UROP Mini Grant Recipients

Winter 2021 Mini-grant Recipients

Sofia Baldridge

Major: Planning, Public Policy and Management Faculty Mentor: Nicole Ngo

Project Title: The Effects of a Multi-Disciplinary Team for People in Recovery 


The Oasis Center of the Rogue Valley is a nonprofit primary care clinic in Medford, Oregon that treats patients recovering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Illicit drug use in Oregon exceeds the national average and is ranked #4 in the U.S. for past month drug use. Oregon also ranks poorly for access to addiction treatment per capita. However, new treatment centers are emerging. The Oasis Center treats patients with SUD through Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) (the use of physician-prescribed medication to ease the transition off of opioids along with counseling and behavioral therapy) and a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) program for patients who have children under age 6. This program is different from most because it is a treatment plan that teams up with other community partners to address the multi-faceted challenges SUD patients face every day by taking a more holistic approach to treatment and recovery. Team members represent the Department of Human Services, Parole and Probation, Addiction Recovery Center (an in-patient treatment center), and the medical staff at Oasis. The MDT works together to provide the best quality care to patients and families who belong to multiple community systems.  

My research intends to find trends within testimony of people participating in the MDT and answer the following question: How beneficial is the Oasis Center‘s MDT program for parents who are recovering from Substance Use Disorder? 

Sahana Krishna

Major: Human Physiology Faculty Mentor: Ashley Walker

Project Title: The Effect of Large Artery Stiffness on Cognitive Decline, Inflammation, and Oxidative Stress


By the year 2040, it is expected that there will be 81.1 million people with dementia worldwide. Previous approaches studied dementia through the nervous tissue of the brain, but no effective treatments for humans have been discovered. This study will look at dementia through a new lens, through the vascular system. With advancing age, the large elastic arteries, such as the aorta and the carotid arteries, stiffen and lose their elasticity. As the stiff large artery cannot expand, accommodate, and dampen large changes in pressure caused by pumping of the heart as well as the elastic artery does, spikes of pressure are carried up to smaller arteries in the brain where they cause damage. Previous studies have shown that large artery stiffness is associated with lower blood flow, an indicator of damage to the neurovasculature. This project will build upon past studies by further examining how large artery stiffness affects the neurovasculature. Over the past year, I have examined the effect of large artery stiffness and advancing age on cognitive function, and I now propose to study markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in cerebral arteries and brain tissue of mice. I expect that older mice with stiffer arteries will have increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammation compared to old mice without arterial stiffness or young control mice. 

Emily Cook

Major: Environmental Studies Faculty Mentor: Lauren Hallett

Project Title: Intraspecific variation in Sandburg bluegrass (Poa secunda)'s resistance to annual grass invasion


Exotic species pose a threat to many ecosystems within the western U.S. An example of this is the annual grass species known as cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), a prevailing invader in the Great Basin. Fire size and frequency increased with dominance of cheatgrass due to an increase in fine and continuous layer of fuel from cheatgrass replacing more widely spread native grass stands. To prevent more large wildfires in the Great Basin, seeding of native perennial grass species has been adopted as a management strategy for post-fire rehabilitation. However, perennial grasses must be able to resist the invasion of B. tectorum for restoration to be successful. 

Sandburg bluegrass (Poa secunda) is a perennial native grass species used in the Great Basin for post-fire rehabilitation - they grow in large spatial range from warm, dry deserts in Nevada to cool, moist deserts in Oregon. Native grass species are known to have high variability in traits across climate and space. Knowing this, some populations of P. secunda may be better at resisting invasion to B. tectorum than others.
Seedling traits may affect the ability of a native grass species to resist B. tectorum invasion. It is known that root length and morphology influence nutrient uptake and stress resistance. Additionally, seed mass can have considerable effects on emergence, whose timing can be a strong predictor for plant survival. This study explores how intraspecific variation in traits affects a native grass‘s capacity to resist invasion by B. tectorum. We will examine which populations, and what traits, are correlated with resistance. I hypothesize that the P. secunda populations from warm, dry environments will better resist B. tectorum than those from cool, moist environments due to P. secunda‘s ability to develop large seed mass, germinate quickly, and grow long roots in arid conditions. 

Hossein Rajabzadeh

Major: Biochemistry Faculty Mentor: Marian Hettiaratchi

Project Title: Development of Biocompatible Hyaluronic Acid Hydrogel for Nerve Nano-Clip Fabrication


Neurological disorders that cause loss of sensory and motor functions in patients can result from abnormal electrical activity between neurons in the central and peripheral nervous system. A nano-scale nerve clip was designed and 3D printed with organic/inorganic material by the Gardner Lab. This nano-clip facilitates direct contact between an implanted electrode and a nerve. The device was surgically implanted onto the tracheosyringeal nerve of zebra finches elicited audible vocalization through electrical stimulation. However, the inorganic/organic composition of the nerve nano-clip was not biocompatible with the nerve tissue and resulted in mild fibrosis and scarring of the tracheosyringeal nerve during interfacing. To improve upon this design, we propose using hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels as a biocompatible material for the composition of the nerve nano-clip to reduce the immune response of nerve tissue during interfacing. For this application in particular, the hydrogel must be minimally swelling to avoid damage to the nerve tissue. This HA biopolymer can be modified with methacrylate groups to enable tunable, chemical crosslinking in the presence of a photo-initiator and directed ultraviolet (UV) light. The objectives of this project are as follows: 

1) To chemically modify HA with methacrylate groups to achieve different degrees of methacrylation (DM)
2) To determine the DM of HA using proton NMR spectroscopy
3) To photo-crosslink methacrylated hyaluronic acid (MeHA) under UV light to form hydrogels
4) To conduct a water absorption test to assess swelling of hydrogels made with different HA concentrations over 14 days
5) To determine the gelation kinetics (i.e. storage and loss modulus) of the hydrogels using a DHR-2 rheometer

The expected outcome of this project is a biocompatible, minimally swelling HA hydrogel that can be used by the Gardner lab as a nerve nano-clip to minimize the immune response (scarring and fibrosis) of the tracheosyringeal nerve tissue in zebra finches.

Fall 2020 Mini-grant Recipents

Marin Nagle

Major: Architecture Faculty Mentor: Siobhan Rockcastle

Project Title: EXPLORING THE IMPACTS OF BIOPHILIC DESIGN ELEMENTS ON OCCUPANTS' BEHAVIOR AND HEALTH: The Implication of Biomorphic Forms and Visual Connections to Nature


The topic of my research is looking at biophilia, an early theory from the 1960‘s stating that humans have an innate and pleasurable connection to nature. Technological advances have evolved to gather quantitative data proving that there is a psychological and physiological relationship between nature and humans. Our environments have an impact on our behavior, health, and wellbeing. Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs looks at how our basic needs, health, and shelter, must be met for humans to reach their full potential. For my senior thesis, I will be looking at how different uses of biophilic design in the built environment impact and lead to an improvement in occupants‘ behavior and health. I will be focusing on the effects of direct visual connections to nature in comparison and in conjunction with biomorphic forms and patterns. A study by Tsunwraugu and Miyazaki in 2010, shows that views to nature can improve occupant health. Participants viewed a forest scene for twenty minutes after a mental stressor. Participants‘ cerebral blood flow and brain activity returned to a relaxed state, affecting the mood and behavior of users, causing a restorative sensation. Biomorphic forms and patterns are organic shapes designers extract from nature and then integrate into the built environment to draw connections to nature. These forms work towards captivating user interest and decreasing stress. A compiled literature review by Yannick Joye in 2007, shows that humans still tend to have an affinity towards these natural stylized forms. Based on these previous findings, my prediction is that participants‘ physical reaction and self-reflection will be more favorable towards spaces that include biophilic design elements while reducing stress rather than the control scene. I believe that direct connections to nature will have a stronger impact than biomorphic forms because it is nature itself, rather than an interpretation of it.

Hunter Blaylock

Major: Human Physiology Faculty Mentor: Carrie McCurdy

Project Title: Investigating the Role of LOC105374343 in the Intergenerational Effects of Maternal Diet


Maternal obesity has been shown to negatively impact offspring metabolic health, leading to a greater and earlier risk for developing metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. This presents a serious concern given that rates of obesity have been steadily increasing over the past four decades. The mechanisms behind the intergenerational effects of obesity are still unknown, however. Using a non-human primate model, the McCurdy lab recently found a large number of genes dysregulated in the skeletal muscle of offspring born to a mother fed a western-style, high fat and high sugar, diet (WSD). Among the 3089 dysregulated genes associated with maternal WSD, 15 of these genes were found to be long-noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). lncRNAs are a relatively new class of RNA that are thought to be important regulators of gene expression. One of the identified lncRNAs, LOC105374343, is located in a genomic region highly associated with Parkinson‘s disease; however, its function has not been studied. Parkinson‘s disease is associated with a loss in cellular quality control processes essential for proper function that is universal across cell types. Disruptions in skeletal muscle cellular quality control may contribute to the predisposition to metabolic disease seen in offspring exposed to maternal obesity during development. I hypothesize that this lncRNA is involved in mediating the intergenerational effects of maternal obesity by altering the expression of genes associated with cellular quality control processes. To test the hypothesis, I will knock down the expression of the lncRNA in an immortalize cell line (i.e. HEK293) and measure the change in gene expression of targets previously identified in cellular quality control pathways and whose expression was altered disrupted by maternal WSD by quantitative PCR.

Colin Kuhns

Major: Biology Faculty Mentor: Daniel Grimes

Project Title: Investigating a Novel Regulator of Left-Right Patterning, Clstn1


Left-right (L-R) asymmetry is exceedingly prevalent throughout nature. Our heart, for instance, is on the left, while our liver is positioned on the right. Many human diseases are caused by disorders of asymmetry. Diseases like heterotaxia and primary ciliary dyskinesia, which occur in 1 in every 10,000 people, result in organs being in the wrong place, causing major health issues and sometimes early death. However, L-R asymmetry development remains poorly understood. One theory says that in vertebrate embryos, cilia, which are hair-like organelles that protrude from the cell‘s body, beat back and forth and generate a fluid flow across the embryo toward the left side. This creates the first asymmetry during the formation of embryos and acts to give rise to L-R asymmetric gene expression and organ positions. In zebrafish, the model organism I will use, this asymmetric flow occurs within Kupffer‘s vesicle (KV), a small spherical structure in the tail of the embryo. Impairing cilia function within KV alters L-R development. The critical question I will address is: how do cells within KV respond to fluid flow to give rise to organ asymmetries? We know very little about how the cells respond to flow, largely because we don‘t know which genes are involved in the process. Large-scale gene expression studies have identified more than 200 genes expressed in KV. Screening the function of these genes, the Grimes lab have unearthed clstn1 as a promising candidate for a role in flow sensation. This is because Clstn1 binds to calcium ions, which are known to flood into the cell upon flow stimulation. My hypothesis is that clstn1 is located within KV and is important for the generation of L-R asymmetry by taking part in the pathway which senses the asymmetric flow signal. This work will determine the role of Clstn1 in L-R asymmetry and provide a new candidate gene that might cause L-R defects in humans.

Spring 2020 Mini-grant Recipients

Stacey Andreeva

Major: Chemistry and Biochemistry Faculty Mentor: Carl Brozek

Project Title: Dynamics in Metal-Organic Systems


Within this project, I will be responsible for collecting and analyzing data in addition to conducting a write up of experimental results and deriving trends from observations. Some MOFs that we study include titanium, copper, zinc, magnesium, and heterometal-based clusters with terephthalic, trimesic, and dihydroxyterephthalic acid-based linkers. Experiments will entail use of a sample holder that permits variable temperature and pressure environments with simultaneous measurement of vibrational modes of the material. We will identify the modes associated with the metal-carboxylate structural distortions and monitor the changes to these vibrational frequencies as a function of temperature. 
Previously, using simply diffuse reflectance IR, we were unable to access the low-frequency range of the spectra, in which the metal-oxygen coordination is observed, and were only able to see the effect on the stretching of O-C-O bond - the carboxylate. Since this bond serves as a "kneecap” of the metal-carboxylate system, which can be accessed by Raman spectroscopy, it would be an invaluable observation that can applied to various proposed quantitative models to determine the most accurate approximation and predict changes in other systems. A wide variety of representative MOFs will be examined to establish definitive quantitative relationship between metal-linker bond dynamicity and material composition.

Isabelle Cullen

Major: Biology Faculty Mentor: Matt Smear

Project Title: Modulation in Sniffing Behavior as a Biomarker for Autism Spectrum Disorders


Our control group will be adult wild-type (C57 black 6) mice. They have no known mutations and are known to display consistent behaviors across mice. Our experimental group will be FMR1-knockout mice (FMR1-KO). FMR1-KO mice show learning deficits and differences in behavioral tests. Surgical procedures will be performed in the animal care facility at the University of Oregon, in our designated surgical suite. A titanium head bar will be implanted horizontally across the top of each mouse's head for head fixation, and a thermistor will be implanted in one nasal cavity to track sniffing modulation within the task. We will use a head-fixed behavioral paradigm to measure sniffing during odor presentation. A BPOD Finite State Machine will be used to run the MATLAB program and all electronics used for odor dispersion.  Mice will be exposed to either aversive, attractive odors, or clean air randomly across single sniffs (presented at the onset of inhalation) to track inhalation magnitude for 20 minutes. For our attractive odorant, we will use 2-phenylethanol, a rose oil derivative, and for our aversive odorant, we will use 4-methylthiozoline. Because we are quantifying their passive response to these odorants, mice do not require training to perform the task. 

Nicole Wales

Major: Physics Faculty Mentor: Eric Corwin

Project Title: Determination of the Colloidal Glass Phase Diagram


A glass model system in which microscopic particles, or poly(methyl methacrylate) colloids, are suspended in a fluid of tetrahydronapthalene, decahydronapthalene, and cyclohexyl bromide. In this mixture, the colloids represent glass molecules. The glass transition is emulated by shaking the mixture and allowing the suspension to settle, which is analogous to the heating and cooling of glass. Measurements of the mean squared displacement of an individual tracer colloid as the suspension settles, or densifies, can be used to identify the system's state of matter. A high-speed camera will be used to record the settling particles, while a radial center tracking algorithm will track the previously marked tracer colloid. By carrying out this same experiment, but over a broad range of temperatures, with various sizes of colloids, and multiple colloid-to-fluid density ratios, a full phase diagram of colloidal glass can be determined.

Dimitra Fellman

Major: Biology Faculty Mentor: Melissa Graboyes

Project Title: Oregon's Response to COVID-19: Approaches and Outcomes to Social Distancing and Testing


I will incorporate both qualitative and quantitative methods to determine how effective Oregon was in providing clear and accurate scientific information on social distancing and whether Oregonians followed those protocols. I will perform qualitative assessments on legislative measures, guidance and information released by OHA and other state institutions, Oregon's stay-at-home media campaign messages, and statements made by public health and political officials regarding social distancing. I will evaluate documents for clarity of messaging and scientific accuracy based on current COVID-19 knowledge as described by peer-reviewed medical journals. I will also use cell phone data and filed social distancing complaints to qualitatively analyze changes in human movement during the state's social distancing campaign.
To analyze how Oregon utilized testing during the pandemic, I will use a similar mixed methods approach. Qualitatively, I will utilize testing guidelines from OHA describing minimum testing requirements, as well as government reports describing contracts with testing companies, to determine how Oregon allocated tests. I will also compile quantitative data documenting where tests were sent and who received them, and use software to spatially map tests performed against demographic factors to elucidate testing patterns to see if tests were distributed equally to those who needed them.

Winter 2020 Mini-grant Recipients

Anna Brown

Major: Biology Faculty Mentor: Lauren Hallett

Project Title: Response of Soil Microarthropods to Nitrogen and Compost Treatments


For this study, three-part extraction will be used to collect soil invertebrates from the SFREC site, followed by identification of the collected organisms. The first extractions will consist of soil cores taken from each plot at the SFREC site. For the second extraction, microarthropods from each soil sample will be extracted using the Tullgren funnel method. The third extraction will be completed using a flotation method. This technique involves mixing soil with a saturated sugar solution to separate organic matter, including invertebrates, from minerals. This method allows the extraction of a greater number and diversity of organisms when in combination with the Tullgren funnels.
After any organisms in the soil have been separated, they will be examined under a microscope and identified to a level that will allow me to determine their functional class. Springtails (decomposers) will be sorted to subclass, and mites (predators and decomposers) will be sorted to order. Analyses will be made using R involving different treatments, overall invertebrate counts, comparisons with aboveground plant biomass, and comparisons to soil core contents from the previous season.

Michaela Fishback

Major: Environmental Science Faculty Mentor: Lauren Hallett

Project Title: Resource Allocation in Resource-Conservative and Resource-Acquisitive Serpentine Grasses and Forbs at Varying Nitrogen and Water Availability


This project will focus on two annual grasses (Festuca microstachys and Bromus hordeaceus) and two annual forbs (Plantago erecta and Layia platyglossa) that are commonly found in California serpentine grasslands. Plantago and Festuca are resource-conservative species, and Layia and Bromus are resource-acquisitive species.
Using a greenhouse experiment established by Eliza Hernandez, a current graduate student in the Hallett Lab, I will be comparing the above and below-ground biomass production of all four species across a range of treatments of nitrogen, via ammonium nitrate fertilizer, rainfall, via irrigation, and intraspecific competition, via seeding density, in a fully factorial design. There are 4 replications of 3 levels of N treatments (high, the equivalent of 5 years of nitrogen deposition; intermediate, that of 1 year; and low, no additional nitrogen enrichment) and 2 irrigation treatments (high, 30% volumetric soil moisture content; and low, 10%), for 6 unique N-water treatments. Within each N-water treatment, seeding density is varied by one high and one low density, as well as an additional pot with no seed addition, in separate 16in2 pots containing 600g of amended serpentine soil. I will harvest above- and below-ground biomass following peak production, at about 50% senescence, and will dry and weigh samples.

