Student Research Projects

One of the hallmarks of an education from Manhattan College's School of Science is the opportunity for undergraduates to do hands-on research with faculty. Below are some of the recent research projects our students have done:

New Organic Laboratory Experiments Involving the Synthesis of Commercially Important Compounds - Naproxen and Indigo

Michelle Annabi ’14, Chemistry and Biochemistry Department

This summer, I participated in a summer research project with Dr. James. The projects worked on were the synthesis of indigo dye and the resolution of naproxen. The purpose of this research is to make interesting projects that can be used in undergraduate organic chemistry laboratory classes. Ordinarily in organic chemistry laboratory, a colorless starting material is used to make another color product which has no uses in industry. This makes the student question whether organic chemistry is actually essential in their lives or in their future. In the synthesis of indigo, indigo (blue) is made from anthranillic acid (white). The physical properties noticeably change throughout the different reactions, emphasizing the importance of each step. In the resolution of naproxen, two enantiomers are separated from a racemic mixture and then are tested by polarimetry.

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Monte Carlo Simulations of Three Dimensional Hard Particle Fluids

Meena A. Balady ’14 and Marvin Bishop, Ph.D., Computer Science and Mathematics Departments

Three dimensional homogenous hard sphere systems have been investigated by Monte Carlo simulations. The equation of state was computed from the contact pair correlation function. The results were in excellent agreement with other simulations and theories. There is no significant difference between initializing the simulation from the cubic or fcc lattice. Animations, using the Maple software package, were used to indicate the nature of the equilibration. Modeling projects such as the one described here provide a clear demonstration of some aspects of the behavior of materials and thus strongly enhance student understanding and intuition.

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An Analysis of Interference Effects in the JHU Generator version 3.1.8

Andrew Baumgartner ’15, Physics Department

The use of Monte Carlo simulators in experimental high energy physics is increasingly important. With top tier experiments like the LHC at CERN producing a maximum of 8 TeV, it is important to see what will occur at higher energies and we know what to look for in the future. The JHU Generator is one such simulator. Here we present an elementary analysis of the new lepton interference feature of the JHU Generator. We compare it to MadGraph and our estimations.

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Prevalence of Plasmodium Vivax and Malariae in HIV-infected Patients in Benin City, Edo, Nigeria

Mastanna Eraifej ’14 and Ghislaine Mayer, Ph.D., Biology Department 

Malaria and HIV are endemic to tropical and subtropical areas. Due to similar geographical distribution, co-infection of malaria and HIV can occur in individuals. Previous research has shown that individuals infected with malaria and HIV who are taking anti-retrovirals still have the plasmodium parasite in their bloodstream suggesting that the lack of anti-malarials in their drug regimen resulted in plasmodium infection.  We wanted to determine the status of plasmodium infection in a cohort of patients taking both anti-malarial and anti-retroviral drugs. Blood samples were collected from patients of the Edo district of Nigeria in Benin City co-infected with plasmodium and HIV. Our results have identified plasmodium falciparum as the most prevalent species found in these patients. The prevalence of P. falciparum in our study is 28.7%.  Our findings show no significant correlation between CD4+ T-cell count and parasitemia in these patients. 

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Using Natural Products to Remediate Chromium-Contaminated Water

Stephanie Nava ’14, Chemistry and Biochemistry Department

The project entails the use of metals that are used in many industrial processes. If improperly regulated, the metals could contaminate drinking water. Specifically, Cr(VI), a designated priority pollutant by the US Environmental Protection Agency,  is generated from the manufacture of stainless steel, tanning of leather, wood treatment and pigment production among others. While Cr(VI) is toxic to humans, animals, plants and micro-organisms, the Cr(III) species is beneficial to good health. The ability to convert Cr(VI) to Cr(III) by the addition of three electrons is the focus of my work with Dr. John Regan. We are using ascorbic acid (vitamin C) as the source of electrons in this chemical reduction reaction. Our long-term goal is to chemically modify the ascorbic acid molecule such that it can be physically removed from the water source after the reaction has been completed and chemically recycled for additional uses. To date, we have investigated the rapid reduction of Cr(VI) to Cr(III) by unmodified ascorbic acid and confirmed our results using spectrophotometric analysis.

