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2008 McNair Alumni Research Abstracts

2008 Alumni Research


Pervert, Wombat, Lover: Second Life as Narrative/Game and the Role of the Resident in Virtual Reality

McNair Scholar: John Armour

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Charles “Sandy” Baldwin

Discipline: English/Management Information Systems

Two dominant academic approaches to studying the experience of playing video games are “narratology” (games as stories, as texts in a new medium) vs. “ludology” (games as rule-based non-narrative media). This research will examine digital virtual reality through these filters, using the social networking site Second Life as a model. The intent and role of the resident within Second Life will be analyzed as a means of creating a prescriptive model with which to ascertain whether the individual resident’s experience is more properly described in terms of ludology or narrative context.


Risky Behaviors as a Function of Academic Stress Perception

McNair Scholar: Ashley Barnes

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Scotti

Discipline: Psychology

College students engage in various harmful behaviors. Prior research has focused on students’ engagement in high levels of alcohol consumption, particularly when other coping strategies are unavailable or less appealing. This study aims to investigate the relation between students’ engagement in five specific risky behaviors and their academic stress perception. A total of 500 students completed a survey through SONA, a web-based data collection system. Survey results will be analyzed by regression analyses to estimate the best predictors of academic stress. It is hypothesized that academic stress perception will be positively correlated with engagement in risky behaviors.


Ecocriticism, Postcolonialism, and Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia

McNair Scholar: Jessica Domer

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ellesa High

Discipline: English

Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, from a postcolonial and ecocritical perspective, demonstrates colonial American conceptions of the environment and indigenous people and elucidates current (mis)conceptions regarding the environment and stereotypes of Native American people.The text demonstrates the commodification of the natural in colonial America as it contributed to independence from Europe and oppressed Native American people. This analysis will consider colonial indigenous perceptions of the natural environment and how they were misrepresented to fit colonial purposes of expansion.


Shadows, Hysteria and The Blind Owl: Problems with Existentialism in a Non-Western context

McNair Scholar: Nicholas Fagundo

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ryan Claycomb

Discipline: English

The Iranian novel The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat combines traditional Persian themes, imagery and culture with French existential philosophies that were becoming popular at the time and with other European and American literature such as Rilke, Kafka and Poe. By connecting Iranian traditions with both contemporary European literary trends and classic European texts, Hedayat complicates the assumptions held by both traditions. In the novel, tradition and modernism are simultaneously challenged, complicated and oppugned. By juxtaposing existentialism in a non-Western context he raises stimulating questions about their interactions and outcomes. By using the novel as a stepping stone into existential philosophy and postcolonial theory, I will examine the problems and complications The Blind Owl presents about both existential and postcolonial discourses.


The Black Woman in Higher Education: Holistic Development at Historically Black Colleges and Universities vs. Predominately White Institutions

McNair Scholars: Chelsea Fuller

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Shelley Savage

Discipline: Journalism

Abundant literature has examined the “college student experience”; however, there is a dearth of research focusing on the development of the black woman in higher education. The focus of this study is to examine the holistic development of black women at HBCUS vs. PWCUS. The study aims to examine the academic, social, spiritual and political development of black women. Eight black women from both types of institution will complete surveys and participate in an interview. It is hypothesized that HBCUS provide environments that are more conducive to the holistic development of black women.


Survival = Anger x Imagination: Sherman Alexie’s True Diary and American Indian Literary Nationalism

McNair Scholar: Deanna Hoard

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cari Carpenter

Discipline: English

This research examines Sherman Alexie’s 2007 National Book Award winning novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, within the theoretical context of what Jace Weaver calls American Indian Literary Nationalism. An analysis of excerpts from Alexie’s novel will be done using Weaver’s Nationalism perspective as a backdrop. This project seeks to discover the ways Alexie’s book and Weaver’s theory both complicate and inform each other and to examine Alexie’s characters from a Native centered perspective.


Aristotle’s Conception of Substance and Matter

McNair Scholar: Jeff Mahaney

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Beverly Hinton

Discipline: Philosophy

This research project pertains to Aristotle’s conception of matter and substance as presented in his Metaphysics Zeta and chapter 5 of his Categories. At least two translations of the Metaphysics will be used (the Furth and the Ross.) The original Greek will be turned to when there is a debate over the translation of specific passages. Historical commentaries will be used when a particular texted is cited often in the more contemporary sources on the subject. The majority of texted used besides the original sources will be contemporary scholarly work on the subject.


An Examination of Binding Properties between Aptamers and the Chemotherapeutic Drug Cisplatin

McNair Scholar: Anand Sunny Narayanan

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Peter Gannett

Discipline: Mechanical Engineering/Biology

Cisplatin is a common chemotherapeutic drug used to treat patients with lung, bladder, ovarian, and other cancer variants. However, it exhibits toxic side effects that limit the administrable dosage. Additionally, Cisplatin concentration measurement in the patient’s blood is cumbersome. The objective of this project is to prepare aptamers to which the cancer agent, Cisplatin, will bind. The aptamers serve as a detection element for an electrochemical biosensor. DNAcharge transfer is utilized in the biosensor through the aptamers as a current measurement; the greater the Cisplatin concentration, the greater the number of drug-DNA interactions, and the greater flux in current.


The Gendering of Harassment: College Students’ Perceptions of Abusive Behaviors

McNaIR Scholar: Robin Nelson

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Weiss

Discipline: Criminology/Women’s Studies

Two of the biggest problems students in high school experience are sexual harassment and abusive behaviors from their peers. Over 81% of students have experienced a form of harassment (Harris Interactive, 2001). Bullying, teasing and fighting are components of these types of negative experiences. This research will investigate how college students view the seriousness of abusive behaviors and sexual harassment that occurred during their high school years. A sample size of 100 undergraduate college students will complete a survey of ten closed-ended questions. Analysis will focus on the perceptions of seriousness based on gender and situations (e.g. pre-gaming, bars, and parties).


