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Integrative Science and Engineering Center

Project Descriptions

The following list provides details about 2020 CoRPs: ISE Summer CoRPs (Collaborative Research Projects). These projects provide an opportunity for University of Dayton students to conduct full-time summer research in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

Faculty:

Umesh Haritashya, Department of Geology and Vijayan Asari, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Project overview:

The global temperature has been continuously increasing over the past decades, which directly impacts the health, dynamics, and processes of alpine glaciers. To understand these changes and to extract regional trends, one of the primary steps is to manually digitize the glacier boundary on a computer screen using satellite images. However, the process is not straightforward and requires precise mapping. Depending on the spatial resolution of the satellite data, slight miscalculations at the edge pixels can result in huge overestimation or underestimation. Based on the currently available techniques, either manual on-screen digitization using satellite data or detailed post-processing following semi-automated mapping is considered to be the best possible approach.

Consequently, our lab is working on developing new convolutional neural network (CNN) based glacier mapping techniques. The student project involves:

  1. Preparing data for glacier mapping.
  2. Learning how the model works.
  3. Mapping glacier and other glacier features.
  4. Satellite data analysis.

Research Experience:

This is a unique project that involves engineering and natural sciences to solve some of the outstanding problems in mapping Earth Surface processes. The student will have access to high-quality instrument-and-software from two different labs and faculty personnel. The student's development will be significantly enhanced through a program of structured mentoring activities. The goal of the co-mentorship is to provide the skills, knowledge, and experience to prepare the student to excel in his/her career path. Furthermore, the research mentoring plan emphasizes opportunities to learn several career skills such as handling critical field data, extracting data from the satellite imageries, writing research results, communicating with faculty, and possibly other summer lab visitors. The student will especially work in close collaboration with a Ph.D. student and postdoctoral research associates who are working on an advanced level of similar research.

Selection Criteria:

Students are required to have a broad understanding of computer programming and how earth surface processes work. Priority will be given to students with GIS, remote sensing knowledge, and excellent MATLAB or Python skills. Students interested in continuing research in the fall are especially encouraged to apply.


Faculty:

Yvonne Sun, Department of Biology and Kirk Pirlo, Department of Chemical and Material Engineering

Project overview:

Enteric pathogens experience fluctuating levels of oxygen during transit from the anaerobic lumen of the gut to the aerobic epithelial barrier and must respond and adapt appropriately to establish colonization and infection. However, almost all the experimental models to study host-pathogen interactions fail to address the role of this anaerobic exposure in disease outcomes. Therefore, Drs. Sun and Pirlo are establishing a collaborative project to better understand how pathogen exposure to an oxygen gradient affects subsequent infection outcomes. The ISE CoRPs student will work with Drs. Sun and Pirlo as well as other students in the research team to design and construct a 3D cell culture infection model capable of oxygen level manipulation.

Research Experience:

The student will be part of a strong research team of undergraduate students in Summer 2020. There will be weekly student-mentor meetings as well as weekly lab team meetings where the student will learn about other related research projects from their peers. Both Drs. Sun and Pirlo will interact directly with the student to assist in the training, experimental design, and data analysis. Dr. Sun will also lead the effort in the student’s professional development by providing mentorship over data presentation and career preparation.

Selection Criteria:

The ideal student candidate should have some experiences in culturing mammalian or bacterial cells and should have a basic understanding of aseptic techniques. Students with experiences working with risk group 2 pathogens and who will be available to continue research in Fall 2020 are preferred.


Faculty:

Erick S. Vasquez, Department of Chemical Engineering; Kenya Crosson, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Garry Crosson, Department of Chemistry

Project overview:

Many pollutants can be present in water streams, including pharmaceuticals, food additives, pesticides, disinfectants. A high demand exists for new and effective purification and separations devices. Membranes made of polymeric nanofiber scaffolds are being explored to serve as the next generation materials for chemical separations. In this study, we seek to prepare nanofibers, using a process called electrospinning, to ultimately prepare a porous membrane. Once the membrane is prepared, surface-functionalization techniques will be conducted to fabricate a responsive material that could target the adsorption of various types of pollutants. This work will focus on using natural adsorbents, such as lignin or chitosan, to functionalize the produced membrane generating a composite structure capable of adsorbing chemical compounds from water. The surface properties of the membrane will be assessed using FT-IR (Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy) and water contact angle measurements. Due to the enhanced functional properties, it is expected that the membrane/composite can be used for many types of adsorbents and be re-used several times. To analyze the effectiveness of the material, experiments will be conducted under different conditions including pH, temperature, time and concentration. The student responsible for this research will use various analytical techniques such as HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), UV-Vis (Ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy), and ICP (Inductively Coupled Plasma) equipment to determine the adsorption efficiency of the functionalized membrane. The student will also assess the reusability of the membrane after several uses. This work will expose the student to a variety of experimental techniques through unique collaborative effort between three academic units at UD.

