Undergraduate Student Research  
 

Current Research: May 2014 - 2015

 
Development of an "Under Air" Direct Arylations
Lindsay Armstrong
Lindsay Armstrong

We will work towards developing conditions that would allow direct arylation reactions of simple aryl halides to be run in “under air” conditions.  Direct arylations offer an inherently greener alternative to Suzuki-Miyaura cross-couplings for the synthesis of the (hetero)biaryl scaffold.


Faculty mentor: Dr. Jonathan Fritz, Chemistry
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


 

Effective Factors Guiding Carbon Management in West Michigan Companies
Madeleine Burns
We will be researching carbon management among West Michigan companies, and what techniques and factors make them effective in their approach. We will do this by conducting interviews with business managers and owners. Having more information about companies sustainability approaches might allow for other companies to utilize carbon management to a higher potential with this research information.


Faculty mentor: Dr. Deborah Steketee, Sustainable Business

Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program

 
The Topological Structure of Citation Networks
Krystin  Dreyer
Krystin Dreyer

A citation network is a directed graph whose nodes represent some kind of item and whose edges represent an influence of one item on another. For example, the nodes of the network could be academic journals with edges pointing from Journal A to Journal B if Journal A is cited in Journal B. The purpose of this research project is to adapt methods from algebraic topology, graph theory, and linear algebra to study properties of citation networks, such as a ranking of the most “important” objects in the collection as well as the general shape of a network, thus obtaining a geometric description of the flow of influence.


Faculty mentor: Dr. Joe Fox, Mathematics
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


 
Uses of "yo" (I) in the Spanish of Heritage Speakers
Azra Fazil
Azra Fazil

The study will concentrate on discerning the specific contexts in which yo is being used as a discourse marker in the speech of Heritage Speakers. Because we believe this is a new phenomenon, only used in oral speech, younger speakers are expected to show more cases of yo as a discourse marker and, given the fact that women are known to lead linguistic changes towards innovative forms, female speakers are expected to use yo as a discourse marker more often than male speakers. Data for this project will come from the semi-casual speech of Spanish speakers in the Grand Rapids area, in Michigan. We plan to interview and analyze the speech of 10 to 20 Heritage Speakers.               

 

Faculty mentor: Dr. Carmen Ruiz-Sanchez, World Languages
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


 
Achievement Gap: Exploring Students' Achievement in Dual Immersion Programs
Cari Hough
Cari Hough

This project explores the existence of an achievement gap between native English-speaking students and native Spanish-speaking students within English-Spanish Immersion Programs.

 

Faculty mentor: Dr. Rui-Niu Cooper, School of Education/ESL
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


 
Synthyris bullii: Its presence, abundance, and conservational status in Michigan
Chuck Hyde
Chuck Hyde

Synthyris bullii (known as kitten-tails) is an endangered species of plant in Michigan. We plan to visit known populations of S. bullii, collects samples and data (soil samples, population size, light availability,etc.), and perform molecular techniques to assess the conservational status of the plant in Michigan. This will help add to a pool of data on S. bullii from Michigan and surrounding states in the Midwest.


Faculty mentor: Dr. Clark Danderson, Biology
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


 
Squaring the Circle in Elliptic Geometry
Kyle Jansens
Kyle Jansens

Constructing a circle and square with the same area is impossible in Euclidean geometry and possible in hyperbolic geometry. Elliptic geometry is the only non-Euclidean geometry remaining to consider. Our initial work indicates we can square the circle in elliptic geometry and the obstacles are completely different from hyperbolic.


Faculty mentor: Dr. Michael McDaniel, Mathematics      
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


 
Perceptual-Motor Recalibration of Rotational Locomotion
Hannah Mahoney

Prior research indicates that humans can adjust the magnitude, direction, and force of their actions to adapt to changes in the environment. Previous work exploring rotational locomotion has hypothesized the contribution of two primary components: a perceptual-motor learning mechanism and a sensory-adaptation mechanism. The current experiment isolates the hypothetical sensory-adaptation mechanism in order to clarify it theoretically and measure its respective contribution in recalibration.

 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ben Chihak, Psychology

 

Mutagenesis of a TfdA-like B. pertussis Enzyme
Nick Pierce
Nick Pierce

α-Ketoglutarate- (αKG) dependent dioxygenases are mononuclear non-heme Fe(II) enzymes that couple the oxidative decarboxylation of αKG to substrate oxidation.  TdfA is an Fe(II)- and αKG-dependent dioxygenase that initiates the biodegradation of the widely used herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).  A TfdA-like sequence has been identified in Bordetella pertussis, however this organism is not known to metabolize 2,4-D, and the purified protein has no identifiable TfdA activity.  It is hypothesized that this B. pertussis gene shares a recent common ancestor with TfdA.

Using a 3D model, we have identified amino acid residues seem to be important in determining the specificity of the B. pertussis TfdA-like enzyme.  Our project this summer will be to change these residues to the corresponding sequence in TfdA.  We will then test our mutant proteins for TfdA activity.


Faculty mentor: Dr. Tim Henshaw, Chemistry
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


 
The Honeybee and Sustainability
Jamie Sansone
Jamie Sansone

The outcome of our research will be to answer the following questions: How do the beekeeping business approaches vary in diverse geographical locations and environments? How is beekeeping providing environmental, social, and economic value to communities? What are the factors that make for a successful business in beekeeping? This research will contribute valuable information to help move Aquinas’s sustainability and economocology efforts forward, specifically with Aquinas’ Keeping Bees Club and on campus start up beekeeping business.

 

Faculty mentor: Krista Badiane, Sustainable Business
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


 
Mutagenesis of NOD1 and NOD2 Receptors
Jamaal Tarpeh
Jamaal Tarpeh

Nod1 and Nod2 encode cytosolic innate immune receptors that bind either, or both, intracellular Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. The important role of NOD receptors in intestinal immunity is well established, but not fully characterized. In past work, we cloned zebrafish Nod1 and Nod2 genes. Our goal this summer will be to use these cloned genes and, through the method of site-directed mutagenesis, generate and express putative dominant-negative NOD1 and NOD2 proteins in zebrafish intestinal epithelial cells.

 

Faculty mentor: Dr. Larry Peters, Biology
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant