Graduate Student Council

University of Mississippi

Graduate Student Research Program

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) seeks grant proposals from currently enrolled graduate students in any discipline each Spring. The GSC Research Fund was established to assist ongoing or future graduate student research at The University of Mississippi. Official announcement will be sent via the Graduate School and posted in the News section and on social media.

Graduate Student Research Grant (G01)

Sponsored By: University of Mississippi, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, the Graduate School and the Graduate Student Council


The Graduate Student Council (GSC) welcomes proposals from currently enrolled graduate students in any discipline. The GSC Research Fund was established to assist ongoing and future graduate student research at the University of Mississippi. The Fund is meant to support research for which departmental funds are not available. It is required that each applicant supplement their Graduate Student Research Program application with an application to an external funding source. It is important that this program present graduate students at the University of Mississippi the opportunity for and the experience that accompanies applying for funding through many different avenues.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!


2019 Winners (click to expand):

Monica Campbell – Slums Are Our Most Expensive Luxuries’: Little Rock’s MetroPlan and the Making of the Neoliberal City, 1939-1980

My dissertation charts the implementation of wholly market and private sector based urban planning policies through Little Rock’s Metroplan urban renewal program in the 1950s/60s. I examine how Little Rock’s urban renewal strategists adapted the policies that became neoliberalism –including the destruction of public housing, the public-private coalition of city government and private investors, and gentrification –decades before they appeared in larger cities. I argue that, although on the national periphery and controversial in the 1950s, Little Rock’s urban renewal policies helped redefine the center ground of American political economy twenty years later. Close examination of this moment in urban history illustrates how smaller cities served as laboratories for urban renewal plans that centered around business and pro-growth politics to revitalize city centers, rather than escape them, in conjunction with state anti-labor policies that would inform the emergence of third-way liberalism in the 1970s.

Huu Do – Analytical and numerical computations of AKLT model

Quantum computation recently emerges as one of the most interesting and active research fields which overlaps between quantum physics, mathematics and computational science. In near future, scientists hope to build a commercial quantum computer that is believed exponentially faster speed than ordinary computers (laptop, desktop, and supercomputer)[1, 2]. Conventional computers store data in term of binary bits such as 0 or 1, whereas the quan-tum computers use a quantum bit (qubit) as the superposition of 0 and 1 (qubit“α0`β1 with any complex numbersαandβsatisfied|α|2`|β|2“1). One of the methods to design the quantum computer is “measurement-based paradigm” that is based on the physical properties of spin model,namely Affleck-Kennedy-Lieb-Tasaki (AKLT) state. There are three key parameters to construct the prototypical quantum computer are entanglement, superposition and optimization. AKLT state is an example of interacting spin model that is satisfied all above requirements for quantum computation. (For solving any quantum mechanics problem, we want to find the energy and wave function of the system). The ground state energy (lowest and most stable energy) of AKLT model is exactly known, but the excited state ones are not (except for the one dimension where spins are arranged in a chain). Here, I have derived exactly analytical representation of non-deformed and deformed states, and use projector Monte Carlo to simulate number of spins up to a million particles. We hope to make clear the physical properties of the model for further quantum computing applications.

Grant Armstrong – An Examination of the American Political Consumer.

My dissertation aims to provide a better understanding of the characteristics and causes of political boycotts and buycotts, and to explain the negative effects of such activities on political polarization. Existing research in this area is limited and largely confined to European democracies. By building upon recent research on this topic (Kam and Deichert 2017; Endres and Panagopoulos 2017), I will attempt through surveys, survey experiments, and field experiments to offer a more complete picture of American political consumerism. In our fractious political climate, identifying the causes and consequences of polarization is necessary in order to provide useful remedies.

