It has been difficult to isolate the neural activity linking a particular visual stimulus to the behavior it triggers. This may be due to variability in neural activity caused by factors such as pupil size fluctuations, and research has shown that pupil dilation reduces neural activity variability. May hypothesizes that pupil dilation prior to presentation of visual stimuli will improve the behavioral response of mice performing a visual contrast detection task. Using two-photon calcium imaging, May will examine the neural activity of mice performing the task while recording their pupils. Examining the correlation between pupil size, behavioral responses, and neural activity could refine our understanding of visual perception, and it is one of the first steps toward developing technology that could encode artificial perception in those who are visually impaired
Atrazine (ATR), an herbicide, is used extensively throughout the world and is applied in excess of 70 million pounds annually in the United States alone. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the maximum contaminant level for safe drinking water is 3 parts per billion. However, mounting evidence shows that much lower concentrations pose significant danger to exposed wildlife. Herbicides other than ATR have been linked to cognitive impairment in humans, with oxidative stress, a process which causes cell damage, being the likely culprit. However, there is no evidence that ecologically relevant levels of ATR are a direct causal agent of oxidative stress. Selina’s research will investigate atrazine’s effect on oxidative stress in the brains of African Clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis), with implications for wildlife and humans.
Current processes for the production of partially oxidized alkanes constitute a large portion of the energy consumption of the petrochemical industry. The conversion of low cost and readily available alkane feedstocks to more useful unsaturated hydrocarbons and oxygenates while making use of cheap oxidants such as oxygen can circumvent the need to rely on the energy intensive and environmentally harmful processes currently implemented. Through the use of a Cu-MFI catalyst, Ihab plans on tackling this issue by synthesizing a collection of copper catalysts with various copper loadings. Varying the number of residual proton sites within a zeolite crystal, or the addition of CuMFI+HMFI catalyst mixtures with different weight ratios, will be useful for maximizing the selectivity toward the partially oxidized product.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common psychiatric disorder characterized by intrusive anxiety-provoking thoughts and repetitive behaviors. Deep brain stimulation (DBS), an implantable neuromodulation therapy that can effectively modulate neural circuits in the brain using electrical stimulation, has emerged as an approach to treat severe cases of OCD. To address the current need for reliable biomarkers of OCD symptom response to DBS to inform the optimal brain targets for OCD patients, Sushil will evaluate functional MRI data acquired simultaneously to DBS in a cohort of patients with medication-refractory OCD to comprehensively map out the brain’s functional response to DBS at different therapeutic settings. Sushil will investigate the impact of DBS on the brain and uncover basic circuit principles underlying OCD.
Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is an important viral cause of disease globally especially in immunocompromised persons. Current medications to treat HCMV infections (Ganciclovir) have a poor safety profile, and risk the potential to select for drug resistance. Antibodies and immune cells confer partial protection against HCMV; however, the contribution of other immune defenses such as the complement system remain poorly understood. In this study, Verina will employ a yeast-two-hybrid screen using an HCMV gene library to identify protein-protein interactions with human C1qBP, a multifunctional intracellular complement protein. Following identification, Verina will characterize protein-protein interactions in the context of how C1qBP functions in the Human immune response to HCMV infection. Identification of such HCMV-complement interactions could potentially inform the development of vaccines and novel drugs.
Melody’s project examines how the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia have contributed to national healing beyond individual prosecutions. While the courts were established in 2003 to provide justice for the estimated 1.7 million individuals who perished during the Khmer Rouge regime, the trials have garnered widespread criticism for having indicted only 5 senior leaders. This research will challenge what is considered an “effective” trial by incorporating measures like improvements in psychosocial support, education, and access to nontraditional healing methods that emerged as a result of the court’s presence. By analyzing literature, and conducting interviews with administrators, public officials, and community leaders during her summer in Cambodia, Melody hopes her findings will provide a fuller understanding of how international criminal tribunals might aid in reconstructing post-conflict environments.
The process of mining gold has been proven to have detrimental effects on the environment. As foreign investment towards gold mining increases in Oaxaca, Indigenous people are left to face the long-term consequences of mineral extraction. Indigenous foodways are sacred, as food remains central to the reproduction of Indigenous culture. Xitlaly’s research focuses on the impact of ecological degradation, as a result of gold mining, on Indigenous food systems and potential cultural loss in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her research will entail a collection of interviews from local Indigenous peoples in Los Valles Centrales where she will share her findings through the creation of a podcast. Her research is supplemental to the existing Indigenous resistance movement against foreign gold mining and the fight for Indigenous sovereignty.
Outdoor Education (OE) is a critical component in aiding environmental literacy and improving the general health of our younger generations through fostering a connection to nature. However, studies have shown OE in America is predominantly made up of male and caucasian participants. OE would theoretically benefit youth from a lower socioeconomic background the most, as these youth are deprived of access to nature to a much greater extent, yet youth from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds remain underrepresented in OE. Research on OE’s impact on youth’s connection to nature based on socioeconomic backgrounds is lacking, and Luis hopes his research project this summer will bridge this gap. The findings from this research project will provide guidance for employing best possible methods for prioritizing equity in OE.
Though many aspects of the criminal punishment system have been explored in research, this project aims to address a gap in analyzing the effects that penal supervision has on kin-networks, post-incarceration. Although there are more people than ever before subject to community supervision in our communities, little is known about how this affects family life, neighborhood dynamics, and society more broadly. The goal of Eli’s project is to better understand the strains being put on the kin-networks of individuals who are under the most widespread form of penal supervision; community supervision via probation and parole. There is a need to explore what the mass expansion of community supervision has had for families, kin networks, and communities outside of the separate impacts of targeted and aggressive policing and hyper-incarceration.
The term “multi-generational punishment,” was coined by Dr. Laura E. Enriquez in 2015, to name a “distinct form of legal violence wherein the sanctions intended for a specific population spill over to negatively affect individuals who are not targeted.” Natalie’s research aims to expand on existing literature by exploring the effects that legal sanctions have on undocumented parents in the realm of healthcare — how it impacts their own access, and the unintended consequences it has on their children regardless of their own legal status. Through long form interviews with Mexican immigrant parents from the Central Valley, Natalie will address how the children of undocumented parents are impacted. She hopes her findings shed light on the plight of immigrant families and have broader policy implications impacting how healthcare outreach is done with undocumented communities.