Final Blog Post

I had learned more than I thought I would when worked with Dr. Marcy Kelly for the Undergraduate Research Program. In the beginning, when I was staring my project I have been constantly been making mistakes and needed to develop on my technical skills. The nature of Mycobacterium bovis-BCG makes it very difficult to grow and experiment on, so I needed to learn to be patient and always be prepared for anything and everything to go wrong. This took me a while to learn. Keeping a schedule is important. But, realizing that anything can happen that will push everything back and learning to accept and adapt to the situation is the most valuable lesson I learned from working in the lab. I finally understood the difficulties of getting a published paper that have several graphs when I finally generated my growth curve that took months of trials.

One key experience I received this year was to take the role of a mentor. I was always the youngest in my research team and always had something to prove. But being a mentor showed me a different perspective because I needed to know everything to the point where I can communicate and be able to teach it to someone. I had also learned how to take a step back from the research project and trust my lab mates to get the job done. This was especially difficult for me because I had spent so many nights, had so many breakdowns, felt so frustrated so many times because of this project. It was difficult to let go. I had to lose the notion that I was the only one that could work on this project and that anyone else would ruin the project. Having the ability to talk to Dr. Kelly about any problems and concerns really propelled me to excel in my undergraduate research career. Dr. Kelly always made time to clear any issues no matter how small they were. Not having an ego and asking for help is vital in succeeding when it comes to research because the reality is that there is so much that I don’t know. Working in an Undergraduate Research Program taught valuable lessons that will carry on for future endeavors.

Blog Post 4

This semester I have been conducting research with my faculty advisor Dr. Jaimelee Rizzo. The title of our project is “Synthesis and investigation of new antibacterial surfaces utilizing natural substances”.  The objectives of this research project was to characterize the antibacterial and ultraviolet light protection qualities different essential oils, plant powders, agar and natural butters. This was accomplished by the synthesizing of new surfaces consisting of natural butter, agar, essential oils and plant powders. These surfaces contained only one of each of the natural substances in order to classify them individually. These samples were then sent out to our collaborators at Long Island University Post for bacterial testing. Samples containing natural butters as their base were also tested, here at Pace, for ultraviolet light protection qualities.

Results were obtained for the samples by zone of clearance; anything 1.1 cm or greater was considered antibacterial and ultraviolet light results were scaled from 1-10, 1 being worst and 10 being best. Throughout the research process, we found that Cinnamon Cassia essential oil was most effective for antibacterial and ultraviolet light protection properties for both agar and natural butter based samples. It was also found that with the addition of Chlorella or Ginseng natural plant powder, antibacterial properties were increased. We believe that the compound Cinnamaldehyde is responsible for the antibacterial properties in Cinnamon Cassia oil.

During the semesters, I have learned valuable problem-solving and research techniques. This project has taught me the importance of collaboration with my faculty mentor and our collaborators at Long Island University Post. It is near impossible to carry out any research project alone and I am very thankful for my faculty mentor for helping me throughout the entire process. I have also learned how to manage my time in order to have time for my research, my classes and my personal life.

From conducting this research, I was fortunate enough to present my findings at this year’s American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition in Orlando, Florida and present at Pace University’s spring Society of Fellows Meeting. Presenting at both of these events has given me great experience in public speaking and presentation as well as networking. At the ACS meeting I was able to meet many different students and faculty from institutions around the country. I was also able to gain feedback and comments about my research and what I could pursue in the future.

I am extremely thankful to Pace University’s Office of Student Success for this opportunity this year. It taught me more about what it takes to conduct research and it helped me gain confidence in myself and my work. I look forward to carrying this knowledge with me in my future.

Blog 4: Feminism and Transgender Identity

Feminism and Transgender Identity

Florence Lubash & Rachel Simon

Undergraduate Research Final Report

Learning Outcomes

            The goal at the outset of this paper was to understand how different feminist ideologies may view issues facing transgender people. In order to achieve this goal, I looked at primary source documents from individual feminist scholars and theorists. To contextualize their work, I read anthologies and analysis of their work. Often, these texts seemed antiquated and many were written in terms of the issues of their day, but most of the texts felt live and malleable in their ideas. These texts are about issues impacting society, and their goals and views of society varied radically, but in the end, I was able to gleam one central idea. Feminism is the basis for transgender liberation, and transgender liberation is a key aspect of contemporary feminism.

Coming to that conclusion brought me to the second goal of this project, to answer the question, can feminist frameworks be reconstructed to accommodate transgender people? Originally, I had assumed that some feminist ideologies (radical feminism in particular) would be too closely linked to transphobic sentiments to create any basis for a trans inclusive feminism.

