STUDENT PROJECTS


The Institute welcomes the opportunity to serve as a training site for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral research.

Current Student Projects


Blood Pressure and Body Mass Index Measurements Among NC Farmers

Student Investigator: Alexandra Patton
Department of Public Medicine, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University
Project Term: 2017
Sponsor: N/A

Project Abstract: The purpose of this study is (1) To examine the association between blood pressure and body mass index measurements among farmers and farmworkers in North Carolina, (2) To determine the prevalence of North Carolina farmer and farmworker AgriSafe program participants being overweight or obese, and to compare these prevalence rates with the state representative sample; and (3) To examine associations between body mass index measurements, blood pressure, age, sex, and race of AgriSafe program participants. The data sources that will be used for this study include de-identified secondary data obtained from the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute’s AgriSafe-NC program between the years of 2013 and 2017 and from the North Carolina Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 2015 data set. Due to the fact that both of the data sources are de-identified, this study has a less than minimal risk and does not pose a threat to participant confidentiality and privacy

Project Sheets:    Blood Pressure and Body Mass Index Measurements Among NC Farmers

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COMPLETED STUDENT PROJECTS


Differential Expression Profile of lncRNAs from Primary Human Hepatocytes Following DEET and Fipronil Exposure

Student Investigator: Robert D. Mitchell, III
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University
Project Term: 2015-2017
Sponsor: Central Appalachian Regional Education and Research Center, North Carolina Institute

Project Abstract: While the synthesis and use of new chemical compounds is at an all-time high, the study of their potential impact on human health is quickly falling behind, and new methods are needed to assess their impact. We chose to examine the effects of two common environmental chemicals, the insect repellent N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET) and the insecticide fluocyanobenpyrazole (fipronil), on transcript levels of long non-protein coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in primary human hepatocytes using a global RNA-Seq approach. While lncRNAs are believed to play a critical role in numerous important biological processes, many still remain uncharacterized, and their functions and modes of action remain largely unclear, especially in relation to environmental chemicals. RNA-Seq showed that 100 μM DEET significantly increased transcript levels for 2 lncRNAs and lowered transcript levels for 18 lncRNAs, while fipronil at 10 μM increased transcript levels for 76 lncRNAs and decreased levels for 193 lncRNAs. A mixture of 100 μM DEET and 10 μM fipronil increased transcript levels for 75 lncRNAs and lowered transcript levels for 258 lncRNAs. This indicates a more-than-additive effect on lncRNA transcript expression when the two chemicals were presented in combination versus each chemical alone. Differentially expressed lncRNA genes were mapped to chromosomes, analyzed by proximity to neighboring protein-coding genes, and functionally characterized via gene ontology and molecular mapping algorithms. While further testing is required to assess the organismal impact of changes in transcript levels, this initial analysis links several of the dysregulated lncRNAs to processes and pathways critical to proper cellular function, such as the innate and adaptive immune response and the p53 signaling pathway.

Project Sheets:    Differential Expression Profile of lncRNAs from Primary Human Hepatocytes Following DEET and Fipronil Exposure

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‘Fit to Farm’ – Does knowledge lead to behavior change in North Carolina farmers?

Student Investigator: Logan Dunn
Department of Public Health, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University
Project Term: 2016
Sponsor: Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention –University of Kentucky

Project Abstract: Objectives: To assess blood pressure improvements among North Carolina farmers following knowledge based intervention; To examine the association between knowledge and behavior change.

Methods: Fit to Farm, a health education program developed by the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute in 2016, was a pilot project created to assess the health and wellness of North Carolina farmers. This was accomplished by evaluating baseline knowledge before and after the delivery of the program, via pre and post-test questionnaires. Blood pressure screenings were conducted at baseline and approximately four weeks concluding the program. Relationships between baseline knowledge, learned knowledge, and change in health indicators were measured. SPSS was used to run descriptive statistics, and paired sample t-tests to explore these associations.

Results: Delivery of the Fit to Farm program increased participant knowledge. Paired t-tests showed a significant difference between pre-test and post-test scores (14.12 vs.16.12, p<.001). Systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements also considerably improved among participants (141.52 mmHg vs. 133.69 mmHg and 85.86 mmHg vs. 81.62 mmHg, respectively). However, further results obtained through binary logistic regression analysis (-.46) showed that participants with a large gain in knowledge were less likely to have reduced their blood pressure. No significant change was found in the relationship between knowledge and blood pressure.

