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Click for COVID Safety, Reporting Information, including 6-foot social distancing requirement in all college buildings, mask and vaccination practices, and the process for student Return to Campus approvals. To support students with Spring Term applications and registration, on-campus services are available on a walk-in basis or by appointment, with virtual options also still in place. See the Student Services Guide.

Spring 2021 Virtual Undergraduate Research Exhibition

The Virtual Undergraduate Research Exhibition, presented by the Office of Undergraduate Research, is an online variation of our biannual, in-person event in which students showcase original research, scholarly projects, and creative works. Instead of students coming to campus to display their research posters and give presentations, the EFSC community and the general public are invited to view this term's student research submissions below.

Emergent Disease Response, Problems, and Possible Solutions

Student Researcher: Jacob Eichenbaum
Mentor: Dr. Kimberly Scalise

Jacob Eichenbaum

Abstract: During the COVID-19 crisis that has confronted the medical sciences, there has been minimal to no documentation of nurses being involved in the planning of response efforts, nor of them being involved in the adaptions of policies and procedures that have been issued from governmental and area leaders. It is theorized that many of the stressors and situations faced by nurses and other healthcare workers could be mitigated or avoided with proper awareness, planning, and execution. This project aims to demonstrate that the skills and knowledge developed by acute care nurses is valuable data in planning continued and future responses to emergent diseases that threaten the lives and health of the public. To accomplish this goal, anonymous surveys are being distributed through social networks nurses have developed to communicate with each other. These surveys include a stress survey and questions about the current conditions each participant finds themself in. By analyzing the shared recommendations for change and those aspects of current policies and procedures that the nurses view as being appropriate/helpful, this research endeavors to be able to create unified feedback that can be used in current and future planning. Feedback about problems and difficulties will hopefully demonstrate how the lack of nurse involvement in the development of policies and procedures is harming the response efforts.

Decomposition Rates of Skeletal Muscle Within Different Substrates

Student Researcher: Amanda Hadley
Mentor: Dr. Ashley Spring

Amanda Hadley's poster
Click to enlarge the poster.

Abstract: Knowing how long a body has been decomposing in certain substrates is important for scientists to know, because it can have different effects on the skeletal muscle. The hypothesis of this study is that skeletal muscle decomposing in freshwater will have significantly lower masses compared to other common Florida substrates including brackish water, saltwater, Myakka soil, calcium carbonate sand, silica sand, asphalt, and the control (glass).

Amanda Hadley

Pig (sus scrofa domesticus) skeletal muscle pieces of 2.5g (n=4) were placed separately into 100mL beakers in 25g of each substrate, and muscle masses were measured daily for two weeks, after which the muscle pieces were removed, dried at 60°C for 24 hours, and the dry masses measured. The muscle samples in the Myakka soil had significantly heavier masses, and the samples placed in water substrates (freshwater, brackish water, and saltwater) had significantly lower masses than samples placed in other substrates. The results of this study can be used to determine the decomposition rates of human remains in a variety of Florida substrates during the early post-mortem time period.

Spectrophotometric Investigation of Bromelain Protease for Pancreatic Insufficiency

Student Researcher: Brittany Lowe
Mentor: Dr. Ashley Spring

Brittany Lowe's poster
Click to enlarge the poster.

Abstract: Pancreatic insufficiency is a major issue for patients with cystic fibrosis, requiring the use of supplemental pancreatic enzymes to combat malnourishment and illnesses caused by malnourishment (Singh & Schwarzenburg, 2017). The purpose of this study is to test the hypothesis that bromelain, a natural protease found in pineapple plants (ananas comosus), when combined with other pancreatic enzymes or used independently, will have significantly higher protein digestion than the supplemental pancreatic enzymes used alone.

Brittany Lowe

Using Bradford reagent, the amount of digested proteins after adding the control protease and bromelain were analyzed through spectrophotometry. The results of this study indicate that bromelain is effective in increasing protein digestion, even without supplemental enzymes present. As opposed to current supplemental pancreatic enzymes derived from pig’s intestines, bromelain could be of particular interest to the cystic fibrosis community because of its protein digestion and alkalizing effect, further aiding digestion and absorption in the duodenum in cystic fibrosis patients.

Quantifying Anthropogenic Effects on Invertebrate and Vertebrate Biomass and Biodiversity in the Indian River Lagoon

Student Researcher: Mia Hammonds
Mentor: Dr. Ashley Spring

Mia Hammonds
Click to enlarge the poster.

Abstract: The biomass and biodiversity of fishes in the Indian River Lagoon are threatened by anthropogenic disturbances including non-point source pollution, habitat loss, fragmentation, hydrologic changes, overharvesting, and the introduction of exotic species (Kennish, 2002). Decreased water quality and an increase in muck deposits in the central Indian River Lagoon was caused by such human disturbances (Sigua et al., 2000; Trefry et al., 2019). 

