2020 MassURC Research Abstracts

Graphic with text reading: Save the Date, the 29th Annual Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference, April 28, 2023

Students from across the state have the opportunity to present their research findings or thesis at the annual MassURC.

2020 MassURC Research Abstracts



Hang Fong

Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston

College Students and Money: Financial Literacy Needs and Options for College Students

The majority of Americans, especially young people are having trouble financially. This is whether they are dealing with debt, habitual spending, budgeting, or other problems. While Americans across the country need help and resources for different reasons, college students and graduates may especially need financial education because of the piling student loan debt. Young people are taking on large amounts of debt as well as expensive costs of living in certain major cities. Everyone learns these financial habits and knowledge through their families and friends growing up. Some learn formally, but the offerings in many public schools are not intensive, and it may not be enough.
The purpose of this study is to learn more information about the financial education needs of college and university students. By distributing surveys, we hope to hear from the students themselves, what their past experiences are like when it comes to financial education in any form. We would also like to know what their opinions are, on what type of resources and teaching methods would appeal or benefit them the most. That way, the study can help bring the resources to students who may find it helpful later after graduation, and for planning their future.


Aryeesha Majeed

Frances M. Skypeck (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting, Economics, and Finance, Framingham State University

Auditing of Enterprise Resource Planning Systems

Due to the rapid growth of businesses, there is a significant increase in processes and operations. To support all the processes and maintain complete and accurate financial records, businesses are investing in Enterprise Resource Planning Systems which automate the processes and present real-time records for effective decision making. With automation, there is a little audit trail for the transactions and it is crucial to verify the information and assess the operative and design effectiveness of the internal controls. Auditors use Computer Assisted Audit Techniques (CAATs) to extract financial data from the system for achieving the audit objectives. CAATs such as Test Data, Parallel Simulation, Integrated Test Facility (ITF), and Embedded Audit Module (EAM) enable auditors to gather and analyze audit evidence to test the adequacy and reliability of financial information and internal controls in computerized environments. This presentation is based on the Information Systems Auditing Standards (ISASs) provided by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) for SAP Financial Accounting Module. The presentation will explain the detailed process of audit and the communication of obtained results with management in an integrated environment. Based on the results, it can be concluded that only strong and effective internal controls in the system can provide accurate records with appropriate documentation in an IT environment.


Alyssa Nolin

Frances M. Skypeck (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting, Economics, and Finance, Framingham State University

The Impact of Enron on SOX

The topic of this research paper is a discussion of the fraudulent activities that took place at Enron and how it led to the creation of new legislation, specifically the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The key research question this paper aims to answer is how the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 addressed specific fraudulent activities that took place at Enron. Enron was an American energy, commodities, and services company based in Houston, Texas that famously went bankrupt after participating in countless fraudulent acts over its lifespan.

After the discovery of what was really happening at Enron for years, new legislation was introduced in order to deter anything like this from happening again. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was the most direct piece of legislation that aimed at preventing another “Enron-esque” scandal. As I aim to prove this, I plan to dissect the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and make connections to activities that happened at Enron.


Rachel L. Sazonick

Renee M. Scapparone (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Business, Fitchburg State University

Make Accounting Ethics Great (Again?)

Ethics in the accounting field is a convoluted and equivocal affair. From Hatry Group (1929) to WorldCom (2002), accounting has faced scandals in ethics since the First World War. Large corporations have been exploiting accounting “loopholes” and poor financial reporting in order to hide billions of dollars in debt through complex business models and accounting limitations that misrepresent earnings to indicate favorable performance. Almost eighty years later, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002 was enacted and set new or expanded requirements for all U.S. public company boards, management, and public accounting firms and requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to create regulations to define how public corporations are to comply with the law. Subsequent to SOX, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) was created to oversee the audits of public companies and other issuers in order to protect the interests of investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate and independent audit reports. My research outlines the significance of the PCAOB and offers additional procedures that may help to reinforce the importance of continuously practicing ethics in accounting.

Rachel Sazonick, Dr. Renee Scapparone, Fitchburg State University, Dr. Beverley Hollingsworth, Fitchburg State University


Aaqsa Siddiqui

Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston

SEC Litigation in Loss Contingencies: Its Implications and Solution

Under GAAP, Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 450, companies are required to report accounting and disclosure requirements for loss and gain contingencies. Although gain contingencies are not reported, loss contingencies do need to be reported after meeting specific criteria stipulated in the standard. The ASC 450 is essential because it generates a transparent view of the company’s financial statement and possible losses that may occur in the future.

To ensure that the companies comply with ASC 450, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been responsible for analyzing the financial statements and conducting research to find out if companies are reporting their loss contingencies in accordance with GAAP standards. As a result, SEC has initiated many litigation proceedings against the companies which violate rules in disclosing their loss contingencies.

Although there are many research papers in this area identifying the way of recording the loss contingencies, the SEC litigations do imply that the companies are struggling with recording the contingencies.

From the company’s point of view becoming very transparent creates exposure to the risk of future litigation. On the other hand, if a company avoids disclosure, SEC may initiate an investigation that can result in substantial losses. Therefore, the thesis attempts to shed light on the Standards and the Jurisprudence of SEC and how it can make it easier for companies to properly report contingencies and not be held liable for any litigation initiated by SEC or other plaintiffs.


Kevin J. Zelaya

Martha Ucci (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Bristol Community College

Student Stress Presiding in Community Colleges Athletes: What It Costs, Compares, and Creates

Collegiate Athletics is an integral part of the community inside an institution. College sports across the country can differ and preside among three divisions in the NCAA.  Regardless of the division a student-athlete plays in, the environment is similar to all athletes. College Athletes have to balance academic studies and athletic participation all while maintaining social relationships and an overall state of well being. Attempts to maintain balance among these environments can lead to an accumulation of stress and athlete burnout. My research will take into consideration the overall affects of College Athletes as an entire unit. However, my research project aims to take a look into the stress college athletes face on a smaller scale compared to Division-1 athletes. The focus of the project is student-athletes at Bristol Community College. In a smaller institution highlighting the differences and similarities students face when becoming a student-athlete. For Community College students they are offered fewer incentives, exclusions, exterior environmental stress while dealing with academic performance and athletic practices and games that all student-athletes face.




Ashley Jerome

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

Older Than America

America’s founding fathers built the country’s foundation with bloodshed and destruction. As a consequence, the deep and violent history surrounding the United States’ creation is still ingrained in our present-day America. And within all of America’s chapters, there is only one narrative older than America. From the beginning, indigenous nations have long endured violence by colonizers under the guise of ideologies like Manifest Destiny. In the topic’s vastness, the intention is to use N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn to confine the subject to specific issues that plague current native communities. The trailing remnants of genocide are highlighted in House Made of Dawn, which focuses on assimilation, alienation, and poverty within such communities. While colonization was commonplace across the world, countless countries eventually regained their independence, the same could not be said for the First Nation peoples. Instead, the indigenous communities in the United States face a continual battle to erase their existence from their ancestral lands.

In House Made of Dawn, Momaday uses Abel, the protagonist to tell a narrative that native communities face on and off reservations. Throughout the novel, Abel ends up with an internal struggle as to where he belongs in this country. Life is bleak on his reservation yet when he relocates to Los Angeles Abel finds himself disconnected from the world. The battle within himself leads him into the consumption and abuse of alcohol. As a native writer, Momaday draws on his own experience to detail the novel.




Nicole Bousquet

Dominique Alfandari (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Veterinary Science, UMass Amherst

Evaluating the Role of MCRS1 in Regulation of the Six1-Eya1 Transcriptional Complex during Embryonic Development

Six1, a transcription factor, forms a complex with its co-factor Eya1 during embryonic development in order to initiate the development of the structures that form the ears and kidneys. A mutation in either of these genes can cause abnormalities during craniofacial and renal development, resulting in branchiootorenal spectrum disorder. Since a mutation in either Six1 or Eya1 is the known cause of this disorder in only about half of all cases, we sought to characterize the expression of the Microspherule protein 1 (Mcrs1) gene as a possible candidate for causing the disorder. Mcrs1 has previously been found to interact with Six1 in Drosophila and to have high expression in Xenopus embryonic tissues that also express Six1 (placodes, branchial arches, neural crest, nephric mesoderm). We hypothesized that Mcrs1 interacts with the Six1-Eya1 complex during early embryonic development and is required for the normal function of this complex. Co-immunoprecipitation assays and mass spectrometry of HEK293T cells expressing Six1, Eya1, and Mcrs1 show that Mcrs1 binds to Six1. Gain-of-function experiments in HEK293T cells, XTC cells,

and Xenopus laevis embryos demonstrate that Mcrs1 negatively affects the transcriptional activity of Six1 and Eya1 when all three genes are present. Additionally, loss-of-function experiments in Xenopus embryos indicate that Mcrs1 represses the Six1-Eya1 transcription of ARE-containing promoters but activates the Six1-Eya1 transcription of MEF3-containing promoters. Mcrs1 clearly affects the transcriptional activity of reporter genes when present; therefore, a mutation in it would likely disrupt normal transcription and function of the Six1- Eya1 complex and would likely cause branchiootorenal spectrum disorder.


Pia Diana Martin

Amanda Leigh Murray Hyde (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Greenfield Community College

Survey of Rodents in the Greenfield Community College Wetlands

Rodents are an integral part of the ecosystem; many animals rely on them as a primary food source, and their presence can be a measure of ecosystem health, and an indicator of predator population. The goal of this project was to assess the species richness and population density of rodents in the small wetland on the Greenfield Community College (GCC) campus. This was done through observation of organisms, combined with trap and release. Rodents were identified with the use of paper and online field guides, and instructor assistance. There were six species of rodents and one species of rabbit found in the wetlands, though not enough animals were captured to estimate population density. The eastern striped chipmunk (Tamias striatus), meadow vole (Microtus pensylvanicus), woodland vole (Microtus pinetorum), the meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius), and the Eastern gray squirrel (Scirus carolinensis) and an unidentified rodent, possibly a southern bog lemming (Synaptomys cooperi) or a red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi). Some species of rabbit (Sylvagius spp.) was also identified via scat. Because multiple species live in the wetlands, this may indicate a healthy ecosystem, as species richness in such a small area can be indicative of abundant resources. Because of the small size of the area, difficulties in trapping, and the late-season timeframe of this study, more research will be conducted in Spring 2020 to determine true species richness and its impact on the surrounding area.


Lily Matthews

Jazmin Natalie Encarnacion

Julia Lucia Sabo

Karen A. Dunphy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

Oxytetracycline-Resistant Enterococcus Found in the Milk Replacer at the Hadley Farm

The Veterinary Microbiology class at Umass routinely assesses oxytetracycline resistance at the Hadley Farm. Oxytetracycline-resistant bacterial strains were repeatedly detected in association with bottle feed lambs. Plating the milk replacer used to bottle feed lambs on agar plates with 100ug/ml oxyteteracycline resulted in the isolation of an oxytetracycline-resistant strain in the milk replacer. Based on the characteristics of the oxytetracycline- resistant bacteria in the milk replacer, we hypothesize that one of the probiotics in the milk replacer is oxytetracycline-resistant and that it may have the potential to transfer the resistance to bacteria in the GI tract. The concern is that the oxytetracycline-resistant probiotic may be a reservoir for the transfer of antibiotic resistance.

Our initial objectives for the project were to isolate each of the 2 strains of probiotics, Enterococcus faeceum and Bacillus subtilis, in the milk replacer and confirm resistance. We use PCR to differentiate between Enterococcus strains (Enterococcus faeceum and Enterococcus faecalis) and to identify the specific tetracycline resistance genes present in the probiotic. Now that we can differentiate the tetracycline-resistant probiotic, we intend to test if it has the capability to transfer its antibiotic resistance to another species via bacterial conjugation. These experiments have to potential to demonstrate if probiotics, which are intended to improve animal health, may be a reservoir for antibiotic resistance and consequently detrimental to animal and human welfare.


Sydney Lee Nassiff

Amy J. Rubin (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Veterinary Science, UMass Amherst

How Different Feeding Methods Affects Equine Top-Line Development

In the equine industry, there is a constant search for improvement of management practices. Recent articles from trade journals have focused on the potential that different feeding methods may significantly affect the development of the muscles that make up the top-line.  The head and neck constitute the major balancing mechanism of the horse. (Moore, 2010) If simple feed management changes can help support the development of the top-line and yield better neck and back musculature, the horse and rider will benefit greatly.

Equine facilities have recently made use of slow feeder hay bags to address obesity concerns in certain equine patients. With the use of these elevated slow feeding bags has raised the question of the relationship between change in posture and development of the equine top-line.

This study observes thirteen horses age 3-29 years old, varying breeds and exercise regimen. Background data including exercise, diet, feed position and underlying medical conditions were collected. Measurements were taken using saddle fit tracings and photographs. The control group includes six horses who continued to receive their hay in the elevated position. For seven horses in the study, the level of hay was changed from elevated (fed in hay bag) to positioned on the ground and measurements were taken every two weeks for six weeks.

Best practice in equine feeding recognizes that mimicking a natural grazing position is best for the respiratory health of the horse. Feeding from the ground allows the nasal passages to drain properly and prevents debris from entering the eyes and the nares. This study will address whether top-line musculature can also benefit from feeding in this more natural position on or near the ground.


Vivian Nguyen

Kristy Morgan McCann

Kathleen Arcaro (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

Determining Nephrotoxicity of Steroidal Glycosides from Asiatic Lilies on Feline Kidney Epithelium

Cats are extremely sensitive to the toxic effects of lilies, which, if ingested, can cause acute renal failure and even death within a couple of days. In contrast, dogs may have minor stomach upset following the ingestion of lilies, but no signs of renal failure occur even when ingested in large amounts. However, the exact toxins and toxic dosage for renal failure remains unknown, and the lack of lily toxicity in other animals calls for further investigation. The feline lily toxicity project is focused on determining the toxic compounds in species of the Lilium genera, with the goal of providing a vital contribution to the proper diagnosis and treatment of lily toxicosis in cats. Previous studies have identified a complex of solasodine- glycosides from Easter lily flowers as the principal components of the observed cytotoxicity in feline kidney epithelial cells. To further investigate the nephrotoxins, we isolated five steroidal glycosides: two steroidal glycoalkaloids and three furostanol saponins, from Asiatic lily bulbs and compared their effects on feline kidney epithelial cells with those of canine kidney epithelial cells. We hypothesize that steroidal glycosides will cause cytotoxic effects when applied to feline kidney epithelial cells, and we expect to see no cytotoxic effects when steroidal glycoside compounds are applied to canine kidney epithelial cells. With the identification of the toxic compounds, this study should aid with the determination of the method in which the toxins induce cell death as well as the development of a more effective treatment for feline lily toxicosis.


Jacinda Santiago

Joseph A. Bruseo (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Holyoke Community College

Rabbit Bonding Behavior Observational Study

Rabbits are social creatures and those that are bonded together have increased health and social benefits (citation). For this study, the behavior of two neutered male European Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) were observed and recorded in a neutral territory along with methods to promote bonding. The rabbits vary in breed, age, size, personality, and previous social experience with other rabbits. While there are multiple variables that could potentially influence the behaviors of the animals, and the sample size is minimal, this observational study seeks to generate an inter-breed inventory of behaviors. An ethogram of behaviors was produced listing positive, neutral, and negative behaviors. Chi-square analysis will be used to determine if behaviors occur more or less frequently than expected by chance. Data generated from this study may be used in future investigations into the likelihood of bonding in domesticated rabbits.


Katie L. Sullivan

Heidi Campbell

Kimberly A. Amaral (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Bristol Community College

Continuing Research on Pollinator Diversity in a Retired Cranberry Bog

This study involves the collection and identification of pollinators to investigate the species inhabiting a former cranberry bog called Mill Pond in Freetown, MA. We are gathering a baseline on the pollinators as well as the plants/pollen that the pollinators are utilizing. Pollinators are being collected and identified following protocols generated by our collaborators at Massasoit Community College. The spring and summer of 2019 were primarily spent training in the protocols developed by our collaborators and included some field collection, where we trapped almost 200 insects. Of those, there have been 38 bees and we are in the process of identifying species of those bees. Starting in April of 2020, we will begin a whole season of bee collection and identification, continuing through the fall of 2020. This collection protocol will continue as former bog will be undergoing restoration, returning it to its former natural wetland state. We are hoping to see if there will be any changes in the number of pollinators visiting the area or any changes in species visiting the site both pre- and post-restoration.




Elizabeth Webster Cadieux

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

The Poverty-to-Prison Pipeline: Discriminatory Bail and Pretrial Practices in the US

The administration of bail in the U.S. systematically discriminates against indigent individuals by forcing them to be incarcerated until their trial simply because they do not have the money to pay their bail bond. These individuals are overwhelmingly poor and black. Historically, the imposition of bail precipitated the release of a defendant, as any charge that was considered bailable warranted a defendant's release. However, bail policies in the U.S. after the consequent reform eras of the 1960s and 1980s have dramatically altered the cultural perception of bail. A presumption of detention for most defendants is the norm, and conditions for release of bailable defendants have become increasingly stringent and restrictive. This has fueled mass incarceration rates and disparities, as more poor and black defendants are being locked up in pretrial detention as a result of excessive bail conditions. The impact of pretrial detention on a defendant's case is usually negative; the defendant, alongside losing their freedom, is often subject to job loss, custody of children, and the ability to prepare for their case. This is an egregious affront to the constitutional rights of indigent defendants. However, the third wave of bail reform is looming near, and with it comes new ideas and perspectives on how bail can be administered fairly and without punishing poverty.


Hannah C. Davin

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

Toxic Neighborhoods: The Use of United States Law and Policy to Perpetuate Environmental Inequity in Marginalized Communities

The disproportionate siting of hazardous waste facilities in the United States is attributed to blatant racism coupled with socioeconomic discrimination. Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander communities in the United States disproportionately live in polluted and toxic communities, increasing their rates of infection and chronic disease. Focusing specifically on the perpetual disproportionate siting hazardous waste facilities in the United States, this thesis provides an analysis of United States law and policy and examines how it fails to provide environmental protection for marginalized communities. It examines the history of the Environmental Justice movement and legal cases that proved to be critical for its progression. It will analyze the demographics of the communities in close proximity to these sites and how race and socioeconomic status factor into the siting of a hazardous waste facility. The skewed concentration of marginalized communities near toxic waste sites contributes to increased rates of cancer, asthma, birth defects, and lead poisoning. This thesis yields the conclusion that consistent, national patterns of environmental injustice against non-White, poor, and politically powerless communities continue to be condoned by the United States government, denying marginalized communities the opportunity to live in environments that promotes healthy living and working conditions. Through the inclusion of racial minorities in environmental policy agendas, environmental legislation, and fundamental rulemaking process, federal and state agencies would ensure that all people have the same degree of environmental protection from environmental health hazards.


Mikael Fox

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

One Nation, Under Some: How Economic Inequality Is Ruining Democracy and How Unionization Can Save It

This paper examines the relationship between declining levels of democratic engagement, declining unionization rates, and rising economic inequality. The United States has the highest rate of economic inequality of any industrialized democracy. Despite the vast majority of Americans in favor of government action to reduce economic inequality, no such action has occurred. This paper synthesizes scholarly research to explore the reasons behind government inaction and to find the best solution to rising inequality. The deep pockets of organized business interests give them a disproportionately large say in the development of economic policy, and working-class people need organized muscle that can advocate for their interests at the federal level. The best option is the unionization of low-wage employees. Anti-union rhetoric publicized and encouraged by the employer class does not stand up to scrutiny, and when unions are stronger, economic inequality is lower. Unions also serve as microcosms of democracy, instilling habits of civic engagement in their members. Unions are the best option to reduce economic inequality and revitalize America’s declining democracy.


Rachel Goldstein

Lynnette Leidy Sievert (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst

Relationship between Ambient Temperature/Humidity and Hot Flash Experience

Previous research has shown that women living in temperate environments have a higher frequency of hot flashes. To our knowledge, no one has compared continuous temperature measures with hot flash occurrence. Therefore, this study will examine that relationship. This relationship will be investigated using ambulatory temperature and humidity monitors, subjectively reported hot flashes, and biometrically measured hot flashes using ambulatory Biolog monitors. Additionally, we asked women about current and childhood cold exposure, where cold is considered to be a month with temperatures below 0o C. To date, 29 women with a mean age of 50.0 years, s.d. 2.4, have participated in this hot flash study. In the two weeks prior to the interview, 63% of women subjectively reported experiencing a hot flash, and 85% reported ever having had a hot flash. We will adjust for body mass index (BMI) because BMI may be an insulating factor between ambient temperature and hot flashes. The exact cause of hot flashes and why some women experience them more or less severely than others or not at all is not currently well understood. Understanding the relationship between ambient temperature/humidity and hot flash experience can provide more information about variation in hot flash frequency within and across populations.


Lillian Healy

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

The Hill Can Do Better to Care for Those Over the Hill

The growth of the elder population in the United States will push the already challenged eldercare network to its limit. Elderly individuals are some of the most vulnerable, relying on the support of the government and younger generations. The United States is failing this population when assistance is what it needs most. Federal programming to support the elderly includes Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; none of the programs is capable of keeping up with the increased need that will be seen in the future. These failures present themselves in elder healthcare and retirement security. The impact of these failures can be seen in all aspects of elders’ lives; understanding this makes it possible to address solutions moving forward.


Nia Johnson

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

Conquest by Law: Using Education to Hold Back a Nation

Segregation has stood at the forefront as a problem for equity in the United States and because of that, it has plagued our education system. By focusing on the achievement gap, there are hopes to soon close the gap and confront the problem of segregation. The gap is not just a problem of funding, as it is a problem that troubles each generation. It is like a curse where, if your parents did not have a strong education, the chances for you are slim as well. However, funding does play a major role in closing the gap, because research shows that poor districts receive less funding than rich districts, thus making it challenging for teachers to provide necessary resources for their class and challenging for the school to hire teachers with the proper qualifications to teach these students. However, studies show there are more explanations of how urban education and the achievement gap can be fixed for the benefit of giving students an adequate education.


Sam Jones

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

Punitive Space: Prison, Rehabilitation, and the Built Environment

The prison system in America is a sprawling set of institutions that are now home to more than 2 million incarcerated individuals. The skyrocketing prison population has been a recent focus, and public calls for penal and sentencing reform are growing. However, this focus on legal and political reform obfuscates the intentionally and systemically punitive and unhealthy built environment of prison. Despite ostensibly serving as sites for rehabilitation and eventual reintegration, the prison environment, particularly in the United States, is inherently damaging to the health of prisoners and staff in multiple domains. By examining the cultural and architectural history of prison environments and the attitudes toward criminality, this paper finds a consistent through-line of a punitive and antagonistic conception of crime and punishment in both the United States and Europe, attitudes that have enshrined design paradigms that are punitive and hugely damaging to human health and rehabilitative efforts. By understanding the ways that the built environment has transported outdated ideas to the present day, areas, where the prison system is inherently and intentionally violent, can be identified and addressed. Only by simultaneously addressing the elements of the legal, cultural, and built status quo can real substantive change be accomplished.


Adam Karofsky

Kate Rachel Kreindler (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Classical Language and Literature, UMass Amherst

Zoomorphic Seduction: An Analysis of the Animal Forms Used by Zeus in Greek Mythology

Animal imagery is woven throughout Greek religion, art, and mythology. In this study, I examine the myths in which there is a zoomorphic transformation by the god Zeus with the intention of seducing a mortal woman. Using an animal or animal-hybrid form allows for Zeus to approach mortal women without the restrictions a fully divine or human form would entail. Examining the myths of Leda and the Swan, Europa and the Bull, and the Seduction of Antiope, I look at both the original literature as well as art depicting the myths. The depictions of Zeus in these myths provide information about the cultural and psychological associations with these animals, as well as the utility the forms they allow. Zoomorphic representations are a method of bridging the gap between a fully divine form and the human form that gods will sometimes take. In Zeus’s zoomorphic form he is on the human plane, yet also not restricted and tempered by the rules of human-to-human interaction. This study analyzes the boundaries broken by zoomorphic forms and the perspective they lend to the conceptualization of the divine form.


Juliana D'Alessandro Madden

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

Persistent Inequity in K-12 Education Finance: Moving Past Unsuccessful Reforms

For decades, scholars and policymakers have studied educational finance systems in an attempt to remedy the funding gaps between high and low-income districts. Inequity in per-pupil spending has been correlated to fewer resources, lower teacher salaries- which is linked to fewer teachers and poorer quality teachers, worse academic performance, and worse post-school outcomes. After the Supreme Court justices did not agree that education is a fundamental right in the 1973 case, San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, an interest in educational equity was sparked across the nation. Federal initiatives like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have been established to improve the quality of education for disadvantaged children. On top of these initiatives, multiple lawsuits against states to create an equitable funding mechanism for public education have been granted and have led to changes in certain state's constitutions. Even though years of work haves occurred to improve education and academic outcomes for disadvantaged students, financial inequity and achievement gaps persist. There is controversy among scholars concerning the next steps for educational equity; some scholars believe the path is to simply spend more, others believe the entire educational system must be reviewed. Comprehensive reform must occur to spend equitable amounts per-pupil in order to give every student a fair shot.


Mariah Morse

Brigitte Holt (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst

Evaluating Osteoarthritis in the Upper Limb within a Medieval Italian Fisherman Population

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the degeneration of the cartilage in the joint space which at advanced stages can produce pathological evidence on the boney articular surfaces of the joint. Clinical studies have correlated the progression of the disease to old age, obesity, and sex, with females more likely to develop OA. In archaeological studies, OA has been heavily debated in its relation to mechanical stress on the joint from repetitive activities such as subsistence-based activities. Certain visible indicators of the disease, such as eburnation, are more widely accepted as correlating with mechanical stress than others, such as osteophytes, which are known in clinical studies to develop with age. This project aims to study OA patterns in the upper limb of a sample of Italian Medieval skeletons housed in the Department of Anthropology at UMass. The Medieval people of Noli (Italy) relied heavily on fishing and net throwing. It would be therefore be expected that OA would develop in the upper limb joints after continuous use. Patterns of OA will be assessed in males and females and across age groups, and in particular in younger adults where the effect of age on OA progression should be minimal. Understanding the relationship between OA development patterns and mechanical stress on the joints will allow future archaeological studies to use the disease to reconstruct activities in past populations.


Akanksha Nagarkar

Lynnette Leidy Sievert (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst

The Relationship between Activity Levels and Hot Flashes

Approximately 75% of US women experience hot flashes during the menopausal transition. Exercise is a common recommendation made by healthcare providers to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms at midlife. This research explores the relationship between exercise and hot flash frequency and severity in women between the ages of 45 to 55. Data were collected from 29 women aged 45.2 - 54.2 years (mean age 50.0, standard deviation 2.4). The amount of exercise performed by each participant was qualitatively obtained through a series of survey questions that enabled the participant to self-report activity levels. Activity levels were also quantitatively analyzed using an ActiGraph wGT3X- BT, which is a wearable watch that measures the acceleration and movement of the participant. Furthermore, hot flash frequency and severity were biometrically measured by an ambulatory monitor and qualitatively assessed through a series of survey questions. Approximately 85% of participants reported experiencing hot flashes at some point in their lives and 63% of participants had experienced hot flashes in the two weeks prior to data collection indicating the sheer prevalence of this symptom. The data from this research were analyzed further to investigate pertinent correlations. The results of this study can be used to determine if exercise should be recommended to people in the menopausal transition.


Mairead Ballou Noblewolf

Mohamad Junaid (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Anthropology, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Not Just Harry Potter: The Resurgence of Magic and Paganism in the Twentieth Century

The popular perception of practitioners of paganism, particularly the Wiccan religion, draws to mind magic, mysticism, and the world of Harry Potter. Paganistic religions flourished in Northern Europe and the British Isles for centuries before the imposition of Christianity, which then became, and still is, the dominant religion in much of Europe. However, today you’ll find many practicing pagans, not just in Europe but around the world – there is a flourishing pagan population in the United States, especially New England. How did these religions spread from Europe to Massachusetts? Why? My research combines historical analysis of the resurgence of pagan religions, focusing on but not limited to the creation of Wicca in the mid-20th century, and ethnographic interviews with local practicing pagans and members of non-pagan religions alike to develop an understanding of two vital questions: What led to the resurgence of paganism in the mid-20th century? What draws people to paganistic religions? Drawing upon published anthropological and sociological studies of religion and religious revival, and previous studies of the development of paganism, my research aims to gain a better understanding of this recent and intriguing religious revival. Based on my study of Wicca, my research reveals how a lack of satisfaction with existing religious institutions as well as changing social relations in our society are key contributing factors behind the resurgence of paganism in New England.


Madeleine Jane Powers

Brigitte Holt (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst

A Biomechanical Analysis of Age and Sex-Related Changes in Femur Robusticity of the Noli Sample

Throughout life, bone remodels in response to age trends and mechanical loading. Cross-sectional geometric properties of femurs provide insight into these remodeling processes. A previous study on femurs of a prehistoric population from the Pecos Pueblos showed localized sex-specific regions of remodeling. The Pecos male femurs are A-P oriented while female femurs are M-L oriented, probably reflecting specific mechanical factors. With age, there’s a decrease in cortical thickness (CT) due to declining bone strength and density. Increased subperiosteal expansion and moments of the second area were evident in both sexes of the Pecos while a study of modern Europeans found this evident in males only. This contrast could indicate differences in levels of physical activity between sedentary modern Europeans and active prehistoric Pecos males and females.

Here, we examine a Medieval sample from the coastal town of Noli (Italy) to determine if this population underwent a remodeling of the femur, similar to that of the Pecos, due to their rugged terrain and shared strenuous activities. Using standard skeletal markers, individual age and sex were determined and femurs were categorized into three age groups: young (20-35 years) middle (35-50 years) and older (50+ years) adults. CT scans were used to quantify femur cortical structure at 20 and 50% bone length where most age-related and sex-specific changes in the femur occur. Results will be compared to a large sample of femurs broadly distributed geographically and in time, yielding insight into the Noli sample and their level of activity throughout life.


Victoria Mary Selser

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

Childhood through the Lens of Adversity: The Lasting Effects of Childhood Trauma and the Mitigating Role of Pediatric Primary Care

Adverse childhood experiences are stressful and potentially traumatic events including abuse, neglect, and household dysfunctions that have the potential to reshape the developing brains and bodies of children. Dependent on the child’s unique set of circumstances, the consequences of adversity can result in negative outcomes of behavior, academic competence, and physical and mental health. To lessen this impact of childhood trauma, there has been a substantial amount of consideration for identifying victims of childhood trauma before the repercussions of adversity proliferate. Considering the status of adverse childhood experiences as a threat to national public health and the present paradigm shift marked by an evolving legal landscape, a holistic review of adverse childhood experiences and the magnitude and scope of their consequences is warranted. Putting the impacts of adversity to the developing brains and bodies of children center stage, this paper examines how the consequences of childhood trauma manifest over the lifetime and the steps that can be taken to mitigate the burden of adversity on our society. Ultimately, this analysis reveals a growing body of support for initiates that facilitate intervention and prevention of childhood trauma, yet the necessity for the United States to take a more active stance in eliminating the threat to the health and well-being of people all across the globe.


Sarah Elizabeth Spillane

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

Incarcerating Motherhood: Mothers in the American Incarceration System

Maternal incarceration is rising at alarming rates in the US, leaving numerous mothers imprisoned and children separated from their mothers. Through library research and analysis of sources written by scholars of the field, this presentation examines how mothers experience the process of their incarceration and the effects that incarceration has on families. Research reveals that the incarceration system is ignorant to gender differences and ignores the complexities in the lives of mothers. Mothers receive harsh sentencing, poor healthcare, and little support both during and after their incarceration. Overall, the incarceration system is damaging and hurtful to incarcerated mothers and their innocent children and can inflict potentially lifelong harm on both. Alternatives such as nurseries and community-based residential programs are discussed, as well as potential solutions, including law and policy changes that recognize the complex realities of the mothers being locked up.


Lydia Kate Sweetser

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

How Health Care Policy in the United States Continues to Fail Minorities

The United States healthcare system has been a topic up for debate, especially with the widely known Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010. The longstanding issue of inadequate healthcare for low-income populations, those of whom are also often minority has yet to be fully solved. With the recent debate on whether Medicaid and the ACA coverage should be cut back, the US must revisit the past work that was accomplished while creating and passing the ACA. This thesis explores the promises of the ACA, those fulfilled and failed, that policymakers, advocates, and healthcare providers were looking to make with the unprecedented law. The ACA had set out to disproportionately improve the coverage of and affordability of healthcare for low-income populations, however, the overarching goals were not reached to an effect that truly impacted the health outcomes of minorities. This thesis explores the exact impact that healthcare and health scares have on low-income minorities with and without insurance. In breaking down each major part of the goals of the ACA with healthcare affordability, quality, and accessibility, this thesis unravels the underlying causes of racial disparities at the heart of the US healthcare system. In concluding this thesis, potential solutions and future suggestions are made with caution of the political climate and controversy present in the healthcare debate.


Victoria Aliana Vazquez

Lynnette Leidy Sievert (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst

Money Pains: Economic Status, Stress, and Hot Flashes

Our research examines a possible relationship between human biological and lifestyle traits and hot flashes. In this presentation, I will explore the relationships between hot flashes, stress, and economic status. To date, 29 people aged 45.2 - 54.2 experiencing perimenopause or menopause have participated in our research. Sixty-three percent of participants experienced hot flashes within two weeks prior to their laboratory visit. Furthermore, 85% of participants reported having ever experienced a hot flash. We measured the stress levels of participants with the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). The PSS scores we gathered ranged from 4 - 27, where a higher PSS score indicated more perceived stress for the participant. We found that participants who experienced hot flashes during the two weeks prior to laboratory sessions had a significantly higher PSS score compared to participants who had not experienced hot flashes during the two weeks prior. Along with the PSS, we administered a lifestyle and health questionnaire to participants, including questions relating to economic and work-life status. According to PSS results, high perceived stress indicated a higher likelihood for hot flashes in people experiencing menopause and perimenopause. I will also determine if there is a relationship between PSS scores and economic status and if hot flashes are more likely in perimenopausal and menopausal people within certain economic statuses who are experiencing higher stress.


Ziwei Wang

Krista Harper (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst

Social Process of Science: How Dual Nature of Laboratories Change How Research Is Done

The culture of the laboratory has been studied by anthropologists in the context of scientific research, with a special focus on techniques and the methods that are applied to create new science. However, the laboratory is also a place of work, and while the job is unlike most workplaces, the lab members are still the employees of the private investigator. As a result, culture and by extension, relationships within the lab are influenced by the competing ideals of laboratory as a workplace and as a place of scientific discovery. As a place of scientific discovery, there is both an expectation of a clear uninterrupted scientific process where every member of the lab has equal standing in the lab. As a workplace, there is a need for work-life balance and a hierarchical organization of employees. Because of this, the various relationships that make up the lab are often contradictory. These contradictory dynamics are most often exemplified by the lab member’s ambivalence for authority figures such as the PI or the environmental health services. There are certain ideals that the scientists are beholden to and lab members often try to keep up an appearance of fulfilling that ideal even when that is not necessarily happening or even possible. Because of the competing cultural norms, the research that is produced is created in a social process.


Sarah Ruth Weise

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

Never Going Home: The Criminalization and Systemic Preservation of Homelessness in the United States

Homelessness is a long-standing issue in the United States and it is now necessary to address its root causes. The causes of homelessness are often attributed to a lack of affordable housing and economic turmoil. Recently, several pieces of legislation have attempted to resolve and alleviate homelessness. This legislation has not been fully implemented and in several ways has failed to truly address the issues homeless people face. Ordinances and laws subject homeless people to over-policing and criminalization adversely affecting their chances of leaving homelessness. The criminalization of homelessness creates a culture of homeless people as deviants and criminals, stigmatizing them and disconnecting them from community and society. Homeless people are routinely marginalized by federal, state, and local governments and lack access to political systems and resources that have the potential to help them out of homelessness.


Ian Worstell

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez (Faculty Sponsor)

Commonwealth Honors College, UMass Amherst

Separate and Unequal: Segregation by Law in the Greater Boston Area

The United States has not always experienced black-white racial segregation at the high rates it does today. Following the end of the Civil War black-white segregation was actually very low, yet explicit government policy was enacted during the first half of the twentieth century in order to isolate growing urban black populations spawned by growing industrialization. These “de jure” forms of racial segregation included discriminatory lending and redlining, affordable housing and zoning policy, as well as state-sponsored violence. Today, with government segregation abolished by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, history has been rewritten to blame social, “de facto”, factors for the failure of racial integration. Placing culpability on individual prejudices, the American public at large no longer views segregation as an important national issue, and as a problem solely encountered in a regressive American South. This, too, is a misconception. Boston, a city touted for its progressive ideology, remains one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the country. An assessment of decades of data on racial segregation in Boston demonstrates that this issue is nationwide. Even as segregationist policy has come to an end, the historical legacy of these laws continue to have measurable and wide-reaching effects on intergenerational black-white disparities in wealth, health, and education that continue to worsen. As the U.S. government played a leading role in engineering and perpetuating racial segregation and black-white inequity it must play a role in comprehensively addressing it.




Samantha Leigh Gallagher

Erika Zekos (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Architecture, UMass Amherst

Translating Sustainable Practice into Historic and Urban Fabrics: Green Design in Florence, Italy

Cities are being pushed to develop more sustainable environments due to climate change and the Green Revolution. As a result, buildings are being constructed all over the world with a focus on using cleaner materials, emitting less waste, sustaining themselves with building standards such as net-zero, and providing healthier and happier spaces for all.

As simple as it would seem to continue to replace existing buildings and construct completely new ones, in historical and heavily populated cities, architects need to respect historical value, and develop an approach to sustainability that uses existing buildings and landscapes and transforms them without altering their history and relationship to the wider scope of the community. One of the cities where this rings true is in Florence, Italy. With a vast amount of historic buildings in the city center and a lack of sustainable systems in place, there lies a challenge to figuring out how to effectively preserve the past while trying to prepare the city for a future affected by climate change. This thesis focuses on how cities can expand accessible greenery and sustainable structures while preserving the historic architecture and urban fabric. Case studies from New York City and Singapore will look at how cities can build for sustainability and benefit socially and economically. It will then look into how Florence can serve as an example for other cities with a deeply rooted architectural history.


Utsav Lakhlani

Timothy Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

STEM Starter Academy, Springfield Technical Community College

Biomimicry: Design and Construction of a Sustainable Dwelling Compatible in Temperate, Arid, and Tropical Conditions

Architecture is one of the remarkable features in every society and cannot be separated from nature. Optimal design is a central concept that needs innovative approaches to achieve overall sustainability. Biomimicry is about solutions refined and developed by nature. In architecture, biomimicry can be applied to improve the way the built environment is designed, through site work, construction, and daily operations, and to reduce the impact it has upon the natural environment through numerous strategies of reducing carbon emissions, waste and improve energy efficiency. The goal of this project is to apply biomimicry concepts in construction methods and to apply those skills in designing and building a dwelling, adaptable to temperate, arid and tropical conditions. Methods in the study include simulation modeling using Autodesk Revit 2017 to design and model the concept dwellings, evaluate efficiency using Autodesk Green Building Studio, and statistical analysis between conservative and biomimetic approaches. Biomimicry is used to design a more sustainable water harvesting system, HVAC system, a solar roof inspired by the leaves of a tree and a house design inspired by the way a Stenocara beetle harvests water. Mimicking nature is now proven to be very efficient, green, and adaptable. It is concluded that in the design of buildings and structures, designers and architectures must work with nature and take responsibility for the earth’s finite resources. Nature proves to be regenerative, and human-designed systems can use comprehensive approaches to realign with nature.


Richard Marcil

Ray Kinoshita Mann (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Architecture, UMass Amherst

Seeking Comfort: The Invention and Evolution of the American Home

Since the earliest days of the republic, the American Home has been regarded as one of the most important ways to embody the new nation’s values of equality and freedom. In Thomas Jefferson’s thinking, homes that were “attractive enough to encourage family pride yet unpretentious and economical,” would help create a “stable agrarian citizenry” as opposed to bands of troublesome “restless homesteaders” (Wright p. 73). Though the American Home has evolved many times over the centuries, it has endured as both a symbol and locus of comfortable living. I propose to examine several key American houses through the lens of comfort, focusing on how ideas and inventions over time both reflected and shaped American values. I will be analyzing two “famous” homes—Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain) house—each of which self-consciously embodies the unique visions of their owners and their times. I will correspondingly be analyzing two homes that would have been for a “typical” family in each of the respective eras, as a way of examining how uniqueness and typicality were both facets of “American- ness.” For my study of comfort, I will use the framework of the Roman architectural theorist Vitruvius Pollio’s three elements of architecture—Firmness, Commodity, and Delight—on the theory that Comfort manifests in all three in both distinct and interrelated ways. Through this research, I hope to gain a better understanding of how ideas about comfortable living shaped buildings in specific ways that were not only inventive and useful, but also reflected and changed people’s thinking and values over time.


Stephanie Spiegel

Ray Kinoshita Mann (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Architecture, UMass Amherst

Regenerating Materials Replacing Mining in Architecture

Studies have found that 90% of the ecological footprint of construction is due to the sourcing of materials for concrete and steel and that the built environment is one of the leading causes of climate change. With this in mind, designers have the potential to have an enormous impact by seeking out effective sustainable design solutions. Fortunately, new research has made it possible for designers to envision the use of alternative materials that can replace steel and concrete. Bamboo and mycelium, rapidly growing material, have proven to be effective weight-bearing and tensile materials that emulate the abilities of these common materials. Despite limited access to proper facilities, I am looking into the potentials of these materials at a smaller scale in order to brainstorm ways they can be utilized. For my thesis, I will utilize techniques used in “The MycoTree,” a project directed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Block Research Group ETH Zurich. The MycoTree employs the capabilities of both materials. The mycelium building blocks act as a means to withstand pressure and stabilize the structure, while the bamboo acts as a source of tensile strength, holding the branches together. By studying this design, I will be able to create a furniture scale piece with similar principles while pushing my understanding of the material’s abilities.




Madeline Yamtho Bastug

Sam O'Connell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

Confronting the Abstract

Since the birth of abstract expressionist art as a dominant style circa 1946, represented strongly by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and more, defied traditional visual artists by engaging very different and organic imagery in their work, yet arguing an equal amount of time, quality, effort, and complexity. Contemporary views often follow a script that runs along the scoffed lines of “My kid can do that”; this is exactly the scoffed remark which is being challenged through my pieces for this series. Through a complex field, exhibiting a mature and deep thought process in regards to color scheme, texture, motion and such, painted with acrylic on stretched and unstretched, unprimed canvas. The goal is not to force the audience to love the style, yet to respect and appreciate the works by understanding that the creation is very much so about the process and artist, not just the finished product. The inspiration by the works will remain less talked about, as the paintings are created by my own personal experiences, though the real motivation behind the works, overall, is to have the audience to expand and adapt their mindset on abstract expressionist art.


Sean Casey

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Sean Casey UI/UX Design

Sean Casey is a graduating senior studying interactive multimedia and minors in music technology; he also holds a certificate in graphic design from Northeast Metro Tech. His portfolio boasts a wide range of work ranging from app design to magazine design and also features work such as fully coded and responsive websites. Sean’s work is known for it’s extremely clean and contemporary designs which leave little to be questioned, he strives to push the limits of not only his own capabilities but that of design and constantly continues to educate himself more on contemporary design and new programs/methods.

His favored form of design is that of web and app design where he can demonstrate his skills in HTML, CSS, wireframing, and Adobe XD. Sean plans to further his capabilities as a designer by honing his skills in such categories as Xcode, Javascript, package design, surface design, and logo design in hopes to make himself more of a well-rounded designer. Furthermore, Sean is also proficient in Pro Tools, Max MSP, and C++ where he spends most of his time coding and designing musical instruments and plugins for DAWs.


Tereza Cerekja

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Tereza Cerekja Design

Tereza Cerekja is a designer from Elbasan, Albania. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art + Design with a concentration in Graphic Design and a minor in Media and Communication Studies. She has a background in architecture and has a strong interest in visual arts. Her portfolio includes logo design, package design, publications, and branding and marketing campaigns.


Stefano D'Anna

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Stefano D'Anna Graphic Design

Going into the field of graphic design was not something I planned in the beginning. When going into college, I knew I wanted to study art and I thought graphic design seemed the most practical and I've always had a passing interest in logo and font designs. My main thought process when working on a project is to make my designs as clear and clean looking as possible. Balancing these kinds of ideas is what makes my work challenging and also feel rewarding. I also want my work to speak to as many people by making my messages clear and cohesive without being too abstract. I usually start a project by not starting it. I first have to sketch various concepts to see what the general idea of my design is going to be; from then on I translate those ideas onscreen to see what'll work. For the past few years, I've been learning to design work that is very practical to the marketing and advertising world. Throughout my graphic design career, I hope to learn more in the fields of business, advertising, and technology because I believe that graphic design is one of the most useful and practical forms of art in our everyday lives.


Sara E. DiBello

Sam O'Connell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

Horror, Comedy, and Life, Oh My!: Expressing Identity by Exploring Various Genres

As someone who isn’t very outspoken about political opinions, or world crisis, there is a certain stress of what to express in the art world; how to clearly address the issue with the form of art, how will the audience respond and understand the theme of the artwork, will the message be seen as positive or negative by the audience despite the artist’s intentions. I find art, however, as an opportunity to explore one’s identity, evoke both pleasant and unpleasant memories, and express specific emotions through their works based on their genre. What I am producing is a series of six different illustrations in different two- dimensional visual mediums and each piece is represented in different forms of style such as horror, comedy, fantasy, psychological, and documentary. Each piece will be differentiated based on color palette, subject/character, expression, and medium. Some pieces will be on one canvas, or paper, and others will have multiple series put together as one whole piece. What I hope to achieve from this is to inspire other beginning artists who might be struggling about what to create, how to start their portfolios when looking for an art career, or give them an opportunity to try and identify themselves through the expression of art. Another is to invoke the audience to allow them to delve into a person’s memories and can either relate or experience something new that they might not have gone through.


Matthew Eldar

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Eldar Design

Art is a stone which when thrown in a lake can create powerful ripples and perhaps make change on a far offshore. Graphic design can provide just such a tool in realizing a brand vision and inciting ripples of change in the world. Only a designer who understands this can truly inspire others, make them think, cause a change, and ultimately make an impact! I am just such a designer and the medium of graphic design is my catalyst for change in the world. My art is my stone.

My intention as a designer is to achieve the greatest possible impact on the world. I have found that graphic design is the most concise form of visual communication and the utilization of design, psychology, color, and composition are skills that come naturally to me in this undertaking.

I am a lifelong artist and, for the next few months, a student with Salem State University and soon to be a bachelor of the arts in graphic design with a minor in psychology. A lifelong Boston area resident, my design work has spanned the North Eastern United States and beyond. As a driven designer, I will not stop until I have made ripples and inspired great change in the world.


Cailin Flaherty

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Cailin Flaherty Graphic Design Portfolio

Cailin Flaherty is a senior graduating in May 2020 with a degree in art with a concentration in graphic design- from Salem State University. Her interests include colorful design, hand lettering, photography, photoshop, patterns, typography. Cailin focuses on colorful designs in a minimalist, simple yet intriguing design. Her portfolio includes advertising video animation, package design, restaurant rebranding, web design, logo design. Her designs focus on a wide range of colors which can be pastels to bright, bold colors.

Cailin has projects that focus on a variety of subjects, such as a themed restaurant, a grunge skateboarding ad, a vegan logo company, a Swedish water company, craft beer label. Her favorite style is more of a grunge aesthetic to fit more so along with her personality but also likes to incorporate colorful designs. Photography is one of my favorite mediums to use for projects. It has always held a special spot in my heart. It’s been a way for me to express myself and see the world through a different perspective than just with my eyes and capture my favorite moments in life. Each of the projects focusing on her strengths from photoshop, to illustration to hand lettering, and photography focusing on her strengths and interests to broaden her portfolio.


David William Hult

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Dave Hult Design

David Hult is a designer from Newburyport, Massachusetts. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art and Design with a concentration in Graphic design and a minor in advertising from Salem State University. David also has an Associate’s degree in Marine Environmental Technology from Florida Keys Community College. David’s design work is influenced by his love of art, eye-catching design, and effective marketing strategies. His portfolio includes logo designs, package design, publications, and branding and marketing campaigns.


Ashley Taylor Jones

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Ashley Jones Graphic Design and Photography Portfolio

Ashley Jones is a Senior-year student currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design with a minor in Business Administration. She will be graduating from Salem State University in May of 2020. Her portfolio presentation includes numerous pieces created digitally in the Adobe Creative Suite programs, along with photos taken on a DSLR camera. These samples of work display her versatility and adaptability within both the Graphic Design and Photography disciplines. This presentation demonstrates her strength and resiliency in using creative problem solving for marketing and branding, photography, digital illustration, page layout, and package designing.


Zhixi Lin

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Color, Typography, and Text: Graphic Design and How to Create Style

My portfolio focused on creating a visual meaning of both distinctive and exciting artwork. In this art portfolio, I arranged colors to create both compelling and elegant design. I express visual art in a two-dimensional space. In my work, I strive to make the audience aware of the integrity of the art through composition, perspective, line direction, light and shadow, and color processing. My goal is to build cohesive and robust marketing materials consisting of branding, logo design, and advertising campaigns.

For this portfolio, I will determine the theme, find some novel points, research the relevant based on the selected theme to enrich my idea. I used many visual elements to locate the subject, present the diversity of my work, and show my work in different forms to show my skills and abilities in different styles. I used three essential elements: color, typography, and text. I express emotions with intensity, using different typography to express different ideas and deepen the theme with text.


Kelsey Long

Alain Blunt (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art & Art History, Bridgewater State University

Gaia Bioplastics: A Solution to Plastic Pollution

The world is drowning in petroleum-based plastics. Plastics and their byproducts have created an environmental crisis by polluting our oceans and negatively affecting human health and diverse ecosystems around the world. Alternative bioplastics sourced from plants, especially hemp, seaweed, and lignin (organic polymers in wood and bark), offer promising solutions, but bioplastics currently make up only one percent of the global plastics market. My undergraduate scholarship in Graphic Design aims to build consumer awareness of bioplastics and promote their viability through branding, logos, and advertising designs. Based on research into hemp, seaweed, and lignin-sourced bioplastics, I have developed a brand called Gaia Bioplastics with different logo variations for each of the three types of bioplastics. I have also designed visuals for advertising bioplastics, including infographics, ad campaigns, packaging, and brochures that illustrate the sources and advantages of the products, as well as video clips and website designs that educate consumers in appealing ways about the financial, social, and environmental benefits of substituting new plastics sourced from plants for those based on oil and gas. The results of this interdisciplinary design project will be shared with biomaterials startup companies working with hemp, seaweed, and lignin in southeastern Massachusetts.


Amanda Lunn

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Amanda Lunn Graphic Design

My name is Amanda Lunn, and I’m a Graphic Design major from Salem State University. I will be graduating in the Spring. Art has always been a passion for me since I could hold a pencil, and Graphic Design is my way to harness my creativity into a career. One of my strongest interests is illustrating, so I like to portray that skill into aspects of my projects. I enjoy making my own graphical elements like iconography, lettings, and background when time constraints and the project calls for it.

My portfolio shows off my strengths, diversity, and creativity. I am able to tackle a wide range of projects, such as print ads, web ads, website design, cross-platform design, package design, brand redesigns, ect. I hope to portray a variety of styles within my work to the best of my ability. I have enjoyed taking more abstract concepts and translating them into concise and aesthetically pleasing visual experiences. I have also enjoyed the research that occurs in my field because it’s uniquely more than I would assume others who are not in an art field would experience. I can’t imagine many other students spending hours on baby clothes websites for their work.


Dylan Joseph Maida

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Dylan Maida Graphic Design Portfolio Presentation

Dylan Maida is a young designer with an interest in print and web design. The interest in design was sparked early on, as Dylan found a great interest in building things. From Go- Karts to taking apart computers, Dylan always had a fascination with digging into the details of something to figure out how they could come together to work as a whole. Naturally, he fell in love with design because of the details associated with getting every part of a piece to create something that works and feels natural.

Outside of design, Dylan’s interests include building motorcycles, playing guitar, and embracing nature. These elements ultimately come together in his work to highlight his simplistic, adventurous, and calculated approach to design. Dylan’s portfolio includes pieces that highlight his interests in web design, UI/UX design, and Publication Design.


Hannah M. Muggeo

Sam O'Connell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

Make Love Not War: Why We Should Act Like Hippies and Stop Fighting the Earth

Climate change is affecting all of us, we are also all contributing to climate change in one way or another. Global warming and the first man-made environmental changes were detected in 1960, in 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated, during this time an anti-establishment counterculture formed challenging the Vietnam War, law enforcement and segregation. From this counterculture rock and roll music took off and with that came psychedelic, loud and in your face virtually unreadable posters. I plan on creating a series of works addressing the topic of climate change and how humans are negatively impacting the planet. Through these works, I will be exploring the styles used by 1960s counterculture rock music poster artists such as Victor Moscoso and Bill Graham. With these works, I want to expose people to the effects of climate change in the same way that people were exposed to rock music. It is my hope that seeing climate change and human effects on the planet advertised and exposed in a visually loud and colorful way will bring awareness to the problem and urge people to become more environmentally conscious.


Michael Nicosia Nicosia

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Michael Nicosia Graphic Design Portfolio Presentation

Michael Nicosia will be graduating and receiving his Bachelor’s degree in May 2020, majoring in Art and Design with a concentration on Graphic Design and minoring in the field of Media and Communications. Some of his interests include video games, comic books, music, art history, classic animation, movies, drawing, and painting. Some of these interests and hobbies are shown through his work, such as the use of bold and eye-catching colors and contrasting type that make you want to view the piece and keep the subject in the back of your mind.

His design work leans more towards the minimal side, but still enticing to the viewer. His portfolio consists of projects such as a complete company rebrand, giving them a consistent brand image across all locations. Web design for a streaming service instead of using just a regular webpage. Publications design for a set of magazine spreads and other page layout projects, package design for a line including multiple flavors, and a digital ad campaign to bring more attention and users to a music streaming service. With these various types of designs and projects, Michael aims to educate his audience about graphic design and leave a lasting impression on the viewers.


Kimberly Elise Oliver

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Kimberly Oliver Graphic Design Portfolio

Kimberly Oliver is a digital artist and Graphic Design student at Salem State University. Her work is inspired by her interests in video games, cartoons, impressionism, and folk art. She loves to include fantasy elements and color in her art to give it life and keep it engaging to viewers. Being a senior at Salem State, her portfolio has a wide range of diversity and shows her creative skills thoroughly in Graphic Design. Some of the works included are print design, digital ad design, typography, logos, branding, animation, and illustration. Many of her works carry a sense of playfulness and fun while also being engaging and professional. Colors and personal illustrations are a huge part of her work and are often used to make her designs stand out from the rest.

She loves to share her creative ideas and take inspiration with those around her. Her approach to all of her projects includes brainstorming ideas and drawing inspiration from mood boards and aesthetics to create an interesting design that speaks to her clients' needs and wants. She looks at what needs to be done, the message that needs to be shown, and then uses that to figure out what works best. Her minor is in advertising, which helps to make sure her advertisement work is as effective as it can be. Her works strive to be competent, cohesive, interesting, unique, well designed, and eye-catching. As a Graphic Designer, her goal is to eventually create illustrative packaging and branding design for companies.


Amanda Rachel Pelletier

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Amanda Pelletier Graphic Design Portfolio Presentation

Amanda Pelletier is a graduating senior at Salem State University Studying Graphic Design and Advertising. Her work focuses on using strong imagery with original photographs and illustrations for support within her projects. These include; poster design, branding, spread layouts, package design, and photography. She prides herself on adapting to any situation and being able to collaborate with anyone, including clients and other designers. The goal of her portfolio is to showcase a solid knowledge of sound, graphic design principles while also letting her personality and style shine through. The variety of school assignments, client work, and personal art pieces included in her portfolio help demonstrate these attributes.

In addition to Graphic Design, Amanda studied communications and will graduate with a minor in advertising. This additional education helps greatly in understanding good branding and persuasive design, which is shown through the branding and original ad campaigns included in her body of work. Amanda’s love for fine art mediums such as mixed media painting, printmaking, photography, pencil drawings, and more to help her look at her digital projects with a more organic approach and helps in accomplishing anything she needs to put together a successful design. She is a passionate and determined person who aims to help anyone with a vision see their projects through to the end.


Sarah R. Penley

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Sarah Penley Graphic Design Portfolio

Sarah Penley is an Art and Design major with a concentration in Graphic Design. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Salem State University in the spring of 2020. She has an expansive portfolio that consists of illustrations, icons, package designs, app design, rebranding projects, and logo design.

She has a significant interest in creating illustrative graphics and including these design elements in the majority of her work in new and creative ways. Sarah's work is colorful and whimsical in style, but her portfolio expresses a broad range of different graphic styles. Her overall goal is to make designs that represent her interest and also explore various forms of design that are uniquely different than any other work.


Meaghan Lee Riedle

Sam O'Connell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

Children's Books Are Made to Be Different, but Why Are They So Similar?

What makes you, you? You can describe yourself in many ways, by the color of your hair, your favorite home-cooked meal, or the way you dress. Throughout elementary schools, every student comes from somewhere different, every student has their own unique story. I want to express that being distinctive can make a better community, whether it’s made up of different cultures, religions, or ethnicities. Seeing the differences in each other can help discover new possibilities in a community and lead to teachable moments about what makes everyone their own and to be able to share that and learn from one another’s variances. The children’s book I am creating will consist of 7 characters from each of the continents in respects to the animals indigenous to those parts of the world. Each animal character will have a corresponding quality or aspect to them. In the end, all the characters will come together in a gathering and explain and teach one another what makes them unique. This shows that anyone can come together and be able to learn from one another and learn about what makes them individuals. Saying that, I want to focus on individuality and the qualities that make up one another. Instead of focusing on specific cultures and ethnicities I am focusing on the qualities of each other. Some characters have abilities like loyalty and perseverance and in the end, they teach each other and share their differences with one another to gain the knowledge that people can be different and that’s okay.


Judith Ann Roy

Sam O'Connell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

Worcester State University: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Throughout its 145-year history, Worcester State University has continuously explored new challenges and opportunities to support a changing society. Through the examination of a myriad of artifacts as well as related literature, I have compiled a comprehensive chronology of the growth and development of Worcester State University since its founding in 1874 when it began as the original Worcester Normal School, which trained spinsters to devote their lives to being teachers. In 1932, the Normal School changed its name to Worcester State Teachers College and moved to its present Chandler Street campus. In 1960, Worcester State Teachers College became Worcester State College, and finally in 2010 became Worcester State University. These changes are documented through a seventeen-minute PowerPoint presentation that follows the four major changes to the University which have enhanced its impact on the greater Worcester community. The college had transformed from its beginning as a small teacher training facility to its present 4,000 students undergraduate population pursuing forty-nine majors. The present Shaughnessy Administration Building enjoys longevity as the first structure built when the campus moved to Chandler Street in 1932. In recognition of the buildings 87-year history, a two-dimensional 18" x 24" stained-glass replica of this icon has been created and will be gifted to the college. A brief presentation will outline the steps used in the production of this plaque.


Katelyn Sarah Seguin

Sam O'Connell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

This Is Love

People neglect to think about Jesus and the self-sacrificing love that he has for each and every one of us, truly inspiring, how a man can endure the traumatic worldly evils the way he did, and do it all in the name of love because justice and sacrifice needed to be served for the sins of the world so that maybe one day people within this world can make it into heaven. People may feel uncomfortable with the controversial topic and they may be taken back. People may think that I’m trying to preach my religion on others or they may be impressed that I painted a touchy topic, but what I am trying to do is create a deep internal emotion within the audience that I can either talk with them about or they themselves can reflect upon. By creating this deep-rooted emotion in people, they may confront it in a positive or negative way or they may repress this emotion all together. Ultimately, it’s a choice for each individual to make, with the free will to decide how they want to respond to this topic which is a blessing bestowed upon us by no other, but God himself, which is proof once again that God loves each and every one of us, so the question begins, what are you going to do now?


Duyen Tran

Mark J. Malloy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

WickedFit: An Athleisure Brand

Athleisure is a style of clothing that has a growing influence in American modern fashion as a result of its functionality and aesthetic. From my research of the market over the past year, I’d like to develop and present my own athleisure brand named WickedFit and experiment with the impact of digital marketing on the brand. People from the East Coast are generally high career-driven yet health-conscious and fashion-forward. According to Gallup Healthways State of American Well-Being research, Boston is ranked number one in active living environment. We are constantly on the go and prioritize living a healthy lifestyle. Thus there is a high demand in fashion styles like athleisure, which can provide looks, quality, and comfort at the same time. As a Graphic Design student with a minor in Advertising, I target to build the brand from prior researching, developing designs of the brand and marketing materials (web ads, social media components, etc), and prototyping its website and mobile app. Additionally, I hope to produce apparel products from my design by working with a clothing manufacturer to bring my mock-ups to life and produce quality marketing elements from there. I’ll work with a few digital marketing strategies such as social media marketing (boosting and promotion functions) or influencer marketing. I wish to present a well-developed design project to show the audience the process of building and marketing a brand.


Danielle Marie Williams

Sam O'Connell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester State University

Childbearing Hips and Other Fun Compliments: Illustrating Stealth Misogyny in Our Culture through Satire

I’ve been told that I didn’t have to worry about getting a degree because I would find a husband and have lots of kids, and that giving birth would be easy with my childbearing hips. Talk to any woman and chances are she can recount getting a compliment that insisted she was only good for breeding. Our culture is filled with so-called compliments that dehumanize and objectify women, and distill us to our biological ability to breed while also patronizing and dismissing our worth outside of these parameters. They are pervasive throughout our interactions, often given without thought and with the sincerest intentions. I am creating a series of single-panel comic-style illustrations that deconstruct some of these compliments, exposing and subverting the misogyny and sexism behind them using humor and satire. I want to examine how these “compliments” work to demean women, reinforcing the expectation that we have children while simultaneously punishing us for doing so, and how my audience can begin to recognize the implied meanings behind them so that they apprehend the full scope of what they are saying. I also want the women in my audience to understand that ultimately these words only hold the power we give them, and by exposing the subtext behind them, we can reject them and the misogynistic views they represent.




Runming Dai

Robert E. Gerst (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Liberal Arts, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

The Old Shanghai Film Era and My Great Grandmother

My great grandmother Tianxiu Tang was a famous film star in the 20s. She played major roles in over thirty films and was adored by a large audience for her appearance and outstanding acting skills. However, in the 30s, she faced a series of issues caused by her career as an actress.

First, as the film industry entered the sound era, she had to quit the screen. Part of the problem was the Republic of China's government started to popularize Mandarin after the New Culture Movement. My great grandmother spoke Shanghainese her whole life, thus she never had a chance to learn the new language. As she couldn’t keep up with the market, she had to retire from the acting career.

Second, in the 1960s, the Culture Revolution erupted in China. Under the leadership of Chairman Mao Tse-ung, the government wanted to get rid of old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits. The revolutionary communist militants saw my great grandmother’s films as representations of capitalism. As the films she took part in showed the luxurious lifestyle from Western cultures. Moreover, because my great grandfather complained about the new government and the anti-rich policies, he was handcuffed immediately and imprisoned.

The films survived absolutely have great research value. In Kisses Once(1929) played by my great grandmother, I found evidence of great culture shifting in Shanghai. The influences from Western culture appeared as different forms in the film, such as marriage values, lifestyles, dress codes, and feminist movements.


Alexandru Zaharia

Shou-chih Yen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art History, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Brancovan Art: Romania's Legacy against Colonialism

In a 1699 fresco in the Romanian monastery of Hurezi, Christ, Muhammad, and Calvin are depicted together. While Christ steers a boat symbolizing Orthodox Christianity moving forward across the sea, Calvin and Muhammad are on the shore, endeavoring to sabotage it. This spectacular 1699 fresco and its extraordinary iconography reflect its contemporary geopolitical situation, with the Orthodox Romanians caught between the Habsburg and the Ottoman Empires, under the watchful eye of the burgeoning Russian Empire. The Hurezi Monastery, a Gesamtkunstwerk comprising architecture, paintings, sculptures, and prints, is the most complete example of Brancovan art, named after the Romanian dominus Constantin Brancoveanu, heir to the usurped Byzantine throne. Utilizing religion as the most efficient instrument of the time, Brancovan art aims to strengthen Brancoveanu’s political power. While its style adapts foreign influences to autochthonous traditions, its meaning is profoundly counter-propagandistic, without resorting to “Orientalism”.

The Brancovan art challenges the popular discourse of Postcolonialism, an area of study which condemns Colonialism but fails to address its root cause: Imperialism. Focusing only on the former colonists who are today’s world powers and on the peoples they have succeeded in colonizing, Postcolonialism continues to prop-up and perpetuate the Colonial world order. Simultaneously, Imperialism continues unfettered, under a new, unstigmatized guise. This obscures the societies which, though oppressed by Imperialism, have resisted Colonialism. It should serve as an example in the face of New Imperialism: the national architectural style of Romania today is an iteration of the Brancovan art.




Kelli Fletcher

Richard Rees (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Westfield State University

Dancing with the Stars Season 4.6 Billion

Stellar nucleosynthesis is the process of making new elements from nuclear fusion reactions. Fusion proceeds in multiple layers with different elements burning in series of shells around the core of high/low mass stars. The goal of this project is to observe the effects of stellar parameters, such as: initial mass, metallicity, mixing, stellar wind, and rotation on dredge up in AGB stars. Using the MESA-Web stellar evolution code we will model nucleosynthesis in stars and simulate nuclear reactions of stars over their lifetime, as well as change a variety of parameters like the ones previously listed. Multiple models with different controls and independent variables will be run to compare the effects of each using intermediate-mass stars ranging from 3-8 solar masses.


Owen Kearns Henry

Alexandra Pope (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Astronomy, UMass Amherst

A Comparison of Mid-Infrared Spectral Decomposition and Full-Infrared Spectral Energy Distribution Modeling to Quantify AGN in Dusty Galaxies

How galaxies form and their evolution in time is one of the most fundamental questions astronomers ask in order to understand the Universe we live in. Galaxies have been observed to go through eras of active star formation and black hole growth, and eras of quenching. The mechanisms that govern these processes are still not known in great detail. We aim to quantify how active galactic nuclei (AGN) contribute to the quenching of star formation that occurred 8-12 billion years ago, and how the black hole harbored at the center of galaxies co-evolves with the star formation rate. In this work, we compare the mid-infrared spectral AGN fractions of 11 empirical galaxy spectral energy distribution (SED) templates with AGN fractions derived from photometry. We generate photometry from the SED templates from near-infrared to the submillimeter at redshifts z = 1 - 4. We find that the AGN fractions from these two methods are broadly consistent, except at z = 3. At this redshift, the MIPS 24 and MIPS 70 micron photometry do not probe the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon emission (PAH) features which are indicative of star formation in spectra. So at z = 3, the star formation contribution is underestimated and the AGN fractions are overestimated.


Arpit Jain

Kimberly Ward-Duong (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Astronomy, UMass Amherst

Updated Stellar Properties and Companion Candidates from the M Dwarfs in Multiples Survey (MinMs)

Measuring the multiplicity of companions to stars, and the frequency and properties of binaries and multiple systems, enables us to explore mechanisms of the star formation process. Low-mass stars are the most common stars in the universe, with a mass range of 0.08 - 0.6 solar masses. Brown dwarfs are 13 - 80 Jupiter masses, falling below the hydrogen burning limit. Observations have shown that substellar brown dwarf companions orbiting sun-like stars on <5 year periods are rare, a phenomenon known as the ”brown dwarf desert”. We present results from the on-going M-dwarfs in Multiples Survey (MinMs), a volume-limited sample of 245 low-mass nearby stars within 15 pc. The project aims to find the multiplicity of substellar companions to M-dwarf stars, and whether the brown dwarf desert exists for low-mass stars. We present a subsample of 55 brown dwarf candidates from the MMT Observatory using adaptive optics imaging to provide deep, high- resolution images. Near-infrared images were taken from 2013-2017 from 1-2.5 microns. We present a refinement of the MinMs target sample with new distances and proper motions using Gaia DR2, with typical 4.9% change in parallax from the previous Hipparcos measurements. We also compare the MinMs stars to the Banyan Σ catalog of young stellar associations and moving groups, finding 13 new young moving group members in the MinMs sample. Using the revised distances and ages, we estimate substellar candidate masses ranging from 40 to 70 Jupiter masses, with projected separations of 5 to 155 au.


Zoe Anne Kearney

Alexandra Pope (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Astronomy, UMass Amherst

Nature versus Nurture: How Environment Impacts Star Formation in Dusty Galaxies

There are many processes that act on galaxies, both internally and externally. Since the location of galaxies is not uniform throughout the Universe, some regions are more dense than others, so external environments vary. However, it is still poorly understood what the implications are of different density environments on the properties of galaxies such as their mass and star formation. These effects are even harder to understand when galaxies are shrouded in dust which impacts the amount of ultraviolet light observed and the accuracy of star formation measurements. However, by looking in the far-infrared (FIR) wavelengths, we see the starlight that gets absorbed by the dust and is able to obtain higher accuracy measurements. Using FIR data and 3D density maps of the COSMOS field, we aim to identify trends in star formation rate at different redshifts as a function of density. In similar past studies, which did not use FIR data and therefore did not fully consider the contribution from obscured star formation, they found that higher density environments lead to lower star formation at low redshift. Comparing our findings with this literature will indicate if the external environment impacts star formation once we have accurately accounted for the dust. We will discuss why these studies are comparable and why we are now able to incorporate FIR data. Addressing possible discrepancies in the results from the literature may signify a possible need for re-evaluation of the trends found in galaxy properties due to the environment and the physical processes behind them.


Kenneth Lin

Alexandra Pope (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Astronomy, UMass Amherst

Simulating the Millimeter Sky: Next-Generation Imaging of Dusty Galaxies

Understanding the demographics of the earliest star-forming galaxy populations is key to gaining insight into how galaxies evolve over cosmic time. However, our census of the star formation in the high redshift Universe over the last 11 billion years remains incomplete because of the dust obscuration of star-forming galaxies. Because incident light absorbed by dust is reradiated in the infrared and radio wavelengths, observations of dust-enveloped systems require sensitive millimeter-wave detectors. To date, observations of star formation activity in the early Universe have been limited by instruments with large beam sizes and low sensitivity, leaving the millimeter parameter space largely underexplored. The new unprecedented sensitivity of the three-color TolTEC imaging polarimeter coupled with the 50-meter Large Millimeter Telescope aims to fill in the gap in this electromagnetic regime to complete the census of star formation activity by detecting dust-obscured star formation up to high redshifts. In preparation for the commissioning of TolTEC, we quantify how far we can push the instrument in reliably extracting flux measurements from dusty galaxies by performing simulations and synthetic observations given TolTEC's capabilities. We present a set of simulated noise and signal maps consistent with the expected beam sizes and noise levels of the planned TolTEC surveys. We show the anticipated prevalence of multiplicity and optimal image processing strategies for disentangling blended sources in the TolTEC beam, enabling the expected data acquired with TolTEC to be exploited to the fullest extent.


