7th Annual oSTEM Conference - Bios & Posters


Mel Abler

Mel Abler

Mel Abler is a fourth year PhD student at Columbia University focusing on experimental studies of turbulence and nonlinear wave coupling in dipole plasmas, particularly as these studies relate to planetary magnetospheres and ionospheres. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2014 with degrees in Engineering Physics, Astronomy-Physics, and Applied Mathematics. Both inside and outside the lab, Mel advocates for increased diversity and inclusion in physics. She co-founded student chapters of oSTEM (out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at both Wisconsin and Columbia, and recently brought the You Are Welcome Here campaign to Columbia’s Morningside campus. In her “free time,” she coaches and competes with Row New York, and organization focused on bringing the sport of rowing to everyone regardless of income or disability status.

Olivia V. Ambrogio

Olivia V. Ambrogio

Olivia V. Ambrogio is a biologist by training who got her Ph.D. studying the sex lives of sex-changing marine snails. In spite of the allure of this research, she eventually shifted into the field of science communication and now manages the Sharing Science program at the American Geophysical Union (AGU), which provides scientists with resources, skills, inspiration, and opportunities to communicate their science with broader audiences, including policy makers as well as members of the media and public.

Courtney Amster

Courtney Amster

Courtney graduated from The College of New Jersey with a degree in Chemistry and is now a second-year graduate student at Florida International University pursuing a Ph.D. in Forensic Chemistry. She has begun a new project on developing a way to detect THC in human breath under her advisor, Dr. Jose Almirall. During her undergraduate career, Courtney was a Peer Educator with Anti-Violence Initiatives, leading programs and educating her peers about power-based personal violence and bystander intervention. In her free time, Courtney enjoys kickboxing, riding her longboard at the beach, and binge watching way too much anime.

Brandon D. Anderson

Brandon D. Anderson

Brandon Anderson is the Founder of Raheem AI, the world's first police accountability platform funded by President Obama’s White House initiative, My Brother’s Keeper. His record of social justice activism begins with his involvement in appealing discharges under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He is motivated by a desire to improve the quality of life for black & brown families and other victims of systemic discrimination. It was during his service in the U.S. Army as a satellite engineer that he began using technology as a problem-solving tool. Following the loss of his partner to police violence and realizing his own risk of victimization as a black queer man, Brandon recognized an opportunity to integrate his skills with his commitment to the pursuit of justice. Anderson holds an A.B. degree in Sociology from Georgetown University, is a Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award Nominee, and was named one of 100 Black LGBTQ Leaders to Watch by the National Black Justice Coalition.

Mary Balise

Mary Balise

Mary Balise (she/her/hers pronouns) is a senior at the University of Miami (UM) studying Psychology and Studio Art, who hopes to find a job in Higher Education Student Affairs post-graduation. She is a founding member of UM’s oSTEM chapter and has also served as the President of SpectrUM, the largest and oldest LGBTQ+ organization at UM, for two years. Throughout her time at the University, she has had the opportunity to be a member of the Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and was recruited as the only undergraduate member of the Culture of Belonging Action Team, an initiative created and championed by the University’s President to improve the institutional culture of UM. Mary has also enjoyed working with other students to successfully advocate for the creation of UM’s inaugural LGBTQ+ Student Resource Center, providing feedback on UM’s first ever gender neutral housing project, and various other LGBTQ+ projects.

Michael Bancroft

Michael Bancroft

My name is Michael K Bancroft Jr. I am a Native American from the pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh, a returning sophomore at New Mexico Tech In Socorro, and recent graduate of the Santa Fe Indian School.I contribute to many service activities within my tribe and a lot of my time to community service activities. I participate in tribal events such as dances, community gathering, and the practice of our language to help preserve and keep it alive. At my school I even tutor my younger peers in mathematics to them develop their abilities because I am strong believer in Native American students being taught by Native American teachers.In my Native American community I see children and adults who struggle in math just like I did as a child. Seeing this makes me want to try to help them to because from my own personal experience I know anyone can be good at math as long as they have control over the basics and freedom to express themselves. I also want to be the person in my community that anyone can come to for help when it comes to solving a problem of any kind.

Ray Banks

Ray Banks

Ray is a Senior Originator for Global Oil Americas, Integrated Supply and Trading. Ray joined Amoco Production Company in 1986 as a Geologist in Houston, Texas, working on oil and gas prospects, regional studies, and well-site operations. In 1990 he joined the Corporate Environment, Health, and Safety group in Chicago where he developed and negotiated environmental risk mitigation strategies for group acquisitions and divestments, and represented Amoco on the National Petroleum Council’s Natural Gas Study in Washington, D.C. In 1993 he joined Amoco Pipelines as Environment, Health and Safety Coordinator for the Rocky Mountain and West Texas Districts. In 1995 he joined Supply and Trading as a Crude Pipeline Scheduler in Denver. Subsequently, he held the Supply and Trading positions of Crude Lease Negotiator, Crude Oil Trader, and Manager of Upstream Supply for Alaska and Latin America. In 2004, he became the Derivatives Trading Manager followed in 2006 by the Head of Financial Products for Finance and Energy Risk Management in London. In 2008, he became the Head of U.S. Marketing and Origination in Chicago. He represents BP’s interests in GravCap Inc., serving as a Vice President and Director. He is a member of the Business Advisory Council for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Northern Illinois University, the Treasurer of the Ashland Manor Condominium Association, and President of the Springbrook Homeowner’s Association.

Christopher J. Bannochie

Christopher J. Bannochie

Chris Bannochie is currently a Senior Fellow at the Savannah River National Laboratory. He received a B.A. degree in Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics from St. John’s University and a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Texas A&M University under the Distinguished Professor Arthur E. Martell. He was a post-doctoral fellow under Professor Michael J. Welch at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In 1991, he joined the Savannah River National Laboratory. From 1998 – 2001, he was a Visiting Scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His research area involves process development and analytical characterization, particularly the speciation of mercury in high- and low-level nuclear waste streams, in support of vitrification and cementitious stabilization.
Dr. Bannochie is a fellow of the American Chemical Society (2009) and an inductee of Sigma Xi and Phi Lambda Upsilon. and has won numerous awards including the ACS Division of Professional Relations Louis J. Sacco Award (2014), the ACS E. Ann Nalley Southeastern Regional Award for Volunteer Service (2012), the NOGSLTP Walt Westman Award (2007), the ACS Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Promoting Diversity in the Chemical Sciences (2005), and a George Westinghouse Signature Award (1992).
Dr. Bannochie has served on several boards including those for Leadership Augusta, the Morris Museum of Art, the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, Augusta Pride, the NSF Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (OXIDE), and Georgia Equality.

Tamara (Tami) Bowman, Ph.D.

Tamara (Tami) Bowman, Ph.D.

Biotech Regulatory Affairs Cross Crop Strategy Manager
Monsanto Company| Global Regulatory and Government Affairs
tamara.a.bowman@monsanto.com
I am a skeptic. As a mother I want to ensure that my family has access to safe, healthy food. As a scientist, I am concerned that as our population grows and our natural resources do not, food scarcity may impact my family. As a Regulatory Affairs Strategy Manager for Monsanto, I am helping to mitigate these concerns by ensuring regulatory agencies have the information needed to assess the safety of US-developed biotech food and feed product for use in global markets. Through use of technology, we are developing novel products that reduce our impact on the environment by optimizing our use of natural resources and eliminating or reducing use of chemicals, while yielding a profitable harvest. By providing a science-based risk assessment, we demonstrate the safety of our products for human and animal consumption, and on the environment. My educational training includes a BS in Chemistry from Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, MO. I have a doctorate in Pharmacological and Physiological Science from Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. My postdoctoral training was with the Center for Pharmacogenomics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. I have worked across science industries: life science product research and development, coating technology development, pharmaceutical manufacturing, agricultural technology development. I have worked as a bench scientist, IT solutions analyst and product specialist, and regulatory affairs manager.

Ian Bradley-Perrin

Ian Bradley-Perrin

Ian Bradley-Perrin is currently pursuing a PhD at Columbia University in Sociomedical Sciences and History. He holds an MA in History from Concordia University in which he explored the intersection of class and social activism in the context of ACT UP New York. Ian has worked as a community organizer in Montreal for the past seven years, co-founding four organizations dealing with social justice and HIV/AIDS health disparities through direct action, frontline service, and public education. Ian has also worked in critical curation of public history works on HIV/AIDS through a Fellowship at the Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence. Most recently Ian has worked in policy analysis in his role as the Pedro Zamora Fellow at AIDS United in Washington, D.C. For his community engagement Ian was recognized in the POZ 100 list of people under 30 working to end HIV/AIDS and My Fabulous Disease’s 16 HIV Advocates to Watch in 2016.

Sam Brinton

Sam Brinton

Sam Brinton received graduate degrees in technology policy and nuclear science and engineering from MIT. They are the son of Southern Baptist missionaries and a survivor of a traumatic and torturous conversion therapy experience. Sam was a prominent activist in the BornPerfect Campaign to end conversion therapy and founded 50 Bills 50 States, a non-profit campaigning to ban licensed professionals from practicing conversion therapy on LGBT youth. Sam has been featured in TIME magazine, the New York Daily News, Salon, VICE, PBS NewsHour, CNN, and MSNBC. In addition to their social activism, Sam founded Core Solutions Consulting, providing technical expertise on topics ranging from nuclear waste management to advanced nuclear reactor innovation and nuclear non-proliferation policy. In 2011, they created the Stand With Science campaign, which united 10,000 students and allies from across the country to advocate for federal science and engineering research funding.

Tamara Burks

Tamara Burks

Tamara has more than 15 years of recruiting and sourcing experience including recruitment, diversity, employee retention, conflict resolution, change management, labor relations and benefits administration. She is currently the Diversity Talent Acquisition Manager responsible for PwC US’s LGBT and disability talent acquisition strategy. She is a certified diversity and internet recruiter.
Tamara is a graduate from the University of Pittsburgh and currently resides in Tampa, FL.

Chad Coarsey

Chad Coarsey

Chad Coarsey is pursuing a master’s degree in bioengineering with a focus in microfluidics and nanobiotechnology for disease diagnostics. He was born without a left hand, struggled with paralysis, and even faced his own mortality. Needless to say, he has overcome many adversities, creating several opportunities through his experiences. He found his passion for microbiology, and joined The Asghar-Lab: Micro and Nanotechnologies in medicine. There he works on potential point-of-care diagnostics for the HIV/AIDS, Ebola viral disease, and Zika virus, using both conventional and synthetic biology techniques. Recently, he co-founder a non-profit, The Bionic Glove Project, to partner with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Tenet Healthcare and other healthcare networks, to develop 3-D printed prosthetic hands to provide to patients at no cost.

Steve Comingdeer

Steve Comingdeer

Steve is a commercial finance director at Accenture, supporting the North America Health & Public Service business in an operations leadership capacity. Steve also leads the LGBT recruiting team for the North America LGBT employee resource group. Outside of Accenture, Steve serves as adjunct faculty for the health management programs at the University of Minnesota, and Northeastern University; and, serves on various non-profit boards locally in the Twin Cities area.

D Conner

D Conner

D Conner is a professional chemist at Chemours in Wilmington, Delaware, currently working in research and development on plastics applications of pigments. Ze is a founding member of oSTEM Inc and was profiled in 2015 as one of the Royal Society of Chemistry's 100 diverse faces of chemistry. Ze holds MS and BS degrees in chemistry from Penn State and University of Delaware, respectively. Outside of work, hir creative pursuits include singing with the Rainbow Chorale of Delaware, songwriting, cookery, and handcrafts.

Mark Costella

Mark Costella

Mark is the Legacy Facility Program Manager at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Mark has worked with his entire 36-year career at LLNL, first starting as an atmospheric science researcher, advancing through the fields of ES&H management, into Facilities Management. In 2006, Mark established the Institutionally Managed Facilities organization, taking on his present role. Mark is an active participant on NA-50’s Facilities Disposition Working Group and Excess Contaminated Facilities Working Group. Mark has the dubious distinction of managing 4 of NNSA’s top 10 worst legacy facilities.
Mark is the co-founder of LLNL’s LGBT Association and LLNL’s Senior Management advisor on LGBT concerns, using his role to assist in establishing policy and guidance. He is a national engagement speaker of “The Invisible Minority”, presented at National Laboratories, schools and corporate settings. Presently Mark is the co-chair of LLNL’s Livermore Pride Association.

