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Summer 2012 STAR Scholars

Katie Delaney

  • Major: Elementary Education
  • College: School of Education
  • Project Title: Making Mathematics Visible
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Ellen Clay, School of Education
  • Abstract: Teachers can only teach as well as they understand the topic, particularly in mathematics where people know the algorithms but fail to grasp the underlying pedagogical concept, or the “key developmental understanding” (KDU). A KDU, as defined by Martin Simon, is a literal change in the person’s thinking and perception that results from student activity and reflection instead of examples and explanations.  Students can only obtain KDUs if teachers demonstrate an understanding of and communicate the KDU. Based on the works of Simon and Eva Thanheiser, our study focuses on the KDU of place-value, which is a core element of the kindergarten - fourth grade mathematics curriculum. We used Thanheiser’s three components of place-value - units, relationships, and regrouping - to code online podcasts of pre-service teachers for evidence of their ability to unite verbally, symbolically, and pictorially the KDU of place-value.  We found that nearly every teacher somewhat possesses the KDU (otherwise they would be incapable of conducting simple math problems) but only about 25% explicitly mastered the KDU of place-value.  We will follow up with interviews to gauge if our initial assessments were correct and if the teachers are implementing the KDU in the classroom.

Sabrina Douglas

  • Major: Nursing
  • College: College of Nursing & Health Professions
  • Project Title: MicroRNAs as Biomarkers in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Seena Ajit, Pharmacology & Physiology, Drexel University College of Medicine
  • Abstract: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are approximately 22 nucleotide long noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression. miRNA alterations have been observed in a number of diseases.  Due to their stability and prevalence in many body fluids, miRNAs hold immense promise as more precise and economical diagnostic tools. Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic neuropathic pain syndrome that predominantly occurs after an injury, affecting one or more extremities. CRPS patients experience chronic pain and inflammation beyond the initial injury that can be severely debilitating. Treatments, particularly in moderate-severe cases, provide little relief. Ketamine, a widely used anesthetic, is one of the treatment options being pursued for CRPS.

Valentina Feldman

  • Major: Animation & Visual Effects
  • College: Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design
  • Project Title: Aesthetics vs. Functionality - The Art & Design of Diagnostic Video Games
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Felicia Hurewitz, Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Abstract: The integration of digital media within traditional scholarly subjects, like psychology, is one with largely untapped potential. Video games may seem solely recreational, but the interactive component provides psychologists with a unique window into a subject’s mind. As Art Director and Lead Animator of STAR Frog Jumpers, an iPad game designed to help psychologists diagnose autism in children, optimizing the link between established psych tests and interactive alternatives has been a fascinating endeavor.

    STAR Frog Jumpers borrows its mechanics from a traditional, pencil-and-paper pattern recognition task called the Trail Making Test (TMT). My job as director of visuals was to adapt the TMT to an interactive, touch-controlled format while establishing the middle-ground between aesthetics and functionality. Background animations are minimized to avoid visual distraction, but “success” cut scenes are emphasized to provide a tangible goal for the subject. The levels are dynamic, but designed with a muted color scheme that accentuates the bright numbers and letters.

    These details are crucially important to account for, as children with autism are likely to be distracted by background features. When we are finished, Drexel psychologists will compare the reaction time and accuracy results between the traditional TMT and our dynamic, colorful, goal-based interpretation.


Jordan Jobs

  • Major: Information Systems
  • College: iSchool
  • Project Title: Health Information and Internet Use Lacking in Low-Income Communities
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Prudence Dairymple, iSchool
  • Abstract: Despite the popularity of “at home” medical information searches, the quality of life in low-income communities is impacted negatively due to lack of medical information use. Limited access to technology in these underserved communities hinders access to online medical information. To improve this problem first urban communities need Internet access, the desire to seek health information, and finally the comprehension of the health information is important. Surveys of parents at four Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) clinics will serve as the research base for this study. We utilized the time usually spent in the waiting room for survey administration. The results of these surveys will offer clues for how to best bridge the digital divide in terms of access to health information in underserved communities. This research will help CHOP improve communication through technology between the clinic and the patients it services.

