The Berkshire Community College (BCC) Undergraduate Scholars Conference seeks to celebrate student work of exceptional merit. BCC's annual conferences feature student presentations on original scholarly works that go above and beyond classroom assignments. Students may choose to present in a traditional slide format (PowerPoint, video slides, etc.) or a poster presentation.
Enzymes: What makes the Life Engine Race
Enzymes are proteins inside of living organisms that speed up chemical reactions, and frankly, life would be extremely short without them. They have a variety of different applications ranging from commercial use to medicinal use, but they are mostly important because of their ability to carry out the body's most vital chemical processes, such as digestion, to keep it alive. To better understand enzyme function, several experiments were conducted using the fungal enzyme Invertase in order to determine which changes in temperature (°C), pH, and concentration of substrate (Sucrose) would cause the enzyme to produce a higher percent of product. The experiment results were interpreted using a monosaccharide standard curve and the Benedict's Test, and the initial findings showed that the enzyme made the most product at a temperature of 48°C, a pH of 6, and a 12% substrate concentration. Ultimately, this experiment built a better understanding of data collection, data analysis, experimental design, and the scientific method, however it also helped explain the behavior of one of the most valuable mechanisms in living organisms.
Identification of Klebsiella pneumoniae
This research project was conducted to identify an unknown bacterium based on a series of tests that looked at the morphology, physiology, and biochemical characteristics. Three different media were used to grow the bacterium - agar broth, agar slant, and agar plate. These were used to study the growth and colony characteristics. The bacterium's cellular morphology was examined through a Gram Stain. The next step of the project was biochemical and gram-specific tests that observe the metabolic traits of the bacterium. The researcher used the results of the tests to identify the bacterium as Klebsiella pneumoniae. K. pneumoniae is found in the respiratory tract of between 1-6% of healthy individuals and the stools of 5 – 38% of healthy individuals. It is commonly known to cause nosocomial infections, also known as healthcare-associated infections (HAIs); responsible for 3 – 8% of all nosocomial infections and 11.8% of hospital acquired pneumonia. K. pneumoniae infections are considered a global health concern, as multidrug-resistant and hypervirulent strains have developed over the years. It is more prevalent in developing countries. Infections typically arise in sick patients that are older, immunocompromised or receiving treatments with equipment such as catheters and ventilators. Long courses of antibiotics, alcohol use, and diabetes mellitus increase the mortality rate. Healthy people are usually not affected by K. pneumoniae.
Unknown Bacteria Project
For this project, several tests were conducted to identify an unknown bacterium. This project was a fantastic way to show how a bacterium is studied to identify what it is. It shows how people in the lab identify the cause of an infection. This is how nurses find what infection their patients have and how to treat it. During this project, several tests were conducted to narrow down what bacteria was being studied. A gram stain was conducted to see if the bacterium was gram- negative or gram- positive. The bacteria was gram-positive because of its thick purple peptidoglycan layer. Then a motility test was done to see if it was motile or not. After a few more tests were completed, a nitrate and salt agar test really narrowed down the result to this bacterium. The mannitol salt agar (MSA) helped the most during this because of the yellow growth that appeared on the plate. These test results proved that the bacterium was Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a gram-positive coccus shaped bacterium. It appears on the skin and causes small painful red bumps. This bacterium is not harmful but can be if it grows into the bloodstream. The most common infection caused by S. aureus is MRSA (Methicillin- Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection. It can also cause MSSA, VISA, and VRSA, which are all skin infections.
Identification of Escherichia coli
The purpose of this research project was to identify an unknown bacterium using morphological, biochemical, and physiological tests. The bacterium was grown in an inoculating broth, on an inoculating slant, and on an inoculating streak plate to examine the bacterium's growth characteristics and colony morphology. A gram stain test was conducted to observe the bacterium's cell wall structure and cellular morphology. Lastly, five biochemical tests and four gram-specific tests were conducted to study the bacterium's metabolic characteristics. After analyzing these results, it was determined that the unknown bacterium was E. coli. The specific helpful characteristics were that E. coli is a gram-negative bacterium. E. coli is VP (Voges- Proskauer) negative which means that the bacterium does not ferment glucose. E. coli is also Citrate negative which means that no growth will occur therefore meaning that E. coli cannot utilize citrate as an energy source. The bacterium E. coli is important in the medical field as it is the most common cause of UTI (urinary tract infection) which is commonly talked about in the healthcare field. As UTIs can happen to a person at any age it is important to know about the most common cause. The bacterium spreads from the anus to the urethra causing the UTI. When taking the antibiotics, the symptoms may stop after 24-48 hours but the infection still is not cleared until the patient has taken the full amount of antibiotics.
