Undergraduate Research Day Student Projects

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This collection gathers research posters presented at the UH Honors College's annual Undergraduate Research Day, beginning with the 2017 cohort of projects.


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Now showing 1 - 20 of 1061
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    Ectopic expression of ovary expressed polo transcripts and duplicates in Drosophila melanogaster testis creates female-biased sex ratios
    (2023-04-13) Najera, Paola
    Polo-like kinases (Plks) play vital roles in mitosis and meiosis. Drosophila melanogaster has a single Plk gene (polo) that is alternatively spliced into two transcripts that differ in their 5'- and 3'-UTR, but not in their coding sequence. Curiously, polo has also been duplicated multiple times within the evolution of the Drosophila genus. In D. pseudoobscura, the ancestral polo gene (Dpse-polo) is found on a neo-X chromosome, and there are two autosomal duplications (Dpse-polo-dup1 and Dpse-polo-dup2) that are predominately testis expressed. The precise roles of the polo transcripts and duplications in male meiosis are unknown. Here, we show that when the D. melanogaster ovary-derived polo mRNA or Dpse-polo mRNA is expressed in D. melanogaster testis, the number of female offspring is greater than the number of male offspring. In contrast, equal numbers of males and females are produced when testis-derived polo mRNA or Dpse-polo-dup1 are expressed in the D. melanogaster male germline. These results suggest that polo duplicates and transcripts are specialized for sex-specific meiotic functions, specifically related to equal inheritance of the X and Y sex chromosomes in the male germline. Consistent with such specialization, we find that Dpse-polo-dup1 has accumulated significantly more amino acid substitutions than Dpse-polo since the duplication event. We hypothesize that the sex-specific specialization of polo duplicates and transcripts may be related to repeated intragenomic conflicts involving segregation distorters that differentially affect spermatogenesis and oogenesis.
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    Breast Cancer Awareness, Screening Attitudes, and Biochemical Profile in a Sample of Houston-Based Afghan Refugee Women
    (2023-04-13) Zamil, Jenna
    Background: Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in US women, and Afghan women exhibit low screening rates. Our study evaluates breast cancer awareness and risk among Afghan refugee women in Houston through demographic survey data and biochemical measurement of inflammatory markers associated with chronic stress and breast cancer risk, C-reactive protein (CRP), cortisol, and interleukin-6. Methods: Houston-based 501(C)(3) non-profit organizations assisted with recruitment of Afghan refugee women (n=67), who answered these psychometrically valid online surveys with language and culturally tailored versions: Self-Report Questionnaire (SRQ), Afghan Symptom Checklist (ASC), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Refugee Post-Migration Stress Scale (RPMSS), and Breast Cancer Screening Beliefs Questionnaire (BCSBQ) assessing general well-being, mental health, stress levels, and breast cancer awareness via REDCap ($25 Target gift card compensation). Descriptive statistics and correlation analysis between Demographics, ASC, RPMS, and BCSBQ responses were evaluated. Saliva samples were deidentified before inflammatory marker examination using commercially available kits (Salimetrics, USA). Results: ASC scores correlated with many factors including time spent in the US, perceived discrimination, and economic strain (p<0.05). Women exhibited low attitude toward general health checkups, limited breast cancer knowledge, and high barriers toward mammogram screening (BCSBQ). Approximately half and 71.4% reported not knowing about clinical-breast examinations and mammograms, respectively. Conclusions: High stress levels, determined through ASC and RPMS, in susceptible Afghan women correlated with elevated CRP and IL-6 levels. Targeted interventions into stress reduction and breast cancer awareness for Afghan refugee women are warranted.