Caitlin Moeller

Daniela Calzetti (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Astronomy, UMass Amherst

M33 in Multicolor: Star Formation from GALEX, Mayall, and Spitzer

Star clusters are a very useful tool in the study of star formation because they contain a large number of stars that are all assumed to have the same age, metallicity, and composition. In this project, we measure ~160 star clusters in the M33 galaxy by cross-correlating an existing catalog with archival images of the galaxy. Optical, ultraviolet (UV), and infrared (IR) images are used to examine the galaxy in multi-color and to compare colors with the ages of the stellar clusters. Photometry in the far-UV (FUV), near-UV (NUV), and Hα bands are corrected for dust extinction using Spitzer mid-IR (3 – 40 μm) imaging data. This allows for a more accurate comparison of stellar age with colors. The Hα to FUV flux ratio is calculated and found to have values that tend to decrease with age, which matches well with the evolution of emission known to occur in these bands. UV and Hα emissions are also used to sort star clusters into three age bins: ≤ 10 Myr, 10 – 30 Myr, ≥ 30 Myr. Several discrepancies within the stellar cluster ages previously determined by Ma et al. (2001) and our age range estimates are found. Some of the inconsistencies could be due to low stellar mass (≤ 5000 M), inadequate aperture sizes, or issues in the age determination method employed by Ma et al. (2001).


Meredith Stone

Alexandra Pope (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Astronomy, UMass Amherst

Uncovering the Hidden Link between Star Formation and Black Holes in Nearby Dusty Galaxies

Two processes - star formation and black hole activity - govern the gradual evolution of galaxies over billions of years, and the relative growth of each is poorly understood. To work towards a full understanding of how galaxies have changed over cosmic time, astronomers study both faraway galaxies in the early Universe and their closer, apparently brighter local counterparts. In the mid-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, there are atomic fine-structure spectral lines that are sensitive to each process, the star formation and black hole growth in galaxies, but some of these lines are faint and can be very difficult to detect in individual galaxies. Stacking, a technique of carefully combining the spectra of multiple galaxies thought to have similar properties, can allow us to detect fainter lines such as neon and oxygen. We stack the spectra of nearly 200 infrared-luminous galaxy systems in the nearby universe in bins of other known properties to establish the relationship between the growth of stars and black holes in nearby galaxies. It is crucial to establish this local baseline prior to exploiting these diagnostics in more distant galaxies with the next generation of NASA space telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope.




Rachel Maria Bates

Margaret Stratton (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Characterizing Calcium2+/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II (CaMKII) Splice Variants in Human and Mouse

Ca2+/calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), a threonine/serine kinase, is involved in important Ca2+ signaling pathways throughout the body and essential to neurological function. It is known to be involved in learning and long-term potentiation (LTP). CamKII is encoded by four paralog genes: alpha(ɑ), beta(β), gamma(Ɣ), and delta(δ). The protein consists of a kinase domain, regulatory segment, variable linker, and hub domain. CaMKIIɑ and CaMKIIβ are primarily expressed in the brain, and CaMKIIδ is abundantly found in the heart. CaMKIIƔ is expressed throughout the body, and known to be essential for fertilization in eggs. Experimental pharmacological and genetic lesions of CaMKII can impair LTP, memory and learning, as well as egg fertilization, cardiac rhythm, and other functions. The objective of my research is to obtain sequencing data from CaMKIIɑ in human and mouse samples in order to identify expressed splice variants and characterize the incorporation of auto-phosphorylation sites.

cDNA from human hippocampal tissue was chosen from sequencing in the brain due to the importance of the hippocampus to memory. cDNA from mouse heart, sperm and egg were used to understand more about the alternative splicing of CaMKII in CaMKII essential tissues of a model organism. Library Preparation Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCRs) were completed from these cDNA samples to make DNA libraries for Illumina Sequencing. Illumina Sequencing analysis has revealed splice variants that are of interest to study. These constructs will be recreated and expressed to study via mass mass spectrometry and kinase activity assays.


Rafael Christopher DePillis

Mingxu You (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

RNA Scaffold Mediated Chemotaxis Activation

Motility in bacteria is influenced by the chemotaxis cell signaling pathways that respond to chemicals in the environment. The goal is to eventually engineer oil-consuming microbes to be attracted to hydrocarbon pollutants such as oil spills. Trimerization of aspartate receptor dimers is one of the first steps in the sensation pathway and only occurs when an attractant is detected. Hydrocarbons are not natural attractants so intervention is necessary for chemotaxis activation. This study will investigate creating an RNA scaffold to dynamically assemble aspartate receptors into close proximity to form the aspartate trimer of dimer formation. An aspartate receptor of Escherichia coli will have an HIV-1 Rev protein attached to the cytoplasmic fragment. RNA aptamers are oligonucleotides that bind to a target molecule with high affinity and specificity. Three single-stranded RNAs will assemble into a three-way junction scaffold, each branch containing two RNA aptamers for the HIV-1 Rev protein. Formation of the RNA scaffold will allow assembly of the aspartate receptor complex and activate the chemotaxis signal cascade by making an array of trimers. The structure of the three way junction will be characterized by the relative distances between each branch. Two fluorophores, cyan and yellow fluorescent proteins, will be tagged with bacteriophage coat proteins, PP7 and MS2 respectively, that can bind to aptamers placed on the branches of interest. Formation of the RNA scaffold will allow assembly of the fluorophore tagged bacteriophage coat proteins in close proximity and corresponding fluorescence resonance energy transfer between fluorophores.


Gabrielle Farulla-Bastian

Min Chen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Developing a One-Pot Hemolytic Assay for the Analysis of a Potential Targeted Cancer Therapy

Targeted pore-formin-toxins are a relatively new area of research in the field of targeted cancer therapies. These toxins are, in theory, rendered inactive by another large molecule connected via a linking domain. This linking domain contains a cut site for a cancer-relevant protease, making it susceptible to cleavage and, subsequently activation, when exposed to high levels of the protease. Here, monomers of perfingolysin O (PFO) are inhibited by a green fluorescent protein (GFP) on the C-terminus. This inhibitory GFP is mediated by a matrix metalloprotease (MMP2) cutsite, allowing it to be rendered active when exposed to this protease. MMP2 is overexpressed and overactive on the surface of multiple types of cancer cells, specifically those which are particularly aggressive or likely to metastasize. This makes MMP2 an attractive target for cancer therapies of this sort, but, before any trials in mammalian cells can be performed, a robust assay must be developed to test the cleavability and activity of this pore-forming toxin. The conditions of this assay must allow 1) red blood cells to survive in the absence of any pore-forming toxin, as to minimize background noise; 2) render MMP2 active in order to cleave the inhibited pore-forming toxin; 3) render the wild type and cleaved mutant toxin active. The development of such a method is the focus of this project.


Yu Fu

Patrick Flaherty (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, UMass Amherst

Defining New Subclasses of Cis-regulatory Elements with Reformulated Dimension Reduction Algorithms

The key to understanding human genomes is the interpretation of the biological functions encoded in the genome sequences. However, cis-regulatory elements are only generally defined, and complex regulatory mechanisms remain unclear as a result. With new sequencing techniques, we are learning more about the correlation between epigenetic information and regulatory functions of genome sequences. We hypothesized that because epigenetic modifications are associated with regulatory functions of genomes, the information for new subclasses of regulatory elements is embedded in the existing epigenetic datasets, which could be discovered with low dimensional visualization. We are building a system with a combination of t-SNE and UMAP algorithms, which cluster putative cis-regulatory elements based on epigenetics marks. The original UMAP model cannot produce distinct subclusters given DNA hypersensitive regions with ten histone marks as features. Therefore, the UMAP algorithm needs to be reformulated based on biological facts and data structure. Additionally, DNA methylation and transcription factor binding features are incorporated into the clustering algorithms. The ultimate goal is to interpret subclusters with their correlated biological functions for a better understanding of regulatory landscapes in the human genome.


Anne E. Gardella

Margaret Stratton (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Characterization of CaMKII Dissociation Using Mass Photometry

Calcium/ calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) is implicated in cell signaling and neuronal functioning, such as learning and memory. CaMKII has been characterized to have an important role in muscle cardiac tissue and to be heavily involved in fertilization processes. In this work, we measure the size of CaMKII oligomers across a wide concentration range to determine the concentration at which CaMKII holoenzymes dissociate. CaMKII forms tetradecameric and dodecameric complexes. It has been shown that CaMKII exchange subunits between complexes in an activation-dependent manner. Here, we employ mass photometry to further elucidate the dynamics within holoenzymes. Mass photometry is a tool used to accurately measure the mass of single molecules in solution based on the refractive index. Our data shows that the hub domain alone (oligomerization domain) does not dissociate even at 45 nM concentration, whereas the holoenzyme (hub plus kinase domains) starts to dissociate even at 100 nM. Further elucidating the dissociation parameters for the holoenzyme will allow us to better understand complex processes such as subunit exchange, which may provide a molecular mechanism for memory.


Eli S. Gordon

Elizabeth Vierling (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Mitochondrial Trans-membrane ATPases Help Mediate Mitochondrial-ER Communication at Membrane Contacts

All eukaryotic cells contain membrane-bound organelles that must communicate information about their states to other parts of the cell in order to regulate diverse biochemical processes. Membrane Contact Sites (MCSs) are essential for mediating communication between membrane-bound organelles, as well as with the plasma membrane. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and mitochondria are two such organelles. Communication between the ER and mitochondria is essential for many cellular processes including reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling, Ca2+ buffering, cell differentiation and apoptosis. Previous experiments in the Vierling Lab, performed in Arabidopsis thaliana, revealed that a mitochondrial transcription termination factor (mTERF), SHOT1, interacts with specific transmembrane mitochondrial ATPases, enriched in MCSs. A.thaliana has four of these SHOT1-binding ATPases (SBA proteins), SBA1 to 4, which are homologues of the ATAD3a protein from humans. Genetic analysis indicates that SBA proteins are essential to plants, as they are in other eukaryotes. The goal of this research is to determine the function, precise localization and topology of the SBA proteins, and to identify their interacting partners. Plants with reduced SBA1 expression have been created using artificial microRNA to define the SBA loss-of-function phenotype during normal growth and under stress conditions. To identify SBA interacting proteins, affinity chromatography with GFP and BC2-tagged SBA1, as well as proximity labeling with SBA-TurboID will be performed using transgenic plant material. Results will provide novel information about MCSs in plants and their role in plant growth and stress tolerance.


Philipp Guettler

Elizabeth Vierling (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Identifying Arabidopsis thaliana Mutants with Altered Nitric Oxide Homeostasis

Nitric oxide (NO) is an essential signaling molecule in most organisms. In plants, NO regulates many essential functions that impact seed germination, photosynthesis, fertility, stomatal movement, programmed cell death, root architecture and more. Despite the significance of NO as a signaling molecule, much remains to be learned about plant genes involved in NO biosynthesis and homeostasis. Our goal is to identify mutants with altered NO homeostasis and to clone the corresponding genes in order to reveal more information about NO homeostasis in plants, using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model.  To identify potential mutations that allow for growth in an environment with high NO, which normally limits root growth, Arabidopsis thaliana wild type seeds were first mutagenized with ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) to create random point mutations (M1 seeds), and plants grown from these seeds were used to obtain M2 seeds for mutant screening. The M2 seeds were then exposed to an NO donor (1.0 mM DETA/NO) during growth on MS agar plates, and their root lengths compared to that of wild-type seedlings under the same stress conditions. M2 seedlings that displayed an elongated root phenotype were transferred to soil to obtain the next generation (M3 seeds). M3 seeds are being used for further analysis of the root phenotype and sensitivity to NO.


Nora Haggerty

Elizabeth Vierling (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

The Role of MAC7 in the Arabidopsis thaliana Heat Stress Response

The MOS4 Associated Complex (MAC) plays a vital role in the immune response and development of Arabidopsis thaliana plants. Mutants lacking MAC subunits show downregulation of genes in biotic and abiotic stress pathways. One component of this complex is MAC7, a nuclear protein that is evolutionarily conserved across eukaryotes. MAC7 plays a role in miRNA biogenesis and plant defense, and a homozygous mutant is embryo lethal, indicating this is an essential gene. The Vierling Lab focuses on how plants respond to heat stress and has shown that the molecular chaperone Hsp101 (HOT1 gene) is essential for heat tolerance. To further understand Hsp101 function, suppressor mutants were isolated that restored heat tolerance to hot1-4, a dominant-negative allele of Hsp101. Whole-genome sequencing of one suppressor mutant (shot4) suggested that the mutant gene was MAC7. Plants homozygous for shot4 could not be isolated, consistent with the essential nature of MAC7. Further research is needed to determine the role of MAC7 in the stress response and if the suppressing phenotype is allele-specific to hot1-4. To achieve these goals, mutants of MAC7 were crossed with hot1-3, another heat-sensitive mutant null for Hsp101. Polymerase chain reaction is utilized to confirm the genotypes of mutants heterozygous for MAC7 and homozygous for hot1-3. Heat stress assays will be performed to assess the growth and phenotype of these mutants. These studies will provide a better understanding of how MAC7 functions, the role of Hsp101, and of the heat stress response in A. thaliana.


Alexandra Hommer

Margaret Stratton (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Characterizing the Kinase Domain of Ca2+/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II

Ca2+/calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) is a serine/threonine protein kinase that has been implicated in cell signaling and neuronal functions such as long-term potentiation (LTP) and learning. The kinase domain of CaMKII, in particular, is important for both substrate binding and activation of the holoenzyme. In order to better understand the role of the kinase domain, several mutations are made to render the kinase catalytically dead. Three common mutations, K42R and K42M, which both disrupt a salt bridge formed between an n-terminal beta sheet to a glutamate on an alpha helix that helps to coordinate ATP binding and D135N, which prevents deprotonation of the substrate, are widely used in literature as catalytically dead kinases. I will test these constructs for their stability and activation in the context of the kinase domain alone and compare them to wild type kinase and full-length CaMKII. My main objective is to characterize stability through differential scanning calorimetry and activation through a coupled kinase assay. In addition to this study, I will explore the effects of CaMKII g expression in egg cell activation. After fertilization by a sperm cell, there are Ca2+  cascades in an egg cell that activates the CaMKII g gene. If CaMKII g is removed, the egg expresses a sterile phenotype. On completion of these studies, we will have a better understanding of the structural importance of the kinase domain in relation to the holoenzyme and to expression in egg cells.


Rachel Jansen

Lila M. Gierasch (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Deducing the Origin of Hsp70 Binding Selectivity by Structural Study

Hsp70s are a family of molecular chaperones that help cells survive under stress conditions. Chaperones prevent protein misfolding events, characteristic of many neurodegenerative diseases. Hsp70s perform their chaperoning functions through interactions between their substrate-binding domain (SBD) and sequences of their protein clients. The specific details of the interactions between the chaperone and diverse sequences remain unknown. Much of the work on the interaction between Hsp70s and client proteins has been done using DnaK, the E.coli Hsp70. In 1996, the structure of the SBD of DnaK bound to one model peptide was determined using x-ray crystallography (Zhu et al., 1996), and more recently, the forward and reverse binding between the SBD and a few small peptides was observed. (Zahn el al., 2013). Therefore, it is known that the SBD can accommodate numerous sequences but is also selective. My project aims to gain insight into this “promiscuous selectivity” through analyzing atomic resolution structures of SBD bound to various peptides. To begin dissecting the binding of SBD to various sequences I am using proPhoA, an endogenous substrate of DnaK, that has been shown to have five potential DnaK binding sites. Structures of the SBD bound to peptides that contain four of the five binding site sequences have been solved using x-ray crystallography. These structures present interesting findings including two populations in one crystal and two modes of binding (forward and reverse) with the same hydrogen bond patterning. Understanding this information will shed light on the basis of Hsp70/substrate recognition.


William Carl Johnson

Craig T. Martin (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Development of Affinity Capture Approaches to Improve RNA Synthesis by T7 RNA Polymerase

RNA produced in vitro by T7 RNA polymerase is widely utilized in the fields of RNA therapeutics, CRISPR-Cas9, RNA interference, and riboswitch sensors. However, in vitro RNA often contains RNA byproducts that contaminate the desired product. Such byproducts have greatly stifled budding fields such as mRNA therapeutics, which require high yields of pure RNA to avoid host-tissue immune responses. One well-characterized mechanism of byproduct formation, termed cis self-primed extension, occurs when T7 RNA polymerase rebinds the released runoff RNA that has folded back on itself. In this conformation, RNA is then extended from its 3’ end in a self-templated manner, producing longer than expected RNA. To prevent this during transcription, DNA oligonucleotides (oligos) complementary to the 3’ end of the transcribed RNA are added to sequester this desired RNA and prevent self- primed extension. This method results in a higher yield of the correct RNA product with fewer of these byproducts.

While this first approach is powerful, it prevents only one class of off-pathway RNA byproducts, produced from full-length RNA. To remove double-stranded and shorter contaminating RNAs, we are developing technologies to easily affinity purify the desired RNAs and remove contaminating RNAs. This simple, cost-effective technology will greatly improve in vitro transcription and benefit RNA researchers in countless fields.


Colin Andrew Lemire

Sibongile Mafu (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Elucidation of Terpenoid Biosynthesis in Sclerotinia

Terpenes are a large class of specialized metabolites found in plant and fungus species that have been widely studied for their medicinal and cytotoxic properties. The plant pathogenic fungus Sclerotinia homoeocarpa was previously shown to produce eleven nortetralabdane compounds that exhibit strong antiplasmodial and growth inhibitive properties. Our objective is to elucidate the biosynthesis of these unique terpene compounds in S. homoeocarpa. Genome mining identified two terpene cyclases as well as multiple clustered cytochromes P450 (CYPs). Combinatorial expression in Escherichia coli and GC-MS analysis of extracts revealed that one cyclase, ShTPS1, is a bifunctional diterpene synthase that produces the 20-carbon compound pimara-8(14),15-diene. This diterpene likely acts as a scaffold to be modified by downstream CYPs into nortetralabdanes. The second cyclase, ShTPS2, produces several 25- carbon sesterterpenes, one of the least well-characterized subsets of terpenes and a frontier for pharmaceutical research. The discovery of ShTPS2 is uniquely interesting due to its promiscuity and the rarity of characterized bifunctional sesterterpene synthases - terpene synthases with a chimeric prenyltransferase domain. Homology modeling of ShTPS2 identified targets for site-directed mutagenesis in the prenyltransferase and terpene cyclase domains. Mutations in these areas reveal both the functional plasticity of the enzyme and that the promiscuity may result from cationic intermediates of a single terpene cyclase pathway. This research contributes to understanding the diversity of terpene biosynthesis in fungi and allows for the biosynthesis of compounds of interest that are naturally produced at low levels, enabling future work to investigate their function.


Ranjana Lingutla

Jesse Mager (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

Expression and Phylogeny of Mitochondrial Ribosomal Proteins

Mitochondria are regarded as the “powerhouse” of cells and are involved in multiple cellular functions including cell growth, differentiation, and development. The mammalian mitochondrial ribosome, or mitoribosome, is a biologically active protein complex responsible for synthesizing the 13 critical proteins of the electron transport chain, an integral component of the oxidative phosphorylation pathway. In recent decades, over 70 mitochondrial ribosomal protein (MRP) genes have been identified in mammals. Defects or mutations in multiple MRP genes have been linked to facial dysmorphism, neurological deterioration, lethal cardiac and respiratory illnesses in humans. Although little is known about the specific structure and function of the MRP genes, even less is known about their gene expression during early embryonic development. In this study, we use the mouse model to examine if the MRP genes display lineage or tissue specificity during early development and in adult tissues. We also conducted a phylogenetic analysis to assess the evolution and relatedness of the Mrp proteins. Our findings suggest that the 79 Mrp genes are not part of a single gene family, but rather arose from distinct genes to form the functional mitoribosome. A stronger understanding of the evolution and expression of the MRP genes will deepen our understanding of the mammalian mitoribosome and their vital role in growth and development.


Joseph Paul McGaunn

Alexander Suvorov (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst

iCons: The Role of the mTOR Pathway in Developmental Reprogramming of Liver Lipid Metabolism and the Liver Transcriptome by 2,2’,4,4’-Tetrabromodiphenyl Ether (BDE-47)

The epidemic of metabolic diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is linked to chemical exposures during vulnerable windows of development. Developmental exposure to the environmentally ubiquitous flame-retardant BDE47 may permanently reprogram lipid metabolism, resulting in an NAFLD-like phenotype. BDE-47 also alters the activity of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTORC2 in hepatocytes. The mTOR pathway integrates environmental information to regulate lipid metabolism, innate immunity, and ribosome biogenesis. We hypothesized that the developmental effects of BDE-47 on liver lipid metabolism are mTOR-dependent. We conducted two LoxP-Cre recombinase breeding experiments, generating liver-specific knockouts of Rptor and Rictor (components of mTORC1 and 2 respectively). Knockout mice and controls were exposed perinatally to BDE- 47 or vehicle only. Liver and serum were collected from exposed offspring on PND65. Serum triglycerides were analyzed using the Cayman COX Kit, and transcriptomic analysis of hepatocytes was conducted via Illumina RNA-seq. Sequencing data were analyzed using Metascape Ontology and Gene Set Enrichment Analysis. Western blots were also conducted to analyze mTORC1 and 2 activity. Results suggest that developmental exposure to BDE-47 permanently reprograms liver lipid metabolism, innate immunity and other cellular functions via mTOR. Differences in transcriptomic responses to BDE-47 exposure between wild type animals from mTORC1 and mTORC2 breeding schemes suggest that genetic background intersects with developmental exposures to determine lifelong effects on the liver transcriptome. Our results provide a hypothetical model of gene-environment interaction in life-long reprogramming of liver lipid metabolism and other functions and suggests mTOR pathway modulation may affect susceptibility to environmental exposures.


Holden Matthew Nelson

Roderico Acevedo (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Westfield State University

Assaying Cofactors of DHFR in the Creation of a Cost-Practical Biochemistry Laboratory Exercise

The conversion of dihydrofolate (DHF) into tetrahydrofolate (THF) by the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) is an important step in the formation of nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and RNA. This reaction is present in all organisms and as such, the redox chemistry has much potential as an undergraduate biochemistry lab experiment. DHFR uses the cofactor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) as an electron acceptor in the conversion of DHF to THF. NADPH is chemically identical to another common cofactor in the body, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), with a single added phosphate group being the only difference. However, NADPH costs over $1,000 dollars per gram more to produce synthetically, when compared to NADH. The goal of our study is to determine if a more cost-effective method of this redox reaction could be carried out by using the more affordable cofactor NADH. Here, recombinant DHFR from E. Coli will be expressed and purified through immobilized nickel-affinity chromatography. The kinetic assay will take advantage of the strong absorbance of DHF at 340 nm to monitor the conversion of reactant to product. A plate reader will be used to monitor the standard kinetic assays to determine the Michaelis-Menten (Km), VMAX, and Kcat of DHFR using both NADPH and NADH. Previous small-scale computer experiments have suggested that mutagenesis of DHFR’s cofactor recognition site could improve NADH binding. These kinetic experiments would reveal if mutagenesis is needed to improve this important redox reaction.


Michela Elisabetta del Re Oster

Daniel Hebert (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Exploring the Role of Endoplasmic Reticulum Mannosidases in Reglucosylation

The majority of proteins targeted to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) receive N-linked glycans, a post-translational modification composed of Glc3Man9GlcNAc2, which promotes proper folding and quality control. The folded status of glycoprotein is reflected in the modification of N-linked glycans by quality control factors in the ER. One such quality control factor is UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase 1 (UGGT1), which acts as a sensor of glycoprotein folding status. UGGT1 promotes glycoprotein folding by recognizing non-native substrates and glucosylating the N-linked glycan which supports interaction with the ER chaperones calnexin and calreticulin, promoting proper folding and retention in the lectin chaperone binding cycle. Mannosidases are implicated in the extraction of substrates from this cycle through the trimming of N-linked glycans such that they are no longer substrates for UGGT1. This is essential for the removal of substrates from futile binding cycles and promoting the degradation of misfolded glycoproteins. Preliminary results from our lab indicate that inhibition of mannosidase activity increases reglucosylation levels of glycoproteins. This study aims to elucidate which mannosidase, or mannosidases, promotes extraction of glycoproteins from the lectin chaperone binding cycle. Using human cells (HEK293-EBNA16E) with the Alg6-/- gene knockout, we will analyze reglucosylation of a misfolded substrate, alpha-1 antitrypsin NHK, via a cell-based reglucosylation assay developed by our lab. The seven known ER mannosidases will then be knocked down individually using siRNA to compare the reglucosylation of NHK in the presence and absence of these mannosidases. Overall, this study will further elucidate glycoprotein quality control and the function of ER mannosidases.


Astha H. Parmar

Elizabeth Vierling (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Testing the Role of Nitrosation of Conserved Cysteine Residues in the Enzyme S- nitrosoglutathione Reductase

S-Nitrosoglutathione reductase (GSNOR) is a type III alcohol dehydrogenase that is crucial to nitric oxide (NO) homeostasis in all organisms. GSNOR is involved in regulating the effects of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species through catabolism of GSNO. The activity of GSNOR is proposed to be regulated by specific post-translational modifications, including S- nitrosation of cysteine residues and phosphorylation of serine and tyrosine residues. Based on studies with purified GSNOR, Cys-10, Cys-271, and Cys-370 are targets of nitrosation. To test the importance of Cys nitrosation to the regulation of GSNOR, A. thaliana hot5-2 plants, which are null for the GSNOR gene, were transformed with GSNOR genes in which Cys-10, Cys-271, or Cys-370 have been replaced by Ala, which will prevent nitrosation at these residues. Homozygous transgenic plants will be tested to determine if the transgenes complement different phenotypes of the null mutant. The hot5-2 mutants are heat sensitive as observed in heat stress assays where they exhibit severe yellowing due to reduced chlorophyll and cell death. Higher levels of NO are proposed to allow plants to survive under salt stress. GSNOR acts as a negative regulator of salt tolerance. To test salt stress tolerance, seedlings will be treated with different concentrations of NaCl. The mutants are expected to survive if nitrosation is essential to GSNOR activity, as high levels of NO will be present, and wild type plants will die due to high salinity.


Prem Patel

Elizabeth Vierling (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Using CRISPR-Cas9 Mutagenesis to Understand sHSP Function in Stress Response

Molecular chaperones support other proteins in proper conformational folding or assembly of different subunits, which is essential because, in proteins, structure essentially determines function. Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are a type of molecular chaperone that can be expressed in response to various types of stressors, however, they are upregulated most strongly by heat stress. Plants especially require these chaperones because plants are sessile and therefore vulnerable to stressful environments. Two classes of cytosolic small HSPs (sHSPs), Class I (CI) and Class II (CII) are expressed in response to heat in Arabidopsis thaliana. While they likely serve some overlapping and redundant functions, it is also probable that they serve unique functions. CRISPR technology was utilized to create a knockout mutant of the two CII sHSPs in A. thaliana. Analysis of these CII mutants indicated some upregulation in the expression of CI sHSPs, suggesting possible compensation. A CRISPR-Cas9 strategy has now been designed to knock out all six of the A. thaliana CI genes. Further testing of CI and CII mutants will be done to determine if they are defective in heat stress tolerance at a variety of growth stages, and how the absence of these proteins impacts the expression of other molecular chaperones.


Tasneem Rinvee

ChangHui Pak (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Rapid and Efficient Generation of Induced Astrocytes from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Astrocytes play critical roles in establishing and maintaining functional neural networks through refining synapses and maintaining structural and metabolic support in the nervous system. Although many research studies have accumulated an abundance of information regarding the functional roles of astrocytes and their structural organization, these studies have been primarily derived from mouse astrocytes. Rodent models of astrocytes have the drawback of being structurally less complex and diverse than that of human astrocytes, which may not provide a sufficiently accurate model to study astrocyte function in the human brain. The current technologies for the derivation of astrocytes from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) are slow and inefficient. In the past, differentiation processes have ranged from at least 3-6 months due to the lack of effective methods to promote the gliogenic program of neural progenitors. These methods are technically challenging and have also produced variable and inconsistent results in the differentiated products. Consequently, my research explores efficiently generating induced astrocytes from human pluripotent stem cells with a rapid timeframe of three weeks based on the previously published method by Canals et al., 2018. This approach demonstrates that the differentiation process can be accelerated by forcing the expression of cell-type-specific transcription factors, namely NF1B and SOX9, in stem cells. This innovative cell reprogramming and engineering techniques can be applied to patient-derived iPSCs carrying naturally occurring patient-specific mutations for several neurodevelopmental disorders, such as schizophrenia, intellectual disability (ID), and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This method will allow us to generate induced astrocytes and explore their effects on neurodevelopmental disorders through a dependable and non-invasive means.


Marina K. Russo

Hang Xiao (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Food Science, UMass Amherst

Anti-inflammatory and Anti-cancer Properties of Polyphenols from Edible Brown Seaweed Laminaria and Gracilaria

Exposure to inflammation can put stress on the epithelial cells and increases a person’s risk of developing cancer. Polyphenols are widely distributed in plant foods. Accumulating evidence showed that polyphenols can be used to elicit anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. The non-extractable polyphenols (NEPs) from plant foods are not well studied but are potentially responsible for the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Herein, NEPs from Laminaria and Gracilaria, an edible brown seaweed, were tested for its anti-inflammatory as well as anti-cancer effects in cell culture models. To determine the anti-inflammatory effects of the NEPs a nitric oxide (NO) assay was conducted in macrophages. The NO assay was able to determine the amount of inflammation per cell after treatment with the polyphenol sample. The anti-cancer effects were determined using an MTT assay in human colon cancer cells. The MTT test determined the overall cell viability of each sample treated with varying concentrations of polyphenols. These results were analyzed to produce half-maximal inhibitory concentrations necessary for both the inflammation and cancer studies. A sodium nitrate standard curve shows the production of NO after incubation with different polyphenol concentrations. qPCR and cell cycle analysis gives further insight into the mechanism by which inflammation and cancer cell growth are being reduced. Future testing will allow a better understanding of the polyphenol’s health benefits so that a nutraceutical can be constructed to reduce inflammation and provide protection against colon cancer.


Braeden Reev Sagehorn

Eric Strieter (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Exploring the Binding and Activity of USP Deubiquitinating Enzymes

Deubiquitinases (DUBs) play an essential role in the regulation of the ubiquitin pool among a myriad of other regulatory processes within the cell. Of great importance is exploring the relation between processivity and activity to decipher the specificity, or lack thereof, in polyubiquitin chain cleavage. USP5 (IsoT) and USP15 are two DUBs intimately linked to a variety of cancers due to their regulatory role in such pathways as the TGF-b [KD1] signaling pathway and the p53 pathway. Understanding their specificity and role in polyubiquitin chain cleavage could shed more light on their regulatory abilities within such pathways. Two methods for exploring the relationship between processivity and binding: kinetic time course assays and fluorescence polarization assays (both competitive and non- competitive). USP15 is assessed using homotypic K6 linked chains of varying lengths to generate a kobs for processivity. With the catalytically inactive USP15 C297A, fluorescence polarization was used to generate Kd values for understanding their binding. Future optimization with USP5 will be used to explore a similar relationship to USP15.


Sashrika Saini

Lila M. Gierasch (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Exploring Hsp70 Chaperone Interactions with a Protein Substrate

Molecular chaperones play a key role in maintaining a healthy cellular proteome by performing protein quality control. Heat shock protein 70s (Hsp70s) are a diverse class of evolutionarily conserved chaperones that interact with short hydrophobic sequences presented in unfolded proteins, promoting productive folding and preventing proteins from aggregation (Clérico et al., 2015). Despite extensive research that reveals selective promiscuity between the Hsp70 substrate-binding domain (SBD) and client proteins, there is a paucity of data on the interaction of Hsp70s with large protein clients. To investigate the interaction between Hsp70s and a full-length substrate, we chose to characterize the binding of the E. coli homolog, DnaK, to the precursor of alkaline phosphatase (proPhoA). proPhoA is an endogenous substrate of DnaK that is unfolded and soluble under reducing conditions and contains at least five sequences that bind DnaK when presented as short peptides (Rüdiger et al., 1997; Wild et al., 1992). To simplify the experimental conditions, we used truncated versions of proPhoA (~100 residues long) that contain 1 or 2 binding sites. We used biophysical techniques to reveal the affinity of binding, and NMR spectroscopy to elucidate the mode of chaperone binding to the proPhoA fragments. We found that there is a hierarchy of affinities among the 5 potential binding sites, and novel cryptic binding sites have been observed. In addition, data suggest there may be a role for residues beyond the canonical five-residue core sequences. The mechanism of DnaK binding site selection on a substrate containing multiple potential sites and the structural basis of interaction between the chaperone and its respective binding sites on a full-length substrate will be described.


Alfred Samkutty

Margaret Stratton (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Characterization of a Small Molecule Inhibitor of CaMKII Subunit Exchange

CaMKII (Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase ii) is crucial for learning and long-term memory formation. A typical CaMKII holoenzyme is comprised of 12 identical subunits and features the unique ability to exchange these subunits with other CaMKII holoenzymes in an activation-dependent manner. Inhibition of this property can provide further insight into the biological relevance of subunit exchange and its impact on learning and memory. Currently, the majority of CaMKII inhibitors target the kinase domain, which is the site of CaMKII catalytic activity. This project, however, focuses on a novel small molecule that may inhibit subunit exchange by binding and stabilizing the hub domain. We have binding data using Trp fluorescence as a readout showing that the first generation molecule binds with micromolar affinity. The interaction between this inhibitor and CaMKII at the molecular level will be elucidated through X-ray crystallography. The hub domain alone will be expressed, purified, and then crystallized with the small molecule inhibitor bound. Understanding the interaction between the small molecule inhibitor and CaMKII hub domain will provide both valuable information as to how the inhibitor functions and also possible avenues for optimizing the inhibitor’s efficacy.


Nicholas Maverick Scuderi

Dong Wang (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Identification of a Novel Gene Important for Nitrogen-Fixing Symbiosis in Medicago truncatula

Legumes have the ability to form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria and sequentially become capable to fix atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, a form that is readily available for plant metabolism. Before researchers can aim to expand this symbiotic role to include non-legumes, there is still limited understanding about the mechanisms involved on a genetic basis to achieve proper symbiotic nitrogen fixation. To elucidate the symbiosis, one isolated ethyl-methyl sulfonate (EMS) treated mutant line (11855) of Medicago truncatula was isolated. Upon inoculation with ABS7 a strain of Sinorhizobium medicae, the 11855 mutant displayed a fix-minus (fix-) phenotype characterized by a lack of pink coloration in the nodules and consequently stunted growth on nitrogen-free media. Using phenolic staining, the symbiotic effect in 11855 and other fix-minus mutants are being further characterized. Mapping populations of the 11855 line were created and displayed a segregation ratio suggesting a recessive mutation. Using Bulked Segregant Analysis (BSA) was employed to identify markers that are genetically linked to the mutation. Various possible locations for the mutation are being followed. The localization of the causal mutation responsible could lead to the discovery of a novel protein essential to nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, contributing to the understanding of this complex system.


Emily Grace Severance

Alicia Timme-Laragy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Health Sciences, UMass Amherst

Comparing PFOS-Induced Redox Toxicity in Kidney and Pancreatic Beta Cells

Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), a persistent xenobiotic historically found in firefighting foams and consumer products, is known to activate Nuclear Factor(erythroid-derived) like factor 2 (Nrf2), a transcription factor that regulates cellular antioxidant defense genes. Nrf2 activation is also hypothesized to be mediated by glutathione (GSH), the predominant cellular redox buffer. We interrogated whether PFOS activates Nrf2 by inducing reactive oxygen species (ROS) or via GSH depletion and how this compares between HEK293T and βTC6 cells. HEK293T is a human embryonic kidney cell line that conserves normal Nrf2 signaling, βTC6 is a mouse pancreatic beta-cell line; both kidney and pancreas are target organs of PFOS. We used a DCF assay and cyto-roGFP to quantify oxidative stress and a Nrf2-GFP fusion protein to visualize in vivo Nrf2 dynamics. In both cell lines, prooxidant exposure to 50 μM tert-butyl hydroperoxide (tBOOH) significantly increased ROS levels, PFOS did not significantly alter ROS production. Next, we used cyto-roGFP, a GSH redox potential biosensor, and determined that PFOS did not significantly oxidize cellular GSH pools. tBOOH significantly oxidized GSH pools in both cell lines, but HEK293T cells recovered whereas βTC6 remained oxidized. This was also reflected in MTT viability assays - βTC6 viability decreased 60% upon tBOOH exposure, HEK293T remained unaffected. We used time-lapse fluorescent microscopy to investigate the effects of redox disruptions on Nrf2 localization. PFOS significantly increased nuclear Nrf2 partially due to a 40% increase in de novo expression of nuclear Nrf2. Our data indicate that PFOS induces Nrf2, but does not impact GSH levels.


Vista Sohrab

Li-Jun Ma (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

A Comparative Mitogenomic Approach for Diagnosing Fusarium oxysporum Infections

The Fusarium oxysporum species complex is comprised of fungal pathogens that can collectively infect more than one hundred economically important plant species. Rapid identification of a specific causal agent of the disease in the field is critical for effective treatment. However, current diagnostic tools for strain differentiation is limited due to a lack of high discriminatory molecular markers.  Here, we aim to develop putative genetic markers in the mitochondrial genome by utilizing its high copy number and fast mutation rate compared to the nuclear genome. Using a comparative genomics approach, we have constructed mitochondrial phylogenetic trees and inferred evolutionary lineages of 35 F. oxysporum strains. Through pair-wise sequence alignments we seek to identify strain- specific candidate markers that can be tested for their specificity via PCR-based assays. Additionally, for rapid on-site diagnosis of infections we will incorporate Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) technology. Designing LAMP-based assays will allow for efficient amplification of DNA in isothermal conditions while also being more time and cost effective compared to traditional PCR-based methods. This study will provide a quick detection method that can be used for diagnostics in the field.


Taariq Qadeer Woods

Sibongile Mafu (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Biochemical Characterization of a Diterpene Synthase in a Plant-Pathogenic Fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae

Terpenoids comprise one of the largest and most diverse classes of secondary metabolites found in nature. In order to produce such a diverse array of metabolites, bacteria, plants, and fungi have been shown to express a plethora of terpene synthase enzymes. Numerous terpene synthase genes have been identified in fungi with diverse biological activities. My work is focused on the biochemical characterization of one of the terpene synthase genes in a plant-pathogenic fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae. The gene product of the terpene synthase gene we are studying is a bifunctional diterpene synthase (DiTPS1). Interestingly, unlike most diterpene synthases, DiTPS1 has a histidine residue in its class I active site in the position in which most diterpene synthases have a glutamate residue. In order to understand the role of this histidine residue, three site-directed mutations were carried out in the position of the histidine residue of DiTPS1. The mutated and wild-type genes were then combinatorially expressed in recombinant E. coli along with the respective substrate. The terpenoid products produced were extracted and analyzed via GC-MS in order to identify the compounds and determine the concentrations at which they were produced. The results from the mutations suggest that this histidine residue plays an important role in the enzymatic activity of DiTPS1.


Ryan Yellamaty

Amanda Simons (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Framingham State University

Analysis of Long-Term Exposure of Resveratrol Metabolites on K562 Human Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Cells

Resveratrol is a phytochemical stilbenoid that is utilized by plants as a response to environmental stress, namely from fungal or bacterial infection. Recently, resveratrol has garnered a lot of attention due to several possible health benefits. Current research seems to show this to some degree. Resveratrol seems to have a role in mediating glucose metabolism, modulating Sirtuin activity, and by enhancing DNA repair during oxidative stress. Resveratrol could even be used in conjunction with prescription drugs such as chemotherapeutics to enhance activity and reduce the necessary dosage of treatment. While all these possible benefits are promising, the bio-availability of resveratrol has presented several issues. Most in vitro studies of resveratrol have displayed bioactive effects at concentrations much higher than what is seen in vivo. Resveratrol is metabolized at such a fast pace that serum levels can never get above 3 μM. The agents responsible for the rapid metabolism of resveratrol are the gut microbiome, the brush-border cells of the intestine and the liver. In this research study, we will utilize cell culture to investigate the activity of these metabolites. With techniques such as RT-qPCR, the effects that these compounds may have on gene expression at the transcriptional level can be measured. By evaluating the activity of these metabolites, the activity can be compared to resveratrol itself. Differences in activity could highlight the importance of these metabolites as a viable alternative that might even make up for the shortcomings of resveratrol.


Kwan Yoon

Dong Wang (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst

Applying CRISPR-Cas9 and Hairy Root Transformation to Investigate Genes Necessary for Nitrogen Fixing Symbiosis

The need for efficient crop production has grown in parallel with the increase in global population and nitrogen levels in the soil are often the limiting factor for plant growth. Artificially fixed nitrogen combats this problem by using natural gas to fuel the reaction of air to produce ammonia, a solid form of nitrogen. As the process has become more heavily used, inherent weaknesses with this temporary solution have become impossible to ignore: it contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions and unused fertilizer can leach into local waterways, causing both algal blooms and groundwater poisoning. These unavoidable problems will only worsen over time. An alternative process already exists in nature. This project applies CRISPR/Cas9 as a gene-editing tool to investigate genes relevant to the nitrogen fixing symbiosis between rhizobia bacteria and legumes. This is the first time the Wang Group attempted CRISPR/Cas9 in what is essentially a transient transformation procedure. Our chosen technique combines Golden Gate cloning with transient root transformation to generate genetically edited roots, which would then produce the symbiotic organ, the nodule. As a pioneer in the lab, my task is to demonstrate the feasibility of CRISPR-based reverse genetics on transiently transformed M. truncatula roots, which would then allow other lab members to delete their favorite genes and characterize the resulting phenotype within weeks. I have since assembled and tested a vector construct and was able to confirm the efficacy of the technique.




Brooke Ackerman

Duncan Irschick (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

iCons: Using Photogrammetry to Measure Vitiligo in Human Patients

Individuals diagnosed with Vitiligo are left with few options or answers regarding their disease. The natural course of the disease is unpredictable and can spread to any area of skin on the human body. Unfortunately, researchers and physicians have not reached a consensus on how outcomes of Vitiligo treatments should be measured or assessed. Photogrammetry offers the advantageous ability to capture a human subject at 360 degrees in a uniform fashion. Through the creation of a 3D model and the use of computerized measurements, areas on a human model may be accurately quantified. This study looks at how photogrammetry and computerized measurements may be used to quantify the areas of skin lesions on human patients with Vitiligo. Accurate and precise calculations produced from this method can pave the way for standardizing an approach to gaining quantitative data on this disease.


Usman Ali Ahmed

Jill Macoska (Faculty Sponsor)

Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy, UMass Boston

Rhesus Type C Glycoprotein Isoform Detected in Renal Cell Carcinoma Cell Lines

Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (ccRCC) is characterized by malignant epithelial cells with a clear cytoplasm and a well-defined cell membrane. A project that utilizes urine samples as biomarkers to predict risk of recurrence in ccRCC cases identified a panel of 20 differentially expressed genes that clustered kidney tumors as recurrent (metastatic) or non-recurrent. A novel transcript isoform of Rhesus Type C Glycoprotein (RhCG), a transport protein of the epithelium facilitating the movement of ammonia into the urinary space regulating acid-base homeostasis, was also identified. Transcript analysis identified a 487 base-pair (bp) isoform in RCC cell lines, ACHN and Caki-2, and a 177 bp isoform in RNA from normal human kidney tissue and urine. Sequencing data suggests a retained intron between exons 7 and 8 in the RhCG transcript isoform. The first stop codon of the RhCG retained isoform was located in the first triplicate after the end of exon 7 just before the start of the retained intron suggesting a truncated transcript. A series of Western blots were conducted using polyclonal RhCG antibodies across a panel of two RCC cell lines, Caki-2 and 786-O, and two non-cancerous lines, HEK293 and human kidney whole tissue lysates. Results indicate a retained intron pattern in both cancerous cells lines and HEK293 cell lines, but a wild-type pattern was observed in the human kidney lysate. Further testing using immunoblotting/immunoprecipitation would support that the truncated transcript is a functional protein. If so, the functions of the wild-type and variant RhCG proteins will be investigated in normal and malignant kidney epithelial cells.


Anna Alexandra Aristarkhova

Rolf Karlstrom (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

A New Role for Hh Signaling in Regulating Neurogenesis and Cell Cycle Progression in the Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is an evolutionarily conserved region of the vertebrate brain, controlling critical functions such as homeostasis and reproduction. Adult neurogenesis has been linked to hypothalamic function, but how this neurogenesis is regulated is poorly understood. Our lab recently demonstrated a novel role for Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) as a positive regulator of neurogenesis in the zebrafish hypothalamus. Hh inhibition reduced both cell proliferation and cyclinD expression, suggesting Hh signaling might affect cell cycle progression. During embryogenesis, nuclei of neural precursors move between the ventricular and basal surfaces as they progress through mitosis in a process called interkinetic nuclear migration (IKNM), with nuclear position giving a rough estimation of cell-cycle stage. Here we provide evidence that IKNM continues in the larval hypothalamus and that nuclear position can be used to examine changes in cell-cycle progression within the neurogenic population. Using zebrafish transgenic lines that label the nuclei of Hh-responsive precursors, we examined nuclear position following cell-cycle or Hh-signaling inhibition. Blocking the cell cycle at G1/S resulted in a small but significant shift in nuclear position toward the basal surface among the Hh-responsive population. In contrast, blocking the cell cycle at G2/M led to a repositioning of nuclei toward the apical/ventricular surface. Inhibiting Hh-signaling using cyclopamine or BMS-833923 led to a similar shift in nuclei toward the ventricular surface, suggesting Hh signaling may affect progression through the G2/M cell cycle check-point. Understanding the mechanisms by which Hh signaling regulates hypothalamic neurogenesis could have major implications for understanding adult hypothalamic function and dysfunction.


Judith Arthur

Mao-Lun Weng (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Westfield State University

The DNA Extraction and Mitochondrial Genome Sequencing of Pelargonium × hortorum with MinION

Most mitochondria contain fragments of their bacterial heritage in the form of a highly reduced genome. The function of mitochondria is the generation of chemical energy in the form of ATP. Plant mitochondria share their cell with another energy-producing organelle, the plastid. Plant mitochondrial genome sizes vary among plant species ranging from 13kb to 96kb. Mitochondrial DNA contains 37 genes, all of which are essential for normal mitochondrial function. Pelargonium contains about 280 species of annual, biennial, and perennial herbaceous plants, and mostly originate in subtropical Southern Africa. The cultivated geraniums of the genus Pelargonium are herbaceous to woody, with thick fleshy leaves varying in shape from round to lobed to deeply cut. The flowers vary in color from white through shades of pink to deep red and violet. Most of the cultivated species are hybrids. In our experiment, the Oxford Nanopore Technologies’ MinION device was used to sequence the plant genome. The advantage of this device is that it can sequence a long strand of DNA. Fresh young leaves were collected from the Pelargonium × hortorum species. The DNA of this plant was extracted through various processes and then sequenced by MinION. The project is expected to obtain the mitochondrial genome of Pelargonium × hortorum. The challenge and the application of MinION in plant mitochondrial sequencing will be discussed.


Amrutha Lakshmi Atla

Amanda Simons (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Framingham State University

The Anti-oxidation Effects of Resveratrol and the Role of Nrf2/ARE Mechanism on Human Umbilical Vein Epithelial Cells

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring polyphenolic compound, and it has shown to have many therapeutic properties. It has been shown to have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects by interacting with proteins, such as sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) and nuclear factor-E2-related factor-2 (Nrf2). It has also shown in vitro and in vivo to have chemo-preventive properties for several types of cancer and maybe a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. However, the translation of the results from in vitro studies to in vivo is challenging due to the low bioavailability of resveratrol. In the present study, the anti- oxidative effects of resveratrol were tested using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) cells. Resveratrol was shown to affect the Nrf2/ARE pathway by regulating its transcription and, in turn, regulating the transcription of many different antioxidant response elements (ARE) or genes controlled by Nrf2. HUVEC cells were placed under oxidative stress conditions using hydrogen peroxide, and the effects of resveratrol cells were tested. The control of the Nrf2 pathway by resveratrol will provide insight into the potential treatment of diseases related to oxidative stress and aging.


Meghan Beaton

Adrienne N. Foster Scharf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Bristol Community College

Ammonia-Oxidizing Archea and Bacteria in Aquarium Biofilm

The reduction of ammonia wastes is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy recirculating aquaculture system. Ammonia toxicity can lead to undesirable and potentially harmful effects such as gill damage, erratic swimming, and physiological dysfunction in fish and other organisms. In a typical system, solid wastes such as uneaten food and feces contribute to elevated ammonia levels. Although some of this material is removed by mechanical filtration, the remaining ammonia must be removed by a subsequent biological filtration step in which microorganisms such as ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) convert ammonia into nitrate, which is less harmful to fish. In this work, biofilms from aquaculture biofilters are being assessed for the presence of AOA and AOB. Quantification of the archaeal and bacterial ammonia monooxygenase genes followed by DNA sequencing are being used to characterize the organisms present in a freshwater recirculating system.


Alexandra Berntson

Jennifer Elizabeth Mendell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Bridgewater State University

Molecular Identification of Ixodes scapularis Ticks Infected with the Emerging Protozoal Pathogen, Babesia microti

Babesiosis is a disease caused by the protozoal parasite Babesia microti, which is transmitted to humans by Ixodes scapularis, or the deer tick. Babesiosis in humans presents with symptoms similar to those of Malaria and has a mortality rate of 5%. Many people have heard of Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacterial pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted to humans via the same arthropod vector, however far fewer have heard of Babesiosis. The incidence rate of Babesiosis has more than doubled in New England in the past five years. However, there currently is little information available on the prevalence of this pathogen in ticks in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. In order to better understand the prevalence of this pathogen in its arthropod host, over 200 ticks were collected from different locations around Plymouth County, Massachusetts. These ticks were then subjected to total community DNA extraction and this DNA was used in nested-PCR based assays using pathogen specific primers to assess for the presence of this lesser known, yet emerging, protozoal pathogen. To date, of the ticks screened, 65% have tested positive for Babesia microti, which could mean an increase risk to humans contracting this pathogen. This research will allow for a better understanding of the prevalence of this emerging pathogen leading to increased public outreach and awareness.


Taylor Carmichael

Karen A. Dunphy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

Estrogen Engages Immune Surveillance Pathways to Restrict Tumor Progression

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer death. The increased prevalence of breast cancer has been directly associated with prolonged exposure to estrogen. Paradoxically, in some instances, estrogen has been found to decrease a woman’s risk of breast cancer; possibly by engaging in an immune regulatory response. There is a growing concern that environmental chemical compounds, known as xenoestrogens, may be involved in initiating tumorigenesis and contributing to breast cancer risk. The objective of this project was to test if acute orally administered xenoestrogens impact promotion of triple negative breast cancers. In our model, we injected V06 tumor cells into the 4th mammary fat pad of ovary intact BALB/c female mice, and treated them orally for five days a week with the appropriate volume of one of four treatments: (1) control, (2) 17b-estradiol (E2), (3) benzophenone-3 (BP3), (4) propylparaben (PP). Whole mounts were used to characterize the normal mammary gland from the mice treated with the estrogenic compounds by quantifying epithelial density. Tumors from mice were characterized by comparison of the metastatic (EMT) potential of the tumors through qPCR for the expression of Wnt genes. In addition, the immune profiles of tumors were compared through qPCR for macrophage infiltration and through histology for stromal infiltrating lymphocytes and macrophages. Our hypothesis is that estrogens will not directly accelerate growth of triple negative breast cancers, but can influence immune surveillance to restrict tumor progression.


Vipheaviny Chea

Lisa M. Komoroske (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Characterizing the Diversity of the Major Histocompatibility Complex in Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles (Lepidochelys kempii)

Many human diseases originate in wildlife, however, much of disease research focuses on the human impact. A central goal of disease ecology is to understand relationships between diseases, the environment, and other risk factors. For example, genetic variation in immune regions like the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) play a major role in pathogen-host dynamics where high variability is evolutionarily advantageous. Through MHC characterization, researchers identified this trend and its crucial role in the recovery of endangered species. However, there are few studies of reptile MHC, such as loggerhead sea turtles. In this project, I address this knowledge gap by characterizing MHC class I alpha-1 heavy chain diversity in the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), a species not yet studied in this capacity but is subject to cold stunning and fibropapillomatosis. I extracted genomic DNA from red blood cells and amplified MHC class I alpha-1 heavy chain in preparation for a next generation sequencing approach. I will analyze these sequences to quantify diversity of the Kemp’s ridley MHC. I expect to find low diversity in this region with fewer single nucleotide polymorphisms due to the species’ critical status, especially in comparison to thriving species. From this data, I will compare the status of Kemp’s ridley to other endangered reptile species where the MHC was characterized (e.g., loggerhead sea turtle). This information will inform researchers on the functional genomic diversity and potential disease vulnerability of this species and potentially provide insight for management programs to aid this species in recovery.


Amanda Cho

Paul Katz (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Characterizing Phototaxis in Berghia stephanieae

Animals use many strategies to help them navigate their world such as sensing light, maneuvering towards odorants, and feeling changes in physical surfaces. More specifically, when sensing light, the navigational strategy of moving towards or away from light is called phototaxis. Our primary research goal for this project is to characterize phototaxis in the nudibranch Berghia stephanieae. Berghia, in particular, is useful for research because it is relatively easy to rear and maintain in a lab setting, unlike other species of nudibranchs. Nudibranchs are also useful for studying neural mechanisms of behavior given their relatively few and large, easily identifiable neurons. Phototaxis has been studied in other organisms with more complex nervous systems such as zebrafish and fruit fly larvae but has yet to be characterized in Berghia. To test whether Berghia perform phototaxis, we tracked one animal’s position as it navigated in a half-dark, half-light arena and quantified where it spent its time. Preliminary results show that Berghia exhibit negative phototaxis by spending the majority of their time on the dark side of the arena. Characterizing phototaxis in Berghia will allow us to further explore the underlying neural mechanisms to better understand how animals use sensory information to navigate their environments.


Scott W. Collins

Govind Srimathveeravalli (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass Amherst

Non-contact Electroporation for Treatment of Exophytic Esophageal Tumors

Esophageal cancer manifests as exophytic tumors, causing severe morbidity to patients because of dysphagia, reduced peristalsis and pain. The tumor cannot be safely resected in many cases, and there are limited options available to the physician for palliation, symptom relief or stabilizing the patient. Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) is a clinically used technique where ultrashort high voltage electric pulses are delivered into tumors using needle electrodes, causing cell death by permeabilizing the cell membrane. IRE is used for non-surgical destruction of tumors in patients, especially in locations involving sensitive anatomic structures where surgery or other forms of therapy are not feasible or safe. The purpose of this study was to guide electrode design and optimize treatment delivery paradigm for contactless IRE of tumors invading the esophageal lumen. Using numerical simulation models of the esophagus, multiphysics coupled finite element analysis was performed to solve the Laplace equation for electric field distribution and the Pennes Bioheat equation for temperature changes in the tissue. Three electrode configurations were evaluated, (i) Placement of electrode into the tumor, or Placement of electrode in the esophageal lumen while surrounding by chilled saline with (ii) low or (iii) high electrical conductivity. Our findings show that using a "wet electrode", the condition where the electrode is not in direct contact with tissue but the passage of current is through saline allows sufficient coverage of the tumor without harmful heating of the esophageal wall. This treatment approach can be further enhanced through optimal choice of electrical conductivity and temperature of the saline in the lumen. Simulation models were validated against existing data collected from studies performed in healthy swine esophagus.


Eileen Meghan Cooney

Susan Zup (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Psychology, UMass Boston

Sexual Differentiation in the Expression of Corticotropin-Releasing Factor in the Developing Hypothalamus

Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is a peptide hormone that is responsible for stress response. The mRNA for CRF is made by neurons of the Sexually Dimorphic Nucleus of the preoptic area/hypothalamus (SDN). The SDN is a cell group in the hypothalamus that is volumetrically larger in males than in females. This size difference occurs because the rate of apoptosis (developmental neuronal death) in the SDN is higher in females than in males, and the presence of testosterone in neonatal males works as a reducing agent of the apoptosis. Interestingly, the size of the SDN can be manipulated in the opposite direction through injections of serotonin on the day of birth. Specifically, the presence of serotonin increases the levels of apoptosis, leading to a feminized SDN; however, serotonin only feminizes certain subpopulations of cells in the SDN. Since serotonin treatment alters overall levels of CRF mRNA in the SDN, we hypothesized that the neurons making the CRF are the ones affected by serotonin treatment. The purpose of this experiment is to test cells in the SDN to determine the effect of serotonin on CRF+ cells in males and females. We expect to see a trend that supports the mRNA data: males having more CRF+ cells than females, while serotonin decreases the total number of cells expressing CRF. These data would show how serotonin affects the CRF subpopulation of cells and offer a greater insight into how serotonin is responsible for feminization of the brain.


Cameron Myles DeChristopher

Michaela Jade Mulhearn

Katie Ruggieri (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Bristol Community College

How the Woolly Mammoth's Genetic Code Points to a Virus as the Species Source of Extinction

The demise of the Mammuthus primigenius has long been attributed to a combination of climate change and over-hunting by early humans, but evidence in recent years has contradicted those initial findings. Ample evidence suggests that populations of woolly mammoths lived in areas free of early human hunting as well as evidence of woolly mammoths surviving previous climate change cycles. Here we seek to evaluate if the extinction of Mammuthus primigenius was caused, in part, by a viral infection. 

The closest living relative to the woolly mammoth is the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). While Asian elephants managed to outlive their distant cousins, the large herbivore is today plagued by a viral disease, elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. A viral infection might account for some of the unexplained elements of the mammoth’s extinction. 

To find traces of a potential viral infection similar to the lethal elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, we utilized the NIH’s BLAST tool to cross-reference the genome of the elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus with that of the genome of the Mammuthus primigenius. We sought to find DNA traces left behind by an Elephantid betaherpesvirus-type viral infection in the mammoth’s genetic code. We filtered out results with expectancy values greater than one. We also searched similar sequences across relative genomes such as the Asian elephant and manatee to identify unique traces of viral DNA within the mammoth genome. Ultimately, we seek to understand the mystery of this large mammal extinction through an examination of its most well-preserved and plentiful remains, its own DNA.


Karina Elizabeth Demchuk

Jonathan A. Garlick (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass

Boston 3-D Skin Model Recreates Aspects of Studying Scleroderma

Scleroderma is a rare and often fatal autoimmune disease that affects about 300,000 Americans. Currently, there is no cure for this condition and the available treatments only help manage the symptoms. My research project involves growing and analyzing three dimensional (3D) models of human skin using fibroblasts and macrophages from Scleroderma patients. We use tissue engineering techniques to create a dermis that can support a fully-differentiated epithelium, thus modeling the dermal and epidermal layers found in skin in humans. The goal of this research is to create patient specific skin tissue models by isolating skin cells from patients with scleroderma and comparing them to control patients. Fibroblasts isolated from scleroderma or control patients were combined with patient-specific macrophages and plasma to replicate the scleroderma phenotype in patients at different stages of scleroderma. After skin tissues were generated, H&E staining was performed on tissue sections and tissue thickness measured to determine if scleroderma tissues were thicker than control tissues. In addition, cytokine secretion by fibroblasts and macrophages as well as tissue stiffness is being determined through Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). These patient specific skin tissue models using scleroderma cells have the potential to be an effective tool for studying scleroderma and testing drug therapies for this condition.


Christen Emily DiCarlo

Yan Hu (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Worcester State University

Growth and Maintenance of Multiple Mammalian and Insect Cell Lines

Vero cells are derived from the kidney of an African green monkey, 3T3 cells are initiated from Swiss albino mouse embryo tissue, and Sf9 cells originally established from insect ovarian tissue. All these cell lines are more commonly used in microbiology, and molecular and cell biology research. Here we are updating you on how we grow and maintain all these cell lines and how we study the influence of different concentrations of FBS on their growth in a teaching laboratory setting.


Ryan Ek

Tammy Lynn Haut Donahue (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Bioengineering, UMass Amherst

Changes in Energy Dissipation of the Meniscus following Traumatic Impact and Reconstruction

Injuries to the knee often cause damage to the soft tissues of the joint, specifically the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus. These injuries can lead to post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA), which is treated by ACL reconstructive surgery with the goal of returning normal kinematics to the knee. Previous studies have suggested that even after the surgery is performed, ACL injury can lead to PTOA. It is hypothesized that changes in energy dissipation in the meniscus postinjury contribute to the onset and progression of the disease. The goal of my research was to use a lapine model combing a closed-joint impact with reconstruction of the ACL to determine changes in the energy dissipation of the meniscus following injury. 

This study was intended to show that ACL reconstruction alone is not sufficient in preventing the onset of PTOA. The right knees of fifteen Flemish Giant rabbits were subjected to a closed-joint impact that caused ACL injury, while the left knees of each rabbit served as contralateral controls. After ACL surgery was performed on the injured limbs, the animals were euthanized at varying time points. Indentation-relaxation testing was conducted on the control and reconstructed menisci and energy dissipation of the tissue was determined by calculating the area under the force-displacement curves. 

The surgery did not reduce energy dissipation loss in the meniscus which became more severe at later time points. It is evident that additional intervention is required in the knee to prevent significant energy dissipation loss.


James Laurence Elia

Vincent Rotello (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Rationally Designed Polymers for Protein Delivery

One of the greatest challenges in modern medicine is controlled and precise delivery of therapeutic biologics into cells. Nanocarrier-mediated protein delivery offers exciting new strategies for delivery of active proteins into the cell, however, limited chemical design space and endosomal entrapment of protein cargo reduce the efficiency of most delivery platforms. We developed a robust polymeric-protein nanocomposite (PPNC) platform to deliver protein directly to the cytosol, as evaluated by confocal microscopy and quantified by flow cytometry imaging. We synthesized a library of poly(oxanorbornene)imide, or PONI homopolymers. Our PONI homopolymers differ in molecular weight and cationic functionality, allowing for a variety of co-engineered proteins to be delivered to the cytosol of mammalian cells under physiological conditions via electrostatic binding. PPNC platforms demonstrate effective intracellular delivery of proteins ranging in size and charge, including an active therapeutic endonuclease (Cre recombinase) and a multimeric fluorescent protein (tdTomato). Polymers with a higher molecular weight offered a wider range of effective formulations for protein delivery under physiological conditions, making them a promising candidate for therapeutic protein delivery. With our dynamic system, a wide range of proteins can be modified and delivered directly to the cytosol using the co-engineered polymers. Many diseases can be treated via controlled protein delivery, and delivered proteins can modify the genome.


Skylar Fairfield

Laura Reed (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst

The Danger from Mosquitoes in a Warming World: Integrating Environmental and Public Health Perspectives in Disease Prevention

Climate impacts ecosystems at every level, and the host-vector relationship between humans and mosquitoes is no exception. Human exposure to Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes, which are carriers for diseases like malaria, dengue, and yellow fever, is projected to increase further with climate change. Historically, vector control has been the most common prevention strategy to combat mosquito-borne diseases, most often in the form of habitat destruction and pesticide use. More recently, efforts have also expanded to include funding of research into potential vaccines and treatments. In an examination of three cases, which include the draining of the wetlands of New Orleans, pesticide overuse and the backlash towards Silent Spring, and the financial ties between the Gates Foundation and polluters, I argue that there has been a false dichotomy between public health and environmental priorities. I aim to identify how can we overcome past missteps to better prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change, which will magnify the spread and frequency of mosquito-borne illnesses. The occurrence of mosquito-borne diseases is merely one example demonstrating that humanity is inseparable from the larger global ecosystem and that the longterm health of the environment is essential to longterm human health. As the impacts of climate change become more apparent, we should increase oversight and limit the influence of private interests in the shaping of global health policies, and elevate the perspectives of ecologists and environmental scientists work towards a future in which ecological health and human health policies work in tandem.


Hermes Ivan Feliciano

Andre Robinson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History and Social Sciences, Bunker Hill Community College

Can Adding Hospitals in Underserved Communities Raise the Health and Wealth of the Community

This research looks at the correlation between healthcare access resulting from gentrification and health care outcomes in under served communities. The project looks at the effects hospitals have on crime rates in the communities after hospitals are placed in those environments. If the implementations of the hospitals help reduce crime, then it will gradually generate wealth without displacing any of the preexisting population. A problem with healthcare facilities being away from the lower-income communities is that many people aren't able to commute to the facilities and have a higher risk of disease and sickness. This study provides data points and graphs of the demographics of two neighborhoods in the city of Boston that were affected by hospitals being distant from their neighborhoods. When the hospitals are placed closer to them I hope to find a positive correlation between both quality of life and increased wealth for under served people. This change will hopefully prove that building healthcare facilities closer to the neighborhoods lowers the rate of sickness, poverty, crime, and displacement that lower-income residents face. My project will discern whether hospitals actually improve the quality of life in these neighborhoods.


Nick Fairchild Ferlanti

Eric Bittman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

The Function of Molecular Clocks in Various Neuron Types Is Responsible for Timing of the LH Surge

Circadian rhythms are endogenous biological cycles that regulate behavioral and physiological processes, such as sleep, metabolism, and ovulation. At their basis are cell- autonomous transcriptional-translational feedback loops comprised of core clock genes Bmal1, Clock, Per, and Cry and their protein products. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus synchronizes molecular clocks and plays a key role in maintaining rhythmicity of daily processes. In mice, ovulation occurs at a specific time of day and fails to occur if the SCN is lesioned. Cells in the preoptic area that produce gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) control the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the anterior pituitary, which is the immediate stimulus for ovulation. The neural circuit that controls the GnRH neurons includes arginine vasopressin (AVP) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) cells of the SCN and kisspeptin cells of the anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AvPv). Our lab has used a Cre-Lox system to conditionally delete the critical clock gene Bmal1 in AVP, Kisspeptin, or GnRH cells. This approach has provided evidence that proper clock function in each of these cell types contributes to timing of the surge. I aim to assess the importance of Bmal1 expression in VIP cells and determine whether their clocks are necessary for proper timing of the LH surge. I will use a Cre-Lox system to conditionally knockout Bmal1 in VIP cells and analyze the resulting phenotypes using LH ELISAs, wheel-running activity, vaginal smearing, and statistical analyses.


Renata Andrade Franca

Sallie Schneider (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

The Degree of Transformation of Breast Epithelial Cell Alters Responses from Macrophage Exposure

Introduction: Breast tumors can be promoted or inhibited via crosstalk with immune cells. Prior studies have suggested that secreted proteins from these macrophages will cause estrogen receptor positive (ER+) tumor cells to undergo epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and become more invasive while ER- cells undergo growth arrest. However, it is not clear from the literature how M2 secreted proteins will affect immortalized nonmalignant, premalignant or malignant breast epithelial cells. My hypothesis is that the degree of transformation of the epithelial cell will alter the epithelial response from the macrophage communication.

Methods: THP1 cells was differentiated to macrophages of the M2 phenotype. Conditioned media was removed from the cells and was applied to a panel breast epithelial cell lines, including the MCF10A progression series. Cell viability assays, qRT-PCR , Western blotting and ICC were performed to determine whether the proteins secreted by these macrophages differentially affected these cell lines. Results: Several differential effects related to the degree of transformation were noted in the progression series following M2 macrophage exposure. Extended culture periods caused growth arrest in the more transformed cell lines compared to the less transformed lines. Consistent with this observation, the expression of c-Myc was differentially affected and decreased with the degree of transformation. Studies are ongoing to examine the affects on epithelial to mesenchymal transition. Conclusions: M2 macrophages in the local environment communicate with breast epithelium but the responses differ depending on the mutations present or the degree of transformation.


Bryanna Lexus Freitas

Hadley Elizabeth Beauregard

Margaret Riley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

The Search for Bacteriocins as an Alternative to MRSA Antibiotics

Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States dies from a multi-resistant drug infection. These infections arise from “superbugs” which are bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is not only a superbug, but is also the leading cause of nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections. Several antibiotics are capable of killing MRSA, however they are highly toxic and, in some cases, their use can be more detrimental than beneficial for patients. An alternative treatment is needed before totally resistant MRSA strains emerge and spread. Bacteriocins are bacterial proteins that selectively kill specific bacterial pathogens. In this study, we explore their potential to supplement our limited antimicrobial arsenal active against MRSA. Bacteriocin screens of a large panel of Staphylococcal strains reveal numerous bacteriocins with compelling characteristics, such as narrow activity against MRSA, low MIC’s, lack of collateral damage against non-pathogenic bacterial and high stability. When these features are combined with their lack of human toxicity and superior activity against MRSA strains, bacteriocins represent a compelling and viable alternative to antibiotics.


Margaret Kelly Gillis

Shailja Pathania (Faculty Sponsor)

Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy, UMass Boston

Investigating the Role of CHEK2 in Tumor Suppression

Checkpoint Kinase 2 (CHEK2) is a tumor suppressor gene whose product is responsible for cell cycle checkpoint regulation and for assisting in DNA damage repair, cell cycle arrest, or apoptosis. For women with a mutation in CHEK2, the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 20%-25% and increases to 44% when first- and second-degree relatives are also carriers. In order to pave the way for preventive therapies and treatments for cancers that result from an insufficiency in CHEK2, we are investigating its role in stalled replication fork repair and the domain/s responsible for this function. Our preliminary data suggests that CHEK2 plays a role in suppressing such replication stress. In cells, defects in stalled replication fork repair increase replication stress, a tumor promoting event. Although it is known that CHEK2 plays a role in homologous recombination after double strand breaks and in base excision repair pathways, its role stalled replication fork repair is not yet understood.


Matthew Steven Hakar

Benjamin Normark (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Exploring the Effect of Host Plants on Chalcidoid parasitoids in Massachusetts

If we better understand the interaction between parasitoids, herbivores, and host plants, we can optimize biological control efforts. Parasitoids such as chalcidoid wasps are often used for biological control because they target a variety of pests. Parasitoids use sex pheromones to locate herbivore hosts. These sex pheromones can be strengthened by volatiles released by host plants. As a result, parasitoid host selection can be influenced by plant species. Some common pests such as San Jose scales (Comstockaspis perniciosa) are sessile for most of their lives. Thus, they are closely associated with the plants they feed on.

I wanted to test if chalcidoid wasps took host species into account when selecting a herbivore host. To do this, I placed control and San Jose scale pheromone traps on trees at six different sites in Amherst, Massachusetts. Each site contained a Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). I collected parasitoids weekly from September 11th to October 30th, 2019 and took variables such as temperature into account.

Based on Poisson and negative binomial regression, parasitoids did not take tree species into account when selecting herbivore hosts. Thus, the host plants I used do not seem to strengthen the pheromone signal. Using the same models, I found significantly more parasitoids on San Jose scale pheromone traps compared to control traps and significantly more parasitoids during weeks with higher temperatures. These results show that pheromone traps were effective, and that temperature affects the number of chalcidoid parasitoids.


Cameron Carver Hamilton

Mao-Lun Weng (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Westfield State University

Spontaneous Mutations in Organelles: Arabidopsis thaliana

Spontaneous mutations have largely been observed in the nuclear genomes of species, to help understand the origin of mutations and the baseline of evolution. However, the literature for direct measurement of spontaneous mutations in organelles, like mitochondria and chloroplasts, is lacking. In a previous study, 107 mutation accumulation lines of Arabidopsis thaliana were grown up to the 25th generation. The resulting final generation's chloroplast and nuclear genome reads were taken to be analyzed in the future. In this study, those chloroplast genome reads were assembled using Velvet de novo assembly and compared to a reference genome. The resulting assembled genome reads revealed a mutation per generation rate over 13,000 times greater than the assembled reads of the nuclear genome. This could be a reflection of the stability of chloroplast genomes and reveal possibilities of the evolution of organelles.


