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URCAD Abstracts

DMDM: Domain Mapping of Disease Mutations

Asa Adadey, Thomas A. Peterson, Nathan Nehrt

Maricel G. Kann, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

Domain mapping of disease mutations (DMDM) is a database in which each disease mutation can be displayed by its gene, protein or domain location. DMDM provides a unique domain-level view where all human coding mutations are mapped on the protein domain. To build DMDM, we aligned all human proteins to a database of conserved protein domains using a Hidden Markov Model-based sequence alignment tool (HMMer). We used the resulting protein-domain alignments to provide a domain location for all available human disease mutations and polymorphisms. The number of disease mutations and polymorphisms in each domain position are displayed alongside other relevant functional information (e.g., the binding and catalytic activity of the site and the conservation of that domain location). DMDM's protein domain view highlights molecular relationships among mutations from different diseases that might not be clearly observed with traditional gene-centric visualization tools. These unique graphical interfaces can provide new insight into proteins related by their domains and disease mutations, revealing commonalities between diseases.

This work was funded, in part, by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants 1K22CA143148 to M.G.K. (PI) and R01LM009722 to M.G.K. (collaborator).

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Encouraging Increased Attendance among Inner-City High School Students

William J. Archer

Linda Oliva, Assistant Professor, Department of Education

Student attendance rates are a major issue in all high schools. The inner-city high school in Baltimore where I am doing my internship has a current attendance rate of 84 percent and it is not likely that we will reach our goal of 92 percent by the end of the academic year. This study investigated the effect of academic incentives on attendance rates in a ninth grade U.S. History class during the third and fourth quarters of the academic year. These attendance data were compared with attendance rates of the first and second quarter Government class, which did not receive the same academic incentives. Students’ perspectives of the various academic incentives were also explored.

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Using Feedback to Increase Student Motivation, Effort, and Success

Michelle T. Birky

Linda Oliva, Assistant Professor, Department of Education

Student motivation is the key to successful learning. Some students may claim the material is boring or irrelevant to their lives and then refuse to do work. This lack of participation decreases what the students have learned. This study investigated the effect of using prompt, daily feedback to increase student motivation, effort, and success. Feedback was in the form of written grades for completion and accuracy, as well as constructive comments. Feedback and student work is returned the day after the work is completed. The effect of the feedback was measured in anecdotal evidence of student willingness to work (motivation), length of written work (effort), and student performance (success). Participants included 125 English Language Arts students in sixth through eighth grade at a Baltimore City school.

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Capraesque America: The Great Depression Films of Frank Capra from 1934-1939

Natasha Chae

Warren Belasco, Professor, Department of American Studies

During the Great Depression, the stability of the belief in America’s myth of limitless opportunity and upward mobility was at risk. As a result, Hollywood filmmakers were influential players in the effort to restore such important cultural ideals and values as the American Dream and the triumph over class into the American psyche. One of the most influential of these players was three-time Academy Award winner for Best Director, Frank Capra, who was best known for such films as It’s a Wonderful Life (1940) and less known for his documentary propaganda films for the U.S. government. In particular, such Capra films as It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) were celebrated as motivational films that consciously endeavored to reinstate classical American values within the context of the Great Depression. Although Capra’s critics characterized him as a sentimental populist, this research employed textual analysis, along the axes of gender, political ideology, and socioeconomic class, to investigate and refute this claim. In doing so, this research uncovered that the values espoused by these films demonstrated Capra’s conservative and traditionalist treatment of society, and, ultimately, a longing for the America of yore.

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Mechanism of Action of the CDK5 – GR – APP Pathway in Aβ production and Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis

Mayukh Chakrabarti, Tomoshige Kino, Alan DeCherney

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

CDK5 is a cyclin-dependent kinase involved in numerous neurological functions. It interacts with various intracellular receptors that regulate neuronal cells, affecting neuronal signaling and neurotransmitter activity. Recent research has found that CDK5 interacts with the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) which mediates hormonal activities of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. These hormones, when binding to the GR, are directly implicated in its transcriptional activity. It has also been found that p25, a secondary form of a CDK5 activator protein, causes its aberrant activation and activity. This project investigates the effect of CDK5 and the GR in causing Alzheimer’s disease. The premise of this investigation has been supported in previous research which documents the presence of p25 in inducing beta amyloid (Aβ) production, an Alzheimer’s disease hallmark. In-vitro experiments with N2a, a mouse neuroblastoma cell line, allowed us to document the effect of CDK5 on Aβ production. Using a transfection technique, we documented the effect of p25 and its interaction with CDK5, and its subsequent interaction with the GR. Preliminary Quantitative Real Time PCR results showed that CDK5/p25 positively influenced APP production; however, further work is needed to understand whether an aberrant activation of CDK5 with the GR causes Aβ pathology and Alzheimer’s disease.

