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Winter 2016 - Fall 2016

Faculty: Meghan Baruth
Project Title: The development and implementation of a behavioral pilot nutrition and physical activity intervention for pregnant women
A majority of pregnant women do not meet PA (PA) and nutrition recommendations, despite their efficacy in improving maternal and child health outcomes. There is a need for evidence-based behavioral interventions that consider the barriers and program needs of the population, that focus on PA and healthy diet during pregnancy. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to develop, implement, and evaluate an evidence-based, behavioral PA and dietary pilot intervention for pregnant women. The intervention will be informed in part by an extensive literature review. Therefore, although the exact intervention is unclear at this point (i.e. will be informed by data collected), a few components are certain. These include (1) self monitoring of PA and weight via a FitBit and scale, (2) social support via online support groups, and (3) optional group-based sessions emphasizing behavioral skills, and walking groups. The Exercise is MedicineTM initiative will be utilized, whereby physicians from Valley OB/GYN (Saginaw, MI) will assist in recruiting pregnant women to enroll in the intervention. Students will play a major role in the development (via literature review), recruitment (via presence in the clinic), delivery (via serving as ‘healthy lifestyle coaches’), and evaluation (via overseeing measurement sessions) of the intervention, and will present findings from the study at regional and/or national conferences.

Faculty: M.Patricia Cavanaugh
Project Title: Finding Better Ways to Improve Students’ Attitudes and Abilities toward Writing
This project aims to better prepare high school students for the writing expected of them at the collegiate level. This is a response to college and university students’ lack of preparation and low interest in writing in general. Under the guidance of the faculty member, undergraduate research scholar(s) will familiarize themselves with the history of writing, conduct interviews, and analyze data. Gathered information will be used to publish an article in a peer reviewed national journal and a number of motivational and instructional booklets for use by both high school students and teachers. Finally, the undergraduate research scholar(s) will present their findings at conferences and local high schools.

Faculty: Kyle Cissell
Project Title: Optimization of a Cellular Phone-Based Image Acquisition Method for Nitrate/Nitrite Paper-Based Fluidic Devices
Maintaining a healthy aquatic ecosystem is important for supplying safe drinking water. In order to assess the health of an aquatic ecosystem, nutrient levels such as nitrogen and phosphorus are often measured. The research in this proposal will focus on nitrogen, which is found in different chemical forms. Our laboratory has developed a paper-based fluidic device to detect nitrogen in the chemical forms of nitrate and nitrite. In order to detect the nitrogen, Griess reagents are added to a paper-based fluidic device, followed by a water sample that contains nitrite. The nitrite then reacts with the Griess reagents to form a magenta-colored compound that is detected by measuring the color intensity. In order to detect nitrogen in the chemical form of nitrate, the nitrate is first reduced to nitrite with zinc metal, followed by the reaction with the Griess reagents. In the past, our lab has employed a document imager to capture images of the devices, followed by analysis using quantitative software. This method is very time consuming, as the devices cannot be wet during the image acquisition. Recently, we have found that cellular phone cameras can acquire quality images of wet devices, decreasing the total analysis time by approximately 15 minutes. It is very important that the total time from sample collection to analysis be as quick as possible in order to be used in the field. Additionally, a cellular phone camera would eliminate the need for costly imagers. The research performed in this project is twofold: first, the detection of nitrite in water samples using paper-based fluidic devices and cellular phone cameras for image acquisition will be performed. The results from the image analysis will be statistically compared to results from a traditional imager to evaluate the feasibility of employing a cellular phone camera. Second, additional research will be conducted on optimizing the zinc reduction method of nitrate to nitrite. This will be accomplished by varying the concentrations of Griess reagents, as well as exploring the placement and amount of zinc on the paper-based fluidic device for detection.

Faculty: Samantha Deere
Project Title: Exercise Is Medicine: an initiative to improve physical activity behaviors in pregnant women
Few pregnant women meet the national physical activity (PA) or nutrition recommendations, despite their efficacy in improving health outcomes (both maternal and child). There is a need for evidence-based behavioral interventions that focus on PA and healthy diet during pregnancy, while considering the barriers and program needs of the population. The American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Exercise is MedicineTM (EIM) initiative aims to increase PA participation by encouraging health-care providers to assess PA as a vital sign. The effectiveness of the EIM initiative and Obstetrician’s perceptions of the EIM initiative have not been evaluated. The purpose of this study is to (1) develop, implement, and evaluate an evidence-based, behavioral PA and dietary pilot intervention, based on the EIM initiative, for pregnant women, and (2) evaluate physician perceptions of incorporating the EIM initiative into their practice. The intervention will be informed by data collected from focus groups and a literature review. Although the exact intervention is unclear at this point, a few components are certain: (1) self monitoring of PA and weight, (2) social support via online support groups, and (3) optional group-based behavioral sessions and walking groups. The EIM initiative will be utilized, whereby physicians from Valley OB/GYN (Saginaw, MI) will assist in recruiting pregnant women to enroll in the intervention. Students will play a major role in intervention development, subject recruitment, delivery, and evaluation, and will present findings from the study at regional and/or national conferences.

