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#URS2020 Lightning Talks

The 2020 virtual Undergraduate Research Showcase featured fourteen students from across the university delivering 3-minute lightning talks. The event was live-streamed on Friday, April 17th, 2020, and a recording of it is available online below. Enjoy!

Lightning Talk Presenters

Holly Bossart, Applied Mathematics, Statistics Emphasis; Economics, Quantitative Emphasis; and Computer Science Minor
Regional Analysis of Mental Disorder Prevalence in Ukraine

Sarah E. Coose, Biological Sciences
Recreation & Wildlife Activity in the Wood River Valley

Maggie Dillon, Special Education and Elementary Education
3D Printing Assistive Technology to Support Students with Disabilities: Students Teach Undergrads the Importance of Community and Research in Education

Shelby A. McNeilly, Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics Minor
Revolutionizing Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum

Daniele Moro, Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Minor
How Robots Express Emotion: Grounding Descriptions of Robot Behaviors into Dynamic Internal States & Representations of Affect & Emotion

Ali W. Mustafa, Material Science and Engineering
Single Crystal Casting

Sugopi R. Palakala, History
Inculturation & Dissemination: The Symbiotic Relationship between Religion & Society

Emily Pape, Global Studies with Economics Emphasis; Economics and Spanish Minors
Why Countries Transition to Clean Energy (& Why They Don’t)

Samantha K. Schauer, Mechanical Engineering
Lay of the Land: Professional Identity in Our Student Body

Allen Skirvin, Music Composition
A Northwest American Sound in Classical Music

Yung Stiffler, Multidisciplinary Studies, Anthropology Minor
Employee Time-Off Benefits

Chelle Szurgot, Astrophysics and Applied Mathematics
Summoning Devils in the Desert

Joey P. Tuccinardi, Chemistry
The Confluence of Computation, Biology, and Organic Chemistry in Combating Breast Cancer Metastasis

Nate Weber, Health Studies and Spanish Minor
What Animal Studies Can Teach Us about Glyphosate Toxicity to Pregnant Women & Their Children

Video Transcript

[MARLENE TROMP]: Hello, Broncos. Welcome to the Digital Undergraduate Research Showcase. Boise State is on the leading edge of global research and you are a part of that. We’re a doctoral research university with high research activity, so this event embodies the heart of who we are. We’re also nationally ranked in innovation, because of the new ways that we go about doing our exciting work. And that work impacts the university, the state, the region and the world. You should be so proud, and your engagement in knowledge creation will help you be a leader when you go out in the world. Thank you so much for the work that you’re doing,
and go Broncos!

[DONNA LLEWELLYN]: Good morning. My name is Donna Llewellyn, and I have the honor of co-chairing the URS2020 planning committee with my colleague, Michal Temkin Martinez. Our whole committee welcomes you to this morning’s live stream event of our plenary presentation of student lightning talks.

I invite our viewers to listen with grace and generosity of spirit – our students had planned on delivering these talks in a ballroom in the student union building on the Boise State University campus. Instead, they are streaming them from their homes or wherever they are sheltering in place. So, some of the sound might be muffled or a bit broken up…but that is okay – we are so very proud of our students!

I am now going to hand it off to Michal who will serve as our emcee of this event.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thank you, Donna. We are delighted to have you all join us today. This marks our 17th annual event celebrating undergraduate research, and the first year that we are incorporating a lightning talk round featuring fourteen students from across our university. The students whose work you will see today were nominated by their supervising faculty and worked with coaches to fit their research into tight 3-minute chunks. As you’ll see and hear, some of their work builds on their mentors’ research, and others are working on independent research projects, and they all feature undergraduate students creating new knowledge. 

We are proud to have these students join us today and are excited to have them share their research with you. 

We also want to hear from you, our audience members. Whether you’re here to support your friends, students or family members, or you’re a Boise State undergraduate student and you’d like to be entered for the prize drawing or to get extra credit — just head to our home page and click on the orange feedback button. 

Also, throughout today’s event, please make sure to engage with our students and with us through social media using the hashtag #URS2020. 

It looks like we’re ready to go ahead and get started with our first talk today. Up first is Holly Bossart, an applied math and economics double major minoring in computer science who will present about the implications of mental disorders in times of uncertainty with a regional analysis of Mental Disorder Prevalence in Ukraine. Holly?

