Carroll College Student Research Festival 2024

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Carroll’s Student Research Festival (SRF) is our annual research event taking place in April. This is a wonderful chance for Carroll College students to show off their amazing research, and we welcome presentation applications from all disciplines!

This year’s SRF event is taking place on April 26, 2024 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Students will present in either oral or poster sessions. Oral presentations will be 10-12 minutes long and sessions will be shared between various presenters.

There is no time more important than the present for our students to be able to ask big questions, critically analyze long-beheld norms, and search for previously unknown answers. They can give voice to the voiceless and provide answers about how we can better comfort those who are in pain. SRF is a physical manifestation of Carroll College’s mission statement as we collectively pursue an “enduring wonder for knowledge” and celebrate our community’s hard work and determination as researchers, writers, artists, thinkers, and performers. Each year we have an opportunity to change things up and participate in the liturgy of intellectual exchange in a way that invites us to step outside of our pedagogical norms. Our student research festival flips the classroom dynamic on its head and invites Carroll students to the podium to share their knowledge with our community as experts in their field.

As we celebrate all of the hard work, fascinating research, creative expression, and deep thinking that goes on at Carroll, we encourage you to pause for a minute during a session, look around and let yourself enjoy the hunger and excitement for knowledge that is buzzing about you. On few occasions will you experience an environment so dedicated to the holistic pursuit of knowledge and its application. Strike up a conversation with someone outside of your field of study or profession and let them open your eyes to new ideas and perspectives. Let them help you to identify solutions, create beauty, and find truth. Your participation helps us define the word celebration in Carroll’s own terms–be curious, ask questions, and listen carefully. You may find a whole new world of experiences and ideas just waiting to catch your attention and change your life for the better. Are you ready?


