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APEX Abstracts

Benjamin Altman
Computer Science

How I Used Pattern of Life Algorithms and Bayesian Techniques During My Summer 2023 Internship

APEX Faculty Mentor: Clinton Rogers

During the summer of 2023, I worked for 12 weeks as an intern on a project at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, MA for Group 41, Artificial Intelligence Software Architectures and Algorithms. Due to security requirements, I cannot name the project and can provide general information only to describe it. I was a member of a team that was using machine learning techniques to find anomalies in a set of data regarding a specific activity. The team is developing Pattern of Life (PoL) algorithms using Bayesian techniques in order to analyze the data and find outliers efficiently and accurately. During the internship, I was assigned to update multiple services that made use of Docker and ActiveMQ to function. I learned new coding methodologies and technologies to do this, and managed to implement what I learned into the project. The project used PoL algorithms to test for anomalous data points, with two of them being isolation forest and DPLAN. To make the project fit the groups standards, the messaging system used between services had to be replaced with Confluent Kafka, which required reading documentation and plenty of testing. Through this project I learned many new skills and technologies, such as how to effectively utilize Docker and the effect of different machine learning algorithms. My experience during my internship prepared me for future jobs in the field and gave me valuable insight into my path going forward.

Adeline Andrade

Bridging the GAAP Between the Classroom and Internships in Accounting

APEX Faculty Mentor: Christopher Jacobsen

Internships are the building blocks to any service focused job, especially for accounting. They allow students to learn and strengthen their skills in a supportive and low stakes environment. Students are able to narrow their career path choices, apply what they’ve learned in the classroom, and explore possible job opportunities, whether within the firm or externally. However, some research shows there can be a disconnect between the theory learned in a classroom and what is applied on the job. Based on my internship experience, I attempt to explore the gap between the classroom and internships. I created classroom activities that tackle hard and soft skills used in the tax and audit fields of accounting. Activities include tracing amounts from tax source documents all the way to the 1040, audit simulations, and drafting emails. My goal for researching and creating these classroom activities is to lessen the gap between the classroom and internships. These activities help combine theory and practice to give students the tools necessary to be successful before they leave the classroom.

Maya Arruda

Gene Expression in Anemonefish: Bryoporin, Thioredoxin-like, and Epithelial Splicing Regulatory Protein 2

APEX Faculty Mentor: Robert Drew

Sea anemone and anemonefish mutualism is a famous educational example of symbiosis. The sea anemone protects the anemonefish using venomous cnidocytes while the anemonefish clean the sea anemone, improve nutrient circulation, and protect the sea anemone from its own predators. The success of the anemonefish-sea anemone mutualism is dependent on the anemonefish’s ability to produce an external mucus that protects the fish from the cnidocytes. While this relationship's ecology is well understood, the genetic basis behind the anemonefish external mucus is not. Previous research in Clark's anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) exposed to the sea anemones Entacmaea quadricolor and Stichodactyla haddoni found that expression of over 600 genes was significantly altered in the fish exposed to relatively hostile S. haddoni. Three of these genes were bryoporin, thioredoxin-like (TXNL), and epithelial splicing regulatory protein 2 (ESRP2). After a bioinformatics analysis, we found multiple copies of the TXNL gene in the Clark’s anemonefish genome, two of which are on chromosome 23. Additionally, ESRP2 had five possible isoforms through alternative mRNA splicing. The bryoporin gene has three exons and resides on chromosome 17. We also measured the expression of these three genes using quantitative PCR (qPCR) in tissues from adult Amphiprion clarkii. This project adds to a growing body of research into the genes involved in the symbiosis between anemonefish and sea anemones.

Kaitlin Aurelio
Political Science, Urban Studies Minor

Campus Community Gardens: A Student’s Journey Towards Cultivating Sustainable Futures through Community Engagement

APEX Faculty Mentor: Katie Krafft

This project provides a comprehensive narrative of a student’s journey through a transformative service learning experience at Plenitud PR and their pursuit of establishing a sustainable campus community garden at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMassD). They explore human-focused community-based research approaches, sustainability practices, community building, navigating burnout, promoting accessibility, challenges faced along the way, and possible future directions for a campus community garden at UMassD. By documenting lessons learned and offering insight for future student community organizers, this work contributes to a growing body of knowledge on community-based initiatives and holistic education. The findings highlight the importance of non-hierarchical leadership structures, collective-decision making, and stewarding relationships to foster inclusive and adaptable communal collaboration. The project also emphasizes that campus community gardens are more than a physical space; they are a manifestation of interdisciplinary learning, social justice, and care for connecting with and supporting a community.

Anna Balkus
Biology, Minor in Sustainability

Built for Inequity: How Environmental Factors Predetermine Mental Health in Marginalized Communities

APEX Faculty Mentor: Kristen McHenry

This literature review seeks to explore how the built environment indirectly impacts the mental health of different socioeconomic and racial groups. Through interdisciplinary study, the review attempts to bridge the literature gap between healthcare, environmental science, race, and socioeconomics. The emergence of the environmental justice movement in the 1980s has exposed disproportionate harms of pollution on people of color and lower socioeconomic groups. The focus of this review was to examine these harmful effects in the form of mental health. The following hypothesis was explored: Aspects of the surrounding built environment disproportionately impact mental health, leading to the predisposition of mental illness among marginalized groups. Five factors of the built environment were studied, along with their conditions in different socioeconomic and racial communities, and their effects on mental health: water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, food accessibility, and greenspace accessibility. All of these factors were found to be correlated with mental health, and all of them exhibited worsened conditions in low socioeconomic areas and/or racial minority communities. Marginalized groups were found to be predisposed to a higher risk of mental health issues from inequalities in the built environment. These results can be used to further the agenda of environmental justice organizations. In order for all communities to ensure proper mental well- being, future conversations should take place between environmentalists, policymakers, urban planners, and healthcare workers.

Paige Bernier

What Affects Self Care Behaviors in Heart Failure Patients

APEX Faculty Mentor: Kristen Sethares

Introduction: Heart failure (HF) is a chronic condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to sufficiently supply oxygen throughout the body, and it is the leading cause of hospitalization in older adults (Bidwell et al., 2015). Appropriate self-care is essential for successful outpatient management of HF in adults. Poor outcomes of HF are often due to insufficient HF self-care. These poor outcomes include increased mortality and readmission rates. Self-care is considered the cornerstone of HF treatment (Ausili et al., 2016) and is integral to relieving HF symptoms and reducing mortality and readmission rates. High mortality and
hospital readmission rates in HF patients are often due to poor self care (American Heart Association, 2022), so it comes into question what specific factors influence these poor self-care behaviors. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to discover whether cognitive status, social support, ethnicity, and comorbidities influence self-care behaviors in HF patients. Methods: A sample 116 of primarily male (58.6%) HF patients, married (59.5%), Caucasian (93.1%), retired (68.1%), who were mostly 65 and older (80%) and had a NYHA score of 3.05 were interviewed at an urban community hospital. Data on social support, self-care management, and demographics were collected by interview and chart review. Results: A weak association between cognitive status and self-care management for persons with HF was noted (rho= 0.093, p= 0.32). A weak association was found between social support and self-care management for patients with HF (rho= 0.082, p = 0.38). A strong association between ethnicity and HF self-care management was found (rho = 0.116, p = 0.21). Comorbidities were significantly correlated with self-care management (rho = 0.282, p = 0.002). The only statistically significant association revealed was between comorbidities and HF self-care management.

Lauren Bigelow
Graphic Design, Minor in Animation & Art History

Human Nature: Designing Period Products to Eliminate Stigma

APEX Faculty Mentor: Professor Laura Franz

I’ve created this project, Human Nature, to help remove the stigma around menstruation once and for all and remind people that periods are a natural occurrence that should not be looked down upon in any way. As a woman, I grew up being told that any talk about “that time of the month” was inappropriate to discuss openly. Even as the talk around periods begins to increase and companies begin to tackle the issue through their branding, we as a society still remain only partially successful in the fight. Through my research, I also discovered that not only are periods not normalized, but when they are they only focus on women, when in fact not just women menstruate. These discoveries, along with many others, reminded me just how important the message behind my brand could be. Not only for those who menstruate but for the public in general. I simply strive to create a brand that empowers individuals and validates their lived experiences. 

Cassandra Bonilla
Nursing, Minor in Global Health

Burnout’s Impact on Confidence Among Neonatal Nurse Practitioners

APEX Faculty Mentor: Mary McDonough

This study investigates the implications of burnout and how it may impact confidence among the neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) population. The research question was, does the presence of burnout in a neonatal nurse also change confidence in skills among neonatal nurse practitioners? The literature reports that nurses are at an increased risk of developing burnout often accompanied by a sense of urgency, which can be dangerous in the field of nursing. There is a significant amount of data regarding burnout among NICU staff or general nurse practitioners, but there is limited data regarding burnout specifically among NNPSs and the effects of burnout on their confidence (Abraham et al., 2021; Thomas et al., 2022). Surveys were used to collect three information points: 1) demographic information on the advanced practice nurses, 2) the levels of burnout among the neonatal nursing population, and 3) the nurses’ confidence in performing their necessary duties while at work. The study found that among participants burnout risk was prevalent among 62.5% of the population where only 25% exhibited high confidence. The study suggests that burnout is prevalent among NNPs and that there may be a correlation with their confidence in their abilities to perform their duties in patient care.

Cambria Boyd-Thomas
Interior Architecture and Design

An Autism Awareness Institution with Connections for The Homeless

APEX Faculty Mentor: Rose Mary Botti-Salitsky

Community Collective (CC’s) aims to establish a nonprofit Autism Awareness Institute and an urban space for the homeless, focusing on the discrimination faced by people with disabilities. My own first-hand exposure to the many forms of discrimination that people with disabilities still suffer today leads me to believe that the Americans with Disabilities Act and our communities are falling short in their efforts to aid this population. A study of the brain analyzing right, and left-brain functions was conducted. Understanding the different functions of the brain is critical and will embrace diversity focused on the complexity of the universal designed solutions. The design focuses on autism, highlighting the brain's complexity. It advocates for tolerance and inclusion, promoting neurodiversity and better access to services for autistic individuals. The design is a dominant right-brain thinker, advocating for better support and services. A way to welcome diversity is to create something beautiful that serves a purpose. In all its forms, it represents a new way of thinking about how to design for the general population and a visual depiction of change. CC’s emphasizes the importance of embracing diversity and creating beautiful, purposeful designs that serve a purpose. By embracing diversity, the author aims to create a new way of thinking about design for the general population and a visual representation of change. The point isn't to try and eradicate diversity, but rather to embrace it.

Alexandre Broggi
Computer Science

Dual Activation Functions for Tiny Neural Networks

APEX Faculty Mentor: Gokhan Kul

Activation layers are the most important part of an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) model. Without the activation layer, the backwards propagation would be stacking linear layers which result in a product that is equivalent to a single linear layer. Some activation layers are better than others at certain requirements.

This project tested the capabilities of Rectified Linear Unit (ReLU), LeakyReLU, linear activation, Sigmoid curve, and the Cosign functions when used concurrently in a controlled setting.

This project observed the differences between the F1-Score of each pair of the selected activation functions as well as each individually. Each activation function was built with a 10-node input and each pair was tested 50 times to get an accurate average.

We have observed some advantage to combining functions in this way.

Christopher Brunette
Computer & Electrical Engineering

Full Wheatstone bridge Switched Capacitor Implementation

APEX Faculty Mentor: Mohammad Karim

The objective of this project is to provide a detailed discussion on the concept of a Full Wheatstone Bridge circuit implemented with Switched Capacitors (abbreviated FWBSC for this project). This project investigates the Full Wheatstone Bridge Resistive circuit (abbreviated FWBR for this project) in conjunction to its FWBSC equivalent. The conducted research and experimentation will take advantage of Multi-sim circuit simulation and circuit fabrication using transistor technology for analysis and drawing conclusions. Performance conditions using varying clocking frequencies and capacitance are summarized. Comparison of simulated and experimental data will be compared to validate the implementation of FWBSC as an alternative to FWBR.

Zoi Burns
Political Science, Minors in Data Analytics & Urban Studies

Approaches to Organizational Development: Centering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Pine Street Inn

APEX Faculty Mentor: Amy Shapiro

Pine Street Inn (PSI) is the largest homeless services provider in New England. They provide services to thousands of individuals each day and strive for their organizational values and administrative foundation to reflect the world around them. Typically, senior leadership positions in most organizations, as the level of seniority rises, the less diverse the staff population becomes. At Pine Street Inn, this phenomenon is the same. This project explores the essential components of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives within organizational contexts, highlighting an internship experience at Pine Street Inn that focused on their strategic approach to fostering inclusivity and belonging.

Drawing from Pine Street Inn's Many Roads Home 2.0 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, which prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion, alongside housing expansion and shelter transformation, the paper elucidates key actions to advance their goals. These actions include updating Pine Street Inn’s DEI intranet page, drafting the New Employee Orientation (NEO) DEI presentation, enhancing staff resource groups, and the outlining of Pine Street Inn’s Pilot Mentorship Program. 

Kayla Carmona-Swisher

Recovery of Flagellar Synthesis in P. fluorescens and Gene Expression in Double Mutant

APEX Faculty Mentor: Mark Silby

Bacterial physiology relies heavily on intricate regulatory networks that govern gene expression in response to environmental cues. Pseudomonas fluorescens, a versatile bacterium known for its adaptability, particularly in gene regulation, offers a model for studying such networks. The fleQ gene, a critical regulator of flagellar synthesis, biofilm formation, and nitrogen metabolism, exemplifies the connection between genotype and phenotype in Pseudomonas. This study investigates the potential crosstalk – the connection between different regulatory systems - between nitrogen regulation and flagellar synthesis. P. fluorescens Pf0-1 were cultured on minimal media and inoculated on motility plates with either glutamine, glutamate, or ammonia as a nitrogen source. Motility was recovered in the fleQ mutants on each media type at varying rates, suggesting some environmental conditions promote evolution faster than others. This suggests there was a potential rewiring of the nitrogen regulatory circuit to redirect nitrogen to the flagellar synthesis pathway. Three Pseudomonas strains lacking fleQ demonstrated varying motility dynamics, indicating potential strain-specific regulatory adaptations. These findings underscore the intricate regulatory mechanisms governing bacterial physiology and provide insights into the plasticity of gene regulatory networks in Pseudomonas fluorescens.

Olivia Collins

Characterizing Ovarian Cancer Exosomes with SERS- Substrate Evaluation

APEX Faculty Mentor: Milana Vasudev

In 2024, ovarian cancer is projected to affect 20,000 women in the United States alone, resulting in 13,000 deaths. Despite its lethality, ovarian cancer often remains undetected until advanced stages, with dismal survival rates. Early detection significantly improves survival rates, but current diagnostic methods are inadequate. Liquid biopsies, especially those targeting exosomes, hold great promise for early cancer detection. Surface-enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) is emerging as a cutting-edge tool offering sensitive detection of exosomal biomarkers. This project aimed to assess the effectiveness of SERS substrates, composed of peptide nanotubes and gold nanoparticles, in identifying exosomal Raman signatures indicative of ovarian cancer. Through baseline testing, the research compared signatures from a test control molecule, utilizing gold nanoparticle monolayer substrates with and without nanotubes. This process allowed for the determination of an optimized substrate for subsequent experimental testing of exosomes, a crucial step within my larger-scale Capstone project.

Jillian DaCosta

Assessing Parent Identification of Signs & Symptoms of Early Pediatric Osteosarcoma

APEX Faculty Mentor: Melissa Desroches

Osteosarcoma is a serious malignant bone cancer affecting children, yet little is known about how well parents are able to recognize its symptoms. Early detection is important to increase survival rates. The purpose of this study was to assess parents’ ability to recognize symptoms and risk factors of osteosarcoma and to evaluate the effectiveness of the newly developed POWDER acronym on parents’ self-efficacy to recognize osteosarcoma symptoms. An 8-item online survey of parents or guardians of students in the Freetown Lakeville Regional School District recruited via Facebook was conducted. Ten complete responses were received. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize the data due to small sample size. Results showed the top 3 symptoms parents identified as most concerning were three true osteosarcoma symptoms. Parents did not recognize stress and growth spurts as concerning risk factors. Parents who were not able to recognize symptoms of osteosarcoma prior to the study were “possibly” or “comfortably” able to recognize symptoms after viewing the POWDER acronym. Future research is needed with a larger and more diverse sample size.

Corwin DeFeo

Assessing the Commerciality of Select Bacteria in Glyphosate Bioremediation: An Analytical Review

APEX Faculty Mentor: Laura Hanzly

Glyphosate is an herbicide used around the globe in settings ranging from industrial agriculture to local gardens for the purpose of controlling weeds and protecting desired plants. It has a significant impact on crop yield and weed control, but recent research has determined that it also has the potential to bring about serious side effects in humans and other animals including conditions like inflammation, cancer, and even death in extreme cases. As a staple pesticide, the feasibility of halting its usage altogether is limited, and so methods of mitigating its side effects must be employed instead. To serve this purpose, researchers have discovered that certain bacteria have the potential to degrade glyphosate and can utilize it in their own metabolisms, removing its harmful effects and products from the environment. Having concluded this capacity for bacteria to remediate glyphosate, the next step is to develop and commercialize products which utilize this technology in order to reduce the harmful impacts of glyphosate worldwide. This project involved the study of various papers and articles describing the capabilities of a range of bacteria in glyphosate degradation. Information about each individual bacteria type was collected and compared in order to determine which of the current bacterial solutions stands as the most effective in terms of viability for the commercial development of this technology.

