2A18 Abstracts 2018

Below is a list of abstracts for projects from second-year students in the Integrated Science Program:

Areias, Nicole and Eshafi, Sarah-A Thermodynamic Model for the Emergence of Intelligence (Dr. Randall Dumont)

The most beloved elements of our societies are often products of our intelligence, thus our interest in reproducing it. The advent of natural intelligence as an emergent phenomena has recently received worthy attention. A fundamental understanding of this emergence is required for the successful advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Recent studies suggest that intelligent behaviours emerge in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of a system always increases. These studies conclude that an intelligent body will make decisions that maximize both current and future opportunities for action.

We aim to investigate this claim using a randomized Markov chain model applied to a state vector. Specifically, using R we will multiply a state vector p(t) by a transition matrix A at each time step t. The state vector and transition matrix serve as proxies for an intelligent body and the entropy-maximizing force that acts on the body on a large scale respectively. We will calculate entropy (S) at each time step using the following formula:

This will allow us to record changes in entropy over time, determining how closely the system follows the second law. If it is in fact true that intelligence emerges from the second law, we expect to see an increase in entropy over time. This research will contribute to current literature regarding intelligence as an emergent phenomena that can be characterized by thermodynamic principles. Furthering our understanding of the emergence of natural intelligence can accelerate the advancement of AI.

Balsara, Mehra and Jivani, Sabrina-Ecological Modeling of Disturbance on Predator­Prey Interaction During the Cretaceous­-Paleogene Mass Extinction Event on Haţeg Island (Dr. Chad Harvey)

An agent­based model was constructed with Netlogo to proxy the ecological impacts of the Chicxulub asteroid event, as suggested by the Alvarez hypothesis for Cretaceous­Tertiary extinction. It focuses on Haţeg Island as both an ecologically isolated system, and a region rich with dinosaur fossils. The model portrays the impact of the asteroid’s disturbance through herbivore­plant and predator­prey interactions. Modeling this interaction will highlight the intensity of environmental disturbance and the subsequent ecological impact.

This model aims to interpret shifts in population dynamics between trophic levels after the onset of a major ecological disturbance. Details on species interactions can be obtained, not only through modeling, but by also utilizing relevant literature about the ecology and environment during the Cretaceous­Paleogene extinction event.

The study introduces the biological interactions that are common in a healthy island ecosystem, focusing on three species in differing but connected trophic levels. The parameters are set based on energy transfer through the trophic levels and typical climate of the European Archipelago, allowing for observations on population dynamics to be targeted to the three species. Within this system, disturbances that represent the impact of the Chicxulub asteroid event are introduced. The consequences of this event are broken up into parameters believed to have led to the mass extinction.

Through modeling the environment and ecological interactions on Haţeg Island before and after the Chicxulub asteroid event, we hope to better understand the mechanisms of a mass extinction event and its specific impact on biological interactions within an island setting.

Brooks, Kate and Speedie, Jessica – Origins and Observability of Planetary Atmospheres (Dr. Ralph Pudritz)

A new era of observational astronomy is on the horizon with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) scheduled for 2019. JWST will allow us to probe the formation and evolutionary processes of planetary atmospheres, providing insight into worlds beyond our solar system. To optimize the use of JWST time, studies need to be conducted to determine what atmospheric spectral features could theoretically be detected using emission spectroscopy, and our work contributes to this end. We focus on GJ1132-b: an Earth-sized planet orbiting a nearby cool M-dwarf star whose atmosphere is an ideal target for spectral characterization. We explore what atmospheric regimes (compositions, surface pressures and Bond albedos) would be observable with JWST. To do this, we obtain theoretical emergent emission spectra from the literature and generate simulated JWST observations using an open-source community Python package, Pandexo (Batalha et al. 2017). We present simulated spectral observations for GJ1132-b for a range of atmospheric regimes and compare our results to those of the literature. In the JWST age, it will be possible to detect the presence or even measure the abundance of molecular species in the atmosphere, revealing the formation history and chemical evolution of far-away worlds.