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    Confirming the Impact of Iron Limitation on Acinetobacter baumannii Growth
    (2023-04-13) Zughaibi, Noor
    Background: The CDC and WHO have labeled A. baumannii as the highest threat level in their ranking system for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Due to its ability to develop resistant properties, A. baumanni has caused 8,500 hospitalizations and approximately 700 deaths in 2017. Currently, no optimal treatments for resistant A. baumannii infections exist; however, iron limitation by an iron chelator has shown to create growth inhibition.ï¾ Methods: Deferiprone is used to create growth inhibition at a standard concentration for all isolates. To confirm iron availability as the reason for inhibition iron was supplemented into each isolate in a concentration gradient. The BacterioScan 216Dx was utilized to collect data for each isolate. Data was then process and graphical representations were created. Results: An increase in concentration of iron caused an increase in growth in the presence of deferiprone resulting in an inverse relationship between growth and iron supplementation of all isolates tested. Conclusions: Our data verifies that iron depletion by deferiprone caused the observed growth inhibition. Manipulation of iron concentration has the potential to be used to treat ntimicrobial resistant A. baumannii infections.
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    Evaluating Food Security and Summer Meal Access in Harris County
    (2023-04-13) Ziaee, Mielad
    Families, especially those in Food Deserts and in low-income areas, depend on school lunch programs throughout the year. During the summer, this stability is disrupted. Though summer meal sites have been established throughout the state of Texas to resolve this need for healthy, nutritious meals, there are still high-need areas that lack a summer meal sites. This project assesses the current distribution of summer meal sites, through two means, in Harris County at the census-tract level. First, after calculating the 'average' distance one travels to a Bus Stop and Supermarket for every tract, an 'index' for a map was created. This allows for direct visual comparison of how tracts vary in food and transportation access – two key variables in determining a community's need for a summer meal site. Second, a logistic regression was taken to see if the presence – or absence – of a summer meal site is correlated with a tract's average Supermarket distance. A McFadden's r-squared value of 0.004138 was found, indicating that, presently, Supermarket distances are not a factor considered when determining a summer meal site location. Additionally, the wide variation of food and transportation distances in Harris County necessitates the need for a smaller area to be studied and for more variables to be taken into account.
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    Developing a Headset Integrating Vision Testing and VR with EEG Scan
    (2023-04-13) Wong, Sarah
    Consider a Riemannian surface with positive Gaussian curvature, composed of a cylinder and two hemispheres at each end. Since it is established that surfaces of negative curvature exhibit hyperbolicity, it is natural to ask if we get similar results for surfaces of positive curvature. If our surface is flattened in one direction, and geodesic flow is applied, we want to show that this system exhibits characteristics of hyperbolicity. More precisely, we will show that the Lyapunov exponent is positive. We will first discretize geodesics by using nested functions that mimic an iterative map. This approximation is inspired by Euler's fixed step method in which the parameters will be the step size and number of steps. In order to iterate the geodesic, we will fix the step size and create a direction vector parallel to our initial tangent vector. As our direction vector leaves the surface, we need to project our point back onto the surface and our vector back onto the tangent space. We will use methods of Lagrange multipliers and the Gram-Schmidt Method for these respective projections. Once we approximate our geodesic flow, we can determine the sign of our Lyapunov exponent using methods of linear regression. Since this is a numerical approximation, there will be issues of uncertainty, truncating, and rounding due to the floating point problem in programming. However, this project will introduce new mechanisms to produce chaotic behavior and can be extended to higher dimensions.
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    GPX-2 Protein Synthesis Using Recombinant E. Coli
    (2023-04-13) Zaman, Ameer
    Chemotherapeutic treatments for Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC), though sometimes unsuccessful, cause high levels of oxidative stress in cancer cells. Chemotherapy provides a selection pressure that forces cancer cells to alter their metabolism and upregulate certain processes to continue to replicate under these new stressors.1 GPX-2, or glutathione peroxidase 2, is part of a family of antioxidants. Under chemotherapeutic pressures, a significant overexpression of the GPX-2 system that is involved with fatty acid oxidation, oxidative stress, and protein processing is observed. 2. Because of its role in mobilizing a response to chemotherapeutic agents and potentially affecting cancer cell resistance, it is a promising target for small molecule inhibition. In our research, we show the synthesis of this integral protein using a three-plasmid system in an E. Coli model.