Research Experience:

The student will spend one month in the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department in the design and the fabrication of the membrane or composite structure. Dr. Vasquez will provide insights and feedback to this project and will aid in procuring materials and consumables for the production of the prototype. During the remaining part of the program, adsorption studies will be assessed by Dr. Kenya Crosson and Dr. Garry Crosson. Dr. Kenya Crosson will help in the experimental setup to conduct the pH, time, and temperature dependent studies and Dr. Garry Crosson will help the student with the HPLC, UV-Vis, and/or ICP testing, data analysis and data interpretation. Dr. Vasquez will also support the student as necessary. The student will gain a unique collaborative experience between Chemistry, Environmental/Civil Engineering, and Chemical/Materials Engineering.

Selection Criteria:

The student should have some laboratory experience in Chemistry and should be willing to learn the proper use of various types of Analytical Instrumentation.


Faculty:

Russell Pirlo, Department of Chemical, Materials and Bioengineering and Justin Biffinger, Department of Chemistry

Project overview:

Introduction of novel biomaterials and interfaces into 3D scaffolds represents an area of active growth in the development of medical devices, tissue engineering, and controlled drug release. We aim to develop electrochemically active, or inducible, biomaterials as scaffolds for temporary medical devices or testing platforms to enable the selective degradation of polymers in these supports. Thermal, mechanical, and electrochemical properties, including elastic limit and Young modulus, will be assessed. Degradation will be evaluated under standard hydrolytic conditions. Finally, the cytocompatibility with the degradable elastomers will be assessed. These polymers are an attractive class of new biomaterials for biomedical applications due to the possibility to match their mechanical properties with body tissues, while accessing a broad range of degradation rates that can be adjusted directly by polymer chain natures, crosslink density, and crosslink nature.

Research Experience:

This collaboration will provide the student an experience with polymer synthesis and creating scaffolds from these biomaterials. The student will also learn fundamental material science characterization techniques and create and test scaffolds with mammalian cells. The combination of bioengineering and chemistry fields will provide the student with a unique research experience in the biomedical engineering field and would provide a student with a foundational understanding of fundamental bioengineering concepts and techniques. We are committed to publish these results in peer-reviewed journals and also sending the student to present their results at national conferences and meetings.


Faculty:

Zelalem Bedaso, Department of Geology and Umesh Haritashya, Department of Geology

Project overview:

Glaciers are the largest reservoir of freshwater and the most important part of the water resources in some mountainous regions of the world. Glacial and snow meltwater are used for drinking water, agricultural purposes, and hydropower production. However, the future availability of those resources is threatened by recent global warming, which leads to a substantial reduction in mountain glaciers. To evaluate the role of glaciers in the hydrologic system and assess its future impact on the hydrologic cycle, measuring meltwater contribution is required. The project will employ a multidisciplinary approach (i.e., geochemical and hydrological) to estimate the contribution of meltwater to surface and groundwater. The study area is in six alpine/subalpine basins in the Rocky Mountain, National Park, North West of Colorado.

The main objective of the project is to estimate the contribution of meltwater to surface runoff and groundwater recharge, which are an integral part of the water resources. The student project involves:

  1. Literature review and compiling isotope and hydrologic data
  2. Water isotope data collection and analysis
  3. Establishing isotope end-members for glacier/snow, meltwater, rivers, groundwater, and rainfall
  4. Mass balance modeling two or three end-member mixing model to characterize the contribution of meltwater to rivers and groundwater
  5. Hydrograph separation
  6. Satellite data analysis

Research Experience:

This is a unique project that involves isotope, hydrology, remote sensing analysis, and mentorship. The student will have access to high-quality instrument-and-software from two different labs and faculty personnel. The student's development will be significantly enhanced through a program of structured mentoring activities as outlined here. The goal of the co- mentorship is to provide the skills, knowledge, and experience to prepare the student to excel in his/her career path. Furthermore, the research mentoring plan emphasizes opportunities to learn several career skills such as handling critical field data, extracting data from the satellite imageries, writing research results, communicating with faculty, and possibly other summer lab visitors

Selection Criteria:

Students are required to have taken at least one introductory geology course, have basic computer skills, including Microsoft Word and Excel. Priority will be given to students with GIS, remote sensing knowledge and excellent writing skills.


