Category Archives: 2014-UCUR-Abstracts

Patterning and Functionalizing Carbon Nanotube Forests for Antigen Detection

Benjamin Pound, Utah State University

Physical Sciences

Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Forests are vertically grown carbon nanotubes. They can be as tall as millimeters, with radii from less than one nanometer (single-walled) to tens of nanometers (multi-walled). Their high surface area to volume ratio provides a unique material system for biosensor applications. However, the CNT surface does not provide covalent bonding sites to many antibodies of interest. One approach is to attach linker molecules with aromatic rings via π-stacking to the CNT surface and activating the linker molecules to bind covalently to specific antibody molecules. Unfortunately, the conventional solution-based functionalization approach often leads to collapse of the CNT forest and hence a significant loss of binding sites. In this presentation we demonstrate that CNTs can be lithographically defined to form various structures that are resistant to liquid-induced collapse. We show that the CNT forest can be functionalized with 1,5-diaminonaphthalene as a linker molecule and its coverage can be characterized by fluorescence spectroscopy.

Advancement of Petroleum Diesel Alternatives Utilizing a Multifaceted and Interdepartmental Approach

Michael Morgan, Utah State University

Life Sciences

The advancement of biologically derived alternatives to petroleum diesel fuel requires a multifaceted approach. At Utah State University we use an interdisciplinary team including the Colleges of Engineering, Agriculture & Applied Sciences, and Science in conjunction with industry partners to drive innovation in improving the science behind petroleum diesel alternatives. With increasing petroleum use, depleting reserves, increasing emissions standards, and other factors, there is need for petroleum diesel alternatives that are cost effective, offer improvement, and perform similarly to petroleum diesel. Our team has focused on the use of oleaginous microbes utilizing low value effluent and waste sources including sugars and CO2 to create biofuels. We have focused on a yeast, Cryptococcus curvatus, and a microalgae, Nannochloropsis salina which have shown high yields of fuel per cell mass. Using these microbes we have utilized USU’s own direct trans-esterification reaction to create sufficient quantities of biodiesel for engine performance and emissions testing, including a subset of ASTM tests characterizing the fuels from each organism. Our initial engine testing used petroleum diesel as a baseline in conjunction with commercial soybean biodiesel to establish the quality of our microbially derived biodiesel. Testing in stationary diesel engines and on the Bonneville Salt Flats has proven our microbial fuels perform similarly to soybean biodiesel and comparably to petroleum diesel. To further improve biological diesel replacements we have begun working to create green diesel, hydrocarbons from a biological source, using a novel method of hydrothermal liquefaction. Preliminary results of those tests are presented here. Through a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach USU is successfully improving petroleum diesel alternatives from microbial sources including characterization of the properties of these fuels and is working to create the fuels at the scale necessary for exhaustive engine performance and emissions testing including ASTM testing of all important fuel properties.

How a Small Group of Middle School Students Engaged with Data and Evidence While Addressing a Local Water Quality Issue

David Turner, Utah State University


Problem based learning is an approach to education where students develop solutions to authentic problems (Hmelo-Silver, 2004) with support from scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976; Reiser, 2004). Computer based scaffolding helps students organize thoughts and arguments while solving problems (Belland, Glazewski & Richardson, 2008). We examined how students from one small group constructed order in their interactions and arguments as they solved an environmental issue using a stakeholder lens.
Setting and Participants
Using stakeholder perspectives (e.g., farmers or the Environmental Protection Agency), seventh-grade students investigated their local river’s water quality. Participants were from three periods; two periods were allowed to work with computer-based scaffolding. All students had access to previous water quality data, and online resources. Using an ethnomethodological lens (Garfinkel, 1967), we focus on how a small group from the control condition formulated arguments and constructed order.
Data Collection
Groups were videotaped during the unit, the presentation, and post-unit interview. The researchers transcribed, coded and analyzed the video data.
The group proposed only a semi-successful solution because they misconstrued the relevance of online sources and largely neglected their stakeholder position.


Belland, B. R., Glazewski, K. D., & Richardson, J. C. (2008). A scaffolding framework to support the construction of evidence-based arguments among middle school students. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56(4), 401–422. doi:10.1007/s11423-007-9074-1
Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235–266. doi:10.1023/B:EDPR.0000034022.16470.f3
Reiser, B. J. (2004). Scaffolding complex learning: The mechanisms of structuring and problematizing student work. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(3), 273–304. doi:10.1207/s15327809jls1303_2
Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17(2), 89–100. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1976.tb00381.x

Mother and Child Factors Influence on Parent Language

Kristin Murphy, Utah State University


Past research shows that parents interact more positively with their children and use more supportive language during play than during teaching interactions (Kwon, Bingham, Lewsader, Jeon, & Elicker, 2013). Children with normal language development tend to have parents who use more language supporting speech, (Vigil, Hodges, & Klee, 2005) than parents of children with language delays. The specific research question addressed in this study is: Do maternal (maternal depression, education levels, parenting stress) or child factors (language development, social-emotional development) influence maternal language behaviors in teaching and play contexts?

