Grad

2019 Three Minute Thesis Schedule

The presentation schedule for the Three Minute Thesis competition at the 2019 Graduate Student Expo.

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 12:15 p.m. in the Tangeman University Center Great Hall (465).

Advisor: Rina Williams, PhD

Political Motherhood

This 3MT will describe my dissertation, “Nurturing Democracy through Political Motherhood in Armed Conflict,” which examines who is remembered in peace activism in armed conflicts through a comparative case study of two women's groups that deployed political motherhood, or women's maternal activism, to challenge authoritarian and/or oppressive states.

Advisor: Gordon Gillespie, PhD, DNP, RN

Greening Neighborhoods to Eliminate Health Disparities

What is a healthy neighborhood? Do we know one when we see one? One factor for healthy neighborhoods may not come first to your mind, but it may be right outside your window. Find out how greenness contributes to healthy environments and may play a part in eliminating health disparities for urban residents.

Advisor: C. Jeffrey Jacobson, PhD

Understanding Social Trauma and Social Suffering as a Sociopolitical Event: The Experience of Nicaraguan Political Refugees in Costa Rica

This work is an attempt to understand the situation of social trauma and social suffering lived by Nicaraguan students that fled to Costa Rica due to political persecution during the context of political violence and repression that is being lived in Nicaragua. To do this, I will reside for approximately 6 weeks (June and July 2019) in San José, Costa Rica where I will participate in the meetings and actions of the UCR’s Solidarity Group for Nicaragua (Grupo de Solidaridad con Nicaragua de la Universidad de Costa Rica), a mix of a support group for refugees and a group that develops actions to help Nicaragua, and I will collect data using participant observation, focus groups and interviews. As a theoretical framework, I will use liberation psychology, a social psychology approach, and I will address trauma as a sociopolitical event, an emotional experience, and a type of situation that breaks bodies and minds. I will locate this particular experience in a frame of structural injustice, political violence, and civil and political rights violations. My goal is that this research's findings will contribute to make people aware of what is happening in Nicaragua and about the effects of political violence and repression.

Advisor: Mark DiFrancesco, PhD

Neuronal Activation in Working Memory Induced by Chronic Sleep Restriction in Adolescents

The overall objectives of this research study is to investigate the brain networks in adolescents associated with performance of a working memory task.

Advisor: Jeffery Molkentin, PhD

Recapitulating In Vivo Cardiac Fibroblast Behavior Using a Novel Hydrogel Cell Culture System

Acute activation of cardiac fibroblasts (CFs) resulting from heart failure characterized by cardiomyocyte loss is essential to maintaining proper cardiac structure and function. Chronic fibroblast activation, however, causes excessive fibrotic response leading to fibrosis and organ failure. These cells activate following mechanical (increasing stiffness) or chemical (eg., TGF-β) cues. This causes the fibroblasts to deposit extracellular matrix proteins, which initially stabilize the ventricular wall but eventually cause fibrosis. In vivo studies to understand this process have provided minimal understanding of how cardiac fibroblasts contribute to fibrosis and decreased cardiac function. In vitro studies have a greater potential to provide more insight into how these cells work, but the vast majority of these studies are carried out on polystyrene dishes. Because CFs can be mechanically activated and polystyrene is 106 times stiffer than the native cardiac environment of CFs, these studies have been found to inaccurately portray the true characteristics of fibroblasts. Therefore, we have developed a novel gelatin-based hydrogel system wherein soft hydrogels mimic healthy heart tissue and stiff hydrogels mimic injured heart tissue. In this system, hydrogel stiffness can not only be initially fine-tuned, but due to its chemical properties, can be altered after fibroblasts are plated. This allows us to study cardiac fibroblasts in an environment similar to the dynamic setting of the heart. Thus far, we have characterized the morphologies, temporal activation and differentiation, stress fiber and focal adhesion formation, and partial gene profiles of CFs plated on these hydrogels of static stiffness. We have also begun to characterize fibroblasts on hydrogels of dynamic stiffness. We have observed that upon reversing the stiffness of hydrogels, fibroblasts revert to a less differentiated state. Collectively, these data will be used to classify fibroblasts into specific stages of activation and differentiation, as well as to generate a reliable in vitro model system to study fibroblast dynamics that more closely reflects their properties in vivo. Additionally, these studies have promising potential to understanding and regulating the CF response to injury.

