Fourteen student projects win awards at fall 2017 Intersections

Brittany Moseley | Jan. 31, 2018

Every semester SOURCE (Support of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors) hosts Intersections, a symposium and poster session where undergraduate students present their research and creative projects. The event is an opportunity for the Case Western Reserve community to learn about the array of academic work being done by students across campus. At the fall semester’s Intersections on Dec. 8, 2017, 14 student projects earned awards. Below, some of the winners discuss their projects and what they learned from their research.

Merit Glover, First Place in Arts Poster Competition

Project: Dramatizing America’s National Parks 

image of Merit Glover

"The National Park Service is an institution of the United States’ cultural and natural history. It protects and promotes sites across the country for the benefit of Americans. The ideals and guidelines that govern the sites have evolved. Meanwhile, many challenges to the National Park Service have remained the same. For example, sites struggle with the rights of local communities to mine, log, or hunt on federal land, versus the rights of all American citizens to have access to conserved land. The tradeoff between improving accessibility to parks and over-developing these fragile areas is another frequent debate. I visited more than two dozen National Park Service sites to investigate these issues and gain a holistic understanding of the cultural place they hold for the United States. This dramatization is intended to provide insight into the history of the National Park Service as well as the conflicts that plague it today.”

Stephanie Huang, First Place (tie) in Engineering Poster Competition

Project: Enzyme-triggered Release of Hemostatic Augmenting Drugs to Treat Trauma

image of Stephanie Huang in front of poster

“Excessive blood loss from trauma is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. Although platelet transfusions are used to minimize bleeding complications, there are several drawbacks to using allogeneic platelets. Therefore, our lab has developed SynthoPlateTM, an artificial platelet mimetic nanoparticle that has been shown to directly amplify active platelet recruitment and in effect enhance fibrin generation in non-trauma and trauma, in in vivo studies. For my project, I loaded control particles with drugs that further enhance hemostasis to maximize the speed and strength of hemostatic clot formation. The phospholipid membrane of these particles are degraded and release their payload in the presence of secretory Group II phospholipase A2 (sPLA2), which is secreted by activated platelets at an injury site. In this project I demonstrated how SynthoPlateTM can be loaded with hemostatic drugs in order to achieve site selective promotion of hemostasis.”

Melanie Chetverikova, Akhil Bheemreddy, David Garyantes, Zohair Khan, and Sanjana Singh, Second Place (tie) in Engineering Poster Competition

Project: Reducing Sharps Container-related Hazards in the Operating Room

image of Melanie Chetverikova, Akhil Bheemreddy, David Garyantes, Zohair Khan, and Sanjana Singh

“For our biomedical engineering senior design project, we accepted a challenge posed by an anesthesiologist at University Hospital to improve the safety associated with sharps disposal containers. We started by identifying the two main associated causes of injury: non-compliance with the use guidelines set forth by various regulatory bodies and overfilling of the sharps container. We came up with two main innovations to combat these. First, we added a foot pedal, which dramatically increased ease of use, not only making it easier to follow the safety guidelines, but increasing the sterility of the product. Second, we added a detection mechanism to identify the container fill level and give feedback to the user, eventually preventing additional disposal in non-emergency situations. In the second semester of our project we hope to perfect a finished product for trial use and allow for wireless detection of the container’s fill status

Alan Dogan, Second Place (tie) in Engineering Poster Competition

Project: Soil Mobility of Tobacco Mild Green Mosaic Virus for the Delivery of Pesticides to Plant Parasitic Nematodes

Alan Dogan in front of poster

“Plant parasitic organisms are a major burden on the agricultural economy. Specifically, plant parasitic nematodes are a significant threat to commercial agriculture, causing a $157 billion loss each year in crop production worldwide. The current standard of treatment for infested fields is to apply large amounts of pesticides to the plants. However, most pesticides suffer from poor diffusion in soil. This causes excess pesticide to build up in groundwater and runoff, putting the environment and human health at risk. This project focuses on exploring the use of virus-like nanoparticles, particularly the Tobacco mild green mosaic virus, as a carrier to deliver nematode pesticides effectively. Understanding and quantifying the mechanisms of virus transport through soil to deliver pesticides is a major step toward the development of future agricultural technologies.”

Sarah Eberth, Dean Zou, and Valentino Bagnoli, Second Place (tie) in Engineering Poster Competition

Project: High-efficiency, Multi-rotor Wind Turbine

Sarah Eberth, Dean Zou, and Valentino Bagnoli in front of poster

“The field of renewable energy continues to grow and push the limits of what is possible, with one of the most promising alternatives being wind energy. Our project involves improving our previously tested three rotor wind turbine prototype as well as implementing a Maximum Power Point Tracking Algorithm that optimizes power generation. This high-efficiency, multi-rotor wind turbine has three coaxial, independent, contra-rotating rotors with three blades each. Instead of being supported by a 3D-printed or Lego tower as has previously been used in our lab, our prototype is supported by a unique tower constructed of wood, metal, and plastic piping as well as a 3D-printed nacelle. The success of this project will be determined by the completion of a functional prototype that has a higher efficiency of energy conversion than the traditional design to warrant the increased capital cost of the wind turbine.”

