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A CASE STUDY OF HOW BIOLOGY RESPONDS TO AN INCREASINGLY HYPERSALINE ENVIRONMENT - An Li

An Li  University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA @astroanli California's largest lake, the Salton Sea, has been steadily drying up since 2003 and has nearly doubled in salinity over the last 20 years. Studying how life adapts in a highly salinated and changing environment like the Salton Sea serves as an important analog for how life may adapt in other increasingly salinated environments. Here, we examine how algal biomass in the Salton Sea has responded to increases in salinity and decreases in water area through time. We combined in situ surface chlorophyll and salinity data, lake area from Landsat 8, and surface chlorophyll concentrations from Landsat 8 and the Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) to examine how increasing salinity affected lake biology from 2013 to 2020. Overall chlorophyll trends between the three data sources are comparable and remote sensing results track in situ chlorophyll trends; however, additional in situ data is necessary to better quantify the relationship. While annual chlorophyll averages stayed relatively constant, we found a noticeable increase in the maximum annual average of chlorophyll by 1.1 ?g/L per year from 2013 to 2020 using Landsat 8. Other changing factors such as increasing phosphorus may have offset the negative effect of increased salinity on algal biomass during this time. Our findings demonstrate that remote sensing allows us to better track the biological responses in the lake under increasingly salinated conditions and suggest that biological organisms are (so far) adapting.

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A HUMAN EMULATION ROBOTICS AND AI FRAMEWORK AND RECENT EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS - David Hanson

David Hanson Hanson Robotics Ltd, Shatin, Hong Kong We describe a novel experimental framework, exploring humanlike cognition as a holistic, embodied phenomenon. The framework integrates a neuro-symbolic AI dialog ensemble, various soft robotics hardware with humanlike expressive face for social learning & communications, arms & grasping hands, locomotion, and many sensors, machine perception, & motion control tools. We present an alpha-platform architecture, and results from a variety of experiments including human-robot interaction, ensemble verbal & nonverbal dialogue interactions, mechanical tasks such as facial and arms controls, and in uses in the arts, therapeutic healthcare, and telepresence. The framework builds on the authors’ prior cognitive robots research, including Bina-48, PKD android, Zeno, Sophia, and others, adding new tools for designing cognitive AI, character animation, improved robotic embodiment, and a stable, mass-manufacturable hardware, and many open interfaces & extensions, to empower research into the complex, multidimensional factors giving rise to human cognition as physically-embodied phenomenon. The framework bridges fields from arts to mathematics, computer science, to psychology, integrating robotics tools from ROS and gazebo, computer animation tools including Blender and Unity, and various standard AI tools including many standard open source neural network and symbolic AI toolsets. We show the framework used in several intelligent humanlike robots with naturalistic expressive faces and bodies, and abilities to openly converse with people, see faces, learn, and build social relationships with people in HRI experiments. We describe new breakthroughs in soft robotics materials for actuation of expressive faces, and microfluidic force sensing in soft skin materials. We describe a novel cognitive ensemble verbal and non-verbal dialogue model along with basic emotional parameters for driving the agent’s goal pursuit and making the agent more intelligible and appealing to users. Using the framework to perform machine learning and reasoning in social interactions with users, we evaluate possible consciousness in the AI by assessing Tononi Phi values in the data as the system learns and pursues goals, and find the data show clear Phi signals during problem solving. The many results demonstrate progress in facilitating experiments in living AI, and uses in arts, science, healthcare, and educational outreach. We propose such an embodied human emulation robots and AI framework may serve next-gen breakthroughs in the study of human-level intelligence in AI and people.

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A MACHINE LEARNING APPROACH TO INVESTIGATE DEGRADATION OF POLY(HYDROXYALKANOATES) - Jessica Lalonde

