Researchers on NPR


LAS Researchers on NPR

Elizabeth Daniels
Do Media and Body Image Create...

June 17, 2020 • Elizabeth Daniels On University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Week: Does body image create an early exit for middle school girls? Elizabeth Daniels, associate professor in the department of psychology, explores this question. Dr. Daniels joined the UCCS Psychology Department in Fall of 2014. She was previously an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University Cascades and a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Oregon Central Oregon Programs. Her research centers on identifying positive influences on girls' and young women's development including media and activity contexts. Her research has been featured in national and international media, e.g., the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Time, New York Magazine, Telegraph, and Daily Mail. Dr. Daniels is currently serving as the Director of Psychological Science Training for the MA program. Do Media and Body Image Create an Early Exit for Middle School Girls?

Women in the U.S. are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEM) careers. This gender imbalance creates a financial loss for women and a loss of innovation in STEM fields; therefore, identifying factors that might dissuade girls from pursuing math and science is important. Existing research has investigated various explanatory factors (for example, a lack of role models, sexism) in these patterns. However, my colleague, Rachael Robnett, and I think that media use and body image concerns in early adolescence may be influential. We conducted a study examining whether U.S. middle school girls' involvement with appearance-focused media is related to their math and science attitudes by way of poor body image. Some research indicates that a heavy emphasis on appearance detracts from girls' and college women's engagement with academics and appearance messages are common in media, so we examined these factors together in this study. In terms of academic attitudes, we assessed how successful participants believe they can be in math and science, called 'self-expectancies,' and how much time and effort they think they need to dedicate to a subject to be successful, called 'costs.' We found that greater engagement with appearance-focused media predicted poor body image, which in turn was related to negative attitudes toward math and science. Specifically, girls who engaged in more frequent photo behaviors on social media (for example, commenting on friends' photos) experienced higher body shame; in turn, higher body shame predicted lower self-expectancies and higher perceived costs related to math and science. Based on our findings, we recommend that intervention efforts aimed at increasing girls' involvement in STEM include a focus on media use and body image concerns. The post Elizabeth Daniels, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs – Do Media and Body Image Create an Early Exit for Middle School Girls? appeared first on The Academic Minute.

Eugenia Olesnicky Killian
Using Fruit Flies to...

June 19, 2020 • On University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Week: Can fruit flies help us understand more about human neurological disorders? Eugenia Olesnicky Killian, associate professor in the department of biology, determines how their genes can help us understand our own. Dr. Olesnicky Killian completed an undergraduate degree in Biology from Drew University and MSc and PhD degrees in Developmental Genetics from New York University. She also completed two postdoctoral fellowships in craniofacial biology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and in RNA regulation during neural development at Princeton University. Her research focuses on understanding the roles that RNA binding proteins play in nervous system development and neurodegeneration. Dr. Olesnicky Killian teaches Genetics, Molecular Genetics and Developmental Neurobiology. Using Fruit Flies to Understand the Genetics of Neurological Disorders

Neurological diseases represent one of the leading public health challenges of our time. We have a rudimentary understanding of how mutations in specific genes contribute to the manifestation of neurological disorders. I use very simple logic to determine whether a gene functions in the nervous system; we inactivate the gene and see what the consequences are. We have now done such gene inactivation for hundreds of genes in the fruit fly, Drosophila. By doing so we have identified a large number of genes, that when inactivated, cause various defects within the nervous system. Because all of these genes also exist in humans and are active in the nervous system, our work has the potential to explain what the human counterparts of these genes do in the human nervous system. This is critical, since the types of genetic manipulation we can do in flies are simply not possible in humans. My team has started to focus on understanding the role of 1 specific gene, called caper, in the nervous system. Our work has shown that inactivating caper function causes behavioral defects in aging animals. We suspect that these behavioral defects may stem from neurodegeneration that results from inactivating caper. Interestingly, these behavioral defects are more pronounced in males than females. We are particularly interested in this finding, as so many disease states show a sex bias, including neurodegenerative and aging disorders. Yet, we do not understand where this sex bias stems from and this has serious implications for how such diseases are treated and how therapeutics are developed for men and women. My research team is now working on examining the brains of animals with an inactivated caper gene to determine which cells of the brain are affected and ultimately hope to understand what caper's normal function is in brain cells. If we can understand that, we can make a real impact on human health. The post Eugenia Olesnicky Killian, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs – Using Fruit Flies to Understand the Genetics of Neurological Disorders appeared first on The Academic Minute.

Oksana Bihun
Solvable Dynamical Systems

June 16, 2020 • On University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Week: Are all math problems solvable? Oksana Bihun, associate professor in the department of mathematics, looks into outer space for one answer. Dr. Oksana Bihun is a mathematician, writer, and musician. She received a Ph.D. in math from the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 2009. Since then, Dr. Bihun worked as a math professor at Concordia College and the University of Colorado. Her publication record of more than 30 papers features a book chapter in the volume "Nonlinear Systems and Their Remarkable Mathematical Structures", N. Euler (ed), CRC Press (2018) as well as a Taylor and Francis Editor's Choice paper "A new solvable many-body problem of goldfish type" (with Francesco Calogero, 2016). Dr. Bihun has earned excellent ratings from her students when teaching courses ranging from College Algebra to Numerical Computation to graduate Complex Analysis. As a Ukrainian writer, she won two awards for her books of poetry "Distance to the Border", "Labyrinth", and "The anticipation of Christmas". Dr. Bihun composes music, sings, and plays piano, bandura (a Ukrainian folk instrument akin to harp), and guitar. Solvable Dynamical Systems

The movement of the 8 planets and the sun is modeled by a "9-body" problem, a dynamical system. A surprising fact about this system is that we cannot write certain types of formulas that describe the positions of the 8 planets and the sun in the future. To refer to this fact, mathematicians say that the 9-body problem is not integrable. A practical meaning of this fact is that we don't know whether one of the 8 planets will be ejected from the solar system someday. The movement of the 8 planets and the sun is just one example of a more general N-body system. At the end of the 19th century, a French mathematician Poincare showed that most of dynamical systems that can be written in a specific way, called Hamiltonian, are not integrable. So each time someone discovers an N-body problem that is solvable, it is a cause for celebration. Together with collaborators, I constructed infinitely many N-body systems that are solvable by algebraic operations. This means that for the systems I constructed, it is possible to predict their behavior as far in the future as we want. My work develops tools that allow others to study and catalog solvable dynamical systems. This, in turn, makes it easier to handle any potential future applications. The post Oksana Bihun, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs – Solvable Dynamical Systems appeared first on The Academic Minute.