[HOLLY BOSSART]: I want you to think about how you’ve been feeling these past few weeks, feeling fearful for the future,
perhaps you’re starting to feel depressed, maybe a bit anxious. Now, I want you to imagine how generations of violence,
corruption and that sort of fear might affect your mental health. This is exactly the question my colleagues
and I sought to answer. And for Ukraine, this is not a hypothetical scenario. Historically, Ukraine has played a bloody game of tug of war for their independence from Russia. You might remember the recent annexation of Crimea by Russia or the Chernobyl disaster. However, Ukraine’s hardship does not end here. During the Stalin era, 4 million people died during the span of two years from genocide and famine, designed to quell Ukrainian separatists. In 2014, bloody protests against Russian collusion resulted in corrupt pro-Russian police forces, shooting and killing crowds of citizens. Though Ukraine as a whole has experienced generational trauma, there are areas like Eastern Ukraine that have been more adversely affected by Russian tensions. Our experience in Ukraine prompted us to ask, do the areas that have fared worse through history experience the highest rates of mental disorders? We hypothesized that yes, poor environments would have higher prevalence rates. However, we also hypothesized that acclamation of those constant war conditions through generations might also lead to under-reporting mental illness symptoms. This could be a problem, leading to potentially misleading results if we used traditional methods. On top of that, most of our data was in Russian. So to answer these questions, we turned to epidemiology methods used by non-infectious disease experts, where cases may be under-reported. These methods enabled us to identify clusters of disease that are non-random. What this means is that there is something particular to those areas that are impacting their mental disorder rates. We found Eastern Ukraine and coastal areas near Russia experienced higher levels of disorders like major and chronic depression. Kharkiv, which is the areal pictured here, was the area identified as the most significant cluster nestled near decades long war zones along the border of Russia, and the area most affected by the Stalin era famine. It’s so clear to understand how this area has suffered through history. Identification of clusters will allow us to further investigate which factors of upheaval are most correlated with a rise in disease. By being the first researchers to use these epidemiology methods to explore mental disorders in a former Soviet country, our findings allowed for more targeted intervention strategies. These results can help us understand just how complex mental illness is. And especially, can help us enact policies in war-torn countries to benefit the wellbeing of their citizens. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thank you, Holly! Up next we have Sarah Coose, from Biological Sciences, sharing research on use of our natural resources by humans and animals with a talk titled Recreation and wildlife activity in the Wood River Valley. Sarah? 

[SARAH COOSE]: “Two roads diverged in a wood and I- “I took the one less traveled by,” a romantic and well known line of poetry by Robert Frost. As the human population grows, forest trails are becoming increasingly more traveled by. Thus, humans and animals often find themselves sharing space. This is especially relevant in Idaho, in which the population has grown by an impressive 74% in the last 10 years. Consequently, there has also been an increase in recreation on public lands. It’s important to understand how this will impact ecosystems and change how humans and wildlife interact in these natural spaces. The Big Wood River Watershed in Blaine County, Idaho, is an excellent example of a natural area with a high density of recreational activity. For the last year and a half, I have been working on a project in the Wood River Valley examining the relationships that exist between recreation and the activity of wildlife on both spatial and temporal scales. To collect my data, I deployed 48 infrared triggered field cameras, which collected photos, as well as the date and time that the photos were I focused on eight species of ecological and social interest: American black bear, coyote, mule deer, elk, mountain lion, moose, bay wolf and humans. For my spatial analysis, I used a series of generalized linear models to examine how increasing human recreation correlated with wildlife presence and abundance. I had hypothesized that areas of high recreational activity would result in low presence of wildlife. Interestingly, the only species for which this was shown was elk. In fact, for coyote, wolf and bear, the opposite was true. Higher recreation correlated with an increased activity for these species. My temporal analysis used coefficient of overlap to examine how much time wildlife species shared with humans on the trail and I observed two timing strategies. For example, wolves were active at night while coyotes and bears were active primarily during the day, at the same times when most humans recreate. These results suggest that animals use many of the same trails that we do, although they may differ in their strategies regarding how they spend their time. This increases the potential for human wildlife conflict. Risks to humans from wildlife can include situations such as depredation of livestock, competition with hunters and physical altercations, while risks to wildlife from humans can include habitat fragmentation, poaching and increased stress. Because of these risks, understanding when and where wildlife will come into contact or conflict with humans should be a pressing matter of discussion for wildlife management organizations. To build upon this research, future studies should consider performing experiments that allow us to establish causality between recreation and wildlife activity, and also take into account other environmental covariates such as occupancy models. So the next time you see two roads diverge in a wood, remember, regardless which one you choose, you share it in the company of many other furry travelers.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thanks, Sarah! Our next student presenter is Maggie Dillon from Special Education and Elementary education. Her presentation sheds light on the use of emerging technologies to help members of our community in 3D Printing Assistive Technology to Support  Students with Disabilities. Go ahead Maggie!