Dakota Paulus, Katia Pramono, and Nisha Sridhar

Major: Biology, Psychology, Human Physiology  Faculty Mentor: Tyson Barker

Project Title: Exploring Neural Indicators of Executive Function in Early Childhood 


For this study 30 child participants from a previous study, ORCA, will be recruited. The participants will be wearing an EEG cap while completing the Doors Task. The Doors Task is a computer game in which children will use a response pad to select one of two doors.  Depending on which door is selected, the child will be shown a thumbs up or a thumbs down symbol. This determines whether the child is reinforced with an edible reward.  
Other studies have used different tasks to measure FRN, but they were not able to effectively maintain children's attention. The Doors Task is unique because the reward is given immediately after positive feedback. This immediate reward keeps the participant engaged and may elicit a stronger neural response to feedback than what has been seen in other studies. This study will be collecting EEG data for the purpose of understanding the relationship between FRN and executive function using The Doors Task. This new approach aims to maintain the child's attention, eliciting stronger neural responses, and providing insight into the development of EF in early childhood.  

Justin Day

Major: Biology  Faculty Mentor: Lauren Hallett

Project Title: Shifts in AMF Colonization with Compost Amendments and Precipitation Quantity


Our study used a full factorial experimental design with three nutrient treatments (compost, inorganic N fertilizer, and control) and three precipitation treatments (drought, ambient and high precipitation). Four experimental blocks were designated for repetition and divided into three plots for each nutrient treatment. Within each plot, three subplots were designated for the three precipitation treatments.

Soil cores were collected from each plot, and from those cores we collected data for below ground biomass, soil moisture, and AMF colonization rates. Roots from the cores were collected and cut to >1cm in length. They were then cleared in KOH and stained in an ink and vinegar solution. AMF colonization was quantified by assessing the presence of AMF structures every 1mm over a whole 1cm, thus providing a fraction for root colonization.

I will run 2 way ANOVA tests to see if there are significant effects of precipitation treatment, nutrient treatment, and the combination of the two on the rates of AMF colonization and on below ground biomass. Moreover, I will run a regression of AMF colonization against below ground root biomass to see if there is a significant relationship between the two.

Marissa Lane-Massee

Major: Environmental Studies  Faculty Mentor: Lauren Hallett

Project Title: Biotic and Mechanical Treatments for Increasing Soil Moisture Retention in Willamette Valley Hazelnut Orchards 


Last summer, I sampled soil moisture at three different orchards ranging in age from 15 to 60 years old. Six blocks of three plots were established in every orchard, each plot having one treatment: control, flailed, or scraped. After raining 0.10" in mid-July at the youngest orchard, I replicated that rain event across all plots at each site using a Rear's Powerblast Sprayer. I calibrated the sprayer to produce 0.10" of "œrain'' that was evenly distributed across all plots. For three weeks, I took soil moisture samples at each plot with either a soil moisture sensor, or by weighing samples to calculate moisture percent, to evaluate soil moisture retention. 

This October, plots were divided into four subplots and seeded with cover crop mixes. These subplots contain native annual and perennial wildflowers, commercial non-native cover crops, and an unseeded control. All subplots have experienced seed germination and are awaiting plant community, pollination, and soil moisture data collection this spring. Previously, I had tried using a soil probe to collect moisture data, but it was too brittle to insert into orchard floors repeatedly. A nail and detachable sensor method will allow for more accurate data, while being sturdier and more reliable.

Jazmin Cole

Major: Human Physiology  Faculty Mentor: Ashley Walker

Project Title: Association between a non-invasive assessment of frailty and vascular dysfunction in old mice 


To date, I have collected measures of frailty index and vascular function on 34 mice and plan to complete an additional 5-6 mice in February 2020. At the time of vascular function measurements, we also collected samples of mesentery arteries that are currently stored in a -80°C freezer. I will use these stored samples to examine gene expression of pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidant genes. 

mRNA expression will be measured by real-time qPCR in mesentery arteries. RNA will be isolated by a standard protocol utilizing Qiazol and RNAeasy Mini Kits (Qiagen). The RNA will then be quantified using a NanoDrop 2000. Reverse transcription will be performed to produce cDNA with a Qiagen Quantitect Reverse Transcription Kit. The cDNA samples will undergo real-time qPCR using ThermoFisher PowerUP Sybr Green. 18S rRNA will be used as a housekeeping gene transcript to control for tissue concentration. Gene expression will be quantified for pro-inflammatory genes Tnfa and Il1b, and pro-oxidant genes Nox1, Nox2, and Nox3. 

Rachel Conner

Major: Human Physiology  Faculty Mentor: Melissa Graboyes

Project Title: World Health Organization Malaria Interventions in Africa


I will be conducting archival research, as this is the best way to understand the history of the World Health Organization's malaria interventions in the African continent. The archives include materials such as epidemiological reports, memos, photographs, research plans, and confidential reports. These all provide clues to figuring out the types of malaria activities that occurred in Africa. The interventions I am focusing on are in 1950s-1960s, and many of the records that will prove valuable to this project only exist in paper form in Geneva. These materials have not been digitized and are not available without travel. Research in the physical WHO archives in Geneva is the best, and only, way to obtain the data needed to more fully explore and explain Africa's role in the past malaria eradication campaigns. While I am at the archive, I will take notes on relevant documents using the software program Scrivener, will keep track of all primary sources viewed in a shared Excel file with Professor Graboyes, and will take photographs of important documents that will be analyzed back in Eugene.

Nelly Noubossi

Major: Biology  Faculty Mentor: Melissa Graboyes

Project Title: The history of malaria elimination campaigns in Africa in the 1950s-1960s


The primary method used in this project is archival research, which will involve reviewing primary documents related to the WHO's eradication campaign. The primary documents I will examine include government reports, private letters, organizational memos, scientific reports, epidemiological data, maps, and photographs, and many of the materials I will be focusing on will be in French. Archival research is the only way to gain a better understanding of what was done during the 1950s-1960s in terms of malaria elimination attempts, as these primary sources illustrate hidden, private, and confidential conversations occurring among the scientists involved, rather than what was reported just in published papers and reports. Additionally, much of the material available on this topic only exists in paper format. Thus, it is imperative that we travel to the actual facility to study these documents. During my time in the archives, I will read and scan the documents, take notes in a prescribed, systematic and orderly way as taught to me by Professor Graboyes, and take photographs of documents when necessary. Once we return to Eugene, we will organize and analyze the information collected to create a fuller picture of the WHO's malaria elimination efforts in Africa during the 1950s-1960s.

Mikala Capage

Major: Biology  Faculty Mentor: David Garcia

Project Title: Hunting for prions: Using meiotic inheritance patterns in yeast cells to attribute epigenetic states to prion proteins


I will use a tetrad sporulation and dissection protocol. In this experiment, a strain of yeast that has exhibited an epigenetic state is grown in a nutrient-rich media, then transferred to a nutrient-poor one. This forces each cell to undergo meiosis and produce four, genetically unique cells encased in an ascus wall. The tetrads are dissected using a dissection microscope, and each spore is grown into a colony. These colonies are phenotyped to determine how many of the progenitor cells inherited the epigenetic state observed in the original strain. If it is inherited into all four cells, there is the possibility that mitochondria are responsible for the epigenetic state. To eliminate this possibility, I will create a "petite" strain by growing the cells in ethidium bromide in order to disable the mitochondrial genome without affecting the nuclear genome. Next, I will sporulate and dissect these strains, and phenotype the colonies to see if the epigenetic state is still observed. Seeing the epigenetic state appear in all four progenitor cells without functioning mitochondria is strong evidence that the epigenetic state is due to a prion protein. These methods are central to yeast genetics and the only way to test meiotic inheritance. 

Fall 2019 Mini-grant Recipients

Chasen Afghani

Major: Linguistics  Faculty Mentor: Melissa Baese-Berk

Project Title: The Affects of Incentivization in Perception of Non-Native Speech


Linguistic studies have shown that there a number of ways in which social factors affect the perception of non-native speech by a native speaker. These factors can result in non-native, heavily-accented speech being perceived as either understandable or not understandable. With these studies in mind, I am asking how the influence of incentive, specifically monetary incentive, will affect the accuracy of perception of a native speaker listening to non-native speech. To investigate this question, I am working in Melissa Baese-Berks’ Speech Perception and Production Lab, where we will pay subjects to participate in a study where they listen to non-native speech and transcribe what they have heard. Then I will look at the accuracy, as well as the learning curve of each participant’s perception. I will compare two groups, one getting paid a flat-rate for their time and the other getting paid more or less depending on their accuracy. My hypothesis is that the group which was given initial incentive to try to perceive the speech more accurately will not only start the study with a higher level of accuracy in their perception, but will also likely have a steeper learning curve in their perception throughout the study. I believe this research project can have a significant impact on how we view non-native speakers in a variety of settings, including employment settings, and how we can potentially encourage native speakers to try a bit harder in their communication with non-native speakers and efforts to perceive non-native speech accurately.

Zack Demars

Major: Journalism, Political Science  Faculty Mentor: Peter Laufer

Project Title: From 1960 to Now: Beginning a Pen Pal Program Between Oregon and Russia


This project aims to ignite international friendship by initiating a pen pal program between a group of fourth-grade students in Yoncalla, Ore. with a similar class in Rostov-on-Don, Russia and observing and reporting the activity. Students in Yoncalla have already written letters, and in this project I will take those letters to a class in Russia this December.

The project builds on the work of a fourth-grade class in 1960s Roseburg, Ore., which attempted to begin such a pen pal program with their then-Soviet counterparts. Upon a request to the US State Department to assist in the facilitation of this correspondence, the federal government offered no help to the students, and the project ended quietly.

After 60 years, a class of UO journalism students is researching and reporting the story of those fourth-graders. We’ve dug through newspaper archives for accounts of the story, interviewed students who were involved in the project, located the surviving family members of the class’ teacher and traveled to Las Vegas to interview a key student involved in the story. I’ve personally made over a dozen requests to federal agencies for access to their public records about the events and the FBI’s involvement.

Aside from the student letters and the newly initiated pen pal program, this portion of the project will also result in a chapter of a forthcoming book. Nine other chapters have been reported and written about the events of 1960, and this chapter will complete the book by completing the pen pal attempt of decades ago. I have written two of the book’s chapters already.

This project is unique – to my knowledge, this story has never been reported in this depth. Certainly, a team of student reporters has never sent a reporter to Russia to initiate and report on a correspondence program.

Harrison Jensen

Major: Planning, Public Policy, and Management  Faculty Mentor: Nicole Ngo

Project Title: Procedural Barriers to Health Care: Applying for Coverage through the Oregon Health Plan


The purpose of this research project is to examine how the application process for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), Oregon’s Medicaid program, might discourage OHP-eligible Oregonians from enrolling. The participation rate in OHP among the OHP-eligible adult population in Oregon hovers around 86%, meaning that 14% of those who meet the eligibility criteria for the program opt not to enroll. One of the more frequently cited reasons OHP-eligible adult Oregonians do not enroll is the onerous application process for Medicaid, which can be complex, difficult, and inconvenient. Considering that Medicaid could protect many more low-income Americans from the often exorbitant cost of health care, little research has been done on the link between the application process and issues of take-up. This research project aims to fill this gap in the body of research on Medicaid through interviews with those most familiar with the application process — OHP enrollees. What research has been done on the application process for Medicaid suggests that procedural barriers such as travel time and the lack of convenient application assistance (e.g. for would-be-enrollees not proficient in English) make it hard for Medicaid-eligibles to enroll. I intend to ask current and/or former OHP enrollees about whether they encountered procedural barriers like these in applying for coverage. I expect to find that the lack of readily-available application assistance is the primary reason why so many OHP-eligible individuals have difficulty applying for the program or might give up on applying or re-enrolling altogether.

Maurisa Rapp

Major: Human Physiology  Faculty Mentor: Carrie McCurdy

Project Title: Intergenerational Effects of Western Style Diet on Mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species Production and DNA Damage


Epidemilogical studies have shown that children from obese pregnancies have an increased risk for developing obesity and metabolic syndrome. Disruption of skeletal muscle mitochondrial function is associated with obesity related metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes. Using a previously established non-human primate model of maternal obesity, I propose to investigate the effect of maternal obesity and in utero western style diet (WSD) exposure on 3 year old juvenile offspring. Japanese Macaques were placed on either a control (CON) diet or WSD for 2-7 years prior to pregnancy. Offspring were then weaned onto CON diet until age 3, creating two sample groups: maternal CON, postweaning CON (mC/C) and maternal WSD, postweaning CON (mW/C). Previously, our lab has shown that a maternal WSD, with increased saturated fats and sugars, alters offspring skeletal muscle functions. Increased markers of mitochondrial damage have been found to be compounded with decreased release of (reactive oxygen species) ROS with maternal obesity, suggesting altered ROS handling may increase mitochondrial damage. I will measure the abundance of mitochondrial DNA as a reporter for mitochondrial abundance and the relative amount of mitochondrial DNA damage in skeletal muscle tissue by quantitative PCR. I expect that exposure to maternal WSD and obesity will increase the mitochondrial DNA damage in offspring at 3 years of age. My research is significant because it will determine whether maternal obesity predisposes offspring to metabolic disease through increased mitochondrial damage.

Shelby Saper

Major: Anthropology  Faculty Mentor: Dennis Jenkins

Project Title: Assessing Typology of Pre-Mazama Corner-notched Points in the Northern Great Basin


In North America, some of the most valuable archaeological artifacts are projectile points. Researchers can use these points to relatively date sequences of human occupation levels at archaeological sites for they are considered index fossils. Numerous archaeologists have tried to define chronologies for each point typology found throughout North America. For decades, the Monitor Valley Key has been used by Great Basin archaeologists to differentiate “types” of projectile points. While this typological scheme is still widely considered the most prolific projectile point classification system across the Great Basin, it fails to consider probable regional variation. Refining regional chronologies of projectile point typologies is important for improving their status as index fossils.

Projectile point chronologies and typologies are at times hotly debated. Some researchers support a “long-chronology” for corner-notched points in the Great Basin, with these points dating to as old as 8,500 cal BP. Opponents support a “short-chronology”, suggesting corner-notched points are younger than 5,000 cal BP. This debate suffers from the use of a variety of typological schemes, regional variability, and lack of buried sites, where projectile point contexts can be precisely dated. University of Oregon excavations have recovered corner-notched projectile points in well-stratified context associated with cultural features at the Connley Caves, Oregon. In this project, I will apply a variety of typological schemes to these points and others found in contexts below Mount Mazama tephra (ca. 7630 cal BP) in Oregon to provide information on the typology and age of pre-Mazama corner-notched points in the northern Great Basin. Additionally, I will obtain new radiocarbon dates from a hearth feature (fire pit) associated with these projectile points to unequivocally establish the age of these atypical projectile points at the Connley Caves. Retrieving these dates would either substantiate the claim of a “long-chronology” or “short-chronology” of pre-Mazama corner-notched points.

Kezia Setyawan

Major: Journalism  Faculty Mentor: Sung Park

Project Title: Where Do You Belong: Cultural Values and Identity Shifts in Chinese Indonesian Communities Through Migration and Assimilation


This professional project will explore how identity and values shift through the lens of migration and assimilation for Chinese Indonesians. With today’s political climate in the United States, there is a lot of conversation on who is deemed worthy enough to stay or be viewed as American. I hope to answer the question of borders, migration and belonging by focusing specifically on Chinese Indonesians. I want to see more work that breaks the boundary of only have white journalists cover communities of color without understanding the nuance of their experience.

I decided to focus on Chinese Indonesians because of their interesting placement in Indonesia history as being ostracized and segregated by Dutch colonization for over 350 years, gaining economic power while being shut out of politics, forced assimilation by a nationalist Indonesian government in the 60s, and riots in the 1990s that pushed Chinese Indonesians to migrate away. Therefore, when Chinese Indonesians migrate to the United States and the Global North, this project will document how are the experiences here similar and different. I will also examine the notions of the American Dream and the ramifications that can come by adhering to the model minority concept and settler colonial logic by interviewing both first and second generation to see variations in opinion in the diaspora.

The project matters because it is a multimedia journalistic package that has many different entry points for the audience to engage with and humanizes what may only be seen as a statistic on paper rather than actual people.

Momo Wilms-Crowe

Major: Political Science  Faculty Mentor: Dan Tichenor

Project Title:Cultivating Self-Determination: Food Sovereignty as a Challenge to Coloniality in Puerto Rico


Food sovereignty – the right of communities to define and control their own food and agricultural policies – has increasingly become a rallying call for a particular strain of food justice activism around the globe. Going beyond a focus on food security, food sovereignty invokes an explicitly political critique of the larger structures producing cases of food injustice, especially neoliberalism, free-trade policies, and capital-intensive industrial agriculture. Advocating for democratic control and a greater distribution of wealth, knowledge, power, and land, food sovereignty work through agroecology is a key avenue for political resistance to neoliberal coloniality as it appears in Puerto Rico today. This work carries radical political implications and can be understood as part of a broader struggle for democratic self-determination, visible especially in the post-Maria context and highlighted by the #RickyRenuncia protests that marked the summer of 2019. My thesis explores these tensions by working with grassroots organizations and agroecology collectives to see how the movement has operated as a direct challenge to deep-rooted conditions of coloniality and how food sovereignty has been linked to larger questions of Puerto Rican political sovereignty and self-determination. I situate this ethnographic research within a historical analysis of how food has operated as a means of colonial control and subjugation. My research fills a whole in the literature by applying decolonial and critical theory to a case study often overlooked in the field as a result of Puerto Rico’s complicated geopolitical relationship with the US.

