2023 Research, Creativity & Community Involvement Conference

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The MSU Billings Research, Creativity & Community Involvement Conference (RCCIC) provides a great opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students of all majors to present their research and creative scholarship in a public forum. The conference is hosted every year on the MSUB campus, sponsored by the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, the University Honors Program, and Montana IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research (INBRE). The RCCIC is not a competition, but a celebration of the research and creative projects currently being carried out by MSUB students. All submissions are reviewed and approved by the sponsors prior to presentation or publication to ScholarWorks.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
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    Comparing Effects of Active Student Response with and without Differential Reinforcement on Receptive Identification of Children with Autism During Discrete Trial Training
    (Montana State University Billings, 2022) Meyer, Abigail ; Tsai (Faculty Mentor), Shu-Chen; Shu-Chen Tsai
    Purpose of the Study and Research Questions: Previous research was evaluated to determine active student response (ASR) error correction procedures used during discrete trial training (DTT). Research specifically indicated teaching skill acquisition to individual learners with autism to shape potential benefits. Gaps will be taken into account regarding introducing differential reinforcement, individuals with less established vocal repertoires, and measures of social validity. In the current study, I will compare two teaching methods to identify which procedure leads to a higher percentage of correct responding, as well as fewer trials to mastery with three learners with less established vocal repertoires who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder using an alternating treatment design. Method: The first method is to give a child a reward with various levels of praise based on the child’s correct answers. The second method is to give a child a reward and the same praise regardless of correct or incorrect answers. Baseline data will be collected prior to intervention to determine skill deficits from a randomized list of animal objects, while also using an assessment to identify potentially rewarding snacks. During intervention, if the learner does not answer correctly, I will help them point to the correct answer. If they still do not answer correctly, the instructor will hold their hand to touch the object. With the help from the instructor, they will get only praise or a snack with praise depending on the teaching method used for that session. Expected Results: Data will be collected after IRB approval to form a conclusion of the results. Active student response without differential reinforcement is expected to result in a higher percentage of correct responding, require fewer trials to mastery, and result in a positive consumer opinion.
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    Native Americans affected by stereotype threat: Resilience vs. Persuasion
    (Montana State University Billings, 2022) Two Moons, Destynee ; Masood (Faculty Mentor); Ambrin Masood
    Stereotype-threat theory states that minority students underperform because of the pressure created by negative stereotypes about their racial groups. This qualitive case study will explore how first-year, Native American undergraduate students perceive the possibility of or experience with stereotype threat as shaping their experiences in the light of their Elder’s stories of resilience and coping with adversities. Four Native American undergraduate students (3 first-year students, 1 junior) were recruited to participate in a series of three, 1.5-hour long focus group sessions where they first watch videotapes interviews with Native American Elders and successful MSUB graduate students, who shared stories of their journey thought life, reflecting on their resilience. The first-year students were asked to discuss their feelings towards the videos in the light of their own campus experience that have affected their resilience on MSUB campus. Participants were also asked to describe their personal values and stories of overcoming adversity. The data will be transcribed, analyzed, and coded for theme development. The themes coinciding with each research question will hopefully highlight the complex interactions between the impact of stereotype threats on their academic performance versus the resilience gained through inspirational stories if their Elder and other successful Native American students. The results will further help broaden our knowledge about coping skills used by Native American students, and how they are able to stay resilient in mainstream society.
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    Optimization of DNA extraction and size selection for NGS sequencing across plant families found in dover memorial park
    (Montana State University Billings, 2023) Schwartz, Olivia ; Comer (Faculty Mentor), Jason; Jason Comer
    Biodiversity can be explored in a variety of ways, from species richness to phylogenetic diversity. This project aims to investigate the plant biodiversity of Montana through analyses of species diversity (floristic collections) and phylogenetic diversity (next-generation sequencing [NGS]). Plants are well known for their secondary metabolites that interfere with downstream applications, such as DNA extraction and sequencing. To investigate phylogenetic diversity, optimized protocols for DNA extraction, fragmentation, and size selection need to be developed first. By optimizing extraction protocols, unique plant family characteristics will minimally affect yields and save time spent troubleshooting downstream applications. Plant specimens collected from Dover Memorial Park over the 2022 growing season were used to optimize an NGS workflow. This study found additional fragmentation of genomic DNA was unnecessary and automated size selection was sufficient to select the optimum fragment size range.