Jackson Currie, First Place in Nursing Poster Competition

Project: The Influence of Dietary Magnesium Intake on Depressive Symptoms

Jackson Currie and other person in front of poster

“This past summer I was awarded a SOURCE grant to work under the direction of Allison R. Webel. For my intersections project, I did a secondary analysis on data collected during a project examining an intervention in people living with HIV to increase self-management behaviors of diet and exercise. With HIV having become a lifelong, chronic condition, it is important to develop interventions and treatments for other chronic conditions commonly experienced by people living with HIV, and depression is one of these conditions. My project examined the effect of dietary magnesium on depressive symptoms in people living with HIV. We found that depressive symptoms and dietary magnesium have an inverse relationship, and that alcohol is a moderator of this relationship. I continue to be involved on Dr. Webel’s research team, and we are excited to both publish these results and examine this relationship again in future research projects.”

Nicholas Barendregt, First Place (tie) in Natural Sciences Poster Competition

Project: Heteroclinic Cycling in Discrete Population Models

Nicholas Barendregt in front of poster

“My current research combines my interests in biological modeling and probability theory to develop models for how populations of brain cells interact to send signals to different parts of the body. Right now, in the field of computational neuroscience, there is a lack of understanding in how finite cell numbers and random external stimuli influence the noise and propagation of these signals; many researchers use simplified heteroclinic-cycling models, where they assume the cell populations are infinitely large and isolated from the rest of the brain. We have found that the standard ‘winnerless-competition’ heteroclinic model can be adapted to include these more realistic features, and that adding noise allows for a rich diversity of behaviors. My goal is to investigate these behaviors more rigorously to elucidate how they depend on the physical constraints of the system, and to hopefully lay the groundwork for future investigations into stochastic heteroclinic-cycling models.”

Ellen Kendall, First Place (tie) in Natural Sciences Poster Competition

Mechanistic Insight into Liposarcoma Progression

Ellen Kendall with poster

“The emergence of new genetic sequencing techniques has revolutionized the study of medicine, especially the study and treatment of cancer. By comparing the genetic profiles of cancer cells and normal functioning cells, we can better understand how and why the cancer is growing and what we can do to fix it. With the Computational Science Group at The Jackson Laboratory, I compared the genetic expression profiles of normal tissue samples and tissue samples of a rare form of cancer of the fat cells called Liposarcoma. Using computational modeling, I was able to identify key transcription factors and upregulated pathways that promote the growth of Liposarcoma. These transcription factors and affected pathways will be further investigated as promising therapeutic targets for Liposarcoma treatment.”

Devin Reddy, Second Place (tie) in Natural Sciences Poster Competition

Project: Novel Cyto-Protective Compounds Rescuing Cells from Bax-Induced Cell Death

Devin Reddy in front of poster

“Cell death is a normally occurring process in any complex organism if the cell in question is no longer able to perform its intended function, is infected, has misregulated genes, or is told to die by other cells. However, cell death becomes a problem for the organism when it occurs in tissues where it isn't supposed to occur, such as terminally differentiated cells. The Matsuyama Laboratory developed a system to selectively induce cells down the cell death (apoptotic) pathway via the activation of pro-apoptotic proteins Bax and Bak. We used this system to screen thousands of compounds in order to discover novel potential Bax/Bak inhibitors. My project focused on Bax/Bak inhibitor #4 and its unique ability to suppress cell death, especially compared to its structural analogs. With these inhibitors, we will be able to slow/stop harmful apoptosis in specialized cells, like neural and retinal cells, helping prevent diseases such as Macular Degeneration, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer's Disease.”

Matthew Thompson, Second Place (tie) in Natural Sciences Poster Competition

Project: A Kinase Inhibitor That Reverses Huntington’s Disease Phenotypes

image of Matthew Thompson

“I joined the lab of Dr. Drew Adams in May 2015. We seek to bridge the gap between disease biology and future therapeutics through the discovery and optimization of small bioactive molecules for clinical use. My research focuses on developing new therapies for Huntington’s Disease, a fatal genetic disorder characterized by progressive loss of motor and cognitive function. Existing treatments for Huntington’s Disease alleviate disease symptoms but are incapable of preventing neuronal death and reversing disease progression. We identified a kinase inhibitor that remedied dysfunctional energy metabolism in HD neurons, allowing them to survive under stress. Treatment of HD-model mice with this inhibitor, prolonged their survival, restored motor function and decreased neuronal death. We’re currently working to identify the mechanism by which our inhibitor reverses HD-phenotypes. Completion of our work could open new avenues in the treatment of HD and other neurodegenerative diseases marked by mitochondrial dysfunction.”


Dalton Hennes, First Place in Social Sciences Poster Competition

Project: A Study of Rehumanization as a Response to Dehumanization

Dalton Hennes with poster

“Our study of rehumanization builds upon existing research examining neural correlates involved while thinking in dehumanizing or humanizing manners and research examining the effects of dehumanizing narratives on judgments of individuals. This present study works to replicate a prior study which observed the impact of dehumanizing characterizations of fictional social groups on judgments of individuals, as well as establish a new line of inquiry into the possibility of effectively rehumanizing the social groups using additional social narratives. The study's attempt at 'rehumanization,' we hypothesized, would work to neutralize the impact of dehumanization found in the prior study. Of course all implications are only speculative at this point, but the data insists that while dehumanization is an evil reality that can affect anyone, it is not a lost cause. The results of this study could inspire future organizational behavioral programs working against the negative effects of dehumanization in fields of military, business, medicine, and politics.”