Emilia DeRego

Exploring the Practice of Sustainable Paintmaking

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tara Rajaniemi

The making of paints has been a significant part of art creation throughout history. However, in modern times, many artists have lost touch with the process. Although paints are more accessible than ever, the materials and packaging used can be harmful to both humans and the environment. This information inspired me to research methods of paint-making that utilized natural materials and created low waste. I focused my research on the color green. It is the color of leaves, stems, and lichen, but it is difficult to achieve with a natural dye or paint-making process. The main chemical responsible for the color green is chlorophyll, which is naturally fleeting. It appears during Spring, thrives in Summer, fades in Autumn, and dwindles in Winter. As I researched the dye plants that are local to me, I noticed the absence of green. Most other colors were abundant enough to be achieved with very little maintenance, which one could preserve in digital form. Yet, green seems to be the only color readily available with the aid of other alums or mordents. My project aimed to explore the possibility of using natural and locally sourced materials, which are often wasted, to create paints that have minimal impact on the environment. I researched both historical and modern techniques of paint and dye making before incorporating this practice into my studies as an illustration student. My research focused on developing a practice of paint-making with natural materials that would replicate the medium of watercolor.

Avani Deshpande
Psychology, Minor in Spanish, Pre-Professional Certificate in Mental Health

The Use of Discrete Trial Training in Children with Autism

APEX Faculty Mentor: Rowland Barrett

A comprehensive investigation was carried out to assess the effectiveness of discrete trial training (DTT) as an educational approach for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and cognitive delays. This study involved observing the application of DTT in both familiar home environments and structured settings such as applied behavior analysis clinics. The analysis conducted aimed to contribute to existing research, which suggests that DTT is a highly beneficial method for enhancing the learning experiences of neurodivergent children in various aspects, including social interactions and academic endeavors. Through systematic observation and data collection, this research aimed to provide deeper insights into the effectiveness of DTT across different contexts, thereby offering a comprehensive understanding of its impact on the educational journey of neurodivergent individuals. By methodically documenting the outcomes and progress observed among participants, the study aimed to offer practical guidance for educators, therapists, and caregivers working with children with ASD and related conditions.

The examination of DTT in both home and clinic environments enabled an exploration of its adaptability and effectiveness in diverse situations. By addressing specific challenges and successes encountered during DTT implementation, the study aimed to provide actionable recommendations for optimizing educational strategies tailored to the unique needs of neurodivergent learners. The research conducted over the semester underscores the importance of DTT as a fundamental approach in the education and development of children with ASD and cognitive delays, while also emphasizing the need for further exploration and refinement of educational methodologies to better support the diverse needs of neurodivergent individuals.

Christian Fall
Electrical Engineering

Large-Scale Parallel Rigged Telemetry Versus Large-Scale Series Rigged Telemetry, Which is Favorable?

APEX Faculty Mentor: Howard Michel

Large-scale telemetry systems take in data from the outside world. They do this by being equipped with different types of sensors that can record data in an environment in which the sensor is designed with respect to the environment. Once data is collected, it is typically sent to a control station in real time where various software is used to analyze said data. Many telemetry systems are subjected to nonideal environments with regard to their electrical longevity, these environments include but are not limited to the ocean, the desert, the forest, and many more environments. Nature mixed with human interaction can cause problems in telemetry systems which cause them to break, which is then typically repaired by an electrical engineer. The circuit logic behind the system is partially responsible for many factors taken into consideration in the engineering method. These factors include but are not limited to efficiency, safety, and other individual factors that depend on the use case. Whether the device is rigged predominantly in series or parallel plays a large role in all of these factors.

John Goncalves

“New Bedford’s West End Protests, 1970”

APEX Faculty mentor: Mark Santow

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the United States faced a major movement of urban revolts unlike anything the nation had faced prior to that time, and anything since. This amounted to over 750 revolts in over 525 cities, nearly every city with a black population over 50,000 people saw a revolt focused on key issues of housing, employment, and opportunity. New Bedford faced its own urban revolt in the summer of 1970. New Bedford’s Black community faced many of the same key issues that fueled the other revolts of the time. However, unlike the revolts in large cities such as Watts, Detroit, and Harlem, New Bedford’s revolt never received the attention that was deserved.

“New Bedford’s West End Protests, 1970,” consists of two oral history interviews. The first interview is with community activist Gloria Clark. Clark is an educator by trade, and spent time in Mississippi with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, before returning to New Bedford and leading the NAACP’s youth group. In this interview we discuss her work with the NAACP, Upward Bound, and the New Bedford Black Panthers. We also discuss her view of the key issues facing the city of New Bedford, and urban renewal projects in the city. We also briefly discuss her recall of the revolt itself. The second interview is with Jeanne Foster, a woman who was in high school at the time of the revolt and grew up in the heart of New Bedford’s West End. In our interview we discuss growing up in New Bedford, her community including church life, community support programs, the diversity in the city, and activism in her high school. We also touch on the New Bedford Panthers, the use of the term “Riot,” urban renewal, and her own work as a teacher

Madison Goncalves

Impacts of Genre and Individual Differences in Working Memory Capacity on Situation Model Inference Construction ​

APEX Faculty mentor: Trina Kershaw

Prior research has shown mixed results regarding the effects of genre and working memory on reading comprehension, specifically on how people construct a situation model, which is a mental representation of a text that is integrated with background knowledge. To test the effects of genre and working memory on situation model construction, participants were asked to read short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry passages and answer questions which involved generating explanatory and predictive inferences about what they had read. The preliminary results showed no effect of genre or working memory on accuracy for either type of inference. The results also showed no effect of genre or working memory on reaction time for either type of inference. It is possible there were no effects because all the passages had a narrative structure and may have been too easy for a college level population. Implications for education and psychological research will be discussed.

Roxanne Hepburn
English, Minor in Communication

Imposter Syndrome: A New Adult Novel on Greek Mythological Magic in the Modern World

APEX Faculty Mentor: Jenny Howe

Young adult (YA) fiction has thrived for over a decade, stemming from the popularity of romance novels following the debut of the Twilight Saga (2005) by Stephenie Meyer. Young readers craved stories that turned average girls into the heroines of epic romances. YA romance novels started to rapidly emerge as authors strove to reach the same widespread success. This phenomenon inspired a new wave of fiction novels that cater to the ages 12-18 demographic that is still prevalent today. However, there is a lack of fiction that caters to readers outside that age group. These readers crave the mature content of classic adult fiction but prefer the specific writing styles and topics of YA novels. This "in-between" group of readers, ages 18-25, require their own genre, new adult (NA) fiction.

While the NA fiction genre does exist, many readers agree that there is a lack of content. Moreover, NA writers face unique challenges in getting published traditionally. This means that most true NA fiction novels are published independently and are, therefore, harder to find by nature, creating a gap in the market that my novel aims to fill.

My novel offers a unique blend of classic adult concepts and familiar YA tropes, filling the content gap in NA fiction. My story takes the unique transformative years of early adulthood and places them within the familiar tropes and writing style of YA fiction, offering a fresh perspective for those aging out of the YA category.

Kathryn Hockenbury
Computer Science

Progression of the DiaFriend Application for Self-Management Support in Portuguese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

APEX Faculty Mentor: Peeranuch LeSeure

DiaFriend is an Android application designed to help the Portuguese community on the South Coast manage type 2 diabetes. The app aims to provide culturally relevant features, such as foods typical in a Portuguese diet, which are not always included in other diabetes tracking apps.  The project involved the development of DiaFriend, focusing on functionalities such as tracking glucose levels and graphing recent glucose levels. Also, provides information on common foods and their calorie content, along with, user log-in and authentication, medication lists, and medication notifications. Lastly, calculating Body Mass Index, and offering exercise calorie-burning estimates. Challenges were faced in implementing the back end of the application, leading to a shift in focus towards an informational app. The project provided valuable insights into the importance of documentation, mentorship, and research in software development. Despite the obstacles, the experience has prepared the developer for a career in computer science, emphasizing the need for collaboration and seeking help when needed. DiaFriend represents a step towards providing culturally relevant healthcare solutions for underserved communities. While the original vision for the app faced problems, the project's outcomes have provided valuable lessons and insights for future endeavors in software development.

Amber Holt

Differentiating Data Retrieval Techniques in Finance Internships

APEX Faculty Mentor: Zhaojin Xu

This APEX report explains my experience as a finance intern at two companies that varied from each other. The data for this paper was gathered over the course of almost 2 years. There will be discussion regarding the personal benefits I gained from the internship experiences and how I believe it better prepared me for my future career. In addition, it will include my internship findings regarding the technologies used to perform accounting and financial reporting, the strategies and programs used to make decisions and analyze data, and the overall benefits of gaining internship experience in finance.

Grace Hubert
Biomedical Engineering

Optimization of CRISPR-Cas 9 Experiment for Teaching Tool

APEX Faculty Mentor: Laura Hanzly

CRISPR, standing for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is an efficient gene-editing tool that has revolutionized the microbiology field and is constantly improving. The enzyme Cas 9 cuts the DNA of a cell to remove, add, or alter parts of the DNA sequence. It is a promising method for treating hereditary diseases, cancer, and more. Having practical laboratories is important in any undergraduate engineering program to prepare students for industry. The purpose of this APEX project was to develop a CRISPR-Cas 9 protocol that can be implemented into the sophomore BNG 232 lab, which currently does not have a CRISPR module. The protocol involved testing the inactivation of the ADE2 gene in a strain of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Successful inactivation of the ADE2 gene results in the yeast growth appearing red in color as opposed to white. The experiment was performed twice using materials readily available from the BNG 232 lab, to gather sufficient data that supports the hypothesis that this protocol can be used as a teaching tool. In both experiments, the cell colonies turned red in color, which indicates that the inactivation of the ADE2 gene was a success. This experiment will be further optimized and added to the BNG 232 lab at UMass Dartmouth.

Danielle Jones
Nursing, Minor in Spanish

Using Culturally Relevant Foods to Combat Food Insecurity in the Hispanic Community

Supervisor: Dr. Susan Hunter Revell

Food insecurity is a global problem that impacts the Hispanic community at rates two times that of White Americans. This global problem is our local problem. Low income, unemployment, physical access to food, and lack of transportation are known contributors to food insecurity. What is not known is what foods are sought by the Hispanic community from food providers and how we can assist them with incorporating locally grown produce into their diets. This creative track project focused on assessing the local Hispanic community’s food needs through a survey and interviews. Working collaboratively with Sharing the Harvest Community Farm, outreach efforts were expanded through the development of a brochure to increase volunteerism at the farm and dual language recipe cards in Spanish and English that incorporated foods the community members requested be grown at the farm. Results of the project have implications for the Hispanic community such as receiving more culturally relevant herbs and vegetables grown by the Farm and dual language recipe cards will be a resource to prepare heart healthy meals that are time efficient and cost effective. Results of the project have implications for Sharing the Harvest Farm such as including the selected herbs and vegetables in upcoming growing seasons (e.g., beans, corn, cilantro, garlic, oregano), having volunteer guide outreach tools to increase awareness of the farm in the Hispanic community and disseminating dual language recipe cards at the Hunger Commission’s Mobile Markets and local food pantry partners.

Elijah Jope
Mechanical Engineering

Print Superhydrophobic Surface with Complex Geometry

APEX Faculty Mentor: Hangjian Ling

A surface is defined as superhydrophobic when it has a high resistance to being wetted with water. This property is significantly dependent on the texture of the surface. However, it is not fully known how specific surface textures may affect the superhydrophobicity of a surface. In this project, I have created samples with a number of different surface textures, and then tested their ability to resist wetting by water under various conditions to determine which are more or less effective. The samples are designed in a 3D modeling software, and produced using a 3D Printer. Following this, they are all tested by applying water to the surface and taking pictures with a magnified camera lens. The images are then analyzed to determine superhydrophobicity, and the performance of the different textures are compared.

Kamryn Kobel
English, Minor in Communication

Invading and Observing: Questioning Constructions of Power, Knowledge, and Individuality in Early American Gothic Fiction

APEX Faculty Mentor: Laurel Hankins

Early American gothic fiction exposes the anxieties of the newly developing American nation, including fears surrounding the legitimacy of privacy, citizenship, and the individual. Charles Brockden Brown’s Ormond; or, The Secret Witness and Lenora Sansay’s Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo are two early American gothic novels that explore these fears as they describe instances of invasions and observations into the private spheres of women and people of color. This essay puts Ormond and Secret History in conversation with each other, as well as with John Locke’s theories on individual power and Michel Foucault’s theory on “power-knowledge,” the idea that power and knowledge mutually inform one another. It also puts Foucault’s theory in conversation with scholar Siân Robert’s Gothic Subjects, where she argues that the gothic literature of this period exposes the Lockean individual as a fallacy. It examines the way various characters achieve and maintain power over those they oppress through invading and observing their private spheres, thus bolstering their individuality through sexual and racial violence and subjugation rather than from any innate part of the self. This paper argues that the characters within Ormond and Secret History utilize societal structures of power-knowledge to oppress women and people of color as a method of legitimizing their own individual identities. These exercises of power-knowledge, demonstrated throughout the novels as the characters invade private spaces, expose the fallacy of the Lockean individual’s power and question the construction of the early American national identity within a white patriarchal society.

Senadzi Kpeglo
Anthropology, Applied Ethics Minor

An Analysis of Work and Play in Southeastern Folklife: Folk-Live, Folk-Laugh, and Folk-Learn

APEX Faculty Mentor: Lisa Knauer

American Folk Studies have always been interested in the unique circumstances that surround the southeastern United States. Immigration patterns, economic conditions, slavery, and rural life have always been large contributors to the way people experience and navigate the cultural South. Like many disciplines, folklore studies frequently prioritize white voices over those that have been marginalized on multiple axes such as race, gender, and class. An Analysis of Work and Play seeks to compile an assortment of interviews conducted in the Southeastern United States and determine similarities and differences of instances of work and leisure between race, gender, and class in the cultural South.

Alexa Lemieux

Energy Content within Liver and Muscle of American Plaice, Hippoglossoides platessoides

APEX Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Oliveira

The determination of energy density within fish organs can be utilized in order to help to understand a fish’s health. The energy density has been determined to have a relationship with percent dry weight. In this study, the relationship of percent dry weight of the liver and muscle and the energy density within the individual organs of American plaice, Hippoglossoides platessoides, was examined.

Garret Magalhaes
Computer & Electrical Engineering

An investigation of Compute in Memory (CIM) chips and their modern applications of training artificial intelligence.

APEX Faculty Mentor: Ruolin Zhou 

Compute-in-Memory (CIM), a prototype chip design that utilizes nonvolatile memory, is known as a potential answer to the problem of the Memory Wall. The chip brings a package of efficiency gain, deep learning applications on low resource devices, and energy efficient data processing for real world artificial intelligence (AI) recognitions. The origin of the idea and need for CIM design and implementation of its architecture will be analyzed for its properties. CIM is difficult to implement without interference of noise, as a result design choice for hardware can influence neural network (NN) performance. The designs must take into consideration the challenges of analog to digital conversions, the versatile scale for logic nodes limited by the high write voltage that the emerging nonvolatile memories (eNVMs) require. Process variations are one of many types of noise sources that could interfere with the computations done by CIM. The state and benefits of CIM are discussed and point the direction in which CIM researchers should continue their work at implementing a mass scale deep learning AI chip to make ground-breaking discoveries.

Joseph Marques
Medical Laboratory Science

Intrauterine Transfusion as Treatment for Hemolytic Disease of the Fetus

APEX Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Hart 

A 36-year-old female was transferred from another academic facility for fetal evaluation. Upon examination, elevated fetal MCA dopplers were indicative of fetal anemia. Further monitoring of the fetus involved the use of non-stress tests and dopplers. Fetal decelerations were also observed, and treatment was administered to promote lung maturity and for neuroprotection. Further testing revealed that the female had an alloanti-D circulating in her plasma. Ultrasound and hematological values were then utilized to perform the percutaneous umbilical cord sampling procedure. Upon testing samples obtained during the PUBS procedure, the fetus was found to be D positive and had a positive direct antiglobulin test, confirming that hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn was causing the anemia. An intrauterine transfusion was administered during the PUBS procedure. Intrauterine transfusions were delivered on three occasions before birth. The fetus was born full-term and had a slightly elevated bilirubin. Despite the elevated bilirubin, the newborn was otherwise healthy.

Alex Mathes
Political Science

An Analysis and Proposed Model of Successful Political Consulting

APEX Faculty Mentor: Douglas Roscoe

The field of political consulting, or more specifically political management consulting, is a field that has been largely ignored, or at least understudied by political scientists. While completing an internship at a political consulting firm in Washington D.C. I was introduced to a business field that had never been covered in any of my courses and certainly never in any outside books or media I have consumed. Political management consultants (PMCs) serve as the middlemen between government and business. Businesses looking to sell to the government look towards PMCs to make connections, conduct research, lobby politicians, etc. Fascinated by this work, I decided to set out to create a theoretical model of political consulting. What made these businesses tick, how they find their clients, how they keep those clients, and what they consider a success were all questions I looked for answers to. This poster will show what that research process involved and what my research culminated into.

Maggie McCafferty

The Impact of Vitamin C on Human Cortical Bone Mechanical Properties

APEX Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lamya Karim

Bones are an essential part of the human body, making up the skeletal system, providing structural equilibrium and protectiveness to our organs. Aging and disease threaten our skeletal system, resulting in weakened bone microarchitecture. Specifically, Type II diabetics are more susceptible to bone fragility and risk of fracture due to the accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are chemical crosslinks that form in bone protein. In the assessment of the bone quality in Type II Diabetics, tibia bone samples from various donors were prepared and incubated in sugar to simulate diabetes, and treated with Vitamin C, which can inhibit AGEs from forming. In a previous study these samples underwent cyclic reference point indentation and 3-point bending, leaving a fractured bone beam in two pieces. The provided results showed that the Vitamin C dosage improved some mechanical properties, however was not significant enough to make definitive conclusions. To further this study two more primary tests will be run, an AGE quantification assay and imaging of the fracture surfaces using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). The AGE assay will provide a quantitative result providing the number of fluorescent crosslinks that form in the bone. The imaging will yield a qualitive result, where the bone’s fracture surface can be assessed by comparing images of the sugar + Vitamin C treated bone, the sugar-treated bone, and the non-treated control samples. Both of these testing methods will provide a further understanding of whether or not Vitamin C has the ability to improve bone quality.

