Student Research at Aquinas College

  • Student presenting research poster to another student

    Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Symposium

Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Symposium

A campus-wide colloquium of significant contributions to academia.

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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Department of Biology

Svetlana Djirackor and Lucas Topie
Faculty Advisor: Larry Peters, PhD
Subcloning of zebrafish NOD1 alleles into UAS: P2A-nls-EGFP for investigation of NOD1’s role in hematopoietic stem cell development

NOD1 is a dimeric pattern recognition receptor of the innate immune system, encoded by the NOD1 gene. This protein recognizes bacterial pathogens and, upon recognition, is activated and initiates an immune response. NOD1 activation has been implicated in the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) yet the underlying mechanism of this process remains elusive. To further explore the role of NOD1 in HSC development, we used the recombinational system, In-Fusion® (Clontech) Cloning to subclone zebrafish dominant-negative NOD1 alleles (L36Q and K202R) formerly designed by our group and the NOD1 wild type allele (NOD1 WT) into the plasmid UAS: P2A-nls-EGFP. Our collaborators will use this plasmid, flanked by Tol2 recognition sites, to integrate the sequence of interest into the zebrafish genome and thus examine the role of NOD1 in HSC emergence and development.

Department of Chemistry

Eddy Kaleel
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Fritz
Method Development for A Kinetic Study of Direct Arylation Reactions Using Phosphine Ligands

Method development for a kinetic study of direct arylation reactions is presented. Quantifying the rate of a direct arylation reaction that employees a phosphine ligand is a key component to explaining high percent yields of product both under air and under an inert atmosphere such as argon. Product was produced, purified and characterized for use in this research. Gas chromatography was chosen as the method to monitor the progress of the reaction. The individual peaks of each reactant and product were identified and the GC oven temperature optimized for adequate separation. A calibration curve was produced as well as calculations for the lowest limit of detection and quantitation. Finally, the method of sampling the reaction was investigated and reported.

Alfonso Gaspar
Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Fritz
Divalent Cations in Tap and Filtered Water: Quantifying the Collective Concentrations of Magnesium and Calcium Ions

To quantify the collective concentration differences between tap and filtered water for magnesium and calcium through titration. The experiment consisted of a complexometric titration with EDTA. Four different types of water were collected from sources within the science building at Aquinas College. During experimentation, the unreacted indicator started as blue, transitioned to purple within one mL of completion for the titration, and pink was the equivalence point. The concentrations of divalent cations had the following ranking for the collective total of magnesium and calcium: tap > bubbler > filtered > deionized water.

Aaron Batke
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Jensen
Synthesis and Characterization of Dimethyldioctadecylammonium pentachlorosamarate(III)

Samples of [(C18H37)2(CH3)2N]2[SmCl5] were synthesized and evaluated for possible liquid-crystalline behavior. Gravimetric analysis, complexometric titration, combustion analysis, and laboratory analysis were used to help determine the elemental composition of the samples. Melting point determination, differential scanning calorimetry, polarizing optical microscopy, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy were used to determine the molecular structure and any liquid-crystalline properties expressed by the samples. It was determined that a large quantity of methanol remained in the samples after synthesis. This was demonstrated by their high percent yields and an O-H peak produced in the IR spectra. Elemental analysis revealed that the experimental percent weight carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen agree with theoretical values of the proposed compound formula. The percent weights of chlorine and samarium did not agree with their theoretical values. The theoretical percent weights of each element were based on the proposed formula. Liquid-crystalline behavior was not observed in either sample. This may be attributed to the presence of excess methanol or the synthesized compound is different from what was expected.

Gabby Brandonisio and Alfonso Gaspar
Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Fritz
Scope of the Palladium Catalyzed Direct Arylation of Pentafluorobenzene with Aryl Bromides under Air 

The scope of a Pd-catalyzed direct arylation of pentafluorobenzene under air with respect to the aryl bromide was explored after the reaction conditions were optimized. The success of the reaction was evaluated by obtaining isolated yields. A wide range of aryl bromides with substituents from electron donating to electron withdrawing tended to give just as excellent yields under air in comparison to under inert atmosphere. Other aryl bromides have the potential to give excellent yields under these conditions.

Department of Community Leadership

Alex VanSumeren
Faculty Advisor: Micheal Lorr
New Volunteer Management Approach for Gildas Club Grand Rapids

This proposal speaks on key recommendations and ideas for a new volunteer management program and draws from scholarly sources to provide support. The need for a new volunteer management system at Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is evident. The process is currently long and tedious and could truly benefit from a more streamlined process that will make it more manageable and efficient. The proposed idea is to move scheduling to an online platform in which groups can sign up themselves and fill in places of need. The following proposal will be a discussion of the prevalence of the problem, the solution that is being proposed to fix the problem, an evaluation plan, and a budget. These pieces will argue the need and solution for the fixing of the volunteer management process.

Department of Mathematics

Anna Putnam
Faculty Advisor: Joseph Fox
The Mathematics of Image Recognition

Creating an image recognition program from scratch, that would be able to label images of oak leaves and maple leaves accurately, uses neural networks and requires researching the calculus behind the programming. The neural networks allow us to take any given amount of inputs and work our way down to one or two outputs, through a number of hidden layers between the inputs and the outputs. By using these layers we can set weights and biases for the individual connections between them to maximize the control that we have and the accuracy of the program. The end goal was to have the program be able to identify a leaf as either maple or oak correctly. This research has the potential to extend to the creation of an application that will accurately identify a leaf from any of the trees on the Aquinas College campus.

