Presenters • Poster Sessions


Danielle Bedard
John F. McArdle (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Management, Salem State University
Are Nonprofit Colleges and Universities in Compliance with Unrelated Business Income Regulations?

Nonprofit status is granted to entities organized for a charitable, educational, religious or scientific purpose. Nonprofits are not liable for income tax on their revenues as long as the revenues are related to their core mission. As colleges and universities struggle in an era of declining resources they often seek alternate streams of revenue; some of these look more like businesses and less like non profits. This created the question: are nonprofit colleges and universities complying with the unrelated business income (UBI) laws and regulations? In 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audited a sample of 34 college and universities and found that 90% of them were under-reporting their UBI. UBI is income generated from any activity that is not related to a nonprofit institution’s core mission. Some examples of these activities are: selling clothing, receiving revenue from a fitness center, and offering sports camps over the summer. This study evaluated tax returns from a randomized sample of 40 private higher education institutions to determine whether they were compliant with IRS regulations. Several data points were examined to assess the validity of the institution's income reported.  

Nathan Childs
Joan Mahoney (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Business, Worcester State University
Back on the Books

Financial Literacy is an important skill to successfully negotiate within the US socio-economic system. It is, however, not universally acquired and in some populations, severely lacking. Working with individuals recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction in the City of Worcester, the WSU Enactus Team has addressed this need through workshops on general financial literacy.  This project drills deeper and focuses on a specific need for legal fiscal responsibility. Many of the gentlemen in the Reyes House Recovery program have directed their resources towards their addictions. Most have not worked, paid bills, taxes, or other debts and legal obligations for many years. Part of the recovery is to become a productive member of society. The "Back on the Books" project at Reyes House is a two-part endeavor: First, a workshop educating participants on the importance of filing tax returns. Taking into consideration elements such as citizenship, immigration status, pending legal matters, court orders and levies. There will be roadblocks faced for each individual and the action of filing or not filing could have profound reverberating effects. Next, we actually file the returns through the VITA program, a federally recognized program providing IRS certifications to students. Once all of the appointments are set, the final step of the project will be to attend the Reyes House on the set dates, accompanied by a certified tax reviewer, and help the gentleman file their 2017 tax returns.

Daniel Coelho Martins
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College

Mind Your Health: Addressing the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health and the Economic Burdens Surrounding Personality Disorders

With 1 in 4 adults being affected by mental disorders at some point in their lives, destroying the stigma surrounding mental health, and understanding all the burdens associated with each individual disorder would result in properly supporting all those affected. My research focuses on the economic burden of treating a mental disorder, particularly personality disorders, including more than just the cost of medication. Djora Soeteman’s article “The Economic Burden of Personality Disorders in Mental Health Care” describes costs associated with the activities of personality disorders and, also states that paranoid, borderline, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders result in increased medical costs. One example of a non-medical related economic strain placed upon those who suffer from personality disorders may be compulsive shopping and absenteeism from work. This then results in decreased income which creates the inability to afford treatment and also builds immense debt. With personality disorders, this creates a never-ending circle where treatment costs can’t be paid because their disorders affect their income which then causes them to spend more to feel better. Understanding the difficulties people with personality disorder endure guide us in finding ways to properly eliminate those cost and even further our knowledge in finding preventative measures to multiple disorders. In conclusion, practicing the knowledge gathered would result in improving the lives of the individuals affected and their families by hopefully reducing the strain placed on them financially and physically.

Michele R. Ross
Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston

Creative Accounting: An Analysis of the SEC Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Releases Involving Individual CPAs

This research will quantify and examine data pulled from cases found within the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Releases (AAREs). Except for one published paper, prior research has been targeted toward accounting firms. My research will examine these cases regarding individual Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) by capturing information related to both the CPA and the issues surrounding the need for the SEC to have taken enforcement action against that CPA.

To make decisions that avoid negative financial impacts we must be able to place our trust in financial reporting that is both usable and comparable.  Financial reporting rules that are based upon FASB's (Financial Accounting Standards Board) framework must reflect objectives, or the "why" behind their usability, as well as recognition, measurement, and disclosure concepts, or the "how" behind their creation; but most importantly they must reflect the qualitative characteristics of usability and comparability that should be achieved in financial reporting.  It is the qualitative characteristics of financial statements that make both regulations and codes of ethics imperative for the CPAs who compile or ensure this information. Since there is an expectation of trust placed in these CPAs and their work, which will impact a user's decision-making behavior and create economic consequences, this further research regarding SEC enforcement actions is imperative to both the profession and the public.


Catherine Emma Constable
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Resistance to the Puritan Devil: Tituba's Impact during the Salem Witch Trials

Although portrayed as African in popular sources, Tituba was a slave from Indian decent and lived in Salem with her husband, John, in the house of Reverend Samuel Parris. She was one of the first women to be accused of witchcraft in 1692 with America's largest and most gruesome witch scare resulting in her resistance by going off of the existing Puritan fear of her own religious and ethnic heritage. Speaking freely to save her own life she introduced alien concepts to the Puritans and formed an image of ideas from the West Indian Slave Society such as voodoo and ultimately fueled these fantasies of the devil through her eyes resulting in death to 20 people. My research asks if Tituba’s experience of cultural appropriation contributes to the reshaping of old world notions. Was Tituba just a victim of Puritan fears evolving something such as the religious practice of voodoo into something evil like spirit conjuring and bringing the devil to Salem. As Elaine G. Breslaw states, “She hesitantly capitalized on Puritan assumptions regarding Satanism, Tituba drew on memories of her past life for the wondrous details of a story so frightening in its implications that she had to be kept alive as a witness.” As smart and convincing as Tituba's move was, the misconception and reiteration of evil within her culture lead to where we are today in cultural appropriation towards non western religion and notions.


Julia Marie Anderson
Susan Leschine (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst
Piggery Systems: Conventional Concrete Slab Floors versus Deep Litter Systems

My research is broken down into two main parts: deep litter systems and the sustainability of conventional piggeries versus deep litter systems. The first half of my research explores the Korean Natural Farming technique of inoculated deep litter system (IDLS) piggeries. IDLS piggeries were developed by Master Kyu Han Cho of the Janong Natural Farming Institute in South Korea. His work, based upon generations of practice, provides farmers with an ecologically and economically sound manure management system. IDLS piggeries are odorless, fly-free, and can sustain green waste for up to 10 years without removal. Currently, IDLS piggeries are not widespread, with the only well-known locations of implementation being Korea and Hawaii. However, many swine producers across the globe have switched from traditional concrete slab piggeries to deep litter system (DLS) piggeries. Fundamentally, IDLS and DLS piggeries share many similarities, including lower management costs and higher animal welfare. Due to the ease of scaling, DLS systems are much more common compared to IDLS systems.

The second half of my research briefly explores conventional concrete piggeries and then compares conventional piggeries to DLS piggeries (and IDLS piggeries, where applicable). I conclude my research findings with the synthesis of information gathered to determine which piggery system is more sustainable for the future of American pork enterprises. Important aspects to consider when comparing conventional and DLS piggeries includes animal welfare, meat quality, greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and bacteria present.  

Andrew David Keezer
Rachel Marie D'Andrea
Mohamed Halabi
Thomas J. Kania
Kathleen Arcaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst
Site-Specific DNA Methylation in White Blood Cells: Biomarkers of Breast Cancer Risk

Breast Cancer is the second leading cause of death in women and is often difficult to predict. A recent study identified changes in DNA methylation at 250 CpG sites in white blood cells that were predictive of breast cancer in a prospective study cohort. Interestingly, when the methylation levels of just five of the sites were used to predict breast cancer, they did so with a greater accuracy than the current leading method of prediction. We aimed to validate these results by examining five of the DNA methylation sites previously identified using a different cohort of samples and a newly developed method. The white blood cell genomic DNA samples we used in our research were provided by a prospective study conducted by the National Cancer Institute. They were collected from 300 women who eventually developed breast cancer (cases) and 300 women who did not (controls). We received two DNA samples isolated from each individual, one from 1-2 years prior to diagnosis and another 4-7 years prior to diagnosis, with comparable time points for the control cases, amounting to 1200 total samples. Our approach, massively parallel amplicon sequencing of bisulfite treated DNA, has been proven to be robust at detecting DNA methylation levels at single nucleotide resolution. We measured DNA methylation rates at each of the five sites in all 1200 samples using next-generation sequencing. Statistical analysis of the data will assess the accuracy of using these white blood cell DNA methylation sites to assess an individual’s breast cancer risk.

Additional faculty collaborators include Susan Sturgeon, School of Public Health and David Sela, Department of Food Science.

Christina L. Parrella
Rafael Fissore (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

Generation and Evaluation of How a Double Knockout Mouse Line Lacking TRPV3 and T-Type (CaV3.2) Channels Affects Calcium Homeostasis

Changes in the intracellular concentrations of free Ca2+ are integral in the preparation for fertilization of mammalian oocytes and in the initiation of development. However, the mechanism behind these changes remains unknown. The Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels are a family of cationic ion channels distributed in a variety of mammalian tissues. In oocytes, these channels, namely TRPV3, are potential mediators for Ca2+ influx. In addition to TRPV3, T-type channels, namely CaV3.2, are also speculated to be important channels for Ca2+ entry. We have simultaneously knocked out these two Ca2+ influx channels in the mouse to explore the effects on Ca2+ homeostasis. By studying the Ca2+ oscillations in the TRPV3 and CaV3.2 double knockout mice, it can be further determined the importance for both channels and their potential role in the oscillations. In addition to Ca2+ monitoring, the fertility of these double null mice has been evaluated through fertility rates, development, and morphological defects that arose from their null pups. Initially, these mice have litters similar to controls and single null mice, however, after the third parturition the number of pups per litter decreases along with significantly higher neonatal mortality, which is different than what happens in controls. Additionally, the Ca2+ store content is significantly diminished in double knockout eggs versus controls, as was the frequency of the fertilization-induced Ca2+ oscillations. Therefore, TRPV3 and CaV3.2 channels contribute to Ca2+ homeostasis of mouse oocytes. Further studies are needed to gain insight into the cause(s) of subfertility of these double knockout mice. 

Erik Michael Rizzo
Evan Chakrin
Zan Ahmad Chaudry
Valerie Meskie
Morgan Percy
Colin J. Radon
Emily C. Reardon
Nalyn Yim
Elsa Petit (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst

The Role of Tannic Compounds in Reducing Methane Emissions by Cattle

The gases released from a cow’s digestive system have a significant effect on the progress of global climate change. Cows and other ruminant animals rely on billions of microorganisms to break down food in a process called fermentation, and these microorganisms produce substantial quantities of methane in the process. Because the atmosphere is becoming heavily laden with greenhouse gases, and the global demand for beef shows no sign of decreasing, it is necessary to find a way to minimize cattle contributions of methane into the atmosphere. Current research shows that specific additive components in ruminant animal feed, such as the polyphenolic tannin compounds found in the tropical fruit rambutan, lead to a decrease in methane release. The exact mechanisms by which microbes exploit these additive components are not yet well understood.

We will first analyze methane concentration by comparing gas sampler tube data in cows fed a grain based diet with tannins added and without tannins. This data will provide us with a preliminary, broad sense of methane release effects from methanogenic microorganisms in vivo. Then, we will collect rumen fluid samples, culture and purify the microorganisms, expose them to agar containing our selected additive feed components, and test for methane concentrations using established in vitro methods.

Clio W. Ruiz
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Pit Bulls Unleashed: A Further Investigation into the Cultural Representation of Pit Bulls

The American Pit Bull, also known as the American Staffordshire Terrier, has been largely preconceived by society as vicious, unpredictable creatures whose sole purpose is to attack. With many major news headlines refer to these animals as killers, people often are informed about horrific events involving Pit Bulls, and are usually not given the important facts as to what actually provoked the attack. There are many factors to consider when analyzing a dog attack such as training or lack of training, neglect, abuse, along with many other factors that could potentially cause a dog to lash out in a violent manner. There are non-profit organizations such as, whose sole purpose is to inform the public about "dangerous dogs." This Website also contains advertisements for "Dog Bite Lawyers." Any dog can be aggressive and an entire breed should not be subjected to this blatant discrimination due to proportionally rare unfortunate cases. Although the victim may have suffered the consequences of the abuse/neglect of the dog owner, that background evidence tends to go unmentioned and generally blames the dog/dog breed. My research investigates if it is possible for an entire breed of dogs to be deemed as dangerous, along with the possible ramifications of classifying Pit Bulls in this way.   


Madeleine Mae Sookdeo
Ana Maria Salicioni (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

Role of Calmodulin-Dependent Kinase (CaMK) II and IV in Inducing Sperm Motility: Evidence for the Requirement of Ca2+ and Calmodulin in Motility Pathway

Subfertility is a critical health problem with social and economic consequences that affect about 9% of couples worldwide. Assistive Reproductive Techniques (ART) have been incorporated in the process of understanding and solving the issue of infertility. Current research is being done to further understand the causes of infertility and how best to overcome it. Recent preliminary data from the Visconti laboratory indicate that manipulation of the metabolic profile of sperm may affect their motility and other physiological features relevant to in vitro fertilization capability and possibly subsequent embryo development. Mammalian sperm acquire the ability to fertilize the egg in the female tract in a process known as capacitation. As has already been discovered, through the use of mouse sperm, calmodulin dependent kinases, CaMK II and CaMK IV, are required for sperm capacitation through an unknown pathway. In this thesis, using data from previous experiments, my research will revolve around testing out inhibitors of different parts of this pathway will allow us to see which proteins are vital for sperm capacitation and which can be bypassed without affecting the motility of the sperm. Additionally, using media that lacks calcium will allow for the observation of how the Ca2+ ion is involved in the function of the pathway, the inhibitors, sperm motility, and sperm capacitation.


Emma Caroline Berthiaume
Brigitte Holt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst

A Comparative Study of Medieval Population Mortality Profiles as an Indicator of Life History for Rural and Urban Lifeways

Environment and life conditions are two of the most critical factors in determining how healthy a population is likely to be.  For instance, it would be expected that a population living in a more rural area with better access to food, water, and clean air would have a lower risk of mortality than a population living in an urban area. 

               For this study, a mortality profile was reconstructed for the Medieval rural Italian town of Noli through the analysis of skeletal remains and this profile was then compared to data from a contemporary Medieval urban London population (kindly provided by S. DeWitte).  For Noli, the adults were aged using transition analysis and the subadults were aged using a combination of epiphyseal fusion, dental eruption, and long bone length.  A Kaplan-Meier survivorship analysis was used to compare the mortality profiles of these two populations and to test the hypothesis that the Noli population would have had a lower mortality rate than the London population due to their rural environment and lifestyle. 

               Surprisingly, the results showed that subadults (0-20) had a significantly higher mortality rate in Noli than in London and that there was no statistically significant difference in mortality for the adults.  These results show that the differences in environment between Medieval London and Noli did not meaningfully impact the health of the adults of these populations.   The elevated Noli subadult mortality, however, suggests that Noli children were undergoing some kind of critical stress that was not impacting the London children.

Benji Z. Bonnet
Sonya Atalay (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst
Collage: A Making and Unmaking of World Systems and Visions

     In what ways are access to power denied to some through violence, degradation, and exploitation on individual, institutional, and societal levels (systems of oppression)? How do systems of oppression operate in relation to one another? How do various systems of oppression affect both myself and others? How can we make social change and what would those different worlds look like?

     To approach those questions, I use autoethnographic and arts-based research in a creative, hands-on exploration and synthesis of the world as it stands and to advance transformative visions of justice that my research, lived experience, and community lead me to. These methodologies consist of engaging deeply with my topic through artistic production and connecting primary literature to personal experience. Knowledge-creation and presentation alike will be through the process of collage-making, culminating in a series of collages responding to the above questions. Collage is here defined as the process of creating a new and unique assemblage out of found materials, mostly images and print.

     My intent is to use the relational techniques of collage-making to apply a relational analysis to systems of oppression. Similarly, my positive visions of social, economic, political, and ecological entanglement will not only be represented in collages but emerge from the very process of crafting them. This work is important because of the power of art, and specifically the ability of collages, to spark critical thought in myriad directions in a diverse audience.

Skyler Jay Keiter
Stacey Matarazzo-Rine (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst
Neurological Deficiencies due to Antemortem Cranial Trauma in the Chanka Polity of Andean Peru (1000-1400 CE)

This study examines the antemortem cranial trauma found on skeletal samples from five Late Intermediate Period sites in the province of Andahuaylas, Peru. Each site was identified as being inhabited by Chanka populations based on burial patterns and the presence of Chanka-style ceramics. One hundred and twenty-four crania were assessed for age, sex, and presence of trauma. Crania were also measured to determine the degree of cranial modification present and its effect on the size and location of lobes of the brain. Crania showing trauma were further assessed for type of trauma, lethality, location, and evidence of healing. Location of trauma was correspondingly mapped onto images of the brain to determine possible impacts on neurological function present in the population. Results showed that half of the entire sample displayed evidence of cranial trauma and there was no significant statistical difference in trauma rates between males and females. Blunt-force trauma to the frontal and parietal bones were the most common forms of injury, corresponding to deficiencies in concentration, judgement making, voluntary muscle movement, eye movement, and language comprehension.


Michael Niklas Caine
Erika Zekos (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Architecture, UMass Amherst
Resonance: Using Parametric Design and Digital Fabrication to Generate Space

Resonance is an architectural design project with the intent to design and build an installation that generates a sensory experience for the user and viewer. The main intent is to showcase the transformation of digital data into parametric design, while also incorporating the main theories that make up our understanding of spatial atmosphere; such as the body of architecture, the sound of space, effect of surrounding objects, between composure and seduction, the light on things, and beautiful form. 

The project aims to provide an installation within the Design Building that encourages student musicians to play their instrument and perform an impromptu concert. This installation will also provide seating for students when not used musically. Design data is informed by the non-sinusoidal waveforms produced while playing string instruments, which is then imported and visualized using Rhinoceros/Grasshopper Software and used to create cut plywood forms which will be assembled on site. The result generates a playful and acoustically-inspired installation that also filters light, and provides a unique programmatically-responsive space.

There are many ways to interact with the installation, from casually viewing from afar to direct participation with its form and space. Resonance's curved fins generate the installation's program; graciously sweeping inward to create an alcove for a musician to perform, as-well-as the opposite to create a seat to enjoy a coffee break. The undulating curves rhythmically occupy space, and creates its own performance during the day as the sun dances along the plywood fins.  


Daniel Joseph Acuña
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
The OranguTrump

The Orangutrump is a mixed media piece crafted by reusing materials bound by tape and glue, then primped in old clothes and paper clay. The snack food, Cheetos, is engineered to create a hair piece worn by the puerile tree dweller. The facial structure distinguishes this orangutan as the artist’s version of a satirical representation of Donald Trump. This piece was conceptualized shortly after the demoralizing results of the 2016 election. It is undoubtedly clear that the Trump presidency is problematic for many and advantageous for only a few. The filled trash can is not to represent the place where Donald comes from, rather a direction that we may be headed. Objects placed inside the trash can reflect actions of POTUS that have offended the artist, and many others. The Eiffel Tower represents backing out of the Paris Agreement; lumps of coal represent our clean energy solution; elephants and other big game animals that can now be poached and imported into the USA legally; an imported solar panel that is additionally taxed 30%; a copy of the Declaration of Independence that has been tarnished and discarded; bricks and barbed wire from the wall that Mexico will pay for; and, turkey feathers made to look like those of an eagle, as much a metaphor for this President as well as a nod to the Navajo Nation and “Pocahontas”. There is much more that could be included, but the artist could not manage to pilfer a dumpster.

Veda Marie Bleau
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

Equipoise consists of original paintings that serve as visual interpretations of the way in which mathematics has fundamentally influenced art. This research has analyzed the role that mathematics, specifically symmetry and balance, has played in centuries of artwork. For instance, Islamic art from various time periods frequently included common mathematical themes. Ancient Islamic artists from as early as 300 A.D. were using geometric patterns as guidelines for their artwork. Over the centuries, the methods used by the artists became more refined, including systematically dividing a circle into equal parts while connecting various points to create repeated motifs. Modern artists, such as M.C. Escher and Simon Beck have also made extensive use of mathematics in printmaking and earthworks. While studying the works of M.C. Escher in an exhibit at the MFA in Boston, it is evident that he relies heavily on grids to meticulously layout his initial prints. Similarly, Simon Beck, a present-day artist and mathematician, also creates intricate geometric designs, but on a much larger scale that often cover between 2.5 and 10 acres of snow or sand. Between the processes used to create designs and the final pieces themselves, the common threads of mathematics, symmetry and balance run deep. 

Leah Morgan Calabro
Thomas Lawrence Vacanti (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Dance, UMass Amherst
Moving for Change: How Dance Can Shape Society

My honors thesis is a creative research project in which I have choreographed and produced a dance concert memorializing the Holocaust and calling attention to the recent resurgence of neo-Nazism in today’s society. This project is designed to examine the effectiveness of dance as a tool for memorialization and social activism. My findings proved that dance is successful at conveying emotions and messages related to remembrance and social justice. The choreographic process for my work was influenced a great deal by my extensive study of the Holocaust and was supplemented by further study of this event and of today’s neo-Nazi movement. I used my academic research to influence my creative research and how I instructed my dancers in movement and intention. For the final part of my research, I asked the audience members of each performance to reflect on their experience and reactions to the work, and by reading these responses I was able to determine that dance was in fact an effective tool for memorialization and social activism.

Art is a powerful tool for change. This type of creative research is critical in the dance field. Artists need to feel empowered to make a difference through their art making. By proving dance’s effectiveness at reaching people in the context of memorializing the Holocaust and addressing the resurgence of neo-Nazism in my own work I hope to pave the way for future choreographers and dancers to make art that incites change.

Rhianna Marie DePriest
Stacey Parker (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
Order and Repetition

Autism is often misunderstood by neurotypical people.  People often fear what they don’t know and may isolate themselves from something they see as different. I wanted to combine my double major in Communication Sciences and Disorders and Visual and Performing Arts to create a visual understanding between two communities; the autistic community and the neurotypical community. As a neurotypical individual, I cannot speak for the Autistic community, but I can advocate in the hopes for creating a better understanding and acceptance.  I created my visual work to highlight similarities I found between the two communities: routine and repetition. Autistic individuals use routines to impose order and structure in their daily lives. Some examples of routines include bathing, bedtime, or meal routines.  When structure is developed, the environment becomes more manageable. (“Routines and Rituals Performed by Children Diagnosed with Autism.”) Neurotypical individuals use routines as well.  Routines help develop a sense of control and normalcy over one’s environment.  (“The Power of Routines.”) My body of visual art work aims to represent the routines and repetition individuals in both communities can relate to. I hope my work can start a conversation for better understanding and advocacy between the two diverse communities.

Jeffrey Ellis
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

For some time now, visual art has been divided into two distinct types – art for a purpose, used to transmit a message or sell a product, and fine art, art for art’s sake, meant only to be art. This project combines image and message in an effort to achieve an end.  The political nature of the messages should be clear to the viewer, drawing from the groundswell of popular opposition to the current administration.  But it does so with an eye to creating works with a sensibility closer to ‘fine’ art. Combining woodblock, monotype and collograph printing techniques, this show is comprised of several images, without text, each of which transmits a message to the viewer.  The goal is to blur the line between art meant to advertise and art that’s purely for visual consumption.  The finished pieces inform without telling, speak without words, while also being aesthetically compelling.  That is, after all, the most important part of a work of visual art.


J Ellis

VPA 2018

Emily Anne Graves
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
Little Rosie’s Wish: A Children’s Book about a Little Fairy’s Big Dream

Little Rosie’s Wish combines children’s literature and visual arts. The main purpose of the book is to support the social and emotional well-being of children, while at the same time inspiring courage and self-acceptance. The story follows the journey of a fairy named Rosie. Rosie has big plans to paint the sky but is discouraged by those around her. The little fairy must find the courage to make her own wish come true. The illustrations are created through a variety of mixed media, including pastels, paint, colored pencil, pen, marker, and a variety of paper types. The pages are composed of collaged and layered materials. The overall aesthetic of the book consists of a soft, warm palette and pastel hues. Oftentimes, the world can seem like a dark and frightening place, especially when viewed through the eyes of its youngest inhabitants. The artist’s mission is to provide an escape into a world of magic and wonder which will encourage the imagination and creativity of young children.

Nicole Therese Nelson
Thomas Lawrence Vacanti (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Dance, UMass Amherst
A Choreographic Study of Bodies in Motion

The field of dance science is of growing popularity as it integrates art and science and offers benefits to the performer and the researcher; however, the potentials of art are often forgotten in the pursuit of knowledge. This choreographic project investigates the relationship of art and science in terms of how the human body is appreciated aesthetically and analyzed mechanically by utilizing dance techniques and kinesiology principles. Presented in two parts, a gallery exhibit and a live dance performance, this project follows the methods of human motion analysis through the past and present day to further the ongoing pursuit of understanding the human body. The research process includes creating movement in the studio, applying movement to dancers, and analyzing their movement through various forms of media. The findings of movement patterns, mechanics, and imagery techniques are demonstrated and presented for an audience. Results are measured by the success of the live performance and gallery exhibit as well as by the feedback from the collaborating dancers in regards to how they feel they can benefit from evidence-based dance pedagogy. The significance lies within the potentials of expanding the ideas and relationships of art and science into the fields of education, performance, and movement research for all populations. 

Jennifer Lynne Potvin
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
Mystery and Surprise in Two Ceramic Firing Processes

These ceramic sculptures are organic tree-like and human forms paired with a series of drawings of ammonites. The human forms use high oxidation clay, various glazes, graphite under charcoal, ink, and raku kiln fired media.  The resulting crackle glaze creates a dynamic surface against the smoky black background. The dark glossy green accentuates the curves and texture of the sculpture. The large scale tree is fired in an outdoor pit firing. The ammonite drawings that accompany both sculptures is drawn on high quality paper with precise lines. Both firing processes always have an element of mystery and surprise, since the artist cannot totally control the outcome.

Sculptures are my strength and passion. The ammonite drawings and ceramic sculptures are linked because the both share a connection to the earth in terms of medium and form. I am inspired by exploring nature and translating the designs and patterns in nature into art.

Dakota Moon Smith-Porter
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Someone’s trash can be someone else’s treasure, when beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Idioms aside, the average American generates about 4.40 pounds of garbage per a day, accumulating a total of about 245 million tons per a year ( Society’s push to encourage a consumeristic lifestyle of buying “new things” is a major factor of our problematic growing trash. However sinister sounding consumerism may be, our throwaway society has been a petri dish for inspiring today's modern artists.  Artists have been able to capitalize on waste's proliferation and in turn generate meaningful art. The now thriving artistic practice of turning trash to treasure is the preferred medium of many artists. Trash can be a useful and beautiful substance. Trash’s dichotomy (waste and art medium) allows the artist additional complexity when creating with ‘unintentioned’ art material. Artist insight, creativity, ingenuity, and consuming consciousness are in full throttle when working with trash. Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder explores using trash for artistic purposes in a four-piece visual installation. The four three-dimensional pieces depict abstract eyes made of the discarded discounted material of four different "Michaels Store ─$4 grab boxes". The items within each individual box have been used to create a single installation. However horrid wastefulness is, corporate trash accumulation has sparked creativity, ingenuity and a healthy consuming consciousness within the modern art world.

Rebecca Tenen
Stacey Parker (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
Using Art to Bridge Gaps between Cultures

My Senior Thesis is driven by my passion for the preservation and conservation of the historical and cultural significance of art and discovering different ways art can be used universally. 

In the spring of my Junior year, when I was awarded a research grant, for my year long project proposal I began observing Art, at the MFA in Boston. I focused on the Ancient World, to discover what, if any commonalities can be observed across cultures. Exploring our perception of art, and it’s impact on us as individuals, I tried to define what aspects of art are truly universal. My resulting theory is when there is less individual components that makes up an art piece, there is less that people individually identify with.

To demonstrate this, I compiled various simple sounds and translated them into abstract, minimalistic and primitive based visual pieces. The result was large scale painted pieces, around eight feet long, done on burlap material. They were read by musicians in a manner similar to that of sheet music, without the parameters of a bar. The response was a natural and automatic reaction to the images rather than a learned response such as reading music. 

Turning sounds into images and then back into sound, resulted in organized simplicity that invoked an equal response. This consistency is a step closer to understanding how we can use art to bridge the gaps between cultures. 


Tara Sue Dowd
Anne Jaskot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Astronomy, UMass Amherst

The Origin of Lyman Alpha Emission in Green Peas

Green Peas are young, rare, compact starburst galaxies characterized by highly ionized gas. They are some of the only known galaxies with escaping hydrogen-ionizing, or Lyman continuum (LyC), radiation. The Lyman-alpha (Lyα) transition is one indirect diagnostic of ionizing radiation escape, and is therefore the primary tool we use to investigate these galaxies. We calculate a variety of nebular and physical properties of the Green Peas to determine which parameters correlate best with particular Lyα spectral features, including equivalent width, escape fraction, and peak separation. Our findings show that ionizing photon production correlates strongly with Lyα equivalent width and that peak separation is particularly sensitive to the ionized vs. neutral gas content of the galaxy. We will discuss the implications of these properties for ionizing radiation escape in the context of LyC-leaking galaxies as a whole.

Amy Ralston
Min S. Yun (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Astronomy, UMass Amherst
Simulated Induced Star Formation in the Early Universe

Stars are formed through the collapse of molecular gas clouds. The collapse is triggered when hydrostatic equilibrium is disrupted. Hydrostatic equilibrium is the requirement of a cloud to remain stable. It describes the state in which the kinetic energy of the gas pressure is equal to the gravitational potential energy. The critical mass limit of the cloud is defined as the Jeans mass. As soon as the mass of the cloud exceeds the Jeans mass, in theory, it is prone to collapse.

However, if the mass of a cloud does not exceed the Jeans mass, it still has the potential for collapse, and therefore star formation via induction. If a cloud is in near enough proximity to a massive star, as the star dies, it will produce a Type II supernova which propagates in all directions as a shock wave. This is a sudden change in pressure accompanied by other ejecta. When the blast front comes into contact with the cloud, star formation can be induced. 

In this research, the phenomenon is explored in the setting of the early universe at z = 15-16, or approximately 300 million years after the Big Bang. Simulation data in conjunction with visualization software was used to analyze a molecular cloud near a Population III star to investigate the factors which are distinct in each dataset (for a hypernova, supernova, and no supernova) and point to whether or not collapse and subsequent star formation is induced.


Emily Agnello
Margaret Stratton (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst
Characterizing Substrate Interactions with the Ca2+/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II Kinase Domain

Ca2+/Calmodulin dependent protein kinase (CaMKII) is a serine/threonine protein kinase that is known to play a major role in long-term potentiation (LTP), which is the cellular basis for memory. When CaMKII is knocked out in mice, they have significant difficulties learning and maintaining information. As a multimeric protein, each CaMKII molecule has twelve to fourteen kinase domains which serve to phosphorylate downstream binding partners. Without functional kinase domains, CaMKII loses its main function - to regulate the activity of substrates found in the signaling pathway that leads to LTP. Thus, understanding the affinities with which substrates bind the CaMKII kinase domain and what residues are necessary for the stability of these interactions is essential for gaining a molecular-level understanding of long-term memory formation. The main focus of this investigation was a substrate named T-lymphoma invasion and metastasis factor 1 (Tiam1). Tiam1 is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for the Rho family of GTPases that activate Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 (Rac1). Rac1 has been shown to play an important role in promoting spine formation in neurons. The binding region of Tiam1 to CaMKII has been found to have similar homology to other known binding partners of CaMKII including part of the NMDA receptor and the regulatory segment of CaMKII. Using techniques like fluorescence polarization and x-ray crystallography, I have characterized important behavioral and structural properties of the CaMKII kinase domain substrate binding pockets.

Cole Burgess
Sergey N. Savinov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst
Elicitation Derived Antimicrobial Compounds

Increasing frequency of antibiotic resistance in bacterial species is a cause for global health community concern. Traditional high throughput attempts are costly and yield relatively few promising compounds. Using a unique collection of plant cultures, we have developed a transwell plant–microbe co-culture system to provide environment that induces production of antimicrobial phytochemicals. Thus, callus cultures were tested against gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus and gram-negative Escherichia coli to identify plant cultures capable of the most effective antimicrobial activity. Morus (mulberry) derived cultures (M. nigra and M. alba) emerged as the effective sources of antistaphylococcal metabolites, which were produced upon co-culture elicitation. Mulberries are known to produce benzofuran compounds, moracins, some of which are effective in lysing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. However, it is not known which of more than 30 moracins are produced as a response to a direct microbial stress from S. aureus. The hit cultures grew too slow for any scale-up work, and we, thus, attempted de novo callogenesis of several Morus species using sterilized intact seeds and high auxin/cytokinin concentrations. To report on selectivity trends in both elicitation and antimicrobial effects, the co-culture secretions were tested against both the bacterial species used in the co-culture elicitation (i.e., S. aureus) and a control organism (E. coli). The resulting broad-spectrum and gram-selective compounds were characterized structurally using mass spectroscopy and high-performance liquid chromatography. We anticipate that the compounds identified in these assays will be used to develop novel therapeutics to combat bacterial infections in the post-antibiotic era.

Ezequiel De Leon
Steven Cok (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

The Effects of Palm Fruit Extract on the Expression of SREBP-1c as it Relates to Adipogenesis and the Progression of Prediabetes to Type II Diabetes in the Obese State Using a C. elegans and GFP Reporter Fusion Protein Model

Type II Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic disease characterized by insulin resistance and hyperglycemia. Hypertrophic obesity has been strongly associated with a reduced capacity to store lipids in adipose tissue compared to hyperplastic obesity. It is believed that reduced lipid storage capacity effectively results in ectopic lipid accumulation, a major contributor to insulin resistance through the mechanisms of lipotoxicity and lipid induced insulin resistance. Increased lipid storage capacity through increased adipogenesis is thus an area of interest in the prevention of type II diabetes. Adipogenesis is under regulation by a host of transcriptional regulators including PPAR-y and C/EBP-α and SREBP-1c. This study aims to determine if the phytochemical rich palm fruit extract affects the expression of SREBP-1c using a C. elegans and GFP reporter fusion protein model.  

Rachael Marie Duffy
Steven Cok (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Quantifying the Effect of Phytochemicals on Sirtuin-1 Gene Expression in C. elegans Using a Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) Reporter Gene

Type II Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by the inability to regulate blood sugar, resulting in high blood glucose.  This disease has become an epidemic over recent years, and factors affecting the onset of diabetes are not fully understood.  Studies indicate that phytochemicals isolated from plants may play a role in preventing the advancement of prediabetes to the diabetic state.  Sirtuin-1 is a gene whose expression is linked to increased inflammation, control of energy homeostasis, and other effects on the cell cycle.  It is known that there is a characteristic inflammation associated with the onset of diabetes, and that the Sirtuin-1 gene could potentially be regulated in a way that prevents this inflammatory response.  One potential mechanism whereby phytochemicals prevent progression of diabetes is through regulation of Sirtuin-1 expression.  In order to test this theory, strains of  C. elegans containing the promoter of the Sirtuin-1 gene fused to GFP were treated with increasing concentrations of phytochemical extracts from palm fruit juice and measured for changes in fluorescence. Changes in the level of fluorescence are indicative of changes in the expression of the Sirtuin-1 gene.  

Seleem Elkadi
Daniel N. Hebert (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst
The Role of UDP-Glucose: Glycoprotein Glucosyltransferase 1 in the Folding of the Multidomain Protein, Prosaposin

Proteins have a wide array of essential functions within cells such as DNA replication, catalysis of metabolic reactions, and transportation of molecules. In order to complete its function, a protein must fold into a specific three-dimensional shape. The site of folding and maturation for approximately one-third of the proteome that is targeted to the secretory pathway is the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). An important chaperone pathway within the ER is the calnexin (CNX)/calreticulin (CRT) pathway[1]. Most of the proteins targeted to the secretory pathway receive N-linked glycans, a structure composed of multiple carbohydrates, as they are translocated into the ER[2]. CNX/CRT bind to proteins with monoglucosylated glycans and play an important role in ensuring protein folding efficiency, minimizing non-productive interactions, decreasing aggregation, retaining immature proteins in the ER, and possibly targeting terminally misfolded proteins for degradation. UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase 1 (UGGT1) is known as the central gatekeeper in the CNX/CRT pathway since it determines which proteins are retained in the ER by monoglucosylating the protein’s glycans, leading to CNX/CRT binding. Prosaposin (PSAP), a glycoprotein consisting of four domains (A, B, C, D), is an obligate substrate of UGGT1 and contains five N-linked glycans. Each domain has one glycan except for A, which contains two. The domains closer to the C-terminus (saposin C and saposin D) contain hydrophobic patches proposed to be associated with UGGT1 recognition.

In our lab’s working model for prosaposin maturation it is predicted that the domains closer to the C-terminus undergo reglucosylation more than N-terminal domains. The N-terminal domains (A and B) are translocated into the ER first and therefore begin folding first, to allow for folding of N-terminal domains unencumbered by immature, unfolded C-terminal domains. Persistent reglucosylation of C-terminal domains would lead to CNX/CRT binding and therefore aid in sequestering these domains from the actively folding N-terminal domains[1]. The objective of this study is to further understand the role of UGGT1 with respect to protein folding by testing the prediction that the C-terminal domains of PSAP are reglucosylated more than the N-terminal domains. Understanding which domain of PSAP is best reglucosylated may also improve understanding of how UGGT1 recognizes substrates. This will aid further studies which seek to examine UGGT1 activity with spatio-temporal resolution. 

Corey J. Isgur
Elizabeth Vierling (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst
Thioredoxin h4 Function in Arabidopsis

Thioredoxins (Trx) are small proteins found across all three domains of life that have highly conserved, active site cysteine residues. They are integral players in redox signaling pathways where they participate in protein thiol-dithiol exchange via oxidoreductase activity. By supplying electrons to protein thiolate moieties, they help to maintain other cellular proteins in a predominantly reduced state. Interestingly, most biological systems rely on a small set of Trx isoforms, while the number of Trx isoforms in plants is extensive; at least 20 isoforms have been identified. Thioredoxin h4 (Trx h4) in Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) is a relatively uncharacterized Trx isoform. Trx h (heterologous) type isoforms are localized to the plant cytosol where they are believed to take part in oxidative stress attenuation by preventing irreversible protein oxidation caused by chemical species such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), superoxide (O2·-), and possibly nitric oxide (NO). Levels of Trx h4 mRNA are relatively high compared to levels of housekeeping transcripts in reproductive organs (i.e. pistil and stamen) and in seeds after imbibition. Trx h4 is thought to influence the initiation of reproduction, with one possibility being that Trx h4 modulates transcription factor signaling as it has been shown for other Trx h isoforms. Another putative role of Trx h4 is in the activation of starch degrading enzymes in germinating seeds, though these functions need to be tested. To better understand the role of Trx h4, an Arabidopsis trx h4 null mutant (T-DNA insertion line) has been identified and is being grown to be observed for phenotypic effects. Trx h4 protein will be synthesized in E. coli and isolated for subsequent activity assays to determine possible denitrosation and other redox activities. 

Amanda LaFlamme
William G. Hagar (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Boston
Characterization of Polyphenol Oxidase Isoenzymes in Hordeum vulgare

The enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) can be found in many organisms. It catalyzes the reaction that results in the browning of fruits and vegetables, leading to changes in the nutritional value of these organisms. In this research, Hordeum vulgar, or barley, was chosen as the organism of study. In barley cells, PPO exists as isoenzymes in multiple forms. When cut or bruised, the cell membranes and cell walls of fruits, vegetables, barley, and a range of other organisms are damaged. Thereafter, upon exposure to the oxygen in the air, PPO isoenzymes catalyze the oxidation of catechols (phenolic compounds) to quinones. Quinone products polymerize or interact with amino acids, resulting in the production of the dark oxidation products. The varying PPO isoenzymes were extracted from barley plants and separated through ammonium sulfate precipitation, re-suspension, dialysis, centrifugation, ion exchange chromatography, and gel electrophoresis.  The activity of PPO was measured through the oxidation of dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), specifically focusing on the conversion of L-Dopa to Dopachrome.  The PPO isoenzymes were separated by electrophoresis and visualized by activity staining with DOPA.  One of the PPO isoforms was found to be a cation at pH 8.0.  Results will be discussed in further detail. Researching PPO in organisms and its function in the plant and in chloroplasts could make way for possible solutions preventing produce browning. 




Natalie McArthur
Lila Gierasch (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry, UMass Amherst

Allosteric Relationships between Human Hsp70 and Its Mutants

The Hsp70 family, a group of heat shock proteins present in almost all living organisms, are essential molecular chaperones responsible for a wide range of protein related cellular functions.  For bacterial Hsp70, termed DnaK, the allosteric mechanism, whereby substrate binding is modulated by nucleotide binding, is well understood and consists of interconversion between a docked and an undocked state resulting from interactions of the two functional domains.  However, the allostery of human inducible cytoplasmic Hsp70, termed HspA1, although extremely similar in sequence to DnaK, is not as well understood and has been shown to behave differently than that of bacterial Hsp70.  HspA1 has been implicated as a possible drug target in several severe neurological disorders and cancers, although not enough is known about the protein’s dynamics to enable development of an appealing drug target.  In this poster, the behavior of DnaK is studied by observing the effect of single point mutations in locations throughout the protein which are thought to be allosterically critical.  Through biochemical studies and structural analysis by nuclear magnetic resonance, the effect that these mutations have is observed providing greater insights into critical amino acid residues in DnaK.  In this poster, various mutants of DnaK are studied displaying how tunable the allosteric landscape of this protein is, along with uncovering residues which account for differences in function between DnaK and it’s homologue, HspA1.  This research highlights the amino acids that contribute to structural and functional differences between these seemingly similar proteins and ultimately, a greater picture into the allosteric landscape of HspA1.

Kaeden Luc McClintock
Alfred J. Crosby (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Polymer Science and Engineering, UMass Amherst

Biocompatible Polymer Scaffolds for Mammalian Cell Adhesion and Growth


The hierarchical assembly of mesoscale structures, such as filaments, fibrils, and fibers, plays a vital role in the development of high-performing biological tissues. Furthermore, the production of these mesoscale building blocks from synthetic, polymer-based materials provides tunable mechanical properties and tailored functionalities, however, their assembly is challenging.


Flowcoating, a ‘stop-&-go’ evaporative self-assembly method, has recently demonstrated an ability to synthesize mesoscale polymer ribbons that adopt predictable three-dimensional structures when released from the substrate. Thus, new opportunities exist to employ the uniquely tunable and scalable properties of flowcoating with biocompatible polymers in order to manufacture synthetic scaffolds for the development of biological tissues.


The goal of this study was to flowcoat mesoscale biocompatible polymer ribbons that could mediate cellular adhesion and growth, and adopt unique three-dimensional conformations upon being released from the underlying substrate.



Sterilized glass substrates were flowcoated with poly(maleic anhydride-alt-1-octadecene), an inexpensive polymer capable of covalently binding proteins. These flowcoated polymer ribbons were then microcontact printed with fibronectin, an extracellular protein, and subsequently cultured with rat embryonic fibroblast cells.



As anticipated, these polymer ribbons were capable of covalently binding fibronectin, and the resulting protein-polymer ribbons exhibited an ability to mediate rat embryonic fibroblast adhesion through the bound fibronectin’s RGD cell-binding domain.



Having observed the successful adhesion of rat embryonic fibroblasts to these protein-polymer ribbons, future research will test the adhesion of contractile cardiomyocytes to explore the viability of artificially engineering chemoresponsive tissues using flowcoated polymer scaffolds.

Chloe Okleschen McCollum
Lila Gierasch (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry, UMass Amherst
Probing the Aggregation Propensities of ALS-Linked Proteins in the Presence of Molecular Chaperones

It is essential for the health of cells that the proteins within them fold properly, as proteins that fail to do so suffer a loss of function. If these proteins misfold, they may become toxic to cells or clump together and form harmful aggregates. Many diseases have been attributed to abnormal protein folding, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS is is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by degeneration of motor neuron cells. Despite decades of research, the disease has no cure. Mutations in the gene SOD1, which encodes the enzyme superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) have been implicated in ALS, with aggregates of this protein observed in the brains of ALS patients. Disease-linked mutations span the entire sequence of SOD1 and encode SOD1 variants with a wide range of biophysical properties. I am probing the aggregation propensities of several ALS-linked SOD1 mutants with the goal of gaining a molecular understanding of the folding defects of various SOD1 mutant proteins, which could reveal strategies for therapeutic intervention. Aggregation propensities were measured for each mutant protein when expressed in E. coli cells and in more defined cell-free in vitro translation system. Baseline aggregation propensities were established and molecular chaperones were supplemented to the cell free system to observe the effects that individual chaperones have on the folding fates of translated protein. These studies have enabled a better understanding of SOD1 and the mechanisms behind the misfolding of ALS-linked mutants. 

Stephen K. Morreale
Lauren Woodruff (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Signal Transduction through Repression Cascade Genetic Circuits

The ability to engineer and control how living bacterial cells sense and respond to their surroundings would be useful for a variety of applications. This cellular programming can be accomplished through the use of genetic circuits. Genetic circuits, while analogous to electrical circuits, experience biological issues, such as genetic dependent effects or off target bindings, which affect the way a signal is transduced through the circuit. Signal matching is a new algorithm that employs the idea that upstream gates produce output signals that are strong enough to act as input signals on downstream gates, ensuring proper propagation of the signal. However, this algorithm has only proven successful in about 75% of circuits tested (of a set of 60). It is not fully understood how the layering or position dependence of gates affects the full functionality of a circuit. In order to investigate the cause of inaccurate predictions made by the signal-matching algorithm, a complete combinatorial library of repression cascade circuits was constructed using four TetR homolog repressors, and signal propagation was tracked using flow cytometry. A YFP-reporter plasmid was used to signal the passage of logic through each gate within the cascade circuits. Time points were taken every 2, 4, and 6 hours, so that propagation of the signal through the circuit can be observed. It is expected that the effectiveness of signal propagation through a genetic circuit depends significantly on the layering of gates, but also the positional context of the gates.

Michela E. Oster
Daniel N. Hebert (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst
Examining the Oxidation Requirement Involved in the Protein-Binding Properties of ER-Degradation Enhancing Mannosidase-like 1 protein (EDEM1)

ER degradation-enhancing α1,2-mannosidase-like 1 protein (EDEM1) is implicated in quality control within the ER as an acceptor of misfolded glycoproteins and as a link to degradation machinery. EDEM1 possesses a signal peptide at the N-terminus, which targets the protein to the ER, a conserved mannosidase-like domain (MLD), and five N-linked glycosylation sites. The EDEM1 MLD contains four glycosylation sites, three putative acidic catalytic residues, and six cysteine residues. We have previously demonstrated through mutagenesis and through the use of mannosidase inhibitors that the MLD is implicated in protein quality control through ERAD. While the mechanism by which EDEM1 interacts with misfolded substrate is unknown, we have acquired preliminary data to suggest an oxidation-dependent interaction. Through site-directed mutagenesis, we mutated the cysteines (Cys) to serines (Ser) on wild-type EDEM1 and determined that EDEM1 possesses four reactive thiols and four cysteines involved in disulfide bonds. The objective of this study is to further characterize the involvement of the Cys residues present in the MLD in substrate binding. We created the MLD construct and confirmed its ER-targeting and ER localization using biochemical and cell-based approaches. Additionally, we created MLD constructs lacking: each Cys residue, putative unpaired Cys, putative disulfide pairs, and all cysteines (MLD Cys-less). The predicted disulfide map will be determined through Peg-Maleimide modification, while binding interactions with ERAD-clients will be tested using the secretory protein α1-antitrypsin (A1AT) and the A1AT misfolded variants NHK and Z.

Priyank D. Patel
Scott C. Garman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Predictive Algorithm for Response of Fabry Disease Mutants to 1-Deoxygalactonojirimycin

Fabry disease is an inherited X-linked recessive disorder caused by mutations in the galactosidase alpha (GLA) gene, leading to deficiencies in α-galactosidase A (α-GAL) enzyme production. α-GAL, a lysosomal glycosidase, catalyzes the removal of a terminal α-galactose; however, loss of α-GAL activity leads to accumulation of  globotriaosylceramide (an endogenous substrate) and the eventual onset of the disease. Approved treatments for Fabry disease include enzyme replacement therapy and pharmacological chaperone therapy. In the latter treatment, 1-deoxygalactonojirimycin (DGJ), a pharmacological chaperone, is administered to Fabry disease patients, leading to increased enzymatic activity. The DGJ iminosugar acts as a competitive inhibitor of α-GAL, and upon addition at sub-inhibitory concentrations, the α-GAL activity in the cell increases. At pH 7.5, the DGJ binds and stabilizes both wild type and mutant α-GAL and can thus drive the folding of the α-GAL protein. DGJ has been clinically approved to treat a subset of the more than 800 known mutations in the GLA gene. Using molecular dynamics energy calculations in the Schrödinger software package, we developed an algorithm to predict which GLA mutations will respond to DGJ treatment. Starting with a database for disease-causing mutations in GLA, energy calculations identified parameters that correlated with successful chaperoning of α-GAL by DGJ, including statistical weighting. Overall, the results are directly applicable to Fabry disease, but can also be applied to the much larger family of protein folding diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.

Thomas Riley Potter
Mariana Pereira (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Monoamines, Microdialysis, and Maternal Behavior

Postpartum depression is a significant public health concern and affects up to 20% of new mothers and their babies through adverse impacts on a mother’s parenting capacities. Strong evidence implicates a role for altered monoamine neurotransmission in the pathophysiology of depression. This Honors Thesis aims to help determine the relationship between monoamine signaling in the medial preoptic area (mPOA), a region that plays a major role in orchestrating cognitive and motivational aspects of parenting, and the depressive phenotype using in vivo microdialysis, a neurochemical sampling technique. The Wistar-Kyoto (WK) rat model of postpartum depression is used as it closely models major clinical features of depressed human mothers, including cognitive, motivational, and parenting disturbances. Ongoing experiments are measuring extracellular levels of the monoamine neurotransmitters dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) in maternal mPOA during social interaction with the young. This study employs a novel approach combining detailed analysis of maternal responding toward pups with simultaneous, rapid in vivo microdialysis. It is hypothesized that WK mothers will show altered release of DA and 5-HT in the mPOA when compared to the control group during specific maternal behaviors. Thus, the results of this work will help characterize the role of extracellular monoamine levels in the depressive phenotype and associated parenting disturbances.

Andrew Shpyrko
Sergey N. Savinov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst
Synergy-Directed Deconvolution of Mulberry Plant Antimicrobials

With growing threat of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens of clinical importance, plants are re-emerging as an ancient non-microbial source of antibiotic substances. Plant-derived antimicrobials could be particularly useful for their synergistic effects, whereby the potency of a phytochemical mixture is greater than the sum of those from individual components. High-throughput assays have established mulberry plants - specifically Morus nigra and Morus alba - as potential candidates with antimicrobial activity against the gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. These plants contain a plethora of benzofuran variants, including moracin compounds, which have already been established as agents for antimicrobial applications. In particular, certain moracin compounds have shown antimicrobial activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Extracts derived from the leaves of the Morus rubra and Morus nigra plants are first applied in secondary bioassays to compare the potencies of the isolated and combined extracts. Fractionation of extracts of interest, through techniques, such as liquid chromatography, then separates the constitutive elements within each extract. A combination of mass spectrometry and high performance liquid chromatography can then be used to isolate and identify each of these benzofuran compounds from the leaf extracts of both plants. Separated fractions are then tested in either isolation or in combination with one or more fractions through viability-based antimicrobial screens to detect any synergistic effects against S. aureus. The synergistic property of plant antimicrobials, specifically Mulberry moracins, is expected to render these antibacterial candidates with resilience to resistance against bacterial pathogens.

Samuel Richard Winkley
Carolyn Dehner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Quantification of Cyclic di-GMP from E.coli

Bacteria, like the uropathogenic (UPEC) strain of Escherichia coli used here, are able to sense and adapt to a changing environment; conditions may include temperature, acidity, oxidative stress, and nutrient availability. They alter their gene expression and virulence accordingly, so they may survive, proliferate, or conserve resources when needed. There are a number of mechanisms by which this regulation occurs, including the signaling molecule cyclic di-GMP. This molecule enhances biofilm formation (groups of cells stuck together via secretion of polysaccharides) while inhibiting motility, ultimately affecting virulence. We focused on temperature as the environmental “cue,” emulating the transition from an outside environment (23°C) to one inside a human host (37°C), to see if c-di-GMP levels were thermoregulated.  UPEC E. coli was grown at 23°C, then split so half stayed at 23°C and the other half shifted to 37°C. Cells were harvested at various time points after the shift, nucleic acids extracted, and then run on a High Performance Liquid Chromatograph (HPLC) in comparison with cyclic-di-GMP standards. Our results showed a significant increase in cyclic di-GMP concentration as early as one hour, and continuing at four hours, post-shift. These results imply that in UPEC, the shift to human body temperature may serve as a “cue” for the bacteria to form a biofilm, which may aid in protection and survival in the human host.

Giuseppe Salvatore Zarro
Kristin Pangallo (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Physics, Salem State University
Using Urinary Myoglobin as a Biomarker for Muscle Damage in College Athletes

Myoglobin is a protein found in muscle tissue and is released into the blood stream when muscle damage is induced. Because of this, myoglobin serves as a biomarker to assess muscle damage. The method that was chosen to detect myoglobin involves using liquid chromatography to analyze urine. Urinary analysis is non-invasive and multiple analyses can be performed on a single sample. However, myoglobin can degrade once excreted and is present in lower concentrations than in blood. Here we assess whether this method is a viable approach for quantifying urinary myoglobin in college athletes. 

Tetsu Zhao
Michele Markstein (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Investigating RAFgof Tumor Suppression by Upstream EGFR Inhibition

Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains the third most commonly diagnosed malignancy for both women and men in the United States. One of the genetic pathways highly implicated in CRC is the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) and its downstream effectors. To build better therapies, it is necessary to study how this pathway interacts with other pathways involved in tumorogenesis. Here we demonstrate EGFR plays a surprising role in a CRC model driven by constitutive activation of the downstream Rapidly Accelerated Fibrosarcoma (Raf) kinase.  

Our work takes advantages of the  D. melanogaster model system to manipulate gene expression in intestinal stem cells. This method allows us to create tumors based on expression of Rafgof. Because EGFR lies upstream of the Raf kinase, we expected the tumor to be EGFR independent. However, we found these Rafgof tumors require EGFR for continued growth. We present data here suggesting that EGFR is required in the parallel Akt pathway. 

Studying these signaling cascades in an in vivo model can provide insight to how they interact, perhaps in a more complex fashion than in proposed classical models. These results suggest that humans with constitutively active mutations in Raf may benefit from therapies targeting upstream EGFR


Reza Abdavies
Aleel K. Grennan (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Worcester State University
Impacts of Elevated COon Cassava Leaf Anatomy

Carbon dioxide is one of the main components that any kind of plant needs in order to fully grow and function properly. In this research, we wanted to determine how elevated CO2 impacts leaf growth and function in a variety of Manihot esculenta (Cassava) cultivars relative to cultivars grown in ambient CO2. Difference in leaf thickness, cell number and size, vein spacing, as well as the number and size of laticifers (specialized latex producing organelle) will be compared. This study will help us determine how elevated CO2 will affect Cassava plants. 

Genieva Catherine Antis-Aboltin
Colleen Amelia King
Emily Lynne Loughman
Aya Maytham
Kimberly Pouliot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University
Effect of Homeopathic Remedies in Comparison to Antibiotic Treatments

Antibiotics are common treatments for bacterial infections caused by both Gram positive and negative species such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyrogenes, and Escherichia coli. These species of bacteria can cause medical conditions including "strep" throat, "staph" infections, and urinary tract infections (UTI). With the increased use of antibiotics for treatment of infectious disease, as well as antibiotics in animal feed, many microbes are becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant. There is a growing need to identify novel compounds with antimicrobial properties that are not subject to this resistance.  For example, natural compounds found in food and plants have been shown to have antimicrobial properties. One of the key components of homeopathic remedies is garlic. The exact mechanisms of all the chemical compounds within garlic have not been identified, however, the antimicrobial effect it has is mainly associated with allicillin. Allicin is a part of the garlic plants defense mechanism against attacks by pests. Extracts of garlic have been shown to decrease oxygen uptake, reduce the growth of organisms, inhibit the synthesis of proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, as well as damage membranes. This study tested the effects of a panel of home remedies compared to standard antibiotics on bacterial growth using both a disk diffusion model and standard dilution and plating techniques.  

Faiqa Ashraf
Emily D. Cappucci
Allison DeVivo
Elizabeth Marie Hoeg
Kimberly Pouliot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University
Antibiotic Sensitivity of Microbes following Quercetin Exposure

Currently there are many antibiotics available to treat bacterial infections; however, antibiotics are often overused ultimately resulting in the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance has become a global healthcare problem causing severe health complications and increased healthcare costs. In order to overcome this problem, alternative measures should be identified to fight certain infections. Flavonoids, like quercetin, have been shown to have antibacterial activity in vitro by inhibiting bacterial growth for strains like methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This study examines the effect of quercetin, in combination with a panel of commonly used antibiotics on their activity against Staphylococcus aureusStreptococcus pyogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli. Antibiotic sensitivity was determined by measuring the zone of inhibition using a standard Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion method. 

Julia M. Barrone
Richard Beckwitt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Framingham State University

The Effects of Feeding Enrichment, Temperature, and Lunar Phase on a Captive Red Fox’s Nocturnal Activity

Concerns have escalated regarding the welfare of captive animals, especially carnivores. Time budget studies are extremely valuable to assess an animal’s welfare because abnormal repetitive behaviors(ARBs) can be identified. We performed a summer long study of a 13-year-old male red fox (Vulpes vulpes) that was once a house pet but has spent the past 11 years residing at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. The fox was retired at the end of the study. Every night, the fox was put in a two-room indoor enclosure and his night behavior was observed by means of a camera system for 31 days, 16 hours per night, over 3 months, with a total of 496 hours observed from April- August 2017. Behavior was compared with feeding enrichment, temperature, and moon phase. The fox exhibited scratching at the door as the only stereotypic behavior observed and it accounted for 2.70% of the time budget. Sleep decreased significantly when enrichment was present. However, the relative frequency of each behavioral category in the time budget, as a whole, did not change significantly with the presence of enrichment. Activity levels were not affected significantly by temperature or moon phase. The red fox was found to be lunar neutral.

Justin Buresh
Kristen Porter (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University

Characterization of Macrophage Growth, Maturation, and Polarization: Best Practices for the THP-1 Cell Line

Macrophages are an important part of the innate immune system. Macrophages can be divided into different subtypes with a broad spectrum of functions, such as clearance of infection, chronic inflammation and wound healing. Many laboratories use the THP-1 monocytes cell line to study these macrophage types, but within the scientific literature there is no “standardization” across laboratories of growth conditions or maturation protocols. Thus, potentially accounting for experimental differences in macrophage polarization studies across this and other cell lines. Here, two widely used methods of cell culturing and macrophage maturation were coupled with polarization treatments in order to assess their affects on morphology, protein expression and phagocytic capabilities. The overall goal is to provide a best-practice guidance for culturing this cell line for not only experimental reproducibility, but also mimicry of sub-type associated characteristics observed in primary macrophage culture. 

Shanzah Chaudhry
Amanda Simons (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Framingham State University

Canine Pyoderma: A Review of Preventative Measures via Vaccinations and Understanding the Immune Response to Pyoderma Infection

Canine pyoderma is a pyogenic skin infection caused by the colonization of Staphylococcus Pseudintermedius within open wounds or lesions in the skin. The symptoms of canine pyoderma differ among individuals but are characterized by both the depth of infection, deep or superficial, as well as the underlying cause, primary or secondary.  Majority of canine pyoderma cases are recurrent in nature requiring long-term antibiotic use. However, prolonged use of antibiotics for treatment of canine pyoderma has led to increasing concentration of antibiotic-resistant strains and ineffectiveness of commonly prescribed antibiotics in both veterinarian medicine and human medicine. Therefore, it is imperative for scientists to focus on vaccine development as a means for prevention rather than treatment.  In this literature review, possible vaccine candidates are investigated to formulate an effective vaccine. Many of these antigenic candidates pertain to both the physical or chemical components of various staphylococcus species. Also, in this literature view, efficacies of vaccines composed of various antigenic candidates are discussed to determine whether they induce a long-lasting immune response. Furthermore, because many cases of canine pyoderma cases are a result of various underlying immune issues, prompting the need to analyze the role of the immune system using extensive scientific research. By understanding the relevance of prevention via vaccination, antibiotic use can become infrequent. 

Emanuel Chaveco
Diane Rose Migneault
Jason Brown (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Salem State University
Understanding the Mechanisms of Ciliary Regeneration in Chlamydomonas

Cilia are important eukaryotic organelles. Chlamydomonas is a unicellular green alga with two cilia to help it swim. Chlamydomonas is useful to study cilia motility and assembly since its cilia are easily manipulated and regrow quickly when lost. This research was conducted to better understand the mechanisms of how Chlamydomonas cells regulate cilia assembly. Cilia growth rates were analyzed for mutant strains with a delay in regrowth after being experimentally induced to excise their cilia. Growth rates of mutant and wild-type strains were monitored to make regeneration curves to see if there were differences among strains. Levels of gene activity during regeneration were also examined using a luciferase assay. For both methods, Chlamydomonas cells were deflagelated by a pH shock and then isolated at different times during their regeneration period. The luciferase assay used a Gaussia luciferase reporter and a luminometer to measure the activity of the FLA14 dynein light chain gene promoter, that is upregulated during cilia regeneration. Cells were fixed in glutaraldehyde at different times during regeneration and imaged with phase contrast microscopy. FIJI software was used to measure cilia lengths on the resulting images to create regeneration curves for each strain. The end goal was to characterize and compare the rate at which the wild-type strains and the mutant strains of Chlamydomonas cells regrow their cilia. This data, combined with the gene activity data, will allow us to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of cilia regeneration in eukaryotes.

Shalyn Rene Cleaves
Kiley Dulce Baltazar
Kailyn Arnette Laven
Kimberly Pouliot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University

Effect of Hyperglycemia on Bacterial Uptake into CaCo-2 Cells

Hyperglycemia, or excess glucose in the blood, is often associated with Type 2 Diabetes. Hyperglycemic conditions can cause cardiovascular problems, kidney damage, and other long term negative effects. When exposed to high glucose conditions, cells are subjected to oxidative stress and their ability to survive or grow may dramatically decrease. After growth in hyperglycemic conditions, cells are altered by the process of glycation and glycoxidation which performs a pathogenic role in the complications of oxidative-based diseases like diabetes. Cells of the gut are exposed to a variety of both pathogenic and non-pathogenic microbes.  It is not well understood how hyperglycemia can effect the interactions between host cells and these microbes. This study will quantify bacterial invasion of CaCo-2 colorectal epithelial cells after exposure to hyperglycemic conditions. CaCo-2 cells will be exposed to high glucose conditions for various time points and then infected with a panel of enteric bacteria.  Bacterial uptake of CaCo-2 cells will be quantified by standard gentamicin protection assay. Though not well understood, studying the effects of long term hyperglycemic conditions in vitro and how it effects bacterial uptake into the CaCo-2 cells will give insight on the diseases that more than 30 million people face today.

Kathleen Margaret Conroy
Doug Woodhams (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Boston

Probiotic Therapy of Eastern Newts at Risk of Chytridiomycosis Outbreaks

Amphibian populations have been impacted by two pathogenic fungi, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and B. salamandrivorans (Bsal). Bd has been attributed to hundreds of amphibian extinctions globally. Growing research on disease mitigation strategies involves applying naturally occurring skin bacteria as a probiotic therapy to fight infections. Past research has shown that probiotics applied to amphibian skin can remedy the disease chytridiomycosis, caused by both Bd and Bsal. Our aim is to test potential bacteria for use in probiotic field trials in advance preparation for a Bsal invasion and disease emergence in the USA. Our research included an 11-week study using 21 Eastern newts, Notophthalmus viridescens, a highlt susceptible species to Bsal. From skin swabs we were able to determine infection prevalence and infection intensity of each newt over time to explore infection dynamics. We first used heat treatment to cure newts of natural Bd infections and showed by qPCR that this treatment was effective. We compared survival curves to test for differences among newts exposed to Bsal in a biosecure facility (n=8), controls (n=5) or newt exposed to Bsal and treated with probiotic Rhodococcus fascians (n=8). We tested for mucosal defenses of surviving newts to determine if they have protection against infection; immunity has not been observed in infected animals so this information is valuable for helping to understand potential responses to Bsal infections in the wild. Eleven weeks post-exposure to infectious Bsal zoospores chytridiomycosis was not significantly reduced by the probiotic treatment indicating that alternative therapies are needed. 

Daniel Denisenko
Carolyn Wetzel (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Holyoke Community College
The Isolation of Antibiotic-Producing Soil Bacteria

One of the main issues facing medicine today is the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. As bacteria evolve and develop resistance to many current antibiotics, there is a growing demand for novel antibiotics, especially ones to combat the highly-resistant ESKAPE pathogens. The goal of this project was to to find and analyze novel sources of antibiotics from the soil as part of the Small World Initiative. ​The bacteria colonies were isolated from the soil by serial dilution and the colonies with promising signs of antibiotic activity were then selected. One strand of bacteria was isolated and was found to be effective against two of the ESKAPE pathogen safe relatives which is a very promising result. The safe relatives it was effective against were Staphlococcus epidermis and Escherichia coli. Further tests concluded that this bacterium was a Gram negative coccobacillus. 16S rDNA PCR and sequencing will be carried out to identify the genus of the strand. Biochemical tests revealed that the isolate has a β-hemolysis reaction to red blood cells, no reaction to the starch plate, was able to digest the gelatin in test tubes, produced the enzyme catalase, and had no reaction to the oxidase test. The isolate was sensitive to the antibiotics kanamycin, tetracycline, and chloramphenicol. It was resistant to erythromycin, penicillin, ampicillin, and streptomycin. The antibiotic produced by this bacteria strand has promising results and could eventually be used in medicine.

Jonathan Eckerson
Mary Rapien (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Bristol Community College
A Survey of Plankton in the Bristol Community College Pond, Fall River, Massachusetts

The primary objective of the project is to create a shortlist of the most abundant planktonic species in the Bristol Community College Fall River Campus pond. Time and resources allowing, a more in-depth guide to these species will be produced. This guide will be available to future students in classes (e.g., biology, field biology, and ecology) who can utilize the list to inform their own attempts to identify organisms in a typical two-hour lab period. Additionally, the project will provide a foundation for other students who may wish to take this work further to examine quantitative data. Methods and resources used in research will include field and laboratory equipment such as a plankton net to collect samples from the pond and compound and dissecting microscopes for identifying the organisms at various magnifications. Additionally, print and online academic references, including peer reviewed journal articles, to aid in identification of organisms and information regarding biology and life history will be used. The end product will be a species (group) list for the pond, along with a laboratory/field notebook cataloging observations and scientific process. A customized taxonomic key for the BCC pond may also be included.

Jacqueline Taylor Ferri
Laura Reed (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst

2017-2018 Influenza Outbreak Shows a Need for Better Public Health Education

The United States is currently experiencing one of the worst seasonal influenza epidemics the country has seen in the last decade. Hospitals  in the United States are also experiencing a significant increase in visits to the emergency room, contributing to overcrowding and misuse. You would think the first statement would be causing the problem presented in the second statement. However, you would be wrong. Unless someone infected with influenza is consistently vomiting for more than a day or spikes and maintains an elevated fever, there is not much the emergency department could do. Contrary to what much of the public believes, influenza cannot be successfully treated with antibiotics. Influenza is a virus and viruses do not respond to antibiotics. The identity of influenza is just one of the many sides of the misinformation storm raining down on the United States right now. The internet is one of the biggest contributors to the storm, allowing anyone to post their views. In most other fields, that is okay, however, furthering the spread of medical misinformation can be lethal. There are websites that give you a list of possible diseases with symptoms and there are websites that provide good medical information. However, there is not a website that excels at both.  This thesis seeks to identify and direct the public to a website with a symptom checker that  presents reliable medical information in order to decrease the unnecessary spread of infectious disease and prevent unnecessary trips to the ER.

Hailee Galandak-Cochran
John Michael Dickens
Liza Harrington (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Library, Greenfield Community College
Eastern Red-Backed Salamander Research

Greenfield Community College (GCC) is a member of the Salamander Population and Adaptation Research Collaboration Network (SPARCnet). SPARCnet’s mission is to advance our understanding of environmental change on salamander ecology. To study the Eastern red-backed salamander, a noninvasive method of mark and recapture is utilized. Captured salamanders are marked with inert elastomer that is injected subdermally and glows under ultraviolet light. Each salamander is given a unique color combination and specific data is collected at each capture. Sex, number of eggs, if female, the presence/absence of cirri, if male, length, unique ID and recapture status are recorded during both spring and fall sampling sessions. Environmental measures of soil temperature at every 10 cm from surface to 50 cm, soil moisture, and air temperature are also recorded. To optimize data collection outcomes, we are asking: what are the ideal conditions for salamander capture success at GCC? The campus hosts six 5m x 10m arrays each with 50 10cm x 10cm coverboards which serve as capture sites. Variables such as soil conditions, tree cover, time of day, and ambient temperature will be compared to number of individuals captured within and between the arrays. New data will be collected in spring of 2018 and four seasons of existing mark and recapture and environmental data will be analyzed. We expect to find correlations between number of individuals captured and environmental variables such as soil moisture and ambient temperature. Once optimal environmental conditions are identified, spring 2018 data collection will be used to verify trends.

Anwesha Gangopadhyay
Craig Albertson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Understanding the Molecular Basis of a Sexually-Selected Trait in Sunfish

Sexual selection can arise through the preference of certain characteristics by one sex in individuals of the opposite sex. Secondary sexual characteristics appear as an animal reaches sexual maturity, and they play a role in mate choice and male-male competition. Ornamentations are one example of a secondary sexual character that provides an advertisement of male reproductive quality as they are typically costly to produce and maintain. Sunfish (family Centrarchidae), greatly enlarge the bony tissue surrounding their gills. These bones, known as the operculum, typically function to protect the gills, however, in sunfish they may become enlarged and adorned with bright color patterns. I assessed the sunfish opercle ornament in two ways. I first used geometric morphometrics and phylogenetic methods to characterize head and opercle shape evolution. Then, I selected a suite of candidate genes typically implicated in ornament development (i.e., insulin growth factor, androgen, estrogen) and used quantitative PCR to compare their expression levels. My morphological assessment found exaggerated opercles develop only in one genus of sunfish, Lepomis, and this group exhibits a range of opercle sizes and colors alongside elevated rates of morphological evolution. My assessment of candidate genes is still ongoing to determine if higher levels of expression appear in opercle tissues derived from species with exaggerated shape or colour.

Brian Hall
Mohamed Anwar
Yang Cheng
James D. Hoang
Kenneth L. Campbell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Boston
Growing Evidence of Protein Hormone Translation Products as Nested Information Systems

Protein hormones usually act via cell surface receptors linked to intracellular transduction pathways. Earlier studies suggested proteolytic fragments of protein hormones may have additional functions. Protein hormones seem too complex and energetically expensive to synthesize and regulate to be economical as single-message molecules. But, if telescoped secondary functions are released during proteolytic processing at the synthetic cell, in circulation, or at the target cells, organisms might gain efficiencies by using proteins instead of smaller molecules. We use programs (e.g., PROSPER) to find residual peptides left after 24 known proteases act on each of a list of ~1000 known soluble human protein hormones. Residual peptides are compared to other proteins in the human database to see if the hormone fragments match surface motifs of other proteins. Matches could allow the peptides to modulate protein-protein interactions as non-canonical hormone signals. So far, ~40% of the protein translation products examined have proteolytically resistant peptides of > 10 - 15 residues, many are lysine or glutamic acid rich. NCBI BLASTp sequence alignments with other proteins showed ~60% of the fragment matches are non-parent/family proteins. When matched peptide containing proteins were seeded as central nodes in the network neighborhood program STRING, ~30% of the network neighbors have a PDB structure that will allow mapping of the matched peptide relative to the protein-protein interaction surfaces; the PDB for a co-crystal of BMP7 and Noggin shows that a surface sequence in BMP7 directly involved in Noggin contact is a match for a proteolytic peptide from TGFβ1.

Lauren Healey
Peter Alpert (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Effects of Nutrient Addition on Plant Performance on a Green Roof in New England

Since the modern creation of green roofs in Germany in the 1960s, the vegetated roof movement has been gaining traction and begun establishing in North America. Expansion and application of green roofs have branched into new climates, buildings and products. As the industry grows quickly, little research is available about the performance of vegetated rooftops in the cold, variable New England climate. This research study assessed the performance of 14 plant varieties planted on a green roof in Amherst, Massachusetts, and investigated the effect on performance of adding different levels of mineral nutrients.

            Cover of each species was measured in each of 10 pairs of 50 x 50 cm plots in each of four planting types in April 2017. A slow-release fertilizer containing 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 g N/m2 was applied to one plot in each pair. Five months later, cover was remeasured and fertilizer reapplied.

            Varieties of Sedum hybridium had the highest cover, followed by varieties of S. spurium. Species with low cover included S. reflexum, S. album, S. sieboldii, S. sexangulare, S. ochrolecrum, S. rupestre, S. stefco, the grass Festuca elijah blue, and the sedge Carex pennsylvanica. Nutrient addition did not affect the cover of planted species, but did increase the cover of species regarded as weeds. 

Elton Alexander Kane
Andre Alexis Robinson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Honors Program, Bunker Hill Community College
Utilizing Permaculture as an Insight into Local Ecology

Permaculture is the utilization of natural systems in agricultural techniques. The goal of permaculture is to create agriculture systems that are in tune with natural ecosystems, establishing more sustainable forms of agriculture, and understanding local ecosystems. The garden or farm becomes its own self-sustaining ecosystem, that benefits the local ecosystem. This term, permaculture, was first coined in 1978 and is a term influenced by the philosophy of natural farming. The intensive farming practices utilized in recent human history were born out of the industrial revolution. These new technologies enabled farmers to increase their yield many times per area of land. However, it’s come at a high price. Some of the problems of industrial agriculture include: habitat destruction for farmland, decreased soil quality from intensive farming practices, pollution caused from fertilizers and pesticides, and decreased genetic diversity due to planting only certain selectively breed varieties of crops. Those who criticize natural farming claim it cannot produce enough to match the production of established agriculture practices. However, a counterpoint contends that the low-yield production in organic agriculture is due to growing plants that aren’t well adapted to the local ecosystem, and the restrictions conventional agriculture places on available seeds.  My research will detail my efforts and results in utilizing permaculture techniques in my garden and what I have learned about the local ecosystem, as well as address the philosophical and ethical debate surrounding the continued use of industrial farming practices over sustainable ones.

Allyson Lee Kress
Courtney May Fisher
Kimberly Pouliot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University

The Effect of Vitamin C on TNF Release and Cell Viability in THP-1 Differentiated Macrophages

Macrophages are immune cells that reside in our tissues and express receptors that detect pathogens and foreign particles as well as drive immune responses through secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Macrophages are one of the cell types necessary for an immune response to bacterial infection.  Compounds that increase their effector function would result in a more robust response.  Previous studies have shown that vitamin C enhances the effector function of macrophages by producing genome wide changes in the cell as early as 48 hours upon treatment. The aim of this study is to determine the effect of vitamin C treatment on macrophage function.  As previous reports show that vit C functions as both an antioxidant and immune booster, vitamin C has been promoted to help prevent and treat numerous health conditions, not only the common cold but also certain cardiovascular diseases and cancers.  The goal of this study is to determine if there is a difference in cytokine secretion in THP-1 macrophages exposed to vitamin C.  Previous reports suggest that macrophages exposed to vitamin C in vitro have enhanced cytokine secretion, such as TNFα, in response to LPS.  This study will also examine the cell viability in different treatment groups in order to determine if there is an optimal nontoxic level of vitamin C to heighten immune function.

Julia Mae Lahaie
Westin George Cohen
Kelly Anne McKeown (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University
The Role of Specific GABA Receptor Subunits during the Development of Locomotion Using CRISPR/CAS9 Techniques

Zebrafish are an excellent model for a wide variety of neuroscience-based research. The inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA, found in the central nervous system, is involved in regulating locomotion. The purpose of this study was to observe the behavior of embryonic zebrafish using kinematic analysis after knocking out 3 GABAA α subunits via CRISPR/CAS9 techniques. The subunits- α1, α4, and α5- were selected because they were suspected to alter locomotive response. It was found that this particular combination of 3 subunits did not have a significant effect on the locomotion response in the zebrafish. Further research on all the possible GABAA α subunit combinations will be conducted in the Downes laboratory.

Diana Lau
Maria P. Herrera
Monica Roberson
Carlos Enrique Valencia
Sarah Olken (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Bunker Hill Community College
The Isolation and Characterization of Tetracycline-Resistant Bacteria in Soil from Urban Communities

This study brings attention to the prevalence of tetracycline resistant bacteria in soil from a local, urban environment. Soil hosts a vast diverse group of bacteria, including pathogens. Tetracycline is often used in both humans and animals to treat bacterial infections. Soil sample collections from local, urban sites were plated at low and high tetracycline concentrations. Tetracycline resistant bacteria showed viable colony growth on both concentrations of tetracycline. Total colony forming units per gram of soil were calculated for each sample and compared to soil bacteria grown without tetracycline. Tetracycline resistant bacteria were detected within a percentage range of less than 14.08%. Isolated resistant bacteria were identified as gram-negative with bacillus morphology. Physiologic examination with differential and selective media plates showed metabolic differences, which indicate different species. Biochemical analysis of resistant bacteria showed different oxygen metabolism, also indicating different species. Sequence analysis of 16S rRNA gene indicated different species. This study identifies the presence of a diverse population of tetracycline resistant bacteria that exist in our local communities.

Matthew Loring
Rolf Karlstrom (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Sonic Hedgehog Regulates Neural Stem Cells in the Vertebrate Hypothalamus


Adult neural stem cells (nSCs) hold great promise for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. However, before stem cell treatments can be truly contemplated, we must first learn the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control nSC proliferation and proper differentiation.  Stem cell proliferation and differentiation is tightly contolled throughout life, and is vitally important for brain formation, growth, tissue maintenance and renewal, as well as adult brain function. Sonic hedgehog (Shh) is a developmental morphogen that is known to play a central role in nSC proliferation in the adult mammalian brain, and recent work showed that Shh-regulated proliferation can lead to complete repair after spinal cord lesion in zebrafish.  We have identified a role for Shh in regulating proliferation of a subset of radial glial cells in a region of the ventral forebrain, namely the hypothalamus. Using fluorescent transgenic zebrafish lines we show that Hedgehog-responsive radial glia comprise a distinct subset of radial glia in the hypothalamic ventricular zone, or neural progenitor niche, similar to the situation in the dorsal mammalian brain. We have used transgenic conditional gene regulation systems to demonstrate that Hh is necessary and sufficient to regulate cell proliferation.  My project is to examine how transgene-mediated Shh signal manipulation correlates with changes in cell proliferation, and to begin to examine how Shh affects the nSC cell cycle. We hypothesize that Shh may be acting non-cell-autonomously to modulate proliferation levels in the larval zebrafish brain, unlike the situation seen in the adult zebrafish brain. Our data provides the first evidence of a role for Hh signaling in regulating proliferation in the vertebrate hypothalamus and promise to shed light on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the coordinated regulation of proliferation needed for normal hypothalamic growth, tissue maintenance, and function.

Solomon Joseph Maerowitz-McMahan
Geunhwa Jung (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst

Investigation of Substrate Specificity of Cytochrome P450 Monooxygenases from the Plant Pathogenic Fungus Sclerotinia homoeocarpa on Phenolic Compounds

Phenolic compounds and other environmental pollutants are often complicated to deal with and require expensive cleanup. One emerging and highly successful way of breaking down complex molecules is by using proteins present in living organisms such as plants, animals and fungi to biologically metabolize the chemicals. Sclerotinia homoeocarpa is one of the most economically important fungal pathogens on turfgrass and causes the disease dollar spot. Decades of repeated chemical treatments have created strains of S. homoeocarpa resistance to multiple classes of fungicides. The Jung Lab discovered three CYP450 proteins in a strain of S. homoeocarpa, which play a vital role in detoxifying xenobitoics such as fungicides. This study was conducted to investigate the substrate specificity of three P450 monooxygenase proteins from S. homoeocarpa to biotranform various phenolic compounds. Three strains of S. homoeocarpa that overexpress three different monooxygenases CYP 561, CYP 65 and CYP 68 were developed. Each one of these strains were grown in nutrient rich broth that had the phenolic compounds dissolved at a concentration of 10 ug mL-1. Samples were taken from the broth of each strain after 36 hours and the phenolic compound was extracted. The concentration of each compound was then analyzed using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and a profile of substrate specificity was created for each monooxygenase and compared.

George Duggan Meltzer
Jennifer Ross (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Physics, UMass Amherst

Kinesin-1 Motility is Unaffected by Crowding Agents

When performing experiments that replicate functions within a cellular environment many crucial aspects are often ignored. For instance, single molecule experiments in dilute solutions on motor proteins to understand their roles as the transport system for intracellular transport, but the cell is actually inhomogeneous and crowded. In order to understand how motor proteins behave in the cell we have performed a single molecule assay with varying concentrations of the crowding agent, methylcellulose, to test the dynamics of the kinesin-1 motor protein. By introducing the methylcellulose and measuring the velocity, run length, and association time of kinesin-1 we can test how the cellular environment affects the travel of motor proteins. We initially expected that an increase in the viscosity from crowding agents would slow down the kinesin-1, as we previously observed with glycerol. Interestingly, when using methylcellulose as a crowding agent, the increased viscosity does not slow motors. Other crowding agents, such as poly-ethylene glycol (PEG), increase the viscosity, but do not affect the velocity of the kinesin. The biological relevance is that kinesin-1 motion could be unaffected by crowding within the cell. This would be important to enable motor protein navigation despite the viscosity and crowding.

