Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021 | 2:00pm – 3:15pm

Breakout Session 1:

Biological Sciences, Environmental Science, & Aerospace Engineering

 1.  Timing of Birth and the Expression of Genes in Serotonin Signaling 

        Presenter(s): Zamira Caldwell (McNair Scholar, University at Buffalo) 

The timing of human birth is difficult to predict compared to other species due to evolutionary differences. While the causes of these specific differences have been identified, the data collected on gene expression in the mother and fetus hasn’t been synthesized enough to be directly applied to predicting the timing of birth. This is detrimental because “preterm birth is the leading cause of infant and under 5 year old child mortality worldwide” and without a precise understanding of how gene expression changes throughout pregnancy, we cannot adequately prevent it. We examined the location and expression of the genes involved in serotonin signaling pathways using the Single Cell Gene Expression Atlas to figure out which cells express serotonin receptors, how this expression changes throughout pregnancy, and how it differs in humans compared to other mammals with placentas. Understanding where these genes are expressed, in the mother’s cells or placental cells, and what their role is during normal pregnancies and those with complications will make it possible to decrease the rates of preterm births and develop ways to treat conditions that lead to increased risk of preterm births. 

2.   Cortisol Reactivity as a Precursor to Social Problem-Solving 
        Presenter(s): Marissa Hendrickson (McNair Scholar, The University of Rochester) 

This independent research study centers around social development. It is theorized that cortisol production (which leads to an increase in available resources to the body and brain), in response to stressful situations, helps the brain process/consolidate information from the environment and aids in the ability to construct responses to challenging situations. Using cortisol reactivity (a measure of cortisol production in response to cognitively stressful tasks) and STEP-P Provocation (a series of videos and questions used to measure social problem-solving), findings show that cortisol reactivity was associated with lower interpersonal hostility (less endorsement of behaviors that show intent to harm a peer) and marginally associated with greater constructive problem-solving (the ability to devise constructive solutions to social situations and/or regulate one’s emotions). Cortisol reactivity, however, was not associated with hostile intent attribution (attribution negative/malevolent intent to someone else’s actions). This study was done with 100 children ages 4-6. 

3.    Infrared Position Sensing for an Adaptive Treadmill 
         Presenter(s): Anoop Kiran (McNair Scholar, University at Buffalo) 

Adaptive treadmills improve virtual reality (VR) immersion by creating a realistic walking experience. These devices measure the position of the user to regulate the speed of the treadmill based on their pace. Often, expensive position-sensing systems based on image processing, such as VICON, are utilized for this task. Our research investigates the feasibility of using inexpensive infrared (IR) range sensor, but IR sensors often struggle to get an accurate position estimate, which we look to resolve by interpreting signals from multiple sensors. This presentation will discuss the adoption of adaptive treadmill technology based on results from our sensor comparison test.

4.   Cognitive Impairments of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence: A Review 
         Presenter(s): Tasnim Tarannum (McNair Scholar, University at Buffalo) 

One in four women has suffered intimate partner violence (IPV) while one in five experiences severe physical violence (CDC, 2020). Intimate partner violence is violence perpetrated by a current intimate partner which can lead to mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), which is a physical hit to the head. One critical aspect that is often overlooked in the healthcare setting is the effects of IPV-related mTBI on the health and daily participation of survivors. This narrative review examines the cognitive effects of mTBI in survivors of IPV. This review also discusses how impaired cognition can impact participation such as engagement in daily functioning in survivors of IPV-related mTBI. Data regarding IPV, mTBI, and participation were extracted. Ten scholarly articles state that IPV-related mTBI causes cognitive impairment in survivors. IPV-related mTBI can damage parts of the brain, but a scholarly article on sports-related injuries reveals that sports-related mTBI is linked to weakened daily participation in athletes. For survivors of IPV, there is no research published on how IPV-related mTBI affects daily participation. Therefore, more research is needed to learn more about the effect of mTBI on survivors and remediate the effects of mTBI on survivors of IPV. 

5.   Super-Wicking Super-Absorbing Surfaces for Water Desalination and Purification 
       Presenter(s): Joshua Teague (McNair Scholar, The University of Rochester) 

Water is arguably the single most fundamental human resource. However, it is estimated that one third of individuals across the planet have limited access to clean drinking water. Solar-based water sanitation could be a viable, economically friendly answer to the current water crisis across the globe, but current solar-based water sanitation methods cannot remove several harmful pollutants from water. Since water can be purified by evaporating a water source, and condensing the resulting water vapor into a liquid, harnessing the suns energy to generate steam at a fast rate could aid greatly in the development of a solar-based water purification system. In my research, I present the usage of femtosecond laser-treated metals, which are super-hydrophilic, for solar-based water purification and desalination. 