Kayla McLaughlin
Nursing, Minor in Global Health

A New Perspective on Reporting Global Data of Life Expectancy in Southeast Massachusetts, United States and Azores, Portugal

APEX Faculty Mentor: Maryellen Brisbois

Life expectancy is a strong indicator of the health of a region and is significantly varied throughout the world. The global life expectancy of 73.4 years does not reflect the wide disparities in this statistic among geographical regions and the factors that contribute to these gaps. Recent evidence suggests a connection between social determinants of health and inequities in life expectancy within a population. These external factors have a profound impact on individual and population health. This research examines variations in life expectancy at the multinational (United States & Portugal), regional (Massachusetts & the Azores), and local (Fall River, MA and Ponta Delgada, Azores) levels to identify the most influential social and environmental factors that contribute to lifespan variability. Secondary data sources were analyzed and used to create six maps of each of the regions included in the research to display geographical differences in life expectancy in a visual format. The resulting social determinants of health linked with impact on life expectancy are income, educational attainment, location of residence, and gender. A multitude of studies discussing these associations have been published in the United States, but less such studies have been published regarding Portugal. This is an opportunity for future research to examine the benefits of small-area life expectancy estimation and its correlation with social determinants of health.

Samantha Medeiros

Exploring Student Engagement & Different Learning Styles

APEX Faculty Mentor: Stephen Witzig

Environmental Education (EE) is a challenging field for educators and students due to the interdisciplinary nature of the work including key aspects from several core science disciplines along with the discipline of science education. In this research project, the area that we focused on in terms of teaching context was estuaries within the overarching topic of coastal ecology using different learning styles. The activities consisted of a presentation engaging students with an introduction of the four types of estuaries followed by discussion and activities related to the various estuary types. The research question that guided this work was:  In what ways, if any, do the middle school students engage in the content through visual and hands-on learning preferences when participating in a week-long summer program on coastal ecology at an environmental education center? This research study included seven middle school students who participated in a one-week coastal ecology summer program at the Lloyd Center for the Environment (LCE), a non-profit organization in coastal New England. Our analysis resulted in the following two main assertions, (1) students were more engaged in one-on-one science related discussions while experiencing hands-on activities, and (2) students were engaged more as a group using active debate strategies during activities that included presentations with visuals including images and videos. This study has implications for how interactive activities can create meaningful discussions in various learning environments.

Amelia Melhem
Computational Physics & Mathematics

Positrons from 44Ti from White Dwarf Supernovae

APEX Faculty Mentor: Robert Fisher

50 years ago, scientists found signals of about 5 × 1043 positron annihilations in the Milky Way every second. This is known as the galactic positron problem. One possible source for these positrons is in the supernovae resulting from white dwarf star mergers. In these supernovae, the unstable isotope 44Ti is produced, which has a decay chain that forms positrons. Using simulated binary white dwarf systems, we estimate the amount of 44Ti produced in each merger. Then, scaling up these mergers up to the Milky Way, we can find the positron production rate over the lifetime of our galaxy. We find that, in the current day, these white dwarf mergers are a significant source of the positrons. We estimate a rate of 2.90 × 1041 − 1.11 × 1043 positron annihilations each second in the galactic center, and a rate of 1.51 × 1042 − 2.78 × 1043 in the galactic disk. The high end of these ranges agrees with the total observed positron signal. However, it seems that other sources such as pulsars and exotic physics are required to fully account for the signal.

Gabriella Monico
Mechanical Engineering

Rotational Analysis of a Volleyball: Investigating the NCAA 2022- and 2023-Women’s Volleyball Double-Contact Rule

APEX Faculty Mentor: Afsoon Amirzadeh-Goghari

The NCAA 2022- and 2023-Women’s Volleyball Rules Book defines a double-contact violation as any successive contacts made by a single player. This violation leads to an unfair advantage and results in a point loss. The swift motion of a setting contact makes it difficult to visually detect the timing difference between the two hand contacts. The common theory that a double-contact creates spin on the ball leads referees to identify controversial double-contact violations. This research challenges the theory by identifying a mathematical relationship between the timing of the two hands’ contact and the ball’s rotational velocity. The principles of particle and rigid body motion were used to analyze this relationship. A particle motion analysis was applied to identify the force magnitude required for 15 different cases of target positions. The target positions were varied based on the distance the ball travels and the angle the ball leaves the player’s hands. A rigid body motion analysis obtained the angular ball velocity for different scenarios of force distribution and positioning. The results show a clear correlation between the ball’s spin and the position and magnitude of the contact force exerted by the player’s hands. The analysis proves that the spin of the ball is not solely influenced by the timing difference of the two hand contacts. Therefore, the common theory that a double-contact can be identified by the spin of the ball is false, and further investigation to better regulate referee calls is necessary.

Olivia Munyambu

Addressing Mental Health Amongst Undergraduate Students of the African Diaspora on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Campus

APEX Faculty Mentors: Professor Melissa Desroches and Professor Viviane Saleh-Hanna

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers who swore to protect and defend the Constitution and rights of citizens, longstanding questions regarding the scope of perpetuating structural and institutionalized racism have come to light. Previous widespread conversations regarding this had been disregarded by many in power, citing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 as a justification to the notion that racism no longer exists as it has been outlawed. This study, however, seeks to examine the ways in which the realities of persisting racism have impacted the ways in which Black students view themselves, fellow peers, their positions in society, and overall systems of power, and the effect that it has had on their overall mental health. Aspects of Indigenous Wholistic Theory, in addition to those of Afrofuturism, are the guiding methodologies utilized to structure this study. Responses from participants highlighted the challenges, adversities, and areas of success/overcoming that students have experienced, and the desired changes wanting to be seen both on campus, and in broader U.S society to combat racism. The use of language throughout this study is carefully chosen as language has historically been used to marginalize minority groups of people. 

Daniel McCord Murray
Data Science & Mathematics

Analyzing Training Dynamics and Practical Implementation of QuGANs

APEX Faculty Mentor: Renuka Rajapakse

In this study, we build upon the foundational work of "QuGAN: A Quantum State Fidelity based Generative Adversarial Network," by Samuel A. Stein et al. The focus is on the integration of quantum computing principles with machine learning through Quantum Generative Adversarial Networks (QuGANs). This study analyzes the efficiency and stability of the training dynamics of QuGANs, which utilize quantum-state-based gradients and a reduced parameter set.

A key finding, originally reported by Stein et al., is that QuGANs achieve comparable performance to classical TensorFlow-based GANs while utilizing about 95% fewer parameters. This efficiency effectively addresses common challenges in classical GANs, such as mode collapse. Methodologically, the study explores the dual-network architecture of GANs and how QuGANs adapt this using quantum computing techniques, highlighting the dramatic reduction in model parameters enabled by quantum-state-based loss functions and gradients. The study also delves into the effects of Principal Component Analysis (PCA) on image generation quality. It was found that increasing PCA dimensionality does enhance the quality of generated images. However, due to hardware limitations, the dimensionality could not be increased to an optimal level for the experiments, resulting in subpar image quality compared to the desired outcomes. An important observation was the non-linear time complexity of the QuGAN as a function of PCA dimension, as evidenced when an experiment with 8-dimensional data reduction took nearly twice as long as anticipated. This experiment encourages further research and development in quantum computing infrastructure to fully realize the potential of quantum-enhanced machine learning models like QuGANs.

Chloe Naff
Nursing, Minor in Aging & Health

Incentivizing Hepatitis, HIV, and STI Screenings for a Population Receiving Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

APEX Faculty Mentor: Kathleen Elliott

Background: Thirty-four percent of those with an opioid use disorder (OUD) reported not seeking care because of past abuse, shame, or poor treatment related to a perceived stigma around their diagnosis by healthcare professionals (Meyerson et al., 2021). The findings of two studies (Platt et al., 2017; McLellan et al., 1993) in medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) clinics reported decreased morbidity and mortality directly linked to screening for hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Screening allows detection and treatment of the infection thus preventing potentially deadly complications. Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe barriers to seeking treatment by gender and to determine if an intervention using incentives for patients currently enrolled in a clinic for MOUD reduces barriers to screening for Hepatitis, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections (STI)s. The long-term goal of this study is to encourage frequent screening in high-risk individuals. Methods: Twenty-four participants receiving MOUD completed a survey with demographic data, last HIV, STI, and Hepatitis C screening, and questions from the adapted Barriers to Help Seeking Scale. This scale was adapted, and patients scored themselves on a 4-point Likert scale with five subscales: institutional barriers, logistical barriers, not fitting in barriers, stigma-related barriers, and social consequences concerns. Higher scores represent greater barriers. Then they completed a screening for HIV, STI, and Hepatitis C. All received a gift card to a local grocery store. Results: The highest rated barrier for not seeking care was stigma-related barriers followed by logistical and institutional barriers. Overall, all barriers were higher for males when compared to females but were not statistically significant; they were clinically significant. Additionally, 23.5% of the participants tested positive for hepatitis and 92% of patients said they would be screened again after completing the process. Conclusions: The data acquired in this study shows that those receiving MOUD are not getting screened and treated for high-risk diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Therefore, this high-risk population becomes underdiagnosed and under-treated due to not seeking help, attributed to the stigma they have received from healthcare providers. Educating healthcare professionals to reduce stigma and address other identified barriers, such as logistical barriers, is essential because showing compassion is one way of decreasing the stigma that would allow these patients to return and get the proper screening and treatment they need.

Alexis Petty

Image Registration Using a Combination of CPU and GPU Computational Resources, While Using Deep Learning to Analyze Circulating and Running Cells in Blood Vessels

APEX Faculty Mentor: Christian McHugh

Dr. Lin’s lab has developed a miniature oblique back-illumination microscope (mOBM) that is noninvasive, label-free, and allows the quantification of immune cells by imaging the microvasculature of the human oral mucosa. Imaging cell motion can provide new diagnostic information (time course of disease progression, response to therapy, etc.) that is not available using traditional static diagnostic parameters such as cell number and morphology. The implementation of this device to translate the developed instrument into clinics, allowing noninvasive blood cell analysis in the most vulnerable and in-need population of patients, such as immuno-compromised patients, patients in ICUs, neonates, etc.

In clinics, the early diagnosis of patients is crucial. In the case of sepsis, one of the most common and deadly medical conditions, every hour is estimated to increase the mortality rate. Therefore, the video data obtained with mOBM must be processed as quickly as possible, to rapidly provide clinicians with results. The most time-consuming step in the data-processing pipeline is image registration, which is the alignment of motion artifacts caused by a patient's movement during the real-time imaging with mOBM. A MATLAB code that improves the image processing pipeline, and speeds up the analysis, while taking full advantage of the computation capabilities offered by a combination of the computer’s central processing and graphic processing units, has been implemented. To do so, registration algorithms with different strategies of parallel processing were generated and then tested. Currently, the focus is on deep learning, and its data processing capabilities, to improve the ongoing pipeline.

Daniel Pierce

On Quantum Computers and Hybrid Algorithms for solving k-SAT problems

APEX Faculty Mentor: Renuka Rajapakse

The emergence of quantum computers has led to the development of algorithms that make use of the quantum resources afforded by such machines. Classical computers are ineffective for simulating quantum systems and problems where the computational runtime increases exponentially with the size of the input. However, it has been found that quantum computers currently do not have the computational power to be effective for some algorithms, and so there has been a focus on the development of algorithms that make use of both quantum and classical resources. The purpose of this research was to develop one such algorithm for solving Boolean Satisfiability Problems (SAT). SAT problems are used in the programming of systems that have certain criterion that must be met. The complexity of SAT problems increases as the number of literals k, increases. SAT problems are NP complete decision problems, and all SAT algorithms require worst-case exponential time. One of the most effective known classical algorithms for solving k-SAT problems was developed by Uwe Schöning in 1999. While the original algorithm chooses an unsatisfied clause at random and utilizes repetitive bit toggling, a quadratic speed up over Schöning's algorithm can theoretically be achieved by instead using Quantum Amplitude Amplification. The hybrid algorithm is built with IBM Quantum Lab and tools available from Qiskit.

Benjamin Pimenta

Candidiasis and the Invisible Idiopathic Pandemic: Its Reality and Organization Methods for the Future

APEX Faculty Mentor: Peeranuch LeSeure 

Idiopathic conditions consist of any condition that has no known root cause. Idiopathic symptoms and conditions continuously affect a large portion of the global population. Many of them are generally incurable due to a lack of understanding of their physiological mechanisms and root causes. Many of them have been found to have a genetic component as well. Frequently, once genetic factors are identified, there are a few investigations on how environmental factors influence disease development, or if environmental factors can still give rise to cures. Because idiopathic conditions are not fully understood, treatments for all of them often leave many people experiencing varying levels of discomfort, impairment, and chronic pain. The primary purpose of this study was to act as a stepping off point for future research into idiopathic cures by drawing linkages between candidiasis pathology and various idiopathic conditions. Although not shown on this poster, the study also suggests a large variety of future research, and dives into potential ways to adjust the future of medical research in order to combat these idiopathic conditions and keep up with the increasing need for cures.

William Pires
Crime & Justice Studies

The School to Prison Pipeline, and Bringing Awareness to the Children

APEX Faculty Mentor: Heather Turcotte 

The main goal of my APEX is to create a zine to bring awareness to the school-to-prison pipeline not only the students, but their families. Specifically, I hope to be able to bring awareness to the cycle of racism in education, which contributes to the pipeline. The zine will illustrate important concepts and situations they may face in school and ways to deal with them. Hopefully, this will lead students to stand up for their education, actively avoid situations that may negatively affect them, and be confident enough to break the pipeline cycle. For this APEX, I created a zine by hand in order to illustrate and provide an interactive way to learn about the school to prison pipeline. A zine is a small magazine with multiple pages of both information and pictures. Each section of a zine adds something to the main argument. The first part of it was informational; it contained illustrations, definitions, and data related to how the school system operates and the school-to-prison pipeline (what it is and how it is established). The second part of the zine focused on the kids themselves; it provided them suggestions of how to avoid the pipeline, it encouraged students to focus on their education, and will provide a space for dialogue. Finally, I visited the Global Learning Charter Public School to promote it and hold a clinic for both teachers and family alike. After the presentation I was presented with many questions from teachers and families about specific details but overall the result of this clinic was overwhelmingly positive with many families approaching me to tell me how much they appreciate and valued the presentation. I was also able to provide each family with a QR code that they could later use to review the material I went over at the clinic.

Alejandra Ponce Lopez
Psychology, Pre-Prof Certificate in Mental Health

Impostor Syndrome and Diversity: Race, Ethnicity, and Generation

APEX Faculty Mentor: Kristen Sethares

While high-achieving students are admirable in their efforts and accomplishments, their mental health is cause for concern. Impostor syndrome involves chronic self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud in connection to feelings of incompetence, inadequacy, and an inability to feel self-pride or internalize accomplishments. In this mixed methods study, researchers investigated potential links between diversity-related variables such as race, ethnicity, and first-generation student status relative to impostor syndrome and other personal variables. A sample of undergraduate university students (n = 32) in the qualitative study completed six instruments: impostor syndrome (Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale, 20 items, higher scores indicate more impostor feelings), general mental health (Mental Health Inventory-5, 5 items, lower scores indicate poorer mental health), perfectionism (Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, 35 items, higher scores indicate higher perfectionism), self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, 10 items, higher scores indicate higher self-esteem), and diversity-related stressors (Minority Status Stress Scale, 33 items, higher scores indicate higher diversity-related stress). A smaller sample (n = 4) opted to complete an in-person interview for the qualitative study. The results suggest that none of the diversity-related variables were significantly correlated to, nor were they predictors of, impostor syndrome. However, significant correlations were found for impostor syndrome and low self-esteem (r = -.36, p = .045), and impostor syndrome and perfectionism (r = .65, p = <.001). Perfectionism was also found to be an independent predictor of impostor syndrome (β = .60, p = <.001). The results are discussed in light of previous research and potential links between impostor syndrome and declined well-being.

Queyka SaintLouis

Race-based Traumatic Stress and Microaggression in Nursing Faculty of Color

APEX Faculty Mentor: Shannon Avery-Desmarais

What influences race-based traumatic stress symptom scores in nursing faculty of color? This quantitative research project aimed to answer this question. The patient population is quickly becoming more and more diverse, but the nursing workforce is diversifying more slowly. Nursing faculty of color can help to encourage people of color to go to nursing school, thus speeding up the process of ethnically diversifying the nursing workforce. This project is original in its use of parts of the Race-Based Traumatic Stress Symptom Scale in nursing science. The student hopes this project will motivate our communities of color to advance their education and teach the art and science of nursing to diverse people who will care for our communities of color.

Jade Silvia

Predicting the Population of North Atlantic Right Whales

APEX Faculty Mentor: Alfa Heryudono

Despite the dozens of laws and regulations on the international, national, and local level in order to prevent the extinction of whales, the population of whales continues to dwindle. This research paper will analyze the causes of North Atlantic right whale deaths ranging from anthropogenic causes to ocean surface temperature changes and their prey abundance. The main focus is to develop a numerical method to develop a predator-prey model (North Atlantic right whales and copepods) and a temperature-population model. Data used in the models I create was recorded from 1990-2020. These models will also predict future data using previously recorded data from accredited sources.

Maple Song
Animation & Game Arts

Conceptualizing an Emotional Intelligence Development Video Game for Children

APEX Faculty Mentor: Shawn Towne

Spirit is the beginning of a game concept to help children develop emotional intelligence (EI) while following a newborn spirit’s journey through a manor inhabited by friendly creatures. Play with animate objects, comfort wistful ghosts, and share stories with creatures of all kinds while identifying and applying emotional knowledge. Video games can help EI development by simulating real world applications and visualizing the abstract concept of emotions. However, many educational video games lack the foundations of an engaging game. This APEX project establishes the game’s fundamental systems and utilizes creative expression to expand on the emotions, setting, and therefore, the engagement. The Adobe Suite is used to create system flowcharts, wireframes, art assets, and finalized layouts. The result is a video demonstrating the game concept. At the end of it all, educational video games are a multidisciplinary effort and this project leaned more heavily on the game development and art disciplines than psychology.