This work was funded, in part, by the Department of Molecular Endocrinology, Section on Pediatric Endocrinology, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, at the National Institutes of Health.

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Neighbor Helping Neighbor Time Banking Model: Vital to Communities?

Danielle Chestang, Elizabeth Bunker, Lauren Proctor

Brandy Harris-Wallace, The Erickson School, Center for Aging Studies

The time bank model of social exchange has been primarily discussed in the context of civic engagement and assistance programs. These structures focus on involving individuals in communities in an attempt to provide and exchange services that otherwise might not be attainable. To fully understand the efficiency and effectiveness of time banking, researchers must evaluate, through quantifiable measures, the strengths and weaknesses this model, i.e., contributions to communities, which have not been significantly addressed in the long term care/aging services literature. To further test the utility of the time banking model, we will survey residents of Stadium Place, an independent living community in Baltimore City, comprised primarily of African American adults 62 and older. The community has established the Neighbor Helping Neighbor program, patterned after the time banking model. By interviewing residents both in the Helping Neighbor program and those who are not involved in the program we will provide greater understanding of the program and its usage or lack thereof. Policy implications for time banking community assistance programs within minority communities will also be addressed.

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Lunar Swirls: How Dark are "Dark Lanes"?

Ecaterina Coman, B. Ray Hawke, Jeffrey J. Gillis-Davis

Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii
David T. Blewett, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Swirls are unusual sinuous bright markings found on the surface of the Moon. The swirls often contain "dark lanes" within the bright undulating sections. All swirls correlate with the presence of magnetized crustal rocks, but not all magnetic areas exhibit bright markings. The mechanism by which swirls form is a longstanding mystery. One hypothesis holds that a magnetic anomaly prevents solar wind protons from striking the surface and thus inhibits the normal weathering and darkening of the soil. If so, it is possible that the deflected protons will collide with the surface around the perimeter of the magnetic anomaly where the field is weaker. The resulting enhancement of ion bombardment could cause increased weathering, explaining the dark lanes. The goal of this study is to determine if the dark lanes have truly low reflectance, or instead just appear dark relative to the high-reflectance portions of the adjacent swirl. Image profiles across several lunar swirls have been analyzed to determine the relationship between the reflectance of dark lanes and that of background soil. We have identified locations where enhanced weathering may be taking place, suggesting that the solar-wind shielding hypothesis may be correct.

This work was funded by the NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program.

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Forms of Positive Reinforcement in a Seventh-Grade Classroom

Casey E. Dahle

Linda Oliva, Assistant Professor, Department of Education

This study investigated the effects of positive reinforcement strategies on a seventh-grade English Language Arts classroom of 28 students. Three forms of positive reinforcement were examined: whole-class, small-group, and finally individual, with which these students were most familiar. To monitor the efficacy of each, disciplinary action was tracked according to the school’s disciplinary ladder, which includes warnings, time-outs, lunch detentions, minor incident reports, phone calls home, and referrals. Each strategy was tested and disciplinary action data were recorded for one-week periods. This study shows how different forms of positive reinforcement can impact the amount of disciplinary action needed in a public school environment with growing class sizes and classroom management problems.

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Driving Forces behind Himalayan Glacial Melt

Brandon G. Cottom

Ali Tokay, Department of Geography and Environmental Systems

In this study we take a look at the driving forces behind glacial melt in the Himalayas, through the use of a simple model that is driven by atmospheric remote sensing data. There are many uncertainties associated with the measurements including low spatial resolution and possible backscatter of the highly mountainous region. We have shown that a 10 percent change in albedo has a large impact on glacial melt. Also interannual precipitation changes have little effect on the magnitude of glacial melt. Although there is still much work to be done accounting for refreezing factors and latent heat transfer, gathering improved data of direct mass balance measurements as well as surface albedo. This is important to the billions of people living in river catchments sourced in the Himalayas, as well people living in the mountains who could be affected by glacial melt.

This work was funded in part, by the Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center.

