Augsburg celebrates the creativity and scholarship of undergraduate students with its annual Zyzzogeton festival. The festival falls at the end of each academic year and is a culmination of achievement featuring work across adacemic departments. Over 80 students participate each year, showcasing their research.
This year, due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, we have moved the festival online. Here we present a selection of posters from undergraduate research conducted in the 2019-2020 school year.
Historically, research on optical, or visual illusions has belonged mainly to the field of psychology. However, in the 1980s, Professor Kokichi Sugihara, Meiji University, Japan, introduced a mathematical approach to design and classify 3-dimensional optical illusions. This presentation provides a sample of the mathematics behind some types of visual illusions.
Electropenetography Reveals Altered Aphid Feeding Behavior Correlated with Differential Gene Expression in Wild Barley Hosts
Maxwell Bannister and Quentin Smith
Aphids are phloem-feeding insects that substantially reduce crop yields around the world. Current pest-management approaches threaten to undermine ecological balance, rely heavily on expensive chemical inputs, and select for resistant insect biotypes. This study investigated differential fitness of the bird-cherry oat aphid (Rhopalosiphum padi) on three accessions of Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum, the wild progenitor of cultivated barley. Data from the electrical penetration graph (EPG) technique suggest that aphids presented with WBDC 053 as a host spent significantly less time ingesting phloem sap than those infesting WBDC 117, WBDC 336, or the commercial barley line ‘Morex’ (Mx) – indicating the presence of a phloem-based resistance in WBDC 053. The plant genes SOD, LOX, and HSP70 were selected as representatives of key metabolic pathways involved in plant defense responses, namely those in the production of jasmonate. Altered regulation of these genes during aphid feeding in the various barley accessions was assessed via quantitative RT-PCR. Differential gene expression between accessions is correlated with EPG and reproductive data. This characterization of pest resistance in three wild barley accessions demonstrates the utility of crop wild relatives as sources of novel genetic variation for plant improvement.
Earth’s atmosphere becomes increasingly thin with increasing altitude. Above 100 miles charged particles such as electrons and charged atoms called ions begin to fill the atmosphere. The atmosphere gradually transitions into the thin plasmas that make up the ionosphere, the magnetosphere, and finally interplanetary space. Plasmas are notoriously unstable, and can generate more than a dozen different kinds of waves, many of them not well understood yet. I studied one particular class of plasma waves called electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves using data from one of NASA’s most recent scientific satellite missions, Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS). The frequency range of EMIC waves is 0.1 – 5 Hz. The MMS mission consists of four closely spaced (down to ≈7 km) spacecraft in a highly elliptical orbit with their apogee from 12 to 25 Earth radii. Magnetic field measurements are provided by the MMS Fluxgate Magnetometer (FGM). My research centered around determining the scale size of EMIC waves, which has never been done accurately before as it is hard to estimate the size of these EMIC waves using only one satellite. What is unique about the MMS mission is that there are four satellites flown in close proximity to each other. Having only one spacecraft flying next to an EMIC wave event provides only one dimension, compared to multiple spacecraft which provide measurements in more than one dimension. Using two methods I concluded that the spatial scale size of EMIC waves is on the order of a few gyroradii of the protons that generated them.
Manganese (Mn) is an essential trace metal required for the normal physiological processes in humans. It plays an important role as a constituent of multiple enzymes and an activator of other enzymes. However, elevated cellular levels are toxic and may lead to the development of an irreversible Parkinson like syndrome that has no treatment. Recently, a new form of homozygous mutations in SLC30A10 causes familial parkinsonism associated with manganese (Mn) retention. SLC30A10 is a cell surface-localized Mn efflux transporter that reduces cellular Mn levels and protects against Mn-induced toxicity. The discoveries of these genetic diseases have transformed our understanding of Mn homeostasis, detoxification, and neurotoxicity. Gene expression analysis is increasingly vital in many fields of biological research. Validation of the real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) technique is a very accurate and sensitive method and becoming widely used to quantify gene expression from neuroblastoma cells. It can be used to quantify mRNA expression levels. This method allows for the direct detection of PCR products combining amplification and detection in one single step.
