Undergraduate Research Day 2024

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    Enhanced Computational Tool for Seismic Fault Sensitivity Screening
    (2024) Subramaniyan, Vishnu; Mandhan, Sai; Maheshwari, Raunak; Bensi, Michelle; Lundstern, Jens-Erik
    Earthquakes occur when stress exceeds the strength of pre-existing faults, potentially causing severe damage to the built environment. It is critical to identify the faults that are most likely to rupture, given our knowledge of various subsurface properties. Existing fault screening tools are closed-source or have limitations that affect their usefulness in research and engineering applications. Our team is developing a more efficient, open-source seismic fault sensitivity screening software program designed to support probabilistic seismic hazard analysis and geophysical research. Our research aims to improve upon existing tools by leveraging vectorization to increase calculation speeds and offering choice among multiple probabilistic distributions to capture uncertainty in input parameters. Moreover, the open-source nature of this tool enables researchers to adapt the program for their own purposes to support seismic hazard assessment.
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    Expression of Human RPS17 and RPS23 in E. Coli Bacterial Cells
    (2024-04) Bloom, Kaylee; Perera, Senanga; Outmezguine, Daniel; Patel, Tulsi; Hunter, Kennedi; Kothari, Yashi; Guevara, Ivan; Pham, Thong; Zeidan, Quira
    Ribosome biogenesis is vital for a cell to make proteins and proceed through the central dogma of molecular biology. Human ribosomal proteins (RPs) RPS17 and RPS23 are protein-encoding genes associated with the formation of ribosomes in cells. Serious diseases are linked to dysfunction of RPS17 and RPS23. Mutations in RPS17 have been linked to Diamond-Blackfan anemia, a rare inherited bone marrow disease that affects red blood cells, leading to anemia. RPS23 protein dysfunction is linked to Hepatocellular carcinoma, a severe form of liver cancer. In this study, RPS17 and RPS23 were cloned and expressed with two different bacterial expression plasmids, pNIC28-Bsa4 and pNH-TrxT, with 100% sequence confirmation. Plasmids were then transformed into BL21 E. coli cells, and IPTG induction was used to express RPS17 and RPS23. SDS-PAGE, followed by Coomassie staining, was conducted to confirm the successful expression of the proteins. Future research will determine how overexpression and posttranslational modifications of RPS17 and RPS23 link to cellular growth and homeostasis.
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    Cloning and Expression of Human RPS24 into E.coli and the HEK293 Cell Line
    (2024-04-26) Merrifield, Katherine; Apgar, Sofia; Jessica Whitney; Argueta, Vicky; Zeidan, Quira
    Ribosome biogenesis is the process of constructing ribosomes and requires ribosomal RNA, ribosomal proteins (RPs), and assembly factors. The products of eukaryotic ribosome biogenesis are the large 60S subunit and the small 40S subunit, of which RPS24 is crucial in its formation. In addition to its translational roles, RPS24 is associated with regulating cell growth and proliferation, apoptosis, and DNA damage response. We hypothesize that the extra-ribosomal functions of RPS24 are impacted by its post-translational modifications (PTMs). To elucidate the functions of these PTMs, the coding sequence of human RPS24 was cloned into pNH-TrxT and pNIC28-Bsa4 bacterial expression vectors via ligase-independent cloning. The recombinant plasmids were then transformed into BL21 E.coli cells, and initial trials were conducted to optimize growth and expression conditions for the two transformed strains. Protein expression was determined using SDS-PAGE and Coomassie staining, the results of which indicated moderate levels of the RPS24 fusion protein in cells transformed with both the recombinant plasmids. RPS24 expression was observed without IPTG induction, indicating leaky expression. In parallel experiments, we investigated the overexpression of RPS24 in HEK293 cells from the plasmid pcDNA3.1(C)DYK, and successful transfection was confirmed by SDS-PAGE and Western Blot analysis. We aim to investigate the role of RPS24 PTMs in cell proliferation and viability under various stress conditions to evaluate their impact on tumor development.
