Summer 2010 Research Projects

During the summer of 2010, Dimensions supported fourteen faculty/student research projects.

Validating a Screening Process Used to Identify Factors Affecting Antibiotic Production in a Bacterial Biocontrol Agent

Christine Nguyen ‘13
Stephanie Gass ‘13
Denis Jimenez ‘12

Supervisor:  Brian Nowak-Thompson, PhD

PF-5 is a strain of bacteria that has the potential as an effective bio-control agent, since it has been shown to produce several disease-suppressing metabolites in the presence of various fungi. Our task was to develop effective methods of collecting, growing, isolating, and storing different types of fungi. Over 150 samples were isolated and both microscopic and macroscopic morphologies of each were examined to eliminate duplicates. Our final collection was composed of over 40 fungal isolates which  were cataloged in the Fungi Library and then stored for long term purposes. These samples will be tested against PF-5 bacteria to determine its effects.

Synthesizing Dyes to Examine the Permeability of TRPVI Channels via Fluorescent Microscopy

Megan Dibbern ‘12

Supervisor: Dr. Joseph Kao, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute

Previous research has shown that TRPV1 channels, receptors for both chemical and physical heat,  to be "promiscuously permeable” to a variety of small cations (Na+, K+, Ca2+) and even large greasy organic cations, such as the QX-314, an intracellular Na+ channel blocker. I worked on creating a fluorescent, positively-charged coumarin dye derived from 7-diethylamino-3-carboxy-coumarin.  A similar but neutral coumarin dye of comparable size is also known. Together, the three differently charged dyes of comparable molecular size may be used to probe TRPV1 channels; fluorescence microscopy may be used to determine which dye or dyes will enter cells when TRPV1 channels are opened by capsaicin, and from the information gathered, the ion selectivity of TRPV1 channels could be inferred.

Examining the Role of Volatile Organic Chemicals in Turtle Predation

Chase Johnson ‘12
Yee Phyu ‘12
Kara Leung ‘12

Supervisors:  Andy McCollum, PhD and Brian Nowak-Thompson, PhD

There may be several approaches used by turtle predators in order to track down nests; one of the more prevalent ideas is the use of olfactory cues. We used headspace solid-phase microextraction (HS-SPME) analysis to examine the possible differences between volatile organic analytes present in nest and undisturbed sites at an Ornate Box Turtle nesting area at the Hawkeye State Wildlife Area, IA.  When HS-SPME fibers were used to test for the difference between control and nest areas, results indicated that both sites have similar or identical components, however, the amount of analytes present in nest sites were found to be in higher concentrations on average, in comparison to undisturbed sites.

Analyzing the Components of Plant Essential Oils

Chase Johnson ‘12

Supervisor:Brian Nowak-Thompson, PhD

Throughout history, plant products have been successfully used as insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, however, the amount of plants used for these methods is greatly limited. Recently, a new insecticide, Requiem, was created by the use of extracted essential oil from Epazote, Chenopodium ambrosioides. Because the amount of the plants used as insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides is greatly limited, I was inspired to compare the essential oil composition of sixteen plants, including Epazote itself. By comparing and analyzing the composition of the sixteen plants, possible plants may prevail that have compounds that could be used as active ingredients for the creation of an insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide.Essential plant oils were collected by two general techniques, steam-distillation and headspace solid-phase microextraction (HS-SPME). The essential oil components collected were then characterized by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Through these techniques, a catalogue of essential oil components of the sixteen plants was created.

Determining if the Neuroprotective Effect of Deprenyl is the Result of Manipulations of the Innate Immune System in the Brain

Tess Smith '12Tess Smith ‘12*
Rachel Wynn ‘12

Supervisor: Barbara Christie-Pope, PhD
*Supported by Dimensions

Deprenyl, a drug used to treat neurodegenerative disorders, has been shown to produce life-prolonging, cognition-enhancing effects at low concentrations. A possible mechanism by which This occurs is the through the releasing of a cytokine known as TNF-alpha. Nicotine, through an unknown mechanism, has also been known to enhance neuroprotectivity. The effects of Deprenyl and nicotine at varying concentrations were tested on the mesencephalon, caudate, and frontal cortex regions of fetal rat brains.

