Investigating Prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi and the Powassan Virus and the Spatiotemporal Variation of Their Vector, Ixodes Scapularis Abstract

Tick-borne diseases are growing increasingly prevalent in the United States and across the world. The relationship between Borrelia burgdorferi and Ixodes scapularis, or the pathogen responsible for Lyme Disease and the black-legged tick, is most commonly researched. I, however, am also interested in a lesser-known pathogen, the Powassan virus, and its relationship with the black-legged tick. The purpose of my project is two-fold: I wish to estimate the prevalence of both pathogens in the Williamsburg area since 2010, but I also want to understand if there are patterns in where and when these black-legged ticks are found. Over the summer, I will collect ticks across the Virginia and Middle Peninsulas and then use laboratory techniques such as PCR and gel electrophoresis to establish whether the ticks carried B. burgdorferi and/or the Powassan virus.  I will also use these techniques to look at ticks that have been collected in previous years but have not yet been studied. Additionally, I will analyze data gathered during tick collection, such as site, temperature, and month of collection to determine how our capture success varies in relation to these factors.  Once I have finalized my analyses, I will compile my findings on a poster for presentation upon my return next fall.

An Exploration of Social Media’s Impact on Social and Political Justice Movements

Social media has seemingly invaded every inch of our lives. Its unique ability to facilitate the instantaneous sharing of ideas and to connect users with one another has revolutionized our interaction with one another and with the world around us. Because of these characteristics, social media has become a vehicle for social and political movements. Just as its digital platforms have revolutionized our daily lives, social media has undoubtedly impacted how individuals seek justice and encourage mobilization. The combination of my curiosity about this relationship as well as my observation of the growing “popularity” of being “socially conscious” has led me to raise numerous questions. How do reactions and access to contemporary social and political justice movements differ from comparable historical precedents , and how has social media contributed to this shift? How do involvement in social and political justice and “wokeness” impact social status? What role does social media play in supporting trendy and “shallow activism”—supporting movements because of their popularity?

[Read more…]

Analysis of Economic Studies on Gun Violence

Americans love guns. Holding just over four percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for nearly half of the civilian guns around the world. Additionally, roughly 40,000 people in the U.S. lost their lives in gun-related deaths just in 2018. Nevertheless, there is a surprising lack of research into solutions to the gun violence problem, and the field of economics is no exception. Only a few well-known economic studies have looked extensively at the problem, and the existing economic models of gun violence have come to contradictory conclusions. When looking at these models, it is evident that there are great differences in the underlying assumptions, the variables that are focused on, and the methods of calculation. It is very difficult to show through quantitative research that reducing gun ownership would reduce crime and save lives; economic models that have come to definitive conclusions tend to be oversimplified, while more complicated models that incorporate more variables tend to arrive at less clear conclusions . For my project, I hope to evaluate and compare some of these different economic studies on gun violence, specifically looking at the underlying variables that researchers use in their modeling. This will give me an idea of how the field of economics has contributed to understanding the gun violence problem in the U.S., and hopefully I will gain an insight into how future economic studies can address the problem in coming decades.

Marketing in Big Pharma: An Analysis of Strategies, Implications, and Disaster

Whether it’s commercials on television or pop-up ads on social media, pharmaceutical companies have been marketing directly to the consumer for decades. This phenomenon is one feature of the United States that differs from most other developed countries, allowing for an opportunity to discuss and evaluate the evolution of domestic pharmaceutical marketing practices. This summer, I hope to understand this phenomenon, uncover which marketing techniques are most effective for specific audiences, and evaluate how they affect the consumer, the producer, the doctors, and the costs of the medication. Additionally, I hope to discover which drugs are most heavily marketed, which illnesses they tend to target, and if national treatment is ultimately more successful because of these efforts. Why are these specific drugs marketed in these specific ways, and what makes these drugs unique? Furthermore, I will evaluate the relationship between business and medicine, lending a critical eye to expose when business goes wrong and customers are taken advantage of. Especially in the world of medicine, affordable healthcare products are the difference between life and death. Mylan CEO, Heather Bresch, and former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO, Martin Shkreli, have both been under fire in the past two decades for extraordinary price hikes of vital products merely to increase profit potential. I plan to research the EpiPen, Daraphim, and Insulin cases and understand the resulting laws and regulations that arose from these national scandals. This summer, I will examine the role of Big Pharma in America, explore the marketing techniques used in the pharmaceutical industry, and ultimately, discover their implications.

