13th Annual Celebration of Scholarship Symposium

POSTER PRESENTATIONS- COMPLETED RESEARCH (April 20-21, 2015)

Analysis of Hypervariable Region 1 in Mitochondrial DNA Suggests Origin of Maternal Ancestry
Anderson, Christina
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

Mitochondrial DNA is genetically identical to the maternal parent as it is inherited from mother to offspring in humans and most organisms. This unique attribute is accredited to a noncoding hypervariable region 1, also called the D-loop, found in circular double-stranded mitochondrial DNA and which extends across chromosome positions 16024- 16569 and 1-576. It is common for mutations to occur in this genomic region and therefore varies between individuals. Specimutations allow it to be utilized for maternal ancestry analysis. To determine maternal origin, cheek cells were harvested, isolated, and amplified by polymerase chain reaction. Forward and reverse primers were used to specifically select for a region of 401 nucleotides in the D-loop. After DNA amplification, samples were run on gel electrophoresis and finally sent to an outside genetic sequencing company. Once mitochondrial DNA sequences were obtained and returned to students, further research and analysis was done. Online biological search engines such as NSCBI’s BLAST analysis were utilized to interpret and compare genetic sequence information. Results suggest that personal maternal ancestry origins trace back to Native American tribes and even further back to Russian-Siberian regions around 25-30’000 years ago.

My Mitochondrial DNA and I Go Way Back
Arriaga, Jennifer
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

Mitochondrial DNA (mt DNA) is a circular chromosome, which is different from the linear chromosomal DNA in Eukaryotic cells. The mt DNA in humans, and many other organisms, is inherited from the mother. A segment in the mt DNA is called the Hypervariable region (D-loop) and is noncoding. The D-loop of the same species varies more than the coding regions because a mutation in coding region may be deadly to the organism. Therefore, the D-loop is an excellent method in determining the maternal ancestry. Furthermore, saliva supplied the experimental DNA, while the forward and reverse primers were used to isolate the desired D-loop segment and PCR was used to amplify this segment. The sample yields a sequence that is input into the Basic local alignment search tool (BLAST) from the NCBI website to align and compare a segment and test how similar they to other genomes. The D-loop from different countries have different variants from each other. BLAST was used to determine the strength between the experimental D-loop to D-loops of different countries and narrow it down significantly to one country or area.

U.V. Irradiation and Chemical Mutagen Induce him-6 DNA Repair
Barajas, Aaron; Martinez, Alexander
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Rachel Hopp

Modern research suggests that the him-6 gene encodes the him-6 protein of the RecQ helicase family. Studies of RecQ helicase genes have proposed that these genes exhibit abilities to repair DNA that regulate meiotic crossing over. In the organism Caenorhabditis elegans, the him-6 gene has manifested with an increase in male gender in the offspring of the nematodes with 15% higher occurrence. In conjunction with human studies, investigators have suggested that the him-6 gene has a human ortholog referred to as Bloom’s Syndrome gene (BLM). This linkage has led him-6 gene to be implemented into research regarding human DNA repair in hopes of understanding autoimmune diseases like Bloom’s disease related to this gene. Research in this field is essential in understanding gene DNA repair pathway enabling for the development of genetic medications. Genetic medicine is a novel alternative for individuals affected by autoimmune diseases such as Bloom’s Syndrome. In this study, mutagens were used that induce DNA repair in mutant him-6 worms. The introduction of mutagens, in theory, would allow for the stimulation of DNA repair using the him-6 genes. Our results produced phenotypically balanced male to hermaphrodite ratios that, when compared to our high incidence him-6 control, suggested DNA repair may have taken place. Conclusive results were not demonstrated, but plausible counts allowed for an insight of gene DNA repair abilities.

Cryptography and Credit Cards: Examining the Abstract Algebra of Everyday Transactions
Bench, Brenna
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Barbara Benitez

This research examines the Abstract Algebra of RSA Encryption, commonly used in credit card transactions, with the goal to define a clear pattern that indicates an isomorphism between the message M and encryption N. Furthermore, the credibility and safety of the system as a method of encrypting sensitive information like credit card numbers is compared to the 3DES system, commonly used in EMV or Smart Chip credit cards. The primary components of RSA Encryption include the use of large prime numbers and modulo arithmetic to encrypt and decrypt the data.

Analysis of D-loop in mtDNA to Determine Origins of Maternal Ancestry
Cabrera, Nayeli
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is maternally inherited in human beings. This unique pattern of inheritance allows mtDNA to be utilized as a tool for determining maternal ancestry. To do so, the sequence of the D-loop in mtDNA is analyzed. This region is a noncoding region and is therefore more susceptible to mutation, since mutations in this region are unlikely to cause lethal effects. For this research, DNA was extracted from cheek cells harvested from a test subject. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was subsequently run to amplify part of the DNA. A small volume of this DNA was analyzed via gel electrophoresis before sending the remaining DNA to a sequencing lab, which used two specific primers to obtain the sequence for positions 15971-16410, which contained the sequence for the hypervariable region 1 of the D-loop. This sequence was analyzed using the nucleotide Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (nucleotide BLAST) from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (ncbi) database, which compared the subject’s sequenced DNA to other sequenced DNA from the database. The sequences with the highest query coverage and identities were analyzed to determine the area of origin of the subject’s maternal ancestors, which was determined to be eastern Europe.

