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Research Abstracts


Improvement and Incorporation of Life Cycle Inventory into Sustainability Assessment Tool

McNair Scholar: Selorme Agbleze

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Fernando Lima

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a powerful tool to quantify the environmental impact of a chemical product or process from raw material to end use. With the ability of analyzing energy, material, and emissions for all stages of a chemical process, LCA helps to identify the most sustainable product or path.  However, it is still challenging and time-consuming to find reliable life cycle inventory (LCI) data for LCA. To facilitate rapid LCA, tools such as GREENSCOPE which already relies on similar data for sustainability assessment can be expanded to perform this task. The current interface of GREENSCOPE is cumbersome as a result of the many Excel sheets and cells the user has to interact with. The improvement of the GREENSCOPE user interface in addition to the incorporation of LCI into GREENSCOPE will allow for the performance of both sustainability assessment and LCA employing one integrated tool.

Personality and the Initiation of Alcohol Use during the Transition to College  

McNair Scholar: Kelsey Barton

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nicholas Turiano

The transition to college for a high school student is a critical developmental period that can lead to the use and abuse of alcohol. Problematic alcohol use can influence social relationships, academic performance, and health over time. Thus, the current study will examine how personality traits predict the initiation of alcohol use within the first 30 days of attendance to college, as well as the quantity of alcohol use. Data comes from the College Student Transition (CST) Study that includes data from 580 participants. Participants completed an online survey in July/August before their freshman year started, and another online assessment 30 days after the freshman year started. The survey included questions about demographic factors, substance use, and personality factors. This study can provide key data to understand how personality traits may predict alcohol use behaviors early in college. Such information is necessary to develop and implement prevention programs aimed at improving not only students at West Virginia University, but at all college campuses across the nation.

Development of Perineuronal Nets and How it Could Affect PTSD

McNair Scholar: Alexandra Collins

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Bernard Schreurs

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder which occurs after a person experiences a traumatic event.  Symptoms of PTSD sometimes last for over a decade, but the cause of this enduring retention of traumatic memories remains unknown. Perineuronal nets, a mesh-like matrix of molecules which surrounds neurons, are hypothesized to store long-term memories of fear within the amygdala, a region in the brain associated with processing emotion.  This research aims to determine a relationship between PTSD and perineuronal nets in order to minimize the symptoms of PTSD by studying perineuronal net development.

Attitudes of Undergraduate Students on Musical Education

McNair Scholar: Miranda Cook

Faculty Member: Dr. Sandra Schwartz

Music education is prominent in the education system, community opportunities, and throughout life. There has been a constant battle for music education advocacy, as those with musical experiences will express their viewpoint and justify why music education is important. For this project, undergraduate students from a variety of majors will voluntarily participate in a survey expressing their attitudes on benefits of musical education from a Likert scale and open response questions. The research team hypothesizes that the majority of students’ attitudes will lead to positive benefits of musical education. The results will lead to an understanding of viewpoints from a diverse background, and can promote the advocacy of musical education.

Ecological and Urban Factors Affecting Wood Duck Nest Success

McNair Scholar: Saahirah Cua

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christopher Lituma

Due to overhunting and habitat loss, wood duck populations were close to extinction in the 1900’s. The development of duck boxes and other management strategies positively affected wood duck populations. I will collect data to determine if duck box use and nest success is affected by factors such as distance to land, water depth, distance to the nearest tree, and distance from urban development. I hypothesize that nest use and success will be lower in nest boxes that are closer to urban cover and the water’s edge. I also hypothesize that nest use and success will be lower in shallow water.

Aftermath of Duke Lacrosse Case: A Regression Analysis of Changes of the Prosecution of Rape Crimes

McNair Scholar: Quan Duong

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Bryan McCannon

Rape crimes have always been heavily debated both inside and outside the courtroom. Due to the complexity in investigations, prosecutors resort to victims’ characteristics for clues when considering charges. This backward method puts burden on the victims, causing the underreport of rape. The false accusation of the Duke Lacrosse case further disadvantages rape victims seeking justice. This study aims to examine the changes in the prosecution of rape crimes and explore the relationship between re-election pressures and prosecution decisions before and after the Duke Lacrosse trial by using regression analysis on panel data from all districts of North Carolina across 16 years.

