Featured Students

arikiZach Ariki
Faculty Mentor: John Porco, Jr. 

Studies Toward the Synthesis of the Microsphaerins

Zach’s interest in chemical synthesis has led him to investigate the structure of the microsphaerins, where he has created molecules from start to finish while developing new analytical and methodological reactions. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a commonly identified hospital pathogen; however, increasing numbers of community-based infections have also been reported. Because many pharmaceutical companies have reduced or ceased their antimicrobial research and developments, it has become urgent to develop new classes of antibiotics, especially against emerging human pathogens. Microsphaerins are a class of chemical compounds known as dimerized dihydroxyxanthones that have been shown to have antimicrobial activities against MRSA. Microsphaerins B-D can kill MRSA at concentrations in the 1-5 μM range. Additionally, the chemical structure of micropshaerins is of interest because the [3.2.1] bicyclic core has no precedent in organic synthesis to date. Zach plans to attend graduate school, and he found that participating in research helped him to narrow down options and prepare for the field of chemistry. Zach offers this advice to students thinking about doing research: “Don’t hesitate to join a lab. The experience you can gain in a research lab is invaluable.”

bray Chelsea Bray
Faculty Mentor: Natalie McKnight

Dickens in Context

While working previously with Dr. McKnight, Chelsea realized she had a deeper interest in how Dickens utilized the supernatural—was he making a spiritual claim or commenting on the social climate? From there, she developed a new project to provide further insight on underlying issues guiding Dickens’ narratives. During the 19th century, garden imagery within British novels dually functioned as an allusion to Biblical references, primarily the Garden of Eden, and paid homage to classic English literature. In The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a metaphorical extension of Satan provokes the fall of man, as manifested by the effects of English imperialism on the East, as represented by John Jasper whose opium use is tied to the capitalist exploitation of the East and its corruption of both West and East. The opium itself is an image of this corruption since the opium comes from the poppy, a beautiful, natural flower that through the devices of humans is purified into a dangerous narcotic—opium being a metaphor for how England has been corrupted by its own capitalist and imperialist exploitation. In contrast, Rosa Bud encapsulates the spirit of a country’s pre-Edenic state. Rosa’s garden adjacent to the Nun’s House consequently symbolizes a paradisiacal England prior to being tainted by a capitalist agenda. This research project examined how Dickens’ application of garden imagery amplifies John Jasper’s penetration into Rosa’s garden—analogous to England’s metaphorical rape of imperialized countries—and further highlights the dramatic intrusion of capitalism within a country. This fall, Chelsea began her PhD studies in English at Boston College, and feels that her UROP experience prepared her for research at the graduate level. She urges undergraduates to get involved in research—in her own words, “the skills gained will transcend your four years at Boston University,” but she also offers this advice for researchers: “having fun is essential!”

guzman Meghan Guzman
Faculty Mentor: Sean Mullen

Evolution of Wing Pattern in Limenitis arthemis

The goal of Meghan’s project was to determine the evolutionary history of wing pattern development in the butterfly Limenitis arthemis. The Limenitis arthemis complex is comprised of four subspecies of butterfly, L. arthemis arthemis, L. arthemis rubrofaciata, L. arthemis astyanax, and L. arthemis arizonensis. L. a. arthemis and L. a. rubrofacia are non-mimetic and display the ancestral white-banded phenotype, whereas L. a. astyanax and L. a. arizonensis are mimetic and display the red-spotted purple phenotype. The model of the two mimetic subspecies is Battus philenor, commonly known as the Pipe-vine swallowtail. The determination of the evolutionary history was performed by studying specific genomic loci that can be traced back to the trait of mimicry. The research sought to develop gene genealogies, which will provide evidence to support our hypothesis of a single origin of mimicry with full retention of the white-banded ancestral phenotype. Meghan strongly recommends research to other undergraduates, since you not only learn laboratory skills but also gain confidence. The time she spent researching this summer was a life-changing and memorable experience. Her advice for future students? “Go for it!”

Rosenfeld, Emma Emma Rosenfeld
Faculty Mentor: Steven Ahlen

Evaluation of a MicroMegas Muon Detector and Development of an Electronics Testing System for Multi-Channel Detectors

Emma performed research on a new technology called a MicroMegas (MM) detector. MM are detectors that measure the momenta of muons, which are subatomic particles formed by atomic collisions that take place at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva. This collider, located 100 meters underground, shoots protons together that are each moving at almost the speed of light. This recreates the same energy density scales that existed within the first 10-11 seconds of the universe. Physicists look at the results of these proton interactions in order to “see” what kind of particles exist that are not usually found in the universe today—these are called exotic particles and include the Higgs boson which was recently discovered at the LHC. The energies and momenta of muons can help inform physicists about the properties of an exotic particle. Therefore, it is critical to measure the momenta of muons accurately and precisely, because the value of the momenta is one of the few pieces of data used in a calculation to find the mass of exotic particles. Emma’s project was to develop an electronics system to test the circuit board of a MM for sparks, current leaks, and overall functionality, and to develop image analysis algorithms to find the precision in the position of strips of resistor and copper. These evaluations will help to determine if the MM is a technology that can be useful in searching for exotic particles when the LHC is again turned on in 2018. The image analysis algorithm uses a programming language called Python to perform a center of “mass” calculation to assess the precision of her measurements. The images of the MM are obtained using a high-resolution digital camera and an x-ray facility in the Boston area. The results of her research could help decide whether the MM is a viable new technology for the LHC when it is turned on with double the energy and luminosity compared to the last time it was on (when the Higgs boson was found). Therefore, her research could have an influence on the discovery of future exotic particles (such as dark matter). Whatever exotic particles are found could change the way we view our universe. Emma offers some advice to future undergraduate researchers: research is hard– “Keep pushing through, and don’t give up!”

shea Sydney Shea
Faculty Mentor: Jeffrey Henderson

Alexandria’s Influence: The Culture of Editing Homeric Manuscripts

After studying Homer’s Iliad as a sophomore, Sydney developed a strong interest in Hellenistic manuscripts. Editors at the Library of Alexandria who processed centuries of Homeric oral poetry into written form each had their own unique style—some considered strict and some more liberal. Nonetheless, all contributed to today’s perception of Homer’s heroic epic, the Iliad. The editor of any manuscript is responsible for forming the text so that it influences an audience in a distinct way. Individual editorial styles and agendas have the ability to dictate how an audience receives a text, and to affect how it is perceived and preserved in a culture. In this research, Sydney investigated ways in which ancient editorial culture have influenced today’s perception of the Iliad, one of our greatest text sources for early Western civilization. She began with some background about life at the Library of Alexandria and how scribes, editors, and librarians operated, then investigated two of the most important Homeric editors at the Library, Zenodotus and Aristarchus, and analyzed their respective editing styles. Finally, Sydney offers several hypotheses concerning the editors’ impacts by showing the crucial difference between various versions of the Iliad, which illuminate the level of difficulty editors faced when deciding on certain versions. Sydney plans to pursue a graduate degree in Classics, as a way to continue studying the subject she loves. She encourages other students to try research, whether or not they have found their passion, and strongly feels that research “helps you determine your path in life.” Students shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to experts outside their department and even the Boston University community.