Learning about feminist politics is difficult because in comparison to any other political ideology, feminism is deeply fractured and constantly in flux. It is difficult to analyze history while it is being made. The goal of full understanding of feminist ideology in only two semesters was clearly a fool’s errand. For this reason, I chose to limit my analysis to only those ideologies which are most pressing and represented in contemporary feminist discourse.


 

Literature Review / Research Summary

            In “Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction” Rosemarie Tong and Tina Fernandes Botts, divide feminism into several different types of ideologies – liberal feminism, radical feminism, Marxist/ socialist feminism, women-of-color feminism, psychoanalytic feminism, care-focused feminism, ecofeminism, existentialist, poststructural, postmodern feminism, and third-wave or queer feminism. Each of these feminist ideologies view the oppression of women as having different root causes, impacts and requiring different solutions (Tong and Botts). Tong and Botts only specifically address transgender issues in an analysis of queer and third wave feminism (270).

In “Transgender History” Susan Stryker lays out the historical dynamics between transgender communities and feminist activism, theory, and practice (3-5). These dynamics are best understood through further analysis of primary texts from distinct time periods and written by authors across the feminist ideological spectrum.

Liberal feminism’s core tenants during first wave feminism can be found in Mary

Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments,” and Susan B. Anthony’s Speech after Arrest for Illegal Voting. These readings all show that the concerns of bourgeois white women were placed above those of working class and poor women, especially women of color. This is a problem which would not begin being addressed until third wave liberal feminism (Tong and Botts 35). The concerns in second wave became, according to Tong and Botts “gender equality and equal opportunity for women” (11). This tendency to focus on bourgeois white women lead to critiques by Marxist feminist and the creation of feminist movement for specific women of color.

Marxist feminism’s influences have been more ideologically consistent through the waves than liberal feminism, beginning with Engels The Origin of Family, Private Property and The State  (106-109). Contemporary socialist feminism in both the end of the second and beginning of the third wave start with Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist- Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Marxist feminism has focused on the plights of working women and the functions of capitalism as a system to oppress women (73).

Women of color feminism is different depending on the specific women of color a particular group of women in question, for example feminist movements exist for undocumented domestic laborers in a different way than for African American women at the forefront of the Black Panther movement (105). The tenants of Women of Color feminism can be found in the writings of Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” which addresses how often first wave feminism, specifically suffrage, focused on the rights and needs of rich white women. The evolution of this has been continued into third wave feminism and was specifically critiqued by Crenshaw in “Intersectionality and Identity Politics: Learning from Violence against Women of Color.”

Radical feminism was a phenomenon of second wave feminism which focused on lesbianism and reproduction (Tong and Botts 39). Radical feminism can be divided into cultural and libertarian, and each make very different conclusions about patriarchy and how best to dismantle it.

Existentialist, poststructural, and postmodern feminisms are important to transgender issues because they are the basis of the theory of gender as a social construction (231). This theory has enabled a lot of transgender theory to come into existence, a topic which Susan Stryker explores in “Transgender History.”

Third wave and queer feminism are movements which are related to each other, the rise of intersectionality gave rise to the need for contemporary queer feminist movements and the creation of transgender specific feminism (Tong and Botts 234,247). .

 


 

Conclusions Drawn from Research / Research Accomplishments

Although feminist movements have not always viewed transgender issues as feminist concerns, there is no basis for a contemporary feminist movement which does not incorporate the concerns of transgender people. While this is a contentious belief, it is not one without rigorous historical and ideological precedent. To understand the role trans people play in feminism, one must examine how systems oppressing cisgender women often also oppress trans people. The systems of oppression which impact the lives of cisgender women, such as patriarchy, capitalism, reproductive healthcare, often manifest in similar ways in the lives of transgender people. The systems of patriarchy can be understood as linked to the gender binary as systems which oppress anyone who is not a cisgender men. Deconstruction of the gender binary is in many ways a struggle parallel to the deconstruction of patriarchy. For this reason, all feminist ideologies and their goals can be used as a basis for understanding and dismantling systems which marginalize transgender people.

Radical feminism is one of the feminist ideologies which on its face may appear to be in the most tension with affirming transgender people. Radical feminism can be separated into libertarian and cultural radical feminism. Radical libertarian feminism views gender as something which should, ideally, join male and female to create an androgynous gender identity. Both of these would seem to assert a gender binary and an inheren “womanly” essence of certain people. However, the goals of both cultural and libertarian radical feminism benefit from trans inclusion.

