Spooner Student Research Program

Grant Awards

Winter 2012

Heather Munsche

Department of Psychology

Amount of Award: $500

Project Title: Headsprout as a Remedial Intervention for Low-Performing First Grade Students (IRB Project number HS11-436)

Project Abstract: Headsprout Early Reading has been shown to be effective in teaching reading to neurotypical children. However, it has not been studied for effectiveness as a remedial intervention. Two first-grade classes at Gilbert Elementary School in Gwinn, MI will be participating in the program (total N-forty-five). Students have been identified as low-performing via Running Records and DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). The bottom half of each class (twelve or thirteen students per class, experimental N=twenty-three) will receive forty lessons of Headsprout Early Reading. In this multiple baseline design, half of the experimental group (Group A, N=twelve) will begin Headsprout immediately. The other half of the experimental group (Group B, N=eleven) will begin Headsprout after Group A has completed the first twenty lessons. Group B will play Millie’s Math House, and educational math game while waiting to begin Headsprout. Group A will play the Millie’s Math House after they have completed all forty Headsprout lessons. One half-hour per day, Monday through Thursday, has been set aside in the school’s computer lab for the students to work on Headsprout and Millie’s Math House. One of the first grade teachers will supervise the computer time. The researcher will assess the students before Headsprout begins, after each group completes twenty lessons, and after all students have completed Headsprout.

 

Jonathan Pearce

Department of Biology

Amount of Award: $500

Project Title: Genetic Analysis of the Population Structure of Brook Trout Within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Project Abstract: Detailed genetic analysis of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) populations residing in three streams (Hurricane, Mosquito, Sevenmile) located in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (PIRO) will be performed in this project. Brook trout are endemic to Lake Superior and display differential use of habitat through variation in migratory behavior and morphology associated with different ecological niches. The proposed study will compare twelve highly polymorphic neutral microsatellite markers for brook trout individuals sample from three major watersheds in PIRO (Mosquito, Sevenmile and Hurricane). This analysis will provide data to characterize the genetic relationships among brook trout. The genetic similarity between populations will be predicted by correlating the genetic distance between similar neutral markers. Funding provided from the Spooner Grant will enable me to be able to lay the foundation of my project by developing and optimizing the techniques and procedures that I will use to collect data for my project by developing and optimizing the techniques and procedures that I will use to collect data for my M.S.

Fall 2011

Susan Fawcett

Department of Biology

Amount of Award: $500

Project Title: A Paleoecological Reconstruction of a Neotropical Savanna Utilizing Radiocarbon Dating and Pollen Analysis.

Project Abstract: Until recently, neotropical savannas were thought to be relatively uniform, based on their appearance as a simple mosaic of repeated physiognomic unites. We now realize that diversity was grossly underestimated. My area of study is the neotropical wet savanna of the Turtle Harbor Preserve on the island of Utilia, north of the Honduran mainland. I conducted the first quantitative floristic survey of this site, in continuation of research I began December 2010. Using stratified systematic sampling, I inventoried and described the flora, utilizing resources at the herbarium at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras in Tegucigalpa and the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. I was also able to collect peat core samples up to 3.05 meters deep and a wood sample from 2.8 meters for radiocarbon dating. Using radiocarbon dating and pollen identification I hope to complement my existing data and reconstruct the floristic history of this site in terms of relative abundance of sedges, grasses, palms and ferns to see if it has been a relatively stable community or has shifted repeatedly in the past between forest and savanna.

