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Acknowledgements The Research Paper is funded in part by: Laura Brown, Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Student Assembly Finance Commission The Research Paper would like to thank the following people and groups for their support: Dean David DeVries Vice Provost Laura Brown Emily Posner Laurel Southard Lesley Yorke CURA Jim Morris-Knower Kristin Ramsay of RCPRS Steve Sachs Mann Library “The Research Paper,

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“Our vision as the founders of The Research Paper is to create a magazine that humanizes research on all levels. We believe that research is as much about self discovery as it is about achievement. In addition to showcasing the outstanding research that is conducted here at Cornell, we also aim to highlight the uniqueness, creativity, and personality of each researcher to all of our readers. We do this by focusing our articles on who the researcher is, what they are involved in both at Cornell and in their local communities, and what their future visions and aspirations are.”

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Fall 2014 Volume 14(1)

Bryan Anthonio and Rohit Ramanathan ENG

Creating Structures in the Blink of an Eye

By Akila Venkataramany and Santana Silver Kushagra Aniket A&S

Modeling the Ebbs and Flows of Water Utilities By Alex Cheng



Aditya Agashe ENG

Novel Materials for More Efficient Batteries By Julia Kruk

Selene Leung CALS

DNA Tracers: Going with the Flow By Alexander Ni


7 CALS Feature

Emily Hsu ENG

Guiding Light with Water By Hyunji Koo


Maisie Orsillo HumEc

Pumping Iron or Not, Keep Eating It By Radhika Ghosalkar

AAP Feature

Pellecchia AAP 10 Jonah A New Solution to Squatter Settlements By Ava Fan


Siddharth Ramakrishnan ENG

Lithium Air Battery Research Keeps Going and Going By Ana Ruess


Manuel Fernandez A&S


By Kara Beckman Jaclyn Chen HumEc


The A-maize-ing Grain Does Red Bull速 Really Give You Wings?

14 ILRFeature

By Adina Zhang Jeremy Rosenberg ILR

Boom or Bust: Evaluating the Quality of NBA Draft Trade Decisions By Pernelle Guerrier

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Chima Amadi CALS

16 HumEc Feature

Reaching Beyond the Status Quo of Cancer By Amy Wang Emily Miller HumEc

87 Factors on the Wall: Preventing Drunk Driving By Jacob Kolenda


Michael Nguyen ENG

Exploring the ABCs of Particle Accelerators By Daniel Fayad


Daniel Rosenthal ILR

All the World’s a Stage By Shay Collins

Michaelides A&S 19 Roger Exploring Lakes, One Planet at a

19 A&S Feature


By June Xia


Dillon Cislo ENG


By David Wang Justin Choi ENG

Decoding the Nanomechanical Tethers of Exocytosis

Space in a Whole Other Dimension

By Katherine Tang Carly Andrews Hotel

22 Hotel Feature

22 Eating Food for Thought By David Li


Suk Hyun Sung ENG


By Anant Hariharan Eleanore O’Neil CALS

Transcending Limits under the Lens

The Answer in the Water By Clara Liao

Photographers Jonathan Gorman Isabel Jimenez Collin Dillingham

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Bryce Evans Alyssa Weismann Joseph Kidane

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Creating Structures in the Blink of an Eye By Akila Venkataramany and Santana Silver

Bryan Anthonio and Rohit Ramanathan ‘15 College of Engineering



hat happens when a Materials Science and Engineering major and an Engineering Physics major work together? For seniors Rohit Ramanathan and Bryan Anthonio, their collaboration resulted in a highly successful project aimed at improving the efficiency of discovery of new materials via machine learning algorithms and other computational methods. Ramanathan began his research career as a high school junior, when he studied asteroid orbits using nighttime observations in the Summer Science Program. Anthonio, on the other hand, initially became involved in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program of Duke University the summer after his freshman year of college. Ramanathan and Anthonio recently finished their latest research project in the field of computational materials science under Dr. Richard Hennig of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. A primary goal of computational materials science is to predict the most stable atomic structure for new materials previously not observed in nature. Currently, this involves using supercomputers, and the computations themselves can take days to complete. Ramanathan and Anthonio used machine learning algorithms and a database of structures to construct new models capable of assessing the structural stability of such materials. This assessment was done using information on the materials’ atomic configurations. Their model is now capable of predicting the stability of a material in minutes as opposed to days. Along with experiencing the daily thrill of trying new methods and experimenting with various processes, Ramanathan and Anthonio’s responsibilities included thoroughly evaluating results to ensure they had significant data. Following evaluation, they ran multiple versions of their algorithm to see if they could replicate specific results. These results were then interpreted in the context of materials science problems. Although Ramanathan and Anthonio were first in the Hennig Research Group to delve into machine learning, they had tremendous success in their project. As a mentor, Hennig helped them develop prime research practices. He suggested ideas for Ramanathan and Anthonio to try as experiments targeted at determining other viable uses for machine learning algorithms.

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This research is being conducted in the Department of Materials Science in the College of Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Richard Hennig. To contact the researchers e-mail bea24@ & Both Ramanathan and Anthonio enjoy their field of research because of the challenges it brings and the practical experiences that ensue. “The process included a lot of problem solving. We had to look at papers in other fields like computational biology since researchers in that area utilize similar machine learning algorithms to predict stable protein structures,” Anthonio said. “We were able to solve real world problems instead of homework problems, which are very contrived. Though it took a long time to develop, our model produces results in seconds,” Ramanathan explained. Following the conclusion of this research project, Ramanathan and Anthonio are currently working on a journal article describing their machine learning model that can assess the stability of a material’s structure. In fact, Ramanathan continues to explore his materials science passion in his senior thesis, which focuses on predicting the structures and properties of two-dimensional germanium oxide and aluminum oxide. Despite a heavy workload, Ramanathan and Anthonio find time outside of academics and research to relax, read, and play soccer and video games. Ramanathan is a webmaster for Cornell University and a facilitator for the Academic Excellence Workshop program, in which he leads other undergraduate students in discussions through core class materials. In his free time, Anthonio is involved with the Diversity Programs in Engineering. After graduation, Ramanathan and Anthonio both plan to attend graduate school. While Anthonio would like to remain in the same field of research, Ramanathan hopes to focus on electronic materials and devices instead of computational methods. Akila Venkataramany ‘18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at


Santana Silver ‘17 is in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at

11/19/2014 4:58:56 PM

By Alex Cheng ‘18


ater is arguably the most important chemical that influences people’s lives. We use it for drinking, washing, cleaning and it makes up 70% of our body. Water is an indispensable commodity, but most people don’t take much notice of their consumption of water save for their monthly utility bill. Kushagra Aniket, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, aims to study the economics of national water provision in the US. His research project focuses on economies of scale of water utilities, as he aims to find the relationship between the cost of water and a wide variety of factors. An economy of scale is a model that suggests that as the quantity of certain goods produced by an enterprise increases, the average cost of such goods decreases. This can be due to a variety of different reasons, ranging from large companies having more efficient infrastructure and machines, to variations in raw material costs when purchased in bulk. However, real-life situations are oftentimes more complex than simple economic models, especially in large-scale government institutions such as water utilities. Kushagra is aiming to discover if larger water utilities have a lower average cost per unit of water. He was initially interested in the field of regulation and cost-curve microeconomics but chose to explore American water provision because he believes that “it has tremendous application for water production and distribution in this country.” His research, associated with the Department of Policy Analysis and Management (PAM), has achieved recognition and is receiving funding from the New York State Water Resources Institute. He is also confident that the American Waterworks Association will be greatly interested in his conclusions. Throughout his research project, Kushagra took into account a wide range of parameters, such as average rates charged for different consumers, productivity metrics, financial solvency metrics, population served and employment in utility services. Kushagra says that conducting this research has been a long process, due to the difficulty involved in amassing data for the entire country, “the problem of arriving at a sound model, because there are multiple approaches that you can adopt to handle this question” and trying to make the model robust to fit many different variables. His research utilizes data obtained from five hundred different utilities studied over a decade, allowing “a lot of leeway in terms

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This research is being conducted in the College of Arts and Sciences with Prof. Richard Geddes. To contact the researcher e-mail of changes over time and variation across different utilities”. His research team, comprising of himself, Professor Richard Geddes and his lab, have arrived at several conclusions after running regression analyses: smaller utilities tend to charge more for supplying water relative to larger utilities. Kushagra explains that the greater a utility’s overall productivity and control over its financial solvency, the less they charge on average. His team also formulated several policy recommendations, stating that “if there are significant economies of scale in water infrastructure then the obvious recommendation is to move towards physical and administrative consolidation.” According to Kushagra, the policy recommendations drawn from their analysis “would be put forwards with a great degree of confidence for this country.” He says that he enjoys the freedom and guidance given to him from Professor Geddes in modelling the data. Although the data Kushagra and his team have gathered is limited to forty-four states and the District of Columbia, he suggests that due to the scope of their data, his research could be applied elsewhere to model economies of scale in water utilities of other countries. Kushagra has already had a preliminary draft of his findings submitted to the New York State Water Resources Institute, and the draft has been discussed at a mid-Atlantic water infrastructure conference. Kushagra intends to convert his research into a working paper, and submit it to a peer-reviewed journal. Kushagra is majoring in economics, mathematics and statistical science in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is actively involved in student government and holds the position of Director of Elections. Kushagra is interested in economics, regulation and international finance and hopes to look for a career in consulting. He follows Indian classical music in his spare time.

