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Participant Profiles

Undergraduate Summer Research Program 2021 Participant Profiles



College of Arts & Letters

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kate Simonian

Team: Jeniffer Lopez, Isaiah Golden & Michelle Garcia

Title: Diversifying the Creative Classroom                                                        

Abstract: This project will involve the collection of surveys from “diverse” creative-writing undergraduates across the country. The goal? To assemble data that reflects the experience of students who are diverse in race, sexuality, and disability. This data will be used to co-author a paper, which will be submitted for publication in The Writer’s Chronicle. Published by the Association for Writing Programs (AWP), The Writer’s Chronicle is the most respected in the field of creative-writing pedagogy, and it has a circulation of 35 000. The article (published in both hard copy and digital form, and by The Writer’s Chronicle app) will reach teachers across the country, informing them of major barriers to participation of diverse students and providing sample exercises for the classroom.

College of Education

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nancy Acevedo-Gil

Team: Ezra Salazar, Adrianna Rodriguez & Paula Zaragoza

Title: California Community Colleges Counselors: Counseling after the Implementation of Assembly Bill 705

Abstract: Assembly Bill 705 requires that college counselors consider high school coursework, high school grades, and high school grade point average when determining math and English placement upon enrollment. Given the implementation of AB 705 and students being required to meet with a counselor before enrolling in courses, this study aims to examine what changes in counseling, if any, occurred as a result of AB 705. The aim is also to understand the practices that counselors enact to provide productive feedback for students as they guide them with selecting a postsecondary pathway and enrolling in coursework. Data for this project will derive from interviews with counselors from two southern California community colleges. The project will culminate in a manuscript for publication in the Journal of Community College Research and Practice.

College of Natural Sciences

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Angela Horner

Team: Apolo Ibanez, Brooke Baker & Haleigh Smith

Title: Jumping Ahead of Injury: Can High-Impact Juvenile Exercise Build a Stronger Adult Tendon?

Abstract: Studies of both human and animal subjects demonstrate that exercise training positively impacts the musculoskeletal system. Unlike muscle and bone, tendon appears to be limited in its capacity to remodel after adulthood; as a result, adult tendon mechanics may be equally or more influenced by adolescent loading regimes than by present exercise practices. In this study we seek to determine the role of early life exercise on tendon morphology and mechanics. The interaction of genetics with external loading regimes is likely to further have a role in adult tendon performance, and thus we will use a line of mice that have been selectively bred for >90 generations for high voluntary exercise activity (High runner mice; HR). Young mice from HR and Control lines will voluntarily exercise (Group W: wheel running), involuntarily exercise (Group J: forced jumping), or receive NO exercise (Group C: control). Tendons from adult mice will be harvested bilaterally and subjected to destructive biomechanical testing in one limb and morphometric analysis in the contralateral limb.


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tomasz Owerkowicz

Team: Sara Sandoval & Breanna Ramirez

Title: Do Crocodilians Have an Air-Conditioning Unit in their Heads? Testing Selective Brain Temperature Control in Alligators

Abstract: Despite being dependent on external sources for heat, some ectothermic (“cold-blooded”) vertebrates have a trick up their sleeve – independent control of brain temperature, which allows them to maintain preferred brain temperature despite the rest of the body being cooler or warmer. To date, such ability has been documented in lizards, but not in crocodilians. Recently, a novel hypothesis suggested that the dorsal temporal fenestrae (DTFs) in the skull of crocodilians function as thermal windows for heat exchange, and thus enable selective brain temperature control. Alas, no experimental data have been published to support or reject this claim. We propose to investigate the role of DTFs in regulation of brain temperature in alligators. Animals (n=30, 100g-30kg) will have their DTFs either exposed or obscured with a custom-made reflective patch. They will be placed in environmental rooms (at 10 or 40°C), and their brain, core and surface temperatures recorded, using in-dwelling thermocouples and a thermographic camera. If the hypothesis is correct, alligators with DTFs obscured will not be able to control their brain temperature as precisely as animals with DTFs exposed. This project will train students in a variety of laboratory techniques: surgery and anesthesia, blood flow, thermography and heat transfer. The PI will mentor his students in reading of primary research literature, hypothesis formulation and testing, statistical analysis, and conference preparation. The PI and his students will prepare and submit abstracts for next year’s meetings of Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology and Experimental Biology. By working alongside his mentees, the PI will explain how he became a scientist, and encourage them to consider an academic career of a teacher-scholar.


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Becky Talyn

Team: Maggie Santos & Noelle Roddam

Title: Exposure and Action of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides in Human and Animal Models

Abstract: Growing evidence shows that some pesticides, including herbicides intended to target plants, are toxic to animals and humans, and that toxin residues remain in our food. Our previous work, focused on Roundup formulations, indicates that Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies are a good model species to study these toxic effects on animals, including their behavior, reproduction, anatomy, development, and mortality. This project will address these questions: 1) Is human exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides related to residence location, employment type, income level or other social justice issues; and 2) Is the observed decrease in reproduction and ovary size in Drosophila mediated by the steroid hormone JH?


