Summer 2020 PEAK Experiences Awards Announced

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships is pleased to announce the PEAK Experience Award Project proposals that earned funding for this summer. We are very proud of the ingenuity, intellect, and nimbleness our students and mentors demonstrated in rapidly reimagining their projects in light of COVID-19 (we had many worthy applications that simply could not happen because of the global pandemic and we encourage those Huskies to re-apply if and when the pandemic allows). These ambitious students are setting the pace for undergraduate research and creative endeavor on campus and their projects explore a range of topics from the legal rights of independent artists to photopharmacology to North Carolina Cherokee to exoplanets. Our Summer 2020 PEAK Experiences Cohort Members will be sharing their works-in-progress throughout the upcoming months, so keep your eyes peeled for their updates and on this page! Thank you mentors!

Histoires Modernes de Paris: Idealization vs. Reality
Awardee(s): Arielle Ahrendts, INAF/International Affairs, CSSH’21
Mentor: Professor Stacey Bourns, Lang; Literature and Culture, CSSH
My research question of focus would be: how does the idealization of Paris through portrayals in film, media, literature, and culture as a whole influence the linguistic identity and overall identity of those studying French language and culture?

(4x5)Birnholz_AnnaHuman Connections, Community Resilience: Digital Theatre & Performance in a Time of Social Distancing
Awardee(s): Anna Birnholz, Cultural Anthropology/Theatre, CAMD’24
Mentor: Professor Dani Snyder-Young, Theatre, CAMD
In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, performances that have typically occurred in front of a live audience have been forced to adapt to a digital format. Through this project, I will engage in participant-observation research to understand the way performers are utilizing online platforms to create art.

(4x4)Calderon_Villa_PalomaSustainable Agricultural Supply Chains and Their Disrupters
Awardee(s): Paloma Calderon Villa, INDE/Industrial Engineering, COE’20
Mentor: Professor Kayse Maass, Mech & Industrial Engineering, COS
Supply chain models rarely incorporate societal components, such as ethics or sustainability. This project focuses on modeling agricultural supply chains to (1) understand how to make these more resilient to unplanned disruptions and (2) ensuring that labor trafficking and other forms of exploitation doesn’t occur.

(4x5)Canary_MatthewWater Unaffordability in the United States: Using Principles of Organizational Capacity to Understand Municipal Variation in Providing Water Access
Awardee(s): Matthew Canary, Sociology/Envr. Studies, CSSH’22
Mentor: Professor Laura Senier, Sociology and Anthropology, CSSH
The position includes collection and analysis of information regarding water prices and shutoffs as well as the organizational elements in government that affect these issues. This data will come from sources such as publicly available minutes, media related to water availability and public response, and data on city water systems.

Immigrants’ Healthcare Access Under Shifting Public Policies
Awardee(s): Valeria Do Vale, Sociology/Political Science, CSSH’21
Mentor: Professor Tiffany Joseph, Sociology and Anthropology, CSSH
I hope to work with Professor Joseph on the project examining “Immigrants’ Healthcare Access under Shifting Public Policies”. I will be  using NVivo to code Brazilian immigrant interviews from the study. This process consists of  identifying overarching and sub-patterns, which is an important step to prepare the data for analysis.

Territorial Stigma and Mental Health in Mumbai Slum
Awardee(s): Jasper Duval, Health Science/Sociology, CSSH’23
Mentor: Professor Liza Weinstein, Sociology and Anthropology, CSSH
I will assist Dr. Liza Weinstein and Ms. Saloni Dev in their research regarding how territorial stigma impacts the mental health of residents of Kaula Bunder, an informal settlement located in Mumbai, India.

A Qualitative Systematic Review of Exposure to Violence Among Resettled Refugees
Awardee(s): Rayna Haque, Health Science, Bouvé’22
Mentor: Professor Carmel Salhi, Health Sciences, Bouvé
This research will be focusing on the exposure of violence among resettled refugees through a qualitative perspective, with a focus on the effect of violence on the mental health of refugees now living in high-income countries.

Health Reform Influence on Immigrant Healthcare Access in the U.S.
Awardee(s): Kenadi Kaewmanaprasert, Health Science, Bouvé’24
Mentor: Professor Tiffany Joseph, Sociology and Anthropology, CSSH
I am working with Professor Joseph to explore the role of documentation status and race in shaping access to healthcare. Specifically, I analyze interview data, conducted with local immigrant and health advocacy organization employees, to examine the influence of the 2016 presidential election on immigrants’ healthcare access in 2019.

