Fall Creative works and Research Event 

Live In-Person and Online Conference | Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Center for Undergraduate Research announces the Fall Creative Works and Research Event. This student conference will include: live, in-person poster presentations, as well as pre-recorded videos of research and creative works presentations that will be available to view at any time during the event.

Place Finishers

In-person Presentation Awards      

Individual Project
1st Place: Sarah Moehring and Makenzie Cree, “The Effects of Alprazolam on Wound Healing and Regeneration in Planaria”    

Class Project
1st Place: Kerry Ann Katz, “The Effects of Substrate-borne Vibrations on Reproduction in the Large Milkweed Bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus”

2nd Place: Sarah Seader, “Regulating Temperature to Expedite Plant Growth”            

3rd Place:  Savannah Davis, “Artificial Wombs: Assessing the Need for Molecular Homeostasis”
                   Madison Minarchin, “What is Insulin”

Recorded Video Presentation Awards

Individual Project
1st Place: Autumn Walsh, “Intersection of Misogyny and Trauma in Female Prisons”      

2nd Place: Payton Hlatky-Walters, “Screening for Antibiotic Resistance in Environmental Samples”

3rd Place: Eric O'Bradovich, “Investing in a Green Future: Nuclear Energy and the Uranium Bull Market”

Class Project
1st Place: Maya Scarpaci, “Screening of Local Bacterial Isolates for Antibiotic Properties”  

2nd Place: Michael Reidenbaugh, “Discovering New Antibiotic Compounds by the Isolation of Bacterial Species in Soil Samples”

3rd Place: Carlos Andres Ramirez Parrado, “Antibiotic Screening of Local Soil Bacteria Communities for Antibiotic Production Against ESKAPE Pathogens Safe Relatives”
                  Alivia Yauger, “An Illustration of the Various Microbial Techniques Applied for the Search of Antibiotic Producers”

Pre-Recorded Student Presentations

Class Project

Targeted Cancer Therapy
Madison Adams
Screening to Potentially Find Antibiotics Derived from Bacteria Isolated from Soil Samples
Benjamin Callaway and Theodore Cresenzi


The Antibiotic-Resistance Crisis is a worldwide issue that will only continue to grow if efforts are not undertaken to find a solution. Antibiotics have greatly improved our lives ever since their discovery; however, the pharmaceutical industry has hit a wall; there are very few new antibiotics being discovered thus business is no longer a profitable endeavor to pursue. The overuse of antibiotics and the subsequent increase in antibiotic resistance of bacteria has run rampant in our population for decades ever since the first antibiotics hit the shelf. In this experiment, bacterial colonies were isolated from soil samples, purified, and screened for antibiotic production. All 24 isolated bacterium in this experiment were screened against E. coli, S. epidermidis, and E. aerogenes for any antibiotics that could be of use. The experiment performed was done with the objective being that we could potentially find new sources of antibiotics in an effort collaborating with the worldwide initiative of the Tiny Earth Project to assist in the fight against the antibiotic-resistance crisis.

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What affect does noise pollution have on plant growth
Branson Casper


My method for conducting this experiment would be to have two or three trials of three plants under different levels of noise pollution, and different types of noise. One set would be the lowest volume with two different soft noises. The next set would be something of medium volume with a bit harsher of tone. The last set would be the loudest noise pollution and the harshest tones. They would be put to these conditions while they are growing to see if it interferes with growing. Then after they were done growing, they would still be put under these conditions to see which set would wilt first. The results will determine what level of noise pollution is acceptable for plants. 

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Isolating Soil Bacteria in Order to Screen for New Antibiotic Producers
Juliana Cruz


Right now, human health, economics, and politics are being threatened due to an antibiotic crisis caused by antibiotic resistance. There are many diseases caused by bacteria that are becoming untreatable due to pathogens becoming resistant to treatment, and the current pace of antibiotics is no match for the rapid evolution of resistance within these organisms. Antibiotics are typically produced by microorganisms, and it has been found that soil has a high abundance of microorganisms. By collecting soil, students can contribute to helping solve this ongoing antibiotic crisis. Using serial dilutions, single colonies were selected and tested for antibiotic production through multiple laboratory experiments and tests. Ten isolates were screened against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Bacillus subtilis. Using soil to screen for antibiotic producers serves as an important role in helping to solve this antibiotic crisis by creating the opportunity to find novel antibiotics.

