Blog #2: Undergraduate Research

At this point in my research I have looked at the texts “Transforming Feminism: Trans Feminists Speak Out,” “Trans Bodies Trans Selves,” and “Transgender History.” These books have given me basic insight into how transgender people are discussed in both feminist discourse and transgender specific spaces. They have not yet given me clear lines between feminist perspectives I wish to analyze, but they have pointed to a lot of perspectives in the modern day around transgender issues.

“Transforming Feminism: Trans Feminists Speak Out” is a Canadian text, and my research focus is transgender identities and feminism in the United States. In order to solve this problem, my faculty advisor and I decided to focus on the sections of the text which are applicable across national boundaries. One example of transnational topics include how resources for survivors of sexual assault and rape are used in relation to transgender survivors.

“Trans Bodies Trans Selves” has given me insight on how issues of gender intersect with issues of race, immigration status, and class. This text will be helpful for analyzing how trans issues fit into the future of feminism.

“Transgender History” adresses how discussions around transgender issues have evolved in the United States. A lot of the information from this text will be used to differentiate feminist perspectives both over time and by ideology.

Throughout the research process, I have found new questions to look into more closely during winter intersession as I finalize my research. One problem I have had to grapple with is how broad my research can get, and Rachel Simmon has helped me ensure I am not just reading this for the sake of completion if they won’t be helpful to the final paper. Rachel has also helped me use on campus resources to better my research process. Pace University Librarian Sarah Burns-Feyl has guided me to a number of resources I have accessed through the library.   

 

Blog Post #2: Continuation of Research on the Methods of Extracting Bee Pollen

During the entirety of the Fall semester, I worked collaboratively with Dr. Mojica for 1-2 lab sessions per week. We met before, during, and after my time in the lab to establish the goals for the lab session, answer any relevant questions, and discuss a brief overview of the results attained. Using my lab notebook, I kept track of each step taken in this process, as well as by taking photo documentation. Dr. Mojica and I also worked to establish an abstract to submit to the American Chemical Society for the 257th National Meeting, taking place in the Spring of 2019 in Orlando, Florida. I was happily accepted, alongside some of my colleagues, to be given the opportunity to present my research at the conference with some of my colleagues. Since my study focuses on various extraction methods, it has been very beneficial to work with Dr. Mojica who, through a collaborative effort, has taught me several methods of extraction for various bee-deriving substances. With a passion for the topic of analysis, the initiative to continue my research this semester was simply to find an answer to the question at hand in hopes of using the results to help better understand how bee substances can help our society.

Throughout this semester, my UGR research has taken a turn from focusing primarily on propolis to being inclusive of pollen, as well. A recurring obstacle was noticed despite of the change in focus from propolis to pollen. It appeared that cross-contamination in the GC-MS instrument remained a prevalent issue. For this reason, we came up with a few problem-solving techniques, such as running a trial solely with the solvent before running it with the pollen. This aided in cleaning out the machine of any by-products that may have been lingering from prior research. Additionally, our addition of a new machine, described below, has helped us in the extraction process in an effort to avoid cross-contamination. Each week, we have worked to make continuous progress on this project, despite of any obstacles encountered along the way.

Fortunately, we ended the semester with a gift from NSF, the National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation, an American government agency, provides financial aid to support research and education in the field of science. Dr. Mojica was given a grant for the Accelerated Solvent Extraction (ASE) machine, which I have had the benefit to start using. The ASE machine is used for the extraction of chemicals from a solid. I first grind the bee pollen into smaller pieces and let these pieces sit in 5 mL of the given solvent overnight. Then, I manually filter this solution using syringe filters. This is followed by an extraction in the ASE machine. Below is a photo of me with our new ASE machine and my first extraction using the machine! We are continuing to answer the question of why there are outside chemicals showing up in our results from the GC-MS and hope to have this issue solved by the end of the semester.

 

My first extract of pollen and methanol using our new ASE.

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.

Updates on “A Comprehensive Guide to Volunteerism in Westchester”

We’ve made some good progress so far with our survey. Our initial goal was to reach 100 participants and we’ve surpassed that goal! Now, our next goal is to reach 200 participants and this is is where things start to get more intense. Good time management skills will be essential now more than even because I work full time during the week and sometimes on weekends, but it’s important that my work for this project gets done.

One of the greatest challenges thus far has been contacting the right people. I have a spreadsheet filled with information for people from different organizations to contact but I’ve found that the numbers can be incorrect and, often, the person listed on the spreadsheet doesn’t actually work for the organization anymore. Then it becomes a matter of finding who the person is that I need to speak to now, getting their information, and convincing them to participate in the survey. I hadn’t realized how much time would be spent leaving voicemails. But it’s not all bad. The people I speak with are usually very pleasant and tend to be more than willing to help! It makes all my work worth it when I learn how willing people are to help us.

Some of the findings from the data revolve around budgets and status of the organization. For example, I was under the impression that almost all organizations that would rely on volunteers would be nonprofit organizations but, based on the current results of our survey, there is a significant portion of participants who come from for-profit corporations. In that same respect, most associate nonprofit organizations with having small budgets, hence the need for volunteers but, based on the current results of our survey, some of the organizations we’ve surveyed have budgets of over $20,000,000. My main question from these findings in particular is: If an organization is operating with a budget this large, what is the need for volunteers? Where is the money going exactly?

On a larger scale, what I’ve learned from the project thus far is that there are many more aspects behind volunteerism than meets the eye. It’s a very large and complex world. Volunteerism is not a universal concept where the same rules apply to everyone. Not every organization (or corporation) that requests the help of volunteers necessarily needs them, in terms of free labor. Some certainly do, like those with smaller operating budgets, but organizations with larger operating budgets may not. And the question is why do they still request this help? These findings are the most interesting to me thus far and, once we’ve closed the survey, I can’t wait to delve deeper into what they could possibly mean for the state of volunteerism in New York.

This project is becoming something much larger than I’d expected it to. I’m looking forward to determining what exactly our findings are by the end of this and presenting them to the Pace community during Undergraduate Research Day in the Spring semester. We are a community that is based in volunteerism and helping others so the fact that there may be another angle to this that we’re not quite seeing yet — one that goes beyond just the number of volunteers in Westchester County and figuring out how to improve the ranking of New York State in terms of volunteers — may become a point of conversation and further investigation.