Final Blog Post

Research is not just about writing, there’s so many different properties that go into it in order to complete a thorough research project. This research program has not only informed me about different techniques to complete research, but it also taught me about myself. My topic was Food Insecurity on College Campuses, which is very important in this current society. More attention needs to be brought to college students and their constant battle with food and possible resources that are available to them. We started off this research project wanting to do a focus group of 6 to 10 commuter students to hear what their opinions about the food pantry on campus and their thoughts about food insecurity in their personal life and college life are. However, that plan did not work out for the best, so we had to alter some of the project due to the time crunch. We went from expecting a focus group to expecting 4 to 6 individuals who would do a small interview and answer questions about food insecurity and the mobile food pantry. Luckily, we were able to score a couple of individuals who agreed to participate in the data collection. Since we gathered the amount of data that we wanted, we could now proceed to the transcribing of the interviews and including it in our literature review. Even though we had to change our research project a little, we were still able to gather the amount of information that we wanted but with a smaller number of people. Now we are almost done with the research project and ready to present it soon!

Throughout the entire process, my faculty mentor was there to give support when needed. We stayed in constant communication with one another about the process of recruiting people to engage in the interview stage and the process of getting the IRB approved. We met every week at the same time to discuss plans and actions that needed to take place in order to get things moving. It was a great experience and it was beneficial to have someone to help along with the process.

Blog Post 3: Food Insecurity Progress

We have made great progress since last semester being that our IRB was finally approved. The process of waiting for the IRB approval was dreading but the patience has paid off. We used our time wisely by working on the literature review and finding new information about food insecurity on college campuses. Some of the topics that have been associated with food insecurity in previous articles and studies are: mental health, financial factors, academic performance and more. Each of these topics are effected when a students’ food security level is low. I have learned through some results from the studies in which students with food insecurity were experiencing depression and high levels of anxiety. My faculty advisor and I worked closely together on the literature review to make sure that our argument was strong.

With the IRB being approved, we had to revamp our study a little bit. The study changed from gathering a wide group of students to gathering only about seven to ten students to conduct a small focus group. The questions that was gathered from the previous studies will be used to promote discussion amongst the participants in the focus group. I am currently working with the Student Development and Campus Activities (SDCA) office to find out what’s the best way to market and reach out to the commuters here on the Pleasantville campus.

Blog 2: Mid-Year Report

To start the research, first we needed to find out what other studies have been done. The literature review process has been very helpful in finding out the patterns in what populations have been affected by food insecurity in college students. There are several factors that are important in food insecurity such as demographics, family income, financial aid and more. Our next step was to submit an IRB so we could collecting data on campus from students. Unfortunately, we have not been able to collect data and our projected timeline has been pushed back due to the IRB needing time to be approved. It takes about 8 weeks or so to get the IRB approved, if not expedited.

Nevertheless, the time spent waiting for the IRB to be approved have been used wisely on finding more articles and literature to further strengthen our research paper. What’s great about the literature is that new information is always being put out every couple months. It seems as if more college campuses are becoming aware of the problem of food insecurity and college students. I’ve been working closely with my faculty mentor to gather the most recent studies that were done on other campuses. We found great literature about a college who have brought a food pantry to their campus and the effects it had on food insecurity in students.

Food Insecurity on College Campuses – Blog Post #1

Over the years, there have been various studies of food insecurity on college campuses. Food Insecurity is defined as when an individual does not have access to the foods that benefit their needs and they are eating a poor low-quality diet that will have an effect on their overall health. To be food secure means that an individual has access to food that holds nutritional value. The goal of this project is to examine the relationship between food insecurity and the college students at the Pace University — Pleasantville Campus. The project would bring awareness to the fact that college students are making harsh decisions between eating a nutritional meal and other activities such as paying bills, buying textbooks for class and more. The objective is to acknowledge that there are steps that can be taken in order to decrease food insecurity on college campuses. One of the ways that can be done is to meet with your local food bank and discuss having a mobile food pantry come on campus to distribute fresh food and produce to students. The fresh food and produce that are distributed could promote healthy eating lifestyles as well as time management for cooking meals for the self.