Finalist

Jessica Lalonde Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM Background: Mechanically robust, single-use plastics create several challenges for natural degradation in soil and marine environments, including plastic buildup and long-term harmful effects to the surrounding ecosystem. To improve the environmental efficacy of degradable plastics, poly(hydroxyalkanoates) (PHAs) have been proposed and extensively studied as a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and non-toxic alternative to conventional plastic materials. The degradation rate of PHAs in natural environments is currently not fully understood or extensively modeled. The main objective of this study is therefore to utilize machine learning (ML) to develop a platform to assist with the prediction of degradation for a diverse suite of PHAs. Methods: A comprehensive literature review of various PHA compositions in unique degradation environments was conducted to develop a curated database. The individual data entries were collected from peer-reviewed journal articles, published book chapters, and other open-source formats. For the cases where the data was only available in a plot format, we relied on PlotDigitizer software to convert the graphical results into a numerical format. The dataset was then augmented with a carefully selected set of cheminformatics-based features and employed to train and validate a random forest (RF) regression model. Results: Over 1,100 unique data points from more than 50 different literature sources were compiled in the final dataset. This dataset included 23 varieties of monomers and polymers and a 3D visualization of the structures using SMARTS representations. Key variables of the database included both quantitative and qualitative descriptors such as polymer composition, molecular weight, pH, temperature, and percent weight loss of the polymer over time. While a careful analysis of the curated database provided useful qualitative insights and chemical trends for the degradation behavior in PHAs, we resorted to the ML-based RF regression model for the semi-quantitative predictions. In particular, the analysis focused on: (1) degradation performance learning and (2) identification and quantification of relative importance of various chemical and environmental factors dictating the degradation behavior. Conclusions: Built on a first-ever comprehensive and curated database of degradation performance in a wide range of PHA chemistries, our preliminary ML analysis establishes the promise of data-enabled techniques as an alternative route towards the design and development of sustainable, functional biopolymers.

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A MATCH MADE IN STEM: EXPANDING K-12 OUTREACH THROUGH COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIPS - Edgar Meyer

Edgar Meyer University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR Background: A four-year professional development program, Science Teaching Excites Medical Interest (STEMI), has provided high school teachers with resources, training, and collaborative networking with basic science investigators for the development and implementation of flipped classroom (FC) lessons. STEMI investigators at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) have established a partnership with investigators at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to organize the Mississippi Health Sciences and Wellness Academy (HSWA). Both programs include summer workshops providing detailed orientations for their newest trainee cohorts. HSWA represents all concepts included in flipped learning, making it an excellent match for STEMI. Methods: HSWA includes students from two high schools near the USM campus. STEMI investigators collaborated, providing information and assistance for a week-long Wolbachia-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) activity involving the Wolbachia bacteria which has potential to control insect populations and their abilities to transmit disease. This activity also engaged students in the STEM concepts of biodiversity, biotechnology, and bioinformatics. Participants in both the UMMC and USM summer programs also shared online resources in July of 2020. Since in-person events were cancelled with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative engagement methods were developed, and students were provided with resources and instructional videos for hands-on activities. Results: Students followed instructions to construct insect traps to catch mosquitoes and isolated mosquito DNA using materials provided by the HSWA program, given lack of access to analytical instruments. Students used colored dyes to simulate a gel electrophoresis DNA fragment separation lab. Students were guided through basic bioinformatics, using the Internet to access a number of data bases and analysis tools. Finally, using online resources, students developed presentations to share with participants virtually. These performance-based outcomes demonstrate positive impacts that active learning methods have on student engagement and problem solving, especially during social isolation. Conclusions: The success of these modified activities encourage teachers to assess how they interface with their present circumstances and technologies. Teachers can identify and promote unique active learning competencies that convert their instruction from more passive, lecture-based approaches to the facilitation of varied, interactive learning events for students.

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A NOVEL ROLE OF METHYLTRANSFERASE SMYD2 IN ATHEROSCLEROTIC PLAQUE CALCIFICATION - Shaligram Sharma