Kaiwei Wu – Design and evaluation of a novel acid-resistant capsule filled with freeze-dried therapeutic nanoparticles for the treatment of malaria relapse

Malaria, caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium, is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. An estimated 216 million cases were reported in 2016, of which 445,000 people died from Malaria[1]. The parasite P. vivax develops dormant form, known as a hypnozoite,in the liver which later becomes a reservoir of infection [2]. Primaquine (PQ), introduced seven decades ago, has been used to eliminate the liver stages of the parasite and eradicate Malaria. However, PQ has to be taken at a low dosage over a long period of time. The application of higher doses of PQ is limited by several side effects including GI tract intolerability and hemolytic toxicity in certain patients who are deficient in enzyme glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) [3-5]. Intravenous delivery of drug-loaded nanoparticles has been studied and proven to lower the total dosage of the drugs, thereby reducing the systemic toxicity. However, delivery of PQ through oral route showed only marginal improvements due to the nanoparticles being rapidly degraded in the gastrointestinal tract and that they do not solely target the liver. In the proposal, we aim to design a new oral liver-targeted nanodrug delivery system —an acid-resistant capsule filled with the freeze-dried, drug-loaded nanoparticles— to improve the safety and bioavailabilityof PQ.

Amelia Clayshulte – Profiling Chemical Plasticity and Activity in Caribbean Sponges Across Phenotypes, Geography, and Depth

This study seeks to address several open questions in the field sponge chemical ecology. What environmental cues result in differences in the composition and amount of secondary metabolites produced by a species? To what degree does production of secondary metabolites within a species vary? Do differences in metabolic profiles correspond to differences in morphological phenotypes?Do similar environmental cues induce differences in secondary metabolite production across sponge taxa. And finally,if so,do these differences in secondary metabolite production result in similar chemical bioactivities, such as bacterial growth inhibition or promotion.

Spencer King – Fighting for Home: How the Civil War Changed Northern Masculinity

I am going to use this GSC project to travel to the Kansas Historical Society and the Kentucky Historical Society to find how the Civil War changed ideas about masculinity for people who fought in it and whose lives were affected by the violence, which is the subject of my dissertation. This project is important to the field of Civil War history because of my focus on the North. Geographically, most studies about gender in the Civil War have focused on the South because most of the fighting actually occurred there, and the consequences of the war for the North have been overlooked. By looking at the experiences of Union soldiers and areas of the Union affected by the war, including towns in Kansas and Kentucky, we can develop our understanding of how formal enlistment and support for the army became important to ideas about masculinity for all Americans.

Rachel Smith – Isotopic Analysis of Human Migration among the Ancient Maya of Ambergris Caye, Belize

Migration is an important demographic process, but on that is difficult to identify using traditional archaeological methods(Freiwald 2011). Archaeological chemistry, especially the use of strontium and oxygen isotope ratios, has revealed a significant amount of mobility among ancient populations around the world(Bentley 2006). My project will contribute to our understanding of Maya migration during the Classic period (AD 250-900) in two ways. First, it will identify basic patterns of population movement in a new population in part of the Maya region where limited data exists. It will also shed light on the contribution of migration to the Maya collapse, specifically in the coastal populations. This study will also provide much needed baseline information on strontium (and other) isotope values that will be useful for other research. I will use isotope geochemistry, specifically strontium isotope ratios, to identify non-local values in human tooth enamel. I will prepare the samples at the University of Mississippi following protocols in Freiwald (2018) and Price et al. (2008). Isotope values will be measured in the clean enamel samples using a VG Sector 54 thermal ionization mass spectrometer (TIMS) at the Isotope Geochemistry lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, long time collaborators with my advisor, Dr. Freiwald.

Brooke Allen – Genetic consequences of co-introduction of ectomycorrhizal fungi with exotic pines
Hao Liu – Developing sequencing method of heparin/heparan sulfate oligosaccharides to explore potential drug candidates for central nervous system repair

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are linear polysaccharides made up of repeating disaccharide units and are produced by virtually all mammalian cells on the cell surface. GAGs are involved in diverse biologicalprocesses, such as cell migration, cell specification, and cell adhesion. These processes require certain,but not fully clear,sulfate patternsor modifications of GAGs like N-and O-sulfation, N-acetylation, and epimerization of uronic acid residues. In biosynthesis, the modification of GAGs is incomplete and untemplated, which brings invaststructural heterogeneity.Thus,it is very challenging to understand the structure-function relationship of GAGs. Hp/HS are highly anionic GAGs which likely participate in enhanced CNS repair mechanisms and could be potential agents for the prevention and/or treatment of CNS damage. However, relatively little is known about Hp structure in CNS repair. This proposalwill help answer these unknown questions.

