Undergraduate Student Research  

Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Symposium

A campus-wide colloquium of significant contributions to academia.
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The goal of the symposium is to showcase the outstanding quality and diversity of research at AQ by providing students with the opportunity to put into practice and demonstrate the depth of their research skills with those outside of their disciplines. The symposium is also designed to demonstrate the importance of research and scholarship within our community via formal presentations, recitals, writings, poster sessions and art exhibits.
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Symposium Event Schedule: April 29, 2015
Time Event Location
4:30 to 6 p.m. Poster Session Wege Center Ballroom
Symposium Submissions: Academic Year 2013-2014
Department of Biology Department of Chemistry Department of Communication
Environmental Science Program Environmental Studies Program Department of Geography
German Studies Program Department of History Department of Mathematics
Department of Psychology Spanish Program  


Kendra-Marie Garcia

Cloning of NOD1 and NOD2 in Danio rerio

Faculty Advisor: Larry Rob Peters

NOD1 and NOD2 encode cytosolic innate immune receptors that bind either, or both, intracellular gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Gene variants of human NOD2 are implicated in Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) model system allows for unparalleled imaging in the developing embryo, as zebrafish embryos are transparent and develop ex vivo. Transgenic zebrafish harboring fluorescent immune cells poises the zebrafish model as extremely useful in understanding the relationship between commensal microbes, intestinal epithelial cells, and immune cells in vertebrates. Here we show data on the cloning of zebrafish NOD1 and NOD2. We will use these cloned genes to generate and express putative dominant negative Nod1 and/or Nod2 proteins in zebrafish intestinal epithelial cells. We will test the ability of these NOD mutations to block endogenous Nod1 or Nod2 function in zebrafish.


Evan Kowalski
Woodpeckers and the Emerald Ash Borer
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey McKelvey
The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a significant threat to native Ash Trees in the Midwest Ecoregion. Numerous strategies have been proposed to contain the spread of the EAB, but ultimately, it might be up to our native species to learn to control the spread of the parasite. In this study, we attempted to ascertain which factors most influence the extent to which native woodpecker and bark-feeding birds, such as the Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied Woodpecker and the White-breasted Nuthatch feed upon the Emerald Ash Borer. We found that the species of Ash Tree and the Density of EAB larvae were the most influential factors. White Ash Trees had a mean Woodpecker Attacks per Square Meter value of 18.2 ± 24.3 (n=106), and Green Ash Trees had mean Woodpecker Attacks per Square Meter Value of 9.1 ± 12.9 (n=49). With 95% confidence we conclude that the means are significantly different, showing that woodpeckers feed more heavily on white ashes. Our Pearson’s Correlations showed that higher density of D-exit holes (sites of adult EAB emersion) positively correlated (r(153)= 0.5260, p=<.0001) with the number of woodpecker attacks per square meter, and our Cramer’s V associations (mean =.407) indicated that woodpecker’s tend to feed on Ashes with higher amounts of canopy dieback and therefore higher densities of EAB. We conclude that while woodpeckers do significantly feed on EAB larvae, they do not appear to reduce the rate of infestation, feeding mainly in stands that are already heavily infested with the EAB.



Marissa Saladin
Determination of Physical Property Trends for Alkylammonium Metal Bromide Liquid Crystals
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Jensen
Liquid crystals are used in a wide variety of optical and electronic technology because of their distinctive combination of physical properties: a crystal-like organization that allows for magnetization and electrical conductivity and a liquid-like viscosity. Alkylammonium metal bromides,

[C16H33NH3]2MBr4, [(C16H33)2N(CH3)2]2MBr4, and[(C18H37)2N(CH3)2]2MBr4,where M=Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, or Zn, have been previously shown to exhibit liquid crystalline phases at elevated temperatures. This research focuses on changes to the properties of the compounds as the alkylammonium groups are varied. Firstly, an additional set of alkylammonium metal bromides was synthesized,[(C16H33)N(CH3)3]2MBr4 .For all sets, melting behavior was studied using differential scanning calorimetry. and crystal layer distances were calculated and compared using powder x-ray diffraction at ambient and elevated temperatures. The molecular weights of the alkylammonium groups are a major director of the physical properties of each metal bromide and alkylammonium combination. It has been determined that with increasing molecular weight, transition temperatures decrease and interlayer distance increases.