Shelby Mitchell
Rolf Karlstrom (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Building a New Resource for Understanding the Molecular and Cellular Changes in the Aging Vertebrate Brain

A central goal of modern neuroscience research is to obtain an understanding of how the molecular and anatomical architecture of the brain leads to brain function. I am currently working on a project to develop a 3-Dimensional gene expression atlas for the adult zebrafish brain, which is currently ongoing in the Karlstrom and Bergan labs. Our goal is to use lightsheet microscopy and tissue clearing techniques to image the intact brains of transgenic zebrafish. By aligning the resultant images to a reference brain image, we aim to create a publicly accessible “expression” atlas of the adult zebrafish brain that can be used by other researchers to quickly examine relative gene expression in relation to defined anatomical structures, as has been done for larval zebrafish. We will create brain atlases at four ages throughout the life of the fish to create the first life-stage brain atlas for any vertebrate, choosing ages from 6 months (young adult) to 3 years (old age), and beyond. This atlas would be very helpful to researchers who use the zebrafish as a model organism to study adult brain function, as well as neurological disease.  By creating an online atlas modeled after the Virtual Fly Brain, we hope to create community resource and expand the use of zebrafish as a model to understand changes associated with the aging vertebrate brain and processes underlying neural degeneration.

Shanna Marie Morin
Ellen Acheampong
Amanda Ida Munafo
Jason Brown (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Salem State University
Identification of Genes Required for Cilia Assembly in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Cilia are microscopic brush-like structures found on the surfaces of cells. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a model organism used in ciliary research. While the motility and assembly of cilia in this organism has widely been studied, currently there is a lack of information on the regulation of genes that encode ciliary proteins. Previous studies have shown that Chlamydomonas initiate cilia regeneration immediately after an experimentally induced amputation and return to normal length and function by 90 minutes after amputation. To better understand molecularly what occurs during this regeneration process, C. reinhardtii mutants were generated by random insertions of Aph VII selectable marker. About 3000 drug-resistant colonies were generated. Phenotypic screening of these strains identified 42 cilia mutants, 14 of which exhibited delays in cilia regeneration. To further define the genes responsible for the delay in ciliary regeneration, genomic DNA was extracted from each strain and amplified with the RESDA protocol using PCR primers specific to the hygromycin cassette and different degenerate primers. Bands of DNA from secondary PCR reactions were purified and sequenced.  Seven of the affected genes have been identified that could be required for normal assembly and function of cilia by analyzing the sequences. This study should help provide a better understanding of how the C. reinhardtii cell is able to detect the presence of cilia, and how it regulates the ciliary assembly process after deflagellation. 

Atreyi Mukherji
Duncan James Irschick (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Creating Website for 3-D Digitized Biological Data

The objective of this project was to conduct photogrammetry on living frogs and preserved eggs, create their digitized 3D models and record their morphometric measurements. These measurements were then compared to the measurements taken on the real specimen, which provided us with data to know the accuracy of photogrammetry. With the decrease in accessibility to specimens, and a reduction in the private and public funds, natural history museums face budget cuts. By uploading 3D animal and inanimate models on a website along with their morphometric measurements and metadata, people all around the world will gain access to valuable information. The frog specimens were photographed by Duncan J. Irschick in the Philippines and continued in UMass Amherst, along with egg models from the Natural History Collection. The photographs for the 3D models were obtained using the Beastcam ARRAY. It is a 15-arm system with connecting rods containing many attachment points for cameras to mount (around 40 cameras). Wireless triggers are used to make sure cameras click pictures in sync. A central rotatable platform was used as it provides additional shots of animals. The morphometric measurements of the produced 3D models when compared to their live specimens showed that photogrammetry is 98% accurate. The models are uploaded on the Digital Life website ( and can be viewed by the public. Photogrammetry can increase the focus on collection-based museum research and especially in the area of biodiversity.

Samael Emir O'Brien
Richard Beckwitt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Framingham State University
Mitochondrial DNA Variation of White-Tailed Deer in the Eastern United States

White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus are a member of the cervid family and are
endemic to North and South America. According to local sources, the population of deer in
Nantucket Massachusetts was founded by a lone male on the island and two females shipped in
from Michigan. This study explored the validity of this claim by comparing mitochondrial DNA
of white-tailed deer from various locations in the Eastern United States. Two of the haplotypes
found in Nantucket deer are identical to those found in Michigan, providing evidence for this
historical account. However, a third haplotype on the island is more similar to deer from
Connecticut, Rhode island, and Maine. This suggests that at least one other female of local origin
founded this population. Further research into the haplotypes of deer from these states is
warranted in order to gain a better understanding of the population dynamics of this species.

Nathan Kristofer Olearczyk
Craig Albertson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
iCons: Larval Zebrafish Skeletogenesis in Heatshock Responsive Hedgehog Mutants

One major feature of the vertebrate body plan is the skeletal apparatus and its development is regulated in part by the Hedgehog (Hh) family of signaling proteins. Skeletal defects are known to arise in Hh deficient vertebrates, however, Hh genes are required throughout ontogeny, therefore elucidating its bone regulatory function in this context remains a challenge. Using transgenic zebrafish whereby the Hh pathway may be up- or downregulated via heat shock, we were able to regulate global expression of the Hh pathway in a time specific manner. Transgenic fish were outcrossed with a wild-type strain to produce transgenic and non-transgenic offspring which could be distinguished by the presence or lack of green fluorescence protein expression. Zebrafish were heatshocked starting after the completion of the hatching stage for one week then cleared and stained using Alizarin Red and Alcian Blue followed by imaging with light and fluorescent microscopy. Differences in bone development were observed by measuring length, area, and number of several prominent bone structures including the cleithrum, opercle, branchiostegal rays and vertebral central. Downregulating the Hh pathway reduced the lengths and sizes of early forming bones, and delayed the formation of later forming ones. While measurement data for Hh upregulatory transgenic fish are less clear, the appearance of fusion events between branchiostegal rays in multiple fish suggest an undiscovered pathological role for this pathway.

Jennifer J. Pak
Kenneth L. Campbell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Boston
Quantitative Recovery of IgG2 from Samples Dried on Paper

Previous work showed suppressed immunoreactivity among northwest Kenyan pastoralist children and suggested low levels of all four immunoglobulin (IgGx) subtypes in adult male blood samples collected on Schleicher and Schuell #903 paper. The findings imply genetic or environmental immune suppression, possibly from early supplementation of lactation with non-sterile solid foods. Tests of IgG recovery from paper using a fluorescein-labeled mixture of human IgGs gave 99.6+/-7.0% for IgG1, 102.6+/-9.4% for IgG3, and 101.4+/-15.3% for IgG4. Recovery of IgG2 was concentration dependent in the physiological range, 63.4+/-8.7% at 0.1 mg/mL rising to 105.9+/-1.7% at 10 mg/mL. This project rechecked IgG2 recovery via an IgG2 specific immunoassay (mouse monoclonal capture antibody (Clone HP-6001), 1:16000; fluorescein-labeled goat anti-human IgG (ThermoFisher 62-8411) reporter antibody, 1:167). Serial dilutions of unlabeled pure IgG2 (0.01-10 mg/mL, Sigma I-5404) and human mixed IgG (0.017-70 mg/mL, Sigma I-4506, ~15% IgG2) were dried as 62.5 uL aliquots on 12.5 x 12.5 mm pieces of #903 paper. Dried papers were extracted with 5 mg/mL of cellulase, washed and the extracts brought to 625 uL with water. Identical aliquots of the starting IgG solutions were similarly diluted in extract from papers with no dried IgG as unextracted controls. Immunoassays of extracted and unextracted IgGs gave parallel results indicating IgG2 recovery of 97+/-0.94% in agreement with other IgG subtypes. The findings support loss of fluorescein from directly labeled IgG2 during cellulase extraction and affirm immunosuppression in the Kenyan pastoralists.

Jessica Marie Panton
Andy Danylchuk (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Evaluating the Activity Rates of Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) When Encountering Turtle Exclusion Devices in Trawl Nets

Shrimp fisheries are the primary cause of sea turtle mortality. Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) are implemented into inshore and offshore shrimp trawls to decrease the mortality rate of sea turtles. TED testing is conducted to ensure the efficiency of TED designs and the accuracy of current regulations on shrimp trawls. Such regulations only include tow time limits for skimmer trawls, which are often exceeded in the absence of an observer. This negligence of tow time limits is detrimental to sea turtle populations and hastens the need for proper TED testing and implementation. This research compared the activity rates of captive-reared, one-year-old loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles over 4 years of TED testing off the coast of Panama City, Florida. Two separately-reared groups of turtles were also compared: open water conditioned and unconditioned. The results showed there was a difference in activity among the 4 years of TED testing due to differences in straight carapace length and body depth. There was no significant difference in activity between conditioned and unconditioned groups, although it is suspected that this is due to a relatively small sample size. Future TED testing with uniform sized turtles and larger sample sizes needs to be conducted to ensure the accuracy of TED Certifications and correct implementation of TEDs in shrimp trawls.

Vivian Pao
Kimberly Pouliot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University

The Effects of Zinc on Cell Viability and Cytokine Release of Astrocytes

Astrocytes are the most abundant and diverse neuralgia cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Astrocytes create the brain environment, build up the micro-architecture of the brain parenchyma, maintain brain homeostasis and store and distribute energy substrates, control the development of neural cells, synaptogenesis, synaptic maintenance and as well as provide for brain defense.  Zinc, an essential trace element, plays an important role in neurotransmission.  Several studies have addressed the effect of extracellular zinc on astrocyte function. In previous in vitro studies, macrophages and astrocytes exposed to zinc at doses greater than 100 micromolar (µM) was found to be toxic and resulted in significant cell death. The authors also assessed intracellular signaling pathways and nitric oxide release, and showed that zinc enhanced the response to LPS, a molecule associated with infection. This study explored the effect of zinc on astrocyte viability and assessed proinflammatory cytokine release following LPS exposure.  

Megan Rose Praznovsky
Peter William Houlihan (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Use of Chek Calls in Wood-Warbler (Parulidae) Species

A song system is a species-typical pattern of song use. Song bird species often have song repertoires that contain subsets of songs used in different situations and that may be specialized for different functions. By studying song systems within a species, the evolution of songs can be analyzed without the ecological differences present when comparing different species. Many species of warblers primarily use two categories of songs, first category and second category. Second category songs are usually sung at a faster rate than are first category songs and only second category songs are commonly mixed with chip-like call notes, called chek calls. Cheks are short, rapid series of notes that have yet to be adequately described in literature surrounding warbler song. I will be analyzing the function or purpose of such chek calls in wood-warbler song systems, to achieve a greater understanding of wood-warbler behavior and communication systems. To do this, I will be determining if and why there is an evolutionary relationship regarding the use of chek calls by wood-warblers as well as analyzing the bioacoustics characteristics of chek calls for both the Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor) and the Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica), and describing any variation between the two species.

Lucy Spencer Pullan
Kenneth L. Campbell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Boston
Non-invasive Procedures to Measure Male Fertility in Male Cancer Patients

Radiotherapy or chemotherapy suppresses spermatogenesis temporarily or permanently. Sperm are normally observed during urinalysis of men during and after puberty. Urine and urine sediments are easily obtained noninvasively. Examining the recovery of sperm in patient sediments from before and after treatment could track patient fertility. Current methods for evaluating spermatogenesis are expensive, invasive and inappropriate for the longitudinal serial sampling needed to follow restoration of sperm production. This project explores sperm counting by hemacytometer, separation by fluorescence activated cell sorter (FACS), and quantitation by microplate fluorimetry using washed, aldehyde fixed, volunteer sperm samples before and after selective enrichment by “panning” on immobilized peanut agglutinin (PNA). Samples also include washed, fixed volunteer female epithelial cells evaluated in parallel with pure sperm or in admixtures.  Microscopy and early FACS runs of urine sediment samples indicate optimal counting requires separation of sperm cells from epithelial cells and debris. PNA binds preferentially to carbohydrate sidechains containing galactosyl-β(1-3)-N-acetylgalactosamine on cell surface proteins of spermatozoa. Immobilized PNA can separate sperm cells from epithelial cells and debris; ~50%-80% of sperm samples with 7,250-116,000 sperm cells in 1 mL of PBS buffer can be recovered after panning in microtiter wells by incubating with 500 mM galactose. Released cells can be labeled with fluorescent PNA and the sperm cell density determined using fluorimetry. Using longitudinal samples the sperm counts can be compared to population or pretreatment norms to evaluate rate of loss or recovery of spermatogenesis in male patients.

Andre Lucas Reis
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Tiny Humans: Understanding of Adversity and Resilience of Pediatric Illness

In recent times, we find ourselves surrounded by a continuous evolutionary understanding of therapeutic procedure which seeks to protest and subvert the status quo. Breakthroughs like that of epigenetics begins to change the perspective on just how much we have yet to know about ourselves. By utilizing this new approach, strides can be made to understand the nature of diagnosing and treating pediatric illnesses. With epigenetics, more efficient and substantial improvements in methods of remedying situations such as neonatal and prenatal stress can be achieved, allowing us to better serve our future generations. With this research, we can form an understanding of how our current methods truly impact our children, from prenatal vitamins to the food or environment we are exposed to. It is crucial that we pursue the exploration of these new methods while there is still time. Not simply pushing something because of high success rating, rather curating practices to include everyone in the process. As Nikki Kiyimba states in "Developmental Trauma and the Role of Epigenetics," fifty years of animal studies have shown that maternal stress during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the offspring, including learning deficits, altered immune function, more anxious behavior, reduced attention, glucose intolerance and altered cardiovascular responses to stress. By focusing on environmental factors such as stress in pregnancy we can allow the future medicinal practices to better prevent or reverse such illnesses.  

Justin C. Roch
Amanda Leigh Murray Hyde (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Greenfield Community College
Preliminary Taxonomic Survey of a Western Massachusetts Wetland

Ambystoma maculatum, the spotted salamander, is a species of moist forested habitats across eastern North America. In early spring, adults migrate to breed in vernal pools or other fish-free wetlands, which may be located hundreds of meters from adult habitat. In October 2017, two juvenile A. maculatum were found during routine monitoring of Greenfield Community College’s SPARCnet plots. These were the first recorded individuals of this species at GCC, and they indicated the presence of an actively breeding local population. The lack of known vernal pools in the vicinity led to the identification of an on-campus wetland as a possible breeding site for this population. To determine if the wetland is being utilized for breeding by A. maculatum, and to further document the biodiversity of the GCC campus, a preliminary taxonomic survey of the wetland will be conducted during early spring. Vertebrate and invertebrate taxa will be identified and inventoried, with the presence or absence of fish used as an indicator of breeding suitability for A. maculatum. Special attention will be given to any evidence of breeding amphibians. The results of this study will help inform future conservation planning and wetland preservation efforts at Greenfield Community College, since the on-campus presence of migratory amphibian species such as A. maculatum will necessitate identifying and protecting their critical migration corridors.

Melanie Rose Russo
Susan Al Mahrwuth
Alexander Braden Miner
Kimberly Pouliot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University

The Effect of Antibiotic Exposure on Streptococcus pyogenes and Surrounding Microbiota over Time

Antibiotics are essential to treating many types of bacterial infections, with the goal of targeting specific pathogenic bacteria in hopes of eliminating them from the body. However, antibiotics do not differentiate between the body’s own microbiota and the pathogenic bacteria that it is trying to eliminate. Microbiota cohabitates within the body, providing a mutualistic relationship. Healthy microbiota provides protection as well as assists in digestive functioning and immune health, among other roles. This study hopes to highlight the adverse effect of antibiotics on the body’s natural microbiota by determining how much antibiotics can affect microbiota. Streptococcus pyogenes, the causative agent of “strep” throat, and samples of natural oral microbiota will be cultured together and exposed to a panel of antibiotics over a period of time. Samples of culture fluid will be sampled and assessed for numbers of both viable Streptococcus and isolates of microbiota. This study will address whether the presence of microbiota is negatively impacted by antibiotics, as well as whether microbiota populations can affect the efficacy of antibiotics against S. pyogenes.

Susan Al Mahrwuth, Alexander Miner, Melanie Russo, Tawana Jewell, and Kimberly Pouliot

Christie E. Santoro
Amanda Simons (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Framingham State University

The Effects of Long-Term, Low-Dose Resveratrol on Activation of the AMP Kinase in K562 Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Cells

Many cancer cells have an altered glucose metabolism where they generate their energy through anaerobic conditions, which is dependent on the amount of available glucose.  AMP kinase plays a role in glucose uptake in cells through the activation of the GLUT-4 glucose transporter. AMPK is activated when the cell senses high levels of AMP, which indicate low stores of ATP. AMPK has also been previously shown to mediate autophagy. Autophagy is the degradation of cellular components by the lysosome during various conditions, such as cellular starvation.  Resveratrol, a phytoalexin found in fruits activate enzymes that respond to conditions of starvation such as Sirtuin 1 and AMPK. However, in most previously conducted studies, resveratrol has been used in high concentrations that cannot be attained in vivo. In this study, we instead use long-term exposure of low, physiologically relevant, concentrations of resveratrol. Activation of the AMPK pathway with physiologically relevant conditions of resveratrol has the potential induce autophagy of cancer cells when available glucose is limited.

Christina Allison Seymour
Paige Warren (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst
iCons: Parasites and Plastic Waste: The Effects of Anthropogenic Nesting Materials and Ectoparasite Loads on House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) Nestlings

In an increasingly urban world, birds are being faced with new reproductive challenges. This study focused on examining how anthropogenic nesting materials and ectoparasite levels are affecting the health levels of House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) nestlings on an urban to rural gradient. Anthropogenic nesting materials were observed to decrease with increasing levels of urbanization, likely due to differences at the microhabitat level between urban and rural sites. Urbanization had no significant effect on nest ectoparasite levels. Nestlings tended to have slightly higher growth levels in nests with higher amounts of anthropogenic nesting materials. Ectoparasite load was observed to be positively correlated with nestling growth levels, suggesting that nestling health could be determining ectoparasite load, as nests with larger nestlings provide increased food availability for ectoparasites. Further study is necessary to determine the net effects of anthropogenic materials and ectoparasite loads on the health levels of nestlings in highly urbanized areas. This information holds important conservation value for various avian species, as it would determine how increasing interactions between humans and wildlife are affecting the reproductive success of native bird species.

Toby Jacob Shaya
Lynn S. Adler (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Effects of Treatment Administration Relative to Time of Infection in the Common Eastern Bumblebee

With pollinators declining worldwide due to the potential combined effects of pathogens, habitat destruction, parasites, and pesticides, understanding the reasons behind their decline is essential to conserving their populations. It is imperative that measures are taken to maintain their numbers, especially for those pollinators that crops rely on for their services. I examined the effects of pollen consumption relative to time of infection in the bumblebee B. impatiens infected with the gut parasite Crithidia bombi. Prior studies have shown that sunflower pollen dramatically decreased parasite loads in B. impatiens, though its lower protein content suggests that the beneficial effects would come with an added cost to bee health. I asked how the timing of administering sunflower pollen affected pathogen loads with four diet treatments. Bumblebees were either given seven days of sunflower pollen after infection, seven days of wildflower pollen mix, or a combination of the two for 3.5 days each, with either sunflower or wildflower pollen given first. There were no significant differences in infection by treatment, although the ‘sunflower first’ treatment had lower median and mean infection than the ‘wildflower first’ treatment. Although not statistically significant, bumblebees that were inoculated on one specific date had higher counts of C. bombi than other dates. Furthermore, bees in the treatments ‘wildflower’ and ‘wildflower first’ died significantly faster than the bees in the ‘sunflower’ treatment. More studies should be done to determine the best way to maximize the beneficial effects of sunflower pollen, while also maintaining a healthy diet for bees.

Grace Stroman
Samuel Hazen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
The Characterization of WALL REGULATOR INTERACTING bHLH to Determine Its Role in Grass Secondary Cell Wall Development

The demand for alternative fuel sources has lead to a rise in the use of plant-based biofuels. Cellulosic biofuel is one of these fuel alternatives and is the result of the fermentation of cellulose and hemicellulose, sugars primarily found in the secondary cell wall. Understanding the regulatory network governing grass secondary cell wall biosynthesis is a vital step to maximize cellulosic biofuel yields. Herein, two transgenic plant lines of the model species, Brachypodium distachyon, are used to elucidate the role of WALL REGULATOR INTERACTING bHLH (WRIB) in the regulatory network. Previous research in yeast demonstrated that WRIB is a putative transcription factor that binds to important secondary cell wall promotors and proteins. To determine if these interactions result in a change in secondary cell wall composition in planta, a WRIB overexpressing line (WRIB OE) and a mutant, wrib-1, were used for qualitative and quantitative phenotypic comparison. No significant differences were observed for flowering time, height, or mass between the controls and the transgenic plants. However, changes in stem across sections were observed. Phloroglucinol staining of WRIB OE plants showed a lighter red hue in their interfascicular fibers indicating a decrease in lignin. wrib-1 plants stained with phloroglucinol did not show a consistent stain phenotype but showed altered stem anatomy. These results will be used to improve our understanding of WRIB and the functional role it plays in secondary cell wall synthesis. 

Laura Suttenfield
Craig Albertson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Characterizing the Function of the Ciliary Rootlet in Zebrafish in Development and Homeostasis

Primary cilia are sensory, nonmotile organelles that are ubiquitous across cell types. They serve as a hub for developmental signaling proteins and help to convert intercellular chemical and mechanical stimuli into intracellular biochemical signals. The targeted disruption of primary cilia has revealed a host of basic functions associated with this organelle. The ciliary rootlet anchors the organelle to the cell and is composed of ropes of a polymerized protein called ciliary rootlet coiled-coil protein 2 (Crocc2). Missense mutations in the zebrafish crocc2 gene result in interesting but poorly characterized phenotypes, including altered craniofacial shape and reduced bone integrity. We hypothesize that the absence of Crocc2 results in reduced integrity and degenerative function of the primary cilia. To test this, we performed an immmunohistochemical analysis on wildtype and mutant sibling fish using common ciliary markers to quantify differences in the presence and distribution of cilia over time. Preliminary results suggest that such a difference exist, which is consistent with our hypothesis that Crocc2 is necessary for the maintenance of cilia structure integrity. However, more testing is needed to determine the exact nature of the defect.  

Shannen Alexandra Thomas
Katie L. Ruggieri (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Bristol Community College
HNPP: An Overview of Current Testing Methodologies Focusing on Using PMP22 as an Identifier

This study strives to answer the question “Is using detection of the mutant PMP22 gene a reliable way to identify the potential for Hereditary Neuropathy with Liability to Pressure Palsies (HNPP)?” This study is split into two parts. First, a meta study that reviews current literature on testing methodologies available for the HNPP will be performed. Second, we will attempt to amplify the PMP22 gene from human cheek cell DNA and examine it's association with characteristics attributed to HNPP. Gaining further insight into inexpensive predictive assays for HNPP and related genetic disorders is necessary because the current testing methods are usually expensive and/or are not covered by insurance. This study aims to identify the most cutting edge tools and technologies being used to identify HNPP patients and to potentially find a cheaper way to identify the potential for HNPP, with the hope that insurance companies would request additional, more comprehensive testing if positive.

Hoang Duc Vo
Aleel K. Grennan (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Worcester State University

The Influences of Chloroplast Sizes on Plant Growth and Development

Plants are able to survive on their own through photosynthesis, the process where plants utilize sunlight energy to convert carbon dioxide and water to produce sugar and oxygen. Photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts located on the leaves of plants. Light absorption and utilization by the chloroplast are part of a signalling cascade regulating plant developmental responses. Knowing how the chloroplast influence plants growth and development, we can propose further experiments and apply those to real life agriculture. In this experiment, we predict that differences in chloroplast sizes could influence plant growth and development due to changes in how much light is absorbed by the leaves. To support our hypothesis, Arabidopsis thaliana plants with artificially enlarged chloroplasts were grown in the greenhouse under the same environmental conditions. Growth rate and development between the mutant lines and the wild-type plants will be measured as well as chloroplast size, leaf thickness, cell number and vein spacing. 

Victoria Wang
Kiah Byrd
Lena M. Lu
Raquel Alexis Perry
Peg Riley (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Bacteriocins as Potential Alternative Antitubercular Therapeutics

Tuberculosis is a widespread, infectious disease caused by the bacterial pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis). As one of the leading causes of death worldwide, this disease is becoming increasingly difficult to treat as antibiotic resistant strains become more prevalent. With limited new antibiotic options, research must turn to alternative intervention options. Proteinaceous molecules naturally synthesized by bacteria act as targeted missiles that deliver a drug-based mechanism to inhibit close relatives. Bacteriocin typing of close relatives of M. tuberculosis may reveal novel peptides that may be used as potential therapeutic treatments for multi-drug resistant and extensively drug resistant strains. Screening assays of sixty strains of rapidly growing species (M. abscessus, M. chelonae, and M. fortuitum) consisted of spotting liquid cell growth of all strains on a lawn of every strain. Each spot was scored individually for killing activity as zones of lawn inhibition are indicative of bacteriocin presence. Preliminary results suggest at least seven promising candidates for bacteriocin producers out of the sixty different strains tested. Induction to improve bacteriocin production is assessed by varying growth conditions and treatments as well as exposure to mutagens and ultraviolet radiation. Crude lysates will be subjected to a conventional assay of enzymatic digestion, filtration, and exposure to freezing temperatures that will differentiate between bacteriocin and bacteriophage presence. Standard protein purification methods will also be attempted to isolate the confirmed bacteriocin. Early signs demonstrate promising support for the use of bacteriocins as a novel approach for treatment of tuberculosis. 

Josh West
Thilina Dilan Surasinghe (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Bridgewater State University
Importance of Amphibians: A Synthesis of Their Environmental Functions, Benefits to Humans, and Need for Conservation

In this study we conducted a comprehensive literature review to investigate the importance of amphibians in every dimension from medical applications such as tissue regeneration, pharmaceutically-useful compounds, direct socio-economic benefits, to overall ecosystem values. Amphibians have astounding tissue regenerative abilities, including the ability to regrow entire limbs as adults, and heal cardiac, brain, spinal, and retina tissue. Study of these processes will allow the medical industry to restore sight and mobility, and to remedy neurological defects, along with countless other medical discoveries, including amphibian polypeptides that release insulin, raise and lower blood pressure, and regulate the digestive system showing the full scope of their pharmaceutical value is just beginning to be explored. Migration from aquatic to terrestrial environments cycles essential nutrients such as P, C, and N between environments improving the overall health and resilience of the ecosystem. In many northern forests and vernal pools, amphibians account for greater biomass than birds, mammals, and reptiles combined. Amphibians are a central part of many food webs being both predators and prey. Amphibians are poikilothermic turning a greater portion of calories into biomass compared to homeotherms, providing many predators with a stable food and nutrient source. Constant feeding patterns of amphibians make them excellent regulators of biomass in lower trophic levels, contributing to ecosystem stability, as well as making them good biological control agents against pests such as mosquitos, biting flies, and crop-damaging arthropods. Thin skin and superficial vasculature make amphibians sensitive to environmental pollutants making them excellent indicator species as well. 

Haley Jean Woods
Carolyn Wetzel (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Holyoke Community College
Isolation of Soil Microbes That Produce Antibiotics

Antibiotic Resistance is one of the largest threats to global health, food security, and development, and it is on the rise. Since pharmaceutical companies have reduced investment in the search for new antibiotics, I am partnering with the Small World Initiative, which aims to crowdsource discovery of bacteria that yield antimicrobial activity. As part of the SWI, I performed a series of tests to obtain a bacterial isolate that is antibiotic-producing from the Town Of Longmeadow Wildlife Refuge. The 16-S rRNA gene was amplified by PCR and sent to Yale University to be sequenced. The sequence analysis indicated that the isolate is a Pseudomonas strain, which is known to be antibiotic producing. The isolate showed antibiotic activity against 6 of the 8 safe relatives of ESKAPE pathogens that it was tested against: S. epidermidis, E. coli, A. baylyi, P. putida, Es. coli, and B. subtilis. In a test to determine antibiotic sensitivity, the isolate appeared sensitive to antibiotics erythromycin, penicillin, ampicillin, and streptomycin, but was resistant to kanamycin, tetracycline, and chloramphenicol. In further tests, I determined that the isolate is Gram negative, a catalase and oxidase producer, and is β-hemolytic. Further analysis of this isolate’s antimicrobial properties will be presented, along with the antimicrobial properties of 4 other isolates that show signs of antibiotic-producing activity.


Aiste Balciunaite
Maria M. Santore (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Polymer Science and Engineering, UMass Amherst
The Influence of Particle Shape on Adhesion in Flow: Rods versus Spheres

The behavior of microparticles in flow and their adhesion on walls is a topic of key interest within the medical field, specifically due to the applications for drug delivery. Recent research suggests a significant advantage to using non-spherical particles in drug delivery compared to spherical particles, but little is known about the behavior of non-spherical particles in flow. This work addresses the near-surface flow behavior and adhesion of rod-shaped microparticles.  Silica rod microparticles with varying aspect ratios but similar diameters were synthesized and their behavior was compared to that of silica microspheres of comparable hydrodynamic diameters. The microparticles were run through a laterally mounted microfluidic device, and electrostatic attractions were manipulated to adhere particles to the surface of the flow cell. The surface capture rate and adhesion threshold of the different shaped microparticles was studied and compared. Preliminary data suggests that rod-shaped microparticles, even with small aspect ratios, exhibit no adhesion threshold in flow compared to spherical microparticles of similar size. This phenomena is further investigated, alongside the potential for rod shaped particles to deliver more material to the surface.

Kush Basu
Sarah L. Perry (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
The Characterization of Off-Stoichiometric Polyelectrolyte Complexes for Use in Energy Applications

Polyelectrolyte complexes are materials that form between oppositely charged macro-ions and have unique properties including enhanced chemical stability compared to traditional polymers. The process that forms these complexes creates a polymer-rich phase, the complex, and a polymer-poor liquid phase, the supernatant. This complexation process is driven by electrostatic interactions between the polycation and polyanion, as well as entropic gains from the release of bound counterions. The solid or liquid nature of the resulting complexes can be modulated based on the length of the polymers, pH, salt concentration, and other parameters. To date, most research has been done using a stoichiometric mixture of oppositely-charged polymers. While this is beneficial for certain applications, it limits the utility of the complexes for other purposes. Here, we present the first systematic investigation of the phase behavior and properties of off-stoichiometric mixtures of complexes formed from the anionic polymer poly(styrene sulfonate) and cationic poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride). We will use a combination of optical microscopy, UV-Vis spectroscopy, 1H-NMR, and conductivity measurements to determine the state of the material, and the concentration of the two polymers and salt in each phase. We will also investigate the potential for non-stoichiometric polyelectrolyte complex materials for use as conductive membranes in batteries and fuel cells by characterizing the conductivity of thin films via electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. 

Jessica Ann Belliveau
Shelly Peyton (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
iCons: Quantifying Endothelial Cell Adhesion for Use in a 3-D Tunable Poly-ethylene Glycol Hydrogel System

In the United States, approximately 600,000 people are predicted to die from cancer this year.  The majority of cancer deaths are due to metastasis, where cells from the primary tumor travel through the bloodstream to a new site in the body.  Understanding how cancer cells travel through the vasculature and invade through blood vessels can be characterized in vitro using biocompatible, synthetic materials to mimic the native tissue environment of the body. For this project, a cylindrical channel is created within a tissue mimic and lined with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to model a vessel.  A 3D poly-ethylene glycol (PEG) hydrogel system is used as the tissue mimic because of its tunability. The stiffness of the hydrogel can be altered to mimic different tissue types, and different adhesive peptide sequences corresponding to different extracellular matrix proteins can be incorporated. The goal of this study is to optimize the adhesion molecule cocktail of collagen 1, fibronectin, and laminin α added to the PEG system to maximize the number of cells that adhere to the hydrogel.  To determine the optimum mixture, (3-aminopropyl)triethoxysilane (APTES) functionalized glass coverslips with different combinations of adhesion peptide sequences were made and incubated with HUVECs.  Fluorescent images of the coverslips were used to quantify the number of adhered cells and cell counts from the different conditions were compared to determine the best combinations to be translated into the 3D hydrogel system. The adhesive peptide cocktail containing only the fibronectin-corresponding sequence and the fibronectin and collagen 1 combination resulted in the greatest number of adhered cells. By optimizing this mixture, a more confluent channel can be created, increasing the similarity of the model to a native endothelial vessel and reducing the time it takes to create the model. 

Authors: Jessica Belliveau, Katharine Bittner, and Shelly Peyton

Phoebe Bisnoff
Alejandro Briseno (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
Novel Keratoconus Treatment, Chemical Mechanism of Corneal Collagen Crosslinking

Keratoconus is a rare condition, affecting 1 in 2,000 people, describing a conical shaped anterior cornea caused by thinning and weakening of the corneal collagen layers that would typically allow the cornea to hold its dome shape. In this paper the chemical mechanism behind the crosslinking polymerization of a novel medical procedure is examined. In this procedure, UV-radiation and riboflavin are utilized to generate a singlet oxygen radical which reacts with amino acid chains on the fibrils in the corneal collagen matrix-- allowing for crosslinking between collagen fibril packets, stiffening and constraining the anterior cornea to it’s healthy, spherical shape.

Tyler James Carpenter
Sarah L. Perry (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Gas Permeability of Zeolite-Loaded Polyelectrolyte Complex Membranes

Polyelectrolyte solutions can produce solid complexes and liquid complexes, known as complex coacervates. Coacervates have been used in various industries due to their strong ability to encapsulate cargo molecules. Recent work has shown that complex coacervates can be used as a processable form of ultra-stable polyelectrolyte complexes, enabling spin coating of thin films. Here, we look to examine the potential for spin coated polyelectrolyte complex films as semipermeable membranes. While polyelectrolyte-based membranes have been utilized previously for separating gases via permeation, we look to dramatically improve the performance of such membranes through the incorporation of zeolites as an ultra-selective secondary component. In particular, we hypothesize that synergistic electrostatic interactions between zeolite particles and the charged polymer components of the coacervate membrane will allow for incorporation of the zeolites without voids. We evaluated the selective permeability of these polyelectrolyte complex membranes, both with and without zeolites.

Bryan Minghan Chua
Rachel Walker (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst
A Portable, Low-Cost Method of Producing Medical-Grade Water for Intravenous Solutions

When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, 3.4 million residents were left without power - disabling infrastructure vital to producing water for medical use. Thereafter, a shortage of intravenous (IV) bags in the US mainland resulted due to the shutdown of facilities in Puerto Rico. Even when there are no disasters, IV solutions often run out in field settings and are a chronic need in well-resourced areas.

Previously, a patent for a medical-grade water filtration device was submitted by Philip Scarpa of NASA to create a portable, low-cost method of producing medical-grade water from available water. The NASA water filter uses a mixed ion bed resin filter and a semi-permeable reverse osmosis membrane filter and is designed to use general potable water to make medical-grade water safe for injection. Building upon the NASA design, a novel water filtration system will be created to be more specialized by turning bottled water or public municipal tap water directly into IV solutions.

The system will be designed to facilitate on-site production of 500mL IV solution bags using minimal energy through car battery chargers or diesel generator systems. Furthermore, empty IV bags can be prepared as ‘pre-mix’ bags that contain the prescribed salts, sugars, and electrolytes that make up commonly-used IV solutions. Ideally, the system will fit into a backpack of a relief worker or a medic - allowing effective and reliable deployment into field hospital situations. This could save lives in situations like Hurricane Maria where IV solutions are hard to deliver or produce.

Justinne Renee Guarin
Jungwoo Lee (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Microfluidic Model of a Dynamic Mucous Layer In situ

Visualizing the barrier function of mucous membranes to represent in vivo intestinal microenvironments is essential for understanding the mechanisms of nutrient absorption and pathogen protection. We previously demonstrated a novel extraction technique of Porcine Small Intestine Mucin (PSIM) and characterized it to be consistent with properties that mimic the intestinal mucous in its ability to aggregate and form a gel at high acidic and calcium solutions. In this study, we designed and fabricated a simple, two-channel microfluidic device to visualize the aggregation of PSIM with calcium solutions. The calcium concentration-dependent mucin layer forms within the microfluidic device with high barrier integrity and physiological relevance to the small and large intestines. FITC-dextran was added to demonstrate the diffusion of passive particles across the mucin layer in real time. Salmonella typhimurium was then added to mimic pathogenic infection with fast swimming bacteria and to quantify the integrity of the mucin barrier. Thus, this microfluidic model recapitulates dynamic physical and functional features of intestinal mucus and can be applied further to understand a multitude of the gastrointestinal phenomenon.

Griffin Patrick Hurley
Jessica D. Schiffman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Electrospinning Nanofibers from Coacervates Containing Chitosan

Materials formed from biopolymers are promising candidates for applications, such as tissue engineering and wound healing, due to their innate biocompatibility and unique functionality. One method of processing these materials is electrospinning, which produces sub-micron diameter fibers with high porosity and surface-to-volume ratio. A roadblock to their widespread usage is the shortage of effective solvents that will not impart cytotoxicity to the finished product, or the necessity of post-treatments such as crosslinking which carries similar risks. A previous study demonstrated the possibility of electrospinning solutions containing two synthetic polyelectrolytes using water as the solvent and salt. The stability of the resultant polyelectrolyte complex in a range of solvents without the need for post-treatment eschews the need for cytotoxic crosslinking agents. In this study an aqueous complex coacervate was prepared from the polyelectrolytes, chitosan and poly(4-styrenesulfonic acid, sodium salt) and electrospun into a chemically stable nanofiber mat. Salt concentration and polymer ratio were adjusted to maximize coacervate yield at the microscale. The system was scaled up and tuned to ensure that the solution viscosity was within a range that allowed for electrospinning of consistent fibers to ensue. Electrospinning processing parameters such as voltage and spinning distance were methodically varied to investigate effects on nanofiber morphology, which was then characterized by scanning electron microscopy and ImageJ software. The entirely green processing and chemical stability of these chitosan nanofibers make them powerful prospects for biomedical applications. 

Christopher Andrew Kuo-LeBlanc
Jessica D. Schiffman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Randomly Aligned, Mechanically Robust Nanofiber Mats Increase the Flux of Ultrafiltration Membranes

The reliability and ease of operation of membrane-based water purification systems has led to their increased use in water and wastewater treatment. However, water and energy are mutually-dependent critical resources; to produce clean water requires energy and the production of energy requires large volumes of water. In this study, nanofiber mats consist of randomly-aligned electrospun cellulose or polysulfone nanofibers that have an average diameter of 1.0 µm. Modifying the surface of ultrafiltration membranes with a cellulose or polysulfone nanofiber layer resulted in membranes with the same molecular weight cut-off (selectivity) and improved flux over control membranes. Nanofiber-enhanced membranes exhibit increased flux properties, maximizing pure water product while minimizing energy consumption. Hydrophobic nanofiber mats (polysulfone) have a greater flux increase over hydrophilic nanofiber mats (cellulose), potentially due to their higher mechanical robustness. Thinner nanofiber mats (508 µm) exhibited improved flux over thicker nanofiber mats (1250 µm), demonstrating that there is an optimal bulk thickness to the added top-layer. This work focuses on identifying the cause of the increased flux relationships. This investigation into the desirable properties of nanofiber-enhanced membranes is driven by the prominent need to improve water and energy availability.

Robin Mallory Levinson
Jessica D. Schiffman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Characterization of Anti-fouling Ultra-thin Polydopamine-Based Coatings Using Atomic Force Microscope

Hydration is fundamental for reducing surface fouling by microorganisms. Immobilization of hydrophilic polymers on a surface aids in the retention of water, which prevents foulants from adhering. While most reported mechanisms of surface modification are substrate-specific, inspired by the adhesive proteins in mussels, dopamine can be used as an effective universal coating platform for surface modification. Using a one-step coating method, hydrophilic antifouling coatings can be synthesized by simultaneously depositing dopamine and polymer zwitterion poly(methacryloyloxyethyl phosphorylcholine) (polyMPC) onto virtually any surface. Coatings with polyMPC have an enhanced antifouling performance compared to polydopamine (PDA) alone. In my work, I am imaging both PDA and polyMPC/PDA coatings, which are only about 5 nm in thickness, using atomic force microscopy (AFM). AFM allows us to analyze the surface topography quantitatively by calculating the surface roughness to help quantify the adherence preferences of bacteria as it is hypothesized that polyMPC/PDA coatings are smoother than PDA coatings. The substrate-independent nature of PDA-based coatings gives it great potential as a surface modification platform to co-deposit polyMPC, or other functionalized polymers, and increase the antifouling properties of any underlying material.

John George Petrovick
Christos Dimitrakopoulos (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Novel SAM Surface Modification as a Route to Higher Quality, Higher Performance Methylammonium Lead Iodide Thin Film Transistors

Three-dimensional hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite semiconductors of the form ABX3 (A = small organic cation, B = divalent metal, X = halide) have attracted much attention recently in the solar energy field due to their remarkable inherent photovoltaic properties. Methylammonium lead iodide (MAPbI3) is one such material. Unlike silicon, the semiconductor currently used in solar cells, MAPbI3 and other perovskites are solution processable, allowing for low-cost fabrication, compatibility with flexible substrates, and roll-to-roll manufacturing. Despite its popularity, little is known about the fundamental charge transport properties of MAPbI3, such as its electron and hole mobilities; one way to determine this information is to create a transistor using the perovskite. This has been attempted previously, but other groups had difficulty growing high-quality perovskite layers on the silicon dioxide (SiO2) surface of a heavily doped silicon wafer. In this work, a novel self-assembling monolayer (SAM), composed primarily of NH3I groups, was used to modify the SiO2 to allow for a surface conducive to growing the perovskite. Multiple transistor architectures were tested to determine which yielded the highest device performance. The best performing architecture was then used to investigate the fundamental charge transport properties of MAPbI3. This same approach will hopefully be used in the future to study the charge transport properties of more perovskite materials that other research groups are using in the field.

David Podorefsky
Shelly Peyton (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Force Microscopy of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Response to Variations within Extracellular Matrix Environment in Poly(ethylene) Glycol Hydrogels

The mechanical properties of the cellular microenvironment direct cprocesses including spreading, migration, and differentiation. Cells transmit force and regulatory signals via linkages to the ECM called focal adhesions, which allow them to exert force on their external environment creating cell-induced material deformations. Many current analytical methods of matrix displacements and cellular tractions are restricted to 2D platforms even though cells in native tissue are in 3D environments. There are a variety of 3D hydrogels available for cell culture, and some have been adapted for traction measurements, however no group has explored in depth how cellular traction changes as a function of properties of the material. Here, we employ a poly(ethylene) glycol-based hydrogel, which can be independently tuned in stiffness, adhesivity, and degradability, unlike conventional collagen-based gels. To measure cellular traction, we embed 0.5μm fluorescent microspheres and cells into the hydrogel and use 4D confocal microscopy to render spatiotemporal models of cellular environments. These are processed with digital volume correlation to compute cell-generated displacements and further manipulated by a large deformation formulation to compute precise cellular traction data. To validate the measurement of cell generated traction, cells were drugged with CytoD to prevent actin polymerization, which decreased the ability for cells to exert force via focal adhesions. Properties were altered in a multivariate fashion, ranging from 0.5-2mM RGD, 5-20 weight percentage, and 0-50% degradability, using MMP14, to study cellular response. This project aims to understand which features of the extracellular environment contribute most to cell forces, so we can measure how cells interact with their environment in the context of disease.

Jacob M. Schladenhauffen
Jessica D. Schiffman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Green Electrospinning of Aqueous Coacervates Comprised of Short-Chain Polyelectrolytes

Green electrospinning of aqueous complex coacervates into solid nanofiber mats potentially enables a new material platform that can serve as drug carriers or wound dressings. Complex coacervates are responsive materials made via the complexation of oppositely-charged polymers in the presence of salt. The key parameters to facilitate coacervate formation are chain lengths and salt concentration. Previously, Meng et al., has demonstrated that nanofiber mats can be electrospun using aqueous coacervates, which eliminates the need to use toxic organic solvents. In this study, we explore the effect of the length of the polymer chains and salt concentration on subsequent coacervation and fiber formation. We used two strong, synthetic polyelectrolytes (4-styrenesulfonic acid, sodium salt) (PSS) and poly (diallyl dimethylammonium chloride) (PDADMAC) of different chain lengths, in potassium bromide (KBr) solution to form coacervates. We analyzed the effect on forming PEC fibers by varying the polymer solution properties, such as the polymer chain length and salt concentration, as well as characteristics of the electrospinning apparatus, such as the electric field strength (8 kV, 12 kV, and 16 kV), and spinneret-to-collector distance (15cm, 20 cm, and 25 cm). While short chain polymers (PDADMAC degree of polymerization=53) were difficult to electrospin into nanofibers, our preliminary data suggests that coacervates consisting of short chain polymers can be spun into fibers successfully under mild solution (solvent free) and spinning conditions (6 kV) and potentially, the temporary electrostatic interactions facilitate fiber formation.

Adam Edward Selsman
Shelly Peyton (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Second Line Therapy for Ovarian Cancer

Cancer is the second biggest killer in the U.S. One of the biggest reasons that cancer, especially late stage, is such a brutal disease for patients to push through, is the fact that each treatment depends on not only the tolerances of each person, but also on the specific cell lines that are being effected. Often for patients, the treatments and the ups-and-downs that come with them can be the roughest part of the disease. Each type of cancer and each person responds to treatments differently. In order to address these situations, doctors often have lab technicians run patient cell samples through lab tests to determine which drugs or drug combinations will be the most effective in combatting the disease. Ovarian Cancer has a 70% chance of recurring after the initial treatment, making it difficult to treat into remission. Often the second-line therapy requires a new set of drugs, as a tolerance has been built up to chemotherapeutics in prior treatments. Through the use of biomimetic hydrogels, the viability of multiple chemotherapy drugs used to treat other forms of cancer were tested. Those drugs being cisplatin, taxol, sorafenib, mafosfamide, and a newer drug, called LY2606368. Each drug was used in combination to determine the most synergistically optimal dosings and combinations, in hopes of eventually adding to the potential treatments for recurring ovarian cancer.

Andrew Sheu
Yubing Sun (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mechanical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Study of Planar Cell Polarity Signaling in an In vitro System

Planar cell polarity (PCP) is the collective coordinated alignment of cell polarity across a tissue plane. This phenomenon can be observed in natural settings such as the alignment of hairs across the surface of the skin of a mammal. The study of planar cell polarity can provide insight into certain developmental processes in organisms. The mechanism for regulation of PCP signaling in humans is not fully understood and has not been directly investigated due to difficulties in achieving an effective model for a human embryo in development. Understanding PCP in the context of human systems is important for the study and development of drugs that can target diseases relating to PCP, such as neural tube defects. This research aimed to investigate the regulatory mechanisms of PCP with regards to development of human neural cells and structures. The research focused on developing the engineered in vitro model system and studying the effect that tissue curvature and matrix stiffness have on how PCP is acquired and coordinated. Systems with various shape configurations were seeded with human pluripotent stem cells and the cell alignment was analyzed using a MATLAB program, displaying unique effects on cell alignment for each configuration. Developing an alternative to in vivo models for PCP research will allow for further advancements in the field of PCP study, which in turn will enhance understanding of PCP regulation in humans and the key role that PCP plays in early human development.

Jennifer Eleanor Slade
Jungwoo Lee (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Analysis of Thin Film Formation Utilizing a Novel Rotational Rheometer Attachment

Paint and coatings add value wherever they are applied. They provide protection, durability, and customization for individual preferences. Paint research was popular from the 1950s to the 1980s, since then paint research projects have become scarce. Therefore, there is much room for additional research involving latex based paints. The objective of the proposed study is to develop a characterization technique to monitor the progression of the drying process in latex-based paint coatings on a flat substrate. While the structural evolution in a drying film is well known, there remains significant difficulty in the prediction of drying time scales and the evolution of viscoelastic properties in such a material. My experiments consist of utilizing a rotational rheometer to investigate the drying transition of water-borne latex paints as a function of applied stress and strain. We test 5 applied stresses (10, 15, 25, 35, and 45 Pa) in two drying environments (50 mm and 100 mm diam. Petri dish). We verify the response with drying experiments at 10% applied strain in both drying environments. During all stress controlled drying experiments, we observe an increase in the stiffness. We use raw experimental data to recalculate meaningful viscoelastic material properties according to the new geometry.  Alternatively, the strain controlled and small dish experiments produced data that did not seem realistic. We use our approach to simulate the drying of a “real” paint coating and measure its drying transition in-situ.

Lina Wu
Jessica D. Schiffman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Bacterial Pickup with Polymer-Stabilized Emulsions

With the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, there is a dire need to develop new methods of removing bacteria that slow or prevent the development of resistance. Potentially, emulsions stabilized by polymers can physically pick up and transport bacteria by taking advantage of their charged outer membranes. The polymer investigated in this study consists of a hydrophobic backbone with pendant zwitterionic phosphorylcholine (PC) that prevent adsorption to the substrate and other functional groups that stabilize the emulsion and promote bacterial pickup. Commercial surfactants with a variety of charges and properties were used as controls to investigate the effects of different functional groups and charges. Highly uniform oil-in-water emulsions droplets were created using a T-junction in a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic device. Staphylococcus aureus SH1000 bacteria were seeded onto the device and quantified with fluorescence microscopy and ImageJ before and after flow of the emulsion. The sinusoidal microfluidic channel increases shear force on the walls and induces convection within the droplets, increasing bacteria-interface contact and encouraging removal. This method of physical bacterial removal can be easily tailored to be specific to different types of bacteria or environmental conditions. Through the use of other chemistries downstream, attached bacteria can also be “dropped off”, creating a customizable method of controlled bacterial transport that could be implemented in a variety of technologies for cleaning, medicine, or analysis.

Anwesh Yerneni
Tom Maresca (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
iCons: Investigating the Deletion of tcb1/2∆ in Num1 Localization in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

During cell division, dynein anchors to a cortical attachment protein, Num1, before pulling the mitotic spindle into the mother-bud neck. Num1 localization, dependent on the cortical attachment of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the cell membrane (PM), helps guarantee that the mitotic spindle is oriented correctly. This study aims to determine whether or not the tricalbin family of ER-PM attachment proteins, specifically Tcb1 and Tcb2, affect Num1 localization and subsequent mitotic spindle function. Tcb1/2∆ double mutants were generated through PCR product-mediated homologous recombination. With fluorescent proteins tagged to Num1 and the ER, wide-field fluorescence microscopy was used to observe any resulting changes in ER-PM attachment and Num1 localization. Deletions of Scs2 and Scs22 ER attachment proteins have been found to affect Num1 localization, while the loss of Ist2 has no effect. ER-PM attachment is expected to decrease in tcb1/2∆ mutants. As tricalbins are involved with regulating cortical PI4P levels, which are bound by BAR-domains as in Num1, it is hypothesized that they are involved with the recruitment of Num1. Conversely the deletion of tricalbins may not affect Num1 localization, as preserved Scs2, Scs22 and Ist2 ER-PM attachment proteins could recover the wild-type phenotype. This study aims to understand how ER-PM tethering impacts Num1 localization and subsequent dynein pathway function, along with providing insights into cellular homeostasis and cellular signaling as a whole.

Annali Min Yurkevicz
Shelly Peyton (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Scale Up Methods for Creating PEG-PC Hydrogels

The rise of the amount of drug clinical trials today has tripled over the past ten years, most of which have led to non-conclusive or misleading results due to ineffective testing methods. These methods usually involve studying diseases using tissue-culture polystyrene (TCPS), a hard and rigid substrate that does not accurately represent the native tissue environment of cells. However, other alternative synthetic model systems can produce better results if a mesh-network is involved. PEG-PC hydrogels form an extensive extracellular matrix-like mesh network to simulate native tissues in vitro to provide authentic interactions. In order to produce these hydrogels in a high-throughput fashion for industrial uses, the automation of the hydrogel process is an important feature for producing consistent gels. A biomek NXP automated liquid handler will be used to automate this hydrogel process for 384 and 1,536 wellplates. In addition to this process, the lifetime of these hydrogels will be quantified to estimate the thickness of silane deposition on glass coverslips upon treatment, as well as the stability of this layer in respect to degradation.


Ryan James Bartlett
Christine MacTaylor (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, Salem State University
Endophytic Metabolites of Viburnum opulus and Their Potential Medicinal Uses

A study was performed regarding metabolites with antimicrobial properties originating from endophytes associated with the European High Bush cranberry tree, Viburnum Opulus. The study was done with green chemistry methods and recyclable materials. The experiment used LC-Mass Spectroscopy to identify molecules excreted by the endoohyte that match known medicinal compounds. The compounds' structures and general functions were recorded. The extracted metabolites and direct endoohyte were tested for bio activity against gram negative and gram positive bacteria. The results showed that Viburnum Opulus grew endophytes with antibiotic properties. Spectral data also matched numerous different compounds containing medicinal potential. Over fifteen compounds were recorded at high intensities, ranging from anesthetics to components in anti-cancer medications. 

Joseph Bawab
Dwayne Alexander Bell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University
Manganese Catalyzed Oxidation of Lignin in Wood

 A procedure has been developed to precipitate manganese oxide salts inside the cells of white oak wood. The treated wood was added to an aqueous sodium percarbonate solution and a reaction was observed. Microscopic analysis of the reaction indicated gas evolution occurred inside the wood as well as on its surface.  To determine if the reaction caused damage to the cell wall of the wood, samples of wood were sectioned, stained with phloroglucinol, and analyzed under the microscope. Our observation indicated a possible thinning of the cell wall as a result of the reaction. HPLC analysis was then used to determine if chemical composition of the white oak changed as a result of the observed reaction.



Dadrian Bernard
Trisha M. Basford (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, Greenfield Community College
Will Exposure to Biodiesel and Regular Diesel Increase Anthocyanin Production in Plants Due to Oxidative Stress?

Use of biodiesel in combustion engines has proven to be more environmentally friendly than traditional diesel, benefiting both humans and plants. Previous research has shown that biodiesel has lower overall emissions of particulate matter and of reactive oxygen species (ROS) than regular diesel. To date, research show the side effects of these fuels on a plants health is limited. The aim of my research is to explore the effects of diesel and biodiesel exhaust on plant health. The coleus plant was chosen for this study because it is rich in both anthocyanin (red) and chlorophyll (green) pigments. One of the roles of anthocyanins in plant physiology is as an antioxidant against ROS caused by abiotic stresses.

My working hypothesis is that exposure to both types of diesel exhaust will oxidatively stress the plants and in response, anthocyanin production in the leaves will increase. Exposure to regular diesel exhaust is expected to cause the plants to produce more anthocyanins than biodiesel due to its higher ROS content.

The plants will be exposed to fumes generated by combustion, and thin layer chromatography will be used to semi-quantitatively monitor changes in pigmentation due to exposure to exhaust. Chlorophyll content will be used as a general stress marker, as well as other changes in the physical appearance of plants. The results of this experiment will contribute to the body of knowledge concerning plant stress induced by biodiesel and diesel, especially effects on anthocyanin production.

Lauren Julia Butterworth
Sarah J. Pilkenton (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Evaluating the Phenolic Content, Profile, and Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitory Activity of Black Tea and Its Waste Byproducts

The way in which different types of teas are manufactured, especially their fermentation process, is responsible for the differences in their phenolic phytochemical makeup. These phenolic phytochemicals have been shown to inhibit carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes that break polysaccharides and disaccharides into glucose, raising blood sugar levels. In this study, the total phenolic content of black tea and the byproducts from brewing tea will be determined.  High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) will be used to identify the phenolic profiles. This information will then be used to understand the mechanism of the tea and its byproducts and their phenolic constituents relevant to the inhibition of the carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzyme, alpha-glucosidase.

Dominique Kiki Carey
Lynmarie Thompson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Using DNA Origami for Controlled Assembly of Functional Aspartate Receptor Complexes

Bacterial chemotaxis receptors enable bacteria to sense chemical gradients and direct their movement towards favorable environments. This is interesting because if bacterial chemotaxis is understood, future antibiotics could take advantage of this and control bacterial movement. The aspartate chemotaxis in E. Coli forms trimers of receptor dimers that bind a kinase CheA and a coupling protein CheW. Assembling this complex in vitro with native structure and function is challenging but essential to test theories about the signaling mechanism of the receptor complex. The goal of this project is to use DNA origami to assemble the complex by attaching the receptor to a DNA tetrahedron to better test a proposed trimer expansion signaling mechanism. This will be done using mutated receptors with an N-terminal cysteine that can link to DNA using a bifunctional reagent and amino-functionalized DNA. Once the receptor and DNA are linked, the tetrahedron can be formed to make functional trimer of dimer receptor complexes. Currently, this cysteine-mutated receptor has been made and purified, and a strategy for construction of the DNA tetrahedron has been designed. To determine whether complexes have formed we will measure kinase activity and test for high molecular weight complexes on native PAGE gels. Such validation of this assembly method will open the door to future experiments where receptor dimers can be selectively mutated. This control is crucial because position of altered receptors, not just stoichiometry, can be controlled in future experiments.

Ian James Carrick
Igor Kaltashov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
iCons: On-Column Chemical Reactions in Protein Characterization by Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry

As post-translational modification (PTM) biomarkers become increasingly relevant in the field of biomedicine, the need for a quick and accurate method for characterizing protein modifications has become apparent.  Of PTMs, glycosylation holds significant potential for use as a biomarker, due to its known modulation in many pathologies, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, immune disorders, and diabetes.  The traditional analytical technique for measuring protein glycosylation is to enzymatically cleave the glycans from the protein, and detect the glycans using mass spectrometry.  This “bottom-up” approach has associated drawbacks, including an increased risk of artifact introduction.  A more favorable approach is to obtain information about a PTM by observing the mass distribution of the whole protein of interest.  This “top-down” approach has limitations; large proteins with extensive heterogeneity cannot be resolved at the level required for PTM characterization.  In the case of glycosylated proteins, extensive heterogeneity is common due to the enzymatic nature of the glycosylation process.  Fortunately, many glycosylated proteins that are relevant as biomarkers consist of subunits connected by disulfide bonds.  In this work, top-down characterization of the plasma protein haptoglobin is performed to measure its fucosylation levels.  This novel method that is presented employs a cross-path reactive scheme, where the injection of protein into a size exclusion chromatography column is delayed relative to the injection of a reactive plug.  This allows reactions (reduction of disulfides in this case) to be performed inside the column for a limited and controlled amount of time. 

Tala Jean Chunga
Trisha M. Basford (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, Greenfield Community College
Analysis of Copper Complexation with Tannic Acid

Heavy metal ions, such as Cu2+ and Pb2+ are water contaminants that can be introduced to a water supply in a number of ways, such as leaching from waste or from the piping used to transport the water. Copper(II) also may enter water via the application of copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate as a fungicide in organic and conventional farming, and from the use of the compound as an algicide and root killer. If left untreated, the metal ions can accumulate in animals that ingest the contaminated water, which may cause severe health problems. Tannins are polyphenolic compounds found in a wide variety of plant life. Using the tannins from plant life to complex with metal ions in contaminated water could be an inexpensive and eco-friendly alternative process for purifying water. In this research, tannic acid is used as a model tannin to complex copper(II) ions. This is the first step to developing a process for removing the ion from water. The absorbance of aqueous tannic acid solutions (.0420 M) and oak bark extracts after adding copper(II) ions (.0400 M) in the visible wavelength range (610nm, 710nm, 810nm). Differences in absorbance were recorded to see if a change was detected. It was noted that absorbance of dissolve copper(II) + tannic acid and  dissolve copper(II) + oak bark extracts appears to be additive. Future work includes allowing solutions more time to react as well as treatment of an aqueous copper(II) solution with a bed of oak bark.

Thomas Drews
Richard Vachet (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
Influences of Polyphenol (-)-Epigallocatechine Gallate on Beta-2-Microglobulin Amyloidosis

Dialysis Related Amyloidosis (DRA) is a disease with symptoms of osteoporosis and discomfort in dialysis patients. This disease is caused by the amyloid fibrils of the protein Beta-2-microglobulin (b2m), which deposit in the joints of patients, resulting in DRA. Previous experiments have found that the compound polyphenol (-)-epigallocatechine gallate (EGCG) can inhibit amyloid fibrils formation of b2m. However, the optimal concentrations of EGCG as well as the mechanism of aggregation have not been studied. In this study, experiments were conducted using size exclusion chromatography (SEC), liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to better understand how EGCG inhibits b2m amyloid formation. SEC experiments were used to determine the effect of the concentration of EGCG on the rate of formation of the initial aggregates as well as the sizes of the off pathway aggregates. LC-MS was used in order to determine how EGCG influences the aggregation of b2m by separating the compounds by reverse phase chromatography. Lastly, TEM was used in order to observe the structure of an off-pathway aggregate of b2m with EGCG and compared with the normal amyloid fibrils formed by b2m. The information from this study will help further understand how EGCG interacts with b2m and whether it or derivatives of this molecule could act as therapeutics for DRA.

Nicholas Ronald Fragola
Bolat Alex White
Yuying Zhang
Julian Tyson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
Determination of Arsenic Compounds in Rice with a Field Test Kit Procedure

Much of the world’s rice contains concentrations of inorganic arsenic, a class I carcinogen, that may cause long-term health problems.  As the demand for information grows, a simple and inexpensive measurement procedure is required.  Our approach is to adapt field test kits developed for drinking water analysis. There are two critical stages: extraction and hydride generation (HG), namely the formation of arsine gas that reacts with the test strip giving the yellow/brown color. We find that results for HG with zinc are inaccurate in the presence of the co-extracted rice matrix material, and we are investigating sodium borohydride (BH) as an alternative. To control the reaction kinetics, the BH is encapsulated in an agar gel stabilized with sodium hydroxide and xanthan gum. We are also investigating adding iron, nickel or cobalt to catalyze the HG reaction at the zinc surface. To improve the detection capability, we are investigating increasing the sample volume (and thus the sample mass needed) by as much as 10-fold, which could allow the detection of inorganic arsenic at low double-digit µg per kg (ppb) values in the rice. Sample preparation invovles grinding and extraction with boiling acid solutions.  Both mineral acids and relatively strong organic acids will extract the arsenic species, but prolonged heating may be needed in open vessels. The type and concentration of acid is currently being studied. For validation, we are preparing both grains and flour contaminated with known concentrations of arsenic.

Jessica Furtado
Michelle E. Farkas (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
Tracking Circadian Rhythms in Breast Cancer

The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour time tracking system that controls essential physiological functions including sleep-wake cycles, hormone levels, body temperature, and others. Epidemiological studies have shown that the alteration of circadian rhythms can increase the potential for developing several different types of cancer, including breast, prostate, colon, lung, and ovarian cancers. Work in the Farkas group is focused on tracking circadian rhythms as they occur in cancer. Our aim is to track the core clock proteins Bmal1 and Per2, in cellular models of breast cancer. To this end, we use different breast cancer subtypes to assess how these proteins are expressed, in non-malignant to very aggressive, triple negative breast cancers. Using luciferase constructs and real-time luminometry in addition to real time PCR, our aim is to study the patterns of expression of BMAL1 and PER2 in the well-known breast cancer cell line, MCF-7, which is classified as “luminal A” subtype (ER+, PR+).  The MCF7 cell line is a widely used in vitro breast cancer model, which is derived from breast adenocarcinoma. We will compare this data to those obtained from non-malignant MCF10A cells and aggressive MDA-MB-231 cells. We hypothesize that the more aggressive the breast cancer subtype is, the more disrupted the circadian rhythm will be. These studies are important to elucidate the correlation between circadian rhythm and cancer, and to inform future studies that attempt to re-normalize the circadian rhythm for treatments. Jessica Furtado1, Hui-Hsien Lin1, L. D. Sujeewa Sampath1, and Michelle E. Farkas, Ph. D.1

Anna Haynes
Kathleen Christine Murphy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, Worcester State University
Analysis of Chloride, Nitrate, and Heavy Metals in Surface Water and Soil

The concentration of contaminants in public waters has become a focus, especially if the level of contamination is dangerously elevated and it remains untreated. The goal of the project was to assess the levels of nitrate, chloride and heavy metals in soil and surface water adjacent to well-traveled roads within Worcester, MA. All samples were collected in pre-rinsed screw-cap polypropylene test tubes. Immediately after returning to lab, nitrates and chlorides in the water were measured using ion-selective electrodes. There did not seem to be a trend in these levels except that they increased from 1.7-4.4 ppm nitrate and 152.5-196.6 ppb chloride before to after the water treatment plant. Soil samples were treated with nitric acid followed by filtration and water samples were acidified with nitric acid to pH<2. Determination of lead, nickel and cadmium was done using graphite furnace atomic absorption. The water samples had varying heavy metal concentrations. Cadmium and Nickel levels were too low to be recorded, while Lead had a concentration range from 2.3-30.7 ppb. In comparison, the soil levels were much higher, from an average of 12.5 ppb in water to 35.53 mg/kg in the soil. Analysis of the lead samples with flame atomic absorption confirmed the furnace data. It is likely that the traffic from the near-by roads contributed to the elevated levels of lead. Further research could focus on producing better percent recovery of spiked soil samples and assess levels of hydrocarbons.

Alexander Sonny Hiller
Jesse C. Marcum (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Photodecomposition of Tetrachloroaurate in the Presence of Varied Cosolvents

The photoreactivity of the compound tetrachloroaurate (AuCl4-) is well documented and several studies have been performed to determine its rate of decomposition when exposed to UV light in a multitude of substances. Previous studies have generally focused on specific, single cosolvents in aqueous solution (e.g. methanol and ethylene glycol) and have indicated that increasing the concentration of the cosolvent increases the rate of AuCl4- photodecomposition. Our study uses UV-Vis spectroscopic analysis to determine how factors such as the concentration and identity of the alcohol cosolvent affect the rate of AuCl4- photodecomposition. Preliminary trends from our analysis indicates that photodecomposition rates are largely influenced solution viscosity and is not strongly dependent upon the specific alcohol cosolvent used.  

Dora Kadish
Bela Torok (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Boston
Rapid Functionalization of Azetidines

While azetidines have always been known to be structurally strained and difficult to synthesize, a new reaction has been invented that shortens their preparation time significantly.  Out of the top 200 marketed drugs, only two have azetidine-based functional groups. Thus, the untapped prevalence of azetidines in drug discovery was one of the driving forces to pursue this project.  The proposed synthesis allows for the regioselective preparation of functionalized azetidines.  Previous syntheses of azetidines are generally 3-5 steps, while this proposed synthesis can be performed in one-pot and is operationally simple. It is envisioned that this method will be adopted by medicinal chemists to expand chemical space and improve structure-activity relationships (SAR).   

Kyle Nathan Koczera
Craig T. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
Collection of Target RNA Transcript with Magnetic Streptavidin Beads

T7 RNA Polymerase (T7RP) is a single subunit, extensively studied and characterized protein, commonly used to produce synthetic RNA for a wide variety of systems and applications. The problem faced with this enzyme is that it produces a large number unwanted sequences. Further research focuses on preventing the transcription of these unwanted transcripts. 

Recent research uses a new tool to investigate the transcription landscape of T7RP. This tool, RNA-Sequencing of in vitro transcription, showed that run-off RNA products are extended through a 3’ loop and extending mechanism. This research aims to prevent the formation of long sequences by preventing the enzyme from binding back to the 3’ end of the run-off RNAs.
RNA will be produced using T7RP and radiolabeled with an α-P32 isotope. Magnetic streptavidin functionalized beads carrying DNA strands complementary to the target 3’ end of the RNA will collect full length desired RNA before the 3’ end of the transcript loops back and extends on the RNA. The RNA bound to the beads will be removed by increasing temperature or toehold-mediated strand displacement. The collected RNA can then be analyzed by gel electrophoresis.

Julia Lenef
Dhandapani Venkataraman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
iCons: Integrated Methods to Probe Charge-Transport in Semiconducting Polymers

Polymer semiconductor materials possess thermoelectric properties that provide a means to transform waste heat to electricity from a temperature gradient. Therefore, they serve as a possible solution to the current environmental and energy problems. However, many of these materials have not reached commercial scale due a lack of fundamental understanding of the charge-transport properties in these disordered materials. To probe the nature of conduction, polymer semiconductors were prepared by varying levels of chemical dopant and examined using analytical tools including electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy and Seebeck coefficient measurements. The dual chemical and analytical tools are important because they can suggest key principles (e.g. density of states) responsible for charge-transport in specific disordered materials and serve as a propellant to the development of optimized polymer semiconducting materials. This poster will present results from our recent investigations of polymer semiconductors at varied dopant distribution, corresponding thermoelectric and conductivity values, and how these experimental conclusions relate to current charge-transport models of semiconducting materials. 

Justin Curtis Levitre
Meghna Dilip (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, Worcester State University
Greener Removal of Hexavelent Chromium Using Cellulose Films

Hexavalent chromium (Cr (VI)) is  a known carcinogen and has been detected in US drinking water. Aqueous biphasic systems are two-phase separation systems formed when a water-soluble polymer is mixed with a water soluble ionic salt, for e.g., polyethylene glycol and K3PO4. These liquid-liquid systems have been previously used to effectively partition metal contaminants from water, however, it is difficult to remove chromium with the use of a liquid-liquid separation system. Alternatively, the use of an ionic liquid (IL), cellulose, and a water soluble ionic salt can parallel the aqueous biphasic system separation process while providing the added advantage of easy recovery.  Chromium removal was monitored using  UV-vis spectroscopy. The effects of various salts (ammonium nitrate, sodium carbonate, potassium phosphate), differing concentrations of the salts, and the concentration of chromium on the removal process of Cr (VI) were studied.

Alexis Natalie Melton
Erin R. Doherty
Kaitlin E. Young
Eihab Jaber (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, Worcester State University
Computational Analysis of the Stabilization Energy Contributions of Individual Hydrogen Bonding Interactions in Parallel-Stacked Guanine Tetraplex

Telomeres are vitally important terminal structures of chromosomes function in
mitigating the loss of genetic information during DNA replication. These structures are
fundamental to genomic stability and act as a barrier against tumorigenesis and cancer
development. They are composed of guanine (G) rich sequences which form G-tetramer
complexes in vivo that are stabilized by eight G-G hydrogen bonds and ligand bonds to a central
cation. While previous investigations utilizing ab initio approaches have provided insight into the
interactions that contribute to G-complex stability, they were not able to identify the
contributions the individual bonds have within the complex or the cation contribution to the
overall stability. A computational methodology is presented that has facilitated the
characterization of each individual hydrogen bond's energy contribution to the complex's
stability when cations are stabilized at varying bond intervals above the molecular plane. The
investigation concludes that the internal and external hydrogen bond energies contribute
disproportionately to complex stability and very dependent on cation identity and their distance
above the complex plane. This methodology will be utilized to elucidate the formation dynamics
of G-tetramers. Further investigation of internal and external bond energies involves
investigation of G-tetramer complexes composed of two superimposed molecular planes with a
central cation referred to as "sandwiches".

Katrina Nguyen
Jianhan Chen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

A Computational Analysis of the Phosphorylation of p53 and Cancer-Associated Mutations

Proteins are one of the main building blocks of cells. However, not all proteins are structurally ordered. So-called intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), do not have stable tertiary structures under physiological conditions; yet they have been associated with many important body biological functions. Modeling and characterizing these IDPs through experimental methods have been extremely difficult, thus computational techniques are required for better understanding of the functionalities of these proteins.

The p53 protein, whose transactivation domain (TAD) is intrinsically disordered, has generated specific interest due to its function as a tumor suppressor. Mutations in its TAD, specifically the E17D and K24N mutations, result inactivation of the protein and have been strongly linked to female genital cancers. Studying p53 in its unbound state through phosphorylation is also important, as unphosphorylated p53 binds with its negative regulator MDM2 stronger, degrading p53 more rapidly. This regulates the concentration of p53 within the system, keeping it at a standard low level until action is needed.

The phosphorylation and both the K24N and the E17D mutations are explored computationally through simulations in order to fully gauge the mechanisms behind this disordered protein. These simulations were compared to a wild type p53 model, and our results demonstrate that mutations could cause structural changes, especially at the secondary structure level in the unbound ensemble. Further exploration could indicate how these mutations and phosphorylation modules the protein functions.

Patrick O'Connor
Shelli Waetzig (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Reaction Development of Palladium Catalyzed N-alkylation of Aromatic Imidates from Allylic Carbonates

Reaction development for the one-pot Pd-catalyzed N-substitution of aromatic imidates was investigated using allylic carbonates. The goal of the project is to optimize the reaction to allow for a wide range of nucleophiles to be used to alkylate the nitrogen of aromatic imidates.

Jennie J. Paik
Richard Vachet (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

The Effects of Shear Stress on Aβ1-40 Aggregation Using a Simple Flow Injection System

In vitro studies of peptides and anecdotal evidence have suggested that shear flow could be a factor in the aggregation and amyloid formation of the Aβ peptides involved in Alzheimer’s disease. We designed a capillary system to quantitatively investigate the effects of shear on oligomerization and fibrillogenesis. Unlike Couette cells used in other analyses, our system uses laminar shear to induce aggregation to mimic the laminar shear found in the human brain arteries, which is suspected to participate in the formation of toxic Aβ aggregates found in Alzheimer’s disease patients. The effect of shear forces on the aggregation of various peptides, including Aβ1-40, was studied by flowing small volumes of peptide-containing solutions through our capillary system to mimic the passage through the human brain parenchyma. The presence of aggregates was monitored using mass spectrometry and UV-Vis spectroscopy.


Weiqi Qiu
Wei Zhang (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Boston
Redox-Neutral C–H Functionalization of Cyclic Amines

Redox-neutral synthesis, a valuable method for amine α-C–H functionalization, has inherently efficient because it avoids using oxidants or reductants and often does not generate unwanted byproducts. Condensations of fully or partially saturated cyclic amines with aldehydes or ketones can lead to the functionalization of relatively unreactive C–H bonds at α-position of the amine nitrogen through the formation of azomethine ylide. In this project, a pot, atom, and step economic (PASE) synthesis through 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition-based reaction is developed for the preparation of novel heterocyclic compounds with biological interest. No additional oxidants are required and water is produced as the sole byproduct. 

Katelyn Lee Rioux
Kathleen Christine Murphy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, Worcester State University
Quantification of Pharmaceuticals in Surface Water for the Classroom Laboratory

Pharmaceutical pollution in wastewater is a growing concern in the fields of analytical and environmental chemistry. Caffeine is a common active ingredient in pharmaceuticals, a favorite beverage of our population, and an indicator of pharmaceutical pollution. Concentrations of caffeine can be analyzed by High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). This technique was developed as a classroom laboratory procedure to enhance the skills of students interested in analytical and environmental chemistry. Surface water samples were collected and analyzed from the Patch Reservoir and downstream Upper Blackstone Wastewater Treatment Plant in Millbury, MA. The objectives of the classroom procedure are for students to create standard curves, implement spike and duplicate samples, concentrate water samples by solid phase extraction, and analyze samples by HPLC using this methodology.

Matthew Donald Rollings
Dhandapani Venkataraman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
iCons: Tunability in Organic Electronics - Surfactant Role in Directed Self-Assembly

Before society can benefit from the diverse applications of organic electronics, first researchers must improve tunability and reproducibility of organic semiconducting materials and devices. The implementation of organic nanoparticles has improved consistency via increased predictability of heterojunction between n-type and p-type nanoparticles, which pack predictably due to their controlled shape—round, oblong, or cubic, for example. This improvement falls in the realm of the mesoscale—100 nm to 100 µm. Little remains understood, however, about self-assembly on the nanoscale (<100 nm). That is: there is little understanding of the alignment of semiconducting molecules within these nanoparticles. This nanoscale organization affects the optoelectronic properties of the material. Understanding the phenomenon of aggregation is therefore important to achieve tunability, and ultimately highly tailored devices. This study focuses on the role of surfactant in self-assembly. Surfactants are used to achieve femtoliter droplets of dye solutions, which crystallize into nanoparticles upon heating and boiling of the solvent within the droplet. This yields a water suspension of surfactant-decorated solid dye nanoparticles. The goal of this work is to achieve selectivity in H- versus J-aggregation (determined by the alignment of dye molecules), as well as nanoparticle morphology such as spheres versus nanowires. Materials are characterized using UV-Vis and photoluminescence spectroscopies and conductivity measurements to determine optoelectronic properties. Powder X-Ray Diffraction is also used to probe orientation and aggregation type within the crystal.

Nicholas Russo
Kevin R. Kittilstved (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
iCons: Growth and Synthesis of Magic-Size Quantum Dots

Magic-sized quantum dots are a special class of semiconductor materials that are of interest for their small size and subsequent high energy band gap transitions. Despite this, the factors effecting the growth and synthesis of these understood about the growth of these materials have not been extensively studied. Here we present the results of the investigation of the effects of surface ligands on the growth, kinetics, and stability of magic-sized quantum dots. We find that the surface ligand chosen in part determines the energy of the band gap transition, implying that it also determines which magic size crystals are allowed.

Tong Shen
Wei Zhang (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Boston

Pot-economic and Diastereoselective Synthesis of Spirooxindoles via C-H Functionalization of Cyclic Amines

A pot, atom and step economic (PASE) synthesis of polycyclic spirooxindoles via diastereoselective [3+2] cycloaddition is introduced. Recyclable montmorillonite K10 is used as a solid acid catalyst to activate α-C–H of cyclic amines to form azomethine ylides for the [3+2] cycloadditions. This synthesis has significant green chemistry advantages by conducting pot-economic multicomponent reactions, using recyclable catalyst, and only generating water as a byproduct. 

Jem Sibbick
Patrick Moquin
Katrina Nguyen
Julian Tyson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
Determination of Arsenic Compounds in Rice: Factors Affecting Accuracy and Precision

Many published results are based on the analysis of as little as 500 mg, which corresponds to about 25 grains. Researchers clearly assume that the arsenic concentration in each rice grain is the same.  They also assume that no arsenic is lost during the sample pretreatment, which always includes grinding and heating (sometimes in multiple steps), and that all arsenic species can be completely solubilized by heating with a few mL of concentrated nitric acid in a sealed vessel in a microwave oven.  We have developed and validated (by the analysis of a certified reference material) a hydride generation atomic fluorescence spectrometry method for individual rice grains that shows that the first assumption is false: some grains contain much higher arsenic concentrations than others.   Replicate analysis of well-mixed rice flour, by a procedure in which 500 mg is digested with 2 mL of nitric acid, can show precisions as poor as 25% relative standard deviation when the concentrations are measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, which means evidence for the loss of arsenic compounds when rice is dried is inconclusive. But we have shown that the arsenic concentration found depends on the range of particle sizes taken for analysis, which we interpret as heterogeneous distribution of arsenic among the various particles formed when grains are blenderized to flour.  We are investigating the extent to which the errors  (both random and systematic) in sampling and sample preparation contribute to the overall precision of the method.

Shiv Kumar Thakur
Zachary Wolfson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Science and Engineering, Bristol Community College
Anodic Dissolution and Passivation of Brass

In copper electro-refining processes, brasses are subjected to chrono-potentiometric studies in order to study the anodic dissolution and passivation of brass at varying current densities and electrolyte concentrations. The aim of this investigation is to determine the best conditions to recover pure copper and zinc from brass by refining electrolysis. The brass is made of copper and zinc. The main purpose of this project is to build a recycling machine. Doing so requires an understanding of the electrochemistry and physics of the power supply, wave driver, Aftermath graphing software, sulfuric acid, distilled water, brass, electrochemical cell, thermometer, auxiliary electrode, working electrode (sample), reference electrode, and pure copper and zinc to compare to the sample. Recycling machine should be functional and demonstrate the electrolysis of brass. The desired outcome would be pure copper.

Nayana R. Thimmiah
Mike Knapp (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Determining the Tolerance in Substrate Specificity of Factor Inhibiting Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1α (FIH)

Protein interactions are the basis for all processes in living organisms. They play many important roles within the body such as the maintenance of homeostasis, cell growth, and differentiation. Several factors such as protein location and activity can affect cellular health, and any disruption can cause disease. Factor Inhibiting Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1α (FIH) is an Fe 2+ α-ketoglutarate (αKG)-dependent oxygenase that is selective for certain peptides, such as C-Terminal Transactivation Domain (CTAD) of the Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1α (HIF-1α) and the Ankyrin Repeat Domain (ARD). It hydroxylates the β-carbon of its various target residues such as asparagine, histidine, serine, leucine, isoleucine, and aspartate (Yang, 2013). FIH is known to react with variations of these domains and because of this it is important to know how selective FIH is with its substrate.

This project measures the tolerance of substrate selectivity of FIH using enzyme kinetics. Different residues of the ARD and CTAD were varied to create multiple potential substrates for FIH. Then fluorometric analysis was used to determine the different kinetic characteristics of FIH and its substrate, including the dissociation constant, KD, of the substrate enzyme complex. Knowledge of this information provides assistance in determining FIH’s ability to bind to mutated substrate in vivo and the concentrations of reactants to obtain a maximum yield of hydroxylation for further applications such as substrate labeling in vitro.

Lucas John Turchi
Jesse C. Marcum (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University
Adapting an Experiment on Heterogeneous Equilibrium for the Physical Chemistry Course at Framingham State University

One of the most important topics covered in Physical Chemistry is chemical equilibrium. A laboratory experiment was developed for Physical Chemistry I in which students study the effect of environment on heterogeneous phase-transfer equilibrium. The experiment took place over two laboratory periods, and students were assessed based upon their data analysis and written responses to a series of questions with reflect the learning objectives developed for the experiment. The efficacy of the experiment was mixed as only three of the five objectives were achieved by most students. Student responses show a variety of reasons explaining why certain objectives were not met, including confusion regarding the meaning of questions and common misconceptions that were not dispelled. A series of changes to the experiment are proposed including revision and clarification of two questions for student response and inclusion of additional sections relevant to the experiment. The experiment will continue to be modified to suit the needs of the Physical Chemistry I course as well as the students enrolled in it.


