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Virtual Showcase Abstracts

Students are listed alphabetically by last name. 
Click each student to learn more about them and read their abstracts.

 

Alex Ahilon-Jeronimo

Program: CAMP

Major: Public Health

Home City: Oakland, CA

Contact: ajeronimo2@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Kirk D. C. Jensen

 
Using in vivo bio-luminescence imaging and FACS based approaches to understand the role of Nfkbid in immunity to T-gondii
 
Alex Ahilon Jeronimo, Scott Souza, and Kirk D. C. Jensen, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasitic organism that infects one-third of the human population. Human parasitic pathogens, such as T.gondii, are classified by the CDC as neglected parasitic infections because they are one of the leading public health problems that disproportionately affect developing countries. And unlike viral diseases, parasitic diseases have been especially difficult to develop an effective vaccine. Only one vaccine is in the process of being tested for parasitic diseases, RTS, S-AS01, and even though it reduces clinical malaria by 27%, it has no effect on mortality rates. Ongoing research has been focused on understanding host-pathogen interactions of T.gondii as it relates to the susceptibility of a host to parasitic infections and how the host develops immunity. The Jensen Lab uses host genetics to find important components of host immunity against virulent strains of T.gondii. Utilizing in-vivo bioluminescence imaging, we will measure the susceptibility of a host by tracking the progression of the infection. By infecting mice with a strain of parasite that expresses luciferase, we can track photons emitted by each individual parasite within a mouse. This research will help us identify what genes are required to fight a T. gondii infection so we can develop an effective vaccine against parasitic diseases.

Wesley Alejandro

Program: CAMP

Major: Human Biology

Home City: Antioch, CA

Contact: walejandro@ucmerced.edu 

Faculty Mentors: Cristine Donham, Erik Menke, Hillary Barron, Petra Kranzfelder

 
Perceived Supports and Barriers of Instructors During Emergency Remote Instruction​
 
Wesley Alejandro and Petra Kranzfelder, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
The sudden shift to emergency remote instruction (ERI) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has had pedagogical effects in the classroom. Previous research suggests that online instruction requires a carefully maintained student-centered teaching strategy — something that is hard to maintain in an emergency transition. The present work aims to assess what barriers and supports instructors perceive as they transition to ERI. Instructors at a midsize research university (n = 30) Instructors were interviewed with 7 questions about their experiences with ERI, with 2 questions being about perceived supports and barriers​. Using about 10% of the data (4 interviews), perceived supports and barriers were given codes during a blind, open code process using grounded theory methods. To ensure validity, open coding was done independently by five coders in parallel, and coders came together to build consensus. Analytic memos were also written during the open coding process.​ Consistently appearing codes became entries in a codebook. Using qualitative codes, we were able to find codes of what instructors perceived as supports and barriers during the transition to ERI. By being able to qualitatively analyze perceived supports and barriers due to ERI, we will be better informed about future teaching and learning disruptions. Future research could also explore how ERI has affected students from groups that are disproportionately affected by social and health disparities.

Giovanni Alvarado

Program: SOAR

Major: Psychology

Home City: Los Angeles, CA

Contact: galvarado5@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Matthew J. Zawadzki

 
Effects of an App-Based Mindfulness Intervention on Sleep Duration and Sleep Latency: Income as a Moderator
 
Giovanni Alvarado and Larisa Gavrilova, BA, Matthew J. Zawadzki, PhD; School of Social Sciences, Humanities, Arts, University of California, Merced
 
Sufficient research links poor sleep quality with health issues, thus efforts have been made to improve sleep. Previous research has shown positive effects of in-person mindfulness interventions on sleep quality. However, not much research has looked at the effects of mindfulness intervention delivered through a smartphone app on sleep and its potential benefits. The purpose of this study was to examine whether an in-app mindfulness intervention – Headspace – has significant effect on objectively assessed sleep duration and sleep latency. The study also assessed whether income moderates this relationship. We collected data from 142 employees from the University of California, Merced. Participants completed baseline surveys to assess for demographics and were instructed to wear a Fitbit Charge 2 device to collect data on sleep duration and sleep latency. Sleep data was collected at baseline and then five weeks after participants were randomly assigned to either the Headspace intervention or control group. ANOVA analysis revealed that, as expected, the groups did not differ on sleep outcomes at week 0. The Headspace group did not significantly differ from the control group at week 5, suggesting no effect of the app on sleep. Also, income was not found to be a significant moderator. Overall, Headspace did not affect an individual’s sleep and income played no role in this relationship.

Michael Aquino

Program: UROC-H

Major: Sociology

Home City: Los Angeles, CA

Contact: maquino7@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Tanya Golash-Boza

 
Welcome Home: How Does Gentrification Intensify Social Reentry Difficulties of Former Inmates
 
Michael Aquino and Yajaira Ceciliano Navarro, MA, and Tanya Golash-Boza, PhD; School of Social Sciences, Humanities, Arts, University of California, Merced
 
When studying the social reentry of former inmates, studies on incarceration have focused their attention on stigma and its effects on employment and housing opportunities. Whereas, research on gentrification has studied the influence gentrification has on specific urban neighborhoods towards the increasing rates of incarceration. Nevertheless, studies have not taken into consideration how gentrification intensifies the social reentry difficulties of former inmates. This study, based on 25 in-depth interviews with former inmates from Washington, DC, shows how gentrification increases former inmates’ difficulties in their social reentry process. Findings demonstrate inmates have experienced stigma when searching for employment, but not during their search for housing. Additionally, interviewees describe the difficulties of affording housing because of its increasing price due to gentrification. Finally, narratives also indicate the importance of studying how gentrification may intensify the social reentry difficulties of former inmates.