College of Social & Behavioral Sciences

Faculty Mentor: Dr. José Muñoz

Team: Isabella Cantu & Angela Garcia Torres

Title: Latino First-Generation Faculty Trajectories through the Sociological Discipline

Abstract: The project proposed here builds on my research role on the American Sociological Association Task Force on First-Generation and Working Class (FGWC) Persons in Sociology’s national study. This project included the collection focus group data, survey participant responses, and has moved onto collecting interviews. My summer project will involve coding transcribed interviews with Latino faculty for themes such as first-gen experiences and family background. The student researchers will develop a project out of the same transcribed interviews for the purpose of examining family background and their responses to faculty career choices.


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kate Liszka

Team: Erika Kelley, Chase Hanson & Miguel De Avila

Title: 3D Modelling a 4000 Year Old Ancient Egyptian Mine and Settlement

Abstract: CSUSB students will take an active role in building and integrating artifacts and photos into a virtual model of an Ancient Egyptian settlement and mine at Wadi el-Hudi. This 3D modelling and integration of diverse data types teach the students highly marketable technological skills and teach them how to use these skills to analyze data from the social sciences. The final model will allow people from around the world to explore the site virtually and see what the archaeologist saw with integrated artifacts. This model will also be a foundation for all researchers and students of Wadi el-Hudi to support their publications and papers. It will be used as a VR experience in multiple classes at CSUSB to engage students.


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Luba Levin-Banchik

Team: Nathaly Ramos, Ruby Trujillo & Trevor Santellan

Title: Playing the Games of Politics: Goals, Achieved Skills, and Policy Relevance of Simulations in International Relations

Abstract: In scholarship and the real-world, international relations are commonly conceptualized as a game in which various actors, including states and non-state entities, are interacting to achieve their national goals. Transforming this conceptualization to academic classrooms, the teacher-scholars of world politics started to use simulations of international relations where students play the roles of state leaders, diplomats, media, and other actors. New role-play simulations are published in nearly every issue of the premier journals, such as Journal of Political Science Education and the PS: Political Science & Politics. Despite the abundance of publications and growing popularity of simulations, there is currently no systematic data on goals, achieved skills, and policy relevance of this innovative teaching tool. My project on Playing the Games of International Politics addresses this gap. With a broader goal of creating a comprehensive dataset of simulations for the use by scholars, educators, and policymakers, the project seeks to collect and analyze data on attributes of simulations of international relations, their stated objectives and outcomes as measured by the improved skills. During the summer, the student researchers, all of whom participated in simulations in my classes, will now become immersed in the research aspect of the simulations. Addressing the advantages and disadvantages of published simulations, we will examine if the utility of classroom simulations extends beyond an academic exercise and has broader policy relevance. Joining me and their peers in data collection and simulation analysis, students will obtain practical research skills by taking an active part in the key phases of creating a scientific dataset in international affairs. The resulting data and initial findings from the summer phase of the project will be also instrumental for the external grant proposal I am preparing for the NSF Security and Preparedness program as part of the crisis simulation lab I am establishing at CSUSB.


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Arianna Huhn

Team: Keya Soles, Lisa Patencio & Nesreen Habbas

Title: Unmasking the Past

Abstract: In 1913, the Smithsonian Institution commissioned a research expedition to South Africa. The goal was to collect information about the growth and development of Zulu children, with the aim of these data contributing to a larger dataset intended to distinguish racial types. Faces were cast, measurements were taken, and stillborn babies were stolen from hospitals, preserved in formaldehyde, and shipped to Washington, DC. The end-result was an exhibition that went on to become the founding collection of the San Diego Museum of Man (recently renamed “Museum of Us”). This project uses archival research, secondary literature, and obscure foreign language sources to contextualize the story of this expedition, and to center the experiences of marginalized actors within it.


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Maria Santos

Team: Carmen Uribe & Arianna Mariano

Title: Optimizing Engagement in Community Mental Health Services

Abstract: Disengagement from services is a major public health problem for individuals with first-episode psychosis (FEP), which puts them at increased risk of persistent impairment and poor long-term outcomes. Efforts to improve our understanding of service engagement and identify interventions to improve engagement may help effectively address the problem of disengagement. Community mental health centers and hard-to-reach populations, such as Latinos, are particularly affected by issues of service engagement. Examining and intervening on engagement in this context and for this population promises to inform the optimization of service engagement in treatment settings and for groups across the country. However, this research requires the availability of reliable and valid assessment instruments that measure pertinent variables for use with hard-to-reach populations. The current proposal is designed to lay the groundwork for a larger grant-funded project that aims to improve engagement in mental health services among individuals with FEP by examining the psychometric properties developed for Spanish-speaking Latinos. Furthermore, the proposal is meant to create mentorship opportunities for, and support the thorough participation of undergraduate researchers in investigation activities with potential for public health impact.