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    Expressing Human Ribosomal Proteins S20 and S26 in Modified E.coli (BL21) Cells
    (2024-04-26) Lee, Maia; Quenano, Erika; Owen, Jennifer; Ngouba, Andrea; Zahniser, Hannah; Tafesh, Talah; Ofoegbu, Stacie; Weber, Louis; Quira Zeidan
    Ribosomes are fundamental in creating proteins that contribute to the proper functioning of cellular processes. Thus, ribosome biogenesis must occur with integrity by appropriately expressing ribosomal proteins (RPs). Mutations in the genes of human RPS20 and RPS26 have been linked to disruption in the translation machinery and anomalies in the production of red blood cells, leading to diseases such as Diamond-Blackfan Anemia. To develop our understanding of the role of mutations in human RPS20 and RPS26, we performed ligase-independent cloning of their coding sequence into pNIC28-Bsa4 and pNH-TrxT and transformed these plasmids into a BL21 E. coli expression system. IPTG induction was used to determine conditions necessary to maximize the expression of soluble RPS20 and RPS26. After SDS-PAGE, Coomassie staining showed successful expression of RPS26 in response to IPTG induction, whereas RPS20 was produced regardless of IPTG presence. Human RPs expressed in bacteria are often purified from insoluble inclusion bodies; thus, determining the conditions for maximal solubility provides an optimal strategy for studying fusion proteins. Future research on the effects of the overexpression of RPS20 and RPS26 on human cell growth and viability will expand our understanding of the complex mechanisms of human ribosome biogenesis and its role in disease.
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    Stable accumulation of human ribosomal proteins SA, S2, S3, S4X, S6, S7 in rabbit reticulocyte cell-free expression system
    (2024) Neuheisel, Mary Louisa; Streit, Julia; Zeidan, Quira
    Mutations in human ribosomal proteins (RPs) contribute to severe, tissue-specific pathologies, indicating roles that extend beyond protein translation. RPSA is associated with pancreatic cell migration and congenital asplenia, while RPS3, RPS4X, and RPS7 are linked to Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA). While we understand the nucleolar assembly of RPs, the cytoplasmic events preceding RP translocation into the nucleus remain unclear. This work investigated the expression and posttranslational modifications (PTMs) of human RPSA, RPS2, RPS3, RPS4X, RPS6, and RPS7 using Rabbit Reticulocyte Lysate (RRL), an enucleated cell-free system that allows the study of cytosolic modifications crucial for RP stability. We conducted coupled transcription/translation experiments with Western blot analyses and immunoprecipitations with anti-FLAG antibodies and magnetic beads to analyze RP expression and cytosolic PTMs. Our results demonstrated the robust and stable expression of RPs, with distinct abundance and stability among different proteins despite expression from the same promoter under identical conditions. RPSA, RPS3, and RPS6 exhibited a molecular weight of approximately 8-10 kDa higher than predicted, suggesting PTM with a peptide. We also detected the presence of enzymes for O-GlcNAc modification within the RRL system. Treatment with TMG, an O-GlcNAcase inhibitor, resulted in increased O-GlcNAcylation levels. We propose that the RRL system is an invaluable tool for probing the roles of PTMs in the extraribosomal activity of RPs within the cytoplasm, representing a relevant and accessible model to deepen our understanding of ribosomopathies and their future therapeutic interventions.
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    Deciphering the Factors: Faculty Discretion in Academic Misconduct Referrals
    (2024) Groisser, Kara; Bersani, Bianca
    College campuses face widespread academic misconduct, with rates as high as 80-95%, but only 3-9% of cases are reported (Cochran 2017; Hard, Conway, Moran 2006; McCabe 2005; Vandehey, Diekhokk, LaBeff 2007). Examples include cheating during exams, collaborative assignments meant to be individual, and improper use of online sources. At the University of Maryland, common sanctions for academic misconduct include a 12-month "XF," and suspension or expulsion is possible for repeated or severe offenses. Despite university administrations implementing honor codes, such as the Code of Academic Integrity at the University of Maryland, academic misconduct persists. These codes outline policies, expectations, and disciplinary processes, with faculty required to report suspicions. Despite severe sanctions like course failure, suspension, and expulsion, students continue to cheat, and faculty are reluctant to report their suspicions of misconduct. The persistence of academic misconduct despite these measures raises questions about the motivations behind student behavior and the responses of faculty and administrations (Waltzer, Samuelson, Dahl 2022). Existing research underscores the crucial role of faculty in deterring cheating, with inconsistent responses to misconduct by faculty fostering a culture of dishonesty that further encourages misconduct. This research aims to address the inconsistency in formal referrals of students suspected of academic misconduct by faculty. Faculty discretion leads to unequal treatment, impacting the likelihood of students being caught for cheating and facing sanctions like suspension or expulsion. A comprehensive understanding of factors influencing faculty decisions to refer and identifying a profile of likely referrers would enhance the fairness and equity of the student judicial process.
