Session C: 1:45PM – 3:15PM

Science. Session C – Poster Presentations, Ballroom, Union

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Location: Ballroom, A. Ray Olpin Student Union


The Evolution of Tolerance to Disinfectants of Staphylococcus Lugdunensis
Zackary Hoskins, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Lauren Brooks, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Most disinfectants advertise that they work effectively against 99% of bacteria. While many might think this claim refers to the fact that the disinfectant kills 99% of bacteria, this instead means the disinfectant reduces 99% of colonies in a handful of species. Given the diversity of bacteria, it is essential to know how other, lesser studied species react to disinfectant both with the initial exposure to disinfectants and whether they can evolve tolerance to it.  In this project, I investigated how Staphylococcus lugdunensis responds to ethanol at various concentrations and whether it is capable of evolving tolerance. The Staphylococcus lugdunensis was tested exposing a standard concentration (0.1 Optical Density) to ethanol diluted from 100% to 10%  in 10% increments. Once the range of survival was determined, survivors from the highest concentration were liquid cultured to ensure exponential growth and exposed again to the diluted ethanol in 2.5% increments. The results of this model system suggest that the bacteria can evolve tolerance to ethanol. While this bacterium is rarely considered a pathogen, and is instead more often considered a commensal component of the skin microbiota, making it important to determine how it responds to alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Additionally, the properties of this bacteria might also be applicable to other forms of Staphylococcus, such as the more pathogenic S. aureus, making the results of this research of interest to determine the effectiveness of alcohol-based hand sanitizers on this pathogen.


Relatedness of Lactobacillus Abundance to the Significance of Latitude’s Effect on the Microbiome of Drosophila Melanogaster
Connor Hough, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Johnathan Chaston, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

The effect of Lactobacillus (LAB) abundance on the microbiome and lifestyle of Drosophila Melanogaster has been studied multiple times over the years with varying conclusions. The works of Henry et al and Walters et al differ in their results despite having similar research done along the same cline in the East Coast. I will  analyze the differences between the raw data of these studies in order to come to a more definitive conclusion about the relationship between latitude and LAB abundance. Henry et al also includes information and raw data about the microbiomes of flies, frass (fly feces), and the flies diet. I will be analyzing the raw data from Henry et al as well, to determine the relationship between these three elements. Together, these analyses will help me to learn why these similar studies came to such different conclusions about the effects of LAB and latitude as well as any relatedness there is between the microbiomes  of fly, frass, and diet microbiomes to each other and the geographic cline.



Direct One-pot Grignard Formation and Addition to Imine Electrophiles
Kaden Jensen, Southern Utah University

Faculty Mentor: Matthew Prater, Southern Utah University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Many Grignard reagents will form at ambient temperature if an organohalide is given sufficient time to react with magnesium. The organomagnesium species is highly reactive, and prone to undergo Wurtz coupling with another Grignard reagent to form the homocoupled product. In order to mitigate this
homocoupling product formation, we envisioned preparing the Grignard reagent while an imine electrophile is in the same solution to afford an amine product. Amines are common in pharmaceutically relevant compounds. This methodology could also be applied to other electrophiles. Early results include isolated yields above 70%.


The Postprandial Induction of the Nr4a Transcription Factors is Essential for GSIS
Jordan Johns, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Jeffery Tessem, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Jordan W. Johns, Jacob A. Herring, Jeffrey S. Tessem. Diabetes is a disease that affects millions of people worldwide and is becoming more prevalent. A hallmark symptom of diabetes is the inability to regulate blood glucose levels after a meal. The Nr4a family of transcription factors regulates the expression of key glucose metabolism genes, and type 2 diabetics have significant decreases in mRNA expression of Nr4a1 and Nr4a3 in the pancreatic islet. Furthermore, Nr4a1KO mice cause decreased beta cell mass and insulin secretion. We have shown that changing media glucose concentrations from 2.5mM to 11mM, a change indicative of a normal postprandial response, is sufficient to induce Nr4a1 and Nr4a3 expression in beta cells. This same change in glucose concentration is responsible for beta cell insulin secretion. We hypothesized that the postprandial induction of the Nr4a’s is essential for beta cell glucose sensing and insulin secretion, and that glucotoxic conditions that impair insulin secretion fail to induce Nr4a expression. Here we show how the postprandial Nr4a gene expression affects beta cell glucose stimulated insulin secretion under normal glucose concentrations and glucotoxic conditions to prove this hypothesis.

Effects of Choice on Lactobacillus and Acetobacter Concentrations in the Microbiome of Drosophila melanogaster
Maggie Johnson, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: John Chaston, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

The microbiome, which is all the genetic material of microorganisms in a particular environment, has a significant impact on the host. This field of study reveals answers to questions relating to bacterial significance and the relationship between the two and the microbiome, which in turn can affect the phenotype of the host organism. Drosophila melanogaster has been a model species for microbiome work for years because it possesses a microbiome that can be easily manipulated due to the simplicity of the microbiome’s composition. Here, we utilize the two dominant species found in the gut microbiome of the fruit fly, acetic acid bacteria and lactic acid bacteria, to determine genetic trends relating to the effect of choice on the microbiome of the fruit fly and its relationship to the concentration of both of these types of bacteria. We do this by simulating a scenario where the fruit fly is presented with the choice between the two types of bacteria and discussing the resulting projected data.


