You are here

Capstones Revealed

Abstract watercolor image
April 22, 2019

2019 University Honors Capstone Project Showcase, Tuesday, April 23.

Students in the University Honors program will present their capstone projects on Tuesday, April 23, from 3:30-5 p.m. in Kirby Ballroom.

University Honors is comprised of UMD students across all five colleges. University Honors members are required to take University Honors courses, engage in their communities, complete this honors capstone scholarship project, and maintain a high GPA to complete the program.

Joshua Adamek, Chemistry
Faculty Advisor: Alessandro Cembran
Computational Characterization of the Interactions between Methionine, Dopamine, and Dopamine Derivatives

The death of dopaminergic cells in the brain causes a loss of function, mainly in motor control, and is the main consequence of Parkinson’s disease. What exactly triggers the disease is unknown, but recently the protein α-synuclein (α-SYN) has been observed to form fibrils and protofibrils in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Protofibrils of α-SYN form abnormal aggregates called Lewy bodies. The dopamine (DA) in dopaminergic cells is thought to stabilize the native α-SYN creating masses of soluble oligomers or protofibrils. So far, it is not understood what causes one type of fibril to form over the other, but research has shown that the oxidization state of Met may play a role in the stability of fibrils. In addition, the oxidation of Met has recently been thought to be caused by DA’s derivatives1. The specific interactions between DA and methionine (Met) on the protein are of interest because of recent studies where Met was shown to be stabilized by interactions with aromatic residues, and the thioether can be oxidized in an oxidizing environment. At cytosolic pH of 7.4 pH, DA becomes oxidized by free oxygen creating a superoxide radical via a 1-electron oxidation2 and forming a semi-quinone DA radical or DA quinone species. These different species of DA may interact differently with Met than dopamine and lead to different stabilities. Ideally the mechanism of oxidation of Met by derivatives of DA will be studied, but the first step is to make sure the two molecules can interact. If the interaction conformation changes depending on the oxidation state of DA, then we may see an impact in the energy difference between Met and methionine sulfoxide resulting in a stability change of the α-SYN protein. Instead of using the full protein, which is computational costly, Met is modeled with [DMSO]-Dimethyl Sulfoxide and [DMS]-Dimethyl Sulfide. The starting conformations of DA were made in Gaussview and minimized with Gaussian09 to develop a general structure for each molecule. These structures were used in an annealing CHARMM Molecular Dynamics simulation which placed DMSO and DMS randomly in space around dopamine and dopamine derivatives. The structures were then allowed to move freely at high temperatures and then cooled into a stable state. Depending on the oxidization state of DA, it is expected that Met will stabilize at different locations based on the potential for hydrogen bonds with either alcohol groups or terminal amine. Future directions will involve more precise quantum mechanics energy calculations of resulting molecular dynamics simulation results.

  1. Patricia Muñoz, Sandro Huenchuguala, Irmgard Paris, and Juan Segura-Aguilar, “Dopamine Oxidation and Autophagy,” Parkinson’s Disease, vol. 2012, Article ID 920953, 13 pages, 2012.

  2. Mor, Danielle E, et al. “Dopamine induces soluble α-Synuclein oligomers and nigrostriatal degeneration.” Nature Neuroscience, vol. 20, no. 11, 2017, pp. 1560–1568., doi:10.1038/nn.4641.

  3. Lewis, Andrew K., et al. “Oxidation Increases the Strength of the Methionine-Aromatic Interaction.” Biophysical Journal, vol. 108, no. 2, 2015, doi:10.1016/j.bpj.2014.11.117.