Winter 2019 Mini-grant Recipients

Elizabeth Baach

Major: Environmental Science  Faculty Mentor: Lauren Hallett 

Project Title: Nitrogen Composition in Native and Invasive Plants in Relation to Ant Mounds in Serpentine Grasslands


The project I will continue to work on addresses the question, ‘is there a significant difference in nitrogen composition of plants on and off ant mounds in a low nutrition environment, serpentine grasslands?’. This research is significant in two ways: First, it furthers previous works that investigate the relationship between subsurface dwelling animals and the nutrient availability for the plants that grow on the mounds they create. While there has been significant research looking at these relationships, there is less on analyzing elemental plant composition as I propose here. Second, my research will be contributing to the academic understanding of ecology by looking at serpentine grasslands in a new way. These serpentine grasslands receive a lot of attention from academic researchers as the soil in the area has low quantities of essential nutrients, phosphorus and nitrogen, and high levels of toxic heavy metals; this specific soil composition only allows specialized plant species to survive. These plants dominated these grasslands, however, recent research has shown that human activity has increased nitrogen deposition, allowing invasives to begin establishing and outcompeting the native flora. The way I will be furthering this well established understanding of these grasslands will be through the examination of nitrogen content of both native and nonnative grasses and forbs that could be gaining nitrogen naturally or through nutrient upwelling caused by ants. Looking at previous research, my experimental design and considering nitrogen deposition, I expect to find that there will be higher nitrogen composition in invasive plants when comparing native to nonnative status plants, I also believe that plants situated on ant mounds will have higher nitrogen composition than those away from the mounds, this because non-native plants have been shown to outcompete native species in high nitrogen conditions and because ants bring up previously unavailable nutrients to plants.

Payton Bruni

Major: Journalism   Faculty Mentor: Peter Laufer 

Project Title: Press Freedom in Oman


For my research project I will investigate freedom of the press in the Arab country Oman and research what topics result in government opposition if reported on. Specifically, I will look to see if there are certain topics and issues where the Omani government interferes the most and investigate how severe that interference was. I will then compare this past behavior to how the government has acted in recent years.

The goal of this research will be to gain an understanding of Oman’s news environment so that this information could then be shared with other journalists in the professional community. This research holds significance to the journalistic community as facing opposition from government authority is a major concern for any journalist regardless of their home country. Oman’s level of press freedom also holds higher relevance as the country borders Yemen. With a civil war raging in Yemen, both the Saudi Arabian-led coalition and the United States have used locations in Oman as bases for playing their part in the Yemeni war. Namely, the U.S. and Saudi-led coalition have been airlifting injured civilians and soldiers to Oman where they can receive proper medical treatment. Oman’s position in the Gulf and its proximity to Yemen have resulted in news-worthy events taking place in the country that need coverage.

My research has the potential to better inform journalists on how to safely collect that news-worthy content. I suspect my research will lead me to conclude that Oman has plentiful freedom of press in some areas but a severe lack in others. I believe I will find that the Omani government is particularly critical of any news that casts the country in a negative light or questions Omani government authority.

Adie Fecker

Major: Biology  Faculty Mentor: Phillip Washbourne 

Project Title: Sensory Conditions Important for Social Orienting in Zebrafish


Disruption in social behavior is characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which is a neurodevelopmental disorder that appears in early childhood. Previous papers measured social orienting behavior in zebrafish in a dyad assay and showed lesioning of the ventral forebrain reduced social orienting specifically (Stednitz, 2018). These specific neurons may be evolutionarily conserved and may be found in humans. This study aims to identify other parts of the forebrain that may be implicated in social behavior, to understand which senses contribute to social behavior, and to understand how brain activity patterns relate to sensory conditions and behavior. Measuring behavior in an open field allows us to qualify more complex social behavior like orienting, following and dispersing. The Stednitz (2018) paper suggested subjects must be able to see each other to demonstrate orienting behavior and show activation of the ventral forebrain. However, in an open field, subjects are able to interact without visual stimulus. A deeper investigation into the importance of sensory systems in social behavior can be achieved through olfactory and mechanosensory ablation. Early results suggest the visual system is not required for social interaction, as zebrafish can still follow each other in the dark. Whole brain immunolabeling with pERK and ERK allows for an unbiased approach to identifying important brain regions in social orienting. The neurons in the ventral forebrain (marked “y321” with GFP) acts as our landmark, and our results confirm the importance of the ventral forebrain in social behavior. However, other regions of the forebrain vary in activity in different experimental sensory conditions. Our analysis of behavior and corresponding brain activity will shed light onto more regions that may be implicated in social behavior.

Takako Iwashita

Major: Psychology   Faculty Mentor: Dasa Zeithamova Demircan 

Project Title: How the Effects of Negative Emotions on Associative Memory Change Over Time


The ability to remember associations (e.g., a person’s face with his/her name) is an important aspect of healthy memory function. Emotional arousal (particularly negative emotion) is known to disrupt associative memory more than other types of memory. It is open to question if and how these adverse effects on associative memory can be reduced. Reducing the effects of emotional arousal on memory is particularly important for individuals who experience elevated levels of negative emotional arousal (anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder) and may experience memory disruption on top of other symptoms.

In the proposed study, I will test whether repeated exposure to negative images can reduce emotional arousal (desensitization) and also reduce its negative effect on associative memory. Past research has demonstrated that repeated exposure can reduce physiological arousal to negative stimuli, but it is unclear if this reduction can also reduce or eliminate the cost to memory. In the experiment, I will induce emotional arousal in participants by showing them negative images, then ask them to learn associations between pairs of objects on which they will later be tested. I will administer multiple rounds of study-test blocks to examine how arousal and memory change over the course of the session. I hypothesize that exposure will reduce emotional arousal (i.e., physiological desensitization) and associative memory accuracy will increase over time. The study on a healthy population proposed here will serve as a first step to understanding how to alleviate memory disruption in clinical populations. It will also support my long-term goal of becoming a researcher in clinical psychology, studying the effects of trauma on cognition and how to counteract them.

Bry Moore

Major: Political Science  Faculty Mentor: Dan Tichenor 

Project Title: Seeking Insite: Harm Reduction and Humanizing Drug Use


The focus of my Honors thesis is on supervised injection sites and the feasibility of harm reduction as a political framework in the United States. Though there has been much research on the success of harm reduction in places outside of the United States, no supervised injection sites currently exist in the U.S. Part of my research will comprise of a comparative analysis of U.S. and Canadian drug policy, including a sociohistorical analysis of shifting cultural values around the issue of healthcare and the eventual establishment of Insite, a supervised injection site in Vancouver, British Columbia. My primary research questions are: Could a facility like Insite operate in the United States? If so, how? If not, why not? What are the obstacles — social, political, economic, legal, or otherwise — that have prevented the successful establishment of a supervised injection site in the United States? My research will make a unique, distinct contribution to the academic discourse surrounding harm reduction because it will center personal narrative and accurately situate the lives of drug users and their communities as those most affected by drug policy. This research approach reflects the principles of the harm reduction movement itself, not focusing solely on abstract policy goals or legal history but instead contextualizing law and policy in relation to lived experiences. I expect to find that drug users themselves, while at the forefront of organizing for drug policy reform and public health approaches to the issue of drug use, are rarely included in conversations with actual law-makers and policy influencers. I also hope to build a body of ethnographic research that can be used in the future to determine resource allocation and shift the sociopolitical conversation about drug use from its current punitive focus to a more humanistic, health-centered approach.

Calvin Penkauskas

Major: Biology and Environmental Science  Faculty Mentor: Lauren Hallett 

Project Title: Resolving conflict between oak conservation and organic hazelnut production


Filbertworm (Cydia latiferreana) is a polyphagous moth that infests Oregon white oak acorns and hazelnuts. Filbertworm source populations in remnant oak habitat can lead to cyclical infestation in neighboring hazelnut stands. This makes these remaining oak stands, which are mostly on private agricultural land, a potential liability to hazelnut production in Oregon – which accounts for over 90 percent of US hazelnut production. With infested acorns and hazelnuts falling early in the season, the developing larvae are vulnerable to predation while exposed on the ground. Removal of infested acorns in oak stands would interrupt the developmental stage in its life cycle and reduce filbertworm population and pest pressure.

Domestic pigs (Sus domesticus) have been known to decrease infestation loads by gleaning decaying fruit in organic fruit orchards and are effective woodland foragers with Spain illustrating that their appetite for acorns is economically viable. Silvopasture techniques like this have the potential to remove acorns thereby reducing filbertworm population densities as well. I am testing a novel way to mitigate hazelnut filbertworm infestation through pig grazing in oak woodland and adjacent organic hazelnut understories. I hypothesize that controlled grazing will reduce filbertworm populations in the woodland and create less pest load in adjacent hazelnut stands.

Over the last year I conducted a baseline study examining acorn densities before and after grazing with preliminary results showing that pigs do in fact reduce total acorn density in the oak woodland. These promising preliminary results suggest a the potential to create a win-win scenario for oak conservation and organic hazelnut production, thus, alleviating confounding factors is essential for the projects success. With this UROP Mini-grant, I’ll be able to gain a much better picture of the population dynamic in and around the study site by directly monitoring acorn and filbertworm densities with supplemental methods and analysis.

Jaycie Schenone

Major: Journalism   Faculty Mentor: Ed Madison 

Project Title: Out of Bounds


The combination of poor mental health and college athletics has caused many young adults to take their life. According to a 9-year study conducted by Sports Health, suicide rates among college athletes appear to be lower than those of the general and collegiate population of similar age. However, factors leading collegiate athletes to take permanent action are directly related to the stigma surrounding the issue.

A year ago, Tyler Hilinski borrowed his friend’s rifle and fatally shot himself in the head. Merely a few hours later, his name appeared on every news headline, #riptylerhilinski was trending on twitter, and students at Washington State University began planning his vigil. Tyler was a son, a brother, a friend, a student, and an athlete– not a statistic. During the autopsy, doctors found that Tyler was suffering from CTE. His brain was in the condition of a 60-year-old, most likely a result of forced trauma to the brain from playing football.

Five years ago, across the country, Madison Holleran jumped from the top of a parking structure in Pennsylvania to her death. She was a daughter, sister, friend, student, and athlete suffering from chronic depression. It is believed that Madison, an elite track athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, took a running leap over the side of the building, as she had many times before while practicing the hurdle.

Their stories have been told countless times. But the ending never changes. You want it to change so badly but it doesn’t. That’s why I’m going to tell someone else’s story. Everyone needs to know that there can be a different ending.

The 10-12 minute documentary, “Step Out of Bounds,” will tell the story of a former female lacrosse player at the University of Oregon’s battle to heal her mental and physical health.

Michael Silver

Major: Finance  Faculty Mentor: Kate Harmon

Project Title: Social Isolation: Which aspects of Social Media are at Fault?


Social isolation as a result of social network use is a problem that has gained much media attention but we don’t know how deeply rooted this problem is or how to approach it. I would like to try to find pain points our online lives cause and discover potential solutions in incentivizing a more meaningful online experience for our youth. According to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine, social media use is linked to depression in young adults ages 19 to 321. In an NPR article by the same researcher, linked heavy social media use to “social isolation” among young adults2. According to another study at Carnegie Mellon3, the level of interaction contributed to the differences in feelings. Those who actively interacted with friends on Facebook felt contentment and happiness. Those who interacted passively reported feeling more isolated and unhappy. Specifically, those who “receiving targeted, composed communication from strong ties was associated with improvements in well-being.” Thus, there are strong indications that the current social networking model has some socially isolating features, while only specific use scenarios actually provide a positive benefit to the user. In general, passively consuming information, like scrolling through posts, much like watching TV, prove to have a negative effect on mental health. By contrast, those who actively interacted with a community of shared interests, sharing messages, posts or comments, were likely to report improvements in well-being. Learning from the past, I believe a social network can be designed specifically to embrace the positive merits of social networking. Find which ways are beneficial in bridging the gap between our digital and real life experiences, so they can co-exist and complement each other.

Kayla Thomet

Major: Public Relations  Faculty Mentor: Dean Mundy

Project Title: Communicating Change: A study of current and proposed communication strategies for prompting individual behavior towards ocean conservation


It is common knowledge that the earth is facing harmful environmental change. From the rise in carbon emissions to the rise in our oceans, the planet is facing never-before-seen challenges. One of those key challenges that we need to address is pollution in our oceans. According to Wabnitz and Nichols (2010), plastic pollution in the ocean has reached an astounding level and immediate action is required to save our seas. Based on my own experience and preliminary research, I have found that many people are aware of the level of pollution in the ocean but are not sure what they, as individuals, can do to help. Often times, people do not want to donate because they never see where their money goes or the issue is not salient enough to contribute. To help change this narrative, I am conducting a study to identify specific communication techniques which can prompt individual behavior change among the public regarding reducing ocean pollution. These behavior changes will stretch beyond monetary donations and into actions that actually help reduce the amount of pollution which washes into the ocean. There is limited research surrounding ocean communication, an area which I strive to fill the gaps in knowledge. Scientific communication is essential to the future of our planet. I expect to find consumer preferences for ocean pollution ads and calls-to-action and create a concise compilation of pollution facts. I expect to find that impactful pictures of plastic pollution harming wildlife accompanied by text instructing individuals on how to change their behavior to reduce pollution will be most effective in creating lasting change.

Sierra Webster

Major: Journalism  Faculty Mentor: Lori Shontz

Project Title: Sports Media and the Seattle Storm


For my School of Journalism and Communication honors thesis, I will be producing several long-form narratives focused on the Seattle Storm, the 2018 WNBA champion, as an example of a team at the forefront of a movement giving more prestige and attention towards professional sportswomen. The project will combine extensive sports media coverage research and knowledge with journalistic storytelling, interviewing and reporting to tell the story of the Storm and why it matters through the accessible medium of journalism. Following months of research and analysis of sports media demographics, statistics and coverage data, I now need to travel to Seattle to interview sources and to gather information, scene and a sense for the city’s support of its WNBA franchise. The information gathered on reporting trips will supplement what information can be gathered remotely and through research to produce a report that is more than just a research article but that is a compelling story. Further, much of what I found in my research is that male sports reporters control many sports media narratives, producing almost 90 percent of sports media coverage (The Status of Women in the U.S. Media, Women’s Media Center). Thus, underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women in sports media production is inevitable because the narratives are predominately controlled by masculinity. My hope in my project is to, as a female sports reporter, tell this particular story in a way that is dignifying, accurate and representative of the women on the team.

Fall 2018 Mini-grant Recipients

James Andersen

Major: Scandinavian Studies   Faculty Mentor: Gantt Gurley Project Title: A Toast from the High Seat: The Feast in the Viking Age


The purpose of this project is to examine feasting’s place in Viking Age Scandinavia as the primary cultural event, and offer new theories of the centrality of its’ role. The feast has not been addressed properly in past scholarship, which has overlooked its’ significance as a mutable event used to commemorate a vast array of festivities and occurrences throughout Viking Age life. To this day there has not been a proper study of feasting and its’ importance in the Viking Age; such a work is of vital importance to understanding a culture which in many ways influences our own. Via reexamination of the historical sources, namely the Icelandic sagas (although a few exterior accounts merit address) and archaeological evidence, the practices and purposes of feasts in this culture will be explored. More recent scholarship will also be consulted where it is useful. The feast in this period was integral to the proper functioning of society, and fits into a longer chronology of feasting practices (both before and after) which must be addressed to provide a full context and understand how the Viking Age feast was unique. Research thus far has provided substantial support for this hypothesis, however, as more sources are examined with this in mind feasting’s importance to Viking Age culture will become securely established; hopefully influencing further scholarship.

Ricky Ede

Major: Earth Sciences   Faculty Mentor: Thomas Giachetti Project Title: Quantifying the Relationship Between Permeability and Vesicle and Fracture Characteristics in Pumice


The goal of my project is to compare the textural characteristics of eruptive products from an unobstructed volcano with those of a volcano that underlies a substantial ice mass. Glaciovolcanism—the interaction between volcanic systems and ice—is a somewhat underdeveloped sub-field of geology. Not only does ice often obscure precursors to an eruption and much of the eruption itself, access to regions of glaciovolcanism is often difficult because it requires the confluence of abundant ice and volcanic activity. Studying the properties of volcanic products grants insight into the eruption process. For my project I will study the characteristics of vesicle networks and fractures in pumice, a highly porous rock composed of volcanic glass. Vesicles in pumice are the result of the exsolution of volatiles such as water and carbon dioxide from the magmatic melt during its ascent to the surface. These vesicles often become interconnected, rendering the magma permeable to buoyant gas which escapes into the host rock or the atmosphere. This process, which is known as outgassing, reduces the overpressure in the magma and may prevent fragmentation and explosive eruption. How permeability varies depends on the size, shape, and abundance of vesicles and fractures.

The burden of an ice mass on a volcano can impact multiple stages of the eruption process in ways that need to be fully understood. Glaciers have the potential to increase pressure on an underlying volcanic system, altering the development of vesicle and fracture networks during magma ascent and therefore impacting permeability. To aid in the effort of better understanding the effects that an ice mass may have on the eruption process of a volcano, I will establish functional relationships between permeability and vesicle and fracture characteristics such as number density, size, and shape.

Hannah Kruse

Major: Earth Sciences  Faculty Mentor: Thomas Giachetti Project Title: Exploring patterns in monogenetic cinder cones of Newberry Volcano, Oregon


Newberry Volcano is a large quaternary shield-shape volcano that sits 60 km to the east of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. Newberry is the second most voluminous volcano in the Cascades (~500 km3) and has more than 400 satellite vents dotting its flanks, some over 20 km away from the central caldera. Many of the vents sport cinder cones tens to hundreds of meters tall. Most of these monogenetic volcanoes postdate the last caldera-forming eruption and are most common to the north and south of the central caldera, less so to the east and rare to the west, drawing a crescent across the landscape.