Chris Cross

Chris Cross

Mr. Christopher Cross is a Translational Genomics Ph.D. candidate in Howard University’s College of Medicine. He received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2009, and his M.S. in Neuroscience in the Department of Anatomy at Howard University in May 2014. Since 2007, he has received training from the National University of Ireland Galway, Emory Healthcare, Harvard University, NIH, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the University of Toronto, Canada.
Christopher brings to his role at oSTEM considerable leadership and fundraising experience as well as an extensive professional network cultivated via several pivotal opportunities including: Associate Curator for the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory; Science Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee of Science, Space, and Technology for the 113th Congress; being named PBS Newshour’s STEM Superstar of 2015; Howard University 2015-2016 Graduate Trustee; Sigma Xi inductee; and lifetime member of the Bouchet Yale Graduate Honor Society. He is particularly proud of having established The Lavender Fund, the nation’s first official fundraiser for LGBT students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Justine Davidson

Justine Davidson

Justine is a New Mexico native and earned a B.S. in chemical engineering and a M.S. in mechanical engineering with a specialization in explosives engineering from New Mexico Tech. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Texas – Austin.
Previously Justine worked for Halliburton Energy Service Company in various capacities including ballistic instrumentation, energetic material research and development, and as an explosive safety officer, focusing thermal decomposition of high explosives. She currently works for Weapon Response at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Traci Davis

Traci Davis is a genderqueer-identified research biochemist at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Traci studies how dietary fatty acids regulate immunological and metabolic responses in cardiovascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Their lab incorporates differing model systems, including biomimetic membranes, cell culture, transgenic/knockout mice and human subject clinical trials to uniquely fuse techniques from lipid biochemistry, membrane biophysics, and nutritional immunology. Traci is also a manager for the Animal Metabolism Phenotyping Core at the UNC Nutrition Obesity Research Center, which provides contemporary phenotyping techniques for metabolism and energy balance in mouse models of nutrition and disease.
Traci is fiercely committed to the advancement of transgender equality and visibility. Away from the bench, Traci facilitates educational outreach, and inclusivity to trans and gender non-conforming students, faculty and staff at UNC Chapel Hill, and in the community at large. They continue to serve as a resource for the community on issues of homo/bi/transphobia and their correlated “isms.”
In their current role, Traci brings LGBTQIA+ perspectives and inclusion to “The HUB,” LIFE Skills Foundation’s young adult resource center. The Durham, NC initiative helps young adults in transition, including those who have aged out of foster care, or are housing insecure or homeless. Traci also serves on the national board for oSTEM as a member at large for the Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
Traci’s past roles include Graduate Assistant for the LGBT Resource Office at East Carolina University, a member of the safe zone leadership team, and a co-founder of the graduate student LGBTQIA+ group at their alma mater.

Will Davis

Will Davis

Will is a full time engineer NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center and serves as a subject matter expert in the areas of materials and processes engineering, quality engineering, mechanical parts, and anti-counterfeiting. He is also the National President of MAES – Latinos in Science and Engineering. Will is a second-generation Mexican American born in El Paso, Texas, and holds a B.S. and M.S. in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from The University of Texas at El Paso.

Kshitij (KD) Deshmukh

Kshitij (KD) Deshmukh

Kshitij (KD) is an Indian immigrant who came to the US in 2002 for graduate studies at Penn State, and has since earned his doctoral degree in Mechanical Engineering and has gathered 9 years of professional experience at Siemens PLM. KD is out and proud at his workplace in Oklahoma and is engaged with his community – at the open and affirming Parish Church of St. Jerome, at Oklahomans for Equality and with many international LGBT individuals facing hostile laws and society in various parts of the world. He strongly identifies with the struggles of immigrant LGBT and STEM LGBT identities.

David Elder

David Elder

David Elder began his career at Raytheon in 2009 after working for 15 years at smaller aerospace companies in Tucson, Arizona. As a Principal Systems Engineer, David is currently the Integration and Verification Material Lead on an air to air missile program.
It was only after finding the support and acceptance of the Raytheon Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allies Employee Resource Group that he was comfortable coming out as bisexual in 2010. Since then, he has been a strong advocate for LGBTQ issues and has served as the Director of Operations and Communications for the ERG before taking his current role as the Southwest Regional Vice President for GLBTA.
David believes that Raytheon’s commitment to LGBTQ issues is the foundation of their diversity platform. He works to ensure that the GLBTA ERG has high visibility within the company and is a strong ally of community organizations that support the LGBTQ community.

K. Ryder Fox

K. Ryder Fox

Ryder Fox is an senior Atmospheric Physics major at New Mexico Tech. A former television news videographer and storm chaser, they look forward to completing a degree in the physics behind severe weather. Ryder interns with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, studying hurricane intensification, while also advocating for greater transgender and gender nonconforming representation in the STEM fields. Ryder serves as the VP for Diversity and Inclusion at oSTEM, and was their university’s oSTEM chapter President for two years. As an undergraduate, they have successfully lobbied for all underrepresented students on their campus, gaining a centralized resource center, inclusive policies, accessible facilities, and mandatory training. As part of the Atmospheric community, Ryder also serves on the Board of Women and Minorities with the American Meteorological Society.

Angie Gonzalez

Angie Gonzalez

Angie Gonzalez is a 5th year undergraduate student at NYU pursuing a dual-degree in physics and electrical engineering. She is the recipient of the prestigious Point Foundation scholarship and joined the organization in 2015. She is also a proud CSTEP Scholar, TRIO Scholar, and an INROADS alum. Angie has been a tireless advocate for more accessible resources/spaces for LGBTQ students in STEM throughout her first four years at NYU and was recently elected to become Vice President of oSTEM at NYU. In the past, Angie has conducted research at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, worked as a Teaching Fellow for the National Science Foundation, and interned at Harris Corporation. She aspires to pursue a PhD in electrical engineering with a concentration in signal processing. She plans on pursuing research in audio/image processing to help innovate technology for folks with disabilities. In her spare time, Angie enjoys going to crossfit, exploring New York City, going to trendy food spots, and spending time with her family.

Brandon Haddock

Brandon Haddock

Brandon Haddock, PhD is the Coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center at Kansas State University (K-State). Haddock has a B.S. in Geography, Geology, and Planning and a M.S. in Geospatial Science from Missouri State University. They received their Doctorate in Geography at Kansas State University where their research has focused on issues of rural sexualities and gender identities and the attachment to rural place and space.
From the rural Missouri Ozarks, Haddock was raised surrounded by the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Their familial roots run deep in the rocky soils of the Ozarks with a heritage of mix-race Scottish and Native ancestry.
For those who choose to place identity in a proverbial box, Haddock is cis-gender appearing, Asegi* identifying, polyamorous, with gay tendencies. aSf (asegi) is a Cherokee word created for a project by America Meredith to help spread the Cherokee language. She defines the word as queer or identifying outside of the binary in one’s sexuality and/or gender identity. Many also refer to themselves as asegi udanto (other-heart).

Dr. Deanna Hence

Dr. Deanna Hence

Dr. Deanna A. Hence is an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Originally from north Texas, she received her bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences from the University of Michigan, and is a graduate of the Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. She completed her Masters and PhD in atmospheric science at the University of Washington as a recipient of the NASA Earth System Science Fellowship, and was a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr. Hence joined the UIUC faculty in 2014. Her current research in cloud and precipitation physics studies the interactions of high-impact weather systems with their surrounding environment, from how tropical cyclones interact with dry air and vertical wind shear, to how mountains influence frontal systems and hail formation. She is as passionate about the importance of inclusive scientific conversation for informed decision-making and problem-solving as the science itself. Her passions for inclusivity led Dr. Hence to found the UW Atmospheric Sciences Women’s Group during her graduate career. As a professor, she recently founded a branch of the SOARS program at UIUC, which internship opportunity is focused on enriching the experiences of underrepresented students in STEM.

Dr. Michael Kevin Hernández

Dr. Michael Kevin Hernández

Michael Kevin Hernández was born in Miami, FL. He received the B.S. degree in Meteorology and Applied Mathematics from the University of Miami, in 2007, the M.S. degree in Meteorology from Pennsylvania State University, in 2010, the M.B.A. and M.S. in Management of Information Systems from the University of Oklahoma, and the D.C.S. with a concentration in big data from Colorado Technical University, in 2017. In 2014, he joined Boeing South Carolina’s Information Technology team. Since his tenure at Boeing, he has completed his Doctoral degree, has 1 patent granted, 1 patent pending, and 2 trade secrets. His current research interest includes tropical cyclones, meteorology, mathematics, big data, data analytics, business strategy, business intelligence, lean six sigma, data visualization, and gamification.

Caleb Hightower

Caleb Hightower

Caleb Hightower is a graduate student at New Mexico Tech University. He received his BS in Mathematics in 2016 and is currently pursuing an MS in Applied Physical Mathematics. He has worked in a teaching capacity for four years, beginning as a tutor and moving to a calculus lecturer, in addition to presenting workshops on professional development tools. Caleb is a gay male-identified video game-loving cooking enthusiast.

James Patrick Horine

James Patrick Horine

James Horine is a Senior Data Scientist at The Marketing Store Worldwide. After finishing his Masters in Statistics at San Jose State University, James joined Capgemini as a Data Science Consultant, working on projects including nonparametric image processing, nationwide restaurant forecasting and clustering, and the development of failure models deployed "on the ground" for large agricultural, fast food service, and heavy machine clients. Now, at The Marketing Store, James is building and deploying data science products for global clients to improve customer engagement and experience. In his spare time, James is a part-time Data Science instructor with General Assembly, an automotive enthusiast, and recovering competitive swimmer.

Stephanie Huard

Stephanie Huard

Stephanie Huard is an undergraduate student at the California Institute of Technology, majoring in biology and philosophy. She does research in neuropharmacology, studying nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and addiction. She is passionate about raising awareness of mental health and illness, and encouraging increased understanding of the experiences of those who suffer with invisible illnesses. She serves on oSTEM’s national committee for Diversity and Inclusion, and she enjoys practicing self care by taking naps and through advocacy for others like her.

Therese Klein

Therese Klein

Therese has held a variety of new product development positions over her 30 year career as an electrical engineer, marketing and project manager. Her focus has been on developing industrial controls and power electronics for the past 25 years with Rockwell Automation. She is currently managing a team of embedded software engineers for new product development program. Therese earned her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Marquette University & Masters of Science in Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has held a PMP certification since 2005. She and her partner Anne reside in Milwaukee, WI. USA.

Jim Leatham

Jim Leatham

Jim Leatham is an Engineering Fellow in the EOIR Remote Sensing department within Space and Airborne Systems at Raytheon. He has been developing photonics-based systems for defense, space, industrial, and medical applications over the course of his career. Jim is an LGBTQ Ally and has been an active participant in PFLAG meetings, Transforming Family, and conferences such as Models of Pride. Jim received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from USC. He has worked at all levels of successful engineering teams from individual contributor to team leader, and has seen first-hand the positive impact of diversity on the brainstorming process.

Ilenia Hererra Lutz

Ilenia Hererra Lutz

Ilenia is part of the Accenture Campus Recruiting Team with a focus on Diversity; including Ethnicity, LGBT and Persons with Disabilities recruiting efforts. In this role, she is responsible for diversity partner relationships and our participation at diversity conferences.
Ilenia grew up in Panama City, Panama. She is a PROUD Purdue University graduate and a member of the College of Liberal Arts Alumni Board. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family, traveling and an annual attendee of San Diego Comic Con.

Christopher Magaha

Christopher Magaha

Mr. Christopher Magaha is the Deputy Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (EEOD) at the National Security Agency (NSA). He joined the NSA in March 2004 after six years of various technical and leadership positions in the private sector. Mr. Magaha is also the immediate past chairperson of the NSA’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allies (LGBTA) employee resource groups (ERG) and performs a variety of collateral responsibilities including new employee recruitment/hiring and engaging colleagues and universities as a security education academic liaison (SAEL). Past positions include: Director of the Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program; Chief of the Key Management Infrastructure (KMI) Operations division; Chief of the Publishing Services branch; and, other technical and program management assignments working the NSA’s information assurance mission.
Mr. Magaha holds a bachelor of science in information systems management from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), an NSA Center of Academic Excellence. He is also a certified defense acquisition professional.
With great commitment to volunteer service, Mr. Magaha has served over ten years as the President of his community homeowners’ association board of directors and completed three terms on an advisory board for a national classic automotive club. Mr. Magaha recently finished serving a term as the Vice President of Operations for the UMBC Alumni Association and previously served several terms as a delegate-at-large. He is one of the founding members of the UMBC Chapter of Young Alumni Steering Committee, where he also held several leadership positions over five years of service. In addition to volunteer work, he also enjoys music, theater, wine tastings, car shows, and traveling.

