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.

>View 2021 Symposium research
>View 2020 Symposium research
>View photos on Facebook
>View 2019 Symposium research
>View 2018 Symposium research
>View 2017 Symposium research

Biology and Health Science

Yadira De-Leon-Lopez
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Flaherty
Understanding the Role of the PI3K-Akt Pathway in the Macrophage Response to Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) can be part of a healthy individual's microbial flora. However, problems may arise when a GBS-colonized mother becomes pregnant. GBS may be transferred from a colonized mother to her newborn or developing fetus, which may result in complications such as meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis, or even death. Macrophages play an especially important role in the fetal and newborn response to GBS due to the limited capacity of the adaptive immune system early in life. The goal of this project was to understand how GBS manipulates macrophage cell signaling to survive and cause disease. To this end, we investigated whether the PI3K/Akt pathway was involved in several key aspects of the macrophage response to GBS. We first explored whether certain GBS strains, such as sequence type (ST)-17, rely on this pathway for the more rapid macrophage uptake they are known to induce compared to other GBS strains. Our colony counting-based studies suggested this pathway is important for macrophage uptake of GBS. We also compared the ability of different GBS strains to induce actin rearrangements in macrophages using fluorescence microscopy. These studies revealed that more virulent strains of GBS induced more actin stress fibers in macrophages than less virulent strains. We also explored whether the PI3K-Akt pathway impacted the ability of GBS to survive within macrophages after phagocytosis. Additionally, we investigated the survival rate of macrophages following GBS infection. Overall, this research may provide new insights for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools to combat GBS.

MacKenzie Morris
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Hess
The Viral and Bacterial Causes of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease

Canine infectious respiratory disease is often characterized by a distinct dry cough that is otherwise uncommon in dogs. There are numerous viral and bacterial causes, the most well known causes are Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus type 2, and canine parainfluenza virus. This disease state typically starts with a primary infection, after which a secondary infection can occur, typically in the form of a viral pathogen or an opportunistic bacterial pathogen. Most causative pathogens are spread through aerosolized droplets and direct contact with infected dogs, but fomites have also been implicated in the spread. The most high risk areas for this disease are animal shelters and other places in which dogs are in close contact with one another for prolonged amounts of time. Some of these pathogens are also able to infect immunocompromised humans. In recent years, more bacteria and viruses have been linked to canine infectious respiratory disease. For bacterial infections, treatment with antibiotics is used when necessary, although resistance among these bacteria is common. There are preventative vaccinations for many of the causative pathogens, including injectable, intranasal, oral, and bacterial ghost vaccines, which can all help to protect dogs from severe clinical signs if infected.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Victoria Faber
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Flaherty
Group B Streptococcus Infection and the Associated Response of the JAK/STAT Pathway

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen that poses a major threat to neonates and pregnant women due to its ability to invoke severe disease states and increase risks of pregnancy complications. Previously, the JAK/STAT pathway has been identified as a pathway of interest due to the possible association with the response of macrophages to GBS infection. However, it was not investigated further. Here, we expanded on these studies by utilizing the same set of genetically diverse strains of GBS to study the JAK/STAT pathway that can regulate inflammatory signaling as part of immune response to infection. Our results demonstrate that the strains known to be more associated with increased severity of disease state had greater levels of activation of inflammatory mediators such as NFkB. This suggests not only JAK/STAT’s involvement in inflammation induced by GBS infection, but also suggests that JAK/STAT is upstream of NFkB and that the JAK1 inhibitor (Tof) inhibits it. This data provides further support for the use of JAK1 inhibitors as possible therapeutic targets in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases characteristic of inflammation because Tof lowered the levels of inflammatory mediator activation to levels associated with less pathogenic conditions.

Aaron Batke
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Timothy Henshaw
Evaluation of CT0328 phosphatase activity using in silico and in vitro methods

The Protein Structural Initiative and similar efforts are partially responsible for the thousands of proteins with uncharacterized functions. To address this problem, researchers utilize in silico and in vitro techniques to make functional determinations. Utilizing the Protein BLAST and Pfam databases, the predicted phosphatase CT0328 was selected for evaluation. The plasmid encoding CT0328 was isolated, and the success of the isolation was revealed using a restriction digest and gel electrophoresis. The plasmid was transformed into BL21(DE3) E. coli and the expression of CT0328 was induced. Cells were then lysed, and protein contents were purified using column chromatography. An SDS-PAGE analysis evaluated the success of the purification. It was predicted that a protein band of roughly 72.6 kD would be observed. This band would correspond to CT0328 fused to the Maltose Binding Protein (MBP). The only band observed was ~40 kD. This band was predicted to correspond solely to the MBP. A lack of phosphatase activity was observed when samples were incubated with PNPP. Sanger Sequencing of the plasmid revealed a likely construction error that prevented the expression of CT0328. Transformed cells were unable express CT0328 so in vitro analysis of phosphatase activity could not occur.