Mia Marie Hancock

Michele Markstein (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Using CRISPR-CAS 9 VPR to Systematically Test the Role of ABC Transporters in Canonical Signaling Pathways

The goal of my study is to identify mutant phenotypes in wing development to test the hypothesis that ABC transporters are used to regulate the development and morphology of wings in Drosophila Melanogaster, better known as the fruit fly. Drosophila provide a great model organism for genetic testing and allow for large screens to be conducted in limited time periods. ABC transporters have shown to have important roles in the developmental pathways of other organs and appendages of the Drosophila that can create a large phenotypic change. For example, the roles ABC transporter genes, scarlet, and brown in eye development and pigmentation. Second ABC transporters has shown to have important roles in well studied developmental pathways, such as the role of Mdr 49 in the Hedgehog signaling pathway and germ cell organization in embryos. ABC transporter gene over expression that produce a phenotypic change in the wing of adult Drosophila are compared to the mutant phenotypes found in previously studied developmental pathways such as Notch and DPP.BMP. This is to identify any similarities between the phenotypes that might suggest that the ABC transporter has a role in that signaling pathway. These phenotypically abnormal wings in adult progeny and wing discs from late stage larvae progeny were removed and mounted to slide for continued analysis and imaging to help guide future research.


Nathan Charles Haywood

Hanna Choi

Jeffrey Lawrence Blanchard (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Understanding the Effects of Global Warming in Forest Soil via Metaproteomics and Metametabolomics

Global warming has been extensively documented and analyzed since the 1990s, but less work has been done to understand the implications of global warming in soil ecosystems. The Harvard Forest Long Term Ecological Research site in Pelham, MA has been conducting soil heating experiments in 3 plots; Prospect Hill, Barre Woods, and SWaN since 1991, 2003, and 2006 respectively. Each plot is maintained 5° C above surrounding soil temperature, monitoring ecological impacts of global warming. From the Barre Woods plot, 14 soils samples were collected and divided into mineral and organic partitions for content analysis. From these samples, metaproteomic (protein community) and metametabolomic (metabolite community) datasets were produced for analysis of the active protein and metabolic pathways. Primary analysis identified protein peptides from GCMS data that show significant differences between the warming and control plots. The fragments will be contextualized as potential proteins subcomplexes, and from the list of proteins that are associated with each peptide fragment, protein pathways that are most likely to have existed will be isolated. Metabolomic data integration will depend on the implications of the protein pathways. Protein pathways used in carbon degradation intersecting with metabolic systems from microbial communities will be the main focus. Annotations of the peptide fragments indicate a range of proteins that show significant differences and PPC analysis show a significant difference in heated vs control metabolites. Using both of these datasets, this analysis will model how global warming alters the active proteins and metabolites present in soil ecosystems.


Ashley Herrick

Tammy Lynn Haut Donahue (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Bioengineering, UMass Amherst

Pharmaceutical Intervention Helps Prevent Significant Proteoglycan Loss in the Meniscus following Traumatic Knee Injury

Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) have been shown to affect other soft tissues in the knee joint. The meniscus functions to distribute joint loading forces due to the presence of proteoglycans, which contribute to the tissues mechanical properties by attracting water via the proteoglycans (GAGs) found in it. Damage to the meniscus affects the quantity of GAGs and the meniscus looses its ability to support mechanical function of the knee joint, which can lead to the onset and progression of post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). The goal of the study is to determine the success of ACL reconstructive surgery in maintaining the mechanical integrity of the knee joint, and the efficacy of pharmaceutical intervention. The right knees of Flemish Giant rabbits were impacted to generate ACL tear, leaving the left knee as a contralateral control group. Two weeks following impact, ACL reconstructive surgery was performed. After euthanasia the menisci were harvested, flash frozen, and 0.6µm slices were obtained for histological analysis using Saf-O/Fast Green stain. Images were analyzed for GAG content to tissue ratio using ImageJ and the intensity of the stains were graded by four blinded graders. Preliminary results show injection of a surfactant drug P188, at multiple time points, helps to significantly maintain GAG content within the meniscus. This could prove to be a useful clinical tool to help arrest PTOA.


Rebecca Hoynoski

Kimberly Berman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Westfield State University

The Effects of Long-Term Hyperglycemia on THP-1 Macrophage Function

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is distinguished by high blood glucose levels and a chronic pro-inflammatory state. Obesity, a significant contributor and underlying cause of T2DM, is characterized by inflammation stimulated by the infiltration of macrophages within the adipose tissue. Macrophages produce pro-inflammatory cytokines which interfere with insulin signaling and prohibit the regulation of blood glucose levels. Previous studies in rodent models of obesity and T2DM have shown increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β and TNF-α in the adipose tissue. Similar findings have been observed in patients of T2DM indicating that pro-inflammatory cytokines play a significant role in insulin resistance and the onset of diabetes in association with obesity. In vitro studies suggest that macrophages treated under long-term hyperglycemic conditions (five weeks or more) have a decreased ability of phagocytosis. While recent studies have observed reduced phagocytic function by THP-1 cells under hyperglycemic conditions, the direct effect on cell killing has not yet been fully addressed. The purpose of this study is to expand on previous results and further investigate the role of hyperglycemic conditions on macrophages and the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines.


Shams Jalil

Mao-Lun Weng (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Westfield State University

Genomic Sequence of Pelargonium desertorum with NanoPore MinION

Mitochondria play an important role in the life of all eukaryotic organisms, including plants. The main function of the mitochondrion is to generate energy for the cell. Mitochondria can be found in the cytoplasm of the plant cell. This research project focuses on Geraniaceae plants. These species are usually found in warm temperature regions. The majority of the Geraniaceae are herbs, their leaves are usually lobed, opposites or alternate and the flowers are symmetrical. In this experiment, DNA was extracted from Pelargonium desertorum and sequenced. The sequencing was done by using the NanoPore MinION, which is suitable for sequencing long strands of DNA. Another advantage is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to get the sequence. The expected results of the project include the mitochondria genome sequence of Pelargonium desertorum. The genome size and number of genes in the mitochondrion will be reported. The challenge and advantages of sequencing plant mitochondrial genome will be discussed.


Zoe E. Jauniskis

Patricia Wadsworth (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Centrinone Treatment Eliminates Centrosomes and Leads to Asymmetrical Mitotic Spindles in Mammalian Cells

Mitosis in mammalian cells relies on a microtubule structure known as the mitotic spindle, which is required to properly separate the parent cell’s genetic material. The mitotic spindle emanates from two centrosomes—microtubule organizing centers that play a major role in the formation and dynamics of the spindle. Treatment with the drug centrinone prevents the duplication of centrioles, a key component of the centrosome, and produces cells that cannot supply the two centrosomes normally required for mitosis. In this project, we quantify the effect of centrinone on both HeLa and LLCPK1 cells. First, we show that 48 hours is the optimal treatment time for producing a population with a high proportion of single-centrosome cells. Using this treatment duration, we then explore the visual differences in mitotic spindle formation and chromosome separation between cells with zero, one, and two centrosomes using live cell fluorescence microscopy. The spindles of single- centrosome cells were observed to be asymmetrical and prone to delays in division. Our objective is to quantify these differences in spindle shape and the duration of spindle formation in cells with normal spindle poles and cells lacking one or both centrosomes in order to further understand the role of the centrosome in mitosis.


Jessica Toni Jawhar

Douglas C. Woodhams (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Boston

Antifungal Secondary Metabolites Produced by Bacteria Isolated from the Skin of Three Amphibian Species

Global amphibian population declines have been occurring since the early 1970’s as a result of environmental change including emergence of disease. Two fungal pathogens in particular, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and the recently discovered Batrachochytrium salamandrivoransare, have put many populations and over 200 species at risk of extinction. Isolating bacteria from the skin of local amphibian species can help save at risk populations from future declines as part of a probiotic approach to conservation. Bacteria were isolated from the skin of two species of frogs, Lithobates pipiens (Pennsylvania and Vermont) and L. sphenocephalus (Louisiana and Tennessee) and one species of salamander from Vermont (Notophthalmus viridescens). After obtaining pure isolates, bacteria were grown and secondary metabolites were harvested from each isolate, filter sterilized, and their Bd killing capacity was tested in growth inhibition assays. These assays were performed against a hypervirulent Bd isolate, Section Line, and against three locally isolated Bd strains that have likely coadapted with frogs in the areas of Vermont, Louisiana, and Tennessee. We hypothesized that bacteria would be more inhibitory against the locally isolated Bd strains compared to the foreign Bd strains because of co-adaptation between local hosts and their microbial defenses and the local Bd isolate. Bacteria used in the inhibition assays will be sequenced using Sanger sequencing to identify taxonomic classification, and these bacteria will be added to the Antifungal Isolates Database at UMass Boston. Next steps toward developing the probiotics include testing for safety and efficacy and determining if inhibitory isolates could be used in future field probiotic trials to help mitigate the effects of disease on local populations.


Angus I. KaneLong

Timothy Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

STEM Starter Academy, Springfield Technical Community College

Factors Impacting Antibiotics Resistance Rates

Antibiotic resistant bacteria is an increasingly common and often deadly health issue. The most common of these resistant bacteria is methicillin resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). MRSA is something very hard to treat once infection starts. The focus of this study is to look at some of the different factors that affect rate by which MRSA proliferates and is allowed to colonize. There are many different factors and this study assesses both medical and socioeconomic factors. To quantify the impact of factors on the rate that MRSA occurs from normal S. aureus infections. The purpose of this study is to see what of some of the most common factors have the most significant impact in order to identify strategies to mitigate the negative outcomes from MRSA outbreaks. Hypothesis is that treatment-based factors will have a large impact on the rates of MRSA mutations but also economic factors will a larger impact. This research consists of the review of relevant data looking in to the rates of MRSA incidence and how these varying rates are correlated to factors. The data is analyzed to find correlation between various factors. The results show that there are options to reduce MRSA rates. The data shows that increased education is a useful tool in the fight against MRSA. Another factor is reducing antibiotic usage through moderation and use only in cases where they can be safely used. Conclusions from this study include limited use of antibiotics, education in both general and about MRSA, and preventive measures on outbreaks of MRSA.


Madelyn B. Kaplin

Alexander R. Gerson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Investigating Refueling Performance of Migratory Songbirds during Stopover in the Connecticut River Valley

Every spring and fall, millions of Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds make the arduous trek from their breeding grounds in the northern U.S. and Canada to their wintering grounds in South/Central America and the Caribbean in order to take advantage of seasonal changes in resource availability. This annual migration is an incredible endurance feat, showcasing the upper limits of vertebrate metabolism. Birds fuel flight with energy dense fat stores, and must stop to refuel at stopover sites multiple times during a single migratory journey. Successful migration is contingent upon safe, hospitable, and resource-abundant stopover sites. Birds’ refueling rate can be approximated by the concentration of plasma triglycerides in blood. My project seeks to investigate the phenology and demography of refueling performance of migratory passerines during stopover in the Connecticut River Valley during both spring and fall migration. Selecting eight species of songbirds representative of the Northeast region, my project examines how sex, time of season, and other biological factors can influence refueling rate. Additionally, for one of the selected species, the Gray Catbird, feather samples were sent out for stable isotope analysis of deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen), which is an intrinsic marker that can approximate the location of an individual’s summer breeding grounds. These data will be used to determine if distance to/from the breeding grounds has any effect on refueling rate for this species.


Arshia Kaur

Mathew J. Mitchell

Logan A. Thornton

Margaret Riley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Finding an Alternative for Antibiotics in Agriculture

As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for global food production. A grave threat to the current rates of food production are plant pathogens, which destroy 33 billion dollars worth of crops annually. The only current defense against these pathogens are antibiotics which greatly contribute to the global increase of antibiotic resistance. Antimicrobial proteins called bacteriocins could be a biodegradable and non-toxic alternative to the antibiotics used to combat these plant pathogens. Compared to antibiotics that are harmful to even beneficial bacteria, bacteriocins are specialized killers that target specific bacterial strains. The purpose of our research is to compare the efficacy of bacteriocins against plant pathogens to the efficacy antibiotics. The first step was determining that there are bacteriocin-producing bacterial strains that kill the target pathogen strains. Once candidates that could kill all of our pathogenic strains were identified, we carried out a second assay to identify the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of our model bacteriocin, nisin, and compare that to the MIC of conventional antibiotics used in agriculture, oxytetracycline and streptomycin. Current results show that a lower concentration of nisin is required than the antibiotics to kill the same bacterial strains. This suggests that nisin could be used as a more effective, safer, and sustainable biopesticide than the antibiotics currently approved for agricultural use.


Arianna Kazemi

Jeffrey Lawrence Blanchard (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

iCons: The Hardworking Minority; Assessing the Effects of Warming Soil on Acidobacteria

Found in soils ranging from forests to farmland, deserts to tundra, Acidobacteria represent one of the most abundant phyla of soil bacteria which exist across a range of temperatures. Recently, Acidobacteria were found in soils collected from the Barre Woods warming experiment in the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts. Soil plots in this experiment are warmed to temperatures expected as a result of climate change, with the goal of identifying how these changing temperatures will affect soil ecosystems. 12 high-quality genomes from Acidobacteria were recovered from these plots, which form the basis of this project. Acidobacteria are abundant in metagenomic reads found in the soil plots, however analysis of metatranscriptomic data reveals that some members are much more active than than their relatives. Studying gene expression changes in this phylum, which makes up such a significant portion of this metatranscriptome, can therefore reveal if soil warming will have effects on soil ecosystems. These results will prove useful in predicting how our changing climate will affect soils in the numerous different environments in which Acidobacteria live.


Hadley Kerr

Stephen D. McCormick (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Localization and Osmoregulatory Function of the Epithelial Na+ Channel in Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)

Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) are an anadromous species of the group of jawless vertebrates, cyclostomes. Lamprey are the most basal vertebrates with an osmoregulatory strategy, maintaining a steady internal osmolality regardless of the environmental salinity. Since these migratory fish travel between freshwater and seawater twice during their lifetime, they are a particularly interesting organism to study the mechanisms of osmoregulation. Previous studies have demonstrated several mechanisms involved in the movement of water and ions, however, it remains to be determined if the epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) plays a role in lamprey osmoregulation. We hypothesize that ENaC functions in lamprey osmoregulation by moving Na+ across epithelial cells in the gill of sea lamprey. Since ions must be actively taken up by lamprey in freshwater, we predict that ENaC will be more highly expressed and active when lamprey are exposed to freshwater, such as during their larval phase or an ion-poor challenge. Using gill tissue from sea lamprey at larval, metamorphic, and seawater phases of the life cycle, I will observe for the presence or absence of ENaC positive cells. In addition to localizing the channel, I will quantify the presence of ENaC by counting ENaC positive cells in the gill. Studying the mechanisms of ion control is especially significant in this model organism and can offer important information on the evolution of osmoregulatory mechanisms over time.


Manal Khan

Rajini Srikanth (Faculty Sponsor)

Honors College, UMass Boston

Studying the Effectiveness of Interventions and Treatment of Tuberculosis in Pakistan

The aim of this study is to look into interventions and treatments for tuberculosis in Pakistan and to study whether they are effective in decreasing disease burden. This thesis will focus on analyzing published studies of interventions that are currently being used in order to understand where there are strengths and weaknesses in the healthcare system. Research on this topic will be done through using sources such as PubMed, National Center for Biotechnology Information, and Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. About 15 studies will be analyzed in order to make relevant conclusions. Pakistan ranks 5th among 22 high burden countries.1 Tuberculosis has an incidence rate of 231 per 100,000 population and a prevalence rate of 364 per 100,000 population.1 The healthcare system in Pakistan is needing significant improvement and the quality of services are unregulated.1 These issues need to be addressed in order to develop effective initiatives towards a TB-free country.1 Drug resistance is also an arising issue that needs to be addressed. With initial interventions, private clinics use a mobile program to see if the patient fits the criterion for TB and if they are a good candidate, they must produce two sputum samples for further testing.2 In a study, of the positive TB patients 93.3% began treatment, suggesting about 6.7% are not on treatment.2 The process of diagnosis involves patients having to wait until their symptoms become severe (i.e. waiting for them to report coughing and at least 3 other symptoms).2 Research is in progress in order to determine the effectiveness of interventions currently being used.


Mallory Kiernan

Genevieve M. Kozak (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Dartmouth

Isolating Reproductive Barriers in European Corn Borer Moths

Speciation can be hard to observe as it can be difficult to determine when it is happening in real time. Studying the process of speciation requires linking reproductive isolating barriers and genetic changes to ongoing population divergence. The European corn borer moth (Ostrinia nubilalis) is an invasive pest on sweet corn. These moths have populations that use two different strains of sexual pheromones (E-type or Z-type) and that breed later or earlier in the season. These trait differences cause reproductive isolation, possibly leading to speciation. In this project, we sampled moths from Hurley, New York, where both pheromone types occur through the season. We measured traits associated with breeding time and mating frequency. We also measured allele frequency change of loci associated with these two traits (period and pgfar) to determine how allele frequencies and phenotypes change through time. We measured the number of days it takes to break dormancy to determine the frequency of late or early breeding individuals. We compared mating rates between individuals from the Hurley population with other E-type and Z-type populations. Dormancy break times changed between the beginning and the end of the season in field samples, but not in a control lab sample. In mating trials, we found that both Z-type and E- types show reduced mating with Hurley individuals (37.5-50% with Hurley vs. 76-91% with their own type). This allows us to determine what traits are being maintained at Hurley, how it is linked to genetic changes, and provides important information about population divergence.


Emily Grace Kirchner

Paul Katz (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Effects of Conopressin in Juvenile Berghia stephanieae

Hormones play an important role in the development and production of complex behaviors. Conopressin is a molluscan ortholog of the oxytocin/vasopressin hormone. Preliminary results in adult nudibranchs of the species, Berghia stephanieae, suggest that conopressin mostly affected muscle contraction behavior, similar to oxytocin effects in vertebrates. Ongoing experiments are investigating its effects on social or mating behavior. Here, we are testing how conopressin impacts young, pre-reproductive age Berghia, to help distinguish conopressin’s actions on reproductive physiology from other actions. After exposure to conopressin, the juveniles’ exploration time dropped from a mean of 66.3+/-21.6% of the 1 hour observation period to 36.2+/-23.5%. There was no statistically significant change in muscle contraction behavior between treatments, which is a different result from those found in adults. Immunohistochemical experiments examining juveniles across various growth stages may show a connection between developmental differences in hormone expression and behavioral differences between adults and juveniles. These experiments allow us to make connections between the developmental differences we uncover and how they connect to the behavior of Berghia stephanieae.


Grace Lawson

Rolf Karlstrom (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Characterizing Dopaminergic Cells in the Zebrafish Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is an evolutionarily conserved region of the brain responsible for regulating essential processes such as circadian rhythms, reproduction, and feeding. Dysfunction of the hypothalamus is observed in several neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s Disease, which results in the loss of dopaminergic neurons throughout the brain. Dopaminergic cells in the hypothalamus have varied functions, from regulating motor behavior to controlling neuroendocrine output, but the identity and regulation of these cells is not well known. This project investigates the morphology and distribution of dopamine cells in the zebrafish hypothalamus as well as the cell signaling mechanisms that regulate dopamine cell number. Prior studies showed that dopamine signaling is involved in the regulation of cell proliferation in the spinal cord. Based on these findings we hypothesize that dopamine plays a role in proliferation in the hypothalamus as well, likely acting on proliferative stem cells rather than on dopaminergic neurons themselves. Consistent with this hypothesis, my preliminary findings suggest that dopaminergic cells in the hypothalamus are a non-proliferative, mature neuronal population that may derive from dividing Sonic hedgehog-responsive cells.


Stephanie Lopez

Lynn S. Adler (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Medicinal Properties of Sunflower Pollen on Reducing Gut Pathogen Infection in Bumble Bees

Pollinators are critical for agriculture and plant biodiversity. Reports of pollinator decline have sparked interest in responsible factors, such as pathogens. Up to 80% of bumble bees are infected with the gut pathogen Crithidia bombi, which can reduce colony performance and reproduction. Prior research has shown that bees fed sunflower pollen had dramatically reduced infection. My thesis goal was to understand how sunflower pollen morphology and chemical composition reduce Crithidia infection in Bombus impatiens. We hypothesized that the spiky morphology of the outer shell of sunflower pollen pierces Crithidia inhabiting the hindgut and prevents them from adhering, decreasing infection. The spiky shell and metabolites of sunflower pollen were compared to the smooth shell and metabolites of buckwheat pollen. Sunflower pollen was compared to buckwheat because buckwheat pollen does not reduce Crithidia infection and has similar protein content to sunflower pollen.

Bees were infected with a standard inoculum dose and assigned to one of seven pollen diet treatments: sunflower metabolites or shells mixed with wildflower pollen, buckwheat metabolites or shells mixed with wildflower, sunflower positive control, buckwheat negative control, and wildflower negative control. After one week of feeding on their diet treatment, I dissected bees and counted Crithidia under a microscope to ask how diet affected infection intensity. Preliminary analysis indicates that sunflower spiky shells reduce Crithidia infection compared to all other treatments except pure sunflower pollen, suggesting a mechanism for sunflower's medicinal properties. Future research may determine whether other plants with similar spiky morphology also reduce infection.


Jessica LoPreste

Eric Owen Williams (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology and Chemistry, Fitchburg State University

Dysferlin Protein Functionality in Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a rare disease characterized by the progressive weakness and degeneration of muscle tissue. Our specific area of interest was dysferlinopathic muscular dystrophy, a subclass of muscular dystrophy that is related to a mutation in the dysferlin gene. This mutation in the dysferlin gene causes dysferlin protein to degrade shortly after production and/or become mislocalized. The purpose of our experiment was to determine if the addition of the GPR89A gene would rescue the mislocalization and degradation of mutated dysferlin , as a homolog of GPR89A was previously found to rescue dysferlin function in C. elegans worms. Immunocytochemistry was used to visualize the presence and localization of dysferlin protein in a wild type cell line and four different types of pathogenic DYSF cell lines (G426V, L1341P, R555W, and V67D). The DYSF (G426V) cell line was picked based on the degree of DYSF mislocalization. Four versions of the GPR89A transgene were added to the DYSF (G426V) cell line and tested for the ability to rescue mislocalization. Our results suggested that the addition of GPR89A may actually worsen DYSF function, as all the cell lines that had variants of GPR89A had more mislocalized dysferlin proteins than the control cell line. The next step is to test the effect of GPR89A on the other DYSF mutations to determine if our observations are specific to DYSF (G426V).


Ibroxim Madjidov

Elizabeth Jakob (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Correlating Brain Anatomy with Behavior in Spiders

Spider families show great diversity in their behavior, ranging from active hunters that pursue prey to sit-and-wait predators. This behavioral diversity is reflected in differences in their visual systems. The number, complexity, and arrangement of spider eyes varies across spider families and offers an opportunity for comparative study. For example, jumping spiders are known for their visually driven behaviors. Their high-acuity moveable principal eyes have small retinas and thus a small field of view, and are directed to moving objects by one of three pairs of smaller, motion-detecting secondary eyes. While other families also have movable principal eyes, these vary in retinal size, acuity, and the degree of precise muscular control, as well as which pair of secondary eyes overlap in the field of view. In this project, we will explore the variation in eye movement control across spider families and examine the underlying neural architecture. Using a custom-built ophthalmoscope, we will present a visual stimulus (flashing LED) to spiders with and without their secondary eyes masked in order to investigate whether secondary eyes direct principal eye movement in other less-studied spider families. Then, we will correlate eye movement and neural morphology across spider families by imaging on a confocal microscope. To catalog variation in neural morphology, we will measure the number of retinal cells to the optical glomeruli in the secondary eye and compare corresponding brain characteristics. This project will advance our understanding of the evolution of visual systems and how visual information is processed in the spider brain.


Marzia Maliha

Michele Markstein (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Identifying Clinically Relevant Substrates of ABC Transporters in a Drosophila Model for Stem Cell Drug Resistance

One of the main causes of tumor recurrence is the persistence of cancerous stem cells (CSCs), which are highly resistant to chemotherapeutics. Although they constitute only a small proportion of the total cells in a given tumor, their self-renewal properties cause tumor to become more powerful after surviving a given chemotherapeutic. The current rate of tumor recurrence after chemotherapy varies by type and severity of cancer, but in all cases, it is one of the highest contributors to mortality in cancer patients. I plan to investigate one of the potential contributors to stem cells’ drug-resistant properties, ABC transporters, using drosophila as a model system.The goal of this experiment is to identify which ABC transporters among the seven candidates are necessary for effluxing chemotherapeutics and similar clinical substrates. ABC transporters which lead to hyperproliferation in stem cells can allow cancerous stem cells to survive chemotherapeutics and tumors to recur (often at faster and deadlier rate). If these ABC transporters’ homologs are targeted in humans, better rates of drug transmission can be achieved and rates of tumor recurrence can be lowered. I will set up crosses of normal EGT flies to seven drosophila ABC-transporter- RNAi-lines and Luc-oex flies. I will expose the progeny of these crosses to three potent Class II chemotherapeutics—bortezomib, d-actinomycin, and irinotecan—, etoposide, and compound E. I will dissect and image the guts of the control, drug-treated, and compound-E-treated flies to examine tumor growth. After identifying the ABC transporters responsible for drug-resistant properties of stem cells, I will find the homologs of these transporters in humans.


Daelyn McClain

Delilah S. Oliveira

Christine Peter (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Academic Resource Center, UMass Dartmouth

Bacteriophage Therapy as the Optimal Solution to the Antibiotic Resistance Pandemic

Antibiotics are a subcategory of the microorganism-targeting class of medications known as antimicrobials. In the clinical, agricultural, and aqua-cultural settings, antibiotic resistance from various species of common bacteria has been growing into a massive world- scale issue that has not been properly addressed. The history of antibiotic resistance dates back thousands of years due to natural evolutionary occurrences, before science was advanced enough to address it. Today the growing rate of antibiotic resistance can be attributed to misuse of the medication, lack of medical advancement, lack of regulation, and even economic motives. This means we are currently on the cusp of a post-antibiotic era where last resort measures are no longer effective. While there have been several alternative treatments to bacterial infections proposed, this review focuses on bacteriophage therapy in humans as the optimal alternative treatment for the pandemic based on many research papers, clinical trials, and other pieces of scientific literature and media. Bacteriophage therapy has little known harmful side effects and presents with an ability to terminate even the most virulent bacteria. Now it is more vital than ever that such solutions be considered because without action, the human population may soon become helpless when inflicted with bacterial infections.


Patricia McDonlad

Amanda Leigh Murray Hyde (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Greenfield Community College

Nuclear Power and Nature: How Are Ecosystems Affected?

Nuclear power is one of many alternate sources to fossil fuels for countries to source energy that comes with it own benefits and dangers. This project will examine how ecosystems are impacted by the use of nuclear energy to answer the question: Do the benefits of nuclear power generation outweigh the potential costs? Using Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant black out and fallout and the successful nuclear energy led power grid in France as case studies, this paper will explore how these plants effect the environment around them. The consequences of complete radiation leakage into the local ecosystem will be described and contrasted against the benefits of zero carbon energy production has on the ecosystem. The analysis of these cost benefits will be used to help solve current energy production problems. In order to aid global renewable energy production, collaborative solutions relying on diverse zero carbon producing energy sources will be required. Should nuclear energy continue to be part of the solution?


Arden McKnight

Gina Mineo Foley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Berkshire Community College

Bioremediation of Hydrocarbons by Pseudomonas putida

Oil spills from hydrocarbons are one of the most economically and ecologically damaging human caused catastrophes. As humans have transitioned into the modern era, more focus has been placed on the clean up and prevention of oil spills. However, some of the more challenging aspects to the clean up of hydrocarbons involve the large-scale transport and storage of hydrocarbons. During the transport and storage of hydrocarbons, oil can be spilled on to land. When oil is spilled on land, the hydrocarbons seep through the soil and cause the soil to become non-arable. Another result of a land oil spill is the contamination of groundwater by hydrocarbons. There are currently three different methods for the cleanup of land oils spills. One method includes the removal of contaminated groundwater by pumping it out of reservoirs. Another method is the removal of hydrocarbon contaminated soil through mechanical means, commonly called dredging. These methods of remediation can have tragic impacts on ecological diversity in the area. The third, and largely untested method is the bioremediation of hydrocarbons by common soil bacteria. In this study, the bioremediation capabilities of the common soil bacteria, Pseudomonas putida, will be studied on three different mixtures of Gasoline, Diesel, and Aviation Gas, as well as motor oil.


Brenda Souza Medeiros

Sallie Schneider (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

Age-Dependent Effects of Loss of SFRP1 in the Intestine

Introduction: Deregulation of the Wnt pathway is known to play a role in tumorigenesis. Secreted Frizzled Related Proteins (SFRPs) are antagonists of Wnt/b-catenin signaling. The targeted deletion of SFRP1 has been shown to be associated with Wnt induced cancers such as colorectal cancer at the RNA and protein level. Specifically, in colonic crypts, Wnt plays an integral role in maintaining homeostasis. Epigenetic silencing of SFRP1 has been observed in colorectal cancer and is further supported by decreased SFRP1 methylation with age. Using SFRP1 knockout mice we would like to address whether this deletion affects Wnt signaling or other Wnt related pathways in intestinal crypts and villi during puberty and in older mice.

Hypothesis: Loss of SFRP1 will alter Wnt and immune-related genes in an age-dependent manner.

Methods: Large and small intestine of (5wk and 22wk) SFRP1-/- SFRP1+/+ mice were removed, RNA was isolated, and tissue was fixed. Through qRT-PCR and IHC analysis we examined Cox2, IL6, ARRDC3, b-catenin, and YAP1.

Results: Age dependent effects were noted in RNA expression of Cox2 and IL6. We also noted age-dependent effects of active b-catenin and YAP1 at the protein level. ARRDC3 expression was increased at both ages however this is opposite to what was previously shown in breast.

Conclusion: Interesting effects were noted in different pathways with a loss of SFRP1 which may contribute to tumor susceptibility.


Asma Mohamoud Muse

Mao-Lun Weng (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Westfield State University

Using a MinION Sequencer to Sequence Mitochondria Genome of Pelargonium echinatum

Mitochondria is the powerhouse of a cell. Mitochondria are located in the cytoplasm of cells along with other organelles of the cell. The primary role of the mitochondria is to take raw nutrient material and generate energy for cells. In plants, raw materials are taken from glucose formed by photosynthesis. The mitochondria in plants are quite interesting because it shares the cell with the plastid, which is also another energy-generating organelle. Furthermore, plant mitochondria play a major role in the synthesis of metabolic ancestors such as amino acid, vitamins and lipids. The mitochondrial genome for plants was not commonly studied because lack of genomic diversity shown in studies that were done earlier. Recent studies have found that mitochondria in plants actually have a wider range of genome size variation than in animals. The project aims to sequence the mitochondrial genome of a plant species, Pelargonium echinatum. Genomic DNA from this plant was extracted from fresh leaf materials and sequenced by Nanopore MinION. MinION has two advantages; it can sequence long strands of DNA and output the data in real-time. The results of the project and the challenge of sequencing plant mitochondrial genome using MinION will be presented and discussed.


Jennifer R. Nadeau

Arianna Brown

Payton A. Cheeks

Tim Leybovsky

Jonathan E. Pilat

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Air Quality and Public Health

Urban and rural areas are increasingly facing poor air quality with impacts on public health. This study aims to study air quality and its strong impact on health using literature review and case studies. Sources of urban pollution include increased ozone levels, urban smog, automobile emissions, heavy equipment, and smoke. Air quality in rural areas is impacted by dust, vehicular traffic, pesticides, dust from rock quarries, and smoke from wood and crop fires. Some mitigation options are to stay indoors when pollution is high and avoid physical activity during high air pollution days. Specific factors influencing air quality are weather conditions, types and amount of gases, new emissions, the existence of natural vegetation, and impervious cover. There is a need to reduce emissions and increase preventative measures in polluted areas. These include preventive care for asthma or a chronic lung or heart problem, and consultation in cases of chest tightness, burning eyes, or a cough. Children need protection from the effects of higher levels of pollution. The landscape needs to be planted with natural vegetation to filter some of the contaminants. Comprehensive measures are urban and rural scales should aim at improving air quality for a better quality of living.


Kristina Srdjan Nedeljkovic

Paul Katz (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Effects of Conopressin on Behavior in Berghia stephanieae

Gaining a comprehensive understanding on the neural networks activated during courtship and mating will help to create a link between neuron activation and observed behaviors. The control of social behaviors and courtship behaviors in Berghia stephanieae is mediated by a variety of hormones that result in specific physiological and psychological responses. The gene that codes for conopressin, an oxytocin homolog, is seen to be expressed in adult, sexually mature Berghia, however; previous work has failed to identify the exact function of the release of conopressin during courtship and mating. To determine the behavioral responses initiated by the release of conopressin, we exposed Berghia in pairs to conopressin through bath application, minimizing physiological limitations to behavior through specific low doses. Social behaviors preceding and during mating were analyzed through time-lapse video monitoring and computerized behavioral scoring. Length of mating, frequency of mating, and other mating behaviors was similar between treated and untreated Berghia, while exposure to conopressin decreased latency to mating in treated Berghia. These results demonstrate the importance of the release of hormones, specifically conopressin during courtship and mating, and provide a framework to study the importance of other genes coding for hormone release in adult, sexually mature Berghia.


Nina Wothaya Ngari

Lawrence Mckenna (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Science and Policy Program, Framingham State University

The Prevalence, Awareness, and Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases among Patients of Nairobi and Nyeri, Kenya: A Cautionary Tale

Cardiovascular diseases are prevalent diseases in most countries in Africa. Diseases such as hypertension and coronary artery disease often stem from exposure to risk factors such as excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and poor diet. Managing cardiovascular disease is possible, but in African countries the hospital attended often depends on wealth, and outcome often depends on the hospital attended. Historically, private hospitals are favored over public hospitals because such institutions have more funding and better resources for their patients.

The first objective was to investigate the correlation between the risk factors stated above, treatment, occurrence, and management of cardiovascular disease among Kenyan patients of Nairobi and Nyeri, Kenya. The second objective was to evaluate the differences between care in a government-funded, public hospital (Nyeri County Referral Hospital) and a private- hospital (Karen Hospital of Nairobi).

As a result of the study, not enough data was collected to make conclusions about the quality of care in Nairobi and Nyeri Hospitals. However, data collected from the cardiovascular clinic of Nyeri County Hospital revealed that patients were greater than 30 years old, and 70% of patients were female. The data also revealed that 33% of men were between 54-64 years and 67% of men were older than 65 years. Conclusions about the findings were thought to be cultural; typically males do not seek treatment until their conditions have worsened.

Ultimately, this study revealed that time and funding are the keys to success to conduct research abroad.


Chinemerem Nwokemodo-Ihejirika

Gerald Downes (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Visualization of GABAA Receptor, A Subunit Expression in Larval Zebrafish

GABAA receptors have been studied and shown to be crucial for normal locomotor behavior. However, the complexity and diversity of these receptors have made it difficult for researchers to understand the mechanisms behind their control of locomotion. GABAA receptors are heteropentameric, consisting of 5 subunits from a pool of 19 subunits (α1-α6, β1-β3, γ1- γ3, δ, ε, θ, π, and ρ1–ρ3) in mammals, each coded by an individual gene. Results from gene inactivation studies in mammals have been complicated by the activation of compensatory mechanisms, creating the necessity for new model systems. The developing zebrafish has simpler locomotor networks than mammalian systems, making this model more advantageous for study. Published work from the Downes Lab has shown that there are at least 22 different subunits in the zebrafish system. Additionally, preliminary mutagenesis screens at the lab have suggested that α3 and α5 subunits might play a significant role in modulating locomotor behavior. To better understand how these subunits function in locomotor networks, I aim to examine the expression patterns of both subunits simultaneously, in search of overlapping domains. I will employ double fluorescent in situ hybridization and confocal microscopy to examine the expression domains. This study will provide the tools to further analyze how α3 and α5 subunits contribute to the proper functioning of locomotor networks. Moreover, since locomotor network organization and function are conserved across vertebrates, results from this study may have implications for mammalian systems, including humans.


Nya O’Neal

Janna Covaliova

Surprise Bahati Mutunwa

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health

Air pollution affects human health directly through inhalation of contaminated air and is the ninth leading risk for cardiopulmonary mortality leading to 3.2 million deaths each year. In this study, we focus on lung diseases caused by air pollution and ways to mitigate their effects in the city. By studying the types of air pollution, this study will characterize locations that have the potential for high levels of air pollution, and methods to reduce air pollution. Air pollution is caused by solid particles and gases in the air that can interfere with proper functioning of the human system, particularly the respiratory system. Specific contaminants include particulate matter, ozone, volatile organic compounds, SO2, NOx, and CO. The contaminants can be toxic, cause irritation, and sometimes accumulate in the lungs causing respiratory diseases. Both indoor and outdoor environments can be impacted by air quality. Air Pollution has a direct effect on human lungs by entering through air ways, causing immediate and long-term symptoms and diseases. Specific ailments include asthma, COPD, lung cancer, and lung infections that can lead to impairment and mortality. becoming itchy and bothered. Using a specific case of a city, sources and transfer of air pollution will be used to identify mitigation strategies.


Lisa O. Ochanda

Sara Burke

Jeriel Garcia

Jodi Doris Palumbo

Tess L. Killpack (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Salem State University

Effects of Sodium Chloride and Potassium Chloride on Germination and Growth of Lettuce Seeds (Latuca sativa)

During winter in New England, salt is used to line roads to melt ice and snow, but this salt can run off into local waterways and soils and impact local vegetation. Sodium Chloride (NaCl), or rock salt, is a natural and inexpensive ice melt. Potassium Chloride (KCl) is used as a fertilizer and also a deicing agent that is deemed safer for vegetation and pets. This experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of the two different salts on germination and embryonic root growth of lettuce seeds (Latuca sativa), a model organism for ecotoxicology studies. We diluted different concentrations of the two salts and germinated lettuce seeds with three replications of each concentration. The root length and germinated seeds were then measured after a week of germination to show the rate of growth at each concentration. ANOVA tests were performed to determine significant differences among concentrations of the two salts and the two data sets were compared and analyzed. The data showed that with concentration increase there was a decrease in the number of seeds germinated and in the embryonic root length. Moderate concentrations of salts are more tolerable for plants to grow without stunting their growth.


Melissa Otero

Mao-Lun Weng (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Westfield State University

Lack of Evidence of Horizontal Gene Transfer of Capsule Biosynthesis Genes in Streptococcus pneumoniae

Streptococcus pneumoniae is an anaerobic gram-positive bacteria. It is bacilli (rod) shaped. The bacteria is transmitted through respiratory droplets by direct contact with others and causes infections. In this research project, a phylogenetic approach was done to investigate whether Streptococcus pneumoniae exchanged their capsule biosynthesis genes with other strains of Streptococcus by horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Three capsule genes, cspA, cpsM, and cpsJ were included in the analysis because they were shown to create stronger capsules in bacteria. The phylogenetic analysis showed that there was no horizontal gene transfer in the three capsule genes. If horizontal gene transfer was present, then there would have been S. pneumoniae strains grouped with other strains in the same clade. A possible reason for the absence of HGT in the capsule genes could be that the capsule genes are too critical in Streptococcus’s survival to give to other strains. Furthermore, since the study focused on just three cps genes, it is possible that HGT occurred in other cps genes that were not included in the study. For future studies, additional statistical analysis can be incorporated with the phylogenetic approach to measuring HGT.


Nicole Marie Palacino

Ray Kinoshita Mann (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Architecture, UMass Amherst

Use of Biophilia and Plant-Microbe Interactions to Optimize Megacity Living

The United Nations predicts that by 2050, two thirds of the world will live in an urban environment. This rapid shift in living conditions does not come without detriments. In cities, humans are surrounded by man-made spaces that diverge from the natural environment from which they evolved, creating a psychological and physiological toll on them. For example, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds can cause sick building syndrome, a composite of illnesses caused by excessive time spent in buildings.

People have attempted to address the mental and the physical tolls of living in cities separately, but they could be more effectively addressed simultaneously. One potential avenue for addressing these problems is biophilic design, which advances the notion that humans have an affinity for nature. I would like to explore biophilic design theory as a way to design a multi-unit housing prototype. My approach will use my background in science to incorporate design methods such as using forms found in nature, while including green walls to reduce the amount of pollutants in the indoor environment. By using green walls, not only will nature be brought to the indoor setting, but this same nature will also be used to remove the most prevalent pollutants, increasing the physical health of the building’s inhabitants. The combination of this presence of plants in the building and the biophilic design will create a healthier living environment for individuals who are living in some of the most compact and polluted cities.


Destiny Parenteau

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Living with a Chronic Disorder and Treatment

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease and an inflammatory type of arthritis. This illness typically affects women, you can get this by older age, or genetics. The worst part of Rheumatoid Arthritis is the affects it has on the body, this disorder is extremely damaging both mentally and physically. It causes extreme pain and swelling, and has been linked mental illnesses such as depression. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, but there are some treatments you can be given to increase your chance of going into remission. There are many types of medication that are given for this specific disorder, but some patient may not respond to any medications. Many of the medications are also used to treat cancer, but just a smaller dosage. These medications can greatly weaken your immune system, causing your body to turn a common cold into bronchitis or pneumonia. Over a long period of time, Rheumatoid Arthritis will permanently change the joints in your finger and toes, causing them to become crooked and painful. If Rheumatoid Arthritis is not found and treated for a very long time, it can cause form into different types of cancer, and usually at that time it is too late. This project will explore the best treatment options for people at different ages and at different stages of the disease. It will give a criteria for when it is best to focus medication on symptoms and pain, when it is best to focus on underlying causes, and when it is best to combine medications.


Tafadzwa Violet Payne

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

How Successful Are Gene Therapy and Immunotherapy

This project will explain how immunotherapy and gene therapy are both adequate treatments for killing tumor cells, correcting genetic defects and developing vaccines. Gene therapy and immunotherapy are both types of treatment for cancer and other diseases, and they have some points at which they intersect. But typically they represent different approaches to disease therapy. Consequently, these two treatment approaches were practiced separately and understood as discrete therapy types. Recently, an example of gene therapy that is also immunotherapy was approved by the FDA and has been a game changer for the difficult to treat B cell leukemia. This new approach is a genetic modification of a patient’s immune cells to target cancer. This project will use this new joint treatment method to investigate if this approach warrants a change in our practices regarding lukemia generally and other similar diseases. The overall conceptual understanding of immunotherapy and gene therapy will also be discussed in the light of this new discovery.


Johnathan Andrew Petit

Rolf Karlstrom (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Probing the Osmoregulatory Role of Growth Hormone POC and POM through the Metamorphic Progression in Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)

The sea lamprey is a basal vertebrate species that initially develops in fresh water (e.g. the Connecticut river and its tributaries), then adapts to salt water during a metamorphic phase as it migrates to the Atlantic. Combined with its basal position in the vertebrate lineage, the lamprey provides an excellent model for probing the evolution of osmoregulatory hormones. The pituitary hormones prolactin (PRL) and proopiomelanocortin (POMC) are known to play roles in regulating salt balance in higher vertebrates, from teleost fish species to humans. The sea lamprey genome does not appear to contain a PRL gene, however it does contain a gene encoding Growth Hormone (GH), which is closely related to PRL and is known to control seawater acclimation in teleost fish. The lamprey genome also contains sequences that encode proopiocortin (POC) and proopiomelanotropin (POM), two hormones structurally like POMC. My project is to test the hypothesis that GH produced by the pituitary is the major osmoregulatory hormone that controls the multiple tissue changes needed for the lamprey to adapt to salt water. I will use in situ hybridization to examine the cells that express GH, POC and POM in the lamprey pituitary before, during and after metamorphosis, when seawater tolerance first develops. I predict that GH expression and cell numbers will change as the lamprey gains salt tolerance, while POC/POM cell numbers will not change. This work should shed light on the evolution of hormone-controlled osmoregulatory processes, a key element of vertebrate homeostasis.




Lande-Nathessa Petit-Frere

Darshana Blaise

Lorenzo Rafael Hernandez

Margaret Riley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Efficacy of a Bacteriocin (Nisin) against Three Species of Mycobacteria

According to the World Health Organization Tuberculosis is one of the top ten leading causes of death worldwide. It is an infectious disease that is treated using a cocktail of antibiotics. With the rise of antibiotic resistance, treatment has become difficult due to multi drug resistance. We have researched alternatives to antibiotics for the treatment of TB and we believe the best alternative is a bacteriocin named Nisin. Bacteriocins are antimicrobial peptides produced by bacteria to inhibit the growth of closely related bacteria. In sharp contrast, nisin, a bacteriocin produced by the Lactococcus lactis, has been shown to inhibit numerous bacterial species. Further, it possesses several features that argue it might serve as a promising alternative to conventional antibiotics, including its lack of toxicity, stability, and proven use treating mastitis in cows. Our research is aimed at determining the effectiveness of nisin in preventing the growth of three species which are close relatives of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis. The assumption is that bacteriocins active against these species are likely to be active against Mtb. The MIC’s for nisin were determined for twenty strains of mycobacteria from three species, M. abscessus, M. fortuitum, and M. chelonae. Acid fast testing was performed to ensure that our strains were Mycobacteria and then a standard MIC assay was performed in 96-well microtiter dishes. The results show that nisin is effective against strains from all three species, and, is active at equal or even lower concentrations than required for conventional antibiotics.


Michael Pires

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Pesticide Use in Agriculture

Pesticides are important to agriculture to reduce crop loss and increase the efficient production of food for the human population. However, pesticides are toxic and have potential impacts on human health and the environment. In our project on pesticides, we seek to both demonstrate the benefits and detriments of pesticide use in the United States and possible remedies to its use. Our focus for the detrimental aspects of pesticide use will include the effects on human endocrine function, reduction in beneficial insect populations such as bees, and possible unintended transfer of pesticides in soil, air, and water. We focus our remediation efforts on reducing usage, reduce loss during production, and minimize exposure of humans and ecosystems. This will include eco-friendly materials in production and manufacturing, low usage, and cleanup after agricultural uses. In addition, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) will be reviewed as a strategy to reduce pesticide use in agriculture. This project shall, therefore, demonstrate a two-sided and well-rounded approach to manage pesticides and understanding of the controversial use of pesticides in agriculture in the United States.


Evan Prasky

Lawrence Mckenna (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Science and Policy Program, Framingham State University

Soil Phosphate Has Little Effect on the Growth of Hemp (Cannabis sativa)

C. sativa like all plants requires phosphate for growth and reproduction. This macronutrient is an essential indicator of how well a plant will grow and reproduce throughout its life cycle. Increased phosphate however can disrupt the biogeochemical process involved with nutrient cycling and inhibit C. sativa’s overall fitness. In this study, C. sativa’s overall growth is insensitive to less than 16-fold soil phosphate concentration enhancement. However, the data suggest that C. sativa growing in higher soil with 16-fold phosphate enrichment reached sexual maturity sooner than control plants. If confirmed by additional studies, this finding could have significant policy implications.


Shannon L. Prouty

Nicole Porther (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Title IX through a Public Health Lens

Sexual misconduct and violence on college campuses is a major public heath issue that is often under-reported and overlooked. Title IX sought to address prohibit and address these hostile environments that persist higher education. Yet, to date, Title IX violation cases are widely prevalent on college campuses and are steadily increasing the incidence. Furthermore many of these violations still go unreported or fail to have the follow-through of investigations despite the gravity of the situation. It is believed that one possible cause in the rise of Title IX cases on college campuses can be attributed to the lack of or insufficient education and training of Title IX policy for all identified stakeholders, including students. Given the health implications of Title IX violations, this study proposes how college campuses facilitate better Title IX education. We will also address the role and response of public health providers and officials in Title IX cases; and the implications on the health and well-being of college students. Research will be conducted through interviews of students, faculty, police, Title IX coordinators, mental health providers, physical health providers, and any other public health provider that can play a role in ending this epidemic. There will also be an educational pathway created for students on a college campus that will mandate that students learn about Title IX, Title IX violations, the implications of Title IX violations, and how to end discriminatory violence in educational environments.


Octavia Robbins-Holmes

Veronika Gelmudinov

Darryl S. Green

Erika E. Rijo

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Climate Change Impacts: Carbon Emissions in Western Massachusetts

Springfield forum explores one hundred percent renewable energy goal. By the end of the century, rising temperatures could make Massachusetts feel more like Virginia according to the 2006 Northeast Climate Assessment. In the Pioneer Valley, climate change will likely lead to an increase in flooding, drought, and extreme weather, affecting agriculture, wildlife, human health, public works, and municipal budgets, according to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. To lower greenhouse gas emissions, the city hires sustainability coordinator. Climate activists have lobbied Springfield city officials for years to create such a position. The state’s emissions declined 2.5 percent in 2016. They’re now 21 percent below 1990 levels. Massachusetts’ goal is to reduce emissions 10 to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. State officials say the act “created a framework for reducing heat-trapping emissions to levels that scientists believe give us a reasonable chance of avoiding the worst effects of global warming.


Justin C. Roch

Lynn S. Adler (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Characterization of Bee Diversity and Visitation in Sunflower Crops

There are over 4,000 species of wild bees in North America. Wild bees are highly effective pollinators, and when sufficiently diverse and abundant, can serve as the primary pollinators for certain crops. Bee diversity in agroecosystems can be affected by the availability of specific floral resources, since different bee species often prefer or specialize on certain species of flowers. Bees can also prefer different flowers on the same species of plant, depending on the species and sex of the bee and the flower’s pollen or nectar availability. Sunflowers (Helianthus) are the host of several pollen-specialist bees, and their pollen availability can vary with cultivar or flower age. We assessed the diversity of the bee community visiting sunflower crops and studied species- and sex-based visitation frequency within the community. From July to September 2019, we sampled wild bees at 14 farms across western Massachusetts, visiting most farms twice. Bees were collected from sunflowers for one hour, and we recorded if each sunflower head was currently pollen-fertile or pollen-sterile. Bee identification revealed 14 genera and at least 30 species, including a new species record for New England. Preliminary analysis suggests that in most species, female bees are most frequently found on pollen-fertile sunflowers, including females of the kleptoparasitic genus Triepeolus that do not collect pollen. Additionally, over 99% of Halictus ligatus from sunflowers were females, suggesting that this species exhibits strong sex-based differences in sunflower visitation. We conclude that bee species and sexes can vary in effectiveness as pollinators for specific crops.


Christina Maria Rodriguez

Lindsay D. Duchnowski

Eric Owen Williams (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology and Chemistry, Fitchburg State University Muscular Dystrophy: Analysis of Dysferlin Suppression in Myoblasts

The goal of the project is to create a model for dysferlinopathy, a rare form of muscular dystrophy that is caused by mutations in the dysferlin gene. Dysferlin is localized to the plasma membrane and is important for repairing damaged muscle cell membranes. When a missense mutation occurs, the dysferlin protein becomes misfolded and accumulates in the endoplasmic reticulum. Ultimately, it is degraded. Without dysferlin the muscle is unable to repair membrane damage, resulting in weakness and loss of muscle mass. During muscle development, myoblasts, the precursor cells to muscles, will differentiate and fuse together to form multinucleated skeletal muscle cells. Fusion of myoblasts is a critical part of skeletal muscle development and regeneration. There is recent evidence to suggest that in addition to membrane repair, dysferlin may support myoblast fusion. To test this, we are differentiating myoblast cell lines into myotubes. We will assess myotube fusion in C2C12 myoblasts containing wild type dysferlin, and GREG myoblasts, derived from mice lacking dysferlin protein. We will determine dysferlin localization and protein levels by immunocytochemistry. In addition, we will develop a quantitative method to assess myotube fusion. Identifying a role for dysferlin in myotube fusion would have implications for the muscle loss observed in patients with dysferlinopathy.


Nyya Samuels

Timothy Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

STEM Starter Academy, Springfield Technical Community College

Potential Effects of GMO on Diabetes Occurrence

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are predominant in the food industry. According to the FDA, genetically modifying plants increased in the 1990’s and constitute 93% of all soybeans and 88% of all corn. Corn or corn derivatives such as aspirin, chocolate, eggs or bread; which are high in glucose are often to improve taste. Diabetes and prediabetes are two diseases affecting over 108 million globally and over 1.6 million deaths. Diabetes occurs when the body cannot make insulin to convert glucose (sugar) or does not use insulin efficiently.        Genetically Modified foods are available in markets in every country and have been associated with causing diabetes, especially in countries with high poverty or low- income populations, often increasing death rates and obesity. The general objective is to study the potential link between GMO and diabetes occurrence. A review is conducted on GMO’s and how biotechnologist modify plants and animals to change their genetic makeup. The impacts of genetically modified foods on country’s economy and health are sourced from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Results show that even though they do not import or cultivate GM foods, countries like Zimbabwe and Kyrgyzstan hive a higher population of diabetics. GMO use in foods across the world cannot be fully attributed to being a definitive cause of Diabetes. Countries that have a more urbanized areas tend to have more occurrences of diabetes. Countries who do not cultivate or import genetically modified foods do not have significantly lower number of cases and some have more.


Kimberly Marie Sawyer-Wheeler

Iain Kuttner

Gina Mineo Foley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Berkshire Community College

Oxidative Stress in Sacharomyces cerevisiae

The purpose of this experiment is to better understand the link between chemical stimuli and gene expression. This experiment utilizes Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the model organism to observe the eukaryotic heat shock response. The heat shock response is a biological function that allows an organism’s cells to defend against damage inflicted by environmental stressors such as heat, cold, ionizing radiation, and the presence of oxidative agents. Heat shock proteins protect the cell from damage that may interfere with homeostasis. The ability to mount a heat shock response is essential to life. Genes that code for heat shock proteins, such as HSF-1, are highly conserved, and can be found in organisms ranging from microorganisms to whales. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from creating destructive chemical reactions within the cell, their presence may influence genetic expression leading to increased production of heat shock proteins. Previous studies establish a link between the presence of the antioxidant celastrol, and activation of the HSF-1 gene.The mechanism through which celastrol affects HSF-1 expression is not well understood.

In this experiment, wild strain S. cerevisiae will be treated with celastrol, ascorbic acid, or an inert control substance. Newly plated colonies treated with one substance will be exposed to acute heat stress, UV radiation, or hydrogen peroxide as an oxidative agent. The growth of S. cerevisiae will be measured after 1 day, and the number of CFUs measured. If antioxidant treatments provoke HSF-1 expression, the colonies treated with antioxidants will fare better against these stressors.


Cole Ernest Seaman

Gina Mineo Foley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Berkshire Community College

The Effects of Exogenous Dopamine on Caenorhabditis elegans

Many organisms use a behavioral process called area-restricted search (ARS) in order to find food and other resources. This behavior is defined as the time dependent reduction of bodily turns, following the last resource encountered. This means that the organism maximizes its time in an area with abundant resources, while being able to expand the search when resources are diminished. It was demonstrated that in Caenorhabditis elegansa microscopic nematode found in soil, dopamine is partially responsible for ARS signaling. To study this, a sample of C. elegans underwent a genetic ablation to the Cat-2 gene. The Cat-2 gene is responsible for the creation of dopamine within C. elegans. This caused the nematodes to display atypical feeding patterns. The C. elegans observed would search in a straight line for a short time before taking a sharp 90° turn and continuing in a straight line. However, when C. elegans was treated with an outside source of dopamine, the nematodes displayed a more typical ARS pattern. The C. elegans treated with an outside source of dopamine would search in a straight line for a short amount of time before making a wide sweeping 180° turn and continue in a straight line. This suggests that dopamine is released in response to food, which regulates ARS in C. elegans by increasing turn frequency.


Lara Kay Sernberger

Tammy Lynn Haut Donahue (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Bioengineering, UMass Amherst

Inflammatory Cytokines of Interest in Post-Traumatic Osteoarthritis

Post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) is a disease that occurs frequently following injury to the knee affecting millions worldwide, characterized by cartilage degradation and synovial inflammation causing symptoms such as synovitis, inflammation, and pain. The aim of this research is to determine the presence and quantity of inflammatory cytokines associated with damage to soft tissues in the synovial fluid (SF) of a closed-joint knee impact injury model. This project will identify changes in cytokine presence and quantity post injury to the knee compared to uninjured limbs giving insight into the progression of PTOA. The current gold standard treatment results in disability, chronic joint pain, and or arthroplasty to replace the joint for many patients. By identifying pathophysiologic changes at the micro- level, a treatment plan may be developed to decrease of macro-level symptoms associated with PTOA. SF was immediately harvested from both knee joints of Flemish Giant rabbits that had undergone traumatic injury to the knee joint, followed by surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament. Cytokines present in the SF samples will be determined by liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry and data analyzed using gene ontology (GO)-based analysis. It is hypothesized that minimal amounts of inflammatory cytokines will be present in uninjured limbs with an increased presence of cytokines at the first time point with a slight decrease over time due to recovery post injury and surgery in injured limbs. As recovery proceeds, inflammation decreases which we expect to see mirrored in inflammatory cytokine levels.



Kevin M. Shannon

Adam Porter (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Analysis of the Backflip-Turn Flight Mechanism in Vertical Flight of Butterflies

Because their wings are so large, butterflies cannot flap their wings in the conventional up- down motion as seen in flies or bees. Instead, butterflies must rotate their bodies during flight so that they face relatively parallel to the ground during their downstroke and relatively perpendicular to the ground during their upstroke. In conventional forward flight, changing the pitch of their bodies allows butterflies to generate a lift on the downstroke that propels the butterfly upward, and a thrusting force during the upstroke, which propels the butterfly forward. Apart from positioning the wings to flap in a certain direction, changing the body pitch is adaptive because it reduces the surface area of the wings experiencing drag forces, thereby increasing the efficiency of flight. We have found that butterflies perform similar, but exaggerated, flight mechanics during strict vertical flight. Our proposed method of vertical flight in butterflies involves a flight mechanic that we dubbed the "backflip-turn." In the backflip turn, the butterfly produces upward lift with its downstroke; however, during the down stroke, the butterfly experiences a large change in body pitch so that the consecutive upstroke produces an upward lift, instead of forward thrust as seen in forward flight. The exaggerated change in body pitch makes the butterfly look like it is performing a backflip. We are analyzing the flight kinematics behind vertical butterfly takeoff via high-speed recordings of butterflies performing this flight mechanism.


Amanda E. Shorey

Patricia Wadsworth (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Quantification of Microtubule Dynamics in Anaphase

During cellular division, a microtubule-based structure called the midzone is formed in anaphase between the segregating chromosomes. The midzone is composed of interdigitating microtubules from each side of the spindle and microtubule associated regulatory factors that dictate the location of the cytokinetic cleavage furrow. Current work in the Wadsworth lab is directed at understanding the dynamics of midzone microtubules and how these microtubules contribute to chromosome motion and cytokinesis. The goal of my thesis research is to determine the effect that the cytokinetic ring has on midzone microtubule stability. A recent publication demonstrated that the actin ring formed in cytokinesis stabilizes the microtubules in the midzone. However, this study used fixed cell samples, so the dynamics of microtubule stabilization in live cells remains unknown. I intend to explore microtubule behavior in live cells. I hypothesize that the cytokinetic ring  stabilizes microtubules only late in anaphase when the ring components can contact midzone microtubules. However, because this has never been measured in live cells, it is possible that the process of cytokinesis stabilizes, destabilizes, or does not impact the microtubule structure. I will test my hypothesis that cytokinesis impacts microtubule dynamics in anaphase by directly measuring microtubule turnover in live cells throughout the entirety of anaphase. An increased microtubules turnover rate in the midzone of late anaphase cells unable to perform cytokinesis would support my hypothesis that the cytokinetic process has a role in stabilizing midzone microtubules towards the end of anaphase.


Simon Brezniak Shulman

Lillian Fritz-Laylin (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Characterizing Actin-Driven Processes in Naegleria gruberi, a Relative of the Brain-Eating Amoeba

The rare "brain-eating amoeba" Naegleria fowleri causes deadly infections that are almost invariably fatal, yet we have little understanding of its basic cell biology. N. fowleri infection relies on migration of amoebae to and within the brain, as well as osmoregulation through proper contractile vacuole (CV) function. In most other organisms, the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons generate the forces required for cell motility and CV pumping. Naegleria amoebae, however, lack cytoplasmic microtubules, suggesting that these cellular processes are driven solely by actin. The Naegleria genome encodes two classes of actin nucleators (which promote the de novo assembly of actin polymers); the Arp2/3 complex typically nucleates branched actin networks, and formin-family proteins build and elongate linear filaments. To understand how actin dynamics drive cell motility and osmoregulation, we exposed N. gruberi amoebae (a relative of N. fowleri) to small-molecule inhibitors of these actin nucleators and measured amoeboid motility and contractile vacuole activity. Our data suggests that formins and the Arp2/3 complex are necessary for proper motility via formation of plasma-membrane protrusions, as the average speed of amoebae decreases significantly in the presence of these inhibitors. Similarly, a decrease in the rate of contractile vacuole pumping, and increased number of cell explosions indicates an important role for actin nucleators in CV function. With these findings, we have laid important groundwork for the development of new treatments for Naegleria infection.


Ava Gillian Siegel

Michele Markstein (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Non-oncogene Addictions: Exploiting Cancer Stem Cells' Dependance on ABC Transporters in Drosophila

The majority of patients who succumb to cancer have tumors that are multidrug resistant and unresponsive to current chemotherapeutics (Borst et al. 2007). These tumors are fueled by cancer stem cells, which like normal stem cells, express high levels of multidrug resistance efflux pumps called ABC transporters (Kim et al. 2002, Wu et al. 2003, Hirshmann-Jax et al. 2004). A major goal in cancer therapeutics is therefore to find methods to block the tumor-protecting activity of ABC transporters. Using Drosophila melanogaster stem cells as a model, we tested the effects of knocking down in vivo each of the 55 ABC transporters encoded in the Drosophila genome. Surprisingly, we found that the knockdown of two different ABC transporters, ABCB7 and CG32091, in Rafgof stem cell tumors halted growth of the tumor. These results demonstrate that in Drosophila, Rafgof tumors are “addicted” to specific ABC transporters for survival and proliferation. Based on these results, it will be interesting to test if Rafgof tumors in humans likewise depend on the orthologs of ABCB7 and CG32091. These results could point to ABC transporters as optimal drug targets that would work to stop tumor growth in the absence of traditional chemotherapy drugs.


Sarah Caroline Stanhope

Jason Brown (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Salem State University

Gene Disruption of Protein-Encoding Genes IFT22 and TEK1

Cilia assembly is regulated by the expression of hundreds of coordinated genes to ensure that proteins are available for use within the cell. IFT22 and TEK1 are two protein encoding genes present in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which is a unicellular alga used extensively in cilia research. These genes play important roles in cilia assembly and motility. The protein IFT22 is a member of IFT-B1 complex, which is involved in protein trafficking during cilia elongation. An additional portion of IFT is a cargo binding accessory protein complex known as the BBSome. Recent studies have shown that IFT22 recruits the BBSome to the base of the cilia for loading onto IFT trains. By disrupting gene IFT22, it may be possible to better understand the specific function of IFT22 within the transport complexes. Within cilia, the axoneme is the microtubule-based structure responsible for ciliary beating. Tektin protein family members are components of the ciliary axoneme and are mutated in some human ciliopathy patients. This research aims to implement a recently developed CRISPR based gene disruption method to study the functions of IFT22 and Tektin.


Avia Rose Stier

Kimberly Berman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Westfield State University

NLRP12-Deficiency Consequences in Tissue Pathology, Inflammation, and Hyperglycemia in a Mouse Model of Obesity

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is associated with diet-induced obesity and is characterized by insulin resistance, an inability to regulate blood glucose levels, chronic low-grade inflammation due to cytokines such as IL-1β and IL-6. The role of innate immune sensors, such as NLRP3, in T2D has been previously shown. NLRP12 is a recently-discovered NLR member whose role  in disease is only starting to be understood. In a mouse model of diet induced obesity (DIO) NLRP12-deficient mice gained more weight and demonstrated more severe symptoms of metabolic disease. Pro-inflammatory cytokine levels were higher in both serum and visceral fat in NLRP12- deficient mice (Berman et al., unpublished data). These in vivo studies, along with studies by Truax et al., support the hypothesis that NLRP12 is a novel immune suppressor of metabolic disease.

To further investigate tissue-specific changes in NLRP12-deficient mice, fixed pancreatic and liver tissue samples from WT and NLRP12-deficient mice fed a high fat diet for 15 weeks was analyzed to further understand the role of NLRP12 in T2D.

Pancreatic tissue sections were imaged and pancreatic islet area was quantified with ImageJ software. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining protocol was optimized to qualitatively analyze an inflammatory cytokine, IL-1β in fixed liver sections. In vitro assays were designed to mimic hyperglycemia by culturing cells in high and normal glucose, in order to evaluate how glucose influences the ability of macrophages to destroy bacteria.


Alexandra Tong

Jessica Lanahan

Kathleen Arcaro (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Animal Sciences, UMass Amherst

iCons: Bisphenol A (BPA) and Breast Health; Analysis of BPA and Cytokine Levels in Breast Milk

Studies suggest that exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) may alter the immune profile, and this altered immune profile may be associated with breast density. Breast density is a known risk factor for breast cancer, connecting BPA exposure with increased breast cancer risk. However, the extent to which BPA induces an inflammatory profile in breast tissue remains unclear due to inconsistent findings from studies assessing the relationship between BPA and cytokines in blood, a surrogate tissue for the breast. To address this shortcoming of previous studies, we will measure the levels of BPA and cytokines in the breast by analyzing breastmilk collected from 16 primiparous women at 6 and 8 weeks postpartum.

Our study aims to determine the association between BPA and cytokine levels in breastmilk as a first step towards understanding the extent to which exposure to BPA might increase the risk of developing breast cancer. BPA will be extracted and chromatography will be used to separate this compound from the milk to measure the concentrations present. There are four major steps involved in our process of BPA analysis: hexane partitioning, solid phase extraction, synthesis of pyridine sulfonyl derivative, and LC/MS/MS analysis. Cytokines will be measured with electrochemical sandwich assays. We will compare the concentration of BPA in each breastmilk sample with the concentration of Leptin, IL-6, CRP, TNFa, and IL-10 to determine whether exposure to BPA alters biomarkers of inflammation in the breast. We expect to see an increased inflammatory cytokine profile as BPA levels increase.



Jiun J. Tseng

Lawrence M. Schwartz (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Metabolism and Fuel Selection of Holometabolous Insects

The holometabolous insects are among the most successful eukaryotes on the planet, in large part because they have distinct body morphs for feeding (larva) and reproduction (adult). In some species the adults do not feed at all, meaning that the larva must consume all of the nutrients required to drive growth, development and reproduction. Using several complementary methods (Quantitative Magnetic Resonance technology (QMR), high resolution respirometry, and Soxhlet body composition analysis), we have determined the water content, lean body mass, fat content and VCO2 throughout pupal-adult development in two representative Lepidoptera (the tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta and the silkmoth Antheraea polyphemus) and in Diptera (the flesh fly Sarcophaga bullata). We observed that in each species, there was an exponential decrease in body fat content that was mirrored by an exponential increase in VCO2 as pupal-adult development progressed. Fat utilization was arrested in both species of Lepidoptera during diapause, but then increased exponentially when development resumed, meaning that fat metabolism was correlated with developmental stage rather than chronological age. These data support the hypothesis that fat is the primary fuel driving metabolism. As well, they demonstrate that QMR technology can be applied to invertebrates to non-invasively monitor metabolic changes over time.


Hoang Duc Vo

Aleel K. Grennan (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Worcester State University

Validating an Efficient Transformation Method to Identify Gene Function in Setaria viridis

The process of introducing a gene of interest into plants is a multi-step process, that is specific to each species and therefore requires optimization with every new species. Researchers often use the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to investigate the underlying physiological traits in dicot plants. Although dicot and monocot plants are both angiosperms, the experimental procedures could be drastically different between them. The lack of a reliable and efficient method for transformation in monocot plants such as Setaria viridis is a major constraint for further studies in monocots. The purpose of this project is to investigate a suitable method to genetically transform the model C4 plant S. viridis. This study follows up on an earlier experiment using two transformation techniques, electroporation and polyethylene glycol. Different parameters for callus media, electroporation setting, and PEG concentration were compared for ease of use and transformation efficiency. Once a methodology has been validated, we will have the capability to transform this monocot model species to test gene function and answer basic questions concerning the regulation of plant gene expression.



Alexandra Lahaye Wahr

Aline Davis (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Framingham State University

The Eyeopener: A Quality Improvement Project Mediating the Risks Associated with Chronic Alcoholism in Homeless Persons

The Quality Improvement (QI) project named the Eyeopener located in Springfield, Massachusetts and sponsored by the Health Services for the Homeless, was designed to help alleviate the risks-associated with Alcohol Use Disorder in chronic homeless individuals. The Eyeopener was designed to help patients cut back on overall alcohol consumption by alleviating their morning withdrawal symptoms, thus helping to achieve longer periods of sobriety.

Withdrawal medications (Ativan, Zofran, Magnesium, and Vitamin B Complex) were administered in the morning to alcoholics to help them abstain from alcohol longer periods in the day. The progress of the program was monitored in four phases: 1) to assess the increased contact with primary care, 2) decrease in withdrawal symptoms, 3) decrease in Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), 4) decrease amount of missed entry to shelter, decrease in emergency department use, and decrease in liver functions tests (LFTs). Though there were no quantitative difference in the parameters examined, exit interviews show qualitative evidence that suggest success with the Eyeopener. The results support creating a much larger study to examine the effectiveness of this risk mediation protocol.


Diana E. Welch

Aline Davis (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Framingham State University

The Work Loop: Theory, Establishment, and Analysis of Data

Work loop protocols allow for muscle tested in-vitro or in-situ to shorten and lengthen as it is stimulated, similar to many forms of locomotion seen across the animal kingdom. Several work loop protocols were established at the Framingham State University Muscle Lab, based on the work of Choi and Widrick (2009). Protocols involving concentric contractions and eccentric contractions were written by the student researcher, along with several sequences that included pre- and post-experiment testing periods to assess maximal isometric tetanic force, optimal power output, muscular fatigue, and muscular damage. These protocols may be used by future students to study a myriad of factors that affect muscular performance in vitro.


Rebecca Lynn Widmer

Irina Romanovna Borisova

Joan Chan

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Sustainability and Food Security

About 11.1% of families in the USA have low food security with a lack of access to quality food. This study aims at reviewing the status and causes of food security using literature review and case studies. Food security is a household-level economic and social condition with limited access to food. Low food security consists of food of reduced quality, no variety or even less desirability as a diet. About 90% of these families worry about their next meal and participate in federal food assistance programs, or even collect food from a community food pantry, or a homeless shelter. Poor food security show multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake due to insufficient money or other resources and food. Many families in this stage are unable to keep a healthy diet. Roughly 98% of very low-security families cut the size of their meals or skipped their meal, while 27% of households with food insecurity consists of single women with children. But in general households with children have a substantially higher rate of food insecurity than those without children. Many families or individuals who have food security can be criticized and judged harshly about their actions like begging. Many youths in their mid to late 20s have fallen into this problem with no family support or have personal problems like addiction or health issues. There is a need for better policies and education towards achieving food security for all.


