Research projects

Benefits of Kimchi, Smart Bees, Among Undergraduate Summer Research Projects

Joseph Calwell

Exploring the health benefits of the delicious kimchi side dish and discovering the intellectual abilities of bees are just two of more than 70 projects presented at the 2022 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (OF COURSE) Colloquium July 29. Organized each year by the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), the nine-week University of Hawaii at Mānoa, the summer research and creative work experience culminated with student presentations in a hybrid format, including in-person poster presentations for the first time since 2019 and hybrid oral presentations for the first ever time.

The event took place at uh The Mānoa Campus Center Ballroom and Kuykendall Hall, and virtually via Zoom for guests who were unable to attend in person. Students in the ballroom presented via poster session style, while others gave oral presentations in person at Kuykendall Hall or virtually via Zoom.

“It’s fantastic to see, again this summer, such a diverse group of students and projects represented in the OF COURSE program and symposium,” said Creighton-Litton, UROP director and College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) teacher. “I want to congratulate all of our undergraduates for engaging in these experiences and making it to the finish line. I would also like to thank all of the faculty mentors and staff at UROP who enabled these students to engage in this high-impact practice over the summer.

people standing in front of billboards in a ballroom
Poster presentations were held in the Campus Center ballroom (Photo credit: Sylvia Kondo)

Improving health with kimchi

fermented red cabbage on a plate

Nikki Zamani is on track to graduate this summer with her bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in public health. Zamani’s project analyzed the mineral content of kimchi, which follows research into fermented foods conducted by his mentor, CTAHR Teacher Pratibha Nerurkar. Zamani, who grew up on Maui, has always enjoyed eating this tasty dish and has found even more reason to love it, as kimchi has also been shown to have incredible health benefits.

“Eating kimchi has been shown to improve gut health, strengthen the immune system, support heart health, and even has anti-cancer, anti-aging, and anti-diabetic properties,” Zamani said. “Despite extensive research on the health benefits of kimchi, there are few studies regarding the mineral content of kimchi. Our goal was to assess the influence of spices on the kimchi dish as a whole.

portrait of person
Nikki Zamani

The spice mix consisted of green onions, red chili powder, ginger and fresh garlic. The spice mix and kimchi were fermented in glass jars for 72 hours. Zamani found that the finished kimchi dish contained significantly more potassium, sodium, and zinc than the fermented spice mix. Additionally, higher sodium levels in kimchi were observed compared to the spice mix due to the process of pickling napa cabbage during kimchi preparation.

Zamani hopes her research will encourage community members, especially Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders who have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, to incorporate kimchi into their diets to improve their health.

“Future studies in our lab will focus on lactic acid bacteria in kimchi versus the spice mix during fermentation,” Zamani said. “More research on kimchi can benefit our local populations to promote the consumption of this culturally relevant food.”

Related uh New stories:

Bees are smart

bee on a plate of different colors
A bee completes the oddity task.

Bees are the main pollinators of crops and produce honey, beeswax and more. However, did you know that they possess problem-solving abilities comparable to those of mammals and primates? Under the mentorship of an associate professor Patricia Couvillon from Department of Psychology and Pacific Biosciences Research Center, Joseph CalwellThe project tests bees to see if they can solve complex abstract problems.

Caldwell’s first challenge was to see if bees could distinguish between two different patterns. Each pattern had two colors, a combination of blue, yellow, green or orange. One pattern had the two colors side by side and the other pattern had the colors alternated in a pie design. The bees were taught to choose a single pattern category, which was rewarded with sugar water.

For the next challenge, the bees were presented with three designs, two identical and one different. They were only rewarded for choosing the different or odd pattern. A majority of bees completed the task successfully, which Caldwell says demonstrates their ability to form an abstract concept called “quirkiness.”

“Until recently, it was thought that only mammals and non-human primates could solve complex abstract problems such as a quirkiness task. Even 4- and 5-year-olds can’t solve a quirk problem,” Caldwell said. “It’s a wonder that bees, with relatively simple brains, can learn this kind of problem!”

Caldwell hopes to extend his research to other types of relational learning in bees, such as large versus. small, symmetry versus. asymmetry, large versus. short, etc. Caldwell is a biology major in the School of Life Sciences. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from uh Hello.

UROP financial support

The Zamani and Caldwell projects have both received UROP project financing. Every year, UROP awards funding of approximately $500,000 to support faculty-supervised undergraduate student projects and presentations.

-By Marc Arakaki

Mikayla Kauinana presented research on the use of gelatin in experiments to understand magma intrusions and advance geosciences. Kauinana was mentored by Andrea Tonato, pictured here. (Photo credit: Alison Bruce-Maldonado)