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2014 McNair Research Abstracts

How College Students Construct Social Media Posts in Relation to Group Identity

McNair Scholar: J.C. Abdallah

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nick Bowman

College students use their social media profiles to create and maintain identities in an expansive online social network. When students identify strongly as a member of a group, they may craft posts that reflect this group identity, which may or may not be seen as acceptable to others in their social network. This proposed study will analyze how anti-normative group identity shapes the way people post updates. Students from a large Mid-Atlantic university will be surveyed about their group identity. A direct relationship between strength of group identity and group conforming Facebook posts is expected.

Gold Catalyzed Cross-Coupling Using Arenediazonium Salts as the Oxidant

McNair Scholar: Ellen Aguilera

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Xiaodong Michael Shi

Discovery of the catalytic property of gold, supposedly an inert metal, has led to a “catalytic gold rush” among chemists. Homogeneous gold (I) and gold (III) catalysts are widely used due to their ability to activate alkynes and alkenes. However, the cross-coupling reactivity of gold is quite limited because of the high oxidation potential between gold (I) and gold (III) requiring a strong and expensive external oxidant such as SelectFluor. This study will test arenediazonium salts, a weaker oxidant for oxidizing gold (I). Arenediazonium salt through the formation of an intermediate, alkynyl gold is expected to decrease the oxidation potential of Gold (I) to Gold (III). Further, the mechanistic pathway of the gold catalyst during this cross-coupling reaction will be investigated.

An Analysis of Factors Impacting College Students’ Level of Financial Literacy

McNair Scholar: Brandon Bowman

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Walsh

College is where many students for the first time face major financial decisions that have a lasting impact on their lives, such as taking out student loans. It is extremely important that students are educated in personal finance skills to become financially literate. Using an online survey, this research will measure students’ levels of financial literacy. It will also examine factors that influence whether someone is more financially literate and which factors inhibit financial literacy. This research hypothesizes that college students in general will show a lack of financial literacy and that those with a stronger internal locus of control will have a higher level of understanding in financial matters.

Modeling DNA Degradation to Strengthen Signal Enhancement Schemes

McNair Scholar: Jordan Drew

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jeremy Dawson

A variety of factors lead to the degradation of DNA’s molecular structure in biological samples recovered from crime scenes, mass casualties, or battlefield forensic scenarios. Degradation, influenced by time and exposure to environmental conditions, poses challenges in producing DNA profiles that meet a standardized quality threshold necessary for making accurate identifications. Degraded samples, along with pristine buccal swabs used as controls, will be examined using conventional STR analysis techniques to gain an understanding of how degradation impacts various STR peak characteristics. This understanding will be used to develop a model that will be the framework for an allele peak finding algorithm.

Identification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Specific DNA Aptamers Developed Using Whole-Cell SELEX and Flow Cytometric Analyses

McNair Scholar: Chibuzor Ejimofor

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Letha Sooter

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common pathogen found on the skin of humans. It is responsible for about ten percent of all hospital infections, usually in immunocompromised patients e.g. patients with cancer or diabetes. The extracellular product, Exotoxin A, released by P. aeruginosa is related to high mortality in animals. The current methods for detection are complex, time consuming, and require multiple steps. Biosensors are a reliable source of rapid detection of the bacteria in situ. Aptamers are oligonucleic acids that can bind to targets with high affinity and selectivity, giving them potential for biosensor use. Single-stranded DNA aptamers specific to P. aeruginosa will be isolated using the systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX) procedure. After 12 rounds of selection with P. aeruginosa as the target and Acinetobacter baumannii, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli, and human blood serum as negative targets, the affinity and selectivity of the isolated sequences will be characterized using flow cytometry.

Graduate Perceptions of West Virginia University Agriculture and Extension Education Program's Required Courses Relevance to Agricultural Employment

McNair Scholar:  Kelsey Flinn

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Deborah Boone

The Agriculture and Extension Education Program strives to prepare students for professional employment as educators, professionals, and ambassadors of agriculture. With so many lives affected by these graduates, the requirements within their program continually needs to be reviewed. This study will survey graduates of the Agriculture and Extension Education Program at West Virginia University to determine if the required courses in this program provide students with the necessary knowledge and skill sets that prepare them for professional employment in agricultural related work. It is hypothesized that some courses will prove more beneficial in certain concentrations than others. 

The Glass Door: Attitudes of Potential Employers towards Ex-Offenders in the Job Market

McNair Scholar: Jacqueline Fowler

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jesse Wozniak

Over a half million prisoners are released every year, each with a criminal record that may have unfavorable consequences for employment. In addition, racial factors may also impede employment (Behrens, Uggen, & Manza, 2003). Thus, ex-offenders, especially minorities, may encounter difficulty attaining employment. Utilizing a survey research design, the proposed study will examine the hiring practices of large corporations and local businesses in Morgantown, West Virginia. It is hypothesized that there is a difference in the hiring practices of local businesses and large corporations. In particular, smaller businesses are expected to hire more ex-offenders due to their greater flexibility in hiring practices.

