10th Annual Celebration of Scholarship Symposium (April 16-17, 2012)

COMPLETED RESEARCH

Sandahl Ahmad
Investigation of DNA Cleavage by a Di-ruthenium Compound Using Gel Electrophoresis, Ahmad, Sandahl; Mann, S. Ahnriel

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Robert Towery

This project investigated a possible anti-cancer therapeutic agent by establishing the interaction of Calf Thymus DNA (CT-DNA) with di-ruthenium fluoroaniline pyridinate triacetate chloride (Ru2[Fap][CH3COO]3Cl), also known as DiRu. A CT-DNA solution was prepared in 10 mM PIPES buffer and reacted with a di-ruthenium solution at 600 C for 48 hours[i]. PIPES buffer was chosen in place of phosphate buffer due to a possible interaction of the phosphate and the DNA backbone. Results from previous experiments of DNA with dirhodium compounds indicate a possible reaction of the dimetal at the N-7, O-6 bridging site in guanine bases.[ii] [iii] UV-Vis spectroscopy was used to identify concentrations of di-ruthenium solutions as well as determine the molar absorptivity (ε) of di-ruthenium in PIPES buffer and found to be 1760 cm-1 L/mol with a maximum absorbance at 655 nm. UV-Vis spectroscopy was also used to determine the concentrations of CT-DNA in PIPES buffer. Gel electrophoresis experiments were carried out using CT-DNA in PIPES buffer as a control and CT-DNA that had been incubated in the oven at 600C for 48 hours with a range of DiRu concentrations in a 1.0% agarose gel. Various possibilities were explored with respect to optimizing the gel electrophoresis parameters. Results and data from those gels are presented here.


 
 
 

Asma Mirza
Measuring Protein Solubility as a Function of pH, Ahmad, Sandahl; Mirza, Asma H.
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Saul Trevino
 
Poor protein solubility is a major problem in the development of protein pharmaceuticals. Solubility determines how concentrated drugs are in the system. When medication is injected into the system, higher concentrations are needed for effective results. Therefore, strategies for improving protein solubility are of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry. In this study, the solubility of lysosyme and bovine serum albumin (BSA) was measured as a function of pH. Although these proteins are not necessarily pharmaceutically relevant, the information obtained from them could hopefully be applied to pharmaceutically relevant proteins. It was previously thought that solubility would be minimal at the isoelectric point and then would continually increase with increasing net charge on both sides of the isoelectric point. The results so far show that, as expected, the solubility is minimal near the isoelectric point and increases with increasing net charge. However, the solubility vs. pH profile appears to deviate from the assumed parabolic shape for these proteins.

Nicolas Alonso
The Role of Diruthenium (II) Complex in Apoptotic Induction, Alonso, Nicolas; Lu, Vinh; Ali, Danish; Thomas, Justin
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Hannah Wingate
 
The use of Diruthenium (II) complex (Ru2(OCCH3)3(Fap)Cl) as an inducer of apoptosis provides an opportunity for application as a new chemotherapeutic agent.  ZR-75T and MDA-MB cell lines were treated with varying concentrations of Diruthenium (II) complex in vitro.  Lysates were obtained and were analyzed for apoptotic activity using gel electrophoresis to detect DNA laddering and PARP (Poly-ADP-Ribose-Polymerase) western blotting to detect caspase 3 activity, cleavage indicating programmed cell death pathways.  Both DNA fragmentation and cleaved PARP were observed signifying the presence of apoptosis in these neoplastic cell lines, implying its use a prospective chemotherapeutic agent.

Asha Bhatt
The cytotoxic effects of Diruthenium on breast cancer cells, Bhatt, Asha; Nguyen, Casey; Thomas, Sherin; Herrington, Callie; Lee, Jennifer; Ramirez, Kevin
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Hannah Wingate
 
Preliminary studies have shown that Diruthenium complex is cytotoxic to a breast cancer cell line through its DNA binding activity. We studied the biological effects of this drug on breast epithelial cancer cell lines HCC 1954 and MDA MB 157, to confirm cytotoxicity and determine whether cytotoxicity was through induction of apoptosis. The effects of the drug were measured using MTT, growth curve, and Western blot assays. Analyzing the data from these various assays allowed us to determine if the drug caused the cells to proliferate or decrease in number. We found by examining the growth curve data as well as the western blot that the drug, Diruthenium, does induce apoptosis. Diruthenium hinders the cancerous cells from proliferating. From evaluating our growth curve data, we found that a fifty micromolar concentration of Diruthenium reduced proliferation by eighty-four percent compared to untreated cells. Furthermore, our Western blot displayed that the fifty and one hundred micromolar Diruthenium concentrations induced PARP (poly ADP ribose polymerase) cleavage. In conclusion, the Diruthenium complex has the ability to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. In the future we would like to test other cancerous and normal cell lines to determine whether the effect of this drug is specific to breast cancer cells.