Expressing and Purifying Type IV CRISPR Accessory Proteins
Alivia Jolley, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Ryan Jackson, Utah State University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat)-Cas (CRISPR-associated) adaptive immune systems defend bacteria and archaea against phages, plasmids, and other mobile genetic elements. Each Type IV CRISPR system contains a subtype-specific gene and is hypothesized to be essential for function. The Type IV-A system encodes ATP-dependent 5′-3′ DNA helicase called CasDinG, while the Type IV-B systems encode a putative pyrophosphatase named CasCysH. Here we investigate the function of the type IV CRISPR systems by expressing, purifying, and characterizing the accessory proteins from the type IV systems. This project is a first step towards understanding the structure and mechanism of type IV systems and the possibility of repurposing type IV systems in future applications.


Palladium-Catalyzed Cross-Coupling of (E)-Octenylboronic Acid Pinacol Ester with Aromatic Chlorides
Maddelyn Lunt, Southern Utah University

Faculty Mentor: Nathan Werner, Southern Utah University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Alkenes are used in the chemical synthesis of plastics, fine chemicals, and biologically active molecules including medicines. The simplest alkene, ethylene, is an important plant hormone that can be used in agriculture to ripen fruits. The palladium-catalyzed Suzuki cross coupling reaction is an efficient method to synthesize substituted alkenes with control of the 3-dimensional geometry of the groups bonded to the alkene. An alkyl-substituted alkyne was found to undergo a 9-BBN catalyzed hydroboration reaction with pinacolborane to produce the alkyl-substituted, (E)-alkenylboronic acid pinacol ester in 69% yield. The palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling of this alkyl-substituted, (E)-alkenylboronic acid pinacol esters was then studied with aryl chlorides. The reaction parameters were evaluated to maximize the yield of the cross-coupling product. The scope of compatible aryl chlorides was then evaluated under the optimized reaction conditions. Nine ortho- and para-substituted aryl chlorides bearing various electron-donating and electron-withdrawing groups were found to undergo the coupling reaction with the alkyl-substituted, (E)-alkenylboronic acid pinacol ester in 54%-98% yield.


Effects of host genetic feeding preferences in shaping microbiota composition in D. melanogaster
Caroline Massey, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: John Chaston, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

The microorganisms within a host, commonly referred to as the microbiota, play an important role in the development of an organism and their life history traits, including fecundity and lifespan. For example, in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, it has been shown that host genotype can significantly alter the microbiota composition (Dobson 2015, Chaston 2016), meaning that host genotype can play a substantial role in how the microbiota is determined and can influence the locally adapted traits of an organism. What is not fully understood are the mechanisms by which host genotype selects the microbiota composition. My intentions are to understand how the genetic feeding preferences of D. melanogaster help determine host microbiota composition. To do this, I will set up assays where I will measure the variation exhibited in the microbiota of genotypically different flies when given a choice of different microbes in their diet; or when no choice is provided. This work will contribute to uncovering how host genotype influences the microbiota variation observed between genetically distinct organisms.


Smart Animals and Social Critters: The relationship of Protocadherin evolution and neuronal diversity and the impact of DSCAM evolution on sociality
Remington Motte, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Carl Hjelmen, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Neuronal complexity varies widely throughout the tree of life. Clustered protocadherins (PCDH) are known to play a significant role in neural diversity and synapse maturity in vertebrates and cephalopods (Noonan, Myers, et al. 2013). DSCAM (Down Syndrome Cell Adhesion Molecule) proteins play a similar role in arthropods in regard to neuronal wiring and axonal guidance (Armitage, Bravo, et al. 2012). Due to the role and conservation of PCDH and DSCAM in brain development, it is thought that they played an important role in the brain evolution of both arthropods, vertebrates, and cephalopods. In order to investigate the relationship of the gene evolution and neuronal diversity and evolution, I examined the similarities of the evolution of PCDH transcripts across twenty vertebrate and cephalopod species. Due to the large number of PCDH genes, I focused on PCDH11X and PCDH20 due to the overlapping presence in the selected species. PCDH11X is an x-linked protocadherin that has been linked to late onset Alzheimer’s disease, while PCDH20’s function is yet to be determined. Furthermore, I investigated the evolution of DSCAM2 in fifty arthropods in relation to sociality. These analyses were completed using Bayesian phylogenetic methods with follow up comparative phylogenetic analyses. Based on the phylogenetic trees created, we can conclude that the most recent common ancestor of vertebrates and cephalopods likely had both PCDH11X and PCDH20. I mapped neuron number and diversity to visualize patterns and estimate ancestral character state. Additionally, I investigated the correlation between DSCAM and sociality in arthropods. Further research should be done on the evolution of PCDH in cephalopods, specifically comparing mollusk PCDH to vertebrate PCDH in order to fully understand the origin and evolutionary path of PCDH.


