Winners' Abstracts


Michael Concepción Santana, Bayamón Military Academy, Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor: Dorielys M. Valentín, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor Assistant: Luis M. Ortiz Jordan, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Harlequin ichthyosis is a rare genetic disorder with unestablished cure that mainly affects the skin. Infants with this condition are born with thick skin covering most of their skin. This genetic disorder is caused by a mutation in the ABCA12 gene. The ABCA12 gene contains information for developing proteins that are essential for the development of the skin and has an important role transferring fats lipids in the epidermis. The purpose of this research was to appraise the dissimilarity between ABCA12 and ABCA13 and in the selected species determine the evolutionary changes in the gene of interest. The methods used in this research were Pubmed, NCI-Blast, Genedoc, MEME, Mega5, PDB, VMD. NCBI (Pubmed) is a free database accessing the MEDLINE database of references. GENEDOC is a Full Featured Multiple Sequence Alignment Editor, Analyzer and Shading Utility. MEME is a method that search “motifs” in the protein. MEGA 5 is an integrated tool for conducting automatic and manual sequence alignment, inferring phylogenetic trees. VMD is a method that builds 3D structures of the protein. (Back to winners' section)



Shaquille Raé Carrión Díaz, Cristo de los Milagros Academy, Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor: Dorielys Valentín, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor Assistant: Luis Ortiz Jordan, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome is a metabolic disorder that prevents the human body from developing enough cholesterol to support normal growth and development due to a low occurrence of the 7-DHC reductase enzyme. It is inherited; one cannot be infected. For a child to inherit this syndrome, both of his/her parents must carry a defective copy of the DHCR7 gene. It is a very dangerous syndrome that causes from physical deformities, failure of the organs, mental retardation, and poor growth. The objectives of this investigation were to find and contrast proteins in other animal species similar to Homo sapiens’ 7-DHC reductase enzyme and Lamin B Receptor, to investigate the conservation percentage between the proteins of the selected species, to construct and compare phylogenetic trees that represent the evolution and motifs, and to evaluate the differences in the 7-DHC reductase enzyme and the Lamin B Receptor. The programs used were: Genedoc, MEGA 5, and Visual Molecular Dynamics (VMD). (Back to winners' section)



Desiree Gómez, Margarita Janer Palacios High School, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor: Dorielys Valentin, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Assistant Research Mentor: Luis Ortiz, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Epidermolysis Bullosa is a skin disease where blisters appear on the skin and in the mucosal area. It affects women and men equally and could appear at any age or the person might even be born with the condition. It does not have cure, but there are things that the person can do to improve the situation. The mutation is induced by proteins, which are inherited, and it causes the separation of tissue and blister formation. There are different types of Epidermolysis Bullosa, such as Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa and Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa. For this research, two different types of collagen alpha were used to develop the investigation. Bio-informatics tools were used to compare the two proteins with two different types of the conditions. The programs used were GENEDOC to find the sequence and to analyze the sequence alignment, Mega5 for create a visual phylogenetic tree and Visual Molecular Dynamics to create 3D models of the proteins. (Back to winners' section)



Soleil Valentín Carrero, C.R.O.E.M. School, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Prof. Pieter Van der Meer, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor Assistant: Gilberto Jiménez, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

Spider silk is a filamentous natural fiber protein made, in part, of complex protein microstructures, fragile in appearance, but these webs can stop insects in midflight and are robust enough to trap their prey. Despite this light and delicate appearance, it is a high-performance biomaterial, with high rates of modulus of elasticity, tensile strength and tensile strain. The purpose of this research was to find out whether spider silk is more resistant than steel or not. According to Yoneda (2010), “Scientists Unlock Secret of Super Strong Spider Silk Material,” spider silk may seem fragile, but it actually has a tensile strength that is a whopping five times more than steel. Based on this information, could spider silk be stronger and more flexible than steel actually used for constructions? The qualities of the spider silk are unique because they combine fiber proteins into physical and mechanical engineering properties depending on the species. That is why Nephila Clavipes was the species of spider used for this research because of its high stress and strain. Four (4) samples of Nephila Clavipes silk were examined and taken to a laboratory where they were tested in a tensile tester to find out their physical properties. The results of the physical properties of the spider silk were compared to the physical properties of steel and stainless steel. After comparing results, Nephila Clavipes silk proved to be stronger and more flexible than steel materials used in actual constructions. Comparison charts and graphs are used to display this information. (Back to winners' section)



Nilka T. Meléndez, Calasanz School, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor: Dorielys Valentín, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor Assistant: Luis Ortiz, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that can affect many parts of the body, including the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and skin. It can cause the growth of non-cancerous tumors on nerve tissue and bone abnormalities. Bioinformatics tools were used to analyze relationships between Merlin and Radixin, such as motifs, conserved amino acids and phylogeny. The programs used included EBI, GeneDoc, Mega 5, Meme, and more. (Back to winners' section)