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The Second Green Revolution in Africa: An Assessment of its Sustainability

Louise Djapgne

Marie Deverneil, Senior Lecturer, Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics and Intercultural Communication

This research was conducted in order to discover the effects of the Green Revolution on peoples lives and the environment in Africa. The post-war development agenda of the Truman administration led to what became known as the First Green Revolution, relying on modern technology in agriculture to improve crop yields. The negative impacts of the First Green Revolution on biodiversity and the environment, as well as its failure to address the specific needs of the targeted countries, have been well documented. Yet, today, American foundations and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are proposing to implement a Second Green Revolution in Africa to resolve the crops crisis of the less developed countries. The proposed New Green Revolution will have a significant impact on the Sub-Saharan countries like Tanzania that have already been affected by the structural adjustments programs of both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This study analyzed both the impacts of the First Green Revolution and the projected outcomes of the New Green Revolution in Africa-Tanzania. It was found that petroleum-based inputs, the use of genetically modified seeds, and Western style irrigation practices would compound the problems they claim to address. This would also imply huge and unnecessary expenditures, due to the volatility of the oil industry and the yearly expenditure of seed replacement. Real solutions to the crops crisis would involve a return to traditional farming practices, already taking place in a small scale, as well as food distribution equity.

This research was funded by the Summer Research Institute (SRI) through the McNair Scholar Program at UMBC.

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Towards Using NMR to Identify NC-RNA Interaction in HIV-1

Kedy Edme, Xiao Heng

Michael F. Summers, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

When the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-1) assembles in a host cell, two copies of its genome are packaged by the Gag polyproteins. More specifically, the packaging process is mediated by the interaction of the nucleocapsid domain (NC) of Gag with a highly conserved 5′untranslated region (5′-UTR) of the genome RNA. Currently high-resolution structural information of the 5′UTR is not available. Based on preliminary study of the 5′-UTR, we have identified a156-nucleotide RNA fragment (LR-core) as the essential NC binding element that may serve as a core packaging signal during viral selection and packaging of HIV-1. Using site-directed mutagenesis we have introduced a G331, 333A mutation in LR-core. The NMR spectrum of the mutant revealed that there was no significant change in RNA folding, however, Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) experiments revealed that the mutations reduced the number of NC binding sites from 7 to 4, which suggests that this might be a potential NC binding site. Current efforts are guided towards using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to identify the NC binding sites on these RNA samples in order to gain more insight into the packaging mechanism.

This work was funded, in part, by NIH/NIGMS MARC U* STAR T34 08663 National Research Service Award to UMBC and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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 A Matter of Taste: The Subculture of Vinyl

Justin Eisenstadt

Jason Loviglio, Associate Professor, Department of American Studies

The resurgence of the vinyl record has received a great deal of attention from scholars and the media. In a digital age replete with options, what motivation could there be for seeking out an obsolete technology like vinyl? Popular depictions of vinyl collectors tend to focus on aging hipsters rather than the teenagers and young adults who increasingly populate record stores. A 2006 article in Popular Music and Society focused specifically on youth consumers of vinyl and concluded that young people turn to vinyl as a site of resistance against the music industry and as a way to alleviate feelings of alienation from contemporary popular culture. The goal of my research was to test these assertions. I interviewed 15 vinyl collectors between the ages of 18-30 about vinyl, taste, and the music industry. I found that these individuals, far from actively resisting the music industry, are largely apathetic about it. The preference for one format over another is motivated by a connection to the past, a desire for authenticity, and an appreciation for a specific sound. Because these collectors are hesitant to critique the musical taste of others, they are also less interested in the social aspects of their hobby.

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Characterizing Fracture Force of Hyoid Bone: Investigation of Suicides and Homicides

Oluwatimilehin O. Fadiran, Ozell Sanders, L.D. Timmie Topoleski

L.D. Timmie Topoleski, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

The fracture of the human hyoid bone may occur due to excessive forces to the neck region. This may be why fracture of the hyoid bone is seen more often in strangulation cases than in suicides from hanging. In a previous study conducted at UMBC, dissected hyoid and thyroid bones were tested in bending, and effects of specimen age and loading rate on fracture were determined. This study showed the slower loading rates resulted in larger stress to failure and older specimens required greater fracture force due to calcification. Further testing is required and hyoid and thyroid bone specimen from cadavers will be obtained from The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland. Once the hyoid/thyroid bone specimens are obtained, they will be fractured initially by hand. These fractured bones will be imaged with a Micro-Computed Tomography (MircoCT) scanner, before and after fracture to determine the likely location of failure in these specimens. With this determined, a protocol will be created to perform bending tests on these specimen to quantify the fracture force.