This study was comprised of 68 mother-child dyads. On average, the children were 20.4 months old and 58% were female. Eleven of the mothers met the screening criteria for depression. The majority (68) of the mothers were Caucasian and were not employed (60.9%). Mothers were interviewed about basic demographics, their parenting stress and depression, and their children’s language and social-emotional development. They were then asked to interact with their child during a teaching task (five minutes), during semi-structured play (ten minutes), and during a cleanup task.
The study results suggest mothers who reported their children to be difficult, used more “wh” questions during play (r = .27, p = .03) and teaching (r = .31, p = .01), and more praise during teaching (r = .37, p = .00) than mothers who rated their children as less difficult. Mothers’ use of “wh” questions during play was positively associated with children’s vocabulary production (r = .26, p = .04). Asking “wh” questions is a language supportive behavior, often associated with greater vocabulary as indicated in our results, but might be expected to occur less when children are perceived as difficult or parents have high levels of stress. Implications for early intervention efforts supporting parenting and children’s language development will be discussed.

Health Literacy and Child Language Brokers: How Bilingual Children and Spanish- Speaking Parents Navigate the Medical Setting

Luz Maria Carreno, Utah State University

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Significance: Patients’ health literacy, or ability to comprehend and understand health information, influences their health status, knowledge about medical care and conditions, and hospitalization and adherence rate (Andrus, & Roth, 2002). Low-English proficiency patients are especially at risk, given they must overcome English and health literacy barriers.

Background: Oftentimes, children of patients with limited English language skills will language broker, or translate cultural and linguistic information for their parents (Morales & Hanson, 2005). This paper 1) analyzed health literacy levels of children who language broker and 2) sought to understand how parents and children combine their knowledge, as the skills of one may compensate for the skills of the other.

Methods: Survey data was collected from 100 parent-child dyads of low-income, predominantly Mexican heritage households from the Chicago area to measure health literacy levels among parents and children using the Test of Functional Health Literacy Assessment (TOFHLA).

Results: Results revealed that 25% of language brokers had inadequate health literacy (i.e., below an 8th grade level); 75% had adequate health literacy. Child health literacy levels correlated with parent self-efficacy (r = -.28**), parent foreign language anxiety (r = .29**), and parent ability to read English (r = .23*).

Conclusions: Many children brokers have functional health literacy. While parents may help their children increase health literacy in low-pressure situations (e.g., reading English documents), during a medical conversation, parents who are anxious and lack self-efficacy have children who compensate with increased health literacy for the parent’s lack of social skills.

FInding Hemingway

Paden Carlson, Utah State University


Historically, many artists have struggled with mental illness; they use their art as a way to cope with, and explore, their troubled lives. Writers, in particular, often seem to turn to writing when their situations seem empty or their lives appear to be in ruins. Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, Mark Twain, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all suffered from depression. Some of their best work originated from their pain. Ernest Hemingway also suffered from depression, though it never manifested itself in his work. Part of my project is to read the letters he wrote to his doctors to see if he reveals his struggles through his correspondence in a way that he doesn’t in his fiction. I’d like to read these letters with my own depressive struggles in mind and think about the relationship between art and depression, thereby coming to better understand my own need to create.

Long-term evaluation of Leafy Spurge biological control in Richmond, Utah

Jacob Anderson, Utah Sate University

Life Sciences

Leafy spurge (LS) is an aggressive Eurasian forb that has been successfully reduced in many areas in western North America through the biological control releases of flea beetles. Long term studies of this phenomenon are sparse. Three flea beetle species were released in the mid-1990s at a site dominated by LS in Richmond, Utah. This study assessed the long term effects of LS biocontrol on an ecological community at this site by addressing five questions: (1) Is LS abundance significantly lower now than in the 1990s? (2) What plant species are replacing LS and are they native or non-native? (3) Have the flea beetle populations persisted since their initial release? (4) What part does soil type play in which flea beetle species now dominate at the site? (5) In response to their unexpected presence, what role may long-horned beetles contribute to the long-term reduction of LS? It was found that LS abundance has significantly decreased from the 1990s; the dominant plant species are those of non-native grasses; flea beetles have persisted in significantly smaller numbers, with Aphthona lacertosa being the most abundant; and long-horned beetles appear to play a significant role in the reduction of sexual success of LS. The results of this project have implications for land managers when considering the vegetative response to LS biological control and the importance of long-horned beetles for long-term in managed, LS-reduced habitats.

