Tag Archives: Life Sciences

Creating a Monster: Attachment Theory in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Sam Passey, Lyndsey Graig, Christine Fiscer, RonJai Staton, Jeremy Scritchfield, Barbara Balbas, Amy Harmon, Craig Demke, Joey Jergins, Tim Bywater, and Dannelle Larsen Rife, Dixie State University

Life Sciences

Research in human development suggests relationships are vital for physiological and emotional well-being across the lifespan. Attachment theory is foundational for relationships and is intrinsic in human nature as it is represented through words of novelists. Attachments are developed within the first year of life based on caregivers’ appropriate, contingent, and prompt responses to the infant’s cues. Avoidant attachment develops when the infant receives minimal responses to his or her cues. John Bowlby proposed the attachment relationship between the infant and parent creates an internal working model (IWM). This IWM sets the foundation of all subsequent close relationships throughout the lifespan. Individuals who have avoidant attachment representations are dismissive of, and lack security in relationships. Living in a time where women were marginalized, segregated, and many lacked formal education, Mary Shelley effectively produced a popular work of fiction in the early 1800s. Shelley was a keen observer of relationships long before Attachment Theory was developed in the 1960s. Psychobiographical methods were used to examine Shelley’s Frankenstein as a case study of Attachment Theory. Results suggest Shelley’s Frankenstein depicts basic components of attachment theory, and “Frankenstein,” the monster character, exemplifies avoidant attachment. Through his dismissive and proximity seeking behaviors, the monster characterizes Bowlby’s description of avoidant attachment. Lacking relationships during critical periods for development of empathy, the monster loses the ability to feel remorse. This critical examination of early British literature as a case study for Attachment Theory lends retrospective support for the understanding of human relationships.

A Framework for Validating Modeled Air Quality Data in Health Research

Nicole Burnett, Peter Mo, Naresh Rajan, Randy Madsen, Ram Gouripeddi, and Julio Facelli, University of Utah

Life Sciences


In the Salt Lake Valley there are three permanent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified air quality monitoring stations that intake air samples and produce results of the air quality in the proximity of the monitor station. Due to the fact that the monitors only represent a small area of the 500- square-mile Salt Lake Valley, there are spatial gaps when using the air quality monitoring data for epidemiological studies. Since for certain studies health researchers may require a higher resolution spatiotemporal air quality grid [1], we need to devise new approaches to provide air quality data that could meet the epidemiological studies requirements.

Research Methodology

Modeled air quality data available from the EPA, has higher spatial and temporal resolution than data from monitoring stations, but it needs experimental validation and uncertainty quantification (UQ) in the Salt Lake Valley. We can achieve these validation and UQ goals through statistical comparisons of measured air quality data at the same location and time as the modeled air quality data. The air quality model that we primarily used is the one that the EPA has developed for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network [2]. This is a model that uses a Hierarchical Bayesian Space Time Modeling approach [3]. This model was validated on the east coast of the United States so it is unknown how effective is in taking into account the terrain of the Salt Lake Valley. Modeled PM2.5 data in a 12×12 kilometer continuous grid resolution for the years 2007 and 2008 were compared against measured data of the same timeframe and location. The measured data was obtained from EPA’s Air Quality System (AQS) Datamart [4]. The statistical comparisons performed using these the two data sets were done using daily and monthly PM2.5 averages for the years 2007 and 2008 using MySQL, MATLAB and R.

Conclusion & Significance

We have developed a prototype for comparing and validating modeled air quality data against measured air quality data for the Salt Lake Valley. We found the modeled data fits the measured data fairly well. We will expand our work by developing a validating framework that will include a library of data modeling algorithms such as, The Complex Terrain Dispersion Model Plus Algorithms for Unstable Situations (CTDMPLUS) [5] and Yanosky’s [6], which could be selected by the user. The framework will be developed using OpenFurther, and then integrated with biomedical data [7]. The framework will be integrated into the PRISMS project [8] as part of the informatics infrastructure for studying the effects of air quality on pediatric asthma.


