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Undergraduate Research Day 2020

This year's URD will occur on March 27, 2020, with an application deadline of February 21, 2020. Applications will be accepted beginning December 2, 2019.

Research Day Application 2019 20 Final


Natural Sciences

Emily Hernandez, and Loren Matrone, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Mycobacteriophage and the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis”

Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (TB) is a worldwide health crisis. According to the World Health Organization, ~240,000 people died from drug resistant TB in 2016. In response to this global emergency, new methods of treatment are being developed and tested, one of which uses mycobacteriophage. Mycobacteriophage are viruses that specifically infect mycobacteria such as M. tuberculosis.

This form of therapy will use cocktails of phage to avoid issues with resistance, which calls for identification of unique types of phage that enter the bacteria through different pathways. The goal of our study is to characterize two mycobacteriophage isolated in the OCU Biology program by cloning portions of their genomes for DNA sequencing and by also identifying possible mechanisms of resistance by isolating phage-resistant mycobacteria. We hope that the research being done at OCU will leave a mark on the journey to identify a solution to drug resistant TB.

Holly Kurtz, “Viability of Iron Oxide Nanoparticles in Arsenic Remediation”

Iron oxide nanoparticles exhibit exceptional potential in remediation processes, specifically for toxic arsenic (As) species present in contaminated water. Iron oxide has a high affinity for adsorption of arsenate and arsenite, As (V) and As (III), respectively, which form inner sphere monodentate, or bidentate-binuclear complexes with iron oxides. Nanoparticles are favored for their low cost, small size, and large surface area relative to mass, lending to higher rates of adsorption. They can be dispersed homogeneously in solutions, making magnetic capture a viable method of recovering depleted materials

We synthesized iron oxide nanoparticles using aqueous iron (III) chloride hexahydrate (FeCl3•6H2O) and aqueous iron (II) sulfate heptahydrate (FeSO4•7H2O). A constant pH of 10 (±2) was maintained by the addition of ammonium hydroxide (NH4OH). Magnetic properties were confirmed with a neodymium magnet. Preliminary trials testing the iron oxide nanoparticle adsorption of certain arsenic species were performed.

*Juliana Soper “Association Between Stereotypic Behavior and Social Play in Western Lowland Gorillas”

Stereotypic behaviors often indicate a decrease in function and wellness in animals, including primates. These uniform motor patterns are not typically seen in natural environments, making them a unique factor in the domain of animal captivity. Conversely, the social environments of captivity also yield opportunity for social play, a behavior associated with positive outcomes such as increased motor skill function and social relationships.

The purpose of the present study was to investigate any existence of a relationship between levels of social play and stereotypic behaviors displayed among gorillas in a zoo enclosure. Observational data recorded instances of both stereotypic behavior and social play. Subjects included 8 gorillas housed at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Preliminary analyses used Pearson’s r correlation to determine the relationship.

Breann Stavinoha, “Data Interpretation of Little Sandy Creek around Ada, Oklahoma: A Successful Citizen Science Project”

Little Sandy Creek, located around Ada, Oklahoma, has been monitored chemically and for the diversity of fish and insects by the citizen scientists of the Chickasaw Nation through a partnership with the Blue Thumb Program of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. Raw data is useless until it has been evaluated and interpreted. With training and guidance, it has been determined that citizen scientists are more than capable of accomplishing this work.

The volunteer monitors for this creek recorded data that indicated an increase in the creek's overall health over the last decade and the Chickasaw Nation has an interest in the maintenance of the health and viability of this creek. It was the job of another citizen scientist to elucidate these points. This data interpretation document is destined for publication on the Blue Thumb website to become part of the overall record on Little Sandy Creek.

Sarah Stout and Ashten Vincent, “Bacteriophage: A Small Solution to a Big Problem”

Antibiotic resistance is one of the largest emerging public health challenges of this century. Each year in the United States, at least two million people are diagnosed with an antibiotic-resistant infection, with 23,000 of these cases resulting in death (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Antibiotic resistance is the result of bacteria developing the ability to combat and defeat the drugs meant to kill them, which allows the bacteria to continue growing and spreading.

Bacteriophage treatment represents a potential alternative to antibiotics. A bacteriophage is a virus to that is able to infect and kill bacteria. In our research we found in waste water to be a rich microbial community, which we obtained samples of and filtered, then plated it with various bacteria to reveal the bacteriophage in the samples. In our work so far, we have identified phage that that infect Klebsiella pneumoniaand Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We believe antibiotic resistance is a big problem with a microscopic solution: bacteriophage.