Keith Sabin

Department of Biology

Amount of Award: $500

Project Title: Glioblastoma Exosomes Contribute to Immune Evasion

Project Absract: Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most frequent and lethal primary brain tumor in adults. Despite intense biomedical research the median survival after diagnosis is 15 months. One factor contributing to this poor prognosis is the immune protection afforded by the tumor environment. While tumors have a diverse repertoire of immune evasive techniques, one method of evasion not well explored is the release of tumor-derived exosomes. Exosomes are tiny membrane bound vesicles of endocytic origin that contain viable mRNA and bioactive proteins which can affect the physiology of recipient cells. Exosome release has been reported for numerous cancer types including GBM. Exosomes from colon cancer have been shown to carry the pro-apoptotic molecule, Fas ligand (FasL), and are able to induce apoptosis in activated cytotoxic T cells. And while expression of FasL has been reported in established and primary glioma cell lines no one has ever reported if it is also found in glioma-derived exosomes. The aim of this study is to elucidate if the same immune evasive technique utilized by colon cancer occurs in GBM. If supported, our hypothesis could provide new insights into glioma immune evasion and could supply a possible therapeutic target.

Rachael Guth

Department of Biology

Amount of Award: $500

Project Title: Habitat fragmentation effects on overwintering brook and brown trout: fish condition and movement.

Project Abstract: Human development and disturbances impact watersheds in many ways. Urbanization near watersheds results in increased stormwater inputs, nutrient inputs, point and non-point pollution, sedimentation, surface water drainage, and loos of riparian vegetation (Marquette Township Planning Commission et al. 2002; Paul and Meyer 2001). Impacts associated with urbanization are generally detrimental to aquatic systems and their fish communities and are well documented in the scientific literature (Kemp and Spotila 1997; Morgan and Cushman 2005: Richards 1976; Weaver and Garman 1994). Additionally, winter is a harsh season with variable environmental conditions that results in changing water temperatures, flow rates, and ice conditions which influence the behavior of stream fishes and decrease important habitat availability (Brown et al. 2011; Lund et al. 2003). The main objective of this study is to research urbanization impacts on the brook and brown trout overwintering in the Whetstone Brook and Orianna Creek, two small tributaries to Lake Superior that flow through Marquette, Michigan. Both streams are suffering from sedimentation, habitat degradation, unstable flows, obstacles to fish migration, decreased water quality, pollution, and open canopies. The overwintering success of the fishes inhabiting these urbanized streams will be compared to two remote tributaries to the Chocolay River, Cedar Creek and Silver Creek. Both urbanization and wintertime are stressors on fish communities and I seek to understand how they interact. This study will be accomplished with the purpose of understanding what change in fish condition occurs from fall to spring and where the salmonids are moving in these urbanized streams.

Summer 2011

Emily Sprengelmeyer

Department of Biology

Amount of Award: $500

Project Title: Affects of coarse woody debris in aspen-dominated mesic-hardwood forests

Project Abstract:  Coarse woody debris (CWD) is an important component for many forest ecosystem functions. Many previous studies focused on relationships between CWD forest vertebrates and invertebrates, and while an understanding of these relationships is important, it is also essential to recognize the underlying connection between CWD and processes leading to vegetation changes within habitats. In anticipation of future studies, documentation and comparison of the post-harvest density and distribution of coarse woody debris currently maintained by state foresters is essential. Based on this need, I propose to quantify current CWD retention and understory plant species richness and abundance as a baseline for further research with the following objectives: determine CWD density and distribution in aspen-dominated mesic-hardwood forests 0-5, 10-20, and ≥ 50 years post-harvest, compare CWD retention between harvested stands and old-growth (≥ 50 years) aspen-dominated forests, and compare understory plant richness and abundance in harvested stands and old-growth aspen-dominated mesic-hardwood forests. The study area will be located in the west-central Upper Peninsula and will include sites in Baraga and Marquette counties, and at least three study sites of each age class (0-5, 10-20, and ≥ 50 years post-harvest) will be sampled in pre-determined aspen-dominated stands along with a corresponding number of control stands. Work in the field will begin May, 2011 and continue through July, 2011, and data analysis will begin August, 2011. Results will be summarized in a report and poster presentation. This project requires funding via a Spooner Grant for costs associated with travel for myself and field assistants.

