Summer Student-Faculty Research Tradition Continues

  Travis Korosh and Professor Nigel Yarlett
    Biochemistry major Travis Korosh has been conducting research alongside Professor Nigel Yarlett, PhD, Chair of Chemistry and Physical Sciences, and presented his findings at last year’s Eastern Colleges Science Conference.

Dyson College of Arts and Sciences continues to build on its tradition of fostering student-faculty research. This summer, for the third year in a row, the College sponsored collaboration on political, social, and scientific projects ranging from cancer research to a study on the effects of the depressed real estate market on gentrification, from investigating how cultural differences shape the perception of interracial relationships to a review of midterm congressional elections.

The Dyson student-faculty research grants allow students to work one-on-one with faculty members on a 10-week research project, and include a $2,000 stipend and up to $500 for supplies.

“These [summer research projects] increase the critical experiential learning component of the college education,” said Richard B. Schlesinger, PhD, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research. “Research and scholarship must be as strongly valued as is traditional classroom teaching. The goal of this summer program is to encourage students to develop research proposals with the aid of a faculty mentor.” These research and scholarship projects are quickly being incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum in all disciplines, not only the sciences, he added.

‘What the Hell is your Problem?’
Danielle Henry worked alongside of Satish Kolluri, PhD and Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies, on research that involved finding the varied cultural perspectives of internal relationships in a project entitled “What the Hell is your Problem?” Their focus was on the possible differences in perspective between African-American and Jamaican women towards one singular social phenomenon -- in this case, interracial relationships. Their research was primarily embedded in the “grounded theory” relying on focus groups of Jamaican and African-American women discussing their views on interracial and intercultural relationships.

Jesse Dwyer, a political science major in Pleasantville, worked with David Caputo, PhD, and Professor of Political Science, on a brand new theory they’ve developed for which they’ve coined the phrase “micro-equilibrium,” to explain why the president’s party consistently loses seats in the House of Representatives during the midterm Congressional elections. The premise of “micro-equilibrium” is that there are surges and declines in Congressional victories within the president’s party. Given this theory, during an “on” year (a presidential election year), the successful presidential race will usually bring an increased number of the successful party’s candidates to the winning circle. However, these seats that have been won during the “on” year are usually lost during the following off year election, when there is no presidential race to help bring candidates to victory.

“Equilibrium occurs, thereby returning many congressional districts back to their original state, and reverting to the party that traditionally represented that district,” Dwyer explained. His theory is that after these candidates have won their seats riding on the momentum of the presidential election, they will not be able to secure a seat in the subsequent election because people will tend to vote along party lines. This project is not only aimed at explaining something that has never been successfully explained before, but also at devising a predictive model to determine how many seats will be lost in the president’s party during this midterm election in 2010.

Killing Cancer Cells
Biology major Brandon Lentine worked with Professor Nancy Krucher on her project “PNUTS Phosphorylation and Life and Death Decisions in Cancer Cells.” Dr. Krucher’s research involves understanding the pathways that are involved in cancer development and devising ways to manipulate the biochemistry of cancer cells to initiate cancer cell death. Dr. Krucher has spent many years investigating this and her research has been supported by the NIH on two separate grants from February 2007 through July 2010, and recently started a new grant which will run from September 2010 through August 2013.

The Progression of Apoptosis in Parasite Infected Host Cells
Travis Korosh, a biochemistry student on the New York City campus, spent this past summer working with Professor Nigel Yarlett, PhD, and the Chair of Chemistry and Physical Sciences, on the project “The Progression of Apoptosis in Parasite Infected Host Cells.” The nature of this project “was aimed at characterizing the role of programmed cell death in disease progression using the human vaginal epithelial cells infected with Trichomonas vaginalis, one of the most common nonviral sexually transmitted protozoa,” said Korosh.

Trichomonas vaginalis causes more than 7 million infections in the U.S. every year and has been linked to many adverse outcomes, including increased risk of cervical cancer and having a predisposition to HIV infections. Korosh further explains, “A number of key markers were found through scientific techniques like western blotting and fluorescence detection, which indicated the parasite causes a form of programmed cell death called apoptosis in the human vaginal epithelial cells.” Hopefully, in the future, this information can be used to create better treatment options for the people who are affected by this.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Student-faculty research doesn’t just happen over the summer. It is a benchmark of the Dyson College experience. Throughout the year students collaborate with faculty on projects ranging from nanotechnology to pop fiction. For example, Women’s and Gender Studies Professor Nancy Reagin’s students contributed to her recent book Twilight and Fiction. Meanwhile in the science labs students work alongside Professor JamieLee Rizzo developing antimicrobial agents for which she has several patents and more pending. Also this summer, students and faculty traveled together to present their pedagogical work on “Building an ‘Educational Passport’: ePortfolios at Pace University Using an Open Source Solution” at the 1st annual national ePortfolio conference. The Dyson Center for Undergraduate Research Experiences helps foster these opportunities.