This is an unusually high number of subfeatures for any volcano to exhibit, and in an unusual geographic pattern. These vents may tell us something unique about the infrastructure of Newberry’s magma chamber and plumbing system.

My project goal is to analyze the spatial and temporal occurrence, size, and chemical composition of Newberry’s cinder cones to find any relationships that exist between them and the central caldera, other local geologic features, and each other.

Understanding the architecture and eruptive patterns of a volcano is essential to hazard assessment, preparedness, and mitigation. Newberry provides a unique opportunity in its abundance and preservation of somewhat recent vents to explore these. If time allows, I will also apply these methods to Medicine Lake Volcano, CA, which is the largest volcano of the Cascades in volume (~600 km3), and lies similarly to the east of the Cascade Range.

Michelle Lo

Major: Mathematics   Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Ruef Project Title: Power Dynamics in Group Settings of Mathematics Classrooms

Publications and Presentations Affiliated with Research:

American Educational Research Association 2019 Annual Meeting


Recent work in the K-12 mathematics education community shows that the learning and doing of collaborative mathematics during group work is largely affected by social and mathematical authority. Mathematical authority is established as a product of mathematical arguments and consensus, and agency as the power to develop and test conjectures. While agency and authority can be indicators of higher academic status in classrooms as shown by previous studies, this project intends to add to the literature on constructing mathematical knowledge in groups by exploring how social authority weaves itself into the dynamics of group learning in public sensemaking classrooms. Public sensemaking seeks opportunities to understand and acknowledge other’s ideas, take risks by sharing, refine arguments, and grapple with mistakes. I will explore the types of bids made by students during group work and which bids are accepted or rejected in order to answer the following research question: How do factors related to social authority and mathematical authority impact group learning? I hypothesize that the culture of a public sensemaking classroom may shape the normative identity of what a “good” mathematics learner looks like, thus impacting social and mathematical authority and status. Additionally, a high social status may lend itself to a higher mathematical status, regardless of actual mathematical merit. On the other hand, those with lower social status may have high mathematical status, but little mathematical authority. The results from this research project may shed light on ways to optimize small-group learning in collaborative mathematics classrooms. The discourse between students must be equitable and productive so that they are able to form positive identities of themselves in relation to mathematics. Investigating the ways in which mathematical and social authority is developed and distributed within groups will guide understanding of the actions needed to create equitable group environments for learning mathematics.

Kendra Siebert

Major: Journalism and Advertising  Faculty Mentor: Peter Laufer Project Title: An Exploration of Urban Art as Cultural Testimony Throughout Social Movements in Mexico City and Oaxaca


In recent years, urban art has grown increasingly prominent in the public sphere across both Mexico City and Oaxaca, but its roots reside back in the early 1920s and the time of the Mexican Revolution. From 1910 to 1920, the Mexican government jumpstarted the muralist movement out of concern with “defining a new ‘Mexican’ character,’ and unifying the nation of divided maderistas, carrancistas, villistas, zapatistas (etc.) into one of mexicanos. Yet this mission is regarded by many of today’s urban artists and other community members as inauthentic – a manipulation of art to influence an audience’s understanding of society and self. With this project, I am attempting to answer the following questions: Is art in today’s public space inherently political? Who are these works intended for? Do they potentially act as cultural testimony? And how do their funding sources serve to convolute the message this art tells, potentially manipulating the cultural identity of a place or people?

I have already conducted one round of in-person interviews with urban artists in both Mexico City and Oaxaca, and will be returning this winter to ask more questions that will yield a wider variety of perspectives. Note that these Interviews will continue to be conducted through a historical and political lens, and ultimately, my project will attempt to show the correlation between art and public discourse, and use these perspectives to challenge the notion that art in the public space is inherently democratic. In the tumultuous political landscape of today, now is as important a time as ever to reflect on the ways different communities use media to encapsulate their social climate and effect social change. I am looking forward to sharing my results – as well as digital photographs – through in a formal thesis defense and any relevant conference settings.

Nisha Sridhar & Camille Sullivan

Major: Human Physiology and Biology   Faculty Mentor: Tyson Barker Project Title: Observing Rewards, Caregiver, and Action Monitoring (ORCA)


Although parenting is a naturally rewarding activity, excess stressors such as food and housing insecurity impact a caregiver’s interactions with their children. Existing literature suggests that a caregiver’s reaction to their child’s social-communicative signals — known as responsive caregiving — is a strong predictor of positive child outcomes; however, the degree to which an individual parent engages in this practice varies greatly. Thus, to maximize responsive caregiving and consequently support child development, it is important to identify the mechanisms by which stress impacts parenting. Our goal is to determine the presence of a neurobiological indicator of caregiver reward that can provide insight on how stress impacts responsive caregiving. A neurobiological indicator of reward would provide a quantitative way to measure the effectiveness of parenting interventions.

To examine these mechanisms, we are recruiting mothers with children ages 3-6 to observe their children complete simple computer tasks. During the task, the mother-child dyad will wear an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap, which will monitor the brain’s electrical activity, measuring the extent of observational reward positivity (observational RP) — the extent to which the mother responds positively when the computer rewards her child. While other studies have examined neurobiological components of caregiving with functional magnetic resonance imaging, the EEG can be operated in a more natural social setting that mimics real-life caregiver-child interactions.

The expected outcome includes the identification of a proposed neurological mechanism that demonstrates the reduction of responsive caregiving as a result of parental stress. With the collected EEG data as well as self-reported survey information and coded observed interactions, we intend to analyze the extent of the correlation between caregiving reward and observational RP. We additionally intend to examine stress and observational RP, as well as the correlation between responsive caregiving and observational RP.

Momo Wilms-Crowe

Major: Political Science and International Studies   Faculty Mentor: Janine Hicks (University of KwaZulu Natal) Project Title: Beyond the Ivory Tower: Contemporary South African Student Activism and its Role in Supporting Transformative Social Change


Twenty-four year into democracy, in a time marked by stark inequality and rising levels of political disillusionment, student activists are key players in the pursuit of a more just, more equitable, and more democratic South Africa. Using universities as spaces to contest, disrupt, and challenge the status quo, student activists push civil society towards the goals established in the 1994 Constitution, the document enshrining the very promises they were born into believing would be their reality. Through mobilization and organizing, student actors boldly engage in questions of substantive equality and reveal the limits of South African democracy. Yet, while #FeesMustFall protests in 2015-2016 temporarily garnered international media and scholarly recognition, prolonged attention to student activism is lacking. This study aims to correct this epistemological oversight by focusing on students and their contributions to the process of social transformation in the post-Apartheid context. Using in-depth semi-structured interviews and focus groups, this project seeks to understand the role that student activists at institutions of higher learning play in the larger project of transforming post-Apartheid South African society. Informed by the voices of student activists involved in #FeesMustFall and more recent campaigns against gender based violence (GBV) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, this study considers how student activists operate within and beyond the university to influence social change. Ultimately, I focus on how student activists conceptualize their role in creating a new social order and how that ideal translates into action. As student activists are often misunderstood, misrepresented or overlooked all together, this work fills a critical space and has important implications for our understanding of transformation in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Winter 2018 Mini-grant Recipients

Shuxi Wu

Major: Anthropology and Asian Studies   Faculty Mentor: Tuong Vu
Project Title: Transnational Professionals: Global Hires, the Knowledge Economy, and the Metanational Corporation


Transnational migration has never been in more urgent need of discussion, as people’s movement across national borders faces increasing friction in the global arena. The examination of transnational migration in anthropology, however, has focused primarily on the clearly disadvantaged (such as low-skill workers vulnerable to blatant exploitation) or the powerful driving figures of globalization (what has been termed the “transnational capitalist class”), whereas the middle strata of skilled employees are readily overlooked. In policy debates, skilled foreign employees are seen as displacers of American workers. In economic analysis, however, professional knowledge is regarded as valuable input. It is imperative to put these fields in dialogue with each other if one wants to obtain a non-fractured image of highly skilled foreign workers. This ethnographic study of highly skilled East and Southeast Asian employees or “global hires” of two Portland-based transnational corporations (Nike, Inc. and Columbia Sportswear Company) will examine the ambivalent experience of global hires in the transnational circuit. I will be analyzing how the desirable status of special knowledge personnel and the undesirable identity of foreign workers construe both leverages and obstacles in the employees’ relocation experience and their negotiation for better opportunities within a highly conditioned structural position. I will draw theoretical inspirations from David Harvey’s model of flexible accumulation, Yves Doz’s notion of the metanational corporate advantage, and current discussion of the new knowledge economy. Through theoretical and ethnographic examinations, I first attempt to show the ways in which corporations and nation-states condition the transnational flow of highly skilled personnel. I then take an agency-centered approach to discuss how global hires’ status as both labor and capital in the knowledge economy results in constraints and empowerment. Finally, I contend that global hires represent a specific practice of metanational corporations, emblematic of a new form of flexible accumulation.

Eamonn Needham

Major: Earth Sciences   Faculty Mentor: James Watkins
Project Title: Using Microlite Number Densities to Calibrate Ascent Rates at Mono Craters, California


Volcanoes can erupt explosively or effusively, or can transition between the two styles. Understanding what determines the style of volcanic eruption is imperative for accurate hazard assessment and mitigation. Studying the eruptive style depends on observation and analysis of volcanic deposits (it is impossible to observe conduit processes); as such, the calibration of these analytical methods is crucial for modelling volcanic eruptions.

One method analyzes obsidian pyroclasts, which are pieces of volcanic glass entrained within erupting magma. These pyroclasts can record the ascent rate through their volatile (H2O and CO2) content. Magma ascent rate is attributed a dominant role in controlling eruptive style, so determining the ascent rate is crucial for understanding eruptive processes.

Recently, the dominant hypothesis of how obsidian pyroclasts form has been challenged. If validated, this paradigm shift will have implications for how volatile data is interpreted. I have been analyzing obsidian pyroclasts from the Mono Craters, California for their volatile concentrations, and can now begin to calculate ascent rates using the new method. To calibrate this new method however, we need to compare the rate calculated from volatiles to a previously validated method.

The Mono Craters samples have large quantities of microlites (crystals <100 µm). The Microlite Number Density (MND; microlites/mm^2), can determine the ascent rate as well, but each volcanic system requires calibration. Calibration involves making synthetic Mono Craters obsidian, replicating the conditions of the magma chamber, then decompressing it at realistic ascent rates. Then, MND analyses will be done on the synthetic samples, with the goal of calibrating the MND of natural samples. From there, I can compare the MND ascent rate to the volatile ascent rates, to determine the validity of the new method. The goal of this work is to be able to apply the volatile method to the systems without microlites.

Rachael Cleveland

Major: Earth Sciences  Faculty Mentor: Matthew Polizzotto
Project Title: How Mercury Concentrations and Forms Change Throughout the Watershed Affected by Black Butte Mine


The history of mining in Oregon has led to a legacy of contaminated and abandoned sites that threatens environmental and human health. My research goal is to better understand mercury (Hg) cycling within an Oregon watershed that is being contaminated by an abandoned mine. The chosen site is the Superfund site at Black Butte Mine, where contaminated sediment has washed down a series of streams that drain into Cottage Grove Reservoir. I am asking three main research questions: How do Hg concentrations change in sediment from the mine site to the reservoir? How do the forms and reactivity of Hg change from the mine site to the reservoir? Do form and concentration change in different areas of the reservoir? Although the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have conducted preliminary Hg analyses in the area, no studies have looked at how the forms and concentrations of mercury change in the sediment from the mine site to the reservoir. This information, particularly the forms of mercury found, has significant implications for Hg bioaccumulation and the resulting safety of humans and species that live within the watershed.

I will test the following hypotheses concerning Hg in sediment within the watershed. I expect the concentrations of mercury to be highest at the mine site, decreasing in concentration along the river channels, and then increasing within the reservoir as Hg is deposited and accumulates. I expect Hg in sediment will become progressively more labile (i.e. reactive) from the mine site to the reservoir. Within the reservoir, I expect lability and concentrations of Hg to be higher in the floodplains that experience seasonal variations than the permanently inundated areas. To test these hypotheses, I will work in partnership with members of DEQ, EPA, and UO Earth Sciences.

Brianna Kendrick

Major: Geography   Faculty Mentor: Patricia McDowell
Project Title: Mapping Past Elevations of Pluvial Lake Chewaucan

Presentations Associated with this Project:

– Great Basin Anthropological Association, 2018 Conference


The Chewaucan Basin in Eastern Oregon has been the subject of numerous studies and notable archaeological finds, including the oldest human remains in North America which were found at the Paisley Caves. While the area is now a high desert with small, shallow lakes and rivers, 20,000 years ago it was filled with a vast lake that was 114 meters deep and covered 1,244km². At least 15,000 years ago, this Ancient Lake Chewaucan provided inhabitants of the area with food, water, and other resources. Many researchers have worked to model the level of the lake since its high stand, starting with Ira S. Allison in 1982, who took elevations and dates of lake-formed features. Negrini and Davis, Friedel, Pezzopane, Cohen, and Licciardi followed Allison’s work by adding dates and elevations to the paleo-climate record. In 2001, Pezzopane made a step in the right direction by publishing a digital elevation model of the basin, but it used topographic elevations which are not as accurate as tools available today and was difficult to read because of its poor design. For these reasons, it is not very useful to archaeologists and other researchers.

For my senior thesis, I plan to create a digital elevation model of Ancient Lake Chewaucan using new elevations and dates of lake shore features in the Chewaucan Basin. I will use ArcMap to create an accurate, visually coherent map of lake levels at notable periods, such as the lake maximum, early Holocene, and modern levels. This map will assist archaeologists in finding archaeological sites and increase our understanding of climate change in the Great Basin.

Dylan Carlini

Major: Earth Sciences    Faculty Mentor: Samantha Hopkins
Project Title: Mammal Community Structure: Oregon in the Miocene


In my thesis work, I examine the interrelationship of changing landscape and ecosystem with the mammals inhabiting those ecosystems in Oregon’s past. This fits well within the focus of the lab I am working in, namely the evolution of mammals and their role in the environment. My thesis is specifically concerned with the changing environment in eastern Oregon 16-5 million years ago. Environmental changes drive changes in mammalian body size, and as body mass can signal a host of other characteristics about a species such as diet, metabolism, and trophic level, determining mass of extinct organisms illuminates much of their ecology. In order to infer body mass, paleontologists use measurements on fossil bones as a proxy. In my thesis, I will be measuring fossils collected from the Mascall and Rattlesnake rock formations, located in Eastern Oregon, in order to calculate body mass. I will then look for patterns of body mass distributions, and compare them to mammal community body mass distributions in modern environments. I hope to discover clear patterns of body mass distributions in various environments. As Eastern Oregon transformed from a closed, forested environment to an open grassland in the geologic period that I am studying. I hope to recognize that ecosystem change using the fossil record of mammals. Though there has been an effort to correlate body size distributions with changing environments before, the measurement methods utilized have since been proven to be statistically impractical. Furthermore, despite its well-known geological history and suitability to such a project, no relevant studies have used Eastern Oregon, and therefore cannot speak to the changes that have occurred locally.

Alex Egdell

Major: Chemistry and Biochemistry  Faculty Mentor: Ramesh Jasti
Project Title: Synthesis of alkyne substituted cycloparaphenylenes for conjugated polymers


Conjugated polymers possess excellent conductive properties that could facilitate the construction of light weight flexible electronics. This potential application makes an efficient route to conjugated polymers synthetically desirable. The current barrier to large-scale synthesis of these molecules is an inversely proportional relationship between solubility and conductivity. The sought-after conductivity is due to charge transfer across a conjugated π system within the polymer. This affords the polymers with electronic properties atypical of organic molecules. Unfortunately, intermolecular stacking of these π systems leads to poor solubility. Cycloparaphenylenes(CPPs) offer a solution for this conflict between solubility and charge transfer. CPPs are large hoops of strained benzene rings which possess a conjugated π system without a clear avenue for π stacking. A CPP polymer would form a sort of molecular necklace; with large bulky hoops hanging off the polymer backbone the potential polymers would not stack well with each other, thus reducing chance of aggregation. Utilization of the CPPs as monomers for polymer synthesis could produce a polymer chain with the ideal electrical properties without diminishing the solubility. To this end, this research project focuses on the synthesis of the CPP monomers to be used for the polymer reaction. Creating this highly strained hoop requires a series of reactions to form a string of benzene rings that will be coupled to a single alkyne functionalized benzene. Previous work shows challenges in the route that yields the eight ring CPP. Further work will focus on the synthesis of the smaller six CPP monomer.We expect this CPP incorporated conjugated polymer will have improved conductivity without sacrificing solubility.

Denae Brocksmith

Major: Dance   Faculty Mentor: Shannon Mockli
Project Title: A Thierry de May informed Screendance Project


The Stanford Arts Dance Division defines Screendance as “a unique cinematic experience that merges cinematography and choreography.” Presenting dance through a screen can make choreography more accessible to the viewer and allows for an expansion of choreographic innovation for the dance artist. This medium is new and quickly emerging and plays an important role for dance vitality in a quickly evolving modern world. As there is not a Screendance specific course at the University of Oregon, I plan to attend a weekend workshop hosted by the University of Utah School of Dance, Department of Film and Media Arts, and the Salt Lake Film Society at the University of Utah offered by Thierry De May, a renown dance filmmaker and musical composer with a remarkable instinctive feel for movement. De May integrates the disciplines of dance, music, and movement into his work to effectively present the medium of film through the perspective of dance. He has worked with dance artist greats such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and William Forsythe, and received national and international awards such as Bessie Awards, Eve du Spectacle, Forum des compositeurs de I’Unesco, and FIPA. Through my research, I will acquire new perspectives and knowledge that will help me, as a dancer, choreographer, and UO alumni, better contribute to and navigate this progressive field.