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    Moral Encroachment and Moral Reasons For and Against Withheld Belief
    (2023-04-13) Wasel, Esraa
    Recent literature on moral encroachment begins with “high stakes” cases where someone draws an undermining inference about a person using statistical evidence. The cases are meant to show that although the evidence initially seems to adequately support the undermining belief, the belief is not justified. Forming an undermining belief about a person can have negative consequences if that belief turns out to be false, so more evidence is needed to justify the belief. Confronted with high stakes cases, a person ought to withhold belief and search for extra evidence to avoid the high risk possibility of forming a false belief. This approach views the effect of non-evidential or moral considerations as constituting reasons for withheld belief. However, I argue that if moral considerations can constitute reasons for withheld belief, they can also constitute reasons against withheld belief. In these cases, the moral risk of missing out on a true belief via withholding can affect the level of evidence necessary for epistemic justification. But accepting this claim can lead to a problem for moral encroachment: cases where forming a false belief is morally risky, so one ought to withhold belief, but where withholding is also morally risky, so one shouldn’t withhold. It’s not clear which risk we should weigh more heavily in the process of forming a belief, which brings into question the claim that moral considerations can affect the threshold of evidence necessary for a belief to be justified.
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    Hyperbolicity of Surfaces with Positive Curvature
    (2023-04-13) Wong, Katherine
    How can brain testing be more accessible to prevent undiagnosed and untreated brain injuries? In researching solutions, the Muse 2 and Oculus Quest 2 were examined to establish whether they could detect baseline brainwave patterns, which they successfully did. While compact electroencephalogram (EEG) devices exist, currently a health professional is necessary to administer the Vestibular Ocular Motor Screening (VOMS) test and EEG scan and analyze the results. From this research, a self-administering headset prototype was designed and built with the EEG of the Muse and the VR technology of the Oculus to demonstrate the device could be feasibly developed. One of the many uses for quick EEG tests would be to detect concussions in athletes mid-game to minimize brain injuries. 99% of deceased NFL players showed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma. When a health incident occurs, this device allows athletes to quickly assess whether it is safe for them to continue playing or whether they should seek further medical attention. Because this new design combines VOMS testing with EEG scanning, there are far more diverse applications and analytical capabilities than a VOMS test or compact EEG scan individually.
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    First Enoch: “The Apocalypse of Weeks” as Prophecy
    (2023-04-13) Myers, Erin
    During my research, I examined the presentation of prophecy in 1 Enoch in comparison with that of the Old Testament. 1 Enoch was one of the most influential books of the Old Testament pseudepigrapha, even being cited in the New Testament. Prophecy plays an important role in the Old Testament, and since 1 Enoch draws heavily from the Old Testament in its content, studying the prophecies in 1 Enoch provides helpful context in the subject of Biblical literature. The goal was to determine whether prophecies in 1 Enoch – specifically the Apocalypse of Weeks – fit into existing patterns of Old Testament prophecy. My mentor and I compiled a list of sources from which I could study the topic, beginning with a broad understanding of prophecy and zeroing in on 1 Enoch within its context. The authors I read covered prophecy in the ancient Mediterranean at large; prophecy in ancient Israel specifically; Second-Temple Jewish interpretations of the Bible; and Second-Temple Jewish apocalyptic literature. After identifying common attributes of prophecy in both Biblical and extrabiblical sources, I found that the Apocalypse of Weeks matched up with almost none of those attributes, though apocalypses like this one form a rich sub-genre of prophecy. Instead, it began to appear that the Apocalypse of Weeks may have more in common with the Jewish literary form of testaments. Further research would be required to fully explore this new theory.