Tyler Bacon – Quantifying Predation Success to Identify Defensive Traits of Microbial Prey

It is widely known that predator-prey interactions have been among the most intensively studied areas of ecological science for quite some time.These are vital in understanding multitrophic food webs and evaluating predatory and defensive traits of species. There are common limitations in studying these dynamics in nature, such as the fact that most individuals have long generational periods, inhabit a large spatial scale, and are frequently affected by uncontrollable environmental factors. In my research, I plan to experimentally simulate a predator-prey relationship in a laboratory setting using multiple microbial species. The nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, is a species that has a generation time of 3-6 days and their eggs survive freezing processes, making them useful for evolutionary and ecological studies. Myxococcus xanthus is a social bacterium that displays behavioral responses to environmental cues and predation. They also aggregate into a multicellular developmental state during starvation conditions, a state that apparently deters predation by C. elegans. Because of this, I will be able to assess predatory defense traits of M. xanthus when subjected to a predator, C. elegans, under specific environmental circumstances. Various methods will be usedto gauge the effectiveness of the traits, including survival assays and statistical analyses.

Chyna-Rae Dearman – Sex Differences in Steroidogenic Response to Cerebellar Injury

A substantial body of work exists that supports the role of estrogen in prevention of cell death, reorganization of neural connections, and the birth of new cells after neural injury in both mammals and birds. However, my lab is currently the only lab making the connection between protection and repair at the cellular level and behavioral outcomes. This work is vital as any potential treatment for brain damage must be capable of restoring functionality at the level of behavior and thus lead to measurably improved outcomes in patients’ lives. In addition, there is much to be learned about the role of the avian cerebellum in cognitive processes despite the fact that, like mammals, birds possess anatomical connectivity between the cerebellum and the cortical areas known to be involved in cognition. Therefore, by examining the effects of cerebellar damage on cognitive function, my work will also add valuable data to the field of avian neurobiology.

Jacob Harris – Bone Tool Production at the Terminal Classic Maya Site of Ucanal, Guatemala

My thesis research will concentrate on bone tool use and production at the site of Ucanal, Guatemala, a Maya site that was occupied during the Terminal Classic period (AD 800-925). We have limited information on aspects of the Maya economy, especially in the production and exchange of perishable materials like bone tools. Animal bones are rare, and even rarer are osseus materials worked into tools and ornaments, limiting our knowledge about how the Maya used regional ecosystems in a culture that relied on wild game rather than domestic animal species. I will analyze a worked bone deposit at Ucanal to understand which species were used for particular tool and ornament types and how that relates to other bone deposits at the site. This deposit is also unusual for the quantity of worked human bone, which may have symbolic as well as economic explanations.The analysis will provide insight into the decline and collapse of the Maya civilization because Ucanal was occupied during a time of sociopolitical collapse that may relate to changes in the environment/climate such as drought, lack of resources such as wild game for food, tool,and clothing production, and warfare.

Kymberle Gordon – Development of a Rural Perceived Nutrition Environment Measures Survey

This project is important to the field of nutrition because the existing literature and amount of active research on community nutrition environments is limited because current survey methodologies do not adequately address rural geographic locations. We will be utilizing the validation method Development of the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey from Glanz and Green (2015).This project will require development of the tool,a thorough review of the instrument, pilot testing with focus groups, revision,and redistribution to participants and focus groups for final validation testing.

