Radioactive Contamination of Honey as One Potential Cause of Honeybee Collapse

For my research project, I will be investigating the concentration of radioactive particles (such as cesium) in honey samples along the eastern region of the US. Historically, the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s was testing various nuclear weapons in areas such as Nevada and New Mexico. Research indicates much of this radioactive byproduct found its way to the Eastern US, and, eventually, dissolved into the soil. Plants searching for potassium (K) in the soil may inadvertently take up the radioactive cesium (Cs) instead, due to their identical +1 charge.

[Read more…]

Investigation of the use of photo luminescent CuI cubane clusters to analytically detect the presence of opiates Abstract

CuI forms photo-luminescent “cubane” structures when exposed to certain organic compounds (see Figure 1), an example of which is N-methylpyridine—a functional group found in virtually all opiates. These photo-luminescent structures emit a unique wavelength upon exposure to UV light. The purpose of this project is to maximize the response of this photo-luminescent response. Moreover, this project’s larger purpose is in analyzing the viability of this reaction as a means to detect opiates in criminology and pharmaceutical settings. To acheive this goal, first, methods to facilitate the reconstruction of the unbound 3-dimensional CuI lattice into the Cu4I4 “cubane” clusters will be explored through experimental and computational means. Next, this project will explore the use of carrier solvent to enhance the transfer of the 1-methylpiperidine from the sample being tested to the CuI substrate. Additionally, this project will test the limits of detection by diluting the 1-methylpiperidine to lesser concentrations in a transfer solvent. To confirm our findings, x-ray powder diffraction and other analytical methods will be used to determine the extent to which my peer advisor and I were able to reconstruct the unbound CuI into the desired Cu4I4 “cubane” clusters.

[Read more…]

Christianity and Early Irish Myth

For my research project, I will be analyzing the Christian themes present in Irish mythology to determine the influence that Christianity had on the early pagan beliefs of the Irish people The arrival of Christianity on the island and the subsequent writing of Irish history by those Christians allowed them to portray the religion and beliefs of the Irish as they wished.  Thus, today our view of Irish beliefs is heavily influenced by Christian views. We do not have any of the original Irish myths that were passed down through oral tradition.  By analyzing Christian texts for common themes and then looking into the surviving Irish mythos for resemblances or traces of these themes, I hope to see just how much of the Irish myths were affected by Christianity, and if there is any hope of reconstructing something along the lines of what the original myths might have looked like.

X-Ray Crystallographic Research

Knowledge of structure and form leads to understanding function of materials. Better understanding of function allows us to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of materials. My research question is, how can the internal structure of crystals be determined using x-ray diffraction? X-ray diffraction is the physical process of finding a 2D pattern of specific crystal structure with an x-ray diffractometer, and x-ray crystallography encompasses all the techniques needed to image the crystal and work back to calculate the 3D structure. This analytic technique could be applied to virtually all solid materials; here it will be focused on photoresponsive materials which have numerous applications in fluorescence-based environmental sensing, optical computing memory, LEDs, and photocatalysts. [Read more…]

Separation of Gaussian and Laguerre-Gaussian Laser Modes

For my research project, I will answer the question “Can we design an optical element that physically separates the different modes of Gaussian and Laguerre-Gaussian beams? My project deals with lasers, which are highly focused beams of monochromatic electromagnetic radiation, usually in the form of light. Lasers emit radiation in a few different “modes.” These “modes” correspond to the beam spot’s overall shape and appearance. To analyze the behavior of light, we can shine lasers through optical elements, such as lenses and irises. Different optical elements allow us to manipulate the light differently, perhaps by diffracting it, refracting it, or modifying its properties.

