Department of Biology

Amanda Roth
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Penny Humphrey
Testing The Effect of Cold Stratification length on Growing Native Wildflower Seed

Riparian buffers are areas of vegetation along the edge of water bodies; they provide protection for water bodies and habitat for organisms. The goal of this research project is to create an aesthetically pleasing buffer along Coldbrook Creek at the Brookby Estate to preserve the estate’s historic integrity while improving its environmental value. This project involves researching wildflower species that will thrive along the creek, growing these plants from seed, and installing them along the creek. Different plant propagation methods will be investigated to determine the best method for building a riparian buffer from seed.

Alyssa Willson
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Humphrey
Identification and Natural History of Invasive Plant Species in Grand Rapids

As globalization continues to connect people from all over the globe, humans have aided in the transportation of many plant and animal species. Some of these species have caused immense ecological and socioeconomic damage to nonnative ecosystems. These species, called invasive species, have come to the forefront of research in fields such as conservation biology and botany. Through this project, I have identified invasive plant species present on Aquinas College's campus. The purpose of this project is to raise awareness of the prevalence of invasive plant species in Grand Rapids and to give the public tools for their identification and knowledge of the reasons as to why they are invasive. This knowledge and awareness is the first step to preventing the further spread of these ecologically damaging species.

Department of Chemistry

Jacob Mackinder
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Timothy Henshaw and Dr. David Leonard
Kinetic Analysis of OXA-207, a G222V Mutant of OXA-24/40

Carbapenem resistance is one of the most serious medical problems in the world today, more and more bacteria are developing ways to break-down and destroy antibiotics. The world of medicine is changing every year to combat the mutations some bacteria may go through in an attempt to divide and increase longevity. In our study we analyzed the steady-state kinetics of OXA-207, a G222V mutant of OXA-24/40 a class D β-lactamase. Comparing the mutant with previous data on OXA-24/40 we found that the mutant showed increased hydrolytic activity in most areas. The mutant proved to be more efficient in breaking down several antibiotics which can be attributed to a substantial decrease in Km values which would suggest an increase in affinity to the antibiotics used.

Department of Communication

Megan Sarnacki
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Penny Avery and Dr. Dave Weinandy
Self-Esteem and Companionship with Parasocial Relationships

Within mass media, television programming allows characters and media personas to reach a wide population around the world. When viewers develop a one-sided friendship or emotional connection with these television characters or personas, a parasocial relationship is formed. Based upon previous research, parasocial relationships have been found to influence viewers. However, there have been inconsistent findings on whether viewers watch television for companionship. Therefore, adding the variable of self-esteem to this area of research may help provide clarification to this topic. This study explored the relationship between perceived self-esteem and the likelihood to report using television-based parasocial relationships to satisfy companionship needs among undergraduate students, ages 18 to 24. 

Eliza Schuller & Ashley Keena
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Dave Weinandy and Dr. Penny Avery
Effects of Facebook Usage by Individuals 65 and Older on Loneliness

It can be difficult for senior citizens to maintain a healthy level of social interaction as they get older. Retirement, decreased mobility, and lack of disposable income are all factors that can make it hard for senior citizens to stay connected with friends and family. This lack of social activity may contribute to increased loneliness. Our research project explored Facebook as a potential tool to decrease feelings of loneliness for senior citizens. Through connecting with family and friends online, senior citizens had the opportunity to maintain more social relationships, which had the potential to result in decreased loneliness. Our research sought to determine if for individuals ages 65 and older, an increase in Facebook usage could help decrease feelings of loneliness.

Department of English

Mackenzie Murphy
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Dawson
Infinite Summer: Reading and Researching David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest (1996) is considered to be David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus. At 1,104 pages, it is difficult to pigeonhole Infinite Jest into a single category. For most, Infinite Jest is considered to be a dystopian political satire. Although Infinite Jest has achieved recognition from scholars and often fanatical fans, the book is seldom taught in its entirety or read by undergraduates. We read Infinite Jest and sought to understand it through a variety of critical lenses: narratology, feminist criticism, and new historicism. Although the reading was daunting, we found that the novel necessitates an annular reading that forces the reader to circle back and start over, especially as they read the often dense, grammatically and linguistically ornate, and sometimes intellectually grandiose 388 footnotes. Analyzing the text helped us to understand and appreciate both the influence DFW exerts on other writers and on the field of contemporary post-structuralist literary theory.

Department of Geography & Environmental Studies

Natalie Henley
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Richard McCluskey, Dr. James Rasmussen & Dr. Mary Clinthorne
Plastic Waste Audit

Although the plastic in our everyday items is convenient, the waste caused by this is degrading our planet. Ecosystems, species, and people are living with the negative impacts. We need to be conscious users of plastic. In hopes to understand more about this issue, I conducted a waste audit of St. Rose of Lima Hall and St. Martin de Porres Hall. The goal was to compare the way plastic is disposed of by students versus the average American. Students most likely have more education on the subject than the average American. In doing this, I asked, do students living in the apartments at Aquinas recycle plastic differently than the average American?