Hanna Anderson, Biology
Faculty Mentor, Dr. Justin Zweck
Genetics and poverty cause increased number of dental caries in Native American children

Abstract:  Native American children suffer from a high dental caries rate compared to white, black, and Hispanic American children. This may be due to genetic predisposition, economic factors, or lack of dental health education. Studies investigating the cause of the high caries rate in Native American children have used questionnaires, data gathered in free dental clinics, and dental health education for mothers. With the results from these studies, dental researchers have concluded earlier tooth eruption in this group may cause sooner colonization of harmful oral bacteria. Additionally, some characteristics of a poverty culture overlap with those of a higher caries rate, including a high sugar-content diet and living with many people in a household. While both of these predicted attributes to dental caries are supported in the literature, researchers found that any level of maternal dental health education was not a factor in the high caries prevalence. Studying dental health as it pertains to the Native American community, especially children, is important to the promotion of overall health. Future studies will research other components of childhood caries as well as prevention to improve Native American childhood oral health and lifelong well-being.

Pavel Arkhipenkov, International Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Scott Laderman
The Impact of Cold War on popular culture of the United States and Soviet Union.

The history of the Cold War is usually described through the lens of comparison between the Soviet Union and the United States in their economic and military abilities.However, there are various things that simply do not get that much attentions from the historians. This research will focus on the development of Cold War in popular culture and propaganda, analyzing how a major geopolitical event can reshape the cultural life of the 20th century superpowers.

Madeline Carlson, Biology
Faculty Mentor, Dr. Janet Fitzakerley
Expression of Natriuretic Peptide Receptor A (NPR-A) in Cochlear Neurons

Within the inner ear, the cochlea is the auditory region that contains the sensory receptors (called hair cells) that convert sound waves into electrochemical signals that the brain interprets. Afferent neurons carry sensory information from the hair cells to the central nervous system. In contrast, efferent neurons carry information from the central nervous system to the cochlea. There are four types of neurons that innervate the hair cells: two afferent neurons and two efferent neurons. Type I afferent and lateral efferent neurons (LOC) connect to the inner hair cells (IHC)s; type II afferent and medial efferent neurons (MOC) connect to the outer hair cells (OHCs). Damage to any or all 4 types of neurons occurs during hearing loss. Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) is a cardiac hormone that is involved in the regulation of fluid balance in many tissues including the cochlea. While several studies have confirmed the presence of ANP and its receptor, natriuretic peptide receptor A (NPR-A) in the large type I afferents, very little is known about the localization of NPR-A in either the type II afferent neurons or the efferent neurons. The hypothesis tested in these experiments is that NPR-A is found in the cell bodies and dendrites of type II afferent and in efferent neurons. Conventional double-label immunohistochemistry techniques were used to detect the presence of NPR-A in specific neurons in the cochlea. NPR-A was occasionally found in type II cell bodies, but not in the dendrites that connect with the OHC, as assayed using an antibody to the 200 kB heavy neurofilament protein. NPR-A staining was observed in the LOC region underneath the IHC, and in the presumptive MOC axons crossing the tunnel of Corti.  These efferent regions were labelled with the neurofilament antibody also, suggesting that this antibody cross reacts with efferent neurons, and therefore may not be a selective marker for type II neurons. These preliminary experiments support the hypothesis that NPR-A is expressed by all four types of cochlear neurons. Further tests will 1) use an antibody against choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) to determine the presence of NPR-A in medial and lateral efferent fibres in the cochlea, 2) specifically localize NPR-A within the type II and efferent neurons. These results will improve our understanding of the role of NPR-A in neuronal function in the inner ear.

Kellsey Clark, Social Work
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Wendy Anderson
How Youth at Neighborhood Youth Services Perceive School Over Time

This study examines how the age, gender, and socioeconomic status of youth affects their perceptions of school, both over a 4 month span, and across years and grade levels. It was performed at an after school center in the Central Hillside of Duluth, with 30 youth grades Kindergarten through eighth.

