Oral Presentations: UC 331


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Friday, April 15th
9:00 AM

Synthesis and Modeling of CYP26 Selective Inhibitors

Benjamin Uhlenbruck, University of Montana, Missoula

9:00 AM - 9:20 AM

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by sudden trauma to the brain, is a severely disabling disorder that affects more than 1.7 million Americans each year. All Retinoic Acid atRA), the active metabolite of vitamin A, plays an important role in the regulation of neuronal plasticity. Recent studies show that increase in atRA concentration improves learning and memory, increases injury-induced brain-cell generation, and could be used to treat TBI. atRA is absorbed poorly by the body. It also induces its own clearance from the body, resulting in a loss of functionality. The clearance, or metabolism of retinoic acid is predominantly mediated by a certain family of enzymes with one predominant brain isoform, CYP26B1. The research group I am working with has designed a class of selective inhibitors that should eliminate the feedback mechanisms of atRA resistance. They hypothesize that selective inhibition of the enzyme CYP26B1 will increase atRA concentrations in the brain and will treat memory impairment and neuroinflammation from TBI.

About 40 candidate structures need synthesis and testing for their capabilities as inhibitors. My research focusses on the selection and synthesis of three candidate structures for these inhibitors. The project has required me to learn and practice synthesis techniques. This includes the use of SciFinder and other online peer-reviewed databases to research the synthesis of these new chemicals and familiarization with instrument analysis such as thin-column chromatography (TLC) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. I am also using computer modeling software to study the interaction of the molecules I am synthesizing with their biological target.

I expect to complete synthesis of at least two of my projects in the next few weeks. These chemicals will then undergo biological testing for toxicity and effectiveness as drugs. If results are promising, they could go on to treat TBI or other ailments!

9:20 AM

Implications of Climate Change on Mountain Environments: The Case of the Julian and Karavanke Alps, Slovenia

Lara Antonello, University of Montana, Missoula

9:20 AM - 9:40 AM

Mountain environments are of critical concern for the global climate change agenda among the scientific community. The physical effects of climate change in mountain environments can be observed through changes in three resources of substantive concern to this study: glaciers, snowpack, and water. The purpose of this study is to inventory past climatic variability and current observed changes associated with climate change in the Julian and Karavanke Alps, two significant ranges located in northern Slovenia. This study integrates scientific data and observations through interviews, fieldwork, and secondary literature. This study also compares current global climate change researchwith regional European research in mountain environments.

Central to this study is an analysis of climatic variability as it connects to changes in glaciers, snowpack and water. This approach allows an examination of how changes in these specific Slovenian Alpine areas are addressed through natural resource management and adaptation scenarios.

The goal of this research is to gauge the potential effects and the extent to which the Slovenian Alps are affected by climate change. Climate change research is relevant on a global level where glaciers serve as water reservoirs that dictate the environmental, cultural, and political futures of mountain regions.

9:40 AM

Reproductive Output of Pinus albicaulis (whitebark pine) at Alpine Treelines

Jesse Austin Bunker, University of Montana

9:40 AM - 10:00 AM

Subalpine Pinus albicaulis (whitebark pine) are experiencing high rates of mortality due to outbreaks of native Dendroctonus ponderosae (mountain pine beetle) and the exotic fungal pathogen Cronartium ribicola (the cause of white pine blister rust). P. albicaulis in the alpine treeline ecotone appear to escape D. ponderosae attack. This habitat may serve as a refuge for P. albicaulis during periods of extreme beetle pressure. However, treeline ecotones can only be functional refuges if they’re able to reproduce. To date, no one has documented cone production, seed set, or seed viability in treeline P. albicaulis individuals, although reproductive output has been studied at lower elevations. We surveyed reproductive characteristics of P. albicaulis in treeline ecotones at six sites in five mountain ranges in the northern Rocky Mountains to quantify sex allocation and cone density. We harvested seed-cones to record seed-cone traits and seed quality for P. albicaulis at two of our treeline sites. We also compared x-ray imagery and float test techniques for determining seed viability in P. albicaulis. We found that: the majority of individuals within treeline ecotones are not currently reproductive, and those with reproductive structures are mostly male (83.3%); cone density is substantially lower than it is in subalpine stands; and cone size, seed potential and set, and seed size and viability appear to be drastically lower at treeline ecotones than subalpine forests.

