Undergraduate Research

Anna Laurin Harrison


Effects of a week-long cooking camp on self-efficacy of dietary behavior and food preparation skills in children

Anna Laurin Harrison, recent Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion graduate, assessed the attitudes of participants who attended Fun with Food camp, a weeklong summer camp at Mississippi State University. Twenty camp participants who attended the 2014 Fun with Food summer camp participated in a pre-survey administered the first day of camp, as well as a 9-month follow up survey. The pre- and follow up surveys were analyzed for changes in self-efficacy of food preparation and dietary behaviors resulting from participation in Fun with Food Camp, which is aimed at children between the ages of eight and 13. Prior to attending camp, only thirty-five percent of participants were confident in their ability to follow a recipe without help. Sixty percent of participants were not sure they could eat a half cup of vegetables or one serving of whole grains at home most days. Data revealed that involving children in food preparation can positively affect self-efficacy and dietary behaviors. Additional research is needed to determine if food-preparation skills translate to sustainable and healthier food choices. Sylvia Byrd, professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, served as Harrison's advisor.
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Ben Bishop


Ben Bishop sought to determine the persistence of antibiotic resistant genes in Salmonella enterica. This resistance is an increasing concern for public health. By studying the DNA from twenty Salmonella isolates found in ground turkey, he hoped to identify the prevalence of antibiotic resistant genes which will help scientists better understand this pathogen's antibiotic resistance. His research was under the direction of Chander Sharma, assistant professor in the Department of Poultry Science. Bishop graduated with a bachelor's degree in poultry science in May 2015.

Brynnan Russ


Bovine herpesvirus-1, or BHV-1 infects cattle. The virus can suppresses the animals' immune system, rendering them susceptible to other infections. Mannheimia haemolytica (M.h.) is a gram-negative bacteria that normally lives in the upper respiratory tract of cattle. However, when the immune system is depressed by viral infection, M.h. is able to colonize the lower respiratory tract and become virulent. The combination of pathogens leads to disease known as Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex and costs the cattle industry billion-dollar yearly losses. The goal of Russ' study is to determine how BHV-1 and M.h. might affect each other's gene expression. In this experiment, she uses Bovine Turbinate cells derived from the upper respiratory tract for an in vitro infection with BHV-1 and M.h. In the experiment, she uses 4 different conditions to test whether BHV-1 and M.h. cross-talk during infection. This research will help researchers to better understand the Bovine Respiratory Disease. Russ is a senior biochemistry major under the direction of Dr. Florencia Meyer, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology.

Courtney Wade


Parental sex effect of parthenogenesis on egg weight in mated Chinese Painted quail

Courtney Wade, poultry science major, studied the effect of parthenogenesis, an embryonic development in unfertilized eggs, on egg set weight in poultry. The objective of the study was to determine if selection for parthenogenesis in the hen, her mate or both influences egg set weight for eggs that hatch as well as eggs that ultimately yield various hatching failures. Females and males used in the study consisted of two genetic lines of birds, one selected for parthenogenesis and one not selected for parthenogenesis. Eggs were collected daily, labeled and weighed prior to incubation. All eggs that didn't hatch were broken to determine hatching failures. Egg set weight for eggs that hatched was greater when the hen or male exhibited parthenogenesis as compared to eggs from birds that did not. However for infertile eggs, as well as for eggs that yielded early and late embryonic mortality, set weight for these hatching failures was greater in eggs selected for parthenogenesis compared to the control group. Experiment findings indicated egg set weight is heaviest when eggs are from parthenogenesis hens regardless of hatching failure. More interestingly, not only parthenogenesis hens, but also parthenogenesis males appear to influence set weight of eggs that hatch, perhaps by altering embryonic development. Chris McDaniel, professor of poultry science, served as Wade's advisor.
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Dana Dittoe


Dana Dittoe sought to determine if windrowing, an in-house poultry management practice, impacts litter quality when a broiler house utilizes sprinklers. She set up one control and three windrowing treatments at a broiler house that had been sprinkled with water. Litter from each plot was analyzed for moisture, pH, particle size, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and ammonia over a period of 20 days. She determined that windrowing when broiler houses are sprinkled with water changes the environment. Dittoe is a senior in the Department of Poultry Science is under the direction of Dr. Aaron Kiess, associate professor in the Department of Poultry Science.

Jonathan Gunn


Turfgrass as a possible route for pollinator exposure to lawn applied imidacloprid

Jonathan Gunn, junior in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, evaluated pollinator exposure to insecticides. His objective was to explore guttation, a process by which grasses exude moisture, as a possible route for pollinator exposure of a lawn-applied insecticide call imidacloprid. Sod was harvested and transferred to plastic flats to simulate field conditions. Turfgrass was sub-irrigated with and without an application of imidacloprid. Guttation fluid was collected. While the results indicate insecticide levels were significantly lower than concentration levels reported lethal to the European honey bee and the insidious flower bug, similarly low concentrations have been associated with sub-lethal effects in honey bees. Future research will evaluate insecticide concentrations of more commonly broadcast foliar applications. James McCurdy, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, served as Gunn's advisor.
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Joshua Striplin


Effects of dietary vitamin D and 25-OH D3 Levels on 0-53 d broiler chicken performance, processing, tibia ash, and serum Ca and 25-OH D3 status.

