Tennessee Posters at the Capitol

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Wednesday, February 16th

A Pilot Research Project to Enhance Inquiry-Based Learning by Mapping the Microbiome of the Southern Appalachian Region

Shivam Patel, East Tennessee State University

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As humans continue to advance healthcare resources, we face a growing threat of nosocomial multidrug-resistant bacteria. The rise of these antibiotic-resistant microorganisms has been placed on the World Health Organization’s watchlist as one of the biggest threats to global health. We continue to have a shortage of effective antibiotics with the rise of these “superbugs”. With the growing number of deadly pathogens, the future of medicine relies on scientific findings to combat multidrug-resistant bacteria. Appalachia could be the answer to combat this new health threat. As the most biodiverse temperate forest region in North America, our beautiful backyard in the Smoky Mountains contains a plethora of microorganisms that have become genetically diversified over billions of years. Many of these soil bacteria naturally produce their own antibiotics. With the wide variation of natural bacteria, Appalachia serves as a testing ground to harness the power of natural antibiotics. A gram of soil contains more than 10,000 different species of bacteria. The biodiversity of these microbes is still largely unknown, as almost 99% of these species cannot be cultured in a normal lab setting. This pilot project will lay the foundations of discovering Appalachia’s microbiota which has, thus far, never been cataloged.

Mentor: Sean Fox

Android-Based Mobile App Design for COVID-19 Tracking

Paula Faidley, East Tennessee State University

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With the evolution of smartphones and rise in their popularity, mobile applications have become a booming concept. Mobile applications connect users with things they value most. With the growing need of mobile applications, mobile app design is quickly becoming a sought-after skill. By learning the intricate process of mobile app design, individuals can learn new and innovative ways to express their creativity while providing useful products. During times such as the recent pandemic, mobile applications are especially useful because people would often times feel alone from spending a majority of the year in quarantine while being overwhelmed with all of the new information about COVID-19 being released on a daily basis. While researching mobile applications, I decided to design and program an Android-based mobile app that would help users to track the severity of COVID-19 and help users to decide what precautions to take. The data in the application is gathered by using API-keys to receive data from US government official public health websites. Throughout my creation of the mobile application, I discovered six stages of mobile app design that create an efficient implementation process. The critical stages of my mobile app design process are highlighted throughout my research poster.

Mentor: Mohammad S. Khan

Classifying Quenching Galaxies: Comparing Methods

Joseph M. Hewa, East Tennessee State University

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Quenching galaxies are galaxies that are rapidly evolving from strongly star forming systems to galaxies with mostly old stars and low star formation rates. When identifying quenching galaxies, there are several methods in common use. Furthermore, there are several ways astronomers estimate the Star Formation Rate (SFR), in Solar Masses per year, and Stellar Mass (M*), in Solar Masses, of galaxies. For a large sample of galaxies, we used 6 derivations of M* and 4 for SFR, plotting them against each other for comparison. We also calculated and compared the specific SFR (sSFR), equal to SFR/M*, and compared the different methods of defining quenched galaxies. Finally, we divided up these plots by classification, Red Sequence/Green Valley/Blue Cloud, and different values of log (SFR). This project was completed with the support of a grant from the NASA Tennessee Space Grant Consortium.

Mentor: Beverly J. Smith

Deficiency of Ataxia Telangiectasia-mutated Kinase (ATM) Preserves Heart Function by Affecting Cardiac Remodeling in Response to Western-type Diet (WD) in Female Mice

Paulina Ramirez, East Tennessee State University

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WD and deficiency of ATM protein independently associates with heart disease. Previous work demonstrated that WD in male ATM deficient mice induces accelerated body weight gain and heart dysfunction (Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2021;320:H2324-H2338). Conversely, WD in female ATM deficient mice attenuates weight gain and preserves heart function (unpublished). Here, we investigated the mechanism by which ATM deficiency preserves heart function in female mice. Female wild-type (WT) and ATM heterozygous knockout (hKO) mice, aged 6 weeks, were fed with normal chow (NC) or WD for 14 weeks. Heart sections were stained with Masson’s trichrome to quantify fibrosis, TUNEL-stained to quantify apoptosis, and WGA-stained to quantify myocyte hypertrophy. Data were analyzed using ANOVA followed by Student-Newman-Keuls test. WD significantly increased fibrosis in WT-WD mice, while no increase in fibrosis was observed in hKO-WD. WD significantly increased apoptosis (myocytes and non-myocytes) in both genotypes. Myocyte hypertrophy was increased only in WT-WD. Interestingly, the increase in apoptosis was significantly lower in hKO-WD, while the increase in hypertrophy was significantly higher in hKO-WD vs WT-WD.Thus, ATM deficiency preserves heart function in female mice with decreased myocardial fibrosis and apoptosis, and increased myocyte hypertrophy in response to WD.