Understanding Racial/Ethnic Preterm Birth Disparities
Awardee(s): Summer Kelly, Health Science, Bouvé’24
Mentor: Professor Collette Ncube, Health Sciences, Bouvé
I will be focusing on creating a systematic literature review regarding strucutural racism, seeing how structural racism is measured in order to see how it plays a role with preterm birth disparities in certain racial/ethnic groups.

H-2A Visa & Wage/Labor Violation Insights
Awardee(s): Elaine Klatt, INDE/Industrial Engineering, COE’22
Mentor: Professor Kayse Maass, Mech & Industrial Engineering, COE
Labor trafficking exists within agricultural supply chains, and migrant workers in the U.S. on H-2A visas are at a particular risk for trafficking due to potential deportation. This project serves to investigate methods to protect these workers by disrupting labor trafficking patterns.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Human Vulnerability and Trafficking
Awardee(s): Sanjana Koushik, BSAD/Business Administration, DMSB’22
Mentor: Professor Shawn Bhimani, Supply Chain Management, DMSB
I hope to investigate how COVID-19 has disproportionately harmed the well-being of marginalized communities that are already at risk of insecurity and exploitation. By studying how the root causes of vulnerability are magnified in this pandemic, we can better assess the growth of targeting and how trafficking has been impacted.

National Science Foundation Water Unaffordability Project
Awardee(s): Rebecca Li, Health Science, Bouvé’21
Mentor: Professor Laura Senier, Health Sciences, Bouvé
I will assist Professor Laura Senier with efforts regarding literature review and archival research about how municipal water systems are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing attention toward water pricing and shutoffs resulting from non-payment. Archival research encompasses searching for and analyzing media coverage from major newspapers regarding this topic.

Environmental Justice and Hydrogen Sulfide Monitoring
Awardee(s): Kira Mok, Sociology/Envr. Studies, CSSH’24
Mentor: Professor Sara Wylie, Sociology and Anthropology, CSSH
I will assist with an environmental justice project that develops citizen science tools for hydrogen sulfide monitoring. I will analyze and summarize the data to construct report backs for community members and assist with creating a machine learning code to detect hydrogen sulfide levels.

Perspectives on Building a Statewide Early Childhood System of Care: Findings From the Massachusetts Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Project
Awardee(s): Shurobhi Nandi, BIOC/Biochemistry, COS’22
Mentor: Professor Beth Molnar, Health Sciences, Bouvé
In this project I will collect and analyze qualitative data to better understand the lessons learned from implementing a statewide early childhood system of care for young children in Massachusetts.

Immigrants’ Healthcare Access Under Shifting Public Policies
Awardee(s): Michaiah Parker, Health Science, Bouvé’21
Mentor: Professor Tiffany Joseph, Sociology and Anthropology, CSSH
In this research project, I will conduct a literature review to examine how shifting public policies impact immigrant healthcare access. This project will provide a greater understanding of immigrants’ healthcare barriers and the role of governments in improving accessibility to essential healthcare services.

Multilingual Writing Assessment Project
Awardee(s): Devon Regan, English, CSSH’22
Mentor: Professor Mya Poe, English, CSSH
In working on the Multilingual Writing Assessment Project, I hope to help compile and analyze a corpus of multilingual student writing samples. The insights from this project will help gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the Writing Program, and improve access to writing for students of all linguistic backgrounds.

Disrupting Human Trafficking in the Agricultural Sector
Awardee(s): Jahaan Saini, INDE/Industrial Engineering, COE’21
Mentor: Professor Kayse Lee Maass, Mech & Industrial Engineering, COE
This project is a part of Dr. Kayse Maass’s Operations Research & Social Justice Lab.


826 Writers’ Room Evaluation
Awardee(s): Marie Senescall, BENG/Biology/English, CSSH’24
Mentor: Professor Emily Mann, Pub Policy and Urban Affairs, CSSH
I hope to aid in the research of 826 Writers’ Rooms, a nationwide program to develop writing and creativity within public school culture. Evaluating 826, I want to better understand the intersection between writing and identity development, finding effective ways to strengthen this relationship within the young adult program.

H-2A Visa & Wage/Labor Violation Insights
Awardee(s): Juan Solano Quesada, INDE/Industrial Engineering, COE’22
Mentor: Professor Kayse Maass, Mech & Industrial Engineering, COE
By working in this project, I expect to understand holistically the H-2A Visa environment for both workers and employers and be able to identify negligences within the process. Prioritizing immigrant’s well-being, I hope to put my analytical skills in practice to reduce further injustices in and by the system.