Shaligram Sharma Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA A NOVEL ROLE OF METHYLTRANSFERASE SMYD2 IN ATHEROSCLEROTIC PLAQUE CALCIFICATION nBackground: Atherosclerotic plaque calcification involves complex signaling pathways, including the differentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) into osteo/chondrogenic-like cells, associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality. Expression of Runx2, RANKL, and SOX9 by osteoblast-like VSMCs stimulates plaque mineralization and remodeling. The study aims to explore the role of methyltransferase SMYD2 in atherosclerotic plaque calcification. Methods: VSMC-specific SMYD2 knockout (ApoE-/-SMYD2?SMC) were generated in ApoE-/- background mice. Age and body weight-matched mice were put on Western diet (TD88137) for 26 weeks. Aortas collected from mice were analyzed by Oil-red-O Staining (ORO) for plaque formation, von Kossa for calcification, Masson's trichrome for collagen distribution, and mRNA analysis for calcification associated genes (MGP1, ACC, SPARC, OPG, ALP, RANKL, SOST, TNF? and transcription factors SOX9, MSX2, BMP2, and RUNX2). The effect of SMYD2 NOTCH signaling pathway (NOTCH1-4, Hey, Hes1, PSEN2) was also examined. Results: VSMC specific loss of SMYD2 protected mice from atherosclerotic plaque calcification. SMYD2 increased total plaque area and promoted formation of necrotic core while decreasing total fibrous cap, lipid core area and total ORO positive areas, without affecting the distribution of collagen fibers. von Kossa staining showed that micro- and macro-calcification depots were significantly higher in ApoE-/- group than ApoE-/-SMYD2?SMC mice, and subsequent mRNA analysis indicated significant upregulation of SOX9, RANKL, TNF? with decreasing trend of MGP1 and AGG. Analysis of mRNA expression of molecules in NOTCH signaling showed that downregulation of VSMC specific SMYD2 significantly enhanced PSEN2, an endoprotease which catalyzes intramembranous cleavage of NOTCH, suggesting that NOTCH signaling may also be involved. Further, analysis of NOTCH genes (NOTCH1-4) and their downstream molecules (Heyl and Hes1) revealed that increased PSEN2 led to an increase in NOTCH4 expression, though NOTCH 1-3, Hey, Hes1 mRNA remained unchanged or even decreased. Conclusion: SMYD2 promotes plaque calcification in atherosclerosis through upregulation of SOX9, RANKL, TNF? and inhibition of MGP1 and AGG. The endoprotease PSEN2 mediates S3 cleavage of NOTCH to release NICD, and nuclear translocation of NICD induces expression of Hey and Hes1, suggesting that SMYD2 is essential for NICD functional activity and could serve as a novel therapeutic target in atherosclerotic plaque calcification.

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A RATIOMETRIC IMPLANTABLE SENSOR FOR CONTINUOUS pH MONITORING IN VIVO - Micah M. Lawrence

Micah M. Lawrence University of California - Irvine, Newport Beach, CA Type I Diabetes is an autoimmune disease where T cells attack Beta cells of the pancreas, resulting in an inhibition of insulin secretion. This can cause the pH levels of blood to be lower than the normal range of 7.35-7.45 through Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA occurs when blood sugar levels are high, because without adequate levels of insulin the body cannot sequester glucose. Therefore, the body starts breaking down fats yielding ketones which provide energy to the body in a form that does not require insulin. Unfortunately, ketones cause the blood to rapidly become acidic, which can cause fatigue, dehydration, frequent urination, and lead to death. To help address this occurrence, we are developing a Ratiometric Implantable Sensor (RIS) for continuous pH monitoring in vivo. By utilizing polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), Polyethylene glycol di-methacrylate (PEGDMA), and anion-exchange resin beads we can immobilize HPTS, a fluorescent pH-sensitive dye, into a sensing matrix to sense pH. HPTS shows great sensitivity when analyzed using a plate reader and a spectrophotometer. Both systems utilize an excitation light source with a small bandpass which cannot be imitated in vivo. However, with the RIS, we can maintain the pH sensitivity of HPTS while using LEDs as an excitation source and a photodiode to collect the spectra. With LEDs, the dye can potentially be excited and analyzed in vivo, providing health care professionals a reliable way to continuously monitor pH levels.