Human Airway Epithelial Secretions Differentially Inhibit Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa Functions
Benjamin P. Darwitz and Daniella F. Vasquez
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease caused by the mutation of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR) protein, which normally transports anions across cell membranes. Dysfunction of the CFTR on airway epithelial cells reduces the levels and/or activity of several antimicrobial molecules secreted by these cells, and may contribute to the persistence of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the lungs of patients with CF. Thus, we hypothesize that normal human airway epithelial cells secrete one or more active molecules that inhibit functions related to S. aureus and P. aeruginosa growth and/or biofilm formation. To test this hypothesis, we quantified the effects of apical airway epithelial cell secretions on the growth rate and static biofilm formation of S. aureus and P. aeruginosa. The apical secretions dose-dependently inhibited S. aureus biofilm formation but had no effect on the rate of S. aureus growth. Conversely, P. aeruginosa biofilm formation was not affected by the apical secretions, but its growth rate was dose-dependently inhibited. Boiling the apical secretions for 10 minutes at 100 °C resulted in increased inhibition of S. aureus biofilm formation, and reversed the inhibition of P. aeruginosa growth. This suggests that there may be more than one molecule involved with these inhibitory effects.
Years Spent in Secondary Physical Education and Levels of Physical Activity in College Students and Adults
Katherine A. Dockter
Physical education requirements in the United States vary and are often left to local districts in each state to decide. Considering the relationship between physical activity and obesity and physical fitness with mortality, requirements relating to national recommendations appear important. Long term implications of participation in physical education are contradictory at best with the limited studies performed concluding conflicting results.
Purpose: To examine the relationship between years of participation in physical education at a high school level and levels of physical activity and fitness in college students and adults.
Methods: Forty-one participants ranging in age from 18-65 (mean age 33.6) were recruited utilizing an inter-collegiate mailing system. Participants completed a self-administered IPAQ long-form questionnaire as well as additional physical education related questions. Participants also completed a YMCA Step Test.
Results: When comparing participant results to national recommendations for physical activity 6 of 41 met vigorous physical activity guidelines (14.6%), and 0 met guidelines for moderate physical activity. When adding in vigorous outdoor housework those meeting vigorous guidelines went up to 11 of 41 participants (26.8%), and when adding in moderate outdoor and indoor housework those meeting moderate guidelines went up to 4 of 41 (9.7%). Mean score of 4.5 on the YMCA Step Test for all participants was between below average and poor with a standard deviation of nearly two scoring levels.
No significant relationships were found when comparing time spent in physical education classes (required or total) to recalled moderate physical activity and fitness levels in college students and adults, while a significant relationship was seen when comparing the time spent in physical education classes (required and total) to recalled vigorous physical activity and fitness levels in college students and adults (p=0.02).
Conclusion: Further study to examine the relationship between physical education and long-term physical activity is needed with particular attention being paid to physical education requirements and their variances.
Visualizing hedgehog gene expression in the model organism Daphnia magna using in situ hybridization
The model organism, Daphnia magna, is a freshwater crustacean with a unique phenotype rarely seen in nature. Daphnia are cyclopic organism, meaning they are an animal with only one eye. Due to this particular characteristic, Daphnia are of particular interest in studying the hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway, responsible for eye, brain, and midline formation during early embryonic development. We are interested as to the application of this knowledge seeing that cyclopia occurs in humans. Though incompatible with life, cyclopia occurs 1.05 in every 100,000 births. Cyclopia is the most severe form of holoprosencephaly, a group of developmental disorders that result from mutations within the hedgehog gene. Varying rates of expression from hedgehog mutations results in an array of developmental disorders ranging from cyclopia to cleft palette and other midline abnormalities. Since mutations in the hedgehog gene cause potentially life threatening developmental disorders in humans, such as cyclopia, we have chosen to study a naturally cyclopic model organism as a way to better understand the implications of the hedgehog gene. The goal of this research is to visualize hedgehog gene expression within D. magna as a way to better understand the organism’s cyclopic nature. If the Hh gene is responsible for eye development and midline development, then we will see gene expression along the midline and in the head region of the embryos. We also suspect that if hedgehog expression is reduced in daphnia as a result of its cyclopic phenotype, then we might see an area of non-expression within the head region.