Megan Effinger, Computer Science
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Marshall Hampton
Can Computers Be Creative: Exploring the Philosophy Behind Artificial Creativity

In this project, the philosophy of artificial creativity is explored in a number of ways. First, this project consists of a literature review discussing current research and projects in the artificial creativity field. It poses the question of what creativity is defined as and if it can be applied to computers. It takes a look at the work of other researchers in the field and discusses their potential as candidates for artificial creativity. There is also a programming component to this project, which explores a computer's ability to improve our own creativity. A pre-trained neural network constructs arpeggios with the influence of the user. Does this attribute any creativity to the artificial intelligence, or just to the human behind it?

Juliana Epstein, Public Health Education and Promotion
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amy Versnik Nowak
Comparison of reasons University of Minnesota Duluth students choose alternative modes of transportation to public transit.

Synopsis: This capstone will explore the reasons students may choose to drive a personal vehicle over riding the bus to campus. There are logistical reasons like bus routes, times, and conditions that have been shown to have effects on ridership. There also may be other reasons that are based on attitudes and beliefs of what buses and public transportation are like. Many students at our campus have never ridden the public bus or tried and had negative experiences on the bus. We will consider if these attitudes and beliefs matter more than logistical reasons to not ride the bus.

Jefrina Jayaraj, Management Information Systems, International Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sanjay Goel
The Evolution of Born Global Firms

The internationalization of firms worldwide has been a common development in the rise of the 21st century. However, in recent years, companies that adopt internationalization at an early stage of growth have defined a niche in the international market and have been labeled “born global”. The rise of born global firms has been further encouraged by the advancement of technology and continued globalization, but what are the implications for the future? Analysis of existing literature and data will shed light on the rapid development of born globals and their impending impact on the world as we know it.

Mike Kenyanya, Management Information Systems
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Dahui Li
Filtering Spam using Machine Learning

The purpose of this project is to use machine learning to build a basic spam filter. The data will be prepared and pruned before building models. Different methods of statistical analysis will be used and different models will be built using logistical regression, Naive Bayes and other classifiers. A software called Weka will be used for the bulk of the analysis. We will then compare the different models for effectiveness and asses how changing different inputs will affect the output. In addition to finding out which model works best, this project will illustrate machine learning in a simple way.

Bebi Khan, Psychology, Political Science
Capstone Advisor: Dr. Robert L. Lloyd
The Role of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the Pathophysiology and treatment of Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

The purpose of this study is to differentiate the relationship between BDNF levels and PD Pathophysiology from the relationship between L-DOPA and BDNF levels. The questions asked in this study were: (1) To what extent is PD the result of reduced spontaneous BDNF levels? (2) To what extent does the brain increase BDNF levels to compensate for the loss of Substantia Nigra neurons and its associated consequences? (3) To what extent does L-DOPA therapy alter BDNF levels? Analysis of data will include, but is not limited to: assessment of motor functions, medication and L-DOPA therapy dosage and duration, and analysis of Salivary BDNF levels. 

BDNF levels have been reported to be altered in various neurological diseases. In past research, BDNF levels have shown to be elevated. There are many reasons why BDNF could be elevated in PD. BDNF levels could be elevated as the body’s way of healing itself or L-DOPA treatment therapy could also be the main factor as to why BDNF levels increase in our system. BDNF may also be attenuated in PD, and thus lead to/ or contribute to the pathophysiology of the disease (selective death of dopamine neurons). A concern is that L-DOPA therapy, might be masking the initial deficit of PD by resulting in elevated BDNF. BDNF has been shown to have a major role in brain morphology and antidepressant therapy. It has also been found to stimulate dendritic arborization, synaptogenesis, and neogenesis of neurons in adult brain. The expectation is after looking at partial correlations of BDNF with L-DOPA dosage and quantitative evaluations of PD severity, it may be possible to select among these alternative interpretations.

Javier Lara Cartagena, Chemical Engineering
Faculty Mentor, Dr. Abigail Clarke-Sather
Bilateral Benefits of Cross-national Engineering Projects

The purpose of this research is to investigate how involvement in organizations like Engineers Without Borders, which entail cross-national engineering projects, affects the Cultural Intelligence of students in STEM fields. The research consists of a survey that uses a 39-scale questionnaire from the Cultural Intelligence Center, and comparing the results to different demographic questions, including level of involvement in cross-national engineering projects.

