The Center for Undergraduate Research & Scholarship (CURS) offers a six-week Summer Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Program sponsored by the Provost, Vice President for Academic and Faculty Affairs, and the Senior Vice President for Research.

The goals of the program are:

  1. To increase undergraduate student participation in research, scholarship, and creative activity;
  2. To increase participation of those who are underrepresented in the discipline’s research, scholarship, and creative activity;
  3. To support high impact scholarly activity that will yield significant student achievement and further the research programs at Augusta University; and
  4. To increase participation in undergraduate research and creative scholarship among students and faculty at the Health Sciences campus and in the arts.

Recent Submissions

  • Neuropathology of Anxiety Disorders Comorbid with Alcohol Dependence

    O'Connor, Tara; Keough, Kelsey; Layton, James; Carpenter, Timothy; Crethers, Danielle; Patton, Tadd; Vazdarjanova, Almira; College of Science and Mathematics (2015-08-11)
    Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Like most coexisting disorders, treatment for individuals who suffer from an anxiety disorder and an AUD is particularly challenging, contributing to an increased risk for suicide attempts, more intense withdrawal symptoms, and a higher probability of alcoholism relapse. Previous research has shown that a dysregulation of certain neuronal plasticity-related events in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is implicated in anxiety disorders and alcohol dependence. However, the exact role this dysregulation plays in the comorbidity of these disorders is not well understood. The experiments conducted here were part of a larger study aimed at understanding the neuropathological characteristics present when anxiety disorders and AUDs coexist. We examined anxiety-like behavior and plasticity-related activity in the brains of rats bred to consume large or small quantities ethanol. After obtaining a prestress baseline of alcohol drinking behavior, rats were exposed to a standard shock procedure in which a mild footshock (paired with a tone) was administered. Drinking activity and anxiety-like behavior were assessed on multiple days following footshock. The rats were then euthanized so that the brains could be examined for activation of plasticity-related activity in the PFC. Significant differences in alcohol consumption and anxiety-like behavior were observed between alcohol-preferring and alcohol-non-preferring rats and are discussed in relation to drinking alcohol as a means to reduce anxiety. These findings will be included in our larger study and will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the neuropathological substrates associated with comorbid anxiety disorders and AUDs.
  • Citizen Perceptions of Police in the Post-Ferguson Era: A Survey in Partnership with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office

    Hendricks, Austin; Kelley, Johnna; Gordon, Paxton; Foley, Alison, PhD; Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (2015-08-11)
    The current study reports the results of a survey designed in conjunction with Richmond County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) to assess citizen satisfaction with local police. Research suggests that overall satisfaction with and perceptions about police are shaped by individual’s personal experiences with police as well as their perception of neighborhood safety, sex, race, education level, and age. Based on prior research, we hypothesized that general attitudes about local police would be influenced by attitudes about American police as a whole. This is particularly important given the current national conversation revolving around police use-of-force in the wake of the highly-publicized events in places such as Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland. While results are limited by the small and relatively homogenous sample of participants, linear regression models show that when race, neighborhood safety, and gender are controlled for, attitudes towards American police and attitudes towards the officer involved in their most recent encounter were significant predictors of attitudes toward RCSO. Attitudes towards the American police were the strongest predictor of satisfaction with RCSO. The majority of open-ended responses reflected negative attitudes towards police, which varied by race and sex, though many participants offered suggestions for improvement.
  • The Effects of Acute and Repeated Exposure/s to the Organophosphate Pesticide Chlorpyrifos at Subthreshold Doses on Brain Structural Integrity

    Lalani, Ashish; Murphy, Shannon; Beck, W. Dan; Poddar, Indrani; Terry, Alvin V.; Hernandez, Caterina M.; Medical College of Georgia (2015-08-11)
    Organophosphates are a class of chemicals that are used in pesticides, herbicides, and also as nerve agents. Organophosphate pesticides are ubiquitous among agricultural fields and the prolonged effects of organophosphates are not well understood. It is believed that exposure to Organophosphates can cause neurological deficits and impaired neurobehavioral function. We hypothesize that the organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos (CPF) is associated with mechanisms that directly and/or indirectly disrupt axonal transport in brain regions integral for learning and memory. To assay this claim, rats were treated acutely with CPF at a subtoxic dose (18 mg/kg) or with repeated exposures for 14 consecutive days at subtoxic doses (3.0, 10.0 or 18 mg/kg). Whole brain was collected 6 or 24 hours after acute exposure or directly following 14 days of repeated exposure or a 30-day drug-free washout period. For my project, I focused on the prefrontal cortex, a brain region important for executive function. Prefrontal cortex was processed using a subcellular fractionation protocol and extracts were assessed by immunoblotting methods to measure the expression of a-tubulin, a microtubule protein critical for axonal transport. Our results will help us gain insight into a potential mechanism by which CPF affects axonal transport.
  • Impossibly Complicated Tales of Dispossession and Betrayal: Thomas Pynchon's Vineland and the Neoliberal Shift in America

