3A12 Abstracts 2012

Below is a list of abstracts by third-year students in the Integrated Science Program:

Emily Kramer: Testing Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive load theory has been used as a multimedia instructional design tool for over a decade. This theory predicts that learning efficiency is influenced by available resources of working memory called cognitive resources. In cognitive load theory, three types of load can occupy cognitive resources: intrinsic load, extraneous load, and germane load. A number of methods have been used in the past to measure cognitive resources, but most require subjective responses from participants, or indirect physiological responses. Additionally, no test can reliably show a measurable distinction between all three types of load predicted by cognitive load theory. This review analyzes methods that have been used to measure cognitive load to determine if cognitive load theory can predict testable results. Particular focus is put on emerging studies using brain scanning techniques (electroencephalography, functional magnetic resonance imaging) which show potential to demonstrate distinctions between the different cognitive load types. Two experimental designs using brain scanning techniques are proposed to further understanding of direct cognitive load measurement. Ultimately, it is concluded that in its current state, cognitive load theory cannot be fully objectively demonstrated. While it may be used a general tool for multimedia design, it should not be used to predict learning efficiency. Further research into multimedia design should focus on using brain imaging techniques as a tool for measuring cognitive load in response to instructional presentations. Greater understanding of the learning process will allow for the creation of more effective and efficient teaching methods.

John Taehun Kim and James Seongjun Han: Effects of Initial Population Density and Wound-induced Plant Defence on Aphid Population Dynamics

Agricultural damage due to aphid pest invasion is known to cause economic and environmental burden. Current countermeasures that address this issue are rather inefficient. Thus, it is necessary to understand the fundamentals of population growth rate, in order to develop more efficient countermeasures. Population density is an important ecological factor that controls rates of population growth. In this study, the θ-logistic growth model was utilized as a theoretical basis for analyzing population growth rates in Myzus persicae feeding on Arabidopsis thaliana. This model predicts that population growth rates vary with population density, but not with external environmental factors. Furthermore, to validate this model, a single environmental factor (plant defence) was altered. Plant chemical defence mechanisms, such as the jasmonic acid pathway, are induced by wounding the plants. Greater wounding should induce greater response, and the extent to which defence mechanisms are activated is expected to affect plant carrying capacity. To test these hypotheses experimentally, wounded and unwounded (normal) individual plants were inoculated with increasing numbers of M. Persicae, and the population was tracked over the course of ten days. Population data was analyzed through regression and analysis of variation (ANOVA). Relativized population growth rates obtained from this study show that while plant damage does not appear to affect aphid growth, growth rates decreased with increasing initial population density, in accordance with the θ -logistic model.

Joshua Simmonds: Chaos in Simple Dynamical Systems

The purpose of my project will be to present a comprehensive introduction to chaos and chaotic systems. Because of the difficult nature of chaos, there exists very little literature which offers both accessibility and technical precision to the reader. My presentation will attempt to balance accessibility and technicality, offering an engaging and relatively simple presentation while still maintaining technical accuracy. The listener will be guided from a thorough discussion of a non-chaotic system (the simple pendulum) into a similar discussion of a simple chaotic system (the double pendulum). The deliverable will include a more general discussion of some of the characteristics and relevant applications of chaotic systems. My presentation will attempt to reach this balance by including proper terminology and accurate details, while also providing definitions and thorough explanations of those terms and details. The poster and accompanying material will make use of Maple-generated models and computer simulations in order to demonstrate the nature of chaos and its applications in simple dynamical systems. A poster presentation will be necessary in order to allow for the inclusion of these interactive models and simulations. Through the use of these visual aids, the presentation will guide the listener through a comprehensive introduction into the nature and beauty of chaos.

Hyuck Won: Mathematical Model for Distribution of New Genetic Disorder in Hamilton

Genetic disorder is one of the most popular research topics in various scientific fields, such as medicine, biochemistry, and biology. There are more than 6,000 known genetic disorders and 1 in every 200 people has single-gene disorders. Many genetic disorders are fatal and there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.
The main cause of genetic disorder is mutations in a chromosome or a gene and new mutations generate new genetic disorder. To help study new genetic diseases, I will be creating a mathematical model that shows how quickly new genetic disorder can spread within a population. Moreover, its long term behavior will also be observed. Thus, the model can be applied to prevention of new genetic disorder.
The model will be created by using linear algebra concepts, such as matrix, diagonalisation, and more. The scenario of the model is that a group of people with a new genetic disease move into Hamilton. The model will show how quickly the disease allele spreads. The number of people with the disease moving into Hamilton will be varied to observe how the long term behavior of disease within Hamilton population changes.