[MAGGIE DILLON]: Hello, my name is Maggie Dylan, and together with my colleagues, Kyrsten Halperin and Joseph Fritz, I would like you to take a moment to imagine that you are a high school student with a severe disability. Please imagine what challenges you might face trying to succeed in your education and personal goals if you require assistance to hold and scan your ID card, if your means of communication limited you to yes or no answers, or if you struggled to successfully hold and operate a pencil. Our mission over the last year has been to design and print customized assistive technology devices to meet the needs of three individual students in our community who face their education with these and many other challenges. As a team, together with classroom educators, paraprofessionals and the Makers Lab staff, we develop devices that serve to increase student access to education and support their individual goals. It’s important to understand that assistive technology is any device that supports a person to work around their challenges. Devices range from simple to highly technological, but all make a difference in the lives and educations of those who use them. 7 million students or 14% nationwide receive special education services in the U.S., many require assistive devices. The cost of a device varies but the average value is $539 per device. Additional adaptations to better suit the specifications of the student often incur an additional cost and can contribute to barriers when working to successfully implement the device. In our wonderful community, and indeed across the country, access to 3D printing technology is becoming ever more available, and Boise State’s College of Education look to future possibilities of meeting students’ needs by allowing my colleagues and I to participate in this project wherein we gain professional experience, as well as utilize 3D technology to design individualized assistive tech devices to meet the unique needs of three local students. Each device we created for our students underwent multiple prototypes and carried with them careful research, design and hours of meaningful teaching experiences on the part of our team. But most importantly, returned to the student an opportunity to enjoy their independence and support their access to learning. The student you see here, like all high school students, values her independence, yet she faces challenges related to her disability that inhibit her from scanning her ID card independently. Therefore, she must take a paraprofessional with her through the lunch line. At no cost to her family or to her school, we created a customized device that was not only made to resemble her favorite animal and printed in her favorite color, but also designed to suit her physical measurements and limitations. Her teacher reports that she uses her assistive grip daily and is excited about getting to eat lunch with her friends just like her peers. Each need our students faced was unique. Our team designed an immobilizing brace to shorten setup time required for paraprofessionals to assemble a student’s communication device, which would in turn enable her to begin communicating more quickly and return critical instructional time to the student. Additionally, we designed an assistive marker grip to support another student’s engagement by considering their unique interests and favorite writing modality in order to increase class participation. Emerging technologies must be accepted, understood and incorporated into the realm of possibilities for meeting student’s needs. Overall, we learned that possibilities for designing individualized assistive technology devices using 3D printing is limitless. We also learned that empowering undergraduate educators to participate in research projects that offer authentic opportunities to support student needs and collaborate with others is deeply meaningful, not only for us as future educators, but as individuals and advocates for students with exceptionalities. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thanks, Maggie! Up next, we have Shelby McNeilly, a mechanical engineering student minoring in applied math discussing students shaping their own curriculum and educational experiences in Revolutionizing Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum. Go ahead Shelby!

[SHELBY McNEILLY]: Good morning, everyone. For the past year, I’ve been working alongside Dr. Donald Plumlee and Dr. Krishna Pakala to co-author a publication for the American Society of Engineering Education conference. The 21st century has borne witness to profound technological and societal advancements, some taking the world by storm overnight. In order to accommodate industry demands, companies today must be constantly adjusting and transforming to stay competitive. For example, we can turn to the global COVID-19 pandemic and how it has created an exponentially growing virtual work environment. With these quickly developing requirements, comes an expectation of employee experience and skill sets. For individuals seeking a career in Mechanical Engineering, moving forward with the tools necessary for success in this continuously and quickly evolving world begins with higher education. This research focuses on the goals and processes used to modernize Boise State University’s current Mechanical Engineering curriculum. This will provide undergraduates with an effective foundation for the future. Integrating a change of this magnitude necessitated consideration of a multitude of factors. The primary motivation behind the change is to allow our students to pursue more diverse and relevant fields of knowledge. This includes more flexibility within course requirements, as well as offering more availability and degree emphases. Incorporating hands on learning, creating class curriculum focused on instilling proper communication and presentation skills and merging previously taught subjects to better assist student understanding. With these initiatives in mind, the department began revising its Mechanical Engineering curriculum based on review of peer institutions in Educational Literature. Faculty, student and industrial advisory boards and other stakeholders aided in validating this adjusted degree program. With the concise analysis of motivations, academic literature, ambitions and constraints, ASME’s vision 2030 functioned as the elementary foundation for the new design. During this development phase, several restrictions had to be addressed. The curriculum must continue to follow guidelines provided by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, align with university degree policies appease stakeholders and serve as an overall practical solution. In simplest terms, colleges are producing under-prepared students. In order to bridge this divide, industry and education must serve as one another’s primary stakeholders and work closely together in expressing their individual needs. With motivations, research and constraints carefully considered, Boise State University’s Mechanical Engineering department strongly believes that they are on the right track to providing their students with the skills and experiences needed to be successful and valuable in their future careers. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thanks, Shelby! Joining us next is Daniele Moro, a student majoring in Computer science with an applied math minor describing the use of AI in facilitating better interactions between humans and machines in “How Robots Express Emotion”

[DANIELE MORO]: Hello, everyone. Meet Cozmo, the cute little robot I used in my research. Although Cozmo can fit in your palm, he can be programmed to be surprisingly animated and intelligent. My question to you is, how does Cozmo feel in this image? You might answer, curious or inquisitive,

