2004 Abstracts


June 2, 2004

Kaul, Bhavika. 2004. Effects of Amygdala Lesion and Reduced Serotonin Level in Rat Behavior. (Dr. Brad Keele- Neuroscience and Psychology).

As the depression and suicide rate increases around the world, the role of the brain in such disorders has come under increased scrutiny. Over the past years, the amygdala, a part of the limbic system in the brain, and serotonin, a type of neurotransmitter found in the amygdala, have been linked to fear and nervous reactions within humans. Low levels of serotonin is suggested to be one of the neural correlates in psychiatric conditions involving problems with aggression such as antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression and suicide. In this study, Keele Lab group focused on analyzing the roles that low serotonin in the amygdala and lesioning the amygdala play in rat behavior. We injected the amygdalas of rats with either NMDA/KA (kills the amygdala) or 5,7 DHT (reduces the level of serotonin in the amygdala) and performed three tests for anxiety and aggression: the elevated plus maze test, open field test and resident intruder test. Our results suggest that lesioning the amygdala significantly reduces the anxiety-like behavior seen in rats and also abolishes aggressive behavior, suggesting that the amygdala is critical for aggressive behavior in this model. Specifically, it is low serotonin in the amygdala that is critical for producing the aggressive behavior associated with disinhibition that parallels impulsive aggression in psychiatric patients. Hopefully, this model, along with many future studies, will help research that can impact the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders involving impulsive aggression.

Mallela, Archana. 2004. Using animal models to examine the causes of impulsive-aggressive behavior. (Dr. Brad Keele-Neuroscience and Psychology).

As the number of serial killers and psychopaths increase in number around the world each year, the question of what causes their impulsive-aggressive behavior has come under close examination. The Keele lab group wanted to learn more about the behavior of impulsive-aggressive humans such as psychopaths and criminals by using rats as animal models. By injecting individually-housed rats with PCPA, which inhibits the production of serotonin, and saline, a control, we were able to conduct two main studies which were fear conditioning and resident-intruder tests. As predicted, our results for fear conditioning showed that the individually-housed rats had increased aggression, and therefore had no fear-potentiated startle response. However, we found no difference in aggressive behaviors between the PCPA and saline rats. Using rats as animal models to learn more about impulsive-aggressive behavior has become an extremely useful tool in the past few years. Our research might just be one of the basic steps in understanding more about aggression, and we might one day be able to prevent psychological crimes.

Bratteli, Paul. 2004. Eigenvectors, Eigenvalues, and Solving Linear Equations. (Dr. Ron Morgan - Mathematics).

Solving Linear Equations has become extremely complex in many Physics equations, and can take enormous amounts of time to calculate. Mathematicians use iterative methods and computer programs to speed up the process, but in certain circumstances there is still a vast amount of time spent on these calculations. This amount of time can range anywhere from a few minutes to thousands of hours. One of the more common methods used for these calculations is the Biconjugate Gradient Method (BCG). This method requires more and more iterations and computing time for negative eigenvalues and small eigenvalues. It is therefore logically possible to deflate, or shift, the more problematic values to more manageable sizes. Using MATLAB, this hypothesis was tested and proved for certain matrices. However, no one method is currently available to reduce the iterations on all possible matrices. We did notice that as the eigenvalues were shifted further and further away from zero, the effectiveness of the method began to decrease. Using deflation in the BCG method will hopefully dramatically reduce calculation times for linear equations.

Grohmann, Nathan C. 2004. Synthesis of Combretastatin and Colchicine analogues as Vascular Targeting Agents. (Dr. Kevin G. Pinney - Organic Chemistry).