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Isolation of Local Soil Cultures to Screen for Antibiotic Producers
Abigail Cunningham


Abandoned mine drainage is polluting the world and specifically, our drinking water and agriculture. These mines occupy over 500,000 miles of land in the country and they also lead to heavy metal contamination in rivers, lakes, streams, and other natural habitats. Using the methods of serial dilution, PCR, Gel electrophoresis, and the genomic data base Kbase, we isolated and purified single colonies of prokaryotic bacteria and their genomic sequences. We expect to see results that contain high concentrations of heavy metals, bacteria, and other pollutants. It is important that we continue to study abandoned acid mine drainage as it could have harmful impacts on humans, animals, and plants.

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Prokaryotic Genome Assembly and Annotation of Abandoned Acid Mine Drainage
Abigail Cunningham and Christine Burey


Abandoned mine drainage is polluting the world and specifically, our drinking water and agriculture. These mines occupy over 500,000 miles of land in the country and they also lead to heavy metal contamination in rivers, lakes, streams, and other natural habitats. Using the methods of serial dilution, PCR, Gel electrophoresis, and the genomic data base Kbase, we isolated and purified single colonies of prokaryotic bacteria and their genomic sequences. We expect to see results that contain high concentrations of heavy metals, bacteria, and other pollutants. It is important that we continue to study abandoned acid mine drainage as it could have harmful impacts on humans, animals, and plants.

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Multiculturalism and the Criminal Justice System
Jenna Eberly

Throughout my time as a Criminal Justice Major, I have always been aware of the social diversity within the Criminal Justice System and how it is even more prevalent than normal society. After witnessing the recent racial justice protests, I felt that it was important to be educated on these matters. I decided to take a class that talks specifically about multiculturalism in the Criminal Justice System and also do an Honors Addendum. Through the use of statistics and facts, I will be highlighting subjects such as race, ethnicity, and social class and their impacts on the Criminal Justice System to complete. My goal is to provide knowledge and educate others about multiculturalism and the Criminal Justice System.

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Isolation and Screening of Soil Bacteria as a Source of Antibiotics
Kira Hillhouse

Antibiotic resistance is becoming a prominent hardship when treating bacterial infections. The more resistant pathogens become, the more of a threat they are to public health. The overuse and irresponsible consumption of antibiotics is the leading cause of resistance development. Naturally occurring antibiotics are difficult to isolate which severely limits modern ability to counter resistance. The only way to steer this current crisis is to develop comprehensive strategies that combine antimicrobials with other agents to reverse the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. The purpose of this experiment was to locate antibiotic producers within our environment from soil bacteria. Twelve bacterial colonies were isolated and screened against close relatives of known pathogens and included Staphylococcus epidermis, Bacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli. One isolate was found to be an antibiotic producer when screened against B. subtilis. If enough positive producers are found, we may be able to combine a few to counter potential resistance mechanisms developed by harmful pathogens.

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Screening for Antibiotic Resistance in Environmental Samples
Payton Hlatky-Walters

In acidic environments, antibiotic resistance can be possible due to the bacteria in the environments that are able to live and evolve in these environments. It is unknown about the level of resistance that can be present in bacteria in different bodies of water in the surrounding areas. Samples were taken from three different bodies of water including Boyce Park AMD (acidic environment), Cheat Lake, and the Monongahela River. The isolates were grown on media containing Streptomycin, Erythromycin, Ampicillin, Tetracycline, and Oxacillin to test the theory that bacteria from acidic environments will be more prone to antibiotic resistance. A diverse group of isolates were taken from each environmental sample to be screened with the antibiotics. Almost all isolates from each environment were able to grow on all of the antibiotic plates except Streptomycin. The plates with Streptomycin were able to see some growth but isolates barely grew from the acidic environment sample (Boyce Park). Using the results from the first round of replica plating, the concentrations of Oxacillin and Streptomycin were doubled to see if the growth was limited and bacterial growth from Cheat Lake and The Boyce were limited as predicted but the Monongahela still grew almost all the isolates from the previous plates. These results suggest that the Monongahela River could be contaminated from an outside source that is leading to antibiotic resistance. The screening of freshwater sources for antibiotic resistance is important because these bacterias found in the environments may infect humans/animals and increase the risk that novel resistance bacteria may arise and spread in communities.