    Williams, Daniel; Hayes, Adrienne; Atkins, Hunter; Hoffman, Todd; Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (2015-08-10)
    The 1970s were characterized by the ascendancy of a particular breed of right wing conservatism that advanced neoliberal reforms and precipitated the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. As an economic theory, neoliberalism proposes that the government de-regulate markets and ease financial burdens on corporations thus enabling wealth to be evenly distributed across the social spectrum by natural market processes. In practice, the process of manufacturing consent for these policies mobilized religious and nationalist rhetoric, caused an abiding cultural shift, and resulted in numerous economic crises and inequitable concentrations of wealth. Our project conducts an analysis of Thomas Pynchon's novel Vineland in order to derive insights into this transformation of America. Published in 1990, the scope of Pynchon’s novel encompasses both the hippy movement that peaks in the late 60s and the rise of neoliberalism up through the middle of the Reagan administration in 1984— the year in which the novel takes place. Pynchon’s work is exemplary of what is called postmodern literature—the defining literary genre of the period which in many ways is unique precisely because of its political engagement with post-industrial capitalism—and, as such, encapsulates perhaps better than any writer the effects of neoliberalism. Our project has produced an essay (and a poster) that is comprised of three sections: An economic, cultural, and historical explanation of neoliberalism— An investigation of Pynchon’s critique of the media as it works to assimilate citizens into the cultural hegemony— And Pynchon’s critique of the ideologies and policy decisions surrounding the then contemporary environmental movement.
  • Metabolic and Performance Effects of Different Warm-up Protocols on Aerobic Exercise in Physically Active Adults

    Blanco, Chris; Brown, Julian; James, Torrian; Mojock, Chris; College of Education (2015-08-10)
    Pre-competition warm-up (WU) routines have long been prescribed as necessary components to optimize performance in athletic contests. Although WU routines are ubiquitous prior to competition, there is limited, inconclusive evidence on the impact to performance and the research focus has been on short to moderate duration exercise (< 7 min). This project was the first to investigate the effects of WU on metabolic responses and performance during long duration endurance performance. PURPOSE: To determine the metabolic and performance effects of different warm-up (WU) protocols on high-intensity aerobic exercise in physically active adults. METHODS: In a randomized, controlled crossover protocol, qualifying participants performed a continuous, graded maximal exercise test and multiple time-to-exhaustion (TTE) performance tests. On separate days, two 10-minute WU protocols, moderate and vigorous, were performed prior to the TTE. The near-threshold TTE used varied intensity (3-min 100% of ventilatory threshold (VT) power, 1-min 110% VT) to simulate the undulations common in races. Measurements of metabolic activity were recorded by indirect calorimetry. RESULTS: Physically active men (age: 24 ± 2.5 yr; body fat: 15.9 ± 6.51 %; VO2max: 40.2 ± 10.41 ml/kg/min; VT: 69.9 ± 0.72 %) were able to maintain high-intensity aerobic exercise longer (TTE increase: 8.05 ± 9.93 min) following a moderate vs. a vigorous warm-up protocol. CONCLUSION: The moderate intensity warm-up was more effective than a vigorous warm-up to increase time to exhaustion prior to high intensity aerobic exercise. Further research is needed to determine the metabolic and neuromuscular changes that contribute to the difference in performance.
  • AC3 has an Inhibitory Effect on Cell Cycle and Enhances Staurosporine-Induced Apoptosis in Pancreatic Cancer Cells: Participation of R-Smads

