• Odd Woman Out: Women in Non-Traditional Post-Secondary Career and Technical Education

      Pellom, Renee Denise; Tift College of Education
      The approval of legislation in the United States granting women equal entry into non-traditional career and technical education (CTE) occupational fields has not guaranteed their equitable inclusion into non-traditional occupations. In general, government, education, and industry leaders have not been successful in their attempts to adequately recruit, retain, and provide necessary supports for females to enroll in and remain in non-traditional post-secondary CTE careers. The purpose of this study is to describe the lived experiences of current and post-graduate women in post-secondary non-traditional CTE. This description of their experiences of navigating a predominantly male environment is considered through the lens of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in self-determination theory. The researcher utilized a qualitative phenomenological line of inquiry to describe and understand the under-told experiences of the participants. A purposeful sampling strategy was used to recruit 11 adult women (18 years or older) who were current students or recent graduates from a non-traditional CTE program in the last 18 months. Participants who were graduates were required to be currently employed in their field of study. The researcher engaged in semi-structured one-on-one interviews and utilized strategies to address data credibility that included transferability of the data by way of a thick, rich description, triangulation, engagement in reflexivity, verification through an audit trail, and utilization of external auditors. Results of the research show that participants were highly motivated, self-determined individuals who actively engaged in multi-dimensional behaviors that expressed a marked sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness throughout their academic, professional, and personal lives. The women utilized diverse forms of strategy and dynamic engagement to aid them in navigating relationships with individuals at their schools, on their jobs, and among family members and friends. Most women identified physical or interpersonal challenges at school or work because of their gender. They also reported ultimately forming positive relationships with many of the men around them, but several women continued to lack needed physical and social supports. Recommendations for future research include utilizing participant observations, and conducting additional qualitative and quantitative studies with women from diverse non-traditional post-secondary CTE careers and institutions.
    • On the Shoulders of Giants: Helping Students Understand Mathematics through its History

      Henderson, David K; Tift College of Education
      The IDEAS curriculum and instruction model was designed to help secondary students better understand mathematics by incorporating the historical development of the subject into classroom instruction. IDEAS is an acronym that describes the components of the model: I (Introduce the concept through a hands-on activity); D (Discover the historical, cultural, and human context through biography); E (Examine the primary sources through inquiry); A (Actualize the learning through written reflection); and S (Synthesize the understanding through practice and application). This study examined the effectiveness of the IDEAS model in a secondary setting, with 107 students enrolled in a pre-calculus course at a large suburban Title I public school in the southeastern United States. The IDEAS model was studied in both a classroom (face-to-face) context and a digital (online) context. A mixed methods approach was used, employing a quasi-experimental design, to determine the effectiveness of the intervention (the implementation of the IDEAS model). Quantitative data included pre- and post-intervention questionnaires, content assessments, and written reflections. Qualitative data included written reflections and one-on-one interviews. The main findings of this study were that the IDEAS model (1) increased participants’ understanding of the nature of mathematics (p < .02; d = .66); (2) helped participants develop a more positive attitude toward mathematics and its history; and (3) increased participants’ academic achievement in mathematics (p < .05; d = .33). These results have implications for secondary students, teachers, administrators, and researchers.
    • Optimization Of Protein Purification Paths For Clover-ruby2 Fluorescent Proteins For In Vivo Kinetic Model Development

