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The diverse world of student research unfolds at STEPS

How can ultrasound help nanoparticles target cancer cells?

How diverse are the boards of directors of commercial banks that do mergers and acquisitions?

How did Islam relate to social movement groups during last year’s “Arab Spring?”

These and 36 other topics were on display last week when students turned the STEPS concourse into a sea of posters at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

The event was supported by a Core Competencies Grant from the provost’s office and sponsored by Alpha Chi Sigma, the chemistry fraternity.

“This was our best year yet,” said Keith Schray, professor of chemistry and adviser to Alpha Chi Sigma. “A lot of people participated and attendance was up.”

To remember, first forget

Psychology major Victoria Shiebler ’12 presented a study of memory enhancement techniques titled “Directed Forgetting in Preschoolers.”

“Forgetting irrelevant information enhances [memory of] more important information,” said Shiebler, “but we lack knowledge on how best to do that.”

To improve children’s memory performance, Shiebler recommends enhancing the context in which information is stored and making that information more personal to the individual.

Two other psychology majors studied how multitasking undermines our subconscious efforts to plan speech.

Carla Prieto ’14 and Kimberly Preusse ’12 joined biology major Jennifer Lewis ’14 in a project titled “Word Preparation Failure in a Complex Task.”

The planning of speech, said Prieto, is more mental preparation than physiological activity. Humans often focus on the first letters of upcoming words as they talk, she added, but “too much of a cognitive overload—keeping track of too many things at once—can break that process down.”

As good as gold

Three sophomores described their efforts to redesign the university’s composting system in a poster titled “Garbage to Gold.” Camile Delavaux, Rachel Henke and Bill Meier, representing the earth and environmental sciences department and the environmental sciences program, said the existing system boosts costs by requiring waste to be transported.

Three seniors in the Global Citizenship program—Elizabeth Shannon, Katherine Phyfe and Natalya Surmachevska—promoted healthy lifestyles to Broughal Middle School students. “Running at Broughal” detailed their six-week exercise and nutritional education program.

Surmachevska, a biology, international relations and economics triple major, also presented a poster describing her study of a clinic and medical school at the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences in Lima. “Medical Shadowing in Peru” summarized treatments rendered to a kidney stone sufferer, a head trauma victim, a bladder cancer patient and a skin-graft recipient.

Surmachevska’s trip was funded by an Experiential Learning in Health grant from the College of Arts and Sciences and arranged with help from Global Union director Bill Hunter.

Marc Mechanic ’12 investigated the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site and its impact on the real-estate market in downtown Manhattan. He interviewed 10 real-estate professionals and obtained the opinions of 26 more in an online survey. Mechanic wrote a 70-page paper on his two-semester study and has submitted it to the UCLA Undergraduate Journal of Economics.

Photos by Christa Neu
Posted on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Carla Prieto ’14, Jennifer Lewis ’14 and Kimberly Preusse ’12 (left to right) found that multitasking can break down the mental preparation that helps people plan their speech.
“Forgetting irrelevant information enhances the remembering of more important information, but we lack knowledge on how best to do that.”—psychology major Victoria Shiebler ’12
Real-estate professionals, says Marc Mechanic ’12, hope Conde Nast’s decision to rent 1 million square feet of the new One World Trade Center helps to revitalize downtown Manhattan.
Bioengineering major Jay Fraser ’15 explains cancer-cell adhesion to a fellow student at the symposium.
Joelle Dorskind ’12, a behavioral neuroscience and cognitive science double major, presented a poster titled “Effects of Stress on Memory Reconsolidation of Emotional Stimuli.”
Single-wall nanotube (SWNT) imaging, says Michael Blades ’12, a double major in electrical engineering and engineering physics, can be used to achieve multispectral image processing.
"And the winners are…"

Three sets of prizes, based on the votes of students, faculty and presenters themselves, were awarded to symposium participants.

First place in the student category went to bioengineering major Paige Baldwin ’12 for “Ultrasound Mediated Enhancement of Nanoparticle Delivery to Cancer Cells.” Second prize was taken by Sean Maloney ’12, a double major in behavioral neuroscience and religion studies, for “The Bionic Ear: Improving the Cochlear Implant.” Third place went to chemistry major Michael Kelly ’13 for “Analyzing Omp X in Phospholipid Bicelles.”

In the faculty category, biochemistry major Lindsey Yap ’13 took first place for “Ni-IDA Modified Peptide for Dimerization of Proteins via His-Tag.” Second place was shared by Michael Kelly and behavioral neuroscience majors Pranish Kantak ’12 and Dylan Bobrow ’12, who presented “The Effects of Probiotics on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder-like Symptoms in House Mice.”

The presenters themselves awarded first place to Kantak and Bobrow and divided second place among four projects—Sean Maloney’s “Bionic Ear,” “Word Preparation Failure in a Complex Task” by Preusse, Prieto and Lewis; “Running at Broughal” by Shannon, Surmachevska and Phyfe; and “A Comprehensive Analysis and Strategic Policy Recommendation for the Future of American Oil” by international relations major Karen Timmerman ’12.


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