Blog Post #1

According to the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS), nearly 700,000 people in the United States are living with a brain tumor that has yet to be diagnosed and treated. Most patients undergo a variety of treatments, as it is very unlikely to treat this disease using only one form of treatment. Patients can opt to undergo specialized therapies: radiation: in the form of radiation and x-rays that attempt to destroy the tumor cells in the body, chemotherapy: in the form of drugs and chemicals that are used to destroy dividing tumor cells, target therapy: which focuses on disrupting or altering certain molecules or pathways that are required for tumor cell growth, and tumor-treating field therapy: wearable device that exerts an electric field that disrupts the cell division via electrical charge inside tumor cells. Very commonly, patients may decide to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. However it is very difficult to completely remove a brain tumor since there is a high risk of developing a recurring tumor due to presence of the residual tumor and cells from the primary tumor. Despite these treatment options, the NBTS reports that over 16,500 people will still die from a malignant brain tumor this year.

Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is the deadliest form of brain cancer. The deadly tumor arises from glial cells, which are star-shaped cells that serve to support and maintain healthy nerve cells located in the brain. The survival rate for glioblastoma patients is very small in comparison to other types of brain cancers, such as lower-stage astrocytoma or oligodendroglioma. According to NBTS, the survival rate percentage of people who lived at least five years after being diagnosed with GBM was 5.1%. According the American Cancer Society (ACS), the five-year survival rate for adults diagnosed with GBM estimates to about 8%. Although the disease is not as common as lung, colorectal or breast cancer, it has the same lethal capacity of destroying one of the most vital and functional organs in the body. Diagnosis and advanced biotechnology can have the capability of helping save lives and prevent people from developing GBM.

Currently, there are several ways of diagnosing potential GBM patients. Standardly, neurological exams are carried out on the patients to detect visible signs of impairments in vision, hearing and movement. Movement coordination and reflexes are examined to determine whether the nervous system is properly functioning, since they are essentially all signals from the brain. Brain imaging technology, such as computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are utilized to detect tumor formations in the brain. Positron emission tomography (PET scan) can be used to detect the presence of GBM as well. Aside from imaging technology, biopsies of suspected masses or tissue can be done, and the extraction of cerebrospinal fluid. Both samples can be used to observe unusual and abnormal pathological characteristics. Determining the presence of GBM is helpful in having the premature disease treated and cleared as soon as possible. However, if we are able to pinpoint specific genes in humans that predispose to GBM is there a way we can try to eliminate GBM completely?

This study concentrates on understanding which genes predispose to GBM. According to Urbanska et al. (2014) GBM is often spontaneously developed in patients, although there have been familial cases recorded. Most of these familial cases show a history of GBM in ancestry that is believed to be passed onto their children and grandchildren. For all we may know, a person with familial history of GBM may have genetic predisposition to the disease and not even know about it nor expect it. Understanding these familial cases and the genetic differences in GBM affected patients, we may be able to pinpoint GBM-related genes. Utilizing knowledge and data from several publications on GBM patients, we will be observing whether the presence of variations in certain genes are linked to GBM.

To understand whether these genes truly have a role towards GBM formation, a model organism, Caenorhabditis elegans(C.elegans) will be used to observe the impact of the knock-out of specific genes. C.elegansis a roundworm or nematode that is commonly used for genetic and reproductive research. Using this organism allows us to understand the effect of the gene knockout based on the possible adverse effects it has on the reproductive and general nervous and muscular system of the nematode. C.elegansis practically a microscopic organism with a simple anatomy, which advantageously consists of a nervous system and structure that serves as a brain called the neural tube. If the genes that we observe truly cause physical and reproductive alterations to the organism, then staining microscopy will be used to better understand the cellular and molecular changes of the organism. In this study, we would like to understand what changes are applied to the glial cells that are present in C.elegans.

The genetics behind GBM are understudied and therefore is a lack of effective GBM-specialized target therapy. Understanding and confirming these changes in a model organism will allow us to apply the knowledge from this study to help improve GBM predisposition technology and target therapy that can be used to treat people that are in danger of developing this disease. More people consider undergoing genetic testing to find out whether they are prone to developing a genetically-related disease and adding new information to the screening panel can be very beneficial.


The Binding Capacity of Nanoceramics and Sulfa Antibiotics: Post 1

This summer I am working with Professor Mojica to continue my study regarding the binding capacity of nanoceramics and sulfa antibiotics. We have been working on this project since the 2017-2018 school year and I presented my research at the ACS 2018 meeting in New Orleans. This summer, we intend to expand this project by testing two new sulfa antibiotics with the ultimate goal of presenting research at the August 2018 ACS meeting in Boston.

The basis of the issue of this project is the fact that there is an abundance of antibiotics in the water system. This is due to many factors. Some of these include human waste, agricultural runoff, and aquaculture. This is a fairly new issue and so far no studies have shown any harmful effects to humans. However, scientists suspect that sensitive groups including pregnant woman could be at risk. There have been some negative effects on fish populations. The antibiotics have caused larger percentages of hermaphrodite fish to appear in recent generations. Modern water cleaning methods don’t remove most of these antibiotics. This project intends to look at how nanoceramics can bind to certain antibiotics, in order to change their absorbance or possibly even their structure. If the binding reacts in a way that makes the antibiotics less harmful to the water system, then this method could theoretically be used to more efficiently treat water.

In this study we are testing four types of nanoceramics, titanium oxide, silicon oxide, magnesium oxide, and zinc oxide. Nanomaterials are extremely small particles that have at least one dimension less than 100 nanometers. These materials usually take on unique properties. In this experiment, we will explore their ability to bind to different sulfa antibiotics. Sulfa antibiotics are antibiotics containing sulfonamides. The sulfa antibiotics being tested in our study are sulfadiazine and sulfamethizole.

In terms of our methods, we will be following the same methodology that we used during the school year in which we tested sulfamethoxazole and sulfamethazine against the same nanomaterials. We will begin by creating a 10ppm mixture of both antibiotics in water. We will then add 1mg of the four nano ceramics to antibiotics samples of 2mL and give them an hour to bind. After filtering these solutions, we will run them through a high performance layer chromatography machine to test for peak area reduction. We will run these through the HPLC machine with a mixture of 95% water 5% acetonitrile. We will then run these samples through a UV-vis machine in order to test for absorbance change. We are looking forward to seeing the effects of these interactions over the next few weeks.

Iterative Site-Directed Mutagenesis Towards Directed Evolution of Cathepsin-L

In our research, the process of iterative site-directed mutagenesis will be used in order to direct evolution of Cathepsin-L. This protein is an important lysosomal endopeptidase enzyme, which is important for the initiation of the process of protein degradation. The goal of our research is to select specific sites of the protein to mutate in order to observe the phenotypic outcomes. Once different mutants of Cathepsin-L are created, we will be able to study the difference in the functionality of the protein, such as whether the mutation hindered or enabled the protein’s ability to perform.

I expect to not only sharpen my pre-existing laboratory and research skills, but also gain new ones. It has been such a valuable experience to be able to perform actual techniques that I have only learned about in school. By being able to do things hands on, I have gained a better understanding of many concepts. Throughout this program, I have made antibiotic containing plates, performed chemical transformations with E. coli, performed plasmid mini-preps towards DNA analysis, as well as protein purification and isolation through affinity chromatography. All of these are techniques and processes that are important for  me to understand and be able to do, not only as a student, but as a scientist.

From Seedling to Harvest: A Transformative Model of Community Empowerment

The working title of this project is From Seedling to Harvest: A Transformative Model of Community Empowerment.  The purpose of this project is to document the extent to which community farms (specifically in the Bronx) have saved and exchanged seeds during dire times.  This project will take a creative approach toward exploring the formation and development of seed banking in disenfranchised communities from 1970s NYC-present day.  The changing landscape of New York City has both threatened its biodiversity while simultaneously and unintentionally thrusting underserved residents into food sovereignty movements. Practices such as seed-saving and protecting pollinators were—and continue to be— key acts of resistance.  The food sovereignty movement holds an array of intersecting stories and important narratives of those that have invested true sweat equity to the cause.  I feel that the language of the food movement is often times co-opted and compartmentalized in a way that is unproductive, and visual art can be a medium for a just way of expression and repossession of community agency.

In terms of methods, I have created a production schedule, where we will be using case-study research in the Bronx to create a storyline that is organic.  We have recruited friends and colleagues to be an audience to our process, offering feedback.  The storyboard is set and film shooting has begun.  I will be learning the basics of editing and formatting for this project. I have no previous experience with film production as a medium for my research findings, and this challenge is exciting.

Iterative Site-Directed Mutagenesis Towards the Directed Evolution of Enzymes, Blog post #1

The topic Arianna, Dr. Chang and I are researching is Iterative Site-Directed Mutagenesis Towards the Directed Evolution of Enzymes. The purpose of this project is to understand the self-assembling properties of silicateins and try to develop new forms of cathepsin-L which will adopt these properties. To accomplish this, we must determine which amino acids residues are responsible for the self-assembling properties of silicateins. Once we have this knowledge, we will make changes to different amino acids within cathepsin-L. Ultimately, the goal of this research project is to aid future studies in utilizing the self-assembling cathepsin-L to create materials for the use in medical implants and optical materials.

