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2007 McNair Alumni Research Abstracts

The Effects of Mountaintop Removal Surface Coal Mining on the Property Values of Proximate Communities in West Virginia

McNair Scholar: Joseph Bailey

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Barbara Rasmussen

Discipline: History

Mountaintop removal surface coal mining (MTR) affects property values of southern West Virginia communities. MTRis a rapidly expanding method of extracting coal from the mountains of Appalachia. In West Virginia, MTR is pervasive in nine southern counties because of the high-quality, low sulfur coal mines there. However, the process of MTR has an incredible impact on proximate communities. For this research, two Boone County communities will be studied to determine the impact of MTR on property values. Boone County Courthouse property assessments will be used to examine and compare the property values pre/post MTR to determine its impact on the property values of these two communities.


Writing My First Novel: Exploring Perceptions of Reality in American Spiritualities and Magical Realism within a Postmodern Theoretical Framework

McNair Scholar: David F. Bello

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Brazaitis

Discipline: English

A fictional text can explore issues via methods unavailable to science. Magical realism, a literary form recognized most commonly in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, can be adapted to contemporary postmodernism through its elements of the unreal and its challenges to the perceptions of reality, control, and awareness. In the form of a novel, this narrative will be concerned with commercial and supernatural aspects of spirituality in America. It will be drafted after outlining key scenes and thorough character descriptions with the intention of incorporating a number of postmodern literary devices.


Implicit Attitudes toward Latinos through Advertising 

McNair Scholar: Kimberly A. Bonilla

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Constance Toffle

Discipline: Advertising

Studies have shown that implicit attitudes remain in an individual’s unconscious memory, and can be affected through the media. Latinos are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States and is estimated to increase to 44% of the total population in 2025. Prior research has neglected to study implicit attitudes toward Latinos. The present study will examine whether people’s perceptions are influenced by advertisements of Latinos. Participants will complete a Word-Fragment Completion Test that will measure the speed of stereotypical (negative) words toward Latino advertisements vs. Caucasian advertisements displayed. It is expected that participants will show higher levels of negative stereotyping toward Latino advertisements versus the Caucasian ad. 


The Co-Morbidity of Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

McNair Scholar: Whitney Burks

Faculty Mentor: Dr.William Fremouw

Discipline: Psychology

The study of the co-morbidity of eating disorders and anxiety disorders has become a very important research topic. This study will compare participants who report having symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social phobia in respect to those who do not report having symptoms of OCD and social phobia. The purpose is to see if the participants with one or both of these anxiety disorders are more likely to report symptoms of eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, than those who do not report having symptoms of OCD and social phobia. Questionnaire assessing anxiety disorders and eating disorders will be given to a sample of female college students.


Communicating and Organizing the Crisis Management Plans of American Universities

McNair Scholar: Adam Cagle

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ralph Hanson

Discipline: Public Relation

The purpose of this research is to examine crisis management issues experienced among universities and the value of communication and organization toward the better handling of emergency procedures. Scholarly publications, journal articles, interviews, and other sources that reveal expert discussion in regard to this issue will be used to explain the relevance of the research, benefits to the field of crisis management procedure, and effectiveness of current crisis management policies. This study will attempt to give useful research in order to develop a better model for institutional crisis management.


Knowledge, Beliefs and Attitudes about Human Papillomavirus, Cervical Cancer, and Gardasil among Women in West Virginia: Will Women be Vaccinated or Vaccinate their Daughters?

McNair Scholar: Danielle Castillo

Faculty Mentor: Ruth Kershner, EdD, RN, CHES

Discipline: Exercise Physiology

West Virginia has the most cervical cancer deaths in the United States. The objective of this study will be to assess the knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes of women in West Virginia pertaining to human papillomavirus (HPV), cervical cancer, and the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. A questionnaire will be administered to all female West Virginia University employees and students over the age of 18 years. Data will be gathered on demographics, knowledge, beliefs, and awareness about HPV and cervical cancer, and knowledge, beliefs, awareness of Gardasil, and the likelihood for women to be vaccinated or vaccinate their daughters.


