Summer of Science

July 2, 2016

Last summer, David Espinoza ’16 was busy fabricating new medicinal compounds and evaluating their reactions to tumor cells. “We were synthesizing and characterizing metal complexes in hopes of discovering one that can be used in emerging forms of chemotherapy,” said David, who was selected to participate in the Summer Science Research program, a valuable, hands-on opportunity funded by generous supporters. “We are particularly interested in photodynamic therapy, a chemotherapy treatment that can be used to attack cancer cells directly instead of affecting the body as a whole.”

The summer program allows students to work alongside a professor and experience the full spectrum of research trial and error. David works under the tutelage of Chemistry Professor Henry Acquaye in the University’s Hedco labs. “The most surprising aspect of the experience is that you are thrown into research on day one,” David said. “And the most satisfying aspect is just how much I was able to learn and how independent I became in the lab.”

Majoring in both biochemistry and mathematics with a minor in psychology, David’s academic career is a busy one, but he has big plans for his future. With a 3.9 GPA, he continues his research this summer and will write and defend a lengthy paper for his honors capstone project. He plans to pursue both medical school and a Ph.D. degree after he graduates from Redlands, and he’s exploring the possibility of careers in medicine and research. “This program is a great foundation for a career as a scientist,” he said. “Because of this experience, I question things more and am no longer afraid to do so. It’s made me a much better student, because I want to know as much as possible and to grasp any given concept in its entirety.”

Jakob Larson ‘17 chose an issue from the headlines for his research. With Environmental Sciences Professor Hillary Jenkins and other professors in the economics and business departments, Jakob is tackling two abstracts related to the California drought.

“We want to build a model to show what the actual price of water should be, to include everything involved with the process of getting water to its destination—accounting for the prices of building dams, aqueducts, canals, irrigation pipes, etc. We will then compare this price of what water should be to what it actually is. We will look at the state's agricultural industry, both spatially and theoretically, to see where improvements can be made—proposing to change certain crops with their substitutes,” Jakob said. “By determining how much water should actually cost, we can map out how much the drought has financially affected the state of California at various levels from lost federal revenue all the way down to the change in an individual's budget.”

Jessica Steinbach ‘17 and partner Elizabeth Garza ‘17 are spending their summer researching the effects of Oxytocin on maternal behavior in inbred autistic mice.

“This inbred mouse strain, as very common with autistic individuals, have social deficits that impair their ability to interact with other mice, as well as their ability to parent successfully,” Jessica said. “We are hoping that the administration of Oxytocin will increase their attentiveness and care toward their pups.

“Autism research is a very important field. Finding any sort of therapy to alleviate symptoms of autism in any way could be very monumental in finding a way to decrease the severity of this disorder,” she said.

Peter Acevedo ‘17, Connor Hough ‘17 and Savanna Gee ‘17 are working to research fair division, specifically the “dirty work problem,” which has applications in economics, business, mathematics and other areas.

“What we are essentially trying to do is quantify fairness. Can mathematics help us create a fair process or algorithm to divide something desirable between any given number of people? Once we understand how this is done, we can move to tackle the dirty work problem, which is fair division when this ‘something’ is undesirable among the group,” Peter said.

“Consider dividing household chores. Assuming that chores are undesirable among the people who will be doing them, can we take into account this undesirable factor into the fair division process (or algorithm) and how does it affect it?”

The labs at Redlands are full of activity with summer research projects, including:

  • “Quantification and Separation of Mesembrine Alkaloids in Sceletium tortuosum,” David Santeliz working with Dr. Schrum.
  • “‘Ears’ and other elements of camouflage in owls,” Aedan Yturralde working with Dr. Malcolm.
  •  “The basis of sucrose inhibition of growth by S. meliloti mutants deficient in glucose metabolism,” Roxana Apostol working with Dr. Wacks.
  • “The biochemistry of cellobiose utilization by Sinorhizobium meliloti (cellobiose is a glucose-containing disaccharide),” Myhanh Chu working with Dr. Wacks.
  • “Creating a New Climate Record for Northwestern Amazonia Using Tropical Tree Rings,” Iris Trikha & Madeline Frank working with Dr. Jenkins.
  • “Synthesis, Characterization, and Reactivity with DNA of Vanadium and Copper-Centered Complexes,” Julia Lozova working with Dr. Acquaye.
  • “The effect of buffers on the human complement system,” Amy Lopez Rivera working with Dr. Aronson.
  • “Spectroscopic analysis of the colors of bird feathers,” Matthew Hawkins working with Dr. Malcolm.
  • “Survey of medium and large mammals in San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary using tracks and game cameras,” Abby Brown & Noah Kaufman working with Dr. J. Blauth.
  • “An Analysis of the Feeding Preferences of Xenopus laevis tadpoles,” Linda Luo & Gianna Zazzarino working with Dr. Forristall.
  •  “Photo-identification of marine mammals in Southern California”, Elise Walters working with Dr. Stelle.
  • “Designing a dual-mode Scanning Tunneling/Capacitance Microscope,” Jonathan Paez & Mark Tumlinson working with Dr. Hill.
  • “Examination of the bioremediation potential of a variety of white-rot fungal species,” Kavita Rajah working with Dr. Aronson.
  • “Cervical Remodeling during Preterm Parturition”, Daniel Barrero working with Dr. Yellon.
  • “Tree Rings as Recorders of Atmospheric Pollution in a High Altitude Pine Forest”, Scout Dahms-May working with Dr. McIntyre.
  •  “Assessing the Hydrologic Health of California’s Mountain Meadows,” Emma Romack & Miles Munding-Becker working with Dr. Jenkins.

Researchers welcome guests at their presentations, held at noon on Wednesdays in Appleton 116 through Aug. 12. For questions, contact Eric Hill ext. 8659 or Barbara Murray, ext. 8544.