Although cancer rates in the United States are declining, more than 1,368,000 Americans will learn that they have the disease this year, and more than 563,700 Americans will die. However, a possible cure for this killer may soon be readily available in the form of a new family of potent anti-cancer compounds known as Vascular Targeting Agents (VTAs). VTAs induce necrosis in tumor cells by cutting off the blood supply of the cells. Without sufficient blood supply, the tumor cells are starved of nutrients and oxygen and will subsequently die. Two new families of drugs, the Combretastatins and the Colchicines, show promise as VTAs. Remarkably, these drugs only affect the immature, rapidly proliferating endothelial cells that line blood vessels in tumors. Once the VTA prodrug enters these endothelial cells, the molecules bind to the protein tubulin and inhibit its polymerization into microtubules. Without internal skeletons (microtubules) to maintain their elongated shape, the endothelial cells' morphology changes from a flattened, streamlined shape to a rounded, bloated profile. The distended endothelial cells effectively obstruct the capillaries and inhibit the blood flow necessary to feed the patient's tumor. Although existing VTAs have shown excellent anti-tumor properties, new but analogous compounds may be more biologically active than their parent molecule and exhibit less side effects. Two such structures are 1-(4-Hydroxy-3-methoxy-phenyl)-5-(3,4,5,-trimethoxy-phenyl)-penta-1,4-diyn-3-one (analogous to Combretastatin) and 3-Methoxy-9-(3,4,5-trimethoxy-phenyl)-6,7-dihydro-5H-benzocycloheptene (analogous to Colchicine). Eight major reactions were carried out in order to synthesize these compounds. Unfortunately, however, due to time constraints and other matters, neither of the two products was produced. With sufficient time, though, these two, new compounds will be synthesized and their viability tested as Vascular Targeting Agents.

Liang, Shichao. Proving the Benzyne Intermediate: Reacting Chlorotoluene Isomers with Bases. (Dr. Charles M. Garner - Biochemistry).

One method of producing phenol is through the Dow Process, which includes a benzyne intermediate produced from chlorobenzene reacting with a base. Because of the instability of the benzyne intermediate, proof of the intermediate is difficult. By reacting isomers of chlorotoluene with strong bases, it is possible to prove the existence of the benzyne intermediate through analysis of the product isomers. Ortho-chlorotoluene forms ortho and meta isomers and para-chlorotoluene forms para and meta isomers, while meta-chlorotoluene forms all three isomers. In this project, two bases are used: tert-butoxide in both dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and dimethyl formamide (DMF) solvents, and lithium diisopropylamide (LDA) in tetrahydrofuran solvent. In this reaction, the base acts as a nucleophile, which removes a hydrogen and the chlorine to yield the methyl benzyne structure. For preparation of the tert-butoxide solution, solid potassium tert-butoxide is transferred into 10 mL volumetric flasks in inert and dry atmosphere (argon). Anhydrous dimethyl sulfoxide is then transferred via cannula into the flasks. The needed solution is transferred into 5 mL conical vials along with the chlorotoluenes. The vials are heated in an oil bath at approximately constant temperature. After the reaction, the samples are treated with water to remove polar substances (DMSO, KCl, OtBu), and with hexane to generate an organic layer. This layer is drawn off and filtered through sodium sulfate to remove any excess water. The samples are then analyzed in a gas chromatograph for product peaks. The various isomers have characteristic retention times between 10:30 and 10:50 minutes. The reagent appears at 5:45 minutes. Based upon reaction results, it seems that DMSO does not significantly improve reaction cleanliness, but increases reactivity. LDA seems to be the most promising reagent, with complete reactivity.

Marinelli, Eugene. 2004. Effects of Particle Size and Polydispersion on Complex Plasma Crystal Structure and Phase Transition. (Dr. Truell Hyde and Dr. Lorin Matthews - Physics).