Emerson Duquette
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Flaherty
Immortalization of Lymphocytes: Creation of a New Cell Line

Primary cells, cells that have been taken as a sample from the species of interest, can only replicate a finite number of times, making them unsuitable for long term study. They are also expensive to obtain. To rectify this, a number of cell lines have been created using different methods to immortalize them, allowing for indefinite replication. However, many of the current cell lines in circulation have become contaminated with other cell lines or have been improperly documented, which can devalue research done using them. Immortalized cells can also behave differently from their primary cell counterparts, so their behavior must be compared to the primary cells. The goal of this experiment was to create a cell line that has clearly documented origins that will be useful for study. Lymphocytes were obtained and isolated from a human subject and were immortalized with SV40 LT, a common immortalization method. The immortalized cell count was compared with the original cell count to see if they were able to replicate longer. To confirm the presence of the virus within the cells’ genome, fluorescence microscopy was performed. Since the virus used has a fluorescent tag, if the cells glow, the virus was successfully integrated.

Alex Hazen
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Hess
Antibiotics produced by Streptomyces

Streptomyces is a bacterium well known for its production of antimicrobial substances against both Gram positive and negative bacteria. Many strains of Streptomyces have been identified, as well as their antibiotics they produce. Antibiotics are always in demand due to antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens. Methods can be used to identify antibiotic activity such as plating with ESKAPE pathogens and use of organic extractions. Additionally, methods such as DNA extraction and sequencing, as well as HPLC can be used to identify the strain and identity of antibiotics respectively. Through these methods, the strain of Streptomyces was identified and the identity of the antibiotic compounds was explored.

Alexandra Knight
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Hess
Trans-Cinnamaldehyde and its Derivatives Effects on Staphylococcus aureus Growth

Staphylococcus aureus is the bacteria that causes strep, a common bacteria that can be contracted during cold seasons. This is one of the many bacteria that have a need for new antibacterial solutions. Antibacterial resistance is a growing problem, with the rate of mutations being exponential. However, studies into a combination of treatments, such as Essential oils paired with antibiotics have taken the world by storm. Essential oils are commonly used today, and have been proven to have strong effects against bacteria. A powerful antibacterial oil is Cinnamon Bark oil, specifically the chemicals eugenein and trans-cinnamaldehyde. Through the testing of antibacterial resistance using methods of disk diffusion, broth dilution, and a broth bead growth. These tests all look at the MIC(minimum inhibitory concentrations) for the individual chemicals against S. aureus. The testing of the recognition site is done through testing trans-cinnamaldehyde and its various functional group variations: Trans-Benzalacetone carbonyl functional group, Cinnamyl alcohol hydroxyl functional group, Cinnamic acid carboxylic acid functional group. All these chemicals are showing a resistance against S. aureus which tells us that the base structure of trans-cinnamaldehyde is a good antibacterial agent.

Business Administration

Lauren Kovach
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kerri Orders
Gen Z Students: How COVID-19 has Shaped On-Campus Dining Preferences

Every college and university needs to feed its students and ensure that its dining services are catering to the students’ needs and preferences. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the consumer behavior process associated with dining and the way in which food is purchased has been transformed. A range of new dining trends has emerged, including curbside pick-up, home delivery, online/app orders, and sustainable packaging. With such accelerated change related to what students eat, how they order, obtain, and pay for food, it is crucial for Aquinas College to stay abreast of current trends and preferences related to Generation Z, which is the current generational cohort on campus. The focus of our research project is to gain insights about Generation Z’s consumer behavior and shifting preferences related to campus dining, specifically at Aquinas College. A range of research methods will be used, including qualitative interviews with students, data collection through student surveys and polls, and a demographic report of Generation Z, using the “Demographics Now” consumer insight tool. The findings gained from our research will be shared with the dining services team. The objective is to enhance campus life for new and current Aquinas College students, by better understanding their evolving preferences and expectations related to on-campus dining services.

Chemistry

Bryce Platte
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kevin Boyd
Construction and Testing of a Thin-Film Vacuum Growth Chamber

A simple low-vacuum system for chemical vapor deposition (CVD) of thin metal-containing films was dveloped. The system contains two source boats and a substrate holder, enabling the growth of mixed-metal films. Independent, controlled heating of the sources and substrate are done via pulse width modulation. In initial testing, a total of 21 films were grown. Four precursors were used: vanadyl acetylacetonate (bis(2,4-pentanedionato)oxovanadium(IV)), chromium (III) acetylacetonate (tris(2,4-pentanedianato)chromium(III)), cobalt (III) acetylacetonate (tris(2,4-pentanedionato)cobalt(III)), and titanium (IV) bis(actylacetonate)dichloride (dichloribis(2,4-pentanedionato)titanium(IV)). Films were grown on three types of substrate: indium tin oxide-coated glass, anodized aluminum, and an alumina-based ceramic material. Analysis of the films was by uv/vis absorbance, infrared spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, and x-ray diffraction. In order to explore possible photocatalytic behavior of the films, a photoreactor design was developed using high-power light emitting diodes. Some films exhibited interesting thermal surface segregation behavior thought to be due to a spinel structure within the film. Photocatalytic studies were inconclusive.

Bryce Platte
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Fritz
Analysis of a Suzuki Coupling Reaction to form 3,5-Dimethyl-3'-Nitro-1,1'-Biphenyl

Suzuki Coupling reactions were chosen to form 3,5-Dimethyl-3'-nitro-1,1'-biphenyl, a product that can also be formed from a direct arylation reaction. This product in conjunction with other Suzuki Coupling products allows for the quantification of product ratios of the direct arylation reaction. Various methods, reactants, and conditions were tested to discover the most reliable reaction to form 3,5-Dimethyl-3'-nitro-1,1'-biphenyl. The results were characterized by nuclear magnetic resonance and melting point. The reaction schemes have produced pure products but in low yields and further testing is being done to improve them.