Lilian Martinez

Lilian Martinez

Lilian Martinez serves as member at large in the diversity and inclusion committee at oSTEM. Lilian is an undergraduate chemical engineering major at New Mexico Tech. Her background is in non-profit fundraising and event planning. Lilian has extensive experience with the LGBTQ+ community as a support group facilitator, event organizer, and advocate. Currently, Lilian puts her engineering skills to use teaching basic concepts to children ages 5-12 in LEGO Engineering courses. Her background makes her passionate about helping people (and puppies!) overcome extensive challenges. She offers support to students navigating their experiences as underrepresented students on campus. Her work as the Vice President of the oSTEM chapter at New Mexico Tech has helped create a safer and more inclusive environment there.

John McMullen

John McMullen

John McMullen is a 3rd year PhD student at Cornell University studying Entomology. He obtained both a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Arizona in Microbiology. John has been very active with oSTEM during his collegiate career. He first interacted with oSTEM at the University of Arizona and joined the Cornell Chapter after starting his PhD. Currently, John volunteers with oSTEM, Inc. as Director of Finance and 2017 Conference Sponsorship Chair.

Elizabeth Merritt

Elizabeth Merritt

Dr. Elizabeth Merritt is currently a staff Scientist in the Plasma Physics group (P-24) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) where she specializes in experimental high-energy-density (HED) plasma physics and inertial-confinement fusion (ICF). For her undergraduate education Dr. Merritt received a B.A. in math and physics from Mount Holyoke College, with a concentration in optoelectronics for telecommunications. She received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of New Mexico in 2013 for work on rail-gun generated plasma jets done in collaboration with LANL, where she remained for her postdoctoral work as well. Currently her work includes studies of hydrodynamic instabilities and turbulence under HED conditions, equation-of-state experiments, and development of inertial-confinement fusion platforms on large laser facilities like OMEGA, Omega EP, and the NIF.

Dana Michels

Dana Michels

Dana is the Project S.A.F.E. (for a Sexual Assault-Free Environment) Program Coordinator and Prevention Education Specialist at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Originally from Seattle, Dana has called Los Angeles home since completing their BA in marine biology at Occidental. Dana organizes the peer education program and ensures prevention education is current and relevant for the campus community. Dana is passionate about crafting community-based and collaborative education and programming. In peaceful moments Dana can be found reading, eating carbonara, and dreaming of their future cat family.

Jason Michnovicz

Jason Michnovicz

Jason Michnovicz is an R&D technical staff member at Sandia National Laboratories, where he has worked for 4 years doing formal verification of digital ASIC designs. He is openly gay and an active member of the Sandia Pride Alliance Network, Sandia's networking group for LGBT+ employees and allies.

Amlan Mukherjee

Amlan Mukherjee

Amlan Mukherjee is an associate professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington, M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University at Buffalo, (SUNY) and a B.E. in Civil Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India. His research interests are in studying civil infrastructure systems through the lens of risk and life cycle analysis, to improve project outcomes such as project cost, long term performance and environmental impacts. In 2013, Amlan founded Trisight, LLC a start-up that focused on implementing research in infrastructure life cycle assessment using data mining technologies. He continues to be a part owner and serves as the CTO for the company.

Travis O'Brien

Travis O'Brien

Travis O’Brien is a research scientist in the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at University of California, Davis. He currently serves as the program domain lead for the Climate & Atmosphere Process Program Domain. He also co-represented LBNL’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) on the LBNL Diversity & Inclusion Council from 2015-2017. Research within Travis’ group focuses on understanding the fundamental physical processes that control weather and climate phenomena that impact human and natural systems. He specializes in utilizing a combination of numerical models, novel data analysis techniques, and fundamental theory to form and test hypotheses about what controls the physical characteristics and occurrence of weather patterns: from fog to extremes.

Eric Patridge

Eric Patridge

Eric is a Data Scientist at 5AM Solutions, where he contributes to life science technology projects involving clinical and genomic data sets. Before arriving at 5AM Solutions, Eric was a Research Scientist at Yale University, where he coordinated research programs in both natural products and protein chemistry. His scientific background includes pharmacology, enzymology, microbiology, electrochemistry, bioinformatics, and computational modeling. He holds a PhD from The Pennsylvania State University and is a graduate of Skidmore College, where he pursued a dual major in Chemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology. Eric is also Founder and former President of oSTEM Incorporated.

Varshini Ramaraj

Varshini Ramaraj

Varshini has recently graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Master's Degree in Computer Science with a Thesis track. Her future research interests include the intersectionality of social work and STEM. In her spare time, she reads books, discusses social issues with friends, and lives an introverted life.

Héctor E. Rodriguez-Simmonds

Héctor E. Rodriguez-Simmonds

Héctor Enrique Rodríguez-Simmonds is currently a PhD student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. His undergrad and master’s degrees are in Electrical and Computer Engineering. His current research interests gravitate around exploring the experiences of LGBTQ+ engineering undergraduate and graduate students in the United States using theories of Intersectionality. He’s passionate about getting to know people’s stories and bringing to the forefront how the different assemblages of our identities influence and interact with the constructed material world around us. He is committed to fostering a culture of support and empowerment for LGBTQ+ students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. He is driven to explore the tense dichotomy between human/social concerns and the technological focus traditional to engineering approaches.

Sam Sharpe

Sam Sharpe

Sam Sharpe received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Carleton College and is currently a third year PhD student in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University. Sam is studying local adaptation and response to environmental change in prairie grasses, as well as serving as a TA and mentor to undergraduate students. As a scientist, educator, and executive board member for KSU’s oSTEM chapter, Sam is passionate about queering biology and increasing diversity and inclusion on the KSU campus.

Erica Snider

Erica Snider

Erica Snider received her B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology, and her Ph.D. in high energy physics from the University of Chicago with a thesis on multi-particle production in proton-anti-proton collisions. After a post-doctoral position at The Johns Hopkins University where she contributed to the discovery of the top quark, one of the elementary constituents of matter, she joined the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory as a staff physicist. In that position, her research turned toward searches for new physical phenomena and for evidence of the Higgs boson, the particle that explains why many elementary particles have mass. After 14 years in that position, she came out as transgender,, ending a decades-long struggle to understand her gender non-conformity stretching back to some of her earliest memories. Now five years into her renewed life as an open trans-woman, she remains a valued member of the Fermilab staff, taking on leadership positions within both her service roles to the laboratory, and her research roles on her experiments. She is excited to return to the oSTEM conference for a second time in an outreach effort within the trans community, and to share the evolving story of her outward transition within the workplace.

Steve Stall

Steve Stall

Steve is Business Segment Leader of Inclusion for the Control Products and Solutions (CP&S) and Global Sales and Marketing (GSM) businesses within Rockwell Automation. He assumed this role in September 2014. In this role, Steve is responsible for partnering with leaders and employees to develop initiatives that enhance the ability of CP&S and GSM to build an inclusive workplace. He is also a regular external thought leader presenter on gender equality, most recently speaking at Harvard Business School Steve has over 30 years of operations, accounting and business management experience. Steve joined Rockwell Automation in 1992 and has held various roles of increased responsibilities within the Customer Support and Maintenance (CSM) business. As Business Manager, CSM Operations, Steve was responsible for a team of 500 employees. During his term as Global Business Manager, Plant Services, Steve was responsible for driving lean productivity savings and leading global process transformation across four regions and 100 locations worldwide. Steve is a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He recently received Ambassador Award from the Faith Friendly and Ally of the year for the African American employee resource groups.

Josh Steadman

Josh Steadman

Josh Steadman is professional designer, illustrator and educator. His clients include, Walt Disney Imagineering, ABC Television, Cartoon Network, and many other areas and facets in entertainment. He was the Production Designer for the worlds largest Disney castle in Shanghai, China as well as the Production Designer and Show Designer for three of the six main lands for Shanghai, Disneyland.
He has also spent 17 years working part time in wilderness therapy, and as a educator and art therapist for youth overcoming addictions and self-harming behaviors.
This his is first time attending the oSTEM conference and he is happy to be involved.

Jimmy Su

Jimmy Su

Jimmy Su is a fourth-year graduate student and PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. His research interests include biomaterials and regenerative engineering. Previously, Jimmy attended the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD where he received a Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Engineering. As an undergraduate and recent graduate, he was involved in research in a variety of settings, including: academic, research institute, and industry at a small startup. Most recently, Jimmy completed an internship at another startup company based in Blacksburg, VA and Gothenburg, Sweden--an opportunity enabled by the Biotechnology Training Program at Northwestern. As a queer-identifying Asian American who has struggled to establish his own identity, Jimmy seeks to engage in discussions that validate and uplift minority experiences. He has volunteered at previous LGBTQ+ conferences such as the 2015 National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance Conference and the 2016 Creating Change Conference.

Niko Thomashow

Niko Thomashow

Niko Thomashow is a third year Dance and Physics Major with a Concentration in Astronomy at Oberlin College. Niko hopes to become an Astrophysics researcher, particularly focusing on Observational Astronomy and instrumentation. This past summer, they conducted research on star formation at the Maria Mitchell Association's REU program (funded by the National Science Foundation) in Nantucket under the instruction of Dr. Regina Jorgenson and Dr. Vladimir Strelnitski. Niko is the founder and co-chair of Queer and Formal Reasoning, Oberlin College's first organization for LGBTQ+ students in STEM, and runs weekly meetings for Women/Trans Physics Majors. They are also involved in multiple dance organizations and are an active member of the Filipinx and APID communities.

Michael Ulloa

Michael Ulloa

Michael Ulloa is a gay autistic man living in New England, working as a mechanical engineer in the motion control industry. He has presented about Autism and higher education, and serves as an advocate for intersectional diversity.

Aamir Vaid

Aamir Vaid

Aamir has over 14 years experience in Public Infrastrcutre, Oil and Gas, and Bio Tech Industry. Aamir has a background in Civil Engineering and attending the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, Aamir is a Portfolio Manager for the Design and Construction Group at Genentech (A Roche Company) in South San Francisco, California.

Michael Villanueva

Michael Villanueva

Michael Villanueva is a Boeing Company employee with over 20-years experience in engineering and diversity. He started his career by utilizing his Electrical Engineering background with various electrical aspects of airplane design and assisting with the introduction of service for Boeing’s 787 aircraft around the world. For over a decade, Michael has been involved with diversity initiatives at Boeing including co-leading the company’s first ever diversity council, serving as vice-president of Boeing’s LGBT business resource group and supporting the company’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. He is a sought after trainer and speaker both inside and outside of the company. Michael’s philosophy regarding implementing diversity in the workplace is simple: Find our commonalities so that we can together build bridges across all dimensions of difference.

Andrea Welsh

Andrea Welsh

Andrea Welsh is a 6th year Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech studying collective motion of different biological systems. She holds a B.A. in physics and math from Boston University and an M.S. in physics from Georgia Tech. She was the chair of the American Physical Society (APS) 2016 Conference for Undergraduate Physics at Georgia Institute of Technology and has started the GT Society of Women in Physics. She is one of Georgia Tech's inaugural safe space peer facilitators, which aims to teach other students resources for and how to support LGBT+ students. She is also a Member-at-large for the APS Forum of Graduate Student Affairs where she has served on and chaired the Travel Award for Excellence in Graduate Research Committee and served on the Program Committee. As part of the Program Committee, she organized sessions at the APS March and April meetings in 2017, including the session "Stress and Strain: Mental Health and Graduate School", where she spoke about her own experience with mental illness. She also recently published in Physics Today "It's time physicists talk about mental health" which spurred the Google group Mental Health in Physics. When she should be sleeping, she plays video games and cuddles cats.

Andrew Wiechkoske

Andrew Wiechkoske

Andrew is currently a data analyst for Citigroup where he leads the analytic and business development efforts for client experience in the digital spaces. He holds BS- mathematics and BS- actuarial science degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he was involved in expanding oSTEM at the local level and attended the 3rd annual conference in NYC. Andrew enjoys volunteering his time in the local LGBTQ community, including holding volunteering positions with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, United Way, and the Ronald McDonald House. Outside of his crazy work schedule, he loves experiencing live music, drinking micro-brews, and expanding his food palate.

