Department of Biology

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

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Clark Danderson
Synthyris bullii (known as kitten-tails) is an endangered species of plant in Michigan. We visited known populations of S. bullii, collected samples and data (soil samples, population size, light availability, etc.), botanized each site, and performed molecular techniques to attempt to assess the conservational status of the plant in Michigan. This will help add to a pool of data on S. bullii from Michigan and surrounding states in the Midwest while simultaneously assessing the status of the S. bullii within the state’s few populations. 

Kevin Stille & Kacie Gee
Development of Dominant Negative NOD1 and NOD2-expressing Transposons for Tissue-specific Manipulation of Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Innate Immune System using Gal4/UAS-mediated Expression.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. L. Rob Peters
NOD1 and NOD2 of Danio rerio are orthologs to the human genes encoding cytosolic innate immune pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that bind bacterial cell wall components. In humans, mutations in these genes are highly correlated with inflammatory intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the processes leading to these diseases. Danio rerio embryos are a unique model system with natural transparency and ex vivo development that are easily adapted to high-throughput analyses. We plan to create tissue-specific expression vectors containing dominant negative NOD receptors based on those characterized in mammalian studies. These tools will allow the study of the receptors in the development of the innate immune system and their interactions with the intestinal microbiota. Additionally, further characterization of the role of NOD1 and NOD2 in interactions between the innate immune system and the intestinal microbiota may lead to a better understanding of the etiology of inflammatory intestinal diseases like Crohn's disease.

Jamaal Tarpeh
Mutagenesis of Zebrafish (Danio rerio) nod1 and nod2 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Larry Peters
Nod1 and nod2 encode cytosolic innate immune receptors that bind either, or both, intracellular Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Ligand-binding by these receptors plays a critical role in activating downstream signaling proteins that upregulate the production of inflammatory molecules critical in protecting against disease. While it has been established that Nod receptors play an important role in innate immunity, this role has not been fully characterized. Characterizing the role of Nod receptors in the etiology of intestinal immune disorders is made challenging due to the intricate relationship between the commensal microbiota and the intestinal innate immune system. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryo is an amenable model system for studying the interaction of the immune system with the intestinal microbiota and the concurrent development of the immune system and colonization of the zebrafish embryo with the microbiota. The transparency and ex vivo development of the embryo is highly beneficial in studying real-time biological processes (Kanther et al. 2010). Since a role for Nod receptors has been established in intestinal immunity, we will use the zebrafish model system to further characterize the role of these receptors in the intestinal innate immune system. To do this, we plan to create dominant negative Nod receptors and express the receptors in zebrafish intestinal epithelial cells to block the function of the endogenous proteins.

Department of Chemistry

Lindsay Armstrong
Studies on Under Air Direct Arylation

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Fritz
The purpose of this research was to find conditions to run direct arylation reactions under air. This was done by varying the ligands and catalysts used in the reactions. The mechanism of direct arylation reactions is very similar to that of Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling reactions. With that in mind, the focus of the research was to see if air stable ligands used in Suzuki-Miyaura reactions would also work in direct arylation reactions. Further studies showed that most did not work. One ligand, however, was found to be very successful under air. This ligand, S-Phos, comes from a group of ligands called the Buchwald ligands. S-Phos was used with palladium acetate as the catalyst to yield high amounts of product in just two hours. These findings may now be used as an under air direct arylation reaction for undergraduate lab courses.

Cameron Gardner
Mutagenesis of the tfdA-like enzyme in Bordetella pertussis

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Timothy Henshaw

tfdA is an alpha ketoglutarate deoxygenate which catalyzes the degradation of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, which is a broad leaf herbicide found in many weed killers, along with being a part of agent orange. Bordetella pertussis is the causative agent of whooping cough, and a segment of the gene is very similar to tfdA (called BP1665). BP1665 has no current function, and mutating the DNA to be more similar to tfdA could generate activity

Janine Golob
Development of a Paper Analytical Device for the Detection of Ether and Ester Functional Groups

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Jensen
A variety of compounds are utilized in everyday life, from flavoring to the manufacture of plastics. These compounds are often characterized by their functional groups, such as ether and ester. In small amounts they pose little risk, but in large amounts or for simpler organisms, they can cause harm. A device is desired to quickly yet efficiently test for the presence of these functional groups. A paper analytical device (PAD) has been chosen for its practicality in general tests. For ether, a redox reaction utilizing the color change of benzidine dihydrochloride or potassium iodide exists. For esters, treatment with hydroxylamine hydrochloride and iron III produces a deep red metal complex. This project sought to take these tests and adapt them to a PAD for the detection of compounds with these functional groups in solution. While a direct success was not obtained, a hybrid format was found to show great promise.