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    A Characterization of Search Engine Results
    (Montana State University Billings, 2022) McShane, Elizabeth ; Pannell (Faculty Mentor), John; John Pannell
    Background: According to a Pew Internet Survey, 91% of online adults use some form of web search. While search engine optimization studies are commonly employed by companies to gauge their visibility in search results, few studies have been done to characterize results from the user’s perspective. We wanted to explore the impact search engine choice may have on search results by characterizing top results from several search engines. Aim: Previous research has relied on manual review of search results. Instead of taking this approach, we began developing and testing a set of tools to gather, analyze, and characterize search engine results automatically. Approach: Selenium will be used to run searches and record the top ten organic results. The URLs of the search results will be stripped down to their domains in a python-based program, then categorized using a URL Lookup API. Finally, the results will be analyzed using a python-based program. Results and Conclusions: To date, we have succeeded in gathering search results from Bing, Google, and DuckDuckGo for 50 random search terms and stripped the URLs, leaving the domains. We have also identified a service that provides website categorization, using IAB taxonomy. The development we have done so far has allowed us to identify the following targets for future development. Data Gathering: Some search engines, such as Google, proved difficult to scrape and some irregular results, such as null values, were returned. We would like to explore other methods of web scraping in addition to Selinium and develop several methods that may be able to overcome unique scraping challenges that come with different search engines. In addition, we want to expand the search engines scraped to other, lesser-known search engines. Due to time constraints, the categorization API has not been fully integrated into the program. Thus, automated API integration is another target for future development. We would also like to identify any data, such as advertisements, that we could gather while scraping search results. Data Handling and Storage: In conjunction with the automated API integration, we would like to develop code that removes already-categorized URLs before handling them off to the API for categorization. Additionally, we want to develop error handling for any unusual search results that may pass through the data collection phase. As a final feature, we would like to develop an algorithm that performs basic analysis of the search results.
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    Characterizing the growth patterns of novel S. aureus mutants; both in vitro and ex vivo
    (Montana State University Billings, 2022) Estes, Dominic ; Wynter, Doyle ; Byrn, Lien ; Collins (Faculty Mentor), Madison; Madison, Collins
    Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a ubiquitous commensal of the human anterior nares that is estimated to permanently colonize ~30% of the population. S. aureus is also a predominant infectious pathogen that causes significant morbidity and mortality and bears a considerable burden on the healthcare industry. Options for treating this “superbug” are dwindling at an alarming rate. Although initially being considered a hospital-acquired pathogen, community-associated strains have emerged. These strains have the ability to avoid normal immune cell killing and cause disease in healthy individuals. Mechanisms for how S. aureus can escape the defenses of the body are incompletely defined. Previously published work has demonstrated a role for the two-component gene regulatory system, SaeR/S, in S. aureus and that the SaeR/S system influences the ability for the immune system to perform effectively1–3. Although initially considered a two-component system, SaeR/S is actually composed of four genes: saeP, saeQ, saeR, and saeS and the roles of saeP and saeQ are yet to be fully discovered. It is speculated that SaeR/S inhibits the proper function of attacking innate immune cells that circulate in the blood, although the role of the accessory proteins on the blood are completely unknown. We have begun to characterize the role of these accessory genes by using a clinically relevant strain of S. aureus USA300 and isogenic deletion mutants (deficient in either saeP and saeQ; USA300ΔsaeP and USA300ΔsaeQ, respectively). Experiments first began by quantifying the growth patterns of these mutants during in vitro broth culture, as well as, ex vivo during growth in heparinized human whole blood. These studies will help to fill clinically relevant gaps in our understanding of how S. aureus escapes the host immune system to advance disease during septicemic infection. Defining how this pathogen can survive immune defenses in our circulatory system can help identify new potential targets for the design of therapeutics.
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    An Elongator Knock Out Mouse Model for ALS
    (Montana State University Billings, 2022) Snow, Magge ; Snyder, Sara ; Trudell, Rachel ; Pond, Renzie; Cameron, BreAnna ; George (Faculty Mentor), Lynn; Lynn George
    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease that results in the death of motor neurons. As a consequence of motor neuron death, the muscles they innervate atrophy, causing patients to lose their ability to walk, talk, eat, and eventually breath, such that patients typically die within 4 years of diagnosis. Worldwide, ALS is the most common motor neuron disease. Fifteen people are diagnosed with ALS every day and importantly, the number of cases is projected to increase 69% by the year 2040. The George Lab studies a molecular complex called Elongator, and specific mutations in genes encoding Elongator subunits are associated with ALS. To determine whether motor neurons express Elongator, we used a genetically engineered reporter mouse that “reports” the expression of Elp1, encoding the scaffolding subunit for Elongator. Our results indicate that Elp1 is in fact expressed by alpha motor neurons, a subpopulation of motor neurons in the spinal cord that is most impacted in ALS. To investigate Elongator’s specific function in this cell type, we then generated a conditional knockout (CKO) mouse, where Elp1 is selectively ablated in motor neurons. These mice exhibit reduced motor function, as evidenced by PaGE testing, motor fasciculations, diminished muscle mass and overall body weight (~ ½ the weight of their littermate controls), and a shortened life span (averaging only 3 months). All of these symptoms are hallmark features of ALS. We hypothesized that the phenotype of our CKO mice is due to the death of motor neurons. To investigate this question, the number of alpha motor neurons in the lumbar enlargement was quantified in control and CKO mice using immunohistochemistry and Image J software. Alpha motor neuron numbers were found to be significantly decreased in the CKO. In conclusion, these data demonstrate that Elongator function is essential for the function and survival of motor neurons. Additionally, our Chat-Cre; Elp1LoxP/LoxP mice represent a new Elongator mouse model for studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to ALS.
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