2017-2018 Cohort

Our most recent cohort of McNair Scholars was inducted into the program on December 1, 2017. Welcome, scholars!

Guadalupe
Guadalupe Aguilar
Hometown: Brownsville, Texas
Major: Forensic Chemistry
Graduation: Spring 2019

Christopher
Christopher Azaldegui
Hometown: Cypress, Texas
Major: Chemistry
Graduation: Spring 2019

Andrea
Andrea Calderon
Hometown: Spring, Texas
Major: Environmental Science and Policy
Graduation: Spring 2019

Clarissa
Clarissa De Leon
Hometown: La Villa, Texas
Major: Environmental Science and Policy
Graduation: Spring 2019

Kaylee
Kaylee Delgado
Hometown: Brownsville, Texas
Major: Biology
Graduation: Spring 2020

Jennifer
Jennifer Jaimes
Hometown: Kyle, Texas
Major: Chemistry
Graduation: Spring 2019

Sydney
Sydney Mitchell
Hometown: Akron, Ohio
Major: Behavioral Neuroscience
Graduation: Spring 2019

Ryder
Ryder Nicholas
Hometown: Cedar Park, Texas
Major: Behavioral Neuroscience
Graduation: Spring 2019

Analise
Analise Roth-Rodriguez
Hometown: Weslaco, Texas
Major: Biochemistry
Graduation: Spring 2019

Bianca
Bianca Salinas
Hometown: Edinburg, Texas
Major: Mathematics
Graduation: Spring 2019

Alessandra
Alessandra Urbina
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Major: Global Studies
Graduation: Spring 2020

Ana
Ana Vielma
Hometown: Pharr, Texas
Major: Psychology
Graduation: Spring 2020

2016-2017 Cohort

These scholars were inducted into the McNair Scholars Program in December 2016. They participated in a research internship over the summer and presented their work at the McNair Research Symposium in July 2017.

Katelynn
Katelynn Badour
Hometown: Essexville, Michigan
Major: Psychology
Graduation: Spring 2018

Raised in the Digital Age: How Online Media Shapes Self-Perception
Research directed by Dr. Sarah Villanueva, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences

In recent years, increased accessibility of the Internet has allowed for contemporary young adults to spend more time online than previous generations. With a subsequent rise in body image concerns, it is important to consider the potential long-term implications of these websites. Previous studies called for future research to examine the ways in which interactive forms of online media can lead to bodily dissatisfaction and whether this link is attributed to individual differences or a fixed amount of exposure. Identifying these various risk factors can be useful in the detection of disordered eating habits and negative body image in young adults. The aim of the present investigation is to assess online behaviors and evaluations about the self found within a college-aged population. A sample of undergraduate college-aged participants completed an online survey examining factors such as time spent online, age of onset, types of websites accessed and evaluation of body image. It is hypothesized that individuals who are female, use the internet frequently and are the eldest child in their family will be most at risk for developing a distorted sense of self.

Nubia
Nubia Briones
Hometown: San Benito, TX
Major: Psychology
Graduation: Spring 2018

The Effects of Perspective-Taking and Gender on Ethnocultural Empathy
Research Directed by Dr. Moira Martin, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Ethnocultural empathy is a multifaceted concept that describes an individuals' ability to understand and empathize with a person of a different ethnic or racial background that one's own. Research suggests gender markedly influences a person's ability and motivation to empathize (Klein & Hodges, 2001). However, no research has investigated the relationship between gender and ethnic identity with a higher level cognitive process such as perspective taking. Therefore, investigators in this study induced perspective taking by randomly placing 86 participants in a Perspective Taking (PT) or Objective Reading (OR) condition where they were presented with an image of a woman along with a short description of her difficult day. Afterwards, empathic perspective taking was measured using the Scale of Ethnocultural Empathy (Wang et al., 2003).  Utilizing the SEE, this study aimed to investigate how ethnocultural empathy differs among an ethnically diverse population and what factors are stronger predictors for empathic responses. The results from this study can shed a light on the relationship between intergroup attitudes and gender. 