Stacey Murphy
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rich McCluskey
Ancestry and Catholicism in Kent County

Catholic parishes today serve diverse groups of parishioners. However, some ethnic groups are more likely to be Catholic than others, such as the greater likelihood of an Italian person being Catholic than a Dutch person. I have taken the written definitions of parish boundaries within Kent County, Michigan provided by the Grand Rapids Diocese, and created a map which I could then combine with census data on ancestry and race. The information on parish boundaries was largely from the 1950s, and required investigating with individual parishes as well as studying landscape changes since the boundaries were written. Since many census tracts were divided among multiple parishes, ArcGIS geoprocessing tools were used to properly divide tracts within each parish. The goal was to determine whether or not parishes with higher numbers of people considered historically to be Catholic resulted in a larger number of parishioners at the church itself.

Erin Robach
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Rich McCluskey, Dr. Jim Rasmussen & Dr. Mary Clinthorne
Do Local Students Come to Aquinas College for Different Reasons than Non-Local Students?

All colleges have a list of reasons they believe upcoming students should go to their school. I am testing two reasons for which students may come to Aquinas College – to be student athletes and the presence of the Catholic faith on campus. The focus of the study is to see if there is significant data saying that local students and non-local students come to Aquinas College for different reasons.

Lillian Ward
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Jim Rasmussen, Dr. Rich McCluskey & Dr. Mary Clinthorne
Assessing Biodiversity in Restored Prairie Ecosystems

A prairie is a diverse ecological community dominated by grasses but including a variety of other xeric flora. Many other factors contribute to the formation of a prairie, such as precipitation, soil type, and topography. A restored ecosystem is a place that has been reverted to a more natural state after disruption for things like logging or agriculture. The purpose of this study was to identify what traits or practices contribute to the success of a restored prairie ecosystem. Analysis was done by visiting various restored prairies in the area and collecting information on diversity.

Department of History

Beatrice Sherwood
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Chad Gunnoe
Plague in 16th Century France

A panoramic assessment of the distribution of plague in 16th century France. In order to reach this objective, primary and secondary sources found in online databases, French archives, and printed resources were evaluated and in some cases, translated from French into English, in order to illustrate the influence of plague across the French social and political landscape. While there has been a large quantity of research on the initial outbreak of the Black Death, considerably less interest has been given to the later waves of the plague. This collaborative research project is part of a larger research program investigating the plague epidemic of the 1560s that was active from the British Isles to the Ottoman Empire and had a death toll in the neighborhood of 30 % in numerous urban centers including Nuremberg, London, and Gdansk. The study relies heavily on primary sources from French authors that articulate new trends found within published literature regarding the plague and the significance thereof. The study also explores the secondary question of whether or not the plague exacerbated the underlying religious tensions of the Reformation in France, or if the religious conflict itself heightened typical plague time anxieties.

Department of Mathematics

Holly Ensley
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joseph Spencer
Efficient Mancala Movement

This project investigates the mechanism of movement used in the game mancala. We are interested in how we can most efficiently move particular stones, or kings, over long distances. We will explore cases with different numbers of kings and starting stones. Through this, we are hoping to find a bounds for measurements of efficient movement.

Department of Political Science

Zachary Isaacs
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Molly Patterson
Examining the Relationship Between Political Knowledge and Efficacy

Political efficacy is the feeling that one can have and does have power in politics. Efficacy has been a well-researched topic for nearly half a century, however, no reliable relationship between it and political knowledge has been discovered. A relationship between knowledge and efficacy might be expected because we tend to assume that more political knowledge leads to more participation. However, more knowledge could also lead to disillusionment, which might have a negative impact on participation. Both internal and external efficacy were tested in this study for their relationship with political knowledge. This study was conducted with a survey to a broad range of people in different locations in the Kalamazoo, MI area to see whether there is a relationship between being politically knowledgeable and feeling able to be effective in the political arena. Also tested was how citizens view the ability of the government to listen to them and respond to their needs. The results of this study could give valuable insight into ways in which different segments of the public view the government and their role in it. Mixed results were found to support our hypotheses about the relationship between political knowledge and political efficacy.

Department of Psychology

Margaret Conroy
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Julie Schatz-Stevens
Pernicious Parallels: Correlations between Sexually Aggressive Kinks and Gender

This research examines the relationship between gender and sexually aggressive kinks (i.e.bondage, sadomasochism, violent sex, etc.) Subjects were asked how many males and females (independent questions) they believed to be interested in certain kinks. Preliminary results suggested a relationship between participants' assumption of male and female interest in non-mainstream violent kinks.