Samuel Arda

Program: SURF-STEM

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Home City: Moreno Valley, CA

Contact: sarda@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Katrina K. Hoyer

 
Identifying the Manifestation of Lung Conditions & Trends in Valley Fever
 
Samuel Arda and Anh L. Diep, and Katrina K. Hoyer, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
Within the San Joaquin Valley, common lung conditions such as; asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and bronchitis affect the local population. However, Valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is specifically endemic to the Central Valley, with the majority of reports coming from California and Arizona. This infection is caused by an intake of Coccidioides infectious subunits causing pneumatic symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and chronic cough, often identical to other symptomatic lung conditions. Immune effector cells within both the innate and adaptive system are responsible for clearing the infection, but their detailed mechanisms are yet to be clearly defined. Although most cases of coccidioidomycosis infection are cleared without medical intervention, chronic disease development can occur, and the cause is still unknown. Valley Fever is often misdiagnosed as other lung diseases, and the frequency of Valley Fever occurring in patients with pre-existing conditions is poorly understood. Examining similarities between various lung condition profiles within Valley Fever and other known diseases such as asthma, smoker’s lung, allergic lung reactions, and air pollution, would yield meaningful understanding of their profile overlap and distinctions. This could identify unique markers in symptoms, immune characteristics, diagnostic testing, and demographics to improve proper diagnosis, treatment, and patient outcomes.

Stefany Arevalo

Program: Petra NSF Career

Major: Applied Mathematics

Contact: sarevalo4@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Noemi Petra

 
Solving Partial Differential Equations with the Finite Element Method using Firedrake
 
Stefany Arevalo and Radoslav Vuchkov & Noemi Petra, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) are equations that contain unknown functions and their partial derivatives and are used to model a wide variety of phenomena such as sound, heat, diffusion, fluid dynamics, elasticity, etc. While some of these equations can be solved analytically, in most cases one needs to implement a numerical method such as the finite element method (FEM) to solve them numerically. Depending on the complexity of the problem (e.g., inputs, boundary conditions, geometry, dimension) implementing FEM may not be trivial. Firedrake is an automated system for the solution of PDEs using FEM. It uses sophisticated code generation that makes the numerical solution of PDEs via FEM easily accessible to domain scientists. Firedrake provides an environment that expedites the solution of PDEs. In this project we investigate how to install and run Firedrake. In particular we focus on solving the Poisson problem numerically with linear and quadratic finite element basis functions and report on convergence results. The results show that the sequence of solutions is converging as expected based on the theory.

Jeanette Batres

Program: CAMP

Major: Biology, Microbiology and Immunology Emphasis

Home City: Manteca, CA

Contact: jbatres3@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Jing Xu

 
Impact of Vertical Force Components on the Overall Travel Distances of Kinesin
 
Jeanette Batres and John Wilson, Jing Xu, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
Molecular motors, such as kinesin, actively transport cargo along microtubules in cells. Molecular motor-based transport maintains the proper function of eukaryotic cells and occurs in a variety of cell types, including neurons which can be up to 1 meter in length. Forces can shorten the distances that motors can carry their cargo. Some of the physiological forces impacting motor travel include cargo diffusion and viscous drag. Recently, simulations from the Xu lab have demonstrated that physiological forces on the cargo shortens the distance kinesin transports its cargo. These simulations were based on kinesin detachment kinetics only being impacted by horizontal force components. However, our understanding of detachment kinetics has changed within the last year. It is now becoming clear that vertical force components can also increase the rates at which kinesin detach from microtubules. Using Monte Carlo based simulations, I will examine the implications of vertical detachment kinetics in the context of physiological forces. Findings will determine the importance of vertical force components on the overall travel distance of kinesin based on detachment rates, contributing to our understanding of kinesin function under physiological forces in living cells.

Namitha Bhat

Program: MCB

Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology

Contact: nbhat4@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Petra Kranzfelder

 
Impact of Emergency Remote Instruction on Student Perspectives of a Collaborative Learning Model
 
Namitha Bhat and Christian Urbina, Adriana Signorini, Petra Kranzfelder, PhD; University of California, Merced
 
Team-Based Learning (TBL) is an evidence-based teaching strategy that promotes student learning, but we studied a course that used a slightly different collaborative learning model (CLM) involving multiple instructors and office hours. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused classrooms to unexpectedly shift to emergency remote instruction (ERI), so it was unknown how this would impact student perspectives of the CLM. In this study, we investigated how student perspectives of this CLM were impacted by ERI during the COVID-19 pandemic. We collected data from a large enrollment, introductory biology course at a midsize, minority-serving institution. We administered a Qualtrics survey in the middle and the end of the semester, which included 10 questions on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. We calculated the relative frequency of student perspectives of the CLM and represented changes between mid- and end-of semester surveys with stacked bar charts, column charts, and pie charts. Additionally, we asked students to respond to open-ended questions to explain their perspectives, which we categorized into general themes using inductive content analysis. We found that many students found collaborative teaching less helpful and some found additional office hours and in-lecture teams more helpful during ERI. While most students acknowledged that ERI impacted their learning, many agreed this CLM was beneficial. Despite changes from the TBL model, more STEM instructors can implement this CLM in their classroom to help active learning, both remotely and in-person.