      Fussell, Robert Charles
      Chromophores are photoactive molecules that can be excited by light and return to ground state by fluorescence. When two different fluorescent proteins are tethered together, an excited donor can transfer energy to the acceptor via a process called Förster Resonance Energy Transfer, FRET, if certain conditions are met. FRET results in the acceptor becoming excited as well, leading to emission at a specific wavelength. The phenomenon is useful for several different experiments such as protease assays, in which cleavage of the protein linking the donor and acceptor abolishes FRET as the pair separates. This mechanism would prove useful when comparing affinity and turnover rates of proteases on the fluorescent protein labeled surface loops of G protein coupled receptors, GPCR, in future investigations. However, the accuracy of the data can be affected by protein interactions that can inflate or deflate detectable FRET. There has been little research in the different methods of purification and their effects on the purity and functionality of the fluorescent proteins. To determine the effects by different chromatography columns, different purification protocols were devised. In addition, several experiments on the fluorescent proteins alone were done to determine the factors such as light, temperature, salinity, and concentration that contributed towards degradation and aggregation. Results identified the most successful protocol. Application of a G-25 desalting column followed by an ion exchange and gel filtration columns produced an almost pure substrate and the most functional mRuby-2. Additionally, maturation for 6 hours in low salt conditions allowed for optimized mRuby-2. Maintaining concentrations of the FRET pair at 1.5μM to 2.5μM provided concise quantity control data. The protocol can be utilized for in vitro vs in vivo model, to accurately determine the effectiveness of enzymes on GPCR surface loop.
    • Oral Microparticulate Prostate Cancer Vaccine: A Promising Immunotherapeutic Approach

      Parenky, Ashwin; College of Pharmacy
      Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among men in the United States. Currently, there are 5 new agants approved in the United States against prostate cancer which include Sipuleucel-T, cabazitaxel, abiraterone acetate, enzalutamide and radium-223. Introduction of these agents into the clinic are important strides; however, resistance to chemotherapeutic agents is still a significant challenge, Furthermore, when patients suffer from recurrence of prostate cancer, survival is less than five months. Hence, there is an urgent need to investigate alternative approaches to treat castration resistant prostate cancer and prevent relapse. Immunotherapeutic approaches to treat cancer are under intense investigation owing to their specificity and potency to eliminate tumors. One of the most intensely studied areas in the cancer research is identification of cancer antigens that can help indicate progression of cancer, in certain scenarios these antigens may also serve as vaccines for cancer immunotherapy. These cancer antigens are important because they boost the immune system to specifically recognize and kill tumors. In our studies, we have investigated two different antigens to combat prostate cancer. Sperm protein-17 and tumor associated antigens extracted from TRAMP C2 murine prostate cancer cell line were investigated as potential therapeutic vaccines. The above mentioned antigens are proteins and protein antigens themselves have poor bioavailability and absorption thus making it difficult to initiate immune response against the cancer. Particulate delivery systems encapsulating protein antigens have been proved to improve the delivery and efficacy of vaccine responses. Thus, particulate delivery systems are crucial in improving the delivery of these potent cancer antigens for a sustained and systemic anti-cancer activity, Another important aspect of vaccine delivery is the route of vaccination owing to its patient compliance and ease of administration. However, several challenges such as harsh gastric environment and tolerance induction has hindered successful clinical effectiveness of oral vaccines. Adjuvants have always been administered along with vaccines for decades. FDA approved vaccines such as Gardasil and Cerverix both have adjuvants to boost immunity. Thus, identifying appropriate adjuvants that will help boost anti-tumor activity is paramount. In order to increase the potency of our vaccine, several toll-like receptor (TLR) and non-TLR adjuvants were also studied. In this study, we have developed an oral microparticulate vaccine encapsulating two distinct antigens against prostate cancer. SP17 and antigens extracted from murine prostate cancer cell line were encapsulated separately in microparticles. Microparticulate vaccines were characterized for their physiochemical properties in vitro and evaluated for their antigenicity on murine dendritic cells. In order to protentiate vaccine efficacy, we also included adjuvants in microparticulate formulations and evaluated their potential to enhance the antigenicity of our vaccine formulations. SP17 administration. Several adjuvants such as R848, MPL, MF59 and alum were selected for future studies in vivo studies. The second part of this project focuses on formulation of a microparticulate vaccine encapsulating tumor associated antigens extracted from a murine prostate cancer cell line (TRAMP C2). We investigated the potential of our formulated vaccine along with two adjuvant microparticles, ALUM and MF59, to boost anti-tumor response against prostate cancer. Finally, to prove the effectiveness of our vaccine and overcome the tumor "immune escape" mechanism in cancer, we also performed a therapeutic in vivo study on a murine prostate cancer model. Encouraging results from the in vivo study demonstrate excellent anti-tumor activity of our therapeutic vaccine. We observed a significant reduction in tumor volume and sustained anti-tumor T-cell activity in vivo. Thus, we could also demonstrate , in our experiments, the importance of combination therapy which inhibits cancer "immune escape" mechanisms and improves vaccine efficacy.
    • Overian Cancer Microparticulate Vaccines: Effect of Routes of Administration