Butt, Mehreen and Tomas, Emma-Knocking on Closed Doors: A Children’s Book on Historical Women in Science (Dr. Sarah Symons)

Gender-based discrimination is extremely prominent in the male dominated fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Women with higher standardized testing scores are less likely to choose a STEM university program than men with lower scores (Statistics Canada, 2015). However, this cycle of sexism and gender role reinforcement in science can be broken through the education of young children. By creating a children’s book that highlights the advancements made by female scientists, it becomes evident that such discoveries would not have occurred without progression in women’s rights.

The story follows two young children, Mia and Hassan, who knock on various doors seeking the support and guidance from famous scientists. The doors are opened by: Marie Curie, Chien-Shiung Wu, Rosalind Franklin, Gertrude B. Elion and Mamie Phipps Clark. These influential women share their experiences and offer advice on topics ranging from gender equity, proper scientific process and positive team dynamics. The children learn how to empower their classmates and the value of diversity in all areas of science.

This book is recommended as a teaching tool in elementary schools, particularly children aged 8-12. We hope to empower and inspire young girls to pursue STEM in post-secondary school. Although this book is directed towards engaging young females, it is not necessarily aimed only towards girls. By having a male main character, an open learning environment is established for both males and females; educating all children leads to a more equitable future.

Cappelleto, Nicole and Rivera-Madrinan Felipe-The Observability of Hawking Radiation and the Mass-Radiation Relationship of Black Holes (Dr. Randall Dumont)

Prior to the contributions of Stephen Hawking to black hole thermodynamics, astrophysicists believed black holes were subject to the No Hair Theorem. This theory suggested that black holes could only be characterized by three properties: mass, angular momentum and charge. Hawking later postulated that black holes should radiate thermal energy, as if they possessed a specific temperature; this radiation was later coined Hawking radiation.

Hawking radiation has yet to be observed in part because large black holes, which are easily identified, emit minuscule amounts of radiation and small black holes, which emit relatively larger amounts of radiation, are difficult to identify. Through a series of calculations and models, we hope to illustrate this mass to radiation relationship using data from AGN Black Hole Mass Database.

Using the thermodynamic laws of black holes and the Stefan-Boltzmann law for blackbody radiation, we treat a black hole as an idealized black body, emitting thermal energy with a temperature equal to the Hawking temperature and absorbing radiation from the cosmic microwave background. From this, we obtain two equations describing the thermal energy released and the mass of a black hole as functions of time. We expect that the time frame of a black hole shifting from being massive and easily identifiable to being small enough to radiate perceptible Hawking radiation is longer than humanly possible to observe.

We illustrate the difficulty of observing, and subsequently measuring, Hawking radiation and emphasize the need for advanced technology in astronomy in order to verify this phenomenon.   

Chan, Michael and D’Ercole, Joseph-Overcoming Resistance to Anti-Breast Cancer Drugs Targeting Kinases (Dr. John Hassell)

Breast cancer, though there are no definitive cures, may be treated with a variety of drugs, which target specific protein kinases. Protein kinases are prominent factors in breast cancer, as they are essential for tumour cell proliferation and are highly traceable targets.

These kinases are often targeted because of their ubiquity and capacity to become oncogenic. On many occasions, resistance to kinase inhibitor drugs develops in patients. As a result, anti-cancer drugs may cease to extend and become merely life extenders as cancer recurrence becomes likely. As kinase inhibitors continue to be developed and become commonplace, the need to overcome resistance becomes more apparent.

