Sample Abstracts
  1. Sample Format
  2. Art
  3. Biological Sciences
  4. College of Medicine
  5. Engineering
  6. Humanities
  7. ICS
  8. Physical Sciences
  9. Social Ecology
  10. Social Sciences


Title of Project/Presentation*
By: Joe M. Smith**
Mentor: Mary J. Wilson***

Abstracts must include sufficient information for reviewers to judge the nature and significance of the topic, the adequacy of the investigative strategy, the nature of the results, and the conclusions. The abstract should summarize the substantive results of the work and not merely list topics to be discussed. An abstract is an outline/brief summary of your paper and your whole project. It should have an intro, body and conclusion. It is a well-developed paragraph, should be exact in wording, and must be understandable to a wide audience. As for format, abstracts should be no more than 250 words in length, in Microsoft Word, single-spaced, in Times New Roman font, and size 12 in typeface. It highlights major points of the content and answers why your work is important, what was your purpose, how you went about your project, what you learned, and what you concluded.

* If your title includes scientific notation, Greek letters, bold, italics, or other special characters/symbols, make sure they appear correctly here in Microsoft Word.

** Include additional undergraduate co-authors, whether they are presenting or not presenting, if applicable

*** Include additional faculty mentors, if applicable


Girls’ Night Out: A Tribute to Women in Musical Theatre
Jennifer Alvarez, Stephanie Linn, Saskia Saffir, & Bonnie Wickeraad
Mentor: Dr. Mary Leslie Ishii

The most memorable artists in the entertainment industry are those who, in addition to having talent and skill, have embraced their individuality. Developing a cabaret show celebrating women in musical theatre required research and planning for its success. To create a script connecting the lives of four women in musical theatre, Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, Bernadette Peters, and Barbra Streisand, involved collaboration and insight from everyone engaged in the project. Time was devoted to watching various theatrical performances, concerts, reading interviews, biographies, fans’ opinions, critical reviews, etc., to recreate these women’s specific personalities and stage personas. Planning on a technical level included reserving a space to perform, set up of sound, lights, props, set pieces, publicity, etc., and proved to be a necessary challenge to have our artistic ideas come to fruition. The result of our efforts was a thirty-minute cabaret entitled Girl’s Night Out: A Tribute to Women in Musical Theatre. The experiences from this production were individually rewarding for each performer. Most importantly we discovered how art, especially the performing arts, is a collaborative process that demands discipline, open communication, organization, commitment, flexibility, and artistic vision.


Persistent Global Activation of the Aplysia Serotonergic System After Sensitizing Stimuli
Kristine Kolkman
Mentor: Dr. Thomas Carew

The marine mollusk Aplysia responds to noxious stimulation with a stereotyped arousal reaction that includes escape locomotion, increased heart rate and sensitization of defensive reflexes. Although previous studies have shown that serotonin (5-HT) is important for most of these behavioral responses, it is still unclear how the 5-HT system is activated in response to noxious stimuli. To address this question, I used a specific staining of the 5-HT neurons in the living central nervous system (CNS) that allowed me to (1) systematically record their electrical activity following a noxious stimulus, and (2) trace their projections using the neuronal tracer Neurobiotin. I found that in response to tail-nerve shock, a procedure known to mimic a noxious tail stimulus, the vast majority of 5-HT neurons increased their firing rate for several minutes and became more excitable. 5-HT neurons were found to project toward various peripheral targets such as the gill, heart, body wall, tail, siphon, head, and tentacles as well as to other ganglia in the CNS. This study shows that the Aplysia 5-HT system is globally and persistently activated after a noxious stimulus. Such an activation might serve to synchronize the different aspects of the arousal reaction in Aplysia.


Estrogen Exposure Rapidly Elevates Nitric Oxide Production in Cerebral Vessels
Amin Boroujerdi
Mentor: Dr. Diana Krause (Pharmacology)