Radical Libertarian feminism’s idea of an androgynous gender identity being an ideal one is something which can become part of culture which does not strictly divide gender into male and female. Constructing more gender identities and more labels for gender identities helps both transgender people and libertarian feminists critique of patriarchy. If women are oppressed because “feminine” gender identities are treated as lesser, and the best solution is for women to  partake in the best aspects of masculinity and femininity, having people who exist as neither male nor female, man nor woman, allows cisgender women’s androgyny to be more socially acceptable.

Radical cultural feminism has evolved into movements which are hostile towards transgender people, especially transgender women, this is because a central conceit of radical cultural feminism being that women’s oppression stems from a “inherently woman nature.” This nature, according to many radical cultural feminists, is their reproductive capacity. While this may seem as something inherently opposed to an understanding of womanhood as a socially constructed phenomenon, the end goals of radical cultural feminism can be achieved within such a framework. According to both radical cultural and libertarian feminists, one of the central pieces of women’s marginalization is that they are required for all reproduction, and men can be mostly absent from the birthing and rearing of children. In a world where trans men are seen as men, and the biological binary of gender is overthrown and all bodies become capable of giving birth through both biological and technological means, then everyone can become part of the responsibility of reproduction.

In contrast to radical feminism, contemporary liberal feminism is trans inclusive. Liberal feminism in the modern day derives largely from Crenshaw’s essay on intersectionality, and ways of understanding interlocking oppression and privilege. Therefore the marginalization of transgender people must be understood as one form of oppression which is compounded with race, class, sexuality, ability, and other forms of marginalization.

Marxist feminism is also more inherently trans inclusive, but for different reasons than liberal feminism. Marxist feminism focuses on the class based oppression of people, and since most transgender people are working class, there issues are largely the concerns of the proletariat. Here, one must note that women are not, in the classic Marxist conception, a class. Rather, their oppression exists both as bourgeois women and proletarian women, and the same is true of transgender people. The oppression of transgender people exists regardless of class, but the advancement of working class trans people can not be won through those means which benefit rich transgender people. From a Marxist perspective, there must be an overthrow of classes entirely for their to be liberation, and without class, transgender people’s personhood would be affirmed and accepted, and those institutions both medical and legal would no longer be exclusive to bourgeois transgender people.

Women of color feminism is arguably the most analogous to transgender feminism or queer feminism as they both exist as critiques of contemporary feminism, and seek to address the concerns of specific people. The use of intersectionality allows women of color feminism and queer feminism to become ideologically connected movements, and not compete for resources. This is necessary for many transgender women of color especially because they are oppressed both as transgender people and people of color.

Existentialist, poststructural, and postmodern feminism are important starting points for transgender theory and the conception of gender as a social construction. Although not all people who believe gender is socially constructed affirm transgender existence, many of the most influential figures like Judith Butler do. For this reason, existentialist, poststructural, and postmodern feminism can be seen as base framework to build off of to analyze how we think about gender and how transgender people change those societal conceptions.

 

Reflection

            The research project I have done has been a great lesson in terms of research. I have learned how to do research more efficiently and manage my time, and I am extremely happy with the research aspect of this project.

The aspect of this project I am most disappointed in by far is the paper. I should have been working on a final product for far longer than I have. I ended up writing a report with a few weeks before the due date, and the result has been far less than what I had hoped for at the outset. I do not reference my sources nearly as much as I wanted to, and my lit review is the only section I really reference my sources effectively. As such, I want to continue working on this paper individually because I believe I have the start of a genuinely valuable idea.

The experience has also given me insight into how to work with other people who are knowledgeable in a topic. Rachel Simon, my faculty advisor, helped me navigate research in capacities I had not tried before. She helped me get in contact with other members of faculty who had expertise and could help with my research.

 


 

Works Cited

Feminist Theory: A Reader. Edited by Kolmar, Wendy K. and Bartkowski, Frances. 

McGraw Hill. 2013.

  • Anthony, Susan B. Speech after Arrest for Illegal Voting. 1872.
  • Bambara,Toni Cade. “Foreword” from This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by

Radical Women of Color. 1981.

  • Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex.
  • Bunch, Charlotte. “Not for Lesbians Only.” 1975.
  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.
  • Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Intersectionality and Identity Politics: Learning from

Violence against Women of Color.” 1997.

  • Combahee River Collective. “A Black Feminist Statement.” 1977.
  • Engles, Fredric. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
  • Hartway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist

Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” 1985.

