The 18th Annual Phi Kappa Phi Student Research and Fine Arts Conference is an opportunity for all undergraduate students of Augusta University (Summerville and Health Sciences campuses) to showcase their scholarly and artistic endeavors.

Recent Submissions

  • Progress City - An Honors Thesis Exhibition

    Conway, Baillie; Department of Art (2017-03)
    The purpose of this project is to explore the way sculpture can visually represent history. Progress City is an art exhibition that focuses specifically on the time period during which America transitioned from an industrial to a service-based economy (1950s - 1970s) and the effects this departure had on cities throughout the Southeast. The exhibition comprises a series of twelve buildings with sides featuring screen printed images of actual abandoned and dilapidated structures. Each building reflects an industry or trade that was once considered vital to the growth of southern communities. These buildings are juxtaposed alongside a collection of found objects that have either a direct or indirect correlation to businesses that once occupied the actual structures. For example, a series of empty food packaging boxes from the 1950s are set alongside a structure featuring screen printed images of an abandoned market facade. By juxtaposing the found objects, now considered outdated, alongside a corresponding abandoned building, the viewer is able to see first-hand the effects progress has had on southern cityscapes.
  • Exploring Music Effects on Blood Pressure Through Oxytocin

    Cauthron, Steven; Department of Chemistry & Physics (2017-03)
    A large issue facing individuals on a daily basis is raised blood pressure. The elevated blood pressure is often the result of varying emotions. Elevated blood pressure is a significant contributing factor to a wide array of medical problems. It is important to lower blood pressure but to do this one must know how to do so. Studies have been conducted to identify oxytocin’s ability to lower blood pressure based on its ability to decrease cortisol levels. Studies have also shown music’s ability to raise oxytocin levels. For these reasons, research has been conducted at the Georgia Prevention Institute in order to determine if listening to music results in a decrease in blood pressure. These results are preliminary results only.
  • Assessing Medical Students Knowledge in Diagnosis and Initial Treatment of Depression

    Youssef, Nagy A.; Thomas, Andria; Ange, Brittany; Yassa, Mark; Boswell, Elizabeth; Wallach, Paul M.; Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior; Department of Psychological Sciences; Department of Chemistry and Physics; Augusta University (2017-03)
    Depression is one of the leading causes of premature death, and one of the highest burdens of overall disability. Depression rates are around 13% in primary care settings. Depressive episodes are still underdiagnosed and undertreated. Factors that contribute to this include lack of detailed knowledge, lack of confidence in treatments among others. Thus, addressing these gaps would improve patients care. Moreover, bipolar depression can be difficult to distinguish from unipolar; and requires a different treatment. Improving education of students in these areas would improve care for patients. Aims are as follows: 1) assess students’ level of confidence and knowledge in diagnosing and treating depression, and any barriers to gaps in knowledge, 2) assess students’ knowledge in differential diagnosis of depression and any barriers to gaps in knowledge. We are assessing these by an online survey on website used by Medical College of Georgia for student questionnaires, sent to all third-year medical students after internal medicine rotation. The survey is sent through academic affairs office. This will provide valuable knowledge in improving our education and curriculum for the new generation of physicians.
  • Structural, Kinetic and Functional Properties of CAP1/AC Complexes

    Mehrotra, Simran; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    The major cause of death in pancreatic cancer is due to metastases; therefore, it is important to study the mechanism by which the pancreatic cancer cells migrate and invade. This would help advance therapeutics and ultimately help prolong survival. Adenylyl cyclase-associated protein 1 (CAP1) is a scaffold protein that is involved in the regulation of actin microfilament formation, which ultimately leads to cell migration and invasion. CAP1 binds to G-actin inhibiting polymerization. We first tested whether CAP1 binds to adenylyl cyclase (AC) by performing co-immunoprecipitation. We found that CAP1 not only interacts with G-actin, but also with a number of AC isoforms: AC1, AC3, AC4 and AC7. Further studies need to be done to determine how CAP1/AC/G-actin interact and the impact of these interactions on the invasive behavior of pancreatic cancer cells.
  • Political Apathy Among Colleges Students

