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CURCA Summer Research 2017

CURCA Summer Research 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

To see photos from some of our summer research, click here

Laura Graffeo ’18

Janet Shideler, Ph.D., professor of French and Rebecca Arnold ’20, spent their summer as stars of the stage at Cohoes Music Hall. The pair may not have been performing at the vintage music hall, they did spend their summer researching the iconic life of Eva Tanguay, a notable and beloved entertainer, who graced the Cohoes Music Hall stage.

Tanguay’s life may have ended in 1947, but she lives on in the city of Cohoes. Their research examines her ghostly presence in the Cohoes Music Hall as well as investigating the unresolved issues the ghost of Eva might still be hoping to resolve. This has been made possible through Siena’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA).

Tanguay was one of the nearly one million French Canadians who immigrated to the northeastern United States between 1840 and 1930. She is seen as a “Cohoes girl” by those who live there, they believe that is where she emigrated to after leaving Canada.

After searching through old newspapers and resources at Siena’s Standish library, Shideler and Arnold’s findings not only took them to Cohoes but Holyoke, Massachusetts as well. These day trips helped them to trace the steps of the legendary Tanguay, like a treasure hunt.

In Massachusetts, they searched through folders of documents at the Holyoke Library and found evidence of Tanguay’s residence there, as well.

"Looking through old newspapers was the most fun part of this...It was exciting to comb through them and see mentions of Eva Tanguay,” said Arnold.

As the highest paid vaudeville entertainer, she toured around the country and lit up every stage she graced. Performers at Cohoes Music Hall still leave flowers to pay homage to Tanguay and her spiritual presence before they perform themselves. The legendary artist lives on as a piece of local history.

"You sort of sense her there and everyone I know from Cohoes says she's there, we feel her, we see her," said Shideler.

Lauren Wood (Mentors: Matt Bellis, Ph.D./Kris Kolonko, Ph.D.)

Wood's project investigates the accuracy of claims for commercial consumer products (nutritional supplements and cosmetics) that report to contain precious metals (Gold, Silver, Platinum, etc.) using a variety of elemental analysis techniques in Siena’s SAInT Center.

Travis Brodbeck (Mentor: Necip Doganaksoy, Ph.D.)
 
The Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is used to collect data from homeless services across the United States. Travis Brodbeck, TeamBILD student, and his mentor Professor Necip Doganaksoy apply modern data analytics to HIMS data collected in New York State to identify patterns and trends in the characteristics and service needs of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  The insights gained through these analyses will help agencies use their limited resources more efficiently to better serve their clients.
 
Saba Akhtar (Mentor: Erik Eddy, Ph.D.)

Faculty conduct teammate evaluations at the conclusion of a team project with the goal of measuring team member contribution to team success - did the team member show up for meetings? Do high quality work? Support the team? However, individuals often allow biases to enter this evaluation process, taking into consideration outside factors such as whether the team member is a friend, or whether it is easier to give a teammate a good grade to avoid conflict. This bias leads to a lack of construct validity. Akhtar and Eddy’s research explored whether we could train students to recognize these common biases and, therefore, provide more accurate, performance-based teammate evaluations, thus increasing construct validity.
 
Tia Brown and Austin Ryder (Mentor: Mike Jarcho, Ph.D.)

Brown, Ryder and Jarcho are investigating how various forms of social stress influence behavior, physiology, and immune function in a female mouse model. The data collected has implications for the prevention and treatment of a variety of mood disorders, but seem to be most closely tied to anxiety disorders. This summer, students are spending most of their time conducting behavioral trials that assess the anxiety levels of female mice, and this study will continue into the next academic year, when the students will conduct assays to quantify stress hormone production in the mice.

Amelia O’Rorke (Mentor: Elisa Martin, Ph.D.)

O’Rorke and Martin’s research involves documenting the evolution of Camp to Belong NY from its creation to present day. Camp to Belong NY is a week long summer camp experience for siblings in foster care. and has been running for 6-7 years. The research will document the steps taken to begin the program, challenges and obstacles faced as well as successes and the power of strong partnerships to create a historical document for the agency and an important story to share for other agencies looking to establish a Camp to Belong or another specialty camp.
 
Arjol Pengu, Maria Bamundo and Clarice Tarbay (Mentor: Jim Teresco, Ph.D.)
 
This project, called Map-Based Educational Tools for Algorithm Learning (METAL), is to create an educational tool to help learn about algorithms and data structures by seeing them in action on data representing highway systems, superimposed on an interactive map.  The idea is that by using real-world data and providing the map-based visualization, the study of these algorithms can be more engaging and intuitive, helping students learn them more quickly and with a deeper understanding.

Luke Mckenna and Hamza Memon (Mentor: Ting Liu, Ph.D.)

Who’s who in HMIS: Detecting patterns of individual behaviors

The homelessness data is collected through shelters, who don't share their data with each other. Therefore, one homeless person can have multiple duplicate records in the database. The core of this project is to improve the quality of the de-duplication process and merge the records belongs to one person. We plan to employ clustering method(s) to compute the distance between the records and group those close enough as one person's records. Our goal is to discover good features that are able to differentiate the information belongs to different people. By improving the de-duplication quality, we can collect more information of homelessness that can help government/social workers have better understanding on their behaviors.

Gordon MacCammon (Mentor: Karen Sonnelitter, Ph.D.)

MacCammon and Sonnelitter are working on a project called "Compiling and Editing a Primary Source Reader on the Great Irish Famine." Sonnelitter has a contract to put together an edited collection focusing on the Potato Famine. MacCammon's job is to sort through newspaper coverage of the period, from roughly 1845-1851, to find and transcribe accounts that should be included in the collection.

Fred Genier (Mentor: Matt Bellis, Ph.D.)