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    Perception of Stigma in Medical Settings During COVID-19: The Role of Sex Differences Among Latinos
    (2023-04-13) Walla, Elisabeth
    Perceived discrimination in medical settings refers to a perceived lack of respect between individuals and their healthcare providers. Among Latinos, such perceived discrimination may prevent the utilization of healthcare services and impact their desire to access healthcare. Additionally, perceived discrimination impacts Latinoï¾’s psychological distress and is typically associated with lower ratings of self-esteem. Studies have found that sex differences may emerge across these behavioral health relationships, as shown in one study where Latino men displayed greater tendencies to seek certain treatment options over Latino women due to Latino womenï¾’s concern over stigmatization. Given these data, Latino males and females may have differing levels of perceived discrimination that may directly impact emotional health outcomes during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The present study hypothesized that sex differences would emerge as an influence in the relationship between perceived discrimination in medical settings and that higher levels of stigma would be evident among Latino males. Among Latinos who report greater perceived discrimination, our study found that Latino males displayed higher levels of fear of COVID-19, anxiety, and depression between the two measured sexes. These findings are in line with prior research that found Latino males showing greater risks of experiencing negative health behaviors as reported perceived discrimination in medical settings increased. Psychoeducation efforts for Latino men regarding coping mechanisms for stress within medical settings and providing additional training for healthcare providers on the adverse effects of discrimination may reduce the negative outcomes of perceived discrimination on Latinosï¾’ mental health.
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    Z-Rings as a Biomarker in Persister Resuscitation
    (2023-04-13) Wagner, Iva
    Bacterial infections that survive anti-microbial treatments are a growing concern in the medical field. Much of this research is focused on antibiotic resistance, but bacterial persistence is an equal contributor to the problem. Persister cells are a subpopulation of bacteria that are transiently capable of surviving antibiotics. The surviving bacteria remain after treatment and can resuscitate causing chronic infections. To research resuscitation in these persistent cells properly, we first need to be able to identify which cells to study; using biomarkers is one way to determine which persister cells are capable of resuscitation. One possible biomarker is the formation of z-rings during the growth-inhibited state. Using both Gentamicin and Streptomycin antibiotics, the length of time needed to kill off all but persistent cells is determined using a biphasic kill curve generated using survival assays. The length of treatment is used to treat a culture until only persisters remain. The persisters are then starved in PBS for two days to allow time for the formation Z-rings. The bacteria are then moved onto a microscope slide lined with LB agar which provides nutrients to facilitate resuscitation. Pictures in both phase contrast and gfp fluorescence are taken every hour after plating to monitor the growth and Z-rings. If the formation of Z-rings in the growth-inhibited state holds true as a biomarker, then we can use them to determine which cells are viable for resuscitation study; these cells can then be used to advance the field of persistence research further.
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    Investigating Cellular Patterning of Breast Cancer Cells with ADGRF1 Overexpression or Activation on Novel Micropatterned Substrates
    (2023-04-13) Vu, Alyson
    In this study, our lab developed a simple, efficient, reproducible and reliable method to fabricate lipophilic small molecule drug-loaded polymeric microneedles. These microneedles have the potential to not just encapsulate a lipophilic drug but also pierce through porcine skin, hence showing the potential to deliver the drug through skin.
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    Organizational Diversity and External Recognition
    (2023-04-13) Villarreal, Andres
    In the last few years companies in the United States have taken steps to incorporate diversity initiatives into their organizational activities in an attempt to mirror societal values. Through social media outlets such as Twitter, companies have often communicated these sentiments with the public. However, despite promises to champion diversity there exists a skepticism surrounding whether or not these diversity initiatives manifest into anything meaningful. In this research project it is hypothesized that the level of authenticity in social media posts made by companies found on the S&P 100 index promoting diversity and inclusion mediates the relationship between board gender diversity, level of managerial diversity, level of employee diversity within a given organization and diversity external recognition. Evidence was found to support this hypothesis given that every level of organizational diversity regarding gender were positively related to diversity external recognition. While organizational ethnic diversity and diversity external recognition were found to be mediated by authenticity. Thus, an organization committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace will be viewed positively overall in the eye of the public if the promotion of diversity through Twitter is authentic and truly reflective of the organization.