Judy Tsao: Self-trapping and Interactions of white light beams in a photopolymer

Self-trapping describes the process through which the natural diffraction of light is countered by the refractive index increase of the surrounding medium. Self-trapped beams and specifically, their interactions have great potential in designing photonic circuits and devices with advanced functionalities and performance. However, the interactions of self-trapped white (incoherent) light beams are poorly understood due to many experimental challenges. The current study reproduced previous experimental work by Kasala and Saravanamuttu (2008) as a prerequisite for continuing research into the interactions of incoherent beams. Two self-trapped white light beams were produced and allowed to interact in 3-methacryloxypropyl trimethoxysilane (MAPTMS), whose refractive index increases upon light exposure due to free-radical polymerization reaction. The experimental results confirmed the conclusions of the precious study: When the separation distance is greater than the beam diameter, the beams move away from each other due to the creation of a monomer-, and thus light-depleted region between them. When the separation distance is smaller than the beam diameter, the beams attract each other and eventually merge into one. This is because self-trapping is the most effective in regions of high intensity; the beam of higher intensity traps light from the other beam. The interactions of three self-trapped white light beams in different geometric arrangements are currently investigated, and have also exhibited the formation of light-depleted regions and the merging of beams in close proximity. The results of this study can be used for the future designs of optical devices based on miniature LEDs that emit white light.

Cody Koykka: An Analysis of Ancient Egyptian Astronomical Texts

he ancient Egyptian astronomical diagrams found on monuments are a group of texts created between 1473BC-118AD. These texts contain the names of decans stars and asterisms used for timekeeping and associate them with specific pieces of data, including quantities of stars and names of deities. Understanding the relationship between the decans and the deities, as well as the quantities of stars associated with them, may allow researchers to identify the correspondence between the decans and the physical reality of the night sky. However, primarily due to the fact that the correlation between the decans and data accompanying them are often neither injective nor completely consistent across all texts, previous researchers have deemed these relationships meaningless to the process of identifying decans on star maps. This claim was investigated using several statistical methods, mainly permutation tests and regression analysis. Results indicate that there is in fact a strong correlation between certain
decans and deities. Furthermore, a strong correlation between the decans and the quantity of stars that they are associated with was detected once the sources of the astronomical monuments were divided into families based on the decans they contain. The results indicate that the data contained in astronomical monuments often form statistically significant patterns that researchers may be able to use in order to explain why certain deities and quantities of stars are associated with certain decans.

Tia Harrison: Anthocyanin as a Biomarker of Stress in Thellungiella Salsugine

Anthocyanin is widely used as a visual biomarker of stress in many plant species. Anthocyanin increases reliably with stress exposure and is relatively easy to measure. This review analyzes the general properties of biomarkers and the applicability of anthocyanin quantification to measure stress responses in the extremophile Thellungiella salsuginea. One property of a biomarker is it must reliably report on the stress state of a plant. Uniform pigmentation across a plant makes tissue selection and pigment measurement less variable. An experiment testing the variation of anthocyanin content within individual T. salsuginea plants assists in identifying advantageous and disadvantageous biomarker properties of anthocyanin. Variation in leaf type within plants is determined by comparing the anthocyanin content (A535/gFW) in the top, middle, and bottom rosette leaves of three healthy four-week-old T. salsuginea plants. The expectation is that variation exists between leaf types but is not significant. The results show a significant difference in anthocyanin content within leaf type (p=0.001). This experiment demonstrates that anthocyanin is easily identified in plants but variation across leaves is large with the highest content found in newly emerging leaves and the lowest content in mature, fully, expanded leaves. This gradient complicates the suitable selection of tissue for biomarker measurement. The quantification technique is simple but destructive to the plant thereby preventing further analysis on plants after testing. This review proposes that future research focus on alternative biomarkers to anthocyanin. Biomarkers such as hormones or molecular markers may reveal a superior biomarker of stress in plants.

