt1Cre2;Chd7flox/flox) to observe the migration of neural crest cells in tissue sections. We found that CHD7 loss in neural crest cells does not impair their migration to the developing inner ear. Work is ongoing to determine if the development of neural crest-derived glial cells is impaired in the Chd7Gt/+ mouse model of CHARGE syndrome. Collectively, these studies improve our understanding of CHD7 in neural crest development in CHARGE syndrome.

Searching for Single Event Upsets in Muon Spectrometer Data for the ATLAS experiment at the LHC

Pietro Lugato | Research Scholars

ATLAS is one of the four major experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. It ia general-purpose particle physics experiment run by physicists from all around the world. ATLAS physicists test the predictions of the Standard Model, which encapsulates our current understanding of what the building blocks of matter are and how they interact. These studies can lead to ground-breaking discoveries, such as that of the Higgs boson, physics beyond the Standard Model, and the development of new theories to better describe our universe. ATLAS is made up of many different instruments and subsystems, and this research focuses specifically on the Muon Spectrometer. Specifically within the Muon Spectrometer, this research analyzes data from Monitored Drift Tubes (MDTs). In short, muons are one of the very few things that get through the first three detectors within ATLAS, and MDTs work to trace the curved path of the muon as it passes through, which then allows for the calculation of its momentum. MDTs are filled with gas, and as the muon passes through a number of tubes, it leaves a trail of charged electrons that drift to the center of each tube. Recording the time of this drift process is what leads to the tracing the muon’s path. The goal of this research is to understand the issues that may develop in these drift tubes while everything is running and data is being taken. An example of this is a Single Event Upset (SEU). SEUs occur when a large energy deposition from one of the charged particles disrupts the functioning of the electronics, specifically, a state change of a logical element (a memory bit). The study will produce and compare a large variety of histograms from the beginning and ends of runs, and checking for any discrepancies. The research will look at different types of issues and their frequencies in 2018 proton-proton collision data.

Targeting Candida albicans Virulence

Katura Metzner | Research Scholars

Fungal pathogens like Candida albicans can cause devastating human disease. Treatment of candidemia is complicated by the high rate of resistance to common antifungal therapies and the toxicity of many antifungal compounds due to the conservation between essential mammalian and fungal proteins. As the number of immunocompromised and hospitalized patients vulnerable to fungal infections increases, it is essential to discover new targets and approaches for targeting these deadly fungal pathogens. An attractive new approach for antimicrobial development is to target virulence factors; these are non-essential processes that are required for the organism to cause disease in human hosts. This approach expands the potential target space while reducing the selective pressure towards resistance, as these targets are not essential for viability. In C. albicans, the key virulence factor is a morphogenetic switch from yeast to filaments. We have developed a high-throughput image analysis pipeline that can readily distinguish between yeast and filamentous growth in C. albicans and identify cytotoxic molecules. Based on this clear phenotypic assay, we have screened compounds for their ability to inhibit this important virulence factor or cause fungistatic or fungicidal effects. Also, to avoid host cell toxicity, the compounds screened are compounds used as treatments for other medicinal purposes. We have begun to use these compounds to screen for resistant mutants of C. albicans, and in the future we will use these resistant mutants to leverage the tractable genetic systems of C. albicans to determine mechanism of action, thus allowing for targeted development of new antifungal therapies. Overall, this approach will build a platform for rapidly developing new molecules for antifungal therapeutics.

Team Mental Models

Jessica Zhu | Research Scholars

The Paradise Theater (1941-1951): African American Movie Palaces and the 1943 Racial Uprising in Detroit

Drew Meinecke | Research Scholars

Among scholars, there is a consensus that movie theaters catering to African American audiences in the United States operating in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s were characteristically sub-par to theaters catering to white audiences. The dominant narrative in media history maintains that so-called Black theaters were always last-run (in other words, they did not receive movies until all other theaters had finished screening them), with less sophisticated architecture and decor than theaters predominantly for white patrons. In short, every element of Black movie-going during this period–from theater location to its decor and the contents onscreen–is understood to have reminded persons of color of their second rate citizenship in Jim Crow America (to paraphrase seminal exhibition scholar Douglas Gomery). However, characterizations such as these are extremely limiting and do not adequately account for the range of theater-going experiences available to African Americans. This is especially true in cities in the American Midwest and Northeast, including Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., which contained what is best described as Black movie palaces, providing most of the luxuries of deluxe theaters catering primarily to white audiences and operating on an ideology of cultural uplift.

lsa logoum logo