Undergraduate Research Grant Summer 2018, Roca

This research project was largely an anthropological ode to the contemporary histories of urban farming and seed saving in the Bronx. I fused my last undergraduate research project, carried out during the 2017-18 academic year, into this project that has taken a more creative, visual approach.  The inspiration for this was born from the positive feedback I received on our poster for the showcase in the spring.  On the poster, I tracked migration routes of communities affected by urbanization of the early 20th century with seeds and beans relative to their cultural foodways.  I told the story of the contemporary uprising of urban gardening in communities of color through visuals and captions containing my research points.  The food justice movement, having sprung up from burnt out lots in the 70s, mass displacement and terrible food policy, is resilient and powerful. This makes for a visually-rich as well as politically profound moment of history that I feel compelled to unearth and respectfully honor.  This project helped my academic experience go full-circle—taking the typical archetypes of methodology to the street—drawing inspiration from both academics and the everyday person putting the actual labor into what is shaping the movement on the ground.

Our research so far has taken an unexpected turn, incorporating more of a conversation of seeds and climate change into the mix.  A recent New York Times feature, titled Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, by Nathaniel Rich, inspired us to touch on the irreversibility of climate change and the role of seed saving in this moment of time.  In a seemingly hopeless political and environmental climate, how does seed saving/banking/engineering outside of the lab have a stake in it all, and what does that look like?  We are posing this additional question to those within the movement we are conducting interviews with.  This is adding some rich audio content behind the moving visuals we are capturing.  Our accomplishments thus far are gathering visuals and audio to piece together creatively.  The time and focus this project requires is a challenge, however this experience has shaped my time management in a transformative and self-disciplined way.  We plan to pursue this film project beyond this research grant, and hopefully enter it into small short film festivals.

My mentor has helped me grow exceptionally as a dedicated researcher.  Her support and encouragement has motivated me to develop my research beyond the start and end date of a grant.  Her questions challenge me and push the research to incorporate narratives that are so often neglected in the larger picture.  I am extremely grateful to study and research under someone as accomplished and brilliant as Dr. Denise Santiago.

Evaluating The Function of Genes Implicating Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Formation Using C. Elegans – Final Report

Evaluating The Function of Genes Implicating Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Formation Using C. Elegans

The purpose of this project was to determine if genes implicating Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) formation play a role in cell division in Caenorhabditis elegans (C.elegans). To be able to detect genes predisposing to GBM, it is important to understand the role of cell division. Mutations in cell division cause the proliferation of cancerous cells. In order for cell division to produce malignant cell growth, genes responsible for proper cell division have to be altered. Gene regulation is usually affected making some cells do things that they should not be doing, like overproducing proteins or growth factors that may be useful for the destructive cancerous cells. To detect GBM genes, it is important to know what genes have increased variance in GBM affected patients. Genetic variation is important in cancer, because it causes evolutionary genetic susceptibility to cellular malfunctions, such as damage in DNA repair and replication. Using the Backes et al. (2012) study, we used the data published on GBM patients, which yielded multiple genes that had increased or abnormal genetic variance. These genes were not declared as markers of GBM, although with their suspicious presence in the studied GBM patients implicates that those genes may have a role in brain cancer development. There were some genes in the publication’s dataset that had high variance, but those genes were ignored because they have been already declared as cancerous genes and predisposition markers from other research studies.

To understand whether these genes have a role in GBM, we used C.elegans as a model organism to understand the morphological and cellular significance of the suspected genes. C.elegans is a nematode that possesses a nervous system. Its nervous system comprises of 302 neurons and 56 glial cells. (Oikonomou and Shaham, 2011) These cells have an influence on sensory and motor functions. We implicated in this study that if we knockout a suspected GBM gene from C.elegans, and observed changes in glial cell development using behavioral assay and advanced microscopy, then will be able to confirm the suspected genes association with GBM.

