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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Three Minute Thesis

2019 Participants


Emily LaFrance
Winner

Emily LaFrance
Inspired by Mary Jane? Mechanisms Underlying Enhanced Creativity in Cannabis Users
Mainstream media has perpetuated the idea that cannabis use can expand the mind and increase creativity. While a small body of previous research suggests cannabis use may enhance some aspects of creativity, the results remain somewhat equivocal. Moreover, it is unclear whether underlying differences in cannabis users’ personalities may account for any potentially beneficial effects of cannabis on creativity. This study was designed to examine whether sober cannabis users demonstrate superior self-reported creativity and objective creativity test performance relative to non-users, and to determine whether any of the Big 5 personality domains underlie these effects. A sample of sober cannabis users (n = 412) and non-users (n = 309) completed two measures of self-reported creativity (the Kaufman Domains of Creativity Scale and the Creative Behaviors Inventory), as well as two objective tests of creativity (the Alternate Uses Test of divergent thinking and the Remote Associates Test of convergent thinking). Participants also completed a measure of Big 5 personality traits (the NEO-FFI) and a comprehensive measure of cannabis consumption (the DFAQ-CU). Relative to non-users, sober cannabis users self-reported higher creativity on the Kaufman Domains of Creativity Scale, and they performed significantly better on the Remote Associates Test of convergent thinking. However, cannabis users were also significantly more extraverted, less conscientious, and more open to experience than non-users. Moreover, controlling for cannabis users’ higher levels of openness to experience (but not extraversion or conscientiousness) abolished the differences in cannabis users’ and non-users’ self-reported and objective creativity test performance. Thus, the link between cannabis use and creativity is largely a spurious correlation driven by differences in personality (i.e. openness to experience) between cannabis users and non-users, which relate to both cannabis use and increased creativity. While findings from acute administration studies support the notion that acute cannabis intoxication, and/or expectancy effects, may lead to a temporary increase in divergent thinking, our results indicate that these enhancements do not extend beyond the period of intoxication. Rather, both perceived and objective differences in sober cannabis users’ and non-users’ creativity appear to be merely a function of cannabis users’ higher levels of openness to experience.

Robyn Reeve
Runer-up

Robyn Reeve
Leptin and immune function in Xenopus frogs: A model of vertebrate regeneration
While humans cannot regrow fingers or limbs that have been lost to injury, some animals can. Xenopus frogs can regenerate their limbs and tails as tadpoles but lose the ability to do so as adults. In addition to other changes that take place during metamorphosis, the frog’s immune system changes dramatically as it matures. One hypothesis for why humans lose the ability to regenerate is that we, like adult frogs, have a highly developed secondary (learning) immune system compared to tadpoles. My project focuses on understanding how the immune system helps modulate regeneration in tadpoles yet prevents extensive regrowth in adults. In particular, I study how the hormone leptin is involved in immune system development and how it also stimulates the cellular immune response at a wound site and prepares it to regenerate. The immune systems could be preventing this from occurring in both humans and adult frogs. By studying the change in regenerative ability in frogs, I hope to understand why we cannot regenerate and what immunotherapies could be used in the future to make regeneration possible in humans.

Travis Volz
People's Choice

Travis Volz
Shock-Induced Graphite to Diamond Phase Transformation: Effects of Starting Microstructure
When matter is subjected to extreme pressures and temperatures, many interesting changes can take place in the material. In solids, structural defects can be created, melting induced, or phase transformation to another solid phase can occur. Interest in the shockwave-induced graphite to diamond transformation began when diamonds were found after exposing graphite to an explosive shock in the lab in the 1960s. In nature, some diamonds found near meteorite impact sites are also thought to be created by shockwaves resulting from impact. Despite the shock-induced graphite to diamond phase transformation being studied since the 1960s, lack of methods to observe the crystal structures during the shock experiment inhibited a complete understanding of the transformation. This is because the shocked graphite samples could only be collected and observed after the experiment. A comprehensive understanding of the transformation was further complicated by the large variety of graphite samples available. Different crystallite sizes and orientations within a larger graphite sample as well as different crystal perfections are possible. To better understand the phase transformation of graphite to diamond we examined several different types of graphite. We monitored the pressure at which the graphite transforms as well as the crystal structures below and above the transformation. Our work suggests that the crystal perfection of the graphite sample plays a larger role than crystallite size or orientation in governing the transformation. The different starting crystal perfections result in vastly different transformation pressures as well as different high-pressure diamond phases. By analyzing the types of diamonds found near meteorite impact sites, our results may provide a better understanding of the materials which were initially present in meteorites.

Thomas Bersano

Thomas Bersano
Supersolidity: Generating a Novel Quantum State with Ultracold Atoms
We demonstrate a new method for generating a supersolid-like state which is long-lived and tunable. Supersolids belong to a new class of novel states of quantum matter which hold great potential to produce transformative new technologies and further our understanding of the quantum realm. This elusive state of matter is a quantum fluid which simultaneously flows without resistance while maintaining the well-ordered nature of a crystal. Superfluid behavior is common in ultracold atomic gases and liquid helium, but the supersolid state is only now becoming accessible.