Mitochondrial D-loop Utilized to Obtain Maternal Lineage
Cardet, Roxana
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

Most eukaryotic cells contain mitochondria which main function is to suffice the cell with ATP through aerobic respiration. According to the Endosymbiotic Theory, mitochondrial DNA is a circular and prokaryotic-derived chromosome containing several functional genes that code for tRNA, rRNA, and oxidative phosphorylation enzymatic subunits. mtDNA is inherited exclusively from the maternal side for reasons such as larger oocytes in comparison with sperms, spermatic mitochondria in the tail does not enter the oocyte, and post-fertilization parental mitochondria destruction. The human double-stranded mtDNA is composed H and L strands that encode for 37 genes. It also has a hyper-variable and non-coding region known as D-loop which is utilized to confirm maternal ancestry. mtDNA chromosomes have been categorized on haplotypes or haplogroups based on mutations in D-loop that indicate ancestral origins. mtDNA was isolated, amplified, and obtained by preparing cheek cell extract in saline solution. Then microcentrifuged and 10% Chelex was added to resuspended pellets. Samples were placed in heating block, vortexed, microcentrifuged, and supernatant was transferred to fresh tubes. DNA amplification was done by adding REDTaq ReadyMix to each tube, PCR performed 30 thermal cycles, and DNA presence was confirmed by gel electrophoresis. Obtained mtDNA originated in Italy 40,000 years ago.

Consumption of Organic-Based Diets Enhances Lifespan and Fecundity in Drosophila melanogaster depending on macromolecule content
Cardet, Roxana
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Lisa Ellis

The Drosophila melanogaster experimental model has facilitated the understanding of human genetics and biological development. A century old of research accumulation dictates the importance of utilizing this less complex animal system in deciphering the mechanisms concerning human diseases such as: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, immune disease, neurological disease, and cancer. The evaluation of genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors impacting human health can be explored to a certain extent by analyzing the effects of such factors in the life cycle of fruit flies. This research study explores the health benefits provided by specific nutrients from organic food in comparison with conventional culture lab food, by raising fruit flies in either organically-based food or integral culture food. Then, overall fly physical condition was evaluated such as fecundity, longevity and sex ratio, was evaluated. Specific organic nutrients attributed fruit flies with greater fecundity and longevity, but the integral culture diet greatly exceeded fecundity and longevity levels. The conclusions determined that adult D. melanogaster have different reactions depending on macromolecule concentrations.

The Effects of Diruthenium on Triple Negative Cancer Cells
Chacko, Ashley; Jones, Taylor
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Hannah Wingate

Chemotherapy is a type cancer treatment that uses chemical substances to kill cancer cells and prevent further replication. One of these chemicals known as cisplatin targets cancer cells by cross-linking the cell’s DNA therefore interfering with mitosis. If the cell is not able to repair this damage it undergoes apoptosis. Extensive research of cisplatin has allowed it to become a drug routinely used in cancer treatment and in turn opened the door for chemicals which operate by a similar mechanism of action. Diruthenium is one of these chemicals which has been proven to bind to DNA in a similar fashion but whose effects on cancer cells have not been proven. Protein was harvested from triple negative breast cancer, MDA MB 468 cells that were treated with cisplatin and varied amounts of diruthenium. A Western Blot was then performed in order to determine the size and therefore identify the type of protein present in each sample. Similar apoptotic proteins were found in cells treated with either cisplatin and diruthenium proving that diruthenium has an effect on cancer cells similar to that of cisplatin. This potentially could result in a new form of chemotherapy that includes diruthenium.

Analyzing Sequences of mtDNA Hypervariable 1 Region to Determine Maternal Ancestry
Chowdhury, Lynda
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

Mitochondria and their possessed mitochondrial DNA as inherited from mother to child can effectively be utilized to tie one’s ancestral heritage to a given area of origin. The non-coding hypervariable 1 region found in the organelle’s circular, double-stranded DNA carries identifiable mutations that distinguish individuals of the same species from one another but also, in humans, often reflect the specific polymorphisms noticed among particular people groups. Using forward and reverse primers to amplify a chosen sequence of the D-loop (between positions 15984 and 16384) found in isolated mtDNA from obtained cheek cells, all resulting PCR products were processed and analyzed before BLAST nucleotide queries were carefully made. Comparisons of the subject’s sequences with those made available in the public database may tentatively pinpoint her maternal lineage to western Eurasia (perhaps even into Italy) bordering Scandinavia and the farther reaches of Siberia.