This work was funded, in part, by NIH/NIGMS MARC U*STAR P34 08663 National Research Service Award to UMBC.

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The Megaron at Pylos: A New Interpretation

Jarrett L. Farmer

Michael F. Lane, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Ancient Studies

The Late Bronze Age (1500-1100 BCE) Greek Palace of Nestor at Pylos contains a room at its core with a central hearth, a vestibule, and a porch, to which archaeologists give the Homeric label “megaron,” that is consistently described as a “throne room.” Closer attention opens this label and implicit interpretation to question. During field school last summer, I visited the Palace of Nestor and related museum, and I noticed the close attention that archaeologists had paid to the palace’s other rooms. In contrast, the “throne room” idiom implies an uncritically assumed vision of kingship that does not explain the functioning of social power on the basis of archaeological evidence. In order to correct this fundamental error in method I conducted a detailed study of the Pylos megaron, paying close attention to its features and associated finds, and to other areas in the palace, and compared them with contemporary megara at Tiryns and Mycenae. In the process, I demonstrated how the archaeological record warrants quite different interpretations of the megaron, and by extension, certain models of power in Mycenaean society. In doing so, I hope to have shown that Mycenaean society was more complex than has so far been assumed.

This work was funded, in part, by the Christopher Sherwin Award from the UMBC Department of Ancient Studies, and through an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Education.

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Computational Modeling of Atomic Force Microscopy Tip Loading and Unloading of a Biological Cell

Joshua J. François, Ihab Sraj

Charles Eggleton, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is a research instrument used to study the mechanical properties of biological cells. The tool consists of a cantilever beam with a specified tip. A laser beam detection system measures the deflection of the cantilever beam after AFM tip indentation and unloading. The load experienced by the AFM tip, and hence the cell, is plotted as a function of AFM tip position. This indentation curve provides insight on the mechanical properties of the cell. This data can then be used to identify diseased cells. A model is used to analyze the effects of cellular adhesion to a substrate on the AFM tip indentation curve. Adhesion of a cell to a substrate has been modeled. A steady state shape for the cell is being determined. Current results suggest that a steady state shape can be found with the existing model. After this determination, an AFM tip will be included in the model as an applied force over a specific region of the cell. Simulations will then be performed with an AFM tip and various cell parameters and conditions. This work offers the potential to significantly improve the accuracy of cellular property measurements for medical diagnoses.

This work was funded, in part, by NIH/NIGMS MARC U*STAR T34 08663 National Research Service Award to UMBC.

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Increasing EMU’s Annotated Disease-Related Mutations by Curating Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Veer M. Gariwala, Ajmer S. Randhawa, Olayinka B. Savage, Emily K. Doughty, Maricel G. Kann
Maricel G. Kann, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

The relationship between mutations and their respective disease phenotypes provides a baseline for in-depth evaluation and the development of treatment methods, particularly pertaining to the field of oncology. A large amount of these mutation-disease relationships are textually documented in various databases of biomedical literature, such as PubMed. These databases have experienced an exponential increase in content due to growing focus on biomedical research and detection methods. Current annotated disease-relationship databases (e.g., OMIM and SWISS-PROT) obtain their information from the biomedical literature manually, a time-consuming process. To address this problem, the “Extraction of Mutations” tool, EMU, was developed previously to extract disease-related mutations for a given disease from PubMed abstracts. The present goal is to further expand EMU’s mutational database by utilizing the EMU method for the curation of acute myeloid leukemia, AML. There were 220 complete protein mutations that were extracted by EMU and further curated. Out of the 220 protein mutations, only 23 (roughly ten percent) were found to be unrelated to AML. Out of 123 unique protein mutations, only 39 were already annotated in OMIM or SWISS PROT. Using EMU with manual curation, we have increased our database with AML and increased the number of AML-related mutations two-fold.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) [1K22CA143148 to M.G.K (PI)].