10:00 AM

Chute Cutoffs and alluvial point bar morphodynamics: How rivers move over time

Caelan Simeone, University of Montana - Missoula

10:00 AM - 10:20 AM

The reach of the Clark Fork River just west of Missoula is quite dynamic, and due to erosion and deposition of sediments can shift quite rapidly during floods. During spring runoff in 2012 the main channel of the Clark Fork River about 1.3 miles west of the Reserve Street Bridge scoured through the point bar (a type of gravel or sand bar) on the inside of a meander bend and created a new channel. This event is called a chute cutoff and is one of two main ways that rivers cut through their banks to create new channels. Understanding of the mechanics driving these processes is limited, hindering predictive capabilities. In order to study this event I am conducting a case study using topography surveys in the reach from 2009, 2011, and 2015 to create digital elevation models to examine sediment removal and deposition from 2009 to 2015. This will be aided by the use of aerial photos from the USDA from 2005 to 2015 and analysis of flow data from USGS gaging stations. In addition I will use the Hec-Ras program to model the conditions likely to produce a chute cutoff event. Investigations to date suggest that the cutoff event occurred primarily due to a decrease in the radius of curvature of the proceeding bend causing increased erosion at the base of the point bar, a lack of vegetation on the bar since the last scour event, and a shortening of the length necessary to cut through the point bar. Understanding how these events occur and the mechanics behind them can help to inform managers working to improve the geomorphic and ecological health of rivers while minimizing economic risks such as lateral migrations of the river which can erode property and destroy infrastructure.

1:40 PM

The Human Cost of Failed Diplomacy: The Political Motivations Behind the 1994 United States-led Invasion of Haiti

Sydney Stivers, University of Montana, Missoula

1:40 PM - 2:00 PM

In 1990, Haitian citizens overwhelmingly voted Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the nation’s first democratically elected president. The following September, Raoul Cédras and other Haitian military officials overthrew President Aristide and forced him from the country. For several years following the coup, the United States, United Nations, and Organization of American States answered Aristide’s pleas for help by hosting several negotiation talks and implementing several economic sanctions on Haiti. Sanctions continued until 1994 when President William Clinton called for the United States-led invasion into Haiti to forcefully remove the military regime.

This invasion is particularly interesting for two reasons. President Clinton decided to take action to reestablish democracy and stop the human rights violations in Haiti in September of 1994, only months after neglecting the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the Rwandan Genocide. And secondly, previous to the invasion, the United States government emphasized the importance of peaceful negotiations and nonviolent sanctions. What drove Clinton to suddenly approve of a potentially violent invasion? This paper considers the explanations for the timing of the invasion and ultimately finds that the United States’ foreign policy largely depended on the negative feedback that President Clinton received from congressmen and the American public about mounting human rights violations in Haiti as well as the exhaustion of diplomatic negotiations with Raoul Cédras.

2:00 PM

Iran Nuclear Agreement: Good Choice or Bad Deal?

Mikaela J. Koski, University of Montana

2:00 PM - 2:20 PM

The nuclear deal between Iran and the US, along with other western nations, that came to fruition in the summer of 2015 has been characterized both as a positive change in US foreign relations and as an ill-conceived decision that could produce deadly consequences. Regardless of differing opinions on the content, the Iran nuclear deal will yield outcomes with international ramifications. This project analyzes the potential of the deal through the lens of the historical relationship between Iran and the United States to give much needed context to future interactions. Past US-Iranian relations will provide an indication of undertones that could positively or negatively affect the deal’s outcomes.

This analysis is based on research from prominent historians as well as recent pieces by commentators from both sides of the political spectrum critically evaluating the deal. Likewise, the text of the deal itself and current events also play roles. The scholarship brings together the more amicable historical relationship between Iran and America from the early 20th century with the much more recent nuclear deal. In light of the recent decades of mistrust from both sides, critical examination of the past relationship is necessary for determining whether the deal has more negative or positive potential to shape future relations. The paper finds that the nuclear deal has the potential to create positive outcomes, such as a conceivable thawing of tensions between the two countries and the re-creation of a more welcoming relationship than Iran and the US have experienced in the recent past.

2:20 PM

Sentiment Expression on Twitter Regarding the Middle East

Byron Boots, University of Montana, Missoula

2:20 PM - 2:40 PM

Social media has transformed the awareness of events around the world as it allows for instant, up-to-the-second data transmission and communication for a variety of interested parties. Due to the ongoing turmoil surrounding the Middle East and its heightened media attention, I chose to research what type of emotions and interactions are found on Twitter with regard to the region and related topics. I selected Twitter due to the relative accessibility, workability, and anticipated sufficient size of data samples available. Twitter reports 1 billion created accounts with 320 million active accounts as of December 31, 2015. These active accounts, defined as a ratio of followers to followed accounts, generate roughly 500 million tweets per day from around the world. In this research, I am looking at scholarly works, journalism sources, and other reports to learn more about some of the ways Twitter has been used as it relates to the Middle East and better establish context for my data analysis. This information helps guide me in performing real-time sentiment analysis – or opinion mining – on Twitter data using open source sentiment dictionaries with machine learning algorithms to provide highly accurate analysis of emotional response as it relates to the Middle East. This sentiment analysis is performed by assigning numerical values to words to help quantify positive, neutral, or negative emotion associated with my topic. My findings will help to draw conclusions as to whether there are specific emotions correlated with the region and associated topics, the degrees of emotion felt when tweeting about specific subjects, and how spot-checked dates after different events influence the sentiment broadcast on Twitter. This unfiltered look at people’s emotions on Twitter serves to quantify how twitter users perceive the Middle East and related topics.