Morgan K Nissen
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kevin Boyd
Chemical Vapor Deposition of Doped Titanium Dioxide Thin Films for use as Photocatalysts in Aqueous PFAS Destruction

PFAS or Perfluoroalkyl Substances are fluorine saturated carbon chains that are often produced in industry and pollute water systems. They pose a serious environmental risk since they readily bioaccumulate, have long half-lives, and are toxic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic. One possibility for a solution to this problem is photocatalytic destruction, in which PFAS is destroyed via carbon-to-fluorine bond cleavage fueled by election donorship from the photocatalyst material. Titanium dioxide thin films are good candidates for photo catalysis because they are high surface area, non-toxic, stable, and readily liberate electrons. An issue with using titanium dioxide for this process is that it is only active above the visible spectrum (UV range), which means dopant elements must be added to lower its active range to the visible spectrum, where the majority of the sun’s energy is available. This research explores different elements as dopants in titanium dioxide thin films for their effectiveness in aqueous PFAS destruction.

Communication

Lindsay Hillstrom
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Ian Borton
Assessing the Efficacy of a Gamified Interpersonal Communication Course

This study investigates the impacts of changes made to the delivery methodology and pedagogy of an interpersonal communication course. As part of the Summer Scholars Program, Dr. Ian Borton and student researcher Lindsay Hillstrom explored the theory of gamification and how it can be implemented in the classroom to increase student engagement, learning, and retention. The study sought to build upon current research and determine whether changing the teaching format of a class influences student learning and outcomes. Two different categories of class sections, one gamified and one not, were observed and compared in an effort to learn more about student perceptions of a gamified course format and to evaluate the efficacy of gamification as an educational tool.

Geography and Environmental Studies

Blake Baker
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jim Rasmussen
Geography of Suicide in Michigan

Using current literature evaluating established suicide trends paired with census data, this research is looking to find if there are demographic variable that are correlated with suicide rates. This was achieved by breaking down the area of study to Michigan counties, and calculating a correlation coefficient(Pearman's R) for 14 variables. After this analysis of correlation the results showed that there were no strong correlations, 2 moderate positive associations and the rest of the variable were of weak or no correlation. The finding is that there is a moderately positive correlation between age variables and the rates of suicide within Michigan counties.

Grant Smitz
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rich McCluskey
Statistical Analysis of Square Footage in MLB Stadiums

In Major League Baseball, all stadiums have different dimensions of playing surfaces when compared to one another. The fair territory square footage and foul territory square footage of every stadium is different, which means there may be correlations when comparing certain baseball statistics. Proper statistical analysis can give a team an advantage over their opponent and increase their odds of winning. A spreadsheet was created consisting of each Major League Baseball stadium’s fair and foul square footage with their 2021 statistics of hits, doubles, triples, runs, strikeouts, and base on balls. Pearson’s correlation test was the most appropriate statistical test for the data chosen. The findings showed a positive correlation in Major League Baseball stadiums when comparing fair territory to statistics like hits, doubles, and triples. Then, a negative correlation was found when comparing foul territory to runs, strikeouts, and base on balls. There should be an understanding that with the results discovered, there can be in-game or season-long statistical assumptions based on the fair or foul square footage in Major League Baseball stadiums.

Brandon Schwandt
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rich McCluskey
Michigan Fruit Production

This study explores the total production amounts of three fruits; apples, blueberries, and tart cherries, in the state of Michigan, as well as how the price of the fruits may influence more land for them to be grown on. Secondary data was found through the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service pertaining to the years 1998-2018. Apples and blueberries increased in production in the 21-year time frame ('98-'18), while tart cherries had a slight decrease. Increases in technology and growing techniques are evident in the literature that led to increases in production. The study also found positive, yet not statistically significant, correlation was found between the price of blueberries and tart cherries and the amount of land used to grow the two fruits. Whereas a highly significant, negative relationship was found for apples, all at an alpha of 0.05. Data pertaining to yield of each fruit and literature of growing efficiency supports reasons why such correlations were found.

MaryAnn Lajoie
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. Jim Rasmussen, Dr. Rich McCluskey
Germany and California: A Comparative Recycling Efficiency Analysis

The state of recycling has gone through many changes throughout the years. By comparing two distinct locations - Germany and California - one can observe both the efficiencies and setbacks of these two progressive recycling systems. In 2021, the recycling rate in Germany was 67 percent, double compared to California’s recycling rate of 37 percent. The waste management policies in both areas are notably different. There are many incentives and policies offered in Germany that have guided the country in achieving a high rate of recycling, whereas California has fallen behind their initial goal in reaching a 75 percent recycling rate by 2020.

Ahmed Almarhoon
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. Jim Rasmussen, Dr. Rich McCluskey
Coral Reef Bleaching

Coral reefs are intricate systems that occur in subtropical and shallow tropical oceans in the warm sunlit waters. Changes in the environment in which these species exist, like other organisms, can have a significant impact on their ecology and physiology. Coral loses its algae and bleaches as a result of the heat. An increase in acidification, on the other hand, makes it harder for solitary corals, which are generally millimeters in size, to create the deposits of calcium carbonate, the substance that makes up the huge structures of the reef. Reefs can start to disintegrate if the pH is low enough and the corals are unhealthy enough, rendering them subject to breaking during storms. Reefs in poor condition endanger not just the species that live there, but also the livelihoods of those who rely on them. This paper is based on how sea-level rise, ocean pollution, and changing ocean circulation patterns will have an impact on coral reef ecosystems as a result of climate change. When taken together, these factors have a significant influence on the function of the ecosystem as well as the services and products that coral reef ecosystems supply to individuals all over the world.