UVFlora: Verbenaceae
Audrey ODonnal, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Michael Rotter, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

The Field manual of the Utah Valley Flora is a student-led project to create a field guide to the vascular plants of the Utah Valley Region. The reasons for this updated field guide are to have simple dichotomous keys for newer botanists and to have updated terminology and taxonomy. We also wanted to give students, such as myself, an opportunity to give students hands-on experience and to take ownership and authorship chances.. The methods that are being used to complete this field guide include student work in botany courses at UVU, as well as student independent research. Resources that we have are UVU’s herbarium along with various reputable herbarium databases. Using these documented plant specimens we are able to write original descriptions and create maps. Currently the Field Manual is 1/4 completed overall with Gymnosperms completed, Ferns and allies halfway completed, and Angiosperms 1/5 of the way done. Specifically for my research, I have been working on a key for the family Verbenaceae. Here we present a flow chart of the process to complete a section of the flora. As mentioned previously, this field guide will be an opportunity for many students to be authors and the student authors include those in the field botany class, the flora of Utah class along with independent studies students.


Halogenation of ester derivatives of L-tyrosine N-oxime
Morgan Payne, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Steve Chamberland, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

The optimized preparation of an array of brominated, chlorinated, and iodinated oxime-containing ester derivatives of L-tyrosine is reported. The use of these halogenated precursors in the total synthesis of natural and non-natural products of biological relevance has been a focus of this research group. Moreover, halogenation of a phenol opens the door to the regioselective formation of C-C bonds through palladium-catalysis and custom substitution of phenols with heterocycles. Oxime-containing L-tyrosine methyl ester and L-tyrosine tert-butyl ester were used as templates in these halogenation reactions, as shown in the Figure provided. Each dihalogenated product was formed via an oxidative dearomatizing spirocyclization process. The monohalogenation, dihalogenation, and hetero-dihalogenation processes featured efficient purification steps unique to each product type. These products were prepared in high yield and purity with all of the products being isolated in at least 90% purity with most yields in excess of 75%. A streamlined preparation of the products of the L-tyrosine methyl ester on large scale has also been performed and developed.


Expression, Purification, and Cocrystallization of Hip1 with NS-049 2, a Lead Compound for the Treatment of Tuberculosis
Karla Pena, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Nathan Goldfarb, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Tuberculosis (TB) remains an insidious scourge of civilization. The causative agent, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), is a global health crisis, and TB ranks as the second leading cause of death from an infectious disease worldwide after the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In 2020, there were approximately 1.5 million deaths reported from TB and an estimated 10 million new cases of TB. Consequently, there is an extremely urgent need for the discovery of new therapeutics effective against both drug resistant and nondrug resistant strains of TB. The product of the Rv2224c gene, Hip1 (hydrolase important for pathogenesis), is a Mtb cell-wall associated serine hydrolase that plays an important role in the pathogenic strategies of Mtb. It plays a role in cell envelop maintenance and in the dampening of host cell proinflammatory responses. Functional studies indicate that Hip1 is a promising target for drug discovery. In fact, mice infected with a Hip1 mutant strain survive significantly longer than wild-type Mtb-infected mice and exhibit mild lung immunopathology despite high bacterial burdens. Here we present the expression, purification, and cocrystallization of Hip1 with a novel, potent (Ki = 309 + 15 pM), reversible, covalent inhibitor, NS-049-2. The 2.9 Å crystal structure is the first ligand-bound structure of Hip1 and will be useful for the development of novel TB antibiotics and diagnostic assays.


Degrading Plastic: Brewer’s Yeast to The Rescue!
Manette Perez, Salt Lake Community College

Faculty Mentor: Lane Law, Salt Lake Community College

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Plastic waste is a large problem in our industrialized world, and it has affected both our health and our ecosystem. With the discovery of the plastic degrading enzymes, PET (Pet hydrolase) and MHET (Mono-(2-hyroxyethyl) terephthalic acid) from the bacteria Ideonella sakaiensis, we have a potential solution for plastic waste. A fusion protein of PETase and MHETase is theoretically capable of breaking down plastic into ethylene glycol and teraphthalate. The transformation of S. cerevisiae with an expression plasmid containing the gene for the PET-MHET fusion protein, will allow the generation of organic fuels, such as ethanol, from the degradation of plastic. PET-MHET will be inserted into our pYES2 plasmid and used to transform S. cerevisiae. Verification of expression and enzymatic activity will follow. Transformed PET-MHET yeast will then be grown in the presence of the plastic to determine levels of degradation.


Second Harmonic Generation Characterization of Tensile Deformation
Lydia Petersen, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: James Patterson, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Application of tensile stress can alter material structure. Metals commonly undergo this type of mechanical deformation, which can be detrimental to its structural integrity and ultimately lead to failure. Subsequently, it becomes valuable to characterize mechanical deformation to prevent failures. We propose using second harmonic generation (SHG) to evaluate metal deformation. SHG is a viable option for such characterization, as it is a non-linear optical technique, used to study material surfaces. When a metal undergoes stress, dislocations occur, and grain boundaries are disrupted in a way that would become apparent at the metal’s surface. These surface changes could then be detected through SHG methods. Additionally, SHG provides non-destructive evaluation (NDE) of materials, so characterization can occur without adding additional stress. We are using SHG to characterize steel samples before and after tensile stress. Stress is applied to steel samples at various rates and to different stages of deformation. Our aim is to find trends between the amount of tensile deformation applied to steel and the amount SHG signal detected. This would allow for a relatively accessible way to evaluate wear on metals, so that in industry, it can be determined when to replace parts before they break.