Beau Williams

Beau Williams

Beau Williams grew up in rural West Virginia. Completed a 4 tour of duty with the US Army, Engineers (1986-1990). He received his B.A. with a double area of concentration on Cultural Anthropology and Leadership in 2009, the M.A. in Whole Systems Design with a minor in Management in 2013 from Antioch University Seattle. Beau joined The Boeing Company’s Information Technology (IT) team in 1998. He spent 16 years supporting IT Operations and currently manages the IT Sourcing Strategy and Vendor Management team with a primary focus on infrastructure services. Beau has a passion for LGBT and Native American employee skill development and education. He is currently The Boeing Company focal to Out in Science Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM) and serves on the core team to American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

David Williams

David is a graduate mathematician based in Manhattan, KS. He plans to finish his Ph.D. in 2021. Until then, he hopes he can help others appreciate all the natural beauty the universe displays. He enjoys writing, running, and spending time with his boyfriend Sean.

Leah Yoemans

Leah Yoemans

Leah Yoemans is a STEAM Specialist teacher in the Twin Cities, the chair of the Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP), and has extensive Diversity and STEM training and outreach experience. As a STEM educator, Leah is dedicated to addressing achievement disparities on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, disability, language, and sexual orientation at a systems level. She is passionate about eliminating disparities, creating inclusive environments, and broadening participation in STEM. She has been an activist and organizer in queer, non-monogamous, and bi+ communities for several years. As the chair of BOP, she is passionate about creating community for bisexuals and advocating for bi+ inclusion in LGBTQ spaces. Leah enjoys playing Australian rules football, hiking, and spending time with her family.

Functional analysis of Rad6B in cisplatin-induced DNA damage response and CrispR/Cas9 knock out of Rad6B | Angelina Antonyan

Rad6B is an E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme that is overexpressed in breast cancer, melanoma and ovarian cancer. Studies from our laboratory have shown that Rad6B actively contributes to cancer development and progression through its ubiquitin conjugating activity. Rad6 can modulate therapy response because of its fundamental role in translesion DNA synthesis (TLS), a process also referred as DNA damage tolerance (DDT) or postreplication DNA repair. Cisplatin (CDDP) is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used for treating triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). CDDP induces DNA interstrand crosslinks; repair of these crosslinks requires activities of the Rad6 translesion synthesis (TLS) pathway, the Fanconi Anemia (FA) network and the homologous recombination repair (HRR) pathway. Recruitment of Pol , FANCD2 and Rad51to H2AX-labeled foci serve as markers for TLS, FA and HR pathway involvement in the repair process. Our lab has previously shown that Rad6 inhibition with a Rad6-selective small molecule inhibitor SMI#9 suppresses CDDP-induced increases in PCNA monoubiquitination and FANCD2 levels, which are essential for activation of the TLS and FA pathways, respectively. To determine the impact of SMI#9 on CDDP-induced recruitment of Pol , FANCD2, and Rad51 on H2AX-loaded foci in MDA-MB-468 and SUM1315 cells, we performed dual immunofluorescence staining with H2AX and Pol , H2AX and Rad51, and H2AX and FANCD2 antibodies, and counter stained with appropriate Texas Red or FITC conjugated secondary antibodies. Our results showed that SMI#9 pretreatment caused a dramatic decrease in CDDP-induced localizations of Pol , FANCD2, and Rad51 to the sites of DNA double strand breaks marked by H2AX labeling. We have also performed CrispR/Cas9 –based knockout of Rad6B as this would allow us to further verify the functional role of Rad6 in repair and therapy response. M14 melanoma cells were stably transfected with CrispR/Cas9 vector encoding Rad6B specific guide RNAs and homology directed repair plasmid specific for Rad6B. Stable clones were isolated by puromycin selection. Confirmation of Rad6B knockout was verified in the genomic DNAs by PCR and sequence analysis.


Does Size Matter? Male Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) Morphology and Female Lek Attendance | Carly Aulicky

Males of lek breeding species put on elaborate courtship displays for female selection. Female mate selection is made on behavioral or physical cues of male quality because males only provide genetic material and do not contribute to parental care. In lesser prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), females are hypothesized to select the largest bodied males based on the assumption that individuals with large body size have greater potential energy reserves, reflected in mass. My research examines two objectives 1) determining if female lesser prairie-chickens select males with the largest mass or if they make selection based on other morphological characteristics and 2) assess the role of precipitation as a determinant of female selection and changes in male morphology. I tested these objectives with a regression tree of ten male morphological measurements and maximum female visitation at individual leks in three Kansas populations from 2013-2015. My work indicates morphological characteristics other than mass are more important in determining female visitation and male morphological measurements vary by year, reflecting annual precipitation and drought in Kansas at the time of male development.


Metabolic Physiology of Extremophile Fish | Nick Barts

Extreme environments are characterized by harsh physiochemical conditions that are stressful for most organisms, often resulting in modifications to organismal biology. Metabolism is critically important for an organism’s ability to respond to environmental stress, as it is directly tied to energy homeostasis. This may be especially important for organisms that inhabit hydrogen sulfide (H2S) environments. H2S directly binds to cytochrome c oxidase, disrupting the electron transport chain and inhibiting aerobic ATP production. Theory suggests that this should result in modifications of metabolic scope in organisms that persist in these toxic environments, however, few studies have addressed this hypothesis in natural systems. To test whether variation in metabolic physiology exists between locally adapted sulfidic and non-sulfidic populations, we measured the metabolic rates of two population pairs of Poecilia mexicana. P. mexicana has successfully and repeatedly colonized H2S springs in Southern Mexico. These replicated colonization events allow for the comparison of physiological mechanisms used to cope with the extreme environmental conditions imposed in these habitats. We used intermittent-flow respirometry to compare standard metabolic rate (SMR), maximum metabolic rate (MMR), and aerobic scope (AS) under non-sulfidic conditions and closed-chamber respirometry to measure RMR under both sulfidic and non-sulfidic conditions. We found that SMR was significantly increased in one population of sulfide spring fish, but there were no differences in MMR or AS across all populations measured. Additionally, fish from sulfidic populations were able to maintain RMR upon exposure to H2S, while the non-sulfidic populations showed a significant decrease in metabolic rates. This study provides insight into the physiological mechanisms organisms use to maintain energy homeostasis under extreme environmental conditions.


Syzygies of Surfaces via Distributed Computing | Juliette Bruce

One way to study an algebraic variety is by considering the relations amongst its defining equations, then the relations amongst the relations, and so on. The set of all such relations, called the syzygies of the variety turns out to be a finite collection of data that captures a large amount of the geometry of the variety. While this approach is classical, the syzygies of higher dimensional varieties (i.e. surfaces) remain quite mysterious. In fact, only a handful of examples have ever been computed. I will present a project that attempts to synthesize a number of new examples by leveraging sparse numerical linear algebra coupled with high performance massively distributed computing. In particular, the problem of computing the syzygies of the d'uple Veronese surface can be reduced to a question of linear algebra. Despite this reduction the remaining problem is still truly massive. One has to deal with thousands of matrices, most on the order of 100,000 x100,000, with some computations taking over 450 Gb's of memory. I will discuss how my coauthors and I have built a framework to do such computations and gather new examples. This data has lent support to several conjectures on the syzygies of wide classes of higher dimensional varieties.


Optimizing O2 parameters for molecular dynamics simulations | Evelyn Byrd

Molecular oxygen (O2) plays a large role in cellular metabolism, and its presence in cells is relevant to widespread medical issues such as cancerous tumors and cataracts. However, the mechanism by which oxygen diffuses through cellular membranes to enter and leave cells is not well understood, and is difficult to measure experimentally. Atomistic molecular dynamics simulations can be used to gain insight into this process, but current models overestimate the partitioning of oxygen between water and the lipid molecules that make up the membranes. This work seeks to improve this partitioning behavior by altering the molecular oxygen Lennard-Jones potential energy well-depth between otherwise identical simulations. The average partitioning of the POPC (1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine) membrane simulated was found to decrease from 6.956 to 5.710 as the well-depth changed from 0.1400 to 0.1390 kcal/mol, but subsequent decreases in well-depth did not have a substantial further impact. With the well-depth of 0.1390, the oxygen permeability value and the estimated diffusivity of the membrane become more congruent with experimental values, so it is recommended that a well-depth of 0.1390 kcal/mol for molecular oxygen be used in future simulations of this type.


FGD-Gypsum effective in reducing phosphorus levels in urban water samples | Megan Christensen

The increasing use of fertilizers in agricultural practices has increased the addition of phosphorus to water bodies. The addition of excess P leads to the eutrophication of water bodies and the subsequent loss of biodiversity in ecosystems. FGD-gypsum is a substance that has been shown to reduce P in agricultural runoff when added to soil in farm fields. The effectiveness of this substance in sequestering P from runoff lead us to consider other possible uses for gypsum in reducing eutrophication. We hypothesized that water samples filtered through a gypsum plug would show a significant decrease in P content when compared to P levels prior to treatment. To test this hypothesis we filtered water samples from multiple locations through a plug of FGD-gypsum obtained from Madison Gas and Electric and tested the P levels in the water samples both before and after treatment. We found that water samples run through a gypsum plug showed a significant decrease in P content after treatment (mean= 3.14 ppm) when compared to levels before treatment (mean= 1.07 ppm). The p-value for a t-test with these averages was negligibly small (t(13)= 7.772, p < 0.0001) indicating statistical significance in their difference. The ability of gypsum to sequester P from water has many implications for conservation. These findings indicate that gypsum could be used to create filters for runoff in both rural and urban areas to reduce the addition of excess to P to water bodies. In doing so, eutrophication of water bodies could be reduced which would help to maintain and restore healthy aquatic ecosystems. Further studies on the effect of P reduction on eutrophication as well as the use of other industrial by-products for conservation purposes could lead to more effective conservation of water bodies.


The Three Graviton Vertex in an Emergent Quantum Gravity | Tangereen Claringbold

String theory is the most popular model of quantum gravity, but it is not the only possibility. An alternative solution is emergent gravity, in which the graviton is composite, rather than a fundamental field of the Lagrangian. A theory of emergent gravity proposed by Carone, Erlich, and Vaman used scalar fields and the constraint that the energy-momentum tensor of the theory, including certain gauge-fixed fields, vanishes. In the limit of a large number of scalar fields, they found a massless pole with spin-2 which couples to matter as gravity does. This pole can be identified with the graviton, the proposed mediator of the gravitational force. This research provides a further test of the general covariance of this emergent gravity theory by calculating the three-graviton vertex and confirming that it matches the prediction of general relativity.


Tuning Topological Properties of Nanoscopic Topological Superconductors Through Shape and Magnetic Structure | Sagen Cocklin

Majorana fermions may provide a new platform for fault-tolerant topological quantum computing due to their exotic braiding properties. It was recently demonstrated that they may be realized at the boundaries of topological superconductors, created by placing nanoscopic islands of magnetic adatoms -- so-called Shiba islands -- on the surface of s-wave superconductors with strong spin-orbit coupling. We demonstrate that Majorana fermions can be created by manipulating the shape of such Shiba islands, even allowing one to explore the adiabatic evolution from two-dimensional to one-dimensional topological superconductors despite their different homotopy groups. These results may be used to inform the shape of devices used for future topological quantum computing. Additionally, we show that skyrmions in the magnetic island can make or destroy topological phases in the system. In some cases, this removes the need for strong spin-orbit coupling, thus extending the realizability of Majorana fermions to a wider range of material systems.


Changes in isotopic composition of soil organic matter (SOM) in response to burning and grazing in the tallgrass prairie | Kent Connell

Soil organic matter (SOM) is the largest terrestrial carbon pool and is both chemically complex and ill-defined. Differences in decomposability of C3- and C4-derived SOM exist, so characterizing the isotopic composition of SOM is critical for estimating its residence time. Tallgrass prairie is the ideal ecosystem to explore the dynamics of the isotopic composition of SOM, since the relative abundance of C3 and C4 plants varies with management. Tallgrass prairie was historically maintained through fire and grazing by megafauna. Frequently burned prairie in the absence of grazers is dominated by C4 grasses. Grazing increases the cover of C3 grasses and forbs and decreases the dominance of C4 grasses, while fire suppression increases C3 woody plant encroachment. To address how isotopic composition of SOM changes in response to contrasting fire and grazing regimes, we determined δ13C values of archived soil cores collected between 1982-2015 from four watersheds at the Konza Prairie LTER site. The four watersheds represent a factorial design of different burning and grazing treatments (annual spring burning and long-term (20-yr) fire suppression with and without bison grazing). Additionally, plant community composition of the four watersheds was assessed annually from 1983 – 2015. Both fire and grazing treatments affected isotopic composition of SOM. Specifically, δ13C values diverged over time among the four watershed treatments and became significantly different in 2002. All four watersheds were initially dominated by C4 grasses before the contrasting fire and grazing treatments went into effect. Annual plant surveys reveal an increase in the proportion of C3 plant cover in all watersheds, but the increase was greatest in watersheds with low fire frequency. The observed proportion of C3 plants was significantly correlated to the modeled proportion of C3 -derived SOM, indicating that changes in plant communities due to land management can lead to detectable changes in SOM isotopic composition on ecologically relevant timescales.