Daniela Sousa
Crime and Justice Studies & Psychology

The Effects of Solitary Confinement in Incarcerated Populations

APEX Faculty Mentor: Raina Lamade

Solitary confinement is a disciplinary measure used by correctional facilities to maintain order and control of inmates. This practice aims to protect both individuals subjected to it and others within the correctional facility. However, the implications of solitary confinement, particularly its psychological effects, have gathered increased attention, review, criticism and calls for reforms. This project provides a comprehensive review of solitary confinement practices, its psychological effects and offers recommendations. Results are compiled into three tables that include state comparisons, the effects of solitary confinement, proposed legislation, and official recommendations from professional and advocacy organizations.

Jared Staples

The Impact of Foreign Influence on the Onset and Result of the Ogaden War and its Lasting Implications for the Horn of Africa

APEX Faculty Mentor: Brian Williams

In 1977 Somalia launched an invasion of Ethiopia over possession of the region known as the Ogaden which is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Somalis. Despite an early successful push into Ethiopian territory, the Somali army was eventually halted and routed, resulting in a devastating defeat for Somalia by 1978. The Ogaden War was a watershed moment for the Republic of Somalia. Since independence the government had made pan-Somalism one of its core tenants. The failure of the Siad Barre regime to achieve this goal greatly weakened the faith that the people, especially the military, had for the government. As early as 1978 crack began appearing in the Somali state and Barre’s response of cracking down on any dissent with military force was the main drive that led to the ultimate collapse of the government in 1991.

All throughout the leadup to the Ogaden War and the war itself the outcome was guided by foreign hands. In the aftermath of WWII when Somalia was prepared for independence it was deliberately prevented from including the Somalis of the Ogaden or other regions in their new state. Throughout the 1970s the Soviets became a key ally and supplier of arms to Somalia, but when a communist government rose up in Ethiopia the Soviets quickly turned their backs on Somalia in favor of a new African ally. The result was that the fate of the Somali state was never in the hands of the Somali people. From the very beginning outside forces were pushing it down the path to collapse.

Jordan Tavares

Marketing Internship in an Offshore Wind Stakeholder Engagement Start-up

APEX Faculty Mentor: Marilyn Ardito

This project explores the emerging offshore wind industry and the impact internships have on the professional and personal development of interns. More specifically, start up companies in new industries have an additional benefit in providing experience for an intern. Covering the difficulty of change in professional development and the change of work environment for those affected by renewable energy construction.

The fishing industry has been a significant part of southeast Massachusetts’ economy since its time as a colony. New Bedford, once the “City That Lit The World'' through its enormous whaling industry through the 1800s, continues to have a strong maritime industry. To date fishing has continued to be a part of this area’s economy, culture, and lifestyle.

To Integrate the emerging offshore wind industry into the local community, companies have begun developing platforms for communication. Ithaca Clean Energy is a “cleantech” start-up developing applications for the offshore wind industry to reach the fishing community.

As the marketing coordinator I had the unique opportunity to research this industry and develop many of the foundational strategies that the company would pursue. The position took me heavily out of my professional comfort zone and allowed me to develop my personal and professional self as well as developing my hands-on knowledge of the renewables industry and in marketing.

Ar’kia Taylor
Economics: Healthcare Services Administration

How Did Covid-19 Impact Nurses’ Attitudes About Their Work?

APEX Faculty Mentor: Amy Shapiro

COVID-19 has had significant impacts on nearly all aspects of the world, but it has had a particular effect on the healthcare field, including the working conditions of nurses. I hypothesize
that conditions created by the pandemic would impact nurses' feelings of being less respected, making them more likely to leave work and increasing nursing shortages. I surveyed nurses, nurse managers, and administrators about their attitudes toward these questions. I received 86 responses to my survey. Overall, nurses felt respected by their co-workers, managers, and patients; they felt most respected by co-workers, while reported levels of respect from managers and patients were similar but lower. Nurses also indicated that the pandemic worsened nursing shortages, with close to 70% strongly agreeing. The respondents thought that more nurses were
leaving due to the pandemic; they agreed that working conditions and increased pay elsewhere were the causes of these departures. Overall, there was variable support for my hypotheses. Nurses still feel respected, contrary to my hypothesis, but nurses felt the pandemic made nursing shortages worse. Prioritizing better working conditions and increasing pay for nurses could help reduce the nursing shortage.

Christine Weir
Illustration, Minor in Graphic Design

Tinker Bell and the History of Fairies interpreted in a Modern Context

APEX Faculty Mentor: Laura Franz

For my Illustration capstone, I decided to create a natural fantastical world. My main inspiration for my project was fantasy stories and I have always had an interest in creating my own world. My inspiration was the world-building and the character design showcased in the Disney Art of books. The main story that inspired my world was the Disney Fairies franchise, which is a world of stories, mainly books and animated films inspired by Tinker Bell. I was always infatuated by the idea of a small world of magical fairies, hidden within nature. Initially, I did not realize this was my inspiration, but the Tinker Bell series has many of the same elements as my world. For my honors thesis, I decided I wanted to explore this further and look into the origins of fairies and how it connects to the stories of the Disney Fairies. Since the world I am creating has small people that are similar to fairies, it was a natural topic of research to add depth and context to my illustrations. On my poster, I summarize the origin of fairies and Tinker Bell. I also show three of the illustrations from my capstone.

Francis Wenner
Computer Science

TCX Utilities

APEX Faculty Mentor: Clinton Rogers

For runners, GPS watches such as Garmin can be an important part of training. These watches track the distance of a run along with many other useful metrics. Runners can use this data to analyze their training and look for ways to make improvements. One of the ways in which Garmin saves this running data is through TCX files. These files contain metrics such as pace, heart rate, and elevation which are captured every second over the course of a run. Garmin has both a mobile app and website which offer many features to analyze this data and gain insight into one’s training. There are several features which do not exist though, and I believe would provide benefit to myself and others. For my project, I have created a computer program called TCX Utilities which contains these features. The first feature is used to create local backups of a user’s Garmin data. The second feature allows the data to be converted into customizable Excel spreadsheets. The third feature lets the user analyze several runs at once instead of only one at a time. The final feature is used to split up a run into multiple parts to allow for analysis of smaller sections. By implementing these features, TCX Utilities extends the capabilities of Garmin’s services and provides additional training tools for runners.

John Willy
Computer Science

Exploring Neural ODEs for Training a UUV Docking Stabilization System

APEX Faculty Mentor: Alfa Heryudono

An unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) is a type of underwater vehicle that is often deployed by scientists or research teams to get a better understanding of ocean processes or survey areas within the ocean. Completing the underwater docking process, typically used to recharge the battery or transfer data, is one of the most difficult parts of operating a UUV. The process requires that the vehicle be stabilized underwater to dock without damaging itself or the docking station. The movement of the UUV can be affected by ocean currents, tidal shifts, and a multitude of other factors that are difficult to account for. One way that the UUV could be stabilized is to use predictive algorithms that forecast how the vehicle’s displacement will change. Once the future displacement is predicted, the controls can be altered to keep the vehicle on course. We explore the possibility of using neural ordinary differential equations (ODE) to make these predictions by using a data input source similar to the position displacement in an underwater environment. A neural ODE combines the neural network framework with that of an ODE solver to make its predictions. This technique can be a viable choice when trying to predict oscillatory data. This project investigates the possibility of using a neural ODE to predict UUV displacement by conducting numerical experiments in the Julia programming language.

Synnove Ask, Nursing

The Relationship between Occupational stress and Burnout in CRNAs in Boston Hospitals

APEX Faculty Mentor: Marni Kellogg

Background: Stress is an individual's mental, emotional, and physical demands that can be beneficial and detrimental. This study focuses on the damaging effects of stress. Excessive or prolonged stress can lead to burnout. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are a profession known to be stressful due to its fast pace, amount of entrusted liability, and the critical thinking necessary to provide safe patient care. Burnout threatens both the health of CRNAs and the safety of patients. Purpose: This study aimed to identify the main stressors within the work environment that may lead to burnout amongst CRNAs in Boston hospitals and the interventions CRNAs find most beneficial for them. Methods: Snowball sampling was used to recruit CRNAs working in Boston. The Perceived Stress Scale was used to assess the stress levels of CRNAs. Participants were also asked about the most common stress factors, if they feel burnout, proposed interventions, and the effectiveness of interventions. The analysis compared the results of this study to the literature. Results: This study shows that participating CRNAs are more stressed than not, and some suffer from burnout. The data collected may help address everyday stressors in CRNAs and prevent burnout amongst this group.

Luke Bala, Finance

How has the widespread availability of mobile technology affected the stock market over the past ten-years?

APEX Faculty Mentor: Christopher Jacobsen

Investing in financial markets is essential for building wealth for Gen Z’s future. Colleges and Universities have not put an emphasis on teaching their students how to manage their investments or even how to enter the market. This study examines the investing behavior of members of Gen Z. Findings show that gender, field of study and use of social media all impact members of Gen Z’s investing behavior. The results of this study can help develop strategies about how to better educate members of Gen Z to prepare them for financial investment decisions.

Joshua James Bañez, Mechanical Engineering

Manufacturing Engineering Internship: Utilizing Additive Manufacturing in Pre-Established Industrial Workflows

APEX Faculty Mentor: Hamed Samandari

This Apex project was conducted as part of the Applied/Service track, completed through an internship where I applied my background knowledge, relevant theories, scholarly literature, and previous experience to learn and develop industrial experience in an academic way. The focus of the project was on the application of additive manufacturing in pre-established industrial workflows. Additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) is a relatively new technology that has recently gained new levels of viability in industry. However, current industrial workflows may face challenges in implementing these technologies due to preconceived notions and insufficient information. The internship focused specifically on implementing additive manufacturing into one of these environments by convincing corporate stakeholders of its value through prototyping, fixturing, showcasing its features, projecting cost savings through production replacements, fixing broken components, and mitigating the impact of unexpected delays such as those caused by Covid-19.

Katelyn Barlow, Nursing

The Operation of Pyramid Schemes in the US

APEX Faculty Mentor: Steven D White

Multi-level marketing has been a business model for a very long time, it consists of a company that produces a product and multiple sellers who distribute that product to customers on an individual level. These sellers are paid by commission based on the amount of sales that they have made within a period of time. But there is also a very similar business model that is not legal in the US known as a pyramid scheme, the differences between these two models are slight but very impactful. It involves many of the same elements as an MLM except for how profit is made, in a pyramid scheme the only way to really make any money is to recruit other people to the company, product sales don’t really make an impact on profit. This is what makes it illegal, sellers almost exclusively profit from those underneath them rather than product sales. Sellers very rarely turn a profit or break even while they are part of the company, those that do make very little money, sometimes only a few dollars a year. I looked into some companies that reflect this business model to see how they operated in the past compared to current day after dealing with backlash and legal trouble. I looked through multiple articles, interviews, and legal documents to gather data and come to a conclusion on how things have changed and what can be done to improve regulations and prevent people from being negatively affected. 

Vanessa Barreto, Nursing

The Effect of Stress on the Cardiovascular System in Nurses

APEX Faculty Mentor: Kristen Sethares

Background/Purpose: The leading cause of mortality in the United States is heart disease. Stress, among other factors, contribute to the risk of the development of heart disease. Due to their occupation, nurses are exposed to high levels of stress. The purpose of this study is to identify if there is a relationship between stress in nurses and their susceptibility to heart disease. Methods: A cross-sectional correlational survey study was completed using the following measurement tools: Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and questions assessing environmental stress factors. Results: There was a weak positive correlation between increased levels of stress and incidence of cardiovascular disease, including a diagnosis of hypertension. Increased levels of stress and a diagnosis of hyperlipidemia showed a weak negative correlation. Additionally, there was a weak positive correlation between increased levels of stress and hours worked per week. Increased levels of stress and the amount of overtime worked showed a weak negative correlation. The correlations from the variables in the study remained the same whether it was stress at work or stress at home. Conclusion: This study suggests that there is a relationship between increased stress levels and incidence of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension. This correlation implies the need for stress reduction interventions specific to the nursing population. Further studies should be done to understand what other factors are causing negative correlations between increased levels of stress and a diagnosis of hyperlipidemia as well as negative correlations between increased levels of stress and the amount of overtime worked.

Renée Bernier, College of Nursing

The Nurse’s Role in Prevention and Intervention in Postpartum Depression through Visiting Nursing

APEX Faculty Mentor: Melissa Desroches

Nurses play a significant role in patient care and education, and there is a gap in research on how nurses can help the rising issue of postpartum depression. The goal of this project was to identify how nursing can help to prevent postpartum depression among women who have recently given birth through home visits. We discovered that many mothers lacked one-on-one interactions with their postpartum nurses and were left with many questions about their newborn health as well as their own. Over half of the mothers in this study were not educated on postpartum depression at all before being discharged after having their baby. Many desired further education and saw the benefit in having a visiting nurse come into their home in the postpartum period to enable open, honest conversations.

Miranda Besse, Accounting

Importance of Internships and Connecting in Class learning to the Workforce

APEX Faculty Mentor: Christopher Jacobsen

One of the first statements we hear when starting college is the importance of internships. However, are internships really that helpful when applying to jobs and can internships make you a better student? To answer this question I got internships in my field of study in the summer of 2022 at Bristol County Savings Bank as their accounting intern and as their fall 2022 audit intern. When starting classes in the fall of 2022 I made note of any changes in me academically after having my internship. Then when starting my job search in fall of 2022 I compared my success rate of interviews and offers of jobs to when I was looking for an internship to see if there were improvements.

Emily Brawley, Nursing

Knowledge regarding Oral Contraceptives among College-Aged Women

APEX Faculty Mentor: Kristen Sethares

The oral contraceptive (OC) pill is one of the most widely used forms of birth control in the United States, especially among college-aged women. The purpose of this study was to identify the level of knowledge regarding proper use of OC among college-aged women and to compare levels by major and receipt of prescriber education. An online descriptive study using a 27-item Qualtrics survey adapted from a published study was used. After IRB approval and informed consent, demographics, information about OC use, current level of knowledge (0-10 scale); and knowledge of side effects and contraindications, and procedure for taking OC (0-16 scale) was collected from 46 college-aged women from various universities. Data were entered into SPSS 28.0 and analyzed using descriptive statistics, t test and ANOVA.  The sample of 46 primarily health-related majors (34%) were 19- 26years of age. The most frequent duration of OC use was > four years (39%) and the most frequent OC prescribers were pediatricians (41%). Most participants (54%) received education from their provider prior to OC prescription. Mean knowledge score overall was 12.6 (1.2) and did not differ by major (health related: 12, engineering or math: 13, business: 11, arts and sciences: 12, F=.69, df = 3, p = .57) or between those educated by a provider or not (12.2 vs 11.6, p = .21, respectively).  College-aged women have some knowledge but are not receiving the proper education from providers to practice the safest and most effective behaviors surrounding OC use.

Dante Broggi, Computer Science

On the Interoperability of Programming Languages via Translation

APEX Faculty Mentor: Yi Liu

Interoperability between systems written in different programming languages is difficult. The only common case is interoperability with and via C; however, C is an unsafe language and does not promote consideration of abstractions independently from their implementations. This study aims to investigate the extension of general interoperability beyond C by examining the current suitability of tools and languages for transpilation, which is the compilation of code into another source language instead of machine code. Specifically, we focus on the transpilation of the runtime of one language into a target language. This study focuses on preserving safety invariants between Pony and Rust, two programming languages that have similar but distinct high-level language semantics. Rust was chosen as a target language because of the C2Rust project, which attempts to transpile C programs into Rust's unsafe dialect. Pony was chosen as the source language because it also makes strong safety claims and has an open-source runtime written in C, allowing evaluation of both the transpilation process and result. Two phases are involved in translating the Pony runtime into Rust: improving the C source to better represent the invariants as allowed by C and working around the insufficiencies identified in the tooling, and refactoring the Rust result to identify where the code is incorrect due to misuse. The findings indicate that this methodology is potentially useful but not currently reasonable for immediate use due to insufficient available tools and the existence of significant capabilities in these languages that are not surfaced to their users.

Hannah Carvalho, Nursing

Correlation among Perceived Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, Physical Activity, and Dietary Intake in Young Adults

APEX Faculty Mentor: Brian Ayotte

Cardiovascular disease, or CVD, is consistently the leading cause of death in the USA (Kochanek, 2019). CVD is an umbrella term for a plethora of health complications regarding the cardiovascular system, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, or heart failure. Over the years, researchers have devoted endless hours and billions of dollars trying to understand how to decrease the incidence in CVD. They have found that a majority of the risk factors of CVD are modifiable, or, in other words, can be prevented through lifestyle changes (Hajar, 2017). The present study investigated the relationship between perceived risk of cardiovascular disease and modifiable risk factors in adults ages 18-25. A survey was sent out to current Umass Dartmouth students and assessed their demographic data, lifestyle habits, and perceived risk for cardiovascular disease. The results serve to provide knowledge on the relationship between perceived risk of cardiovascular disease and modifiable risk factors in young adults. This knowledge can be used to produce more effective educational interventions to be instilled by healthcare professionals and educators, which will promote better health outcomes across the country.

Acadia Cass, Biology

Integrating Backwards-Chained Shoe-tying Instruction Into School-based Occupational Therapy Treatment

APEX Faculty Mentor: Brian Ayotte

Occupational therapy is a health profession that aims to help people build, improve, and maintain skills that are necessary for activities of daily life (ADLs). For working with children with intellectual disabilities and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), backward chaining has shown to be an effective method for teaching these skills when more traditional treatments have not been successful. Backwards chaining protocols break down the task into steps and teach the steps in order starting from the final step and proceeding backwards from there. These studies revealed that backwards chaining is a great method to use when a child has not previously been successful with other teaching methods, but the major downside is that it is much more time consuming than previous methods. This study aimed to determine if a less rigorous protocol would show similar improvements when applied in naturally occurring teaching opportunities such as when children were donning and doffing their shoes before and after regular treatment. 5 children were observed and all but one were able to complete at least one step, but none of the children were able to master shoe-tying within the 3 month period. One child was able to increase their proficiency from a 25% to 50% success rate. Despite the children in this study taking longer to improve than in the more rigorous and time consuming backward chaining protocols, the results are optimistic that long term learning with less frequent treatment might also be effective.