Social Sciences

Bella Granato, “Character Mask Work and Empathy”

Character mask work is a movement-oriented acting tool. It provides a process of physical exploration to bring the identity of a paper-mask character to life. The purpose was to explore whether the process of character mask work could expand empathy. Twelve undergraduate students participated in a 50-minute session of character mask work.

The research is a mixed-design with both quantitative data analysis and qualitative data analysis. Participants completed a pre- and post- session empathy rating scale to assess whether perspective-taking and empathic concern were enhanced by the process. Additionally, each participant engaged in a post session interview in which the individual’s experience was recounted in depth.

The study is expected to provide a framework for achieving role repertoire expansion, aesthetic distancing, and other goals of drama therapy. The post- session interviews are expected to provide understanding of how empathy is accessed and insight to methods that can expand empathic capacity.

Kali Jenkins, “Brexit”

The vote for the UK to leave the EU was monumental. This poster aims to analyze the historical, cultural, and political aspects of this vote. Specifically targeting international relations and what this means for the Irish border. I will attempt to summarize this current event issue as it takes its place in history.

**Makenna Smith, Grover Wheeler, and Jasmin Enchassi, “Behind Bitcoin”

“Behind Bitcoin“, our poster presentation, explores the world of Bitcoin. A system for electronic transactions without relying on a bank or trust. Bitcoin is one of many cryptocurrencies available and whose price fluctuates comparable to the stock market. A record of the transactions is kept through a system called Blockchain.

Breaking down Bitcoin from how it works to how to use it, “Behind the Bitcoin” will make the world of cryptocurrencies easier to understand and to use by looking into how Bitcoin works. The research shows that cryptocurrency is a technology rooted in larger social trends centering on data privacy, decentralization, and globalization forming a currency in which everyone in the world can use.


Compositions and More

Ashleigh Holmes, Expressions in E-flat Major, performed by Ashleigh Holmes, Tomi Vetter, Luis Sanchez, and Anna Wheat

The piece I am entering for Undergraduate Research Day was a originally a piece I was assigned to write so that I could learn about the clarinet. This piece quickly became a way for me to express myself. While studying composition, people have told me that the process I use to write music is not plausible for writing music professionally or that I sound like I am trying to emulate music of the past. The process I use is simply writing what comes to me.

Along with following my heart, I also gave the clarinetist an optional improvisatory cadenza to push the theme of freedom. Though my style and tastes might seem dated to some, I like writing the way I do because it feels authentic to me. I wanted to write a piece that shows the unexplainable joy I feel when I get to do what I love.

Sarah Muscarella, “Clueless: A Work in Progress,” performed by the author

Writing has been my primary medium of self-expression for as long as I can remember. I process the world and explore my own psyche through words. College has been quite the learning curve, and I’ve been trying to commit these new and bewildering experiences to paper. Cluelessis a collection I’m currently working on, featuring poems that capture how little I know about myself, love, and art. “I’m trying my best” is my current life motto, and I feel that sums up my poetry well.


Interdisciplinary Race and Gender Issues

Samantha Bronow, “The Impact of Race, Gender, and Educational Attainment on Average Median Weekly Earnings in the United States”

Wage gaps have been a topic of extreme contention in the United States over the past several decades. Many argue that wage gaps are a result of widespread institutional racism and sexism, while others ardently deny these claims of discrimination. Though some progress has been made, we have a significant way to go before the disparities in earnings become obsolete.

In an attempt to isolate the roots of the issue, I posed the question: what factors impact earnings in the United States, and how have trends between these factors and earnings progressed over time? Using datasets of averages of usual median weekly earnings and educational attainment levels in the United States from 2008-2017 separated by gender and race, I conducted several regressions to shed light on the complex intersectionality of these variables and the true scope of their effects on earnings.

Olivia Click, “Unification for the Sake of Diversity: Where Red Theology and Black Liberation Theology Meet”

Critics debate whether red theology (Native American theology) is compatible with liberation theology. This paper compares red theology and black liberation theology and argues that they both comprise positive and negative sides of liberation theology. Vine Deloria stated that red theology opposes Christianity and liberation theology because they ignore concrete religious experience and impose abstract standards on people with different beliefs.