Winter 2011

Student Researcher: Megan Jastremski

Department: Chemistry

Title: Syntheses of Radical Precursors for Replacement of Tributyltin Hydride in Organic Compounds

Project Abstract:  The objective of the proposal is to secure funds to complete the syntheses of radical precursors in order to study a replacement for tributyltin hydride in organic reactions. Tin compounds are considerably toxic, expensive, difficult to separate from the desired product, and pose environmental problems. For these reasons, compounds that could serve as replacements for tin are desirable. Dr. McCormick and her previous research students have developed a new, “greener” replacement for use in a variety of carbon-carbon bond forming reactions. The new method makes use of a technique called polarity reversal catalysis (PRC). PRC couples two non-toxic reagents to replace tin hydride: a sulfur catalyst and an organosilane derivative. The improved method uses an organosilane and a thiol catalyst in place of the tin hydride. My final goal will be to determine whether or not this new method works well for two important reactions: an aromatic radical cyclization reaction and the Beckwith-Dowd ring expansion. To accomplish my goals, I will need supplies to synthesize and characterize the starting materials and final products. Finding a replacement for tributyltin hydride that is less expensive, non-toxic, and not harmful to the environment would be a significant contribution to the field of organic synthesis.

Student Researcher: Justine Pinskey

Department: Biology

Title: Vitamin D as a potential therapeutic agent for glioblastoma multiforme disease

Project Abstract:  Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an aggressive, incurable type of malignant brain tumor. Despite tremendous research efforts, the median survival of GBM patients is only fifteen months, making it one of the deadliest known cancers. Part of the challenge surrounding GBM treatment is the presence of brain tumor stem cells (BTSCs). BTSCs are stem-like cells within GBM tumors that have an unlimited capacity for self-renewal, resist standard treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, and are responsible for the tumors’ recurrence and metastasis. This study proposes the use of vitamin D, a safe, naturally-occurring substance, to disable BTSCs as a part of GBM treatment. Vitamin D works by inhibiting the hedgehog signaling pathway, a mechanism essential to BTSC function. The proposed experiments will examine vitamin D’s ability to work synergistically with temozolomide (TMZ), the standard drug used for GBM treatment. Should vitamin D be proven effective and compatible with TMZ, it could potentially be a strong addition to the GBM treatment regimen.

Student Researcher: Melissa Seelye

Department: English

Title: European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies Conference

Project Abstract:  Like Istanbul, the Internet and the blogosphere are places where boundaries converge and new spaces materialize. Accordingly, members of many online communities, especially those with multinational or even global followings, find themselves immersed in an entirely new reality. They are confronted with people and ideas very different from their own and most must undergo a certain period of adjustment in order to become comfortable in this setting. Because blogging in particular has become one of the most popular forms of self expression on the Internet, it is a logical place to start in exploring the impact of such global networks on the individual.

In examining the English-language blogs of Turkish women, this project will first comment upon these women’s process of reconciling their national identities with their knowledge or adoption of global practices or ideas. Further, using the dialogue between each blogger’s commentators, it will explore what kind of audience the bloggers are appealing to and how the blogger’s choice to create this online identity is received by their peers. Last, questions of whether these globally-influenced identities transcend the Internet and impact these bloggers in the real world will be answered. As the culmination of this project, the student will travel to Istanbul for the triennial conference of the European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies in April. There, she will individually present her paper entitled “Return to the Blogosphere: A Closer Look at Women blogging in Turkey” and expects to return with new contacts to further her research.

Winter 2010

Student Researcher: Tori LaFleur

Department: Biology

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Epigenetic Modification at Imprinted Loci in Mus Interspecies Hybrids

Project Abstract: Mammalian genomic imprinting presents a fascinating challenge for geneticists. In addition to the rarity of imprinted loci in the genome, the mechanism by which imprinted genes are functionally silenced in offspring has only recently been tentatively identified as methylation of cytosine nucleotides. A better understanding of how this mechanism may operate in humans is critical to ascertaining the effects of its deregulation on human syndromes and in cancer pathways. In order to achieve these goals, more information is required about the deregulation of imprinted loci, also termed loss of imprinting (LOI), in mouse species of the genus Mus, the most widely used organisms in biomedical research. I propose to examine whether altered methylation state occurs in Mus hybrids at imprinted loci previously identified in the mouse genus Peromyscus.

