Please Wait. Loading Menu...

Christine P. Tischer Scholars

Students who at the end of their junior year have earned an overall grade point average of 3.0 and a 3.5 in their major, are invited to participate in departmental honors work during their senior year. The prestigious and highly selective yearlong program is designed for students who wish to pursue intensive research or a special project. Papers and projects are presented at a special forum in the spring.

In consultation with a departmental faculty adviser, students choose a topic of interest, usually in their major, and select a committee of two additional faculty members to serve as advisers and readers.

Students who complete departmental honors papers, which are included in the permanent collections of the Beneficial-Hodson Library, are designated Christine P. Tischer Scholars, in honor of the 1965 alumna of the College who has generously supported the program.

To learn more about the 2014 and previous Tischer Scholars, click here.

Anela Alic Vy Y Ho Gaelyn Reid
Catherine Anne Dennen Amelia H. Lovelace Samantha Tate
Nicholas Duafala Emily D. Lovelace Amanda R. Wobbleton
Mitchell Ellison Anna Nikolenko  
Maria Gaetskaya Alfreda Nwosu  

Anela Alic '14

Major: Communication Arts

Project: American Newspaper Perception of Al Jazeera, 2001-2003

Mentors: Elizabeth Atwood, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism

Committee Members: Donna Bertazzoni, professor of journalism; Leonard Latkovski, professor of history

Read more 

Abstract:This paper looks at the number of published articles about the Qatar TV network, Al Jazeera, in The New York Times and The Washington Post between 2001 and 2013. It explains why the number of articles in particular years is low or high. It studies the motives behind the change in number of articles by examining different global events that are significant for Al Jazeera’s growth. The network’s growth is also related to number of actions that it took. For example, Al Jazeera provided the biggest Western media outlets, such as CNN and NBC, with exclusive footage from the war zones in the Middle East and bin Laden’s videos. Without any selection and using the ProQuest database, The New York Times yielded 1,542 articles that mention Al Jazeera. It recorded the highest number of articles in early 2000s and 2013. The Washington Post yielded 1,592 articles about Al Jazeera. The highest number of articles was recorded during the same years as in the other newspaper. Events including: 9/11, war in Iraq and Afghanistan stimulated the large number of articles in the early 2000s. The opening of Al Jazeera America attracted a lot of attention in 2013 resulting in high number of articles in both The New York Times and The Washington Post. The next step of the study analyzes the change in perceptions of Al Jazeera in a selected sample of articles by grading them as negative, positive or neutral. Results in both of the newspapers showed the positive tones toward Al Jazeera increased over time, negative tones decreased and the neutral remained constant or increased as well. These findings suggest that The New York Times and The Washington Post increasingly accepted Al Jazeera and that different events such as the establishment of Al Jazeera America has contributed to improved perceptions of the Al Jazeera brand.

Quote: “Objectivity and fair reporting are the crucial pillars of journalism.”


Stacey M. Axler ’14

Major: Communication Arts

Project: Love Letter to Stanley, Analyzing Five Films of Stanley Kubrick

Mentors: Katherine Orloff, assistant professor of journalism

Committee Members: Elizabeth Atwood, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism; David Gurzick, Ph.D., assistant professor of management

Read more 

Abstract:My paper analyzes five films directed by Stanley Kubrick to identify common themes in his filmmaking style.

Quote: “I loved doing the departmental honors project and I think if anyone has a passion for a topic they should attempt to complete the research as well. I love Kubrick and I have spent all year writing about his work; it was a great experience.”


Catherine Anne Dennen ’14

Double major: Psychology, Biology

Projects: Piagetian Object Permanence in Sciurus carolinensis, Directed Evolution of a Thermostabilized Pectin Methylesterase by Error-Prone PCR to Develop a More Active Enzyme

Mentors: Shannon Kundey, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, Craig Laufer, Ph.D., professor of biology

Committee Members: Diane Oliver, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology; James Cherry, Ph.D., adjunct instructor, Ricky Hirschhorn, Ph.D., professor of biology; Shannon Kundey, Ph.D.,                                                             assistant professor of psychology

                                                       Read more 

Abstract 1: Most research to date indicates that Sciurus carolinensis do exhibit partial remembrance with respect to retrieving nuts from caches (e.g., Devenport, Luna, & Devenport, 2000; Jacobs & Liman, 1991). However, little research has investigated squirrels’ knowledge of the physical world or their cognitive abilities, including directly evaluating whether they possess object permanence. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to use Piaget’s stage theory of intellectual development to evaluate whether Sciurus carolinensis exhibit object permanence. Object permanence is inferred when a behavior or exhibited by an organism indicates that the organism understands that an object continues to exist even though it can no longer be observed (e.g., Piaget, 1963). Here, I investigated whether squirrels exhibit object permanence. In one experiment, squirrels were shown two empty boxes and then a food reward (peanut) was placed into one box and an empty hand was placed into the other box. Then, the experimenter walked away and allowed the squirrels a maximum of five minutes to touch one of the boxes. The first box touched was recorded, and the squirrels were allowed to eat the peanut if they found it. Of nine squirrels, eight correctly chose the box containing the reward (binomial test: p = 0.018), which significantly exceeds the number expected by chance alone. These results suggest that the squirrels knew the location of the food reward and acted on that knowledge, suggesting that they do possess object permanence as adults. Additionally, these data supports recent research suggesting that squirrels exhibit and use memory related cognitive processes with respect to locating their nut caches and provides a methodology for further research on the cognitive abilities of squirrels (e.g., Devenport et al., 2000; Jacobs & Liman, 1991).

Quote 1: “This research sharpened my problem-solving skills and gave me a better appreciation of the scientific method and scientific literature. In addition, I gained a greater respect and a newfound curiosity for the intelligence of wild life that surrounds us in our daily lives.”

Abstract 2: With increases in consumption of petroleum-based fuels and fixed supplies, the price of transportation fuels will inevitably rise. In addition, the burning of fossil fuels releases more carbon dioxide into the air adding to the greenhouse effect. Biofuels derived from crop waste is one solution to this problem because crop waste is considered a renewable resource and neutral with respect to the emission of carbon dioxide. One way to utilize crop waste as an energy source would be to target and degrade the cell wall of plant cells with pectin methylesterases (PME) along with other pectin-degrading enzymes, which could produce simple sugars that then could subsequently be fermented into alcohol for use as a fuel. The purpose of this experiment was to use directed evolution on a thermo stabilized PME (JL25) by error-prone PCR in order to develop a more efficient enzyme for pectin degradation. A simple and rapid ruthenium red assay screening process was developed to screen hundreds to thousands of bacterial colonies for PME activity at a single time. 

     While more than 15,000 members of the error-prone PCR library were screened, no clones with PME activity greater than the parental JL25 clone were observed.

Quote 2: “My time in the research laboratory has helped me mature as an analytical, critical and independent thinker. I learned the importance of being meticulous and thorough in regards to experimental procedures and obtained valuable hands-on skills that will prove invaluable in graduate studies. Finally, I was able to conduct research directly relating to the use and development of biofuels, which is a topic that I have been very passionate about since high school.”


Nicholas Duafala ’14

Major: Economics

Project: The Impact of Quantitative Easing on the Capital Markets: GARCH Analysis of the Exchange Traded Funds Market

Mentors: Sang Kim, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and management

Committee Members: Tianning Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance; Michael Coon, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics; Steven L. Skancke, Ph.D., chief investment officer at Keel Point Advisors, LLC; Bill Scoggins, wealth advisor at Keel Point Advisors, LLC

                                                       Read more 

Abstract: This project analyzes the effects of quantitative easing (QE) on the capital markets by modeling exchange traded funds (ETFs) returns using a generalized autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity (GARCH) methodology. The daily returns of ETFs are modeled as a function of the S&P 500, 10-year treasury yields, and the variance as a function of daily traded volume, federal funds futures traded volume and ARCH and GARCH effects. The S&P 500 is used as the market index and daily traded volume of the ETF is used as a proxy for information arrival in the market. The 10-year treasury yields and federal funds futures traded volume capture the affect of QE on the returns and the return volatility respectively. The results show that the 10-year treasury yields are significant in some sectors of the economy more so than others, and the Federal funds futures trading volume is significant in all ETFs. The implications of these results not only provide information about the reaction of the ETF market to QE, but also provide insight for developing investment strategies.

Quote: “Through this experience I have learned a lot about the methods and strategies it takes to complete an intensive research project like this. What seemed to be the most daunting challenge of my undergrad career I found to be extremely rewarding and enlightening in my economic studies. I am honored to be chosen as a Christine P. Tischer Scholar and wish future scholars the best experience.”