Rachel Larson, Biology, Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Eric Hessler
Awareness and Perceptions of Hippotherapy Among Clinicians and College Students

Hippotherapy is a practice which utilizes equine movement to provide motor and sensory input to the rider. This intervention is used by physical, occupational, and speech therapists to improve the symptoms of physical and mental disorders. In occupational therapy specifically, movements of the horse are intended to improve coordination, sensory processing and regulation, balance, attention, and motor control. Therefore, hippotherapy can be used to improve a variety of disorders. As more empirical research is being conducted, the physical and psychological benefits of hippotherapy are becoming more explicit. However, there seems to be little awareness of this developing intervention. A survey is currently being distributed to students at the University of Minnesota Duluth asking questions about participants’ awareness of hippotherapy, perceived benefits of this intervention, and demographic information.  Additionally, an expert interview will be conducted to gain knowledge about the implantation, standardization, and benefits of hippotherapy practiced in the field. Raising awareness of this practice could evoke the need to complete more research in the field, and thus provide better therapy practices for individuals of all ages and disabilities.

Sophia Leaf, Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Briana Gross
Effects of hybridization on oak populations in inland and coastal zones

Red oak trees make up a major part of Minnesota’s landscape. With the changing climate, they are predicted to be an important tree in our future as well. Currently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a practice in which they collect seeds from trees all around the state and grow them up in a common plot at an inland location in northern Minnesota. However, they fail to collect seeds from red oak’s that grow along the shoreline of Lake Superior, as these seeds fail to regenerate in the inland climate. A possible reason for this may be due to hybridization between inland red oak trees and northern pin oak trees, as their range overlaps. It has been speculated that hybridization between inland red oak trees and northern pin oak trees allow inland red oaks to survive in that climate. To test this, I have collected about 600 samples from red oak and northern pin oak trees from around the state. We extracted DNA from these leaves and currently they are being processed down at the University of Minnesota Genomic Center. Once the data is received back we will be using computer programs such as Stacks and STRUCTURE to analyze the possibility of hybridization.

Swita Li, BS- Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Ahmed Heikal
Quantitative Assessment of Ionic Strength Sensor using Fluorescence Lifetime Measurements

In living cells, ionic strength can affect biological functions such as the enzymatic activity, electrostatic interaction among biomolecules and protein assemblies. The challenge, however, is that the ionic strength varies among different compartments in living cells. In this project, we investigate the salt concentration effect on the structural geometry of newly designed, genetically encoded, an ionic strength sensor based on hetero FRET, RD, which made of mCerulean3–linker–mCitrine (Figure 1). The linker of this ionic strength sensor consists of two alpha helices that include positively and negatively charged amino acids. We hypothesize that the linker in this sensor would favor a folded structure at low ionic strength and therefore enhanced energy transfer efficiency as well as smaller donor-acceptor distance would be observed (Figure 1). To test this hypothesis, we used to time-resolved fluorescence measurements, exciting and detection the emission of the donor (mCerulean3) to quantify the ionic strength effects on the energy transfer efficiency and donor-acceptor distance of RD as a function of potassium chloride (KCl) concentration. Our results shows that the energy transfer efficiency of RD decreases and the donor-acceptor distance increases as the ionic strength increases. These controlled-environment studies provide a point of reference for future investigation in living cells using these genetically encoded sensors using fluorescence lifetime microscopy imaging (FLIM).

Figure 1: The structure of the genetically encoded protein-based hetero FRET probe that was designed for ionic strength sensing [Liu, Boqun, et al. ACS Chem. Biol. 2017]

Samantha Mazurek, Cell and Molecular Biology
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Mitra Emad
Perspectives of Childbirth Among Undergraduates

This project seeks to gain a general understanding and insight to the current beliefs surrounding childbirth held by young adults attending college. It will also examine the degree to which undergraduates are informed and knowledgeable about childbirth, and if this has an impact on their overall perceptions. Results will be compared to previous studies to evaluate if and how perceptions have changed.