A Comparative Study of the Quality and Intelligibility of the Verbal Output of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices

McNair Scholar: Ashley Daniels

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Norman Lass

Discipline: Speech Pathology and Audiology

This study will attempt to compare both the quality and intelligibility of the verbal output of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices. Many people use AAC devices everyday; therefore, it is important that updated research is conducted so that the most efficient device can be selected for them. AAC devices are important because they enable people with severe disabilities to verbally communicate. This study will compare the quality and intelligibility of two different voice output systems: VeriVox and DECtalk. The findings will have important implications and applications for AAC device users.


Women’s Advancement to the Top: Is it the Organization or the Woman?

McNair Scholar: Sparkle Davis

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Timothy Heames

Discipline: Business

Traditionally, men have dominated the workforce while women have been relegated to the home front. Women in the 21st century have increasingly progressed within organizations by making their way into hitherto male dominated management positions. The purpose of this research is to distinguish between organizations that provide opportunity for advancement for women and those organizations that do not have the same opportunities. This researcher will utilize a combination of interviews and six case studies on different organizations with the intent of examining differences in attitudes toward women in management positions.


The Impact of Parental Stress, Substance Abuse, Intimate Partner Violence, and Other Potential Risk Factors on Treatment Outcome for Child Maltreatment

McNair Scholar: Chelsea Derlan

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cheryl B. McNeil

Discipline: Psychology

Child maltreatment is a serious topic of interest and concern. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System established that in 2005, nearly 899,000 children had been victimized. Interestingly, 83.4% of victims were maltreated by a parent. Studies indicate that parental stress, substance abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), as well as other variables, may predict child maltreatment. There is a dearth of research, however, concerning potential risk factors that may relate to treatment outcomes for parents who maltreat their children. The present study will examine the significance of potential risk factors on parental treatment outcomes. Because parental stress, substance abuse, and IPV are main risk factors in child maltreatment, it is hypothesized that they will also be predictors of treatment outcomes. More specifically, parents with higher levels of stress prior to treatment, who demonstrate substance abuse problems, and/or have experienced intimate partner violence will be less successful in a treatment program.


Changes in Vegetation and Tree Ring Patterns of Old-Growth Red Spruce Forests in West Virginia

McNair Scholar: Sean Dougherty

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Eric Heitzman

Discipline: Forest Resource Management

Old-growth red spruce (Picea rubens) forests in West Virginia are virtually unstudied as well as being incredibly rare throughout its natural range. West Virginia once exceeded 1.5 million acres during pre-settlement days, but now only an estimated 30,000 acres exist; and of these, there is less than 100 acres of old-growth found at three different sites. The majority of studies have used second growth forests because of the lack of contiguous old-growth forests. The purpose of this study is to collect 20 tree rings from each site. Ten of those will be from trees in good health and ten will be from trees in poor health. A comparison will be made using basal area increments (BAI) to determine growth trends over time. Measurements will then be made to determine stand diversity and red spruce regeneration.


A Prediction of Factors Contributing to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome in Long Distance Runners

McNair Scholar: Victoria A. Gilliam

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Corrie Mancinelli

Discipline: Exercise Physiology

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is the most common pathologic condition affecting the knee. It is characterized by diffuse pain over the anterior aspect of the knee and is aggravated by activities that increase patellofemoral joint compressive forces, such as walking and running (Wilson 2007). Many studies have shown that factors contributing to these excessive forces are due to malalignment of the patella as well as decreased muscular endurance, strength, and anthropometric factors. The exact predictors of PFPS in runners is not completely clear, therefore this study is designed to look at factors of muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, and biomechanics to see if these predict PFPS. This will enhance the field of physical therapy by explaining why and how PFPS occurs as well as advance better treatment of those with the disorder and prevention for those at risk.


Discovering Class I Mobile Elements of Chrysomya (Diptera: Calliphoridae)

McNair Scholar: Adrienne Gauna

Faculty Mentor: Dr. David A. Ray

Discipline: Forensic and Investigative Sciences

Estimating the post-mortem interval (PMI) from blowfly evidence is a common technique in forensic science, but it is critically dependent on correctly discerning the species of blowfly found on the body. This project is designed to distinguish and classify several class I mobile elements in the genome of genus Chrysomya (Diptera: Calliphoridae). The presence of class I mobile elements will generate opportunities for evaluating the effectiveness of the assembled elements in revealing species identity, order of species succession, and their utility in determining the PMI.