Michelle Zhu: Accuracy of in Silico Binding Energy Compared to Experimental Binding Energy

In silico ligand docking is an invaluable tool in predicting potential targets for new drug design. The main challenge in the present day is that computation approaches cannot predict binding affinity with high accuracy when compared to experimentally measured binding energy. This research examines the computational accuracy of the program ZMM in calculating protein-ligand binding energy in the binding conformation determined through x-ray crystallography. The hypothesis is that there could be a correlation between the structures with inaccurate in silico calculated energies and specific properties of those proteins that makes it hard to produce accurate calculations. This research would hopefully identify areas for future improvement in the field of computational biochemistry.
Methods and Controls
Data set of 343 protein-ligand complexes selected by the CSAR benchmark exercise of 2010 were obtained from the CSAR website. The data set contains a non-minimized structure and a minimized structure for each complex in .mol2 format. All the files are converted into .pdb format using the program Open Babel in order to be process by ZMM for binding affinity calculations. A set of control calculations would be done with the original unmodified structures from the Protein Data Bank. The calculated energies will be compared with experimental ones and the results from the CSAR benchmark exercise.

Alexandria Afonso: Will a Deficiency or Malfunction in the Phosphocreatine/creatine Pathway Cause Heart Failure?

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Canada, claiming over 50,000 lives every year. In order to function properly, the heart requires a significant amount of oxygen and without a constant supply of oxygen the heart will fail. The oxygen supply to the heart is so critical because it is used to continuously produce adenosine triphosphate for the contraction of myocytes. The adenosine triphosphate is used mostly along the cytoskeleton where the contractile proteins are located. Once adenosine triphosphate is used at the cytoskeleton, the ADP cannot easily move to the mitochondria to be phosphorylated. To get around this problem, mammalian cells use the high-energy phosphate bond present in phosphocreatine to phosphorylate the adenosine diphosphate through the phosphocreatine shuttle. It is highly possible that a deficiency in this pathway could lead to heart failure because of the dependence of myocytes on it to produce energy. To investigate this possibility, a review is being conducted on peer-reviewed papers that measured cardiac function in relation to phosphocreatine and adenosine triphosphate levels. A summary table of the work done in the literature to-date is eing co piled to answer the question: “Will a deficiency or malfunction in the phosphocreatine/creatine pathway cause heart failure?”


Helen Guo and Viktoria Serkis
: Mathematical & Physical Aspects of Diffusion: Learning Object

The mathematics and physics of diffusion, although critical to many fields of science, are often difficult to conceptualize at the undergraduate level. In order to facilitate the learning process, we are creating a website targeted primarily at first and second year iSci students. As lecture time dedicated towards diffusion concepts in the Drugs & Diffusion and Neuroscience projects is limited, we aim to combine resources and create a comprehensive yet concise learning object. The website will include sections covering the history, math and physics, and applications of diffusion, with Brownian motion, random walk, Fick’s laws, and a derivation of the diffusion equation comprising the central section. The framework for these concepts is derived largely from iSci lecture notes, to which additional annotations and modifications will be incorporated to help simplify and clarify the logic of the content. Featured throughout the website will be a variety of pedagogical tools such as solved problems, in-text links providing brief review of background knowledge, mouseover explanations of mathematical derivations and notation, and visual simulations. The simulations will be generated using Matlab or Maple modelling software to illustrate the concepts of random walk, and the one-dimensional diffusion equation. To supplement these theoretical concepts, the history and applications sections will provide historical and curricular context, including a timeline outlining the progression of thought in this field, and specific reference to iSci projects. The overall objective is to create a summarized and accessible resource allowing students to learn or review concepts of diffusion in a time-efficient manner.

Thilakshan Arulnesan and Piotr Roztocki: The Quantum Spring: Time-dependence in Quantum Mechanics Illustrated via Quantum Harmonic Oscillation in One Dimension

In 1926, Schrödinger went on to solve the quantum harmonic oscillator (Schrödinger equation for a quadratic potential), also known as the quantum spring; it is the time-dependence of this system that is of interest to our project group. The one-dimensional quantum harmonic oscillator is an analogous system to the classical spring oscillator, where a restorative linear force maintains the motion of a particle about its ground state. It is an ideal problem to study in quantum mechanics as: a) an analytic solution exists and has been thoroughly studied, b) the solution approaches classical results at large quantum numbers, exemplifying the correspondence principle, c) the solution is of importance to general theory d) solving and computationally modelling the oscillator is of high educational value. The quantum harmonic oscillator can be used to model multiple physical phenomena. It is used within physical chemistry to explain the spectroscopic evidence of low frequency oscillations of atoms in diatomic bonds, crystal lattices, and liquids. Our project will explore these areas and provide visual comparisons between classical and quantum spring behaviours. A simulation will be developed using Maple and will include graphical probability density solutions for the quantum problem and a solution to the classical harmonic oscillator as a comparison. The simulation may also be used to illustrate the correspondence principle, with solutions alike to the classical oscillator at high quantum numbers. Verification of the model behaviour will be accomplished by comparing simulation results to those of literature and open-source quantum spring simulations.