Monica Calderon

Program: SURF-SSHA

Major: Psychology

Home City: Riverbank, CA

Contact: mcalderon25@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Rose M. Scott

 
The Impact of Essentialist Beliefs on Individuals’ Reactions to the COVID-19 Pandemic
 
Monica CalderonTonghui (Kailee) Zhu, Rose M. Scott, PhD; School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced
 
Essentialism is the notion that members of certain groups are inherently similar in terms of behavior and appearance. These beliefs often cause prejudice in regard to social groups, such as race or gender. This study analyses whether essentialist beliefs are related to outgroup bias or stigma during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We predicted that people who used more essentialized language were more likely to endorse the use of the term “Chinese virus”. To test this, 343 social media posts from Twitter were coded for essentialist language or outgroup bias. We performed a content analysis of the tweets, counting the use of certain words or phrases. For example, we coded for mentions of China, character attributions, emotion words, and endorsement of the term “Chinse virus.” The results attained in this study can help us understand how essentialist beliefs can lead to outgroup bias or stigma, and how that can affect social groups.

Cathryn Flores

Program: UROC-H

Major: English

Home City: Merced, CA

Contact: cflores73@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Katherine Steele Brokaw

 
Electronic Music: A Vehicle for Inclusivity
 
Cathryn Flores Katherine Steele Brokaw, PhD; School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced
 
Electronic music emerged on the 1970’s popular music charts in the United States and remains a dominant force in today’s music industry across all genres. Similar to the techniques used in composing a live musical score, electronic music composition encompasses instrumentation, vocal production, and digitized musical notation. This essay argues that electronic music provides an inclusive, technological approach to composing theatrical musical scores in the 21st century, allowing amateur artists the ability to participate in producing sophisticated scores through Digital Audio Workstations (DAW). Methods used for this study include Practice-as-Research (my collaboration with community-based theater practitioners), autoethnography (my personal experience using a DAW to film score and compose), and literature reviews of publications discussing the Digital Age within theatrical productions. A case study of my role as music director for Merced Shakespearefest’s bilingual web series Ricardo II prompts the discussion of how collaborative online platforms such as Zoom and Google Drive increase accessibility, allowing more people to participate in the music composition process. In the case of Ricardo II, participants and audience members have and will be able to personally relate to a musical score that incorporates genres of popular music, jazz, hip-hop, and Latin pop. Exploration of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton provides a parallel to this bilingual Spanish-English Shakespearean web series, in which musical underscoring acts as a binding presence no matter a spectator’s linguistic, ethnic, or socioeconomic background.

Samuel Leventini

Program: SURF-STEM

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home City: Modesto, CA

Contact: sleventini5@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Ashlie Martini

 
Sense The World Around You
 
Samuel LevintiniAshlie Martini, PhD; School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
Throughout testing where oxygen levels may be compromised such as in a confined lab room, it is imperative to develop a program that ensures the safety of those in the enclosed area. Rewriting and formulating this script allows us to add or remove functions that may be necessary in the future with operating the sensor the code is designed for. Our objective is to create a more user-friendly Python script to run the oxygen sensor by anyone in the testing room. In order to achieve this, the group removed unnecessary parts of the script (such as pressure readings which are not currently needed), which was from Liudr’s Blog, developed and copyrighted by Dr. John Liu, and made a more user-friendly code, as well as printing out recorded levels of oxygen and temperature in the form of a graph that can be copied at the end of the program. In conclusion, after rewriting, removing, and running the script, the Python code was successfully shaped to display the current oxygen level and a graph of the recorded measurements.

Kristal Lizarraga

Program: CAMP

Major: Bioengineering

Home City: Coachella, CA

Contact: klizarraga2@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: David Torres-Rouff

 
Historic Places Merced: Digital Preservation and the Significance of the Craftsman Style in Merced History Using Exploratory Data Analysis with R
 
Kristal LizarragaAnais Guillem, David Torres-Rouff, PhD; School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced
 
Digital preservation of city history generates appreciation in how shifting demographics and architecture lead to its current state. In collaboration with the project, Historic Places Merced, there is an on-going analysis with data collected from the previous historic building survey by using R. We intend to study the evolution of architecture styles, specifically the Craftsman style, over time. Through data analysis to extract patterns and significance, there can appreciation in the development of the city. As a result, by observing the evolution of Craftsman houses in Merced, this provides an opportunity to study and understand when they were implemented over time, recognize their significance in shaping Merced, and promote awareness for digital preservation of historical buildings.

Jonathan Madley

Program: SURF-STEM

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home City: Merced, CA

Contact: jmadley@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Sarah Kurtz

 
Expanding California’s Wind Farms
 
Jonathan MadleySarah Kurtz, PhD; School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
The research aims to increase California’s renewable energy portfolio by scaling and expanding wind energy to have comparable production to solar energy to meet the state’s clean energy standard by 2045. We focus on expansion of current wind farms with modern wind turbines and see how the addition of modern plants can increase the power produced at each location. Evaluating data from the Energy Information Association (EIA) and Wind Turbine Database we see how expansion of wind farms with new technology can grow the wind energy profile in California. Expanding wind could supplement the power grid when solar PV cells are no longer producing energy during non solar hours.

