Reflection: Final Report

The past few weeks I followed classical and contemporary music to study its effects on my daily life. I dove into romantic era composer Frédéric Chopin and the influence of his Polonaise that not only musically stimulated my thoughts and encouragement, but as well as the history of Chopin and his morals behind the music. I also looked towards contemporary music of different genres and followed it messages and their responses on society versus my responses. College students have stress follow them everywhere they go of being away from home, school work, or living on their own, there needs to be a time to relax and calm down. There can be a set time before lectures or exams of relaxation and meditation to classical music to help ease students, and help their mind focus on the task they are about to perform. As well as during “common hour”, a time most students are out of class and it is their time to recollect themselves and continue with their day. With this gap in the day, it can be used to place certain classical pieces to stimulate motivation and relaxation to help relieve some of the many pressures students carry along with them aside from their lunches and books. During my studying periods before classes or on my free time, I would listen to classical music to help me focus on my work but subconsciously make me work more efficiently and faster. It puts me in a “Zen” like mood as if nothing can hinder my flow of work until it is completed and is my best, and I feel it carried me to where I am today. I wish to share my experience and success with fellow students to prove to them that classical music isn’t outdated or pointless but can help improve and motivate in any task. Students have so much potential that could be masked and hindered by stress, and yet classical music can be a key to open that door and have their studies and focus shifted to prosper in school and in daily life.

End of Summer Final Report

According the World Health Organization, approximately one-third of the human population is infected with tuberculosis.  This statistic is rather large in comparison to the percent of the population that individuals believe are infected with tuberculosis.  Due to many ethical guidelines that the medical community has established, researchers have been limited in the ways to study this disease. The way in which I have chosen to study this disease is rather new to the scientific community. My research thus far has been to find a way to utilize the nematode Caenorhabditis elegansin order to study tuberculosis in vivoin a successful manner to set a bases for further studies.

With the great amount of help that I have received from my mentors this summer, I was able to be very resourceful while figuring out how to go about this project.  The major point at hand was to make plates in which can allow both the bacteria and the worms to survive.  Through the extensive background that Dr. Marcy Kelly has on tuberculosis and BCG, I was already given a protocol for plates that allow BCG to grow. These plates consisted of 7H11-based media. The worms were found to thrive on cholesterol-based media. With many trials we were about to utilize and combine both protocols in order to create a plate consisting of 7H11- and cholesterol-based media.  Another aspect of trying to manipulate C. elegansis understanding their food choice. The worms’ preferred food choice was stated to be E. colithroughout much of the literature I read, and through the expertise of Dr. Marcello. Through many trial runs, we were not able to determine the food choice of the worms. In order to determine this, we put equal amounts of E. coli and BCG.

To summarize, C. elegansseems to have the potential to be an exemplar model for studying tuberculosis infection.  Even though C. elegans has not demonstrated a preference for BCG as a food source, there is data demonstrating that the worms will ingest the bacteria.  We have also established a media that allows the growth of both the bacteria and the worms.

I have experienced many small accomplishments throughout this research. To begin, I have gained a large understanding of both BCG and C. elegans. Of course, I plan to learn more and more every day and get a greater knowledge on the topic.

Overall, I have gained great patience through this experience. I know understand that I have to work around bacteria’s time frame, and it was challenging.  Fortunately, I was able to gain great time management skills. I also had to deal with a lot of experiences with research not cooperating well with me. This tested by patience tremendously, but in the end, it made me a better researcher.  The experience in the lab with Dr. Kelly and Dr. Marcello was incredible.  Being able to work one on one with them was an honor that I will continue to cherish. I hope more of their knowledge gets passed on to be throughout time.

My researchers were very understanding and helpful resources.  Not only did they dedicate their time to me, but they were willing to help with questions all hours of the day.  Having a demanding schedule really challenged me this summer, and the compassion they showed me was incredible.  They also taught me so much in such a small amount of time. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity that the provost grant and my mentors have provided me.