    Zicari, Dominic; Department of Political Science (2017-03)
    Young Americans are often stereotyped as one of the most politically disconnected demographics in the country. Low rates of voter turnout help characterize this age group as indifferent and apathetic. This makes the voting behavior of young people an incredibly important topic of study for political scientists. This is especially true in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. This research focused on American citizens aged 18-24. The research aimed to determine whether political apathy among this age group has increased or decreased since 2012. The study consisted of a comparison of responses from two different surveys. Data from the first survey was drawn from a nationwide telephone poll conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). This survey was conducted shortly after the 2012 presidential election. This data was compared to an identical survey administered online to a sample of students at Augusta University following the 2016 presidential election. Differences in sample sizes limited the ability to analyze comparisons between the two surveys. However, analysis of the 2016 dataset points to a low sense of political apathy among students sampled at Augusta University.
  • Extraction of Neodymium by Bis(Trifluromethylsufonyl)imide Room Temperature Ionic Liquids

    Yim, Yen; Dang, David; Department of Chemistry & Physics (2017-03)
    Nuclear fuel reprocessing methods currently involve the use of organic solvents, in liquid-liquid extractions such as the PUREX process, to extract uranium and plutonium from other undesired fission products. A proposed way of making these processes more environmentally friendly and safer is to use room temperature ionic liquids (RTIL) in place of the organic solvents. Organic solvents are volatile and flammable, whereas many ionic liquids are neither. This makes the ionic liquids safer to use and more environmentally friendly. The focus of our research is on understanding the behavior of the lanthanide neodymium (Nd) in ionic liquids and how Nd is extracted from aqueous phases. The Nd was dissolved in aqueous bistriflimic acid solution. After the ionic liquids containing the bis(trifluromethylsufonyl)imide anion and tributyl phosphate (TBP) extractant were pre-equilibrated, the RTIL solutions were mixed individually with aqueous Nd, and the aqueous and organic layers were then separated. The ionic liquid and aqueous layers were analyzed through spectroscopy to determine the partition coefficients. Slope analysis of the partition coefficient at different TBP concentrations was used to determine the stoichiometry of coordination of TBP to neodymium. Results will be compared to prior work by other researchers using holmium, and other literature data.
  • Evaluating the Effects of Plant Oil Scents on Wild Hog Behavior on Cowden Plantation, Jackson, SC

    Hitchens, Samantha Rae; Flaherty, Haley; West, Valerie; Gill, Katlyn; Minter, Brad; Hunter, Austin; Sethuraman, Sankara; Thiruvaiyaru, Dharma; Saul, Bruce; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    A previous study on Cowden Plantation suggested wild hogs were repelled by imitation catnip oil. This led to the question of whether that application could be replicated, and if other plant oils would have similar effects. Hogs were observed, via camera trapping, responding to the scent pad applications of the following plant extracts: imitation catnip, catnip, peppermint, spearmint, and eucalyptus. Trail cameras were placed in 10 locations in various habitats to monitor the presence and reactions of hogs captured on video clips. Corn and scents were placed at each location and rotated each week for three months. The number of still images captured was used as the unit of measurement for population densities. Image totals for each scent were then compared to image totals without scents. Behavior was categorized into five reaction groups: No Reaction, Smelled Not Repelled, Repelled, Rubbed Against, and Tasted. Activity and behavioral responses occurred around the scents in all habitat areas. Most activity was captured over night when weather conditions were dry. Hogs did not often respond to the scents if corn was present. The majority of scent related activity occurred after the corn had been consumed. Behavioral responses were often noted in large females.
  • Impact of Myeloid Cell NF-κB Signaling on Glioblastoma Growth