Sydney Wilson

Hadeel Hamza

Yan Hu (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Worcester State University

Using a Soil Bacterium to Kill Parasitic Nematodes

Soil-transmitted helminths (STHs), most notably, hookworms, whipworms, and Ascaris, are nematodes that infect more than 1.5 billion of the poorest people and are leading causes of morbidity worldwide. Only one class of de-worming drugs (anthelmintic) is commonly used in mass drug administrations. New anthelmintics are urgently needed to overcome emerging resistance and to produce higher cure rates. Crystal (Cry) proteins, in particular, Cry5B, made by Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are promising new candidates. Cry5B has excellent anthelmintic properties against many free-living and parasitic nematodes, including in vivo efficacy against multiple STH infections in rodents (Heligmosomoides polygyrus and Ancylostoma ceylanicum) and in pigs (Ascaris suum). The investment of Cry5B opened a gate for searching for more potential nematocidal Bt Cry proteins. Cry5B only is not enough to fight these tremendous infections; we need more crystal protein candidates like Cry5B. Working together, we have developed an efficient pipeline to screen potential nematocidal Bt strains from the soil samples. Here we will update the results so far.

Hadeel Hamza1, Sydney Wilson1, Yan Hu1and Raffi Aroian2

1Biology Department, Worcester State University, MA, USA

2Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA


Ethan Winter

Karine Fenelon (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, UMass Amherst

Identification of Midbrain GABAergic Neurons Important for Sensory Gating

Sensorimotor gating refers to the neuronal inhibitory process by which brain circuits filter out irrelevant sensory stimuli and only process salient ones. This fundamental neuronal property is impaired in various disorders including schizophrenia, leading to cognitive overload and deficits in attention. There is no current cure for sensorimotor gating deficits because the neuronal circuits and neurotransmitters involved are ill defined. One key brainstem region central to sensory gating is the caudal pontine reticular nucleus (PnC). From animal studies, it is known that part of the gating process occurs between PnC neurons and those from the pedunculopontine tegmental area (PPTg). This study will reveal the neurochemistry of the PPTg neurons thought to play a key role in sensory gating. Efforts will focus on the understudied PPTg GABAergic neurons by performing tract tracing analyses and immunohistochemical assays of PPTg neurons. Two complementary viral injections involving adeno-associated viral vectors (AAVs) will be used: a retrograde AAV containing eGFP under the control of the hSyn 1 promoter will be injected in the PnC, and an anterograde AAV containing mCherry under the control of the hSyn 1 promoter will be injected in the PPTg. Results from these experiments should provide insights into the neuronal architecture of the sensory gating circuit which is affected in disease states. Identifying the neural substrates of sensory gating will allow us to design therapeutic strategies to be tested at potential sites of dysfunction in clinically relevant experimental systems.




Jonathan Aubin

Jungwoo Lee (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Cross-Species Comparative Analysis of Bone Microstructures

Human compact bone microstructure consists of osteons. But, other species display different microstructures. Cows, for example, display both osteonal microstructure and plexiform microstructure, the fundamental unit of which are brick-like structures. Information on these structures is limited, however, partly due to the difficulty in imaging bones. The calcium mineral matrix of bones is usually opaque to visible light, making microscope visualization difficult.

The goal of this research is to develop a technique to visualize the ultrastructure of bone tissue cells buried in the bone matrix to perform quantitative comparative histological characterization of multiple species. Preparing bone samples involved cutting approximately 3 mm thick cross-sections from the diaphysis of a bovine femur and sectioning them into six pieces. Using coarse sandpaper, each piece was thinned to 1 mm thickness. Then, using sandpapers up to 15,000 grit, the bone sections were thinned and polished to a thickness of about 100 µm. The bone pieces were then transparent enough to be imaged under a microscope. Using ImageJ, the observed microstructures were quantitatively analyzed.

Predominantly osteonal areas showed a ratio of interstitial to concentric lamellae of 0.49 and contained osteons with an average area of 3,915 sq µm. In plexiform microstructural areas, average brick height was 154 µm and an average brick area was 176,520 sq um. Ongoing efforts include additional characterization of bovine microstructural from other species. The established method enables us to facilitate the explanation of different bony microstructure across species that are living in distinct mechanical environments and having distinct body size and growth rates.


Gillian Ryder Binley

Friederike C. Jentoft (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Catalyst Stability during Deoxydehydration

Deoxydehydration (DODH) is a catalytic reaction that converts vicinal diols to olefins via the simultaneous removal of oxygen and water. DODH can be used as a step in the process of upgrading biomass to fuels or the olefin products can be further upgraded into commodity chemicals. The reaction is catalyzed by rhenium, a very expensive rare metal, and therefore there is a desire to develop a stable and active solid catalyst for DODH that can be reused multiple times. One factor that may have a significant impact on catalytic activity is the oxidation state of rhenium. The activity of supported rhenium catalysts has been shown to decrease upon recycling which may be due to rhenium redepositing on the support in a different oxidation state. Differences in titania supports between previous studies have also been shown to have an impact on catalyst stability. These discrepancies may be due to the crystal structure of the titania or the impurities involved in its synthesis. This study will examine the effect of oxidative heat treatments between catalytic runs to restore the rhenium oxidation state using a 2 wt% titania-supported rhenium catalyst. The impact of titania structure and impurities on catalyst stability will also be examined. In this experiment, 1,2-decanediol is the reactant and triphenylphosphine is the reductant. Preliminary results show that the heat treatments restored the appearance of the ReOx/TiO2 catalyst, however there was no significant difference found between the activity of the catalyst that had undergone thermal treatment and that that had not.


Jared Bowden

Jessica Schiffman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

High-Efficiency Particulate Matter Capture via Surface Functionalized Electrospun Cellulose Nanofibers

Particulate matter (PM) pollution poses one of the greatest immediate risks to climate change and human health. Although many strategies exist for particle capture, there is usually a trade-off between collection efficiency, operating costs, or utilization of “green” sustainable materials. In this study, the filtration efficiency of in-house synthesized cellulose nanofiber mats is further enhanced by surface functionalizing them with charge-containing polymers. The high porosity of the nanofiber mats provides minimal obstruction to the air flow while their high tortuosity and surface area-to-volume ratios present an excellent platform for particle capture. By modulating the surface chemistry of the mats via deposition of polydopamine (PDA), poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (PDADMAC), and chitosan (CS), the filtration efficiency can be enhanced and material properties can be fine-tuned. The effects of bulk mat thickness and surface functionalization on their performance, including the filtration efficiency, breakthrough particle size, and filter pressure drop were determined.


Chee Meng Eugene Cheong

Jungwoo Lee (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

iCons: Fabrication of Bone Tissue Model Using Demineralized Bone Sheets

Osteoporosis affects about 50 million people in the United States, which deteriorates the quality of life and osteoporotic bone fracture is the leading cause of death in the elder population. Advancing basic research in bone biology is critical to improving clinical care, but bone remains a difficult tissue to investigate in the context of living animal models due to limited anatomical accessibility.

The goal of this research is to create in vitro bone tissue models that closely resemble the native bone and marrow tissue microenvironments using demineralized bone sheets. The demineralized bone sheets contain the bone’s native structures such as blood capillaries and osteons. The preservation of these structures ensures the model created accurately mimics the native bone environment. By rolling demineralized bone sheets, a cylindrical structure was created. Within the layers of this structure, mice bone marrow stromal cells were cultured where they differentiated into osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Thus, creating the cortical bone microenvironment. To further improve the bone model design, sterile agarose gel was used to isolate the inner and outer space of the rolled structure. With this, bone marrow can be cultured in the inner space and ultimately creating an accurate model of the bone microenvironment.

The successful fabrication of this bone model will allow for a deeper study of bone tissue in vitro. The robust nature of this model will allow for greater range in scale and complexity. Therefore, allowing for more complex studies and experiments, leading to a greater understanding of bone tissue.


Gregory Donovan

Sarah L. Perry (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Enhancing the Mechanical Properties of Polyelectrolyte Complex (PEC) Thin Films

Polyelectrolyte complex (PEC) films are a desirable benign materials platform that could improve separations, biocompatible coatings, and drug delivery applications. Complex coacervates are a polymer-dense phase that result from associative electrostatic interactions between oppositely charged polyelectrolytes in the presence of salt. Salt plasticizes the PECs to control the coacervate solution properties, such as polymer concentration and viscosity. Recent studies have shown that spin-coating complex coacervate precursor solutions can overcome processing challenges, including controlling film thickness and decreasing processing time. However, due to the ubiquitous electrostatic interactions in the coacervates, the subsequent spin-coated PEC films were brittle. Our goal is to enhance the elasticity of the PEC films by modifying the polymers on a molecular level, such as decreasing the charge density by diluting charge with a neutral, hydrophilic moiety. A series of oppositely charged, methacrylate polyelectrolytes were synthesized in-house with 100, 75, 50, 25 and 0 charge density and formed into coacervates to serve as precursor solutions. The coacervates were spin-coated on silicon wafers, followed by rinsing in water to remove excess salt. Then the films were air dried in ambient conditions and cut into standard dog-bone shapes for tensile testing. As the charge density decreased, less salt was required to alter the coacervate phase behavior, which also affected the strength of the films. Both apparatus and coacervate solution properties can effectively control the thickness of the films for optimal results. Moving forward, coacervate films could serve as a green platform with applications such as drug delivery or environmental remediation.


Margaret Blair Dreishpoon

Lauren Andrews (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

iCons: Metabolic Engineering of Porphyran Utilization in Therapeutic Human Gut Microbes

Probiotic bacteria often struggle to colonize the gut when administered as a medical intervention. Studies have shown that a predictive factor for successful probiotic colonization of a gut is whether or not it can occupy a carbon-utilization niche that is not already taken by a preexisting species. The carbohydrate porphyran found in red seaweed represents such a unique carbon source. Research has shown that the colonization of porphyran-digesting gut microbes can be controlled by feeding porphyran to the host animal. This could be useful for many medical applications utilizing therapeutic gut bacteria to increase the efficacy of these treatments.

This project aims to elucidate how the porphyran utilization metabolic pathway can be transferred to the phylogenetically distant probiotic gut microbe Escherichia coli Nissle 1917. The goal is to engineer E. coli to digest and utilize porphyran by expressing and secreting porphyranase and agarase enzymes originally found in marine and other gut bacteria. E. coli is an easily cultured and genetically tractable model organism. The probiotic E. coli Nissle 1917 strain is used clinically to treat gastrointestinal disorders.

In this work we report initial results characterizing the enzymatic activity of the cloned porphyranases and agarases in E. coli. Enzyme activity was assayed using polyacrylamide carbohydrate gel electrophoresis (PACE) and by quantification of reducing sugars using 3,5- dinitrosalicylic acid (DNS) colorimetric assays. We also report on the use of the hemolysin type I secretion system and the flagellar type III secretion system to secrete the porphyranase and agarase enzymes from E. coli.


Jana S. Latayan

Jessica Schiffman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Enabling the Electrospinning of PEDOT:PSS Nanofibers Using Carrier Polymers

Conductive polymers can conduct electricity and have many industrial uses, such as in batteries, printer inks, and microelectronics. One common conductive polymer, poly(3,4- ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS), is well-known for its thermal and environmental stability and its capability to produce high-conductivity fibers and films when blended with carrier polymers. PEDOT:PSS nanofibers can be produced via electrospinning, where a voltage is ran through the needle of a syringe filled with polymer solution. As charge accumulates on the polymer droplet at the needle tip, electrostatic repulsion forces polymer away from the droplet while viscous forces attempt to keep the droplet together. At a critical point, the droplet is ejected, stretched, and deposited as a fiber on a collection plate. To electrospin solutions that contain PEDOT:PSS, carrier polymers such as polyethylene oxide (PEO), polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), or polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) must be added to circumvent PEDOT:PSS’s viscosity limitations. In our study, we investigated the effects of varying the applied voltage and using PEO, PVA, or PVP carrier polymers in various concentrations on the properties and morphology of electrospun PEDOT:PSS nanofibers. The conductivity and resulting nanofiber diameters for the different solutions were measured. The ability to electrospin free standing fiber mats was also assessed. Overall, we highlight the potential of electrospinning as a versatile and easily adjustable way to produce conductive PEDOT:PSS nanofibers that can potentially act as a conductive wearable fabric.


Duong T. Nguyen

Jungwoo Lee (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Implantable Tissue Engineered Trabecular Bone from Demineralized Bone Papers

Bone grafting is standard clinical care for a bone fracture that has shown to facilitate and enhance the healing process. Autologous bone is the most effective because the bone graft is taken from healthy parts of the patient's own body. However, this method has many limitations including pain, blood loss, possible infection, and long recovery time.

The object of this study is to create tissue-engineered bone grafts that represent the essential characteristics and functions of native bone tissue. The scaffold needs to be osteoconductive to support the growth of osteoblasts and osteoinductive to induce their mineralized new bone tissue synthesis. Demineralized bone paper developed in our lab has demonstrated promising features to direct structural and functional bone tissue regeneration. In this proof of concept study, we have established a method to build a 3D bone tissue model by stacking osteoblast pre-seeded demineralized bone paper with a controlled thickness and shape. Established bone tissue models demonstrated distinct bone remodeling cytokine profile changes in response to vitamin D stimulation. When subdermally implanted into a mouse model, they further differentiated richly mineralized and vascularized bone tissue analogs.

In summary, demineralized compact bone exhibits many promising features for bone tissue regeneration. Ongoing research includes further improvement and optimization for scalable and controlled shape 3D bone tissue models that are ultimately required for clinical translation.


Andrew Orenberg

Jungwoo Lee (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Electrojetting of Alginate Beads for Encapsulation of Hydrophobic Pharmaceuticals

The most common form of therapeutic delivery into the body is oral administration, represented by two distinct considerations; (i) therapeutics pass through the stomach where gastric acid denatures the compounds; (ii) limited resident time in the small intestine can cause insufficient absorption.

We hypothesized that lipid core alginate beads including pH-responsive mucin glycoproteins improve the protection of therapeutics from gastric acid and extend the resident time in traveling small intestine with mucoadhesive properties. In the presence of a divalent cation, alginate molecules form an ionic-crosslinked gel matrix. Devices were manufactured to flow aqueous alginate around mineral oil flow; an electric field was applied simultaneously to create uniform core-shelled particles. To ensure the center position of core lipid flow, we manufactured devices utilizing a square capillary design, which generated 99% core-shell beads (Diameter = 2.56mm +/- .24mm) in a reproducible manner. In contrast, a set of round capillary devices produced 56% core-shell beads. Lipid core was protected from stomach acid simulated by pH1 HCl solution for 48 hours, confirmed by stable fluorescence of lipophilic dye in core-shell beads. Future endeavors include (i) improvement of lipid core protection by adding pH-responsive mucin glycopolymer in alginate shell and (ii) characterization of core diffusion out of the particles in an environment that simulates small intestine.

We envision that the development of the lipid core-alginate shell oral delivery system will advance intestinal hydrophobic drug delivery by increasing the bioavailability of these therapeutics by protecting them from degradation in the stomach and increasing residence time in the small intestine.


Kyle Michael Dias Papulis

Parker Bowden

Jungwoo Lee (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Creating a Trabecular Bone Mechanoculture Platform in a Standard Multi-well Plate

Trabecular bone receives continuous cyclic mechanical strain during body movements. That is known to be an important process to maintain mechanical, mineral, and blood homeostasis. However, detailed understanding has been limited due to the lack of experimental models that integrate mechanical stimulation and osteogenic cellular responses in a reproducible and analytical manner.

This project aims to reproduce the dynamic mechanical environment of trabecular bone cavities in a standard multi-well plate. For a trabecular bone biomaterial, we used a demineralized bovine trabecular bone block with precise thickness because of the similarities between the biomaterial and the region’s unique architecture. Primary mouse osteoblasts obtained from reporter mice are used for recellularization and remineralization. To apply cyclic mechanical strain with different magnitudes, we have developed magnetic inserts. The magnetic field acting on the acrylic insert applies a compressive force onto the sample. This design replicates the everyday stresses that are put on the human body. The ongoing effort includes quantifying the increase in Young’s modulus with respect to remineralization of demineralized trabecular bone by osteoblasts and demonstrating the functional connection between mechanical strain and osteogenic secretome profile change.

In conclusion, our project goal is to help further biomedical research to improve human health by modeling an important region within the human body.


Alistaire Rauch

Sarah L. Perry (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Using a Microfluidic Device to Study Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Folding

Proteins are one of the building blocks of life, with their function dictated by their structure. However, misfolding can occur due to genetic mutations or environmental factors, which can then lead to protein aggregation and disease.

We are studying alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT) which is commonly associated with A1AT deficiency. A1AT, a protease inhibitor, is mainly responsible for regulating the activity of the protease neutrophil elastase, but in this genetic disorder, misfolding of A1AT leads to an excess of active elastase which can harm tissues. Using a microfluidic device, we seek to understand how A1AT folds and misfolds as to further our overall understanding of conformational states and determine which points within this folding process can be interrupted to prevent misfolding. Although molecular dynamics simulations have been used to model A1AT folding and misfolding, the predictions from the simulations still require experimental validation. Microfluidic devices allow for the study of protein folding because of their ability to create highly controlled environments while requiring small sample volumes. Our approach uses a PDMS based microfluidic device where a central stream of unfolded protein can be mixed with two side streams of buffer to initiate folding. We can then use fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) and Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) to analyze A1AT folding as a function of time. Through this experiment, the microfluidic device should provide more insight into the folding and misfolding pathways of this protein. From this understanding, we seek to devise and improve strategies for treating protein folding diseases.


Nicholas Anthony Sbalbi

Laura Bradley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Polymer Science and Engineering, UMass Amherst

The Synthesis and Behavior of Active Janus Particles

Janus particles have recently become a focus of study as a platform for the creation of micromotors, with the platinum catalyzed decomposition of hydrogen peroxide being used as a standard model for inducing propulsion. Many currently developed synthesis methods utilizing surface functionalization have the limitation of small batch production sizes and are constrained to solely exterior particle modification. In this project we attempt to solve this issue by developing a solution-phase method of producing active Janus particles through the post-synthetic modification of polymeric Janus particles. Reported are a series of attempted synthesis methods along with analysis and discussion surrounding resulting particles. The development process of a script created to quantify active motion and enhanced diffusion from tracking videos of said particles is also described.


Megha H. Shah

Neil Forbes (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

iCons: Identifying the Underlying Cause of Limitations in Salmonella-Mediated Gene Transfer for the Development of a Successful Cancer Therapy

With cancer being still among the top prevalent diseases, many novel treatment options have been invented to improve on serious side effects experienced by the patients commonly administered with chemotherapy drugs. In the recent decade, salmonella- mediated cancer therapy has gained prominence in its ability to efficiently target and penetrate tumor tissue. Many therapeutics agents including proteins and chemotherapy drugs have been successfully delivered to the tumor microenvironment, however, relatively limited success has been observed in salmonella-mediated gene transfer therapy. Despite a successful bacterial invasion into the mammalian cancer cell, poor efficiency in regards to the number of cells expressing the plasmid is observed. The purpose of this project is to examine how a nuclear localization signal on a plasmid impacts DNA transport from salmonella to the nucleus. In order to ensure the intracellular occupancy of the vector, optimizing the invasion of salmonella carrying the plasmid in the tumor cell by using VNP20009 strain with overexpressing flhDC is crucial. A plasmid containing lysis cassette and EGFP gene driven by the CMV promoter with absence or presence of SV40 origin is bactofected into mammalian cancer cells to observe the effect of SV40 origin on nuclear localization of the plasmid. However, no EGFP expression was observed in mammalian cells, which led to the hypothesis that the entrapment of plasmid in salmonella containing vacuoles(SCV) inhibits the plasmid expression in mammalian cells. Understanding the mobility of the delivered plasmid in the cancer cell through in situ hybridization could provide insights critical for the successful development of salmonella-mediated gene transfer therapy for treating cancer.


Hansen Tjo

Sarah L. Perry (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Molecular Engineering of Polyelectrolyte-Micelle Systems

In solution, electrostatic complexation may drive oppositely-charged macro-ions to undergo associative phase separation into a complex coacervate phase – a dense, polyelectrolyte- rich liquid with widespread applications across a range of industries — and a dilute phase, the supernatant. The widespread applications of coacervates for molecular separation and controlled delivery have resulted in extensive analysis of the phase behavior and properties of polyelectrolyte-micelle systems. However, much of the work to date has focused primarily on a very narrow range of conditions. Thus, our objective is to explore the effects of stoichiometry and micellar chemistry over a larger phase space, with the goal of constructing a predictive framework for polyelectrolyte-micelle phase separation based on species’ charge densities. Here, we utilize a combination of turbidimetry coupled with optical microscopy to characterize the phase behavior of complexes between the cationic polymer poly(2-methacryloxyethyltrimethylammonium chloride) (PTMAEMC) with anionic surfactant micelles of varying hydrophilicity. By systematically tuning the hydrophilic head groups of surfactant micelles, we have observed how steric effects and micellar charge density affect the propensity of polyelectrolyte-micelle systems to complex. Moreover, morphology mapping of the standard poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (PDADMAC) and SDS/TX- 100 micelle system provides reference on how species composition affects phase transition points in broad polymer-micelle systems. The results from this study will broaden the array of synthetic materials for complex coacervate-based applications such as thermo-responsive biomolecular storage, with implications in tailored design-to-function materials for advancing healthcare.


Julia Lynn Tupper

Jungwoo Lee (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Tissue Engineering of the Bone and Muscle Interface

As humans age, the loss of bone and muscle decreases mechanical stability and mobility. This deterioration leads to conditions that greatly decrease a person’s quality of life. Bone and muscle tissue cells interact mechanically under force and also systematically via soluble factor exchange. Mouse models allow for the study of muscle and bone interaction, but investigation is limited due to the intrinsic complexity of musculoskeletal tissue.

In order to model the bone-muscle relationship, we have developed a musculoskeletal tissue model of prepared bone and muscle tissue models. For the bone tissue model, we employed demineralized bovine bone cut into thin sheets and weaved together. After seeding mouse osteoblasts, which also serve as a cellular glue, a bone strip was temporarily rolled over an aluminum rod. The relevant bone function was characterized by the secretion of cytokines that regulate the bone remodeling process. For the muscle tissue model, we introduced C2C12 myoblasts with collagen in a circularly shaped agarose mold. After cell culture, the agarose mold guided aggregation of myoblasts with collagen to form a microscale muscle ring. The structure was histologically characterized.

Our integration of these in vitro bone and muscle models will be crucial for the study of bone and muscle interaction over time. Paired with cells and soluble factors, this model shows the correlation between bone and muscle loss associated with aging. This in vitro model will be crucial for testing potential drugs and therapies to cure or reduce, as well as better understand, diseases related to aging.


Elizabeth Voke

Sarah L. Perry (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Encapsulation of Human Immunoglobin G via Complex Coacervation of Ligand- Functionalized Substrates with Enhanced Binding Capacity and Poly(L-lysine)

The encapsulation of proteins for drug delivery and stabilization has been the subject of increasing excitement and research in recent years. Advances in protein therapeutics have been important in the treatment of diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Despite the success of protein therapeutics, drug delivery remains challenging because foreign substances are targeted by the body, and proteins are very sensitive to their environment. An alternate approach to polymeric encapsulation with the potential to effectively stabilize and encapsulate proteins while maintaining protein functionality is complex coacervation. Complex coacervation an associative liquid-liquid phase separation phenomenon that has a long history of use in food and personal care products. The design parameters for the encapsulation of globular proteins via complex coacervation have remained an open question. 3M developed a set of ligand-functionalized substrates with enhanced binding capacity using a simple, coast-effective method. The set of polymers has increasing lengths between the polymerizable group and the ligand functional group. The enhanced binding capacities of these polymers demonstrate the promise for the use of these materials in protein encapsulation via complex coacervation. The object of this study is to determine if the trends in protein binding on surfaces are also present upon complex coacervation, compare the encapsulation efficiency of the 3M polymers with charged the polypeptides already used in the Perry lab, and test whether the functionality of the protein has been compromised.


Abraham Joseph Waldman

Jessica Schiffman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst

Utilizing Polydimethylsiloxane Film Properties to Modulate Bacterial Adherence

Bacteria’s attachment, adhesion and biofilm formation is a pervasive problem in many fields, especially in medicine. Due to a growing increase in antibiotic resistance among bacteria, research has recently focused on preventing bacterial attachment to medical devices in the first place. Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) based infections have become increasingly prevalent, and so developing polymer-based antifouling coatings to reduce bacterial adhesion is a topic of increasing interest. In this parametric study, we explore the structure function relationship between surfaces and bacterial adhesion in order to optimize the antifouling properties of polymer films. To do so, we systematically vary the crosslinking degree of polymer films made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), in order to explore how varying the stiffness, tackiness, homogeneity, and uncrosslinked oligomer content affects the S. aureus’s binding mechanism to surfaces. These properties were quantified using rheology, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and fluorescent microscopy. By changing the crosslinking degree of the PDMS, all of these properties were varied, and it was determined that bacteria bind to softest and tackiest, and when adhesion was studied independent of tackiness, it was determined that bacteria still adhere to the softest polymer-based PDMS film. This work provides insight into the binding mechanism for S. aureus, and has broad implications in the future design of antifouling coatings for medical devices and equipment.





Jessica R. Ball

Sarah Pilkenton (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Evaluating the Phenolic Content, Phenolic Profile, and α-Glucosidase Inhibitory Activity of Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is an herbal beverage prepared from dried leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant which is indigenous to the subtropical regions in South America and is a part of the aquifoliaceae family. There are many health benefits associated with yerba mate consumption including loss of weight, lowering of blood sugar levels, lowering the risk for type two diabetes and risk for heart disease. The compounds found in yerba mate that are of interest with respect to healthful benefits include methylxanthines and phenolic compounds including flavonoids and phenolic acids. The total phenolic content of the extracts of yerba mate were determined. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was used to determine the types of methylxanthines and phenolic compounds present. Finally, the potential of the yerba mate extracts to lower blood sugar levels was determine by measuring alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activities.


Mitchell Buckley

Julianna C. DiRenzo

Philip Shivokevich (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Synthesis of Salen Complexes and Analysis of Photophysical Properties

Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) can be achieved through the interaction of salen frameworks and the surface of gold nanoparticles. This signal enhancement can allow for the detection of various metals when complexed with the salen framework. The goal of this research will be to further the ideas proposed about detecting various metals when attached to the gold nanoparticles. By binding the metal-chelated salen complexes that we synthesize to gold nanoparticles through covalent thiol linkages, we hope to enhance the Raman spectroscopy signal in a way that may prove useful in detecting metals in a biological setting. Alkyne and nitrile functional groups will be incorporated into these complexes due to their unique absorption values. The unique Raman signals attributed to triple bonds may allow for improved detection of metals. This will allow us to detect these unique absorption values even in the presence of other molecules that may produce “background noise”.

Our focus is on synthesizing the salen frameworks, chelating different metals to the frameworks, finding a proper synthesis method to incorporate thiol functionality into the salen complex, and finally characterizing these complexes. Once this has been achieved, we will be binding the complexes to gold nanoparticles through sulfur linkages. Ultimately, we will be exploring the effects on the Raman signals through the relationship of the placement of the thiol group and the subsequent effects that gold nanoparticles have on SERS.


Haley S. Curtis

Christine MacTaylor (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry and Physics, Salem State University

An Examination on Potential Medical Benefits of Verbascum thapus Secondary Metabolites

Common mullein, also known as Verbascum thapsus is a 4-7-foot-tall herbaceous biennial species. The yellow flowered plant is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa and was likely introduced to North America as an herbal medicine. Verbascum thapsus has had a place in medicinal folklore throughout history; first dating back to Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides who recommended the plant as a cure for pulmonary diseases. The plant was also a treatment for lung illnesses including coughs or bronchitis. Throughout history before modern synthetic pharmaceuticals, plants were the first form of medication. Endophytes are microbial symbionts within plants which are likely responsible for their medicinal properties. The wide functionality range of common mullein makes it a good candidate for potential new drug discovery. Samples of Verbascum thapsus flower and leaf were collected and isolated from the Pickman Salt Marsh and 220 Canal Street in Salem, Massachusetts. Extracts were tested for bio-activity against Escherichia Coli, Staph Aureus, and Vibrio Parahaemolyticus. Notable inhibition was observed by all extracts. Samples were also analyzed using an LC-MS with MassLynx software against a drug database for therapeutic compounds. The compounds found were broken into four main categories; mental health, cardiovascular health, antibiotic, and cancer treatments. These categories overlap with traditional medicinal uses of Verbascum thapsus.


Justin Debrow

Changqing Chen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry and Physics, Salem State University

An Investigation into the Interactions between Various Amyloid-Beta Species and a Formulated Fluorescent Probe

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a type of dementia, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects approximately 5.7 million US citizens. The cause of this disease is not yet fully understood and is still under investigation. However, it is theorized to be closely related to the accumulation of various Amyloid-Beta species (Aβ) in the brain. These species bind to neurons at the postsynaptic membrane through several intermolecular interactions. Potentially, the progression of Aβ accumulation can be investigated using fluorescence spectrophotometry and fluorescence microscopy. Curcumin, a naturally occurring polyphenolic compound, has been shown to have an affinity to the Aβ species of interest. Due to this, curcumin has the potential to serve as a fluorescent probe. This research investigated the fluorescence of mixtures of Aβ species and curcumin at different Aβ concentrations. The interactions between curcumin and Aβ aggregates were also studied under a fluorescence microscope. Due to curcumin’s hydrophobicity, formulation is required for curcumin to serve as an efficient fluorescent probe. Liposomal curcumin formulation was another focus of this research. Under the same experimental conditions, the liposomal loading efficiency of curcumin using different solvents was investigated. Our recent research results will be reported in this presentation.


Jeremy Duncan

Trisha Basford (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, Greenfield Community College

Composition of Industrial Stearic Acid

Stearic acid has been used for many years as an additive in the candle industry. It provides structural enhancement, allowing for a greater liquid phase in a wax blend. At relatively low use rates, stearic acid can help bind syneresis and allow for an increased fragrance load. This structural enhancement, however, can be inconsistent.  Stearic’s performance can be unreliable, especially when used with highly polar fragrances. When used in conjunction with triglycerides, it can increase the risk of frosting and polymorphism in the finished product.  In recent years, polymers have replaced stearic acid in many  applications. These polymers tend to yield predictable and consistent structural enhancement, but often increase hardness and contraction as well. This can be beneficial in a molded pillar candle, for example, but can adversely affect a container candle.

Industrial stearic acid comes in three purity levels: stearic acid 50 (40% - 60% stearic acid), stearic acid 70 (60% - 80% stearic acid), and stearic acid 95 (90% stearic acid). At each purity level, the non-stearic percentage is comprised mainly of palmitic acid, but other fatty acids are present as well; these have been suspected of causing defects in certain types of candles. To date, my company has never evaluated stearic acid 70 to understand its relative constituents.

For this project, I intend to explore the composition of the stearic acid 70 grade material using GC/FID and GCMS analysis.


Joseph A. Keddy

Kathleen Christine Murphy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, Worcester State University

River Contaminants

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP's) present in the environment have a detrimental effect on biota. After human excretion or disposal, these molecules travel through the wastewater treatment plant and are discharged into the river. Because acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and caffeine are a common ingredient in many over-the-counter medications, a laboratory method was developed to quantify these compounds in the Blackstone River water. Water samples were collected up and downstream of the wastewater treatment plant discharge location. Two-liter water samples were concentrated using solid-phase extraction (SPE) and analyzed with high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Spikes, blanks and duplicates were used to ensure accuracy and precision. Students may find this laboratory particularly interesting because it connects the use of these compounds with the environment and chemical analytical techniques. The goal is to use this laboratory activity in an environmental chemistry course.


Maxwell R. Kimball

Margaret Kerr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, Worcester State University

Electrical Tuning of Tridentate Nitrogen (NNN) Pincer Ligands

Transition metal catalysts bearing tridentate nitrogen (NNN) pyridine azomethine pincer ligands perform a variety of desirable reactions including anti-markovnikov hydroalkylation. This project aims to modify the electronic properties of the NNN ligand by varying a para- benzoxy moiety with electron donating or withdrawing groups. The electrical properties of ligands strongly influence catalytic activity by donating or withdrawing electron density from the metal center. The synthesized tungsten(0) complexes were analyzed by infrared spectroscopy to determine the ability of the para-benzoxy moiety to modify the electronics of the tungsten center.


Jonathan Lee

Vincent Rotello (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Hypersound-Assisted Sorting of Micron-Sized Silica Particles on Inkjet-Printed Protein Films

Sorting complex heterogenous solutions is a problem because it is tedious, time-expensive, and required specialized equipment. Hydrodynamic methods are widely used in fields like biomedical diagnosis, chemical analysis, and the electronics industries. In particular, microfluidic systems show promise with point-of-care sorting of micron-sized particles with a small sample size. However, this method is limited by its inability to alter the flow rate or flow modes without significant alteration of the entire device’s design. The use of a hypersonic resonator for acoustic streaming of the fluidic system to create micro-vortices allows for precise control over the force and flow rate generated by the vortices. These micro-vortices exert a drag force on surface objects that are proportional to their radius of curvature. We demonstrate that this method may be used for a size-based sorting of analytes using protein films as a sorting method. Protein films are a potential method of separation that is biocompatible and provides options for functionalizations due to the specificity of proteins. In this experiment, we used a hypersonic resonator to provide a force to move anionic silica particles of various sizes to demonstrate size-based sorting on a charged protein pattern. In addition, by taking advantage of the curvature-dependence of the drag force, we show size-based sorting of silica particles.


Brianna Noelle Manning

Lynmarie K. Thompson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

The Timescale and Location of Structural Fluctuations in the Cytoplasmic Domain of the E. coli Chemotaxis Receptor

Chemotaxis receptors play a key role in E. coli’s ability to sense the environment and move accordingly. It is thought that the signal begins as a 2 Å piston in the ligand-binding and transmembrane domain, which causes changes in dynamics throughout the cytoplasmic domain to ultimately control the activity of the CheA kinase. Our laboratory proposes that the cytoplasmic tip of the receptor is stabilized by protein interactions with CheA and CheW. We propose that structural fluctuations will increase from this protein interaction region to the methylation region. We also hypothesize that the kinase-off state exhibits more structural fluctuations than the kinase-on state. In this study, we will measure the timescale and location of structural fluctuations and differences in these fluctuations between signaling states, using Photoinduced Electron Transfer - Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (PET- FCS). We have grown and purified cytoplasmic fragments (CF) of two different cysteine mutants at positions 272 and 487 within the methylation region. We have successfully labeled CF4E.S487C, CF4Q.S487C, and CF4Q.S272C and performed initial assays of the effect of the fluorophore on kinase activity. Currently, we are conducting PET-FCS experiments and purifying and labeling CF4E.S272C. Our data will determine how structural fluctuations within the E. coli chemotaxis receptors cytoplasmic fragment vary with location and signaling state, furthering the understanding of how this protein transmits the signal over long distances.


Kathleen Mary McAuliffe

Mingxu You (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Paper-Based Fluorogenic RNA Aptamers for Point-of-Care Testing

Point-of-care testing is an important approach used to shorten diagnostic time and the clinical decision making process. This method allows for assessment in real-time with great accuracy, eliminating the need for lengthy tests or expensive laboratory equipment. Here we report a point-of-care testing system based on fluorogenic RNA aptamers for tetracycline and guanosine tetra- or penta-phosphate (p)ppGpp detection. Our RNA sensing device is freeze-dried and easily stored on portable paper discs that introduces a quick and inexpensive method for detection at the molecular level. This RNA sensing device is comprised of a detection unit, transducer unit, and a reporter unit. When the target binds to the RNA aptamer sequence this triggers the probe to fold and stimulate a small molecule dye to produce a green fluorescent signal. In this system, the paper substrate is directly coated with the RNA sensor and freeze dried to remove all buffer. The target is detected by rehydration of the sensor coated paper with a solution containing the target. This straightforward method has high specificity towards its target and can be used quickly for real time measurement. This approach can be easily manipulated to be used for different targets by changing only the target recognition aptamer.


Ruby Nelson

Kevin Kittilstved (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Manipulating the Spin-Relaxation Dynamics of Cr3+ in Co-doped SrTiO3 Nanocrystals

Manipulating the spin-dynamics of dilute magnetic semiconductors is fundamental to the emerging field of spintronics for quantum computing and data storage devices. Past research in the Kittilstved group has demonstrated that the spin-relaxation dynamics of substitutional Cr3+ defects in colloidal strontium titanate nanocrystals (SrTiO3 NCs) can be accelerated by the introduction paramagnetic and fast-relaxing Ti3+ sites in the lattice through a facile photochemical reduction method. Unfortunately, the introduction of these electrons through this method can only occur under anaerobic conditions and with the addition of extra sacrificial electron donors such as ethanol. In this research, we present another procedure to introduce stable extra charge carriers into the SrTiO3 structure through the co-doping of chromium and niobium, which can achiever similar spin modulation under aerobic conditions. A set of spectroscopic techniques including UV-Vis spectroscopy, Powder X-Ray Diffraction (PXRD) and Electron Paramagnetic Resonance spectroscopy (EPR) were used to investigate this new colloidal nanocrystal solution, with a focus on investigating the interactions which occur between niobium and chromium in the complex. Power saturation studies were also conducted to quantitatively determine the modulation of chromium spin dynamics, and to determine the spin-lattice and spin-spin relaxation rates for both chromium doped SrTiO3 and chromium-niobium co-doped SrTiO3.


Daniel Oldham

Jesse Marcum (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Electrophoretic Size Separation of Citrate-Stablized Silver Nanoparticles

The citrate method has long been used to synthesize silver nanoparticles due to its simplicity, reproducibility, and comparatively low cost. Although this method has many advantages, the resulting silver nanoparticles are not monodisperse. It is thus necessary to find ways to both reduce and control the size distribution of the nanoparticles before they can be used for specific applications. To this end, we are investigating a post-synthetic method of separating silver nanoparticles into narrower size distributions using gel electrophoresis. Traditional chromatographic methods of separation such as HPLC and SEC are often unfavorable due to poor separability and loss of material due to binding with column material. Using gel electrophoresis would allow for real-time, visual monitoring of the separation process, thereby leading to a possible improvement in separability. Additionally, it may be possible to eliminate material loss by dissolving the gel to recover the separated nanoparticles. The efficacy of our approach can be determined using UV-Vis spectroscopy. The location and width of visible bands can be used to track the size distribution of particles, and peak intensity can be used to monitor material recoverability.


Jonathan Paulo Rua

Jesse Marcum (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Characterization of a Flow-Through System for Monitoring Photodissociation Kinetics

Experiments have determined that tetrachloroaurate decomposes in acidic environments when it is exposed to UV light. This decomposition is the first step in the proposed mechanism for the formation of gold nanoparticles and has been shown to be highly dependent on the presence of other co-solvents such as ethylene glycol and methanol. Kinetics studies on this initial photodecomposition step can be used to determine how and why solvent has such a strong impact, but such studies are complicated by the competing timescales of the reaction and the required measurements. To help overcome these complications, we have developed a flow-through system that provides more consistent probe times than when data is collected manually. An overview of this system will be given along with preliminary results on the kinetics of tetrachloroaurate photodecomposition in various solvent environments.


Soumya Sabbella

Min Chen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

“Clp”ing Lab Time: Utilization of Protein Unfoldase, ClpX, in Nanopore-Based Protein Sequencing

Protein sequencing, though an essential research procedure, is often relegated to a third party, making the process extremely time consuming. The accurate single molecule detection capabilities of nanopore sensing make this technology an innovative and more time efficient alternative to traditional protein sequencing. We propose an alpha hemolysin construct with a linker sequence containing a ClpX binding motif. By binding ClpX, a protein unfoldase, to alpha hemolysin, we create a mechanism which allows for controlled, step- wise translocation of the amino acid sequence through the pore, eliminating previously observed bidirectional protein translocation. Simultaneously, the added length of the linker region maintains stationery distance of ClpX from the alpha hemolysin as to not impede amino acid sequence interaction with the pore forming protein.

This project aims to determine the most optimal electrophysiological conditions in which to test Clpx/alpha hemolysin mutants. Two alpha hemolysin mutants, one containing linker region more proximal to the lumen and one containing linker region more distal to the lumen, were purified and tested to establish optimal electrophysiology testing conditions. When the linker is introduced, the constructs develop voltage dependent gating characteristics. Hence, optimal applied voltage for each construct was determined in order to ensure that the construct remains in an open state, not hindering peptide sequence translocation. Furthermore, each construct’s baseline conductance was measured in the presence of ClpX in order to establish a control baseline. Ultimately, utilizing nanopore sensing with alpha hemolysin/ClpX constructs in the determined optimal electrophysiological conditions may very well “Clp” lab time.


Cameron John Sanders

Michelle E. Farkas (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Macrophage Cell Surface Modification via Tumor Microenvironment Peptide Cleavable Linkers

Traditional methods for cancer drug delivery present numerous challenges, including toxicity to non-cancerous cells, poor tissue penetration, and lack of specificity in tumor targeting. Cell-based delivery strategies are of interest in treating several diseases, including cancer. In this project, we focus on macrophages, which are recruited to tumors with great specificity, and can penetrate to the hypoxic/necrotic core. To avoid untimely release and harm of healthy cells, we propose to improve upon macrophage-based delivery by covalently attaching entities to the cell surface, using peptide cleavable linkers that are susceptible to matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which are present at higher concentrations at tumor sites. By utilizing these entities, the chemotherapeutics can be delivered in a specific manner, reducing effects on normal, healthy tissue and cells. In the first phase of my research, I have synthesized a cleavable peptide, GPVGLIGK, and a non-cleavable control peptide, GPVGGIGK, using solid-phase synthesis methods. Handles have been attached to facilitate attachment to the cell surface, and a fluorophore used as a traceable entity to track cleavages. Chemical analytical techniques have been used to verify  structures including liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Cell-free cleavage assays are being performed, tracked via chromatography, and in the near future, the peptide linkers will be attached to RAW 264.7 macrophage cells to assess cell viability and cleavage. Through these aims, we seek to develop macrophage-based delivery agents for tumor-specific release as a theragnostic tool for cancer.


Abigail Schoner

Chibuzo Nwachuku

Karsten W. Theis (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Westfield State University

Electrochemical Determination of Blood Sugar

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body’s ability to produce the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in elevated levels of glucose in the blood. This disease affects over 29 million people in the United States. Failure to treat it could result in many complications which could be fatal, so daily monitoring of blood glucose levels is crucial to this portion of the nation.

The goal of our study is to create an undergraduate lab that will allow students to measure glucose levels (of provided standards and unknowns) applying the concepts of redox reactions, titrations, and electrochemistry. Our starting point is a commercial glucose monitor, allowing us to explore reliability, specificity (glucose vs fructose vs galactose), the influence of parameters such as pH and ionic strength and substances that may interfere with the measurement.

We then plan to switch to experiments using a potentiostat assembled from components to have more control over measurement parameters and observations by allowing us to see the time trace of the raw data and change the applied voltage. The current commercial monitors only provide a reading within a specific range before simply stating “high” or “low,” so the potentiostat will be able to have a larger detection limit for more specific results.

This experiment will result in a write up of lab instructions for an undergraduate classroom as well as a manual for the instructor.


Madison Kathryn Temple

Dwayne Alexander Bell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry and Food Science, Framingham State University

Lignin Removal from Oak Wood by Oxidation and Hydrolysis

This research revolves around the delignification of oak wood to isolate cellulose; which can be processed and used as a potential biofuel to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The method of removing lignin begins by using an oxidant, sodium perborate, along with formic acid to dissolve the complex lignin molecules. The reaction is followed by a round of three hydrolysis steps to remove the degraded lignin from the sample. Through IR analysis, it appears that the lignin degradation consistently halts at, or around, 50% remaining lignin content. Due to this stalling, the reaction system is repeated three times for each sample in an attempt to remove as much lignin as possible. The data analysis is performed by comparing the peaks in the IR spectra to calculate the percent of lignin that is still present in the oak wood. The peaks of interest in this spectrum include 1835 cm-1 as a baseline measurement (where no signal is observed), the aromatic portions of the lignin molecule at 1509 cm-1, and carbon-oxygen bonds that signify carbohydrates at 1035 cm-1. Future research will involve studying the effects of varying amounts of oxidant used and time that the sample is left to react in order to improve the results and go further than the 50% benchmark removal.


Yuying Zhang

Julian Tyson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Development of a Simple, Low-Cost, Field-Kit Method to Determine Inorganic Arsenic Species in Rice

As part of an on-going project with Chemists Without Borders, our approach is to adapt the Hach EZ test kit, which is designed to measure inorganic arsenic in drinking water down to a concentration of 10 µg per L. The test is based on the reaction of arsine gas, generated by reaction of the inorganic species with powdered zinc in acid solution and purged from the solution by the co-evolution of hydrogen, with mercuric bromide crystals immobilized on a paper support. The resulting depth of the yellow/brown color is compared with colors on a standard chart, either visually or with the help of processing of the digital images taken with a smart-phone camera. The analysis involves extraction, separation, detection and quantification. Rice contains a relatively high concentration of organoarsenic compounds, which do not react with mercuric bromide; but even with the mild extraction conditions needed to prevent species conversion, the rice matrix interfered. Therefore, the original reagents (sulfamic acid and zinc powder) were replaced with sulfuric acid (0.5 M) and 0.6 g sodium borohydride packed into size 000 hyroxypropyl methylcellulose capsules. By also increasing the sample volume, the modified procedure had improved detection capability: down to 5 µg per L. The method was validated by the measurement of spike recoveries of inorganic arsenic, and by the analysis of the same rice by combining ICP-MS, which measures total arsenic, and a non-HPLC-based speciation procedure, such as solid-phase, ion-exchange extraction or selective hydride generation, to differentiate between inorganic and organic arsenic species.





Charles Louis Bonar

Zachary William Trager MacDonald

Nathan L. Wytrwal

Ileana Vasu (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Holyoke Community College

STEM Project: 3-D Printed Braille Project

Holyoke Community College’s NSF STEM Scholars have partnered with Office of Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services to make the campus more accessible for visually impaired students. Our community objective is to create tactile maps, and 3D printed labels for the campus. This presentation will inform the audience of our project design’s research and development, modeling in computer automated design, transferring and calibrating the file for 3D printing, creating a tactile-friendly physical product, and finally preserving our work for future students to continue.

We are also archiving our project for future STEM students- there are years of fragmented work and data on this project. We will discuss the legacy files, identifying important aspects of the project to be preserved, as well as the process of creating clear to follow archives. Our goals are to create a finished prototype ready for mass production as well as a clear and cataloged legacy folder for future STEM students to pursue, even if the project is not pursued every semester.

We will discuss our development process, short and long term goals, along with the social implications of this type of community service project. Using Solidworks software, the group designed a label prototype and legible Braille that was approved by HCC’s Marketing Department and officially funded by the campus. We also have a tactile map project in process, creating a computer based 2-D model of the school, and produced using an embosser. The group is currently creating their final Braille Prototype and project archive.


Caitlin Nicole Oribello Bugash

Peggi L. Clouston (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

iCons: Sustainability in the Built Environment; Evaluating Spline Connections in Eastern Hemlock Cross-Laminated Timber

Wood buildings provide healthy indoor environments, energy efficient building design, low- carbon and resource efficient technologies, and many other benefits to the built environment. My project aims to foster the use of cross laminated timber (CLT), an engineered wood panel used in the construction of large-scale buildings and made from adhering dimensional lumber in a layered, crosswise manner. Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis) lumber was chosen because this tree species is abundant in New England yet underutilized as a forest product, and thus a good candidate for local production of CLT. The goal of my project is to quantify behavior of panel to panel assemblies of single surface splines (e.g. strips of lumber) (i) with adhesive and (ii) without adhesive. I hypothesize that the panel to panel assemblies that have adhesive will perform stronger and stiffer because including adhesive in the connection will increase shear resistance and improve the overall connection ability to resist loads. A specimen consists of three Eastern Hemlock CLT panels with two single surface splines and four screws connecting them. The specimens will be fabricated using standard shop tools: a chop saw, a band saw, a drill, and others. Laminated veneer lumber panels will be attached to steel rods that will hold down the specimen while the head of the MTS testing machine will be attached to the top of the specimen. This will allow for static and cyclic loading. Yield and deformation data will be collected.


Jacob Cowley

Christian D. Guzman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Civil Engineering, UMass Amherst

An Analysis of Phosphorus Transport in the Lake Warner Watershed

Lake Warner is a 68-acre freshwater lake in Hadley Massachusetts which is currently impaired by excessive Phosphorus concentrations. The resulting algal blooms consume dissolved oxygen and cause damage to the environment for both recreational uses and aquatic habitat. An investigation into the lake’s watershed seeks to compliment work conducted by the Friends of Lake Warner (FoWL) in understanding how land use and rainfall affect nutrient transport. Typical Phosphorus concentrations for eutrophication are between 30 and 60 ug/L, while the Tan Brook (a tributary of concern in the Lake Warner Watershed) has been recorded as providing concentrations of 191 ug/L. Samples collected before, during, and after storm impulses through the Tan Brook and other tributaries for between 5 to 10 storms in cold-weather conditions will undergo a Phosphorus and isotope analysis to understand the direct impact on the lake. These recordings, along with historical storm data coinciding with FoLW’s previous measurements will determine the existence and degree of a relationship between overland flow and nutrient loading for specific land uses within the tributaries sub-watersheds. Understanding the specific sub-watersheds contribution to total loading is important for the development of Best Management Practices (BMPs). Planning BMPs for locations with elevated Phosphorus loading and sizing them according to contributions by rain events could allow for the greatest reduction of contamination for the least amount of financial input. Improving Lake Warner and its tributaries will restore the local environment and assist the continued remediation efforts in the larger Connecticut River Valley in which it resides.


Emma Jean Guertin

Emily Kumpel (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Civil Engineering, UMass Amherst

Water Quality Concerns in an Intermittent Supply

This research investigates the changes of water quality between continuous water supply and intermittent water supply. Intermittent water supply is a distribution system that operates intermittently causing inconsistent water flow to the consumers. 300 million people in the world rely on intermittent systems as their water source, especially in low- and middle- income countries. This supply method leads to reduced water quality and is a threat to public health in the communities where it is present. This research project is focused on understanding the changes that occur to the water quality in an intermittent system by collecting and analyzing quantitative data.

Two pilot scale models were constructed in the lab to replicate real-life systems. One pipe loop operates continuously acting as the continuous supply, while the other is operated on an intermittent schedule. A number of samples are pulled each week from both systems,and the source, during the operation time of the intermittent system. Each sample is measured for chlorine concentration, turbidity, pH, conductivity, temperature, iron concentration and microbial concentration. Additionally, an experiment was performed in which multiple samples were collected and measured from both the intermittent and continuous system in the span of six hours to monitor daily fluctuations.

From the data collected so far, the results suggest focusing on the first flush period of the intermittent system. The intermittent supply begins to mock the continuous supply after a certain amount of time. We will be repeating the same experiment, but varying sample times to better understand the daily fluctuations and the duration of the first flush period.


Alanna Joachim

Simos Gerasimidis (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Civil Engineering, UMass Amherst

Architected Lattice (meta)Materials: A New Form of Structural Art?

Structural art, a concept coined by David Billington in 1983, introduced the idea that structural design should always take into consideration efficiency, economy, and aesthetics. Billington’s premise demonstrated that an engineering structure whose design is created with these three ideals in mind is able to better shape its resulting function/purpose. One new example of this concept – at a totally different scale – can be found in architected lattice metamaterials, as their unique mechanical properties are determined by their internal topology. In these materials, their lattice architectures define their resulting functions and capabilities, which may include mechanical, electrical, thermal, and many other properties. This presentation will provide an overview of structural art, architected metamaterials, and how the remarkable properties of these new materials can be exploited further for future applications in a vast variety of science and engineering fields including civil engineering structures. Additionally, it will highlight connections between lattice metamaterials and Billington’s key ideals such as the 3 E’s and “function follows form,” as well as present evidence showing that architected metamaterials could be considered as an extension of the concept of structural art that was originally conceived for structures at a much larger scale.


Bridget Helen Murphy

Simos Gerasimidis (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Civil Engineering, UMass Amherst

Using Point Cloud Software through 3-D Scanning to Improve the Development of Load- Rating Procedures for Deteriorated Steel Beam Ends

Corrosion at the ends of steel girder beams is becoming an increasingly important issue as more and more aging bridges, especially in the New England area are failing inspections due to this issue. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is currently exploring new ways to improve their inspection process in order to better predict and determine the load carrying capacity of girder beams with corrosion end damage. Corrosion greatly reduces the thickness in the web of the beam above the bearing plate in an unpredictable pattern which greatly reduces the bucking capacity of the beam. Currently MassDOT uses D-meter readings in the inspection process to measure the web thickness. It is unrealistic for MassDOT to get enough D-meter measurements throughout the entire web of the beam end in order to accurately get the full corrosion pattern to properly predict the load carrying capacity. This research explores the alternative of using 3D scanning in order to more accurately measure the thickness of the web at the beam end at as many places possible while doing so in a feasible time efficient manner for field inspection of bridges. This research explores the use of 3D scanning on beam end specimens to determine if it will improve the accuracy of the thickness measurements therefore allowing for a better prediction of the load carrying capacity of bridge girder beams.





Taylor Anne Cassidy

Simon Oswald (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Classical Language and Literature, UMass Amherst

Representations of Linguistic Diversity in Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Plautus' Poenulus

This paper argues for the presence of diverse sociolinguistic registers and dialect in the language of ancient Greek and Roman theater, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Plautus’ Poenulus specifically. For this research, dialect is defined as phonological, morphological, lexical, and syntactic differences as separated by geographical and/or ethnic boundaries, and register is defined as phonological, morphological, lexical, and syntactic differences as separated by socioeconomic class and/or gender. Such registers are most visible in the form of socioeconomic class and gendered speech in the two plays studied for this research. Research was conducted by first surveying contemporary sociolinguistic research and methodologies before adapting and applying their analytical techniques to the two plays in conjunction with prior Greek and Latin sociolinguistic research. The plays were combed through for potential examples of language registers and analyzed according to their appearance elsewhere in ancient literature as well as comparative examples. Both Lysistrata and Poenulus show examples of use of regional dialects and class- and gender- specific registers, primarily through lexical differences, though also in forms of address and other areas. This research is innovative in its application of sociolinguistic research to the ancient world, and in giving voice to the historically voiceless (slaves, women, foreigners) in classical society. It also suggests that, despite having a standardized form of either language until much later in history, playwrights could employ various registers to represent different groups with successful audience recognition.





John Gerard Benitz

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

How the NFL’s Story Began in 1962

NFL Films gave football an identity by turning games into dramatic battles fit for Hollywood through cinematography and orchestral scores.  I display an understanding of how NFL Films created a “durable mythology” that typifies Pro-Football “as heroic, dramatic, and beautiful.” The purpose of this research is to show how NFL Films has sustained a sense of mythic grandeur in our decidedly anti-mythic times.” I breakdown how the NFL’s “most important branding and marketing effort transformed the league’s players and coaches into “legends of autumn.” This research focuses on the 1960s, the decade when Pro-Football overtook baseball to become “America’s Game,” which is distinct from research about the cinematography or artwork involved in the Films. This project concentrates on the NFL Film mythology that depicts Pro-Football as “an intense, violent, beautiful, and sometimes humorous sport,” which “expresses what it means to be American.” My research methods will include exploring previous works on the mythology in early films as well as viewing the works myself. I will break down the “carefully crafted and commercially motivated” themes given to the game. I will describe how NFL Films’ crafted “mythic qualities” that have “molded Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas into a working-class hero, and fashioned New York Jets quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath into a countercultural rebel.” As Steve Sabol said, “I think what we have done is we brought a mythology to the game. When we started, football had a tradition but we gave it a visual mythology.”


Aaron Fee

Antwon Key (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Art and Design, Salem State University

Practicality and Design: Aaron Fee's Portfolio

My name is Aaron Fee, and I am a Graphic Design minor at Salem State University. As somebody with a major in Communications and Advertising, my work is practical, professional, and clean. I prefer minimalist designs more than anything else, so I try to incorporate this into my designs when I can. What I hope to achieve with the skills I’ve honed through school is to work in an ad agency and work my way up to a freelance designer. My dream as a designer is to create album covers, as it brings my passions for music and design together.

My portfolio has several packaging pieces, as I’d like to pursue a career in which advertising and design go hand-in-hand. Along with these packages are mockups for potential advertisements for the products. I made a packaging project about body mists from the company Good Chemistry, and when it came to designing the ads, I considered what would be a good location for these ads. I figured putting them in the subway was perfect because these products are often sold at pharmacies, which are commonly close to subway stations in the city.

To conclude, I am continually striving for practicality in my work while incorporating fun, clean designs for potential clients. I hope my combined skills in Communications and Graphic Design will not only impact clients in the future but also allow me to see my work on a shelf someday.


Alannah Finlay

Razvan Sibii (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Journalism, UMass Amherst

Higher Education in Prison

My thesis on higher education in the prison system will focus on the benefits and importance of higher education and will propose a practical, useful, and efficient way to implement education as an avenue to decarceration and eventual abolition of prisons. My research will be bifold, consisting of expert opinion on how education changes the brain and improves society. I will also propose education in every prison nationwide, and will map out the financial aspects of funding education programs. Higher Education has proven to have a positive impact on those incarcerated, drastically reducing the recidivism rate in prisons and subsequently decreasing public tax spent on funding prisons. Education also improves community by increasing productivity. A trillion dollars is lost annually in lost productivity, foster care programs etc. due to mass incarceration in the United States. My research methods will consist of interviews from experts in the field of education and professors of Psychology and education. I will also analyze several books and prior research done in this field. I will focus on the Bard College Prison Initiative, an exemplary representation of how higher education in the prison system positively impacts society.

The purpose of this thesis is to explore higher education as a potential solution to Mass Incarceration in the United States and to emphasize the importance of education in creating a more balanced and equal society. I hope to learn how education can be implemented in the prison system practically to decrease incarceration and better society.


Megan R. Holden

Shelly Y. Murphy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Arts and Communication, Bristol Community College

Opioid Addiction: Broken Promises, Broken Homes, Broken Hearts

The battle against the opioid crisis has been and continues to be a long and tough one. Even though in the SouthCoast of Massachusetts the opioid overdoses are starting to decrease, there were still a total of 938 confirmed overdoses within a six-month period in 2019, according to Southcoasttoday.com. As we count the bodies, we cannot forget the families and the turmoil they leave behind. How does the opioid crisis affect families of users financially, emotionally, and socially? This documentary focuses on how the opioid crisis has affected families in the SouthCoast of Massachusetts. Specifically, it highlights the story of several families who are experiencing similar challenges, but who are travelling different paths. The documentary features professionally quality footage of interviews with counselors, family members and recovering addicts as well as poignant visuals and compelling statistics from credible sources. The goal of the film is to illustrate how serious the opioid crisis still is, and how its impact goes far beyond just the users themselves. The film explores the complex dilemmas of how best to prevent a cycle of drug abuse within families and effective ways to deal with a loved one’s addiction.


Caleb Matthew Huston

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

Cinema Is a Joke: How Comedy and Drama Find Balance in Film

Films almost always have some comedic and dramatic stakes, yet more often than not one overpowers the other. The middle ground is a hard balance to find, yet can be incredibly effective when telling a story. I plan on figuring out where this balance is and how films hit it effectively. How can a film be comedic while still having gripping dramatic stakes? Can comedy exist without drama, and vice versa? Not many studies have been created on the effectiveness of dramatic comedy, so I note the effectiveness of comedic and dramatic scenes, as well as their pacing and separation from each other. Since comedy is subjective, I am as technical as possible in my research, focusing in on the effectiveness and timing rather than how much it makes one laugh. I focus on the role of comedy and comic relief in films that are strictly labeled as dramatic, as well as dramatic tension in films that are specifically labeled as comedies.

Specifically, I focus on recent films such as Jojo Rabbit, which have distinctly comedic and dramatic scenes, yet have drastic tone shifts between the two. I also look at the works of Disney/Pixar films such as Inside Out that have comedic and slapstick moments yet hold underlying serious themes and heartfelt moments, such as the growth and death of a character. I look at the works I’ve created and how I can apply the teachings of these films into future works.


Leanna LeBel Johnson

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

Fortune Tellers and Soothsayers: The Transmogrification of Metaphors in Tarot Readings

Tarot card decks have been a source of rich symbolic imagery since the 15th century. This study performs a semiotic analysis of tarot card design and accompanying narrativity of tarot card readings across multiple decks. These decks display the same seventy eight cards arranged into four suites with drastically different art styles. Each artistic interpretation adds a unique way to understand the symbols presented. Tarot card readings use static signs and symbols that become characters in the storytelling of the reading. These latent metaphors come to mean through the context in which they are interpreted in a particular reading. My research methods include an analysis of tarot card designs including signs, symbols, and metaphors in particular tarot cards and how those cards are “read” by professional tarot card readers. A discourse analysis of these professionals and how they interact with their craft gives insight into this transformation that everyday people don’t fully understand. This reveals the unique way metaphors are transmogrified during storytelling through tarot cards.


Aicha B. Kone

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

Bigger Than Soles

Sneakers pay homage to an athlete’s legacy. Players of the National Basketball Association (NBA) express their passion for basketball by giving unique names to each model of their shoe. The logos embodied on the sneaker is symbolic to their alter egos. Think Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James-all athletes with signature footwear and logos to illustrate the essence of their talents. For generations to come people will wear the sneakers of Michael, Kobe, and LeBron hoping to Jump as high as the JumpMan( Michael Jordan), be as fierce as the Mamba (Kobe Bryant), and to be the most superior person to grace the court like the King (LeBron James). This project will analyze how the careers of players are embodied in their sneakers while paying attention to how they shaped a basketball subculture. Every single detail of their shoe has a meaning to it-from its shape to its decor. The smallest detail of these sneakers should not go unnoticed because it is a physical illustration of years of sweat, blood, and tears they put into the game. I will be watching interviews and documentaries of basketball moguls to get a sense of what inspired their ideas. The way an athlete presents themselves in the media's eye  is what shapes a person's idea on who that person is. In the NBA, the way an athlete dresses off the court says a lot about what their interests are other than basketball, while making a statement about where they come from.


Anderson J. Larrazabal

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

The Study of Game Design: The Next Era of Communications

Video games, like it or not, have been ingrained into our culture. Our generation focuses on visual learning, with media that can be interpreted without words, and takes initiative for creatives to express themselves to the world. Taking a higher profit margin than the film industry over the last decade, there is a generation of aspired creatives, designers, and leaders who wish to pursue and realize its potential of unique, endearing, and influential experiences. This project examines the collaboration between these developers. How those developers operate as a team, their work ethics that motivate and spark innovations, and how they apply their innovations to be more involved with our lives.

I raised myself playing, studying, and designing video games as a hobby. It bettered my understanding of communication and creativity. Soon, the first generation of educated game designers must take lead in directing and reforming the growing industry.

This project uses primary sources interviewing game designers and professors around New England. My secondary sources consist of conferences done by GDC (Game Design Conference) that gives insight on varying topics relating to game design and the industry from those actively working in it. The results are for a wide audience to understand what is coming next for the Communications field, the frame of mind of developers build to motivate and evolve their passions, and how these precautions shape developer’s critical thinking, forward thinking, and decision making.


Amberly Sarah Lerner

Erica Scharrer (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication, UMass Amherst

FOBs, Fu Manchus, Nerds, and Lotus Blossoms: Asian Americans on Netflix

With the success of Crazy Rich Asians (2018), the popularity of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) and Always Be My Maybe (2019) on Netflix, as well as Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (2018–present), and the upcoming Marvel adaptation of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), Asian Americans are carving a space for themselves in mainstream Hollywood like never before.

There is still much work to be done, though. Consequently, my research will focus on Asian American representation in Netflix original programming. I specifically turn to Netflix because it has been seen as a beacon for Asian American (and other kinds of diverse) representation. I hope to learn whether or not this reputation holds true.

My research continues the labor by Asian American studies and Media studies scholars that have come before me. Many have done qualitative studies analyzing specific media, and a few have done more quantitative content analyses for representations of characters of color at large. I will be conducting a content analysis on specifically Asian American characters and how they are represented across Netflix.

Based on past studies, I will create a list of traits from tropes in the distant and not-so distant past to code for as I watch many Netflix programs. From there, I will analyze the current state of Asian American representation. I anticipate that despite their handful of highlighted programs, Netflix still has a dearth of representation, and in some cases maybe even propagates old racist tropes.


Lauren McKie

Christopher John Bowen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Framingham State University

Peripheral: An Episodic Journey through Memories Past, Present, and Future

Peripheral (an original, episodic streaming TV series concept) explores a near-future world where suicide and depression are viewed as spreading illnesses. Adjustment facilities exist to fix those who have attempted suicide and keep them quarantined throughout the lengthy therapy process. Those who are wealthy may pay for early departure and accept the Bean.

After a last-minute suicide attempt, Iris Alvarez finds herself in an adjustment facility, receiving a Bean implant and being introduced to her take-home AI therapist, Patrice.

Although Patrice has the best intentions to help Iris get her life back on track, a botched attempt to remove the implant skews Patrice’s programming. It sends Iris spiraling through memories of her past and future, confronting old pains along with new ones in an effort to try to piece the fragments of her life back together.

This series will follow Iris as she travels through memories and tries to find safety for herself with an off-kilter therapist always in her mind. Focused on a life where seemingly everything has gone wrong, the question will be posed, can anything truly be fixed? The entire project will encompass not just finalized scripts for short-form episodes, but a show bible and concept art as well. These supplementary materials will aid in creating a “proposal package” for the whole show as well as creating the mood and tone that cannot immediately be derived from the script itself.


Jennifer Marion Moss

Mari Castaneda (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication, UMass Amherst

Beyond “Toothless, Token Diversity”: A Historical Review of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at University of Massachusetts Amherst Since 1968

This research examines the ways in which the idea of diversity and inclusion has been conceptualized and communicated over the past fifty years, with a specific focus on race as one axis of identity. Its aim is to better understand the concept of diversity and inclusion and its relationship to true racial justice by highlighting trends and patterns of language used over the years, using the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a case study. By reviewing collections of archival materials—including newspaper clippings, press releases, and administrative documents—as well as conducting interviews with two current diversity and inclusion professionals at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, this research will delve into the context and meaning of diversity and inclusion in terms of race within higher education, and situate that within the history of struggle for racial justice. The results of this research will provide an entry point for better understanding the role that diversity and inclusion has played over time and currently plays, specifically as it relates to race, racism, white supremacy, and whiteness, how it has changed in terms of positioning and the language used, and what potential, if any, diversity and inclusion programs have to stimulate meaningful antiracist change on university campuses within the current social and political paradigm of the United States.


Jacob William Movsessian

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

Writing about War: Literature and the Search for Meaning in the Vietnam War

The Vietnam war was America’s first major conflict where the why of it all is not so black and white. Unsurprisingly, it birthed a plethora of literary material, and in practically every form available. This project deals specifically with letters, short stories, and memoir excerpts, all written from the perspective of American soldiers of the Vietnam war and/or those close to them, i.e. friends, family, etc. The purpose of this is to explore how these specific literary forms lend themselves differently to the authors search for meaning in a situation where it was highly elusive. I do this by analyzing several works, both structurally and contextually, focusing on content, imagery, structure, viewpoint, tone, etc. The selection of literature for this project includes Tim O'Brien's The Man I Killed, and The Things They Carried; William Reichard’s War; letters excerpted from Letters from Vietnam, edited by Bill Adler; and excerpts from the historical memoir We Were Soldiers Once… and Young. This project also touches upon the overall historical context surrounding Vietnam which led to this thin search for meaning, such as post-WWII ideas of patriotic heroism, and how that impacted the various author’s literary decisions. Through this study, I plan to highlight the semi-objective, yet personal style of letters, contrasted with the more reflective nature of the short story, and how memoir used aspects of both to its advantage, all in search of the same thing: meaning in their experience of the Vietnam war.


Owen Napolitano

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

Episodes of Officiating: From the Lens of an Official

When it comes to officiating people have no idea what goes into the craft, they just think officials are out there making calls to ruin their team's season. My study will deeply analyze the episodes of officiating from the perspective of an NCAA Official. The episodes of officiating are each time officials blow their whistle. Once an official blows their whistle the whole game stops and the audience is focused on them. I will focus on the importance of finding each officials trigger points and anticipating possible situations before they occur. Each episode opens the door for outside noise and knowing how to deal with it, is very important. This is crucial because on the biggest stage officials take some serious verbal abuse that isn’t seen in any other occupation. As a three-sport Official with NCAA experience, I have a very unique vantage point that will give outsiders a better understanding of what happens in an Officials world on a day to day basis. I will be sharing what its like working games in packed buildings day in and day out and how I deal with scrutiny from the outside. I will be drawing research from many different aspects including primary research from my own experiences day in and day out as well as secondary research from laws being put in place to protect officials and research done by others on the topic of officiating.


Kevin Louis Perry

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

Athletes and Mental Health

Athletes work hard at their craft in order to be able to perform at the highest level, but what if they were not at their highest level physically and or mentally and how would that look like when it comes to affecting the performance of the athlete. By looking at different encounters in the world of sports and some secondary sources about the human body under stress the main goal is to show how a majority of the time athletes are playing with some form of injury or another. My research examines first hand encounters and interviews of how athletes playing through debilitating injuries changes their mindset in order to play at the highest level. By looking at interviews, articles, and studies done about certain athletes and how their mindset changed due to injury, as well as secondary sources on the mental state when the body is under stress, such as the situation of soldiers in war when they are wounded, my goal is to show how physical and mental health go hand in hand in order for an athlete to perform at their highest level.


Ashleigh Rose Prince

Lauren Torlone (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Media and Communication, Salem State University

For Goodness Bakes: Family, Cookbooks, and Confections

Cookbooks and recipes are a staple in every kitchen. There are countless dog-eared and sauce stained pages adorning countertops and shelves all around the world, and year after year, those pages are shuffled and shared between friends, family, and the occasional lucky outsider. This thesis project is an exploration of cookbook writing, cookbook culture, digital design, branding and printing. While crafting a cookbook, I will be thoroughly documenting my process and relating my experiences and findings to research on how cookbooks reflect the culture of those who write them, the importance of cookbooks as culture proxies (paying particular attention to community cookbooks), and psychology in baking.

At the conclusion of this project, I will have made and printed a cookbook as a reflection of my findings. This cookbook will be made in honor of the Noel family matriarch, my Great Grandma Ina, who passed away in 2017, and will be titled “For Goodness Bakes”. “For Goodness Bakes” is inspired by Ina and her abundant love for her family, culture, and sharing pastries. My collection of recipes (inherited from Ina and her family members), will be coupled with familial research, personal anecdotes, baking tips, and a series of food and family photography. Throughout this project, it is my goal to further connect to my family’s history, as well as gain meaningful experience in writing and designing for publication.


Samantha Nicole Ruth

LaTasha Sarpy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Behavioral Science Department, Bunker Hill Community College

Time Management in Community College Students

Several studies have shown that different time management behaviors have resulted in success with college. However, there has been a lack of studies within solely community college students. In the Massachusetts public higher education system, 43% of students attend a community college. That translates to more than 156,089 students that attend across 15 different community colleges in Massachusetts. There hasn’t been a single study that I could find that focused solely on time management skills within community college students. Shown from the large and significant role that community college students play in higher education in Massachusetts, students from community college play a crucial role. The objective of the study will be to establish the challenges Boston undergraduate community college students face with time management. The study will hopefully show what time management skills result in positive outcomes. The research will be conducted by collecting data from open-end questions from a sample population from community colleges in the Boston area. Then there will be a qualitative analysis of the transcripts from the open-ended questions. This study confirms that Boston undergraduate community college students struggle to find success within school when their time management skills are poor. Especially with the presence of outside responsibilities, for example a job or children.