but here’s the truth, Cozmo does not possess or understand emotion. As humans, we like to assign emotion to things that look like us. As long as something has eyes, we often assume that it has some level of intelligence and inner feeling. This may be true with humans but as of today, robots do not possess emotion. Why does this matter? A study where human participants worked with a robot to accomplish a repetitive task found that quote, “Users tend to follow task instructions better “when the robot expresses negative emotions such as anger.” The robot did not actually feel angry, but because the humans thought it did, they were more respectful of the robot’s time. The study shows how humans interact with robots based on how they perceive the robot to feel, even if the robot does not possess emotions. Therefore, if we want a robot to interact with humans effectively, the robot must understand how humans interpret the robot’s actions. But how can a robot understand its own emotional signals if it does not understand emotions? The answer is it can guess with machine learning models, an important area of artificial intelligence. My research this past year involved augmenting a state of the art machine learning model called BERT to predict emotions from descriptions of robot actions. This model would allow a future robot to understand how humans perceive what it is about to do, and potentially change its actions to result in better interaction. For example, the robot may choose to avoid actions that result in a human thinking the robot is sobbing and choose actions that result in a human thinking the robot is laughing, feelings that could be potentially confused. Our research group had online human participants. Look at video recordings of the Cozmo robot performing over 900 actions. Then they wrote a description of what the robot did and marked the corresponding emotions that they perceived from the robot. I built and trained an artificial intelligence model on this data so that given a description of a robot action, it would predict or perceive the motion of the robot with over 90% accuracy. Here are some examples. When the model read, the robot looks down, it predicted the robot should the emotion fear. The robot looks up was predicted to mean interest. The robot moves away meant boredom. The robot nods his head meant understanding and squinting eyes meant confusion. We also found that the model associated the word eyes with confusion and alarm, and the word forward with hope and understanding. Isn’t that amazing? Although we were able to predict abstract displayed emotions from abstract robot descriptions, other models we created that use concrete senses, such as Cozmo’s wheel speeds and facial states did not benefit from considering the abstract emotional displays of the robot.Therefore, our findings reinforced previous work and suggest that abstract emotions better link to abstract words than concrete perceptions. For this reason, robots must deal with abstract words and symbols in order to understand abstract emotions. Our work in the slim research group builds towards a future where all roboticists can create robots that take into consideration human emotional interpretations so that robots can have predictable and positive impacts on the humans they interact with. But until we get there, everyone should keep in mind that robots don’t have emotions and you should always think twice about what you think a robot is feeling. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thanks, Daniele! Up next is Ali Mustafa from Material science & Engineering discussing the use of engineering to produce purer materials in Single Crystal Casting. Take it away, Ali!

[ALI MUSTAFA]: Hi. Many of you may remember the 1991 science fiction movie robot which can take any shape. So the T-1000 but shaping metals actually do exist and are known as shape-memory alloys. In the magnetic material I’ve heard on campus, we synthesize and characterize one particular magnetic shape-memory alloy, nickel-manganese-gallium. In fact over the past 10 years, we have developed a process to create nickel-manganese-gallium crystals with a superior purity and homogeneity to enhance it’s performance. Our nickel-manganese-gallium met no brain T-1000 to life yet but it does some amazing things like powering microphones which can inject the fluids with a very precise amount and control the pressure without the need of any moving parts. These pumps can be used in biomedical research at Boise State and hopefully have application in microbiology and other fields. Now super purity is very important for our materials. Imperfection change properties. Consider for instance, a perfect gemstone, transparent white, nasty faceted, a clear crystal. Imperfection such as inclusion cracks, impurities make the gemstone opaque. Imperfection in our nickel-manganese-gallium crystals act the same way, creating high purity alloy of gem metal. It’s not an easy job. In fact, it takes around 40 hours to make a three inch crystal and we still have issues with manganese diffusing, making the structure imperfect. To optimize our results, we had to think like engineers. We didn’t only focus on the product, but on modifying our machinery that we used to prevent manganese from diffusing, we accelerate the 40 hours of process, it will take only a few minutes. To do that, we bring the red-hot molten metal in direct contact with water chill of copper plate. So far, we achieved high chemical perfection and now we’re working on structural perfection. We redesigned our instrument to perfect origin metal and that’s what engineering is all about. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thank you, Ali. Next, we have Sugopi Palakala from History, discussing the reciprocal role of society and religion play in enculturation and dissemination, Sugopi?

[SUGOPI PAKALA]: Centuries ago, though religion and society were inseparable from each other, we often like to think that modern day society has moved away from such patterns and functions as an entity separate from religion. However, my research into Christianity and Gaudiya Vaishnavism shows that religion and society possess a subtly symbiotic relationship continuing to influence each other even in the modern day. When A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami brought Gaudiya Vaishnavism to the United States in 1965, he adapted to the feminist movement, allowing women to lecture in public and assume priestly services. This represented a major shift from Indian society, where a woman’s piety was judged by how well she performed her duties in the home, tending to her husband and children. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami did not solely imbibe however. He also contributed to the formation of a novel social culture. He required that the thousands of people who joined his movement became vegetarians. Furthermore, his consent was around the world established vegetarian restaurants open to the public. Through his movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami made it easier for people to become mindful eaters regardless of their spiritual or religious beliefs. This theme of mutual adaptation is not exclusive to Gaudiya Vaishnavism alone, it is also present in the history of Christianity. Today, the Catholic Church believes that women should not take on public roles in the church and should focus on their homes, children and husband. However, women possessed a great degree of autonomy before Christianity became a legalized religion. They exercised leadership positions at religious gatherings and educated others on Christianity. Everything changed in 323 however, when Christianity became the legal religion of the Roman Empire. Male church authorities conformed to Roman societal values and restricted women to the privacy of their homes. In 1 Corinthians 14 verses 34 and 35, it is stated, “It is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church, “but neither is it permitted her to teach nor to baptize, “nor to offer, nor to claim for herself any function “least of all public office.” As with Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Christianity also greatly influenced society. In the 10th and 11th centuries, church leaders created what historian Thomas Woods calls an international academic community, which permitted unfettered scholarly debate that we associate with the university. Ultimately, through the meaningful examples of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and Christianity, one can conclude that the symbiotic relationship between religion and society has been a prevalent theme in history, as practices from each institution continue to seep into the other. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thanks, Sugopi! Our next student is Emily Pape, a Global Studies student minoring in Economics and Spanish on factors influencing countries’ decisions on energy use in Why Countries Transition to clean Energy (and why they dont)