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ACTIN ISOVARIANT ACT8 REGULATES THE COLD RESPONSE IN ARABIDOPSIS ROOT - Aya Hanzawa

Finalist

Aya Hanzawa Iwate University, Morioka, Japan Plant growth and development is regulated by many factors including temperature stress. Low temperature significantly reduces the crop productivity world-wide. Previously we demonstrated that cold-induced inhibition of root growth is linked to the inhibition of the trafficking of a subset of auxin transport proteins that alters the cellular homeostasis of auxin. The cell cytoskeletal component, actin plays an important role in cellular trafficking by providing a track for the protein movement. The vegetative growth of Arabidopsis is largely controlled by three actin isovariants, ACT8, ACT2 and ACT7. However, the roles of these actin isovariants in cold response remain elusive. To better understand the role of actin in cold stress response, we screened the response of the single actin isovariant mutants to cold using root growth recovery assay after providing cold stress at 4? for 12h. The screening results revealed that loss of ACT8 but not ACT2 results in hypersensitive response to cold stress, although they belong to the same clade. The root growth recovery is severely delayed in act8-2 mutant, while act2-1 mutant shows wild-type response to cold stress. Compared with wild-type, cellular auxin homeostasis is drastically altered in act8-2 mutant root both after cold stress and during recovery stage as judged by the auxin marker line IAA2-GUS. The altered redistribution of auxin in act8-2 mutant under cold stress was found to be directly linked to the altered trafficking of PIN2 and AUX1 which serve as efflux and influx carriers of auxin respectively. In addition, a significant change was also observed in endoplasmic reticulum trafficking under cold stress. Consistently, in act8-2 mutant, endoplasmic reticulum trafficking was much reduced compared with wild-type under cold stress. Collectively, these results suggest that actin isovariant ACT8 specifically regulates the cold stress response in Arabidopsis root through modulating the trafficking of auxin transporter proteins and endoplasmic reticulum.

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ADVANCING POLICY SCIENCE FOR ADVANCING SCIENCE POLICY - Guswin de Wee

Guswin de Wee Foundation for the Advancement of Social Theory, Petamula, CA, USA Background: For decades, we have heard calls that policy should be supported by data. Despite a modern day glut of data, however, our policies seem no more likely to reach their goals than they did a century ago. Even policies that are supported by data, receiving plentiful funding, and enjoying broad social/political support seem to fail (e.g. the “war on drugs”). This near-guarantee of failure leads to cynicism and a lack of political will. It means that policy is still made the old fashioned way; through mobilization of partisans and back-room dealing. Such an unscientific approach is anathema to our community – we need a better way. But if data, funding, and support are not enough to guarantee that policies reach their goals, what else is there? Method; Integrative Propositional Analysis (IPA) is an emerging methodology in the field of policy studies. Based on recent advances in the science of conceptual systems, within the field of cognition and decision making, IPA is used to rigorously and objectively evaluate the internal “structure” of policy models. Results are then correlated with the policy’s progress in reaching its goals. For this poster session, IPA is applied to examples from housing policy and health care policy, in South Africa. Results: Poorly structured policy models are associated with three critical issues. 1) Poor understanding of the policy context/situation, leading to poorly planned implementation. 2) Difficulty in communicating policy actions, leading to poor implementation fidelity. 3) Exclusion of relevant stakeholder groups from the planning and implementation process. Conclusion: In order to understand dynamic policy ecosystems, we need dynamic policy models. IPA provides a path to such models by providing a new explanation for the failure of policies and programs based on the internal structure of policy models. Thus, we can dramatically improve the likelihood that science policy (formulated by the AAAS and others) will reach desired goals and objectives by developing policy models with higher levels of structure (in concert, of course, with better data and stakeholder inclusion).

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ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES AND THE EFFICACY OF ANTIDEPRESSANTS: A REVIEW - Ali Abid

Ali Abid Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) affects more than 16.1 million American adults each year. Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) include an array of early life experiences from child abuse and neglect to loss of an attachment figure. While many individuals report success and symptom reduction with antidepressant therapy, a large portion of individuals with depression don’t respond to antidepressants. The etiology of depression for many individuals may be attributed to ACES, potentially resulting in different therapeutic responses. This systematic review investigated the direct relationship between ACEs and antidepressant medications (ADM). The review focused on prevalence, etiology, and treatment efficacy. Methods: A combined searches was used containing the two terms, ACES and antidepressants, using PubMed and PsycINFO. All searches yielded 2219 articles that after duplicate removal included 1780 articles reviewed for potential inclusion. Inclusion criteria included conjointly examining ACEs and ADM for depression in humans and exclusion criteria included bipolar and psychosis comorbidities. A total 20 articles met study criteria. Results: Combined samples (N=517,256) across articles were divided into five unique themes of epigenetics and ADM efficacy (n = 673), ADM efficacy (n = 5244), ADM compared to or combined with psychotherapy (n=587), suicide risk (n=970), and prevalence data (n=509,782). Findings suggest that ACES is associated with a greater likelihood of using ADMs and an interaction between DNA methylation and ADM efficacy. ACEs was also linked to a suicide risk when using ADM. Conclusions: With a better understanding of how ACES impact the etiology of depression, physicians can better monitor patients with a history of ACEs as findings imply a developmental risk factor that may make individuals increasingly vulnerable to depression with an unfavorable course (e.g., suicide risk, symptom severity, recurrent depression).

