End of the Year Report

End of the Year Report

            During my time as a student faculty researcher I have learned how to conduct research. This was the first experience that I have had to conduct research and make observations based on research. I also looked at scholarly journals written by other people to see the research they have done and how it relates to what I am doing. Which I was able to use to back up my findings because they turned out to be very similar.

Our conclusion of all of this has been the same in all of the blogs. In order to improve the experience of the elderly using mobile applications you must keep the application as simple as possible. For example, the most successful applications that the elderly have used were applications like Google. Which had only one purpose and one thing on the screen so the user knew exactly what they were doing and there was no opportunity for confusion to emerge. This research experience has taught me a valuable lesson on designing mobile applications that I will be able to apply to any software I engineer in the future.

End of the Year Report

The work I’ve been doing with Dr. Nancy Krucher involves the very invasive disease, Pancreatic cancer. We have worked on a possible solution to the invasive behavior of cancer cells that comprises of knocking down a specific phosphatase subunit and its effect on the Retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein. We also studied the effects of the drug Erlotinib on cell death. At the start of the year, I worked with 96-well plates for various experiments. Doing this allowed my pipetting skills to improve greatly and I gained more knowledge of knockdowns and cell growth. Some experiments included creating and testing several concentrations of Erlotinib and finding it’s optimal concentration for cell death. Then after finding this concentration, we treated the MiaPaCa-2 pancreatic cancer cells with PNUTS knockdown to inhibit invasion for 48 hours and proceeded with Erlotinib for 24 hours. Afterwards, to count cells we used Cell Titer-Glo spectrophotometer assays to see how effective the combined treatment was in killing off cells. This process took several experiments for me to get the hang of the techniques but the results were great. There were plenty of experiments that were flops, and some that were good but had very big error bars for our data (which isn’t so great). However, multiple experiments of mine showed a decrease in cell count when the cells were treated with both PNUTS knockdown and Erlotinib.

To further look into how PNUTS knockdown would affect the cells, we studied its effects on invasion. I had to perform immunoblotting experiments to see the differences in expression for several EMT (Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition) markers. Before this experiment, I didn’t know a thing about EMT and it honestly helped me so much in one of my classes afterwards when reviewing other scientific papers. Our main focuses were the markers Zeb, N-cadherin, E-cadherin, and Vimentin. This took me so long to get used to. I had to learn how to lyse cells and extract protein and create samples to run a gel with. The hardest part was finding the concentrations of protein and creating samples properly. If this wasn’t done correctly then my gels were pointless and the bands on my nitrocellulose paper wasn’t reliable. I was able to finally work through my mistakes with some practice and obtained some good results. I found a decrease in both Zeb and N-cadherin expression; which signifies a reduction in invasiveness due to the knockdown. I’m still currently working on experiments like what was just mentioned but with other markers and even touching on different pathways affecting invasion as well.

Throughout this whole experience I’ve realized how great it is to work in the lab and conduct such interesting research. My goal in life is to become a doctor but with my experiences this past year I actually am looking into joining a program to obtain an MD-PHD degree. I want to continue researching in the future. Yes, it gets frustrating when experiments don’t go as planned or when results get messed up, but as Dr. Krucher would always remind me, everything takes time and practice. It is always a learning experience. Even when I thought I knew how to do everything properly there was always something else to be learned and practiced. I am so proud and happy with what I’ve done in this past year and so thankful I’ve been able to do it. I’m very appreciative of the UGR program and Dr. Krucher (for putting up with all my mistakes!). Her guidance has helped me greatly and I hope the project continues to bring positive results!

Final Report

My research project is one of the most amazing experiences thus far in my academic career. I learned so many things not only about my topic, but also about my work ethic and the nature of conducting research. I never believed I could undertake a project of this size but after finally typing up my final results and sending it over to my advisor for edits, I feel a sense of accomplishment I never had the pleasure of experiencing before in my academic career.

The results of my research were quite interesting. Although my research methods presented limitations that I had to consider while analyzing my results, I found that my results presented an interesting twist I was not expecting. While trying to find a connection between our linguistic choices and gender identity within a workplace setting, I found that regardless of gender or status, politeness was the most important factor while making linguistic choices.