Jessica N. Ríos Santiago, Santa María del Camino School, Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor: Dorielys Valentín, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor Assistant: Luis Ortiz, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Ovarian cancer is a disease that develops in the female reproductive area after menopause. It is the third most common form of cancer in women and it can be treated, but not cured. It is still unknown what really causes this cancer, but there are some factors that can make it appear such as fertility, infections, obesity and malignant transformations of epithelial cells. PIK3C2A is a protein found in the malignant epithelial cells and the high production of it is a cancer-causing factor. The symptoms of this disease appear until the cancer is spread. The objectives of this research were to investigate the difference of the proteins PIK3C2A and PIK3C2B, and to find and contrast these proteins by means of bioinformatics tools. The programs used to accomplish this work were GeneDoc, MEGA5 and Visual Molecular Dynamics (VMD). (Back to winners' section)



Zabdiel Roldán Ayala, Carvin School, Inc, Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor: Dorielys Valentín, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor Assistant: Luis Ortiz, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Rubinstein Taybi syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects cell growth. The most common symptoms are broad thumbs, altered facial features and mental limitations in the person affected with the disorder. This genetic disorder is caused by a mutation of the CREBBP gene. Once the mutation has occurred, the gene produces low quantities or none of the CREB. This genetic disorder is affected by another gene called Ep300 that produces p300, but it is mutated and has the same consequence as CREBBP. The purpose of this research was to compare these two proteins by means of bioinformatics tools. Some of the processes done were a phylogenetic tree using MEGA5 and motifs and work to find differences between these two proteins. (Back to winners' section)



Kelvin Santana Rodríguez, University Gardens High School, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Reasearch Mentor: Dorielys Valentín, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Student Research Mentor Assistant: Luis Ortíz, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan Puerto Rico.

Usher Syndrome Type 1 (dystrophia retinae pigmentosa-dysostosis syndrome) is an inherited genetic disorder that causes the individual to progressively lose hearing and vision, thus resulting in balance problems as well. This syndrome is accompanied by retinistis pigmentosa which is the cause of the vision loss in the individual. The PCDH15 gene, one of the genes related to this syndrome, plays an essential role in maintenance of normal retinal and cochlear function. Mutations in this gene result in hearing loss and, for that matter, Usher Syndrome Type 1. The purpose of this research was to compare the PCDH15 and PCDH17 using bioinformatics tools to analyze multiple sequences, conserved regions and phylogenetic trees. The PCDH15 was compared with the PCDH17 gene because it belongs to the same family of genes called CDH (cadherin superfamily). Some of the programs used were GeneDoc and MEGA5. (Back to winners' section)


Netsha Santiago, Caguas Private School, Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Brenda Torres-Velásquez, Universidad del Turabo, Gurabo, Puerto Rico.

The purpose of this investigation was to compare, observe, and analyze three different diseases with similar symptoms of the three types of species of mosquitoes. There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes. Because it is difficult to differentiate all of the species, scientists focus on the three species that cause the most problems on humans: Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex. The Aedes mosquito is known for carrying Yellow Fever, Dengue Virus, and Lymphatic Filariasis; the Anopheles gambiae mosquito for carrying malaria, and the Culex mosquito spread Filariasis, West Nile Virus, Avian Malaria, Japanese encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis. The Dengue Virus, Malaria and the West Nile Virus are the most common diseases that the human being would get by being bitten by mosquitoes and the ones that cause most problems on humans. (Back to winners' section)



Alondra Yaritza Báez Nieves. Manuela Toro Morice School, Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Brenda Torres-Velásquez, Universidad del Turabo, Gurabo, Puerto Rico.

Have you ever asked yourself how diseases passed from generation to generation? How does one know, if kids or grandchildren would get a family disease? The topic of epilepsy was chosen. It has been proven that epilepsy can be obtained by inheritance, but, How does one know in what generation of a family, the epilepsy will be inherited or expressed? To study the pattern of inheritance, the syndrome of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME) autosomal dominant, was chosen. Based on studies, GABRA1 (locus 5q34) is one of the genes related to develop JME when this gene suffers mutations. To know how the inheritance works, the pedigree was studied. Combinations were made with family patterns and the probabilities to carry the mutated gene, to inherit the mutated gene and, to develop JME diseases, according to Mendelian laws, particularly the Principle of Segregation; and Autosomal Dominant Inheritance characteristics. As an analysis tool, Punnett Square was used. This research work presents a few cases of JME inheritance and results about future generations from those cases. (Back to winners' section)



Ariadna S. Claudio Ortiz, College of Advance Education Gaudi, Humacao, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Laysa M. Claudio González, University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, Puerto Rico.