MaryAnne Flier
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Rich McCluskey, Dr. Jim Rasmussen
Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids: A Spatial Analysis

This research explored the spatial patterns of the membership of Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth (BGCGR), to determine the extent to which the community’s children are being reached by the organization’s services. Prior research, mostly sociological in nature, has shown the importance of community organizations and opportunity structures for the holistic wellbeing of urban youth; the mission of BGCGR is to provide such opportunity structures to empower the youth of Grand Rapids, specifically. To add to the sociological literature, this research examined the geographical aspects of creating equitable opportunity. This was done by mapping Club membership and creating a study area from one-mile buffers around each of the three Club locations, followed by analysis of census data at the tract level within the study area and its neighboring tracts. Club membership was found to have an inverse association with distance from the Club locations; as distance grew, membership decreased. A gap in service was found in the predominantly Hispanic/Latinx tracts; future collaboration with BGCGR, using this research, will seek to eliminate this gap.

Jordan Gapinski
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Rich McCluskey, Dr. Jim Rasmussen
An Evaluation of Recycling Food Waste and Associated Materials

This study focuses on the diversion rates and repurposing outlets of recycling food that can no longer be sold on shelves or prepared in restaurants. During this study, 6 months of food waste diversion was recorded and analyzed at a local food recycling center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The results display a significant amount of incoming food material was repurposed as meat-based animal feed. In addition, the time periods of data show significantly varying results of end-use results depending on the unknown incoming food products to the recycling center. Kent County has future goals to combat high amounts of waste going to local landfills. The recycling of food waste in this study has shown it will cut down organic waste levels in landfills. Also included in this study are the amounts of compost, dry animal feed, cardboard, plastic, and liquid waste diverted and repurposed out of landfills. Although the amount of animal feed, compost, cardboard, plastics, and other reusable materials varies on what is randomly sent to the recycling center, the efforts to reduce landfill waste locally are successful and should be implemented further in the future.

Theo Malakowsky
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Rich McCluskey, Dr. Jim Rasmussen
Political Geography of Hunting and Fishing in Michigan: Patterns in Urban and Rural Counties

This geographic study compares Michigan counties’ hunting and fishing popularity with the level of political polarization. The study uses hunting license sales data and partisan voting index to compare the two variables over a four-year period (2016-2020) which includes two national elections. The study explores a hobby conventionally associated with particular demographics and challenges widely held beliefs about this group. The popularity of the hunting and fishing hobby as a lifestyle has declined significantly over not just the study period but before and after as well. This study’s goal is to assess the relationship between this decline and the increasing polarity of US politics, as they pertain to the state of Michigan. The percent of each county’s population living in cities or townships was considered to better understand the state’s urban and rural split. Michigan’s rural areas experienced sharp increases in political polarization over the study period. This study aims to bring understanding about Michigan’s changing political and cultural landscape.

Braden Nawrocki
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Rich McCluskey, Dr. Jim Rasmussen
Sand Particle Variance: Rosy Mound Natural Area

In future years, coastal ecosystems will become more sensitive due to an increase in storm energy and frequency. This study aims to quantify the relationship between particle variance in the vegetated and unvegetated areas of Rosy Mound Natural Area in Ottawa County. In aeolian geomorphology it is assumed that the unvegetated areas are more vulnerable to high energy storm systems, so this study accepts this basis and states that these areas hold significantly larger sand particles due to more exposure to wind and a lack of shelter. Vegetated areas shield the smaller sand particles from high winds while forming a cohesive relationship around the plants. To compare these two areas of the dune, two trails totalling in 31 vegetated, 11 non-vegetated human foot trails, and 10 naturally non-vegetated sediment samples were collected. Naturally non-vegetated areas had a 94.7% chance of having significantly larger sand particles than vegetated areas. Hence, one could argue that stabilizing the dune ecosystem of Rosy Mound requires an increase in dune vegetation. This relationship between vegetation and sand particle size is further demonstrated in the study. However, due to the spatial scale and variability of coastal dunes these relationships would not be ubiquitously accepted.

Zoe VanderBrug
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jim Rasmussen
Effectiveness of Riparian Buffer Zones

This study aims to understand the relationship between the riparian buffer vegetation type and its slope angle through tracer dye application. In this study two locations were chosen of varying vegetation types and varying slopes, both along Lee Creek. The first location had a mowed grass buffer with a lower slope and the second had a forested buffer with a steeper slope. Six sites at each location were then studied. The correlation between the slope angle of each site and the distance the dye traveled was not statically significant, at alpha level 0.05. Although no significant correlation was found, the average distance traveled for both the grass and forested sites was the same while the average slope for the forested sites was 3x greater than the grass sites. The idea that denser vegetation is able to absorb more pollutants is present in the literature and helps us understand the results of this study. Runoff from farm fields, roads and other land use choices can aid in disrupting water quality. Riparian buffers can help preserve water quality and are necessary to protect it, but the effectiveness of different types can vary and are continuing to be studied.