Investigating Mathematics Students' Empirical and Deductive Proof Transitions in an Introduction-to-Proof Course

McNair Scholar: Maleesha Ebanks

Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Miller

Mathematical proof involves formal, deductive justification of a mathematical assertion. It is central to the study of mathematics and, therefore, central to any undergraduate mathematics program. Prior to a formal proof class, mathematics students have a tendency to argue empirically via examples when verifying a mathematical assertion. An introduction-to-proof class is designed to develop students’ abilities to construct proofs using formal, deductive approaches as opposed to empirical approaches. Our research team will examine students’ proof techniques in an introduction-to-proof class, with a focus on answering the following three questions: 1) What are the transitions that introduction-to-proof students go through with respect to empirical and deductive justifications? 2) Do introduction-to-proof students resort back to empirical arguments as proof tasks become more challenging? 3) What are introduction-to-proof class students’ reasons for using empirical arguments with respect to expectancy theory (i.e. the cost, value, and likelihood of success)? Answering these questions will allow us to understand how mathematics students think about the proof process during this early stage of proof development. This will, in turn, inform and improve our undergraduate mathematics proof instruction and allow for these students to better transition into higher-level proof courses such as real analysis, topology, and abstract algebra.

Julian of Norwich: Exploration of Religion through Womanhood

McNair Scholar: Kaley Hensley

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lara Farina

We know that Julian of Norwich, an anchoress and prominent figure in mystic literature, produced two texts based on supernatural events she experienced. Her writing strongly implemented a use of the vernacular, and offered a new interpretation of doctrine. I propose that she performed an application of certain aspects of womanhood into religious tradition to instill a sense of female agency into a patriarchal theology. I further hypothesize that by studying her literature, one can gain insight on the perceptions of femininity during that era. To examine her writings, I will utilize several literary theories and criticisms, such as historical and feminist, in order form my own interpretation of the text. I aim to procure an idea about what womanhood could have potentially entailed during the Middle Ages.

The Image of Greek Life at West Virginia University: Students’ Perceptions through Real Experiences 

McNair Scholar: Roselyn Edinam Kumazah

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amanda Sanchez

Historically, fraternities and sororities originated to promote unified bonding through leadership, service, and integrity.  Although this ideal of Greek life may still hold true, Greek “party” culture has been the center of national attention and research, especially with regards to negative problem behaviors (e.g., problem drinking, hazing rituals, and sexual assault).  For this project, students’ direct and indirect perceptions of and actual experiences with Greek life at West Virginia University (WVU) were investigated through content analysis of an open-ended question of the WVU Campus Climate Survey. The interpretation of these comments indicates negative perceptions of Greek life at WVU.

Paleohydrology of Ancient Glacial Systems: A Study of the Ancestral Monongahela River

McNair Scholar: Shannon Maynard

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Steve Kite

Riverine systems, past and present, are an integral part of our everyday lives.  During a Pre-Illinoian glaciation, the Monongahela River was dammed by an advancing ice sheet and its drainage was rerouted from its previous path towards the Erie Basin, southward toward the Gulf of Mexico.  This study aims to reconstruct several aspects of the ancient Monongahela River, including unit stream power and tractive force, through the use of gradient and cobbles and boulders collected on ancient river terraces.  These data will then be compared to the dynamics of the modern system in order to better understand how the river has changed through time. 

The Effect of Green LED Lighting on Mineral Uptake in Kale

McNair Scholar: Dylan William Miller

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nicole Waterland

A light-emitting diode (LED) is an energy efficient light source for plant production in controlled environments. Spectral quality of light can be manipulated to maximize growth in a crop-specific manner. The effects of red and blue wavelengths on plant physiology have been well described. However, there is less knowledge on the effects of green light. The proposed study will expose kale to varying treatments of green light under a constant red and blue background. The pattern of mineral uptake among the essential elements determined by the inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy will be investigated.

“You Keep Using That Word. I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means”: Defining College-Going Culture and Student Success  

McNair Scholar: London Orzolek

Mentor: Dr. Susanna Donaldson

This study intends to explore the “college-going culture” concept within the context of West Virginia University. My research seeks to examine how first-generation college students attain “college-going culture” in their first semester and the ways in which this is affected by student support networks (e.g. family, community, and university programs).  Anthropological research on the role of “college-going culture” in student success is virtually nonexistent, and is therefore necessary to study in order to better understand “college-going culture” and its role in preparing first-generation students for college life.  This ethnographic research aims to explore how “college-going culture” is created and learned. 