Using several online databases, including Wormbase, Ensembl and Ortholist, we were able to find 10 genes that had orthologous genes with C.elegans. We had to research the background of the 10 genes to pinpoint which ortholog had any association with glial cells or the nervous or neuromuscular system in C.elegans. One gene, Lev-9, a levamisole resistant gene, was one of the few genes from the bunch that had a connection to the nervous system in the nematode. Utilizing the services of a company that specializes in knocking out selected genes in organisms, we were able to order two strains of Lev-9: RB1717 and ZZ16. The two strains with similar genotypes allowed us to investigate the effects of the Lev-9 gene knockout.

Figure 1: Above graphs the median progeny count for two strains of Lev-9 C.elegans: RB1717 and ZZ16; and control, N2 (wild-type) strain. Median progeny count is taken from several tests performed using the Lev-9 strains and control. Blue indicated the number of unhatched eggs found on the plate. Orange indicates the amount of early larval stage (L1-L3) organisms inhabit a plate. Purple indicated the total amount of progeny present on the plate when counted after 48 hours of incubation in 20 C.

 

According to the data, it is clear that there is some statistical significance in the results we have collected. To determine significance, we conducted four tests on the N2 control and three tests each for both RB1717 and ZZ16 Lev-9 strain C.elegans. In Figure 1, the total progeny count is substantially lower in ZZ16 than in RB1717 in comparison to the control. We expected ZZ16 and RB1717 to have less progeny, since this would indicate that there are problems with cell division. In each test, ZZ16 still remained in its L4 stage, and unlike the other strains, it appeared that it needed a longer period of incubation time in order to develop into an adult. This suggests that ZZ16 may have developmental issues and a harder time laying eggs at the same pace as a wild-type. On the contrary, RB1717 appeared to develop at an increased rate and yielded an even higher progeny count than N2. This result was surprising, because we expected RB1717 to behave more closely as ZZ16 since they are both mutants from the same gene.

From the data we have collected, we can start discussing how the progeny count is affecting the nematode and whether this data is relevant to glial cells. We predicted that the organisms would have a deteriorated nervous system and that the neural tube would also be affected by the KO of the Lev-9 gene. The organisms did exhibit abnormal behavior and uncoordinated movement when observed under a 10X microscope. Body curling and slowed movements were two of the most obvious observations, when compared to a normal organism (control). This raised question whether glial cells have been affected. To determine whether glia are directly affected, we will need to follow up on our behavioral results with a much more advanced experiment.

Keeping in mind that there is no research adequate enough to understand to what extent GBM is hereditary, and the details of it being linked to cell division, this study has the potential to help provide significant insight for the gap of knowledge in genetic inheritance and variability in GBM. GBM has significant molecular characterization for its category as a tumor, and not all therapies like chemotherapy or radiotherapy have not been found to be completely effective. This study may contribute to biomedical and bioengineering professionals that are working on solutions for cancer development prevention and those who are finding simpler ways for disease prognosis. Additionally, this study may add information to new studies concerning C.elegans and cell reproductive health. It is also greatly anticipated that the contributions from this research can provide more direction for the development of both better drugs and therapies for life-threatening mutations in cell division. it is anticipated that the present and future studies may help reshape the current predisposition testing for cancer. For a bigger picture, it is hoped that the small, but significant information from this research and other studies can redesign treatment options, and revolutionize education on how cancer and may other diseases work. With the help of my mentor, this project has definitely enriched and enhanced my education in the fundamental knowledge of the reproductive biology and cellular biology. I hope that my research experience can be a motivation to others interested in the scientific field and that determination and commitment has the potential to create great things.

 

 

References:

Backes C, Harz C, Fischer U, et al. New insights into the genetics of glioblastoma multiforme by familial exome sequencing. Oncotarget. 2015;6(8):5918-5931.

Oikonomou G, Shaham S. The glia of Caenorhabditis elegans. Glia. 2011 Sep; 59(9):1253-63. Doi:10.1002/glia.21084.

 

Transgender Student Retention: Final Report

This summer, I was fortunate to be able to continue my work on transgender/gender nonconforming (TGNC) student retention that began this previous academic year. When I joined this project, things had come to a stall and not much progress was being made, so some of my first tasks were to collaborate with LGBTQA & Social Justice Center graduate assistant Emmett and associate director Erin about how to refocus the project, and gather essentially a whole new set of research articles and studies.