Advisor: Mauricio Espinoza, PhD

Central American Poets in Motion

This thesis explores the works of five Central American poets of the XXI century diaspora whose works center on social aspects of transnational experience. Given that all five poets are activists themselves, this thesis asks what are the differences and similarities stylistically and thematically of their work with that of socially compromised poetic groups formed in three Central American countries in the early XX century.

Advisor: Robert Wyer, PhD

Uncertainty within Self: The Impact of Subjective Uncertainty in Marketing

We've all experienced uncertainty, whether it is from taking an exam or from where the world is at currently. This research identifies behavioral consequences of attributing uncertainties to intrinsic or extrinsic sources.

Advisor: Boyang Wang, PhD

Malware Defense with Machine-Learning Methods

I am using machine-learning methods to identify and defend malware on Android platform.

Advisor: Eleni Hatzaki, PhD

A Motif is Worth a Thousand Words: The Social Function of Minoan Textile and Pottery Decoration

Motifs are everywhere around us. They can be powerful symbols that represent and communicate meaningful messages, as long as the viewers of the motifs are cognizant of the symbolic language. Past societies used motifs extensively in their material culture in order to convey messages of social and/or religious status, hierarchy, and power. The study of elite textile motifs of the prehistoric Aegean, specifically of Minoan Crete, reveals similar social functions. Elites, by exclusively using certain textile motifs, made strong social statements of exclusive participation in elite activities. When comparing contemporary pottery decoration to the textile motifs, parts of the political and social history of the prehistoric Aegean are revealed. The use of textile motifs as pottery decoration changed over time as a result of the rule of different elites on the island of Crete. This thesis discusses the social function of Minoan textile motifs, as revealed through their exclusion from or inclusion in contemporary pottery decoration. The same motifs are used for different purposes at different times, and their meaning changes from elite-exclusive motifs to symbols of expression of popular identity.

Advisor: Daria Narmoneva, PhD

Effects of Electrotherapy on Diabetic Wound Healing

Diabetes is a major metabolic disorder affecting nearly 30.3 million people in the U.S. alone, with an annual expenditure of more than $25 billion for treatment. Chronic non-healing diabetic ulcers represent one of the key complications, responsible for 60% of traumatic lower limb amputations. Existing treatment options for diabetic wounds are often ineffective, invasive, and expensive.

Recent studies by our group have discovered a novel wireless modality of high frequency electric field (EF) that enhances diabetic wound healing by improving vascularization (blood supply) and reducing inflammation as compared to normal wounds. Ultimately, this novel non-contact, non-invasive therapy will result in reduced hospital stay and nursing time and have a significant impact on wound care costs.

Advisor: Surya Prasath, PhD

Can Computers See?

With an ever-increasing patient burden on the healthcare system, the radiologists are running against time to accurately interpret results from biomedical images. My work steps in to reduce this workload on the radiologists. I develop workflows using machine learning and deep learning to process these biomedical images such that the computer can identify the organ image and a few key organ parts, as well as identify abnormal structures and classify them.

Advisor: Michael Alexander-Ramos, PhD

A Decomposition-based Multidisciplinary Dynamic System Design Optimization Algorithm for Large-Scale Dynamic System Co-Design

