Research

Sarah A. Denha

Graduate Student, Chemistry

Biochemistry

Denha works in Adam Avery, Ph.D., lab, researching how mutations in a protein called ßIII-spectrin causes the neurodegenerative disease spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 (SCA5). SCA5 affects the cerebellum, which is responsible for balance and movement coordination. Understanding the underlying mechanism by which mutant ßIII-spectrin affects the normal function of the neurons helps in developing future therapeutics for the currently untreatable SCA5. To understand the disease mechanism, Denha employs a unique combination of assays ranging from biochemistry and biophysics, to fruit fly genetics.

Learn more about Denha's research.

Kristen Munyan, DNP

Assistant Professor, Nursing

Nursing Workforce Issues

In Spring 2020, Dr. Munyan’s scholarship team examined the incidence of traumatic stress among frontline nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. They sampled over 200 nurses who reported high levels of traumatic stress related to their work. They used the Traumatic Stress Questionnaire, a screening tool used to identify individuals at risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). More than 65 percent of nurses had scores above the threshold that indicated risk for developing PTSD.

Ziming Yang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Geochemistry and Environmental Science

Geochemical Processes

Dr. Yang’s team’s research includes studying organic geochemical processes in the hydrothermal systems on Earth and beyond. They design and carry out experiments to simulate natural hydrothermal environments, to understand the reaction pathways and mechanisms with respect to prebiotic synthesis and the origin of life. They also explore the potential application of Earth-abundant materials in green and sustainable chemistry. They are also interested in biogeochemical (microbial) processes in soil and aquatic ecosystems, including the Arctic tundra, wetlands and the Great Lakes. One of their current projects focuses on transformation and cycling of soil organic carbon, phosphorus and pollutants (e.g., mercury) in the Lake Michigan sand dune ecosystem.

Joshua Haworth, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Human Movement Science

Biomechanics

Dr. Haworth studies sensorimotor mechanisms underlying human movement. As co-director of the OU BEAR Lab (Biomechanics, Ergonomics and Abilities Research), Dr. Haworth, with physical therapy and medicine students, focuses on developing knowledge and methods to support patient-centered physical medicine including advanced health monitoring and care delivery. The state-of-the-art space is designed and equipped to measure and modify various aspects of mobility and state of mind, using markerless 3D motion capture, force plates, EMG, eye tracking and computer-vision based affect assessment. Current studies examine barriers to mobility in persons with osteoarthritis, cancer survivorship, autism and other special populations.

Peter Elphick

Graduate Student, Physics

Computational Physics

Elphick’s current research is centered on spectrum analysis using a nanoscale device called a Spin Torque Nano Oscillator (STNO). The STNO is ultra fast and can scan over a wide microwave frequency range in a small amount of time relative to the time scale of microwaves. Due to its construction, it eliminates the need for some supporting circuitry and is appealing to manufacturing due to the fact that it is complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) compatible. The research is focused on studying the effects of the STNO’s imperfections on its performance in spectrum analysis

Nivedita Mukherji, Ph.D.

Associate Provost, Faculty Affairs and Professor, Economics

Macro and Regional Economics

Using knowledge flows and regional economic characteristics, Dr. Mukherji’s team has developed innovation absorptive capacities for U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. These absorptive capacities are found to be important for regional economic performance. During the early stages of the pandemic, as cases and mortality data were published on a daily basis, it became evident that there were large disparities in the incidence and mortality rates across regions. Dr. Mukherji developed an index that captured the vulnerabilities of 770 counties across the U.S. to the virus. This index demonstrates the vulnerability of the counties depending on socioeconomic and demographic conditions. These indexes can be developed for infectious diseases to prepare for future health crises.

Watoii Rabii, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Criminology and Sociology

Criminal Justice and Immigration

Dr. Rabii is a qualitative researcher whose primary training is in criminology and urban sociology. His research focuses on the sociology of race and ethnicity, masculinity and immigration. The research can be categorized into two tracks. First, exploring how positive discourses about race, immigration and masculinity mask and perpetuate inequalities. The second focuses on the experiences of immigrants and people of color within the criminal justice and immigration justice system. Important to the research are the concepts of colorblindness, hybrid masculinities and immigration.

Douglas Zytko, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering

Human Computer Interaction

Computers are dangerous. OK, not computers themselves, but the way they’re used to communicate with strangers online and face-to-face. Dr. Zytko’s research explores and designs solutions for risk of harm associated with computer-mediated communication, particularly against women and LGBTQ people, such as sexual violence and harassment. He’s currently exploring AI and virtual reality as design “materials” for these solutions. He’s using participatory design to enable women to craft new AI interventions for safety while using social matching systems such as dating apps. He’s also exploring the role of virtual reality storytelling to impact attitudes and behavior around public health issues.

Jo Reger, Ph.D.

Professor, Sociology and Department Chair

Formation and Fracture

Communities create connections. From neighborhood book clubs to ideological movements, communities offer like-minded people an opportunity to unite over a common thread. But while this can connect some, it can also become a barrier for others. In her new project — “Singing to Utopia: Lesbians, Feminists and Music, 1968–1998” — Dr. Reger explores the U.S. women’s music community and the formations and fractures within this culture. She found that some women were being excluded from the mainstream music scene, among other groups, which indirectly gave rise to a vibrant women’s music community.

Read more about Formation and Fracture.

Sang Rhee, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Gut Feeling

We’ve known for decades that our intestines are populated by a large collection of microbial organisms, mainly bacteria that help with digestion and can boost our immune systems. But in the last ten years or so, researchers like Dr. Rhee have begun to develop a much more nuanced understanding of what else those bacteria can do — or not do — to our bodies. Rhee’s specialty is mucosal immunology, which is the study of immune responses in our mucus membranes, including the throat, lungs, and, of course, intestines. For now, Dr. Rhee’s studies are focused primarily on gaining a better understanding of the biological processes by which gut bacteria can impact brain health.

Read more about Gut Feeling.

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