Comparing Effect of Diruthenium to Cisplatin on Triple Negative Cancer Cells (MDA-MB 468)
Christian-Ezeofor, Chinonso; Jones, Tyler
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Hannah Wingate

In compiling this research, we began by setting out in search of alternative methods for treating triple negative breast cancer cells. The problem that cancer researchers face in treating triple negative breast cancer is that these cells have none of the usual cell surface receptors (HER-2, estrogen, progesterone) which have made certain forms of breast cancer treatable. Cisplatin is used in the clinic as a chemotherapeutic agent for triple negative breast cancer but cancers acquire resistance over time. For the time being these problems severely inhibit the effectiveness of Cisplatin as a chemotherapeutic agent. It is known that Cisplatin binds DNA in cancer cells but specific pathways are yet unknown. Thus alternatives are to be welcomed while further research is completed on Cisplatin pathways/resistance. This research compares the clinical effectiveness of a potential alternative; Diruthenium, to Cisplatin in various measurable parameters of drug-mediated apoptosis in triple negative breast cancer cells, with the aim of presenting a viable alternative to Cisplatin and as such combating resistance at the cellular level.

Reactivity of Ru2(L)4Cl (L = ap or Fap, ap = 2-Anilinopyridinate Anion) with Sodium Phenoxide and Sodium Benzoate Examined by UV-Vis Spectroscopy
Cosey, Whitney
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Eric Van Caemelbecke

The present study used UV-visible spectroscopy to probe the interaction of two diruthenium complexes, Ru2(ap)4Cl and Ru2(Fap)4Cl (ap = 2-anilinopyridinate anion) with sodium phenoxide (NaOC6H5) and sodium benzoate (NaO2CC6H5), respectively.  The phenoxide and benzoate ions displace the chloride ion of the original dimetal compounds, thus allowing formation of Ru2(L)4(OC6H5) and Ru2(L)4(O2CC6H5), respectively (L = ap or Fap). The ap and Fap derivatives are also converted to [Ru2(L)4(OC6H5)] upon further addition of sodium phenoxide to solution, but such a conversion is not observed for Ru2(L)4(O2CC6H5) (L = ap or Fap) upon further addition of sodium benzoate to solution.  The conversion of Ru2(ap)4Cl to [Ru2(ap)4(OC6H5)]occurs in two different steps, but this is not the case for the Fap derivative.  The UV-vis data are analyzed using mole ratio plots.  Binding constants for the formation of Ru2(ap)4(OC6H5) and Ru2(ap)4(O2CC6H5) are estimated as 2.5 x 106 and 1.6 x 103, respectively.  The different behaviors of the two nucleophilic groups towards the dimetal complexes are discussed.

Determination of Maternal Ancestry Using the D-Loop Sequence of Mitochondrial DNA
Davlapur, Jayakrishna
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is transmitted from the mother to the offspring in humans and most organisms. This can be attributed to various reasons, but one of the main reasons for this occurrence is that the oocyte’s mitochondria is much larger than the sperm’s. Mitochondrial DNA was isolated from cheek cells, amplified using polymerase chain reaction, and sequenced to determine the sequence of the hypervariable region 1 of the D-loop from positions 15971 to 16410. The hypervariable region, another name for the D-loop of mtDNA, is noncoding and susceptible to mutations, thus making it an ideal tool to determine maternal lineage, since it varies greater intraspecies than interspecies. Therefore, this sequence was used to identify maternal lineage using nucleotide basic local alignment search tool (nucleotide BLAST) found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (ncbi) database. Nucleotide BLAST compared the mtDNA sequence obtained from cheek cells to sequence databases to find significant matches that show similarity between the sequences. The top matching sequences were analyzed along with any associated studies to determine the particular origin and ethnicity of the sequence. The most probable region of origin for this particular subject was determined to be India.

Lysozyme Protein Solubility as a Function of pH
Do, Thao
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Saul Trevino

Poor protein solubility is a major problem in the development of protein pharmaceuticals. Solubility determines how concentrated drugs are in the system. When medication is injected into the system, higher concentrations are needed for effective results. In this study, we investigated the solubility of a protein called lysozyme. Using ammonium sulfate precipitation, we measured lysozyme solubility as a function of pH, and compared solubility and net charge as a function of pH. This has been an ongoing project, and this year, we focused on improving data that appeared to be outliers using the Q-test. For example, the slopes of salting out curves should stay the same at different pH values, but previous data for certain pH values did not agree well with data for other pH values. Fortunately, upon re-measuring solubility values for certain pH’s, the data did improve. Hopefully, with this work and future work, the relationship between protein solubility and pH can be fully understood.

Change in Drosophila melanogaster Pupation Development in Response to Changes in Dietary Consumption as Well as Response to Varied Temperatures
George, Jimmy; Stephen, Nicole
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Lisa Ellis

Drosophila melanogaster is an important species noted in the scientific community due to the varying qualities it expresses as an organism. The research involved with this particular type of fruit fly is most common due to the feasibility it provides during experimentation: most notable are the fast generation times along with the large number of progeny per gestational output. In this experiment, we subjected flies to different environments (at room temperature of 23⁰C and incubated at 30⁰C) as well as put them on three different diets (culture, very protein-based, and very carbohydrate-based). We determined that time to pupation varies depending upon these two factors and that flies limited to a protein-based diet in a more heated environment have the fastest pupal development process. Utilization of this study can help in analyzing real world situations where environmental and dietary restrictions are studied in human development in regards to climatic effects on given populations as well as obesity trends based on varied consumption patterns in maternal diets.