Mitchell Ellison ’14

Major: Biology

Project: Differential hsp70 Expression in the Symbiotic Sea Anemone Aiptasia pallida and its Intracellular Symbiont Symbiodinium sp. In Response to Salinity Stress

Mentors: Sang Kim, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and management

Committee Members: Tianning Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance; Michael Coon, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics; Steven L. Skancke, Ph.D., chief investment officer at Keel Point Advisors, LLC; Bill Scoggins, wealth advisor at Keel Point Advisors, LLC

                                                       Read more 

Abstract:When a cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis like that of coral or a sea anemone is stressed leading up to bleaching, heat shock proteins (Hsp) are synthesized and act as molecular chaperones aiding in the refolding of denatured proteins. The level of Hsp expression taking place in both host and symbiont is a useful indicator of the stress level they are experiencing. I am investigating Hsp70 expression in response to salinity change in the anemone Aiptasia pallida and its intracellular symbiont Symbiodinium sp. Hsp70 was chosen as the target gene because it is expressed in both A. pallida and Symbiodinium sp. and due to its role in stress response. After exposing both organisms to higher and lower salinity’s for predetermined amounts of time Hsp70 expression will be assayed using qPCR. By testing both host and symbiont, I hope to identify which partner is the first to respond and determine which elicits the greatest response to salinity stress. Hopefully, this study will provide some insight into what partner is under the greatest stress and elucidate details of the bleaching response. I also hope to provide information which may help to determine how large of a role salinity fluctuations play in in-situ studies of cnidarian bleaching.

Quote: “I have gained knowledge and experience with laboratory techniques that I would not have learned had I not taken the opportunity to do a departmental honors research project. Learning how to ask questions in biology and develop a plan to answer those questions is what the Hood College biology department strives to teach its students; this project really brought it all together for me. If any of you juniors receive a letter in the mail inviting you to participate in a departmental honors project, take the opportunity. You will be glad you did.”


Maria Gaetskaya ’14

Major: Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies

Project: Responsibility to Protect Doctrine: Syria (R2P)

Mentors: Paige Eager, Ph.D., associate professor of political science

Committee Members: Len Latkovski Jr., professor of history; Guy Djoken, chairman of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO Clubs, Center and Associations

Read more 

Abstract:The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a relatively new international security and human rights norm, compared to other foreign policy instruments widely used to protect civilians in armed conflicts and prevent genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. After the Second World War, the idea to strengthen protection of human rights emerged stronger than ever before. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The international community created a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere and insure that horrors like those of the Holocaust would never occur again in the history of mankind. In 1948 the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations and was implemented three years later. The end of the 20th century marked a change in the nature of an armed conflict, when large inter-state wars were replaced by violent internal conflicts and the vast majority of casualties became civilians. The genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia demonstrated massive failures by the international community to prevent mass atrocities. In the post-Cold War period, international community and world leaders recognized the need to shift the debate about crisis prevention and response. Specifically, word leaders acknowledged their failure to adequately respond to the most heinous crimes and pushed for strengthened capacities. The historic commitment to end human suffering and prevent harmful injuries outlined that “the security of the community and the individual, not only the state, must be priorities for implementation of national and international policies.” During the United Nations (UN) 2005 World Summit, the outlined member state’s commitment crafted the notion of the Responsibility to Protect. Therefore, we can conclude that the essence of R2P is not just about the use of military force by more traditionally powerful countries to intervene into a sovereign country. Rather, norm represents a “broader range of activities, including the whole spectrum of interventions, and privileges, and the lives and rights of individuals around the world.” Those underlining responsibilities include not only the protection and the safeguarding of civilians, but a long-term development and an adequate maintenance of peacekeeping structures and institutions. The central question for research would be: Are the existing post-World War II institutions adequate to respond to these severe threats to basic human rights as outlined decades ago in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or do these institutions need to be reformed and improved upon to adequately reflect the complexity of the international systems in an era where uncontrolled gross human rights violations are becoming an increasingly frequent feature of transitional and post-conflict processes? As we witness, uncontrolled abuses continue in Syria, what explains the sense of urgency to develop a new approach toward conflict.