Alex Cheng ’18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at

Kushagra Aniket ‘15 College of Arts and Sciences


Modeling the Ebbs and Flows of Water Utilities


The Research Paper, Vol. 14 (1), Fall 2014 11/19/2014 4:59:04 PM

Novel Materials for More Efficient Batteries By Julia Kruk ’18

Aditya Agashe ‘17 College of Engineering



ur daily dependence on electricity generates demand for more efficient and reliable energy storage systems. Imagine charging your computer in half the time but having it last twice as long; imagine electric cars lasting an entire week, or even a month, before needing to recharge. Innovations in energy sustainability can improve many aspects of daily life, aside from more reliable cars and longer lasting computers. The societal need for technology to accommodate the high energy consumption has led to rapid growth in the field of energy research. Along with a vast number of labs across the country and overseas, a Cornell research group led by Professor Ulrich Wiesner is focused on synthesizing new materials with possible applications in power generation, energy conversion and energy storage. An active undergraduate member of this group is Aditya Agashe, who assists in the investigation of applications of novel polymer-based materials for energy storage technologies. Investigating the applicability of new polymer materials for energy sustainability, Professor Wiesner supervises a number of different projects ranging from metamaterial fabrication to polymer-based nanomaterial synthesis. The Wiesner Group’s work even extends to the arts, having synthesized the polymer used in constructing the new Arts Quad sculpture, A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir. With the technology available in the 21st century, research teams like the Wiesner Group are able to produce novel materials that may revolutionize our approach to everything from art to energy technologies. Agashe is participating in the exploration and analysis of such polymer-based materials. A sophomore majoring in Computer Science in the College of Engineering, Agashe works with mentor Joerg Werner to research the use of metal oxide nanoparticles in block copolymer based materials. The ultimate goal is to construct better batteries with greater capacities, energy discharge rates, etc. Block copolymers make this possible by allowing function control of materials via nanostructure manipulation. Agashe explains that much of this research process is trial and error; the oxide nanomaterials are synthesized under microwave heating and then tested for energy storage ability. He is primarily responsible for preparing the oxide nanoparticles, which includes sustaining various chemical reactions and operating a centrifuge. Agashe particularly enjoys physically preparing the samples and learning about experimental design from his mentor. He explains that every week,

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This research is being conducted in the Department of Materials Science and engineering under the supervision of Prof. Ulrich Wiesner. To contact the researcher e-mail he and his mentor meet to discuss the next steps to take. During these meetings, they discuss the X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) results and propose changes to the procedure. This process has helped him understand the chemistry at work and learn how to use test results to reshape the experimental design. Agashe’s position in the Wiesner lab yields a tremendous learning experience; however, it is not his first experience in a lab. In fact, Agashe participated in research at Rochester Polytechnic Institute all throughout high school. Before coming to Cornell, he has worked in a computational simulation lab modeling Brownian motion, a materials science lab researching thermoelectric devices, and a nanotechnology lab using polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to create molds of various nanomaterials and to stimulate patterning in graphene for self-assembly. Still, his work in the Wiesner lab is challenging, and Agashe states he would have had a very different experience were it not for the support from his mentor, Joerg Werner. Agashe plans to continue working with Werner in hopes of discovering a material that significantly improves the capacities and discharge rates of batteries. For Agashe, the inspiration to do research stems from his desire to answer questions we have yet to address. His intellectual curiosity is a major driving force behind his work at the lab and in different areas around campus. In addition to participating in material science research, Agashe is an active member of the entrepreneurial community of Cornell and the Ithaca area. He was the previous Head of Operations at Speare, a local student startup. Only beginning his sophomore year at Cornell, Agashe is starting up his own company, Belle Apps, with another Cornellian, Michelle Jang. His company will offer peer-to-peer food delivery service for everyday shoppers, and they are looking to launch in early winter.


Julia Kruk ’18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at

11/19/2014 4:59:08 PM

By Alexander Ni ’17


ollution in our freshwater sources is a problem that often goes undiagnosed due to the difficulty in determining the source of pollution. For example, nonpoint pollution – pollution from factories, manufacturers, mines, and sewers that dump pollutants into the water system – can’t be traced back to the point of origin. In an effort to combat nonpoint pollution, scientists measure watershed pathways to try and trace pollutants back to their source. The standard method used to measure watershed pathways involves dumping vast amounts of non-toxic dyes or salts, such as potassium chloride, into the water and following the path of the dye or salt visually or by concentration readings.

A new method for tracing pollutants has been developed, standing at the forefront of technological and biological engineering. This new method uses DNA primers that have been isolated and encapsulated inside a polymer coating to form small beads reminiscent of translucent Dippin’ Dots. Among the few scientists leading the way in optimizing this new technology is senior biological engineer in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Selene Leung. In the lab, Leung spends most of her time improving the design of these tracers —juggling questions such as what materials to use and then testing the tracers to see how well they work in field practice. First, she obtains the DNA sequence she needs for the tracer. After several steps of mixing the DNA with the polymer and sonication of the mixture to form beads, they’re set to solidify in a fridge. In the field, Leung examines the sturdiness of the tracers and their reliability in comparison to the current standards of dyes and ions. To do so, she goes to local water systems such as Cascadilla Creek and releases the tracers. She then collects multiple samples of water farther down the stream and brings them

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This research is being conducted under the supervison of Prof. Todd Walter, To contact the researcher e-mail back to the lab for amplification through quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), giving her an observable and workable data set. What she has learned from her tests is that in short-distance systems, DNA microspheres don’t provide as nice of a response curve as the old standards of dye and ions. This suggests that DNA tracers would be best used for longer systems with unknown water flow pathways because only a few tracers would need to be collected and amplified compared to the significantly larger amounts of dye or salts one would ordinarily have to use. Last summer, Leung and her fellow researchers tested glacier moulins — shallow potholes leading to an exit stream — to determine which moulin led to which exiting stream. With multiple moulins on the surface of the glacier, her research team collected hundreds of samples to be brought back to the lab and amplified. Each moulin had a unique tracer dropped in it, and depending on what tracer was dominant in the qPCR readings, Leung could trace back which moulin the stream originated from. In the future, her research group would like to implement this same idea to sewage systems in order to locate nonpoint pollution sources. Leung joined Professor Todd Walter of the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering her freshman year. She wanted to expand her horizons and, at the same time, to apply her knowledge to different fields. In her free time, Leung enjoys reading, writing and currently holds a position as Senior Advisor to TRP. She enjoys outdoor activities, and also holds positions in the Institute of Biological Engineering, Society of Women in Engineering. After graduating, she plans on obtaining a Masters of Engineering as well as possibly staying at Cornell for another year of research to finish her project. For prospective researchers, Leung stresses starting early and preparing well: “Know what you want before e-mailing your professors.” She emphasizes being involved in something that one can contribute to and enjoy at the same time. Alexander Ni ’17 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at

Selene Leung ‘15 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


DNA Tracers: Going with the Flow


The Research Paper, Vol. 14 (1), Fall 2014 11/19/2014 4:59:16 PM


Guiding Light with Water By Hyunji Koo ‘18

Emily Hsu ‘15 College of Engineering



ost people who operate everyday appliances do not stop to think about the science or the inventors behind them – but if one looks just a little more carefully, they can discover that an immense amount of work and research has been put into each and every aspect of technology. From mobile phones and structural bridges, to various medical tools and technologies, nearly everything has complex and meticulous work behind it, and people striving to constantly improve their creations. This complexity is fascinating and daunting at the same time, and taking a part in research is a great way to improve one’s understanding and contribute knowledge to further advances.

Students can contribute to the research field even as an undergraduate. Emily Hsu, a senior student studying Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering, is doing exactly that at Cornell University. Hsu spends a lot of her free time in the lab with Professor Jin Suntivich from the Materials Science and Engineering Department, working with optical waveguides and exploring the interface between chemistry and light. Optical waveguides are structures that can be patterned to guide light, due to the differences in the refractive index of the substances used. Because of their ability to guide light in a very precise manner, they have very useful applications in telecommunications, computational science, biological imaging, and much more. Before coming to Cornell, Hsu had previous research experience at the International Research Experiences for Students Program (IRES) by the National Science Foundation, where she conducted research at a college near her home. During this time, she worked on fuel cells and developing alternative energy sources, which stimulated her interest in research. When she became interested in joining a lab at Cornell, she started looking at different departments during her junior year. She had taken a strong interest in mate-

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This research is being conducted in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering under the supervision of Prof. Jim Suntivich. To contact the researcher, e-mail rials after seeing the limitations of many technologies from the material’s perspective. “I was looking, and I saw [Professor Suntivich’s] research, and he was working on energy storage research, catalysis, and nanostructuring of materials,” Hsu says. She reached out to Professor Suntivich, and he eventually became her current research mentor. In the lab, Hsu is currently working on using liquids, such as water or oil, to guide light through waveguides. Essentially, waveguides have a core that has a higher refractive index, which is surrounded by cladding that has a lower refractive index. Hsu uses silicon wafers as the core substrate, and patterns them to specific configurations to confine the liquid to such patterns. Then when light is focused at the waveguide, the light will follow the specific geometry that has been patterned, because liquids have a high refractive index. Hsu is close to getting results in her research, having narrowed it down to different chemistries, knowing which ones work and which ones do not. She has narrowed it down to hydrophobic chemistry, which will repel water making the liquids easier to separate. By using hydrophobic and hydrophilic patching and patterning, they can separate the liquids and constrain it to different boundaries. The final step is now trying to find a good hydrophilic deposition, so that the water will really attract to the areas it needs to be in. This is important because without the attraction, there is a risk of spreading, which will scatter the light. “This is basically the final step,” Hsu says. “Once we are able to get the chemistry completely selected, we can move to work on guiding the light and testing the applications.” Outside the lab, Hsu has served as a facilitator through the College of Engineering, helping out with workshops and also works as a teaching assistant. She teaches piano in the Cornell Piano Society, and has been on community service trips as an alternative spring break. Hsu also plans to continue her engineering education in grad school.