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Substance Abuse Heritable Epigenetics and the Environmental Factors
Iliana Hunsberger

A major issue that impacts people in more ways than not is substance abuse. It leads to social, physical, and emotional problems. This type of addiction alters very specific regions in the brain’s functioning abilities. What is being analyzed in this experiment is the epigenetics that get inherited in future generations when substance abuse is present. Epigenetics compromises of the DNA makeup and environmental influences. It is also evolving with the discovery of the mechanisms that control DNA methylation and chromatin remodeling. The neurotransmitters in the human body control and regulate epigenetics which plays a role in developing medicines. Through the research of the science mechanisms in the brain and data analysis through a rat study, the intent of this study would show how epigenetics impacts substance abuse issues. What also is being looked upon is the risk factors of epigenetics being developed in future generations and at what stage in life from birth to adolescence will these traits be fully expressed from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The goal of this research is to get a better understanding and knowledge of the genetics behind substance abuse and how this issue can be changed for the better.

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Prions and the Diseases They Cause
Nathan Kieffer


Today in science, there are new profound ways through technology and research on how to kill cancer cells without attacking healthy cells. While doing research, my partner Nathan Kieffer and I have stumbled upon a method named targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is becoming a new way to cure cancer and even though there are side effects, it is successful in curing many cancer patients, has fewer effects on healthy cells and causes fewer complications than other chemotherapy treatments. Our goal with researching this topic of destroying cancer cells without damaging other cells, is to find if this is the best way to approach killing cancer cells and also what improvements can be made to this therapy. In addition to researching targeted therapy, we also want to research for other methods, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, used to cure cancer in the past, present and future as a whole. There are multiple methods found for curing cancer, but is targeted therapy the most effective and healthy way to approach such a matter?

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Spatial Memory Improvement in Fruit Fly Larvae
Alicia Lucas

Spatial memory aids in navigating specific areas or recalling the location of objects and events. Since the brain has plasticity, I wanted to investigate ways to improve spatial memory. In the experiment, we will investigate how positive reinforcement affects fruit fly larvae’s spatial memory. We hypothesized that with repeated reinforcement, the time it takes larvae to reach the target area will decrease. When reinforcement is taken away, the time it takes will slowly increase. To test these hypotheses, Y mazes were made. Five larvae were placed in each condition. The control group had no reinforcement. The second group had food on the left side of the maze while the third had food on the right. After each trial, the number of larvae that reached the food and the time it took was noted. After removing reinforcement, trials were conducted again. After testing, it is expected that positive reinforcement will improve spatial memory. However, continuous reinforcement creates a risk of extinction. Therefore, times will slowly increase once reinforcement is removed. With these results, we can start understanding human spatial memory since fruit flies are genetically similar. These results can be expanded by finding other ways to improve or worsen spatial memory.

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The Big IDEA
Maria Mellon

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act makes free, public education available to children up to the age of twenty-one with disabilities who are eligible nationwide. This act governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to eligible infants, toddlers, and youth with disabilities. This policy is supposed to cover 40% of each disabled child’s education funds, but currently only meets 14%. This funding gap causes disabled children to receive inadequate education, understaffing in schools, and the deduction of funds from other educational programs. This is leading to individual, societal, and economic issues for essentially the whole population. This project consists of a literature review viewing the social problem, history of the policy, the current policy, and proposed solutions to fix the social injustices the policy is not addressing that is condensed into a descriptive podcast. The goal of this research is to examine the Act’s effectiveness, promote advocacy around this issue, and propose solutions to improve and ensure the policy is carrying out each aspect it promises with the ultimate goal being to ensure social justice and equality for the disabled youth.