In our experiment, we begin by creating a Bose-Einstein condensate, which is a gas of atoms cooled to near absolute zero where the atoms behave as one super-atom. Then, by illuminating the gas with carefully tuned laser beams, we produce a quantum superposition of left-going and right-going states. These two states manifest as an interference pattern which results in a periodic density of atoms behaving like a supersolid. This quantum state is a useful supersolid implementation which opens the door to further studies into the fluid dynamics and the peculiar quantum properties of this unique state of matter.

Ankita Bhuyan

Ankita Bhuyan
Materials that Change Shape When Exposed to Light Presents Future Potential for Low-Cost Adaptive Devices
Photomechanical materials change their shape under illumination. Light can carry information equivalent to billions of telephone conversations in an optical fiber core that is a tiny fraction of a human hair’s width. Coupling this high-density of information with materials that control the flow of light and induce dynamic shape changes would enable smart morphing materials that store information, sense their environment, do complex calculations, and respond with intricate shape changes. A material that can morph into new shapes and exhibit different behavior when exposed to more than one stimulus alleviates the requirement to build a new part for every new application, and hence, can lead to significant time and cost savings. My research focuses on understanding the microscopic mechanisms responsible for the photomechanical effect, which will guide the development of new materials whose efficiency for converting light into mechanical motion is high enough to enable future applications, such as aircraft wings that change shape to minimize turbulence; an all-purpose smart material that can become any shape and would morph in response to touch or voice command; soft-flexible robots; etc. The two common mechanisms in present polymeric materials are photothermal heating -- where the material expands or contracts to light-induced heating; and, shape-changing molecules that are embedded in the material to induce forces from within. Both processes are inefficient and slow. In addition, the two effects can couple, thus complicating the analysis. We have developed a protocol to isolate the individual mechanisms using experiments that are guided by and analyzed with theory. The method has been demonstrated for the two known mechanisms and is generalizable to study the efficiency of new materials. Research carried out in our group is the first step in making better composites that may someday lead to smart morphing materials that will enrich every aspect of our lives.

Rivers Isaacson

Rivers Isaacson
The Political Implications of Public Health Disparities
This study adds to a nascent research niche that uses public health to explain voting trends by examining this association over the past three U.S. presidential elections. I first conceptualize why public health and voting trends would be associated. I hypothesize that not only are public health and voting associated but were more associated in the 2016 election than 2008 and 2012. County-level data were drawn from the Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections as well as the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps project. I perform a principal component analysis on indicators of public health to reveal an Unhealthy County Component, which is used as an index of public health in subsequent regression analyses. Findings indicate that there is an association between health and voting, but that it mattered less in the 2016 election than previous elections. Regression results also demonstrate that when we control for the social and economic circumstances of the county, sicker counties shifted away from Trump, not towards him.

Islam Khan

Islam Khan
In Search of a Dynamical Dark Energy Equation of State
It is quite astonishing that only about 5% of the universe is visible to us, indicating the rest of it is physically invisible. Even though we can’t directly see these so called “dark sectors” of the universe, we can still detect them indirectly through observations. Dark matter and dark energy make up about 24% and 71% of the universe, respectively. While advancements have been made in understanding the nature of this “invisible” matter and energy, it remains mysterious to us to this day. We focus our work on improving our understanding of the nature of dark energy a little better. Our universe has recently entered a phase of accelerated expansion. This Lambda Cold Dark Matter (LCDM) model compares well with observations, however, it lacks a fundamental and well-defined theory. Dynamical dark energy models are also popular in which the late-time accelerated expansion is caused by a scalar field, similar to the newly discovered Higgs field, rolling slowly down a nearly flat potential. This class of dark energy models are known as quintessence models. It is interesting that the well accepted inflation theory also involves a scalar field, inflaton, that caused a phase of rapid expansion of the universe when rolling slowly down a potential right after the Big Bang. Given their similarity in nature, there is a possibility that the inflaton and quintessence fields are the same field, dominating the universe at different times. We follow this possibility and describe a novel approach for unifying the two phases of accelerated expansions of the universe under one general evolving scalar field. The Code for Anisotropies in the Microwave Background (CAMB) program is used for analyzing the effects of our models. The results of the analysis include the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) temperature (TT), E-mode polarization (EE), B-mode polarization (BB), and TT and EE cross-correlation (TE) power spectra which are then tested against various observations including the 2018 Planck mission data for observability assessment.