Hyunji Koo ‘18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at

11/19/2014 4:59:23 PM

By Radhika Ghosalkar


s it turns out, your mom, Dr. Oz, Sanjay Gupta, or whomever you rely on for sage medical advice may have been right in telling you to maintain your iron consumption. As a key nutrient to hemoglobin function, iron is required to transport oxygen throughout the body, thereby preventing fatigue at the cellular level. Despite this organismal dependence on iron, the World Health Organization estimates that thirty percent of the global population is anemic, or iron-deficient, with developing world women and children in the particularly high-risk category. As scientific and philanthropic communities increasingly shift their efforts toward reducing health care disparities, the battle cries to understand and remedy mineral- and nutrient-deficiency-related illnesses have grown stronger in force and larger in number. Among the individuals investigating the dangers of iron deficiency is Maisie Orsillo, a Fort Plain, New York native who is a senior Nutritional Sciences major in the College of Human Ecology. Particularly interested in how iron deficiency relates to the rapidly developing brains of infants, Orsillo studies the effects of low iron levels in MIMIC (Moms and Infants Study of Memory, Iron and Cognitive Development) participants. Under the mentorship of Dr. Jere Haas and graduate student Julie Nevins in the Department of Nutrition, Orsillo explores the relationship between iron deficiency and novelty preference, or the ability to differentiate between old and new stimuli. Specifically, the Haas Lab exposes infants with varying iron levels to female faces they have become familiar with over several weeks.

“Under the mentorship of Dr. Jere Haas and graduate student Julie Nevins in the Department of Nutrition, Orsillo explores the relationship between iron deficiency and novelty preference, or the ability to differentiate between old and new stimuli. ” Another component of the study involves a pair comparison in which electroencephalography (a brain imaging technique) assesses the infants’ abilities to distinguish novel faces from the familiarized faces and a simple coding system categorizes infant behavior.

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This research is conducted in the Department of Nutrition under the mentorship of Dr. Jere Haas. To contact the researcher e-mail Although this study is not yet complete and current findings are statistically insignificant, Orsillo has noticed an emerging correlation between low iron levels and reduced novelty preference. If validated, the findings would agree with a previous study which discovered a link between heart rate deceleration and increased attention. Orsillo hopes to present her findings at the annual Experimental Biology Conference in Boston this year.

Maisie Orsillo ‘15 College of Human Ecology


Pumping Iron or Not, Keep Eating It

What began as a serendipitous inquiry into a flyer recruiting mothers for an infant study has for Orsillo blossomed into a passion for maternal and child health. Since joining the lab in the fall of her sophomore year, she has proven herself to be vital to the MIMIC study, especially in her coding of infant behavior and integration of data via statistical software. As a result of her lab experience, Orsillo has developed skills in statistical software usage, scientific literature analysis, and data collecting methods. After graduation, she hopes to spend a gap year working in the Community Health Corps before pursuing a career in maternal or children’s health. In her free time, Orsillo is a resident advisor in Balch Hall and can be found working with the Students of Diabetes Awareness and volunteering at the Ithaca Free Clinic. Radhika Ghosalkar ‘18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at


The Research Paper, Vol. 14 (1), Fall 2014 11/19/2014 4:59:24 PM

A New Solution to Squatter Settlements

Jonah Pellecchia ‘16 College of Art, Architecture, and Planning

By Ava Fan ’16


Starting in 2012, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population is estimated

to be living in an urban area. As developing countries become more industrialized and large numbers of people move from the countryside into the city in search of better opportunities, the number of squatter settlements increases. Squatter settlements or informal settlements are communities of people that live on land, usually owned by the government, illegally. These ‘squatters’ have become a problem as more countries around the world develop. Historically, governments have dealt with these groups by forcing them off the land. However, this is only a short-term solution. Typically, the squatters will just settle down somewhere else, and their personal finances and situations haven’t been improved in any way. Currently, governments have developed a new policy called ‘slum upgrading’ for dealing with these communities. ‘Slum upgrading’ refers to when the government provides basic services for settlements to improve their standard of living, but without having any impact on the personal financial circumstances of those living in the settlements. Jonah Pellecchia, an Urban and Regional Studies major in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, is researching whether or not there is a better solution to this problem, one that will effectively relocate former squatter communities while also improving the personal economic situation of the people in these communities. Before coming to Cornell, Pellecchia had done research in high school with a political science professor at the University of California, Irvine. While applying to Cornell, he was selected to be a part of the Hunter R. Rawlings III Presidential Research Scholars (RCPRS) program, which provides funding to undergraduates interested in research. After taking the class “The Global City”, Pellecchia realized that much of the land that the squatters lived on was valuable to public and private interests who might want to develop the area. He reasoned that if these communities could be given access and ownership to the land that they lived on, they would at least be able to sell the land and receive a monetary windfall that would improve their personal economic standings. Pellecchia approached Professor Victoria Beard from the Department of City and Regional Planning Development about doing research on these types of settlements. Professor

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This research is being conducted in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning under the supervision of Prof. Victoria Beard. To contact the researcher, e-mail Beard pointed him towards Surakarta, Indonesia, where the mayor at the time, Joko Widodo, had attempted to move the squatter communities by giving them money to collectively move to a new location. Last winter, Pellecchia traveled to Indonesia to personally interview the communities that had moved to see what impact Widodo’s policy had on them. By giving them money to buy their own land, the community now had land security, and furthermore, had the ability to take out large loans that could be spent on land improvement or on starting small businesses. He has found that the majority of the people in the community viewed the move positively, citing land security as the most important improvement. However, Pellechia is cautious to call the program a success and plans to head back to Indonesia his senior year to gather secondary data. Pellecchia says that what he enjoys most about research is the potential to have a real-life impact on government and city policy. By studying the Surakarta case, Pellecchia wants to identify what worked and hopefully influence governments to create better policies for dealing with these squatter settlements in the future, saying that “if we can improve the lives of these people through city policy rather than macroeconomic policy, that would be huge.” From doing research, he says what he has gained the most is “initiative” or the ability to create his own research questions and then to pursue them independently in the field. In his free time, Pellecchia enjoys learning about art history, visiting museums and ballroom dancing and is currently taking a ballroom dancing class at Cornell. After he graduates, Pellecchia plans on getting work experience at a real estate developer and later getting a masters degree in business.


Ava Fan’16 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at

11/19/2014 4:59:31 PM

By Ana Ruess ’18


hen most people hear the phrase “lithium battery,” not much comes to mind, except perhaps the Energizer bunny trudging past with neon blue light in his wake. To the average person, a lithium battery is like any other battery, just something you can plug into your electronics to keep them happy. However, lithium batteries are nothing like your everyday zinc-carbon or alkaline battery. Lithium batteries have a much higher energy density (meaning they last significantly longer than most batteries) and are equally high priced.

Working with Professor Yong Joo in the Chemical Engineering Department here at Cornell University, Siddharth Ramakrishnan, a junior studying chemical engineering, has been working to optimize these lithium batteries by producing lithium air batteries as opposed to lithium ion batteries. The contrast between these two varieties of lithium batteries is that lithium air batteries incorporate oxygen as part of the traditional carbon cathode. This is advantageous because not only are lithium air batteries much lighter, but they also have a much higher energy density than their ion counterparts (who already have a higher energy density than their predecessors). Having a higher energy density literally means that there is more energy stored per unit of volume, not that there is more power, though research is being done to augment the battery’s power as well. Though the idea of a lithium air battery sounds idyllic, there is one major hitch—the reaction that occurs in lithium air batteries creates detrimental byproducts that build up quickly, degrading the battery with blockage after “about 50 cycles,” according to Ramakrishnan. In order to minimize the build-up of byproducts, Ramakrishnan investigated the use of polypyrrole (PPy) in order to replace the metal oxide catalyst and carbon. PPy is the product

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This research was conducted in the Department of Chemical Engineering under the supervision of Prof. Yong Joo. To contact the researcher e-mail of polymerizing pyrrole (an organic compound found in bone oil and chlorophyll among other naturally occurring substances) and functions as a good substitute because of its conductive nature. Unfortunately, exploration of PPy as an alternative has been momentarily discontinued, because Joo is taking a sabbatical and research has been put on hold until his return. With his work on the lithium air battery coming to an end, Ramakrishnan remarked that he “learned a great deal from the lab.” In addition to developing various practical skills, such as electrospinning and polymerizing monomers, Ramakrishnan said an important lesson he learned as a researcher was that “the lab is a trial and error setting, where you learn by failure,” something that cannot be found in most other academic settings. Shortly after leaving Joo’s lab, Ramakrishnan began working in a biomedical engineering research facility for the summer. However, since then he has not done any lab research because he does not intend to pursue research as a career, despite having enjoyed his time as a researcher.