Design of dynamic systems incorporating physical and control parts should be performed in an integrated way to yield system-level optimal solutions. Conventionally, these systems are designed in a sequential way that usually fails to produce system-level optimal solutions; however, combined design and control (co-design) methods are able to find the superior optimal solutions by considering the interactions among the plant and control parts. Small-scale to moderate-scale dynamic systems can be effectively addressed by contemporary co-design methods: simultaneous and nested, nonetheless, these methods might be impractical or even impossible to apply to large-scale systems which may hinder us from obtaining the system-level optimal solutions. To address this issue, this work combines a decomposition-based optimization algorithm with a current co-design method to optimize such systems. Specifically, the proposed formulation combines a decomposition-based optimization strategy known as Analytical Target Cascading (ATC) with a current co-design method known as Multidisciplinary Dynamic System Design Optimization (MDSDO) for co-design of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) powertrain, a practical representative of a large-scale dynamic system. Moreover, since most of dynamic systems incorporate time-dependent linking variables among their subsystems, a new consistency measure has also been introduced to manage such quantities. To validate the accuracy of the new formulation, PHEV powertrain co-design has been done with both ATC and the simultaneous formulation to compare the optimal solutions. Results reveal that the proposed formulation for co-design of large-scale dynamic systems is able to capture the system-level optimal solution as well as its contemporary counterpart.

Advisor: Tom Thompson, PhD

Understanding Anti-Mullerian Hormone

AMH is a protein of the TGFß superfamily with unique characteristics. Recently, AMH has been shown to be involved in the development of polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is the number one cause of infertility in women of reproductive age worldwide. By understanding AMH, we may have a target for therapies for treatment of PCOS.

Advisor: Tom Cunningham, PhD

The Role of PRPS1 Upstream Open Reading Frame in Translational Regulation

Nucleotide biosynthesis is an important process to generate cellular DNA, RNA, protein, and energy. Cancer cells tend to upregulate this process to promote relentless cell growth. PRPS1 (phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate synthetase 1) is a critical enzyme required within this process, and I have found a novel mechanism to regulate its expression via an upstream open reading frame (uORF). Regulating PRPS1 via its uORF will be critical in targeting cancer's dependence on nucleotides to pave way for a precision-based anti-cancer therapy.

Advisor: Shabban Abdallah, PhD

Health Monitoring of Hyperloop Systems

The objective of my thesis is to develop a health monitoring system for Hyperloop UC that can be used to schedule maintenance of the POD.

Advisor: Eva Lutz, MDes

Furniture in the Science-Fiction Film: A Case Study on Understanding the Audience Cognitive Mechanism

Any object that exists objectively in the physical world contains information. The information may be about the object itself or its environment. Human's mental action or process of acquiring this information is the cognition of things. To understand the cognitive mechanism of the audience is extremely important for design activities. A new integrated method is proposed in this thesis to study the audience cognitive mechanism of objects at the visual level. Then the case studies in which one object from science-fiction films is tested using the method are illustrated. Based on the results, the principle, application, and value of the method are discussed.

Advisor: Mark Eckman, MD

Racial Disparities in Hemodialysis Patient Utilities

Health disparities exist between African Americans and Caucasians. These disparities are apparent in kidney diseases where African Americans are four times as likely to be hospitalized compared to their Caucasian counterparts. We want to investigate these disparities for dialysis patients’ preferences and values for various health conditions to improve shared decision making for patients.

Advisor: David Hui, PhD

LRP1 Dileucine Mutation Impairs Lipoprotein Clearance and Exacerbates High-Fat Diet Induced Obesity

Impaired clearance of VLDL and IDL by liver lipoprotein receptor LRP1 is associated with central obesity and insulin resistance. LRP1 uses motifs such as LL that signal for lipoprotein uptake and receptor recycling. Our study tested the hypothesis that mutation of LRP1 from LL to AA can alter development of metabolic disease and obesity in mice fed a high-fat diet. The data show that mice with the LL to AA mutation have more IDL and LDL in the blood, as well as a larger percentage of body fat compared to wild-type controls. We conclude that mutation of the LL motif of LRP1 may increase adiposity on a high-fat diet through impaired liver clearance of lipoprotein remnants, leading to increased triglyceride uptake into the adipose.