            From this project, I expect to learn about the different techniques to improve food security not only for college students but for other people as well. Food insecurity is a sensitive topic due to having to asking information about their household, eating habits, and other personal things such as job wages. To examine the relationship between food insecurity and college students, I plan to conduct a study. I have created a survey with questions asking about a wide variety of things from demographics to mental health.

Post #2 – Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia: An Ongoing Study

It has been an amazing experience and opportunity to be a part of an undergraduate research project. I have been assisting Dr. Linda Carozza on a project titled Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia. As a Communication Sciences & Disorders student, I’ve found this work particularly unique as it focuses on a population which many students do not have exposure to. Older adults who are living with dementia can develop other conditions and disorders that are associated with this disease. As discussed in my previous post, one of these disorders is Dysarthria.

As this research progresses, I look forward to learning the results of the data which we have compiled and analyzed. I was tasked with labeling the vowel duration of various utterances. These utterances were collected by recording the speech of different individuals who have dementia. There has also been data compiled on the overall length of these utterances. The goal is to then analyze and compare this data with that of healthy, adult speech. These findings will be compiled and determined very soon. With these findings, Dr. Carozza has submitted to present at the NYS Speech Convention in Albany.

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.

A Probabilistic Model for the Occupancy-Abundance Relationship of Species Populations using Taylor’s Law #2

We have analyzed 12 different data sets, including intraspecific and interspecific, to compare the fitness of models that can be applied to variance or occupancy prediction. We used 2 methods at two numerical scales to study these six phenomenological models, three for variance prediction and three for the occupancy. Regardless of the significance of the differences, we noticed that various results came out when we applied different methods or scales.

During the research, we tried different approaches and to test the data and we tried different statistics as measurement. Deciding the research approach and statistics was the struggle. So we analyzed the data using every possible approach and then refined the approach again and again.

I have learned a lot from this project, not only the knowledge about both statistics and ecology, but also my software R, skills since R is the software we used to process the research. Moreover, the research teaches me that the more you think and the more you practice, the closer you will get to the truth beneath those data, which means attitude can lead us to the result. I think attitude is as important as the scientific knowledge and technical skills.

This research definitely has a great impact on my future plan. It let me know what I really love, data analysis. I am looking forward future researches that building different models to test the data and find out what the data really tell us.

Blog Post 1 “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Students & Retention: A Family Intervention Model”

This summer, I am working on a research project titled “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Students & Retention: A Family Intervention Model” which is about retention for transgender and gender non-conforming students with Erin Furey. Erin is the Associate Director of Pace University’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center, and I Gabe Nichols, am a rising sophomore majoring in Communications. We are doing this research because currently, we as a society are lacking in support and research on transgender students in college, particularly in terms of retention. This lack of research leaves transgender and gender non-conforming students with no strategies to help them continue and succeed in school. Additionally, we hope that this research shines a light on the issues faced by the transgender community regarding their rights–or lack thereof–and how they are treated, and their unique stressors that lead them to possibly struggle more with staying in school than their cisgender counterparts. Since we hope to be able to continue to carry out this project into the fall and spring semesters, our goals for the summer are primarily research based. Examples of our goals are to research articles regarding transgender and gender non-conforming students and retention, to explore, apply and critique LGBTQA+ literature on retention as it applies to transgender and gender non-conforming students, and to develop a hypothesis around the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students that is linked to retention.

So far we have begun researching the topic, but our exact topic has little to no previous research conducted about it, so instead we are exploring similar topics, such as retention throughout the whole LGBTQA+ community, or the mental health of transgender adults and adolescents. After reading these articles, I have created an annotated bibliography with important information about each of the articles. While reading these articles, we have noted which articles specifically pull the ‘T’ out of the LGBTQA acronym and acknowledge the difference in effect between being a cisgender queer person, and being a transgender person. An article we have read that did this well is “The Path Forward: LGBT Retention and Academic Success” by Shane Windmeyer. In the article he points out that, “LGBT youth, specifically LGB youth of color and transgender youth of all races, are much more likely than other students to struggle academically and personally in college.”