Sarahi
Sarahi Enriquez
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Major: Forensic Chemistry
Graduation: Spring 2019

Rapid DNA Analysis on Mock Fire Scene Samples
Research directed by Dr. Casie Parish Fisher, School of Natural Sciences

Creating an STR profile from biological evidence can be a time-consuming process for forensic scientists. There have been recent developments into rapid DNA analysis technology. With this new technology STR profiles can be obtained in less than two hours. The ANDE™ instrument is not just a quicker way to obtain STR profiles but it is portable, user friendly and can analyze various kinds of swabs. In this experiment, three semen samples were placed in a mock fire crime scene in order to replicate a real world scenario.   Temperatures inside the mock fire scene reached approximately 1300○.  The samples were then collected using a Puritan swab and stored until further processing.  The ANDE™ machine was then used to generate the DNA profiles from each of the samples, as well as two positive controls.  The purpose of this experiment was to determine if ANDE was a viable source to process compromised biological samples during a fire investigation. In order to investigate differences between the samples, statistical analysis was done on peak heights (RFU) of each of the samples. Calculation of averages and standard deviation (s.d.) were carried out using Excel 2010. MiniTab v17 was used to perform statistical analysis such as one-way ANOVA with α=0.05.

Jacqueline
Jacqueline Flores
Hometown: Willis, Texas
Major: Theater Arts
Graduation: Spring 2018

Creando olas: Latinx teatro movements from 1965-present
Research directed by Michelle Polgar, School of Arts and Humanities

Luiz Valdez created El Teatro Campesino (1965-Present), for and by farm workers, to create theatre for a community that had been left out. Next came the Latino Theatre Initiative in 1992 that sought to engage a larger audience. The sustainability of each program proved difficult. The Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC) (2012) took note of the challenges from the previous movement. Through their toil, the LTC hope to expand the parameters of a conversation that began more than 50 years ago. An examination of the challenges faced by the earlier movements reveal the necessary resources to continue the momentum.

Rachel
Rachel Leader
Hometown: Glenn Dale, MD
Major: Sociology
Graduation: Spring 2019

Racial Civil Rights: Comparing Participation in the Civil Rights Movement to Contemporary Austin, Texas
Research directed by Dr. Rachel Neal, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Individuals engaged in activism, organizing, and participation in a social movement have provided momentum for the racial civil rights movement. There were several motivations and strategies African American participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till’s murder outraged people as his murderers were acquitted, and he never saw justice. Women forged their own way in the movement as Black female leaders and as separate from the white-dominant feminist movement. Youth were empowered as a new generation and by persuasive speakers, such as Malcolm X, to participate. The purpose of this study is to understand the activists, organizers, and participants in social movements for African-American communities in the Civil Rights Movement, and compare these participants to current participants in Austin, Texas. The goal of this study is to illuminate who, why, and how individuals have engaged, and currently participate, in racial civil rights. This study examines participants’ (1) demographic characteristics, (2) motivations, and (3) forms of participation. The data gathered about the motivations and strategies of participants during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s was used to construct an interview instrument in order to collect data from individuals who are activists, organizers, and/or participants in movements focused on racial civil rights in Austin, Texas. Participants in Austin were selected through purposive sampling. The interviewees were assigned pseudonyms and their interviews were coded for shared themes among current activists. Several themes emerged in the data, including the importance of education, family members and violence in influencing participants’ motivations and strategies. These findings provide a greater understanding of why certain individuals engage in racial civil rights, and how these motivations and strategies have evolved since the Civil Rights Movement.

Erick
Erick Muñoz
Hometown: Cedar Park, Texas
Major: Philosophy
Graduation: Spring 2018

What Makes a Business a Business?
Research directed by Dr. William Zanardi, School of Arts and Humanities

The purpose of this paper is to provide a more comprehensive understanding of what makes a business a business. Why is this purpose worth pursuing? We ask questions but often halt prematurely and settle for less than adequate answers. My diagnosis is that the descriptive definition of “business” available in standard textbooks is an instance of such forestalled inquiry. The early sections of the paper clarify this diagnosis. The later sections draw upon Lonergan’s method of intentionality analysis to supply what too often is lacking in how we explain any business or institution.