Celina Costa, Cell and Molecular Biology

Risk of Predation Affects Energy Content of Prey in an Intertidal System 

APEX Faculty Mentor: Michael Sheriff

Predators can alter prey populations by direct consumption or through non-consumptive effects. New England’s rocky intertidal shores have been a model system for exploring predator-prey interactions. Although the trophic cascade between the green crab (Carcinus maenas), dogwhelk (Nucella lapillus), and blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) is well-studied there is little information regarding prey energetics. Even less information is available regarding the effects of invasive Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) on prey populations. To fill the gap in research Celina has extracted tissue from dogwhelk and mussel samples that had been exposed to predation risk and calculated moisture, lipid, protein, and ash content using proximate composition analysis (PCA). Thus, analyzing whole body tissue in a stepwise manner to provide valuable information on how exposure to the risk of predation impacts nutrient assimilation and alters tissue composition.

Trinity Esposito, Nursing

The Highs and Lows of Hospital Care

APEX Faculty Mentor: Amy Shapiro

Student nurses have an incredibly special position with their patients in their hospital placements. It takes a certain tenacity to overcome the challenges that nursing school presents. Students must maintain a deep desire to learn in order to earn the opportunity to care for others. Patients notice this earnest pursuit in students and gravitate towards it. In my clinical experience thus far, patients express how proud they are of nursing students and share their appreciation that we are striving towards a career as important as this one. As participants in their care, we play an essential role even though we are still learning throughout our caregiving. I am passionate about the emotional and personal aspect of nursing, and recognize the importance of of the profound relationship between patients and their caregivers. In acknowledgement of that, I have gathered a collection of short stories about individual patients to share with others. These stories include the highs and lows of hospital care. Stories have always been central to medicine, and they show the vulnerability of the clinical setting. The goal of this project was to give new nurses a foundation on which to build intuition for the experiences they will have as they embark on their first placements, allow veteran nurses to reminisce on their early days, and help patients develop peace of mind.

Eric Faith, Computer Science

Comparing the Accuracy of Neural Network Architectures in Predicting Sea Level Rise

APEX Faculty Mentor: Iren Valova

Neural networks are computational tools used in the process of machine learning, in which the computer can improve its performance at tasks over time by learning from mistakes and adjusting its parameters. Traditional neural networks only make adjustments to their parameters based on the input that they most recently processed. A special class known as recurrent neural networks (RNNs) are capable of remembering data from previous inputs they processed, allowing them to make decisions based on previous data as well as the current input. Long short-term memory (LSTM) and gated recurrent units (GRU) are two types of RNNs that are specifically designed to utilize data stored in the long-term, by employing specific calculations at each iteration to “forget” less important data and “remember” more important data. This prevents the problem that some RNNs have, in which information is treated with the same level of importance at all iterations, which can lead to undesirable outcomes. Bidirectionality is a method of improving an RNNs performance even further, by allowing it to utilize both past data and also future data, which is accomplished by having two RNNs run on the same dataset in opposite directions. This project examines four different RNN architectures: a traditional LSTM, a traditional GRU, a bidirectional LSTM, and a bidirectional GRU, to evaluate which architecture has the best performance when making decisions regarding sea level rise using historical data.

Mckenzie Ferrari, Physics

Mass-Temperature Relation for OBA Stars Based on IUE Spectra of Detached Eclipsing Binaries

APEX Faculty Mentors: Robert Fisher, Nancy Evans (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Accurate knowledge of a star’s fundamental properties, such as mass and temperature, is crucial to understanding the star’s age and evolution. In this work, we measure the masses and temperatures of a large sample of UV-bright hot stars, ranging in spectral types O, B, and early A. Specifically, we assemble a sample of 24 detached eclipsing binaries (DEBs), stellar systems for which our privileged view allows especially precise estimates of the masses and radii of the component stars to be made. We estimate temperatures of the more massive stars in each binary by comparing their ultraviolet spectra drawn from the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite to modern BOSZ temperature model spectra from Bohlin et al. (2017). We then derive an improved, direct mass-temperature relation for OBA stars, which may improve constraints on birth rates of the heaviest stars.

Emily Fontes, Illustration

Creating a Pitch for an Animated Series on Internet Safety

APEX Faculty Mentor: Bruce Maddocks

As advancements in personal technology advance through the 21st century, so has the accessibility of that same technology. Not only are smartphones and other handheld devices becoming more affordable, but they are entering the hands of a younger and younger population at the same time. From 2011 to 2013 alone, young children’s access to mobile devices increased by almost fifty percent, with a third of children being given access to a mobile device before turning two years old (Chang et al. 2015). Because of this, a huge influx of young children are accessing the internet at a younger age than even the current generation of high school and college students, who grew up with the rise of online content. In the year 2000, only 34 percent of children lived in homes with internet access, but by 2009, that number had spiked to over ninety percent (Becker 2000, Tran & Subrahmanyam 2013). This creates a new set of issues and threats for this young age group as they browse the internet at such an impressionable age. My APEX project aims to provide education on these issues by creating an educational children’s show which addresses the topic of internet safety.

Many of the problems which children face on the internet are faced by all ages. Threats of hacking, phishing, fraud, cyberbullying, self-image issues from social media, and internet overuse are prevalent everywhere, but young children are even more susceptible to these issues than most (D'Antona 2010, Finkelhor et al. 2020). Despite this, there is a distinct lack of educational content aimed towards teaching children about how to conduct themselves online. This is due in part to the belief that a child’s parents should be handling discussion of these topics, but children’s experience with the internet is beginning to surpass that of many of their families and educators (Levin & Arafeh 2002). Thus, it has become a difficult conversation for many adults to handle, and attempts to create educational content to help children with online issues has fallen to the wayside. With this project, I am aiming to design a pitch for a show which could fill this gap in education for children, particularly elementary school-age children.

Paolina Fornari, Integrated Studio Arts

Shift-Conscious: A Graphic Novel on Superpowers as Metaphor for Queer Experience

APEX Faculty Mentors: Bruce Maddocks, Jess Worby

Shift-Conscious is a comic about Charlie (they/them), a college student who discovers shapeshifting powers that help them build confidence in their gender identity. The chapter of the comic produced for this project covers Charlie’s discovery and initial experimentation with their new powers and gender presentation. The project’s intention is to add to the wave of web comics that represent the joys of queer self-discovery while highlighting how superpower tropes have significant potential as metaphors for queer experiences and gender exploration. Multiple existing works were studied for visual and thematic inspiration. Peer feedback in the form of in-class art critiques was vital to writing and early visual development. The creation process also provided beneficial insights on setting realistic timeline expectations for future similar projects. As the centerpiece of Paolina Fornari’s portfolio post-graduation, Shift-Conscious represents what she aims to pursue professionally and artistically: vulnerable, relatable stories told in an active, sharp visual style. The comic is digitally illustrated, available online (, Tapas and Webtoon apps), and will be available in print form at the CVPA’s 2023 Art + Design Senior Exhibition opening April 20th.

Kyle Furtado, Computer Science

Assessing Attitudes and Awareness toward Targeted Digital Advertisements

APEX Faculty Mentor: Firas Khatib

With consumer online data becoming the most valuable and sought-after market in global advertising over the course of the past decade, it is crucial that the general public is fully aware of what this actually entails. Some of the more pressing issues that need to be made clear to consumers are: (1) Who can buy our data (2) How private is the information being collected (3) How safely is our data being stored (4) What else is our data being used for. The public needs answers to these questions to truly understand the footprint that they leave online, because it is their privacy and security at stake.

This project aims to evaluate if/how targeted digital advertisements affect the lives of children, young adults, and middle-aged adults differently, as well as analyze if/how the public’s typical awareness and attitudes toward these ads vary across these three major age groups. The results of this study will be useful in determining the general public’s knowledge level regarding targeted ads, as well as their understanding of the benefits and concerns of targeted ads. In the end, these factors will work together to determine what gaps exist in the general public’s targeted ad knowledge, and how that may affect them. As a result, this study will help devise plans to effectively spread awareness of targeted digital advertisements with the general public’s privacy and security in mind. 

Aidan Goddu, History

Internship at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

APEX Faculty Mentor: Paula Noversa

This project has been focused on working as a curatorial/collections intern at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. My objective has been to learn and understand the day-to-day practices of a museum and familiarize myself with what museum work entails. During my time there, I contributed to a wide range of projects and tasks that are commonplace at the museum. These contributions include, but are not limited to: Assisting in the installation/lighting of exhibits, updating information on the records of items in the museum’s possession, helping move items to storage, and cleaning of items in the museum’s care. I’ve learned that museums need to tackle the logistical difficulties of their collections, which can oftentimes become inflated or filled with items that do not have much information associated with them. Museums are able to handle this workload through their institutional policies and practices, which guide their behavior in order to best serve their interests as a collecting organization. Through this project I’ve not only become more knowledgeable about museum work, but also more prepared to contribute to public history by working with museums in the future.

Alex Goncalo, Finance

Attitude Changes Among College Students Post-Pandemic

APEX Faculty Mentor: Nicholas Zambrotta

Social interaction is a critical aspect of development, and a major part of the college experience. The COVID-19 pandemic forced students across the nation to attend school virtually and stay at home mandates added to the isolation. Although these mandates have been lifted, it is unknown if a lingering effect was left on college students. Recent research has provided evidence indicating decreases in mental health outcomes and increases of problematic behaviors in young adults. The current study hypothesized that college students experienced decreases in happiness, optimism, and psychological well-being that may be a result of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. Data were collected using students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Initial analyses suggest that college student levels of well-being, happiness, and optimism about the future may be lower now than pre-pandemic levels. Freshman students seem to have significantly lower levels of happiness and optimism compared to more experienced students.

Jacob Harper, Marketing

An Analysis of a Potential Solution to America’s Increasing Internal and External Economic Woes

APEX Faculty Mentor: Steven White

Many economists believe that the United States’ current economic model is outdated and is causing more problems than solutions, such as contributing to the decline in environmental health. Some argue that change is needed, not only for economic reasons but for the planet’s health as well, and one new piece of technology, blockchain, may be key in resolving these issues. This technology is behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency success stories; however, its capabilities are much greater than that of just cryptocurrency. My goal with this research was to find a solution to our current economic and environmental crisis through the adaptation of blockchain technology, specifically in the primary sector of the economy. In order to see if this was a viable solution, I conducted in-depth research on blockchain technology and real-world cases of countries who have begun to use blockchain themselves. With that said, my findings suggest that blockchain has the potential to alter these industries in ways that significantly strengthens them. There is great potential for blockchain in the United States, and to effectively move away from the current problematic model, I recommend that they initially incorporate the technology into the primary sector of the economy, before adding it into other areas. Blockchain is the future, and if the United States wants to stay on top globally, then they must begin to accept and integrate blockchain technology into the economy as this will be key to resolving the many internal and external issues facing the country today.

Christina Hart, Mechanical Engineering

Testing the Drag Reduction of Spherical Super-hydrophobic Surfaces

APEX Faculty Mentor: Hangjian Ling

In a typical marine vessel, hydrodynamic skin-friction contributes to 60-70% of the total drag. The reduction of drag friction, which has been studied actively for decades, can globally impact energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reduction. Many types of drag friction reduction techniques have been explored with some success. Super-hydrophobic surfaces (SHS) can provide a substantial friction reduction according to recent studies. In order to understand this project, an overview of super-hydrophobic surfaces needs to be understood. Super-hydrophobic surfaces allow water to roll off the surface instead of soaking the water in.

Lots of research has been done on flat super-hydrophobic surfaces. Our aim is to provide research on curved super-hydrophobic surfaces. Our goal is to determine how the drag reduction changes for smooth curved surfaces and super-hydrophobic curved surfaces. This will be completed through physical experiments and running MATLAB code to determine the coefficient of drag for both smooth spheres and super-hydrophobic spheres.

Mariana Hebert, Biomedical Engineering

The Effect of Microplastics on Zebrafish and Possible Risks for Human Development

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tracie Ferreira

The presence of microplastics in our oceans and ecosystems is a concerning reality which impacts all biological life on Earth, including humans. Microplastics are present in the water we drink, the food we eat, and were recently discovered in the human placenta. This discovery raises many questions about the negative repercussions of microplastics on fetal development, as the placenta is the organ primarily responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the fetus during pregnancy. While clinical research in reproductive health can be controversial, studying animal subjects and drawing parallels to human health can provide useful insight before determining whether further studies are necessary. This project explores the possible effects of microplastic exposure on human fetal development through studying zebrafish.

Jacqueline Horgan, Bioengineering

Growth Methods of CHO Cells and the Derived Properties Observed

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tracie Ferreria

The use of the body's own immune system to fight diseases has been an up and coming field in recent years with the production of human antibodies from the lab growth and genetic manipulation of different cells. These antibodies can be produced in a variety of ways in the lab, but usually with the growth of genetically modified mammalian cells. The cells being grown will have the gene to make the specific antibody needed added to their genome, and as they grow, the cells will produce the antibodies on their own. The antibody will be collected by the lab workers, purified, and used in patients as a treatment. One of the cell types used- Chinese Hamster Ovary Cells or CHO cells are isolated from the ovary of a female Chinese Hamster. These cells are very often used in the production of antibodies for several reasons. Most importantly the cells are capable of many cell processes that human cells are capable of generating a product that’s very effective for use in the treatments of many diseases and disorders. To be grown in a lab, there are many different methods of growth to generate cells with different properties that align to the needed product- some projects will require fast growth while others require more product production. One of the factors in determining the cell properties is what type of nutrients the cells are given, and how they are given. There are many different methods that exist and the selection of the proper one can make all the difference in the outcome and success of the project. Through the compilation of data and research on the different methods of nutrient supply to CHO cells in culture for antibody production, the effect of different methods on the type of growth observed will be further understood.

Gamaliel Daffeed Janvier, Management: Entrepreneurship

Fast Fashion Products and their Impact on the Environment

APEX Faculty Mentor: Amy Shapiro

The present study gives a background on how Fast Fashion Products have revolutionized the clothing industry and how it negatively impacts the environment. However, since one can’t talk about Fast Fashion Products without talking about Designer Products, a background is also given on the latter to help better understand the difference between different types of clothing companies and their impact. Furthermore, ​​qualitative and quantitative research will be conducted in the form of a survey also known as a questionnaire in order to gain knowledge of consumer awareness of Fast Fashion and whether perceptions of a retailer influence the buyer decision process. The study being done at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, an informative video is also included in the survey to bring awareness on the topic as videos create a more engaging sensory experience than using print materials alone.

The different people taking the survey, (N=123) were randomly picked to take part of the 10 minutes survey which included a 5 minutes educational video as mentioned above.  The research shows that 108 people answered that they knew about Designer Products and 78  answered they knew about Fast Fashion Products. However when it came to answering more thoughtful questions, the data would show that the numbers would change. In addition to that, the data also showed that after watching the video about fast fashion products, they seem to be more aware of their choices and would change their clothing shopping habits which shows the importance of bringing awareness.

Davidson Joseph, Mechanical Engineering

Dynamic Fracture Characterization of Glass Fiber Composites with Through-Thickness Nylon Fiber Reinforcement

APEX Faculty Mentor: Vijaya Chalivendra

A detailed experimental study is performed to investigate the dynamic fracture toughness of through-thickness reinforced glass/epoxy composites. Short Nylon fibers are reinforced on the glass fabrics along through thickness direction using UMass Dartmouth’s wet flocking method and a standard vacuum infusion process is used to fabricate the composites. A double cantilever beam (DCB) specimen is prepared for mode-I dynamic fracture characterization. Two different deniers 1.5D and 3D with two different fiber densities 150 and 300 fiber/mm2 are used to fabricate 4 types of composites. One glass/epoxy composite without flocking is used as a control sample to compare with flocked composites. The dynamic fracture initiation toughness is investigated by using a modified split Hopkinson pressure setup with a novel fixture in conjunction with a high-speed video camera. In addition, the effect of loading rate on dynamic initiation fracture toughness is also investigated for (a) control sample, (b) 1.5D – 0.75mm Nylon fiber with a flock density of 300 fiber/mm2 both configuration at  = 114 and 180 J/mm2/s. Results shown that composite of 3D – 0.75 mm Nylon fiber with a flock fiber density of 300 fiber/mm2 has the highest fracture imitation toughness out of all the other configurations. It was observed that higher the flock density, the higher the dynamic crack initiation fracture toughness. The imagery studies conducted for the mode-I fracture experiments using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images are used to understand fracture mechanisms.

Nathanial Keighley, Bioengineering

Pharmaceutical Industry Contamination: Is it Always as Frightening as it Sounds?

APEX Faculty Mentor: Laura Hanzly

Steven Brand, an American author, once said “if you don’t like bacteria, you’re on the wrong planet.” In every aspect of daily life, whether you are a scientist or a government official, bacteria can be found everywhere. Typically, this word, “bacteria”, is one that most people inherently fear as it comes with a negative connotation. However, bacteria does not necessarily result in harmful effects and can even be beneficial, especially in the field of pharmaceuticals. Often times, bacteria are used as carriers to rapidly produce drugs or drug components, of course with a vast amount of oversight and regulations. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to contamination, another frightening word to the majority of the population. Similar to bacteria, contamination is not at all times an issue to be immensely concerned about, though it must be dealt with. Today, due to the advancement of safety protocols and governing regulations for an industry such as the Pharmacy industry, contamination has generally become a part of daily conversation without the instantaneous result of panic. Throughout this literature review, pharmaceutical contamination will be examined, specifically case studies throughout the last century as way to analyze the development of such safety protocols as well hopefully provide a new, less frightening, definition of contamination in regard to the biologics field. In addition, I will provide an insight into the field as having previously worked as a Quality Control Microbiology Intern at Pfizer Inc. with hands-on experience performing contamination testing.