Ingrid Chavez
Sbp-1 knockdown by RNA interference in Caenorhabditis elegans, Chavez, Ingrid; John, Julie
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Rachel Hopp
 
Caenorhabditis elegan’s sbp-1, a homolog of human SREBP (Sterol response element binding protein), is a transcriptional regulator of the fat and sterol pathway and affects fat storage in the worm. Research in this area of study can target mechanisms and pathways that result in the progression of human diseases such as diabetes, steatohepatitis, and obesity. The specific knockdown of sbp-1 is induced by RNA interference, RNAi. Polymerase chain reaction was used to create the recombinant vector, containing the dsRNA of sbp-1 and a kanamycin resistance gene. This was then transformed into  the E.coli HT115, which was then fed to wild-type C. elegans.  A sbp-1 knockdown in Caenorhabditis elegans is expected to exhibit a translucent body phenotype with a decrease in the amount of fat storage and fat deposits. In this experiemnt, characteristics of the sbp-1 knockdown worms are observed by synchronizing and staining the worms with Oil Red O,  which can assay the fat storage since it is specific to dying fat compartments of the C. elegans. Synchronizing the worms allows for them to be in the same stage of development, which would ensure that results attained by subsequent dying can be comparable.  Photographs of stained control and sbp-1 knockdown worms will be analyzed using the ImageJ program which quantifies the amount of Oil Red O dye taken up by the fat compartments of the worms. Since knockdown worms are expected to be skinnier and lacking in fat deposits, the stain should not be as prominent in the knockdowns as compared to the wild-type worms. Results will be presented at the symposium.

Christopher Flores
Investigation of total lipid content of Caenorhadhditis elegans following RNA interference of the SBP-1 gene, Flores, Christopher; Bridwell, Aaron
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Rachel Hopp
 
The recent increase in the prevalence of obesity has become a major concern for multiple facets of modern society. This trend has caused a significant amount of research to be focused on ways to curtail obesity related diseases such as diabetes, steatohepatitis, and arteriosclerosis. Recently the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has emerged as a viable animal model that can be quickly screened for a multitude of human genetic homologues through RNA interference (RNAi). The sterol regulatory element binding protein (SREBP-1c) gene has been identified as being involved with lipid homeostasis in mammals. Mutation in the SREBP-1 C. elegans homologue, designated SBP-1, resulted in lower lipid levels and slower growth rates confirming its importance in lipid production. This study investigates the effects of RNA interference of the SBP-1 gene. RNA interference was conducted by amplifying the SBP-1 gene within the pPR244 bacterial vector through polymerase chain reaction. The resulting pPR244-SBP-1 bacterial vector was then transformed into HT115 Escherichia coli and fed to synchronized C. elegans. The fat content of the worms was analyzed using the fat binding stain Sudan IV through the use of a spectrophotometer. Additional trials were carried out to confirm whether RNAi of SBP-1 significantly reduces the lipid content of C. elegans.
 
Jean Ghosn
Immunofluorescent Analysis of Low-Dose Coupling of Anti-Neoplastic Agent Nocodazole and Proteasome Inhibitor MG132 on Osteosarcoma U2OS Cells, Ghosn, Jean

The Methodist Hospital Research Institute
Professor: Dr. Haibo Wang, Dr. Bo Xu

The U2OS cell line is derived from a malignant osteosarcoma tumor of the tibia, currently the sixth leading cause of cancer in adolescents and affecting nearly 5 million people in the United States each year. Therefore, finding effective combinations of low-dose chemotherapeutic drugs is crucial for early treatment. Previous studies have shown that the anti-neoplastic agent, Nocodazole, synchronizes cell arrest of most in-vitro cell cultures in prometaphase. The proteasome inhibitor MG132, on the other hand, arrests only cells in the cell cycle close to metaphase during spindle formation. Coupling the two drugs has shown to arrest nearly all cultured in-vitro tumorigenic cells in metaphase, with prolonged arrest in mitosis resulting in cell death by apoptosis. To qualitatively assess the efficiency of the coupling of these two chemotherapeutic agents in low doses, three U2OS culture flasks were grown with 1:10,000 concentration of Nocodazole+MG132, Nocodazole-only, and MG132-only; incubated overnight onto microscope slides; labeled with immunofluorescent antibodies specific for human cell kinetochores and microtubules; and stained for DNA. The three prepared slides were then assessed for mitotic spindle formation and cell arrest by immunofluorescent microscopy. As expected, the Nocodazole+MG132 slide harbored relatively greater amounts of U2OS cells arrested in metaphase when compared to that of only Nocodazole or MG132. However, the low concentration of the two coupled chemotherapeutic drugs did not mitotically arrest more than half of the tumorigenic U2OS cells, and less than 20 cells arrested in prometaphase were identified in the Nocodazole-only slide, indicating that the low concentration of these drugs is not sufficient. Further studies in finding a more efficient concentration of Nocodazole+MG132 as a high potential chemotherapeutic strategy are expected.

