2018 McNair Scholars

qRachel Acevedo

Research Title: "The Effects of After-School Programs on Delinquent Crime"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jesse Chang

Abstract: The purpose of the study is to see if a specific kind of after-school programs works better for preventing delinquent crime compared to another. This research was conducted using a systematic analysis of 15 different studies looking at after-school programs and how those programs affect juvenile delinquency and different types of success. The programs were coded according to three variables: the type of program studied, how successful that program is, and how that program can be modified to be even more successful. The labels for the type of program were mentoring, homework/tutoring, arts, and sports. Success was categorized into the following bins academic, higher self-esteem, reduced drug use, and reduced crime levels. Overall, students that participated in after-school programs had reduced levels of crime, but there were several limitations to this study and future research needs to be conducted.  

wVivian Anochili

Research Title: "Stress Enhancement of Fear Learning and its Effects on Fear Generalization"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Marieke Gilmartin

Abstract: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterized by the dysregulation of fear responses to perceived threats after exposure to a trauma. Treatments for the disorder have shown limited efficacy, as there is a limited understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms which underlie the condition. Research on fear and anxiety-based disorders has been greatly aided by the use of animal models in place of human subjects. Stress-enhanced fear learning (SEFL) is a rodent model of fear sensitization, in which exposure to a 15-shock stressor enhances the acquisition of fear to a cue in subsequent fear conditioning. In previous studies, SEFL rats have demonstrated several of the core symptoms of PTSD including depression-like phenotypes and exaggerated fear (Perusini et al., 2016). However, fear generalization, another common symptom in which fear of a learned threatening cue generalizes to an innocuous novel cue, has yet to be sufficiently demonstrated in SEFL rats. We used a CS+/CS- discrimination training protocol in order to determine whether prior exposure to a 15-shock stressor would produce a deficit in the ability to discriminate between cues predicting danger versus safety (Foilb et al., 2017).  

eSebastian Becerra

Research Title: "The Impact of Media Narrative on Consumer Behavior: Athlete Scandal"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alex Milovic

Abstract:  Media is inherently biased and often shapes readers’ perceptions through what it writes about and how it writes about it. This is called the agenda-setting theory, which has two components according to  Joep  Cornellisen. The first is the salience of the issues or topics the media writes about. The second is the opinions the media embeds in the narrative to invoke a certain feeling or response from the reader. The purpose of this research is to uncover how much media narrative (through the agenda-setting theory) has an affect on consumer behavior. In this research Tiger Woods’ scandal of cheating on his wife is used as a case study. Claudia  Kozman emphasizes that agenda-setting is present when the media covered Tiger’s scandal. To help find a deeper correlation between the agenda setting theory and consumer behavior a survey was created that included two hypothetical narratives of a star quarterback that had a scandal of his own. One of the narratives described the quarterback positively while the other negatively. Both quantitative and qualitative analysis were used to see if the narrative affected respondents’ behavior towards the quarterback. The results show that agenda setting does play a role in some of the responses but not others. Overall, the background research clearly links the agenda-setting theory and consumer behavior. However, further research needs to be conducted to pinpoint how strongly agenda setting influences consumer behavior. 

rJonathan Borja

Research Title: "Examination of Phonemic Awareness Skills in Early Childhood Educators: Effects of Professional Development and Phonetic Transcription Training"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Maura Jones Moyle