Ethical Procurement Toolkit
Awardee(s): Emma Toole, BSAD/Business Administration, DMSB’23
Mentor: Professor Shawn Bhimani, Supply Chain Management, DMSB
This project will result in an easy-to-understand reference tool focused on informing and influencing procurement professionals regarding the risks and impacts of forced labor in the supply chain, how to eliminate it from supply chain contracts, and how to protect, detect, remediate, and prevent forced labor within supply chains.

Immigrant Health Research Project
Awardee(s): Jessica Torres, BENS/Behavioral Neuroscience, COS’22
Mentor: Professor Tiffany Joseph, Sociology and Anthropology, CSSH
For the project, I will assist Professor Joseph in creating an Endnote database of relevant peer-reviewed and newspaper articles on health policy – at the state and federal level.

(4x5)Duffy_JakeMonte Carlo Simulation of the Liquid-Vapor Coexistence in a Langmuir Monolayer of Pentadecanoic Acid
Awardee(s): Jake Duffy, Computer Sci/Physics, Khoury’23
Mentor: Professor Mona Minkara, Bioengineering, COE
Finding the conditions at which Pentadecanoic Acid may exist in both liquid and vapor phases provides great insight into the behavior of biological interfaces in general. The difficulty in determining these conditions experimentally has led to the use of molecular simulation. Simulations in the past, however, have produced somewhat inconclusive results due to limited computing power. This project seeks to improve upon past research in determining phase coexistence.

(4x5)Iyer_MeghnaGuardrail Safety
Awardee(s): Meghna Iyer, Health Science, Bouvé’22
Mentor: Professor Alisa Lincoln, Health Sciences, Bouvé
In recent news, people have sustained injuries from crashes involving defective gaurdrails. Joining community agencies in this exploratory study would help me compile data sources to examine why policies haven’t been created in Massachusetts to ban certain guardrails. An analysis would determine how guardrails impact the state myself and Northeastern resides in, Massachusetts. A report would be written up that would then determine the next steps for motor vehicle safety to outline future steps in an application for a Trailblazer Award. This would ultimately grant me the chance to implement changes that improve safety, such as banning these guardrails.

Banerjee_Mwangi_StanleyA Continuing Study of the Regeneration of HS and HA Components of the Endothelial Glycocalyx
Awardee(s): Selina Banerjee, Chemical Engineering, COE’22; John Mwangi, Biology, COS’21; and Theodora Stanley, Health Science, Bouvé’22
Mentor: Professor Eno Ebong, Chemical Engineering, COE
Atherosclerosis and associated cardiovascular disease affect over 126 million adults and cost around $214 billion in the US alone, despite significant advances in disease prevention and treatment. Current therapeutic approaches mainly target advanced stages of the disease. The goal of this research is to improve disease outcomes via early disease intervention by studying the endothelial glycocalyx, a sugar-rich lining of the blood vessel wall that protects vascular health and is damaged in early atherosclerosis. This project is a continuation of our pilot study on the regeneration of the heparan sulfate and hyaluronic acid components of the endothelial glycocalyx.

(4x5)Bhaiya_VidhanCreating Successful Transgenerational Family Businesses
Awardee(s): Vidhan Bhaiya, Chemical Engineering, COE’20
Mentor: Professor Edmund Clark, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, D’Amore-McKim
Only 30% of family businesses make it past the third generation. Often, this is because of a lack of knowledge and planning during transitions which causes a lot of friction. In this context, I will be developing a framework to help the incumbent and successor to effectively manage this process and thereby Create Successful Transgenerational Family Businesses.

(4x5)Danthinne_ElisaVaping Epidemic Systems Dynamics Modelling
Awardee(s): Elisa Danthinne, Industrial Engineering, COE’21
Mentor: Professor James Benneyan, Mech & Industrial Engineering, COE
The “vaping epidemic”rose to public attention with a peak in 2019 with an outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette/vaping products. This project aims to integrate industrial engineering modelling techniques with public health data. It consists of two objectives: first, to summarize and extract relevant findings from a novel survey on longitudinal vaping behaviors in individuals, and second, to combine these findings with publically available data to input into a systems dynamics model. The model will be expanded to account for policy and societal changes regarding vaping, and will integrate appropriate sensitivity analyses.