Ryleigh Wehler
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Jim Rasmussen, Dr. Rich McCluskey
Soil Compaction as an Indicator of Soil Quality

Soil compaction poses major problems for agricultural practices world wide. Soil samples were collected in Sparta, Michigan in order to test if soil compaction could be used as an indicator of soil quality. Soil organic carbon content was used to signify soil quality. It was hypothesized that soil with higher compaction will have lower levels of soil organic carbon. Loss on ignition was used to test soil organic carbon content of the soil and bulk density was used to test compaction. Five fields were sampled from with a total of 37 samples collected. Each field’s soil type, location, crop, and tillage practice was noted along with any information that could potentially be significant. A Pearson correlation statistical test was used to determine the relationship between the two variables. A weak negative correlation of -.149 was found between soil compaction and soil quality. This indicates that soil compaction and soil organic carbon levels have a weak inverse relationship.

Mathematics

Noelle Kaminski
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Michael McDaniel
Applications of Elliptic Geometry

We applied elliptic geometry to round objects: viral capsids and the globe. We found new ways to measure distances on both objects as well as new properties of projections. For instance, there are ten equally spaced poles on the polar of a vertex of a face of a viral capsid which could be both projection locations and candidates for modifications to larger capsids.

Shekira Edgar
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joseph Fox
Representations of the Classical Groups Using Python

Group representation theory is an essential part of understanding the much broader topic of group theory. In the classical groups specifically, our goal is to identify all the non-zero highest weight representations in the vector spaces "An[N]" of homogenous polynomials of degree "n" on the nullcone "N" associated to the group. Using the multiplicity formula provided by Wim H. Hesselink in his article Characters of the Nullcone, we present a program written in SAGE that calculates the number of times an irreducible highest weight representation shows up in the decomposition of "An[N]".

Music

John-Paul Cherniawski
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Barbara McCargar
John-Paul Cherniawski's Senior Recital

A capstone project of musical performance pieces to showcase learning of various periods of music and styles.

Philosophy

Emily Green
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Wagner
Vaccine Mandates and Covid-19: An Analysis On The Political Polarization of The Pandemic

This research was conducted in an attempt to gain an understanding of the polarization brought about by the pandemic/recent events and attempt to understand factors that have gone into that. Data from this research provides an insight into personal decision making as it pertains to the pandemic, and provides implications for future political and governmental actions. Dissecting the polarization that has been put at the forefront of this pandemic could provide valuable insight into the citizens’ point of view in regards to policy and prevention measures. A survey of ten questions given in an interview style meeting was used to collect responses. This study looks at correlations between perceptions of the pandemic/vaccine mandates and political affiliations in an attempt to dissect the polarization brought about from the pandemic. The data collected implies that it is much more complex than simply assigned preconceptions from either party.

Political Science

Mathew Maloney
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Roger Durham
Responsibility to Protect: Fifteen Years of Patterns of Behavior

This research project is primarily focused on the lack of enforcement of international humanitarian law (IHL) on a global scale, and how that trend affects and controls the international peacekeeping and peacemaking policy known as the responsibility to protect (R2P). Research was conducted by qualitative comparative analysis of thirty-three cases which involved violation of IHL at a state level, in order to establish patterns of behavior in the international community regarding R2P and interventionism. By comparing and analyzing reactions amongst states towards other states committing IHL violations, three major trends emerged within this research. First, strong states are not motivated by human rights. IHL and R2P depend on the willingness of strong states to apply laws and norms either collectively (multilateral) or individually (unilateral). Second, economics is a primary force / motivating factor for intervention in what are otherwise humanitarian crises. Finally, being a strong state, or having an alliance with a strong state, protects violators of IHL from what would otherwise qualify for R2P intervention, regardless of atrocity crimes, or overwhelming evidence presented via international inquiries.

Psychology and Counseling Education

Hayleigh Potter
Student Co-Author(s): Kiera Kaminski, Miranda Schwartz
Faculty Advisor: Allie Mann
The Impact of Childhood Maltreatment on Quality of Life in Adulthood

Previous literature shows a correlation between the experience of childhood maltreatment and quality of life in adulthood. Studies have found that childhood maltreatment including experiencing and witnessing traumas such as physical and sexual violence are related to poor physical and mental health outcomes. The present study sought to replicate those findings in a novel sample. In the present study 101 adults recruited through social media completed a self-response questionnaire. Results and implications are discussed.

Gregory McQuade
Student Co-Author(s): Annabel Sleeman, Isabelle Dawson, Sophia Schuller
Faculty Advisor: Allie Mann
Child Sexual Abuse and Mental Health

One’s experiences throughout their childhood plays a key role in shaping their health and well-being throughout their lives. Sexual abuse, specifically in childhood, can leave scars that have a significant impact on one’s mental health into their adult life. Children who have suffered from sexual abuse are at a higher risk for negative mental outcomes such as PTSD, anxiety, perceived stress, and depression. The present study sought to further explore the relationships between these variables using a cross-sectional, self-report design. Participants included 29 participants aged 18-58. Results and implications are discussed./p>

Megan Moffat
Student Co-Author(s): Adam Hausinfrats, Hunter Benzing, Haley Kozal
Faculty Advisor: Allie Mann
A Higher Understanding: A Correlative Study between Personality and Pot Usage

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that often makes its users feel a sense of euphoria, relaxation, increased sensation, but also anxiety, fear, and even hallucination in large quantities. In recent years, an increasing number of states have passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use, which is likely to have the impact of increasing legal access to marijuana. While the risks and potential benefits of marijuana use are still being investigated, it is also important to understand factors that may predict marijuana use. Personality is one area that could be explored further in this area. The goal of the present study was to explore the relationship between the Big 5 personality traits and marijuana usage. Participants included 54 adults who completed an online self-report questionnaire.