Conclusions: On-site, targeted health education programs can help improve farmers’ blood pressure and knowledge base. Findings should be used in the development and implementation stages of programs addressing farmer health and wellness.

Project Sheets:    ‘Fit to Farm’ – Does knowledge lead to behavior change in North Carolina farmers?

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Emotions and Emotion Regulation strategies of male farmers in North Carolina

Student Investigator: Robin Tutor Marcom, EdD, MPH, OTR
NC Agromedicine Institute
Project Term: 2015-2016
Sponsor: N/A

Project Abstract: Depression, stress and suicide have been widely discussed in relation to farmers, (Fetsch, 2011; Fraser et al, 2005; Schulman, 2005); however, limited literature has been identified that addresses farmers’ emotions, how those emotions are regulated, and what programs are needed to support farmers with emotionally-related issues. This interpretist-constructivist qualitative study was conducted to learn about farmers' emotions and emotion regulation strategies as well as to better inform the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute (‘the Institute’) to respond to requests from farm families for assistance with emotionally-related issues. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2001), interpersonal theory of suicide (Van Orden, Witte, Cukrowicz, Braithwaite, Selby, & Joiner, 2010) and the process model of emotion regulation (Gross, 1998, 2014, p.7) were the theoretical underpinnings of this study.

Semi-structured interviews were completed with a purposive sample of 15 farmers from across the state with whom the Institute had previously worked on agricultural health and safety issues. A brief survey was used to collect participant demographic data. Trustworthiness of the study was established through member checking, peer debriefing, maintenance of an audit trail, methods and reflexive journals, and use of thick description. Data was analyzed using an inductive, constant comparative process.

Key themes that emerged relative to the emotions expressed by farmers were minimally positive – the limited expression of positive emotions; negative patchwork – the preponderance to express an array of negative emotions; stress lining – the expression of experiencing stress on a daily basis; and, family, farm economics and the public – all precipitators of negative emotions and stress. Major themes that emerged with respect to how farmers regulated their emotions were figure out and reassure – the tendency to turn inward and try to figure out or reason through what they can be done to change negative circumstances and outcomes as well as to reassure self and others that things would be okay going forward; modulate/suppress– efforts to regulate emotions and expression of emotions; galvanized by God – relying on a strong relationship with God and faith to deal with the challenges of living and working on the farm. Primary themes associated with social regulation of emotion were: the traditional farm wife – describing the wife as meeting basic family care needs and not serving as an emotional support; no time for friends – having no time for friends due to on-farm obligations; and alone – being alone physically or feeling alone even when others were in close proximity. Farmers suggested that efforts be made to educate the public about farm production, develop programs to provide emotional support to farmers and their families and work with politicians and agribusiness leaders to examine current business models and their negative

Project Sheets:    Emotions and Emotion Regulation Strategies of Male Farmers in North Carolina

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North Carolina Farm Women: Opportunities for Support and Farm-Related Education

Student Investigator: Robin Tutor Marcom, EdD, MPH, OTR
NC Agromedicine Institute
Project Term: 2013-2014
Sponsor: N/A

Project Abstract: Objectives: To assess blood pressure improvements among North Carolina farmers following knowledge based intervention; To examine the association between knowledge and behavior change.

The stress that farming visits upon male farmers has been acknowledged for decades. Stress and work-related injuries among non-migrant farm women is well documented from 1980 through the mid-1990s. A void of literature concerning non-migrant farm women exists since that time. One possible explanation for this deficit is that United States Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture data only consider the contributions of women on the farm if they are reported as farm operators. From 2002 to 2007, the number of women farm operators in North Carolina (NC) increased by 3%, and currently 13% of the state’s farms are operated by women. These numbers emphasize the importance of understanding the self-perceived needs of women farmers. A qualitative research project was conducted to investigate the social-emotional needs of NC farm women. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 women with whom the NC Agromedicine Institute had previously worked in collaboration on farm health and safety. Key themes from interviews were (1) chameleonic, (2) inseparable connectedness, (3) farm sword, (4) women of a feather, and (5) one size doesn’t fit all. Participants reported multiple roles, difficulty separating from the farm, preferring the farm over any other place, and viewing themselves as misperceived farm professionals. Participants need opportunities to interact with other farm women for support and sharing farm-management techniques. Future study recommendations include (1) inventory existing programs for farm women; (2) further investigate the support and educational needs of farm women; and (3) examine how farm women are perceived by nonfarm individuals.

Project Sheets:    North Carolina Farm Women: Opportunities for Support and Farm-Related Education

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