Phuong Huynh
Silencing of MRP-1 reduced the ability of C. elegans to effectively use an Efflux pump, increasing Drug Sensitivity, Huynh, Phuong; Gomez Rubio, Ana Maria

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Rachel Hopp

Camptothecin is a drug used for chemotherapy treatment, unfortunately cancer patients can develop resistant to it. Resistance to camptothecin is believed to be caused by MRP-1 gene, which encodes an ATP-binding Cassette (ABC) protein, an important transport mechanism.  MRP-1 creates an efflux mechanism that pumps drugs out of the cells. We hypothesized that silencing of mrp-1 will cause a disruption in ABC transporter, which would lead to the inability of the organism to pump the drug out of its cells.  To test our hypothesis, we silenced mrp-1 in Caenorhabditis elegans using RNA interference. We, then, exposed our mrp-1 knockdown L4 nematodes to 0.14 mM of camptothecin in M9 buffer and allow them to lay eggs.  We, then, counted the eggs and the offspring. Because camptothecin is expected to abruptly stop the cell cycle, resulting in the absence of mature oocyte, we anticipated that there will be no offspring present. Results will be presented.

Eseohe Imhansi-Jacob 
Drumsticks: A natural resource to improve water quality, Imhansi – Jacob, Eseohe; Reyes, Michael

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Jacqueline Horn

The state of water in Africa has been one of the most difficult battles the continent has to face amidst other setbacks. Ranging from poor hygiene and sanitation to lack of resources, water quality in Africa is at a gradual decline with most countries struggling to provide their inhabitants with the basic support systems they need to live a comfortable life.  The authors attempted to replicate the conditions of water sources in Africa, and designed a method to improve water quality that would be economically available and easily accessible to most households. The authors tested the effects of Moringa oleifera (aka drumstick tree) seeds and filtration methods with respect to time (30, 35 and 45 minutes) on a replica of a typical African water source by testing regular filtration methods (filtration, UV radiation etc) against the seeds. They predicted that the addition of seeds to microbial water would decrease the amount of microbes over time. They also predicted that Moringa seeds combined with other filtration methods (straining, UV radiation, and boiling) would lower the amount of microbes than the use of filtration methods without seeds. A decrease in microbes was shown when seeds were combined with filtration methods compared to testing the filtration methods without seeds.


The Power of Music, Khan, Taymour; Patel, Mayur; Olson, Ginny; Wells, Rachel

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Rachel Hopp

The reason and purpose of this experiment was to demonstrate and show the differences in clench strength and muscle fatigue between males who are musical and play and instrument on a weekly basis and males who are non-musical and do not play an instrument. In order to measure muscle fatigue and the magnitude of the muscle contractions, an EMG (electromyogram) and hand dynamometer were used. The electromyogram recorded the changes and variations of skin voltage due to the skeletal muscle contractions. Each subject was instructed to repeat a clench, wait, and release sequence, holding each clench for two seconds and pausing for two seconds before beginning the next successive sequence. Each subject was instructed to increase each clench sequence in equivalent increments, ensuring that the fourth clench used the greatest force and clench strength. As each subject struggled to continue to maintain the maximal clench force, forearm muscles fatigued and clench strength decreased. The BioPac computer analysis software measured the time to fatigue to fifty percent of each subject’s maximal clench force.  The analysis of the results concluded that non-musicians possessed an ability to sustain longer dynamometer grips than that of the musicians.
         Analysis of results concluded no correlation of arm fatigue based upon physical activity. Significant results based upon forearm size showed broad forearm size obtained a greater maximum clench force. Petite arm size showed greater fatigue while moderate forearm size showed the least arm fatigue. After statistical analysis of all data, we found significant evidence that forearm circumference correlated to the maximum clench force obtained along with rate of fatigue. 
 