Parental Distress in Mothers of Very Low Birth Weight Infants: Examining the Influence of Medical, Family and Maternal Mental Health Factors.

Laurin Wilson, Utah State University

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Premature birth and subsequent hospitalization of an infant in the Newborn (or Neonatal) Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can be an extremely stressful time for parents and has been associated with maternal depression, anxiety, and decreased coping ability (Hack, Taylor, Klein, & Mercuri-Minich, 2000; Hughes, McCollum, & Sheftel, 1994; Partridge et al., 2005; Shaw, Sweester, St. John, Lilo, Corcoran, Jo, & Horwitz, 2013). Interventions to reduce parents’ stress levels during the hospitalization of their very preterm infants have mixed results (Boyce, et al., 2008; Matricardi, S., Agostino, R., Fedeli, C., & Montirosso, R., 2013). This study examined the medical, family, and maternal mental health factors that influenced feelings of parental distress for mother of very premature infants.

Data was collected one month after the infants were discharged from the hospital and included measures of family well-being, maternal depression, maternal parenting stress, and basic demographics. Fifty mother-child dyads were included in the study. The average gestational age of the infants was 27.51 weeks. The average birth weight was 981 grams, and the average amount of time that the infants were hospitalized was 84.32 days.

Results indicate that the gestational age of the infant, maternal depression, and mothers’ perception of a lack of connectedness as a family all significantly contribute to mothers’ feelings of parental distress in our regression model accounting for 41% of the variance. Interestingly, the beta coefficient for gestational age predicting parental distress was positive indicating that mothers who carried their infants closer to full-term reported more parental distress than those who delivered the infants much earlier.

These findings suggest that mothers and families could benefit from intervention to improve family connectedness, parenting stress, and maternal depression. Implications for practitioners, possible interventions, and future research will be discussed.

Physiological effects of habitat disturbance in the wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans)

Austin Spence, Utah State University

Life Sciences

This study investigated the physiological effects of localized habitat disturbances around two well-studied hibernacula of the wandering gartersnake Thamnophis elegans. After three years of monitoring snake morphology and physiology at several hibernacula, several disturbance events occurred, including log clearing, stream bank disturbance, and vegetation removal. Individuals from three populations, two with disturbed hibernacula and one control population with no disturbance, were collected during the spring emergence immediately following the disturbance. Blood samples were collected upon capture and following a uniform stressor to measure baseline and post-stress physiological conditions. The samples were analyzed using a radioimmunoassay to measure corticosterone levels and a bacterial killing assay to measure innate immunocompetence. Baseline and post-stress corticosterone levels were higher in both populations with disturbance events compared to the control population. The bacterial killing ability of the site with the most anthropogenic activity was lower than the control site, indicating immunocompromise. Data are currently being analyzed to assess differences within the same populations between years with and without disturbance events. Pre-disturbance data are a rare and useful commodity and allow us to facilitate a better understanding of the various effects of anthropogenic change on natural populations. This study was funded through the Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunity Grant from Utah State University.

Maternal Directives as Predictors of Defiance Aggression in 2 Year Olds.

Mitchell Reid, Utah State University

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Chronic childhood aggression can be the beginning of a developmental trajectory that begins with minor aggression, moves on to physical fighting, and then to violence (Loeber & Farrington, 2000). Behaviors during toddlerhood may be more malleable than later in childhood (Reid, 1994). To better understand what predicts children’s early aggressive behavior we examined the role of parenting behaviors, parent mental health, and child characteristics in a sample of toddlers. Sixty-five mothers and their toddlers between the ages of 17 and 24 months (60% female) participated in the study. Mother-child dyads were videotaped during teaching and clean-up tasks. Mothers also responded to several questionnaires to assess toddlers’ social-emotional behaviors, language development, attachment security, and temperament and their own parenting stress and depression. The teaching and clean-up tasks were coded for maternal language supporting behaviors such as asking questions and providing praise, directives, expansions, and labeling. We examined the correlations between the independent maternal (depression, parenting stress, and language supporting behaviors) and child (age, gender, language development, temperament, and attachment security) variables and the dependent variable of aggression/defiance. Correlations between attachment security (r = -.28, p =.03) and maternal directives during the teaching task (r = .33, p =.01) and during the clean-up task (r = .39, p =.00) showed statistical significance. We included these variables in a regression model and found that attachment security and maternal directives during the teaching and clean-up tasks accounted for 29% of the variance in maternal reports of toddlers’ aggression and defiance. These results suggest that toddlers with greater attachment security and with mothers who use fewer directives in everyday tasks are rated as less aggressive and defiant than those with less attachment security and with mothers who use more directives. The full regression model and early intervention implications will be presented.