Sarah McDonald, Criminology, Psychology
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Rebecca Gilbertson
The Effects of Social Interaction on Aggression

This study assesses the relationship between aggression and social interaction by having participants in the experimental group select a type of barbecue sauce (regular, spicy, or really spicy) for a confederate, while participants in the control group select a type of barbecue sauce for an imaginary participant.

Emma McLarnan, Environmental and Outdoor Education
Faculty Mentor, Ken Gilbertson
Visitor Use and Associated Benefits of the UMD Bagley Nature Area

The University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) campus is unique in having a 55 acre nature area right on campus known as the Bagley Nature Area (BNA). The full extent of visitors on the site and the type of visitor (e.g. college classes, student use, athletic teams, community members) has not been evaluated since 2007. This study will collect data on volume of use as well as activities being participated in by utilizing the Ecolink motion sensors and trail cameras set up in key locations in BNA. This will be cross checked with the BNA visitor use survey done in 2007 to asses changes in volume and activities been done in BNA presently. The purpose of this UROP study is to analyze data collected from users at the BNA to determine visitor use and visitor types. This data will be used to help create a dynamic management plan for site in the future and to determine if the site is currently meeting its objectives to provide a quality outdoor education on the UMD campus for students and local residents.

Lauren Messerschmidt, Biochemistry
Dr. Amanda Klein
Pain relief of cannabinoids in the KATP pathway and its connections to the opioid pathway in mice

The opioid epidemic is killing more than 45,000 people in the United States annually, and an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2017 (CDC, CBHSQ). Cannabinoids (CBs), one of the main components of medical marijuana, could be a potential alternative to opioids, as research has shown they provide similar pain relief without the same level of tolerance. The mechanisms of the cannabinoid pathway, however, are still not known. Opioid receptors and cannabinoid receptors are located in the nervous system (e.g. dorsal root ganglia, spinal cord) and both produce analgesia through inhibition of pain sensing nerve fibers.  Endocannabinoids use a G-coupled protein receptor, similar to opioids, and they both appear to affect similar molecules in their downstream pathways to produce pain relief. We investigated whether the analgesic effect of cannabinoid receptors need downstream potassium channels similar to opioid receptors. Mice lacking the SUR1-subtype of ATP-sensitive potassium channels (KATP channels) were tested in comparison to wild-type and heterozygous mice for their responsiveness to mechanical paw withdrawal after injection with agonists of CB1 or CB2 receptors. Each group, consisting of two to five mice, was injected with one hundred microliters of vehicle (5% dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) in saline (0.9% NaCl)), GW 405833 (30 mg/kg, CB2 receptor agonist), or WIN 55212-2 (5 mg/kg, CB1 and CB2 receptor agonist). Paw withdrawal threshold testing was recorded over the course of sixty minutes. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) was also performed to analyze gene expression of three cannabinoid genes, Cnr1, Cnr2v1, and Cnr2v2, using purified RNA from morphine-tolerant and non-morphine-tolerant mouse tissues including sciatic nerves, spinal cord, and dorsal root ganglia. In behavioral testing, WIN 55212-2 injections increased mechanical threshold for wild-type and heterozygous mice, and there was a significant difference between wild-type, heterozygous, and knockout mice over time (repeated measures ANOVA, F(10, 100) = 2.312, p = 0.0172). GW 405833 injections also increased the mechanical threshold for wild-type and heterozygous mice, and there was a significant difference comparing wild-type, heterozygous, and knockout mice, but not over time (repeated measures ANOVA, F(2,19) = 4.614, p = 0.0233). Quantitative PCR showed gene expression was typically lower in morphine tolerant tissues compared to the control tissues, with significant differences in Cnr1 and Cnr2v2 sciatic nerve tissues (unpaired t-test, p = 0.0125 and p = 0.0328, respectively). The decrease in gene expression may have resulted from down regulation in the cannabinoid pathway due to calcium channels opening, triggering endocytosis and leading to internalization of the receptors. The CB agonists provided pain relief in mice, which is merely a starting point in analyzing the efficacy of pain relief of cannabinoids. Further experimentation will focus on determining the cannabinoid pathway in comparison to the opioid pathway to explore a potential solution to the opioid epidemic.