“Siddharth Ramakrishnan, a junior studying chemical engineering, has been working to optimize these lithium batteries by producing lithium air batteries as opposed to lithium ion batteries.”

Siddharth Ramakrishnan ‘16 College of Engineering


Lithium Air Battery Research Keeps Going and Going

Thus, as Joo’s sabbatical continues and the summer comes to a close, both Ramakrishnan’s career as a researcher and work on the lithium air battery has been put on pause. Hopefully, upon Joo’s return, the lithium air battery’s advancement will be recharged, as Ramakrishnan continues searching for places to utilize his knowledge of chemical engineering in new settings. Ana Ruess ’18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at


The Research Paper, Vol. 14 (1), Fall 2014 11/19/2014 4:59:42 PM

The A-maize-ing Grain By Kara Beckman ’17

Manuel Fernandez ‘16 College of Arts & Sciences

Corn isn’t just an essential part of this university’s name—it’s also an essential part of American


life. Each year, the average American consumes more than 1,500 pounds of corn—in its natural state, as a food additive, and indirectly through meat. In addition, the push for sustainable energy has enabled a huge surge in popularity of using corn-derived ethanol as fuel. Whether it’s used for food or Halloween mazes, this grain is golden. Manny Fernandez, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, understands just how important corn is. His research with Professor Michael Scanlon of the Plant Biology department focuses on genetic mutations that cause the leaves on ears of corn to grow abnormally. These mutations result in leaves that are too skinny and plants that aren’t viable.

“Manny Fernandez, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, understands just how important corn is...Fernandez performs and analyzes various crosses of the mutated corn in order to pinpoint the exact changes in DNA sequences.” So far, their research has been centered on determining the specific genotypes of the plants that exhibit this unusual trait. Fernandez performs and analyzes various crosses of the mutated corn in order to pinpoint the exact changes in DNA sequences. They have discovered that there are two different genes—narrow sheet one and narrow sheet two—that express a mutated allele for this particular phenotype. When a plant is heterozygous for these alleles—that is, when it contains only one of the two mutations—its leaves will grow normally. When the corn is homozygous recessive and contains both mutations, it will grow abnormally. Fernandez is researching the specific nucleotide changes responsible for the mutated alleles, focusing on two different changes that have occurred at each gene. To do so, he runs gel electrophoresis and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis on the DNA of the corn plants that he has crossed. Fernandez, who has been working in Professor Scanlon’s lab for about a year, plans to complete his research by

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This research is being conducted in the Department of Plant Biology under the supervision of Professor Michael Scanlon To contact the researcher, e-mail the fall semester of his senior year as part of his honor’s thesis. Although Fernandez is a Biological Sciences major concentrating in neuroscience, he absolutely loves his work in Professor Scanlon’s lab. “No one else in the world is doing the same research,” he says. “If it weren’t for me doing this work in my lab, it wouldn’t get done. It’s a new discovery— there’s no answer yet—and I’m the first person to find that answer. It’s a privilege to be able to do something like this here at Cornell.” The most important skill Fernandez has honed through his research, he says, is his ability to think critically both about the research of other scientists and his own procedures. Each test that he runs can cost upwards of ten thousand dollars, so he needs to make sure that every step he takes has a purpose. “The first run almost never works,” he notes. “So I have to ask myself why this might be happening. The most important part is figuring out how to make things work.” Fernandez also encourages other undergraduate students to pursue opportunities that let them explore and have fun, both within the research community and in other aspects of life at Cornell. “Join a club, do something,” he advises. “Don’t limit yourself.” Outside of his research, Fernandez spends most of his time playing for the men’s water polo team. He is also a member of the Orientation Steering Committee and an Arts and Sciences Ambassador. Fernandez is considering pursuing further research in the future as part of an MD/ PhD program.


Kara Beckman ’17 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at

11/19/2014 4:59:45 PM

By Adina Zhang ’17


t’s 3am on a Wednesday night, and you’re only one paragraph or problem away from going to bed. But you can barely open your eyes, let alone lift your pencil up or pull your scattered thoughts together. What will help you push through? If your willpower can’t, then maybe you’ll opt for an energy drink instead. Red Bull®, Monster®, and 5-Hour Energy® are only a few of the many options available from which you could choose. These sugary, caffeine-based drinks are sometimes easier to find than other study snacks such as beef jerky and granola bars. You can find energy drinks at your local grocery store, at the gas station, and, if you live on North Campus, at Nasties. But have you ever wondered: “do these energy drinks actually work?” In other words, is it the thought of consuming these drinks or the actual chemical recipe within these products that is keeping you alert? Jaclyn L. Chen ‘15, a premedical HBHS major, asked herself the same question in a moment of procrastination during her finals week of sophomore year. She, along with many of her friends, has experimented with a plethora of energy drinks, but after a health-conscious summer, Chen became increasingly aware of specific ingredients she was ingesting, including those contained in sugary drinks. Following this realization, Chen approached her nutritional sciences professor, Dr. David Levitsky, with a potential research study in mind. After a semester of drafting and redrafting her experimental study, Chen finally received complete approval from the Institutional Review Board to test out her experiment on human subjects. Choosing Monster® energy drink as her primary subject, Chen conducted her research on undergraduate students from Dr. Levitsky’s classes. Each student was given either a drink without being informed of whether it was a placebo or Monster® energy drink, or no drink at all. Both drinks were fortunately similar in taste and color, and nearly indistinguishable. Participants were then asked to complete a series of computer games that tested for memory retention, reactionary efficiency, and problem-solving abilities. Participants were asked to come back for a second trial a week later to repeat the process, but were either given a different drink or no drink at all. Chen hypothesized that those who drank energy drinks would have higher scores than those who drank the placebo imitate or nothing at all. Currently, Chen is working with Dr. Levitsky to further analyze her

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This research was conducted in the College of Human Ecology under the supervision of Dr. David Levitsky. To contact the researcher e-mail data and write a paper for publication. Outside of her academics, Chen can be found swimming regularly at Teagle or sweating it out at fitness classes at Noyes. She loves to get her heart pumping, whether it’s by burning calories or attending social gatherings. Chen finds joy in integrating herself with her Asian roots and has performed in the cultural shows of CSA, CTAS, and HKSA. She is currently the president of the mental health oriented Asian and Asian American Forums (AAAF), a brother of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and a member of Cornell’s Senior Days Committee. Her passion for writing has translated itself through her publications in The Research Paper, The Triple Helix, and The Cornell Daily Sun. This year follows her fourth consecutive semester as a standing Active Citizen in the Hans A. Bethe House on West Campus. Furthermore, she is a mentor in both the student-run PATCH organization and the First Year Initiative program.

“She, along with many of her friends, has experimented with a plethora of energy drinks, but after a health-conscious summer, Chen became increasingly aware of specific ingredients she was ingesting, including those contained in sugary drinks.”

Jaclyn Chen ‘15 College of Human Ecology


Does Red Bull® Really Give You Wings?

Chen hopes to attend medical school following graduation. She would like to expand her experience through leadership roles, as well as continue being an asset to her community. Indeed, her research results will follow her trend of service, as she will be able to better inform us of the advantages and disadvantages of energy drinks. While conducting nutritional research was her first step, she looks forward to medical/clinical research as her next step towards improving lives and bettering the world of those around her. Adina Zhang ’17 is in the College of Engineering. She can be reached at


The Research Paper, Vol. 14 (1), Fall 2014 11/19/2014 4:59:49 PM

Boom or Bust: Evaluating the Quality of NBA Draft Trade Decisions By Pernelle Guerrier

Jeremy Rosenberg ‘16 College of Industrial Labor Relations



he relationship between a sports team and a fan is a very sacred one. Every year, millions tune in to see their favorite teams draft the player who is going to help them go all the way. Fans trust their teams to make good draft selections, but is it possible to quantitatively evaluate the quality of the picks? Jeremy Rosenberg ’16, a junior in the School of Industrial & Labor Relations is studying just that. With the help of Dr. Andrew Karolyi, a professor of Finance at the Johnson School of Management, Rosenberg studies the rationality of draft trade decisions in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The idea first came about after Dr. Karolyi gave Rosenberg a paper on the National Football League (NFL) that studied the decision making process of NFL general managers during their yearly draft. The paper inspired Rosenberg, an avid basketball fan, to take the study’s principles and apply them to the NBA. He painstakingly acquired draft day trade information from a variety of sources and compiled them for use in a statistical software package called