Final Report: Combining docking and free energy-based methods to improve virtual screening of drug candidates against HIV integrase

The title of this project is “Combining docking and free energy-based methods to improve virtual screening of drug candidates against HIV integrase.” Because HIV integrase is a key protein in the HIV-AIDS virus, the purpose of our research was to utilize docking, molecular dynamics simulation, and free energy calculation to computationally predict the success of HIV drug candidates in countering this protein. Similar to drug testing for other ailments, HIV drug testing and clinical trials typically require copious amounts of money, effort, and many, many years. With our work, we aim to use in-silico screening of drug candidates in order to focus the biomedical community’s time and resources on solely the most promising drug candidates for increased efficiency. Starting with software like Desmond from D.E. Shaw Research and then advancing towards using more powerful and advanced molecular modeling software, our research team collaborated in mastering techniques and determining the most promising HIV drug candidates. As our work continues to progress, we shall send our finalized results and data to Dr. Deng’s colleague at the University of Colorado for synthesis and further testing in a lab setting. Data analyses and results shall be published in an official scientific paper and also presented at the 2019 American Chemical Society national conference.

In-silico drug screening largely rested in the use and mastery of molecular docking. Molecular docking is the process of predicting ligand conformation and orientation within a targeted binding site. Docking aims to find the ideal interaction energy between a specific receptor and ligand in order to create an ideal and stable compound. Within the docking software, we can compare interaction energies of different poses by using the software’s scoring function. For each possible pose, considering all conformational degrees of freedom, the scoring function gives a value that helps us evaluate its affinity. To accurately simulate these interactions as they occur within the human body, we instructed the software to create a body of water molecules surrounding the protein of interest. Using Command Line Interface (CLI) within Linux, we simulated how the protein exists in solution and proceeded to make observations and collect data regarding hydrogen bond strengths and other interactions between atoms. In particular, we shall continue by analyzing binding energy values and considering enthalpy, entropy, and other factors. Our team has not yet produced sufficient results for proper presentation, nonetheless we, under the tutelage of Dr. Deng, already have steady plans for the year ahead to advance our research using more advanced methods within the software as well as free-energy calculations in order to collect, finalize, and publish results in a timely manner.

The level of detail and intricacy that docking and molecular modeling require have made our work rather challenging. In the earliest stages, there were already issues with the software Desmond as it failed several simulations we tried to run. After troubleshooting and investigating possible sources of error, it became clear that there were some problems within the software itself that caused some simulations to “die.” Fortunately, Dr. Deng had planned on using Desmond for only the first few steps of our learning process, so we promptly switched to more advanced software. However, we must continue to work with caution and precision as similar issues and challenges will always arise within this type of research. Overall, mastering the various functions, formatting, and even the CLI within Linux proved challenging, and I am determined to continue putting in time and work to improve and excel.

My time conducting research with Dr. Deng this summer has enriched me through the lessons I learned and the challenges I encountered. This was the first time I ever delved into real, in-depth research, and I have been incredibly grateful for the experience. As a biochemistry major who excels in mathematics and biochemistry but has rather limited preliminary knowledge of coding and computing, I initially found this type of research somewhat intimidating. However, Dr. Deng has been excellent as a mentor and guide in teaching me about conducting good research, CLI, and the vast array of possibilities that molecular modeling presents as it relates to medicine and chemistry. I now find this field of academics to be exciting and intriguing, and the skills I have gained in problem-solving, coding, and modeling will surely be very helpful both now and in the future. Although I am currently a student on the pre-med track with plans of becoming a physician, I am now open to the idea of research not only in a lab setting but also from a more computationally-focused context. Pace University’s undergraduate student-faculty research program has given me a remarkable opportunity to enrich my knowledge and reinforce my desires to contribute to the world as part of the medical community; in particular, I now plan to continue conducting this research with Dr. Deng and likely take on similar medicine-oriented projects later in my academic career.

