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STEM Fellow: Probing the Semantic Representations of Emotional and Social Concepts in Autism

By Lucy Cao, VI Form


Probing the Semantic Representations of Emotional and Social Concepts in Autism


Please Click The Image To Download/See the  Poster

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a set of neurodevelopmental disorders as shown through difficulties in social interaction and communication as well as repetitive behaviors. Symptoms of ASD manifest at an early age and become most prominent between the ages two to three years old. One major area of defect common among ASD individuals is language and communication, especially the ability to comprehend language and make inferences based on social and emotional context. Recent linguistics studies have shown that there is an association between the ability of individuals with autism to attribute mental states (to themselves and others) and verbal skills. It is found that high-functioning ASD individuals have a less coherent representation of emotional experiences and tend to avoid using emotional terminology. The goal of this study was to examine the relationship between social competence and semantic representation of social and emotional concepts. Knowing that lexical co-occurrences are useful measurements of semantic knowledge, participants of this study were asked to rate pairs of verbs in terms of similarity on a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being very similar and 5 being very dissimilar. Data collected from the typically developing (TD) participants indicates that there is a correlation between social competence and accuracy of similarity ratings of verbs containing social and emotional content. The less socially competent, the less accurate the ratings are. Moreover, such a correlation is not present in verbs of no social or emotional content. However, the investigator failed to identify a significant difference in the ASD population’s perception of emotional and social verbs and the control participants’ perception of these verbs due to reasons of methodology.


What Is Cancer: Looking Through the Multiplex Lens of Immortality

By Tony Banson and Tommy MacNeil, V Form


What Is Cancer: Looking Through the Multiplex Lens of Immortality

Cancer is a disease that has touched the lives of many around the world (Figure 1). It is a disease that afflicts both the young and old, and the rich and poor. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 1,688,780 new cancer cases diagnosed and 600,920 cancer deaths in the United States in 2017 (Cancer Facts & Figures 2017). Biologically, this disease arises from one’s body when normal, healthy cells begin to grow uncontrollably. Because of genetic and environmental factors, the subset of cells no longer cooperate with evolution’s safety controls, bypassing important regulatory checkpoints of the cell cycle. With the advent of technology and medicine, humans are living longer and the cells that make up our bodies have more time to mutate in ways that can cause havoc. 

Figure 1 which indicates total number of cancer cases and deaths globally in 2012.

From a personal standpoint, cancer has touched the lives of many of our loved ones. (more…)

The West Nile Virus: The Minor Zoonotic Problem Without A Major Solution

By Anuoluwa Akibu, Jack Griffin, Sierra Petties, & Ben West, III Form; with mentors Ben Robb, V Form & Blaine Duffy, VI Form

The West Nile Virus: The Minor Zoonotic Problem Without A Major Solution


In the information below, you will be able to take away a full understanding on the West Nile virus, and how it is transmitted zoonotically. West Nile virus (WNV) is a pathogen, specifically a flavivirus, and it is found in arthropods. West Nile virus infections are most common in temperate areas, between late summer and early fall, when mosquito activity is at it’s peak. Although many people become infected with WNV most people do not show symptoms. The few who do, mostly have minor symptoms like fever and headache. One percent of the people infected with the virus develop lethal symptoms that require immediate medical assistance. Most cases of West Nile virus come from mosquito bites. The mosquitoes infect humans and other animals which are called dead end hosts. Dead-end hosts cannot pass the disease on to another host. Birds however are different because they are amplifier hosts. That means they continue to spread the disease to mosquitoes have not received the virus yet. The only known treatment to West Nile virus at the moment is pain killers because scientists are still figuring out a solution. There are cures for animals and some in development for humans. There isn’t a practical solution to West Nile virus, but there have been prevention methods created. The main focus for many groups worldwide is of the disease by managing the mosquito population and observing the bird population to restrict the further spreading of the disease. Researcher(s): All;  Editor(s): All (more…)

STEM Fellow: Mitochondrial Disease in C. elegans

By Katherine Hartigan, VI Form

Mitochondrial Disease in C. elegans


Mitochondrial disease refers to a class of hundreds of disorders related to the mitochondria that are caused by mutations in either mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) or nuclear DNA

Please Click The Image To Download/See the  Poster

(nDNA). These mutations disrupt cellular respiration and the production of ATP, resulting in the overproduction of damaging free radicals. Mitochondrial diseases were once thought to be rare, but links between mitochondrial defects and many diseases of aging have been discovered, making these diseases far more prevalent than previously thought. A cure is nonexistent, and treatments are often individualized or ineffective. Antioxidants, such as Coenzyme Q10, have the ability to neutralize free radicals, making them a logical choice as a dietary supplement for mitochondrial disease patients. In this experiment, the C. elegans mev-1 mutant was used as a model organism for human mitochondrial disease. MitoQ, a reengineered form of Coenzyme Q10 targeted to the mitochondria, was added as a supplement to the diet of mev-1 mutants. The groups of mev-1 mutants were observed and data was collected every 12 hours until their death to determine their approximate lifespan. Following experimentation and data collection, it was found that there was not a significant difference in between the lifespans of the control mev-1 mutants without MitoQ, and the experimental mev-1 mutants with the MitoQ added to their diet. It is necessary to repeat this experiment while collecting data in shorter time intervals than 12 hours in order to draw more accurate conclusions when completing future research. (more…)

Math Modeling: Using Math for Flight Path Safety

By Kate Sotir, Cooper Sarafin, Anderson Fan, Shep Green, VI Form and Mo Liu, V Form

Math Modeling: Using Math for Flight Path Safety

Part 1:

The problem at hand is to create a model, a rating system, that would inform potential flyers of the safety of a particular flight. Our solution includes a mathematical equation that gives us a number between 1 and 100, depending on the inputs. Although the values themselves indicate the safety level of flights, we do not want to our audience to read into the numbers: a flight with a safety index of 63 should not be considered a more dangerous flight than a flight with a safety index of 67. Therefore, to make our model directly presentable to our audience, we classified the possible outcomes into ratings. A safety index ranges from 1 to 20 would have a rating of ★, from 20 to 40 would have ★★, 40 to 60 would be ★★★, 60 to  80 ★★★★, and finally, 80 to 100 would have the highest rating of ★★★★★, and flights that fall under this rating would be the safest choice based on our model. (more…)

Competing in the FIRST Robotics Challenge

By Kate Sotir, VI Form

Competing in the FIRST Robotics Challenge


Working in the basement level of the STEM building, using lots of power tools, and occasionally throwing out words like “kickoff,” “drivetrain,” or “STEAMworks,” we are FIRST team 3566, also known as Gone Fishin’.

Gone Fishin’ competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The robotics competition, open to any high school student, was created in order to promote the STEM fields and offer a competitive yet collaborative atmosphere for robotics. In the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), teams are given a challenge, in the form of a game, and then have six weeks to build a 120 pound, $10,000 robot to meet this challenge. After those six weeks are up, teams compete in various regional events. The ultimate goal is to go to the world championship, held in St. Louis, where around 800 teams gather to play the game. (more…)