The hormone estrogen plays a significant role in the regulation of cardiovascular function. Acute effects of estrogen result in immediate dilation of cerebral blood vessels by increasing levels of nitric oxide (NO). We hypothesize that estrogen acts through an early response without transcription to activate certain kinases such as PI3 and Akt. This leads to increased activity of the enzyme that produces NO. We measured NO production in isolated cerebral blood vessels from ovariectomized female rats (OVX). We found estrogen can increase cerebrovascular NO production within 5 min and is maximally elevated after 30 min. Immunoblot analysis of vessels treated with estrogen shows increased levels of the phosphrylated state of Akt (p-Akt) and endothelial nitric oxide (p-eNOS). Immunoprecitation studies showed that estrogen receptor alpha (ERa) is complexed with eNOS in the vessels. Our results suggest physiological levels of estrogen can rapidly increase NO levels in cerebral vessels, through activation of the PI-3 Kinase/Akt/eNOS pathway. Our findings that estrogen increases vasodilator NO in cerebral blood vessels through an early response without transcription pathway contributes to a better understanding of the effects of this hormone, which at the moment is a promising but controversial potential therapy for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. This study was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) under protocol number 1999-2048.


Development of Nanofluidic Microscope
Ki-Hyun Choi, Quan Hai, & Eugene Wang
Mentor: Dr. John LaRue & Dr. Richard Nelson

The need to count and size individual microscopic particles exists in a wide variety of fields. For example, microfluidic devices are finding increasing use for DNA analysis, high-speed detection of pathogens, and combinatorial testing of pharmaceuticals. The original Coulter count is a device that performs this function automatically for particles suspended in an electrolyte. Pressure differences cause the particles to flow through a small current carrying channel where electrodes are inserted to detect the resistance change caused by the particles. The momentary voltage change across the electrode is counted and correlates to the dimension of the particles. The fundamental working principle of our device is similar to the mechanism used in the original Coulter counter. Our flow channel substrate consists of an inlet, flow channel where the particles will be detected, and outlet section. The top and bottom of the device will be glass so that the flowing fluid can be observed. The inlet and outlet sections have approximate channel dimension of 150 um wide and 60 um deep. The flow channel dimensions are approximately 60 um wide and 30 um deep. We must ensure that the flow channel dimension is small enough such that the observation region will contain only one particle. Our device is fabricated on glass with inlet, detection, and outlet section. The device is driven by input stage circuit, and measurements are taken by output stage circuit. The input stage circuit consists of four components: voltage controlled oscillator, butterworth bandpass filter, low gain amplifier, and driver. The output stage circuit consists of three components: differential amplifier, low gain amplifier, and demodulation circuit. When we finish this device, we should be able to count the number of particles in the solution, estimate the particle size, measure the effect of particles on fluid flow velocity, and measure the effect of particles on pressure drop.


Cristina Peri Rossi: The Postmodern Transgressions of Parody and Ambiguity
Eduardo Ruiz
Mentor: Dr. Lucia Guerra-Cunningham

Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi’s first book, El libro de mis primos (The Book of My Cousins, 1969), is compared with her later novel, La nave de los locos (The Ship of Fools, 1984), to suggest how an authoritarian society can be criticized through parody and then rebuilt on the foundations of a philosophy of ambiguity, similar to Lyotard’s vision of the postmodern. Dissatisfaction with the power structures of tradition and validation of marginality are characteristics of such vision, which inscribe Peri Rossi in the postmodern current of Latin-American literature. The postmodern condition agrees with the major conclusions drawn from both works. First, tradition is viewed as a decadent state of affairs that needs to be brushed aside, for it does not respond to genuine human concerns and, in fact, has frustrated and destroyed them. Parody is the tool used to dispose of tradition. Secondly, there has to be an acceptance of the margins, of the other. This presupposes a tolerant ambiguity of inclusion that is capable of rebuilding instead of destroying, and does so by using the very materials of the other. What El Libro destroys La nave rebuilds. El Libro’s mission is to do away with the atrophied waste of patriarchal order, while La nave seeks to fill up the resulting void with one possible solution: the conciliation of opposing forces by a tolerant philosophy of inclusion.


Managing the Evolution of Software Architectures
Ping Chen, Matthew Critchlow, Akash Garg, & Christopher Van der Westhuizen
Mentor: Dr. André van der Hoek

Currently, many modern software organizations develop closely related software products as single, unrelated efforts. As a result, many high-level design decisions are lost between products and reuse remains ineffective or limited to the code level. One solution is to create a generic design architecture, which is able to capture an entire family of closely related products, called a product line architecture (PLA). The PLA explicitly describes the common features shared by all the products as well as the points of variation among the individual products. Variation points are either optional (it is not required) or variant (it may take different forms in different products). PLAs change over time as new products are added, old products are retired, and existing products are changed. Currently, there are no tools to manage the resulting evolution of a PLA. Furthermore, manually evolving a PLA is a painstaking and error-prone process. To address this problem, we have developed four tools for the management of PLAs. The first tool, Ménage, is a design environment for specifying product line architectures and their evolution. The second tool, ArchSelector, automatically selects a single product by resolving each variation point based on some user-specified product features. The third tool, ArchDiff, helps in understanding the difference between two products by calculating an architectural “diff”. Finally, ArchMerge propagates such a diff to another product in the PLA. This supports the propagation of features from one product into another product, and can be done either statically (at design-time) or dynamically (at run-time).


