Graduate students showcase leading-edge research during awards competition

student in the lab

Graduate students presented their research during the annual Graduate and Professional Student Research and Awards Showcase

University of the Pacific students presented projects on leading-edge research ranging from an analysis of proteins used to treat cancer and a study that analyzed music playlists to treat anxiety during the annual Graduate and Professional Student Research and Awards Showcase.

"These presentations are a result of the grit and persistence of our students to continue their research, despite the pandemic and all the barriers that it has presented," said Cyd Jenefsky, vice provost and interim dean of the graduate school. "We are proud of our students for producing research that benefits the Pacific community and society as a whole."

Students presented their research during the Three Minute Research and Research Poster Competitions, judged by a panel of faculty on both the quality of their work and presentation. Winners received cash prizes.

Judges for the showcase were: Rick Hutley, data science; Joan Lin-Cereghino, biology; Mike McCallum, chemistry; Delores McNair, education; and Balint Sztaray, chemistry.

Two highlights of this year’s showcase included:

Anneroos Nederstigt, biochemistry doctoral candidate
Research: The ubiquitination cascade: scoring touchdowns...inside your body

Biochemistry student Anneroos Nederstigt won first place for her project that analyzed how specific proteins can be used to treat several diseases. She used the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to help explain the “ubiquitination cascade,” a pathway in humans for proteins to be labeled with the molecule ubiquitin.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that is present in all eukaryotic cells, which are complex cells that contain a nucleus and other areas of specialized function, separated by membranes. Ubiquitin directs the movement of important proteins in the cell, participating in both the synthesis of new proteins and the destruction of defective proteins.  

Nederstigt's research focused on using an inhibitor for ubiquitin to manipulate the protein in cancer cells to cause the cancer cell to die.

"I focused on this strategy because the ubiquitination cascade is involved in the development of a plethora of diseases," explained Nederstigt. "By inhibiting the ubiquitination cascade, I am trying to establish if it is a verifiable therapeutic target to use in treatments for these diseases and also see how the body copes." 
Nederstigt hopes her research will help scientists better understand the process of the ubiquitination cascade and help treat diseases including cervical cancer, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.

Katie Bautch, music therapy doctoral candidate
Research: The effect of therapeutic music playlists on symptoms of anxiety: a clinical trial

Since the 1940s, music therapists have used multiple strategies to help people manage their emotions. Doctoral student Katie Bautch wanted to dig deeper to determine what kinds of music may be most effective.

"Music has the ability to affect the emotional state of individuals in both a positive and detrimental way," explained Bautch. "People do not always select music for themselves that will improve their emotional state."

Bautch's study examined the effectiveness of “mood vectoring” playlists—music used to alter a person’s mood by utilizing calming classical music compared to “musical contour regulation” playlists—music that alternates high arousal and low arousal musical experiences that calms a patient and also excites them to determine which is more effective in the treatment of anxiety.

Early results showed the musical contour regulation playlist had a slightly better effect in relieving symptoms of anxiety. Bautch plans to conduct future research with a larger sample size to further analyze her results.

Bautch hopes this research will provide patients with a treatment that will offer them long-term improvement and give them the skills to better manage their anxiety.

To see all of the research presentations and award winners visit the Graduate and Professional Student Research and Awards Showcase website.