Faculty: Dennis Gray
Project Title: Identifying the genomic sequence of MBO synthase in Pinus attenuata & Pinus contorta
This faculty led undergraduate research project will provide training for two undergraduates in molecular biology techniques through the identification of the genomic sequence of the gene encoding the methylbutenol synthase enzyme in Pine trees (genus Pinus). This undergraduate project is part of a larger project aimed at reconstructing the evolutionary history of MBO emission within the pines, and testing the hypothesis that MBO emission evolved once and has been lost on numerous occasions. As evidence for loss of MBO emission in non-emitting taxa we will look for non-functional versions of the MBO synthase gene in non- emitting pines. Students will learn to extract DNA, set up PCR experiments, analyze the PCR products using gel electrophoresis, clone genes into Plasmid vectors, and to sequence the cloned genes. Students will receive one-on-one training and mentoring in the lab and learn to work as part of a research team towards a common goal. The project will result in the identification of new gene sequences, provide data students can use in poster presentations and may lead to a publication.

Faculty: Dennis Gray
Project Title: Identifying the isoprene synthase gene from Quercus
The goal of this faculty led undergraduate research project is to provide training for an undergraduate student in molecular biology techniques through the identification of the gene encoding the isoprene synthase enzyme in Oak trees (genus Quercus). Through this project the student will learn to extract RNA, synthesize cDNA, set up PCR and run gel electrophoresis, clone genes into Plasmid vectors, and to express recombinant proteins in E. coli bacterial hosts. The student will receive one-on-one training and mentoring in the lab and learn to work as part of a research team towards a common goal. The project will result in the identification of new gene sequences, provide data students can use in poster presentations, and may lead to a publication.

Faculty: Natalia Knoblock
Project Title:
Dehumanization of the Opponent: The Rise of New Ethnic and Social Slurs during the Ukrainian Crisis
This project addresses sociolinguistic aspects of creation of new words and semantic change of the words already existing in the language at the time of political and social crisis.
A rare opportunity to observe an upsurge in linguistic ingenuity presented itself recently in the Eastern European country of Ukraine partly owing to the political upheaval there. The turbulent situation affected all aspects of life, including the language. The unfortunate events have produced fertile ground for an explosion in linguistic creativity. One of the observable results of the linguistic innovation is the rise of a large number of ethnic and social slurs that did not exist in the language as recently as three years ago.
The project aims to record and analyze the novel slurs and to highlight the linguistic and cognitive processes involved in their creation. It also plans to assess the functions the new words serve in politically charged discourse and the effects they produce in the audience. The material is collected from conversations on social networking sites and covers the period between the revolution of 2013 and the present time.
The results are expected to contribute to the understanding of the complex interactions of linguistic and non-linguistic phenomena in human language and of the mental processes involved in the creation of new words.
The student workers will assist in searching for scholarly sources that have already addressed similar issues, compiling the corpus of texts for the analysis, carrying out the cataloging and arrangement of the specific slurs included in the investigation, and, depending on qualifications, statistical analysis.
The student workers will be recruited through announcements on SVSU career services webpage calling for Russian or Ukrainian speakers to participate in faculty-led research. The candidates will be interviewed and selected based on their language ability and enthusiasm about research. They can come either through the freshman-Sophomore or Junior-Senior program since the main qualification needed for this project is the language ability and other skills are not nonessential. They will be mentored in the data collection methods, cataloguing and documenting the findings, and analyzing and interpreting the results.

Faculty: Gary Lange
Project Title: Alterations in the Intrauterine Environment and Impact on Organizational Effects of Steroid Hormones Mediating Sex Differentiation in Rats
This project will assess the impact of exogenous exposure to environmentally relevant pollutants in early prenatal development have on body and brain morphology of mammals. Specifically, we attempt to better understand developmental processes underlying sexual differentiation in mammals.
Students will be mentored in ethics and practice of research in biology, animal use, methods of biology research, guided in analysis of research data, and mentored in professional practices related to presentation of research at scientific meetings.
MENTORING OUTCOMES of this project will help students acquire deeper understanding of design in biology research, and experience hands-on conduction, analysis, and presentation of research in biology. RESEARCH OUTCOMES will be to better understand how sex differentiation is shaped by environmental pressures an organism experiences.

Faculty: Arthur Martin
Project Title: The Effects of Shelter Density/Abundance on Aggression in the Rusty Crayfish, Orconectes rusticus
An important outcome of agonistic interactions is the allocation of resources. Shelters are an important resource and animals will often escalate the intensity of an agonistic bout to obtain or sustain shelter ownership. However, the distribution of shelters in natural settings is often unknown, and in many animal systems it is not well understood how the abundance of shelters impacts aggressive behavior. Crayfish are known to readily compete with conspecifics in order to gain access to key resources, including shelters. For this reason, crayfish have often served as a model organism for examining both aggression and social relationships. In this study, populations of four size-matched (within 10%) male crayfish, Orconectes rusticus, were presented with equally spaced arrangements of two, four, or six shelters. Video analysis was used to quantify shelter usage and evictions as well as the intensity, frequency, duration, and outcomes of fights over a 24-hour period. These observations were quantified and correlated between the three experimental designs. Data analysis has revealed that populations of crayfish generally exhibit a decrease in aggression as the number of available shelters is increased; rates of shelter evictions, fight intensity levels, and fight frequency decreased in the presence of abundant shelters, but fight duration increased. This study provides important information about the effects of resource abundance on social dominance and aggressive behavior within populations.