I am very eager to continue working with Dr. Deng and our team to collaborate, analyze, and finally see our work come to fruition in the future. It is a unique and splendid opportunity for a (formerly) first-year student like me to be given the chance to contribute my talents to important research so soon as the summer after freshman year. I have always dreamed of serving the community and changing lives as a physician, and I am extremely grateful to be able to get involved with medicine, contribute my talents towards the process of finding a cure for HIV-AIDS, and overall find a small way for me to potentially give back to the world. As we continue this project, I am determined to continue learning and to contribute to this incredibly important research in hopes of finding a cure for the over 30 million HIV-AIDS victims worldwide.

Final Report Summary: The Persistence and Retention of First-Year Business Undecided Students

I began this research with the intention of improving my skills as a Peer Leader in my university 101 classes. In my past 3 years as a Peer Leader with Carolyn Endick, the professor of the UNV101 class and the Assistant Director of New Student Programming, we’ve noticed the true difficulties an incoming freshman has when they are thrown into a new environment with no real idea of what to do with their opportunities, especially business students. The first aspect of this research was to figure out why the initial decision to enter college with an undecided business major would occur with students.

The methodology used to go in-depth into this topic was to read articles/academic journals that other students, administrators, professionals, etc have conducted in the past and to also speak with Pace faculty in how they handle undecided students. Through reading numerous academic articles that also took an interest in undecided business students and their motives, I was able to come to some conclusions on why this decision was made. A student’s personality must feel similar to that of the people they know whom work in business or from what they’ve seen in media. Most students are also typically familiar with the end goal of the major and the lifestyle that precedes it, such as office lifestyle, comfortable salaries, climbing a corporate ladder of sorts, etc. Using their standardized test scores and general likeness of high school classes and their relation to a specific subject matter, a student will rely on their own educational history and skills to eventually decide they want to pursue business. When a student is looking at a university to attend, many business students focus on the necessary classes that are in their curriculum and how difficult it will make their time in college. Many students who are going for a business major either want the competitive angle of competing with peers or they want a not so difficult curriculum. Students will also look for the reputation within their faculty, university, major, etc. They will rely on the university’s websites for updated accomplishments within the student body and faculty to compare how their future experiences could lead to a similar success. Also, students recognize when a university has helpful resources during their time in their undergraduate career and also for their post-graduate life. This would heavily rely on a university’s connections in internships and full-time jobs for after graduation.

Taking these factors into account, I also spoke with Shannon Haick, who is Pace’s Associate Director of Academic Resources for Advising Exploring Majors. In our interview, Haick spoke about her process when a student first comes to her office and how to keep them calm when entering their university lifestyle. She emphasizes that college is not the decision that will decide the rest of their lives, but open up new doors to the lives they can eventually achieve. She will then go through the students’ interest, personality inventories, transferable skills, and more analytical devices to truly understand who the student is and why they are at the university. Haick’s advice when motivating business students in the classroom is to emphasize the importance of their path, similar to the Pace Path each student must complete in their UNV101 class. While the Pace Path includes long-term goal setting for each semester and action steps to take for each, Haick specified students will take more action if they are consistently setting goals for themselves week-by-week in their educational careers. She also believes that students fall for fantasies of huge salaries and important jobs without any true context or passion in the work that fills these fantasies. The strongest factors in deciding how a student picks what they want to study in college should be something that not only challenges their insights, but also inspires them to keep working.

Moving forward with this research, Carolyn and I will begin our third section of University 101 this upcoming Fall. We will have a class made-up of exclusively undecided business majors and we will be changing the curriculum of our typical layout of the class to take these factors into account. We will be ensuring there is a larger emphasis on goal-setting throughout the semester, more specific knowledge of the Lubin School of Business in general with each major highlighted throughout the semester, personality strengths assessments, relevant-based news in business and a final project pitch that takes the Pace Path as more a business proposal then a college roadmap. We will also be surveying the students throughout the semester to see their process in deciding their major and how immersed they are in the classroom.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this subject, as it has put up a mirror of sorts to my decisions throughout my college career and why I’ve done what I have done. Carolyn has also been a fantastic mentor in this process, as it is extremely relevant to how she performs her job and helps her students during their first year. We are hoping to find this group of students to react well to our lessons in University 101, and show that students react well when these motivators are specified in a classroom.