[EMILY PAPE]:Thanks, Michal. Renewable resources going green, cutting carbon, these buzzwords have gradually built themselves into the public discourse, both in the United States and globally. Our world is either hurtling towards climate decimation or in the midst of a natural cyclical process, depending on who you ask. Despite these fundamental disagreements, the overall conversation has turned increasingly to energy. Where countries get their energy is central to the overall functioning of their economies and societies from healthcare to entertainment. My research focused on answering one question, what factors influence the adoption of clean energy at the national level? I argued that the success of energy transitions to clean energy is the upon several distinct factors. These involve cost effectiveness of energy, policy incentives, energy consumption, access to resources, concern for the environment and the existence of energy security threats. Through investigation of China, Germany and the United States, I hypothesized and ultimately found that these factors each play a role in individual country’s decisions, regarding the adoption of clean energy sources over fossil fuels. As the cost of energy from clean energy sources falls below the cost of traditional fossil fuel sources, the shift to a clean energy economy will increase. Additionally, if there’s greater availability of cost-effective cheap fossil fuels within the country, then that country will use fossil fuels rather than clean energy sources. However, if cheap clean energy is more accessible, will be used instead of fossil fuel energy sources. As another factor, greater household level energy consumption will decrease the incentive for countries to transition away from fossil fuels. Though clean energy sources may be adopted to supplement fossil fuels in order to keep pace with consumption. Government policies surrounding investment and tax structure will also strongly influence the energy sources that are adopted and widely used, where sources supported by the government will prevail over those not supported. Finally, existing threats to a country’s fossil fuel energy supply will push that country to invest in and adopt domestic clean energy sources. However, if a country is reasonably secure with domestic sources of fossil fuels, then that country will be less likely to transition to clean energy sources. To test these hypotheses, I focused on three case studies, the United States, Germany and China. I used the most recently available data primarily from 2015 to the present, to explore the variables acting as drivers and barriers for the use of clean energy sources in each country. Drivers as the variable conditions that support clean energy sources over fossil fuels contribute to clean energy adoption while barriers, which are the conditions that dissuade the use of clean energy over fossil fuels would contribute to further reliance on fossil fuels. Based on the evidence collected, I found that my hypotheses are supported, with China and Germany more likely to adopt clean energy sources than the United States. However, more research is needed to fully explore my research question, especially regarding the weight of each individual variable on the outcome of clean energy adoption. If anything, my research has led to several pathways for future research opportunities, allowing me to dig deeper into the question I’ve only just begun to explore. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Next up is Samantha Schauer from Mechanical Engineering discussing her investigation of students confidence as a factor in their professional identity in Lay of the Land: Professional Identity in our student body

