Scholars' Celebration & End-of-Summer Symposium Posters & Presentations

Co-hosted each year by the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR-UT) and Carlson Library, the Scholars' Celebration and End-of-Summer Symposium provide UT undergraduate students with an opportunity to showcase their research. Students hold the copyright to their posters, and all posters are published with the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) creative commons license

Office of Undergraduate Research

Discovering Potential Novel Anthelmintics using C. elegans
This investigation focuses on determining how PAPP’s components work in hopes of finding new ways to combat parasitic nematodes. Worms lacking certain neural receptors involved in pharyngeal pumping were exposed to each of the different components. By studying the effect of the compounds on the rate of pharyngeal pumping in each of the different strains, the pathways of the different drugs could be highlighted and receptor complexes involved could be isolated for further study. At the moment, few anthelmintic drugs dominate the farming industry leading to increasing resistance and devastation. By looking into the effects of different compounds, we are paving a path for new drugs to fight parasitic worms and decrease the chance for resistance, thus creating healthier crops, livestock, and even people.
Discovering Potential Novel Anthelmintics using C. elegans
This investigation focuses on determining how PAPP’s components work in hopes of finding new ways to combat parasitic nematodes. Worms lacking certain neural receptors involved in pharyngeal pumping were exposed to each of the different components. By studying the effect of the compounds on the rate of pharyngeal pumping in each of the different strains, the pathways of the different drugs could be highlighted and receptor complexes involved could be isolated for further study. At the moment, few anthelmintic drugs dominate the farming industry leading to increasing resistance and devastation. By looking into the effects of different compounds, we are paving a path for new drugs to fight parasitic worms and decrease the chance for resistance, thus creating healthier crops, livestock, and even people.
Gel Formation of Oxidized Cellulose and Improving Protein Purification
Aqueous solutions of tryptophan synthase (TS) must be prepared with sufficient homogeneity to promote growth of crystals. Such crystals must be large and defect-free to allow effective analysis with neutron diffraction (ND). Aggregates, which disrupt crystal growth, must be removed through precipitation and dissolution. Two precipitation methods were analyzed using dynamic light scattering (DLS). The first method was a single-step addition of precipitant and the second was a three-step addition over a period of 48 hours. DLS revealed that the second precipitation procedure yielded the TS solution with the lowest aggregate content. Slow precipitation therefore produces TS solutions that are most favorable for growth of crystals suitable for ND.
Gene Expression of IL-17 and IL-23 in Radiotherapy Induced Oral Mucositis
Cancer patients have many side effects in their immune system as a result of anti-cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy. However, one of the most consistent and debilitating complications in patients undergoing head-neck radiation is Oral Mucositis. Oral Mucositis is characterized as the painful development of exposed ulceration on the oral mucosal tissue. Although it is well known that oral mucosa cells are significantly damaged during these therapeutic radiations, an effective treatment is yet to be discovered. Preliminary data indicates that the inflammation produced by tissue damage is connected to a particular interleukin known as IL-17. This investigation focuses on answering if IL-23 and IL-17, defensive cytokines located in mucosal tissues, are causing a dysregulation of inflammation in the oral cavity after head-neck radiation. Based on preliminary data, a reasonable hypothesis is as follows: Wild type mice are susceptible to damage associated with head-neck radiation due to an upregulation of IL-17 and IL-23. By determining the protein levels of IL-23 and IL-17 in tongue tissues exposed in radiation, data can be further analyzed, thereby resulting in a more complete understanding of the overall project.