Sara Minder, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Political Science
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Emily Gaarder
What role does art play in furthering the mission of SisterSong, and how can art be used for other political movements?

This project explores SisterSong, an organization run by women of color that fights for reproductive justice for marginalized communities. It explores the history of this organization, why its needed, what reproductive justice entails, and how art helps to further their goals and mission. Analyses of art produced by artists from SisterSong will be compared to posters that have been made for events I have planned as an intern at the Women's Resource and Action Center.

Maria Onnen, Chemical Engineering
Capstone Advisor, Rachel Inselman
Audible effects of food on the voice AND Cultural differences in perception of those effects

There are papers published every year on the effects of food on the singing voice, several metanalysis have found none ever published based on empirical evidence collected for that purpose. This research explored the reasons for that gap (which seem to be largely economic) and attempted to empirically study this supposed effect. [Several unexpected factors were found to change the effect consuming certain foods or drinks appears to have on the voice. Because of this, a modified experimental design would be required to if confirm all food-related trends suggested by the results of this research. This research did find that eating large meals and vocal training had no significant effect on lung capacity, but athleticism did.]

To test whether perception of vocal quality would vary across cultures, parts of the study were repeated with French subjects. [No statistically significant cultural differences have been found. One statistically significant similarity was noted.]

Bryan Reutzel, BS-Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alessandro Cembran
Effect of Methionine Oxidation of the dynamics on Calmodulin/Calmodulin-dependent Kinase II complex.

Calmodulin (CaM) is a calcium binding protein that plays a key role in many of the biological signaling pathways that utilize calcium as a secondary messenger. CaM can bind to a number of other proteins in the process of transducing a signal, however studies have shown1 that under oxidative conditions CaM decreases, this binding activity. One such system involves the activation of Calmodulin-dependent Kinase II (CaMKII) by the binding of CaM in the presence of calcium. CaMKII plays an important role in processes of the heart and brain, and dysregulation of this complex has been implicated in heart failure2. In this system, oxidation of methionine residues 124, 144, and 145 have been shown to destabilize the complex in vitro1, however the exact change in interaction patterns has not been fully described. Utilizing Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations, we can impose specific oxidations on the protein that are difficult in vitro, allowing us to not only attempt to explain the dynamics of the destabilization, but also attempt to determine the contribution that each residue makes individually. This methodology may provide better insight into the changes in interactions associated with methionine oxidation in this system and in other systems that contain methionine. To characterize the local changes in dynamics, we employ Root Mean Square Fluctuation (RMSF) calculations, and to identify the changes in large scale motion associated with oxidation, we employ Principal Component Analysis (PCA). These analysis methods indicate the driving cause behind complex destabilization under oxidative conditions is the disruption of hydrophobic pockets.    

1. Snijder, J.; Rose, R.J.; Raijmakers, R.; Heck, J.R. Journal of Structural Biology. 2011, 174, 187-195.

2. Luo, M.; Anderson, M.E. Circulation Research. 2013, 113, 690-708.

Sabrina Salmela, Communication Sciences and Disorders & Hispanic Studies
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jolene Hyppa-Martin
Attitudes Towards Customized vs. Generic Synthetic Voices on Speech Generating Devices

Voice banking benefits individuals who communicate using speech-generating devices and allows these individuals to have customized synthetic voices that are reflective of their age, regional, ethnic, and social background. This UROP examines the differences in attitudes that people have towards a peer that uses a customized synthetic voice versus a generic synthetic voice to communicate.

