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2012 McNair Research Abstracts

The Effects of Gentrification on Residents’ Quality of Life

McNair Scholar: Chloe Brown

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rachael A. Woldoff

Discipline: Psychology

Gentrification, the movement of middle-class families into working-class and lower-income urban neighborhoods has been shown to improve some aspects of neighborhood life, but also can have negative consequences for long-term residents. This research examines gentrification through a case study of Lawrenceville, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that has recently been revitalized by a new hospital, trendy boutiques, and the opening of numerous bars and restaurants. Through conducting semi-structured interviews with ten original residents and ten newer residents, this study will highlight how community members experience quality of life in the midst of a transition from a relatively low-income area to a destination spot for the “creative class” of artistic “hipsters,” many of whom are students or graduates from local universities.


Computational Analysis of Lysine 120 Conservation in Protein Kinase CK2α

McNair Scholar: Adam Carte

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ashok P. Bidwai

Discipline: Biochemistry

CKII is a prevalent serine/threonine kinase, showing potential for oncogene activity. While this protein has been studied extensively, a definite mechanism of control has not been determined. Recent work by Xu and colleagues (2010) shows support that the α subunit of CKII is being ubiquitinated at lysine 120 (K-120). To assess whether ubiquitination of K-120 is a possible mechanism of CKII control, bioinformatics and computational biology techniques will be applied to determine if K-120 is conserved throughout a spectrum of species. Discovering conservation or lack thereof, of K-120 could provide insight in determining if ubiquitination is a viable mechanism of CKII regulation.


Measuring Decreases in Energy Demand through Educational Programs and Periods of Incentives for Residents of a University Dormitory

McNair Scholar: Amanda Harker

Faculty Mentors: Dr. James Wesley Burnett, Dr. Clement Solomon

Discipline: Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Future energy security and availability are two major dilemmas facing the United States today. While the focus has been dominated by the idea of switching to alternatives, there may be a way to decrease our current demand to help secure our future energy supplies. Using a program-evaluation approach, the research will examine how implementing an energy education program in a university setting and how its effects on energy consumption within the undergraduate dormitories. Over consumption of electricity is one of the root causes of the rapid depletion of energy resources, and must be addressed in order to create a sustainable future for our resources.


The Effect of the Financial Crisis on Student Loan Default Rates

McNair Scholar: Tyree Harmon

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ann Marie Hibbert

Discipline: Finance

Millions of college graduates in the United States have student loan debt. Recently there has been widespread debate in the press about a pending increase in the interest rates on student loans. Most commentators are stressing the fact that this increase would result in more graduates being unable to repay their loans. Much of the past research on the factors that contribute to student loan default rates has focused on individual social and economic factors. The proposed research will use regression analysis to investigate how the relationship between student loan default rates and state unemployment rates has been affected by the economic crisis. The analysis will investigate if after controlling for real gross domestic product and per capita income, there is a more positive and significant relationship between changes in the unemployment rate and the student loan default rates after the 2008 financial crisis. The research hypothesizes that states with higher unemployment rates will have larger increases in the amount of student loans that are defaulted in the post-crisis period.


The Effects of Parenting Dimensions and Religiousness on Adolescent Substance Use

McNair Scholar: Trinity Howell

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aaron Metzger

Discipline: Psychology

Parents play a crucial role in preventing adolescent health risk behaviors. Recent literature suggests adolescent religiosity and spirituality also protect against negative developmental outcomes. The current study examines associations among specific dimensions of parenting, parent and adolescent religious behavior and spirituality, and adolescent substance use. It is expected that appropriate levels of parental warmth, support, and control will be associated with lower levels of adolescent illicit substance use. Parent religiosity should impact adolescent substance use through adolescent religious behavior. Religiosity in teens should lead to decreased substance use and spirituality should moderate this relation. These protective agents may prove to be crucial contributions to adolescent well-being.