Greening UT through Service Learning
[no abstract supplied]
Inhibition of Tumor Cell Migration through Slit/Robo/TUBB3 Pathway
Studies have shown that the Slit-Robo signaling pathway is important in guiding neural and non-neural cell migration through attraction and repulsion. In addition, Slit and Robo play important roles in tumorigenesis, cancer progression, and metastasis. Specifically, Robo1 binds to a tubulin protein known as TUBB3. The purpose of this research is to investigate the involvement of Slit and Robo signaling in glioblastoma progression. Though the mechanisms have yet to be fully explored, a connection between the presence of the Slit protein and the rate of cancer cell invasion, specifically glioblastoma, may exist, which can lead to a better understanding of the Slit/Robo/TUBB3 pathway and the promising development of new drugs to target specific cancers. Here, the effects of Slit2 was investigated for human embryonic kidney (HEK) and glioblastoma multiforme (T98G) cells. HEK cells showed no difference with the presence of Slit2 medium in the wound healing assays, but interestingly, Slit2 instead promoted migration in T98G cells. On the other hand, Taxol, a drug that stabilizes microtubules, may play a role in inhibiting cell migration. From the Western blot and immunoprecipitation, it suggests that a connection exists between Robo1-TUBB3 and Slit2 regulation of this interaction.
Investigating Doping Effects on the Magnetic and Energetic Nature of Fe16N2
We have studied the structural, energetic, electronic, and magnetic properties of Fe16N2 doped with 3d transition metal elements (Mn, Co, Ti, Cr, V, and Ni). Special quasirandom structures were implemented to simulate doping throughout a range of concentrations (0% – 18.75%). Ab initio methods have been used to compute the optimal structures of pure and doped Fe16N2, for which formation energies were calculated. Our results indicate that all dopants lead to an increase in thermal stability. The HSE06 hybrid functional was applied to compute the electronic and magnetic properties of each material. Our findings predict Fe16N2 to exhibit a magnetic moment of 2.844 μB/Fe, which agrees well with previous works. We find that all dopants reduce the magnetization of Fe16N2, however, the magnitude of this decrease varies substantially depending on the dopant. Therefore, we propose that certain dopants may be beneficial to applications by serving to improve the stability of Fe16N2, while only decreasing the magnetization slightly. We have also studied the end-member compounds (Mn16N2, Co16N2, Ti16N2, Cr16N2, V16N2, and Ni16N2). Theoretical structures of these compounds are computed; all of which are determined to be dynamically stable, with the exception of Ti16N2. Electronic structures and magnetic moments are also reported.
Investigating the Effects of SFK and Mek Inhibitors on G-CSF Signaling
Granulocyte-Colony Stimulating Factor (G-CSF) is known as a growth factor that positively regulates neutrophil development. G-CSF supports neutrophil differentiation by binding to the G-CSF Receptor (G-CSFR), leading to the activation of downstream signaling pathways such as the Jak/Stat, Mek/Erk1/2 and Src-Family Kinases (SFKs). However, the molecular mechanisms by which G-CSF acts in myeloid development remain incompletely understood. The SFKs have been shown to play a critical role in monocyte development, but significantly less is known about their roles in neutrophil development. The Dong lab recently showed that tyrosine (Y) 729 in the cytoplasmic domain of G-CSFR controls neutrophil versus monocyte development of myeloid precursors by regulating Mek/Erk1/2 pathway and downstream transcription factors c-Fos/Egr-1. As the SFKs have been shown to activate Mek/Erk1/2 signaling pathway, we examined whether they are involved in the regulation of neutrophil development in response to G-CSF. We show here that SFKs appeared to regulate the different aspects of neutrophil versus monocyte development. Additional studies are needed to further clarify the roles of SFKs in myeloid development.
Investigating the Role of mSlap2 in Gfi1-mediated Inhibition of Erk1/2
Gfi1 is known as a nuclear transcriptional repressor that positively regulates B and T cell development and is required for the development of granulocytes. Gfi1 supports granulocyte differentiation at the expense of monocyte differentiation by repressing genes encoding Monocyte-Colony Stimulating Factor (M-CSF) and PU.1, which favor monocyte differentiation. However, the molecular mechanisms by which Gfi1 acts in myeloid development remain incompletely understood. For instance, in contrast to a previous publication reporting that Gfi1 increased the activation of Erk1/2, Dr. Dong’s lab has recently found that Gfi1 inhibits Erk1/2 phosphorylation/activation. The exact pathway leading to Gfi1-mediated inhibition of Erk1/2 activation is yet to be elucidated. Since Gfi1 is a nuclear transcription factor, it is possible that Gfi1 may inhibit Erk1/2 activation by regulating the expression of a cytoplasmic regulator of Erk1/2 activation. In preliminary data obtained from Dr. Dong’s lab, Gfi1 was shown to upregulate the expression of mSlap2. Interestingly, mSlap2 is a cytoplasmic protein that has been shown to inhibit the activation of Erk1/2. We hypothesize that mSlap2 may play a key role in Gfi1-mediated inhibition of Erk1/2 activation in response to Granulocyte-Colony Stimulating Factor (G-CSF).