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AN ANALYSIS OF NUCLEAR TRANSPORT PROTEINS IPO4, CAMK4, AND NTF2 IN ALZHEIMER’S - Missy Tran

Missy Tran Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ Previous research has suggested a strong correlation between Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and malfunction of the Nuclear Pore Complex (NPC). This brings into question the maintenance of other functions and processes that rely on the regulatory factors of the Nuclear Pore Complex in AD afflicted cells. Research was conducted to analyze the relevance of nuclear transport proteins and regulators in AD and how they may affect the functionality of neural tissue, specifically the proteins IPO4, CAMK4, and NTF2. Analysis of gene expression data for these proteins has suggested that there is a significant level of down regulation in these genes in AD afflicted cells compared to Non-diseased tissue. A comprehensive study was conducted to explore the localization of these proteins in neural cells and to quantify the amount of protein using immunohistochemistry and Western Blot. Mislocalization and variation in protein levels could be indicative of transport errors related to cargo. Lower levels of immunoreactivity for NTF2, an active transport regulator of RAN, suggests there is a correlation between the development of Alzheimer’s and dysfunction in cell transport. Results establish greater importance and need for studies investigating NPC transporters and regulators to gain a holistic understanding of AD at a cellular level. Future plans for study are focused on immunoprecipitation and nuclear cytoplasmic prep to verify binding and localization of proteins. Functional validation of proteins could be conducted through knockouts in cell culture or analysis of the interactions of these proteins with their cargo or tau.

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ANALYSIS OF SPACE LIFE SCIENCES TRAINING PROGRAM SUCCESS VIA RETROSPECTIVE SURVEY - Jerika Christman

Jerika Christman NASA Ames Space Life Sciences Training, Moffett Field, CA, USA NASA’s Space Life Sciences Training Program (SLSTP) works to inspire the next wave of space-biologists and engineers early in their career by recruiting outstanding undergraduates for a competitive 10-week space-biology program. Until now, a method for evaluating the program’s success in meeting educational and programmatic goals had not been established. The programmatic goals used to evaluate SLSTP’s success are as follows; SLSTP continuing to increase diversity and inclusion via advertising and recruitment, SLSTP’s ability to introduce interns to the space biology community and prepare them for a future in STEM, and lastly, SLSTP’s impact on interns’ academic & career choices. To assess the ability of the program in meeting these goals, a retrospective survey of SLSTP alumni was conducted, analyzing SLSTP’s impact on their academic and career choices. Of the 81 alumni from cohort years 2013-2019 , 44 responded to the survey. The survey consisted of 29 questions obtaining information on respondents’ overall experience ratings, mentor ratings, skill development, and SLSTP’s relevancy to their career. Demographical data was also gathered from SLSTP’s application portal that was used comparatively to examine SLSTP’s ability to recruit a diverse, engaging cohort. When surveyed on SLSTP’s ability to prepare interns for ten training objectives, 84 percent of respondents felt SLSTP had Done “Well” or “Very Well” in preparing interns in every training objective, including the pursuit of a career in space biology. Similarly, 84 percent of respondents still have academic and professional goals related to space biology and the space industry. Nearly 46 percent of respondents are actively pursuing degrees related to space biology & STEM, with 24 percent working directly in government positions in STEM. For SLSTP to continue increasing programmatic diversity & inclusion, the application must be distributed to more institutions and organizations who serve and support underrepresented communities. In conclusion, SLSTP has been a successful scientific program; the exposure, opportunities, and networks that participants obtain over the course of their internship have proved to encourage individuals to return to the space biology community. SLSTP continues to bring in outstanding undergraduates who excel in their fields, contribute to the STEM community, & encourage others to join the program. SLSTP could be integrated at other NASA centers by standardizing programmatic success criteria and developing programmatic guidelines (i.e. manual, handbooks, metrics, etc.).