Faculty:

Amit Singh, Department of Biology and Muhammad Usman, Department of Mathematics

Project overview:

During organogenesis, axial patterning is required for generation of antero-posterior (AP), dorso-ventral (DV) and proximo-distal (PD) lineages, which leads to transition of two-dimensional (mono-layer) organ primordia into three-dimensional structures. Any deviation in axial patterning results in defective organogenesis. We will study axial patterning and growth using the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) eye model. DV patterning, the earliest lineage restriction event, results in the formation of dorsal and ventral eye domains through antagonistic interactions of the dorsal selector and ventral genes. The DV boundary is the site for Notch (N) upregulation, and is crucial for cell proliferation and differentiation. The long-term goal is to generate deeper insights into the molecular, genetic mechanisms of this crucial process of DV patterning in the eye.

DV patterning begins from a default ventral state, which depends on function of a N ligand Serrate (Ser) and Lobe (L). Mutation in L results in the loss of ventral eye. The dorsal domain is established by onset of expression of the GATA-family transcription factor Pannier (Pnr) in the dorsal margin of the eye disc. Pnr induces expression of downstream secreted morphogen Wingless (Wg) and Iroquois (Iro-C) family homeobox proteins. There is a need to identify additional genes that are involved in DV patterning. We have identified a new dorsal fate selector gene defective proventriculus (dve). The dorsal genes antagonize the ventral genes to restrict their functions to the ventral eye. To generate mechanistic insights into the crucial developmental process of DV patterning in the early eye imaginal disc, here we propose the following aims: (i) Developmental characterization of a novel dorsal eye gene defective proventriculus (dve). (ii) Determine the status of dve in dorsal eye gene hierarchy. (iii) Determine the role of Dve in the regulation of the Dpp signaling in the dorsal eye disc. This study will help to discern the mechanism by which dve regulate patterning, cell survival, and growth in the dorsal eye and thereby contributes towards DV patterning in the eye. In humans and other vertebrates, DV polarity of the retina directs the retinal axon projections to the brain. Our study will also contribute to (1) the understanding of animal developmental mechanisms and (2) early developmental events that may affect the retinal axon projection to the brain during normal development and disease. These studies will require statistical analysis and mathematical approaches to derive rescue percentages of neuronal population from developmental cell death.

Research Experience:

The student will be exposed to Drosophila Genetics, Microscopy, Immuno-histochemistry, statistical analysis and mathematical modeling. The student will develop a skill set of presenting research as lab presentations and also learn to present data as posters. The undergraduate researcher will be encouraged to present his/her research in Ohio Miami Valley Society of Neuroscience meeting at Miami University in summer and also participate in undergraduate 2020 Summer Science Research Symposium. Dr. Singh is on the organizing committee of the Summer Science Research Symposium. The contribution from undergraduate researcher will be duly acknowledged in the future publications from the lab.

Selection Criteria:

The project requires disciplined individuals with a desire to learn modern day innovative biological techniques, and statistical approaches. A basic aptitude in biology and mathematics will be a great help to understand the project and prior training in handling Drosophila may be an added advantage.


Faculty:

Pothitos M. Pitychoutis, Department of Biology and Katia Del Rio-Tsonis, Department of Biology at Miami University

Project overview:

In the context of this collaborative, interdisciplinary research project our team at the University of Dayton (Dayton, OH) and Miami University (Oxford, OH) will assess the neurochemical underpinnings of regeneration by using different animal models (e.g., chick embryo, axolotls or newts). Specifically, the selected UD undergraduate student will gain experience with animal regeneration models, as well as with ex vivo neurochemical, western blotting and immunohistochemical techniques. This project is part of a wider scientific collaboration between the Del Rio-Tsonis lab (Miami University, Oxford, OH) and the Pitychoutis lab (University of Dayton, Dayton, OH) to explore the neurochemical basis of regeneration.