We started by dividing up the components of our topic into TGNC student-related literature and retention literature, and collecting articles that pertained to those two areas. Once we were satisfied with the amount of literature we had compiled, we broke down the key themes of the literature and were able to write an annotated bibliography in order to better organize each article based on its themes and relevance to our work. The annotated bibliography then was able to help us in the construction of the literature review, which we decided would be best broken down into three categories or themes: retention models/strategies, issues facing TGNC students, and supporting TGNC students. With some last-minute additions to the literature from some recent studies Emmett made me aware of, the literature review now seems much more connected, and these new additions serve as a critical link between these three themes.

At the start of the summer, the goal of the project was more general in terms of compiling information about the needs of TGNC students and areas where institutions could better support them in order to better help them stay in school, but after reading the most recent literature from Garvey, Squire, Stachler and Rankin regarding campus climate comfort and persistence for queer-spectrum students, as well as the reaction our work received at the Philadelphia Transgender Wellness Conference, our goal has become more focused on highlighting the narratives as to why TGNC students may leave an institution and utilizing the suggestions from the Garvey et al. article as a means to frame our questions within a survey or focus group to better gauge the specific needs that need to be met by institutions in order to retain these students.

Being able to attend the Philadelphia Trans Wellness conference this summer definitely helped me to rejuvenate my passion for this work, since being able to interact with hundreds of individuals that could potentially benefit from it was very humbling and eye opening. It was also a chance for me to challenge myself in socializing with others, particularly in regards to promoting the work I am doing. Historically, I am known to downplay my achievements because I am afraid of coming off as arrogant, but I challenged myself to think differently and tell myself that I am allowed to be proud of what I am doing and share that with others, and it paid off. We received the email contacts of 114 TGNC individuals who are interested in participating in our research, as well as professionals who have access to TGNC student populations that were interested in sharing our survey and research information with them. Even TGNC social media influencers with tens of thousands of followers were excited by our research and offered to use their platform to help spread the word about our work.

Taking on a research project that has so many potential influential implications has been incredibly exciting and humbling, but also at times has felt somewhat daunting and overwhelming. Being the perfectionist that I am, occasionally I will get too caught up in my own thoughts and self-critiques that I become stagnant in my progress, worrying that what I have been doing is not good enough and not knowing how to push past it. But after taking a step back and talking through things with Emmett and Erin, I felt like I had a sense of direction and purpose, and plenty of support to remind me that I am not alone in this, I am doing my best and that they are there to help me make this work be the best that it can be.

While we may not have been able to get to the actual survey-writing process just yet, a full and extensive literature review is the finished product I will be walking away with for this summer. My future goal with this research is to hopefully be able to continue this process for my honors thesis, and getting to continue this project in any capacity would be extraordinarily meaningful to me, because I know how impactful the potential results may be, and I want to be able to see what I can do with this and how far I can go. The process this summer has enabled me to step outside of my comfort zone, work closely with Erin and Emmett in a new capacity, reignite my passion for the work I am able to be doing, and motivate me to continue on with this work, however that may look.

From Seedling to Harvest: A Transformative Model of Community Empowerment

Currently, we are still in production of the short film, with the working title, From Seedling to Harvest: A Transformative Model of Community Empowerment.  We have worked diligently to record the growth of a radish plant, of which I will time-lapse into the storyline for its symbolism and for a nice visual effect.  This aspect was inspired by the incredible documentary, Seeds: The Untold Story, directed by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz.  The process of interviewing and dissecting interviews to choose audio clips from that fit the storyline has been difficult and tedious, but fun nonetheless.  I am mostly using interviews from the last undergraduate research project I completed on urban gardening in the Bronx.  My interviews for that project were very engaging and raw, making this prime material for the short film.  I am very conscientious about getting consent from all people involved in the making of the film and I am overwhelmed by the excitement and willingness from friends in the food movement to get involved.

Dedicating the amount of energy and time to a big creative project like this atop life responsibilities is definitely a challenge.  Having to budget a creative project is also difficult, but I was able to purchase lenses for my phone camera instead of a professional camera which was definitely cost-effective.  I feel successful in pursuing a film project because I have no previous experience with it, and it is coming along beautifully.  I definitely plan to pursue funding further for it to develop it to my true vision.  I feel that what I am creating could really have in impact in drawing people into the food justice movements of New York City, specifically the South Bronx.  From this project, I am learning that taking risks in your research and stepping outside of the box is exhilarating.