    Dains-McGahee, Clayton; Friedman, Emilee; Graves, Sarai; Sabbatini, Maria; College of Science and Mathematics (2015-08-10)
    Introduction: Adenylyl cyclase (AC) is an enzyme responsible for converting ATP into cAMP. Previously, we found that five AC isoforms are expressed in HPAC and PANC-1. Two of them, AC1 and AC3, were highly expressed in pancreatic tumor tissue. Objective: To silence the expression of AC1 and AC3, in order to determine their participation in the effect of FSK on cell proliferation. Results: After FSK stimulation, there was a slight increase in BrdU incorporation. The lack of AC3 caused a significant increase in FSK-induced BrdU incorporation. FSK on its own had a negligible effect on programmed cell death. The combined effect of FSK along with staurosporine led to an increase in apoptosis. This effect was not seen in cells treated with siRNA AC3. Upon an increase in cAMP, two pathways become active: PKA and Epac. Next, we determined which pathway is activated upon AC1 or AC3 stimulation. Using Western-blotting our data showed that R-Smads were phosphorylated by AC1, whereas CREB was not phosphorylated by either AC1 or AC3. Conclusion: While stimulation of AC by FSK produced a slight increase in BrdU incorporation, the effects of FSK were most exaggerated in the absence of AC3. We hypothesize that AC3 may have an inhibitory effect on cell proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells. While, FSK alone did not modify apoptosis, FSK enhanced staurosporine-induced apoptosis in both cell lines via AC3 activation. In pancreatic cancer cells, CREB is phosphorylated by PKA through a pathway independent of AC1 and AC3, while AC1 phosphorylates R-Smads.
  • Augusta Training Shop: Snowflakes

    Holsey, Alisia; Smith, Kelsey; Whitaker, Dantavious; Medcalfe, Simon; Hull College of Business (2015-08-10)
    The Augusta Training Shop was founded in 1947 as a daycare, but transformed into a work training facility for adults with mental and physical disabilities. The Training Shop’s main business was furniture restoration which was supported by donations and fundraisers such as derby days. In 2012, the executive director of the Augusta Training Shop, Audrey Murell, designed a fundraising program to aid in supporting the nonprofit. Snowflakes could be made by mentally and physically challenged workers from cane used to restore furniture. In 2013, the first full year of production, the snowflakes generated revenue of close to $25,000. In 2014, while attending a trade show, Audrey was asked if she could provide a bulk purchase discount. This raised several unanswered questions: How big of a discount could be given to wholesalers? The Training Shop was faced with a dilemma if they gave too big of a discount, would the company take a loss on the snowflake fundraiser? Moreover, Audrey was left clueless when it came down to the average cost to produce each snowflake. She knew that the snowflakes could bring in more revenue to help cover some of the higher expenses in the nonprofit, but were they profitable? Audrey had to adapt to an actual business mindset for her to be able to produce the snowflakes. She needed to figure out her direct cost and indirect cost per snowflakes in order to become successful with the snowflake fundraiser. Overall, her long-term goal was to create more jobs, revenue, and to spread the gift of the snowflakes among other nonprofits.
  • Expression and Treatment of Pain-Related Depression of Nesting Behavior in Male ICR Mice

    Alexander, Khadijah; Rodriguez, Taylor; Sarfo, Amma; Miller, Laurence; College of Science and Mathematics (2015-08-07)
    Consequences of pain include pain-related functional impairment and depression of behavior, including decreased ability to work and exercise. Such pain-related depression of behavior is one of the primary treatment targets for clinicians. In contrast, most preclinical pain research with animal models has examined pain-stimulated behaviors such as reflexive withdrawal from a pain stimulus. This approach bears little resemblance to clinically-relevant pain-related behavioral depression. Moreover, reliance on this approach may have limited the development of novel, effective pharmacological pain treatments. The present studies rely on the innate nesting behavior of mice as a behavioral baseline to study the expression and treatment of pain-related depression of behavior. On test days, six pieces of cotton nesting material were evenly distributed on the homecage floor, and consolidation of this material was quantified over the course of a 100-min session. Control nesting was compared to nesting in sessions preceded by an intraperitoneal injection of dilute lactic acid (IP acid), a commonly used, physiologically-relevant noxious stimulus. When IP acid was administered prior to nesting sessions, the rate of nest consolidation was decreased. Ketoprofen, a clinically-effective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), blocked IP acid-induced depression of nesting. These findings support the utility of this assay of noxious stimulus-depressed nesting for research on the expression and treatment of pain-related depression of behavior. Future studies will use the procedure to examine the efficacy of monoamine uptake inhibitors with varying selectivity for blocking uptake of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
  • Cloning, Expression, and Purification of Nanoluc