The Use of Biofeedback to the Tongue to Improve Balance and Postural Control in Subjects with Dizziness Related to Migraine Headaches

McNair Scholar: Luisa F. Padilla

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Corrie Mancinelli

Discipline: Exercise Physiology

The prevalence of dizziness related to migraine is relatively high, compared to the few treatment options available. Preliminary work has shown improvement in postural control and balance in individuals with vestibular dysfunction by using biofeedback to the tongue. This study aims to examine the effectiveness of the treatment that uses the BrainPort® device as a source of electric stimulation to the tongue in order to improve postural stability and balance of individuals with dizziness related to migraines. The improvement in postural balance and stability of each individual will be assessed by several reliable and valid balance performance tests and questionnaires. It is hypothesized that there will be an improvement in the functional abilities of the subjects participating in our study after they have used the BrainPort® device. The findings of this study will help determine if the use of BrainPort® device is a beneficial treatment option for individuals with dizziness related to migraine headaches.


A Pilot Study: Comparing the Physiological Responses between Treadmill and Deepwater Running

McNair Scholar: Norly Prucien

Faculty Mentor: David Donley

Discipline: Exercise Physiology 

This study will compare the physiological responses of treadmill running (TMR) tests and deep water running (DWR) tests with the view to measuring oxygen consumption (VO2 max), heart rate (HR), blood lactate (Blac), and respiratory exchange ratio (RER). A group of 20 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18-35 will perform graded maximal exercise tests using a treadmill and deep water exercises. It is envisaged that regardless of body fat percentage study participants will have decreased HR, VO2, RER, and RPE’s in the DWR test than on the TMR test. I also hypothesize that the DWR will have a less significant impact on HR, VO2, Blac and RER than TMR.


Gender, Discussion Networks, and Political Mobilization

McNair Scholar: Rita Anne Snyder

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Erin Cassese

Discipline: Political Science

This project focuses on gender differences within informal discussion networks and how their effect on political engagement and participation. We are particularly interested in political engagement—knowledge, interest and efficacy – because of its influence on both mass opinion and participation. Despite women’s advances in educational attainment, professional attainment and participation, we consider whether women are still embedded in ‘impoverished’ informal discussion networks. We consider whether differences within networks account for the persistent gender gap seen within knowledge, interest, and efficacy. We utilize National Elections Studies data from 2002 and 2006 to explore these relationships between deliberation and political behavior.


Just Like Mommy: Does Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence Increase the Duration and Severity of Abuse a Woman Will Endure from an Intimate Partner in Adulthood?

McNair Scholar: Jennyerin Steele

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Leslie Tower

Discipline: Criminology/Psychology/Women’s Studies

This study will examine if witnessing domestic violence as a child impacts intimate partner relationships as an adult. Straus’ Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS-2) will measure the severity of abuse women witnessed against their mothers during childhood, as well as their own experience with domestic violence during adulthood. Length of time women spent in a violent relationship during adulthood will also be measured. Correlations will be run to determine if a significant association exists between witnessing domestic violence in childhood and the length of time that women remain in domestically violent relationships as adults.


The Effects of Product Placement in Reality Television on Young Adults

McNair Scholar: Brandon Thomas

Faculty Mentor: Jan Boyles

Discipline: Journalism

Product Placement is a predominant factor in television that affects the disposition of young adults in today’s society. This paper attempts to examine the phenomenon of product placement in reality shows and how that impacts the perception, culture, and lifestyle of young adults. Using a combination of focus groups, reality show excerpts and document analysis, an attempt will be made to determine if there is a correlation between respondent television viewing habits and subsequent lifestyle changes. It is expected that respondent perceptions, culture and lifestyles will be affected by product placement in reality shows. 


College Students’ Perceptions on Doctor-Patient Communicative Relationships

McNair Scholar: Kayla Tutalo

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Melanie Booth-Butterfield

Discipline: Communication Studies

Positive relationships and interactions between many doctors and their patients have gradually declined. This study examines the likelihood of patients asking physicians’ healthcare questions during medical appointments; based on patients’ comfort levels of exchange with doctors of the same sex compared to doctors of the opposite sex. Random sampling of 100 male and female undergraduate college students will be conducted. Survey data will undergo an analysis of variance (ANOVA). The significance of the results will identify factors toward increasing positive communicative relationships between doctors and patients; leading to increased accuracy in diagnosis and treatment.


Black Collegians in Appalachia: Toward a place-Based Understanding of Black Students’ Adjustment to College and Their Pathways to a White, Rural College Setting

McNair Scholar: Yolanda Wiggins

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rachael Woldoff

Discipline: Political Science/Women’s Studies

Past research on black students’ adjustment to predominantly white universities has emphasized racial/ethnic or social class differences between white students and black students, but has downplayed differences in geographic community background. The proposed project uses focus groups to identify how black college students in a large university in Appalachian West Virginia collectively understand their adjustment to college. The results will highlight four main areas of inquiry: 1. the factors impacting black students’ college selection choices; 2. whether racial identity dominates regional identity; 3. the degree to which pre-college residential experiences influence black students’ tolerance/adaptability to a predominantly white educational, residential, and social/recreational environment.; and 4. students’ experiences while enrolled in college integration programs. Through this project, the researcher hopes to propose solutions and policies to improve black students’ struggles with adjustment, achievement, and graduation, as well as provide insight into the challenges for recruitment of blacks at West Virginia University.