Using Caenorhabditis elegans to understand if particular genes have a role in Glioblastoma Multiforme formation

Using Caenorhabditis elegans to understand if particular genes have a role in Glioblastoma Multiforme formation:

The goal of this project was to continue to identify and investigate genes that implicate Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) formation using Caenorhabditis elegans (C.elegans). To understand whether these genes have a role in GBM, we used C.elegans as a model organism to understand the morphological and cellular significance of the suspected genes. C.elegans is a nematode that possesses a nervous system. Its nervous system comprises of 302 neurons and 56 glial cells. (Oikonomou and Shaham, 2011) These cells have an influence on sensory and motor functions. We implicated in this study that if we knockout a suspected GBM gene from C.elegans, and observed changes in glial cell development using behavioral assay and advanced microscopy, then will be able to confirm the suspected genes association with GBM.  Using several sequencing platforms, we were able to find 10 genes from the Backes et al study (2015) that had orthologous genes with C.elegans. We had to research the background of the 10 genes to pinpoint which ortholog had any association with glial cells or the nervous or neuromuscular system in C.elegans. One gene, Lev-9, a levamisole resistance gene, was one of the few genes from the bunch that had a connection to the nervous system in the nematode. Utilizing the services of a company that specializes in knocking out selected genes in organisms, we were able to order two strains of Lev-9: RB1717 and ZZ16. The two strains with similar genotypes allowed us to investigate the effects of the Lev-9 gene knockout.

To understand if cell division is affected in the knockout (KO) C.elegans, we carried out several assays in order to detect any problems with reproduction and embryonic development in the organisms. In the beginning of these assays, two young adult (L4 stage) C.elegans were picked onto a fresh NGM agar plate with OP50 bacterial lawns. This step was required three times to separately plate the two Lev-9 strains and N2 strain (wild-type) C.elegans, which would serve as our control. Using a standard protocol on culturing C.elegans, we allowed the young adults to grow at 20 C for 72 hours. This test was repeated several times and the progeny count of on each plate was recorded. The progeny consisted of eggs and any offspring inhabited the agar plate ranging between L1-L3 stage C.elegans. The test yielded inconsistent and unquantifiable results, which suggested that we develop another test to study the reproductive system in the KO strains of C.elegans. The next test consisted of picking an equal amount of L4 C.elegans per strain and the control onto new agar plates. The plates were incubated at 20 C for 24 hours, then the adult mothers would be picked off or terminated using heat over a flame. The plates are then incubated for another 24 hours in 20 C, and thereafter the plates are counted for the amount of eggs laid and the amount of L1-L3 stage C.elegans inhabiting the agar plates. This allowed us to understand the time it took for a ZZ16 and RB1717 strains of Lev-9 C.elegans to hatch and start developing.

            From the data we have collected, we can start discussing how the progeny count is affecting the nematode and whether this data is relevant to glial cells. We predicted that the organisms would have a deteriorated nervous system and that the neural tube would also be affected by the KO of the Lev-9 gene. The organisms did exhibit abnormal behavior and uncoordinated movement when observed under a 10X microscope. Body curling and slowed movements were two of the most obvious observations, when compared to a normal organism (control). This raised questions whether glial cells have been directly affected. To determine whether glia are directly affected, we would need to perform a series of behavioral assays, such as “nose-touch” assay, to confirm their associations. In order to perform this sub-experiment, we will require a strain of C.elegans that would be immune to nose-touch assays, such as Grl-1. There is another prestige university lab that specialized with glia cells in C.elegans and we anticipate on trying to collaborate this their resources to see if the glial in the Lev-9 C.elegans is being affected.