Research on Maternal Ancestry
George, Nancy
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

One of the evidences supporting the Endosymbiotic Theory, which hypothesizes that mitochondria originated as aerobic prokaryotes, is the presence of mitochondrial DNA. The mitochondrial DNA, which is a circular chromosome and distinct from the linear chromosomes of the Eukaryotic nuclear DNA, resembles the prokaryotic chromosome. Various functional genes such as those that code for tRNA, rRNA etc are found in the mtDNA. Since the mtDNA is inherited exclusively from the maternal parent in humans, the inheritance pattern can be studied. The non-coding region in the mtDNA known as the D-loop can be used to research and confirm maternal family lineage. For this project, cheek cells were harvested to isolate mtDNA and then amplified using PCR. Specific primers were used to amplify the D-loop region and the samples were then sent to GenWiz to be sequenced. Once the sequences were received, they were analyzed using the NCBI database and population sets were compared. Query matches were found from Italy, China and India for the mtDNA sequence analyzed. Since a high number of matches were found from India, it can be concluded that this is the most probable region of origin for the maternal ancestors.

Don’t Cry Over Spoiled Milk: Determining the Most Effective Material and Cleaning Method for Milk Manufacturing Machinery
Ghosn, Marc; Brown, Ciaura; Tadese, Aiden; VanHook, Virginia
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Jacqueline Horn

Stainless steel is the predominant material used in most manufacturing equipment, including in the dairy industry. It is able to withstand the pasteurization process and cleaning techniques, which may include high temperatures and strong chemicals. However, biofilm formation is still possible on stainless steel and has been a recurrent issue for the industry’s equipment. This experiment measured biofilm attachment on various surfaces as well as the effectiveness of different cleaning methods on each surface type. The research begins by first measuring the biofilm growth on each surface, quantified using UV-Vis Spectroscopy. To determine the most efficient cleaning method, which was the goal of the second part of the procedure, we compared turbidity of broth cell cultures after undergoing Acidified Boiling Wash (ABW) or Circulation Cleaning Method (CCM), both commonly used today. We found that aluminum alloy and CCM worked best at inhibiting and eliminating biofilm formation, respectively. These preliminary results indicate a possible strategy to reduce biofilm contamination in the dairy industry. We are hopeful that more research will be conducted in this field in order to substantially offer the dairy industry possible alternatives for machinery material and cleaning methods.

Don’t Get In a Pickle, If You Don’t “Got Milk”
Ike, John; Kwong, Krystal
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Jacqueline Horn

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a probiotic commonly found in dairy products. This bacteria has many beneficial purposes such as aiding in digestion, diarrhea prevention, and relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The scope of this research is targeted to people who suffer from milk allergies, and as a result of this, cannot consume any dairy products. The objective of this research is to determine which non-dairy food alternatives still contain this powerful probiotic. DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and gel electrophoresis are used in order to confirm the presence or absence of L. acidophilus in these non-dairy alternatives: cucumber, pickle, tempeh, and tofu. You definitely won’t get in a pickle if you don’t “got milk.”

The Generalized Uncertainty Principle and the Creation of the Universe
Jennings, James
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Gardo Blado

According to Quantum Cosmology the universe came into existence via quantum tunneling. Atkatz* wrote a paper in which he used the WKB method to calculate the tunneling probability for the universe to come into existence. I recalculated this probability using the GUP (generalized uncertainty principle) correction, which takes into account the effects of gravity at the quantum level. The result is that the tunneling probability for the universe to come into existence is increased by the generalized uncertainty principle.

*D. Atkatz, “Quantum Cosmology for Pedestrians”, Am J Phys 62, 619-627 (1994)

The Effects of Sugar and Light Exposure on Drosophila melanogaster
Le, Katherine
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Lisa Ellis

Drosophila melanogaster is the most experimented organism for metabolic interpretations in comparison to metabolic functions and characteristics within vertebrates. For the length of the experiment, the lab strains of Canton-S and Insulin-like peptide (dILP) Drosophila melanogaster are compared in accordance to specific diets and environmental changes. Both fly strains are exposed to light and dark conditions, along with either a high protein diet (indicative of a low sugar diet) or a high carbohydrate diet (indicative of a high sugar diet). Further testing of fly pupae will interpret if high sugar diets affect fat and lipid accumulation. Dependent upon the diet and light exposure, there will be increases in lipid content, especially seen in dILP mutants since metabolism and other functions are hindered. Measurements of pupal weight, prior to and following chloroform treatments, will highlight significant changes in the fat content due to exposure of varying levels of sugar. Hypothesis of a high carbohydrate diet within dark conditions and results from a high protein diet in dark conditions deduce an increase in both dILP pupae weight and lipid content from initial measurements compared to the Canton-S strain, conclusive that an increase in sugar reflects metabolic changes.

The Effects of Ice Induced Thermal Stress on Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
Lopez, Gabriel; Jones, Michael; Hyde, Brianna
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Rachel Hopp

Thermal stress has varying physiological effects on the human body. In this experiment, ice induced thermal stress was applied to male subjects in order to bring about physiological effects associated with heart rate and blood pressure. An electrocardiogram and blood pressure reading was conducted before and after ice induced thermal stress was applied in the form of bags filled with ice cubes. The manipulation was applied to areas that are highly sensitive to stress due to high vascularization. The areas experimented on included the cervical region, the axillary regions, and femoral region. Our experimental results aligned with the proposed hypothesis that heart rate would decrease while blood pressure would increase.