Paleoecology in the Great Basin, Nevada
Alyssa Richards, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Larry Coats, University of Utah

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

In the Northern Snake Range of Nevada, 20 packrat (Neotoma sp.)  middens have been collected for use in palaeoecological reconstruction of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. Samples from this region bring the palaeoecological record back to 38,00014C yr BP are being used to understand how mesic and xeric plants have migrated in response to environmental changes. Packrat middens contain assemblages of plant macrofossils, most of which are identifiable to species. Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) is a midden species of interest due to its narrow climate envelope today. In the Great Basin, Bristlecone pine is most abundant above 3000m in porous, limestone soils. Midden macrofossils identify the range of bristlecone pine in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene down to 2000m, indicating environmentally dependent migration of Bristlecone during this period of rapid environmental change. Multiple middens from the area contain Bristlecone pine, with dates ranging from 32,00014C yr BP to 11,00014C yr BP. Some modern middens also contain Bristlecone due to cliffside microclimates where the tree can still compete for survival. Specimens from earlier time periods show that Bristlecone was much more abundant in number in lower elevation bands than today. These changes in Bristlecone habitat may also provide a platform for understanding the migration of other tree species in the face of anthropogenic climate change.


Changes in Intrinsic Tryptophan/Tyrosine Fluorescence (ITF) as a Method to Study Conformational Changes in Oxidized Proteins
Steven Rimmasch, Weber State University

Faculty Mentor: Tracy Covey, Weber State University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Determining protein structure is of extreme importance as it pertains to drug development, discovery of protein function, and identifying disease states in cells. Similarly, identifying different conformational changes proteins experience plays a role in all the previously mentioned disciplines as well as how the cell recognizes and reacts to these altered proteins. Protein structure and subsequent conformational changes can be determined with a high degree of accuracy through methods such as X-ray crystallography, Cryo-EM, and NMR. However, these methods are time consuming, difficult, and require expensive equipment. Here, we aim to develop a lower resolution Intrinsic Tryptophan/Tyrosine Fluorescence (ITF) based method to determine changes in protein structure due to oxidation and relate this to how proteins are selectively digested. Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) has been used as our model protein to determine changes in protein structure. Our results show that hydrogen peroxide treated BSA has a concentration dependent change in ITF compared to non-treated BSA. This suggests that oxidized BSA undergoes a conformational change that alters the exposure of its tryptophan and tyrosine residues to the solvent. For this presentation, I will discuss my work using ITF as a  fast, easy, low-resolution method to probe structural changes in BSA and other proteins exposed to various conditions.


Facilitative Parasitization of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Eggs Between Native and Invasive Trissolcus Wasps
Zachary Ross, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Diane Alston, Utah State University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

The continuing and increasing presence of invasive species across the United States continues to create more and more interspecific interactions between species. My research aims to identify a relationship between the invasive Trissolcus japonicus and the native Trissolcus euschisti, and whether or not a facilitative parasitic relationship exists between native and invasive species of wasp. I expected to find a beneficial effect given to the native wasps due to this relationship, with more successful emergences being seen when egg masses have been previously parasitized by the invasive species. To test this claim, Halyomorpha hals egg masses were exposed to wasps in three different sets of trials. First, both species were given egg masses to parasitize independently, allowing for accurate measurements of parasitization without the influence of another wasp. The third set of trials involved placing one wasp after another, giving each a set amount of time to parasitize before being removed and replaced with the competitor. Through comparison and analysis of the different results, both beneficial and deleterious, we can begin to form a more complete picture of how they might interact with each other, and what this could mean for both species. The results gathered lend insight into how the invasive wasp is interacting with natives as it becomes more and more established across the country, as well as how the native is faring with the introduction of a new invasive competitor. Not only could this shed insight into how the two different wasp species interact, but it could also provide insight into how the invasive Halyomorpha halys is being hindered by native species, as well as how the native species may be benefiting from an additional host.


Enrichment of organic carbon: the effect on soil water repellency
Emma Shelton , Utah Tech University

Faculty Mentor: Gabriela Chilom, Utah Tech University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Organic carbon is a key component of the terrestrial ecosystem as it is responsible for many physical and chemical properties of soils, including water retention and wettability. Soil organic carbon storage may be increased by direct methods as adding manure or other organic amendments.
The goal of this study is to increase the carbon loading to the soils and test the effect it has on the water repellency of the soils. A series of batch sorption experiments with dissolved organic matter (Leonardite humic acid) and four local soils, collected from the Utah-Arizona border, was conducted to obtain enriched soils with a range of organic carbon loadings. The enrichment in soil organic carbon was quantified directly using a CHN analyzer. The water repellency of soils was subsequently assessed using water drop penetration time (WDPT) test and the molarity of an ethanol droplet (MED) test. Comparative analysis of the dependence of water repellency and enrichment of organic carbon in soils was performed for the four soils used.


The Insects of Capitol Reef: A Collaborative Approach to Creating a Field Guide
Kelsey Stone, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: T. Heath Ogden, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Capitol Reef national park possesses a wealth of arthropod diversity (NPS, 2020), but there is a significant lack of research and literature detailing the insects that make up part of the area’s complex biodiversity (NPS, 2021). In previous years, the Ogden lab has partnered with Capitol Reef to collect insects in the Colorado Plateau area. After years of collecting specimens, the final collection has been processed, examined, and amalgamated into a field guide with the intention of creating a resource for specialists and the casual observer alike, thus filling a gap in current literature available.