The purpose of this research project was to identify an unknown bacterium using structural and biological tests. The unknown bacterium was grown on an agar plate, an agar slant, and in an agar broth in order to examine its growth and morphology. A Gram Staining procedure was conducted to determine the bacterium's cell wall structure. In addition to this, nine other tests were conducted to study and observe the bacterium's metabolic characteristics. Five of these tests are biochemical tests, and the other four are gram-negative specific tests, since the Gram Staining determined the bacterium to be gram-negative. After reviewing all of the results, the unknown bacterium was correctly identified as Klebsiella pneumoniae. The two main characteristics that were most helpful were that K. pneumoniae is a gram-negative and nonmotile bacterium. K. pneumoniae is commonly a cause of hospital-acquired infections, and mainly impacts patients with low to weak immune systems. This bacterium can cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical infections and meningitis. The most effective antibiotics to use against Klebsiella pneumoniae are the broad spectrum, third- or fourth- generation cephalosporins, quinolones, or carbapenems. However, this bacterium is becoming more resistant to some antibiotics.
Creative Writing created at Herman Melville's "Arrowhead"
A public reading of original writings I produced while taking part in the 2022 Melville Fellowship. Working on-site at Herman Melville's Arrowhead with Writer-in-Residence Emeritus Jana Laiz, I was able to sit at the very desk where Melville wrote some of his greatest stories, and take inspiration from the same environment he did. Watching autumn fade to winter outside Melville's window, in the same manner he must have, instilled an affection within me for the opportunity to think - to simply be - while still letting words trap my thoughts in their fragile bubble. I wrote a variety of stories inspired by Arrowhead. I will read two writings that include quotes from Melville's stories, a writing inspired by the grounds of Arrowhead, and a poem that encapsulated what I felt as a writer in the shadow of one of the greats.
The Influences of Creativity Among Individuals with Depression and Anxiety
I decided to do a research project on how creative expression can help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. The reason I chose to do this topic for my research paper is because it is something very close to home. I struggle with depression and anxiety on a daily basis and one of the few distractions I have is creative expression. My project encompasses the wide variety of creative expression and the multiple effects it has on individuals diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety. Many forms include sculpting, painting, writing, singing, and dancing. Each has various aspects of helping relieve symptoms of both depression and anxiety by decreasing stress, increasing motivation, improving focus, and bettering a person's sleep schedule. Allowing outlets such as creative expression is the first step to understanding and comprehending the problem and moving towards the solution.
Uncovering the Creative Process
What inspired one of the first great American novelists? As a 2022 Melville Fellow I sought to uncover the secrets of the creative process through establishing my own writing practice. Working on-site at Herman Melville's Arrowhead with Writer-in-Residence Emeritus Jana Laiz, I drew inspiration from sitting at the very desk where Melville wrote some of his most profound works. In a public reading I will share three original pieces in which I explore personal narratives through poetry and prose, alongside sharing what I learned about the creative process while remaining grounded in a literary giant's shadow.
The Role of Mental Health in Education
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the mental health crisis in the United States. The CDC says 37% of young people suffer from poor mental health. Our educational system is feeling the strain of our chronically underfunded mental health system and our students are bearing the brunt. One in ten children/adolescents suffers from a mental health issue however, 75% of children who have mental-health needs, do not receive services. School-centered mental health services would increase accessibility and reduce stigma.
Designing a Tensegrity Structure
As an aspiring engineer, designing pieces that work properly and defy conventional structures is something I look forward to. During the past five months I was able to learn the basics of Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) through an Independent Study. It led me to understand the huge possibilities that this program holds for engineering. I was particularly interested in what is called Tensegrity and after taking steps towards learning how to use Fusion 360, I was ready to step it up and try to build a structure utilizing the Tensegrity concepts.
Exploring Tensegrity structures through CADD has been a major step for me. It let me create something from scratch, figure out if it is a model that is viable, and gave me a clear view on how this design would work in real life. My understanding of the program and how to design a new piece has grown. Learning that trial and error is an important part of the design process and being able to overcome the downs of not having a working model is knowledge that I consider very important as I move forward in this career path.
They Lead First So We Can Rise!
This text set is about women who have changed history despite tough obstacles in their lives. It is important to celebrate women and important to honor women of importance who have changed history. Today women are stepping up and becoming leaders, fighting for women's rights, and having many firsts in a world where women were overlooked. I also believe it is more important to celebrate women who have played a role in changing The United States in more ways than one no matter if it was big or small. Young children now more than ever are standing up for what they believe in and if they are not already speaking up, they will and push for change without changing who they are. This text set will help young readers see that women have come a long way in history. I think that boys and girls both will enjoy this text set. I believe that all children have a woman figure in their lives that they look up to, it could be their mother, a teacher, or an aunt that has done something in their lives that boys and girls think is amazing. So why not celebrate them as well. Learning about important women will make them appreciate the brave women from the past and the ones they already know. I hope by sharing this text set, children will learn new information and want to learn more about other women in history.