Exploring Anonymous Online Voices of U.S. Military Soldiers


McNair Scholar: James Hartnett II

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sam Zizzi

In addition to risks that military members assume during service, individuals are at risk for posttraumatic stress disorder and other comorbid disorders due to exposure to traumatic events during deployment.  This study will explore how military service members construct and express their experience through an anonymous social media forum.  Participants will include any military service members returning from war who choose to post.  Inductive document analysis will be utilized to identify themes of online posts concerning their experiences of post-traumatic stress.  A greater understanding of the experiences of military members could lead to approaches that could be used to improve interaction.


Using Likelihood Ratios for Source Attribution of Glock Model 21 Fired Cartridge Cases


McNair Scholar: Catherine Hefner

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Keith Morris

Firearm examiners currently analyze projectiles by using the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) to receive scores. However, limited research has examined more effective ways to interpret IBIS scores. The purpose of this study is to better comprehend IBIS scores by using a Bayesian network approach which intrinsically incorporates likelihood ratios. The methodology for this research will examine impressions left on the primer of cartridge cases by Glock 21 pistols to receive scores. This analysis aims to find a more reliable and valid approach to attributing the source of a firearm cartridge case to a particular firearm.

Disgust Sensitivity, Prejudice, and Stereotypes: A Mediation Model  

McNair Scholar: Brandy Ledesma

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Natalie J. Shook

Disgust sensitivity is associated with prejudice toward a number of groups. However, less is known about whether disgust sensitivity is associated with stereotypes. The proposed study intends to examine the relations among disgust sensitivity, prejudice, and stereotypes toward different racial groups. Participants will be recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and will complete an online survey containing measures of disgust sensitivity, stereotypical beliefs, and prejudice toward different racial groups. It is hypothesized that individuals higher in disgust sensitivity will report more prejudiced attitudes and endorse more stereotypes. Also, prejudice will mediate the relation between disgust sensitivity and endorsement of stereotypes.


An Analysis of Tanzania's Monetary Policy Pre- & Post- "Economic Recovery Programme" of 1986

McNair Scholar: Ally Makono

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrew Young

Sub Saharan African (SSA) countries continue to struggle with slow economic growth years after liberalization initiations in an attempt to reduce high inflation rates to attract private investors. As an SSA, Tanzania's average annual inflation and money supply growth rates between (1968-1985) and (1995-2012) will be utilized in a (model/mathematical approach) to answer, "How effective was the ‘Economic Recovery Programme’ ERP of 1986 on monetary policy reform in an attempt to induce economic growth?" Even though monetary policy after the ERP 1986 might have been successful in lowering interest rates by reducing inflation, it did not a play a significant role in inducing growth in Tanzania's economy.


Eye of the Beholder: Examining Non-Normative Body Modification Practices and Social Stigma

McNair Scholar: Candice McLaughlin

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Renfrew

This study will research a specific cohort of individuals who modify their bodies in permanent, non-normative fashions, as opposed to cosmetic surgery. Typically these individuals are stigmatized by general society. Related research of body modification was largely conducted two decades ago. In recent years, tattoos and body piercings have become prolific and commodified in mainstream culture. Has this acceptance decreased the stigma for more heavily modified individuals? This research is a qualitative ethnographic study utilizing interviews with non-mainstream body modifiers to reveal their subsequent experiences with discrimination and social stigma.


Relation between Marital Status and Help-Seeking in Older Adults

McNair Scholar: Allie Nwosu

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amy Fiske

Depressive symptoms in elderly individuals are related to numerous factors: gender, education, social support, and coping skills. Older adults are at higher risk for depressive symptoms, which often go undiagnosed and untreated. In this particular age group (65 and up), individuals seek help less often than other age groups. For this current study, relation between marital status of the older adults and their help-seeking behavior will be examined. Data from a previous study will be utilized to analyze this relation, controlling for health issues in older adults.  It is expected that married older adults seek help more often than unmarried older adults.


An Analysis of Hydrotreated Biofuels in a Single-Cylinder Engine

McNair Scholar: Donnique Sherman

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Gregory Thompson

In line with the United States Navy’s “Great Green Fleet” program, the U.S. Navy is in the process of selecting a renewable fuel that can replace petroleum in their fleets. In order to find an environmentally friendly and domestically produced fuel, researchers have been working on evaluating different biofuels- much of the previous work has been focused on the 6.5 liter, V8 HMMWV “Humvee” engine. These prior studies have demonstrated that the biofuels being evaluated have shown satisfactory performance with little to no change to the engine or fuel infrastructure. Evaluating these biodiesel fuels in a single-cylinder internal combustion diesel engine will expand the database of knowledge of positive and negative attributes within their performance. In this study, thermal efficiency, heat release, and peak pressure of the biofuels will be evaluated against the Navy’s petroleum based fuels JP-5 and F-76. The study will follow the protocol combustion acceptance criteria for testing new fuels on legacy engines specified in the prior Humvee work.