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Gender and Sexual Identity in the Pursuit of Asylum

JoAnna M. Gavigan

Carole McCann, Associate Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

The Matter of Toboso-Alfonso, made precedent by Attorney General Janet Reno in 1994, allowed homosexuals to apply for asylum as members of a particular social group. As a result of this decision, thousands of LGBT immigrants have applied for asylum in the United States to avoid facing persecution in their home countries. In order to be granted asylum on the basis of sexual orientation, however, applicants are required to establish proof of their sexuality. This process is problematic as decisions in these cases often rely on stereotypical understandings of both sexual and gender identity. This research analyzes both asylum judges’ decisions and the literature that informed these decisions, paying particular attention to the ways in which sexuality and gender are constructed. Appeals of asylum decisions brought by lawyers and advocacy groups are examined to contrast the courts’ understandings of homosexuality with those of advocacy groups. By contrasting the two frameworks from which these groups are working, this research examines how the asylum process can misconstrue the gender and sexual identity of applicants.

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Synthesis of Gemcitabine Functionalized Dendron for Treatment of Advanced Pancreatic Cancer

Phillip A. Geter, Margaret Grow

Marie-Christine Daniel, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Currently, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States with a five-year survival rate of only five percent. The standard method of chemotherapy treatment is the use of anticancer agents such as gemcitabine. Unfortunately, 92-98 percent of the administered drug is rapidly metabolized and excreted from the body only one week after a standard infusion. Therefore, the overall project is to create a nanoparticle-cored dendrimer functionalized with gemcitabine (drug), transferrin (targeting protein) and gadolinium-DOTA (MRI imaging agent). This specific project is to synthesize the gemcitabine functionalized poly-propylene imine (PPI) dendron using organic chemistry techniques. Thus far, our lab has been able to synthesize generations one through three PPI dendrons, and gemcitabine has been attached to the first generation compound via an imine bond. 1HNMR, mass spectrometry and elemental analysis data were used for verification purposes and the final compound will be sent to our partner laboratory for biological assays.

This work was supported, in part, by NIH/NIGMS Marc U* STAR T34 08663 National Research Service Award to UMBC and the HHMI Undergraduate Scholars Program at UMBC and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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The Global Women’s Health Action: Putting Intersectionality into Practice

Abigail Granger, Jennifer Keeter

Jodi Kelber-Kaye, Lecturer, Gender and Women’s Studies Program

This presentation will describe a week-long campus Global Women’s Health Action, organized by members of Women Involved in Learning and Leadership (WILL) in the Spring of 2009. Through highly interactive table displays and games, WILL engaged people in conversations that empowered them to critically examine and take action on global women’s health care issues. In keeping with WILL’s feminist-based mission to create learning communities that interrogate gender issues through feminist grassroots activism, WILL used the Action as an opportunity to apply aspects of feminist organizing that were researched by WILL members as part of the academic requirements for a course required for Gender and Women’s Studies students. This presentation will replicate WILL’s panel presentation at the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference. The co-presenters will describe the organizing process and the Action itself, with particular attention paid to the application of gender and women’s studies scholarship which focuses on feminist organizing principles, how to build partnerships and coalitions, and best practices for leading participants from awareness to political action. They will also evaluate how the Action demonstrated the value of an intersectional analysis to women’s health by addressing differentiations based on race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, and nation.

This work was funded through a travel award from the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Education and a grant from Americans for Informed Democracy.

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The Effects of the Focused Question Card Strategy on Student Writing

Susan Hade

Linda Oliva, Assistant Professor, Department of Education

This qualitative study examined the benefit of peer revising sessions on student writing using the Focused Question Card strategy. Writers using this strategy ask targeted questions of their peer readers about specific aspects of the work they want to improve. Students in three eleventh-grade Advanced-Placement English classes used this revising technique in completing several essays. This study investigated the following questions: Which questions did students ask about their writing? Did the students see benefits of the strategy in terms of reading other’s work and having their work read by peers? Did the students gain confidence about their work by sharing it with peers? The researcher examined successive drafts of writing, the focus questions asked by the writer of their reviewer, the overall success of final written work, and student reflection about using the revising strategy.


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Temperature Elevations in Extracted Teeth Induced by a System B Heating Catheter

Jessandra F Hough

Liang Zhu, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Heating has been proposed to clean and eliminate bacteria for root canal procedures. In this study, six root-canal prepared teeth are placed in a temperature-controlled tissue-equivalent agarose gel that simulates the thermal environment of a mouth. We use a System B heating catheter to elevate temperatures in the root dentin via heat conduction from the root canal surface. Root dentin heating is induced from the heated catheter maintaining a pre-set temperature between 100°C and 200°C. Thermocouples are used to measure temperatures at several locations at the outer surface of the teeth and one additional thermocouple is inserted inside the root canal to monitor temperature elevation at various heating durations and intensities. At an applied catheter temperature of 200°C, the internal thermocouple experienced a temperature elevation of 54.0 ±15.1°C. A non-uniform temperature field on the outer surface with the apical location recording the maximal elevations was also observed. The measured temperature elevations at the outer root surface for the heating duration were all lower than 9.5°C, which is below the threshold temperature rise of 10°C to induce significant thermal damage to the supporting structures. This study is considered the first step to designing optimized heating protocols for endodontic treatments.

