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NSF GK-12 ANNUAL MEETING


ARCHIVE: 2007 Graduate Student Poster Abstracts

Poster abstracts are displayed in alphabetical order, by student name. Use the links below to see a specific student's abstract, or scroll through all the abstracts.

Barnawi, Waleed
Barrozo, Roberto
Belen-Cordero, Daphne
Block, Darci
Cooper, Erin
DeNeve, Laura
Furnholm, Teal
Gary, Lindsay
Hamblin, Bridget
Kendricks, Kimberly
Kittrell, Danielle
Kukula, Eric
Ledesma, Jessica
Lee, Jane
Letendre, Jon
Maronde, Dan
Mitchell, Elizabeth J.
Pontius, Kira
Postava-Davignon, Marielle
Riddle, Megan
Rocio Caton, Ingrid
Ruths, Justin
Santiesteban, Jr., Oscar
Schultz, Bryan
Shepherd, Cynthia
Strong, Mel
Whalen, Christopher
Wilkins, Christopher


Barnawi, Waleed
Washington University
Engineering Education for a Global Technological Society
Email: Wtb2@cec.wustl.edu

Development of Fragility Curves for Hazard Mitigation with Smart Dampers

Over the last several years, hazard mitigation has become an increasingly popular topic. Tragedies such as the Southeast Asia Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina have taught us the benefit of preparedness. In accordance with this emerging interest, the Mid Atlantic Earthquake (MAE) Center has launched an effort to increase hazard mitigation and preparedness. Through, the development and implementation of consequence based engineering areas of high damage probability can be identified and later retrofitted to ensure a reduction in losses. MAEviz is the conduit through which hazard mitigation tools will be delivered to the engineers and decision makesr. Fragility curves are used to determine the probability of disaster in structures in the Mid America region, an area of low seismic probability but high consequences. This study will focus on the development of fragility curves for structures which employ innovative supplemental control systems for vibration suppression during earthquakes. Magnetorheological dampers are the specific devices to be considered. The results from this study will be included in MAEviz and allow stakeholders to identify areas of concern and consider the benefit-cost ratios in terms of various mitigation strategies.

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Barrozo, Roberto
San Francisco State University
SFSU SEPAL GK-12 Partnership Program
Email: rbarrozo@sfsu.edu

Transcriptional Repressor ATF3 Binds to the IFN-b Promoter in Macrophages

The cytokine Interferon-beta (IFN-b) promotes beneficial immune responses to infection and exacerbates or prevents adverse immune responses that contribute to autoimmunity and allergy. Macrophages are a major source of IFN-b production. Under stress-free conditions, macrophages secrete low to undetectable levels of IFN-b, however, following exposure to stimuli associated with microbial infection, macrophages rapidly increase transcription of this cytokine. Recently our lab observed that macrophages deficient in Activating Transcription Factor 3 (ATF3) produce significantly higher amounts of IFN-b mRNA than wild type macrophages, suggesting that ATF3 may be a repressor of IFN-b transcription in macrophages. In this case, ATF3 might function to limit production of this cytokine, thereby preventing host pathology associated with IFN-b over-abundance. To begin testing this hypothesis, the potential binding of ATF3 to the IFN-b promoter was investigated in intact macrophages by the chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay. Initial ChIP results reveal that ATF3 is not detectably bound to the IFN-b promoter in resting macrophages. However, this transcription factor is bound in bacterial lipopolysaccharide-stimulated macrophages. These data are the first indication that ATF3 inducibly binds to the IFN-b promoter in macrophages and this event is likely to mediate the repressive effect of ATF3 on IFN-b transcription.

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Belen-Cordero, Daphne
University of Puerto, Mayaguez
Graduate and Undergraduate Students Enhancing Science and Technology in K-12 Schools
Email: 
Dasi_bc@yahoo.com

Hoffman Degradation of the Structure Directing Agent and Post-Synthesis Treatments of Cobalt Aluminophosphate Nanoporous Sorbents

UCSB-8 (SBE), a large-pore transition-metal substituted aluminophosphate nanoporous material was synthesized using 1,9-diaminononane as the structure-directing agent (SDA). However, the UCSB-8Co high transition-metal concentration contributes to a much lower thermal stability as compared to other Al3+-rich molecular sieves. While X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) data confirmed the presence of the Co-SBE phase, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images indicated that the crystal morphology was no longer cubic plates. Instead, the powder material displayed a hexagonal plate-like habit. Treatments in oxidative and inert atmospheres, respectively, were used for the removal of the structure-directing agent that resulted in a “non-porous” framework as evidenced by low nitrogen uptake at 77K. The latter treatment, however, resulted in a material with a surface area and cage diameter of ca. 320 m2/g and 9Å, respectively. Thermal gravimetric analyses (TGA) showed that the SDA elimination proceeds in a stepwise fashion. The first weight lost corresponding to the SDA elimination under vacuum conditions matches well the predicted formation of alkene based on the theoretical unit cell data. It can be concluded from the last weight loss region evolving from the inert gas treatment that few ammonia molecules are eliminated. It is therefore possible that some extra-framework cobalt centers were formed resulting this in both structural distortion and formation of complexes. Raman and FTIR spectroscopy data, however, confirmed that the original phase characteristics remained almost unaffected after inert gas treatment.