This literature review provides insight into the mechanisms of protein kinases associated with breast cancer. Developed therapeutics that have been used for treatment will be discussed in addition to the mechanism with which protein kinases have acquired resistance to these inhibitors. In general, mechanisms of resistance can be classified into six categories: 1) mutations of the target protein; 2) signalling adaptation; 3) transcriptional adaptation; 4) alterations in transmembrane transportation; 5) off-target drug binding; and 6) cellular transitions. Ultimately, we want to understand the research being conducted to overcome resistance and how this has influenced the current development of novel therapeutics.

Acquired resistance by kinases responsible for the proliferation of breast cancer cells has rendered many therapeutic strategies obsolete. However, a further understanding of the mechanisms allowing tumour cells to bypass targeted kinase inhibition can lead to improved treatments and the development of more effective drugs.

Chen, Chen and Montague, Coulter-Technologies and Neurophysiological Complications Involved in the Delivery of Drugs Across the Blood Brain Barrier to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease (Russ Ellis)

The medical field relies heavily on the collection and development of knowledge required to design novel drugs, as well as formulate innovative and effective methods of drug delivery, particularly with reference to neurophysiological diseases. Alzheimer’s is one of many chronic neurodegenerative diseases, and impacts more than 40 million people worldwide. Diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, can be devastating for a patient and those caring for them, and when coupled with other ailments common to aging populations they can significantly decrease quality of life. While some medicines currently exist to treat Alzheimer’s disease, they serve only as short term symptom relief through inducing an increase of acetylcholine in the brain. There is extensive ongoing research into treatments which would sustain long-term slowing or arresting Alzheimer’s disease progression. One of the main challenges to successfully delivering such a drug, however, is traversing the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, the aim of this literature review is to discuss and evaluate two methodologies of drug delivery through the blood-brain barrier currently undergoing development: adsorptive- and receptor-mediated transcytosis. These methods focus on the interactions of the molecular carrier and the blood brain barrier itself, using its chemical and physiological characteristics to assist in drug delivery. This review will also investigate the stage of development each of these delivery techniques are currently undergoing, assess the potential for the delivery method to be used in the active treatment of neurological diseases, and evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of each method.

Dittrich, Angela and Kates, Meghan-Proposal of 3D Culture Derived from MS Patient Fibroblasts for Study of HSPB5 Upregulation (Dr. Deda Gillespie)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most prevalent neurological disorders in Canada, yet its mechanism remains poorly understood. There are currently no effective treatments for long term symptom reduction or alleviation of this disease. Elucidation of the disease’s mechanism is difficult due to a lack of reliable animal models. Additionally, disease localization in the brain restricts access to affected tissues to those collected from biopsies and autopsies.

MS is identified by multiple areas of inflammation-mediated demyelination in the central nervous system (CNS). This demyelination has long been associated with reactive oxygen species and tumour necrosis factor, a prevalent cytokine. Farther upstream of these molecules, the mechanism has been traced to increased expression of heat shock protein, particularly HSPB5, which has no currently identified initiating factor.

Here, an experimental system is proposed to identify the trigger that induces HSPB5 accumulation. Specifically, the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), generated from MS patient fibroblasts, to create oligodendrocytes is explored for testing environmental factors which induce upregulation of HSPB5. Also, iPSCs are proposed for a verification of methods experiment that involves creation of 3D cell culture, with differentiated neurons and glia, to represent MS. This culture will be used to determine the validity of factors that upregulate HSPB5 in creating downstream effects characteristic of MS. This proposal for exploring induction of heat shock protein expression using 3D culture derived from MS patient fibroblast cells is promising for the understanding of disease mechanisms needed for future applications in treatment.