Bioimpedance study of ionic and capacitance properties of Bacillus subtilis and Proteus mirabilis, Leal, Franklin; Amir, Hassan; Pop, Alex; Jennings, James; Khan, Taymour; Medi, Sai; Mandal, Tanaya; Valentine, John; Ho, Tung

College of Science and Mathematics
Professors: Dr. James Claycomb and Dr. Jackie Horn

Bioimpedance Monitoring is commonly used in medical applications to evaluate the passive electric properties of biological tissues. It has been shown in literature that bioimpedance can be used for a wide arrange of biomedical applications such as: coulter counters to quantify cell numbers, and for evaluating cellular and tissue edema to elucidate Cardiac Ischemia and monitor glucose and graft rejections (Ivorra, A. 2003). However this research is looking forward to provide bioimpedance information of common bacteria and use it to aid in the search of bacterial life in Jupiter’s moon, Europa. A four brass-electrode probe was utilized to sample the frequency dependent impedance of the bacterial suspensions and correlate it to alpha and beta dispersions. The two outer electrodes applied a constant potential difference throughout the solution. A function generator was used to cycle frequencies between 1Hz to 1MHz, while an oscilloscope connected to the two inner electrodes detected changes in impedance at different frequencies and read as a BODE plot. The electrodes tested four different solutions: Bacillus subtilis cell suspension, Proteus mirabilis cell suspension, a readily accessible nutrient broth mixture, and deionized water. Following every sample data collection, we cleaned each of the electrodes with a 10% Bleach and 90% isopropyl alcohol solution and used new containers for the subsequent samples. The focus of this experiment was to identify Alpha and Beta dispersions, which represent the ionic and capacitance properties of the various bacterial and nonbacterial solutions being analyzed and our results proved that. Our data showed that water and isopropyl alcohol, both only possessing ionic properties and no capacitance showed a decrease in impedance after frequencies above 1-10kHz. But the Bacterial solutions having capacitance effects showed a decrease in impedance above 100kHz as prescribed in literature.
 
Sai Medi 
The Effect of Negative Chemotaxis and Magnetic Fields on the Fractal Growth of Bacillus subtilis and Physarum polycephalum, Medi, Sai; Khan, Taymour; Ahmed, Hassan; Mandal, Tanaya; Leal, Franklin; Ho, Tung; Pop, Alexander; Valentine, John; Nanta, Kornebari; Jennings, James
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professors: Dr. James Claycomb, Dr. Jacqueline Horn, Dr. Gardo Blado

We employ a unique analytical method, previously conducted on tissue and cellular morphologies (Iannacone and Khokkha et. Al 1996), to investigate the chemotaxis of Bacillus subtilis and Physarum polycephalum in altered physical and chemical conditions. Bacillus subtilis were centrally inoculated in agar media containing 1.5% Bacto-Agar and .1% peptone which served as the model system for bacterial fractal chemotaxis. As a eukaryotic fractal model, Physarum polycephalum was sub-cultured into 2% Agar media containing peripherally localized oat flakes to induce radial fractal growth. Bacterial fractal growth media supplemented with 10-mM HEPES at pH 7 and 10-mM Tris at pH 9 perturbs negative chemotaxis due to bacterial acid production. Also, the influence of excess buffers has been investigated using media supplemented with 100-mM Tris at pH 7 and 9. Additionally, prokaryotic and eukaryotic specimens were placed in the influence of ~60 mT static magnetic field, and in an oscillating magnetic field with flux density 4700 A/m^2 to investigate the effect of magnetic fields on fractal chemotaxis. A decrease in fractal dimension was observed in Bacillus subtilis fractal morphologies in buffered conditions and magnetic conditions. A decrease in fractal dimension was also observed in Physarum polycephalum fractal morphologies due to the influence of static and oscillating magnetic fields.

Sai Medi 
Effect of Etifoxine, a Putative TSPO ligand, on the Development of Epileptogenesis in the Hippocampus Kindling Model, Medi, Sai
 
Texas A&M Health Science center College of Medicine
Professor: Dr. Doodipala Samba Reddy
 
Neurosteroids are steroids synthesized within the brain from steroid precursors. The biosynthesis of neurosteroids is regulated by the translocator protein (TSPO), which is a five transmembrane domain found in the outer mitochondrial membrane in steroid synthesizing cells. TSPO functions in translocating cholesterol from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membrane. TSPO ligands, such as etifoxine, can enhance neurosteroid synthesis and thereby elicit therapeutic effects.  The main goal of this project is to determine the ability of etifoxine, a putative TSPO ligand, on the development of epileptogenesis, which is the process whereby a normal brain becomes progressively epileptic because of precipitating factors such as injury, fever, and infections. Experiments were conducted in adult mice using hippocampus kindling model of epileptogenesis. Mice were implanted with a bipolar electrode into the right ventral hippocampus using stereotactic coordinates. Animals were stimulated daily at 125% of ADT current and behavioral and electrographic seizures were recorded following each stimulation. Etifoxine (50 mg/kg, i.p.) was given 30-min prior to stimulation. In a second group, PK11195 (2 mg/kg, ip) was given 30-min prior to etifoxine to test for inhibition. Etifoxine produced modest antiseizure effects in fully-kindled mice even at the highest dose. Initial results indicate that etifoxine shows trends of inhibition or retardation of development of behavioral and electrographic seizures in mice. Studies are under progress to quantify the kindling retarding effect of etifoxine, and the influence of PK11195 in reversing etifoxine’s protective effects on kindling epileptogenesis. The results of this experiment, although preliminary, show that etifoxine has promising effect on the development of epileptogenesis in the mouse kindling model. Further studies are needed to confirm these pilot studies.