[Read more…]

The Effect of Sexual Selection on Mental Health and Happiness in Humans

For my research I will be writing a literature review on the effect of high-risk sexually-motivated behaviors on happiness and mental health in human males. Behaviors such as alcohol consumption, self-deprecating humor and shows of athleticism have historically been found attractive in a male mate and thus have been sexually selected for. These traits, regardless of whether they have a heritable aspect or are learned, lead to increased reproductive fitness for the male. I am interested in examining whether these prevalent behaviors which are known to have negative effects mental health are compensated for by the mental health benefits of spousal and social relationships.  For example, substance-abuse habits formed while trying to impress a potential mate could possibly trigger an depressive episode. On the other hand, having a rich social and romantic life is widely known to increase happiness. Through this work I am trying to gain a greater insight into how biological pressures such as sexual reproduction can create social norms that affect happiness and mental health. I hope to reach a conclusion on whether extreme behaviors performed to increase sexual fitness have a net negative or net positive impact on happiness and potentially mental health issues.

Effects of Nicotine and Its Relevance to Parkinson’s Disease

Because of the widespread use of nicotine in modern day society, I want to investigate the long term effects of nicotine on the human person, and the relevance to Parkinson’s Disease. Especially prevalent among teens and young adults, nicotine is commonly found in tobacco products, coming in various forms such as e-cigarettes and hookah. Despite its negative reputation, nicotine could potentially provide neurodegenerative benefits against Parkinson’s Disease. One study found that nicotine actually demonstrated protective effects against amincochrome, which is involved in many of the metabolic pathways involved in Parkinson’s Disease. Moreover, nicotine can also be used to treat certain Parkinsonism symptons. Another study tested and observed nicotine gum as a theurapeutic approach for low blood pressure in PD. My research aims to analyze nicotine in a holistic manner in regards to Parkinson’s Disease.

Painting a Melting Pot: Interpreting Architectural Similarities and Differences Here and Abroad

This past year I have learned about the diverse Visigothic, Byzantine, and Islamic factors that influence Portuguese and Spanish architecture, altogether categorizing the area as a cultural melting pot–a term up until now I had mainly associated with the United States. Therefore, for my research I want to use my love for painting as a tool for analyzing how these two different melting pots, The Southern United States and Southern Portugal, represent themselves visually in their architecture and people, with a focus on religious structures. I will be conducting half of the project here in Virginia, researching local landmarks and churches and doing graphite studies of them, followed by developing these drawings into full paintings. While at home, I will use historical context to inform the style that I choose to portray the buildings in, highlighting the uniquely American attributes while also showcasing any aspects of foreign influence. I will then travel to Boulimique, Portugal (near Lisbon) going to church and village sites with the same goal of drawing and painting there, emphasizing the uniquely Portuguese architectural elements with help from contextual research.

[Read more…]

Prevalent Morbidities in Homeless Sub-populations – A Synthetic Review

My research focuses on the most prevalent diseases and disorders unique to homeless individuals subdivided into children, adults, the elderly, and veterans. Through this research, I hope to gain insight into the challenges facing homeless individuals as a result of the social and physical determinants of health that constrain their health status. As a combination of medicine and public health, this research will look at the physical and mental ailments corresponding to the morbidities, while also discussing how the socioeconomic status of the patient manipulates their diagnosis and care management. This analysis will evaluate the progression of disease – acquisition/ infection, diagnosis, and treatment. As a result, this research aims at furnishing ministries and providers that interact with these sub-populations a concise, yet accurate portrayal of the current burden of disease. Furthermore, this serves as a preliminary investigation to be expanded upon in further, more experiential research.

Synthesizing Iron Complexes for the Production of Hydrogen Gas

Over the past few decades, Earth’s average surface temperature has continued to rise.  In fact, eighteen of the nineteen warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 (NASA). Global warming has the potential to pose a serious threat to human society in the near future.  Increased temperatures will lead to longer droughts, more severe storms, lower agricultural outputs, infrastructural damage, and countless other negative impacts (Fourth National Climate Assessment).  Since climate change can largely be attributed to carbon dioxide emissions, it is imperative that we implement clean, renewable energy resources.  Hydrogen gas is one such clean fuel, producing only water, electricity, and heat when consumed in a fuel cell. Therefore, finding a cheap and efficient way to generate hydrogen gas could allow us to use more clean energy and slow the effects of climate change.

[Read more…]