Aggregation of Copper-Zinc Superoxide Dismutase

Amanda Johnson '12 and Kirtley Hitt '12Amanda Johnson ’12
Kirtley Hitt ‘12

Supervisors: Jeff Cardon, PhD and Cindy Strong, PhD
Supported by Dimensions

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, does not have a known cure. Presently, a portion of familial ALS cases can be linked to a mutation in the sod1 gene, which encodes the protein copper-zinc superoxide dismutase. In many ALS patients, aggregated proteins (amyloid) have been found in their cells. We worked on experimenting with many different aggregation conditions in order to get an idea of how fast and to what extent aggregation has occurred after a certain amount of time. We worked with aggregation of the protein alone as well as the protein in combination with actin and bovine serum albumin to determine if these increased the rate and/or amount of aggregation after a incubation period. Aggregation was detected by adding Congo Red to all of our solutions and running the solutions on a spectrophotometer because a shift in the Congo Red peak is indicative of aggregated protein.

Searching for Symbiont Specificity in Fire Coral

Elise Mead '12 and Sophie Gaynor '12Elise Mead ‘13*
Sophie Gaynor ‘12
Helen Pope

Supervisor: Craig Tepper, PhD
*Supported by Dimensions

The speciation of Millepores in the Western Atlantic has been problematic for years. Current coral phylogeny recognizes two separate Millepore species in the region: Millepora complanata and Millepora alcicornis. We decided to investigate the intragenomic variation between clones of the same sample of the symbiotic zooxanthellae Symbiodinium; a symbiotic algae living in the coral. This allowed us to examine both the reliability of our bacterial cloning methods and determine whether any Symbiodinium specialists could be found from cloning alone.

Establishing a Method to Detect P11 Expression for PTSD Research

Vicki Levasseur ‘11

Supervisor: Dr. Shailaja Mani
Supported by Cornell Fellows

I conducted research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Recent studies have shown that the P11 protein , a calcium-binding protein located in the nucleus and cytoplasm of neurons and astrocytes, regulates serotonergic neurotransmission in areas of the brain associated with PTSD. Dr. Shailaja Mani and I hypothesized that altered levels of P11 in PTSD-relevant brain areas contribute to PTSD symptoms in a sex-dependent manner. I set up six groups of rats: an endogenous testosterone male control, a gonadectomized male group, and four female rat groups. All female rats were ovariectomized. One group received subcutaneous injections of both estrogen and progesterone, two groups received only estrogen or progesterone, and the final group received no hormone treatment. Using the cortex, hippocampus, and amygdale from the male rat control group, I worked to optimize a Western blot procedure to identify P11 expression. This involved altering the amount of tissue protein and antibody concentrations used in the analysis. Initial results showed that there is a high abundance of P11 protein in al brain regions. Dr. Mani plans to analyze the remaining groups to identify sex and region-specific differences in the expression levels of P11 in rats.

Mansfield Foundation Fellow in Clinical Gait Analysis at Children’s Hospital

Abby Schultz ‘11

Supervisors: Patrick Carry and Dr. Tavis Heare
Supported by Cornell Fellows

Prostheses fit is traditionally set through physical exam and observational gait analysis. These methods are highly subjective and are dependent on the expertise of the prosthetist. The physician supervising my research acknowledged the ineffectiveness of the current methods and started using radiographs to obtain more objective measures of fit and to create a protocol that is more efficient and accurate for the patients. My role was to quantify the effectiveness of using long leg AP radiographs in fitting lower extremity amputees with prostheses. I analyzed and measured serial radiographs of pediatric amputees in their prostheses. Then, I conducted statistical analysis on the data I collected. I found that the use of radiographs significantly improves fit of prostheses compared to traditional methods. I then designed future research utilizing our findings by using instrumental gait analysis to show changes in function when better fit has been achieved.