Mia Hammonds

The hypothesis of this study is highly and mildly disturbed areas in the Indian River Lagoon (identified by higher turbidity, greater muck depth, lower pH, higher nitrogen, and higher phosphates) will have lower biomass and biodiversity of invertebrates and vertebrates compared to undisturbed areas. Three sites of each disturbance level were seined over four separate days, totaling 108 collections at nine sites. As hypothesized, the highly disturbed sites had the lowest biomass and biodiversity compared with undisturbed and mildly disturbed sites. This study further supports the need to reduce anthropogenic disturbances in the Indian River Lagoon to ensure the lagoon remains one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the North America.

Hydrologic Diversity Effects on Invertebrate and Vertebrate Composition in the Indian River Lagoon

Student Researcher: Savannah Luhn
Mentor: Dr. Ashley Spring

Savannah Luhn
Click to enlarge the poster.

Abstract: The hydrology of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) varies among the three brackish water basins encompassing 5,666km2 along the east coast of Florida. The invertebrate and vertebrate composition changes with the hydrological variations (Sabater & Tockner, 2009). The hypothesis of the study is the number and species of invertebrate and vertebrate will be greater in locations of the Indian River Lagoon with medium levels of salinity (15-20ppt), dissolved oxygen (4-7mg/L), and water flow rate (0.5-1.0m/s) compared to sites with low levels of salinity (5-10ppt), dissolved oxygen (0-3mg/L), and water flow rate (0-0.5m/s) and high levels of salinity (25-30ppt), dissolved oxygen (8-11mg/L), and water flow rate (1.0-1.5m/s).

Savannah Luhn

Using seine nets, organisms were collected in three repetitions on four separate days at nine sites for 108 seines in the Indian River Lagoon. The results supported the hypothesis that the number and species of invertebrates and vertebrates were greater at locations with medium salinities (15-20ppt), but the levels of dissolved oxygen and water flow rate varied. Similar findings were reported by Paperno and Brodie (2004) that species diversity in the Indian River Lagoon was lowest at low salinity levels (5-10ppt). Variations in invertebrate and vertebrate composition may aid in decisions concerning man-made hydrologic changes to the Indian River Lagoon.

Propelling From Oppression to Affirmation

Student Researcher: Janelle Fuller
Mentor: Janna Schledorn

Janelle Fuller
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Abstract: In my recent research, I studied "Harlem" by Langston Hughes and "alternate names for black boys" by Danez Smith. "Harlem" talks about a dream and describes the city itself. I found this interesting because I have lived the city life and can interpret it as beautiful, dream-like, hindering, and nightmarish myself. The poem "Harlem" is interesting because it talks about all of the things that signal to defer a dream, but aside from that, the question poses: Does it explode? I interpreted that regardless of anything that's trying to stop one's dream from happening, it doesn't. Forces oppose the dream and work to suppress it, but exploding means it still comes to fruition.

Janelle Fuller

In "alternate names for black boys," the poem talks about the degradation of one's thoughts and puts them into words or phrases. Both poems, however, display metaphors to describe oppression, yet propel positive affirmations. While "Harlem" may pose the question of deferring a dream, we all know that Harlem is a famous neighborhood in New York City, and it is the symbol of where all dreams come true. "alternate names for black boys" may display derogatory names and phrases, but the entire poem lacks the use of proper capitalization -- even the title, which speaks volumes. My interpretation was that through all the degradation, black boys and the black community do not capitalize on those names and phrases. They instead rise above.

HBOT-Enhanced Physical Therapy: A Novel Approach to Improve Rehabilitation for Neurological Brain Injury

Student Researcher: Stephanie Salonen
Mentor: Dr. Chris Petrie

Stephanie Salonen's poster
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Abstract: Our team is currently assessing the neurotherapeutic effects of physical therapy in conjunction with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to enhance rehabilitation goals for patients with neurological brain injury. Our study has demonstrated the possibility of treating stroke-induced hemiplegic paralysis in patients, enabling them to walk through the use of HBOT and physical therapy. HBOT, in addition to physical therapy, was initiated 14 months from the neurological insult. The patient started HBOT after reaching a plateau in an established physical therapy program. After 40 treatments over a 100-day period, there were marked improvements in neurological balance tests that were conducted.

Stephanie Salonen

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy refers to the medical use of oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure. Initially utilized in the treatment for decompression illness, HBOT has been proven to treat conditions such as diabetic non-healing wounds and late effect radiation from cancer survivors. Elevation of partial oxygen pressure in the body has been shown to facilitate the peripheral and neurological regeneration processes. We have demonstrated a hypothetical mechanism of neurogenesis through the improvement of this individual patient. Although an n-of-1 trial is not statistically significant, physical therapy in addition to hyperbaric oxygen therapy is indicative for further exploration for the enhanced rehabilitation goals for neurological brain injuries. We have theoretically demonstrated how the number of treatment blocks, the duration of treatment, and treatment frequency affect the incidence of positive outcomes in this subset of patients.