I learned ultimately that I am capable of conducting research and generating a report about my research that is thorough and complete. Knowing the student I was at the beginning of college, I do not believe I would have deemed myself capable to complete a task as immense as this one. Yet, here I stand at the end of my insightful journey. I also am proud of myself for another reason. My projected career path does not include research or academic composing like required for this research. Yet I now know if I ever wish to return to a university and conduct research that contributes to academia, I have the tools necessary to do so. I am overwhelmingly thankful for the opportunity given to conduct this research and to contribute to Pace’s community of students venturing to discover their own answers to their own questions.

Blog #4- End of the Year Report

Doing research throughout this semester with my mentor, Dr. Elmer Mojica, has greatly impacted my experience at Pace University. My research with analyzing vibrational spectroscopy of ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, norfloxacin, and sarafloxacin, four fluoroquinolone drugs, was successful! I was able to use different instruments like a portable Raman and IR in order to obtain spectra of the drugs. I was able to analyze the different spectra produced and find unique peaks that are specific to each fluoroquinolone drug, for differentiation. I was also able to analyze bond angles and lengths of each drug. For further research, I would like to run my four fluoroquinolone samples again with multiple trials for the bench top Raman, portable Raman, and IR instruments. For the portable Raman, I would like to mess with the time and exposure settings more to see if that enhances the signal to noise ratio.

Overall, the UGRI experience has helped me with lab techniques and in understanding instrumentation and computer programs. I was able to understand the theory behind each instrument, in order to understand how each drug is read. I have also been exposed to different computer programs, like Gaussian, which creates 3-dimensional structures and Igor, which helps to analyze graphs. This enhanced my learning experience outside of the classroom, where the information is just presented to you on a powerpoint. I was actually able to work with the instruments hands-on instead.

Because of doing research this year, I have been given opportunities to present my research in various formats. Along with the UGRI, I was able to present my research in poster format at the Dyson Society of Fellow this past March. Also, I was given the opportunity to go to the American Chemical Society Conference in San Francisco. I presented the research I am currently working on in the Analytical Chemistry section. Being able to present at different conferences the past year allowed me to explain what I have been working on to others. I have been asked questions and have taken in advice on how to advance my research. Being at conferences allows me to network with other scientists who share the same interest in analytical chemistry. Overall, I appreciate going through the UGRI experience because of the learning experiences and opportunities I have gained that I would have not been able to otherwise. I would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Elmer Mojica for all the aid and opportunities he has given me over the year. I would also like to thank the rest of my research group for all of the support!

End of the Year Report

In this study ten different sulfonamide derivatives were studied. Sulfa drugs are commonly used in aquaculture as agricultural herbicides and in the treatment of respiratory and urinary tract infections in humans. The aim of the work was to use Raman spectroscopy as well as density functional (DFT) calculations to characterize ten sulfa drugs. The ten derivatives were sulfisoxazole, sulfamethizole, sulfamethoxazole, sulfathiazole, sulfachloropyridazine, sulfadimethoxine, sulfamerzine, sulfameter, sulamethazine and sulfadiazine. The first four mentioned sulfa drugs have a five membered ring attached to a sulfonamide group while the last six mentioned have a six membered ring attached to a sulfonamide group. This difference and the functional group each of the sulfa drug possesses were analyzed in terms of vibrational bands that are both unique and common to the sulfa drugs. Once the results were obtained experimentally through Raman Spectroscopy and theoretical using the program Gaussian, they were compared and it was observed that the experimental data was very similar to the theoretical data. The ten different derivatives exhibited peaks at common areas and unique areas, which I will discuss further in detail.