Red theology and Native American religion are founded on the experience of one’s land and community. However, Deloria’s criticism of liberation theology does not fully refute or accurately represent black liberation theology. Black liberation theology centers on a community’s experience of oppression versus the experience of their inherent personhood. Red theology and black liberation theology agree in several respects, the most important of which is the view that tribes and communities should unite to protect each community’s dignity and right to self-determination.

Hallie Schmidt, “Racial Appropriation in Choral and Vocal Music”

One of the most influential genres of American Music that has had a huge influence on the American musical narrative, is one that most people seldom know exists. African American art song is a unique and highly underrated puzzle piece in the musical picture that is underperformed for many reasons, one being the fear of perpetuating culturally appropriation. This is true of many choral works, as well.

In this presentation, I will be exploring many perspectives and opinions regarding text modification and performance practice of these works to start the conversation by asking “who, and how do we perform(s) these works?” From incidents in choir, singing art songs, to singing traditional hymns, text modification is a discussion we often shy away from to remain “sensitive.” My presentation will be discussing the many different opinions, and strategies for facing this discussion.

*Celia Tedde, “I Enjoy Being a Girl: A Quantitative Study of Gender Roles in Standard Musical Theatre Repertoire”

The Bechdel test, popularized by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, identifies a movie of substance with three criteria: 1) it has one scene 2) with at least two speaking female characters 3) that discuss something besides men. Her parameters radically changed our perception of women’s representation in film. This prompts the question, what does musical theatre repertoire reveal about women’s representation on stage?

I posit that actresses, for the majority of our stage time, are expected to sing songs about men written by men. My project is a quantitative study of The Singer’s Musical Theatre Anthologyseries, a frequently-utilized set of songs. I collected data on the songwriters’ genders and have developed a Bechdel-inspired test to analyze song themes. This project exposes the inequity of topics between men and women in musical theater and proves that most opportunities for women involve playing one-dimensional supportive roles in a three-dimensional male character’s storyline.

Fine and Performing Arts

Ashley Freeman, “Hold on Me”

Hold on Me is a choreographic endeavor by Ashley Freeman. The choreography explores the paradox of progress, the journey of seeking something greater in life, and how facing challenges creates simultaneous frustration and hope.

The presentation explores the choreographic process, including how the composition influenced the choreography, and how each movement was created to form a cohesive themed dance.

The piece was presented as part of Five! Six! Seven! Eight! A Dance Composition Collaboration Concert. The composer of the music by the same name, Hold On Me, is Adam Laporte. The dancers in the original piece are Kassidy Alderman, Anna Schmidt, and Abby Williams.

Valerie Gose, “Sound Before Sight: A Historical Analysis of the Concept of Sound in Literature”

How do you describe a sound? Further, how do you describe it adequately enough that a reader can audiate the sound without having ever heard it previously? This was the arduous task of authors prior to the year 1877, when the phonograph first made sound reproduction possible. Authors had to carefully describe sounds because there was no way to replicate it, but following Thomas Edison’s phonograph and Emil Berliner’s subsequent gramophone, sound became readily available to anyone with the technology.

In this project, I explored how the descriptive styles of literature changed following six innovations in audio replication. I compared six significant works, published one year after each innovation, to pre-phonographic novels based on six categories of observation. These categories include color, environment, structures, people, time, and sounds. I concluded that modern literature reflects an altered sense of value for certain sounds and a somewhat less observant population.

*Kaylila Pasha, “Disability and Special Needs Awareness in Contemporary Theatre”

According to the United Nations, fifteen percent of the world’s population lives with a disability or is considered to have special needs. I am curious about this progression of the human condition and its profound influence on contemporary theatrical practices. The Tony Award-winning play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,brought awareness to behavioral disorders on the autistic spectrum, while Deaf West Theatre’s Broadway revival of Spring Awakeningfeatured a cast of both deaf and hearing actors performing the dynamic production in American Sign Language and English simultaneously.

These productions mirror the broader sociocultural evolution that is occurring as the global community plunges into a new era of thought concerning inclusivity. Normalizing concepts that have never been successfully integrated by previous generations, current artists reflect a bold commitment to tolerance through social activism, using theatre as a vehicle for awareness, inclusivity, and change.