[SAMANTHA SCHAUER]: My name is Samantha Schauer and I’m a Mechanical Engineer in my senior year. I’m so thrilled to be able to share with you our research on professional identity development in Boise State’s College of Engineering. But I wonder would I be here if I had said, I am studying Mechanical Engineering instead of saying I am a Mechanical Engineer? This difference between doing and belonging to a profession matters. It matters because students are more likely to drop out if they don’t feel included. Prior work has shown that this sense of belonging, professionally identifying one’s major, is a predictor of retention and graduation and stuff yields and the effects are magnified for underrepresented students. So, how do we fix this? In order to provide equitable career and degree opportunities to engineering students at Boise State, we need to know the ways in which our student body’s unique. We can craft solutions unique to our campus. Over the past year, I’ve worked with faculty in education and engineering to develop a 57 question survey and received 260 student responses across all years of majors. Thank you to those of you who filled out our survey. Your responses have given us an initial lay of the land we categorized in four ways. Number one, feelings of recognition. This was accomplished with questions like, does your family see you as an engineer or do you see yourself as an engineer? Number two, interest in this subject. We asked questions like, do you enjoy what you’re studying or do you see yourself pursuing a career in this subject? Number three, confidence and competence in their work. Did the students feel like they understand what they’re learning and could apply it to real life? And number four, definition of an engineer. What traits are important to being a successful engineer? Are soft skills more important or is an innate strength in Math and Science important? So what did we find? Well in some ways, we’re no exception to national findings. At Boise State, women are less likely than men to report self identifying as an engineer and less likely to report enjoyment of and confidence in solving engineering problems, which is a bummer. But because of the breadth of data we collected and our ability to slice and dice it along demographic axes, we can resolve a more detailed picture unique to Boise State. For example, did you know that our non-traditional students are less likely to feel recognized as engineers by their friends and family than are traditional students but feel more prepared to tackle engineering problems in and out of the classroom? One way of interpreting this finding is when our non-traditional students get their first engineering jobs, they’ll hit the ground running, but they’re at a higher risk of not completing their degree and getting that job. Here’s another discovery we made. Across the freshmen to senior sequence, our students report increases in how they are recognized as engineers and increases in their confidence to do engineering. So our engineering departments work, but we also see…We also measured an identity crisis in the junior year. Across nearly every metric, we see juniors report being less recognized as engineers, less confident as engineers, less prepared to tackle engineering problems and less confident that engineering is even the correct path for them. Is it a coincidence that thermodynamics happens in the junior year? But seriously, junior year is colloquially considered to be the most difficult year in which a lot of students struggle and we measured that. Now that we’ve collected a representative sample across about 10% of the students in engineering, we’re eager to deploy surveys in individual programs to see what strategies help with professional identity development and what populations may need more support. We’re hoping to inform behaviors and strategies that make higher education more inclusive and empowering so that the perspectives of every Boise State student is leveraged to make a difference because they graduated and because we all belong as engineers. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thanks, Samantha! Up next, we have Allen Skirvin, a Music Composition major, who will be talking to us about influencing classical music with the wooded areas of the Northwest in Northwest American sound in classical music, Allen?

[ALLEN SKIRVIN]: Before coming to Boise State to pursue a major in Music Composition, I’d spent a good portion of my youth chopping wood and climbing trees in the forests of Western Oregon. I’ve long had an interest in music, but my knowledge of it didn’t go far beyond the Willie Nelson CDs and our truck and a couple of years I’d spent trailer park fiddling. I grown up believing that classical composers were trouble geniuses, gifted individuals who receive divine inspiration or childhood prodigies who were writing symphonies before they could even walk, people who are simply, not me, but later on in high school, I studied viola seriously and decided to give Music Composition a go. The piece of this presentation is based on “Sanguine Serenade,” was informed by my background of growing up in the sticks of Western Oregon and is emblematic of my composing technique as my music tends to be based on heavy improvisation with no preconceived direction. Rather than an organized outline of scales, chords, rhythms that another composer might use, musical ideas tend to passively drift into my consciousness through the stories of my past and the pastoral imagery that compliments it. Due to my use of improvisation during the compositional process, his composition ended up being mostly a metric or music without a conceived meter. So it tends to freely flow from one idea to the next without strict organization. I believe this type of composition reflects wooded areas where sound tends to enter the space with no guidance. The string part has heavy influences from my experiences performing as well as listening to a lot of fiddle music. The old technique and this piece often employs open strings and double stops that reflect the American fiddling style. There was even a moment halfway through the composition where the viola is loosely imitating country yodeling, or it hopes to create humble sounds of conversations such as the feeling of sporadic speech when two people argue or the loss of breath, when someone struggles to find the right words. The piano part acts as a contrast to the viola. You may notice it doesn’t have a very folksy sound to it. It serves a purpose of re-contextualizing the fiddling sound of the string part into a more classical aesthetic. I think the star contrast accurately symbolizes my own juxtaposition as a logger, getting a music degree. From my time composing music at Boise State, I’ve come to realize that classical composers are like the flora of cultures, creating landscapes suited for their climates. My music wears the culture of our region with rustic granola filled tree huggers who enjoy family friends and a solid hike over any magnificent feat of brilliance. My music is imperfect, but embodies the Northwest. If you’d like to hear a recording of the composition, you can come to our poster session on April 24th. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thank you so much, Allen and I look forward to hearing that. Up next, we have Yung Stiffler for Multidisciplinary Studies who will be talking to us about the impact of time off of different employees on work life balance in employee time off benefits. Take it away, Yung.