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Epigenetic Effects on Mental Disorders Involving Gene NR3C1
Ruby Miller

Epigenetics involves the studying of how environmental factors affect gene function. Although DNA sequences are fixed, the epigenome is highly dynamic and can be influenced by external factors. External factors such as traumatic experiences or being placed into stressful environments may result in epigenetic changes, which may lead to the development of mental disorders. When studying DNA methylation in individuals with mental disorders, there were similar changes observed in specifically the glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1 across multiple studies. The studying of this specific gene could be used to develop future methods of studying epigenetics involved in mental disorders. In order to investigate this, a literature search involving various findings from multiple studies must be collected. Results from these previous studies can then be compared to determine if studying this specific gene would be beneficial for the future of epigenetics involving mental disorders. In addition, findings from this research could potentially aid in a better understanding of mental disorders as well as allow further research into potential treatments for some mental disorders.

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The Utilization of Organism Classification in the Advancement of Abandoned Mine Drainage Treatment
Sarah Moehring and Maenzie Cree

Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) comes from water that has been polluted by the waste created by mining activities. Scientists have estimated that over 4,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania are biologically dead from by-products of coal mining. In terms of treatment, AMD can be remedied by two methods: active and passive systems. Passive systems, which include using limestone or bacteria that reduce sulfate to precipitate metals and neutralize acidity, have proven to be a cost effective method to help treat AMD and include a high success rate. On the other hand, active systems include the addition of chemicals into the water in order to raise the pH and precipitate metals. These have a lower long term success rate and tend to include heftier costs. In this experiment, AMD Samples from Boyce Park were collected and microbial samples were isolated and purified to help further study the passive remediation site in specific. The goal of this research experiment is to determine the effects that microbes have on passive remediation systems in relation to AMD. Two isolates have been thoroughly studied using molecular biology techniques to examine their effects and role in the AMD remediation site. Understanding the organisms present in remediation sites is a crucial component in advancing successful treatment of AMD.

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Correlation Between Malaria and Sickle Cell Anemia
Mia Ola

Malaria and Sickle Cell Anemia are both diseases that affect the blood, even though they are biologically different. Malaria is caused by a parasitic plasmodium called P. Malariae that lives in red blood cells in humans. The plasmodium lives in the blood cells and continues to replicate until eventually exploding the cell. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder which causes people to have abnormally shaped hemoglobin in their red blood cells. Through analyzation of correlative data, I discovered that malaria and sickle cell anemia, though different diseases, do affect each other. Since sickled cells are abnormally shaped, the plasmodia can’t enter the cell, thus, they won’t explode it. Something that researchers are also finding is that sickled cells release a level of carbon dioxide that is lethal to the plasmodia that cause malaria. This means that when sickle cell anemia is present in its heterozygous form, it can be advantageous against malaria. These findings are important because even though the two diseases are deadly by themselves, understanding how they correlate could open new doors for researchers to cure them.

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Antibiotic Screening of Local Soil Bacteria Communities for Antibiotic Production
Carlos Ramirez

Currently, the constant use of antibiotics in daily life has created the impression in society that their efficacy against pathogens is everlasting. However, that efficacy has been progressively wined in recent years due to the selective evolution of antibiotic resistance bacteria. In an attempt to contribute to the search for new antibiotics, we performed a local soil collection sample to find possible antibiotic-producing organisms. Twelve isolates were selected from the soil sample and morphologically identified for antibiotic screening against ESKAPE pathogens' safe relatives. Experimental results showed positive antibiotic production for 2 isolates under Pseudomonas aeruginosa lawn spread plate, with a prevalence rate of 0,166 for the sample. Posterior biochemical testing was performed with two control groups to characterize metabolic traits of the 2 isolates. Further research is needed to isolate antibiotic substance for identification of the mechanism of action and analyze possible antibiotic resistance adaptations by ESKAPE pathogens. Nevertheless, positive experimental results elucidate the need for continuous sampling of local soil microbes for new antibiotic substances that can be used to restrain the current increase of resistant strains, while societies reduce the spaces for resistance to be selected in the first place.