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Block, Darci
North Dakota State University
Graduate Student-University-School Collaborative for Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology
Email: 
Darci.block@ndsu.edu

Characterization of the Heme Environment of the Hemophore PhuS: Implications for Heme Transfer

Establishment of infection by bacterial pathogens requires a ready source of iron. A major source of soluble iron is the host’s hemoglobin and other heme proteins. Many bacterial pathogens have systems of proteins that are able to internalize, and metabolize heme from their host as a means of acquiring the iron needed to establish infection, (see graphic). These proteins are known as hemophores. One such hemophore, PhuS, is a 37-kDa cytoplasmic protein found in the gram-negative bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This organism is an opportunistic human pathogen that primarily affects patients whose immune systems are compromised by conditions such as AIDS, and cystic fibrosis, or by aggressive chemotherapeutic regimens for cancer treatment. The proposed function of PhuS is transport of heme from the inner membrane to heme oxygenase, which degrades the heme resulting in release of ferrous iron. As the heme environment in PhuS is relevant to its mechanistic role in heme transport, we are working to elucidate that environment. Visible absorbance and resonance Raman spectra are presented to address heme iron spin state, coordination number, oxidation state, and identity of axial ligands of PhuS. Exogenous ligand binding properties are presented to address steric, electronic, and dynamic properties of the heme environment.

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Cooper, Erin
University of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology
Improving STEM Content for K-6 Grades in Coastal Rural Schools in Oregon
Email: ecooper@uoregon.edu

Spatial Variability in Age Structure of Populations of Tegula Funebralis on the West Coast of North America

During 2005 and 2006, size-frequency distributions from 22 populations of Tegula funebralis were studied. Sites were located in Oregon (15 sites), California (5 sites), and Baja California (2 sites). A latitudinal gradient in population structure, with less inter-annual variation in recruitment in the south, had been proposed in Oregon and Northern California. In contrast, Menge et al (2004) proposed that recruitment is higher in northern Oregon due to intermittent upwelling. In Oregon, size-frequency distributions did not correlate with latitude. Populations in Oregon show a difference between protected sites (bays and coves) than the open coast. Most populations from protected areas are characterized by a peak in the population size-frequency at small sizes (<3.5 g.); animals weighing 3.5 g. are 5-6 years old (Frank 1975). Populations from exposed sites have relatively few small sized individuals and show an older age-structure. In Northern California and Baja California, all sampled populations, regardless of coastal topography, are characterized by a peak in the distribution at individuals <1 g. This difference may be due to oceanographic conditions that prevent retention of larvae and high recruitment in exposed sites on the Oregon coast. Differences in life history between northern and southern populations may also be responsible.

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DeNeve, Laura
University of Louisville
Groundwork Education in Mathematics & Science (GEMS)
Email:  Ldeneve01@yahoo.com

Elimination of Arsenate Interference in the Malachite Green Method for the Detection of Phosphate in Archaeological Soil Samples

Soil phosphate analysis is a principle chemical technique for evaluating human occupation and usage on archaeological sites. Recently, emphasis has been put on the creation of methods suitable for fieldwork to increase the efficiency of phosphate (PO4) analysis. The Malachite Green (MG) method has been adapted for onsite PO4 detection. MG binds with phosphomolybdate and creates a green solution, whose absorbance correlates to PO4 concentration. Several ions present in soil cause interference with the PO4 signal and produce inaccurate results. A common interferon is arsenate (As(V)). Due to the interference, measurement of elevated signals leads to false positive determination of PO4 concentration. To decouple the PO4 and As(V) signals, As(V) must be reduced to arsenite (As(III)), which does not affect PO4 signal. In pursuance of a field-viable method for the elimination of As(V) interference in the MG method, two known As(V) reducing agents — L-Cysteine and thiosulfate — were investigated. The methods were used to treat standard samples and soil samples from an archaeological site in Virginia. While thiosulfate reduced As(V), it was not compatible with the MG method due to alteration of the reduction process in the development reaction. The L-Cysteine method reduced interference of As(V) without affecting the detection of PO4. Studies of this method revealed an average RSD of 7.9% when detecting PO4, which is suitable for archaeological purposes. However, the method requires 20 minutes to reduce As(V). The time requirement makes L-Cysteine a viable, yet non-optimal, reducing agent for As(V) in onsite analysis of PO4 in soil samples. Further kinetic studies may provide insight into a reduction of the timescale.

