Research Abstracts

Want a hint of what students are exploring, and the interesting topics you’ll learn about at Senior Colloquium? Check out the research abstracts for a brief overview of the broad range of subjects and analysis that will be on display. Much of BU student research is focused right here in Manitoba!

Chemistry Issues

“The Synthesis of α-β unsaturated sulfonamides via Aromatic and Aliphatic Aldehydes” — Daniel Changmin Lee, Honours Thesis in Chemistry

Sulfonamides are a synthetic group widely studied for their medicinal properties. But, despite its popular application in medicine, the olefination of sulfonamides has yet to be explored. By using the Horner Wadsworth Emmons (HWE) reaction, α-β unsaturated sulfonamides could be synthesized with high trans (E) selectivity. Cis-trans isomers, though have the same chemical formulas, can have significant differences in their properties. Thus, in a larger industrial scale, the isolation of cis-trans isomerism is a mean of obtaining a desired product with correct chemical properties. In previous work, the synthesis of the α-β unsaturated sulfonamides via aromatic aldehydes were successful, but using aliphatic aldehydes proved to be unsuccessful. In amongst the successfully synthesized products, the base (Li and Na) significantly influenced its E:Z ratio. The energy levels of different bases were compared computationally, and its mechanisms were calculated. The current research focuses to recreate the synthesis of unsaturated sulfonamides via aromatic and aliphatic aldehydes and increase its E:Z ratios by using different bases (Li, Na, and K). Key results will be discussed.

“Insights into the Design of Human Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors” — Christian Lozeau, Honours Thesis in Chemistry

Carbonic anhydrase (CA) is an enzyme that is ubiquitous across nature. CA reversibly catalyzes the hydration of carbon dioxide into carbonic acid. Notably, CA is crucial in maintaining tissue pH, cellular respiration, signal transduction, gluconeogenesis, and bone resorption. However, a malfunctioning CA can support diseases such as cancer, glaucoma, and seizures and allow them to prosper. This project focuses on designing and synthesizing novel selective inhibitors for the human carbonic anhydrase (CA) enzyme. In the present work we used docking and molecular dynamics simulations in the Molecular Operating Environment (MOE) program to determine key interactions between CA and novel inhibitors. In addition, we experimentally investigated possible synthetic routes to produce select CA inhibitors (CAIs). Key results will be presented.

“The Bowen-Conradi Syndrome Protein EMG1 Contains an N-Terminal Intrinsically Disordered Region” — Nicole Russell, Honours Thesis in Chemistry

The Bowen-Conradi Syndrome (BCS) is a rare genetic disorder in the Hutterite population of the North American Prairies which presents with severe developmental delay leading to death in infancy. More specifically, BCS is a ribosome assembly disorder and is caused by a genetic variant in the EMG1 protein, an essential ribosome assembly protein and component of the SSU processome. We identified an unstructured/intrinsically disordered region (IDR) in the N-terminal side of EMG1. In this study, we aim to validate the presence of this novel IDR using IDR predictors, amino acid compositional bias, and protein structure and function analysis. The function of this N-terminal IDR was investigated by creating a series of IDR truncations which were cloned into yeast over-expression plasmids. Results validated the presence of an IDR in the EMG1 protein, and the function was assessed using yeast cell growth, western blot analysis, and ribosomal RNA analysis. Growth analysis using IDR truncations found that the IDR is necessary for cell growth and contributes to the stability of the protein as seen by western blot analysis. Ribosomal RNA analysis revealed that the IDR of EMG1 is important in ribosome assembly and processing. Analysis of a cryoEM structure of the SSU processome identified the EMG1 IDR mediating protein-protein interactions with the IDR of another SSU processome protein, Utp2/Nop14. Experimental analysis of this protein-protein interaction done by Y2H is still on going. Finally, the importance of the EMG1 IDR for incorporation of EMG1 into the SSU processome is also under investigation with Co-IP methods. Our results identify an N-terminal IDR in EMG1 that is essential for protein stability and function. This will help determine the function of EMG1 in ribosome assembly which is required to better understand the disease mechanism of BCS.

“The Bowen-Conradi EMG1 Variant is a Hypomorphic Allele” – Joel Hardy, Honours Thesis in Chemistry

Bowen-Conradi Syndrome (BCS) is a ribosomopathy (ribosome assembly disorder) present in the prairie Hutterite population. It is characterized by severe development delay leading to death in early childhood. Clinical care for individuals with BCS is primarily supportive. Therefore, further research needs to be conducted to better understand the disease and to propose possible treatment options. The aim of this project is to test whether the BCS variant (D86G) of the ribosome assembly protein Emg1 is hypomorphic. In such situations a sequence variant causes structural changes in the protein that result in decreased protein abundance, loss of protein structure, and function. Here we assess the levels of the wild-type and BCS variant EMG1 protein along with probing for structural changes in the protein. From the data, we conclude that BCS is due in part to local or global protein unfolding of EMG1 which decreases the protein’s stability and abundance. My current research is focused on assessing cellular growth rates associated with increased protein dosages of exogenous EMG.