“With the help of Dr. Andrew Karolyi, a professor of Finance at the Johnson School of Management, Rosenberg studies the rationality of draft trade decisions in the National Basketball Association (NBA)..” STATA. The information in the model includes the number of minutes played, number of field goals made, number of free throws made, as well as rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, points, and a dummy variable for trade pick number. The draft pick number serves as the independent variable affected by the aforementioned dependent variables. “I only study scenarios where a draft pick is traded for another draft pick,” he says, a technique called “trading up” in sports drafts. With the help of STATA, Rosenberg created regression models with this information. Using his model, he can predict how certain players are expected to perform based on their draft pick. He can also use their game-time performances to determine whether trading for that player in the NBA draft was a rational or irrational decision. Anytime a general manager made a decision that led to a positive residual, indicating an underperforming player, he was considered

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This research is being conducted in the Johnson School of Management under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Karolyi. To contact the researcher e-mail to have made an “irrational” decision in terms of trading for that specific draft pick. The implications for this research are far reaching and pose many questions. Should general managers who have a pattern of more rational draft day trade decisions receive compensation from their teams? Is there a correlation between draft day trade decisions and actual team performance? This research could also shed light on behavior and decision making in high pressure environments. As insightful as this study is, Rosenberg does admit that his current model is flawed. For example, all player statistics are currently weighed equally. This is an issue because this information affects the residual values of players who play positions that emphasize certain statistics over others. Moving forward, Rosenberg, who also minors in Business, hopes to tighten his model by addressing this flaw and by incorporating more variables. Such parameters include player efficiency rating (PER), which denotes how efficient a player is with his time on the court, and win shares, which values how much an individual player contributes to the success of his team. He credits Dr. Karolyi as being instrumental in helping him plan his research. “[Dr. Karolyi] helps me a lot with the big picture. We start each semester coming up with a plan for reaching certain goals,” he shares. Rosenberg also credits Dr. Olga Khessina and her Organizational Behavior class with teaching him “how to think” and says that the information he learned in Dr. Paul Velleman’s Statistics class has also been very helpful. On campus, Rosenberg is the Vice President of the Financial Management Group of Cornell and the Treasurer for the Center of Jewish Living. After graduation, he hopes to work in finance. He recognizes Cornell for instilling in him the value of working hard, on which he says, “Sometimes, it’s not about how smart you are, it’s about the effort that you put into it. I really see that here...If you put [in a lot of] effort, most of the time you’ll succeed.”


Pernelle Guerrier is a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at

11/19/2014 4:59:53 PM

By Amy Wang ‘18


ix letters. C-A-N-C-E-R. Broken apart, these letters are simply letters of the alphabet; put together, these letters create a word that connotes an illness that affects millions of lives each year, including those of family, friends, and colleagues. Cancer can affect anyone. Today, Chima Amadi is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, majoring in Animal Sciences and aspiring to become an oncologist. Amadi is striving to make a difference in the realm of cancer. His research involves tracing the cellular origin of ovarian cancer cells. Even though epithelial ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., the development and origin of these cells are still unknown.

When tears in the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) occur, stem cells move in to fix them. The Nikitin lab established that these stem cells come from the hilum region. Many ovarian cancer cases derive from mutations in the OSE. Amadi is examining cell lineages in the hopes of creating a “map” of distinguishing features that each cell produces; these features include biological cell markers such as cytokeratins, intermediate protein filaments that help with the structure of the cell and make cells distinguishable from each other. Amadi’s research has targeted the transition region of epithelial cells, which consists of the OSE to uterine tube epithelium area. He uses reporter mice in his experiment and infuses them with tamoxifen, an artificial estrogen, to allow for the expression of cytokeratin 5. He then stains for antibodies while considering which primary and secondary antibodies would make the proteins visible. Amadi also cuts ovarian tissue into 3mm ‘paraffin’ sections and prints images of his samples. Since the spring of 2014, Amadi’s research has produced an array of interesting results. He has determined that cytokeratin 5 and 6 can help identify the cell’s origin and location. The map that Amadi hopes

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This research is being conducted under the supervison of Dr. Nikatin. To contact the researcher e-mail to create has the ability to help future researchers by directing them to study specific aspects of specific cells instead of spending time conducting research in broad terms. Amadi’s research can help generate even more specific research on the ovaries. Above all else, working in Dr. Nikatin’s lab has given Amadi the opportunity to discover new things. He is both contributing to the scientific field and controlling the direction of his research. Amadi’s research has allowed him to learn new immunohistochemistry techniques. If certain antibodies do not work, Amadi must figure out why. Under Dr. Nikatin, he has become a more independent researcher, generating questions such as “How do I come up with my hypothesis?” and “What is the new challenge?” Before Amadi had entered Cornell University, he fought Rosai-Dorfman, a rare disease that involves an accumulation of non-Langerhans sinus histiocytes, usually in the lymph nodes (Histio), twice. After a successful fight against cancer, Amadi has been conducting research in the Stem Cell Program at the Veterinary School in the Department of Biomedicine. As a freshman at William Paterson University, Amadi conducted stem cell research and tail regeneration in tadpoles, which influenced him to continue his research endeavors at Cornell after transferring. Amadi found it fascinating that both stem cells and cancer cells are immortal. Outside the lab, Amadi is heavily involved in the Cornell community and beyond. He is not only involved with Cornell Tradition but also volunteers at a free clinic. He has also travelled abroad, working in a hospital. Amadi is involved with MAPS and is the Community Service Chair. His dedication to all his activities culminates in his aspirations to become an oncologist. After taking a gap year, he may pursue a M.D./P.h.D. program. Medicine and his research equate to saving lives. One day, as a doctor, he hopes to integrate personalized medicine in his approach to healthcare. Because of his own experiences, he aspires to tell his patients exactly what is wrong with their cells and to introduce specific drugs to target these cells. In his own words, “cancer is personal.” Amy Wang ‘18 is in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at

Chima Amadi ‘16 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Reaching Beyond the Status Quo of Cancer


The Research Paper, Vol. 14 (1), Fall 2014 11/19/2014 4:59:57 PM

87 Factors on the Wall: Preventing Drunk Driving By Jacob Kolenda ’18

Emily Miller ‘16 College of Human Ecology



rive hammered, get slammered. You booze, you cruise, you lose. We have all seen advertisements warning about the risks of driving under the influence. With around thirty people dying in motor crashes daily as a result of intoxication, drunk driving affects countless individuals. To limit the number of accidents, numerous advertisements have been released throughout the years to convince people who have had any amount of alcohol to keep the keys out of the ignition. The approaches used in these advertisements vary greatly, and certain advertisements produce more significant impacts than others. But what makes an advertisement against drunk driving effective? Since her freshman year, working with Professor Rosemary Avery in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, current junior Emily Elizabeth Namaste Miller has dedicated her time to researching the topic. Miller’s project identifies which factors are the most prevalent and impactful in advertisements against drunk driving. She analyzes whether or not an advertisement encourages a specific action, if designated drivers are displayed, and if the advertisement shocks or creates a feeling of guilt in its viewer. Additionally, her research model investigates which clips produce a stronger aversion to drunk driving in specific groups of individuals and whether or not the threat of legal action is a more potent motivator to avoid driving while intoxicated than presenting statistics about fatalities which occur as a result of alcohol-related car accidents. When asked to think about research, most people’s minds would drift to thoughts of test tubes, beakers, and complicated formulas. Research in the social science field does not share much in common with these images. Instead, it involves gathering and analyzing enormous amounts of data. To put “enormous” into perspective, Miller states that, “I’ve watched around 9000 clips of drunk-driving ads for my research.” With this massive amount of data to analyze accompanied by the challenge of perfecting a research model, the project remains ongoing and no results have been produced yet. Currently, Miller works on checking over her data for discrepancies. Obtaining data also presents challenges; information needs to be gathered based off of dependent variables such as DUI arrests and fatalities as well as other independent variables like state laws and taxes. This data frequently comes from different sources and

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This research is being conducted in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management under the supervision of Prof. Rosemary Avery. To contact the researcher e-mail is presented in varying formats, which makes compiling all the variables and information into a simple and accurate dataset a demanding task. Nevertheless, Miller continues to watch countless clips of drunk driving ads and mash together statistical sheets. While gathering data for research is challenging, Miller believes the trickiest aspect of her work has been developing an effective model for the study, stating, “Conceptualization is difficult, you have to pick which factors are the most important.” Including too many variables in the research model would be cumbersome, but there must be enough factors for the model to retain its potency. Currently, Miller tests for 87 unique factors in each advertisement. Furthermore, it is essential that these variables be tested to see which ones accurately predict reductions in drunk driving rates. Despite the difficulty of the project, Miller has thoroughly enjoyed her research. She feels that with this experience, she has become more attentive to detail and has gained a deeper appreciation for social science research. When Miller first arrived at Cornell, she states that, “I really didn’t have anything specific which I wanted to do when I came here, but I was open to pretty much any project. I didn’t come thinking that I would get into this research.” However, when the opportunity to join a research lab and investigate the correlation between drunk driving and public service announcements presented itself, she quickly became involved. Miller is originally from Palisade, a town in western Colorado. Outside of this project, she works as a student supervisor in Appel dining. Additionally, she enjoys reading and is part of the Big Red Marching Band. Once she finishes her research, Miller plans to write her honors thesis on her project. Ultimately, she hopes that the government will take up her work and use her findings to create more effective advertisements in reducing drunk driving rates.


