Projects and Mentors
Summer 2022 Projects and Mentors
Effect of native environment on the response of diatom light-harvesting to external stressors
How do diatoms from oceanic and coastal environments respond to red light growth conditions and to iron stress? Diatoms are photosynthetic algae that thrive in varied aquatic environments. The same species may be found in coastal regions with cloudy nutrient-rich waters due to wave activity and also in the oceanic water column where static waters result in less abundant minerals and bluer light exposure. This project aims to understand how diatoms from different native environments respond to external stressors including red light exposure and iron depletion. We will investigate diatom light-harvesting using microscopy, absorbance, and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy.
Gold(I)-Catalyzed Synthesis of Heterocyclic Compounds
Heterocyclic compounds are a class of organic molecule that are ubiquitous in pharmaceutical development. This project aims to synthesize two members of this class of molecule: naphthoquinones and isoquinolines which are found in a variety potent antibiotics. We will employ gold-catalysis to develop cyclization reactions that can be utilized by the pharmaceutical industry to develop and mass produce life-saving drug candidates.
RAQUEL SÁENZ ORTIZ
Ethnic Studies in Texas under HB 3979
This project delves into the impact of Texas House Bill 3979 and Senate Bill 3, popularly referred to as “critical race theory” laws. These laws have modified the ways that race, gender, and civic action can be incorporated into Social Studies classrooms in K-12 education. However, both bills are written in ways that allow for broad interpretation, which has created confusion statewide, leading to vastly different implementations of the law district to district, often restricting texts and specific historical content that can be taught (Lopez, 2021). Through this study, we will seek to answer the following questions: How has HB 3979 and SB 3 impacted the teaching practices of high school Ethnic Studies (Mexican American Studies and African American Studies) teachers in TX? How have districts throughout the state responded to these laws? How have the laws impacted support for Ethnic Studies in K-12 education?
Artificial Intelligence for Video Games
Video games are a popular testbed for many Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques because they are simulated, controlled environments, but have a level of complexity that makes optimal decision making and content generation challenging. Students will work to design intelligent agents or generate content for games or other complex simulations using AI: Deep Learning, Reinforcement Learning, Evolutionary Computation, etc. Applications of AI techniques to other areas outside of games could also be explored. Students will be given much leeway in deciding on an area of interest to focus on, so potential applicants are strongly encouraged to communicate with Dr. Schrum in advance to discuss possible project ideas.
Uncivil Boundaries: Contesting the Civility of Protestors and Political Elites
In this project, the SCOPE students and I will focus on this question: how do civility contests play out differently when the targets are members of minority groups? Over the course of eight weeks, we will read the literature on civility contests, protest, and public opinion to develop testable hypotheses and a survey experiment. We will deploy the survey experiment around the end of week five and spend the last three weeks analyzing our data and writing up the methodology and findings sections of a conference article. We plan to present this work at a political science conference and the Southwestern Research and Creative Works Symposium in April 2023.
Treatment of Fluoxetine-Induced Sexual Impairments with herbal remedies or pharmaceuticals in Female Rats
The present study will examine potential treatments for antidepressant-induced sexual impairments. A number of medications are available to treat depression (e.g., tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)). However, drug adherence is often a problem because of undesirable side effects. Although SSRIs are the most effective treatment for depression, they also produce a multitude of side effects such as sleep disturbances, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and anxiety. Sexual dysfunction, which is itself a symptom of depression, is often exacerbated by SSRIs. One study found that more than half of patients taking SSRIs suffered from antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. As a result of the unwanted side effect on sexual functioning, many patients stop taking antidepressant medication. Therefore, the present study will explore potential herbal supplements or pharmaceutical treatments for SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. We have multiple protocols to use in rats that induce impairment with a single or repeated injections of the SSRI, fluoxetine (aka Prozac). After we establish significant impairment, we will test the effects of herbal supplements such as maca root or phytoestrogens like genistein, or even continue the research we started with ketamine, but the potential treatment we test will depend on what topics the students are most interested in exploring.
ASMR U Tingly Yet?
Have you ever felt a warm, tingly, pleasant feeling when someone traces letters on your back or plays with your hair? Or when someone reads a book to you or asks you questions on the phone, or just taps their fingers on an object in a satisfying way? That’s called ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) and it’s the first psychological phenomenon to be discovered on YouTube rather than in a lab! ASMRtists generate thousands of videos on YouTube to give people tingles, lull them to sleep, or promote relaxation. This summer, we are going to create short ASMR videos in which we isolate specific triggers. We will use these in an experiment to assess physiological responses (e.g., heart rate, skin conductance) to triggers among participants in the lab. You’ll learn applied skills such as high-definition binaural video production, web-based survey design, SPSS statistical analysis, literature review, and will present your work as an oral presentation and poster. For this project, the most important thing is your level of interest in the topic and dedication to pursuing it scientifically – some background in psychology, data analysis, or video production is nice but definitely not required.
The Southwestern Racial History Project: A Liberal Arts Institution’s Reckoning with the Past
There has recently been a reckoning with the racial foundations of institutions of higher education across the United States. Southwestern University is in an ongoing process of excavating, archiving, and disseminating the stories of the Black, Indigenous, and Mexican-American founders, faculty, students, and staff whose contributions to the success of the institution have been hidden, forgotten, or unknown. Dr. Melissa Johnson and students completed the From a Plantation to a Liberal Arts College: The Racial History of Southwestern University, 1830-1900 SCOPE project during the Summer of 2021. I would like to continue this research expanding the historical time frame as well as the cultural heritage outcome. More specifically, I would like to work with students to understand the racial history of Southwestern University from 1900-present day and culminate this information in a digital archive and potentially a multimedia representation of this information in the form of a mini podcast or documentary short film. From the previous work we know that Southwestern University was, in part, funded by profits earned from slave labor on cotton plantations across the five root colleges and sits on land that the Tonkawa, Comanche, Jumano, Sana, Wichita, Kickapoo, and Lipan Apache were dispossessed of. I want to continue to ask the questions, What is Southwestern’s Racial History?