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

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

Department of Communication

Kathryn Borst
Effects of Leadership Style on Perceived Cohesion of Members in Voluntary Student Run Groups

Faculty Advisor: Penny Avery/David Weinandy
The purpose of this research is to determine if there is a correlation between leadership style –transformational or transactional – and perceived cohesion of members in voluntary, student-run organizations at colleges. The Leadership and Cohesion Hypothesis predicts that organizations with transformational leaders have more highly cohesive members than organizations with transactional leaders. This hypothesis is based on research suggesting that transformational leadership is more conducive to organizational success and member morale than transactional. Since a review of literature provided limited information about leadership style and member cohesion in regards to voluntary groups, and limited research on the topic studied on a college campus, the proposed project is significant. The study will attempt to help fill the research gap by hopefully providing more insight into how student organizations are affected by leadership style. This research has potential to help students in leadership positions better understand their leadership style and improve their membership.

Marilyn Buford
Forgiveness and Emotional Contagion

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Penny Avery & David Weinandy
My research goal is to explore whether or not emotional contagion has an effect on one’s ability to forgive a transgressor when forgiveness is requested. According to Sato (2009) there may be times where an individual may not be able to empathize with the transgressor. This is particularly true with transgressions that are particularly emotionally sensitive. However, Andrews (2008) suggests that a high emotional contagion is more of an indicator of the likelihood of forgiveness in situations with high emotional sensitivity. Research conducted will look at the relationship between empathy and forgiveness.

Catherine Cooley
Perceived Nutrition Analysis

Faculty Advisor: David Weinandy
The purpose of the Perceived Nutrition Analysis study is to measure whether a relationship exists between the marketing of food products and the perceived nutritional value an individual has regarding the product. 

Victoria Fanning
Influences of Horror Movie Promotion Type on Professional Film Critics’ Reviews

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Penny Avery and David Weinandy
This study uses archival research to investigate the potential differences between movie reviews from professional film critics for motion picture horror films that are either promoted as being based on true stories or are not promoted as being based on true stories but have that look and feel (also called the “Found Footage” subgenre). I hypothesize that horror films that are promoted as being based on true stories may receive more negative reviews than horror films from the found footage subgenre. Motion picture distributors often rely on positive reviews from professional film critics as part of their marketing campaigns. With this information, distributors could improve their marketing strategies by promoting films in a way that would have the potential for more favorable reviews—in this case, by either continuing to promote factual stories as real or by choosing not to include this information in their marketing efforts.

Alyssa Frese & Kaitlyn Henninger
Managing Conflict in Long-Distance Dating Relationships

Faculty Advisor: David Weinandy & Dr. Penny Avery
The purpose of this study is to identify the medium of communication that people involved in long-distance dating relationships use during episodes of conflict. To participate, you must be between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age and either currently in a long-distance dating relationship or have been within the last year. In this study, the long-distance dating relationship is defined as being a minimum of one hour away and not being able to see the other person every week. 

Margaret Helmer & Jasmine Weston
Parental Financial Support During College and Parent-Student Communication

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Penny Avery and David Weinandy
The purpose of this study is to discover whether there is a relationship between the level of parental financial support traditional-age college students report receiving and the extent of student-reported communication between parent(s) and themselves about college-related responsibilities and experiences. Our literature review revealed that overparenting (aka helicopter parenting) has been a popular subject of study, but scholarly literature is still lacking in this area. Helicopter parenting refers to parents who are in constant communication with their students and are overly involved in the students' life decisions and issues. The present study may lend support to another factor relating to why a parent may be overly-involved in his/her college student's life in regards to a parent's financial investment/support and the amount of communication exchanged. Research for this study will be based on student-reported information, and conducted through online surveys, which allow us to reach more subjects who fit our criteria.

Brandon Lawson & Shawni Vande Poel
Childhood Family Structure and Communication in Adulthood

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Penny Avery and David Weinandy
The purpose of this study is to research the potential effect of the family structure in which a child grew up and the communication style of that child in adulthood. Subjects were asked to reflect on their family structure during a particular developmental stage as well as their communication behaviors in their current adult relationships. We hypothesize that males between the ages 18-25 which grew up in a single-mother household for at least 5 years will display more of a feminine communication style than their peers who were raised in biological mother-father households. 