  • Millet, Kate. “Theory of Sexual Politics.” 1969.
  • National Organization for Women. “Statement of Purpose” 1966.
  • “The Woman Identified Woman.” 1970.
  • Sanger, Margaret. “Birth Control-A Parent’s Problem or Woman’s” 1920.
  • Serano, Julia. “Trans woman Manifesto.” 2007.
  • Stanyont, Elizabeth Cady. “Declaration of Sentiments.” 1848.
  • Terrell, Mary Church. “The Progress of Colored Mana.” 1898.
  • Truth, Sojourner. “Ain’t I a Woman.” 1851.
  • Truth, Sojourner. “Keeping the Thing Going While Things Are Stirring.” 1867.
  • Weathers, Mary Ann. “An Argument for Black Women’s Liberation as a

Revolutionary Force.” 1969.

  • Wollstonecraft, Mary. “A vindication of the Rights of Woman.

Stryker, Susan. “Transgender History.” New York, New York, Seal Press, 2017. Second Edition.

Tong, Rosemarie and Botts, Tina Fernandes. “Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive

Introduction.” New York, New York, Westview Press, 2018. Fifth Edition.

 

Final Report

Final Report | The Relationship Between Federal Subsidies and College Tuition

Introduction

This research seeks to determine if there is a relationship between the rise in college tuition and the rise in federal subsidies offered to students. Past research and literature suggest that federal subsidies directly causes colleges to increase tuition, as the institutions recognize that as students receive more federal aid, they are willing to pay more, if they receive more. This study is based on the original suggestions made by the Bennett Hypothesis. This states that providing a cost subsidy in a form of a loan increases demand for higher education. As demand increases more quickly than supply, quantity will increase, however so will prices.

Literature Review

Does Federal Student Aid Raise Tuition? By National Bureau of Economic Research

Credit Supply and the Rise in College Tuition: Evidence from the Expansion in Federal Student Aid Programs by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

New Evidence on For-Profit Colleges by Stephanie Cellini and Claudia Goldin

Research Question

Do federal subsidies benefit lower income students through tuition debt reduction more than their cost of increased college tuition?

The Model

Yi = B0 + B1Xi  + B2X2 + B3X3 + B4X4 + B5X5 + ei

Yi = School tuition

X1 = PCE (Headline)

X2 = Federal government subsidy per enrolled student

X3 = Student program debt cap

X4 = Median PDI per capita

X5 = Net tuition of median student

Conclusion

Expanding our study on the relationship between federal subsidies and college tuition, we conclude that factors such as: interest rates, household debt, GDP from CPI, and earning differences in year t are all factors that must be considered in defining the affect federal subsidies offered, further affecting the rise in college tuition. Lower income students are most affected by federal subsidies and show the greatest opportunity to study determining factors.

Recommendations for Public Policy

To  further improve this relationship, I would recommend investigating trends in U.S. households and financial institutions deleveraging, their debt levels in respect to GDP fall and taxpayer support rises, therefore support per enrolled student increasing. Both of these trends should decrease college tuition inflation.

 

Resolving the Ligand Binding Specificity in c-MYC G-quadruplex DNA: Absolute Binding Free Energy Calculations and SPR Experiment

ABSTRACT

We report the absolute binding free energy calculation and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) experiment for ligand binding with the cMYC G-quadruplex DNA. The unimolecular parallel DNA G-quadruplex formed in the c-MYC gene promoter regulates the transcription of c-MYC and is recognized as an emerging drug target for developing cancer therapy. Quindoline derivatives  stabilize the G-quadruplex and inhibit its expression in cancer cells. NMR experiments revealed two ligand-induced binding sites located at the 5’ and 3’ termini of the c-MYC G-quadruplex. Questions about which site is more favored and the basis for the ligand-induced binding site formation remain unresolved. Here, we employ two absolute binding free energy methods, the double decoupling (DDM) and the potential of mean force (PMF) methods, to dissect the ligand binding specificity in the c-MYC G-quadruplex. The calculated absolute binding free energies ranging from -8 kcal/mol to -11 kcal/mol are in general agreement with the experimental value derived from the SPR measurement (-8.94 kcal/mol). The results suggest that the quindoline compound has a small preference for the 5’-end binding site. Furthermore, the simulations show that the flanking residues involved in the two binding sites undergo significant reorganization as the ligand unbinds, which provides evidence for ligand-induced binding pocket formation. This study provides atomistic insights that help interpret experimental data and inform rational design of small molecules targeting the c-MYC G-quadruplex.