Keeping in mind that there is no research adequate enough to understand what extent GBM is hereditary, and the details of it being linked to cell division, this study has the potential to help provide significant insight for the gap of knowledge in genetic inheritance and variability in GBM. GBM has significant molecular characterization for its category as a tumor, and not all therapies like chemotherapy or radiotherapy have not been found to be completely effective. This study may contribute to biomedical and bioengineering professionals that are working on solutions for cancer development prevention and those who are finding simpler ways for disease prognosis. Additionally, this study may add information to new studies concerning C.elegans and cell reproductive health. It is also greatly anticipated that the contributions from this research can stimulate more direction for the development of both better drugs and therapies for life-threatening mutations in cell division. It is anticipated that the present and future studies may help reshape the current predisposition testing for cancer. For a bigger picture, it is hoped that the small, but significant information from this research and other studies can redesign treatment options, and revolutionize education on how cancer and may other diseases work. This project has definitely enriched and enhanced my education in the fundamental knowledge of the reproductive biology and cellular biology. I hope that my research experience can be a motivation to others interested in the scientific field and that determination and commitment has the potential to create great things.

References:

Backes C, Harz C, Fischer U, et al. New insights into the genetics of glioblastoma multiforme by familial exome sequencing. Oncotarget. 2015;6(8):5918-5931.

Oikonomou G, Shaham S. The glia of Caenorhabditis elegans. Glia. 2011 Sep; 59(9):1253-63. Doi:10.1002/glia.21084.

Transgender Student Retention: Summer Blog 2

For our work on transgender/gender nonconforming (TGNC) retention this summer, I have been working on a literature review, and in the process of compiling this review, graduate assistant Emmett made me aware of two significant recent studies that help in connecting our literature together, as well as help us more specifically frame the goal of our research.

Some data we recently looked into from the U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), which is the largest survey of TGNC individuals to date, pertains to the attrition of TGNC students. Of the respondents who attended college or vocational school and experienced forms of harassment, 16% left as a result of harassment (James et al., 2016, p. 136). 24% of students who were out or perceived as transgender in higher education reported being verbally, physically, or sexually harassed (James et al., 2016, p. 136). Additionally, 1% of respondents who attended higher education were forced out of school or expelled, and 5% left for other reasons pertaining to being transgender (James et al., 2016, p. 136). With some of these quantitative points related to reasons why TGNC students left their institution, we have more of a basis for framing our own research to help answer the question: how are we indirectly (and sometimes directly) pushing TGNC students out of their institutions?

A new study published in February of this year demonstrates a link between perceptions of campus climate and institutional action to academic success and persistence for LGBTQA students. Their results demonstrated that comfort with campus climate was the most significant predictor of academic success, followed by institutional action perceptions and campus climate perceptions (Garvey, Squire, Stachler & Rankin, 2018). In discussing their results, Garvey and Rankin noted that “across a wide swath of systemic oppressions, those who saw their campuses as less racist, transphobic, homophobic, ageist, classist, and ableist, felt more satisfied with their intellectual growth. This is potentially due to increased feelings of inclusion, lack of erasure, and increased positive visibility in the classroom” (Garvey, Squire, Stachler & Rankin, 2018, p. 11). The results of this study demonstrate that, if TGNC students feel included and positively visible and, in turn, perceive their campus climate as being more comfortable and warm, they have higher rates of persistence and academic success.These results provide us with a new bridge to link all of our literature together regarding retention strategies and experiences of TGNC students, as well as gives us suggestions and a framework to build our survey and/or focus group questions off of.

Between these new results relating to campus climate and academic success, and the USTS results pointing to the number of TGNC individuals who left their institutions for a variety of reasons, we are now better able to frame our own work as one of providing more qualitative context as to why students may leave, and what institutions may be able to implement in order to better retain TGNC students.

At the beginning of this month, I was able to attend the Philadelphia Transgender Wellness Conference (PTWC) through the UGR conference travel fund. The PTWC is the largest transgender health conference in the world, drawing thousands of people. While there, I was able to have a vendor table with posters and information about my work on display, as well as an email sign up sheet in order for those interested in participating in my work to give their email address in order to contact them about our survey.  My experience at the conference was incredibly valuable, and I was able to network with professionals interested in my work, as well as hear stories of TGNC individuals who left school or transferred for a variety of reasons relating to their gender identity.