Department of Philosophy

Noah Hall
Faculty Advisor: Daniel Wagner
Thomas Aquinas on Creation and Primary and Secondary Causation

The goal of this project was to examine the doctrine of creation ex nihilo as presented in the work of Thomas Aquinas’ philosophical works and write a paper presenting his thoughts on the matter with commentary from other sources. The readings focused on his teachings on causation, especially as it relates to primary and secondary causes. In keeping with philosophical tradition, secondary literature was looked at to continue the practice of commentary on philosophical works. The most prominent work other than Thomas Aquinas’ corpus that was looked at was Augustine’s De Genesi Ad Litteram, which Thomas comments on.

Noah Hall
Faculty Advisor: Daniel Wagner
Nature, Philosophy, and Latin in St. Thomas Aquinas' De Principiis Naturae

The primary goal of this project was twofold. First, the student acquired basic understanding and habits of Latin forms, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary necessary for producing philosophical translations of the work of St. Thomas Aquinas. Second, the student and faculty mentor collaborated to produce a philosophical translation of the second chapter of St. Thomas Aquinas’ De principiis naturae, which contributed to the living tradition of treating the thought of the Angelic Doctor. This project is a continuation of a previous study done with another student on the opening chapter of the De principiis naturae.

Department of Psychology

Alyssa Schwartz, Angelo Leon, Cory Slovinski and Amber Christensen
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce Oates
Factors Affecting Perceived Stress in Undergraduate Students

This research analyzes the prevalence of stress in the lives of undergraduate students as well as factors that may be contributing to stress. An online survey distributed to undergraduates was completed by forty-nine student volunteers. Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale and additional open-ended questions were incorporated in this survey. Based on this data, researchers were able to analyze coping mechanisms and significant stressors in the lives of undergraduate students. The results of the coping mechanism portion were sorted into ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ categories. It was predicted that male participants would report engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms more often than female participants. Demographics such as academic major, academic year and biological sex were also studied in relationship to perceived stress. Researchers hypothesized that science majors, math majors, females and upperclassmen would experience the highest levels of perceived stress. Males in this study reported answers shorter in length than their female counterparts. The majority of females reported engaging in healthy coping mechanisms while the majority of males reported engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms. Most of the participants reported time management as one of their main reasons for stress. Implications of this study, as well as ideas for future research, will be discussed.

Julia Cooke and Victoria August
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce Oates
Marital Status, Parenthood, and Alcoholism: Examining the Effects of the Single Motherhood Penalty on Socio-Cognitive Perceptions

Women’s rights have increased over the past hundred years, most notably with the ratification of the right to vote, but women still face discrimination in comparison to men, especially in the workplace. Women are paid less than men and this gap widens if they become mothers, a phenomenon that is called the ‘Motherhood Penalty’ (e.g., Burgess, 2013). Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that single mothers that tested the effects of gender, marital status, and addiction status on socio-cognitive judgments. Using a between-participants design, we asked participants to rate a picture of a person (male or female) paired with a brief description in which marital status (single or married) and type of ailment (alcohol or physical) was manipulated. In Experiment 1, where a passive AUD manipulation was used, we saw no clear evidence of a single motherhood penalty (Experiment 1a). In Experiment 2, when the experimental manipulation was changed to active addiction we observed the predicted SMP (Experiment 2a), with no such analogous penalty for single fathers (Experiment 2b).

Department of Women's Studies

Kaela Frailing
Faculty Advisor: Amy Dunham-Strand
Eating Disorder Diagnosis and Gender-Relative Energy Deficiency in Endurance Athletics

Eating disorders are a growing issue within endurance athletics; however, this problem is too often seen as only a female issue. This presentation serves to combat the myths present within endurance athletics when it comes to body composition and ability to perform, specifically at the elite level. This will be done through the analysis of current events, such as the issues within Nike's elite running coaching staff, as well as looking into the shift of rhetoric from Female Athlete Triad to Relative Energy Deficiency Disorder in Sports.

Department of World Languages

Dominique Foley, Darla Romero and Aubrey Ruiz
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Shelli Rottschafer
Our Expression of Ethno Poetry

For this project, the students explored the topic of Ethno Poetry for their WL472 Engaging in Latino Grand Rapids course. They used research and personal life events to write their own poems about identity and tradition that encompassed the Ethno Poetry style. Following this work, they each wrote an essay that expanded on their own definition of Ethno Poetry and tied these definitions to the thinking behind their poems. For this WL472 course the students also did an internship partnering with Cesar Chavez elementary, volunteering each week with bilingual classes and engaging in the latin community. This influenced and inspired their work in Ethno Poetry. Their pieces were compiled into a creative slideshow to showcase their combined expression of this unique genre.

Bridget Gibley
Faculty Advisor: Carmen Ruiz-Sánchez
The Pronunciation of ""ch"" in Andalusian Spanish: A Study of Social and Linguistic Factors

The study of the Spanish language includes the study of many different dialects and variations. For example, Andalusian Spanish contains a variable pronunciation of the consonant “ch.” The standard pronunciation in Spanish is an affricate sound [tʃ] (as in the “ch” in “choose”). However, the consonant “ch” can also be pronounced in a weakened, fricative sound [ʃ] (as in the “sh” in “shoe”). This dialectal variation is widespread among speakers of different ages, gender, and education, but previous studies have found correlations between these sociolinguistic factors and the typical pronunciation of “ch.” This study is modeled after similar studies from other regions, analyzing audio interviews with speakers of Andalusian Spanish in Alcala de Guadaira in Southern Spain. Each speaker is analyzed based on the dependent variable of the pronunciation of “ch” and independent variables of gender, education, and phonological context for the consonant. The results of this study confirm that women and speakers with a higher level of education use the affricate pronunciation more than do men and speakers with a lower level of education.