Research Presentations - 2010-11
John Deere Chapter of Sigma Xi

6:30 - 8:30 pm, Thursday, January 27, 2011
Hanson Science Hall, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois

New associate members of the chapter will present either a 10 minute talk or a poster that describes the research that they have been doing.  Here is the online form for submitting the abstract.  The deadline is Friday, Jan. 21, 2011.

Below is the list of talks and posters that will be presented by the new associate members of the chapter inducted on Dec. 1.

This page will evolve into the official program for Jan. 27 in that it will include the schedule of talks, the descriptions, list of posters and their descriptions.  During the evening, the posters will be on display in the Atrium of the Science Building.  The students displaying posters will be introduced after the final talk.  Then, in the Atrium, we will have refreshments, view the posters, and enjoy conversation with all of the presenters.

Talk"Thromboembolism in Children"
Katherine Voigt
Texas Children's Hospital, Mentors: Dr. David Poplack, Dr. Lisa Bomgaars, Dr. Mona Shah; Augustana advisors: Dr. Heidi Storl and Dr. Dara Wegman-Geedey

In the pediatric population, thromboembolism is often underrecognized, but with significant contribution to morbidity and mortality. Since pediatric studies are rare, treatments are often extrapolated from adult studies often including off-label use of anticoagulants. A systematic evaluation of the patients affected by pediatric thromboembolism is critical in determining co-morbidities, assessing accurate diagnosis, and evaluating different treatments. The Thrombosis Registry at Texas Children’s Hospital was initiated in July 2010 via retrospective chart review of 49 eligible pediatric patients hospitalized from January 2008 to March 2009.

Talk"Targeted Next Generation Sequence Analysis of 19q13 for the Familial Wilms Tumor Predisposition Gene FWT2 "
Kate Dempsey
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. E. Cristy Ruteshouser, Dr. Vicki Huff, Dr. Heidi Storl

Wilms tumor (WT) is the most common form of pediatric kidney cancer and is thought to arise from embryonal tissue. The etiology of WT is heterogeneous. Multiple genes have been found to have an effect on WT tumorigenesis, but are rarely associated with familial WT. There are at least three familial WT genes. FWT1 and FWT2 have been localized. Through linkage analysis, the region for FWT2 has been narrowed to 3.4Mb. We have used next generation sequencing to analyze this region for sequence variants in affected members of families linked to this region. The introns, exons and CpG islands in a 7.8Mb region encompassing the 3.4Mb region of interest in two WT families were extensively analyzed and no significant variants were found thus far.

Talk"Characterization of PepN Active Site Amino Acids"
Kevin Pettit
Augustana College, Dr. Patrick Crawford

Researchers in 2002 first claimed that Aminopeptidase N, or PepN, is the primary enzyme responsible for the cleavage of marked polypeptides in E. coli. The purpose of this ongoing project is to investigate at least two of the amino acid structural components of PepN in order to determine what importance they have and, if possible, what role they play in the function of the enzyme. Using site-directed mutagenesis and gene expression, amino acid components are selectively altered within the PepN active site, the part of the enzyme that interacts with its polypeptide substrates. Then, the project explores the way in which the mutation of these components affects the function of the PepN molecule. The purpose of research is to mutate, replicate, and isolate the PepN gene that will produce the altered protein for our mutant selections and then analyze the protein products for functional differences.

Poster"The Ability of Maple Syrup to Act as an Antimicrobial Agent"
Amanda Witt
St. Ambrose University, Shannon Mackey

Antibiotics have been around for less than a century, and already have created a growing problem in the bacterial community. As the number of bacterial species that develop antibiotic resistance continues to grow, it increasingly stresses that the medical community find novel ways to treat infections. However, pharmaceutical companies have done little to find new antibiotics that are more effective for inhibiting these resistant bacteria. Yet, recent academic research has found many unconventional ways to help combat resistant bacteria. One such product that has been studied and found to be an effective antimicrobial agent is honey. Honey has many different properties, including phenolic compounds, organic acids, and a high viscosity; all of which contribute to its antimicrobial ability. A product that has not been tested as an antimicrobial agent is maple syrup. Maple syrup is similar to honey, in fact it also contains phenolic compounds, organic acids, and has a high viscosity. This study will look at the effect of maple syrup on different bacterial species to see if it has an inhibitory effect. It is hypothesized that maple syrup will inhibit the growth and proliferation of bacteria. The first test will determine the minimum inhibitory concentration of maple syrup for four different bacteria. After the MIC has been determined, other tests will be preformed to see if maple syrup can breakdown or prevent biofilm formation. Finally an interdisciplinary study may be organized with the chemistry department to determine which component gives maple syrup its antibacterial property.