Prateek Gupta: Subglacial Flow Dynamics: Influences of Thermal Processes

The project aims to explore the thermal processes that influence subglacial flow dynamics and the development of glacial erosional landforms. Understanding subglacial dynamics is of particular importance to previously glaciated regions such as Southern Ontario, where natural resources such as groundwater are hosted in glacial sediments. Exploration for, and protection of, groundwater resources is dependent upon an understanding of the spatial distribution of glacial sediment types in the subsurface, a distribution largely controlled by former subglacial processes. This poster will describe some of the physical, chemical, and mathematical models applied to the analysis of thermodynamic regimes at the ice-bed boundary. These models are used to develop a composite time-step model that may be used to predict thermal influences on glacial behavior. A methodology is also presented that will allow testing and validation of this model through examination of glacial erosional landforms in the field.

James Boudreau: iSci Experiential Field Lab Studying the Invasive Species Garlic Mustard

Invasive species are an important and highly studied area of ecology and are associated with significant environmental, ecological and financial impacts. Educating first year iSci students about invasive species through an integrated, experiential field-lab will provide them with both a theoretical and practical introduction to this critical ecological concept. The goal of this project is to design a level I iSci field-lab that studies two linked subjects: the invasive species garlic mustard and the buffering effects of a riparian ecosystem on human impacts. The field-lab will study the riparian environment that separates Parking Lot M on the West side of the McMaster Campus from Ancaster Creek, which flows into Cootes Paradise. Students will study the impact of garlic mustard on a native ecosystem by seeding several plots of bare soil with native plant seed mix and then monitoring the plots for the success rate of native plants versus garlic mustard (which is already present in the environment). The field lab will span five academic years. Each class of students will be able to study the plots planted during previous years, and will plant plots for the year to follow. Soil and water salinity, quality and pH will be monitored to investigate human impacts from the parking lot on the environment and how the ecosystem responds. This field-lab will also provide an introduction to practical field work, data collection and analysis.

Alex Nielsen: Identification of an Unknown Compound with Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry

Several grams of an unknown compound were obtained for structural determination. Once identified, a literature review was conducted to determine possible biological and environmental impacts of the unknown. It was hypothesized that the structure of the compound could be unambiguously determined without the use of x-ray crystallography. Infrared and Raman spectroscopy were used to confirm whether or not the molecule was organic and to identify possible molecular functionality. The mass and chemical composition of the unknown was determined from mass spectrometry and elemental analysis. 13C-NMR and 1H-NMR were used to determine molecular connectivity.
Infrared and Raman spectroscopy verified that the molecule was organic. Key peaks from 1605-1753 cm-1 suggested that the molecule was aromatic and contained several carbonyl groups. Mass spectrometry and elemental analysis determined the molecular formula of the compound to be C9H8O4. Peaks in 1H-NMR suggested the presence of an ortho-substituted aromatic ring in the compound, a carboxylic acid and an acetyl group. The chemical shifts in the 13C-NMR were consistent with the functionality determined from the 1H-NMR. From this data, the unknown was unambiguously determined to be acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin. This structural assignment was confirmed by comparing all collected data to data in the literature.
Aspirin is commonly used as an antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic drug. It works by irreversibly acylating cyclooxygenase enzymes, thereby inhibiting the formation of prostaglandins. It is also used to treat ischaemic heart disease and can prevent colon and other cancers. Aspirin is readily degraded in the environment and does not bioaccumulate.

Adam Pantaleo: Integrated Laboratories in Honours Chemistry and Honours Integrated Science

The Honours Chemistry and Honours Integrated Science (iSci) undergraduate programs at McMaster University both contain laboratory components that integrate several disciplines or sub-disciplines of science and provide students with exposure to inquiry-based learning. According to the literature, integrated and inquiry-based laboratories such as these benefit students in numerous ways: students gain a good understanding of the scientific method, develop inquiry skills, and are better prepared for graduate school. The literature also cites several drawbacks of these laboratories, including large time requirements and high stress levels for students. However, a detailed, peer-reviewed study on the laboratories of the Chemistry and iSci programs has yet to be reported in the literature. The purpose of this study is to determine how Chemistry and iSci students and instructors perceive the workload and potential benefits of these integrated, inquiry-based laboratories and to compare these perceptions with those already found in the literature. I will collect data on student perceptions through an ethics-approved, anonymous online survey open to third-year students enrolled in each program. I will also interview one instructor from each program to determine their opinions, the rationale for implementing the laboratories, and the outlook of the programs. This study will contribute to the scientific knowledge of interdisciplinary and inquiry-based learning while also being useful to instructors seeking to improve the laboratories and students who want to learn more about the programs.