Gloria Liu

  • Major: Finance & Accounting, BS/JD
  • College: Earle Mack School of Law
  • Project Title: A Qualitative Analysis of Original Wills from Historical Philadelphia
  • STAR Mentor: Prof. Deborah Gordon, School of Law
  • Abstract: Examining original wills from historical periods remains important in gaining insight to identifying trends and evolutions through time. The principal objective of this project is to explore the process surrounding the formation of wills in the Philadelphia area from different time periods. Data will be gathered through applied research by recording original will statements and analyzing specific categories that are fundamental to the structure of a will. A selection of original documents from the 1770s and 1870s will be examined through microfilm located in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The analysis will compare the information found in the original documents in light of historical events taking place in Philadelphia during the selected time periods (the American Revolution; population growth; and industrial growth in the 18th and 19th centuries). To facilitate analysis, the database will be organized by will sections; observing unique sections of wills from various periods will provide insight into how cultural and legal factors have changed throughout Philadelphia’s history. Moreover, the data will highlight the precise syntax and diction within a will that can affect the meaning a testator is sharing. Data will also be obtained by observing Philadelphia’s Orphan’s Court in City Hall, specifically Honorable Judge Joseph O’Keefe’s courtroom. Orphan’s Court has the authority to appoint guardians, handle disputes over estates and corporations, as well as resolve will contests.  By incorporating the observations about how Orphan’s Court hearings take place, a connection between the historical documents investigated and the modern experiences observed in court will be created, establishing a thorough picture of the proceedings surrounding wills from beginning to end.

Matthew McBride

  • Major: Chemistry
  • College: College of Arts & Sciences
  • Project Title: Using the Abraham Model to Determine a Recrystallization Solvent for Common Organic Compounds
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley, Chemistry, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Abstract: This research investigates the ability of the Abraham Model to accurately predict the solubility of organic compounds in organic solvents at room temperature.  This project has focused on organic compounds commonly recrystallized in organic teaching laboratories, such as trans-dibenzalacetone.  Using the room temperature solubility predictions and in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Lang from Oral Roberts University, a smartphone app has been created that predicts the optimal solvents with which to recrystallize a compound. Trans-dibenzalacetone has often been recrystallized in ethyl acetate, but both the app and experimental measurement determined that ethanol is the preferred solvent.  Additionally, the procedures for synthesizing the yellow crystal trans-dibenzalacetone by aldol condensation have been evaluated and lead to an investigation into the applications of dibenzalacetone and its derivatives.  This research was conducted using Open Notebook Science, which releases all experiments online to promote the sharing of information and the efficiently of chemical research.   

Rachel Pagano

  • Major: Nursing
  • College: College of Nursing & Health Professions
  • Project Title: Sensory Stimuli in the Emergency Department (ED): Anticipating the Effect on Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Ellen Giarelli, Nursing
  • Abstract: Between 2004 and 2009, there were 123.8 million visits to the ED in the United States. Among those, 80,718 were reported as having autism. People with ASD are more likely than neurotypical individuals to have sensory dysfunction (SD).  Because the ED environment is stressful and chaotic, the patient with ASD and SD is potentially at risk for additional problems. The purpose of this descriptive study was to describe sensory stimuli in the ED and anticipate problems in the delivery of care to this population.  This study was conducted in the ED of a University medical/trauma center in Philadelphia.  Sensory stimuli included light intensity (lumens/meter^2), visual clutter, and noise type and intensity (decibels). Using standardized instruments and investigator-created checklists, sequential measures were taken in different rooms. The average light intensity in the ED was 164.22763 lux, and the average noise level was 59.17638 dB.  Noise and light intensities varied by day and room and were highest in the waiting room, where occupancy ranged from 2 to 14. A patient with ASD and SD may experience distress due to sensory overload and manifest behaviors that interfere with the delivery of care. Environmental modification can improve patient care and contribute to a therapeutic ED experience.

Averie Palovcak

  • Major:  Biomedical Engineering
  • College: School of Biomedical Engineering, Science, & Health Systems
  • Project Title: On the TRAIL of a Cancer Killer
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Margarety Wheatley, Biomedical Engineering
  • Abstract: Studies have shown polymer-stabilized gas microbubbles to be effective in noninvasive medical imaging. These contrast agents can serve a dual purpose when designed to include a specific ligand conjugated to the surface or a drug encapsulated in the shell. Research is underway to harness these techniques in the fight against cancer. Tumor necrosis factor related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a protein known to promote apoptosis by binding to cell death receptors (DR4 and DR5) on cancerous cells. The death receptors are absent in healthy cells.  The main objective of this study is to conjugate TRAIL to the surface of a Poly (lactic-acid) (PLA) microbubble for targeted cancer therapy. During this experiment, eight batches of PLA microbubbles were made and characterized, evaluating the acoustic enhancement per dose, stability in the ultrasound beam, zeta potential and size, and surface morphology with scanning electron microscopy before and after conjugation. After TRAIL attachment to the microbubble, it was determined that the echogenicity of the ligand conjugated microbubble only decreased by about 30%. Finally, the activity of the conjugated TRAIL was tested against human breast cancer cells and fibroblasts comparing the TRAIL-ligated microbubbles, free TRAIL, and unmodified microbubbles to assess the degree of apoptotic activity.