[YUNG STIFFLER]:  Thank you. What I hear most are frustrations as my friends, family and colleagues manage their time off from work. So for my user experience research project, I set out to research employee lead programs at two state agencies and what I wanted to know was, how does the time off benefits compared across different organizations, what type of time off benefits are employees looking for? Does the time off benefits impact an employee’s overall job satisfaction? With the help of two HR experts and my instructor, Dr. Kendall House, I set off to explore, how might we improve employees’ time off experience? First, I started with some unstructured interviews and other observations with the two HR clients to identify features of the LEAP programs that employees value most and how these state agencies differed in the options they offered. I also created a grid comparing LEAP programs at these agencies with 14 additional organizations to get a broader perspective and notice huge gaps in time off benefits offered. Next, I completed in depth structured interviews with 12 employees, both professional and classified as well as the HR experts at both agencies. To generalize, I also surveyed 36 employees to identify key features of LEAP programs designed by employees and found that greater flexibility leads to higher motivation and higher retention. I also created a workday mood map on employee’s work life balance experience to help showcase how the overall human experience is directly impacted by work cultures and policies. Through this, I learned that the employees often feel motivated as they start their workday, but then their mood declines depending on whether and when they get a lunch break or if they leave work on time. The biggest impact is when work bleeds into their personal life, personal time, impacting the family life. For both the professional and classified employees, being able to leave work on time is important as they stress that they are working to provide for family and to live their life, not spending more time at work than family and not to be living the best life. Overall, what I learned from this rapid ethnographic work is that 95% of employees before either a shorter work week or shorter work days, when surveyed about how their supervisors and colleagues impact them, approximately 95% stated that their supervisors’ reactions impact their time off experience. Now, that’s 95% of employees stating that their supervisors’ reactions truly impact their time off experience. And another 70% stated that their colleagues’ reactions impact their time off experience. Employees also stated that they feel cheated as they just want to be treated the same when it comes off to taking times off. Overwhelmingly, employees want help. Employees want to feel supported when gone, not feel guilty or stressed about the work they have when they return, some also need to be incentivized to take the time off. Their overall experiences are impacted about how their supervisors and colleagues react to their time off request as they often feel stressed when work overflows into their personal lives. They want to be treated like a professional and to be trusted and to live that best life, life is way too short. Thank you, and special thanks to Dr. Kendall House and Dr. Kelly Myers.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thank you, Yung. Up next, we have Chelle Szurgot, an Astrophysics student speaking about implications of dust devils on Mars and potential travel to the Red Planet and 70 devils in the desert, Chelle?

[CHELLE SZURGOT]: Hi everyone, my name is Chelle Szurgot, I study Astrophysics here at Boise State and I’m gonna tell you a little bit about the planetary science research I do that I’ve been part of for roughly two years now with Dr. Brian Jackson regarding Martian dust devils. First, I wanna talk about what is a dust devil in case folks might not know. A dust devil is a rotating whirlwind of air that does gets caught in which, the dust gets caught in which then in turn, makes that whirlwind of air visible. This picture on my side over here was a picture taken from NASA’s high rise above Martian surface in 2012. It shows a dust devil skittering across Martian surface and is roughly 104 meters in diameter. The dust plume lofts dust into the air and reaches roughly 20 kilometers above the surface. So these are the kinds of things that we’re interested in, but why? It turns out that we don’t really understand why dust devils can lift as much dust as they do. This includes dust devils here on earth. Our research hopes to better understand this phenomenon in hopes to figure out how much dust is being lifted and shifted across Martian surface. We also wanna know how much of this dust is contributing to Martian climate. You can imagine that this might be important because we currently have instrumentation upon Mars and we hope to send people there one day. We want to understand the implications of these best dusty plumes, so we can be prepared for how they might impact technology and humans. So, how does one study Martian dust devils without actually being on Mars? The research I do falls under what we call comparative planetology, where we study dust devils here on earth and use that information to learn more about Martian dust devils. The reason why we can do this is that well, Martian dust devils tend to be larger than earth devils, they behave very similarly. Dr. Jackson and I go out into the Alvord Desert in South Eastern Oregon and fly instrumented drones through the dust devils. The drone itself is a DJI Mavic Pro 2 and is equipped with various sensors that collect data that we can then analyze. More recently, we’ve been trying to build our own sensors to attach to the drone that can show us things like temperature gradients and dust concentration. If we’re able to know just how dusty these devils are, we can know how much they’re lifting and eventually know how they’re doing it. We can use this information to address the aforementioned implications that dust devils may have on technology and some day humids. Thank you.


Thank you, Chelle. Up next, we have Joey Tuccinardi from Chemistry talking to us about identifying molecules that can target metastasizing cancer and the confluence of computation, biology, and organic chemistry in combating breast cancer metastasis. Take it away, Joey.