(4x5)Forsyth_KatyaFood Sovereignty Movements within a Regenerative Systems Framework
Awardee(s): Katherine Forsyth, International Affairs, CSSH’20
Mentor: Professor Christopher Bosso, Pub Policy and Urban Affairs, CSSH
This documentary explores varous food sovereignty movements in the Northeast United States through interviewing organizations which provide access to resources, education around food production and preparation, and ecologically beneficial food waste management. These three elements function together-but-separately to form a regenerative food system, where stakeholders are empowered to participate in their food production, dispose of their food waste responsibly, and use the product of their food disposal (finished compost) to grow their food organically and more productively. This film will be submitted to festivals nationally and internationally.

(4x5)Mukadum_FatemahUsing a Machine Learning Model to Generate Novel Chemical Structures With Desired Properties for Light Activated Medical Applications
Awardee(s): Fatemah Mukadum, Chemistry, COS’21
Mentor: Professor Steven Lopez, Chemistry & Chemical Biology, COS
Drug discovery is an expensive process and can lead to invasive treatments. Light-activated drugs introduce dynamic control and selectivity. Only about one hundred million substances have been synthesized, whereas the range of potential drugs is more than a trillion times larger. I intend to remodel a machine-learning algorithm to design light-activated drugs with the desired properties. This approach bypasses the long, systematic method of searching known libraries and instead uses a learned chemical intuition to generate novel, viable candidates. I hope to expedite the initial drug discovery process as a whole and provide new, and unique compounds that could be synthesized for light-activated human therapeutic applications.

(4x5)Sinoimeri_JamesBioreactor Strategies for Optimizing 1-Carbon Feedstock Growth of Acetogenic Bacteria
Awardee(s): James Sinoimeri, Chemical Engineering, COE’21
Mentor: Professor Benjamin Woolston, Chemical Engineering, COE
As climate change intensifies, there is increasing interest in replacing petroleum-based chemical production with sustainable biochemical production methods, and in extracting carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. One of the biggest challenges for biochemical production is developing carbon feedstocks that do not compete with agricultural crops such as sugarcane, corn, and vegetable oils. To address this challenge, this project aims to characterize and optimize biochemical production of acetogenic bacteria (acetogens) in bioreactors from a 1-carbon feedstock consisting of formic acid (formate), a low-cost and effective alternative feedstock derived from efficient electrocatalysis of dangerous atmospheric carbon dioxide.

(4x5)Stohr_AnthonyOxygen Tolerance & Symbiotic Co-Culture Development of Clostridium Ljungdahlii
Awardee(s): Anthony Stohr, Chemical Engineering, COE’21
Mentor: Professor Benjamin Woolston, Chemical Engineering, COE
Industrial carbon emissions are a major factor in climate change. A biological solution to reduce emissions can be found in microbial waste gas fermentation by acetogens. However, commercial success has been hampered by the need for expensive gas pre-treatment to reduce oxygen concentration, which is toxic to these microbes. This project seeks to characterize the response of C. ljungdahlii, an acetogen, to oxygen and then use these results to engineer a continuous co-culture system that eliminates the need for pre-treatment. The project outcomes will be presented at AIChE’s Annual Meeting and RISE as well as published in JIMB.

(4x5)Trevino_CalebAnalysis and Archiving of North Carolina Cherokee
Awardee(s): Caleb Trevino, Linguistics, COS’23
Mentor: Professor Ellen Cushman, English, CSSH
North Carolina Cherokee is classified by UNESCO as a “severely endangered” language, spoken by less than 1000 individuals. I will transcribe, analyze, and annotate NC Cherokee language data available from three print resources, review these with linguists and a Cherokee representative, and then input data into an online database. My contribution will support language learners and scholars, provide enriched, well-structured primary data for linguistic research, and inform development of urgently needed descriptive resources for Cherokee language revitalization. Findings will also be submitted to to the Cherokee Language Symposium, Digital Humanities Quarterly, and the International Journal of American Linguistics.

(4x5)Williams_ElizabethA Dangerous Climate Around Trade
Awardee(s): Elizabeth Williams, Sociology/Int’l Affairs, CSSH’21
Mentor: Professor Daniel Faber, Sociology and Anthropology, CSSH
This research explores the linkage between trade and climate change. It will analyze the impact NAFTA has had on climate change and assess the strength of the new trade agreement, USMCA, to conclude if neoliberal free trade directly causes climate change. The expected outcome is that this will be proven true. It will assess NAFTA/USMCA through policy evaluations and comparing emissions pre/post NAFTA. The research is significant as it contributes to filling a gap in sociological/environmental literature and can improve trade agreements. It will be published on two research websites and go out to a listserv of four million people.