Gandhi, Aanshi and Simon, Chris- Modelling Sound Localization (Dr. Deda Gillespie)

The mechanism of sound localization allows organisms to locate the exact origin of a source to an incredible degree of accuracy. Errors in this mechanism would reduce its accuracy, and thus would reduce the fitness of an individual. This has led to our investigation of the factors responsible for maintaining sound localization accuracy and possible consequences of malfunctions. The Jeffress model (1948) along with a study conducted by Drapal and Marsalek (2011) concluded sound localization heavily relied on timing delays measured by the specialized nucleus, medial superior olive (MSO). These results inspired questions regarding the effects of variations in the parameters such as timing or intensity of auditory nerve signal conduction, caused by either localized ion concentration imbalance or channel impairment. To investigate auditory processing, a computational model in NEURON was used to simulate an MSO neuron and the effect of variations in ion concentration and altered channel properties. Preliminary research has uncovered models for the natural process of cochlear transduction and determination of sound waves source direction ( Zylbertal, 2017 ). The software will be modified in order to manipulate ion concentrations, action potential frequency, and intensity in cochlear neurons. Analysis of the results revealed that small changes in the mentioned parameters can have a considerable effect on action potential spike intervals and coincident input detection. Outcomes from this model will allow for a deeper understanding of how the auditory system functions and which variables are responsible for its precision.

Hosein, Hannah and Kowal, Sloane-An Analysis of the Mathematical Modeling of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (Dr. George Dragomir)

Epilepsy is the fourth most prevalent neurological disorder, affecting people of all backgrounds and states of health. Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is one of the most common, and studied forms of partial epilepsy and is characterized by synchronized, recurring focal seizures. To better understand TLE firing patterns and mechanisms, various mathematical models have been developed to represent specific features recorded by electroencephalographs during seizure episodes. Traditional models of TLE have focused on the interactions of neurons during ictal activity, while current models further emphasize the relationship neurons have with their environment. While these models provide a basic understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying TLE, they do not provide a truly comprehensive model.

This project seeks to analyze TLE models and compare them in terms of their limitations, capabilities, and undergraduate educational applications. Models of analysis include the traditional Jansen and Rit neural mass system and contemporary Epileptor model. By providing background on and comparing said models, a discussion of the biological conditions of TLE and corresponding mathematical parameters will be presented and justified. Improvements to the parameterizations of the models will be suggested, and explained with regards to their biological significance. Additionally, components of the Epileptor model will be simplified and presented for an undergraduate audience, accompanied with a discussion of the biological origins of the parameters and areas for future improvements. The analysis will provide insight into the current understanding of TLE and provide a foundational understanding of how mathematics can be applied to biological problems.

Iyengar, Yajur – Effect of Hydrogen Peroxide Based Oxidative Stress on Capsular Polysaccharide Concentration within Cryptococcus neoformans (Dr. Jianping Xu)

Current understanding of the pathogenicity of the human-borne fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans centers around analysis of its capsule and its role in crossing the blood brain barrier (BBB) during infection. When an infection is detected, phagocytic defensive cells in the BBB release reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). While these ROS should be chemically sufficient to break down the pathogen’s capsule, leading to cell death, the opposite effect has been observed. ROS have been shown to induce an increase in layers of polysaccharide-based capsular elements in C. neoformans, thus increasing the pathogen’s resistive capabilities

As such, further investigation of the mechanism by which infecting cells spontaneously adapt to immune defense systems is warranted. This research can help to quantify capsular polysaccharide concentration changes due to oxidative stress through the use of phenol-sulfuric acid based colorimetry. Two strains of C. neoformans cells with differing percentages of capsule growth will be used to determine changes in polysaccharide concentrations in response to increasing concentrations of H2O2-based oxidative stress treatments. In addition, this research will determine changes in the viability of C. neoformans cells under changing oxidative stress conditions, in order to confirm predicted hypotheses of increased resistance to ROS based defenses.

It is predicted that exposure to increasing H2O2 concentrations will result in increased resultant polysaccharide concentrations while also increasing viability of cells during growth. The result of these tests will allow for a more fundamental understanding of structural changes to C. neoformans cells during infection.