Poster"The Influence of Body Mass on Ammonia Excretion Rates in Bluegill"
Nathan Treichel
Green Wing Environmental Laboratory, Dr. Kevin Geedey

Urea excretion by fish is an important part of the nitrogen cycle, as nitrogen can be an important factor in the growth of algae and bacteria. Also, controlling ammonia concentrations is important in both lakes and the aquariums. I investigated the factors that control the ammonia excretion rate in bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus). I used Bluegill from the main pond at Green Wing Environmental Laboratory (Amboy, Illinois) where they were grouped together based on their weight. Samples were then taken 4 hours apart to measure the total change in the amount of ammonia in their tanks. Contrary to published values for other species, it was found that Bluegill that weigh more have a higher excretion rate on a per gram body mass basis.

Talk"Development of a High-Throughput Screen for Rotavirus Antiviral Drugs Targeting Nonstructural Protein 4 (NSP4) Viroporin Activity"
Benjamin Zimmerman
Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Mary Estes

Rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrhea in children worldwide. The viral enterotoxin of rotavirus, non structural protein 4 (NSP4) has been identified as a viroporin, a type of virus-encoded protein that forms aqueous pores in membranes in order to change ion gradients in a cell. Finding a drug to inhibit the action of NSP4 would serve as a starting point to develop antiviral drugs for rotavirus infections. In this study, the pore forming domain of NSP4 was expressed in bacteria using a pBAD vector. Using a solid media assay, a small library of drugs was spotted onto plates of NSP4 expressing bacteria. Certain drugs cause visible halos of rescued bacteria, which may indicate that the drugs are effectively inhibiting NSP4 activity. Using these “halos,” specific drugs may be targeted as candidates to synthesize more effective inhibitors in order to develop human antiviral drugs.

Talk"Does Length of Stream Reach Affect the Categorization of Streams?"
Miles Lampo, Ryan Biesterfeld and Nichola Justen
Rock Island County, Dr. Kevin Geedy

While assessing headwater streams for the Hydroecology core research project, we found out that we kept running into legal constraints and couldn't always assess a full thirty meters like the Oregon Stream Assessment form suggests. The purpose for our small group project was to determine if an assessed 5 m reach will score the same or fall in the same category as an assessed 30 m reach. We came up with this idea at one of the sites that we visited for the core research project where the top 15 m was completely dry the second 15 m had continuous surface flow derived from a spring. When we saw this site, we saw that if the top 5 m was the only part scored our Oregon Streamflow score would have been significantly lower and most likely in a different classification category.

Talk"Potential Method for Higher Accuracy in Stream Mapping"
Jason Lindberg, Taylor Riley, Kyle Wilm and Conrad Newell
Rock Island County, Dr. Kevin Geedey

The Clean Water Act cannot achieve its full potential if the actual starting locations of perennial and intermittent streams is unknown. Current maps do not accurately display the areas of continuous surface water that flows throughout the country. An alternative method for mapping these streams has been formulated by Augustana’s Hydroecology Class in order to better show the extent of these streams for more effective protection of the United States’ waterways. This new stream mapping method was created through the use of a GIS regression equation based on factors determined through both GIS calculations and data gathered in the field.

Poster"Determining Red-Winged Blackbird Territory Size"
Kirsten Bjornson
Green Wing Environmental Laboratory, Amboy, IL, Dr. Kevin C. Geedey

Aguelaius phoeniceus, otherwise known as red-winged blackbirds (RWBB) are frequently seen by the pond at Augustana's Green Wing Laboratory. To protect their territory, male RWBB were exhibiting specific behaviors. Studies have suggested that females are more likely to choose their mates depending on territory quality. Therefore, I hypothesized that those male RWBB who had the most dominating characteristics would be more likely to hold the territory with the best quality. Assuming that the larger territories would have more vegetation, I compared 6 male RWBB dominating characteristics to the size of their territories. Persistency, song frequency, and aggression were measured. While it was observed that neither song frequency nor aggression correlated with territory size, persistency significantly correlated. Unexpectedly, the correlation between persistency and territory size opposed the hypothesis, being that those RWBB with larger territories had smaller persistence. The results allow further inquiry for how RWBB territory size is determined.

Talk"The Artificial Biome: Soil Respiration in Transition"
Shane Solger
Green Wing Environmental Laboratory, Dr. Kevin Geedey

As of recent, the issue regarding global warming has grown increasingly more prevalent. As such, it is important to define areas in which humanity's tampering may negatively affect our atmosphere. A vast amount of CO2 in our atmosphere can be attributed to the respiration coming from the soil, and this respiration varies depending on where you are measuring. My work involves measuring the respiration of the soil in a pine forest and an adjacent prairie that had recently been planted, to see if there existed a gradient between the two areas with regards to soil respiration, and to see if there were any factors that I could attribute to a gradient if it were discovered to exist. I could not say with confidence that a gradient did or did not exist, given the fact that the data collected for the first run contradicted the data found during the second. While this was most likely due to the recent weather, I believe that with more stable conditions a definitive answer might be obtained regarding the potential for a soil respiration gradient, so that one might see how the artificial biome might have changed the soil. From this, other research might be conducted to help implement remedial or preventative techniques that might decrease the impact of global warming.