IU East 2019 Summer Research Scholars

Indiana University East awarded eight scholarships for the 2019 Summer Research Scholars Program. Graduate and 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 ninth annual Student Research Day in spring 2019.

Kenneth Cox, Connersville, Indiana. “Observing the Effects of the Organophosphate, Dicrotophos, on Gene Expression in Drosophila melanogaster.” Biochemistry major working with Hitesh Kathuria, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Cox’s project exposes fruit flies to various insecticides then performing experiments to analyze the changes made in the flies genome. From this, he is able to extrapolate how these insecticides as affected individuals such as farmers that are in contact with them.

“The project has been great in that it has allowed me to learn and practice many standard laboratory techniques,” Cox said. “These techniques will allow me to be better prepared for any type of research I will encounter in medical school. Furthermore, the research has allowed me to gain a great appreciation for the Fruit Fly insect and has allowed me to recognize its importance to our ecosystem.”

Calev Baruch Isaacson, Phoenix, Arizona. “Quantum Analysis of Gravity: Research on the Graviton.” Mathematics major working with Yu Kay Law, associate professor of chemistry.

The purpose of Isaacson’s research project is to explore the quantum nature of gravity. Gravity is a fundamental force with which individuals interact every day, and this force has been studied in detail for hundreds of years. Yet, the quantum, microscopic nature of gravity remains shrouded in mystery. He explored the theoretical quantum particle of gravity; the graviton.

Isaacson said to date, the existence of the graviton is yet to be verified. It is thus a major quest within theoretical physics to seek evidence for this remarkable particle. “To begin my own investigation, I conducted extensive background research on this particle. I then focused my research to study two major theories within this field,” he said. He explored a theory of quantized gravity in five dimensions (modified Kaluza-Klein theory) and he demonstrated that this theory possesses intrinsic connection and unity with a cosmological model in five dimensions (Space-Time-Matter theory). His research stressed that physically observable phenomena (namely Dark Energy) from the cosmological model should interact with quantized gravity, Isaacson said. “This result presents novel graviton interactions that could lead to verifiable predictions. Ideally, these research results will contribute to the much-needed proof of Quantum Gravity, the theory that is known today as the holy grail of theoretical physics,” Isaacson said.

Isaacson is continuing his research project this fall through in independent study course. He plans to attend the Mid-East Honors Association (MEHA) annual conference in 2020 to present results from his research.

“Working with SUMRS has been an extremely rewarding experience for me,” Isaacson said. “I am honored to be given this opportunity to study a fascinating field, ask serious questions, and help advance knowledge. As an aspiring researcher, I have been inspired through this SUMRS program and motivated by the guidance of my amazing project mentor. I believe that this SUMRS experience has truly helped to fuel my passion for learning. I would like to thank IU East for making such programs available.”

Tara Hodson, Chesterton, Indiana. “Successful Communication Strategies for the Hard of Hearing in the Workplace.” Communication major working with Andrea Quenette, assistant professor of communication studies.

Hodson’s project researches advice and strategies proposed to increase workplace inclusion for the Hard-of-hearing/ Deaf (HoH/D) employee traditionally endorse Accommodation Theory, (Communication Accommodation Theory, 2019) where the employee adjusts to their employer’s and co-worker’s communication needs (convergence) rather than expecting the employer to initiate accommodation services. A sharing of responsibility for workplace accommodation may more fully implement inclusion of HoH/D employees. Barriers towards this goal of shared responsibility remain, but there are many recent technological and ideological developments that could make this approach more practical. This exploratory research project seeks to examine the state of employer-initiated workplace accommodations for the HoH/D employee, with the expectation that progress has been made towards this goal during the past 29 years the ADA has been law.

Hodson said she wanted to do her research study as a result of her own experiences being hard of hearing in the workplace.

Savannah Lynch, Somerville, Ohio. “Phototropism and Chloroplast Relocation in Arabidopsis thaliana in the Presence of Latrunculin B.” Biology major working with Parul Khurana, associate professor of biology.

Lynch said the experiment was done on Arabidopsis thaliana to examine the effects of Latrunculin B (Lat B) on phototropism and chloroplast arrangement. Each plant was exposed to different directional light sources and was grown in agar that contained different concentrations of Lat B, which breaks down actin. This was done to see how the breakdown of actin effects the ability of the plant to respond to phototropism. 3D images of the hypocotyl and cotyledon were obtained by confocal microscopy to examine chloroplast arrangement.