When observing the graphs of the Raman spectra it was observed that there were similar peaks in the 10 different drugs. At about the wave region of 630 cm-1 – 790 cm-1 where the carbon-sulfur bond exhibits stretching there was a peak in all ten derivatives. They all exhibited peaks at the 800 cm-1 – 1300 cm-1 wave region as well that is characteristically due to the carbon-nitrogen bond stretching. Another feature they had in common is the fact that they all exhibit ring stretching in the wave region of 900 cm-1 – 1100 cm-1. This is supported by the theoretical data that was obtained and is expected due to the fact that all of the derivatives contain a ring. Due to the fact that they are all sulfonamide derivatives, they all contain sulfonamide groups and therefore all showed peaks in the wave region 1000 cm-1 – 1200 cm-1. This is typically where sulfonamides exhibit symmetrical stretching. These peaks were also present in the theoretical data. All of the experimental spectra showed peaks at about 1600 cm-1. which was concluded to have been caused by the stretching of the aromatic carbon-carbon bonds. Since all of the derivatives contain a ring that has carbon nitrogen double bonds, all of the spectra showed peaks at about 1610 cm-1 – 1680 cm-1.

Although there were many similar peaks that are shown in the spectra of all ten derivatives, there are also some unique characteristics shown. For example, all of the structures that contain methyl groups on the substituent, such as sulfamethazine, sulfamerazine, sulfamethoxazole, sulfamethizole, and sulfasoxazole, all show peaks in the wave region of about 1380 cm-1 where the methyl group undergoes bending. Sulfamethazine has the peak at the wavenumber of 1347 cm-1, sulfamerazine has the peak at 1335 cm-1, sulfamethizole has the peak at 1310 cm-1, sulfisoxazole has the peak at 1391 cm-1, and sulfamethoxazole at 1310 cm-1.

Sulfadimethoxine and sulfameter both contain ethers on the pyrimidine structure. Sulfadimethoxine’s had a peak at 1282 cm-1 and sulfameter had a peak at 1280 cm-1 and 1319 cm-1. These peaks are in the region of 1150 cm-1 – 1300 cm-1 that can be attributed to the ether. The only derivative that contains a thiazole shows distinguishing vibrations. There is out of plane bending of the carbon hydrogen bonds on the thiazole ring that can be seen at the wavenumbers 637 cm-1 and 726 cm-1. The thiazole ring also undergoes vibrations. The regions are from 930 cm-1 – 1160 cm-1, 1175 cm-1 – 1340 cm-1, and 1480 cm-1 – 1690 cm-1. In the spectrum it can be seen that sulfathiazole has peaks at 930 cm-1, 1159 cm-1, 1350 cm-1, and 1502 cm-1 that can all be attributed to this ring stretching.

Sulfadiazine contains only the pyrimidine and didn’t have any distinguishing peaks. As for sulfachloropyridazine, the data obtained was did not provide much information as the spectrum did not exhibit many peaks. This was concluded to be due to the color of the solid form being yellow when it was tested.

When trying to determine which spectrum belongs to which derivative, it will be necessary to look at the differing substituents. However, for the derivatives like sulfadiazine, which have only a pyrimidine ring, or such as sulfamerzine and sulfamethazine, whose only differences are the number of methyl groups attached, determining which spectrum belongs to which derivative will be much more challenging.

There is a slight shift observed in the Raman peaks when the ten sulfonamide antibiotics were mixed in their solid form together. It was observed that there is a very distinct peak seen at a wavenumber of 1593 cm-1, which is likely due to the aromatic ring structure that all ten derivatives have. It can also be seen that they have a very intense peak at 1148 cm-1 that is probably due to the sulfonamide functional group stretching.

Overall I learned a lot during this study. I learned how to properly assign vibrational bond modes using the computer program Gaussian and how to analyze Raman spectra. Not only did I learn how to trouble shoot issues that came up as the experiment went on but I have gained valuable lab experience that will help me in my future career. I had the amazing opportunity to present my research at the American Chemical Society’s National convention in San Francisco. Being at a national convention, presenting, and making connections with all of the other scientists was an experience like no other. Doing research as an undergraduate has really made my time here at Pace University so much more valuable. I would not have been able to do any of this without the help and guidance of my wonderful mentor Elmer-Rico E. Mojica. I have learned so much during my time in his research group and I hope in the future I have the opportunity to impact young minds in the same way he has impacted me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

End of the Year Report

My research focuses on the involvement of two voltage-gated calcium channel mutations in epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by spontaneous seizures that can cause brain damage. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing convulsions, muscle spasms, and the loss of consciousness. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance in neurotransmitters, changes in ion channels, or some combination of these factors.