Fall 2017 Mini-grant Recipients

Spencer Smith

Major: Human Physiology   Faculty Mentor: Teresa Chen
Project Title: Muscle fatigue in young and older adults: how can we tell?


Fatigue is a symptom often reported by older adults, and has important implications for quality of life and even mortality. Muscle fatigue has been found to cause motor adjustments in functional activities, such as walking, resulting in an increased risk of falling. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-fourth of Americans over the age of 65 fall each year. Studies have shown that older adults generally demonstrate greater fatigability during dynamic movements and require more effort to perform activities of daily living (ADLs). Thus, a validated protocol to examine the fatigability and/or detect the muscle fatigue in older adults is needed.

Sit-to-stand (STS) test is a biomechanically challenging task, during which individuals are instructed to repeatedly sit on and stand from a chair. It has been widely used to measure mobility function. The time taken to complete the test, as well as the rate of rise in force, postural sway, and other biomechanical features, have been identified as fall risk predictors. Although STS has been performed over several decades with a quantitative characterization, to our knowledge, no studies have examined and quantified the impact of muscle fatigue induced by repeated STS in older adults.

Thus, the purpose of the research project is to 1) develop a protocol to objectively measure fatigability during repeated sit to stand motion, 2) investigate the effect of muscle fatigue in older adults compared to young adults, and 3) identify the biomechanical variables that can be used to quantify and monitor muscle fatigue throughout the STS test. The knowledge gained from this proposed research will enhance our ability to (1) establish baseline database for future research on fatigue-prone populations, (2) provide further insight into causes behind different levels of fatigability, and 3) develop effective interventions and optimize individual application of interventions.

This presents an opportunity to examine what principles of design may already be inherent within anti-racist organizing. I predict that the two fields may speak to each other in a powerful way, each lending key insights into the other.

Jennie Shen

Major: Linguistics   Faculty Mentor: Melissa Baese-Berk
Project Title: The Effectiveness of Audiovisual Training on Non-Native English Speech Perception and Production


In this project, we will examine the effectiveness of audiovisual training on non-native English speech perception and production. Speech perception relies on both acoustic information and visual information. Audiovisual training, pairing audio input with visual input, is a method that applies use of the two domains, often in a learning context. Previous research utilizing this method have been employed in the field of speech pathology, showing positive outcomes in improving productions among dyslexic children. However, few studies to date have examined its use in second language learning. Additionally, research has focused primarily on perception and production of English /l/ and /r/ but not consonants made with the lips (i.e., labial sounds: /b,p,m,f,v/), which are known to be challenging for many second language learners of English. Therefore, the aim of this project is to explore audiovisual training across populations of non-native speakers from 3 countries: China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Participants will take part in a training study designed to examine the effects of audiovisual and audio-only training. Performance before and after the training will be assessed via perception and production tests. We hypothesize that 1) student production performance will improve, but perception performance will only minimally increase and 2) production and perception improvement will rely heavily on a participant’s language background and known difficulties with labial sounds. Results from this research will enrich future understanding of language perception and production and provide information on the use of audiovisual training in a language learning context.

Tristan Mistkawi

Major: Chemistry & Biochemistry  Faculty Mentor: Michael Haley
Project Title: Electronic properties of indenofluorenes and their derivatives


The Haley group is interested in a class of organic molecules known as indenofluorenes, which have potential applications as organic semiconductors due to their novel electronic properties.  My role in this project is to synthesize specific derivatives of indenofluorenes to compare to other derivatives prepared by colleagues so that we can determine how to “tune” the electronic properties for implementation into devices.  While other researchers in the literature have studied compounds with similar properties, no one has performed a rational, systemic study.  The current project in the Haley lab is to engage in such a study in order to improve our understanding of the trends in electronic properties for indenofluorenes, fluorenofluorenes, and related structures.

We will create these new compounds using established organic synthetic methods.  Once we prepare the compounds of interest, we will use analytical methods such as electrochemistry, mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction to characterize them, thus enabling experimental determination of their optical and electronic properties.  We expect to identify a useful strategy for tuning the electronic properties of a class of fluorenofluorenes, structural analogues of the indenofluorenes.  Any positive results and data obtained will be published in due course in appropriate organic chemistry or materials journals, as the Haley lab has an excellent track record of co-authored undergraduates in journal articles.

Jacqueline Huaman

Major: Asian Studies Program   Faculty Mentor: Kaori Idemaru
Project Title: Japanese Gendered Language and the Ideal Female Romantic Partner


The goal of my honors thesis is to explore how gendered language, or lack thereof, is utilized in Japanese society to perpetuate feminine ideals in the media. Specifically, I want to focus on how the ideal female romantic partner is portrayed in modern media through the use of language. Japanese has been considered a very gendered language. However, more recent research has questioned whether the description of gendered features in Japanese reflects language ideology or language reality. For example, in 2004, Janet Shibamoto-Smith investigated language and its use as a cultural model for romance, specifically looking at how language was used by the protagonists of romance novels in the 1980s and 1990s in Japan. Similarly, I want to explore how idol music and popular television shows serve as models for romance and ideal female partners in contemporary society. Following the methodology set up by Shibamoto-Smith, I will develop a retrospective study and a corpus study to investigate language use in the media of the 2000s and 2010s in order to analyze the linguistic representations of an ideal female partner. I expect to find the use of gendered markers, and lack thereof, to correlate with the type of ideal being portrayed in the media, as substantiated by the society in which this media exists.

Shawn Melendy

Major: Human Physiology    Faculty Mentor: Carrie McCurdy
Project Title: Evaluation of the effectiveness of a Running Fatigue Protocol and Assessment of Fatigue Induced Running Mechanic Changes


Muscle cells, which play an important role in glucose homeostasis, bind the hormone insulin to receptors at their surface. As a result, proteins and lipids including Phosphoinositol 3-Kinase (PI3K) and Akt are phosphorylated and activate, initiating glucose uptake, among other responses, to regulate blood sugar levels. Obesity, an epidemic which affects over one-third of American adults, disrupts this pathway. This disruption results in insulin resistance, and may lead to Type II Diabetes if untreated. The exact mechanism by which skeletal muscle develops insulin resistance remains unknown; however, our preliminary data shows that mice with decreased insulin sensitivity due to high-fat diet (HFD) have increased expression of p55α, a regulatory subunit of PI3K. I hypothesize that increased expression of p55α in skeletal muscle cells directly impairs PI3K activity and decreases insulin sensitivity. To test this hypothesis, C2C12 myoblasts will be transduced with adenovirus carrying the p55 gene driven by the CMV promoter, or empty vector to mimic increased p55 expression. Cells will be stimulated with or without 100 nM insulin, and Akt phosphorylation and GLUT4 translocation will be measured by flow cytometry. We predict that increased p55α will reduce insulin signaling downstream of PI3K at Akt and inhibit GLUT4 translocation. Understanding the specific interactions that lead to disruption in insulin signaling could lead to new treatments for diabetics.

Alex Egdell

Major: Chemistry and Biochemistry  Faculty Mentor: Ramesh Jasti
Project Title: Synthesis of alkyne substituted cycloparaphenylenes for conjugated polymers


Conjugated polymers have been of synthetic interest for decades due to their excellent conductivity. These materials have allowed the construction of light weight flexible electronics. However, large scale application of these conjugated polymers is difficult due to an inversely proportional relationship between solubility and conductivity. Their enhanced conductivity is a result of charge transfer along the extended π system of the polymer, giving them electronic properties uncharacteristic of organic materials. Unfortunately, the stacking of these π systems between polymers also leads to poor solubility and reducing π stacking is necessary for their application. Cycloparaphenylenes (CPPs) are large hoops, comprised of bent benzene rings, which have extended π systems possessing conductive properties. This highly strained hoop conformation increases charge transfer in the molecule. A polymer chain incorporated with these bulky hoops would prevent π systems between polymers from meshing together. Using CPPs as a monomer for conjugated polymers would disrupt the π stacking that reduces solubility, while maintaining ideal charge transfer properties. To this end, this project will focus on the synthesis of a CPP monomer, which will be used to make highly conjugated soluble polymers. Creating the strained π systems in CPP requires bending benzene rings to connect and form a hoop. This requires a series of reactions to form a string of seven benzene rings which will be coupled to single alkyne functionalized benzene for a total of eight benzene rings. We expect that this CPP incorporated conjugated polymer will have improved conductivity without sacrificing solubility.

Meg Rodgers

Major: Media Studies   Faculty Mentor: Erin Hanna
Project Title: The Anti-Heroine: an Emergent Television Character Trope


Television’s anti-heroes have long raked in high ratings and delivered audiences with devilishly corrupt but ultimately sympathetic viewpoints. Recent exemplars such as Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Dexter Morgan are rarely ethical and far from heroic, which has led to a wide breadth of scholarship about male characters who skirt the boundaries between regular life and outlaw culture. For example, Brett Martin’s Difficult Men and Amanda Lotz’ Cable Guys explore masculinity on television that is predicated on breaking societal norms. What the existing scholarship fails to fully address—and where my research project intervenes—is a thorough analysis of the anti-heroine, a television genre that has grown rapidly in recent years.

My research launches from Kathleen Karlyn’s The Unruly Woman, an early examination of women in film and television who use humor to undermine patriarchal authority. Margaret Tally’s The Rise of the Anti-Heroine in TV’s Third Golden Age is the first text to explore the emergence of the anti-heroine. My project extends past Tally’s work to look specifically at how anti-heroines have become a dominate feature of quality television.

Quality television is a category that loosely refers to series with narrative complexity, high production values, and characters with psychological depth. My three case studies, Sex and the City, Veep, and Girls, are Home Box Office (HBO) productions. I focus on HBO productions because the single network allows me to draw on consistent industry information, viewership demographics, and critical accolades. The anti-heroines from my case studies might be difficult or even unlikeable—but they do address and challenge traditional femininity (whereas anti-heroes reinforce hegemonic masculinity). Do anti-heroines have more agency over their personal and professional lives than other leading ladies? What underlies America’s fixation with immoral women? These are just a couple of the questions guiding my preliminary research.

Sam Beeker

Major: English & Comparative Literature  Faculty Mentor: Brendan O’Kelly
Project Title: Philosophy, Politics, and Paranoia: Pynchon and the Construction of the Postmodern Subject


Paranoia generally pathologized as an unproductive condition. Yet, paranoia itself is one of the most prominent tropes of the postmodern novel, the most quintessential example of this being Thomas Pynchon’s 1966 novel, The Crying of Lot 49. Drawing on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s theorizations of paranoid knowing and reparative reading, my research will reparatively read paranoia as an alternative site of meaning making and knowledge production. By reading Pynchon’s novel for its attention to the “paranoid” sociopolitical climate of the 1960s in California, my research seeks to rethink paranoia within postmodern literary forms and landscapes as an epistemological method for posing questions about the political subject. I will construct a working definition of postmodern subjectivity operating within Pynchon’s novel in order observe how those notions of the subject inform our own troubling sociopolitical climate. My reparative definition of the paranoid subject may prove useful for navigating the politics of despair that imbue both contemporary understandings of postmodern subjectivity and those of the 1960s.

By means of literary analysis, archival, and publicly available research at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Oregon, I will engage with critics’ and historians’ understandings of the 1960s in California as they gave rise to a revolutionary politics that remains in tension with itself today. This tension being the conflicting poles between revolutionary reinvention and historical remembrance and recovery that often define our conceptions of linear historical trajectory, or progress. These understandings of political subjectivity will remain useful when read alongside Pynchon’s understanding of the postmodern subject, especially as I engage with these thoughts, and their variations, across the Sunbelt states.

My research seeks to foster a dialogue about ongoing theorizations of subjectivity while rethinking the literary tropes of postmodernity within their gendered, philosophical, and political contexts.

Haley Segelke

Major: Human Physiology  Faculty Mentor: Li-Shan Chou
Project Title: Examining gait stability with a wearable accelerometer in female club lacrosse athletes


Concussion incidence in female lacrosse players is nearly equal to that of football players. As participation in lacrosse rapidly grows, it presents a significant risk for increased head injury incidence in female athletes. Current post concussion return to play criteria are based on athletes’ subjective symptom report, static balance, and neurological assessment; metrics which return to normal within 1-2 weeks. However, previous research has demonstrated gait stability deficits in acutely concussed athletes and individuals with a history of multiple concussions. As such, the risk of early return to play is great, which may lead to an increase in risk for repeat concussion and musculoskeletal injuries. The purpose of this study is to analyze baseline gait stability in female lacrosse players utilizing a novel accelerometer based, dual-task gait stability assessment. Secondary purposes include identifying the correlation between gait stability and history of multiple concussions and development of a normative database of contact sport female athletes for future comparison. Athletes will perform a simple walking assessment while wearing accelerometers under three different conditions: single-task walking, dual-task walking while performing an auditory Stroop test, and dual-task walking while performing a question and answer battery. Data will be compared to previously tested, healthy non-athlete females to assess differences in baseline stability of contact sport female athletes. It is hypothesized that female athletes will present a different baseline gait stability than non-athlete females, and that there is a negative correlation between gait stability metrics and the number of previous concussions.

Winter 2017 Mini-grant Recipients

Aleiya Evison

Major: Ethnic Studies   Faculty Mentor: Ernesto Martinez
Project Title: Design Thinking and Social Change: Creativity as Strategy in Anti-Racist Community Organizing

Abstract: My senior research paper will examine the intersection of design thinking and social change. I am striving to address the following question: can social movements employ design thinking as a strategy in anti-racist organizing?

Design thinking is a process created to address social change through creativity, rapid ideation, and real-time implementation. This process was created by Tom and David Kelley, who later went on to found the design school at Stanford University and the design firm IDEO in San Francisco.

A significant portion of my research will look at how this process has already been used to address social change, examining past and present projects that have employed design thinking as a mechanism for impact.

To specifically better understand anti-racist curriculum and strategy, through racial and feminist frameworks I will research the work coming out of organizations such as the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Black Lives Matter, and Standing with Standing Rock. This will include several interviews with community organizers within these groups, as well as scholars and professionals. Texts that I will draw from include Creative Confidence, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, Forked, and The Unsteady March.

Through these texts, scholarly articles, and interviews, I will trace the intersection of design and anti-racist organizing. Although creativity has been a central role in anti-racist strategy, I have yet to find a significant body of research that demonstrates how the design thinking process may specifically inform the work of anti-racist community organizers.

This presents an opportunity to examine what principles of design may already be inherent within anti-racist organizing. I predict that the two fields may speak to each other in a powerful way, each lending key insights into the other.

Anisha Adke

Major: Biology    Faculty Mentor: Adam Miller
Project Title: The genetic basis of the first connections of the brain

Abstract: There are an estimated 100 billion neurons in the human brain, equal to the number of stars in our galaxy. These neurons are connected at specialized junctions called synapses, one type of which is electrical. Gap junction channels connect neurons at electrical synapses, allowing ions and small molecules to pass directly between cells. Initial synapse formation is determined by the genetic code, which instructs where, when, and how neurons wire together to create neuronal circuits. Genetic defects believed to alter normal circuit wiring have been linked to human neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, but the exact circuits and molecular mechanisms affected remain unclear. Critical to normal circuit wiring is the formation of the first synapses between neurons, as these lay the foundation upon which mature circuits are built; past research has shown that these first synapses are electrical but it is unknown which genes are responsible for these connections, which genes drive the continued development of these networks, and what happens when these genes are defective. This project aims to identify the genes required for the first synapses and investigate their roles from a genetic, neural circuit, and behavioral standpoint.

To explore the genes responsible for electrical synapses, we will examine the first spinal cord circuits that wire together in zebrafish. These neural networks provide critical advantages to studying synapse formation because the circuits: 1) wire together within 24 hours post fertilization (hpf) via electrical synapses, 2) are visualizable at the levels of neurons, circuit function, and behavior, and 3) are genetically accessible. With this comprehensive approach, we can identify the genes responsible for the first synapses formed in the brain and examine how these synapses impact early circuit wiring, when neurodevelopmental disorders are thought to arise.

Emma Silverman

Major: Human Physiology  Faculty Mentor: Li-Shan Chou
Project Title: Dual-Task Gait Stability Assessment Utilizing a Wearable Motion Analysis Sensor System

Abstract: The Center for Disease Control estimates as many as 3.8 million sports related concussions occur annually, with a significant portion occurring in adolescent and young adult athletes. Currently return to play (RTP) decision making is based on time, subjective symptoms surveys, or simple balance tests. According to these criteria, most concussed athletes RTP within two weeks. However, recent studies employing a dual-task testing paradigm, in which a normal gait task is paired with a concurrent cognitive task, indicate concussed individuals demonstrate a significant impairment in their ability to control their body’s center of mass compared to healthy controls. Additionally, the impairment exists as long as two months post injury and subjects actually worsened after RTP. This suggests athletes are returning to play prior to complete recovery, putting them at risk for re-injury, long-term impairments, or catastrophic second-impact syndrome. These studies utilized camera-based motion capture which is expensive, time-consuming, and not clinically feasible. However, recent advancements in wearable accelerometers may greatly improve concussion management, as they offer hopes of a low-cost tool that may be applied in the clinical, athletic, industrial, or military settings. The purpose of this study is to assess the reliability of wearable motion sensors and determine the accelorometry based kinematics that best identify gait impairment in the recently concussed. Subjects will perform a simple walking task under three different conditions (single-task walking and two dual-task conditions), in two different environments, over two testing days, by two different raters. We hope to identify additional accelerometry based gait instability metrics, and establish the reliability of the devices as it relates to clinical use. The use of wearable motion technology paired with dual-task gait analysis has the potential to provide clinicians with a very powerful tool in evaluating concussion and rehabilitation in a variety of settings.