Final Blog Post: An Exotic Butter Formulation to Enhance Bacterial Resistance and UV Protection

Rudra Persaud

Over the course of this past 2018-2019 academic year, I have worked with Dr. Jamielee Rizzo in studying how to generate antimicrobial surfaces that exhibit UV resistance. The overall end goal of this project is to find a more natural, yet effective way to address wound healing. As I prepare to graduate in May, having this chance to work with Dr. Rizzo on a scientific research project has encouraged my interest in relevant work and given me the drive to pursue a Ph.D. in science.

Through all of the hard work put into this project and time spent doing background research, I find that there were many instances where I had to find a balance with research along with school work and daily life- but I can say that having this opportunity taught me how to adequately balance my time. One of the reasons I enjoyed working with Dr. Rizzo is because she encourages me to be diligent in my work and gave me the chance to answer thought-provoking questions we came up with together, I felt as though she was able to provide an authentic in-field research experience because often times the questions that are asked may not have an answer yet. Dr. Rizzo was able to give me a chance to think like a real scientist while providing a safe distance to guide me whenever I had my doubts. Another reason why I enjoyed working with Dr. Rizzo is that she encouraged me to participate in as many research presentations as possible. Just recently I had the opportunity to go to the national American Chemical Society symposium in Orlando to present my findings to thousands of scientist from all over the world.

Based on the work completed over the course of this academic year I was able to discover may-interesting facts from the protocol we implement with our butter and oil antimicrobial samples. Base butter by themselves, tamanu, ucuuba, and Aloe Vera, have a known effect when it comes to protecting against UV light and having antimicrobial resistance (see RP1, RP6, and RP11 respectively). In general, it is observed that samples that have a darker tint tend to have a better UV resistance, this is expected because in darker pigments absorb a wide spectrum of light. In fact, the most favorable butter base to use is uccuba butter and tamanu butter, as it has a dark brown tint when liquefied. Butters that naturally have a lighter tint like Aloe Vera tend to have relatively good antimicrobial resistance, having a range of clearance of about 1 cm naturally, but due to its tint does not have good resistance to UV light. As we add essentials oils to our butter bases, we can observe an increase in antimicrobial resistance and UV resistance as well. Essentials oils and powder supplements that add a noticeable favorable result include dragon’s blood, cumin oil, marine powder, sweet marjoram oil, cedarwood oil, rosehip oil, ginseng powder, petitgrain oil, kukui oil, patchouli oil, sacred mushroom powder, and cinnamon cassia oil. These additives are identified to have a significant effect in presenting a favorable outcome, in comparison to blanks, because antimicrobial zone’s of clearance have an increase to 1.5 cm or greater. With these oils and powdered supplements, we plan to test different concentration to identify the smallest ration of materials needed to get antimicrobial resistance and UV resistance while additionally testing different known pathogens that cause skin problems. Although this UV light resistance is very favorable, with regards to the marketability, we need to find a way to make samples that do not cause much deviation to natural skin color. One example of this is usually when a powdered supplement, such as marine powder, is added- marine powder has a deep green tint and with consideration to aesthetic, it would be interesting to see people walk around with green skin.

63 samples were able to demonstrate antimicrobial resistance and 75 samples demonstrated UV light protection. Of the total number of samples, 45 of them were proven to have both UV and antimicrobial protection properties. The samples that we identified to provide the best results include: RP5, RP12, RP21, RP22, RP28, RP30, RP62, RP63, RP64, RP65, RP66, RP67, RP68, RP69, RP72, RP73, RP74, RP75, RP76, RP77, RP87, RP89, RP90, RP91, RP92, RP93, RP94, RP97, RP98, RP99, RP100, RP101, RP102, RP103, RP104, RP105, RP106, RP107, RP108, RP109, RP110, RP111, RP115, RP116, and RP117. Although a majority of these samples do provide great antimicrobial resistance and UV resistance, we need to revise samples RP 63, RP64, RP67, RP68, and RP72 because they have a deep green color that may stain skin. With all samples, we plan to rework the concentration ratios in hopes of identifying if we can decrease the amount of additive materials needed to make samples pungent.