Nicholas Akins – Design and Development of Salvinorin-Based Ligands for Opioid Receptors

The proposed research will entail using an isolate of known natural product from Salvia divinorum, salvinorin A, as a probe to determine what structural modifications will lead to a change in the affinity and selectivity towards each individual opioid receptor as well as the investigation of which interactions are critical for the selectivity. After the semi-synthesis of our proposed compounds is done, in vitro studies will be completed to determine their affinity and functional activity (agonism or antagonism)to the four opioid receptors. We will then complete computer modeling of our compounds on these receptors to determine what receptor-scaffold interactions are crucial to binding at their respective opioid receptors. Concurrently, we will be completing in vivo assays for pain, depression, anxiety, and/or drug withdrawal dependent upon the activity determined in vitro of the several compounds that I have already made. We believe that by successfully completing this study,we will be able to obtain a more complete picture of how this interesting scaffold works and potentially optimize lead compounds for the various disease states associated with the four opioid receptors.

Apoorva Panda – Development of Lysozyme loaded dissolving microneedles for the treatment of Acne Vulgaris

Acne vulgaris is the most common skin disorder caused by propionibacterium acnes(P. acnes). According to the global burden of disease study,acne affects approximately 85% of adults aged between 12-25 years. Most of the anti-acne products present in market act topically applied on skin and prevent in the killing of bacterium effectively due to poor penetration of active molecules across epidermal barrier into the dermis, as reported by Zhang et al. Lysozyme are naturally occurring enzymes (14kDa) having antibacterial activity. Micro needles have over the decades been explored to target dermis as a potential means to provide immediate relief to patients. It can be prepared using biodegradable polymer to provide safe and effective means of delivery to target site with in the dermis, making it an ideal delivery system to target acne vulgaris in the dermis. It could be engineered and fabricated to encapsulate and enable a bolus or a sustained release on insertion into the skin for effective treatment of acne vulgaris. This condition impacts the patient physiologically and psychologically. It is caused by numerous factors such as genetics,hormones, bacterial infections as well as environmental factors. Acne is produced by a blockage in the pilosebaceous unit in the skin which induces excessive proliferation of bacterium. One of the major goals in the treatment of acne is to suppress the bacterial growth. Although various treatment options are available and are still being explored,they have limited efficacy. The available therapies do not show effective antibacterial activity due to poor penetrations. Though various topical formulation sare available that are being used to combat acne vulgaris,alternative formulations are needed having both excellent therapeutic efficaciesalong with negligible side effects. Microneedles are a noninvasive technique suitable for the skin increasing the skin permeability anddeliver a therapeutic agent across epidermal barrier. Lysozyme is a naturally available enzyme found in bodily secretions such as tears, milk and saliva and is also considered a part of the innate immunity in most mammals. The lysozyme degrades peptidoglycans present in the bacterial cell wall leading to cell death. Although lysozyme is not a typically used agent for acne,it is a safe adjunct to antifungals,and it could be used to improve acne treatment due to its antibactericidal effects. Microneedles have the capability and the advantage of encapsulation drug (lysozyme) within a polymeric matrix using fabrication procedures that do not alter the protein integrity, enable a bolus or a sustained release and work as a delivery device that is suitable for self-administration without the need of medical training leaving behind no sharps or biohazardous waste.

Emily Frith – Effects of Example Modalities on Generative Creativity

Important to methodology for assessing creative potential is an understanding that demonstrable action must be taken when arranging thoughts and behaviors to generate observable creative outputs. However, few studies have focused on the role that movement plays in creative outputs, despite the fact that creative actions are often movement-based and embodied frameworks suggest that both the mind and body interact synergistically to enhance creative problem-solving. The proposed research will explore novel work examining the impact movement may have on creativity by examining the potential influences of written,picture-based, or interactive movement-based problem-presentation on the ability to generate creative ideas. Given that we will also examine individual differences in EF, results from this experiment may practically inform educational policy and direct individualized pedagogy to optimize thinking and learning in service of creative development.