Over the course of the 3 day conference, we gathered email addresses of 114 TGNC individuals who were interested in participating in our survey, as well as talked to others who are mental health providers working with TGNC students, those who work on college campuses and would have access to TGNC student populations on their respective campuses, and even social media influencers with tens of thousands of TGNC followers who were interested in sharing our survey on their platforms.

Throughout the research process this summer, I have learned more about myself and how to challenge myself in aspects of my life I used to shy away from. For example, being able to ask for guidance or allowing myself to feel proud of the work I have been doing is something I previously would have been too anxious to do. This project has been transformative for me because I was able to interact with other TGNC people who would benefit from the work I am doing and I am allowing myself to recognize how impactful this work could be, which is something I never would have imagined I would be doing.

I am hoping to continue this research project as a part of my honors thesis, and my current goal moving forward with this research is to complete the literature review I have been working on as fully as possible, and begin working on submitting for IRB approval so we can then move forward with creating a survey.

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.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4248049/

https://events.braintumor.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/BrainTumorsBytheNumbers_12.04.15.pdf

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html

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.

Transgender Student Retention: Summer Blog 1

Hi, my name is Matthew Scheller, and I am  a rising senior in the honors college majoring in applied psychology with a minor in queer studies. I am working alongside LGBTQA & Social Justice Center Graduate Assistant Emmett Griffith and Associate Director Erin Furey to look at transgender students and retention.

The current title of our research project is Transgender Student Retention, where our goals are to gain insight into the specific needs of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) college/university students that could be met potentially through a retention model or strategy, and therefore may impact retention rates for TGNC students.

We hope to learn about what TGNC students would need from an institution that would better help them to remain in school, and we plan on using a survey and focus groups to learn about these needs.

So far, we are in the process of writing our literature review, having compiled a variety of sources pertaining to subjects such as retention strategies for LGBTQA and other marginalized groups of students, and experiences of TGNC college students, which can include topics such as mental health and perception of campus climate. We were able to come up with a few general themes to briefly summarize our sources, including the impact of support systems on transgender student success and engagement, influence of negative campus climate experiences on mental health, assumptions made about who TGNC people are and what they need, and largely, the lack of research about TGNC students. Currently, there is no existing literature that specifically focuses on TGNC students, so our literature review seeks to find the connections between existing literature about TGNC students and about retention and where our research may be able to fill in those gaps. Going forward, we plan to put together a survey and potentially focus groups where we would like to gather information from TGNC students regarding their needs and experiences at institutions and what they would need or like to see from institutions that may help them to stay in school.

Since there is no existing literature focused on TGNC students and retention, our work could be the first of its kind. With our work, an entire population of students that have been historically marginalized and overlooked by institutions when it comes to their specific needs may be finally recognized and may lead to a greater number of TGNC students staying in school.

The Effects of Positive and Negative Event Support Provision on Self-Control, Persistence, and Goal Pursuit Blog #3

The end of March is when we actually started running our study. Earlier in the spring semester we were finalizing our measures and participated in training to practice running the study. We also had to wait for some of the computers to be set up by IT since we were in a new lab space.

When finalizing our measures we came across some challenges. One of the tasks we had worked on preparing for our participants was included in the IRB but needed to be eliminated for the study. We had technological difficulties regarding this task. The task that was eliminated was supposed to be used as a measure of self-control for the participants. We did however have an alternate task to measure this. A downside to our secondary task is that there are other factors that can influence the measure (such as conscientiousness). However, the lab will continue to work on developing the initial measure of self-control for future work.

In regards to successes I believe that Dr. Gosnell and I were successful in coming up with topics for the participants to discuss with each other. Since the participants have two conversations, the first conversation really allows for the participants to get to know each other personally and academically, making the second conversation less awkward. Before running the study we tested the conversations amongst the research team and continued to revise and make changes where necessary to make sure that the conversations flowed more naturally.

So far, I have learned that conducting research is much harder than it looks. This was my first time ever assisting and conducting actual research, and it is very time consuming and it must be perfected in order to get the best results. Before coming into this project I had prior experience writing a research paper and conducting some research, which definitely helped me a lot in regards to this project. I was once someone that hated research and now after gaining the experience from this project, I feel like I may want to continue conducting research in my graduate studies.