      Tawde, Suprita Ashok; College of Pharmacy
      Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological cancer in the U.S. First-line treatment for advanced cancer involves surgery followed by chemotherapy. However, cancer relapses within short periods of time even after treatment. Therefore, alternative approach of immunotherapy is being investigated. We studied vaccination with microparticles containing the ovarian cancer antigens can prevent/retard ovarian cancer growth. Oral and transdermal routes are attractive modes of immunization because of their ease of administration and patient compliance. In this project we explored microparticulate system to target immune cells and to initiate response against ovarian cancer antigens via oral, subcutaneous and transdermal delivery. We selected a murine cell line which correlates closely to human cell line in terms of antigen expression and tumor formulation. We prepared the antigenic lysate and characterized it for the presence of a known antigen. We loaded micro-particulate delivery systems with the lysate. These particles were formulated with desired physical properties suitable for particle uptake and for anticipated immune response. In the present study, we demonstrate the efficacy of vaccine formulations wuth was evaluated in vivo in mouse tumor model, using the murine ovarian cancer cell line as a solid tumor model via oral, transdermal, subcutaneous and via combination of oral and transdermal routes. The tumor volumes upon challenge with live tumor cells were monitored in vaccinated animals and control animals. Humoral and cellular immune response in all the animals were monitored to determine the immune mechanism initiated by the vaccine microparticles. Encouraging results from these prophylactic particulate overian cancer studies provided the basis to design therapeutic study to mimic the real-time scenario where patients with residual tumors after a surgery are the recipients of such vaccine therapy. Further, to elucidate the role of M-cells in particle uptake once administered orally, we induced M-cells in murine models and administered microparticles loaded with a model antigen with and without immune adjuvant. The immune response generated via these vaccine particles in mice models with induced M-cells was compared to control animals, to determine whether particles followed the M-cell pathway for their uptake in order to trigger immune cells.
    • Perceptions Of Immediate Family Members On Current Curricular Expectations For Individuals With Severe And Profound Intellectual Disabilities

      Lowe Windham, Meghan Dianne
      With consideration of current mandated standards-based curricular requirements for students with Intellectual Disabilities, this dissertation sought to examine the perceptions of students and their immediate family on how this curriculum supports students with Severe and Profound Intellectual Disabilities (SID/PID) to realize their post-secondary goals and aspirations. This qualitative case study considered the implementation of a standards-based curriculum versus a life-skills curriculum on the achievement post-secondary goals from the Transition Plans of four individuals with SID/PID. Pre-interview questionnaires, document analysis, semi-structured interviews, and journaling methods were used to answer the research questions. The researcher transcribed each interview utilizing the online software Sonix. Once transcribed, interviews were uploaded to QDA Miner, an online qualitative data analysis software that assists in coding and retrieval. The researcher coded the interviews, creating categories and subcategories. Themes that emerged from the data addressed the following: 1) how standards-based and life-skills curriculum each prepare individuals with SID/PID for post-graduation, and 2) perceptions of immediate family members on the impact of these curriculums post-secondarily. Data showed that all four students passed every part of the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA), but none of the former students met 100% of their post-secondary goals. Four themes emerged from the data: 1) these families favored the development of independent life-skills prior to graduation for their loved one with SID/PID, 2) the families did not feel that academic curriculum fostered post-graduation attainment of Transition Plan goals, 3) the families believe that additional teacher training is needed to increase awareness of parents’ rights and options, and 4) the families believe there is a need for a family-centered curriculum. Recommendations for further study include conducting a longitudinal study of families of students with SID/PID from 9th grade to age 25. This type of study could explore the path that families must take and the experience of making life-altering decisions at the beginning of the transition process, the transition immediately following graduation, and for life beyond.
    • Persistence as Resistance: A Phenomenological Narrative Analysis of the Africultural Coping and Motivational Strategies of African American College Students