Reed Scott – Spatially Explicit Habitat Selection: Contagion and the Ideal Free Distribution

First described in 1972, the Ideal Free Distribution is an incredibly influential model in the fields of ecology, wildlife biology, and conservation. It has been cited over 4,000 times,is taught in ecology classes across the world, and is still used in many species management plans today. Despite this, researchers have shown that systems can deviate from the Ideal Free Distribution(Kennedy and Gray 1993). The purpose of my research is to contribute to our understanding of habitat selection and to improve modeling of population dynamics.

Chaz Hyseni – Subterranean Termites in the Appalachian Mountains: Responding to Rapid Climate Change by Regulating Gene Expression

Subterranean termites of the genus Reticulitermes are found in every state in the continental United States, and one species in particular has been very successful in establishing itself and expanding its geographic distribution. Reticulitemes flavipes populations have colonized geographic regions with environmental conditions different from those experienced by ancestral populations. In order to infer how R. flavipes populations have accomplished this, one objective of my research has been to determine historical and current dispersal patterns, as well as the environmental conditions associated with genetic variation in R. flavipes. By identifying the geographic sources of R. flavipes populations as well as the geographic spread through evolutionary time, my research is aimed at inferring the role climate change (both historical climate change and present-day rapid climate change) has played in shifting the geographic distribution of R. flavipes, as well as shaping the species’ genetic variation and affecting its gene expression patterns. Indeed, the other objective of my research is to investigate genetic mechanisms that enable termites to tolerate new environments, as this would help predict potential future changes in termite distributions, including responses to rapid climate change by modulating gene expression.

Silvio Polly da Costa Valladao – The impact of wearing the Cosmed K4b2 metabolic system on 5k running performance.

This is an important project to the field of exercise science as these portable devices have been extensively used to measure running economy during long distance running without considering the weight of the equipment. Besides, to the author’s knowledge no studies up to date have examined if carrying this equipment can affect the amount of energy required by runners to maintain their time performance, energy required to run at the same velocity (running economy), stride length, cadence, oxygen consumption (VO2), and respiratory exchange ratio (RER) which allows for the interpretation of substrate utilization (energy source; fats, carbohydrates) during a 5k run.

Cody Cissom – Characterization of PRCP in Adipose Tissue

Food intake and energy expenditure is regulated, in part, through mechanisms within the brain.Within the Hypothalamus, aimportant set of neurons, Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons, release Alpha Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (-MSH1-13) which acts on Melanocortin Receptor 4 (MC4R)to inhibit food intake3. Prolylcarboxpeptidase (PRCP) has been shown to inactivate -MSH1-1and when PRCP is deleted or inhibited, the concentration of -MSH1-13is higher and is able to decrease food intake which protects against obesityThe goal of the current project proposal is to characterize the role of PRCP on fat cells (adipocytes) outside of the central nervous system.

Emma Kate Thome – The Prosodic Profile of Individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome.

Prader-Willi Syndrome is a rare (i.e., 1 in 15,000 birth) genetic disorder caused by the absence or inactivation of chromosome 15 (Prader-Willi Syndrome Association USA [PWS-USA], 2016). Previous research has documented that individuals with PWS often have speech and language deficits (Akefeldt, A., Akefeldt, B., & Gillberg, 1997; Lewis, Freebairn, Heeger, & Cassidy, 2002).Prosody is the melody and rhythm and speech and includes pitch, intensity, and duration (Hawthorne, Rudat, & Gerken, 2016). Prosody plays an important role in helping individuals communicate and has been linked to speech intelligibility (McCloy, 2013), social perceptions of the speaker (Wang & Tsao, 2015), and literacy development (Holliman et al., 2014). Thus, an increased knowledge of the prosodic abilities of individuals with PWS will allow speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to enhance their clinical practices and ultimately improve the lives of individuals with PWS. Participants will complete the Kaufmann Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT-II), the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-IV), as well as the Profiling Elements of Prosody in Speech-Communication (PEPS-C), a comprehensive of both expressive and receptive prosody.