Six student projects win first place at fall 2016 Intersections

Brittany Moseley | Jan. 18, 2017

Photos courtesy of SOURCE.

Every semester SOURCE (Support of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors) hosts Intersections, a symposium where undergraduate students present their research and creative projects. The event is an opportunity for the CWRU community to learn about the array of academic work being done by students across campus. At the fall semester’s Intersections, Dec. 9, 2016, six student projects earned first place awards. Below, the first-place winners discuss their projects and what they learned from their research.

‌Cameron Macaskill, First Place in Humanities Poster Competition

Project: Ethical Diamond Extraction in Southern Africa

Cameron Macaskill presenting her poster

"Over the past few years, I've been in and out of Southern Africa as a study abroad student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and as an intern with the State Department in Gaborone, Botswana. I'm interested in the way diamonds affect politics and economics in this region, and my capstone project explores only a small aspect of this interest. In this particular project, I analyze how the history of violent diamond extraction in Southern Africa has been erased by the blood diamond campaign. I also look at the way corporations can be targeted in potential solutions to the violence that still exists today. I plan to continue with this type of research after graduation."

Nardine Taleb, First Place in Social Sciences Poster Competition

Project: Developing and Testing New Pediatric Sentence Recognition Materials

"The purpose of my project was to create sentence recognition test materials for children. These materials require a child to listen to a sentence in noise and repeat it back to the clinician. Based on the child's responses, the clinician can determine how well a child perceives speech in noise on a daily basis. My lab, under the direction of my mentor Dr. Lauren Calandruccio, put a tremendous amount of effort constructing the babyBEL, which is a corpus of 400 sentences. From this project, I learned so much about paying attention to detail, being precise, and how important teamwork is. I also learned a lot about the field of audiology and the amazing work that is being done for individuals with hearing loss. In the end, this is what our work is all about: helping people maintain and improve their quality of life."

Mahima Devarajan, First Place (tie) in Natural Sciences Poster Competition

Mahima Devarajan with her poster

Project: Temporal Specificity of EZH2-mediated Epigenetic Regulation in the Cranial Mesenchyme

"A long standing question in biology is how an individual cell becomes specialized into a specific cell type. The cells of the head and face comprise a complex system in which careful regulation guides cell specialization into bone, cartilage, skin, or muscle. When I joined in 2015, Dr. Radhika Atit’s lab was investigating the genetics of cell specialization during craniofacial development. My current project focuses on the temporal specificity of this genetic regulation. We aim to show that the difference in the loss of regulation by just one embryonic day can impact the entire structure of the skull and face. Understanding this process can provide us with insight into the mechanisms behind craniofacial defects and further our understanding of cell specialization."


Alexandra Faidiga, First Place (tie) in Natural Sciences Poster Competition

Alexandra Faidiga with her poster

Project: Overproduction of Ovules Relative to Average Pollen Receipt in Trillium Grandiflorum

"I first developed my interest in pollen limitation when I wrote my final research paper on the topic for my departmental seminar. Because I wanted to explore some of the ideas I had developed in this paper further, and because my ideas were easily testable at the University Farm, I decided to conduct my capstone research project on pollen limitation in Trillium grandiflorum. While some aspects of this project didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned (for example, half of my plants being eaten by deer), being able to complete a field study to test the ideas that I developed through reading the literature made this project especially exciting for me. With this project, I have taken my first step toward understanding why certain plant populations appear to be pollen-limited, as well as how pollen limitation varies across space in such populations. I look forward to exploring both of these questions, along with additional questions about how pollinators affect reproductive success in plants, further in graduate school."

Keith Dona, First Place (tie) in Engineering Poster Competition

Project: Effect on Rat Motor Behavior of Chronic Intracortical Microelectrodes Implanted in the Motor Cortex

"Our project answers the question: Do motor-cortex-implanted micro-electrodes result in motor deficits in a rat model? We arrived at this question because while micro-electrodes have been used in clinical applications for treatment or neurological diseases, their effect on the host’s motor control has not been documented. We know an injury in the motor cortex leads to motor deficits, so it follows that the inherent injury involved in electrode implantation will cause similar motor problems. Over the course of this study, I learned how to properly execute behavioral tests on rats. I also learned how to analyze the related data to create coherent conclusions. We are encouraged by our positive results and look forward to expanding our study to solidify our results to be able to use this protocol as an animal model for the effects of micro-electrodes on motor ability."

Nicholas Hazen, Grace Foxworthy, Hanna Huss, James McGinnity, and Nathaniel Landis, First Place (tie) in Engineering Poster Competition

 Nicholas Hazen, Grace Foxworthy, Hanna Huss, James McGinnity, and Nathaniel Landis presenting their poster

Project: Sensorized Cane for Fall Detection and Alert

"In response to the exponential rise in fatal falls in the elderly community, our group decided to attempt to improve the response time of first responders by creating a device which would alert family members and loved ones in the event of a fall. The device is attached to a cane just below the handle and monitors the velocity and three-dimensional orientation of the cane using a gyroscope and accelerometer. When the parameters reach certain values and the contact sensor determines if the cane is in use, the data is sent via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, which assesses the data and determines if a fall has occurred. If a fall is registered, the app will call a list of contacts one at a time, stopping when someone answers or calling 911 if none of the contacts respond. The process of designing the device taught our group a lot about building Android apps, fabricating cases in Think[box], and the current limitations of mobility assist devices such as canes. We hope to improve on our design in the spring, and possibly register a patent through CWRU with the assistance of our professors, Dr. Colin Drummond and Dr. Matthew Williams of the biomedical engineering department."