Striplin, a junior poultry science major, sought to test the dietary effects of Vitamin D and 25-Hydroxyvitamin-D3 on broiler performance. He measured broiler performance, processing yields, tibia ash content and the serum levels of calcium in the blood. His hypothesis stated that birds that consumed a higher level of Vitamin D in the diet would show improved performance and higher tibia ash content. Additionally, birds eating a diet with added 25-Hydroxyvitamin-D3 would demonstrate better performance, processing yields and higher tibia ash content. Experiment findings helped confirm the hypotheses and showed the important effects of Vitamin D in the diet. Not only was the level of Vitamin D in the diet important, adding 25-Hydroxyvitamin-D3 to the diet aided in yielding improved results. Overall, the experiment led to a deeper insight to the positive effects of the inclusion level of Vitamin D and supplemental 25-Hydroxyvitamin-D3 in the diet on multiple aspects of broiler performance. Kelley Wamsley, assistant professor in the Department of Poultry Science, served as Striplin's advisor.
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Kellie Mitchell


Identification and characterization of exosomes from cardiac fibroblasts in Ossabaw Pigs with metabolic syndrome and diabetes

Kellie Mitchell, a senior biochemistry /pre-medicine major, presented research she hopes will one day help develop an easy and noninvasive way to detect cardiovascular disease. The disease is a leading cause of death worldwide and affects many patients with diabetes. Currently, there is no easy way to detect cardiovascular disease and patients are often only apprised of their condition only after they experience a major medical event such as a heart attack or stroke. Mitchell seeks to isolate a biomarker, a measure substance that indicates the body's condition, which will detect cardiovascular disease in patients with diabetes. Mitchell evaluated Ossabaw pig hearts, a swine known for its genetic predisposition to heart disease and diabetes. She identified and isolated the exosomes, tiny membrane-bound vesicles that cells secrete as a method of intercellular communication. The next step in the research is to determine the contents of the exosomes, to see if they will reveal an identifiable biomarker, which can be utilized in easily testing for heart disease. Her research won first place in the category of Biological Sciences and Engineering at the 2014-2015 MSU Undergraduate Research Symposium. Yuhua Farnell, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology, served as Mitchell's advisor.
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Kelsey Barnes


Student barriers to study abroad

Kelsey Barnes, senior in the School of Human Sciences, replicated a study conducted in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas Tech University. A previously developed instrument based on the Theory of Planned Behavior was used to collect data from the students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University. MSU students from both colleges were invited to participate in a survey which measured their behavioral intention toward studying abroad. The survey closed April 15 and collected data is being analyzed. Barnes hopes this study will help identify barriers students perceive when choosing whether or not to study abroad. Laura Lemons, assistant professor in the School of Human Sciences, served as Barnes' advisor.
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Lauren Gamblin


Lauren Gamblin, senior horticulture major, quantified annual soil invertebrate community fluctuations. Gamblin sought to determine the phenology of soil invertebrate communities within a warm temperate forest and identify potential abiotic and biotic factors driving phonological changes. She sampled and sorted soil invertebrates and soil respiration from ten Mississippi forest plots to determine richness and abundance of invertebrate populations. She also collected monthly temperature and precipitation data. Gamblin observed that invertebrate populations and activity increased when precipitation was lower and temperatures were higher. She noted that invertebrate sensitivity to precipitation and temperature might be impacted by climate change, which may alter the important annual soil community fluctuations. John Riggins, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology served as Gamblin's advisor.

Naomi Taylor


Value of a sports tradition: Mississippi State football fans ringing cowbells in the stadium

Naomi Taylor, an environmental economics and management major in the Department of Agricultural Economics, broached a topic close to the hearts of many bulldogs. Taylor's study attempted to estimate the value of the cowbell as an MSU sport tradition using a contingent valuation survey that was administered to MSU football fans during the fall 2014 football season. The survey presented respondents with a hypothetical trade-off; would respondents accept a cheaper average ticket price to forgo their current right to bring cowbells into the stadium and ring them during games? These choices were analyzed in a logit model, the results of which led researchers to several conclusions. In general, researchers found that people strongly value their right to ring cowbells during football games at MSU. The value appears to be even greater for students, males and alumni of the university. Older respondents seem to value the cowbells less. The passion for the cowbells was evidently high until the Bulldogs lost their first game, when respondents became slightly more likely to accept the offered lower price and the ban on cowbells. Matthew Interis, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, served as Taylor's advisor.
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Rachel Wilson


Examining peripheral activity of Catechol-O-Methyltransferase,(COMT) in holstein cows following artificial insemination

Rachel Wilson, a senior animal and dairy sciences major, examined the peripheral activity of catechol-O-methyltransferase, or COMT, in pregnant versus non-pregnant cows. While the activity of COMT has not been previously studied in cattle, research in humans and mice have indicated that activity of COMT can be detrimental to pregnancy. Wilson took blood samples from pregnant and non-pregnant cows and evaluated the presence of COMT and how the enzyme interacts with progesterone and estrogen, two hormones that play significant roles in ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Wilson discovered that COMT activity may be down regulated by estradiol and/or increased by extended exposure to progesterone in the luteal phase. Pregnancy status and days post-insemination may have altered peripheral COMT activity, which is involved in catechol-estrogen metabolism. To further investigate COMT activity and function, Wilson will continue the research, examining both estrogen and enzyme activity in order to confirm her hypothesis of the function of this enzyme. Caleb Lemley, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, served as Wilson's advisor.
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Shannon Kate Thompson


Shannon Kate Thompson studied ten genes within the Herpesviridae, a large family of highly infectious viruses characterized by their double-stranded DNA and large genomes. Herpesviruses have developed the ability to evolve with the host, co-opting its genes and mechanisms in order to evade the host's immune response. The capture of host genes via horizontal gene transfer, or HGT, appears to play a significant role in the biology of the viruses. The goal of Thompson’s project was to gain insight into this process by exploring when the transfer involves an mRNA or DNA intermediate and whether Darwinian selection is a driver in the process. Dr. Federico Hoffmann, assistant professor and Dr. Florencia Meyer, assistant professor, both in the Department of Biochemistry, served as Thompson’s advisors. MSU introduces new equestrian club sport