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    Using GPS to Monitor Subsidence and Faults in the Greater Houston Area
    (2023-04-13) Villagomez, Johanna
    The Greater Houston area has been experiencing ground deformation for nearly 100 years due to subsidence and faults. The results of this subsiding and faulting has caused damages to commercial, residential, industrial buildings and public infrastructure. These damages are generally overlooked until an extensive area is affected and significant collateral risks have been induced. Since the 1990s GPS technology has become the primary tool for monitoring subsidence in the Greater Houston area. This technology was implemented by the collaboration of National Geodetic Survey (NGS) and Harris-Galveston Subsidence (HGSD.)Beginning in 1975 the Texas Legislature created HGSD, which is divided into Area1, Area 2 and Area 3. Fort Bend Subsidence District (FBSD) in 1989 which is divided into Area A and Area B. Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) in 2001, and Brazoria County Groundwater Conservation District (BCGCD) in 2005. In cooperation which one another University of Houston (UH), FBSD,LSGCD, BCGCD, and other local institutes, HGSD has accumulated about 250 permanent GPS stations within the Greater Houston Region into its regular subsidence monitoring.Precise monitoring of ground deformation over a long period of time is essential to managing ongoing geological hazard as it relevant to plans for the future development of urban areas.
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    Chabazite Zeolite Synthesis Using Inorganic Structure-Directing Agents
    (2023-04-13) Varghese, Nathan
    Zeolites are aluminosilicate crystals with nanopores commonly used as adsorbents and catalysts in industrial applications. My zeolite framework of interest is chabazite (CHA), which is heavily used in industry to break down NOx emissions. In industry, most of this CHA is produced using organic structure-directing agents, which can produce CHA at high yields but is extremely expensive to use, is very dangerous to the environment, and cannot be recovered after synthesis due to calcination. In previous studies, inorganic structure-directing agents like potassium cations have been used to synthesize CHA instead of the traditionally used organic compounds, but this approach often yields CHA in a mixture of other different zeolite frameworks. Another approach to this issue is to use a mixture of inorganic structure-directing agents like lithium, sodium, and potassium cations to help isolate fully crystalline CHA. In previous studies led by Dr. Rimer and Dr. Mintova, combinations of potassium and strontium cations, as well as combinations of sodium, potassium, and cesium cations, have been used to synthesize relatively pure CHA yields. Over the Fall 2022 semester, I have been working with the Rimer group at the University of Houston to synthesize CHA at high purities and yields and across various temperatures and time ranges using multiple combinations of lithium, sodium, and potassium cations.
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    Financial Documents Reported During The Blue Sky Laws
    (2023-04-13) Vallejo, Ana
    This research focuses on how companies were impacted by the Blue Sky Laws that were enacted in the 1920s and 30s. Blue Sky Laws were enforced by state regulators to increase transparency between issuers of securities and buyers to decrease fraudulent security sales. This research also shows how the companies that filed financial documents were impacted by the Great Depression, since that is when the Blue Sky Laws were in effect.
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    Ceramic Analysis in Atzompa: Maintaining a millennium old tradition in Zapotec utilitarian ceramics
    (2023-04-13) Valades, Leon
    This project is focused on the topic of utilitarian ceramics at the archaeological site of Atzompa and how the contemporary potting town of Santa Maria Atzompa has maintained a ceramic tradition for over a thousand years. When talking about utilitarian ceramics, we usually refer to kitchen ware such as bowls, plates, cups, comales, pots (ollas), jugs, jars, apaxtles and casseroles. I analyzed the similarities between utilitarian ceramic pieces of prehispanic times at the archaeological site of Atzompa and the potting town of Santa Maria Atzompa, which includes the continuity of utilitarian utensils, the kilns that were used to make pottery and the economic importance behind utilitarian ceramics in the central valleys. While conducting my research, I was able to see the continuity of utilitarian ceramics at Atzompa through the types of utensils produced in prehispanic times and today, through the methods of production and how essential utilitarian ceramics is for Atzompaï's economy today.