  1. M. Z. Al-Hamdan, W. L. Crosson, A. S. Limaye, D. L. Rickman, D. A. Quattrochi, M. G. Estes, J. R. Qualters, A. H. Sinclair, D. D. Tolsma, K. A. Adeniyi, and A. S. Niskar, “Methods for Characterizing Fine Particulate Matter Using Ground Observations and Remotely Sensed Data: Potential Use for Environmental Public Health Surveillance,” J. Air Waste Manag. Assoc., vol. 59, no. 7, pp. 865-881, Jul. 2009.
  2. “Air Quality Data for the CDC National EPHT Network | Human Exposure and Atmospheric Sciences | US EPA.” [Online]. Available: http://www.epa.gov/heasd/research/cdc.html. [Accessed: 18-Sep-2014].
  3. N. J. McMillan, D. M. Holland, M. Morara, and J. Feng, “Combining numerical model output and particulate data using Bayesian space-time modeling,” Environmetrics, p. n/a-n/a, 2009.
  4. “AirData | US Environmental Protection Agency.” [Online]. Available: http://www3.epa.gov/airdata/index.html. [Accessed: 20-Oct-2015].
  5. Environmental Protection Agency, “Revision to the Guideline on Air Quality Models: Adoption of a Preferred General Purpose.” Environmental Protection Agency, 09-Nov-2005.
  6. J. D. Yanosky, C. J. Paciorek, F. Laden, J. E. Hart, R. C. Puett, D. Liao, and H. H. Suh, “Spatio-temporal modeling of particulate air pollution in the conterminous United States using geographic and meteorological predictors,” Environ. Health, vol. 13, no. 1, p. 63, Aug. 2014.
  7. R. Gouripeddi, N. Sundar Rajan, R. Madsen, P. Warner, and J. C. Facelli, “Federating Air Quality Data with Clinical Data,” presented at the 2014 AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings, 2014.
  8. “Pediatric Research Using Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems | National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.” [Online]. Available: http://www.nibib.nih.gov/research-funding/prisms. [Accessed: 20-Oct- 2015]. Acknowledgements Grants: UU Air Quality Program, U54EB021973, NCRR/NCATS UL1RR025764, 3UL1RR025764-02S2, AHRQ R01 HS019862, DHHS 1D1BRH20425, UU Research Foundation. CHPC at UU.

Improvement of Care in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit through Family Feedback

Avani Latchireddi, Wade Mather, and Joseph Tonna, University of Utah

Life Sciences


This research project is to assess patient satisfaction and feedback around care provided in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) at the University of Utah Hospital with the goal of iterative improvement of care.

Research Question/Hypothesis

We hypothesize that by assessing patient satisfaction of ICU care, we can implement directed changes targeting patient-identified concerns.


A survey of 37 questions, based on a validated national survey of family satisfaction with ICU care (FSICU-24) was put together addressing issues ranging from emotional care to technical aspects of the SICU experience on a whole. It is administered to the family member who was most involved in the patients care in the Surgical ICU after transfer out of the ICU. All the data is securely maintained and analyzed through a REDCap database for the purposes of quality improvement.


Over the initial weeks of administration, a few observations for improvement opportunities have been repetitive.

  • Many patients and family members highly appreciate their attending doctors but cannot keep track of their names with the many teams of doctors.
  • Having a time frame in which the doctor would arrive on rounds such that the family member can be present would be very helpful.
  • The family members of patients sometimes feel uncared for in the SICU. Many would appreciate having someone show them the cafeteria or simply ask them if they need anything in particular.
  • The plan of the day sheet (checklist as well as a list of the medical plan the team intends to follow) is often not given and/or explained to the patient and their family.


The following changes will be considered for feasibility of implementation. Surveys will be continuously administered in order to observe the effect the implemented changes have had. For example, changes might include the nurses explaining the plan of the day sheet to the patient and their family after the doctor has stated the plan of care; having picture cards of doctors with their name and photo would help patients and families better identify their caregivers; a volunteer could go around the ICU once a day and ask if the family has any needs. The expectation is to see improved patient and family satisfaction in those selected areas.

Phylogeography of Desert Iguanas

Michael Packer, Utah Valley University

Life Sciences

Dipsosaurus dorsalis is a desert dwelling iguana species geographically distributed throughout the south-western United States, northern Mexico, and the Baja Peninsula. Throughout the Baja Peninsula, multiple species of herpetofauna exhibit a distinct north-south division, both morphologically and genetically, with no presence of any physical barriers. The goal of this study was to examine how the genetic structure of D. dorsalis has been influenced by past geological events, and whether this species exhibits a similar north-south division on the Baja peninsula. Additionally, this study aimed to see if the current taxonomy of Dipsosaurus is reflective of the evolutionary relationships across its entire geographic range. 100 tissue samples of D. dorsalis were collected across the species geographic range. DNA extraction from collected tissue samples and sequencing of nuclear loci MLH3 (~900bp), NT3 (489bp), as well as mitochondrial loci ND4 (~900bp) were performed to examine the distribution of genetic variation in D. dorsalis. The collected data was then used to construct phylogenetic trees for each locus, comparing individuals of Dipsosaurus to the geologic history of its geographic distribution. Although shallow, a maximum likelihood tree of the ND4 mitochondrial gene shows the phylogeographic separation of three distinct clades. The results do not support the designation of Dipsosaurus catalinensis as currently defined.