An Investigation Into Specific Metabolic Pathways of Methyl Halide Production in Terrestrial Plants
Maggie Walser
Mentor: Dr. Ralph Cicerone

Inorganic halogen radicals in the atmosphere are important because of their role in stratospheric ozone destruction. Methyl halides act as major transport vectors for halogen radicals from surface sources to the atmosphere, making further quantification of their budgets necessary for the prediction of effects of human actions on stratospheric ozone and tropospheric chemistry. Atmospheric concentrations of methyl halides have been measured, but a complete understanding of their sources and sinks is still lacking. Quantification of agricultural and other terrestrial plant emissions could lead to a better understanding of the atmospheric budgets of methyl halides. Rice is the staple food of nearly two billion people worldwide, and its crops cover nearly one percent of continental surface area. The current study sought a greater understanding of the metabolic mechanism(s) that lead to methyl halide production in rice and other plants through the use of leaf-disk enzyme assays. The role of enzymes, putative methyl transferases (MT), was examined by a quantitative analysis of known MT substrata and possible competitive inhibitors including caffeic acid, catechol, quercetin, and thiocyanate. Preliminary results show that quercetin has no significant effect, while caffeic acid, catechol, and thiocyanate all inhibit methyl halide production. The inhibition of the production of methyl bromide was found to be greater than that of methyl iodide, suggesting that the enzyme(s) responsible for methyl halide synthesis binds iodide preferentially. The findings of this research will increase knowledge of the biochemical production pathway(s) and the global budget of methyl halides.


The Influence of DNA and Confession Evidence on Mock Juror Decision Making
Erin Ramsey
Mentor: Dr. Richard Leo

In recent years, several studies have examined the degree to which the use of confession evidence biases the jurors’ verdict. However, studies have yet to compare confession evidence to other evidence, despite some legal scholars claiming that confessions may be the most influential form of evidence. The present study is designed to address whether jurors correctly evaluate and evenly weigh this DNA and confession evidence presented during trial. In the study, 160 college undergraduates (57 male) were randomly assigned to read one of nine trial transcripts that varied in their inclusion of confession and DNA evidence. The study conformed to a 3 (no confession, coerced confession, non-coerced confession) x 3 (no DNA, exonerating DNA, convicting DNA) between subjects experimental design. Results indicate that participants tended to consider DNA evidence and some circumstantial evidence (e.g., time frame and motive for the alleged crime) as more influential in their verdict than confession evidence, whether or not the confession was coercive. Furthermore, participants were more confident when they rendered a guilty verdict than when they rendered a not guilty verdict. Both the prosecution and defense used circumstantial evidence to support more concrete evidence like DNA and confession evidence, and this circumstantial evidence was used by participants to support their decisions. This is the first study to compare directly the relative influence of both DNA and confession evidence on participants’ judgments. The results have implications for our understanding of how and when jurors are (or are not) influenced by different forms of evidence in criminal trials. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) under protocol number 2002-2375.


Stereotype Threat
Stephanie Domzalski
Mentor: Dr. Geoffrey Iverson

The stereotype threat theory (Steele 1992, 1997) examines the underperformance of women in mathematical domains and minorities in academic domains and attempts to explain these trends as being due to situational anxiety. Research indicates that the performance differential between genders and ethnicities can be best understood in terms of stereotype threat activation rather than biological determinants. The anxiety a stereotyped individual feels when confronted with an academic task is compounded by a societal expectation of failure. However, not much research currently exists on the mediating effects of personal belief in the stereotype. The goal of this study was to examine whether anxiety was correlated with a stronger belief in the stereotype among college-aged participants. Individuals from stigmatized groups demonstrated a significantly greater likelihood to experience higher anxiety levels if they believed the negative stereotype and that higher anxiety level correlated with lower test scores. These results provide general support for Steele’s stereotype threat hypothesis.


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