Jenelle Miller
Perceived Personal Integrity of Others in Interpersonal Interactions 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Penny Avery and David Weinandy
The goal of this study is to explore whether there is a relationship between the channels of message delivery (face-to-face vs. non face-to-face) and how another person’s integrity is evaluated with regard to a communication interaction. I hypothesize that these individuals will have questionable or compromised integrity when they are able to communicate through non face-to-face interactions. This research can help to bring awareness to our generation, that may choose one message delivery over another, and the way they or others may be perceived through the interaction. 

Mishay Shook & Nina Kirkpatrick
Evaluation of Self-Disclosure on a First Date

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Penny Avery
This study seeks to understand what individuals from both sexes perceive to be appropriate topics for the first date. The purpose of this study is to discover if there is a relationship between biological sex and self-disclosure

Environmental Science Program

Emily Cook
Give Green a Chance: The Implementation of Green Chemistry into a General Chemistry Lab

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Jensen
This research looked at the implementation of green chemistry into a general chemistry lab, "The Empirical Formula of a Compound". During this lab nitrogen dioxide, a poisonous gas is produce, when creating tin oxide. The goal of was to reduce the environmental hazards in this lab, particular the nitrogen gas. An alternative lab was designed were students would create zinc chloride, but hydrogen gas was still being produced. In determining the accuracy of empirical formulas for both experiments, the amounts of wastes produced, and the environmental risks of each experiment, the zinc chloride experiment should be considered to replace the current tin oxide experiment with some further research. 

Casey Wagner
Garlic Mustard's Invasive Success Due to Indirect Allelopathy

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Jensen
The purpose of this project is to determine if garlic mustard uses indirect allelopathy to decrease the health of neighboring plants. Garlic mustard has been shown to decrease arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonization in plants. This decrease in mutualistic fungi may cause decreased plant health in the area of garlic mustard invasion. By introducing garlic mustard into soil with a plant that has an association with this type of mutualistic fungus, plant health can be measured to determine if indirect allelopathy is occurring.

Environmental Studies Program

Molly Robertson
A Geographic Study of Aquinas College Student’s Use of Study Spaces and Resources

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rich McCluskey & Dr. Jim Rasmussen
This project looks at spatial relationships between where Aquinas College Students study and the location’s proximity to necessary resources. This subject was inspired by concern about the overcrowding of specific locations on campus and prior research that study space and resources effect where students study and how much they study. 

Department of Geography

Nicholas Birkmeier & Jenna Boot
Kent County Snowfall Patterns

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jim Rasmussen
This study has twelve coauthors and attempts to answer three questions. The first asks; Can a student organized and managed amateur weather station collect data that is similar to the National Weather Service station here in Grand Rapids. The second question involves the effects of site selection. Given multiple student administered stations, will stations located different sites provide similar data. The final question asks if Allendale and the western side of Grand Rapids receives more snowfall than the eastern side of the city around Aquinas.

Margaret Chappetta
The Effects of Winter Weather on the Salinity of Surface Water at Aquinas College

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jim Rasmussen & Dr. Rich McCluskey
Salinity plays an important role in the ecosystems and processes in bodies of water. The main focus of this study was to look at the effects of weather on ponds and streams located at Aquinas College. Data was collected to determine whether the salinity differed based on location, on type of water body, or location within the body of water, and to determine whether the salinity was affected by weather conditions over a period of time. When looking at the data, a subtle decrease in salinity is observed during the period of warmer temperatures. There was not enough precipitation to make any assumptions about its effects on salinity.

Tierney O'Keefe
Microbrewery Industry Popularity Distribution in the United States

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jim Rasmussen
This study focuses on the microbrewery/craft beer industry. In the past several years the popularity of micro breweries in the United States has increased exponentially. In 2012 and 2013 Grand Rapids, MI was named “Beer City USA” by an internet poll based on popular vote. This sparked my interest to determine whether this title could be quantified. To conduct this study, comparison was based on the 75 most populous metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) in the U.S collected from the 2010 U.S census. Next, the number of breweries for each MSA was collected via the Brewer’s Association. From there a per capita number was produced for each area. The final number calculated was the number of breweries per 100,000 people. The data collected concluded that Grand Rapids is in the top ten cities for the highest number of breweries per 100,000 people. 