Adrianna Early
Kara Peterman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Civil Engineering, UMass Amherst
Behavior of Cold-Formed Steel Structures under Hurricane Loading Conditions

This research is focused on understanding the behavior of cold-formed steel metal buildings during Hurricane Harvey. The Geotechnical Extreme Event Reconnaissance (GEER) association, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, constructed a team of structural engineers and researchers to perform rapid and detailed assessments of the structural damage caused by the hurricane. The team collected a multitude of data, such as photographs, damage assessments sheets, and three-dimensional laser point cloud data of structural damaged buildings. The fundamental sections of this research are based on data collected from the laser point cloud data files of the Port Aransas County airport's cold-formed steel aircraft hangars. These hangers experienced extensive structural damage during the Hurricane. The failure of one of the cold-formed steel aircraft hangers is the basis of this research. The laser point cloud data was utilized to create a working model of the hanger structure in MASTAN 2. Multiple analyses utilizing the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE 7) design wind loads and standards were completed in MASTAN 2 to determine the mode of failure. Further analyses were completed to determine the behavior of the enclosed structure (undamaged structure with the door attached), and the partially enclosed structure (damaged structure without the hangar door). The objective of this research is to determine the behavior of pre and post damaged cold-formed structures under extreme loading conditions to form recommendations for future construction.

Annabel Li
Eric J. Gonzales (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Civil Engineering, UMass Amherst
Impact of Uber on Yellow and Green Taxis in New York City

Ridesharing apps have revolutionized the way individuals interact with traditional transportation modes. These app-based ride services such as Uber have allowed individuals the ability to request a taxi through an app on their cell phone with just a few taps. Since Uber launched in New York City (NYC) in May 2011, it has become a major competitor to the conventional forms of street hailing taxi. The use of taxis as a transportation method has been extremely important in city. The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission released over 1.1 billion individual taxi trips from January 2009 through June 2015. Uber released 19 million Uber rides from 2014 and 2015. With the release of new data and information about taxis and Uber, the trends were further analyzed with the use of ArcGIS, a mapping software. Visual representations of the number of pickups for yellow taxis, green taxis, and Uber cars were used to interpret how the patterns of taxi usage have transformed. The objective is to analyze how Uber played a role in which mode of transportation passengers choose to take. Identifying the regions in which individuals are shifting from traditional methods to ride-sharing modes is important for understanding where and when people are using Uber. By analyzing the trends and influence of Uber in New York City will help further predict the trend in other large cities such as Chicago.

Joshua J. Soper
Casey Brown (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Civil Engineering, UMass Amherst

Network Analysis of Mexico City's Potable Water Distribution System: Relating Connectivity-Based Metrics to Resilience

Resilience, which can be defined as the ability to withstand or recover from a perturbation, has become a key consideration in modern water resources planning and management. Urban water distribution systems depend on reliable functionality of infrastructure coupled with favorable hydrologic and climatic conditions to ensure consumptive demands are met. Mexico City’s susceptibility to flooding and earthquakes, lack of sufficient water supply, and deteriorating water infrastructure necessitates a need for resilience-based solutions in system recovery from such failures. This research explores the relationship between several graph theory metrics and attributes of resilience utilizing a network model of Mexico City’s potable water distribution system, comprised of nodes (sources, demands, junctions, etc.) and links (buried pipelines and aqueducts). Three centrality metrics pertaining to individual nodes are used to develop post-perturbation recovery sequences that seek to restore deliveries to demand as quickly and efficiently as possible. Additionally, this study evaluates whether maximizing system-wide centrality metrics leads to optimized water delivery. Scholarly articles accessed via the UMass libraries online database in conjunction with government reports provided by the City of Mexico were used to gain an understanding of various resilience metrics and develop a simplified model of the distribution network. The results are intended to help guide municipalities in prioritizing repairs to water infrastructure when constrained by resource limitations, and promote consideration of resilience metrics when expanding network features.

Hannah Wharton
Krystal Pollitt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst
Using Oxidative Burden to Assess Residential Indoor Air Quality

Oxidative stress is thought to be an important mechanism through which PM­2.5 causes adverse health effects. Therefore, a metric that captures variation in PM2.5 , oxidative burden, can provide important information regarding the toxicity of source emissions found in indoor and outdoor environments. Any identified differences can help identify important sources and direct the development of indoor air quality guidelines. I measured the oxidative burden of PM2.5 samples collected from inside and outside homes and through the results of the depletion of glutathione and ascorbate in the samples, a correlation between the level of ascorbate depletion and arsenic and rubidium, and the level of glutathione depletion and chromium and barium in the ambient air became evident. 


Emily Adelsberger
Kimberlee Perez (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, UMass Amherst
Belonging within Language: A Comparison between Haitian Creole and Parisian French

Language impacts our ability to feel belonging-- from an emotional sense of ease to physical indicators of intimacy, such as kisses on the cheek. Belonging, specifically though language, allows us to participate in cultural dialogue and feel our place in a society. Learning a second or third language -- from its formal dictionary definitions, to its everyday, spoken vernacular, as well as its historical origins-- increases our ability to feel belonging in multiple spheres. In my own personal experience that belonging only reaches a certain extent.

This essay is a study of language and belonging through my own experiences and observations using both Haitian Creole (Kreyol)-- in Haiti as a service learning advocate for YourStory International, and French-- in Paris as a study abroad student. Between January 2016-December 2017 I spent approximately four months in both Haiti and Paris. What I observed within Kreyol led me to consider the colonial connection with French. Through intercultural engagements, I observed and experienced varying levels of belonging.  

In this essay I use communication qualitative and autoethnographic methods to consider belonging in and through language. I show how cultural mobility allows us to enter a society as an outsider and adopt certain cultural customs, whereas other times, aspects of our identities that label us as foreigners are not easily hidden. This research study creates a dialogue about the social hierarchies that exist within and which are perpetuated by language, which in turn impact our ability to feel various levels of belonging within these societies.

Maura Elizabeth Benson
Jarice Hanson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, UMass Amherst
Can Social Media Help or Hurt Those Dealing with Eating Disorders?

Disordered eating can be categorized as any type of eating behavior that is irregular and causes issues in one’s daily life. Some characteristics of disordered eating include fasting, binging, obsessive calorie-counting, emotional eating or using compensatory eating. While recovering from an eating disorder, in-person interactions are essential with therapists and support systems. In addition, there are other supplemental tools that people use in order to aide their recovery, including social media as a support community. While social media has many benefits for certain populations, some therapists and eating disorder recoverees have proposed the question of whether being active on social media is beneficial during the recovery process. In this experimental study, I will explore the impact of social media throughout eating disorder recovery and mental health treatment. This is important because social media has become an ever-present aspect of the lives of women between the ages of 12-25, a group that is especially vulnerable to eating disorder characteristics and mental health issues. Some studies emphasized the importance of abstaining from social media during recovery, while others encourage the use of social media for a body-positive community environment. This study seeks to explore these studies and make a health recommendations based on empirical findings from the literature and interviews of those who have recovered from eating disorders. 

James Michael Casey Jr.
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Fandom and Obsession: Understanding Sports Fans and Their Impact on Our Society

In the modern world we live in today, sports have become as much a part of our lives as religion or politics.  Hordes of faithful fans all over the world watch with immeasurable passion as their favorite players or teams compete in various athletic competition, all for the viewing pleasure of the spectator. Obsessive sports fandom is often regarded as irrational to those who don’t share the same fervor for the local team, but is rarely regarded as a problem or detriment to society. My research seeks to weigh the perceived benefits of spectator sports with the negative impacts that it has on fans and society as a whole, and determine whether fanaticism over professional sports is a problem.  An article published in The Sports Journal in 2012 examined some of the effects that sports consumption had on individuals, and found that those who watched sports regularly led much unhealthier lifestyles than those who do not watch sports, and were more likely to experience cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks.  Recent events in the NFL have given voice to representatives from a community protesting police brutality and racism in America, but that same leagues championship game resulted in rioting and destruction in Philadelphia.  Understanding all of the different ways that professional sports and its fans impact our society, good and bad, help us determine whether this world wide phenomenon should be met with resistance or viewed with harmless indifference. 

Sarah Megan Gardner
Katherine Jewell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Fitchburg State University
Fairness Doctrine and the Liberal Repeal

Liberals faced challenges in the 1980s. Ronald Reagan defeated Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter with a win in 43 states, a culmination of the conservative movement of preceding decades. After running on a platform of deregulation, as president Reagan united many pieces of conservatism, creating a robust political force from the right. Arising from his vision for economic policy, deregulation influenced his administration’s actions toward other areas of American culture as well. Republicans trusted the government about 60 percent, while only 28 percent of left-leaning Democrats trusted these institutions.  Democrats on the left were dissatisfied with the conservative overhaul of the 1980s. Reagan’s policy goals increased partisan polarization. One area Reagan targeted for deregulation in his second term was the media, specifically public broadcasting. In 1987, Congress repealed the 38-year old Fairness Doctrine. Republican politicians, ideological groups, broadcasters, and networks advocated for its repeal. Historians argue that the doctrine served as the “centerpiece” of an ideological debate. Yet, while research has focused on how conservatives responded to the Fairness Doctrine and penetrated the media, few historians have examined how those on the left responded to repeal. Therefore, this thesis will examine the liberal reaction to the overturning of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987 under the Reagan Administration, and explore the variety of arguments being made by ideological groups, politicians, and broadcasters as to why the doctrine is important and how it defends the sacred idea of public interest.

Sean Patrick Gibbons
Robert I. Carr (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, Fitchburg State University
RIP Vine: The Life Cycle of Social Media

In October of 2016, Twitter announced the cancellation of Vine. As frequently as Social Medias are created, other social medias die. In this study, Social Media was examined to find the public’s desired function of Social Media to determine why a platform might eventually shut down. Specifically, the study was created through the lens of the life cycle of Vine. Various news outlets along with statistics reporting sites, stock information, and testimony by companies themselves were used to find the flaws in Social Media which lead to their downfall and the potential future of Social Media. These sources coordinate major events in the lifespan of the platform with public reaction. A theory was found that Social Media failed when it diverged too far from its function which initially drew users and failed to “keep up” with similar applications. Vine ended after applications such as Instagram implemented similar functionality and it implemented longer-form video - the complete opposite function of the app. In conclusion, for future Social Media to succeed indefinitely past the hype surrounding its inception, the product must have a clear and concrete vision from which it must not waver too far, and it must be able to regularly update its interface. Thus, emerging media will be either specifically niche and stay as such, or function as a “Swiss army knife” from the get-go. Following these rules, we may be able to predict the failure of Social Media even such as Facebook.

Bryn Rhian Gregory
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Why We Can't Trust the Government Anymore: How the Vietnam War Stimulated Political Distrust in America

The issue that I am exploring through my research is how U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war impacted the American citizens’ view of their government. There was not an inch of America that was left unscathed by the war; rich, poor, black, white, male, or female - everyone knew someone who had been sent there, or someone who didn’t come back. With the release of the classified information contained in the Pentagon papers, the war in Vietnam became a pivotal starting point in the erosion of Americans’ blind faith in their governing system. Through my research, I will examine what role the Vietnam war played in stimulating political distrust in America during the 1960's and 70's. The war in Vietnam has been widely regarded by experts and American families alike as an unnecessary loss of resources, soldiers, and national dignity. Chronicled in the Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History, at an anti-war protest, SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) leader Paul Potter spoke for the nation when he said, “the incredible war in Vietnam has provided the razor, the terrifying sharp cutting edge that has finally severed the last vestige of illusion that morality and democracy are the guiding principles of American foreign policy”. His quote reflects the profound loss that America suffered as a result of the war, and epitomizes the deteriorated trust that citizens had in their government. 

Serena Jethmalani
Erica Scharrer (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, UMass Amherst
Stop Looking in the Toxic Mirror: Social Media and Female Body Image

This study investigates the cause-effect relationship between media exposure and a negative effect on body image through the "thin ideal" on Facebook and Instagram on women aged 18-25 years. The study aims to determine if the exposure to these images causes body dissatisfaction and lower self-esteem. Further, the study explores the roles of the comments section on the images by comparing effects for those who see the social media images alone to those who see the images alongside the comments.

In this context, the “thin ideal” is defined as a concept of the ideally slim female body, slender, feminine physique with a small waist and little body fat.

This study was conducted by first exposing the two groups to images of women on social media, and later investigating the effect on body satisfaction and self-esteem through previous scales. Self-Esteem was measured as a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward the self through the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (1965) and Body Dissatisfaction as a person’s negative thoughts about his or her own body through the Body Appreciation Scale (2006).

The sample was comprised of female college students aged 18-25 years from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s undergraduate population irrespective of race, religion and economic background.

The results of this research can promote healthy and realistic body type images of women on social media sites as well as encourage advert companies to stop photoshopping and editing images of women to create the unattainable “thin ideal”.

Cameron William McCulloch
Jessica Thelen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
Closing the Gap

In today’s society there is a severe pay gap between women and their male counterparts for the same job. Men are getting paid more than women, but how can this be fixed? Jo Cribb has a TEDx talk on how to “Close the Gender Pay Gap” in which she mentions that discrimination against women in the workplace is subtle, sometimes unknown to the perpetrator, but still harmful. Cribb also speaks on a time in which she asked for flexible work hours like the “law allows”, but she was denied. Woman being seen as worth .77 “less” (Women make $0.33 for every $1.00) than men is one of the main problems the general public of the U.S. faces. Many are waiting for “them” to fix it; them meaning government and big business. Some governments such as the Australian government have shined a light on the discrimination against women and Cribb says that “that gap is closing”. However, change is slow and not all governments have the structure and support to make the changes that places like Australia have been making. To create equal work environments in the United States where women are paid equally and treated fairly, the changes are on us. Not just conversation but action is needed by the people of the States if we are to work toward a future for humanity as a whole.

Shannon M. McInerny
Robert I. Carr (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, Fitchburg State University
Erasure of LGBTQ+ Representation in Superhero Media

Especially in the past 20 years, superhero comic books have taken strides to create LGBTQ+ representative characters. Looking at these characters in other mediums, like movies or television, you would often be hard-pressed to see them as anything other than heterosexual. Characters like Catwoman, who is bisexual but typically only portrayed as a romantic subplot for Batman in other media. The erasure of this specific part of characters’ identities in media outside of comic books is significant to those who look to these characters for representation. This presentation features a documentary focused on analyzing this erasure using expository interviews with professional writers, journalists in the industry, and new and old superhero fans. This will be juxtaposed with material from the original comics contrasted against the media counterpart to show where this erasure is and how it impacts the community. The lack of representation, or misrepresentation, of these characters’ sexualities in other media is due to a fear that a LGBTQ+ character will not perform as well as a more relatable heterosexual character, a source of frustration and disappointment for the community. Most casual superhero fans, like the average moviegoer, won’t even know some of their beloved characters are LGBTQ+. Superheroes are looked to as idols, icons, role models; the erasure of this specific part of the characters’ identities in other media sends a message to those who idolize them that this part of them is unwanted. Media that shows these characters should represent them accurately, as the inspirations they are.

Evangeline Rainne Moore
Jennifer Dowling (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Arts and Communication, Framingham State University
Talk to You Later: Our (Anti)Social Generation

Since the introduction of social media into our society, both positive and negative aspects have developed. Overall, the way we interact with each other has drastically changed. As a society, we rely on social media for consuming news, discovering information, connecting with friends, finding companions, openly sharing whatever and whenever, debating politics, etc. On the other hand, social media now reserves a place in our world for new forms of bullying, stalking, and even terrorism. Through thorough research, these positive and negative aspects of our generation’s latest communication method will be uncovered.

Doribel Nova
Jessie M. Quintero Johnson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, UMass Boston
Effects of Social Media Use on Romantic Relationships

Social media use has increased tremendously over the past couple of years. The emergence of social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumbler, and Pinterest, has become part of many individuals’ daily lives. Previous studies have looked at how specific sites, like Facebook, have contributed to the feelings of jealousy that individuals in romantic relationships may experience. The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of social media use on relationship satisfaction, trust, jealousy, and privacy, in romantic relationships. Participants (N = 149) completed an online survey that assessed the impact of social media use on a previous romantic relationship or current romantic relationship. Analyses revealed that individuals who do not trust their partner are less satisfied with their relationship, and thus are more likely to surveil them on social media (e.g., secretly check partner’s social media behavior). This study contributes to our understanding of the ways in which romantic relationships are significantly affected by social media use. 

Matthew Joseph Parece
Robert I. Carr (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, Fitchburg State University
Analog Resilience

Technological advancement in the field of digital photography is growing exponentially, and entry level digital cameras now provide many advantages over the equivalent film cameras, yet the market for analog film is booming. Although many would consider this phenomenon a result of nostalgia for past decades’ analog technologies, it is actually a new, millennial, crowd, who are responsible for the increase in sales. The analog resurgence is a result of distrust in new media because when the market for photography online is oversaturated with subliminal advertisements and a clutter of clichés, photographers need to find a new way to create an audience. It is no longer sufficient to share photographs on social media because they will be scrolled past and forgotten forever. The process of digital photography is less gratifying, less authentic, and less rewarding than the process of analog photography. My goal is to analyze the consequences of this phenomenon through the lens of the disposable camera.  In addition to the inefficiencies demonstrated by typical analog photography, disposable cameras are also lacking features and settings that give you control over the resulting image. What might be punitive is that this scarcity of features is biggest benefit of disposable cameras. Not having to focus on the technical aspects of photography gives you more freedom to live in the moment, resulting in images flourishing in authenticity and ingenuity. The beauty of disposable camera images is in their imperfections, as they bring about a much more personal, storied, photograph.

Emma Catherine Quinn
Sarah Cole (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, Framingham State University

Public Visual Art in New York City: Maintaining Artistic, Societal, Economic, and Environmental Value in the Midst of Gentrification and the Rising Hipster Subculture

Unlike art in a gallery setting, public art reaches broad audiences and has the potential to add artistic, societal, economic, and environmental value to the cities and neighborhood communities in which it is displayed. However, the recent influx of young “hipster” artists moving to lower-income New York City neighborhoods has put many public artworks using abstraction and symbolism in jeopardy. Because the artwork’s message is not explicitly stated, these young artists may not understand the significance of the public art to the community it represents. This results in a lack of resistance to gentrification in lower-income neighborhoods, especially when it comes to the demolition of public visual art. When public art is removed from a community space, the cultural capital that the art brings and the sense of community that the art evokes both suffer, resulting in the devaluation and depreciation of communities in neighborhood communities in the outskirts of New York City. This thesis uses Sharon Zukin’s, “The Culture of Cities”, as well as several cases of current and former public art spaces, to evaluate the cause and effect relationship of gentrification on the value and significance of public visual art in New York.  

Duvessa McLean Scott
Niall P. Stephens (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, Framingham State University
Comparisons and Contrasts between Children Commercials and Adult Commercials

In this research I seek to assess the kinds of emotional appeals advertisers use in the twenty-first century.  Advertisers have long used psychological and emotional appeals to sell their products, and I aim to identify how their appeals  to adults compare to their appeals to children. I evaluate 20 ads and identify the emotions they seek to provoke in their audience. Video ads for a variety of products are found online from the time period 2000-2018: 10 ads aimed at children and 10 ads aimed at adults.  I record basic data, including the product advertised, demographic/audience targeted, year, length of videos and where the ad originally appeared.  I assess emotional appeals by (1) describing the language of each ad and (2) describing the imagery used in each ad, and (3) analyzing the interaction between language and imagery.  On this basis, each ad is given at least one emotional label (for example, “happiness,” “sympathy,” “excitement”), and my rationale for choosing labels, based on analysis of text and imagery, is recorded. On this basis, comparisons will be made between the two types of ads – for example, an ad a children's toy car and an ad for an adults car.  Findings and conclusions will be presented in a poster, along with some commentary on what they say about contemporary commercial culture. 

Siobhan Katherine Senier
Niall P. Stephens (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, Framingham State University
Negative Portrayal of Elderly in Advertising - It's Getting Old!

My research aims to discover how elderly people are depicted in television commercials. My hypothesis is that they are depicted as weak, clueless to new technology, and wanting to be young again. Each of these hypothesized representational patterns are understood as "negative" and "ageist."  I will use Youtube to find at least 10 English-language television commercials in which elderly people play main roles.  I will systematically analyze the commercials, keeping track of basic data (product advertised, number of characters in ad, presence of younger people, etc.).  Additionally, I will conduct an in-depth qualitative analysis of each advertisement, identifying and describing details through which characters are represented in either "positive" (non-ageist) or "negative" (ageist) ways.  I will attempt to rank the way elderly people are rated in each commercial in the sample on four difference scales of "ageism" – one scale for weakness/strength; one for technological proficiency; one for aspirations to be young; and one overall scale of "ageist representation." On the basis of this method I will determine whether or not my hypothesis is supported by my data.  I will present my findings in a poster board presentation. 

Paul Raymond Vermette II
Colleen Avedikian (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Sociology, Bristol Community College
Improving Dropout Rates in Cities with High Crime and Poverty

Research shows that dropping out of high school has measurable negative impacts on individuals.  As such, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education tracks the dropout rates of the various public school districts.  This data includes a breakdown by grade level, race and gender.  This disaggregation of data allows for comparison between school districts with similar demographic makeup. New Bedford, a city that was once known for its riches and success in the whaling industry, has a recent history of high dropout rates. In contrast, Springfield, a city with similar demographics as New Bedford, has a lower rate of students dropping out of high school.  The research question for this project is: what factors explain the difference in dropout rates between the two cities?  It is the student-researcher’s hypothesis that the two cities have employed different strategies to increase retention of its high school students.


Caroline Hope Bider Gendron
Ariabel Virginia Adames
Emma Nicole DesMarais
Ken Magarian (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University
Circle K International at Westfield State University

Circle K International at Westfield State University will feature a presentation that will inform the audience on what Circle K is, and how it relates to the university and community. The information provided is important for students who are interested in joining the Circle K International club at Westfield State University, and for those who are interested in the concept of this group, which is SERVICE. This presentation allows the students to peek into the lives of an everyday club member who participates in the various activities and events that are held. For students who do not have a Circle K club at their college, they are presented with the ideas and fundamentals of what the club is involved in and how it affects not only the school, but as well as the community - and as important, how to organize and start a Circle K club at their school.

Note: The Circle K International at Westfield State University poster will contain information regarding:

•Who are we?

•Service at Westfield Circle K

•Leadership at Westfield Circle K

•Service for our neighbors

•Fellowship at Westfield Circle K

•Service Beyond our Backyard

•2017-2018 E-Board Members

Emma Houston
Darian M. Guthrie
Nick Reidy
Ken Magarian (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University
Circle K International

        Circle K International will feature a presentation that will inform the audience on what Circle K International is, and how Circle K provides cultural, educational and holiday events/activities while working closely with various schools, business owners and Kiwanis groups in their community. The information that is provided is important for students and others who are interested in joining the Kiwanis Family, whose main goal is service. Circle K International works closely with each region to help provide services to people within a community. Each club E-board is made up of seven positions in which members work together to plan events for club members to participate in.  For viewers who do not know about the Kiwanis Family, they are presented with ideas and fundamentals of what the club is involved in and how it affects the community. The Kiwanis family has six different levels; Kiwanis, Aktion Club, Circle K, Key Club, Key Leaders, and K-Builders. Kiwanis International was originally founded in 1915 by a group of business men in Detroit,Michigan. In the 1960s it became a worldwide club that today connects almost 80 different nations and geographic locations together through service. 


Note: The Circle K International poster will contain information regarding:

Keri Riefenhauser
Michelle Mary Beaulieu
Erin E. Stern
Joanne Gallagher Worthley (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Occupational Therapy, Worcester State University
Improving the Usability of the Worcester State University Learning Garden

This research project will provide the Urban Studies department and the Worcester State University community about realistic and usable adaptations that can be implemented in the Worcester State University Learning Garden. The report will include a comprehensive set of recommendations, including an immediate plan, future plan, and blueprint to transform the learning garden into a place that is accessible and usable for all people. We will apply our knowledge of the current garden layout along with our Occupational Therapy educational background to ensure that individuals with any motor, cognitive, or sensory deficits are capable of utilizing the garden for various educational and recreational purposes.


Anthony Chan
Lixin Gao (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Amherst
Behavioral Analysis of IoT Devices: How IoT Reacts to Network and User Interaction

While the growing volume of Internet of Thing (IoT) devices connected to the Internet provide novel autonomy and convenience for users online, they pose a threat to Internet security as a whole. IoT devices contain exploits which have been used in attacks towards companies and servers, and until security is further developed, these devices will continue to be susceptible to hacks that will disrupt the Internet and its users. However, by understanding and profiling typical IoT device behavior, future research on abnormal behavior can be developed which will help in alerting of malicious behavior on a network, in an effort to quickly and efficiently detect attacks. The research here is aimed at developing behavior profiles on IoT devices available in the Market. First, a secured and controlled network hosting multiple IoT devices (Amazon Echo Dot, Ezviz Mini O Smart Camera, Mini Smart Socket) was designed to record data transmitted between devices and the Internet. Second, scripts were developed which produced metrics that include results of IP/DNS destinations, data rates, and data flows for each device under normal and abnormal test cases. Tests and interactions with the devices range from normal use cases to malicious attacks aimed toward the devices. Finally, the results of each kind of device were compared. Based on the data gathered and analyzed, we profile each device. This will aid in identification of mechanisms each device has for interacting with other devices on the Internet, thus enabling for a more secure Internet of Things.

Chulabhaya Kanchana Wijesundara
Jay Taneja (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Amherst
Using Smartphones to Determine Ambient Temperature

Americans spend, on average, 87% of their time indoors, and HVAC systems are utilized to provide these indoor spaces with a reasonable level of comfort. However, HVAC systems are also responsible for 43% of residential energy consumption in the U.S. Therefore, a clear challenge lies in how we can improve their energy efficiency while maintaining or improving comfort. Although there is only a relatively limited amount of external temperature sensors in buildings, nowadays most people have smartphones that contain internal battery temperature sensors that can be used to gather temperature data. However, heat generated by other hardware components of smartphones, such as the CPU, affect the battery temperature measurements, rendering it difficult to gauge the ambient temperature based solely on battery temperature sensor readings. This research project develops predictive models that reduce the effect of this external heat, and isolate and predict ambient temperature as accurately as possible. Two smartphones, a Nokia 6 and a BLU R1 HD, were utilized to collect battery temperature and other sensor readings under varying ambient temperatures and stress conditions. A preliminary, regression-based model has been developed using this data to predict the ambient temperature through the Nokia 6 with errors of up to approximately 7°F compared to the actual ambient temperature. This model will continue to be improved, and a model for the BLU R1 HD will be developed. Models such as these, implemented in smartphones, could help building management better optimize HVAC systems and ensure comfort.

Michael A. Zeimbekakis
Dennis Goeckel (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Electrical Engineering, UMass Amherst
A Study of Dynamically Repositioning Drone Algorithms

When communications infrastructure (e.g. cell phone towers) are destroyed after a widespread disaster, a network of drones in the sky are a solution for providing communications connectivity to both victims and disaster relief workers in a time of great need. The purpose of this project is to test and evaluate different algorithms for controlling a drone network. Most of the algorithms require a powerful computer and require that the drones do not move when communicating; however this project will test algorithms designed to run on moving drones. Of these, none have formally tested on a physical network of drones. This project will test each algorithm's ability to meet important requirements in the disaster relief application, including reconfiguration time and positioning. The project will test the algorithms in three stages: MATLAB, DroneKit-SITL, and on a physical network. The MATLAB testing will focus on high level simulation of the algorithms and fully understanding the algorithm. DroneKit-SITL is a drone simulation software that allows the user to code similarly to coding an actual drone. It will be used for testing the speed and overall feasibility of the algorithms. Critical to this type of research endeavor is validating performance in the field, as numerous real-world constraints and conditions are difficult to reliably simulate; hence, the last (and most critical) tests will be the physical network tests will determine whether algorithms meet system requirements on an actual drone network.


Dean Beckford
Bo Jin Hatfield (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, Salem State University
Experience Summer Work USA

The Exchange Visitor Visa (J-1), is a non-immigrant visa issued by the U.S. Department of State that provides numerous opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States. For this program to be a success, four groups of people need to interact: students, sponsors, employers and facilitators. In the past, the processes by which international students apply for the J1-Summer work and Travel visa program had been all done by paper, telephone and/or text messages. This old way of running the system was labor intensive and time consuming. In this project work, we designed and developed a multi-user, database-driven, interactive dynamic Web application that replaced the paper-based system. Used by students, sponsors, employers and facilitators, this application provides a full spectrum of functionality. It functions as a central hub that connects students with all the resources they need and provides services such as application management, summer job placement and sponsor selection. Various dynamic web application development techniques were used throughout the development of the application. Security was implemented with high priority.

Jonathan Anthony Ebersold
Erastus Ndinguri (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Business and Economics, Framingham State University
Internet of Things: The Perceived Risks and Benefits

The Internet-of-Things (IoT) has dominated the technology industry in recent years with its idea of machine-to-machine learning that allows data to be collected on various fields throughout the physical world. The potential applications for this kind of information is boundless, with the ability to both interpret and advance upon the efficiency of highly important techniques and data analyses that impact various business industries and people’s everyday lives. There are significant risks, however, involved with this mass collection of information. The risks are abundant for both the businesses that have to collect, store and use this data in order to improve their products or services to the people who are generating this highly personal information that exposes their own personality to a relatively unknown entity. There is a perceived balance in society that has been trying to balance this exposure in order to achieve high convenience for IoT device users while, simultaneously, maintaining data security for the privacy of people and for the business users of that information (Weinberg, Milne, Andonova, & Hajjat, 2015). This research will identify which expert-posed perceived risks there are in the IoT field for businesses and individuals presently and in the future, with a more focused approach on identifying the relationship of privacy and convenience. In addition, the research will also include quantitative data analysis by using a survey sample in order to gauge people’s own idea of this struggle in the IoT field. 

Jordan Alexander Filteau
Changyong Andrew Jung (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, Framingham State University
Real-Time Streaming Application for IoT Using RaspberryPi and Handheld Device

Internet of Things (IOT) is in the spotlight because its applications positively impact everyday quality of life. This study aims to develop a cost-effective solution to real time video streaming by using a low-cost ARM (Advanced RISC Machines)-based computer, i.e. Raspberry Pi. We developed a simple streaming server written in Java that runs efficiently on the Raspberry Pi, and showed that the Raspberry Pi can support streaming to multiple devices at once. We also developed a light-weight android application that the server can stream to. The client and server communicate via JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). We divided high quality video into image files with the jpg format, into packets and then transmitted them to multiple hand-held devices simultaneously without any interruption or interference.  We tested this system with ten different Android smart phones, and found that the developed system can stably support real-time video play without interrupt for each Android smart phone.  We conclude that our system anchored in a low-cost ARM-based computer can retain quality of service (QOS) regarding video streaming to multiple hand-held devices. 

John Joseph Gilmore
Michael David Black (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, Bridgewater State University

The Restoration of UNIX: Emulating UNIX Version 1.0 on a 16-bit DEC PDP 11/20

Next year, the world’s first Operating System (OS) UNIX will celebrate its 50th birthday. This relic of the past is objectively the most important creation that has ever influenced the field of Computer Science. However, mystery's of this artifact were only discovered in 1995. Two engineers, Paul Vixie and Keith Bostic dug deep enough to find several DEC tapes “under the floor of the computer room [at Bell Labs]” which held several early binary files for UNIX. Shortly after, with the help of several people, these two engineers were able to reverse engineer the binary tapes they found, and put up a repository for this ancient system on GitHub. There it has stayed, waiting for someone to use like it was meant to be used, on a DEC PDP 11/20, the computer UNIX v1 was initially written for. This is what this research project has been focused on. Currently the PDP 11/20 can send and receive data via a homemade serial emulator we have written in Java, and the PDP 11/20 has been loaded with a binary file for the BASIC programming language. Once the entry point for BASIC can be determined, we will start to write code to emulate paper tape readers to assist in loading UNIX v1 into the PDP 11/20's memory. In the end we hope to have a fully functional system running the worlds first Operating System.

Mehdi Kabbaj
Bo Jin Hatfield (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

iManage is an IOS application that will help “Chez Rachid” store to replace its current paper-based inventory management system with a computer-based system. It will improve the accuracy of orders and help the company to figure out exactly how much inventory it needs to have on-hand. The improved inventory management system can have real-time and monetary benefits.

Alexander J. Karle
Benjamin Marlin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst
Creating a Cross-modal Active Learning System

Increasingly, machine learning is being used to solve problems from spam detection to autonomous driving. One of the most popular techniques is supervised learning. Data, such as text, are labeled by a human, for example as “spam” or “not-spam”, and, after sufficient data are labeled, the machine learns from this labeled data with the goal of being able to predict labels for future data. A downside to supervised learning is that obtaining labels is expensive. Active learning is a framework in which the machine learns in a supervised fashion, but is allowed to ask a human during learning to label unlabeled data instances of interest. Active learning is of interest due to its potential to train models of higher quality with less data.

This project develops a cross-modal active learning system for video and sensor data. The machine learns from labeled sensor data and can request that a human label other parts of the data by displaying the corresponding video, allowing for iterative improvement when retrained on the enlarged labeled dataset. Creating this system involved implementing active learning techniques, verifying them by reproducing published results, and designing a user interface. To evaluate the system, a dataset was collected of sensor and video data. Experimentation showed the system to be effective, and the models trained reinforced the theory of active learning being useful. The system is of particular interest in areas such as human activity recognition, and may be used in the future to train machines in this domain.

Jack Normand Kenney
Edward A. Rietman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst

Adaptive Machine Learning: An Example in Jazz Ensemble Improvisation Using Quasi-periodic Oscillators

The purpose of this project is to test the learned synthesis, memory, and adaptable capacity of a quasi-periodic oscillator implemented as a neural network in a small-world architecture. We will do so by testing first the ability of the system to accurately synthesize sine waves, given expected frequency and duration. Then we will observe the memory capacity of the architecture by testing how accurately it can recall one or more musical pieces, given the first measure as input. Finally we will move beyond a static architecture to demonstrate the efficacy of an adaptive network to improvise in a jazz ensemble. The adaptivity will be implemented and tested using a variety of hypotheses, including adding and removing nodes, swapping weights within cycles, and pairing networks up in a reinforcement learning inspired structure. Once the software is complete, we will move to testing these concepts on real adaptive hardware using a novel neuromorphic chip designed by the BINDS Laboratory.

Aditya Singh Parmar
Edward A. Rietman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst
Predicting Palliative Treatments for Hospice Care Patients

My project involves working with a hospice care in Italy to prepare data on their patients in a manner that can be used to predict the type of palliative treatments to give each of their patients. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for their patients, and being able to predict this will help them significantly to do so. More specifically, my work consists of exploring and analyzing the multiple datasets provided about the patients and determining what features to create a neural network on to do the prediction. A large part of my work is also preparing the dataset to be in a form that I can feed into my neural network. 

Kyle C. Vedder
Joydeep Biswas (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst
Expanding A*

Path repair is a problem in many domains, from dynamic obstacle avoidance to multi-agent collision avoidance. We present a novel algorithm for general anytime replanning which uses properties of A* search trees in order to manipulate start and goal positions of the search while preserving the existing search tree and maintaining optimality of the found path. Expanding A* is provided an initial optimal but colliding path, and operates by repeatedly growing a replan window centered around the collision of the given path, where the initial window is large enough to capture all of the path segments that are involved in this collision. It iteratively replans an optimal path inside a given window window, and then transforms the given window’s search tree to allow it to be used in the next, larger window, thereby performing less work to generate an optimal collision-free plan within the next window than naively planning from scratch. Initial empirical results show Expanding A* requires fewer state expansions and far fewer collision checks than naively rerunning A* in each successive window, while still returning optimal paths within the window.


David Gerard Almeida
Hillary Sackett (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Economics, Westfield State University
Toxic Masculinity and School Shootings

School shootings exist as dynamic events that occur within western society, and are phenomena yet to be stopped in the United States. Many pieces of the full explanation have been uncovered and discussed. The research conducted here aims to point out a new and emerging piece of the causal factors in school shootings: toxic masculinity. The term is first defined with relevance to criminal justice, a social science, and then defined by the concepts of how it is socialized within persons. The research focuses on three shootings in particular, the Columbine massacre, the Westside Middle School shooting, and the Isla Vista shooting. Using the backgrounds and experiences of the five young men who perpetrated these incidents, it is possible to deduce that toxic masculinity and negative socialization played a role in leading them to commit these acts. This research created a template for finding toxic masculinity in previous actions and behavior of school shooters, which can be applied to other incidents of similar caliber. The research concludes by suggesting a number of solutions, some of which include intervention of parental figures in the lives of their children, and integration of mental health awareness within schools.

Cory Douglas Caraher
Destinee Morris
Ronald E. Oldham
Marian Cohen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Sociology, Framingham State University

Alcohol Consumption and Academic Performance

This study is about binge drinking among high school students and how it affects their academic performance. Researchers conducted a secondary analysis of data collected through the Monitoring the Future study. The theoretical framework for the current study is self-control theory, which would argue that there is a lack of self-control among high school students due to the fragile and potentially limited self-confidence of high school students. Self-confidence is hypothesized to have effects on participation in binge drinking and on academic performance (measured by grades earned) and academic behavior (measured by attendance). In addition to self-confidence, demographic characteristics of respondents (including age, sex, religiosity, family structure and work) are expected to affect both binge drinking and academic performance. It is anticipated that binge drinking will ultimately be the greatest predictive factor in academic performance. Findings from this study can help identify specific variables that will influence binge drinking and academic performance as well as factors that affect binge drinking directly.

Jordyn A. Chionchio
Sofia Alberini
Lauren Madison Beachy
Shelby L. LaConte
Hyesun Kim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Criminal Justice, Worcester State University
Juveniles Serving Life Sentences

Juveniles serving life sentences are particularly challenging because they often lack the physical and mental coping mechanisms that adult prisoners use to maintain their mental health and self-respect. There are approximately 2,500 offenders serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole, for crimes committed as juveniles (Nellis, 2012). At the time of sentencing, most juveniles sentenced to life do not truly understand that they will be spending the rest of their lives in prison. The Supreme Court addressed juveniles’ immaturity in Roper v. Simmons (2005), while banning the death penalty for juvenile offenders. Research shows that the brain is not even fully developed until 25 or so. It is often argued that juvenile offenders do not have the capability to fully understand their actions and the consequences that come along with them.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that a life sentence without parole is unconstitutional in Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016). Even with this court ruling, there are thirty states allowing this sentence for juvenile offenders. It is believed that juvenile lifers would have different experiences in prison from adults’ offenders. This study will examine how life sentences affect juveniles’ development in prison, as well as discuss why this is a harsh penalty for them. Further, this study will also investigate unique experiences of juvenile lifers, in order to make suggestions of possible reforms for the future.


Brandon Craig
Jamie Huff (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Criminal Justice, Bridgewater State University
Cruel and Unusual: A Legal Analysis of Solitary Confinement and the Eighth Amendment

Solitary confinement has been a controversial practice in the criminal justice system since its inception in the early-19th century. The origins of American solitary confinement lie in Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, opened in 1829, where inmates were kept isolated and silent for 24 hours a day. Today, the U.S. Department of Justice defines solitary confinement as housing an inmate in a locked cell, fully separated from the general population, and unable to leave the cell for 22 or more hours of the day. It is estimated that 80,000 to 100,000 inmates nationwide are in solitary on any given day. This project primarily relies on interpretive legal analysis, meaning that I will choose significant cases related to solitary confinement from the past two centuries and analyze the Supreme Court’s legal logic in each case. This requires attention to what precedent the justices cite, how they frame the legal issue, and how they logically justify their constitutional avoidance of solitary confinement. The logic the Court uses may illuminate the motivations and concerns of the justices on this issue. I will also consider the social context of these cases—legal scholars note that the social institutions surrounding the Supreme Court have unique effects on the justices’ decisions. Additionally, I will review social science literature—primarily from psychology—to gather empirical evidence demonstrating how solitary confinement can be mentally detrimental, and then, ultimately, assert that the Supreme Court should rule long-term use of it unconstitutional.

Coryn Mary Dias
Brandon E. Fleming
Kathleen A. Polselli
Hyesun Kim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Criminal Justice, Worcester State University
Private Prisons

The proliferation of private prisons in the United States has become a major concern to corrections. Private prisons are a profitable institution where they earn money for holding inmates within their system. Due to the fact that private prisons are profiting through the incarceration of offenders, there have been concerns about conditions of private prisons, including institutional security, safety for both inmates and staff, violence, health services, and prison management. According to Review of the Federal Bureau of Prison Monitoring of Contract Prisons(U. S. Department of Justice, 2015), private prisons have experienced more safety and security incidents than BOP institutions. Institutional misconducts in private prison can be one of the major issues that threaten inmates’ and correctional officers’ safety. The Corrections system should carry out the mission to protect society by confining offenders in correctional facilities that are safe, humane and secure while offering rehabilitation opportunities for offenders. Thus, private prisons should be managed in order to carry out this mission under the close supervision of government agencies. However, private prisons have faced many challenges. This study intends to find the differences, both positive and negative, between Private Prisons and State Prisons. Through research, the study will analyze State/Federal and Private Prisons’ confinement conditions and review the institutional misconduct data in private prisons in comparison to State/ Federal Prions. The purpose of this study is to uncover the major problems that Private Prisons create in managing an offender population. By identifying crucial issues of private prisons, this study will be able to make suggestions to address the major concerns of private prisons.

Ryan Mathew Logan
Ryan Joseph Farrell
Abdul Kanu
Hyesun Kim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Criminal Justice, Worcester State University
The Use of Solitary Confinement as Punishment

Solitary confinement is a form of punishment used against inmates who violate prison rules and regulations. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 20% of prison inmates have been held in administrative segregation or solitary confinement every year(BJS, 2015). Corrections systems have increasingly relied on solitary confinement, in which Inmates are restricted to their cells twenty-four hours every day with extreme isolation, as a prison management tool. Studies demonstrate that solitary confinement negatively affects inmates' general well-being. In the report of Walpole Prison, a large number of detainees in isolation indicated reliable examples of psychopathological syndromes, including massive free-floating anxiety, hyper-response to external stimuli, perceptual distortions, and hallucinations. Furthermore, after being held in solitary confinement, inmates have experienced difficulty with concentration and memory. Also, detainees who are in isolation show higher rates of self-hurt contrasted with prisoners in general population. Physical effects of solitary confinement include sudden violent outbursts and an expanded danger of self-damage or harm to others (AJPH, 2014). Prisoners are regularly placed in isolation as a result of unruly conduct as punishment. With the understanding of the widespread use of solitary confinement in state prisons as a disciplinary measure, this study intends to examine the effectiveness of using this practice of discipline.  This study will also answer the question whether or not solitary confinement can be justified even with negative effects on inmates, and discuss the issues pertaining to the Eighth Amendment.

Jonathan Maisoh
Ian Gerald Baillie
Drew Keyes
Brandon Num
Hyesun Kim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Criminal Justice, Worcester State University
Drugs in Prison

According to the New York Times, there are about 1,000 drug confiscations each year in prisons in California. 47% of federal prisoners were serving sentences for drug-related offenses in 2016(BJS, 2018), and having drugs in prison will not help inmates cope with addiction. A prison is supposed to be a secure place where illegal substances are not allowable. However, it is recognized that drug use in prison has been epidemic and become one of the major concerns in corrections. Drugs in prison not only cause serious behavioral problems with inmates but also hamper correctional officers performance in managing security and safety in prison, let alone helping inmates' rehabilitation. The purpose of this research is to examine why drug use is such a critical problem in prison, and how drugs are so easily accessible to inmates in prisons. Further, this study will also discuss how drugs affect inmates' misconducts in prison. According to the evaluation study about prison drug programs funded by the National Institute on Drugs Abuse, the recidivism rates of prisoners who had participated in a drug treatment program while in prison, was lower than that of prisoners who did not participate in it, during the first six month follow-up period from their release. Thus, this study will briefly discuss how drug treatment programs implemented in prison affect drug use in prison.  

Adam Rose
Emily Z. Brown (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Library, Bristol Community College
Whose Rights? The Supreme Court on Abortion Law: Roe and Casey

Abortion, one of the most controversial topics faced by America and the U.S. Supreme Court. In regards to legal implications, abortion law is a multifaceted concern that pulls at the fabric of the legal system. To address this topic in a professional and unbiased manner a very specific question was asked that focused on two of the most striking Supreme Court rulings. How have the decisions in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113, 1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (505 U.S. 833, 1992) impacted the rights of individuals involved in the abortion debate? In this research the topic of Abortion Law will be discussed as it applies to the rights of the mother, the father, the state, and the fetus. To further open a channel for discussion this research has related the rights granted within the first, fifth, ninth, and tenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution to each of the four selected populations. As readers and/or listeners of this research everyone shares some interest in the topic of Abortion Law. The goal and purpose of this research is to provide a clear understanding of these decisions to help scholars, and the layperson alike, to form an unbiased and educated opinion on one of America’s most controversial topics.

Lucas Stevens
Patrick Michael Cozza
Taylor Patricia Page
Emily Marie Provasoli
Hyesun Kim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Criminal Justice, Worcester State University
The Effectiveness of Prison-Based Sex Offender Treatment Programs

Sex offenders have always been at the forefront of debate for policy-makers and criminologists due to the nature of their crimes and the concerns about their recidivism. This unique category of offenders is most publicly shunned and made public through the use of sex offender registries. An individual can easily search registered sex offenders’ information nationwide by using the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) run by the U. S. Department of Justice. The public at large is more concerned with offenders in this category due to their higher rates of recidivism. The debate mostly revolves around whether or not there is any effective treatment available to be able to reintegrate sex offenders back into society and reduce their rates of recidivism. Thus, understanding the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs and their recidivism will be the important task to manage such offender groups in prison as well as in the community. So, this study intends to examine sex offender treatment programs implemented in prison by reviewing established studies, in order to discuss the effectiveness of programs and how they help to reduce rates of recidivism among them. Also, the studies about sex offenders’ recidivism will be thoroughly reviewed to explain inconsistent arguments about it. By identifying effective programs for sex offenders, this study will be able to suggest feasible rehabilitative approaches for sex offenders.


Sean David Cartwright
Christine Lasco Crago (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Resource Economics, UMass Amherst
Recycling on College Campuses

Plastic bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard are all examples of materials that can be recycled to reduce the environmental impact of their production and use. On college campuses, young adults use an abundance of these materials and make recycling decisions. Although the University of Massachusetts – Amherst ranks near the top nationally in recycling, the recycling rate is only 58%, meaning there is certainly still plenty of room for improvement. However, the most effective and efficient way of boosting the recycling rate remains unclear. College campuses are particularly of interest because the habits formed here may have a lifelong impact. This research is primarily focused on determining which factors are critical in a student’s decision to recycle and what is the most effective way of influencing this decision. A survey was distributed to students on the UMass campus in an attempt to measure these factors and gauge the opinions of students. The results have wide implications, not only for college administrators looking to increase the recycling rate on campus, but also for policymakers that may believe the tools of the past, such as monetary bottle deposits, are outdated and ineffective.



Hana Ishiko Colwell
Christine Lasco Crago (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Resource Economics, UMass Amherst

Exploring the Impacts of Green Space on Crime and Health

American urban areas often face issues with high crime and poor air quality. This study will explore the ability of green space to reduce crime and asthmas rates, using county-level data from the state of New Jersey. Utilizing land use data from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, crime data from the New Jersey State Police, and asthma data from the New Jersey State Health Assessment Data, regression analysis will be performed to determine the impact of green space on asthma rates and different types of crime. The regression will control for income, population density, unemployment rate, and educational attainment. The results of the regressions will show the significance and impact of green space for varying types of crime and asthma rates. Additionally, the results will examine the differing impact of green space on crime and health by urbanity and wealth. These results can be applied to a cost benefit analysis for municipalities and states considering increasing green space in their areas or debating different means of decreasing crime or asthma rates. Furthermore, the results can allow for optimal allocation of green space to maximize the benefits to crime and asthma reductions, i.e. placing green space in wealthier or poorer areas, or more or less urban areas.

Mark Dexter
Laura Lamontagne (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Economics, Framingham State University

A Comparison of the Solar Renewable Energy Credit Market in Massachusetts and New Jersey

A Renewable Energy Credit (REC) is produced when one megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable energy is generated and transferred to the electric grid.  RECs are traded separately from the energy produced and are used to prove compliance with renewable energy mandates. This study will focus on Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) markets by comparing two well established SREC markets in Massachusetts and New Jersey. SREC market prices have been volatile which has the potential to impact investment in solar energy. This study attempts to quantify common externalities that lead to the volatility of the SREC market. 

Lindsey Kelley
Hillary Sackett (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Economics, Westfield State University

Norm Sensitivity and Preferences for Credence Attributes Elicited in Experimental Auctions: The Case of Animal Welfare Information and WTP for Ice Cream

Previous research finds that, in a laboratory setting, willingness to pay elicited in auctions consistently and predictably diminishes after a negative information treatment. However, there's reason to believe that preferences elicited in experiments are correlated with participant characteristics imported into the laboratory setting. The purpose of this research was to empirically test for correlation between proclivity towards following social norms and a decrease in bids associated with a negative information treatment. It was hypothesized that participants with a greater degree of sensitivity to social norms will exhibit larger bid decreases as a result of the negative information treatment than those less sensitive to norming. A series of experiments exposed participants to a negative information treatment about animal welfare standards in the dairy industry to influence consumer preferences for ice cream. Participants began by completing a survey about perceptions of dairy industry practices, then engaged in a rule-following activity, and submitted bids in two sequences, consisting of five-rounds each, of second-price auctions. Analyzing the data with linear regression software, there was a decrease in WTP. Using the results from the survey, the statistical significance of the different groups of dependent variables were investigated. Dependent variables include demographics, animal welfare preferences, dairy consumption habits and dairy industry standards.This supports the objective hypothesis that higher sensitivity to social norms is associated with greater bid decreases as a result of a negative information treatment.

Susmita A. Krentzin
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Population Growth in Relation to Economic Growth: The Effects of Population Growth on the Real and Financial Economic Performance of World Economies

A growing population impacts governmental policy, the global economy, and the environment; a myriad of issues arise that inevitably will affect the public sector and private sector.  Population growth debate and future impact of population on real and financial economic growth rates, intertwined into a larger network represented by the global economy, are projected to have deep and reverberating consequences for Earth. By using scholarly literature, the central theme of this research is to discuss the relationship between economies and their occupants’ consumption. My research asks whether and how population growth, over time, affects the economic growth and performance of a country and its currency as a vehicle of value thereby, influencing the valuation of life. According to “Demographics and markets: The effects of Aging,” demographic factors contribute to a 1.25 percentage point decline in the real gross domestic product growth and natural rate of real interest since 1980. This slump implies that demographics rather than fiscal policy, technology and other changes in productivity are responsible for literally all contraction in economic growth over the last 35 years. A Federal Reserve research paper suggested that low yields may be unavoidable, and the current economic policy debate may be misguided. Economies exist for humans intricately involved with man-made societal existences.  The quality and valuation of human life, resources being finite, eventually must be re-envisioned for the sake of survival. 


Dayna Marie Marchant
Laura Lamontagne (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Economics, Framingham State University

The Impact Your Local Grocery Store Has on You and Your Shopping List

Why do most people often leave the grocery store with more items than they were initially intending to buy? Evidence suggest that the placement of various items in a store can influence consumers’ purchasing patterns. Using data from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) this study demonstrates that your local grocery store can absent mindedly help you pick and choose what foods to purchase. Surveying previous literature, these past studies prove that the organization of grocery store chains directly influence consumer choice. This study examines variables including location of the store, sizes of the stores, department and display layouts and food placement that individuals are exposed to, to examine how consumers’ implicitly alter the basket of goods ultimately purchased. Not only does the store layout affect the purchases consumers make, but it is shown it can impact what he/she considers well-being and their daily food choice.

Dieynaba AWA Ndiaye
Ishita Nandi (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History and Social Sciences, Bunker Hill Community College
Analysis of the Price Elasticity and Market Structure of Toothpaste

This study is designed to examine the price elasticity of toothpaste and its connection to the revenues generated by manufacturers as they change its market price. Published data on toothpaste sales, average prices and revenues provide evidence that the price elasticity of demand for toothpaste is less than 1, indicating that it is a necessity to consumers with few, if any, substitutes. As a price inelastic product, firms experience higher revenues when they raise the price on toothpaste. The consumer’s lack of sensitivity to price change in toothpaste thus works in favor of its manufacturers who earn larger revenues from occasional price hikes on their product.  

Sana Feryal Shah
Sheila Mammen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Resource Economics, UMass Amherst

The Impact of Digital Identity on Industries and Consumers

This thesis explores the topic of digital identity (DI). DI is an online identity associated with a person or organization based on their browsing history. As more and more consumers around the world are gaining access to the internet, digital channels have steadily grown in importance. An analysis of DI is, therefore, essential in order to protect consumers. Without such protection, consumers will face a loss in privacy and potentially devastating financial losses through identity theft. This thesis also explores the impact of DI on two industries, finance and social media, and examines the failures of past DI systems. Research has shown that although the current DI system is vulnerable to hacking, strides are being made towards building a more secure system.  Companies are beginning to acknowledge that since they hold consumers’ DIs, they are responsible for its protection; otherwise, they may lose consumer support. Accordingly, several companies are using cutting-edge technology, such as differential privacy, to help safeguard the personal information of consumers. Countries have a different take on DI and many are in the process of establishing new regulations. While the United States is using DI to protect the identity of consumers, interestingly, China is using DI to control their citizens from denouncing the government. Despite the differing motives, both countries are still striving towards the same goal of a successful DI system. China is also creating a virtual identification system which could be adopted by others as well.

Aaron Joseph Staples
Hillary Sackett (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Economics, Westfield State University
Comparative Cost-Benefit Analysis: Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Treatment Options

Hydraulic fracturing has allowed America to become more energy independent than ever before.  The technological breakthroughs of horizontal drilling has led to the development of depositories that were once thought to be inaccessible.  By injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemical additives under extreme pressure, the shale cracks and allows the resource to flow back to the surface.  However, up to thirty percent of the water necessary for extraction returns to the surface as a waste product.  If handled incorrectly or well integrity fails, the wastewater can seep into groundwater sources.   Past research has suggested that this can impact human health, as many of the chemicals are known to have carcinogenic effects, and also lead to environmental degradation.

To prevent this indirect cost of production, companies must choose how to handle the large quantities of contaminated water.  There are different treatment options available, but the most common techniques involve Class II well-injection and treatment for reuse, both on-site or at a wastewater facility.  Using a comparative cost-benefit analysis, accounting for non-market costs, this project proposes a course of action regarding the most efficient treatment option.  Through the collection of transportation costs, price per barrel, and other operating costs found in scholarly articles and public records, the analysis can determine the net present value for each option.  Multiple evaluation rubrics are used to take into account different target objectives, such as minimizing costs, valuing a human life, and conserving the environment.

Sara M. Tajik
Christine Lasco Crago (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Resource Economics, UMass Amherst

100% Renewable Energy in US Cities

Across the United States, five towns and cities run independently on 100% renewable energy, and approximately fifty others have followed by pledging to achieve this goal in the near future. Within Massachusetts, seven towns have committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030 or 2050. The transformation to renewable energy sources is becoming increasingly more accessible and inexpensive, with tremendously less environmental impacts than alternative sources. This study uses cost-benefit analysis to examine the feasibility of a town or city’s commitment to 100% renewable energy. This study focuses on the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts that has committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030.

The cost-benefit analysis examines a plan for the city of Cambridge to accomplish 100% renewable energy through a combination of on-site solar installations and off-site wind or solar projects. The costs of the plan will incorporate the costs of hiring contractors, building the renewable energy structures, and administrative costs. These costs are compared to the benefits of more stable energy prices in the long-term, carbon emissions avoided, improved air and water quality, and the recognition of the city of Cambridge as a local clean energy leader.  The results of this cost-benefit analysis will give insight into the effectiveness of Cambridge’s plan, as well as the feasibility for other similar cities to achieve this goal. 

Gabrielle Tobin
Christine Lasco Crago (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Resource Economics, UMass Amherst
Is Risk Perception to Blame for the Movement Away from Nuclear Energy?

The opposition to the expansion of nuclear energy has caused this energy source to fall out of favor when considering ways to combat climate change. With its high safety record, low emission rates, and the potential to generate the needed energy supply, this contradiction has prompted the question of why this opposition exists. A potential explanation lies in the risk preferences of individuals and their interpretation of the risk posed by nuclear energy. To examine the connection between opinions about nuclear energy and risk preferences, a survey of college students was conducted. The survey asked students to express their opinions of nuclear energy. In addition, various questions based on the DOSPERT Scale were asked to measure students’ risk preferences. Survey results were then analyzed for connections between the risk preference of an individual and their opinion of nuclear energy. Finally, they were compared with scientific facts about nuclear energy to determine if opinions are different. The results of the survey were then used to analyze possible actions that could be taken to change opinions about nuclear energy, and what that would mean for energy policies. 

Joshua M. Weinstein
Gerald Friedman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Economics, UMass Amherst
Hospital Market Activity and Consumers: An Examination of the Effects of Hospital Consolidation on Patients

This thesis examines the relationship between changes in hospital ownership and hospital performance. As the United States enjoys a mixed public-private healthcare system with over a thousand private hospitals, some healthcare firms see an economic advantage in acquiring hospitals and expanding their revenue and profits. As with any other industry, healthcare experiences market consolidation activity, and this market activity has an effect on consumers. In the context of healthcare, consumers’ financial costs incurred are not the only worry of market consolidation, but also the quality of care they are provided. Though there have been studies that have examined the relationship between hospital mergers and acquisitions and resulting patient outcomes, the results vary widely, and there is no popular consensus on the relationship between ownership changes and health-based patient outcomes (there is substantial literature on changes in ownership as it relates to the financial costs accrued by patients).

This research aims to further establish the relationship between hospital consolidation and hospital performance, using patient outcome metrics based on health as a proxy for hospital performance, and also examining consolidation’s effect on patient satisfaction.

I use a means comparison and multiple linear regression as a method of analyzing the relationship between these factors, and include controls for income and environmental health risks (county-level risk factors for smoking, obesity, poor physical health, premature death, etc.) to mitigate the causal effects of various external influences on the patient outcome metrics.


Melanie Alberto
Kevin Bradley Chizek
Paige Marie Hermansen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University

In current day, education is a big factor in someone’s life. It is what initially helps someone become successful in life. In order to succeed and prosper in education we need to make it the best it can be. Like everything else in life the education system still has space for a lot of improvements. One of these issues is diversity. Diversity is known to be a major issue on different college campuses around the country. This lack of diversity can not only affect the students but also affect professors.

In order to construct this research project we as minority students on a predominantly white institution are going to expand our understanding of the situation. We are going to interview professors of different ethnic backgrounds and different jobs levels to express their feelings towards diversity on campus. We are also going to give out an anonymous survey to the students on the campus and give them a chance to also express themselves. Along with our personal experiment we are going to read more about others research. This is not only going to help is understand the situation but also help us come up with a solution or the proper steps to improve diversity on this campus.

At the end of the research it is hoped that we can help have a better diversity rate on our own university and university’s around globe. This is research project can also wake this education department up and get them to start making some changes.

Timothy James Bloomingdale
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
My Classroom Isn't My Bed: The Effects of Depression on Academic Performance

A bachelor’s degree is necessary in the 21st century to secure reliable and quality employment. The accompanying stress of higher education and pressure to earn a degree often triggers mental health complications, primarily depression. Colleges across America face an increasing rate of student depression. With rising levels of depressed students, colleges are unable to provide adequate services to properly and fully address the issue. Unfortunately, this inability to treat the depression epidemic results in lower academic efficacy because depression hinders a student's classroom performance. My research explores the effect depression has on the academic performance of students in a post-secondary educational setting. In a 2012 National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) report on mental health in college, a survey respondent explains how depressive episodes prevented the student from attending classes, and as a result the student had to withdraw from the college. The report presents statistical findings that of all the respondents who dropped out of college, sixty-four percent of these students withdrew due to mental health related issues. NAMI’s report, based on respondent feedback, urges colleges to provide more campus-based services to accommodate the growing need. Since depression is intimately tied into the academic progress, and therefore determines the likelihood of graduation, it is vital to not only understand the extent of effects from depression, but also to formulate a comprehensive response to the issue of rising depression. 

Keri L. Branquinho
Carolyn G. Kenney (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English as a Second Language (ESL), Bristol Community College
Immigrant-Student Needs at Bristol Community College

The purpose of the research project is to identify the needs of international/immigrant students
at Bristol Community College (BCC) and to make recommendations for improvements in support
for students’ academic, financial, social, and family needs. The motivation for this project came
from the negative media attention given in the past year to immigrants. One way that we can
combat this issue is to provide immigrant students with a good education, and to make them
aware of the services that BCC offers. In addition, the project will educate American students
about cultural relativism. The intent of the project is to use the findings to hold an event on
campus that best fits the needs of students. In addition, a goal is to utilize campus media to
reach as many students as possible. The proposed research methods include surveys and video
interviews conducted with international and immigrant students. In addition, proposed research
includes analysis of documents showing the outcomes for international/immigrant students
who were successful in their community college academic careers. The project is pending
approval, so at this time, there are no conclusions available and the significance cannot be

Mark Brillon
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
The Gap in Learning between Children and Teachers

Adults administer standardized testing to children in elementary schools to gather information on how well a student can read, write and solve math problems.  Students who attend elementary school do not always agree with their teachers about what is important to learn.  This project will focus on representing that gap using two-dimensional art.

The school building is made up of gray, semi-abstract cardboard built structures, backed by a particle board frame. A closer look through the windows of the buildings will reveal classroom requirements and Massachusetts teaching framework objectives such as the fourth-grade math standard that states students will draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties of their lines and angles.  In the foreground, the ideas of the elementary school aged children will be depicted by using the primary colors red, yellow and blue in the combination of paint, marker and collage materials from books and internet sources.

Emily Ann Chandran
Marissa Best
Sharon Ann Edwards (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Education, UMass Amherst

Learning after the Bell: Engineering School and STEM Activities in an After-School Setting

“Engineering School” was created with the goal of introducing students from kindergarten through fourth-grade to STEM concepts, vocabulary, and ways of thinking in an informal setting outside of the classroom. Math anxiety and the dislike of STEM subjects are widespread across the country in people of all ages and especially in girls. Engineering School provides resources and support that engage children in exploring STEM subjects unrestrictedly, giving them the opportunity to use their curiosity, creativity, and instincts to guide their interactions with STEM topics through building and folding activities. Engineering School, a weekly workshop setting in an after-school program at Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst, MA, has engaged boys and girls 5-years to 10-years old in hands-on engineering projects. Learning is happening at the highest cognitive levels: students evaluating designs, students creating their own designs, and students teaching other students. By allowing weekly activities to be directed by students’ interests and curiosity, Engineering School creates an environment in which youngsters feel comfortable exploring new ideas, utilizing their creativity and taking risks. These behaviors are fundamental to success in all STEM endeavors which require creative and innovative thinking and the constant asking of questions. Through their active participation in Engineering School, students are gaining confidence in themselves developing the skills of successful engineers.

Jenna Mae Eckstrom
Vanessa Holford Diana (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
Science and Religion in the Curriculum: Teaching Evolution and Intelligent Design

My research focuses on the debate over which theory of universal creation should be taught in schools: evolution or intelligent design. The ongoing discussion about teaching theories of creation has timelessly challenged educators, curriculum writers, and the government. Through anecdotal discussion in the context of court cases I attempt to dilute the reasons for conflict and propose why both evolution and intelligent design should be incorporated into the curriculum, though each theory may be taught in different settings; evolution is likely to be taught in a biology classroom, whereas intelligent design has a more appropriate place in a theology or philosophy class. The purpose of this research is to demonstrate the alignment between my educational philosophy and the teaching of both theories. I would encourage school districts to allow for the instruction of both theories. The goal of an educational system should be to prepare students to acquire independent thinking skills rather than indoctrinate them with a particular view, and I believe that teaching both evolution and intelligent design, even if they are taught in different settings, would aid in developing such skills.

Jamie Lee Gobiel
James M. Cressey (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Education, Framingham State University
Analysis of Life-Skills Courses

When conducting my research I hope to find out how successful life skills classes are in teaching students with Down syndrome how to live independently in the future. The Center for Disability Services released an article with tips on how to best teach students with Down syndrome. They wrote how important it is to have high expectations, and base your lessons on each students individual needs. They also wrote how students work best when they can perform and be hands on and interactive in their learning which is essentially what life skills classes are all about. (Down Syndrome Aim High Resource Center) With my further research I hope to find how successful these classes really are. I will be interviewing life skills teachers and students, and also group home residents, volunteers, and employees to find whether life skills classes are or are not successful in teaching people to live independently. If I find through my research that life skills classes are not successful in teaching students to live independently I will offer plans and strategies to adapt life skills classes so they are successful in teaching students to live independently.

Carter Griffith
Jessica Thelen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
Racial Injustices within Sports

This project will examine racial protests within sports and the outside world. Race is important because of the different events that are happening in the media that have to do with taking a stand and the different protests that are going on nationwide. Some examples of these that have to do with taking a stand against racism and police brutality is when Colin Kaepernick, an NFL player who kneeled in 2016 when the national anthem was playing because he believed there were racial injustices occurring against black americans. Some other examples of sports stars taking a stand against racial injustices would be when Miami Heat players wore hoodies in response to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Some other examples of responses to racial injustices within professional sports would be when the Black Lives Matter movement was happening and NBA players would wear t-shirts with the word I Can’t Breathe in response to the death of Eric Garner. The WNBA team the Minnesota Lynx showed support of the  Black Lives Matter movement and wore t-shirts with the slogan “Change starts with us. Justice and accountability” after Philando Castile was killed by police in Minnesota. All of these movements and support throughout the sports industry shows us how much certain citizens in the United States care about police shootings and other violent crimes that happen in urban black neighborhoods. People are showing support of the Black Lives Matter movement by protesting after cops shoot innocent black children. 

Allyson M. Nuttall
Jessica Thelen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
Race and Ethnicity Portrayed in Media

The article titled “Race & Ethnicity” on focuses on how and why the media portrays certain individuals in specific ways, including why people of color are often cast in certain roles such as the maid, the gangster, the “model minority,” and the terrorist, while most of the main characters in movies and television shows are white. The media is one of the most influential ways of how people receive information and how they portray certain products, other sources of media, and especially other individuals. Media creates meaning about race and ethnicity, and plays an important role in shaping the way we understand race and ethnicity as part of our own identity, our history, and our everyday lives. In the United States, whites have historically been associated with superiority and privilege while people of color have historically been associated with inferiority and labeled as the "Other" in society. The negative effects that arise from this ideology is that people tend to use race and ethnicity as descriptors, which automatically place people in groups which, overtime, have developed into having certain traits and attributes. With these groups forming, dominant groups rose to power and created influence over others by occupying and controlling languages, cultures, and rituals of the U.S. This caused racism to exist on not only the interpersonal level, but the institutional level as well, which means it is prominent in institutions including the government, law enforcement, education, religion, as well as media industries.

Rebecca Anne Torcasio
Paige Marie Hermansen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
The Counseling Crisis in High Schools

For millions of high school students across the country, mental health struggles can be a serious obstacle to success. In colleges, counseling centers help students who struggle with mental health issues. In high schools, however, counselors are not equipped or trained to help students who struggle with depression or anxiety, and in lower income schools these problems are more apparent and almost rarely dealt with. Teenagers are filled with emotions that can impact their daily lives. Even if students aren’t suicidal or depressed, it can still be nice to have someone to talk to each day. Providing high school students with counseling with qualified professionals is a necessity that every high school should have. By researching effective mental health programs at high schools around the country (and the world), this project explores the social and academic benefits of hiring qualified counselors to work in high schools in Massachusetts. I am looking for a more permanent solution to reduce the amount of teen suicide, bullying, and mental health related cases in these schools.


Jacqueline Lagasse
Frank Sup (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass Amherst
Communication Interfaces for a Child with Neuromuscular Impairment

A four-year-old community-dwelling child has a severe neuromuscular disease called Nemaline Myopathy. The condition weakens all of ones muscles and complications include difficulties with moving and speaking. The child is learning to read and write, so predictive text devices are not yet available to them and communication is accomplished through images and symbols. The child is being taught to use a Prentke Romich Company (PRC) speech-generating communication device, which uses a computer tablet to form expressions by selecting symbols that have meanings. The primary objective of this project is to create a new access interface for the child to use to interact with the PRC communication device. The child can currently manipulate the PRC device through either a switch or an eye gaze access interface. However, the interfaces have shortcomings that include being bulky and cumbersome to use outside of the home and have lengthy delay times resulting in slow communication. Considering the child's needs and physical abilities, a new communication interface is developed using a gyroscopic mouse that can be manipulated by the child's hand or head, as these are two places where the child has sufficient motor skills to manipulate an object. This interface uses an inertial sensor to send acceleration and angular velocity data to the PRC device. This data is interpreted to make appropriate mouse movements on the screen via a Universal Windows Project installed on the device. The device housings will be constructed using 3D printing to secure the inertial sensor to the child's hand or head during use.


Morgan Catherine Banville
Catherine Gardner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, UMass Dartmouth
Evolution of the Princess Culture: Discourse Analysis of Film and Merchandise Reviews

The purpose of this study was to describe the ways in which film and merchandise reviews for Disney princess films such as Pocahontas, The Princess and the Frog, Brave, and Moana, depict Disney’s attempts at becoming progressive in their representations of female role models for young children.  The study was conducted in response to the ongoing discussion surrounding the Disney films and their inability to represent realistic and attainable role models for viewers.  The basic design of the study was conducted through coding and discourse analysis.  The study focused on how stereotypically racial and gendered rhetoric is used to describe the princesses, as well as the reliance on a male figure and various sexual innuendos.  Despite some progress, there are a few issues that remain with how Disney princesses are portrayed.  Both film and merchandise reviews continue to use coded rhetoric, which creates unrealistic expectations for young children as well as inadequate role models.

Brianne Marie Barrett
Evelyn Mooar Perry (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Framingham State University
A Study on the Satirization of Victorian Literature in Contemporary Texts for Children and Young Adults

             In my honors thesis, I focused on how elements of Victorian literature are satirized in contemporary texts for children and young adults and why this satirization is significant. During the Victorian period, most children’s books were created to educate children. While some Victorian books taught children basic reading and writing skills through the use of alphabets, others emphasized the importance of behaving properly and following the codes of conduct generated by Victorian society. The child character who followed the rules and behaved in an appropriate manner was the one who experienced a “happy ending” in the text. In my thesis, I analyzed texts by Victorian authors such as Charles Kingsley, George MacDonald, Louisa May Alcott, and Lewis Carroll. In regards to contemporary literature for children and young adults, I closely examined texts by authors such as Edward Gorey, Lemony Snicket, and Roald Dahl. In these texts, the authors satirize elements of Victorian literature through their unique writing styles, their use of morbid subject matter, their somewhat unsettling illustrations, and even through their alteration of the textual medium itself. Ultimately, I addressed the following questions with my thesis project: How are these contemporary authors satirizing Victorian elements in their works? How is this satirization significant and does it affect how the text is interpreted? Despite the satire within their texts, are the contemporary authors still attempting to teach in some form?




Nicolas David Blaisdell
Joselyn Almeida-Beveridge (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, UMass Amherst
An Investigation into Capitalism and Unfree Labor in the Twenty-First Century

From the nineteenth century transatlantic slave trade to the contemporary era of mass incarceration, capitalism’s entanglement with unfree labor has been the subject of scholarly research from Karl Marx’s Capital, Vol 1. (1867) to Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery (1944) to Dennis Childs’ Slaves of the State (2015). However, with more people enslaved today than all of the people violently seized from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade (Bales, 2012, p. 9) and capitalism persisting as the predominant worldwide economic system, a critical analysis of the structural relationship between capitalism and unfree labor remains all too pertinent in the twenty-first century, especially if we as a society truly wish to abolish all modes of unfree labor.

Hence, the purpose of this investigation into capitalism and unfree labor in the twenty-first century is to examine prevalent forms of unfree labor which exist in the present day capitalist mode of production, namely unfree prison labor, unfree migrant labor, and unfree international labor. The conclusion to this research suggests that the production and exploitation of unfree laborers is the result of a structural tendency inextricable to the framework of capitalism itself. With a “werewolf hunger for surplus labour [and maximizing surplus-value]” (Marx, 1867, p. 291), capital in the twenty-first century continues to commandeer a panoply of state institutions and functions responsible for incarceration, immigration, and international trade in order to “force the cost of labour back towards [...] zero” (Marx, 1867, p. 657).

Nathan Hess
Michael James Gormley (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Quinsigamond Community College
Violence against African Americans in America

African Americans have suffered much abuse in the United States due to a lack of law and order, white supremacy, and the pursuit of gain on both a personal and national level. This infamous paradigm of violence against African Americans has been evident throughout the history of the United States and continues today. The perpetuation of this issue is why today there exists groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa, as well as the increasingly counter-aggressive and counter-violent tendencies of these groups.

Zachary S. Oliva
Michael James Gormley (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Quinsigamond Community College
America's Failures Provide Violence against Innocent Immigrants: A Psychological Analysis on Anti-sentiment Policies

This paper will discuss how the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment within the United States is linked to a psychological term known as Scapegoat theory, where the United States blames an entire group of people for their own failures therefor allows Americans to discriminate, create nativist policies and be racist against Muslims. Since 9/11, the United States has passed anti-Muslim sentiment like the Patriot Act and most recently Executive Order 13769 or commonly known as the Travel Ban. These laws are inherently violent as these nativist laws, in order to protect Americans from terrorist, allow the United States to ban Muslim immigrants from entering the country, detain any immigrant who is under suspicion of being a terrorist, allow police to search homes or business without consent etc. Scapegoat theory tells us that these aggressive violent laws are created to relieve frustration and preserve a good image of oneself during times of economic downturn, like the recession created from the Housing Bubble of 08 and during times of conflict, like the war in Afghanistan.
Using history and fiction will I prove that the United States since the beginning has always been violent to immigrants and why nativism is still being bread through American politics. Scapegoat theory will help recognize the patterns and events that explain how discrimination is permitted through the use of the law in the United States. 

Nicholas Haskell Scheer
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
"Raids on the Inarticulate": Language and Experience

Early twentieth century philosopher, Frederich Nietzsche  argued that because language is only metaphorical and cannot provide knowledge of things in themselves beyond phenomenological experiences, it (language) is inadequate to proclaim anything true about ontology, experience or meaning. Our very vocabulary alienates us from being, leaving us fragmented and split. However, the ability to express these ideas, requires the use of language.  Author Nicholas Carr argues that technologies in written language,—specifically the phonetic alphabet and the Gutenberg press— brought about an expanding vocabulary that brought words and ideas into being that had previously not existed. Through which, people’s experience of reality was heightened, made more complex and nuanced. Stated more explicitly, Carr writes: “As language expanded, consciousness deepened.” The mode of language, especially the written word, give tools with which to understand our experiences in relation to a world whose fundamental reality is contingent. Far from alienating us from our internal and external worlds, language gives shape and form to our experience. Words may only be metaphors of phenomena, but they are metaphors that have meaning and being in things beyond themselves. However, we live in an age where language has been leeched of sense and definition. Words that used to burn with meaning have been replaced with pith, platitude and hackneyed cliche that sit in the mouth like tepid water or emerge stillborn. 

Hope Kathryn Singas
Rachel Trousdale (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Framingham State University

Art and Artifice: The Fact and Fiction Debate as Represented in the Storytelling of Jeanette Winterson

The works of Jeanette Winterson are often viewed through the lens of queer theory and gender studies. While these approaches are certainly important, they do not focus on Winterson’s specific storytelling techniques which are often overlooked in the critical conversation surrounding her novels. Consequently, I ask, what kind of stories does Winterson tell, how does she tell those stories, and why is the way she tells those stories so influential? Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Written on the Body, and Weight are three works that span Jeanette Winterson’s career, but tackle the same topic: the ability of stories to tell and evade the truth, re-tell and re-create the past, and to specify and universalize human experience. It is evident that Winterson’s methods—the use of fairytales, biblical texts, and mythology—all have the power to serve as truth-telling texts despite their surface differences, and it is the elements of intertextuality, inter-discourse, and autobiography that allow these truths to reveal themselves. Thus, these three novels show how different forms of storytelling can influence our understanding of fact, fiction, and truth, and it is clear that these terms must be defined by the context in which they are in. This attention to detail and dedication to expose the truth through storytelling fortifies Winterson's own statement: “if truth is that which lasts, then art has proved truer than any other human endeavor.” 

Randi Thayer
Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College
Trump Card: Calling America's Bluff on Nuclear Weapons

Bluffing only works for so long. America has secured its position as a global police force, and major world power thanks in part to the fact that it was the first country to develop and deploy nuclear weapons. Since then this technology has been used as leverage to get other countries to comply with American will. However, this threat only works if you are actually willing to follow through. It is only a matter of time before America's bluff will be called and nuclear arms are again deployed.

Charles Henry Turner
Daniel J. Pope (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Film Studies, UMass Amherst
Paper Faces: A Feature-Length Neo-noir Screenplay

When I first began crafting my Honors Project, a feature-length screenplay in the neo-noir genre, I sought to answer one question: How do you create an engaging script that is as compelling as it is emotionally authentic to its themes? Screenwriters and producers are often so heavily focused on the entertainment value of their projects that a serious subject, such as PTSD, can often feel overly romanticized, or in some cases, trivialized. I wanted to discover the origin of this phenomenon, and in the process challenge the status quo by creating an emotionally rich narrative that is respectful and realistic of its harrowing subject matter.

I would like to present an ePosterboard on the process of creating this screenplay. My project, titled Paper Faces, presents the story of an ordinary person suffering from extraordinary trauma, who is slowly losing touch with reality. In preparation, I have conducted research into addiction, child loss, the psychology of memories, and the diverse forms PTSD can take. A common misconception in film and literature is that PTSD is the same for everyone. I have studied the effects of trauma, spoken with people living with PTSD, and read case studies published by the American Psychological Association and Fire Fighter Nation – an online community for first responders to discuss their struggles and triggers. This research, when combined with my studies of genre, scriptwriting techniques and non-linear storytelling, has guided my work in creating an original script, and avoiding Hollywood clichés that can cloud stories of real human experience.





Allison Marie Wharton
Bartholomew Brinkman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Framingham State University
Democracy in Marianne Moore's Poetry

While modernist poet Marianne Moore is most known for her animal metaphors or use of quotations, she should also be considered as a contributor to the democratic project. It is evident in her poems, "In Distrust of Merits," Spencer's Island," and Sojourn in the Whale" that Moore advocates for the free state. Above everything, Moore wanted to fight for equality. This fight was not without its detractors. Critics strongly debated if Moore's political poetry was rooted in feminine emotion or honest, researched intention. In order to focus more on the poem's context, Moore highly edited her poems. She shows that any medium can represent an individuals' political views. There is a sense that politics must be stoic, but there is nothing more emotionally driven than the political taste.  


Brianna Noel Abbas
Anupama Arora (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English and Women's and Gender Studies, UMass Dartmouth
Anxiety, Jinn, and Unseen Women: The Body as Diasporic Space in Monica Ali's Brick Lane

Brick Lane, a neighborhood in the East End of London, is famous for its curry houses, historic old Spitalfields market, boutiques, and liveliness. The neighborhood has a long and rich history of serving as an in-between space and refuge for migrants such as the Flemish, French Huguenots, and East European Jews for over four hundred years. More recently, it has come to be labeled “Little Bangladesh” or “Banglatown” due to the noticeable presence of a Bangladeshi diasporic community there. It is against this backdrop that contemporary British Bangladeshi Muslim writer Monica Ali sets her 2003 novel, Brick Lane. Ali's novel follows the life of Nazneen, who settles in Brick Lane after an arranged marriage to a man, Chanu Ahmed, 20 years her senior. Brick Lane has garnered a large and impressive body of scholarship on topics ranging from Hijab sweatshops as gendered spaces to the novel’s fraught erasure of Brick Lane’s race riots. None of this scholarship, however, examines exclusively the place and role of the scenes involving jinn (supernatural creatures) in the novel. Using research on jinn, postcolonial and diasporic theory, I highlight the moments of jinn possession and performance of possession as an extended metaphor for British Asian women's experiences in diasporic space. I contend that transformative female agency erupts in these moments through mimicry, as the burden of home is destabilized and a new space for agentic British Asian women is imagined.


Ashley Nicole Merola
Evelyn Mooar Perry (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Framingham State University

The Evolution of Dystopian Literature: Placing the Fate of the Future into the Hands of Young Adults

This thesis traces the evolution of dystopian literature from its origin in Thomas More’s Utopia and More’s influences in George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 to its contemporary shift in Lois Lowry’s The Giver and M.T. Anderson’s Feed. These novels convey the central purpose of dystopian literature: to change the present by warning people about a disturbing, yet conceivable, version of the future. 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 both bestow the responsibility to communicate this message on adults who consciously rebel against the governments and systems they have known and accepted for decades. Forty years later, The Giver and Feed rewrite the narrative from the perspective of young adults. External circumstances force the adolescent protagonists, Jonas and Titus, into roles and situations that expose the injustices of which they are not aware due to their innocence and inexperience. Initially, the two characters only wish to survive the conditions under which they are placed and do not intend to resist the governments and systems adults have taught them to trust. They nevertheless prove to be more effective agents of change than the adults in their societies. In this way, dystopian literature has transformed into a source of power for adolescents. By incorporating these young-adult texts into their curriculums, English teachers can prompt their students to think about how they can impact the future and, as a result, make the world a better place.


Emily Rose Brown
Anne L. Averill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst
Twenty-Seven-Year Survey of Bee (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) Diversity and Abundance on Cranberry in Southeastern Massachusetts

Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) provide pollination services critical to the stability and productivity of natural and agricultural ecosystems. Therefore, given emerging observations of bee population and species decline, it is necessary to monitor the health of these communities through long-term surveys. Here, we compiled data from studies conducted in 1990-1991 and 2007-2008 measuring the diversity and abundance of bees pollinating cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) in Southeastern Massachusetts. In 2016 and 2017, we repeated the procedure of the previous studies by surveying bee communities at 11 cranberry bogs from mid-June to mid-July. Each bog was visited three times during cranberry bloom, where one person collected bees with an aerial net and small containers for 15 minutes and recorded bee visitation during six 5-minute quadrat observations. Collected bees were identified to species and used to determine the Shannon entropy, a diversity index, for each of the three study periods. Our findings reveal a significant decline over the 27-year survey period in the diversity of bumble bees (Bombus spp.), which are predominant and effective pollinators of cranberry. There was no significant change in the diversity of other native bee species, and the sample location did not affect diversity. The results of this study confirm a decline in richness and evenness of bee species in this cranberry-growing region, indicating a community less resilient and more vulnerable to change. 