Brittany Schoen, Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Timothy Craig
Differential Selection of Downy Woodpeckers and Black-capped Chickadees on Eurosta solidaginis Goldenrod Galls

Eurosta solidaginis is a fly that induces a spherical gall on the stem of a tall goldenrod, solidago altissima or solidago gigantea, to provide them with food shelter in their larvae state. This relationship is considered a parasitic relationship because the plant receives no benefit in return for the service. In this study, I will be looking at the attack of woodpeckers and chickadees on Eurosta and how they differ in their selection of which galls to attack. I hypothesize that when it is just woodpeckers or just chickadees that attack the site, then they will select for larger galls, but if both are attacking galls at the same site, then chickadees will generally go for the larger galls and woodpeckers will go for medium to smaller sized galls. I also hypothesize that woodpeckers are more specific with their selection than chickadees. My plan for this study is to collect and dissect goldenrod galls where there has been activity by birds from at least 30 different sites. 10 of these sites will be only attacked by chickadees, another 10 of these sites will be only attacked by woodpeckers, and the last 10 of these sites will be attacked by both woodpeckers and chickadees. Dr. Timothy Craig, my mentor, has been studying galls for quite some time now and has collected many galls over the years from sites all around the US that I will be using for this study. Data will be recorded for both galls that have been attacked and not attacked in each site.

Claire Theisen, Psychology
Faculty Mentor, Dr. Rebecca Gilbertson
The Effects of Childhood Peer Victimization on a Typing Task

This research study examined how experience with childhood peer victimization affects individuals in early adulthood cognition.

Delaney Wilder, Psychology
Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Ashley Thompson 
Self-Identified Heterosexual’s Judgments of Facial Attraction and its Role in Mate Retention Threat Identification

Synopsis: It has been well supported by research that the physical features of human faces are indicators of general health, fertility, and genetic fitness (Fink & Penton-Voak, 2002; Grammer & Thornhill, 1994; Perret et al., 1998). In fact, proponents of sexual selection theory posit that individuals who evolved to successfully identify these traits gained some aspect of quality for their offspring (i.e., increasing their odds of successful copulation and/or by obtaining good genes; Andersson, 1994). For example, previous research indicates that female facial attractiveness can be determined using a variety of characteristics including high eyebrows, large eyes, prominent cheekbones, narrow cheeks, a small nose/chin, and a big smile (Cunningham, 1986). Over time, these physical facial cues of health became perceived as "attractiveness." Once a mate with high genetic fitness has been identified, there is the issue of successful child rearing. This is a very resource demanding task, and it was advantageous for individuals to retain their mate to increase the likelihood of offspring surviving. Therefore, techniques for retaining mates have evolved in both males and females.

Despite the plethora of research investigating facial attractiveness, only one study has attempted to examine whether same-sex judgments differ from opposite-sex judgments (Zebrowitz & Rhodes, 2002). In this study, Zebrowitz and Rhodes (2002) found evidence that judgments of other-sex faces often reflect sexual/romantic attractiveness, whereas judgments of same-sex faces often reflect imagined desirability to other-sex individuals or non-sexual/non-romantic attractiveness (i.e., likeability). However, what this study failed to investigate was whether same-sex judgments of facial attractiveness serve as a tactic to identify potential threats to one’s relationship.

Therefore, it possible that it is also advantageous to be able to accurately detect potential threats to one’s relationship (i.e., highly attractiveness others of the same sex). If so, then same-sex judgments of facial attractiveness likely serve as a mate retention detection strategy in which potential threats to one’s relationship are identified. Consequently, if males and females are able to accurately identify these attractive facial features, it would allow them to selectively employ other mate retention strategies with more success and without wasting resources on those posing less threat.

Participants were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk®. Each participant viewed 20 facial images (belonging to the same sex as the participant) and provided ratings measuring attractiveness, mate quality, and threat on a judgment scale pertaining to each specific image.

About the University Honors Program