Over the past decade, studies of particle interactions in complex plasmas have had applications in analyzing astrophysical environments and optimizing plasma-aided semiconductor fabrication. When dust particles are interspersed in plasma, they acquire a negative charge. If the ratio of interparticle potential energy to thermal energy is sufficient, the particles form an ordered structure called a plasma crystal. Variations in the properties of the dust particles affect the properties of the plasma crystals that they form. The objective of our research was to determine the effect of particle size and polydispersion on plasma crystal structure and phase transition. We tested 6-micron melamine formaldehyde microspheres, 9-micron melamine formaldehyde microspheres, disperse glass dust ranging from 3-micron to 10-micron, and a mixture of 9-micron and 6-micron particles at pressures ranging from 50 mTorr to 1 Torr and relative voltages ranging from 50 mV to 150 mV. Analysis of pair correlation functions generated from digital images of the plasma crystals formed by these particles showed that phase transition energy was proportional to particle size and that phase transition pressure was inversely proportional to particle size. The effect of polydispersion was ambiguous; the polydisperse 9 micron-6 micron mixture produced the most ordered structures while the polydisperse glass dust produced the least ordered structures. These results will prompt further investigation into the effect of various forms and degrees of polydispersion on plasma crystals.

Shaw, Scott. 2004. Fluid Flow Detection of Magnetorheological Fluids. (Dr. Ian Gravagne - Engineering).

Many modern-day appliances use friction to carry out their functions. Many of these are beginning to utilize magnetorheological fluids, which can reduce wear and tear caused by friction and increase the longevity of an appliance. Magnetorheological fluids consist of metal particles mixed with some form of synthetic oil. These fluids depend on magnetic fields, which are applied to the liquids to adjust the viscosity by aligning the metal particles into chains that form fibrous structures. These structures resist liquid flow and increase the viscosity of the liquid, and, if desired, the viscosity can be increased until the liquid is nearly a solid. However, one cannot open a magnetorheological system each time it is used to verify that the correct flow rate, and therefore the correct viscosity and resistance, is achieved. Non-contact methods of measuring the flow rate of the liquids can help improve adjusting methods of magnetorheological fluid-driven appliances.

Rahman, Aniq. 2004. Bonding of Bovine Meniscus with Organic Compounds. (Dr. Carolyn Skurla - Biomechanical Engineering).

The fibrocartilage structure of the meniscus plays an important role in absorbing shocks and load transmissions in the body. Tears in the meniscus can cause impairments on mobility and excruciating pain which usually calls for undergoing surgical procedures such as arthroscopic menistectomy. Such procedures elevate the risk of bone damage which can potentially lead to conditions such as osteoarthritis. Using organic compounds to induce bonding, meniscus tears in avascular regions could heal under blood supply from synovial fluids. Using several different compounds (dimethyl formamide, dimethyl sulfoxide, saline, Lucifer Yellow, riboflavin, flavin mononucleotide and JZ-11), meniscus were tested for shear stress using an axial displacement machine. Meniscus sections were sliced into sections of roughly 20 Śm with 30 ŚL of compound transferred onto two overlapped slides and light-treated under a mercury lamp for six minutes. The finished bond was measured and the axial force required to break the bond was noted in a study which aimed to find the consistently strongest bonding compound. Based on the research, it was found that some compounds greatly outperformed others. However, further experimentation is necessary in order to quantify our results. This research will be continued with new compounds being created and being tested, along with modifications to existing experimental procedures. This research will greatly benefit those with knee injuries, especially injuries which occur in the avascular zones of menisci.

Bernard, Tracy. 2004. The health effects of a low carbohydrate diet. (Dr. LuAnn Soliah and Dr. Janelle Walter - Family and Consumer Science).