Sandra Petri

  • Major: International Business
  • College: Bennett S. LeBow College of Business
  • Project Title: Bristol-Myers Squibb: A Study of Pharmaceutical R&D Offshoring
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Vadake Narayanan, Management, Bennett S. LeBow College of Business
  • Abstract: American companies frequently employ business tactics such as offshoring and outsourcing as ways to save money since manufacturing and production costs are often cheaper in foreign countries. Pharmaceutical companies have opened production facilities abroad and other business functions, too. Many have started conducting their Research and Development (R&D) in developing countries. Since R&D is crucial to the success of a pharmaceutical company, some assume that they would be reluctant to have their R&D work done thousands of miles away. After analyzing company documents, press releases, and the reports of business analysts, a case study was created of Bristol-Myers Squibb, an American pharmaceutical company. A company’s motivations and reactions are traced by studying the company and of its R&D activities in the United States and abroad. The case explains how and why the company is deciding to offshore some of their most important research projects, which involves risk both financially and intellectually.

Matthew Puzio

  • Major: Sport Management
  • College: Goodwin College
  • Project Title: Athletic Cuts in the CAA: Was Title IX a Factor?
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, Sport Management
  • Abstract: Title IX is a declaration of gender equity. With the initial intention of creating equal opportunities for women in universities, it has since been interpreted to require equal access to opportunities for women in college athletics. However, Title IX has been used at times as a smokescreen to obscure escalating spending within athletic departments designed to support highly commercialized football. 
    The purpose of this study was to investigate athletic program cuts attributed to Title IX within the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) over the last ten years.  Data from the U. S. Department of Education Equity in Athletics Disclosure (EADA) Database allowed us to track the money trail of funds after program cuts were made.  Our inquiry was guided by two questions:  did the program cuts result in Title IX compliance and what happened to the remaining men’s programs after those cuts were made?  This study uncovers the ways in which schools misrepresent Title IX as a reason for the redistribution of funds within athletic departments and illustrates the tensions that arise when schools with limited resources attempt to run highly commercialized programs built around football programs that underestimate the return on investment (ROI) used to justify their growth and development. 

Jenna Schabdach

  • Major: Electrical Engineering
  • College: College of Engineering
  • Project Title: Modeling Ocean Currents
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. M. Ani Hsieh, Mechanical Engineering & Mechanics, College of Engineering
  • Abstract: Compared to their size, relatively little data has been gathered from oceans. One aspect of oceans that can be modeled in a lab setting is water currents. To generate artificial currents, a system of sixteen motors was used in a 2’x2’ water tank. Each motor had to be set to a unique speed and the system had to be able to run at different sets of speeds in order to gather data on time varying currents. It also had to be easy for the researcher to control, so a computer based interface needed to be made. The motors were controlled in pairs by RoboClaw motor controllers, which used built in PID controls to ensure the motors were spinning at the actual set speeds. The motor controllers in turn were run by an Arduino Mega microcontroller. The GUI interfaced with the Arduino to control the system. Processing, a Java based programming environment, was used to make the GUI where the researcher could enter the speeds and directions for each motor. The speed sets were then sent to the Arduino, which processed the speeds and set the motors appropriately. The system can run up to sixteen motors, but more motors could be added in the future when the system is moved to a 10’x10’ tank.

Joseph Tomasso

  • Major: Animation & Visual Effects
  • College: Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design
  • Project Title: The Dexter House: The beginning of the First African Church in the United States
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Glen Muschio, Digital Media, Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design
  • Abstract: At the end of the 18th century, James Oronoco Dexter, a freed slave, hosted meetings at his home in Philadelphia that led to the formation of one of the first African American Churches in the United States. The Dexter house is no longer standing in Philadelphia today. All that’s left is the architectural footprint that the building left behind, records describing the house when it was still standing, and a few remnants of objects that were in the building. Using this information, it is possible to gain a clear understanding of what the house looked like. The goal of my work is to use this information to recreate the Dexter House digitally as a 3-D model. My part in this recreation includes the interior furnishing of the house. This research resulted in a digital rendering of the Dexter House, showing how the house would have looked in the 1790s. The Dexter house model itself is only a small part of the long term goal for this project. In the future, this model will be used in an interactive setting that will allow users to act out the meetings and learn more about the events that occurred there.