Ion channels are cell membrane proteins that allow the passage of ions, such as calcium, into or out of the cell, which generates the electrical signals of neural networks. Voltage-gated calcium channels are a type of ion channel, which allows the passage of calcium ions into the cell. They have a pore through which calcium passes, and one or more auxiliary subunits that regulate pore opening and closing. The auxiliary subunit my research focuses on is the β subunit. The β subunit functions in delivering the calcium channel to the cell membrane and regulating activation and inactivation kinetics of the ion channel. The two mutations in the β subunit that I studied are E53K and Q131L. These mutations were found in a cohort of epileptic patients, but not in unaffected individuals.

In order to study how both of these mutations alter β subunit function and thus voltage-gated calcium channel function, site-directed mutagenesis was performed with QuickChange II XL kit to introduce the desired mutation into the wild-type β subunit. Once we obtained the desired mutation, we synthesized RNA. The RNA, along with the RNA for the other necessary subunits, were injected into Xenopus laevis oocytes. The RNA forms into a calcium channel protein and then we recorded currents using the two-electrode voltage clamp (TEVC). This is done by inserting two glass microelectrodes into the oocyte. One electrode applies the voltage to activate the voltage-gated calcium channel and the other electrode records the resulting currents. Interestingly, we found that the E53K mutant channels had significantly decreased current amplitude when compared to the wild-type and the Q131L mutant channels. This means that not enough calcium ions are able to flow into the cell. We hypothesize that the E53K mutation is causing a decrease in current amplitude by altering channel trafficking. This can lead to various problems such as neurotransmitter imbalance, which is one of the causes of epilepsy.

This research can eventually lead to more personalized and specific treatment that will be more beneficial in treating epilepsy than what is currently available. Performing such research really impacted me and made me feel really happy to discover something that no one has discovered before that can eventually help people and society. I presented my research at two conferences, the NEURON Conference and the Eastern Colleges Science Conference (ECSC). In both conferences my research won an award. I won an Honorable Mention for the Suzannah Bliss Tieman Outstanding Poster Award at the NEURON Conference and I won an award for Outstanding Presentation in Genetics/Molecular Biology at ECSC. While I don’t do research to win awards, it made me feel proud to know that my hard work was recognized by the community and made a significant impact on those who I had presented to.

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience and it is one of the highlights of my four years at Pace. I realized how much I enjoyed being in the lab, constantly learning new things, and doing something that is beneficial to society. Even though I plan to go to medical school in hopes to pursue a career in neurosurgery, I want to incorporate doing research as well in my plans for the future. I am very thankful to my research mentor, Dr. Buraei, and to this program for supporting this research and providing me with this valuable experience.

 

Final Report

Our work involves the utilization of Agar to incorporate and fuse with plants essentials oils in varying concentrations. Agar as a gel is porous and can be used to measure microorganism motility and mobility. The gel’s porosity is directly related to the concentration of agarose in the medium resulting in various levels of effective viscosity. Throughout the project 30 essential oils were used in three varying concentrations of 100uL, 200uL, or 300 uL or 500uL, 75uL, and 1 mL. This made for 90 samples that were tested against S. aureus, and 52 samples were proved to have antimicrobial activity against this species. Then 9 samples were proved to have inclusive results because they didn’t diffuse into the agar or because in the incubator it was disintegrating and 29 samples did not work at all. All of these surfaces that were proven to work against S. aureus have shown efficient antimicrobial effects.

As of now, I have 52 samples that have been proved against S. aureus. Some of the future works involve finding new essential oils, which have not been heard about in the United States. The research plan is to continue making antimicrobial surfaces and not only testing it against S. aureus which is a known skin infection but to try this against other species like Candida albicans. In further projects plans, I tend to make these antimicrobial surfaces into wound dressings or bandages that can be used in the military or medical field.