Molly Swanton

Amy Smith (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Media and Communication, Salem State University

Queer Leading Ladies

Since the 2000s, LGBTQ characters have become more common in mainstream media such as film and television. However, some representations of LGBTQ characters may have been included to target non-LGBTQ viewers, who perceived LGBTQ characters as quirky secondary characters, rather than LGBTQ viewers, who sought accurate representations of their identities and experiences. Television representations of queer women have also become more common and diverse in the 2010s than the 2000s. This essay analyzes the representations of LGBTQ characters from both decades in one episode each from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The L Word, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Orange Is the New Black through a feminist perspective with a focus on how queer women are represented in their respective series as both major and minor characters.


John T. Tran

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

The Last Airbender: How to Cultivate Adult Sensibility in a Kids' Show through Design

The retention rate in the younger generation is developing at a tremendous rate, allowing them to begin thinking deeply about the world and the life they choose. Their state of thinking is closer to that of an adult, albeit still developing. This is due to their exposure to our culture through advertising, social media, and the Internet, all working hand in hand to immerse them in a media-centric life. Parents today are still conditioned to show their kids educational television and are more likely to not sit down and watch with them. They don’t see any benefit in watching it or maybe see it as too childish for their interest. Growing up, I had a great appreciation for animation and the hard work and passion that goes into it. In 2005, when I heard Nickelodeon was releasing an American Animated series that applied Asian Culture and martial arts, it was a move that was unheard of. Even after 15 years, this show is still beloved by many and continually growing as one of the most popular animated shows in the world. My research will cover how this show was able to tell its impactful story in a sensitive manner. I will be analyzing thematics throughout the show’s narrative to understand how through design and storytelling address these serious topics and how it effectively bridges the gap between the thinking of adolescence and adulthood.


Taylor J. Walker

Carlos Fontes (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication, Worcester State University

The Nature of Violence Speech in White Alt-Right Media

This project brings together the results of research projects conducted in the fall of 2019 and fall of 2018 about the role of the alt-right media plays in the alt-right movement. The key finding is that alt-right media provides an ideological justification for the use of violent language and the use of racial and ethnic violence in society. The themes found in the 2018 and 2019 research projects were analyzed to reveal their recent evolution in white alt-right media ideology. Findings include the white victimization that justifies the absolute ownership of guns as a way of self defense from other groups, and the Cycle of White Supremacy Ideology constituted by; Patriotism, Obstacles as the other to nation, Victimization, Paranoia, and a Call-To-Action to resist oppression of white race. The Cycle of White Supremacy Ideology analyzes the findings in the evolution of alt-right media and the impact on the alt-right movement. These two themes highlight the changing nature of alt- right discourse towards violence.


Lindzie EllenMarie White

Kerry L. Drohan (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English Literature, Cape Cod Community College

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona Destroyed by the Border Wall

The aim of this project is to give attention to the ecological and archaeological devastation now occurring at the border wall separating the U.S and Mexico. Focusing on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, will give attention to the other sites harmed or ruined resulting from the construction of the wall. In President Trump's first 100 days of office, he utilized immigration fears to push his agenda to build the border wall, using national security as the main rationale. Environmental activists in the region say blasting for the wall threatens the surrounding ecosystem, including an important aquifer, and abundant wildlife and plants. If the aquifer is destroyed the consequences are truly catastrophic. This research paper will source scholarly articles to examine the nature of these issues and policies. The Monument will be evaluated with a cross analysis of what dictates as a National Emergency and State Emergency, and quantitative results from this review will be shared in the project.


Serena Wong

Barry A. Spence (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Film Studies, UMass Amherst

Global Gates: An Exploration of Chinatowns in the US and UK

The Chinese diaspora over the years has sprouted a number of communities around the world. All of them differ because of their histories, and as such have affected their operations today and the effects they have on the surrounding area as well as their populations. Even though doing so requires background experience and quite a bit of travelling, drawing a comparison of significant communities can shed a light on what a future impact may be when it comes to said communities and their home countries. In this comparison, six cities were studied in the US and the UK: Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manchester, London and Liverpool. The cities were examined historically through viewing archival photos and print media; they were examined in the present through first- person filming. Each visual essay provides a close look on each city and allows for wider contemplation and reflection following viewing. Each Chinatown provided different histories and present-day settings, all of them affected by their various histories. They allow a viewer not only to draw their own conclusions but also to be affected and for them to change their perspectives either as a whole or of their prior experiences. The reach of the project may not be for everyone, nor may it be widespread, but there still stand to be people who are able to gain from it by having their viewing enrich their experiences.





Julia Clare Caristi

Emma Alice Dyer

Olivia Isabella Petrucci

Joanne Gallagher Worthley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Occupational Therapy, Worcester State University

Comparing the Accessibility of Public Buildings in Major New England Cities


It is important to ensure that everyone has equal access to essential community resources. The ability to access public spaces ensures quality of life and community participation. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II and III outline regulations that must be met by state and local government buildings and commercial buildings. These laws ensure that the space is accessible to all.

We conducted research in three major New England cities: Boston, Providence, and Worcester. In each city, we assessed a city hall or state house, a post office, and a library, which are spaces that offer opportunities for socialization and life skill participation.

Three versions of the Community Health Environment Checklist were administered. The CHEC-HOH was utilized to determine if public buildings are accessible for those who are hard of hearing. Next, the CHEC-LV was performed to collect data on the accessibility of the buildings for those who have poor vision. Finally, the CHEC-M was used to assess the overall usability of the public sites. The CHEC-M determines whether a person with a mobility limitation can enter a specific site, perform the tasks they need to do, and leave the building with little difficulty.

Our findings indicate certain buildings were significantly less accessible than others. The results of our project serve as a baseline to promote change in the public buildings of Worcester, Providence, and Boston.


Gabriela Colmenares

Deborah Keisch (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Office of Civic Engagement and Service Learning, UMass Amherst

Effective Leadership Development in Higher Ed Nonprofit Organizing

Students have been critical to social change movements for generations, spending time developing their skills as activists and organizers while also balancing their academic responsibilities. This paper plans to detail the importance of student leadership development as a tool for building power, and how it can affect organizational impact. For the past 2 years, I have volunteered for a non-profit organization on campus called MASSPIRG that looks to tackle issues of climate change and college affordability through grassroots campaign action, campus relations and leadership development. One challenge has been retention within the internship program, which has a goal of developing interns to run and coordinate their own events and campaigns. Students were only encouraged to learn more tactics on their own time rather than dedicating a specialized training time where necessary organizing skills can be learned and practiced. In this paper, I will examine the effectiveness of a class dedicated to providing students with the skills they need to mobilize on pressing issues and be held accountable for the time they spend developing these skills. In my final analysis, I will reflect on the organization’s leadership structure, and explore the advantages and disadvantages of the organization’s traditional Alinsky-style structure and suggest concrete ways to support the growing and ever-changing leaders of a student-run social change operation.


Jessica Danielle Daury

Ellen Correa (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Civic Engagement & Service-Learning, UMass Amherst

Family Self-Sufficiency Outreach Program

Public housing is often seen as a permanent home for those who cannot be financially self- sufficient. In contrast, the Worcester Housing Authority (WHA) provides housing while also working to assist residents in transitioning out of the public housing system. One way in which this is accomplished is through the federally funded Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. This is a voluntary program that offers participants educational, employment, and financial services and training. Because it is federally funded, it is necessary to have a successful FSS program in order to continue receiving the grant. My service-learning project, performed in partial fulfillment of the Capstone requirement for the UMass Certificate in Civic Engagement and Public Service, involves designing and implementing an outreach project in order to enroll more residents in the program. Being involved in this project and working with WHA Family and Resident Services not only immerses me in the experience of working behind the scenes at a public housing authority, but it also connects me to the people who have faced adversity and are inspired to continue to fight for themselves and their families. Working with the WHA will allow me to recognize the severity of poverty and homelessness on a local and national level along with the obstacles housing authorities face in providing support for people in need. The final presentation will report on the process and outcomes of the project as well as detail the personal and professional lessons I have learned throughout the process.


Victoria M. Ferrara-Lawlor

Deborah Keisch (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Office of Civic Engagement and Service Learning, UMass Amherst

Analysis of the Efficacy of Leadership Development in Organizing and Advocacy

In social change work, a successful organization is built on efforts such as recruitment, leadership development, coalition building, community outreach, and more. While the tactics and tools organizations use to be effective are varied, in this paper I concentrate on the role of leadership development among new volunteers and interns through my experience as the Internship Coordinator with MASSPIRG Students. MASSPIRG is a statewide, student-run, non-partisan, non-profit that focuses on campaigns centered around protecting the environment, making college affordable, and turning out the youth vote. Leaders of this organization guide the trajectory of campaigns and work, and building new leaders is essential to MASSPIRG's sustainability over time. In this paper, I reflect on the efficacy of this organization’s leadership development structure to sustain its social change work. I examine my work as an intern coordinator running an activist class each week of the spring semester, the intent of which is to support leadership development. Then, I assess the strengths and limitations of MASSPIRG’s leadership structure and dynamic which instigates an environment of burnout in advocacy and organizing. Through this assessment, I offer additional frameworks and structures for leadership development that have the potential to increase overall satisfaction and retain leaders.


Michael James Hester

Ellen Correa (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Civic Engagement & Service-Learning, UMass Amherst

Hospital Training Act

Massachusetts Legislative bill H1889 titled, Hospital Training, is a bipartisan bill that proposes to establish an integrated state plan related to the diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder. It would also create an advisory committee on intellectual and developmental disabilities. This advisory committee would create recommendations for statewide standards for healthcare professionals regarding the diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I am a long-term participant and current student leader in The Boltwood Project, a UMass student-run service learning project where undergraduates engage in weekly visits with people with varying intellectual capacities. My interest in and awareness of the structural barriers people with intellectual disabilities face in accessing appropriate and respectful health care comes from the relationships I have made in Boltwood, and from my goal of becoming a physician. This service-learning project, engaged in partnership with the advocacy organization Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC), involves working for the passage of this bill through petitions, the submission of written testimony to legislative committees, and urging the support of my state representatives. This presentation will report on project outcomes as well as what I learned throughout the process.


Abbey Kathryn Nicholson

Deborah Keisch (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Office of Civic Engagement and Service Learning, UMass Amherst

Pantry Cooking: Workshops Designed with Amherst Survival Center Constituents in Mind

Human service organizations across the United States play an important role in easing the hardships faced by community members through the development of a variety of programming. Each organization has a different approach to designing these programs, however it can be easy to overlook an important development tactic: community involvement. Community involvement is often an invaluable tool, but especially in fields that look to solve or alleviate social problems. While there are countless examples of how community input can be utilized, I will focus on the role of the community in the design and execution of a new cooking workshop for the Amherst Survival Center (ASC). Over the past three years, I have volunteered with the Amherst Survival Center, a direct service organization that aims to “connect residents of Hampshire and Franklin Counties to food, clothing, healthcare, wellness and community, primarily through volunteer efforts.” Through this paper, I reflect on the importance of the involvement of the voices of the recipients of services in the construction of programming itself. I will also discuss my experience in utilizing a community forum to design a cooking workshop that intends to use the ingredients found in the center’s food pantry and fresh food distribution area. In my final analysis, I will review the outcomes of the workshop that was developed in collaboration with the impacted community, with a particular focus on to what degree goals of authenticity and relevancy were achieved, and propose how these findings might support further work in the community.


Taylor Ford Powers

Ellen Correa (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Civic Engagement & Service-Learning, UMass Amherst

Creating a More Inclusive Work Community

This presentation will report on my civic engagement capstone project, undertaken in partial fulfillment of the course SRVCLRNG 496, The Boltwood Capstone: (dis)Ability, Ableism, & Social Justice. In collaboration with community partner Riverside Industries, Inc., the project involves the design and facilitation of workshops focusing on developing some of the skills necessary to obtain and retain employment. Riverside Industries provides individualized services combining life skills development, rehabilitation, and employment options for adults living with developmental disabilities throughout the Pioneer Valley. The project emerged from discussions with Riverside staff who identified the need for a training program to support participants to obtain and retain employment in areas they are interested in. Through this community engagement project I have the opportunity to better understand the implications and material effects of my own and others’ social identities; how social structures act as barriers to meaningful employment for people with learning and cognitive differences, and my potential as an agent of social change. This project demonstrates the service learning concept of reciprocity in that I will learn how to accommodate and teach people with different learning styles, and the participants will gain skills needed to obtain and retain meaningful employment. The presentation will impart the lessons I learned as well as reflections from the participants based on their experience and outcomes.


Chloe Micaela Sanfacon

Beverly Army Williams (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Westfield State University

Consent for All: LGBTQ Inclusivity at Westfield State University's Orientation

LGBTQ people are statistically more likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetime due to social biases. Sexual violence is a serious issue on college campuses, especially when drugs and alcohol are factored in. To try to combat this horrific epidemic, colleges have created Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) courses for their students to learn about safety, consent, and what to do in certain situations. At Westfield State University, the SVP programming during New Student Orientation has left out LGBTQ sexual violence. LGBTQ sexual violence may present itself differently than the heteronormative examples that the program currently utilizes. I am advocating for a change in our SVP. I want to adjust the language and the activities used in order for the program to be more inclusive of all students on campus. While surveying other students, SVP facilitators, and Orientation Leaders, I have discovered ways to change the SVP rhetoric to become more inclusive. From one of the first times that they come to campus, it’s important that LGBTQ students feel heard, accepted, and supported in the campus community. This work aims to adjust the campus culture in order to provide a safer and ultimately, happier, atmosphere for LGBTQ students to thrive.





Minting Chen

Hossein Pishro-Nik (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Amherst

Asymptotic Loss in Time Series Matching for the Dependent Users

The rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) network, which aims to improve the efficiency of user life by collecting and learning user’s behavior, coincides with severe threats to user privacy. In this paper, we prove that there is a privacy leakage in the IoT network where the users are dependent on others by showing an adversary could do a statistical matching to target users even if anonymization is used to protect privacy. To present the proof in a practical case, we assume the adversary knows (i) non-perfect knowledge about the user behavior because the data from a user is often incomplete and with noise, (ii) correlation between the dependent users’ traces because the data traces of two related users are often correlated, (iii) data-trace of each user is normally (Gaussian) distributed, which is valid for the real data in many cases. Moreover, we also perform a statistical matching of a real data set in Python for the case where each user is independent of others. As a result, we find the limits on anonymization to prevent the adversary from doing the statistical matching. The result shows that under a particular scenario, user privacy could be preserved.


Emma Louise Fiore

Yeonsik Noh (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Amherst

Real-Time Physiological Monitoring for Athletes’ Performance and Safety during Rowing Training

In the sport of rowing, any small change to form or power application can give one the necessary edge to succeed or be the difference from developing a chronic injury. In this work, biological measurements including electrocardiograms (ECG) and electromyograms (EMG) are utilized in a real-time monitoring system via a computer application, allowing coaches to analyze the rowing and make corrections during the practice to prevent injury and improve technique. Using ECG and EMG hardware being developed in the UMass Nursing and Engineering Laboratory, I will work on creating a communication and data transmission protocol using BLE with a Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840 and nRF Connect in order to have the data available on the application. The app will have heart rate levels from the ECG along with muscular fatigue and force output of main muscle groups in rowing such as the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, and erector spinae readings from the EMG in a graphical format. The data in real-time can help a coach determine the intensity of the workout within specific heart rate zones, as well as the activation of the correct muscles to ensure power efficiency in order to make the training session the most productive as possible.


Andrew N. Grote

Apoorva Bajaj (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Amherst

Smart Routing for Drones and Air Taxis through Severe Weather

We are entering a new era of unmanned transportation with drones leading the way. By 2024, experts expect drones to be a $43-Billion market. Uber plans on launching unmanned air taxis for commercial testing by 2023. Whether it be for Amazon package delivery, emergency organ transfers, or passenger travel, drones and air taxis are the future of autonomous flight.

A major obstacle standing in the way of autonomous vehicle flight is weather routing. Rain storms in particular present a major threat for two reasons: wind and water. Gusts in storms are unpredictable and easily take control of such light-weight vehicles. Most drones are not waterproof. Unmanned flight planning software needs to intelligently interpret the weather conditions at hand and plan vehicle routes accordingly.

As a REU student, I have developed an algorithm that interrogates live weather radar imagery and generates intelligent paths that safely circumvent dangerous weather for use in manned and autonomous flight. Typically in routing applications we rely on A* searches to find the “shortest” path. However, A* is limited to path finding in discrete spaces that can easily be broken up in many waypoints. Aviation spaces however offer an infinite number of way points which can be tremendously overwhelming in routing applications. My approach uses storms and other severe weather as a base to generate safe paths from one way point to another.

In my presentation, I will present the results of my research and show how my algorithm is able to recommend routes that avoid the weather.


Marisa Yi-xin Liu

Hossein Pishro-Nik (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Amherst

Android Application to Enhance a User's Location Privacy

The rapid evolution and popularity of mobile devices have caused concerns about privacy, especially location privacy. Many mobile devices have unrestricted access to a person’s current and past location, which can lead to considerable issues regarding data security. However, many location-based services, Yelp and weather applications to name a few, do not need the exact location in order to provide their intended service. The objective of this work is to use the fact that not every application needs the exact location to enhance a person’s location privacy without conceding the utility of the application. I plan to create an Android application that will allow a user to specify the amount of noise that will be added to the location signal sent to a specific application. As a result, only applications that need the exact location will receive it, and all other applications will receive fake locations based on the specified level of noise. I plan to demonstrate this application on an Android phone by specifying varying amounts of noise for different applications. This will show that a person’s location privacy can be enhanced without any degradation of needed services.


Harrison Liu

Yadi Eslami (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Amherst

PDF-Reading Chatbot with a Natural Language Processing Question-Answering Model

With the rise of the Internet, IoT, and multimedia, our society has evolved into a fast-paced environment where information can be accessed efficiently and immediately. But for large articles and documents filled with lots of information, finding the right information by reading through or successive searching takes lots of time and is inefficient. The objective of this work is to create an interactive chatbot that will locate information in a PDF file for the user. This is done in two steps. First, the chatbot is provided with a PDF input that is read and analyzed. From there, the chatbot is able to answer questions related to the PDF file content. This will be accomplished through the use of natural language processing (NLP) and question-answering (QA) models, and the code will be implemented with various Python machine learning libraries. The resulting product should be a fully functioning chatbot capable of locating target information in the PDF and answering related questions with high accuracy. This chatbot will be applicable towards large documents, like textbooks and financial reports, that have target information needing to be accessed, but the information’s location is not exactly known. Although the tool will need more time to analyze these larger documents, it will ultimately save the user’s time and effort in searching for information.


Josh L. Lorrain

Hong Yu (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Industrial Technology, Fitchburg State University

Environmental Monitor System with Visual Analysis

In recent technological developments, sensors embedded interface circuits with microcontroller technology has developed greatly in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Internet of Things (IoT). These circuits included into a variety of consumer products such as security cameras and night vision equipment collect data to monitor and analysis the difference systems visually on computer screen and then active the systems instantly.

In this project, we chose multiple sensors based on their functionality, efficiency and high resolutions for environmental monitor system with temperature and humidity analysis. Each sensor will record the different data that visually represented and analyzed on computer interface. The computer interface or screen created by a visual programming language with a system-design platform will display the updated data in digital or virtual meters continually.

This project will prove both challenging and interesting while knowledge in this field grows more valuable. Furthermore, all data collected from the project will save in the database and predict the system environment like warnings or alters for Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning or Deep Learning in future.


Cullen O'Leary

Chengyu Xiong (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Bristol Community College

Internet of Things (IoT) Applications in Offshore Wind Industry

Offshore wind energy is a fast-growing renewable energy industry. While the power utility industry relies heavily on legacy technologies and protocols, our research focuses on adopting a new emerging technology- Internet of Things (IoT) in the offshore wind industry. IoT is known as “connecting the unconnected”. IoT technology will start with creating smart objects, such as embedding sensors, actuators, and controllers, which will be connected all together with the latest networking and communication technology (5G) featuring with high data rate, large connection capacity and low latency. The application of IoT in the offshore wind industry makes it possible to real-time sense, control and maintain the wind turbines, which are in the hard-to-reach places out at sea. Based on this intelligent network with the smart objects, IoT is all about the data generated by the sensors and the utilization of these data to control the actuators and controllers. In this research, we will study the sensors with edge computing capabilities in the wind turbines farm, the fiber optics transmission networks with data and control links and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system in the transmission substation. Data collection, transportation, analyzing and ultimately being acted upon with will also be discussed to optimize the operation and maintenance of offshore wind turbines farm and minimize the environmental impact to the ocean ecosystem.


Xiaoyang Pan

Julian Tyson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Smartphone Image Analysis in the Quantification of the Arsenic in Rice Using a Field-Kit Method

In many countries, people consume a large amount of rice in their diet, knowing nothing about the arsenic concentration, which if sufficiently high could lead to long-term adverse health effects. To help those in developing countries with limited access to high- performance and expensive chemical measurement technology, we propose a simple and convenient method, incorporating mobile-phone image analysis, based on the Hach EZ test kit, which measures inorganic arsenic in drinking water. By using a smart-phone camera, we obtain the color images of the test strips, and the yellow/brown color is correlated with the arsenic concentration shown on a standard calibration chart. Method development was based on the analysis of Amherst tap water spiked with known concentrations. We identify the colored spots and determine their characteristics in a suitable color space. Since the values in the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color space might be subject to change in illuminance and brightness, we also utilize the HSV (Hue, Saturation, Value) to interpret the color information. The effectiveness of each parameter in each color space for estimating the arsenic concentration of rice samples was evaluated. The H values and B values demonstrated monotonic relationships with the arsenic concentration. Additional factors, such as the number of pixels in the colored spots, the camera settings, and the combination of parameters are being tested to determine the arsenic concentration more accurately and precisely. Rice samples to which known concentrations of inorganic arsenic have been added will be analyzed to validate the method.





Afua A. Agyare

Elena Braynova (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Worcester State University

Cars: How Safe Are They?

In this project we work with a dataset about cars and are trying to predict a car safety based on the remaining car features. The dataset was studied using visualization and some statistical analysis. We classified a Car Safety using a variety of Classification models such as Decision Tree, Lazy, Rules, and Bayes model. We used different algorithms and testing options. Classifiers were evaluated and compared in terms of their efficiency and accuracy.


Alexander Anisimov

Bo Jin Hatfield (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

An Android Application for Academic Advising Scheduling

An Android Application was designed to help make an academic advising registration process more mobile friendly for Computer Science students in Salem State University. The application allows students to sign up for academic advising appointment with their academic advisors by using their Android smartphones. The Android application was implemented as an addition to the existing web application which currently handles the whole advising registration process for all types of users including: students, advisors and admin. As a result of the developed application students are able to login with their student id and email, view advisor information (name, email, room number) view available appointments, book an appointment and cancel previously scheduled appointment. Email confirmation will be sent to both a student and an advisor upon registration or cancellation of an appointment.


Damian Sadiel Barrous Dume

Bo Jin Hatfield (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

Multi-Page Applications versus Single-Page Applications

With the ever-rising complexity and scale of modern web applications on the rise, the older Multi-Page Application(MPA) model of building a web application has become harder to manage, especially when it comes to speed and security. While these issues become more prominent, modern web developers have turned to Single Page Applications to solve these issues. This project is a remastering of Salem State University's Computer Science Department Website from a MPA to a SPA using ReactJS technology. When it comes to speed, the Single-Page Application(SPA) loads faster than any MPA. This is because, with SPA, the only data that would continuously be fetched is the data in the main section of the web-page. When it comes to security, with the entire website running from a single page, SPA provides benefits in enforcing security. But when an MPA becomes too large in scale, there might be issues keeping it secure because it is more problematic to keep track a large number of pages. With my project, I will also demonstrate other development benefits of SPA over standard MPA. These benefits include but not limited to the fact SPA’s are strongly decoupled, which makes independently developing for the front-end and back-end a better experience. Also, code and component reusability is a significant factor with the React library, which allows for a faster development experience as well.


Dionis Castro

Komalpreet Kaur (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

UNO Simulator

How many times have you had free time on your hands but with nothing to do? All you have in your possession at the time is your laptop. Not quite in the mood to watch videos but rather an urge to play a game. Well, what if you could spend some of that time playing UNO! You might think to yourself, but I do not have any friends around me to even play with. Well, that is where my version of this classic game (developed using Unity and scripting language C#) comes into the picture. My immersive spin on the game comes with two different 3-D environments filled with background music chosen to match each environment. Or if you prefer to play in silence you are giving the option to either mute or reduce the volume to fit your needs. Also, to accompany you while you play your games are several other opponents that can play on their own. If you are not familiar with the rules or have not played the game in a while worry not because my in-game guide will bring you up to speed. To top it all off, the game is free to download and once it is on your computer no Wi-Fi connection is necessary to play!


Justin M. Codair

Bo Jin Hatfield (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

Let's Link

Gain exposure to various local events and share your own with the Let's Link iOS application. Join chatrooms to open discussions relating to the events, or describe what you can do to help support them. Finding activities and deciding on one has never been easier with Let's Link's simple to use design! A limited supply of new events are delivered daily to Let's Link users and once decided upon access to the chatroom is granted until the event is passed. With limited visibility users are encouraged to decide and commit to what is available as opposed to the endless scroll of events found on other platforms.


Ian Duffin

Karen Druffel (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Management and Business IT, Framingham State University

Green IS: Bust or Boon?

Awareness of climate change is becoming more of a reality for consumers and global warming is an increasingly popular topic in the news. Corporations are aware of this change and many have branched out into environmentally friendly products, and product lifecycle designs that are sustainable to attract investors, new clients and consumers. The study of how the perception of Green IS affects consumers' purchasing habits will be done through a survey, and will measure consumer attitude and perception of companies' use of Green IS and the resulting purchasing decisions.


Sagar Ghimire

Komalpreet Kaur (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

Face Detective

“It’s not easy to see where our eyes are not looking”. With the slogan, I embarked on a demanding journey to create a face detective of my own that reports any unknown person’s face outside my front door.

The project will be implemented on a raspberry pi which will have a monitor, a camera, and two servo motors connected to it. It will also include a GUI displaying a video and buttons for easier user interaction. The hardware setup with servo motors will let the camera scan the environment horizontally, then track an unknown face until it moves out of range of the motor. Further, a notification will be sent to the user with a picture of the unknown face. The project will be implemented using python and its libraries such as tensorflow and keras for Neural Network.


Chris Haidas

Christopher Anthony Lindberg Jonathan Andrew White

Hao Loi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Quinsigamond Community College

Visual Programming with Blockly for Beginners of C++

The demand for programmers is growing as our world requires better software, leading to shortages in programmers in all industries. Unfortunately, the abstract nature of many programming languages can be difficult to grasp. This can present a barrier of entry for those interested in programming. Therefore, we plan to implement an application of visual- based programming with graphical representations of the C++ language in order to provide aid and structure to beginner programmers. Visual programming languages, such as Scratch and Alice, use visual representations of code to create games and stories with an emphasis on accessibility and creativity. Scratch and Alice however, deal predominantly with game and story creation. Our application will utilize graphical representations and type checking capabilities to aid new programmers, as well as those struggling to understand abstract programming structures. We hope our application can help users understand programming and help give them the confidence they need to pursue a career in the field of computer science. Our application will be built upon Blockly, a visual programming application developed by Google developer Neil Fraser and the Blockly team. It will be designed for beginner users of C++.


Phillip F. Iwanow

Komalpreet Kaur (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

Comparative Study of Reinforcement Learning Algorithms

Reinforcement learning has been a fast growing field in deep learning the past decade, it's seen many practical applications as wells improvements. One of the largest improvements to reinforcement learning has been to the agents ability to generalize to a task with variability in the environment. In this paper we will look at four different reinforcement learning algorithms, DQN, Stein variational policy gradient, C51, and Neuromodulation, and compare them in an environment and see how well each agent is able to generalize. The environment being used to train the networks is partially observable and pseudo randomized environment, that is after each training instance the environment is randomized. This in theory should prevent the agent learning a single strategy and will then have to develop a more general strategy. Finally, the metrics being used to evaluate the networks are maximum, average and the standard deviation of the rewards at each epoch. With the focus being the standard deviation as that will show how 'stable' the network is as the environment changes. Not only will use the rewards as a metric but the time it takes to train the network to a near human performance ability. Then we will look at both of these metrics to determine the strengths of each of the networks.


Williams Kamga Tamgno

Hao Loi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Quinsigamond Community College

Credit Union on Blockchain: A New Financial Cooperative System-Based Permissioned Blockchain

Everyone needs help at one point or another. The same is true for financial help, for this reason, most people rely on loans to satisfy their financial needs. According to Trading Economics, “Loans to Private Sector in the United States averaged 619.94 USD Billion from 1950 until 2020, reaching an all-time high of 2364.08 USD Billion in August of 2019 and a record low of 13.65 USD Billion in January of 1950”. To satisfy this growing demand for a loan, banks and Credit Union offer financial services such as saving accounts, loans and the possibility of transferring money one to another. This project focuses on developing a web blockchain application which allows individuals to create or join a group where they will be able to save money, borrow to/from one another, while keeping track of every transaction without a third party. We will build a digital web application with a database built on permission blockchain using smart contracts.


Aria Kieras

Zachary Thomas Rich

Komalpreet Kaur (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

Kitchen App

Food waste is a serious problem, and while many may think it comes from restaurants or other commercial industries, it turns out the leading cause of food wastage is from the everyday household. At 44%, the everyday household is in the lead for the most food wasted, compared to 33% for restaurants.

A common, when getting ready to make a meal, is that people are unsure what to make with what is available. This problem, is causing 44% of food wastage, as when presented with unsurety of what to make, rather than spend the time to look up possible recipes, or flip through a cookbook, people would rather either go out and purchase further ingredients, or go out to eat. Because of this, people are not using their available ingredients before they expire, and therefore are forced to toss out what could have made a delicious meal.

That is the purpose of this project, to create a simple, easy to use iOS application that will allow the user to enter their available ingredients, keep track of what they have available to them and when it will expire, and at the click of a button, be presented with various recipes that they would be able to make based on what they have available in their kitchen. This solution would assist the user in being able to fully make use of every ingredient they have, and be able to save on time, money, and help stop wasting so much food.


Stephen Lafrankie

Jayme Ryan

Karen Druffel (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Management and Business IT, Framingham State University

This Is My Car Now

Starting with luxury cars in the late 1960s, vehicles have been controlled by several computer components, but fast forward to 2020 and the computer is the car itself. With the improved technology used in today’s self driving vehicles and others with similar technologies, like Hyundai’s new” Smaht Pahk” and Tesla’s new Cyber Truck, these autonomous cars have become a new area of focus for cyber attacks. Even though the chances are low, many people may find this threat to be a breaking point in their decision to purchase an autonomous vehicle. For our research, we will explore the difference in opinion on the purchase of an autonomous car by surveying 60 faculty and students at a public university in New England because of the vast diversity found there. The findings could be used by manufacturers in the autonomous car industry to determine whether or not investing in more security in the car’s computers is worth it to ease the minds of their buyers and to keep them safe. The study will focus on potential consumers' perceptions of the susceptibility of AI controlled cars to potential cyber-attack. For example, are potential consumers aware of the specific vulnerabilities or weaknesses in an artificial intelligence- controlled vehicle. We believe that more people would rather risk potential cyber-attack, and thus their safety, with a newer AI  controlled vehicle for less responsibility while  driving.


Liam Latimer

David J. Hazell

Hao Loi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Quinsigamond Community College

Improving IoT User Experience through On-Premises Device Management

As power requirements for computation have dropped, the success of Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart lights, speakers, and AC sockets have demonstrated a demand for household appliances with increased range of behavioral complexity. Accessing significant marginal functionality of these IoT devices often requires either user expertise or integration with a cloud platform such as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. In addition, manufacturer design decisions can lead to common usage patterns that do not mirror expectations about traditional household appliances. For example, users may expect to toggle lights on or off with a switch, but find themselves frustrated due to incompatibility or limited interaction between a physical switch and the digital input and scheduling application. We aim to develop an on-premises IoT management system for Philips Hue smart lighting in which physical and digital state is updated by changes made through either interface. The user can intuitively enable or disable smart lighting with a physical switch, and digitally initiated on/off state change results in equivalent physical switch orientation without cloud service connection.


Lucas Lemos

Karen Druffel (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Management and Business IT, Framingham State University

Do the Words Used in Permission Inquiries Affect Whether a User Chooses to Allow or Deny Access?

Whether students interact with a computer, a smartphone, a tablet, or any device there is a very good chance they will be probed for further data access by a permission inquiry. If the user would like to use the full capability of the app or program they will need to allow that media to gain access to further data regarding the user. When people download an antivirus software for example, they must allow the antivirus software to conduct certain operations. This in turn requires additional parameters which can only be granted through the users permission. When an application or program requests permission from an individual to gain access to their devices, students may react differently to how the question is being asked. We will conduct a survey asking undergraduate students at a public university in New England how they react when they have to answer particularly worded security questions in certain situations. Samples of common security questions will be provided and the students will be tasked with deciding whether or not they would allow or deny access. We will then use the surveys to determine what words or phrases inspire the user to deny or allow permission in certain situations.


Grayson MacKenzie

Mohit Iyyer (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst

Region Proposal for Named-Entity Recognition

We propose a novel approach to the named entity recognition (NER) task in Natural Language Processing. In this task, we wish to assign a class to collections of words within a text corpus. Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) have proven to have high performance at the NER task. While they are beaten by more sophisticated models, these simple models achieve great performance with a .87 F1 score compared to the 0.92 F1 in the state of the art. For this reason, we believe that CNNs are a very promising starting point for the named entity recognition task. Meanwhile, in the field of computer vision, convolutional neural network architectures are used for a very similar task. In computer vision, CNNs are used to propose a bounding box around an object in an image, and then a CNN is then used to classify that object in the image. This approach of region proposal which has been extremely important to the advancement of computer vision strikes a strong parallel to the named entity recognition task, where we wish to find regions of words belonging to a named entity, and then to classify that named entity. While Convolutional Neural Networks have been applied to NLP tasks before, the concept of translating the ideas of region proposal to the task of Named entity recognition, to our knowledge, has never been attempted before.


Corina N. Mangione

Elizabeth Miller (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Bunker Hill Community College

When Seeing Isn't Believing: Current State of Deepfake Technology, Detection, and Laws

Deep fakes employ artificial intelligence and machine learning to create fabricated videos, audio recordings, and images. This technology has greatly increased the ease of creating altered works and has also exponentially increased the challenge of differentiating between authentic and disingenuous works. While this technology has potential benefits, it also can create a myriad of problems ranging from national security, political misinformation campaigns, and personal attacks and sabotage. Deep fakes have ranged from fictitious works that depict political figures to falsified sexually explicit images of private citizens, celebrities and activists. The role of mitigating the harmful effects of deep fakes is a multifaceted one ranging from lawmakers, researchers and to the general public. In addition to exploring the various ways that deep fakes can be harmful, this research delves into the current state of deep fake detection research as well as the difficulties researchers face in identifying them. This research looks at the role of social media websites in disseminating misinformation and explores the various laws regarding deep fakes looking both at civil and criminal laws as well as the challenges with enforcing these laws and ensuring that they don’t infringe upon free speech.


Sarah Rebecca Manlove

Jarice Hanson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication, UMass Amherst

The Impact of Machine-Learning Algorithms on the Hiring of Underrepresented Populations in the Tech Industry

Research shows that employers are increasingly turning to machine learning technologies to hire potential employees. Machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence (AI), observes and adapts its algorithm to make decisions, in this case about hiring. This AI adapts from past and present decisions, and since it’s still in the early stages of development, it learns from human decisions. Humans are intrinsically biased, whether it be intentional or accidental. Thus, the algorithm picks up on the success of, for example, white male candidates, and continues to favor them, thus ignoring the applications of underrepresented populations in the tech industry.

This study aims to investigate the creation of machine learning algorithms for hiring purposes and their impact on underrepresented populations in the tech industry. I will complete a literature analysis of this subject and provide suggestions for the improvement of current hiring practices. This study anticipates finding the common theme of biased algorithms rejecting diverse candidates. Additionally, I anticipate the tech industry blaming the education “pipeline” for low diversity numbers. Gender and racial diversity in the tech industry are an ongoing issue, one that could be improved with a revised hiring process.


Anthony J. Masse

Komalpreet Kaur (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

Facial Recognition Security Camera Using Raspberry Pi

Many people, of all ages, are beginning to add a variation of different types of technology in their homes to help them live their everyday lives. Most often, the addition of technology to people’s homes usually start off with security cameras. Private security cameras monitor areas like homes, apartments, and stores. That’s why a security camera would be great for a project. Raspberry Pi computers are small, compact, and easy computers to put wherever needed, similar to a security camera. Keeping an area safe with a security camera that records videos takes up many, many of hours’ worth of memory which just becomes wasteful. Setting up facial recognition along with the camera gets rid of that issue of wasting memory and gives an extra feature of security. This project focuses on maintaining efficient memory usage, correct facial detection using Haar-Cascades, accurate facial recognition using the Fisherface algorithm, and safety within a private area by providing email notifications to the primary user if any intruders or unrecognized individuals enter the private area where the camera is mounted. The Fisherface algorithm focuses on the major features of the face and brings them out for better recognition of the individuals within the dataset. This makes for better recognition in low-lit places, well-lit places, and any combinations of light on the face of any individuals in view of the camera. That is why this project is aimed to have accurate detection and recognition while providing specified security for the users.


Connor James Munnis

Edward Lee Fisher JR

Vincent Carl Strzelecki

Hao Loi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Quinsigamond Community College

A Comparison of Two NLP Frameworks for General Research Purposes

The goal of Natural Language Processing (NLP) is to train computers to analyze human language. The widest-used versions of NLP are used in spell-check and grammar-check programs, but more advanced versions have been developed into tools used for much more than just identifying context within search queries. NLP is becoming increasingly more useful for researchers to summarize large amounts of data or long-form documents without the need for human supervision. Our project will examine two powerful NLP algorithms, BERT and Transformer-XL, in their abilities to extract and summarize data from chosen pieces of literature. Both have the attention model Transformer as their base. “[Transformer-XL] consists of a segment-level recurrence mechanism and a novel positional encoding scheme” (Dai, et al. 2019), meaning it takes segments of data and not only individually analyzes each segment, but also references segments against each other for increased accuracy regarding context. BERT focuses on working around the Transformer constraint of unidirectionality, where context is analyzed in only 1 direction, leaving room for error when the context from the other direction is needed. The strategy for its bidirectionality is “using a ‘masked language model’ (MLM) pre-training objective,” which “randomly masks some of the tokens from the input, and the objective is to predict the original vocabulary id of the masked word using only the [left and right] context” (Devlin, et al. 2019). We will provide each algorithm with the same dataset and judge the results for each algorithm on its accuracy compared to its execution time.


Jasmine Ortega

Kendra LePage

Karen Druffel (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Management and Business IT, Framingham State University

“I Agree to the Terms and Conditions”: How Awareness of Information Privacy Concerns Affect Consumer Behavior

The widespread use of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) implies a widespread “acceptance” of the terms and conditions of those sites. Individuals that use these sites have to agree to the terms in order to use the service, but it is commonplace to accept these without reading them. Facebook has come under fire for the handling of users’ information, and many users were surprised to learn the magnitude of information sharing that they had, theoretically, agreed to. If people took the time to read these terms and conditions, would their interactions with the application change? We seek to gain insight on how the SNS user’s awareness impacts their trust of the site, which in turn impacts their usage. Using a survey that includes lines from these terms and conditions, we seek to first learn to what extent a student undergraduate user is aware of the agreements they have made. Second, using a scale in the survey, see how comfortable the average user is with these terms. The primary terms and conditions used will be Instagram’s, and the target demographic will be Instagram users. We will distribute our survey using the intercept method, and will primarily be sampling from a four-year university in Massachusetts. We must define the terms we are using, including trust, and include survey questions that will provide measurable results that include minimal bias.


John Anthony Pacheco

Grace E. Ciampa

Nada Alsallami (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Worcester State University

Learning Database Implementation through Minecraft Mod Development

Database management systems have become the primary way businesses of all kinds store data because of their data integrity, security, and efficiency. We set out to implement a DBMS, database management system, within the popular computer game Minecraft. Giving users the ability to store items within a database rather than in-game, would allow them to take advantage of all of the benefits of a database management system.

In doing this project we first had to determine the way that user and item data would be stored within the database we were creating. We then created the database and connected to it from within a Java application. Next, we researched how to develop custom items within Minecraft and created an item within the game that connects to the external database and allows users to store items externally. A series of SQL queries were created in order to allow the in-game item to search for items stored within the database and give them to the user. This project resulted in a familiarity in implementing a relational database using a Java application as well as the workflow for developing mods for Minecraft. Going forward this mod could be built upon to provide valuable functionality to server administrators such as robust crash recovery tools and permission locked secure storage.


Shane Parr

Ishan Khatri

Shlomo Zilberstein (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst

Agent-Aware State Estimation: Better Traffic Light Classification for Autonomous Vehicles

When autonomous vehicles are unable to visually identify or classify the traffic light at an intersection, transfer of control to a human is often viewed as the only safe option, despite this violating future goals for full autonomy. We propose a new algorithm for state estimation in the challenging multi-agent domain of busy intersections. We use the observed behavior of rational agents as a rich new source of information robust to full occlusions of the traffic light. Our approach leverages careful agent selection to maximize the independence of observations, and uses an agent model as part of a Dynamic Bayesian Network to infer the state of the traffic light. For evaluation, we use the Argoverse dataset, a collection of unusual scenarios which pose a challenge to existing self driving approaches. We compare the algorithm to the alternative approach of using a Convolutional Neural Network on images of traffic lights, and find that a fusion of the two approaches performs best. As this technique is a natural extension to the current state of the art Convolutional Neural Network + Hidden Markov Model based classifiers, it thus improves upon the predominant existing approach to traffic light classification. Finally, we provide a theoretical analysis of weakly interacting multi-agent systems in general, showing the broad applicability of our approach to other domains.


Kristi Prifti

Hue Do

Krutarth G. Patel

Hao Loi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Quinsigamond Community College

Implementing and Comparing Facial Recognition Authentication in the Nao Robot

The Nao Robot has a tremendous ability to modernize and deliver fast and accurate results in everyday life applications. People who had worked with NAO robots know that the in-build cameras of NAO are not so good. Basically, our project is to create and compare algorithms that recognize the faces from the “not so good” images taken by NAO Robot with the help of pythons deep learning libraries like TensorFlow and PyTorch. First, we take some pictures using the NAO’s built-in camera. Now, Using OpenCV’s different algorithms, we will try to detect the face on those images. We are going to build a model and use TensorFlow or PyTorch to train the model over time. Using this face recognition programs, one can program the Nao to take the class attendance. The robot will be able to recognize the faces of all the students and tell them when they're late. The Nao robot will improve class time management. This model has abilities beyond the classroom. It can be programmed to be used to check-in and check-out in hospitals, hotels, airports, work, and has a lot more abilities, power and applications.


Christopher James Radkowski

Karl R. Wurst (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Worcester State University

LibreFoodPantry: Diving into DevOps by Developing Open Source Project Infrastructure

My research was focused on improving and developing the infrastructure and workflow documentation for the LibreFoodPantry community. LibreFoodPantry (LFP) is a faculty-led, humanitarian, free, open source software community which is developing software to support on-campus food pantries. I choose to do this research as I wanted to explore the type of work that someone with a career in DevOps would do, which is a career path I am interested in pursuing after graduation.

My research goal was to find the best tool to develop the LibreFoodPantry projects with. I also tested a proposed workflow out with these different tools to see how well it worked on each platform.

This project is distinct in that faculty members from multiple institutions created an open source project that other faculty members outside of these institutions can use for their computer science courses to introduce students to developing for an open source project.

My methods consisted of researching the features of the different tools the faculty members selected to investigate and comparing them to see which ones are better.

Ultimately, a decision was made to use GitLab Gold as the tool to host and develop the LFP projects with. I helped migrate the projects to GitLab and I helped create documentation that detailed for future developers how to use the proposed workflow for working on the LFP projects.


Thomas Christopher Rokicki

Oresti Duro

Elena Braynova (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Worcester State University

Worcester Crimes Data: Analysis and Predictions

The intent of this project is to understand a Worcester crime dataset. Some of the questions we ask are: What are the most dangerous neighborhoods in Worcester? What are the week days, time of the day with the highest crime rate? Does a crime type depend of a geographical location? The project involves visualization and statistical analysis of the dataset. The use of heat maps serves a great role in understanding the most dangerous locations within the city. Facebook's Forecasting package, Prophet, as well as other R packages are used for the visualization and statistical analysis. We also are trying to predict where a crime may occur in the future. We are using a variety of Data Mining algorithms to construct an effective prediction model. This would help the police move towards a proactive approach for policing rather than reactive approach. This can help us better understand how to make our city safer.


Matthew Rossman

Narges Mahyar (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst

Simulating a Mixed-Reality Memory Palace

The method of loci, also called the memory palace technique, is a popular memorization strategy that associates new information with existing spatial knowledge. The basic premise is to visualize items to be remembered along a familiar route so that they can be easily recalled later by mentally retracing your steps. Extended reality headsets offer a convenient way to practice the technique by turning the imagined procedure into an immersive virtual experience. Traditionally, it’s recommended to use a location you know very well as the basis for your memory palace—a guideline well suited for augmented and mixed reality, in which the real world is used as a backdrop. Meanwhile, virtual reality memory palaces tend to place users in unfamiliar fabricated environments. My research seeks to answer the question: Do personally familiar environments improve the effectiveness of immersive memory palace applications for memory recall? To answer this, I'm simulating a mixed reality experience by allowing users to physically walk through a realistic virtual space while wearing a wireless virtual reality headset. Then, I'm using this technology to conduct an evaluation of serial memory recall with a memory palace based on a digitally reconstructed dining hall. I hypothesize that a personally familiar environment will facilitate more accurate serial recall in the long term than an unfamiliar one. The results of this study will help guide the design of spatial learning tools, as well as sharpen our understanding of the method of loci.


Kelsey Rustin

Elena Braynova (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Worcester State University

Classification of Rock Images Using a Convolutional Neural Network

This project involved using the statistical programming language R to build a convolutional neural network designed to classify images of two different types of rocks. The dataset was constructed by scraping images from the Google image search engine, resulting in a set of over one thousand photos. Three image classification models were built, which all utilized the same dataset. The first model was trained using resized 20 x 20 pixel images. The second model was trained using resized 100 x 100 pixel images. The third model was trained using 100 x 100 pixel images and was implemented using transfer learning, specifically the MobileNetV2 model, which generated a testing accuracy of 96.56%. The recommended model is the third model, as it had a significantly higher accuracy rate than previous models and a reasonable training time of about 10 minutes, which could be substantially decreased through the use of cloud computing. This classification technique can be applied to more complex image processing problems.


Christopher Rybicki

Arjun Guha (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst

What Is the Big Deal?: Compiling from Typed Scheme to WebAssembly Language

Compilers are a fundamental type of software engineering tool studied within the programming language community, which serve to transform written code from one language into another. One particularly significant compilation target as of recent is WebAssembly: is a recently developed open standard which defines a low-level language, intended to be portable, efficient, and modular. In particular, WebAssembly has been integrated within browsers in order to offer developers the ability to run more computationally expensive processes and algorithms as an extension of JavaScript, allowing for the increased speed and efficiency of web applications. In this work, we implement a compiler from a typed variation of Scheme which targets WebAssembly. In doing so, we seek to produce a proof-of-concept for a compiler which carries type safety through all stages of compilation, as inspired by Morrisett's seminal paper "From System F to Typed Assembly Language". This requires designing and implementing several stages of compiler passes, such as type checking, closure conversion, lambda lifting, and code generation, in a fashion which is adaptable to the limited type system and memory mechanisms available within the WebAssembly execution environment. Our novel contributions include implementing runtime checks for existentially typed closure environments, and evaluating the challenges of garbage collection with WebAssembly as a compilation target.


Charles Steinbrecher

Elena Braynova (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Worcester State University

Using Data Visualization and Statistical Analysis to Help with Better Prediction

This project aims to show how data visualization and statistical analysis of a data set might help with attribute selection and improve the efficiency of a prediction model. We used data collected on over 8000 mushrooms and predict if they were edible or poisonous. The data set has 24 attributes. We are analyzing the attributes’ importance for determining edibility, and their relationships to other attributes using a variety of visualization and correlation methods.

We show that association rules might help to get inside the attribute’s selection for a particular prediction problem. For example we have shown that the “odor” attribute is by far the strongest indicator for a mushroom’s edibility, with foul, fishy, pungent, creosote, and spicy mushrooms being highly likely to be poisonous.

Finally, a variable importance plot in R was used to determine the usefulness of each attribute by analyzing a random forest. From this, we were able to determine the mean decrease in gini – which helps determine attribute usefulness. This once again confirmed the importance of “odor” and “spore print color”. Working with this particular data set, we have shown the importance of data visualization and statistical analysis in determining the most significant attributes for a particular prediction problem.


Amanda G. Topping

Matthew Muller (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Berkshire Community College

Redlined: History and Impact of Loan Discrimination on the Black Race

Homeownership creates stronger communities that accumulate wealth over time. The construction of a community results in positive social bonds and economic growth. Chattel slavery and institutionalized racism are at the foundation of the United States. During the great depression, the Federal Government assisted with spreading unconstitutional policies. The Federal Housing Administration was a part of the New Deal program and created the mortgage system we use today. The Home Owner’s Loan Coalition created redlining polices called residential security maps that made it easier for banks to discriminate based on a color-coded map. The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to forbid redlining policies, but similar polices still exist under new names. The practice of Redlining prevented black people from being able to live in particular neighborhoods. The Federal Housing Administration refused to back loans for properties near black neighborhoods because they deemed them to be too risky. Unequal opportunity continued in the form of segregation with prejudiced lending policies. Today, predatory lenders with Wells Fargo impose excessive “risked-based” home prices. The practice of refusing to lend money, sell home insurance, or refusing to give a mortgage is redlining in practice, if not in name. This back door policy makes proper housing, well-funded schools, career opportunities, and decent healthcare difficult to obtain. The lack of access to these resources leads to uneducated people living in ghettos who are poor and unhealthy. Dealing with all of these circumstances makes it difficult for these communities to help their own children, which promotes a generational cycle.


Hue Truong

Andrew Moore

Alexander L. Reno

Hao Loi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Quinsigamond Community College

Deep Sample

Audio samples are clips of instrument(s) copied from another song, usually manipulated by changing tempo or speed, to support or enhance the creation of a new unique song.

Professional music creators sample music by obtaining the sample from the original producer by influence and networking. More amateur music creators, such as up and coming artists, often crop raw audio from a song to add to their own. While an efficient method, cropping raw audio leads to background noise from failure to isolate specific instrument(s) the user is focused on. This research will focus on two key components (a) the comparison of efficiency between four audio segmentation algorithms and (b) the creation of an application “Deep Sample” that will isolate audio with artificial neural networking methods. The basis of this research is influenced on Fawad Hussain’s Optimized Audio Classification and Segmentation Algorithm by Using Ensemble

Methods (doi:10.1155/2015/209814).


Greer Viau

Komalpreet Kaur (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

Glorified Cruise Control

This project is a self driving system which takes a video feed of the road from a dashboard camera, extracts information from the video feed such as lane lines and vehicle positions, then using that information, predicts driving commands for the car in real time. This requires three separate systems, first a Visual Perception System that takes a video frame and extracts information such as lanes and vehicle positions which it uses to create a vector space representation of the road. This vector space contains scene information such as lane line curvatures, vehicle offset and the position and size of other vehicles on the road.

Secondly, a system that is able to interface with the OBDII diagnostic port on the vehicle is used to record vehicle commands such as steering wheel angle, brake and throttle and speed. Finally, a Deep Neural Network is trained to take the state vector output of the Visual Perception System as input, and predict the driving command. The system will not have control of the car, instead to measure the system’s accuracy, it will run in real time while I am driving and the predictions will be graphed against the actual driving command at the time of prediction.


Ziling Xie

Bo Jin Hatfield (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Salem State University

93 Grand Auto Group

A database-driven web application, 93 Grand Auto Group, is intended to help the 93 auto group to perform its business functions in an E-commerce environment. This application serves four types of users, ranging from general users, the customers, employees to company administrators. The application is driven by a relational database at the back-end. The business logic is developed and residing on a web server that bridges between the users and the back-end data store.


James Richard Young

Karl R. Wurst (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Computer Science, Worcester State University

Digital Signal Processing and Audio Feature Extraction

Signal processing is the backbone of many exciting technologies. Products such as noise- canceling headphones, some of which are powerful enough to protect the hearing of pilots, would not be possible without a solid understanding of audio signals and digital signal processing. Speech-to-text technology, which is becoming increasingly ingrained into everyday life, has become so accurate due to machine learning and the complex math behind extraction of features in an audio clip.

With a large number of possible applications, advances in digital signal processing and machine learning are a powerful combination to solve a myriad of problems in the future. Furthermore, this technology could help to create products that could assist in areas such as speech therapy or linguistic research.

This project explores digital signal processing and attempts to find patterns between extracted audio features and human speech. There are many unsolved problems to explore in this area and bridging the gap between analog human speech and digital signals is a never-ending process. While some problems may not be solvable with current technology, there is abundant research to build on and there are many new ideas to pursue.

A mobile application in the Android framework is the platform for running the results of this project. This is important because mobile devices, while becoming increasingly powerful, still have limitations. The ability to process audio within these limitations adds another interesting restriction to explore.





Kendra Lea Bento

Erin Katherine Krafft (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Crime and Justice Studies, UMass Dartmouth

Greek Life: Paddles, Parties, and Sexual Assault?

Many people have some kind of an idea about what Greek Life entails: if you asked them, they would most likely answer that it involves wearing letters, getting and making paddles, and parties. But is there more? What happens at these parties? Statistically, a college student’s chances of being sexually assaulted are higher than other groups, some studies have shown that being involved in Greek life elevates those chances. But is that the case? The common conception behind Greek life is that it is primarily partying, but that is not always the case; many Greek organizations participates in philanthropy, internal leadership, social interactions with other organizations, and other academic or professional endeavors.

My research aims to look at the validity behind the statement that being in Greek life increases a person’s chance of being sexually assaulted. And, if it is true that there is greater risk, there area a lot of potentially relevant factors to examine, such as interactions between Greek life members, housing situations, policies about drugs and alcohol, and more. These factors, along with others, play into what happens not only in Greek life, but college campuses in general. By examining existing quantitative data and comparing it to my own data collection from Greek life members at an area university, I hope to draw conclusions about whether reports of increased risk are accurate or not, and what the implications of such a reality might be.


Caroline E. Estey

Razvan Sibii (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Journalism, UMass Amherst

Youths in the Criminal Justice System: Causes and Potential Solutions

In this Thesis I hope to identify the most prevalent causes of incarceration among children as well as alternatives to institutionalization that could be implemented to more adequately respond to these issues in a way that could help, rather than hinder, a child’s ability to improve themselves and overcome the root causes of their actions. The causes of a child’s involvement with the justice system that I will be focusing most closely on are the education system, mental health, and poverty. Within the education system I will examine the damaging effects of No Tolerance Policies and the School-to-Prison pipeline, which create an environment where punishment and discipline are at the forefront of the institution instead of education. Within the topic of mental health I will address the issues of complex trauma and untreated mental illness, which often make children appear defiant and undisciplined when they are actually in dire need of medical assistance. Within the issue of poverty, I will delve into the increased risks children in poverty face due to its connections to issues such as high-crime residential areas and unstable home lives. The information and insight offered will be based upon interviewing experts, reading noteworthy studies, reports and articles, and researching policies and alternative responses that have been previously implemented to help with issues such as these. The policies with the most potential will be used as guides in forming suggestions for better ways to respond to children’s underlying problems instead of depending on incarceration to fix them.


Courtney Anne Ingersoll

Randall Grometstein (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Behavioral Science Department, Fitchburg State University

DNA Analysis and Criminal Justice: Decreasing the Misinterpretation of Forensic Data

While researching for a previous class, I read many interesting and informational articles on the positives of using DNA analysis within criminal investigations, but to my surprise there was something even better hidden within the cons to using DNA analysis in criminal investigations. This hidden problem or issue that would become my topic is the margin of misinterpretation of DNA analysis results in criminal investigations. Despite the ever growing and expanding nature of DNA analysis, the criminal justice field is both aided by and hindered by the use of forensic science to solve crimes and how forensics can be better as a whole. From this overall, I drew out my research question: With the growing use of DNA analysis to solve criminal cases, there is also a growing margin for possible misinterpretation of data. How can scientists aid others in the criminal justice field in decreasing this margin for error? Some important reasons to answer this question are: (1) to learn how to prevent mistakes made in the field due to misinterpreted data, (2) aid in the use of lab results in field work and overall criminal investigations, and (3) decrease the margin of error when it comes to reading, understanding, and interpreting DNA analysis in order to help law enforcement agencies to perform and conduct investigations with the proper information and training that will decrease the number of wrongful arrests and wrongful convictions of innocent individuals across the United States.


Natalie Cherie Maslak

Vanessa Martinez (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Anthropology, Holyoke Community College

Degradation Over Dignity: A Critical Examination of the Maternal Experience within the Carceral System

According to a study published to the American Journal of Public Health, 75% of females in the carceral system are of reproductive age, ages 18 to 44. Therefore, understanding the current issues faced by incarcerated mothers is critical. Using an intersectional lens, the differential medical treatment of pregnant incarcerated women compared to their peers on the outside is explored. Research outlines demographics and history of women’s incarceration to provide context for analysis. Differential medical treatment is examined by comparing incarcerated women’s prenatal care, birthing experience, and postpartum treatment to the ‘standard’ maternal experiences of peers ‘outside” of the carceral system. The reasoning for differential treatment is explored by considering the criminal justice system’s foundation in morality, as well as the structures of patriarchy and racism.

Constitutionality of the practice of shackling is briefly discussed to illuminate areas for possible change. Methods to improve the carceral maternal experience such as training corrections officers and ensuring medical professionals give mothers proper care is also outlined.


Michael Alejandro Medina

Elizabeth Whalley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Sociology, Framingham State University

Alone in a Box: The Sociological, Cultural, and Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement

This thesis explores the psychological, sociological, and cultural effects of solitary confinement. This will start by exploring the origin and history of solitary confinement, looking at how its European origins spread to the U.S. where Quakers further developed the practice. I then discuss how the Pennsylvania and Auburn Systems refined it into the practice it is today. World views on solitary confinement ware also addressed, especially those views within European states. This thesis also includes a survey of the contemporary use of solitary confinement in the U.S., using Florida as a prime example for explaining some modern-day forms of solitary confinement. This will then lead into the discussion of the psychological, sociological, and cultural effects of solitary confinement, using information from case studies and statistics to support the view that solitary confinement causes such problems. I also address the treatment of prisoners who are transgender and how that different treatment effects them as well. Protests concerning solitary confinement have been arising over the years due to awareness towards the treatment of the prisoners being brought to attention through civil cases. Specific states with such cases are California and Virginia where progress is being made to better the conditions prisoners are put in.

Solitary confinement is considered torture under UN standards, however the practice is still widely used in the U.S. and this thesis partially serves as a guide through horrific nature of solitary confinement.


Bryan O. Miranda

Kimberly Tobin (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Criminal Justice, Westfield State University

The Effects of Technology on Policing

Police agencies and departments around the nation have implemented pieces of technology into their daily activities over the past 50 years. Whether it is a piece of software or hardware, this implementation of technology has had a profound effect on the way policing is conducted today and on the lives of the officers themselves. The assumption is that these pieces of technology improve not only the officer's daily operations, but also how police work is done as it is much easier to communicate, input, or locate important pieces of data. Throughout the past few years, research was conducted on the matter if the implemented pieces of technology actually had a negative effect on policing. The research that was analyzed points to there being a negative effect between technology and policing in specific areas. These areas included adding stress to the lives of police officers, the pieces of technology being incorrectly implemented, and the challenges that may come with using these pieces of technology. The purpose of this research was to not only see the connection between technology and policing, but also to identify where these problem areas were and propose solutions on how to correct these issues. It is hoped that through this research that different agencies and departments will take into account what is being presented and make the necessary changes in order to improve in these areas.


Cathryn Tess Mei Rigby

Beverly Army Williams (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Westfield State University

Guardian Angel Project: Victim Intimidation in the Criminal Justice System

My project is about victim intimidation in rape and assault victims. I chose this topic to figure out how the criminal justice system can better support rape and assault victims. Victims don't report their assailants because they cannot remember due to trauma or the involvement of drugs or alcohol. There is still a stigma around rape and assault, and research emphasizes the issue of victim intimidation. Intimidation can occur directly and indirectly. Directly, an assailant can go up to a victim or directly message them. Indirectly, an assailant can be in the room or the area and cause feelings of intimidation. By analyzing the psychological causes and effects of intimidation I learned that victims lack a support system. Currently, there are programs in place, however, the one thing that is important to understand about them is that a victim has to seek them out. There are three categories of support systems: support from state crime victim compensation programs; support from a trained advocate and support from someone the victim knows. My program would be different because participants would be trained in psychology and criminal justice. They would know how the court system works but also be able to recognize the psychological state of a victim. This will help to decrease intimidation because the guardian can explain the process and help keep the assailant away from the victim.





Victoria Abramchuk

Itai Sher (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, UMass Amherst

Revisiting Deterrence Theory: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Comparing the Effects of Informal Influences and Formal Legal Sanctions on Those More Likely to Offend

Deterrence theory—the theory that people will refrain from engaging in criminal behavior for fear of sanctions or punishment—is central to much of contemporary criminal justice policy. Studies have empirically tested whether certainty, severity, or celerity of punishment is most effective at deterring crime. Results have been mixed, contingent on individuals’ perceptions of deterrence as well as other social-psychological factors that provide support for differential deterrence, or the idea that people perceive the threat of punishment heterogeneously.

Using a survey design experiment, this study seeks to explore whether formal (e.g., legal) sanctions or informal (e.g., moral beliefs, feelings of shame/stigma, etc.) influences have a greater effect on people with higher levels of self-reported criminality. The survey itself combines approaches from multiple disciplines including psychology, criminology, neuroscience and economics to test respondents’ self-reported levels of criminality, risk- taking behavior, “morality”, susceptibility to framing effects, and likelihood of engaging in a sanctionable offense.

Individuals who self-report higher levels of criminality and demonstrate reverse framing effects (choosing the sure loss and the risky gain) are predicted to be more greatly deterred by the threat of informal sanctions. If the results provide support for the hypothesis, it may warrant a re-examination of current criminal justice policies. Rather than focusing resources on increased police presence or harsher sentencing, for example, such a result may provide support for a greater emphasis on education, specifically the inculcation of a comprehensive moral framework and strong social ties.


Alyssa Ann Anderson

Catherine Buell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Fitchburg State University

Corporate Tax Cuts: Analyzing the Effects of Trickle-Down Economics

Analyzing current and historical tax policy is key to creating ideal tax reform. In the 1970's Arthur Laffer created a curve, known as the Laffer Curve, which detailed how cutting tax rates could lead to an increase in tax revenue. His belief was adopted in the Reagan era under the idea that lowering tax rates for the wealthy and corporations would boost economic growth. This was the same argument used to push Trumps 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. This idea, that Will Rogers termed “Trickle Down Economics”, has been debated by economists for decades. This paper uses data gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as White House historical budget data to analyze the effectiveness of corporate tax cuts in increasing tax revenue.

The goal of this work is to investigate the legitimacy of this argument. My study consists of several regression analyses which analyze the main mechanisms of this model: investment, productivity, and wages. My results suggest that corporate tax revenue has a mild negative correlation with investment. Furthermore, my results imply that there is a mild positive correlation between investment and productivity. However, according to my results, productivity has a non-significant relationship with wages, and overall tax revenue has decreased since the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017. Thus, my research suggests that Trickle Down Economics may boost economic growth in the short term, but the transfer of wealth through wage increases remains uncertain. Historical research suggests a bottom-up model would be more effective in transferring wealth.


Paul William Bows

Laura Lamontagne (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting, Economics, and Finance, Framingham State University

The Effect of Privatization on the Efficiency in Government Agencies

Government agencies are often disorganized, sluggish, and inefficient. This study’s aim is to examine the potential impact of privatization of governmental agencies, with special attention on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This paper will assess the current state of the Transportation Security Administration and will analyze the transition of the industry to a privatized model. The shortcomings of the TSA will be evaluated and as well as potential improvements to the efficiency of protecting passenger safety. The history of the entire airline industry is examined with particular attention given to the deregulation of the 1970s. Parallels are drawn between airline deregulation and potential privatization of the TSA to assess potential increases in efficiency of airline safety.


Grace Kathleen Carolan

Itai Sher (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, UMass Amherst

Medicaid Expansion and the Opioid Crisis: An Analysis

The opioid crisis began in the late 1990s, when doctors began to rampantly prescribe painkillers, falsely believing the risk of addiction to be very low. The epidemic has plagued the United States for the past two decades, and has only worsened since 2010. It is currently estimated that 130 people die from an opioid overdose every day. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is generally agreed upon to be the most effective way of treating an opioid use disorder, through the prescription of three main drugs: buprenorphine, naloxone, and methadone, all of which limit the cravings for opioids. This presentation will seek to answer whether the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA has increased the rates of MAT through the prescriptions of these three drugs. Following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid in some states, coverage and access to health insurance has increased. One might expect, therefore, that states that have participated in the Medicaid expansion would experience higher rates of MAT prescriptions for those with an opioid use disorder. The method of research for this presentation examines the current literature, and performs an analysis of data on the level of substance abuse treatment centers that prescribed MAT drugs, and the extent to which they did so. Ultimately, the findings of this thesis will lead to a healthcare policy recommendation, whether in support of expanding Medicaid in all states or if something else is necessary.


Alastair Crippen

Itai Sher (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, UMass Amherst

External Policy on Achievement Gap Inequality among Pre-K Children

The wealth inequality gap has been growing since the 1980’s in America. One of the effects of this is the achievement gap between children from wealthier and poorer families following a similar pattern to the inequality gap. This project will look to find ways to address the achievement gap by creating a policy to help parents change their behaviors to cultivate their children more.

It has been found that children from wealthier families in general perform better from a young age, and this gap stays about the same until the end of high school. This is due to many reasons that are internal to our system of education, such as better teachers, resources and experiences, as well as external to our system of education, such as better nutrition and home environment. A worry is that if the achievement gap in children is not reduced then the wealth inequality gap will continue to grow.

According to many cost-benefit analysis of investment into children’s education, it’s most effective to invest while they’re young, hence why I will focus on implementing a policy for parents of Pre-K children. Through finding a efficient, cost effective way to help parents, wealth inequality could be reduced. The information used will be taken from prior recommendations and studies. I hope to find a possible new plan that the government or states might enact to help improve low income children's achievement, therefore reducing the achievement gap between middle and low income children.


Jonathan Nelson DeYoung

Douglas Cliggott (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, History & Political Science, UMass Amherst

The Effect of Unconventional Monetary Policy on Private Firm Investment

The purpose of this research is to investigate the effect that Unconventional Monetary Policy (UMP) has had on private business investment in the wake of the Great Recession. The paper looks into research conducted by the Federal Reserve investigating the sensitivity between investment activity and interest rates, the changes in the financing activities of private corporations over the past 20 years (1999-2019), and the process by which companies pursue innovation. The practical result of Unconventional Monetary Policy was much different than its intended consequences. In viewing share-buyback and debt issuance activity of major firms listed on the Dow Jones, I find considerable evidence to support the conclusion that the implementation of UMP, which has created an environment of reduced borrowing costs and the redirection of cash flow by private firms, has only resulted in the superficial inflation of firm share prices and has failed to be the impetus behind continuing innovation and real economic growth.


Don Austin Fielding

Laura Lamontagne (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting, Economics, and Finance, Framingham State University

Betting on Sports Gambling: The Impact of Adding an Additional Form of Gambling in the State of Massachusetts

Massachusetts is on the cusp of becoming the third New England state to legalize sports betting after Rhode Island and New Hampshire. This is important because sports betting is a multi-billion-dollar industry and growing fast. Analysts project an additional $7-13 billion in revenue by 2025. This study examines the impact of adding another form of gambling in the state of Massachusetts. Following the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New Hampshire promptly legalized sports betting. Special attention is paid to these markets as a model for the proposed Massachusetts sports gambling market. Data comparing the proposed revues versus the actual revenues is examined. Evidence shows that states that allow unimpeded online gambling are able to generate substantially more revenue than state that impose various restrictions to internet gambling. Finally, this study will address the externalities that are associated with gambling. These include addiction, alcohol abuse, among others that lawmakers are concerned about with the onset of legalized sports gambling.


Nick G. Groblewski

Itai Sher (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, UMass Amherst

Ethical Obligations of Potential Moral Hazards

The opioid epidemic is a national issue, defined by addiction and fatal overdoses. In response to the annually increasing overdose mortality rates, the majority of states in the U.S. have made naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, widely accessible. Multiple papers have been published supporting the theory that naloxone acts as a moral hazard; naloxone provides insurance against death to individuals in the case of an overdose, thus increasing the incentives to abuse opioids in a risky manner. The purpose of this thesis is to explore how naloxone, given to be a moral hazard, influences the ethical obligation policymakers to have to use the most efficient means to achieve their goals.

The question answered this paper is: given naloxone to be a moral hazard, is there an ethical obligation for policymakers to provide wide access to the drug? I first describe naloxone as a moral hazard and how its accessibility influences the decisions of individuals using opioids as well as prescribers. Afterward, I outline the goals of policymakers and concluded whether or not there is an ethical obligation to make naloxone widely accessible.

The results of the thesis conclude that the level of naloxone accessibility is dependent on the goals of policymakers. If the goal is to immediately save the most number of lives then naloxone should be made more widely accessible. If the goal of the policy decision is to reduce the number of overdose mortalities, then naloxone access should be restricted.


Bridget Kayla McKelvey

Ina Ganguli (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, UMass Amherst

“It’s not just unfair and illegal, it’s bad for business to pay someone less because of their gender”: An Examination of Gender Employment Discrimination and Stock Market Impact

This research examines the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire Company (550 U.S. 618, 2007) through the federal court system and concluding ultimately at the Supreme Court. My research entails analysis of the decisions of the case at each judicial level and determining what impact the courts’ decisions had on the stock price of Goodyear as well as other similar organizations with predominantly female workforces in the days and weeks following certain announcements. Taking the research one step further, in determining the impact that the judicial branch can have on the stock market, my research determines how much influence individual judges have on the outcome of the case. In analyzing prior decisions of the Ledbetter judges with respect to other employment discrimination-based cases, as well as their political ideology, the research determines if the case would have turned out differently were it assigned to different judges. Ultimately the research aims to assess if the power of individual judges’ decisions can have a rippling economic effect. The intellectual intent of the research is to determine how sensitive the market is to individual judges and their decisions, and how informed market traders are on important stock market happenings. The study will help the advancement of knowledge by combining approaches from different disciplines in the social sciences to show their connections and create a pathway for future research.