 

Student Researcher: Rachel Koleda

Department: Biology

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Ecological Evaluation of a Gold Course Water Feature

Project Abstract: The goal of this research project is to identify aquatic organisms already living within two small ponds located on the Northern Michigan University Golf Course, and to provide recommendations as to changes that can be made to improve the appearance and ecological sustainability of the ponds. Sampling at the site began in the fall of 2009 and included electroshock sampling for aquatic vertebrates, kick-net sampling for aquatic insects and microbial sampling. In addition, chemical conditions at the site, including water depth, temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen were recorded twice monthly at a total of twelve locations throughout the two ponds. Funding provided by this grant would be used to purchase kits to test aquatic nitrate-nitrogen, phosphate, hardness, sulfide, carbon dioxide, ammonia and alkalinity, and to print a poster to be presented at the 2010 Celebration of Student Research. The results that will be provide from this water quality testing is a critical step in understanding the current health of the site ponds, and in generating recommendations to successfully sustain and potentially enhance the site.

Fall 2009

Student Researcher: Vanessa Thibado

Department: Biology

Amount Rewarded:

Project Title: Determining PARP Expression in Glioma Cell Lines

Project Abstract:  Glioblastoma multiforme is the most malignant and frequent primary brain tumor in adults. These tumors expand quickly and tend to recur despite surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments. Alkylating agents via direct DNA repair by O6 – methylguanine methyltransferase (MGMT) has arisen as a significant barrier to effective treatment. Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP) is activated by binding to DNA breaks, and has functions related to the DNA repair done by MGMT. Therefore, inhibition of PARP has been associated with increased sensitivity to DNA-alkylating agents. This project outlines research based on the potential of PARP inhibition to enhance the antitumor activity of Temozolomide in glioblastoma cell lines. There will be multiple phases to complete the goals of the overall study, which will comprise a master’s thesis. The goal of this research is to characterize the presence or absence of functional genes for MGMT and PARP, and quantify the levels of expression in multiple cell lines. This will lay the groundwork for additional studies on cell line sensitivity to Temozolomide and PARP inhibitors, and subsequently to combinations of both agents. The intention will be to characterize growth inhibitory effects and cell death rates in cell lines exposed to monotherapy versus combination therapy. Research studies such as this are important in the identification of therapies that can overcome drug resistance, less cytotoxic side effects, and ultimately improve the prognosis of glioblastoma patients.

Student Researcher: Danny LeBert

Department: Biology

Amount Rewarded:

Project Title: Neural stem cell migratory capabilities and role in tumor metastasis

Project Abstract: Brain tumors are classified using the system implemented by the World Health Organization using their source of origin and are graded I-IV based on severity. The most malignant for is the glioblastoma multiforme, or grade IV glioma. These tumors are characterized as having rapid growth and the ability to spread away from the original tumor site. This project outlines research based on the directed migration, protein analysis and identification of glioma stem cells. The study will support previous findings as to the existence of stem cells within tumor cell colonies. It will also show these stem cells are capable of directed movement toward specific chemical attractants. This is important in that it may help explain why gliomas are able to move and develop tumors in areas distal to the original tumor location. The chemical attractant-cell receptor (protein) relationship will also be observed with the goal of further understanding tumor metastasis. The data collected during this period will comprise a substantial portion of my final master’s thesis at Northern Michigan University and will be submitted for publication upon its completion.

Student Researcher: Darrin Moir

Department: School of Art & Design

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Fine Art for the People

Project Abstract: This is a proposal for a visual arts project consisting of a series of oil paintings. The purpose of the project is to create a body of work that bridges the gap between the academic arts and the general population. The paintings aim to capture and magnify quotidian moments, show vital importance of the socio-human connection, and expand aesthetic-intellectual relativity for the general public.

