Summer 2007 Research Projects

During the summer of 2007, Dimensions supported nine faculty/student research projects. The faculty and students involved in this research, as well as the project descriptions, are listed below.

Project Descriptions


Feminity, depression and eating disorders, and psychological predictors of heart rate variability
Christopher Davids ('10) worked as a summer Research Assistant in the research laboratory of Dr. Melinda Green.  As part of his summer activities, Chris has co-authored a publication entitled, "Femininity and Eating Disorders" that was submitted for publication consideration in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention during the month of July.  Chris co-presented data from this project at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, CA on August 18 th, 2007.  Travel funding associated with this presentation was provided by the Dimensions Program. 

Chris has also completed work on 2 additional projects.  Chris has organized and trimmed data for a project examining the relationship between depression and eating disorders.  Through his work on this project, Chris has familiarized himself with various descriptive and inferential statistics and is gaining proficiency with two statistical software programs entitled SPSS.  Chris also conducted a comprehensive literature search for this project.

Finally, Chris has completed work on an additional project examining psychological predictors of heart rate variability.  It is anticipated the latter two projects will be submitted for publication during the 2007-2008 academic year.  Chris will co-author both.


The genetic relationship of two commonly found Millepores (fire coral) in the western Atlantic off the coast of San Salvador, Bahamas
Pete Lehr (‘08) and Pavla Brachova (‘09) worked with Professor Craig Tepper on an on-going project associated with an off-campus course in February of each year to the Bahamas. Professor Tepper’s lab is interested in the genetic relationship of two commonly found Millepores (fire coral) in the western Atlantic off the coast of San Salvador, Bahamas.  M. complanata is broad, smooth and blade-like while M. alcicornis is thin with knobby branches.  In addition to such clearly distinguishable forms of coral in this area, many intermediate forms exist of which the specific taxonomic status is unknown.  Because of the wide range of growth forms, the question arises whether the blade and branching forms are separate species or represent phenotypic variations of one highly variable species.


Copper-zinc superoxide dismutase and its role in ALS 2007
Emmanuel Koli (’08) worked with Professor Cindy Strong in the Chemistry Department on a project involving the enzyme copper-zinc superoxide dismutase.  Mutant forms of the enzyme have been found to cause the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease).  Dr. Strong and Mr. Koli are producing normal and mutant human superoxide dismutase in E. coli and looking for differences in the metal-binding properties. A second Cornell student, Sean Lehman (’10), also worked on this project, with support from the Deskin Fund.


Effects of acute moderate sleep deprivation on cardiac autonomic tone, mood and exercise performance
Amanda Jepson (’09) worked with Professor Julia Moffitt and studied the effects of acute moderate sleep deprivation on cardiac autonomic tone, mood, and exercise performance.  This study examined the hypothesis that obtaining only a moderate amount of sleep can significantly impair psychological mood and physiological responses to cycling.  Metabolism, heart rate variability, and psychological mood are being evaluated in male subjects age 18-25 the day following a full night's rest (7-9 hours) and after a night of moderate sleep deprivation (2-4 hours) while performing cycle ergometry exercise at both a low- and high-intensity workload.


Various projects with polyoxometalates and nanoparticles
Three students worked with Professor Craig Teague in the Chemistry Department on multiple projects. Megan Michalski (’09) studied how an important class of molecules, the polyoxometalates, interact with small particles of silica and
alumina.  These composite materials could be important in many processes, and we seek to understand the fundamental interactions present in this understudied system.

Tina Pontarelli (’09) continued work on something she discovered in working with Professor Teague last summer. She studied how polyoxometalates interact with very flat oxide surfaces.  This allowed more techniques to be used to investigate these materials, and her work is a nice complement to Megan's.

Brittany Szczepanik (’09) worked on synthesizing and characterizing nanoparticles, which is a hot area of research. Nanoparticles have a lot of potential applications, including in medical diagnostics.  She has worked on more than one nanoparticle system, investigating and comparing the various systems. Tina and Brittany also worked together to synthesize nanoparticles, protect them with polyoxometalates, and then deposit them on flat surfaces.  This was a nice collaboration and brings two areas of research together into one project.


Genetics of motility and biofilm formation
Garrett Feddersen (’08) worked with Professor Jeff Cardon this summer on the characterization of motility mutants in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The mutants are of interest because of the relationship between motility and biofilm formation. Garrett worked principally on extracting the sequences responsible for the mutations. The plan was to develop a technique to sequence multiple genes involved in motility (and perhaps, then) biofilm control. Garrett also worked on the project involving the use of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) in the characterization of PCR products known as bacteria. In particular, Garrett worked on finding a reproducible and simple method for isolating DNA from Gram positive bacteria.


Investigations of the depredation of artificial turtle nests at the Hawkeye Wildlife Area
Charissa Kaspar (’08), Ian McNish (’09), Ewan Hamilton (’09) and Heath Sienknecht (’08) worked with Professors Bob Black and Andy McCollum from the Biology Department on a project spanning several summers. The students contributed toward a long-term research program on the ecology of the ornate box turtle at the Hawkeye Wildlife Area in Johnson County, Iowa.