Lyzzette Melgoza

Program: SURF-SSHA

Major: Cognitive Science

Home City: Napa, CA

Contact: lmelgoza@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Kristina C. Backer

 
Speech-to-Song Illusion in English Monolinguals and Spanish-English Bilinguals
 
Lyzzette MelgozaDylan Richardson, Alejandra Santoyo, Kristina C. Backer, PhD; School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced
 
Music and Speech are used frequently in our everyday lives. Despite the impression that speech and music are distinct forms of auditory stimuli, Deutsch et al. (2011) found that an unedited, spoken phrase repeated in close succession will eventually be heard as sung and named this phenomenon the Speech-to-Song Illusion. In this study, we look to replicate and extend the research done by Margulis et al. (2015), in which they found that English monolinguals experience a stronger speech-to-song illusion in languages that are more difficult to pronounce than English. We believe that the monolingual English speakers will perceive a greater effect on the speech-to-song illusion when listening to the Spanish stimuli because of their inexperience with the language, and the Spanish-English bilinguals should have a less illusionary effect because of their experience with both languages. Using the CLEARPOND database (Marian et al., 2012), we generated a high- and low- frequency list of words in English and Spanish. The participants used a 5-point Likert scale to rate the stimuli “sounds exactly like speech” and “sounds exactly like singing” after hearing the list once and after a series of 9 repetitions. We expect our findings to coincide with Margulis et al. (2015), and have the Spanish-English bilinguals experience a less robust speech-to-song illusion than English monolinguals when listening to the Spanish stimuli..

Kimberly Meraz

Program: SURF-SSHA

Major: Psychology

Home City: San Ysidro, CA

Contact: kmeraz2@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook

 
The impact of COVID-19 on infant food and nutrition needs
 
Kimberly MerazJessica A. Marino, B.A., Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, PhD; School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced
 
In previous natural disasters we know that infants are a vulnerable group that often experiences hunger. Young infants rely solely on breastmilk and formula for food, but we don’t know if there is a shortage of food for infants during COVID-19. Through this study we hope to determine whether families with infants under the age of 1 have experienced hunger or struggles to get basic necessities like formula milk and infant hygiene necessities. To do this, we conducted an online survey with 53 caregivers of infants under the age of 1 about how COVID-19 has affected the way they feed their baby. Our results showed that 30.3% of families and their infants have very low food security, of the people who get government aid 50% of them have very low food security and 43% of them are having trouble getting formula milk. These results suggest that there should be a limit on the number of items people can buy at the store to prevent hoarding, especially of government aid eligible items.

Jose Morales

Program: SOAR

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home City: Winton, CA

Contact: jmorales117@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Ashlie Martini

 
MATLAB Applications on Tribology Data Analysis
 
Jose MoralesAshlie Martini, PhD, Azhar Vellore, MD; School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
Tribology is the science that studies friction, wear, and lubrication between moving surfaces. A key instrument within tribology, the tribometer, is essential in finding many important system properties, such as wear rate and coefficient of friction. A tribometer can provide accurate and precise information about the different system properties for a given material, which is very useful for learning how to optimize energy efficiency, resistance, and durability. Tribometers need a specific software designed to collect data from a test. The process consists of selecting a material and running the test with the tribometer. Next, all the information (depth, load, and friction) is sent to the software so that a graph can be displayed. However, the data displayed tends to be very noisy. Fortunately, by using MATLAB (a programming platform used for numerical analysis, etc.), all the data provided by the tribometer’s software can be processed to obtain a cleaner visualization of results after performing a test. All the information is uploaded to MATLAB, where it is processed to reduce the noise and simplify the correlation between the components in the graph. After completing the process, the MATLAB graph will show the generated results so that they can be analyzed and reported, allowing engineers to better determine the system properties of the material tested.

Gabriel Nguyentran

Program: SOAR

Major: Cognitive Science

Home City: San Jose, CA

Contact: gnguyentran@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Rose M. Scott

 
The Relationship Between Socioeconomic Status and Parental Mental-State Language
 
Gabriel NguyentranJames Z. Sullivan, & Rose M. Scott, PhD, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced
 
False-belief understanding, the ability to recognize that others can be mistaken, plays an important role in everyday social interactions. Previous studies have shown a positive correlation between SES and children’s performance on traditional tests of false-belief understanding (Devine & Hughes, 2018). One possibility is that this relationship stems from differences in parental mental-state talk. Mental-state language – words that refer to thoughts, desires, and feelings – positively predicts children’s performance on several types of false-belief tasks (Roby & Scott, 2018). However, previous research has focused largely on parents of higher-SES, making it unclear whether similar language patterns emerge in lower-SES families. Our study hopes to clarify any socioeconomic differences in parental mental-state talk. For this study, a socioeconomically diverse sample of parents completed a picture-book task with their children (27 to 39 months). Parent-talk was coded for percentage of utterances that contained cognition, desire, or emotion terms. As children got older, parents began to use less emotion terms and more cognition terms, regardless of SES. However, parents of higher-SES used more cognition terms overall. These preliminary results suggest that parent-talk does differ across SES, which in turn, could explain why there are sociocognitive differences in false-belief understanding.