Effects of Copper Exposure on C. elegans Dpy-10 Mutant Exoskeletons
Nameni, Melody; Mathew, Marily
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Rachel Hopp

In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, cuticle function is very important for locomotion and osmotic protection. The worm has a protective exoskeleton primarily made up of collagen in a collagen matrix which creates a barrier between the worm and the external environment. One of the genes identified that is responsible for morphological changes if mutated is the dpy-10 gene. These mutant genes cause the worm to have a “dumpy” phenotype, which causes bodily shortening in length and widening in diameter. Dpy-10 is a collagen encoding gene which has also been found to cause osmotic stress resistance. In this experiment, regular N2 worms along with dpy-10 worms are exposed to copper in the from of cupric sulfate to measure any morphological changes that may have occurred. RNAi experimental protocol was also used to induce the dpy-10 gene in regular N2 worms. This was then used to be compared with the actual dpy-10 worms. Based off of data collected, cupric sulfate exposure caused all worms, both N2 and dpy-10 to shorten in length. However, width was not affected. In conclusion, Dpy-10 worms were not resistant to osmotic stress induced by cupric sulfate, which was not expected.

Milk Intake and its Association with Metabolic Syndrome in Obese Children and Adolescents
Nandolia, Sara
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Mona Eissa

Background: Obese adolescents that do not consume the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium- defined here as three cups of milk- are at increased risk for developing Metabolic Syndrome. Thus far, relatively insufficient research has been conducted to elucidate this relationship in children.

Objective: To examine the correlation between daily calcium intake (through dietary products such as milk) and the development of Metabolic Syndrome in obese children and adolescents.

Design/Methods: Existing records of 353 adolescent patients seen at the University of Texas Pediatric Weight Management Clinic between 2008-2010, ages 3-18, were reviewed and the data analyzed was included in this research study. The BMI, height, weight, blood pressure, daily milk intake, fasting blood glucose, insulin, triglycerides, and HDL were obtained for each patient. Insulin Resistance (IR) was defined as moderate or severe using HOMA scores, calculated from fasting insulin and glucose levels using the following formula: HOMA= [Glucose x Insulin] /405. Metabolic Syndrome was defined as having three of the following: BMI>95th %ile; triglycerides> 110 mg/dL; HDL <40 mg/dL; systolic/diastolic BP> 90th %ile; or HOMA > 3.99.
Metabolic, dietary, and anthropometric measurements were compared across genders and ethnicities using the Cochran- Armitage test.
Results: Participants were 57% male, 70% Hispanic, with mean (SD) age of 11.3 years. Only 15% (55/353) of the patients reported their average daily milk intake to be three cups or more. Complete data on lipid profile and comorbidities was available for 142 cases (40%). Compared to patients who reported drinking less than 1 cup of milk daily, the chances of having metabolic syndrome were 79% lower (chance ratio: 0.21; 95% confidence interval: 0.07 – 0.59) among patients who drank 1 to less than 2 cups of milk daily, and 89% lower (chance ratio: 0.11; 95% confidence interval: 0.03 – 0.43) among patients who drank 2 or more cups of milk daily. This data was adjusted for patients’ race/ethnicity, gender, and the type of milk based on fat content.

Conclusion: Sufficient daily milk intake is associated with decreased chances of developing Metabolic Syndrome in obese adolescents, specifically IR. Milk intake is equally protective against MetS for both genders, and Hispanics versus non-Hispanics. Increased calcium intake through milk is not associated with elevated lipid levels.

Determination of Origin of Maternal Ancestry by Genomic Sequencing of the Hypervarible 1 Region of the D-loop in Mitochondrial DNA
Nong, Huy
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

The mitochondrion serves as an important organelle for eukaryotic cells since it is the location of aerobic respiration, oxidative phosphorylation, and the direct production of ATP. It has been established that the mitochondrion maintains its own genetic material (mtDNA), which is separate from the host genome. The mtDNA is a double stranded circular DNA chromosome that is 16,569 base pairs in length. Inheritance pattern of mtDNA is strictly from mother to child only. In this experiment, mtDNA was isolated from stratified squamous epithelial cells of the cheek, amplified via PCR and sequenced for the specific hypervariable region 1 of the D-loop to determine maternal ancestry. The D-loop is a non-coding region of the mtDNA and can be used to confirm maternal ancestry since the D-loop is more susceptible to mutation compared to other coding regions, where mutations could be lethal. The Basic Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) was used to search GeneBank for highly similar D-loop sequences from individuals around the world in order to determine the region of maternal ancestry. BLAST results showed the most probable region of origin of maternal ancestry of the study subject to be from the Yunnan Provence of Southern China.