Geena Littel

Major: Earth Sciences and Geophysics   Faculty Mentor: Amanda Thomas
Project Title: Estimation of Spatial Variations in Seismic-wave Attenuation in Cascadia from Tectonic Tremor

Abstract: Many subduction zones worldwide are known to host devastating large earthquakes, such as the 2011 M9 Tohoku-Oki earthquake.  In addition to fast, seismic slip many subduction zones also host slow, largely aseismic slip.  These “slow earthquakes” occur on timescales of weeks to months and are often accompanied by a weak seismic signal known as “tectonic tremor,” or simply “tremor.”  Tremor behaves differently than regular earthquakes in that it is comprised of many small earthquakes that radiate low-frequency seismic energy and originate at the plate interface downdip of where large earthquakes typically occur. This behavior is thought to reflect variation in frictional properties, effective stress, or both in between the aseismic and seismic sections of the seismogenic zone (area capable of generating earthquakes). Seismic-wave attenuation is a parameter that quantifies the decrease in amplitude of seismic waves as a function of distance from the earthquake source. Estimates of attenuation are commonly used in ground-motion prediction equations (GMPEs) that quantify ground motion during an earthquake. Because tremor occurs frequently when compared to regular earthquakes in Cascadia, it presents an opportunity to better define attenuation parameters used for GMPEs in earthquake engineering. Our goal is to quantify seismic wave attenuation in Cascadia and determine its spatial variations using tectonic tremor. By inverting tremor ground motion data for the attenuation parameter, we can analyze if and how the results vary spatially in Cascadia and attempt to relate these variations to lithology and/or other physical properties. Changes in seismic-wave attenuation along the Cascadia Subduction Zone could result in significantly different ground motions in the event of a very large earthquake, hence quantifying attenuation may help to better estimate the severity of shaking in densely populated metropolitan areas such as Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.

Hao Tan & Colin Lipps

Major: Human Physiology    Faculty Mentor: Li-Shan Chou
Project Title: Evaluation of the effectiveness of a Running Fatigue Protocol and Assessment of Fatigue Induced Running Mechanic Changes

Abstract: The intent of our research project is to test a new fatigue protocol for a larger collaborative project with our graduate student mentor as well as to examine the changes in runner mechanics during a fatiguing run. The goal of this project is to clarify the relationship between hip abductor muscle strength and the dynamic action of the hip muscles during running. We plan on doing this through assessing hip muscle strength before and after fatiguing the hip abductor muscles. A body of evidence suggests that a brisk 30-minute run at 80% maximal effort can induce hip abductor muscle fatigue. We plan on potentially implementing the latter as the fatigue protocol in place of the current eccentric/concentric isokinetic contraction. To test the efficacy of a brisk 30-minute run as the fatigue protocol, we plan on recruiting at least 30 subjects to perform a maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) in a hip side-lying position before and after a hard 30-minute run. We will compare this to the results previously obtained from subjects that underwent the isokinetic contraction protocol. Aside from testing the running fatigue protocol, we hope to examine the changes in our subjects’ running mechanics throughout the fatiguing 30-minute run as well. We plan to use a 10-camera motion capture analysis system that will record kinematic readings based on 38 reflective markers that are strategically placed on each subject’s body. After completion of the study, we will analyze statistical changes in hip adduction, knee valgus, and plantar flexion in hopes of identifying how a 30-minute run affects runner gait-mechanics. This portion of the study could result in significant findings on how runners can be trained to avoid injury sustained from factors such as extensive hip adduction, knee valgus, and plantar flexion during any fatiguing run.

Kendra Siebert

Major: Advertising & Journalism  Faculty Mentor: Peter Laufer
Project Title: Latin Street Art as Political Protest

Abstract: Latin American history has been marred by somewhat cyclical periods of oppression. Throughout periods of time, and across different regions, dictators rose to power, restricted freedom of speech, and threatened human rights. In communities dominated by dictatorships, street art arose as an outlet for the people, by the people. The medium gave citizens a platform to express their thoughts publicly while simultaneously generating conversation among diverse communities. Public art is particularly interesting, due to its transient nature. Now, it is important as ever that people document street art, particularly in politically charged environments, to capture a living testament to their political climates. By examining the subject matters and meanings of street art across Latin America, viewers can gain contextual understanding of what different communities have undergone over time. With my research, I will be documenting the visual street art through photography, while also interviewing street artists and sharing their intended messages with people from other parts of the world. After studying abroad in Argentina last summer, I was exposed to the idea that street art, while often frowned upon in American society, can create a dialogue and inspire change in Latin America. My next country of focus will be Mexico. Also known for a rich street art scene and tumultuous political history, Mexico will provide me with opportunities to change misconceptions about street art and to document an ever-changing medium with great cultural meaning. Because there is only limited research out there that comes from a journalistic perspective, I will be able to make my own unique contribution to this research. by interviewing the artists behind the work and freeze specific pieces in time before they are covered and re-covered again.

Merida Mehaffey

Major: History   Faculty Mentor: Marsha Weisiger
Project Title: Decolonization Through Collaborative Land Management: A History of Matiu Island Conservation Partnerships

Abstract: The topic of my honors thesis project is the land management history of Matiu Island, located off the southern coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Matiu has a long history of colonization. Once an important settlement for several Maori tribes, it has more recently been used as an animal quarantine station, wartime prison camp and ecological restoration site by the New Zealand government. In 2008 Matiu was included in an important treaty redress that returned land to local Maori iwi. Currently, the island is managed by an administrative board appointed by the Minister of Conservation and Iwi Settlement Trust, illustrating a unique partnership grounded in shared ecological values. This land management model fits within a larger decolonization effort taking place in many countries around the world. Large-scale restoration efforts began on Matiu island in 1977, providing an important habitat for many endangered species. In recent years, scientists have published a number of reports on species richness and restoration progress on the small island. However there has not been adequate study of the unique management history of the island. My thesis will focus on the 2008 ownership transition and the management collaboration born out of this transition. It will also evaluate the effectiveness of current management strategies, taking into account the goals and involvement of  iwi representatives and Department of Conservation representatives. Examining this history will enable me to identify specific mechanisms that allow for successful local and national collaboration. I will conduct interviews and do archival research, while also utilizing publically-available records to better understand the conservation history of the island and the roles of various government and non-government agencies in this history. My research on this management model’s effectiveness will contribute to a growing body of knowledge aimed at creating successful collaborative relationships between indigenous peoples and government agencies.

Rhaine Clarke

Major: International Studies  Faculty Mentor: Yvonne Braun
Project Title: Touring Zanzibar: EnGendering Development

Abstract: I am currently constructing a senior thesis which focuses on the effects of tourism as a development model on the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. I am specifically exploring the positive and negative effects of mainstream tourism development initiatives and how they relate to upholding gender based inequalities in the area. The tourism industry in Zanzibar is among the top contributors to the island’s GDP and has the potential to significantly increase economic growth for the region. However, many mainstream development models have failed to incorporate local community members in the planning and execution of theses initiatives, often bringing in foreign investors and hotel chains which reap most of these benefits. I am interested in looking at alternative development strategies such as ecotourism, which have proven to be successful in other regions in being more conscientious of the local environment and communities.

I am specifically interested in the gender component of this research because women throughout the globe have traditionally been undervalued and in some cases not considered at all in planning and executing mainstream development programs. In conducting my preliminary research I have found that many articles focus on alternative tourism development ideologies or gender and development models, with very few sources presenting the two concepts as interconnected. I hope to conduct thoughtful interviews with local community members throughout the island to better understand the strengths, weaknesses, and ideas for improvement as interpreted by the local community for tourism as a development model. The goal in conducting this research is not only to further highlight specific strengths and weaknesses of the tourism industry as a development model, but also to work with local communities in developing potential strategies to strengthen the community and close the gender gap.

Fall 2016 Mini-grant Recipients

Anupama Deodhar

Major: Computer & Information Science   Faculty Mentor: Boyana Norris
Project Title: Urban Noise Mapping at University of Oregon

Abstract: Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a network of sensors or electronic devices that are interconnected via the internet, allowing them to exchange data. Noise data will be collected in Knight Library using IoT technology and analyzed through a browser application. The goals are to show the feasibility of creating a predictive noise model using low-cost, low-power infrastructure and exhibiting the model so it can be accessed and utilized for diverse purposes.

Data collected through IoT has begun to revolutionize the utilization of buildings. Having a wealth of information about temperature, noise, lighting, electricity usage, and more collected through low-cost, low-power sensors allows buildings to be readily customized to reduce energy costs and environmental impacts while increasing efficiency.

As urban expansion continues, noise pollution is an extremely relevant issue. In densely populated areas especially, noise exposure is a major player in quality of life. Identifying noise patterns through collected data can be useful in many applications, including noise policy. Environmental noise pollution can have adverse health impacts, and yet Congress has not seriously discussed environmental noise in [more than] 30 years. It is speculated that this lack of discussion surrounding noise policy is due to a lack of data. Urban noise maps that provide real, tangible data will encourage dialogue about improving noise policies in America.

Within the scope of a university setting, noise mapping would be useful for students looking for a quiet study space, as the browser application would identify trends regarding which locations are quietest at given times of day. Noise mapping university buildings could also be used to improve building efficiency by implementing sound-monitored temperature control as opposed to motion-controlled actions. Additionally, this research may spark discussion about moving towards hosting smart buildings on campus in order to improve campus efficiency and inform future building designs.

Austin Robinette

Major: Earth Sciences (Paleontology)    Faculty Mentor: Gregory Retallack
Project Title: Archaean Microfossils of Western Australia

Abstract: My senior honors thesis is focused on the continued study of the morphology, taxonomy, and origin of Earth’s oldest lifeforms. Much is known about the evolution of life, but speculation exists on its true beginning; it is this debate as to how, where, and why it began that I focus my research on Archaean microfossils. Most scientists agree that life on this planet likely emerged between 3.5 and 3.9 billion years ago, but how it began is still under debate. The Oparin-Haldane hypothesis is the most popular and suggests the first life forms began in the Earth’s early atmosphere as amino acids built from inorganic molecules that later combined to form more complex polymers. Others believe life may have evolved in the Earth’s early oceans near hydrothermal vents, or perhaps evolved elsewhere in the universe and arrived on Earth via a meteor or comet. In order to contribute to the ongoing scientific exploration of these hypotheses, a considerable amount of additional data on Archaean biota is needed.  To accomplish this, I will examine Archaean (3-billion-year-old) microfossils from the Farrel Quartzite of Western Australia, representing the oldest known evidence of life on land. The microfossils are permineralized in chert and will be studied in petrographic thin section, as well as by Electron Microprobe and Scanning Electron Microscope data analysis. Published studies of the microfossils have determined that they are genuine remains of microscopic life and are recognized by five distinct microfossil forms. This project will document this diversity with photomicrographs and measurements, and attempt to determine what kinds of organisms they were.

Brianna Kendrick

Major: Anthropology and Archaeology  Faculty Mentor: Dennis Jenkins
Project Title: Archeoparisitology of the Paisley Caves

Abstract: Excavations of the Paisley Caves site in Central Oregon have resulted in the discovery of human coprolites dating back to 14,300 cal. years ago, showing human presence in this area to be earlier than previously thought. Coprolite parasites have previously been identified and described by environmental archaeologist Karl Reinhard of the University of Nebraska’s School of Natural Resources. It is my goal to build upon that research and look for more parasites in the Paisley coprolites.

The work I wish to undertake is looking for and identifying parasites found in prehistoric coprolites. In Spring 2016, thirty coprolites from Paisley Caves were processed for pollen by Erin Herring and Chantel Saban of the University of Oregon’s Environmental Change Research Group. The portions of the coprolites that they separated from the main coprolite matrix included bone, macrobotanicals, and other ingested materials that were stored in double distilled water for later analysis. Herring and Saban’s initial looks at these coprolite materials under a microscope showed the presence of parasite eggs. The existence of the thirty vials of coprolite material offers the unique opportunity to conduct the parasite research without the need to destroy any additional coprolites, unless we wish to expand the sample population.

The support of Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, Dan Gavin, Chantel Saban, and Erin Herring from the University of Oregon’s Department of Geography, and Karl Reinhard of the University of Nebraska gives me an immense and invaluable support network and facilities to work with. My short term goal is to contribute to the larger study of these coprolites by identifying and counting the parasites in the Paisley coprolites, as well as to support the greater body of research that has already gone into the incredible archaeological site that is Paisley Caves. My mid-term goal is to determine whether or not these coprolites were of human origin. My long term goal is to learn the process of obtaining, identifying, describing, and quantifying these parasites as a means of preparing to continue this research at a graduate level.

I am seeking professional support and training that is available through the prestigious research grant offered by the University of Oregon’s Undergraduate Research Program, as well as practical financial support to cover the cost of chemicals, lab facility materials, a radiocarbon date to fill in the date record of Paisley Caves, shipping costs to Nebraska, and other possible unanticipated costs of this project during the course of my sophomore and junior years. Receiving the recognition and support from the University of Oregon Undergraduate Research program will also go a very long way towards helping me look more attractive to prospective graduate school program directors.

Chris Ableidinger

Major: Journalism and Accounting    Faculty Mentor: Kim Sheehan
Project Title: Persuasion Mockery – Consumer Recall of Self-Aware Advertisements

Abstract: Advertising gets a bad rap. People don’t like advertisements. We mute the television, avoid solicitors, and even download browser extensions to eliminate ads as if they weren’t even there. Yet advertising exists everywhere;  it is estimated that in the United States alone over $187 Billion was spent on ads in 2015. Amidst all of this competition, how can these advertisers expect to successfully persuade us? Perhaps by recognizing and making light of the inundation of persuasion attempts, advertisers can elicit more favorable consumer responses from their own attempts. This Thesis Prospectus will outline plans to investigate elements within advertisements that transparently mock and satirize conventional persuasion attempts; what I call persuasion mockery. While this phenomenon is well documented amidst pop culture media – described as ‘meta advertising’  or ‘self-referencing’ – very little research has been done to suggest why agencies continue to pursue this strategy. This project will therefore explore to what extent persuasion mockery within advertisements can increase the ability of the consumer to successfully recall the brand advertised. Results in favor of this hypothesis could suggest that consumer’s favor more transparent communication between brands and their consumers. Positive and lasting reactions to elements of self-deprecation and corporate transparency may help to evolve advertising discourse and improve the consumer’s everyday experience with ubiquitous advertising.

Lauren Amaro

Major: English    Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Wheeler
Project Title: Examining Racial Imagery in Underground Comix

Abstract: My goal with this research project is to identify certain selected works from Underground Comix that deal with race as the main subject, or where it plays an integral role.  In the end I hope to determine whether Underground Comix engages in an meaningful discussion of race relations in America beyond serving as a mere platform for shock value (see transgressive art). The ideas being explored in this paper mainly have to deal with issues of authorial intent and reader reception, as well as the power and impact of images upon minority groups. More specifically I hope to examine why this specific genre of Comics could only exist and sustain itself in the sociocultural environment of 1960-70’s of the US, how the visual language of that genre was informed by the emergence of the Counterculture and the Civil Rights Movement, and how the genre interacted with those two movements and to what effect.

Critics and Historians of Underground Comix (of which there are few) acknowledge Underground Comix purposefully published shocking images as a way of protesting censorship and engaging with the emerging Counterculture. However, while many scholars are likely to criticise the misogynistic tendencies of the genre, there is a reluctance to examine the genres interaction with race despite the number of racial caricatures and storylines that emerged from the genre’s most prominent authors.

While I don’t expect to walk away from this project being able to say that the genre of Underground Comix entirely racist or nonracist, I do hope to establish a framework in which these works can be examined. In turn I hope to contribute to a growing dialogue about race in comics. I also hope to contribute to the existing scholarship on Underground Comix, an often overlooked part of Comics History of America.

Maria Sarao

Major: Biology and Spanish   Faculty Mentor: Brendan Bohannan
Project Title: Quantification of the microbiota of human skin

Abstract: The skin is a primary interface for human-microbe interaction. Most studies involving the skin microbiome have been concerned with determining community composition and taxon relative abundances rather than absolute quantities of bacteria inhabiting environmentally distinct dry, moist, and sebaceous skin types. Current numerical estimates for skin-associated bacteria from culture-based studies range from 10^4-10^7 cells/cm^2, but these likely underestimate cell quantity because only ~1% of all bacterial species are cultivable in the laboratory. Only one study to date has used culture-independent technologies (quantitative polymerase chain reaction, or qPCR) to quantify bacteria at several skin sites. However, this study did not assess what proportions of the bacterial communities were active, dormant, or dead; this is important because even dead organisms play ecological roles like nutrient cycling and maintaining genetic diversity. Therefore, in this research we seek to answer the following questions: first, which methods are most useful for accurately quantifying the microbiota of human skin? Second, how do both the total number of bacteria and the proportion of live and dead bacteria vary across dry, moist, and sebaceous skin types? Our primary mode of quantifying total bacteria will be qPCR, although we will compare the utility of this method with colony counting. To assess what proportion of these communities is metabolically active, we will label cells with a combination of fluorescent dyes and view them using a microscope. Our preliminary data from qPCR and colony counting have suggested that cell quantity varies between dry and sebaceous sites, although we need to include more study participants and extensively analyze our data before we can put much weight to this claim. We also have reason to believe that a significant proportion of the skin microbiota is dead or dormant, so we are anxious to see if we can confirm this speculation with fluorescence microscopy.

Nora Sawyer

Major: Biological Anthropology    Faculty Mentor: Frances White
Project Title: The Affect of Primate Seed Dispersal as Indicated by the Composition of Two Forests in Panama

Abstract: For my research project I will examine if the absence of certain primate taxa, such as Ateles affects forest composition in Panama. Ateles are well known as champion primate seed dispersers within the tropical forests of Central and South America. However, little data has been collected on if and how forest composition changes due to lack of these primary seed dispersers. In order to adequately address this topic I will compare two different forests; one where primate seed dispersers are currently absent and the other where primate seed dispersers remain. Tree measurements will collected, as well as other pertinent information to determine age and species. Species identification will determine whether or not a primate was the primary seed disperser of a particular tree. Forest composition can be indicator of regeneration and forest health. Thus, quantifying the affect primate seed dispersers have on forest composition is important to understanding more complex questions about if and how forest communities will survive should taxa like Ateles become extinct.

