CAHNR provides many undergrad research opportunities

Apicella Peter Frontiers
Undergraduate Peter Apicella stands by the Frontiers research poster he created with fellow horticulture student Jacob Griffith Gardner. UConn photo.

Various CAHNR students and faculty advisors/mentors are involved in undergraduate research projects. According to Associate Dean for Academic Programs Sandra Bushmich, undergraduates follow several avenues of exposure to research science. Some examples include students who do research for academic credit, through internship programs and as part of employment in a laboratory.

Recent undergraduate research events highlighted the work or proposals of those who were receiving an IDEA grant, presenting a Frontiers research poster or obtaining a SURF award. In addition, two students received travel funds to present their research findings at meetings. The UConn Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) hosts the award events.

(The names of CAHNR undergraduate students involved and CAHNR advisors/mentors for the projects are bolded.)

IDEA Grants

Idea Grant graphic
Graphic courtesy of UConn OUR

Among the 40 UConn undergraduates who were recently awarded UConn IDEA Grants are seven from CAHNR. This program supports student-designed and student-led projects with awards of up to $4000 per student. Awards are given to individual and group projects. IDEA stands for imagine/develop/engage/apply.

Individual Projects

 In this project, Force Applied to the Horse’s Head by Bitted and Bitless Bridles, Kelli Knapp (Animal Science, Equine Business Management) will measure the force applied to a horse’s nose, mouth and top of the head during basic riding maneuvers by bitted and bitless bridles in an effort to prevent pain and tissue damage and help horse riders and trainers improve equine welfare.

The project for Annette Montoya (Horticulture), Children’s Cognitive Garden, involves creating a children’s cognitive garden at the UConn Avery Point campus to encourage experiential learning through sensory stimulation and self-directed play. The garden will be open to the community and serve as a model that can be used in other settings.

David Rascati (Sustainable Plant & Soil Systems) will design and install a unique garden that captures the feeling of a painting in an enveloping three-dimensional space using plants as a medium in his project called Painting with Plants.

The Effects of Poor Maternal Nutrition on mRNA Expression of IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFPB-2, and IGFBP-3 in the Ovine Placenta will be researched by Caitlyn Splaine (Animal Science). She will investigate how poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy affects the expression of specific growth factors and growth factor binding proteins in the placenta and, ultimately, the growth of the fetus in a sheep model.

Group Projects

Meeshali Patel (Allied Health) will join with three College of Liberal Arts and Sciences students to investigate the diet’s effect on sulfur-containing metabolic biomarkers based on the urine of newborns at-risk for ASD. A new metabolite biomarker could facilitate more research focused on newborn metabolism and its relation to the disorder, potentially leading to creation of ASD prevention methods. The project is called Urinary Analysis on the Effects of Dietary Intake on Sulfur-Containing Metabolites in Newborns at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

As part of their project, UConn Access to Food Effort (UCAFE), Wanjiku Gatheru (Environmental Sciences) will team with a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences student to study the issue of food insecurity among members of the UConn Storrs community. In addition, they will develop an on-campus food pantry initiative that improves upon the current conventional food pantry system by providing healthy food items in a dignified and inclusive space to those in need.

Nancy Kuhn (Allied Health Sciences) and two engineering majors to develop and launch the UConn AT Hackathon, which is a 12-hour challenge for engineers and makers to develop an assistive technology solution and create a prototype that addresses an individualized need of a person with a disability.

Frontiers in Undergraduate Research

Frontiers 2018 Program Cover Front Half resized
Graphic courtesy of UConn OUR

Frontiers in Undergraduate Research held its 21st annual poster exhibition of student research, scholarship and creative projects in April. Numerous CAHNR undergraduates shared their work with the University community. CAHNR advisors were involved, as well.

The Effects of Road Salt Pollution on Soils and Tree Health, Kelsey Witik (Environmental Sciences) teamed with another student and advisors Ashley Helton, assistant professor in natural resources and the environment, and John Volin, vice provost in academic affairs and professor of natural resources and the environment.

Alexandra Grimaldi (Allied Health Sciences and English) worked on The Effects of Feelings of Home and Loneliness on Housing Stability Following Transition from an Institutional Setting to a Community Setting. Her advisor was Julie Robison, a professor at the Center on Aging, UConn Health.

 Lindsey Lepley, an assistant professor in kinesiology, advised Kyle Kalotai (Chemistry) in the Eccentric Exercise to Promote Immediate Beneficial Adaptations to Muscle project.

Skylar Wright (Biological Sciences) studied Structural Variations in Circulating Lipopolysaccharide may Increase Severity of Exercise-Induced Heat Illness and was advised by Elaine Lee, an assistant professor in kinesiology.

For the Legislators’ Perceptions and Knowledge of the Athletic Training Profession poster, Rebecca Stearns, an assistant professor in residence in kinesiology, advised Sararat Tosakoon (Biological Sciences).

Tiffany Chanla (Allied Health Sciences) investigated Societal Influences On Breastfeeding and was advised by Ruth Lucas, an assistant professor in nursing.

Two students and one advisor from plant science and landscape architecture, Peter Apicella (Horticulture), Jacob Griffith Gardner (Horticulture) and Professor Mark Brand, joined in Enhancing Breeding Efforts through Fruit Quality Analysis of World’s Largest Aronia Collection.

In the project, The Role of MicroRNA 181c-5p in Post-Stroke Social Isolation, Maria Antony (Allied Health Sciences and Molecular and Cell Biology) was advised by Rajkumar Verma, an assistant professor in neuroscience, UConn Health.