Elizabeth Chlebek
Student Co-Author(s): Karoline Coley, Camila Moreno
Faculty Advisor: Allie Mann
Counseling... Is It Worth It?

Whether one is a freshman in college or a senior, no one is immune to the struggles that can come from being in college. Those issues are troublesome on their own, but it is also of note that, left untreated, these issues can lead a college student to develop more serious psychological issues like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and social anxiety. Counseling in college has been found to have many positive benefits when it comes to the struggles that are commonly faced among college students. Previous studies have found that receiving counseling in college can be greatly beneficial to the students - especially when it comes to the realms of academics, social initiative, and self-esteem. The differential benefits of counseling between men and women on these outcomes is one question that has not previously been explored. This question was explored in the present study through a cross-sectional, self-report design. Results and implications are discussed.

Rylee Whalen
Student Co-Author(s): Brian Garcia Palacios, Emma West, Mary-Pat Wollet
Faculty Advisor: Allie Mann
Children's Wellbeing in Relation to Screen Time

The use of screen time has significantly increased over the past few decades affecting the well-being of children and adolescents. Well-being effects can include social skills, mental health, and development that can cause effects over time depending on the consumption of screen time. This is important for research because we are currently in a phase where there are generations that are attached to technology more than other generations. The present study sought to explore the relationship between screen time and depression and anxiety symptoms in children. To accomplish this, 30 parents were recruited to complete a self-report questionnaire about the screen time, depression symptoms, and anxiety symptoms of their children. Results and implications are discussed.

Gillian Carver
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks
Impact of Covid-19 on Aquinas College Students

Nationwide students struggle with stress, frustration, boredom, anxiety, depression, social changes and a whirlwind of responsibilities. With the rise of COVID-19, this only increased due to work from home orders, social distancing, mask wearing and the stress of worrying about exposure. This has led to an increase of anxiety, depression and stress as well as social changes due to isolation and the need for remote learning and collaboration. COVID-19 proved to effect students’ mental health, study habits and social habits. This study aimed to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on undergraduates at Aquinas College (AQ) as well as to compare AQ undergraduates with national norms established by the 2019 HERI Survey. We found that AQ participants were about twice as likely (1.8x or 180%) to report feeling overwhelmed, more than twice as likely to report feeling anxious (2.2x or 220%), and more than three times more likely to report feeling depressed (3.3x or 330%) when compared with the pre-COVID national norm. Our results suggest that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on students at Aquinas College. Additionally, we measured anxiety, anger and depression with COVID-19 related questions and found higher anger in individuals who received the vaccine. Those who had family members hospitalized due to COVID-19 were significantly higher in depression. These findings illustrate and quantify the mental health impact that COVID-19 has had on Aquinas College students.

Lorenzo Cupri
Student Co-Author(s): Natalie Demian, David Wier
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks
Impact of COVID-19 on Adult Risk Behavior

The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between COVID-19, liberalism, and adult risk behavior. We are interested in comparing the risk behaviors of undergraduate students with national norms of risk behaviors among young people.

Ashlee Pastor
Student Co-Author(s): Mark Sprague, Grace Sweet
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks
Eating Habits of College Students

As young adults transition into the next step in their lives, it is a very emotionally overwhelming time. Campus life brings many different challenges and new responsibilities, a very important one being diet. At home, there is little concern when it comes to portion sizes, the food young adults choose to eat, and the time available to have proper meals. College is an important time for young adults to establish their own habits and regimes; not all of which are healthy. This study highlights the importance of healthy eating habits and brings to light the factors that play into college students' diet choices, including COVID-19.

Hayley Gootjes
Student Co-Author(s): Emily Fortino, Mikayla Oppermann
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks
The Investigation of Physical and Sexual Abuse During Childhood and Personality in Adulthood

This literature review aims to discuss the relationship between sexual and physical abuse during childhood and it’s association with Neuroticism throughout adulthood. Current studies have examined how childhood abuse can contribute to changes within personality. According to these studies, limitations have been presented due to a lack of various measures. Despite these limitations, studies have still found there to be a parallel between Neuroticism and childhood abuse. This study also intends to discuss the procedures, methods, and anticipated results of participant responses to questions regarding childhood physical and sexual abuse, as well as various effects on personailty traits within adulthood.