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ANALYZING GENOMIC DIVERSITY OF CANDIDATUS LIBERIBACTER BY PAN-GENOME CONSTRUCTION - Sarah N Batarseh

Sarah N Batarseh University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA Candidatus Liberibacter is a group of bacterial species that cause diseases in plants, such as Huanglongbing disease of citrus trees and Zebra Chip in potatoes, through obligate intracellular pathogenesis of the phloem. Although it is known that Candidatus Liberibacter species are highly divergent, pan-genomes of the individual species and of the entire genus have not been constructed or analyzed. We ask what is the composition of the pan-genome between all species of Candidatus Liberibacter and of the different individual species? We also ask what genes, if any, are under selection? We hypothesize that the genetic diversity between Candidatus Liberibacter species will be reflected in the construction of their individual pan-genomes. Furthermore, we hypothesize that genes that lead to virulence, such as sec-dependent effectors, may be under positive selection, because they constantly evolve to invade the host. To address these questions, we retrieved 42 genomes from the NCBI database, encompassing many pathogenic, unculturable species (C. Liberibacter asiaticus, solanacearum, africanus, americanus, europaeus), and one nonpathogenic, culturable species (C. crescens). After annotating the genomes using Prokka, we used the Roary pipeline to construct a pan-genome of all Candidatus Liberibacter species, with Bartonella bacilliformis as an appropriate outgroup. The pan-genome consisted of 242 core genes (99% < strains < 100%), 285 soft-core (95% < strains < 99%), 824 shell genes (15% < strains < 95%), and 3119 cloud genes (0% < strains < 15%). Through multiple sequence alignment with PRANK, a maximum-likelihood phylogenetic tree was generated through RAxML utilizing all core genes. We categorized the functions of core and accessory genes using the EggNOG database. The core genes consisted of many genes integral in essential cell function, with 30.8% of core genes involved in transcription and translation, but the accessory genes spanned more variable functions, including 25 virulent genes. We utilized the PAML/codeml package to calculate the ratio of substitution rates, dN/dS, between core genes. On average, the core genes had dN/dS=0.0916, suggesting most core genes are under extreme constraint. The gene cdsA involved in cell membrane formation and pcs involved in biofilm formation had the highest dN/dS values of 0.31797, 0.59136, respectively. Pan-genome analyses at the species-level revealed variations in the accessory genomes. Interesting patterns emerged in the pan-genomes of americanus and asiaticus in which we found the shell genes account for 81.5% (N=1913) and 82.6% (N=2075) of genes, respectively. Analysis of the composition of the pan-genome between Candidatus Liberibacter species can provide insight into the genetic diversity of each species. Understanding the similarities and disparities between species of Candidatus Liberibacter, along with which genes are under selection, can lend to better understanding of the mechanisms and the management of plant disease.

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ANALYZING PHAGE-MEDIATED UROPATHOGENIC E. COLI KILLING IN HUMAN URINE - Jacob Zulk

Jacob Zulk Baylor College of Medicine, Houston,TX, USA Urinary tract infections (UTI) are a major medical burden in the United States. Seven million UTIs occur each year, representing the most common cause of antibiotic prescriptions in the out-patient setting. A significant portion of affected individuals will have recurrent UTI (rUTI), defined as three UTIs in a calendar year, requiring additional antibiotic treatment. UTIs are becoming more difficult to treat as antibiotic resistance emerges as an increasing issue among urinary pathogens including with uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), the most common pathogen associated with UTI. Therefore, alternative treatment strategies are urgently needed. Bacteriophages (phage), viruses that selectively infect bacteria, are an appealing targeted therapy for many bacterial pathogens, but their efficacy in the treatment of UTI is not well-defined. To date, previous literature on phage-mediated killing of E. coli has focused on interactions in rich bacteriologic media or in human blood. However, these media conditions fail to accurately reflect the nutrient composition, pH, osmolarity, and host proteins present in the urinary tract environment. Our objective is to characterize interactions between phage and bacteria in the urinary tract environment with the goal of maximizing the bacteriophage therapeutic potential. To this end, we screened a library of environmentally-isolated E. coli phages for killing activity towards a variety of UPEC isolates, varying the culture media (LB or human pooled urine) and the concentration of phage used. We measured phage-mediated killing using a plate reader measuring the optical density over an 18-hour timeframe. Our results demonstrate that, although bacterial killing occurs in both culture conditions and varies across phage/UPEC strain combinations, urine is broadly inhibitory towards phage-mediated killing of UPEC. Additionally, we observed emergence of phage-resistant UPEC in both media environments. Ongoing work seeks to characterize the genetic basis for phage resistance in urine, and to assess phage killing efficacy and bacterial resistance in vivo using murine UPEC UTI models. In the future, we plan to develop phage-antibiotic cocktails that restrict development of bacterial resistance, with the goal of developing phage therapies for treating and preventing recurrent UTIs.