Joshi, Dhvanil, Lemire, Sara and Vamos, Lauren-Using NetLogo to model the efficacy of wasps as a biological control agent for the spread of emerald ash borers in Southern Ontario (Dr. Chad Harvey)

The Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a highly invasive species to North America that causes 99% mortality of ash trees in affected communities. Many preventative solutions have been proposed and implemented, including public awareness programs, tree conservation programs, and the use of certain pesticides such as TreeAzin Systemic Insecticide. All of these methods have had limited success.

A recent solution for this problem is the use of various severwasp species as biological control agents. Native to Asia, these wasps are natural predators of the Emerald Ash Borer. We propose to use the program NetLogo to model the predator-prey interactions between White Ash (Fraxinus americana), Emerald Ash Borer, and the wasp species Tetrastichus planipennisi, to determine the dispersion rate and efficacy of this biological control agent.

The model will incorporate predator-prey interactions between the organisms, as well as several external environmental factors that may influence dispersal, reproductive success, and life expectancy of the three species. Using the model, we will test varying initial population sizes and levels of reproductive success to most accurately determine parameters that will lead to the greatest success of our biological control agent. The NetLogo model will be an analogue for a Southern Ontario forest, and will be made using data collected from the McMaster forest in Hamilton, Ontario. It can be used to further understand the effects of Tetrastichus planipennisi on the Emerald Ash Borer in order to make potential recommendations to government agencies working on the control of this invasive species.

Karolidis, Constantine – Non-Mutualistic Co-Evolutionary Game Theory (Dr. George Dragomir)

Game Theory is the study of strategic decision making. Mainly used for economics, political science, and psychology, it allows us to construct mathematical model strategies for decision-making in conflictual and cooperative situations. Co-evolutionary game theory is the application of game theory to evolving populations in biology and focuses on intra and inter-specific competition. Examples include predator-prey competition. The problem present is to determine different hunting tactics for the predators and different evading tactics for the prey to determine what is the best strategy for each species.

The aim of this project is to develop a computer simulation that models a competitive non-mutualistic inter-species co-evolutionary system with different predator vs prey scenarios to select the best strategy for the prey and the predator through evolutionary game theory concepts. Through this, I hope to obtain a better understanding of coding using python and understand Game Theory and how to apply it to other topics.

To do this, I will use python to simulate different predator vs prey models. Using a payoff matrix, I will be able to visualize the different payoffs present with each strategy and then determine which strategy the player should choose.

Results that I can expect to come across are the Nash Equilibrium, symmetric payoffs, and saddle point payoffs. These results will be obtained using programming software such as python.

This research will be able to provide a mathematical model to visually represent predator vs prey models and the strategies used by the prey and predators using payoff matrices.

Lindzon, Abby and Sakhi, Theresia- Predator-Prey Modeling Lab 2.0 (Dr. Chad Harvey)

Predator-prey relationships are a significant interspecies interaction. Observing how species behave in predator-prey systems is essential for understanding population growth and decline. However, this is often difficult due to the potential disruption of the systems which can alter predator or prey behaviours, leading to inaccurate data. As a result, several mathematical models, notably the Lotka-Volterra equations, are utilized to map the dynamic nature of ecological systems. These models allow for the examination of interspecies interactions such as predation.

The Plant-Animal Interaction research project of level II Integrated Science asked students to complete a predator-prey modelling laboratory experiment which simulated the interactions of 4 prey and 3 predators in an ecosystem. Students were asked to analyze their results using a growth model equation and interpret their results as analogs for real-world systems. This experiment had several challenges due to the poor quality of the data it generated, as well as its difficulty for students unfamiliar with statistical analysis.

The objective of this project was to improve upon this experiment both in its simulation of predator-prey interactions, as well as in it’s level of difficulty for students. The original experimental parameters, caloric requirements for each predator, and foraging time predators are allocated, were altered to portray prey, predator, and habitat relationships more realistically. As well, an excel document was created to aid students in data input and organization, thus increasing lab efficiency.

This new lab design will give students a greater understanding of ecological modelling, analysis, and their applications in real-world ecosystems.