Department of Mathematics

Krystin Dreyer 
Mathematics of Citation Networks

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joseph Fox 
The purpose of this research project is to study the mathematical properties of citation networks and apply these findings to other real life networks. This is done by adapting methods from graph theory and linear algebra to study these properties of citations networks, such as a ranking of the citation network, topological features of it, and finding acyclic orderings. By studying one specific citation network, the hope is to apply the knowledge and behavior of one network to citation networks in general.

Department of Psychology

Alaina Beauregard
Nonacceptance of Emotional Response and Goal-directed Behaviors Related to Attachment to Fathers in Female Emerging Adults

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Julie Schatz-Stevens
The purpose of this study is to determine if female emerging adults’ (18-25 years) nonacceptance of emotional responses and their use of goal directed behaviors relate to their perceived attachment with their fathers. Ninety-seven females participated and took two surveys, the IPPA-F (The Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment - Father) and the DERS (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale). Findings indicate a significant relationship between these variables. This suggests female emerging adults have better acceptance of emotional responses and more goal directed behavior when they have a stronger attachment to their fathers. The present study expands previous literature focusing on emerging adulthood. 

Josh Watkins, Amanda Korcal & Colette Chapp
Effect of Mood on Cognitive Functioning

Faculty Advisor: Ben Chihak
The project is an investigation into the relationship between mood and various cognitive functions, specifically the effect of an individual’s positive or negative mood on his or her ability to recall aspects of perceived environmental stimuli.

Spanish Program

Azra Fazil 
The Influence of English on the Spanish of Heritage Speakers in West Michigan

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Carmen Ruiz-Sánchez
Spanish in the United States is considered a language variety of its own, with characteristics resulting from contact with English. This investigation examines the speech of Spanish heritage speakers from West Michigan and provides evidence of how English is influencing their native Spanish language. The motivation for this hands-on project is to study these characteristics and more specifically analyze the use of yo (“I”) as a discourse marker (Ruiz-Sánchez, 2013). Project data comes from interviews with Spanish Heritage speakers in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The results of this study complement previous research and provide additional, real-life examples to future Spanish students and scholars of how close contact between two languages within the same region initiates and even accelerates changes in speech over time.

Sustainable Business

Madeleine Burns
Effective Factors Guiding Carbon Management in West Michigan Companies 

Faculty Advisor: Deborah Steketee
The main question that I will be asking in my research and hoping to shed light on is as follows: Among West Michigan companies, what techniques and factors make them effective in their carbon management approach. Having more information about the techniques and factors that influence different companies have when tackling this sustainability challenge might allow for other companies to utilize carbon management to a higher potential. The main question of this proposal needs to be noticed because the conclusions that I would find will contribute to the sustainability field and add the general knowledge for the overall goal of addressing climate change.

Jamie Sansone
An Investigation of the Honeybee and Sustainable Livelihoods

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

Department of Political Science

Brandon Heritier
Human Rights and the Responsibility to Protect: An Analysis of Israeli-Palestinian Relations

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Roger Durham 
Current Israeli-Palestinian relations remain tense. At least 70 years of formal attempts at creating more peaceful dynamics has resulted in some positive changes. Despite this, violence remains a threat in the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas, tensions continue in the West Bank, Israel continues to hold a significant preponderance of power – and exercises it from time to time as Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah continue to engage in guerilla type warfare. Most crucially, Palestinians remain a “nation without a state” and lack the international legal recognition of sovereignty. This continued violence includes potential Crimes against Humanity and violations of international norms and laws. Through an application of “Responsibility to Protect” and international laws, the questions addressed in this research include whether or not there is any evidence of Crimes against Humanity or Human Rights violations in historical or current Israeli-Palestinian relations; and if so, whether or not the international community has the responsibility to protect those involved in the conflict.

Nathan Gimby
War and Terror Panel by Panel: Graphic Novels and the Construction of Post-9/11 Political Narratives

Faculty Advisor: Molly Patterson
This paper is an interpretive political exploration of themes and representations surrounding the War on Terror, moral authority for military force, and terrorism and terrorist identity within post-9/11 graphic novels and associated films. Narratives examined tended to revolve around patriotic national unity and idolizing public servants, power fantasies of extra-legal but moral physical aggression, and criticism or problematizing of the morality and means of contemporary war. It was found that James Der Derian’s concept of Virtuous War lent itself particularly well to framing representations of war, whether critical or condoning, within comics and film. Virtuous War requires a propagandistic establishment of a binary good vs. evil struggle (virtue) facilitated by a fantasized clean war heavily mediated through such sources as film and video games (virtual). The superhero genre especially, is practically built upon these concepts.