An overview of the research performed by CSAM’s Science Honors Innovation Program (SHIP) Scholars.
SHIP is made possible by the generous support of the Merck and Roche Foundations.
Natural Gas within the Marcellus Shale
The need to extract natural resources to meet energy demands in the United States persists. This project reviewed the geological history of the Marcellus Shale of the Appalachian Basin in the North Eastern US and to hypothesize the significance and lifespan of the resource. Data was collected from the US Energy Information Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regarding number of wells, well production, and locations. The main focus is on horizontal wells and classifying the wells with respect to production. A simple mathematical model is then used to evaluate how long the resource will last with certain assumptions taken regarding energy demand and max/min number of wells. We found that the shale is comprised of Devonian age hydrocarbons derived from organic rich deposits in an epieric sea. It contains approximately 14.2 Trillion cubic meters (Tcm) of recoverable natural gas. My preliminary estimate suggests if present rates continue than the resource could last for approximately 80 years. Concern of climate change, pollution, and other associated effects due to the primary fossil fuel exploitation are significant and a transition to cleaner fuels such as natural gas may be attractive.
SHIP Researcher: Kenneth Svolto; CSAM Mentor: Prof. M. Kruge
Particulate Matter Toxicology
After 9-11, World Trade Center dust can severely damage human lung cells and cause pulmonary diseases. We are interested in observing the effects of WTC dust on human pulmonary fibroblast, specifically the apoptosis and the proliferation rate change of the cells by the dust. We are currently quantifying the rate of apoptosis, proliferation and cytotoxicity of human pulmonary fibroblast after altering pH of the WTC dust by adding biological buffers. We have found that biological buffers, such as bicarbonate ions, lowered the rate of cell death and increased the rate of cell growth. By adjusting pH of hazardous particulate matters with biological buffers, we hope to prevent the rapid cell death and reduce cellular damages caused by them.
SHIP Researcher: Sung Choi; CSAM Mentor: Prof. A.-M. DiLorenzo
Potential Energy Harvest in the Fluid Solid Interaction
Increasing energy demands and risings concerns over pollution have created a outcry for innovative sources of clean renewable energy. Using a simple mathematical model, we are analyzing the potential energy available in the motion of a cylindrical particle oscillating in a fluid substance. The potential energy captured in this motion is then converted into electrical units and compared to practical application in common households, like the ability to power a light bulb. We have placed a cylindrical particle in a moving fluid and allowed it one degree of motion along an axis that is perpendicular to the flow. By analyzing its oscillatory motion and comparing the power generated to a series of Reynolds Numbers, we can formulate a relationship between the electrical output and an increase in both flow velocity and particle dimensions. We found that a small electric generator, placed under certain conditions can utilize fluid dynamic phenomena to provide a small but substantial contribution to the net electrical demand of a system. As our societies energy demands increase, the ability to generate electricity from multiple localized sources can provide both a clean and valuable solution.
SHIP Researcher: Michael Cohrs; CSAM Mentor: Prof. A. Vaidya
Deployment of MML in the cloud
Electronic health record systems which have been developed by different vendors are widely used today, so it is necessary for a standard that allows for the easy communication between these systems to exist. We are taking a look at the Medical Markup Language (MML) initially developed in Japan in 1995. MML follows the syntax of the Extensible Markup Language (XML) with domain specific tags and attributes relating to the medical profession. In our work we investigate the deployment of MML to store and analyze patient data worldwide in conjunction with cloud services. The wide adoption of digital medical records will streamline how patient information is stored, viewed, and transferred therefore saving energy, paper, and precious time all while hopefully increasing accuracy of diagnoses.
SHIP Researcher: Jonathan Tancer; CSAM Mentor: Prof. A. Varde
Antiviral Plant Extracts
Licorice root Glycyrrhiza sp., is cultivated mainly in parts of Asia and Europe. Licorice root has a wide variety of medicinal applications including the treatment of stomach ulcers and bronchitis. We are investigating the inhibitory effects of glycyrrhizin on the replication and infection of Sindbis virus (SINV) in cultured Vero cells. Plaque, attachment and penetration assays are being used to quantify the viral particles released from infected cells following treatment with glycyrrhizin. The concentration of viral RNA produced in virus infected cells was measured and compared to glycyrrhizin treated and non-treated Vero cells to determine any inhibitory effect on viral RNA replication. We have found that glycyrrhizin can inhibit the infection of SINV in cultured Vero cells but appears to have no discernible effect on SINV nucleic acid replication. Glycyrrhizin inhibits SINV, the causative agent of Sindbis fever in humans (a disease endemic to parts of Europe, Asia, and Australia); our findings implicate the use of glycyrrhizin as a specific treatment for Sindbis fever (as opposed to the current method of treating the symptoms of the fever separately with different medications).