Mentor: Krishna Singh

Exploration of Treatment Resistance in a Parenting Skills Group for At-Risk Mothers

Thomas Boyer, East Tennessee State University

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Treatment resistance is a consistent impediment across psychological interventions. Specifically, the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences, and symptoms of depression, have both been posited to contribute to this phenomenon. This is noteworthy, particularly in parenting interventions, given that maternal ACEs and depression are predictors of suboptimal parenting outcomes and thus the risk factors that increase need for intervention may simultaneously be the very factors that impede with one’s intervention engagement. This study explored if this phenomenon replicates in Mom Power - a 10-week, trauma-informed, parenting skills group for at-risk mothers. A multiple linear regression was performed to predict intervention attendance (could range from 0-10) based on ACE score and maternal depression at pre-treatment for n = 66 mothers of young children (ages 0-5). The overall model was not significant F(2, 59) = 1.07, p = .35. Further, maternal ACE scores and depression symptoms only accounted for only 3.5% of the variance in intervention attendance. The authors propose that the trauma-informed Mom Power intervention may be addressing the treatment resistance of at-risk mothers, and that Mom Power effectively engages mothers despite ACE scores or depression symptoms.

Mentor: Diana Morelen

Intraday Algorithmic Trading using Momentum and Long Short-Term Memory Network Strategies

Andrew Whitinger, East Tennessee State University

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Intraday stock trading is an infamously difficult and risky strategy. Momentum and reversal strategies and long short-term memory (LSTM) neural networks have been shown to be effective for selecting stocks to buy and sell over time periods of multiple days. To explore whether these strategies can be effective for intraday trading, their implementations were simulated using intraday price data for stocks in the S&P 500 index, collected at 1-second intervals between February 11, 2021 and March 9, 2021 inclusive. The study tested 160 variations of momentum and reversal strategies for profitability in long, short, and market-neutral portfolios, totaling 480 portfolios. Long and short portfolios for each strategy were also compared to the market to observe excess returns. Eight reversal portfolios yielded statistically significant profits, and 16 yielded significant excess returns. Tests of these strategies on another set of 16 days failed to yield statistically significant returns, though average returns remained profitable. Four LSTM network configurations were tested on the same original set of days, with no strategy yielding statistically significant returns. Close examination of the stocks chosen by LSTM networks suggests that the networks typically buy stocks that outperform during the formation period, mirroring a momentum strategy.

Mentor: Chris Wallace

Long Term Estrogen Loss Worsens Heart Function in Aged Female Mice

Pamela Avendaño-Rubí, East Tennessee State University

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and according to the American Heart Association, the risk of HD in aging menopausal women doubles compared to men of the same age. Excessive contractility of blood vessels is a common feature in heart disease. Clinical and animal studies further support that estrogen loss worsen the contractility in the heart but the details remain unclear. Thus, the overall goal of this work was to examine how the timing and duration of estrogen loss affects heart failure. Our hypothesis is that long-term estrogen loss following heart failure worsens cardiac function of the aged female heart. To mimic menopause, we surgically removed the ovaries from female mice at 2.5 months of age, waited 5 or 12 months for estrogen loss, and induced heart failure using a drug that increases the contractility of the heart. Our results show that estrogen loss at 12 months caused a greater impairment on the heart’s response in increased contractility of the heart. Understanding the effects of estrogen loss and HD is crucial to improving and finding alternative treatments for heart disease in aging menopausal women.

Mentor: Krishna Singh and Cerrone R. Foster

Stumbling into Virtual Worlds. How Resolution Affects Users’ Immersion in Virtual Reality and Implications for Virtual Reality in Therapeutic Applications

Brianna Martinson, East Tennessee State University

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Studies of how users experience Virtual Reality (VR) have thus far failed to address the extent to which rendering resolution and rendering frame rate affect users’ sense of immersion in VR, including applications of VR involving simulators, treatments for psychological and mental disorders, explorations of new and nonexistent structures, and ways to understand the human body in medical applications better. This study investigated if rendering resolution affected users’ sense of immersion in VR. The study compared the responses of two groups relative to two measures of participant immersion: (a) participant’s sense of presence and (b) participant’s sense of embodiment. The treatment levels were (a) low 512 pixels per inch (ppi) and (b) high 2048 ppi rendering resolution. One potential moderating variable, game type, varied over three levels: narrative, objective, and situational. The participants were randomly assigned to a treatment level to account for previous VR experience. Neither participants nor the research observer knew the treatment level. Data indicated that the rendering resolution did not affect user immersion; however, game type did affect immersion. The situational game type was determined to be significantly more immersive than the other game types.

Mentor: Mathew Desjardins

Using Polymicrobial Interactions to Identify Possible Novel Targets in Staphylococcus, Bacillus, and Candida

Sheyda Amirfaiz, East Tennessee State University

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Microbes all compete for the same limited nutrients, space, and resources; therefore, they show competitive relationships. There is a component of Alcaligenes faecalis that inhibits the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, a gram-positive bacterium that causes many clinical diseases. We are interested in finding what genetic factors in Alcaligenes faecalis are responsible for killing Staphylococcus aureus. Transposon mutagenesis was used to interrupt certain gene segments by introducing a foreign piece of DNA into the Alcaligenes faecalis genome. By creating mutants of Alcaligenes faecalis, we were able to test these against Staphylococcus aureus to find those that can no longer inhibit. The absence of zones of inhibition indicated that we successfully interrupted the genetic element in Alcaligenes faecalis that kills Staphylococcus aureus. The genome of the mutants that presented no zones of inhibition were isolated to perform RACE PCR. After completing RACE PCR, the mutants were visualized using gel electrophoresis, and they were sequenced. In the sequence, we discovered that the gene that was being interrupted was MFS Transporter. This is an important transporter in bacteria for virulence, metabolism, and quorum sensing. Results from this study may help us find new targets for Staphylococcus aureus infections.

Mentor: Sean Fox