Jacob Kolenda ’18 is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at

11/19/2014 4:59:59 PM

By Daniel Fayad ’18 When you were in high school and heard the phrase “particle accelerator,” you probably thought about fancy and expensive physics, but there’s another kind of person who thought, “Yeah, I could probably build one.” Michael Nguyen, a sophomore majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering and minoring in Physics in the College of Engineering, seems to fit in the second category. His modest and informal research experience began in high school, when he built a low-energy particle accelerator with his friends, often with more enthusiasm than resources. After completing it, he remembers: “Then we just saw a beam of particles and I guess that was enough for our purpose … It was basically just one gigantic light bulb.” Now with his enthusiasm still intact, he started working with the CLASSE, which stands for the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-Based Sciences and Education, in his second semester in college. When asked how he got involved with this project, he answers humbly, “By asking around.” It is often said that there are two ways of obtaining new information in particle accelerator physics: by analyzing data differently or by creating better methods to collect useful data. His research project is more related to the second way. In simple terms, it aims to explore the OST (Oscillating Superleak Transducer) as a tool to obtain more precise data in the matter of detecting heat sources. If this OST proves to be a useful device in identifying these heat sources, it will open the door to many opportunities for different types of research around the field of particle accelerator physics and improve the reliability of further analysis. This research in particular focuses on an aspect called the second sound wave, which is emitted at a point where a defect occurs in superconducting radio frequency (SRF) cavities. This defect is caused when an electron heats up a spot in the superconductive cavities of the SRF cavity and the conductivity turns from superconductive to just conductive (due to the fact that superconductivity needs low temperatures to be triggered). This effect is called quenching, and Nguyen’s research aims to find this quenching spot as accurately as possible by analyzing the second sound wave and its properties. There was previously another method of localization of these quenching spots, which consisted in wrapping the SRF cavities with temperature sensors. This past method used too much space and gave out

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This research is being conducted in the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences and Education (CLASSE). To contact the researcher, e-mail too much data to process the information with ease. The new method, using the OST and allowing for the second sound wave to be transmitted linearly through a tube, yielded about 10% error, which is accurate enough for this purpose. The research itself concluded that further analysis might be needed to fully understand the OST, but these results seem promising for this new method. Although Nguyen remarks that it’s common to see the undergraduate researcher as the one who takes the easy tasks, he says he is comfortable but satisfied by his responsibilities during the research. These were tasks more related to technical matters, such as helping building the set-up and writing the code to analyze the data using Matlab. Nguyen also states that the opportunity of using the new “fancy devices” at Cornell’s labs and learning more about superfluid helium were some of the practices that he appreciated the most in this research experience. Even though he takes his research seriously, Nguyen still takes time for himself, either for his project team, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle in the Acoustics Subteam or by using pastels in his free time. This young researcher from Virginia also works in the advanced physics teaching labs. When asked if he sees himself getting more involved in future research, Nguyen responds while smiling, “Oh, definitely.” Working with Cornell’s professors has kindled his desire to conduct research in the future. He recalls receiving help from his mentor whenever he felt lost, obtaining guidance to understand how these complicated machines work, and getting feedback on the coding. He said that in the future, he envisions himself doing research more closely related to his major, such as topics in signal processing or accelerator research.

Daniel Fayad ’18 is in the College of Engineering. He can be reached at

Michael Nguyen ‘17 College of Engineering


Exploring the ABCs of Particle Accelerators


The Research Paper, Vol. 14 (1), Fall 2014 11/19/2014 5:00:05 PM

All the World’s a Stage By Shay Collins ‘18

Daniel Rosenthal ‘16 College of Industrial Labor Relations



very day, performers record new music, pose in fashion magazines, walk down runways, and act in television shows, commercials, and movies. Yet many people remain ignorant of the conditions under which models, actors, singers, and other entertainers create content for popular consumption. Research conducted by Daniel Rosenthal of the College of Industrial and Labor Relations illuminates the current state of performers’ unions, contracts and rights, or lack thereof. An actor himself, Rosenthal hopes to work in entertainment law, production, or business, but noted that the curriculum in the ILR School lacks courses on entertainment laborers. In late May of 2014, Rosenthal commenced his research as an ILR Summer Research Fellow and examined the factors governing contractual agreements in the entertainment industry. Throughout the summer, Rosenthal conducted research for at least thirty hours per week, even while working as a Cornell University tour guide. As opposed to starting with an intended thesis, Rosenthal began by surveying the regulations on children working in the entertainment industry. Rosenthal reports that, off the bat, the entertainment industry lacks standardized federal regulation on child performers’ welfare. “The issue right now is that everything is governed at the state rather than the federal level, so there are states that have no regulation whatsoever,” Rosenthal says. Whereas the federal government generally regulates children’s welfare, child performers are often excepted from legislation. In a largely unregulated industry involving young children and large amounts of money changing hands, child performers are easy targets for exploitation. According to Rosenthal, people posing as talent agents sometimes unfairly charge child performers, or in more heinous cases, sexually molest them. “You’re never supposed to pay an agent any money up front… but you have people saying ‘pay me $500 or $1,000 and I’ll represent you,’” Rosenthal explains. In the fashion industry, aspiring models face similar abuse. “They’ll often perform and not get paid; they’ll often be sexually exploited and asked to take explicit photographs,” says Rosenthal, “There’s this prevalent idea that you have to do whatever it takes to succeed in fashion.” However, performers do not face industry injustices without some support and legal representation. Rosenthal also researched the different unions that organize and represent performers. These include the Screen Actors Guild, Actors Equity, the American

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This research is being conducted under the mentorship of Prof. Richard Hurd. To contact the researcher e-mail Guild of Musical Artists, and the Model Alliance. Rosenthal noted that the unions often focus primarily on maintaining a fair and safe work environment for entertainers. Additionally, Rosenthal’s research mentor, Professor Richard Hurd, has useful experience with entertainment unions. During the 2007-08 Writers Guild strike, Hurd helped assess and arbitrate the conflict between writers and production studios. Hurd also connected Rosenthal with members of the Screen Actors Guild, one of whom is an ILR graduate, child actor, and model. Beyond researching the composition of entertainment contracts and relevant legislation, Rosenthal spent much of his time interviewing performers, parents of performers, and union members who work to represent and defend performers. At one point, Rosenthal even traveled to New York City in order to interview people face-to-face. At the current point in his research, Rosenthal posits that the lack of standardized regulations leaves child performers highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Rosenthal argues, however, that three possible strategies exist for combating the problem. First, legislators increase regulations in order to ensure that child performers receive the same protections as their non-working peers. Second, performer unions and associations continue to play an important role by educating performers about their rights and how to defend them. Finally, advocates create greater public awareness regarding performers’ working conditions. Now in his senior year, Rosenthal finds himself busy with classes, applying to law school, serving as the President of Class Notes, a co-ed a cappella group, and active in the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha. Despite a demanding schedule, Rosenthal plans on compiling his research into a paper to submit either to the Cornell ILR Review or to a national publication. Rosenthal hopes that his research will provide useful information to future students in the ILR School who share his interest in the entertainment industry.


Shay Collins is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at

11/19/2014 5:00:10 PM

By June Xia ’18


he lakes, rivers, and oceans on Earth hold important clues to revealing the history of our planet’s formation and changes throughout time, but what about extraterrestrial bodies of liquid? What can they tell us about the properties of other planets in the solar system? Roger Michaelides, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, set out to explore and answer this question by studying one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. This moon is the only body in the solar system besides Earth currently known to have stable liquid bodies on its surface. Unlike the Earth, however, Titan’s lakes and seas are composed of methane, ethane, and trace amounts of higher order hydrocarbons. Michaelides, who is double majoring in Physics and Science of Earth Systems, has been conducting research in the Department of Astronomy since his sophomore year under the direction of Professor Alex Hayes. During his time there, Michaelides has studied the physical properties of Titan’s filled and empty lake basins to understand how the hydrologic cycle operates on Titan.