Charles Yin: A Functional Genomic Analysis of the Probiotic Bacterium Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GR-1

In recent years, rising incidence of antibiotic resistance in key strains of pathogenic bacteria and a decline in new antibiotic drugs being brought to market have highlighted a need for alternative methods of controlling bacterial infection. One promising strategy lies in the usage of probiotics as a means of preventing infection. Probiotics are strains of bacteria that exist symbiotically with humans, and that protect us from colonization by pathogens. Using probiotics to promote human health is not a new revelation: manufacturers of dairy products have been adding probiotic cultures to their products for years. However, the mechanisms by which these probiotic organisms are able to protect humans from pathogenic infection are still poorly understood. In this study, the genome of a well-characterized probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, was sequenced, annotated, and subsequently analyzed, searching for genes that confer probiotic activity. A number of protein-encoding genes with putative probiotic activity were identified, including genes controlling cell adhesion, acid hydrolysis, and surfactant production. An additional product of this study was the creation of a semi-automated sequencing and annotation pipeline for processing the genomes of other probiotic organisms. In conclusion, the present study has elucidated the beginnings of some possible means by which probiotic activity is achieved within bacteria, and serves as a basis for future studies on probiotic activity in commercial probiotic bacterial strains.

Nicholas Pun and Rachel Young: A Meta-analysis of the Effect of Invasive Species on Ecosystem Function

Invasive species are currently the second leading cause of biodiversity loss and species extinction. Previous studies have shown that biodiversity loss is associated with reduced ecosystem function; however, the effect of invasive species remains unclear. Ecosystem function is a measure of ecosystem productivity and is quantified using response variables like biomass or resource depletion. Here, we present a meta-analysis, of over 20 field studies, that addresses the effect of invasive species on ecosystem function. Since invasive species often cause biodiversity loss, we expect that biological invasions will also result in a loss of ecosystem function. To test this hypothesis we compared the response variables of an ecosystem before and after invasion for each field study. For this comparison we used a log response ratio (LRm), which relativized the response variables of the invaded and uninvaded ecosystem, respectively, across all studies. While results showed that LRm values varied between field studies, the average LRm did not differ significantly from 0. This suggests that invasive species may not have a substantial impact on ecosystem function. We speculate that the maintenance of ecosystem function is due to the high fecundity and productivity of the invasive species, which can compensate for any biodiversity loss in the ecosystem. However, future studies will be needed to confirm this prediction.

Julianne Bagg and Emily Taylor: McMaster Teaching and Community Garden

Sustainability and experiential learning are strategic priorities for McMaster University; a McMaster Teaching and Community Garden would greatly contribute to these initiatives. The garden is a space where students can come together to work towards a common goal of tending to a food-producing garden through experiential learning. The garden will also be a site for teaching and research for professors to conduct studies on plants, plant-animal interactions and sustainability. It will provide an opportunity for students to interact with members of the greater Hamilton community through the development of programs such as community youth workshops. In addition, gardening is a therapeutic practice and will be made available to staff, faculty, and students through open sessions and educational workshops. The garden can be utilized for healthy and active living initiatives, allowing student and staff volunteers to aid in maintaining the garden.
The garden will be a collaboration between multiple partners across campus, including the McMaster Students Union, Facility Services, the Office of Sustainability, the Integrated Science Program, the Mac Farmstand and faculty researchers. The garden will be used to grow produce, contributing to the Mac Farmstand and Bridges Cafe. To establish these collaborations, meetings are being held with all potential stakeholders in order to formulate a memorandum of understanding. Also grant applications for many potential funding agencies are being completed to fund the set-up costs of the garden. A teaching and community garden on campus would visibly enhance the development of a culture of sustainability and experiential learning at McMaster.