Investigating Demyelination in a Migrane Model

Neal Klauer ‘12

Supervisor: Richard Kraig, Ph.D.,M.D.
Supported by Dimensions

This summer, I worked in the Kraig lab to investigate possible alterations in the myelin content of hippocampal slice culture following spreading depression, a molecular model of migraine.  Our proteomic analyses of control and one day post spreading depression cultures revealed a significant decrease in MBP, a protein marker for myelin, following spreading depression.  Additionally, we confirmed disruptions in myelin integrity following spreading depression using electron microscopy.  We extended this work to gain additional insight into the possible mechanisms of demyelination.  During my time in the Kraig lab, I learned a variety of new techniques and gained valuable information concerning graduate school and research in neurology.

Psychophysiological Reactions to Weight-Related Stimuli

Tara Ohrt ‘12

Supervisor: Melinda Green, PhD
Supported by Dimensions

My summer research project was to collect a community sample for an on-going project which examines psychophysiological reactions to appearance-related stimuli. This project is significant because no previous research has examined physiological stress response after exposure to the media thin-ideal. Findings may indicate thin-ideal exposure affects not only the psychological health of women, but physical health as well, creating a heightened stress response in exposed women. During this project, I recruited participants, collected psychological and physiological data, trimmed and scored data, performed spectral analysis of electrocardiogram results, and assisted in running inferential and descriptive statistics.

Regulation of Metabolic Pathways through Extracellular Thiol Modification in Breast Cancer Cells

Aye Mon’11

Supervisor: Dr. Neil Hogg, Biophysics Department, Medical College of Wisconsin.

Modification of thiol groups on Complex I of the mitochondrial electron transport chain inhibits its activity and ultimately inhibits respiration. Consistent with this, we have shown that treatment with the intracellular nitrosating agent S-nitroso-L-cysteine (L-CysNO) inhibits mitochondrial function in intact breast cancer cells (MCF7). However, the D isomer of CysNO (D-CysNO), which cannot be transported into cells, also impairs mitochondrial function. Thus, we hypothesize that both L and D isomers of CysNO nitrosate extracellular targets that impact mitochondrial function. To test this hypothesis, we have examined the expression of metabolic substrate transporters that transport pyruvate (e.g. monocarboxyate transporters, MCT) in response to L- and D-CysNO treatment in MCF7 cells. MCF7 cells express both MCT 1 and MCT 4, and treatment with L- and D-CysNO increased protein levels of MCT 4. In addition, cytotoxicity of L- and D-CysNO was assessed, and L-CysNO was more toxic than D-CysNO. To assess the consequences of MCT 4-dependent pyruvate transport, CysNO-induced cytotoxicity was also examined in the presence of different metabolic substrates (e.g. glucose and pyruvate). Cells were more viable after L-CysNO treatment when given pyruvate as a metabolic substrate than when given glucose or glucose and pyruvate; however, further studies are required to elucidate the effects of CysNO on substrate uptake. Taken together, the data indicate that CysNO can increase pyruvate transporter protein levels and metabolic substrate uptake may be linked to CysNO-induced cytotoxicity. These findings provide important insight into the regulation of cell viability through alterations in metabolic substrate uptake.

Temporal Dimensions of Resource Use in a Community of Flies

Andy Roth ‘12

Supervisor: Marty Condon, PhD

Blepharoneura are a surprisingly diverse genus of south American fly. I studied patterns of parasitism of Blepharoneura by wasps using a data set of Blepharoneura and wasps gathered from Peru.

Fabricating, Testing and Improving Organic Solar Cells

Talon Holmes ‘11
Nathan Jepsen ‘11

Supervisors: Derin Sherman, PhD and Lyle Lichty, PhD

Dye-Sensitized solar cells are considered one of the promising advancements in alternative energy. They are cheap, easy to make, and considerably efficient. Efficiencies are the key area of interest in our research and we work with the formula and creation of the Titanium Dioxide paste as the key method. We also explored quantum dots as they have the theoretical potential to reach efficiencies much higher than those that can be achieved from just organic dyes. Also, another way to test the pastes was created in the making of an Electrochemical Impedance Spectrometer. This instrument is capable of reading the resistance and capacitance of the solar cell itself helping us better determine how well our pastes are working.