The University of Minnesota, Morris Undergraduate Research Symposium offers undergraduates the opportunity to present their research, creative work, or art performances to their peers, faculty, and the campus community. For more information, see the Undergraduate Research Symposium website. The 2023 Undergraduate Research Symposium was held on April 19, 2023.
K-12 Education Fostering White Fragility
Scholars such as Carol Anderson (2017) and Joe Feagin (1994; 2006) have written extensively about the prevalence of white rage and systemic racism in contemporary society. We are seeing this played out in real time with Florida Governor De Santis trying to enact legislation to remove discussions of African American history and block dialogues about racism in schools. Robin DiAngelo (2019) explains “white fragility” as blaming “others with less social power for their discomfort” (109). DiAngelo and others have asserted that efforts, such as that of Governor De Santis, reinforce white fragility in schools. Specifically, curricula and instructional materials that deny and ignore racial power structures in the United States promote a sense of white fragility, especially for white students. To best understand and address this, I plan to conduct a content analysis of selected K-12 history textbooks, curricula, and instructional materials and apply a CTRR (critical theories of race and racism) lens to my analysis. Encouraging dialogue in schools and fostering critical education about the racism embedded in American society will propel this country forward.
Chemical Analysis of Morris Water Pollutants via Electrochemical Detection Methods
In small towns like Morris that are surrounded by agriculture, there’s an increased likelihood of contaminants to be present in the water. These commonly include heavy metals and pesticides which, in high enough dosages or prolonged exposure, can quickly become poisonous and harmful with lasting effects for both plants and humans. Throughout our research we have been analyzing the presence, if any, of lead, copper and cadmium as well as the common pesticides atrazine and mesotrione in the water throughout Morris. We look at a variety of samples coming from melted snow (collected throughout Nov. 2022–Apr. 2023), drinking water, and the Pomme de Terre River as well as the lake that feeds it. Our methods of detection include high performance liquid chromatography and various electrochemical techniques including linear sweep voltammetry, cyclic voltammetry, and square-wave voltammetry. We hope to then compare our data to the regulations and guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and ensure that they fall below there commended values for human consumption.
Impact of Colored Noise on the Acute Stress Response
Gillian L. Orth and Abigail E. Thompson
In psychoacoustics, noise can be categorized as different ‘colors’, which refers to the varying power and spread of noise signals over the spectrum of sound frequencies. White noise contains all frequencies at equal volumes, and pink noise, in which the power spectral density of the sound is inverse to the frequency. Both have been studied for their effects on sleep and relaxation. However, little research exists on the topic of colored noise usage for stress reduction and the effects it may have on the acute stress response.
Site-Directed Mutagenesis of Lysine 125 in Malate Dehydrogenase
Taylor Prieve and Cathryn Wallmow
Malate dehydrogenase is a multimeric enzyme among living organisms that catalyzes the reverse transformation of malate and oxaloacetate using the reduction of NAD+ to NADH. This reaction plays a role in metabolic pathways including the citric acid cycle, gluconeogenesis, and anaerobic metabolism. MDH shares a similar 3-dimensional structure and mechanism with lactate dehydrogenase. Knowing the structure is important when it comes to the redesign of enzyme mutations, which can be a useful method for studying the catalysis of small substrates. Physiological effects of the amino acid sequence alterations are easier to predict when the structure is known. The active site of MDH consists of a hydrophobic vacuole containing binding site for the substrate and nicotinamide ring of the coenzyme. Within the active site there is a loop region containing amino acids 119-137. The active site exhibits an open conformation when the substrate or cofactor is bound and a closed conformation when nothing is bound. The charges within the loop region position the substrate in the correct orientation for efficient catalysis.
It was shown that Lysine125, within the loop region of MDH, made essential interactions with co-factor and nearby residues that may have been involved in catalysis (Shania, 2019). Shown in figure 1, Lys125 and R124 are in close proximity with each other. Since both molecules have a positive charge, they are repelling against each other. We are predicting that the position of Lys125 and R124 are causing G263 to have a less stable hydrogen bond. We hypothesized that if Alanine replaces Lysine at position 125, then Arg124 will have a better position and be more stably bound to G263 resulting in a better guide for the substrate to the active site.
Methodology for Quantifying Antibiotic Production of Streptomyces Bacteria in Soil around Oat Plant Roots
Soil bacteria of the genus Streptomyces living in the soil surrounding plant roots can produce antibiotics that inhibit growth of other soil bacteria and fungi. These antibiotics may provide an economical, pesticide-free method of plant disease control in agricultural soils, so understanding what conditions create microbial communities with high levels of antibiotic production is important for sustainable agriculture.
In order to effectively test how plants affect Streptomyces antibiotic production, a pilot study is necessary to determine methods and timing for collecting Streptomyces from plant root zone soil. This work will inform methodology for a short-term greenhouse experiment in summer 2023 to measure effects of nitrogen fertilizer and pH on Streptomyces abundance and antibiotic production in the plant root zone.
Oat (Avena sativa) seedlings will be grown in pots of local field soil. We will test different mixtures of field soil with perlite, vermiculite, and/or sand. We will collect soil clinging to plant roots and non-root zone soil at several time points between 5 and 10 weeks after oat planting. Streptomyces will be isolated from soil samples, and their abundance and antibiotic production will be measured. The stage of plant growth at which the difference in Streptomyces abundance and antibiotic production is highest between root zone and non-root zone soil will serve as the time of harvest for a summer 2023 experiment.