Chantal
Chantal Neutzler
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Major: Biology
Graduation: Spring 2019

To assess the effects of rapamycin-induced autophagy on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in Caenorhabditis elegans
Research directed by Dr. Fidelma O’Leary, School of Natural Sciences

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects more than five million people in the United States. As a form of dementia found primarily in elderly adults, AD is the deterioration of the brain that causes loss of memory, critical thinking, and communication skills. Belonging to the proteopathy class of diseases, AD originates with the formation of neurotoxic clumps or amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary in the interneuronal spaces. These plaques are composed of insoluble deposits of amyloid-beta (Ab) peptides. During cleavage folding of amyloid precursor protein (APP), possible error leads to the release of Ab extracellularly and forms oligomers of 2-10 peptide fragments that attract additional components to shape the insoluble plaques. Error is commonly due to system failure in the lysosomal degradation and elimination process, autophagy. This homeostatic procedure has shown to be a vital clearance mechanism in neurodegenerative diseases; therefore, if you were to enhance autophagy, you could potentially reduce pathology and symptoms of AD. The TOR inhibitor rapamycin has shown to be a viable treatment option to enhance rapamycin-induced autophagy. Experimental treatments are performed on transgenic strain Caenorhabditis elegans and various assays including hypoxia and motility, chemotaxis, and life span will be assessed to address question.

Anthony
Anthony Sanchez
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Major: Biochemistry
Graduation: Spring 2019

Biomimetic Structural Analogues of The Enzyme Active Site of Acireductone Dioxygenase (ARD)
Research directed by Dr. Santiago Toledo, School of Natural Sciences

Acireductone Dioxygenase (ARD) is a key enzyme in the methionine salvage pathway that comes in two forms, each with a different metal cofactor. Regiospecificity of the reaction catalyzed by ARD depends entirely on the identity of this metal ion. Nickel containing ARD acts as an off-pathway shunt producing cell to cell signaling molecules; Iron containing ARD recycles 5-methyladenosine into methionine. To study this difference in reactivity, small molecular model complexes have been synthesized and characterized for reactivity studies. ARD is especially of interest due to its implication in oncogenesis and hepatitis in mammals.

Alicia
Alicia Torres
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Major: Psychology
Graduation: Spring 2018

Effects of Mindful Coloring on Anxiety
Research directed by Dr. Jessica Boyette Davis, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Behavioral interventions such as mindfulness meditation (MM) and coloring (CO), can significantly reduce anxiety. However, no research has been conducted on how mindful coloring (MC) affects anxiety. Researchers hypothesized that MC would be the most effective intervention for reducing state anxiety that had been induced by having participants write about a past fearful scenario. Anxiety levels were measured using Spielberger’s State Trait Anxiety Inventory and measured again after completing (MM), (MC), or (CO). Results show that MM, MC, and CO all reduced state anxiety, indicating that emotional disclosure lessens anxiety.

Neal
Neal Whetstone
Hometown: Pearland, Texas
Major: Political Science
Graduation: Spring 2018

The Socialist and Communal Foundations and Aspects of Black Capitalism
Research directed by Dr. Amy Nathan Wright, School of Education

Black Capitalism, a consistent practice and phenomena with many sometimes contradictory expressions, was well established in the Black American community since slavery, but blossomed in the 20th century into an ideological doctrine that both Black leaders and white politicians alike championed. Numerous scholars have noted the practical and philosophical flaws of Black Capitalism, yet little research has explored its various definitions and tenets. This study will show that Black activists and intellectuals have buttressed multiple definitions of Black Capitalism, specifically through socialism and communalism, and will denote significant communal economic practices Black people used in the American Diaspora.