Julia S. Cooke
Student Co-Author(s): Hannah Loveless, Joy Warner
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks
Social media, screen time, and COVID-19: An investigation into body dissatisfaction during the Coronavirus pandemic

The topic of body dissatisfaction and social media has been widely researched, however, there is little research on how increased screen time caused by the COVID-19 lockdown may have contributed to body dissatisfaction in adults. Studies have found that the COVID-19 outbreak and the quarantine that followed can be linked to negative psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, and disturbed sleep. Partially due to the social isolation of quarantine, social media usage increased during the COVID-19 lockdown. According to current research, social media can have a negative impact on users’ body satisfaction, with negative effects increasing as time spent on social media increases. It is hypothesized that body dissatisfaction increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as time spent on social networking sites increased. Specifically, we predict that women’s body dissatisfaction was impacted more than men’s, and that younger age groups’ body dissatisfaction was impacted more than older age groups'. This study examines the relationship between social media, screen time, and body dissatisfaction over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Narelle Hickmon
Student Co-Author(s): Casey Lenon, Elliza Tolles
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks
How Does Substance Use Affect Mental Status in College Students

Does engaging in substance use negatively affect mental status? Substance use in the collegiate population is becoming more prevalent and concerning, posing the question of the effects that substances have on the mental status of college students. We predict college students who have a negative mental status are more vulnerable to engaging in substance use. Furthermore, men will be more likely to manage their mental health by engaging in substance use, while women will be less likely to use substances to cope with their mental health issues. Moreover, students with depression will be more likely to engage in alcohol consumption. Finally, we anticipate that the younger college students will be more likely to engage in heavy use of multiple substances compared to older college students. Our research design is a questionnaire study, as we created a survey that asks participants about their current mental status and the number of substances that they use. The survey will be able to be completed within 10-15 minutes. We are using convenience sampling to get our participants, by accessing them through social media. Our participants are undergraduate college students, who are at least 18 years old. We expect to find supporting evidence for our hypotheses.

Abigail Sieggreen
Student Co-Author(s): Grace Kelly and Eliana Vander Lugt
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks
An Investigation of The Impact of COVID-19 on Undergraduate Students

This research aims to gather data on the potential impacts that the COVID-19 virus has on undergraduate students' mental health. Previous studies have found that traumatic events and pandemics may contribute to the risk one has for mental health disorders. This topic is of extreme importance as this pandemic is current and continues to have a relevant impact on everyone, especially undergraduate students across the globe. Since the beginning of COVID-19, the virus has triggered many negative emotions that have to do with one's mental health including anxiety, fear, apathy, grief, hopelessness, and more. Because of how inexperienced this specific generation is to a pandemic, this has been and will continue to be an ongoing issue. This research will benefit the future understanding of this new and unprecedented topic.

Sociology and Community Leadership

Brianna Haarer
Student Co-Author(s): Tarshana Kimbrough and Abdulahi Abdiyow
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jen Lendrum
The Influences of Mental Health on College Students: Understanding Help-Seeking Barriers

Mental health struggles are pervasive among American undergraduate college students. This research asks: What barriers influence college students' likelihood to seek mental health services and treatment? The purpose of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of why students avoid seeking mental health services. This interpretive method of study allows for the analysis of the personal experiences of college students through a qualitative survey that is designed to assess the barriers and experiences to seeking mental health services for American Undergrad College Students between ages 18-25 from several colleges in Grand Rapids. As college students in America, we seek to gain more insight on the mental health barriers among this vulnerable population from a range of faith-based institutions in West Michigan. Findings indicate that undergraduate students who struggle with mental health are more likely to avoid seeking mental health services due to the role of stigmas associated with mental health. Gender, race, ethnicity, and cultural perceptions are associated with lower likelihoods to seek mental health care. Moreover, a lack of overall knowledge about mental health services, particularly those available on college campuses, is a contributing factor.

Adeline Shaw
Student Co-Author(s): Cupri Lorenzo, Delong Grace
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jen Lendrum
The American Front Porch: A Study on Social Space and its Impact on Community and Neighborhoods Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

When we think of spaces in our lives, each of us tends to think of something different. Public and private spaces like parks or backyards all have had different impacts on our lives. One such space is the front porch: a unique social space that hugs the boundary of private and public, communitarian and individualistic. Front porches have rarely been researched; this study aims to fill that gap in literature by asking: How do front porches serve as a social space and what unique characteristics do they hold? and How do front porches fit into modern life and culture, especially in COVID-19 times? This qualitative research seeks to interview five households in Sparta, Michigan, a middle class neighborhood in the suburbs of Grand Rapids. The interviews aim to find out how front porches impact their community, and how their use has evolved during the Covid-19 pandemic. The anticipated results may highlight increased use of front porches over the pandemic, along with an increased feeling of belonging, improvement of interactions with neighbors and more time spent outdoors. This is important in a time when many feel the isolating effects of the COVID pandemic.

Maura Maloney
Student Co-Author(s): Elmar Koster, Cameron Loomans, and Daniel Soliz
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jen Lendrum
Psychedelic Drugs: North American Shifts in Societal Perceptions

Psychedelic drugs have been used for centuries throughout many different cultures, and the motivations for use differ. This study focuses on the societal perceptions of psychedelic drugs in North America. In research, psychedelics have been stigmatized and clumped together with other drugs that are illegal. Through media representation and the portrayal of legislative action, psychedelic users have been depicted as dysfunctional and problematic. In combination with the relative lack of research, compared to other drugs such as alcohol and marijuana, a comprehensive understanding of psychedelics for non-users and users is missing. This study attempts to uncover how perceptions have developed throughout time and how they have changed. The motivations for psychedelic drug use, adolescent use, existing policies, and different perceptions have been used to answer our research question: how have perceptions and attitudes regarding psychedelic drugs changed over time in North America? We measured one’s perception by creating an anonymous, qualitative survey as well as using snowball and convenience sampling strategies for finding our participant population. We anticipate attitudes to have shifted over the years. This is largely due to the accessibility of information on psychedelics, changes in motivations, and newer research which is continuing to emerge.