Modeling Stochasticity: Finding the Shortest Path

McNair Scholar: Rachel James

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Avinash Unnikrishnan

Discipline: Civil Engineering

This project will implement an algorithm that finds the shortest path (SP) in a stochastic, time-independent network with correlated arc costs. With stochastic SP research, there are three major categories of performance measurement. This project’s performance measure is a linear combination of expected time and deviation from a specified arrival time; it is innovative because the performance measure allows a user to place a weight on their preference toward deviating (be it early or late). It is hypothesized that the results of this study can be applied to a time-dependent stochastic network and help to develop more realistic models with future research.


Probabilistic Assessment on Variability of Striker Pins, Impression Marks, and Breech Face Marks from a Mossberg 500 Model Shotgun

McNair Scholar: Roger L. Jefferys II

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Keith Morris

Discipline: Forensic and Investigative Science

In the judicial system, there has been much controversy in applying the relationship between crime scene evidence and evidence found in the possession of a suspect; however, minimal research exists investigating the value of this evidence. The proposed research will use an Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) to determine inter-variability and intra-variability between striker pins, impression marks, and breech face marks in shotgun evidence. The repeatability, reliability, and the number of correlations needed to achieve a given degree of confidence will be examined. A graphical probability assessment will be created using the match values, or firing pin scores from the IBISto design a Bayesian network.


Influence of Peer Behavior on Interracial Roommate Relationships and Prejudice Levels: A Longitudinal Study

McNair Scholar: Jasmine Koech

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Natalie Shook

Discipline: Psychology

With racial/ethnic diversity increasing in the US (Census Bureau, 2011), it is important to understand the factors that influence interracial conflict and prejudice, in order to reduce such social problems. The current study will examine the influence of peer behavior and opinion on reported conflict and racial attitudes over the course of the fall semester for first year students randomly assigned to an interracial versus a same-race roommate. It is hypothesized that negative peer opinions about interracial interaction will result in participants’ lowered roommate satisfaction, increased conflict with their roommate, and less accepting racial attitudes for participants in interracial rooms.


How Memory Affects the History of the Boston Massacre

McNair Scholar: Jessica Latham

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tyler Boulware

Discipline: History

This project involves discovering how the Boston Massacre was remembered up until a generation after it occurred. The goal is to show how memory shaped the massacre as a historical event and examine primary accounts on the Boston Massacre. Upon examination of these accounts, it becomes clear that memory shapes the way that people wrote about the Boston Massacre. Through showing that the Boston Massacre lives on in memory, this research will highlight the importance of how memory can shape the Boston Massacre.


A Comparative Study of Attitude Formation in Depressed and Non-depressed Individuals

McNair Scholar: Reeva Morton

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cheryl McNeil

Discipline: Psychology

Research has demonstrated that learning positive and negative information is related to the way that individuals perceive new information. Depressive symptoms also have been found to impact attitude formation, which also is thought to be related to information processing. This study will examine learning bias in women who have clinical depressive symptoms and those who do not report depression. Two groups of depressed and non-depressed women will be evaluated using their Beanfest scores. The Beanfest is a computerized assessment of attitudes and cognitive biases using a game format. It is expected that depressed women will have a deficit in learning positive information. The association between high depression scores and learning bias is expected to be related to cognitive processing.


To Be Found: The Relationship between Missing Children, News Coverage, and Agenda-Setting

McNair Scholar: Milda Marie Mullins

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Bob Britten

Discipline: Journalism

This research looks at the relationship between missing children and agenda-setting. Agenda-setting is the ability of the media to influence the salience of topics on the public agenda. In the case of missing children, agenda-setting practices could exclude children of a certain socioeconomic status by influencing the public and media that they are less newsworthy. This would compromise the objectivity and informational nature of the news by eliminating equality and potentially truth. This research aims to determine if there is a relationship between socioeconomic status and news coverage of missing children in Appalachia using a T-test statistic and content analysis.