Comparison of Macroinvertebrate Assemblages of Two Perennial Streams in Capitol Reef National Park

Jake Loveless, Utah Valley University

Life Sciences

Macroinvertebrate assemblage composition was assessed in two perennial streams, Pleasant Creek, and Sulphur Creek in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, during the summer of 2014. Individuals collected were identified to genus. This information was used to compare assemblage composition, nutrient availability, and water quality between the two streams. Five collection trips were made (May 27, June 10,17, July 1,15). Sampling was conducted randomly using mesh kick nets with four samples being collected per site, per trip. Heavy rains caused flash flooding on July 15 prohibiting sampling, so a total of sixteen samples per site were taken. Samples were stored in 90% isopropyl alcohol until they could besorted and identified using a dissecting microscope. Water quality estimates were determined by taking the weighted average of the tolerance values, and the final classification was made using the family-level biotic index. Pleasant Creek showed the highest number of taxa present, fourteen, compared to six in Sulphur Creek. Both streams followed the predictions of the River Continuum Concept consisting of collector-dominated functional feeding groups, with Pleasant Creek showing a higher percentage of predators 35.7% to 16.6%. Tolerance values of collected taxa were used to estimate organic pollution indicating good water quality in Pleasant Creek, and fairly poor water quality in Sulphur Creek. The differences in the macroinvertebrate assemblage composition in this study were likely multi-causal. Stream size is a major factor influencing the structure of macroinvertebrate assemblages; in general, as stream size increases, more taxa are added. Pleasant Creek is a much larger stream with a well-established channel, while Sulphur Creek is shallow with depths never exceeding fifteen centimeters. The shallow channel of Sulphur Creek also made it prone to frequent flooding. Isolated floods have little impact on macroinvertebrate communities due to availability of aerial adults nearby to recolonize rapidly, however, frequent flooding may have long-term effects through extirpation of taxa with high mortality. The difference in water quality was the most surprising finding in this study. The fairly poor water quality of Sulphur Creek may also be a factor in the lack of genera found there. Organic pollution effects primary productivity in streams, and while primary productivity was not measured in this study, visual observations found very little algae or aquatic vegetation at Sulphur Creek.

To Accept or Not Accept: A study of Evolution and Worldview Reconciliation in an Introductory Biology Course

Danny Ferguson, Utah Valley University

Life Sciences

This research examined the acceptance of evolution for introductory Biology students and the reasons why they don’t accept evolution, accept evolution, and why they change their minds over the semester. Previous studies examined student’s observations and knowledge of the evolutionary theory and found that the degree of conflict students perceived between religion and science was negatively correlated with their knowledge of evolution. Objective: The objective of this research was to better understand the student’s views of evolution and its integration into their worldly and religious views. Methods: We will conduct interviews with general Biology students in order to better understand the reasons why they don’t accept evolution, accept evolution, and why they change their minds over the semester. The interview questions are designed to investigate, in more detail than the previous surveys, the opinions of evolution and how they change over the course of the semester. The recordings will be transcribed and quantified by binning answers into categories. Given high % of students are LDS, we will ask a few additional questions to this portion of the population. Results: We found that as students knowledge of evolution increased, their conflict with religion decreased. The data demonstrate that there are three main reasons for this trend: 1) Evidence convinces the students to accept evolution; 2) Particularly for LDS students, knowledge of the official position of the Church, enables them to allow evolution to be a correct process in nature; and 3) the instructor as a role model (believer yet accepts evolution) can have a large influence.

Species List of Insects in Capitol Reef National P ark

Robert Erickson, Utah Valley University

Life Sciences

Although the insect fauna of the Colorado Plateau region are somewhat well known, our specific understanding of the arthropod biodiversity in Capitol Reef National Park has been sparse. Objective: From the multiple insect surveys conducted in Capitol Reef National Park we intend to catalog the arthropod biodiversity into a species list. Methods: In addition to the previous collecting trips, we carried out collection efforts this past summer (2014). We used the Utah Valley University Capitol Reef Field Station as our home base. General insect collecting efforts were conducted around the field station and the nearby Pleasant Creek, near the public campgrounds, along trails, and in several other locations in the southern portion of the park. Additionally, we performed night collecting with a mercury vapor lamp trap on the nights we were in the park and utilized stationary malaise and aquatic larvae traps. The collected specimens were curated using methods of pinning, spreading, labeling, identifying, photographing, and organizing the insects. Results: The collections contributed to an increased understanding of the parks insect diversity and resulted in a curated natural history museum collection. A species list will be made available for the records of Capitol Reef National Park. More than 3000 specimens have been collected within the park. Furthermore, a booklet of the common insects for the park is in the process of being created in order to serve as an educational tool for visitors to the park and field station.