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    Students' Use of Retrieval Practice
    (2024) Aliabadi, Farah; Oscilowski, Joseph; Wieczynski, Aleysa; Hartwig, Marissa
    Retrieval practice is the highly effective learning strategy of recalling facts and concepts from memory. Examples of retrieval practice include using flashcards, practice quizzes, open-ended recall, and other exercises where information is retrieved from memory. Research is mixed on whether or not students choose to use retrieval practice and whether they fully understand its benefits for their learning. Our research seeks to better understand student attitudes toward retrieval practice. We hypothesized that the type of retrieval under consideration–for example, ready-made quiz questions vs. free-recall summarization–might affect students’ inclination to study with retrieval practice. Two studies examined the popularity of two retrieval practice methods–practice quizzing and summarization–compared to passive studying (i.e., reviewing instructional materials). Study 1 was conducted with undergraduates in a laboratory setting (N = 93). Study 2 was conducted in high school math classes in four different high schools (N = 567). In both studies, participants were taught unfamiliar math lessons via computer tutorials. A study phase followed, where participants could restudy the materials in preparation for a test by selecting any of three study tools: quiz, summarize, or review. Participants could use any combination of tools and could also quit studying at any time. In both studies, the quiz tool was significantly more popular than reviewing or summarization. These results suggest that students’ inclination to use retrieval practice for studying may depend on the form of retrieval practice.
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    Skibbereen, Ireland: A Legacy of the Famine
    (2024) Weikert, Emma; Brighton, Stephen
    The Irish Potato Famine began in the mid-19th century, claiming the lives of millions. The Famine forever changed the culture and sociopolitical relations of Irish people, and these changes are reflected in the graveyards in the past and present. Symbols, imagery, and types of grave markers give insight into the ideologies of the time they were placed there. I visited three graveyards in West Cork in the summer of 2023 and examined databases of graveyards, to compare grave markings and graveyards before, during, and after the Famine. The question was posed: What are the long-term cultural implications of the famine, and how does this manifest in graveyards?
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    Quantum Finance: Exploring Asset Management with QAOA
    (2024) Henkle, Evan; Igur, Vismay; Karnik, Sara; Velaga, Sourabh; Jabeen, Shabnam; Khan, Alex
    Quantum computers are becoming more and more applicable to a variety of applications due to their ability to exponentially speed up computation. This project aims to utilize quantum technology to build a Quantum Approximation Optimization Algorithm (QAOA), to redefine portfolio optimization in finance. We aim to conduct a series of simulations to evaluate the effectiveness of our quantum based portfolio strategy, and compare the outcomes against those achieved through traditional optimization methods. Our preliminary research indicates that the quantum approach may result in faster and higher quality portfolio solutions, leading to more profitable and risk averse investments. By translating the challenge of finding the optimal combination of assets - balancing risk and return - into a problem that can be solved by quantum computing, we unlock new possibilities for financial analysis and decision making.
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    Exploring Olfactory Cues: Behavioral Responses in Cichlid Juvenile to Food and Amino Acid Stimuli
    (2024) Leary, Maurice; Gable Parker, Coltan; Juntti, Scott
    Cichlid fish have achieved a uniquely high rate of speciation, providing researchers the opportunity to better understand the sensory systems associated with speciation. Chemosensation, which includes both taste and olfaction and is used to detect food, must have evolved as cichlids evolved different lifestyles and diets. However, the specific neural mechanisms associated with chemosensory food detection in cichlids have not been discovered. In this experiment, we aimed to determine if cichlid juveniles show behavioral preference for food associated olfactory cues when presented with two types of stimuli: amino acids and food extract. We expect that both cues should be sufficient in evoking behavioral preference, as determined by time spent in odor compared to clean water, which would confirm the ability to confirm preference for food olfactory cues in cichlid juvenile. I tested a total of 28 cichlid juvenile, and their results revealed no overall significant preference when introduced to an olfactory cue. Nonetheless, we did observe 100% of fish spending over 50% of time in food extract order when administered, suggesting further research is required to determine if a possible stage in development is crucial in confidently proving this. Further research may entail an assay with a simpler food delivery system, a finer control of water flow, and histological studies in comparison of cichlid juvenile in various stages of development, as to determine significant olfactory or brain tissue differences.