Folic acid is a vitamin B that could prevent fetus birth defects, like brain defects and medulla spinal defects denominated as neural tube defects (NTD) when it is taken before pregnancy and in the first weeks of pregnancy. There are several foods enriched with folic acid, rice being one of them; therefore, rice was the sample studied. To determine the quantity of folic acid contained in rice, a volumetric method (tritrimetric) was used utilizing a titration process with NaOH 0.02 M and phenolphthalein as the indicator. Using the Gaussview and Gaussian programs, the chemical surface of the folic acid was also analyzed to determine the most important functional groups of the molecule that interact with the development of the fetus. In future investigations, a study will be made to determine the percent of folic acid contained in corn cereal (Corn Flakes) in comparison to the percent given in the label of the box, and a determination will be made on how the amount of folic acid is affected, if affected, when milk is added to the chocolate powder Quick. (Back to winners' section)



Nishmar Cestero González, Episcopal Cathedral School, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Raúl O. Colón, Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Today there are a great number of applications made for mobile phones, but there are not many designed to be of use to scientists. The purpose of this research project was to develop a mobile application which caters to the scientific community. The app functions as a scientific, etymology dictionary titled “SciEtym.” Users would be able to search for the meanings of scientific word roots, prefixes, and suffixes or select them from a list. Additionally, the user would view several words derived from the selected morpheme (root, prefix, or suffix). The list box of morphemes was populated with an array of these. The meanings and derived words were stored in parallel arrays, which could be retrieved and displayed for the user with the binary search method. Since the binary search method requires sorted arrays, a selection sort method was implemented. The use of the binary search and selection methods were done with the goal of using effective programming methods because the app relies on a phone’s limited resources. SciEtym was developed for Windows Phone 7 using Silverlight C# in Visual Studio. This app will be useful to the scientific community and students because it can aid in learning and recognizing the large amount of terminology that they must become familiar with. (Back to winners' section)



Valeria Menéndez, San Benito School, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Prof. Pieter Van der Meer, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor Assistant: Gilberto Jiménez, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

This research focuses on the effectiveness of the ridiculous association memory-assist system when paired up with technology in the classroom. The problem addressed is the difficulty of memorization of the students in the classroom which eventually leads to poor grades and so on. If this problem is resolved and memorization is made easier and more enjoyable for students in the near future, these methods can be fully implemented, resulting in fewer students failing their classes and the number of future dropouts being reduced significantly. The hypothesis is that both technology and creative means such as the ridiculous association are used more effectively than they do with the conventional teaching strategies normally used in schools. The method used was an experiment. The experimental process involved the students (independent variable) from a normal school, from the same grade and class who were subjected to taking a class (dependent variable) normally and were examined through a questionnaire. After that, a second lesson was provided (of the same difficulty and length of their past lesson thanks to planning previously made with their teacher) and in this lesson, both technology and the ridiculous association were used, the results from the second lesson being considerably better than the ones from their first. (Back to winners' section)



Odemaris Carrasquillo; José Aponte de la Torre School, Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Prof. Yiria E. Muñiz Costas; José Aponte de la Torre School, Carolina, Puerto Rico.

This research is intended to apply a new agricultural technique, using "potassium polyacrylate" as an absorbing agent of water and a geotextile membrane used to retain moisture by the condensation of water vapor, supplying land necessary conditions for the development of crops, reducing the need for irrigation systems and avoiding plants to dry due to weather conditions. To perform this investigation, three models were prepared, one being the control and other two were the experimental groups. The control group only had “San Antón” Mollisol soil, while the experimental group A had “San Antón” soil and polymers; the third, or experimental group B, had the same San Antón” soil, polymers and the geotextile membrane on the surface of the planter. Once the planters were prepared, they remained under observation for 30 days. The first 20 days the plants were normally watered and the other 10 days they were not watered in order to monitor the efficiency of the polymers and the geotextile membrane. Once the observation period concluded, it was determined that the growth of the plants in experimental group B was the most developed. Therefore, the conclusion was that the membrane was able to condense the water vapor present in the environment and retained the humidity in the plant’s roots. Also, the polymers acted as was expected, maintaining the humidity, and providing the necessary conditions to enable the plant to develop effectively. (Back to winners' section)



Melanie E. Quiñones Candelaria; José Aponte de la Torre School, Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Prof. Yiria E. Muñiz Costas; José Aponte de la Torre School, Carolina, Puerto Rico.

