Office of Undergraduate Research

UR@UWM Summer 2013 Research Projects

Please check back for updates to this list!

"Grow": A large scale installation project
Yevgeniya Kaganovich, Art and Design                         

"Grow" is a large scale  installation project that launched at the Lynden Sculpture Garden in October. It is a system of interconnected organic volumes simulating a self-propagating organism that utilizes reused plastic bags as base material. Currently this project is proposed to a number of additional venues. The intention is to set up collection/recycling stations will at each venue, encouraging the visitors to bring in their plastic bags which will be collected periodically to make additions onto the initial system so that the organism would grow over time. Student activities may include experimentation with materials and fabrication methods, participation in public workshops, production of the art objects, contacting and securing other locations for the project, installation, collecting materials, making new forms and adding onto the initial systems.

Intertwined Geographies: Cultural Landscapes of Muslim Immigrants in Milwaukee
Arijit Sen, Architecture

This project examines how recent Muslim immigrants from various countries have settled in Milwaukee and recreated their world in a new setting. This involves collecting oral histories of local Muslim immigrants and examining how retention and adaptation of clothing help these individuals recreate their world and culture in America. At the end of this project we will be mounting an exhibition at the Milwaukee Public Museum and engaging local middle school teachers and students in this project. Multiple graduate and undergraduate students are engaged in this project. Some of them are collecting oral histories while others are setting up websites and lesson plans for dissemination. We expect the interested UWM Summer Research Program participant to help in the production of a series of multimedia documentaries and a monograph for this project. We encourage students interested in Communication, Digital Cultures, Web Design, Art, Graphic Arts, Architecture, Art History, History, Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Geography, Urban Studies, Immigration and Ethnic Studies, Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, Languages, and Cultural Studies.

Picturing Milwaukee: Conserving Local Heritage
Arijit Sen, Architecture

This is a summer research field school that aims to address a limitation in the current understanding of historic preservation that we feel is too narrowly defined around buildings. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, ecological conservation and sustainable stewardship concepts can produce an expanded understanding of our built heritage as part of a larger ecosystem and contribute to an enhanced understanding of the urgency of protecting our heritage. Recent experiences with historic preservation battles fought in the City of Milwaukee have taught us that successful practice of historic preservation must include the viewpoints of diverse stakeholders within this expanded understanding of our physical, cultural and ecological heritage. Our objective is to find ways to integrate values of environmental stewardship, civic engagement, and sustainable development into the discourse of historic preservation. As part of this project this summer, students will work with nationally renowned experts to collect stories of neighborhood heritage and accounts of residents’ relationship to their local ecosystem. We expect the interested UWM Summer Research Program participant to help in the production of the multimedia documentaries and the monograph that emerges from this project.

Rapid Prototyping Technologies for those with Disabilities
Franklin Flood, Art & Design and Jay Kapellusch, Occupational Science and Technology

Rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printers are fundamentally transforming not only manufacturing, but research and development of new technologies as well. It used to take weeks or even months for researchers to design, build, test and evaluate new devices. Leveraging rapid prototyping has the potential to reduce the time needed for the basic research process to a few days, or even hours. In addition, principles of design and the design process are proving to be extremely valuable to the development of many technologies, but especially consumer based devices such as assistive technologies for those with disabilities. Students will learn how to: (i) use computer aided design software, (ii) build prototypes using state-of-art rapid prototyping equipment, and (iii) test the effectiveness of their designs while working on projects such as the “arm powered bicycle”. This opportunity is best suited for students who: (i) have previous CAD experience, (ii) have previous experience with fabrication (e.g. first robotics, metalworking, etc…), or (iii) have a strong desire to learn computer aided design / fabrication techniques.

B'CAUSSE (Breast Cancer Understanding, Screening and Survivor Support)
Sandra Millon-Underwood, Nursing

This project is designed to increase breast cancer awareness and breast cancer screening among under-served women in southeastern WI. Students engaged in this project work with Professor Underwood and a team of nurse practitioners and community health workers in the presentation of community-based breast cancer awareness and screening programs throughout the area. Students involved in this project must complete an online human subjects protection training. Afterwards students will work with the team in program planning and implementation; collecting background information from women involved in the program at the community sites; and, in preparing the data for entry into a computer database for analysis.