Gilded and God: A Study of Space, Spirituality, and Sculpture in Bernini’s Altarpiece in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament

McNair Scholar: Isaac Portillo

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Janet Snyder

The altarpiece in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the last works of art created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.  Through visual and contextual analysis of Bernini’s lifework at St. Peter’s, this study explores his use of space, sculpture, and architecture to express mysticism and promote spirituality. This study will also demonstrate how the altarpiece and its iconography and compositional space reveal Bernini’s ultimate testimony at the Vatican. Research into the visual science of art provides insight into how the perception of space and patterns affect the viewer’s interaction with the piece and allows for a deeper understanding of the work within the context of the period and understanding of the spiritual themes conveyed by the altarpiece.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with Children on the Autism Spectrum: Effects on Language, Social Engagement, Child Disruptive Behavior and Functional Play

McNair Scholar: Mary Margaret Ruckle

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cheryl McNeil

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has steadily increased over the last 20 years (CDC, 2014). Researchers have since been developing interventions to support these children and their families to live functional and productive lives. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) improves the caregiver-child relationship as well as child compliance and social skills (Eyberg, 1988). Recent studies have suggested the efficacy of PCIT with children on the autism spectrum with regards to decreasing disruptive behavior (Ginn, Clionsky, Eyberg, Warner-Metzger, & Abner, 2017; Zlomke, Jeter, & Murphy, 2017). The current study will use the Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System (DPICS), the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), and the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS-3) to measure the effects on language, social engagement, child disruptive behavior, and functional play during PCIT with children on the autism spectrum.

An Empirical Study of NAFTA and Local Textile and Apparel Businesses

McNair Scholar: Tyrisa Salmond

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Debanjan Das

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trade agreement between Mexico, United States, and Canada that was created to promote economic growth by allowing the three countries to trade goods and services freely. NAFTA supports small and medium businesses throughout the U.S. and gives these businesses a competitive edge to compete in an ever-changing international market. For this reason, this study examines the sourcing decisions of small and medium locally-owned textile and apparel businesses that would be impacted by the renegotiations/withdrawal of NAFTA. The renegotiation/withdrawal of NAFTA would result in higher priced products, decreased business activity, and possible closings of small apparel and textile businesses. The assumption from this study is that local textile and apparel businesses that depend on free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, to outsource their products will be limited from possible renegotiations and withdrawal. To examine the effects of NAFTA on local textile and apparel businesses, the data will be collected from a group of small, locally owned textile and apparel businesses in a mid-sized city in Northern West Virginia by using open-ended interviews. The analytical approach to assess the data is a common theoretical theme; it aims to identify the comparative advantages that local businesses gain due to NAFTA.

The Effects of Dopaminergic Therapy on Risk-Based Decision-Making Following Frontal TBI in Rats

McNair Scholar: Trinity Shaver

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cole Vonder Haar

One of the main causes of death and disability in the United States is traumatic brain injury (CDC, 2017). With the few amount of treatments available and increased cognitive impairments experienced by TBI patients in mind, it is important to observe the effects that TBI has on processes such as decision-making and learning. The combination of amphetamine findings of acquisition rats in prior literature and the large body of dopamine down regulation after TBI, suggests that applying a dopaminergic therapy during the learning process may be beneficial.  In the current study, 48 rats were trained on 5CSRT (~15 sessions). After training, one half of the rats were given a bilateral, frontal controlled cortical impact injury (+3.0, 0.0, -2.5 @ 3m/s) and the other half received sham procedures.  After recovery and 5CSRT training (~10 sessions), 12 TBI rats and 12 sham rats will be administered Methylamine through osmotic pumps. All rats were re-tested on the RGT to assess dopaminergic effects on task performance. 

Socio-Economic Risk and College Adjustment: Examining Emotion Regulation as a Protective Factor

McNair Scholar: Taija Thomas

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amy Gentzler

Nearly 24 percent of students attending four-year colleges are low-income (household annual income less than $24,000) and first-generation (students whose parents do not have a four-year degree). Although there has been increased attention on socio-economically disadvantaged students and multiple resources (e.g., scholarships, workshops) developed to aid in post-secondary education, students are still struggling psychologically. This study will examine West Virginia University first-time freshmen’s college transition in two waves (Time 1 and Time 2), time 1 was the summer before students enter college and time 2 was one month after starting college. Using SPSS, we will determine if risk variables (first-generation status, perceived socio-economic status) in time 1 predict negative outcomes (stress, depressive symptoms) in time 2. We hypothesize that emotion regulation (ER) will work as a moderate the association between these socio-economic risk and psychological difficulties in transition, such that high-risk students who have good emotion regulation skills will have better adjustment (lower stress and depressive symptoms) than those with poorer ER skills.