Abstract: Phonemic awareness (PA) has been identified as a key skill contributing to literacy development. However, previous research still shows that educators are generally lacking in their PA skills. Specifically, early childhood educators (ECEs) are generally shown to have the lowest scores among educators, despite having the responsibility of instructing children at a critical time in literacy development. A couple of things are being asked in this research: 1) How do Early Childhood Educators’ phonemic awareness (PA) skills compare to other educators in Spencer et al. 2008? 2) Does training in phonetic transcription improve ECEs’ PA skills? The purpose of this research is twofold. The first purpose is simply to expand upon the work done by Spencer et al. (2008) who examined the PA skills of Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) and other educators. The second purpose is to examine the effects of training in phonetic transcription on ECEs’ PA skills. A quantitative approach is utilized. Participating ECEs will undergo a pre-test knowledge assessment, a period of training with or without explicit instruction in phonetic transcription, and then a post-test knowledge assessment. The anticipated findings are as follows: 1) ECEs in Milwaukee will do similarly to educators in the Spencer et al. study (2008), 2) Spelling complexity will affect the accuracy of responses from the ECEs, resulting in more hard words being wrong than easy words, 3) Training in phonetics will improve PA skills significantly. The anticipated findings are as follows: 1) Early childhood educators will have lower phonemic awareness skills than degreed educators, 2) Professional development with specific training in phonetics will improve early childhood educators’ phonemic awareness skills.  

tAriana Chiapas

Research Title: "Resettled Refugees in Milwaukee: Identity, Belonging, and Humanitarian Aid"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Emily Lynch 

Abstract: This research examines how identity and belonging detail the lives of resettled refugees in Milwaukee, while also analyzing and critiquing humanitarian aid, providing descriptive examples of how language acquisition enables refugees to better identify and belong with the country they are resettled to. The ethnography also examines and shows how humanitarian aid and the act of “helping” in practice may actually cause harm. A local non-for-profit organization served as the primary field site during this research. As an anthropologist researching through ethnographic methods, the Organization created an avenue for me to reach resettled refugees and then to use the snowball effect to create more relationships with additional refugees not associated directly with the NGO.  The Organization was founded to assist refugee children with literacy and homework while also de-isolating refugee families by promoting community interaction. This qualitative research was conducted through participant observation at the Organization and in other local spaces. By volunteering each week, I spent time engaging with resettled refugees and volunteers as they continued to navigate life in hopes to further understand and interpret what it means to be a refugee and a volunteer in Milwaukee. Further research pursuits may include transferring questions about identity and belonging to different groups, such as Latinx immigrant populations and people who identify as multi-racial/ethnic individuals.  

eYazmin Gomez

Research Title: "Mujeres de La Raza: Milwaukee Latinas' Community Engagement and Activism Following Roe v. Wade"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kristen Foster

Abstract: To gauge the full scope of abortion opinions, it is important to feature the voices of all individuals including often marginalized women. Such an emphasis may further complicate the issue, but it is essential to advancing discourse as well as helping dispel assumptions that all women hold the same opinions. In focusing on Milwaukee Latinas post-Roe, a specific location and population is considered to understand individual’s attitudes. Throughout the 20th century, Milwaukee Latinas navigated multiple worlds and roles as they aimed to satisfy the needs of others and themselves. That said, the personal often remained private and Latinas focused their  activist efforts in areas beyond issues of reproduction. Despite the goals of the larger women’s movement, Milwaukee Latinas forged their own activism aimed at the specific needs of their community given local events, circumstances, and cultural expectations.

yOscar Guzmán

Research Title: “Code Switching’ Among Latinx Students Transitioning from AVID (registered trade-mark) into AP (registered trade-mark): Color-Blind Racial Ideology Practiced by School Counselors in a Suburban High School”  

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sharon Chubbuck

Abstract: Annette  Lareau  suggests that social class helps identify commonalities and trends among people, more so than race. Most crucially, she defends that teachers ought to teach 'code switching' in the classroom so that poor-working/class students can meet the standards of a middle-class education. Such educational initiatives including "I Have a Dream" Foundation and after-school program Big Brother/Big Sister are recognized by  Lareau  as demonstrators of 'code switching.' Through a systematic analysis, my research dissects how a poor/working-class student can meet the standards of a middle-class education through 'code switching' by participating in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination -registered trade-mark), a college-preparatory program. By coding for trends in AVID students through their standardized tests and grade point averages scores, participation in rigorous coursework such as AP (Advanced Placement -registered trade-mark), college aspirations, and self-efficacy, existing literature suggests that AVID, rightfully so, does prepare students to be 'college-ready.' However, further research ought to be considered at analyzing the mentorship between student and teacher in AVID to identify if race representation influences participation and performance in the classroom; in addition, to identify if school counselors take race into consideration when enrolling underrepresented students in rigorous coursework like AP.  