Faculty: Arthur Martin
Project Title: Flow Effects on Social Structure
Social dynamics depend on communication between individuals. These relationships are created through agonistic behaviors. Associations depend heavily on the environmental factors that may inhibit or enable gathering and transmitting of information. Environmental factors influence behavior by altering the agonistic interactions that structure social dynamics.
Flow is a very important environmental factor in a lotic environment. If we can better understand how these factors influence agonism and the structure of social dynamics, we will be able to better understand the structure of social systems. Crayfish, Orconectes rusticus, have been a model organism for aggression and social behavior. It is mostly unknown how crayfish locate themselves within a lotic environment after a social dynamic has formed. Sized matched individuals were allowed to establish a dominance hierarchy. No significant relationship was found between dominance and time spent upstream (p-value=0.38). However there was a statistically significant difference in the relationship between shelter use and dominance (Spearman rank correlation= 1.0, d.f.=3, p<0.01). These results may signify that chemical communication may not be an efficient mode of communication in a lotic system, which may allow us to determine that their communication could be more physical or their relationships are more complex than we first hypothesized.

Faculty: Andrew J. Miller
Project Title: Continuing Crime Mapping Initiative of the SVSU Center for Geospatial Research and Learning
In continuation of the interdisciplinary SVSU Crime Mapping Initiative and in support with the SVSU mission of community engagement, the SVSU Center for Geospatial Research and Learning is interested in developing new understandings regarding spatial diffusion of crime throughout the Greater Saginaw region. This year’s initiatives, under the collaborative direction of the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Council, contains two separate yet related projects: to examine the distribution and diffusion of Priority 1 crimes (homicide, assault, arson, burglary, etc.) in and around the Greater Saginaw region (City of Saginaw and its “Ring Communities”); and the spatial distribution of domestic violence throughout Saginaw County.
The first project intends to fill the gap in knowledge between the City of Saginaw scale project conducted in 2013-2014, and the Saginaw County scale project in 2014-2015. These efforts also focused solely of the occurrence of shootings and homicides, not the entirety of Priority 1 crimes to which the region is rated upon by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and where access to data has now been supported by all local law enforcement agencies. The second project, at the behest of the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office, Saginaw County Circuit Court and the Child and Family Services of Saginaw County, intends to develop an adequate snapshot of domestic violence occurring within Saginaw County. Both projects are designed to meet the needs of our local crime prevention partners and provide a service to local law enforcement agencies.

Faculty: Sheruni D. Ratnabalasuriar
Project Title: Justice and Diversity in the Digital World – Women and Technology
When traditional pathways to computing seem closed to them, how do women and people in other underrepresented populations find their way into the field? When researchers try to study the gender gap in computing, why do they sometimes face resistance from the populations they say they are trying to empower? The Justice and Diversity in the Digital World Project seeks answers to these and other questions surrounding the changing roles of technology in our everyday lives. To do so, we explore intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, criminality and justice in digital media. Led by Dr. Sheruni Ratnabalasuriar and Dr. Timothy Rowlands, Assistant Professors in the Department of Criminal Justice and co-directors of the newly established Games for Participatory Cultures (GPC) Lab, the research team brings together an interdisciplinary group of
social scientists, researchers and undergraduate students as co-investigators and coauthors.

Faculty: Charles Weaver
Project Title: Does Infection with Enterococcus faecalis Induce Phosphorylation of Multiple Sites on the Tau Protein? – Implications for Alzheimer’s Disease
The neurofibrillary tau pathology and amyloid deposits seen in Alzheimer's disease (AD) also have been seen in bacteria-infected brains. However, few studies have examined the role of these bacteria in the generation of tau pathology. One suggested link between infection and Alzheimer’s disease is edentulism, the complete loss of teeth. Edentulism can result from chronic periodontal disease due to infection by Enterococcus faecalis. Phosphorylation of Serine 202 of tau has been shown to occur following E. faecalis infection of rat primary cortical neurons, but at least 40 different sites of phosphorylation have been identified on tau in AD. The proposed SVSU-UGRP will employ a cell culture model of AD which allows for quantification of cellular changes associated with infection with E. faecalis. The proposed project will determine if infection is associated with abnormal phosphorylation along the entire length of the tau protein, particularly ones that occur prior to the onset of significant clinical signs. Biochemical and histological measures will be used in attempt to determine the mechanisms behind neurofibrillary tau pathology.