Finding Maternal Ancestry from Cheek Cells mtDNA
Pham, Christie
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

The hypervariable 1 region in the D-loop of the mitochondrial DNA is a noncoding region. Since this a noncoding region, this region is very susceptible to mutations. These mutations or variants in the DNA sequence help scientist group together individuals around the world into haplotypes. Using the haplotypes and mitochondrial sequences of other individuals, a person is able to determine his maternal ancestry. Mitochondrial DNA was obtained from the subject’s cheek cells using 10% Chelex. Afterward, PCR was used to amplify the region from 15991 to 16390 of the mitochondrial DNA and was sent to a DNA sequencing lab to obtain the DNA sequence. The most probable region of origin for the maternal ancestors of the subject was Asia.

Maternal Ancestry Determination Through mtDNA Analysis
Pham, Du
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

Mitochondria are organelles found in almost all eukaryotic organism. The circular DNA that they carry are different from the linear DNA that are passed down during nuclear division, and are inherited exclusively from the mother. Though there are plenty of coding regions on mtDNA, there is a region called the hypervariable region, or D-Loop, that is non-coding, and is more susceptible to mutations. This region is often used to confirm maternal family lineage for the subject.
To obtain and amplify mtDNA for analysis, samples were first collected from subjects’ cheek cells, then DNA is extracted through centrifugation and boiling with Chelex. Then, using forward and reverse primers, the sequence is amplified via PCR from position 15984 to 16384. The D-Loop is in this region of mtDNA, and will be sequenced at a lab. Then, using BLAST Analysis to compare subject’s sequence to known sequences on a national database, maternal ancestry was determined. In the end, subject Du Pham, of Asian descendant, was found to have maternal ancestry from Argentina instead.

The Effects of Diruthenium on Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cell Growth
Phan, Luan; Brown, Ciaura; Kurian, Kevin
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Hannah Wingate

Triple-negative breast cancer cells (TNBC cells) are a category of breast cancer cells that lack receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and Her2. Because most cancer treatments are designed to target these receptors, treatment for individuals suffering from TNBC is limited. Recently, the use of DNA-damaging agents has shown promising results as a treatment for TNBC. Diruthenium is a synthetic chemical compound that is thought to interact with DNA. While the specific mechanism of action is unknown, one of the possible mechanisms is that the compound damages DNA by intercalating to the strand via N7-O6 target on the purine ring of guanine. This highlights the possibility of using Diruthenium as a treatment for TNBC. In this experiment, a clonogenic assay was used to compare the effectiveness of Diruthenium to cisplatin on killing MDA-MB-460 TNBC cells. Our results displayed a similar number of colonies between the diruthenium and cisplatin treatment, showing that diruthenium is effective against triple-negative breast cancer.

Examining Gravitational Tunneling Radiation when Applying Quantum Gravity Effects
Prescott, Trevor
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Gardo Blado

Although shown to theoretically exist, Hawking Radiation has yet to be detected. The paper entitled “Gravitational Tunneling Radiation” (1) by Mario Rabinowitz proposed a possible explanation by considering the gravitational tunneling effects in the presence of other bodies in the vicinity of the black hole. Rabinowitz showed that the power radiated (through gravitational radiation) by a black hole, , is related to the power generated by Hawking Radiation, by where T is the gravitational tunneling probability. The presence of other bodies lowers the gravitational barrier which in turn increases the gravitational tunneling probability thereby decreasing the Hawking radiation, . We have examined the modification of PSH in the presence of quantum gravity effects by incorporating the Generalized Uncertainty Principle. This resulted in further reduction of the Hawking radiation, compared to Rabinowitz’s original findings.

Generalized Uncertainty Principle Correction to Alpha Decay
Sepulveda, Rafael; Ceyanes, Josh
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Gardo Blado

For many years, physicists have been dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of the universe to have a better understanding of not just on how something happens, but why something happens. One area that has been given extra attention is quantum mechanics. As far as looking into the various applications that research into this field can lead to, the possibilities are diverse. For now, let us look into something well studied, such as alpha decay. Alpha decay happens when an atomic nucleus spits out an alpha particle, which embodies two protons and two neutrons. Because of the Coulomb barrier, according to classical mechanics, the alpha particle cannot escape the nucleus. By modeling the nucleus as a finite potential square well, we can “observe” the release of the particle. Because the energy of the particle is smaller than the barrier, the only way the particle can escape is through “quantum tunneling”. Through this research, the goal is to find and apply a correction to what is known about alpha decay through a study of the Generalized Uncertainty Principle.

Behavioral Changes in Canton S and Brummer Fruit Flies When Exposed to Different Diets Under Various Conditions
Thomas, Leyna
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Lisa Ellis

The purpose of this experimentation is to see how different diets can affect the weight of the Drosophila and to also see if different environmental condition can affect or disturb their day life routine cycle. Populations of Drosophila were trained by alternately exposing them to two different diets, and the flies where put under different conditions such as agitation, normal light, and darkness. 10 Canton S fruit flies and 10 brummer fruit flies of different gender and two different Drosophila food diets were used to conduct the experimentation. We saw a significant difference on the behavioral patterns of the flies under the various conditions; a constant behavioral pattern was shown among the flies, especially those that were exposed to the agitation condition. In conclusion, flies exposed under the agitated condition portrayed a similar behavior, while flies exposed to UV light and darkness portrayed their normal behavior that they have during the non-experimental days.