SHIP Researcher: Yvonne Okereke; CSAM Mentor: Prof. S. Adams
Assessment of Bloom-forming Cyanobacteria in Select New Jersey Lakes
Anthropogenic nutrient addition has caused algal blooms in aquatic ecosystems around the globe. This study aimed to survey bloom-forming Cyanobacteria and algae in 13 New Jersey lakes. Water samples were collected from three locations at each lake in summer 2011. Approximately 500 mL of collected water sample from each sampling location were filtered to examine population densities and abundance. Specimens on filtered paper were identified by morphological characteristics under microscope observation. Lake Saginaw was found to have the highest populations at 6,374 cells/L and Tauton Lake was recorded the lowest at 13 cells/L. The species richness was found to be the highest at Lower Lake (25), and the lowest at Mt. Misery Lake (1). Shannon-Weaver Biodiversity Index numbers was calculated to assess the biodiversities in study sites. Results of the indexes ranged from 1.64 to 0 with the highest at Echo Lake and the lowest at Mt. Misery Lake. Genus Synneccocus was found to be the most abundant and was the dominant species in 11 out of the 13 lakes.
SHIP Researcher: Stephanie Lear; CSAM Mentor: Prof. M. Wu
Study of the Antarctic sediments to determine Pliocene ice sheet dynamics
The dynamics of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) during the Pliocene Epoch is of importance due to its characteristically warm climates and similar geological configuration of continents to that of present day. Located on the Wilkes Land Margin continental shelf, IODPExpedition 318 Site U1358B is positioned offshore a subglacial basin making it an ideal location to study EAIS dynamics due to the sensitivity of marine-based ice to warmer ocean currents and surface temperatures. An analysis of composition and provenance of diamicts (sediment of varying size) using heavy mineral, bulk geochemical, and particle size distribution was performed to further understand ice sheet behavior. The East Antarctic ice sheet behavior in the Pliocene warm period will be investigated through the analysis of sediment distribution using a Malvern Mastersizer 2000, heavy mineral assemblage with SEM-EDS, geochemical analysis using ICP-OES, and down core provenance investigation from the early-Pliocene to Pleistocene. Current interpretation suggests a grounded ice sheet with an un-weathered Wilkes Land Margin signature composed of low-grade metamorphic basement rocks with felsic properties unaffected by chemical weathering during the Pliocene. This investigation will contribute to the knowledge of EAIS behavior in past warm conditions in order to further understand its behavior in future warm climate conditions.
SHIP Researcher: Nadine Orejola; CSAM Mentor: S. Passchier
Sediment Sourcing in the Rockaway River
Overload in sediment can cause impairment in rivers, in this case a river that leads into a reservoir which provides drinking water to much of northern New Jersey. Using radionuclides Pb210 and Cs137 to source where fine grained sediment in the Rockaway river is being delivered from. Using the radionuclides helps source whether the sediment in the Rockaway River is being delivered from channel or surface erosion. Radionuclide noise is detected in a Genie Gamma Ray Detector. Currently preliminary data shows low levels of Pb210 which originates in the channels of the river. The Rockaway River leads into the Boonton reservoir which provides drinking water to much of northern New Jersey.
SHIP Researcher: Anita Trajkovska; CSAM Mentor: Prof. J. Galster
The Analysis of the transcriptional regulation of RET isoforms
RET is a ret-proto-oncogene that codes for a receptor tryrosine kinase which is required for kidney formation and development of the enteric nervous system. Mutations in this gene can result in several neurodegenerative diseases. The RET gene has three distinct isoforms or variations. The isoforms are RET 9, 43, and 51. The two most common and well studied isoforms are RET 9 and 51 which suggests differences in signaling and functions. The purpose of my research project is to study the regulations of the RET isoform expressions using Reverse transcription and quantitative polymerase chain reaction to allow for the analysis of RET9 and RET51. After designing primers specific to my two RET isoforms, RET 9 and RET51, I ran an RT-PCR reaction, followed by a PCR reaction to observe expression levels. The expression levels of these two isoforms are then compared to a Universal 18S RNA primer which is the internal control. Once the RT-PCR conditions are optimized, the transcriptional level of the two RET isoforms are hypothesized to be affected by the presence of its ligand, GDNF (glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor). I expect to see and measure changes in the expressions of RET9 and RET51 with respect to GDNF treated and untreated cells. So, far the results I have collected are inconclusive. Once we are able to observe the transcriptional expression of these genes, we may then be able to understand the signaling mechanism behind the gene and what triggers it to malfunction and cause diseases. By understanding the mechanisms, we may be able to find a cure or efficient treatments for the diseases caused by mutations.
SHIP Researcher: Binta Jalloh; CSAM Mentor: Prof. Q. Vega
The evolution of female mosquitofish preference for male coloration
Some species are characterized by sexually dimorphic male coloration and courtship behavior that evolved through intersexual selection, but this is not the case for mosquitofish. We are aiming to explain if coloration in male mosquitofish was lost due to lack of female preference or because males somehow avoided evolving it under intersexual selection. We are trying to look at why these mosquitofish (Gambusia) do not display similar courtship behavior to their close relative, the guppy. Our study is designed to test our hypothesis that male mosquitofish avoided evolving color due to the cost (i.e. predation) it bears. Additionally, we hypothesize that the innate female preference for coloration still exists but is no longer observed due to the lack of colored males. We have found that female Gambusia are not only attracted to color, but furthermore are only attracted to color when it is on a male. Our results suggest that male animals, not only our studies Gambusia, within a specific species where male ornamentation is exhibited as a mating strategy often do so at a high cost.
SHIP Researcher: Ariel Casner; CSAM Mentor: Prof. S. Kight
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