This work was funded, in part, by NIH/NIGMS MARC U*STAR T34 08663 National Research Service Award to UMBC.

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Distinctive Features: Activist Linguists and the Language of Activists

Sarah E. Hovde

Thomas Field, Professor, Department of Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication

The 1960s and 1970s were a time of great upheaval, not just among the youth of the era, who created a new “counter-culture” of rebellion, but also in the academic community. This is especially true of the field of linguistics, which was thrown into turmoil by Noam Chomsky’s theory of generative syntax. Chomsky’s theory gained steady momentum throughout the early 1960s and sparked several combative factions within the field, whose leaders brought counterculture's tactics into their academic efforts. Histories of linguistics focus mainly on the evolving theories, neglecting to consider not only the individual linguists, but also their place in the wider society. An examination of the similarities between activists' use of language and linguists' activist spirit, as evidenced in their personal and professional writings, allows for a bridging of the gap between the academic sphere and the counterculture. Though the counterculture's participants cultivated a presentation of carelessness, many were in fact highly conscious of their use of language, as recorded in their personal reminiscences. This study will also consider the academic output of that core of contentious linguists, who brought the spirit of the counterculture into their examples, their publications, and even their relationships with colleagues.

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Detection of Lateral Gene Transfer with Codon Usage Bias in Mutationally Biased Genomes

Isaac M. Jensen

Ivan Erill, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Indices measuring codon usage bias (CUB) are an important tool in genome analysis. CUB indices measure either the deviation from uniform codon usage distribution or the distance in CUB from a given reference set representing the major codon bias. Both approaches can provide dubious results when analyzing CUB in genomes with other significant underlying patterns, such as GC bias or GC skew. Here we analyzed the behavior of six CUB indices with and without correction for mutational bias, and we benchmarked their efficiency at predicting gene expression values from microarray expression data. Our results showed that the Relative Codon Adaptation (RCA) and the Relative Codon Bias (RCBS) perform particularly well at predicting gene expression on genomes with high mutational bias. We further demonstrated that the ratio of RCBS over RCA, when combined with statistical techniques over the length of a genome, can be used to detect possible instances of lateral gene transfer in genomes with a strong mutational bias.

This work was funded by the UMBC Department of Biological Sciences.

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Design and Synthesis of Unnatural DNA Base Pairs Containing Expanded Purine Analogues

Cameron D. Johnson, Orrette Wauchope, Katherine Seley-Radtke

Katherine Seley-Radtke, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

As an extension of Nelson Leonard’s work on benzene-expanded purine nucleosides, one focus for our research has been utilizing a series of heteroaromatic expanded purine nucleosides to investigate nucleic acid structure and function. Strategically altering the structure of the natural nucleobases will allow for greater diversity in their biological interactions. Insertion of a five-membered heterocyclic spacer ring into the purine scaffold results in an expanded nucleoside that increases base-stacking capabilities. Additionally, this expanded nucleoside has an additional hydrogen bonding functionality due to the heteroaromatic spacer ring. These analogues will allow us to examine the role of electrostatics, base-stacking and stability within the DNA helix as well as enzyme recognition. The structure and purity of the target nucleoside analogues will be confirmed by NMR, HRMS and elemental analysis. Preliminary synthetic results are described hereiin.

This work was funded, in part, by NIH/NIGMS MARC U*STAR T34 08663 National Research Service Award to UMBC (CDJ) and NIH/NIGMS R01 GM073645 (KSR).

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Hand Washing for Children

Desiree Johnson, Janiki Gondalia, Cristina Happel, Sarah Haynie, Anthony Hynes, Shiketa Jenkins

Andrea Kalfoglou, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Teaching children how to properly wash their hands is an essential disease prevention strategy. A group of students from HAPP 354 Community and Public Health prepared an age-appropriate interactive intervention to encourage children to properly wash their hands. This included giving the children the opportunity to play in sand with glitter and then having them sing a song while they washed to ensure they spent enough time washing. We tested this intervention during Port Discovery Children’s Museum Healthy First Saturdays on March 6th. We assessed the intervention by observing the children, asking their parents about the effectiveness of the intervention, and feedback provided by the Port Discovery staff. The intervention was repeated on April 3rd, 2010 incorporating suggested changes. We conclude that our intervention is an effective strategy for reinforcing what children are taught in school and at home about handwashing.

