Event Date: March 4, 2022
[Speaker: Dr. Phil Schneider] Up next, we have Emily Bowlus-Peck, who is going to come from us from our History department of Colleges Art and Sciences. Emily's going to talk about proto-psychiatry and lunatik hospitals, diagnostic madness in eighteenth century London. Very exciting title! Some fun facts, big video gamer, big fantasy novel and likes dogs. What else can you want? If you are ready, ready, set pitch!
[Speaker: Emily Bowlus-Peck] The pandemic has changed how we interact with our world, and it's impacted mental health. A quick show of hands, who here struggled, or knows somebody that really struggled, with how the pandemic first changed daily life? A lot of us, most of us. I think it's easier to talk about this a lot of times, because we know that our entire community has undergone a similar struggle. And as a response, we've seen a rise of online mental health communities. Virtual therapy increased sixty-three fold from 2019 to 2020. So as a medical historian it got me thinking. Is the pandemic an anomaly? Or is there actually a history where mental healthcare developments have been influenced by communities in crisis? So my research wanted to look at ah—the origins of our systems of psychiatric care. And to do this, I needed to go all the way back to eighteenth century England. Really, the foundation of American colonial medicine. And I stumbled upon something that really piqued my curiosity. Centuries ago, London had one asylum called Bedlam. And records reveal that they kept rejecting applicants they would diagnose as "incurable", because "incurables" required indefinite care, and they had little hope of recovery. This diagnosis became a death sentence, and their displacement became inescapable. With nowhere to go "incurables" were homeless, destitute, and many died on the city's overcrowded streets. And like the pandemic, the entire community struggled with these consequences. But interestingly, London philanthropists also noticed the community struggle. And they began asking Londoners what they felt the community and the city needed. And soon in the 1700s, new independent hospitals emerged throughout London, ones that will admit the "incurable". And public support is so strong, these hospitals cannot keep up with the number of applicants that they receive. Now it might not seem like it, but this research actually pertains to all of us. Because whether we're talking about eighteenth century hospitals, or we're talking about current pandemic responses, we're seeing that mental healthcare developments were, and largely remain, community-driven, and that this is most evident when a community undergoes a collective trauma. Because it pushes those with power, wealth and influence to produce necessary changes that end up being long-term because they're backed by public support. I find this incredibly inspirational, because it shows that we as a collective have more influence over our medical landscapes than we've often been led to believe. Thank you.
Advisor: James Bono
Biography: From Richmond, Virginia, Emily Bowlus-Peck is a member of the American Historical Association and Folger Shakespeare Library. In her research, she examines how new public “lunatic” hospitals in eighteenth-century London were largely influenced by the “incurable” diagnosis and how this diagnosis influenced the development of psychiatric care. Through her research, she hopes to understand how the incurable diagnosis ultimately influenced the development of hospital admittance and more importantly, the evolution of diagnosis for mental illness. Bowlus-Peck hobbies include traveling, video games, fantasy novels and playing with her dog. In her future plans, Bowlus-Peck hopes to be involved with professional development and career diversity education for historians.
[Speaker: Dr. Phil Schneider] Next, presenter number four, Hamed Khorasani. Hamed comes from our department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. Fun fact about Hamed: Three months ago, after having a brain stroke, he was able to run a 5K in twenty five minutes. Phenomenal. And if, for those of you who don't run, like myself, I was informed that's very very fast. Hamed, his research is titled, "The Search for Sewage in US Rivers and Lakes". Hamed, if you are ready? Ready, set pitch!