    Venugopal, Natasha; Howard, Shelby; Achyut, Bhagelu; Jain, Meenu; Arbab, Ali; Bradford, Jennifer W.; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    Cancer consists of malignant tumor cells as well as supporting, non-cancerous cells that make up the tumor stroma. Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), a critical component of the stroma, can be present in very large numbers in a variety of cancers, and can lead to tumor progression through promotion of tumor inflammation, angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis. Canonical nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) pathway activity is very important in normal immune function, synaptic plasticity, and memory, and aberrant NF-κB activity is associated with autoimmune disease, and importantly, cancer. Previous studies have been reported about the importance of tumor cell associated NF-κB signaling in cancers. As myeloid cell NF-κB signaling may also be important in promoting cancers, we have been utilizing the p65fl/fl/LysMCre transgenic animal model, which lacks p65 protein in cells of the myeloid lineage, to study the impact of myeloid cell derived NF-κB signaling in glioblastoma (GBM), an extremely aggressive brain cancer. This transgenic model has a very efficient deletion of p65 protein and drastically reduced NF-κB signaling in bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDMs), but brain residing microglia do not have significantly lower p65 levels as compared to control microglia. Even with this finding, p65fl/fl/LysMCre mice implanted with syngeneic GBM cells have significantly reduced GBM tumor burden than LysMCre control mice, as measured by magnetic resonance imaging. This result underscores the potential importance of bone marrow cells that migrate to the tumor site and significantly contribute to GBM growth. This work also indicates the potential benefits of targeting myeloid specific NF-κB signaling in GBM patients.
  • Chronic Treatment with Risperidone Modulates Molecular Signaling in the Prefrontal Cortex and Hippocampus

    Lalani, Ashish; Hernandez, Caterina; Poddar, Indrani; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    Risperidone is a commonly prescribed antipsychotic drug that is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and relieve irritability in autistic children. Antipsychotics are believed to work by modulating neurotransmission events such as the neurotransmitter-synaptic membrane receptor interactions towards dopamine receptors to improve mood and behavior. Chronic treatment with Risperidone, while it does have many positive effects on the symptoms of psychotic ailments such as irritability, may negatively affect learning and memory through epigenetic changes. Epigenetic changes can include histone modifications, which are indirectly associated with chronic use of antipsychotics. We completed both a behavioral study and a molecular study and found that chronic use of Risperidone does materialize a basis for cognitive impairments. For example, our passive avoidance test showed that the rats treated with Risperidone had cognitive impairments. Coupled with our molecular work, we found a trend of decreased acetylation at 90 days and then increased acetylation at 180 days and decreased total protein throughout, indicating that the brains of the rats are trying to increase protein expression by increasing acetylation, trying to cope with the loss of total protein. Further studies will need to be done such as probing for methylation and looking at protein expression in other parts of the pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus to develop a full story of the chronic effects of Risperidone on the brain.
  • The Effect of Political Knowledge on Voting

    Gordon, William; Department of Political Science (2017-03)
    After the 2012 presidential election, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) conducted a nation-wide survey of young people, ages 18-24, to learn more about their voting behavior. After the 2016 election, a replicated, shortened version of CIRCLE’s survey was used to find if politically knowledgeable young voters, ages 18-24, are more likely to vote. The sampling frame was 3,869 undergraduate students at Augusta University, ages 18-24, who were United States citizens. The sample size came to 390 based on 95% confidence level, ±5%. The sample was stratified through two strata – veteran status and race. A political knowledge index (PKI) was constructed to measure exactly how politically knowledgeable respondents were. This index was applied to both the 2012 and 2016 surveys. The answers to questions about political knowledge were graded and added together to create the index. The correct answer to each question was awarded 1.00 point and an incorrect answer was awarded 2.00 points, making the best score 3.00 and the lowest score a 6.00. According to the combined 2012 and 2016 results, young voters, ages 18-24, that are more politically knowledgeable are more likely to vote.
  • The Exploration of Apoptotic Pathways in MCF-7 Cells in Response to PFOA