[JOEY TUCCINARDI]: The National Cancer Institute estimates that over 250,000 new breast cancer cases in the United States will be diagnosed in 2020 alone. Of these 250,000, nearly 1/5 of them are expected to lose their life. Though the survival rate of localized breast cancer is nearly 99%, most breast cancer cases turn deadly as a result of tumor metastasis, when tumors migrate to other parts of the body such as lung, liver, and bone. Invento metastasis causes the survivability of breast cancer to plummet drastically. The dismal survival rate of only 27%. The current paradigm for breast cancer treatment is a systemic approach, meaning the body is treated as a whole. These chemotherapeutics used kill regular cells just as easily as they kill cancer cells, often leading to detrimental serious side effects. This highlights a significant need for targeted therapeutics that specifically inhibit breast cancer metastasis. The villain of my research stories, Oncostatin M or OSM, this menacing tan blob shown in the middle of your screen. OSM is a protein, a large molecule that serves a variety of purposes in the human body. For most of us, OSM regulates inflammation and other important processes. OSM does this through a lock and key mechanism by attaching to other proteins in the body. These interactions essentially tell your body to initiate inflammation, usually in response to injury or other stresses. In the inflammatory tumor environment however, OSM is severely over-produced triggering a cascade of inflammation and eventually, breast cancer metastasis. So how do you defeat any formidable villain? Well, for a villain shaped like a walk, we started hero shaped like a key. Using this known structure of OSM, we employed computational screening approaches to identify a smaller molecule that could fit into OSM’s lock. Over years of iterative computation, organic chemistry, and biological experiments, we eventually designed a small molecule that we predicted to act like circular key shown here in red and gray. The only issue was this molecule didn’t exist. My work in lab is focused on developing and executing routes to piece together this key. Using organic chemistry, we’re able to start with simple, readily available chemicals and turn them into complex molecules with different shapes and properties.Shown at the bottom of the screen is a roadmap of how we’re able to access this key along with other closely related molecules. My work is focused on demonstrating this molecule binds with high affinity to OSM and inhibits it from an interacting with its natural receptors. Furthermore, experiments suggest that this molecule interacts directly with OSM in the lock of its active site where our computational model predicted it would interact. Remember, the issue of metastatic breast cancer is one of life and death and new innovative therapies are sorely needed. It is envisioned that further optimization of this molecule using organic chemistry, can we do a new kind of anticancer therapeutic that specifically stops tumor metastasis in these tracks. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thank you, Joey. Our final speaker today is Nate Weber of Health Science major with a Spanish minor whose research looks into the consequences of exposure of toxic materials in what animal studies can teach us about glyphosate toxicity in pregnant women and their children. Take it away, Nate.

[NATE WEBER]: Thanks Michal and thanks to everyone that’s watching at home. When I say Roundup, the first thing that might come to mind is getting rid of some pesky dandelions in your driveway. You may be surprised to know that this common home and garden product is actually the most heavily used agricultural chemical in the world of any kind, and this may be a problem. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup was declared a probable human carcinogen in 2015 and just last year, a California jury awarded $2 billion to a couple after determining that exposure to Roundup was responsible for their cancer. Roundup kills plants, that’s its job as a weed killer. In the past, Roundup could not be broadly sprayed in the fashion showed on the screen because to do so would kill a farmer’s entire crop. Weed treatment had to be focused and targeted, which was time and labor intensive. You may have heard the term genetic modification or more commonly, GMOs and in fact, the main purpose of GMO crops is to resist the effects of glyphosate to survive while the weeds are killed off. Well, with this genetic modification, the use of glyphosate has increased by multiple orders of magnitude even over the past decade. Essentially, the food that we eat has an exponentially greater amount of this chemical on it than just 10 years ago. However, the investigation of the health effects of glyphosate has not increased to the same degree. I work in Dr. Cynthia Curl’s agricultural health lab here at Boise State, where we aim to understand the magnitude of dietary and agriculture exposure of glyphosate. Specifically among pregnant women in Idaho, my role is to assist in biological sample collection and processing as well as offering necessary Spanish interpretation for the women participating in our study. However, while we as a group investigate the amount of exposure to glyphosate in pregnant women, it remains difficult to understand the implications of the exposure in this population. If we as a group look at the what, I also want to investigate the why. So to further our research, I performed a literature review to investigate the relationship between glyphosate exposure in utero and health effects in animal models. To our knowledge, there’s not been a comprehensive review of the extent health is affected by glyphosate in pregnant females. All of the studies I found were in animals and mostly rats. Consistently, these studies found an association between glyphosate exposure and neurological abnormalities among offspring, even with different dosages of glyphosate during different lengths of time. However, not only were offspring affected neurologically, but studies showed adverse neurologic effects in the mothers. But the negative impacts do not stop there. Multiple organ systems were affected by glyphosate exposure, including cardiovascular problems

like structural abnormalities in the hearts of offspring, reactions by immune cells and alteration of the gut microbiome in those exposed. There is importance in these results. They allow for us in the lab to correlate these negative health outcomes based on glyphosate exposure in these animal models to the real life pregnant women and their future children right here in Idaho. By doing so, we may be able to better understand the larger implications of the magnitude of exposure to glyphosate that we are finding in our research. Thank you.

[MICHAL TEMKIN MARTINEZ]: Thank you, Nate! And thank you all, at home, for joining us to learn more about our undergraduate students and to support them in their presentations. We hope you’ll agree that the breadth of interests among our students, and their contributions to our shared understanding of the world, is surely worth celebrating. I want to also take this opportunity to thank the people who have made today’s event possible. First, our faculty research mentors who worked hard with the students – both mentoring them through the research process, and then helping them to adapt to the new setting of working remotely, AND helping them to prepare for today.

[DONNA LLEWELLYN]: Next, our planning committee and coaches who helped to figure out how to honor our students’ work even though we couldn’t gather in person on campus as originally planned, and who added to their workload to help the students prepare. And, for all the people who helped me get enough of a handle on the technology to get this program online. In case you are interested in the images that you have seen during this presentation And, please remember to visit our virtual poster session – starting on April 24th. I now want to ask all of our student presenters to please turn their videos back on so that they can all be recognized together for their amazing work. Congratulations students – we are all inspired by your words and your actions. Thank you all, stay well!