[Speaker: Hamed Khorasani] Did you flush the toilet after using it today? If so, stay with me because I'm going to explain why I care, and why you should care too. Did you know the tap water you use for drinking and cooking could have chemicals that are excreted from somebody else's body, and they have no regulations for many of those chemicals? Rivers start their journeys as pristine water resources, but as water moves down the stream it receives more and more pollution. Down the stream cities and local environment is more prone to using polluted water. Humans consume a wide variety of pharmaceutical and medicines. Although our bodies digest and break down those chemicals, a fraction of them is excreted from—from our body into the sewage. Personal care and cleaning products are no different, and they end up down the drain in the sewage too. The Environmental Protection Agency of the U.S. has at least a hundreds of contaminants of emerging concern. These contaminants are not regulated, but we know they can be toxic to aquatic environments and human health. The commission of wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove, to effectively remove most of these contaminants of emerging concern. So a fraction of them ends up in the rivers with the wastewater effluent. In my research, I'm trying to find the hot spots of effluent contamination in U.S. rivers and lakes, where and when rivers are highly polluted with wastewater effluent. I am using caffeine as an "indicator" for the presence of effluents, because they are the most widely-used pharmaceutical by humans. Although rational consumption of caffeine is not problematic, we are all familiar with caffeine toxicity. Now we imagine the local environment and the fish that live in water that is constantly polluted with caffeine, how their body is put under pressure. I am using a state of the art hydrologic model which is developed by the Department of Energy to track the wastewater effluents as they are released into the environment. Without knowing it, you are probably consuming chemicals that are excreted from somebody else's body, and currently, we do not have regulations for that. My work helps regulators manage what you drink. Thank you very much for your attention.
Department: Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
Advisor: Zhenduo Zhu
Biography: From Delijan, Iran, Hamed Khorasani is a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and American Geophysical Union. In his research, he is developing a model to simulate the presence of wastewater effluent in US rivers and lakes. This model for the first time considers the temporal variations and the transfer processes within the rivers and lakes as the effluents move towards the downstream. He uses caffeine as an indicator for the presence of effluents, with hopes to find the hotspots of wastewater effluent contamination. Khorasani enjoys running, cycling, lifting and keeping fit. In the future, he would like to work in national labs as a large-scale modeling scientist.
[Speaker: Dr. Phil Schneider] Presenter number seven, we have Danielle Lewis. Danielle comes from us from the Educational Leadership and Policy Department, uh, in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Her 3MT thesis will be, "Can Men Faculty Allies Help Improve the Representation of Women in STEM?" Fun fact about Danielle, she's a lifelong Bills Mafia member. Go Bills! Danielle, if you're ready? Ready, set pitch!
[Speaker: Danielle Lewis] Based on what we hear in popular media about efforts in K-12 and higher education to get more girls and young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math, which I'm going to refer to as STEM, if you were to walk into an engineering class or a computer science lab you might imagine that you'll see something like the images on the left hand side of the screen. But I am here to tell you that this perception is not reality. Women earn sixty percent of all bachelor's degrees, but only thirty five percent of degrees in STEM are awarded to women. Now research tells us that the causes of this low number are directly related to gender. Sexual harassment, social exclusion, a lack of peers and mentors that women can relate to and unwelcome climates all negatively impact their experience and make it more difficult for women to actually be successful in these majors. And while men are the dominant majority in STEM, efforts to create change and work towards gender parity often focus solely on changing women. Now I know this is the case because for several years I managed UB's Women in Science and Engineering program, and the goal of that program was to recruit and retain women in these majors. And I found that more often than not, what I heard from the women in the program was them talking about how their experience was impacted by the men in their programs. But men were rarely if ever involved in these conversations. Which made me wonder, if men allies, so men actively advocating for women, if they could use their position in the majority to actually advocate for change within their STEM disciplines, what would that look like and how would it impact the experience of women in STEM? Research tells us that faculty have a significant impact on their students, on their academic performance and their retention. And that influence is even more profound when it happens with underrepresented students like women in STEM. And so my research explores the perceptions, the motivations and the experience of men faculty allies for women in STEM, with the hope that we can understand their experience better so that we can leverage their position within the majority and their willingness to help affect, uh, disciplinary change and culture. Now you might be thinking, "I'm not a woman in STEM, how does this affect me?" Well, I'm going to tell you. Sixty four percent of all women in this country are either the primary or the sole provider for their families. Folks who work in STEM earn on average $30,000 more per year than non-STEM workers. Higher wages result in better quality of life and a decreased reliance on government assistance, which could free up funds for things like education and infrastructure. Diversity of thoughts spurs innovation, and when more of us are around the table as we try to solve the world's problems, we develop better solutions and that benefits us all. Finally, it's the right thing to do to create equal opportunities for all people. I believe my research is going to help us shift the perception of what STEM looks like to what we hope to see, which is more women in these disciplines.