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    Russian Wealth and The Invasion of Ukraine: Evidence from the Bank for International Settlements
    (2024) Bopst, Connor; Reck, Daniel
    This paper uses public bilateral deposit data released by the Bank for International Settlements to analyze the effect of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 on Russian wealth held abroad. I find a sharp spike of over $22 billion, or 66%, in Russian nonbank loans and deposits held abroad from quarter 4 of 2021 to quarter 1 of 2022. This spike in loans and deposits fully subsides by quarter 2 of 2022. I quantify the spike mathematically and note its exemplary nature. I examine the Russian sectors that are driving the trend, finding a steep decline in Russian nonbank deposits held by households and a spike and partial reversion in deposits held by nonbank financial institutions. Deposits from non-financial corporations exhibit a spike and subsequent fall to lower than pre-invasion levels. I walk through potential explanations for these trends, beginning with a marked decline in Russian loans and deposits in Switzerland that co-trends with Russian household deposits. I further document increases in Russian loans and deposits in Belgium that start after Euroclear began to store seized Russian assets. Lastly, I note a spike and full reversion in Russian loans and deposits held in the US and discuss the possibility that the liquidation of US multinationals could cause the deposit behavior seen in the US-Russia series. This paper has implications for the offshore wealth and capital flight literatures and the effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Russian Oligarchs after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
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    Expressive and Receptive Language Skills of Children With and Without Mathematics Difficulty
    (2024) Singh, Durga; Fu, Yang; Chow, Jason
    Language skills had a great impact on children’s mathematics performance. Children with mathematics difficulties (MD) have poorer language skills than peers without MD (Chow et al., 2021). Little has been explored about the association between language skills and MD in early childhood. This study aims to examine the overall language skills of children with and without MD and explore the different patterns of variability across language domains. The sample is 140 kindergarteners from a large suburban school district in central Virginia. We administered the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA-3) for MD classification and used the Test of Auditory Comprehension of Language (TACL) and the Test of Expressive Language (TEXL) to determine receptive and expressive language skills. We will use multivariate analysis of covariance to examine the overall difference in language skills of children with and without MD, controlling for cognitive skills and other demographic variables. We predict that the overall group differences will be statistically significant and want to explore whether differences emerge across the different domains of expressive and receptive language.
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    Big Eyes in the Ocean
    (2024) Clermont, Letsky; Johnson, Lena
    Coral reefs are the central hub in supporting diverse marine life and are facing escalating threats from global warming and human activity. Reefs are important to human life as they provide protection from coastal storms, and are a source of food and scientific insight. The increased need for motoring the life reefs necessitates cameras capable of capturing reef conditions over time in shallow to deep water. This research proposes a novel approach of combining insights from the visual biology of tarsiers with previous work that created affordable depth cameras for high-fidelity imaging. Tarsiers are remarkably small primates with a length of 9–16 cm and have the largest eye-to-head ratio of any mammal. Tarsiers’ vision systems utilize their eye size to take in a large quantity of light allowing them to efficiently hunt insects in low-light conditions. Applying this heightened depth perception to ocean imaging cameras can help improve image quality at depth with low light. The standard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advises for reef research and restoration utilizes large-area imaging to create 3D topographic representations of the reefs using structure-from-motion software. Previous research at Disney Research found a method of modifying the software of low-cost depth cameras to create detailed 3D representations of reefs. Adapting this vision system to depth cameras can augment the resolution, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness of coral reef imaging. By contributing to more affordable reef imaging cameras, more communities can contribute to the comprehension and monitoring of coral reef ecosystems amidst mounting environmental pressures.
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    Groundwater Contamination and Property Values: A Hedonic Price Analysis
    (2024) Keane, Jack; Cropper, Maureen
    About 15% of the United States population (~43 million people) rely on private wells for their source of drinking water. This water is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and as a result, the water in these wells can contain harmful contaminants (e.g., arsenic, nitrates, and nitrites) that go undetected by homeowners unless otherwise tested. Using a dataset of housing transactions (n=3,908) in the Orlando, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, I examine the impact of testing well water on the property value at time of sale. In Florida, not all homes with wells are tested before sale. I address the possibility of selection bias by using a subsample of homes from this dataset (n=1,566) that had all tested their well water before being sold. Using a hedonic pricing model, I test the impact of a well water test finding a contaminant above the detectable limit on sales price, controlling for housing characteristics, geospatial characteristics, and the date of sale. My results indicate a 10% decrease in property value when a well test revealed a contaminant to be above the detectable limit, relative to properties with well tests that did not reveal any contaminant above the detectable limit. The most robust, significant effects are found when homes were tested within a 3-year window prior to transaction. This has implications for the public health and financial stability of homeowners using private well water.