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APPLICATIONS OF SYNCHRONOUS FLUORESCENCE SPECTROSCOPY TO THE SPECTRA OF PORPHYRINS - Sarai Rankin

Sarai Rankin Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD Porphyrins are compounds that promote chemical reactions in cells. This function allows porphyrins to be used in biomedical applications e.g. photodynamic therapy (PDT) for treating cancer. Porphyrins absorb light in cells containing a photosensitive drug designed to oxidize and kill malignant tissue. Metalloporphyrins are a type of porphyrins that serve specific functions that depend on the metal ion(s) in the molecule; e.g. heme metalloporphyrins deal with storage and transfer of oxygen in cells. Metalloporphyrins have properties that can be used in fluorescence mapping and imaging materials through spectroscopy. This study explores chemical derivatives of porphyrins, metal- organic frameworks (MOFs) containing tetrakis(4-carboxyphenyl)porphyrin (TCPP) and aluminum, Al-MOF-MeTCPP. The hypothesis is that absorption and emission of light by these MOFs can be predicted from TCPP spectra. It may be possible to modulate sorption and desorption (release) of drugs using light. Porphyrins absorb light within the wavelength range 500-600 nm which is observed as four vibronic Q peaks in absorption spectra, while metalloporphyrins have two Q bands peaks. Future research is to study high resolution synchronous fluorescence spectroscopy to observe electronic and vibronic transitions in TCPP, metalloporphyrins, and Al-MOF-MeTCPP and their use in drug development and delivery.

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ARIZONA UNIVERSITY STUDENT PERCEPTIONS TO COVID-19 AND THE CAMPUS’ MEASURES TAKEN - Alyssa Hart

Finalist

Alyssa Hart Arizona State University, Chandler, AZ, USA This project analyzes differences in how the four-year degree public universities in Arizona are handling COVID-19. Since the start of the academic year the number of positive cases in the age range of college students (20-35) has significantly increased. Universities are up against the generally held belief that college students are considered to be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus and that if they do have symptoms, they are likely to be mild. For this reason, it can be tempting for people in the age range to fail to follow safety protocols. For this project, I am looking both at what makes students feel safe and what measures might be more effective in lowering the number of cases and thus the spread of the virus. Having data to see what measures might be most effective in lowering, preventing, or stabilizing the number of cases would be really important to acknowledge in this population. Methods: I will survey and interview students from each of these universities to get an understanding of their perceptions on COVID-19, examining both their initial and current perceptions regarding the school experience, changes made, and opinions on the university’s measures. In addition, I will track how the population changes in the zip codes of each university when students are on campus to ascertain if the influx in new cases in those zip codes can be linked to the student population. The survey and interview data will allow for the collection of qualitative data about student perceptions of both COVID-19 and of their university’s approach to dealing with the problem. Analyzing the influx of cases using population data and the reported number of cases will allow me to ascertain how the virus is spreading in these populations. With this data, I will be able to acknowledge the pros and cons of each university’s COVID-19 protocols and procedures and make recommendations about which tactics were ultimately most effective in positively changing students’ perspectives about COVID-19 and in stopping the spread of the virus on university campuses. I expect to find the number of cases between each of the universities to be similar if they are taking similar measures and that the college age group will increase the zip code of the university. With my results I anticipate I can provide recommendations for the study population and stakeholders regarding effective measures taken for COVID-19 spread.