Optimized Software for Eclipse MegaMovie Data Acquisition | Akira DeMoss

The Eclipse Megamovie Project is intended to produce a high definition, time-expanded video of the total solar eclipse that will cross North America from the northwest to the southeast on August 21, 2017. The Megamovie video will be pieced together from images collected by citizen scientists that, being at various points along the eclipse path, will provide continuous data sets that far exceed what a single person could capture from a single location since the longest duration of totality at any point would be under three minutes. The Eclipse Megamovie, by contrast, will be about two hours long. As part of the technology development for the project volunteers, an automatized Raspberry Pi camera setup has been created. This system, consisting of Raspberry Pi boards, a camera module, and a telephoto lens attached to a mounting board, will photograph the different phases of the eclipse automatically using Python scripts to calculate the position of celestial bodies, to program the camera settings and to trigger a bracketing mode at the right times. Together with the optimization of these functions, a 3D printable lens mount was designed to facilitate the user experience. With the proximity of the solar eclipse, the priority has been to guarantee the correct performance of the setup. Several tests have been executed to find the most effective camera configurations and procedures, so the volunteers have guaranteed the complete enjoyment of the solar eclipse experience. Beyond August 21st, the MegaMovie Pi setups will be valuable for data recollection during future solar eclipses, as well as for innumerable educational purposes. (http://eclipsemega.movie)


Identifying target genes of the homeobox transcription factors Gsx1 and Gsx2 in zebrafish | Zoë Dobler

GS homeobox 1 (Gsx1), a highly conserved homeobox transcription factor in the central nervous system (CNS), regulates the development of neurons for prepulse inhibition (PPI), a sensorimotor gating phenomenon disrupted in neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) such as schizophrenia and ASD. However, the molecular genetic pathways underlying the development and function of Gsx1-expressing neurons are not yet fully understood. Gsx1 is closely related to GS homeobox 2 (Gsx2), and both share a high degree of homology with the Hox transcription factors. Gsx1 and Gsx2 display similar spatiotemporal patterns of expression in vertebrates, and Gsx1 can functionally compensate for Gsx2 in the developing mouse forebrain. Gsx1 target genes include genes implicated in proliferation, migration, and specification of neural progenitors, however, not all Gsx1 and Gsx2 target genes have been identified. We hypothesize that genes implicated in NDD with sensory processing deficits are targets of Gsx1 and Gsx2. In silico analysis identified putative Gsx1 and Gsx2 binding sites upstream of zebrafish orthologues of reported mammalian target genes as well as genes implicated in schizophrenia. Two candidate target genes, distal-less homeobox 2a (dlx2a) and b (dlx2b), regulate inhibitory interneuron differentiation, which is reported to be disrupted in patients with NDD. In silico analysis identified both Gsx1 and Gsx2 binding sites for dlx2b and only Gsx2 binding sites for dlx2a. Indeed, whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH) identified no noticeable change in dlx2b or dlx2a expression between gsx1 mutant and wild type zebrafish, suggesting Gsx2 may sustain dlx2b expression in the absence of Gsx1, and that Gsx1 does not regulate dlx2a. We are thus examining the expression of these genes in wild type and gsx1, gsx2, and gsx1/2 mutant zebrafish by WISH. This work will validate the conservation of mammalian Gsx1 and Gsx2 target genes in zebrafish and elucidate the potential relationship between Gsx1, Gsx2, and schizophrenia-implicated genes.


Characterizing Brainstem-Midbrain Circuitry Mediating Aversion-related Behaviors | Jessica Du

Addiction is a debilitating disease caused in part by drugs that hijack the brain’s reward system, inducing maladaptive changes to its dopamine circuitry. To understand these changes, we study the upstream regulators of dopamine and the circuits they form. The laterodorsal tegmentum (LDT) is a major input to the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which contains dopamine neurons involved in motivation and addiction. The LDT is largely glutamatergic, but also contains populations of cholinergic cells and inhibitory GABAergic cells. Because recent evidence suggests that excitatory (i.e., glutamatergic) LDT input to the VTA promotes reward behavior by stimulating VTA dopamine neurons, we hypothesize that inhibitory LDT inputs to the VTA act as a negative regulator of dopamine activity and function. Consistent with our hypothesis, we find that optogenetic stimulation of GABAergic LDT terminals in the VTA elicited real time place aversion. This implicates inhibitory LDT neurons as a strong upstream regulator of motivated behavior, not only interfering with reward but generating aversion. We then characterized this population by studying its anatomy and connectivity. We visualized LDT cells expressing markers for glutamate (VGluT2) and GABA (GAD1/2) release using in situ hybridization and Cre-dependent fluorescent protein. GAD1/2 was found in approximately 4% of glutamatergic LDT cells, while VGluT2 was present in 5% of GAD2 cells; thus, GABAergic and glutamatergic LDT cells likely exist as separate populations. Next, to characterize the upstream anatomy of this circuit, we mapped direct synaptic inputs to GABAergic LDT cells that project to VTA using cell type- and projection-specific rabies-tracing techniques. We found that a large portion of input arises from the raphe nuclei, especially the dorsal raphe, as well as from other LDT cells. Overall, these results point to inhibitory LDT cells as a negative regulator of dopamine activity, promoting aversion-related behavior, and a potential target for controlling addiction.


Mechanistic Studies of the Nickel-Catalyzed Negishi Cross Coupling of Disubstituted Aziridines | Jesus G. Estrada

Since the development of the first cross-coupling reactions in the 1970’s, most efforts have been devoted to developing σ-donating ligands. These ligands are known to facilitate difficult oxidative additions by increasing electron density at the metal center. However, distinct ligand classes used to facilitate reductive eliminations remain underexplored. In attempting to affect the cross coupling between disubstituted aziridines and alkyl zinc-reagents, our group developed a new class of ligands, Electron-Deficient Olefins (EDOs). The proposed mechanism of action of these EDOs involves facilitating the difficult sp3-sp3 reductive elimination step by removing electron density from the metal center. Initial studies involved understanding the mechanism of the catalytic reaction. We performed kinetic studies by employing Reaction Progress Kinetic Analysis (RPKA). The same excess experiments reveal no catalyst decomposition, although the formation of product inhibits the reaction. The different excess experiments have provided kinetic rate orders that help in understanding the catalytic cycle and possible catalyst resting states. The effect of the ligand’s structure and electronic properties’ on the reductive elimination was investigated by performing Linear Free Energy Relationship (LFER) studies. A preliminary model suggests that the electronic character of the olefin (NBOC=C) is important in obtaining high yields of the desired product. This is consistent with EDOs’ ability to remove electron density from the metal center during the reductive elimination step.


Multi-Angle Light Scattering as a Tool for Lipoprotein Analysis | Cody Fridley

In the U.S., it’s estimated that every 40 seconds someone dies from cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. Over the past two decades, the collective fields of research in quantitative biology, biomolecular engineering, medicine, and others have tried to obtain a more robust understanding of how lipoproteins contribute to heart disease. Previous research suggests that patient risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiovascular disease (CVD), and coronary artery disease (CAD) correlates with levels of small dense LDL (sdLDL). To better understand the mechanism of atherosclerosis, improved techniques for LDL size determination are necessary. Multi-angle light scattering (MALS) is proposed as a potentially accurate and cost-effective method for determining lipoprotein size. In this study, we develop a method to measure LDL size that may be used as a diagnostic tool for measuring patient risk for heart disease and could potentially be used to determine if LDL size is relevant to the mechanism of atherosclerosis. In these studies, we optimized MALS equipment, determined ideal sample conditions, and applied Raleigh-Gans-Debye theory to obtain preliminary size results for nanoparticle standards. Although this technique shows promise for the sizing of LDL, more modification of light scattering and sample preparation protocols is needed for reliable lipoprotein sizing. In the future, we plan to investigate LDL-morphology changes when observed in vitro versus in vivo and the physical limitations of MALS analysis to quantify nanoparticles. Additionally, we plan to incorporate pre-separation of particles into the light scattering to better measure the size distributions of LDL and related molecules.


Reconstructing the paleo-stress field of New Zealand's Akaroa Volcano: Insights from field, petrographic, seismic and numerical methods | Robert Goldman

A fundamental question in volcanology is predicting the location of the next eruption. On conical volcanoes, eruptions are commonly depicted as originating from a central vent on the summit. However, this is often one of many eruptive regions, most of which occur along the volcano’s flanks. These peripheral eruptions are fed by magmatic sheet intrusions, such as dikes, that may propagate several kilometers from the central vent before breaching the surface. Therefore, flank eruptions increase the area of an active volcano that volcanologists must monitor for signs of unrest. However, we can significantly reduce the spatial uncertainty of eruption forecasts with a firm understanding of the factors governing intrusion formation and propagation. The magnitude and orientation of stresses acting within a volcano control where active intrusions will propagate. Thus, we can learn how the stress state of a growing volcano evolves with time if we analyze the paths of solidified intrusions exposed within an ancient eroded edifice. The present study applies field, petrographic and seismic data of New Zealand’s Akaroa volcano to finite element models, built in COMSOL Multiphysics 5.3, that map the system’s paleo-stress field. Dikes exposed along Akaroa’s erosional crater rim have predominantly radial orientations, suggesting the existence of a stress barrier along which ascending, radially aligned dikes deflected before emplacement. Simulations of the Akaroa volcano imply that this barrier sloped downward away from the summit; however, thin sections of two dikes reveal plagioclase crystals aligned diagonally upward away from the center, suggesting the dikes were emplaced below the stress barrier. Elastic models incorporating a downward sloping boundary along the base of the volcano, consistent with seismic data of the underlying Tokama siltstone strata, address this discrepancy by placing the stress barrier roughly 100 m above the elevation of the sampled dikes. This result indicates the importance of accurately defining the shape of the boundary between the base of the volcano and underlying units that predate its construction. Viscoelastic models do not reproduce stress barriers consistent with field and petrographic data, suggesting that dike emplacement occurred before viscoelastic relaxation of the Akaroa volcano.


Methods Development for Analysis of Concentration, Product Structure, and Biochemical Fate of Synthetic Plant Defense Elicitors | Mariah Gomez

Plants have evolved an inducible immune system which responds to pathogens with a defense mechanism. The application of organic molecules known as synthetic elicitors was found to trigger a heightened defense response in plants to deter pathogens and other pests from causing damage. Synthetic elicitors could be less harmful to farmers, consumers, and the environment because, unlike conventional pesticides, the organic molecules are not directly toxic to pathogenic organisms. Rather, synthetic elicitors are absorbed into plant tissue, and chemically react to induce a physiological plant defense mechanism. The specific biochemical fates, product structures, and final concentrations of the organic molecules are not fully understood; therefore, methods for purification, separation, and analysis were developed in the present study.
The synthetic elicitors studied were 3,5-dichloro anthranilic acid (DCA) and 3,5-dichloro salicylaldehyde (DC-SAL), and were compared to salicylic acid (SA) and a 99.9% 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) standard. Two samples of Arabidopsis thaliana tissue treated with DCA, DC-SAL, SA, and 2,4-D were previously subjected to two separation procedures to isolate the synthetic elicitors from plant materials. Small scale column chromatography was used to further remove impurities, and the fractions collected predicted to contain synthetic elicitors were derivatized by a methyl chloroformate procedure to prepare the samples for instrumental analysis by Gas Chromatography-Flame Ionization Dissociation (GC-FID) then Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry to assess the presence of the synthetic elicitors in each sample. The sample with a higher concentration of synthetic elicitors correlated to the more efficient separation technique initially used. The detection of synthetic elicitors after application is difficult because the molecules are present in miniscule quantities (~300 nm), and must be extracted from an abundance of plant material, metabolites, and impurities.