Jennifer Vyskocil

The Mutation of the Bordetella pertussis enzymet to change its functionality to that of TfdA

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tim Henshaw

TfdA is an enzyme which biodegrades phenoxyacetic acids such as 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid or 2,4-D. Bordetella pertussis is an enzyme found in the whooping cough that has a TfdA like amino acid sequence. While their sequences are similar their function is not. The goal of this project is to try and change the amino acid sequence of Bordetella pertussis in order to have the same function as TfdA.


Andrew Zahrt

Ligand Structure Influences Direct Arylation Regioselectivities

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Fritz and Dr. Li-Heng Chen

The synthesis of biaryl compounds is critical for the production of many biologically active molecules. A popular method to enhance regioselectivity of such reactions is the Suzuki coupling, in which an aryl halide is coupled with a phenyl-boronic acid. However, this approach requires prefunctionalization of two arene rings and produces both boronated and halogenated waste. Because of this, more efficient cross-coupling methods remain an important topic of research. One potential method is direct arylation, a process by which an arene is coupled directly with an aryl bromide to make a biaryl product. However, optimization of selectivity at all sites for some substrates remains to be achieved. The purpose of this research was to observe how variation of an anionic ligand affected the selectivity of the direct arylation reaction between anisole and bromobenzene. Further, computational methods were employed to elucidate the kinetics of the catalytic cycle.



Morgan Blackwell & Zack Dittmer

Social Media and Conflict

Faculty Advisor: Dave Weinandy

This project looks at Facebook and how conflict on Facebook can affect interpersonal conflict with friends and family members.


Lynzee Broussard & Anna Romens

Communication Behavior in Different Relational Stages

Faculty Advisors: Penny Avery and Dave Weinandy

For our capstone research, we decided to examine whether a person’s placement on Knapp’s model, specifically in the intensification or integrating stages, affect which intensification strategies he/she chooses to use? We hypothesized subjects in Knapp’s Integrating stage will be more likely to utilize the intensification strategies of increased contact, relational negotiation, and social enmeshment, while subjects in the Intensifying stage are more likely to use the strategies of direct definitional bid, personalized communication, and verbal expression of affection.
This study seeks to unite two lines of research which have been previously explored separately. We will compare Knapp’s (1978) staircase model of relational stages with a selection of the relational intensification strategies identified by Tolhuizen (1989). The purpose of this study is to discover whether a relationship exists between these two sets of research, identifying concrete communicative patterns which are more likely to occur in specific stages.


Laura Farrell

Removing Reality: Evolving Reality Television on Perceptions of Teenage Pregnancy

Faculty Advisors: Penny Avery and Dave Weinandy

Reality television programs depict supposedly raw, real material of people living their lives just like the audience. A fairly new phenomenon, reality television tries to shock and surprise its audiences. One brand of reality shows that is raising some eyebrows, in a realm that aims to shock, is MTV's 16 and Pregnant, and Teen Mom series. How are these shows affecting their audiences? I aim to decipher how increased consumption of these MTV reality television programs, 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, may alter the perception of teenage pregnancy and parenting for young adults. The research on reality television and the subgenre of teenage parenting is in its infancy. My research aims at assessing if there is a trend in changing attitudes towards teenage pregnancy rates, in relation to the amount of consumption of these reality television programs.


Diamond Johnson
Dynamics of Half-Sibling Relationships
Faculty Advisor: Penny Avery
As the proportion of perceived positive attitudes expressed; both verbally and non-verbally by “parental agents” about half-siblings increases, the likelihood of adult half-siblings establishing a relationship for the first time post childhood also increases. A "parental agent" is someone who takes on a parental role it is not restricted to a mother or father and can be a grandparent, extended family or a teacher it is anyone who the child views as an influence. The “parental agent’s” influence is instrumental in identifying if the adult half-sibling will develop future relationships with their half-sibling(s).