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Furnholm, Teal
University of New Hampshire
Partnership for Research Opportunities to Benefit Education (PROBE)
Email: Trs24@cisunix.unh.edu

Effects of Soil Components on Heavy Metal Resistance of Frankia

Perhaps the biggest problem facing soil bioremediation is our limited understanding the complex interactions between pollution, soil, plants, and soil microbes. Frankia is a genus of ubiquitous hyphal, nitrogen fixing bacteria that form a nodulating symbiosis with over 250 species of Actinorhizal plants. Several species of these symbionts are known to colonize highly contaminated areas such as acid mine tailings, and so are of particular interest for their bioremediation potential. The aim of this project is to determine how soil components, toxic organic compounds (TOCs), and the presence of the actinorhizal symbionts affect the resistance patterns of Frankia to various heavy metals. Preliminary tests revealed that the three sequenced strains of Frankia (CcI3, EAN1pec, and ACN14a) show unusual or high levels of resistance to five metals: Te+4, Zn+2, Pb+2, Al+3 and Cr+4. It is expected that metal chelators like oxalate, citrate, and other plant products will increase the levels of resistance of Frankia. The ability of Frankia to bind these metals and degrade TOCs will also be tested. Growth of Frankia under the various conditions is being determined by total protein analysis. Using DNA arrays, the effect of the metal on global gene expression will be investigated. Genes being up-regulated will be analyzed by comparative genomics, and knockout mutants of suspected resistance genes will be created by allelic exchange. The knowledge gained from this study may give us insight into the complex environmental and genetic interactions that influence heavy metal resistances in soil microbes.

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Gary, Lindsay
University of California, Santa Barbara
Let's Explore Applied Physical Science
Email: lgary@engr@ucsb.edu

Sediment Transport Over Bed Forms

As yet there exists no way to predict with accuracy the interaction between sediment transport, flow and bottom topography in rivers having erodable beds. Sediment transport can be classified into two types. Bedload transport, where grains roll and hop along the bottom, occurs at lower fluid velocities, while suspended load, which is entrained into the flow by turbulent eddies, dominates at higher fluid velocities for grains of similar dimensions. A complicating factor arises from bed forms, such as ripples and dunes, which are often present both in nature and in a laboratory, and which vary in space and time. Dunes, which are asymmetric, triangular forms that are significantly longer than they are tall, affect the entire depth of the flow, even deforming the free surface. As water flows over a dune's sharp crest, the pressure causes the flow to separate from the bottom. The resulting turbulence and high shear in the separation zone have a profound effect on local and overall sediment transport. The goal of this study is to predict the changes that dunes undergo in response to changes in the overlying flow. To do this we must predict the transport as a function of position over the dunes. Our measurements indicate that this transport field is uniquely different from what current models based on simpler geometry would predict. For example even though sediment will not be set in motion unless critical flow conditions are exceeded, downstream of the separation zone turbulence intensities are so great, these critical conditions are regularly exceeded by flow in the up- and downstream directions, resulting in a transport relation appearing to have no critical conditions.

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Hamblin, Bridget
Pennsylvania State University
Graduate Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Technology (GREATT)
Email: bridgethamblin@gmail.com

Integrating Experimental Data and Theoretical Models of Vehicle Behavior to Increase Safety

The poster presents a theoretical and experimental approach to investigating vehicle handling. Using Newtonian mechanics, numerical models of vehicular behavior were derived to predict vehicle response. The models emphasize simplicity, attempting to capture gross trends of a vehicle's response without increasing model complexity. The numerical models output three states that govern stability: roll angle, yaw rate, and lateral motion. Experimental validation of these vehicle dynamic models was performed at the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute using a military grade, integrated differential GPS and inertial measurement unit. Experimental data was compared to model predictions in both the time and frequency domain, showcasing the models' robustness. The experimental validation led to insight regarding factors that influence vehicle behavior that are commonly overlooked by others. Such factors include roll steer influences and terrain influences. Accounting for such influences improved the correlation between theoretical and experimental response. This increased knowledge is being utilized in two distinct applications. Vehicular roll control is a new phenomena and the low-order models derived in this study will aid in enhancing such roll control algorithms on the next generation of vehicles. The other application arose out of the notable effects terrain can have on vehicle behavior. Using more complex simulation programs, studies are being performed for NCHRP 22-21 to study how median profiles can influence a vehicle's behavior during a median traversal with the goal being to determine guidelines for median profiles that maximize passenger safety.

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Kendricks, Kimberly
Auburn University
GK-12 Fellows in Science and Mathematics for East Alabama Schools
Email: kendrkd@auburn.edu

Using Groebner Bases to Solve the Inverse Kinematic Robotics Problem for a 3rd Degree Planar Robot Arm

The purpose of this poster is to illustrate an alternative method, Groebner Basis Theory, that is more efficient to solving the inverse kinematic robotics problem. Kinematics is the study of motion. The inverse kinematic robotics problem is finding all possible joint movements of a robot arm that will place the robot hand at a particular point in space. Robotics engineers have solved the inverse kinematic robotics problem for a 3rd degree (three joints) planar robot arm. In doing so, several difficult calculations must be performed to find all possible joint movements. Using Groebner Bases allows one to perform simple polynomial calculations and with the aid of an algebraic computer software, MAGMA, the solutions can be found faster and, in particular, more information is attained about the kinematic capabilities of the robot. By using Groebner Bases, one can find all of the possible joint movements to place the robot hand at a particular point in space, and all of those joint movements that are not possible. This poster will demonstrate very carefully the advantages of using Groebner Basis theory to solve the inverse kinematic robotics problem versus the robotics engineering approach. The results will not only be a contribution to the field of mathematics, but also to the field of robotics engineering.