Julianne Bagg and Emily Taylor: McMaster Teaching and Community Garden

Sustainability and experiential learning are strategic priorities for McMaster University; a McMaster Teaching and Community Garden would greatly contribute to these initiatives. The garden is a space where students can come together to work towards a common goal of tending to a food-producing garden through experiential learning. The garden will also be a site for teaching and research for professors to conduct studies on plants, plant-animal interactions and sustainability. It will provide an opportunity for students to interact with members of the greater Hamilton community through the development of programs such as community youth workshops. In addition, gardening is a therapeutic practice and will be made available to staff, faculty, and students through open sessions and educational workshops. The garden can be utilized for healthy and active living initiatives, allowing student and staff volunteers to aid in maintaining the garden.
The garden will be a collaboration between multiple partners across campus, including the McMaster Students Union, Facility Services, the Office of Sustainability, the Integrated Science Program, the Mac Farmstand and faculty researchers. The garden will be used to grow produce, contributing to the Mac Farmstand and Bridges Cafe. To establish these collaborations, meetings are being held with all potential stakeholders in order to formulate a memorandum of understanding. Also grant applications for many potential funding agencies are being completed to fund the set-up costs of the garden. A teaching and community garden on campus would visibly enhance the development of a culture of sustainability and experiential learning at McMaster.

Solomon Barkley: Sampling the impact of an Invasive Species on a Sustainable Development Project: Garlic Mustard in McMaster University’s Parking Lot M

Wetlands and waterways are extremely sensitive ecosystems that are easily disturbed by human activities, including urbanization and the introduction of non-native species. Hamilton’s Ancaster creek, which runs into the Cootes Paradise Sanctuary, experiences increased runoff from impermeable urban surfaces that can be contaminated with automobile fluids or road salt. McMaster University plans to resurface its neighbouring Parking Lot M with a sustainable paving alternative that incorporates vegetation into a latticed weight-bearing framework. Garlic mustard, an invasive species, is growing nearby and threatens to interfere with this initiative by discouraging vehicular and pedestrian traffic. A plan has been developed to monitor garlic mustard within the parking lot to evaluate the risk of invasion. This monitoring plan can be used to help guide future decisions regarding maintenance and possible expansion of this parking surface. For example, time of year of initial installation can influence the probability of rapid garlic mustard colonization prior to the establishment of intended plants. The monitoring plan is species- and site-specific, which permits identification of regions within the parking lot that are most susceptible to invasion and require more intense monitoring. Potential research applications of this monitoring plan include an investigation into urban competition between native and invasive species, and the influence of water levels on variation in garlic mustard populations.

Dora Rosati: Music as a Learning Tool

The purpose of this paper is to explore how background music affects a person’s ability to learn. It is unclear whether listening to music while attempting to learn is helpful, distracting or has no effect. A search of the current literature on this subject yields mixed results. Studies that find background music aids learning suggest that this may be because music provides extra stimulation or because it influences the emotions of listeners. Research shows that emotions have an impact on learning, depending on whether these emotions are positive or negative and on the level of stimulation or arousal they involve. Since it is well-established that listening to music can influence one’s emotions, it may be possible to use background music to inspire emotions in people that would be beneficial to learning. This paper also contains proposed experiments to further investigate how the influence of background music on emotions affects a person’s ability to learn. There is a focus on whether this effect differs between musicians and non-musicians, and on how one might interpret the results of these experiments. Research of this nature will help to build a better understanding human learning, which will allow for the creation of better teaching strategies and more effective learning environments. Knowing the effect of background music could also be helpful in designing curricula for students with learning disabilities.

Alexandria Afonso, Emily Taylor and Adam Pantaleo: Media Influence on the Opinions of the McMaster Community on Climate Change

Although scientists studying climate change have conducted extensive research and published countless articles on this issue, problems arise when journalists attempt to communicate this information to the public. The media is known for exaggeration, bias, and controversy, all of which lead to misunderstanding. The purpose of this study is to determine if the media has a significant influence on the opinions and beliefs of the McMaster University community – students and faculty – on climate change. Since university is meant to foster critical thinking, but because the media is so pervasive, we hypothesize that the community is influenced by the media, but may not be consciously aware of this. To test our hypothesis, we interviewed and surveyed thirty-two members of the community, asking questions related to climate change, its cause, and the impact of the media. A majority of the community believed that climate change was occurring, but their opinions on its cause varied from natural causes to anthropogenic effects. Additionally, many people did not understand the basic science of climate change. In general, participants indicated that they were influenced by the media, but trusted the media to a lesser extent. These results suggest that the media does have the potential to influence the educated public’s opinions on climate change, possibly because of their limited scientific knowledge of climate change. Since climate change is a global concern – scientifically, socially, and economically – it is essential to improve communication between scientists, the media, and the public.