William Perez

Program: CAMP

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home City: Castroville, CA

Contact: wperez8@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Ashlie Martini

 
Simulating the Effects of a Trunk Shaker on An Almond Tree Trunk to Determine the Cause of Ceratocystis Canker
 
William PerezAshlie Martini, PhD, School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
During almond harvesting, a trunk shaker applies a force and vibrating motion to shake the tree to drop the almonds. However, the contact from the trunk shaker damages the trunk which results in Ceratocystis Canker, a disease that infects the tree and eventually causing it to die. In order to understand the cause of the Ceratocystis Canker, the cambial zone of the trunk is analyzed to determine the forces and stresses caused by the trunk shaker that relate to the damage. By building a Solidworks simulation, we can determine amount of displacement and stress being applied from the interaction of the trunk shaker with the almond tree bark using specific parameters. The simulation will show results of the amount of stress, force and displacement of the almond tree trunk that is damaged from the trunk shaker. By determining the parameters that causes damage to the trunk of an almond tree, an optimized solution can help prevent less loss of almond trees.

Julianna Porraz

Program: CAMP

Major: Environmental Engineering

Home City: Riverside, CA

Contact: jporraz@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Colleen C. Naughton

 
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impacts on Air Pollution in Rural and Urban California
 
Julianna PorrazColleen C. Naughton, PhD, School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
Pollutants like Ground-level Ozone (O3) and Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5) are associated with poor air quality and are linked to negative health effects particularly for low-income and minority populations. During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, shelter-in-place orders were enacted across California on March 19, 2020 to contain the spread of the virus, thus leading to substantially lower O3 and PM2.5 emissions in urban regions with less emissions from transportation. Most researchers have focused on air pollution in cities. There is a need to analyze COVID-19 shelter-in-place impacts on air pollution in rural areas compared to urban areas. Rural areas may not have as drastic of a reduction in air pollution from shelter-in-place orders given less traffic congestion and continued agricultural cultivation and associated emissions. However, urban area pollution still spreads to rural areas. Data was obtained from the Air Quality and Meteorological Information System (AQMIS2) through the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Statistical analysis, Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and Kruskal-Wallis test were performed in RStudio to see if there was a statistically significant difference in O3 and PM2.5 levels compared to previous years within the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) and compared to urban areas. The results indicate there is a difference in the rural SJV in comparison to urban regions. Air quality data should be further monitored and analyzed to determine sustained impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on air quality in rural and urban areas in under resourced communities.

Téa Pusey

Program: SURF

Major: Sociology

Home City: Merced, CA

Contact: tpusey@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Petra Kranzfelder

 
Teaching Practices Among Instructors of a Hispanic-Serving Institution
 
Téa PuseyJourjina Alkhouri, Cristine Donham, Adriana Signorini, Petra Kranzfelder, PhD, University of California, Merced
 
Educators have long debated what instructional practices are most engaging when teaching STEM courses. Previous research suggests that a “student-centered” pedagogy is the most effective approach, however, little research has been done at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). Research has also shown that people who have been excluded based on their ethnicity/race (PEERs) leave STEM at much higher rates than non-PEER students. This study aims to discover the pedagogical patterns at one mid-size, research-intensive HSI, and whether they take a student-centered approach to STEM instruction. We used the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate Studies (COPUS) data tool to examine the teaching and learning practices in STEM courses. We analyzed 36 instructors' pedagogical behaviors among 102 class sessions. To do this, we collapsed 23 COPUS codes into four codes: 1) Presenting, 2) Guiding, 3) Administering, and 4) Other. Next, we examined the code frequency among the two-minute intervals, as well as the code frequency among all the codes in the class session. We predict that instructors are mostly lecturing, which is not considered a “student-centered” approach. Based on our results, we demand a “call of action” for HSI instructors to adapt active learning in their classrooms. Additionally, the results of this research can be used to create a training program for faculty on how to create a “student-centered” classroom.

Tanner Ragan

Program: UC LEADS

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home City: Valley Center, CA

Contact: tragan@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Ashlie Martini

 
Tribological Effects of Varied Operating Conditions on Pressure and Film Thickness
 
Tanner RaganAshlie Martini, PhD, School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
Information of the tribological behavior of a mechanical system can be extracted by capturing its pressure and film thickness distribution. Effects such as friction and wear can be obtained for design considerations on components such as gears and bearings. However, pressure and film thickness are variables that primarily depend on operating conditions such as flow speed and load. A numerical simulation will be applied using the Python coding program for efficient calculations that will provide an overview of how independent factors will affect tribological properties. The numerical model generally simulates a specified lubricant flowing between a ball and a flat surface. Ultimately, maximum pressure and minimum film thickness are plotted against conditions including the modulus of elasticity, flow speed, and/or load. This simulation will provide more insight on the effects of the operating conditions in the tribological system which will then be used for future investigation.