 

Student Researcher: Benjamin Wilson

Department: Chemistry

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Effects on the Permeability of Calcium in the Presence of Polydimethylated Siloxanes through a Semi-Permeable Membrane

Project Abstract: Polydimethylated Siloxanes (PDMSs) are commonly found in a modern lifestyle. Humans are exposed through topical products, such as deodorant, and through oral ingestion from contamination in food processing lubricants. While these compounds do not pose an immediate toxic threat, there is little research in the secondary effects of PDMSs, such as their effect on the metal absorption. PDMSs have structures and polar properties similar to crown ethers, which are known to bind to metals. As a result, it may be possible for PDMSs to bind metals and carry them through the membrane of eukaryotic cells, bypassing the natural mechanisms for controlling metal intake. Previous work has been done on toxic metals by Dr. Wickenheiser (cadmium and lithium), and now the focus has been turned to physiologically important ionic species in the human body. Work has thus far been slow due to the difficulty in quantifying the low concentrations and volumes needed for experiments. However, experiments using the Inductively Coupled Plasma/Optical Emission Spectrometer have shown useful and reproducible results which should deliver the low concentration calibration curve needed to analyze samples into the low parts per billion level. Work will continue studying the change in calcium permeability and will start to probe the mechanism of transport.

 

Summer 2009

Student Researcher: Allison Hahn

Department: Psychology

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Effects of Equipment Type on Dog Walking Behavior and Adoption Rates in Shelter Dogs

Project Abstract: Many factors can influence the adoption of dogs from animal shelters. One factor that may affect adoption is a dog’s behavior while on a walk with the potential adopter. At the Marquette County Humane Society, potential adopters often walk a dog before adopting. This study will consist of three six-week periods. During the first six-week period, anyone coming to the shelter to walk a dog will use a nylon buckle collar, which is routinely used by the shelter. If a potential adopter walks one or more dogs, they will be given a survey to fill out, regardless of whether or not they adopt a dog. During the second six-week period, dogs will be walked using the Easy Walk Harness, which is designed to discourage a dog from pulling on the leash while on a walk. The same survey as before will be given to potential adopters after they walk a dog using this harness. During the third six-week period, dogs will again be walked using the nylon buckle collar, and potential adopters will be given the same survey as before after they have walked a dog. The survey will ask questions regarding their experience walking the dog(s) and whether the walk differentially influenced the decision to adopt, in order to see whether or how using an anti-pull harness affects the adoption process.

 

Student Researcher: Elizabeth Holly
Department: Psychology

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Neurotensin Analog Effects on Working Memory

Project Abstract: Schizophrenia is a severely debilitating disease that affects approximately 1.1% of the population. The disease is characterized by its positive symptoms (e.g. hallucinations, delusions), its negative symptoms (e.g. social withdrawal, anhedonia) and its cognitive symptoms (e.g. impaired memory, short attention span). Current antipsychotic drugs are able to treat the positive and negative symptoms, but fail to improve the cognitive symptoms. Drugs classified as neurotensin analogs have been shown to produce antipsychotic effects and have been hypothesized to improve cognitive deficits as well. However, more research needs to be done in this field. The proposed study aims to evaluate the effects of the neuotensin analog PD149163 on working memory using a delayed non-match to sample memory task in a radial arm maze.

 

Winter 2009

Student Researcher: Julie Howard

Department: Biology

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Diet overlap between native brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), nonnative coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and nonnative steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Sevenmile Creek, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Project Abstract: The introduction of two nonnative salmonids, steelhead and coho salmon, is thought to be negatively affecting native brook trout numbers in tributaries of Lake Superior. These tributaries are used for spawning and rearing habitat by all three species; space and food resources are shared between brook trout and non-native fish. While in streams, salmonids are known to feed mostly on drifting invertebrates. Experiments in the field will be performed in order to determine the composition of both the invertebrate drift and diet for the three species. Sampling of both the invertebrate drift and stomach contents will occur in three different habitat types on Sevenmile Creek and in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and will take place once per month for 12 months. Comparisons between the invertebrate drift composition and invertebrates found in stomach samples may show selectivity by fish species for prey items. Using the selectivity information, a comparison between brook trout, steelhead and coho stomach contents will be used to calculate an overlap index by habitat and month which may help illustrate the feeding strategies of these species. The theory that non-native salmonids are negatively affecting the native species will be supported by showing similar feeding strategies between the native brook trout and the non-native steelhead and coho. If the results show that feeding strategies are different between the three species, then negative interactions may not be dependent on diet. Results will be presented at scientific conferences and will serve as my M.S. thesis.