yMoe-Myint Han

Research Title: "PACAP Attenuates Reinstatement of Cocaine-Seeking Behavior in the Nucleus Accumbens Core"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Baker 

Abstract: For an individual with chronic exposure to drugs, the molecular adaptations to glutamate transmission in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) can lead to the development of compulsive behaviors that characterize addiction. For most CNS diseases, the neuropeptide PACAP has been implicated in glutamatergic network, but the pathological basis remains poorly understood. We hypothesize that PACAP blocks the reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior by stimulating PACAP receptors that are expressed in neurons. In the experimental paradigm, 16 rats were trained to press a lever for an IV infusion of cocaine: 8 rats were used as vehicle controls and 8 rats were used as experimental controls. We report that 100pmol PACAP1-38 significantly reduced lever presses relative to rats that received 0pmol PACAP1-38. However, rats that received 100pmol PACAP1-38 had significantly more lever presses relative to their mock injection test. Thus, we conclude that PACAP1-38 attenuates but does not completely block cocaine-primed reinstatement.    

uJuan de Dios Hernandez

Research Title: "Community Factors Impacting Students of Color: A Systematic Review of the Literature on People of Color at Various Educational Levels"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paul Gasser 

Abstract: Communities of color in the US have been plagued by poverty and violence for decades, in fact, it has become such a severe issue that now it is almost expected of these neighborhoods (“Social Problems: Continuity and Change”). Although there has been a national decline in violent crime as a whole since the 1990s, exposure to violence within these underserved communities has remained high and progress in improving these statistics has seemingly stagnated (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016). Children and youths that are raised in these environments must cope with this chronic exposure to violence and this often leads to pathological adaptation which can be assessed by levels of aggression and emotional symptoms in a school setting via two pathways, the normalization pathway and the distress pathway (Boxer, 881). Despite this knowledge, this model has not been assessed at the collegiate level for those kids that go on to higher education. More importantly, how this affects their general feeling of comfort in primarily white institutions remains mostly overlooked, specifically how this affects the relationships between student-instructor, student-peer, and the effects of what is referred to as the impostor phenomenon (Bridgette, 175). This research is becoming increasingly significant as the number of students of color enrolling in college has been on the rise yet retention, especially in primarily white institutions, seems to be faltering (National Center for Education Statistics). Findings for this research could be extremely useful for counseling centers, advisors, faculty, and community outreach at universities and it would also give the students of color in these universities the support that they deserve.

iJayla Hill

Research Title: "The Effects of the Strong Black Woman (SBW) Ideal on Self-dehumanization" 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Simon Howard 

Abstract:  Previous research on the Strong Black Women ideal has demonstrated that the ideal is associated with a number of negative outcomes (for instance, Black women are more likely to suffer from many chronic physical and mental health conditions than women of other races/ethnicities).  However, this research has all been correlational or qualitative. In this present study, we examined the effects of the SBW ideal on self-dehumanization through the use of a priming manipulation. Participants (N=29) were either primed with the SBW ideal or not (control), before completing measures of self-dehumanization. Results revealed a marginal effect of priming on Black Women’s self-ratings of Uniquely Human (UH) traits. No significant main effect of priming was found on Black women’s self-ratings of Human Nature (HN) traits. Implications and future directions are discussed.  

oLindsay Hopson

Research Title: "The Function of Drop-dead in the Respiratory System of Drosophila Melanogaster" 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Edward Blumenthal 