Through this whole academic year, I have learned that my passion is truly being in the lab setting. I enjoyed every aspect of research. It wasn’t always great results, but this is all a learning process. Research was what my schedule revolved around each day. I am so happy with all that I have accomplished with this project! All the times in the lab and learning about each oil and the benefits that it has for you was the most interesting part. When I saw the positive results, that the oil would inhibit all the growth of the bacteria, I would get so excited that it worked! After doing research, I realized that I could pursue an MD/PhD or get my MD and work on the side doing research, any of these choices would make me happy. I enjoyed research and learning about everything that has to go with it. I am very thankful for my mentor as we made sure the project was presented at different conferences to gain feedback from people.

I presented my research project at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Fellows at Pace University and handed in a manuscript of my project. It won the Excellence in Science Award and I was very happy. Also, I attended a National Conference Meeting in San Francisco for the American Chemical Society this month and came back with excellent feedback and great connections. It amazes me how much of an impact this project has on others. It is always exciting to interact with others and engage and learn from them new techniques. The most exciting thing that I got when I was at the National Meeting was someone coming to my poster and after I presented to them, they said to me, “ This field is meant for you and I don’t often say that! This work will have a huge impact in a period of within five years! You are up to big things kid! Congrats!”

In general, this wouldn’t have been possible without my mentor, Dr. JaimeLee Rizzo. Thanks to my mentor for her guidance and advice has gotten me this far with this project! We expect that this project will continue to foster bigger things! I am very thankful to have been chosen to the program! It was a remarkable experience!

Understanding the Identity formation of addiction via Lacan

Extensive research of the lectures of Jacques Lacan has assisted my writing in the discipline of literary criticism in the fragmented representation of addiction in contemporary literature.

Thus far, the most poignant connections between addiction-based lifestyles and Lacan’s psychoanalysis is the idea of identity reformation and recognition coagulating via the unconscious nature that is substance-dependence. A “New Mirror” stage so-to-speak is constructed by the individual’s identity superimposed by the unconscious language of their need for habitual substance abuse.

The “New Mirror” stage (or possibly ‘latent’) allows readers to explore addiction lifestyles as an experience or entity that forces both the addict and the addict’s caregivers to go through identity transformations dictated by the unconscious nature of their relationship.

What is still in need of thorough exploration is how the addict fits into Lacan’s idea of the symbolic order. And how does this relationship to language influence the addict’s desire for wholeness and completion via the impossibility of closure or “recovery.” Scott Heim’s novel We Disappear mobilizes Lacan’s structure of psychoanalysis with the narrator’s relationship to substance abuse and his mother.

UPDATE ON THE INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT HEIM:

Author Scott Heim has written in response to all the questions I asked him and his answers are more than compelling. I am still figuring ways in which to navigate his responses in relation to my research considering I write within the discourse of “death of the author” in which an author releases a text to a public consciousness and therefore is no longer considered whole with the text.

It is even more pressing to figure out how to consider Scott Heim’s responses when he has admitted to me that this novel is infused with autobiographic experience – the addiction.

Third Blog Post: Aromatherapy Research Progress

Use of aromatherapy in freshman college students to decrease test anxiety: A random blinded intervention-placebo study

The experimental portion of this study has ended. Dr. Greenberg and I are now focusing on collecting and analyzing the results of our pre experiment and post-experiment surveys; Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Westside Test Anxiety Scale, and Spielberg State Trait Anxiety inventory.

Dr. Greenberg and I encountered a multitude of challenges in this study;

  1. We had a large, potential sample size of over 400 freshman students; however, it proved to be an impossible task to recruit many of the students. I sent numerous emails reaching out to the students. University 101 professors posted the consent form for the study to their course’s Blackboard for ease of access for the students. We even offered gift card incentives! We ended with a total sample size of 27 subjects. Due to the difficulty we faced with recruitment, we learned quickly that working with this group of students was going to be a challenge.
  2. Of the 27 participants, there was huge noncompliance with completing the surveys. Only 4 subjects completed all of the surveys. I even sent mass texts and emails reminding and encouraging the participants to complete the surveys.
  3. Only 11 subjects actually picked up their inhalers.
  4. Because of this, our end sample size for the control and intervention groups was limited.

Conversely, despite the challenges faced, we found that utilizing the lavender inhaler a minimum of 3 times per week, in the fall semester, prior to midterm examinations and through final examinations yielded as an effective anxiolytic and improved the subject’s quality of sleep. Specific statistical data is still currently being analyzed and will be discussed in depth on the UG research day that Provost is holding. 