    DuPlain, Holly; Parks, Jasmine; Blocker, Brittany; Spencer, Angie; College of Science and Mathematics (2015-08-07)
    Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon that occurs in bacteria, insects, fungi and some marine species whereby light is emitted by a living organism. This emitted light is generated by a chemical reaction that occurs when a substrate is reacted upon by a class of enzymes called luciferases. Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) is a technique that relies on the use of a luciferase (energy donor) to transfer energy to a nearby fluorescent protein or dye (energy acceptor). If the donor and acceptor molecules are in close proximity and their emission and absorbance spectra overlap, the acceptor absorbs the energy from the donor (luciferase) which results in the emission of light at a longer wavelength (i.e. different color). This spectral shift can be measured and quantified. Because of the widespread applications and utility of luciferase enzymes, many assay systems have been developed that make use of various luciferases as energy donors. One such luciferase is Nanoluc (Nluc), a genetically engineered enzyme from the deep sea shrimp, Oplophorus gracilirostris. In order to explore the use of Nluc as an energy donor in BRET, we cloned the gene for Nluc into the plasmid vector, pET21c(+). The formation of the recombinant DNA was verified by agarose gel electrophoresis. After transformation of the recombinant plasmid into E. coli BL21 cells, the Nluc protein containing a C-terminal His6 tag was over-expressed and purified using affinity chromatography. The purification yielded a relatively pure protein with a molecular weight of 19 kDa as judged by SDS-PAGE. The activity of the protein was assessed by measuring its ability to generate light in the presence of the substrate coelenterazine.
  • Text Mining and Digital Humanities: Quantitative Analysis of African American Poetry

    Brown, Taylohr; Jenkins, Diamond; Quiller, Walter; Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (2015-08-07)
    “Text Mining and Digital Humanities: Quantitative Analysis of African American Poetry” uses quantitative and qualitative analysis to formulate research questions about African American poetry. In this project, we use text-mining software to determine whether distinctive word patterns can be used to quantify the characteristics of African American poetry. For the purposes of this study, we rejected the notion that Black poetry is defined as poetry written by black authors. Instead, we argue, the distinctions in black poems should be specific enough to be classified in a separate category from other kinds of literature such as American literature, and we assert the definition of black poetry should not reduce “blackness”- what we describe as the shared cultural traditions or practices of African Americans- to certain experiences or tropes such as the rural, folk black experience. We selected Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance as the earliest historical point for our inquiry, and we used Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker, poets whom Hughes directly influenced, as comparisons. We created a text database of the collected poems of the five authors and assessed the frequency of words/phrases related to three main categories that recur in the scholarship of black poetry: memory, identity, and music. After running our text data through mining software and looking specifically for words coded as memory, identity, and music variables, we were able to support our initial claim that quantitative analysis can be used as to support qualitative assertions of black poetry as a distinct genre of American poetry.
  • Adolescent Women's Perception of Individual and Partner HPV Risk

    Best, Candace; Couba, Edison; Norviel, Anne; Rogers, Katie; Gaffney, Jasmine; College of Science and Mathematics (2015-08-07)
    Introduction: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the U.S. (MMWR, 2014). HPV has been implicated as the necessary precursor for cervical cancer and it has been associated with other cancers and genital warts (Chaturvedi, 2010). The most promising HPV prevention strategy is the 3-dose HPV vaccine which is recommended for adolescent males and females ages 9-26. Currently, HPV vaccination rates remain unacceptably low. We were interested in how young women perceived their HPV risk and their partner’s HPV risk. We also examined whether perceptions of risk changed after young women were provided with information about HPV and HPV infection. Methods: As part of a larger study, participants included 27 African American heterosexual young women (ages 14-17). Participants met with an interviewer once for approximately 2.5 hours. During the interview, participants were asked about their probability of having and transmitting HPV to a potential partner. Participants were then asked about their probability of their partner having and transmitting HPV to them. Next, participants received in-depth information about HPV and HPV infection. They were again asked about their individual and perceived partner risk of having and transmitting HPV. Results: Young women were more likely to report transmitting HPV post HPV information. Young women also displayed a significant bias that their partner had and would transmit HPV, pre and post HPV information. Conclusion: Education about HPV risk and infection will continue to be an important component to informing adolescents of their HPV risk and potentially increasing HPV vaccination rates.
  • Comparison of Transmissions from Er, Mo and Tm vs Pb for use in Reduction of Cross-Talk Photons in Nuclear Cardiology Collimators