[Read more…]

Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Personality Tests

Within the past few decades, popular psychology has become a powerful driving force for psychological research; it influences which studies get funding, which theories gain traction, which even psychologists achieve notoriety. Personality psychology in particular has grown in the past several years, and as such there are a number of different personality tests available on the internet. Millions of people make use of these tests, so it is important that they have accurate information about which tests are legitimate and which are not. My research seeks to assess the most commonly used personality tests on several main factors. To do this, I ask the following questions: How do psychologists measure the reliability of a personality test? What does the existing empirical evidence suggest about the reliabilities of well-known personality tests? How do psychologists measure the validity of a personality test? What does the existing empirical evidence suggest about the validities of well-known personality tests? What value and applications do personality tests provide both within and outside the field of psychology? After conducting a literature review, I will create a website in order to spread information to the public about my findings.

Success Rates Among Individuals in Multi-Level Marketing Companies

Multi-level marketing companies have surged in popularity in the United States, from Mary Kay cosmetics to DoTerra essential oils. These companies promise riches to thousands of salespeople all over the world, but some have accused them of misrepresenting their success rates and acting like pyramid schemes. In my project, I will analyze the financial documents of several publicly traded multi-level marketing companies along with court documents from the FTC and SEC. From this analysis, I will attempt to determine the percentage of people who enter into these companies that make a substantial profit. Once the data are established, I will use my findings to create an advocacy website to inform the public about multi-level marketing companies.

Applications of Mindfulness Meditation-Based Therapies for Autism

My project will consist initially of research on the relevant scientific literature about the neuroscience of Autism. From here, I will transition to looking into how mindfulness-meditation therapies work, and how they are applied to patients with Autism. I hope to analyze this information for both medical and educational settings. Furthermore, I will research the future of meditation therapy and advancements in the field of autism research/treatment. Finally, I will compile my findings into a final presentation that analyzes the commonalities and differences between therapy types/applications and findings. My project will attempt to answer the following questions: [Read more…]

Interactions between Colonialism and Culture in Mumbai Architecture

For my project, I will be traveling to Mumbai, India to study several pieces of notable architecture and sculpture in the city.  India was under British colonial rule until the year 1947; British rule significantly affected the infrastructure of the country.  Many buildings in India today have European influences in their structure, but have been repurposed and rewritten in the modern era.  To understand how colonialism and culture inform each other, specifically in Mumbai, I will be visiting several buildings and sculptures in the city, including the Gateway to India, the Mumbai Waterfront, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue in Chembur.  I will interview individuals while in India to gain their perspective on these pieces of architecture and to understand how Indian culture persists in the years following British occupation.  I plan to summarize my research using a documentary that combines my interviews, images, and research to create a nuanced and holistic analysis of Indian culture.

Chemistry of Addiction Abstract

In this research project, I hope to explore the relationship between addictiveness and the intermolecular interactions between drug molecules and brain synapses. It is known that a key part of drug addictiveness is related to the potency of the chemical release it triggers, as more addictive drugs tend to trigger stronger chemical and hormone releases. My research, however, aims to discover whether the strength and types of bonds between drug molecules and the brain affects a drug’s addictiveness.

DLGT Morphological Consistencies with Neural Tubes in Frog Embryos

In this project, I will primarily be looking for structural similarities between Diffuse Leptomeningeal Glioneuronal Tumors and the neural tubes of frog embryos. Basically, I’m doing a microscopic “spot the difference” game with frog embryos and a case study of a very rare form of brain and spinal cancer, and hoping to find similar, distinguishing factors.  DLGT is very hard to detect and diagnose, partly because it grows in a sheath-like formation around the brain and spinal cord, much like an extra layer of neural tissue.  This same general structural pattern is seen in neural tube formation in vertebrate embryos, so I will be using frog embryos as a comparison to the patient’s pathology reports and MRI scans from the time of diagnosis to the present day.  Time allowing, I will also conduct a literature review in an attempt to find out what type of environmental factors and genes could induce excessive neural tissue growth in vertebrates, and cross analyze this with the current hypotheses regarding potential causes of DGLTs.