MaryAnne Flier
Student Co-Author(s): Katie Cowles, Saga Rydback, Abigail Sieggreen
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jen Lendrum
Substance Abuse in the Family: The Intergenerational Impact on Adolescents

Although all humans are shaped and molded by their life experiences, adolescence is a particularly intensive period of such shaping. Having substance abuse in their homes, therefore, whether it is parent(s) or sibling(s), is likely to shape adolescents in several ways, and the shaping done by such non-normative behavior will be harmful. This research will use a qualitative survey method to gain insight into the experiences of adolescents who have substance abuse in the home. The general family and home life will be taken into consideration as well as the circumstances surrounding - and feelings and experiences of - their family member(s)’ substance abuse. Based on existing literature, it is anticipated that this study will uncover the harmful shaping effects of familial substance abuse on adolescents. These effects will range from lesser emotional well-being to adolescents learning to model the non-normative behavior (substance abuse) to which they are being exposed.

Ashley Rodriguez
Student Co-Author(s): Brittney Carter. Meghan Moerdyk, and Izabel Schmall
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jen Lendrum
LGBTQ+ College Students of Color: Intersecting Identities Contribution Towards Sense of Belonging

Intersectionality is a large component of self-identification. For those who identify as LGBTQ+ college students of color, there are various factors that contribute to their unique experiences, many of which include college campus environments, sense of belonging, safety, religion, family dynamics, and relationships. Existing literature has shown, separately, how LGBTQ+ college students and college students of color are impacted by social institutions, but it fails to study both intersections of these identities. We aim to further uncover how this intersection in particular contributes to one’s self-identification and perceived ability to be one’s authentic self. LGBTQ+ college students of color are faced with exclusions from peer and familial relationships, extra-curricular activities, and community events while also being subjected to microaggressions, stereotypes, and slurs that question or fail to acknowledge their identity. These experiences contribute to the high rates of dismissal LGBTQ+ college students of color encounter which put their mental and emotional well-being in danger. They also create barriers in the lives of LGBTQ+ college students of color as they navigate through society. By placing these experiences at the center of our attention, we can help advance society into one that is focused on diversity, inclusivity, and equity.

World Languages

Sierra Mason
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Katharina Häusler-Gross
Mauerkunst & Lebenskunst -Eine Analyse: How did the Berlin Wall (1961 - 1989/90) affect the German art Community Through Style, Medium, and Subject

From August 1961 to November 1989, the Berlin Wall defined not only a divided country, but isolated in particular one of the most prominent architectural symbols of the Cold War, the City of West-Berlin from the rest of the (West)-German life, culture, and the artistic scene. This project explores how the physical barrier of the Berlin Wall affected artists in both East and West Germany. This project seeks to explore the effects of the Berlin Wall on the artists who created the works, and on the public by analyzing selected art works from both sides of the Wall. Carefully placing each work within its specific socio-historical, political and cultural contexts, this analysis also aims to illuminate the ‘human connection’ (between the artist and his/her creation, as well as between the public and their reception and interpretation of the art work), that is expressed through the personal stories behind each work and the artists’ background. This project also calls for a (re)-new(ed) approach towards interpreting East German art (beyond the style of Social Realism), and discusses an extremely popular art form: the development of graffiti in West German art by using the (Berlin) Wall as a canvas.

Livia Quartieri
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Katharina Häusler-Gross
A Project-Based Approach to Subtitling German Short Films

This research project focused on creating English subtitles for three contemporary, award-winning German short films - CHARDA (Charda, 2013), RUBY (Ruby, 2016) and GEIGENMÄDCHEN (Violin Girl, 2018) - and discusses common issues and challenges translators face, especially when translating short films (such as, investigating effective subtitling strategies and techniques that are required for motion pictures). The project-based approach was aimed at providing many examples and ample opportunities to sharpen the translator’s language skills in authentic contexts, while also applying their cultural knowledge of German as the source language (SL), and English as the target language (TL). This approach proved very beneficial to convey the message in the limited time and space available for short films. Translation projects are often challenged by multiple linguistic and cultural factors: German, for example, is a language that contains many complex nouns, as well as complex syntactic structures, which call for specific translation strategies, such as addition, omission, or deletion. English, on the other hand, is a language that uses short and simple sentences, which makes it easier for the translator to fit the message in the limited space provided by the subtitle screen.

Matthew Richmond
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Katharina Häusler-Gross
Using Process Mining to Improve Productivity: An Examination of Positive and Negative Effects of Process Mining on Supply Chains of Select German Companies in West Michigan

As markets continue to grow all across the globe, there needs to be supply chains that are able to withstand the amount of goods and resources that are being transported all over the world. The first step to solving that problem is having clear and defined processes. This allows everybody within the supply chain to coordinate with each other easily. However, some processes become outdated as new goods, services, and technology hit the global markets. To have the ability to change processes quickly and efficiently has become a forefront for supply chain management. This can help be solved through process mining. Process mining can be done through a variety of softwares such as IBM BlueWorks Live and Celonis. This paper looks at process mining and its effects on business processes across different industries. This paper argues that the most important step in process mining is the input of data. This paper concludes with cases of German companies who have utilized Celonis to improve their own processes and their outcomes after the utilization of Celonis.