Human Issues

“It’s A Scary Place to Come Out”: Exploring What Makes Transgender People Feel Comfortable and Safe in Shelter Settings.” — Matthew Paterson, Geography/Psychology

Due to several factors including family-based conflict, harassment, and rejection transgender people face disproportionately high rates of housing insecurity. Transgender people also experience high levels of discrimination, harassment, and stigma when accessing housing service supports. In recognizing this I sought to determine what makes transgender people comfortable and safe in transitional housing settings and what are good practices in creating welcoming spaces for transgender people experiencing homelessness. To answer these questions, I conducted interviews with nine Manitoban service providers, including those who work in housing organizations and those who work in service provision for transgender people. The study itself is a community-based undergraduate thesis project that I planned and designed in collaboration with YWCA Brandon who provides housing supports to people in the Westman region. I identified three main themes in this study. First, that there are system level issues that affect the experiences of transgender people seeking to access and utilize shelter spaces. Second, I identify the variety of ways that Manitoban shelters miss the mark in meeting the needs of transgender clients. Finally, I discuss the things that shelters do, and can do to improve the comfort and safety of transgender people utilizing housing services. The themes and recommendations that I identified in this study are relevant to housing providers seeking to better serve marginalized groups and members of the transgender community while highlighting the issues they face utilizing housing services in Manitoba.

“Predicting COVID-19 Stress with Resilience and the Big Five Personality Traits”  — Shelby Doell, Psychology, Honour Thesis

The COVID-19 pandemic is a chronic stressor faced by individuals globally. Notably, some individuals may either struggle or thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous research has shown that resilience and the Big Five personality traits are factors that influence perceived stress, yet not all three have been studied together. The current study will examine how resilience and the Big Five predict perceived COVID-19 stress. Participants consist of first-year psychology undergraduate students from Brandon University, who completed a questionnaire composed of demographic questions, COVID-19 Stressors Scale, 10-item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC-10), and Big Five Inventory (BFI). A Pearson correlation and multiple regression analysis will be employed to identify the relationships between resilience and the Big Five, the predictors, with COVID-19 stress as the criterion. Inferences from this research may provide insight as to the range of individuals responses to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Musical Issues

“Harnessing Informal Learning Practices to Encourage Lifelong Musicianship” — Abby Peterson, Diane Choi, Music Education

A traditional music education does not appeal to every student, and as future music educators we wanted to better understand how people who are passionate about music use it in their everyday lives. Inspired by Lucy Green’s seminal research on informal learning in the music education setting, we sought to examine the impact of informal learning on lifelong musical participation Our research question was “By incorporating informal learning strategies into the classroom, can we enhance the possibility of our students becoming lifelong musicians?”. To answer this question, we interviewed 6 participants ranging in age from 24 to 65 and asked them about their informal music learning experiences, any musical aspirations they had, and the importance of music in their lives. Through our analysis of this interview data, we found that even without formal music education (in the form of music classes and lessons), people can still find powerful and engaging experiences that can have an impact on their lifelong pursuit of music, developing their musical identities, and positive habitual active and effective listening skills, as well as expanding their musical interests. As pre-service music educators, this research gives us another perspective on what learning music can look like that differs from the traditional views of music education. Our paper will also discuss the implications of this research for our future practice as music educators.

“Mental Health and Music” — Kayla Godbout, Psychiatric Nursing, Winnipeg Campus

The project being created is a 30-page activity book for youth, to help them learn about mental health through music. Topics included in the book is information related to mental, social, physical, and spiritual health; emotions; self-reflection; psychiatric nursing; mental illness; and advocacy. There are a variety of information pages followed by activities to compliment the learning. For example, a song writing activity to learn about self-reflection, drawing activities to learn about emotions, music theory to learn about breathing exercises, and note-reading games to describe additional concepts. This book is intended to compliment eight, in-person mental health teaching sessions led by psychiatric nursing students for the Sistema students King Edward School. This book has not currently been completed by the grade five and six students in the Sistema Program. However, it includes a tear-away page for them to share their feedback regarding the style, teaching methods, and general comments about the activity book. In conclusion, the purpose of this project is to use musical theory and expression to help describe concepts related to mental health.

Political Issues

“Good Law in Section 7 of The Charter”  — Destiny Maluga, PoliSci

Abstract: The Canadian Constitution Act was created in 1982 and entrenched within the Constitution was the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is included in the legal rights section of the Charter, dealing with matters that affect the right to life, liberty, and security of the person. This paper examines the ways in which the Supreme Court of Canada has been able to evolve it’s thinking in order to keep up with the sociopolitical changes of the modern world. This paper analyzes two of the most controversial Supreme Court cases regarding section 7’s right to life, liberty, and security of the person. By reviewing past rulings in similar cases, this paper notes how the Supreme Court has created new doctrines and constitutional conventions that allow the Charter to be treated as a living document.