Abstract: The many complex conserved biological pathways studied in smaller organisms such as Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, have contributed greatly to the understanding of biology and creation of many biological tools. Because the study of insects has led to much discovery and understanding in science, the incomplete knowledge of the molecular pathways and signals that contribute to the mechanisms involved in determining growth and body size in insects is an important area of investigation. In fruit flies, a gene called drop-dead (drd) is heavily involved during the developmental process in that when this gene is absent, adult lethality, decreased body mass, malfunctions in different barrier structures (Blumenthal, 2008), and brain degeneration (Buchanan and Benzer, 1993) occur throughout the body. The two phenotypes of decreased body mass (Blumenthal, unpublished data) and adult lethality (Sansone and Blumenthal, 2013) have been linked to the absence of drd specifically in the trachea and respiratory system of the fly. To determine the role of drd in the trachae during development that causes decreased body mass and adult lethality, other genes in the trachae were knocked-down to observe similar phenotype that may suggest the molecular pathway of drd, developmental timing was measured, and expression levels of two hypoxia responding genes were measured. Fifty three RNAi screens were conducted in which genes of a specific family were turned off in the trachae. Six genes were identified to have a possible relation to drd expression in the trachae. The measurement of developmental timing showed that drd1 mutants take longer to develop that controls. The unaltered levels of expression suggested that drd1 mutants were not hypoxic.

pLinamarie Justiniano

Research Title:  “Microaggressions, Depression & Anxiety: A look beyond Self-Efficacy”  

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lucas Torres

Abstract:  Previous research has focused on the mental health implications that  Microaggressions  may cause to individuals of color. However, there is a lack of research in regards to  how  Microaggressions  may impact students of color at predominantly white institutions (PWI), and the mental health disparities these students are potentially exposed to when experiencing subtle forms of discrimination. The current study sought to understand the roll of self-efficacy in predicting depression and anxiety above and beyond  Microaggressions. Participants included 116  self-identified  African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinx. Data was gathered through a psychology class pool, from a medium size university in the Midwest. Individuals who participated in the study had to identify as a student of color, and after completion students received course credit. Through conducting hierarchical regressions, significant results revealed that higher levels of Microaggressions  and lower levels of self-efficacy can potentially predict anxiety and depression symptoms amongst students of color. These findings highlight the potential outcomes for students of color who experience  Microaggressions  on a day to day basis and the detrimental mental health outcomes these groups might experience.   

aJerrell Lovett

Research Title: "Characterization of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome using Cardiomyocyte Stem Cells" 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Robert Fitts 

Abstract:  Despite medical advancements, Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) patients suffer from high rates of morbidity and early mortality. Stem cells could be an innovative approach to model and ultimately treat pathologies like HLHS. The purpose of this study is to understand the role of MYH6 variant R443P on HLHS functional properties. Stem cell cultures were obtained from the Medical College of Wisconsin at Day 20 and stored in 5% CO2 at 37˚C. A four-week time course was conducted on each cell type where we assessed the electrical and biomechanical properties of the cell.  Following functional assessments, cells were stored at -80C in SDS buffer until molecular analysis was performed. MHY6 variant R443P cells showed a significantly higher beat rate with less shortening in µm and % of cell length. Overall, mutant cells were more depolarized and the action potential duration was much shorter than MYH6 +/MYH6 + cell type. 

sMcKenzie Lua

Research Title: "Using Electromagnetic Articulograpy to Measure Human Swallowing" 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jeffrey Betty

Abstract: The problem being tackled is traditionally swallows have been analyzed through the use of x-ray radiation in conjunction with a barium swallow. In the past 15 years, research has looked at alternative testing to be able to analyze certain aspects of a swallow at different points from lips to oropharynx. Their findings have led to this: EMMA. Electromagnetic midsagittal Articulography measures the oral articulatory movements during a swallow. In short, it measures the various tongue movements, specifically within the oral cavity, in extraordinary detail. What is even more promising is that the findings of the oral cavity from EMMA have been consistent with the findings examined using x-ray microbeam results from previous studies; making it a hopeful contender in feasible methods of studying tongue movements during the swallowing process. The hopeful findings include correlations between the tongue and the hyoid bone; commonly referred to as your voice box. With these findings, the question is this: can we use EMMA as a feasible tool for measuring a swallow to replace a barium swallow knowing the correlation between the tongue and the hyoid? The focus for this study is to address if EMMA can replace a barium swallow, as well as another subcategory, the hyoid. The measurements will analyze the swallow from within the oral cavity and through this we hope to find some connection between the hyoid and tongue.  If so, we can then potentially use EMMA to analyze a swallow to a greater extent than just simply the oral cavity and possibly to the pharyngeal cavity.