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Discovering New Antibiotic Compounds by the Isolation of Bacterial Species in Soil Samples
Michael Reidenbaugh

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in which bacteria are resisting the effects of our commonly used antibiotic drugs. This resistance leads to harder to treat infections, which results in more deaths, as the personalized treatment that is required for multidrug resistant organisms is unaffordable to many. In order to combat this resistance, the discovery of new antibiotic compounds is imperative. As high amounts of antibiotic producing bacteria have been found in soil, searching soil samples from various regions may yield bacteria that produce new antibiotic compounds that are currently unresisted by common infectious bacteria. After obtaining soil from a forest in Washington county of Eighty Four Pennsylvania, twelve bacterial colonies were isolated. Of the twelve, only two isolates were observed to produce antibiotic compounds. The bacteria were observed to create zones of inhibition on a bacterial lawn of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterial species that causes many diseases in hospital settings. Although the characteristics of these organisms are very similar, a gelatinase test did prove them to be separate organisms. The identification of these two bacterial species is significant, and may result in the production of new antibiotic drugs to combat the global resistance crisis.

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Isolation and Characterization of Cupriavidus pauculus from Acid Mine Drainage
Michael Reidenbaugh

Acid mine drainage (AMD) results from the outflow of abandoned mines containing heavy metals contaminating sources of drinking water. This is becoming a serious issue, as the drainage is toxic to the environment and is proving to be especially difficult to reverse. Although AMD has not been shown to be reversible, passive remediation is an effective method that can mitigate any further damage. Passive remediation relies on the use of bacterial species that are present in AMD that precipitate metals into solid forms, which can then be filtered out. By isolating such bacteria, sequencing their genomes, and identifying the types of metal resistance genes present, it can be understood how effective a bacterium is at remediation and whether it should be used. After isolating a single bacterium from a sample of AMD, extracting its DNA, and amplifying it through PCR, the DNA was put through full genome sequencing. The genome was then assembled and annotated, where the isolate was distinguished as C. pauculus, and many of its metal resistance genes were uncovered. From this information, C. pauculus’ potential for passive remediation can be determined, which may lead to another tool for preventing further damages caused by AMD.

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Screening of Local Bacterial Isolates for Antibiotic Properties
Maya Scarpaci


Antibiotics have been the saving grace of health and medicine since the discovery of Penicillin, but over the past 50 years there has been a large gap in knowledge. Less novel antibiotics are currently being discovered, which places extra reliance on the current ones being used. Because of this, the rate of antibiotic resistance rises as antibiotic discovery remains near stagnant. This experiment uses locally collected bacterial isolates to test for antibiotic and biochemical properties. The goal for this experiment and its future is to discover and identify novel antibiotics and the organism(s) that produced it. These test results bring up many questions and options for further research and discovery of novel antibiotics and help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

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Testing for Antibiotic Producing Bacteria Extracted from Soil
Luca Sciulli


Antibiotics are medications that are used in response to a bacterial infection. As the use of antibiotics increases, bacterial resistance increases as well. That is why there is a never-ending search for new antibiotics, in our case we search for antibiotic-producing bacteria from soil samples. Once the soil was collected, we isolated individual bacteria colonies. The unique colonies were then screened for antibiotic-producing abilities. As a result, none of my bacteria isolates produced antibiotics. 

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Isolation and Screening of Soil Bacteria as a Source of Novel Antibiotics
Miranda E. Yauger


With minimal new alternatives for antibiotics hitting the market we are forced to find a new way to treat disease. The importance of antibiotic producers is more important now than ever before due to the current evolution of serious disease. It has been hypothesized that soil bacteria will be successfully isolated and that antibiotic producers will be identified due to the high prevalence of antibiotic producers previously found in soil. We have dedicated these experiments to isolate and screen soil bacteria as a source of novel antibiotics. A series of serial dilutions and experiments have been performed to identify candidates. The findings of my experiment had 4 bacterium test positive as antibiotic producers by using B.subtilis. Antibiotic resistance increasing and a global pandemic are creating a worldwide issue that we can help to conquer.