Thao Nguyen
Viscometric Titrations of a novel DiRuthenium Compound with Calf Thymus DNA, Nguyen, Thao; Leal, Franklin; Zavala, Rosario

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Robert Towery

Binding properties of Diruthenium (2-fluoroanilinopyridinate)(acetate)3 chloride(Ru2(Fap)(ac)3Cl)  with Calf Thymus (CT DNA) were investigated in this study. A series of experiment were performed by quantitatively reacting the CT DNA with the Diruthenium compound at 60oC in 10mM Pipes buffer (pH = 6.7) for 48hrs. Six solutions with R values (R=[diRuthenium]/[CT DNA]), ranging from 0.00 to 0.40 were prepared using sterile technique. Each solution was analyzed by UV-Vis Spectrophotometry and percent absorbance increase was determined after reaction at 60oC for 48hrs.  Each solution was also analyzed by viscometry and variations in elution time were observed after reaction at 60oC for 48hrs. The literature suggests that dirhodium tetraacetate compounds have binding properties at the N7/O6 position of guanine in G-C base pairs of DNA. The utilized diruthenium compound was chosen for this study due to its highly similar chemical properties to dirhodium as well as its availability and may have similar binding tendencies. Results indicate as the R value of diruthenium + CT DNA increased, the absorbance of the DNA increased by a maximum value of 30.5% at an R value of 0.40, suggesting unwinding of the double stranded DNA into a single stranded molecule. Viscometry results showed a decrease in the solution reduced viscosity (SRV) value at an R-value of around 0.20. Our results did show that the diruthenium compound does react with CT DNA in such a way that the CT DNA is ultimately denatured. However, more extensive and detailed research must be done to accurately prove and determine the manner in which the diruthenium compound denatures and/or segments the CT DNA. In the future, these results may provide a better understand of interactions of diruthenium compounds and their possible use at anti-cancer, and anti-viral therapeutic agents.

Paul Nicola 
Inhibition of Multidrug Resistance Gene via RNAi Illustrates Heavy Metal Sensitivity in Caenorhabditis elegans, Nicola, Paul; Cantu, Eddie

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Rachel Hopp

MDR (Multidrug Resistance) genes have been theorized to provide resistance against common chemotherapeutic agents. MRP-1 (Multidrug Resistance Protein 1) plays a critical role in the protection of organisms against exogenous toxins by cellular detoxification processes. MRP-1 homologues (ABCC1 ATP-binding cassette, sub-family C (CFTR/MRP), member 1) are overexpressed in these resistant neoplastic cells. This can be empirically validated in Caenorhabditis elegans. Previous research has indicated that the conservation of MRP-1 in Celegans plays a role in worm survival in their soil environment where they come into direct contact with various metal toxins. These two models provide an experimental basis for this gene-drug interaction. RNAi via feeding bacteria (HT115 Escherichia coli) is an ideal technique in C. elegans to induce gene silencing. dsRNA is designed to silence MRP-1 post-transcriptionally in C. elegans via RISC-mediated mRNA cleavage. By examining Celegans population size in various larval stages, we have quantified the phenotypic effects of the targeted RNAi treatment in the presence of two widely-used chemotherapeutic agents (Doxorubicin/adriamycin and Cisplatin). MRP-1 mRNA was also extracted and partitioned using UV-Vis Spectroscopy and mRNA levels were quantified in C. elegans via RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase) showing expected MRP-1 silencing due to RNAi. We witnessed an indirect correlation between the increased concentration of toxins with worm survival rate and overall population count of worms. Silencing of MRP-1 via RNAi showed an average 33% increased sensitivity to Cisplatin and similar results with Doxorubicin.