The Zuckerberg Files: How Facebook Talks about Privacy
Michael Zimmer, School of Information Studies

The dominance of social networking sites, such as Facebook, in contemporary life necessarily sparks unique issues in terms of information policy and ethics. As users' and scholars' we are increasingly confronted with new questions like: What is the purpose/value of sharing information online? What are reasonable expectations of privacy in social networking environments? What kind of control should users have over their identity online? Their reputation? Their information? What ethical responsibilities do social networking sites themselves have to ensure users are able to control their information flows online? Should law or regulation exist to manage how social networking providers can access and utilize users personal information? An important step towards addressing these concerns is to gain a better understanding of how Facebook sees its own role in society, and how it frames these policy and ethical issues within its own worldview. This project will approach this problem through the lens of Mark Zuckerberg's own language. By gaining a better understanding of how Facebook's founder and CEO conceives of his own company's role in the policy and ethical debates surrounding social networking, we will be better suited to provide policy recommendations. The project will focus initially on the collection and archiving of all public comments made by Zuckerberg, and include the initial analysis of those words. In the end, a strong foundation will be built towards future research into the world of Facebook.

Innovation Adoption and Continuing Medical Education
S. Scott Graham, English

It has been well-documented that there is often a significant delay in the finalization of clinical trial research and the subsequent implementation of innovative medical treatments. It is critical, therefore, that researchers understand which modes of communication and education most effectively contribute to clinical adoption of new innovations. UWM’s Scientific and Medical Communications Laboratory is currently partnering with the Medical College of Wisconsin to conduct a longitudinal mixed-methodological study of communication strategies and innovation adoption in oncology-related continuing education programs. Undergraduate researcher responsibilities would include primarily assisting with directed content analysis of survey, interview, and observational data.

Human Motion Analysis for Rehabilitation
Brooke Slavens, Occupational Science & Technology

We aim to investigate the biomechanics of human motion during assistive device usage to impact the training and clinical decision making for persons with orthopaedic disabilities. The objective of this research is to investigate the upper extremity joint dynamics during wheelchair mobility, crutch or walker ambulation. Student tasks include learning what human motion analysis is and how it contributes to advancing knowledge in rehabilitation engineering; learning how to use a Vicon motion capture system and Vicon Nexus motion analysis software; assisting with generating animations and graphics; helping with data collection, processing and analysis; and learning how to interpret motion analysis data through videos and animations of rehabilitation activities, such as crutch, walker, or wheelchair usage.

Molecular Mechanisms through which Sex Steroid Hormones Modulate Learning and Memory
Karyn Frick, Psychology

Projects available this summer will focus on identifying the critical receptors and signaling molecules through which estrogen and progesterone enhance memory in mouse models of menopause. Within the four week program period, students will gain hands-on experience handling and behaviorally testing mice, and may have the opportunity to assist with brain surgery, gonadectomy surgery, hormone treatments, brain dissections, and molecular biology techniques. 

Mechanisms for Remembering Words
Anne Pycha, Linguistics

Although we often take our ability to listen and understand other people for granted, converting the speech signal into a recognizable, meaningful linguistic message is a complex process that linguists and psychologists do not yet fully understand. In this research project, we are using experimental techniques to investigate how people perceive and remember spoken words, specifically pursuing the hypothesis that listeners use distinct mechanisms for processing word roots versus prefixes and suffixes: in an English word like "bleakish", for example, we propose that listeners treat "bleak" very differently from "ish," despite belonging to the same word. If confirmed, such a finding could provide a unifying explanation for several phonological and morphological patterns that recur in the languages of the world. Experiments are currently underway in English and Spanish. Undergraduate researchers will have opportunities to analyze English or Spanish vocabulary, perform acoustic analysis of speech, use special software to design and implement psycho-linguistic experiments, run subjects, and/or implement statistical techniques.

Emotional Control in Anxiety and Depression
Christine Larson, Psychology

In this project you will assist with studies in which we use EEG and behavioral measures to understand how people differ in their ability to regulate and control their emotions. For example, we will examine how people who are prone to anxiety and depression have difficulty controlling attention to negative information. We will also assess people’s ability to voluntarily intensify or minimize their emotional reactions to emotional events.

The Marshmallow Task & ADHD Malingering
David Osmon, Psychology

A long time ago Psychology figured out that children able to regulate impulses in order to not eat one marshmallow sitting in front of them in order to receive two marshmallows at a later time did much better in life as adults. That skill is now being used to assess aspects of frontal lobe functioning in disorders such as ADHD. I would like to use this kind of assessment to assess those trying to malinger ADHD in a clinical evaluation for the purpose of obtaining illicit access to stimulant medications. Currently, we have no measures developed specifically for this purpose and many people are faking impairment in psychological evaluations. It is my hope that an assessment in ‘temporal discounting’ the current term covering the above mentioned ability may provide a better way of accurately assessing ADHD. Students participating in this research would help in surveying the literature on this topic, in building a task to assess ADHD malingering, in running the study, and in writing the results for presentation at a scientific meeting and eventually for publication.