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Kittrell, Danielle
Tuskegee University
GK-12 Fellows in Science and Mathematics for East Alabama Schools
Email: Daniellekittrell_@hotmail.com

The Influence of Time and Removal of Mulch Type on Nitrogen Transformation, Soil Microbial Diversity and Enzyme Activities in Soils Planted with Two Sweet Potato (lpomoea batatas (L) Lam.) Cultivars

Advances in plasticulture have increased the earliness of many warm season crops. The beneficial effects of mulches are; conservation of soil moisture, increase soil temperature, reduces soil erosion, increases root growth, and nutrient availability, increases yield, and improves the quality of produce (Manrique, 1995; Tilander and Bozi, 1997; Schmidt and Worthington, 1998). There are additional benefits to using mulch for crop production. Some of these are; the increase of beneficial microorganisms that increases crop yields above and beyond those obtained from bare soil control. Khan et al. (1996, 1998) reported that both vine and storage root productions of sweet potatoes were greatly improved when grown on clear and black polyethylene mulches compared to the standard bare soil. In spite of these research efforts, there has been very little detail reports on the effects that mulching has on the microbial and other biochemical transformation under agriplastic mulch as opposed to soil solarization. Therefore, the main objectives of this study are: evaluate the state of nitrogen mineralization under different plastic mulches; study the effect of different mulches on two soil enzymes and microbial diversity in the soil. In this study black and white plastic mulches will be the main plots, sweet potato cultivars (TU- 82-155 and TU-1892) as the split plots and mulch removal dates as split-split plots. The soil treatment combinations will be: control, (bare soil), control (plastic), and five mulch removal dates of 35, 55, 75, 95 and 120 days after transplanting. Soil pH, organic matter, nitrogen mineralization (Hart et al. (1994) protocol), acid phosphatases enzyme (Tabatabai & Bremner, (1969) and Eivazi & Tabatabai (1977) protocols), phosphodiesterase enzyme (Brownman & Tabatabai (1969) protocols), and microbial diversity will be determined by whole community diDNA extracted using Mo Bio Soil DNA isolation kit (Solana Beach, CA, USA). Amlification of the DNA will be performed using Ready-To-Go PCR Beads (Amersham-Pharmacia Biotech) with primers PRBA 338f and PRUN 518r. Community finger printing of PCR-amplified fragments will be done using DGGE. Identified bands will be cut, eluted, and refrigerated for further PCR, cloning and sequencing. Relatedness of microbial communities will be determined using similarity coefficient of bands common to two samples and cluster analysis will be performed on the bands obtained.

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Kukula, Eric
Purdue University
Indiana Interdisciplinary GK-12
Email: Kukula@purdue.edu

The Effect of Fingerprint Sensor Form Factor Design on the Effectiveness of Use for Fingerprint Recognition Devices

Biometrics is defined as the automated recognition of individuals based on their behavioral and biological characteristics. Biometrics by definition requires individuals to provide information, such as a fingerprint, hand shape, or iris, to a sensor. This interaction is critical, as many times, how to use a sensor might not be intuitive to the inexperienced user. The Human-Biometric Sensor Interaction is a conceptual model that is centered on the relationship between the human providing the biometric trait and the biometric sensor; a relationship that becomes more critical to understand and research as biometric sensors become pervasive in society. The successful deployment of biometric systems, regardless of application, needs to take into consideration how individuals interact with the device. Failure to do so will cause a degradation of the optimal performance of the biometric sensor, causing problems such as: failure to acquire, failure to enroll, and impacts in the false reject rate. This research investigates whether the integration of anthropometric, ergonomic, and usability characteristics can improve the usefulness, effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction of users, ultimately leading to improved algorithm performance of the biometric system, and thus optimizing the relationship between the human and the sensor. This study aims to address to two questions: What does the biometric sensor need to provide the human and what information does the human need to provide to the sensor for successful interaction. For more information regarding this project, please visit http://www.biotown.purdue.edu/research/ergonomics.asp.

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Ledesma, Jessica
Saint Joseph's University
GeoKids LINKS
Email: Jl366008@sju.edu

Shoaling Behavior in Juvenile Guppies


For fish, simple social groupings known as shoals provide benefits that include anti-predator defense and increased opportunities to find food. Adult fish actively choose shoal mates on the basis of phenotypic characteristics, typically shoaling with individuals of similar coloration, pattern and body size. However, little is known about the shoaling behavior of juveniles. In this study the shoaling abilities and preferences of juvenile guppies (Poecilia reticulata), were tested at three different ages - 10 days (mean body length = 8.83 mm), 30 days (13.17 mm) and 50 days (18.6 mm). For each assay a test fish was placed in the center of a three-chambered tank and the time they spent swimming near either end chamber was monitored. With only one exception, fish from each age group spent significantly more time swimming near a shoal of fish rather than an empty chamber, regardless of the age of the target shoal in the end chamber (the 10 day-old guppies showed no preference for a shoal of 30 day-old fish versus an empty chamber). When presented with two shoals, one of similar age and one of dissimilar age, only the 50 day-old guppies demonstrated a significant preference for the age-matched shoal. These results show that juvenile guppies form shoals, but do not discriminate on the basis of age and body size until they reach the age of 50 days old.

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Lee, Jane
UCLA
GK-12 Science & Mathematics in Los Angeles Urban Schools
Email: risbecia@ucla.edu

Euphasiid Swarms in the Monterey Submarine Canyon as Sampled with a Remotely Operated Vehicle

Euphausiids in the Monterey Submarine Canyon (MSC) routinely form dense aggregations that are exploited by whales, birds, fish and squid. We examined variability in the species composition of euphausiid swarms at the shelf-break and influences of advection on euphausiid swarms. In situ observations were made in June, July and November 2001 and August 2002 with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that permitted precise location of sampled krill swarms. The dominant species during all sampling periods were Euphausia pacifica and Thysanoessa spinifera. We observed significant overlap of their populations near the shelf-break, including variations in swarm species composition over smaller spatial scales (100% E. pacifica in one sample and 30% E. pacifica and 70% T. spinifera in a sample 767 m away), and over short time scales at the same location (8% E. pacifica and 92% T. spinifera on November 5, 2001 to 44% E. pacifica and 56% T. spinifera on November 6, 2001). These small-scale variations, as well as moored acoustic observations from a 12-day deployment at the shelf-break, suggest the importance of advective mixing of krill populations at the shelf-break. Influence of advection on the fine-scale distributions of krill was also indicated by the observation of acoustic scattering layers ~1-5 m thick along the periphery of tidal flow maxima. These unique observations emphasize the importance of resolving plankton ecology at fine scales in dynamically complex shelf-break environments, where multiple species of this critically important trophic level overlap.

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Letendre, Jon
University of Southern Maine
Sustaining the Maine ScienceCorps: Collaborative Integration of Research Experiences and Active Learning into Bioscience Education
Email: Jon.letendre@maine.edu

Defining the Microbial and Viral Ecology of Epizootic Lobster Shell Disease

Bacteriophages, viruses of bacteria, are the most abundant biological entities on Earth and are fundamentally important in bacterial evolution as predators and as agents of horizontal gene transfer. Through lytic infections, bacteriophages play vital roles in nutrient release from bacterial biomass. The research reported involves isolating and characterizing bacterial species that are present in biofilms on the exoskeletons of American lobsters (Homarus Americanus) afflicted with epizootic lobster shell disease which is prevalent in southern New England coastal waters and then further seeking bacteriophages in the environment that will infect these bacteria. Presently, we have approximately 90 isolates of bacteria from lobster carapace lesions that we have identified through 16s rRNA gene sequence analysis. Bacteriophages that infect the bacterial isolates of Vibrio and Pseudoalteromonas species have also been enriched from coastal water samples and detected by observing bacterial lysis (plaques) on host bacterial cultures. Recent work has focused on four phages that infect different Pseudoalteromonas isolates. Transmission electron microscopy in the USM Virology and TEM Laboratory has shown that these bacteriophages are morphologically highly similar. However, initial genomic analysis has revealed that they are genetically distinct. Investigation of the marine bacteria and their bacteriophages, may lead to better understanding of the biological interactions that occur and may modulate biofilm formation, stability, and degradation and may also provide more generally important insight into the marine microbial and viral ecology of the degradation of chitin, the most abundant carbohydrate in the oceans.

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Maronde, Dan
University of Central Florida
Greater Orlando GK-12 Partnership
Email: maronde@physics.ucf.edu

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Relation and Its Extension to Curved Space

The Heisenberg uncertainty relation is probably the most widely recognized expression used in Quantum Mechanics. The concept it represents captures the essence of the break modern physics made with classical Newtonian physics early in the 20th century. The uncertainty relation was developed for and is usually applied in “flat” space. The research project that I am beginning aims to generalize the relation to curved spaces. This presentation gives a brief explanation of the meaning of the uncertainty relation and its applications and outlines the goals of my research.

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Mitchell, Elizabeth J.
Florida Institute of Technology
Integrated Science Teaching Enhancement Partnership
Email: mitchele@fit.edu

Movement of Energy Throughout the Earth's Magnetosphere Due to Storm-time Solar Wind Conditions

Space physics is the study of interactions within our solar system. Several of these interactions involve the radial outflow of the Sun's charged particles and its magnetic fields, or solar wind. As solar wind travels through space and approaches a planet, its interactions with local electrical and magnetic fields and charged particles are govern by the planet's magnetic properties. My thesis research examines the interactions between the magnetic fields of the Sun and the Earth. They are important because they often affect satellite communications, astronauts and spacecraft, and airplane navigation and safety. Specifically, my research examines the movement of energy between the solar wind plasma and Earth's magnetic field during periods of moderate geomagnetic activity. Data on the density and velocity of charged particles and their associated magnetic fields obtained from two multisensor satellites, known as ACE and WIND, positioned between the Earth and Sun are combined with data from ground-based instruments of Earth's magnetic field to obtain profiles of the magnetospheric and ionospheric energies in the near-Earth space environment. Results are used to calculate the transfer efficiency of energy from the solar wind to the near-earth space environment. Results to date indicate that solar wind conditions enhance the transfer of energy throughout the near-Earth space environment. Future research will examine conditions prohibiting the transfer of additional energy between space and Earth's ionosphere.

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Pontius, Kira
Idaho State University
GK-12: Enhancing Science Literacy in Southeast Idaho with Community-based Projects and University/K-12 Partnerships
Email: pontkira@isu.edu

Influences of Elevation on Reproductive Strategies of Burying Beetles

I am investigating how parental behaviors vary by elevation and what influence parental behavior has on life history traits and phenotypic differences (e.g., body size). Specifically, I am focusing on whether burying beetles, Nicrophorus investigator, alter their reproductive strategy based on the elevation at which they breed, or based on what population they are captured from independent of where they breed. From previous studies we know that adult beetles are larger at higher elevations, have extensive parental care, and breed on mouse carcasses. We also know that adult size is based in part on how much food they received as larvae, which is partially based on how many offspring parents decide to rear on a carcass. In my study I have measured whether the observed elevation effect is dependent on the local climate or on the genes in the parent. I captured adult beetles at one elevation and bred them at another. Then, I measured how many and the size of the larvae each pair of beetles produced. My preliminary results suggest that some environmental factors related to elevation are being used by parents to alter their reproductive decisions. This result is interesting because it indicates that parental behaviors are plastic and as a result observed phenotypic differences may be linked to environment. Additionally, these results mean the species may have the ability to withstand some degree of climate change.

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Postava-Davignon, Marielle
Northeastern University
GK-12 PLUS (Partners Linking Urban Schools)
Email: Postava-davig.m@neu.edu

Nest Architecture and Disease Susceptibility: the Influence of Social Behavior and Next Microclimate on the Survival of the Dampwood Termite Zootermopsis Angusticollis (Hagen)

Social insects use several mechanisms to resist disease, including behavioral, biochemical, and immunological adaptations. Previous research has indicated that social interactions reduce susceptibility to fungal infection in the dampwood termite Zootermopsis angusticollis (Rosengaus R. B. et al. 1998. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 44: 125-134; Rosengaus R. B. et al. 2000. Etho. Ecol. Evol. 12: 419-433). Based on these studies and a theoretical model (Pie M. R. et al. 2004. J. Theor. Biol. 226: 45-51), we have hypothesized that nest architecture may influence both a) the degree to which termites encounter one another, and thus the rates of social interactions that can aid in the control of pathogens (i.e. allogrooming), and b) the microclimatic conditions within the nest. Given that temperature and humidity can strongly influence microbial growth and development, nest architecture could have an indirect impact on disease susceptibility for that reason as well. To test disease susceptibility as a function of nest architecture, we constructed different nest types modeled after nests constructed by termites in the field: gallery nest, arboreal carton type nest, multi-chambered nest, and single-chambered nest. We compared the survival of Metarhizium anisopliae-exposed versus control termites, the contact rates among nestmates, as well as the temperature and humidity within the different nest architectures. Our results show that nest architecture is a significant and independent predictor of termite survival (survival analyses and Cox Proportional Regression). Z. angusticollis nymphs nesting in the gallery structure with numerous vertical connections were the least susceptible to infection by the entomopathogenic fungus, relative to similarly treated termites housed in the other nest architectures. These results provide the first empirical evidence of the impact that nest architecture can have on disease susceptibility in social insects.

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Riddle, Megan
Western Washington University
Catalysts for Reform
Email: megancriddle@comcast.net

To Splice or Not to Splice — Alternative Splicing in the DM Gene Family of Nasonia Vitripennis


Two different mechanisms underlie the evolution of new gene function: creating new exons (coding regions) within a gene or duplicating a gene to form a gene family. In the case of the former, alternative splicing plays a key role in enabling transcribed portions of the gene to be rearranged while conserving the original function of the gene. Similarly, gene families provide the opportunity for mutation of some members without losing the original role of the gene. Both of these processes are at play in the DM proteins of the parasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis. The DM domain, a DNA binding motif involved in regulation of gene expression, defines a family of at least two genes in N. vitripennis. DM domains are unique because they are the only motif known to be conserved in sex-determining genes across taxa, present in organisms that range from worms (Caenorhabditis elegans) and flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to humans (Homo sapiens). Previous research has shown that one DM gene in N. vitripennis undergoes considerable alternative splicing, with many different transcripts arising from a single gene, while the other appears to have only one transcript. Current work focuses on characterizing the expression of various DM gene transcripts throughout the life-cycle of the wasp and looking for differences in sex-specificity.

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Rocio Caton, Ingrid
Wichita State University
Pass Me the Salt: Extending the Research Training Tower to Pre-College Students
Email: irsantospinzon@wichita.edu

Nitrogenase Genes in Urban, Agricultural, and Pristine Prairie Streams Exposed to Different Levels of Nitrogen Loading