Characterization of Tile Based RNA Motifs | Sonia V Gomez

Nucleic acid molecules are programmable biomolecules capable of producing self-assembling structures of varying complexity, size and functionality. Previous work has demonstrated the ability to translate DNA/RNA hybrid tiles to pure RNA tiles to produce tubular structures measuring up to 1 μm in length [1]. Here we demonstrate the ability to tailor design methods to build DNA nanostructures adapted to build RNA nanostructures with comparable features [2]. We demonstrate the formation of RNA lattices and tubular assemblies from double crossover (DX) tiles, a canonical motif in DNA nanotechnology. Tubular structures can exceed 10 μm in length, with varying inter-tile crossover distances suggesting that this DX motif can produce very robust lattices. We obtain assemblies by using a protocol where gel extracted and purified RNA strands are slowly annealed. These tubes, to our knowledge are the largest RNA assemblies and are capable of being visualized using both AFM and fluorescence microscopy. Our results demonstrate that stable RNA structures can be obtained with design tools imported from DNA nanotechnology. These large assemblies have potential applications in biomaterials including scaffolding, which may be used for drug delivery and the colocalization of cellular components.


Elucidating the role of KH-domain RNA binding proteins in the regulation of microRNA activity in Caenorhabditis elegans | Dustin Haskell

Precisely controlled gene regulation is essential for proper organism development and homeostasis. A species of small non- coding RNAs called microRNAs (miRNAs) play a critical role in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. miRNAs regulate gene expression by binding to partially complementary sites in mRNA targets and recruiting protein factors to form the miRNA induced silencing complex (miRISC). The miRISC binds the target transcripts, repressing their translation or targeting the mRNA for degradation. Proteins associated with C. elegans miRISCs were identified using Argonaute ALG-1 immunoprecipitation followed by MUDPIT proteomics. We hypothesize that miRISC associated factors include proteins that may play a role in miRNA activity regulation. Among the candidate regulators identified are a family of proteins containing KH domains, and therefore have putative RNA binding function. To determine whether KH domain proteins play a role in miRNA activity and/or processing we are carrying out functional assays in several genetically sensitized miRNA mutant backgrounds. Using RNAi, we are reducing expression of KH domain proteins in animals with compromised miRNA activity and screening for enhancement or suppression of phenotypes associated with specific miRNA dysfunction. Knockdown of several KH domain proteins results in enhancement of miRNA dysfunction in several sensitized backgrounds, suggesting that these proteins may be potential regulators of miRNA activity.


Thermal and Mechanical Properties of 3D Printed Polymers (Polylactic Acid, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and Polyurethane) | Eleanor House

The effect of processing on the properties of three polymers commonly used in 3D printing was studied. Mechanical testing was uniaxial compression/tension tests performed at room temperature for Young’s modulus, Poisson’s ratio, and yield stress. Thermal testing was Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) for glass transition temperature, melting point and degree of crystallinity. Processing was found to have a pronounced effect in most cases and is most obviously seen in the DSC thermograms where evidence of partial crystallinity and physical aging is seen, both of which are strongly cooling rate dependent.


General Exercise Recommendations for Low Income Populations to Manage Hypertension and Diabetes Type 2 Symptoms Due to Sedentary Lifestyle Habits | Morgan Kimmel

Background and Significance: Both hypertension and diabetes type 2 are chronic conditions that arise due to a combination of poor nutrition and lack of exercise. It is shown in literature that a combination of cardiovascular and resistance training programs have the potential to lower both pressure and hemoglobin A1C levels in patients suffering from these conditions. In low income populations, however, there is a lack of both education about exercise benefits, as well as a lack of resources. Methods: First, a thorough literature search was performed in order to evaluate whether cardiovascular or resistance training had a more significant drop in blood pressure or hemoglobin A1C values. Then, once it was concluded that a combination program was the most efficient method for alleviating symptoms, a pamphlet was constructed in order to facilitate patients to mix and match exercises to create their own workouts to perform within the house. Results: It was recommended to do 4 workouts a week, 2 cardio and 2 resistance, for 30-60 minutes in duration. The pamphlet educated patients on various types of core exercises that can be performed without any equipment, ways to use furniture to perform resistance exercises, and cardio circuits that are low impact on the joints in lower extremities. Conclusion: This pamphlet is designed to be distributed at a free clinic in Richmond, VA, in order to help patients with hypertension or diabetes type 2 manage their conditions better.


Effects of Astrocyte Conditioned Media on HUVEC Cell Junctions | Divya Krishna

The blood brain barrier is a selectively permeable barrier, consisting of endothelial cells and tight junctions, between the the brain’s extracellular fluids and capillaries carrying blood. This barrier is affected by drugs such as meth, or viruses such as HIV, and can make drug administration a difficult task. HUVEC cells were grown and used to cross the membrane of transwell inserts that mimic the blood brain barrier. In one experiment, HUVECs were given either HUVEC media, or astrocyte condition media. These HUVECs were plated and infected with VE Cadherin, an adhesion molecule. It was found that the HUVECs treated with astrocyte condition media had much tighter, clearer tight junctions that the HUVECs in regular HUVEC media, indicating that astrocytes may play a significant role in strengthening the blood brain barrier. The main project consisted of a series experiments in which HUVECs and Astrocytes in their respective medias were treated with Diazepam at 72 hours, 24 hours, and 2 hours before the addition of Lucifer-Yellow fluorescent dye. Samples were taken at different time intervals after the Lucifer Yellow was added, and absorption was measured. The absorption correlates to the amount of HUVEC cells that have crossed the transwell insert membrane. It was found that the longer the Diazepam treatments, the higher the absorption values up to 30 minutes after adding Lucifer Yellow. This indicates that cells treated with Diazepam for longer periods of time better pass through the membrane, whereas the cells treated with Diazepam for a shorter period of time did not pass through the membrane as readily, so the barrier remained more intact. In the control groups without Diazepam treatments, the absorption values were much higher, meaning that there was a higher concentration of HUVEC cells that crossed the membrane. These results show that both a Diazepam treatment of 2 hours, along with astrocyte condition media, reinforces the barrier in terms of strengthening tight junctions and making the cells less proficient in crossing the barrier. Strengthening the blood brain barrier through different methods would help to lessen the effects of brain-affecting conditions such as HIV and Alzheimer’s, and weakened barriers would aid in the process of medications crossing to the brain.


Inflammatory cytokine expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells treated with conditioned media from head and neck and lung cancer cells in vitro | Logan Leak

With recent breakthroughs in the field of immunotherapy, elucidating the complex cancer signalling pathways that are used to evade the immune system has become more paramount than ever. Here, we hypothesized that cancer cells inhibit an inflammatory response in the immune system, thus preventing T cells from detecting and eliminating the tumor cells. We examined the immunological profile of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated from blood of healthy donors. The PBMCs were treated with conditioned media (CM) from four head and neck cancer (HNC) cell lines (SCC9, HSC3, TR146, and FaDu), CM from two lung cancer cell lines (NCI-H1299 carcinoma and NCI-H1437 adenocarcinoma), or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a cell wall component of Gram-negative bacteria which stimulates a control inflammatory immunological response. Another group of cells received no treatment (control PBMCs). CM was collected from cell lines cultured for one week. The PBMCs were given appropriate treatment (or none for control PBMCs) for 72 hours or 6 days. Then the cells were removed from the plate for total RNA isolation, reverse transcription of RNA to generate cDNA, and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to measure gene expression using specific primers. We assessed the expression of inflammatory cytokines Interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-4, IL-10, Programmed Cell Death Protein 1 (PD-1), PD-L1, PD-L2, Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte-Associated Protein 4 (CTLA-4), Lymphocyte-Activation Gene 3 (LAG-3), and T-Cell Immunoglobulin and Mucin-Domain Containing-3 (TIM-3). The GAPDH gene served as an endogenous control for gene expression levels. Our data suggest that the CM from all cancer cell lines significantly stimulated expression of IL-1β, PD-1, and CTLA-4 and suppressed expression of IL-4, IL-10, PD-L1, PD-L2, LAG-3, and TIM-3 in PBMCs while LPS induced proinflammatory cytokine expression in general. In future studies, we will further investigate cytokine expression in PBMC monocytic cells treated with CM from HNC, lung cancer, and other cancer cells to better understand the relationship between tumor cells and the immune system and to develop immunotherapeutic strategies to target cancer.


Identifying Novel Inhibitors of RNA Riboswitches By Targeting Alternative Binding Pocket Conformations | Jessica D. Leuchter

In the last couple decades, research has demonstrated that beyond acting as messengers between genome and proteome, ribonucleic acids (RNAs) actively regulate key transcriptional and translational processes within cells. These functional non-coding RNAs have been shown to be dysregulated in diseases such as cancers, neurological disorders, and heart disease, etc; billions of dollars are spent treating these diseases each year in the United States alone. One type of non-coding RNA are riboswitches, which are segments of mRNA involved in the regulation of transcription attenuation or translation initiation. There is strong evidence to suggest that riboswitches are a viable drug targets. Research has been done to identify small molecules that target the known binding pocket of these riboswitches. Although identifying alternative binding pocket conformations in proteins has become a recent topic of interest, to date, alternative binding pockets in RNAs have not been identified. However, due to the fact, that riboswitches are more like proteins in that they encapsulate their target ligand and they are more flexible and larger than typical RNAs, it is reasonable to assume that riboswitches are capable of sampling alternative binding pockets in the ligand reference state. We suggest that if we can identify alternative binding pockets that have novel and distinct pharmacological features relative to the binding pocket in the presence of the cognate metabolite, it may be possible to identify novel small molecules that populate a unique region of chemical space and thus are chemically distinct from the cognate metabolite. Here we explore the use of molecular dynamics simulation to identify and select alternative binding pockets in riboswitches. As a starting point, we have carried out MD simulations on the FMN riboswitch. Preliminary results indicate that residues in contact with the ligand undergo fluctuations that may allow for ligands with different chemical structures to bind.


Conformity to Masculine and Feminine Social Norms in Social Identity Association | Jacob Michael Cox

Social identities make up the personal identity of an individual, these social identities can intersect and cause even more complexity within an individual’s personal identity. The current research looks at the intersections of gender and five other social identities (religious affiliation, sexual orientation, race, age, (dis)ability status, and socioeconomic status). Individual’s conformity to gender norms of either male or female (depending on their self-identified gender) were then assessed using conformity to norms inventory. The research sought to find if an individual’s gender identity and their conformity to gender norms would influence their decision to select the dominant group (hyperdescent) or the less dominant group (hypodescent). This was observed through a three step process: (1) asking the individual to select where the self-identify on a scale for each social identity with a broad selection of answers to choose from, (2) having the individual fill out the conformity to gender norms based on their self-identified gender of male or female, (3) and when given a dichotomous choice, will that conformity associate with the dominant selection or less-dominant selection. Of 124 participants, 39 were male and 85 were women. Results for the current research suggest that women are more likely to seek the dominant status (hyperdescent) when previously answered the opposite of their dichotomous selection in regards to sexual orientation and religious affiliation. Implications of this study can be used to understand female gender roles in an ever changing environment versus the male gender roles.


Methodologies for assessing and predicting water quality status for improved decision-making and management | Val Mijares

With the increasing population and demand for water, it is crucial to be able to assess its quality on a real-time basis and for predictive purposes. Water-quality Indices (WQIs) provide a means by which the water quality can be compared across space and time based on a composite indicator. Index and subindex values can be used to flag contaminants of concern, guide prioritization of management efforts, and for predictive purposes. In this study, subindex formulations for key water quality parameters were developed and enhanced to incorporate water quality targets and criteria. The enhanced subindex formulations were built into the Unweighted Multiplicative Water Quality Index (UMWQI) and tested for suitability, with a focus on the Western Lake Erie Basin. The proposed UMWQI model integrates the water quality criterion and targets set forth by the USEPA, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, in order to improve the water quality status within the WLEB. Preliminary results demonstrate monthly average subindex values for total suspended solids (TSS) range between 33 and 80 (ranging from “fair” to “good”), those for total phosphorus range between 28 and 57 (ranging “poor” to “fair”), while those for soluble reactive phosphorus range between 13 and 44 (ranking “very poor” to “poor”). Overall index values range from 34.to 63, indicating that water quality in the basin is generally poor to fair, consistent with existing literature and water quality reports. Of the four sites that were being assessed, the Raisin River site tends to have the highest annual overall water quality index (cleanest system), with the Tiffin and Blanchard sites ranking the worst. All four sites have soluble reactive phosphorus as the worst ranking determinant indicating that this is the determinant of greatest concern, also consistent with existing literature. Results indicate that UMWQI and associated subindices as developed were suitable for use within the WLEB. Methodologies and approaches so developed were applicable in other areas experiencing similar concerns.