Elizabeth Clementine Campbell
Baoshan Xing (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst
Transient Triclosan: Accumulation and Release in Your Toothbrush

Toothbrushes are a common household item, and best-selling brushes in the U.S. have comparable designs and materials. The main accessories of a toothbrush are the bristles and elastomer components, including cheek and tongue cleaners and polishing cups. A common characteristic of these materials is their ability to accumulate lipophilic chemicals. A chemical of interest, which is found as an ingredient in some toothpastes, is triclosan (TCS). TCS is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent with reported dental benefits; however, it has been banned in hand soaps and hospital cleaners within the past two years. Our studies on 22 best-selling manual toothbrushes show substantial accumulation of TCS into toothbrush head components. The elastomer components accumulated significantly more TCS than the bristles. Over one third of the adult size brushes had TCS uptakes between 21-37.5 mg, which is equivalent to 7-12.5 recommended doses of TCS. Comparable results were seen on children’s toothbrushes. Because of the material characteristics, TCS can also be uncontrollably released. To test the release, a TCS-loaded brush was used with TCS-free toothpastes. During this switch, a gradual release of TCS was seen. A rapid release was seen when exposing the brush to peroxide-containing, commonly marketed as “whitening” toothpastes, and toothpastes containing baking soda or more surfactants. Accumulation and release were not exclusive to TCS as it was seen on several other ingredients in toothpastes. Based on our observations, it is recommended that when consumers switch their toothpastes, they could also discard their toothbrushes.

Alyssa Judith Delude
Emily J. Cole (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Science, Westfield State University
Disposable Plastic Straw Usage on Westfield State University's Campus

Every day, over 500 million straws are thrown away in the United States alone. Since plastic does not completely decompose, every straw thrown away is still in a landfill- or worse, in oceans or in an animal’s digestive system. Westfield State University is no exception.

This research project will examine the use of disposable plastic straws on campus- more specifically, in the Ely Cafe, the Bistro, and Dunkin’ Donuts- and compare usage in these three facilities to two on-campus facilities that no longer use disposable plastic straws. The project will also analyze the environmental and economic impacts on continued use of disposable plastic straws. In addition, this project will also look into ways that Westfield State University is making sustainable options more accessible to their students, faculty, and staff, and how much support there is on campus for sustainable options.

Methods used in this research project will include surveying students, faculty, and staff about disposable plastic straw usage, as well as if dining facilities on campus are using or intend to use biodegradable or reusable straws in the future. Calculations for the mass of straws thrown away by the campus community as well as the cost for the university to continue using single-use plastic straws will also be included.

Justin Eric Esiason
Brian Kane (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst
The Allometry of Tilia Cordata Mill

This study focuses on the allometry of open-grown amenity trees. Amenity trees provide a variety of benefits such as soil retention, attenuation of temperature, pollution, and noise, and aesthetic improvement. Allometry is the study of size-correlated variability in organic structure and process. In other words, allometry studies the growth of one part in relation to the whole, or one part in relation to another part.

The study's objective was to examine allometry within individuals of Tilia cordata Mill. Two 10-year-old Tilia individuals were sampled between June and December 2017. Among the characteristics measured were stem diameter, wood and leaf mass, position in space, and stem length. The models created predicted allometrics such as average branch mass vs. average branch diameter, average leaf count vs. average branch diameter, and between specific gravity and proportion of branch length, and this list is not exhaustive. The findings are applicable to arborists who have to know about the allometric characteristics and patterns of the trees they work on. These predict how a tree will grow, and how it will react to being subject to management practices like pruning, bracing, and cabling. Knowing better how a tree will react to these practices will help guide arborists to make the most well-informed decision about how to manage their amenity trees.

Iesha Gomillion
Liza Harrington (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Library, Greenfield Community College
Understanding Natural Systems Inspire Further Conservation Efforts

Greenfield Community College is fortunate to have a campus that includes approximately 40 acres of forest and several known wetlands.  In Fall 2017, spotted salamanders were documented in the campus forest despite the lack of any known appropriate breeding habitat for this vernal pool obligate species. USGS topographic maps and GIS mapping illustrate existing wetlands and emerging wetlands on campus, with only one currently registered and protected. Our goal is to thoroughly survey the campus property for vernal pools and wetlands this spring and to document the presence of amphibian species breeding in these habitats on our campus. Through the process of identifying, surveying and seeking certification for additional vernal pools and wetlands, we explore the lessons of ecology and raise awareness through implementing conservation and education. Because these habitats are critical to a wide variety of biologically specialized aquatic and semi aquatic plant and animal species, it is essential that their presence and the needs of their inhabitants be taken into consideration as campus management decisions are made. This research could inform future projects conducted on campus including construction, landscaping and forest management plans. It will also allow us to document what possible threats are present on site such as invasive species, run off, high human foot traffic or contaminates and allow us to explore what measures we can take to lessen or manage the effects of human activities on our campus. 

Noah Matthew Henkenius
Elena Traister (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Studies, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Sediment Transport and Salinity of the Hoosic River

The construction of large dams along rivers has disturbed the flow of sediments downstream, impacting wetland ecosystems and causing deltas to decline. As people depend on sand and salt to remove ice from roads in the winter, a consequence can be higher salinity in rivers. This can affect aquatic organisms as well as animals and humans that depend on the water for hydration. High salinity levels in water have the potential to be unsafe for people on low sodium diets to drink. Our objective is to evaluate the effects of applying salt to roads near the Hoosic River. We anticipate documenting spikes in salinity following spring wet weather events. Another component is to measure suspended sediment levels in the river to assess if dams upstream, affect sediment transport downstream. Suspended sediment monitoring began during the fall of 2017; the continuation of suspended sediment monitoring will provide measurements in the presence of high flows from snow melting. Measurements of salinity will be taken with YSI 566 probes. Suspended sediments will be determined by collecting water samples in dry and wet conditions. After collection water will be filtered out of samples, then dried in an oven at ~105℃ for forty-eight hours. This study will help gauge if ice removal practices on roads in North Adams and towns upstream impact microorganisms and wildlife that depend on the Hoosic River. Additionally assessments can be made if dams upstream are significantly impacting sediment transports.

Serena Hooper
Elsa Petit (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst
Carbon Farming: Effective at Sequestration, Questionable across Different Climates

Climate change is an issue that greatly impacts the world we live in today and is beginning to influence the way we approach agriculture and food production. Because of this, carbon farming is gaining a lot of attention, however, what is the efficacy of carbon farming and global efforts? This is currently the unknown that we intend to investigate. Carbon farming is a form of agriculture that addresses climate change and has the potential to change the atmosphere that surrounds global warming. Carbon farming involves methods such as cover cropping, crop rotation, composting, and conservation tillage to sequester carbon from the atmosphere in the soil. We intend to investigate the effectiveness of carbon farming in different climates.


We will use the world hardiness zones to identify the normal climate conditions in different regions and identify the plants that thrive in those zones. With that information we can extrapolate which of those plants are best at sequestering carbon and rank the regions by their potential to sequester carbon. From that point, we will analyze the implications for incentivized global efforts to sequester carbon, halt climate change, and create more arable land. Theoretically, our efforts will result in a breakdown of the feasibility of carbon farming in all climate types based on the factors discussed above.

Billy Huynh
Dristi Neog (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Geography and Regional Planning, Westfield State University
The Implications of Water Contamination

With water supply contamination cases seemingly on the rise throughout much of the world, the purpose of this research is to study the social implications, health, and economic impacts on those communities and individuals affected. To do so, various case studies and scholarly articles on the subject were analyzed. Looking at the data, it is evident that poor, minority, and other powerless segments of the population are disproportionately affected socially, health wise, and economically by contaminated water. Since the majority of these individuals live either at or below the poverty line, they are unable to afford more long term, permanent solutions such as filtration systems and have thus turned to a temporary solution: bottled water. This however, presents many challenges as water bottles not only contribute to the degradation of the environment through pollution, but also inadvertently perpetuates the cycle of contamination. To further complicate the issue, utilizing bottled water is not sustainable financially for most. As a result, they are eventually forced to drink contaminated water. In drinking the contaminated water, a host of short term, long term, and permanent health complications and economic losses ultimately occur for those individuals unable to afford alternatives. Through this research, it is abundantly clear that contaminated water goes beyond the environmental aspect to encompass a social justice issue as well.

Ami Khalsa
Destenie Nock (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Engineering, UMass Amherst
Modeling the Effect of Hydroelectric Dams on Fish Populations in New England

Hydroelectric dams are an important part of the electricity system in New England. While these power plant provide zero-emission energy, the location along the Connecticut river has an impact on migratory fish populations, such as American Shad. This research focuses on determining the effect of hydroelectric dams on fish populations and migration patterns, and modeling this impact as a mathematical program. The mathematical program will provide stakeholders with a way of incorporating ecological impact of hydroelectric dams into their planning process.

Rebecca Negreli
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College

Brazuca Identity: How Brazilian Parents Assimilate in America and Pass Their Cultural Values on to Their Children

While it may sound at first stereotypical, culturally Brazilians grow up with laughter at home as a natural substance in a Brazilian household. Not that unhappiness does not exist, but there is a saying in Brazil; vou rir para não chorar: I’ll laugh so I won’t cry. My research analyzes the construction of home and identity of immigrants from Brazil, focusing on how Brazilians in America raise their children in the United States according to Brazilian custom. While in other cultures, kids have birthday parties mid mornings or in the afternoons, a regular Brazilian birthday celebration begins around eight at night, even if it is a first birthday.  Especially when the task of immigration is already so difficult, not only for the parents but also for the children, everyday practices in the home represent not only values but survival strategies. Most people would attest that when immigrant parents are insistent on raising their children in their native culture, those children might suffer from the crisis of identity conflict: their family back home will make fun of Americanized ways, and their friends in the United States will notice their Brazilianism. However, the reality is the opposite, the little brazucas will be able to not only pass their families’ culture to their own children one day, but their will have a very different perspective from their fellow American friends.  And this diversity of perspectives and values contributes to how Brazilians implement their own culture in archiving their American dream.

River Sackett Pasquale
Joran Moses Florian
Kate Maiolatesi (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Sustainability Studies, Holyoke Community College
Living Machine at Holyoke Community College

Now is the time when colleges need to set an example for sustainable living and help instill environmental conservation values in their students. A Living Machine (LM) is a natural wastewater treatment system that mimics the processes occurring in wetlands in order to clean sewage for reuse. Building a LM would advance Holyoke Community College (HCC) in the global quest for sustainability. As a vanguard in sustainable studies, HCC has the opportunity to reduce campus water and energy usage while engaging and educating students and community members about the natural world.

The current system for cleaning water is inefficient and uses harmful chemicals in the process. A LM uses solar power as its main form of energy and emits no odor during the process. A LM on the HCC campus would set a sustainable example for other communities and could help prevent combined sewer overflows into the Connecticut River.

If HCC were to construct a LM, it would cost around $500,000 and would be perfectly suited to the needs of the campus. At HCC, the LM would be designed to treat about 4,000 gallons of water per day (the water from two buildings) and would require 600 square feet of space. HCC is and should continue to be one of the forward thinking leaders in sustainability. This project would help set a precedent for institutions of higher learning that they have a responsibility to educate students about sustainability and environmental protection.

Austin Lee Peek
Brian S. Cheng (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst
Damage Control: The Effectiveness of the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park in Reducing Coral Damage Caused by Snorkelers

Carribean coral reefs have declined by 80% over the last five decades. Development of coral reef ecotourism may promote sustainable economies that can motivate efforts towards reef recovery. However, there is a general consensus that snorkeling based tourism can damage coral reefs. The amount of damage caused by recreational snorkelers remains unclear. Therefore, we carried out observations at reef locations throughout the Bocas Del Toro Archipelago to establish the baseline level of coral damage, as well as quantifying snorkeling behavior that damages reefs. We compared damage between protected areas (Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park) to unprotected areas to assess if reef protection and snorkeling behavior improves within the reserve. Snorkelers exhibited, on average, 2.02 damaging behaviors per individual. Behaviors included standing, sitting, or kneeling on the reef (34%) and the next most frequent behavior was Fin/Foot Touch (29%). Only 34% of snorkelers never exhibited damaging behavior. There was no significant difference for coral damage nor snorkel behavior within or outside the MPA boundaries. Our results suggest that snorkeling damage may contribute to the loss of coral cover and that future management efforts and tourism techniques may consider intervention and education to mitigate this damage.

Irina Alexandra Polunina
Laela Sayigh (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Examining Vocalizations of Free-Ranging Male Dolphins

Although bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are one of the best studied species of cetaceans, surprisingly little is known about their natural communication system. Bottlenose dolphins produce individually distinctive signature whistles that function in establishing contact and maintaining group cohesion; however, few studies have examined their use in groups of known composition. Similarly, how whistles other than signatures, known as non-signatures, are used is completely unknown. This lack of knowledge is largely due to difficulties in attributing whistles to individuals and in identifying group members. The resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida provides a unique opportunity to examine whistle use by free-ranging dolphins; all animals are visually identifiable and have known signature whistles. Acoustic recordings collected during behavioral observations in 2001 of visually identified animals were analyzed to look for patterns of signature and non-signature usage with respect to the composition, size, and activity of the group. A total of 881 minutes of recordings of 11 dolphin groups were analyzed using the software Raven Pro, which enables visual categorization of whistle spectrograms. Preliminary results identified 1465 whistles that were classified into 24 distinct types. These whistles will be compared to known signature whistles of group members in order to determine how many are signatures vs. non-signatures. These results will then be correlated with data on group composition, size and activity. Overall, this analysis will provide insights into whistle use by free-ranging bottlenose dolphins.    

Paige Geraldine Pressey
Timothy Parshall (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Science, Westfield State University
The Effects of Leafcutter Ants on Reforestation

It is important to understand the effects of leafcutter ants on tropical reforestation, because a single colony of ants can defoliate an entire tree in a matter of days.  As a result, leafcutter ants might hinder the entire reforestation process. Through an independent research project in Costa Rica, I compared the damage of leafcutter ants on trees in a newly reforested site with the damage in an adjacent forest that was mature.  After finding four ant colonies, I measured the percent of leaf damage on nearby trees from 0 (no damage) to 10 (100% damage).  I also recorded leaf damage in four different directions from the center of each colony. Two of the colonies were in the reforested area and the two other colonies were in a mature forest. This was done in order to observe the differences in leaf damage between the two different areas.  I found that trees closer to the colony in the younger forest had more leaf damage, while trees farther from the colonies in the older forest had greater leaf damage. One possible explanation for this pattern may be related to the fact that younger forests have less leaf coverage.  Since ants are sensitive to drier, sunnier conditions, ants from colonies in younger forests may not be able to travel as far to get the leaves for their fungus.

Audrey McElroy Sheetz
Paul Catanzaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst
Tree Species Composition and Carbon Sequestration in Coffee Agroforestry in Costa Rica: Policy and Management Implications

The necessary expansion of agriculture presents a dilemma in providing food and livelihoods for a growing population, while also being environmentally sustainable and maintaining function and services provided by natural ecosystems.  Agroforestry offers a favorable alternative to intensive agriculture or monocropping, as it incorporates a diversity of species and forest elements, thereby retaining some ecosystem services of a natural forest while still serving as a productive farm.  Coffee is a shade-grown crop that is often grown in agroforestry systems.  The objective of this study was to determine how tree species diversity and composition affect aboveground carbon sequestration on six coffee farms in the Rio Grande Watershed, Costa Rica.  Data was collected twice over the course of eight years on six farms: once in 2008-9, and once in 2016-17.  At each farm, trees were identified and information on heights and diameters of trees and coffee plants was collected to assess aboveground carbon levels.  Carbon sequestration was found to increase with diversity of plots.  Mixed plots that were dominated by Cedrela odorata proved to be better at sequestering carbon than plots that primarily contained Erythrina spp.  These results, along with research of current policies, provide possible implications for agricultural management and climate change mitigation.  Incorporation of biodiverse systems containing mixtures of trees that are good at carbon sequestration can bring about more resilient and sustainable agricultural systems that simultaneously serve as a climate change mitigation strategy.

Sam James Sillen
Allison Roy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Dissolved Oxygen Response to Dam Removal in Massachusetts Streams

Dam removal has become an increasingly popular strategy to address aging infrastructure and restore ecosystems. Ecosystem benefits include increased habitat connectivity, restored ecological processes (e.g. nutrient dynamics) and improved water quality. Most research studies focus on changes in physical and biological conditions before and after dam removal, and little is known about the impacts on water quality. As a result, water quality goals for dam removal projects are often broad and uncertain. To address this knowledge gap, we investigated the short-term effects of four recent dam removals in Massachusetts on dissolved oxygen. Continuous dissolved oxygen concentrations were measured upstream, downstream, and within impoundments for three, one-week periods in summer months (July, August, September) before and after dam removal. Prior to removal, all four sites experienced decreased dissolved oxygen in impoundments relative to upstream conditions. Preliminary results show that after removal dissolved oxygen in former impoundments begin to improve. By analyzing how dissolved oxygen concentrations adjust following dam removal, we provide insight on how water quality is impacted by dam removal and the restoration of ecological processes.


Meghan-Grace P. Slocombe
Liza Harrington (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Library, Greenfield Community College
Temperature Variation in Different Substrates and Its Relevance to Climate Change

As climate change leads to more extreme weather, including heat waves, it will be important to understand how variable microclimates may help buffer these variations in temperature. The purpose of this study was to explore the range of ambient, water, and soil profile temperatures. It was expected that the temperatures of air would vary more than that of water or soil. Every week between 19 September 2017 and 15 November 2017, temperatures were collected from the same location within a 10m x 10m plot in the forest behind Greenfield Community College (GCC). Water temperature was collected from a stream within the plot. Soil temperatures were taken every 10 cm from the surface to 50 cm deep using ibutton dataloggers, and average daily ambient temperature was reported by the GCC weather station. The daily ambient temperatures ranged approximately 26℃, while the temperature of water ranged approximately 10℃. I predict ambient temperatures will also exceed those experienced within the soil profile and that the variation in soil temperatures will decrease with depth. We hope these data will continue to be collected each fall in order to compare on a more long term basis. These data will help us to understand temperature microclimates within GCC’s forest and how organisms may respond, either by seeking refugia in more stable temperature microclimates or by having to sustain despite extreme temperature variations in their habitat.

Leah G. Stanley
Allison L. Dunn (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics, Worcester State University

Carbon Dynamics in Two Central New England Forest Stands



This study investigates atmospheric carbon dioxide sequestration by the terrestrial biosphere at Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA. The purpose behind this research was to evaluate how carbon sequestration varies with respect to tree species and forest age as a function of time. The two study sites surveyed consisted of the following: a red pine plantation established in 1925 and a former conifer plantation harvested in 1990 and now undergoing natural regeneration. The study began in 2008, with individual trees tagged, species recorded, and growth monitored each year.  Diameter at breast height (DBH) data were collected for more than 800 trees with DBH > 5 cm, and the study areas were also surveyed for tree mortality and recruitment (trees recently grown into the >5 cm DBH size class).  Field measurements were entered into a series of Excel datasheets containing data since 2008.  The statistical analysis program R will be used to convert DBH data into biomass carbon using species-specific allometric equations.  It is speculated that certain species of trees will likely store carbon at different rates than others.  By determining the patterns of sequestration by species and stand age, it may be possible to form strategies to maximize forest carbon sequestration in New England.

Kaylyn M. Swenson
Daniel Shustack (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Studies, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Turtles of Central Alabama: A Biodiversity Survey of Oak Mountain State Park

In the midst of global climate change and mass extinction, understanding population dynamics of sensitive species is essential. Reptiles with temperature-dependent sex determination are particularly threatened by changes in climate. Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama provides freshwater turtle populations representative of the southeastern United States, although very little is known about current populations. Throughout June and July 2017, a biodiversity survey was conducted of turtles in Double Oak Lake. Turtles were captured and assessed using morphometry and mark-recapture techniques to determine species abundance, sex ratios, and age structure. Fifty-five individuals were collected from 4 different species. Sex ratios observed across these species slightly favored females. Data loggers were buried in nesting beaches around Double Oak Lake for several weeks to determine whether current incubation temperatures are favorable for the health of future generations. Nesting temperatures suggest clutches in their thermosensitive period during this study will produce predominantly male hatchlings. This research will serve as a point of reference for future studies to evaluate change in turtle populations at Oak Mountain State Park over time. Understanding the effect of temperature on populations with temperature-dependent sex determination is a critical component in developing conservation strategies for these sensitive species.

Eric Francis Wuesthoff
Jason M. Kamilar (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst
Variation in the Distributions of Two Sympatric Species of Mouse Lemurs across a Habitat Gradient in Northwestern Madagascar

The sympatry between Microcebus murinus and M. ravelobensis, two species of mouse lemurs native to northwestern Madagascar, has been intensively studied. However, most research on these species has been restricted to dry deciduous forests, with few studies addressing the ecology of these species in other habitat types such as mangrove forests. We conducted a study to assess how lemurs living in mangrove forests may differ ecologically from conspecifics living in nearby dry forests. We utilized capture-mark-recapture techniques along transects spanning different habitat types and analyzed our data using ArcGIS and a generalized linear model in R. We found that the species occurrence significantly correlated with distance from the Mariarano River and elevation. M. murinus was found in higher proportions closer to the river and at lower elevation, while M. ravelobensis was found in higher proportions farther from the river and at higher elevations. Our findings suggest possible differences in species distribution due to different ecological strategies and represent some of the first data on lemur biology in mangrove forests. Understanding how lemurs utilize habitat types in different ways can help inform conservation decisions for these threatened primates and the wider ecosystem.


Yevgen V. Kuzmenko
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
How the Business Process Management (BPM) and Workflow (WF) Approaches Can Improve the Reusing Rate and Quality of Big Data Based Financial Calculations' Software, and Increase Overall Return of Assets

The demands of growth and constantly changing requirements push financial applications to the level where maintaining stability and accountability requires changes that are expensive and often impossible. Critical aspects such as growing expenses to support operations for financial companies limit competition such that only big corporations with significant diversification, can afford short term losses. Additionally, quality degradation and failing stability of banking financial software, sometimes result in unacceptable and scary outcome. There are many approaches that try to deal with this problem, such as using decoupled enterprise architecture approach as Services Oriented Architecture (SOA). Even though these approaches serve the primary goal to improve stability while keeping predictable expenses, they do not solve a problem at the macro system level. One of the potential solution to the problem can be related to the Business Process Management (BPM) approach. BPM helps to improve business operations, using scientifically defined way to describe, analyze and improve operations that are part of any business. Beginning with the Scientific Management approach first applied by Frederick Taylor in 1890 putting some science behind attempts to improve the labor productivity, the process evolved and currently is at its third generation. Interest in BPM is increasing because BPM identifies and defines how to solve the same conflict as financial applications face. However, it remains to be seen whether this approach helps with the Big Data based applications.

Chahana Patel
Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston
Herding Behavior in Financial Markets

The role of groupthink in the stock market has been seen many times in recent years, ranging from the financial recession in 2008 to today’s volatility in stock prices. Investors make trade decisions not just based on their rationale and research, but also from the actions of fellow investors. Recent trends that have led to this problem include stock market volatility following the recession, economic growth of other financial currencies, and an increased workflow into the industry, giving it more attention in recent decades. Whatever reasons may be, it is aware in behavioral finance that groupthink can have detrimental impacts on returns, valuations of assets, and the overall performance of the stock market. Groupthink specifically impacts the financial industry as herding bias, the individual act of going against personal opinions and experience to follow the actions of other investors, assuming that a group decision is safer. To further understand the effects of groupthink, this paper will analyze public search trends from tech companies and compare that to stock returns. The idea is to use data from Google trends, which shows interest over time of a term’s search history. My data will focus under the finance category trends as a way of measuring public behavior.

Marina Zhurauskayte
Gopala Vasudevan (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Dartmouth
The Impact of US Financial Regulations on Commercial and Investment Banks, Their Solvency, Liquidity, and Profitability

This study discusses the new financial regulations in the post-financial crisis period, focusing on Commercial and Investment banks, their solvency, liquidity, and profitability. The total number of requirements increased, making it difficult to determine how and when our Banks will be affected and which of regulation will bind the Banks and which will actually help. For example, the recent Senate Banking Committee passage of the Dodd-Frank Act regulatory reform bill provides a range of changes to the 2010 law that include providing relief to small and mid-size banks, and the Basel III regulatory with Common Equity Tier 1 and HQLA which is believed to cause more restraints on large banks. In addition, this paper will speculate how new regulation that had been passed or expected to be passed in the near future might affect the banking industry. 


Phoebe Gelbard
Carey Clouse (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Architecture, UMass Amherst

Where the Glaciers Flow Like Fountains: Perspectives on Climate Change in Chile

Since its colonization in the 16th century, the nation of Chile has had a history marked by human rights violations and environmental degradation (1). While great strides have been made in terms of improved social welfare and increased sustainability efforts, there are visible signs of the harm that continues to be suffered by the people and their land. One prominent challenge that threatens the survival of Chile’s population, ranging from inhabitants of rural, mountainous communities to individuals living in densely-populated urban areas, is the disappearance of the Andean glaciers. The Andes are home to approximately 95% of the world’s tropical glaciers, and by surface area, 80% of South America’s glacial mass is found in Chile (2). Since the Little Ice Age, these deposits of snow and ice have been decreasing in size, but the most notable shrinkage has been brought on by more recent climate change-related shifts in temperature and precipitation. As a major contributor to the global trade of agricultural exports, this has become not only a social and environmental issue for Chile, but an economic threat as well. The photographs prepared as part of this collection document the country’s present situation, highlighting the impacts that climate change is having on Chile’s cultural and geological landscape.

1. U.S. Library of Congress. “Politics and War in a Frontier Society.”

2. Vuille, Mathias, 2008. “Climate change and tropical Andean glaciers: Past, present and future.”

Randolph Keith Mogren
Allison L. Dunn (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics, Worcester State University

Using GIS Technologies to Map Field Sites for Monitoring Carbon Dynamics in Massachusetts Forests

Field work was conducted in Harvard Forest, Petersham, MA in August 2017. The purpose of the study is to measure carbon fluxes in and out of two forest stands over a ~10-year period. This study also investigates the feasibility of using the ArcGIS Collector app to map remote field sites.

The field work investigated two study areas, first established in 2008: one red pine plantation established in 1925 and one former red pine plantation that was harvested in 1990 and is now a young re-growing forest. Each study area consists of six randomly located 10-m radius plots where trees with a diameter of ≥ 5 cm were previously tagged (more than 800 trees total).  We gathered the GPS locations of the plots with the ArcGIS collector app for iPhone.  The DBH (diameter at breast height) of trees was recorded and plots were surveyed for tree mortality and recruitment.  We manually walked the outline of the study area with ArcGIS Collector to create a polygon/shapefile of the study area.

Data from ArcGIS Collector will be used to create detailed maps of the study areas. The maps from this work and biomass carbon data from another student using DBH data will allow extrapolation of the data across larger scales.  This will permit generation of regional-scale estimates of the role of these types of forests on the carbon cycle of Massachusetts.  This work will help predict future carbon dynamics in Massachusetts forests as well as generate management strategies to maximize forest carbon sequestration.

Juan Toro-Killion
Forrest Joseph Bowlick (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Geography, UMass Amherst
Ranking the New Jersey Counties Quality of Life 

A long withstanding argument for New Jersey residents has always been: Which region is better to live in? North or South Jersey? The two halves are different in multiple aspects, but the most prominent one is the fact that the north is rather urban, but the south is primarily rural. Because of this, each region has its own benefits and disadvantages. This study used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to assess the spatial patterns within the twenty-one counties' using several forms of analysis. The purpose of this research project was to compare quality of life metrics from a geographic perspective for the state as a whole. By using several geospatial methods, such as hot spot analyses, point density measurements, and cost-distance functions, on data sets that I identified as "life essentials", I compared how each county is observed through different spatial lenses. From this study, viewers could learn about how the 'best' and 'worst' areas to live in New Jersey are most likely ranked by social surveys and studies, as well as the difficulties associated with this kind of analysis.


Devon Lynn Dunajski
Isaac Larsen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst
Influence of Agriculture on Carbon Concentrations and Carbon 13 Abundance in the American Midwest

Agriculture is synonymous with our civilization- it is one of the most fundamental ways society interacts with the environment. Soil, especially healthy soil, is essential to maintaining the ability to provide food for a growing global population as well as acting as an important sink in the global carbon cycle. This research explores how human interaction, primarily agricultural practices, and erosion are affecting soil organic carbon (SOC) in cultivated soybean-corn crop rotation fields compared to native prairies. Analysis shows that prairies have an average ẟ13C value of -18.6‰, while the signature of cultivated fields is -22.7‰. In the fields, 35-54% of the SOC was input by domestic crops and the carbon concentration had decreased by an average of 40%. Carbon sources were determined via soil carbon concentration measurements and carbon isotope mixing models. The influence of hillslope curvature was also examined using modeling. Hillslope curvature values suggest that the field’s morphology may not have a large influence on ẟ13C, but likely influences the decline of carbon concentration. By understanding the isotopic composition of SOC and the effect hillslope curvature has on it, we can move toward developing an effective tool to further the understanding of how soil organic carbon, a vital nutrient, cycles through agricultural landscapes.

Mira C. Heckmann
Sonya Atalay (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst
Climate Change and the Collapse of Civilization: A Case Study for Old Kingdom Egypt

Today, as climate begins to change increasing pressures are being put on our society to adapt or face the brink of collapse. This is not the first time there has been a connection between climate change and the collapse of complex societies. Specifically, the collapse of societies in northeast Africa and the Nike Valley during the Old Kingdom period. A period of global cooling which ensued over 200 years caused variations in flooding, leading to widespread famine. In addition, problems with succession also led to a decentralized government unequipped to handle the famine. Using both geologic data and eyewitness accounts this study seeks to analyze the evidence behind climate change during this period. As well as provide context into what exactly caused the collapse of Old Kingdom Egypt. 

Patrick T. Scordato
Isaac Larsen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

SOC Accumulation in Northeast Kansas Restored Prairies

Agricultural land use can degrade soil and reduce the global pool of soil carbon. The loss of soil organic carbon (SOC) reduces soil fertility and may contribute to the rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, thus, negatively impacts humans. Restoring degraded soils can increase fertility and offset greenhouse gas emissions. We investigated SOC accumulation in restored prairies in the Midwestern United States to gain insight on the behavior of carbon accumulation in this region. SOC measurements in farmland, restored prairies, and native prairies in northeast Kansas were used to address SOC reduction due to farming, and SOC accumulation in decade to half century old restored prairies. Soil samples were collected in 0-20 cm and 20-40 cm depth increments, and inorganic carbon was removed by acid fumigation prior to SOC measurement using an elemental analyzer. The SOC in the agricultural field was 58% and 50% lower at 0-20 cm and 20-40 cm depths respectively relative to native prairie. The SOC reductions demonstrate agriculture’s negative impact on fertility. Results from restored prairies indicate the annual SOC accumulation rate was 0.0164% over a fifty year time period. Soil carbon content is positively correlated with time since restoration (R^2=0.93, after accounting for an outlier). Factors including land use management, vegetation, rill erosion, and topographic gradient and curvature would be worth researching in order to gain more insight on carbon accumulation rates in Midwest soil.


Victoria Rose Anderson
Jon Huibregtse (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Framingham State University
Charlie Turcotte's War in the Pacific

Charlie Turcotte of Pawtucket, RI entered the United States Navy in 1941 shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked. While in the USN he sailed on the U.S.S. Farenholt as a first-class gunner's mate and experienced the sinking of the U.S.S Wasp and the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was also involved in the Battle of Okinawa while serving on the U.S.S. PGM-11 and was witness to the infamous kamikaze attacks. Throughout his time in the service, Turcotte's ships were subject to numerous hits, including from friendly fire during the Battle of Cape Esperance, which nearly sank his ship. During the Battle of Okinawa, his ship was grounded and barely got home safely. Like so many servicemen, Turcotte came home after the war and married the love of his life. Turcotte's experiences were similar to those of other sailors of the time and as such, the paper connects his experience to the wider war in the Pacific. By writing this paper, I was able to learn about the life of a sailor and understand the war in a more personal way. This paper has been dedicated to Charlie Turcotte and his wife, Virginia, both American patriots.  

Jessica Marie Ballard
Kate M. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Cape Cod Community College
America's Silent Killer: The Polio Epidemic

Although Poliomyelitis has existed for centuries, the silent killer once again emerged during the Summer of 1916. The deadly disease enforced a reign of terror over the United States, and nothing anyone did would safeguard them from its crippling effects. Unsure of how it spread, individuals relied on isolation as a preventative measure- one to which Polio had no response. Polio seemed to pursue innocent children, and its consequences could lead to paralysis, or even death. This "new" disease imposed the greatest insult to American power, both in its technological and medical fields- injuring national power and affluence. A solution had to be found, and fast. This race quickly gained attention as the 1950's began, where progress on the disease came faster. As research continued, the epidemic increased in strength. Countless children and adults who had active and healthy lifestyles were crippled by disease. As the baby boom occurred following World War II, polio epidemics were rising faster than the population. What could be done? What factors caused the sudden movement for eradication for the disease? This project will explore the full effect Polio had on the United States by considering the epidemiological, socioeconomic, and psychological factors involved in its widespread survival, as well as its eradication. Evidence supporting the numerous influences will be provided through academic articles, and personal memoirs that help to reflect the significance of the disease on those afflicted in the 1950's, following World War II.  

Elbert Bowler
Nicholas Joseph Aieta (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Westfield State University
The Red Atlantic as Agency

The poster will focus on the themes of Jace Weaver’s The Red Atlantic, Andrew Lipman’s The Saltwater Frontier, Nancy Shoemaker’s Native American Whalemen and the New World, and David K. Richter’s, Facing East from Indian Country.  Their themes focus on the role the Atlantic Ocean and Imperial Europe played in the discovery and colonization of the “New World”, as well as first contact with indigenous people and the interplay between native populations of New England.  Extensive use of graphic images and bullet-point text will direct visitors through years 1620 to 1927, the year cross-Atlantic air travel began.

Alexander Bradford Burton
Kate M. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Cape Cod Community College
The Socioeconomic Effects of the Bubonic Plague

The Bubonic Plague was one of the deadliest plagues in history during its three pandemics. The plague was first found in 541 C.E. in the Byzantine Empire and eventually affected Western Europe between the years 1340-1400. This paper focuses on the socioeconomic effect of the second pandemic of the Bubonic Plague particularly on the continents of Europe and Asia. It will include the plague's effects on politics, territory, trade, and finance. The plague was also notoriously known as the Black Death, because it killed 30-60% of Europe’s population. It drastically affected trade, farming, communication, currency distribution, and violence. The Bubonic Plague defined the Late Middle Ages and shaped the history of not just Europe but the world.

Alyssa Leigh Campbell
Lori Bihler (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Framingham State University
Teaching the Internment of Japanese Americans through Multi-perspectivity and Interdisciplinary Studies

While teaching historical events through a singular presented narrative may be effective time-wise, it robs students of the opportunity to think critically about the past. In history, there is not one version of events; instead, there are multiple perspectives that, together, create a richer understanding of it. Teaching solely from a textbook gives students descriptions of events that can be grossly oversimplified. Presenting information through interdisciplinary activities, with multiple perspectives in mind is a more effective way to educate students and also strengthen their critical thinking skills. It is difficult for the United States to look back on its darker moments, and even more difficult to teach these events to students. Executive Order 9066 and the internment of Japanese Americans is one such moment in American history. The narrative of the interment process provided in most textbooks does not adequately present it as anything more than an influential domestic decision. However, by adopting lessons that utilize multi-perspectivity, and by focusing more on discussion and analysis of primary sources, teachers can encourage students to take an active part in their own learning while also analyzing the multilayered decision to imprison American citizens. 

Laura Cerniglia
Christian Appy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, UMass Amherst
How the Declassification of United States-Sanctioned Human Experimentation Affects the Way Americans Perceive the Government

My honors thesis will highlight secret human experimentation performed by the United States government throughout the course of the twentieth century.  I will specifically be focusing on the victims of these experiments, how they sought justice through the court system via compensation, how that compensation was received or not received, and how the families of these victims continue to fight for justice in the present.  I will also be analyzing how the victims of each experiment were chosen (i.e. gender, race, socioeconomic status, etc.) and how their perception of government changed following their experience.  The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center “Nutrition Study,” and the Massachusetts Walter E. Fernald State School “Science Club,” are some of the events I will be describing. I hope to paint an accurate portrait of the horrific scenarios victims were often placed in.  It is in this way that I will demonstrate how their demand for fair compensation and national recognition is understandably justified.  Lastly, by analyzing how the victim’s perception of government changed dramatically after their experience, I can draw relevant conclusions /seek to explain the attitudes of many United States citizens and how our perception of government slowly declined over the course of the twentieth century and catapulted us into a new age of political distrust.

Samantha Joanne DiMatteo
Jon Huibregtse (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Framingham State University
A New Sphere: Developing Matinees and Moral Dramas in Antebellum New York City

Nineteenth-century theaters and shows is a topic that receives little attention within historiography, and the discussion of matinees and women even less. Despite this, antebellum theaters were a rich and crucial part of entertainment for citizens, offering a variety of acts that could attract a variety of people, including women and families. Matinees, and the popular moral dramas that emerged from them, are a rich piece of nineteenth-century culture that developed out of changes not only in entertainment, but in the evolving environment around them. Developing gender roles, consumerism, and reform movements provided the foundation for the creation and popularization of matinees and moral dramas in the antebellum period by means of enabling women to be included in theater life. Many works discuss matinees when arguing a larger point about theaters, however, matinees are rarely placed at the center of their discussion. Moral dramas, while having works dedicated to their progressive ideas, are rarely contextualized into their role within theaters. Through a variety of sources from etiquette manuals and women’s writings, to moral drama scripts and broadsides, this poster both contextualizes matinees and moral dramas into the larger societal changes of the nineteenth century while also acknowledging the progressive importance of such topics. Such a discussion is essential to understanding both how broad societal changes affected the everyday lives of citizens within nineteenth-century cities, as well as how entertainment in turn affected society during this dynamic period.

Briana Lorraine Ducharme
Jon Huibregtse (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Framingham State University
"Smile upon Me Their Thanks": Relationships with Soldiers and Flow of Information in Civil War Nursing

Nurses in the Civil War, such as Clara Barton, are considered pioneers of modern medicine. Barton founded the American Red Cross and was instrumental in turning nursing into a profession for women after the war. Most nurses in the Civil War were highly dedicated to their patients and would often quarrel with surgeons over their proper care as they felt surgeons lacked the empathy and competence to treat the wounded. By looking at this conflict only as a power struggle for nurses to gain recognition or control within the hospital, it removes the human aspect of their care and the personal connections they had with their patients. Being responsible for their patients care and comfort  on a daily basis allowed personal connections to develop. Personal connections along with flow of information from parents of the soldiers and other nurses encouraged nurses to fully dedicate themselves to the care and wellbeing of their patients and allowed them to challenge the decision and practices of the surgeons in regard to their patients.

Korey Elizabeth Dupont
Erika Lynn Briesacher (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Worcester State University

War on the People: Analyzing the Social Impact of American Drug Policy, 1968-2018

Drugs use represents a ubiquitous and complex issue for policymakers in the United States. While the purpose of these substances can arguably range from medicinal to recreational, the necessity to legislate them has become increasingly salient. The opioid crisis has become a paramount issue—which is responsible for 63% of all drug overdose deaths—that lacks a proactive solution. Despite President Richard Nixon's announcement of the "War on Drugs" nearly 50 years ago, and despite President Donald Trump declaration of the opioid crisis a "public health emergency" months ago, the federal government has failed at addressing this epidemic. 

America must reevaluate its federal drug policy. Since the establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973, incarceration rates in the U.S. have risen at unprecedented rates. The current approach to drug policy has failed to yield measurable results. Instead, current policy perpetuates systemic racism and targets the poor and vulnerable; it has contributed to the U.S. having the highest rate of incarceratation in the world despite the continuous increase in prescription opioid and heroin-related deaths.

This paper will examine the social impact the War on Drugs has had by assessing a cornucopia of statistical evidence, and juxtaposing the analysis with federal drug policy.

Rachel Sarah Ferer
Kate M. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Cape Cod Community College
The Socioeconomic Effects of the Bubonic Plague

The incidence of Bubonic Plague that ravaged Europe following its arrival in 1348 wrought many changes on the socio-economic landscape of the region. Using primary and scholarly sources this paper will demonstrate that the plague greatly affected the European labor market, peasants' perceptions of their place therein, and their ability to barter for wages, shifting where the power lay in the labor market. The nobility had no choice but to enact new, sometimes drastic sanctions and policies in reaction to the rapidly changing economy. These events generally improved the lives and standings of the lower classes, aided in the advent of the middle class, and further estranged the nobility from their subjects. Eventually, in the following decades these factors coalesced, serving to widen class divisions and nurture animosity towards the nobility and landed gentry and culminated in mass rebellions, such as the Peasants' Revolt in England and the Jacquerie in France.

Thomas Joseph Howard
Mark Abate (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Westfield State University
Islamic Feminism in the Modern World

During my time spent in both HIST 0290 Islamic Civilization and HIST 0399 Studies of Islam, I have gained an understanding on the origins of the religion of Islam, the practice of Islam throughout history, and the impact that regional culture has on Islam throughout several different parts of the world. Not only are the cultures of these areas and nations different, but so too are their perspectives on Islamic Feminism, with Islamic Feminist movements growing in support and awareness in some countries, while others are suppressed by the state. I intend to compare Leila Ahmed, an Egyptian Islamic Historian, and her findings in Women and Gender in Islam as well as A Border Passage, to Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan Islamic Sociologist, observing her works Beyond the Veil, Dreams of Trespass, and The Veil and the Male Elite,  as well as evaluate on what they observed, and why they acquired different results.

Benjamin Christopher Kuebler
Tona Hangen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History and Political Science, Worcester State University

All Roads Lead to Worcester: Transportation's Key Role in the Development of Worcester, Massachusetts

This research describes and highlights the importance of transportation developments in Worcester, Massachusetts during the 19th century towards its growth from a stagnating rural township to a major industrial city. The research focuses on the history surrounding the Blackstone Canal, the major railroads that ran to and from Worcester, and the various firms and industries that developed around them. The sources drawn upon include the work of various historians, both contemporary and from the period researched, as well as primary sources such as company charters, stock reports, newspapers, photographs and lithographs. Through the use of these sources it is shown that by being quick to adopt the latest transportation technology and infrastructure, early 19th century rural Worcester set itself up to become an industrial boom town despite its limitations as an inland town that lacked access to navigable natural waterways. Starting with the construction of the Blackstone Canal in the 1820s and followed by the construction of railroads like the Boston & Worcester, and the Western during the 1830s and 40s, Worcester opened itself up to the raw materials, labor, capital, and markets required to build a vibrant and diverse industrial sector that would prosper well into the 20th century.

Jacob Timothy Kulik
Kate M. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Cape Cod Community College
The Evolution of Biological Agents as Weapons of Terror

This paper will focus on the evolution of the use of biological weapons. Preliminary research suggests that the real danger posed by biological weapons is not in large-scale nation-versus-nation warfare, but instead lies in the ability of nations or non-nations to use them as a means of terrorism. With the development of biological weapons becoming more transparent, it is now easier than ever to construct such devices and use them to push personal or political goals. The development of biological weapons has opened a Pandora’s box. Although still a threat in large-scale warfare, bioweapons have become far more likely to be used for terrorism. Internet sources supported by scholarly sources including different journals and historical documents will be used to analyze casualties and incidents in which these weapons endangered lives.

Rhiannon K. McIntyre
Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College
Violence against Civilians in War

This paper will examine the long withstanding relationship the American military has with violence against civilians, from the Vietnam War (1955-1975) to the present. In war it is understood that there will be casualties. However, there is a line between what can be considered “collateral damage” and unnecessary civilian’s deaths. During the years of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1973, civilians were bombed, gassed, sexually and physically, assaulted, in manners so brutal, that much attention has been called over the years, to the inhumane practices committed by the American military.

Using the Vietnam War as the base of comparison, this paper will look at America’s continued violence against civilians as well as why the violence occurred, whether it be due to racial tension, poor political decisions, or the increasing use of more destructive weapons.

Additionally, though civilian deaths in the War in Afghanistan (2001-) and the Iraq War (2003-2011) are less than that of the Vietnam War, the numbers are still staggering. Where one could hope that brutality committed by the American military since the Vietnam War, would be something that is incessantly avoided, civilians living in war zones in the Middle East have been frequently killed by bombs, drone strikes, IED’s, bullets, etc. These casualties should not however, be seen as  collateral damage in war, but rather civilian deaths that could have been avoided.

Brooke Lynne Meservey
Kate M. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Cape Cod Community College
Pestilence and Peasants: The Most Valuable and the Most Vulnerable

Disease, man’s most formidable foe besides mankind itself, is an expert killer. From smallpox, to the Black Death, to influenza, plague washes over civilizations and sometimes the whole world leaving devastation in its wake. No one is safe from pestilence, as it can strike anyone from any class resulting in death. But, there is a part of society that even now remains the most vulnerable, and the most vulnerable would be those of the lower classes. From living conditions to access to medical care the lower class is very susceptible to disease. Without the lower class in society, things fall apart, and this core workforce, this core of society is the most valuable and most vulnerable. Without people to work jobs like harvesting for instance there would be food shortage. The “lower” classes of people make up most of society so when they are all wiped out the economy or perhaps even an empire can come crashing down. In the succeeding pages, exploration of the impact of multiple diseases on the lower class population will be discussed. Instances ranging from the beginning of civilization to present day will be examined to reveal the devastation that contagious disease can inflict on the lower class.

Austin Richard O'Leary
Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College
Hoodlum Activities

Outlaw motorcycle clubs have become romanticized within American culture despite countless examples of lurid violence. Americans have developed an affinity for these clubs due to the fact that they embody many of the characteristics that are revered by society as a whole. This would include the allure of living life on the fringes of society, a shared an emphasis on the importance of brotherhood, as well as the willingness to violently protect our way of life.

Amelia Gale Pattison
Elizabeth McCahill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, UMass Boston
Rock the Bloc: The Punk Rock Rebellion in East Germany

Many times, rebellions and uprisings are inspired by certain music. In the German Democratic Republic (GRD), behind the Berlin Wall, a counter culture of Punk rockers was brewing, inspired by the forbidden western music of David Bowie. The existing culture was mobilized to revolt after the Concert for Berlin in 1987, when Bowie played at the Brandenburg Gate, and pointed his speakers East to give those in GDR a show. This led to one of the most brutal revolts in East German history, with scores of young East Germans being beaten and arrested by the police. After this, the punk movement continued to gain momentum, terrorizing the regime, and ultimately played a significant role in tearing down the wall and reunifying Germany in 1989. Research to support this thesis focuses on first hand accounts of those who attended and rallied, as well as those who organized uprisings, as well as interviews with David Bowie himself. There are also large numbers of state official documents recording the East German paranoia about the Punk culture, western rock music, and youth uprisings. 

Christopher Rumbaugh
Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College
Environmental Racism and the American Dream

American corporations regularly commit acts of environmental injustice, almost always inflicting the most damage to racial minorities belonging to a lower socioeconomic status. In a country heavily stratified by wealth and race this is inevitable. This project aims to explore environmental racism as a mechanic that makes the "American Dream" unattainable for many minority communities while materially, physically harming them.

Ann D. Russell
Kate M. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Cape Cod Community College
The Meaning of Art during the United States' AIDS Epidemic of the 1980s

In this research project, the artistic response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that occurred in the United States in the 1980s will be explored. This project will include a researched account of the stigmatization of the LGBTQ community during the initial crisis, as well as make connections between this marginalized community, its stigmatization, and the outpouring of activist artwork. The project aims to answer the question of how a community ravaged by disease responds during crisis – it will show that the lack of an organized response from the government, stigma in the medical community, and even isolation from the rest of society created a vibrant activist-artist movement. The research will explore individual artists as well as art collectives that used creativity to counteract the psychological and sociocultural pain of the LGBTQ community during the AIDS crisis. 

Luis E. Santos
Donald E. Kilguss, Jr. (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History and Political Science, Bristol Community College
Colonialism and Postcolonialism of Puerto Rico Case Study

Puerto Rico is an island nation whose local bilingual population has become subservient to the U.S. Most Puerto Ricans descended from the Taino, who were once a prominent Native Americans who lived in the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico for four hundred years until colonization and expansion led to the disappearance of a distinct people. Yet, the truth is that their cultural extinction was brought upon assimilation of a conquering group, the Spanish conquistadores. After Spanish rule Puerto Rico was ceded to the U.S. What happened then is a history of an oppressed group of people that until today not much has changed. Capitalist policies prey on the weak and the uneducated, conformity has led to a class consciousness that has made it "okay" to be oppressed, in other words, a silent oppression. The relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico is a controversial legacy, which directly affects Latin America.  It remains to be said that the existing social problems are because of this dichotomy. By tracing ideological patterns and events we'll understand these questions from a modernist perspective: how has U.S. imperialism after the Treaty of Paris of 1898 impacted the current Puerto Rican debate over statehood? Should P.R. become a state of the U.S. or an independent nation, and what are the disadvantages and advantages? What is the relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S.?

Audrey Ruth Therriault
Brooke Speer Orr (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Westfield State University
Harriet B. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and a Woman's Influence on the Civil War

This electronic presentation will analyze Uncle Tom's Cabin as a literary text and a decisive piece of American history. Visuals, historical sources, text from the novel, and original analysis will be utilized. The research will appear as an imitation newspaper article/book review, as if it were published during the years surrounding the Civil War. The background of Harriet B. Stowe's prominent social position will be assessed in order to fully understand the context in which the fictional novel was written. The validity of her supposed run-in with Lincoln, and him calling her "the little woman who began this Great War," through the use of primary and secondary sources, will be questioned. However, the bulk of the presentation will surround Stowe's interaction with Black Americans, slavery, racism, the culture surrounding her, and how she decided to use her voice. As a white citizen, she had influence. As a woman, her writing was bound to be scoffed upon. This innate tension encompassed in her position in society and her own personal experiences birthed Uncle Tom's Cabin - the novel that was second in sales only to the Bible during the 19th century. 

Linda Trieu
Francisco Vivoni (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Sociology, Worcester State University

This project explores the reasoning on why Vietnam became Communist in the 1960-70's. It will explore Vietnam's culture and how it can relate to the Communist philosophy of Karl Marx. It will look more in depth of French colonialism in Vietnam along with American intervention and how the Vietnamese reacted to these types of policies. Rather than having said Vietnam fell under the wrath of Communism, it will explore why the communist ideal may have fit Vietnam's ways of government and be the ideal system that represented the people at that time. This project will also focus on Vietnam's willingness to become an independent country by fighting for their ideas and the unification of the North and South.  

Kaileen Wheeler
Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

American Racial Profiling and the Assumption of Black Criminality

The deep-seated prejudices and entitlement of the "first people" to establish an american space shaped the attitudes of future Americans. it is detrimental in how Americans look/deal with minorities.

Racialized slavery shored up white power with the help of strategic stereotypes (especially after we "won" emancipation). These stereotypes, deeply rooted in american history, are what caused the mass amount of gross insensitivity, racial profiling and white washing that comes with America.


Emilie Cycz
Matt Silva
Muzzo Uysal (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, UMass Amherst
Delineating Product Bundles for a State Park System Using Push and Pull Factors of Motivation: A Canonical Correlation Approach

Previous studies reveal that there is a strong interaction between push and pull factors of motivation.  Push factors represent social physiological reason for travel whereas pull factors represent destination attributes in general.  To effectively market a destination, it is necessary to understand both push and pull factors and the relationship between them. Knowledge about the interaction of these two dimensions of visitor motivation can help marketers and developers of t destination areas determine the most successful coupling of push and pull factors as tourism product bundles. This interaction based on tourism motivations may then provide a basis for segmenting those travelling for pleasure. The study has two main objectives.  The first is to delineate and understand existing product bundles as a function of both push motivation factors and pull destination attributes utilizing canonical correlation analysis. Canonical analysis is a technique for finding the correlations between one set of variables (multiple dependent variables) and a second set of variables (multiple independent variables). Second, the study explores and illustrates the usefulness of the relationship between push and pull factors based on the delineated variates of these items by assigning respondents to identified product bundles to form market segments with overlaps and provide marketing implications. The sample of this study consists of those individuals who visited a state park at least one time in the past 12 months in the southeast part of the of the USA. A total of 3.050 usable surveys will be analyzed to address the study objectives. The study will end with appropriate marketing and management implications.

Angela Nicole Faneuff
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Home Away from Home?: A Study of the Airbnb Market Effects on Tourism

Travelers searching for lodging traditionally seek out hotels, but hotels are expensive and do not often offer an authentic impression of the community they are located in. AirBnb offers a solution to this dilemma. This relatively new company has been able to maintain an excellent reputation as affordable and locally flavored lodging. Unfortunately with the creation of AirBnb some ethical problems have come to light. My research explores the sociological and economic issues that arise in the new tourism industry of AirBnB. Various travelers have given a big thumbs up to their experiences with this service, but many do not see the behind the scenes issues with the business. For example, disabled travelers are facing discrimination and exclusion from a great number of properties offered on the site. The article “Disabled Travelers Are More Likely to Be Rejected by AirBnb Hosts, a Study Finds” (ChokshiI, Niraj and Benner, Katie) explains how unregulated the requirements of these rentals are in comparison to more conventional methods. Sadly, it leaves disabled people unable to stay at many of the sites locations giving them a much smaller pool of availability than the average traveler. AirBnb would need to gain more requirements in order to be accessible to all. They have already make steps toward this with the creation of there anti discrimination policy. AirBnb’s mission is to find the right space for any and everyone to stay.  


Yueying Liu
Tim Richards (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst
Delivery Entrepreneur Mobile Game Project

This is a Commonwealth Honors Interdisciplinary Project which integrates knowledge from Computer Science and Art.  The goals of the game are to create great user experience and convey social messages about labor and thinking. In particular, we do this through the implementation of a game that has the user take the role of a delivery entrepreneur to survive in a highly competitive world. Only through thinking and hardwork can the user proceed in the game. This is a Virtual Reality game running on a mobile device and Google Cardboard. The game is developed using Unity and C# as the programming tools and Maya as the Art creation tool. Rounds of playtests are conducted to get feedback on how well these goals are achieved. During the development process, the thoughts and efforts in achieving these goals and the differences between developing mobile games versus desktop applications are noted for analysis and future references.

Jessica Nicole Mulhearn
Joseph Coelho (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, Framingham State University
Globalization and Social Movements: The Role of Technology and Resource Mobilization

This paper examines the impact of globalization on social movements. The advancement of information technology and social media has allowed different kinds of social movements to move to a global scale. Using resource mobilization theory, this paper will explore how various aspects of the internet, such as the multitude social media platforms, provides activists additional political space to effectively organize events and disseminate information. With new technological developments, movements can expand their agendas beyond national borders and become global. To demonstrate the utility of the resource mobilization theory, this paper will discuss how several global events such as, the election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, and the electoral victories of far right parties in parts of Europe have benefited enormously by such technology. In many ways, these groups or movements are propelled by populism and hyper-nationalism, and share a common agenda: resistance towards globalization, especially in terms of free trade, immigration, and cultural exchanges. Although social platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook have provided new spaces and opportunities to gain more followers and influence on politics, the implications of such technology on the state of democracy and the broader liberal world order are manifold.  

Cedrick Pierre-Louis
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
How to Have It All: Quality, Affordability, and Profitability?

According to “The Big Idea: How to Solve the Cost Crisis in Health Care” in the Harvard Business Review, the United States has the same increasing trend in healthcare costs as other countries, however, it is the only nation that spends 17% of its GDP on it. The current form of reimbursement for healthcare professionals is based on procedures performed instead of outcomes achieved. This research discusses how healthcare costs can be reduced with a mutually positive effect on the quality of care and the profitability of the important players in the healthcare industry. It will introduce the role relative technology, informative insurance health plans, and deductible investment portfolios will play in facilitating the proposed system discussed in this paper. According to  “How the U.S. Can Reduce Waste in Health Care Spending by $1 Trillion”,  focusing on the quality of care may significantly reduce healthcare costs by decreasing the amount of visits a patient makes and prohibiting the use of unnecessary tests to increase profitability. Instead of revenue made from the tests given, revenue will come from the various stages of care a patient undergoes. The concept is to create teams of various disciplines in the health industry working together to improve the quality of life of each patient. Due to the multiple players in the healthcare industry, the quality of care must be attained by its guarantee on partial or complete patient satisfaction to boost sales of services and products.   




Zean Liu
Christine Lasco Crago (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Resource Economics, UMass Amherst
Climate Action in China and the US under the Paris Climate Agreement

“Climate Change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now.” --- Barack Obama on Climate Change, President of the United States of America. Climate Change is indeed an urgent threat to our planet and humanity. The effort to stop carbon emissions requires a collective endeavor and collective accountability. This study will conduct an assessment of the impact of the Paris Agreement in China and the United States. The research will analyze attitude and motivation behind cutting carbon emissions; report commitment under the Paris Agreement for China and the United States; and examine the costs and benefits of actions undertaken to meet commitments in the past year. Finally, this paper will also draw a parallel comparison of the two countries’ attitude, motivation, commitment, actions and leadership role in global climate action. Using the cost and benefit analysis (CBA) method, this research will examine the effectiveness of one specific national policy for each country under their submitted nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The results of this analysis will raise awareness on the issue of global climate change, and improve understanding of the importance of the Paris Agreement, which is a legally-binding framework in the 21st century for an internationally coordinated effort to tackle climate change.

Edward Liam Martin
Rebecca Benya-Soderbom (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Bristol Community College
Turkish and American Strategic Cooperation in a Changing Middle East

This research paper seeks to answer the following question: what is the role of Turkey in United States foreign policy in the Middle East, and to what extent does Turkey undermine American efforts in the region? This project will analyze the American-Turkish relationship in the context of changing political circumstances within the Turkish government, mutual and opposing interests relevant to national security in the region, and the effects of recent Turkish actions on American strategy in the region. This subject is of particular interest to me because of the frequency at which Turkish and American actions seem to conflict with each other’s interests, despite the long history of cooperation between the two nations. Turkey’s recent actions against American partners within Syrian Kurdistan, as well as a government in Ankara that appears to grow more authoritarian as time passes seem to be red flags in what has otherwise been a fruitful alliance, and this paper aims to examine the strength of this alliance as it stands today.


Alvin Edward Buyinza
Kathy Roberts Forde (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Journalism, UMass Amherst
How Legacy Newspapers Can Diversify Their Staff by Modeling Digital-Based Media Outlets

This research project aims to address racially diverse media reporting in news publications in the 21st century. Legacy newspapers like The New York TimesWashington Post and The Wall Street Journal have not included sufficient racially diverse content on their print and digital news platforms. In the past, conversations about newsroom diversity have focused on the number of journalists of color in newsrooms, and rightly so. However, these conversations have failed to address the lack of diverse race reporting, especially in legacy newspapers. This research project proposes that legacy newspapers allow their reporters of color more journalistic freedom in reporting on underrepresented communities as a way to diversify race reporting. The primary basis of research includes setting five key parameters to define legacy newspapers: 1) multi-award winning, 2) having a circulation of at least 500,000, 3) having a strong reputation in the history of American journalism, 4) being over a century old, and 5) maintaining national coverage. Additionally, research includes analyzing several articles on race from digital media sites including Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Vox and comparing them to race coverage in legacy newspapers. The goal is to discover not only how they differ but also what legacy newspapers can learn from digital news outlets in terms of diversifying race coverage. With an emphasis on The New York Times due to weaknesses outlined in its 2020 report, this research seeks to offer solutions to how legacy newspapers can create greater diversity in race reporting while maintaining their respective identities.

Callie A. Hansson
Joshua Albert Braun (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Journalism, UMass Amherst
Digital Technologies and Sex Trafficking

Criminals have made use of contemporary technology in sex trafficking efforts, making it more widespread and profitable than ever before. The rise of trafficking online has also lead to increased collaboration between law enforcement and NGOs, provoking questions about the distinct interests of each of these stakeholders, how they intersect, and the potential impacts of their differing definitions of the problem. We have begun examining the techniques for detection and enforcement, as well as the various problem definitions that hold currency in the anti-trafficking community through interviews with stakeholders. Additionally, we are examining how these definitions and perspectives of the problem compare with the experiences of trafficking victims and other sex workers through interviews with social workers and other professionals who work with them in highly impacted communities within the U.S. From this study, we hope to learn how different stakeholders in the anti-trafficking community view the problem and examine whether there's a disconnect between their perspectives and the on-the-ground experience of victims and consensual sex workers, as well as the social workers and other professionals who interface with them. This may ultimately speak to the effectiveness of anti-trafficking techniques in preventing human trafficking, convicting traffickers, and providing aid for victims, as well as allow us to consider the extent to which these same efforts contribute to modes of panoptic control directed at marginalized communities and further the monetary and political interests of non-governmental actors—what Musto and Boyd(2014) refer to as "neoliberal governmentalities."


Ramzi J. Adil
Joseph Hamill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
A Study of Kinematic Factors of Tibial Stress Fractures with an Emphasis on Stride Length

Introduction: Tibial stress fractures (TSFs) are injuries frequently incurred by female athletes and military recruits. Injured recruits and athletes are unable to train for an extended period of time which hinders their careers and, in the case of the recruits, also costs the army capable personnel. Researching kinematic factors which are associated with TSFs may provide insight into interventions that reduce the risk of incurring a TSF. The purpose of this study was to ascertain if kinematic variables like rearfoot eversion and, in particular, stride length are significantly larger in females that have previously experienced a TSF. Methods: Ten participants (five with a history of TSF and five without) will be recorded with 3D motion cameras while running. Ground reaction forces will be collected via force platform. The 3D kinematic data will be processed with Visual3D. The variables to be observed are stride length, free moment, rearfoot eversion, vertical loading rates, and tibial acceleration. Results: It is expected that values in these variables will be significantly larger in those with a prior TSF injury than in those without a prior TSF injury. Conclusions: A final conclusion will be formed after data has been collected and analyzed from the subjects.

Luke Richard Arieta
Jane Kent (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Effects of Increased Fat Deposition on Specific Torque and Muscle Function

Adipose or fat tissue deposition in muscle is known to cause adverse health outcomes, which may include loss of muscle function. To determine whether greater levels of intramuscular fat disrupts force production in the quadriceps muscles of otherwise healthy adults, magnetic resonance images (3 tesla Skyra, Siemens Medical Systems, Germany) were obtained of the thigh in 5 normal body mass (NBM; BMI 18.5-24.9) and 3 high body mass (HBM; BMI >30.0) adults aged 24-45 years. Fat and muscle tissue in the middle 10 slices of the quadriceps were determined using a 6-point Dixon method and analyzed in MATLAB (Mathworks, Natick, MA). Maximal voluntary isometric and isokinetic torque were determined via isokinetic dynamometer (Biodex 4, Biodex Systems, Shirley, NY), and used to determine specific torque (torque produced per unit muscle mass). Specific isometric torque was not different between groups (2.54±0.03 Nm/cm2, 2.40±0.20 Nm/cm2, respectively; p=0.17), nor was specific power during dynamic contractions at any velocity tested (90, 180, 240 and 360 deg∙s-1 ; p≤0.44). Specific power at 180 deg∙s-1 was not associated with %fat in the muscle by linear regression (r=0.17, p=0.68). Though intramuscular fat deposition may negatively affect torque production of the quadriceps muscles in healthy young adults, our sample may not be large enough to observe a statistically significant difference. Impairments in muscle function may have further deleterious effects on mobility and thus contribute to inactivity-related disease over the lifespan.

Kiichi Francis Ash
Brian Umberger (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Effect of Interlimb Asymmetry on Energy Expenditure and Joint Kinematics in People with Lower Limb Amputation

It is generally accepted that humans adapt locomotor patterns that optimize metabolic cost. However, it is unclear whether the locomotion patterns of people with lower limb amputations are optimized for reducing metabolic cost. Research has found that people with lower limb amputations generally have greater metabolic cost compared with people without amputation. The purpose of the study is to understand the effect of inter-limb asymmetry on metabolic cost and lower extremity joint kinematics. I hypothesized that each person with a trans-tibial amputation will have a gait pattern that is most optimal for them. Five people with a unilateral transtibial amputation and five people without amputation walked on a treadmill while receiving real time visual feedback about stance time asymmetry. Subjects walked on a treadmill with preferred, symmetrical and varying levels of asymmetrical characteristics. Joint kinematics were determined from motion capture data, and energy expenditure was determined via pulmonary gas exchange. Energy expenditure and joint kinematics were compared between groups for each condition using multiple T-test. Data collection and analysis are still ongoing and will provide important new information on how walking pattern, metabolic cost, and asymmetry interact in able bodied people and people with limb loss. This new information will inform enhanced rehabilitation techniques and improve prosthetic design to optimize mobility and independence in people with trans-tibial amputation. 

Jessica Sarah Benoit
Jane Kent (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Potential Bioenergetic Mechanism of Age-Related Differences in Muscle Fatigue

Muscle fatigue, defined as the contraction-induced decline in maximal force- or power-producing capacity of muscle, is similar between young and older adults in response to moderate-velocity contractions. In response to high-velocity contractions, muscle fatigue is greater in older compared with young muscle. Currently, the mechanisms for this greater muscle fatigue in older adults are not known. Twenty young (25-40yrs; n=10 men) and twenty older (65-80yrs; n=10 men) healthy, sedentary adults will be recruited. Participants will be positioned supine in a 3-Tesla magnetic resonance scanner with a dual-tuned 31-phosphorus coil positioned over the vastus lateralis muscle of their thigh, which will be strapped to an isokinetic dynamometer at the knee and ankle using inelastic straps. Participants will then complete 1 maximal voluntary dynamic contraction every 2s for 4min at either a moderate (120°.s-1) or high velocity (240°.s-1) while 31-phosphorus spectra are acquired every 2s. Our hypothesis is that the older muscles will have a lower oxidative capacity that in turn causes greater reliance on non-oxidative ATP production compared with young muscle during high-velocity, but not moderate-velocity contractions. We further hypothesize that this scenario will result in greater intracellular accumulation of metabolites known to cause fatigue (i.e., [H+], [Pi] and [H2PO4-]) following the high-velocity, but not moderate-velocity, contraction protocol. If our hypotheses are true, this study will provide the first experimental data in support of a bioenergetic mechanism for the age-related differences in muscle fatigue during high-velocity contractions. 

Thomas Aaron Bogue
Joseph Hamill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Sex Differences in Single-Leg Landing Knee Biomechanics: Implications for Non-contact Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

Introduction: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are a prevalent knee injury in sports. Studies have shown that female athletes are 2-9 times more likely to injure their ACLs than male athletes. Most ACL injuries occur in non-contact situations due to forces generated by a sharp deceleration as in a single-leg landing. Previous analyses suggest that non-contact ACL ruptures occur when knee is close to full extension and in a valgus position. The purpose of this study was to compare knee extension angles and knee valgus angles in healthy male and female populations during an single leg landing. Methods: Data were collected from 6 male and 6 female participants aged 19-22 using 3D motion cameras and force platforms. Participants performed 10 simple hops onto their preferred leg off a 41cm box, followed by 10 dynamic hops where the participant immediately rebounded after landing. Data from the first 100ms after initial contact were processed and analyzed using visual 3D and a custom computer program. The primary variables for this study were peak knee extension angle (PEA), peak knee valgus angle (PVA), and peak knee valgus moment (PVM). Results: It is expected that females will have greater PEA, PVA, and PVM values than males, and that dynamic hops will result in greater PEA, PVA, and PVM values than simple hops.

Kevin Paul Cecio
Jason C. Sawyer (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Movement Arts, Health Promotion, and Leisure Studies, Westfield State University
Differences in Power Output during the Sumo versus Conventional-Style Deadlift in DIII Football Players

INTRODUCTION: The purpose of the research was to determine how the stance of a barbell deadlift affects NCAA Division III football players power output during their 3 weeks of preseason training. The 2 different deadlift stances are a wider stance or sumo, and a narrower stance which is known as conventional.

METHODS: The study consisted of two testing sessions, no shorter than 48 hours apart to ensure proper recovery of the participant. The two sessions took place on the same time of day. One testing session determined the power output of the sumo style deadlift stance. The second testing session determined the power output of the conventional style deadlift stance. Both sessions included a short demonstration on how the deadlift is performed prior to testing. During testing, the athletes were asked to perform 3 sets of 3 repetitions with 70% of their 1RM max deadlift (taken from prior football testing). The data was collected on the GymAware unit, which calculates power based on a load and how fast it moves. All testing and training sessions were supervised for safe technique by a Certified Strength and Conditioning coach.

RESULTS: *Still in progress*

CONCLUSION: *Still in progress*

Brian Friscia
Katherine Boyer (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Measuring Differences in Physical Activity and Physical Function following an Intra-articular Knee Joint Injection in Obese and Non-obese Patients

Purpose: To quantify the change in physical activity amount and intensity following an intra-articular knee joint injection for individuals with knee Osteoarthritis (OA). In addition, the research will quantify the differences in physical activity change between obese and non-obese subgroups. Knee injections have proven to be an effective treatment method for improving pain and functioning. However, prior research on knee injections has not focused on objectively measured physical activity rather relying solely on self-report.  Self-reported physical activity reports may not have the sensitivity to detect important changes. 

Methods: 20 participants will be recruited including 10 obese subjects (BMI> 30 kg). Participants will be provided with an Actigraph 3GTX device one week prior to the injection to record baseline data and then continue for two weeks following the procedure, while also filling out daily physical activity logs to assess self-reported data. Data analysis will look at steps per day as the primary outcomes which will then be compared pre-post injection within a participant and then between two subgroups.

 Results and Discussion: The first subject to complete the study is a 69 year old (BMI=31.88kg). The Actigraph recorded an average of 5552.143 steps/day prior to injection and an average of 5758.786 steps/day following the two weeks post injection supporting our hypothesis. An increase in physical activity in both obese and non-obese would support the efficacy of the knee injection to improve quality of life in knee OA patients and suggest knee injection may support behavioral change intervention for weight-loss. 

Brett Kragie Gramann
John Ronald Sirard (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Activity Intensity Patterns Assessed by Direct Observation and Accelerometry during Ultimate Frisbee Game Play

Physical activity (PA) is any body movement produced by skeletal muscle that results in energy expenditure (EE). Measuring PA accurately during various activities is important for many researchers to better understand the dose-response relationship between PA and health. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to use video-based direct observation (DO) to characterize the PA level and tempo of University Ultimate Frisbee (UF) players during game play using research grade accelerometers as the comparison measure. Methods: Study participants were males aged 18-21 on the University of Massachusetts UF team. The participants wore two ActiGraph accelerometers: one on the hip (AG-H) and one on the non-dominant wrist (AG-W). The session was video recorded with a GoPro camera. Data Processing and Analyses: Each video will be observed in the Noldus Observer XT software and coded for whole body movement, activity type and estimated Metabolic Equivalent values (1 MET=resting metabolic rate). AG-H and AG-W data will be processed and analyzed in the ActiLife software. Cutpoints will be applied to calculate the amount of time spent in light, moderate, and vigorous PA. Descriptive statistics of time spent in PA levels and estimated EE will be calculated and compared between DO and both AG locations. Movement accumulation will be characterized by identifying work-to-rest ratios. The results of this study will more accurately inform the Compendium of Physical Activity for the MET intensity value associated with Ultimate Frisbee.

Lada Grigoreva
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Does a Relationship between Steps per Day and Nighttime Sleep Duration in Full-Time College Students Exist?

Sleep and physical activity are important for well-being. The study is designed to determine if there is a relationship between number of steps per day and night sleep duration in full-time college students who are 19-24 years of age. This is important information as members of this population frequently walk around the campus and also have a high risk of sleep deprivation. Six college students were recruited: 3 men and 3 women who were free of any injury or illness that impaired their ability to walk or sleep. A telephone screening was completed prior to the study. Participants' anthropometric data were recorded using standardized procedures in the Physical Activity and Health Laboratory. The participants were provided with a Garmin Vivofit 3 for step tracking and sleep duration recording. They also received a log to manually record of the time they fell asleep and woke up each day. Excluding the date when the devices were provided, the participant wore the device for four consecutive days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and returned the devices on Monday along with their self-monitored data. A positive/ negative/absent relationship between the number of steps per day and sleep duration was evaluated. Differences in these behaviors between days will also be described. Lessons learned from the research process will be shared.

Avery Guan
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Monitoring Dance Physical Activity in College Students

In most research studying dance physical activity (PA), results typically showed that dance produced below average levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). However, existing literature evaluating dance PA using accelometry relies on narrow demographics in their participant populations, typically comprising only  female dancers who are either children or adolescents. This study seeks to evaluate dance PA using mobile health devices, but will focus on college-aged students (18 – 23 years old). A total of 6 students, 2 men and 4 women, enrolled in a beginner-level modern-dance class at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, were recruited to participate in the study. Data collection took place over the course of two days. Participants wore Actigraph GT9X accelerometers on their right hip during their 50 minute dance class period. The class periods were observed by a researcher to record what proportion of class time was spent sedentary, warming-up, and performing choreography. Data from the Actigraph GT9X accelerometers were exported to the ActiLife software for statistical analysis. The data gathered from the accelerometers will be analyzed alongside the different segments of class activity to evaluate if the accelerometer data corresponds with respective activity intensity. Participants are hypothesized to be more active during the choreography portion of class rather than during the warming-up portion of class. The results of this study will help to determine the reliability of using mobile health devices to detect motion during dance.

Adrian Hale
John Ronald Sirard (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Characterizing Movement during Sporting Activities in Middle-School Children

The primary purpose of this study is to use direct observation (DO) to characterize children’s movement during sporting activities by examining the time spent in different physical activity (PA) types and intensity categories (sedentary, light, moderate, vigorous). As part of a larger study, children (n=10) were recruited to participate in a sporting activity of their choosing for about one hour. Children were filmed throughout the session (GoPro digital camera) and wore one ActiGraph GT3X+BT accelerometer (AG) on their right hip and one on their non-dominant wrist. The AG data was processed using previously developed cutpoints to categorize the data into intensity categories. Each second of the sporting activity videos was coded (Noldus Observer XT) for whole body movements (e.g. sitting, walking, running) and intensity. Intensity category was assigned through DO by using multiples of the resting metabolic rate (METS, 1 MET = resting) found in the Youth Compendium of Physical Activities (Butte et al., 2018). The MET values were then categorized using standard cutoffs for sedentary (1.0-1.4 METs), light (1.5-2.9 METs), moderate (3.0-5.9 METs) and vigorous intensity (6.0 METs). We hypothesize that the majority of time will be spent in moderate intensity, with less time spent in sedentary, light and vigorous intensity over the duration of a sporting activity. However, we also hypothesize that the pattern of accumulation of time spent in vigorous PA will resemble that of high intensity interval training, an effective training modality for improving fitness and health.

Jad Imad
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Can Wearable Devices That Count Steps Be Used to Monitor Horse Riders' Activity during Rising Trot?

This study was conducted to take the first step in testing the effectiveness of wearable accelerometer-based devices uses during a non-ambulatory activity, horse riding. The study recruited six professional horse riders from a local riding stable. All were between 18-30 years of age and supplied their own horses. Riders’ height, seated height, and weight were measured using standardized protocols. Riders were monitored using Actigraph and Activpal accelerometer-based devices. Individual rider’s observed movements were limited to sit-stand transitions during a standard rising trot and this was video recorded along and counted using a hand tally device. Data were collected from both accelerometers in steps using a manufacturers’ software and were compared with the actual rider’s count of sit-stand transitions. A correlation between both sit-stand transitions and steps data was reported, indicating a positive correlation. The formula used to calculate the sit-stand transition taken was (number of steps - 42) for Activpal and (number of steps) for Actigraph. These results indicate that accuracy can be affected by the rider’s or the horse’s performance. The study was limited to rising trot and does not test other horse speed phases. In conclusion, wearable accelerometer-based devices that count steps can be used to monitor horse riders’ sit-stand movements. Hopefully, this study will open the door for future studies, leading to the creation of a wearable device that monitors horse rider’s movement at all horses' speeds.

Anudeep V. Jala
Mark Stuart Miller (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Effects of Starvation and Migration on Myofibrillar Protein Composition in Avian Skeletal Muscle

Anudeep Jala, Becky M. Miller, Derrick Groom, Alexander R. Gerson, Mark S. Miller 

Birds undergo numerous changes in response to migration, which include catabolization of a significant amount of skeletal muscle mass. This reduction in tissue mass is used for energy, but this loss may cause reductions in important contractile proteins. Measuring tissue loss during normal bird migration is challenging, therefore, we expose white-throated sparrows (Zonatrichia albicollis) to 48 hours of starvation, a procedure used to mimic 8 hours of migration, and compared this experimental cohort to control birds that were fed and housed normally. Changes in pectoralis myofibrillar protein composition for each group were assessed using SDS-PAGE. Each 4-20% acrylamide gel contained 9 bird samples (5 starvation and 4 control) and each sample was examined at low (10 µg) and high (20 µg) protein loads. Changing the load provided the opportunity to study both high and low abundance proteins. Despite trying to load the same total protein in each well, there were differences in intensity between lanes, which required the development and implementation of a new gel analysis technique. Overall, our results demonstrated no difference in myofibrillar protein composition between control birds and those undergoing 48 hour starvation. Now that there are established techniques, the myofibrillar protein composition of birds flown for 8 hours in a wind tunnel will be examined in the coming months to determine if similar results are obtained. 

Lazar Jankovic
Brian Jaehyung Kim
Kyle Evan Takach
Julia T. Choi (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Retention of Locomotor Learning following Exposure to Visual and Proprioceptive Variability

Consolidation, the process of maintaining and strengthening memories, has been associated with motor skill learning. In particular, a motor skill can be strengthened over multiple bouts of practice through re-consolidation. A recent study showed that a previously consolidated motor skill could be modified and enhanced through exposure to increased sensorimotor variability during re-consolidation. We tested whether changing the task variability — by adding visual or proprioceptive jitter — could strengthen the retention of a newly learned locomotor skill. Individuals were presented visual targets to instruct changes in step length from one trial to the next during treadmill walking. Subjects receive a point each time they hit the target accurately. Study design consisted of three testing sessions (acquisition, re-consolidation, retention) and three groups (visual variability, proprioceptive variability, control). During Session 1, participants acquired a new step length sequence by practicing the pattern over 10 blocks of 100 trials. During Session 2 (6-hr later), they retrieved the previously learned step length sequence over 1 block of 100 trials, and then they were exposed to either 1) visual variability condition, 2) proprioceptive variable condition, or 3) no variability while practicing the same sequence over 10 more blocks of 100 trials. Participants were randomly assigned to the three groups. During Session 3 (24-hours later), all participants were re-tested on the original sequence to measure retention. Retention was measured by success rate of hitting targets in each block. We predict that both variable groups will have a better retention, as compared to the control group, resulting in a higher score during the final session.

Kelly Marie Kalagher
Richard Van Emmerik (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Impact of an Eight-Week Tai Chi or Mindfulness Meditation Intervention on Static Balance Measures in People with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurological disease resulting from inflammation of the central nervous system. Due to increasing neuronal damage, balance issues are common in MS and may lead to a high risk of falling. Tai Chi has been shown to improve balance in people with MS but it is not clear what aspects of Tai Chi, actual balance training and meditation, contribute to improvements in balance control. The goal of this study was to determine if there are improvements in static balance measures after an 8-week Tai Chi or Mindfulness Meditation intervention, and whether benefits will persist through an 8-week wash out period.  The balance conditions tested include quiet upright standing with feet apart, narrow standing with feet together, and maximal forward and backwards leans. Balance was assessed using inertial sensors (APDM, Opal System) at baseline, after the intervention, and 8 weeks after the intervention ceased. The key dependent variable was postural sway derived from the 95% ellipse area of trunk movement. The Tai Chi group (n=3) showed an average decrease in postural sway of 25.57% during narrow standing, 26.60% during backwards reach, and 38.42% during forwards reach after the intervention. The Mindfulness Meditation group had an average decrease in postural sway of 52.73% during narrow standing, 17.83% during backwards reach, 47.56% during forwards reach and 45.31% during quiet standing after the intervention. No balance benefits persisted during the washout period for the tai chi group, however they did for the meditation group. These results suggest that both Tai Chi and Mindfulness Meditation may improve balance in people with MS, with the Mindfulness Meditation group possibly leading to longer term effects. 

Elizabeth Anne Loranger
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
The Association between Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Daily Mood

Previous research has indicated that higher levels of physical activity (PA) are associated with a plethora of benefits, one of which is lowered risk for anxiety/depression and improved mental health. However, much of the past research has focused on overall mental health in the long-term, and has tended to ignore healthy populations especially on a short-term basis. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to  investigate the association between PA levels and mood on a day-to-day basis. Six mentally and physically healthy university students were recruited to participate for three consecutive days. PA was measured objectively via ActivPAL to gather measurements for steps/day, moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and sedentary time. This was done alongside measurements of daily mood, gathered via a daily online survey using the Positive and Negative Affect Scale Shortform (PANAS-S). This generates a score for both positive and negative affect, which will then be compared to the three measurements of PA using correlational statistics. It is expected that as steps/day and MVPA levels increase, positive affect will increase and negative affect will decrease. It is also hypothesized that as sedentary time increases, mood scores will be negatively affected. Although healthy university students may not be suffering from a clinically diagnosed mental disorder, increasing PA has the potential to be an effective coping mechanism in times of stress. These findings could promote and solidify PA as a therepteutic method for improving mental health and mood states. 