      Scott, Miraca Joann; Tift College of Education
      Despite decades of institutional efforts to mitigate African American college student first-year attrition, this population continues to have the lowest graduation rates compared to other races and ethnicities (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021). Historically, the collegiate first and fourth years have received more attention from student success researchers due to their direct connection to institutional enrollment and graduation rates (Gahagan & Hunter, 2006); however, more recent research has indicated that the collegiate sophomore year poses the most significant threat to student retention and graduation rates (Perez, 2020). This qualitative study explored how racial-cultural identity salience, culture-specific coping behaviors, and motivation influenced how Afrocentric African American college students avoided college departure to persist to junior year successfully. Framed within an Afrocentric theoretical framework, a phenomenological narrative methodology was employed to assess students’ perceptions of which coping behaviors and motivational factors helped them overcome challenges experienced during their sophomore year at a southern public, four-year predominantly white institution. Six participants were recruited using criterion and snowball sampling techniques. Data analysis revealed 22 subthemes which were consolidated into six emergent themes: 1) Achievement-oriented Motivation, 2) Soundproofing, 3) Centripetal Autonomy, 4) Centripetal Grouping, 5) Self-Care, and 6) Self-Monitoring. Findings suggest an inextricable link between Black sophomores’ need for intraracial connection, the salience of their racial and cultural identity as African American or Black, and their community-centered motivations for persevering during their sophomore year. Implications for practice include establishing wrap-around support for African American sophomore students, championing and amplifying Black sophomore voices, and integrating culturally-aligned theory into higher education policy. For a representative body of literature, researchers are encouraged to abandon using theoretical models that embody Euro-American values when studying Black students. Implications of this study suggest future studies should be positioned using an Afrocentric theoretical framework to illuminate the needs of African American students.
    • Personal, Structural, And Social Characteristics Associated With Newly Licensed Registered Nurses' Confidence In Clinical Decision-making

      Naguszewski, Tanya L.
      Large numbers of newly licensed nursing graduates are entering the workforce and are immersed into complex care situations requiring high stakes decision-making. These nurses are expected to transition from a student nurse, supported by faculty, to a competent nurse caring independently for high acuity patients with multiple co-morbidities. Employers have reported new graduates are not fully prepared to provide safe, effective patient care. The purpose of this cross sectional, descriptive, correlational study was to examine relationships between demographic, personal, structural, and social characteristics of the work environment and newly licensed registered nurses’ perceived confidence in clinical decision-making in acute care nursing units. A web-based survey was accessed by 421 nurses working in acute care settings resulting in 177 completed surveys. Data were exported into Excel from SurveyMonkey® then imported into Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) for data cleaning. The extent of incomplete or missing data was determined and an analytic data set was created. A researcher developed instrument was piloted. Statistical assumptions were tested. Data analysis using descriptive statistics and multiple linear regressions addressed the research questions and results were reported. Results demonstrated nurse-nurse collaboration along with self-confidence and gender were the strongest predictors of newly licensed registered nurses’ perceived confidence in clinical decision-making. Additionally, social characteristics of collaboration, trust, and communication had positive relationships with newly licensed registered nurses perceived confidence in clinical decision-making. Nurse researchers must explore ways to enhance nurse-nurse collaboration by providing reflection and experiential learning activities designed to enhance social characteristics within the work environment. Future research is needed to examine nurse-nurse collaboration to determine if critical thinking competencies are being met and patient outcomes are improving. Researchers must also explore ways to enhance other desired social characteristics in newly licensed registered nurse training programs and promote intellectual collaboration in decision-making. This study offers multiple avenues for future research around newly licensed registered nurses’ desired social characteristics within the workplace related to enhancing clinical decision-making and improving patient outcomes.
    • Perspectives Of Stakeholders Of An Afterschool Program In An At-promise Community