So far, our time spent in the lab has been focused on preliminary preparation of materials such as antibiotic containing plates, chemical transformations with e. coli, and mini-preps towards DNA analysis. We have also spent some time conducting a literature search using Web of Knowledge. We researched relevant literature published in recent years that could help us throughout our research project. During this research, Arianna and I will learn techniques in protein mutagenesis as well as how to characterize hydrophobic and electrostatic protein-protein interactions. The methods we will be using in the future to answer our research questions include: expressing, purifying, manipulating and characterizing proteins; forming and refining silica mineralization assays, both in the absence and presence of proteins; completing scanning and transmission electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and focus-ion beam milling; and finally, analyzing our complex datasets in order to accurately interpret the results.

This is my first time working in a research lab so each step along the way has been a new opportunity for me to learn. From the first day learning how to use the autoclave, to our last meeting when we successfully transformed plasmid containing the cg-LDH gene into a host organism, I have learned a wealth of new lab skills. Exposing myself to new academic experiences and growing as a student as well as a team member are the key things I would like to achieve from this project. Through our research, I hope to expand my knowledge of proteins, enzymes, and the amino acids which are the building blocks behind them.


“Reloading Classical Music: The Benefits of Music for College Students”

In my journey of classical music, I attended a high school that is famous for their strict and prestigious arts studies where I majored in vocal music. I learned not only classical singing but the history and composition behind it. After the 4 years of in depth learning of classical music, my love and appreciation grew stronger and stronger. Finally, being extracted from my bubble-like environment where everyone listened and appreciated the same music as I do, to then have my bubble burst when I entered university where the “common knowledge” of music wasn’t so common anymore. This stimulated a question as to why I seemed so alone in the thought that classical music can help everyone just as much as their preferred music genre if only one’s perception of classical music was shifted. My research will prove to people, following closely on students and people in work environments, that classical music is not outdated or unbeneficial to their daily lives, instead will better them not only emotionally but mentally stimulate improvements. Music is a language that anyone can speak. It expresses any form of emotion and at occasions it is a post to hold us up in times of despair or happiness, and can even be a sense of motivation. No music is not only restricted to one demographic, which in some cases it is believed that certain music is out dated or not impactful to one’s life.

Personally, I have always relied on classical music on times of pressure to help me relax and stabilize my thinking on any stress that may trouble me. A specific work that comes to mind that always seems to help guide me through my pressures is Polonaise in A Flat Major, Op. 10, no. 12 byFrédéric Chopin. The piece is written in a major key, which just by hearing it gives the listener more hope and empowerment by its uplifting key. It is also written in somewhat of a Polonaise style, which was a classic Polish dance music, with a ¾ time signature that gives a sort of rhythm that historically conveyed a nationalistic and empowering feeling. Chopin uses rubato which is the give and take of tempo that pulls the beat back bringing more tension, then resolving it by speeding it up and releasing the tension. Following the rubato are extreme dynamic markings that control how loud and soft the music will get. The most common markings are piano(soft) and forte(loud). To bring a flow to some of the dynamic markings there are crescendos and decrescendos that are carries the dynamic marking gradually louder or softer. These musical factors bring the piece together to carry out this sense of pride and strength in whatever circumstance, where I feel pressured with school work or finances and even who I am. Being able to listen dissect this piece of music relaxes me and calms me from my troubles and lets me know that I can preserver and even help generate ideas on how to fix any conflict I am facing.

In exploring these ideas of classical music and its potential to help so many people, a method in following our research is studying the music itself by sampling of classical music and other genres and reflecting on its impact of thinking and processing during different circumstances. Looking deeper into the details of music and why it may influence a certain thought just by the way the music was written by the composer and the time it was written. The objective is to be able to return back to classical music and explore its benefits for daily life to make our loud and busy lives just quiet enough to hear the music.

The Persistence and Retention of First-Year Business Undecided Students

My name is Jake Cameron and I am a rising senior Arts and Entertainment Management major at Pace University. I was very fortunate during my freshman year to be extremely involved in the AEM program, as I was able to meet with professors early on, meet upperclassmen and alumni, and also begin laying the groundwork for how I want to shape my college career. However, I know many of my classmates were not as active.

Since I was a sophomore, I have been a UNV Peer Leader under the supervision of Carolyn Endick, who is the Assistant Director of New Student Programs. For every student who attends Pace University, they must first take UNV 101 during their first semester. During this class, they are given an introduction to the university and the many different departments/assets that are a part of it as well. Additionally, the students also learn separate ideas of how to manage their time in college, how to create their schedules for different semesters, how to navigate New York City, etc. Their homework and projects involve going to events hosted by Pace’s clubs/organizations, and creating a 4-year plan that they can adjust as they continue on their college career.