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    Verification of Solenoid-Enabled Percussion to Monitor Bolted Structures with Neural Network and Support Vector Machine Classifiers
    (2023-04-13) Valentine, James
    Percussion-based methods of structural health monitoring have been tested on various structures. Through verification of their viability in more specific situations, it could prove to be useful in giving a non-invasive and non-destructive method monitoring structures that are hard to reach. After setting up a solenoid to test the percussion method on two different flanges and a set of metal plates, it was found that in more specific scenarios as this, it can be difficult for the machine learning algorithms to sort specific levels of torque. It is proposed that more refinement can be applied to the method, both through refining the algorithms it uses and through changing how the algorithms sort the data.
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    TRAF4 has potential interaction with E7 oncogene in HPV+ Cervical Cancer Cells
    (2023-04-13) Upadhyay, Ekta
    HPV16 is the most common high-risk HPV type that causes cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and cervical cancer. E7, an HPV+ oncogene, is a large player in the development of CVCa, but not much is known about its specific mechanism. TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) Receptor Associated Factor 4 (TRAF4) is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that is heavily implicated in metastatic prostate cancer and is involved in cell differentiation and apoptosis. In this project, we investigate the role of TRAF4 in CVCa and whether it interacts with E7. To accomplish this, we used HPV+ (Siha) and HPV- (C33A and Caski) CVCa cell lines to study the mechanism of TRAF4 and its interaction with CDC-125, a drug known to inhibit the activity of TRAF4. Through a series of cell counting assays, we observed an overall decrease in cell proliferation in all three cell lines. From this, we seek to explore whether TRAF4ï¾’s activity was specifically related to HPV+ or HPV- CVCa. To do this, we will conduct co-immuno precipitation and western blots to study the interaction between TRAF4 and E7, which is only present in HPV+ CVCa. TRAF4 activity is also overexpressed in several other cancers as well. Thus, our findings may provide valuable insights to other scientists studying TRAF4 beyond the scope of our cervical cancer research. Uncovering the mechanism of TRAF4 may help us understand how it causes the proliferation of cancer cells, which is paramount to the development of new and more effective therapies.
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    Systematic Review of the Lower Perceived Access to Care Among Populations Experiencing Homelessness
    (2023-04-13) Truong, Khiem
    Background: Exposure to homelessness often results in real, systemic and institutional barriers to healthcare access, like lack of insurance. However, current articles lack insight on whether those diagnosed are able to properly access treatment. A systematic literature review was conducted to gain more insight on the homeless populationï¾’s perceived access to care, contextualized by the progression of cardiovascular disease. Methods: Data from articles retrieved from the PubMed database were utilized in a systematic review process to examine the correlation between homelessness and measures of access to healthcare. The mediators of interest were the barriers that could prevent one from getting access to the appropriate care or needed treatment. Systematic exclusion & abstraction of eligible articles was performed by two individuals reviewing sources, with adjudication of discrepancies by a third. Results: The broad search yielded 435 initial articles, then was systematically excluded for reasons such as age of sample group (40), year of publication (49), and commentaries (8), narrowing down the number of applicable articles to 12. However, the lack of access to proper healthcare was more consistently reported in persons experiencing homelessness compared to their housed counterparts. Discussion: A majority of the included articles concluded that homeless individuals have a lower perceived access to care, which likely results in both acute and chronic health conditions going untreated. Further, ongoing searches will characterize how access to care contributes to the overall progression of chronic diseases within a context of the complex exposures associated with homelessness.