Winter 2016 Mini-grant Recipients

Anisha Adke

Major: Psychology   Faculty Mentor: Dasa Zeithamova Demirican
Project Title: Aging effects on perceptual and conceptual memory: transformations from short-term to long-term memory

Abstract: Conceptual memory and precision memory are two distinct functions of healthy and adaptive memory. Conceptual memory allows us to retain the gist of events. Precision memory allows us to remember specific perceptual details of events, differentiating them from other similar experiences.  Precision and conceptual memory may be differentially important for short-term memory, that holds information for a few seconds, and long-term memory, that can retain information for longer periods. While we can process both perceptual details and the meaning of events around us quickly, long-term memories may have a tendency to retain the gist but lose details. This is adaptive in daily life, but may be a problem in certain situations, such as during eyewitness testimonies, where details rather than general description are essential. Loss of memory precision also characterizes normal aging, but it is unclear whether this is because details are lost in long-term memory or whether they are already not encoded in short-term memory. My goal is to determine if memories transform from perceptual to conceptual in long-term memory and identify the effect of aging on this relationship.

To do so, I have designed a task that tests subjects’ memory for meaning or details either immediately (short-term) or after half an hour (long-term). I predict short-term memory will support quicker and more accurate judgements of perceptual details than judgements of meaning, whereas long-term memory will support quicker and more accurate judgements of meaning. In contrast, I predict that older adults will be quicker and more accurate in judgements of meaning in both long and short-term memory, suggesting that older adults process events on a conceptual level rather than attending to specific details.

Catherine Mackenzie Jaffe

Major: Biology     Faculty Mentor: Brendan Bohannan
Project Title: An Interdisciplinary Investigation of Microbial Ecology in Seeds: Drivers of Fusarium Abundance and Transmission in Diverse Varieties of Corn Seeds

Abstract: Although much is known about the effects of domestication on the genetics of corn populations, less is understood about the impacts of agricultural management on the inheritance of microbial communities living in and around these plants. Seedborne pathogenic fungi in the genus Fusarium are especially prevalent in corn populations and pose human health risks due to their production of carcinogenic mycotoxins. Existing literature has shown that Fusarium may either be passed via seeds from parent plants to offspring in what is known as vertical transmission, or it may enter the roots of a plant from the soil through horizontal transmission. Because Fusarium fungi are so ubiquitous in corn populations, there is a growing need to understand how patterns of seed exchange and variation in agricultural practices affect their abundance and transmission in corn seeds.

My project aims to better understand how networks of seed exchange and crop management are affecting the abundance of Fusarium in corn seeds. Are certain varieties of corn prone to higher abundances of seedborne Fusarium? How efficiently is Fusarium transmitted through seed saving networks? Which agricultural practices most affect the vertical transmission of Fusarium from parent to offspring? To answer these questions I will draw on preliminary datasets from a Community Research Network of farmers established by PhD student Lucas Nebert. I will also gather new data using an interdisciplinary mix of interviews with farmers and DNA analysis techniques in the lab. I am expecting to see Fusarium abundance vary according to corn species, as previous studies have shown that microbial communities tend to be more similar between closely related plant varieties. Additionally, tilling corn into the soil between crop cycles may ultimately lead to greater abundances in seeds since Fusarium is adept at remaining in the soil, and re-infecting plants in subsequent years.

Claire Getz

Major: Geological Sciences  Faculty Mentor: Paul Wallace
Project Title: Insights into Magma Ascent and Decompression from Diverse Pumice Fragments at the Onset of the Huckleberry Ridge Supereruption

Abstract: The focus of my senior thesis is to study the gas rich volcanic glass fragments, or pumice, that were ejected from the eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano in Wyoming. A supervolcano is simply a volcano of massive scale, for Yellowstone, the collapsed magma chamber, or caldera, where the reservoir of magma sat until it was violently erupted out, measures over 30 miles in diameter. There were three main eruptions of the Yellowstone volcano in the last 2 million years, and my project is concerned with the oldest and largest of these three eruptions, the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff. Research suggests that the rising magma in the conduit of this eruption exhibited strange stop-start behavior. This means that there were breaks in the eruption in the order of months to years where magma and ash were not being ejected. To study this theory, a very important piece of information to obtain would be the magma ascent rate, or the rate at which the magma in the volcano’s conduit was rising. This is the topic of my thesis. To find the ascent rate of this eruption, I will be studying three members of the eleven member pumice fall that was ejected during the eruption. Using computer programs and high resolution images I will be able to look at and precisely study the pumice and gather data on the character of pumices from different layers of the Huckleberry Ridge deposit. By looking at the range of vesicle sizes, shapes, and numerical densities, I will be able to calculate and estimate for how fast the magma rose during the eruption.

Hanna McIntosh

Major: Biology    Faculty Mentor: Matthew Streisfeld
Project Title: Genetic architecture of local adaptation and reproductive isolation in Mimulus aurantiacus

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to reveal the genetic architecture of traits that contribute to speciation within the monkeyflower Mimulus aurantiacus. Genetic architecture refers to the underlying genetic basis of a phenotypic trait, including the number of genes effecting the trait, their effect size, and linkage, pleiotropy, and epistasis. Biologists have long been interested in the genetic architecture of traits that contribute to the speciation process because some genetic architectures are more likely to result in adaptation than others. For example, traits controlled by a single gene of large effect are highly visible to natural selection, so are more likely become differentiated than traits controlled by many genes of small effect. Additionally, adaptation usually involves many traits. If these different traits are controlled by the same sets of genes, gene flow between divergent populations will not be able to break them apart, maximizing fitness and reproductive isolation.

I will use quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping to reveal the genetic architecture of floral and vegetative traits that are diverged between red- and yellow- flowered ecotypes of Mimulus aurantiacus. These ecotypes are differentiated by pollinator preference and give insight into early stages of speciation by natural selection.  I will address the following questions, which are critical to understanding local adaptation in this system: Are the phenotypic differences between the ecotypes due to a few loci of large effect or many loci of small effect? What is the location and size of the genomic regions that control each trait? Do they overlap in one or a few genomic regions, or are they spread throughout the genome? Because gene flow is ongoing between the ecotypes, I expect that each trait is controlled by a few loci of large effect and that the genes that control different traits reside in the same genomic regions.

Jocelyn Taylor

Major: Human Physiology    Faculty Mentor: Li-Shan Chou
Project Title: The Effect of Muscle Fatigue on Motion and Cognitive Performance during Obstacle-Crossing under Single and Dual-task Condition in Young Adults

Abstract: Muscle fatigue is a common problem that limits not only motor but cognitive performance. Either movement inaccuracy or decreased attention ability can lead to accidents during activities of daily living and result in injuries, especially when encountering hazards during walking, such as obstacle crossing. Although there is some research examining the effects of muscle fatigue on muscle activity or on cognitive performance during obstructed walking, none of these studies have considered both aspects simultaneously. However, optimization of daily living performance necessitates both adequate motor control and cognitive function.

For individuals prone to fatigue, such as older adults, patients with an autoimmune disease, or labor-intensive workers, the effects of muscle fatigue needs to be even more urgently investigated in order to aid health professionals in designing proactive programs which aim to educate certain populations and thus prevent injuries due to falling, simultaneously reducing high medical-associated costs and freeing up the health care system. According to 2014 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, falls ranked second of the leading causes of all workplace injuries with direct costs of $9.19 billion and accounted for 15.4 percent of the total injury burden. In 2013, about 2.5 million people aged over 65 years were treated by medical services for fall-related injuries and cost $43 billion.

Therefore, the aim of this research is to investigate the effects of muscle fatigue on locomotion performance, measured with gait and electromyographic characteristics, and cognitive performance, assessed using n-back tests, during obstacle-crossing under single and dual-task condition. The auditory n-back and treadmill fatigue protocol will be employed, and a ten-camera motion capture system is used to collect motion data. We expect to find changes in participants’ toe clearance, foot placement, gait speed, co-activation index and accuracy of cognitive test after been fatigued.

Sally Elizabeth Claridge

Major: Biology  Faculty Mentor: Patrick Phillips
Project Title: Genomic Analysis of the Chronic Heat Stress Resistance Phenotype in Caenorhabditis remanei

Abstract: Organisms experience a wide range of stressful environments throughout their lifetime. These may originate from nutritional deficits or abiotic stressors such as acute heat, oxidative, or osmotic stress. Understanding the genetic architecture of stress response is important because it helps researchers evaluate how a phenotype of interest may respond to selection. Current research has found that stressful conditions of varying temporality and severity induce diverse physiologic changes in animals that promote cell protection and preservation, which reduces the metabolic cost to the organisms, decelerates aging, and extends lifespan. Obtaining a better understanding of how the genetics of a complex trait evolve under environmental stress could help elucidate how these gene regulation networks function as a whole and how their interactions over time affect phenotypic expression. Because stress response pathways have been linked to aging and homology exists between them and human disease pathways, determining these relationships could greatly benefit and advance research into human aging, neurodegeneration, and cancer. The goal of this research is to dissect the genetic basis of chronic heat stress, a model complex trait, in Caenorhabditis remanei. A population of C. remanei will be experimentally evolved in a chronic heat stress environment alongside a control population. Survival and fecundity data from both populations will be collected to serve as an estimate for the strength of selection in the heat stress population. Additionally, the survival and fecundity of evolved populations will be compared at higher temperatures to assess how the nematodes’ heat tolerance might have changed under selection pressure. Genomic changes in the descendant line that lead to adaptation are expected, and whole genome sequencing data from both the ancestral and descendant populations will be compared on a locus-by-locus basis, which will allow for the identification of regions under selection via allelic frequency statistics.

Abel Cerros Jr.

Major: Anthropology & Ethnic Studies    Faculty Mentor: Ana-Maurine Lara
Project Title: Pedagogical Tools in Indigenous Danza Mexica

Abstract: My research is part of a group project focusing on danza ceremonies as storytelling and codices as acts of resistance to colonization in indigenous communities in Mexico and the United States. Danza can be described as Mexican dances whose choreography draws heavily from indigenous dance traditions and have spiritual foundations (Huerta 2009). Working alongside Perla Alvarez and Romario Garcia-Bautista, I am looking at 1) the codices as a source of traditional knowledge and 2) how they act as living documents for indigenous communities today.

Ceremonial danza documents stories, describing historical events through the eyes of indigenous people. Danza is a counter-narrative to Eurocentric ways of storytelling and a way to build community. Indigenous peoples in Mexico and in the U.S. maintain danza practices despite historical social exclusions (Huerta 2009). In a similar way, the codices, which are an ancient form of recorded history in the form of glyphs, provide a different counter narrative to the Eurocentric views of history (Luna 2011).

Celia Easton Koehler

Major: Geography   Faculty Mentor: Shaul Cohen
Project Title: The Collective: Assembly Based Collectives As Social Sites of Knowledge Production

Abstract: Analysis of alternative assembly-based collectives often focuses on their characterization as sites-of-contention; they are seen as places where an out-group visually ruptures a routine or spatial practice with intent to challenge and therefore make obsolete an already existent (usually dominant) practice. The production of space then is viewed as reactive and combative. While this is certainly part of the narrative, collective assemblies can and should be seen as spaces of education; they exist to form practices and inform members and non-members alike (often aimed towards some kind of social change). In addition, social space created from places perceived as public or open are often sites of emergent culture—conversations and narratives form there and are later formalized and institutionalized (for example, in classrooms).

This project seeks to understand how knowledge is produced, communicated, and taught within assembly-based (or other horizontally-inclined) collectives that situate themselves in open or public space. It will do so by directing research at the following questions: What strategies do assembly-based collectives use to produce sites of learning in urban-scapes? How do these spaces function as social sites of knowledge production?

To guide this research, I will look towards literature from Human Geography on the production of space, the intersection between public, private, and social spaces, as well as education studies literature on approaches to pedagogy. The research will also include a more in-depth case study on the assembly-based collective called CSOA La Redonda, as well as draw from other examples of collective assemblies located within open/social space. I plan to use concepts from my literature analysis to identify evidence of structural patterns in the collectives and discern how those might operate to create learning space.

Because social space is a site of emerging culture and citizen development, it is important to understand the processes and strategies through which the social spaces of local communities become the sites of education. A greater understanding of how social space and collectivity within those spaces function to form and inform citizens will lend insight into how we should plan for those spaces within urban limits.

Claire Aubin

Major: International Studies & Russian, East European Studies    Faculty Mentor: Julie Hessler
Project Title: How to Navigate the Postwar Justice System: A Legal Study of the Life and Trials of Ivan Demjanjuk

Awards Related to this Research Project:

2017 UO Libraries Undergraduate Research Award Winner

Abstract: My approved research topic is on the legal processes surrounding accused war criminals using the trials of John (Ivan) Demjanjuk, one of the last alleged Holocaust-era Nazi perpetrators to be criminally prosecuted, as a case study. Demjanjuk represents a highly singular case of attempts at reaching postwar justice, simply because much of his life story and alleged crimes are uncorroborated. In addition to this, there have been substantial questions raised about the conduct of both the prosecution and defense, as well as procedural concerns regarding the case’s original investigative teams. Though there have been a number of published papers and other academic research projects related to Demjanjuk, the vast majority have involved gathering speculative evidence regarding his time as a Nazi concentration camp guard. Rather than re-investigate a case that other scholars have examined fairly thoroughly, my focus will instead be on the specific mechanisms created to administer postwar justice in relation to mass atrocity. I plan to do both archival and publically-accessible research, as well as personal interviews with both members of the defense and prosecution in Demjanjuk’s cases in order to gain a more complete understanding of the circumstances of his trials. The purpose of my project is not to deem Demjanjuk innocent or guilty of the crimes he was accused of, but instead to examine the international legal mechanisms by which these conclusions could be reached in the first place.

Perla Alvarez

Major: Anthropology     Faculty Mentor: Ana-Maurine Lara
Project Title: Pedagogical Practices in Indigenous Mexica Danza Ceremonies

Abstract: My research is part of a group project focusing on danza ceremonies as storytelling and as acts of resistance to colonization in indigenous communities in Mexico and the U.S. “Danza is a term used throughout Mexico to identify dances whose choreography draws heavily from indigenous dance traditions and have spiritual or religious foundations” (Huerta 2009). Working alongside Abel Cerros and Romario Garcia-Bautista, I am focusing on the pedagogical practices used in ceremonial danza. I am asking: 1) how is indigenous traditional knowledge articulated and conveyed? And 2) how can indigenous traditional knowledge be incorporated into educational curricula geared towards community organizers?

Ceremonial danza documents stories, describing historical events through the eyes of indigenous people. Danza is a counter-narrative to Eurocentric ways of storytelling and a way to build community. Indigenous peoples in Mexico and in the U.S. maintain danza practices despite historical social exclusions (Huerta 2009). By focusing on the pedagogical practices used within danza, I can gain insight into indigenous epistemologies and worldviews. This can support the development of curricula that reflects a culturally based approach to community education.

Romario Garcia Bautista

Major: Anthropology     Faculty Mentor: Ana-Maurine Lara
Project Title: Danza: A Transnationalistic Identity

Abstract: My research is part of a group project focusing on danza ceremonies as storytelling and as acts of resistance to colonization in indigenous communities in Mexico and the U.S. Working alongside Abel Cerros and Perla Alvarez Lucio, I am focusing on how danza works as a transnational migrant identity practice, that enables indigenous migrants to bring a part of their history, culture, and traditions into the new land in which they reside.Building on research conducted by Prof. Lynn Stephen in Oaxacan communities in Mexico and the U.S. I will focus on how danza maintains and celebrates the traditions and culture of indigenous migrants regardless of where they live, and as an active trans-border identity practice. I plan on comparing the similarities and history of the both Danza Mexica and la Danza de la Pluma as a transborder culture, tradition, and identity.

Fall 2015 Mini-grant Recipients

Aaron Nelson

Major: Biology     Faculty Mentor: Bitty Roy
Project Title: Fungal Endophytes in an Ecuadorian Cloud Forest Demonstrate an Ability to Colonize Wood

Abstract: Endophytic fungi (EF) are ubiquitous in the tropics, yet current narratives generally describe the endophytic stage as an incidental “dead end” that never leads to reproduction (endophytes = internal symbionts of plants that do not cause apparent disease). Contrary to this, George Carroll (UO, Professor Emeritus) has proposed the Foraging Ascomycete hypothesis, which suggests that EF use endophytism as a means of dispersal to other substrates. Potential benefits for the fungi include that the high-density and short dispersal period of sporulation is translated into a low-density and long-duration release as leaves containing EF are shed asynchronously after senescence. For this to be feasible, EF would need the ability to transfer from host plant tissue into other substrates. This project has already observed the ability of EF to transfer between leaves and a woody substrate. Having achieved this primary goal, I am now occupied with identifying the species that accomplished the transfer using molecular techniques. This will help to elucidate both their diversity and their phylogenetic breadth within the kingdom Fungi. I would like to know if any of these species are in common with five Xylaria species described by my mentor, Roo Vandegrift, as having both endophytic and wood-saprotroph life stages at the leaf collection site in Ecuador. As potential support for the Foraging Ascomycete hypothesis, answers to these questions will help ascribe an adaptive function to the widespread endophytism among fungi and will have lasting implications for fungal ecology in, and likely beyond, tropical forests.

Abigail Marie Ross

Major: Geology     Faculty Mentor: Ilya Bindeman
Project Title: Analysis of hydrogen isotopic exchange: Lava Creek Tuff ash and isotopically labeled water

Abstract: Studies focused on paleoenvironments are becoming increasingly popular and relevant as we begin to understand future climatic patterns through studying those of the past. Isotopic ratios of hydrogen and oxygen of volcanic glass that has been hydrated by surrounding environmental waters have been used as paleoclimate indicators through inferring the isotopic values of past meteoric waters. By testing the exchange of hydrogen and oxygen isotopes of hydrated volcanic glass with surrounding water, we are able to analyze the validity of this method. This project focuses specifically on the element of age, evaluating if a significant difference in deposition time makes a difference in the isotope’s ability to re-equilibrate, as was suggested by Cassel et al. (2014).. Nolan and Bindeman (2013) placed hydrated ash from the 7.7 ka eruption of Mt. Mazama in isotopically labeled water and observed that the H2O and δ18O values remained constant, but the δD values of ash increased with the surrounding water. My research expands on this work by conducting the same experiment, but with ash from the 630 ka Lava Creek Tuff eruption of Yellowstone to see if significantly older glass produces similar results. Preliminary data show that exchange of hydrogen isotopes of hydrated glass is not limited by the age of the glass, and that the use of hydrogen isotopes of secondarily hydrated glass, regardless of age, may not be a reliable paleoclimate indicator. However, similar results suggesting that oxygen isotopes are more stable and may be a potential paleoclimate indicator.

Alyssa Bjorkquist

Major: Marine Biology and Psychology     Faculty Mentor: Richard Emlet
Project Title: Sea Star Plasticity: Morphological Variation of Pisaster ochraceus in Response to Water Flux

Abstract: Pisaster ochraceus, the Ocre Sea Star, is a mobile keystone organism that plays a critical role in regulating intertidal diversity along eastern Pacific coastlines. These individuals inhabit a wide range of habitats ranging from sheltered coves to wave-battered shores and regularly endure immense environmental variation during their lifetime. However, little is known about how water flux specifically affects morphological plasticity during post-settlement development in a variety of environments. My undergraduate honors thesis hypothesizes that various aspects of P. ochraceus morphology change between juvenile and adult stars across habitats that differ in wave exposure (water flux). Aspect ratios of arm length and disk diameter calculated from scaled photographs using image-analysis software will allow me to compare an individual’s dimensions relative to their wet weight. Adult stars in environments with greater wave exposure/flux appear to exhibit higher aspect ratios compared to those living in more stable hydrodynamic habitats, signifying that they have longer arms relative to their central discs. Zinc dissolution experiments are being deployed at each sample site across seasons to verify that observed morphological differences between populations of P. ochraceus are related to water flow. Zinc anodes exposed to seawater lose mass over a few weeks and serve as cost-effective indicators of average water flux between sample sites in Charleston, OR. Body shape plasticity may represent a distinctive adaptation by which P. ochraceus hunts and moves across spatial and temporal variations in wave exposure, especially during widespread population mortality events credited to Sea Star Wasting Syndrome and climate change.

Andrew Dean Siemens

Major: Biology     Faculty Mentor: Jessica Green
Project Title: The Effect of Different Light Wavelengths on the Dust Microbiome in the Indoor Environment

Abstract: Different light treatments affect the growth of certain bacterial strains in the built environment, however little is known about the effect of light on an entire bacterial community. The goal of this study is to investigate the impact of UV vs. visible light on the viability of the dust microbiome. I developed a method to quantify viable dust by treating samples with the DNA-binding agent propidium monoazide (PMA), which prevents the amplification of DNA from non-viable cells during polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This technique was used to determine the amount of DNA from live vs. dead cells by comparing amplified 16S ribosomal gene copy numbers with and without PMA treatment using quantitative PCR (qPCR). As a pilot study, dust samples were treated with broad-spectrum light to determine the appropriate dosage for killing dust microbes. The built environment was simulated using light boxes designed by the Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory. Experiments were performed in triplicate using identical box setups for each trial. In future experiments, the relationship between different wavelengths of light and bacterial viability will be tested by subjecting dust samples to sunlight with UV wavelengths removed, sunlight with visible wavelengths removed, and dark conditions. The results from these studies will influence the choice of light filtering in windows for buildings such as hospitals where the elimination of pathogens is extremely important.

Benjamin Bachman

Major: Chemistry     Faculty Mentor: Shannon Boettcher
Project Title: Growth of Indium Gallium Phosphide on Gallium Asenide Closed Space Vapor Transport

Abstract: Indium Gallium Phosphide (InGaP2) has shown promise as a potential material for photoelectrochemical (PEC) hydrogen generation through water-splitting, as well as for use as a passivation layer for high-efficiency Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) solar cells. I am seeking a better understanding of the growth conditions optimal for depositing InGaP2 onto GaAs using close-space vapor transport (CSVT). CSVT is a promising method for depositing materials such as InGaP2, because it does not use toxic precursors and has the potential to be scaled up to an industrial level. Using CSVT to deposit InGaP2 onto GaAs could potentially reduce the cost of manufacturing GaAs devices as well as reduce the risks involved that are inherent in alternative growth techniques such as metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD). To characterize the InGaP2 I will utilized x-ray diffraction, x-ray fluorescence, Hall Effect, SEM, cyclic voltammetry, and Mott-Schottkey analysis. If I am able to deposit films of InGaP2 that are lattice matched to GaAs and have a low defect density, I predict that these devices would be well suited for PEC water-splitting or solar energy generation.

David Michael Gallacher

Major: Human Physiology and Psychology   Faculty Mentor: Anita Christie
Project Title: Effects of a cognitivite task on motor output in young and older adults

Abstract: It is widely accepted that multitasking with a motor task while performing a cognitive task will decrease performance, but we do not understand the underlying physiology. Recent work from our lab has shown that there is an increase in inhibition to the motor cortex during a secondary cognitive task in young, healthy individuals. However, we do not know what happens in older adults, who generally have poorer performance than young during multitasking. The purpose of our study is to assess the effects of a cognitive task on motor cortex excitability and inhibition in older, compared with young adults. We will use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to measure motor cortex excitability through motor evoked potentials (MEPs) and inhibition through cortical silent periods (CSP) before, during, and after a secondary cognitive task. It is hypothesized that the increase in inhibition during the cognitive task will be higher in older compared with young participants. We hope to use the results of this study to aid our understanding of the diminishing performances in cognitive and motor task for the aging population.

Elizabeth Maynard

Major: Physics  Faculty Mentor: Stephanie Majewski
Project Title: Possible benefits for missing transverse energy calculation afforded by particle timing detector

Abstract: My project is focusing on investigating the potential alternative benefits afforded by a collision time detector addition to the body of CERN’s ATLAS particle detector. The hypothesis is that such a detector could be used to identify, and thereby exclude, uninteresting particles from the calculation of missing transverse energy. The experiment will be conducted by making computer simulations of particle collisions being detected by the proposed timing detector and altering a number of parameters to try to maximize rejection efficiency.

Erik Ames Burlingame

Major: Biochemistry  Faculty Mentor: Philip Washbourne
Project Title: CASK drives presynaptic terminal assembly

Abstract: Normal formation of synapses requires the transport, recruitment, and stabilization of the synaptic vesicle-regulating protein synapsin to sites of developing presynaptic terminals. Recruitment of synapsin to nascent synapses is regulated by cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5), but the downstream effectors of Cdk5 that enable this recruitment remain unknown. Using a zebrafish model, our research has examined a putative role of the scaffolding protein calcium/calmodulin-dependent serine kinase a (CASKa) in synapsin recruitment.  This line of research was motivated by several observations:

  • The mammalian ortholog CASK participates in multipartite cargo transport complexes.
  • Localization of mouse CASK to presynaptic terminals is dependent on Cdk5-mediated phosphorylation.
  • CASK can by phosphorylated by Cdk5 at serine residues 51/395.

These observations spurred our hypothesis that Cdk5 phosphorylates CASKa to recruit synapsin to presynaptic terminals. Using a stereotypical touch-evoked behavior to assess synapse function, we found that embryos misexpressing non-phosphorylatable CASK protein exhibited a significant reduction in touch response when compared to embryos expressing either endogenous CASKa or exogenous wild-type CASK protein. This behavioral data suggest synapses from touch-sensitive neurons are compromised under these conditions. We now wish to characterize the molecular and synaptic basis of the touch deficit using immunofluorescent probes for synapsin and other synaptic markers. As aberrant function of human CASK is linked to defects in synapses and a host of neurodevelopmental disorders, including microcephaly and X-linked intellectual disability, this examination may provide further insight into the machinery of synapse formation, as well as uncover a novel target for CASK-associated disorder remediation.

Josiah Makinster

Major: Physics  Faculty Mentor: Hailin Wang
Project Title: Low-Temperature Photoluminescence of Single-Atomic-Layer Molybdenum Disulfide

Abstract: I plan to investigate the electronic energy structures of single-atomic-layer Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2) at cryogenic temperatures under vacuum. MoS2 is a material that can be cleaved into a microscopic sheet that is a single atomic layer thick, and shows novel physical properties that bulk MoS2 does not. For example, single-layer MoS2 is a direct band gap material, while bulk MoS2 is an indirect band gap material. Furthermore, the property of interest that I am currently studying is the strong photoluminescence (PL) that only emerges in MoS2 as a single- or double-layer material. Research at room temperature in atmosphere has shown that two peaks emerge in the PL spectrum at about 615 and 670 nm. My objective is to measure the PL spectrum of this material at 4 degrees Kelvin, using a confocal microscope I myself have built and a cryostat supplied with liquid helium. The PL spectrum of single-layer MoS2 at cryogenic temperatures will tell us more accurately about the electronic energy structures of the material than at room temperature, because higher temperatures cause a broadening in the spectrum. Applications for single-layer MoS2 include photodetectors, light-emitting-diodes, quantum computing, field effect transistors, hydrogen generation, and solar cells, all of which will be allowed to further advance and develop through a better understanding of the novel properties of its electronic energy structures.

Mai’ana Feuerborn

Major: Human Physiology  Faculty Mentor: Carrie McCurdy
Project Title: Effect of prenatal high fat diet on regulation of circadian rhythms

Abstract: Maternal obesity and excessive gestational weight are linked to increased risk of obesity in offspring, suggesting that in utero exposure programs an organism’s metabolism for life. This is particularly relevant as more than 60% of pregnant women in the United States are overweight. Studies in mice have shown exposure to an obese environment in utero causes more weight gain in offspring fed a high fat diet (HFD). Daily metabolism is regulated by circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are an internal temporal clock that coordinates behavior and metabolism to daily cycles. Disruption of circadian cycles leads to increased weight gain, suggesting that metabolic dysregulation observed in offspring of obese mothers may be due to altered circadian cycles. To study the effect of diet on fetal programming, mice were subjected to either a HFD or control diet during gestation. Post weaning, the offspring were fed a HFD or control diet. Insulin controlled tissues were then collected at different times of the day. We propose to measure the effect of maternal diet on offspring by measuring the expression levels of key circadian genes by quantitative PCR. We hypothesize that offspring exposed to an obese environment in utero will be more sensitive to postnatal HFD, with dampened circadian cycles, than mice exposed to a lean maternal environment in utero. Understanding the role of fetal programming in metabolic regulation of metabolism will better help us understand and combat obesity in western society, and potentially understand the diseases increasing incidence.

Sandra Dorning

Major: Marine Biology  Faculty Mentor: Craig Young
Project Title: The distribution and ecology of invasive ascidian Botrylloides violaceus in Coos Bay, Oregon

Abstract: Botrylloides violaceus, the violet tunicate, is a colonial sea squirt species that commonly grows on man-made structures (fouling communities) in bays and harbors around the world. In Oregon’s Coos Bay estuary, this species is not native, having been transported from its native Western Pacific via ship ballast water. Through my honors thesis research, I am conducting a comprehensive study of the ecology of Botrylloides violaceus in Coos Bay in order to better understand how this species was able to successfully invade and establish populations in this habitat. Three possible factors are proposed as explanations for the current distribution of Botrylloides in the bay: 1) abiotic conditions (water temperature, salinity, and current flow), 2) biotic conditions (competition or predatory relationships with other fouling organisms), and 3) vector access to certain areas of the bay. I aim to survey the distribution and abundance of this species in five different fouling communities the bay over the course of a year to document seasonal patterns in growth and competition with other encrusting organisms. In addition, laboratory experiments will be conducted to research ideal water conditions for Botrylloides survival. The results of this project should document the extent of and mechanisms behind the Botrylloides violaceus invasion so as to improve understanding about invasive species management and prevention in the Coos Bay habitat.

Sarianne Harris

Major: Human Physiology  Faculty Mentor: Christopher Minson
Project Title: Effects of Acute Passive Heat Exposure

Abstract: Exercise is one of the most powerful tools used to combat cardiovascular (CV) disease, the leading cause of death in the United States (2). However, exercise is difficult for many patient populations. In recent years, heat therapy (repeated, acute body core temperature elevations using hot water immersion or sauna) has received attention for potential CV health benefits (3, 4, 5). The Minson Human Cardiovascular Control Laboratory, where I will be conducting my research, has recently shown that heat therapy improves biomarkers of CV health even in young healthy subjects. Heat therapy could be restorative for patients who have difficulty exercising as it provides many benefits similar to those of exercise in a passive manner.

Unfortunately, concerns have been raised about the safety of greater than 20 minutes of hot water immersion (6). However, longer periods of immersion are likely required in order to induce the beneficial physiological adaptations, ideally 60 minutes (1). In addition, little is known about the acute physiological effects of longer bouts (i.e. 60-min) of hot water immersion.

Therefore, to further the utility of heat therapy, the current study will examine the body’s responses to one 60-minute bout of hot water immersion. This study will examine CV, metabolic, and hemodynamic changes to see whether the acute effects of passive heat are similar to those of exercise. Subject safety will be monitored to minimize doubts of heat therapy’s safety. Finally, several means of body temperature measurement will be examined to determine suitability for use in heat therapy protocols.

Selina Robson

Major: Geology  Faculty Mentor: Samantha Hopkins
Project Title: Something to chew on: Diet and dental morphology of extinct hyenas

Abstract: The four modern hyena species are some of the most specialized carnivores on the planet. Three hyena species are bone-crushers – the only living mammals that are specialized for this – and one species is an insect eater, feeding on social insects such as termites. Hyenas are uniquely adapted for both of these diets. However, little is known about how hyenas evolved these capabilities; the studies that have examined what ancestral hyenas ate have focused on only a few groups. This lack of information means that we have less accuracy in predicting the evolution of modern hyenas. Based on the ratchet theory of hypercarnivory, the bone-crushing hyenas are likely to go extinct due to their over-specialization. Conversely, the insect-eating aardwolf should continue to experience a long existence with little diversification. We do not know if either of these trends are being followed since we do not have a comprehensive understanding of past hyaenid evolution. Research into ancestral hyaenid diet is feasible since hyenas have a rich fossil record. There are almost 70 documented species spanning a time period of 23 million years with a nearly global distribution. In extinct species, tooth morphology can be used as a proxy for diet. By plotting dietary categories on a time scaled phylogenetic tree of hyenas, we can determine when changes to hyena diet occurred. Furthermore, we will see the order in which changes occurred. We can then look at patterns of dietary change to determine if hyenas are following previously hypothesized patterns. Furthermore, we can expand this work to understand the generalities of processes (e.g. ratchet for hypercarnivores, stability for insectivores) inferred by past researchers, significantly clarifying aspects of carnivore evolution and specialization.

Taylor Dodrill

Major: Biology and Anthropology  Faculty Mentor: Scott Fitzpatrick
Project Title: Osteological Analysis of Unprovenienced Human Remains from Petite Mustique, Grenadines

Abstract: In this case study, we will examine the unprovenienced remains of four human individuals collected from the private island of Mustique that reportedly originated from the small offshore island of Petite Mustique in the Southern Caribbean. Due to the diverse population history and replacement of indigenous people as a result of European colonization and processes related to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the bioarchaeological record of Caribbean islands can be complex. In order to determine the biological and cultural identity of the individuals studied, standard osteological analysis will be carried out in the determination of age, sex, stature, body mass, ancestry, and pathology. This investigation emphasizes determination of ancestry so as to provide a recommendation for proper repatriation of the remains. Dental morphology data (Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System) has suggested that the individuals present are not of Amerindian descent, and therefore most likely postdate contact. Direct radiocarbon dating of the bone will serve as confirmation of analyses previously done. Craniometric data will also be assessed using the FORDISC (forensic discriminants) database to further specify ancestral affiliation. Lastly, pathological analysis will evaluate skeletal indicators of diet, habitual activities, and overall health of the individuals present. Although much information is lost with the removal of archaeological remains from their context, the techniques utilized in this research will provide an important means to identify the ancestry of these individuals using advanced analytical tools.

William Crowley

Major: Chemistry  Faculty Mentor: George Nazin
Project Title: Fabrication of Scanning Tunneling Microscopy Tips

Abstract: The fabrication of sharp and smooth metallic tips is essential for scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). I plan on optimizing and characterizing a reproducible fabrication procedure of silver STM tips. In my process silver wire is first electrochemically etched using an electrolyte solution of volume ratio 1:8 glacial acetic acid: deionized water to form a blunt cone. The roughly shaped tip is then manually electropolished to yield a sharp and smooth cone shape with a small radius of apex (~100 nm). The tip is then heated at 300°C to remove contaminates. Silver is used for its plasmonic enhancing properties which allow for photon emission measurements to be taken, but plasmonic enhancement requires the tips to be sharp (<100nm radius of curvature) and contaminant-free. Post-processing physical and elemental characterization with a scanning electron microscope (Helios 600i DB-FIB) is required in order to optimize the STM tip preparation. The plasmonic enhancement of the fabricated STM tips will finally be characterized by STM-induced luminescence (STML). I hope the development of this fabrication process will create a reliable, environmentally benign method of producing quality STM tips, allowing for atomically resolved STM imaging as well as photon emission and ultrafast electron emission measurements