Effect of Acute Heat Stress on Blood Composition: Hematocrit, Hemoglobin, Plasma Volume, & Body Mass
Kate Strong, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Jayson Gifford, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Blood variables such as hematocrit and hemoglobin are common indices of the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood with hematocrit being the percent of whole blood that is made up of red blood cells, and hemoglobin being the protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen. While plasma, the other main component of whole blood, does not carry oxygen, it contributes to overall cardiac output and is sensitive to changes following chronic heat exposure resulting in improved thermoregulation. While the effect of chronic heat exposure on these blood variables has been studied, the effect of a single bout of extreme heat (i.e., sauna) in healthy young adults is unknown. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a bout of sauna therapy on hemoglobin, hematocrit, and plasma volume. METHODS: Thirteen healthy young adults (ages 18-36; n=10 male, n=3 female) underwent a total of 40 min of sauna exposure in two 20 min increments. A baseline blood draw was performed pre-sauna. Participants underwent sauna exposure, and blood draws were performed directly post 40 mins of sauna, as well as after a 90-minute recovery period. Hemoglobin and hematocrit levels were measured, and total plasma volume was calculated using the Dill and Costill equation. Esophageal, muscle, and skin temperatures were recorded throughout the experiment. RESULTS: There was a significant increase in hemoglobin levels (p = 0.05) pre vs. post sauna. There was no significant difference in hematocrit or plasma volume (p = 0.12, p = 0.10, respectively). Though not statistically significant at this time, the plasma volume tended to decrease. There was also a significant increase in esophageal, muscle, and skin temperatures (p<0.001). CONCLUSION: Though acute sauna exposure does not cause a significant difference in hematocrit, there was a significant increase hemoglobin concentration, as well as in esophageal, muscle, and skin temperatures pre vs. post sauna. There are no other impacts on blood variables other than a trend for plasma volume decreasing.


The Downstream Effects of Adrenergic Receptors in Beta Cells
Nathan  Vaughan, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Jeffery Tessem, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. T2D is characterized by hyperglycemia caused by inadequate pancreatic beta cell function. There are various ways to treat T2D such as insulin injections, dieting, exercise, and medication. Stimulating endogenous beta cell receptors that potentiate glucose stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) could be harnessed as a therapy for T2D, such as is used with GLP-1. Adrenergic receptors are expressed on the beta cell, and potentiate glucose stimulated insulin secretion in vivo.  Stimulation of adrenergic receptors induces cAMP. We have shown that forskolin treatment of Ins-1 beta cells increases cAMP levels and enhances Nr4a1 and Nr4a3 mRNA expression. The Nr4as have also been shown to enhance GSIS, however the relationship between the adrenergic receptors and Nr4as in relation to GSIS remains largely unexplored. In order to investigate this relationship we will conduct GSIS assays following adrenergic receptor stimulation in wild type, Nr4a1 knockout, and Nr4a 3 knockout mice. Here we present our findings on the effects of adrenergic receptor potentiated  GSIS in Nr4a1 and Nr4a3 knockout Ins-1 beta cells and primary mouse islets.


Cause of Increased Apoptotic Cell Death by Infection with HIV-1 Vpr Mutation R77Q
Dario Villacreses, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Bradford Berges, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

HIV is a retrovirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and even though it’s one of the most studied viruses there’re still many unknowns that impede developing a cure for AIDS. Viral protein R (Vpr) is an accessory protein of HIV. In this project, we will research how an HIV-1 isolate with an R77Q mutation in the Vpr gene induces apoptosis in contrast to the uncontrolled cell death that other variants produce. This will be done by analyzing the viral DNA in the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Within R77Q infection, we expect to see an increased amount of viral DNA in the cytoplasm and a fewer amount in the nucleus as opposed to other infections featuring wild-type Vpr and other Vpr mutants. When DNA is found in the cytoplasm it is normal for cells to start innate immune responses, but it has also been found that cytosolic DNA triggers biological pathways of programmed cell death.[1] In previous research performed in our lab, we have seen that the R77Q mutation causes cell death by apoptosis at higher rates compared to wild-type viruses and other mutations. This project presents an opportunity to potentiate previous research in understanding how the mutation induces apoptosis.


Spear Phishing Simulation
Russell Wadsworth, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Sayeed Sajal, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

With more advances in technology, spear-phishing has become more prevalent and more dangerous. Spear-phishing is a specific type of phishing where a supposedly trusted individual messages the user extensively to try to grab personal information such as credit cards, social security numbers, and so on. Social media embodies this vicious attack nearly constantly: using profile photos and a similar email, attackers can create a similar profile and account and become friends with the same list of friends as their avatar. After doing so, the attacker sends messages, photos, emails, and other methods of communication to ultimately phish for this information. With further advances, what can we do to inform and prevent these attacks from further occurring? We can make the conclusion that educating users about these threats can help them take a closer look at this threat and figure out how to prepare for the attack. We will want to figure out how best to educate people over this threat, especially since this will not be as easy as sitting everyone down in a classroom and discussing the threat to them. The best practice can be found with experimenting on various ways to teach these principles: through video demonstration, static images, physical experimentation, and even trying to teach this in a classroom setting, we want to conclude on what would be the best way to let others know about spear-phishing. A premature conclusion can be made with using a video or advertisement on Google, but the hold-up would be if people would skip it rather than actively view it. If we can figure out this method or if any other methods work better, we can help protect identities, financial futures, and personal information for millions of computer users from these criminal activities.