Brooke Kasey McDonald
Gabriela Brandao
Priscilla Deoliveira
Samantha L. Hallice
Ryan Kelleher
Julia L. Lamoureux
Joseph Robert Murano
Christian John Santaniello
Cameron P. Viger
George Abboud (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Exercise Science, Salem State University
The Effect of Mindfulness on General Anxiety Disorder with and without Resistance Training

Purpose: This research is to determine if resistance training in conjunction with mindfulness training is more effective in mitigating the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder than mindfulness training alone. The proposed method of research is using a 6-week resistance training protocol in conjunction with mindfulness training versus a 6-week mindfulness training protocol alone. The hypothesis is that resistance training in conjunction with mindfulness training will reduce the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder to a greater extent than mindfulness training alone.

Participants: Subject recruitment from Salem State University, Salem MA and the surrounding area via in person interviews and via flyers, will be healthy males and females, aged 18-60. Inclusion will be based on the CAMS-R results. Exclusion criteria include participants currently taking prescribed medication to deal with anxiety, hypertension, or any health issue that would contraindicate exercising at a vigorous intensity.

Methods: Participants will undergo a familiarization day including a PAR-Q, Health History Questionnaire, and Informed Consent. Subjects will be asked to complete the Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale- Revised (CAMS-R) in order to assess baseline anxiety levels. Participants will be familiarized with the exercises in the protocol and baseline strength assessments will be conducted. Next the participants will be randomized into the mindfulness training protocol with or with resistance training. Upon completing 6-weeks of training subjects will spend a washout week performing no mindfulness or resistance training. Then subjects will cross over to the training group they were not initially assigned to.

Mathew M. McPherson
Jason C. Sawyer (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Movement Arts, Health Promotion, and Leisure Studies, Westfield State University
A Linear Periodized Resistance Training Program is Effective at Reducing Depression Symptoms in Females: A Pilot

INTRODUCTION: The purpose of this study was to determine whether a periodized resistance training program would have an effect on the Beck Depression Inventory and/or Beck Anxiety Inventory scores in females.

METHODS: Eight subjects participated in a six-week periodized resistance training program. During the initial visit, subjects completed a Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and a Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) to determine baseline values. The subjects completed a 3-5 repetition maximum (3-5 RM) for the sumo deadlift (SDL), bench press (BS), barbell back squat (BBS), and standing shoulder press (SSP). This data was used to estimate the 1 repetition max, which in turn was used to develop the periodization program. Following baseline testing, subjects participated in two full-body workouts per week for six weeks. The subjects were retested after they completed the six week program, performing 3-5 RM for the SDL, BP, BBS, and SSP. The subjects were asked to once again complete the BDI and BAI. A repeated measures 2 x 2 Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to determine the effect of each resistance training activity had on the outcome measures.

RESULTS: There was a significant (P ≤ .05) decrease in BDI scores after the six-weeks of resistance training. There was no statistical significant difference in the BAI scores (P = .106). There was no correlation between any individual exercise and the outcome scores.

CONCLUSION: The results of the current study indicate that a periodized resistance training program is effective at reducing self-reported measures of depression.

James Kelley Millet
Joseph Hamill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Effect of Shock-Absorbing Insoles on Ground Reaction Forces of Over-Pronating Runners

Introduction: The number of runners has increased in the past decades due to its health benefits and low cost. During the process of running, one’s foot contacts the ground and then rolls inward in a process to reduce ground reaction forces (GRF); this motion is referred to as pronation. However, some runners over-pronate when they run meaning too much inward rolling occurs. Since the foot motions are unable to absorb these forces, over time the bones and muscles over the lower leg will accrue micro injuries which could potentially lead to medial tibial stress syndrome and other overuse injuries. Insoles have been designed to reduce these forces which in turn prevents injuries.  The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of shock absorbing insoles in runners who overpronate.  We hypothesized that the impact peak of the vertical GRF and the ankle eversion angle will decrease. Methods: Data were collected from participants, ages 18 to 22, using a 3D motion capture system and a force platform. The primary outcome variables for this study were: ankle eversion, ankle abduction, ankle dorsiflexion angles as well as ground reaction forces. Results: We expect to observe a significant decrease in ground reaction forces when a shock absorbing insole is used as opposed a control insole. We also predict that the ankle eversion angle will decrease as well. Conclusion: Final conclusions will be made following in-depth analysis from all subjects.

Alyssa Murray
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Wearble Devices in Strength Training

Wearable devices are a recently popular trend in the fitness industry, yet focus primarily on tracking aerobic physical activities. It is unclear if static activities, like strength training, are being tracked. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify the outputs, specifically step count and calorie expenditure, that these devices provide in relation to increasing work intensity in weight, in addition to locating their optimal placement during certain exercises. Six college-aged students (3 men, 3 women) will be recruited based on self-reported moderate strength training experience. The wearable devices used will be the Apple Watch (placed on the left wrist), the Fitbit Blaze (placed on the right wrist), and the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro (one placed on the left wrist and one placed on the left hip). The procedure consists of 3 sets of 10 reps for a total of 6 exercises. Sets will increase from self-selected light to moderate to vigorous weight. Exercises will include barbell squats, dumbbell lunges, and machine leg presses, barbell bench presses, dumbbell bicep curls, and dumbbell bent over rows. Steps and energy expenditure values will be recorded immediately before and after each set. Work in strength training relates to intensity. Work is a product of set x reps x weight. Reps and sets are held constant, so work is proportionally related to weight. Steps and energy expenditure values will be statistically compared against work to determine a relationship. Additionally, wrist and hip placement will be compared for optimal positioning during these type of activities. 

Ashlyn Neal Reilly
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Effect of Place of Residence on Walking Behavior in University Students

The habits that a student forms while at university have an impact, both positively and negatively, on the rest of their life. This study is focused on the role the students' place of habitation, whether it is on-campus or off-campus, has on their walking behavior. The distance between the participants' location of habitation and two areas of interest (the student union and a self-identified hub of classes) will be determined. Participants' daily walking behavior will be tracked for two consecutive weekdays using a FitBit Zip. Preferred mode of transportation, be it either by motor vehicle or ambulatory in nature, used in commuting to classes will also be recorded. It is expected that students who live on-campus, while having a shorter commute than those who live off-campus, will more freely move around campus resulting in a higher step count. Students who live off-campus will most likely more often make use of motorized transportation, but once on campus may move around more as they lack the base of operations that living on campus provides. This study aims to increase the knowledge of the different factors, specifically the location of habitation of the student, that contribute to a student’s level of physical activity. This information is needed to support those interested in increasing overall student health and in promoting healthy activities throughout adulthood. 

Caroline Julia Pellegrini
Joseph Hamill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Do Changes in Muscle Activation Occur after a Fatiguing Protocol?

Introduction: Fatigue may alter muscle activation in jumping and landing maneuvers which could be a potential mechanism of anterior cruciate ligament injury. The effect of lower extremity fatigue on ground reaction forces and muscle activation during the landing phase of a single leg jump was investigated. The purpose of this study was to analyze how fatigue affects muscle activation during a single leg landing exercise. We hypothesized that peak muscle activation times of the thigh and shank muscles will change after a fatiguing protocol. Methods: Participants were 5 female ultimate Frisbee players (ages 18-22 years). Dominant leg ground reaction forces and muscle activation data were sampled at 2000 Hz before and after completing a fatiguing protocol. Results: We expect the results to show earlier muscle activation times after the participants have completed the fatigue protocol. Run and land vertical jump progressions depend on spring-like properties of a relatively stiff muscle, but fatigue has been shown to result in an earlier onset of muscle activation of the lower extremity muscles during this kind of maneuver. Conclusion: We expect that fatigued athletes will demonstrate changes in muscle activation times which could suggest alterations in lower limb neuromuscular factors. Fatigued athletes may have an increased risk of noncontact anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Caroline Pellegrini, Gillian Weir, Joseph Hamill, Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology


Connor Wallace Saleeba
Erin Alexandra Cawley
Rachel Pamela Mudway
Alec Mitchell Shostek
Katie Becofsky (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Dog Ownership in Relation to Physical Activity and Health

Walking is a simple and effective form of physical activity (PA) and should be accessible for everyone. For dog owners, walking is even more important as it is necessary for the well-being of the dog. Dog owners who regularly walk their dog typically meet the recommended PA guidelines, which can improve their health and psychological well-being. Currently, there is limited research that has used activity monitors on both dogs and owners to objectively measure dog walking behavior. The purpose of this study is to measure the PA of both dogs and their owners, examine the effects of PA on psychosocial outcomes of the owners, and identify the environmental and dog-specific facilitators and barriers to PA. Data will be obtained from the Pets and Lifestyle Study (PALS), which will examine self-reported and device-measured PA levels among US dog owners (as compared to non-dog owners). PALS is a two-part study; the first part will collect survey data on pet owner’s lifestyle, PA levels, socioeconomic status, sleep, etc. The second part of PALS will use activity monitors on both the dog (Fitbark) and their owner (ActiGraph GTX3) to collect the PA levels of the owner and the dog. Our study will contribute to our current understanding of dog ownership in relation to PA and health.

Shahrayz Shah
Joseph Hamill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Impact of Knee Bracing on Both Quadriceps Muscle Activation and Knee Kinematics and Kinetics in Patients with PFPS

Over the years, running has become one of the most popular exercises around the world for women and men alike. Despite the plethora of benefits, running comes with a high incidence of injury. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is the leading cause of injury amongst runners; 25-40% of all running injuries correlate with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Knee bracing is a popular treatment option runners use to combat PFPS.  While in theory, knee bracing offers a logical solution to eliminate patellar maltracking and delayed onset of vastus medialis activity, two of the primary mechanisms behind the development of PFPS, most research have been unable to provide conclusive evidence that it is effective. The purpose of this study is to assess the impact bracing has on both the onset of vastus medialis and vastus lateralis quadriceps muscle activation patterns as well as knee kinematics and kinetics in patients with PFPS. Methods: Data were collected from female participants with and without anterior knee pain, ages 18-30, using 3D motion cameras, force platforms, and electromyography. The primary outcome variables of this study were knee joint kinematics, kinetics, and quadriceps muscle activation patterns. Results: We expect to observe a statistically significant difference in knee kinematics and kinetics and quadriceps muscle activation patterns while wearing a knee brace compared to without wearing one. Conclusions: Final conclusions will be made following an in-depth analysis of data from all subjects.  

Evan Carlton Smith
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Pilot Validation Study of Photoplethysmography Heart-Rate Monitors in Cold Ambient Temperatures

Heart rate is an indicator of aerobic physical activity that can be both easily tracked and comprehended, and over the past decade consumer grade heart rate monitors have gone from relatively unrecognized to commonplace. Photoplethysmography (PPG) has emerged as the preferred technology for these devices due to both comfort and convenience. This method utilizes light, which is reflected by body tissue, to determine the heart rate of the individual. This works as most tissue stays in place, whereas the local volume of blood changes based on if the heart is in systole or diastole. However, despite acceptance from consumers, the technology lacks validation under many relevant conditions. One of these conditions is in cold ambient temperatures, where vasoconstriction reduces the blood flow to the extremities where these devices are placed. This study aims to begin to address this possible issue. Six participants were asked to perform activities of varying intensity levels, from a seated rest to a fast-paced stair stepping, in both room temperature conditions (~70°F) and cold conditions (20°F -40°F). During these activities the participants wore four wristwatch heart rate monitors. Three of these were PPG based, and one displayed readings from a chest strap monitor, which have been shown to be accurate enough to be used as a standard. Both absolute difference and percent difference were used to compare the PPG devices to the standard, which also elucidated the relevant biases of the PPG devices.

Shreyas Srikanth
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Effect of Scheduling on the Physical Activity of University Students

Much research has analyzed the physical activity (PA) behaviors of university students on college campuses, however, there is still a knowledge gap in regards to the extent that environmental factors impact the PA of university students. The rationale for this research was to explore this gap by examining how scheduling of academic/social/extracurricular activities by University of Massachusetts Amherst students impacts their PA variables during two consecutive and differently formatted school schedule days. Six participants (three men, three women) were recruited. All were full time students unlimited in their ability to walk. Each participant provided informed consent. Anthropometric data were collected using standardized protocols. Each learned how to wear the ActiGraph GT9X and was asked to wear the device either from Tuesday (when they woke up) to 12:00 a.m. on Thursday or Wednesday (when they woke up) to 12:00 a.m. on Friday. A post-data collection questionnaire was given to each participant to assess attendance at various activities. With the data collected so far, the participants ages are 20.3yrs. ± .6 yrs. Anticipated results are hypothesized to show that the greater the number of scheduled activities, the greater the various indicators of PA (i.e. total step count/day, average steps per both days, etc.) will be. Overall, the results of the study should help fill the gap of how external factors, such as time budgeting for college students, affects if and when PA is being performed during school/work days.

Mirra Anne Stillman
Joseph Hamill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Differences in Muscle Activation Strategies in Male and Female Athletes:
Implications for ACL Injury Risk

Mirra Stillman, Gillian Weir, Joseph Hamill, Richard van Emmerik

Purpose: Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are traumatic, debilitating knee injuries that can remove an athlete from competition upwards of 12 months. The majority of these injuries typically occur during non-contact side-cutting and single-leg landing tasks. Females have been reported to be 3-8 times more likely to sustain ACL injury in sport than their male counterparts. The primary objective of this study was to investigate the discrepancy in injury rates between male and female team sport athletes by measuring muscle activation strategies during an unanticipated side-cutting maneuver. We hypothesized that female athletes will exhibit lower total muscle activation and undesirable directed co-contraction ratios when compared with males. Methods: 10 female and 10 male athletes completed a random series of anticipated and unanticipated sporting tasks.  Surface electromyography of eight lower limb muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, biceps femoris, semitendinosis, rectus femoris, vastus medialis, medial gastrocnemius, lateral gastrocnemius) was recorded with a Delsys Trigno wireless electromyography system and ground reaction forces were measured from a 1.2x0.7m AMTL force platform, both sampling at 2000Hz. Results: As per our hypotheses, we expect to observe less total muscle activation for each muscle group in the lower limb, greater quadriceps dominant muscle activation strategies and directed co-contraction ratios associated with injury risk in females compared with males. Conclusions: Final conclusions will be drawn following the analysis of the complete collected data.

Katherine Taylor Sweeney
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
A Comparison of the Validity of Physical Activity Tracking Devices in Response to Variable Ground Surface Conditions

Current research concerning pedometer versus accelerometer validity is expansive, however gaps in knowledge surrounding the effects of high exercise intensity and variable ground surface conditions on the efficacy of physical activity trackers remain. The limitations these factors may place on activity trackers are especially important to competitive runners who rely on such devices for training purposes. In the present study, step counts and distance measurements tracked by the Garmin Forerunner 230 and New Lifestyle NL-1000 pedometer are compared to manual measurements when worn by collegiate runners over three ground surface types: flat pavement, flat grass, and hilly terrain. During the data collection period, the Garmin Forerunner 230 was worn on the non-dominant wrist and the NL-1000 pedometer was worn over the right hip. The six participants then completed three quarter-mile running trials over the aforementioned ground surface conditions. At the end of each trial, distance and step count readings of each device were recorded and compared to manual measurements. In both step count and distance, the NL-1000 pedometer displayed the largest inaccuracies across all three surface types, and consistently over-estimated measurements of distance.  Additionally, the validity of both devices decreased as the running surface became less flat, as indicated by an increasing absolute percent error between manual and device measurements. These results provide evidence that uneven ground conditions negatively affect the ability of physical activity trackers to accurately measure step count and distance. 

Austin Tang
Ashley Cui
Taylor J. DeRubeis
Julia T. Choi (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Effects of Reward and Punishment on Locomotor Learning

Reward and punishment have been demonstrated to enhance procedural (motor) learning. However, previous studies with reward and punishment feedback focuses on upper extremity motor learning, and so it is unclear how this effect operates in different motor contexts, such as locomotion. Here we will examine the effects of reward and punishment on the acquisition and consolidation of learning a locomotor sequence task. We hypothesize that reward and punishment feedback will enhance consolidation of the task. 24 healthy adults (age 16-30) will be randomly sorted into three groups: a control group, reward group, and punishment group. Each group will undergo a training session in which they will learn a step length sequence during treadmill walking. During training, the reward group will gain a point for each successful hit, the punishment group will lose a point for each unsuccessful hit, and the control group will not receive points feedback. Six hours after the first session, each subject will be tested again without feedback. The effect of reward and punishment on the acquisition and consolidation phase will be evaluated by analyzing the success rate of hitting the targets. We predict that those in the reward group will show a greater improvement in offline learning (i.e. consolidation) than the control and punishment groups. Results will indicate that the effects of reward and punishment on learning identified in previous research is common across diverse motor skills beyond those investigated previously. This could suggest further research on how motivation can be implemented in therapy for those impaired by motor dysfunction. 

Tyler Warren Thomas
Sofiya Alhassan (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

iCons: Insulin Level Changes after a Twelve-Week, Culturally-Tailored Dance Intervention in African American Girls

While pediatric obesity and diabetes rates have recently stagnated, their prevalence among African American girls continues to rise. Physical activity (PA) participation is one available strategy to lower these rates. However, African American girls engage in less PA compared to Caucasians. Low PA is associated with elevated fasting insulin levels, which indicates insulin resistance and diabetes development. The purpose of this study was to analyze the effect of a culturally-tailored dance intervention on insulin levels in preadolescent African American girls. Participants (n=10, age=8.2±1.3 years) were randomized to the intervention (INT, n=6): a 60-minute dance program 3 times per week for 12-weeks, or control (CON, n=4): concurrent homework tutoring and weekly health education newsletters. Blood samples, drawn by a trained phlebotomist, underwent Homeostatic Model Assessment (HOMA-IR) from which a change score was calculated between pre- and post-assessment. A two-tailed t-test measured change score differences between INT and CON. The change score for INT was -12.4±14.1 mlU/L compared to 2.6±13.5 mlU/L in CON. There was no significant difference between INT and CON scores (t=1.68, p=0.13). The non-significant decrease in insulin levels among INT participants fell below the 15 mIU/L insulin resistance cutoff that indicates diabetes development, which is promising. However, the small sample limits the conclusions. Improving blood draw incentives may increase participation in future studies. Further research with a larger sample is needed to determine if culturally-based dance interventions can reduce insulin resistance and diabetes risk.

Julie ShaoWu Thorpe
Catrine Tudor-Locke (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst
Apple iPhone Accuracy Based on Placement

The Apple iPhone has been validated as a physical activity monitor in a laboratory controlled environment. However, more research needs to be done on varying device placement in order to portray real world carrying conditions in a free-living environment. This research gap needs to be filled because it is important for iPhone users who use the Health app as an activity tracker. The purpose of this study is to examine the accuracy of the Apple iPhone in recording step count at varying device placements in a free-living environment. The study will consist of nine 3-minute trials in which each participant will be instructed to walk outside at a self-paced moderate speed. The device will be placed in one of three different body borne locations for each trial. Placements include: 1) inside the side pocket of a backpack, 2) held in a dominant hand, and 3) inside the rear pant pocket. Steps will be directly observed and recorded using a hand tally counter. Step count data will also be recorded from the Health app on the iPhone. Data collection for this study will take place from February to March. Data analysis and interpretation will be completed in March and April, and the finalized project will be ready to present by late April. These results will help to fill the research gap of whether device placement affects the accuracy of the Apple iPhone as a step counter in free-living.

Jacqueline Turner
Joseph Hamill (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Effects of Single-Leg Balance Training on Knee Joint Proprioception

Jacqueline Turner, Gillian Weir, Joseph Hamill

Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Introduction: Running has gained increasing popularity as a method to gain fitness and improve health. However, many runners will experience injury. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) accounts for 25-40% of running-related injuries and is difficult to treat. Most patients deal with symptoms for 4-18 years after onset. The etiology of PFPS is unclear, thus rehabilitation is not effective. Deficits in proprioception may cause PFPS. A balance-training protocol that improves proprioception could be a more effective rehabilitation strategy for PFPS. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the role of balance training on knee proprioception. We hypothesized that proprioception will improve after the training protocol. This study will allow researchers to develop further research on potential treatments of PFPS. Methods: Data will be collected from participants ages 18-25 using a Cybex 11 isokinetic dynamometer. Participants will conduct trials attempting to replicate a target angle. Data will be collected pre- and post- four-week balance training protocol. The primary outcome variables for the study will be the absolute angle, the absolute difference between the target angle and the perceived angle. Results: We expect to observe changes in absolute angle after training. We suggest that the absolute angle will be reduced after participating in the training protocol. Conclusion: Final conclusions will be made following data analysis of all participants.

Sarah J. Wilcox
Ian Edward Dziewietin
Katie Becofsky (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Effect of Moderate and Light Intensity Physical Activity on Sleep Quality and Psychosocial Outcomes

Purpose: Research suggests that moderate intensity physical activity (MPA) may be used as a method for improving both mental and physical health. The purpose of this research is to investigate the relationship between physical activity, psychosocial outcomes, and sleep quality in sedentary but otherwise healthy adults. Although most research focuses on moderate physical activity, we will also examine the role of light intensity physical activity (LPA). Methods: This was done by analyzing data from a randomized control trial called the SPOT study, a stealth intervention that examined the influence of dog obedience training on dog-owner physical activity levels. LPA and MPA were objectively measured via Actigraph accelerometers, and mental health outcomes were assessed via questionnaires focused on sleep, stress, depressive symptoms, and health related quality of life (HRQOL). The questionnaires used in SPOT include the Perceived Stress Scale, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and questions from the Center for Disease Control health related quality of life questionnaire. Results: Data analysis is underway. It is hypothesized that there will be a reduction of stress and depressive symptoms and increased HRQOL in individuals who have increased their LPA levels. Individuals with higher levels of MVPA are expected to report improved sleep quality. Conclusion: If the hypotheses are supported, future research with larger sample sizes should be conducted to further understand the effects of physical activity on psychosocial outcomes and sleep quality.

Juliette Zielinski
Chris Swart (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Movement Arts, Health Promotion and Leisure Studies , Bridgewater State University
Impact of Physical Therapy on an Athlete's Decision to Return to Sport

 Injury is a reality that many athletes face when performing sport. Throughout time an athlete can cause significant damage to their body. Injuries can range from torn tendons to spinal cord injuries. Some injuries simply require rest while other injuries require surgery. In either case, the application of physical therapy is often prescribed to assist an athlete to return to sport, and in most cases return stronger than before. Once an athlete receives physical therapy and is cleared to return to sport many choose not to return. This research seeks to identify if physical therapy has an impact on the decision of an athlete returning to sport. The research study will use a qualitative questionnaire seeking the sampled athlete’s opinions on their attitude toward their sport and their ability to go back to play at the beginning, middle, and after the athlete is released from physical therapy. This research is relevant for those in the physical therapy field to understand how the process of physical therapy may impact an athlete’s decision to return to sport. Physical therapy aims to help an injured athlete get back to play, but understanding how the process of physical therapy may influence an injured athlete’s decision is important for physical therapists to know so they can provide the best care for patients.  This research aims to find how psychological and physical aspects of therapy contribute to an athletes decision to return to sport.


Madison Kremer
Theodore Eisenman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Landscape Architecture, UMass Amherst
The Social Ecology of Tree Survival in a Post-industrial Urban Context: A Case Study of Holyoke, Massachusetts

Using a political ecology approach, this study explores the role of greening in post-industrial cities, the relationship between stewardship and tree survival, and the effect of polycentric governance networks upon these types of initiatives. Our study is built upon qualitative analysis of five in-depth interviews of key stakeholders involved in implementing a tree planting program in Holyoke, MA, ten interviews of businesses, community organizations, and residents who received trees through the program, and 20 informal surveys of local residents. We look at what motivates stewardship and how people conceptualize environmental responsibility. Additionally, we pair this qualitative data with a systematic inventory of some 800 trees planted since 2014, to explore the relationship between stewards’ motivations, capacities, and experiences with the program; and how this informs tree survivorship and health. In particular, this study examines the relationship between state and local actors, as well as formal and informal stewardship. This is especially timely in light of significant interest in greening post-industrial cities, where legacies of disinvestment now require new thinking about governance, economic development, and spatial design.


Alejandra Gomez
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Color Blindness in College Admissions: Affirmative Action and the Equal Protection of the Law

Countless controversies have arisen as a result of affirmative action policies in past years.  Some people argue that policies have caused so-called reverse discrimination in the process of college admissions. My research asks whether the implementation of race-based Affirmative Action policies in higher education institutions effectively guarantees the Equal Protection of the Law to all applicants. African American author and professor Shelby Steele sustains that Affirmative Action leads to self-doubt among blacks because of the “blind” preferential treatment that is used. Steele asserts that this self-doubt develops from the lack of a merit-based system.  Within a merit-based system, equal comparisons can be made between students to see exactly where they stand. Without it, minorities may feel and be looked upon as inferior due to the question of whether or not they could have made it on their own.   In 1978, the Supreme Court upheld a controversial ruling in the famous Bakke case.  Bakke, a white male, was denied admission at University of California’s medical school at Davis, but less qualified minority applicants were admitted.  The United States Supreme Court upheld the state’s supreme court ruling that Bakke’s rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment had been violated.  However, the Court also ruled that it was constitutional for schools to use race as a “plus” factor in admissions. Affirmative action policies seek to increase diversity, fostering innovation and competitiveness necessary for the well being of society.


Sean Frederick Cerqua
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
"I am King of the Romans, and Above Grammar!": The Politics of Linguistic Prescriptivism and Purism

“I am King of the Romans, and above grammar!” retorted Sigismund of Luxembourg to a particularly contumacious monk in 1414 after the latter dared correct the king over a minor gendering mistake in his Latin. Since time immemorial, politics has played an influential hand in the way that we speak. One of the foremost manners by which this occurs is linguistic prescriptivism, where one type of speaking is deemed more correct and its use emphasized. This can take many different forms, including word choice, grammar, and a process called “linguistic purism,” which seeks to root out certain words that have accrued lower prestige. In Linguistic Purism in Germanic Languages, authors Langer and Davies suggest that prescriptivism is strongly linked to a variety of political concepts, perhaps most notably class, for standardization of a language often takes its cues from “those forms which are used by the ‘best’ group of speakers, i.e. the educated and upper class.” In my research, I explore the politics of linguistic prescriptivism and purism, and how they affect both the speakers and the more general state of the language. Given that the way a person speaks is one of the first things we perceive about a person, it is only inevitable that it will be politicized in some way. Uncovering the effects this politicization of language has on people can provide deep insight into larger social and political structures.

Nicholas S. Cox
Adel R. Fauzetdinova (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Westfield State University
The Comprehensive Effects of Translation in Immigration Reform

       Linguists and immigration lawyers are valuable assets throughout today’s complex immigration reform. Throughout this paper, I define and explain internationalization in large corporations: a spontaneous development of strong social influence and integrity that ensures the understanding of people. Empathetic communication is the first step in understanding a world full of immigrants, specifically those coming to the U.S. in search of employment opportunities. Therefore, in order to work with these immigrants, qualified immigration lawyers must start the process with an understanding of a client's personal information, socioeconomic status, and future career goals. According to Amazon, the process of written translation with confidential information must be seen as the growth of a tree, where the roots represent an individual’s integrity from the very beginning of the process and the results lay the groundwork for future reform. 

Devon Garufi
Michael Edward Wong-Russell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of World Languages and Cultures, Framingham State University
Correlation between Linguistics and Art in Andalucia, Spain

While living in Andalusia, Spain, it became clear that the culture of the area was unique from the rest of the country. The strong Islamic history that coexisted with Christianity in Andalusia still leaves an impact on its present. My study centers on the ways in which this history has influenced the region's specific linguistic nature as well as its ceramic art. In this study I will propose a correlation between the Moors' Arabic linguistics (or "phonetics") and art, and how this correlation has affected the Andalusian culture today. 

Valerie Anita Higgins
Kristine Yu (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Linguistics, UMass Amherst
¿Me entiendes?: A Study on Prosodic Acquisition by American L2 Learners of Spanish

In this study, we focus on second language prosodic acquisition, in this case, the ability of American English speakers learning Spanish to acquire the speech melody of their second language, a characteristically tricky aspect of second language learning.  Specifically, we aim to discover: (1) if advanced learners studying in Oviedo, Spain sound more native to native Spanish speakers than intermediate learners studying in the US, and (2) how that nativeness rating relates to the learner's mastery of Spanish prosody.  Preliminary results indicate that both learner groups are understood to about the same degree by Spaniards.  Based on the hypothesis that advanced speakers will be more native-sounding to natives, we constructed an online survey in which native, advanced, and intermediate level speakers listened to question-answer pairs whose speech melody matched or mis-matched in the type of stress (normal declarative -- Maria took a drink-- or corrective emphasis -- No, Maria took a drink) employed by the speaker.  As such, a match could be a declarative-declarative, and a mis-match a contrastive-declarative pair. Using participant responses (native or non-native), the true acceptability of the pair (match or mis-match), and the language level of the audio’s speaker, we categorized the success of that listener's prosodic assimilation.  Our work is one of the first in the field to employ American English speakers learning a second language, and highlights the crucial relationship between prosody and learner-native intelligibility. 

Lauren Nicole Stornelli
Adel R. Fauzetdinova (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Westfield State University
Techniques to Approach the Ambiguity of Translating the Law

Language is a tool that allows individuals to communicate with others at any given time. Translation and interpreting serve as a bridge to continue facilitating this communication between two people who do not understand the same language. Every language has special nuances that make it unique—certain grammatical points that highlight different functions. Thus, being a translator serves the community in many ways.

When working with the law, every nuance of the language is crucial to the attorneys, who are fighting for their client’s rights and civil liberties. Each piece of evidence that is translated is critical to the trials, as life sentences are no light punishments. Every word of every sentence is impactful and can be challenged in the court room like a witness. However, there is ambiguity amongst different legal terminology that can further complicate this process. This presentation will focus on the various techniques used to translate the law, including the different terminology used in this environment. Having a clear understanding of the words used is imperative for the translator, in order for them to understand the meaning behind the law.


Guy Junior Jean Bapsite
Patrick Mensah (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, UMass Amherst

Language as a Defining Institution of the Francophone Caribbean World

Afro-European relations have never been as strong as they are nowadays, and because of this, ex-colonized people in various parts of the Caribbean, have been and are still being indoctrinated by the ideals instilled in them by the colonizers during the colonial era. These ideals, which can be seen through these nations’ religions, politics, culture, and with which they have become accustomed, now form part of their own ideology of the world. As a black immigrant from Haiti where French is mostly regarded as being the main official language, even though Haitian Créole is my mother tongue, I take an interest in inquiring about the history of this process of cultural exchange. Advocates and writers such as Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant and Frantz Fanon have shown that to speak a language is to assume a world, a culture. More precisely, the black man who can speak the French language becomes whiter, because of the colonial heritage of that language. 

This thesis focuses on how language-use connects with political questions surrounding skin color and ideas of identity and belonging that are prevalent in Haiti and the Caribbean as a whole; particularly ways in which attitudes and mentalities may be influenced by linguistic and cultural hierarchies developed under the hegemony of European domination. It also seeks to interrogate the connection between language and social attitudes to homosexuality in an effort toward understanding the socio-cultural determinants of anti-queer resentment in the Caribbean.

Sophie Werner
Michael James Gormley (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Quinsigamond Community College
Uncle Sam's Girls: Violence in American Prostitution

American culture has produced legislation which not only permits, but encourages violence against sex workers. Criminalization of prostitution has created a marginalized population who must constanlty fear for their safety, The legislation operates to criminalized and disenfranchise the identities of those living in poverty, and other minorities. Particularly American is the way legislation is enforced unevenly, another fine example of American institutional racism and sexism. Clients, pimps, and other Americans engage in violence  against "sex workers" as an identity which extends to violence and  trauma against individuals.


Alex Curtis Beaton
Jorge Riveras (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Business, Framingham State University
A Globalization Model Analysis on Illegal Immigration's Impact in the United States of America

Illegal immigration has never been as profound and polarizing of a topic throughout the history of the United States of America as it currently is. Being one of the larger platforms in which our current President ran on, the topic has proven to be rooted in biases and very divisive among the two main political parties. The buzz created through the media’s stories on the topic has stimulated the minds of many throughout the country; however,  it can be difficult to divulge the truth from opinions. The divergence of the U.S. from Globalization and NAFTA has created strong divisive opinions about immigration as a byproduct. This research will focus solely on the facts through the scope of a globalization model in order to address illegal immigration.  Being a multidimensional and multidisciplinary model, the framework of the globalization model will create a structured lens that consists of both inner and outer domains to perform its analysis. The inner domains consists of economic, political, social, business and physical factors, while the outer domains consists of  factors concerning neighboring country dynamics, trade blocs and global institutions. After thoroughly researching theses domains and unearthing the historical data related to these factors, this paper will present the impact illegal immigrants from Mexico and its satellite nations contribute to the U.S. economy and other domains.  In addition, the effects the U.S.’s shift towards divergence may cause to the upcoming elections in Mexico. 

Austin B. Crowell
Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston

Demographic Factors and Risk-Taking Propensity’s Influence on Security Behavior Intentions

As technology has become increasingly more ingrained in people’s lives, cybersecurity through means such as encryption and antivirus software have become commonplace. Despite the movement towards secure technology, cybersecurity incident rates have continued to rise, revealing an unaddressed factor: the users. The users are believed to be cybersecurity’s weak link due to poor security behaviors. Building off previous research, we will conduct a survey that will use the Security Behavior Intention Scale (SeBIS), a standardized measure of cybersecurity behavior intention, which addresses four common security factors: updating, device securement, proactive awareness, and password generation. The survey will also contain a risk-taking propensity scale and collect demographic data, allowing us to compare how these two factors influence SeBIS results through regression analysis. We will then address how our results compare to previous research to help determine the validity of existing beliefs on which factors influence security behavior. By contributing to this body of knowledge, we will help to improve the effectiveness of cybersecurity behavior management.

Dawn Earth DeRossette
Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston
Patient-Centered Care and Culture Change: The Role of Administrative Personnel in the Veterans Health Administration

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest integrated healthcare system in the nation, serving over 9 million veterans annually, with a total eligible population of 23 million veterans. The VHA is also “the [nation’s] largest provider of graduate medical education and a major contributor to medical and scientific research” (VHA, 2017). Due to chronic scandal, mismanagement, and misappropriation of funds, many question the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the timely and quality care promised to our nation’s veterans. This research will explore the relationships between administrative culture and procedures as they relate to the implementation of policy within the Veterans Health Administration. There is also a question of a culture clash between veteran culture (searching for alternatives to pharmaceuticals) and administrative culture (financial responsibility) leading to a disparity in access to complementary and alternative healthcare and a trend of overprescribing pharmaceuticals. There is a large body of research available on each of these topics, but none that explores how they combine to affect the desirable outcome of quality care for all veterans. We will explore these questions with a mix of interviews and qualitative surveys of various stakeholders.

David Daniel Kantor
Jorge Riveras (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Business, Framingham State University
The Effects of Globalization and Integration in the Mercosur Common Market

Globalization has become a popular word which seems to represent a common strategic goal for many companies, but it is difficult to measure, assess, and accurately understand its implications and requirements. Many analytic attempts that discuss globalization are heavily biased towards the researcher’s discipline, specialty, or interests. The flaws of a narrow focus in globalization analysis will be diminished by employing a system approach with a globalization model that is multidisciplinary and multidimensional. This research s will use a globalization model to examine the Mercosur regional economic integration bloc that was established between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 1991. Employing the model will allow for a thorough analysis as it provides a framework with inner domains (relating to internal economic, political, social, business and physical factors) and outer domains (relating to factors concerning neighboring country dynamics, trade blocs and global institutions). The study will investigate the benefits and impacts produced by the agreement for each country individually and as a collective unit while also examining shortcomings and future potential that has yet to be realized. This paper will look at changing trends of the different domains, assess further integration, immigration reform and the potential of the new level of integration to strengthen the position of the bloc. A comparison with another level of economic integration will be discussed as a form of comparison.

Michael Gregory Kantor
Jorge Riveras (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Business, Framingham State University
Globalization and Convergence within the Pacific Alliance Trade Bloc

One of the overarching goals for competitive companies looking to expand their business centers is to understand the concept of globalization, but it is a difficult topic to measure due to the abundance of different areas and metrics that are encompassed, as well as the fact that there are many different perceived methods of defining and assessing it conceptually. Attempting a thorough and systematic analysis of globalization is convoluted due to research and analysis that is not broad or encompassing enough or is more suited to the researcher's own agenda or academic background. The shortcomings of a narrow focus in globalization analysis will be diminished by employing a system approach with a globalization model that is multidisciplinary and multidimensional. Thisresearch will employ a globalization model to examine the Pacific Alliance regional economic integration bloc that was established between Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru in 2011. The model will be used to focus its analysis on both inner domains (relating to internal economic, political, social, business and physical factors) and outer domains (relating to factors concerning neighboring country dynamics, trade blocs and global institutions). The study will take a historical look at the benefits and impacts produced by the agreement for each country as well as at the areas where it has fallen short or has future potential. This paper will look at changing trends of the different domains, assess further integration, immigration reform and the potential of the new level of integration to strengthen the position of the bloc. A comparison with another level of economic integration will be discussed as a form of comparison.

Matthew John Kozlowski
Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston
An Organizational Behavior Survey of Workplace Advancement

Recent college graduates are faced with extraordinary competition as they enter the workforce. An individual will devote abundant time and money into career coaches, interview preparation, and tips to make sure he or she secures that job.  Personality plays a huge role in where one fits in to an organization and how much growth one will see.  My research identifies whether or not there is a relationship between career advancement and personality type.  I review qualitative data to examine if there is a correlation between introverted/extroverted personality type and career advancement through a survey sampling.  The survey will measure individual’s self-perception of their personality, and their perceived career success/advancement.  My results will determine whether extroversion or introversion is more likely to advance an individual’s career and professional success.


Rachel Marie Bellantoni
Nora Ganim Barnes (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Marketing, UMass Dartmouth
PUMA Company and the Impact of Celebrity Endorsements

The purpose of my research is to test if Celebrity Endorsements have a direct correlation to increasing sales. For this research, I am concentrating on Puma which is an athletic clothing company based out of Germany. Celebrity Endorsement is when companies hire celebrities or public figures to promote their product from any given platform. Understanding the upcoming generation of media consumers is crucial for companies to stay relevant in the market. With social media and celebrity promotion on the rise, companies must find influencers that target their intended audience. My main focus will be researching from years 2014-2016. Since Puma has multiple influencers, I have decided to concentrate on the following three celebrities: R&B singer Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (known as The Weekend), Kylie Jenner, and Pop singer & CEO of FENTY Beauty Rihanna. Each of these celebrities have done a few different releases, so to keep track of these product launches I will have a timeline. In this timeline, there are announcements made by Puma about their partnerships, product releases, and notable social media posts made by the influencer. Then I will compare the timeline with sales data I have gathered from Interim and Annual Reports from Puma's website. My research will conclude the effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsements within Puma Company. 

Eric Noel DeBenedictis
Stephanie Jacobsen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Management, Bridgewater State University

You Are Included: The Effectiveness of Diversity and Representation of Ethnic Minorities in TV Advertising

Multi-ethnic markets in the United States present advertisers with the strategic challenge of reaching diverse audiences. Often times, advertisers will approach this challenge through representing their target demographic in ads in hopes that they will identify more strongly with the source and perceive them as more similar (Whittler, 1989). Recent research in the United Kingdom by Lloyds Banking Group finds that consumers feel “more favorable towards a brand that reflects diversity in advertisements” and even “expect advertisers to represent diverse aspects of society” (Rogers, 2016). However, many brands fall short of featuring minorities in ads with consistency and accuracy. 

This research aims to more definitively find advertising inclusion preferences by evaluating attitudes and purchase intentions for ethnic minorities when comparing ads which represent a participant’s own ethnicity, other ethnicity, or multiple ethnicities. These results contribute conceptually to the diversity in advertising literature as well as the motivation literature by demonstrating a link between consumer perceptions of advertising motivation and overall attitude towards the advertisement.

Works Cited

Rogers, C. (2016). Just 19% of people in ads are from minority groups, new research finds. Marketing Week.

Whittler, T. (1989). The effects of actor’s race in commercial advertising: review and extension. Journal of Advertising. Vol. 20, No. 1 pp 54 - 60.

Talar Maria Kaya
Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston
Drugs and Advertising: The Ethical Implications of Off-Label Prescription Drug Marketing

The use and prescription of off-label drugs is a legal practice and is a major contributor to the rise of pharmaceuticals in the United States. Although it is common for physicians to prescribe drugs for uses other than those that are FDA-approved, the promotion of such uses by pharmaceutical companies themselves is illegal and can result in major consequences for the companies involved, such as lawsuits. The purpose of this research is to explore the relationship between FDA guidelines and off-label advertising techniques to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to the guidelines. Another determination will also be made based on guideline change recommendations to see if doctors themselves should be held responsible for prescribing certain drugs off-label. It is hypothesized that although the FDA already has strict guidelines and laws regarding the promotion of off-label drug use, further measures must be taken to ensure that pharmaceutical companies do not publicly advertise their products to treat conditions they are not approved for and to ensure that the decision on whether or not to use a drug off-label remains in the unbiased discretion of the healthcare provider. This research employs a case-study method focusing on two specific incidents to research the ethical implications of off-label marketing: Allergan and Astra-Zeneca, both of which have faced lawsuits for off-label marketing of their pharmaceuticals Botox and Seroquel, respectively.

Matthew Kiefer
Vanessa Holford Diana (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
Scouting: A Modern Movement

The century-old movement of scouting has been making some newsworthy changes this past decade. These changes cause many Americans to be apprehensive to support the program because of their misunderstanding of the changes. The debate revolves around whether scouting is too progressive, not progressive enough, or some muddle of confused ideals and headlines. Recently, scouting has permitted gay leaders and scouts to join, created a co-ed programs such as the Venture Scouts, and permitted females to join troops as scouts and leaders. These events have influenced some Americans’ bias against the program causing them to not consider the overwhelmingly positive benefits scouts get from participating – regardless of how progressive the specific troop may be. Through interviews with members of the Western Massachusetts Council, with local troop leaders, with scouts of all ranks, parents of scouts, and drawing from personal experiences as an Eagle Scout, as well as recent news articles and the established history of scouting, we find scouting is a program made to benefit our youth and teach them how to participate in our rapidly changing society. Scouting should be supported by our families, by our communities, and by our nation because of its commitment to youth development and to the guidance it provides for scouts to grow into ethical and moral citizens. 

Nicole Erin Mahoney
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College

Employing Fido: The Effect Dogs Have in Today’s Businesses

While an owner’s dog holds a special place in the heart, his or her dog has an impact beyond companionship. Dogs are a significant force in the owner’s bank statements, making them incredibly valuable not only to their owners, but to marketers and businesses as well. My research asks how have changed attitudes about dogs and dog-ownership impacted business in the last 15 years. While some view dogs strictly as a form of protection, they do not see the economic impact dogs have on society. Their interactions with their dogs are nothing special and they focus on giving them their meals on a schedule. Just by buying and giving dogs their food, first-year owners are spending over a thousand dollars, this may even be more if the dog is considered large. This is giving dog food companies like Mars Petcare Inc. over $17 billion a year. Furthermore, designer clothing lines such as Ralph Lauren have expanded their lines to include products for dogs. Dogs are able to make their own income as well. One in three commercials uses a dog to help promote their business helping businesses to emotionally connect with the consumer, and allowing the business to sell more products. While the protection skills that ordinary and service dogs are able to provide for families is important, it is just as important to evaluate how the perception owners have about dogs today is affecting the bottom line for businesses. 


Jhonatan Alfonso Charco
Jie L. Frye (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College
The Effects of the Weather on Cities That Use Renewable Energy

As the technology advance, scientists are developing many different ways to produce renewable energy using the weather as its primary source. The production of traditional energy brings adverse effects on the people’s health and the environment. Some cities are implementing renewable energy that will reduce the cost of energy production and help the city to move to a clean energy source. This new invention will force cities to change the way they produce and spend energy. Austin in Texas and Cheyenne in Wyoming are two cities with significant reserves of fossil energy. It is expected that these two cities will not change to renewable energy. However, the reality shows otherwise, and Austin is already intending to use the weather to produce energy moving away from the oil energy. Whereas in Cheyenne, the city intends to keep using fossil energy. Using scholarly literature, statistical analysis, and external sources, I will demonstrate how the weather condition in Austin and Cheyenne plays a role in the way each city produces its energy.

Xiaoxuan Chu
Hari Balasubramanian (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass Amherst

Quantification of Longitudinal Care Patterns and Complexity for Patients with Multiple Hospitalizations

In United States 5 percent of the population is responsible for nearly half of the health care expenditures while half of the population spends little or nothing on health care (Conwell LJ, Cohen JW, 2002). The purpose of this research is to quantify sequence and timing of events as well as specialty, diagnosis and medication complexity for patients with multiple 3 of more inpatient hospitalizations. We analyze the healthcare encounters data that include inpatient, outpatient, emergency room, medication events of individuals who have three or more than three inpatient events in 2011 (n=118) from a national longitudinal dataset called the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Each encounter that corresponds to one or more diagnoses and doctors’ specialties for individuals in the weighted survey provides information about the medical help a patient gets after each inpatient event. Our research provides descriptive quantification of time-based patterns between inpatient events; time from each inpatient event to the next office based doctor visit or outpatient doctor visit; common diagnosis and common diagnosis pairs; specialties of office based doctor visits after each inpatient event; degree of fragmentation across different doctors’ specialties of each doctor visit; and medication complexity. 

Loc Tri Dao
Jie L. Frye (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College
Personality and Weather

Seeing how different types of weather has changed me into a different person was a shock. From a happy, active kid, I have become a guy who is more introverted and somehow grumpier. By analyzing the average daily temperatures of Honolulu (a place that has basically the same weather as where I grew up) and Boston (where I currently live), we can see how the weather may make a difference in people's personality.

Zakaria Gourrane
Jie L. Frye (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College
Weather and Soccer

Soccer is a popular sport that many enjoy. Some of the greatest soccer games have occurred in adverse weather. While the vast majority of games are not played in such extremes, it is still common for the weather to have an effect on players and the outcome of the game. In this study, we investigate teams based on climate: FL and NC. When assessing possible weather factors such as temperature that can affect the outcome of the game, we use statistical tools to analyze the effects of temperature on the outcomes of soccer games.

Emeka Isaac Ibeh
Sebastien L. Bissereth
Jie L. Frye (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College
Socioeconomic Impact of Temperature Changes on Fisheries

While the effects of climate change have become more apparent in the form of extreme weather, its economic effects are more encompassing than one would initially think. American fishermen contribute more than one billion to the economy annually, but temperature changes have had a significant impact on fishing towns. The loss of a cornerstone to a local economy can be devastating and have overwhelming social effects. By analyzing the data of changing temperatures in fishing months in fishing towns, we investigate the socio-economic effects changing temperatures can have on a city.

Kai Foley Nakamura
Inanc Baykur (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, UMass Amherst
iCons: Lefschetz Fibrations on Symplectic 4-Manifolds via Positive Factorizations in the Mapping Class Group

Symplectic manifolds in dimension four have what is called a Lefschetz pencil. These are maps from a Symplectic manifold to the sphere satisfying several properties. What is notable about these Lefschetz pencils is that they can be modified to be a Lefschetz fibration. This has finitely many critical points where the map is not smooth, by examining the map around these critical points we get a sequence of Dehn twists which are elements of the mapping class group of the generic fiber of the Lefschetz fibration. Composing this sequence of Dehn twists will give the identity element in the mapping class group, this is what we call a positive factorization. It turns out there is a one to one correspondence between Lefschetz fibrations and positive factorizations up to some equivalence.

This correspondence allows us to translate questions about Symplectic 4-manifolds into the language of mapping class groups of surfaces. By finding factorizations of the identity, we can find constructions of interesting Symplectic 4-manifolds. In particular, I am particularly interested in constructing examples of exotic 4-manifolds. These are spaces that are homeomorphic, but not diffeomorphic to standard smooth 4-manifolds. My work concerns examples of genus two Lefschetz fibrations which have few critical points, these are the simplest class of Lefschetz fibrations we do not have good understanding of so hopefully by studying these Lefschetz fibrations will lead to insight into Symplectic 4-manifolds.

Fariha Naseem
Jie L. Frye (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College
Effects of Weather Conditions on Car Accidents

Weather-related crashes play a major role in fatal car accidents each year, especially during the winter.  In this study, we identify the specific conditions of the weather between Boston and New York in which the most accidents occur. Using scholarly literature and statistical analysis, we will investigate the impact that the weather has in both cities. While one might not be able to limit driving in winter, one can still follow the statistics recommendations.   

Hang Lu Minh Nguyen
Jie L. Frye (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College
Homelessness and Weather

As our society developed, more problems arise with it. Homelessness is one of them. While there are various factors that led to homelessness, many people say that it is due to the dramatically changing of the weather. In this research, we are going to look at two different cities with different weather patterns. By using statistical analysis, we can determine if the weather patterns are associated with homelessness.

Linh Thuy Pham
Jie L. Frye (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College
Small Business and Flu Season

The employees of small businesses are usually meeting many different people, sharing small spaces, and working long hours so they tent to face more health problems than other kinds of job. The weather affects the flu season because it affects the rate that microorganism grows. For the past 20 years, this disease has been changing a lot, so the amount of people with flu is increasing in the recent flu season. That influences small businesses dramatically. In this research, we analyze the past 20 years' average daily temperature of two cities to see how we can use weather patterns to develop strategies for improving the health of small businesses employees.

Ismael Tahoun
Ileana Vasu (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Holyoke Community College
Gödel’s Undecidability Theorem

Mathematics is the methodology of representing a perception of reality based on predefined terms which are, in turn, used to define further conditions. Postulates or axioms are used in multitudes of interdependent conjunctions to formulate mathematical systems. A fundamental theorem used in further theorems of geometry, specifically Euclidian geometry, is the Parallel Postulate which was considered irrefutable until an attempt to disprove the contradiction led to the development of Non-Euclidian geometry with valid geometries that contradict the once exclusively undeniable Parallel Postulate. The phenomenon of disassociating consistent mathematical systems from fundamental undefined and defined terms, axioms, and theorems is the foundation of Gödel’s Undecidability Theorem. This project is directed towards understanding and showing how Gödel challenges the idea that all mathematical conjectures can, with enough calculation and analysis, eventually be proven or disproven. This theorem states that “any mathematical system containing all the theorems of arithmetic is an incomplete system”. In other words, the system can never be proven true or false.

The purpose of this project is two- fold.  First, the project will seek to understand Godel’s Undecidabilty Theorem.  Second, the project will explore the implications of undecidability to the fields of mathematics and computer science. 

Jiaxin Xu
Trang T. Pham
Jie L. Frye (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College
How Weather May Affect Emotions

Many of us have moods that are changeable like the tides, for many of us, those moods are dictated by many things including the weather. we know what happens to our brain on drugs, but what happens to our brain on sunlight? and how about rain? While a lack of sunlight can cause seasonal affective disorder, the temperature may also affect mood, perhaps as a result of energy usage. Even though raining cannot directly affect our hormones or energy, it can affect our lifestyles in ways that are not conducive to a good mood.

Kristina Yamkovoy
Nicholas G. Reich (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, UMass Amherst
Forecasting Dengue Fever in Thailand Using Prophet

The ability to accurately model and forecast the spread of an infectious disease is a critical piece of the effective control and treatment of the disease. One such disease of interest is dengue fever, which infects approximately 400 million individuals worldwide annually. Without treatment, a severe form of dengue fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), can lead to complications, including rapid loss of platelet count, internal hemorrhaging, and death, especially in children, the elderly, and immunocompromised patients. Dengue fever is endemic to many countries with tropical climates, including Thailand. Geographically, Thailand is split into provinces which are further split into districts. Five provinces have been identified by public health officials to be of particular importance for controlling dengue fever. The Thai Ministry of Public Health has provided us with data which includes the number of cases of DHF reported between 2006 and 2013, both at the province and district level. Utilizing this data, we constructed probabilistic models to forecast the incidence of dengue fever using Prophet, a model for time-series forecasting developed at Facebook. We compared the forecasts produced by these models to a simple reference model. This work shows that the Prophet model can be used to make reasonably accurate forecasts for the incidence of dengue fever, but it lacks some features and flexibility which would increase its utility for epidemiological modelling. 


James Joseph Baczewski
Brandon A. Gaulin
Cory Lo
Timothy P. Maye
Alexander Pyankov
Maxwell A. Schryver
Derek P. Sloan
Soumitra Basu (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Industrial Technology, Fitchburg State University
Sustainable Net-Zero Housing

The research project addresses the need for affordable, energy efficient housing without sacrificing comfort of daily living. Automated control of temperature and illumination through the use of innovative energy harvesting and architectural design approaches are investigated. A prototype model is used to quantify the energy needed to maintain “comfortable temperature”, where feedback control of temperature is incorporated, through the use of microcontrollers. The logic and set parameters of the microcontroller are varied so as to measure the quantitative impact of selecting temperature and feedback control parameters on energy requirements.

John Hoar
Matthew Arenson Lackner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mechanical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Passively-Controlled Airborne Wind Energy Systems

Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWESs) consist of airborne airfoils that can reach altitudes over one kilometer at a fraction of the cost and using less material than conventional wind turbines. Previous development in AWESs have employed the use of computers, artificial intelligence, airborne actuators, and other monitoring equipment to be used in megawatt-scale farms. This paper discusses the feasibility of developing passively-controlled AWESs for small-scale distributed generation scenarios. A MATLAB model was developed to study the properties of a Gomberg Pilot 50 ram-air kite. The model will be used to aid in the development of a cyclic two-phase power generation process, exploiting changes in aerodynamic forces and the tensions of attached tethers to generate energy.

Piotr Liebersbach
David Schmidt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass Amherst
Cold Spray Nozzle Clogging

Cold Spray is a metal deposition process in which high pressure gas is used to deposit a metal powder on a substrate.  In this process, high pressure gas expands isentropically through a converging-diverging nozzle, and accelerates a metal powder to supersonic velocities.  These high speed particles will bond to a surface upon impact, if the impact velocity reaches a certain critical velocity.  This process differs from other thermal spray processes because it is performed at relatively lower temperatures, and uses the kinetic energy of the particles to facilitate bonding rather than their thermal energy.  Cold spray can produce coatings with very low porosity and tensile properties that can match the properties of the bulk material.  One major challenge with cold spray is nozzle clogging.  Nozzle clogging occurs when particles bond to the inner surface of the nozzle, altering the local cross sectional area, and cause a drop in the flowrate through the nozzle, which results in a lower quality deposit.  In particular, experiments performed at the United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) showed that some cold spray nozzles clog after about 15 minutes in operation.  A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model of the cold spray nozzle is developed to study the flow of metal particles in the cold spray process.  CFD simulations suggest that pressure fluctuations in the particle feed system cause the particles to disperse in the nozzle, and ultimately lead to some particles colliding (and bonding) with the nozzle wall.  Redesign of the nozzle is considered in order to mitigate the effects of particle-wall collisions as well as clogging in the cold spray process.

Amy Marie Morin
Matthew Arenson Lackner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mechanical Engineering, UMass Amherst
Implementing Airfoils in Wind Farms to Improve Efficiency

Wind energy is a renewable energy source that has been growing rapidly over the past two decades, thanks to technological advances and supportive policies. Nevertheless, there are still opportunities for improvements in wind energy technology to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Specifically, when wind turbines are grouped together into wind farms, the overall efficiency decreases due to wake losses. A variety of approaches have been taken to reduce wake effects including optimization of the layout before installation and control of the turbines in a farm when they are operating. An alternative approach is to consider static aerodynamic structures that are installed near the wind turbine rotor and deflect the wakes. These wing structures will increase the efficiency by redirecting free-stream airflow to the downstream turbine, so there is less energy lost due to wake loss. The upstream turbine is modeled using an actuator disc, which is an open disc that replicates the wake loss of an actual turbine of equal size. The wing structures will be attached to the actuator disc, and the different wing structure patterns can be changed easily. The experimental data is collected using hot-wire anemometers, pitot tubes, and power output from the functional, downstream model wind turbine. The final step of this project will be a feasibility assessment, meaning the practicality of these wings being implemented on a real wind turbine farm will be assessed, including the material used, attachment process, and maintenance required.

Corinna Sousan Torabi
Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass Amherst
An Ultrasonic Whistle for Bat Deterrence in Wind Farms

Recent estimates suggest that over 600,000 bats are struck by wind turbines every year in the US. Existing deterrence methods, ultrasonic emitters, are limited by their placement on the turbine nacelle and are not powerful enough to affect the full swept area of the turbine blades. Thus, the objective of this project is to design an air-driven ultrasound emitter to be placed directly on the turbine blades. By harnessing the flow-induced oscillations of a polyethylene film in flow, an ultrasonic response in the 20-75 kHz hearing range of bats can be produced. The influence of film tension and width under transient flow velocities is studied, to create an acoustic signal closer to what field studies indicate as an effective deterrent: frequency band jumps and pulse modulation, at a sound power level appropriate for full-scale wind turbine implementation.


Emily A. Dunton
Md. Imranul Islam (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Fashion Design and Retailing, Framingham State University
Evaluating the Colorfastness to Stimulated Saliva on Children’s Wear

BACKGROUND: In the textile and apparel industry, color fastness is a term that is used in dyeing textiles that characterizes it color resistance to fading or running. There are many stimulants (e.g., detergent, chlorine water, sea water, perspiration) that can affect the color fastness of a textile, including saliva. OBJECTIVES: (1) Determining how long it takes (hours) for saliva to change the color of a fabric. (2) Identifying the color difference for both light and dark colored fabric before and after the textile has been stimulated with saliva. METHOD: The color fastness to saliva test (DIN V 53160-1) will be used to identify color changes and how long it takes for the colored textiles to change color. EXPECTED FINDINGS: The fastness of the colored textile will change after 72 hours of coming in constant contact with saliva. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This study will determine the amount of time it takes for saliva to change the fastness of colored textiles. Also, this study will help the industry to find better fabric dyeing solutions that will not change color over time. Finally, this study will help designers and retailers choose saliva friendly fabrics for children’s wear. 

Caitlin Ashley Frias
Rachel Ann Smith
Md. Imranul Islam (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Fashion Design and Retailing, Framingham State University

Determining the Effectiveness of Detergents on Stained Cotton Fabric

BACKGROUND: Cotton is the main staple fiber in the fashion industry that paves the basis for the use of other natural and synthetic fibers. Because cotton is one of the most popular fibers for clothing production, its ability to resist wear and tear and staining is crucial to its success. OBJECTIVES: (1) Identify which detergent reacts best with staining on cotton. (2) Analyze the formula of each detergent and predict why that formula reacts best with stain removal. (3) Which type of soil gets removed more easily after laundering. METHOD: The colorfastness of laundering ( AATCC Test Method 61) and soil release test ( AATCC Test Method 130) will be employed in this study. White, light color and dark color cotton fabric will be washed using at least three different detergents. EXPECTED FINDINGS: The detergent whose formula has the least amount of water will be the least successful with stain removal. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This study will determine the effectiveness that each particular laundry detergent brand has on cotton fabric so that consumers can make an informed decision on which brand is best for stain removal. Also, by reviewing the results, each detergent brand can make modifications or adjustments to improve their results compared to other brands. Finally, this study will help businesses that use detergents in their everyday work such as dry cleaners and secondhand clothing stores to find the detergent that meets their needs.

Colton J. Madore
Erika Viens
Md. Imranul Islam (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Fashion Design and Retailing, Framingham State University

Investigating Fabric Strength When Exposed to Commonly Used Dyes for Select Periods of Time

BACKGROUND: Dying garments, such as tie-dying or adding dye for an ombre effect, is very popular today. This trend can be seen in stores as well as worn by celebrities. To avoid high costs of buying these garments in stores, many have taken to dying their own garments at home, using dyes that can be bought at local crafts, convenience or even grocery stores. These dyes may seem harmless, but could potentially weaken the strength of the garment. OBJECTIVES: (1) Identifying the most commonly used dyes for garments found in stores, (2) Developing a model to assess the reaction between the dye and the fabrics, (3) Identifying three different fabrics and their reaction to the dye. METHOD: A mixed method of research is employed in this study: observation (e.g., store visits to find commonly used dyes and secondary data source) and implementing strength test among fabrics after being dyed for a certain period of time. EXPECTED FINDINGS: Some fabrics will react poorly compared to others. Manipulating time for each fabrics exposure in the dye will worsen the outcome. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This study will determine the outcome of which fabric withstands a better reaction to dye and how long it was exposed to the dye. The model for the experiment could show little to no impact on fabrics. Finally, this study will help consumers to better understand which dyes, fabrics and what time exposure to dye will benefit them when dying their own garments.

Michelle Mair
Stephanie Rodriguez
Md. Imranul Islam (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Fashion Design and Retailing, Framingham State University
An Investigation on Fire-Resistant Fibers

BACKGROUND: Within numerous categories of fibers, fire resistant fibers hold a small percentage. Most fibers are flammable due to its organic reaction against heat or flame. The fashion industry does not promote the element of fire resistant as an essential part of the production of garments. When thinking of fire resistant fibers, the thought of fire fighter suits and police officer uniform comes to mind as those are two fields that require this element in their garment to perform their job duties. There is a need to study flame retardant textile apparel/ State official uniforms and manage a way to incorporate this need into daily usage. OBJECTIVES: (1) Determine all known fire resistant fibers (2) Select temperatures to test the resistance of each fiber while timing these events (3) Collect results from the fiber with most resistance in the longest amount of time recorded. METHODS: A qualitative method (content analysis) will be used for objectives one and two and a flammability test (ASTM D 1230) will be conducted to determine which fiber is most resistant to heat/flame. EXPECTED FINDINGS: This study should result in some fibers resisting from burning at a quicker time than others. Other expectations are for some fibers to burn completely into ashes and some fibers will change its natural form but will maintain structure/body. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This study will bring awareness to the demand for more flame retardant apparel and the textile industry. 

Jamie P. Thibault
Brianna Taylor
Md. Imranul Islam (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Fashion Design and Retailing, Framingham State University
The Effect of Water Temperature on Cotton Fabric Dyeing

Background: The temperature of water can alter fabric properties in different ways based on its fiber content and how it was produced. Some garments have specific washing and drying instructions to reduce shrinkage, minimize pilling, or maintain luster and color. Objectives: To investigate how multiple permanent dyes stain cotton fabric in different temperatures of water from (1) boiling-100 degrees Celsius, (2) warm, (3) room temperature-20 degrees Celsius, (4) cold, and (5) freezing-0 degrees Celsius. Method: A thorough literature review will be conducted to understand the chemical process and different methods of producing dyed cotton fabric and a quantitative method (e.g., conducting an experiment and recording the results) to test how dyed cotton fabric reacts to different water temperatures. Expected Findings: The hotter the water, the faster the molecules of dye will move throughout the fabric, and the more dye will be able to transfer into the material. The cooler the water, the less consistent the coloring will be, likely causing a faded color. Conclusions and Implications: This study will determine the impact of different water temperatures on dyed cotton fabric, as well as which dye will stain the fabric more efficiently. Both manufacturers and consumers will benefit from these findings by being able to better understand how resilient different dyeing methods on cotton are when exposed to water in various environments.

Nicole Victoria Valerio
Caroline Emma Lutz
Md. Imranul Islam (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Fashion Design and Retailing, Framingham State University
Determining the Absorbency of Wine Stains on Different Fabrics

BACKGROUND: Wine has been known to ruin clothes and couches, but that doesn’t stop people from drinking it. Since wine is never going out of style, researching what fabric is best for you to wear while drinking a delicious red wine is best. OBJECTIVES: (1) Identifying which fabric wine stains more than another, (2) Identifying what fabric has the least and the most absorbency of red wine. METHOD: The fabric soil release test (AATCC Test Method 130) will be applied to conduct this study. EXPECTED OUTCOME: The wool swatch will have the least amount of absorbency and stain after washing while the cotton swatch will hold on to the wine the most from the AATCC stain release replicas. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This experiment will allow us to obtain information on what type of fabric and what fibers will be the most and the least absorbent with wine stains. This experiment will help both consumers and manufacturers to determine how wine stain differs from other stains and how to remove the wine stain from the fabric.


Veronica Bedard
David A. Sela (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Food and Nutrition, UMass Amherst
The Impact of Consuming Bifidobacteria on Dietary Preference and Longevity of C. elegans

To date, Bifidobacterium has been established as a probiotic bacterium which has been shown to promote both lifespan and health span in the C. Elegans model. However, many of the mechanisms, pathways, and genes through which these benefits are achieved have yet to be identified. C. Elegans serves as an impactful model for studying interactions within its gastrointestinal track as this is the main site of immune expression. Similarities in form and function of the gut epithelium of C. Elegans and humans allows for this research to also offer potential insights on the benefits that Bifidobacterium may elicit upon human consumption.

This study aims to explore if, and how, the consumption of different strains of bifidobacteria may enable C. elegans to live longer at a potentially higher quality. The ultimate goal of this research is in parallel with emerging evidence that the variety and fitness of the gut microbiota may govern the functionality of physiological systems beyond the digestive tract. In order to best understand how bifidobacterial consumption may affect the life and health span of C. elegans, there is a focus on dietary preference behaviors expressed when there is a choice between more than one bifidobacterial strain. With the knowledge that C. elegans innately selects its ideal food source, further investigation into why such dietary preference behaviors occur is essential in understanding how the genus Bifidobacterium modulates host physiological processes.  

Marlayna Buco
Kaitlyn Michaela Dumas
Sienna Rae Kardel
Yelena Vynar
Kimberly Pouliot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University

The Effect of Zinc on Bacterial Invasion of Caco-2 Cells

Zinc, an essential trace element, helps maintain an intestinal barrier and promotes gut immune functions.  Zinc plays a critical role in cell membrane barrier maintenance as deprivation of zinc has been shown to cause a decrease in transepithelial electrical resistance, affecting the membrane permeability of intestinal epithelial cells in vitro.  Zinc has been shown to block protein transporters in bacteria (Streptococcus pneumonia), so that the bacteria cannot uptake an essential metal (manganese). It had been shown that zinc has protective components in the human body as acterial respiratory diseases can be linked to zinc deficiency in the body. This study will examine the effect of zinc on bacterial uptake in CaCo-2 colorectal epithelial cells.  We will test whether zinc aids in a protective barrier and inhibits bacterial internalization in CaCo-2 cells or if zinc directly promotes bacterial internalization.  

Isabella Bushko
Kelly Nevin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst
iCons: Testing Cocultures of Syntrophus aciditrophicus with Geobacter sulfurreducens or Methanosarcina acidivorans for Their Participation in DIET

DIET or direct interspecies electron transfer is the syntrophic process in which a bacteria transfer electrons to a neighboring cell resulting in electrons from the first cell functioning as electron donors for the the second cell. Geobacter sulfurreducens and Methanosarcina acetivorans have been found to be efficient at accepting electrons from other microorganisms. My objective is to see if Syntrophus aciditrophicus can also participate in DIET while growing in coculture with G. sulfurreducens or M. acidivorans. S. aciditrophicus will be inoculated with a variety of substrates that can possibly be used as an electron donor such as benzoate, butyrate, heptanoate and hexanoate.  The electron donors for G. sulfurreducens and M. acidivorans will be omitted as the S. aciditrophicus cells are functioning as electron donor. In order for G. sulfurreducens to grow electrons must be transferred from syntrophus to G. sulfurreducens via DIET.  To measure the effectiveness of this coculture the concentration of the substrates added as well as succinate produced from fumarate, G. sulfurreducens’s waste product, will be measured. The same experiment will be used to test if S. aciditrophicus can conduct DIET with methanosarcina. In this version of the experiment methane, M. acidivorans’s primary product, will be measured, as well as the substrates. In order to measure specific concentrations gas chromatography (GC) as well as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) will be used. We predict that syntrophus will be able to grow syntropically with G. sulfurreducens in culture showing that it can conduct DIET.  The more effective microbes are at DIET the more of a chance there is to help in the  research areas of bioremediation, nanowires, and microbial fuel cells.

Qin Chen
Kelly Nevin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst
Effect of Single Amino Acid Mutations on the Conductivity Level of Geobacter sulfurreducens Pili

Microbial nanowires is an emerging field with potential applications in a low-cost and sustainable forms of nanotechnology. Therefore, further knowledge of G. sulfurreducens pili, which possess metallic-like conductive, is pivotal. In previous research, amino acid mutations in the PilA region of Geobacter sulfurreducens have shown to alter the current production and the conductivity level of the pili. Aromatic amino acids have been attributed to producing higher levels of conductivity within G. sulfurreducens pili. To further investigate the effect of single amino acid mutations, a strain of G. sulfurreducens, designated DL1 Y61A, was created in which the aromatic amino acid was replaced with the non-polar alanine. Another strain of G. sulfurreducens, designated PCA W51 W57, had non-polar amino acids replaced with tryptophan. The current production, using a graphite anode as the electron acceptor, for Y61A was lower than the control strain while the current production for W51 W57 was similar to that of the control strain. The pili was viewed under a TEM after protein purification. The conductivity levels, obtained through a four-probe system, is still being conducted.

Samantha Dominique
Kimberly Pouliot (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University
Effect of Quercetin on Bacterial Invasion of Enteric Microbes of CaCo-2 Cells

     Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that has been shown to be immunomodulatory and inhibit inflammation in various cell types at the optimal concentrations. My previous results suggest that quercetin could increase phagocytosis of Staphylococcus aureus by macrophages. The exact mechanism of action is not currently known of how it promotes phagocytosis; however, it can target intracellular signaling kinases which are vital for cellular function. Based on those results, the overall goal of this study is to determine if quercetin can influence internalization of enteric microbes using non-phagocytic cells such as human intestinal epithelial cells (CaCo-2). Bacterial invasion of epithelial cells involves mechanisms that hijack the host cell to stimulate their own uptake into the host cells. Two observed mechanisms could include bacteria remaining in the vacuole where they are originally internalizing (Salmonella and Yersinia spp.) or escape the vacuole and grow in the cytoplasm of a cell to spread to adjacent cells (Shigella flexerni). Most enteric bacterial infections of the gut lead to inflammation of the intestines as a host immune response. The second goal of this project is to measure the inflammation and cytokine secretion from the CaCo-2 cells after exposure to quercetin. In addition, by using a fluorescent marker on the bacteria and visualizing it using fluorescent microscopy, it is possible to determine the mechanism the enteric bacterial strains use to infect host cells. 

William James Eagen
Yasu S. Morita (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst
Liquid-Surface Biofilm Formation of a Mycobacterium smegmatis Mannosyltransferase Mutant is Nutrient-Dependent

Mycobacterium tuberculosis produces a cell envelope that is unique among bacteria and critical for its pathogenesis. Phosphatidylinositol (PI)-anchored glycolipids, such as PI mannosides (PIMs), lipomannan, and lipoarabinomannan, are essential, conserved among mycobacteria, and integral parts of the cell envelope. However, their physiological roles are not fully understood. Previously, we identified PimE, a mannosyltransferase that transfers the fifth mannose in hexamannosyl PIM biosynthesis, in the non-pathogenic model organism Mycobacterium smegmatis. The pimE gene deletion mutant (ΔpimE) forms a small colony on Middlebrook 7H10 agar, and this morphological defect was due to the increased permeability of ΔpimE to copper present in the Middlebrook 7H10 agar. Indeed, removal of copper from the medium restores normal colony formation of ΔpimE on the solid agar surface. However, copper removal from the medium does not restore the formation of a liquid-surface biofilm, known as a pellicle. Here, we found that the ΔpimE mutant requires additional nutritional components to form a robust pellicle. Because ΔpimE could form a normal pellicle on M63 broth, we initially examined the effects of each component present in the M63 broth on this pellicle formation. This study revealed higher concentrations of potassium phosphate and calcium chloride as primary factors contributing to the robust pellicle formation of the ΔpimE mutant. When we supplemented the copper-free Middlebrook 7H9 broth with potassium phosphate and calcium chloride at the concentrations found in the M63 broth, the pellicle formation was not restored. This suggests that additional factors that are present in the Middlebrook 7H9 broth are inhibitory to the biofilm formation of ΔpimE. We are currently determining the precise medium conditions that support the pellicle formation in this glycolipid biosynthetic mutant.

Paris J. Jamiel
Michele M. Klingbeil (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst

iCons: Detecting kDNA Replication Protein Interactions Using a Yeast Two-Hybrid System

Trypanosoma brucei is a single celled, eukaryotic organism that causes Trypanosomiasis, a vector borne disease in humans and other vertebrates, throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Current drug treatments for Trypanosomiasis are inadequate, with varying toxicity, and no vaccines are available. However, there is hope for new more selective treatments with minimal side effects because of the unorthodox biology of T. brucei. One property that is absent from all other eukaryotic lineages is T. brucei’s mitochondrial kinetoplast DNA (kDNA) that is composed of thousands of circular DNA molecules catenated together to form a network and is required for parasite survival. The topological complexity of replicating catenated kDNA dictates some unusual features including a release and reattachment minicircle replication mechanism that separates replication events spatially and temporally. Additionally, this complexity is reflected in multiple replication factors including DNA polymerases, helicases, ligases, and topoisomerases most of which appear to have nonredundant functions. Interestingly these proteins have spatiotemporal localizations with respect to the kDNA that are cell cycle dependent. However, which proteins directly interact for minicircle and maxicircle replication is unknown. Using a yeast two-hybrid system will determine whether direct interactions are occurring between specific kDNA replication proteins in T. brucei. The groups of kDNA proteins (minicircle replication, maxicircle replication, okazaki fragment processing) analyzed through the yeast two-hybrid system are hypothesized to interact because of similar protein function and localization. Patterns of direct interactions will paint a clearer picture of the mechanisms occurring within kDNA replication and will aid in the search for new anti-trypanosomatid treatments.

Olga Kuzmenko
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College

Gut Bacteria and Obesity: Manipulating Gut Bacteria in the Microbiome Has a Significant Influence on Body Weight Fluctuation

Obesity is a common problem in developed countries, but the United States has one of the highest percentages of obese population worldwide. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 40% of American adults and 20% of adolescents are obese.  Obesity causes numerous health issues such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke that all contribute to its mortality. The causes of obesity are well known: an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle and genetic predisposition. Recent animal and human studies revealed, however, another potential cause of obesity and this cause is hidden in our gut. It seems that the microbiome imbalance causes the rapid growth of the bacteria which is famous for harvesting more energy from the diet. My research asks whether manipulating gut bacteria in the microbiome has a significant influence on body weight fluctuation. The connection between the human microbiome and weight gain gives a new view of the existing problem of obesity as a disease and may also be the key of determining whether you are able to lose or gain weight. Balancing the gut microbiome through diet and probiotics may impact the obesity epidemic.

Marcus McKenzie
Wilmore Webley (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst
Infection of House Fly, Musca domestica L., in the Laboratory by Chlamydia trachomatis

Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. It is caused by the obligate intracellular bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. 190.2 million people lived in trachoma endemic areas encompassing 41 countries. Infections often spread via contact with dirty clothes, contaminated hands. It has been noted that in endemic areas, a seasonal increase in the prevalence of these infections coincides with an increase in the Musca sorbens fly population.

The objective of the current research was to determine whether flies are purely mechanical vectors in trachoma transmission or if they have biological roles. We utilized PCR, advanced labeling techniques and tissue culture to determine the presence, viability and anatomical location of the C. trachomatis inside M. sorbens in a laboratory setting.  

Following pupation, 2 day old adult flies were starved for 12h and then allowed to feed on or were capillary fed C. trachomatis serovar B in sucrose phosphate glutamate (SPG). Flies were then harvested at various time intervals after feeding, dissected and samples evaluated via PCR and culture. We amplified C. trachomatis DNA from the crop, a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion of these flies up to 24h post feeding. We also isolated C. trachomatis DNA from the upper portions of the alimentary tract. We confirmed the viability of isolated C. trachomatis through tissue culture in HeLa cells.

Our data confirms that eye­-seeking flies such as Musca sorbens can ingest C. trachomatis during regular feeding. These data also confirm for the first time, that ingested Chlamydia remains viable inside the flies for 24-48h post feeding. There is reason to believe that they could regurgitate and transmit the bacteria at their next feeding. We believe that these findings suggest potentially effective intervention strategies through vector control.

David M. Mota
John P. Burand (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst
Sustainable Solution to Problem Affecting Bee Health

Contrary to popular opinion, the significant problem currently facing honeybees is not colony collapse disorder but rather the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor. This mite is found in almost every beehive and not only survives by extracting the blood from honeybees, but also transmits viruses causing bee diseases. The comprehensive goal of this project is to develop a bionanoparticle that can effectively control Varroa mites. This particle will be capable of delivering bioactive molecules, such as RNAi, that can be engineered to kill mites as they feed on bees. One specific research project will be to construct a packaging system capable of delivering the anti-Varroa active biomolecules. This system will consist of the BQCV capsid protein expressed by a recombinant baculovirus in insect cells. Ultimately, this bionanoparticle will replicate in bees, and then be ingested by the mites where the anti-Varroa biomolecules will kill the parasite. The outcome of this approach represents a sustainable method for controlling the infestation of Varro mite.

Jeannette Mullins
Wilmore Webley (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst

Adenovirus 36 Infection Increases the Risk for Premenopausal Breast Cancer

There is a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality in obese women, despite optimal treatment. Certain viruses have been shown to increase adiposity in animals and subsequent obesity. While the exact mechanisms involved in infectobesity are not clear, viruses are thought to increase the replication, differentiation, lipid accumulation, and insulin sensitivity in fat cells while reducing leptin secretion. Adv36 is the only human adenovirus to date that has been directly linked with human obesity. The current study examines the prevalence of obesogenic adenovirus in mammary epithelial cells and blood from patients undergoing breast biopsy or mammoreduction surgery.

Methods: Serotype-specific PCR amplification to determine the presence of adenovirus species in patient samples obtained from human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC).

Results:The average BMI of the patient cohort was 31.1, median age 47.7 years old and there was no significant association between the presence of obesogenic adenovirus and parity. Adv36 DNA was isolated from the breast tissue and blood of 34.4% (32/93) of samples. Obese breast cancer patients had an Adv36 DNA prevalence of 69.2%, while patients with a normal BMI had a prevalence of 19.2% and overweight patients had a prevalence of 11.5%.

Conclusion: Our data strongly suggest that Adv36 DNA was present more frequently in breast tissue of women with higher BMI. These findings support a role for infectobesity in the risk for breast cancer development and suggests that the presence of Adv36 in tissue could be a biomarker of a clinical-metabolic profile, possibly preceding obesity.

Sarah Hassan Osman
Yasu S. Morita (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst
LmeA, a Cell-Envelope Protein Critical for Lipomannan and Lipoarabinomannan Synthesis in Mycobacteria, Is Important for Antibiotic Resistance and Cell Envelope Permeability

The rise of antibiotic resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, is a global concern. The cell envelope is critical for the survival and virulence of the pathogen during infection, and its biosynthesis has been a proven drug target. Therefore, finding new targets in the biosynthetic pathway of cell-envelope components is of great interest. Mycobacterium smegmatis is the model for the study of this devastating pathogen. We recently identified LmeA as a cell-envelope protein that is critical for the control of mannan chain length of lipmannan (LM) and lipoarabinomannan (LAM), essential glycolipid components of the cell envelope. The deletion mutant, ∆lmeA, accumulates abnormal LM/LAM with fewer mannose residues. To understand the importance of this protein, the antibiotic sensitivity of ∆lmeA was tested using a resazurin-based viability assay. We found that the lmeA deletion leads to increased sensitivities to antibiotics such as vancomycin and erythromycin. To directly test if the increased antibiotic sensitivity is due to the defective permeability barrier, we used an ethidium bromide uptake assay and found that ∆lmeA is more efficient in taking up ethidium bromide in the cell. Interestingly, the overexpression of this protein leads to an increase in antibiotic resistance. We are currently testing if the overexpression of LmeA decreases the ethidium bromide uptake and thus makes the cell envelope less permeable.

Corelle Anna Zofia Rokicki
Yasu S. Morita (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst
Fluorescence Imaging-Based Discovery of Membrane Domain-Associated Proteins in Mycobacterium smegmatis

The highly impermeable cell envelope is crucial for Mycobacterium tuberculosis to resist host immune attack and antibiotic treatment. Using non-pathogenic Mycobacterium smegmatis, we recently discovered a sub-cellular compartment enriched with many enzymes involved in envelope biosynthesis. This intracellular membrane domain (IMD) is concentrated in the polar region of growing cells, and becomes less polarized under non-growing conditions. Because mycobacteria elongate from the poles, the observed polar localization of the IMD during growth is consistent with the localized concentration of proteins dedicated to envelope biosynthesis. While we have identified more than 300 IMD-associated proteins by proteomic analyses, only a handful of these have been verified by other experimental methods. Furthermore, we speculate that many more IMD-associated proteins have escaped proteomic identification and remain to be identified. Here, we cloned 1117 M. smegmatis genes that represent the core genome conserved across five species of mycobacteria, and created an arrayed library of M. smegmatis strains each expressing a Dendra2-FLAG-tagged recombinant protein. Screening a subset of 598 strains by fluorescence microscopy identified 30 fusion proteins that localized Dendra2 to the IMD, 19 of which we had previously identified proteomically. Of the 11 remaining IMD candidate proteins, five are annotated as plasma membrane proteins. We are using biochemical methods to independently validate these 11 candidate IMD proteins. Taken together, our newly devised strategy is effective in verifying the IMD association of proteins found by proteomic analyses and further discovering additional IMD-associated proteins.