Cameron McAlpine, Computer Science

Analysis of Student Engagement and Interests at The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

APEX Faculty Mentor: Iren Valova

This project aims to explore the relationship between student demographics and their interests in different events at The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. A survey was conducted to collect data on demographic variables such as age, gender, academic major, etc., as well as variables related to event preferences, mainly their level of interest of certain events. Statistical analysis techniques, including correlation matrices, contingency tables, and chi-square tests, were used to analyze the data. The findings reveal significant differences between groups based on demographic variables and event preferences, and suggest that housing status, gender, and academic level can predict interest in different types of events. These results provide insights that can inform the design of better programming and events on campus to meet the diverse interests of students.

Jenna Michaud, College of Nursing

The Effects of Distracted Practice on the Clinical Performance of Nursing Students

APEX Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Viveiros

In healthcare, over 80% of medical errors are attributed to human factors. Distracted practice has been a major issue in healthcare and is constantly growing into a bigger problem as the health care system becomes more complex. Not only are health care professionals at risk for making errors related to distracted practice, but nursing students are also susceptible to being distracted. This creates room for poor learning and performance in the clinical environment. To date, little is known about causes distracted practice for nursing students in the clinical setting is. This project explores what nursing students consider distracting during their clinical practicum and how those distractors impact their perceived clinical performance. It is a qualitative exploratory study. The instruments used were a demographic questionnaire, the distracted practice scale – student adaptation, and a set of guided interview questions administered via interview to identify distractors in the clinical learning environment and how those distractions impact students perceived clinical performance. After a thematic analysis of the collected data, there were four main themes identified as the most distracting and negatively impacting on students' clinical performance. These included, 1) downtime: which led to invasive thoughts, more distractions, and impaired focus, 2) anxiety: which led to decreased confidence, decreased participation, and feeling a lack of control in their actions, 3) sleep deprivation and low energy: which led to decreased motivation, 4) disorganized or underprepared clinical instructors: which led to underprepared students, decreased motivation, and limited opportunities to learn. By understanding what distracts nursing students in clinical and how those distractions impact their performance and learning, educators can work towards preventing these distractions from occurring.

Jackson Miller, Marketing

Designing a Questionnaire to Examine Ways of Improving the Alumni Database and Boosting Alumni Engagement

APEX Faculty Mentor: Steven White

The increasing focus on alumni donations and engagement necessitates a strong database that can help in effectively marketing to alumni for the above purposes. UMass Dartmouth finds themselves among the many universities across the nation facing this very situation. Through informal conversations with key stakeholders, we determine the abilities and limitations of the current system. With this information in mind, we work to develop a questionnaire that could be sent out to alumni that would help the university know what changes it may need to make. Due to inconsistencies in record keeping and issues related to emails, we realize that UMass Dartmouth does not have a complete inventory of their past students and can’t always contact the people who are in their records. The questionnaire design revolves around the objectives of how to best improve the record keeping of alumni, and how UMass Dartmouth can more effectively communicate their marketing strategies to alumni compared to what they are currently doing. The importance for the university to implement this questionnaire into a developed survey is as follows: a high alumni engagement rate can have major, positive effects on current student bodies. Alumni can act as mentors for students, and their donations help fund important projects, resources, events that give students opportunities they otherwise would not have.

Nicholas Monroe, Mechanical Engineering

Biases in the Modeled Air-Sea Interaction During the Year 2017-2018 in the Arabian Sea

APEX Faculty Mentor: Amit Tandon

Within the study of Monsoons, use of computer models to predict the variables that relate to the state of the atmosphere and ocean (e.g. sea surface temperature and heat fluxes) is important to weather forecasting. These variables are calculated using different methods and algorithms and hence discrepancies could exist between observations and various model outputs. Considering the non-linearity of the system, small errors in such outputs could lead to different outcomes in terms of monsoon prediction. In this study, we investigate the annual patterns of these variables collected in the Arabian Sea from October 2017 to September 2018 and describe four different seasons: transition period, northeast monsoon, spring and the southwest monsoon. The southwest and the northeast monsoons are usually characterized with strong winds of 8 m/s and extended periods of heating and cooling (also called the break and active phases), with tropical cyclones commonly observed during the northeast monsoon period. Spring period is marked by periods of clear skies and consistent ocean and atmosphere warming by about 3oC, while the transition period serves as a shift between the two types of monsoons. We further describe the biases between the model outputs (MERRA-2 from NASA and ERA-5 from Copernicus-an EU program) and the observations collected from a mooring in the Arabian Sea, with large biases existing during the monsoon periods. Correction of these biases in model outputs will lead to better predictions of monsoons, thus protecting human life and reducing economic loss.

Daniella Niles, Marketing

Title of APEX: MADWEC (Maximal Asymmetric Drag Wave Energy Converter) – A Revolutionary New Ocean Source

APEX Faculty Mentor: Steven White

The blue economy has seen a rise in renewable energy (RE) over the past ten years as the globe looks for the best RE generation and storage methods to tackle climate change. These systems, however, are primarily land-based and contain components like solar panels and battery-based energy storage. There are marine based RE technologies like tidal, wave, marine current, ocean thermal, and osmotic power on which MADWEC is built. The use of such generated energy is still meant for the land, even with wave power and its current cohort of wave energy converters (WECs).

Yet, a movement to employ wave and other types of ocean energy for remote power operations at sea, like unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and aquaculture, has recently emerged. Several sectors currently use expensive or environmentally harmful technology and processes to tackle their energy problems, such as diesel generators or recurrent site visits with pricey seagoing boats and crew. The need for these technologies and their power requirements will only grow as humanity continues to explore and comprehend the ocean.

Companies who require remote power at sea can use MADWEC virtually universally as a remote electrical generation and storage solution. The MADWEC has the potential to become the ocean’s all-purpose power source for projects including gathering meteorological data, monitoring whales, mapping the bottom, tracking fish migration, and even serving as an emergency backup power source for lifeboats.

Efe Oboh-Idahosa, Political Science

Racial Disparities in the Child Welfare System: An Apartheid-like Institution that Perpetrates Racial Oppression Against the Black Community

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tryon Woods

The child welfare system has negatively impacted the African American community since its establishment on April 15th, 1991. The agency is structured to function in two different ways, one as an apartheid-like institution used to perpetrate racial oppression against the black community, while the other works in its originality helping to protect predominately Caucasian children from dangerous living situations, giving them a chance to experience a safe and healthy living. Racial disproportionality and disparities in the child welfare system causes critical racial harm that has been destructive to the development of black families for generations. However, lack of concern from policymakers about this issue has prompted them to continuously create policies that worsen the problem. This allows the government to continue its discriminatory treatment and in turn sustaining the ability to maintain control over the black community. The purpose of this study is to expose the ways that the child welfare system functions as an apartheid-like institution and analyzes its toxic and abusive relationship with the black community. This study concludes by considering the implications of this system of racial control for black family sovereignty.

Payton Parker, Mechanical Engineering

Development of a Thermoplastic Polymer Electrolyte-based Structural Supercapacitor

APEX Faculty Mentor: Cawei Shen

Through the continually evolving world of energy usage, new ways to store energy are becoming increasingly important. For instance, in space technology, finding new ways to store energy in lighter and smaller packages is highly desirable. If weight can be reduced and the amount of stored power can be increased, the space mission durations can be lengthened significantly. To do so, devices called structural supercapacitors were built. These devices can store electrical energy while being able to support a load. These two properties allow components which originally would be used solely for structural support to also have energy storage capabilities. Unfortunately, the state-of-the-art structural supercapacitors are unable to have both high electrochemical performance and mechanical performance at the same time. In this project, research was conducted to increase our understanding of this technology by first developing a injection molding manufacturing procedure for the electrolyte, performing material characterization of the electrolyte, and establishing an activation procedure for the electrode portion of the device. It was found that humidity levels greatly affect the quality of the electrolyte, and the injection molding procedure must be closely monitored. It was also determined that the best activation procedure for the electrode was done at 950°C with a weight ratio of 3:1 KOH to Carbon Fibers.

Elsie Perry, Biology

Determining Frosted Elfin Population Structure Using the EF1-a Gene

APEX Faculty Mentor: Genevieve Kozak

Frosted elfin butterflies (Callophrys irus) can use two different larval host plants: wild lupine (Lupinus spp.) or yellow indigo (Baptisia tinctoria). For this project, we used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify and sequence DNA from the elongation factor 1 alpha (EF1) gene. Genetic samples were collected from indigo and lupine populations from different locations across the eastern United States. We were able to collect EF1 sequences (sanger sequenced both in forward and reverse) from 37 different samples. We identified 7 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the EF1 sequence and used these SNPs to construct phylogenetic relationships among the samples. These phylogenies allowed us to see how genetic variation is common within populations. This suggests that the frosted elfin butterflies have genetic variation present (as a whole and within subpopulations), meaning the subpopulations of this at-risk species should still be considered a part of the same conservational unit.

Lily Pearl Poirier, Marketing

Creatives’ Creative Space: Creating and Testing the Viability of a Novel Business Model

APEX Faculty Mentor: Peter Karlson

Creative’s Creative Space was built to be different, to help connect small business owners and makers of handmade goods. This business, affectionately shortened to CCS, is a dual sided e-commerce platform built to provide a wholesale option for makers and retailers who deal in handmade goods. It might be easier to think of it as a wholesale version of Etsy. On CCS makers of handmade goods are able to upload their products in bulk quantities to be sold directly to retailers to become inventory for a store. It is an opportunity for both makers and retailers to expand their business, as well as ease the process of breaking into retail and stocking a storefront with quality handmade goods.

Every week the project grew by developing the business through analyzing and brainstorming the following categories: business models, product overview, value proposition, customer segments, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key activities and resources, costs, and partners. All the while gathering evidence to support the business’s viability as a real venture. Deliverables such as a working website, logo, and other marketing materials were also developed.

At the conclusion of the project, it was determined that the business model was viable based on interactions with potential users.

Rebecca Rodrigues, Mathematics

Software Package for Computing Far-Field Gravitational-Wave Signals

APEX Faculty Mentor: Scott Field

This project centers around finding a way to accurately propagate gravitational-wave signals over large distances. Through a technique we call gravitational-wave kernel propagation, we can teleport, or propagate, a gravitational-wave signal recorded at a distance r1 (close to the black holes) to a radius r2 (the location of gravitational-wave detectors, effectively infinity). This teleportation technique has typically been carried out in the time-domain. However, this requires knowing the residues and poles defining the kernel, which is not always possible. Therefore, we implemented the frequency-domain teleportation algorithm and explored its applications on test problems using gravitational-wave time series. In this poster presentation, I will also discuss the progress made towards making our Python code implementing the teleportation technique publicly available by writing code tests within a continuous integration framework, adding documentation, and packaging our kernel data into hdf5 files.

Alyson Stellato, Business Management

Arguments for Veganism and their Effectiveness on UMass Dartmouth Students

APEX Faculty Mentor: Laura Hanzly

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. When an individual adopts a vegan lifestyle, it is often followed with questioning or backlash from family, friends, society and even media, but why? Perhaps, these reservations from loved ones and society may come from a place of concern for the new vegan’s health. However, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has confirmed “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes” (Melina, 2016). So, if not for concern for the vegan’s health, then where does the opposition of the vegan lifestyle stem from? Arguably, it is a mixture of misinformation and cognitive dissonance. The purpose of this study is to educate on the implications of animal agriculture, identify the most common arguments for a vegan lifestyle, find which of these topics: human health, environmental health, or animal welfare, is most impactful to UMass Dartmouth students, and acknowledge what makes the vegan message so difficult to receive. The findings will then be applied to the marketing realm and could potentially be extremely beneficial to the future of the food industry and consumerism. 

Jack Sullivan, Physics

Studying the High Abundance of Iron Group Elements in Supernova Remnant 3C397

APEX Faculty Mentor: Robert Fisher

Type Ia supernovae are the thermonuclear explosions of white dwarfs composed of a carbon and oxygen core. These supernovae are essential for use as standardizable cosmological candles to determine distances throughout the universe, and for the nucleosynthesis of iron group elements, including manganese and iron, key to life on Earth. Although type Ia supernovae have been studied extensively, there are still many mysteries surrounding the structure of the white dwarf itself, specifically the detonation mechanism. The supernova remnant (SNR) 3C 397 was observed by the XMM-Newton satellite to have clumps of titanium and iron group elements. We aim to answer important questions about the nature of the explosion mechanism and stellar progenitor of 3C 397 by calculating the nucleosynthetic yields from several hydrodynamics models, focusing on type Ia supernovae from near-Chandrasekhar mass white dwarfs. In order to determine the nature of the detonation mechanism, we simulate these models of exploding white dwarfs, using the FLASH adaptive mesh refinement code. These models include a detonation to deflagration model, and both high density and standard density pure deflagration models. These models let us obtain the nucleosynthesis yields of the remnant and compare it to observations. The outcome of this investigation will facilitate a better understanding of the nature of the progenitor white dwarf of 3C 397, and the nature of the population of type Ia supernovae as a whole.

Spencer Taylor, Marketing

The Effects of Covid-19 on Independent Restaurants Marketing Practices: Downtown New Bedford

APEX Faculty Mentor: Steven White

The Covid-19 Pandemic has had a major impact on the restaurant industry, which caused a shift of focus from the inside dining experience to offering takeout and needing third-party delivery services to stay in business. This presented a large challenge for these small businesses that previously focused on providing a positive dine-in experience for the customer, because now they had to find a way to stay in business with the focus being delivery and takeout. The objective of my project is to gather more research data on the effects of Covid 19 on independent restaurants marketing practices and identify the marketing trends that they all have in common. To gather the required data for this project I will be using the qualitative data collection method, informal phone interviews, with owners or managers about changes in the independent restaurants marketing tactics. This study was able to quantify the degree of change that were forced upon these independent restaurants marketing strategies that were needed for these businesses to remain open and identified three marketing trends that the independent restaurants in the study had in common.

Arune Vickneswaran, Bioengineering

Impact of Vitamin C on Mechanical Properties of Human Cortical Bone

APEX Faculty Mentor: Lamya Karim

Bones are essential organs that maintain structural balance in the human body through their unique composition of protein and minerals. As individuals age, bone mass decreases, leading to increased fragility and risk of bone fractures. Type 2 diabetics are more susceptible to bone fragility due to accelerated osteoclast activity and the formation of AGEs. Therefore, this APEX project in the form of a pilot study aims to investigate compounds that can improve osteocoupling and inhibit AGE formation to enhance bone stability. Vitamin C has shown promise in improving osteocoupling and reducing fracture risk, but its effects on bone mechanics and in vitro incubation dosage are unclear. Thus, this study investigates the mechanical properties of human cortical bones using a calculated Vitamin C dosage. The two primary objectives of this pilot study are to determine if Vitamin C increases bone mechanical properties and the feasibility of 112.5 mg Vitamin C dosage. The physical methodologies involved preparing bone beams, performing microCT analysis, incubating the bone samples, and performing cyclic Reference Point Indentation and 3-point bending tests. The results showed that the 112.5 mg Vitamin C dosage improved some mechanical properties compared to the Ribose group, however, were not significant enough to make definitive conclusions. Thus, future research should primarily focus on increasing the dosage level, retesting mechanical properties and assessing AGE-inhibition. Overall, this study shed new light on the effects of Vitamin C on bone mechanics and highlights the need for further investigation into the appropriate dosage levels.

Jack Vreeland, Accounting

The Future of Accounting

APEX Faculty Mentor: Michael Griffin

My project explores the future of the accounting field and questions if it is possible that artificial intelligence will take over within the next decade. After doing a lot of research, I was able to confidently find a conclusion. My research thesis is as follows; Artificial Intelligence can’t take over the accounting field due to its lack of human decision-making abilities, creativity skills, emotional intelligence, and its ability to follow ethical standards. There has not been much research done specifically about my findings and I hope you find this information informative. I had the help of a few employees at an accounting firm along with a mentor who was able to help add some key points to my findings. I really enjoyed this project and believe my research can be used to inform those interested in going for an accounting profession. It is safe to say you have nothing to worry about being an accounting major.

Christian Abad, Mechanical Engineering

Thermoelectric Generator Computational Analysis of Application for Housing Structures in Cold Environments

APEX Faculty Mentor: Sankha Bhowmick

As the world phases into mitigating the effects of climate change, alternative energy sources have become the forefront for scientific and engineering study, where technology that removes inefficiencies and harmful particulate emissions are a priority. It is for this reason that the utilization of thermoelectric generators, also known by the abbreviation TEG, is a promising prospect for the mitigation of thermal losses often found in the production of useful energy utilized for work such as electric production, heating, fuel ignition, etc. TEG’s work by a temperature differential from two sides at opposite ends that are connected. This temperature differential induces a voltage, known as the Seebeck effect, and thus the device can be used as a waste energy recovery unit or a passive self-sustainable power source under the correct environment. In consideration of these characteristics a computational analysis of the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica base outer wall module set at its standard outer temperature of -49  and inner room temperature of 23  and an American home in the northeast of the United States is also computed at a standard outer wall temperature of -5  and inner wall temperature of 23   is studied to theoretically calculate the maximum power able to be produced from a single unit of a TECI-12710 Peltier TEG within an inhabited outer home wall and whether it would be appliable to power charging stations, lights, or sensors within the structure.