2:40 PM

Lessons Learned from the Iran Nuclear Deal

Julian F. Adler, The University Of Montana

2:40 PM - 3:00 PM

The recent negotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (The Iran Nuke Deal) represents a shift in the paradigm of United States’ foreign policy toward Iran. In this presentation I analyze the historical events leading up to this shift and use them to typify US Foreign Policy toward Iran before the Nuclear deal. To do this, I touch on the 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadeq, and provide a brief analysis of US foreign policy with Iran after the 1979 revolution which put theocrat Ayatollah Khomeini in power.

After I have used these historic instances to describe a model that fits US foreign policy at this time, I examine globalization and the role of social media through the lens of the Green Movement, the Arab Spring, and the election of progressive Iranian president Mohammed Khatami. I assess how these recent developments challenge the assumptions formed by the US Foreign Policy establishment during the overthrow of Mossadeq and the revolution which established Iranian Theocracy.

I take a broader look at how Iran as a cultural entity has reacted to the policies of great powers like the United States in the past by examining its relationship with the Caliphates, Russia, and Britain. Using this is as broader context, I draw on my experience as an intern at the United States Mission to the United Nations during the negotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to examine the shift in US policy which allowed this successful negotiation. Taking this one step further, I include policy recommendations meant to enhance the efficacy of diplomatic negotiation (especially by powerful states) in the face of a rapidly changing world.

4:00 PM

The Mass of Men Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation: A Study of Unconventional Point of View and Narrative Structures in Contemporary Fiction

Spencer J. Ruchti, University of Montana

4:00 PM - 4:20 PM

The Mass of Men Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation, a novel-in-progress written by the researcher, examines the phenomenon of unconventional point of view and narrative structures within contemporary fiction. The project consists of the creation of a novel that implements an unconventional narrative structure and a literature review that examines the tradition of unconventional narratives in contemporary fiction, while also analyzing how these unconventional narratives work in relationship with reader at psychological and emotional level. Unconventional narratives include any narrative not told in traditional structures of first person singular past or present or third person singular past or present point of view. Among several others, the literature review includes analysis of Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha In The Attic, written in the first person plural point of view, and French artist Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait, written entirely in declarative sentences. Unconventional point of view can be powerful, oppressive, and even cathartic. The goal of the novel is to engage in the unique epicenter of emotional and psychological energy bound in unconventional point of view. The proposed original creative work is told almost entirely in imperative statements (ex. instead of “You sweep the room,” “Sweep the room.”) and limits the use of the pronoun “you”. The novel follows a group of janitors in a high-end corporate office as they plot to burn down the building where they work, with hopes of finding existential catharsis and liberation from tyrannical corporatism. One of the benefits of unconventional point of view is that form fits function, making for a unique, visceral reading experience. The experience of reading a novel told entirely in imperatives, or demands, is mimetic of the inescapable social, psychological, and economic demands of American work life in a tedious, repetitious, capital-driven state.

4:20 PM

GrizCode: a comedic web series defining what it means to be a University of Montana "Grizzly"

Darien Gostas, University of Montana, Missoula

4:20 PM - 4:40 PM

The University of Montana has had declining enrollment since 2012, having 16,000 students in 2011 to less than 14,000 now. This statistic correlates with the national attention this university received in 2012 regarding rape reports that were botched. Published in 2015, a book called “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” featured the town name and a photo of the clock tower on the cover which further propagated a “rape” stigma toward this university.

To replace the “rape” stigma and give this school a more accurate image, the authors created GrizCode. GrizCode is a web series featuring a compilation of student interviews on subjects ranging from “picking an advisor” and “the Kaiman,” to “going to the gym” and “on-campus laundry.” GrizCode provides viewers with the perceptions of students matriculating at UM and advice to those interested in enrolling.

This university has an infinite amount of subjects to talk about, so the authors limited them to main areas of campus, common college-related activity, and general events and landmarks of Missoula. To keep the show interesting, the editing is done concisely, with cuts every 5 to 20 seconds from interviewee to interviewee. This keeps the viewer’s attention and gives the show a humorous flair. The authors decided to do a web series because of film’s popularity in online entertainment and releasing this information to the internet would make it accessible from an online search of “UM.”

This project involved screenwriting, lighting, green-screen, animation, and sound design – everything taught in the BFA Filmmaking program. For the full series, go to YouTube and search for GrizCode.