A Comparison of the Detection of Lactobacillus reuteri
 in breast milk and infant milk formulas

Thomas, Nayana; Hoballah, Hilal; Ademoji, Precious; Gerges, Monica
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Jacqueline Horn

The purpose of the study is to determine which infant formula has the closest composition of Lactobacillus reuteri content compared to breast milk. PCR were performed on the DNA isolates of the milks including our probiotic positive controls and negative control using L.reuteri specific primers to determine the composition of L.reuteri in the milks. Analysis of electrophoresis results displayed heavy DNA detected in the wells of breast and goat-based formulas. Primer dimers were observed in all other wells. For further investigation of the composition of the milks, lawn plates were grown on MRS agar for breast milk, goat milk, cow milk, and probiotic samples for the for general analysis of lactobacillus content in comparison to breast milk. Results revealed that the growth of lactobacilli bacteria in the goat milk plate was closest in composition to the breast milk plate. L.reuteri was not specifically detected in any of the results due to human error, primer specificity issues and the nature of L.reuteri. New information on the composition and detection of L.reuteri was obtained that includes studies about the very low detection of L.reuteri in the breast milk of women and its absence in other women and the microbiota of people.

Discovery of Western European Roots Through Bioinformatics
Titus, Alexys
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

Mitochondria, the “powerhouse of the cell”, are believed to have originated as aerobic prokaryotes who lived permanently in a larger cell as described in the Endosymbiotic Theory. Evidence for the theory includes the DNA that mitochondria carry, which is found as a circular chromosome within the organelle, and is separate from the nuclear DNA. For humans, mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited. Maternal lineage was determined by sequencing the Hypervariable 1 region of the D-loop of the mitochondria and comparing that sequence to published sequences from across the globe in BLAST analysis. From cheek cells, the Hypervariable 1 region of the D-loop of the mitochondrial DNA was amplified using a primer for positions 15984 to 16384 and PCR. The size of the PCR products were determined via gel electrophoresis. The PCR products were sent to a DNA sequencing lab for sequencing. The sequence determined from the PCR products was used to create alignments in BLAST software. Alignments indicated similarities to mitochondrial sequences of the Hypervariable 1 region of the D-loop from Western European samples. From this alignment compilation, Western Europe was determined as the probably region of origin of the subject’s maternal ancestors.

Analyzing mtDNA to Track Maternal Ancestry
Umer,Misha
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

MtDNA is a circular shaped DNA that is inherited maternally in humans. The D-loop of mtDNA is major non-coded region that can be studied to trace maternal ancestry. The sequence of the D-loop from mtDNA was utilized to detect ancestry of a female of Asian descent to analyze ancestry. D-loop sequence from DNA extracted from cheek cells was amplified and then sequenced. Using various databases and comparing sequences it was found mtDNA studied had ancestry linkage to northern Europe.

The Effect of Macromolecules on Drosophila Fecundity
Varughese, Jenson; Infante, Jessica
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Lisa Ellis

Drosophila melanogaster are researched extensively in the scientific world to get a greater understanding of different biological phenomena. From tumorigenesis to different cell signaling pathways, researchers have used Drosophila to gain more insight into mechanisms that are hard to study in other organisms. To get a better understanding on Drosophila reproductive patterns, we will be focusing on two genotypes of Drosophila, Brummer and Canton-S to see the effect of different diets on fecundity and sex ratios. Drosophila are known to reproduce at different rates based on different diets, however there is not substantial research in the area. There has also been limited research on diet and fecundity or the reproductive rate measured by the number of gametes produced. Two diets will be used, VPB, a high protein diet, and VCB, a high carbohydrate diet, to see how they affect Drosophila egg laying capabilities. With the help of this research, researchers will get a better sense of Drosophila reproductive genetics and Drosophila fecundity. Through this research we believe we can get a better insight into human physiology and genetics as well.

Maternal History from the Mitochondria
Voice, Alesia
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Brenda Whaley

It has been concluded that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) for males and females is identical to that of their mother, and can thus be used to determine maternal family lineage. MtDNA contains both a coding region with 37 genes coding 13 proteins and a non-coding region referred to as the D-loop or hypervariable region. This hypervariable region is more susceptible to mutation and therefore displays greater variety between individuals. This region, specifically, was used to determine maternal ancestry by analysis of the haplogroups in the DNA sample. MtDNA from cheek cells of one subject were isolated using a saline solution, which was centrifuged, and amplified using PCR. Hypervariable regions of the resulting sequence and the Cambridge Reference Sequence for human mtDNA were compared. Variants between the sequences (haplogroups) were analyzed for frequencies and geographical origins. Further analysis of the sample hypervariable region was done using Basic local alignment search too (BLAST) to uncover mtDNA sequences of high similarity. These matching sequences were further researched in order to confirm lineage speculation. Analysis of the sample mtDNA led to the conclusion that the most probable region of origin for the maternal ancestors would be Eastern Africa, beginning in Egypt or Tanzania.