Matthew Michael Pearce

Deepika Marya (Faculty Sponsor)

Honors College, UMass Amherst

Impact of the I.M.F. and World Bank Policies on Developing Nations

The I.M.F and World Bank are some of the most influential organizations in the world. They have immense influence over global monetary policy and debt management. While the institutions' advice and interventions have helped many countries, there are multiple instances in which the severity of the mandated structural adjustments and austerity measures have caused severe short and long term economic and social damage. I intend to evaluate how the undemocratic ruling structure and development goals of the I.M.F can produce disastrous outcomes. The United States and a select few other nations control the majority of voting power in these organizations giving them the ability to veto any policies. Specifically, I will examine the detrimental impact of the I.M.F tying monetary aid to budget cuts in crucial areas such as education, infrastructure, and social aid programs. Each of these areas is crucial to the long term growth and prosperity of countries. When they are cut, it hurts the country in the short term and makes long term economic growth and prosperity far harder to obtain. Additionally, I will explore instances where I.M.F mandated privatization destroys local industries, and in some cases, actually increases poverty and food insecurity hurting the citizens they are trying to help.


Abigail Joy Sookdeo

Itai Sher (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, UMass Amherst

An Ethical Review on Accessibility to Experimental Treatments

Granting the access of experimental treatments to terminal patients who have exhausted all other options is a controversial proposal. An experimental drug is any medicinal product that is currently in the process of FDA approval, but which has not been approved yet. This thesis examines philosophical arguments in order to understand the justifications for the claims that access to experimental drugs should or should not be granted to terminal patients. The current policies regarding experimental medicine in the US are the FDA expanded access program and the Right to Try Act of 2017. The Right to Try Act of 2017 was passed by Congress in the Spring of 2018. A careful evaluation of the current policies is necessary to determine what is best for the greatest welfare. Some terminal patients have scarce options for treatment. This suggests that there is an argument for granting access for experimental drugs. However, there could be major problems associated with the drug development process if access is in fact granted. Different countries’ policies are examined with a view to determining whether the United States should change its current policies. My research develops an argument concerning whether access to experimental drugs is justifiable and whether the current policies on this topic should be ratified to promote the greatest welfare.


Chris Thomas Speroni

Laura Lamontagne (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting, Economics, and Finance, Framingham State University

Examining the Adaptation of Brick-and-Mortar Stores in Response to E-commerce

As of 2020, e-commerce accounts for 16% of all retail sales. The evolution of traditional brick and mortar store to online retailers has had significant impacts on marketing strategies. Additionally, this conversion has further reaching impacts to real estate values. Decreasing demand for retail space has resulted in decreasing lease prices in the market. The ease and accessibility of online shopping has led the charge on the sharp growth of ecommerce sales against your traditional brick and mortar establishments. As traditional way of shopping evolve, this study compares online stores vs brick and mortar stores. As e- commerce now commands almost 20% of all retail sales in the market traditional stores need to adapt or face potential bankruptcy. This study examines how retail office giant Staples has been able to effectively adapt to these changing market conditions and preserve steady growth. The consumer still values customer service and the easily maneuverability of physical stores. This study concludes that companies such have staples have been able to adapt to the new way of e-commerce retail and in facts used it to their advantage to create profitable returns.


John Trumbull Stevenson

Sanjay Nawalkha (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Finance, UMass Amherst

Cambodia’s Financial Dollarization Hysteresis: Determinants and Policy Options

The issue of dollarization is of importance in many developing and emerging economies of the world, as it inhibits the effectiveness of monetary policy and is a detriment to economic sovereignty. Cambodia in particular has experienced high and constant dollarization for the past two decades— with approximately 95% of all deposits being in a foreign currency— despite strong economic growth and political, social, and macroeconomic sustainability, a phenomenon known as hysteresis. There is a notable lack of literature on dollarization as it pertains to Cambodia, with much that has already been written being fairly dated. This thesis seeks to contribute to the literature by empirically exploring potential key drivers of dollarization hysteresis in Cambodia, and explores measures Cambodian policy makers could make, using other countries’ experience with dollarization as points of comparison. I analyze the interactions between Cambodia’s dollarization ratio and inflation rate volatility, exchange rate, exchange rate volatility, as well as interest rate spreads on six month loans and deposits in the short and long term through the use of auto-regressive distributed lag model and an unrestricted error correction model. Additionally, impacts of foreign direct investment, tourism, export revenue, and tax revenue, and institutional quality are also explored. Fiscal, monetary, and other macroeconomic policy responses are then discussed.


Hansen Tjo

Itai Sher (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, UMass Amherst

Industrial Stakes in the Ivory Tower: A Comparative Analysis on the Center for UMass Industrial Research on Polymers and the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering

Technological innovation has been driven by both academic and industrial sectors. In 1973, National Science Foundation Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers (NSF- IUCRCs) were developed as the first national model for academia-industry research consortiums (with over 50 NSF-IUCRCs in operation across the country as of 2018). Then, in 2009, the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering was founded for the purpose of “de-risking” scientific research and technology commercialization. In spite of their parallel functions as joint university-industry complexes, the Wyss Institute differs from other NSF-IUCRCs in scale, outcomes, and aims. Given the increasing convergence between academic and industrial goals, it is important to understand how intellectual property generation and academic productivity are driven within these complexes to further nurture university-industry relations. In the form of a case study, we seek to comparatively analyze the Wyss Institute and a representative NSF-IUCRC with respects to operating model and administration, technology development processes, and intellectual property and academic productivity. Given its proximity on campus, the Center for UMass Research on Polymers (CUMIRP) will represent our exemplar NSF-IUCRC. We predict that the scale and private-sector backing of the Wyss Institute is a key factor in its propensity for technology commercialization, however, deeper institutional integration of traditional departments with NSF-IUCRCs allows the latter to maintain similar academic output. Through elucidating underlying differences between two university-industry research complex models, we can better understand crucial driving forces in goals of academic and intellectual productivity, as well as inform effective nurturing of academia-industry research relations.





Sydney Rose Addorisio

Tess L. Killpack (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Salem State University

Investigating the Effects of a Biology Lab Redesign on Student Skill-Building and Attitudes

In introductory biology, labs are an integral part of developing student understanding of the foundations of science. It is vital that introductory labs constantly be reevaluated and improved upon in order to build a strong basis of what science is and how it is conducted for students entering the field. In the Introduction to Organisms lab at Salem State, we infused weekly authentic inquiry activities, a scaffolded assignment structure to promote skill- building, and a student-designed final group project. In this project, the goal is to see how changes in the lab have effected student understanding of experimental design and data analysis and to see how the changes may have impacted their confidence in doing science. In order to quantify the effects of the redesign, we created a survey of skills and attitudes towards course content. Students working under the redesign in Fall 2018, Spring 2019, and Fall 2019 completed the survey at the beginning and the end of lab to allow us to examine growth throughout the semester. Students using the old format in Spring 2018 completed the survey at the end of their lab course. These results were compared to the post lab results of students under the redesign in order to investigate efficacy of the curricular changes. Findings from these analyses will be presented. The consistent improvement of introductory biology lab courses is essential for the fostering of skillful, independent scientists who will leverage their introductory lab foundation in further courses.


Hannah Elizabeth Bedard

Ray Kinoshita Mann (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Architecture, UMass Amherst

Examining Familial Trust in Holyoke Public Schools

The subject of my thesis is the role of parental/familial trust in improving student and school performance in the Holyoke Public Schools. Holyoke Public Schools, which serve an overwhelmingly Hispanic population have been in state receivership since 2015 and have since been undergoing reform efforts. Increasing parental involvement has been among their stated goals for improvement according to their turnaround plan, but studies show that such efforts may not succeed unless a genuine relational trust is developed between schools and families. Furthermore, while such studies show that trust development is important to school reform, they tend to focus on the impact on teachers as opposed to families. I will focus instead on the impact on families through my research. I propose through my thesis to identify the components of trust-building as identified in key research papers and assess through a questionnaire, the degree of trust that families feel exists or does not exist in Holyoke Public Schools. I will furthermore focus on whether students with disabilities or limited English language ability are particularly affected, and if so, how. My experience teaching in Holyoke through the Generation Teach program has both inspired my research and helped me to attain knowledge of teaching conditions in Holyoke. It has also allowed me to develop useful contacts in the school system. Through my research, I hope to propose further measures that can be undertaken to benefit ongoing reform efforts.


Sean Patrick Carney

Diego Ivan Ubiera (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Fitchburg State University

Pedagogies of Inclusion and Difference

Today, most schools have something to the effect of “include all students” in their mission statements. But, definitions of inclusion can be foggy and vary from teacher to teacher and school to school. In this paper, I examine the historical, theoretical, and practical frameworks of inclusion to explore and begin to define the parameters for a successful inclusive model of education. Based on my review of the literature, inclusive pedagogy prepares students to liberate themselves and others detrimental expectations by providing a platform through which all students, regardless of their socially constructed identity, have a voice in critical inclusive dialogues that build constructive community knowledge without silencing groups of people and denying them the right to a liberatory education. Inclusive education is more than simply putting students in the same space, or acknowledging differences in the classroom. Meaningful inclusion celebrates difference by challenging traditional structures in education and society as a whole. By interweaving my research on disability studies, teaching through the lens of difference, Critical Race Theory, and critical pedagogy, I build a theoretical groundwork for this pedagogical approach. I then use this theoretical work to support my case studies on the effects of successful and unsuccessful inclusive models and discuss the practical implementations of inclusive models.


David William Coughlin

Paul Szwed (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Business, Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Fatigue: NTSB's Most Wanted

Marine accident reports collected over the past few decades suggest that seafarer fatigue continues to be a contributing factor in a considerable number of casualties at sea. This independent research study is intended to analyze the impact of fatigue on a cadet mariner’s ability to carry out standard procedures and safe ship handling capabilities. The information gained from the data will be used to understand the risks associated with fatigued mariners navigating vessels at sea. An experiment will be conducted over a six- week period in a ship’s navigational bridge simulator at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Each of the participating cadet mariners will be in charge of navigating a virtual cargo ship during a man overboard drill. The cadets will be asked to play this role twice during a preprogrammed exercise designed to assess their ability to recover a crew member who has recently fallen over the side. Their evaluation will be based on proper execution of critical tasks required during a man overboard situation and their ability to safely maneuver a vessel. One of the scenarios will be conducted during the middle of the day when the majority of people are most active and attentive. A similar scenario will be conducted in the early hours of the morning after the cadet mariner has received an insufficient amount of sleep. In both performances, the cadets will be compared, measured, and rated according to their responsiveness, decision-making ability, judgment, and productivity.


Heather Amy Ferguson

Catherine Buell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Fitchburg State University

The Importance of Representation of Diversity in Secondary English Classrooms

This is a presentation of my Honours Thesis Project. My Honours Thesis Project is a collection of short stories exploring the importance of representation in the Secondary classroom. Each short story is from a different students perspective in a Secondary English class. Each student is a different race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, mental health status, gender, sexuality, etc., and each student reflects on the books taught in class and whether or not they feel represented in the literature. Each short story is 10 to 15 pages, depending on the resources available. The resources required were the most commonly used Secondary English curriculum, which will indicate the lack of representation in most classrooms. Another resource was statistics to show how diverse our classrooms actually are in comparison to our literature. One more resource was information on how different students behave and live depending on their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, mental health status, gender, sexuality, etc.. My final product ended up being 161 pages long, including an introduction, explanation, dedication page, table of contents, etc. The project highlighted the areas in which we as teachers have failed our students in terms of diverse literature. Most novels taught in main stream education are not nearly as diverse as our student population.


Stephanie Fuller

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

Students in America versus Students in Finland: How Are They Doing Better Than Us?

Ever since the creation of education, the different countries of the world have been in competition with each other to produce the smartest students. This required testing, homework, and everything in between, piling it all on and causing students to be overworked, stressed, fatigued; sacrificing sleep for better grades. It starts in elementary school and it never stops, continuing all the way through college. So why aren’t we ranked first in terms of best education? I’ve struggled with ADHD since I was a child and the education system never really worked with it; just made “accommodations” that they believed helped, but in reality was just prolonging it. How does Finland handle educating students with ADHD? What can we learn from their ways? This proposal will discuss the reasons why the United States is failing its students, causing them mental health issues, and why Finland is doing so much better in terms of both mental health and education rates. It will also show the different reasons and methods that contribute to the rankings in education and mental health in both America and Finland. This will highlight the differences between Finland and the United States, and show that maybe there's a lot that we can learn from their education system to better our own.


Kate Miles

Isaias C. Sarmiento (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College

Person to Person: Application of Emphasizing the "Peer" in English Peer Tutoring

This project involves researching scholars on Writing Centers and education, and the application of education methods that involve eliminating the traditional hierarchy of educator to pupil, tutor to student, and approaching sessions holistically and with an emphasis on the tutor learning as much from their students as they hope the students to learn from them.

The project involves close study of Paulo Frierre's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," and the research of Peter Elbow. It also involves the observation of sessions between students and tutors at BHCC's Writing Place, as well as the analysis of my own sessions and they are affected by the research methods.

The goal is to gain greater understanding of how to improve writing centers and make sessions rewarding and enjoyable for students of varying ages and backgrounds, as well as the tutors themselves, who also come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Questions this project asks include:

"What are the advantages and disadvantages of approaching sessions from the perspective of a non-authority figure?" "What factors influence a student to return to the writing place?" "What philosophies influence how tutors approach their sessions, and why?" "Can the theories behind successful tutoring practices be applied in the classroom?" "How do demographics influence sessions and approaches?"


Jillian Grace Stanton

Paige Marie Hermansen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Westfield State University

Technology in Special Education Classrooms: How Life-Changing Tools Are Being Abused

Technology has had a large impact on our world today. It has been introduced in schools as an amazing new tool that will help make students learn faster and easier. For example, technology has allowed students to take tests and quizzes online, post homework and even access educational learning-based apps during class time. Technology has also had a significant impact on special education specifically in substantially separate classrooms.

Special education teachers have found many benefits to technology because they have found that students are learning better while looking at a screen. Students are being more attentive to the programs and lessons in front of them due to the hands-on interaction.

Students who have difficulty verbally communicating are able to benefit from technology by using iPads as an AAC device, or different applications that aid them in verbal communication. The issue is; Are these apps truly benefitting our students or are they hurting them? Special Education classrooms are constantly using tablets, iPads or computers to help teach lessons such as, reading, or simply learning math. Technology can be used for more than academic purposes but there is a fine line between using it as an instructional tool, or simply using it to teach for you. Technology can be such a great tool especially for students with special needs, but are teachers abusing how much they allow the students to use it?





Leah Baboci

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Concentrated Solar Power

The use of renewable energy sources has increased with the decline of fossil hydrocarbon resources and the negative impact of CO2 emissions on the environment. Fortunately, there are many forms of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and hydro to counter this problem, with solar energy being the most abundant source of renewable energy on earth. So, how does solar energy work and what happens when that solar energy is used at a much larger scale with thousands of mirrors? Concentrated solar power, or CSP, will be the main focus of this research. Using credible, peer-reviewed articles the advantages and disadvantages of this source of renewable energy will be presented.

This research will also present the effects that concentrated solar power has on the environment (such as the large amount of space it needs) and any ethical dilemmas that may appear. One thing in particular that will be researched is the fact that up to 6,000 birds a year are being killed by the Ivanpah CSP plant in California. They are dying from crashing into the towers or flying through the superheated fields of the CSP plants. Solutions to this problem, such as displays of lights or sounds, will be evaluated and the ethical dilemma it presents will be discussed.


Elyse Kenna Dostie-Slavich

Robert Greeney (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Physics, Holyoke Community College

Science in Writing: The Mechanics behind Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is one of the most talked about emerging technologies in the world today. Much of this conversation centers around the consequences of quantum computing, good and bad, and whether they will be evolutionary or revolutionary. For all this debate, very few members of the public possess a genuine understanding of the fundamentals of quantum computing.

My quest is to convey, through everyday language and visual aids, the physical aspects of a quantum circuit and how it creates a potentially powerful form of computational machinery. My focus will be on addressing what properties of quantum mechanics are being exploited in quantum computers and how different key elements of the circuit succeed in doing this. I will specifically discuss superconducting, super cooling, and Josephson Junctions.

I want every student, no matter what major, to be able to understand enough in order to converse further about the topic and leave feeling more comfortable with quantum mechanics and computing. My experience with research fairs has been such that I cannot formulate an opinion or engage with the presenter by asking a question, because I cannot understand their research or topic. As the pace of technology quickens, I believe that scientists and researchers must place ever greater importance upon communicating new ideas.


Ruth Lazare

Yashwant Sinha (Faculty Sponsor)

STEM Starter Academy, Bristol Community College

A Novel Wind and Solar Hybrid System for Off-Grid Communities

Globally there are many isolated and off-grid communities that can benefit from renewable energy based localized power generation. However, wind and solar energy use suffers from intermittency issues and may also be uneconomical for some communities. A hybrid system that uses wind and solar energy to generate power is a potential solution to the above issues and this study focuses on identifying the technological, social and financial challenges linked with the use of wind and solar energy hybrid systems. This study aims to design a prototype wind-solar hybrid system that can overcome the technological, social and financial challenges associated with current hybrid models. For example, the study identified that such hybrid systems built using artificial intelligence suffered from difficulties of implementation due to its high complexity (Upadhyay 2014) while another system built using costly materials and highly advanced technology was uneconomical for small communities. We aim to design a prototype model that will not only overcome historical issues but will be more reliable and economical to use.

Upadhyay, Subho, and M.p. Sharma. “A Review on Configurations, Control and Sizing Methodologies of Hybrid Energy Systems.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 38, 2014, pp. 47–63., doi:10.1016/j.rser.2014.05.057.


Rex Li

Jiali Li

Michael Rahaim (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Engineering, UMass Boston

Visible Light Communication Relay

In this project, we develop a heterogeneous multi-hop relay that receives wireless data and energy from visible light and retransmits the data via Wi-Fi with a net-0 energy cost.

Densely distributed visible light communication (VLC) systems have the potential to increase aggregate wireless capacity in a given space, but highly directional wireless communication technologies like VLC are not optimal for providing seamless connectivity to highly mobile devices. For example, a 100Mbps Wi-Fi router in a 100m2 room offers 1Mbps/m2 while a VLC system with 10 access points in the same space can provide 5Mbps/m2 if the individual VLC access points are only capable of 50Mbps. The room area is the same, but multiple access points can be deployed because of the directionality of light. Thus, the total capacity will be greater if multiple wireless devices are in the same space.

However, VLC needs a constant stable connection that is difficult to maintain when devices are mobile. Our VLC relay will overcome this disadvantage. Furthermore, our relay can receive the energy from the light to support the data retransmitting so that there is no additional energy consumption of the relay. We first utilize a wired connection with raspberry pi zero w in order to emulate the whole system work to approach our goal. The solar cell circuit collects energy from the light source which includes the transmitting LED(s) and environment light. After that, we use the visible light wireless connection to replace the emulated wired connection and integrate the relay with the energy harvesting circuit.


Cory Lo

Hong Yu (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Industrial Technology, Fitchburg State University

Integrating Multiple Computerized Sensors Using a Microcontroller Displaying LCD

Electronic controlled devices help oversee system products autonomously. Theses electronics devices using sensors, talk to and inform people about the safety levels of controlled gas and climate conditions within cars, homes or businesses and many more, playing a large role in monitoring-controlled systems continually and consistently. Recently, these growing and integrated electronic systems are expanding rapidly especially in artificial intelligence (AI), communication, and more rising technological advances.

In the project, a series of sensors will be integrated into a board and translated through LCD. Synchronously, all data will be saved in the database or iCloud and then will be used for Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning to predict the system environment like warnings or alerts. On the other hand, the students will understand the internet of things (IoT) with the sensing devices on Microprocessor and Micro-controller embedded system from the project.

The project can be altered freely by the user’s input tasks accomplished by an algorithm pre-written program. This will pave the way for autonomous systems and faster and more efficient machines. It will continue having great impacts improving society and moderating and assisting healthy and cost-efficient solutions towards the future of electronic based control systems.


Michael McGarty

Yashwant Sinha (Faculty Sponsor)

STEM Starter Academy, Bristol Community College

A Self-Sustainable Hybrid Electrical Power System for Off-Grid Mobile Home Communities in the USA: A Cost Feasibility Study

The effects of greenhouse gas accumulation on climate change were illustrated by the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. Entire islands were stripped bare of everything from basic housing and infrastructure to vegetation and topsoil. This destruction highlights the need for cost-effective and self-sustainable electrical power systems that are built using available resources like solar energy, wind energy, biomass, biowaste, energy storage solutions and/or generators. These systems can be used to power preconstructed or mobile home communities that are off-grid by choice or by circumstance. A cost feasibility analysis of scenarios that consider power generation capacity from locally available resources against power consumption of a mobile home community can provide greater insight into the viability of such projects. This work reports the theoretical results of such a study and shows its utility for a local mobile home community in Wareham, MA. The preliminary results of this study suggest that over a 20- 25 year period, some energy mix scenarios like wind, solar, and biomass use, can provide self-sustainable power at competitive rates compared to grid tariffs or RECs over the same period. We are aiming to develop a software tool that given such energy mix data, power needs of a mobile home community, and associated costs, will automatically identify the practical feasibility of such projects.


Abdel Nassib

Ibrahim Abuterkia

Triet Vo

Michael Rahaim (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Engineering, UMass Boston

Mobility Characterization Device

When researchers look to explore novel wireless communication techniques and technologies, a common consideration is the cost and practicality of testbed deployment. This is particularly true when considering the broad range of possible operating conditions. Accordingly, simulation is often done to evaluate these systems prior to deployment. As the density of wireless networks continues to increase, directional communication technologies like optical wireless or millimeter-wave communications are of significant interest to the research community. The orientation and mobility of receivers makes a huge impact on how the signal is received with these technologies. In this project, we are developing a small low-power tool which collects device mobility and orientation, as well as wireless traffic in order to associate data traffic with mobility afterwards. This device includes a user interface that will let the user specify data collection settings. The data collected will be stored locally and/or on the cloud using AWS then it will be used to study and analyze practical orientation of a wide range of devices. Models developed from this analysis will allow future wireless systems to be evaluated properly in simulation. Overall, the goal of this project is to improve the analysis and simulation of dense wireless networks which will help researchers improve the quality of service in wireless communication.


Daniel Perez

Mahmud Ahmadov (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Holyoke Community College

Qualitative Analysis of the Duffing Equation

For a nonlinear system of equations we can use qualitative analysis to make conclusions on their behavior. By using the Jacobian linearization of a nonlinear system, we can get a very close approximation to the behavior of the nonlinear system. By applying specific points like the nullclines and equilibria to the equivalent nonlinear system, we can evaluate the behavior of the system around those points, giving us a close up view of the behavior of the system. We’ll also be able to determine the behavior of the linearized system of the eigenvalues of the Jacobian matrix as long as they are not zero and not pure imaginary numbers. We can then apply the Poincare-Lyapunov theorem which lets us know the behavior around those points, depending on the eigenvalue. In our research, we will be analyzing the Duffing equation and applying these methods.


Max Potter

Michael Rahaim (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Engineering, UMass Boston

Field of View in Optical Communications Systems

In an environment of expanding requirements for wireless bandwidth, optical communications are poised to play a key role in the future of wireless communications. Field of View (FoV ) is a core parameter in the characterization of the physical channel of visible light communication systems (VLC). Adjustment of FoV in transmitter-receiver systems represents a tradeoff between range of transmission angles and reduced service outages on the one hand, and increased interference on the other. This study seeks to verify and refine the theoretical model of this relationship. By varying the receiver field of view via changing length of an attached lens tube, data is collected for a range sufficient for comparison to existing models.


Augustus Standeven

John Carlo T. Laude

Michael Rahaim (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Engineering, UMass Boston

Open Source Toolbox for Visible Light Communication

Visible Light Communication (VLC) is a novel technology that offers the potential to add much needed capacity in future wireless networks. The directionality of the optical channel allows for ultra-dense deployment and high network capacity. Furthermore, visible light does not impact radio frequency communications and does not pass through walls which makes the transfer of data local and more secure. Despite the widespread research in VLC there isn't an open source toolbox for VLC systems. Our project addresses this issue by creating an open source module for the GNU Radio signal processing toolbox. GNU Radio is an openly available software development tool that uses signal processing blocks coded in python to create software defined radio (SDR) signal processing chains. GNU Radio is beneficial because of its real-time capabilities, integration with a variety of SDR hardware components, and intuitive and comprehensive interface. In this project, we are developing an open source module that will be made available on GitHub so that researchers can more easily explore VLC through GNU Radio. Our initial module will include basic VLC modulation and demodulation blocks along with a VLC channel model which will be validated with VLC front-end hardware. With the availability of our library, we hope to help the research community move the field of VLC forward.


Myles Patrick Toole

Michael Rahaim (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Engineering, UMass Boston

Evaluating the Impact of Data Offloading in Dense Wireless Networks with Optical Communication

From 1992 until 2002, global networks went from processing 100 GB per day to 100 GB per second. Eighteen years later, there are approximately 5.1 billion mobile users and it is predicted that by 2023 there will be 5.7 billion, which is 71% of the global population. Since 2002, the introduction of wireless technologies like the smartphone, Internet of Things, and augmented/virtual reality have continued to increase the density and data demand of networked devices. In particular, wireless networks have addressed this demand by deploying more access points with smaller individual coverage. In an effort to understand the impact of novel traffic patterns and wireless network deployments, UCaN Lab has developed a testbed that emulates network traffic using Raspberry Pi microprocessors.

These distributed devices are used to model the data traffic of common wireless devices and analyze the effects of network congestion along with WiFi offloading. The Raspberry Pi’s are controlled by a central host computer in order to remotely configure the test parameters.

They are also connected via WiFi to our lab router which is set to an isolated 5GHz channel in order to avoid any interference caused by devices on other networks and to assure an accurate and controlled environment. Data collection is done by simultaneously running the iPerf performance measurement tool on a configurable set of the Raspberry Pis. Results of the distributed test are then aggregated on the central host computer for data analysis.





Margaret Elizabeth Ahearn

Beverly Army Williams (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Westfield State University

Sharing Stories: Destigmatizing Sexual Assault

My poster presentation will be a summary of how sexual assault/harassment will be ‘destigmatized’ on my college’s (Westfield State) campus. 'Destigmatized’ means that sexual assault or harassment victims will be protected on Westfield’s campus and provided with the support needed. The needs for protection and support will be concluded from the survey I am proposing on sexual assault and harassment that will be sent out to WSU’s campus. I feel that proposing a survey would be crucial because it will provide what the student body of Westfield State would like to see, and hopefully create more success. If they could see what protection and support they could receive, then this presentation will have done its job. From the proposed survey I would then create an informational poster illustrating resources and statistics relating to our campus. I chose to do my project on sexual assault and harassment because it is a problem on college campuses today and I personally know a few survivors of it. Statistics from RAINN also show that only 20% of female students report if they were sexually assaulted and that male college students are 78% more likely to be assaulted than non-college students. With both personal and national resources, sexual assault and harassment is a problem that needs to be solved. My poster presentation will help with this issue.


Cheyenne R. Bryan

John Scrimgeour (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Salem State University


My thesis is a creative novella titled ‘Palumbo’. It follows the story of Detective Benjamin Love, a law enforcement officer struggling with the pressures of his job, deep in the throes of a drug addiction. The story takes place in the early 1990s, in a small fictional town in Southern Florida. After a series of gruesome murders take place at a local business park called Palumbo Enterprises, he is sent to Jetsonville to help catch the killer. He works with Han Nakamura, a detective from the Jetsonville Police Department. Though the two are from polar opposite worlds, they must overcome their differences and catch the killer before it is too late.

The story will be around five chapters, and each chapter will rotate from the point of view of both Sam, the killer, and Detective Love. The story should be between sixty and eighty pages. Because it is a novella, it will cover the story in its entirety.

This story will be a complete account of everything I have learned as an English major. It will cover the skills I have learned from my creative writing concentration, such as character development, how to write a compelling scene, and how to craft realistic characters in compelling situations. It will also involve a small level of research in police departments and active investigations. In this presentation, I will share a scene where Benjamin is faced with his addiction for the first time while being in Florida.


James Cordero

Deepika Marya (Faculty Sponsor)

Honors College, UMass Amherst

Potentials for Liberation in the Narratives and Political Economy of the Video Game Industry

This thesis will ask: How do the relations of production in which a video game is created contribute to the ideological message of a video game?

To answer this question, this thesis will analyze several video games, in terms of both their ideological content and the material relations of production which brought them into existence. What correlation is there, if any, between exploitative working conditions and a video game’s ideological bent? If such a relation can be found, what do these findings suggest of the video game industry? What material political economic conditions might need to be altered so as to produce video games which focus not on reproducing exploitative, destructive, and reactionary ideologies, but on exploring paths to liberation, freedom, and justice for all?

Ultimately, this thesis concludes that the more exploitative the conditions of production are for a given videogame, the more reactionary the narrative becomes. The relationship between the material and the ideological is related--games created under material conditions of exploitative capitalism will inevitably produce ideologies which justify that exploitation. However, there is hope for liberation. The final chapter of this thesis will examine games created under structures beyond capitalism, the growing movement of unionization in the games industry, and the ways in which this political economic liberation allows new narratives, which question if not outright rebuke capitalism, to flourish.


Bryon Henseley

Nagtalon Ferrer

Dan Messier (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, UMass Boston

Tut0r1ng_2.0: A Historical Examination of Computers' Influence on the Field of Tutoring in the Past, Present, and Future

Recent advances in computing have led to shifts in the workforce, with humans increasingly being displaced from jobs that computers can do more effectively. While this trend has been highlighted in academic and popular sources, such as scientific studies and news articles, its impact on the field of tutoring, particularly tutoring in the English language and composition, has not been fully explored, especially from a historical perspective. This study, then, aims to examine the history of computers and their relationship with English language and composition tutoring, from text analyzers to Intelligent Tutoring Systems, using studies, articles, and writing center theory books from the 1990s to the late 2010s.

The study also analyzes the advances in computer architecture and the consequent ability to develop programs that better adhere to writing center theory and pedagogy. Findings indicate that, while there were some discrepancies in each of these studies, computers do have the ability to become human-like tutors, which makes them significant in shaping the future of writing centers. Using these findings, researchers can provide extensive research in the future regarding the acceptance of computerized tutoring in academic settings, while those who work on these systems can modify their existing algorithms and architecture to counter the current weaknesses they exhibit.


Kurtis M. Kendall

Catherine Buell (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Fitchburg State University

AI’s Impact on Roles in Journalism and Perception of AI in the Industry

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has already entered the world of journalism. Entire articles have been generated from AI alone, making AI a new player in the writing industry. We are only in the beginning stages of implementing AI into everyday journalistic work, but its presence as a future norm cannot be ignored. In my project, I explore the impact AI has on journalists and their respective roles. AI at this stage has written mostly quantitative data stories based in sports journalism. More feature-based pieces dealing with human emotion or opinion are still beyond the capabilities of AI. Within this dynamic, I investigate perceptions of AI across journalistic disciplines, comparing those writing sports-based articles, to non-sports related journalism. To research this topic, a mix of survey and interview methods have been employed, in addition to an overall literature review of AI in journalism. Journalists and newspapers who have utilized AI in their work are the main targets of interest, while viewpoints of those who have never used AI in the industry are also sought for comparison. These methods serve to gain an understanding of how AI has impacted journalists across their respective fields, along with their perceptions of AI in the field of journalism.


Rowan McCarthy Lampert

Hannah Noel (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Colonialism and Crimmigration: Global Perspectives on the US Carceral State

The United States is and always has been a nation of immigrants. There has been a lot of press coverage of recent laws and policies that further deny the rights of immigrants in the US. However, the criminalization of immigrants along racial lines in US law and media representation goes all the way back to before the founding of this country. This presentation traces the history of how the myth of American exceptionalism has transformed from its colonial beginnings into a state of exception in which the US unlawfully incarcerates and tortures undocumented immigrants and suspected terrorists in fortified prisons around the world, especially in the post-9/11 context. By using privatized immigrant detention facilities, the US is able to avoid accountability for their denial of detainees' human rights because private prison corporations are protected by privacy laws. In this way, incarcerated immigrants are commodified. By drawing from multiple fields of study, this presentation explores the ways in which mainstream media framing often disregards our moral obligation as a nation to accept immigrants from all nations, while focusing on the economics of immigration instead of addressing the denial of immigrant rights in the US as a humanitarian crisis. Today, what is happening at the Mexico-US border and in US prisons oversees is a is part of a system of gendered and racialized global capitalism that is historically linked to legacies of European colonialism and US imperialism.


Lee Lebensbaum

Scott Maisano (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, UMass Boston

Winner Take All: Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, Feminism, and the Prisoner's Dilemma

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and whether or not it is a feminist play has long been debated by Ibsen scholars. Although the literature on A Doll’s House has documented Nora’s evolving character and how the play represents modern day feminist ideals, without analyzing Nora and Torvald’s techniques that are rooted in game theory, there is a gap in our understanding of the motivations that drive critical decisions in the play. By expanding upon prior analysis of A Doll’s House, this essay provides a unique perspective that Nora uses game mechanics to win her freedom, which is explored using the Prisoner’s Dilemma as a point of reference. The writings of Saman Salah Hassan Balaky, Nafser Abdul Mosawir Sulaiman, and Joan Templeton provide a deep and thorough analysis of the work through the feminist lens from which the essay will juxtapose them with Prisoner’s Dilemma research by scholars such as Claus Wedekind, Manfred Milinski, and Peter Pettit in order to unravel the skillful plays that both Nora and Torvald use in their pursuit of their goals. I argue that Nora and Torvald’s motivations, when analyzed with the Prisoner’s Dilemma framework, reveals how carefully Ibsen crafted his characters so that they can both compete on an even playing field. In conclusion, while Ibsen, himself, denied that A Doll’s House is a feminist piece of literature, the play stands as a testament to a woman's right to craft their own destiny through their wit and cunning, no matter what barriers may stand in their way.


Emily McCabe

Kristen A. Bennett (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Framingham State University

Navigating Binaries: Shakespeare's The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and As You Like It

This paper uses ecofeminism as a theoretical lens to analyze Shakespeare’s The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and As You Like It. Ecofeminist theorists commonly analyze the binary relationships between male-dominated power structures and the dehumanized spheres of women and non-human beings, such as subject/object, woman/land, and culture/nature.

First, I examine the male-dominated narratives and aforementioned binaries imposed on Shakespeare’s female characters, non-human beings, and nature. I will next analyze how men seek to control women, cultural others, and nature through magic, domestication, and command of language. My research aims to answer the following questions: Are women and nature inherently linked, or are such representations artificially imposed in Shakespeare’s texts? How do representations of ecophobia and misogyny interact in these works? How do Shakespeare’s female characters work within domestic constructs? By analyzing these questions from an ecofeminist perspective, this paper will offer insights into early modern representations of women and cultural others in the context of their domestic spheres, as well as the natural and supernatural worlds.

Shakespeare’s portrayal of the natural worlds of these three plays may appear idyllic, but they are corrupted by the patriarchy and its imposition of domesticity that suppresses women’s and non-human characters’ agency. Shakespeare ultimately subverts patriarchal power structures by representing culturally othered characters that navigate conventional nature/culture binaries to both discover agency and expose the fragility of these binary structures themselves.


Allison OKeefe

Caren Beilin (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Little Illness

Little Illness is anecdotal and academic research about sisterhood, wellness, and watchfulness. Epilepsy is a common but complicated neurological disorder involving abnormal brain waves and brain cell activity, causing seizures, lapses of consciousness, and uncontrollable movements. There are many different forms and severities, but the causes of which, not to mention the results, can be especially varied and hard to predict or prepare for. Little Illness is a personal essay which parses through a history of family epilepsy and explores the dynamic of caretaking within a medical landscape filled with bureaucratic loopholes. More broadly, it concerns itself with the medical community and the culture around sickness, the ways in which we care for one another, and how we handle that which we can’t control but still maintain our autonomy. Through examining lexicon, representations of epilepsy in literature and other media, and a personal history of family caretaking, this essay is a careful questioning of the efficiency of patient care. In a landscape which operates on the basis of healthy until proven otherwise, what are the ways in which our system is failing? How we can provide support for one another? And what does it mean to be healthy, privately or publicly?


Hannah M. Robins

Paige Marie Hermansen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Westfield State University

Instagram Privacy Policy

The app Instagram was launched in 2010 and has gained popularity ever since. According to Hootsuite, one billion people use Instagram every month, this large number of people deserve to know what information Instagram accesses and whether or not they use that information responsibly. Although Instagram is very upfront about their use of user data in their official privacy policy, users often skim or ignore such policies. Instagram started out as an innocent platform for just sharing pictures has skyrocketed into an intimate relationship that accesses a lot of personal knowledge. Instagram has access to your pictures, not only the ones that you have publicly shared but the pictures that are in your camera roll. Instagram has access to your location, contacts, call logs, text message history, direct messages, and just about any piece of personal information on your phone. If you make in-app purchases, Instagram takes credit card and shipping data. Even if you don’t have an Instagram or don’t allow the app to have access to your information, your friends or family can agree to have their devices synced which compromises everyone’s important data from that phone. The only way to keep yourself completely safe from this information breach is by not having a phone at all and this just doesn’t seem possible in the current state of technology and its everlasting influence over us.



https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/051815/top-11-companies-owned- facebook.asp



Amanda Nicole Russell

Alexandria Peary (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Salem State University

I Think the Most in the Bath

The thesis topic for my creative project is a collection of poetry surrounding the people in my life that have impacted me for better or for worst as well as the stories of others and their struggles. My project will have a primary focus on capturing the life of the people, what they did, and how it made me or someone else feel. I studied different poetic forms for this project, as well as experimented with different poem lengths and styles. After the reading of poems from other poets, I became inspired to write my own poetry, but really aimed to give justice to those who stories were shared with me. In conclusion, I hope to impact those who read my work and help them realize that they are not alone, and that they can get through it anything. I want my readers to feel empowered and know that while they may feel destroyed by others, they can control how much power they give another person. Ultimately, this project will capture in poetry the stories of others, as well as my own stories, to serve as a reminder that we survived, and they will too.


Audrey R. Therriault

Leah Nielsen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Westfield State University

Selected Readings of Poetry from Chapbook Manuscript

My oral presentation will include original poetry that I have written throughout my studies in multiple creative writing courses. It will be presented as selections from a manuscript of my chapbook that I will be later sending out for possible publication. The collection will have elements of post-modernism, such as fragmentation and elevation, and lyricism, such as romantic styles and contemplations of nature. It will include contemporary themes such as sexuality and the conflicts that come with "non-normative" relationships. This poetry works to encourage the reader to feel nuances of emotion they don't always acknowledge or even know exists within them. It pushes back against what society deems as correct or incorrect in the context of eros. The poems draw connections to the beauties of nature and the sufferings of human inconsistencies.





Amanda Leigh Landry

Evelyn Perry (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Framingham State University

Queer Fairytale Retellings in Young Adult Literature

Young adult literature pushes the boundaries of inclusivity, which is both commendable and celebrated by educators and readers alike. Recent titles of realistic fiction have paved the way for young adult-centered conversations on representation and identity-formation. even as the scope of the fantastical leaves a lot to the imagination, fantasy has remained a heteronormative and male-centric genre, (Kenneally 8). My honors thesis examines the few novels that are considered young adult, queer, and fantasy, and the necessity of their intertextualities for guidance and identity formation. In particular, I will examine fairy tale retellings as a way into heteronormative structures that have been prevalent throughout history, age groups, and entertainment. fairy tales are inherently dictated by societal norms that have been known to serve patriarchal and heterosexual ideologies. However, retellings serve to show how these norms have changed and continue to change, ultimately paving a way for new societal patterns separated from the toxic systems that have oppressed the queer community. Because sci-fi and fantasy are the leaders in US children’s and young adult literature sales (Watson), tackling the problem of queer invisibility within fantasy starts with its influence on its young readers in the thralls of identity formation and fantasy consumption.


Cassidy Lynn Rousseau

Lynn Parker (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Framingham State University

Suppressed Conversations within the Nineteenth-Century Gothic Novel

When the Gothic genre gained popularity in the Nineteenth Century, conservative social values still remained as the standard. For example, Romantic and Victorian societies accepted women’s lack of power and had an obsession with maintaining one’s reputation. However, at the same time, progressive ideologies began to be formulated and circulate among Victorian-era artists and intellectuals. These innovative values, revealing that the current morality was inherently flawed or corrupt, opposed traditional and restrictive societal norms. While these innovative ideas were not openly accepted or discussed, the Gothic genre was an arena where stories could confront these issues. Through the Gothic genre, authors were able to reveal and confront some of the hidden fears their respective time periods were unable to acknowledge or address. Using the examples of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, I investigate the ways in which these writers silence their characters who embody the progressive fears of the time period; while they are successful, by suppressing these characters, the authors reveal their intentions of validating or dismissing society’s fear of social progress. By using the Gothic genre to exploit and potentially confront the fears which haunted Romantic and Victorian-era societies, authors share their views on whether they embrace the innovation of progressive ideologies, oppose or critique them, or both.


Sara Senesac

Desmond F. McCarthy (Faculty Sponsor) 

Department of English, Framingham State University

Willa Cather's Childish Male Leads: The Immature Romances of Jim Burden and Neil Herbert

In my honors thesis, I will analyze two novels by Willa Cather, a modernist writer who primarily sets her stories in the Western Great Plains region and creates unconventional characters who lack the anticipated self-reliant qualities of the “frontier man.” The two novels are My Ántonia and A Lost Lady, with a focus on their lead male narrators: Jim Burden and Neil Hebert - both of whom lack the qualities of a stereotypical frontier male and are even further intimidated by their female counterparts. My research will focus on how Cather dismantles the typical historical ideologies of frontier life in regard to the masculinity of the “heroic male” figure of the West by both writing male narrators who struggle to form mature adult relationships and satisfactions, and female characters who appear more masculine in comparison. I will be entering into the critical conversation about this dynamic and formulating my own reading about this key characteristic of Cather’s novels.

Research into the author’s background will help determine what her purpose was in reversing traditional gender roles in her novels, and what her writing was able to evoke in its interrogation of these roles. It will also be important to focus on how the perception of these “anti-heroic” male characters evolved during the decades since the novels were published. The reception of these novels was likely very different in the early twentieth century than how they are received by contemporary readers. Additionally, I would like to determine how Cather’s own suppressed gender identity could have impacted her unraveling of traditional gender roles.


Leo R. Skoble

Jenna G. Sciuto (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Dowries for Damsels: How to Buy Women According to Classic Literature

From dowries or bride-prices to contests of skill, the theme of bargaining for a woman’s hand in marriage is present in literature from all over the world. This compromise for marriage often did not involve love, or the woman, at all. The primary examples I will draw from are Homer’s The Odyssey and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The Odyssey offers a classic example of a lady-in-waiting, but although this is one of the oldest examples, Penelope has much more agency than other women in more recent classics. Feminism and marriage can be closely linked as history enters the twentieth century, but what about before that? Women have existed prior, but in society, marriage was seen as one of the few things women were allowed to partake in. However, this is not exclusive to Western literature. The Igbo society showcased in Things Fall Apart also has many cultural traditions involving marriage, some of which are very comparable to its Western counterparts. So this begs the question, why do we view many global civilizations as "other" when so many parallels can be drawn between them? In this presentation, I will provide a cross-cultural analysis of marriage in Western vs. Non-Western literatures and how the view of marriages and their societies as a whole have been impacted by colonialism and post-colonial feminism.


Jonah Thomas Yeakley

Elizabeth Ann Sears

Vanessa Holford Diana (Faculty Sponsor)

Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity , Westfield State University

Native American Homeopathic Medicine as Combatant of Stereotypes

Western culture delegitimizes Native American homeopathic medicine by asserting that Western medicine is superior, claiming that Western medicine is the only valid option, and by belittling Native American people through harmful stereotyping. We seek to address the gap in the scholarship through the empowerment of Native American authors and how they accurately portray the use of these medicines in literature. We will speak truth to power, sharing the disparity between how Native Americans portray their own holistic medicines and how outside cultures perceive these important homeopathic practices. We read four different works of literature written by Native American authors and analyzed how each depicts medicinal practices. Additionally, we conducted research online through utilizing databases and credible websites. Our findings suggest that Native American homeopathic medicines have legitimate uses in modern day society; however, stereotypes have deemed Native Americans as being part of a “dead culture”. As a result of this harmful stereotyping, Native American medicine is seen as an irrelevant, defunct practice compared to Western medicine, which is viewed as powerful and sophisticated. This work is important because it is imperative that we as a society accurately portray Native Americans and the spiritual, cultural, and physical aspects of their medicine.





Marissa Ann Gallagher

John George Stoffolano (Faculty Sponsor)

Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst

Rescuing the Salivary Gland Hypertrophy Virus Effect on Female Housefly Mating Behavior Using Octopamine, Methoprene, and Ecdysteroids

MdSGHV negatively effects the development, survival, fertility, and fecundity of female house flies by completely shutting down their egg development and inhibiting their willingness to mate with healthy or infected males. My honors research thesis focuses on developing a cure to the reduction of mating behavior induced by MdSGHV. Since previous studies suggest that MdSGHV reduces mating behavior through the depletion of a growth hormone known as the juvenile hormone (JH), I will try to demonstrate the power of hormone collaboration through various experiments using octopamine (OA), a biogenic amine known to be a JH agonist, 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) which is responsible for development and reproduction, and (S)-methoprene, a JH analogue that best mimics JH in the mating behavior of houseflies. I will view the effects of OA and methoprene separately on MdSGHV infected female flies as well as the effects of a combination of the therapy treatments. For the full therapy treated female flies, I will inject a combination of the MdSGHV, 20E, and OA in the amount of 2.5 ul into the ventral thorax of healthy female house flies and topically apply 1 ul of a methoprene and acetone solution onto their ventral thorax on their first and third day of emergence. On their fifth day post-emerged, I will introduce healthy males of the same age and observe their mating behavior for 2.5 hours. If mating behavior is reduced due to MdSGHV depleting JH in the female house fly, I hope to demonstrate that using a variety of JH analogues can rescue an infected female house fly’s mating behavior.


Daniela Carolina Molina Palacios

John George Stoffolano (Faculty Sponsor)

Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst

The Effect of the Hypertrophy Virus (MdSGHV) on the Ultrastructure of the Salivary Glands of Musca domestica L.

The salivary glands of insects play a key role in the replication cycle and vectoring of viral pathogens. Consequently, Musca domestica L, and the Salivary Gland Hypertrophy Virus (MdSGHV) serve as a model to study insect vectoring of viruses. A better understanding of the structural aspects of this virus, and the tissues it invades, will help obtain a better picture of the pathological impact that the virus has on adult flies. As most insects use the salivary glands as a route to enter a new host, knowledge on the viral effect on the salivary glands is exceptionally significant and can provide insights for the development of strategies to control the transmission of vector-borne diseases, such as Zika virus, dengue fever, malaria, chikungunya virus, etc. Using scanning and transmission electron microscopic techniques (SEM, TEM), researchers have shown the effects of infection by MdSGHV on the salivary glands; however, the exact location among the glands where the infection was found is unclear (i.e., given that the salivary glands extend throughout the entire adult body). For this reason, this study intends to do a comprehensive examination of the ultrastructural effects of the hypertrophy virus on the salivary glands. Here, we report the clear hypertrophy present throughout the salivary glands in their entirety, as well as enveloped virus particles in the cytoplasm of infected cells. Moreover, there is a disruption of the cuticular lining that separates the epithelial cells from the lumen of the internal duct and the clearance of this lining makes it possible for the virus to enter the lumen.


Suzanna Jill Rachimi

John P. Burand (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Microbiology, UMass Amherst

How Does the Salivary Gland Hypertrophy Virus (MdSGHV) Affect Nutrient Uptake in Its Adult Host, Musca domestica L.?

Previous studies have shown that the Musca domestica salivary gland hypertrophy virus (MdSGHV) dramatically enlarges the salivary glands and prevents or delays ovarian development. The effect that this virus has on the fly’s natural feeding behaviors, however, remained elusive prior to this study. Using a sample population of 108 house flies, the effect of MdSGHV infection on feeding behaviors was determined over the course of a seven-day period following virus infection. Approximately half of the flies studied were injected with sterile phosphate buffered saline (PBS) rather than virus to be used as controls for comparison. All flies were provided with both an 8% sucrose solution and a 4% powdered milk solution to determine feeding preferences. Feeding behaviors should be representational of the flies’ nutritional needs both with and without viral infection. The flies infected with MdSGHV consumed significantly lower quantities of both protein and sucrose than flies injected with a sterile saline solution, suggesting that the virus has a hunger or starvation effect on its host. Why the virus elicits this effect in its host is currently under speculation.


Arianna Danielle Ramirez

John George Stoffolano (Faculty Sponsor)

Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst

Effects of the Salivary Gland Hypertrophy Virus on the Egg Development of Female Houseflies (Musca domestica L.)

Houseflies (Musca domestica L.) are common two-winged insects that occupy places such as houses and farms. Because of its proximity with humans and livestock, the housefly plays a chief role in spreading over 100 diseases due to their diet of deceased animals, food waste, and fecal matter. As the housefly is a known vector for these diseases, it is considered a pest species. A double-stranded virus specific to the housefly, the Musca domestica salivary gland hypertrophy virus (MdSGHV), occurs in natural housefly populations worldwide and has been considered a possible biological-control agent for the species. While the physiological pathway of MdSGHV is not directly understood, the two pathological symptoms of the virus are known. These symptoms include: (i) the infection of the salivary glands, which results in swollen gland tissue in both males and females, and (ii) the infection of the ovaries, which results in severely underdeveloped eggs in females. For an infected housefly to develop the latter symptom (compromised egg development), we hypothesize that MdSGHV disrupts the pathways of hormones (juvenile hormone, ecdysteroid and dopamine) during the housefly’s development. To check the validity of this hypothesis and attempt to reverse the effects of MdSGHV in infected females, we will treat them with the three hormones to simulate the typical concentrations found in uninfected flies. To observe whether egg development in infected houseflies is rescued, we will check for a significant difference between the length of ovarian follicles in both infected and hormone-treated infected houseflies.


Sara Ann Serdy

John George Stoffolano (Faculty Sponsor)

Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst

Failure of Vitellogenin in the Ovaries of Musca domestica Salivary Gland Hypertrophy Infected Musca domestica to Show Its Presence in the Follicles

Musca domestica salivary gland hypertrophy virus, MdSGHV, is a double-stranded DNA virus. Musca domestica, or the common house fly are vectors of disease and generally considered a pest. In female house flies, this virus presents with enlarged salivary glands and diminished ovarian development. Vitellogenin, or the egg-yolk precursor protein, leads to the development of vitellin, or egg-yolk protein. These proteins contribute to the development of ovarian follicles and in prior studies have been found to be down regulated in the hemolymph when virally infected. Prior studies have drawn these conclusions using only crude virus innoculum. This study, using unpublished data from the Stoffolano Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is attempting to demonstrate the effects on the biochemical vitellogenin/vitellin pathway when the concentration of the virus is more dilute, similar to concentrations found in nature. This study investigate whether a down regulation of vitellogenin in the hemolymph when virally infected is responsible for the diminished growth of ovaries, or if there is some ultrastructural blockage in the ovarian follicles regulated by hormones that is responsible for blocking the uptake of vitellogenin and other growth factors. This was studied using Western blotting to observe the amount of vitellogenin in the hemolymph and ovarian follicles, as well as imaging methods and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to observe the ultrastructure of the ovarian follicles.





Emmanuel Amoah

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Overpopulation and Its Impacts on the Environment

The rapid increase in the human population is a critical issues that can result in resource depletion and climate change. Overpopulation can limit resources available for individuals to survive. This study focuses on assessing trends in population and their environmental impacts. The population needs food, fiber, and energy, and their increasing demand places a major stress on the earth system. Climate change resulting from emissions and loss of natural vegetation through deforestation through suburban sprawl and farming. Increasing emissions from factories, transportation, homes, and military bases, and solid waste disposal is becoming increasingly cumbersome and toxic. With the creation and disposal of plastics and biohazards, resources are becoming increasingly limited. The spread of disease potential is also increasing with increased population densities. The population could have a positive impact on the labor market, with increased human capital, new technologies, innovative ideas in many fields of study, including solutions to environmental concerns. There is a need to fund new research and development of technologies to mitigate the environmental impacts, thereby enhancing the potential of the complex society. Potential solutions include changes in policy to provide incentives and benefits for conservation and education for enhancing the potential of each individual in a society. Several methods of research will be used including circulated surveys amongst students, coworkers, and peers to obtain an opinion about population pressure.


Conrado C. Araujo

Peggi L. Clouston (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Sustainable Building Materials: Evaluating Northeastern Hardwoods for Use in Cross- Laminated Timber Panels

Cross -Laminated Timber (CLT) is a revolutionary new technology that utilizes dimensional lumber to create large-scale monolithic panel structures. A disruptive technology in the field of construction, CLT competes with steel and concrete in the market of large-scale building materials with a significantly reduced carbon cost. The lumber typically used in commercial mass-timber is high quality softwoods; however, the composite nature of CLT lends itself to also using small diameter and underutilized wood species, which would have forest health and rural economic advantages. As such, this study is on the feasibility of producing CLT with small diameter and underutilized hardwood species from the northeastern United States: American beech (Fagus Grandifolia), yellow birch (Betula Alleghaniensis), and black birch (Betula Lenta). Twenty-three panels were fabricated in a hydraulic CLT press in the Wood Mechanics Laboratory at UMass Amherst and tested in an electro-mechanical testing system for bending and shear strength analysis. The results yielded an average panel bending stiffness of 352109 N∙mm2/m and shear stiffness of 33.5106 N/m; the shear capacity of the hardwood panels were approximately three times that of traditional softwood CLT panels. Our findings demonstrate that these wood species can be safely used as lamstock in CLT building components.


Michaela Brianne Bouchard

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

EPA Rollbacks

Recent rollbacks on the Clean Water Act by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) means the chemical, biological, and physical quality of water sources throughout the country may suffer. This includes wetlands, rivers, oceans and even drinking water supplies. These rollbacks will decrease the regulations on the pollution businesses can dispose of in certain water sources. Since the act was first set in place in the year 1972 water quality has greatly improved allowing the rebound of many ecosystems, especially wetlands. Even though the act has had such high success the EPA has decided to decrease their regulations in this area. What could the consequences be and what does this mean for the public’s drinking water? Why would the EPA decrease these restrictions and regulations despite the detrimental consequences scientists are warning the organization about? Many speculate that these rollbacks will have promising benefits for the country’s economy, but is it ethical for the EPA to put the economy before the environment and water supplies they were set in place to protect? These are questions many people are asking and should have answers to.


Oliwia Bragiel

Timothy Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

STEM Starter Academy, Springfield Technical Community College

Contamination from Personal-Care Products

Personal care products (PCP) are becoming increasingly more popular and increasingly more toxic. Products cosmetics have been linked to acne, dermatitis/skin problems, endocrine issues, sensitizing allergens, asthma, and even cancer. Many PCPs have a negative impact on our environment. The toxicity in cosmetics affects everyone with an unregulated industry. Worldwide cosmetics are a $445 billion-dollar industry that remains largely unregulated by the FDA. In the US, alone, makeup accounts for $56.4 billion dollars. The purpose of this research is to answer: (i) what dangerous products lurk in Personal Care Products; (ii) how they affect the human body and the safety of our planet; and (iii) what strategies can be used to eliminate dangerous ingredients. This study uses MassGIS Oliver to assess roughly how many people use different cosmetics in Massachusetts. CosDNA and related articles are used to review problematic ingredients in cosmetics. The toxic ingredients are common in personal care products. And there are many more products that are not listed that have questionable effects on human health. The best way to avoid these ingredients is to check for them on the ingredients label. Still it is difficult to recognize all chemicals (both naturally occurring and synthetic) that are dangerous in one of the many ways. Clearly personal care products are widely used in the state. Many use these products every day and many are unaware of toxicity of ingredients in soap, toothpaste, sunscreen, makeup, nail polish, body wash, and deodorants. Personal care products affect the environment, the human body, and the economy. Change is going to be difficult and slow, but awareness and change in businesses towards healthy and sustainable products is needed.


Thomas G. Coughlin

Anita Milman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Ascertaining Institutional Structures and Coordination Mechanisms for Groundwater Banking

This thesis explores methods of groundwater banking practiced across the United States. There is growing interest in groundwater banking in the United States, Australia, and other nations worldwide. However, there is debate about how to structure and run a groundwater bank. This thesis explores and helps fill this knowledge gap by developing an inventory of groundwater banking projects in the United States, analyzing the institutional structures and accounting mechanisms for groundwater banking, and developing a typology and list of under what circumstances what structures would be more applicable. Groundwater banking can take many forms and there are different opinions about how to structure a bank, yet there is currently little academic research comparing groundwater banks. Groundwater banks can be compared, and what works with one bank can be applied to another bank in another area. Because they use natural features that are different everywhere, no two groundwater banks are exactly the same, but some are similar. Water variability is a global problem. Many areas of the world, including Australia and South Africa, have a pressing need to deal with water variability. Water supply depletion is a fairly well known issue, but groundwater banking is currently not common around the world. The scope of this project is groundwater banks in the United States, and this research is useful to planners all over the world looking to set up banks in analogous conditions.


Tess Marie Cullaz

Lena Fletcher (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Hiker Awareness of Trail Markers and Erosion Events, and the Impact of Trail Conditions on Hiker Perceptions in Torres del Paine National Park

This research investigated hiker’s awareness of trail markers and erosion events, as well as the impacts of trail conditions on hikers’ experience and perception. In-person surveys and behavioral observations were conducted at Torres del Paine National Park in the Magellan region of Southern Chile. Findings indicate that hikers are aware of both trail markers and erosion events, but these factors did not significantly impact their satisfaction or hiking experience. Hiker’s previous level of hiking experience was a significant factor in the degree to which they thought erosion was a problem in Torres del Paine and on the trail from Paine Grande to Refugio Grey. Overall satisfaction was not significantly affected by presence of erosion events. These findings indicate that the increased use and current trail degradation in Torres del Paine has not impacted visitor’s satisfaction with their experience in the park. Therefore, if this park has an intention of promoting conservation, then their motivation will have to come from internal trail management efforts rather than due to any impact on ecotourism.


Rose Determan

Jeffrey D. White (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Framingham State University

Long-Term Dynamics of Total Phosphorus and Chlorophyll-a in the Charles River, Massachusetts

I examined total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a concentrations in the Charles River over the past twenty-three years (1996-2019) using data collected by Charles River Watershed Association volunteers on a quarterly basis. Both phosphorus and chlorophyll-a are used as indicators of eutrophication, a water quality problem which can impair aquatic organisms and human use of the river. The Charles River is considered eutrophic when chlorophyll-a concentrations exceed 10 μg/L. Available reports on the Charles River do not synthesize all the available data, and have largely focused on short term reductions in nutrient concentrations as a way to limit phytoplankton growth. I found statistically significant changes in both total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a concentrations over the 23-year period of observation. The linear model for total phosphorus indicates an overall decline of 0.03±0.005 mg/L (99.5% CI) and the linear model of chlorophyll-a indicates an overall decline of 5±4 μg/L (99.5% CI). Additionally, I identified predictors for these changes including daily precipitation, daily average air temperature, and discharge. The observed declines in phosphorus and chlorophyll-a are a step in the right direction and indicate the effectiveness of policy measures, although more can be done. The models will also aid the Charles River Watershed Association, a non-profit advocacy organization, in promoting sustainable watershed management practices.


Ellen Olivia Dufraine

Deepika Marya (Faculty Sponsor)

Honors College, UMass Amherst

The Global Cost of the Fast Fashion Industry

With the rise in globalism and a world market, many industries including the garment industry have been outsourced from the Western World, where these products are mainly consumed. I would like to analyze the rise of “fast fashion”, known widely for its quick production and short trend cycle, and criticize it through the lens of Karl Marx and David Harvey. Specifically, I will be looking at individual fast fashion companies and their specific impacts. For example, the impacts of this industry on the local and global environment in regard to air and water quality as well as Climate Change. Additionally, I will look at some of the myriad of social issues surrounding this particular method of manufacturing, especially the alienation of workers from the final products and wealth associated with the corporations they work for. Finally, I will discuss consumer behaviors and how many companies encourage the widespread and sustained consumption of goods, even under the guise of being socially or environmentally responsible.


Sarah Cecilia Endyke

Allison Roy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Evaluating Effects of Diets on Freshwater Mussel Propagation Success

Freshwater mussels are particularly susceptible to extinction, comprising almost 50% of the most vulnerable freshwater species. Propagation and reintroduction of mussels is a potentially valuable approach to restore populations at risk. Propagating mussels in a laboratory involves evaluating factors that are essential to achieving success and optimal growing conditions, such as diet and habitat. Diets used for mussel propagation can affect growth and survival, and thus potential successful restoration. Using Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) as a study species, we compared mussel growth between wild water (from a pond at the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery) and commercial algae feed used in a laboratory setting. Five treatments were created with different dilutions of pond water: 1) 100% pond water (control), 2) 50% pond water & 50% reverse osmosis (RO) water, 3) 25% pond water & 75% RO water, 4) 10% pond water & 90% RO water, and 5) 10% pond water, 90% RO water with an attached feeding system with commercial algae. Each treatment had three replicates and the experiment was conducted for four weeks in August 2019. Temperature was controlled using water heaters and tracked with continuous temperature loggers, which showed no significant temperature difference across all treatments for the duration of the experiment. Mussel growth was highest in the treatments with high concentrations of pond water and gradually declined with reduced concentration of pond water, suggesting that mussels are food-limited with only the commercial algae feeding system. Our data will be used to inform ideal rearing dietary regimens for laboratory mussel propagation.


Kara Falvey

William Hubbard (Faculty Sponsor)

Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Impact of Light on the Activity Levels of Astrangia poculata

Corals are an important species in the marine environment as they provide homes to a variety of marine life, provide a source of food, and protect coastlines from erosion. Corals are often used as indicator species, as they react to changes in their environment. Many coral reefs have suffered from bleaching, or the expellant of the algae which live within their tissues as a result of the ocean responding to anthropogenic influence. One species of coral that is of particular interest is the stony, non-reef building coral, Astrangia poculata. It is found in the shallow waters in the western Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean all the way up to the cold waters of Massachusetts. A. poculata show resiliency not only in their capability to thrive in a variety of temperature, but also their ability to survive without symbiotic algae. Therefore, they are an excellent species to research in order to understand their ability to adapt in a variety of environmental conditions. In our study, we examine the ecology and morphology of this species. In addition, we are observing the activity levels of A. poculata under a variety of lighting conditions. Thus, increasing our knowledge base of this species which will help inform further studies.


Maxwell P. Faytell

Ileana Vasu (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Holyoke Community College

Nature and Numbers

Science developed out of the necessity of understanding the world and producing results for the common good. Science engineers machines that assist in producing uniform scientific information for the purposes of societal advancement. Science can be credited with the emergence of human facilities and means, and with the mass production of equipment which inevitably enabled more scientific accomplishment and understanding. But along with these successes, came issues that are now deeply concerning the world at large. Our wasteful habits and the single-use mentality and condition of U.S. landfills were deemed acceptable for many years, but now are a big problem. Humans, in the name of science or progress, have disturbed a natural equilibrium on our planet and potentially caused a global climate crisis. In this project, I propose that mathematics and nature be studied side by side to begin to understand what crises are the largest threats to environmental sustainability, through science, and to examine possible solutions that would help begin to eliminate this crisis. According to the U.S. National Institutes for Health, the fiscal year of 2008 attributed some 53,000 grant awards totaled 0.17% were focused on climate related research. By examining this issue, I hope to gain knowledge and problem-solve around our current environmental issues, and pioneer a cultural awareness both of the problem and the possible steps we may do take rectify it. On a personal level, I feel a civic duty to use my knowledge to help everyone human save the future generations.


Chelsea Lyn Garrity

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Ditching Debris and Cleaning the Seas

The United Nations estimates that about 8 million metric tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year. That is equal to a garbage truck full dumping every minute. The rubbish is choking marine animals, polluting waters, and suffocating important marine habitats such as coral reefs that are responsible for generating half of the Earth’s oxygen. Advancements in marine clean up technologies are in action to attack some of the drifting debris in the ocean, but are they sustainable? For example, The Ocean Clean Up Project costs $6 million dollars per machine and is not made from recycled materials. The machine has proved to be insufficient at collecting waste and has actually contributed to the waste, breaking apart during storms. We should not be creating waste to collect waste. The purpose of this study is to investigate the advancements in environmental technologies not only used to clean up oceanic debris but to also prevent further pollution. The research will touch upon where majority of the waste is coming from, how to clean up the aftermath, and how to prevent further destruction. As part of the project a prototype will be designed from 100% repurposed and recycled materials. The mechanism will be tested for overall strength and efficiency at catching oceanic debris on a small scale.


Levente Fabian Haber

Craig Nicolson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Science, UMass Amherst

iCons: Overcoming the Barriers to Reusable "To-Go" Containers at UMass Amherst

With 13,500 undergrad students living on campus, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has one of the largest university residential dining programs in the country. At one of the university's four main residential dining locations, Berkshire Dining Commons, the university spends upward of $55,000 per year on compostable to-go containers for its Grab n' Go outlet. Only ~10% of these renewable plant-fiber-based containers, however, actually end up being composted. In this study, we examine the environmental impacts and cost-savings opportunities from implementing reusable and washable to-go containers instead, and design a pilot program to test its feasibility. The factors examined to determine whether this program would be appropriate for the University as a whole were economic feasibility, environmental impacts, student convenience and engagement, as well as possible infrastructure changes needed. We collected data for the study through a 2,000-person survey administered at Berkshire Dining Commons, as well during two pilot project phases with test groups of 30 students each. The pre-pilot survey suggested that student engagement in the system would likely be successful at a larger scale, and based on these data, we conducted a feasibility analysis to explore the economic and environmentally trade-offs involved in expanding the University's commitment to this new system. Our poster discusses potential areas of survey bias in student engagement and perception, and presents some preliminary results from the first phase pilot study.


Alex James House

Robert S. Rak (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Engineering, Bristol Community College

Monitoring the Rebirth of a River

The Quequechan River, located in Fall River, MA, stretches 2.7 miles across the city beginning at South Watuppa Pond and, after dropping over 8 small waterfalls, it flows into the Taunton River. Its name in Wampanoag means "falling waters", from which the city derived its name. Historically, it powered and cooled the machinery of the mills that made fall river the great textile city in the world at one time, but also suffered due to pollution from those mills as well as sewage from combined sewer overflows. As a result of regulations, The Combined Sewer Overflow Project , and the new Alfred J. Lima Quequechan River Rail Trail along its length, the rivers recreational use is increasing. Monitoring of the rivers water quality is becoming increasingly more important and only sporadic testing has been preformed in the past. The monitoring objective of this project is to study several parameters of interest, as well as to support another project studying the zooplankton and cyanobacteria in the river. These parameters include pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, conductivity, salinity and total dissolved solids which will be tested with monitoring equipment in the field, and nitrates, phosphates, color, coliform bacteria, including Escherichia coli, and chlorophyll which will be analyzed at the colleges Blue Center for Water Technologies lab. Our data will be used as a guide for the efforts to revitalize this river, and help write a new chapter for a river that has meant so much to the cities history.


Vishvesh Kaul

Charlie Schweik (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

iCons: The Potential of Ice as a Cooling Agent in Air Conditioners

Ever since the creation of the modern air conditioner in 1902, the basic concepts of the design have not changed. Cold air is created using chemicals, today the compound used is hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), while hot air is displaced into the atmosphere. When temperatures rise and the demand for cooling increases, it amplifies the temperature increase outside, thus speeding up climate change. Additionally, HFC’s can be up to 5,000x more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. With growing populations, increased demand for cooling, and the pressure of climate change on humanity, alternatives to HFCs are a must. The purpose of my study was to compare the efficiency of HFCs and ice as cooling agents. To do this, I cooled the same 200 square foot room, once with a modern air conditioner and once with an air conditioner that consisted of an electric motor fan blowing air through a dryer vent hood filled with ice. Each room was initially set to 70°F and after several trials, the cooling power of the ice powered air conditioner was similar to that of the HFC’s powered air conditioner. With such a minimal temperature difference between the two methods, and the ice powering air conditioner using eighth times less electricity, ice has the potential to help meet society’s cooling demands.


Waverly L. Lau

Brian Yellen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

iCons: Tidal Marshes; What It Takes to Protect Our Coasts

Tidal marshes are natural environments that provide valuable ecosystem services such as coastal protection and habitats for wildlife. However, they face threats to their survival because of sea level rise and human made development. Tidal marshes are in places we wouldn’t even think of such as Boston, New York City, and other major cities along the coast. With almost 40% of people in the U.S. living along the coastline, these landscapes are closer to home than we believe and yet most of us know nothing of them. This film bridges this gap of knowledge and advocates for the protection of tidal marshes, highlighting the research conducted in the Sedimentology and Coastal Processes Research Group at UMass Amherst. Film is a medium that is meant to connect with us and transport us. This makes it an effective tool for scientific communication. Through this film, I bring awareness to tidal marshes and attempt to get audiences thinking about the landscapes around them. Tidal marshes aren’t just wildlife habitats or green areas by the coast. They are our protectors from the harsh seas and in this film we explore how we must protect them back.


Kentaya Lowe

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Economic and Environmental Impacts of Wildfires

Wildfires are becoming common throughout the world. Recently, Australia has been affected by wildfire with major devastation of property and loss of life and ecosystems. This study aims to review the environmental impacts of wildfires through literature review and case studies. Wildfires are caused by various factors, these include lighting, excessive dry fuel available, droughts, and sometimes by human causes like arson. Climate change can also result in ample fuel for the fires to grow and spread. The effects of these wildfires have devastating consequences on environmental processes. Wildfires result in extensive property damage, kill wildlife, reduce air quality, increase the emission of carbon dioxide, black carbon, and brown carbon, including ozone precursors into the atmosphere. Poor air quality affects the health of those living. There is a need for understanding the process of wildfire and its impacts on mitigating damages from future wildfires. Fire management should be strictly followed in high-risk areas. The effects of wildfires have increased rapidly in recent years due to climate change, poor land management practices, and residential development in fire hazard areas. There is a need to educate communities, land managers, and policymakers on preventing wildland fires disasters.


Trevor Mackowiak

Justin B. Richardson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

Identifying Geologic and Anthropogenic Trace Metal Sources to the Critical Zone along an Urban-Rural Transect in Southern California

Human activities have altered the chemical and physical nature of soils, not just through direct land-use changes, but also through long-range transport of pollutants. The combustion of fuels and manufacturing can release trace metals, however distinguishing added trace metals from native elements can be difficult. We studied variations of the residual soils in the foothills of Southern California, focusing on the effect of petrology and distance from urban epicenters on heavy metal concentrations in soil. We collected soil, rock, and plant samples from over 50 sample sites along the extended peninsular Mountain ranges of Southern California. They were analyzed for plant available elements and physicochemical properties pH, % organic matter, and soil texture. Analysis of the samples showed that residual soil samples derived from sedimentary marine rocks showed the greatest accumulation of Pb (2 ± 2.6ppm) along with a trend of higher concentrations of Pb in the upper 0-5cm (1.8± 2.3ppm) that steadily decreased towards the greatest depth 15- 20cm (0.6± 0.6ppm). Cu, Zn, and Cd also were elevated in the upper 0-5cm and gradually declined as depth increased. These findings signify that a portion of heavy metals in Southern California soils are added into the upper horizons, rather than weathered from the underlying bedrock.