For some next steps throughout the summer, we intend to plan a focus group regarding our topic, and seek approval from the institutional review board (IRB) to publish and circulate a survey for transgender and gender non-conforming students. Looking further into the future, we intend to create a dual intervention program for transgender and gender non-conforming students and their parents with the goal being that we ease tensions at home by answering parents questions that may upset the students, We plan to submit this information in workshop format for educational and LGBTQA conferences and present our research, in the hopes to publish a paper about strategies to increase university retention of transgender students.

So far I have loved working on this research project. It is a topic near to my heart, as a transgender man whose parents don’t always approve or understand. Getting to find the information around the topic as well as eventually work on the intervention program first hand is incredible. I am learning so much and I hope to continue to do that. I also hope to find an intervention model with Erin that works, so I can help others in similar or even worse situations than mine.

 

Glossary:

  • Cisgender: Refers to people whose sex and gender are congruent by predominant cultural standards: women who have female bodies, men who have male bodies.  This term was created to challenge the privileging of such people relative to those who are transgender.
  • Gender Non-Conforming: Someone who does not conform to the ideologies of any one gender. Often considered to be outside the gender binary, or “nonbinary”
  • LGBTQA: acronym standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Asexual, used to represent that community.
  • Retention: In this research, this word is used to refer to the amount of students who stay in school and graduate.
  • Transgender: Those whose psychological self/gender identity differs from the social expectations for the physical sex with which they were born. Acts as an umbrella term for both those who fit within and outside of the binary.

 

Sources cited:

  • Windmeyer, Shane “The Path Forward: LGBT Retention and Academic Success” INSIGHT into Diversity, 2016
  • Pace University’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center “All Gender Housing: Terms to Know” http://www.pace.edu/lgbtqa-center/all-gender-housing-overview-instructions

 

A Renaissance of Tibetan Art and Culture

In my research so far, I have made multiple visits to document and experience the “Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan Art” exhibit at SUNY New Paltz. I have also interviewed the contemporary Tibetan artist, Kesang Lamdark, as well as met artist Tenzing Rigdol and made plans to interview him in the future. I attended a curator-led gallery tour of the “Anonymous” show and a lecture over contemporary Tibetan Art, Culture, and Identity. My literature review is steadily growing as I continue to add sources and synopses. I’ve also had a review of the “Anonymous” exhibit published by an online contemporary art magazine: ArtExperienceNYC. Finally, I have drafted a detailed outline for the entire research paper and am developing my own terminology to better discuss the issues, symbols, and styles of contemporary Tibetan art and culture.

Through discussion and research, Dr. Lee and I have developed the hypothesis that there is a Renaissance of Tibetan art and culture in the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Tibetan diaspora. There is an outpouring of contemporary art within the TAR and abroad, drawing on centuries of traditional Tibetan art and adapting it, fusing it, and creating something entirely new. The scope of style, subject matter, and theme differ between artists. The over-arching mission is instead a redefining of Tibetan culture by addressing what it means to be Tibetan in the 21st century. Three main themes occur within that redefinition: Identity, Culture Convergence, and Political Commentary. Due to the limited amount of research still within the contemporary Tibetan art field, my comparisons, conclusions, and new terminology will hopefully push for further scholarship and establish an understanding of Tibetan art as a means for cultural preservation, resurrection, and evolution.

I am still in the phase of my research where I feel like I am left with more questions than answers. For example, I am still trying to understand why there are only two established female Tibetan contemporary artists among a sea of male artists. Is there a cultural stigma against women artists? Were no Tibetan Buddhist nuns ever trained in the art of thangka painting? I’m also wondering if contemporary Tibetan art, particularly those that utilize Buddhist iconography, is still seen as blasphemous since they are not executed with the same pious rituals or in the proper style? These questions don’t daunt me but instead further my interest in the research to uncover the answers and flesh out my arguments further!