Quote: “I have selected a single case method to examine the application of the R2P norm to the situation in Syria, where the delayed international response to the escalating crisis has resulted in more than 100,000 persons being killed in the past three years, 6.5 million internally displaced, of whom about 46 percent are children, and overall more than nine million of population remains in a dire need of basic supplies. I believe my research approach will help to evaluate historical precedents, international norms regarding armed humanitarian conflict, and suggest reasoning why this doctrine was not applied in Syria. The research will also examine other cases where the intervention into affairs of sovereign state was controversial. For instance, cases of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Libya, where foreign military intervention has been justified. Also, the failures of the international community to prevent massacres of thousands of civilians seeking shelter in UN “safe areas” in Srebrenica (1995) and a poor executions and an ultimate withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping forces in Somalia (1992-1993). This analysis had been undertaken to provide a historical and contemporary analysis of cases where R2P doctrine has been applied, or where states’ inaction have resulted in a larger killings of civilian population. It also will draw parallels between international responses to the conflict in Libya as compared to a current situation Syria. However, this study acknowledges the importance of recognizing the difference in those conflicts. Considering clashes of multiple interests and a price of human lives at stake, most member states have a major interest in resolving Syrian conflict. It is very hard to compare the conflict in Syria to any other situation because of the escalating violence. However, we can say that countries like Russia and China are holding on their veto power, after once learned a lesson from their mistakes in Libya, where military intervention resulted in the regime change. Those anti-western joined forces are deepening divisions to find a consensus over Syria, particularly antagonistic towards western military intervention. Among my primary sources I have used in my research the UN Resolutions, speeches, presidential statements, letters, interviews, and official records. Among my secondary sources were news reports, articles, academic journals and photographs. I also conducted personal interviews and summarized experts’ opinion on the subject. For instance, Oleg Kravchenko, Chargé D’affaires of the Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C. said that R2P has been used as a Trojan Horse in the form of humanitarian intervention, where the most powerful states continue pursuing their imperialistic interests. Jean-Noël Bonnieu, the first secretary of the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations, underlined that observing mission in Syria clearly failed and peacekeeping is no longer possible. He acknowledged that political solution remains on the table and Bashar al-Assad cannot be a part of the solution. Therefore, international community should do everything possible to stop him from running for re-elections. A former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer at the Brookings Institution, has expressed his deep concern over Russia’s position, “I hate to see them making miscalculations.” Finally, Chris Van Hollen, the member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland, said in his interview to the Frederick News-Post, “The U.S. needs to take action after Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops allegedly used chemical weapons” and acknowledged that he would “prefer to take the collective vote of the U.N. Security Council. ” I was quoted in the same article, in an interview after Van Hollen’s presentation, stating “the model of U.S. democracy can’t work in the Middle East.” In my research I also relied on the reports from the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Organization. Among them were “World Report 2013,” the case of Ali Sayed Al-Shihabi’s detention, and the Amnesty’s report “Syria: Harrowing torture, summary killings in secret ISIS detention centers.”


Vy Y Ho ’14

Major: Management and Mathematics

Project: Do the FORTUNE’s 100 Best Outperform? An Investigation of the Links Between Employee Satisfaction, Firm Value, and Firm Performance

Mentors: Tianning Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance

Committee Members: Anita Jose, Ph.D., professor of management; Sang Kim, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and management

                                                       Read more 

Abstract: Over the past decade, employers have increased their focus on creating a high quality work life for their employees. Using FORTUNE’s annual lists of “The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America” as indicators for firms’ effective human resource management practices, I compare the market values of listed firms to the market values of their nonlisted industry peers.

Quote: “This research was an enriching experience for me. I learned countless of skills necessary for data gathering and problem solving. I also gained a good understanding about the corporate world and how to properly evaluate firms’ performances.”


Amelia H. Lovelace ’14

Major: Biology and Mathematics

Project: Identification and Cloning of Secreted Proteins in Germinating Uromyces transversalis Urediniospores Infecting Gladiolus Species

Mentors: Oney Smith, Ph.D., professor of biology

Committee Members: Doug Luster, Ph.D., research leader at the USDA-ARS at Fort Detrick; Ann Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics

                                                       Read more 

Abstract: Uromyces transversalis or Gladiolus rust is an obligate plant pathogen that infects Gladiolus species. Early detection of this pathogen is crucial for reducing the spread of this disease through greenhouse nurseries. The aim of this study is to use provided next generation sequencing reads from germinating uredeniospores to identify a secreted protein unique to U. transversalis that can be cloned and expressed to generate an antibody for early detection of U. transversalis in asymptomatic gladiolus plants. Using bioinformatic skills, five unique secreted proteins have been identified from deep sequencing data. One of these proteins has been successfully cloned and placed within an expression vector. Further protein analysis will generate an antibody.