In the future, we anticipate producing more samples that prove better UV protection by the incorporation of compounds from natural powdered supplements and to actively expand our collection of essentials oils in hand based on knowledge of herbal effects demonstrated by plants. To expand on the antimicrobial effects of our samples, we hope to test against different known pathogens that cause epidermal irritation, such as Candida albicans. By the end of this project, it is anticipated that we will be able to provide a means to address more sterile wound healing techniques and a more natural alternative to UV protectants- or produce a unique cure all that reflect both results.

y^2=x^3-t^n*x-t^n

Our research considered elliptic surfaces En defined by the equation:

y^2=x^3-t^n*x-t^n (*)

A section of En is a pair of rational expressions (x(t), y(t) that satisfy the above equation. Because the elliptic surface can be viewed as an elliptic curve over the function field C(t), the Mordell‐Weil Theorem says that the group of sections is finitely generated. The theorem means that while there are infinitely many sections for each n, these sections can be constructed from a finite set of sections, the generators of the Mordell‐Weil group, using a process that has the same properties as regular addition. Our goal was to find these generators (or perhaps multiples of these generators). In particular, finding generators for En where n= 1,2,3,7,8,10,12,15,18,20,42, can be used to construct generators for all values of n.

 

I spent the summer and much of the fall semester learning about elliptic curves to prepare myself for the project. I also needed to familiarize myself with the Sage programming language which I thought we could use. To do this, I wrote various programs in Sage to tackle the problem of finding the generators of En. While my programs worked for smaller values of n, such as when n was 1, 2, or 3, they didn’t work as well for larger values. They didn’t work because we were interested in exact solutions rather than decimal approximations. Exact solutions take much more computing power than approximations. For example, solving

r^2-2=0

gives us the exact solutions r = ±√2. However, the decimal approximations are r = ±1.4142. The decimal approximations can only be as long as the number of digits presented. However, when we looked at the generators of En, for some values of n, the exact solution of the coefficient could potentially be an entire page or longer, with multiple roots within roots. We then knew that Sage was not appropriate for this purposes, and so we looked for other programming options. After exploring other options, I decided that Mathematica would be more efficient due to its more efficient algorithm that could solve polynomial equations. I then learned Mathematica and then wrote a program that would work for all values of n.

The general algorithm was that I let x(t) = at^2+bt+c, and y(t) = dt^3+et^2+ft+g, and plug it into the equation (*), and then solve for the coefficients a, b, c, d, e, f, and g. My program was able to generate solutions for n=1, 2, 3, 7, 8, by using this parametric substitution. For the remaining values, I needed to use polynomials of higher degree. I was able to find a large number of candidates for generators for all values of n.

The next steps in this research will be to compute intersection numbers for certain choices to determine which are generators of the Mordell-Weil group, or at least a subgroup of finite index. Once we can discover the generators for the groups, we can look at the degree of the extension field that these groups are defined over.

 

C elegans Immune Response: Final Report

This past year I was able to conduct research examining the immune response of the nematode C elegans when infected with a model organism of M tuberculosis called BCG. A key focus of my research depended on the gene daf2, which is involved in the insulin and immune pathways of C elegans. Expression of daf2 leads to the sequestering of daf16 transcription factors in the cytoplasm of cells. Daf16 is a forked-head transcription factor involved in the p38 MAPK pathway, a pathway involved in the response to pathogens. It has been shown that daf2 mutants are stress-resistant and long-lived, and also resistant to killing by Gram-negative bacterial pathogen P aeruginosa. Interestingly, daf16 is required for this resistance and studies reveal that its downstream effectors, notably lys-7, are anti-microbial genes. I am especially interested in the role of daf2 and daf16 in the immune response, especially considering reactive oxygen species (ROS) interactions. It has been shown that glutathione (GSH) is a thiol-based detoxification molecule used in the human immune response to protect host tissue from oxidative stress. GSH is also able to mediate BCG killing within granulomas in the lung. GSH is also produced within the nematode, and may be involved in the immune response when infected with BCG.

On April 6th, I had the opportunity to present my research thus far at the Eastern Colleges Science Conference at Manhattan College. At this conference I presented my data in a poster and was able to express my goals and future directions with professionals as well as other students. Having the ability to speak about my work as well as learn about other’s was extremely rewarding and was a great introduction into the research community outside of Pace University. I couldn’t believe some of the projects I saw were done by students my age in other undergraduate institutions and honestly motivated me to further my work and expand the project.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this research initiative is that scientific research is not done alone. Great insights and discoveries stem from research teams that devote so much time and energy into their work. I would have nothing without the help from my faculty mentors as well as partners on my research team. Another lesson I learned is that time management is an extremely tough skill to master and takes true trial and error. Juggling research, course work, and involvement in outside organizations was a struggle I faced this past semester. As I stated in previous blog posts, I learned the hard way that organization and sticking to a tight schedule are essential while in this program. Following hard deadlines and remaining on track is easier said than done, and it takes hard work and dedication to maintain.