The Effects of the Vasodilator-stimulated Phosphoprotein on Mycobacterium bovis-BCG and the Macrophage Actin Filament Network

I am working on a project titled, “The Effects of the Vasodilator-stimulated Phosphoprotein on Mycobacterium bovis-BCG and the Macrophage Actin Filament Network.” It is a continuation of research that I started in September of 2011. The primary aim of the project is to determine if the Vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (VASP) is involved in mediating cytoskeletal rearrangement in cells infected with Mycobacterium bovis-BCG, a model organism for the study of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. M. tuberculosis is the causative agent of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is responsible for nearly 2 million deaths worldwide every year. There are about 10 million new cases of tuberculosis each year and about one-third of the world’s population is infected with the bacterium.
VASP is a scaffold protein involved in regulation of the host cell cytoskeleton (de Chastellier et al, 2000). VASP-dependent actin polymerization regulates membrane architecture, cell motility, and pathophysiologic processes such as metastatic invasion. Studies on VASP have shown that it is localized to the site of pathogen attachment on the host cell for enteropathogenic Escherichia coli and Cryptosporidium parvum and led to the intriguing possibility that VASP functionally contributes to the attachment and invasion of these pathogens. In addition, Listeria monocytogenes, Shigella flexneri, and Rickettsia rickettsia have all been show to exploit actin polymerization in the host cytoskeleton to aid in cell-to-cell spread of the organisms (Ball et al 2000). It has also been found that actin regulation in host macrophages is disrupted due to infection by some pathogenic species of mycobacteria, such as M. avium and M. marinum (de Chastellier et al, 2000). However, the role of VASP in the disruption of actin filaments has not been described for M. tuberculosis.
In order to understand the potential role that VASP and actin polymerization might have in M. tuberculosis infection, it is important to understand how the infection initiates. The airborne transmission of M. tuberculosis bacilli from an infected individual upon inhalation places the bacteria in the inner lining of the lungs. There, the bacilli are engulfed by alveolar macrophages through phagocytosis. M. tuberculosis is able to survive the innate antimicrobial defenses of the alveolar macrophages. Mycobacteria are distinct in that they are able to live inside host macrophages, rather than as free-living organisms in the host body. It is well established that rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton is important to the early steps of phagocytosis by host macrophages (de Chastellier et al, 2000). Entry of a particle into a cell by the process of phagocytosis entails the reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton underlying the area of the plasma membrane of the host cell that is in contact with the particle. When a macrophage ingests a pathogenic mycobacterium, it becomes trapped in a phagosome, or a membrane-bound vesicle. This phagosome does not become fused with a lysosome, which occurs in cases with nonpathogenic bacteria, and thus the phagosome does not mature. The inhibition of association with a lysosome helps the pathogenic mycobacterium evade degradation by the potent, cytolytic environment of the phagolysosome. This occurs due to pathogenic disruption of the host macrophage’s actin cytoskeletal network in the phagosome (de Chastellier et al, 2000). This disruption suggests that VASP is being exploited by the pathogenic mycobacteria to evade normal, immune response by the host macrophages.

Based on the mentioned previous studies, and due to the fact that several pathogens have evolved to utilize the actin cytoskeleton of their host, we propose to determine whether M. tuberculosis is able to utilize VASP to alter the actin filament network during macrophage phagocytosis. In this project we will use an INF-gamma stimulated macrophage derived cell line infected with M. bovis-BCG to test for VASP-mediated cytoskeletal rearrangement. Uninfected cells will be used as a control. Immunofluorescent and time lapse confocal microscopy will be performed at selected time points after infection to determine if and how VASP plays a role in the infection process. Changes in macrophage morphology and VASP distribution will be examined and compared to the uninfected cells. Western blots will also be performed to test for concentration levels of VASP in the macrophages.
Successful completion of these experiments will lead to an understanding of the role of VASP in M. tuberculosis infection. It will lead to an increase in knowledge about how pathogenic bacteria infect host tissues as well as increasing knowledge about the regulation of actin filaments and VASP function. The overall goal from this work and the results that will be produced will provide more information to aid in the understanding of the M. tuberculosis infection process and aid in the development of vaccines or treatments to prevent the disease. I hope that my project will provide you with a fun and engaging opportunity to learn about this infectious disease!