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Summer 2013 STAR Scholars

Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design 

  • STAR Scholar: Marisa Watanabe
  • Major: Graphic Design
  • Project Title: The Polish Poster Collection
  • STAR Mentor: Mr. Mark Willie (Graphic Design), Ms. Jody Graff (Graphic Design)
  • Abstract: Polish Poster is a form of art that combines the visual representativeness of painting and the simple, immediate message that a poster provides. It flourished under the strict communist government control in Poland during the 20th century, primarily during the Stalinist era when censorship was at its peak. These posters were often designed by artists to announce events, promote foreign films, and spread political messages. They were placed in the streets of Poland for the public to both see and interpret.

    To announce American films, the government commissioned Polish artists to design posters and, as a result, the new posters varied from their American release posters both in layout design and subject. However, in addition to promoting the films, each poster often held a hidden political message to send to the public.

    During the 2012-2013 STAR program, comparisons between the American and Polish film posters were made to illustrate the significant design achievements of the Polish artists that were developed during the censorship. Interpretations of the Polish posters were also made in an effort to understand both the Polish culture and the state that the Polish population was in during the middle of the 20th century.

Bennett S. Lebow College of Business

  • STAR Scholar: Francisco Goncalves
  • Major: Economics
  • Project Title: Neglected Drug Development: A Review of R&D Investment Initiatives 
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Mazhar Islam (Management) 
  • Abstract: In this project, we investigate how to encourage more investment in drug development for neglected diseases. Neglected diseases are the diseases that are most often associated with the poorest populations in the world and are prevalent in tropical climate areas. According to the altest estimates, neglected diseases affect three billion of the most impoverished people in the world. Although there is a large demand, biopharmaceutical firms do not often invest in neglected drugs because of the low purchasing power of the patients, making such investments unprofitable. In recent decades, governments of both developed and developing nations, biopharmaceutical firms, multilateral institutions and non-profit organizations have undertaken various initiatives to encourage investment in developing neglected drugs. However, such public-private partnerships have yet to produce drugs that are affordable and meet the global demand. Through an expansive literature review, we examine (a) the global scope of the 17 neglected diseases designated by the World Health Organization, (b) the socioeconomic impact of the diseases and (c) the effectiveness of different initiatives to encourage investment. The findings of this study will provide insights for managers, policymakers, and philanthropists interested in combating neglected diseases. 

College of Arts & Sciences 

  • STAR Scholar: Casey Gilfoil
  • Major: Biological Sciences
  • Project Title: Content Analysis of US Newspaper Coverage of HIV/AIDS in Africa
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Emmanuel Koku (Culture & Communication)
  • Abstract: The AIDS pandemic in Africa is not only devastating, but also unique in that AIDS is a highly politicized disease; an HIV infection has not only medical implications, but social ones. Attempts to define and respond to HIV/AIDS globally have affected both social stigma attached to the disease and institutional forces affecting HIV/AIDS. These factors are influenced by sources of public information, namely media. This study examines the influence of media on public opinion on HIV/AIDS through media framing. A Coding Analysis Toolkit software from a Qualitative Dana Analysis Program was utilized in a content analysis of media coverage on HIV in Africa from four major US newspapers from the past five years. Articles were systematically coded for a list of media frames, each of which would indicate an attitude involving HIV other than neutrality. Detection of these frames did, in fact, suggest that media coverage of HIV is far from neutral. This result shed light on the influence of media on public attitudes toward HIV/AIDS and even responses to HIV/AIDS in the form of international health and aid policies. Overall, the study underscores the extent to which media can harness its power for health promotion, in particular anti-stigma campaigns.
  • iSTAR Scholar: Abigail Mudd
  • Major: Chemistry
  • Project Title: If You Can’t Stand the Heat…: Comparing Thermotolerances of Two Species of Army Ants
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Sean O’Donnell (Biodiversity, Earth, & Environmental Science)
  • Abstract: In some ant societies, labor is divided amongst morphologically distinct worker classes or castes. In Neotropical army ants, castes include soldiers, large workers, and small workers that differ in size and shape. Eciton burchellii raid above ground making the ants susceptible to temperatures, while Labidus coecus are thermally buffered by raiding below ground. We asked whether worker body size predicted their thermal tolerance, and whether the above and below-ground species differed in thermal tolerances. The critical maximum temperature (CTmax) of Eciton burchellii small workers was significantly lower than that of the rest of the castes (p < 0.005). This suggests that temperatures only need to raise enough to affect the small workers, the lowest CTmax, to affect the entire colony. Labidus ceocus have a gradient: with an increase in body size, the thermotolerance increases. The average CTmaxes for Labidus were significantly lower than that of Eciton burchellii (p-value of <0.0001). Exposure to high temperatures above ground may have selected for elevated heat tolerance in Eciton burchellii.