Bioremediation of Auto Shop Contaminated Soil, Portillo, Carmen; George, Elizabeth; Herrington, Callie; Titus, Michelle

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Jacqueline Horn

Bioremediation utilizes microorganisms to remove pollutants from a contaminated source. There are a number of cost efficient methods of bioremediation, including, spills containing hydrocarbons or chlorinated solvents that contaminate groundwater. In this study, we conducted the bioremediation of contaminated soil from a Jessamine and Rampart-area body shop, using microbes extracted from composted soil. We believed that the contaminated soil may have been affected by paint thinners and oil or gas spills. Most microbial processes tend to lower pH by the production of acidic fermentation products such as carbon dioxide, which would help alleviate the polluted soil that initially contained a very basic pH level. The bioremediation of contaminated soil decreased levels to neutral pH and increased CO2 levels within the soil due to the increase in microbial life. Measuring the electrical conductivity of the soil-water solution allowed us to monitor the chlorinated hydrocarbon degradation in the polluted soil. Electrical conductivity measurements increased with the microbial breakdown of hydrocarbons into ions, which serve as nutrients for the soil. Although it was initially observed that there was hydrocarbon breakdown within the polluted soil, microbial life could not be sustained for a prolonged period of time, since CO2 levels in the soil decreased. The results from the EC data suggest that the increase of salt in the soil created a harsh environment for microbial life. Therefore, bioremediation of the small sample of contaminated soil was not successful because the degree of pollutants present within the soil was too high for microbial life to be sustained.

Kavya Sinha
Harvesting Energy through Bioremediation of Wastewater, Sinha, Kavya; Benny, Benson; Truong, Julia
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Jacqueline Horn
 
Microbial aerobic respiratory pathways catalyze the oxidative metabolism of organic substrates, allowing energy production. This project presents the design and implementation of an MFC, or microbial fuel cells to carry out such tasks. This prototype MFC uses bacteria already present in wastewater to oxidize the organic material at the anode and reduced oxygen at the cathode. Our hypothesis was that through the use of fertilizer, specifically Miracle Gro, we could optimize electricity output. Our preliminary trials revealed corrosion of the electrodes due to the fertilizer. Therefore, we modified our experiment and hypothesized that addition of glucose to the anode would enhance the energy production as well as the treatment of the wastewater. Our findings show that though the addition of glucose improved electricity production significantly compared to the addition of Miracle Gro; however the control of wastewater alone proved a much more efficient setup. Our findings and research suggests that improvements in the design of the experiment can provide further benefits in the output of electricity and the treatment of wastewater.

Gina Thomas 
The Inhibitory Effects of Lactobacillus Acidophilus on Candida Albicans, Thomas, Gina; Jain, Sunny; Le, Vi; Maradiago, David
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Jacqueline Horn
 
Candida albicans, an opportunistic fungus that naturally exists in various areas in the human body, is shown to be suppressed by the presence of Lactobacillus acidophilus to avoid excessive yeast infestations. In order to test the inhibitory effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus on Candida albicans, our research group developed an extensive microbiology experiment which involves growing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a substitute for Candida albicans) and placing the competing microbes in an unique medium in order to gain a better understanding of how our daily nutrition plays a role in the struggle against yeast infections. The experiment changed direction many times throughout the duration of the project, but it led to unique ideas and exploration of the nature of the two microbes and their effects on each other. The experiment involved about six trials, wherein each trial led to a new discovery and adjustment in methods. For example, one trial involved dissolving a Lactobacillus acidophilus caplet, another trial involved using pure broth colonies, and another trial involved using the candle jar technique to grow the microbes in an anaerobic environment. Each trial proved invaluable to our project, and we used the information acquired from the previous trial to test the next trial. The experiment had interesting results, with each trial resulting in unexpected outcomes. However, it was clear and evident in the end that Lactobacillus acidophilus had an inhibitory effect on the Candida albicans.

Brittany Tran 
The Effects of Available Substrates and Exposure to Sunlight on a Microbial Population in a Winogradsky Column, Tran, Brittany; Olson, Ginny; Crawford, Chioke
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Jacqueline Horn
 
The microbes in a Winogradsky column typically adapt to discrete environments within the column where they thrive and grow, and in the process, change their local environment. Therefore, through the creation of different Winogradsky columns, controlled ecosystems can be established for observation. When the columns are first filled with mud, water and nutrients, the various microbes are randomly dispersed throughout the length column. Over time, the microbes will organize into discretely banded populations that will, in turn, alter their local environments with the metabolic end products unique to their biochemistry. These changes are usually noted by observing color changes in the mud substrate or by direct sampling of metabolic byproducts at a given band. In this experiment, ion production of the microbial population was directly measured using a digital voltmeter with the purpose of measuring the energy (voltage) generated by the microbes over time.  These measurements were made possible due to the anaerobic (anode)- aerobic (cathode)- gradient that was created when making the columns. The effects of various external stimuli such as exposure to sunlight or the availability of iron and sugar on voltage generation was also measured. The reason being, any external stimulus that promotes microbial growth in the column will further strengthen the anaerobic – aerobic effect which will directly result in a larger ionic potential that should measure as a larger voltage potential. On the larger scale, we believe our experiment to be valuable because, if we can prove that the microbes are able to increase in number and generate substantial voltage, then maybe in the future with more sophisticated experiments, microbes will be able to generate enough voltage and energy to power various electronics, thus acting as an alternative energy source.