“Who Gets Prioritized in Conflict? Elite and Citizen Discourse in the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict and the Effects of Citizen Exclusion” — Liam Nohr, PoliSci Honours

The Nagorno Karabakh region has seen ongoing violence since the dissolvement of the Soviet Union on December 26th, 1991. The area, situated between Armenia and Azerbaijan, is predominately made up of ethnic Armenians but is within the borders of Azerbaijan. This has led the two patron states issuing violent attacks on the region, decimating the region’s cities, towns, and villages. Scholarly work on the conflict has focused much of its time on the role of external actors, such as Azerbaijan and Armenia and international actors such as the Minsk Group. Scholars holding this view see the political elite’s role in the conflict as substantial to the conflict’s longevity. This article considers the role of citizen discourse within the Nagorno Karabakh and its relationship with the elite discourse of both patron states. Moreover, by analyzing speeches from both Azerbaijan and Armenia heads of state between September and November of 2020 and using existing citizen discourse by previous scholars, this paper seeks to ask if there is a clear discrepancy between citizen and elite discourses pertaining to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict? Using “ethnopolitical entrepreneurship” as an analytical lens, I explain that the political elite of both patron states use ethnicity has a tool to justify the conflict within the Nagorno Karabakh, thus excluding Karabakhi citizens from the conversation. I consider the following themes: perceptions of the other, ideas of conflict resolution and the status of Nagorno Karabakh as key indicators for the comparison of elite and citizen discourse as indicators of the divergence between both discourses.

“Crime and Colonialism” — Eder Torres, PoliSci

This research will study neoliberalism in a colonial context. Indigenous people for centuries have lobbied the Canadian state for political recognition. Canada’s maintenance of Capitalism restricts Indigenous attempts to self determination. I highlight that globalization and crime are strategies of colonization. High incarceration rates of Indigenous peoples negatively affect their role as independent nations. By criminalizing and making First Nations dependable on Canada’s justice system, Indigenous people are constructed as deviant and criminal. I argue that Canada’s relations with Indigenous nations must be situated in a neoliberal and penitentiary context.

“Controlling Bodies: How Eugenics is Used to Justify the Sterilization of Indigenous Women in Canada” — Mandy Swidersky, Native Women’s Studies /PoliSci

Eugenics in Canada is an issue that our society tries to forget, despite its detrimental impacts on those affected. Though we tend to talk about forced sterilization in Canada as a past event, many are shocked to hear that it is an issue that continues to devastate Indigenous women today. This presentation looks at the origins of the Eugenics movement and how its beliefs are the foundation of many stereotypes of Indigenous women. It will also discuss how the Sexual Sterilization Acts in Alberta and British Columbia allowed the procedure to be legal for more than forty-four years. Lastly, this presentation will examine some of the personal stories of women who have gone through the procedure, and how their lives were forever impacted by it.

Bioenvironmental Issues

“Nest location selection and nest success of Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) in Riding Mountain National Park” — Hannah Shields, Advanced Research Topics Course, Environmental Science

Hirundo rustica (barn swallow), an aerial insectivore, has been facing population declines. It is thought that loss of nesting and foraging habitats accompanied by declines in insect populations are the main reasons for this. H. rustica is listed as “Special Concern” under COSEWIC status and is protected federally by SARA. In Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP), the population of H. rustica faces challenges due to human conflict in man-made shelters. This research aims to create a baseline of data about the population of H. rustica using manmade infrastructure in RMNP. The use of artificial nesting cups will also be tested. The observations were done in kitchen shelters and washrooms at nine sites throughout RMNP. There are a total of 80 buildings where the monitoring will take place, and of those 16.3% had been used historically. Monitoring included breeding pairs, egg counts, and fledgling success. Of the 80 sites monitored, only 3
were used by Barn Swallows for nesting. Those 3 sites contained a total of 71 completed nests (both old and new) in which 30 eggs were laid: 11 young did not survive to fledging age. Of the 21 artificial nests installed, only 1 had a successful brood of 3 young. The data collected from this project will serve as a baseline from which management decisions can be made to protect H. rustica.

