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2015 McNair Alumni Research Abstract

Application of Nanoparticles in Drilling Fluids

McNair Scholar: Kevin Acquah

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ilkin Bilgesu

Nanotechnology is a breakthrough discovery, which has been used in the research fields, such as pharmacy and medicine, to improve their products. However, not much has been done in petroleum engineering. This research project will be focused on the use of nanoparticles in drilling fluids. Nanoparticles help to improve water-based mud to be more efficient and sustained when used in drilling. Nanoparticles would be made from additives such as bentonites and silicates. The study will test the reaction of the fluid to the Marcellus shale formation. It is hypothesized that adding nanoparticles to the drilling fluid will provide a better seal to the formation. It is also hypothesized that introduction of nanoparticles in drilling fluids will help to improve the rheology of the fluid and prevent the loss of drilling fluid into the formation.


Comparing Effects of Instructive Feedback in Different Contexts on Skill Acquisition for  Children with Autism

McNair Scholar: Hanah Conlan

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Regina Carroll

Children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) display deficits in social communication and social interaction, which may impede academic progress.  Discrete Trial Instruction is an efficient one-on-one teaching procedure used with children with ASD to increase skill acquisition (Carroll, Joachim, St. Peter & Robinson, 2015). Instructive feedback (IF), a commonly used procedure with DTI, decreases deficits in problem areas and is efficient in teaching students with Autism by providing a secondary target for the child to acquire. We will use a single subject design to compare the effects of IF outside the traditional contexts of DTI. We hypothesize that IF will be efficient in increasing the acquisition of skills for children with ASD. We also predict that IF will be an effective intervention outside the traditional DTI setting.

Using Teen Peer-Leaders to Implement the iCook 4-H Childhood Obesity  Prevention Program

McNair Scholar: Rebecca Hagedorn

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Melissa Olfert

Peer-led programs have been found to be effective for intervention implementation. However, of the implemented programs, few have been childhood obesity prevention programs in high-risk regions such as Appalachia. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to partner with peer leaders of the Health Science & Technology Academy program in West Virginia to implement an evidence-based childhood obesity prevention program, iCook 4-H. Surveys and video interviews will be collected to examine how peer leadership can be effective. Results will provide researchers with a better understanding of the advantages and limitations of using peers as leaders.

Determining the Influence of the Circadian Rhythm on Serotonin Production and Release in the Olfactory System of  Drosophila

McNair Scholar: Collin Hinton

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrew Dacks

Serotonin serves important roles such as affecting motivation and emotion and as such, is involved in many mood disorders. Unfortunately, it is unclear what causes the release of serotonin in vertebrate brains.  We will determine what factors affect the production and release of serotonin using the model organism  Drosophila.  Previous work suggests that the release of serotonin in the olfactory system is influenced by circadian rhythm, so we will identify the mRNAs actively translated by these serotonergic neurons throughout the day. Our approach addresses contexts that change gene expression of these cells, guiding the focus for determining cause of release.


Will Amphetamine’s Effect on Impulsive Choice Be Consistent When the Environmental Context Changes?

McNair Scholar: Elizabeth Janeiro

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Anderson

There is a positive correlation between impulsivity (choosing a smaller, more immediate reward over a larger, more delayed reward) and substance abuse. It is important to understand how factors like time to reward presentation and drugs determine impulsivity, which can be studied using animal models. The purpose of this study is to evaluate impulsive choice, in rats, with delays to the larger reward presented in decreasing order and then to assess effects of amphetamine. It is hypothesized that impulsive choice will be similar to what has been observed with increasing delays to the larger reward and that amphetamine will reduce impulsive choice.

The Effects of Methionine on the Broiler Chicken and Finding an Organic Alternative

McNair Scholar: Jamea Kidrick

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kimberly Barnes

D, L-Methionine (DLM) is a common synthetic supplement used to increase growth in poultry. As of 2012, DLM was restricted on organic farms since it is synthetically processed. Our experiment has been designed to study the effects of DLM in comparison to an organic methionine alternative source, naked oats. Four-sectioned pens housing 15 chicks each will be prepared. Each section will be on one of the four diets containing different amounts of DLM or the alternative form. It is hypothesized that the methionine deficient group will show signs of fatty liver and the organic methionine treatment will work just as well as the adequate DLM treatment. We expect that naked oats will be used on organic farms as the primary source of methionine while exhibiting the same benefits as DLM, but at a lower cost for farmers.


Biases and Assumptions in the World of Anti-Trafficking Organizations

McNair Scholar: Roger Jennette

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Renfrew

Much is known about the broad idea of human trafficking, but very little is known about the organizations who mobilize against it.  This study examines motivations and assumptions regarding human trafficking that are held by organizations and those individuals intertwined within the organizations dedicated to ending it within the United States.  The study will be conducted through email and phone interviews.  A text analysis of the organization’s websites will also be done.  It is hypothesized that religious and secular-liberal groups will have similar goals but differ in the motivations that drive them.


Older Adults’ Perceptions of Help-Seeking, Help-Acceptance, and Barriers to Help-Seeking

McNair Scholar: Lauren Pizzurro

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amy Fiske

Help-seeking can be conceptualized as a health-related decision making process (Werner, 2004), and a compensatory behavior (Alea & Cunningham, 2003). In late-life functioning, the compensatory role of seeking help and benefitting from help sought is important (Alea & Cunningham, 2003). However, studies have shown that help-seeking decreases with age (Crabb & Hunsley, 2006), and can be affected by cultural influences and learned behaviors (Hiskey, 2013) and older adult’s inclination to down-play health problems (Hilton, 1996). The main purpose of this study is to explore attitudes toward help-seeking and help-acceptance, and barriers to help-seeking in older adults by administering standardized questionnaires and a qualitative interview. Content analysis will be used to determine barriers to help-seeking, and qualitative and quantitative data will be compared in men and women with and without significant depressive symptoms.

Staff-Child Interaction Therapy: Behavioral Skills to Behavioral Knowledge

McNair Scholar: Kelsey McCoy

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cheryl McNeil

Staff-Child Interaction Therapy (SCIT) is a pilot intervention developed to train in-home, bachelors-level therapeutic staff support (TSS) in an adapted version of Parent-Child interaction Therapy (PCIT), an evidence-based treatment designed to improve child disruptive behavior problem. TSS are trained in behavior management skills based on established behavioral principles. This study aims to investigate if training in SCIT skills will lead to a greater knowledge of general behavioral principles as evidenced by higher scores on The Knowledge of Behavioral Principles as Applied to Children evaluation. It is hypothesized that TSS trained in SCIT will demonstrate improvement in general behavioral knowledge following training compared to TSS in an attention control group.


Associations between Childhood Misfortune and Mental Health/Substance Abuse  in Adulthood

McNair Scholar: Courtney McDonald

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nicholas Turiano

This study examined whether childhood adversity is associated with mental health and substance abuse in adulthood. Such information can be used to implement programs to help those children who are experiencing adversity, in hopes to give them brighter, more stable futures.  We used archival data from approximately 7,108 individuals participating in Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) longitudinal study. We hypothesized that greater levels of misfortune would be associated with higher depression scores and greater drug use. In addition, we hypothesized that emotional and physical abuse would be most strongly associated with depression and substance use levels. 