Jennifer Kalchik & Abby Taylor
Exploring Interpersonal Jealousy on Facebook
Faculty Advisors: Penny Avery and David Weinandy

Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites in the world, where users can create personal profiles to keep others updated on their lives. Facebook has changed the way many people share information about their interpersonal relationships, both romantic relationships and friendships, because most relationships are maintained or initiated in online environments. While Facebook is used for a variety of reasons, some individuals may become upset by the success and overall happiness of their Facebook friends and become jealous. The tendency for Facebook to impinge on people’s lives, together with the infinite number of available third-party threats, encourages the experience of jealous thoughts. In an age where sharing too much information online can be dangerous, this study will provide research on whether/how interpersonal jealousy behaviors on Facebook might have consequences.


Mackenzie Kane & Diane Lamkin

Family Communication and Stress: The Impact on Persons with Cancer

Faculty Advisors: Penny Avery and David Weinandy

The goal of this research was to examine the impact of conflict avoidance behavior and family communication on the levels of stress present in adult persons who have cancer. Intrigued by what increases and decreases stress levels in persons who have had cancer, we conducted in-depth interviews with persons who have had cancer during their adult lives. We believed that as conflict avoidance behavior increases, stress levels would also increase. Results from previous studies have indicated that suppressing negative emotions shows an increase in psychological distress for people with cancer.


Hailey Mills & Lee Weemhoff

Exploring Connections Between Age & Perception of Magazine Covers

Faculty Advisor: Penny Avery

Media is such an important part of our society and everyone perceives media in different ways. We will be sharing our findings on how different aged people perceive provocative media using popular magazine covers.


Lindy Nawrocki

Near-Death Experiences and Everyday Communication Events

Faculty Advisor: Penny Avery

For my research I propose the question "How do individuals who have had a near-death experience react to everyday communication events, as compared to individuals who have not had this experience?" I am hypothesizing that Individuals who have had a near-death experience will react more positively to everyday communication events than individuals who have not had a near-death experience. I will be presenting my research results at the Student Research Symposium 2014.


Ariana Salogar and Nicholas Anderson

The Study of Multiple Language Proficiency and Patience

Faculty Advisors: Penny Avery and David Weinandy

In our research we will attempt to discover the potential relationship between individuals that possess multiple language proficiencies and their corresponding levels of patience. We have hypothesized that people who speak more than one language fluently will be more patient with those who are struggling to communicate. Our research goals for this study include discovering a potential correlation between multilingualism and patience through surveying voluntary participants. We believe that there is a cognitive shift in individuals with multiple language proficiency that does not appear as strongly in their monolingual counterparts.


Hannah VanDerHulst

Child See, Child Do? Exploring Family and Relationship Conflict

Faculty Advisors: Penny Avery and David Weinandy

Relationship conflict is a reality that is present in virtually all relationships. The manner in which this conflict is carried out is not the same from relationship to relationship, but there may be some similarities and patterns that can be seen. One such possible similarity that this research attempts to explore is the connection between perceived parental episodes of conflict and self-reports of conflict that are then displayed in adult children’s romantic relationships.


Lydia Williams & Hillary Najor

Cyberbullying and Relationships

Faculty Advisor: Penny Avery

Our project is researching cyber bullying and the relationship contexts in which it occurs on certain social media networks.


Environmental Science

Emily Hall

Metabolism of the Herbicide Diquat by Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Fritz

This project analyzes the ability of the species of bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to grow in the presence and its ability to degrade the herbicide diquat. This herbicide is most commonly applied to broad leaf weeds surrounding shallow ponds. It inhibits the formation of chloroplasts and, thus acting as a desiccant. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a species of bacteria that is frequently found in soil and water. This species was specifically grown to have the ability to thrive in the presence of diquat and possibly degrade it. Instruments such as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy were utilized to analyze the results. Results are currently inconclusive.