Final Report – Temporal Structures in Individuals with Dementia: An Ongoing Study

With this summer coming to a close,  I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity I’ve had.  From some personal experiences, I have been led to believe that research is usually reserved for students at the graduate level. Because of this, I appreciated that Pace University has a joint faculty-student research program.  I am also very grateful for the opportunity to have been the research assistant to the Director of the Communication Sciences and Disorders program, Dr. Linda Carozza. This project like many of her other works, is facilitating a deeper discussion on the quality of life for adults who are living with dementia. This project in particular, Temporal Structures in  Individuals with Dementia: An Ongoing Study, has focused in particular on a motor speech disorder called Dysarthria. To quickly recap, this disorder is classified by a weakening of the muscles which are required for speech production. Dysarthria is usually found in individuals with some form of brain injury or brain damage. It can also occur in individuals with dementia, as applicable to this study.

I mentioned in my last blog post that I have been tasked with measuring the vowels of various utterances. These utterances have been compiled from the recorded speech of volunteers for this study. This work was in a sense, daunting. Audio files averaged at about 5 minutes, but we take for granted how much one can say within that time span. It is impossible to pinpoint the boundaries of different vowels within utterances by using just one’s hearing. It creates a complication regarding reliability of the data as well. That is why we used a specific software which allowed us to view magnified images of the sound waves of this recorded speech. It required meticulous, in-depth analysis. It has taken myself and others who are working on this project, countless hours to break down, compile and analyze this data thoroughly. The reason for this level of technicality is because we are comparing the speech of these individuals with that of healthy, adult speech. In order to get the most accurate comparison and analysis, hundreds of utterances have to be analyzed. Another component of this research also seeks to measure the length of the entire utterance in addition to vowels. The results of this study are still being compiled, and Dr. Linda Carozza will present this work at the NYS Speech Convention this coming May.

This research is crucial because it may be instrumental in the innovation of therapy practices for Dysarthria. From personal observation, I have seen that pediatric speech therapy seems to be at the forefront of discussion. It is my hope that more young, speech language pathology students such as myself will take a greater interest in adult therapy. This population presents various communication disorders which may not be seen with pediatric care. It is also my belief that this type of experience serves only to better the underlying foundation which students needs in order to be successful clinicians. My participation in this research has given me a unique experience and invaluable tools which I hope to apply to my future career as a speech language pathologist.

Becoming Trans News – Final Report

Becoming Trans News is a study focused on ordinary trans and gender nonconforming individuals’ experiences being featured in the news. The term ordinary meaning those who are non-prominent, rather than the usual news subjects such as politicians, celebrities, government officials, etc. This project builds upon research done by Columbia graduate Ruth Palmer, who wrote a book on how ordinary people in the news.

The goal of this research was to find any commonalities among the interviewees regarding their experiences in the news. Those commonalities helped us come to conclusions on what most ordinary trans and gender nonconforming people feel about their interaction/s with journalists. In 12 interviews conducted, we discovered plenty of interesting factors that went into an individual agreeing to be featured in the news media, if they would do it again, and what impact being featured in the news had on their lives.

We used a qualitative research method, with the form being applied research, and a case study being the research design. Commonalities were discovered through me color coding the transcribed interviews for reactions to the article, interactions with reporters, why they chose to be interviewed, and willingness to talk to a reporter again.

We found that all respondents agreed to being featured in the news because they felt it was right to give back to the community in a sense by educating the audience on an overlooked—but important—topic, or give a perspective that is rarely seen in the media. One respondent told us, “I feel a sense a responsibility to speak out, not an obligation.” That feeling of responsibility to speak out in the news media may be unique to the trans and gender nonconforming demographic, as it is unlikely other groups (outside of activists and not-for-profit workers) agree to be featured in the news to promote awareness about issues in their community.

