CLAS Students Participate in First-Ever Virtual RaCAS

May 4, 2020
Susan Kim, Senior, Psychology

“There are many different perceptions towards mode of delivery and I wanted to explore some of big effects like postpartum depression, breastfeeding patterns, and concerns about infant cognitive development. We recruited moms and babies 4-14 months old through a Facebook ad and asked them to fill out the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale (PDSS), which asks about mode of delivery and mode of feeding. The Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development 3rd edition was used to assess infant cognitive development.  

“Results indicate that although mode of delivery would determine mode of feeding, it was a not a factor in whether or not a mother would experience postpartum depression. However, mode of feeding was correlated with whether or not a mother would experience postpartum depression. Exclusively breastfeeding mothers had the lowest PDSS scores, mothers that were breastfeeding and bottle feeding had relatively higher PDSS scores, and exclusively bottle feeding mothers had the highest PDSS scores.

“There were no findings/correlations between mode of delivery and infant cognitive development. In conclusion, mode of delivery may affect the likelihood of breastfeeding, but it does not appear to be the cause of postpartum depression.”


Lisette Martinez, Senior, BS in Public Health, Minors in Communications and International Studies
Safa Mechergui, Senior, BS in Public Health, Minor in Leadership Studies

“Working with Dr. Sara Yeatman and Dr. Jean Scandlyn in the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences, our team has focused on a variety of health and policy implications surrounding school-based health centers (SBHCs) across the state. The present study arose from our collaboration with Kids First—a healthcare organization overseeing the operation of many SBHCs in the metro area—and a research aim of better understanding parent perceptions of an operating high-school SBHC (which is understudied in existing literature). In spring of 2019, we worked with Kids First to conduct a mandatory needs assessment of the Royal Health Center in Thornton High School.

“Through the parent survey, we included a question asking parents to volunteer for follow-up interviews and offered the interviews in English and Spanish. Interview questions focused on awareness of the SBHC, perceptions of the SBHC, confidentiality, and needs in the community. With 17 interviews completed, we identified several consistent themes. First, benefits of having access to the SBHC mirrored that documented in the literature—reduced cost, convenience, transportation. Parents also expressed student accountability and agency as a major benefit of the SBHC. In regard to confidentiality, parent views were complex and varied greatly. Our results support the need for community engagement within SBHC operation processes, and we hope to continue investigating a more diverse range of parent perspectives to increase the generalizability of findings.”


Tanja Kovacevic, Senior, Chemistry, ACS

“Jillian Oviedo (Biochemistry ’21) and I perform molecular dynamics simulations on a small protein in Dr. Hai Lin’s Theoretical/Computational Chemistry Lab. We do these calculations of HP36, our small protein of interest, in order to understand phenylalanine-phenylalanine (Phe-Phe) interactions. There are 3 phenylalanine residues (F47, F51, and F58) which make up the basis of the hydrophobic core of HP36 and it is our goal to compute the energy barriers for ring flipping of these phenylalanine residues.

“We use umbrella sampling, which is a biased sampling method, to constrain the rotation of the phenylalanine amino acid in order to elucidate the free energy value.  From this, we can use the free energy value to determine the rate constant for flipping to determine whether our computed values match our collaborator, Dr. Vugmeyster’s, experimental values. We believe the Phe-Phe interactions within proteins are a crucial dynamic force in protein folding. Protein folding mechanisms are critical to understand because it helps researchers understand protein function and diseases which arise due to protein aggregation.”


Kathryn Harris, Senior, Physics

“Our team has been learning about how dark matter explains the motion of stars and other matter in a galaxy. A large portion of our research has therefore focused on fitting rotation curves —a numeric relationship between the orbital velocity of a body in a galaxy and the distance of that body from the center of the galaxy—to existing data. Our RaCAS presentation aims to explain the background information necessary to understand what rotation curves are and explain how dark matter relates to them. We then provide a web-based, interactive program so that people can alter various contributions to a rotation curve and see how their new curve compares to real data.”