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Stroke Rehabilitation in Senior Center Environments: A Qualitative Study

Alpana Kaushiva

Sarah Chard, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

The prevalence of stroke in the United States is approximately 1 in 59 people, with 4.6 million people in the United States living with the aftereffects of stroke. Each year 600,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke, including 500,000 new cases and 100,000 recurrences (CDC). Trying to keep older adults who have suffered from stroke active is a critical challenge. Exercise can reduce the physical decline that is associated with stroke. Through participant observation this study evaluated how senior centers create an environment that supports self-efficacy in exercise for people who have suffered from chronic stroke. The findings suggest that senior centers influence adherence and participation in exercise programs and help program participants to actualize long-term goals. This study analyzed variation across different senior centers and the differences between traditional and new models of senior centers. In addition, outcomes from the Adaptive Physical Activity (APA) and Sittercize Exercise Programs were compared. The latter program does not involve any walking. Across the settings, it was found that the senior centers provide moral and social support. The results of this study can inform the creation of senior center settings and programs that facilitate exercise participation among stroke survivors.

The Applied Physical Activity for Chronic Stroke study, of which this study is part, is funded by a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs Research and Development Program.

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Volunteerism in the Aging Population

April M. Melton, Monica C. Talcott

Laura Ting, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work

The purpose of this study was to increase our understanding of volunteerism among the aging population. Research has shown that volunteering is important and beneficial to a person’s mental well being and physical health. However many retirees do not participate in volunteer activities. The goal and research question was to explore the motivation behind volunteering or not volunteering in the over-65 age group, as well as benefits and disincentives associated with volunteering. A qualitative study with a grounded study approach was conducted with 40 men and women over-65 from diverse racial, ethnic, economic, and educational backgrounds to explore any differences or similarities in their motivations. Data were collected, transcribed, and analyzed using line-by-line coding. Themes that emerged indicated personal barriers (ill health, family responsibilities, and disinterest) and structural barriers (transportation, finances, and agency organization) to volunteering. Reasons to volunteer included maintaining social connections and mental health, having choices, feeling obligated, and being personally rewarded. Clinical implications for practitioners working with the elderly will be discussed. Implications for future research and program planning including new policies and efforts to recruit and retain volunteers will be presented.

This research was funded by an Undergraduate Research Award from the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Education.

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The Effects of Patriarchy and Migration on Nigerian-Igbo Culture Sibling Sets within the United States

Ngeri Nnachi

Kathy Bryan, Lecturer, Department of American Studies

This study focused on immigrant familial relations within sibling sets of Nigerian-American families of the Igbo tribe living in the United States. Traditionally Igbo culture is patriarchal, granting males greater respect than females within the family. As a second generation Nigerian-American, I have been afforded the opportunity to negotiate between that traditional system and a range of family styles practiced in the United States in constructing my family relationships. In this study I examined how four sets of siblings from immigrant families negotiated the tension between Nigerian and American practices to create distinctive family structures and practices. The extent to which families retained or modified tradition depended on the values held within the families. I conducted and analyzed interviews with key members of each sibling set to examine the effects of migration and patriarchy on their families. The dynamics between each of the sets as well as the structure within them varied. All families have retained the sibling-centric structure, but some now allow sisters to function as the head of the family. Where one lived, where one grew up, how many siblings one had and what gender grouping one belonged to all worked together to affect how they interacted.


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TweetCollector: a Framework for Retrieving, Processing, and Storing Live Data from Twitter

Ross A. Pokorny

Timothy W. Finin, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Anupam K. Joshi, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

Social media systems like Twitter and Facebook provide an important new source of information about emerging events, interests, opinions, and trends. While these posts are brief, they are rich in meta data and connected to complex social networks. Twitter is an especially interesting source due to its openness and high volume of over 100 million posts a day. Collecting, filtering, analyzing and storing information from a dynamic Twitter stream is an essential component for any system that derives information from it. I designed and implemented TweetCollector as a scalable system to automatically collect Twitter status updates matching a user-specified query. The received tweets are run through an extensible workflow, to which new components can be added as needed. After processing, the status updates, along with the data generated during the processing phase, are stored in a relational database for human inspection and further analysis. Scalability is achieved in a multicore environment through the use of multi-threading and resource pooling. TweetCollector ensures reliable collection of statuses with on-the-fly processing in order to allow social media researchers to rapidly discover and react to new information from a promising new data source.


