McNair Scholar: Jared Acosta-King

Jared F. Acosta-King


Odor Sampling Behavior in Autism Model Mice

Sensation regulates action. And action influences perception, which in turn shapes further sensation. The interplay between sensation and action governs complex behavioral mechanisms. Not much is known about olfaction, but because all senses seem to reflect the interplay between sensation and action, it is reasonable to believe that olfaction works similarly. Additionally, little is known about the underlying mechanisms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but Sobel and colleagues have demonstrated a difference in human olfactory behavior between those identified with ASD and those without. Using mice as a model organism, we expect a difference in strategic olfactory behavior between wild-type mice and our mouse models for ASD. By measuring changes in sniffing pressure in response to various odors, we seek to better understand the mechanisms involved in ASD, results that we hope may be generalizable to humans with ASD. Results that show a significant difference between the wildtype and ASD models may move us forward with other aspects of research, such as identifying other key implicated areas of the brain that are involved in this process.


Matthew Smear, Psychology; Institute of Neuroscience

Cheyenne D. Collins

Anthropology, Honors College

Preliminary Decomposition Study within the Willamette Valley of Oregon:
Multi-Regional Comparison and Sharp Force Trauma Effects

Determining time since death (post-mortem interval or PMI) is an essential part of medico-legal death investigations. The PMI can give investigators important information about time of death and may help answer questions about the events leading up to death. The purpose of this study is to collect decompositional data from an understudied region (Oregon) and compare these data to better studied regions, such as Tennessee, to characterize the effects of regional variation on decomposition and taphonomy. Six pig heads will be exposed to the natural environment in the Willamette Valley of Oregon for sixty days. Three of these pig heads will be inflicted with sharp force trauma (SFT) to compare the rate of decay with other remains. Stage of decomposition, temperature, precipitation, and preliminary entomological data will be collected throughout the sixty-day observation period. These data will be used to: calculate Accumulated Degree Days (ADD), evaluate variation between similar studies involving different North American regions, compare the results with similar studies completed in the Willamette Valley of Oregon; and analyze the effects of sharp force trauma (SFT) on decomposition rates and insect activity.


Jeanne McLaughlin, Anthropology

McNair Scholar: Carina Garcia

Carina Garcia

International Studies, Sociology

The Role of the State in Human Rights and Migration:
Conflicting Discourses in Mexican Migration Policy

In 2011, the Mexican government passed La Ley de Migración (The Law of Migration) shortly after widespread allegations of state involvement in the discovery of clandestine migrant graves were brought to public attention and scrutiny. La Ley de Migracion, which explicitly embraced the protection of human rights for citizens and non-citizens alike, was coupled with the restructuring of institutional migration regulation in former president Felipe Calderon’s National Plan of Development. Much of the existing literature on migration in Mexico focuses on its traditional role as a migrant sending county and the economies of migration related to human rights abuses, violence, and the impact of US policy. While these factors have an important role in the nature and practices of transit migration, little has been written on the impact of changes made in La Ley de Migracion with attention to a humanitarian policy approach. This research aims to contribute to the growing body of literature that focuses on the impacts of more recent local policy changes by analyzing practices of a state-centric approach to human rights and the available qualitative data collected along the ruta pacifico, one of the major corridors of transit migration in Mexico.


Kristin Yarris, International Studies

Ellen Scott, Sociology

McNair Scholar: Bianca Flynn

Bianca Flynn


Environmental Racism in Native American Communities Near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation

Contemporary historical research has explored an increasingly broad range of themes related to the relationship between the United States and Native Americans. Little research, however, has explored the consequences of the exposure to pollution and radioactivity in Native American communities residing along the Columbia River. Native Americans had occupied the land that is now under the domain of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for thousands of years. After the U.S. government began using the land for nuclear operations, these communities’ traditional ways of life were compromised. Tribal leaders also claim that Hanford is responsible for the onset of serious health issues because of exposure to radiation as well as the increased economic hardships that members face. This project includes a historical analysis of Native Americans’ occupation and interaction with the land in the Hanford area, trends in Native Americans’ health and economic status, and the public discourse surrounding Hanford and the future of these Native American communities.


Ryan Jones, History

Steven Beda, History

McNair Scholar: Lana Huizar

Lana Huizar


Examining Depression and Social Support among
Caregivers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mothers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder report heightened levels of depressive and distressed symptoms than mothers of children with other developmental disabilities. We explored the relationship between formal and informal social support and depressive symptoms in 75 mothers with children on the Autism Spectrum. Parental depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CESD) scale, and social support was assessed using the Family Support Scale (FSS). We hypothesized that mothers with higher reported levels of social support would report decreased depressive symptoms. Multiple regression analysis revealed that no statistically significant relationship was found between social support and depressive symptoms.


Laura Lee McIntyre, School Psychology

McNair Scholar: Taylor Contreras

Taylor Contreras


The Search for New Particles Decaying to W+ Final States
NSF Duke/TUNL Research Experience for Undergraduates

The ATLAS experiment searches for evidence of new particles by using proton-proton collisions in the Large Hadron Collider. Our search focuses on a hypothesized particle X that may explain phenomena not described by the Standard Model (SM). We consider the decays of particle X to a W boson and a photon. We simulate SM interactions in the ATLAS detector via Monte-Carlo techniques, then compare our analysis of Monte-Carlo simulations to our analysis of data from the ATLAS detector. Any significant differences between predictions and data provides evidence for a particle not described by the SM. Our results show that the transverse momentum distributions for simulated and real data particles match well, as does the reconstructed mass of the W boson.


Alfred T. Goshaw, Physics, Duke University

Stephanie Majewski, Physics

McNair Scholar: Jack C. Wiegand

Jack C. Wiegand

Anthropology, Medieval Studies

Sugar Refinement Techniques from Medieval Documentary and Material Records:
A Text-aided Experimental Archaeology Case Study

Medieval archaeology is one of the fastest-growing subfields within archaeological research. Urban development across Europe has resulted in a plethora of new discoveries, creating unique challenges for archaeologists and necessitating the exploration of new methodologies. The aim of this study will be to explore integrative approaches to understanding the material past. By drawing on methodological frameworks from a variety of disciplines, we seek to treat the material and textual record as a holistic model of the past, taking advantage of the complementary aspects of each record. We will be re-creating the process of medieval sugar refinement using period techniques and tools where possible and contextualizing the experiment by drawing on primary source documents in an attempt to paint a single image from a fragmentary record. In the process, we expect to find new ways to identify and date sugar-production equipment in the material record and to identify botanically accurate and informative illustrations in medieval texts.


Daphne Gallagher, Anthropology

Gantt Gurley, German and Scandinavian

Regina Psaki, Romance Languages

Scott Stull, Anthropology, Ithaca College

McNair Scholar: Elizabeth Witcher

Elizabeth Witcher

Psychology, Sociology

The Role of Social Media in the Emotional Lives of People with Vitiligo

Previous research on New Media has shown that social media may help to bring people of marginalized groups together for greater support across geographical lines. This study expanded on previous research by analyzing emotional experiences and compiling themes in relation to the use of Instagram by people with Vitiligo. Vitiligo is a highly visual, often stigmatizing, common skin condition that causes loss of pigmentation (color) that affects up to 2% of the population globally regardless of race or gender. Instagram was picked for this study because of its visual nature. This application allows the use of hashtags as a search tool for possible connections with others. People with Vitiligo who use Instagram were interviewed about their experiences to better answer the queries related to the role of social media in their lives. It was found that this community is based on weak ties, with participants taking solace by the presence of others rather than by making strong connections.


CJ Pascoe, Sociology