Genier’s research is related to Large Scale Structure of the Universe: understanding how galaxies clump together under the attractive influence of Dark Matter and the repulsive influence of Dark Energy. He worked on a calculation called the "n-point correlation function", an incredibly challenging problem that uses lots of computing resources, in an effort to more efficiently make the calculation.  

Sara Mahar (Mentor: Matt Bellis, Ph.D.)

Mahar graduated from Siena this past May but was continuing work this summer related to understanding the data collected by CARES, a homelessness support group in Albany, NY. The hope is that the tools we build will help them analyze their data to better combat homeless. Sara is starting a Masters program in Data Analytics at the University of San Francisco this summer.

Kirstin Ludwicki and Nicole Mcadams (Mentor: Matt Bellis, Ph.D.)

Ludwicki and Mcadams worked on two projects this summer. As part of the Siena e-NABLE chapter, they 3D printed a hand for a local recipient and delivered the final product. They also repaired one of the 3D printers and generally prepared things for the Fall semester. They also tried to duplicate a study by an MIT group that looked into the use of standard nylon threads for use as artificial muscle fibers in next-generation prosthetics.

Spencer Tibbitts and Ben Ellsworth (Mentor: Matt Bellis, Ph.D.)

Tibbitts and Ellsworth worked with data from SportVU, a company that uses precision tracking algorithms and video analysis to capture the positions of professional basketball players 25 times/second. They worked with Bellis to analyze this data to look for signs of fatigue in players, as well as other significant trends or information that would help players perform better.

Clare Reilly and Steve Clarke (Mentor: Matt Bellis, Ph.D.)

Reilly and Clark took up the reigns of a 2-year project, the gravity battery. They improved upon a design that uses a gear train to turn the energy of a falling mass into electrical energy generated by a bicycle demo. This is a very hard problem and in the last week of summer research, for the first time, the Saints and Bellis were able to start to charge a cell phone, simply from gravitational potential energy.

Nicole Howells and Sierra Curtsinger (Mentor: Steve Deyrup, Ph.D.)

Research in the Deyrup lab focuses on finding and describing organic molecules from natural sources.  Using techniques such as NMR spectroscopy and high-resolution mass spectrometry, we have identified new molecules used by fireflies to defend themselves, found anti-inflammatory compounds from a medicinal plant, and are looking for new antibiotics from mold. The Deyrup lab at Siena College has published five articles since 2014, including 12 Siena student co-authors.

Shelby Davis (Mentor: Leonard Cutler, Ph.D.)

Dr. Leonard Cutler and his research assistant Shelby Davis are collaborating on a preliminary assessment of the national security strategy of President Donald Trump in critical hot spots of war that he has inherited from his predecessor, Barack Obama, namely, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.This president has placed far more discretionary authority in his Cabinet's military leadership to prosecute the war against ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East ,Asia, and North Africa. They are also attempting to determine whether we are witnessing the development of a "Trump Doctrine" for counter terrorism in the first year of Trump's presidency.

Sean Jones (Mentor: Daniel Moriarty, Ph.D.)

Jones has worked on the search for antibacterial molecules from foods and herbs. The first step was identifying potential sources. The pair did this through a combination of searching through the scientific literature and looking at substances used in different cultures for possible target.  Once this was done Jones ran several extracts that would collect different molecules based on their solubility in water, then concentrated them down.  He would then test the molecules on two different strains of bacteria.  One type is Gram-positive (which has a thick cell wall).  We used B.subtillis , which is found in soil and a good model for S. aureus.  The other type is Gram-negative (which has a much thinner cell wall), and our system of choice was E. coli.  When we found a positive hit, we would take the extract to the LC/MS (Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry), which can identify the molecular composition of the extract.  Over the summer, Jones looked at different species of rosemary, thyme, sage, and cinnamon, as well as pomegranates and kumquats.  He and Moriarty were able to identify different levels of antibacterial molecules in the various species and showed that this correlated to different levels of bacterial inhibition.

Jen Secor (Mentor: Cheryl Buff)

Fear of Missing Out: Extending our Understanding of Personality Influences

The “fear of missing out,” otherwise known as the increasingly prevalent acronym FOMO, can be defined as the “pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences to which one is absent, and is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing” (Przybylski et al., 2013, p. 1841). FOMO has also been characterized as an uneasy and all-consuming feeling that one is missing out (JWT Intelligence, 2012, p. 4). Proposed research will investigate the influence of personality characteristics/traits including self-presentation and self-monitoring on FOMO.  Of particular interest is how self-presentation and self-monitoring influence FOMO level and the resulting social media posting activity (e.g., message content, social media platform(s), frequency of posting, duration of social media usage).  Extant scales are used to measure FOMO, social media self-presentation and self-monitoring. An online survey has been distributed and results are pending.
 
Michael Ramsey (Mentor: Jodi O’Donnell)

Undergraduate students in the O'Donnell research group, under the direction of Jodi O'Donnell, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Director of the Tech Valley Scholars Program, focus on the synthesis and characterization of thin-film materials for environmental applications. Specifically, richly colored, or chromophoric, compounds undergo a detectable color change when exposed to volatile organic compounds such as those often found as contaminants in water. By monitoring these color changes, these thin films serve as sensors that alert us to the presence of contaminants in water.  

Dr. O'Donnell also directs the Tech Valley Scholars (TVS) program, an NSF-funded scholarship program for STEM majors through which scholarship recipients work together in cross-disciplinary teams to solve emerging problems in STEM. Through collaboration with Siena's Center for Academic Community Engagement (ACE), TVS students have been partnering with the non-profit Radix Ecological Sustainability Center to use their STEM skills to help Radix with their mission to provide hands-on ecological education to Albany's community.