    Cannon, Jennifer D.; Smith, April; Peloquin, Rachel; Gillen, Laura; Urizar, David O.; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a widely-used fluoropolymer that has been identified as potentially harmful in high concentrations. Previous experiments conducted in MCF-7 breast cancer cells have shown that 50μM and 100μM PFOA decreases estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) mRNA and protein, peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR γ) mRNA, and causes a 25% decrease in cell viability within 48h of treatment. It is hypothesized that the decreased levels of ER and PPAR leads to apoptosis in these cells. Experiments are currently underway using the Caspase-Glo® 3/7 Assay (Promega) to determine if this is the mechanism by which PFOA decreases viability in MCF-7 cells. Furthermore, a Qiagen® RT2 Profiler 96-Well PCR Apoptosis Array is being performed to determine the effect that PFOA has on 84 apoptotic genes and begin to provide some insight into the mechanisms of apoptosis in MCF-7 cells. It is anticipated that anti-apoptotic genes such as Bcl-2, known to be regulated by ER , will be decreased in PFOA-treated MCF-7 cells.
  • Chetomin as a Potent Hsp90 Inhibitor

    Leibou, Stav; Lu, Sumin; Debbab, Abdssamad; Chadli, Ahmed; Georgia Cancer Center (2017-03)
    Molecular chaperones have been the focus of intense research for their important role in cancer cell homeostasis. Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) promotes metastasis, evasion of apoptosis, and proliferative angiogenesis in tumors through preserving the stability and functionality of its client proteins [1]. While the first generation of Hsp90 inhibitors has proven effective in hindering Hsp90 function, they have shown low clinical efficacy in part due to the induction of anti-apoptotic proteins Hsp27, Hsp40, and Hsp70 [2,3]. It is therefore our objective to develop novel efficacious Hsp90 inhibitors without these detrimental effects. During our screen for novel Hsp90 inhibitors, we found that the natural product, Chetomin, is a potent inhibitor of the Hsp90 machine chaperoning activity. Our in vitro data using human and murine mammary carcinoma cell lines suggest that Chetomin is effective in causing degradation of several known Hsp90 physiological client proteins that are crucial to cancer cell proliferation and survival. While the molecular mechanism by which Chetomin inhibits the Hsp90 function is still unclear, our data suggests that Chetomin is highly efficacious in killing cancer cells without induction of the anti-apoptotic proteins as does the first generation of Hsp90 inhibitors making Chetomin a promising new therapeutic agent.
  • Detection of AVM Toxin in Water Samples: Method Development and Environmental Analysis

    Maron, Nick; Wiley, Faith; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    Hydrilla in Lake Thurmond is colonized by cyanobacteria linked to avian vacuolar myelinopathy (AVM), a disease affecting several avian species including bald eagles and American coots. The cyanobacteria produce a neurotoxin that causes brain lesions and adverse effects including the inability to fly, swim, and walk. Prior studies have established that the toxin can be ingested through the hydrilla, but this test aims to determine the presence of the cyanobacterial toxin in the water. An experiment was designed using an ENVITM SPE Disk (C18 bonded phase) that successfully extracted the toxin from a previously spiked water sample. Water samples were collected from the lake during the Fall 2016 AVM season and are currently being analyzed for the presence of the toxin with the previously developed SPE disk method. This study was developed in order to create a method to test the water samples for toxin, identify different routes of exposure to the toxin, and evaluate its environmental effects.
  • Novel Chemical Entities for the Treatment of Human Colorectal Cancer