Michelle Rozycki
David A. Sela (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Food and Nutrition, UMass Amherst

Optimization of the Phosphoketolase Assay to Reduce Reagents and Enhance Identification of Bifidobacteria

Bifidobacteria are typical microbial colonizers of the infant gut. Over the course of isolating them from infants and other sources they are commonly identified using the phosphoketolase assay, a biochemical test that creates a color change in the presence of a bifidobacterial-specific enzyme. To this point, the assay is solely qualitative with maroon representing a positive result and yellow a negative result. Currently, efforts to improve the assay include adapting it to quantifying fructose-6-phosphate phosphoketolase activity, the target enzyme of the assay. Moreover, its activity will be compared amongst various species and subspecies of bifidobacteria. Accordingly, the assay has been modified to reduce the volume of reagents to fit in a single well of a 96-well plate. The potential effect that fresh ferric chloride has on the color change has been tested as well. Bacterial cultures were grown, or diluted to, OD600 values of 0.25 and bacterial cells were lysed using hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide. The color change, or the formation of a hydroxamic acid ferric chloride chelate complex, was monitored using a plate reader at 505 nm and 515 nm before and after the addition of ferric chloride. To this point, the results indicate that there is no difference between enzyme activity and the particular species tested, with additional bifidobacteria to evaluate. The next step to improve quantification is purifying the chelate complex. By purifying the chelate complex, bifidobacteria species could be compared based on their ability to produce acetyl-phosphate, the precursor to hydroxamic acid in the complex. Adapting the assay to the plate reader increases efficiency and confidence in preliminary identification of bifidobacteria.

Stephanie Ann Ryan
Klaus Nüsslein (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst
Bacterial Abundance in the Phyllosphere of Brachiaria

Due to its tropical climate, the Amazon rainforests have become a hub for agricultural industry. With a growing world population and expanding market, Amazon deforestation increased rapidly to make room for livestock pastures and plantations.

In an effort to maximize yield and combat extreme climate conditions, farmers have turned to planting new forage species as replacement, particularly the African grass species Brachiaria. Able to withstand a variety of environments, Brachiaria has become a pioneer species in providing nutritious forage to depleted areas. Its pivotal role in the agricultural industry makes it an essential plant to study on the microbial level.

As a microbial lab studying land-use change in the Amazon, we are particularly interested in the phyllosphere of Brachiaria. The phyllosphere, the portion of the plant above the soil and all of its associated microorganisms, is a critical component of ecosystem nutrient exchange and plant health. Our research aims to identify the natural composition and function of this microbial community, in addition to how the community may change when exposed to environmental stressors such as drought or elevated temperatures.

Our ultimate goal is to create a better understanding of the phyllosphere as a dynamic microbial community. By analyzing microbial abundance of Brachiaria, we intend to explore methods to maximize the beneficial plant-microbe interactions. On a global scale, we hope to find a way to apply our research to address broader issues like sustainable agricultural practices in order to protect the world’s tropical forests.

Alexander Roy Truchon
Jeffrey Blanchard (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
The Invisible World: Unveiling Environmental Endosymbionts

Despite advancements and new technologies in identifying novel microbial organisms, the composition of environmental microbiomes is still largely a mystery. We are utilizing a new approach, Cell Sorted Environmental Genomics, to provide a more meaningful representation of the microbial structure of environmental ecosystems. 

Through a process of cell extraction from soil samples and flow cytometry for the binning of groups of microbes, our lab has improved on a method of directly sequencing genetic information from environmental microbial populations. This method permits a better understanding of microbial diversity through identification of novel organisms. An unexpected consequence of this sequencing technique has been the visualization of life that has been  poorly represented in prior environmental genome sequencing, namely endosymbionts. 

These endosymbionts include giant viruses never found before in the soil. These poorly understood viruses are intriguing because they possess genomes larger than those of many bacteria, which contain genes coding for translational machinery and other genes usually associated with cellular metabolism. Likewise, nearly 100 genomes of the obligate intracellular bacteria and human pathogens of the phylum Chlamydiae have been identified abundantly through this technique. Presence of these groups is a testament to the potential this method has towards revealing the microbial world, and the significance Cell Sorted Environmental Genomics will have in the future of bacterial genome sequencing.


Zein Nayal
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Orientalism: A Feminist Reading

The phenomenon of the Middle East as seen through the Eurocentric perspective is often misunderstood and misrepresented throughout a timeline of timeless events. Middle Eastern culture is often romanticized for the purpose of entertainment and amusement, leaving the western world with the idea that the Middle East was and will always be the land of magic carpets, belly dancers, and camels. However, as Edward Said explains in his book Orientalism, this fantastic description of the Middle East is a representation created by the west, for the west, without a true understanding of the East. Orientalism fails to distinguish the desire to learn about the Arabian culture from assuming what it is actually like and using those assumptions as facts. Said doesn’t reprimand those who seek to learn about the East. He does, however, call out the Western scholar who writes about the East without truly understanding why the traditions have become what they are, and the background of every detail within the culture; to come into a foreign land, assume absolute knowledge of the people and their culture, write about it from his/her frame of reference, and publish their work to others in the west. Not only does this stereotype the East, it also creates a sense of inferiority; an ideology that “they” think, act, and speak differently – thus, viewing them as the other. 


Nicholas R. Chiancola
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
Here to There

Even when we are not aware, music infiltrates our minds and resonates with our feelings. Despite conscious awareness certain tones or sections of music can amplify an emotion or guide us away from it. How does it happen? What occurs from the onset of sensation that leads to perception, and how does music intersect with such emotions? 

The presentation illustrates music and its choreographed interpretations. One piece of music will be played throughout the presentation in five variations. The first is played between each variation and poses a neutral sensation. The others exemplify, joy, anger, sadness, and fear. 

In music, the A theme, which usually begins each piece, will precipitate chemical reactions that occur in the brain. To achieve that reaction in the music, changes in key, major or minor, meter, tempo, tone color, will occur to achieve that result. In my musical presentation, choreographed dancers will perform in accordance with the music. Their movements convey and amplify what the music will be stating. Both auditory and visual perceptions characterize this project. 

The presentation exemplifies the complex emotions that accompany sensations of music, and how vital it is. Music is often taken as a simply enjoyable craft, however this presentation illustrates its much more complex impact. Music is a multi-sensory experience that extends past the initial performance. 

Lannah Loretta Fitzgerald
Jonathan Thomas Amon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Music, Bridgewater State University
Recording Reichert's Seven Daily Exercises for Flute on Alto Saxophone

Many saxophone technique books focus either purely on general technique, as is done in Londeix’s The Scales by Steps and by Intervals, or concentrate specifically on altissimo technique, as is done in Eugene Rousseau’s Saxophone High Tones. While Reichert’s 7 Daily Exercises was written for the flute, this book of exercises could serve as a more inclusive saxophone technique book that would help saxophonists to work on both general technique as well as altissimo technique. The purpose of this project was to examine the efficacy of Reichert’s 7 Daily Exercises as a saxophone technique book, and to create a YouTube recording of this work on alto saxophone that makes Reichert’s exercises more accessible to other saxophonists. Reichert’s 7 Daily Exercises was compared to standard saxophone altissimo technique books such as Sigurd M. Rasher’s Top Tones for the Saxophone, Rosemary Lang’s Beginning Studies in the Altissimo Register, and others. Exercises Nos. 1 and 2 were recorded using Focusrite Solo Studio recording equipment and Logic Pro X software. The video results of this project, which include both recorded audio as well as images of Reichert’s music, can serve as learning tools for other saxophonists seeking to use Reichert’s 7 Daily Exercises as a saxophone technique book. Future continuations of this project may include publication of fingerings to be used for Reichert’s exercises.

Alexander Romito Gardner
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
Lost in the Closet

This project is a musical performance telling the story of a gay male struggling with and discovering his sexuality. The performance will combine current popular music, jazz, and modern musical theater genres. While lovers of theater will know many of the selections, some of the interpretations will differ from the original composers’ intentions to fit the purpose of this project. The storyline of this performance will depict the protagonist struggling with being an outsider in different aspects of his life. He will discuss being alone in the context of religion, family, and the outside world. Then, he will meet someone who opens his eyes and makes him realize exactly what this feeling of being “different” really is: he’s gay. Everything begins to fall into place and the world feels brighter now. A major reason for this capstone, besides being personally motivated, is that this is a storyline that is not often shown in media. When movies, television, and other mainstream media portray someone struggling with their sexuality, most of the time they already know they are LGBTQ+, and are simply “in the closet”, meaning they are hiding their identity. While this is a valid and real storyline for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, it is not the only life story, and it is important to show other points of view. In the heteronormative society that we live in, it is crucial to show that there is not a limited number of “ways to be gay.”

Ashley Nakia Herbert
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Experiencing Involuntary Musical Imagery

Getting a song stuck in one’s head is a very common involuntary cognition that most likely everyone has experienced at least once in their lifetime. This phenomenon is known as “earworms” or formally known as involuntary musical imagery and has been grouped with other involuntary cognitions such as daydreaming. Approximately 60 undergraduate students will track their personal experience with earworms over a seven day period. These students will record in a structured log book each involuntary musical imagery episodes along with qualities of the song, name of the song, and the number of times the earworms reoccurred. The expected results are that students will have more involuntary musical imagery episodes from fast tempo song than from slow tempo songs. Expected results may also show that students experience earworms for songs they like more than songs they dislike. These expected findings could possibly help music producers figure out what is considered catchy so that their music is being sold often and played a lot. 

Dominic Mrakovcich
Erinn E. Knyt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Music, UMass Amherst
Connecting Counterpoints

My honors project creates a listening guide for my audience related to my senior percussion recital. I will focus on the theme of counterpoint which occurs in each of the pieces on my program. Counterpoint is traditionally defined as the coexistence of multiple melodic lines simultaneously. However, in the 20th century, the term took on new dimensions, and was applied to other aspects beyond pitch, including timbre and texture. I will connect the traditional views the music of J.S Bach with modern counterpoint.

The Suite for Lute by J.S. Bach contains polyphony. By contrasting registers, Bach creates many voices out of one instrument. Similarly, Dimorphie creates two distinct, yet equal voices through the nuance of timbre, a repetitive ordering of events and antiphony. Another contrapuntal technique found in the Lute Suite is the imitation of one melodic line with another. Through the direct repetition of melodic gesture at various dynamics, Torse III creates the effect of echoes through imitation, and a large-scale sense of counterpoint through the juxtaposition of short character pieces that combine into a synthesis. Juxtaposition of textures in Links is what ties in the last piece of  music for discussion.

The message that I would like to convey to the audience is that counterpoint as a musical tool is still alive today. By broadening their understanding the audience will be able connect the familiar with the unfamiliar, and gain an appreciation for modern percussion music.

Deanna Truhanovitch
Catherine Wilcox-Titus (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University
More Than Just Looks

This project is a musical performance that is based on vocal “powerhouse” women. When saying the term “powerhouse” this means strong vocals that can portray emotions and can use the voice to stand up for human rights or controversial issues and debates. The recital will have two musical theater pieces, and three Pop pieces. The point of this performance is to show how strong a woman’s voice can be when she wants to stand up for what is right.  The strong emotional component in a piece adds to the song itself on whether or not it connects with its listener. In the song, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, by the artist Pink, the lyrics begin with Pink singing the words “I will have to die for this I fear, there’s rage and terror and there’s sickness here, I fight because I have to, I fight for us to know the truth.” With these words, the overriding feeling and emotion expresses a powerful sentiment of fighting for the truth. My project also includes Woman from The Pirate Queen, by Claude-Michel Schönberg, that speaks of how being a woman does not prevent them from doing what men can do. A core part of the project includes a selection from the discography of Kelly Clarkson, who uses her ability to portray a sense of emotion in a song to her advantage.


Dar Alon
Mariana Pereira (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst

Analysis of Maternal Behavior and Pup Development in the Wistar-Kyoto Rat Model of Postpartum Depression

Previous studies in labs using the Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) animal model of depression demonstrated that WKY mothers exhibited disturbances in parenting in a 30-min test compared to control Sprague-Dawley (SD) mothers. In order to evaluate whether the differences in parenting between WKY and SD mothers were driven by the testing conditions and/or differences in pups’ characteristics, this study evaluated maternal behavior and offspring physical and neurobehavioral developmental milestones during the entire postpartum period. Maternal behavior was scored every 4 min for three 60-min daily observation periods during postpartum day (PPD) 1 to PPD25. Behavioral observations occurred at regular times each day, with two periods during the light, and one period during dark phases of the 12h light/dark cycle. In addition, pups were weighed and examined daily for emergence of physical maturation landmarks/ reflexes. Physical landmarks included pinnae detachment, incisor eruption, eye opening, ear opening, and fur development. In addition, pups were tested for surface righting, palmar grasp and negative geotaxis reflexes. Results demonstrated that WKY mothers consistently exhibited reduced active components of maternal behavior and spent less time in contact with their pups than SD mothers. No changes in physical milestones of pups were noted during the first three postnatal weeks. These findings confirm that WKY mothers display disturbances in parenting, reaffirming the feasibility of the WKY stain as a model of postpartum depression, increasing its utility in identifying the mechanisms by which it disrupts parenting.

Thi Ngoc Bui
Yimingjiang Saimire
Paul Katz (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Circadian Rhythms of Locomotor Activity in Berghia stephanieae

Most organisms possess an endogenous biological clock that governs daily behavioral rhythms in a nearly 24-hour cycle. The molecular mechanisms of circadian clocks have been studied in many species, including Drosophila melanogaster and Mus. However, the neural mechanisms underlying how circadian clocks affect behaviors is not fully understood. To address this problem, we are examining the nudibranch Berghia stephanieae (Mollusca, Gastropoda), which has a simpler nervous system with large and identifiable neurons. In addition, their small size poses an advantage for high-throughput behavioral analysis over previously-studied nudibranchs. We are conducting this experiment to address two goals: to identify whether locomotor activity follows a daily rhythm and to determine whether this activity is governed by a circadian clock. To identify the activity pattern of locomotion, we are using a video camera to record the activity of Berghia in a confined tank with artificial light over several days in a 12:12 light:dark cycle. We are then graphing the data on an actogram to look for patterns in activity levels. We will later determine the presence of a circadian clock by exposing the Berghia to constant darkness. If a circadian clock exists, we expect to see the patterns free-run in constant darkness with an endogenous period of around 24 hours. Lastly, we will test whether the clock can be entrained to a different light:dark cycle. This study will serve as a foundation for further investigations of how circadian clocks modulate neural circuits to produce circadian behaviors.

Madeline Joanne Clark
Richard G. Hunter (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston

Epigenetic Regulation of NLRP3 Inflammasome Assembly in the Rat Hippocampus

Stress and immune signaling converge in the hippocampus to alter function. Pro-inflammatory cytokine and glucocorticoid receptor signaling affect synaptic transmission in this region. Glucocorticoids are capable of regulating expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines but the precise mechanisms remain unknown. The NLRP3 inflammasome protein complex facilitates the production of mature pro-inflammatory cytokines. Glucocorticoids (e.g. corticosterone in the rat) are released from the adrenal glands, and circulate throughout the body and brain binding to glucocorticoid receptors. Acute restraint stress is sufficient to induce increases in the repressive histone modification histone H3 lysine 9 trimethyl (H3K9me3), accumulating at retrotransposons (RTs) thereby decreasing RT expression. RT accumulation has been shown to activate the NLRP3 inflammasome. Preliminary data from acute corticosterone (CORT) treated-adrenalectomized animals supports the idea that CORT is sufficient for increased hippocampal H3K9me3. Increased hippocampal H3K9me3 is effectively blocked through pretreatment of chaetocin, a H3K9me3-specific methyltransferase inhibitor. In vitro, CORT dynamically regulates RT expression -increasing expression acutely and repressing expression via H3K9me3 upon depletion.  In the acute CORT treated rat, we aim to see if blocking CORT-induced H3K9me3 is permissive for NLRP3-inflammasome assembly in hippocampus. These results may suggest a novel molecular epigenetic link between stress and immune axes with significant implications for hippocampal function.

Naomi H. Cosmus
Robin White (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Westfield State University
Interferon Alpha-17 and Astrocytes in Glial Scars

Athletes commonly use intravenous performance enhancers to help improve how they play in sports, which increases their chance of contracting Hepatitis C. The performance improvement and physical nature of sports elevates the risk of athletes injuring their spinal cord while playing. A treatment for Hepatitis-C is an immune protein called interferon alpha-17 (IFNA-17). A cell type that plays a key role in the response to spinal cord injury is the astrocyte. There is a gap in the literature regarding IFNA-17 and how it affects astrocytes in spinal cord injury healing. This study used a cell culture astrocytoma wound-healing model with fluorescent staining to visualize the results. It was found that IFNA-17 does not have any effect on healing after transection injury in astrocytoma cells. Thus, my results suggest that IFNA-17 may not affect astrocyte response after spinal cord injury, but additional studies are needed to further examine this question.  

Amalia Katherine Davis
Ryan E.B. Mruczek (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Worcester State University
Effects of Visual Experience on Feedforward and Feedback Processing in the Primate Visual System

Repeated exposure to the same or similar objects leads to faster and more accurate identification of those objects. The neural changes that are connected to these behavioral changes remain unclear. Previous studies have shown that cells in high-level areas of the primate visual system have a higher selectivity for familiar objects than novel objects (i.e., they respond to a smaller number of familiar objects). These studies have largely focused on single-cell responses in individual brain areas, but regions of the visual system are highly interconnected. To determine whether familiarity alters feedforward or feedback processing, we reanalyzed a previous dataset of local field potential recordings from the inferior temporal cortex. Local field potentials reflect the summed activity of many neurons in a small region of the cortex. Specifically, we compared high frequency and low frequency oscillations, which have been linked to feedforward and feedback processing in the primate visual system, respectively. In four monkeys, familiar objects led to stronger power in low frequencies (~5-17 Hz alpha/beta range). In two of these monkeys, novel objects also led to stronger power in high frequencies (~65-100 Hz gamma range). These results support the hypothesis that long-term familiarity leads to stronger feedback connections within the visual system.

Stephanie Fedorchak
David Moorman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Norepinephrine Signaling in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex Modulates Short-Term Memory

Cognitive functions such as the ability to adapt behaviors to situational changes are important in learning how to change patterns of addictive behavior. Long-term addiction changes neurotransmitter levels, which in part disrupts cognitive circuits in brain areas like the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Norepinephrine (NE) is a neurotransmitter that is critical for mPFC function. We investigated what role NE plays in the short-term memory of male and female C57BL/6J mice after repeated heavy alcohol and stress. For ~1 month, mice received one of four treatments: repeated forced swim stress, chronic ethanol vapor, both, or neither. Mice were then tested on their ability to recall object-context pairings five minutes after learning the pairings. Half the mice received the NE α-1 inverse agonist prazosin before being tested, thereby reducing NE action in mPFC and other regions. Prazosin-treated stress-only males performed better than their untreated counterparts, but this trend did not appear in other groups. These findings indicate that reducing α-1 NE signaling is not sufficient to reverse the impact of long-term ethanol or stress/ethanol on short-term memory. Additionally, since prazosin-treated stress-only females did not perform better than untreated stress-only females, there may be sex differences in the way stress moderates NE and cognition.

John Fletcher
Youngbin Kwak (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Individual Differences Underlying Decision Making

Why do people make the choices they do? Past research indicates there may be a link between individual differences in motivation that underlie decision making.  The BIS/BAS scale is an established measure that has been utilized to evaluate an individual's trait approach and avoidance tendencies. Differences in approach motivation will also be observed via electroencephalography (EEG). Past research indicated that greater frontal asymmetry was associated with higher approach motivation. One of the aims of this research is evaluate what possible role trait approach motivation may influence an individual’s response to normative violations. This research is also interested in the role individual differences in approach motivation may play in decision making.  Participants performed a variation of the third party punishment game and responded to two examples of Joshua Knobe’s classic experiment. Participants also responded to a brief measure to test variation in individual differences in prescriptive and proscriptive morality. I will analyze individual differences in approach motivation, as measured by BIS/BAS and variation in frontal asymmetry, explains individual differences in moral and social decision making by correlation analysis.  I believe that higher levels of trait approach motivation may help explain increased action taken during third party punishment, greater usage of prescriptive morality, and an increased likelihood to view an act as intentional.

Michael A. Grampetro
Elena Vazey (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

The Role of Norandrenergic Systems in Anxiogenesis following Chronic Stress and Ethanol Exposure

About 15 million American adults suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD) each year. AUD impairs day-to-day functioning and can be fatal. Stress is a major factor in the development of AUD and a risk for relapse. We explored how chronic ethanol consumption and stress influences anxiety-like behavior, and the role of stress-responsive noradrenergic signaling in these changes. Adult male (n = 54) and female (n = 58) C57BL/6J mice were allowed 1-hour of voluntary drinking (15% ethanol) daily. Once drinking stabilized, a subset of mice were exposed to weekly cycles of chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) to induce ethanol dependence, or air-control vapor exposure, followed by weekly cycles of 1-hour voluntary test drinking. During weeks of test drinking, mice received either no stress (NS) or 10 minutes of forced swim stress (FSS) 4 hours before ethanol access. Animals with a history of CIE and FSS escalated voluntary drinking across exposure cycles. After 4-6 weeks of CIE and FSS, anxiety-like behaviors were evaluated, using the marble burying task. Thirty minutes prior to marble-burying mice received either an α-1 inverse agonist prazosin (0.75 mg/kg i.p.) or vehicle. CIE and FSS both increased anxiety-like behavior, as measured by an increase in the number of marbles buried across both sexes. Prazosin significantly reduced anxiety-like behavior in females but not males. These data suggest that ethanol and stress history increase anxiety-like behavior, and that this may be mediated by noradrenergic hyperactivity in females.

Michael Kelberman
Elena Vazey (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Firing Patterns of the Locus Coeruleus in Rats during a Two-Alternative Forced-Choice Task

Decision processing in cortical areas is heavily influenced by ascending monoamines, including norepinephrine (NE). The locus coeruleus (LC) is a small nucleus in the dorsal pons that supplies the vast majority of NE to cortical targets involved in decision procession. Previous research from our lab demonstrates that noradrenergic antagonists alter behavior, including decision outcome during a two-alternative forced-choice task (2AFC).

This study sought to characterize LC firing patterns in rats during a 2AFC task. Male and female Long-Evan rats were surgically implanted with chronic 28-channel tetrode arrays, unilaterally targeting the LC. Following a recovery period, rats were trained on a 2AFC task where cue lights (red/green) illuminated each trial to indicate which of the two laterally positioned levers would be rewarded. Rats self-initiated trials by breaking an IR beam for a variable hold until a lever cue was received. Rats were first trained and tested on a task where the probability of either lever being rewarded was set to 50%. Rats were then subjected to a test period where the probability of one lever being rewarded was biased to 70% to see how neuromodulatory output of LC was altered when task demands changed. Rats could perform up to 250 trials in a 40 minute test session. LC firing analysis is ongoing. Results from this study will add to a growing understanding of the LC’s importance in regulating task related behavior during decision making.

Krystal Rose Leger
Rosie A. Cowell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
The Role of Visual Cortex in Memory: Does Object Recognition Depend upon Brain Regions Housing Conjunction Representations?

Recognition memory is thought to depend on medial temporal lobe structures. However, recognition memory tasks found in the literature tend to use complex high-level stimuli, such as word-pair associations. Thus the neural underpinnings of recognition memory for simple low-level features remain unclear. Recognition memory for low-level features may rely upon lower-level brain regions. In addition, one recent theory of memory predicts that recognition of a particular stimulus relies upon the brain region that represents conjunctions of the kinds of features contained in the stimulus. To test this, we conduct an fMRI study using a recognition memory task in which participants must recognize novel conjunctions of simple visual features that are individually familiar. First, participants study visual stimuli that are composed of conjunctions of simple, binary features (color, shape and spatial frequency). Next, participants are asked to discriminate between familiar stimuli seen during study, stimuli made up of features seen previously in study but combined in a novel way, and completely novel stimuli. Behavioral piloting of this task has revealed individuals can discriminate between previously-studied stimuli and stimuli that are novel combinations of familiar features. fMRI data collected during this task will be used to determine whether the recognition memory signals that underlie this behavioral performance are found in regions of visual cortex that (1) represent conjunctions of simple features, and (2) are lower-level than traditional “memory” regions such as the medial temporal lobe.

Aimee K. Lin
Heather Richardson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Assessment of Estrogen Receptor Alpha Expression in Microglia across the Estrous Cycle in Female Rats

Microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain, play an active role in neuroinflammation and repair in the central nervous system. Exposure to toxic substances such as alcohol can lead to microglial activation and subsequent release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Estradiol has been shown to decrease expression of pro-inflammatory factors and this effect is mediated by estrogen receptor alpha (ERα). However, it is not known whether estradiol acts directly on microglia or indirectly through other pathways or cell types. We have found that higher alcohol intake corresponds with higher microglia activation in adolescent males, but the relationship is less robust in females. Estrous cycle-dependent hormonal fluctuations could be influencing microglial sensitivity, thus altering the relationship in females. To explore these questions further we first examined whether microglia express ERα and whether co-expression changes across the estrous cycle in adult female Wistar rats. We used immunofluorescence to co-label ERα and microglial cells in prefrontal cortical tissue and quantified the proportion of microglia cells that co-express ERα. Preliminary results suggest estrogen receptor alpha expression in microglia fluctuates across the estrous cycle. These results provide a more comprehensive understanding how estradiol may differentially modulate the response of microglial cells to alcohol, and suggest this depends on the stage of the estrous cycle.

Derrick Xiaoyang Liu
Heather Richardson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Assessing the Relationship between Estradiol Concentration and Estrogen Receptor Alpha Expression in Microglia

Estradiol has been shown to have protective effects in neurodegenerative disorders. Neurodegenerative disorders are often caused by neuronal cell death, which can result from the inflammatory response that is mediated by the activated form of microglia, the primary immune cells of the central nervous system. Although it has been shown that estradiol can prevent the conversion of rat microglia to their activated phenotype (Vegeto, et al., 2001), the mechanism(s) in which estradiol protects against inflammation in the brain are still not fully understood. Our preliminary study in rats indicates that microglial cells express estrogen receptor alpha (ERa), and this expression fluctuates across the estrous cycle. The goal of the current study is to directly examine the relationship between estradiol levels in the plasma and ERa expression in microglial cells in the cortex. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) are being used to quantify estradiol levels across different days of the estrous cycle. By measuring estradiol levels in samples we will be able to verify our current qualitative estrous cycle data, which was gathered from daily cytological analysis of vaginal smears. This study allows us test the hypothesis that  microglial ERa expression relates to fluctuations in circulating estradiol, which could further our understanding of the anti-inflammatory effect of gonadal hormones.

Kyle Wesley Lucier
Samuel P. Scott
Heather Richardson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Visualization of Long-Range Fiber Tracts between the Basolateral Amygdala and the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Rats

Tract tracing is a powerful technique that is used to visualize fibers in the brain from their point of origin and to their target region. Among common tract tracing methods is the injection of viral vectors containing transgenes encoding for fluorescent proteins. The infected fibers of the circuit can be visualized in thin sections of brain tissue using confocal microscopy. However, the generation of three-dimensional mapping of the full circuit requires processing and analyzing many sections and extensive time and effort for microscopic analysis and circuit reconstruction. To circumvent these challenges, we are combining tract tracing with brain tissue clearing techniques to capture the entire axonal pathway in thick brain tissue samples. We use an anterograde adeno-associated virus expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) to label entire amygdala-cortical neural fiber tracts projecting from the basolateral amygdala (BLA) to the anterior cingulate (aCg) portion of the medial prefrontal cortex. The brains are then processed post-mortem using CLARITY, a technique that clears lipids from the brain and makes this tissue transparent while maintaining its structure. This allows for large volume 3D-imaging of tissue via light sheet fluorescence microscopy. We expect this approach will provide a better understanding and 3D characterization of the neural pathway extending between the BLA and the aCg.

Marissa Jean Merrifield
Keith N. Darrow (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Worcester State University
A Study of Patient Experience and Satisfaction with New Hearing Loss Treatment Technology

Over 40 Million Americans live with untreated hearing loss. And untreated hearing loss is linked to the increased risk of several physical and mental disorders, including Dementia. Many people are deterred from ‘traditional hearing aids’ as they provide minimal benefit for understanding speech, especially in difficult listening situations, i.e. in background noise. Recent advances in hearing aid technology have been designed to specifically enhance semantic features of speech, and sample and reduce background noise. In providing a more clear signal with reduced distraction from background noise, understanding of speech is anticipated to increase by improving auditory processing. This study explored patient satisfaction with the new technology by giving the Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit (APHAB) to both new users, those who have not had hearing aids before or have not worn them consistently in the past year, and current users, those who have worn hearing aids consistently for six months or more.  Study participants were given the APHAB at the start of the study and at a follow up appointment after approximately 30 days of use. Four categories of patient experience with the new technology were judged pre- and post-treatment, including Background Noise, Reverberation, Averseness to Sound and Ease of Communication. Initial results indicate significant improvements in patient experience and auditory capabilities in a vast majority of users.

Gabriela Molica
Samuel Z. Hurwitz
Heather Richardson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Assessing Microglia in the Cuprizone Model of Demyelination

Adolescence is a crucial period of brain maturation and myelination. Disruptions during this critical period of development can lead to detrimental alterations of brain structure. Cuprizone, a copper chelator, is an agent used to induce demyelination in rodent models. Given its demyelinating effects, cuprizone is commonly used to model myelin loss or injury after exposure to toxic substances or neurodegenerative disorders. To discern the damaging effects of cuprizone on the adolescent brain, an experiment was conducted using 24 male Wistar rats. In the experimental condition, rats were fed a cuprizone diet starting at the beginning of adolescent development (postnatal day 28). We hypothesized that rats that consumed cuprizone over a two-week eating period were would have a reduction in myelin density and an increased prevalence of neuroinflammation. Data collection focused on white and gray matter areas of the mPFC and hippocampus (FM, Cg1; LeNT, DG) as well as the corpus callosum genu. After processing the tissue, microglia were analyzed in these myelin dense regions to observe their reactivity to cuprizone. The ramified morphology and relative frequency of microglia were examined via immunohistochemistry. Additionally, demyelination was visualized via luxol-fast-blue and counter staining with neutral red. In cuperizone treated rats, we observed significantly less luxol-fast-blue present in myelin-dense areas. In the same regions, analysis revealed a significant increase of microglial activation, suggesting a strong role for cuprizone inducing a neuroinflammatory response. The role of neuroinflammation will continue to be studied in this context with emphasis on determining the underlying mechanisms of demyelination.

Bahati Nkera
Linda Margaret Ziegenbein (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst

Evaluation of Alpha-Synuclein and Optineurin Expression in Extranigral Regions of End-Stage Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease worldwide, yet its etiopathogenesis is still not fully understood. PD is characterized by five major motor symptoms: bradykinesia, postural instability, rigidity, gait issues, and tremor; however, it is also associated with numerous non-motor symptoms such as dementia, sleep disorders, orthostatic hypo-tension, and gastrointestinal issues. These behavioral phenotypes are believed to be linked to the progression of Lewy body pathology from lower brainstem regions to higher order cortical regions in a pattern known as the Braak hypothesis. Mechanistic studies suggest Lewy bodies originate from a combination of aggregated alpha-synuclein and impaired autophagy, and serve as pathological markers of dopaminergic neuronal loss. We previously demonstrated that optineurin (OPTN), a cargo adapter in autophagy, expression is enriched in dopaminergic neurons and that expression is modulated in neurotoxic PD models. We chose to investigate OPTN because OPTN immunoreactivity is reported in PD Lewy bodies, the OPTN-M98K mutation was found to increase risk of PD, and OPTN is genetically linked to numerous neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and glaucoma. Thus, we hypothesized that OPTN played an important role in PD pathology. My results showed decreased expression of OPTN and a-Syn in end-stage rats.  However, I concluded that by only analyzing normal and end-stage PD models I could not grasp the full picture of PD pathogenesis. Thus, future studies looking at various stages in PD development will be done. 

Megan E. Rouillard
Brandi Silver (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Worcester State University

Future Directions in Treating Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of injury related death in the United States. Survivors often have headaches, cognitive problems, and mood swings. In severe cases, patients may lose the ability to speak or comprehend speech, severe emotional problems, limited function of limbs or be in a comatose state. TBI is frequently caused by car accidents, falls, firearm related injuries or blows to the head in athletics. Additionally, service members exposed to explosive blasts are at risk for blast induced neurotrauma, a type of injury that may have significant overlap with TBI. There is still need for an accurate TBI test for diagnostic purposes. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has been found to be more accurate at diagnosing both mild and severe TBI than computed tomography, but is expensive and cumbersome to use, especially on the field of battle. The microRNA Let-7i may be a promising biomarker for TBI, as it is present in blood serum. Several studies in the past decade have observed epigenetic changes in the period after TBI. These mechanisms include DNA methylation, modification of chromatin and changes in miRNA regulation. All of these changes are potential targets for drugs, with the goal of reducing the extent of the damage and speeding recovery time. In this review, we will discuss studies that have implications for the future diagnosis and treatment of TBI and conduct a meta-analysis to gain insight into future treatments. 

Aleksandra Sabov
Vivian Ciaramitaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston

A Neuronal Signature for Correspondences between Abstract Shapes and Sounds

What sounds get associated with what shapes? Participants tend to associate spikey shape with a /kiki/ sound, and round shapes with a /bouba/ sound, the bouba/kiki effect. In this study, we used electroencephalography (EEG) to examine if brain responses to visual shapes are influenced by concurrent sounds. We hypothesized that congruent shape-sound pairs (round shape & /bouba/; spikey shape & /kiki/) would show stronger brain activation compared to incongruent shape- sound pairs (round shape & /kiki/; spikey shape & /bouba/).


Participants viewed half of a round shape and half of a spikey shape simultaneously, one in each hemifield. One half shape flickered at 5.45Hz and one at 7.5Hz with a fixation cross at center. Participants heard no sound (baseline) or a concurrent frequency modulated sound at 3 Hz which was congruent with one half shape but not the other. Participants monitored fixation and pressed a button when fixation turned red. Shape location was counterbalanced across trials, sound (no sound, /bouba/, or /kiki/) was counterbalanced across blocks, and flicker frequency for a given shape [HMC1] was counterbalanced across participants as well.


Participants were divided into two groups based on baseline signal-to-noise ratio SNR: (1) good visual activators (>= 5 SNR), and (2) poor visual activators (< 5 SNR). Preliminary data suggest that good activators tended to show smaller activation to shapes in the presence of a congruent sound, suggesting a suppressive effect induced by the sound. Poor activators tended to show enhanced neural response to shapes in the presence of a sound. Both effects were stronger at 5.45Hz than 7.5Hz.  Our findings highlight the need to understand individual neuronal differences in the bouba/kiki effect.



Mabel Valencia-Yang
Alexia Pollack (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Boston
Investigating Synaptic Changes Caused by β-catenin Loss-of-Function

Over 1% of the global population have intellectual disability (ID), with children of lower socioeconomic status being at a greater risk. In humans, loss-of-function mutations in β-catenin causes ID; however the underlying mechanisms are unknown. β-catenin has a critical role in cadherin-based synaptic complexes, which are known to regulate synaptic function and plasticity. Previous work from the lab has shown that mice with conditional deletion of β-catenin in excitatory neurons of the forebrain (β-cat cKO) have learning impairments and reduced long-term potentiation. There are two non-mutually exclusive possibilities that could explain these data. First, without β-catenin, stabilization of the synapse via cadherin-based adhesion could be impaired, leading to reductions in plasticity. Second, reductions in glutamate receptor upregulation during synaptic plasticity may be aberrant, as seen in β-catenin gain-of-function models from our lab.  To test these hypotheses, I measured membrane protein levels via Western blot of β-catenin binding partners and glutamate receptors in the hippocampus of adult β-cat cKOs and littermate controls. With loss of β-catenin, N-Cadherin levels were decreased, but glutamate receptor subunit levels were unchanged. These data suggest that loss-of-function in β-catenin leads to learning and synaptic plasticity impairments through decreased N-cadherin levels and not due to alterations in glutamate receptor levels. The implications of these data suggests that pharmacological rescue of cadherin-based adhesion may be a promising candidate in restoring proper synaptic function in individuals with β-catenin loss-of-function. 

Francesca N. Walsh
Youngbin Kwak (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Cultural Differences in Temporal Discounting and Related Measures

This project analyzes differences in temporal discounting rates between populations in the United States and China. Temporal discounting rates are important because of their predictive nature in the domains of gambling, risk-taking behavior, and other problems caused by deficits in self-control. As part of a larger project investigating the relationship between exogenous factors and temporal discounting, this data set will be analyzed to look for a relationship between culture and temporal discounting rates. A relationship between culture and rates is further evidence that temporal discounting is reliant on the exogenous factors, and is not a fixed rate. The goal of this project is to further investigate the exogenous factors that influence temporal discounting and risky decision making.

Angela Zhang
Youngbin Kwak (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst

Motor Initiation and Inhibition in Parkinson’s Disease: The Effect of Incentive Reward and Medication Status

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects 7 – 10 million people in the world, with more than one million affected in the United States. Parkinson’s patients suffer severely debilitating motor symptoms (motor initiation and inhibition, akinesia, bradykinesia) due to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration of dopamine in the midbrain. Fortunately, advancing Parkinson’s research continues to recover motor deficits, primarily through Antiparkinsonian medication, but alternative, external cueing techniques have also shown great promise in improving mobility. My multidisciplinary thesis aims to further investigate the effect of visual, external cueing and incentive reward on motor control in population of ~15 elderly Parkinson’s and healthy control patients. Participants were all cognitively and clinically assessed using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, Grooved Pegboard Test, and Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. Performance of Parkinson’s patients on and off medication were compared to healthy, age-matched controls on a speed-rewarded Go-NoGo computer task with 25%, 50% 75% GO cues, intended to assist in movement preparation. We hypothesized that Parkinson’s patients will have greatest difficulty initiating movement off medication but will perform comparably to control participants when on medication and when presented an external cue. Finally, Parkinson’s patients will initiate movement best when the 75% visual cue is followed by a GO signal and have highest false alarm rates when the 75% visual cue is followed by a NoGo signal. Continued behavioral research studying decision making in Parkinson's holds immense clinical potential. 


Hafida Ait El Fqih
LaTasha K. Sarpy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Sociology, Bunker Hill Community College
Weather and Renewable Energy

During the 1970’s, major industrial countries faced shortages of petrol which led to an increase in prices. The search for sustainable renewable energy sources was the result. Renewable energy is beneficial to our country and our planet for environmental reasons, and it also has a positive impact on our economy. Using scholarly literature access through the Bunker Hill Community College Database, weather statistics accessed through Stats Crunch and other energy related organizations data, this paper intends to discover how the weather has an impact on the use of renewable energy sources in the United States. Renewable energy is beneficial to our country, environment and economy yet there continues to be little movement on exhausting all possibilities of sustainable renewable energy.

Allison Kathryn Cameron
Kristen Sethares (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Dartmouth

Effects of an Educational Program on Knowledge of Child Abuse in Nursing Students

In the U.S. in 2009 approximately 3.3 million children were referred to child protection service agencies for suspected abuse or neglect (Widom, Czaja, Bentley, & Johnson, 2012). Child abuse is a growing problem that can lead to mental health problems, physical health problems, and substance abuse (Swenson, Schaeffer, Henggeler, Faldowski, & Mayhew, 2010). \ Despite the rising child abuse cases, reports of suspected abuse remains low. (Natan, Faour, Naamhah, Grinberg, & Klein-Kremer, 2012).

The purpose of this study is to test the effects of knowledge scores of junior nursing students after a 20-minute educational session on child abuse. Will a 20-minute educational program about child abuse increase nursing students’ knowledge about the signs of abuse and how to report abuse?

Participants included nursing students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in their junior year of nursing school who have not had their psychiatric clinical rotation. Forty-one nursing students with a mean age of 21.1 years (SD=.84) completed the educational session and the questionnaire. The students were given a 15-item pre-test, then were provided with a 20-minute educational session on child abuse and its’ associated effects, and then were given a post-test to see if they learned anything from the educational session. Descriptive statistics were computed on study variables to determine the presence of skewness and outliers. A paired t-test was used to compare pre- and post-test scores among the participants.

Analysis was performed on the sample of 41 nursing students based on the answers and the scores of the pre- and post-test on child abuse. There is a significant (p<.000) increase in scores from the pre-test to the post-test. The mean score for the pre-test was 77.7% with a standard deviation of 9.5, while the mean score for the post-test was 85% with a standard deviation of 8.1.

Results suggest that a short educational session on child abuse significantly increased knowledge on recognizing child abuse and knowing how to prevent and report it. It is clear from the research that education on child abuse is limited among health care professionals and there is a need for more education on child abuse, especially among nursing students before they enter the health care field.

Amanda Clement
Stephanie Griggs (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst

Hope and Goal Setting in Freshman University Students

Introduction: The purpose of this honors thesis study is to identify common themes in goals and what inspires hope for students in working toward a goal. In the literature, hope has been associated with better academic performance (Snyder, Shorey, & Cheavens, 2002), goal attainment (Feldman, Rand, & Kahle-Wrobleski, 2009), better problem solving (Chang, 1998), and improved mental health (Griggs & Crawford, 2017).

Background: There are several factors that have an influence on a student’s life. Mental health, physical health, safety, stress, sleep, and traumatic events all have major impacts on a student’s ability to perform, to name a few. Minimal research has focused on what specific goals college students are setting as well as what inspires hope in students to achieve their goals. This goal of this research is to better understand how hope operates in the lives of college students and to provide insight into how to motivate them to achieve goals such as obtaining a higher GPA or graduating.

Methods: The research conducted was a secondary data analysis using a combination of qualitative descriptive, and coding for thematic analysis. The data were previously collected from 433 freshman university students attending a large public university in the Northeast in February 2017. Four levels of coding were applied to the students’ answers to two of the survey’s questions (positive or negative goal outcome, specificity, broad, and subthemes).

Findings: Freshman (N = 433) attending a large public university completed open response items about personal goals and were asked to describe what gives hope in accomplishing the goals identified. Most of the goals had a positive outcome (Type 1) with fewer having a negative goal outcome (Type 2). Common themes found among students’ goals were academic, mental health, physical health, career, and relationship.

Conclusions: This study added to the current knowledge base among literature surrounding what increases hope in students and thus improves the likelihood of achieving their goals. Future research could focus on how creating positive versus negative goals affects students’ hope score.

Sarah Margaret Collins
Genevieve Chandler (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst
The Effect of Implementing a Resilience Toolkit for Clients with Adverse Childhood Experiences

PURPOSE: A review of literature revealed that there is a strong correlation between adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and the subsequent development of substance use disorders (SUD), and that effective treatments include Active coping, Building strengths, Cognitive training, and Social support (ABCS).  The purpose of my project is to create a comprehensive toolkit that informs readers about the correlation between ACE and SUD and provides them with treatment exercises that build on the ABCS.

METHODS:  To assess the utility of the toolkit, I will create a survey that will be completed by a DNP student, a team of counselors in a recovery home, residents with substance use disorder in the recovery home, and a group of UMass Amherst nursing students. I will analyze responses by content analysis of qualitative responses and create a graph to analyze quantitative responses.

RESULTS: We expect that the participants will report that the toolkit is accessible and feasible. We also expect that they will report that it is helpful, and that they will be likely to implement these exercises in their daily lives.

CONCLUSIONS: This toolkit will inform clients and providers about how prior ACEs may be an underlying cause of current SUDs and therefore emphasize the importance of screening for ACEs. In addition, the toolkit will provide health care workers and patients about exercises they can suggest or use in their daily lives to assist in their recoveries.

Julieta R. Espina
LaTasha K. Sarpy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Sociology, Bunker Hill Community College
Weather and Its Effects on Tourism

Tourism is one of the world's biggest industries that contributes to the world's economy. During the past few years weather has been a rising concern. Extreme weather and unpredictable changes of climate have been happening more frequently than ever before. The most recent news includes the snow fall in the Sunshine State of Florida and a record heat wave in Alaska which has had an economic effect on businesses and communities. Melting glaciers and ice caps are causing sea levels to rise more than normal, ultimately affecting popular beaches such as in Jamaica or Thailand. These drastic and unexpected changes impacts the tourism industry tremendously as many touristic destinations rely and thrive from their tourism revenues. This study is designed to promote awareness of the effects of these natural disasters caused by our unbalanced weather and what we can do to slow down extreme climate and weather change.

Isabel Getty
Kristen Sethares (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Dartmouth

Changes in Nursing Students’ Knowledge and Perceptions about Homeopathic Medicine through an Educational Intervention 

Background: Homeopathic medicine is an aspect of alternative and complementary medicine. This form of CAM, although widely used, has a disconnect in the knowledge that up and coming nursing students are provided. In the United States, homeopathy is used by about 6 million people for self-care; worldwide 200 million people use it (Homeopathy Research Institute [HRI], 2015). While there is research in the area, there is a lack of it concerning nursing students and how they perceive it.

Purpose: The study’s purpose is to determine the knowledge and perception sophomore- year nursing students have towards homeopathy. The study will also assess the effectiveness of a homeopathic education session on homeopathy and alternative medicine knowledge and perception in these students.

Methods: Participants completed a pre-test, which was designed by the researcher and adapted a Complementary/ Alternative Health Care Questionnaire (Baugniet et al., 2000). Students then participated in a brief homeopathic education session, followed by a post-test that was identical to the pre-test. 

Results: There were significant findings between the pre- and the post-test for knowledge. The students knowledge increased from 51% to 76%. The student’s perception about homeopathy also improved. 

Conclusions: The significance increase in the participants’ homeopathic knowledge indicated that the educational session was effective. The improved perception about homeopathy in the participants indicated that the session was useful in introducing the topic and providing an overview of the use of homeopathy. 

Emily Jayne Graca
Alexandra Paige Martin
Elizabeth A. Henneman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst
Improving the Prevention and Recognition of Transfusion Associated Circulatory Overload (TACO)

Purpose: To identify risk factors and clinical manifestations of transfusion associated circulatory overload (TACO) in order to improve the prevention and recognition of TACO thus positively influencing patient safety and health outcomes for those receiving blood transfusions.

Methods: Data will be collected from electronic health records at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. Data to be collected includes patient health history, pre-, during, and post-transfusion vital signs, transfusion-related information from nursing and physician documentation, medication administration records, provider orders, and post-transfusion diagnostic testing.

Results: Frequencies of risk factor occurrence and clinical manifestations will be reported.

Conclusion: Based on the review of the literature, it is expected that the risk factors with the greatest frequency will include cardiovascular, pulmonary and renal disease, as well as certain idiosyncratic factors such as positive fluid balance. It is also expected that the clinical manifestations with the greatest frequency will be those related to inadequate oxygenation and increased circulatory volume such as decreased oxygen saturation, tachypnea, tachycardia, widened pulse pressure, hypertension, and crackles in the lungs secondary to pulmonary edema. These findings will help to increase knowledge and awareness of TACO among healthcare professionals in order to improve the prevention and recognition of TACO.

Tiffany Elizabeth Griffith
Gabrielle P. Abelard (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst

Nursing Simulation with a Standardized Patient


There is limited research or information available regarding the experience of graduate psychiatric nursing students who are using videoconference technology telemental health or face to face with a standardized patient actor. Simulation-based learning (SBL) is a helpful and effective teaching-learning-evaluation strategy available in nursing education. In a graduate online nursing program, simulation can be challenging to implement due to geographic location of students, time zone, and student schedule. Moreover, it is essential to find an effective simulation method for psychiatric nursing students to practice their learned skills in preparation for practice.  Six graduate graduate psychiatric nursing students took part in a 45- minute psychiatric case study simulation interview followed by a 15- minute debrief with faculty and the standardized patient actor. Three students participated on campus for a face to face interview and three students participated via telehealth. Findings: All six students took part an annonomys online survey regarding their experience with the simulation based learning experience. Student participants revealed high satisfaction with the simulation experience both face to face and via telehealth, highest satisfaction with the debrief experience, and most students reported wanting more case simulation in the graduate program. Conclusion:  Case simulation with a standardized patient actor is an effective SBL and can be successfully implemented in person and via telehealth.

Alexis Rae Hebert
Mary T. Paterno (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst

Sleep Self-Monitoring and Depressive Symptoms in Pregnancy

PUPROSE: Pregnancy associated sleep disorders (PASD) affect up to 82% of women and are associated with increased depressive symptoms. Sleep education and use of a personal health monitoring device (PHM) to monitor sleep could improve these symptoms. To date, no studies have examined PHMs for this purpose. This pilot study will examine the feasibility and acceptability of using a PHM as an intervention for sleep self-management and subsequent change in depressive symptoms.

METHODS: This thesis is part of a pilot study with a mixed methods, experimental design. Pregnant women (n=24) will be randomized into two groups at 24 weeks gestation. Both groups receive sleep hygiene education. The intervention group also receives a PHM device (Misfit Shine 2) Depressive symptoms are measured via the PROMIS Depression Short Form 6a and Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at 24 and 36 weeks gestation. Comparisons in mean score on the EPDS across groups at 36 weeks gestation will be made using a Mann Whitney U test. Baseline and post-intervention mean score on the EPDS for the intervention group will be compared using a Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test.  

RESULTS: Data collection is on-going. It is anticipated that women in the intervention group will experience fewer depressive symptoms at 36 weeks gestation compared to the control group.

CONCLUSION: Sleep education and the use of a PHM device for sleep self-monitoring could reduce PASD and associated symptoms. This has potential to improve mental health for women during the transition to parenthood.

Marjorie Ann Hollohan
Robin R. Leger (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, Salem State University
Daily Living in Young Adults with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)

Background and Significance: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a rare, genetic connective tissue disorder that effects the production of collagen in the body, resulting in chronic pain, hypermobility and the need for many medical interventions.  Connective tissue holds the whole body together and when the collagen in that tissue doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, it can make changes in the way people live their lives.  There is often a delay in diagnosis into adolescence or young adult life due to variability in multi-organ symptoms and their severity leading to misdiagnosis and uncertainty. 

Methods: A qualitative, phenomenological study was conducted to explore what changes this condition can make to a person’s life.  Participants included five women aged 18-22 who were interviewed in person or via video chat.  These interviews were later transcribed followed by thematic content analysis. 

Results: Themes that emerged are pain limiting daily tasks, the invisibility of the disease, and uncertainty about the future of the condition.

Conclusion: More research needs to be done on Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and how the condition effects health related quality of life.  There also needs to be greater public awareness about this disease and health care strategies for earlier diagnosis.    

Jennette Kelly Hummel
Abigail Frances Sniegocki
Melissa D. Duprey (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, Worcester State University
Emotional Support for Laboring Women: A Review of the Literature and Applications to Nursing Practice

The labor and delivery of a child can be one of the most important and intense events in a woman's life, and these events have the power to influence the emotional and physical well-being of a mother from that point forward.  While pharmacological interventions are valuable tools to help many women cope with the physical pain of childbirth, many of these drugs have been proven to carry with them adverse effects such as respiratory depression of the newborn and a lowering of the mother’s blood pressure.  For this reason, the use of complementary and alternative methods to assist women in coping with childbirth was explored.  A systematic analysis of the literature was conducted to explore whether having a designated support person during delivery decreased the need for analgesic interventions.  Review of the research confirms the presence of labor support (a spouse/partner, midwife, or family friend), as being helpful in assisting the laboring woman cope with the pain more effectively thus reducing the need for pharmacologic interventions.  

Joanne Kim
Emma Dundon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst

Reproductive Health Education in Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

The purpose of this project is to provide education to a domestic violence (DV) shelter in the Northeast through health education. Abuse can manifest in several ways, including reproductive coercion. This phenomenon is behavior used to maintain power and control in a relationship related to reproductive health by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate relationship. Giving survivors the control back that they once lost is empowering, but contraceptive methods can be a difficult topic to navigate, especially for IPV survivors. Research for educational information was gathered through a literature review. In order to learn more about the population and their needs, this project included spending four volunteer hours a week at the shelter. A teaching session was provided at the shelter in February. Following the teaching session, weekly office hours were offered for a month. A toolkit was created with materials about different contraceptive methods, how they work, the levels of effectiveness, the degree of maintenance required, and what options are good for different types of people. The physical manifestation of this information was in a binder along with a lesson plan on how to continue teaching this information was left behind as a resource for the shelter. 

Kathryn Anne Maguire
Karen Kalmakis (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst
Perceived Stress in Undergraduate Students

PURPOSE: Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress has been noted to be at it’s highest during the college years. This research study induced physiological (Cold Pressor Test) and psychological stress (Trier Social Stress Test) on undergraduate students to see how this related to blood pressure readings, heart rates and saliva cortisol levels over time. The purpose of this research is to analyze that data to see if college students with a high perceived stress level will have higher blood pressure and heart rate post Trier Social Stress Test than those with a low perceived stress levels.

METHODS: Undergraduate students ages 18-22 participated in the research in a laboratory in Skinner Hall. Surveys were completed, as well as blood pressure, pulse and cortisol levels after stressors.

RESULTS: Data will be analyzed to find correlation between perceived stress and heart rate and blood pressure levels. It is expected that those with higher perceived stress will have a higher heart rate and blood pressure post stressors.

CONCLUSION: This research is important to the field of nursing due to the health effects prolonged stress puts on the body. 

Therse Meagan McNair
Nancy W. Ebersole (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, Salem State University
Nurses' Perspectives on Spiritual Care and Its Connection to Healing

A holistic centered approach to nursing emphasizes the importance of involving the individual’s psychological health, physical well-being and spirituality. Specifically, spiritual care is commonly overlooked by nurses during the care of their patients. Excluding a patient’s spirituality can impact their recovery and inhibit their return to full health. The purpose of this study is to identify nurses’ perceptions of spiritual care and its connection to healing. Based upon the HOPE and FICA spiritual assessment tools, a survey was sent to nursing faculty at a state university which asked them to reflect on their perceptions of spirituality and healing. The response rate was 32%. Qualitative analysis was applied to identify themes. The most common theme was the perception that spiritual care is acknowledging and respecting a patient’s beliefs and religious practices when providing care. The next predominant themes were the need to work with the patient and/or their families to provide care in line with their beliefs and the importance of addressing the individual holistically. Results also revealed that while a majority of nurses practiced spiritual care and related it to healing, they did not inquire how they could meet their patients’ spiritual needs while providing care. A unifying definition of spiritual care among nurses was not identified. These findings show that nurses do not include patients and families in providing for their spiritual needs. As a result of this, patients are not receiving the personalized holistic care necessary for healing.

Allison Elizabeth Mullen
Emma Dundon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst
Coping Mechanism for Children Who Have Experienced Domestic Violence

In the United States, one in 15 children are exposed to domestic abuse in the U.S. and 90% of those children are eyewitnesses to the violence. Children who have experienced violence are more likely to suffer effects of abuse throughout their lifetime, which may make them more susceptible to destructive behaviors and risk taking. By providing mental health education, survivors can understand how to make healthy choices and how to perform self-care. The purpose of this honors project was to provide teaching sessions and an educational resource for children at a domestic violence shelter affiliated with Safe Passage, a support center for victims of domestic abuse. Educational materials were created based on information gathered through the literature review and through time spent volunteering at the shelter. Printed copies of the educational materials were placed in a bound book, to be used by the shelter for future teaching sessions.

Nicole Marie Nearen
Charlene Moske-Weber (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, Salem State University

Attitudes Surrounding Long-Acting Contraceptives among Female Undergraduate Nursing Students Over 18 Years of Age at a Large New England University

BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive methods are highly effective methods of birth control including IUD’s and the implant. There is often a lower rate of usage with these methods due to factors such as high upfront cost, invasive insertion methods, and possible side effects. This research is aimed to understand some of the perceived and actual barriers for usage, as well as to identify any gaps in education regarding this method.


DESIGN AND METHODS: The study methodology is mixed. This project consists of a qualitative literature review as well as an attached survey. The literature approaches LARC from a variety of perspectives in order to ascertain gaps and direct further areas of research. The consent for the study will be implied through survey completion. The survey was distributed via the SON from Survey Monkey


RESULTS: Respondents had a generalized understanding of long-acting reversible methods, while also having low rates of usage. 


IMPLICATIONS: This research enables healthcare providers/educators to assess the education needs and barriers that exist with long-acting reversible contraception usage.  In having an understanding of such issues, providers will be better able to expand access and understanding of this method. When options are effective and accessible women have better health and personal outcomes. Women should be presented with highly effective and low maintenance options, so that they are free to make choices about family planning on their terms.

Nuge Nguyen
Emma Dundon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst
Promoting Resiliency in First-Generation Students Transitioning to College

The purpose of this project was to provide an easier transition into college for first generation students, specifically at UMass, by implementing a program aimed at helping this cohort succeed and become more resilient. A large proportion of each year’s incoming class identify as first-generation and are forced to adapt to a new, unfamiliar environment and the demands of being a college student without sufficient guidance. Research was done through the University of Massachusetts Amherst library databases, where scholarly literature on topics of nursing, education, and psychology were accessed. Using this information, a lesson plan for an approximately forty-five minute session was created for an applicable individual or organization to use as a guiding tool. Various departments on campus were contacted to investigate the plausibility and effectiveness of the session in relation to their line of work. In the lesson plan, the content was strength-based, centered around available resources, supporting self-reflection, and encouraging the use of support systems whenever needed. Teaching with concepts of involved and engaged learning in mind assists in facilitating a thought-provoking and meaningful session for students. The proposed plan intended to help students build upon their strengths, recognize their coping skills, challenge the way they think about the world, and identify supports. This strategy to student success for first generation college students, takes into consideration the challenges this population faces and the experiences they are bringing to the university, to ensure an education that is more equitable and integrative.

Rachel Lynn Pollan
Glen Brewster (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
Combing through Lice in Guatemala

In early April, I am participating in Westfield State University's annual  service trip to Guatemala with other nursing peers and faculty. I will conduct a qualitative study on lice prevalence and treatment in children at selected sites in Guatemala. Physically assessing the children’s heads will accompany group discussions conducted in Spanish. While there are older data on other central American countries, there seem to be no specific data regarding lice prevalence in Guatemala. According to data from surrounding countries, my hypothesis will be that about fifty percent of the children we work with in Guatemala will have lice. I will collect  and analyze data and research how the people of Guatemala currently view their own health and treatment methods in relation to lice. I am focusing on the assessment section of the nursing process during this trip and will continue my research on next year's trip. 

Jennifer Rearick
Colleen Walsh
Kimberly Dunker (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, Worcester State University

Impact of Birth Plans on Maternal Birthing Experiences

Background Significance:
Many women facing childbirth, especially first-time mothers, do not know what to expect during the childbirth process, and may feel joy as well as fear. A formalized Birth Plan is one method utilized by women to ease anxiety, gain a sense of control, become knowledgeable, and communicates their desires for the childbirth process to their health care providers. A Birth Plan is formulated by the expectant woman and includes the includes plans from women for interventions such medication and anesthesia administration, position assumed during birth, and postpartum care.



The impact of birth plans on postpartum woman’s birth experience, and the effect unexpected changes to the plan were studied.

Literature Review:

A review of literature found that control during the labor process has a key role in a woman’s satisfaction with her birth experience. Furthermore, if a woman felt she had control over unexpected changes, she was likely to report a positive birth experience. It is important for healthcare providers to consider the laboring mothers’ desires and expectations when providing care during the intimate process of childbirth.


Recommendations for Nursing:

Care during labor should be individualized and may evolve, as childbirth is unpredictable. It is important to communicate any changes to the birth plan to ease anxiety and to promote a favorable birth experience for the woman and infant. Nurses are directly involved in the provision of care for laboring women, acting as an advocate and maintaining the woman’s sense of control throughout the experience.



A formal Birth Plan may contribute to a positive childbirth experience, and in turn result in better outcomes for both woman and infant. 



Carlie Riccie
Pamela Aselton (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst
Educational Intervention to Reduce Screen Time

Problem- It is important that parents are informed about the potential health and developmental consequences of increased screen time on their children’s health including use of tablets computers and smart phones.

Background-Parents need to be educated on how excessive use of screens to entertain and educate can affect their children. Screens can affect vision, cognitive development, and weight gain.

Interventions- Educational intervention focused on a group of teenage mothers in an alternative education program and included distribution of pamphlets, an oral presentation and discussion. Survey questions focused on family history, current screen time, and American Association Pediatrics (AAP) screen time recommendations.

 Findings – Thematic analysis of written responses from a group of eight teenage mothers revealed that only half of the mothers reported reading to their children and none of them were read to as children. Two of the eight women reported hearing about the AAP’s recommendations of two hours or less of screen time per day and three set parental controls on devices. Participants tended to underestimate their screen time exposure.

Conclusions – Younger parents are in need of education about recommendations for screen time exposure for young children. Nurses working with mothers of young children need to emphasize AAP guidelines and ensure they understand the educational materials. This particular group of mothers had some language barriers, with two being primarily Spanish speaking as well as starting life with lower literacy skills as reflected in their reporting not being read to as children.

Genevieve Sarro
Kristen Sethares (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Dartmouth

Assessing the Various Practices of Screening Postpartum Women for Depression in Healthcare Facilities

Background: Postpartum depression occurs in 20% of postpartum women in the United States each year. Despite the high number of women that are affected by this disorder, postpartum depression is underdiagnosed and undertreated. Maternal depression is linked to a variety of issues that affect maternal and infant health.

Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study is to explore the feelings of healthcare providers towards assessing patients for postpartum depression.

Methods: After IRB approval and informed consent, participants completed a demographics sheet and then answered questions regarding assessing women for postpartum depression.

Results: The results of this qualitative descriptive study indicate that there are many facilitators and barriers to screening and treatment of postpartum depression in healthcare practices. The facilitators of the study are related to the increased level of education available to aid with the diagnosis and treatment of postpartum depression, the strengths of individual protocol in screening, and the prioritizing of safety for the mother and the baby. Barriers to diagnosis and treatment were lack of knowledge in healthcare providers and the public, lack of responsibility for screening, and the lack of regulations to ensure that screening is provided.

Conclusion: The findings in this study indicate that despite postpartum depression being a serious illness, there is a lack in the screening and treatment. To improve the outcomes for women suffering from this disease, there needs to be a standardization of care throughout healthcare.

Danielle Tremblay
Emma Dundon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, UMass Amherst

Wellness Toolkit and Health Education for Homeless Adolescent Mothers

The purpose of this Honors Capstone Project is to provide health education to a group of homeless adolescent mothers at a shelter in Holyoke, MA and to create a wellness toolkit as a resource for staff aimed at facilitating health promotion and awareness. This specific population has unique health and wellness needs that must be appropriately addressed to promote positive outcomes for them and their children. The shelter staff has also verbalized their need for an educational resource. Nursing students have the education and background to provide the basis for a resource for this necessary health and wellness education. Guided by shelter staff needs and relevant literature reviews, two University of Massachusetts Amherst nursing students developed four educational sessions that were conducted at the shelter on the following health and wellness topics: motivation and goal setting, sexual health, health behaviors and promotion, and stress management and problem solving. The nursing students conducted each hour-long session with group discussions, educational handouts, interactive worksheets, etc. to facilitate teaching and participation. The nursing students revised the toolkit based on the feedback of the participants involved in the teaching sessions. The end result was a comprehensive binder that shelter staff can reference and use for health and wellness teaching among residents in the future.

Joanne Ka-Kei Tsang
Charlene Moske-Weber (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nursing, Salem State University
Perceptions of Senior Nursing Students on Interprofessional Collaboration Targeting Patient Care

Purpose: To investigate the means of interprofessional collaboration and the perceptions of senior nursing students at Salem State University while reflecting upon their clinical experiences.

Methods: The study was conducted as a qualitative study and amongst 178 senior nursing students in the Salem State Nursing Program. The ten-question survey is a modified version of the SPICE-R instrument, also known as the Students Perception of Physician-Pharmacist Interprofessional Clinical Education. An optional text box was added at the end to provide additional comments.

Results: Collected data was analyzed using SPSS. Of the possible 178 senior nursing students, 44 (25%) completed the survey. 75% of students reported understanding what interprofessional collaboration is. 52.3% of students strongly agree that working with another healthcare profession enhances their education. 34.1% of students strongly agree as a nursing student, they felt needed to more of a direct participant in interprofessional collaboration while learning to care for patients in clinical rotations. 

Conclusion: Based on the feedback of the qualitative study, students reported feeling satisfied with their clinical experiences in the past and an interest in preceptorship opportunities. With entry into professional nursing practice within the next year, students also reported those with previous healthcare experience feel more involved with the interprofessional team than in clinical experiences. The results provide implications for nursing educators on understanding students perceptions on interprofessional collaboration based on clinical experiences.       


Gabrielle V. Carroll
Avivanna Cascio
Allison Marie Kleeman
Mady Novak
Kathleen Arcaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

Dietary Intervention to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk: Assessing Promoter Methylation of Adiponectin, Leptin, and Interleukin-8 in DNA from Breastmilk

Studies suggest that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables decreases breast cancer risk, however the association is weak possibly due to difficulties in measuring intake at times relevant to breast development and correlating this with cancer decades later. One way of overcoming this difficulty is measuring the effects of diet on intermediate biomarkers in young women. Levels of circulating cytokines are associated with breast cancer risk and modified by diet, and may be ideal intermediate biomarkers. We previously conducted a pilot intervention study in which lactating women increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables to 8 – 10 daily servings per week for 12 weeks. Analysis of breastmilk collected at baseline and at 12 weeks showed that compared to the control group, women in the intervention group had increased levels of the hormone adiponectin, consistent with decreased breast cancer risk. In the present study we are investigating whether changes in adiponectin levels were driven by changes in DNA methylation of the adiponectin gene (ADIPOQ). We predict that milk samples with  higher levels of adiponectin will have decreased promoter methylation of ADIPOQ.  In addition to adiponectin, we will examine DNA methylation of the leptin (LEP) and interleukin-8 (CXCL8) promoters as those cytokines also changed among women in the intervention group. To analyze promoter methylation of ADIPOQ, LEP, and CXCL8 we will perform pyrosequencing of amplicons from bisulfite-modified DNA from the 40 milk samples obtained during the pilot study, one from each breast from each of ten women at baseline and week 12.   

Colin Andrew Lemire
Stephanie Nicole Brolin
Meghan Leigh Whalen
Lisa M. Troy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nutrition, UMass Amherst
Food Insecurity: A Holistic Approach to Improving Diet Quality

Food insecurity is a widespread and persistent issue, affecting 13.4% of United States citizens and 10.3% of all Massachusetts residents. Food insecurity influences families of lower socioeconomic status to rely on low-cost foods that correlate to poorer diet quality, reduced or skipped meals, and serious subsequent health conditions. Government nutritional programs, like SNAP and the National School Lunch Program, have demonstrated effectiveness in improving dietary practices and alleviating food insecurity. To better understand the current dynamics of food insecurity, a literature review was conducted utilizing research compiled from peer-reviewed journals and federal documents related to school nutrition standards and community programs. This research revealed shortcomings in past nutrition legislation and provided models to inform future reforms that promote improved diet quality in schools and communities. Analyzing community programs, such as mobile produce markets, demonstrates that the most effective initiatives incorporate education and adjust to meet the needs of their targeted population. Further research is needed to understand the intersection of environments, such as schools, homes, and communities, to improve diet quality, address detrimental effects of food insecurity, and provide tools for developing healthy skills in the future. Nutritional and political infrastructure in schools and communities can be improved through implementation of reform that accounts for the diversity of stakeholders and takes on a well-rounded approach to addressing poor diet quality.

Marzia Akter Maliha
Jesse Girrell
Jennifer Marion Moss
Nicholas Maverick Scuderi
Lisa M. Troy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nutrition, UMass Amherst
Reforming the Massachusetts School Food Environment

The school food environment plays an important role in determining students’ overall diet quality, a measure of the high consumption of nutritious foods and low consumption of sugary, processed foods. Given the current prevalence of obesity among U.S. elementary and college-aged students, 17% and 36.5% respectively, it is imperative to consider the healthfulness of foods provided in school. Various environmental factors contribute to the nutrient quality of the food that a majority of public school students eat while in school. We reviewed literature examining the healthfulness of foods provided in public schools nationwide and in Massachusetts more specifically; and the integral roles that the surrounding food environment, school demographics, nutrition policies, unhealthy competitive foods, and a la carte items can play. Literature was compiled from databases such as Google Scholar and Gale Academic OneFile. Findings indicate that poor nutrition is associated with low-income, rural schools that have higher populations of minority students and less healthy surrounding food environments. Additionally, low diet quality is linked to increased competitive food and beverage consumption, and shorter lunch periods. Policymakers must regulate the school food environment to prioritize a variety of nutritious foods, and either reform or limit access to less healthy choices through efforts like selling fresh food in refrigerated vending machines. Since school policies affect a wide range of populations, policymakers must also consider how a combination of interventions, such as community involvement and implementing a nutrition curriculum, could address the issue more comprehensively for inter-sectional communities.

Alondra Lisbeth Morales
Lorraine Cordeiro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Nutrition, UMass Amherst

Fish Consumption during Pregnancy

This systematic review aimed to examine the literature on fish consumption during pregnancy and its associations with childhood asthma and cognitive changes. Literature was organized and analyzed according to PRISMA guidelines. Articles involving fish consumption during pregnancy were reviewed. Out of 40 articles, three longitudinal studies investigated the relationship between fish consumption during pregnancy and cognitive changes among those children at 3 and 5 years of age. One study investigated the association between fish consumption during pregnancy and asthma after birth. Ten articles investigated the behaviors towards fish consumption during pregnancy among different immigrant populations. The other 26 studies focus on factors, such as mercury contamination, that influence fish consumption among pregnant women. We found that the prevalence of fish consumption among pregnant women ranged from 50 to 75 percent. Studies in the U.S. reported 50 percent of pregnant women consumed 2 ounces or less of fish a week. Evidence demonstrated a positive association between fish consumption during pregnancy and higher cognitive development scores. However, there was insufficient evidence to support the association between the incidence of asthma or allergies and fish consumption during pregnancy. Research is needed in to further examine the frequency of fish consumption among pregnant women in the U.S., the barriers to meeting dietary guidelines for fish consumption, and the mechanisms by which fish consumption during pregnancy impacts cognitive development and immune function in children.  

Erin Mary O'Connell
Michael Crosier (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Food and Nutrition, Framingham State University
Anthocyanins as Protective Agents against Cardiovascular Disease

The purpose of this literature review is to discuss the knowledge and current understanding of anthocyanins and their effect on cardiovascular diseases. For this review, original research and review articles were obtained using PubMed, Science Direct, and Google Scholar using the keywords: flavonoid, polyphenols, anthocyanin, vegetables, fruits, berries, heart disease, inflammation, and atherosclerosis. Articles were limited to publications from 2007-2017.

Fruits and vegetables that contain anthocyanins such as eggplant, blueberries, and cranberries have been proposed to decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease. Proposed mechanisms include prevention of high blood pressure by increasing vasodilation. Anthocyanins have also been shown to decrease measures of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein and monocyte chemotactic protein 1. Anthocyanins can modulate enzymatic activity leading to a decreased release of these inflammatory proteins. Anthocyanins also have antioxidant properties that can reduce cellular oxidative stress. The effects of anthocyanins on blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress may be protective against the development of atherosclerosis. Therefore, a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables is recommended to ensure adequate consumption of anthocyanins to optimize cardiovascular health.


Rachel Marie Andrade
Hannah R. Dubin
Erin Mary O'Connell
Jerusha Nelson-Peterman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Food and Nutrition, Framingham State University
Vegan Egg Replacers in Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies


           To create a vegan oatmeal butterscotch cookie using chia gel or soy flour as an egg replacer.  


           A control and two variations were prepared. Chia gel or soy flour replaced eggs. Semi-trained panelists (n=7) rated external and internal appearance, aroma, flavor, and texture (1-5, 5 being “optimal”). An overall product score was calculated for each variation. Height and diameter were measured. ANOVA with LSD post-hoc adjustments assessed differences between variations. Total kilocalories were determined using ESHA Food Processor software.


           The chia variation rated lowest in sensory analysis. Significant differences: overall product score was higher for control (4.3+0.4) than for chia (2.8+0.2) and the control had a higher tenderness score (4.4+0.5), mouthfeel score (4.4+0.5), and flavor score (4.1+0.7) than chia (2.9+0.7, 2.3+0.5, and 3.0+0.6, respectively). Soy cookies were the tallest (18.9+2.7mm); control (11.8+2.0) and chia (11.0+1.3) were shorter. Control width (88.4+4.2) was greater than chia (80.3+3.3) and soy (68.3+3.8).  There was no difference in calories; all variations were 160kcal/cookie.


           Previously, soy flour cookies have been found to provide taller products due to increased protein content. Chia seed and soy flour products typically rate higher in sensory analysis than control cookies due to flavor and texture, but this was not consistent with this experiment's results. The chia cookie was least acceptable. The soy cookies resulted in a product with high sensory characteristic scores, demonstrating a suitable alternative to eggs in cookies. 

Stephanie Choi
Yeonhwa Park (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Food Science, UMass Amherst

Effects of 3,3′-Diindolylmethane on the Development of Steatosis in HepG2 Cells

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease worldwide that starts with simple steatosis, and progresses to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis, and cancer. Due to limited treatment options, it is now an imperative task to seek potential therapeutics for preventive care and disease management. Recent epidemiological evidence reported that consumption of a plant-based diet is inversely associated with NAFLD/NASH. Among them, 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM), a condensation product of indole-3-carbinol found in cruciferous vegetables, was reported to have anti-inflammatory, anti-obesogenic, and anti-carcinogenic properties. Thus, the goal of the study was to determine the effect of DIM on the development of steatosis. The current study used HepG2 human hepatocytes with treatment of 600 µM of fatty acid (FA) mixture (oleic acid:palmitic acid = 2:1) to induce steatosis as an in vitro model for NAFLD. DIM was not cytotoxic up to 25 µM for 24h with or without FA treatments. Treatment of DIM at 25 µM along with FA treatment did not affect total fat accumulation, however, when DIM was treated after FA treatment significantly reduced fat accumulation by 14% (p<0.0001) compared to the control. Under steatosis conditions, DIM upregulated genes associated with FA beta-oxidation, including carnitine palmitoyltransferase I α. Further experiments need to be completed to further evaluate the molecular pathway of which DIM exerts its beneficial effect in steatosis model, and to validate its therapeutic potential and efficacy.   

Anna Rose Gonzalez
Emmanouil Apostolidis (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Total Phenolic Content, Antioxidant Activity, and Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibition of Green Tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica), Purple Tomatillos, (Physalis ixocarpa), and Strawberry Ground Cherries (Physalis pruinosa)

Anna R Gonzalez, Apostolidis E.


Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University, Framingham, MA 01701


Natural antioxidants that are widely used in the food industry provide health benefits that may prevent diseases. This experiment evaluated the total phenolic content (TP), antioxidant activity and alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity of three varieties of flowering plants from the solanaceae family, Physalis philadelphica (Green Tomatillos – GT), Physalis ixocarpa (Purple Tomatillos – PT), and Physalis pruinosa (Strawberry Ground Cherries – SGC). These unique fruits are not typically used in food production and may possess health benefits that will promote their industrial use.

All samples were purchased from a small organic farm in Orange, MA, homogenized and oven-dried (50°C). The dried samples were ground to a fine powder and extracted (5g) in 90°C water (100mL) for 1 hour. TP content was determined using the Folin-Ciocalteau’s method, antioxidant activity was then determined using a DPPH free-radical scavenging method, and alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity was determined using yeast-derived alpha-glucosidase. PT exhibited the highest TP content (8.39 mg/g GAE) and SGC the lowest (3.51 mg/g GAE). The antioxidant activity seemed to correlate with our phenolic content observations. The glucosidase inhibitory activity is currently under investigation. Completion of this work will provide preliminary results for the potential further evaluation of the three fruits belonging in the solanaceae family. 

Benjamin James Montemurro
Vinay Mannam (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University
Studying Real-Time Heat and Mass Transfer Rate during Baking for Developing Product-Specific Oven Parameters

Baking as a thermal process is utilized in creating products ranging from breads to pies, which is primarily controlled through time and temperature in relation to the type and quantity of product prepared. However, continuous monitoring of quality of product during process through manual observation is necessary when product formulation is altered. This becomes labor intensive and can be prone to observation errors, leading to product loss or poor quality. The objective of proposed research is to utilize thermocouple and data acquisition system paired to modified electric oven on a load cell to record temperature and product moisture loss in real-time. The data is then be integrated with product parameters and utilized to improve current heat and mass transfer models. The developed models will enable creating a customized baking time and temperatures for baked goods, based on their size and composition.

William W. Wolfe
Emmanouil Apostolidis (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Evaluation of the Total Phenolic Content, Antioxidant Activity, and Carbohydrate Hydrolyzing Enzyme Inhibitory Activities of the Skins of Six Potato Varieties

Food-industry manufacturing practices result to significant amount of waste accumulation. One example is potato-processing for the production of potato chips, and other potato-based products where potato skins are commonly unused. In this experiment, six varieties of potato skins (Baby Gold/BG. Baby Red/BR, Red/RE, Russet/RS, Sweet Potato/SW, Batata/BA) were evaluated for total phenolic content (TPC), antioxidant activity and inhibitory activity against carbohydrate-hydrolyzing enzymes.

Potatoes used in experiments were purchased from a local supermarket, peeled and oven-dried (55oC). Five grams of dried samples were extracted in 100mL of water at 90oC for one hour and then concentrated to 50mL. The concentrated samples were subjected to C18 column extraction removing any interfering sugars and evaluated for TPC (using Folin Ciocalteau’s method), antioxidant activity (using DPPH free-radical scavenging method) and carbohydrate-hydrolyzing enzyme inhibitory activity. SW had the highest TPC (2.54mg/g GAE), while RE had the lowest TPC amongst the samples (1.12mg/g GAE). All samples had DPPH free-radical scavenging activity at the tested doses, both RU and SW showed the highest activity (76% and 41%, respectively at the same tested dose). Plus, the inhibitory activity of the samples on yeast alpha-glucosidase will be analyzed for each sample.

Utilizing commonly unused byproducts like potato skins is a priority within the food-industry to prevent food waste generation. Health related research within these byproducts can help shed light on their effective utilization for possible development of health-beneficial food-ingredients.


Brandt K. Bodley-Gomes
Daniel A. Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College
Ethical Ramifications of Genetic Modification

Rapidly growing urbanization and changing climates are reducing the amount of potentially arable land in an age of rapidly increasing populations. Additionally, harsher extremes in weather patterns are expected to decimate or decrease yields in areas normally used for agriculture. The loss of these vital crops will likely lead to famine unless offset by other factors. To combat the effects of harsher climates and decreasing land availability, this paper considers the ramifications of using genetic modification technology to insert favorable genes into crop plants to produce a phenotype capable of increased crop yields and an improved ability to withstand weather extremes. Additionally, this technology can be used to increase the nutritional output of these plants and impart immunity to common plant diseases. To understand how genetically modified (GM) crops can help to change this paradigm I study past examples of genetically modified crops, their successes and their established drawbacks. Special attention is paid to the dangers of producing an experimental crop for human consumption. In addition to their ability to produce life sustaining food crops, GMOs are frequently used to sustain farming practices which have detrimental effects on the environment.  These harmful effects include the toxification of land and water as well as loss of biodiversity and disruptions in the food chain.  By studying both the potential benefits and observed failings, I build an argument to support the future development of new GM crops.

Stephanie M. Boudreau
Daniel A. Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College
Sustainable Farming versus Industrial Farming

This project will be a thorough investigation of the two types of meat farming: sustainable and industrial; and will determine which outweighs the other in terms of ethics; not only environmentally, but also in the ethics of business. Should the quality of life of the animal before being slaughter be considered even if the end result is for us to eat it? Is the treatment provided to animals in industrial farming causing harm to humans who eat the meat? Are these factors more important than how much land it requires to let animals be free range? Does the financial factors of how many jobs are provided by industrial farming equate enough good to outweigh the right of the animal? With all these factors considered, this project will take stance on ethical and environmental benefits for each sustainable and industrial farming while analyzing the concerns each pose.   

Alessandra Joanne Gallo
Md. Imranul Islam (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Fashion Design and Retailing, Framingham State University
A Comparative Study on Fabric Hand Feel: Liquid Downy Fabric Softeners versus Dryer Sheets

BACKGROUND: Liquid fabric softener is used to soften clothes during a wash cycle; while, dryer sheets are specially treated cloth squares that soften clothes during a dry cycle. Fabric softeners are designed to relax the fibers and make the garment feel softer. However, using too much fabric softener results in a greasy coating on the outer layer of a garment. OBJECTIVES: (1) Identify appropriate textile fibers with a standard washer and dryer setting to acquire soft hand feel. (2) Investigate which form of softening method worked best leaving a clean and soft touch. METHOD: White T-shirts with different fiber composition will be washed in same washer setting with and without fabric softener. Washed T-shirts (both with and without softener) will then be dried with dryer sheets and the remaining T-shirts (washed without softener) will be dried without dryer sheets maintaining same dryer setting. This process will take place three times over a period of three weeks. Then, a comparison will be made in terms of clean and soft touch using subjective hand feel evaluation, fabric stiffness test (cantilever method), and drape co-efficient (BS 5058-1973). EXPECTED FINDINGS: The t-shirt washed with fabric softener and dried with dryer sheets will maintain a softer and cleaner touch. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This study will demonstrate the best way to soften garments without damaging them or leaving them with an unpleasant residue.

Alison Peiyi Ralls
Jeremy Ping-An Ralls
Daniel A. Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College
Renewable Energies: A Better Way to Power Automobiles

Much of today's technology cannot function properly without a reliable source of energy. Cars specifically are a large contributor to the consumption of fuel. Conventionally, fossil fuels have primarily powered our vehicles, but they can be damaging to the environment. Through the emission of carbon dioxide, more heat is trapped in the atmosphere, causing global warming. Air and water pollution are also affected by the burning and acquisition of fossil fuels. Because they are non-renewable and geographically concentrated, certain areas of the world have less access to fossil fuels, and these resources are being depleted faster than they were created. This poses a major ethical issue. Future generations are at risk if people continue to use this form of fuel to power cars; however, fossil fuels have become a principle aspect of economies, populations, and politics. Can the world function primarily on the use of alternative methods of powering cars, and if not, is it ethical to continue to use what the earth has given us if it benefits humans? 