Kyle Rekedal

Program: SOAR

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Home City: Buena Park, CA

Contact: krekedal@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Chris T. Amemiya, PhD

 
Conservation and Diversity of the Variable Lymphocyte Receptor (VLR) in Lampetra hubbsi
 
Kyle RekedalLeesa A. Hagerman, Khan MA Hassan, Chris T. Amemiya, PhD, School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
It has been previously reported that agnathans, for example, lampreys and hagfish possess a unique adaptive immune system which produces single chain protein effector molecules consisting of imperfect leucine rich repeats, or LRRs. These molecules, termed variable lymphocyte receptors (VLRs), are selected polyclonally in response to immunization of the lamprey with proteins, oligosaccharides, and whole cells. Lampetra hubbsi from the Merced River, California has been previously characterized by sequencing the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. We obtained lampreys from the Kings River, and after sequencing the cytochrome b gene, we found that they were identical to L. hubbsi from the Merced River. We hypothesize that L. hubbsi would have the VLR based adaptive immune system and accordingly we were able to isolate VLRB transcripts from the species. These molecules were unique and showed a high homology among themselves and with those in the non-redundant database. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry performed on microscopic sections of L. hubbsi ammocoete showed presence of VLRB proteins. It would be interesting to see if L. hubbsi could generate VLRs the same way as that seen in Petromyzon marinus. In that case, this local species can be utilized as an alternative to P. marinus from Lake Michigan for the production monoclonal lampribodies.

Maria Solorio Lopez

Program: SURF-SSHA

Major: Public Health

Home City: San Jose, CA

Contact: msoloriolopez@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Katrina Diaz Rios

 
Scaling-up a Nutrition Education Intervention for Parents with Young Children: Phase 1 Asset Mapping
 
Maria Solorio LopezKarina Diaz Rios, PhD, RD, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced
 
Malnutrition and food insecurity can limit the ability of low-income families and disadvantaged communities to secure quality food for a healthy diet. According to the California Food Policy Advocates, in Merced County, California 43% of children in low-income families have experienced food insecurity. Since children under the age of five are vulnerable to poor health outcomes and malnutrition and parents and caregivers are often responsible for providing the food environment to their children, it is crucial to have nutrition education interventions that target parents with young children to help mitigate these effects. Healthy Kids is a nutrition education program developed and formative-tested with parents eligible for food assistance in Northern California. We will explore the need for and feasibility of implementing Healthy Kids in the local community through two phases. In phase one, we are mapping community assets that provide services to families with young children, including public, private, and non- profit organizations. The results of phase one will help identify local entities that offer nutrition educational services. To date, information (e.g. name, location, funding type, clientele, services, director or contact) from a total of eight local organizations has been compiled via Microsoft Excel. In phase two, we will interview the stakeholders identified to assess their perceived need for a nutrition education program such as Healthy Kids in Merced County, and the feasibility of offering this program to their clientele. The results of phase two are to be determined.

Alexander Stivers

Program: SURF-STEM

Major: Biology

Home City: Goleta, CA

Contact: astivers@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Petra Kranzfelder

 
The Linkage Between STEM Discourse and STEM Classroom Environment
 
Alexander StiversCristine Donham, Jourjina Alkhouri, Petra Kranzfelder, PhD, University of California, Merced
 
One aspect of classrooms that until recently has not been quantified by classroom observation protocols is the usage of teacher discourse moves (TDMs). TDMs are methods of conversation used to teach class content. The Classroom Discourse Observation Protocol (CDOP) is a novel tool that quantifies 17 TDM codes in STEM classrooms. CDOP also places TDMs into four categories: authoritative, non-interactive (one-way, teacher-centered discourse); authoritative, interactive (two-way teacher-centered discourse); dialogic, interactive (student-centered discourse with or without instructor); and other (non-content discourse or discourse not in the 17 categories). Our research intends to measure TDM usage across several variables in STEM classrooms; the discipline, if the professor is tenure track and teaching experience may affect TDM usage. These results will be able to show what professors would need to focus on for effective implementation of active learning. We compared instructors teaching STEM courses at a midsize public research-intensive university designated as a HSI. Two researchers coded each lecture so inter-rater reliability (IRR) could confirm the validity of the recorded codes. From there code frequency was established and used to generate graphical data. Our results will help STEM professors engage students in active learning more frequently by allowing them to visualize what TDMs they tend to use. Quantification of TDMs will make it possible to test the quality of implementation of active learning classrooms by establishing a standard for TDM usage in STEM classrooms.

Alexandra Stone-Macias

Program: SURF-SSHA

Major: Psychology

Home City: Maadera, CA

Contact: astone-macias@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: David Torres-Rouff

 
Accessibility and Role of Churches Within Merced Neighborhoods
 
Alexandra Stone-MaciasAnais Guillem, David Torres-Rouff, PhD, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced
 
While collecting data on the number of public service buildings in Merced, approximately 59 churches were identified in Merced via Google Maps search results. Comparatively, 24 schools and 18 community clinics were also counted using Google Maps, suggesting a predominance of churches within the city of Merced. This study seeks to investigate the role of churches in Merced neighborhoods through resident attitudes on the accessibility of churches and the memories attached to these churches. Neighborhood delineation within this study uses resident perceptions and mental mapping. Resident attitudes regarding neighborhood boundaries, the proximity of public service buildings in relation to neighborhoods, and the experiences and memories attached to churches in Merced are collected using interviews and examined using thematic coding analysis. By examining the role of churches in Merced’s community and the significance behind their predominance, it is possible to not only examine how these factors contribute to Merced’s social identity, but future steps can be taken to bridge the gap between the City of Merced and UC Merced through church-based programs or activities.