    Plotkin, Alexander; Lovett, Ilene; Calkins, Joe; Peppers, Anthony; Lee, Jacob; Lebedyeva, Iryna; Department of Chemistry & Physics (2017-03)
    Ceramide plays a key role in human colorectal tumor cell death and proliferation. Current approach for ceramide-based therapy is aimed at the development of ceramide structural mimetics as cytotoxic agents. It has been recently discovered that ceramide plays an essential role in Fas-mediated apoptosis of tumor cells. Fas is a death receptor expressed on the surface of the colorectal cancer cell. FasL is the physiological ligand of Fas and is expressed on the surface of activated T cells. The Fas-FasL pathway participates in the cancer immune surveillance. It has been proved that although Fas is silenced in the majority of tumor cells, low level of Fas is still expressed on tumor cell surface and ceramide effectively increases Fas oligomerization and therefore increases tumor cell sensitivity to FasL-induced cell death. Based on this discovery several structural mimetics of ceramide have been developed as potential enhancers of Fas-mediated apoptosis of human colon cancer cells. These compounds increase human colon carcinoma cell sensitivity to FasL-induced tumor cell death by tumor-specific T cells in vitro.
  • Chronic Consumption of DNOP Induces an Epithelial-to-mesenchymal Transition State in Mouse Liver

    Amin, Monisha; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    Hepatocellular carcinoma is the cancer of the liver cells that is developed over time by the evolution of pre-neoplastic lesions. Di-n-octylphthalate (DNOP) is a plasticizer used to keep plastics flexible. If mice are exposed to DNOP, it causes an increase in pre-neoplastic hepatic lesions. Previously, our group found that DNOP increased the expression of transforming growth factor β (tgf-β) in AML-12 cells. Because tgf-β induces an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) state in mouse hepatocyte in vitro, our goal was to study the extent to which DNOP induces an EMT state in mouse liver. Two antibodies were used: anti-albumin antibody (a hepatocyte marker), and anti-vimentin (a mesenchymal cell maker). We first treated AML-12 cells with 0.1 % DNOP for 24, 48 and 72 h. No changes in the expression of albumin was seen. Because the limited time of 72 h may not have allowed sufficient time for a change in the phenotype, mice were fed diet containing 0.1 % DNOP for a month. We found that DNOP decreased the levels of albumin, whereas increased the levels of vimentin. In conclusion, chronic consumption of DNOP induces an EMT state in mouse liver. This mechanism may be involved in formation of hepatic pre-neoplastic lesions.
  • A Baseline Study of Fish Assemblages in a Pristine Georgia Estuary

    Hewett, Melissa; Ong, Claudia; McKittrick, Jacob; Sapp, Mikael; Thiruvaiyaru, Dharma; Sethuraman, Sankara; Moak, Jason; Saul, Bruce; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    St Catherine’s Island is one of Georgia’s uninhabited barrier islands, and is used strictly for research and conservation purposes. It is approximately seven miles from the mainland, and eighteen miles from the Altamaha River. Due to its location, the surrounding estuary has seen negligible anthropogenic impacts throughout its history. Brunsen Creek, on the southern end of the island, is isolated and considered to be a pristine marine ecosystem. This study is a continuation of an initial 2014 study to collect baseline monthly ichthyofaunal data via trawling. Data presented here contains summary information collected through August 2016. Information collected during this period will provide baseline data for fish assemblage comparisons within the surrounding Georgia estuarine ecosystem. Statistical relationships between Brunsen Creek fish assemblages and environmental factors, such as temperature and salinity, were not established. However, consistent relationships were observed in natural migration and reproduction patterns of key fishes that have also been noted in other studies. Temporal trends among the targeted species in this study reflect a well-established natural pattern along the Georgia coast. Following these trends will provide a baseline of expected life history events, and a reference for further research within southeastern estuaries.
  • Influence of Rainfall on Mosquito Abundance

    Haibach, Nicole; Laymon, Kelsey; Wolff, Liam; Pruitt, Carson; Flite, III, Oscar P.; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    Some species of mosquitoes, known as container-inhabiting mosquitoes, breed in temporary pools of water typically filled after rainstorms. Some examples of this are tires, trash, and anything that can collect water from a rain event. This study seeks to further understand container-inhabiting mosquito abundance and the connection to rainfall. Mosquitoes were collected at 14 sites in Richmond County, GA on a biweekly basis between January to December 2016. These sites were surveyed using two types of traps, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Light trap and a CDC gravid trap. In addition to rainfall, the 7-14 day incubation period of the mosquito life cycle was considered to assess antecedent rainfall window for the correlation analysis. For the previous 7-14 day total precipitation, we found good correlation for one known container-inhabiting species and poor correlation for two other known species. Culex quinquefasciatus, had the best correlation (R2 = 0.71) while the other two species, Aedes albopictus (R2= -0.005) and Culex salinarius (R2= 0.024) had weak correlations. We conclude that differences between correlations were likely due to the reliance of breeding within containers for C. quinquefasciatus than for the other two species, which have more diverse breeding habitat preferences.
  • Method Development for Separation and Quantification of Niacin and its Metabolites in Human Blood Plasma