Construction and Characterization of a Nd:YVO4 laser  for pumping a BaGa4Se7 Nonlinear Optical System
Brantson Wayman, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: York Young, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Probing tissue for early signs of disease can be performed via long wave infrared spectroscopy.  One technique uses wavelength dependent absorption of specific molecules which serve as early indicators of disease onset in human tissue.  One reason long wave spectroscopy is not more widely used, is that long wave detectors are expensive and slow.  Another deterrent is that typical long wave light sources, such as tunable quantum cascade lasers, are difficult to tune over the several-micron-wide wavelength ranges, limiting the molecule types, and thus diseases, that can be probed.  We are developing a laser and non-linear optical wavelength conversion system to address these issues by using: 1. A 1064 nm laser driven, long wave, Barium Gallium Selenide (BGSe) optical parametric oscillator (OPO) as the broadly tunable optical probe and 2. A BGSe-based sum frequency generator (SFG) to convert the tissue probing long wave light to the near infrared – where faster, lower cost, and more sensitive optical detectors can be used. In this presentation we report our progress toward developing such a laser and nonlinear optical wavelength conversion system for use in early detection of disease in human tissue.  Specifically, we share our beam waist characterization and M2 beam quality measurements of the diode laser.  In addition we communicate the impact of upgrading the thermal management system for the diode laser.  We also report the optical performance of our newly constructed CW Nd:YVO4  and discuss how that performance informs the design of the Q-switched version of this laser.  And lastly, we convey some of the design specifications for the BGSe crystal that will comprise the nonlinear medium of the long wave OPO.


GRIT Garden (Growing Resilience and Inclusivity Together)
Ryanne Welch, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Boston Swan, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Community gardens provide space for the community to come together to grow plants, often fruits and vegetables, for the benefit of the individuals in the community. At Utah Valley University we have many areas of our campus community that benefit from the presence of a community garden. Our food pantry was having difficulty consistently providing fresh produce, our botany courses needed to leave campus for some of their classes, and we needed another way to unite with the surrounding community. To meet these needs, UVU’s GRIT (Growing Resilience and Inclusivity Together) Garden was born. The garden was a dream child of committee members on the UVU sustainability committee. With the help of students, community volunteers, and UVU faculty and staff, this dream became a reality. The current garden has a 100 x 24 ft hoop house, four blocks, each containing 12 beds, two pollinator strips, and a handful of raised gardens. As for our current status in meeting our community’s needs, we’ve donated over 2,000 lbs of produce toward the food pantry including, basil, tomatoes, kale, chard, lettuce, carrots, corn, and many other staples. Several courses have used this space for engaged learning with courses from virology to field botany totaling over 75 students. We’ve had volunteers from the Botany Club at UVU, the UVU Interfaith Council, students from UCAS, and friends and family of involved students and faculty. Along with weekly volunteer gardening hours. We’ve accomplished all of this in less than a year of having a functioning garden, and it’s just the beginning. We hope to provide our food pantry with a minimum of 2,000 lbs of produce each year. Continuing community events will likely be expanded. The garden will be a continuing spark of curiosity and source to educate our community.


Atmospheric Deposition of Microplastics in Utah County.
Matthew Williams, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Sally Rocks, Utah Valley University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Microplastics are defined as plastic particles ranging in size from 5 mm to 1 μm and are a toxic threat to the environment and health of all living things. Primary microplastics have been defined as microplastics resulting from manufacturing. Secondary microplastics occur as a result of broken-down plastics. The plastic cycle is a biogeochemical cycle detailing the complex movement of plastics between abiotic and biotic ecosystems including humans. Important worldwide institutions have declared microplastics a priority for the future health of the planet. Past research has focused primarily on aquatic environments while plastic migration in the air has been understudied. Microplastics have been quantified in rivers and mountains. In the United States, a research project focused on microplastic levels in the Snake and Lower Columbia rivers. In Europe, atmospheric deposition of microplastics was studied in the French Pyrenees as well as urban Paris. The research objective herein was to study and quantify the abundance of atmospheric microplastic deposition through sample collection in stations located throughout Utah Valley. Atmospheric deposition is the main avenue in which microplastic transport occurs. Under the right conditions, plastics can be transported across oceans and continents either in one trip or through resuspension. Microplastic deposition in rural and suburban areas is not fully understood and wet and dry microplastic deposition rates need more study. China, France, Germany, Ireland and the United States have all researched atmospheric deposition of microplastics. Estimates show that microplastics have a high density in cities. Rural areas such as farmland are also affected by microplastics. Utah Valley represents a unique location due to the amount of transportation, the weather and the geography.