Tim Sokhoeun
Sarah Lynn Mello
Daniel A. Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College
Man with Nature: The Solution to Environmental Degradation

In recent years, scientists and philosophers have expressed alarm about the growing problem of environmental degradation. The major concerns of that are global warming, climate change, increasing population and food production, GMO - its negative effect on the environment, and lastly, biodiversity loss. All of which are equally important and cannot be avoided if our environmental crises are to be solved. However, it is imperative to dig deeper into the root causes of environmental degradation in order to fix the surfacing problems. We cannot succeed in finding a solution without shedding light on humans in ways they value nature. Which is why this research project is mainly focused on how modern technologies and development causes the disconnection between humans and nature, which in turn causes human negligence of nature and therefore, leads to environmental destruction. Furthermore, this project consists of in depth comparison between pre-industrial society to modern day society in America and the distinct roles each play in today’s global issues.


Liudmila Belonogov
Arianna Kazemi
Jennifer Ross (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Physics, UMass Amherst
Biophysical Studies of the Microtubule-Severing Enzyme, Katanin

The microtubule cytoskeleton is an essential network used for intracellular transport and cellular structure. It is highly dynamic and regulated in space and time by many classes of associated proteins. One important class of regulators is the microtubule-severing enzymes, hexameric ATPase eznymes that can cut microtubules anywhere along their lengths. The mechanism of microtubule severing is not fully understood. The carboxy-terminal tail (CTT) of the tubulin dimer is essential to the severing process, but we find that microtubules lacking the CTT can be depolymerized by katanin. This implies that the mechanism for katanin severing is distinct from depolymerization.  To further probe the mechanism of the role of the CTT in katanin severing, we have created a small, fluorescently-labeled tail peptide using bacteria’s expression and purification. We have started initial single molecule imaging of the tail peptide, which we will combine with the katanin severing enzyme to measure binding and hexamerization kinetics of the tail and katanin together. This substrate will be used for single-molecule and bulk experiments to determine stoichiometry, reaction rates, and binding affinity constants. 

Matthew James Downing
Andrea Pocar (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Physics, UMass Amherst
Studying the Presence of Krypton-85 in the DarkSide Detector

Significant evidence, both astrophysical and cosmological, points to the existence of dark matter. The fundamental nature of dark matter, however, remains unknown. One appealing candidate for dark matter are weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). Direct detection experiments aim to observe the low energy scattering of dark matter off normal matter, and detectors based on noble liquid technology lead the way in WIMP sensitivity. To this day, no conclusive WIMP signals have been observed. The DarkSide experiment uses a liquid argon target in a dual-phase time projection chamber to search for WIMP dark matter. The DarkSide-50 experiment is located at Gran Sasso National Laboratory (LNGS) in Italy and its argon target was obtained from underground sources, shown to have much reduced argon-39 radioactivity than atmospheric argon. It nonetheless contains measurable amounts of the radioactive contaminant krypton-85.

This work describes the analysis of Monte Carlo simulated as well as real data from the DS-50 detector to search for a tell-tale delayed coincidence signature of krypton-85 decays to the rubidium-85m state. The results of this search provide valuable information about the backgrounds inside of the detector as well as on its energy and spatial resolution, thus aiding in the search for WIMPs.

Robert Keane
Tony Dinsmore (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Physics, UMass Amherst
Silica Nanoparticles at an Oil-Water Interface: Effects of Electric Charges at Interfaces

Interfaces between two liquids such as oil and water occur everywhere in daily life including in food and biology. Microscopic particles have a strong attraction for liquid interfaces and tend to form layers at them. In this research, we focus on the interface between oil and water and explore ways to stabilize oil droplets in water (i.e., emulsions) using particles. Salt ions dissolved in liquid can be made to favor either the oil or water, which can lead spontaneously to a separation of charges and an electric field at the interface. This electric field can attract particles, which form a layer and protect the droplets from coalescing. We measure the effect of a salt, tetrabutylammonium perchlorate (TBAP) on particle binding and emulsion stability. We use silica spheres suspended in water. We find that emulsions are only stable with TBAP concentrations of 3x10-4 M and greater. An increase in nanoparticle concentration was found to increase the threshold value of [TBAP]. The [TBAP] threshold value decreased when we used a different oil that was less polar. We also find that droplets can be destabilized by adding salt (e.g., NaCl) to the water, which offers a very intriguing possibility to disrupt emulsions on demand. These results help improve the effectiveness of inexpensive clay and silica particles compared to other particles that require chemical modification, thus expanding the range of applications that are possible. Results from this study can be useful towards understanding emulsions better for uses in cosmetics, paints, or 3D printing.

Cameron Alexander Lane
Mark Tuominen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Physics, UMass Amherst
iCons: Making Solar Panels Cool

Traditional photovoltaic cells use semi-conductive silicon to drive their light to electricity conversion process. Although this has become a cheap process to mass produce, there are drawbacks that keep these panels from reaching their maximum efficiency. Due to properties of the semi-conductive silicon most panels have a dependence on temperature around 0.5% maximum power output loss per 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature. By keeping a solar panel at room temperature, the power output on a hot summer day can be improved by 10-15%. It has been found that by applying water to the upwards facing surface to intermittently cool the panel, the power output can be improved by up to 8%. The possibility of reusing rainwater to drive this cooling has been explored. Using MATLAB the evaporation rate and longevity of rainwater reserves has been estimated to investigate the feasibility of such a system. Using these results a design has been created that would reuse rainwater to cool the solar canopies existing in three UMass parking lots.

Austin P. Morrissey
Lena M. Herbst
Jennifer Ross (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Physics, UMass Amherst

Microtubule Patterns through Growth and Crosslinking

Microtubules are the underlying structures of essential cellular structures such as the mitotic spindle, primary cilium, and neuronal axon. Self-organized patterns caused by motors have been explored, but very few of these are resulted in biologically-relevant organizations. We explore more biological self-organized patterns of microtubules using macromolecular crowding and crosslinking microtubule-associated proteins to drive novel states during microtubule polymerization. We find that the phases and patterns depend very sensitively on the filament length and the percentage of MAP65 crosslinkers present. Specifically, there is a range of concentrations that result in spindle-like “tactoids” that could act as model mitotic spindles. We will investigate whether similar microtubule organization, and filament lengths, are observed in another crosslinker, PRC1 with several different controlled lengths of microtubules. This work will allow new research on the self-organization of the mitotic spindle using a systematically controlled in vitro reconstitution system.

Liam C. O'Brien
Lorenzo Sorbo (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Physics, UMass Amherst
Decay of Two-Dimensional Vacuum into Pairs of Particles

We introduce pair production in field theory describing the decay of vacuum to a system of two point particles connected by one (or more) struts. Specifically, we derive exact solutions to the Einstein Field Equations describing a pair of point particles connected by one or more struts in 2+1 dimensional spacetime. From these solutions, we compute the total action of the configuration, and from the action we compute the probability of vacuum decaying into this state. Ultimately, we intend to use this configuration, and its corresponding probability, to gain insight into a point-particle description of inhomogeneities in the inflationary universe in the realistic 3+1 dimensional case.

Kyle O'Connell
Jennifer Ross (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Physics, UMass Amherst
iCons: Optimization of Faraday Magnetometer

The Muon g-2 experiment aims to measure the precession rate of a muon to that of a proton in a magnetic field to a higher precision than ever before, the results of which will elucidate whether there exists physics beyond what is currently known. The project requires an extensive measurement of the magnetic field created to precess the particles. In this paper I detail my efforts to contribute to this measurement by optimizing a faraday optical magnetometer for measurement on time scales on the order of the decay of the muon. The time-scale is important as the magnitude of the magnetic field must be precisely known at the moment the muon decays.

The bulk of the work has been optimizing a known design - namely an SF-59 crystal inside a solenoidal magnetic field - in order to be able to detect signals of around 0.8 milliGauss (around 1000th the strength of the earths magnetic field) inside the apparatus. This has been developed through attempting to reach signal to noise ratios of 40:1, using a known magnetic field strength, powered with a known current generated by a function generator. This paper explores the many methods of shielding, amplification, subtraction and boosting in an effort to achieve superior signal detection in a noisy environment with the faraday magnetic field measurement apparatus.


Alex Bienvenue
Britnay Ann Beaudry
Brad Hoole
Elsa Petit (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst
Strategies for Canopy Management for Optimal Juice Quality

Facing unpredictable climate changes, maintaining a sustainable agriculture depends on the availability of genetically diverse cultivars. The traditional European grapes (e.g. Pinot Noir) are cultivars of a single species. In contrast, emerging grape cultivars (European-American hybrids) take advantage of the tremendous genetic diversity of the native American grape species (about 30 species).  In the traditional European grape varieties, shoot and fruit thinning is known to influence fruit juice quality (ripening time, sugar, acidity) and help reduce pesticide usage. Little is known regarding these effects on emerging European-American grapehybrids. Our multiyear project, started in 2015, quantifies the effect of thinning practices and their cost on these emerging hybrids.  In this research we ask the following questions: (1) What is the effect of shoot and/or cluster thinning on grape quality? (2) How does it vary across grape varieties and years? (3) How does it compare between table and wine grapes? (4) How much is gained in terms of disease control and quality and does it outweigh the labor cost of thinning?


Christopher L. Bloom
Sarah Bryn Berquist (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst
Discover Nature's Benefits

STOCKSCH 485 Abstract

Chris Bloom – Sust Food & Farming Capstone – February 28, 2018

Title:  Discover Nature’s Benefits  

Instinctively being outdoors is enjoyable while experiencing the beauty of nature and the freedom associated with it. The purpose of this project is to emphasize the benefits of nature at many levels, including physical, psychological and spiritual. Participating in outdoor activities not only provides more opportunity to learn about nature, it also opens minds.  Outdoor classrooms are more common and offered at varied levels of education ranging from pre-school to university students. Also, there are documented spiritually benefits in being active outdoors, while simply walking in the woods or by the ocean. Being in the wilderness encourages practices of yoga and meditation that is known to limit anxiety and stress. This project will develop an immersive experience in nature that will allow for a learning and entertaining event. A scavenger hunt would be a method to encourage participates to be active outdoors, while learning about nature. This can be simulated on smart phones allowing the participates to search for land marks, while walking a path using their phones as a GPS device. The results of engaging in outdoor activities leads to increase in physical fitness, psychological benefits of dopamine released and the strength of mental health with improved learning capacity. The conclusion of this study aims to demonstrate the benefits of outdoor activity that allows participants to learn about nature, while enjoying the physical, psychological and spiritual rewards.

Bryanna Lee Joyce
Lynn S. Adler (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, UMass Amherst
Mycorrhizal Fungus and Fertilizer Affects Lettuce Biomass

Plants and arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AMF) interact in complex ways. Under certain conditions, the fungi trades nitrogen, phosphorus and water in return for carbon and photosynthates from the plant. Growing conditions, such as nutrients, can influence this symbiosis. We manipulated AMF and nutrient concentration to investigate their effects on lettuce (Lactuca sativa) biomass. We hypothesized that when the plant was nutrient stressed, the fungi would compensate, resulting in higher lettuce biomass. In a controlled greenhouse, we organically grew Lactuca sativa for eight weeks. Our manipulations consisted of four treatments, a base level (5-2-4) fertilizer without AMF, a base level of fertilizer with AMF, a low level of fertilizer with AMF, and a high level of fertilizer with AMF. After eight weeks, roots were harvested to check percent colonization. We weighed dry leaf biomass and measured root length, leaf length, and number of leaves. We found that low fertilizer with AMF treatment had the same amount of biomass as the treatment with base level fertilizer and no AMF. However, the base level fertilizer with AMF had lower biomass than the base level fertilizer without AMF. Our findings suggest that AMF can make up for a lack of nutrients when nutrients are scarce, which is consistent with what other studies have shown. However, in plants grown with AMF and abundant resources biomass was reduced, which highlights the context dependency of the symbiosis.    

Olivia Lynn Long
Aleel K. Grennan (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biology, Worcester State University
Determining the Connection between Chloroplast Size and Preferred Light Conditions in Sertaria viridis

Abstract A ray of light from the sun starts the ultimate signaling cascade in a plant. The organelle in the plant that receives this signal is the chloroplast. The pathway started from this interaction has an impact not only on photosynthesis, but also on plant growth and development. The signal cascade that begins when light rays hit the chloroplasts is the reason why certain plants are able to thrive in constant sun versus plants that thrive in shaded environments. Sertaria viridis is a model C4 grass, able to thrive in high amounts of sunlight. The introduction of a mutation, resulting in a down-regulation of the gene responsible for chloroplast division, will result in S. viridis with larger chloroplasts than the wild-type. The increase in size of the chloroplasts could potentially increase the surface area available for light absorption, making the S. viridis with the larger chloroplasts better fit to survive in low light environments. By linking size of chloroplast to the well-being of a plant as a whole, crop canopies may be able to house more diverse plant species.

Cameron Jon Smith-Freedman
Dhandapani Venkataraman (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
Will the Outbreak of Black Oak Gall Wasp Be Suppressed by Natural Enemies?

The recently described black oak gall wasp, Zapatella davisae Buffington, a stem galling wasp, has caused extensive damage and mortality to black oak trees, Quercus veluntia, of coastal Massachusetts, USA. Natural enemies in the form of parasitoid wasps exist to regulate outbreaking populations of gall wasp in native habitats; however, parasitoids have not yet established enough in novel habitats to cause sufficient mortality to Z. davisae and thus do not prevent gall wasps from attaining outbreak densities. The goals of this study were to determine present year parasitism rates of Z. davisae, and to collate historical gall wasp densities to determine if a top-down relationship between gall wasps and parasitoids exists. Our hypothesis was that parasitoids serve as top-down pressures and function to control populations of Z. davisae. Present year parasitism rates were obtained through an emergence census of gall wasp communities from sites on Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. Historical gall wasp densities were obtained through dissection of branches from the same sites. Percent parasitism rates were determined to be 28.6%, 90%, and 68.8% on Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod respectively. The trend of historical densities is consistently shown as an increase in population size followed by a crash, likely facilitated by parasitoids. Z. davisae populations in Nantucket have not yet experienced a population crash however, based on data from Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, outbreaking populations of Z. davisae are likely to crash in coming years.


Noosha Nahian Uddin
Robert Paul Musgrave (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
The Political Economy of Migrant Labor in the Arabian Gulf

Why do migrant laborers in the Gulf states still choose to work there, given the harsh living and working conditions that they suffer from? Since the oil boom in the Gulf, the Arab citizen populations have diminished due to the influx of expatriate labor from outside the region - notably of South Asian or Southeast Asian nationality. The circumstances of migrant laborers working within the kafala system in the Gulf have sparked international attention regarding the region's intent towards preserving and promoting human rights. However, the remittances that these laborers earn in their assigned states make up a considerable portion of their countries’ GDP, and can be the only source of income they have. What is commonly considered to be a “resource curse” in the Gulf states, where the rents of natural resource wealth of a state lead to more autocratic policies, might be considered to be a transnational phenomenon in the migrant labor market between sending and receiving states. Sending countries’ governments have been unwilling to reform domestic policies to generate economic growth, since they can use their expatriates as a means of revenue, which explains why migrants continue to endure working in the GCC. This project explores the relationship of Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Kerala with the GCC and their involvement in the kafala system, the power dynamic of the citizenry in the GCC that enable this system to be in place, and the external and internal motivations of expatriates who continue working in the Arabian Gulf.


Zalaan Ishaq
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
What's Your Source?: Understanding the Sociological Effect of Fake News as a Phenomenon

The 2016 election is over and some would say the dust is settled and it is high time for all to move on. Others aren’t so sure. For them, the election was reality-shattering and without an anchor to rely on they were lost with a new perception that was strange and unsettling. Elections are increasingly dependent on digital tools including social media, and 2016 was no different.  It offered a candidate, Trump, who regularly set the news cycle through these platforms. Fake news was a distinct weapon used by politically motivated groups and agencies, both domestic and foreign, to manipulate voter opinions. It played into human faults: the bias and stereotypes we use to construct our umwelt, a term used by neuroscientist David M. Eagleman to describe how animals that co-exist in the same environment experience completely different realities. Co-host of WYNC’s On the Media stresses that we use our umwelt to define the Umgebung, the larger reality. My research delves into how differently motivated groups were able to take advantage of the online world to manipulate millions of people. Also, I will study how this phenomenon has affected society since then. Fake news entrenches individuals into complicit behavior that may allow for the social deaths of ‘others’ who exist ‘out there’. In fact, hate crimes against many minorities and vulnerable groups have spiked since 2016. More propaganda attacks are expected as the midterms approach.

Noah A. Kouchekinia
Jarice Hanson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication, UMass Amherst

Using Tweets to Analyze Legislative Factions

There is a long and well-researched understanding that the way in which a political actor uses language depends greatly on their partisan affiliation. There is no doubt that those language differences spill over into the vast amounts of communication political actors conduct through their social media accounts. This means that social media posts of political actors provide a rich window into the language differences of political factions. This paper will specifically look at the twitter posts of the senators in the 115th Congress. Using tools like word and n-gram frequency, sentiment analysis, and text clustering, the paper will construct a network which describes the political factions each senator falls into.

Eleora Pasternack
Meredith Rolfe (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
The AmeriCorps Civic Leadership Program: A Policy Proposal to Increase Women's Representation in Elected Office

Our nation is facing a serious deficit of female leadership in elected office. Even though they comprise about 50 percent of the population and electorate, less than one in four officials at every level of government are female. If women are given equal opportunities to run for office then the number of women in office should reflect that. Instead, the numbers indicate that there is a problem with the candidate emergence and selection process in U.S. politics. The system of fair and equal representation appears to be broken. This paper is an attempt to discover why women are less likely to be elected to office than their male counterparts. In it I will first go through the steps in the candidate emergence process, identify barriers women face, and which points in the process they occur at. Then I will put forth a proposed government program designed to close the gender gap in elected office. I will use both scholarly research and original data, gathered through surveys and interviews, to demonstrate that it is the most effective and efficient solution to close the gender gap.

Anthony Rentsch
Brian F. Schaffner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
The Elusive "Likely Voter": Improving Prediction of Who Will Vote

Political commentators have offered evidence that the “polling misses” of 2016 were caused by a number of factors. This project focuses on one explanation, that likely voter models – tools used by pre-election pollsters to predict which survey respondents are most likely to make up the electorate and, thus, whose responses should be used to calculate election predictions – were flawed. While models employed by different pollsters vary widely, it is difficult to systematically study them because they are often considered part of pollsters’ methodological black box. Instead, I build what likely voters should look like from the ground up. Using Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) surveys from presidential and mid-term election years over the last decade I develop a set of likely voter models that meet any pollster’s needs, allowing them to accurately predict the composition of the electorate by using a combination of traditional voter screen questions, demographics, and variables typically considered in structural election forecasting models and to accurately and effectively communicate election predictions by incorporating a range of different turnout estimates.

Caitlin Elizabeth Rowley
Melinda Rae Tarsi (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, Bridgewater State University

Unvarnished Inhumanity: America’s Farm Animal Industry

Despite statutory protections, it is rare for longstanding sanctions to be imposed against perpetrators of farm animal cruelty. Such incidents represent a brutal trend in America’s food industry, as investigations continue to reveal the malevolence that lives on within factory farms; these recurring instances of negligent oversight subsequently prompt a rather pertinent discussion surrounding the implementation of regulatory measures, as federal entities such as the United States Department of Agriculture should be held accountable for the enforcement---or lack thereof---of enforcing policy.

With this foundation, I am conducting a policy analysis regarding regulatory protections for farm animals. This includes an assessment of policy language, content, implementation, and results, so as to provide a comprehensive overview of this area and identify shortcomings in each stage of the policy-making process. My research has thus far allowed me to analyze the lapses in safekeeping within the context of contemporary governance, and from this I have been better able to determine the grounds on which this perpetual maltreatment is deemed permissible.  

Kyle Swainamer
Dean E. Robinson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
Health Outcomes Depend on Socioeconomic Status Even in the Military

Because troops and veterans typically do not have to worry about treatment costs and whether their medical needs will be met, the microsphere that is the United States military and its associated Veteran’s Affair healthcare system is a prime community to analyze universal healthcare. Military rank, an identifier of socioeconomic status, is one such axis by which health outcomes can be measured. However, when compared to the United States as a whole, the United States military healthcare system reduces the stratification of health problems based on socioeconomic status but is not perfect. It mitigates, but does not eliminate these inequalities. This thesis uses the U.S. military to offer insight into how socioeconomic status affects health outcomes in a standardized universal system and compares these outcomes to other non-universal systems.

Tenzin Dawa Thargay
Robert Paul Musgrave (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst

Nuclear Restart: Understanding Japanese Energy Policy through Energy Security

On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake caused a tsunami that resulted in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Although the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan immediately shut down all active nuclear power plants in the wake of the disaster, each subsequent administration has sought to increase Japan’s reliance on nuclear energy. My research seeks to understand why the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused Japan to counterintuitively strive towards historic levels of nuclear energy production that are almost twice the values seen before the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I argue that Japan’s emphasis on self-sufficiency in its definition of energy security prevented the abolition and reduction of nuclear energy not only because other alternatives would increase its reliance on imported energy, but also nuclear energy can help curb climate change challenges. This thesis strives to contribute to the literature on energy security by conducting a case study on Japan that examines how state interpretations of energy security react in light of the nuclear disaster and public response.

Janet Ruguru Wangoe
Dean E. Robinson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
Racialized Medicine: Bias in Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease and Pain Management

The sources of racial-ethnic minority group health disparities derive from a range of historical and current economic and political policies that promote socioeconomic disadvantage, the key determinant of health outcomes. Bidil is an FDA approved drug, to treat heart disease that is specifically targeted to one racial-ethnic group, despite the fact that clinical trials showed its general effectiveness. The FDA’s action can only be seen as giving tacit support to the idea of fundamental, genetic, differences between racial groups. These reductionist assumptions also likely explain the under-prescription of opioids to African-Americans. This thesis examines both developments and concludes with policy recommendations that include prohibitions on racially-targeted drugs and requirements medical educational that provide sounder understanding of human variation, and cultural competence.


Brianna Marie Albanese
Timothy Lang (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst
Piecing Together My Identity: A Therapeutic Intervention with Digital Storytelling

My project focuses on how study abroad, family, and culture all contribute to the process of identity formation. Studying abroad is a novel, life changing experience that exerts a profound impact on one’s identity. White American college students who study abroad find themselves identified as foreign, as American, and as a minority probably for the first time in their lives. The culture shock and reverse culture shock that result from this experience can cause a disruption to one’s identity that needs to be resolved. Digital storytelling is a tool that allows authors to express themselves through narration, images, video, and music. It is a creative and therapeutic process that assists authors in piecing together their sense of self after a disrupting experience like studying abroad. My own series of digital stories focuses on my Italian family background, my upbringing, and my recent journey abroad to Italy, in which I traced family roots in an attempt to understand more about my own identity as an Italian-American. Through digital storytelling I pieced together my childhood ethnic identity as an Italian person and the American identity that I was aware of for the first time while I was abroad. By returning to a hyphenated sense of self, I was forced to resolve my identity disruption, which I explored through digital storytelling.

Dominique Kann Altamari
Harold D. Grotevant (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst

Associations between Peer Attachment and Positive Adoption Effect throughout Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood

Given the unique challenges adoptees encounter, it is important to consider how and whether these challenges could impact their ability to form strong social connections. This study examines relations between positive adoption affect and peer attachment within adolescence and emerging adulthood (EA), the stability of positive adoption affect and peer attachment over time, and whether the scores on one construct during adolescence predict the scores on the other during EA.

Participants included 139 adoptees (46.8% males) who were domestically adopted as infants. Adoptees were administered questionnaires during adolescence (Mage: 15.77) and emerging adulthood (Mage: 24.97). Positive adoption affect was measured with the Adoption Dynamics Questionnaire (Benson, Sharma & Roehlkepartain, 1994) and Peer Attachment was measured with the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (Armsden & Greenberg, 1987).

            Data were analyzed using correlations to look at within-wave relationships and regressions to look at longitudinal relationships. Positive affect and peer attachment were positively correlated in EA (r = .33,  p <.01) but not in adolescence. Positive affect in adolescence predicted both positive affect in EA (b = .52,  p <.001) and peer attachment in EA (b = .21,  p = .024). Adolescent peer attachment did not predict peer attachment or positive affect in EA. Variations in this pattern of findings by age and gender will also be discussed. These findings will offer further information into the correlates of attachment in adoptees and could be applicable in clinical settings. 

Isaac Ashton
Paul Gerard Nestor (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston
Exploring Polygenic by Environment Effects on Social Cognition

For the past 50 years, the risk for mental illness has been studied through the lens of the  diathesis-stress framework, which views carriers of certain genes as having psychiatric vulnerability to adverse environmental events. This model underscores the interacting influences of gene polymorphisms  with environmental cues in the etiology and expression of mental disorders. Yet while many gene variants have been identified, most research has focused on single gene effects, and how these are moderated by stress.  Little research has been directed toward polygenic effects.  Likewise, few studies have explored adaptive functions.  Our study aims to fill the gap by looking at gene by gene by environment (GxGxE) interaction using the candidate gene variants of the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) on measures of social cognition.   Our hypothesis is that a GxGxE analysis will show an interaction effect on social cognition in response to adverse childhood conditions.  For this, a sample of 100 college students were recruited, genotyped for 5-HTTLPR and BDNF polymorphisms, given the adverse childhood experience (ACE) measure and a battery of social cognitive tests.  While analysis is ongoing, our report will include results from GxE and GxGxE interactions for measures on social cognition.  These results, while providing important data for the social cognitive effects of stress on carriers of gene polymorphisms, will also demonstrate the need for further research using polygenic by environment approach, as well as testing beyond psychiatric symptoms for possible adaptive benefits. 

Madison Claire Babula
Joe Camilleri (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Westfield State University

Examining Bicycle Usage and Attitudes toward Cycling among Westfield, Massachusetts Residents

The purpose of this study is to identify which variables encourage and prevent participants from cycling on the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail and in Westfield, Massachusetts. One thousand Westfield, MA residents were randomly selected to participate. Residents who chose to participate completed an online survey that asked about their attitudes, demographics, and use of the rail trail. We expect to find that participants who cycle, do so for exercise and recreation purposes. Distance to the trail and fear are expected to be related to reduced bicycle use frequency. We also expect to find that participants will have positive perceptions about cycling and the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail. These findings are relevant to anyone seeking to encourage others to engage in cycling more frequently, and for implementing practical changes to the Westfield community that will allow more residents to engage in cycling and other health related behaviors.

Caroline Mara Ball
Katie Dixon-Gordon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Emotional Functioning, Distress Tolerance, and Non-suicidal Self Injury and Eating Disorders

Young women are engaging in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and eating disorder (ED) behaviors at increasingly higher rates. Current literature speaks to the prevalence of NSSI and eating disorders among young women, draws connections between emotional functioning and prevalence of NSSI/ED behaviors, and supports the comorbidity of NSSI and EDs. However, there is little research exploring the interactive effects of emotional functioning and distress tolerance as predictors of different types of NSSI and ED behaviors.

Participants come in for two in-person sessions followed by a two-week online daily diary. The data will come from a comprehensive diagnostic interview completed during the first session, and results from questionnaires and a pain task completed in the second session.

The predicted results are that participants who suffer from low emotional functioning and high distress tolerances are more likely to engage in NSSI behaviors like cutting and burning, and/or ED behaviors like purging, restriction, and over-exercise whereas participants with low emotional functioning and low distress tolerances are more likely to engage in ED behaviors like binge eating. Participants with high emotional functioning are unlikely to engage in any NSSI or ED behaviors. 

Being able to better predict these different risky behaviors will enable mental health professionals to adequately implement prevention measures with at-risk populations. 

Catherine Lydia Lin Bergeron
Nicole M. Rosa (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Worcester State University
The Effects of Participation in Activities on Well-Being

Socioemotional, cognitive, and physical well-being can be maintained through participation in activities and social engagement. It is important for both older and younger adults to be involved in stimulating activities to promote positive well-being across the lifespan. Large social networks, relationships, and support are key factors in psychological health (Barnes, Mendes de Leon, Wilson, Bienias, & Evans, 2004; Myers & Diener, 1995). The current study explored the impact participation in activities had on overall well-being among both older and younger adults. A total of 59 participants took part in the study, 34 younger and 25 older adults. Younger adults were students at Worcester State University while older adults were residents at a local assisted living facility. Participants completed questionnaires regarding their physical and social activities, a measure of processing speed, and two measures of socioemotional well-being. As expected, younger adults spend more hours participating in activities daily than older adults. Older adults, however, spent more days out of the week engaged in activities than younger adults. While non-significant, participation in activities led to higher well-being scores among both older and younger adults. Findings from this research will support the importance of engagement and participation throughout the lifespan due to the benefits on overall well-being across the lifespan.

Jocelyn Bezuka
Dawn Vreven (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University
Social Media, Narcissism, and Self-Perception

Social media platforms are considered to be one of the most popular, addicting, and easily accessible sources of communication. The purpose of this experiment is to further examine research on the association between social media usage, narcissism, and self-perception on popular photo sharing social networking platforms (i.e. Instagram, VSCO, Snapchat). To examine this correlation, approximately 100 participants will be asked to fill out a self-report questionnaire of their social media usage, personality traits, and demographics. It is hypothesized that participants who use social media regularly will have higher levels of narcissism and self-perception than participants who do not use social media regularly. It is also hypothesized that participants who sometimes post on social media will have lower levels of narcissism and self-perception than participants who regularly post. Lastly, it is hypothesized that participants who post selfies on social media will have higher levels of narcissism and self-perception than participants who do not post selfies.

Jocelyn Bezuka
Nicole E. Rossi (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University

Perceptions of Medically-Based Treatment versus Multidisciplinary Treatment for Patients with Mental Disorders

The purpose of the study is to evaluate perceptions of a medically-based treatment (the treatment

and care of a patient using only conventional medication) verses a multidisciplinary therapeutic treatment (the treatment and care of a patient using conventional medicine in combination with alternative approaches) for patients with schizophrenia and depression. A sample of 120 participants will be recruited from a small state university in the Northeast. It is anticipated that participants will range from 18-25 years of age, will be approximately 60% female, and 30% ethnic/racial minorities. Participants will be randomly assigned to read one of four scenarios describing a character with either schizophrenia or depression, and undergoing either a medically or multidisciplinary based treatment. Participants will then complete Novelli’s (2006) HealthStyles Survey, measuring attitudes towards mental illness, and a researcher-devised Treatment Scale measuring treatment success. The hypotheses are: (H1) that participants will perceive a multidisciplinary therapeutic approach as more effective than a medically-based approach; (H2) participants will perceive scenario characters with depression as having more effective treatment outcomes; (H3) participants will perceive scenario characters with depression as benefitting the most from a multidisciplinary therapeutic treatment. The data will be analyzed using the attitudes toward mental illness measure as a covariate, while also examining the perceptions of treatment (IV1; medical or multidisciplinary) and disorder type (IV2; depression or schizophrenia) on treatment success (DV). Results of this research could help identify influences to patient buy-in for various treatment approaches as devised by clinical, medical, and alternative practitioners.

Ekaterina Elizabeth Blum
Phoebe Lin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Prejudice and Homeschooling

The present study investigated biases toward people who have been home-schooled and hypothesized that participants would rate a person who attends public school more favorably than a person who is home-schooled.  Additionally, several variables predictive of prejudice such as social dominance orientation, right wing authoritarianism, and modern racism were hypothesized to be correlated.  Participants consisted of undergraduate students from Framingham State University.  Implications related to prejudice are considered.

Cara Patricia Bosco
Jeffrey Starns (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Effects of Classroom Instruction in a Visualization Method for Bayesian Reasoning

In general, individuals with low math skills and math anxiety have trouble reasoning on the basis of probabilistic information, a useful skill in STEM-related careers and everyday decision-making. Bayesian reasoning is the critical technique needed to optimally adjust beliefs based on new information. Our research has found that this technique can be implemented using a visualization consisting of interactive bars to represent the probabilistic information. Our participants were asked to determine hypothetical voters’ stances on an issue based on whom they voted for and general voter information. They were given the percentage of people overall who support the issue, the percentage that voted for the candidate out of all the people who DO support the issue, and the percentage that voted for the candidate out of all the people who do NOT support the issue. Half of our participants received training and testing of this “bars” visualization in their weekly discussion for Dr. Jeffrey Starns Statistics in Psychology course. The other half used a method that relies strictly on mathematical equations. One week later, we retested the participants and introduced a group activity to evaluate their ability to connect the bars visualization with the mathematical operations. The results of this study demonstrate that Bayesian reasoning can be taught in a short amount of time in a classroom setting. Additionally, we found that people can retain their understanding of the material after a week, reflecting the effectiveness of the training.

Ilhan Nikae Braxton
Katie Dixon-Gordon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
The Cultural Adaptation of Evidence-Based Treatments

Despite a growing literature base on the utility of evidence-based treatments (EBTs) for psychological difficulties, there are several barriers to accessing these treatments in diverse populations. The aim of this project was to summarize existing research on cultural views of mental health problems and their psychological treatments within cultural minority communities, with a focus on cultural adaptions of EBTs. A selective review of empirical literature, found on PsycINFO, on cultural stigma of mental illness and treatment within minority communities as well as the necessity for the adaption of treatments to fit non-western cultural beliefs and practices. Based on the literature, there is a prevalence of negative views towards mental illness within ethnic minority communities which may contribute to the delay in treatment seeking in these populations. Other factors that may contribute to the inadequate access to care include negative experiences with the quality of services provided as well as the lack of cultural representation within the treatments themselves. Recommendations for future research are made, including increasing cultural competency in the research and provision of EBTs to enhance existing treatments’ universal applicability. 

Marly Lauren Brutus
Phoebe Lin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
How Plus-Sized Women Are Compared to Average-Sized Women

Participants will consist of Framingham State University students. The purpose of this study will look at how people perceive plus size women compared to average weight women. We hypothesize that the plus size character will be perceived as inferior to the average weight character in the scenarios. Participants will be exposed to one of two scenarios and respond to a four-point inferiority scale. To measure inferiority, participants will respond to a seventeen-item questionnaire. Collected data will be entered SPSS to measure levels of significance.

Molly Caisse
Vanessa Demaral
Jessica Matthews (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst

Impact of Birth-Father Contact Changes on Adoptee Satisfaction

In the field of adoption research, birth fathers (Bf) are a significantly understudied population, and information is limited and dated. The longitudinal Minnesota-Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP) has been following adoptive families and adopted children’s birth mothers for 30 years. The current project addresses the understudied relationship between emerging adult (EA) adoptees and their Bfs. Using both quantitative and qualitative data from MTARP’s Wave 3 (2005-2008, n=167), this project explores how changes in contact with Bfs relate to adoptees’ satisfaction with open-relationship arrangements with the Bf. Some evidence suggests that adoptees’ contact with Bfs is typically positive, but there is less information on how contact change influences relationship satisfaction. The impact of changing contact on satisfaction with openness arrangements will be assessed using regression. Qualitative themes in feelings and perceptions regarding the Bf will be used to support analysis of quantitative findings. Using the Consensual Qualitative Research paradigm, qualitative information is being coded from semi-structured interviews with EA adoptees exploring topics related to adoption history, their stories, birth family contact, and family relationships. Satisfaction with the openness arrangement has been coded from interviews. Preliminary analyses show that of 167 EA adoptees, 69 have identifying information, and 34 have contact with their Bfs. Thirty-two EA adoptees have experienced contact changes with Bfs between age 15 and W3. Findings from this project will contribute to our understanding of the importance of Bfs within the adoptive kinship network, and their impact on adoptees.

Meg Lynn Callahan
Lacey Abigail Waskiewicz
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
The Effect of Color on Food Consumption

The Effect of Color on Food Consumption

In the United States, it seems that when a customer walks down the aisles of a grocery store, there are abundant amounts of color coming from every direction.  Colors can influence and affect a consumer’s food choice. A color, such as blue, seems to increase the likelihood that a consumer will choose a particular food. Initially, a pilot food survey will be collected to identify food items with similar taste profiles but are healthy or unhealthy. Approximately, 90-100 undergraduate students will view a short image presentation then fill out questionnaires including personal information. There will be 2 plates placed in front of the participants during the image presentation; one red plate and one blue plate with equal portions of the healthy and unhealthy food. The amount of food will be measured prior to and after the participants leave to measure if it was consumed. The expected results from this study are that the participants will be more likely to choose food from the blue plates over the red plates. Participants are expected to choose unhealthy food over healthy food. The benefits of these finds may help to explain how colors can impact on consumer’s attention while choosing and consuming food as well as how marketing executives can use color to their advantage. 

Taryn G. Canfield
Rebecca A. Burwell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Westfield State University
Correlates of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse childhood experiences  are defined as “the experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects (NIMH, 2015, p. 1). Approximately 60% of adults have encountered at least one adverse childhood experience (Slowikowski, 2009, p. 1). Adverse childhood experiences are known to increase the risk of depression, alcoholism, number of suicide attempts, and to increase contingent self-worth (Slowikowski, 2009, p. 3). However, no study to date has examined adverse childhood experiences, depression, attachment, contingent self-worth, and shame simultaneously. In an ongoing study 100+ participants from Westfield State University will complete an online survey regarding adverse childhood experiences and its correlates. Preliminary results will be presented at the conference. Expected findings will expand our understanding of the relationship between adverse childhood experiences, depression, attachment, contingent self-worth, and shame and possible interrelationships. I hypothesize that there will be a correlation between adverse childhood experiences, depression, attachment, contingent self-worth, and shame.

Luisanna Marie Castillo
Bridgett Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Beating the Odds: Goal Attainment in Residential Mental Health Treatment

It is a norm in our society to be goal oriented. From the moment we are born we have been set up to reach certain milestones like the first time we crawl, to our first steps and to our first words. There is always a certain end goal to reach. That excitement from when you first get your license, to when you get your high school degree, to even finding that person and getting married. A lot of these goals we take for granted and don’t look at them as goals because we see it as a part of life. People graduate, people drive and people get married it’s a norm, but what if this wasn’t a norm for everyone. People who struggle with mental illnesses might have different goals than those norm goals our society sees. Things such as being able to walk down the street, finding a ride to work or even cooking your own meal are all things we might not see as a goal, but people battling illnesses like anxiety or schizophrenia will. The purpose of this research project was to look at different ways residential treatment places handle resident goal attainment and if they are successful for people handling mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Throughout the research I found that goal attainment plans are successful for people handling mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Setting goals and working towards them has shown in increase in change of behavior positively, because of the increase in motivation from others (Wade, 2009). 

Winnie Ching
Kyle R. Cave (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
The Use of Visual and Verbal Working Memory in Visual Search

The purpose of the present study is to examine the effects of verbal working memory on visual search tasks. Previous research has shown that assigning an articulation task such as repeating “the” will interfere with verbal working memory. There are two groups of participants: one group is assigned a verbal suppression task and the other is not. It is believed performing the verbal suppression task and a visual search task simultaneously will block the ability to verbally encode the visual search targets. The stimuli used in the visual search display are colored Ts. Two Ts of different colors are flashed at the participant for one second at the beginning of each trial, indicating the possible targets for that trial. Next, the search display of 10 colored Ts appears. Participants are expected to respond to the presence or absence of the target colored T among distractor colored Ts. As participants search for the target Ts, they are holding the colors in working memory to guide their search. The verbal suppression subjects should be forced to use a purely visual memory representation of the targets. The ultimate goal is to better understand how items are represented in working memory and how they are used to guide visual search. Eye movements and response times are tracked as measures of performance and search efficiency on the visual search task. 

Skye Clayton
Claire Chang
Jenny Guo
Tracy T. Tran
Maureen Perry-Jenkins (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst

Enhancing Parents’ Health and Well-Being: Testing the Feasibility of a Prenatal Intervention for Low-Income Parents

The present study examines the feasibility of implementing a community-based parenting preparation program aimed at (1) reducing maternal and paternal stress and depression, (2) increasing parents’ knowledge and preparation for childbirth, and (3) strengthening the co-parenting relationship. Research indicates that prenatal stress can have long term effects on parental mental health as well as infants’ cognitive and social development. Dysregulation of the physiological stress system during pregnancy has been linked to increases in postnatal stress and depression, which can lead to negative outcomes for the expectant parents, their relationship, and their infant’s development. The current project examines how a six-week, group-based, psychoeducational prenatal intervention, in the second trimester of pregnancy, reduces stress and depression among expectant parents and reduces infant stress at birth compared to a control group. Participants complete pre- and post-interviews where mental health, relationship quality, and knowledge about birth and development are assessed. Participants also provide hair and saliva samples to assess cortisol, a stress hormone. To date: one of the three six-week intervention programs has been conducted with 8 couples expecting with their first child. Two more intervention programs are scheduled for March and June. The feasibility of the intervention is evaluated through attendance data, parents’ evaluations of the programming as well as the curriculum fidelity.  In addition, pilot data will be examined to test for differences in pre- and post- measures of mental health, co-parenting and parenting knowledge.

Kalyn Alecia Cochran
Bridgett Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University

The Views of Sexual Harassment across Countries

Around the world people are beginning to stand up and share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. This literature review examines the shift in attitude towards speaking out about the abuse. Recently, in the United States, the attitude has moved from one of shame and embarrassment to that of empowerment and support for those who have been a victim of sexual harassment. Differing views of sexual harassment across three different countries, the United States, France, and Britain are presented. Cultural differences in the definition of sexual harassment and how it should be perceived, particularly by females are discussed. Included in the review is a discussion of the “Me Too” movement as it relates to the three countries above. The history of the movement, the attitude of the public, and the impact the movement has had on victims of sexual harassment is examined. This review offers a comprehensive view across three countries on the issue of sexual harassment.   

Shauna Lyndsey Condon
Kate M. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Cape Cod Community College
Fear Responses: A Look at the Psychological Effects of Contagious Disease Outbreaks on Individuals

There are disastrous demographic effects on a population when massive, catastrophic death is brought about by contagious disease; moreover, individuals in the population can be severely affected psychologically by these outbreaks. Fear is one of the basic emotions that is thought to be hardwired, from birth, into all people. Its purpose and complexity have been, for many years, the focus of countless studies, and it has been researched thoroughly by psychologists. Through a variety of academic works, memoirs, and research, this paper will analyze the psychology of fear and its effect on society during massive outbreaks of contagious diseases. It will examine the interplay between psychology, society, and disease outbreak, paying particular attention to responses and attempts to manage the fear on a personal and societal level, as well as how the outbreaks changed society.

Ryan Paul-Thomas Connearney
Hollie Margaret Brown
Dawn Vreven (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University

The Effects of Gender and Facial Piercings on Perceived Attractiveness

Among today’s youth and young adults, piercings are one of the most popular body modifications. Body modification has become an important factor in self-expression, and prior research has shown that body modifications affect perceived attractiveness (Swami et al., 2012). The purpose of the present study is to test if piercings on different genders have an effect on perceived attractiveness. The research design is a 2 (gender: male or female) X 2 (piercing: yes or no) between-subjects design. Participants will be randomly assigned to view a scenario with an accompanying photo. The four possible photos are of either a pierced female, a non-pierced female, a pierced male, and a non-pierced male. The two photos of males are identical with the only difference being the presence of a nose piercing or not, and the same goes for the photos of females. The participant will then be asked to rate the physical attractiveness of the person through a questionnaire containing 17-items, each on a 6-point Likert scale. It is hypothesized that overall, those with piercings across both genders will be rated as less attractive. It is also hypothesized that females with piercings will be rated lower on measures of attractiveness than males with piercings.

Katherine Costello
Deborah McMakin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University

The Perceived Effects of Facebook Profiles on Relationship Satisfaction

Social media is an integral part of young adults’ daily lives. Specifically, interpersonal relationships, including dating, are portrayed in the media in both positive and negative ways. While previous studies have investigated social media’s effect on relationships in general, more research is necessary to closely examine dating and romantic relationships. This study sought to explain the delicate relationship between social media, dating, and relationship satisfaction among young adults. Participants included 120 female undergraduate students from a northeastern university who were randomly assigned to a view a Facebook page with a picture of a young adult male pictured with or without a female and with or without an “in a relationship” status. Participants perceived the male with a relationship status as, “in a relationship” as having higher relationship satisfaction than the male whose Facebook Profile did not include a relationship status, regardless of whether his profile included a female in his profile picture. Implications of history effect, the role of profile pictures, and the importance of being transparent about being in a romantic relationship are discussed.

Amanda DaCova
Rhiana Wegner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston
An Investigation of Drinking Game Play Motives and Frequency of Alcohol Use

Drinking games (DGs) promote fast-paced drinking and increase the risk of developing extreme heavy drinking behaviors. While frequency of consumption is often examined, few studies have examined how different drinking profiles (regular, heavy episodic, extreme heavy episodic) and DG play in one's home (weekdays and weekends, weekends only, occasionally/never) are associated with DG motives for starting and ending game play.  Men, ages 18-30, and who play drinking games (N=172) completed an online survey. Heavy episodic drinkers (HED; 5-9 drinks) and extremely heavy episodic drinkers (EHED; 10+ drinks) were more likely than casual drinkers to play DGs for Competition, Novelty, Social, Fun, and Manipulation reasons; the Boredom reason had an ABC pattern of mean differences. Weekend/day and weekend only drinkers play DGs for Competition, Coping, Boredom, and Novelty reasons more often than men who occasionally or never play DGs at home. The Fun reason had an ABC pattern of mean differences. Weekend/day drinkers end DGs more often due to Extreme Circumstances (e.g., passing out) than the other groups, and weekend only drinkers end DGs more often out of Conformity or Boredom reasons. Findings indicate that men with HED and EHED drinking profiles and men who live in homes where DGs are played weekend/days endorse a wide range of reasons for playing and ending DG play, suggesting multiple motives would need to be targeted to effectively reduce DG behaviors.

Isaac Lopes De Souza
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
The Effect of Exercise on the Physical Health of Athletes and Novices

When engaging in a conversation about exercise, some may feel offended or be afraid to talk about the topic. It is common knowledge that engaging in exercise has physical benefits. While training is an essential part of any athlete’s life, not all athletes include aerobic and strength training in addition to their sport-specific training. there are many benefits that come with exercising. These benefits include helping you feel happier, losing weight, improving muscle and bone health, decreasing the chances of chronic disease, reducing pain and much more. This study aims to investigate and compare the physical health of athletes who do not exercise outside of their sport-specific training to novices who exercise regularly. It will also look at different types of exercise (cardio, strength, flexibility) and the amount of exercise performed to find the exercise technique that best improves physical health. The study will consist of approximately 100 Framingham State athletes and non-athletes. Both groups will complete assessments about their exercise habits and personal physical health. Afterwards, participants will be asked to answer questions about their demographics. The expected results are that non-athletes who exercise regularly will have better physical health than athletes who do not exercise regularly outside of their sport-specific training. This study will clarify the importance of exercising for the purpose of improving physical health, especially for athletes who do not find exercise to be a part of their everyday lifestyle. 

Camilla Campos De Souza
Jillian Cassidy Pellegrini
Brianna M. Williams
Bridgett Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University

Humor Style in Relation to Depression and Well-Being

Research has indicated that humor style does relate to depression levels. Despite the common belief that comedians are always content, studies have shown otherwise. Research has shown that using humor and being exposed to it may be an effective coping mechanism. Evidence also suggests that an individual’s humor style does play a factor on well-being and levels of depression. This study presents a brief history of comedy and depression, provides a closer look at 2 comedians, 1 male and 1 female, and examines styles of humor as they relate to depression in light of research findings. Well-being and levels of depression are discussed in relation to comedy and humor styles.

Carolina Rosetti DeCastro
Francine Giotto
Megan Elizabeth Robertson
Dawn Vreven (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University
The Effects of Encoding Specificity and Music on Memory Retrieval

The purpose of this research was to investigate how the presence of music, either during a study period or during a recall period, can affect memory for words. The experimental design was a 2 (music type: rock or classical) X 2 (music present during encoding: yes or no) X 2 (music present during retrieval: yes or no) between-subjects design. One hundred sixty undergraduates from a New England university were randomly assigned to one of the eight experimental conditions.  Participants were shown a list of thirty words on a computer screen, presented as a list. The list was presented for one minute. During the word presentation, participants were either exposed to classical music, exposed to rock music, or not exposed to music. After a distractor task that consisted of 12 multiplication problems, participants were asked to recall as many of the words as they could in any order. During the recall, participants again could be exposed to either classical music, rock music, or no music. The dependent variable was the number of words correctly recalled. It was hypothesized that classical music will have higher rates of word recall than rock music. It was also hypothesized that music during encoding and music during retrieval phase will have a higher rate of words recalled. Lastly, it was hypothesized that music during encoding phase but not during retrieval phase will have a lower rate of words recalled. 

Andrea Lee DeLucia
Rachel Kjersgard
Ashley J. White
Phoebe Lin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Gender Bias

The present study investigated gender bias and hypothesized that the male will be more favored by participants than the female in a powerful position. Additionally, we believed that more men would show favoritism towards the male in our study. Participants consisted of undergraduate students at a northeastern public university. Implications related to prejudice are considered.

Kandace Paige Demers
Phoebe Lin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
The Effects of Parental Sex and Diagnosis Type on Child Outcomes and Parental Success

Research indicates that the mental health status of a parent heavily influences future outcomes for his/her offspring, specifically in regards to the child’s mental health. Data shows that children of parents with mental illness are themselves more likely to show symptoms of mental illness, especially when considering depression or anxiety-based illnesses. These children are also more likely to be less satisfied in their future careers, relationships, and suffer from health problems. However, research has failed to address how these consequences may differ when comparing a mother to a father. This study will examine the perceived effects of parental sex and the presence or absence of diagnosis of a mental illness pertaining to the parent on child outcomes and parental success. A sample of 100 undergraduates will be randomly exposed to one of four scenarios where the parent’s sex and a diagnosis or the lack of a diagnosis for a mental illness will be manipulated. Following the scenario, a series of questions regarding child outcomes and parental success will be answered. Additionally, participants will complete items regarding their own experiences regarding mental illness, followed lastly by a demographic questionnaire. It is predicted that a diagnosed parent will elicit more favorable perceptions of the child’s outcomes than an undiagnosed parent. It is predicted that mothers, whether diagnosed or not, will be perceived to have a larger impact on the child’s outcomes than the father. It is also predicted that mothers, whether diagnosed or not, will be perceived to have a larger impact on the child’s outcomes than the father. Lastly, it is predicted that parents whom are diagnosed will be perceived more critically than those whom are undiagnosed. Implications of parents with mental illness on child outcomes will be discussed.

Martha Dresley Doxsey
Jerrold Meyer (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Fingernails as a Biomarker of Chronic Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Activity

This thesis investigates differing family dynamics of members of the Mbenjele foragers in the Republic of the Congo in relation to levels of cortisol and testosterone in fingernail clippings. Currently, hair cortisol is routinely used as a noninvasive biomarker of chronic exposure to steroid hormones. Fingernail clippings represent a more universal noninvasive matrix for assessing chronic hormone exposure as they offer collection ability for those with short to no hair as well as for populations with cultural restrictions around cutting of the hair. There has been some limited precedent in the literature establishing fingernails as a biomarker. In the present study, fingernail clippings from 133 participants were collected in Republic of the Congo in collaboration with Dr. Lee Gettler’s lab at Notre Dame. Samples were collected from children and parents of differing degrees of family dynamics. It is expected that children in families with greater marital conflict will show higher cortisol levels; children in families in which fathers are rated as being less involved with parental care and poorer provisioners will show higher cortisol levels; mothers and fathers with greater marital conflict will show higher cortisol levels, and among adults, those who experience greater day to day ethnic conflict/threat with the nearby, neighboring Bantu-speaking farmers will show higher cortisol levels. 

Brandon Scott Ewing
Jessica Thelen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
How Blockbuster Films Portray Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Where They Fall Short

Often in war films such as “American Sniper” and “Thank You for Your Service,” PTSD is displayed accurately. Both service members struggle with the reintegration process. After serving multiple tours in the middle east, it is easy to see why. However, this project is going to challenge these blockbuster films and shine a light on a different form of PTSD within the ranks of the military; sexual assault. According to Protect Our Defenders, 14,900 members were sexually assaulted in 2016. Furthermore, one-third of sexual assault victims in the military are discharged after filing a report. The victims that received a discharge were also statistically inclined to receive a discharge other than honorable (general and dishonorable.) Sexual assault in the military is a problem for both men and women. The very people that swore to protect this nation are inflicting tremendous pain on their brothers and sisters. By making a film about sexual assault in the military, it would support the troops and it would show other possible candidates for the armed forces that this misconduct is not taken lightly. Society tends to think in order to develop PTSD, you have to be a hardened combat veteran like in “American Sniper” and “Thank You for Your Service,” but this is hardly the truth. Anyone inside and outside of the military can develop PTSD from a traumatic event such as sexual assault.

Alyssa Rose Figueiredo
Molly Bronwen Driscoll
Phoebe Lin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Modern Social Views on Women’s Pregnancy Status and Age Differences

Women in society are expected to follow certain time frames throughout their life, especially when it comes to starting a family. The age of when a woman gets pregnant is often how society defines the person they are and their capability to have a child. The present study investigated pregnancy status and age where it was hypothesized that younger aged pregnant woman would receive more social biased attitudes from society compared to an older aged pregnant woman. Additionally, several variables predictive of prejudice such as social dominance orientation, right-wing authoritarianism, and modern racism were hypothesized to be correlated. Participants consisted of undergraduate students at a northeastern public university. Implications related to prejudice are considered which can shape the views that people have on women and the perceived time that is appropriate to have a child.

Danielle Fischer
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Religion's Acceptance of Different Lifestyles


Religious people and non-religious people may be expected to live very different lives, but this is not always the case. This study explores non-religious peoples’ view on religious peoples’ levels of acceptance of others’ lifestyles. Previous findings show that religious people are often viewed as having low acceptance of other peoples’ lifestyle choices. Approximately one hundred participants from Framingham State University’s undergraduate program will be questioned for this study. Each participant will read a scenario than complete a question packet including how the scenario character will react or behave. Half the participants will read about a religious person, while the other half read about a non-religious person. Participants will also share personal info, including what religion or belief they identify with. The expected results are that non-religious people will see religious people as being less accepting than non-religious people. This study will show if there is a difference between how people are viewed on acceptance of others’ lifestyles based on being religious or not.

Angela Nancie Fleury
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
The Impact of Memory Recall and Self-Esteem on Perceived Stress

College students all over the world experience times of great success, as well as times when hard work still results in unfortunate disappointment. Students’ stress level is often dependent upon how good they feel about themselves, such as self-esteem. One-hundred and three university students completed an experimental packet that included recalling a past success or failure, a manipulated version of the Stress-Arousal Checklist (SACL), Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale (SELF), a newly constructed Parent Scale, and a demographics sheet. The SACL appeared to accurately assess much stress a certain situation could elicit from an individual. The results showed that participants with high self-esteem should have significantly more perceived stress than participants with low self-esteem. There was no significant difference found between a participants’ stress level when recalling a time of failure versus a time of success. As a post hoc, a test was run to determine if there was a connection between the type of parenting styles a student experienced growing up and their stress level. Having to recall certain situations may not explicitly elicit a difference in stress level, however how students feel about themselves does.

Zoee G. Forde
Kathryn Prentiss
Kirby Deater-Deckard (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Westfield State University
The Interplay of Socioeconomic Stress, Emotional Regulation, and Depression in Women with Young Children

Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness, severe despondency, anxiety, low self-worth, and isolation that can occur at any age and is contributed to problems with emotional regulation (ER). Due to potential impacts on parenting and children’s development, how depression and related contributing factors are operating in women with children is of particular interest. There’s empirical evidence, and theoretical emphasis, on the role chronic socioeconomic (SES) stressors (e.g., single parent, low income) has on maternal depression and parenting. In the current study, we examine whether there’s socioeconomic stress differences in the association between the mothers’ depressive symptoms and their various levels of emotion regulation. The sample includes a wide SES range of 153 21-52 year old mothers of 3-7yr old children living in southern urban/suburban areas. Mothers self-reported indicators of sadness, fear/anxiety, and discomfort, as well as their ER strategies of cognitive reappraisal and emotion suppression. During a lab visit, experimenters also collected heart rate variability/vagal tone information during challenging cognitive tasks; vagal tone can be used as a measure of physiological stress resistance and ER. We hypothesized that the anticipated association between poorer ER and higher depressive symptoms would be amplified in the most stressed group of mothers--meaning, those with the most SES stressors would show the strongest link between ER deficits and depressive symptoms. This may indicate the critical role that having adequate emotion regulation plays in protection from depressive symptoms, especially for women who are facing chronic parenting and SES stressors in their lives.

Brianna Mary Forte
Bonnie Strickland (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst

Authoritarianism and Well-Being after the 2016 Presidential Election

The 2016 United States Presidential Election elicited a variety of emotions in citizens across the United States. During the campaign trail, Donald Trump’s controversial rhetoric both excited and terrified citizens (e.g., his endorsement of harsher immigration laws, building a wall along the southern U.S. border). This division within the country continued upon his election into office and his subsequent inauguration. While many of these divisions fell along the lines of social groups (e.g., race, gender), personality differences may have also played a role. Specifically, perhaps people who were more authoritarian, such that they believe in the need for a stronger government, were more satisfied with Trump’s proposed policies and with the results of the election. Additionally, since they did not feel negatively affected by the outcome of the election, they may also have been experiencing greater well-being (e.g., less depressive symptoms, higher life satisfaction) overall.

In conclusion, we found that participants’ satisfaction with the election and overall well-being after the presidential election varied as a function of individual differences, specifically, authoritarianism. People who were more supportive of a stronger, rigid, and authoritative government reported greater satisfaction with the election and better well-being in comparison to those who did not support those same beliefs. 

Brianna Forte, Deborah Wu, and Jiyoung Park 

Valerie Goutama
Kaitlin Louise Parent
Vivian Ciaramitaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston
How the Emotion We See Is Influenced by the Emotion We Hear Depends on the Visibility of a Face

Kaitlin Parent, Valerie Goutama, Sarah C. Izen, and Vivian M. Ciaramitaro

Emotions can be portrayed through several modalities, including faces and voices.  We examined how the perception of emotional faces is influenced by exposure to emotional voices. Previous studies suggest exposure to a visual emotion (e.g. happy) results in an aftereffect in the opposite direction, biasing perception of a neutral face towards the opposite emotion (e.g. anger) (Rutherford et al., 2008). We used adaptation to quantify emotional processing for matched (congruent) compared to unmatched (incongruent) visual-auditory emotional stimuli. We expected stronger aftereffects for congruent versus incongruent stimuli. However, our previous work found no difference in adaptation strength between congruent and incongruent conditions. Here we modified adapting faces to be less visible by embedding them in white noise. We hypothesized this might increase multisensory integration, following the principle of inverse effectiveness which states integration should be most efficient when individual stimuli are less effective (Stein & Meredith, 1993).

During baseline, participants viewed emotionally charged faces morphed on a continuum (80% angry - 80% happy). During adaptation, participants viewed either congruent (100% happy faces in white noise and happy crowd sounds) or incongruent visuo-auditory stimuli (100 % happy faces in white noise with angry crowd sounds). For each participant, we determined the unique point where the face was judged equally happy or angry, the point of subjective equality (PSE), at baseline, then quantified changes in this PSE post-adaptation relative to baseline.

Our preliminary results suggest adapting to happy faces tends to induce stronger aftereffects when emotional voices are congruent versus incongruent. This suggests that integration of emotional information may be more effective when faces are less salient.

Monica Greenlaw
Katelyn E. Norsworthy
Benjamin Jee (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Worcester State University
Cognitive Supports for Visual Comparison in Middle-School STEM Textbooks

Formal science and math education involves learning about a host of complex topics. Student learning is often supported through the use of textbooks. These textbooks are highly visual, containing numerous images of different kinds (Mayer, 1993). Students must often compare the elements within a figure—parts of a structure, steps in a process, etc.—to glean an important abstract relationship. The present study evaluated existing textbook images with respect to their support for visual comparisons. The research team analyzed figures from the top U.S. math and science textbook publishers to identify how corresponding elements are depicted within each image. Our coding identified several factors that could help vs. hinder visual comparison, including the spatial alignment of corresponding elements, the number and type of intervening elements between corresponding elements, and color matches vs. non-matches between elements. Spatial alignment (cf. Matlen, Gentner, & Franconeri, 2014) was evaluated by identifying the primary axis, organizational layout, and placement of corresponding elements. Our coding discovered that textbook images frequently involved multiple comparisons, indicating that the figures are informationally dense and meant to convey numerous relationships to the reader. The coding also revealed substantial variability in the presence and types of cognitive supports for comparison. Some textbook images contained numerous supports for noticing and mapping relevant correspondences. Other images had qualities that could actually make visual comparison more difficult. This research raises important considerations for the design of effective visualizations in middle school math and science textbooks.

Olivia Lee Hamparsoomian
Jack Alexander Szpiler (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Westfield State University
An Exploration of Stress in the Working Student

Full-time students today face a dilemma: a student carrying a 15-credit load is expected to devote 40 hours towards class time and outside work, but they may be expected by their parents to hold part-time jobs to potentially help offset the ever-increasing cost of tuition or provide their own source of income. This expectation to devote 40 hours per week does not reflect the culture of students today, and is an expectation of an old belief system. School hours and work hours add up, and stress can result from this seemingly impossible balance of being a full-time student and part-time worker. This poster presentation will report findings of a survey based research project devoted to exploring the relationship between full-time school, part-time work, and the resulting stress. Through non-probability quota sampling of 20 college students, my survey reports on student definitions of stress, their overall length of sleep, and GPA. The research and results serve as a testament that this set of expectations should be challenged and updated so that they reflect student culture today, where students can healthily serve both as full-time students and part-time workers. With this research in mind, professors may begin to realize what students face every day: the question of how to complete all assignments successfully and on-time, have time to go to work, and truly gain a meaningful education.

Phoebe Grace Hannon
Melinda Novak (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Amherst
Probiotic Treatment of Anxious and Self-Injurious Behavior in Rhesus Macaques

Self-Injurious and anxious behaviors are problematic behavioral patterns which affect humans and non-human primates alike. These behaviors are associated with a malfunctioning of one of the body’s primary stress response systems, the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis. Research has been conducted linking the HPA axis with the gut, through what is known as the gut-brain-microbiota axis. Research conducted on mice has shown that probiotics have been effective at restoring gut health and HPA axis functioning. Though it is well-understood in mice, probiotic intervention has not yet been thoroughly investigated in humans or non-human primates. In this blind crossover experiment, rhesus macaques were treated with a multi-strain probiotic known as VSL#3. It was hypothesized that as these subjects were treated with probiotics, their anxious behavior would decrease. Anxious behavior was measured with the Novel Object test: reduced latency to inspect and manipulate novel objects indicated a reduction in anxious behavior. If VSL#3 is associated with a reduction in anxious and self-injurious behavior, this will provide evidence to support future probiotic treatment. Though future probiotic research in humans will be warranted, this experiment is an essential next step. These findings could cause immense benefits for humans and non-human primates affected by SIB, bringing us closer to effective treatment.

Lauren E. Harnedy
Katie Dixon-Gordon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst

The Role of Emotion-Regulation Difficulties in Self-Damaging Behaviors and Suicidality among a College Student Sample

Although self-damaging behaviors such as substance abuse, disordered eating, and non-suicidal self injury (NSSI) are associated with suicidality, it is unclear to what extent these factors may interact in the prediction of suicide risk. Based on the interpersonal psychological theory of suicide (Van Orden, Witte, Gordon, Bender, & Joiner, 2008), suicide risk increases in the presence of both desire for suicide and acquired capability to inflict self-injury to oneself. The aforementioned behaviors- substance abuse, disordered eating, and NSSI are likely to reflect both of these factors, and the increased engagement in such behaviors may confer greater acquired capability. As a result, we hypothesize that greater engagement in a greater number of self-damaging behaviors are associated with greater suicidality. Participants in this study are 115 university students who completed self-report measures for course credit. Regression analyses will examine this association.

Amy Higgins
Linda M. Isbell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst

Reducing the Mental Health Stigma: An Evaluation of Biogenetic Education and the Contact Hypothesis

Psychoeducation is an increasingly important approach to educating both those affected by mental illness and the general public. Education and advocacy are key elements in reducing mental health stigma, but the messages may sometimes have unintended negative consequences. My study aims to evaluate these messages and discover the best ways to present information about mental illness to reduce stigma. Specifically, we are testing the effectiveness of pairing a biogenetic educational video with a video showing people with mental illnesses discussing their disorders (contact video) in reducing stigma. 128 undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to view a TED Talk on mental illness (education condition) or a TED Talk on an irrelevant topic (control condition), and then were randomly assigned to either the contact video (contact condition) or to no video (control). Pre and post stigma levels were compared using questionnaires and responses to vignettes. Data collection is in progress, and results will be available soon. We hypothesize that pairing a biogenetic educational video with a contact video will produce a positive change in attitudes towards mental illness from baseline compared to no videos or the two videos separately.  Such findings are expected to have important implications in how public service announcements and educational materials are designed and delivered in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.  

Nicolette Cooper Husselbee
Michael J. Greenstein (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University
The Effects of Anger on Eyewitness Identification in a Lineup

Eyewitness testimony is often a critical component of deciding whether a suspect is innocent or guilty. There is ongoing scrutiny over the accuracy of eyewitness reports, given the frequency and consequences of false accusations of innocent people. As non-pristine conditions during eyewitness lineup identification adversely affect the predictive relationship between confidence and accuracy (Wixted and Wells, 2017) it is important to investigate a range of factors which may affect the condition of the identification process, such as emotion. Despite that the most commonly experienced emotion after a crime is anger (Ingram, 2002; Orth & Maercker, 2009), there is a lack of research on its role in memory in a forensic context and its effect on the quality of the identification procedure. The current study is an online experiment which utilized Amazon's Mechanical Turk for participant recruitment in order to examine the effects of anger on the relationship between eyewitness confidence and accuracy. Participants assigned to induced anger or emotionally neutral conditions were asked to watch a filmed mock robbery and then make a subsequent lineup identification. We discuss how anger interacts with participant memory for the perpetrator’s face and to what degree this emotion ought to be taken into consideration in a forensic context. This work begins to fill the current gap in literature on the effects of anger on eyewitness identification confidence and accuracy as well as aiding in increasing the validity of the current identification process.

Kristen Jernberg
Markiyah C. Bullard
Dawn Vreven (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University
Effects of Skin Tone and Shirt Color on Perceived Attractiveness

The purpose of the study was to explore if skin tone and shirt color effects perceived attractiveness. This was a 2 (skin tone: dark or light) X 2 (shirt color: red or blue) between-subjects factorial design. Participants included 80 Framingham State University students. Participants were given a survey that contained a photograph of a model whose skin tone was manipulated, a background story, attractiveness measures adapted from McCroskey and McCain (1974), and demographic questions. The attractiveness measures included measures of task, social, and physical attractiveness. We hypothesized that participants would perceive the model with the red shirt as more attractive than the model in the blue shirt. Moreover, we hypothesized that participants would perceive the lighter skinned model as more attractive than the darker skinned model.

Thalia M. Jimenez
Olivia Genevieve Reardon
Bridgett Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Situational Comedy: An Analysis of Friends and Contributing Factors of Humor

This literature review examined multiple resources to reveal the contributing factors of the success of the situational comedy Friends. The resources provided in this review further explore the progression of sitcoms, theories behind humor, and the success of Friends. The Incongruity and Superiority Theory was used to examine the humor in four episodes. The success of Friends was discussed by analyzing multiple contributing factors. The relatability of being independent for the first time and laugh tracks were examined as potential components of success. Friends was the first sitcom to revolve around a friends-dynamic, straying from the family-type dynamic that was previously present. All of these elements were considered when analyzing and discussing the success and humor within the situational comedy Friends.

Newton Jordao
Vivian Ciaramitaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston

Video Gamers Outperform Non-video Gamers in Cross-modal Attention

Attention allows the mind to selectively focus on or ignore stimuli in the environment. Some studies show attention is a shared resource across the senses: allocating more attention to one modality, ie., vision, yields less attention to another modality, i.e., audition. Ciaramitaro and colleagues (2017) found that as visual load, or visual task difficulty, decreased, performance on a concurrent auditory task improved. Studies also find improved visual performance in video-gamers compared to non-gamers (Castel,, 2005; Strobach,, 2012). Here we examined how changing visual attention demands affect auditory attention, crossmodal attention, by measuring auditory performance in video gamers compared to non-video-gamers.

Participants performed two concurrent tasks. In the visual task, participants were presented with a rapid visual stream of 5 letters in each of two intervals. In the low visual load condition, they reported which interval contained white letters. In the high load, they reported which interval contained more of the letter ‘A’. In the concurrent auditory task, they reported which interval contained a modulated sound. We examined changes in auditory performance as the visual task demanded more or less attention. Auditory performance was quantified by estimating the auditory stimulus supporting 75% correct performance, auditory threshold, for each of the two visual load conditions. We hypothesized that video-gaming experience improves crossmodal attention, diminishing differences in auditory performance with changing visual task demands for video gamers compared to non-gamers.

Our preliminary results support our hypothesis: video-gamers show smaller differences in auditory thresholds as visual task demands increase compared to non-gamers. Our results support and extend previous studies, suggesting that video-game playing enhances not only visual attention but also attention across our visual and auditory senses, crossmodal attention.

Sanjana Kadirvel
Micayla Ann Gifford
Linda M. Isbell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Hindrances in the Hiring Process

In a society dictated by achievements, if is often difficult to determine if a person’s qualifications for a job are the result of their actual achievements, or are tainted by biases imposed by a job candidate's cultural background.  The professional field is currently flooded with gifted individuals of tremendous diversity, but prior research has demonstrated that some individuals are perceived to be more or less qualified than they truly are simply because of their race.  This study explores the possible biases in hiring decisions when immigrant job candidates have different accents, revealing different cultural backgrounds.  To investigate this, we conducted an experiment in which Caucasian participants were randomly assigned to listen to an audio-recorded interview (with identical content) with one of four job candidates with mixed (i.e., ambiguous) qualifications: (1) an Asian male immigrant with an Indian accent, (2) an African male immigrant with an African accent, (3) a European (Caucasian) male immigrant with a British accent, or (4) a Caucasian American male (control condition).  We hypothesized that the immigrant of Asian decent will be perceived more favorably than the immigrant of African decent, who will be perceived least favorably.  These perceptions are expected to impact hiring decisions.  Competing predictions were made for the Caucasian job applicants and will be evaluated.  Data collection is currently in progress.  The results of this study promise to shed light on the effects of an often-neglected variable (candidate accents) on perceptions of job candidates, and will hopefully inform hiring practices.


Niharika Kareddy
Youngbin Kwak (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Behavioral Mechanisms of Human Impulsive Behaviors during Decision Making 

Dopamine is a central nervous system neurotransmitter that acts within the striatum and prefrontal cortex; thus, it is responsible for our ability to learn from outcomes and make reward-based decisions. Eyeblink rate (EBR) has been found to be a noninvasive measure of dopamine function at rest in the brain; thus, EBR could be used to study a person’s reward motivated decision-making behavior. Prior literature has demonstrated that higher EBR has been found to be associated with higher dopamine function at rest, more impulsive behavior and less inhibitory control. In this study, we studied differences in EBR among younger and older adults in order to determine whether individual differences in dopamine levels account for performance in reward-based decision-making tasks. The current study aims to study around 50 undergraduate students and 20 adults, ranging from 50-85 years old.  The tasks used included a computerized speed-rewarded Go/NoGo task, a task that measured risk and ambiguity preference and behavioral questionnaires. We also tracked resting EBR using novel eye-tracking glasses designed by the computer science department which are able to detect pupil dilation and blinking. Thus, the tasks captured EBR, impulsiveness, inhibitory control, and economic decision-making measures. We look to correlate these measures to differences in eye blink rate to understand if there are any differences in dopamine levels and/or how decision-making changes between young and old adults. This can shed light on how and why people tend to approach decision making differently as they age.

Kristen M. Keenan
Deborah McMakin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University

Undergraduates’ Perceptions of Marijuana Use: Do Gender and Usage Matter?

Marijuana, considered a gateway drug, is associated with memory impairment. Stereotypes of male marijuana smokers as forgetful “stoners” are common in the media and marijuana has been legalized in some states. Research on gender differences and memory is not clear.  Thus, the goal of this study was to examine the perceived influence of marijuana and gender on memory, seriousness of memory impairment and use of memory aid devices. It was hypothesized that marijuana users would have more memory problems than marijuana non-smokers. One hundred and nineteen participants received one of four different scenarios depicting a male or female marijuana user or non-marijuana user. Participants then completed measures of memory, seriousness of forgetting and memory aid use. Results indicated scenario marijuana smokers were perceived to have worse long-term memory than nonsmokers. The study’s limitations consisted of having a sample size of mostly white Caucasian males who identified as nonsmokers. Future research should investigate a diverse group of gender and ethnicity, as well as having equal groups of smokers and nonsmokers. 

Connor Robert Kennedy
Alissa Katelyn Smith
Lynn Shelley (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Westfield State University
Color and Emotion Association

The researchers set out to find the underlying reason for the emotional association to color, hypothesizing that an individual’s personal experiences are the most influential factor affecting the emotional association to color. The study consisted of a convenience sample of 50 college-aged participants responding to a researcher-led interview involving the colors red, yellow, green, blue, black, and white. The data supported the hypothesis, demonstrating that 5 out of the 6 inquired colors elicited responses demonstrating the presence of personal experience influence on the emotional association to color. The current research suggests implications and applications for color and emotion associations on college campuses. The research may extend to other demographics, but there is no certainty. 

Ravindri Thakshila Kulatunga
Maureen Perry-Jenkins (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Understanding Stress during the Prenatal Period

The proposed research is part of a larger, community-based intervention aimed at reducing prenatal stress and depression among a low-income sample of first-time parents. Previous research has shown that stress in the perinatal period plays a significant role in adverse birth outcomes, maternal mental health and future child development.  Less is known about how different types of stress assessments, meaning self-reported stress (assessed through questionnaires), chronic stress (assessed through hair samples), and diurnal stress patterns (assessed through saliva) are related to each other.  In addition, few studies have addressed how these indices of stress are interrelated during the prenatal period. The proposed research addresses some of these gaps in our knowledge. The first goal of this research is to examine the feasibility of assessing biomarkers and self-report measures of stress among low-income, first-time mothers and fathers. For example, how compliant are participants in collecting hair cortisol measures, salivary cortisol samples and self-report measures. The second goal is to develop user-friendly, on-line tutorial videos to teach expectant parents to collect their own samples and, in so doing, increase compliance and feasibility.  The final goal will be to examine the relationship between parents’ self-reports of stress and hair cortisol levels during the prenatal period. We currently have preliminary data on 8 couples participating in the intervention and plan to collect data on 16 more couples in the intervention group and 24 couples in a control condition.

Brianna Nicole LaFlash
Deborah McMakin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Combatting “Trans”gression: Perceptions of Violence toward Transgender Individuals Based on Gender Identity and Race

There are an estimated one million plus overall transgender adults living within the United States, many of whom are often subject to multiple forms of violence, including harassment and assault. Those rates of harassment and discrimination increase for transgender individuals if they are also a racial minority. In this study, the researcher examined the perceptions people have about violence toward transgender individuals based on their gender (transgender male-to-female, transgender female-to-male) and racial identity (White, Black, Latinx). There were 182 undergraduate participants, 33% of whom were men, 64.3% were women, and 1.6% identified as non-binary or a third gender. The majority of participants identified as Caucasian (55.8%), while 17.6% identified as African-American/Black, 11.6% as Hispanic/Latinx, 9.4% as Multiracial, and 5.6% as another race. Participants completed a scenario-based questionnaire measuring likelihood to intervene in a situation of transgender-based harassment on a public subway. Results showed no statistically significant difference in likelihood to intervene based on the gender identity of the harassed individual, nor was there a significant interaction between gender identity and race. However, there was a statistically significant main effect for race, such that participants were reported being least likely to intervene in a situation where the harassed individual was Latinx. Findings from this study could help identify challenges with transgender-based violence intervention, as well as aiding in a deeper understanding of struggles at the intersections of various minority identities.

Jillian Elizabeth Lake
Deborah McMakin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University

The Effect of Gender and Feminist Affiliations on Hiring Likelihood

Both popular and scientific literature has indicated that negative stigma towards feminists exists. Additionally, previous research has addressed that both identified gender and identified feminism, individually encourage discrimination at the workplace. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of both gender and feminist affiliations on likelihood to hire. Participants included 120 undergraduates who were randomly assigned to read one of the four resume conditions depicting a male or female whose leadership experience was in a group that was feminist affiliated or not. Participants completed measures on likelihood to hire, perceived weakness, and perceived stereotypical gender traits. It was hypothesized that applicant’s with feminist affiliations would be less likely to be hired than applicant’s whose resumes did not include feminist affiliations. After examining how stereotypical feminine and masculine traits are perceived at the workplace, researchers predicted that there would be differences in perceived femininity and masculinity among males and females who do and do not identify as a feminist. As expected, gender and feminist affiliation on a resume influenced the applicant’s perceived femininity. Male non-feminist were viewed as having the lowest stereotypical feminine traits compared to female non-feminist and male feminist, but not the female with the feminist affiliation. Unexpectedly, females with feminist affiliations were not perceived to have more stereotypical masculine traits than females without feminist affiliations or males.  Finally, results show that despite the condition, all applicants were likely to be hired for the entry level job. Implications are discussed.

Xenia Leviyah
Vivian Ciaramitaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston

Interactions between Stimulus Salience and Timing Determine the Extent to Which a Sound Alters Visual Detectability

Multisensory information arising from a single event is integrated across our different senses. Previous literature has revealed that the magnitude of integration depends on stimulus salience and varies with stimulus synchronicity. Here we explore how synchronicity and salience interact to optimize and disrupt the integration of visual and auditory information.

Participants viewed images on a monitor, while auditory stimuli were presented right and left of monitor center via speakers. A visual stimulus, a Gabor patch, was presented left or right of monitor center, pulsating at 1Hz from monitor background to different levels of maximum contrast, which varied from trial to trial. The auditory stimulus, a white noise, also pulsated at 1Hz from no sound to some maximum loudness, 5 saliences which varied from trial to trial. Stimuli were presented either in-phase (IP), out-of-phase (OP), or with no sound to determine visual baseline (B). Participants indicated they detected the visual stimulus via an eye movement, recorded using a Tobii eye tracker. All conditions were randomly interleaved.

We expected improved visual detectability, quantified as a lower threshold, in IP compared to OP, with largest improvements at mid-level salience, and weakest improvements at the smallest and largest salience. Given variability, data was split based on whether IP enhanced detectability relative to B at mid-level salience, where we expected the strongest effects.

Preliminary results revealed maximal IP compared to OP benefit at the mid-level salience in participants where IP was beneficial relative to B. However, we found the opposite, maximal OP compared to IP benefit at this same salience, in participants where IP was detrimental relative to B. Further research is needed to understand factors underlying individual differences.

William Frederick Lougee Rodriguez
Jeffrey Starns (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Finding the Most Efficient Way of Teaching Bayesian Reasoning

Bayesian Reasoning is a form of thinking where someone updates the probability that a hypothesis is true based on new information. The extent to which new information changes existing beliefs is based on the ratio of two probabilities: the probability of observing the new information if the hypothesis is true versus false. For example, learning that someone owns a piano increases the probability that they know how to read music, because people who can read music are more likely to own a piano than people who cannot. The most effective way of learning and implementing Bayesian Reasoning has yet to be determined. Bayesian Reasoning is usually explained in terms of a mathematical equation, but Bayesian problems can also be solved in terms of spatial relationships in a visual display. In this experiment, participants were instructed in the visual technique and then they attempted to discover the structure of the underlying mathematical equation without further instruction.  Results will show whether learning the visual technique makes the underlying math more intuitive to students, even to the point that they can figure it out on their own without direct instruction.

Kylie E. Macintyre
Jennifer Stevens
Dawn Vreven (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University

The Effect of Gender and Sexual-Assault Severity on Perception of Self-Esteem

In the recent years there has been an increased focus on sexual assaults on college campuses. The purpose of this experiment is to examine whether men or women perceive the severity of a sexual assault differently, and to measure perceptions of the victim’s self-esteem. This study is a 2 (participant gender: male or female) X 2 (sexual assault severity: low or high) between-subjects design. First, equal numbers of male and female undergraduate participants will read a scenario of either a high or low severity sexual assault case. Then participants will then be asked several questions on the self-esteem of the victim. It is hypothesized that the female participants will perceive the self-esteem of the victim higher than the male participants. Also it is hypothesized that participants exposed to the high severity  sexual assault scenario will have lower scores on the perceived self-esteem of the victim.

Zara Mahmood
Brian Lickel (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
The Dehumanization of Immigrants and Refugees

Throughout its history, the United States has become a home to millions of immigrants but immigrants are nonetheless often met with discrimination and prejudice. One form of prejudice is dehumanization (i.e., ascribing “less than human” traits to people). Prior research has found that dehumanization often leads to discriminatory behavior towards immigrants but has not examined how the type of immigrant influences dehumanization. This is an important gap because the reason for migration influences people’s attitudes towards immigrants (Verkuyten, 2005).  My research addresses a gap in the current research and investigates the extent people dehumanize immigrants based on whether they came to the United States voluntarily (i.e. economic interests) or as a refugee escaping from persecution. Study 1 of the project was a comparative survey in which participants were asked to rate to what extent refugees and voluntary immigrants and refugees experience a variety of emotions. In addition participants were asked to what extent they believed a series of characteristics applied to refugees and voluntary immigrants, their personal feelings towards them and their support for immigrant policies as well. The study found that people tend to assign more human-like traits to  voluntary immigrants rather than refugees. The study also found that political attitudes predict people's’ attitudes towards immigration policy. The results from this study help identify what groups are more dehumanized and help understand people’s attitudes towards migrants coming into the United States.

Cassandra J. Matias
Dawn Vreven (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University
The Human-Animal Interaction Study: Do People Prefer Animals over Humans?