Quote: “This project has allowed me to conduct research on my own. I was able to overcome many obstacles, including negative test results. I learned that these negative results are just a part of doing research in science and although they are not the results I wanted, they still provide valuable insight.”


Emily D. Lovelace ’14

Major: Environmental Science and Policy

Project: Exploring Induced Byssus Thread Production of Mussels in the Presence of Native and Invasive Predators: Determining the Influence of Geographical Contact History of the Atlantic Ribbed Mussel Geukensia demissa, and the Physical Characteristics of Water-borne Cues Detected by the Hooked Mussel Ischadium recurvum

Mentors: Drew Ferrier, Ph.D., professor of biology

Committee Members: Eric Kindahl, Ph.D., associate professor of biology; James Devilbiss,                                                                 adjunct instructor in mathematics

                                                       Read more 

Abstract: The ability of prey to develop defense mechanisms to avoid predation is an important ecological role that influences all physiological processes of aquatic organisms within an ecosystem. In order to minimize the energy cost of anti-predator defenses while still reducing potential harm, many aquatic prey organisms, including mussels, have developed inducible defenses. This study explores the effectiveness of induced byssus thread production in mussels through two scientific studies. The first study explores how predator-prey contact history between the Atlantic ribbed mussel and the invasive green crab influences byssus thread production. Atlantic ribbed mussels taken from New Jersey, where green crab populations have been introduced, and Maryland, where green crabs have the potential of being introduced, were each treated with effluent water conditioned with blue crab, green crab and no crab (control). The mean number of byssus threads produced by New Jersey mussels was greater, yet statistically insignificant, in blue crab effluent water than either the control or the green crab treatments. Surprisingly, Maryland ribbed mussels produced a significantly greater mean number of byssus threads when treated with green crab effluent than the control and blue crab treatments. This data suggests a lack of historical contact between a potential predator and prey may induce a greater defense response from the prey when compared to the presence of a natural predator. The second study determines how changes in the physical characteristics of the chemical cue produced by blue crabs influences byssus thread production in hooked mussels. Crab-effluent water underwent three treatments, boiling and filtering it with two sizes of activated carbon. The result of boiling and filtering decreased the average number of byssus threads produced, but of no statistical significance. The mussel response to water filtered through the smaller activated charcoal was comparable to the presence of no crab. These data suggest a potential size of the chemical cue as well as other physical characteristics.

Quote: “From this research project I learned that working with live organisms can be challenging and that “real” science normally doesn’t go your way. But I also learned that data is data and just because it doesn’t support your hypothesis doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. My research findings helped me think critically and. more importantly. discover something new about estuarine ecology and myself.”


Anna Nikolenko ’14

Major: French

Project: La Belle Époque de la Russie en France 1850-1930

Mentors: Didier Course, Ph.D., professor of French

Committee Members: Lisa Algazi Marcus, Ph.D., professor of French; Noel O. Verzosa Jr., Ph.D., assistant professor of music

Read more 

Abstract: The work is titled “The Golden Age of Russia in France 1850-1930,” which suggests that this period saw favorable influences and advancements in the relations of the two nations. It is an overview of Franco-Russian relations from 1850 to 1930 in the spheres of diplomacy, society and culture. It provides historical, sociological and literary points of view. Focus is placed on the presence of Russian culture and immigrants in France and their roles. A large portion is dedicated to the political history between the two nations, Russia and France, and the political events that occurred during this time period, including the Franco-Prussian war, the Franco-Russian Alliance, World War I and the Russian Revolution on 1917. The visual and performing arts and the artists who emigrated from Russia to France are highlighted, including the Ballets Russes, which had an influence on occidental and world culture.

Quote: “This research project helped me gain knowledge about myself and the cultures I grew up with and study. Since I am of Russia origin and study French, I was interested in the historical connections between the two, and I learned a lot about their history and the importance of their alliance. I used sources in three languages—Russian, English and French—which helped me professionally by allowing me to translate into French and unite the three for one common purpose. I practiced being an independent researcher and organizing my time. My time on this project was limited, which was a challenge; I had only one semester, so I had to learn to work efficiently. I enjoyed working on this project and hope it will be useful to the scholarly community.”


Alfreda Nwosu ’14

Major: Political Science

Project: The Product of a Failed State: Boko Haram, On the Verge of Transnationalization?