Ecosystem processes drive biogeochemical cycles, influencing inputs and losses of nutrients. Human activities have highly enriched the environment with nutrients, especially nitrogen. Nitrogen availability is often limiting in natural environments. In streams, nutrient availability, geochemistry, hydrodynamics, and humans activities influence the metabolism and structure of microbial communities. The aim of the current study is to compare the N2-fixing guilds in three different types of Kansas streams: urban, agricultural, and pristine, with the former two being impacted by nitrogen pollution. Maximal nitrogen fixation activities, measured by acetylene reduction assays, were 1.0, 0.6, and 0.4 pmol/g/h for urban, agricultural, and pristine streams, respectively. Highest rates were in leaf litter and algal biofilms. Samples of sediments and leaf litter were field-frozen for molecular analyses of the nitrogen-fixing microbial guild. Direct DNA extracts were examined by SYBR real-time PCR to determine the abundance of nifH genes, with a detection limit of 1.3E+3 nifH genes per g of sediment. There was considerable variance, and no significant correlation was observed between nitrogen fixation activity and nifH gene abundance. The construction and sequencing of PCR-based clone libraries is being used to assess the diversity of nifH genes in the different streams. Initial results suggest that methanogens, sulfate-reducers, and rhizobia are abundant members of the nitrogen-fixing guild. Understanding the effects of nitrogen pollution on nitrogen-fixing guilds in small streams will increase our ability to overcome the challenges of nutrient pollution. This work was supported by grants from Kansas NSF EPSCoR and NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education.

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Ruths, Justin
Washington University
Engineering Education for a Global Technological Society
Email: Jar2@cec.wustl.edu

Prospects for Global Warming: Controllability and Observability for a Coupled Climate Model with Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks

Decades of research into the phenomenon of global warming have brought us step by step closer to piecing together a fully integrated Earth model. While there exists ongoing debate on several issues of global warming, there are few who question the potential impacts of this effect. It is one of the grave dangers facing mankind, which has the capacity to fundamentally challenge our current way of life on a global scale. Research to date has led us to the cusp of integrating our present understanding. The complexity and dynamics of the integrated model require a control systems analysis approach. We will present a comprehensive literature review, motivating our plan to attack this issue and addressing the current place of research in this area. We will discuss the appropriate systems analysis techniques needed to gain insight into the global warming model. We will focus our attention in particular to controllability, observability, and possible control strategies of the coupled climate/carbon model. We will also discuss on the potential proactive roles we can take in stabilizing our climate based on the results from our systems analysis.

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Santiesteban, Jr., Oscar
University of Central Florida
Greater Orlando GK-12 Partnership
Email: osanties@gmail.com

Hydrogen Sensor Based on Manganese Dioxide

The growing utilization of hydrogen as a fuel has resulted in the need for sensors that are highly sensitive to and selective for hydrogen in the presence of air. In this laboratory a sensor that meets these qualifications was developed. The detector developed is based on manganese dioxide with catalytic amounts of palladium incorporated. The sensor produced was found to have rapid response and recovery times, very high sensitivity, and to exhibit strong selectivity for hydrogen in air. This report will detail the construction, composition, and response characteristics of this sensor.

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Schultz, Bryan
University of Tennessee
GK-12: Enriching Earth Science in Rural Tennessee Middle Schools Through Research-Based Activities on Climate and Environmental History
Email: bschultz@utk.edu

How Great Was the Great Oxidation Event?: Exploring Ocean Redox in the Paleoproterozoic

The Great Oxidation Event (GOE) marks a major transition from reducing to oxidizing conditions in the Earth's atmosphere and biosphere. My dissertation research uses C-isotope reservoir modeling in combination with CAS-derived estimates of sulfate reservoir size (CAS; carbonate-associated trace sulfate), and high resolution S, Mo and REE data in an effort to better understand the extent of oxygenation in the evolving Earth's biosphere prior to and in the aftermath of the GOE. For this project, I focus on strata from the ~2.52 Ga Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa (drill core from the Aguron Institute; potential field collection of samples) and the ~1.8 Ga Pethei Group, NWT, Canada (field collection of samples). Both sites lack post-depositional metamorphic overprinting, and these units preserve well-documented shallow-to-deep platform environments that are necessary to define the vertical structure of the water column and to provide constraints for geochemical modeling. Initial field collection of samples will focus on the post-GOE 1.8 Ga Pethei Group. Pethei group strata occurs on isolated islands in the eastern Arm of Great Slave Lake, and comprise four cycles of basin-to-platform development. Measured sections and collection of high-resolution samples will include basinal (McClean and Blanchet Fm.), outer shelf (Utsingi and Hearne Fm.), and shallow platform (Taltheilei and Wildbread Fm.) facies, which will be carefully correlated through a sequence stratigraphic framework. An important aspect of high-resolution chemostratigraphic efforts is that they potentially allow for direct measure of the oxidizing potential and redox conditions in the aftermath of the GOE.

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Shepherd, Cynthia
California State University, Northridge
FERMAT: Fellows Engaged as Resources in Mathematics to Assist Teachers
Email: Cynthia.shepherd.87@csun.edu

Composite Membranes

The study of vibrating membranes is an aspect of mathematical physics that is primarily concerned with the geometries of the membrane corresponding to its frequencies. Membranes consisting of two materials of different densities are called composite membranes. We are interested in determining the shape of membranes with minimal eigenvalues; in particular the first eigenvalue, or fundamental frequency, of such membranes. *Research funded by the international component of the GK-12 program. Research was done with the IRES program in São Paulo, Brazil.