The Effect of Parental Stress on Child Behavior and Parent-Child Interaction | Tierra Modock

Parenting stress can result from parental distress, a parent-child dysfunctional relationship, or difficult child temperament. Parenting stress impacts children’s social emotional behavior in real-life contexts and undermines the quality of the parent-child relationship. The primary aim was to evaluate whether three types of parenting stress (parent-related, dyad-related, or child-related) were associated with observations of preschoolers’ social emotional behavior and dyadic interaction quality during two videotaped interaction tasks. A second aim was to evaluate whether the context in which dyads interacted (challenging or unstructured) altered the magnitude of these associations. Analyses were based on data collected from 50 mother-child dyads at the 4-year visit in a larger study. At that visit, parent-child dyads were asked to engage in two interaction tasks: a challenging dyadic copy task using an Etch-A-Sketch, and unstructured free play. Dyads were videotaped during each context, and the videotapes were later scored for qualitative dimensions of maternal, child, and dyadic behavior using 5-point Likert ratings from a reliable scoring system. In the current study, three child scales (positive affect, negative affect, engagement,) and one dyadic scale (interaction quality) were evaluated. Results of correlational analyses indicated that higher parent-related stress and higher child-related stress were each associated with higher child negative affect and lower dyadic interaction quality during the Etch-A-Sketch (but not the free play) task. In contrast, higher dyadic-related stress was associated with higher child negative affect and lower dyadic interaction quality in both contexts, and with lower child engagement during the Etch-A-Sketch task. Results confirm that parenting stress is associated with direct observations of negative child and dyadic interactive behavior, but specific results vary depending on the context, the type of parenting stress, and the dimension of interactive behavior being evaluated. Negative child behavior and dyadic interaction problems are more apparent during challenging as opposed to unstructured contexts. Interventions focused on alleviating parenting stress may be beneficial. Future research and interventions should include interactive contexts varying in level of challenge to elicit a wider range of parent-child interactive behavior.


Advantages and Applications of Synthetic Aperture Radar as a Decision Support Tool | Andrew Molthan

Optical remote sensing instruments such as (Landsat, MODIS, VIIRS, etc.) have been a staple for observing changes in Earth’s surface since the 1970s. These sensors help with the detection of vegetation health, burn scars and severe weather damage (i.e. tornado tracks and hail damage). One limitation of optical sensors is the lack of ability to detect surface features through clouds and cloud cover. Clouds can be extremely problematic during the initial hours or day after an extreme severe weather event when decision makers at the National Weather Service or Federal Emergency Management Agency need to immediately respond to a disaster and provide decision support. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) allows for the surface to be imaged regardless of sky condition or time of day. Providing products derived from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to decision makers that can be used regardless of cloud cover offers an opportunity to provide products immediately after an event has occurred in contrast to products derived from optical sensors. With the launch of the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel 1A and 1B satellites over the last couple of years, a new remote sensing technology is available for decision makers to use in disaster response. This presentation highlights the use of the Sentinel 1A and 1B SAR instruments in disaster response and decision support services (DSS). Example applications will include the use of SAR for tornado damage, severe thunderstorm damage to agricultural areas due to high wind or hail, and widespread flooding. Data from optical remote sensors will be used to show how the two sensors complement one another.


Energized Hydrogen Populations Around Supermassive Black Holes | Samuel Montgomery

The center of galaxies are dense with stars, gas and dust. Central regions of several nearby spiral galaxies appear completely void of atomic hydrogen, the most abundant element in the Universe. Using a telescope at the Etscorn Observatory fitted with a charge coupled device (CCD camera) with several different filters, direct observations of spiral galaxies have been made. The detection of ionized hydrogen is expected to take the place of the absent atomic hydrogen. Ionized hydrogen is observed as a byproduct of the recombination of protons with freed electrons in an ionized soup of hydrogen atoms. This recombining of particles triggers the emission of a specific wavelength photon in a process known as H-alpha emission. The galaxies M81 and NGC 2903 show the presence of ionized hydrogen, glowing strongly in the images produced using an H-alpha filter. Ionized hydrogen resides in galactic environments with energy sources high enough to strip electrons from their host protons. The primary sources of this ionization energy are the supermassive black hole located at the centers of M81 and NGC 2903. When matter forms an accretion disk around a supermassive black hole it forms a quasar. Quasars emit a powerful amount of electromagnetic radiation, which is hypothesized as the source for the energy needed to ionize the surrounding atomic hydrogen. Data will be collected from several more spiral galaxies. Computer codes are also being produced to better analyze the incoming data.


The Role of Specific ICP0 Motifs in Counteracting Interferon Response During HSV-1 Infection | Spencer Morgan

Infected Cell Protein 0 (ICP0), a key immediate-early protein of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) that stimulates lytic infection and reactivation from quiescent infections, is vital for HSV-1’s gene expression and host cell interactions. ICP0 has been shown to play an important role in counteracting host counter-defense mechanisms. Residues 312-388 of ICP0 have been shown in previous experiments to facilitate efficient viral replication in the presence of the cellular antiviral factor, interferon-beta (IFN-β). Specifically, this region of ICP0 is known to contain phosphorylated region 2 and a central SUMO-interacting motif. Mutations of these 2 functional motifs within region 213-388 of ICP0 are being introduced in a mutant form of ICP0 (n389, which expresses the first 388 amino acids of ICP0). These mutations will be introduced into the HSV-1 genome to construct ICP0 mutants; after, we will assess their replication in the presence and absence of IFN-β-treated cells to observe possible changes in viral efficiency.


An Exploration in the Graduate Admissions Process: Gender Bias in Faculty Letters of Reference | Jennifer Nava

Much of the research looking at implicit gender bias in letters of reference (LORs) has been for faculty positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), however, little is known as to whether similar biases are apparent in the graduate admissions process. We conducted a preliminary test on whether gender differences were present in four STEM departments at Wayne State University (WSU). These departments included Nutrition and Food Sciences, Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. LORs were then de-identified and coded through the use of the text analysis application Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC2015). It was hypothesized that, in comparison to male applicants, letters for female applicants would be shorter, and include fewer mentions to performance and achievement. Preliminary results suggest that there are indeed gender biases in the language recommenders use to describe candidates. This knowledge can be used to improve guidance for faculty members and to achieve more equitable access throughout the graduate admissions process.


Classical and Quantum Mechanical Motion in Magnetic Fields | Kit Newton

We study the motion of a particle in a particular magnetic field configuration both classically and quantum mechanically. For flux-free radially symmetric magnetic fields defined on circular regions, we establish that particle escape speeds depend, classically, on a gauge-fixed magnetic vector potential, and demonstrate some trajectories associated with this special type of magnetic field. Then we show that some of the geometric features of the classical trajectory (perpendicular exit from the field region, trapped and escape behavior) are reproduced quantum mechanically using a numerical method that extends the norm-preserving Crank-Nicolson method to problems involving magnetic fields. While there are similarities between the classical trajectory and the position expectation value of the quantum mechanical solution, there are also differences, and we demonstrate some of these.


Nitrous oxide reduces corticortical information transfer at sub-anesthetic doses without loss of consciousness | Chrono S. Nu

Nitrous oxide (N2O) and ketamine are unique among clinically-relevant anesthetic drugs because, unlike their GABAergic counterparts (e.g. propofol), they tend to increase regional brain metabolism (Reinstrup et al., 2008, Brit J Anaesth) and enhance higher-frequency electroencephalographic activity (Lee et al., 2013, Anesthesiology). Previous work from our group has shown in the non-human primate brain that thalamocortical transfer of somatosensory information to primary sensory cortex (S1) is preserved during ketamine anesthesia but corticocortical information transfer from S1 to primary motor cortex (M1) is disrupted (Schroeder et al., 2016, NeuroImage). This is consistent with findings in humans using surrogate measures of information transfer derived from electroencephalography during ketamine anesthesia (Lee et al., 2013, Anesthesiology). In the current study we are examining the hypothesis that corticocortical information transfer would also be reduced during N2O exposure in a dose-dependent manner, with somatosensory-related activity in M1 used as a surrogate for corticocortical information transfer based on our past study (Schroeder et al., 2016, NeuroImage). One male Rhesus macaque monkey was implanted with a 96-channel Utah microelectrode array (Blackrock Microsystems) in M1 and S1. We randomly stimulated the monkey’s fingers (thumb, index, and little) using 2Hz strokes with cotton swabs in 5 second trials under awake, 40% N2O, and 70% N2O conditions. Intracranial spiking data were high-pass filtered at 250Hz and at a threshold of -4.5 RMS. We then used a naïve Bayes classifier with 10-fold cross validation to perform offline 1-of-3 decoding on which finger had been stimulated (the primary outcome of interest), and analyzed network information transfer by means of high order transfer entropy (HOTE) (Ito et al., 2011, PLoS One) within M1. Similar to ketamine, our preliminary data show that 70% N2O resulted in reduced average decode performance from 66% correct to 35% correct and significantly reduced local directed connectivity as measured by HOTE (p < 0.001), while 40% N2O exhibited a decode performance drop from 55% to 45% and a non-significant reduction (p = 0.11) in HOTE. These data support the hypothesis that N2O causes a dose-dependent reduction in corticocortical information transfer in the primate brain.


The Role of Hypoxia on the Development of Normal and Thermally Stressed Lizard Embryos | Sylvia Nunez

Climate change induced thermal stress may negatively impact ecology, reproduction, and life history of many species. Oviparous (egg laying) species may be severely impacted by climate change as their eggs will be laid and incubated at increasingly higher temperatures. Physiologists suggest that the lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, may limit cellular and molecular processes during thermal stress. Yet, the precise cellular and molecular processes underlying the effects of hypoxia and its relationship to thermal stress during reptilian development has not been fully studied. Anolis lizards are an often-used model of thermal stress. Preliminary data shows that thermal stress affects early embryonic development in anoles. Here, we plan to study whether cellular-level hypoxia is limiting the thermal response of the developing anole embryo leading to developmental defects. We will test the hypoxic effects on development phenotypically by conducting a series of experiments with varying temperature and oxygen levels to observe the phenotypic and survival effects during early embryonic development. We will test the hypoxic effects on development mechanically by using a sensor of hypoxia, Hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha (HIF-1-alpha), to study how the cellular mechanisms of hypoxia respond to produce developmental defects. Uncovering the cellular mechanisms that lead to hypoxia-induced defects during thermal stress in embryogenesis will help us better understand the potential impacts of climate change on reptiles.


A Case for Missing Cloud Physics in Climate Models | Travis A. O'Brien

Precipitation extremes have impacts across a wide swath of natural and human systems. There has been quite a lot of work to understand how human activity (greenhouse gas emissions) have impacted extremes, but huge uncertainties remain. The representation of cloud processes, and resulting extreme precipitation, in climate model simulations is a huge source of uncertainty. A key uncertainty originates in the strong dependence of cloud processes on model resolution. Understanding, and ultimately improving such resolution dependence, would go a long way toward reducing uncertainty. We describe results from several recent publications that document and explain an existing resolution dependence associated with the intensification of updrafts. Based on this information, and some recent results, we argue that this resolution dependence ultimately can be traced back to the 'scale separation' assumption that is an intrinsic part of contemporary climate model design. We argue that the community should consider a new class of physics parameterization that simulates the spectrum of updrafts across scales ranging from convective to nearly global scales.


Spatial variability of bacterial colony size changes in polyculture environments | Elliott Quast

Bacterial communities inhabit every ecosystem on Earth, where they interact among themselves and other species in these structured environments, such as the human gut, or agricultural microbiomes. A pressing question is how spatial structure alters bacterial interactions. Here we quantify competition between Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica in a spatially-structured environment, as well as measure whether spatial variability in colony size changes in a polyculture setting. We find that the strength of competition depends on the media resource, for example with E. coli facing stronger interspecific competition with Salmonella on glucose than on LB. Importantly, we find that a change in competition can also change the spatial effect: the variability in colony size across an environment. These results will offer increased insight into the factors affecting complex, multispecies interactions in bacterial communities in defined ecological environments.