We also found that though reactions to the article from strangers/friends and family varied from donation offers to death threats, all 12 respondents said they would agree to be interviewed again. The interviewees’ reactions to the article they were featured in varied, as some were upset about inaccuracies, usage of wrong terminology, etc. Others expressed happiness with the care the journalists approached the article, and giving them a voice in their outlet.

We also found that the few respondents interviewed by more niche publications, rather than major or local publications that usually do not cover transgender issues, said the interview was smoother to go through. With outlets or journalists that usually do not cover trans people, many of our respondents explained how they had to educate the interviewers on topics pertaining to trans issues. One respondent said: “I was kind of surprised how little that [the journalist] had prepared, or at least sought about or read into the subject.”

In terms of successes of this research, one thing sticks out to me: the diversity of the respondents. I am happy we had such a diverse group of trans and gender nonconforming individuals for this research. Generations varied from folks just entering college to individuals who have been in the workforce for decades. We also interviewed different ethnicities for this project, which makes the conclusion we came to representative of most of the community, not just a subgroup within it.

I’ve learned a plethora of things through this research. Before this summer, I did not know anything about color coding or how a lot of the research we cite in English essays come about. Another lesson learned that will stick with me for the rest of my career in journalism is questions that particularly trans and gender nonconforming people find offensive or invasive to ask. Interviewees made clear that questions about their dead name, sexuality, and genitals should never be asked. This research also gives me and other journalists insight on what the interviewees are thinking from the time we contact them for an interview to the time they read the story. Respondents described a mix of nervousness, anxiety and excitement they felt throughout the entire process, which is something journalists may not always take into account because we do interviews so frequently.

This experience was phenomenal, and that is due to both the subject and my mentor. Dr. Fink chose a great topic to cover.  We had weekly meetings where she would relay what new things we needed to do for the research. She kept me on track throughout the entire process. One example that I recall was at the very beginning when I was searching for subjects to interview. I expected we were going to look for people who have featured in the news the past five years or so. However, she made it a point that it should be 2018 news subjects because the interview would be so in-depth that they would not remember an interaction from years back. She was correct because the individuals who were interviewed more recently were able to give us clearer and quicker answers without taking time to think or having to search through emails.

I believe when Dr. Fink is finally publishes this, it will potentially be groundbreaking research that will help journalists for years to come. The media has been rightfully criticized for the way it covers marginalized groups, and hopefully this research will help journalists avoid that criticism.

The Price is Wrong: The Social and Fiscal Costs of Current U.S. Public Policy on Crime

In my research, I analyzed the costs of the United States’ current prison system. The issues I focused on were mass incarceration, high recidivism rates, racial bias, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Throughout the nation, thousands are being placed into prison cells with no hope for their future. With no financial safety net, many slip into poverty after being released. This only increases the problem, as they are then more likely to commit crimes. I examined the current data on all topics,
finding the costs of current practices and the benefits of changing such practices. The United States has the largest incarceration rates in the world, and since 1980 incarceration rates have quadrupled. Racial bias also leads young black students to be unfairly treated by the school system, as they are disproportionately suspended at a higher rate than white student. This can lead to a road of future crime, as students who are suspended are more likely to drop out than those who have never been suspended.

In my research, I examined possible solutions to these problems. First, decriminalizing drugs and offering treatment instead could reduce the national population in prisons and jails, as well as get more people help. I found that we are spending billions of dollars a year for a largely ineffective system. Funding specialized school programs instead of
relying on suspending students has shown to be a more effective method of
teaching students to behave. I also mentioned Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs policy, which has seen great success in the nation. They were able to dramatically decrease the amount of drug-related deaths as well as increase treatment. I mentioned Norway’s incredible prisons, one of which has large televisions and large glass windows in the rooms. Norway has the lowest rates of recidivism in the world, so I researched how effective these prisons are. 