Osteoblastic Growth on 3D Surfaces
Sam Wright, Salt Lake Community College

Faculty Mentor: Lane Law, Salt Lake Community College

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

As part of our work on using 3d printing and cell culture, we intend to grow hFOB 1.19 cells onto 3d printed bone models. hFOB 1.19 is an osteoblast cell line used to study human osteoblast differentiation. Successful attachment and proliferation of osteoblasts onto 3d printed components would have the potential to improve bone and orthopedic injury treatments. A dual-marker labeling system using promoter specific expression of fluorescent tags, allows for positive identification of osteoblasts and facilitates imaging of cells. A dual plasmid CRISPR knock-in system was designed for insertion of markers into the hROSA26 locus of the osteoblast cells.


The Reliability of the Stryd Accelerometer on an Incline and Decline
Wesley Ziegler, Southern Utah University

Faculty Mentor: Jeffrey Cowley, Southern Utah University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Modern technology has evolved to include various health and fitness trackers to help people become more aware of their physical wellbeing. However, the reliability of these technologies is not well-established. The purpose of this research was to determine the reliability of Stryd accelerometer during trail running. Participants wore one Stryd accelerometer (model 25; Stryd, Boulder, CO 80301) on the laces on each shoe (left and right), and the devices were started simultaneously. Each participant then did a self-paced out and back run on a moderate difficulty hiking trail. The trail began at approximately 6000 feet elevation and climbed approximately 200 feet/mile. After ten minutes of running up the trail, the participant turned around and returned on the same trail. After the run, the Stryde accelerometers were stopped simultaneously. The Stryd data (distance, altitude, speed, power, form power, cadence, vertical oscillation, and leg stiffness) was exported to csv files and divided into the uphill and downhill phases of the run based on the peak elevation achieved. The within-subjects coefficient of variation and the mean absolute difference for each measure during downhill and uphill trail running was calculated. Of the mentioned variables, six were considered reliable – CV < 0.1 – and three were considered unreliable – CV > 0.1. The least reliable measures were form power (uphill: CV=0.124; downhill: CV=0.126) and power (uphill: CV=0.132; downhill: CV=0.135). As most of the measured variables were statistically similar, the Stryd accelerometer can be considered reliable. However, with three sensors that were statistically unreliable, it is important for the user to know that the Stryd’s advertised ability to measure power output is less reliable on inclines and declines and may provide inaccurate training advice. These findings give reason for further development of the technology.


An alternative data collection method for animal populations
McCade Larsen, Utah Tech University
Hunter Gordon, Utah Tech University
Jace Riley, Utah Tech University

Faculty Mentor: Aaron Davis, Utah Tech University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Tracking animal populations is key to assure that populations are healthy and thriving. Current data collection methods, such as radio tagging, manned aerial flyovers, and camera traps, are not only time-consuming and expensive but also fail to provide accurate population estimates. This interdisciplinary research project aims to produce a more accurate and less expensive data collection system for large game populations. The planned procedure for data collection is to attach a thermal imaging device to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and perform aerial transects throughout the observation area. The imaging device will periodically take images along transects that can be stitched into a complete data set for the area. By using image processing techniques and deep learning models, the images will be processed to show location as well as population counts of the animals in the area. Results from similar experiments have shown that using UAVs to collect population data not only provides more accurate data but also requires less time overall to collect the data. This experiment expands upon those findings, of more accurate data as well as increased efficiency. By the creation of automatic image processing and analysis software to increase the ease of use allowing for more data to be collected and analyzed in the same time period.


Comparison of PM2.5 Levels in Evaporative vs Central Air Homes in Utah County Using Filter-based Sampling
Taylor Christensen, Brigham Young University
Paula Chanthakhoun, Brigham Young University
Taylor Christensen, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Jim Johnston, Brigham Young University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Exposure to particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5) -is associated with varied adverse health effects such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and lung cancer.1 Housing can provide protection from outdoor air pollution, but the level of protection may vary depending on the type of air conditioning system used. In this study, indoor and outdoor air quality were compared between homes utilizing central air conditioning(AC; n=14) and evaporative cooling (EC; n=7). We pre-weighed 37-mm polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) filters (pore size 2.0 μm) then placed them in PM2.5 Personal Environmental Monitors (PEM). To prepare the PEMs, impact plates were greased and each part wiped down with a KIM wipe. Following this, the Leland Legacy Pumps were connected to their assigned PEMs and calibrated to 10 ± 0.1 liters per minute. Indoor and outdoor PM2.5 samples were collected at each study home. Participants were asked to refrain from cooking, burning candles or incense, or vacuuming indoor for 24 hours during the sampling period. PTFE filters were then post-weighed and the Leland pumps were post-calibrated. The PM2.5 concentration was then calculated. EC homes had more PM2.5 on average than AC homes. The indoor to outdoor air pollution ratio (I/O) of AC homes was 0.95, while the I/O of evaporative cooler homes was 1.50. Our data suggest that AC homes in Utah County may not provide significant protection against outdoor air pollution during summer months. Moreover, our findings suggest that evaporative air conditioners may contribute to indoor PM2.5, although the mechanisms behind this are unknown. One explanation is that the large volume of air introduced into EC homes may stir up settled dust in the house. This, in combination with outdoor PM2.5 brought into the home through the evaporative cooler, may explain the I/O ratio greater than 1.0. We are limited by a small sample size. Our next steps include comparing the outdoor PM2.5 concentrations measured in our study to nearby reference monitors operated by the Utah Division of Air Quality, and adding more homes to the study in summer 2023.
Thygerson, S. M., Beard, J. D., House, M. J., Smith, R. L., Burbidge, H. C., Andrus, K. N., Weber, F. X., Chartier, R., & Johnston, J. D. (2019). Air-quality assessment of on-site brick-kiln worker housing in Bhaktapur, Nepal: Chemical speciation of indoor and outdoor PM2.5 pollution. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(21), 4114.