Mentors: Page Eager, Ph.D., associate professor of political science

Committee Members: Hoda Zaki, Ph.D., professor of political science; Sang Kim, Ph.D., professor of economics and management

Read more 

Abstract:My paper examines the origin and evolution of the organization known as Boko Haram, located in the northern Nigeria. I conducted a textual analysis of public statements, videos (in Hausa and Arabic) and manifestos issued by the organization, using several keywords to determine the organization’s intention to promulgate either its domestic political goals or its transnational goals. I also explored different facets of Nigerian politics that aid the advancement of the group. Boko Haram is the most destabilizing insurgency Nigeria has experienced in recent years, and is a case study of what promotes terrorism as a means to gaining political representation.

Quote: “My research is the culmination of my academic experience at Hood. I was given the opportunity to apply the different aspects of politics that I had studied during the last three years to an ongoing political issue. I learned so much about the ever-changing nature of global politics and the importance of effective governance. This research project was a challenge that inspired more questions to explore. I am very grateful to the department and my mentors for their unwavering support throughout this experience.”


Gaelyn Reid ’14

Major: Art and Archaeology

Project: Conflict and Collaboration: Native Americans and the Practice of Archaeology

Mentors: Jenni Ross, Ph.D., professor of art

Committee Members: Purnima Bhatt, Ph.D., professor of history, anthropology and interdisciplinary studies; John Bedell, Ph.D., adjunct instructor of history

Read more 

Abstract:I have researched the conflicts that have arisen between archaeologists and Native American groups through past practices and contradicting worldviews. I also analyzed how archaeology has aided in a negative social perception of Native Americans and ways in which these conflicts can be resolved through collaborative projects.

Quote: “This research project has given me the opportunity to explore the ethics of archaeology and gain a new perspective on the discipline. The project has given me new confidence in my ability to research and write extensively on a topic.”


Samantha Tate ’14

Major: Biology

Project: Valproate Extends Viability in PC-12 Cells Expressing Full-length Mutant Huntingtin

Mentors: Ricky Hirschhorn, Ph.D., professor of biology

Committee Members: Susan Ensel, Whitaker Professor of Chemistry; Tiziana Cavinato, assistant professor of biology

Read more 

Abstract: Huntington’s disease is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder with no current cure or treatment to ameliorate progression. It arises from a [(CAG)>36] triplet repeat expansion at the N-terminus of the gene HTT that results in mutant huntingtin (mtHtt) protein. MtHtt forms abnormal conformations such as beta sheets that aggregate and localize to the nucleus where they then inappropriately interact with transcription factors such as histone acetyltransferases (HATs) and histone deacetylases (HDACs) to effectively silence gene expression. Valproate is a HDAC inhibitor that may be able to serve as a possible small molecule therapy for HD. This research applied valproate to an inducible PC-12 cell featuring a double insert of full-length mtHtt in order to support the hypothesis that cell viability would increase over time and apoptosis would decrease over time in comparison to controls. In regards to cell viability, with treatment both expressors and nonexpressors of mtHtt show increased/stable viability over time and this corroborates across both concentrations of VPA used as predicted while cell lines that did not receive treatment showed mixed results. In regards to apoptosis for the VPA 0.6mM experiment, without treatment there are more apoptotic cells over time as predicted while with treatment, there is much less apoptosis over time as predicted. For the VPA 0.3mM experiment, with treatment there is increasing apoptosis over time unexpectedly. Also unexpectedly, without treatment there is no increase/decrease in apoptosis over time.

Quote: “This research has further confirmed my passion for a future in clinical medicine as well as taught me how to manage my time effectively.”


Amanda R. Wobbleton ’14

Major: Environmental Science and Policy

Project: Nitrogen Uptake Rate in Iris versicolor Amended with Mycorrhizal Fungi for Use in Floating Treatment Wetlands

Mentors: Eric Kindahl, Ph.D., associate professor of biology

Committee Members: Drew Ferrier, Ph.D., professor of biology; Kevin Bennett, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry

                                                       Read more 

Abstract: Floating treatment wetlands are a relatively new method of mitigating stormwater runoff. These wetlands allow plants to float on the water and help to absorb excess nutrients from our runoff, such as nitrate. This study investigates whether mycorrhizal fungi can assist the nitrate uptake rate in the Iris versicolor species, when planted in a floating treatment wetland mat. Optimizing uptake is important to prevent pollutants from entering our waterways and harming stream dwelling organisms.

Quote: “This project helped me to realize the true nature of science. The experiment may not have worked out as I envisioned it, but I was still able to get results and gain a variety of knowledge in the process. I also realized that many of the classes I took throughout my college career worked together to allow me to understand the details of this project.”