William Winters 
Your Weather in the Past School Year, Winters, William
 
College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Robert Towery
 
This research project deals with the effects of weather on the Houston Baptist University campus during the past school year, specifically during the months of August 2011 to March 2012.   The project also investigates the accuracy and reliability of HBU’s new Vantage Pro 2 weather station, also known as “Davis” which was deployed in February 2011.  During this time, the weather phenomenon known as La Niña was taking place.  La Niña is a natural coupled ocean-atmosphere occurrence in which sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Eastern Central Pacific Ocean are lower than normal by 3-5 °C, this is the cause behind the extreme drought of the Southern United States as well as the unusually extreme wet and snow seasons in the Northern U.S.   Utilizing our database of weather information it was obvious that the station’s limits were tested through extremes in temperature, rainfall, wind speeds, and hail storms.  Although this period from August to March was ideal for drought research, it was taxing for the University’s faculty, students, and infrastructure; however “Davis” stood tall.  La Niña has battered HBU and the entire state with the most intense drought in recent history for the state of Texas.  HBU was fortunate to have deployed a weather station which started recording in that same year of this drought.  As we approach the end of this semester, drought conditions seem to have diminished and weather patterns are returning to a normal spring.  The weather station recorded historic data with respect to the University, from the highest temperature of 107.1 °F for the month of August 2011 to a 5.49 inch downpour and a 42 mph wind gust during January 2012.

PROPOSED RESEARCH
Carmen Portillo
Trypsin Inhibition by mutant form of MCoTI-II, Portillo, Carmen

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Saul Trevino

Cyclotides are plant derived proteins that have a unique cyclic cystine knot topology. Cyclotides do not lose biological activity under boiling conditions or ingestion, so these have the potential to serve as powerful drug templates such as trypsin-inhibiting anti-microbial drugs. Avrutina et al, 2005, has shown that positively charged residues, such as lysine and arginine play a key role in trypsin inhibition of the MCoTI-II cyclotide. In order to further investigate how the structure of MCoTI-II influences its’ biological activity, we will mutate the P2 Aspartic Acid #18 residue of MCoTI-II to arginine and determine if any inhibitory activity against trypsin will change in comparison to MCoTI-II wild type. Titration of trypsin with p-nitrophenyl-p’-guandinobenzoate HCL will be used to measure the concentration of inhibitory active microproteins using the protocol described in Chase and Shaw, 1970. The MCoTI-II cyclotide will be isolated from the seeds of M. Cochinchinensis employing the technique from Hernandez et al, 2000.  We expect that the D18R mutation will result in an increase in trypsin inhibition.  We could conclude that the trypsin-inhibiting activity and hence, anti-microbial activity of MCoTI-II can be enhanced by mutating additional residues to Arginine.

ORAL PRESENTATIONS
The Effect of Porphyrin on DNA Solution Using Viscometry, Beth Evans; Kevin Ramirez

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Eric Van Caemelbecke

The purpose of this experiment is use viscosity and spectroscopy to examine how free porphyrin (H2TMPyP), zinc porphyrin (ZnTMPyP) and a di-metal complex interact with calf thymus DNA. After treating the DNA solution with a total of 280µL of free porphyrin (H2TMPyP), the absorbance increased from 1.22 to 1.65. Since the increase in absorbance was greater than 40%, the solution was affected by the hyperchromic effect, which resulted in total uncoiling of our double-stranded calf-thymus DNA into two single strands. A peak relative viscosity was found to occur between an R value of 0.396 and 0.528, or 60µL of porphyrin and 80µL of porphyrin in solution, respectively.
 
Quantum Gravity Effects on a One-dimensional Particle in a Finite Square Well, Lao, Patrick; Holmes, JB; Leal, Sergio

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Gardo Blado

The unification of the two pillars of modern physics, namely quantum mechanics and general relativity has been the ultimate goal of theoretical physics since Einstein introduced his work on the unified field theory. Quantum gravity (QG) theories aim to fulfill Einstein’s dream of the ultimate theory of nature. Different approaches to QG, (like Loop Quantum Gravity and String Theory) predict a minimal length uncertainty (MLU) that physics can probe. The magnitude of the minimal length is on the order of the Planck Length (10^-35 meters), which is obviously impossible to investigate directly by experiment. However, the MLU of QG modifies the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics to a General Uncertainty Principle (GUP), which then modifies the ordinary Schrodinger equation. One can then look into QG effects by studying the phenomenological effects of the GUP on ordinary quantum mechanical potentials discussed in typical undergraduate courses in quantum mechanics. The present literature has discussed most of the quantum mechanical potentials (like the particle in a box, harmonic oscillator, the hydrogen atom, etc.) except the finite square well. Consequently, to fill this gap in the present literature, we performed a theoretical study of the GUP on the energy of the bound states of the finite square well to demonstrate the effects of QG.
 
