July 21, 2016

McNair summer research scholars earn awards

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – A senior in biological sciences is the winner of this year’s McNair Scholars Summer Research Symposium at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

Norris Akpan, of Dunlap, will receive a $150 award for her project titled “The Effects of Probiotic Bacteria on Subjects Following Traumatic Brain Injury.” Her faculty mentor was Michael Hylin, assistant professor of psychology. 

The project concentrated on the growing body of knowledge concerning the relationship between gut bacteria and brain function and other aspects of health in the human body. For this research study, the researchers looked at probiotic bacteria with a goal of examining the relationship between the probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus reuteri, and inflammation of the brain following a traumatic brain injury. The researchers examined glial cells in particular, looking to measure the relative amount of inflammation following the injuries. 

The annual symposium, held July 15, highlights the work of SIU undergraduates in the McNair Summer Research Institute. The research institute is an intensive eight-week program during which the scholars work with their mentors to master advanced research skills, including fieldwork and literature review, compiling data, and writing research papers.  

This year, the event included 12 oral presentations from McNair Scholars on topics ranging from migrant education programs to brain injury to the portrayal of African-American women in reality television. 

The McNair Scholars Program is named for the late Ronald E. McNair, a physicist and astronaut who died in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The program provides enriched instruction for first-generation or otherwise underserved students. It emphasizes strong mentoring, professional development and research opportunities that promote academic excellence and encourage success at the graduate level.  

Other award recipients, with the title of their research and mentor were: 

  • Second place: Baylen Earles, a senior in biological sciences from Carbondale, for “Electrophysiological Assessment of Long-Term Potentiation Using in-Vitro Hippocampal Slices.” His mentor was Greg Rose, director of the Center for Integrated Research. Earles will receive a $100 award.
  • Third place: Lloyd Coakley, a junior in anthropology from Belleville, for “Assessing the Relationship between Hypermasculinity/Aggression and Mental Illness (Anxiety) in Men.” His mentor was Tawanda Greer-Medley, associate professor of psychology. Coakley will receive a $75 award.
  • Fourth place: Shayla Brown, a senior in psychology from Sparta, for “The Role of Perceived Stress and Social Support on Students’ Decision to Persist at a University.” Her mentor was Meera Komarraju, professor of psychology. Brown will receive a $50 award. 

Students who also made presentations include: 

  • Danette Abernathy, a senior in psychology from Chester. Her project was titled “Siblings, Birth Order, and Family Climate and the Effects of Depression and Anxiety in Children.” Her mentor was Lisabeth Dilalla, professor of psychology.
  • Yahaira Heller Vargas, a senior, in political science from Chicago. Vargas’ project was titled “Exploration of Migrant Education Program Implementation in the State of Illinois.” Vargas’ mentor was Tobin Grant, professor of political science.
  • Jordan Holman, a senior in television, and digital media radio from Ferguson, Mo. Her project was titled “Love & Hip Hop and the Portrayal of Black Women.” Her mentor was Novotny Lawrence, associate professor of radio, television, and digital media.
  • Rudy Bacette, a junior in psychology from Evanston. His project was titled “Examining the Effectiveness of Specific Mental Health Stigma Measures vs. General Mental Health Stigma Measure.” His mentor was Chad Drake, assistant professor of psychology.
  • Trevor Keen, a senior in physics from Centralia. His project was titled “Initially Correlated Open Quantum Systems and their Applications.” His mentor was Mark Byrd, professor of physics.
  • Daniel Morales, a senior in zoology from Mount Prospect. His project was titled “Testing for Ranavirus and Chytrid Fungus Interaction and Facilitation of Co-Infection in Amphibians.” His mentor was Robin Warne, assistant professor of zoology.
  • Emily Peterson, a senior in civil engineering from Mulberry Grove. Her project was titled “Optimization of the Hydrothermal Liquefaction Process using K2CO3 as the Catalyst for Pre-Washed Solids.” Her mentor was Yanna Liang, professor of civil and environmental engineering.
  • Jorden Thomas, a senior in psychology from Thomaston, Ga. Her project was titled “Does the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure Predict Interaction with People Diagnosed with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?” Her mentor was Chad Drake, assistant professor of psychology. 

Judges for this year’s event were: 

Sandy Pensoneau-Conway, assistant professor of communication studies; Rene Poitevin, coordinator for the Hispanic/Latino Resource Center in the Center for Inclusive Excellence; Magan Snowden, graduate student in community health education; Bethany E. Thurman, graduate student in anthropology and Simone Roby, graduate student in psychology.