Michaelides uses remote sensing, a technique that gathers data about an object without physically interacting with it, to analyze Titan’s surface. Specifically, Michaelides works with data collected through synthetic aperture radar to create, and then analyze, images of Titan’s surface. These images reveal the physical appearance of the landscape. Moreover, they also allow Michaelides to gather information about characteristics such as surface roughness, dielectric constants, and volumetric scattering constants, all of which can be used to constrain the physical properties of the lake basins. Together, this information helps Michaelides study how lake systems form and evolve

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This research is being conducted in Department of Astronomy under the direction of Prof. Alex Hayes. To contact the lab e-mail over time and how these structures and their physical compositions influence Titan as a whole. Roger Michaelides has used several geospatial techniques and software programs to study Titan’s lake features, including ArcGIS and ENVI. Furthermore, Michaelides has improved his presentation skills and ability to defend his findings. After only a few years of research, Michaelides has already presented his findings in a published abstract and attended a conference last fall to share his ideas. He is currently working on a paper of which he will be the lead author. In addition to conducting research at Cornell, Michaelides has also worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory this past summer, studying lake basin geology in places closer to home such as Death Valley and the Mojave Desert. The time spent studying Earth’s geologic features gave Michaelides a prime opportunity to connect his two projects and compare the similarities between hydrologic systems on different planets. Michaelides’ interest in his current research originates from a deep-rooted fascination with planetary sciences and astronomy. In particular, he enjoys being on the “forefront of an unknown aspect of science” and uncovering mysteries. Michaelides particularly enjoys studying overarching properties that connect entire lake systems across planets, allowing him to see the bigger picture. Thus, using remote sensing to make macroscopic discoveries through indirect means fits perfectly with Michaelides’ interests. Outside of the planetary sciences, Michaelides’ hobbies include playing guitar, reading, and playing soccer. Michaelides hopes to continue conducting research in planetary science, terrestrial geophysics, and remote sensing as a part of his career, and he is also interested in studying Earth’s polar regions and arid environments in the future. Michaelides is currently applying to graduate schools to continue his studies. June Xia ’18 is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at

Roger Michaelides ‘15 College of Arts and Sciences


Exploring Lakes, One Planet at a Time


The Research Paper, Vol. 14 (1), Fall 2014 11/19/2014 5:00:12 PM

Decoding the Nanomechanical Tethers of Exocytosis By David Wang ’18

Dillon Cislo ‘15 College of Engineering



s you read this article, trillions of cells in your body are communicating to coordinate the mental processes that enable you to understand the text on this page and sustain the metabolic activities that keep you alive. Exocytosis is one of the fundamental methods that cells use to excrete the signaling proteins that mediate intercellular messaging, nerve signal transmission, and immune responses. During the earliest stages of exocytosis, a molecular tether connects the secretory vesicle to the plasma membrane. Not much is known about this microscopic phenomenon, and attempts to analyze it have yielded data that is extremely difficult to interpret. Yet one researcher, intrigued by the tethers’ nanomechanical properties, has devised a method to help interpret the data gathered in experiments seeking to understand a vital step in one of the most important processes in cell biology.

Dillon Cislo is a senior in the College of Engineering who is studying Engineering Physics. Influenced by the research of Dr. Mark Harris, a former Cornell PhD student, Cislo developed a suite of algorithms to interpret the effects of microscopic forces on the extension of the vesicle-plasma membrane tether. He worked under the guidance of Dr. Manfred Lindau in the department of Applied and Engineering Physics to integrate his algorithms into an intuitive user interface for the analysis of enormous amounts of data, such as the results of Dr. Harris’ experiments. In his study, Dr. Harris used Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to apply piconewtons of force to an established vesicle-plasma membrane tether. As the AFM probe pulled and extended the tether, the AFM cantilever would begin to relax, registering a transient decrease in the applied force that automatically signaled the AFM to reposition the probe in order to restore the force. Cislo, comparing the biophysical process to dropping a ball attached to a string, explains, “For a period of time when the ball

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This research is being conducted in the College of Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Landau. To contact the researcher e-mail is falling, there is no tension on the string … That’s [similar to] what’s happening here.” Despite the success of this experiment, the findings were difficult to interpret. The AFM procedure yielded large quantities of numeric data and numerous sources of noise, including biological noise, distorted the resulting signals. Since computer software was necessary to effectively analyze this data, Cislo designed an innovative automated process to clarify fluctuations in the data. Working with Igor Pro, a software designed for visualizing and analyzing numerical data, Cislo’s algorithms detect and characterize “step” and “spike” events, two critical signals expressed by the tether when extended by a force that are crucial for understanding their nanomechanical properties. The program is also extremely versatile and the user can adjust it to analyze data from other vesicle-plasma membrane tether experiments. Cislo considers research to be a fun and important part of his life. In high school, he was accepted to his school’s Science Research Program where he developed his interest in research doing original work in microplasma physics. Upon coming to Cornell, he conducted research in the Newman Lab for Elementary-Particle Physics for a year, implementing automation for the liquid helium recovery and transfer systems. In his current lab, Cislo enjoys collaborating with his graduate and postdoc colleagues and mentor. When his mentor was visiting the Max Planck Institute last spring, he also enjoyed working independently because he “had a lot of free range to do what [he] thought was best.” Overall, Cislo describes his research experience as a learning opportunity that has helped him develop many practical skills, such as programming with C++ and working more effectively in a group setting. Despite unexpected obstacles in his research results and analysis, Cislo enjoys researching. In fact, his favorite part of research is “when something works.” Beyond research, Cislo is a brother in the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He also enjoys road trips, weightlifting, and freestyle rapping. When he graduates, Cislo plans to attend graduate school and eventually become a professor.


David Wang ’18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at

11/19/2014 5:00:15 PM

By Katherine Tang ‘18


verybody has used a standard printer sometime in their life to print out a flat image. Imagine “printing” out a solid, three-dimensional object. This process, known as 3D printing, has been around for many years and has been becoming more affordable and versatile within the last decade, showing great potential in various fields of science. It first starts out with a virtually designed model. To physically create the desired object, the design is sent to a 3D printer that manufactures the object by laying down successive layers until the entire object is made. Justin Choi, a senior studying Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering, utilizes this technology for his current research, which is to develop a new printing technique for silicon carbide applicable to spacecrafts. Silicon carbide is an extremely rare natural compound of silicon and carbon. However, silicon carbide powder has been made affordable by a process developed in 1980s. While it possesses useful properties, such as strength and low thermal expansion, silicon carbide is difficult to cut and shape. This is why Choi’s work involves 3D printing the material instead. The silicon carbide then can be formed into precise, high-resolution structures such as waveguides that are used to capture electromagnetic waves on a sensor. The creation of such structures goes partly towards the making of a monolithic satellite. With silicon carbide as the only material used, the entire satellite, from the structure to the optics and mirror, is constructed through 3D printing. Its properties and its inability to deform make silicon carbide an ideal substance to work with. Over the summer, Choi began this research under the mentorship of Professor Robert Shepherd, and in collaboration with Ph.D. student Chris Larson. While Larson is focused more on the material science aspect of the project like developing the ink composition and elements, Choi is in charge of making the 3D printing possible. His responsibilities include finding the optimal pressure and printer’s nozzle moving speed for the correct amount of ink for objects as well as evaluating the viscosity and consistency of the ink to make sure that there are no conglomerations that can clog the nozzle. “There are so many things I have to consider,” Choi stated, “the speed, pressure, layer height, nozzle diameter. But as complex as it is, my interest

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This research is being conducted in the College of Engineering under the mentorship of Prof. Robert Shepherd. To contact the researcher e-mail grows because it’s really challenging and I want to solve it. When there’s a breakthrough, that’s the most exciting thing when I’m doing research.” Choi hardly conducts his research in a vacuum, however he says, “Professor Shepherd’s insight helps me open up new perspectives in solving problems related to the research.” This project is not Choi’s first experience with research. In high school, Choi has done some biological research on how aloe vera affects regeneration of California black worms. Though not related to his current area of study, Choi comments how the experience helped him gain some necessary research skills such as note-taking and writing research reports. He has also learned about the importance of and methods for separating and controlling different variables, which is crucial to any type of research or problem solving. Prior to his current research, Choi has also previously worked in Shepherd Laboratory at Cornell last spring on a different project involving the design of a satellite telescope. Outside of his research, Choi plays soccer and enjoys musical hobbies such as guitar and singing. Recently he has even formed a band called Comma, as in a break of momentary pause because he wants it to be a place where the members can rest and have fun. Before becoming involved with his research, Choi was also a member of the Cornell Sustainable Design team. Because this is his final year at Cornell, Choi is helping to train a fellow undergraduate student to continue the research after he graduates. Not wanting to close off his options, Choi is considering various different paths after graduating from Cornell, with research being one of them. He intends to immediately get a job after graduation and plans on later attending graduate school. Katherine Tang ‘18 is in the College of Engineering. She can be reached at

Justin Choi ‘15 College of Engineering


Space in a Whole Other Dimension


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Eating Food for Thought By David Li ’18

Carly Andrews ‘17 School of Hotel Administration



hen most people sit down to eat at their favorite restaurant, their minds automatically turn to food and they salivate at the sight of the luscious lobster or the scrumptious stuffed mushrooms. However, what usually does not cross their minds is the technology that helps get the food onto their plates, such as pagers used for waiting customers and online table reservation systems. Whatever the technology, its efficient use can make the dining process much more enjoyable for both the service staff and the customer. Carly Andrews, a sophomore in Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, is looking to optimize the use of technology in restaurants to satisfy both restaurant owners and their customers.