Department: Educational Leadership and Policy
Advisor: Margaret W. Sallee
Biography: From Buffalo, New York, Danielle Lewis is an Educational Leadership and Policy PhD candidate and a member of the American Educational Research Association, Association for the Study of Higher Education, and Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education. In her research, she examines the motivations, perceptions, and experiences of men faculty allies for undergraduate women in STEM and develops an understanding of allies to discover a new tool towards gender equity efforts. Through her research, she hopes to demonstrate that leveraging this group as a possible tool towards gender parity and possible effective measure in efforts to increase the number of women in STEM disciplines. Some of Lewis’ hobbies include spending time with family and friends, exercising and reading murder mystery novels. In the future, Lewis wants to pursue a faculty position or a research position within a policy institute, research center, education, non-profit or consulting organization.
[Speaker: Dr. Phil Schneider] Presenter number three, thank you Hannah Chalkins. Hannah comes from us from the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics, and she's currently at Roswell Park for Comprehensive Cancer Center. Uh, fun fact about Hannah, she actually hates all fruits that start with the letter 'P'. Upon reading that, it really threw me for a loop. I started to think of what fruits begin with 'P' and I quizzed her. Pineapple, pears, all of which aren't on her list of things she eats. Her title for today's presentation is "Combating Treatment Resistance in Lung Cancer". Hannah, if you're ready? Ready, set pitch!
[Speaker: Hannah Calkins] Lung cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the world and is the deadliest, which is why I'm working every day to find cures for these patients. Lung cancer can go undiagnosed for a long time, especially in people that are not smokers. This non-smoking patient population isn't typically screened for lung cancer, so therefore when their cancers finally do get diagnosed, they are in late stages and these patients are in dire need of effective treatment options. So when a patient comes into the clinic with lung cancer, doctors can specifically identify what's causing their lung cancer by identifying mutations in the cancer cells. They can then give a targeted therapy to specifically kill these mutated cancer cells. So in my slide, this is analogous to identifying the color of the cancer cells and giving the same colored treatment. So for example, blue cancer cells get blue targeted therapy. Now targeted therapy is effective for anywhere from one to two years in patients, but unfortunately there are no curative options. Over time, all patients will relapse and their cancer will grow even in the presence of the targeted therapy. This is what we call "treatment resistance". This treatment resistance occurs when the cells have now gained new mutations that allow them to grow in the presence of the therapy. So for example in my slide, the cells have now taken on a red color. We know that these red resistant cells are different from the original blue responsive cells, but it's unclear why and it's unclear how to treat them. We can think of this in the same way that we think of the flu every year, how the strains of the flu are always mutating and always changing, which makes developing new vaccines more difficult. So in order to find new therapy options for these patients, we need to understand what's causing the treatment resistance in order to find new ways to kill these cancer cells. And this is where my thesis work begins. My thesis project is focused on understanding treatment resistance with the ultimate goal of providing new therapy options for patients. In my work, I have compared the red treatment resistant cells with the blue treatment responsive cells, and found that a major difference between the two is the higher expression of a gene called BRD9 in the resistant cancer cells. We believe that the higher expression of this gene BRD9 in the resistant cancer cells is what's causing their red color, or causing them to grow and survive even in the presence of the targeted therapy. Through this discovery, we have been able to apply a specific BRD9 targeted therapy to these resistant cancer cells and have killed more than sixty percent of the cells. We are currently furthering this work by utilizing the BRD9 targeted therapy in mice, we are hoping to see that this is both safe and effective furthering the rationale for use in patients. By understanding what contributes to treatment resistance and how these cells differ, we can give hope to lung cancer patients facing no other treatment options. My work into BRD9 targeted therapy shows both exciting and promising results, and may just be the key to getting lung cancer into remission once again. Thank you.
Department: Molecular Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics
Advisor: Pamela Hershberger
Biography: From Corning, New York, Hannah Calkins is a PhD candidate in the Roswell Park Graduate Division and a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. Her research aims to find new ways to target treatment-resistant lung cancer, by identifying targetable mutations that the resistant cells have gained and using novel drugs to target and kill the cancer cells. The goal of her research is to identify novel treatment options and improve outcomes for lung cancer patients facing no other options. Calkins enjoys reading, watching reality TV and football and taking her dog to the park. In the future, she would like to work in translational research on clinical trials to help to bridge the gap between the research and the clinic.