Lindsay L. Malachowski

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Mechanical Biological Treatment of Waste and Waste to Energy

The average life of a land fill is 20-30 years of waste acceptance, but the toxins, leachate, and green house gasses continue to haunt the environment and posterity for generations. In Massachusetts Waste to Energy is a step that is currently taken towards a “zero landfill” society, but the power density of fuel, energy consumption and process losses make it impractical for outside of industrial applications. The energy implications of Mechanical Biological treatment’s anaerobic process could provide alternative domestic sources of refuse derived fuel through the pelletization of solid recovered fuel mined from existing landfills without competing with established WTE plants. WTE plants utilize new or freshly transferred Municipal Solid Waste and do minimal to recover recyclables from existing stores. Pellet stoves and generators could be a semi-rentable solution to mitigating greenhouse gasses and rising gas prices.


Yasmen Maytham

Robert Thompson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Science, Westfield State University

Which North American States Are Affected by the Strongest and the Highest Number of North Atlantic Hurricanes?

Living in coastal regions of North America can be somewhat stressful due to the North Atlantic hurricanes. My research will be investigating which states get hit by the strongest and the most number of North Atlantic hurricanes with categories 3 to 5. Data from USGS and NOAA was downloaded and ERSI’s ArcMap was used to analyze the data. Three locations were examined, the Gulf States, Southeastern States, and selected areas were hurricanes either did not make landfall or made landfall in other locations. The data showed that the Gulf States acquire stronger hurricanes than the Southeastern States. This study could be used by insurance companies, homeowners, and home buyers. Insurance companies could use this study to determine the appropriate rate they should charge their clients. Homeowners could use this information to determine if they should be concerned about hurricanes and this study could help home buyers asses the prudence of purchasing a house within the study area.


Yasmen Maytham

Michael Vorwerk (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Science, Westfield State University

An Analysis of Climate Change Effects on Seasonal Groundwater Variation and Transpiration in Deciduous and Coniferous Forests

As the effects of climate change get more visible, more severe weather and stronger weather events are predicted to take place. Higher temperatures cause more evaporation, severer droughts, stronger hurricanes, and more moisture in the atmosphere. Large amounts of moisture in the atmosphere produce heavier rainfall and more snow, which causes more amounts of storm surge and severe flooding. Knowing if climate change affects the groundwater levels can help us understand what will happen to forests in the future. But climate impacts on groundwater are little studied. In this study, I investigated whether or not groundwater levels are correlated with Deciduous and Coniferous forests' transpiration and if climate change affects are visible in groundwater levels. Using USGS and MassGIS data, I made an ArcGis map to determine which water wells to download data from for the Deciduous and Coniferous forests. The downloaded data were refined and analyzed by looking at the raw and difference data between each month for each type of forest. The data showed that the groundwater levels are correlated with Deciduous and Coniferous forests transpiration, but I was not able to determine if climate change effects were visible in groundwater levels, because the data I used in this study were not collected consistently.


John P. McIntyre

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Public Land Use in the United States

In the years from 2008 to 2018, visitation to or nation’s National Parks increased an average of 1.38% every year. In 2018, National Parks received 318,211,833 visitors, a 13.63% increase since 2008. Over that same time span the United States population has grown an average of 0.73% per year, with a 7.05% increase from 2008 to 2018. Visitation to our public lands is increasing, and its increasing at a rate disproportionate to our rising population. The National Park Service represents only one agency administering publicly owned land in the U.S., but other agencies are struggling to keep up with the increased number of visitors every year. This report will distinguish between the different government land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, and how the regulations and land use policies differ, including state and local agencies. It will also look at how the rapid increase in visitation has affected the land and ecosystems, as well as the effect on the visitor experience. I will also explore possible changes to land management plans and policies in order to solve the potential problem of overuse.


Peter Walker Murphy

George LoCascio (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Long-Term Effects of Frequent Controlled Burns on Tree Mortality in New England Pine-Oak Woodlands

New England coastal plain (NECP) Pitch Pine (P. rigida) – Oak (Quercus spp.) woodlands are fire adapted ecosystems frequently impacted by fire. Without the regular presence of disturbance (e.g. fire) these ecosystems may shift from a Pine-Oak mixture to a shade tolerant oak dominated forest. Within Cape Cod National Seashore monitoring plots were established to assess the impacts of both the frequency and seasonality of burning. Twenty-four 0.16ha plots were established in 1985 and first burned in 1986. Five additional plots were established as controls. After 1986, treatment plots were burned either in the dormant (March/April) or growing season (late July/early August) at 1-, 2-, 3-, or 4-year intervals. Each of the eight treatments were replicated three times. We compared the effects of each treatment on the rate of stem mortality (%/year) for the three dominant species [Pitch Pine, White Oak (Q. alba), and Black Oak (Q. velutina)] between 1986 and 2019. For all burn treatments and species combined, average stem mortality increased from 1.6%/yr (controls) to 1.9%/yr (treated) (18.9%). As burn frequency increased, mortality rates for Oak and Pine increased. From 4-yr burn intervals to 1-yr intervals White Oak mortality increased from 1.8%/yr to 2.1%/yr, Pitch pine mortality increased from 0.7% to 0.9%/yr. Our results suggest that frequent burning increases the dominance of Pitch Pine in Coastal Pine-Oak woodlands. Such frequent burning might be considered to keep wild fire hazard low, and as a way to convert woodlands to heathland and grasslands.


Madeline Anne Patrick

Bethany Bradley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

The Distribution of Invasive Species by the US Plant Trade Industry

Invasive plant species are a growing threat to native biodiversity in the United States as they outcompete native species and alter ecosystem function. The nursery industry is the primary pathway of invasive plants into the US; while regulations intend to prevent the distribution of invasive species, we do not know how effective these regulations are, or which species are available in the plant trade industry. Therefore, we developed a list of invasive plant species in the United States and identified which are being sold and where they are distributed. We used two methods to search for sales of the species: 1) a Google search for each species using its scientific name and common names, with the phrases, “for sale,” “plant for sale,” and “seeds for sale,” and 2) a search using the scientific name in Plant Information Online (PIO), a database of nearly 3,000 nursery catalogs. Of the 1,423 plant species invasive in the United States, 857 species (~60.2%) were found for sale by a total of 1,388 different vendors. These vendors were located in all lower 48 states. Additionally, 20 federally regulated noxious weeds, whose distribution is prohibited throughout the entire US, were found available for purchase despite their severe negative impacts. Our research highlights that a large percentage of known invasive plants are still available for sale by US nurseries. This suggests that current regulations are inadequate for preventing the continued spread of invasive plants via the plant trade industry.


Abbi Rameau

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Microplastics and the Environment

Microplastics are a pollutant of dire concern. According to reports over the Summer of 2019, microplastics have been found in rainwater. Images show microplastics varying in size, shape, and color, but the most alarming aspect is their size. Many pieces were recorded to be at or under 25 microns thick. For comparison, a red blood cell is around 5 microns thick, and a human hair is around 75 microns. Their size makes it possible for them to get stuck in lung tissue. As microplastics become present in our food, air, and water, human health risks increase. These health risks include chemical, microbiological, and particulate hazards. These hazards include localized chemical leaching, particle toxicity, and inflammation, as well as many other health concerns. The human immune system may also not be able to remove the synthetic particles, which adds the risk of accumulation. Although there are many dangers of exposure to microplastics, there is not much knowledge, as it is a relatively new threat. This project will be an exploration of the potential adverse health effects of microplastics, as well as the many variables that play a part in exposure.


Molly B. Sheehan

Alina Inchaustegui

Mary Kathryn Rapien (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Bristol Community College

Using Zooplankton and Cyanobacteria as Alternative Detection Methods for Water Quality in the Quequechan River, Fall River, Massachusetts

Plankton are important indicators of water quality because they serve as an essential component of aquatic food webs and ecosystem functioning. This study is an attempt to quantify the relationship between water quality parameters and the presence of zooplankton and cyanobacteria in the Quequechan River, Fall River MA. This ongoing project will highlight comparisons between biotic factors such as populations of copepods and cladocerans, and abiotic factors such as nutrient levels, pH, dissolved oxygen and total dissolved solids in the waterways. The collection of biotic data through plankton classification and quantification will be done by a team under Dr. Mary Rapien’s advisory. A taxa list for the identification of pertinent organisms in the river will also be produced. Abiotic data will be collected by another research group from Bristol Community College. Cyanobacteria will also be quantified since it is well known that cyanobacteria are highly indicative of issues in the water supply such as the potential for eutrophication and possible negative anthropogenic effects. Small scale variations within the water supply can quickly affect populations of plankton and may be useful in predicting issues like an algal bloom before it has begun. The early stages of this project will consist of collecting baseline data for establishing alternative detection methods for water quality in the Quequechan River.


Christopher John Singer

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Zooming in on Microplastics

Microplastics are particles of plastic that are smaller than 5 mm. It is estimated that up to 75% of the microplastics found in aquatic ecosystems are from the breakdown of larger particles, especially from cosmetics, plastic waste, products, and clothing. This study aims to study the impact of microplastics on the environment. While plastics have many uses, which when released into the environment can have an adverse impact on our environment, by entering food chains and resulting ecosystems. An additional concern is the ability of microplastics to absorb and transport toxic inorganic and organic pollutants imposing more harm in far off places. Plastic takes a very long time to break down and disintegrate into microplastics. This study will identify better manufacturing of plastics, recyclability, biodegradable, and reusable innovations. Methods include, review the background of the impact of plastic pollution in the oceans, provide an overview of microplastics, compile studies of the impact of microplastics, and identify ways to mitigate microplastic pollution using literature review, expert interviews, and development of sustainable solutions.


Meghan-Grace Patricia Slocombe

Allison Roy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Temporal Shifts in Migratory River Herring Diets and Zooplankton Assemblages within Connecticut River Coves

Juvenile river herring (alewife Alosa pseudoharengus and blueback herring A. aestivalis) feed on zooplankton during their residence in freshwater before migrating to the ocean. While in freshwater systems, developing juvenile river herring put predatory pressures on zooplankton communities. As a limited resource, zooplankton availability may influence juvenile river herring growth, health, and timing of emigration to the ocean. Seasonal shifts in food resources (zooplankton) and river herring diets are not fully understood. We compared juvenile river herring diets and zooplankton communities from three coves along the southern portion of the Connecticut River: Wethersfield Cove, Chapman Pond and Hamburg Cove. Twenty juvenile river herring and three zooplankton samples were taken once per month in July-September 2019 for each site. A decline in the abundance of large zooplankton species (i.e., Cladocera and Cyclopoida) coincided with a peak in juvenile river herring populations. Preliminary analyses of the guts of juvenile river herring show a high consumption of large zooplankton and Cypridopsis sp. (a crustacean) throughout all three months. Juvenile river herring were thought to be open- water feeders; however, Cypridopsis sp. reside on vegetation. Thus, the consumption of Cypridopsis sp. by river herring could be evidence of previously unknown predation strategies. We predict the monthly variations in prey selectivity will be reflected in corresponding growth indices. Understanding the complex relationships between zooplankton communities and the timing of juvenile river herring emigration is important for guiding monitoring and management of river herring populations.


Linny Son

Reena J. Randhir (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College

Sustainable Materials for Residential Buildings

Sustainable building aims at efficient houses with least impact on the environment and reduced energy use. Eco-friendly construction materials are used to reduce the effect on the environment. This study aims at studying such materials for sustainable building of residential houses. Recycled materials have less harm to the environment compared to new ones. For example, for building homes, instead of hardwood from trees recycling waste wood or particles can be sustainable. Another option is to use restored components from demolished houses. Another eco-friendly option is to use materials that will reduce energy wastage. Sustainable, green building usually insulates homes from both heat and cold, cuts down on energy consumption, uses less fossil fuels that cause climate change. Eco-friendly home construction materials include recycled steel, bamboo, precast concrete, reclaimed or recycled wood, and plant-based polyurethane rigid foam. We develop a concept for sustainable home building that is suitable for Springfield City. Eco-friendly home construction materials minimize the environmental impact and can insulate homes better, also promoting energy efficiency and reducing reliance on unsustainable resources like oil and natural gas. More adoption of these sustainable buildings materials will make many homes have minimal impacts on the environment and ready for a green future.


Sam Bryan Spelman

Allison Roy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Heavy Metal Bioaccumulation in Dam Impoundments: Implications for Food Webs

Small dams can alter flow and thermal regimes, natural sedimentation patterns, and movement of biota. These factors likely influence the accumulation of heavy metals across trophic levels; however, direct studies of small dam impacts on metal bioaccumulation in food webs are limited. This study aims to quantify the concentrations of heavy metals accumulated in food webs in upstream, downstream, and impounded reaches of three dammed river systems in Massachusetts. At each reach, sediment samples were collected using flow-through traps, and fishes were collected in the summer of 2019 through backpack and boat electrofishing. Macroinvertebrates will be collected in the summer of 2020 using dip nets to sample organisms in different functional feeding groups. Concentrations of toxic heavy metals present in sediment, fish, and macroinvertebrate samples will be determined via mass spectroscopy, allowing comparisons of toxic loads to be made between reaches. Fish gut contents will also be analyzed to link fish diet preferences for macroinvertebrates with fish toxicity loads. This study will provide insight as to how dams alter heavy metal bioaccumulation and will contribute to a growing wealth of knowledge surrounding the ecological impacts small dams have on lotic systems.


Zachary Raymond Stillman

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Cause and Effect of PTSD on Veterans

Many veterans returning from military service suffer and cope with the symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder. Studies suggest that about fifteen percent of military veterans that came back from the Vietnam War had post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a mental health condition obtained by either witnessing or experiencing a frightening or life- threatening experience such as combat, training, and stressful situations. Symptoms of PTSD could include flashbacks, negative thoughts, intense distress, or irritability. PTSD has caused some of these prior military veterans to turn to drugs or alcohol resulting in loss of jobs, which then causes some to become homeless. Treatment for these veterans can be done through medication, psychotherapy or even a drug that helps erase the traumatic event that the veteran experienced. These veterans have served our country and sacrificed their lives, and they deserve the utter most respect and support. The purpose of this project will provide examples of the causes and effects PTSD has on prior service members along with the treatments that can help both their behavioral and mental health once they return home.


Xiaoyan Tan

Matthew D. Moore (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Food Science, UMass Amherst

Analysis of Plastic Microparticles in Environmental and Food Samples Using Filtration- Assisted Raman Microscopy

As plastic waste spends decades accumulating in the environment, concerns on the risk of micro-scale plastic particles that are produced directly or broken down from the bulk materials to the environment and food supply are on the rise. However, plastic microparticles are difficult to be captured and measured due to their small sizes and low concentrations in the environment. The goal of this research is to develop a rapid and simple method for concentrating and analyzing plastic microparticles. By means of Raman spectroscopy that measures molecular vibrations to provide a spectral “fingerprint” for identification and the microscope that can facilitate the measurement of the target analyte distribution in a certain area, in this case, plastic microparticles on a filter membrane, the filtration-assisted Raman microscopic method is developed. Two type of plastic microparticles, polystyrene and polyethylene were purchased and analyzed. Different concentrations (101 to 105 particles) of particles were prepared in 1 mL of water, sea salt and sports drink solution, respectively and filtered through a 13 mm Polyvinylidene fluoride filter membrane with pore size of 0.22 µm and then analyzed with a DXRxi Raman microscope using a 780 nm laser under 24 mW. The mapping parameters were set to scan 1 mm2 area using 0.005 s/step with a step size of 5 µm to determine the sensitivity. This technique currently can detect individual plastic micro-particles down to 1 μm size in 10 particles/mL. Further studies will focus on high-risk samples such as sea-foods.


Courtney Jeanne Toomey

John W. Malewicz

William Hubbard (Faculty Sponsor)

Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Harmful Vessel Noise in the Cape Cod Canal

Anthropogenic noise levels in shipping corridors have been the subject of many recent publications as a result of increased global shipping in the past decade. The acute impact to marine ecosystems from anthropogenic noise has not yet been extensively quantified, yet compelling evidence of marine mammal hearing damage has been published. Marine mammals are especially vulnerable to increased noise levels, as they rely on their ability to hear and communicate effectively to feed, navigate, mate, and avoid predators. The Cape Cod Canal is a geographically isolated, artificial waterway that services thousands of recreational boats, fishing vessels, tug boats, oil tankers, cruise ships and container ships each year. Cetaceans and pinnipeds are known to transit the canal and surrounding waters. This study creates sound profiles for each type of vessel in the canal and proposes the associated risks. Sound data of various vessel types were taken using land- and vessel- based hydrophone recordings and analyzed using Cornell Raven Lite 2 software.

Spectrograms were created to identify peak high and low frequencies, compare vessel types, and identify duration of each anthropogenic noise. Recordings where no vessels were present in the canal for over 90 minutes were used as a baseline control. Effort was limited by tidal variation as strong current interfered with data collection. Recordings were collected at recurring weekly intervals. The goals of this study are establishing a long-term, student run monitoring program, designing effective methods, and identifying potential advancements in order to produce research-grade data.


Alexander Scott Townsend

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Las Vegas' Water Use: An Ethical Exploration

This project will focus on Las Vegas’s casinos, golf courses, and its elaborate system of fountains. On the one hand, this seems to be a frivolous usage of water. Water scarcities, as well as water pollution have taken vast economic, environmental, and human tolls elsewhere. Does it make sense to collect and use water for entirely aesthetic and economic ends? On the other hand, if Vegas had its excess water forcefully crimped by the federal government, would such actions curtail the freedoms and liberties of individuals? Such issues require concerted and focused deliberations usually not required of dialogues concerning liberty and the protection of property. A Libertarian interpretation on water-related issues would have the founding fathers of this country ensuring the basic right to own property, i.e. the right to one’s water, (or perhaps somewhat different phraseology – the right to control one’s general water usage). However, water is life; to plainly state the counter moral issue of the usage and distribution of water. Controlling water sources can often spell the difference between life and death, health and disease, a flourishing or decaying ecosystem. As this project investigates these larger dilemmas within the context of Las Vega, possible local and global solutions will be addressed.


Caleb J. VanHillo

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

The Reuse of Medical Implants

An estimated 7.2 million Americans have orthopedic hip and knee implants, an additional estimated 1.5 million Americans have a pacemaker implant, and many others have a host of other surgically deposited medical devices such as; cochlear implants, and cerebrospinal fluid shunt systems. After death, with the exception of the pacemaker, which was found to explode in high heat, the implants are left in during cremation, and all listed are buried with the deceased. Under United States law the reuse of medical devices, and especially pacemakers, are prohibited unless special exemption is granted by the FDA, however these devices have the potential to be removed, sterilized, then reused which could effectively lower cost, and increase availability without placing additional strain on the expensive materials needed to create such devices. These devices are incredibly helpful, being therapeutic or even life saving, however the future of these items after it’s inhabitants death is shrouded in confusion, sometimes they are destroyed, buried or sent off to landfills, and all of these outcomes are both a financial waste and potentially harmful to the environment. This project will focus on the reasonability, ethicality, and possible benefits of recycling orthopedic implants, such as titanium hip and knee replacements, and pacemakers.


John Veneziano

Nabin Malakar (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics, Worcester State University

Identifying Areas of High Solar Radiation in New England

Solar radiation is one of the main sources of energy for life on Earth and has a large influence on both anthropogenic and natural processes on the planet. These processes can include agriculture, hydrology, green energy, and urban planning. A wide variety of factors influence the absorption of solar radiation, but two of these factors are surface slope and aspect orientation. This study focused on the dynamics of solar radiation in the Northeastern United States, and identified areas of high solar radiation potential in the region. To do this, remote sensing data was obtained from online GIS and solar data servers and was analyzed using a GIS software (Arc Map 10.7.1). Several maps were then created. The raster data was subsequently analyzed using slope and aspect tools in the program, which helped identify sloped surfaces. Land use across the region was also mapped, which helped identify key areas where solar energy could and could not be exploited for human use. By identifying areas of high solar radiation, this study provides civilians and government officials with important energy information, which could be useful when attempting to harvest energy for solar power, expanding agricultural plots, and in future urban expansion brought on by continued population growth.


Alexander Joseph Wahlstrom

Amanda Leigh Murray Hyde (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Biology, Greenfield Community College

Assessment of Woody Invasive Species in the Greenfield Community College Forest and Documentation of Problematic Hot Spots

Invasive species inhibit the growth of native species and spread at an alarming rate. Without being removed from an ecosystem, they can harm forest health by out- competing the established native species. Prior to this study, Greenfield Community College (GCC) had not been evaluated for what species of invasive plants are present on campus, nor the density of each species present. This study identified which species are present and which ones are most problematic to the ecosystem. Most invasive plants are located on previously disturbed land, primarily in locations that have large amounts of sun available, however, many can survive in almost any conditions and out-compete native plants. The most prominent species on campus are: Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora), Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii), Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), and Burning bush (Euonymus altus). Of these species, some pose a greater threat of spreading and overtaking native species. A follow up study was conducted examining the relationship between the growth of Japanese Barberry and abiotic environmental factors within the forest across eight sites. Our collected data was compared to existing growth patterns of this species. The conclusions of the second study showed that the most susceptible location on campus for Barberry growth is the southwest corner and the western side. Information on location and species present and where it is most likely to grow can be used to form a management plan for how to remove and slow the spread of invasive species on GCC’s campus.





Joseph Alibali

Sanjay Nawalkha (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Finance, UMass Amherst

The Dollar as a Reserve Currency and What the Future Holds

Holding the status as the global reserve currency is special. With this designation comes little to no currency risk for the reserve country, higher standards of living for inhabitants, and an easy way of receiving US-denominated debt, which directly benefits homeowners by giving them lower rates. But, this designation is not permanent and the dollar’s role as the world’s global reserve currency is no longer a given. Other currencies are gaining share very quickly due to a number of reasons that this paper will address. This paper will analyze the potential alternatives to the current system based on different scenario analyses, with the goal of providing a clearer view of the future.


Sean S. Enright

Sanjay Nawalkha (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Finance, UMass Amherst

Prepackaged Bankruptcy: Who Benefits?

The objective of this paper is to analyze the implications of prepackaged bankruptcy as a restructuring alternative. Further, this dissertation uses data from the UCLA-LoPucki Bankruptcy Database research database to run a quantitative analysis of the benefits for debtors, creditors, and employees. To consider the benefits for the debtor, this analysis compares time in restructuring, administrative fees, and success rates with workouts and traditional Chapter 11 bankruptcies. For the creditors, deviation from absolute priority and recovery rates in comparison to other forms of recovery are scrutinized. Finally, this paper considers prepackaged bankruptcy as it pertains to employee retention. This study seeks to expand on the work done by Brian L. Betker in “An Empirical Examination of Prepackaged Bankruptcy” completed in 1995. Since then, prepackaged bankruptcy has risen significantly in prevalence, therefore it is necessary to reexamine this strategy’s’ effect on various stakeholders.


James J. Greblick

Isaias C. Sarmiento (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Bunker Hill Community College

Foreign Exchange Swaps and the Chinese Economy

This retrospective analysis explored the relationship between Chinese exports & imports and foreign exchange swaps denominated in Yuan RMB to test the legitimacy of the Money Manipulator designation by the United States and the effect of American trade tariffs on Chinese goods. The examined data includes 26 years of GDP data from China and the United States, 26 months of import export data from China and 26 months of FX Swap data from China. Economic data were collected from the United States Federal Reserve, China Foreign Exchange Trade System, and the International Monetary Fund. A linear regression was used to test the correlation between the volume of FX Swap transactions and the value of goods imported and exported by China. The results showed that the United States and Chinese economies share an inversely correlated growth pattern and the transactional data has yielded a significant correlation between FX Swap transactions and total imports into China. The results of the analysis indicate that there was a positive correlation between the dollar amount of Foreign Exchange Swaps transacted and the value of goods being imported and exported in and out of the country. It can be speculated that China may engage in the use of Foreign Exchange Swap transactions to hedge against exchange rate risk in global trade. The results do not necessarily imply that China is a Money Manipulator.


Luke N. Hayward

Sanjay Nawalkha (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Finance, UMass Amherst

Core and Non-core: A New Framework for Corporate Risk Management

This paper introduces a new theory on managing risks in large corporations that are not diversified. The proposed framework is different from the portfolio risk framework used in the investment field, which focuses on the diversification of asset classes. The new theory is based upon the concepts of “core” and “non-core” risks of a firm’s business: core comprises the specialization, core competence, and innovative skill-set of the firm, and non-core comprises all other risks unrelated to the firm’s operations. We demonstrate using historical analysis that when firms and industries speculate on risks outside their core business, they suffer huge volatility in their prices, and significant losses in earnings and value. We recommend that firms should manage core and non-core risks using an optimal principle for corporate risk management, which we outline in this paper. We study violations of this principle for individual companies and a few industries over the past 400 years (including major contemporary financial crises such as the Great Recession), and provide evidence that these violations lead to significant risks and losses. Research will be comprised primarily of case studies examining both successes and failures of companies and industries in the context of their exposure to core and non-core risks.


Patrick Jared Lanigan

Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston

The Effect of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on Corporate Investment

As America enters into the year 2020 it is faced with the mounting challenge of dealing with a record-breaking deficit. This deficit is unprecedented as it crosses the $1 trillion threshold for the first time in American history other than recessions or times of war. This deficit has largely been fueled by the implementation of federal tax reform under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. This tax cut was justified by proponents as a way to directly stimulate the economy, mostly through the channel of increasing investment by businesses. Since then, however, the economy has continued a path of unimpressive, slow growth. Two years have passed since the implementation of this reform at the beginning of 2018 and the question still remains, did the Tax Cut and Jobs Act accomplish what it was supposed to? To address this issue we intend to look at the effect of the Tax Cut and Job Act on corporate investment. Using public companies allows us to make the best possible analysis as their financials are accurate and publicly reported. The extent to which the results of a study of public companies can be extrapolated to represent the entire economy remains up for debate. However, through collecting and analyzing data on the investment patterns of these public companies prior to 2018 and over the last two years, we intend to measure the extent to which the implementation of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act affected these investment patterns.


Erin Slowik Moran

Sanjay Nawalkha (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Finance, UMass Amherst

Microfinance: Effects on Poverty Alleviation and Women's Empowerment

This study examines the evolution of microfinance over time and evaluates its effectiveness as a tool for poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment. The paper also looks at how microfinance can be used as an effective method for stimulating economic development. I explore how the location and structure of microfinance institutions can dramatically impact their successfulness in reducing poverty and empowering women. Through an examination of existing literature on microfinance, this study investigates which characteristics of microfinance institutions and programs have a strong influence on development and empowerment of women, all over the world. Finally, I investigate the complex ways in which microfinance programs have affected the lives of women and their communities.

Keywords: microfinance, poverty, women, gender, empowerment


Jack C. Neureuter

Sanjay Nawalkha (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Finance, UMass Amherst

This Time Is (Not) Different

In this paper I study value investing in relation to growth style investing, and how these investment methodologies have changed over time with advances in technology and the transit in the United States economy from the industrial age to the information age. Do the financial valuation models created in the industrial age still work in the information age? Do revenue growth and technological innovation matter more than company fundamentals for certain industries? Do value and growth strategies work differently in different

industries? This paper answers some of these questions by analyzing value versus growth investment styles using historical U.S. stock market data and logical reasoning. Using statistical analysis, I show that investing always reverts to fundamental laws of finance, economics and human behavior. Periods of underperformance for value investors are often followed by periods filled with outperformance relative to growth, and indeed this time appears to be no different than the past.


Danielle Shaw

Luis D. Rosero (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting, Economics, and Finance, Framingham State University

The Great Recession: Could It Have Been Avoided?

In December 2007 the United States plummeted into its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The Great Recession led to a spike in unemployment across the US, with a peak of 10% in October 2009. Unworthy and marginal borrowers had taken out mortgages in the previous months. These borrowers, now out of jobs, would not be able to repay their mortgages. Delinquency rates among single family homes rose to 11.4% from around 3% before the crisis. Spiraling into debt across the nation, foreclosures rose to their highest level in recent history. Ultimately, crisis tendencies spread throughout the rest of the economy. Due to the impact this financial crisis had, it is critical to understand the factors that led up to this event. Having this understanding will help individuals be able to adequately prepare for a future recession. More importantly, this knowledge can be used to put safeguards in place in the financial sector to prevent similar events from happening again.While it is difficult to identify the cause, this paper, through a literature review, will attempt to provide an overview of various theories of the factors that lead to financial crises. With the understanding that financial crises, like the Great Recession, are multidimensional in their origins, this paper concludes by highlighting a variety of policy responses and recommendations that may contribute to avoiding future financial crises.


Praneeth Uppalapati

Sanjay Nawalkha (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Finance, UMass Amherst

Impact Investing: Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Benefit

The objective of this paper is to examine the viability of the impact investment, which is an investment made into companies, organizations, and funds to generate a measurable beneficial environmental and social impact alongside a financial return. To do this, it is important to study the origin of the impact investment, analyze the current state of impact investment firms around the world, and finally address the growth potential of the field over a long term time horizon. One differentiating factor between an impact investment and other sustainable financing vehicles is the component of a measurable environmental and social impact; this paper evaluates the current guidelines, and addresses some points of ambiguity that could be regulated more effectively. Countless fields have done their part to address the societal and environmental concerns that continue to plague our world, and this paper will underscore the ways that Finance can play its part in effectively providing capital to those who can help.





Molly R. Autery

Eve Vogel (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geography, UMass Amherst

Green Massachusetts? Carbon Reduction Goals and Strategies, and the Changing Role of Canadian Hydropower

Beginning in 2008 with the establishment of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state of Massachusetts has pursued a policy agenda that aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 2010 Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 set a goal of 25% and 80% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990’s levels, for 2020 and 2050 respectively, across all sectors of the state’s economy. Key strategies to achieve these goals are the advancement of cost-saving energy efficiency standards and the creation of a “green economy” through a transition away from fossil fuel use and towards renewable energy. While electricity generation from wind and solar would be carried out within the state, hydropower would be imported from Canada, most likely from the provincially owned hydroelectric company Hydro-Quebec. By 2016, Massachusetts had reduced emissions by 21.4%, much of that from improved energy efficiency and conversion of coal plants to gas. With 2020 approaching and legal pressure from a 2016 lawsuit from the Conservation Law Foundation, large imports of Canadian hydropower seemed the easiest and cheapest way to fill the gap. The Baker Administration signed a bill requiring utilities to enter contracts to buy clean energy, expecting a large portion to be with Hydro-Quebec. Since then, fights over transmission lines have stalled hydropower imports, likely until after the 2020 deadline. While many people question the reliance on imported electricity, without a dramatic reduction in energy consumption, it seems inevitable that a low carbon future in Massachusetts will be linked to Canadian hydropower.


Jana Annetta Douglass

Razvan Sibii (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Journalism, UMass Amherst

Grassroots Migrant Justice Organizing: Geographies of Resistance in the Age of Border Imperialism

Dominant immigration discourses and policies are often created by people who lack on-the- ground experience or direct relationships with immigrant communities. This can lead to top- down expressions of power, leadership, and knowledge. Nevertheless, there is opportunity for the broader migrant justice movement to extend its discourse to one that includes and emphasizes the voices and visions of the people who know the issues best: migrants and grassroots activists. My thesis combines experiential, movement, and academic theory so as to provide a holistic analysis of the challenges and contributions of grassroots migrant justice activism in and around the United States. My analysis is rooted in organizer and author Harsha Walia’s critical framework of “border imperialism”, a lens which illuminates the processes by which the violences and precarities of displacement and migration are structurally created as well as maintained. Through this critical lens, I explore the diverse cartographies of migrant justice organizing and new possibilities for collective, inclusive and sustainable resistance. In interviewing eight activists involved in the migrant justice struggle, I consider what visions, points of view, and strategies are being left out of the dominant immigrant rights movement, explore how organizers are engaging in a politics of decolonization, prefiguration, and mutual aid, and shed light on the multiplicity of transformational visions and strategies that are generating change from the bottom-up.


Rhiannon Lynn Dugan

Rebecca Ann Lulu

Edward Roy Reitz III

Alexander Robert Tarr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics, Worcester State University

Planting Good Seeds: A Comparative Study of Successful Food Justice Projects between De- industrialized Regions in Massachusetts and California

De-industrializing regions of the US suffer from toxic and abandoned landscapes, extreme forms of poverty, and an associated lack of access to quality food -- often making them the heart of “food justice” initiatives. Our study compares and analyzes successful food justice organizations in Worcester County, Massachusetts and Alameda and Los Angeles Counties, California. By comparing these three regions, we are able to identify common trends in how organizations are successful, while paying attention to how local context shifts the ability of groups to succeed. Through interviews, participant observation, and analysis of secondary sources and data we recognize how food justice projects interact with their cities, communities and collectively envision the future of each region. An interdisciplinary lens allowed us to examine food justice successes and failures by looking at the intersection of race and place. We mapped current urban farming projects and asked how they reflect demographics in each community. California has been at the forefront of developing successful food-justice programs aimed at improving the quality of life, economics and safety of low-income neighborhoods. Despite limited funding and space, California has continued to expand food justice projects. Worcester faces similar constraints, and “best practices” in California may be applicable for this city. The research conducted will be available to sustainability advocates in the city of Worcester as we look to support diversity and increase the equality of the city.


Liam Joseph Hoey

Eamon Lucas Breen

Danielle Meribel Dailey

Rowan Matthew Toner

Piper Gaubatz (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

Sustaining Civil Society: A Socio-spatial Analysis of Third-Space Use and Civic Organizations

Communities are constantly being (re)produced through civil society - collective activities carried out by citizens linked by common interests. The availability of shared community spaces and meeting rooms can foster and sustain civil society; the lack of space can destroy it. Rhiannon White warns “[t]he future of civil society is dependent on space...With the loss of this space; we mourn the loss of human interaction.” Given that participation in public meetings, community organizations and clubs in U.S. metropolitan areas has declined, what is the status of spaces for addressing this decline? What are the connections between civil society spaces and organizations? Are there spatial, economic, social, cultural and/or political barriers to accessing these spaces? We explore these questions by documenting “third spaces” — spaces that exist outside of work and home — as well as the organizations they serve. Our focus is a case study of the 21 cities and towns in the Boston Inner Core region. Six researchers are carrying out internet-based research and entering data into a common spreadsheet. This structured classification and spatial database is cross referenced with political, socio-economic, and land use data from the U.S. Census, MassGIS, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and analyzed via GIS (spatial analysis). Our goal is to better understand the socio-spatial relations between participation in civil society organizations and the physical spaces where they meet. We hope to identify patterns in their distribution to provide insight into the future of civil society which is dependent on these third spaces.


Ishan Khadka

Kerry L. Drohan (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English Literature, Cape Cod Community College

Effects of 2015 Earthquake on Nepal's Mass Migration

When natural disasters trigger mass migration, where does the population go? On 25 Apr. 2015, a devastating earthquake struck Nepal. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake and following hundreds of tremors destroyed entire cities, villages, road infrastructures, and 5 of the 8 UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites. This earthquake left hundreds of thousands homeless and stopped the urbanization process, which was rated the highest rate of urbanization in the world from 2010 to 2015. (Clewett 2017) The overall damage was estimated by the Nepal Government to be at about $10 billion. This was a staggering price as that's near as half of Nepal's gross domestic product of $19.2 billion. A research conducted by IHS Global Insights stated the estimate of cost for rebuilding homes, roads, and bridges alone to be up to $5 billion. The earthquake was also a considerable push back to Nepal's intention of moving to a "developing country" from a "least developed country" by 2022. The country also went through mass emigration, which displaced a lot of jobs and decreased the amount of working class. The earthquake demolished 600 thousand homes and made three million people homeless. Out of these homeless, underage kids were the most significant piece of the pie. Maiti reported that they had intercepted more than 5,700 girls after the earthquake, compared to 2,900 girls the year before the quake. This study focuses on the immediate and long term economic effects of the emigrations on Nepal. It also goes through the impact of the 2015 Nepal earthquake on the mass movement and trafficking of its population.


Melanie R. Meadors

William Hansen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics, Worcester State University

How Remote Sensing Data from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Helped Choose the Landing Site for Mars 2020 Rover

In midsummer 2020, NASA will launch their latest mission, Mars 2020. Because this vehicle is an unmanned robotic rover, a vital part of NASA’s prelaunch procedure was to find a safe landing spot with few travel hazards and a wealth of scientific data for the rover to sample, test, and record. For the site to be viable, it had to allow for the rover to accomplish the four main objectives of the mission. Geologically, the site should be diverse, showing signs of the processes that formed it. The site should be astrobiologically interesting, to help scientists look for signs of ancient life. There should be enough suitable material at the site for collection and caching in the hope it can be collected at some point. And finally, the site should in some way contribute to knowledge that will help make progress toward sending humans to Mars. In this project, imagery captured by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer and the Context Camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter along with methods of remote sensing were used to extrapolate why Jezero Crater was selected as the landing site versus many other possibilities. Jezero Crater was found to have scientific characteristics and points of interest pertinent to the mission objectives, as well as terrain on which it would be safe for the rover to land and operate, increasing the probability of mission success.


Cheryl M. Thomas

Thomas E. Conroy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Urban Studies, Worcester State University

Who Lives Where?: Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to Explore Housing Trends of a Massachusetts Suburb; Race Distribution, Zoning, Ownership, Location

This project used ArcGIS Pro software to explore “who lives where” in Westborough, Massachusetts. In contrast to vague and anecdotal impressions of residents about property ownership and race distribution, I mapped demographic data to see what it revealed about the residential housing distribution of the town. What was the racial makeup of homeowners versus renters? Where were the rental properties located? What was the zoning pattern of where residences were located and were there trends relating to zoning and rental properties? Once the data from MassGIS and the U.S. 2010 Census was mapped and contextualized with symbology, an analysis was done. The visualization of the data enabled the identification of 12 clusters of renters and owners, which consisted of apartments, condominiums, and assisted living complexes, spread across business, residential, and industrial zones. Focusing the analysis on these areas revealed certain geographic and demographic trends, the analysis of which would be useful to Westborough in its urban planning process for the future, particularly for in-fill or transit-oriented development. This project demonstrates that GIS technology, when applied to urban studies, opens avenues of useful, complex analysis which can be accomplished in a relatively short time frame. New 2020 U.S. Census data can replace the 2010 data, which will give a more accurate perspective of current housing distribution.





Julia W. Casey

Brian Yellen (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

iCons: Sediment Delivery Systems in Northeast Saltwater Marshes

It is estimated up to 80% of original Northeastern marshes have been lost due to human development. Marshes play an invaluable role in protecting our coasts from flooding and erosion while also acting as breeding habitats for a variety of coastal and marine species. Remaining marshes face the threat of being overcome by rising sea levels. Understanding sediment delivery systems in these marshes could be the key to conserving and restoring these wetland ecosystems. There is a lack of information on sources, deposition systems, and accumulation of sediments on coastal marshes. The sediment dynamics and coastal hazards group at UMass has been working to understand marsh sediment systems and create scalable methods to be used in evaluating marsh health across the Northeast. Located on the Massachusetts coastline, samples were collected from three study areas in Scituate (Peggotty, North River, and South River) and one in Westport. Initial bulk- density and loss on ignition data from each sample site provide a visual representation of a relationship between sediment accumulation and proximity to channels and ditches. Further sampling will be conducted at each location and processed along with sediment-trap samples to provide information on sediment delivery during specified time periods. Methods developed with the data presented will be used to inform marsh management across the Northeast.


Brad Hoole

R. Mark Leckie (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

Foraminiferal Isotope Record of the US Western Interior Seaway during Oceanic Anoxia Event 2

The sedimentary facies and microfossils from the Upper Cretaceous Tropic Shale in southern Utah at the Big Water field site captured stressed oceanographic changes that occurred in relatively shallow marine waters near the western edge of a vast epicontinental sea. These sediments captured the onset and development of Oceanic Anoxia Event 2 (OAE 2) in the Western Interior Seaway (WIS), as well as rising sea level and transgression of the Greenhorn Sea during the time of the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary (CTB; 93.9 Ma). Prevalent species of planktic and benthic foraminifera were picked from different stratigraphic levels of the KPS2 section and organized by species so stable isotope paleoecology (d18O and d13C) could be recorded. Results of the analyses indicate environmental changes across the CTB interval, including a significant d13C positive excursion which corresponds to the global OAE2. At the onset of OAE2 planktic species of Guembilitria and Heterohelix dominated, followed by an increase in benthic species so that Neobulimina would dominate with epifaunal Gavelinella corresponding to a Heterohelix shift”. The suspected mechanism driving the shift are changes in surface water productivity and increased flux of organic matter to the seafloor resulting in the rapid decline in benthic oxygen. The foraminiferal record reveals environmental perturbations through associated isotopic changes in the marine environment of the epicontinental sea. Oxygen and carbon isotopes clearly show 1) planktic and benthic foraminifera were stratified in the upper water column (Guembelitria, Planoheterohelix, Hedbergella) and at the seafloor (Neobulimina, Gavelinella), and 2) that Guembelitria was a planktic rather than a benthic foraminifera.


Sophia Kathleen LaRoche

Matthew Winnick (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

Characterizing CO2 Evasion from a Headwater Stream: Jimmy Nolan Brook, Whately, Massachusetts

The evasion of CO2, produced through respiration of organic carbon, from surficial waters represents a significant source of CO2 to the atmosphere. The magnitude and drivers of these fluxes remain largely uncharacterized despite their potential importance to the global carbon cycle. With ongoing anthropogenic climate change, understanding the drivers and potential responses of CO2 evasion from waterbodies to is key to accurately predict future climate change. CO2 evasion from streams to the atmosphere is primarily influenced by stream turbulence and inputs of groundwater with high CO2 concentrations. To characterize the balance of these mechanisms in driving spatial variability in stream pCO2, we generated weekly-resolution geochemical data at 7 sites along Jimmy Nolan Brook in Whately, Massachusetts from October 2018 – September 2019. Measurements included major anions, cations, pH, alkalinity, dissolved carbon, and pCO2. Measured pCO2 range from 200- 4000 ppm, with all but one measurement displaying supersaturated conditions with respect to atmospheric pCO2. Broadly, pCO2 values decreased from upstream (Site 1) to downstream (Site 6). At Site 5, however, there was a consistent increase in pCO2 reaching up to 4000 ppm, while sites adjacent to Site 5 peaked around 2000 ppm. We observed increasing dissolved solute concentrations along the stream reach which indicate active groundwater inputs, likely overcoming local evasion fluxes at Site 5. We hypothesize that landscape geomorphology controls the balance of CO2 evasion fluxes and groundwater input fluxes. Future work will model the balance of CO2 inputs, transport, and evasion fluxes along Jimmy Nolan Brook.


Kurt Lindberg

Isla Castaneda (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

Temperature Variability from Arctic Lake El’gygytgyn (Far East Russia) during the Mid- Pleistocene Transition Based on brGDGTs

The ability to reconstruct past temperatures using organic proxies is critical to understanding Arctic climate changes during the glacially active Pleistocene period. Our knowledge of Arctic continental climate spanning beyond ~100,000 years ago, the interval captured by Greenland ice core records, has been restricted by the lack of continuous sedimentary records due to large swaths of the northern hemisphere being periodically covered by ice sheets. Here, we analyze bacterial membrane lipids (branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers; (brGDGTs) contained in a sediment drill core from Lake El’gygytgyn in eastern Siberia. This lake bordering the Arctic Circle has remained unglaciated providing us with a unique 3.6 million-year record of biological activity. Using liquid chromatography and previously developed brGDGT-based temperature calibrations, we reconstructed arctic temperatures from the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT) when glacial-interglacial cycles shifted from dominant periodicity of 41,000 to 100,000-years. This shift has been associated with a global cooling trend and with thicker, longer-lasting ice sheets. At Lake El’gygytgyn we find a clear pattern of alternating warming and cooling trends consistent with interglacial-glacial climate cycles, particularly during MIS 21 and 22 from 800 ka-900 ka. Our temperature record also exhibits a trend of overall cooling during glacial periods that is seen in other paleoclimate records such as the benthic oxygen isotope [IC1] stack. Our brGDGT temperature record provides us with the opportunity to examine how biological proxies have historically responded to local and global climate change and provides new insights into how continental arctic climate changed during the MPT.


Solveig Hanna Schilling

R. Mark Leckie (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Geosciences, UMass Amherst

A Dynamic Kuroshio Current Extension during the Pliocene-Earliest Pleistocene

This mid-Piacenzian Warm Period (mPWP) is often studied as an analog to determine how our oceans will behave under increased warming.  Understanding western boundary currents are important since they play an essential role in ocean/atmosphere exchange and are responsible for regional weather patterns and climate. This project combines both topics by examining the degree to which the Kuroshio Current Extension (KCE) warmed during the mPWP ( ~3.2-2.9 million years ago). Over this interval, atmospheric CO2 was slightly elevated compared to today’s values. To date, no studies have characterized in detail how the KCE responded to warming events of the geologic past. We used deep-sea sediments from Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Holes 1207A, 1208A, and 1209A, located on the northern edge, underneath, and to the south of the modern-day position of the KCE to investigate the behavior of the current during the mPWP. Stable isotopic analyses (δ13C and δ18O) from surface-dwelling planktic foraminifera Globigerinoides ruber and Gs. obliquus were used to characterize sea surface conditions. Foraminiferal assemblage analysis was conducted on samples with higher (cooler) and lower (warmer) δ18O values to test whether assemblage composition varies between cooler and warmer sea surface temperatures. Cooler water thermocline foraminiferal species dominate the assemblages with higher δ18O isotopic values, and warmer water mixed layer species dominate assemblages with lower δ18O isotopic values. Modern δ18O values were modeled at each site to infer when the KCE came into its modern formation.





Nicole Marie Arruda

Ilana Fritz Offenberger (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, UMass Dartmouth

The Holocaust: Faces of Jewish Resistance

Have you ever wondered what really happened during the Holocaust? Surely, over 6 million people could rally together and resist the Nazis without any hesitation. However, the Jewish people were persecuted, expropriated and ultimately annihilated. What is resistance? To define resistance, one must understand all forms of resistance. The goal of my research is to provide more in-depth knowledge of what happened behind closed doors during the Holocaust and to demonstrate how the Jewish people did indeed resist Nazi Germany. The purpose of this study is to not only show that resistance comes in many forms, but to also reflect and showcase the many individuals who were a part of the movement. This paper analyzes each individual and illuminates a different form of resistance. Through primary source documents (letters, diaries, testimonies, personal memoirs) my thesis sheds light upon those who sacrificed so much in order to help others. Why should we care about all the ways in which people resisted during the Holocaust? It is crucial to remember the valiant acts of people during a time in which all hope seemed lost. If we choose to either forget or lack to not acknowledge their efforts, we are doomed to repeat the past. Each day that we, as a society, choose to acknowledge the darkest parts of history to learn from them, we are resisting the possibility of these acts ever becoming our future.


Rosenda Bell

Ilana Fritz Offenberger (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, UMass Dartmouth

The Overlooked Stories of Jewish Resistance to the Holocaust

“We use our hands, and our arms, and our hearts, and and our lives, and our deaths, and fight. If you can't fight, then run; if you can't run, then hide. But you must resist.” Resistance is a concept many are familiar with, but is often not seen in full. In particular, the Jewish resistance to the Holocaust is one that is only seen in parts by popular historical narratives. When the Holocaust is discussed, the focus is often placed on the Nazi regime, or on the hatred and destruction of Jewish culture. However, throughout these discussions, the valiant resistance that the Jewish people displayed is often overlooked. This article will present seven cases of Jewish resistance, each different from the next, and each showing a way that different Jews fought against the Nazi rule. Resistance is broader than fighting with arms, it can be anything those resisting want it to be, it is, in essence, defined by the fighters. First, we will see acts of non-confrontational resistance: which was spiritual, artistic, and humorous; it also included tactical, planned non-confrontational actions such as smuggling goods or information. Second, we will see actions that are confrontational, but non-violent, known as direct action which include: open protests, non-cooperation, theft, or any form of sabotage. Finally, we see armed, or violent resistance: here we see partisan warfare, violent retaliation, property destruction for the purpose of sabotage, as well as participating in conventional warfare.


Brighid Campbell

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

America and The Road

From our foundation as a Nation created through violent revolution, we have connected liberty and individual rights with an idea of heroic, necessary violence. This essay will discuss how American individualism and the view of violence as a means of maintaining freedom work together to create a distinctly American brand of violence that is represented in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In American history, violence is portrayed as the sole means of achieving freedom. This is exemplified in our genocide of Native Americans and our violent revolution against the British. Both our beginnings as a Nation and the fictional apocalypse involve a sort of “cleansing” of all that came before, leaving us to start over and giving us complete control to shape our lives. In the fictional post-apocalyptic setting, violence is used to again, control ones surroundings. American individualism also plays a role in the violence of a post-apocalypse. In a capitalist society where everyone is expected to forge his own destiny, it naturally follows that in the wake of total disaster an “every man for himself” many would adopt an “every man for himself” ideology. The American myth of individual importance can, in this setting, serve to perpetuate this violence, leaving every person to seek his own wellbeing above all others. The Road exemplifies this self-important violence in the actions of the other survivors in what’s left of America and proposes a solution in the form of the selfless love between the father and son that the story follows.


Odette Carty-Bleary

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

Media Sensationalizing Crimes and the Effects It Has on Future Crimes Being Committed

It has become an American phenomenon to publicize acts of violence in medias giving psychopathic murderers the opportunity of having their faces on the front pages of tabloids and voices heard through novels and movies. Truman Capote’s novel, “In Cold Blood (1967)” was the first nonfictional novel that explores a vicious crime. The murder and murderers gain extensive media coverage because of a family of four in Kansas. Capote invested his time exploring the case, interviewing the murderers, and creating a bond with both men especially Perry Smith. He became sympathetic towards Perry because they endure similar childhood, and he felt guilty for not able to do more to help with the case (Capote). Furthermore, after the completion of “In Cold Blood”, Capote held a masked ball celebrating the publication and draw attention to his book. The book became a best seller and Capote fame increase because the murder and the murderers became famous. Further, we see the birth of modern media sensationalism as more authors explores the genre of true crimes. I will explore media sensationalizing crimes, and the effects it has on future crimes. I will demonstrate the length Capote went in bringing his novel to life, thereby sensationalizing the crime. I will also demonstrate how media sensation causes the public to become desensitize towards violence, how media coverage of crimes causes criminals to gain overnight celebrity status, and how publicizing the crimes could lead to copycats.


Samantha Joanne DiMatteo

Sarah Mulhall Adelman (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Framingham State University

"Disneyland Is Your Land": The Reflection of Postwar Society in the Initial Years of Disneyland

On July 15, 1955, Walt Disney opened Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. Despite the first month or so being a logistical nightmare, America fell in love with the revolutionizing amusement park, where one million guests visiting in the first ten weeks of its operation. What made Disneyland so iconic and relevant to create such massive popularity? This research suggests that Disneyland’s popularity was a result of the ways that the entire park and the lands within it embodied a microcosm of American Postwar society and culture. Born in an age of growing consumerism and a booming middle class, Disneyland created a world of escape embedded with cultural familiarity, with all the "lands" touching upon the concepts of what it meant to be American in the 1950s Cold War period.

This research examines the five major sections of Disneyland during the 1950s: Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland. It explores the ways each land embodied Postwar society, for instance, Tomorrowland acted as a backdrop for the Atomic and Space Age and contemporary values of technology and innovation. This research covers a vast swath of cultural norms--from concepts of race and gender to Cold War anxieties and the Baby Boom--to develop an encompassing cultural analysis of Disneyland and its place in the United States during the Postwar Era.


Kathrine Elisabeth Esten

Brian D. Bunk (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, UMass Amherst

The Sunset Olympiad: Paradox and the 1912 Olympics

The 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games exist at a crux in European history. Decades of internationalism, industrialism, and social advancement known as the Belle Époque went into decline as intense nationalism fueled the tensions which burst into the First World War only two years after the closing ceremonies. In my honors thesis, I analyze the paradoxical nature of the Fifth Olympiad. Nicknamed the “Sunshine Olympiad,” the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games were a turning point in Olympic history as internationalism was overshadowed by nationalist press, interference by the Swedish royal family, and the contentious geographic politics of the time. Despite being more than a century past, the 1912 Olympic Games remain an event worthy of historical inquiry and continued study. The Fifth Olympiad was the first to be fully independent and financed, with no dependence on World’s Fairs or other international events. Indeed, the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games were applauded as an internationalist success for generations. It is only in recent years that researchers have questioned this claim by focusing on how the imbalance of nationalism and internationalism has troubled the Olympic movement since its beginning. In my thesis, I adopt the methodology of these researchers and examine personal correspondence between organizers, journalistic coverage of the Games, and internal planning documents of the Swedish Olympic Committee to highlight the simultaneous internationalist and nationalist activity at the Games.


Annie Fielding

Christian Gerard Appy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, UMass Amherst

Cold War Masculinity and JFK's Foreign Policy

This thesis explores how ideas surrounding masculinity during the Cold War influenced President Kennedy’s foreign policy decision-making. After World War Two, American masculinity went through a “crisis” period as soldiers struggled to readjust to civilian life. Many people believed a return to traditional gender norms would help soldiers find their place as men. These gender anxieties were closely linked with fears about homosexuality and Communism. Kennedy ran for President on a brand of renewed liberal masculinity, a tough realist courageous enough to stand up to the Soviet Union. Once in the White House, however, this toughness often had disastrous consequences when applied to foreign policy. Kennedy’s obsession with counterinsurgency led to many failed interventions abroad, such as the Bag of Pigs fiasco and the escalating American presence in Vietnam. Perhaps the most damaging example was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cuban Missile Crisis is unique because Kennedy did not, in fact, use his toughness and bravado to resolve the crisis. Rather, it was his willingness to delay military action and negotiate with Khrushchev that saved the world from nuclear war. However, Kennedy’s need to prove himself as a man led to his administration portraying the resolution of the conflict as one of masculine toughness. It set a dangerous precedent for future conflicts, leading Americans to believe that muscle and military might were superior than diplomacy and negotiation, that the U.S. never backs down from its adversaries, even if it means risking nuclear war.


Erin Mary Finn

Kerry L. Drohan (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English Literature, Cape Cod Community College

The Immigration of the Irish to America

This research project examines the history of Irish Immigration to America and its impact on American society. I will explore early Irish immigration, the huge influx during the Irish Potato Famine in the mid 19th Century, and 20th Century trends, including the immigration of my own grandparents in 1962. I will compare the most important aspects of immigration in each generation, including why they emigrated, their struggles to get to America, and their issues assimilating to society. Topics will include emigration from Ireland, housing in cities, social problems of alcoholism, crime, health challenges, obtaining employment, discrimination, reli gious prejudice, and the how the children were impacted. Along with the information provided by my grandparents, I will use the sources from my college library along with internet sources. This historic range of years will allow for a full scope of how immigration differed between these time periods. Irish immigration has impacted and continues to impact American society through the many trials and tribulations that are faced when emigrating to a new country. The influx of Irish to America is a very extensive story that follows hard working citizens that strived to improve their living conditions much like my own grandparents whom have worked hard to overcome many of the struggles they faced.


Annika Grace Flynn

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

The American Wartime Narrative and the Weaponization of Nationalism

This paper will explore the portrayal and romanticization of American wartime narratives. The weaponization of nationalism is to be dissected through American wartime propaganda and rhetoric that typifies the notion American exceptionalism. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse V juxtaposes the seemingly heroic plot of America’s course of action during WWII with a satirical approach. Ultimately, Vonnegut, by using a non- sentimental approach aims to jolt the reader into realizing the severe abnormality in which these catastrophically violent tales are told. The protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, is captured as a prisoner of war, and becomes resigned to the war itself. Additionally, Billy Pilgrim’s assassination encapsulates the prioritization of duty, violence and patriotism that permeates the U.S armed forces. Lastly, the paper will bring to light contemporary issues that are often left out of the typical war narrative, as to explore the common fate of soldiers after the war. The purpose is to argue the unique element of American culture that is putting emphasis on thanking troops and veterans for their service. While at the same time, providing no beneficial care after their service in order to better facilitate the process of reacclimating them into civilian life. Ultimately, this paper will conclude on the basis that wartime America has cultivated a morale-bolstering and nationalistic narrative that places the value American lives and morals above all else. This American façade encourages participation, though the brutal reality is that those who experience the devastating ruthlessness of combat often come back broken.


Viviane Goese

Howard Tinberg (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Bristol Community College

Yizkor Books: The Literature of Memory and Its Role in Honoring Communities Lost in the Holocaust

Yizkor Books, a unique genre of Jewish literature, memorialize a particular locality decimated by the horrors of WWII. These troves of knowledge draw from the memories of people who actually experienced the Holocaust and found community in the scattered remnants of the war. This research aims to explore the purpose of Yizkor Books, direct users where to find them, and suggest ways to read them. With these facts as context, I’d like to ask the following questions: Where did the Yizkor Books originate? What literary or religious texts influenced them and how? Which members of a community were designated to write them? What are the textual features of the genre? This presentation will be conducted based on a search of archives, libraries, and Web databases currently housing digitized Yizkor Books, among other digital archives from private institutions.


Hannah Angelina Hutchinson

Sarah Wiggins (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Bridgewater State University

Opium and Literature: The Changing Attitudes of Opium in Nineteenth-Century England

Although the current opioid crisis in the United States is unprecedented, opiate addiction has had a long history. Understanding how and why this drug has been abused for centuries can provide critical insight into today's substance use disorders. In nineteenth-century England, opiates became a popular substance used by many diverse groups of people. The primary aim of this research was to look into nineteenth-century literature on opiate use to determine how widespread drug use was and how deeply it permeated society. Historians Virginia Berridge and Griffith Edwards in Opium and the People: Opiate Use in Nineteenth- Century England and Barry Milligan in Pleasures and Pains: Opium and the Orient in 19th- Century British Culture expounded upon opium’s use in society and in literature. Berridge discussed how opium became regulated in England with the 1868 Pharmacy Act and how attitudes about opium changed from careless to stringent. Milligan discussed the effects of Eastern culture on English literature and society. My primary research uncovered many literary references to opium, such as in The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey. Learning about opiate use in history can help us empathize with people’s struggles, illustrating the similarities of lifestyle and behavior. Research into opium use in the past offers a vital perspective into the beliefs, morals and actions of people who use opiates, which can help gain a better understanding of the use of opioids today.


Margaret Joan Kennedy

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

The Objectification of the 80s in American Psycho

American Psycho, by Brett Easton Ellis, is set during the extreme excesses of the late 80’s Wall Street boom. Reaganomics, unbridled deregulation, lowering taxes on the wealthy, and gutting of the social safety net created an unholy brew of self-obsession and utter objectification of anyone other than the self. The novel’s chapters are quick and choppy. They leave the reader feeling battered, bruised, and off balance, while also invoking the feeling of being jostled around on the floor of the stock exchange or finding oneself on the business end of a rapid stabbing motion. Patrick Bateman, the narcissistic, boy next door, serial killer protagonist is portrayed as a clothes hound, an obsessive-compulsive groomer, a mirror gazer, an extreme homophobe, a steroid addicted gym rat, and is clearly in the middle of some sort of psychotic break throughout the novel. The supply side, trickle down, wild west, free market free for all that America embraced and deified, that basically still will not die despite all data, reason, logic and common sense to the contrary, causes a level of greedy consumption in Patrick Bateman and a compulsion to consume everything including people who are no longer people in his eyes but objects, products, and crops to be devoured, used up, and thrown away. American Psycho is a violent commentary on excessive greed and the singularly American need to glorify it, in the late 80’s is the context that surrounds its anti-hero as he loses his mind and the echoes of this world still reverberate today.


James Chace Loving

Kerry L. Drohan (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English Literature, Cape Cod Community College

Scandinavians in America: An Immigration Story

This project focuses on Scandinavian immigration to the United States and its impact on society over time. It explores the main reasons why Scandinavians, particularly Norwegians, came to the US. More than 2 million Scandinavians immigrated to the United States between 1820 and 1920, mostly settling in the Midwest, in contrast to the European nations of Ireland and Germany, who settled mainly in East Coast cities. With little tillable land available in Norway, much of the immigration from that country was from Norwegian farm to American farm. I will explore the historic origins of how the Vikings, the greatest coastal raiders in history, evolved to a state that spurred so many to come to America. The project will include insight about the voyages of Erik the Red and Leif Erikson, the first European explorers to discover America. I will also focus on how Scandinavian immigration has affected the United States in modern times. I plan to center my project around my own family’s story as they immigrated from Norway to the US in the 1600s. Therefore my story will act as a lens to explore the greater topic.


Esther W. Macharia

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

Now You See Me, Now You Don't: American Invisibility Syndrome; Psycho-social Impacts of Structural Violence to African Americans

This paper examines the psychological and sociological consequences of the entrenched structural violence in American society, and understanding how through racial discrimination, structured classicism, segregation and exploitation, invisibility of the African Americans is not a tale but a defined trait. Published in 1952, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison persuasively depicts this concept with utmost meticulousness. Beginning with a discussion of the novel, it walks us through the journey of a young African American who grows up in a culture where his black color predominantly categorizes him as an unseen and virtually non- existent human being. Living in horrendous conditions, but very smart, he tries to get rid of his invisibility tag and assert himself as a worthy and equal human in a world that is metaphorically blind, and trying to forge his way, away from his ignorant and poor community, only to face the reality of the challenges that his color bears. Swindling back into the roots of American history, this paper further discusses how hierarchical structures, institutions and social systems have always subdued and diminished African American lives into nothingness and stereotype them as violent criminals, and how this has significantly caused them not only physical torture but most notably, psychological and sociological harm; It links these impacts on already proven scientific researches. It concludes by showing how this has trickled down through generations, creating a socially unstable and incoherent population which is fundamentally a product of the American culture.


Sean M. Maenpaa

Michael James Gormley (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English Literature, Quinsigamond Community College

America's History of Gang Violence and Organized Crime

Prejudice against immigrants and strong presence of organized crime have been staples of American life and culture since the early twentieth century, if not earlier, as seen in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. The novel follows the members of Corleone family, as Don Vito Corleone retires after an attack on his life from rival gangsters, focusing on the theme of being unable to leave the criminal underworld if you’re already in it, as seen with Michael, the youngest Corleone son. Michael did not want to get back into the family business after returning from military service, and purposely ostracized himself during his sister’s wedding on page 14, “Now this youngest son sat at a table in the extreme corner of the garden to proclaim his chosen alienation from father and family.” Despite Michael’s efforts, the leadership of the family is forced upon the Don’s sons after his father’s retirement. Corleone family’s existence as an organized crime family ties back to their status of being immigrants, as Vito was from Sicily. Vito forced into crime as a means of survival, and this allowed him to socially advance in his new country. This was not an uncommon occurrence among immigrants. They seek out people of similar backgrounds in this new land to stand together against those who already live there, who treat them with hostility and often violence. The Godfather shows how the themes of prejudice against immigrants and the rise of organized crime are constant presence in America, and how they’re connections.


Brian Michael Mulhearn

Alison Okuda (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Worcester State University

“An Obligation to March Forth”: Causes of Arab Muslim Migration during the Soviet-Afghan War

From the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet forces in December 1979 until their withdrawal from the country in February 1989, the anti-Soviet Afghan resistance received significant assistance from abroad. Throughout the course of the war, a community of Arab Muslim migrants established itself along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to participate in combat and provide humanitarian aid. Despite the significance of this migration to the war effort and its later role in the establishment of al-Qaeda, it has received only limited historical analysis. While journalists, political scientists, and religious scholars have acknowledged the role of revolutionary Salafist ideologies in producing both local and foreign anti-Soviet resistance, the significance of Afghan Salafism to creating and sustain Arab Muslim migration has been ignored. This paper traces the development of revolutionary Islamist thought in the Arab world and Afghanistan. It argues that ideological and interpersonal linkages between Afghan and Arab revolutionary Islamists were a key factor in enabling Arab migration to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Further, it argues that the provision of aid from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan to the Afghan resistance was crucial in establishing and maintaing the dominance of revolutionary Islamist factions. This paper examines the memoirs and other personal accounts of Arab Muslim migrants, as well as the religious and political writings of key figures in the development of revolutionary Islamism and the Afghan jihad.


Emily Amy Parker

Jennifer L. Nye (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, UMass Amherst

Birth Control and Abortion Access at UMass Amherst and Smith College, 1970 1975

For decades in the United States, state law deemed it illegal to have information on or obtain birth control or an abortion procedure. This began to change with the 1972 Supreme Court decision Eisenstadt v. Baird, which expanded the right to obtain birth control to single individuals. This trend of reproductive rights was affirmed further in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established abortion access as a constitutional right. But, as is the case with all of history, there was an era before these cases where women obtained abortions and birth control despite the illegality of both. This project will examine what student access to birth control and abortion looked like during the period of 1970 to 1975, and their connection to the struggle for reproductive freedom in Hampshire County. Specifically, it will look at the student populations of two institutions of higher education located in the Pioneer Valley, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Smith College. The goal is to answer a series of questions through the utilization of materials found in the University & Special Collections Archives of both institutions. These questions will include how were students enrolled at these institutions able to bypass the law to obtain these services? Did health services at UMass and Smith provide students with information or referrals to clinics where they had access or were there rules preventing this? Finally, what differences and similarities are discovered when comparing access between a private women's college versus a public coeducational institution.


Patrick J. Petitto

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

A Look at War Porn by Examining the Literary Response to America at War

This paper examines the mechanisms by which the American public interprets the act of killing in combat and how violence is portrayed in literature, film, and video games. By examining these mediums, there is not only a marked desensitization of violence, but also a glorification of it that has had negative effects on American culture. Specifically James Salter’s semi biographic, yet fictional novel The Hunters, concerning fighter pilots of the Korean War era in comparison with Chris Kyle’s memoir, American Sniper set in the current Iraq War, there is a clear decline in the substantive introspective quality in how combat is presented in pop culture. Although Kyle’s memoir is not of the same literary genre as Salter’s it sits among a newer, growing group of warfighter’s combat experiences that is less introspective and far more sensationalized, containing highly questionable embellishments resulting in works more often comparable to first-person shooter video games. There is a commercialization of the way violence in combat is portrayed and it has been repackaged as popular entertainment, missing the true human cost of the act of killing. The historically romantic portrayal of war has devolved into cheap sensationalism void of humanity. This distinctly American cultural shift has manifested itself in the new genre, “war porn” as a result of this nation’s constant state of warfare, i.e., the Global War on Terror; the ramifications of which erode the ability to depict war honestly and accurately in the arts. This paper seeks to explore that erosion.


Gordon Anthony Rupert

Maria Alessandra Bollettino (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Framingham State University

The Problem of Property Tax, Race, and Education in the United States

Racial segregation in the United States has been perpetrated in the United States in large part as a result of the use of property taxes to fund education. There has been an extensive amount of research on the connection of property tax, race, and education, however, few sources discuss how long the objections have existed, or just how similar they are to those still made. Areas with low property value are unable to provide as much funding to their school districts, even with a higher tax rate, leading to a cycle of underfunded schools surrounded by impoverished neighborhoods, disproportionately affecting lower-income communities, many of which are, and have been for decades, comprised of people of color. To better show the history of this complex problem which still affects public education, this presentation will examine the dissenting opinions of Supreme Court justices, and in particular those of Thurgood Marshall, in the case San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973), where the system of property tax funding public education was declared constitutional. This presentation will also analyze the two school districts mentioned in the case: Alamo Heights and Edgewood Independent, respectively the richest and poorest districts in San Antonio in 1972, in order to show how these districts have developed over the last several decades. The race and financial statistics presented by the Supreme Court in 1972 will be compared to those of today, showing both areas have remained virtually unchanged in terms of racial and financial statistics over the past 50 years.


Corey J. Sarver

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

American Gang Rivalries

America is a bastion for gangs of all ethnicities, beginning with the rise of organized crime in the 20th century, leading into the modern era with street gangs. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather gives us a look into the inner workings of the Mafia, the magnitude of violence displayed, and the motives behind these actions. Modern street gangs also show a common theme of Americanness in how they emerged and the way that these groups act against one another. The primary focus of an American gang is to conduct business in the black market through violent actions. In Puzo’s novel, Michael describes how “some people wanted to take over” Vito’s “oil importing business. They tried to kill him and nearly did,” giving a vivid example of gangs vying with the Corleone Family purely for business (Puzo 20). From these violent business strategies, enmity builds between them, leading to acts of vengeance stemming from what was initially “just business.” Gangs and criminal organizations immigrated to America leading into the modern era. During the prohibition era, Italian immigration established the core of the American Mafia. With the arrival of diverse gangs, rivalries formed between intra-ethnic gangs. Relevant to today is the Bloods vs Crips rivalry, primarily of an African-American demographic. In the late 20th century, hispanic street gangs emerged with rivalries forming “over drug territory and for control of other criminal enterprises” (Moreno 134). American gang culture and The Godfather display a special identity with gang violence through the motives that inspire violence.


Ryan Drew Shumeyko

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

American Hallucinations: The Blight of the American Dream in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

“I tell you, my man, this is the American dream in action! We’d be fools not to ride this strange torpedo all the way out to the end. “Indeed,” he said. “We must do it”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as his vehicle, Hunter S. Thompson drives us down the highways of Nevada and into the heart of Las Vegas. Within Sin City Thompson bets that we will find clarity; the American Dream is the American Hallucination, a deception captivating our collective consciousness. The Dream is merely our masked rite of consumption as intrinsic to our psyche as it is insatiable in its scope. The Dream is a blight shrouded by nationalistic adornment and deified devotion, epitomized on the shining streets of Vegas and by its shackled citizens crusading through their consumptive Mecca. The symptoms steadily (re)surface in the imagined beheading of an innocent hitchhiker; the frenzied craving for a stereo to be plunged into a hotel bathtub; the victimization of an elderly maid, and an adolescent artist. Thompson whisks away the smokey haze surrounding the American Dream, bestowing lucidity its crawling violence; a toxin devouring the American people through their own avarice. Just as Thompson devours and is devoured by his drugs, the American people buckle, degrade, decay, and destruct, pinned by the jaws of their delusional desires and the American Dream. A strange torpedo, the American Dream inevitably expires in violence. Thompson unveils the only variable to be the velocity at which we are eviscerated.


Donovan Tames

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

Violence of Drug Addiction in America

The novel Requiem for a Dream, by Hubert Selby, provides multiple cases necessary for developing an inherent understanding of the categories of violence incurred from drug addiction. These examples depict the gruesomeness and intensity of prostitution and medically induced consequences from drug addiction in a mental and physical standpoint. This research explores and analyzes how drug addiction generates various elements of violence, like prostitution and medical repercussions, and how it’s built from underlying quintessentially American concepts, such as the ideas of capitalism and the obsessions for personal aspiration in pursuit of the American dream. The novel contains prime details necessary to link the uniqueness of its violence with respect to America. The strong ideas of capitalism in America from the people and government encourages private business, allowing doctors to prescribe medicine freely and easy access for drugs to the public. The obsession for personal aspirations has always been a major part of America and can eventually consume and push people to the extremes to fulfill them, leading to potential drug use and addiction. These concepts are a large contribution to the violent actions described in Requiem for a Dream, such as scenes which include illegal erotic shows and amputation of an individual’s limbs. This study refers to the novel, utilizing it as a guideline to investigates the different types of violence that arise because of drug addiction, and outlines the innately American causes.