Research Experience:

The proposed interdisciplinary experiential learning project will offer hands-on, inquiry-based learning and will provide a UD undergraduate student with the opportunity to develop a unique conceptual understanding of standard research techniques used in neuroscience and regeneration. The successful applicant will get the chance to work with a cutting-edge regeneration models in the context of an existing collaborative project between the Del Rio-Tsonis and the Pitychoutis labs to assess the effects of regeneration in the brain using different animal models.

Selection Criteria:

The successful applicant should have a demonstrated interest in the fields of neuroscience and/or regeneration and prior laboratory research experience.


Faculty:

Amit Singh, Department of Biology and Muhammad Usman, Department of Mathematics

Project overview:

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a fatal progressive neurodegenerative disorder with no cure to-date, manifests as gradual decline in cognitive functions and finally the death of the patient. It is the sixth leading cause of mortality in US. In AD, accumulation of hydrophobic human amyloid-beta-42 (Aß42) plaques triggers neurodegeneration (death of neurons) by unknown molecular-genetic mechanism. Drosophila, with large repository of genetic tools and similar genetic makeup to humans, is used to model human disease. We developed a humanized fly model where we misexpress high levels of human-Aß42 polypeptides in various tissues, which exhibits AD like neuropathology in nearly 100% flies.

This project studies the role of high and low sugar diet on the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly 21 million Americans have diabetes. The majority of diabetics have Type 2 Diabetes, where too much sugar remains in the blood, which over time damage the organs including brain. We will use our Drosophila model to ascertain the role of sugar levels in the diet onset and progression of AD. We have developed fly mediums where sugar levels can be regulated. We will culture our human-Aß42 expressing flies on these cultures and will analyze eclosion rate, life expectancy, neurodegenerative phenotypes. We will also discern what happens to the frequency of neuronal death in various sugar diets.

Previous studies from our lab has identified several biomarkers for onset and progression of neurodegeneration, we will compare expression of these biomarkers under different sugar levels to determine the effect. These studies will provide evidences for the relation between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. These studies will require statistical analysis and mathematical approaches to derive rescue percentages of neuronal population from neurodegeneration as a function of sugar dosage in the fly food.

Research Experience:

The student will be exposed to Drosophila Genetics, Microscopy, Immuno-histochemistry, statistical analysis and mathematical modeling. The student will develop a skill set of presenting research as lab presentations and also learn to present data in posters. The undergraduate researcher will be encouraged to present his/her research in Ohio Miami Valley Society of Neuroscience meeting at Miami University in summer and also participate in undergraduate 2020 Summer Science Research Symposium. The contributions from undergraduate researcher will be duly acknowledged in the future publications from the lab.

Selection Criteria:

The project requires disciplined individuals with a desire to learn modern day, cutting edge biological techniques, statistical and mathematical approaches. A basic aptitude in biology and mathematics will be a great help to understand the project and prior training in handling Drosophila may be an added advantage.


Faculty:

Denise Taylor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Kellie Schneider, Department of Engineering Management Systems and Technology

Project overview:

On-site treatment of household wastewater is common in low-population areas. However, aging treatment systems and increasing population density can increase the risk of contamination of local wells or recreational waterways. This project will utilize a systems engineering approach to evaluate the potential risk associated with on-site wastewater treatment systems located in the Cincinnati area. The project will begin with a Concept of Operations phase in which the student will identify system characteristics associated with contamination risk. The student will then analyze existing data sources for environmental conditions (including soil type, depth to ground water, etc.) and other on-site system risk factors (such as the age of the system or size of the leech field). Some additional data collection and/or data organization and management may be required. Next, the student will document the Requirements and Architecture necessary for the development of a decision support tool to identify high-risk systems. This effort is expected to contribute in the future to the creation of a spatial decision support system, a visual representation available to decision makers for identifying high priority locations or comparison of infrastructure upgrade options for prevention of environmental contamination.

Research Experience:

The student will be engaged at the interface of natural science, the built environment, and decision science tools. Risk evaluation and management is an important component of many science and engineering issues. In terms of specific skills, the student researcher will help gather current background literature on this issue, participate in constituent meetings, conduct meta-analysis of existing data sources, and contribute to building the risk assessment tool. Scientific communication skill building will include technical writing, presentation to diverse audiences (technical experts in some settings, general public in others), interpersonal communication such as interviewing public agency staff for use of data sets.

Selection Criteria:

A reliable personal computer is required. Interest in GIS may be engaged in this project, but is not a requirement.


CONTACT

Integrative Science and Engineering Center

Science Center
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2357
937-229-2536
Email