Rebecca Lindsey

Rebecca Lindsey
Protective Factors Against Distress for Caregivers of a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Caregivers of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often experience elevated distress (e.g., anxiety, depression, stress), even when compared to caregivers of children with other physical and developmental disabilities. Importantly, high levels of distress are related to unwanted outcomes for both caregivers and their children. Several factors have been shown to contribute to such distress, including ASD symptom severity and general child behavior problems. This study examined variables that may serve as protective factors against distress for caregivers of a child with ASD: family resources, perceived social support, parenting efficacy, and knowledge of ASD (actual knowledge and the agreement between actual and perceived knowledge). To examine these questions, 157 caregivers of a child with ASD (ages 4 to 11 years) completed an online questionnaire that included measures regarding their children’s behavior (ASD symptom severity, behavior problems), self-reported distress, and the hypothesized protective factors. Moderation analyses examined if potential protective factors attenuate the relation between child behavior and caregiver distress. Results demonstrated that ASD symptoms, externalizing behaviors, and internalizing behaviors consistently predicted higher distress. Family resources and perceived social support predicted lower distress regardless of the level of child behavior. Only the discrepancy between actual and perceived knowledge of ASD moderated the relations between child behavior and caregiver distress. When behavior problems were lower, distress was lower regardless of the agreement in knowledge. However, when behavior problems were higher, distress was higher when the agreement was lower. Parenting efficacy was trending toward significance as a moderator, with distress being lowest when efficacy was higher and child behaviors were lower. Results indicate important factors that should be emphasized when working with families of a child with ASD, especially when caregivers are reporting or are at risk for high levels of distress.

Shari Reiter

Shari Reiter
“Police Violence Myth Acceptance:” A Construct Informed by the Sexual Violence Literature
This research presents a testable theory regarding the misattribution of blame towards victims of police violence based on a systematic review. Because there is limited research on blame misattribution towards victims of police violence, this research examines blame misattribution towards victims of sexual violence. A new construct, “police violence myth acceptance,” is proposed based on mechanisms identified in the sexual violence literature.

Predictors of blame misattribution towards victims of sexual violence may be described with five intersecting themes: (1) the victim (e.g., provocation), (2) characteristics of the perpetrator (e.g., race), (3) environmental context (e.g., media exposure), (4) broader systems (e.g., systemic oppression), and (5) perceiver characteristics (e.g., gender, empathy). Victims of police violence may be differentially perceived – and blamed – based on similar variables. This research will emphasize perceiver characteristics, specifically “dynamic” characteristics that are most amenable to change (e.g., sexism, racism). To build a testable theory of blame misattribution towards victims of police violence, a systematic review of 488 peer-reviewed publications published between 1997 and 2017 with samples predominantly from the United States resulted in 62 included studies. Forty articles included measures of perceiver variables. Of those, 28 articles examined dynamic perceiver characteristics.

Dynamic perceiver variables are emphasized because they receive relatively less attention in victim blaming literature and may be most relevant for clinicians. Further, a renewed focus on dynamic perceiver variables may shift the onus of responsibility to all individuals to challenge our perceptions of larger systems we have less immediate control over. Should such a theory be supported in future empirical research, it is hoped that mechanisms are identified for self-education, culturally competent services, targeted intervention, and educational outreach.

Kate Shantry

Kate Shantry
Life of a Landscape Ti’Swaq to spuyaləpabš
Along the shores of Puget Sound on the Northwest Coast of North America, environmental developments fostered new real estate for people to live on in the modern City of Tacoma, Washington. The Osceola Mudflow is an ancient lahar that originated from a failure on the northwest flank of Mount Rainier ca. 5,600 years ago. The massive debris flow came down the White River drainage, filled in the Puyallup Embayment, and advanced the shoreline toward Tacoma. Successive progradation of the delta from the time of the mudflow event and 1,300 years ago created landforms that pre-contact peoples occupied which are now part of the Puyallup Indian Reservation. Rapid development in the City of Tacoma has led to the discovery of several archaeology sites which have been dated between 1270 and 150 calibrated radiocarbon years before present. This is evidence of Puyallup ancestors using the delta landscape for over a 1,000-year period. There is great potential for preservation of many more archaeological sites within the path of the Osceola mudflow and the modern Puyallup delta which has been capped with industrial fill for the purposes of the Port of Tacoma at Commencement Bay. My research intends to uncover some of the cultural history that lies within this landscape.

Jordan Vossen

Jordan Vossen
The Relationship Between Cultural Orientation and Intelligence Beliefs
Research suggests that the cultural values one adheres to (ranging from individualistic to collectivistic) has important implications for the emphasis one places on intelligence as a desirable trait for the self. For instance, compared to those who hold to more collectivistic beliefs, those who have stronger individualistic beliefs are more likely to place greater value on intelligence. People also hold differing beliefs about the malleability of intelligence, ranging from the belief that intelligence is changeable (i.e., incremental) to the belief that intelligence is fixed (i.e., entity). The present study examined the relationship between cultural values and intelligence beliefs. We predicted that those with more individualistic values will hold stronger entity beliefs of intelligence, whereas those with more collectivistic values will hold stronger incremental beliefs of intelligence. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that collectivistic beliefs are correlated with more incremental beliefs of intelligence and individualistic beliefs are correlated with entity beliefs.