Aggie Scientists Present Research on Utah’s Capitol Hill | 2023

Ten undergraduate researchers from USU’s College of Science are among 26 Aggies selected to present research posters to state legislators and visitors to Utah’s Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City on Friday, January 20, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The scholars serve as ambassadors for USU, present cutting-edge studies and highlight the importance of undergraduate research experiences for students, local communities and the State of Utah. Learn more about these exemplary scholars:

Characterizing the Charging Properties of Lunar Dust is Paramount to Mankind Returning to the Moon

Heather Allen

Hometown: Pleasant Grove, Utah

High School: Lone Peak High School, Utah (2019)

Major: Physics

Achievements:

  • Outstanding Undergraduate Oral Presentation, American Physical Society Four Corners Region Annual Meeting (2021)
  • Peak Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow (2022)
  • USU Goldwater Scholar Nominee (2022)
  • USU Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) Grant (2022)
  • USU Dean’s Scholarship (2019)

Researcher's Statement: “My research investigates the electrostatic properties of Lunar dust. We basically map how the particles will charge over a range of radiation energies.”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. J.R. Dennison, professor, Department of Physics, USU

Developing Cancer Treatments with a One-Two Punch of Metal and Carbon Monoxide

Joel Ashton

Hometown: Littleton, Colorado

High School: Heritage High School, Colorado (2015)

Major: Chemistry

Achievements:

  • American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry
  • College of Science Undergraduate Research Minigrant (2020)
  • USU Honors Program

Researcher's Statement: “Carbon monoxide (CO) has unique therapeutic properties including anti-cancer effects. Flavonols such as 3-hydroxyflavone can release CO upon exposure to visible light. This research was focused on synthesizing a complex of gallium(III) and 3-hydroxyflavone which can hopefully combine the anti-cancer properties of both gallium and CO.”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lisa Berreau, Vice President for Research and professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, USU

 

Grinding Cocoa Changes Chocolate Properties

Joseph Cooney

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

High School: McKinley Classical Leadership Academy, Missouri (2020)

Major: Physics

Achievements:

  • O. Harry Otteson Award for Excellence in Introductory Physics
  • Undergraduate Research Fellow
  • USU Honors Program
  • USU Presidential Scholarship (2020)
  • Eagle Scout

Researcher's Statement: “Most commercial chocolate is made from cocoa beans from multiple sources. This research helps to identify the unique properties of chocolate from each of these sources over different grinding times of the cocoa beans.”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Silvana Martini, professor, Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences, USU

Quantifying the Interactions between the Endogenous Opioid System and Endocannabinoid System (Research Partner: Emmaline Haderlie)

Christen Ellis

Hometown: Castle Rock, Colorado

High School: Douglas County High School, Colorado (2019)

Major: Human Biology

Achievements:

  • USU Undergraduate Research & Creative Opportunities (URCO) Grant (2022)
  • Common Ground Outdoor Adventures Intern and Volunteer
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Researcher's Statement: “This research is looking at the interaction between the brain’s opioid system and cannabinoid system, with a goal of exploring possible alternate pain treatments and lowering the opioid epidemic.” 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Erin Bobeck, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, USU

 

Quantifying the Interactions between the Endogenous Opioid System and Endocannabinoid System (Research Partner: Christen Ellis)

Emmaline Haderlie

Hometown: Twin Falls, Idaho

High School: Canyon Ridge High School, Idaho (2020)

Major: Biochemistry

Achievements:

  • USU Presidential Scholarship (2020)
  • Featured Speaker, Discover Science (2022), College of Science Connections Orientation for Aspiring Undergrad Researchers

Researcher's Statement: “Christen Ellis, Dr. Bobeck and I are looking at the interactions of the opioid and cannabinoid systems, through the methods of QPCR and brain sectioning. The long-term goal is finding alternate options for current pain treatments, specifically looking at coupling alternative treatments, such as cannabinoids, with opioids.”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Erin Bobeck, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, USU

The Dynamic Response of the Gut Microbiome to Berry Supplementation

Marcus Hayden

Hometown: Kaysville, Utah

High School: Farmington High School, Utah (2020)

Major: Biochemistry

Achievements:

  • Peak Summer Research Fellow (2022)
  • ADVS Student Research Symposium Award (2022)
  • BYU Talmage Chemistry Research Intern (2021)
  • USU Undergraduate Research & Creative Opportunities (URCO) grant (Summer 2020)
  • Undergraduate Research Fellow
  • USU Honors Program

Researcher's Statement: “The Benninghoff Lab team investigates how diet impacts colorectal cancer risk. The gut microbiome is pivotal to colorectal health. We hope to discover how berry supplementation and duration of supplementation change the gut microbiome.”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Abby Benninghoff, Professor and Interim Head, Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences, USU

 

A DICE-y Situation: Considering the Drumian Carbon Isotope Excursion (DICE) at the Drumian GSSP, Western-Central Utah

Michelle Norman

Michelle Norman

Hometown: Fort Mill, South Carolina

High School: Homeschooled

Major: Geology, Mathematics minor

Achievements:

  • Presenter, 2022 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America
  • College of Science Undergraduate Research Minigrant (2022)
  • Undergraduate Research Fellow
  • USU Honors Program
  • USU Dean’s Scholarship

Researcher's Statement: “Our research explores the structure and age of the Drumian Carbon Isotope Excursion, known as ‘DICE,’ at the Drumian Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) above the base of the Wheeler Formation in the Drum Mountains, about 24 miles northwest of Delta, Utah.” 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Carol Dehler, Department of Geosciences, USU

3D-Printable, Life-like Robotic Prosthetics


Madison Patch

Madison Patch

Hometown: Fishers, Indiana

High School: Hamilton Southeastern High School, Indiana (2021)

Major: Human Biology

Achievements:

  • USU Dean’s Scholarship (2021)
  • USU Honors Program
  • USU Undergraduate Research & Creative Opportunities (URCO) Grant (Summer 2022)

Researcher's Statement: “My research project is a 3D-printed robotic hand, hoping to increase functionality while decreasing the price of prosthetics.”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mario Harper, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, USU

 

Epidemic Highs and Lows: A Stochastic Diffusion Model for Active Cases

Dana Strong

Hometown: San Jose, California

High School: Logan High School, Utah (2017)

Major: Mathematics and Statistics

Achievements:

  • USU Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) Grant (2022)
  • Undergraduate Researcher of the Year, Department of Mathematics and Statistics (2022)

Researcher's Statement: “My project deals with modeling epidemics, the process of figuring out how infectious illnesses will behave. It explores how the aggregation of individuals during disease spread may, in conjunction with noise, explain how some diseases’ trajectories spend some time at low case numbers after which there is a sudden outbreak with high case numbers.”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Luis Gordillo, Associate Professor and Associate Head, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, USU

Detecting Onion Pathogenic Gut Bacteria in Utah Thrips

Rebekah Woodbury

Rebekah Woodbury

Hometown: St. George, Utah

High School: Desert Hills High School, Utah (2016)

Major: Biology; Chemistry minor

Achievements:

  • USU Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) Grant (2021)

Researcher's Statement: “My research focused on identifying bacterial pathogens carried by thrips, which are significant pests in warm and dry climates like Utah. Thrips feed of plants, puncturing plant tissue and releasing saliva as they eat. This saliva carries bacteria that can infect the plant. My project found bacterial isolates from thrips that can cause storage rot in onions.”

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Claudia Nischwitz, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, USU