Despite the blatant nutritional differences between Atkins and the widely accepted FDA guidelines, the low-carbohydrate diet has gained phenomenal popularity among the public. Due to its recent development, the long-term effects of Atkins, a high fat and high protein diet, are unknown, potentially leaving millions of Atkins participants at risk. The objective of this research project was to determine three things. First, how exactly does the Atkins diet compare with the FDA guidelines? Second, what metabolic changes result from a low-carb diet, particularly in the short-term? Third, what criteria, if any, are there for carbohydrate labeling and marketing? Our research showed that the Atkins nutritional approach is almost an inverse of the recommendations set by the FDA and AHA. Furthermore, we found that the Atkins nutritional approach advocates and strives for a dangerous medical condition known as ketosis. When the body is starved of glucose, ketosis is the body's natural act of preservation. However, if the body remains in a state of ketosis for more than two weeks there are many negative side-effects. The brain and nervous system, fueled almost entirely of glucose, become starved and enormous stress is placed on the kidneys. We also noted that there are currently no guidelines regulating carbohydrate labeling and usage of terms such as "low-carb" "net-carb" and "carblite" on food labels. These discoveries lead to the conclusion that balance and moderation remain the key to success in weight loss, weight maintenance, and optimal health.


Garg, Ooshma. 2004. Enriching the world's largest rodent: the capybara. (Heidi Marcum - Environmental Studies)

The enrichment of animals is gaining more and more attention over time as it aims to provide environmental stimuli for the optimal well-being of a species in captivity. In order to advance an animal's physiological and psychological well-being, animal behaviorists are providing an increasingly natural habitat for captive individuals. In a study to enrich the world's largest rodent, the Capybara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris), we began by developing a profile of the capybara's macroniche that enumerates vital information of the its life in its natural environment. This macroniche, along with preliminary observations without enrichment, helped us to determine our preferred method of enrichment to achieve our goal of increasing the capybara's diurnal behavior and decreasing its excessive inactivity. Throughout our study, we used an instantaneous sampling method and observed a focal dyad of capybara. In order to accomplish our goals we placed various vegetables, such as carrots, lettuce, collard greens, and spinach, throughout the capybara's habitat. We found that our study design encouraged natural behaviors such as wading and foraging in both animals and caprophagy in the male. Additional research will be necessary to increase our understanding of the capybara's caprophagous behavior and design further activities optimal enrichment opportunities. Nonetheless, we concluded that enrichment was not only successful with capybaras, but also that their enrichment is easily viable, since it takes little money and time to administer.


Grohmann, Nathan C. 2004. Synthesis of Combretastatin and Colchicine analogues as Vascular Targeting Agents. (Dr. Kevin G. Pinney - Organic Chemistry)

Although cancer rates in the United States are declining, more than 1,368,000 Americans will learn that they have the disease this year, and more than 563,700 Americans will die. However, a possible cure for this killer may soon be readily available in the form of a new family of potent anti-cancer compounds known as Vascular Targeting Agents (VTAs). VTAs induce necrosis in tumor cells by cutting off the blood supply of the cells. Without sufficient blood supply, the tumor cells are starved of nutrients and oxygen and will subsequently die. Two new families of drugs, the Combretastatins and the Colchicines, show promise as VTAs. Remarkably, these drugs only affect the immature, rapidly proliferating endothelial cells that line blood vessels in tumors. Once the VTA prodrug enters these endothelial cells, the molecules bind to the protein tubulin and inhibit its polymerization into microtubules. Without internal skeletons (microtubules) to maintain their elongated shape, the endothelial cells' morphology changes from a flattened, streamlined shape to a rounded, bloated profile. The distended endothelial cells effectively obstruct the capillaries and inhibit the blood flow necessary to feed the patient's tumor. Although existing VTAs have shown excellent anti-tumor properties, new but analogous compounds may be more biologically active than their parent molecule and exhibit less side effects. Two such structures are 1-(4-Hydroxy-3-methoxy-phenyl)-5-(3,4,5,-trimethoxy-phenyl)-penta-1,4-diyn-3-one (analogous to Combretastatin) and 3-Methoxy-9-(3,4,5-trimethoxy-phenyl)-6,7-dihydro-5H-benzocycloheptene (analogous to Colchicine). Eight major reactions were carried out in order to synthesize these compounds. Unfortunately, however, due to time constraints and other matters, neither of the two products was produced. With sufficient time, though, these two, new compounds will be synthesized and their viability tested as Vascular Targeting Agents.