Olivia Aguiar, Biology

Impact of Risk-Induced Trait Changes on Survival During Predation

APEX Faculty Mentor: Michael Sheriff

Predation risk effects are impacts on prey caused by predators that do not include consumption of prey. These can include changes in prey behaviour, physiology, and morphology (i.e., risk-induced trait responses), which can have consequences to individual fitness and population dynamics (i.e., non-consumptive effects). While these risk-induced trait responses can lower individual fitness as compared to times without predation risk, they are assumed to increase fitness in the presence of predators. However, this assumption has been poorly studied. Here, we test the hypothesis that risk-induced trait responses increase fitness in the presence of predators. We tested this hypothesis using Nucella lapillus as prey and Carcinus maenas as our predator, and including mussels as a basal resource in a mesocosm experimental set-up. Nucella were placed into either a control or risk treatment (exposure to non-lethal Carcinus) for 28 days, after which a lethal Carcinus was added to all mesocosms. We found significant changes in behaviour during the risk-period, which led to changes in survival between the treatments. These results add to our growing understanding of the benefits of risk-induced trait responses to individual fitness and to non-consumptive effects generally.

Busola Awobode, English

Digital Literacy and the Digital Native: Language, Attitudes and Proficiency

APEX Faculty Mentor: Elisabeth Buck

Though research in digital literacy and its application to academics has gained traction over the years, much focus is still lacking on digital literacy across various modes, particularly in tertiary education. At the University of Dartmouth Massachusetts, the First-Year English Curriculum, which provides all incoming students with a baseline for English and communication in preparation for their college career does not directly include digital multimodality. Thus, this project aims to determine the levels of proficiency of and attitudes towards digital multimodality among these students to determine how digital multimodality is currently implemented and areas for improvement. A survey was conducted on First-Year English students wherein they answered questions relating to their knowledge, use and attitudes towards digital multimodality within and outside their classrooms. It was determined that while students are adequately exposed to digital multimodality, this exposure occurs predominantly out of the classroom. Additionally, they are not being required to produce digital content across various modes which could impact their proficiency. Finally, students endeavor to interact more with digital multimodality than they do at present.

Salvador Balkus, Data Science

Language AI That Teach Themselves: Transfer Learning for Short Text Classification

APEX Faculty Mentor: Donghui Yan

Short text data such as instant messages and social media posts are a relatively untapped well of potential for businesses. New large-scale natural language models such as GPT-3 can be taught to perform many tasks on short text data, including classifying its topic. Exploring practical issues in short text classification, this study uses GPT-3 to predict whether a question is related to data science using data gathered from the UMass Dartmouth Big Data Club. Although billed as "few-shot learning" with only a small number of examples required to teach a task, in practice GPT-3 requires examples to be either of exceptional quality or of a higher quantity than easily created by hand. To overcome this problem, we can augment the training set by leveraging GPT-3’s generative capabilities to add additional examples. Evaluating two potential models, this study finds that training data augmentation significantly improves model accuracy, and that real-world deployment should employ data quality control measures to select only non-subjective examples for augmentation.

Alexis Belval, Nursing

Assessing Feelings of Loneliness and Social Isolation in Long-Term Care Residents due to COVID-19 Regulations

APEX Faculty Mentor: MaryBeth Sosa

Background: Social isolation and loneliness are major health issues that both community-dwelling older adults and older adults who reside in a long-term care facility (LTCF) face. Loneliness and social isolation are associated with negative health outcomes including depression, increased risk of suicide, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation in the older adult population have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of the safety regulations put in place requiring individuals to be isolated. Purpose: The purpose of this project was to design an educational tool to help health care providers assess and intervene with older adults who live in a long-term care facility at risk for loneliness or social isolation. Methods: Information was gathered through content analysis and literature review regarding definitions and assessment of loneliness and social isolation and interventions that can be used to reduce these feelings. An educational tool was created and presented to caregivers in a long-term care facility. Results: Positive caregiver feedback indicated that there is a need for caregiver education and intervention regarding resident loneliness and social isolation. Conclusions: Education and intervention are vital in the LTCF population in regard to loneliness and social isolation to prevent negative health outcomes.  Caregiver staff is in a good position to assist with this process.  Further research utilizing the developed educational tool is recommended.

Natalie Burgos, Psychology and Crime & Justice Studies

The COVID-19 Pandemic and its Effect on the Inside-Out Program and the Future of Programming at the Bristol County Jail

APEX Faculty Mentor: Erin Krafft

The nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the transition to online programming at jails/prisons. This was to ensure that people in prisons had limited exposure to outside individuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Specifically for the Bristol County Jail, this meant that the Inside-Out program was moved online. The Inside-Out program is an opportunity for students at a college/university (Outside students) to take a class with people who are currently incarcerated (Inside students). Participants of this study included professors at UMass Dartmouth who have taught the Inside-Out course before and during the online programming period. The Participants were interviewed about their experience teaching the Inside-Out course online and their thoughts about the future use of technology in the program. Results of this study concluded that while online programming is possible, it does not allow the Inside-Out program to reach its full potential as an experience for Inside students. However, online programming is better than no programming at all. Future studies would involve more Participants with differences in where they teach their classes, age, gender and how they have adapted their class to fit an online structure.

Okan Canaran, Bioengineering

Extracting Collagen from Fish Skin

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tracie Ferreira

The goal of this project encompasses a quality and cost-effective extraction of collagen by using fish skin as its source. This is achieved through subjecting the fish skin through several treatments of different variables to produce a cost-effective collagen extraction yield from fish skin. This is performed by soaking the fish in several solutions to facilitate a pure extraction. The desirable end-product of collagen powder can be relayed into a further adaptation of the project being its implementation into a hydrogel as a biomaterial dressing to help accelerate skin wound healing. To proof this clause, the status of the collagen extracted should exhibit qualifiable properties that would facilitate a proper biomedical application on a patient. In order to test this project’s hypothesis being that the collagen treatments can be tuned tailored to an optimal production, characterization will be necessary to analyze the properties of this collagen. Out of the tests currently performed, one run looks promising, which is composed of the digestion by the variables of 1M acetic acid and 0.5% pepsin, quantitatively generating an 11.54% yield. This can serve as a trend for determining proper variables, while being used as a comparative analysis subsequently to go further. In addition, characterization tests will infer further details about the collagen itself, the quality aspects of the collagen and whether it is biomedically acceptable. Out of the current runs, this run’s FTIR results indicate proper absorbance compared to literature and higher peaks in comparison to the prior runs. SDS-PAGE hasn’t been conducted currently but will be soon to determine if the proper bands are broken up through digestion. All in all, this is not the only simple answer; this project requires more testing to determine proper trends, so continuous testing is in progress. Further optimizations are also in consideration for implementation in this way. At the conclusion of this project, there will be determination of the optimal variables that will lead to the cost-effective and qualifiable extracted collagen, supporting its further application into skin wound healing.

Alecsander da Silva, Bioengineering

Organic Biocompatible Scaffolding for Treatments of Spinal Cord Injuries

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tracie Ferreira

Each year, there are hundreds of thousands of spinal cord injuries worldwide, which leave many with some level of paralysis. While the level of incidence remains high and the medical consequences are life-altering, effective clinical solutions remain sparse. This research project aims to evaluate the potential to develop an organic biocompatible scaffold for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. During this study, a comprehensive literature review was performed to obtain more knowledge regarding the terminal differentiation of nerve cells, the pathophysiology of spinal cord injuries, and current research regarding the treatment of spinal cord injuries using organic and inorganic materials. Following the literature review, preliminary experimentation was performed to study the potential effectiveness of a nanotube array scaffold to act as a conductive stent to bypass damaged tissues, while also providing regenerative capabilities. The use of organic materials will alleviate any biocompatibility concerns and increase the amount of cellular interactions between nerve cells, leading to higher rates of proliferation and differentiation. In this study, di-peptide nanotube arrays were synthesized via PECVD and cell viability was tested via various MTT assays. Preliminary results have shown that organic materials with conductive properties are both biocompatible and have the ability to form the basis of viable cell scaffolding. Further research will be required to continue evaluating the effectiveness of such a scaffold for the treatment of spinal cord injuries, but preliminary research, in-vitro, is positive.

Brooke DeSimone, Bioengineering

Advanced Glycation End-Product Measurement in Vertebral Bone

APEX Faculty Mentor: Lamya Karim

Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) are harmful crosslinks that form in bone collagen. The accumulation of AGEs can have adverse effects on the mechanical properties of bone and make it more susceptible to fractures. Total AGE content has been measured in femurs and tibias, but this study aims to validate the method for the measurement of AGEs in vertebrae. Vertebral bone specimens were obtained from a healthy human subject and first defatted, lyophilized, and hydrolyzed. The hydrolysates were then diluted 150 times. The fluorescence of quinine standards and the diluted sample hydrolysates was measured with a spectrophotometer. The concentration of quinine in the samples was determined using a standard curve. Then, the absorbance of hydroxyproline standards and the diluted sample hydrolysates was measured, and a standard curve was used to calculate the hydroxyproline concentration for each of the samples. From the concentrations of quinine and hydroxyproline, the amount of collagen in each sample and the total number of AGEs were calculated. The total AGE content of the vertebral bone specimens ranged from 198.5 to 351.1 ng quinine / mg collagen.

Maranda Dutra, Nursing

Undergraduate Nursing Student’s Attitudes toward Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) versus Transgender Patients

APEX Faculty Mentor: Shannon Avery-Desmarais

Previous research indicates that LGBTQ+ individuals have experienced stigma and discrimination throughout their healthcare experiences by all levels of providers. It is important for nurses to create a safe and welcoming environment for all patients and to do so, nurses must be culturally competent in caring for minority populations. The purpose of this study is to better understand nursing student's attitudes, knowledge, skills and overall cultural competence in working with the LGBTQ+ population. Forty-one undergraduate nursing students participated in the study. The Sexual Orientation Counselor Competency Scale (SOCCS) versions two and three were used to compare knowledge, attitudes, skills and overall cultural competency toward LGB versus transgender patients. Nursing students have worse attitudes, skill sets and overall cultural competence in caring for transgender patients in comparison to LGB patients. Nursing students have more general knowledge regarding transgender patients than LGB patients. Nursing students with prior healthcare experience had no difference in LGB or transgender cultural competence. Nursing students overall LGB and transgender cultural competence did not consistently improve with year of schooling.

Lizette Fontes, Bioengineering

Optimization of fish-gelatin based hydrogel for rapid wound healing

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tracie Ferreira

A fish-gelatin based hydrogel can serve as a great advantage in the use of medical applications. The creation of a three-component hydrogel is based off recent literature involving the use of Nile Tilapia fish skin as a skin substitute in the treatment of superficial burns. The scope of this project is to gather information from literature to create an antimicrobial and mechanically robust wound healing hydrogel. This hydrogel was tested for ultimate tensile strength to compare it to the tensile strength of healthy human skin. A three-component hydrogel made up of fish gelatin, sodium alginate, and glucomannan was created using literature. Five individual samples from three 1% fish gelatin, 1% sodium alginate, and 1% glucomannan were used to access for tensile strength. Stress strain curves were created, and the average ultimate tensile strength of the hydrogel was found. The ultimate tensile strength found does not align with the ultimate tensile strength of healthy skin found in literature. For future works, several modifications can be made to improve the hydrogel to make it mechanically robust.

Luanna Goncalves, Crime & Justice Studies

How Undocumentation Results In A Justification Of Human Rights Violations

APEX Faculty Mentor: Heather Turcotte

The strong presence of undocumented immigrants in the United States has led to questions concerning whether they deserve the same rights as U.S. citizens or if there is a valid justification for being treated differently due to one's legal status, and it has become evident that their lives have been disregarded through laws put in place that only contribute to more prejudice and diminishing of their value as a human being. How is it that we live in a country where liberty and justice are promised for everyone but we are constantly witnessing prejudice and violence against those who don’t fit the standards of white America? This distinction between US citizens and undocumented immigrants is exposed when analyzing the policies that were made to exclude immigrants from the rights and benefits that are essential to having a good quality of life. From factors like social media, the healthcare system and restrictions of stimulus checks have all done a small part in making sure that undocumented immigrants are seen as people who need to be pushed out of a country that doesn’t belong to them. Citizenship is treated as if it were a privilege to have and the lack of it has been used as a weapon for decades in attempt to dispose of those who are not deemed worthy and in order to fully understand the reasons behind it, we must analyze the history of interpersonal violence between the people and the state, along with the construction of our borders.

Peyton Houghton-Papas, Political Science

Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare Outcomes of the Pandemic: The Equity of Intersectional Feminism

APEX Faculty Mentor: Peter Sandby-Thomas

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had drastic consequences on healthcare in the United States. Women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) access has become one of these many overlooked aspects that have faced damaging effects. This research explores to what extent women have been impacted by their relationship with SRH throughout the pandemic. Additionally, it investigates how policies that incorporate intersectional feminist approaches could mitigate these short and long-term impacts. To effectively evaluate these topics. I have utilized a mixed-methods case study analysis which primarily employs a qualitative and quantitative analysis of secondary sources. My analysis found that limited access to SRH has deeply affected economic and social opportunities for women in the United States. Furthermore, the enactment of an intersectional feminist recovery plan stands to benefit both women and society overall. In conclusion, the U.S. must thoroughly address the importance of women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare access while acknowledging the role of intersectionality to provide equity.

Anna Kerwood, Biology

Regulation of Two Genes During the Clownfish-Sea Anemone Symbiosis

APEX Faculty Mentor: Robert Drew

The Clark’s anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) produces mucus that protects it from sea anemones that differ widely in adhesiveness of the tentacles and toxicity of the venom. The Drew Lab is testing the hypothesis that anemonefish regulate gene expression in skin to adjust their protective mucus to suit different sea anemone species. An RNA-seq analysis by the Drew lab identified over 600 genes that were differentially expressed between fish interacting with strongly adhesive and toxic Haddon's carpet sea anemones compared to naïve fish with no sea anemone. I investigated three of these genes: von Willebrand factor and EGF domain containing protein (VWDE), disheveled-associated activator of morphogenesis 1-like (DAAM1), and an uncharacterized protein. Using BLAST, I verified the sequences and mapped exon boundaries. Then I measured the expression of each gene using quantitative PCR and compared them to the RNA-seq results. Although the Clark’s anemonefish regulates the expression of these genes, it is not known whether these genes contribute directly to the protection or whether these are a symptom of interacting with a more dangerous species of sea anemone.

Brianna Ko, Art Education

A Craft Based Approach to Art Education in K-12

APEX Faculty Mentor: Kathy Miraglia

In this study, the researcher, Brianna Ko, explored the use of a craft-based approach to art education in K-12 classrooms. A craft-based approach to art education uses various mediums (woodworking, textiles, jewelry, glass working, paper, ceramics etc.) in the art curriculum. The research questions were: 1) how well informed are teachers on the use of craft as an approach to art education, and 2) does learning about craft change students’ perceptions of craft. A review of the current literature was used to gain background knowledge. A qualitive and demographic method was implemented for this study. Data were collected using a national general survey, and pre and post lesson questionnaires for the visual arts classroom teacher at New Bedford High School and her five classes. Observations and reflections were also noted about the students and the lesson. The procedure for this study was as follows: IRB approval, school district approval, student and teacher consent/assent, distribution of national general survey, pre lesson questionnaires, lesson implementation at New Bedford High School, observational notes/reflections written, post lesson questionnaire. Results were presented through themes and categories that were created through the analysis of student pre and post lesson questionnaires, and the general survey were presented in the form of pie charts. It was concluded that many of the researchers’ findings match those in the review of literature. Also, adopting craft as a teaching approach can enrich the way art educators design a lesson. Recommendations for teachers to use this approach in their classrooms were given.

Joshua Letizia, Mechanical Engineering

Effects of Flocked Reticulated Foams on Air Filtration and Purification Methods

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tracie Ferreira

For the past year, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Bioengineering Department was awarded funding to carry out research and development of an ovel air-scrubber/filtration media material based on Flocked Reticulated Foam (FRF) structures. A patent application has been filed on this UMD created FRF technology. The initiation of this project was inspired by the opportunity presented to UMD by Ocean State Shields, (OSS) LLC, a start-up company (Providence, RI). OSS is involved in the commercial development of low-cost unitary air-purification devices for human habitation areas (single rooms, offices, school-rooms, healthcare facilities). OSS needs an effective air-scrubber filtration media onto which they can coat their proprietary air-contact induced biocide surface active material. UMD’s research is dedicated to helping OSS with their air-scrubber filter materials needs and beyond. This OCTV funded research will focus on developing FRF as the key base material in this application. This research has been a focus point in the terminology of air pollution filtration and other forms of purification, however, due to the pandemic, it has seen an increase in research on its capabilities.

Sophia Maloney-Buckey, Biology

The Effects of Carcinus Presence on the Morphology of Nucella

APEX Faculty Mentor: Michael Sheriff

The phenotypic plasticity of prey allows them to increase their chances of survival when experiencing predation risk by making predator-induced morphological transformations (Bourdeau 2011). Nucella have been observed to respond to predation risk in such a manner, i.e., by thickening their shells in the presence of predators (Donelan 2020). Here we tested the hypothesis that the morphological changes that prey make as a result of predation risk help to improve their fitness. First, we conducted an experiment that compared growth (changes in tissue and shell weight and shell length) of Nucella that were either exposed to non-lethal Carcinus (green crabs with their claws banded; experimental group) or that had no predator present (control group). We then examined if these morphological changes in tissue and shell mass and length improved individual survival by exposing both groups to lethal Carcinus predators (free to consume prey). We found that changes in tissue and shell weight and length were very small and did not differ between the groups, nor did they predict the probability of survival in predator exposed Nucella. This is likely due to the problem of not including food during my experiments, as subsequent experiments testing similar hypothesis found the predation risk did reduce growth in the presence of food.