College of Computing & Informatics

  • STAR Scholar: Eric Rock
  • Major: Computer Engineering
  • Project Title: Using Minecraft as a Remedy for Executive Dysfunction
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. William C. Regli  (College of Computing & Informatics/COE)
  • Abstract: Executive function skills are a complex set of cognitive regulatory processes that underlie adaptive, goal-directed responses to situations, and include activation, focus, effort, emotion, memory, and action. Behavioral disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder include executive dysfunction, causing an impairment in the ability to plan effectively, initiate action, and follow through with tasks. This dysfunction is not always in evidence, however; children with ADHD, for example, often have no problem playing games like Minecraft which require a great deal of activation and planning. The goal of this project, MindFun, is to remedy dysfunction in activation, timeliness, and planning by simulating scenarios in which children display executive impairment within the context of engaging activity provided by Minecraft. Such scenarios include cleaning a bedroom, getting dressed, and preparing for school. MindFun modules modify stock Minecraft code to include an item-strewn bedroom needing to be organized, a dressing room stocked with clothing for the child to choose from, and a washroom containing medicine and daily hygiene tools to use. A pilot study is planned to measure the efficacy of this mod on children with ADHD.

College of Engineering

  • STAR Scholar: Nicholas Kachur
  • Major: Computer Enginnering
  • Project Title: iOS Applications for Music Technology Education
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Youngmoo Kim (Electrical & Computer Engineering) 
  • Abstract: Mobile applications (apps) can be valuable learning platforms that present sophisticated concepts in relevant and intuitive ways. It is often difficult, however, for educators to find apps that are appropriate for their specific needs. The Music and Entertainment Technology Lab has developed a suite of five custom iPad apps for use in Summer Music Technology, an educational summer camp, which introduces high school students to the math, science, and engineering concepts behind music performance and production. The apps emit, record, and analyze various tones, but the initial iterations were slow, difficult to use, and often redundant with one another, such that they were not intuitive to the average user. To improve the apps, I simplified the user interface, cut unnecessary features, and removed redundancies with the intention of making them much more accessible and user friendly. Additionally, I implemented methods for saving user input and interpolating a waveform’s average energy, and improved the speed of the applications by optimizing calculations and graphical updates. With this work, the apps are nearly ready for wide release, and we hope that they will assist educators in music and other related fields and help facilitate and revolutionize music technology learning.

College of Nursing & Health Professions

  • STAR Scholar: Pelagia Papathomas
  • Major: Nursing
  • Project Title: Sources of Measurement Error in Evidenced-Based Research
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Ellen Giarelli (Nursing) 
  • Abstract: Measurement error is one of the most common issues that researchers face when attempting to collect accurate and valid data for a study. Due to the increasing popularity of self-report questionnaires in objective research, various intrinsic and extrinsic factors can cause inaccuracies in the data collected. This descriptive study is part of a larger study that aims to understand patient experiences on three cardiac care units at Hahnemann University Hospital. Standardized instruments and tables of variables were used to collect data and potential sources of error were assessed twice per day over three weeks from data in patient charts and observation. Comparisons were drawn to determine which variables were more likely to contribute to measurement errors. All three units had high traffic with nurses, medical students, and physicians. Noise levels ranged from moderate to high on all shifts. Between 7% -18% of patients on all have physical/vision limitations with the highest numbers on 20 and 21NT. Approximately 30% more physical limitations and vision problems exist among patients on all floors, than arthritic conditions. By exploring potential sources of error, we hope to minimize their causes and allow for the collection of valid and reliable data.

Drexel University College of Medicine

  • STAR Scholar: Tristan Fried
  • Major: Biological Sciences
  • Project Title: Assessment of Predictive Margins of Biopsies of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Carrie Ann Cusack (DUCOM – Dermatology)
  • Abstract: Skin cancers are some of the most common forms of malignancy. Although the rate of metastasis is relative low, these cancers can be fatal if not treated. In this ten-year retrospective study we examined cancerous skin lesions excluding melanoma. The nonmelanoma skin cancers that we studied include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma in-situ. Although these cancers can be treated by many different methods, this study focused on the method of biopsy and subsequent excision of the lesion.

    The objective of this study is to correlate the margins of over one hundred biopsies with the presence or absence of residual cancer in the re-excision. This involves microscopically examining and identifying the margins of biopsies for the three types of cancer, and then the excision must be microscopically observed in order to decide whether there was any residual cancer. The final result of this study will be a correlation between the margins of the biopsy and the presence of residual cancer. This data may be helpful for the future in identifying how aggressive a dermatologist must be during the re-excision of a cancer based on the outcome of the original biopsy.

Earle Mack School of Law 

  • STAR Scholar: Sarah Margulis
  • Major: Philosophy
  • Project Title: Murder Sells: A Study on Law in American Popular Culture
  • STAR Mentor: Dean Daniel Filler (Earle Mack School of Law)
  • Abstract: When Americans think of popular culture, music, movies, and celebrities gracing the red carpet come to mind. What most people less consciously realize, however, is that law is an extremely prevalent topic in popular culture, as well. I chose to examine the presence of law in popular culture by reviewing volumes sampled from the thirty-nine years of publication of PEOPLE Magazine. Ever since PEOPLE came into existence in 1974, it has been the most widely read public interest magazine. I chose articles from three five-year blocks spread over the entire timeline of PEOPLE Magazine’s existence. I categorized each individual article on two levels: whether or not the article had a law component, and if so, what type of law was mentioned in the article.            