CAHNR's Maya Schlesinger at the UConn Frontiers research poster exhibition
Animal science major Maya Schlesinger displays a poster depicting her research results at the UConn Frontiers research poster exhibition. UConn photo.

Maya Schlesinger (Animal Science) worked with her advisor Mary Anne Amalaradjou, an assistant professor in animal science on Temporal Changes in Muscle Development in the Chicken Embryo as Influenced by Probiotic Supplementation.  

The project of Investigating the Effects of High Maternal Milk Production During Gestation on Circulating Concentrations of Insulin and Glucose in Holstein Calves joined Alexandra Cabra (Animal Science), Veronica Pleasant (Animal Science and Pathobiology), Randi Szabo (Animal Science) and advisor Kristen Govoni, an associate professor in animal science.

Three CAHNR students, Veronica Pleasant (Animal Science and Pathobiology), Alexandra Cabra (Animal Science) and Randi Szabo (Animal Science), worked with their advisor Kristen Govoni, an associate professor in animal science.Their project was The Effects of Maternal Milk Production during Gestation on Offspring Immunity in Holstein Calves.

Kristen Govoni, an associate professor in animal science, also advised Randi Szabo (Animal Science), Alexandra Cabra (Animal Science) and Veronica Pleasant (Animal Science and Pathobiology) for Effects of Maternal Milk Production on Calf Growth and Blood Biochemistry.

Student Mary Donato (Natural Resources and the Environment) and advisor Beth Lawrence, an assistant professor in natural resources and the environment, teamed up for the Effects of Plant Traits and Water Quality on Carbon Fluxes in Freshwater Wetlands project.

The poster, Growing Gourmet Mushrooms with Brewers Grain, Coffee and Sawdust, was presented by Cameron Collins (Sustainable Plant and Soil Systemsand Individualized Major: Global Perspectives in Sustainable Agroecology), who was advised by Gerald Berkowitz, a professor in plant science and landscape architecture.

Kristin Burnham‘s (Pathobiology and Molecular and Cell Biology) project was Development of a Contraception Workshop for Public High Schools in Connecticut. She worked with a marketing student and advisor Thomas Van Hoof, an associate professor in nursing and community medicine and health care, UConn Health.

In Examining Factors Related to the Food Insecurity-Obesity Paradox in Low-Income Mothers and Fathers, Emily Taylor (Dietetics) was advised by Amy Mobley, an associate professor in nutritional sciences.

A project called Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in a Sri Lankan Agricultural Community was the focus of Deborah Foster‘s (Allied Health Sciences and Anthropology) research. Her advisor was Stephen Schensul, a professor in community medicine and health care, UConn Health.

Leslie Dunn (Individualized Major: Health and Wellness) was advised by Lawrence Armstrong, a professor in kinesiology. The project was The Effect of Rehydration after 24 Hour Dehydration on the Perception of Fatigue and How Challenging it is to Concentrate: A Preliminary Study.

Tracy Rittenhouse, an assistant professor in natural resources and the environment, served as the advisor for Benjamin Breslau (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) in his research topic,  Juvenile Amphibian Growth and Survival in Response to Litter Type.

Conservation and Habitat Restoration of the Globally Imperiled Northern Metalmark Butterfly (Calephelis borealis) (Lepidoptera: Riodinidae) was the poster presented by Weston Henry (Landscape Architecture and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) with help from advisor David Wagner, a professor in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Syma Ebbin, an associate professor in residence in agricultural and resource economics, and Christine Green, an adjunct faculty member in instruction and research, UConn Avery Point advised two marine sciences students. The project was Avery Point EcoHusky Rain Garden Project.

SURF Awards (Summer Undergraduate Research Fund)

Graphic courtesy of UConn OUR

Five CAHNR undergraduate students received SURF Awards for summer 2018. In total, 59 UConn students were selected from a group of applicants representing diverse areas of academic inquiry. SURF stands for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund.

Indirect Effects of Road Salt Pollution on Forested Wetland Soil Chemistry is the subject for Katherine Bell (Environmental Sciences). Ashley Helton, assistant professor in natural resources and the environment, is her mentor.

Alaina Bisson’s (Environmental Sciences) proposal is How Do Decomposition Rates Differ among Vegetation Zones in Connecticut Coastal Wetlands?, and she is mentored by Beth Lawrence, an assistant professor in natural resources and the environment.

Kayleigh Granville (Environmental Sciences), mentored by Ashley Helton, assistant professor in natural resources and the environment, will look into Temporal Patterns in Denitrification Rates and N2O Emissions from Different Vegetation Zones in Coastal Salt Marshes.

Sarah Jacobson (Natural Resources) will seek to answer How Do Road Salts and Amphibians Influence Mosquito Production in Temporary Wetlands? while being mentored by Tracy Rittenhouse, an assistant professor in natural resources and the environment.

Nicholas Tambini (Allied Health Sciences) is mentored by Alison Kohan, an assistant professor in nutritional sciences. He will investigate The Role of ApoC-III on the Circulating Immune System in Response to a Western Diet.

Research Travel Awards

Maria Antony was the International Stroke Conference Junior Investigator Travel Award recipient. She gave an oral presentation of Restoration of MiRNA MiR-181c-5p–Rescue From the Detrimental Effect of Social Isolation in the Mice Subjected to Ischemic Stroke at the conference in January.

Kayla Hope presenting her research poster.
Kayla Hope UConn photo.

Kayla Hope went to the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Annual Meeting in Hartford using her OUR Travel Award. Hope’s research poster was entitled What Type 1 Diabetes Nutrition Advice is Being Shared on Twitter and Who is Sharing It?

By Patsy Evans