Remote plasma-assisted deposition of metals onto the surface of nanocrystalline ZnO, Leal, Sergio

College of Science and Mathematics
Professors: Dr. Gardo Blado and Dr. James Claycomb

Controllable surface modification of nanoscale ZnO is crucial for many existing and future applications. We investigated the effectiveness of metal deposition using remote O2/He plasma passing through a metal mesh electrode onto the surface of ZnO nanopowders with an average grain size of 25 nm. Surface stoichiometry was monitored in situ with Auger electron spectroscopy, whereas surface optoelectronic properties were probed, also in situ, using surface photovoltage (SPV) spectroscopy. We observed a strong dependence of surface modification on the distance from the metal electrode. At short distances, the metal coverage was reaching tens of percent of one monolayer. Simultaneously, we observed a significant improvement of the SPV response, pointing to metal-enhanced surface charge dynamics.

Demystifying the coffee and cream problem, Kabiru, David; Leal, Franklin; Medi, Sai

College of Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Gardo Blado

The objective of this project is to review the age old coffee problem. In order to keep your coffee as hot as possible for as long as possible; is it better to add the cool cream to the hot coffee or to let the coffee cool down first and then add the cream? Various research papers with theoretical applications are reviewed. Their methodologies utilizing Newton’s laws of cooling, method of mixtures, conservation of energy are reworked, compared and contrasted and finally an experimental setup is provided that investigates the theory.
 
Department Performance Review III, Smith, Shane

School of Nursing and Allied Health
Professor: Carol Lavender, RN, MSN, MBA

The Memorial Hermann Memorial City surgical intensive care unit (SICU) is a 18 bed unit that takes general surgery and cardiovascular (CV) surgery patients. CV surgery patients require more complex nurse training and careful observation. The problem identified is insufficient nurses trained in the care of CV surgery patients related to increased open heart surgery volume and a dysfunctional orientation as evidenced by staff complaints of disorganization in the program and nurses being in orientation for over one year. The need for safe care of CV patients made this problem a priority over other problems identified. Increasing the number of CV trained nurses has been shown to improve patient outcomes and be cost effective (Van den Heede, etal, 2009,2010).
 Goals created for the program were: provide more structure for the program by creating a schedule, an orientee progress tracking tool and an orientation packet that outlines program content and expectations by March 21st, 2012. Create a cardiovascular surgery nursing reference binder of program materials based on evidence base practice and current protocols by March 21st, 2012. Create a system to allow for evaluation of the preceptors, orientees, and the program by March 21st, 2012.
 From the goals, an improvement plan was made and implemented. Develop a schedule, orientation packet and orientee surgery tracker for the program. Create a binder of reference materials based on evidence based practices and facility policies. For example, the binder section regarding weaning from mechanical ventilation will include current evidence-based research articles on best practices and the unit policy on weaning. Refine existing orientation checklist and create new evaluation forms and preceptor materials.
 
Influence of Bacteria and Dissolved Organic Carbon on Algal Growth, Wilbourn, Heather

College of Science and Mathematics
Professors: Dr. Jaqueline P. Horn and Dr. Nicole Pinaire

While algal growth is critical for the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, the overgrowth of algae that occurs during an algal bloom can have many harmful effects. Current research is evaluating the use of bacteria to limit algal growth and prevent algal bloom formation. Algal blooms generally result from the overabundance of nutrients, especially nitrates and phosphates, in an aquatic environment. Bacteria also use these nutrients but are limited by the availability of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). We therefore examined the role of different sources of dissolved organic carbon (gelatin, newspaper, and glucose) in encouraging bacterial growth and competition to limit algal growth. We hypothesized that the addition of a DOC source would increase bacterial growth and competition for nutrients, thereby inhibiting algal growth, and that different carbon source and bacteria combinations would produce different levels of algal growth inhibition. We find that the relationship between bacterial and algal growth in batch culture is complex and that while bacterial growth can limit algal growth, the type of carbon sources available can alter these interactions. Furthermore, algal growth is generally increased in the presence of organic carbon, indicating that levels of organic carbon may be a contributing factor for algal bloom formation.