Indiana University East awarded six scholarships for the 2015 Summer Research Scholar Program. Undergraduate students receive $2,000 to conduct a research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor.
Funding for the competitive program is provided by the Indiana University Office of the Vice Provost for Research and is matched by funds from IU East. All recipients will present their research findings during the eighth annual Student Research Day in spring 2016.
Trevor Boram, Arcanum, Ohio. “The Decay of Excited State DNA: A Molecular Scale Analysis.” Mathematics and biochemistry major working with Yu Kay Law, assistant professor of chemistry.
Boram said his research allows him to combine math and biochemistry in order to run simulations allowing for ultrafast phenomena to be observed that can’t be visualized using any other technique.
“In this research project, I am trying to show how DNA that has been excited by ultraviolet light decays to its ground state through different pathways, one that happens on a timescale of under one picosecond about 69 percent of the time, and one that happens over a period of at least 150 picoseconds about 31 percent of the time,” Boram said.
Boram is using molecular dynamics software packages with different force fields to allow for an accurate simulation of the movement of the DNA molecule in water.
“We are using IU’s supercomputer, Karst, to run calculations and predict charge transfer between bases in the excited state to ground state. These calculations will tell us what conformation or three dimensional configuration the DNA molecule is in at the time of excitation based off of the amount of charge difference between the bases in ground state and excited state,” Boram said.
“If the difference is great enough, the bases of DNA were in a base stack conformation, which would allow for electrons on one base to transfer to the other, causing a larger magnitude charge difference.”
As part of his research, Boram traveled to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to study the types of molecular dynamics simulations to more efficiently run experiments, he said.
Savannah Davis, Lewisville, Ind. “The Effects of Plant Hormones on Root Growth and Gravitropism.” Biochemistry major working with Parul Khurana, assistant professor of biology.
Davis said the goal of her research project is to determine how amyloplasts, actin, and auxin, the components of root growth, all relate together with salt-induced changes.
“This project first peeked my interest on how changes in such small elements on simple situations can affect a whole life or outcome of a plant,” Davis said. “After reviewing prior research and testing results of experiments that have been documented, we will then conduct our own experiments to understand what and how salt affects root growth.”
Davis said her research experience has allowed her to expand her knowledge on how plants work in-depth, providing her with hands-on projects that have taught her how to problem solve and manage her time more efficiently.
Steven Hensley, Metamora, Ind. “Revealing Cellular Mechanisms Affected by Environmental Toxins and Novel Chemicals Using the Fruit Fly (Drosophila melanogaster) Model.” Biochemistry major working with Hitesh Kathuria, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
Through his research project, Hensley hopes to identify connections at the genetic level between Drosophila and humans. He works with Kathuria in the lab to conduct experiments and also researches online.
Hensley said he plans to attend either a graduate school or physician’s assistant school and having that research component really sets students apart from other applicants.
“In the completion of this research project, I really hope to have some real-world skills. I wanted to do experiments that I could duplicate in the real job market and make a difference. I am doing this research to gain an overall knowledge about how experiments and labs work and operate,” Hensley said.
Elizabeth Miller, Eldorado, Ohio. “Clinical Applications of Essential Oils for Skin Infections.” Biochemistry major working with Simran Banga, assistant professor of biology.
Miller said the goal of her research project is to prove that select essential oils possess strong antimicrobial activity against a variety of bacteria and fungal infections that can be used for clinical application. In the lab, Miller will test essential oils individually and then in combination against bacteria and fungi by various antibacterial assays. She said she has used lavender oil for several years on achy muscles but recently discovered the vast market for essential oils for use as a natural alternative.
“Once doing this, the antibacterial activity of essential oils on the infections will be compared to the typically prescribed antibiotic treatment by measuring the zones of inhibition. Further, we will test the most effective essenti oil, or oil combination, against pathogenic strains isolated from patients in the lab at Reid Hospital & Health Care Services,” Miller said.
Caleb Warner, Centerville, Ind. “Thoreau’s Individualism: Looking for the American Relevance of Walden Throughout the Centuries.” English major working with Steven Petersheim, assistant professor of English.
Warner said his research project is to discern the prevalence of Henry David Thoreau’s work, Walden in American Culture, and how this piece is used in today’s high school classrooms and college curricula.
“What interested me about this project was the dualism between the piece’s prevalence and the ideas in it that seemingly goes against the core beliefs of the ‘American’ identity as it stands today. I find this contrast interesting because the work is still taught as a way of forming an American identity of literature,” Warner said.
As part of his project, Warner will travel to Concord, Mass., and Walden Pond to conduct research. He will review Thoreau’s papers and talk with locals and tourists about Thoreau and his work in the Concord area.
“The biggest thing I want to get out of this summer project is some more hands on experience with research itself. Whatever conclusions I reach through the research are secondary, though still important, to learning how to properly research, absorb all the information, process it, and respond to it, sending it out into the world to help inform others,” Warner said.
Ryan Wysong, Williamsburg, Ind. “Rebuilding What I Destroyed: A Personal Look at The Warrior Culture and The PTSD Epidemic.” English major working with Jean Harper, associate professor of English.
Wysong said the goal of his research project is to find out what the mental health care process is for returning soldiers, in relation to evaluation for symptoms of PTSD. An Army veteran, Wysong said he returned home from Iraq in 2005 and found the evaluation of returning soldiers needing more, including following up months after and a need for more open discussion on the issue from supervisors and fellow soldiers. He said he began showing symptoms of PTSD two months after he returned and feels that the suicide rate could improve with enhanced evaluations.
“Right now the statistic is 22 veterans a day are committing suicide. I think this is directly related to how the Army treats soldiers who have PTSD,” Wysong said. “The overall goal of my project is to discover the actual process the Army is using today in order to allow those in the civilian world that are treating veterans with some insight, and hopefully assist them in the planning of care for veterans. I think knowing the process, which is shrouded from the public eye, would assist in continuity of care, and also would help counselors understand where these veterans are coming from.”
Wysong said he is using a journalistic approach to his research project. Wysong was stationed at Fort Stewart Georgia and deployed to Iraq from there.
After completing his research, Wysong would like to share the data and information with various national and community organizations that assist veterans in the hope that his work will assist with the treatment of those returning with PTSD, Wysong said.