Ryan Moser, Weber State University

Faculty Mentor: Kristen Arnold, Weber State University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

With the design of this new building for Encircle the hopes is that not only will the people who enter and become apart of the Encircle family will help these adolescents, but the design will also make an impact. Incorporating some of the elements and attributions of biophilic design, environmental features (color, water, air, sunlight, plants, natural materials), natural shapes and forms (columnar supports, arches, shapes resisting straight lines, biomimicry), and Light and Space (Natural light, warm light, light and shadow, spatial harmony) will not only help to create that sense of connection to nature but to compliment the environmental psychology and support people’s need for “nature”. Some theories clarify the process by which contact with “nature” triggers the development of physical and mental functions.  Some of these theories include the Place attachment theory, Stress Recovery Theory, The Biophilia Theory, and the Attention Restoration Theory. (Zhong, Schroder, Bekkering, 2021). Another element incorporated into the design of the project will be making a conscious effort into differentiating light levels in different spaces can help with working tasks, activities that require attention and mindfulness, resting and relaxation areas (especially for therapy sessions as well as individual residential rooms), mood lighting in the restaurant so that customers can feel comfortable and at ease, and brighter lights in shopping areas that can increase alertness, excitement, happiness, and interest. (Zeng, Sun, Yu, Un, 2022). Lastly, ergonomics will play an important role. Ergonomic and anthropometric measurements can be applied so that users of a all ages can enjoy their surrounding space, leisure activities and the comfort of equipment and furniture. Proportion and spacial needs will be considered and implemented to create safe, manageable and improved quality of life. (Shamailegh, 2022).



Active Minds at The University
Sadie Wood, Weber State University

Faculty Mentor: Kristen Arnold, Weber State University

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

There is a lack of affordable resources and mental health facilities for individuals in Utah. A mental health crisis is currently occurring in the state. Evidence has shown that Utah is the number one state where citizens struggle with mental health the most, with “…just under 30% of adults in the last year suffering from the problem,” according to “The US Health Report of 2022,” completed by NiceRX. According to Utah’s Public Data Health Resource, IBIS, “The promotion of mental health involves actions that create living conditions and environments that support mental health and allow people to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles.” Therefore, the Leroy E. Cowles Building will be transformed to support the Active Minds nonprofit organization where college-aged individuals may access mental health resources. Research has been conducted to create an evidence-based design for the adaptive reuse project involving the Cowles Building. Such evidence-based design includes providing aromatherapy in spaces to encourage physical and physiological health in occupants (Lizarraga-Valderrama, 2020). Additional evidence-based design includes biophilic aspects incorporated into spaces, such as natural shapes and forms, patterns, light, and organic materials to promote health benefits (Birrell, 2014). A third researched concept will be incorporated by using color in wayfinding to lessen stress of visitors (McLachlan, Leng, 2021). A final evidence-based design concept will be shown through providing self-care spaces with biophilic aspects to improve the lifestyles of those living with mental illness, especially depression (Huntsman, et al, 2022). Each of these evidence-based design concepts will promote the mental health of occupants visiting the Cowles building through resources provided by Active Minds and the University of Utah.



The Synthesis of Lysergic Acid via a Photoelectrocyclization
Aidan Connor, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Jon  Rainier, University of Utah

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)

Cyclizations are important reactions in organic chemistry (1). They can create cyclic and polycyclic structures in a single transformation and are widely used in the chemical industry. (2,4). Electrocyclization reactions, a particular type of cyclization reaction, can be initiated using thermal or photochemical conditions (like UV light). Controlling these conditions can lead to the generation of multiple bonds, often with high diastereoselectivity. Currently, the main method to synthesize phenanthrene systems, which are polycyclic aromatic carbons, involves using heavy metal reagents, such as Grubbs catalysts for metathesis reactions (6). Since photochemical reactions use light as their reagent, they can be a useful workaround for the synthesis of these systems, which helps to minimize unnecessary reagents or hazardous waste. While photochemical reactions have been studied since the 1960s for the synthesis of phenanthrene (5), recently the Rainier group has expanded on the use of these reactions to synthesize more complex derivatives of 8,9-dihydrophenanthrenes (3). Further study could increase the current scope of photochemical electrocyclizations to cover a broad range of complex systems and potentially lead to more efficient syntheses of a variety of natural products. Additionally, the synthesis and experimentation of these more complex systems could lead to a deeper understanding of the fundamental electrocyclization reactivity. For this research project, I specifically plan on using photochemical electrocyclizations in an attempt to synthesize Lysergic Acid. Lysergic Acid is a precursor to many important drugs that are used to treat depression, anxiety, and addiction (7). Currently, complex synthesis methods are necessary to produce Lysergic Acid, if the ability to use UV light as a reagent was discovered, the chemical process of synthesizing Lysergic Acid would be greatly simplified.


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Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research 2023 - Program by Office of Undergraduate Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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