2015-2016 Cohort

These scholars were inducted into the McNair Scholars Program in December 2015. They participated in a research internship over the summer and presented their work at the McNair Research Symposium in July 2016.

Pablo Castro
Pablo Castro
Hometown: Humble, Texas
Majors: History and Political Science
Graduation: Spring 2018

Sweden and the Thirty Years’ War: Secular and Religious Motivations for Intervention
Research directed by Dr. Mity Myhr, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences

This research focuses on Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years’ War and identifies both religious and secular motivations to aid the Protestant states. By identifying the secular and religious motivations the research pinpoints certain events or dates that highlight a transition from a religious focus to a more political one for Swedish interests in this conflict.  This research will rely on the analysis of both primary and secondary sources. This will provide a firsthand account of the war’s impact on the lives of Christians in Europe while also displaying academia’s analysis of the war.

Luana Chaires
Luana Chaires
Hometown: Harlingen, Texas
Majors: Political Science and English Writing and Rhetoric
Graduation: Spring 2017

Left-Wing Populism: The Paradox of Bolivia and Ecuador
Research directed by Dr. Rodrigo Nunes, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences

In the 1970s and 1980s, indigenous politics gained new prominence arguably with their entanglement with left-wing populist leaders advocating for systemic change such as increasing the minimum wage, incorporating prior constitution requirements for foreign development projects and the promotion of infrastructure projects. This article will examine the distinct results of two populist presidencies: of Rafael Correa (2007-2017) of the PAIS Alliance in Ecuador and of Evo Morales (2006-2017) of Movement for Socialism in Bolivia. In doing so, it will highlight the contigent factors necessary to produce certain pro-indigenous policies while shedding light on the different policy outcomes in Bolivia and Ecuador.

Mayra Ortega
Mayra Ortega
Hometown: Fort Hancock, Texas
Major: Behavioral Neuroscience
Graduation: Spring 2018

Depression and Aggression in Children: Parent Perspective
Research directed by Dr. Kelly E. Green.

Research suggests that correlates of childhood depression are different for boys and girls. This study explored relationships between parent ratings of childhood depression and aggression as well as gender differences. Participants were parents with children ages of 6-12 who completed an anonymous online survey. The sample (n=23) included 15 girls (65%) and 8 boys (35%) with a mean age of 9.65 (SD = 1.77). Analyses indicated a significant positive correlation between ratings of depression and aggression for the girls only. Analyses also indicated gender differences; parent ratings were higher for girls on subscales of depression, withdrawn depression, and externalizing problems.

Wilson Whitener
Wilson Whitener
Hometown: Temple, Texas
Majors: Mathematics and Religious and Theological Studies
Graduation: Spring 2018

Are the Outcomes of Evolution Inevitable?
Research directed by Dr. Stephen Dilley, School of Arts and Humanities

In his 1989 book Wonderful Life, paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould argued that if we could "rewind" the tape of life and watch it again from the beginning, we would see a very different picture of the world than we do now. Had the contingencies of evolution- such as random mutations and asteroid strikes- varied in the slightest, we would have a completely different set of organisms. There are, however, paleontologists like Simon Conway Morris who argue certain evolutionary outcomes and traits would emerge due to similar selective pressures- a phenomenon called "evolutionary convergence." This paper examines the positions of both camps. I critique specific uses of words like "random" and "chance" when describing the contingent nature of evolutionary processes and analyze how different causal domains (or frames of reference) respectively affect our understanding of "inevitability." Lastly, I examine how the idea of God's providence in the world relates to both of these views

Rebecca Zapata
Rebecca Zapata
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Major: Organizational Communication
Graduation: Spring 2018

Women of Color and Barriers in Organizational Leadership
Research directed by Dr. Teri Varner.

Women of color have progressed into leadership positions in various organizations, yet they remain underrepresented in top levels. The present study utilizes mixed methods to analyze factors that women of color have encountered within their organizations. Results from the online survey indicate a variety of barriers women of color experience in their respective jobs. Implications of this study for women of color, leadership, and interpretations are offered.