Breakout Session 2

Psychology, Criminal Justice, & Human Rights Studies

1.   Culturally Distinct Psychological Stress: COVID-19’s Impact on Latinx Subgroups’ Distress Levels 
        Presenter(s): Laura Alarcon (McNair Scholar, John Jay College of Criminal Justice) 

The Latinx community encompasses many culturally distinct groups who experience distress differently. This study will examine the distress levels of Latinx subgroups before and during the pandemic. It will run a two-way ANOVA statistical analysis on an existing database to investigate changes in distress levels during the specified time frames. It is hypothesized that data will suggest an increase in the community’s distress levels, an increase in subgroups’ distress levels from usual levels, and higher distress levels for subgroups with a historically stronger cultural presence in New York as well as for subgroups facing pointed discrimination despite having a historically strong cultural presence. 

2.   American Mythology and Deaf People: an analysis of Deaf confinement in the US using critical race theory and Christian history. 
       Presenter(s): Yaa Baker (McNair Scholar, University of Rochester) 

America is established on the foundations of White centralism. This ideology not only supports a White superiority that is nothing less than divine, but it also assumes in this Whiteness, ability, specifically hearing. As a consequence of America’s centralized White identity, hearing-impaired people have been systematically confined and hidden due to physical variables in their ability to perform American ideal Whiteness. Performances such as English speech and divine superiority. 

3.   Barriers to Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking at the Hand of the State 
        Presenter(s): Alex Iadanza (McNair Scholar, University at Buffalo / American University, School of International Service) 

Human Trafficking remains prevalent in the United States, targeting communities that are already vulnerable, such as refugee and immigrant communities (Polaris Project, 2018). Equally alarming, however, are the barriers that prevent victims of human trafficking from accessing justice in the United States. Despite targeted policy, law, advocacy, and governmental rhetoric that purport their objective as supporting victims of human trafficking, the reality of their function and impact can be counterintuitive to needs of victims. This project explores how the very systems set forth to solve the problem of human trafficking can instead become barriers to justice for victims of human trafficking in the United States.

4.    Factoring Race in the Criminal Justice System 
         Presenter(s): Folake Olowu (McNair Scholar, SUNY Brockport) 

Previous research indicates that race is a crucial factor when it comes to sentencing decisions in the criminal justice system. For example, research has demonstrated that a young black male is more likely to be sentenced to prison, receive longer sentences, and receive little to no advice from the sentencing board relative to white male offenders. This means that when it comes to the fair treatment of the law people of color tend to be discriminated against. The present study sought to replicate these prior findings by examining the relationship between a suspect’s race and sentencing decisions. The study consisted of twenty-five participants from a psychology-based research methods class at SUNY Brockport. All participants read a case summary of the same crime and then they were randomly assigned to one of two different conditions in which they were either exposed to either a Black or a White perpetrator who was accused of the crime. After reading the case description of the crime committed, participants assigned a recommended sentence for the perpetrator. While the primary hypothesis was not supported, limitations, implications, and future directions will be discussed. 

5.    Adult Perceptions of Severity in a Sexual Abuse Case: The Impact of Gender of the Perpetrator and Victim 
         Presenter(s): Yareli Perez (McNair Scholar, John Jay College of Criminal Justice) 

Sexual assault is a serious problem in the United States. It is estimated that one in four girls and one in thirteen boys will experience abuse by the time they are 18. The majority of cases of sexual abuse do not result in conviction. This may be because perceptions of sexual abuse cases vary according to the different characteristics of the perpetrator and victim involved. For this reason, this project will examine whether perceptions of severity of crime differ upon the gender of the victim and perpetrator in sexual abuse cases. A general sample of U.S. adults obtained via mTurk will be randomly assigned to read one of four case vignettes in which the gender of the victim and perpetrator will be varied, and they will be asked to complete a series of questions about the case. They will be asked the degree to which they attribute responsibility/blame to the people involved, if any, and if the case displays a sexual abuse act. It is anticipated that cases in which there is a female perpetrator and male victim, the perpetrator will be seen as less responsible/blameworthy for the situation whereas the male victim will be attributed more responsibility/blame. These findings will be discussed as they pertain to the role of both the gender of the perpetrator and victim and see the impact on how people view the degree of severity of sexual abuse cases.