My mentor was very helpful in providing me resources to look at, as well as answering any questions regarding the writing and formatting of the project. She was very knowledgeable in this area of study and was able to correct me and guide me.  

Overall, this experience has been really interesting and would like to do research again in the future. In the future, I would like to be able to create policies that would bring economic prosperity for a lot of people. At the end of the day, those who are incarcerated are still people. We should be doing everything we can to rehabilitate them and bring back healthy people back into society.

Final Report: Binding Capacity of Sulfa Antibiotics and Nanoceramics

This summer I worked 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 the beginnings of my research at the ACS 2018 meeting in New Orleans. This summer, our goal was to to expand this project by testing two new sulfa antibiotics with the goal of presenting the research at the August 2018 ACS meeting in Boston.

The basis of the issue that inspired this project is the fact that there is an abundance of antibiotics in the water system. This is due to many factors including human waste, agricultural runoff, and aquaculture. This is a fairly new issue and so far no studies have been performed that shown evidence of effects on humans. However, scientists suspect that sensitive groups including pregnant woman could be at risk. There have already been some negative effects observed in fish populations. The antibiotics have caused larger percentages of hermaphrodite fish to appear in recent generations. Modern water cleaning methods don’t remove a large portion of these antibiotics, due to the fact that these processes rely heavily on bacteria. This project intended to look at how nanoceramics can bind to certain antibiotics, in order to change their absorbance or possibly even their structure.Our idea was that if the products bind in a way that makes the antibiotics less harmful to the water system then this method could theoretically be used to more effectively treat water.

In this study, we tested four types of nano ceramics, titanium oxide, silicon oxide, magnesium oxides, 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 explored their ability to bind to different sulfa antibiotics. Sulfa antibiotics are antibiotics containing sulfonamides. The sulfa antibiotics that were tested were sulfadiazine and sulfamethizole.

In terms of our methods, we followed the same methodology that we used during the school year in which we tested sulfamethoxazole and sulfamethazine against the same nanomaterials. We began by creating a 10ppm mixture of both antibiotics in water. We then added 1mg of the four nano ceramics to antibiotics samples of 2mL and gave them an hour to bind. After filtering these solutions, we ran them through a high performance layer chromatography machine to test peak area reduction. We ran these through the machine with a mixture of 95% water 5%. We then ran these samples through a UV-vis machine in order to test for absorbance change.

Figure 1

We did observe changes in peak absorption after adding nanoceramics. The blue shift of maximum peak absorbance is shown for sulfamethizole with silicon oxide in Figure 1. Reduction in absorbance was observed when sulfamethizole was mixed with aluminum oxide and titanium oxide. The same trend of maximum shift can be seen with sulfadiazine and silicon oxide in figure 2. Obvious changes in the absorbance profiles were shown when Zinc oxide and silicon oxide were added to sulfadiazine. Figure 3 shows a chromatogram of the sulfamethizole solution before and after addition of a nanoceramic (zinc oxide), which shows reduction in the peak area.

Figure 2

A shift was observed when both antibiotics were in presence of every nanoceramic, which allows us to conclude that both sulfadiazine and sulfamethizole bind with aluminum oxide, silicon oxide, titanium oxide, and zinc oxide. The type of interaction depends on each molecule and we have not yet studied how these may affect the structure of the antibiotic. It is possible that new products form when sulfa drugs react with nanoceramics.


Figure 3

When I presented this research at the ACS meeting in Boston during a poster session, I was approached by a professor who was curious about the shit in sulfadiazine in the presence of silicon oxide and zinc oxide as seen in Figure 2. He pointed out that the large change in absorbance may be due to particles of nanoceramics that were too small to be filtered. Therefore, I think that if we continue this research, a control of each nanoceramic should be tested against the final products in order to check for residue of nanoceramics in the UV vis spectra.