Edward Sukarto

Program: SURF-STEM

Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology

Home City: Bay Point, CA

Contact: esukarto@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Clarissa J. Nobile

 
Analysis of RNA-Sequencing Data Methods to Understand Quorum Sensing in Candida albicans
 
Edward SukartoDeepika Gunasekaran, and Clarissa J. Nobile, PhD, School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
RNA-Sequencing (RNA-Seq) is a technique used to determine the transcriptional profile of cells under specific conditions. Different methods exist to analyze RNA-Seq data, especially in terms of determining differentially expressed genes in the conditions of interest. We have found that RNA-Seq data using different RNA-Seq analysis methods has generated very different results in terms of the differentially expressed genes identified. The goal of my project is to understand the limitations of these different methods in identifying differentially expressed genes. We are comparing two widely used methods, DESeq2 and Limma, to determine the extent of the differences observed between the differentially expressed genes identified using the two tools. We are looking at differences in Log2 fold change values, adjusted P values, and CPM values, to understand the sensitivity and precision of the different tools. Our results are revealing the utility of these tools and identifying the best-practices for analyzing RNA-Seq data in the field. These findings are being applied to existing RNA-Seq data for Candida albicans in the presence of the quorum sensing compound, farnesol. Analysis of this RNA-seq data will lead to the identification of the transcriptional profile of C. albicans during exposure to farnesol. This work will ultimately shed new light on how cells of this important human fungal pathogen communicate with one another.

Hanna Taglinao

Program: SOAR

Major: Biology- Microbiology and Immunology Emphasis

Home City: Chula Vista, CA

Contact: htaglinao@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Jennifer O. Manilay

 
Identification of signaling molecules involved in the impairment of B cell development
 
Hanna TaglinaoBetsabel Chicana, Jennifer O. Manilay, PhD, School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
The purpose of this research project is to understand the mechanisms of how B cell development is impaired when the oxygen sensing gene, von Hippel-Lindau (Vhl) is deleted. To delete this gene in Dmp1 expressing cells, we utilized the Cre-Lox recombination system to conditionally knockout Vhl expressing cells in mice (VhlcKO). Due to the structural alterations found in the bone marrow microenvironment, (such as high bone mass and a decreased bone marrow (BM) cavity), we hypothesize that B cell development will not be supported in the VhlcKO mice due to decreased production of certain growth factors and or cytokines. To test this, we will be conducting a 13-LegendPlex assay that will allow us to simultaneously quantify our key targets (such as IL-7, IL-6, CXCL12, SCF, etc.). Expected results will identify which target(s) are over and underexpressed suggesting the key players involved in the impairment of B cell development when Vhl is conditionally knocked out. Our next step is to identify niche cell(s) in the VhlcKO mice that contribute to the B cell defect in the bone marrow.

Christian Urbina

Program: SATAL

Contact: curbina5@ucmerced.edu

 
Students Assessing Teaching And Learning Program
 
Guadalupe Covarrubias, Matias Lopez, Andrea Presas, Adriana Signorini, Christian Urbina, University of California, Merced
 
SATAL supports faculty and programs with their assessment activities by collecting the student perspective on their learning in support of Student Learning Outcomes. Undergraduates in the program receive professional development in data collection, analysis and reporting.

Alberto Valle

Program: CAMP

Major: Computer Science and Engineering

Home City: Denair, CA

Contact: avalle6@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: David Torres-Rouff

 
Image Acquisition and Segmentation of Historic Buildings in the City of Merced Using Automation and Convolutional Neural Networks
 
Alberto ValleAnaïs Guillem, David Torres-Rouff, PhD, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts , University California, Merced
 
Convolutional Neural Networks along with automation and scraping tools can accelerate the analysis and acquisition of large image datasets. These tools fit the needs to solve the main challenge in understanding the preservation of an extensive list of historic buildings in Merced. Therefore, the Detectron2 pre-trained models and Selenium Webdriver and Jsoup libraries were used for the segmentation and acquisition of +2000 images from Google maps and real estate websites. This workflow resulted to provide great functionality in finding the changes in color, materials, and even the entire removal of a building. The final objective is to implement these findings in the Arches Heritage Platform for its curation and preservation for future studies.

Michael Vang

Program: SOAR

Major: Public Health

Home City: Fresno, CA

Contact: mvang65@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Jennifer L. Howell

 
The Association Between Health Regulatory Focus and Responses to Physicians
 
Michael Vang, Jacqueline Hua, MA, & Jennifer L. Howell, PhD, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts , University California, Merced
 
Past research suggests that health regulatory focus may be related to how people perceive physicians. For example, people who are more promotion-focused visit their physician more often. In two studies, we examined whether health regulatory focus was related to positive affective responses to physicians. In Study 1, we recruited 524 undergraduates to complete an online survey in exchange for research credit. A bivariate correlation analysis revealed that being promotion-focused was positively related to positive affective responses to physicians, ​r​(497)= .213, ​p​ < 0.01. Being prevention-focused was not related to affective responses to physicians, r​(497)= .011, ​p​= .812. In Study 2, we recruited 97 patients from a campus health center to complete an online survey in exchange for a gift card. As in Study 1, a bivariate correlation analysis revealed that being promotion-focused was positively related to positive affective responses to physicians, ​r(​ 88)= .250, ​p​ = .019. However, being prevention-focused was not related to affective responses to physicians, ​r(​ 88)= -.058, ​p=​ .592. Collectively, the results suggest that health regulatory focus may be an important factor in physician-patient relationships. Specifically, it may be worthwhile to encourage patients to be more promotion-focused as this might help them perceive their physician more positively.