May Kemsheh and Reginald Oblitey
Manganese exposure to humans can be very toxic at a specific level. This toxicity causes symptoms that is very closely related to individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Manganese is essential in life for metabolic pathways and cellular homeostasis and it is also a cofactor for many enzymes. Humans are exposed to it through air and water at a non-toxic level. One typical way that manganese can be exposed to at a toxic level is occupationally through mining, welding, and/or smelting. SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells, derived from metastatic cells found in bone marrow, will be used to test the toxicity of manganese on human cells. In order to do this, a dose response was done to see cell viability at an increasing concentration of manganese starting at 0 μM to 2000 μM of MnCl2*4H2O on undifferentiated cells. As the concentrations of manganese increased, a notable change was seen as the number of live cells decreased dramatically. After discovering that 1000 μM of manganese was the point at which it killed most of the cells and made them very unhealthy, these cells were then differentiated with retinoic acid and exposed to that concentration of manganese and observed at 24, 48, and 72 hours. The differentiated cells promoted survival of these cells and were less vulnerable to toxicity than the undifferentiated cells. These cells were then stained with MitoRed in order to look at the mitochondria using fluorescence microscopy. The manganese was seen to have an effect on the mitochondria as time went on. This helps us see what manganese does to the mitochondria and if there is anything that can be done to avoid mitochondrial dysfunction of these cells.
Community colleges are inclusive institutions that make higher education available to students. The cost of attending a community college is much less than a four year university. The average annual tuition of a community college in 2017 was $3,660 compared to the average annual tuition of a four year public in state college of $10,230. Students looking to minimize education debt could save tuition cost by going to community college first. However many students do not realize that successfully transitioning from a 2 year college to a 4 year one and graduating in a timely fashion can be a challenge. Only 14% of students who enrolled in community college in the fall of 2007 seeking a bachelor’s degree actually succeeded in earning one within six years. Among those who transferred, only 42% earned a bachelor’s degree in six years compared to the 58% of students who enroll into a four-year institution as freshmen.
Organizational Secrecy, Structural Resources, & Stigma: The Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal in Pennsylvania
Since the scandal first broke in 2002, there has been a focus on the Catholic Church and the worldwide pattern of sexual abuse of children by priests. For decades, the sexual abuse committed by priests and the subsequent coverup of this behavior by Church leaders was kept a secret from society and even laypersons within the Church. Though we have known about the scandal for years now, there is still more to learn about how the abuse was kept a secret for so long. The Grand Jury Report that was released in 2018 by the state of Pennsylvania provides a unique opportunity for an in-depth analysis of both the extent of the sexual abuse within the eight dioceses of that state as well as the subsequent cover-up of this abuse. The report contains profiles of various pedophile priests, letters from high-ranking leaders of the Church about the abuse and their responses to the accusations made against the Church. This study focuses on an analysis of the methods used by the Church to avoid stigmatization and being discredited as a moral authority in society. This focus will also provide supporting evidence that the sexually abusive behavior by priests represent an institutional problem within the Church and not simply an individual problem.
C. David Robshaw
To identify when gerrymandering occurs, one can study compactness measures of districts. After determining that some measures of compactness alone are insufficient to identify fair or biased district boundaries, this study's investigation continues by focusing on wasted votes. Using wasted votes, a procedure is developed and coded in R that takes a given congressional district map and alters it to provide a redistricting of desired fair or partisan results.