Advisor: Greg Harris, PhD

Engineering a Micropatterned Surface for the Organization of a Cell-Derived ECM for Applications in Dermal Wound Healing

The skin is the largest, most exposed organ in the human body, yet it lacks sufficient therapies for reduced scarring in severe injuries. Therefore, the overall objective of this project is to engineer a micropatterned, biocompatible surface that will guide the organization of a cell-derived extracellular matrix (ECM) surface to aid in dermal wound healing and reduce scarring. A cell-derived bioactive surface holds high potential in wound repair applications by promoting regrowth of skin tissue in severe, large surface area dermal wounds while also minimizing the risk of immune rejection and infection. The ECM is an imperative component to each unique tissue in the body, operating as a bioactive scaffold that organizes and aligns cells based on each tissue’s function and characteristics. While the importance and function of the ECM is well discussed in published literature, the effect of substrate topography on the organization of a cell-derived ECM as a potential bioactive surface for guiding alignment and migration of cells has not been well studied. The engineered substrate and guided assembly of a cell-derived ECM holds potential to lead to highly controlled organization and migration of cells for ultimate use in tissue regeneration and healing of skin.

Advisor: Patrick Tso, PhD

The Role of Apolipoprotein A-V in Chylomicron Metabolism

Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity remain major clinical problems worldwide, and elevated plasma triglyceride (TG) levels constitute an independent risk factor for these chronic disorders. Most humans consume many meals that contain high amounts of TGs. After consumption of these meals, digestion occurs in the small intestines, where the TG is packaged into chylomicrons. Chylomicrons transport the TG from the small intestines throughout the circulation to other tissues and organs in the body to be used as an energy source or stored as fat. It is important that TG is removed from the circulation quickly or many diseases can develop. Discovered in 2001, apolipoprotein A-V (apoA-V) is a protein synthesized and secreted exclusively by the liver and its levels are inversely proportional to plasma TG levels. We hypothesize that apoA-V increases the rate of chylomicron removal from the circulation and that the presence of apoA-V on the chylomicron is important for its removal.

Advisor: George Sorial, PhD

Degradation of Ternary Mixture of Trihalomethanes in a Biotrickling Filter in the Presence of Biosurfactant and Fungi

Trihalomethanes (THMs) constitute of chloroform (CF), bromodichloromethane (BDCM), dibromochloromethane (DBCM) and bromoform (BF). These are formed when the hydrogen atoms in methane are replaced with halogen ions like chloride and/or bromide. Humans are exposed to THMs via ingestion, cooking, bathing, swimming, and various other lifestyle factors. According to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, the USEPA has established a maximum contaminant level (MCL) 4 for THMs. THMs concentration observed in groundwater is between 1 to 10 ppb and in surface water between 30-150 ppb. The exposure to THMs should be minimized due to their severe health and environmental impacts. In this study, the degradation characteristics of a ternary mixture of CF, BDCM, and DBCM is observed in a state of the art biotrickling filter in the presence of biosurfactant and fungi.

Advisor: Sandra Combs, PhD

A Comparison of African American English in Story Retell using Bidialectal Stories

The thesis I will be presenting is a pilot research study that compares the use African American English use and narrative features through the retell of stories read in the home and school dialect. The data in the study is currently being collected.

Advisor: Ryan Rahinel, PhD

Do We Need All the Answers? Defining Anticipation and the Mediation of Curiosity for Positive Experiences

What is Anticipation? Anticipation, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the act of looking forward, especially [in] pleasurable expectation”. Anticipation is not looking at the expected affect, but rather at the behavioral readiness and desire for an event to occur. My research begs the question: do we need all the answers? I hypothesize that we don’t and in fact, higher levels of anticipation can be achieved via the intentional deprivation of some information, but only when coupled with the specific divulgence of when their curiosity will be resolved. This increased anticipation, via the teasing effect, will increase positive feelings and overall experiences upon the resolution of their curiosity.

Advisor: Je-Hyeong Bahk, PhD

Wearable Thermoelectrics: Powering Smart Devices through Human Body Heat

As smart wearable devices gain popularity, their need for energy autonomy becomes crucial. Human body heat, an excellent energy source, is most easily available for wearable devices. Thermoelectric energy harvesters/generators (TEGs), which convert heat to electrical energy, are therefore very interesting for realization of such energy autonomous devices. State-of-the-art wearable TEGs are based on a longitudinal pi structure, which is complex, both in terms of electrical connections and manufacturing limiting their use for wearable applications. This work is a novel approach to human body-heat energy harvesting by the design of a transverse structure thermoelectric device using flexible TE material. The inherently low complexity of the device leads to a lower cost of manufacturing and mechanical flexibility, and the planar design allows it to be suitable for wearable applications. This work can spark an interest in further research and development of transverse structure TEGs for human body heat harvesting.