The Influence of Microgravity on Spray Cooling Heat Transfer

McNair Scholar: Michael Powell

Faculty Mentor: Dr. John Kuhlman

Discipline: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Development of electronics capabilities continues to accelerate, with increased heat generation as one problematic side-effect. Reducing heat generation will allow for circuitry to achieve higher performance. Spray cooling is a potential method, using a liquid to transfer heat by continuously saturating the heating surface with liquid droplets. Spray cooling has been tested almost exclusively on Earth. Potential microgravity applications include a number of high power commercial or military satellite payloads, such as light detection and ranging device (LIDAR) or laser diode arrays. Experiments have been performed on this topic, but results have been conflicting, showing that heat transfer rates can either increase or decrease. Further research into the spray cooling matter is required before spray cooling can be implemented as an approach to heat removal in microgravity. The proposed research will explore induced effects of microgravity on the spray cooling heat transfer rates.


Influence of the Roman Occupation on Great Britain

McNair Scholar: Kassey Riffle

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Renfrew

Discipline: Sociology and Anthropology

The depiction of the Roman occupation of Britain does not take into account the depiction created by authors from medieval Britain to 19th century Great Britain within the fields of archaeology, history, and Roman studies. By looking at the histories of Britain written by The Venerable Bede, Geoffrey of Monmouth, William Camden, Usher, Horsley, Smith, Barnes, and Sir Lubbock, this research will try to reconstruct the perceived image of the Roman occupation of Britain and look for the symbol of Rome as a civilizing force. If this symbol is present in the depictions, it would indicate a continuity of depicting the Romans as a civilizing force.


Program Evaluation of Adventure- and Web-based Alcohol Education Programs at West Virginia University

McNair Scholar: Shakira Smith

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ian Kellems

Discipline: Psychology

This study will examine alcohol interventions at West Virginia University. Research is needed to find what type of interventions provides the longest-lasting benefits for students. This study will examine a web-based and adventure-based program for its general effectiveness and test how long students retain information presented at several follow-ups. It is expected that students who participate in the adventure-based program will retain the information and skills for longer because of the hands-on and experiential nature of the program.


Got Game? The Effects of a Cognitive Video Game Intervention on a Post Stroke Middle-Aged and Older Adult Society

McNair Scholar: Sherain W. Thomas

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Julie Hicks-Patrick

Discipline: Psychology

In society, patients and their families along with multiple health care disciplines find it difficult to bridge the gap between discharge and home. Previous research (Nadorff et al., 2009) found that playing video games improves working memory in middle-aged and older adults. This extension study assesses 8-15 participants age 45 and older playing virtual video games that measure trail making, digit symbol coding, and Raven’s matrices. Cognitive intervention using Nintendo’s Brain Age games influences subjective perceptions of memory in middle aged stroke victims. It is hypothesized that the effectiveness of this type of rehabilitation will benefit post-stroke patient’s memory, verbal skills, mood, and functional ability.


Perceptions of Parent-Teen Communication in Relation to Current Sexual Behavior and Pregnancy Prevention

McNair Scholar: Michelle Watson

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Janie Leary

Discipline: Child Development and Family Studies

Unplanned pregnancies are highest among 18-24 year old women than any other age group (Healthy People 2020, 2010). Parenting style influences teens’ sexual behavior (Carlson & Tanner, 2006) but the outcome of parental influence on young adults’ perception of sexual behavior and pregnancy prevention is less understood. This study adds to the literature by investigating young adults’ current perceptions about past parent-teen relationships that might influence their beliefs regarding sex and pregnancy. The hypothesis will examine whether young adults who report having open communication with their parents as teenagers will also report less risky sexual behaviors resulting in pregnancy.


Changes in the Representation of Females in Popular Young Adult Literature

McNair Scholar: Kiersten Woods

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Juckett

Discipline: English and Chinese

Not much research has been done in the field of gender and young adult literature. Even less research has analyzed gender and agency in young adult fiction. Since little research has been done in this area, this paper will examine the amount of agency female characters display in young adult fiction. The research will focus on the effects of second wave feminism on the portrayal of female characters in young adult fiction. To accomplish this, books are selected from the 1981 and 2011 Literature for Today’s Young Adults Honor List.


Research Abstracts from previous years