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    Silicone Fish Tail Actuator Capable of Variable Stiffening
    (2024) Abrishamian, Shirah Shoshanah Ariel; Lena, Johnson; Huertas-Cerdeira, Cecilia
    This work documents the creation of a fish-inspired robot actuator - from the conceptual design to a functional silicone model. The effect between the variable stiffness of a fish body and swimming efficiency has been a research subject in recent years. Often anatomy or function of an organism will inspire technological designs, particularly within the study of robotics. Animals have flexible anatomy for a range of possible maneuvers, and why fish-inspired robots are a popular choice in research. Studies have suggested a key to swim speed and efficiency in fish has been through tunable musculature. While muscle stiffness is difficult to measure in live fish, there is strong, natural evidence from several species, such as sunfish and tuna fish, showcasing this idea. Promoting inspired designs is the next step in improving robot performance. The deceptively simple appearance of typical fish combined with the numerous species' traits provides several possible robot designs. The robots can be objectively simple, with a trivial body and motor design to observe simple caudal fin motion. Or they can be exceptionally complicated if the research chooses to explore the nuances of fish anatomy and physiology, and how the impact on fish swimming in nature translates into an engineered construct. This would be beneficial due to the close relationship between bio-inspired design and soft robotics, fish bodies make a prime testing ground for soft robotics. No matter the simplicity, these robot designs can then be tested to gather valuable experimental data. This collaboration of technology and analysis then results in robots with advanced designs and special maneuvering capabilities. This research project aims to develop a tuna-inspired tail actuator capable of variable stiffness via a pneumatic system. Once attached to a 3D-printed fish body, it will be used to observe vorticity changes in fluid.
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    Draco Lizard-Inspired Robot for Structure Collapse Search
    (2024) Phillips, Savannah; Johnson, Lena
    Many high-stress situations can be difficult to navigate for first responders. Scenes such as active fires and building collapses require precise response tactics in order to minimize risk to first responders and victims alike. Disaster response tends to leave outcomes up to chance as a result of the unpredictable nature of these situations. Introducing robots into disaster response may help reduce uncertainty. Specifically, engineering robots to perform reconnaissance and relay critical information could greatly mitigate the risk posed to first responders entering dangerous scenes. My aim is to design a robot that possesses the gliding and crawling capabilities of the draco lizard. Draco lizards have unique wings that are used to glide amongst trees. My goal is to incorporate this gliding system into the robot, enabling it to be deployed to disaster sites with ease and reducing the workload for first responders. Equipped with cameras, the robot will be able to relay footage of the disaster scene for monitoring. Additionally, a thermal sensing system permits the transmission of quantitative data on potentially hazardous conditions, aiding in the locating of victims and ensuring informed and safer rescue operations.
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    Designing a Fish-like Robot That Can Swim on Water and Walk on Land
    (2024) Garcia, Jimmy; Johnson, Lena
    The Chesapeake Bay offers a scenic escape but struggles with excessive algae growth, particularly in forested wetlands. To address this, we are developing a robotic fish with a unique drivetrain that allows it to navigate both water and land, targeting hard-to-reach landscapes - like forested wetlands - as this is where excessive algae growth concentrates. Throughout our research, we discovered the Pleco fish - a fish that can swim on water and walk on land using its tail fin. We believe replicating this locomotion system will advance the development of algae cleanup robots. Because of this, we are designing our robot to use a dual-gated system; the robot will have one drivetrain with two functions - swimming and walking. To develop our robot, we first focused on three key areas: the body, tail, and locomotion system (swimming and walking). We built a prototype that navigates water and makes rudimentary walking motions on land. However, it uses two swimming and walking movement systems, which are still limited. We tested the robot’s aquatic abilities via a trial run in a controlled, clean pool at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility. We are trying to iterate the design of the current drivetrain system and integrate the swimming and walking capabilities into one dual-gated system. This system should allow the robot to swim and walk on water without utilizing separate movement systems. We hope these new iterations will bring us closer to replicating the locomotion of the pleco fish and help empower researchers and engineers to develop robotic platforms for cleaning algae in forested wetlands - a future of an algae-free bay.