Alvaro Romero-Gibu
Lab Sustainability: Initiative for the Reduced Usage of Resources in Chemistry Laboratories
Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth Jensen

The project presented initiatives for the reduced usage of paper towel as waste, electricity and water, for cleaning purposes, in chemistry lab sessions. An initial evaluation of this usage was performed with several trials, followed by literature-based recommended minimum values for these three usages and also initial expectations established by the author himself. The conclusions of the project were focused towards how much of these savings of materials could be translated to reduced expenses, or more environmental-friendly diversions once they left the laboratory facility.


Environmental Studies


Anna Lynn Voss

Fire on the Water: A Study on Reactions to Environmental Issues in the Aquinas Student Body

Faculty Advisor: Richard McCluskey

This study has focused on the reactions Aquinas students have in regard to various environmental issues. The data was collected from randomly selected 300 Level courses at Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, MI. The data consists of an analysis of 152 Aquinas students’ answers to a questionnaire with questions paraphrased or quoted from various national polls.



Jenna Boot

Nighttime Outdoor Light Levels on the Aquinas College Campus and Student Perceptions of Safety

Faculty Advisor: Rich McCluskey

This project explores the connection between the nighttime outdoor light levels on the Aquinas College campus and students’ perceptions of their personal safety while traversing the campus on foot at night.
Students’ opinions regarding personal safety and nighttime outdoor light levels were investigated using an online questionnaire. Through the survey instrument, it was discovered that students identify a number of places on campus that they feel are poorly lit at night. Information regarding their perceptions of personal safety while on the campus was also gathered. A study of illumination levels on campus was conducted to assess how nighttime outdoor light levels on the campus compare to the levels recommended for people to have positive perceptions of safety.


Emily Donajkowski

Study of NE Supper House Guests

Faculty Advisor: Rich McCluskey

This project seeks to describe the guests of NE Supper House, a free meal program offered twice a week by North End Community Ministry. The research attempts to discover who the guests are, where they come from, and how long they have been attending NE Supper House. The study also seeks to measure households' levels of food security, as well as their reliance on government or charitable programs to obtain food.


Brian Woodin
Dragging History Through the Mud:  Sedimentation Rates and Sediment Composition in Brewster Lake as Indicators of Anthropogenic Land Use Changes Across Time          
Faculty Advisor: Jim Rasmussen          

This study takes a historical look at the environment surrounding Brewster Lake in Barry County, Michigan.  The study utilizes both a historical and paleolimnological perspective to unravel the complex history of land use and erosion in this relatively small area.

Brian Woodin
They're Coming to America: A Pilot Study on Bosnian Immigration to Grand Rapids
Faculty Advisor: Rich McCluskey          
This project seeks to understand the various push and pull factors involved in Bosnian immigration to Grand Rapids. Interviews with religious groups that sponsor immigrants, businesses that employ Bosnians, and the immigrants themselves will help answer this question.



Joshua Jeszke
A study on Volkswagen's integration into the Chinese market
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Katharina Gross
This study will assess the current extent of success Volkswagen has had in the Chinese market.  "Success" for Volkswagen can be defined as "offering attractive, safe, and environmentally sound vehicles which can compete in an increasingly tough market and set world standards in their respective class". This study will explore Volkswagen's current and future strategies to build on and expand its business success in the Chinese market.



Kevin Mahar

Conrad Gessner: A Bibliographical Exploration

Faculty Advisor: Chad Gunnoe
Conrad Gessner was a Swiss naturalist-encyclopaedist who was a pioneer in the fields of botany and zoology and is considered the father of bibliography. My project consisted of creating a bibliography of all the scholarship related to Conrad Gessner published since 1980 following the format of H.H. Wellisch’s study, Conrad Gessner: A Bio-Bibliography (1984). In addition, the project also assembled all of the major works of Gessner which are currently available online to create a digital library for immediate access. The project thus assisted Dr. Gunnoe in doing future work on Gessner in the history science by creating an updated and fully accessible bibliography. Gessner was a man of vast importance and his contributions to the science, medicine, zoology, and literary fields was enormous. In addition to collecting Gesner’s works, the project makes a contribution to how people in the 16th century collaborated together to advance scientific knowledge.