    On average, over twenty percent of the articles that have been published in PEOPLE Magazine contained a law-related component. Within this, Criminal Law, most notably high-profile crimes, such as murder, were most common. These findings confirmed that law is a significant component of American popular culture and further suggest that Americans enjoy the sense of mystery, transgression, and justice that high-profile crimes provide.

Goodwin School of Professional Studies 

  • STAR Scholar: Michael Proska
  • Major: Sport Management
  • Project Title: 

    College Athlete Medical Coverage in the Southeastern Conference

  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Ellen Staurowsky (Sport Management)
  • Abstract: Recent news coverage regarding the long-term health risks associated with concussions has prompted greater attention to the issue of who pays when a college or professional athlete gets hurt. In early July of 2013, lead attorneys in a set of lawsuits filed by former professional football players that could cost the National Football League (NFL) an estimated $5 billion or more were ordered by a Philadelphia judge to mediation to determine if a settlement is possible. While the professional sport world struggles with the question of what is adequate compensation for injuries sustained by athletes in their employment, the area where there may be a larger and more complicated set of questions exists at the level of college football. Curious about what kind of medical coverage Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools offer, given the SEC’s status as the best football conference in the country, we examined medical coverage policies as found in college athlete handbooks and other forms available online, looking specifically at whether they provided 24/7 medical coverage, whether they covered athletes after their eligibility expired, how they handled pre-existing conditions, whether athletes had access to independent second opinions, and whether the cost of coverage was borne by the athlete or school or shared.


Leibnitz Institute for New Materials (Saarbrucken, Germany)

  • iSTAR Scholar: Matthew Langenstein
  • Major: Materials Science & Engineering
  • Project Title: Core-Shell Composite Ultra-Fine Fiber Materials for Supercapacitor Electrode Applications
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Atchison (INM), Dr. Volker Presser (INM)
  • Abstract: Electric double-layer capacitors (ELDC), also known as supercapacitors, are energy storage devices suitable for high power applications. Electrode materials for these capacitors have to combine a number of properties, such as high electrical conductivity, large surface area, and excellent electrochemical stability in a certain electrolyte. Activated carbon powders are currently the most commonly used material in commercial supercapacitors, but this material requires the addition of polymer binder to obtain freestanding film. The same need arises for other carbon nanoparticles, such as carbon onions, or onion-like carbon. Carbon onions are small spherical nanoparticles that can be envisioned as multi-shelled fullerenes with an average diameter of around 5nm and high electrical conductivity. Considering that polymeric binder adds dead weight and decreases the electrical conductivity, significant research efforts have been dedicated to carbonized electrospun fibers as electrode materials to explore binder-free electrode concepts.
Our approach was to use core-shell electrospinning to produce electrodes that combine the high electrical conductivity of carbon onions with the binder-free design of carbon fibers. For that, carbon onions were used in the shell with a core of conventional polyacrylonitrile (PAN). In detail, we used polyvinylidene fluoride and single digit nanodiamond (SDNDM; precursor for carbon onions) solution for the shell. After spinning, the fibers were oxidized, carbonized, and then subjected to a second heat treatment to convert the nanodiamonds to onion-like carbon (OLC).

Our experiments show that this procedure can successfully be applied to obtain carbon fiber electrodes coated in a non-homogenous layer of OLC. Further work will have to be dedicated to increase the stability of the SDND in the shell solution to improve the distribution of the OLC on the electrode material. 

School of Biomedical Engineering, Science, & Health Systems 

  • STAR Scholar: Melissa R. DuBois
  • Major: Biomedical Engineering
  • Project Title: Evaluating Teen Driving Using a Simulator: Left Turn Scenarios 
  • STAR Mentor: Dr. Sriram Balasubramanian (School of Biomed.), Dr. Catherine McDonald (UPenn) 
  • Abstract: Car crashes are the leading cause of death in teens. These crashes commonly involve young drivers performing unsafe left turns. In order to study teen driving performance and prevent future crashes, left turn crash scenarios at 3- and 4-way intersections were replicated using a driving simulator and tested among 38 teens with less than 90 days of licensure. Teens were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one study group was trained with a hazard-anticipation program: RAPT (Risk Awareness and Perception Training) and the other did not have the training (control group). Simulator and eye-tracking data was collected. This data is currently being analyzed for hazard-anticipation strategies and traffic-check patterns. Coding of hazard-anticipation involves recording the time and location of eye-glances. Traffic-checking involves noting if participants routinely follow left-right-left glancing behaviors prior to turning left. This coding will allow for a comparative analysis between the trained and non-trained group of teenagers. It is hypothesized that more hazard-anticipation glances will be found in the trained group, validating the driving simulator and eye-tracker as effective tools to asses driving skills. To prevent future teen crashes, Simulated Driving Assessment tests may be implemented into state licensure programs or recommended by insurance companies.