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Predicting Web Hosting Trend by Analyzing the Wikipedia Article Traffic

Rocco Pascale ’15, Computer Science Department

Popular search engines, such as Google and Bing, provide the user with large amounts of data.  The data is presented in the form of links to websites related to the term that they entered into the search bar. The amount of pages returned is finite, and this number associated with the searched term is known as the hit count. Within the top pages returned to the user, is the Wikipedia article corresponding to the term. Wikipedia being a quick and accessible outlet to information is used a lot, gaining a large amount of views or “hits.” By comparing the monthly average of the term’s hit count, with the total monthly Wikipedia views of the keyword’s article I managed to observe a correlation, seeing if there growths compared, and if Wikipedia article traffic affects  the way these companies update the search databases.

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Investigating the Quenching of Luminescence of Ruthenium Compounds by a Variety of Silver Nanoparticles

Matthew Popp ’14, Alexander Santulli, Ph.D. and Jianwei Fan, Ph.D., Chemistry and Biochemistry Department

In this research, it was found that silver nanoparticles synthesized with different capping agents were able to quench, or decrease the absorbance of two different ruthenium coordinate complexes. The degree of quenching observed between the citrate-capped silver nanoparticles and the ruthenium complexes was slightly larger than the degree of quenching observed between the PEG-capped silver nanoparticles and the same complexes. These absorbances and intensities were recorded by a UV/Vis spectrophotometer and a spectrofluorimeter, respectively. This is due to the additional static interactions, not present between the neutrally charged PEG-capped nanoparticles and the positively charged ruthenium complexes.

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Range Expansion of the Non-native Asian Shore Crab in the Hudson River

Angelica Romero ’15, Biology Department

Hemigrapsus sanguineus, the Asian shore crab, is an invasive species first noted in 1988 (New Jersey) and now fully established on the outer coast of the northwestern Atlantic from the Carolinas to Maine. Earlier experiments have shown that the larvae stage of these crabs cannot survive in salinities lower than 25 psu. The purpose of this research was to document the local distribution of H. sanguineus by using the Hudson-Raritan estuary as a natural salinity gradient from oligohaline to euryhaline conditions. At four sites along the Hudson and one reference site in western Long Island Sound, both population density and individual size distribution were documented by using quadrat and catch per unit effort methods. The results of these sampling efforts showed an increasing abundance of crabs along the salinity gradient ranging from 0.8 to 5 m-2 at the highest saline Hudson site, but 74 m-2 at the reference site. Interestingly, individual crab sizes tended to be smaller at the higher salinity sites. 

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Bark Formation of 43 Long-lived, Columnar Cactus Species of South America

Margaret Cooney ’14, Biology Department

Cacti are succulent plants that may live for hundreds of years. Cacti have an epidermis and a hypodermis as covering against arid environments. Measurements of the depths of cuticles, epidermal cells and hypodermal cells among the 43 species of cacti point to a wide diversity of characteristics. In general, depths these characteristics were very diverse within individual clades and were not related to native locations within Argentina, Chile and Peru. These anatomical structures developed very close to the shoot apical meristems where stems emerge. The results indicate that these anatomical characteristics may develop mostly from the microclimatic conditions where they normally grow. 

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Xylem Conductivity in Stems of 18 Cactus Species of South America

Elizabeth Miller ’14, Biology Department

In this experiment, we will determine xylem conductivity in stems of 18 species of cacti from South America. The overall purpose was to understand xylem conductivity, which is responsible for water distribution, to terminal stems. Stem conductivity was highly correlated with (1) overall height of stems, (2) cumulative stem volume, (3) number of conduits per bundle, and (4) number of conduits at 50 cm and 150 cm from tip. Overall, as the diameter of the ring of vascular bundles in stems increased, the number of bundles increased. This means that bundles are spaced evenly among species. In addition, xylem conductivities among species was linearly related with the cumulative stem surface area. 

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Water Conductivity of Grass Stems and Leaves

Diana Honasan Luzuriaga ’15, Biology Department

Xylem cells occur in discrete vascular bundles in grasses. The purpose of this study was to determine the process by which some vascular bundles bifurcate in stems to provide vascular bundles for leaves. Data for phragmites australis show 57 bundles of stems provide only 26 bundles in leaves. Thus, only 26 bundles in stems bifurcate. Data for miscanthus sinensis, show 130 bundles of stems provide only 47 bundles in leaves. Thus, only 47 bundles in stems bifurcate. Data for dactylis glomerata show 72 bundles of stems provide only 28 bundles in leaves. Thus, only 28 bundles in stems bifurcate. In general, only a small proportion of vascular bundles in stems bifurcate to provide bundles for leaves. 

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