Nolan Smith

British Mandate of Palestine

Faculty Advisor: Bethany Kilcrease

The British Mandate of Palestine was a demonstration of Imperialism in the ever-changing 20th century. In post-WWI society many different groups were vying for control of the Middle East. The British came in control of Palestine and the region has never been the same since. Many figures like Chaim Weizmann, Arthur Balfour, Winston Churchill, and Herbert Samuel were vital to policy in British control. Samuel was put into the position of High Commissioner in 1920. Samuel allowed for strife to exist between the Arabs and Jews. The British policy makers were walking a proverbial tightrope trying to appease both sides. Different decisions regarding the Balfour Declaration, technology used in surveying the region, and policy makers like Herbert Samuel all helped form the situations existing today.




Noah Armstrong

Mancala Games – King Stones and Home Pits

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Spencer

Mancala is a general name for a large group of over 100 different variations known as "sowing" games. With single and multiplayer games, this group provides many areas for new mathematical research. Our research involves specified stones and getting them to a specified pit in the fewest number of sows. We have solved cases with a goal pit (home) for variables including 1 or 2 specified stones (kings), the initial number of stones in each pit, the number of pits, and the starting pits for the kings. We have been able to solve general formulas for the least number of sows to get our king(s) home.


Jackie Gipe

Properties of Chord Diagrams from the Wheel

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Michael McDaniel

Our research looks at chord diagrams coming from the open wheel diagram. We found that chord diagrams from this particular structure, of odd order are all self-invertible. In addition to this, we were able to develop a formula for finding the weights of these chord diagrams. From these weights we found a convenient basis, which in turn had unique properties to explore.


Casey Bilodeau & Peri Erhan
Research Participation and Consent Forms
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Chihak
This study builds on previous research pertaining to consent forms. The purpose of this study was to find out if reading the consent form out loud to participants had an effect on their comprehension of the information. This was done by adding specific instructions into the consent form that instructs participants to only complete the back side of the survey they were asked to complete. The participants were either asked to read the consent form independently, or had the form read out loud by the experimenter. Both students and staff/faculty members at Aquinas College participated in this study. The data from this study suggests that a participant is more likely to follow the directions in the consent form if it is read out lout to them. Also the data suggests that females are more likely than males to follow the directions in the consent form.


Brittany Fata
Interpersonal Physical Attraction
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Victor Karandashev
Interpersonal romantic attraction leads people to think, feel, and act positively toward a partner. This depends both on individual dispositions as well as on biological, psychological, and social characteristics of the partner. The purpose of this research is to study cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of interpersonal physical attraction in early stages of romantic relationship and various factors affecting this process.  The first study has developed multidimensional scale of interpersonal physical attraction; the second study explores the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral dimensions in longitudinal perspective of several weeks at the initial stages of romantic relationships. The study reveals developmental tendencies of cognitive, emotional and behavioral aspects of interpersonal physical attraction and their interplay at early stages of romantic relationships in emerging adulthood. The motivational role of partner’s biological, psychological, and social characteristics in development of romantic physical attraction is discovered.



Elizabeth Nelson
Functions of the Neutral Demonstrative "Eso" ("that") in Semi-Casual Spanish Speech
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Carmen Ruiz-Sánchez        
Recently, researchers in the field of linguistics have turned their attention to oral language to answer some questions about words and phrases that were once believed to have no relevant meaning. Words that were once seen as “fillers” are now understood to assist the flow and organization of discourse. In this paper, we will discuss the standard uses of the word “eso,” or “that,” in Spanish, as defined by the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy). Next, we will consider some different uses of “eso,” based on its new role as a discourse marker and propose a new definition for it. Lastly, we will cite other studies on discourse markers to demonstrate how “eso” performs similarly important tasks as the previously studied discourse markers do."


Past Symposium Submissions
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