      Rodgers, Angela Faye
      ABSTRACT Afterschool programs provide more than a supervised safe haven for children at the end of the school day and before parents return home from work. They can provide extended academic and enrichment activities for students who are “at-promise�? to succeed in their educational pursuit and human development. Based on the review of the literature on afterschool programs and theorists of human development, the following research question guided the investigation: What are the experiences of parents, teachers, and students of an afterschool program in an at-promise community? The participants in this study completed surveys, interviews, and shared personal stories which determined their perspectives of an afterschool program experience. Analysis of the data gathered demonstrated that the stakeholders in the afterschool program expressed that their lives were transformed in a positive manner since being affiliated with the afterschool program. The participants believe that an afterschool program that addresses participants’ needs in a holistic manner can alter the trajectory of the lives of children, youth, and families. On this basis, it is recommended that additional funding is needed to keep afterschool programs active as well as create more afterschool programs in at-promise communities throughout our nation.
    • Phosphorylation And Signaling Of The Long Splice Isoform Of Free-fatty Acid Receptor 4 (ffa4)

      Senatorov, Ilya S
      PHOSPHORYLATION AND SIGNALING OF THE LONG SPLICE ISOFORM OF FREE FATTY-ACID RECEPTOR 4 (FFA4) Under the direction of Dr. Nader H. Moniri ABSTRACT The G protein-coupled receptor Free-fatty Acid Receptor 4 (FFA4) is expressed ubiquitously throughout the human body where it plays role in modulation of endocrine, inflammatory, and metabolic processes. FFA4 has become a very attractive drug target because it has shown great promise in alleviating systemic inflammation as well as managing malfunctions in diseases resulting from inflammation such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Humans contain a unique splice variant of FFA4 which has not been found in any other mammals investigated. This variant contains an additional 16 amino acid insert and thereby divides the receptor into FFA4-Short (FFA4-S) and FFA4-Long (FFA4-L) isoforms. Although FFA4-S is found throughout the entire body, FFA4-L has only been found in colorectal tissue, a site where FFA4 expression and signaling has been strongly linked to tumorigenesis. More interestingly, although FFA4-L reacts to the same ligands as FFA4-S, FFA4-L has been demonstrated to possess an intrinsic bias towards β-arrestin signaling rather than coupling to G proteins. Due to the fact that there are currently many efforts to develop therapeutic agonists for FFA4 systemically, it is important to decipher signaling differences between the two receptors to help shed light on what outcomes may result from systemic agonist of both isoforms.   Given that β-arrestin signaling is dependent on receptor phosphorylation, the first objective of this study was to determine whether a difference existed in the kinases which recognize and phosphorylate FFA4-S and FFA4-L, or whether their individual residues composing the “barcode�? of phosphorylation were different. Using siRNA-mediated knockdown, PCR-driven mutagenesis, pharmacological inducers, inhibitors, and autoradiography, we demonstrate that GRK6 mediates homologous phosphorylation of both isoforms, while PKC mediates heterologous phosphorylation of both isoforms. However, their individual sites of phosphorylation proved to be different, although all sites were localized to the same region of their C-terminal tails. The second objective was to see whether the additional 16 amino acid insert differentiating FFA4-L from FFA4-S could rescue β-arrestin signaling in the absence of the C-terminal phosphosensor. Using Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) measuring direct β-arrestin recruitment to the receptors in real time, in live cells, we demonstrate that the loss of the C-terminal phosphosensor abolishes β-arrestin signaling in both FFA4-S and FFA4-L The final objective was to determine whether downstream signaling differences could be detected as a result of differential phosphosensors between FFA4-S and FFA4-L. We demonstrate via time-response immunoblotting that ERK1/2 activation via FFA4-L is exclusively mediated through β-arrestin and is sustained over 60 minutes, while ERK1/2 activation through FFA4-S is mediated through both Gαq/11 and β-arrestin resulting in a transient signal, confirming a major functional signaling difference between the isoforms.