While working with Carolyn in two separate UNV business classes, we’ve seen a variety of different students that have struggled with their adjustment into college. One particular difficult adjustment is found frequently in the many undecided business students that have been in our classes. While they are taking the exact same classes as business students with declared majors, they are overwhelmed or unmotivated to navigate within the array of clubs/organizations of particular majors and find difficulty finding a community of students who have similar professional goals to them.

This had led Carolyn and me to pursue research in the realm of undecided business students, and what we, as educators for UNV 101, can do to help students find their footing and major in college. What we are hoping to do is interview and poll a variety of different business students, and how they were able to finally pick their major. We also will be analyzing other universities’ freshman year seminars and how they also combat this type of student.

Our goal for the end of this project is to take our learnings from this Summer and apply it to our UNV 101 class in the Fall, which will be primarily filled with undecided business students. We would like to see how many students choose their major by the end of their first semester, and then, after their freshmen year, how many are still undecided. We want to also interview these students and see the influences that impacted their decisions, whether that be in-class experiences or out-of-class experiences. With that information, we hope to find the true motivational key that is seen in successful business students.

Therapy Dogs on College Campuses

This summer, I will be working with Dr. Sue Maxam on a research project entitled, “The Perceived Impact of Therapy Dogs on College Students.” Our research will examine the perceived impact of therapy dogs on college students from the point of view of faculty and staff who have observed students who participate in therapy dog programs on college campuses. Throughout this research I expect to learn the perceived emotional impact therapy dogs have on college students, as well as the perceived physical impact therapy dogs have on college students. I also expect to learn if there is any impact of therapy dogs on student retention, and I will examine what the components are of formal therapy dog programs on college campuses.

To conduct this research, I will be interviewing faculty members at Pace University who have experience with therapy dogs and bring therapy dogs on campus, as well as interviewing people who have therapy dog programs around the nation. I will also be researching all of the components that go into therapy dog programs that colleges around the nation have implemented.

Our ultimate goal of this research project is to bring a permanent therapy dog program to Pace University. The therapy dog in this program will be a full time faculty member with a Pace University ID, and will also have a schedule of where and when it will be on campus.

Sugar Sweetened Beverage Consumption Patterns in (Low Income) Children

The focus of my project is centered around the issue of childhood obesity.  I have chosen to hone in one specific factor, sugar-sweetened beverage(s) (SSB(s)). The purpose of this project is to conduct a review of the literature regarding SSBs and childhood consumption and use this information to study its relationship. As I conduct this research, I hope to collect a well organized identify common patterns in consumption, consequences related to overconsumption, as well as ways to help combat the issue of SSB consumption in children. I chose this specific subject because although obesity in children has been on a decline, the numbers are relatively still high. I was introduced to this topic by Dr. Northrup and after gaining some insight on it, I felt that it was an interesting and relevant issue that needs more available information.

Within the past month, Dr. Northrup and I have collected and reviewed multiple research articles. I began my search by familiarizing myself with the scope of the problem. Articles evaluated included obesity trends from the past 26 years, beverage consumption patterns from the past 11 years for individuals ages 2-60 years. The effects of SSBs on the health of children, intervention program, and legislation, as well as the incidence of obesity and SSBs ingestion amongst lower income children. In the next month, I plan to refine my research in order to have more specific research question will help to expand my knowledge on that specific area.

The next steps in this project include continuing the search and collection of articles related to my topic via the Pace library database, Google Scholar, etc. I plan to create a more focused library of articles directly related to a particular aspect related to the topic of SSB consumption and childhood obesity. With this said, in the next few weeks I will also begin to formulate my written literature review with my professor. I am currently working on producing the introduction section of my review of the literature collected.

Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia: A Continuing Study

My name is Rachel Melamudov. I am a senior student in the CSD (communication sciences and disorders) program. I have the opportunity to be a research assistant for the director of our CSD program, Dr. Linda Carozza. Our project concerns a motor speech disorder called dysarthria. The American Speech and Hearing Association states that “dysarthria happens when you have weak muscles due to brain damage. It can be mild or severe”. Dysarthria is associated with traumatic brain injuries, tumors and various forms of dementia. Dementia is a degenerative disease which encompasses numerous symptoms and affects an individual’s memory and other cognitive functions. There is no known cure for dementia. Individuals who have been given a dementia diagnosis by their physician may wait years until impaired speech function becomes noticeable.
Our project, titled Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia; A Continuing Study, seeks to discuss and analyze if early markers may be detected in the speech patterns of patients with dementia. We are utilizing various tools and software to study speech patterns of real patients with dementia. Previous publications do exist regarding this topic, by Dr. Carozza and also by renowned researcher, Dr. Bell-Berti. We expect to find indicators which could be extremely significant as quality of life is of the utmost importance for these individuals. Our aim for this summer is to complete these measures and compile a stats table for an article submission. Our research could be instrumental in the diagnosis and treatment of dysarthria.