    Sutherland, Kevin D.; Gibbs, Alexandra J.; Department of Chemistry & Physics (2017-03)
    A high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) assay for the detection of Niacin (nicotinic acid/vitamin B3), nicotinamide, and nicotinuric acid in human blood plasma was developed. The method used a C18 stationary phase with a mobile phase of 0.1% formic acid in water with varied methanol for chromatographic separation. UV absorbance detection was used in conjunction with mass spectrometry. Samples were prepared by mixing with methanol containing niacin D-4 internal standard, vortexing under vacuum, adding an aqueous formic acid buffer to reconstitute the dried pellet, followed by centrifugation at 15000g. Linearity was assessed and LLD (lower limit of detection) was determined. The elution order was niacin, nicotinamide, and finally nicotinuric acid. No issues with the calibration for nicotinuric acid were encountered, however there was significant interference from nicotinuric acid on the nicotinamide calibration. Currently new methods to limit the interferences are being researched.
  • The Structural and Functional Properties of a Splice Variant of ADCY7 Gene in Human Pancreatic Cancer

    Liao, Kristie; Jhanji, Nancy; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    Alternative splicing of mRNA precursors is a regulated process of gene expression in eukaryotic cells. It provides cells with the opportunity to create protein isoforms of different functions from a single gene. Cancer cells often take advantage of this process to produce proteins that promote growth and survival. Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP) is a second messenger that has shown to suppress migration and invasion of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells. Cyclic AMP is formed from cytosolic ATP by the enzyme adenylyl cyclase (AC). There are ten isoforms of ACs; nine are anchored in the plasma membrane and one is soluble. Our goal was to find alternative splice variants of transmembrane AC isoforms in pancreatic cancer. We found a possible splice variant of type VII adenylyl cyclase (ADCY7) in human healthy pancreatic, adjacent non-tumor, tumor tissues, two pancreatic cancer cell lines HPAC and PANC-1, epithelial duct cell line PDEC, but not in isolated human pancreatic acini (the exocrine part of the pancreas). Further research will be carried out to study the structural and functional properties of the splice variant of human ADCY7.
  • Mosquito Abundance and Land Use in Varying Median Income Census Blocks in Richmond County, Georgia

    Wolff, Liam; Laymon, Kelsey; Pruitt, Carson; Haibach, Nicole; Flite, III, Oscar P.; Department of Biological Sciences (2017-03)
    Mosquitoes pose a major health hazard to humans globally as primary vectors for disease transmission. Many species of mosquito rely on standing water pooled in open containers to breed. These are often found in items such as old, unused tires associated with lower income properties. This study sought to determine whether lower income census blocks in Richmond County correlated to increased mosquito abundances. For this project, we compared mosquito abundance, land use, and median household income throughout Richmond County. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) light and gravid traps were deployed January 2014 to December 2016 at 18 different trapping locations of varying median household incomes between an annual salary of $16,000 and $55,000. Data from the United States Census Bureau was compared to land use data from the USGS National Land Cover Database. Results indicated a positive correlation (R2=0.7905) between median annual income and mosquito abundance overall. However, the percentage of mosquitoes that were container breeders did not correlate well against median household income (R2=0.0664). This could be because some container breeders utilize other habitats for breeding. Looking at one strictly container-reliant species, Culex quinquefasciatus, indicated a strong connection (R2=0.9022) between abundance and lower income census blocks.

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