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 122
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    The Effect of Elderberry on DNA Damage and Repair in Tetrahymena thermophila
    (2024) Hurst, Alyssa; Wimmer, Peyton; Otto-Hitt, Stefanie
    The homeopathic supplement, Elderberry extract, has been marketed as an antioxidant that reduces DNA-damaging free radicals within the body to protect the structural integrity of tissues. However, very little research has been done to support the effectiveness of Elderberry’s antioxidant properties in protecting tissues from DNA damage. For this research project, we explored how elderberry influences behavior and expression of the DNA repair genes, Rad51 and Ku80, in Tetrahymena thermophila. It was hypothesized that UV-B exposed T. thermophila treated with elderberry would exhibit increased expression of Rad51 and Ku80 because antioxidants have been shown to play a significant role in DNA repair and replication. To test our hypothesis, T. thermophila was subjected to UV-B light to induce DNA damage and then treated with elderberry to investigate its protective effects. Following treatment, Reverse Transcription--quantitative -Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR) was performed to measure the expression of Rad51 and Ku80. Additionally, three behavioral assays were conducted to determine the impacts of elderberry treatment on cell growth, metabolic activity, and motility within the T. thermophila. The treatment of UV-B exposed T. thermophila with elderberry was predicted to increase expression of Rad51 and Ku80 and improve their growth, metabolic activity, and motility. This is because antioxidants such as elderberry are thought to play an essential role in facilitating the removal of excess free radical oxygen species to either prevent or help repair DNA damage.
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    The Effects of Curcumin on the Response of Tetrahymena thermophila to Oxidative Stress
    (2024) Gannon, Sydney; Wald, Elliot; Otto-Hitt, Stefanie
    Studies have shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, helps organisms recover from oxidative stress. However, the underlying mechanisms responsible for this benefit are not well understood. Exposing the model organism Tetrahymena thermophila (T. thermophila) to curcumin allowed for genetic and behavioral investigations into curcumin’s impact on stressed cells. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that T. thermophila treated with curcumin would be better protected against oxidative stress, as indicated by higher OXR1 expression levels, lower Rad51 expression levels, increased growth, faster speed, and less interest in oxygen when compared to controls. The T. thermophila genes OXR1 and Rad51 are involved in the oxidative stress response as they encode protective factors against stress (OXR1) and DNA damage repair proteins (Rad51). In this study, three experimental groups were established to determine how oxidative stress, induced by hydrogen peroxide, was impacted by curcumin treatment. During the 48 hour treatment period, cell counts were taken to determine growth trajectories followed by cell motility and aerotaxis assays to examine cell viability. Following the behavioral assays, Reverse-Transcription quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR) was used to determine the expression of OXR1 and Rad51. Because curcumin protects organisms from oxidative stress, it was predicted that the presence of curcumin would increase OXR1 expression to enhance cellular protection and decrease Rad51 expression due to decreased DNA damage in T. thermophila. It was also predicted that T. thermophila treated with curcumin would better survive in an oxygen deprived environment and exhibit healthy behaviors.
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    Investigating the Effects of Milk Thistle on Sterol Metabolism in Tetrahymena thermophila
    (2024) Lohar, Noah; Peed, Max; Otto-Hitt, Stefanie
    While homeopathic supplements have been used for thousands of years in traditional Eastern medicine, the availability of these supplements has increased dramatically within the last several decades. An area of concern is that these supplements are often sold without clinical evidence of their effectiveness or regulatory oversight from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This study aimed to explore the proposed hypolipidemic effects of Milk Thistle extract, also known as silymarin, on sterol metabolism in Tetrahymena thermophila. We hypothesized that a silymarin-induced decrease in T. thermophila cholesterol levels would result in the downregulation of genes involved in sterol metabolism, specifically DES5 and DES7. The DES5 and DES7 genes encode for C-5(6) sterol desaturase and C-7(8) sterol desaturase, respectively, and their encoded enzymes catalyze the conversion of most sterol species in T. thermophila. To test our hypothesis, T. thermophila cells were treated with either control media or silymarin supplemented media for 48 hours. Following treatment, behavioral assays were performed to determine the effect of silymarin on membrane fluidity, cell signaling, and cilia composition. Furthermore, Reverse Transcription quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR) was performed to measure expression of the DES5 and DES7 genes. The silymarin treatment was predicted to lower DES5 and DES7 expression due to decreased availability of cholesterol and subsequent sterol species. Also, we predicted lower cell motility due to reduced membrane fluidity, impaired cell signaling, and slower cilia growth compared to control groups.
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    Effects of Bryonia alba on Oxidative Stress in Tetrahymena thermophila
    (2024) Smith, Hunter; Wetherelt, Hunter; Otto-Hitt, Stefanie
    In recent years, the market for homeopathic supplements has experienced drastic growth despite the fact that it remains unregulated. An example of a supplement that has grown in popularity is Bryonia alba, which is derived from a flower located in Europe and is said to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. For this study, we focused on the antioxidant properties of Bryonia alba due to its flavin molecules that have been shown to relieve oxidative stress. It was hypothesized that Tetrahymena thermophila cells exposed to an oxidative stressor and treated with Bryonia alba would remain healthier and have altered expression of the RAD51 and OXR1 genes compared to untreated cells. The Rad51 gene was chosen for its role in DNA repair while OXR1 served as an indicator for oxidative stress resistance. To test the antioxidant properties of Bryonia alba, we exposed T. thermophila to hydrogen peroxide and treated them with either the Bryonia extract or a control solution. Following treatment, behavioral assays were performed to evaluate changes in cell viability, metabolic function, and motility, while expression of Rad51 and OXR1 was measured by Real-Time quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR). It was predicted that T. thermophila exposed to oxidative stress and treated with Bryonia alba would have better motility, increased metabolic function, and improved growth compared to untreated cells. Expression of RAD51 and OXR1 was also predicted to be higher in the Bryonia alba treated cells, indicating they were better able to respond to the oxidative damage caused by hydrogen peroxide.
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    Examining the Effects of the Homeopathic Supplement, Nux Vomica, on Metabolism in Tetrahymena thermophila
    (2024) Duncan, Mila; Kolb, Hannah; Otto-Hitt, Stefanie
    The seeds of the Strychnos Nux-Vomica tree have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and have carried over to modern homeopathic medicine due to claims that it is a cure-all supplement for everything from liver cancer to hangover relief. Nux vomica's supposed medical benefits are thought to arise from the alkaloids, strychnine, and brucine found within the plant; however, there is little scientific evidence to support these claims. The goal of this research was to determine whether the Nux Vomica supplement would affect metabolism in the model organism, Tetrahymena thermophila. We hypothesized that Nux Vomica would alter expression of the CDK3 and CAM1 genes due to its proposed anti-tumor properties while also affecting cell replication, metabolic rate, and responsiveness to chemical stimulation. The CDK3 gene encodes a protein involved in cell cycle regulation while the CAM1 gene encodes a regulator of cytokinesis that is expressed during cell division. To test our hypothesis, T. thermophila was treated with Nux Vomica for 48 hours before expression of the CAM1 and CDK 3 genes was measured via Real-Time quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR). The T. thermophila cultures were also subjected to 3 behavioral assays at the end of the treatment period, including cell counting to monitor growth, deciliation to determine metabolic rate, and chemotaxis to analyze chemical responsiveness. We predicted that exposure to Nux Vomica would result in increased expression of the CDK3 and CAM1 genes, increased metabolic rate and chemical responsiveness, and decreased cell growth.