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An Illustration of the Various Microbial Techniques Applied for the Search of Antibiotic Producers
Alivia Yauger

Individual Project

Potential Carcinogenic Effects of Red Dye 40 on Yeast Cells and Drosophila Model Organisms
Divonne Franklin and Kayla Latoza


Red dye #40, commonly found in foods such as Hawaiian punch, has been controversial for many years, and has potentially been linked with several health risks. We wanted to determine whether exposure to this dye could be a potential risk factor for cancer. As cancer is a disease characterized by abnormally high rates of cell division, we tested its effects on cell division in fruit flies and yeast. We fed fruit flies either regular fly food or food with different concentrations of Hawaiian punch, then observed growth and mortality rates over several weeks. Results suggested that the red dye in the Hawaiian punch does not have a strong effect on survival and cell division rates on fruit flies. We then used yeast cells to more directly test the effects of red dye #40 on cell division rates. We grew yeast exposed to different concentrations of red dye #40 on YED and YPD media plates. This research is still in process, but our initial results show indication of abnormal cell growth; so far, there seems to be no correlation between exposure to red dye cell division rates. This would suggest that red dye #40 is not a carcinogen.

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Chagas Disease Modeling
David Mock

Chagas disease is a significant health problem in rural South and Central America, where about 8 to 11 million people are currently infected with an acute or chronic form of the disease. It is a vector-borne disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi which is usually transmitted to humans through the bites of insect vectors from several species of “kissing bugs” or triatomines. The introduction of a comprehensive Chagas disease model that considers the major known transmission routes and insecticide spraying within endemic countries will allow for the determination of a theoretical insecticide spraying constant. Conditions for the existence and uniqueness of disease-free and endemic equilibria are established for the model. These conditions describe how insecticide spraying will impact the spread of Chagas disease within the modeling system. The influence of insecticide spraying on the dynamics of the model is theoretically and numerically investigated.

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Investing in a Green Future: Nuclear Energy and the Uranium Bull Market
Erin O'Bradovich

This presentation is an investment thesis based on the uranium market. Uranium is a natural resource used for fuel to power nuclear reactors. The first section of this thesis explores the viability and growth of the nuclear power industry in the wake of the clean energy initiative. Due to negative public sentiment and high costs, the nuclear industry has stagnated, and the price of uranium has been in a bear market for over ten years. Despite its bad reputation, nuclear power still accounts for 10% of the world’s energy production. Due to unsustainable market conditions, there is now a structural deficit in the supply of uranium to the world’s nuclear plants. Due to waning supply, the price of uranium must move upwards to meet demand. The second part of this thesis examines the viability of investing in the uranium industry through an economy, industry, and company analysis. 

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Intersection of Misogyny and Trauma in Female Prisons
Autumn Walsh

Over the last 30 years,’ incarceration rates among women have increased by 700% in federal, state, and local jails/prisons, growing at twice the rate of incarcerated men. Most females are held in the local or county jails, 60% of which have not been convicted of any crime. “The War on Drugs,” was a great driving force behind this dramatic increase in the female prison population. During the 1980s and the 1990s, low-level drug offenses accounted for 40% of the female increase in incarceration rates. Using a Feminist perspective, this project will seek to synthesize the existing research and develop new gender-specific research topics that concern female confinement by using relevant social work and evidence-based theories. The mass incarceration crisis has had a disproportional effect on American women that carry substantial social implications and negative consequences when gender and trauma are not considered in confinement settings. The project will look at misogyny behind the walls of female housing units and how it functions as the great enforcer of patriarchal values to the detriment of rehabilitation. The author hopes that this information can be used to elicit future research that will analyze the pervasive misogyny in Pennsylvania’s female prisons. This research is important to the treatment of individuals incarcerated in female housing units so that they may successfully assimilate back into society and lead high-quality and productive lives.

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Black Women in Healthcare: Are We Really Protected?
Jordan Williams

My inspiration for my work came from my class I had last semester communication research. Our assignment was to find a topic that was interesting that we can do more research on and write about it. I chooses to do black women in healthcare. During this time I was still figuring out what I wanted yo do with my communication studies major. Health communication I also learned about in class and I grew to like it. So I wanted my topic to focus on that. Black women in health care are over looked and don’t get the proper treatments. Black women are dying faster than any other race and ethnicity of women. Through my research I found many topics that covered this topic and learned so much. My topic is sometimes overlooked but it’s important to talk about this and we can stop it.

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