Scientific research is based both on literature review as well as laboratory work. Literature review can be done from the comfort of your own home and occur at any time of the day. In contrast, working in the laboratory requires time and patience. Not every experimental design will give the expected results, or give any results for that matter. Over the past year I’ve learned that when performing experiments, you should not only be prepared to perform Plan A, but also B through Z. These experiments are more times than not built off the backs of experiments done before and data found from previous studies, which again supports the need for thorough and extensive literature review. You cannot move forward in a project if you have a hazy view and understanding of what you are doing. Thus, you must be constantly reading articles and journals pertaining to your project. The more you understand the easier it is to create experiments and correct mistakes in the trials that you performed.

I believe this year was the perfect time to begin my own research project and be a part of this program due the cultivation of information I learned in my previous courses as well as the current courses I am taking. Being knowledgeable in areas such as signal transduction and cellular processes during the immune response helped me not only understand information within the literature, but also to create my own experiments. Besides course work, my research advisor Dr. Marcello and professor Dr. Marcy Kelly were the underlying support system of my research. Both were available at every turn during my project and always so eager to lend a helping hand. With the guidance they have given me I look forward to continuing my work as well as pursuing a future career in the laboratory.

End of year Report

According to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation there will be 268,600 new cases of invasive or metastasized breast cancer diagnosed among women and approximately 41,760 women will die as a result of their Breast Cancer (“Find Breast Cancer Statistics at Susan G. Komen”). These statistics alone show just how significant of an impact breast cancer can have. Furthermore, cancer is characterized as a disease caused by uncontrolled proliferation. The cell division cycle is what controls cell division and is broken into four phases: G1, where the cell determines whether or not it should divide, S phase, where the DNA is replicated, G2 where the cell prepares for division, and finally M-phase, or when the cell actually separates or divides.

One way the cell is prohibited from undergoing cell division is by the regulation of tumor suppressor proteins like the Retinoblastoma protein or Rb. Rb is inactive in almost all cancers allowing proliferation to occur. Its normal function is to bind directly to and inhibit the transcription factor E2F which otherwise would stimulate S phase gene expression and commit the cell to dividing. In the presence of growth factors Cyclin Dependent Kinase activity is stimulated, phosphorylating Rb on 15 amino acids releasing it from E2F causing the cell to progress through the cell cycle and ultimately proliferate. Therefore, we can view Rb almost like a switch, when phosphorylated it is “off” and allows proliferation to occur but when it is not phosphorylated it is “on” and suppresses cell proliferation.
This understanding of the Rb switch lead researchers to develop CDK4/6 inhibitors like Palbociclib and Abemacicilib which Dr. Krucher and I use in our research. Researchers developed these inhibitors because they understood that in breast cancer there is a mutation that leads to the upregulation of CDK4/6 consequently phosphorylating Rb leading to uncontrolled proliferation. It is important to emphasize that Rb is not mutated but the mutation that is present in the cancer type causes upregulation of CDK4/6 activity instead.
Unfortunately, although there are these wonderful treatment options available after about a year of taking these medications like Abemaciclib or Palbociclib the cancer cells develop resistance by activating the AKT Signaling pathway and even in the experiments carried out by Dr. Krucher and myself we observed AKT activation in response to the two cdk4/6 inhibitors mentioned in the various cell types like MDA-MB-231, MCF7, & T47D.

AKT is involved in many molecular processes but to name a few it is involved in increasing glucose uptake as well as committing that glucose to glycolysis which in turn increases cytosolic citrate which can then be cleaved by the enzyme ACLY (ATP-citrate lyase), and lead to the formation of acetyl-coA which is a precursor for lipid synthesis.
Why is this important? Well if the cell has an indefinite supply of a material that is a precursor for the synthesis of lipids it has the materials necessary for the development of a new cell membrane and will use those materials to develop new cell membranes and ultimately proliferate.
Based on this information we developed the hypothesis that targeting ACLY might reduce resistance caused by Palbociclib and so in our experiments, using different breast cancer cell types like MCF7,MDA-MB-231, & T47D, an early breast cancer cell type, a later or invasive breast cancer cell type and a breast cancer cell type where ACLY is highly active, respectively, we test the efficacy of an ACLY inhibitor, SB, in combination with Palbociclib. Our experiment in this series was as follows: Day 1: count and plate cells in a 96 well plate, Day 2: Add drugs, Day 6: determine cell number by Cell Titer Fluor Assay.