Advisor: Karla Washington, PhD

Discriminant Accuracy of the Intelligibility in Context Scale for Bilingual Preschoolers

There is a need for bilingual speech diagnostic tools as the bilingual population continues to grow. The purpose of my project is to establish the discriminant accuracy of the Intelligibility in Context Scale and Intelligibility in Context Scale-Jamaican Creole screening tools. We will look at data from a sample of Jamaican Creole and Standard English 4- and 5-years old bilingual preschoolers with speech disorders.

Advisor: Amy Hobek, PhD, CCC-SLP

Digital Dual Language Books for English Language Learners

This project is analyzing verbal and nonverbal engagement of preschool English language learners (ELL). Using digital dual language books, children have the opportunity to work with their monolingual teachers by hearing a book in both their home language and their school language. The project takes place in Cincinnati Head Start facilities with 20 Hispanic ELL children.

Advisor: Binny Samuel, PhD

Voting on Blockchain

In today’s world, electronic voting is not trusted as it can be hampered by a hacker. To maintain the trust, the voting and the election should be transparent. Hence, I have been researching on a technology called blockchain, through which a secured and trusted voting can be conducted with complete transparency.

Advisor: Dennis Grogan, PhD

Understanding DNA Repair Pathways in Hyperthermophilic Microorganism Sulfolobus acidocaldarius

DNA, the blueprint of life for majority of lifeforms on earth, is constantly under attack by innumerable internal as well as external agents such as ultraviolet radiation, oxidative radicals, etc. Sulfolobus acidocaldarius grows optimally at environmentally extreme conditions of 80° C and pH-3, which are otherwise lethal to a majority of lifeforms. Since it inhabits extreme conditions, it was predicted it might be experiencing a higher degree of DNA damage when compared to organisms growing at significantly lower temperatures. However, a detailed study concluded that, Sulfolobus acidocaldarius (grows at 80° C) is as efficient as Escherichia coli (grows at 37° C) in maintaining its genomic integrity, intriguing scientists in understanding DNA repair in S. acidocaldarius. This study will concentrate on determining the potential functional genes involved in protecting S. acidocaldarius particularly from the damaging effects of oxidative stress.

Advisor: Douglas Mast, PhD

Tongue Tells: Speech Therapy with Simpler Ultrasound Feedback

Children with residual speech sound disorders cannot pronounce all the sounds in their language beyond the typical years of speech acquisition, potentially affecting social and academic achievement. Ultrasound imaging provides real-time feedback on tongue motion, but interpreting these complex images at the quick speed of speech can be difficult. Additionally, multiple tongue shapes can produce correct pronunciations for one of the hardest sounds: /r/. Our system will offer simpler real-time feedback by tracking the tongue during ultrasound imaging, quantifying the movement of the three different parts of the tongue, and measuring progress towards targets signifying correct /r/ production, potentially improving speech therapy outcomes.

Advisor: Craig Vogel, MID

Culture and Design Elements Research Based on Chinese Dinnerware Innovation: Cultural DNA Analysis in "Yongle Period"

This thesis project examines how to interpret the underlying meaning of Chinese traditions in “Yongle period” and transfer the decoded cultural elements into contemporary product designs. This is a theoretical thesis project supported by Chinese dinnerware innovation. Design discussions were proposed to create a cultural DNA bank for Chinese traditions, which can improve design services for national cultural products.

Advisor: Steven Doehler, MA

How Can We Promote Sustainable Tourism Behaviors Change through Persuasive Design?

To respond to the negative impacts on the environment for tourist destinations, sustainable tourism has been claimed as the shift in developing the tourism industry. It was observed that the adverse impacts come from tourists' uninformed and delinquent behaviors, and managing tourists’ behavior has been confirmed as a strategy to minimize the impacts. This thesis focuses on promoting sustainable behaviors for tourism based on the understanding of tourists' behaviors and attitudes.