Research at Fermilab Part 2

I am now finished with my research endeavor at Fermilab and have returned to campus for the semester.  I certainly learned a lot simply by osmosis from being surrounded by my collaborators.  Working remotely has been constructive, but moves much slower when one doesn’t have immediate access to helpful experts.

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Research at Fermilab Part 1

I am already halfway done with my time at Fermilab.  The goal of this trip was to advance my research on the Pion Charge Exchange Cross Section to prepare it for a conference in late January.  I certainly have been making progress, but with particle physics the progress is often slow at first as you learn the tools.  Once you can understand the computer, progress is nearly instant as the computational power at my disposal is fairly immense.

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A Search for Waves in the Atmosphere of Venus (Part I)

I’m a physics major, but my real passion lies in astronomy.  My honors thesis is on the atmosphere of Venus, and I was recently able to go on a trip to New Mexico, with the help of the Charles Center and Physics Department, to observe the planet with a state-of-the-art telescope.

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Ending the semester on a high note!

Before winter break laziness (and hopefully some reading/writing energy) fully take hold, I wanted to report on a discovery from the end of the semester that will definitely be a focus of my project in the spring. The J75 cag negative strain of HP has never been the most cooperative. After going through several rounds of mutagenesis reactions and several primer sets, I finally altered the oipA locus to “phase on” and transformed this plasmid into HP. But when June and I started using these strains in adherence assays with AGS cells, the results were, frankly, boring. Unlike the other cag negative strain J68 where there were clear differences in AGS cell attachment between the cells with oipA phase on and off, there was no difference in J75 across several experiments. After confirming that each strain was indeed what it was supposed to be with sequencing, I was perplexed.

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Experimental Phase of “The Curious Case of OipA”

Hello and welcome to the wrap up of the Fall 2016 edition of “The Curious Case of OipA!” Since I was last on the SuRGe blog, I have completed phase 1 of my project, and have successfully created all of my mutant oipA strains of Helicobacter pylori. Now I am well into the experimental phase, and have some interesting preliminary results regarding the role of OipA in the pathogenicity of both cag pathogenicity island negative (less virulent) and positive (more virulent) strains of HP.

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The Hazards of Understanding the Past

“Comment allez-vous?” the archivist asked, extending his hand.

“Michaela,” I replied, happy to introduce myself after three weeks of asking this person for documents.

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Reading the Grain

In order to tell the stories of people who don’t leave behind their own written record, historians talk about reading against the grain (scrutinizing the information that a writer in the past reveals for all of its biases to learn something the writer doesn’t say) or reading along the archival grain (understanding the way that archives are built to learn information about people not writing any sources). I anticipated having to employ both of these strategies when I was researching my dissertation in history on gender and sexuality among Illinois Indians, especially during my visit to the Archives nationales d’outre-mer in Aix-en-Provence, which houses all of the official records from the French colonization of North America. I expected to find a lot of documents from old white dudes, talking about the status of forts and shipping, and that I was going to have to read between the lines of all of this “official” business to discover what Native Americans were doing at the same time and how gender and sexuality factored into French colonization.

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Health Officials and Birth Registration: Tanzania’s Efforts to Aid Citizens

My field visit to Mbeya shaped the rest of my research. The interviews answered questions I had been wondering all spring semester while doing background research on my thesis, but new questions had appeared. Has the federal government actually prioritized birth registration, or is it still relatively unimportant? How has the government used the more representative data to plan for its citizens? What factors can make a family more inclined to register their children? Will Tanzania ever be able to achieve 100% birth registration rates?

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Understanding Birth Registration in Tanzania through UNICEF Efforts

Globally, over 230 million children are “invisible”—their births and existence remain unregistered with their country’s civil registration system. Birth registration is a part of a civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system that documents important life events of citizens. Without birth registration and certificates, children are more vulnerable to human trafficking, illegal identity changes, early marriage, forced labor, military recruitment, and involvement in armed conflict. Incomplete birth registries also hinder a state’s planning for its citizens, particularly regarding the provision of health services. The lack of birth registration is a pressing issue in “least developed” countries, with the under-five birth registration rate being only 35%. In recent years, the United Republic of Tanzania had the lowest under-five birth registration rate in eastern Africa at a rate of 16%. In an effort to increase birth registration, the Tanzanian government has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to increase birth registration through an initiative that eliminates the registration fee, decentralizes the registration process, advertises the importance of birth registration, and uses mobile phones to register children. I spent nine weeks in Tanzania collecting research on this topic for my honors thesis to better understand government provision of public services, the social and economic factors affecting Tanzanian citizens, and the use of mobile technology to increase birth registration.

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Peer Socialization Practices and Externalizing Symptomology among Adolescents (Part 2)

When one studies the mind, one studies people. While finding statistical significance in the data is exciting, I feel the most rewarding part of psychological research is conducting an interview. It can be a truly profound and humbling experience to have a stranger give you such insight into the way they think and view themselves, those important to them, and the world. When people form a friendship, they tend to learn about one another over time as they grow closer to one another. In an interview for clinical psychology research, one learns a lot about another person all at once. While as a researcher, one might learn more about the mind through interviewing, as an individual one is also able to learn about the human condition. This type of research is very rewarding, therefore, because on is able to grow not only as a scholar, but as a person. While in the data set or in the final paper participants might just be identification numbers and points in a data set, to the interviewer they are very real and unique people who more often than not, in sharing their life and their mind, impart a small lesson in understanding others and their points of view that otherwise the interviewer may not have been able to experience. I have found this to be exciting as a student of psychology for two reasons: first, it allows for verification or discovery of insights into the mind and behavior, and on the other it allows for real experience of what one learns in a lecture. While a discussion with a research assistant in a laboratory may not be as ecologically valid as the real world, so to speak, but it certainly feels more so than what one learns in a text book in the library.

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