I had a very good time participating in the undergraduate research program. Not only was I able to continue my research over the summer, but I was able to document and publish my findings through the blog. Professor Mojica was a great mentor during this process. He was extremely helpful, especially in terms of processing the final data and drawing conclusions. I feel like I am now proficient in working with a UV-Vis machine as well as a HPLC after all of his help instructing me to use them over the past year. He also helped me learn the value of getting work done efficiently, as we would run multiple tests on different machines at the same time. We hope to continue this study into the next school year in hopes of finding out more about these interactions and what products have been created.

 

The Project Final Report

Sophie MacArthur

Dr. Florescu  

August 22,  2018

The Project

 

I really enjoyed working on this research project with my mentor, Doctor Catalina Florescu. I was honored when she asked me to do it with her at the end of the fall semester of 2017.  Dr. Florescu was my professor then, for the second semester in a row. I really liked both of the classes that I was in with her and loved having her as a professor. This project was great for me to work on because for our research I read to two plays, Ella Carmen Greenhill’s Plastic Figurines and Dear Evan Hansen written by Stephen Levenson with music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, both of which I could relate to in one way or another.

Plastic Figurines was about 18-year-old Michael and his older sister Rose dealing with their mother’s cancer and her eventual death. Michael has Asperger’s Syndrome. This makes the play all the more complicated because Rose now has to give up her own life to care for her brother. After their mother is gone, it seems as if she is the only family member left to do the job. She loves her brother but she also resents having to give up her life to look after him, which is not surprising. I know based off my own parents that taking care of and raising a kid with special needs is rewarding but challenging. Although I don’t have Asperger’s like Michael, I have my own struggles and my parents have needed to guide me throughout my life. I’m sure It’s never easy to watch your child struggle. Like Rose, my parents had to put some of their lives on hold to make sure I was successful. I am now in college and will graduate with a degree in just a couple short years. This is a wonderful accomplishment, something I never thought would happen when I was little. However, getting to where I am today wasn’t an easy ride. I had to work twice as hard as the average kid to get here and my parents helped with a lot of that. I think my point here is that although Michael and I have different diagnosis I can recognize some of myself in him and understand his struggles and frustrations. I can also understand Rose’s struggles and frustrations because I know a little about what it’s been like for my own sister to grow up with me. So why don’t we have these kind of topics in plays more! Ones that people like me can relate to even if we don’t have exactly the same diagnosis.

Dear Evan Hansen, a musical, with music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, written by Stephen Levenson, also covers a topic I can really relate to and feel is not represented in the theater world enough. This is anxiety disorders, both social and general. I was diagnosed with OCD at a pretty early stage in my life. OCD affects many parts of me and it can be a real battle to fight against it. It can kind of make life suck sometimes. Evan Hansen, the main character of Dear Evan Hansen, struggles with anxiety similar to mine. He is very awkward socially. I’m not awkward socially but I can struggle with socialisation, especially amongst peer groups of larger quantities that I don’t know on a deep level. Evan also struggles with confidence in himself which is another thing I can relate to. I am very proud of all my accomplishments and like myself as a person for the most part. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not hard on myself and get frustrated easily when I might not be able to do something right. I tend to compare myself to others and feel insecure if I think they are better at something than me.  

When I worked with Catalina in the two classes, I felt like she saw me the way I wanted to be seen. A girl who needed a little extra accommodations in class but could also keep up with the class and be treated like a normal student. I think it’s fitting that she asked me to help her with a project that would promote more awareness of disability at Pace. I had seen The Curious Incident of the Dog At Night when I was out on Broadway, but did not really know that any other plays about people with special needs existed until I read Plastic Figurines. Up until I first saw then read Dear Evan Hansen, I only knew Next To Normal touched upon anxiety disorders. I learned this summer that there are more plays that represent these kind of things then I originally thought  but there could still be much, much more.