Neighbor or Nuisance? Disorder in a College Town Neighborhood

McNair Scholar: Bobby Moore

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rachael Woldoff

The impact of social and physical disorder in college towns is an under-researched areas in the sociology of community. To fill this gap, this study explores the ways in which nonstudent residents perceive and make sense of the nuisance behaviors of students who core side in their neighborhoods. Using 27 semi-structured interviews with residents in a college town neighborhood, this study aims to examine how nonstudent residents understand and deal with their students neighbors, especially those whom they perceive as interfering with local quality of life. The theoretical and conceptual literatures we may use include social disorganization theory (Sampson & Groves, 1989; Shaw & McKay, 1942), broken windows theory (Kelling & Wilson, 1982), studentification (Smith, 2002), theory about neighborhood invasion and succession (Park, Burgess & McKenzie, 1925), and normalization of deviance (Vaughn, 2004). Preliminary findings suggest that fear of potential conflict drives residents to avoid neighbors, residents become desensitized to student disorder, and many come to normalize these behaviors as "college town life," thus lowering their standards and aspirations for neighborhood order. We hope to further identify and refine our understanding of the ways in which college towns are similar to and different from urban areas as we transcribe, code, and analyze the data.

The Effect of Height and Gender on the Range of Arm Motion

McNair Scholar: Ryan North

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Marvin Cheng

In this project, we will design and fabricate a light weight wearable robotic device that assists stroke patients to rehabilitate and perform their daily activities. One of the major considerations of such a device is that this robotic assistant needs to have enough degrees of freedom to maintain specific ranges of motions. This project will focus on 5 movements that require patients to complete with both hands. To ensure that patients can precisely perform the movements, corresponding trajectories of the adopted motions are required. This requires healthy participants to complete daily activities while being recorded using the Microsoft Kinect. The Kinect will record the motions from selected points on the participants using optic and infrared sensors. From the recorded data, a temporal algorithm will be used to derive the trajectories of adopted motions. These mathematical expressions of motion will be applied to the robotic supplement in rehabilitation and daily activities.


Africa, #Twitter, and Reading between the Lines

McNair Scholar: Samantha Shimer

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cynthia Gorman

Prior research has shown that institutions, such as mass media outlets, have the potential to influence attitude formation (Adams, 2000). Historically, the African continent has been branded by traditional, Western media sources with the single narrative of poverty, war, and disease (Palmer, 1987). Despite these understandings, little research has examined attitudes towards African culture within contemporary social media outlets. This study will analyze one thousand Twitter posts, in order to identify the most commonly-used words and phrases in reference to African countries. This data will be used to examine how African countries are being depicted on a multidimensional social media outlet.


Parental Influences on the Development of Personality in Adulthood

McNair Scholar: Regan Summers

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nicholas Turiano

Previous literature has indicated that personality traits are vital predictors to our health and wellbeing (Deneve & Cooper, 1998; Friedman, Tucker, Tomlinson-Keasey, Schwartz, Wingard & Criqui, 1993). Stronger evidence has supported that parents shape the development of such personality traits (John & Srevastava,1999; Thomas, Chess, Birch, Hertzig & Korn, 1963). For the current study, we will investigate how each parent individually impacts the development of the Big Five personality traits in adulthood, explicitly the effects of affection and discipline. By utilizing secondary data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), our sample will consist of 7,108 participants between the ages of 25-75 years old. Multivariate regression analyses based on participants’ scores of self-administered questionnaires will predict the associations between maternal/paternal affection and discipline and the Big Five Personality traits. We hypothesize that maternal/paternal affection and discipline will be able to predict personality levels in adulthood.

Keywords: Personality, Parental Influences, Maternal, Paternal, Affection, Discipline, MIDUS

Effects of Media and Out-Group Contact on Intergroup Anxiety

McNair Scholar: Nicole Young

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Natalie Shook

Prejudice attitudes, stereotypic ideals, and negative portrayals in the media regarding African Americans affect intergroup contact with this population (Kunda et al., 2002). However, limited research exists on how media and out-group contact affects intergroup anxiety. Therefore, this study will look at how stereotypical portrayals of African Americans in the media and current out-group contact influence feelings of intergroup anxiety.  A sample of non-Black individuals will be primed with a video (either positive, negative, or neutral) and accessed for levels of intergroup anxiety. It is expected that individuals with less contact with African Americans will have higher levels of anxiety, and out-group contact will influence the relation between type of prime and anxiety.