Mechanism by which Apoaequorin Protects Neurons from an Ischemic Stroke
James Moyer, Psychology

Ischemia (stroke) causes excess calcium levels, which kills neurons. We demonstrated that the calcium binding protein apoaequorin (AQ) protects neurons from ischemic cell death. Furthermore, we also recently demonstrated that AQ upregulates the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10). Thus, our recent data suggest that in addition to buffering intracellular calcium, AQ may also protect neurons by altering cytokine expression. Our main objective will be to evaluate AQ-related changes in cytokine expression using micro-array technology. This allows us to sample large numbers of cytokines in order to obtain a profile of potential downstream targets. Rats will receive an injection of AQ or control saline directly into the hippocampus. The brain will be removed at different times (e.g., 1 hr, 1 d, 3 d or longer) and the hippocampus isolated and rapidly frozen at -80°C. Tissue will be homogenized and assayed for cytokine genes using polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Determining Responsiveness of the Force-time Curve for Measuring Rehabilitation Outcomes among People with Upper Extremity Musculoskeletal Injuries
Bhagwant Sindhu, Occupational Science and Technology

The force-time curve is generated while performing isometric grip strength trials over 5 to 10 seconds. In our previous studies, we have found the slopes of the force-time curve to have high test-retest reliability. We have also found the slopes to be able to distinguish between injured and uninjured hands. This suggests that these slopes can assist clinicians in determining the outcomes of rehabilitation. However, these slopes cannot be used in the clinic until we know about their responsiveness (or ability to detect change with rehabilitation), which is the purpose of the present study. During the summer, we will be collecting data in various hand therapy clinics. The student will learn about how to collect force and electromyographic data in a clinical setting.

Estimating Applied Hand Grasp Force Using Electromyography
Jay Kapellusch, Occupational Science and Technology
Maximum voluntary strength (MVC) data are available for very common grip and pinch grasps. However, there is a dearth of data regarding the functional strength capabilities of people while performing common activities of daily living (ADLs) and work activities. (e.g. turning knobs, holding tools, etc.) Similarly, it is extremely diffi cult (and in some situations impossible) to accurately measure applied grasp force directly while performing many activities. Therefore, these data often do not exist despite being of tremendous value to product designers, therapists, and engineers (e.g. how much pinch force is required to use a fork while eating?; use a pen to write?; use a wrench on a machine?). Students will learn to: use force and pressure instrumentation, make basic EMG measurements, perform basic statistical analyses and document study results. They and other laboratory staff will also serve as pilot subjects.

An Introduction to Emerging Discipline of Public Health Genomics and Informatics
Dr. Peter Tonellato, Zilber School of Public Health

The Laboratory for Public Health Genomics and Informatics (LPHIG) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is the first School of Public Health facility to combine expertise in genetics, informatics and computational resources such as cloud computing to address the complex problems in gene-environment and gene-gene research focused on broad issues in public health. Professor Tonellato' s lab at UWM (LPHIG) also collaborates with his lab at Harvard Medical School ( to simulate and predict the impact of new genetic testing in healthcare and on the broader issues of public health and health disparities. Should you join Professor Tonellato' s lab, your project will include the development and participation in the use of new technologies in the application of knowledge created to elucidate the impact on climate, environmental contamination, and genetics on human biology, development and health. If you have interest in genetics, the environment, public health, and emerging research technologies such as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), cloud computing then join us for a vigorous introduction to the future of genetics and human disease and health.

Hand Grip Rehabilitation for People with Disability
Na Jin Seo, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

The goal of our research is to develop interventions to improve hand function for people with disability, and to understand neurologic and biomechanical mechanisms underlying their difficulties in hand function. Our target population are people with neurologic disorders such as stroke. We will conduct laboratory testing in which stroke survivors will perform various tasks with their hands while their grip force and muscle activities are recorded using instruments. Test results will be analyzed to improve our understanding of mechanisms underlying disability and to evaluate new rehabilitation interventions. Students will be involved in laboratory testing, data collection, analysis, literature review, and other research activities, together with current research assistants in the laboratory.

Zebrafish as a Model for Studying Neurodegeneration and Dementias in Humans
Henry Tomasiewicz, Niehs Core Center

We use zebrafish as a model system for looking at how genes and environment interact to cause defects in the nervous system. We are particularly interested in how exposure of embryos to common environmental contaminants (e.g. mercury, lead, etc.) at levels that cause no observable affect can cause a break down in the nervous system of adult animals. Similarly, we also look at the effects of introducing human genes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease on the fish nervous system.

Jenny Plevin and Ryan Sarnowski, Peck School of the Arts

Students will assist with producing, filming, and editing various documentary projects under docUWM supervision. Students may assist with logging and transcribing video, and assembling high definition footage on Final Cut Pro software. Students may also assist with various post-production tasks such as gathering releases and researching distribution methods.