Developing Clytia Hemispherica as a Model for Single-Cell Wound Healing | Jean-Baptiste Reynier

The epithelium, which protects the surfaces of organs, is constantly subject to stress: micro-wounds between cells often occur, and the cells themselves also endure membrane tears. In vitro models do not allow for a complete understanding of the healing mechanisms in the cellular context of the intact organism. We therefore asked whether the jellyfish Clytia hemisphaerica, a new model organism with exceptional healing capabilities, could allow for in vivo studies of epithelial repair at the cellular level. Using the pressure of a cover slip to wound the animal, one can easily observe the healing of holes both inside and on the border of cells with DIC and fluorescent microscopy. Staining with CellMask indicates that the holes go through both membranes of the cell, though plasma membrane debris is present in some of the wounds. Surprisingly, the healing of the micro-wounds recapitulates the fundamental steps of multi-cellular wound healing: lamellipodia come together, adhere to one another, and a contraction of the wound ensues, extruding any cellular debris present in the wound. Phalloidin staining shows that actin recruitment at the wound is necessary for healing. This initial research demonstrates that Clytia is a powerful new tool to study single-cell wound healing.


Measuring and Modeling Liquid-Filled Nanobubbles Trapped by 2D Materials | Danny Sanchez

Layered systems of van der Waals bonded two-dimensional (2D) materials are widely explored for new physics and devices. In many cases, 2D atomic layers are transferred to a foreign substrate including other 2D materials. It has been extensively reported that nanometer-scale interfacial bubbles form spontaneously after the transfer. Although nanobubbles are unfavorable in device applications, their use in adhesion metrology, strain engineering, and confined chemistry have been discussed. So far, there is no consensus on whether these nanobubbles are filled by liquid, solid, or gas. Many papers simply applied the gas bubble model for adhesion estimation, but the reported adhesions are unrealistically low. We have carried out time-lapse atomic force microscopy (AFM) scans on nanobubbles trapped between graphene and silicon. The non-deflating bubbles over the course of a month indicate that probably liquid instead of gas is trapped them. We therefore develop a theoretical framework built upon the Föppl-von Kármán equations for thin, elastic membranes trapping incompressible liquid to form interfacial bubbles. Our final analytical solution suggests that adhesion between the 2D material and its substrate is related to the fourth power of the aspect ratio of the blister, which is a constant irrespective of the bubble diameter. Our model is first validated by molecular dynamics simulations, and is then applied to estimate the adhesion energy of various 2D material interfaces out of the experimentally measured aspect ratios of the bubbles. The good agreement between graphene-SiO2 and MoS2-SiO2 adhesion values estimated by our model and those reported in the literature further substantiates our model. Finally, we construct an adhesion map for various 2D interfaces by consolidating our aspect ratios as well as those reported in the literature.


Rapid adaptation in a contaminated environment: Evolutionary adaptive response of old field grass Andropogon virginicus to heavy metals in abandoned Lead and Zinc mines | Sam Sharpe

Anthropogenic activities have severely altered the earth’s ecosystems, driving many species to undergo rapid evolution in response to extreme and changing environmental conditions. This research investigates genotypic and phenotypic components of adaptive variation in heavy metal exposed populations of Andropogon virginicus, a common perennial grass that often grows in contaminated mine soil. The study area is the Tar Creek EPA Superfund Site, an abandoned Lead and Zinc mine active for 100 years that spans Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Using a greenhouse soil reciprocal transplant, we compared populations of A. virginicus collected from Tar Creek with those collected from nearby non-mine sites to determine if ecotypic adaptation to contaminated soils has occurred in mine populations. To assess phenotypic adaptation, we measured vegetative morphology (leaf area), fitness (seed production), and physiology (SPAD) over the course of the growing season. Plants from 20 populations were genotyped with GBS to analyze differentiation on the genetic level. We identified ~6,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including 47 outliers under divergent selection between mine and non-mine populations, two of which are related to Zinc binding. For both of these SNPs, a single allele is fixed in the mine populations while both alleles are present in non-mine populations, indicating potentially greater selection for one allele variant in the mine site. Preliminary evidence supports phenotypic differences between mine and non-mine populations, including a potential trade off in mine populations between reproduction and vegetative growth. In a greenhouse reciprocal soil transplant, plants from mine populations produced more biomass than plants from old field populations early in the growing season, but mine plants were half as likely to flower as old field plants. These results indicate genotypic and phenotypic divergence between mine and non-mine populations linked to metal tolerance.


What Causes Unhealthy Air Pollution? | Mary Spraggs

Tropospheric ozone is a secondary air pollutant, meaning that it is not directly emitted from a source the way that CO2 is emitted from a vehicle. Instead, ozone depends on the interconnection and reactions between many other air pollutants. The rate of reaction is influence by meteorological parameters such as air temperature and relative humidity. Ozone is the most difficult to account for criteria air pollutant because of this, and the relationship between ozone concentration and meteorology is thus an active area of research with many applications to energy policy, climate change, and human health.


Characterization of a Novel Leucine Biosynthesis Transcription Factor in Aspergillus nidulans | Joel T Steyer

The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine are classified as essential amino acids because they are incapable of being synthesized by animals and must be obtained through their diet. Many fungal species, including Aspergillus, Candida, and Saccharomyces, are capable of de novo synthesis of BCAAs. Proper regulation of BCAA metabolism is important for protein synthesis, growth, and virulence. The Zn(II)2Cys6 transcription factor LeuB regulates leucine biosynthesis in Aspergillus nidulans in response to leucine levels. The leuB∆ single mutant is a leaky leucine auxotroph. LeuB also regulates expression of the key nitrogen assimilation enzyme NADP-glutamate dehydrogenase encoded by gdhA. We have identified a LeuB paralog, LeuR, that is conserved throughout the Aspergilli. To examine its role in leucine biosynthesis and gdhA regulation, we have deleted leuR. The leuR∆ single mutant has no phenotype. In contrast, the leuB∆ leuR∆ double mutant confers tight leucine auxotrophy, revealing a role for LeuR in regulating leucine biosynthesis. Using a gdhA-lacZ translational fusion reporter gene and exogenous leucine, we show that LeuR regulates gdhA expression. To further characterize how LeuR regulates gdhA expression, we have begun to use a series of deletions in the gdhA promoter. A more complete understanding of the metabolism and regulation of BCAA synthesis in Aspergillus nidulans could provide new anti-fungal targets in human pathogens such as Aspergillus fumigatus, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Candida albicans.


Modeling and Characterizing the Structural and Thermodynamic Aspects of the Elevator Transport Mechanism of VcINDY | Noah Trebesch

VcINDY is a bacterial homolog of the human transporter NaCT, a potential drug target for treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and it is thought to operate via the elevator transport mechanism, a model of transport used by an increasingly wide variety of biomedically relevant transporters. To investigate the transport mechanism of VcINDY, we have developed an atomistic model of its uncrystallized outward-facing (OF) state embedded stably in a membrane using a new technique based on nonequilibrium molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. We have compared our model to available experimental data (i.e., smFRET and X-ray crystallography) from our collaborators and against an OF model developed using inverted repeat-swap homology modeling. In our mechanistic investigation of VcINDY, we have also examined its substrate binding pocket. During its transport cycle, VcINDY cotransports three sodium ions per substrate molecule, but only two sodium binding sites are known from the inward-facing (IF) crystal structure and internal symmetry arguments. We propose a third sodium binding site based on MD simulations. Finally, we have investigated the structural pathway taken by VcINDY when transitioning between the IF and OF states. We have decomposed the large-scale structural differences between the IF and OF states into two key collective variables (i.e., relative domain position and orientation) in order to characterize the thermodynamics along the transition pathway using advanced nonequilibrium MD-based techniques (i.e., bias-exchange umbrella sampling and string method with swarms of trajectories). These results significantly contribute to our ultimate goal of characterizing the full transport mechanism of VcINDY and inform our understanding of other important homologous transporters that also use the elevator transport mechanism.


Curie Properties of the Long-Range Transverse-Field Ising Model in One-Dimension | Syrian Truong

The mechanism by which thermalization of isolated quantum systems occurs has been a subject of considerable debate. One possible explanation is the eigenstate thermalization hypothesis (ETH), which posits that the expectation value of an observable in an energy eigenstate equals the thermal value at that energy. The ultimate goal of this overall project is to revise ETH in order to incorporate systems with spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB), which have observables with multiple values within the broken symmetry phase. Although previous work on this subject has shown that SSB and ETH compatibility is possible, small system sizes cast doubt on whether its observed phase transition locations agree with those found in larger systems. As such, the purpose of this study is to locate critical temperatures and energies of the long-range transverse-field Ising model in one-dimension, for comparisons to values within larger system sizes. Stochastic series expansion quantum Monte Carlo simulations upon this Ising model variant were written in the C++ programming language and performed for this purpose. The results obtained from this study identified critical temperature and energy locations that were closer to those found within larger system sizes. Additionally, the Binder cumulant, specific heat, and transverse field expectation values, along with an estimation of the Curie temperature, are obtained with their respective transverse field strength and system size parameter values. Therefore, quantum Monte Carlo methods upon an Ising model resolved some doubt regarding the ambiguity surrounding phase transition locations. In conclusion, this knowledge allows for a more accurate analysis of values well within the broken symmetry phase, pertinent to the study of SSB and ETH compatibility.


Towards a Universal Calving Law: Modeling Ice Shelves Using Damage Mechanics | Morgan Whitcomb

Glaciers are one of the primary factors controlling sea level rise as climates change globally. In Antarctica, one of Earth’s two remaining ice sheets, the flows of glaciers are held back by floating ice masses known as ice shelves, which limit the amount of water exported by the ice sheet to the ocean. Smaller pieces of ice break off of these ice shelves through a process known as iceberg calving, which is difficult to describe in mathematical models. Here we show a simple model that represents distributions of crevasses in the ice as a continuum variable known as damage. Changes to this damage parameter depend on the stress and rate of deformation in the ice, as well as how fast the ice melts at the shelf’s surface and base. The basal melting term in our model enhances crevasse growth near the front of the ice shelf, leading to an increased rate of iceberg calving. This implies that increasing ocean temperatures underneath ice shelves will drive ice shelf retreat, as has been observed recently in West Antarctica. We show that our model predicts broadly correct iceberg calving rates for one-dimensional ice shelves ranging in length from 10 km to over 100 km, by matching the steady state lengths we compute to observations. In addition, we apply the model to idealized Antarctic ice shelves and show that we can predict realistic ice shelf extents. Our damage model provides a promising, computationally efficient way to calculate calving fluxes and links ice shelf stability to climate forcing.


Electrochemical Reduction of Carbon Dioxide in Ionic Liquids | Grace Wickerson

With atmospheric CO2 levels approaching record levels above 406 parts per million, there is a need for an emissions-free energy system. CO2 can be electrochemically converted to liquid fuel via a stable and selective catalyst. We developed a system that utilizes ionic liquids to capture CO2 and then selectively catalyze it to liquid fuel with the help of nitrogen-doped Graphenated Carbon Nanotubes (G-CNTs). The ionic liquid chosen for this study, EMIM-BF4, acts as a co-catalyst by stabilizing the CO2- intermediate at low overpotentials allowing for increased current efficiency for CO2 reduction while also preventing the evolution of hydrogen, a competing reaction. The only limits of ionic liquids are their high viscosity, which limits mass transport. GCNTs are a material developed by the Glass laboratory that is a carbon nanotube with graphene “leaves”. As this material contains many edge sites due to the presence of graphene leaves, when doped with nitrogen GCNTs express both graphitic (part of the nanotube structure due to the growth procedure) and pyridinic nitrogen. Pyridinic nitrogen creates electron-defects in the lattice structure which have been shown in previous studies to enhance electrocatalytic activity. We found that the highest percentage of pyridinic nitrogen occurred at 800 degrees Celsius, and so this temperature was used for all nitrogen doped GCNT electrodes in this study. Once the materials were developed, we compared the electrochemical activity for carbon dioxide reduction of G-CNTs, nitrogen-doped G-CNTs, and Copper (as a control) in varying concentrations of EMIM-BF4 Ionic Liquids in water (for reducing mass transport), through cyclic voltammetry measurements to characterize the electrode and electrolyte. We found that both the addition of water to pure EMIM-BF4 and doping of the GCNT enhanced the reduction peak of carbon dioxide and at lower overpotentials. One such limitation of our measurements was the similarity between the reduction peaks in CO2 and N2, we attribute this largely to the absorbance of CO2 on the surface of the electrode that was not fully removed between measurements. A method has been developed to perform the electrochemical reduction reaction and characterize the products, which will be worked on further in later studies. While further optimization is needed, this work is a step towards more efficient and economically-viable electricity-to-fuel systems.