Friday, October 05, 2007

Postgrad Oral Presentations at The University of Auckland

Exposure07 is proud to announce the six oral presentation finalists going forward to the Oral Presentation Finals on Monday the 8th of October.

The preliminary rounds were of a high standard and I was impressed by the standard of presentations and the exciting research taking place at The University of Auckland. Please come and support these students and their research by attending the Oral Finals.

When: Monday 8 October 2007

Where: Oral Presentation Finals, Lecture Room 1.401, 20 Symonds Street

What: 6 – 6.30pm – Refreshments and a chance to mingle with students and an opportunity to view the Exposure07 Posters on display in the Engineering Atrium
6.30pm - Presentations begin

Please find the abstracts and the finalist’s names below:

1. The Role of First and Second languages in Third language Cognitive processing: Analysis of Private Speech

Ravinder Kaur
Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics

“Private speech is directed to self for the purpose of directing and organizing one’s mental activity” (Vygotsky,1986:139). Lantolf (2000) states that the children engage in ‘private speech’ when confronted by a problem but as they grow, it becomes intrapersonal or social. He labels private speech as self controlled linguistic mediation. The present qualitative study focuses on the analysis of private speech during a problem solving task in a third language (Spanish). The study investigates the roles that first (Mandarin) and second (English) languages play in the third language problem solving process. The results of the study suggest that the adult learners prefer to use their first language during private speech when they have to answer very difficult questions whereas they switch to their second language while focusing on ‘form’ and expressing emotions. The participants indicated that typological similarities are one of the deciding factors for the choice of first and/or second language.

2. Perceptions of Arab Immigrant Fathers and their Children of Language, Culture and Identity

Morad A. Al-Sahafi
Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics

Immigration is one of the major sources of language contact and therefore it represents a useful lens for focusing our attention on deep and abiding dilemmas of language ideology, dilemmas about the nature of immigrant families’ linguistic behaviours, the sort of bonds that connect immigrant families with their ethnic mother tongue, as well as the relationship between language, culture and identity (Fishman, 1991). In this regard, the dilemma facing immigrant children, as described by Fillmore (2000) and others, may be viewed as less a problem of learning the dominant mainstream language than of home language loss. This paper concerns a study of the perceptions of Arab immigrant fathers and their children of home language maintenance and intergenerational transmission in the context of Auckland. It reports findings of a pilot study which elicited the voices of an Arabic-speaking immigrant father and his New Zealand-raised child. Within the context of a semi-structured interview that focused on their language related experiences and perspectives, they reflected on the roles of Arabic and English in their lives. Analysis focuses on various aspects of language maintenance and transmission. The study highlights the challenges faced by Arabic-speaking immigrant families trying to pass on Arabic to their New Zealand-raised children.

3. CSI – Cellular Source Identification for use in Forensic Science Casework

Claire French

Department of Anatomy with Radiology

It is not currently possible to distinguish between sources of skin, buccal and vaginal epithelial cells using cytological and DNA profiling techniques. This research aims to develop and validate a method for distinguishing between these epithelial cells types using immunological techniques. Skin, buccal and vaginal epithelial cells were collected from volunteers using sterile cotton-tipped swabs, proteins extracted, resolved by 2-D electrophoresis and probed with antibodies against specific cytokeratins to determine specific expression profiles for each cell type. Expression was further investigated with immunohistochemical staining against cytokeratin 6 on smeared skin, buccal and vaginal cells fixed in methanol.

Of the 10 different cytokeratins tested, western blotting showed that cytokeratin 6 was unique to vaginal cells and was not expressed in skin or buccal cells. Surprisingly, immunohistochemical staining showed some expression of cytokeratin 6 in buccal cells. This was further investigated and shown to be the result of differential expression of cytokeratin within the oral cavity.

The identification of specific epithelial cell types will provide important probative evidence in forensic casework and allow forensic scientists to more conclusively analyse crime scene samples.

4. Staphylococcal Superantigen-like Protein 9 (SSL9): A Novel Complement Regulator of Staphylococcus aureus

Nicola Jackson
Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology

Background: Staphylococcus aureus is a pathogenic organism that is the causative agent of a wide variety of afflictions ranging from mild skin infections to life-threatening conditions such as toxic shock syndrome and endocarditis. The emergence of multi-drug resistant strains of S. aureus highlights the need to study the organism further and identify alternative anti-microbial targets. SSL9 is a member of a relatively uncharacterized family of staphylococcal superantigen-like (SSL) proteins. These proteins appear to target important host-pathogen interactions and facilitate S. aureus pathogenesis. Objectives: To determine the functional importance of SSL9 to S. aureus virulence and pathogenesis. Methods: A variety of immunological and biochemical assays were used to characterize interactions between SSL9 and the host immune system. Results: The complement system is an important part of the human immune system that is required for the clearance of bacterial pathogens. We have found that SSL9 inhibits complement activity, specifically by interfering with the classical and lectin pathways. This appears to be mediated by interaction with complement molecules C2 and C4. We show that SSL9 inappropriately activates the C4b2a convertase, preventing it from functioning at the bacterial surface and targeting the pathogen for complement-mediated killing. To our knowledge this is a novel mechanism of complement inhibition. Discussion: SSL9 targets a critical rate-limiting step in S. aureus survival, affecting the most important host immune defense mechanism required for staphylococcal clearance. These SSL molecules could prove to be potentially interesting targets for the development of novel anti-staphylococcal therapies.