I will be graduating this May with a strongly developed skill in evidence-based practice research thanks to Leinhard School of Nursing. The program is strongly invested in teaching nursing students the essentiality of using current, best evidence when making decisions about patient care and utilizing critically appraised, scientifically proven evidence for delivering quality health care. I learned that this is one of my major strengths, and I have become intent on conducting my own research later in my nursing career. When Dr. Greenberg offered me this opportunity to be involved in her research, I was incredibly enthusiastic that she not only recognized my EBP aptitude, but that this opportunity would provide me a foundation on conducting research that I can one day achieve myself. I have become confident in my ability to interpret research data through employing valid statistical tests. Dr. Greenberg and I will be presenting our work on aromatherapy at the Eastern Nursing Research Society’s annual scientific session in Pittsburgh, PA next month. This accomplishment will open a door of opportunities for my career path that I have only begun.

 

Blog #3: Exploration of Inorganic Chemistry Experiments

This third blog post features an update on the progress of my project investigating potential experiments for an Inorganic Chemistry laboratory. Since the last blog, a lot of progress has been made. Unfortunately, we have had many bumps in the road of this project but have continued to work around them and make progress. Revisiting the first experiment, the product results were inconclusive and required further testing to confirm the structure. In an effort to move forward, we pushed to our second experiment utilizing the specially-ordered resin and a solvent known as Perchloric Acid.

We had all of our materials ready for this ionic column exchange experiment and were preparing to run an initial test. In science and lab work, it is imperative to know and understand the kind of materials one is going to be working with. Prior to running anything, any risks that could potentially be involved during the course of an experiment should be made well aware to every person working with the materials. In doing our preparative research, we started picking up many warnings regarding the Perchloric Acid. As it would turn out, this material could prove to be highly explosive when it is dried out and can be very caustic to many materials. Upon seeing this, we decided to scrap the experiment in favor of safety. The material has since been properly disposed of.

Following this, we found an alternative experiment that uses the same concepts of the original column experiment with mostly similar materials, aside from the Perchloric Acid. We decided to run this shortly after. The defining concept of this experiment is that it uses a pressurized system of Nitrogen gas in order to push the eluting solvent through the column and resin. This pressure forces the column experiment to proceed at a significantly faster rate and allows each run to be completed quickly. We performed this experiment using regular compressed air instead of Nitrogen due to its ease of access in each of our laboratory rooms. We also looked at an alternative method which we originally felt might be easier to do for an entire lab class full of students. This method used a small syringe and plunger to mimic the column and pressurized system on a much smaller scale and without the use of a compressed air pump. Unfortunately, problems with the syringe resulted in failure of separation of the metals. The procedure could be further adjusted and implemented in to the teaching lab with some more work. Pictures of both the initial set up and the alternative procedure are below.

 

 

 

 

The most recent experiment we ran as part of this project, is a synthesis between a Cobalt metal and Saccharin molecules. The result that is formed by this demonstrates the unique structures of metal complexes. The experimental procedure here is simple and easy to follow. The reagents involved are all typically non hazardous. The product that was formed through this experiment was then analyzed by ultra-violet visible spectroscopy and confirmed the structure of the product as a successful synthesis. This experiment could be directly implemented in the lab almost as is. A picture of the beautiful crystals that were recovered from this experiment are below.

Recently, Professor Upmacis and I attended the Society of Fellows 2017 meeting at Pace to display the work we’ve accomplished so far. Understanding this post was on the longer side, but it ultimately covered each aspect of the new work my professor and I have completed since the last blog update. Future work includes looking at another experiment to synthesize a metal-quinoline complex utilizing different common transition metals. As an additional note, this project has really been an eye-opening experience for me. It’s demonstrated that it’s a rare occurrence where everything goes perfectly and it’s more likely that something will fail or not work properly. The real world of working on new experiments and researching new procedures or creating a new methods is often full of issues that need to be worked around. A creative head is necessary to succeed and solve various problems!

Thank you for reading this long post!