Isabella Mancini, Biology

The Impact of Resource Availability on Prey Responses to Predation Risk

APEX Faculty Mentor: Michael Sheriff

Predation risk is a pervasive force in ecology, shaping species interactions and community dynamics. When prey are exposed to predators they may alter their behavior, physiology, or morphology. Risk-induced behavioral changes can include changes to prey refuge use and risk aversion behavior. I hypothesized that the strength of these non-consumptive effects and prey behavioral decisions may depend on resource availability or prey state. I tested this by either exposing the dogwhelk, Nucella lapillus, to non-lethal green crabs, Carcinus maenas (rendered non-lethal by gluing their claws together) or not, for 28 days while varying food availability using the basal resource, Mytilus edulis. We measured individual behavior of Nucella every 3 days throughout the experiment. We also measured initial and final tissue weights, shell weights, and shell lengths of each Nucella in order to track growth. We found that risk-exposed Nucella were more risk averse. We also found that food availability increased risk aversion regardless of risk treatment. Food availability also significantly increased individual growth compared to non-food treatments. I found that there was a cost of predation risk on individual growth when compared to non-risk treatments, however initial prey state did not significantly impact risk aversion, nor did growth. These findings support the hypothesis that resources increase prey state enough to decrease risky behavior when faced with predation risk.

Christopher McGuire

Using Self-Care Behaviors as a Mediator of Health Anxiety for Nurses during the COVID-19 Pandemic

APEX Faculty Mentor: Brian Ayotte

The COVID-19 pandemic is related to psychological struggle in nurses, including health anxiety. Data were collected from 148 nurses via an online questionnaire to measure health anxiety symptoms and self-care behaviors. There was a significant difference in health anxiety between nurses who treated patients with COVID-19 versus those who did not, but engaging in self-care behaviors attenuated this difference. This study demonstrates the importance of self-care behaviors for nurses managing mental health outcomes.

Erin Murphy, Sociology/Anthropology

Representing Native Peoples in a Colonized Film Industry

APEX Faculty Mentor: Isabel Rodrigues

The representation of Native Peoples within the film industry has been plagued by deep rooted stereotypes and imaginings of American heroism that pre-date the inception of the mainstream film industry. The film industry is dominated by and perpetuates a white male narrative that treats Euro-American culture as the standard from which storytelling derives. Moreover, this same industry has had a history of discriminatory hiring practices and exclusion of roles that do not fit the white American dominat views. Only recently have we seen an emerging alternative film production that is struggling to compete with the predominantly white industry and create film narratives where representation and authorship of their own images and identities are not exclusively defined and controlled by white dominant culture.  Therefore, analyzing the differences in representation within films by white filmmakers and Native American filmmakers has the potential to reveal how Native peoples are reclaiming their own narratives about their polyphonic stories and histories as well as gaining insight into how oppressive structures are slowly being dismantled by the communities being oppressed.

Chase Parenteau, Applied Mathematics

A Development and Analysis of a New Statistic to Calculate Player Value and Team Building Ability

APEX Faculty Mentor: Yanlai Chen

A deep dive into the development of a new statistic in the NBA that hopefully will build towards a new analytical wave in basketball that more fairly evaluates the value of role players

Benjamin Pfeffer, Data Science

Generating Cancer Images to Improve Cancer Diagnosis Accuracy

APEX Faculty Mentor: Donghui Yan

The lack of publicly available medical data has been negatively impacting Artificial Intelligence in its ability to be used in the medical field [1]. Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs, have been used to create similar, but novel images using real images [2]. Hence, GANs may be used to produce images that can augment a small amount of publicly available medical data in a way that leads to the improvement of Artificial Intelligence’s accuracy. Here, breast cancer tissue images and their corresponding h-scores were scraped from Stanford’s TMA database and converted into GLCMs, which were then read by GANs for each h-score to produce novel images of each score. Then, the new and generated data were used to train an Ordinal-Convolutional Neural Network (O-CNN), whose results were compared to a network that was trained without the generated data. The O-CNN whose training data consisted of the generated images as well as the base images had an increased accuracy and a decreased MSE when compared to the O-CNN whose training data consisted only of the base images. These results provide a method for improving Artificial Intelligence’s ability on smaller datasets and may help provide a slight improvement when dealing with the issue of a lack of publicly available medical data.

Aubrey Pickard, Biology

Patterns of Protandry and Protogyny in Lepidoptera

APEX Faculty Mentor: Genevieve Kozak

Lepidopteran (moth and butterfly) species can exhibit two opposing emergence strategies. These emergence strategies are protandry, when males emerge before females, and protogyny, when females emerge before males. Which emergence strategy any given species uses depends on the life-history characteristics and operational sex ratio. While protandry is thought to be more common in Lepidoptera, no systematic evaluation of protogyny has been done. In addition, emergence strategies may shift in changing climates, as increased temperatures might alter development in sex-specific ways. In this study, we performed a literature review of emergence strategies in Lepidoptera, and recorded changes in emergence strategies at differing temperatures if available. From this review, it was found that introduced/invasive species may have a bias for being more protogynous compared to non-invasive pests, common species, or those of conservation concern. We also found that for one species, reports in the literature were inconsistent among studies. We experimentally tested the species Ostrinia nubilalis—a pest that was introduced to North America 100 years ago—in the laboratory. We found that individuals collected from the field less than 5 generations ago were very slightly protandrous, while those that had been raised in the laboratory under constant temperatures for many generations were protogynous. Although development time was reduced at higher temperatures, the order of emergence did not change. These findings have two-fold importance as they show that protogyny may be correlated with invasiveness in Lepidoptera and that mating strategies can change after long periods in benign captive rearing conditions.

Timothy Powers, Physics

Optimizing the Calculation of the Strange Attractor's Correlation Dimension

APEX Faculty Mentor: Jianyi Jay Wang

Physicists frequently work in situations with an integer number of dimensions, such as lines, planes, and volumes. However, there are structures that exist in specially defined parameter spaces which have non-integer dimensions. One such structure is the Strange Lorenz Attractor, a special case of the Lorenz flow model. The choice of specific system parameters yields a model with non-integer dimensionality due to its fractal structure. One numerical method of calculating the attractor's fractal dimension involves choosing a point near the attractor and counting how frequently a particle moving within the structure enters a defined neighborhood of the chosen point. For a set of several of these neighborhoods, the log of this frequency vs. the log of the neighborhood size yields a linear relationship whose slope is an approximate correlation dimension for the attractor. This work applies the described method to the most famous set of parameters for the attractor, with the goal of verifying the method's ability to determine the fractal dimension. Additionally, modifications are made to the process to seek improvement of numerical accuracy and computational efficiency.

Natalia Reyes, Marketing and Management - Leadership

The Effects of Implementing a Marketing Plan on a Small Construction Company

APEX Faculty Mentor: Steven White

One of the biggest threats posed by small businesses is not focusing enough on marketing. Marketing is one of the many keys to ensuring that companies grow and succeed. It allows for brands to maintain and keep current customers satisfied while also building upon their customer base and engage with potential customers. Without marketing an amazing product may never succeed because it is not heard of by the public. Social media has changed the way in which the world communicates. It enables companies to reach their target market in a much easier, efficient, and successful manner. Marketing plans, especially those that incorporate social media, are a big part of what assist small businesses in success and allow them to continue stimulating and diversifying the economy while also providing thousands of new jobs.

Austin Sa, Mechanical Engineering Major

Fracture Mechanics of Adhesively Bonded 3D Printed Bi-Materials

APEX Faculty Mentor: Vijaya Chalivendra

During this experimental investigation, fused deposition modeling (FDM) is used to create bi-material single leg bending samples (SLB). The printer selected is an Ultimaker 3 and using determined polymers, which include Polylactic Acid (PLA) and Nylon Polyamide, the fracture toughness and strain prior to crack initiation is examined. The samples are designed in Solidworks and extracted into Cura slicer where a G-Code is generated. The sample crack initiation is triggered by the placement of a Kapton Tape strip on the bi-material adhesion layer. This creates a pre-crack and a predictable interfacial fracture location. The fracture can then be observed using a high-resolution camera at this location. Unique combinations of these samples are created with the use of abrasive polymer filaments reinforced with carbon fibers along with the standard PLA and Nylon 6 polymers. This allows the bi-material mechanical interlocking to be observed during SLB quasi-static testing. This testing is completed using an Instron 5569.

Mohammed Shonar, Mechanical Engineering

Damage-Sensing in Glass/Carbon Intra-ply Reinforced Plastics

APEX Faculty Mentor: Vijaya Chalivendra

A comprehensive experimental study was performed to characterize the electro-mechanical damage sensing capabilities of Carbon/Glass inter-ply composites with a novel liquid thermoplastic resin, Elium®. This unique thermoplastic resin allows for the matrix to be fully recyclable while maintaining the same fabrication techniques of standard thermoset resins. Unlike thermosets, thermoplastic polymers have the ability to break weak bonds when exposed to high temperatures, which can reversibly melt the plastic matrix. As such, Elium® composites can be recycled by dissolution and thermoforming, as demonstrated in literature. The recyclability aspects of this thermoplastic composite make for a more viable composite to solve the end-of-life issues of discarding composites to landfills. In the present study, a vacuum infusion process was employed to fabricate the laminates. Laminates of four different fabric orientations were constructed: G-0-C-90 (Carbon fibers are in the longitudinal direction), G-90-C-0 (Glass fibers are in the longitudinal direction), G-45-C-45(R) [Both fabrics are at opposing 45 degrees, (R) indicates a repeating layup], and G-45-C-45(A) [(A) indicates alternating layup where direction swaps for each other lamina]. The electrical and mechanical responses were studied under in-plane-shear and mode-I fracture loading conditions. A four-probe circumferential measuring technique was utilized to acquire the piezo-resistive response. In the in-plane-shear experiments, results indicate a two-phase electrical response, in which the electrical resistance remains steady followed by a phase of increasing resistance. The G-0-C-90 and G-45-C-45(A) had the greatest shear strength. Due to non-linear deformation, both G-45-C-45 layups had substantially larger shear strain at failure than other orientations. The mode-I fracture experiments also show increasing resistance in the latter stages of fracture, with crack propagation correlating to load drops and electrical resistance increases. Mode-I fracture initiation toughness was greatest with the G-0-C-90 orientation followed by the G-45-C-45(A) orientation.

Chelsey Silva, Bachelor of Science in Nursing

COVID-19 and the Mental Health of Nurses

APEX Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Chin

The purpose of this study was to identify the differences between pre-pandemic and current level of self-reported anxiety, depression, and stress within the nursing population who have been working in Southeastern MA throughout the current global pandemic. A secondary goal was to identify work-related factors that contributed to increase anxiety, depression, and stress during the pandemic. The study was a cross-sectional, descriptive-correlation survey design using 3 valid and reliable instruments to measure anxiety, depression, and stress levels in participants.  Participants were also asked to identify work-related factors contributing to increases in anxiety, depression, and stress during the pandemic. A total of 42 participants responded to the survey. This study found a statistically significant increase in the levels of anxiety, depression, and stress in nurses during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, work related factors contributing to the increases were identified and included short staffing (93%), nurse patient ratios (62%), loss of control over workflow (62%), lack of support (58%) and lack of resources (55%) Covid-19 has had mental health implications for nurses working in the Southeastern MA area. More services to support the mental health of nurses need to be implemented in healthcare facilities to promote the well-being of the staff and in turn the safety of patients.  Future research with a larger sample size should be conducted to evaluate the long-term impact of Covid-19 on nurse mental health

Emily Silva, Biology

Effect of microbial communities on root foraging strategies

APEX Faculty Mentor: Tara Rajaniemi

Different plant species display different root foraging strategies, and this may be influenced by their unique soil microbial communities. Plant soil microbial communities were then isolated and used to create soil mixtures where seedlings were grown. The boxes they were grown in contained either one soil type or were split down the center into two soil types. Results show that Plantago grew better in Poa soil, Centaurea favored its own soil over Achillea, and that Plantago favored Centaurea soil over its own, while the other species showed no significant differences. This may be due to species having different foraging strategies.

Hailey Smith

The Effects of Floral Volatiles on Pollinator Foraging Behavior

APEX Faculty Mentor: Robert Gegear

Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) are signaling chemicals emitted by plants that can serve many purposes, including facilitating pollination and deterring herbivory. Previous work has shown VOC makeup differs across the different floral tissues and nectar in both Impatiens pallida and Impatiens capensis; however, the functional significance of VOC partitioning in flowers is presently unknown. The goal of this research was to understand the relationship between Impatiens VOCs and the sensory system of their main bumblebee pollinator, Bombus impatiens. In a series of controlled laboratory experiments, we assessed the behavioral response of B. impatiens foragers to gustatory and olfactory cues of each VOC at naturally occurring concentrations. Results showed that Impatiens VOCs had varying effects on B. impatiens gustatory responses, with volatiles found in the nectar eliciting a neutral to positive response and volatiles found exclusively in floral tissues eliciting a neutral to negative response. To further explore the functional importance of floral volatile partitioning in Impatiens, we conducted an additional experiment on the individual choice behavior of Bombus Impatiens foragers on artificial floral arrays containing volatiles eliciting appetitive (oxoisophorone) and aversive (linalool) forager responses. As found in the first series of experiments, foragers showed a strong gustatory preference for oxoisophorone and strong aversion to linalool. Collectively, the results of this work indicate that plants partition floral volatiles based on the gustatory preferences of their main pollinator thereby maximize pollination efficiency.

Caitlin Stopka, Nursing

Differences in Anxiety and Stress Levels of Float and Unit-Based Nurses

APEX Faculty Mentor: Monika Schuler

Float nurses are commonly utilized in hospitals to adapt to changes in patient populations. These nurses are not assigned to a permanent unit, and instead, move to a different unit every shift based on the needs of the hospital. Float nurses have reported a lack of support, orientation, and resources while floating. Prior literature has shown that float nurses report increased feelings of stress and anxiety while floating. However, prior literature had not examined if there are differences in float nurses’ anxiety and stress compared to unit-based nurses. A quantitative correlational study was utilized to assess anxiety and stress levels of float and unit-based nurses. The survey was administered through nursing-focused Facebook groups; a total of 113 respondents fully completed the survey. Anxiety and stress were measured using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) scale and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10). Both float and unit-based nurses' average scores were indicative of moderate stress and moderate anxiety levels. However, there was no statistical difference in anxiety and stress levels between the two groups. It appears that stress and anxiety are of concern for all nurses, giving evidence that nurses need more support to improve their mental well-being. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown to have a negative impact on nurses’ mental health, and may be the reason why there was no difference in stress and anxiety levels between the two groups of nurses. Health care agencies should focus on providing support and resources to improve the mental well-being of nurses.

Ian Sullivan, Bioengineering

Effects of Physical and Mechanical Properties of ECM on Activation of Host Immune System for the Purpose of Angiogenesis

APEX Faculty Mentor: Steven Zanganeh

The purpose of this research is to further understand how the innate immune system plays a role with the insertion of a scaffold and understanding how the adaptive immune system activates to promote tissue regeneration and angiogenesis.  This project will utilize macrophages and test how they change phenotype based on the substrate they’re cultured on in the hopes of creating an anti-inflammatory response.  The importance of this topic is to work towards understanding the immune system and how to control it.  In vitro studies of implants have been producing promising results, however, when these studies are tested in vivo, the implant fails because of the lack of understanding of the host immune system.  This creates the need to gain more knowledge of how various immune cells interact with different types of implants in order to improve the field of tissue engineering and medicine.

Lauren E. Talbot

Development of Peer Mentorship Program for College Students with ADHD: A Pilot Study

APEX Faculty Mentor: Heloisa Alves

Although most schools have a counseling center and a student resource center, studies have shown that only 40% of students with ADHD are offered adequate accommodations, and just 45% of students with access to accommodations reported using it (Green & Rabiner, 2012). University of Massachusetts Dartmouth students who have been diagnosed with ADHD do not currently have access to accommodations that specifically target their everyday academic, emotional, and social difficulties (e.g., enhancing self-management skills). In this context, a more appropriate (and practical) support system is needed; one that provides the specific tools and skills that these students need to succeed academically and in life.  The objective of the project was to develop a pilot peer mentorship program for college students with ADHD that will address four main skills: Academic Goal Setting, Time Management, Study Skills, and Wellness.

Alexa Van Voorhis, Bioengineering

Shark Skin Inspired Textured Surfaces for Drag Manipulation Under Laminar Flow to Enhance Wave Energy Convertor Efficiency

APEX Faculty Mentor: Daniel MacDonald

Wave energy converters are gaining traction in the renewable energy industry due to their enormous energy potential and reliable energy source. The Maximal Asymmetric Wave Energy Converter (MADWEC) developed at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth replaces the metal spar in point absorber wave energy converters with a tethered ballast system that reduces the weight and cost of the typical design. To be effective, the tethered ballast must remain in tension as the MADWEC ascends and descends by manipulating drag. Biomimicry can be incorporated to assist in manipulation of drag and in turn making energy conversion more effective. A shark skin denticle-like pattern can be applied to the water columns of the MADWEC which have been hypothesized to assist in drag manipulation. Shark skin denticle-like surfaces have been utilized to decrease drag under turbulent conditions, but no studies have been conducted where effect of drag on the denticle like pattern is analyzed under laminar flow. Denticle patterns under laminar flow could potentially be applicable for the MADWEC; Therefore, seven denticle patterns with varying angles and arrangements on a flat plate were tested in a recirculating water tunnel where the effect of drag was analyzed. Two different flow directions were tested to simulate the ascent and descent of the MADWEC on the waves.  The results showed that the presence of the denticle pattern increases drag under laminar flow compared to a flat control. This could be due to the denticle’s ability to trap eddies responsible for inducing turbulent flow.

Elizabeth West, Marketing & Management

Business Feasibility Study for a Software as a Service (SaaS) Start-Up

APEX Faculty Mentor: Steven White

A business model is a key element for small business success. It is the managerial equivalent of the scientific method—you start with a hypothesis, which you then test in action and revise when necessary. A business model provides insight into what drives customers to a certain business and how can a business deliver value to the customer. This study was conducted to test ETA Wiz’s business feasibility for a software as a service (SaaS). ETA Wiz is a mobile app development designed to provide live-location sharing for businesses and service providers. The business model was an essential component for this research as it allowed for experimentation, testing, and validation of the different elements that would contribute to the business’ success. The project concluded with the 9 validated elements of the business model and a recommendation for ETA Wiz’s go to-market strategy.

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