Investigation of New Metal-Binding Groups For Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
Each year, millions of people are diagnosed with cancer. In order to fight back, countless drugs are currently being developed as possible treatments for the disease. Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors are chemical compounds that can be used to reverse repressed transcription of tumor suppressor genes. They are currently used to treat several targeted cancers, but there is much room for improvement to make them work more efficiently without causing unwanted side effects. The aim of our research was to investigate new metal-binding groups to be incorporated into HDAC inhibitors and make them more class or isoform selective. In order to do this, we obtained several compounds predicted to successfully bind with zinc (Zn2+) ions and analyzed their chelating ability using nuclear magnetic resonance and ultraviolet spectroscopy. We also performed several reactions aimed at synthesizing an HDAC inhibitor with the new metal-binding group attached. Our research identified that several groups tested possessed significant ability to bind to Zn2+. Moving forward, once the metal-binding groups are incorporated, the compounds can be tested on cancer cells to determine their ability to inhibit cell growth.
Low Cost Electronic Algae Detection
The detection of harmful algae blooms (HABs) has caused problems for areas relying on Lake Erie for water. Improper detection led to the 2014 water crisis for Toledo, Ohio and surrounding areas. Since then new detection methods have been developed but are too costly to be applied a crossed Lake Erie. Present in this paper is a low-cost method for remote detection of algae. This project’s purpose was to design and fabricate a mass producible detector to be used by health officers and assist in further research and relief efforts along Lake Erie. The detector is comprised of four sensors, chlorophyll, turbidity, conductivity, and color. The sensors work together to take and verify readings of algae. The cost of a detector complete with sensors and the communication system costs $75 with a $60 gateway receiver.
Regulation of MMP2 and MMP9 in Radiotherapy-Induced Oral Mucositis
Cancer patients experience a variety of side effects resulting from cancer irradiation therapies. However, one of the most prevalent and most serious side effects in patients who undergo head and neck radiotherapy is oral mucositis. Oral mucositis (OM) is caused by damage to oral epithelial tissue and characterized by ulcers and sores in the mouth, often accompanied by swelling. Though the connection between irradiation and OM development is known, there are currently no effective treatments. Data indicates that interleukin cytokine proteins IL-17 and IL-23 are involved in upregulation of the immune response and inflammation, but little is known about the relationship between interleukin cytokine proteins and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). MMPs are a group of structurally related enzymes that degrade extracellular matrix proteins and basement membrane components during growth and normal tissue turnover. The expression of these enzymes in adults is usually low. However, significant increase in MMP expression is seen in conditions that result in tissue destruction. This project focused on determining the transcription changes and regulation of MMP2 and MMP9 due to head and neck irradiation. It was hypothesized that head and neck irradiation would cause upregulation of MMP2 and MMP9, resulting in damage to the oral mucosa.
