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Topography with Muons
Richard Lombardini, St. Marys University
Accuracy for 3D positioning is affected by surrounding media when using traditional techniques such as GPS. Other devices may need to be developed that produce readings unaltered by the conditions of the local environment (Tanaka 2020). The trajectory of highly energetic atmospheric muons experience very little change when traveling through different media, and the flux of particles is uniform and ubiquitous along surface of Earth. Using the TeachSpin muon detectors and theories of special relativity and quantum mechanics learned in class, students will determine the level of accuracy that they can achieve in the measurement of elevation at any location by directly measuring muon stopping rates.

Discipline: Physics:Quantum Physics
State: Texas
CURE Duration: A full term

Assessment of Biodiversity Using Environmental DNA in San Antonio Rivers and Streams
Erika Schwarz Taylor, St. Marys University
Agencies like the San Antonio River Authority somewhat regularly monitor chemical and physical attributes of local rivers and their tributaries but very little biological data is collected as part of this process. Abundance of bacteria, such as E. coli, and fish are the most common types of biological data collected to assess the presence of pathogenic bacteria and tolerant and intolerant species, respectively. However, the fish counts are often slow as it requires a person to catch the fish through electrofishing or other means to take the counts and the data are limited to just the fish. However, DNA found in the environment (eDNA) can be used to assess more than one type of organism at a time and that is the basis of this CURE. Students will go to stream or river collection sites and collect environmental samples that will be brought back to the lab for total DNA extraction, PCR amplification of targeted groups of organisms (animals, plants, bacteria), molecular cloning, and Sanger sequencing to assess the diversity in the collection sites. The data generated by this CURE will be useful to the San Antonio River Authority as a diversity assessment and a single point in time and over the course of many semesters classes will have the increased capacity to assess temporal and spatial trends in biodiversity across our collection sites.

Discipline: Environmental Science:Ecosystems, Water Quality and Quantity, Life Sciences:Ecology, Evolution, Life Sciences, Molecular Biology, Environmental Science:Land Use and Planning
Core Competencies: Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering), Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering), Planning and carrying out investigations, Analyzing and interpreting data
Nature of Research: Basic Research, Field Research, Informatics/Computational Research, Wet Lab/Bench Research
State: Texas
Target Audience: Introductory, Major
CURE Duration: A full term

Characterization of Mycoplasma pneumoniae CARDS toxin effects on cell homeostasis
Jesus Segovia, St. Marys University
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is an atypical respiratory bacterial pathogen that causes diseases such as tracheobronchitis and "walking pneumoniae", and has been implicated in exacerbation of asthma. One of the most surprising facts about M. pneumoniae infection is the fact that symptoms can be serious and long-lasting, yet the CDC has no surveillance systems in place and a detailed understanding of the organism's pathogenesis is still lacking. While the study of this organism is essential to combating future outbreaks and hospitalizations, the highly contagious and infectious nature of the organism prevents it from being used in most undergraduate research lab settings. Recent research has identified a single bacterial toxin produced by M. pneumoniae, referred to as the Community Acquired Respiratory Distress Syndrome toxin, or CARDS toxin. CARDS toxin possesses two important enzymatic activities, ADP-ribosylation and vacuolization, and is the only known bacterial toxin to possess this combination of functions. Numerous publications have shown that purified CARDS toxin alone has the capability to recapitulate most of the harmful cytopathic effects of M. pneumoniae infection, leading researchers to believe that CARDS toxin is the most significant virulence factor produced by M. pneumoniae. CARDS toxin can be expressed in E. coli and purified using standard protein purification methods, allowing us the ability to study it safely in an undergraduate setting. Studies into the function of CARDS toxin and its effect(s) on cellular processes (through the use of cell culture experiments) will then give us important insight into the way M. pneumoniae causes disease in humans. The focus of this CURE is to teach students how to conduct research on a harmful respiratory pathogen using safe methods, all while learning more about the health implications of their research findings.

Discipline: Life Sciences:Genetics, Cell Biology, Microbiology, Life Sciences
Core Competencies: Developing and using models, Planning and carrying out investigations, Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering), Analyzing and interpreting data
Nature of Research: Informatics/Computational Research, Basic Research
Target Audience: Major

Conservation genetics and wildlife ecology of south Texas canids
Melissa Karlin, St. Marys University
Students in an ecology lab will participate in conservation genetics and wildlife ecology research through the use of noninvasive sampling techniques of scat analysis and trail cameras. Students will collect and analyze scat samples to determine mtDNA haplotype assignment and prey assemblage of canid scat samples. These goals will be accomplished through techniques including DNA extraction and amplification, Sanger sequencing, and frequency of occurrence of prey items.

Discipline: Life Sciences:Genetics, Ecology
Core Competencies: Analyzing and interpreting data, Planning and carrying out investigations, Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
Nature of Research: Applied Research, Field Research
State: Texas
Target Audience: Introductory, Major
CURE Duration: A full term


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