“The Roles of Roles of YWHAB in Breast Cancer” — Lacey Winstone, Honors Thesis in Biology

miRNAs (MicroRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that aid in mRNA stability by interacting with the base pairs in the 5’ coding region or UTR and are post-transcribed to control translation. This can lead to destabilization, silencing, and the possibility of inhibition of translation which aids in the development of tumor-associated angiogenesis. YWHAB (Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase/ Tryptophan 5-Monooxygenase) is a miRNA that was found in the MCF7-miR526b and MCF7-miR655 secretome of breast cancer cells that was upregulated compared to that of non-cancerous cells. YWHAB belongs to the 14-3-3 family of proteins, and these miRNAs mediate transduction signals that are very highly conserved and are related to specific and general pathway signalling. This study seeks to prove that YWHAB shows oncogenic properties like migration, apoptosis, and proliferation in breast cancer cells.

Creative Issues

“Making Progress” — George Phillips, Advanced Seminar in Creative Writing

Created as a short story sequence, this creative writing thesis explores themes of vulnerability between men, and the implicit intimacies involved in friendship. Drawing inspiration from various forms of pop culture, literary academia, and examples of male bonding in media, the short stories are tied together through the young male characters. Each of them is in various stages of their life and each has different relations to their friends, their partners, and the law system. The ways in which they build relationships, both healthy and otherwise, explores potential reasons why these archetypical characters behave the way that they do, and alludes to potential justifications for behaviours seen in the real world

“Coming of Age: A Lyric Essay” — Praise, Creative Writing

“Coming of Age: A Lyric Essay” explores the anxiety that follows the author as they navigate an adolescent rite-of-passage, a house party. Segmented into a 15-part sequence, this essay details them overcoming an epiphanic flooding of impending dread as the lively atmosphere of the residence morphs and mutates into a danger zone. When the threats of the party wear them down, they are left feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. A dignified blend of poetic prose captures the mood and intensity of this experience. Using not just evocative language and rich imagery to tell this tale, it is the eccentric spacing and erratic margination that breathe further life, characterization and depth into the recitation of this narrative.

“The Weight of Words and Female Agency in Atwood’s ‘The Testaments’” — Holly Reimer, Creative Writing

The personal essay “The Weight of Words and Female Agency” explores the danger of women’s words and female agency in Margaret Atwood’s latest and perhaps last novel, The Testaments. While all-too-casually branded “speculative fiction,” her novel’s foreign but familiar dystopia speaks to larger themes found across her body of work. Due to the breadth of factual source material from which she drew inspiration for Gilead, the text can be read as both a fascinating and foreboding “what if.” Atwood brings readers back to the oppressive politico-religious regime of Gilead to examine the origins of its intelligent design, as well as the extent to which it oppresses its citizens—especially women. Bound by the archaic rules of an idealized Christian past, the strict, hierarchical society of Gilead traps women in harsh traditional gender roles and contradictory social norms, all of which manipulate victimized women into turning against one another to enforce the very structures that oppress them. Although Gilead renders female empathy unpalatable and even dangerous, Atwood’s protagonists rely on female friendship to rediscover their autonomy and reimagine their existence. By subverting antiquated notions of femininity, the defiant protagonists’ interwoven tales demonstrate how a reprisal of personal narrative has the power to end systems of oppression.

“Cybercrime and Hoverpunishment” — James Waugh, Creative Writing

“Cybercrime and Hoverpunishment” by James Waugh is an inauspicious parody of the “Good Cop Bad Cop” trope that has become a well-known cliché in popular culture. Every cop has his partner, and Dao Fry happens to be paired up with his unfortunate foil, Firman Dudley. Dao is an older man who lives by a strict and principled moral code and enforces the law with pride, while Firman is a maliciously cavalier family man with an entitled teenage son and more than enough money to go around. The story is set in a grim near-future where cars can fly, but much of the population still lives in poverty, affected by violence and scarcity. After the implosion of the previous governing body creates a power vacuum, communities organize into guerilla factions known as Clans to protect themselves. Social and economic class differences motivate the conflict and create an impossible working relationship between the two partners. The story asks
questions about power and responsibility, such as what kind of person is drawn to power and who should power be granted to? “Cybercrime and Hoverpunishment” tells an absurd and
dynamic story through a darkly comic cyberpunk lens.

“Nixi” — Taylor Kornelsen, Creative Writing

“Nixi” is a science-fiction short story told in alternating narratives that follows alien government-forces in their search for a potential criminal and records the memories and experiences of a young alien while he is on Earth. Fifteen years before the story opens, aliens arrive on Earth to help humans progress. Later, after their efforts prove futile, the aliens are extracted from the planet and monitor Earth from their moon, waiting for a day when they can have meaningful interactions with humans again. Suddenly blue babies are being born on Earth, despite the absence of the blue-toned aliens among humans. The blue babies inexplicably share the same third-party DNA. The aliens thereafter search for the culprit, who will be seen to struggle with night terrors from his experiences with humans on Earth. The story explores themes of sexism and racism in the troubled relationships between humans and aliens. It examines questions about what society might look like, if women took on the traditional roles that men have held for millennia, and it looks at the implications of how humans might approach beings they do not understand or recognize.