The Cell Titer Fluorescence Assay allows us to count the number of viable cells because the assay measures constitutive protease activity within live cells. The live-cell protease activity is restricted to these intact viable cells and is measured using a fluorogenic, cell permeant, peptide substrate known as GF-AFC. This substrate enters live cells and is cleaved by said protease activity generating a fluorescent signal allowing us to count the number of viable cells. In addition, this substrate will not work in the event that the cell membrane has lost its integrity allowing for the capability reading of measurement of only viable cell number (“CellTiter-Fluor™ Cell Viability Assay Technical Bulletin”).

So far our conclusions in this project are consistent with the notion that both treatments together are significantly better than either alone and after each experiment. Dr. Krucher and I learned how to adapt to any unprecedented hindrances, like not realizing T47D may need a higher concentration of SB than the other cell types as a result of its highly active ACL enzyme, however we learned from those experiments and used it as a learning experience for the following. In the future we intend on continuing these experiments using other ACL inhibitors like Bempo which is currently being used clinically to decrease cholesterol levels and in treating other lipid diseases. Finally, we hope to extend these observations in other cancer types such as pancreatic cancer.

References

“Find Breast Cancer Statistics at Susan G. Komen.” Susan G. Komen®, ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/Statistics.html.

“CellTiter-Fluor™ Cell Viability Assay Technical Bulletin.” CellTiter-Fluor™ Cell Viability Assay Protocol, www.promega.com/resources/protocols/technical-bulletins/101/celltiter-fluor-cell-viability-assay-protocol/.

 

Pollution and Culture: Final Report

Research Summary

The survey has collected over 221 surveys in China across different campuses. Among them, 202 participants are Chinese native speakers, 21 years old on average. There are 92 female and 76 male respondents, mostly from Chongqing University. Although the participants are across disciplines, it is noted that engineering major occupies over 47% of the participants since they mostly come from the largest Engineering-led college Chongqing University in the city. In addition to that, there are around 45% of 164 responses claiming that they have been living in Chongqing over 4 years, while 30% of them just stay in the city between 1 to 2 years. Accordingly, around 48% state that they just come to study in Chongqing at most 2 years, while 30% of the participants have been staying in local universities at least 5 and more years.

The survey also collected 96 responses from US college, among which 90 participants’ primary language is English. The participants’ average age is around 21 years old. There are 52 female and 30 male participants recorded on the survey, mostly from Pace University at New York City. Among 84 responses, Arts and Humanities (27%) and Social Science (26%) majors occupy the most, followed by Business (19%) and Other and Undecided (14%). Although 47% of respondents state they have only been at the university at most one year or below, 47 out of 84 respondents have already lived in the city for over one year.

Research Findings

So far, I have been focusing on using qualitative data analysis such as content analysis, free listing and discourse analysis to interpret the data. Here are some general ideas that I have taken from the collected data.

1) Pollution
Among the US students, pollution means destructive; words like “contamination”, “negative” or “damage” have been frequently appearing in the responses. Although both student groups in two cultures have mentioned how pollution damages the environment, US students seem to associate “pollution” more with the “ecological system” and “natural environment”, whereas Chinese students are more likely to put “health” and “the effects of pollution” together. It is interesting because when it asks the US students to list environmental-changes in New York City, several participants do mention they have health problems such as breathing issues after coming to the city. However, it seems that Chinese students might feel more threatened about their health by the effects of pollution than US students.

2) Economy and Environment
Both Chongqing students in China and New York City students in the US agree, that the city where they currently live in should prioritize “environmental protection” instead of “economic development”. However, it does not necessarily mean that the students in two cultures consider the “economy” and the “environment” as a set of contradiction. In the following question, students indicate that they believe the two factors can, in fact, support each other in terms of better development.

3) Global and Local
On the one hand, among the 70 responses of US students population,  49% states that “local environmental protection” should be prioritized while 51% puts “global environmental protection” first. On the other hand, the majority of Chinese students population (62%) agrees strongly that people should focus on “local environmental protection” first. In the following question asking the reason behind their choices, it suggests that Chinese students seem to show a strong sense of community-based value system on the national level.

Learning Experiences

The undergraduate-faculty led program has been a challenging and rewarding experience for me. Professor Pajo has been an amazing mentor to me from the very beginning, helping me develop the research design and analyze the data. I cannot say how incredible that was to me, as it helped me apply what I have gained from class into research practices. By collaborating with Professor Pajo, I learned to analyze qualitative data by using quantitative approaches, which I will implement in future research. Furthermore, I would like to point out that the seminars offered by the UGR program are extremely helpful to me. I not only learned how to effectively read and research for my project but also practical skills including resume writing. Overall, the conducting of the undergraduate research program has broadened my horizon and encouraged me to pursue future academic goals.