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Strong, Mel
University of New Mexico
E-MRGE: Ecohydrogeology in the Middle Rio Grande Environment
Email: mstrong@unm.edu

Water Vapor, Isotopes, and Flying Machines: Deducing Water Vapor Transport Pathways into New Mexico Using Deuterium


Here I demonstrate the use of deuterium as a tracer to track the oceanic sources of water vapor in central New Mexico. For decades, the moisture source for New Mexico's summer rains has eluded climatologists. Interannual variability in the summer rains has resulted in decade-scale droughts, while future activity of this circulation pattern in future global warming scenarios remains uncertain. A major hurdle in predictability is uncertainty in the moisture source(s), which could include the Pacific, Gulf of California, and Gulf of Mexico. To address this problem, we developed a new technique for extracting water vapor from atmospheric air samples and analyzing for deuterium content. Air samples have been collected on the roof of the UNM geology building one to three times a day since April 1 2005. Air has also been collected in an ultralight aircraft at ~300 meter increments up to ~3 km above ground level in an effort to construct vertical profiles of the isotopic composition of water vapor in the troposphere. Large isotopic variations are observed in both the daily rooftop time series and within single vertical profiles. Within vertical profiles, systematic variations in the isotopic composition of water vapor rarely ever correlate with any conventional measurements made by weather balloons, suggesting that the isotopes are revealing structures in the lower atmosphere not previously observed. Reverse-calculated trajectory models suggest that the observed isotopic variations are due to changes in advection. The moisture source for central New Mexico oscillates between oceanic sources in as little as 24 hours while vertical bands of water vapor with distinctive isotopic values imply that New Mexico can receive moisture from multiple sources simultaneously.

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Umphlett, Natalie
University of Nebraska
Project Fulcrum
Email: numphlett@gmail.com

Behavior of Boundary Layer Schemes and Land Surface Models in the Weather Research and Forecasting Model During Simulations of an Urban Heat Island

The difference in temperature between an urban area and its rural surroundings is known as the urban heat island effect. The study of urban heat islands is critical as they can pose risks to human health, generate higher energy use which leads to greater emissions of greenhouse gases, and also increase the costs of energy. This study focuses on the characteristics of the boundary layer, the lowest portion of the atmosphere in which the effects of friction and surface temperature are significant, over an urban area. The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model is employed for simulations of the urban boundary layer. As shown from earlier studies, the maximum urban heat island conditions occur during clear, calm, nights. These conditions are used as initial conditions for the model. Each planetary boundary layer scheme and land surface model combination available in the WRF model is run and differences in development and structure of the boundary layer are observed. The newly released urban canopy model in WRF will be used as a comparison to the previous results.

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Whalen, Christopher
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
GK-12 Graduate Teaching Fellowships
Email: cwhalen@uiuc.edu

Aligning Functional Surface Brain Recordings with Anatomical MRI: Minimizing Registration Errors

A common problem in brain imaging is how to appropriately co-register anatomical and functional data into a common space. For surface-based recordings such as the event related optical signal (EROS), near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), event-related brain potentials (ERPs), and magnetoencephalography (MEG), alignment is typically done using either (1) a landmark-based method involving placement of surface markers that can be detected in both modalities or (2) surface alignment involving sampling many points on the surface of the head in the functional space and aligning those points to the surface of the anatomical image. Here we compare these two approaches and advocate a combination of the two in order to optimize coregistration of EROS with structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (sMRI). Digitized 3D sensor locations recorded from a Polhemus Digitizer can be effectively co-registered with a sMRI using fiducial alignment as an initial guess followed by a rigid body transform (df =6) that operates via a least squares Levenberg-Marquardt minimization routine to match the two surfaces. Further refinements such as scaling (df=3) and a point-by-point surface restriction are then added to further improve fitting. Overall results show that these alignment procedures place the lower bound error (residual error) at 1.7±1.5 mm (&#956; ±s) and the upper bound error (map error) at 4.1±2.0 mm (&#956; ±s) showing significant improvement compared with either procedure alone. By optimizing alignment techniques, the spatial resolution of EROS can be significantly improved.

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Wilkins, Christopher
Polytechnic University
Revitalizing Achievement by Using Instrumentation in Science Education (RAISE)
Email: wilkic@gmail.com

The Utilization and Elimination of the J2 Perturbation for Earth Orbiting Spacecraft

In my initial NSF funded research at Polytechnic University, I exploited the J2 effect (the perturbing effect of the oblate Earth) as a timing mechanism to insert one hundred cubesats into sparsely populated 60 degree inclination orbits around the Earth using a change in orbital inclination only. In addition, I outlined a "proof-of-concept" single stage propulsion system that provides necessary propulsive input for the velocity change needed for the orbital inclination change of cubesats. This work lays the ground for a more efficient method of putting a network of Earth-observing satellites into orbit. In my second paper, I developed a numerical algorithm to determine initial conditions that yield periodic, symmetric equatorial and polar orbits in the presence of Earth's oblateness. My research outlines J2-invariant initial conditions and presents them in a concise formulation useful for spacecraft trajectory designers. Finally, in my third paper, I developed a control technique that uses a constant radial acceleration to eliminate the rotation of spacecraft's perigee that occurs due to the J2 perturbation. The findings of my second and third papers will allow spacecraft to perform the same tasks as they do now, but with less fuel required to do so, enabling larger payloads and/or extended mission durations. These three papers are currently under review for publication in the proceedings of an international conference.

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