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The Politics of the Criminal Justice System: An Anthropological Perspective

Tomiko Shine

Sarah E. Chard, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

This ethnographic study examined the effects of imprisonment on the lives and families of three African-American men, aged over 50, who were imprisoned for over fifteen years in the 1960s to1980s. The incarceration rate in the United States has risen dramatically over the past thirty years and African-Americans are disproportionately represented within prison populations. Although thirteen percent of the overall population is African American, 40 percent of the prison population is African-American. Critics of the criminal justice system note that this high incarceration rate produces numerous challenges for African-American families and communities. Using open-ended interviews with participants and participation-observation of community events on community re-entry processes, I explored the men’s perceptions of the cultural and social effects of their incarceration. The men described both their historical experience and the ways in which their previous incarceration has continued to shape their lives in the present. Taking this approach identified a broader social-political context of incarceration, narrating not an African American story, but in fact an extension of the American story.

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The Cool Kids Call Them C-Notes: The Effectiveness of Cornell Notes in a Social Studies Class

Hope Stone

Linda Oliva, Assistant Professor, Department of Education

The Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program incorporates Cornell Notes in which the students are asked to form questions, summarize, and reflect on the material given. Students are given a number of skills and tasks that must be completed for the average student to be successful in upper level classes. Study skills and note taking are absolutely crucial when these students enter higher institutions, but are they set for success with the practice of Cornell Notes? This study examined the effect of using Cornell Notes on student performance in a Social Studies Course. A survey was conducted to gather student perspectives about the use of Cornell Notes. Student performance data in classes that used Cornell Notes and classes that did not were compared.

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Virtual Museum: Life as a Dance

Danielle Viens-Payne, Franki L. Trout, Kelly-Lynne Russell

Preminda S. Jacob, Associate Professor, Department of Visual Arts
May Chang, Head of IT Services, Albin O. Kuhn Library

The goal of this project was to apply the skills and techniques of a museum curator to create and install an art exhibition in a virtual space. We used the program Active Worlds, which allowed us to construct the museum we envisioned without being limited by materials or budget. Thus, the resulting exhibition shows the implementation of our complete vision. Our exhibition explores the idea that dance is something in which everyone participates every moment of every day and not just formal performance. The museum space is designed to resemble a dance studio with hardwood flooring, ballet barres, and floor length mirrors. Upon entering the vast room, visitors are placed in a space stereotypically reserved for only those individuals trained as “dancers.” The lines between who is a dancer and who is not continue to blur as visitors must strain, bend, and stretch their bodies in different positions in order to view the various works of art placed throughout the exhibition. By placing this museum online, people from all over the world may visit our virtual exhibition and experience the concepts we present. Such virtual art museums make art and the artistic experience more globally accessible.

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Should I Take My Meds or Not?: Pregnant Women’s Decision Making About the Use of Antidepressant Drugs

Sana Waheed

Andrea L. Kalfoglou, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Eight to 20 percent of pregnant women experience depression, and the majority is sub-optimally treated or untreated. Women who discontinue antidepressant drugs at conception have a 68 to 75 percent risk of relapse. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women discontinue antidepressant therapy out of fears about risks to the fetus that are, in fact, unfounded. We conducted a pilot interview study with a convenience sample of 20 women who were taking antidepressants prior to planning or initiating a pregnancy to understand why women chose to discontinue treatment. Interviews were audio taped, transcribed and analyzed. Participants were mostly Caucasian, highly-educated women who were currently employed. All of the women who discontinued medication experienced a depressive relapse. Relapses ranged from unpleasant to incapacitating. Most believed that they needed to just deal with their depression in order to protect their baby from exposure to medication. Discontinuers who consulted medical professionals were encouraged to stop medication or felt their health-care providers were unwilling to participate in the decision. Women who continued taking their medication reported they had supportive health-care providers. Beliefs about the risks of antidepressants appear to be grounded in cultural expectations that women who are “good mothers” will keep their bodies “clean” during pregnancy.

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Janet McGlynn
Director of Communication and Outreach
mcglynn@umbc.edu | (410) 455-5754