Mahetaji, Kaushar and Raufdeen, Fasna- Interdisciplinary Science Material for First-Year University Students Using Results from Pedagogical Study Based on David K. Kolb’s Theory of Learning (Dr. George Dragomir)

The transition into the first year of university can often seem disconcerting as an academic experience. While student success greatly relies on previously learned mathematical and scientific concepts, students enter university with differing levels  of understanding. Students may have engaged inconsistently with the same material or have taken different courses of study, despite a uniform Ontario high-school curriculum. McMaster University’s Integrated Science Program seeks to address these inconsistencies and knowledge gaps by providing first-year students with six weeks of review.

The objective of this project is to apply the principles of David Kolb’s Learning Theory to design a life science and mathematics manual that will be distributed in the summer prior to their first year.

Kolb’s Learning Theory offers a pedagogical method to experiential education. According to Kolb, the learning process can be imagined as a cycle comprised of four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Effective learning is achieved when an individual progresses through all stages. Furthermore, the four learning stages are not independent, and are instead reliant upon one another.

To formulate these math and life science documents, learning assessment data was collected from current Grade 12 high-school and first-year university students. This data was statistically analyzed through the Friedman test and the results were used to design both manuals, incorporating all four stages of learning with particular emphasis placed on the stages deemed the most effective through the student survey.

This project aims to provide students with a fundamental basis in life science and mathematics prior to the start of their first year in the Integrated Science Program.

Mar, Sarah and Rathod, Megh-Development of Bacterial Sample Collection and Analysis Protocol (Russ Ellis)

The selection and combination of lab techniques are unique to each research question within microbiology. In specific, undergraduate student research that focuses on public bacterial contamination requires a simple protocol that effectively quantifies and differentiates bacterial samples. Resource availability, time and reproducibility are major factors in developing such protocol. The purpose of this project was to create a easy, reproducible and non-invasive undergraduate lab protocol that analyzes bacterial contamination of public locations.

Multiple sampling and plating methods were tested to determine the most effective way to obtain bacterial samples. Phenotypic and macroscopic analysis, gram staining, antibiotic susceptibility and MacConkey indicator medium were used to qualitatively analyze the bacteria. Image J software was used to quantify bacterial growth by calculating average bacterial colony surface area per plate. Positive and negative controls used were based on literature and previous protocols.

This protocol was applied to samples collected from McMaster University campus. This location was chosen for convenience and to gain the interest undergraduate students. All sampling and analysis tests were completed twice. The results explore common bacteria present in five frequently accessed locations. Mills Memorial Library site was determined to have the greatest bacteria surface area growth per plate. Bacteria samples from all locations were phenotypically separated into ten categories, seven of which were confirmed as being gram negative. The protocol demonstrates an easy and non-invasive method to sample and analyze bacteria that can be applied to preliminary research and undergraduate labs.

Pasquariello, Michael-Geometrical Representation of Musical Harmonies and Progressions (Dr. George Dragomir)

Musical pieces are structured using a set of conventions collectively referred to as music theory. Although music allows for freedom of expression, theoretical concepts such as roman numeral notation for harmonic analysis and consonance/dissonance are rather rigid in the sense that they standardize across eras and genres. This may seem restrictive, however, it provides composers and listeners with a standard by which to read and transpose music of any era to produce the sound intended by the original artist.  

Music within a particular era tends to follow trends in melodies and harmonies catered to the likes of that era’s listeners. For example, music in the Renaissance Era (1420-1600) began utilizing tonal pitch, which involves structuring pieces around the tonic – the first note in a key. As music progressed, however, composers began to flirt with atonally structured music. My work will introduce Neo-Riemannian theory, a modern approach to music theory which offers harmonic chord structuring that references the tonic. An online Tonnetz visualizer will be utilized to represent this theory in a two-dimensional geometrical space, where chord progressions correspond to geometric transformations such as reflections and rotations.