One problem that restaurant technology currently faces is that there is a conflict between the technology that customers and managers would like to use in restaurants. By collecting data through survey results from both restaurant owners and customers, Andrews hopes to find an overlap in their preferences that satisfies both parties. Before she began working with Dr. Rohit Verma on this project, Verma had already received feedback on customers’ preferences in technology. Now, together with Verma, Andrews looks to do the same with restaurant managers. In order to reach enough restaurant managers, Andrews works with the National Restaurant Association, which has access to a database of 6,000 registered restaurant operators to whom they have sent the survey. The main focus of her survey is to find out what technology restaurant operators have implemented and why, in order to better relate their preferences to those of the customers. She explained, “So far, we’ve included demographic questions about the particular operator, as well as restaurant demographic questions such as type, income per year, location, etc. Additionally, we ask questions that may have an impact on the data such as

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This research is being conducted in the School of Hotel Administration under the supervision of Dr. Rohit Verma. To contact the researcher e-mail

the operator’s general feelings towards technology.” As she awaits the results of the survey, Andrews is figuring out what she will do with the data. She asks herself questions, such as what information can be gained through a question or what the best way to present the data is. Accounting for some uncontrollable factors, Andrews also realized that “we cannot force anyone to take the survey and so the responses we get will be from a wide variety of restaurants.” Evidently, Andrews’ research differs from the traditional form of lab research. Thus, she wants to help people realize that the scope of research extends outside of the lab into people’s daily lives. “Everything is research. It’s ridiculous,” Andrews asserted. She emphasized that “everything in the hospitality field benefits from having research about its customers,” such as her own research that will better the restaurant experience. The field of hospitality is all about serving other people. Therefore, the more research and information there is about customers, then the easier it is to serve them. Although Andrews is unsure about her post-college plans, she affirms that she will always be involved in research. Since research affects everyone’s daily life, Andrews believes that “it’s not something that [she] can turn off. Whatever [she does], [she’ll] think about research questions.” As research is such a large part of her life, it is unsurprising that Andrews has been involved in research since high school. She participated in the Intel Science Talent Search, where she presented her research on pronouns that Obama and Romney used during the 2012 presidential campaign. Andrews is also a member of RCPRS, which offers her the opportunity to receive funding and faculty support for undergraduate research. When Andrews is not working on her unconventional research, she enjoys decorating cakes and being outdoors as part of the Outdoor Club. Beyond the hospitality industry, Andrews seeks to better the lives of others through the CU Deaf Awareness Project. She helps raise awareness for the deaf and sign language through concerts and events at elementary schools.


David Li ’18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at

11/19/2014 5:00:21 PM

By Anant Hariharan ‘18


he seemingly omniscient eye of technology has peered through windows that we never knew existed. From the blunt and rutted contours of seemingly sharp objects to quivering masses of cytoplasm and tendrils, our technological advances have given us the ability to see things that we never could have envisioned with our imperfect gaze. However, there still remains a host of objects that are inaccessible with traditional viewing instruments. At Cornell University, a group conducts research to make the inaccessible accessible and to make the unseen seen. A junior in the Applied and Engineering Physics program at Cornell, Suk Hyun Sung taps into this unseen world through his research. As the smiling researcher leads me into his laboratory and pulls up a chair near a table containing several powerful microscopes, he begins his account. Sung works as a part of the Kourkoutis group, a team that explores the field of electron microscopy and uses the increased levels of resolution that this method of microscopy offers in order to view and analyze specific materials under levels of detail that are inaccessible with traditional microscopes. Sung initially began his research as part of an effort to analyze the oxide films above silicon. However, the focus of his research soon evolved to encompass optimizing the methodology used to evaluate the materials his lab received. The laboratory in the Physical Sciences Building requires the samples it analyzes to be “10 to 30 nanometers thick” in order to generate viable data. In addition to ensuring this was the case, part of his role was to ensure that the sample of material used for analysis was in the structure of a thin wedge, a structure that can ensure “mechanical stability” and accommodate transmission electron microscopy. In his most recent project, an endeavor that culminated in an independent report, Sung worked to ensure that accurate results could be viewed in his analysis. By identifying and rectifying errors that were inherent in the preparation procedure (such as the presence of wood particles due to the use of a toothpick to apply superglue and position a sample), he managed to make the changes necessary to optimize the “tripod polishing” method used in his lab. As he helps analyze the materials his lab receives, Sung has had the opportunity to witness several interesting properties of these materials that are evident on smaller scales. In the case of

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This research is being conducted in the College of Engineering. To contact the researcher e-mail complex oxides, for example, these include levels of conductivity that are generated at the interface between two layers of oxides, as well as the presence of magneto-resistance (varying levels of electric resistivity when a substance is exposed to a magnetic field). Some of these traits are also present in films of oxides designated Ruddlesden-Poppers. As the group discovered, these films have the ability to reorder the sequence of layers of oxides that make up the film. This mechanism was elaborated upon in a paper that Sung recently co-authored, titled “Atomically Precise Interfaces From Non-Stoichiometric Deposition.” The conclusions of this paper allow the films to be used to make more precise interfaces, hence expanding the films’ range of potential applications. Since joining the Kourkoutis research group, Sung has gained a host of skills. In addition to the practical skills in preparing samples that he has developed through his work, he has also assimilated a large amount of technical knowledge. Furthermore, since analyzing materials sent to the lab necessitates an understanding of their scientific background, Sung has also augmented his appreciation for scientific publications. Sung spends more time reading them and enjoys the experience. He also highlighted the experiences he gained through spending time with graduate students. In the future, Sung aims to continue working in this field; he views research as a potential career he could follow, and thoroughly recommends research experience in general, and particularly in a lab, to Cornell students. Additionally, Sung’s trace can even be seen outside of his work here. He is the musical director of the drumming group Shimtah, and is also the guitarist of a rising band at Cornell University. Sung’s music is both instrumental and epistemic, and will continue to resonate throughout Cornell University’s halls as he journeys through the field of electron microscopy. Anant Hariharan ’18 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at

Suk Hyun Sung ‘16 College of Engineering


Transcending Limits under the Lens


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The Answer in the Water Eleanore O’Neil ‘16 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

By Clara Liao ‘17



ew people mull over the production energy it takes to create a plate of that campus-favorite, mouth-watering chicken parmigiana, whose leftovers one can conveniently abandon onto the dining hall conveyer belt to be magically whooshed away into nonexistence. Even before the meat arrived at Wegmans, extensive effort and consideration were put into the operations of raising and feeding the poultry that became dinner. These extensive processes are rarely considered unless one is especially conscious of food sourcing or, like Eleanore O’Neil, devotes her collegiate years to studying it. O’Neil has been involved in Cornell undergraduate research in Dr. Xingen Lei’s lab for the past two years. She loves research most for the truism of the ability to play an active role in tackling major issues and making strides towards solutions. Her research addresses the problematic lack of arable land available for agricultural development. As population grows, of course, so does the necessity to feed more mouths. Livestock feed production, which currently consists of corn and soybean, also shares a conflicting need for land. As a solution, researchers have been toiling with various methods to increase efficiency or find alternative ingredients. O’Neil addresses the latter. Her research can be applied to mitigating the arable land competition between agriculture for human consumption and production of animal feed. Her studies aim to increase alternative ingredients so as to open up more sustainable resource options and decrease the intense dependence on the crops currently cultivated. For this, she looks not to what the land can offer, but the sea. Nannochloropsis oceanica is a green microalgae that has gained strong popularity for its range of promising applications. As a specimen of great interest and popularity in the alternative fuel production field, biofuel industries extract the oil from N. oceanica and leave a residual defatted microalgal biomass. O’Neil’s studies investigate incorporating this byproduct into the diet of agricultural livestock. In Fall 2013, she ran trials that varied the levels of microalgae in poultry diets to find the optimal microalgae inclusion level. Since microalgae has a nutrient composition different from traditional corn-soybean feed, some animals’ physiology prevented them from using the algal nutrients as efficiently as corn-soybean feed. “Diets with microalgae levels around 10% optimized fatty acid deposition without

This research is being conducted in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Xingen Lei. To contact the researcher e-mail adverse effects on growth,” O’Neil explains. Her studies showed a major additional benefit to incorporating algal nutrients in poultry: its correlation with increased levels of omega-3 in chicken breast. Omega-3, a polyunsaturated fatty acid popular for its health benefits, tends to occur at high levels in marine sources and at quite low levels in Western livestock. This omega-3 increase in chicken breast serves as a significant potential draw for consumer and commercial interests. While this may appear like a win-win scenario, there are some drawbacks. There is a well-documented correlation between increased levels of omega-3 in meat and quicker rancidity, in addition to a trace of a “fishy” taste. O’Neil’s senior thesis is essentially the next step: ironing out the wrinkles of this high-potential alternative. To ameliorate these negative side affects and make this promising alternative commercially appealing, her research looks to use supplement diets with combinations of vitamin E and/or selenium to increase the meat’s shelf life and to decrease its unappealing “fishy” taste. With all the time and effort she has devoted in lab, it’s remarkable to think that just two years ago she began her journey at Cornell and, simultaneously, in Dr. Lei’s lab. O’Neil initially began undergraduate research at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, from which she transferred in 2012. There, she gained research experience in a lab that amplified microsatellites to look at the biodiversity of local fish. She quickly transitioned to Cornell, finding her place working closely alongside post-doctorates in the lab. She notes that through her research experience, she has gained a myriad of valuable skills advantageous to life outside the lab. It’s not surprising that working to alleviate a world crisis yields a persevering work ethic and has taught her not to lose sight of the end goal. Clara Liao ‘17 is in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at

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11/19/2014 5:00:27 PM

The Research Paper (TRP), Fall 2014  

The Research Paper (TRP) is an open-access student-run publication that features undergraduate researchers at Cornell University; it feature...