Undergraduate Summer Research: Museums, Brains, Proteins and Murder

Office of CommunicationsAcademics, News, Research & Innovation, Z2

Norwich University undergraduates are hard at work this summer investigating diverse research topics across the arts, sciences and professional fields. Their competitive, six- and ten-week paid summer research fellowships are funded by university endowments dedicated to supporting student academic investigation.
By David Westerman, PhD
Norwich University Office of Academic Research

 
June 30, 2015

Editor’s note: Charles A. Dana Professor of Geology and Associate Vice President for Research David Westerman is blogging about Norwich undergraduate student research projects underway this summer in field sites, labs and libraries on campus and around the globe.

This week’s lunchtime research presentations on campus featured Undergraduate Research Fellows and faculty from multiple disciplines, inviting lively discussion on museum design, chicken brains, pilot response times, proteins, and serial murder.

Fellow Sarah Bedard ‘17 (Architecture) kicked off Tuesday’s discussion, explaining the code of ethics for adding architectural additions onto an existing art museum. This summer, she will evaluate two museums in Toronto and one in Massachusetts built by well-known architects. She plans to assess the circulation paths, overlapping spaces, and private vs. public usages. She will present her work as a series of case studies and a final poster.

Stacia Melick (Biology) described her work on voltage-gated potassium ion channel expression in the embryonic chicken hypothalamus. She is testing the hypothesis that the specific Kv1.3 gene is expressed in a similar fashion as the Insulin Receptor gene, due to a known interaction of these proteins elsewhere in the nervous system. The interaction of the Kv1.3 and Insulin Receptor proteins has been known to alter neuronal excitability in the olfactory bulb, and she is testing the hypothesis that this interaction may also play a role in the hypothalamic regulation of food intake and energy homeostasis.

Next up was Tim Smeddal (Mechanical Engineering), who is investigating how pilots are able to perceive and interact with aircraft instruments. For this project, Tim will survey approximately 100 aircraft pilots to determine which gauge is more accurate for certain altitudes by testing them on fixed points as well as trends in altitude. He is currently working out of Burlington International Airport, but also hopes to incorporate military pilots into his survey.

Thursday’s Brown Bag discussion featured Fellow Devon Lindner (Molecular Biology) and faculty member Assistant Professor Elizabeth Gurian (Criminal Justice). Devon is investigating a novel protein binding relationship between Fyn, a Src family kinase, and MCM6, a protein involved in cell division. To test the hypothesis that there is a relationship between Fyn and MCM6, Devon is conducting literature reviews and running laboratory experiments under the mentorship of Associate Professor Karen Hinkle (Biology) to understand their interactions. Devon hopes that her findings can eventually lead to contributions in cancer research.

Finally, Prof. Elizabeth Gurian provided a glimpse into her ongoing work on serial murder. She explained how the lack of scientific papers on female perpetrated homicide and serial murder is attributable, in part, to the rarity of these incidents, which does not permit ordinary research methods to be easily employed. The examination of these offenses is further limited due to definitional issues, complex rationales for committing criminal homicide, and gendered perceptions of homicide and serial murder, or inclusion under generalized findings on male homicide offenders. Prof. Gurian talked about her methods and approach to her project and explained that by dispelling stereotypes and gendered perceptions we may achieve a better understanding of female homicide offending.

About the Author: David S. Westerman, PhD, is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Geology at Norwich University and the Associate Vice President for Research in the university’s Office of Academic Research.

Photograph by Keith Stipe