Additionally, I will explore some of the advantages of such a representation as well as some common criticisms of Neo-Riemannian Theory. Albeit quite different from modern representations of music theory, Neo-Riemannian theory provides an interesting avenue to explore the relationship between music and mathematics.

Poole, Kristen, Singh, Natasha, and Zogheib, Ciara – Heaven on Fire: Historical and Global Perspectives of the Aurora Borealis (Dr. Sarah Symons)

The aurora borealis have been occurring across the northern hemisphere throughout recorded history, spanning different time periods, cultures, and scientific methodology. Both scientific and nonscientific observations of the northern lights have been preserved through oral and written accounts. This project uses the rich history of the observation and study of the aurora borealis as a framework through which to explore how explicative theories of natural phenomenon can transition from mythology to science over time; and how these theories may differ based on culture and location.

We explore the history of the aurora borealis from local folkloric explanations, to the first scientific observations, to a globalized modern understanding. This is accomplished through analysis of primary and secondary sources, both historical and scientific. Areas of particular focus include the Americas, Europe, and Asia. We investigate the possibility of temporal and geographical patterns in how individuals perceive the aurora borealis, examining global perspectives to explore overarching trends. This research allows critical reflection on the means by which we arrive at our current knowledge. It also sheds light on the individuals and cultures that contributed to this knowledge, who are often unacknowledged or overlooked in Eurocentric history of science narratives.

Porteous, Morgan and Xiang, Emily-University and the Brain: An Investigation into Stress Management (Russ Ellis)

Poor mental health among North American university students is currently a grave concern. Poor mental health is hypothesized to stem from stress associated with the demanding nature of academic performance and transitions that characterize this life stage. This stage is important because the rate of developmental changes occurring in the brain during adolescence is ranked second only to infancy, thus making university students more vulnerable to external environmental factors. This literature review maps the progression of stress from environmental stimuli that activate neurochemical pathways, to physiological and psychological responses, and finally to coping mechanisms and treatment methods. Moreover, this literature review focuses on the implications and treatment modalities for stress on young adult brains currently in the late stages of development, yet are exposed to the extreme pressures associated with university life. A thorough investigation was conducted analyzing psychological and physiological methods of stress management. Psychological coping mechanisms of students include denial, procrastination, and the desire to exercise or indulge in comfort foods. Additionally, students may also seek psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy. On the other hand, physiological treatment modalities incorporate the use of pharmaceutical antidepressants including serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as well as neurological stimulation procedures like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and early uses of optogenetics. The aim of this literature review is to discuss the physiology of stress, how young adults cope with stress, and explore available and alternative approaches to stress relief.

Wong, Lindsey and Yee, Ruby-Modelling ALS propagation patterns within the body using Netlogo (Russ Ellis)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative motor neuron disease. ALS typically originates at a random location in the body (a stochastic focal point) and propagates outward via adjacent motor neurons causing neuronal death and dysfunction that affects various organ systems. ALS phenotypes vary mainly by location of disease onset within the body. The disease can originate at almost any location, resulting in dramatically different propagation patterns between individuals.

An agent-based NetLogo model was used to depict ALS propagation, giving a visual representation of the effects of motor neuron death. Patches were designated as different regions of the body, and the amount of damage to certain areas was related to known disease symptoms. The likelihood of disease spread, secondary onset, speech impairment, and respiratory complications were incorporated into the NetLogo code using data available in literature. Several simulations were performed, with the option of varying disease onset location, age, gender, and type of ALS (sporadic or familial). The accuracy of the model was also addressed with respect to known progression patterns. This model is intended for use in predicting patient prognosis and increasing the patient’s understanding of their form of ALS and the symptoms they may experience. To improve the integrity of this model, parameters such as specific vulnerability and resistance of different muscles (due to innervation ratios), as well as individual body size and proportion are recommended for future consideration.