Black Students’ Adjustment to a Predominantly White University: How Residential Background Matters

McNair Scholar: Katasha Leggett

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rachael A. Woldoff

Discipline: Criminology

Many researchers have conducted studies on college students’ adjustment to university life (Eimers and Pike 2004). In addition, some studies have focused on how various subgroups adjust, such as nonwhites and women (Jackson 1998). Often, these projects focus on students’ behaviors that contribute to adjustment problems or practical solutions for remedying adjustment difficulties, such as joining organizations and socializing with racial/ethnic groups (Robbins, Lese and Herrick 1993). This study asks how black students’ residential experiences before college contribute to their adjustment to life on a predominantly white campus. This research is important to the field of sociology, as well as college policy, because it may reveal important factors associated with barriers to black students’ achievement, such as racial differences in college drop out rates and length of time to receive a degree. To conduct the study of black students’ adjustment to white predominantly institutions, ten men and ten women students will be interviewed with an attempt to include a sample that represents the black student population at a university.


Integrative Assessment of Human Mercury Bioaccumulation due to Coal-fired Power Plants in West Virginia

McNair Scholar: Jason W. Likens

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christy Foran

Discipline: Biology

Mercury bioaccumulation in West Virginia University students will be analyzed to determine whether coal-fired power plants influence exposure. Using questionnaires and fingernail samples from 400 students, the study will evaluate students’ body burdens and known routes of mercury exposure, such as fish consumption, amalgam dental fillings, and vaccinations. Collected fingernail samples will undergo cold-vapor atomic absorption spectrometry (CVAAS). Calculated mercury body burdens will be mapped using Geographical Information System (GIS) to determine the relationship between participants’ relative exposure to coal-fired power plants and mercury bioaccumulation. The results are expected to determine whether coal-fired power plants are a geographic source of mercury exposure.


Bulls with Balls: Phallic Power in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

McNair Scholar: Jesse T. Potts

Faculty Mentor: Dr. John Ernest

Discipline: English (American literature)

This article examines sexual power as it determines control in Jake and Brett’s relationship. This paper incorporates previous scholarship on Jake’s masculinity, sociological complications of gender in the novel, and a feminist perspective to analyze the power construct between Jake and Brett. The article proposes that Jake’s masculinity inadequacy, society’s pressures on gender identification, and Brett’s role as a dominant woman in a male-dominated society all culminate in creating a power flux in which the character who manipulates his or her sexual appearance will rule in the relationship.


Periodic Input Enhances Odor Perception and Discrimination in the Moth Manduca Sexta

McNair Scholar: Adrian Sykes

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kevin Daly

Discipline: Biology

In mammals it is believed that sniff-mediated periodic input may serve to enhance detection of otherwise sub threshold signals, though this is unknown. The insect wing beat is analogous to mammalian sniffing, because it introduces periodic airflow around their antennae. In Manduca sexta, the antenna responds to periodic input at its wing beat frequency suggesting a functional role. We propose to take a psychophysical approach to test the hypothesis that periodic input enhances detection of otherwise sub threshold signals. Here, moths will first be conditioned to respond to an odor, then tested for a conditioned response across a concentration series. We expect that the resulting concentration-response functions are enhanced by wing beat-driven periodic input relative to a continuous stimulus. This research project should last approximately 8-10 months.


Paradoxes of Privatization: Assessing Sustainability of Water Reform in Mexico

McNair Scholar: Toby Vernon

Mentor: Maximo Martinez

Discipline: International Studies and Geography

Water privatization policies have been implemented in Mexico as a result of alignment with neoliberal economic strategies and projected improvements on quality of life and public health. This study employs a combination of macro analysis and rural/urban case study methods to measure the effectiveness of privatization policy to date as well as sustainability potential. Previous research has shown inadequacies in existing policies with potential for improvements. This study expects to show a lack of efficacy in policy due to conflicts of interest, misgovernment, and unsustainable water management.