Skin Penetration of Caffeine from Marketed Eye Creams
Caffeine has recently become popular as a component of topical anti-aging cosmetic products due to its wide-ranging biological activity. The aim of this study was to determine the amount of caffeine that permeated through a skin-like synthetic membrane from marketed eye creams. A prestige and a mass anti-aging eye cream for women and an anti-aging eye cream for men were selected to be studied. Physicochemical characteristics, including pH, appearance and droplet size were studied. Permeation of caffeine was tested in vitro using Strat-M®membrane on Franz diffusion cells. Caffeine was analyzed using HPLC. Appearance of the products slightly differed, their pH was similar. All three eye creams were monodisperse, the average droplet size varied between 1-3.5 μm. The mass product for women contained the highest amount of caffeine in 1 g eye cream. In this 24-hour study, the largest caffeine permeation (0.49%) via Strat-M® membrane was observed from the prestige eye cream for women. Eye creams containing caffeine will be formulated using in silico modeling and tested for in vitro release and in vitro permeation. Data from this preliminary study will guide in designing the creams. A. S. acknowledges support from the UT Office of Undergraduate Research (FYSRE).
The Effect of Emollients on the SPF of Organic Sunscreens
Skin health plays a significant role in an individual’s appearance and wellbeing. The sun’s ultraviolet rays, if exposure to them is significant, have the power to negatively impact an individual’s skin health. Conditions such as burns, premature skin aging, and skin cancer are some of the common side effects of such exposure. Fortunately, because of the ability to avoid the sun, or even protect oneself from the harmful radiation, these issues can be avoided. One product commonly found on the market is sunscreen, which uses organic UV filters due to their many benefits. However, these filters are capable of absorbing into the skin, posing a safety concern for consumers. The goal of this research project was to find solvents (emollients) for different organic UV filters. Formulating for Efficacy (FFE) was used to match Hansen Solubility Parameters (HSPs) of the UV filters and the emollients in order to enhance the sun protection factor (SPF) and prevent absorption into the skin. The first step of the process included searching online in chemical databases and supplier websites. Different solvents were entered into FFE, which selected the optimal solvents for the given sunscreens based on HSPs. The most favorable UV filter-solvent combinations were tested in vitro using an SPF tester (LabSphere, UV-2000s). Through the performance of these tests, conclusions can be drawn about how the use of solvents effects sunscreen’s SPF.
The Role of Nicotinic Acid Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate in B Cells Calcium Flux
Nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NAADP) is the most recently discovered Ca2+ signaling second messenger. The investigation of NAADP in T lymphocytes, conducted by Dr. Katherine A. Wall’s lab, has demonstrated the importance of NAADP as a Ca2+ mobilizing second messenger in naive and effector murine T cells. The success indicates that NAADP contributes prominently to Ca2+ during activation of the cells. However, no one has particularly investigated the role that NAADP plays in B lymphocytes. The project I am working on is to explore the function of NAADP in B cells by calcium flux. I am using Ned-19, an inhibitor of the NAADP signaling pathway, to indicate the presence of NAADP signaling.Investigating whether NAADP has an essential effect in B cell function as it does in naive and effector murine T cells will bring more understanding to the cell and cell functioning as a whole. The research will also enhance our current knowledge about NAADP, and one of the benefits is to help us better target the Ca2+ release mechanism with specific drugs. Therefore, enlightening us in causes of many autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, which may lead to new treatments for those diseases and contribute to the advancement of immunology and pharmacology.
Utilizing Embedded Hardware for Remote Algae Detection
The detection Harmful Algae Blooms(HABs) presents a costly and complex problem that threatens bodies of water around the world. Current systems utilize expensive sondes, radios and computers that require a large housing, such as a buoy, that result in costs that can quickly add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Presented here is an embedded computer system that can be utilized in coordination with sensors for a low-cost way to collect, relay and analyze water quality data. The aim of the project was to design and fabricate an easily reproducible embedded system and analytical application that could be utilized by scientists and water health officials to automate their water monitoring efforts. The utilization of custom designed and fabricated printed circuit boards allows for flexibility in what sensors scientists could choose to implement, while still maintaining a small and power efficient profile. To achieve the low cost, ATmega 8-bit microcontrollers are utilized for their simplicity and compatibility with many sensors on the market. The cost of one sensor unit is $83.65 and combined with the $37.50 cost of the receiver/ gateway module give the system the ability to sense data around a mile from the base station and upload it to the internet. This system can make water supplies safer by giving constant and advanced notice of the development of HABs.