5. Deciphering Past Sea-Level Utilizing Ground-Penetrating Radar to Construct Detailed 3-D Models of Coastal Barrier Evolution

Amy J. Dougherty

School of Geography , Geology and Environmental Science

One of the most heated topics within the context of global warming is sea-level and while much of the debate rages on about predicting the future it is surprising to most that there is similar uncertainty about what sea-level has done in the past. The most recent publication on sea-level change in New Zealand came out in 1986 which concluded that it has been relatively stable over the last 6.5 thousand years. Ironically it is within this time period in question that the coastal features most vulnerable to future sea-level rise formed, such as sandy barriers. Within the accreting sands of barriers past sea-level elevations are recorded within the sensitive boundary between beach and dune. Existing studies of barrier evolution lack detail due to their restriction to point source data acquired from cores, but by augmenting this traditional techniques with Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) a continuous cross-sectional record of sea-level can be mapped. This innovative geophysical method was preformed on four sandy barriers spread along the east coast of Northern New Zealand. The overall trend shows a 2 meter drop in sea-level starting from the barriers inception ~4,000 years ago until ~ 1,000 years ago where it levels off and transitions into a slight rise. GPR also shows the influence this sea-level change has on the evolution of each sandy barrier, thus providing better insight into predicting the future response of vulnerable coastal features to the present-day global regime of accelerated sea-level rise.

6. Towards a Model of Executive Performance

Ann Hutchison
Department of Management and International Business

Research has shown that ineffectiveness at executive level is not uncommon, and that the associated costs can be staggering.

Despite the value of addressing this problem, the literature does not provide a definitive picture of the antecedents of executive performance. Whilst circumstances do influence an executive’s performance, personal characteristics have also proved to be important; and although relationships between personal characteristics and performance have been explored, it appears that researchers are yet to develop an empirical ‘model’ of performance prediction that is specific to executives.

My objective is to determine the personal characteristics that predict executive success, with the central argument that biological differences in the brain are essential to understanding the problem. The biological mechanisms in question are described in Jeffrey Gray’s ‘Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory’, a personality theory with a physiological basis. These biological mechanisms give rise to two dimensions along which people differ: Reward Sensitivity and Punishment Sensitivity.

It is argued that these dimensions are related to different types of motivation and are particularly relevant to executives.

The predictive validities of these dimensions, personality traits and cognitive ability will be explored and compared using quantitative methodology. This will involve measuring a large sample of senior executives on various predictor and performance measures. It is anticipated that the end result will be a model of executive performance that could help New Zealand businesses in the early identification of future leaders.


Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Comrade Pugilistical and veget- Bluestocking Enthusiast Skyler

These are very stimulating - it is good to see young people contributing to science - I am interested in all of this. Re the staphylococcal research and also the GPR thing - I read a large book** on NZ history (geographical and biological and) - if the time frame is extended New Zealand (parts of and mainly the NI) has been undersea level many times - perhaps no completely but certainly more so than now - it has been pushed up and down by tectonic activity. (And maybe global warmth -the sun's radiation output levels vary over time -and in fact they vary constantly - but I mean that the average level for certain "eras" increases or decreases) )

Even after NZ separated from Australia as Gondwana broke up - various birds and animals still made their way here so that we have number of birds and some plants and animals common to Australia still (perhaps not specifically but as a species) -it is a fascinating area of study.

(It would be interesting to see

I am not convinced by the hysteria about Global warming,and in fact but this abstract indicates that all is not lost if sea level does rise - what is interesting is how life adapts - there is so much emphasis on catastrophe (I don't advocate - contra that - complacency however - there are ongoing important environmental issues) that it can be overlooked how very resilient life is* to changes in climate and other things - remember (for example) that many millions of years ago the atmosphere of oxygen was actually poisonous to all life at that stage - then animals and plants evolved that could use oxygen.

The other things here are also insightful and informative.

Thanks for these.

* But there are no guarantees!

** I used a part of it for EYELIGHT -this was quite a few years ago- I copied stuff out from it (by hand) - but I have to confess I didn't read it all it was very large - but very interesting.

11:40 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Re the Private Speech thing I recall reading of a (US)(scientist who was one of those people who could make very long calculations with great accuracy at great speed.

He submitted to investigation and he had taken arithmetic a long way beyond the "normal" level (these guys get fascinated by numbers and computations) e.g. as many scientists do - e.g Richard Feynman did and my friend when I was 8 or so Peter Hunter - now a Professor at Auckland Uni - used to do calculations (as he was getting to sleep!) when I and he were very young (I didn't)) and it was found that he (the US Scientist) talked to himself - very rapidly as the computations were happening - he wasn't aware of it himself the habit had been with him for so long...

And poetry - that is kind of talking to one self - or can be.

11:51 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

I have also often wondered what it would be like to think in another language - if it would be possible to switch completely inter language.

11:54 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Thanks for reading these Richard and giving your thoughts. It was a succesful event and we saw some great presentations of research.

4:51 pm  

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