Utilizing Reentry Programs to Reduce Recidivism for Recently Released Prisoners

McNair Scholar:  Chelsea Slade

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rachel Stein

Mass incarceration in the United States has steadily increased in the past 40 years. Upon release from prison, about 67% of ex-offenders will return to a correctional facility after a short period of time in the free world. Suffrage from blocked opportunities and strain contribute to this dilemma. This study will use secondary data on prisoners to determine if there is a relationship between reentry programs and recidivism. It is hypothesized that prisoners who participate in reentry programs while incarcerated will be less likely to recidivate back into the prison system. If utilized, reentry rehabilitation programs can be useful for successful reintegration into society.

Group-Affirming Organizations as a Predictor of Racial Identity, Sense of Belonging, and Academic Outcomes for Minority Students

McNair Scholar: Isaiah Taylor

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Natalie J. Shook

In the United States, there is an educational achievement gap between non-Asian minority students and white students. Racial/ethnic identity and sense of belonging are two important factors in the academic achievement of non-Asian minority students. This study will determine whether involvement in group-affirming student organizations is associated with racial/ethnic identity, sense of belonging, and academic achievement. Undergraduate students will complete an online survey, assessing student organization involvement, racial/ethnic identity, sense of belonging, and academic outcomes. It is expected that non-Asian minority students in group-affirming organizations will have stronger racial/ethnic identities, sense of belonging, and academic outcomes than uninvolved students.

Blocking Neuropathic Pain through Inhibition of Cyclooxygenases and Endocannabinoid Enzymes

McNair Scholar:  Rachael Taylor

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Steven G. Kinsey

Neuropathic pain arises from injury, disease, or dysfunction of the nervous system. Treatments include steroids, narcotics, surgeries, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are the most commonly used drugs to reduce pain and inflammation. However, NSAIDs also cause gastrointestinal or cardiac dysfunction. Cannabinoids are compounds that activate cannabinoid receptors on neurons and immune cells, having anti-inflammatory properties. Inhibiting the cannabinoid-degrading enzyme, monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), attenuates neuropathic pain and blocks NSAID side effects. This study will assess the therapeutic potential of combining the NSAID "Drug X", and the MAGL inhibitor JZL184, using the chronic constriction injury mouse model of neuropathic pain.  

Leadership: A Predictor of Economic Efficiency during Group Formation  from a ‘State of Nature’

McNair Scholar: Leigh-Ann Wilkins

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joshua Hall

Economists have found humans to be naturally more cooperative, contrary to theories that characterize humans and groups to be “nasty, brutish, and short.” This experimental study will investigate the linkages between leadership attributes, communication, and group formation to determine if individuals with strong leadership qualities have a positive effect on economic efficiency and cooperation during group formation. Participants will be tested for their leadership attributes prior to the experiment, and cooperative and conflictual behaviors of individuals will be examined in a laboratory setting where participants will play a game in which they will have options to protect themselves, plunder others, or band together.

Female Brain Drain and the Availability of Family Planning Services

McNair Scholar: Cecily Flight

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Stratford Douglas

The purpose of this study is to find whether the availability of family planning services (FPS) has an effect on female brain drain, or better known as migration patterns of high-skilled females in Less Developed Countries (LDCs). Through qualitative research methods, we compared Ghana and The Ivory Coast to act as elements of experimental design with the former as a controlled element and the latter a treatment to see the similarities or differences in migration patterns and fertility rates after major policy changes in availability of family planning services. So, this research presents the idea that the availability of family planning services may be a factor in whether or not educated females choose to stay in an origin country, which directly affects development of that country. Ultimately, I wish to encourage dialogue and exploration into this issue and hopefully underscore the value of females in development.

The Cannabinoid Enzyme Inhibitor KML29 Blocks Neuropathic Pain in Mice

McNair Scholar:  Rachael L. Taylor

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Steven Kinsey

Neuropathic pain is discomfort caused by injury, disease, or dysfunction of the nervous system. Neuropathic pain can present as allodynia, the painful perception of typically non-noxious stimuli. Unfortunately, many of the current treatments for neuropathic pain are ineffective or cause negative side effects. Recently, the endogenous cannabinoid system has been a target for pain treatments. Inhibition of the endocannabinoid-degrading enzyme, monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) attenuates pain. This study assessed the therapeutic potential of the highly selective MAGL inhibitor KML29, and of the commonly-prescribed anticonvulsant drug, gabapentin, in the well-characterized chronic constriction injury (CCI) mouse model of neuropathic pain. KML29, Gabapentin, or vehicle was administered, and mice were tested for mechanical and acetone-induced allodynia. KML29 dose-dependently reduced mechanical and cold allodynia. Gabapentin attenuated allodynia at the highest dose tested. These data lend support to the strategy of targeting MAGL to attenuate neuropathic pain in humans.