Project Hungry Hearts & Minds – Creating a Food Exchange Platform at Pace – Final Report

“Project Hungry Hearts & Minds – Creating a Food Exchange Platform at Pace” has developed profoundly in the last three months. This summer has consisted primarily of finding and collecting data from various sources into one inclusive format. I combed through scholarly articles and databases on food insecurity, food waste, and food management on a four-year undergraduate campus and found supporting evidence to propose to Pace University administrators. Now I will finalize a two-page proposal which Erin Furey and I will present to Dean for Students, Marijo Russell O’Grady and Assistant Dean to Students and Director of Student Development and Campus Activities, Todd Smith-Bergollo, this upcoming September. Once approved, we can expedite our idea of creating an online platform or alert system with the purpose to connect food insecure students with leftover food from events; thus, preventing food waste. Our future steps also include building a relationship with Pace’s current food catering company Chartwells. We plan to carefully investigate specific food safety laws and regulations. In October, we will glove up and visit the end of student and staff events to weigh leftover food so we can gather numerical evidence. Eventually, if approved for human testimonials, we wish to conduct interviews with students at Pace University who are acquainted with food insecurity.

We have contacted other school officials that have a functioning food exchange platform portal but have not received any responses. In the upcoming year, we hope to receive word back and visit a university ourselves to personally ask them questions regarding how they created a successful system. In addition, the research this summer sparked a litany of questions leading Erin and me to do some basic Google searches regarding sustainability, composting, food conservation, restaurant donation programs, discounted food platforms and more.

My overall experience from this program has been very life changing. As a polymath and an artist, I have always tried to connect different ideas together. Despite this, science and math have been and still are my worst subjects. Since both are used in research projects, I pursued higher education never thinking twice of acquiring a research grant after my first year. My negative association with research has dramatically changed this summer because I learned that art majors can have a place setting at the research department table too. Due to this funded research program, I have experienced how interdisciplinary skills work. As a student with spatial and emotional intelligence, the results I yield in my research is very unique and creative.

My mentor has helped me grow as a researcher over the course of my project because she understands the emotional strain it has on me. Because I have personally experienced some of the problems I am researching, it makes my passion and results even more substantive. However, at times when it becomes too much, she is there for me to lean on. My mentor has provided encouragement when it becomes difficult but has also celebrated our successes when they occur. I’ve learned now that it is okay if I can’t end all hunger at Pace, but the fact that I am trying is what matters. I’ve learned it’s okay to cry and it’s okay to ask for help.

Furthermore, I discovered housing insecurity was also an issue with college students. When I met a stranger and he later confided in me that he had been homeless for over a year in college, it solidated my research. Now, I was able to visualize a human attesting to this particular social issue. The more I shared my research with others, the more emotional it became. This summer, someone suggested I apply to a homeless shelter as a helpful suggestion when I was having housing issues in August. This really hit a nerve. How could I take someone else’s space who needs it more? Can I be a researcher on the topics that affect me so personally? Am I the right person for this job? Can I handle it? Am I doing enough?

Research and statistics pinpoint food insecurity to be a huge issue on college campuses, especially with low-income students. When young undergraduates have no control of their financial situation, are first-generation students, or have experienced economically difficult times, they often do not prioritize health and food. How could I, as a first-generation, low-income student myself qualify for this research when I am included in this demographic?   

As a result of this final reflection report, I do believe now that I can surmount the challenges. All in all, I hope the three months of summer research inspires others to keep trying. In the end, all we can really do is try the best we can with what we have and hope it works out. I am curious to see what the quantitative data the academic year will bring. In my spare time, I tried to spread the research to others by discussing it and getting their ideas. This sparked many conversations relating to agricultural sustainability and environmentally friendly lifestyles. This summer, I have been consciously thinking of the waste I produce and have been cutting back on environmentally destructive habits. My research has branched out from one idea to a series of new plans and goals. I’d like to officially thank all readers who have read the progress of my team, consisting of myself and Erin Furey, Associate Director of the LGBTQA & Social Justice Center, this summer. Specifically, I appreciate all the respondents who approached me in person or through digital communications; thank you for taking the time to validate our work.