 The purpose of this study is to investigate whether participants are more willing to help an animal during an accident than other humans. To test this hypothesis, 100 participants will be exposed to a photograph and a scenario related to a hit and run scene. The experimental design is a 2 (victim: human or animal) X 2 (familiarity: yes or no) between-subjects design.  The scenario will describe the victim of the accident as being either a familiar person or not (the participant's sister or a stranger) or a familiar dog or not (the participant's own dog or a strange dog). Participants will then fill out three questionnaires: The Willingness to Help scale, The Pet Attachment scale, and The Human Attachment scale. We hypothesize that participants who are exposed to the scenario of a familiar person or pet will be more likely to help than participants who are exposed to the scenario of an unfamiliar person or pet.

Courtney Marie McMahon
Joonkoo Park (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Neural Sensitivity to Numerical and Non-numerical Magnitudes Contributing to Mathematical Competence

When presented with the choice of two check-out lines at the grocery store, one will contemplate which line will be faster by making an approximation, not by explicitly counting the number of people or groceries in each line. This capacity to estimate numerical quantity is thought to play a fundamental role in acquiring skills dealing with symbolic quantitative concepts and different subdivisions of math skills, especially in young children. In this study, a novel approach was utilized using electroencephalography (EEG) in children between the ages of 5 and 12 to measure and individually analyze objective measurements of the representation of number, size, or spacing of a dot array.  The same children later performed a series of mathematical competence tests that measured abilities from different disciplines of math, including arithmetic and geometry. The neural signatures and behavioral data were compared for each of these tests in order to determine whether or not the neural sensitivity to number and other non-numerical magnitudes can serve as predictors for performance on behavioral math tests. It is predicted that neural signatures to spacing will contribute to performance in geometry ability, whereas neural signatures to number will contribute to arithmetic ability. This would suggest a contribution of neural sensitivity to numerical and non-numerical magnitudes to mathematic performance, specifically the relationship of children's implicit encoding of numerosity and spacing in the visual cortex of dot arrays with how well children perform arithmetic and geometry. 

Stephanie Moraes
Rhiana Wegner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston

How Various Motives are Associated with Attempts to Determine One’s Relationship Status and Jealousy-Induction Intentions in Early Developing Relationships

Jealousy induction occurs frequently (84%) in romantic relationships (Mattingly et al., 2012). Partners use various tactics to induce jealousy, including: talking about past or current relationships, flirting, dating or sexual contact with others, and lying about potential others (Fleischmann et al., 2005). Jealousy induction is motivated more by situational goals than characteristics of the relationship or individual (Sheets et el., 1997). A situational goal for early developing relationships is determining one’s relationship status. We examine the relationships between jealousy induction, motives and “secret tests” usage to reduce uncertainty about one’s relationship status (Baxter & Wilmot, 1984). College students (n=263, 54% women) completed an online survey with Mattingly et al.’s (2014) Jealousy Induction and Motives for Inducing Jealousy Scales and the Secret Test Scale (Wegner et al., under review). Motives were positively correlated with jealousy induction and secret test usage, with the exception of directness tests (i.e., directly ask partner about status). The motive to strengthen the relationship was the strongest and most consistent predictor across the 7 secret test regression analyses. The power/control motive predicted triangle tests (flirt with someone else to see if they get upset). The revenge motive predicted separation tactics (e.g., waiting for other person to call first). Results support previous research indicating jealousy induction is most often used to strengthen one’s relationship. This is among the first studies to examine jealousy induction in early relationship stages. Future research should also consider the number of dates and relationship length in relation to secret tests and jealousy induction.

Mayara Belli Moreira
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Factors That Contribute to Goal Achievement and Goal Failure 

    When it comes to the discussion of goal achievement, there are many people who have successfully accomplished goals, while many other people have quickly given up on their goals when faced with an obstacle, a difficulty, or an inconvenience. Often people set goals for themselves, and sometimes these goals are easily achievable, while other times, goals require more hard work and dedication. Approximately 5 successful entrepreneurs will be identified and interviewed. With a series of structured interview questions, the present study aims to unveil some of the underlying reasons tied to goal failure and goal achievement among successful entrepreneurs such as emotional wellbeing, self-sabotaging techniques, and fears that are tied to goal chasing. The expected results of the study may show common internal factors and motivators that contribute to the success or failure of goals. These results will allow people who have set goals, to understand where they currently are in life and what needs to be changed in order to properly nourish goals. It will also help people with goals understand how to properly set goals that will bring success more frequently. 

Erinda Morina
Nicolas Raymond
Vivian Ciaramitaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston

Maintained Negative Biases in Social Anxiety via Biased Adaptation to Happy and Angry Faces Depends on Face Gender

Interpreting the emotions conveyed in faces is a crucial component of social interactions. Yet, our perception of faces is influenced by factors such as face gender. For example, Becker and colleagues (2007) found angry-male faces were detected faster and more accurately than female faces. In the current study, we used a face adaptation paradigm to investigate the processing of happy and angry male and female faces. Repeated exposure to a positive or negative emotion, can alter perception of subsequent faces: after exposure to negative faces, emotionally neutral faces are perceived as more positive. We tested emotional adaptation in high (HSA) and low (LSA) individuals. We predicted HSA individuals might remain vigilant and sensitized towards negative emotions, because of weaker adaption to negative emotions, and/or stronger adaptation to positive faces. Furthermore, we expected them to adapt less to anger for male vs female faces, since male faces are perceived as more threatening, and to adapt more to happy female vs male faces. We quantified adaptation strength, each participant’s point of subjective equality (PSE), where a face is equally likely to be judged angry or happy, and the shift in PSE post-adaptation relative to baseline for male and female faces. Our preliminary results support our hypotheses. Compared to LSA, HSA individuals tend to show weaker adaption to angry male faces while also showing stronger adaptation to happy female faces. 

Martha T. Murphy
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Religion, Family Size, Life Satisfaction

In the present time, large families are rare and come with unique challenges and benefits. Religion, especially Catholicism, can often be a predictor of larger family size. Religion observance and higher levels of religiosity correlates with higher life satisfaction (Steger & Frasier, 2005). In the current study, approximately 50 participants from highly religious large families, defined as 4 to more children, will complete a self-report questionnaire regarding their experience as a member of a large family. In addition, assessments religiosity, overall satisfaction with life, and other personal information will be collected. The expected results are that highly religious participants from large families will have higher levels of life satisfaction, and identify more benefits than challenges with being in a large families. This study aims to clarify whether there are positive experiences of people from large families who are also highly religious, and to assess their overall life satisfaction.

Thansuda Namsena
Deborah McMakin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University

Perceived Support Systems and Academic Motivation of Employed Undergraduates

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether being a commuter or a resident student and number of weekly work hours were associated with undergraduate students’ academic achievement, academic motivation and support systems. Past research has shown personality types and being the first generation of attending college play a role in academic motivation. Furthermore, stress level has been found to be associated with students’ academic motivation, especially for commuters because they tend to work more hours than on-campus residents. Even though there were many studies on academic achievement and motivation and support systems, there is still a lack of research investigating students’ perceptions of academic achievement and motivation in relation to employment and commuter or on-campus resident status. For this study, participants included 120 undergraduate students from a small state school. Participants were assigned one of four different scenario depicting a college who was either an on-campus resident or a commuter, and worked on average, 25 or 15 hours per week. Participants then completed measures of the scenario character's support systems and academic motivation. The researcher hypothesized that the commuter scenario character working 25 hours per week, would be perceived to have less support systems  and more academic motivation than the commuter character working 15 hours per week and the resident working 15 or 25 hours per week.  Results indicated no perceived differences in academic motivation or social support across conditions. Study limitations as well as implications for student motivation and expectations are discussed.

Emmanuella Nei
Trust Opara
Rhiana Wegner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston
Racial/Ethnic Group Comparisons of Drinking Game Behaviors

Research shows that across race/ethnicity, White students are more likely to play drinking games (DGs) than racial/ethnic minority students (Zamboanga et al, 2009). This current study aims to extend previous research by examining how DG type, alcohol type, frequency, and quantity differ between Whites and persons of color (POC) to address the limitations in past research. Current data analyses are based on survey data from 165 male college students, ages 18-30, who play DGs. 74% identified as White, 16% as Asian/Pacific Islander (API), and 10% as Hispanic/Latino. Data collection is ongoing; however, the observed proportions of minority students who play DGs are consistent with previous research (Pedersen & LaBrie, 2006). Results indicted beer was the most common drink consumed during DGs across groups. Hispanic/Latino men were more likely to consume shots during DGs than White men and White men were more likely to have played Beer Pong, compared to API men. Groups significantly differed in the total number of drinks typically consumed during consumption games; White men consumed significantly more than API men. Consistent with previous research, we found relatively few between group differences (LaBrie et al., 2012). Future research should consider community, school (same/different-ethnicity role models and friend group composition) and individual-level risk factors (academic standing, school commitment, and impulsivity) which may impact minority college student’s DG behavior (Bersamin et al., 2005; Cleveland et al., 2005).

Kevyna D.H. Nolen
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Differential Perceptions of Judgement Based on Race

            Perception is a key component of society. As people age, they become better critical thinkers. We start to think about judgements bestowed upon us and we engage in judging others. A large factor in society is the notion of race. This is used to unfairly judge the people around us. One important aspect is to understand how a person perceives another to judge them. Once this is understood one can start to think about how this can potentially be detrimental to our growth as individuals and as a society. A two-assessment scenario-based questionnaire was given to approximately 80 Framingham State University students consisting of 50% African-Americans and 50% Caucasian students. The expected results are that those who think that individuals of a different race judge them poorly will begin to, in return, attribute negative qualities to that entire race. These negative attributes will then urge people to only form relationships with people they can identify with racially. This study will help to understand the underlying factors that encourage people to negatively link behaviors of one individual from a certain race to all individuals belonging to that race. 

Kaosisochukwu Onochie
Keith Welker (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston
Trait Mindfulness Predicts Positive Emotionality and Social Enjoyment in Zero-Acquaintance Dyadic Conversations

Mindfulness entails self-regulating attention to bring awareness towards one’s lived experiences whilst adopting an orientation denoted by openness, acceptance and curiosity. It is usually examined in relation to its effects on intrapersonal qualities (e.g. anxiety, stress) and as a tool for psychotherapy, but little work has focused on its interpersonal effects. The current study examines how trait mindfulness predicts the quality of interpersonal interactions. After assessing trait mindfulness, 70 same-sex, zero-acquaintance dyads interacted in a high vs. low self-disclosure setting and afterwards completed a measure of closeness, self-disclosure, responsiveness, enjoyment of interaction and affect. The actor-partner interdependence model (APIM) was used for dyadic analysis. Results of the study showed mindfulness predicted responsiveness whereas partner mindfulness predicted enjoyment of interaction. Both actor and partner mindfulness predicted more positive emotionality following the interaction. Findings of the study highlight the contribution of mindfulness on relationship quality in addition to personal wellbeing.

Trust Opara
Rhiana Wegner (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston
Is Aggression toward Women Linked to Revenge-Seeking or Not Being Able to Appropriately Express One’s Emotions, Particularly Post-rejection?

Rejection can elicit a wide range of revenge or retaliatory responses from the offended (Downey, Feldman, & Ayduk, 2000). While this can take many forms, we examine the link to sexual assault. Men who adhere to hypermasculine gender roles are more prone to aggress against women. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between restricted emotionality (a masculine gender role norm) and revenge with sexual assault history in a survey sample, and in a lab rejection-aggression paradigm (Hot Sauce Allocation Paradigm; HSAP). It is hypothesized that revenge motives and restricted emotionality will be positively correlated with both measures of aggression. Undergraduate college men (n = 293, ages 21-28) completed an online survey; 55 completed a subsequent lab experiment, which included an experimentally manipulated rejection from a ‘dating partner’ (female confederate with whom they had a 10 min conversation; 50% rejected, 50% accepted future date request) and the HSAP. The amount of hot sauce given to the woman, despite knowing she doesn’t like hot sauce, was an indication of ost-rejection aggression. There was a positive correlation between both restricted emotionality and revenge with total number of sexual assaults perpetrated, in our survey data; however only revenge was a significant predictor in the regression model.  When both restricted emotionality and revenge were entered into a GZLM (with gamma distribution to address skewness), again, only revenge was a significant positive predictor. Future research should consider how other masculine gender roles norms relate to men’s aggression toward women.

Corinne Ouellette
Thomas A. Daniel (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Westfield State University
Comparing the Effects of Auditory, Visual, and Taste Stimuli on Working Memory

Past research has explored human memory for visual and aural experiences, but much less is currently known about other senses and our memory for them.  The current study compares working memory (i.e., the ability to temporarily store information over a short period of time) for sights, sounds, and tastes.  Using an N-back task, participants were tested for their memory of visual, auditory, and taste cues at varying delays.  Accuracy was highest for auditory and lowest for taste.  As the delay length increased, working memory performance also decreased.  These findings show that while sights, sounds, and tastes may have different rates of accuracy, they all conform to qualitatively similar patterns of recognition and interference.

Lindsey M. Parent
Phoebe Lin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University

The Effects of Power Posing on Cognitive and Behavioral Performance

Power posing is generally known as a way in which individuals orient their bodies into a dominant or “stretched out” stance in order to boost their confidence in stressful or anxious situations. The purpose of this study was to examine the ways that participants who used power posing may enhance levels of confidence in relation to the participants performance on the Stroop task versus a rest group who did not engage in any power poses. Participants were asked to record their answers to a fifteen slide Stroop task created specifically for this study, and then they were given a brief survey that involved self-reporting levels of confidence and self-esteem as well as related questions about time spent on hair, makeup, and typical attire. Results showed that there were no significant effects in terms of the use of power posing in relation to confidence or self-esteem. The only significant effect that was found was the power posing group performed slightly better than the rest group in terms of the number of correct answers on the Stroop task.

Anna F. Paterson
Alexandra Jesse (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Predicting How Words Continue: Can Knowledge about Permissible Sound Combinations Speed Up Spoken-Word Recognition? 

Every language has constraints in regard to which speech sounds can co-occur. For example, in English, /s/ can be followed by /l/, but not by /r/. Language users implicitly acquire these phonotactic constraints when learning a new language. We tested whether adults can use such newly learned constraints to speed up word recognition. During exposure, participants will hear words from an artificial language while also seeing four pictures displayed on a computer screen. Due to feedback, participants will learn which picture each novel word refers to. Critically, all novel words are constrained as to which consonants can co-occur. Participants learning the same-place language will hear words with two consonants that have the same place of articulation (e.g., peapa). Participants learning the different-place language will hear words with two consonants differing in their place of articulation (e.g., peaka). At test, all participants hear other novel labels, while their eye movements to printed words are tracked. Critically, two of these printed words are identical except for their second consonant (e.g., peaka vs. peapa). If participants use newly-learned constraints to predict the identity of the word, then – while hearing the first syllable, that is, before hearing the disambiguating second consonant – listeners should fixate more on the item that satisfies the constraint in the language they had learned than on the one that violates the constraint. This result would show that phonotactic constraints allow listeners to predict how a word continues, hence speeding up word recognition.

Jillian Cassidy Pellegrini
Deborah McMakin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Parenting Styles and Parental Modeling of Alcohol Consumption in Relation to College Student Drinking

College is a time of transition and change and for many, ignites a sense of freedom from authority figures such as parents. Once on their own, college students may take advantage of their new freedom by utilizing the coping behaviors that have been modeled by parents and authority figures such as drinking alcohol or reject them. The present study will examine college students' drinking behaviors in relation to their experiences with parenting styles (authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful) and parental modeling of alcohol consumption. The study will also examine the perceived effects of parental modeling of alcohol use and parenting style on drinking behavior. It is predicted that participants will perceive the character with parents who use alcohol to cope to consume alcohol more frequently than those who are not exposed to alcohol use. Furthermore, participants will perceive neglectful parents to have a weaker relationship with their parents than the other three parenting styles. For participants, parental modeling of alcohol consumption will be positively correlated with participant alcohol consumption.  Expectations for coping with the transition to college and parenting styles will be discussed.

Marissa L. Pereira
Shelly Nardi
Dawn Vreven (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University
The Effect of Word Length and Repetition on Memory

Memory is the ability for the mind to remember information. It is widely known that repetition can help improve memory and the ability to recall information. This study focuses on how word length and repetition affects ability to recall information. The study is a 2 (word length: three letters or six letters) X 2 (repetition: once or five times) mixed-factor design, with word length as a within-subjects variable and repetition as a between-subjects variable.  The word list contains 40 words, exactly half of which are three letters long with the other half being six letters long. Approximately 100 participants will either be exposed to each word once for five seconds, or they will be exposed to each word five times for one second each. The order of word presentation is randomized; for the five exposure repetition condition, the same randomized order is presented for each repetition. This design keeps the total exposure time for each word constant across repetition conditions. The dependent variable is the number of words correctly recalled in any order. It is expected that those who rehearse the word list five times will recall more words than those who rehearse the word list only once. It is also expected that the three letter words will be easier to recall than the six letter words. Finally, it is expected that those who rehearse the word list five times will recall more of the six letter words than those who rehearse the word list only once.

Riana Michelle Quinn
Jenny Olin Shanahan (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Academic Affairs, Bridgewater State University

The Role of Social Support in Academic Outcomes for First-Generation and Continuing-Generation College Students at Bridgewater State University

The achievement gap for first-generation college students in higher education exists in part due to differences in class culture that account for the ways students interact with the university’s resources. Significant research highlights the importance of social support in relation to academic outcomes for college students. The purpose of this study was to better understand students’ support network in relation to engagement with university resources and academics at Bridgewater State University (BSU). Additionally, comparisons were done for students who were identified as first-generation (FG) and continuing-generation (CG) students. The project consisted of two parts: an online survey study and an interview study. The survey examined the perceived level of support from family, friends, and peers in relation to use of institutional resources and academic outcomes. The results of the correlation analyses indicate social and academic support from friends to be significant and positively correlated with learning outcomes. Findings revealed higher levels of campus social and academic support to be positively correlated with learning and overall GPA.  Additional analysis showed no significant difference in the relationships when comparing for FG and CG status. Pairwise comparisons between support source and support type revealed students feel significantly more academic and social support from family and friends compared to campus. The interview study was conducted with a smaller sample of FG students to gain insight into their experiences as the first in their families to attend college. The goal was to understand areas the university may better support its students, and to create more equal opportunities for academic success. Future research could further explore support from campus and the relationship between engagement with faculty and learning outcomes.


Steve J. Rose
Brandi Silver (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Worcester State University

Student Service Members/Veterans at Worcester State University: Sense of Support, Strategies for Learning, and Adjustment to College

Military downsizing following the close of large scale operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to a period of increased college enrollment of student service members and veterans (SSM/V) (Rumann and Hamrick, 2010; Sander, 2012). These students share many traits with non-traditional students that impede their transition and adjustment to college, and both groups are less likely to complete college than traditional undergraduates (Horn and Carroll, 1996; Horn and Premo, 1995; Pellegrino and Hoggan, 2015). This study compared SSM/V to traditional and non-traditional students in three areas: Sense of support, adjustment to college, and motivated strategies for learning. This is a quasi-experiment, where the quasi-independent variable is the type of student, with three conditions: student service members / veterans, traditional undergraduate students, and non-traditional students. Participants included 122 university students, aged 18 through 68, including 29 SSM/V, 33 non-traditional students, and 60 traditional undergraduates. Dependent variables were measured by the Sense of Support Scale (Dolbier and Steinhardt, 2000), the Student Adjustment to College Questionnaire (Baker and Siryk, 1989), and the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (Pintrich and De Groot, 1990). An independent samples t-test will be performed to evaluate the differences between groups of students in their sense of support, adjustment to college, and motivated strategies for learning. The findings will contribute to our understanding of how the SSM/V community adjusts to college, and could be used to help colleges better serve the SSM/V community in their transition from military to academia. 

Caroline Elana Schlossberg
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Noise Disturbances and Attention Affecting Performance and Anxiety

Attention is an important part of how people function on tasks in their everyday lives. One study examined if noise and time of day affects attention and if noise and anxiety affects attention (Smith, 1991). To add onto that research, the present study aims to investigate if a noise disturbance will cause attention to be undivided or divided; as well as if the attention will affect performance, through accuracy and speed, and induce anxiety. The study will consist of approximately 100 students from Framingham State University. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of four groups: a non-proctored setting with noise disturbance, a proctored setting with noise disturbance, a non-proctored setting with no noise disturbance, and a proctored setting with no noise disturbance. In each setting, participants were assigned the same three minute math exam with multiplication problems. After three minutes, participants stop the exam and will answer questions on their demographics and a collection of questionnaires such as the Achievement Anxiety Test (Alpert & Haber, 1960). The expected results are that participants in the non-proctored setting with no noise disturbance will do better than those in the non-proctored setting with noise disturbance. To add on, participants in the proctored setting with noise disturbance will have more anxiety than participants in the proctored setting without noise disturbance. This research aims to addresses the impact of attention of university students on functional task performance, in regards to accuracy and speed, and anxiety. 

Neuba Miriam Silva
Vivian Ciaramitaro (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston
Does Musical Training Improve Cross-modal Attention?

 Neuroscientific research with musicians has increased exponentially due to music positive effects on brain development. Behavioral advantages in divided attention, cognitive development, and cognitive maintenance in both healthy and injured brains are observed as consequences of musical training, which allows for adeptness across the senses, crossmodal adeptness. The growing body of research in this area corroborate with the assumption that, when certain conditions are met, highly trained musicians can outperform non-musicians in tasks of divided attention. 


      We quantified the efficiency of crossmodal attention using a dual task to examine the extent to which changes in visual task demands effect auditory processing. In our dual task participants performed a concurrent visual and auditory task. The visual task consisted of a less attention demanding task (discriminate colors between two set of letters), and a more attention demanding task (which set of letters contain more of a target letter). The  concurrent auditory task required discriminating which of two sequentially  presented sounds was frequency modulated. We examined changes in auditory performance as the visual task demanded more or less attention. Auditory performance was quantified by estimating the auditory stimulus supporting 75% correct performance, auditory threshold, for each of the two visual load conditions. We hypothesized that musical training would improve crossmodal attention, diminishing differences in auditory threshold with changing visual task demands such that musicians would outperform non-musicians. 


Our primary results suggest that in female musicians auditory performance was more influenced by increases in visual load than non-musicians, whereas in male musicians auditory performance was less influenced by increases in visual load than non-musicians. Thus, participant gender, not just musical training seems to influence the efficiency of crossmodal attention. 


Lindsey Alyce Simoncini
Rebecca Spencer (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
The Effect of Sleep on Memory Reconsolidation

The process of memory is comprised of three stages: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. Memories become unstable during the retrieval phase or via a reminder cue and become vulnerable to modification. In order for the memory to re-stabilize, it must be consolidated again via the process of reconsolidation. The goal of this study was to determine whether sleep plays a role in this process. Previous studies strongly suggest that sleep facilitates the process of memory consolidation, but few studies have observed the effect sleep has on memory reconsolidation. Forty young adults aged 18-30 encoded a set of 30 image-location pairs (Set-1) in the evening (Session 1) and then performed a recall task the next morning following a night of sleep (Session 2). Approximately one week later (Session 3), either in the morning (wake condition) or the evening (sleep condition) participants received a reminder task of the set they encoded during Session 1 and also encoded a new set of image-location pairs (Set-2). Twelve hours following Session 3, participants received recall tasks of both sets of image-location pairs (Session 4). It was hypothesized that if sleep facilitates memory reconsolidation, then participants in the sleep condition would perform with higher accuracy on the final recall task of Set-1. Preliminary results show that participants in the sleep condition have significantly higher memory accuracy on Session 4 recall of Set-1 compared with participants in the wake condition. This suggests that sleep facilitates memory reconsolidation.

Douglas Sinclair B. Sinclair
Deborah McMakin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University

Gender and Socioeconomic Status on Perceived Academic Motivation and Achievement

Perceptions are strong predictors of actual academic achievement and motivation (Song, Bong, Lee, & Kim, 2015; Young, Johnson, Hawthorne, & Pugh, 2011). While past research has examined actual academic motivation and achievement (Berger & Archer, 2016; Goodman, Miller, & Olatunji, 2012; Tourangeau, Nord, Le, Sorongon, & Narjarian 2006), fewer studies have examined perceptions of achievement and motivation, and there is scant research examining the perceived impact of SES and gender on achievement  This study examined the perceived effects of gender and SES on intrinsic academic motivation and academic achievement.  It was hypothesized that female scenario characters with high SES would be perceived as having the highest perceived academic motivation and achievement. Participants included 120 undergraduates who were assigned to one of four conditions depicting a high or low SES and male or female, and then completed measures of perceived intrinsic academic motivation and academic achievement. Results indicated a statistically significant interaction for perceived academic intrinsic motivation; female high SES characters were found to have higher perceived academic achievement than females with low SES. Findings are consistent with previous studies on gender, SES, motivation and achievement. Understanding perceptions may inform faculty, administrators, faculty and parents with ways to reduce bias and create a more just learning environment. 

Ashley Megan Smith
Sarah A. Hayes-Skelton (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Boston

Variety and Frequency of Cognitive Distortions in Clients Participating in Treatment for Social Anxiety

Cognitive distortions (CDs) represent common ways individuals’ biases influence how they perceive situations. CDs are often found in automatic thoughts (ATs), cognitions representing negative perceptions. Although originally observed in depression (Beck, 1991), individuals experiencing Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) express CDs. SAD is characterized by significant anxiety regarding at least one social situation (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Individuals with SAD tend to experience increased negative thoughts (Heimberg & Becker, 2002). Theory implicates possible CDs in individuals with SAD; however limited empirical research suggests which CDs are present in the ATs reported by clients or the relationship between CDs and SAD symptoms or treatment outcomes. The current study explores the variety of and relations between CDs represented by ATs and symptoms of and response to treatment for social anxiety. Participants (n=53) include clients diagnosed with SAD participating in a cognitive-behavioral group therapy (CBGT; Heimberg & Becker, 2002). During treatment, clients reported their ATs to a potentially anxiety-provoking situation. A team of four trained coders labeled each AT with the best matching CD based on a list developed by Heimberg and Becker (2002).  The variety and frequency of specific CDs were calculated to explore whether specific patterns of CDs are associated with SAD symptoms and response to treatment. Preliminary analysis suggests that the CDs of mind reading and fortune-telling were the most commonly coded ATs reported by clients. Implications for development of effective treatments for SAD will be discussed.

Thaine Robert Smith
Katie Dixon-Gordon (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Well-Being and Yoga

In recent years, yoga has gained popularity in the west, and has even made inroads as a component of treatments for mental health difficulties. Despite the burgeoning research on the effectiveness of yoga-based interventions, it is unclear to what extent the physical practice confers benefits relative to the philosophical underpinnings. The absence of a clear measure of the philosophical underpinnings of yoga practice is a barrier to such research. To address this gap in the research, we have developed a novel measure of yoga philosophy. The aim of this study was to validate this measure and examine its association with mental health outcomes. We hypothesized that yoga philosophy will be positively associated with mindfulness, and negatively associated with ADHD symptoms, emotion regulation difficulties, perceived stress, and anxiety/depression symptoms. Participants included yoga practitioners and teachers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, and from workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). We will present data on the internal consistency and structure of this novel measure, as well as its associations with psychological wellbeing. These findings have implications for the study of yoga in mental health.

Anna R. Sullivan
Jennifer MB Fugate (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, UMass Dartmouth
The Effect of Race-Related Words on Categorical Perception of Race

The current experiment investigates the effects of race-related words on the categorical perception of race. Specifically, I will investigate the role that these words have on a person’s ability to perceive different races. Participants (n = 100) will complete a standard, two-part categorical perception task in which they will view morphed (blended) faces of two individuals of separate races. In the current experiment, participants will match these faces to several different race-related words presented as pairs, as well as perceptually to pictured endpoints. I predict that certain race-related words (known as “separate race-related words” e.g. “Black” vs. “White”) will affect the categorical boundary differently from other race-related words (e.g. “Black/White” vs. “not Black/White”) as well as from pictured endpoints. Such differences would suggest that a person’s race is perceived differently in the presence or absence of specific race-denoting category anchors. Moreover, I predict that categorical perception (i.e. the increased ability to determine whether a target face was the first or second of two faces when the two faces were previously identified as from different categories compared to belonging to the same category) will be best modeled by “separate race-related words” compared to other race-related words and pictured endpoints. The predicted results will provide for a better understanding of how racial terms alter people’s perceptions of race. This experiment is one of many recent categorical perception studies, which examine the role of language and more specifically race-related terms.

Julia Ann Sullivan
Deborah McMakin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Academic and Social Success in College: Does Shared Living Space Matter?

While there is a considerable amount of research regarding college retention, student success, and benefits to living on campus as opposed to off campus, there is a lack of research that explores living in a single dorm without roommates. The purpose of this study is to investigate the perceived social and academic differences between college students who live in either on-campus or off-campus housing, and either with or without roommates. Participants will include 120 undergraduate residents at a small state university. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of four housing-type scenarios (on-campus without roommates; on-campus with roommates; off-campus without roommates; or off-campus with roommates) and will be asked to rate a scenario character’s satisfaction with life, loneliness, and academic achievement, as well as self-report their number of roommates, own happiness, loneliness, academic involvement, social involvement, and sense of belonging. This study will add to the growing body of research regarding student housing choice and its relationship to student success and college retention and may inform interventions designed to enhance student satisfaction and retention.

Keywords: satisfaction with life, loneliness, academic achievement, on-campus housing

Julia Barbara Tager
Linda M. Isbell (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Emotional Triggers for Emergency Medicine Providers: A Qualitative Investigation

The current study is part of a large multifaceted investigation to identify affective factors contributing to diagnostic errors in medicine. In a pilot study, Isbell et al. (2017) interviewed emergency medicine (EM) physicians and nurses to explore (1) negative emotions that providers experience in the emergency department (ED), (2) providers’ perceptions of how these emotions influence diagnostic reasoning and cognitive processing, and (3) strategies to reduce adverse influences of emotion (Isbell et al., 2017).   Results revealed that providers experience considerable frustration and anger in the ED, have some awareness of the possible adverse impact of these emotions, and employ strategies to compensate for this. The current qualitative study builds on these findings to identify and explore triggers that lead EM providers to experience specific negative emotions.  Triggers include particular "types" of patients (e.g., psychiatric patients, demanding patients, substance users, “frequent flyers”), communication challenges, and hospital conditions (e.g., patient volume, patient boarding).  Participants are EM physician and nurses from several Massachusetts hospitals .  Ongoing qualitative interviews and analyses continue to inform our understanding of emotional experiences in the ED, effects on decision-making, and possible interventions to improve diagnostic reasoning.   Results will also inform subsequent research aimed at creating methods to experimentally manipulate provider emotions to allow us to investigate their causal impact on clinical reasoning in controlled experiments.  Taken together, this work contributes to the long-term goal of improving diagnostic accuracy through increased understanding of how emotions affect medical providers' cognitive processing.


Ashley Elizabeth Timons
Brianna LaFlash
Phoebe Lin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Perceptions of Traditional and Non-traditional Masculinity

This study examined the differences in perception of traditional and non-traditional masculinity. There were 40 undergraduate participants with a mean age of 21.36 years, 71.3% of whom were women. Participants completed a scenario-based questionnaire that asked them to report their attitudes toward Jeff, the scenario character, who was presented as either traditionally masculine or more traditionally feminine. Modern racism, right-wing authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation were also assessed. Results showed varying significant difference in perceptions of masculinity. Participants in the masculine condition were more likely to say that Jeff had many heterosexual friends, would make them feel uncomfortable, was confused about what it means to be a man, and was aggressive toward other people. Participants in the feminine condition were more likely to say that Jeff was comfortable with who he is, was sensitive to other people’s feeling, was often bullied growing up, and was sexually attracted to other men. These significant results may be the result of interpreting traditional masculine behavior as heterosexual and feminine male behavior as otherwise, which could perpetuate conformity to gender stereotypes and reinforce current societal connections between heterosexuality and gender conformity. Further researchers may benefit from studying a more diverse sample, with different age groups and gender nonconforming individuals. 

Tanya A. Tovar
Phoebe Lin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Perceptions of Psychology and Education: Importance of Diversity in Classrooms

The present study investigated participants' perceptions of the importance of diversity in classrooms, and hypothesized that ethnic minority students will feel a level of connectivity with their professor if also a minority than a white professor, and white majority students will rate ethnic minority professors less favorably due to assumption of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA). Additionally, several variables predictive of prejudice, in group and out group bias, and subtle racism were hypothesized to be correlated. Participants consisted of undergraduate students at a northeastern public university. Implications related to prejudice are considered. 

Morgan VanBeek
Haley M. Duprey
Dawn Vreven (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychology, Framingham State University

Effect of Text Color on College Students' Memory

Humans are constantly looking and reading text, but is the color of that text important for our memory? Despite research examining color and memory, there has yet to be a general consensus of the effect of text color on memory. The current study is a one-factor between-subjects design. The independent variable in this study is text color, either being blue, black, green, or red. Approximately 160 participants will be given a list of 30 words to study. After a distractor task, consisting of demographic questions, participants will be asked to recall the words in any order. The dependent variable in this study is the number of words correctly recalled. The hypotheses for this study are that words presented in black will be remembered the best compared to the other colors and that words presented in green colored text will be remembered the least.

Kimberly M. Whitney
Rebecca Spencer (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
The Effects of Napping on Emotional Memory in Young Children

Emotional memories tend to be highly salient across the human lifespan. They are also consolidated, or stabilized, by sleep in young adults. Robust documentation of this process does not exist for populations of young children, such as preschool-aged children (i.e., around three through five years). At this age, children nap routinely, enter an expanding socio-emotional world at school, and experience vast neurological development. This study aimed to determine whether naps influence emotional memory consolidation in young children using a novel emotional storybook task. Children from preschools across western Massachusetts were read emotional storybooks and their recall of negative and neutral events in the storybooks was probed at three time-points: (i) in the morning, immediately after reading a storybook; (ii) in the afternoon, after a nap or equivalent time spent awake (within-subject, order counterbalanced); and (iii) the following morning, 24-hours after reading the storybook. Given the evidence of emotional memory consolidation in young adult sleep, we predict that children will show improved recall for storybook events following a daytime nap period compared to an equivalent interval spent awake. Moreover, we predict that this effect will remain 24-hrs later, reflecting a lasting benefit of sleep following learning. Preliminary data from 23 children trend in support of these hypotheses. Significant results will clarify emotional memory processing in young children and help to inform the structure of naps in preschool classroom curricula for healthy socio-emotional development.

Geena Elizabeth Whittredge
Paul Michael Galvin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Framingham State University
Underdogs and Underprivileged People: What Makes Us Like One but Not the Other

Nobody likes to be underprivileged, but when portrayed as an ‘underdog’ they may be seen as the favorite. People often have favorable opinions of underdogs, as shown by the common phrase phrase “everyone loves an underdog". Also, perceptions of people can differ depending on whether they are privileged or underprivileged. Approximately 100 undergraduate students will read one of four scenarios depicting 4 competitors on the TV show “Project Runway". Using the definition that an underdog is an individual who has talent, and a disadvantage, each of the four depicted competitors will be described as advantaged/disadvantaged and talented/not talented. The participants will then complete a questionnaire assessing their perception of the competitors’ future success. The expected results are that the participants will favor the talented/disadvantaged competitor over the not talented/advantaged competitor, and that the underdog competitor will be seen as having a successful future. In today’s tense social climate, these findings may help reveal what factors influence people’s opinions on underprivileged people. 

Devon Wiley
Jerrold Meyer (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
Preconception and Prenatal Stress and the Prevalence of Cortisol in Lower-Income Mother-Child Dyads

Cortisol, the human stress hormone, is the primary glucocorticoid and key component in the human physiological stress response system. When detecting a stressor, the human body reacts via the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis. As mother and child cortisol are linked, researchers at UCLA have set out to establish if high mother HPA Axis activity before and during pregnancy affects the executive functioning levels of her child. Researchers will examine whether changes in child hair cortisol from ages 3.5 to age 4.5 are associated with worse executive functioning performance at age 4.5 compared to NIH Toolbox test results collected at age 3.5. In order to do so, ~150 lower-income mother child dyads from various counties in the USA will be tested in a longitudinal study. At children age 3.5, mothers and children will be interviewed, hair samples will be collected, the Differential Ability Scales (DAS) will be administered to children. All hair cortisol (HCC) samples will be processed by myself in Dr. Jerrold Meyer’s laboratory at Umass Amherst. If the results align with our hypotheses, we expect to see higher mother preconception and prenatal HCC levels corresponding with higher child HCC levels throughout the collection points in the child’s life. In addition higher child HCC levels will, in theory, lead to less executive functioning of the child by age of 4.5, shown in lower NIH Toolbox scores, and less established relationships between the mother-child dyads.

Hannah Wisniewski
Jennifer McDermott (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst
iCons: Children's Motivation to Social and Non-social Reward Stimuli

Aberrant patterns in reward processing have been highlighted as an underlying risk factor in the development of psychopathology. Typically, reward processing has been examined using object-based rewards (e.g., money).  However, limited research has explored differences in processing non-social and social stimuli in children, let alone how differences in social contexts can affect the neural markers of motivation and reward processing in this age group.  

The current study investigated differences in neural processing stimuli portraying distinct social reward and nonsocial reward contexts.  Forty-three children (22 females; Mage=8.49 years) were asked to view and rate 150 pictures. Pictures were divided into an interpersonal reward category, which included social interaction, an intrapersonal reward category, which included happy faces, a non-social reward category, which included object-based reward images, and a neutral category.  Two event-related potentials (ERPs), the N400 and the late-positive potential (LPP), were used to examine motivational salience toward reward images. Parent report of the child’s behavior was also collected. 

Results revealed that interpersonal stimuli elicited a significantly lower N400 than object and intrapersonal reward stimuli, respectively (F(2, 80)=3.15, p=.027, ηp2=.070).  For the LPP, there was an interaction between gender and picture category (F(2, 80)=3.26, p=.043, ηp2=.075).  Females had significantly larger LPPs in response to intrapersonal (p=.039) and interpersonal (p=.081) images compared to object reward images, whereas males exhibited the opposite pattern (i.e., object LPPs > interpersonal and intrapersonal LPPs). Partial correlations showed that attenuated N400s and enhanced LPPs to intrapersonal images were related to externalizing and internalizing symptomology (p’s<0.03), as well as emotional lability (p<0.01). Parent report of adaptability skills were related to enhanced N400s and attenuated LPPs to intrapersonal images.

The current study supports our hypothesis that differences in neural markers of motivation in children are influenced by distinct social and non-social reward contexts; further, findings indicate that these patterns are affected by gender. Additionally, problem behavior was associated with specific patterns of attention to specific reward contexts. Overall, results highlight reward contexts, gender, and attention timing as important factors to consider when examining the relations between reward processing and psychopathology.  


Megan Askew
Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College
Violent Undertakings of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Effects It Has on Them

Violent undertaking of individuals with autism spectrum disorders and the social and psychological effects it has on them. 

Sofia Elisa Bacon
Kayla M. Clarke
Colleen Elice Cook
Lisa Chasan-Taber (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Public Health, UMass Amherst
Teen Pregnancy in South-Central United States

In the United States, teen pregnancy among girls (ages 15-19) is an important public health problem that requires immediate attention. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), in 2015, the national for teen pregnancy was 22.3 births per 1,000 females. Although the overall national average is declining, many states lag behind these national rates. The states with the highest teen pregnancy rates are Mississippi (32.6 births per 1,000 females), Texas (31.0 births per 1,000 females) and Louisiana (30.6 births per 1,000 females). We searched for trends and risk factors for teen pregnancy using Pubmed and the CDC website. Risk factors for teen pregnancy include ethnicity, access to contraception, socioeconomic status, and sexual education policies in school. For example, non-Hispanic Black girls continue to have the highest rates of teen pregnancy, and young women are twice as likely to become pregnant after the first time of sexual intercourse if they do not have access to contraception. We will describe previous interventions designed to address this problem and recommend tailored interventions for these high-risk regions in the South Central U.S.

Sreeja Bapatla
Timothy Lang (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

An Evaluation of the Sustainability and Applicability of the Danish Healthcare Model

Medical practice and healthcare delivery seem to vary across different cultures. Interestingly enough, America is the only industrialized nation without universal healthcare and recent political upheaval has caused issues in terms of  the American method of healthcare delivery, dividing the nation into two groups of people: those who support universalized healthcare and those who do not support it. As a result, Americans have looked to other healthcare models for inspiration in solving this healthcare dilemma. The Danish model reflects the principles of the social welfare system, which strives to provide governmental support to all individuals and to create a system of equality and solidarity among all. Unlike the American healthcare system, the Danish model is financed through public taxation and tailors its healthcare delivery in a way that maximizes cost-effectiveness. The ultimate question, however, is whether this system is sustainable for the long-term when taking into account changes in the national demographics. Through an extensive literature review using journal articles from the UMass library databases and google scholar, I will be looking at different aspects of the system to assess the quality and sustainability of the Danish healthcare model as well as how the Danes themselves perceive their healthcare. Additionally, I will be comparing and contrasting the Danish model against the American model to determine if any aspects of the Danish model could potentially be applied to the American system to improve American healthcare.

Kenneth James Bourdon
Jessica Thelen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Westfield State University
The Relevance of PTSD in Contemporary US Society

PTSD is becoming a more and more prevalent thing in movies and tv shows, but why was it not paid as much attention to years ago? Famous movies like American Sniper, Thank You for Your Service and many others have challenged the idea of that PTSD is not a real disease and people do not get effected by it. PTSD, also known as post traumatic stress disorder is a TBI, or traumatic brain injury. Some of the symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, trouble sleeping, frightened by a loud noise and, when in public, constantly being at alert . The 2017 film called Thank You for Your Service follows the story of a group of soldiers in Iraq. They were involved in many violent battles along the way, such as bombings and sniper attacks. While I like the fact that the movie shows the toll on the soldiers when they get back home, there is much that is left out. Many recent movies show PTSD is only a combat thing and that it can only happen to infantrymen or people on the front lines. PTSD can occur from anything, whether it be combat or hearing that your best friend died. Countless strides have been made in the right direction by the movie industry, but now comes the real test: challenging the idea of PTSD only being a combat related mental illness.

Meghan Grace Brennan
Madeleine Elle Pomeroy
Jilliana Melissa Rodriguez
Lillian June Ross
Nicole VanKim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, UMass Amherst
The Effects of Indoor Air Pollution on Health in Low-Income Housing in the United States


Indoor air pollution is a growing problem as quality of indoor air has been shown to have a high concentration of pollutants, and in low income housing, it is even worse. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard for indoor air pollutants is 35 μg/m3, but a study showed that particle levels in low income housing can exceed several hundred. Indoor air pollution is attributed to short-term health problems such as irritated eyes, nose and throat, and long-term diseases, such as respiratory diseases, heart disease, cancer, and more. The aim of this paper is to examine indoor air pollution in low income housing to find an intervention strategy to improve indoor air quality.


A literature review will be conducted among peer-reviewed sources in order to identify how low income housing in the U.S. increases risk for air pollution related health outcomes. We will research intervention strategies that have reduced these risks, and compare them in order to figure out the most practical intervention strategy.


After conducting a preliminary search of literature, we can conclude that people who live in low-income housing are disproportionately impacted by indoor air pollution compared to the rest of the population. The quality and location of low-income housing are risk factors for indoor air pollution related health incomes.


We will recommend an appropriate strategy for addressing the disproportionate exposure to indoor air pollution among people who live in low-income housing.

Joseph Kha Cao
Krystal Pollitt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst
Development of a Novel Active Air Sampling Device

Measurements of air quality provide critical insights in environmental epidemiology. Meta analyses of many population-level epidemiological studies show significant evidence for a positive association between exposure to air pollution and overall morbidity and mortality rates. However, forming exposure-response relationships between pollutants and health outcomes can be challenging as the concentration of the compounds of interest are usually very low and vary greatly in both time and space. Additionally, individuals have unique exposure patterns that cannot be easily discerned using many current methods that extrapolate air pollution concentrations between spatially and temporally sparse data points. The introduction of personal wearable and in-home air sampling devices has allowed a closer study of individual exposure patterns by significantly increasing spatial and temporal resolution of air monitoring systems. Currently personal sampling devices fall into two broad categories: passive sampling devices (PSDs) and active sampling devices (ASDs). While PSDs do not have the power constraints, bulkiness, nor implementation complexities of ASDs, they are limited by how many samples they can take and depend on the wearers movement and other unreliable conditions to provide air flow over a sampling matrix. This project seeks to increase the practicality of an existing ASD design so that its potential functional benefits over PSDs can be leveraged. This will be done through minimizing the power usage, exploring alternative mechanical and electrical designs, and reducing the enclosure volume of the current design. 

Julia Mariah Church
Roosevelt Amanfo
Carly Forrester
Kailee Kennedy
Shannon Grace Weir
Nicole VanKim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, UMass Amherst
Infant Mortality Rates among Black, Non-Hispanic Mothers in the US

Infant mortality is a serious public health concern in the United States. In 2015, over 23,000 infants died before the age of one. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that non-Hispanic black mothers experience infant mortality rates that are 2.3 times higher than non-Hispanic white mothers. The purpose of this study is to explore why infants born to black non-Hispanic women have a higher infant mortality rate compared to infants born to white, non-Hispanic women and recommend evidence-based interventions to reduce infant mortality among black women. Research will be conducted by utilizing databases, such as PubMed and PsycINFO to find peer-reviewed articles regarding infant mortality. Keywords include infant mortality rate; black, non-Hispanic women; risk factors; and interventions. Current literature and statistics show that risk factors that result from institutionalized racism, such as low socioeconomic status, lack of access to healthcare, and affordable housing, has contributed to the disparity in IMR experienced by black mothers. The racism and sexism that black women face throughout their lifetime triggers a stress response that can cause their health to deteriorate more quickly than other ethnic groups and has the power to negatively impact their infants. By examining current literature of successful interventions to decrease IMR, this study will propose recommended reforms that need to take place at the various levels of the socio-ecological model of health in order to improve health outcomes of infants born to black mothers.

Maureen Adene Cottrell
Edward J. Calabrese (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst
Hormesis Research Funding 

The topic of hormesis research funding has been a point of deliberation within the scientific community for many years. A common belief is that the majority of hormesis research is funded by the private sector.  With this assumption may emerge questions revolving around potential bias of such research. To provide some clarification to this issue, all hormesis research articles were obtained through online databases for five year increments starting with 1995 and ending with 2015 and were subsequently categorized by their funding source. A total of 710 articles were found for those years and 383 of those reported their funding. Reporting funding is not required by law and until more recently was not encouraged or required by funders and scientific publishers. The analysis revealed that the assumption that the majority of hormesis research is privately funded was false, with the public sector (i.e. federal and state governmental agencies) exclusively contributing to 77% of the reported research funding. Going forward, funding transparency for scientific research as a whole is needed. The lack of requirement for reporting funding sources within the scientific community can cause suspicion and hinder the research from being legitimized by the public.With funding transparency could come the more accepted use of the hormetic model in risk assessment along with the currently employed dose response models (e.g. threshold and LNT).

Nicholas Cunha
Dean E. Robinson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
Implementing Blockchain Technology to Unify the US Electronic Health Record System and Address Disparities in Health

     The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that relative to GDP, the U.S. continues to spend nearly twice that of other countries though achieving poor health metric rankings. The OECD also reports that on average overall administration costs make up 3% of health care expenditure. The United States spends over 8%, the developed world’s highest. One solution to this inefficiency can be found in technology, in the form of electronic health records (EHR), and specifically the use of blockchain. Using scholarly literature available through the University of Massachusetts Amherst library database, blockchain technology white papers, national health data, and other salient publications and electronic media, this thesis examines blockchain technology, its implications for EHRs, and how this combination can create an effective model of health care delivery which mitigates health inequities. While not changing the more fundamental causes of health care cost and inflation, blockchain technology in health care would save vast sums of money, liberate funding, allow health data to be shared easily from provider to patient, and facilitate collaboration to evaluate the increasing amount of available health information to provide quality and preventive care to improve health at a population level.

Caelin Curley
Jalen R. Chase-Malcolm
Jessica Guerrier
Nicole VanKim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, UMass Amherst
Mental Health - Binge Eating Disorder among Young Adult Females within the United States: A Look at Strategies and Intervention

Background: ​Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is currently the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting 3.5% of adult women. Because the age of onset for BED is around 18-29 years old, we focused our research on that population. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, BED is characterized by recurrent binge eating episodes during which a person feels a loss of control and marked distress over their eating, but they are not followed by purging, excessive exercise or fasting. As a result, people with BED often are overweight or obese. The purpose of this study is to identify effective prevention and treatment methods for BED.
Methods:​ Through a literature review of peer-reviewed publications, we will identify key risk factors for BED among young adult females in the United States. Based on this search, we will also identify potential interventions.
Results: ​Based on a preliminary search of literature, the major risk factors for BED are a history of mood disorders, weight-related bullying, dieting or restrictive eating habits, body dissatisfaction, and a history of neglect or abuse. Based on this research, we will recommend three evidence-based interventions to address the major risk factors associated with developing BED.
Conclusion/Recommendations: ​We will construct strategies and make recommendations that would be most effective to prevent and treat BED. We will also identify underlying health issues associated with BED and suggest possible interventions for these.

Emma Rose Cyr
Lisa Wexler (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Public Health, UMass Amherst
Multilevel Contributors and Meanings Associated with Indigenous Youth Suicide

Our poster will explore the multilevel contributors and meanings associated with Indigenous youth suicide and the accompanying possibilities for prevention. Findings from academic articles, Indigenous films and art will present a variety of factors driving and intersecting with the issue of Indigenous youth suicide in North America. Prevention resources from Indigenous and academic communities will outline possibilities for action that can be applied to other health issues and populations. The poster presentation will invite others to explore the issue and how it may apply to their lives and understandings.

**Co-Authors are: 
Joseph Debonis-
Mason Iriana-
Sammuel O'Donnell-
Vaneet Yagnik-

Lauren Daley
Madison Weitlauf
Brittany Nicole Rosen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Public Health, UMass Amherst
Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone and Potential Avenues of Improvement

Sierra Leone is home to the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world.  Most recent estimates show that for every 100,000 live births in the country, around 1,360 women die as a direct result.  The most common causes of maternal death are bleeding, pregnancy-induced hypertension, infection, unsafe abortions, and cases of anemia and malaria while pregnant.  The underlying factors that result in this significantly elevated risk of maternal death in Sierra Leone are linked to a severe lag in quantity, and most importantly the quality, of health facilities and services offered in the country.  Expectant mothers’ ability to access this care is also of paramount importance, with many women citing distance and unaffordability as deterrents in seeking and receiving care.  Maternal death is highly preventable, so long as qualified and skilled staff are available to assist mothers from antenatal through postnatal care.  The purpose of this research project is to explore existing literature regarding maternal mortality in Sierra Leone, and formulate recommendations of the most effective avenues in decreasing these figures.  These recommendations will be focused on increasing access to comprehensive, quality health care services for pregnant women in Sierra Leone that are affordable for all.  For this literature review we will utilize reputable databases such as PubMed Web of Science, and the WHO, potential search terms including “maternal mortality,” “Sierra Leone,” “healthcare access,” “health inequities,” and “prevention.”  This research will analyze the most accurate, up-to-date figures regarding maternal mortality in Sierra in order to formulate effective recommendations to alleviate the problem.

Ashley Marie Deleo
Kristen Marie Pierce
Olivia Stoddard
Lisa Chasan-Taber (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Public Health, UMass Amherst
Food Deserts and Childhood Obesity in Louisiana

Food insecurity is a problem affecting individuals all over the world and in the United States. Many food insecure individuals do not have adequate access to healthy and nutritious foods, leading to poor dietary choices, and consequently obesity. This is important as childhood obesity is at epidemic rates in the US with 17% of children obese in 2014. Childhood obesity can lead to chronic health problems such as diabetes and heart disease, and lower life quality. Many families living with food insecurity have low-income; 14.5% of low-income children are obese. Louisiana has among the highest rates of food insecurity in the United States, with an insecurity rate of 18.3% by household. After Hurricane Katrina, food insecurity exacerbated even further. A systematic search of peer-reviewed literature was conducted using PubMed and national agencies such as the Center for Disease Control to examine and understand food insecurity and other risk factors for childhood obesity in Louisiana. Risk factors for food insecurity include living in a rural area, access to transportation, and socioeconomic status. Protective factors included increasing access to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. We will examine childhood obesity prevention programs, and make intervention program recommendations for Louisiana residents living with food insecurity. These recommendations will include investment in the incorporation of healthier foods in school lunches throughout the state of Louisiana.

Olivia Diane DiGangi
Jillian Alai
Caitlin Christine Finnerty
Gennifer Greenberg
Lisa Chasan-Taber (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Public Health, UMass Amherst
Suicide in LGBTQIA+ Youth

Rates of suicide are high among the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) youth. For example, LGBTQIA+ youth are 2.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly one-third (29%) of LGBTQIA+ youth had attempted suicide at least once in the prior year compared to 6% of heterosexual youth. A literature review was conducted using PubMed and data from national agencies, including the CDC and the National Health Institute (NHI). Risk factors for suicide in this population include race, depression, geographic location, low socioeconomic status, low social support, threats of violence, and traumatizing social interactions. For example, according to the 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 10% of LGBTQIA+ youth have been threatened on school grounds with a weapon. Due to traumatizing social interactions, LGBTQIA+ youth are at an increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression which, in turn, are major risk factors for suicide. Protective factors include a strong, supportive social system and high socioeconomic status. We will examine previous interventions used to address this issue, and make recommendations for future interventions targeting LGBTQIA+ youth in America. 

Margaret Anna Dinneen
Cory L. Hitzenbuhler
Jessica S. Silva
Brittany Nicole Rosen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Public Health, UMass Amherst
Impacts of Inadequate Access to Mental Healthcare in Rural Areas

According to the Rural Health Information Hub, 18.7% of residents in non-metropolitan areas struggle with a mental health condition (1). Rural residents experience many barriers, such as socioeconomic status and access to transportation, that limit their ability to obtain the health care they need. Mental healthcare facilities themselves are sparsely located and scarcely available for at-risk populations. This leads to individuals having to travel for hours or across state lines to access services (2). People of low socioeconomic status are at increased risk of poor mental health outcomes because of factors such as unemployment, food insecurity, and homelessness. When mental healthcare is not accessible, individuals experience poor health outcomes such as stress, loss of social support and premature death. Rural areas also experience higher rates of suicide (1). Loss of social support can include loss of familial support and isolation within the community. Protective factors against mental illness in rural communities are high socioeconomic status, positive peer role models and supportive community relationships. Using databases such as the Rural Health Information Hub, PubMed and PsycInfo, this poster will review peer-edited journal articles to address this issue. Potential search terms will include rural, United States, mental health, healthcare access, socioeconomic status, depression and stress impact. With this information, causes of these disparities can be identified and used in the future for potential public health interventions.

These findings will allow the field of public health to better direct essential, efficient and targeted mental health services to rural populations. (1) (2)

Julia Margery Duncan
Alyssa Nicole Muise
Anthony Alexander Poluyanoff
Brittany Nicole Rosen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Public Health, UMass Amherst
The Relationship between Acrylamide Exposure and Cancer in Disproportionately-Affected Populations

Acrylamide is a chemical belonging to the amide class of organic molecules that occupies a wide niche of uses, from research laboratories to the plastic, paper and dye industries. Acrylamide is also formed rapidly when starch is heated during the process of cooking, and newfound evidence has linked acrylamide to the development of certain cancers. When acrylamide is consumed, it is converted to glycidamide, which is known to cause DNA mutations in the body.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that the average exposure per person in the general population lies between 0.3 and 0.8 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, with children and certain populations having average exposure multiple times higher than the estimated values (WHO, 2002). Acrylamide exposure disproportionately affects certain populations such as industrial workers, wastewater treatment workers, or researchers working in laboratories. This research will examine the rates of acrylamide exposure and cancer development in disproportionately affected populations such as occupational workers. It will compare these rates to the average human’s daily dietary consumption of acrylamide. This paper will also determine the varying severities of exposure from acrylamide formed in heated starchy foods; i.e. frying and grilling. Further research will give insight into whether or not acrylamide exposure disproportionately affects populations of low socioeconomic status, as people of low SES or people in food deserts typically eat more fried fast foods than higher income populations.

Matthew James Eden
Chaitra Gopalappa (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass Amherst
Simulating the Spread of HIV in America's IDU Population

In the United States, it is estimated that 1.2 million people are living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  Despite advances in healthcare, an estimated 50,000 people in the United States are infected with HIV each year.  The United States Government has created the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) with the goal of reducing the number of annual HIV infections by 25% for 2020.  To understand how resources can be efficiently allocated, a model must be developed to understand the progression of HIV in the United States.  An important component of this model is to simulate the transmission of HIV through America’s injection drug use (IDU) population.  I will discuss our work in developing a new evolving contacts network algorithm (ECNA) to simulate individual-level interactions in a sample population representative of America’s IDU population.  We are using an agent-based network model (ABNM) to simulate distributive and receptive needle sharing between people infected with HIV and their susceptible IDU contacts.  When a susceptible agent becomes infected, its susceptible contacts are added to the model, thus evolving the network over time.  Contacts are added such that the average degree and clustering coefficient of the ECNA converges to that of America’s IDU network.  The purpose of this type of model is to minimize the information lost when scaling down the IDU population and minimize the computational cost of using an ABNM, while maintaining modeling accuracy.    

Brittany Paige Eliason
Laura Reed (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
Combating Clostridium difficile: Reducing Antibiotic Overuse and Misuse

Clostridium difficile is a gram positive, spore-forming, multi-drug resistant bacterium that is currently the number one cause of nosocomial antibiotic associated diarrhea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015 C. difficile caused almost half a million infections among patients in the United States. From these patients, about 29,000 died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis, and about 15,000 of those deaths can be attributed directly to C. difficile. Over the years, the number and severity of C. difficile infections (CDIs) have increased, and the CDC has listed C. difficile as an urgent public health threat. Using the UMass Amherst database and Pubmed, this study will assess and critique current prevention protocols and treatment methods for C. difficile. Then, gaps in current antibiotic stewardship programs (ASPs) will be identified to show that ASPs that include better surveillance of antibiotic use and restrictions on antibiotics should be implemented in all clinical settings to reduce the amount of antibiotic overuse and misuse occurring today. This study finds that alternative treatment options, such as fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), immunotherapy, and probiotics, offer promising ways to prevent CDIs and recurrent infections, thus showing that they deserve additional attention and greater focus in current stewardship efforts. 

Sarah Eileen Esenther
Krystal Pollitt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst
Assessment of Children’s Personal Exposure to Traffic-Related Air Pollution in Springfield, Massachusetts

Nitrogen dioxide, NO2 , is a gaseous air pollutant formed through both natural and human
processes. In humans, exposure to NO2 correlates positively and significantly with increased
respiratory and cardiovascular health risks, including heightened sensitivity of children with
mild-to- moderate asthma to inhaled allergens. The primary sources of personal exposure to NO2
are transportation emissions and natural gas stovetops, though in some areas smog produced by
industrial combustion constitutes another significant source of exposure. This study examines the
personal and ambient NO2 exposures within the seventh-grade class of students at the
Renaissance School in Springfield, MA to assess potential health risks posed to the community
by the current air quality. The personal exposure of the students was measured using silicone
wristbands and compared to a map of ambient NO2 derived from 40 ambient air measurements
taken from across the study area. The measured personal and ambient exposures were also
compared to the EPA’s C-LINE model of predicted ambient NO2 from roadway emissions.

Nicholas P. Fordham
David L. Chin (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Health Sciences, UMass Amherst
An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Emergency Medical Services in Response to Time-Sensitive Afflictions

The main question to be addressed under this project is if there are certain illnesses or ailments where EMS yields improved outcomes and to identify what the better options are in situations where EMS doesn’t yield improved outcomes. Recent studies have quantified the difficulty of response times in emergency situations. Whether it be traffic, the GPS giving wrong directions, or difficulty getting into buildings, there are a variety of reasons that an ambulance might be delayed to the scene. This is particularly relevant when it comes to time-sensitive afflictions (i.e. strokes and myocardial infarctions). Depending on the level of EMT, there is also little that EMTs can do for these afflictions on an ambulance other than transport to the hospital as quickly as possible. After extensive analysis of secondary data from literature in the field, this project aims to determine which chief complaints under, and under what conditions, would it be better for someone to not call for an ambulance and instead immediately drive to the hospital. Due to the prevalence of emergency medical services across the country, the conclusions of this data can be far-reaching and potentially yield better patient outcomes. 

Stephanie Gaglini
Mary V. Andrianopoulos (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication Disorders, UMass Amherst
The Efficacy of a Telepractice Service Delivery Model to Deliver Speech and Language Services to Children with Autism

Research is sparse that demonstrates the beneficial effects of using a Telepractice platform to deliver Speech Language Pathology (SLP) intervention services to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Published research to date provides “some” emerging evidence of using Telepractice to deliver SLP interventions in real-time to individuals with ASD. Research also supports that computer-based instruction (e.g., Telepractice) is beneficial to some individuals with ASD in that they exhibit an increase in motivation and attention, a decrease in inappropriate behavior, and the potential to increase learning compared to traditional On-Site methods. This study was conducted to empirically investigate student outcomes with respect to percent accuracy, percent assistance and student- clinician satisfaction when SLP intervention were provided using Telepractice vs. On-Site to students with ASD. Participants consisted of 2 cohorts comprised of 6 SLP graduate clinicians and 6 students with ASD between the ages of 12-14 years. An alternating ABC vs. ACB single subject research design was implemented to evaluate student outcomes. Level of satisfaction was also studied when SLP interventions were delivered using Telepractice vs. On-Site with the 6 students with ASD. To date, satisfaction surveys support that students with ASD rated SLP services delivered via Telepractice slightly higher (4.375/5) compared to students with ASD receiving services On-Site (3.975/5). However, SLP clinicians rated services as equally effective when intervention was delivered via Telepractice (3.95/5) vs. On-Site (3.75/5).

John F. Gallagher
Jill Hoover (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication Disorders, UMass Amherst
Using Language Sample Analysis to Assess Progress following Grammatical Treatment for Developmental Language Disorder

Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) experience marked difficulty acquiring their ambient language in the absence of any other overt symptoms (Bishop et al., 2016, 2017). A wealth of research is available to guide identification and treatment of preschool-aged children with DLD in the area of grammar (e.g., Gladfelter & Leonard, 2013; Rice & Wexler, 1996). Specifically, within grammar, finite verb morphology or finiteness (morphemes that convey verb tense and agreement) appears to be the most noticeable deficit in these children during the preschool years. The current study addresses a gap in the literature regarding the identification of best methods of documenting progress following grammatical treatment for DLD. Pre- and post-treatment language samples from six children who received treatment for finiteness (Hoover & Storkel, 2013) will be analyzed and the following five measures will be derived: mean length of utterance in morphemes (MLU; e.g., Brown, 1973); number of different words; number of different verbs; a finite verb morphology composite (Bedore & Leonard, 1998); and tense and agreement productivity score (Hadley & Short, 2005). Given the children’s most marked deficit is within finiteness and that this was also the focus of their treatment, we predict measures more narrowly focused on finiteness to be a more accurate reflection of treatment progress than more global measures of grammar. Results will 1) inform best practice for speech-language pathologists’ measurement of goals pertaining to grammar and 2) motivate future studies examining best practice for assessing progress following treatment for DLD.

Layal Ghrear
Jessica Rose O'Malley
Penelope Pekow (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, UMass Amherst
Obesity in School-Aged Children in Springfield, Massachusetts

The CDC states that 1 in 5 school aged children in the United States are obese, a statistic that has tripled since the 1970s. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30 kg/m2. Research has shown that childhood obesity is a precursor for a number of chronic health conditions such as teenage diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Risk factors associated with childhood obesity are unhealthy lifestyle habits and environments, SES, and education.The overweight and obesity rate for children in the city of Springfield is 41% which is significantly higher than the state of Massachusetts at large. The median household income for Springfield is significantly lower than its surrounding cities. Though a racially diverse population, the majority of community members are Hispanic—a racial group that has been identified as being more susceptible to childhood obesity. A thorough literature review will be conducted to identify interventions implemented through schools and other community organizations in the U.S. that have been shown to be effective in preventing and combating childhood obesity especially specific to the inner city, mixed ethnic racial population like Springfield. Using this research, we will develop a set of recommendations for programs and policies to address childhood obesity specific to the city of Springfield.

Rebecca F. Goldberg
Laura Vandenberg (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst
Deception by Design: A Case-Study Analysis of Manufactured Doubt

Manufactured doubt is a description of the strategies used by industries, organizations, and individuals to legally, politically, or scientifically obscure the harmful effects of their products or work. Through a literature-based review of relevant texts, my analysis aims to compare and contrast varying strategies from five different cases: coal, tobacco, climate change, Atrazine, and the sugar industry. Important literature of note includes: Naomi Oreskes’ Merchants of Doubt, David Michaels’ Doubt is Their Product, papers by Tyrone Hayes regarding Atrazine use, the New York Times’ Anahad O’Connor article (How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat), Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research by Cristin Kearns et al., and the Center for Public Integrity publications regarding black lung. Case-studies of representative examples were conducted to gather data on the varying methods used by involved parties to manufacture doubt. I find that both the strategies and the conditions for manufacturing doubt depend on the type of group trying to obscure facts, the groups over which they have power, and other invested parties. By discovering this information, more effective methods for identifying and countering instances of manufactured doubt can be generated. This research will also answer the question of who can manufacture doubt, which relates to emerging platforms for doing so, including the role of citizen scientists and social media. By distinguishing the breadth of tactics and motives, whether they are financial, authoritative, or otherwise, an improved definition of manufactured doubt is produced.        

Julia Green
Dean E. Robinson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst

The Interactions between Genetics and Disparities May Predict Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Outcomes among American Women

The aggressive breast cancer subtype TNBC (Triple Negative Breast Cancer) represents a diverse group of cancers characterized by a lack of expression of estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR), and the amplification of varying tumor genes. In the United States, high rates of TNBC incidence occur in women with BRCA1 mutations and African American women, and such cases are often associated with metastasis, co-morbid diseases, and high mortality rates. Current research disagrees on the differences and causes behind varying survival rates of African American vs. white American women. Some experts argue that an individual’s biology alone determines TNBC incidence or outcome whereas others assert that the persistence of differences suggests that social disparities in healthcare, nutrition, and safe neighborhood access may drive aggressive biology.  In order to understand the potential intersections of genetics and inequalities, the relationships between the social determinants of health and TNBC propensity and vulnerability, must be mapped. Connections may exist between disparities in income and nutritional access, resulting in co-morbid disease such as diabetes, and ultimately activating signaling networks such as WNT-miR34-p53 which can in turn trigger aggressive tumor formation. Thus the following work analyzes the connection between disparity and biology in TNBC incidence and outcome for American women through visuals of pathways linking genetics, epigenetics, and disparities.

Carly Anne Greenberg
Jill Hoover (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication Disorders, UMass Amherst
Lexical Processing in Specific Language Impairment

This study will examine young children with a condition called Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) (formerly referred to as specific language impairment – SLI; Bishop, 2017). DLD is a heritable language disorder affecting 7% of monolingual kindergarten children in the United States (Tomblin et al., 1997). It is the most common form of pediatric language disorder. Children with DLD experience a number of linguistic and cognitive challenges, but this study will focus on beginning to build a comprehensive profile of vocabulary skills in children ages 5 – 7 years with DLD in comparison with two control groups: 1) same-aged peers who have unimpaired language skills and 2) typically developing children who are younger than the DLD group but who have a receptive vocabulary size equivalent to the DLD group. Weak vocabulary skills place children at risk for academic failure given their critical role in reading and writing. To address our goal of comprehensively examining vocabulary skills, we will administer three tasks –each measuring a unique aspect of vocabulary. Recruitment and data collection is ongoing for this study, but the eventual findings will be used to motivate intervention studies aimed at improving vocabulary for children with SLI with the ultimate goal of lessening the impact of having poor language on the lives of affected children. 

Nicole Hardy
Mary V. Andrianopoulos (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication Disorders, UMass Amherst
Auditory Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder prevalent in approximately one in 68 children and is generally characterized by a qualitative impairment in communication, social communication and social interaction. Some individuals with ASD exhibit atypical speech characterized by high pitch vocal quality, monopitch, monoloudness, or atypical prosody. The presence of speech atypicalities may have adverse effects on the social communication for some individuals with ASD, thus possibly hindering their acceptance into peer groups and society. There is a paucity of research regarding the underlying mechanisms to explain the presence of atypical speech characteristics in individuals with ASD. One theory suggests that the speech atypicalities associated with ASD are due to abnormal auditory processing abilities. This study compared the auditory processing abilities of 11 teenagers with ASD between the ages of 14-19 years matched for receptive language, age and gender to a control group of 11 typically developing (TD) peers. Participants’ auditory processing abilities were screened using the SCAN-3 Test for Auditory Processing Disorders. The SCAN-3 results were analyzed with respect to similarities and differences to motor speech execution, motor programming and planning abilities, expressive-receptive prosodic abilities, and expressive-receptive language. This study sheds insight into the atypical prosodic and behavioral characteristics exhibited by individuals with ASD compared to their TD peers with respect to receptive and expressive prosodic, auditory processing, speech, and receptive-expressive language abilities.

Samantha Ann Karle
Dean E. Robinson (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst

The United States Opioid Epidemic: A Comparative Analysis of Systemic Risk Factors

The United States is currently suffering from a severe public health crisis in the form of opiate abuse. According to the CDC, an average of 115 Americans dying every day due to an opioid overdose. This research seeks to better understand the factors that have contributed to this crisis in the United States and the best approaches for addressing the epidemic. It is conducted through a comparative analysis of the United States, Canada, and Portugal, focusing on systemic risk factors for opioid addiction instead of individual ones. It finds that socioeconomic inequalities exacerbate individual risk factors for opioid abuse. Portugal's approach, that emphasizes decriminalization and focuses on harm reduction and prevention, has proven more effective in addressing the problem.

Ashley Kennes
Laura Reed (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
Tackling the Black Biology Threat: A Framework for Scientific Responsibility

Scientists are discovering exciting new genetic engineering techniques and progressing at an unprecedented rate, leading to a lack of oversight on the possible consequences of innovative practices and the misuse of information. The dual-use dimensions of genetic engineering increase the possibility of dire consequences, leaving individuals vulnerable and raising fears about non-state groups exploiting new techniques to enhance the virulence or spread of lethal pathogens. Existing legislation does not adequately address these developments, especially in the field of synthetic biology and the growing viability of CRISPR-Cas technology.

This thesis argues that the public is woefully underprepared for an attack and a shift in focus is needed to prevent crises. In order to support this argument, this thesis examines bioweapons regulation, responsible conduct of research, dual-use of genetic engineering, and an overview of scientific responsibility frameworks. These frameworks will be analyzed and dissected to create an improved, implementable plan for scientific responsibility in the face of increasing biological threats to humans and the ecosystem.

Recommendations on the best feasible framework are given for promoting safe discoveries and holding scientists accountable for genetic engineering practices. This includes improvements to current regulations, adopting a universal code of conduct for scientists, and promoting international cooperation to uphold these standards. The model needs to be enforced worldwide to prevent a genetically engineered, virulent pathogen from killing civilians and to ultimately minimize the threat that synthetic biology presents to the public.

Madeline Killeen
Mariana Calle (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Health Sciences, Worcester State University
Nutritional Habits and Perceived Risk of Type-2 Diabetes in College Students

        The prevalence rate of Type 2 Diabetes (TD2M) in Massachusetts is 8.5 cases per 100 people, with over 450 thousand self-reported cases of the disease in patients 18 or older.  TD2M development is highly influenced by lifestyle such as sedentary activity, diet, and other learned behaviors. Most studies regarding perception of TD2M are focused on older adults who are at a higher risk for developing the disease. However, research suggests that significant lifestyle habits are formed during young adulthood, and these behaviors can put young adults at risk for major chronic diseases later in life. The purpose of this study is to better understand the perceptions and perceived risk of TD2M among college students and how those perceptions correlate with nutritional habits. This study will provide relevant information on the current thoughts and behaviors of Worcester State University students regarding nutritional habits and TD2M. This information can help health educators plan targeted interventions for this population in order to prevent the onset of TD2M and other chronic diseases later in life.


Taylor Kovarik
Laura Reed (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst

A Brief Analysis of the Medical Management of the 2014-2016 Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in West Africa

Starting in 2014, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) ravaged through the population of West Africa, primarily affecting Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With over 28,000 infections and 11,000 deaths, the deadly outbreak was the largest recorded, demanding extensive efforts from both local and international healthcare workers and public health officials. Tragically, the disease took months to properly diagnose and EVD spread rapidly to communities and the clinicians treating them. While the epidemic officially ended in 2016, a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and shortcomings of the medical management of the disease could be used to better prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks. Using scholarly literature accessed through EBSCO host and PubMed, news articles, first-hand accounts, and governmental reports and press releases, this thesis assesses how the epidemic was managed from a treatment perspective. By analyzing the amount of experienced healthcare workers present, education provided to local healthcare staff, and funds allocated by international aid agencies, recommendations for the management of future outbreaks are highlighted. Findings concluded that better diagnostic and patient triaging strategies need to be implemented. Additionally, educating healthcare workers more effectively including local citizens in decision-making needs to be executed. Given the slow response of international aid in this outbreak, future efforts will need to focus on decreasing the time spent supplying medical facilities with supportive care. Additional studies in health policy, governmental and non-governmental organization response, and medical diagnostics are needed. 


Jenna Lansbury
Laura Reed (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst
Failing the Frail: Advocating for Our Nation's Most Vulnerable

There are approximately 1.5 million Americans over the age of 65 who are living in one of 17,000 nursing homes. The dual pressures of increasing demand for beds and rising costs contribute to a growing crisis in assuring the quality of care and oversight of nursing home facilities. This thesis examines how nursing home facilities are rated in Massachusetts and identifies violations that continue to occur in facilities according to federal reports. This study finds that the daily abuses that occur in nursing homes do not receive nearly enough attention; nursing home residents are often unable to advocate for themselves. By allowing this abuse and neglect to continue, we are truly failing the frail.

While the importance of medical attention and sanitation are the most measurable types of neglect and unquestionably important, this study argues that these aspects of care receive an unbalanced amount of attention that comes at the expense of the rampant problem of the emotional and social neglect of residents in nursing homes. Emotional neglect is commonly the most ignored category of abuse due to the difficulty in quantifying an individual’s quality of life. This thesis proposes that there is inadequate attention and oversight of emotional and social neglect. Following a review of current conditions and standards of care in Massachusetts nursing homes using existing surveys and federal violation reports, this thesis concludes with a proposal to add survey questions under the environment category of the current rating system to better address overall quality of life and offers an important first step to initiate institution-wide change.

Mary Abigail Lavery
Michael Begay (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Public Health, UMass Amherst
Reducing the Risk of Melanoma in College Athletes

College athletes represent a potentially high risk population for developing melanoma due to their elevated exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This project seeks to determine what the current attitudes, beliefs, and practices are among college level athletes regarding melanoma prevention. It presents information on sunscreen use, tanning bed use and tanning practices, sunburn incidence, and overall ultraviolet radiation exposure. Six relevant articles pertaining to athletes in the United States were found using PubMed and EBSCO Host. Each study administered a self-reporting survey to college athletes, asking about beliefs and practices related to sun safety and skin cancer prevention. Main findings indicate high sun exposure (15 hours/ week) and low levels of preventative measures among athletes. There is a low rate of sunscreen use (up to 85% of athletes do not use sunscreen) and a high rate of sunburns (up to 84%). Athletes demonstrate misunderstanding about the risk of tanning, and up to 52.8% used a tanning bed in the past year. Given the results of the study, I have developed an interventional resource for athletes, coaches, and athletic administration that aimed towards improving current melanoma prevention in college athletes.

Katherine M. Lepanto
Bar Cohen
Catalina Gabriela Lugo
Doris Akinyi Nyamwaya
Nicole VanKim (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, UMass Amherst
Child Food Insecurity and Its Adverse Effects on Childhood Development

Objective: To examine how food-insecurity can have adverse effects on childhood development in rural areas of Texas in the United States.

Background: Food insecurity can be defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. A lack of proper nutrition during childhood has been shown to negatively impact education and social skills. Food insecure children have more cognitive and behavioral problems when compared to their food-secure peers. Texas has the highest number of children than any other state in America with 27.1% of the children being food insecure. South Texas has the highest rate of child food insecurity in the nation with 48% being considered at risk for hunger.

Participants: The studies used in this review were conducted in rural areas of Texas, USA. The focus of the research will be done on food-insecure school-aged children.

Methods: Studies will be accessed using the databases PubMed and Google Scholar. Keywords will include: “food-insecure”, “rural”, “development”, “nutrition”, “children”, “effects”, "household", "Texas". To find interventions, other keywords will include "SNAP", "transportation", "school lunch program".

Results: Preliminary research indicates that food-insecurity is directly related to negative outcomes of physical and mental development in children. Other research showed access to federal nutrition programs, food banks and participation in school nutrition programs as a way to reduce the number of food insecure children.

Conclusion: Preliminary research indicates that SNAP, school lunch programs and better public transportation are possible interventions to address food insecurity in children. 

Abby Ann Lilak
Tim Ford (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst
iCons: Examination of Current Screening and Prevention Methods of Cholera in Latin America and the Caribbean

For my thesis, I am examining the current screening methods and prevention strategies for Vibrio cholerae in Latin America and the Caribbean. I have spent a majority of my research understanding V.cholerae at the molecular level. I then analyzed various studies and health organization reports from major cholera outbreaks around the world. I am able to determine where prevention methods were successful and also able to identify subtle differences between the prevention methods of advanced and less advanced countries. Based upon the research conducted, I am able to identify reasons for which the prevention methods were only effective in certain environments. I am currently looking at technology from 2016 and 2017 that could be or is currently being tested in cholera endemic areas. Including an analysis of some of the newer technology being developed, may show that some of the deficiencies in current methods could be easily filled through the use of a specific tool. The inclusion of newer technology may address some of the current issues in screening methods such as more timely responses and more accurate reporting. I am working as a part of a lab and we plan on combining our research together and seeing how we could implement our knowledge towards to the cholera epidemic in Haiti.

Elizabeth Z. Lin
Krystal Pollitt (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst

The Fresh Air Wristband: Profiling Environmental Exposures Using a Wearable Air Pollutant Monitor

Air pollution is a major public health concern due to the strong evidence from epidemiological and experimental studies demonstrating adverse health effects. Specific groups of pollutants have been associated with enhanced adverse health, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Current laboratories methods for assessing exposure to these panels of compounds are tedious, limiting the feasibility of evaluating personal exposure on a larger scale. With the aim of enhancing sample analysis throughput, we designed a novel low-cost wearable passive sampler for measuring personal VOC and PAH exposures. Our sampler uses a glass-encased magnetic bar coated with a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) film to sequester and concentrate a wide range of organic compounds.  This small PDMS coated bar (1 cm length, 0.5 cm diameter) has been housed in silicone wristbands to promote wearability, providing an improved representation of an individual’s exposure. To further streamline the analysis process, VOC and PAH compounds collected on the PDMS film are thermally desorbed directly into a gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometer for separation and quantification. Results profiling personal exposures to 34 to 37 targeted compounds collected over exposure periods from a range of rural, suburban and urban microenvironments will be presented. Personal exposure was characterized to a range of sources including transportation and industry as well as environmental pollutants from household cleaning and personal care products.

John Timothy Michael Locke
Jeanie Tietjen (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of English, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Gun Violence and Mental Health

Mass violence like the school shooting that recently occurred in Parkland, Florida forefronts how the nation's struggles to explain gun violence to issues of mental health. Legislation has been enacted to limit individuals diagnosed with mental illness from acquiring firearms in an effort to prevent violent outbreaks.  This controversy has major implications not just in the mental health community, but to the American public in the sense that they see loners, people with social difficulties, as potential violent perpetrators. My research focuses on how United States gun control policies create an inaccurate stereotype that belittles an entire group of people. It also aims to demonstrate how certain state and federal gun control policies endanger doctor patient confidentiality and ostracize the mentally ill: these policies are known as, “reactionary gun control legislation”. Dr. Jonathan Metzl, Professor of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, breaks down the mental health/gun violence discussion into commonly misinterpreted stigmas or beliefs. He disproves these stigmas with evidence as well as his psychiatric insight. Moreover, individuals with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators. We often see the perpetrator’s mental health come into question after a major tragedy, the American public seeks to find quick accountability for the crime, and the media creates the outlet for the public to make their assumptions.

Bailey Elizabeth McCarthy
Jaeyeun Suk
Penelope Pekow (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, UMass Amherst
Improving Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Haitian Refugee Communities in Florida

Refugee populations are at a higher risk of developing mental health illnesses such as major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rates of PTSD are up to 10 times higher among refugees in the US than in the general population because of past traumas, forced relocation, discrimination, social exclusion and lack of opportunities in the country of resettlement. Since 1980, the US has admitted more than 2 million refugees. In 2015, the estimated number of Haitian immigrants and refugees in the US was 676,000. Refugees can find access to mental healthcare hampered by physical, language, and cultural barriers. The current administration’s new policy to terminate temporary protected status of Haitian refugees living in the US by July 2, 2019 could also exacerbate mental health issues. The primary objective of this study is to evaluate rates of depression and PTSD among Haitian refugees living in Florida and give recommendations to improve health outcomes using peer-reviewed journals from the University of Massachusetts library database, relevant research programs,and state and federal census data. We intend to look at evidence supported policies being implemented in other refugee communities that can be applied to limit the effects of these barriers on the Haitian refugee population. In order to address the heightened risk of depression and PTSD in Haitian immigrant communities, the United States healthcare system must be developed in specific areas targeting issues that may be preventing efficient care.

Alison Elizabeth McHugh
Mary V. Andrianopoulos (Faculty Sponsor)
Department of Communication Disorders, UMass Amherst

Using Preferred Visual Stimuli to Deliver Telepractice Services to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Research supports that individuals with ASD show an affinity for technologies, suggesting that Telepractice models may be more captivating for delivering Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) intervention services compared to traditional On-Site therapy. This study investigated using a Telepractice (synchronous videoconferencing) platform to investigate: 1) the type of visual stimuli preferred by children with ASD