    Passmore, Gregory; Anosike, Kingsley; Gaffney, Nathan; Stahman, Rick; College of Allied Health Sciences (2015-08-05)
    Technetium-99m (99mTc) and Thallium-201 (201Tl) are radionuclides that are used to analyze the health of myocardial tissue. The amount of each radionuclide present in the myocardium is imaged using a gamma camera which allows medical professionals to determine the health of a patient’s heart. Collimators are large metal gratings that are constructed to allow only geometrically orthogonal photons to be captured by the gamma camera in order to obtain the highest resolution possible to aid in accurate diagnosis. Lead (Pb) is commonly used as a collimator material, but has an 88 keV K-shell photon, which interferes with the lower energy photons from the 70-80 keV energy 201Tl peaks. This phenomenon is known as “down-scatter” or “cross-talk”. This project is designed to test the feasibility of using dense metal attenuators (Erbium, Er; Molybdenum, Mo; and Thulium, Tm) rather than lead (Pb) to reduce the significant 99mTc cross-talk photons in the 201Tl photopeak range. Use of other dense metals with low k-shell absorption peaks should reduce the down-scatter component and eliminate the Pb x-ray cross-talk interference in the 201Tl energy window. Acquisitions of energy spectra for the dual isotopes will be obtained for the non-Pb metals Er, Mo, and Tm. Spectra and transmission and attenuation acquisitions were analyzed using comparative statistics to ascertain the extent of scatter component and interference reduction gained through the use of a non-Pb collimator. T-tests confirmed that all three metals performed better than Pb in the 201Tl range but not the 99mTc range.
  • Conservation Genetics of the Dixie Mountain Breadroot (Pediomelum piedmontanum), a rare and endangered legume from the Piedmont

    Bennetts, Stacy; Colbert, Antonio; Buckley, Liberty; Padgett, Jessica; Department of Biological Sciences (2015-07-20)
    Pediomelum piedmontanum, “Dixie Mt. Breadroot”, is a rare perennial legume endemic to the lower piedmont region of Georgia and South Carolina, with only three known populations. Previous research has explored local adaptations its unique substrates, serpentine and phyllite, and how metal tolerance contributes to its limited distribution. A different study, using tetrazolium chloride, revealed that only ~25% of phyllite seed is viable compared to about 95% seed viability in the serpentine population. We hypothesize that the phyllite plants are self-fertilizing before pollinators are present, creating an inbreeding depression and lower genetic variability. Populations with a relatively high genetic diversity are more able to adapt to new or sustained selective pressures. The CURS SSP investigated the conservation genetics and ecology of the three populations of P. piedmontanum. Nine Microsatellite markers, previously used by Ashely Egan in P. pariense, were implemented to determine the extent of genetic diversity of P. piedmontanum and its subsequent susceptibility to extinction. These genetic markers may also reveal evolutionary relationships between P. piedmontanum and closely related species, P. canescens, located in sandy habitats, and P. subcaule, an endemic to limestone. Currently, we have extracted 150 DNA samples from replicate leaves/plant/population. Gel electrophoresis of one of the markers “AG26” with DNA template from the serpentine population resulted in a ~500 bp fragment, which is vastly different than the expected 120 bp fragment observed in P. pariense. Further analyses will be required to determine the level of genetic variability in these populations. To determine the cause of seed inviability, we cross-pollinated tagged plants at a phyllite site. Cross-pollination should increase seed viability in the population compared to control plants. Population sizes and average number of inflorescences/plant were also measured. It appears that the one of phyllite populations is the largest of the three populations with ~ 600 plants. This large population contains little evidence of flowering within pockets of a forest. This indicates that these plants are reproducing asexually possibly from their large taproot, which suggests cloning and lower genetic variability in this forested phyllite population.