Ashley Jennifer Timmons

Martin Thomas Fromm (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History and Political Science, Worcester State University

The Complexity of Borders in Medieval Britain: Linguistic and Cultural Transmission

Borders in Medieval Britain were a complex matter, not simply dealing with physical boundaries, but cultural and linguistic as well. The constant migration of peoples by definition meant that there was a transmission of language and culture, often seen through literature, across Britain. Britain, from the time of Late Antiquity through the Late Medieval period had a constantly shifting set of boundaries as seen on a map, however the borders of a map could not show the cultural and linguistic borders that were vastly different from a physical border. The constant warfare of the time period also played a significant role in the intangibility of naming any one border, in a country that spanned from the isle of Britain to half of France at its greatest heights in this timeframe. The Celtic languages that were native to the island would spread to France, along with legends of King Arthur, which would in turn find their way back home to Britain. The Anglo-Saxon attacks and Norman Conquest would change the inhabitants of “Britain”, seen through the linguistic changes that were wrought. The primary language of the nobility would become French, as were the majority of the Queens. Borders are difficult to define in the best of times, and in a time when nothing is certain or defined, attempting to define a single border is impossible. This is original research based on primary and secondary sources. It will focus on the non-existent borders of Britain from Late Antiquity through the Battle of Bosworth Field.


Rebecca Tosti

Lori Bihler (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Framingham State University

"They Ought to Do and Talk as Americans...": A Comparative Analysis of Bilingual Education in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

In 1897, a Milwaukee newspaper reported that local school directors adopted a rule which banned the teaching of German in public schools, and promoted the teaching of English only. This was a far cry from less than a century later, when President Lyndon Johnson announced his 1968 proposition to launch a bilingual education program with a five million dollar budget. Bilingual education became increasingly supported by federal law in the late- twentieth century, although interest in bilingual education took a backseat in United States public schools for several decades before regaining its popularity in the nineteen sixties. Despite its place in public education, bilingual education maintained its controversy over a century. This project questions why bilingual education maintained its controversial status through a comparative, historical analysis of nineteenth and twentieth century newspaper articles. Letters to the editors of various newspapers provide primary source evidence that reveals the ways in which public discourse about bilingual education played out in the public sphere over time. The evidence suggests that discourse concerning bilingual education has been consistently motivated by beliefs about identity and assimilation, and that these core motivations, although they evolved over a century, were the foundation of the controversy as it played out in public discourse over time.





Vanessa Rain Archangelo

Linda L. Lowry (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, UMass Amherst

Barcelona: A Victim of Its Own Success; The Economic, Environmental, and Sociocultural Impacts of Overtourism

The modern term “Overtourism” represents the negative impacts on a destination, associated with too many visitors, causing degradation of the local environment and heritage, resident irritation and decreased traveler experience. The paper aims to analyze the overall environmental, economic and socio-cultural impacts of overtourism in Barcelona, Spain as explained by local residents and tourism industry experts. In order to examine these impacts, both the both the positive and negative aspects of increased tourism in the city of Barcelona were considered. A qualitative research framework was adopted, as overtourism can present itself differently and impact destinations uniquely. Primary data, in the form of open-ended questions, were collected by email from Barcelonan tourism industry experts whom I met during my semester abroad in Barcelona. Secondary data were used to examine perceptions of local residents and consisted of the documentary “Bye, Bye Barcelona” as well as news accounts. Thematic visual mapping was used to analyze and show the overall benefits and detriments of increased tourism on the community as a whole. The findings of this paper show the need for city planning and describe how the “Barcelona Model” of tourism growth turned the city into a victim of its own success, and therefore prove the need for the implementation of sustainable tourism policies and regulation to maintain mutual benefits for all stakeholders.


Brady H. DeAngelo

Muzzo Uysal (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Human Services and Honors, UMass Amherst

Investigating Factors Influencing the Decision-Making Process of College-Aged Tourists Choosing Spring Break Destinations

The “Spring break” tradition poses a valuable business opportunity for companies in the tourism industry. A thorough collection and analysis of data can help understand purchasing behaviors and have implications for advertising, promotion, and selling strategies of these services and destinations. Previous studies have attempted to uncover what attracts travelers to certain destinations for Spring break, however data simply recognizes the existence of a difference between demographic groups in the decision making process, and does not provide elaborate insight as to what may cause these differences or implications it has for marketing travel destinations. Other studies in the industry that do focus on successful marketing techniques and specific channels of distribution have only been done in smaller sample sizes, across one or very few universities and/or travel destinations. This study seeks to fill in these gaps, collecting data from a survey distributed to college students who have travelled over Spring break, and using statistical analysis to examine relationships and explore beyond the descriptive nature of research typical to this topic of interest. The purpose of this study is to (1) Determine the strongest factors influencing Spring break destination choice in college-aged tourists, (2) Identify trends in decision-making and draw connections between destination choice and factors such as distribution channel and marketing activity, as well as demographic, behavioral, and other characteristics of travelers, and (3) Propose practical implications, with the goal of developing methods of leveraging significant market tendencies, and maximizing the potential of the Spring break travel season.


Julia Greenwood

Linda L. Lowry (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, UMass Amherst

Sustainability and Climate Change in the White Mountain Ski Industry

Climate change has taken center stage in the global conversation; however, lack of acknowledgement of its existence by the current U.S. government places the responsibility on individuals and business to do their part to insure that their practices and activities are more sustainable. The ski industry is noticeably impacted by warmer winters. This not only affects these businesses in terms of economic viability and the need to make artificial snow but also the community in which these businesses reside. The aim of this paper is to examine the broader question of how climate change is affecting the ski industry in the White Mountains (WM) of New Hampshire. Secondary data were used to contextualize WM’s dependence on ski tourism, number of days that snowmaking is needed, the process by which snow is made, the pros and cons of snowmaking on the community and the environment, and what the ski resorts are doing to address the issues of sustainability. In addition, primary data were collected to explore how college skiers and snowboarders think about sustainability of their winter activities. Secondary data suggest that snowmaking is widespread and that some ski resorts employ more sustainability practices than others. Results from surveys of college students suggests that price and convenience are their most important concerns; however, if a more sustainable ski resort was equal in price and convenience, they would select the more sustainable resort. WM ski resorts could use these findings to better target their customers and inform them of their sustainable initiatives.


Yliana Medina

Muzzo Uysal (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Human Services and Honors, UMass Amherst

How Recruiters and Students Value Technical and Practical Skills

As a higher rate of students enter the work force yearly, questions such as what skills recruiters are looking for in potential employees become more prevalent. There are studies that aim to answer these questions however they have covered only minimal ground. The skills valued by recruiters, are important to students for many reasons, the most important of these reasons being to secure a job after graduating. How students perceive the value of skills is also important to recruiters as this can give them an idea of a potential employee’s work ethic and how they go about performing some tasks and handling issues that may arise in the workplace. The objective of this study is simple: to investigate, how recruiters and students value the same skills and then compare the responses of both spectrums to identify any discrepancies. This study will establish these relationships through interviews and surveys to recruiters with different levels of work experience. The student information will be obtained through surveys given to college level students of all academic classes pursuing a business undergraduate degree at University of Massachusetts .This study contributes to what little is known about developing skills in school prior to entering the workforce by examining what is sought out and encouraging students to develop a foundation.





Jaydeep Mathurbhai Radadiya

Anuj K. Pradhan (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass Amherst

Designing Content for Quick and Effective Understanding of Vehicle Automation Systems: A Human-Centered Design Approach

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are technologies that support drivers in some traditional driving tasks, such as lane-keeping, or maintaining speed/distance from other traffic automatically. Although these systems promise safety, they are complex and unintuitive with dense and inaccessible user manuals. This can lead to users not understanding the systems, or not using them correctly. In each case, the promised safety benefits are not met, and in fact can introduce increased risks. Our research objective is to design a method for familiarizing users with the operation, capabilities, and limitations of ADAS using a human-centered design approach. Our goal was to remove the system complexities from user view, while presenting complete and accurate information so that drivers’ mental models of the system would be well-calibrated with the actual systems. This poster details the processes undertaken towards this objective, including design tools, choice of framework for training, and design decisions. Specifically, we used a human- centered design approach wherein we, as designers, first deconstructed the complexities of the system using a state diagram approach to ensure complete understanding of the system. Based on these diagrams, we designed a method for visualizing the technology in a non-technical and intuitive manner using human factors design principles. The outcome of this study is a training approach based on visualization of complex system states/transitions as a paradigm to explain system capabilities to laypersons. Future follow-up research will include evaluation of the design, including summative evaluation approaches to examine efficacy and effectiveness of the designed training approach.


Rebecca Rouleau

Andrew Patenaude (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Education, Fitchburg State University

Benefits of Hands-On Learning

For my thesis project I am going to be analyzing the effects of hands on learning. Seeing as I am a technology education major, this project will further enrich my knowledge of the subject I plan on teaching in the near future. To really exhibit and explain how hands on learning affects students, I will be not only doing the proper research, and writing a paper, but I will be building quite a unique fold down table. By doing this, I will be able to show how hands on learning actually expands upon student knowledge, and helps the learner better retain information for the long haul. My table project will be a wall hung fold down table. For my table, I will design, and construct a panel which will act as the legs of the table out of corian. This panel will also serve as an art piece that when the table is stowed away will make it look just like a picture on the wall. The rest will be made from wood. This project will allow me to actually learn by using my hands, because although I have plenty of woodworking experience, I know little to nothing about using a computer numerical controlled machine (CNC), and I have little experience with corian. So my project and paper will not only cover the more traditional academic side of things, but will go to actually show what hands on learning is, and how it is beneficial to anyone looking to learn.


Sarah Widrow

Anuj K. Pradhan (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass Amherst

A Wizard-of-Oz Experimental Approach to Study the Human Factors of Automated Vehicles: Platform and Methods Evaluation

Advanced vehicle automation technologies are being designed to improve overall driving safety. Despite this promise, there are unexplored questions about the unintended consequences and impact of these technologies on the driver. Thus, it is important to study drivers' use of such technologies to understand their behaviors, perceptions, and acceptance, and ultimately to inform design. One way to do so is by employing driving simulators, a tool used to design such systems and evaluate drivers' use of them. Traditionally, simulating vehicle automation involves algorithms that control a vehicle. However, when it becomes essential to simulate very complex driving maneuvers or to dynamically respond to emerging driving situations, such programming can be challenging or resource intensive. We therefore developed an alternate method to do so by using a ‘wizard of oz’ paradigm, wherein a researcher remotely controls the vehicle while maintaining an illusion that it is controlled by algorithms. In this study, we evaluated this alternate approach to understand differences in driver perception and behaviors for different simulation methods. The research was carried out as an experiment in an advanced driving simulator. 24 participants were exposed to both types of simulation (algorithm and wizard of oz). Drivers’ behaviors, eye movements, and perceptions of trust and workload were measured. Preliminary results indicate that regardless of the simulation method, drivers perceived no differences in the automation. These findings have important implications for experimental approaches and the use of simulators to understand driver behaviors in automated vehicles.





Peter M. Boyle

Kerry L. Drohan (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English Literature, Cape Cod Community College

How Mass Media Can Change the Way We View Immigrants

In a global society information is key to understanding what is happening around the globe. Every day millions of Americans will either read or watch the news to get a concept of what is going on in our country and abroad. However, could these mass media networks that people get their information from manipulate public opinion on controversial topics, such as immigration into the United States? This project aims to answer why mass media outlets may do this, and how they are able to manipulate their stories to sway public opinion. Using qualitative and quantitative data, the project examines the numbers behind public opinion and correlation to their news network and looks at primary examples of news media portraying a story or topic in a certain light. The conclusion expected is that mass media outlets do in fact have an effect on the way the public views the topic of immigration into the United States.


Holly Brunow

Guangzhi Huang (Faculty Sponsor)

Interdisciplinary Studies, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Process of Developing Prevention Methods for Reducing School Violence

This project is a small-scale application of alternative prevention methods for limiting and preventing school violence and in the long run, school shootings. The paper I will be presenting on will be my work with local schools and the community where I was able to conduct interviews and research how schools currently handle violence prevention and how they could improve. My research consists of a combination of literature review and ethnographic interview. The interviews include people who work within the school systems and are involved with the existing alternative programs. Much of the research I completed also included researching not only how to prevent the violence, but also where the violence comes from. This includes issues such as socioeconomic struggles, substance abuse, and other trauma many of these children face. My project examines the processes within a local high school of dealing with and prevention of lethal school violence in hopes of developing a school specific user manual for such alternative prevention methods using a community building approach. This paper will examine the major elements of the manual, such as proposed programming, and will argue that successful violence prevention depends not only on security but also on providing holistic support and education to the students and teachers.


Elaina Madison Buckler

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

The Empowerment of Women and Its Impact on Population Growth Trends

Within the last two centuries, population growth trends in the United States have been linked to changes seen in the role and status of women. During the industrial stage of the demographic transition, more opportunities for women in both their personal and professional lives contributed to the substantial decrease seen in the birth rate. Those opportunities came in the form of education and access to family planning and contraceptives. As women are able to receive an education and enter the workforce, more emphasis is placed on their own lives rather than the idea of having a family. Family planning and contraceptive use can both be used to control the window in which women have children, giving them more power over their lives and their fertility rate. By exploring the methods that have been successful in developed nations, we can also see how crucial their emergence would be in undeveloped regions. Understanding these factors and the connections they have to the United States’ demographic history provides us with necessary insight as to how populations are able to stabilize and maintain a steady growth rate.


Alexander Michael Lytle

Guangzhi Huang (Faculty Sponsor)

Interdisciplinary Studies, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

From Factories to Art Museums: An Exploration into North Adams and Gentrification

North Adams, the home of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the largest art museums in the United States, has been facing a longstanding decline in population caused by both lack of employment and rising costs of living. Since the closing of Sprague Electric, the former largest employer in the city, North Adams has been searching for a means to revitalize itself as an urban center. However, urban progress can be dangerous, and the more investment and “improvement” that goes into North Adams, the more expensive the area becomes. This process is called gentrification, or exclusive development. There are already signs of gentrification in North Adams, and if it is left unchecked, then the lives of working class residents could become disrupted. This presentation discusses the recent changes to North Adams both in terms of new institutions (Mass MoCA, Hi-Lo, and The Airport Rooms being the most notable) and in economic atmosphere by using qualitative data collected from interviewing several residents, including the current Mayor of North Adams. Additional research was done using the MCLA Archives regarding the developmental history of North Adams. This research is important as North Adams is not a unique situation; many formerly industrial cities face the issue of exclusive development, and by exploring the phenomena that is gentrification we can gain insight on ways to develop cities that can properly support their existing vulnerable populations.


Christopher Brian Pacheco

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

Finding Out the Temperature at Which Crickets Stop Chirping

In this project, linear functions were applied to crickets to track the rate at which cricket chirps change in response to temperature change. The temperature of the cricket in relation to the rate of a cricket’s chirp was translated into a symbolic function. Throughout this project, the domain, the range, slope, and the y-intercepts and also the inverse functions and their meaning were made explicit. Consequently, the variance found between three different crickets will be explained: the Snowy Crickets, the Tree Cricket, and the Field Cricket.The project allowed for accurate predictions concerning when it is too warm for crickets to chirp.


Allison Hope Rivard

Daniel Soucy (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Philosophy, Mount Wachusett Community College

The Effect of Minimum and Maximum Wages

Minimum wage is the lowest amount an employer can pay their employees. Since 2009, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. However many states have their own minimum wage. For example, as of January 1, 2020, Massachusetts has increased to $12.75 an hour and will continue to rise by $0.75 every year until it reaches $15 in 2023. Franklin D. Roosevelt came up with not only the United States minimum wage, but also the idea of a maximum wage in the U.S. This study will show some of the possible the effects of raising the minimum wage and capping the maximum wage, the living wage in Massachusetts, and the pros and cons of both. Analysis will utilize different theories of political economy including Modern Liberal, Classical Liberal, and Radical.





Nadia Golubov

Elizabeth Schmidt (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Public Policy, UMass Amherst

My Little Activist: Using Children’s Stories to Introduce International Development in US and Sub-Saharan Early-Grade Classrooms

Everyone has stories they remember from their childhood. Often, those stories have affected the ways that we see the world now. This research explores challenges that limit the promotion of a reading culture throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and the benefit of early grade reading in general. It also evaluates proposals to expand the presence of publishing firms throughout Sub-Saharan African nations as a way to counter these challenges. My previous experience studying language and development in Arusha, Tanzania has allowed me to observe a society that lacks a reading culture such as that which we experience in the US In these nations, stories have more often been passed down orally over time, which is a tradition inherent throughout many African countries. By drawing from an array of peer- reviewed journals, articles, surveys and books concerning the pedagogy of multicultural literature and its inherent cultural significance, and also by performing my own critical analyses of children’s books from five American and five Sub-Saharan African publishing firms, this research seeks to promote an awareness of the long-term advantages of reading to young children, especially concerning the potential of these types of stories to enhance a young mind’s understanding of cultural awareness and social action. These forms of educational progress could have transformative consequences for the development of change makers in our future world.


Cameron Loehr

Matthew Muller (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of English, Berkshire Community College

The Language of Music

When I began my studies of Spanish language and culture, I wondered about the challenges present in the process of composing a song in Spanish. During translation, sometimes the original meaning can become skewed or lost but some languages are more flexible which can actually enhance their ability to portray meaning. In my experience of composing a song in Spanish, the relative flexibility of Spanish syntax allowed for easier rhyme scheme and lyrical structure. On the other hand, Spanish has many stresses and acentos that require careful attention when structuring the lyrical phrases. The specified locations of the emphases allow for unique rhythmic patterns while still leaving room for flexibility. In addition to the lyrics, musical techniques play an important role in setting the ambiance of the song and have the ability to communicate across cultural barriers and in a realm that words cannot convey. Another feature of the sounds of music is their ability to put the listener in a specific setting mentally. For my song, I learned a few Flamenco, Spanish-style guitar techniques that have a feel as though the listener is in a Spanish environment. Writing and translating my song showed me that music can also be a great tool for learning about other cultures and learning more advanced vocabulary in the language you are translating to. When all the components came together, writing a song in Spanish was culturally and musically enhancing as well as entertaining. This is a way to bring people together!


Mia Anne McDonald

Hillary M. Sackett-Taylor (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Economics, Westfield State University

Prost! An Ethnographic Analysis of the German Beer Culture

Germany possesses one of the most well-known cultures revolving around beer. Historically symbolic of power, it has been a staple for the nation economically and culturally that has since become internationally appreciated. This ethnography will analyze the history and multi-faceted dynamics of German beer culture in three distinct phases. During the first phase, I will conduct thorough research regarding my research questions. I will then present this in addition to my plans for the second phase at MURC with the intention of gathering feedback on my observation plans. The second phase consists of a two-week trip to Europe, with the majority of the time being spent in Northern Germany from May 22 to May 31.

Here, I will seek to address the following research questions:

    1. How has German beer culture evolved over time?
    2. What role do historical events still play in the industry today?
    3. How do politics shape German beer culture?
    4. What components of German beer culture influence the tourism industry?
    5. In what ways does the German beer-making philosophy, thought of as “easy does it” (Dornbusch), show up in other areas of society?

The third phase is a synthesis of these two components, in which I will compare them and compose my final ethnography. The methodology I will employ is largely participatory. I will collect qualitative data abroad through experiences, including meetings with local brewery owners, casual conversations with Jade University students, and observations of beer advertising campaigns. This project will create a larger appreciation and understanding of the culture.


Eva J. Qiu

Deepika Marya (Faculty Sponsor)

Honors College, UMass Amherst

The Story of Chinese Immigrants from the 1850s to Present Day

Large scale Chinese immigration to the US began in the 1850s. Since then, Chinese immigrants have made their livelihoods in many different ways. Starting off as laborers during the California gold rush, as well as during the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1850’s, many Chinese immigrants later went on to work in Chinese restaurants all over the US in the early 1900s. Most recently, the majority of Chinese immigrants are students and investors. Early immigrants were able to create bright futures for later generations through enduring grueling work, all the while battling discrimination. Despite these hardships, Chinese immigrants have been, and still are able to rise in economic standing in the US. Over the course of the past centuries, the impact of these immigrants on the economy has changed. However, from the 1850s to the present day, Chinese immigrants have proven to have no significant negative impact on the US economy, and instead have been beneficial. From working backbreaking jobs that people in the US refused, to now providing highly skilled labor, Chinese immigrants have come a long way; each generation paving the way for the next. Comprising about 2% of the US population in recent years, Chinese immigrants have brought a deep, rich, colorful culture and history, adding immeasurable value to the United States.





José David Delgado

Razvan Sibii (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Journalism, UMass Amherst

Stress and Immigration: An Analysis of How Stress Negatively Affects the Life of an Undocumented Latino Immigrant in the United States

My research focuses on stress and immigration. As a DACA recipient, who has been negatively affected by stress, I have decided to research if stress has adversely affected the lives of other undocumented Latino immigrants in the United States, too. The main research question is, how does stress negatively impact the life of an undocumented Latino immigrant in Berkshire County and Hampshire County? The goal to answer this question is to examine how stress affects family relationships, daily work, and academic success. Currently, there are limited studies on the topic of stress negatively affecting the life of an undocumented Latino immigrant; however, there is none on undocumented immigrants that only live in Berkshire County and Hampshire County. Utilizing qualitative and quantitative approaches by conducting multiple interviews and surveys is my strategy to acquire a pattern from the stories and statistical graphs to help me answer my research question. The participant population will be undocumented Latino immigrant families (parents and children) and workers. My participants will have their anonymity protected as I plan to protect their identity by only using their initials. In conclusion, my research aims to help in future academic studies related to this topic and educate my academic audience.


Connie Lee

Razvan Sibii (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Journalism, UMass Amherst

Prison Reform: The Efficacy of Prison Education and Its Future

For decades the US Criminal Justice System has spent billions on incarceration due to the mindset of “ punishment over rehabilitation”. However, research shows that relying on punishment as a method of crime diversion is ineffective. Rather than simply “locking up” prisoners our justice system should recognize the importance of restorative justice alternatives such as prison education programs. This project aims to discuss how prison education programs can effectively reduce the social and economic costs of incarceration. Not only do these programs lead to lower recidivism rates but they also instill useful social skills within prisoners making their reintegration into society much easier. These education programs provide an ethical outlet for inmates to channel their emotions which can decrease the likelihood of them reverting back into lives of crime. The significance of prison education is shown through numerous case studies provided by nationwide programs that offer classes for prisoners. Notable programs include the Prison Education Project, Prison Studies Project, and Bard Prison Initiative. In terms of methodology, my research will be conducted through phone and video interviews as well as through data collected from online databases.





Anastasia Corkill

Mark S. Miller (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Identification of Myosin Heavy Chain Isoforms in Human Skeletal Muscle Using Fluorescent Immunohistochemistry

Skeletal muscle contractile performance is dictated, in large part, by the interactions of the contractile proteins of myosin and actin as well as the specific myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform expressed. In human skeletal muscle fibers, there are three main MHC isoforms expressed (MHC I, IIA and IIX) with contractile force and velocity increasing in the order I < IIA ≤ IIX. Hybrid fibers (I/IIA, IIAX, etc.) have contractile properties between the pure isoforms. This study focused on adapting the established technique of fluorescent immunohistochemistry to identify MHC isoforms in vastus lateralis (thigh) muscle from older adults (65-75 years old) in the Muscle Biology Laboratory (MBL). To do this, we sliced six µm cross-sections of muscle bundles and placed them on microscope slides. We stained the cross-sections by incubating with primary antibodies and secondary fluor-tagged antibodies, each for one hour. To visualize, we individually imaged red, blue and green fluorescence according to each fluor’s excitation wavelength and overlaid them to form a single composite for analysis. We are currently in the process of perfecting this protocol, which should be completed in time for the 26thUMass Undergraduate Research Conference. The ability to perform this useful technique will help future MBL studies link whole muscle performance to single fiber size and isoform composition and to understand how these parameters change with aging and exercise.


Ashley Cui

Maia Schlechter

Julia Choi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Effect of Reward and Punishment Feedback on Locomotor Learning during "Virtual" Split-Belt Adaptation

The ability to adapt walking patterns is key to maintain functional mobility after neurological injuries. Adaptation of interlimb coordination during walking can be driven by proprioceptive and visual feedback; consolidation of newly stored locomotor memories leads to faster re- adaptation rates (i.e., savings). The purpose of this study is to determine whether reward and punishment feedback increases consolidation of locomotor memories after ‘virtual’ split- belt adaptation. 25 healthy young adults (20.4±2.6 yrs) participated in two sessions where the second session was 24 ± 2hrs following the first session. In each session, participants completed five phases where treadmill speed was constant (0.73±0.06 m/s) but the visuomotor gain (VM gain; i.e. speed of visual feedback in relation to treadmill speed) was manipulated during (1) Familiarization (VM gain: 1:1), (2) Slow baseline (VM gain 0.9:0.9), (3) Fast baseline (VM gain 1:1), (4) Adaptation phase (VM gain 0.9:1) inducing asymmetric gait, and (5) Post-adaptation phase (VM gain1:1). Participants were randomly assigned into reward (n=8; score increased +1 for every accurate step), punishment (n=8; score decreased -1 for every inaccurate step) or control (n=9; no score displayed) groups. Reward and punishment groups scores were only visible during the adaptation phase. Step error and step length symmetry were calculated. A one-way analysis of variance and post-hoc t-tests were used to determine group effects. We hypothesize that participants training with reward feedback will show higher acquisition and consolidation. If so, this would suggest that reward feedback can be implemented into gait rehabilitation therapies to increase efficacy.


Zeqing Dai

Richard Van Emmerik (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Effects of Concussion on Coordination of Head Sagittal Motion and Vertical Trunk Center of Mass Displacement in Walking

Head angular motion in the sagittal plane is compensatory for vertical trunk center of mass displacement during walking, facilitating gaze stabilization under normal function of the vestibular system. Patients with vestibular diseases and astronauts returning from microgravity exposure both experience decreased head stability due to increased sagittal plane motion of the head and consequently reduced coordination of head and trunk. Vestibular deficits have also been observed among concussed individuals. However, the effect of these deficits on the compensatory head motion is unknown. Here we will examine the effects of concussion on coordination of head sagittal motion and vertical trunk center of mass displacement in walking. We hypothesize that concussion will 1) increase the head motion magnitude during gait and 2) reduce head sagittal-vertical trunk center of mass coordination. There will be 2 groups in this study: a concussion group with 5 recently concussed collegiate/recreational level athletes, and a control group with 5 healthy young adults (age 18-25). Each group will perform single-task treadmill walking trials at 1.2 m/s and 2.0 m/s. Kinematic data will be recorded through a Qualisys motion capture system. We predict that concussion group will have greater head motion magnitudes and reductions in anti-phase head sagittal-vertical trunk center of mass coordination patterns compared to the control group at both speeds. Results will indicate that concussion reduces compensatory sagittal head-vertical trunk coordination in walking. This could suggest further research on how this coordination pattern can be used in diagnosing concussions and determining return-to- play timing for concussed athletes.


Emily Patricia Donovan

Mark S. Miller (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Quantification of Intramyocellular Lipid Content in Human Skeletal Muscle Fibers

Myosteatosis, or fat infiltration into skeletal muscle tissue, increases over a lifetime as well as with various diseases, resulting in decline of whole muscle function and performance. The aim of this study was to implement an often used method, but new to the Muscle Biology Laboratory (MBL), to quantify and analyze intramyocellular lipids in frozen human skeletal muscle sections. Tissue samples containing 50-60 individual muscle fibers came from vastus lateralis (thigh) biopsies from older (65-75 years old) adults. These samples were frozen in Optimal Cutting Temperature (OCT) embedding medium and preserved at -80°C. In order to further analyze the tissue samples, they were carefully sliced into 6 µm cross-sections using a Leica cryostat. After adhering the cross-sections to the slides, they were fixed with paraformaldehyde, washed in deionized water, and incubated for 30 minutes in Oil Red Ostain. A brightfield microscope visualized and imaged the lipid droplets, which were then analyzed for size, quantity, and distribution. This protocol has been successfully reproduced in the MBL. After optimization is complete, the technique will be applied to samples from young (25-45 years), low-fat; young, high-fat; and older (65-75 years), high-fat adults to determine differences in intramyocellular lipid content. Results from this technique will allow the MBL to study the connections between the amount of fat infiltration and changes in single fiber and whole muscle contractile performance.


Erin J. Doyle

Paul A. Cacolice (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Movement Science, Sport and Leisure Studies, Westfield State University

Is Cross Education Truly Directional?: A Prospective Cohort Study

Cross Education (CE) is a neurophysiological phenomenon in which unilateral motor activity enhances function in the untrained, contralateral limb. CE has great clinical implications, such as minimizing strength deficits resulting from unilateral immobilization or contraindication of exercise following an orthopedic injury. Beyond orthopedic injury, CE training protocols could be created and implemented for poststroke patients experiencing hemiparesis. Despite the widely affirmed outcomes of CE, the robustness of directionality of CE is not uniformly agreed upon. Therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to explore the magnitude of CE effects in the untrained limb after a five-week, eccentric, unilateral resistance program of the weaker rectus femoris muscle. A convenience sample of four healthy, untrained, undergraduate females participated in a five-week, eccentric, unilateral resistance training program of the weaker limb. Peak torque, time to peak torque, and power were measured using an isokinetic dynamometer (Biodex II, Ronkokoma, NY) prior to and after the training intervention. This presentation will cover the results of the study, as well as practical clinical implications.


Yeun Hiroi

Danielle Marie Zoppo

Richard Van Emmerik (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Investigating Differences in Spatial and Temporal Gait Parameters among Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Subtypes of Timed Twenty-Five-Foot Walk

Background: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease of the central nervous system which can be categorized into progressive (PMS) and relapsing-remitting (RRMS) subtypes. The timed 25-foot walk test (T25FWT) is a common clinical tool to assess gait function in people with MS. However, there is a lack of comparison of gait characteristics between MS subtypes.

Objectives: Investigate differences in spatial (elevation at midswing, stride length) and temporal (gait speed, stance time) gait parameters during T25FWT between RRMS, PMS and Healthy Controls.

Methods: 24 healthy controls (HC; 56.18 ± 12.17 yrs), 16 RRMS patients (53.16 ± 10.30 yrs) and 17 PMS patients (60.22 ± 8.67 yrs) participated in this study. Participants completed T25FWT while wearing inertial sensors at a brisk pace. A one-way analysis of variance and post-hoc t-tests were used to examine differences between groups.

Results: Elevation at midswing was not significantly different between all groups. Stride length (SL) and gait speed (GS) were significantly greater in HC compared to RRMS (SL: p

< 0.001); GS: p < 0.001) and PMS (SL: p < 0.001; GS: p < 0.001), and stance time was significantly shorter in HC compared to RRMS (p = 0.003) and PMS (p < 0.001). All spatial and temporal gait parameters were not significantly different between RRMS and PMS (all p’s > 0.05).

Conclusions: Spatiotemporal gait kinematics differed between HC and MS, but not between MS subtypes. This suggests that the T25FWT may not be a sensitive measure to assess functional differences between RRMS and PMS.


Marissa Roya Jacobia

John Ronald Sirard (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

UMass Stair versus Elevators Project (UMass STEP)

Introduction- Switching from elevator to stair use could significantly increase overall physical activity and help to promote a healthier lifestyle. In previous studies, stair use increased when point of decision prompts were placed near stairs and elevators.

Purpose- The aim of this project is to determine the effect of point of decision prompts and infographics near elevators and stairs to encourage stair use, using direct observation and intercept surveys.

Methods- This project will take place in the W. E. B. Du Bois Library. Direct observations will be used to observe the number of people taking the elevators, while the intercept surveys will be used for stair users to determine floor destination/origin and student/faculty/staff/visitor status.Data collections will be conducted for one week at three time points throughout one semester; baseline (T0), immediately after point of decision prompts (T1), and follow-up after removal of prompts (T2).

Results- The 3-week data collection phase will begin March, 2020. We hypothesize that the prompts will transiently increase stair use (change from T0 to T1) but will not be maintained after the prompts are removed (T2). Further, we hypothesize that the increase in stair use will be modified based on social context (alone, with others) and the ultimate destination/origin floor.

Conclusion- The results of this study will be used to provide information for future efforts to encourage stair use as a way to incorporate additional healthful physical activity into people’s daily lives.


Travis Frank Johnston

Joseph Hamill (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Influence of Locomotor Speed on Lower Extremity Biomechanics

Knowledge of muscle activity is crucial to understanding the biomechanics of running. This research examined the effects of increased locomotor speed on lower extremity muscle activity. We hypothesized that with linear increases in locomotor speed, we would also see a linear scale in the peak amplitude of muscle activation of the lower leg. Data were collected from 15 healthy male participants between the ages of 18-30 years old. Electromyographic (EMG) sensors were placed on eight different muscles on each leg (tibialis anterior, medial gastrocnemii, soleus, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, rectus femoris, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius). The participant then ran on the treadmill at eight different speeds for 30 seconds each, starting with 1.5 m/s up to 5.0 m/s in 0.5 m/s increments. Data will be processed and analyzed using custom MatLab programs. The primary outcome variables for this study are peak amplitudes and integrated EMG for each muscle. Within our analysis, we expect to see linear increases in peak amplitude and integrated EMG with increases in locomotor speed, expanding upon and reaffirming the current literature. We also expect greater increases in the gluteal muscles when compared to the other muscles. Final conclusions will be made following this in-depth analysis of data from all subjects. This data will provide information as to how going for a  run at a slower pace will have different effects on the muscles of the leg when compared to a sprint, informing training practices.


Victoria E. Kelsen

Anthony D'Amico (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Exercise Science, Salem State University

The Effects of Plyometric Training in Collegiate Dancers' Jumping Abilities

IntroductionThe purpose of this study was to examine whether or not Plyometric training effects dancers’ vertical jump heights and broad jumps, compared to standard jump training activities usually done by dancers.

MethodsThe six-week study included 14 collegiate leveled dancers, 9 of them (21.3±2.6 years old) completed the plyometric training program while 5 of them (21.5±2.2 years old) completed the dance training program. Each group met twice a week and participated in pretesting and post-testing. Three tests were used to assess the effects of training and included the squat jump, countermovement jump, and broad jump. Data was assessed for normality with Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test and normally distributed data was assessed using the two-tailed T-test. Non-normally distributed data was assessed with a Mann-Whitney U test and the alpha level used was .05.

ResultsImprovements in the squat jump were significantly higher in the plyometric group (2.3 inches ± 2.2) compared to the dance group (0.8 inches ± 1.7) (p<.05). Improvements in the broad jump were significantly higher in the plyometric group (10.1inches ± 7.2) compared to the dance group (1.8 inches ± 3.8) (p <.05). No significant differences between groups were found in the countermovement jump (p>.05).

DiscussionAccording to the findings plyometric training increased dancers jump heights in both the squat jump and broad jump. This suggests that dancers could incorporate a plyometric training program to improve their jumping ability.


Samantha Kirkham

Julia Choi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Effects of Variable Split-Belt Adaptation on the Consolidation and Generalization of Locomotor Memories

Walking patterns can be adapted on a split-belt treadmill, which allows independent control of limb speed. Variable training has been demonstrated to accelerate the rate of re- adaptation (i.e., “savings”) and/or reduce interference when learning a task that is dynamically opposite to the original task, suggesting that practice structure can influence the stability of a motor memory. Variable practice may also improve transfer by facilitating structural learning (i.e., learning general rules rather than specific patterns). Here, we examined the effects of variably asymmetric-speed perturbations during split-belt walking on the consolidation and generalization of locomotor memories. Healthy participants were randomly assigned to 3 groups in session 1: fixed group (n = 10) walked at a 2:1 speed ratio for 600 steps, variable group (n = 10) experienced random variations of belt speed ratios in the range of 1:1 to 2:1 for 600 steps, and control group (n = 10) did not perform training on day 1. The fixed and variable groups also performed a 30-steps interference (opposite, 1:3 ratio) and transfer (same, 3:1 ratio) test on day 1. Twenty-four hours after session 1, all subjects performed an interference (opposite, 1:3 ratio) split-belt walking condition, immediately followed by a transfer test (same, 3:1 ratio) for 600 steps. We hypothesize that random variability would improve consolidation (i.e., less interference) and generalization (i.e., more transfer) relative to a fixed training structure. The results will help inform current rehabilitation practices by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of training programs for people with impaired gait.


Brianna Lyn Malaguti

Richard Van Emmerik (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Tai Chi and Mindfulness Meditation as Rehabilitation Methods for Motor Function in People with Multiple Sclerosis

Introduction: Approximately 1 million individuals are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the United States. MS is a neurological disorder where gait and balance dysfunction is common. Central motor impairment may be a contributor to this dysfunction, specifically, the muscular weakness, spasticity, and fatigue aspects. Tai Chi has been shown to improve gait, balance, and fatigue in MS. Meditation has improved fatigue and subjective physical function in MS. While both Tai Chi and Meditation have led to improvements in MS symptoms, the impact on central motor function is unknown.

Purpose: To evaluate the impact of an 8-week Tai Chi or Mindfulness Meditation intervention on motor function in MS, and whether those same results are retained after a two-week washout period.

Methods: A total of 10 participants (5 Tai Chi; 5 Meditators), ages 34-64, 7 females, 3 males, all MS subtypes, PDDS scores 0-4, completed the study. The three data collections included baseline, post-intervention, and post washout. Motor function was tested at each collection via foot-tapping test. Participants were instructed to produce as many foot taps in a 10- second period as they could, with each foot evaluated 3 times. Opal APDM bodyworn inertial sensors were used to assess angular velocity, tap frequency and magnitude for each trial. A custom MATLAB program will be used to identify taps based on angular velocity.

Conclusion: We hope to better understand the impact of Tai Chi and Meditation on the central motor function of people with MS, and how long the benefits are retained.


Marisa Eleanor Mulvey

John Ronald Sirard (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Improving the Energy Expenditure Prediction of Accelerometers during Intermittent Exercise

INTRODUCTION: Research-grade wearable accelerometer devices are frequently used to assess free-living physical activity and energy expenditure (EE). Their calibration relies on steady state exercise, using indirect calorimetry to measure oxygen consumption (aerobic metabolism), as the criterion measure.

PURPOSE: To modify an existing algorithm for wearable accelerometers to improve EE prediction during non-steady state activity.

METHODS: Twenty participants (n=20) will engage in two data collection sessions. The preliminary submaximal exercise session will determine the treadmill speed corresponding to 95% of the participant’s maximal heart rate. The High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session will consist of 5 rounds of 60-seconds high intensity (running at a predetermined speed from preliminary session) followed by 60-seconds low intensity (walking) on a treadmill. Oxygen consumption and raw accelerometer data will be collected during the HIIT session. Wrist- and hip-accelerometers, a heart monitor, and a portable metabolic gas analysis system will be worn during the HIIT session. Existing algorithms for predicting EE will be modified by incorporating more metrics, such as intensity and duration of each bout, in order to better estimate the rate at which EE decreases after a short, high intensity bout of exercise.

RESULTS: We hypothesize that including these additional metrics and decay function will provide more accurate estimates of EE from the wrist- and hip-worn accelerometers.

CONCLUSION: In the future, we hope that researchers will be able to apply this modified algorithm to better estimate free-living EE using research- and consumer-grade wearable devices.


Peter James Murphy

Mark S. Miller (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Power and Resistance Training Effects on Leg Strength and Power in Older Adults

Older adults have reduced ability to perform simple activities of daily living (e.g. walking, climbing stairs, rising from a chair, etc.). Low muscle strength and power are key predictors of this age-related decrease in functional capacity. Accordingly, interventions that improve these muscle contractile properties may forestall disability in older adults. We examined how leg strength and power were altered after 16-weeks of traditional low-velocity, high- load resistance training (RT) using one leg and high-velocity, low-load power training (PT) using the other leg in healthy, sedentary older men and women (65-75 years old) using a Biodex dynamometer. This within-subject, unilateral paradigm provides a powerful means to examine each training regimen while minimizing between-subject variability. As dynamometry measurements had not been analyzed previously in the Muscle Biology Laboratory, MATLAB code was modified and added to in order to perform data analysis and macros were created in Microsoft Excel to import and organize the data. Accuracy was verified by comparing code output to time-consuming, manual calculations and a step-by- step protocol for code use was created for future researchers. Importantly, raw dynamometry data was found to have a consistent and repeatable artifact that was correctable, but only needed to be corrected in 7 of the 216 contractions analyzed. To date, pre- and post-exercise strength and power results from all 15 volunteers have been analyzed. Statistical analysis of these results will be performed using SPSS in the coming months and be presented at the 26th Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference.


Anand Lawrence Panigrahy

Jane Kent (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Intramuscular Fat Content Is Not Related to Body Mass or Muscle Function in Young Adults

Aging and chronic disease are associated with increased fat content in muscle, which has been implicated in poor muscle function. This study investigated whether body mass index (BMI kg∙m-2) is associated with intramuscular fat content in healthy young adults. A secondary aim was to examine the associations between intramuscular fat and muscle function. Fat and muscle tissue content in the quadriceps muscles of 36 participants (29.8, range 21-45 yr; BMI = 26.8 range 18.9-39.9; 22 women) were measured using a 3T magnetic resonance (MR) system. Muscle cross-sectional area (mCSA), fat fraction (FF, %), and intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) content were acquired and analyzed offline. Maximal isometric and isokinetic torque were measured by dynamometer, to determine specific torque (ST; torque/mCSA). Linear regression was used to evaluate associations between key variables. BMI was not associated with FF (r2=0.04; p=0.24) nor IMCL (r2=0.02; p=0.41). Mean and range of FF was 7.8; 4.9-12.1 and IMCL was 4.9; 0.5-13.2, respectively. As expected, mCSA was directly related to both isometric (r2=0.81; p<0.0001) and isokinetic (r2=0.61; p<0.001) torque. However, FF was not related to isometric (r2=0.09; p=0.09) nor isokinetic (r2=0.04; p=0.50) ST. The lack of relationship between BMI and muscle fat content indicates that BMI does not reflect fat deposition at the muscular level in healthy young adults. Likewise, the absence of an association between fat content and ST suggests that the relatively low levels of intramuscular fat observed in these participants does not alter muscle torque production.


Christos Pedone

John Ronald Sirard (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Coding Videos for Physical Activity Behaviors Using a Chest-Mounted 360-Degree Camera

Video-taped direct observation (DO) is the current gold standard for calibrating wearable sensors and activity trackers (accelerometers) to estimate free-living physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SED). However, the current methodology requires research personnel to follow participants during data collection, which increases researcher burden and limits activity choices of participants.

Purpose: To determine the accuracy of utilizing an autonomous, chest mounted 360° camera (1st person) for direct observation of people’s free-living PA and SED, compared with the current gold standard DO system (Cox 2020).

Methods: 5 participants (22.3+/- .2 years, 2M, 3F) were each video recorded during one continuous four-hour free-living session in free living environments of their choosing (e.g. home, shop, office, park). The participants wore the chest mounted 360° camera (1st person) while also being video recorded by research personnel with a GoPro HERO+LCD camera (criterion method). Video files were coded with Observer XT DO software (Noldus, Inc.) using the previously developed coding system for all videos. To decrease bias, the 360° camera vides will be coded first. Statistical equivalence testing will be utilized for analysis of time spent in SED, light, moderate, and vigorous PA across the whole session and agreement statistics will be calculated at the second-by-second level.

Results: Data analysis are ongoing. We hypothesize that the 360° camera method will yield similar results compared with the criterion method.

Conclusion: The proposed autonomous 1st person 360° camera method may serve as a valid and efficient data collection method for wearable device validation studies.


Samuel Bernhard Reismann

Katherine Boyer (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Influence of Patellofemoral Pain on Running Gait Mechanics and Muscle Function in Runners

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is an overuse syndrome in runners and common cause of anterior knee pain that persists and reoccurs periodically. Potential causation factors include cartilage health, joint, limb, and muscle alignment, as well as altered gait and muscle function. Injuries are often linked by underlying mechanical factors which result in a need to understand these effects. The goal of this study was to determine if runners currently suffering from or who have recently resolved PFPS develop pain and/or adapt their gait over a 20-minute treadmill run. This study recruited 59 participants: 20 healthy, 20 currently with PFPS, and 19 with resolved PFPS symptoms. Motion capture and force data were recorded every 2 minutes, with data obtained from minutes 1 and 21. The results are expected to show alterations in the movement kinematics of the participants diagnosed with PFPS that will be exacerbated by pain onset during the run. It is hypothesized that differences between participant groups will be found in hip flexion and abduction moments, and knee abduction and external rotation moments between. These factors have previously been shown to be primary adaptation sites for people with PFPS. It is also expected that with increases in pain during the treadmill run, there will be changes in hip flexion and adduction moments, along with greater peak knee adduction and external rotation moments. With these results, the alterations to gait and muscle function can be better understood and used to develop care and preventative steps to mitigate the effects of PFPS.


Paige F. Richmond

John Ronald Sirard (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Effects of Gender Norms on Objective and Subjective Measures of Physical Activity

Females are less active than males throughout the lifespan, which can lead to unfavorable health outcomes. Gender norms, as measured by one’s endorsement of benevolent sexism (BS), could explain these disparities. Purpose: The purpose of this research is to measure associations between one’s endorsement of BS and subjective and objective measures of physical activity (PA). Methods: Nineteen college-aged women (20.7± 1.1 years old) completed the 22-item Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI), which measured participants’ endorsement of BS on a Likert scale from 0-5 (0=no endorsement of BS to 5= high endorsement of BS). The participants then filled out the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) short form, which provides subjective measures of PA in terms minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary time per week. In order to objectively measure PA, the participants were instructed to wear a hip-worn accelerometer (Actigraph GT9x Link) for seven consecutive days. Results: The mean ASI score for the endorsement of BS was 1.52 ± 0.78. From the IPAQ, the mean minutes per week of MVPA was 456.8 ± 389.5 minutes and the mean sedentary time per week was 1721 ± 600.8 minutes. Accelerometer data processing is ongoing. It is hypothesized that a lower ASI score will be associated with an overestimation of physical activity, and a higher ASI score will be associated with an underestimation of physical activity. Conclusion: Further investigation of these associations will help researchers better understand the source of physical activity gender disparities.


Maia Schlechter

Adam Mitchell Lee

Wouter Hoogkamer (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Effect of Asymmetric Shoe Height on Kinetics during Walking

Introduction: Asymmetric shoe height can be used to offset the unequal weight-bearing in neurologically impaired populations such as individuals post-stroke. However, it has not been examined whether humans are able to adapt to asymmetrical shoe height with extended exposure.

Objective: The goal of this study was to examine adaptations in the forces exerted during walking imposed by asymmetric shoe heights.

Methods: 5 healthy young adults (20.6 ± 0.90 yrs, 3 females and 2 males) participated in this study. Participants walked on an instrumented treadmill for 4 walking trials at 1.3m/s: (1) 5 minutes with equal shoe height for familiarization, (2) 5 minutes with equal shoe height to establish baseline weight-bearing symmetry, (3) 10 minutes adaptation phase with one shoe raised to an asymmetric height (4) 10 minutes post-adaptation phase with equal shoe height. For one foot, shoe height was raised with a 1 cm thick insert during the adaptation trial, and the raised side was randomized between participants. Repeated-measures ANOVA and post-hoc paired t-tests will be used to examine differences in force between conditions.

Expected results: Based on previous walking adaptation and shoe height studies, we hypothesize that participants will initially exert more force (i.e. bear more weight) on the side with the lower shoe, but will eventually adapt to equal weight bearing with asymmetric shoe height. The implications of these results could be applied to gait rehabilitation therapies for clinical patients with asymmetric gait patterns.


Annie Shtino

John Ronald Sirard (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Benevolent Sexism and Women's Physical Activity: A Qualitative Analysis

Women are typically less active than men and tend to not meet physical activity recommendations. This study describes the possible connection between a woman’s current physical activity level and her past experiences with gender norms and benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism refers to the concept that women are fragile, need assistance, and require protection. Exposure to benevolent sexism has not been researched as a possible influencing factor in women’s physical activity but it may provide insight into understanding physical activity gender disparities.

Purpose The purpose of this study is to identify if past experiences and exposure to gender norms and benevolent sexism act as contributing factors to women’s current physical activity levels.

Methods Twenty college-aged women completed the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) questionnaire and the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI). Participants were invited to a focus group to discuss past exposures to gender norms and benevolent sexism in the realm of physical activity. The focus group discussion will be transcribed and qualitative data analysis will be conducted using NVivo software and linked to IPAQ data.

Results It is hypothesized that negative experiences in physical education classes or activities in the past will be representative of specific benevolent sexism constructs and negative past experiences will be associated with less current physical activity.

Conclusion Overall, this study will present a better understanding as to whether or not past experiences and exposure to gender norms and benevolent sexism have an influence on current day physical activity levels in women.


Brian Patrick Smith

Anthony D'Amico (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Exercise Science, Salem State University

The Influence of Photobiomodulation on Recovery from Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage

INTRODUCTIONIntense physical activity can result in exercise-induced muscle damage, delayed-onset muscle soreness, and decrements in performance. Photobiomodulation (PBM) may enhance recovery from vigorous exercise.

METHODSIn a between-group design, 31 participants performed 40x15m sprints, inducing muscle damage. Immediately following sprinting and in the four days following, vertical jump, agility, and perceptions of muscle soreness were assessed. 16 subjects (mean±sd; age 20.2±1.2 yrs; BMI 26.3±4.5 kg.m-2) received PBM prior to testing each day, while 15 (mean±sd; age 20.9±1.5 yrs; BMI 26.8±4.6 kg.m-2) served as a non-PBM control (CON), receiving a sham treatment. The area under the curve (AUC) was calculated by summing all five scores, and these data were compared by condition by a two-tailed unpaired t-test for normally distributed data, and a two-tailed Mann-Whitney U for nonparametric data (alpha level = 0.05).

RESULTSNo significant differences were observed between (p>0.05) for agility, and quadriceps, hamstring or calf soreness, or VJ.

CONCLUSIONThese findings suggest that recovery of explosive, short-duration activities is not statistically altered with PBM in the same manner as longer-duration, aerobic activities, as has been reported in the literature. PBM is thought to exert its effects via mitrochondrial biogenesis and increased electron transport chain activity. Therefore, muscles with a higher percentage of type I muscle fibers performing endurance-based tasks may stand to benefit more from the treatment.


Shayelia Lynne Stanley

Mark S. Miller (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Power and Resistance Training Effects on Skeletal Muscle Fiber-Type Distribution and Size in Older Men and Women

Women experience greater functional limitations and disability with age compared to men. The type of exercise intervention that optimally improves skeletal muscle function and forestalls disability in older adults has yet to be defined, and may be due to alterations at the molecular level. Exercise can induce changes in the contractile proteins themselves, specifically the type of myosin heavy chain (MHC) protein that is expressed, as well as fiber size. The focus of this study was to understand how fiber type distribution (MHC I, IIA and IIX) and their size were altered after 16-weeks of traditional low-velocity, high-load resistance training (RT) using one leg and high-velocity, low-load power training (PT) using the other leg in healthy, sedentary older men and women (65-75 years old). This within- subject, unilateral paradigm provides a powerful means to examine each training regimen while minimizing between-subject variability. Single muscle fibers (n=6,386) from 9 older adults pre- and post-exercise were analyzed from cross sections that had been stained with fluorescence immunohistochemistry (IHC). Based on preliminary data, the size and distribution of MHC fiber types are within normal physiologic ranges (Pre-exercise: 3890.6 ± 2144.2 µm2; I: 42.6%, IIA: 42.0%, IIX: 0.3%, I/IIA: 0.9%, IIA/IIX: 14.0%, I/IIA/IIX: 0.2%; Post-exercise: 3988.1 ± 1752.8 µm2; I: 46.9%, IIA: 39.9%, IIX: 0.5%, I/IIA: 1.3%, IIA/IIX: 10.5%, I/IIA/IIX: 0.9%;). The data is further being analyzed to determine relationships between the two exercise modalities and fiber type distribution and size, which could provide important information in determining the appropriate sex-specific exercise countermeasure to aging.


Kyle Takach

Julia Choi (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

The Relationship between Gait Symmetries and Head/Pelvis Stability during and after Split- Belt Treadmill Walking

In previous studies, people adapt the way they walk and run by modulating speed or cadence to maintain a stable visual field. People who have suffered a stroke have affected walking economy and stability, but it is unclear if gait asymmetries negatively impact head stability or if humans adapt asymmetrical gaits to maintain head stability. Studies have shown that when people walk at an uncomfortable speed, they have lower harmonic ratios (Latt, 2008). We induced step length and double support time asymmetries with a split-belt treadmill. Because people adapt to split-belt walking by reducing these asymmetries, we asked if reduced asymmetry was related to improved head and pelvis stability. We measured acceleration patterns during early-adaptation and late-adaptation, while also measuring step-length and double support time symmetry to compare their adaptation patterns over time. Accelerations of the head or pelvis can demonstrate in-phase (moving in time and direction together) or out-of-phase (moving in time together while opposite in direction) relationships. It is thought that in-phase movement is more stable, and this relationship is assessed with a harmonic ratio analysis. These ratios were determined from in-phase and out-of-phase accelerations within a subject’s stride rate where even harmonics are in-phase and odd harmonics are out-of-phase accelerations. A larger ratio is thought to correspond to a more stable gait pattern because more head and pelvic movements are synchronized with the person’s stride. We hypothesized that walking asymmetrically will reduce the harmonic ratio and that reductions in asymmetry will coincide with increasing harmonic ratios.


Cierra Thompson

Lily A. Lobovits

Mary Wilson

Michele Darroch (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Health Sciences, Berkshire Community College

Picture This: A Creative Spin on Mnemonics

Learning is a personal experience that is always evolving. With visual mnemonics we used graphics to make detailed information easier to recall. Research has shown that many students identify with multiple learning styles, and respond well to active learning strategies such as simulations and games. An informal poll of our classmates showed that over 65% of the students identified having a mixed learning styles, combining visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learning. Research also shows that through the use of mnemonics, specifically visual mnemonics, information can be recalled easier because the information is put into a meaningful context. With the material reconstructed into perceptual chunks of information that relates to the personal experiences and knowledge of the learner, the information has the potential for easier recall from memory. An informal poll of our classroom of physical therapist assistant students showed that over 65% of students found the group visual mnemonic presentations helpful for studying pathologies. By working in groups to reorganize the new material in an innovative way, our classroom experiment of using visual mnemonics showed success, and reasons to pursue this style of learning further in other fields. These strategies helped students learn to problem solve and work cooperatively with each other, as well as recall new information.


Bridget Anne Towle

Richard Van Emmerik (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Kinesiology, UMass Amherst

Step Length and Transverse Plane Thorax-Pelvis Coordination in Concussed Individuals

Following concussive injury a more conservative gait strategy has been observed, with slower preferred walking velocity and decreased step length. With increased walking velocity, healthy individuals take a pelvic step, where increased transverse plane pelvic rotation facilitates increased step length. It has been found that older and diseased populations have a slower preferred walking velocity as well as decreased step length and decreased transverse plane pelvic rotation when walking at faster speeds. Older individuals also have a reduction in anti-phase thorax-pelvis coordination patterns when asked to walk at higher speeds compared to younger controls. Through the dynamic system theory, reduction of the degrees of freedom is associated with simplification of the control task. In the concussed population there are decreased preferred walking speeds but the mechanisms remain unknown. The purpose of this study is to 1) assess stride length differences at a set treadmill walking speed, and 2) determine if slower dual task walking velocities in concussed patients is related to the organization of the degrees of freedom. Individuals in the study will walk on a treadmill set to 2.0 m/s while performing a cognitive task, such as subtracting from 999 by 7’s. We will examine their step length and the transverse plane thorax-pelvis coordination pattern. We hypothesize that the participants will have a decreased step length and reduced anti-phase thorax-pelvis coordination. By decreasing the anti-phase thorax-pelvis coordination the complexity of the movement decreases, thus simplifying the control task.





Shanice Lateia Bryan

Andre Robinson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History and Social Sciences, Bunker Hill Community College

Exposing the Relationship between Gentrification and Mass Incarceration

This project looks at the link between gentrification, mass incarceration, and crime. The government plays an intricate role in normalizing and condoning this link. This research will also illustrate such policies that the government has implemented over the 20th century such as the War on Drugs, and the governments penal system, and how these policies contributed to residential segregation through the process of gentrification and disinvestment. Lastly, this poster will also investigate the role of gentrification in defining criminal behavior within communities, and how it impacts the perceived crime rates.


Hannah Jane Plaziak

Jarice Hanson (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication, UMass Amherst

The Implications of Using Social Media as Courtroom Evidence in Trials Regarding Youth Harassment and Bullying

The majority of all Americans now use at least one form of social media in their day-to-day lives as a way of sharing details about their lives. It has now become such an apparent source of information that it is even being presented in trials as legitimate evidence for or against the defendant. It is used as evidence in many different types of cases today in the form of pictures, locations, status updates, or direct communication. The main aim of this thesis is to elucidate how using social media evidence in trials of harassment against a minor has notable implications and may not be the most reliable means for gathering information about details of the case. Furthermore, this thesis will also discuss the impact of social media on jurors and outcomes of cases, access to social media, as well as the admissibility and authenticity of such evidence. With more widespread usage of social media comes new ways of manipulation and usage of it to accomplish a certain goal. Through descriptive research and various case studies in which social media had major effects on the outcome of youth harassment cases in particular, I intend on demonstrating how social media evidence can be discredited in the courtroom and why it should be admitted with caution in cases involving bullying of minors.


Sean Mun Vo

Marissa Carrere (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Legal Studies, UMass Amherst

Childhood Fiction and the Legal Consciousness of the United States

If you ever mentioned fairy tales in an adult conversation, you’d have likely received some chuckles because the nature of fairy tales is linked to childhood. However, as we mature, we tend to forget that these very stories have in some way shaped our beliefs. This is seen with the life of two notable fairy tale recorders, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, otherwise known as “The Brothers Grimm.” In a biographical introduction to a collection of their fairy tales, it was revealed that they were law students, and their law professor suggested to them that if they wanted to change the 19th century German Society, they should research the stories the people in that society grew up with. In the US today, the show Once Upon A Time, the movie Frozen II, as well as the cartoon show Avatar: The Last Airbender, are all significant productions that have in some way shaped the people that consumed these pieces. Avatar: The Last Airbender and Once Upon A Time both premiered when national and global divide started becoming more visible, and worked to impart Abraham Lincoln’s sentiment that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Frozen II, released in November 2019, reflects on the aftermath of colonialism and brings into the light how colonialism is still happening in other parts of the world. With all this, I aim to show how these works also reflect what’s happening today in the world and how it reflects our current collective/legal consciousness.


Michaela Judith Zelandi

Rebecca Hamlin (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Legal Studies, UMass Amherst

Gender Bias within the United States Visa System

The visa system in the United States determines who can enter and legally reside in the United States. The determination of eligibility offers a window into the desired cultural values of the United States. From here, the gender-balanced immigration data suggests that the United States moved towards egalitarian stances, both culturally and politically, since the mid-twentieth century in order to allow for the steady increases in female migration.  Even the gender-neutral terminology adopted by the visa system explicitly rejects expected performances of gender, corroborating with the erosion of gendered opportunities to migrate. However, my research negates these assumptions and points to a more disappointing reality. The United States immigration policy has remained loyal to its framework of heteronormative migration patterns in immigration law and policy. Generally speaking, immigration policy still casts males as the principal migrant, bestowing unto them privileges and control at the expense of the dependent migrant, the female-coded role. This means that despite the increased legal migration to the United States, female migrants are seeking approval from a system not designed for them - one that actively marginalizes their experiences via entrenchment of gendered expectations. Female migrants are increasingly gaining legal status, but as wives, victims, and caregivers, so this feminization of the pool depends upon gendered lines. This paper will focus on three avenues to legal migration, the U visa, H-4 visa, and gender- based asylum claims to reveal the reality of gender bias in the United States immigration system.





Andrea Marie Jernigan

Jennifer Elaine Mack (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Disorders, UMass Amherst

Narrative Planning in Neurotypical Adults: An Eye Movement Study

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to look at how eye movements correlated with narrative preparation and production. We wanted to determine how neurotypical individuals planned and produced narratives when given sequenced picture stories. Our goal was to discover how individuals retained story formatting from the listening task and to test whether they used the given format during the production task.

Methods: Our experiment included eye-tracking and a story-telling task. Participants were asked to listen and tell stories. During each task, participants’ eyes were being tracked to follow where their eyes focused and in what sequence. Data was collected using an eye- tracking device and audio recorder.

Planned data analyses: We compared how participants’ data differed based on which task came first, listening to or telling the story. We also incorporated the information from the eye tracker by utilizing interest areas to determine how they coordinated planning and speaking.

Innovation and impact: The results from this study will hopefully tell us more about how our eyes help us to plan and produce narratives. This study can also give insight on how neurotypical individuals retain narrative formats and apply them to similar stories. We hope to use this information in the future to learn more about narrative planning and production in individuals who have aphasia.


Christian Jorge Muxica

Brian Dillon (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Linguistics, UMass Amherst

Acceptability and the Ambiguity Advantage Effect: A Window into Parsing Behavior

A question that has long been at the heart of the sentence processing literature is the extent to which the parser is able to maintain multiple representations of ambiguous input during the act of comprehension. The answer chosen places any given model of sentence processing into one of two broad classes- serial or parallel. In a serial model, only one representation of the input can be maintained at any given point. Thus the locus of any structural ambiguity comes to form, a metaphorical fork in the syntactic road, at which a decision on the path to be taken must be made -- typically by means of some parameter or criterion specific to the implementation in question. However in a parallel model, multiple syntactic descriptions of the input received are generated, maintained, and manipulated over the duration of sentence processing. To address this question, we have modified the speeded acceptability judgement paradigm utilized by Wagers, Dillon, Andrews, & Rotello (2018) with the aim of providing better controlled data, suitable for Drift Diffusion modelling designed by Ratcliff (1978) and first utilized by Hammerly, Staub, & Dillon (2019) within the domain of psycholinguistics. With this combination of behavioral data and computational analysis, we intend to asses the validity of speeded acceptability judgement as a sentence processing paradigm and to address the more fundamental question of serial vs parallel processing.


Colleen Bridget Ward

Jennifer Elaine Mack (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Disorders, UMass Amherst

The Effect of Aphasia ID Cards on Neurotypical Comprehension of Aphasic Language

There are about 2-4 million people in North America with aphasia (Simmons-Mackie, 2018). Yet, as many as 84% of people have never heard the term (Aphasia Statistics, n.d.). Therefore, many individuals have interacted with people who have aphasia (PWA), without knowledge of their communication difficulties. Luckily, aphasia identification (ID) cards are a free resource for PWA to offer to conversation partners (CPs), informing them about aphasia and letting them know they are communicating with someone who has it. The purpose of this study is to investigate if neurotypical listeners better understand a speaker with aphasia when shown an aphasia ID card. In this eye-tracking experiment, there will be two participant groups: a Card group (those who receive an aphasia ID card at the start of the experiment) and a No Card group (those who do not receive a card). Everyone will listen to a speaker with nonfluent aphasia (some of his speech contains semantic errors) while viewing images on screen. Participants’ task is deciding which image matches what the speaker intended to say. Our planned data analyses will investigate whether the Card group adapts better to the speaker’s semantic errors over time, as compared to the No Card group. This study is important because there has been such limited research on the efficacy of aphasia ID cards and whether they truly assist PWA in conversation with CPs who are otherwise unaware of their communication disorder.


Aphasia Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia- resources/aphasia-statistics/

Simmons-Mackie, N. (2018). Aphasia in North America. AphasiaAccess.





Zachary D. Berard

Robert Isaac Carr (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Communication Arts, Fitchburg State University

Ecdysis of the Dark: The Process of Becoming a Writer

Ecdysis is a scientific process in which an insect or reptile sheds their old skin or cuticle so they might regrow a new one. This process is the same as developing an artistic muse and becoming an artist in any medium. What this project is primarily about is how the artistic process is not akin to a butterfly, where art starts simple and slowly blooms into a beautiful end. The truth of art is that by the molting and shedding of old ideas and philosophies gives way to new art. For my project I intended to finish writing a book that I have started. This project is meant to primarily serve as an entertaining story into cosmic horror and be a story that is my introduction to authorship. I have, for a long time, considered myself an artist but I have not considered myself a writer. The notion of saying I am an artist is not as simple as just saying so, I need to prove it to myself. The vehicle for this is done by finishing a horror novel I started. This story is meant to be a vehicle for becoming more confident in myself and my artistic craft. Additionally, my enthusiasm for writing and how I have grown from the start of the project to its conclusion.


Agnes Nantambi

Benjamin David Wendorf (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of History, Quinsigamond Community College

White Toxic Masculinity

My project will explore Travis' attitudes on violence in connection to masculinity in the text “Taxi Driver” by Richard Elman and Paul Schrader. The theme of “Toxic white masculinity” is presented through Travis Bickle, who’s convinced that being “manly” makes one significant. Travis considers “manliness” as having toxic “masculine” characteristics, such as the need to aggressively compete and dominate others. The project will explore and examine ways in which “toxic American masculinities” are linked to violent histories, and modern forms of wanton violence. Presentation of “manliness” in American culture impacted men’s social status, and overall identity within society. Like Travis, being “manly” meant having socially regressive “masculine” ideologies that involved being violent. Identity and self-worth then became dependent on the ability to properly present manhood based on society’s expectations, even when it entailed becoming violent. From this very notion, I’ll examine ways in which “Toxic white masculinity” leads to wanton violence against marginalized groups, and how America fosters environments where those with similar traits are led to carry out violent acts to gain control over those groups. Travis takes out his anger on “a guy below him,” and not anyone above him. He carries out violence against an African American, and depicts African Americans in a negative light. Travis finds it more convenient to target marginalized people or “disposable” people. This project will also examine how normalization of “toxic white male traits” in American culture led to a history of violence, and modern forms of violence through the “manosphere” movements.





Gina Agastra

Pacey Foster (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Management, UMass Boston

An Examination of the Relationship between Psychological Safety, Simulation-Based Training, and Management in Health Care

Psychological safety refers to a belief that a person will not be penalized or shamed for speaking up or sharing their opinions, questions, concerns, or mistakes. Simulation-based training is an educational method that gives learners the chance to practice their skills through different real-life situational experiences. An example of simulation-based training is a simulation lab that is used for clinical education which gives learners realistic scenarios to practice their clinical and decision-making abilities without endangering a patient's health. The topic of my research is an examination of the relationship between psychological safety, simulation-based training, and management in healthcare. The purpose of this paper is to understand the connection between psychological safety, simulation-based training, management, and the overall success of a hospital. We are able to understand how psychological safety leads to information sharing, engagement, satisfaction, and improved performance while simulation-based training helps reduce the number of mistakes in a clinical setting by allowing learners to improve their critical thinking and decision-making skills. Management can further develop their staff and help improve psychological safety, teamwork, communication, performance, and continuous learning. My approach to examining this topic will be to review literary papers, case studies, experiments, interviews, surveys, and questionnaires.


Bailey Bishop

Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston

Identifying the Most Effective Corporate Culture for Winning NFL Championships

National Football League franchises over the past two decades have ballooned in average value from $429 million to a colossal $2.8 billion. One of the key elements which sparks a franchise's growth is championship success. With winning a championship being the main objective for a sports team one may think that the billionaire owners would know a set corporate culture that results in the best odds for the team to win a championship; however teams are managed in a variety of ways resulting in drastically different corporate cultures. These differing corporate cultures have led to a wide gap in playoff and championship success between the best and worst of the thirty-two NFL franchises. By taking a top down approach, analyzing long-form interviews and press conferences from NFL owners, general managers, and coaches, the key elements of corporate culture which result in championship success can be inferred through text analysis. By identifying the topics classified as important to the individuals who are most integral to setting a corporate culture for teams with and without championship success, the proper corporate culture that wins Super Bowls can be concluded. The findings can be used to improve both team corporate culture as well as corporate culture in other professional fields.


Jeniffer Florentino

Erastus Ndinguri (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Business and Information Technology, Framingham State University

An Analysis of How Small Businesses Use Limited Resources to Create Incentive Programs and Retain Employees

This paper seeks to understand how small businesses retain employees with a finite amount of resources. Small businesses tend to be run by new entrants into a market, or by families looking for new ways to generate income, (Goldmeier, 2018). Because of this, these organizations have a limited amount of tangible and nontangible resources that allow them to operate at a small scope, (Blakely-Gray, 2017). Regardless, these businesses need employees to run their day-to-day affairs. The study seeks to understand how these small institutions use their limited amount of resources in order to motivate and incentivize their employees and create a reason for employees to remain at the company. The research will assess what resources small businesses, specifically bakeries and restaurants, have and how this influences what incentive programs they choose to implement. Moreover, the research will consider how these businesses delegate their resources and incentives, and in turn, how this leads to the retention of employees.


Bethany J. Kenneway

Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston

Creating Shared Value across Sectors: Exploring the Relationship between Local Government, Business, and Society

The purpose of this research is to explore the relationship between local governments and business and examine how they can work together to solve problems and create value in their communities and for each other. The basis for this analysis is two main principles: stakeholder theory and shared value. It makes three assertions: that value is created most effectively and sustainably at the civic or local level; that local governments are active and equal stakeholders; and that voluntary and intentional participation on the part of all stakeholders creates a more sustainable model. Most of the management literature still discusses government as a separate, if not competing, entity, limiting its scope to regulatory measures, or dismissing it altogether. However, in the view taken for this research project, local government is an equally integral part of the system and should be viewed as an enabler and an equal stakeholder for value creation. This research has the potential to connect theoretical frameworks across sectors and expand the goal of shared value and social change. The research will take a qualitative and quantitative approach and attempt to answer research questions through interviews based on case studies and inductive qualitative coding of themes.


Joseph R. Landry

Zaur Rzakhanov (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Accounting and Finance, UMass Boston

Qualifying Criteria for Adopting Green Supply-Chain Management

It was once deemed that sustainable business practices, from which Green Supply Chain Management is rooted, were incongruent with profit-seeking. While Green Supply Chain Management aims to nullify an operation’s deleterious impact on environmental surroundings, sustainable practices can be a value creation activity. The purpose of this research is to determine common criteria that enable a company to pursue a Green Supply Chain strategy and like-impediments preventing such implementation. A preponderance of companies across industries have self-reported efforts to embrace Green Supply Chain strategies, enabling a qualitative research approach to identify relative factors and discern qualifying criteria that enable such strategy enactment. With common qualifying criteria identified, questions regarding industry-specific capability and propensity for adoption becomes more easily discernible. Likewise, common criteria can aid in the identification of impediments native to industries lacking green policies.


Evelyn Lopez

Karen Druffel (Faculty Sponsor)

Department of Management and Business IT, Framingham State University

Why Diversity Does Not Work without Inclusion

Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance.

A case study from an HR perspective is used to understand how one multinational organization is approaching inclusion and diversity. The study examines the external and internal factors that created the need to define and prioritize inclusion and diversity goals, as well as the process to identify the need for a broad organizational change in order to achieve those goals, rather than simply implement a training program. The case describes the steps taken to identify the goals and define the process to effect change using a bottom up approach. How this approach has impacted top level executives to want to be part of the change. It examines previous attempts and why they were not successful. The case will highlight the different levels of the corporation's management training in diversity and inclusion, why they went from diversity and inclusion training to inclusion and diversity as a organizational change. The case will explain how within the corporation, inclusion and diversity is being implemented as a change to the culture of the organization with reference to the hiring and promoting process. It also examines the use of third party consultants to identify best practices