 

Student Researcher: William Severud

Department: Biology

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Can stable isotope analysis reveal diet patterns in American beaver diets?

Project Abstract: The relative use of aquatic and terrestrial food resources by American beavers (Castor Canadensis) may be influenced by predation risk. Beavers may increase their use of aquatic resources to avoid predation, and this may affect their relative fitness. In Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota, I will use a combination of live-trapping, vegetation surveys, and stable isotope analysis to estimate the associations between body condition and available resources, body condition and proportion of aquatic-based diet, and body condition and recruitment. My objective is to estimate the relative proportions of terrestrial and aquatic vegetation in beaver diets using stable isotope analysis. My results will elucidate whether beavers reduce predation risk by increased use of aquatic resources, and whether these aquatic resources are suitable alternatives to terrestrial resources in terms of relative fitness.

 

Student Researcher: Michael Peters
Department: Biology

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: Bio-control as an Agent for Disease Control of Potato (common) Scab Disease

Project Abstract: The potato is a major food source for people worldwide. Tuber development and marketability of potato crops can be decreased by damage caused by infection with the bacterium Streptomyces scabies, the causal agent of potato (common) scab disease. Currently, prevention of this infection relies on planting seed potatoes certified free of disease, spraying fields with water, and treating the crops with chemicals. Biological control has been studied as a way to reduce damage caused by potato scab disease infection. Early in vitro experiments, which used single strains of bacteria to hinder S. scabies development, proved effective in decreasing pathogenic growth on petri dishes. This proposed research will further study biological control by planting potato tubers in pots filled with soil that has been inoculated with pathogenic and suppressive bacteria, and then raising the plants in a greenhouse setting. Previous studies of biological control used single strains of suppressive bacteria. The proposed research used two strains of suppressive Streptomyces, to verify that using pairs of suppressive bacteria are able to decrease potato scab disease better than a single strain. The presence of absence of disease symptoms will be noted and soil samples will be removed for counting of bacterial (pathogenic, suppressive, and other) populations using serial dilution. Least significant difference (LSD) (SPSS version 16.0) will be used to compare treatment (Control, A, B or A+B) versus scab disease rating. This research is the first known study to use paired suppressive strains for reduction of S. scabies populations.

 

Student Researcher: Olabisi Lashore

Department: Chemistry

Amount Rewarded: $500

Project Title: The effect of Polydimethylsiloxanes of the magnesium movement across a cell membrane

Project Abstract: This research project is based on the study of the effect of polydimethylsiloxanes (PDMS) on the transport of magnesium ions across a cell membrane. An adapted technique, called Parallel Artificial Membrane Permeability Assay (PAMPA), which is used by the pharmaceutical industry to test the intestinal absorption of drugs, will be used to create a simulation of the human intestinal membrane. The membrane created will be used to estimate intestinal cell membrane absorption of magnesium ions. The hypothesis is that PDMS affects the transport of magnesium ions because of their ability to attach to metal ions just like crown ethers do. The crown ethers form circular chains that have oxygen atoms present in the inner ring. These oxygen atoms are able to form links with metal ions, there by keeping the metal ions in the center of the ring. PDMS are used as part of a medium in cosmetics for treatment of hair and skin. If it could be shown through this experiment that dimethylsiloxanes improve cell absorption of magnesium, it might be possible to create a medication that will enable the administration of magnesium ions through the skin to affected arthritis. The skin cell membrane and intestinal cell membrane are similar because they both are epithelial cells. The analysis of magnesium ions will be determined using the flame method available in Atomic Absorption Spectrometry where the atomic absorptions of ionized (gaseous excited atom) magnesium are determined.

Older Spooner Awards