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    Defining how two avian double-stranded RNA viruses affect lipid droplet (LD) formation and lipid metabolism in vitro
    (2024) Liu, Ying-Rong (Megan); Kehlbeck, Declan; Egana-Labrin, Sofia; Brodrick, Andrew; Sunny, Nishanth; Broadbent, Andrew; Broadbent, Andrew
    Some mammalian and fish double-stranded (ds)RNA viruses hijack lipid droplets (LDs) during their replication cycle, however, our understanding of how avian dsRNA viruses interact with LDs is incomplete. Here, we report data from avian reovirus (ARV) and infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV)- infected cells. Following ARV infection, there was a significant increase in the number (p < 0.0001) and size (p < 0.0001) of LDs compared to mock-infected controls, 6-24 hours post infection (hpi), in both immortalized LMH cells and primary gut cultures. Treatment with the ACCA inhibitor, TOFA, reduced ARV-mediated LD induction, indicating de novo lipogenesis was partially involved in their formation. Moreover, ARV infection decreased the expression of PGC-1α (p < 0.05) and ELOVL2 (p < 0.001). Previous reports demonstrated that inhibition of PGC-1α and ELOVL expression in mice led to cellular lipid accumulation and hepatic steatosis, suggesting ARV could upregulate LD synthesis by decreasing expression of these genes. However, it is unclear whether LD induction was pro- or anti-viral, since both TOFA treatment to inhibit LD synthesis, and oleic acid/palmitic acid treatment to overexpress LDs did not significantly alter ARV replication. In contrast, infection with IBDV did not substantially increase the size or number of LDs, or significantly reduce the expression of PGC-1α and ELOVL2. In contrast to some other dsRNA viruses like rotavirus and mammalian orthoreovirus, neither ARV nor IBDV cytoplasmic puncta colocalized with LDs. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that the two dsRNA viruses had distinct effects on cellular lipid metabolism.
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    Extended Reality Teleoperation and Simulation of Space Robotics Using Unity
    (2024-04) Perlstein, Romeo; Carignan, Craig
    The use of extended reality (XR) for enabling “telepresence” of robotic systems has become more prevalent in the past decade. However, the technology leap from commercially available robots to more extreme environment robotic systems, such as industrial and space robots, has yet to be widely demonstrated. The Space Systems Laboratory at the University of Maryland is developing XR control interfaces using the Unity game engine to more intuitively command dexterous space robots. Utilizing the Unity game engine lends several benefits, such as high fidelity dynamic physics simulation, customizability through the use of C# scripting, and the built-in robotic features provided through the Unity Robotics Hub. Unity, being a game engine, is able to simulate different environments, such as microgravity and the surfaces of celestial bodies such as the Moon or Mars. This allows for the creation of immersive scenes that robots can be simulated in to demonstrate the intractability of the system in the desired environment. Accurate robotic models can be generated in Unity using ROS’s Unified Robot Description Files (URDFs) and Unity’s “ArticulationBody” component for joint simulation, which provide state feedback such as joint position, velocity, and torque, as well as forces and torques being applied to the robot body. The robot model can then be used to either visualize a robot by sending state data from a control program to Unity, or to command a robot by sending state data from Unity to the control program. Incorporating XR devices such as the Microsoft Hololens or the Oculus Quest allow for immersive control and visualization of space robotic systems in a desired environment.
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    CerviCare: A Point of Care Screening Device for Cervical Precancer
    (iGEM, 2024-04) Bansal, Navya; Firdaus, Sarah; Jocić, Mia; Meyer, Jonathon; Valdés, Trinidad Cubillos; Wu, Jonathan; Jaranson, Renee; Zhang, Kevin; Ferguson, Graham; Adu-Osei, Krista; Namputhiripad, Aditi; Harel, Dana; Lu, Rebecca; Hussain, Haider; Wang, Miranda; Gadigi, Aditri; Senthilkumar, Abhi; Kahn, Jason; Eisenstein, Edward
    Cervical cancer remains a significant health burden, especially in regions with limited access to diagnostic facilities. To combat this, the UMaryland iGEM Team is developing an inexpensive point-of-care cervical precancer screening tool. Utilizing red fluorescent protein (RFP), this tool will provide a reliable color-based output upon detecting specific miRNAs (miR-21, miR-199a, and miR-155-5p) associated with cervical precancer. Our detection approach combines toehold switch and novel synthetic RNA technologies. Toehold switches serve as recognition elements, enabling target miRNA detection with high sensitivity and specificity. Our synthetic RNA ribozyme device will utilize both a novel miRNA sensor and self-cleaving properties to achieve similar sensitivity and specificity. Utilizing two cell-free devices in tandem will allow us to increase the accuracy of our screening device, which will be a paper assay system. Finally, through careful design and optimization, we aim to produce this device at low-cost and simplify it to require minimal training, enabling its use in resource-limited areas.