sMarisol Madrigal

Research Title: "Decisions governing Latinxs' opting in or out institutionalized western medicine, and the role of traditional medicine" 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Eugenia Afinoguenova 

Abstract: Health inequality exists among minorities and continues to pose a problem especially among Hispanics. It is caused by environmental influences like income, education, and culture. In a Hispanic community, there is a never-ending cycle between low household income and poor health. We begin to observe that there is considerable growing research and interest in the Hispanic population of the Midwest, especially in Milwaukee, an urban city in Wisconsin where there is a high prevalence of Latinx. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) explains that the Latinx population has lower hospitalization rates compared to whites. This can be explained by the acculturation hypothesis, where an immigrant has a set of traditions and customs that benefit their health, but as time in the US increases they gain new traditions that are harmful to their health (Callister, 2002). Newly arrived immigrants have knowledge of traditional medicine, like herbal teas, that often deter them from seeking professional medical treatment. In this study, we focused on Mexican Milwaukeeans because this is the largest group with the most developed infrastructure of alternatives to western medicine. A questionnaire was developed and participants were recruited via snowball sampling. Participants were asked to respond to the questionnaire and provide feedback. Findings suggest that participants use both Western and traditional medicine. Relationships and religion are highly valued among the Latinx community. Finally, the questionnaire was edited and improved for the Latinx community in order to inform medical professionals and optimize the wellbeing of  Latinx

dMaximo Medina

Research Title:  “Improving Service to the Hispanic Community Through Technology Enhanced Pronunciation Training of L2 Spanish Speaking SLPs"  

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Jeffrey Berry  

Abstract: Previous research demonstrates that when formants are perturbed in real time, speakers will compensate for a perturbation by changing their formant frequencies in the opposite direction to the perturbation. Furthermore, this research suggests that bilingual studies would yield similar results, though research in this area is lacking. This study aims to fill this multicultural gap by placing L2 Spanish-speaking SLPs through real-time perturbation to see if they can compensate to have the same proficiency of an L1 speaker that they often serve. Due to numerous constraints, this aim was tested by only our lab assistants, who were put through real time perturbation. Speech samples were collected from each participant in a /hVd/ context prior to gather a full vowel space of each participant. Using this vowel space, our lab was able to come up with appropriate formant shifting goals for each participant based on previous knowledge of resonance in a native speaker. Formants were shifted using an  Adapter  developed in MATLAB. Upon completion of the study, each participant was able to compensate the perturbations partially in the opposite direction, consistent with previous findings. Future research will require the use of certified SLPs in order to draw definitive conclusions.   

fJennifer Orta

Research Title:  “The Effects of the Immigrant Paradox on the Alcohol Use of Latinas”  

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lucas Torres  

Abstract:  Research has indicated that US born Latinas are more likely to use alcohol than Latinas born outside of the US.  Researchers explored the immigrant paradox, “the phenomenon that as people increase their level of acculturation to the culture of the United States, the more negative their development is affected in various aspects including psychologically and socially,” and its relationship to alcohol use in Latinas.  The purpose of this study was to determine whether demographic factors and acculturation also contribute to alcohol use in Latinas using a sample of 193 participants who identified as Latinx. Analysis were ran using participant data who identified as Latina (n= 131). Results from the analysis continue to support previous literature and demonstrates the immigrant paradox in full action. To researchers’ surprise, enculturation had a higher impact on alcohol use than they had predicted that acculturation would. Further, the results of this study emphasize the need to explore the role of enculturation as well as their nativity status and alcohol use in Latinas.