Gabriel Viramontes

Program: SOAR

Major: Biology- Ecology and Evolution emphasis

Home City: Lodi, CA

Contact: gviramontes@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Clarissa J. Nobile

 
Discovering the transcriptional network controlling flocculation in Candida albicans
 
Gabriel Viramontes, Craig. L. Ennis, & Clarissa J. Nobile, PhD, School of Natural Sciences , University California, Merced
 
Candida albicans is a commensal of the human microbiota and is also the most common human fungal pathogen. Changes to the host immune system, pH, and resident microbiota can lead to C. albicans overgrowth, causing life-threatening disseminated infections. Caspofungin acetate is frequently used to treat invasive Candida infections in the clinic. Interestingly, C. albicans yeast cells flocculate, i.e. they tightly adhere to one another, in response to caspofungin treatment. These adhered cells form structures akin to biofilms, surface attached microbial communities surrounded by extracellular matrices. We identified nine transcription factors (TFs) controlling caspofungin-induced flocculation in C. albicans, several of which are known to also regulate biofilm development. We hypothesize that genes regulated by these TFs may be functionally relevant to both flocculation and biofilm development. We compared our caspofungin treated and non-treated wildtype C. albicans cells using RNA sequencing and identified twenty-five highly upregulated genes that we hypothesize are involved in 1) cellular responses to caspofungin 2) flocculation, and/or 3) biofilm development. Using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, we will delete each of these twenty-five genes that we will test for alterations in flocculation and biofilm development. In addition, using Gene Ontology analysis, we will identify which categories of biological functions our genes of interest are most associated with. Together, this work will illuminate the regulatory mechanisms and downstream effectors contributing to flocculation and may identify novel mediators of biofilm development and caspofungin resistance or tolerance.

Tomas Virgen

Program: UC LEADS

Major: Physics

Home City: Patterson, CA

Contact: tvirgen2@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Arnold Kim

 
Time-Dependent Scattering By A Sound-Hard Sphere
 
Tomas VirgenArnold Kim, PhD, School of Natural Sciences , University California, Merced
 
Time-dependent scattering in three dimensions is a difficult mathematical problem to solve analytically and numerically. This problem has applications in many different fields including satellite imaging, acoustics, and the physics of colloids. We specifically consider the acoustics problem for scattering off a moving sound-hard sphere. This sound-hard boundary condition corresponds to a no-slip condition in which the surrounding fluid has no velocity on the boundary of the sphere. We seek to develop a new method of solving this problem based on the method of fundamental solutions. For this method, we approximate the scattered field as a linear combination of exact solutions of the wave equation, each of which is the response by a discrete source. The coefficients of each term in the scattered field are then determined as to satisfy the sound-hard boundary condition. This method leads to an effective and efficient computational method of solving this problem.

Kayla Williams

Program: CAMP

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Home City: San Diego, CA

Contact: kwilliams49@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Katrina Hoyer

 
Assessing IgM and IgG Antibody Levels Across Autoimmune Disease Progression
 
Kayla WilliamsGenevieve Mullins, Katrina Hoyer, PhD, School of Natural Sciences, University California, Merced
 
Time-dependent scattering in three dimensions is a difficult mathematical problem to solve analytically and numerically. This problem has applications in many different fields including satellite imaging, acoustics, and the physics of colloids. We specifically consider the acoustics problem for scattering off a moving sound-hard sphere. This sound-hard boundary condition corresponds to a no-slip condition in which the surrounding fluid has no velocity on the boundary of the sphere. We seek to develop a new method of solving this problem based on the method of fundamental solutions. For this method, we approximate the scattered field as a linear combination of exact solutions of the wave equation, each of which is the response by a discrete source. The coefficients of each term in the scattered field are then determined as to satisfy the sound-hard boundary condition. This method leads to an effective and efficient computational method of solving this problem.

Ying Wei Zhang

Program: UROC-H

Major: English

Home City: San Diego, CA

Contact: yzhang261@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Katherine Steele Brokaw

 
Shakespeare and Ecodramaturgy: Utilizing Theatre for Ecological Change
 
Ying Wei ZhangKatherine Steele Brokaw, PhD, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts , University California, Merced
 
In the 21st century, ecological and political crises plague human society. During these troubled times, can we turn towards the arts, specifically theatre and Shakespeare, as a longstanding yet overlooked method of communication? How can we implement the performative arts to better our world, starting with our local communities—and possibly to save us from disaster? I argue that theatre and Shakespeare may inspire collaboration and be used as a force for addressing the ecological and political problems we face today. I provide a look at theatre and the Bard’s place in today’s world, its ability to create change, and its limitations. What can theatre do and not do for ourselves, our community, and the world? What might the future bring and demand of theatre? Methods I use include examination of literature on theatre’s usage in today’s world and Shakespeare’s place within this century; observation of my own participation in the building of the #EarthShakes Alliance; and analysis of interviews with theatre creatives from the United States and the United Kingdom. By providing an examination of potential possibilities and limitations of theatre, I demonstrate theatre and Shakespeare as vehicles of progress, especially in the pursuit of community-oriented action.

 

 

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