The Rhyzophora mangle is the predominant species of mangroves in the Caribbean. How does the human activity affect the quality of the water? How does the quality of the water affect the reproduction of the Rhyzophora mangle? The impact of human activity on the quality of water has a destructive impact on Rhyzophora mangle. The Piñones Mangrove Forest and Laguna Grande in Fajardo were compared in this investigation. The Piñones Mangrove Forest has no access control, resulting in higher, unsupervised human activity and waste water sewage drains that flow into the waters. Laguna Grande in Fajardo has controlled access. In the spring of 2007, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources banned swimming in Laguna Grande in Fajardo to reduce the wear and tear on the bay and allowed nature to begin undoing the damage that humans inflicted on the environment. Water quality was determined by measuring the pH, the nitrate, and phosphate, turbidity of the water, alkalinity and dissolved oxygen. Each of the parameters of the water contamination was measured with La Motte kits. The Rhyzophora mangle development and abundance were observed. After evaluating both places, the results revealed that the water at the Piñones Mangrove Forest was more contaminated than in Laguna Grande, translating this into the impact on the Rhyzophora mangle. (Back to winners' section)



Laura Aponte, Yazmín Torres; Padre Aníbal Reyes Belén School, Hatillo, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentors: Dr. Sixto González, Edvier Cabassa, Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor Assistant: Jenipher D. González, Bautista de Caguas Academy, Caguas, Puerto Rico.

The importance of studying geomagnetic storms is basically twofold. One refers to their academic aspect of being considered a central part of geophysics. The other involves practical aspects that in some cases can represent a particular concern for mankind. In the last 50 years, several studies have been conducted on the influences and responses of the ionosphere to the geomagnetic storm. There are just a few studies based on ISR data (Incoherent Scatter Radar) such as the Arecibo Observatory radar. The data gaps found can be attributed to a number of factors, the most important of these being the high cost of operation of this kind of instrument, i.e., it is too expensive to run this type of radar for long periods. The few simultaneous registers of ISR and geomagnetic storms occurred by coincidence during some experiments and generally did not encompass a whole storm. This work analyzed the whole Dst index data bank (which gives information about the strength of the ring current around earth caused by solar protons and electrons precipitation) in order to identify all the storms that occurred in the last 57 years (from January 1, 1957 until December 31, 2008). Based on this survey, a statistical model of forecasting will be constructed in order to evaluate the more susceptive periods of storm occurrence for the growth stage of the solar cycle #24 and based on the output from that model the group of Arecibo Observatory researchers will be able to schedule radar time in order to try to obtain ISR registers for an entire storm. This forecast will be based on the day of the year (season), solar activity (based on F107cm index) and in function of the Bartels’ cycle (27-day variations in geomagnetic activity linked to the solar rotation period). (Back to winners' section)



Karlene Vega and Gabriela Báez, St. Mary’s School, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Ramón A. Cardona, Inter-American University Metropolitan Campus, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The end result of this project was to make the iRobot Create solve a simplified version of the famous 15-puzzle. In order for this to be tested appropriately, a virtual environment of the classic game for Mirage was constructed using the WorldBuilder syntax. For efficiency purposes, the complexity of the puzzle was reduced by decreasing the number of tiles; instead of a 16 x16 grid, a 4x4 was used. One of the first steps for the robot to address this problem was to break the task into manageable bits of actions with a lesser degree of difficulty. To complete the revised 3-puzzle, the Create must push a tile vertically or horizontally to an empty space leaving behind a new empty space. This process continues until the tiles are in proper order. To the robot, this simple puzzle involves a sequence of elaborate actions like: visual recognition, path planning, object selection and manipulation, localization task and a little reasoning to develop the right strategy. These actions inevitably require coding in low-level, which demands greater expertise of programming principles. This is one of the main reasons why the solution was developed using the Tekkotsu framework. It provides a set of tools for coding, graphic representation and debugging, as well as a complete library solution for high-level abstraction. (Back to winners' section)



Ana Rossetti, C.R.O.E.M. School, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor: Prof. Pieter Van der Meer, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
Research Mentor Assistant: Gilberto Jiménez, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

To prove whether ammonia is effective or not at killing bacteria contained in beef trimmings, a test was run. The number of bacteria in beef trimmings depends on what substance the beef is in contact with. Distilled water does not promote bacteria growth or reduces it so it was chosen as the control substance, while ammonia is the antimicrobial agent under study. Two separated groups (A and B) of beef trimmings were selected. Group A was soaked in distilled water and Group B was soaked in ammonium hydroxide for different times. The samples were turned into dilutions of 10¹ and 10³ and were inserted into agar plates. As expected, all samples from group A were filled with bacteria. The samples of group B showed a significant reduction of bacteria, some samples did not even contain bacteria. The biggest average amount of bacteria that survived the ammonia treatment was 3500 bacteria per gram, which is not enough to make a human sick. The smallest average of bacteria per gram was 23.33. The ammonia treatment worked perfectly. It killed almost all of the bacteria in the beef and left the beef safe to consume. Thus ammonia proved to be an effective antimicrobial agent. (Back to winners' section)