“This was an amazing opportunity from IU East for me to complete my research and use such advanced technology,” Lynch said. “The confocal microscope that we have available on campus is amazing and I would like to thank everyone for helping me and making this opportunity possible.”

William O’Farrow Jr., Connersville, Indiana. “Observing fluorescent actin cytoskeleton in Arabidopsis thaliana roots grown in the presence of Cytochalasin using confocal microscopy.” Biochemistry major is also working with Khurana.

O’Farrow’s goal through his research project is to observe the distribution of actin cytoskeleton relative to amyloplasts in plant roots using confocal microscopy, and to examine the effects of actin depolymerization on plant growth and gravitropic response.

“I have been able to gain research skills throughout my time working on this experiment. I was able to standardize protocols for developing a PME Buffer that would be used to preserve the plants structural integrity as I sectioned it and another protocol to use wax as well,” O’Farrow said. “The most challenging portion of research is formulating an experiment. Once I was able to establish goals it becomes slightly easier transition in attempting to answer this question posed.”

While still attempting to track down a microtome in order to properly section his plants, he hopes to perfect a protocol for labelling the actin filaments fluorescently, using ALEXA Phalloidin 488.

“After this I want to be able to take clear informational micrographs on the confocal focusing on actin filaments with and without the presence of depolymerizing drugs Cytochalasin D and Latrunculin B.”

Wade Shipley, Richmond, Indiana. “Examining Amyloplast Activity and Frequency in Arabidopsis thaliana roots in the Presence of Cytochalasin D and Latrunculin B.” Biology major also working with Khurana.

Shipley’s project analyzes and compares the effects of different actin depolymerizing drugs, Cytochalasin D and Latrunculin B on amyloplasts in the root tips of Arabidopsis thaliana, using light microscopy.

“This research opportunity definitely helped me expand on my hands on research experience which will ultimately help me better myself in graduate school and my future career,” Shipley said.

He plans to continue his research this fall.

Abigail Weber, Connersville, Indiana. “Using Interrater Reliability to Control Biased-based Decision Making in Criminal Justice Organizations.” Criminal justice major working with Mengie Parker, professor of criminal justice.

Weber completed a research paper with Parker on the topic of using inter-rater reliability to reduce bias-based decision-making in criminal justice organizations. She said she learned not only about implicit bias, inter-rater reliability, and organizational humanism, but also how to apply the research and data analysis techniques she learned in a classroom to a real-life project.

Weber and Parker plan to submit the research paper to a journal for potential publication.

Rebekah Williams, Fountain City, Indiana. “Developing a Multisensory Approach to Teaching Sentence Structure to English Language Learners.” Elementary education major working with Josh Tolbert, assistant professor of special education.

Williams said the purpose of this study is to explore methods of teaching sentence structure and grammar to English language learner (ELL) students through standardized open-ended interviews.

Seven participants were interviewed in this study including one high school Spanish teacher, one ELL specialist, two general education elementary classroom teachers and three college students who taught abroad in Spain and Japan. The interviews revealed that participants across roles/contexts did not directly teach sentence structure, along with the finding that multi-sensory methods were being used but in very specific ways (vocabulary) or not to directly teach sentence structure. Using the findings from this research, example lesson plans were developed and included in this project. These plans were intended for use in a general education classroom with immersion of ELL students. Further research could include developing instructional units on various grammar skills, investigating lack of research on specific grammar skills or expand research on sentence structure to include more language skills, for example, vocabulary.

Williams said she found the project challenged her mentally and academically. She discussed the project with Tolbert, adding the project became a metaphorical wall that she knocked down and conquered as she gained confidence as a researcher.

“I never thought that research would be so challenging yet intellectually stimulating,” Williams said. “Now, I often think about how amazing professors are. They teach several classes, grade hundreds of papers, are involved on campus and in all of that time that is still left, publish and develop research. That is incredible! This project helped me narrow my focus for what I would like to study in graduate school. I also have gained some self-confidence through this process and believe that I am capable of so much more. This research project has changed my self-image and has opened up so many opportunities for the future.”

Williams plans to submit her research for potential publication in a journal and to present it at a local teacher conference.