gEduardo Perea-Hernandez

Research Title: "Cooperative Justice: Creating a Sustainable economy in Milwaukee"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amber Wichowsky 

Abstract: A worker cooperative is an establishment that is owned and managed by the members of the company with the purpose of creating an efficient, just, and sustainable work environment1. Collectivism has always existed, however the cooperative model has historically been the most successful way to structure collectively. This purpose of this paper is to look at the history of cooperatives in communities of color in America, analyze the key lessons learned from collectivism within the African-American and Latinx communities, look at what other countries are doing to strengthen the cooperative movement, and study the success of the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland through the eyes of the workers/members. The motive behind looking at worker cooperatives is because wage inequality is increasing between workers and CEOs, manufacturing cities like Milwaukee have been hurt by the outsourcing of jobs for cheaper labor, and communities of color across America continue to deteriorate as a consequence of violence, low employment opportunities, little education, and the continued effects of racism/segregation. The Cooperative model one way or another attacks these issues through the numerous benefits they offer to its workers. The goal with this research is to expand the cooperative movement, especially in the city of Milwaukee where residents are more welcoming of collective ideas, the minority populations are affected previously stated issues, and institutions such as universities, hospitals, and financial firms have an influence in the neighborhoods of Milwaukee. Although the research is ongoing, this paper will serve as an update. 

hMary Thao

Research Title:  “Effective Molecular Detection and Prevalence Determination of Malaria and Schistosomiasis Co-Infection in Pregnant Women From Two Districts of Ghana"  

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. NilanjanLodh 

Abstract:  In sub-Saharan Africa, a significant proportion of the population is exposed to malaria, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths (STH) infections. It is estimated that over a third of the world's population is infected with parasitic helminths and Plasmodium species in the tropics and sub-tropics. Most importantly, about 40 million pregnant women are infected with STHs and Schistosome spp. globally. When parasitic diseases overlap in distribution, high rates of co-infection can occur due to the weakened immune defenses. Such a reality occurs in Ghana, but published data on the pregnant Ghana women specifically is not extensive to aid that particular population. In addition, no study to-date has assessed the prevalence of schistosomiasis and STH infections along with malaria in pregnant women with the impact of co-infection on the acquisition of immunity to placental malaria. This research project addresses the weaknesses in the recommended diagnostic techniques available for malaria, schistosomes and STHs by determining the prevalence from a single non-invasive sample source and ultimately using a molecular-based tool in the clinical and field setup with higher sensitivity and specificity. Utilizing 163 samples in collaboration with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research within the University of Ghana, we found a range of prevalence rates among the standard test called Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), the molecular-based test. In the RDT, we found an infection prevalence of 18% among a particular region. On the other hand, PCR was able to detect a 47% infection prevalence rate for a schistosomal strain called Schistosoma haematobium. Overall, we concluded that PCR alone was able to detect more co-infections for two parasitic strains of schistosomiasis. As a result, we have success with detecting co-infections for schistosomes and Strongyloidiasis using a molecular-based diagnostic tool.


jJoia Wesley

Research Title:  “Police Violence and Willingness to Interact”  

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Nakia Gordon  

Abstract:  Reports of police misconduct is on the rise and incidents of police violence is flooding the media. These incidents have negative outcomes for communities such as mistrust in police officers. It may also create more division between communities. Sixty-five participants were shown images of police violence or typical violence and rated their emotions and willingness to interact with an African American individual. Researchers found that individuals respond to police violence more negatively than other forms of violence. Furthermore, exposure to police violence is not a predictor of an individual’s willingness to interact. These findings suggest that there is a distinct characteristic regarding police violence that causes changes in affect. This study validates the sentiments surrounding police violence and pushes for more dialogue on the traumatic effects of police violence, making law makers one step closer to eradicating the issue.