Natural Science and Health

Abbey Renner, “The Lactase Enzyme and Evolution of Lactase Persistence”

Lactase persistence is the trait which presents itself as the ability to digest lactose in adults. This trait has risen to high frequencies across Northern Eurasia and Northern Africa over the last 10,000 years. This abundance of the lactase persistent trait is likely to have arisen from a selective advantage in those who are able to digest substantial amounts of dairy, especially in areas where milk historically provided a consistent source of nutrition.

For this reason, lactase persistence can and should be looked at from an evolutionary stance. Researchers are able to analyze the geographic and genetic evolution of lactase persistence through techniques and methods of analysis such as PCR and PCA. By examining the natural selection pressures that pushed for lactase persistence, the molecular process of lactase persistence, and the geographical distribution of lactase persistent alleles, it can be determined that natural selection favored the genetic changes that kept the lactase genes turned on throughout life.

*Breann Stavinoha, “Development of Molecular Assays to Identify Hybrids between Two Sympatric Species of Deermice”

The White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and the North American Deermouse (P. maniculatus) exhibit distinct habitat preferences: P. leucopus occurs in the eastern two-thirds of the United States and along the east coast of Mexico while P. maniculatus occurs throughout North America. Within this distribution they are found in distinct habitat types, but are sympatric in ecotones where hybridization between these species is possible.

To determine whether hybridization is occurring, we designed Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) assays to identify the species based on nuclear and mitochondrial genotypes. We collected mice at the John Nichols Scout Ranch and identified them based on habitat and morphological criteria. We also collected small hair samples for molecular analysis. DNA was extracted from the samples and amplified using the Phire™ Tissue Direct PCR system. We are currently analyzing a large set of samples, and will be presenting an update on our progress.

Chris Winkel, “The American Health Crisis”

Over the past few decades, incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases in America has been on the rise. In this presentation, I will examine the many causes and implications of this trend, while also discussing the misconceptions and possible solutions of America’s modern health crisis.

Political, Computer, and Social Sciences

Joshua Davis, “Executive Reorganization in the State of Oklahoma”

This paper explores the ideas of executive reorganization as it has become a central topic in the Spring 2019 legislative session. One of Governor Stitt’s main priorities was to centralize more authority under the executive branch, giving him greater latitude to address the state’s problems. There were multiple bills filed this session that would consolidate different agency boards into one single director which would be appointed by the Governor. As of one study in 2012, the Oklahoma governor ranked 44th when it comes to institutional powers.

The purpose of this paper is to compare the reorganizational powers of governors in different states to Oklahoma and how these powers affect state legislation, as well as the scope of its benefits or consequences.

*Anna Delony, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Narratives on the Death of the Mangas Coloradas”

This project uses rhetorical analysis to examine the multiple accounts of the circumstances surrounding the death of Apache Chief Mangas Coloradas, who was killed by the US military in January of 1863. Mangas Coloradas was an impressive leader and diplomat, uniting multiple bands of Apaches by marrying his daughters to other chiefs. As union troops were pulled out of Arizona and New Mexico during the civil war, tensions between settlers and Apaches rose.

While Coloradas wanted to establish peace, the California First Infantry saw him as a threat, and local miners saw him as an impediment to finding gold. By using Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm, this project examines varying accounts of Coloradas’ death from military personnel, the local mining party, and other Apaches collected from archival research to provide insight as to their credibility.

Lucas Freeman, “The Syrian Civil War, the Kurds, and Rojava”

This presentation started as a paper overviewing the status of the Kurdish people in Northern Syria, along with a brief history of the Kurdish people and their struggle for independence.

Other active themes are international relations around the Rojava and Syrian Civil War, a brief bit of the main Kurdish philosophy, and some contemporary political news.

Makenna Smith, Grover Wheeler, and Jasmin Enchassi, “ Transparency: Security for the Customers”

Barcode is a machine-readable code composed of numbers and a series of parallel lines of variable widths, printed on a product to identify it. This technology has been used by all industries to better collect and manage products and services’ related data. Inc. has explored and exploited the functionality of a simple barcode and transformed it to create their own process to better detect counterfeit products among products that are being sold through their service. That method, or program, is called “ Transparency”.

The goal of our research is to introduce the barcode by presenting the history and evolution of barcode which leads into how deals with their counterfeit issues by using a special algorithm to evolve the barcoding system into one that protects their sellers and customers.

* indicates category winner

** indicates grand prize winner