Gone Again: A story of Evolution, Mandibular Tusks, and Burrowing Mayflie

Stephanie Bartlett, Utah Valley University

Life Sciences

Our project investigates the phylogenetic relationships of the superfamily Ephemeroidea + Behningiidae. Found in waters worldwide, burrowing families are unique in that they have mandibular tusks that allow them to tunnel in the silt or gravel of riverbeds. Surprisingly, even without the mandibular tusks necessary for tunnel construction, the Behningiidae family is still found within these burrows as nymphs. Because the Behningiidae don’t have tusks, morphological research has lead to a phylogenetic classification of this family that our genomic investigation ultimately disputes. To begin this investigation, mayfly specimens were collected worldwide and prepared for DNA extraction. For each specimen genes were amplified via polymerase chain reaction and visualized on an agarose gel, before being sequenced and analyzed. The specific genes targeted for this analysis include; 12s mitochondrial rDNA, 16s mitochondrial rDNA, 18s nuclear rDNA, 28s nuclear rDNA, H3 nuclear protein coding, and CO1 mitochondrial protein coding. Datasets were supplemented with sequences acquired from Genbank. The ingroup consisted of approximately 30 samples. Phylogenetic relationships were estimated using Maximum Parsimony, Maximum Likelihood, and Baysian methods. We constructed phylogenetic relationships of burrowing mayflies using molecular DNA data analysis, when compared to morphological analysis we identified some important classification differences. As a result of our findings, we propose an alternative explanation for the evolution of mandibular tusks in burrowing mayflies (Ephemeroptera). The data support that burrowing mayflies first evolved tusks. Within the family Behningiidae, tusks were lost, while the burrowing lifestyle (i.e., living in a burrow to filter feed) was retained. This study represents the largest analysis to date for these insects and strongly supports the evolutionary trend of a gain and a loss of mandibular tusks during their evolution.

Evolution and Molecular Phylogenetics of Baetidae (Ephemeroptera)

Chase Barker, Utah Valley University

Life Sciences

Central Research Question:
Phylogenetic relationships of mayflies are still not very well known, however molecular and morphological data have begun to shed light on the relationships of these insects (Ogden et al. 2009). Our central question is to elucidate the phylogenetic relationships within the mayfly family Baetidae.

The Baetidae are an important group of Mayflies because of their basal position relative to other mayfly families, in that they are a key to testing hypotheses of evolutionary trends, such as the origin of wings from gill-like structures. Our purpose is to generate molecular data in order to reconstruct a robust phylogenetic tree for the family Baetidae.

Research Methodology:
Recent molecular and morphological analyses have examined relationships of some of the lineages of Baetidae distributed in different regions of the world (Gattolliat et al., 2008; Kluge, 1997; Monaghan et al., 2005; Nieto, 2010;). Most of these studies suggest two subfamilies, Baetinae and Cloeoninae. This study represents one of the largest (in terms of data) and most diverse (in terms of taxa) phylogenetic analysis performed on the family Baetidae to date. The dataset consists of more than 50 taxa sequenced for six genes (Nuclear 18S rDNA; Nuclear 28S rDNA; Histone 3, Mitochondrial COI, Mitochondrial 16S rDNA; and Mitochondrial 12S rDNA). DNA sequences were aligned in Muscle (Edgar 2004) and tree reconstruction and nodal support was performed under Maximum Parsimony, Maximum Likelihood, and Baysian frameworks.

The results indicate that the subfamilies were not strongly supported as monophyletic, contradicting conclusions from morphological data. Missing data in the data set might be contributing to low support across the tree. The phylogeny does not refute nor support the evolution of wings from gills.

The Role of PAS Kinase and Cbf1 in Glucose Metabolism

Jenny Pattison, Brigham Young University

Life Sciences

Sensory protein kinases are essential in the phosphorylation of many protein substrates, allowing them to control several metabolic functions and maintain cellular homeostasis. PAS kinase is a sensory protein kinase that is highly conserved and plays a crucial role in glucose homeostasis, however little is known about the molecular mechanisms behind its function. UGP1 is the only well-characterized substrate of PAS kinase, and its phosphorylation diverts glucose away from storage and towards cell wall biosynthesis. We have recently discovered another key substrate of PAS kinase that affects glucose metabolism in the cell, Centromere binding factor 1 (Cbf1). Cbf1 regulates genes involved in respiration, and we have shown that the phosphorylation of Cbf1 by PAS kinase inhibits Cbf1, decreasing respiration in yeast cells. We hypothesize that this is due to a decrease in mitochondrial mass in cbf1 deficient yeast. Further characterizing the effects of PAS kinase on Cbf1 will give further insight into how cells regulate their central metabolic functions, including respiration.