(4x5)Ajegwu_RosemaryAda Ada
Awardee(s): Rosemary Ajegwu, Industrial Engineering, COE’21
Mentor: Professor Moya Bailey, African-American Studies, CSSH
“Ada Ada” will start a global, Diasporic conversation from LGBTQIA+ Adas and empowered Igbo women who are rejecting and challenging the patriarchal, misogynistic, and heteronormative Igbo Ada (first daughter) customs. I will interview 4-6 Adas (each) in the USA, Toronto, London, and Abuja, creating a documentary series and portrait photos. This project is important because there is little to no information available on the experience of being an “Ada.” This is due to a cisheteronormative, patriarchal, and western-centered society that deems the stories of non-western, non-cisgender, and non-heterosexual folks as unimportant.

(4x5)Hartman_DanielPharmacological Inhibition of Astrocytic Activity Modulates the Spontaneous Activity of a Model Endogenous Oscillator
Awardee(s): Daniel Hartman, Biochemistry, COS’21
Mentor: Professor Günther Zupanc, Biology, COS
I am proposing to study the gross contribution of astrocytes – a type of glial cell – to the generation of the sustained, spontaneous oscillations produced by the pacemaker nucleus – a model endogenous oscillator – in Apteronotus leptorhynchus. Endogenous oscillators are a category of neural network that produce rhythmic output without requiring input. Several of these oscillators exist in the human body and drive vital organ functions. These oscillators are surrounded by a plethora of interneurons and glial cells which may promote or inhibit their function. There is a need to understand how these glial cells modulate network activity.

(4x5)Malterre_EmilyGenerational Wisdom and the Art of the Story
Awardee(s): Emily Malterre, Civil Engineering, COE’21
Mentor: Professor Jeb Sharp, Journalism, CAMD
This project will pair conversations with and about grandparents with quality sound design and story crafting, resulting in a podcast using the material of conversation, but told with the care of a careful narrative backed by an audio landscape that enhances and draws the listener in. I will pair interview-style conversations between myself and my grandparents with conversations other people my age have with their grandparents, and round it out with conversations with my peers about the experience in an attempt to analyze what it means to have intergenerational conversations and, perhaps more importantly, intergenerational relationships.

(4x5)McGowan_NatalieA Cross-Cultural Comparison of HPV Vaccination Efforts and Cervical Cancer Rates between Australia and Massachusetts
Awardee(s): Natalie McGowan, Behavioral Neuroscience, COS’21
Mentor: Professor Kayoll Gyan, Nursing, Bouvé
The primary cause of cervical cancer is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is preventable with the HPV vaccine. Australia is the first country on track to eliminate cervical cancer through a national HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening program. Massachusetts has one of the highest HPV vaccination rates in the US, but these rates are behind those of Australia. This project serves to understand and compare the HPV vaccination programs in both places to add to the discussion on how to implement interventions in Massachusetts to raise HPV vaccination rates so that we too can eliminate cervical cancer.

Elucidating Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Infection Rates
Awardee: Jeanine Nasser, COS’22
Mentor: Professor Rebecca Riccio, Director, Social Impact Lab; Pub Policy and Urban Affairs
People of color and other historically marginalized populations have been disproportionately affected by adverse health outcomes for decades. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, our cohort from the Summer Research Program in Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health will work together to use computational and statistical methods to identify which groups are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and pinpoint deficits in our current healthcare infrastructure that have propagated these health disparities. We intend to present our findings in a preprint and/or a report that can be used by individuals of other fields, including clinical practice and health policy.

(4x5)Silvers_BenjaminIndependent Artists: Know Your Legal Rights
Awardee(s): Benjamin Silvers, Music, CAMD’21
Mentor: Professor Rebekah Moore, Music, CAMD
Have you streamed Ariana Grande, Eminem, or BLACKPINK recently? Chances are, your $9.99/month Spotify subscription made its way back to them, thanks to Universal Music Group’s enormous legal team. When it comes to independent musicians, however, there are many ways their royalties can slip through the cracks and never find their owner. My research examines the gaps in legal knowledge that exist in the independent music community and cause hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed music royalties to be generated every year.

Awardee(s): Taylor Snead, Computer Science, Khoury’21
Mentor: Professor Mark Sivak, Art and Design, CAMD
I’m creating an experience that immerses visitors in language change by interacting with a group of machines talking about sandwiches with each other. They start out speaking a basic language, then tackle obstacles in their environment by developing novel linguistic features.