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Undergraduate Research Poster Competition Winners 2020

Each year, in partnership with the Harold B. Lee Library, undergraduate students in the College of Life Sciences have the opportunity to submit posters and give oral presentations of their research digitally.

Due to university-wide COVID-19 precautions, this year's Undergraduate Research Poster Competition in the College of Life Sciences was hosted online. Students submitted posters, and those presenting submitted three-minute videos describing their research. Although students, staff, and faculty were unable to enjoy the usual open house where students display their posters, judges were impressed with the student participants and the excellence with which they presented their research.

Research Poster Awards

1st Place—Why Longer Exams are Better for Learning: Extended Exams Increase Information Retention by Creating Stronger Connections in the Brain" (Haley M. Moe, Jacob Sowards, and Tana Sowards—Jamie Jensen, advisor).

1st place research poster, "Why Longer Exams are Better for Learning."

It is proven that extended exams improve long-term conceptual understanding and retention. But how? To determine what affects a student's ability to perform better on a final exam, Haley Moe, Jacob Sowards, and Tana Sowards administered biology exams of various lengths and levels (high-level questions versus low-level questions) to three different student treatment groups. Based on the results, it was seen that exposure is more important than practice.

2nd Place - "New Evidence for Alternative Mating Strategies in Alfaro cultratus" (Kaeli Mueller and Kaitlyn Golden - Jerry Johnson, advisor).

2nd place research poster, "New Evidence for Alternative Mating Strategies in Alfaro Cultratus."

Alfaro cultratus, a type of poecilid, have unique reproductive systems in which males fertilize females internally. This process has invoked greater competition between males, resulting in alternative mating strategies, which are seen with regressions between gonad and body mass. Although these mating strategies differ, they sometimes appear to be similar to the strategies of other poecilids.

3rd Place - "Foot Muscle Activation in Resting, Barefoot, and Shod Walking Conditions - A Pilot Study" (Lolita Chamberlain, Taryn Corey, Clint Frandsen, and A. Wayne Johnson - Sarah Ridge, advisor).

3rd place research poster, "Foot Muscle Activation in Resting, Barefoot, and Shod Walking Conditions - A Pilot Study."

What is better for your feet—traditional or minimalist footwear? To test whether or not minimalist footwear (barefoot) increases muscle activation, five subjects were measured while walking in supportive footwear, barefoot, and then at rest. Results varied depending on the individual, with some experiencing greater muscle activation in their normal footwear versus barefoot. It is difficult to say which is better, but it is a step forward, paving the way for future muscle activation research.

People's Choice Award - "Ramp Sequences Change Across Tissues: How Ramps Correlate with Differing Tissue-Specific Expression Levels" (Taylor Meurs, Justin Miller, and Ben Song - Keoni Kauwe, advisor).

People's Choice research poster, "Ramp Sequences Change Across Tissues."

Our bodies are made up of proteins that give cells structure and help them function. Genes produce a variety of proteins dependent on numerous factors. One of these factors is ramp sequences, rare regions at the beginning of genes, attributed to a wide range of protein expression. Approximately 19% of genes contain ramp sequences.

Oral Presentation Awards

1st Place - "Foot Muscle Activation in Resting, Barefoot, and Shod Walking Conditions - A Pilot Study" (Lolita Chamberlain, Taryn Corey, Clint Frandsen, and A. Wayne Johnson - Sarah Ridge, advisor).

See Research Poster Awards above - 3rd Place.

2nd Place - "The Influence of Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm-Associated Gene Mutations on Biofilm Composition" (Bradley Richmond, Courtney Freestone, and Emilee Christensen - Bradford Berges, advisor).

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria responsible for deadly infections that kill thousands each year. Constructed like a fortress, antibiotics are unable to penetrate and destroy the bacteria. In order to create effective antibiotics, it is crucial to understand the gene structures of biofilms, a bacterial structure that allows it to adhere to surfaces.

3rd Place - "Preclinical Evaluation of Anti-TK1 Antibodies for the Treatment of Colorectal Malignancies" (Edwin J. Velàzquez, Tyler B. Humphreys, Jordan D. Cress, David M. Bellini, Kathryn R. Smith, and Rachel A. Skabelund - Kim L. O'Neill, advisor).

Current cancer treatments weaken the immune system, which should be the first defense against cancer cells. However, antibodies are unable to tell the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. To combat this, students discovered a protein which is only found on the surface of cancer cells. The antibodies were engineered to bind to this protein, leaving healthy cells alone, and not depleting the immune system. Thus, creating an exciting new possibility for immunotherapy practices.

People's Choice Award - "Comparative Study of Humectants Used to Preserve Epithelial Tissue" (Tanner Nelson, Zak Webber, Aaron Peatross, Alex Pittard, Andrew Sykes, Ayden Olsen, Brandon Meeves, Chris Baeza, Christian Nilsen, Craig Reeves, David West, Dexter Tan, Elijah Lindstrom, Emma Holdaway, Gregg Davis, Iliana Madsen, Niko Jones, Olivia Grinnell, Sawyer Colvin, and Tyler Humphreys - Jason Adams, advisor).

Humectants are chemicals that trap water in tissue, and are found in many beauty products. But, perhaps humectants could have a broader use. In an effort to increase effective cadaver care, various humectants were tested to see which retained the most moisture, providing a starting point to more efficient cadaver tissue preservation practices.