Dirhodium Tetraacetate Reaction with AMP, Poly (A), and Calf Thymus DNA
Wu, Joshua; Ermias, Behailu N. ; Portillo, Merlyn A.
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Robert Towery

Reaction of transition metal complexes with DNA is an area of research that has gained momentum in the scientific field. Metal and di-metal complexes have been used as nucleases while recently they have been used clinically as antitumor agents. This research project spectrophotometrically explores the reactions of dirhodium tetraacetate with various purine mononucleotides, synthetic polynucleotides, and natural sources of DNA. Di-metal antitumor molecules have the ability to react with nucleic acids by forming interstrand covalent cross-links. These possibly result in an inhibition of DNA replication and transcription which makes them possible anti cancer agents. The reaction of dirhodium tetraacetate with single mononucleotides AMP, synthetic polynucleotides poly (A), and a natural source of DNA calf thymus DNA were studied. A melting curve analysis of untreated calf thymus DNA was compared with a dirhodium tetraacetate complex treated calf thymus DNA. Results indicated the di-metal complex inhibits determination of a melting temperature. It is possible the double stranded structure was partially denatured upon reaction with the di-metal complex. This made a melting temperature determination essentially impossible. In the future, we plan to explore other metal and di-metal complex reactions such as cisplatin and tetraacetatodiruthenium chloride with various forms of nucleic acids and DNA.

POSTER PRESENTATIONS- PROPOSED RESEARCH

Investigating the Role of Phosphatidyl Ethanolamine in SOD1 Aggregation in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Herrmann, Geoffrey
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Saul Trevino

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal adult-onset motor neuronal disease. Due to previous studies, it is believed that SOD1 is a mediator in damage to the muscle cells through aggregation of mutant SOD1. Another study showed that phosphatidyl ethanolamine (PE) contributes to propagating the misfolding of the prion protein leading to intracellular aggregates. This study plans on using PE to further study the molecular mechanism behind SOD1 toxicity and the death of motor neurons by testing to see if PE can contribute to the misfolding and aggregation of SOD1 the way it assists the misfolding and aggregation of the prion protein. A filter retardation assay would be performed on motor neuronal cells that had been transfected with wild type SOD1 and G93A-SOD1 in the absence of PE and in the presence of PE. Western blots would also be performed. It is expected that PE will contribute to the aggregation of mutant SOD1, and hopefully this information could be used to alleviate SOD1 aggregation seen in ALS.

Reconstituting ASC Expression for Tumor Suppression in Skin Cancer
Manji, Shehzeen; Al-Natour, Hamzeh
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Saul Trevino

Epithelial skin carcinogenesis is a type of skin cancer.  Previous work has identified that the apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a CARD (ASC) is important for tumor suppression in keratinocytes and that ASC expression is lost in human cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Therefore, this study proposes to reconstitute ASC expression by introducing ASC cDNA as part of a retroviral vector in an ASC-deficient host. If the results are as expected, one can anticipate that ASC expression will be reconstituted in the human cutaneous carcinoma skin cells and that this protein will also act as a tumor suppressor in these cells.

ORAL PRESENTATIONS- COMPLETED RESEARCH

Analysis of a Variation of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky Oscillating Reaction
Carretero Murillo, Mariana; Ghosn, Marc; Bhatt, Nemil; Jennings, James
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. James Claycomb

Chaos theory deals with phenomena ranging from the field of dynamics to abnormal biological processes. Chaotic behavior is portrayed in dynamic systems that depend sensitively on initial conditions such as the concentration of reactants in an oscillating reaction. Our research focused on a variation of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky oscillating reaction where there is a sequence of color changes, from dark orange to colorless, with a period of approximately 15 seconds at 25°C. The oscillation period gradually increases, and after several minutes, the colorless solution persists. This phenomenon has already been studied extensively with regards to pH and voltage; however, in our experiments, we detected the oscillations based on the changes in the transmittance of light through the solution. We utilized a setup involving a Vernier light sensor, with the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of chaotic behavior. After collecting our data samples, we performed time series analysis including time delay plots.

Equatorially Connected Diruthenium Units toward Supramolecular Structures
Patterson, Dayna
College of Sciences and Mathematics
Dr. Eric Van Caemelbecke

The reaction between Ru2Cl(O2CMe)(DPhF)3 (DPhF= N,N’-diphenylformamidinate anion) and Cu(II)5-mono(4-carboxyphenyl)-10,15,20-triphenyl porphyrin gives a clean replacement of the acetate ligand, leading to the formation of the complex Ru2Cl(TriPCCu)(DPhF)(TriPCCu= Cu(II)5-mono(4-carboxyphenyl)-10,15,20-triphenyl porphyrin). The porphyrin-dimetal complex was synthesized in refluxing methanol for four hours. The complex was filtered and washed with five fractions of diethyl ether and two fractions of methanol, then dried in oven. The porphyrin-dimetal complex was characterized by cyclic voltammetry and mass spectrometry. The reduction shows four reversible processes. The first and third processes are assigned to dimetal complex while the second and fourth processes are assigned to the porphyrin.  The mass spectrometry of the complex was done by ESI. The graph reveals one major peak (m/z = 1507.27) that correlates with the predicted molecular mass of the porphyrin-dimetal complex and the isotope pattern consistent with a diruthenium complex. This work shows an efficient method to produce equatorially substituted dimetal complexes in order to form supramolecular assemblies.

© 2017 College of Science and Mathematics