Madeline Falkenstern, Brody Bess & Audrey Dekorne
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks
The Impact of Cosmetic Usage on Self-Efficacy

The current study examined the relationship between self- efficacy and cosmetic usage in women age 18-25 years old. The study is being conducted by using two surveys, the General Self Efficacy Scale (GSE) and the Modified Cash Cosmetic Use Inventory (CCUI). The operational definition of self-efficacy as it relates to this scale is an optimistic belief in oneself to perform difficult tasks or cope with adversity. The Modified Cash Cosmetic Use Inventory (CCUI) is a self-report matrix on which subjects rate the extent to which they use each of 15 facial cosmetics in each of 12 situations. The inventory yields two scores, one for general quantity of products used, and the second for qualitative pattern of use. The quantity-of-use measure is the mean of product use across situations. With this scale, we were specifically interested in if cosmetic use is compensatory or decorative. The survey was distributed anonymously to 101 participants. The initial hypothesis was not supported.

Selma Hodzic, Brianna McKeon & Azalea Collins
Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel
Can You Feel The Music? The Association Between Music and Emotion

The association between music and emotion has been greatly reviewed in the past, specifically regarding classical music. Previous research has linked sad music to evoking sad emotions (Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2012), although the music’s effects depended on the music’s relevance to the listener. The present research seeks to explore the association between various music genres and emotions. The experiment conducted used 51 participants, 18 years or older. The experiment sought to prove that there is an association between various music genres and emotions. These findings seek to allow other researchers to further explore specific and/or multiple music genres.

Lauren Perkins, Madison Pazik & Nathan George
Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel
Impact of Family Relationships on College Students Stress Levels

The intent of this study was to determine whether the strength of an individual’s familial relationships has an effect on their overall stress levels. Participants were 80 Aquinas College students (21 men, 59 women) ages 18-21. Researchers sent out surveys via Facebook and Aquinas emails that consisted of two activities. They first were asked to fill out the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), which assessed participants current stress levels. The second activity is called the Family Proximity Activity and they chose whether their family relationships were cohesive or non-cohesive. Results proved that family relationships do affect student’s stress levels. Students with cohesive family relationships show lower stress levels than those who are members of non-cohesive families.

Lena Peak
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Julie Schatz-Stevens
Influence of Sex Education Experiences on Rape Myth Acceptance

Sexual assault is a growing epidemic on college campuses that is beginning to gain awareness. A crucial aspect of conceptualizing sexual assault is through various rape myths that our culture often perpetuates. While research on rape myths is extensive, there is little known on how sex education programming, namely abstinence-only programs, influence rape myth acceptance. We know that abstinence-only sex education programs are ineffective in preventing teen pregnancy and often include sexist rhetoric. The current study examines the relationship between sex education programming and rape myth acceptance. Findings surprisingly revealed that higher satisfaction and reported knowledge gained from sex education programs predicted higher rape myth acceptance, β = .327, p =.001. This demonstrates that abstinence based programs, which are still extremely popular in the United States despite their ineffectiveness, are using sexist and fear-based tactics that perpetuate rape myths.

Lena Peak, Abigail Schippers & Brenna Cojeen
Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel
Predictors of Sexual Satisfaction

Our study aimed to better understand sexuality and the factors that contribute to sexual satisfaction. Our study consisted of 303 total participants who completed our anonymous online survey. The instruments used were the Measure of Sexual Identity Exploration and Commitment (MoSIEC) and the Multidimensional Sexual Self-Concept Questionnaire (MSSCQ). The MoSIEC is designed to assess the processes associated with sexual identity development with items falling into four different subscales: Commitment, Exploration, Sexual Orientation Identity Uncertainty, and Synthesis/Integration. The MSSCQ is a self-report questionnaire designed to measure 20 psychological aspects of human sexuality, but for the purpose of this study we utilized the following subscales: Sexual Self-Efficacy, Sexual Self-Consciousness, Sexual Assertiveness, Sexual Optimism, Sexual-Esteem, Sexual Satisfaction, and Sexual Self-Schema. We discovered that Synthesis/Integration, Sexual Self-Efficacy, Sexual Assertiveness, Sexual Self-Esteem, and Sexual Self-Schema were all predictors of sexual satisfaction.

Francesca Prina
Faculty Advior: Dr. Julie Shatz-Stevens
Sexism and Rape Myth Acceptance: The Impact of Culture, Education, Religiosity, and Socioeconomic Status

This study aims to explore the relationship between socio-economic status, education and religiosity, and the presence of sexist attitudes towards women and rape myth acceptance, comparing the United States and Italy. Participants from the Unites States and Italy were recruited for this study either through social media or through Amazon Turk. To be eligible for the study, participants had to be 18 years old and live in the aforementioned countries. Both pools completed a demographic questionnaire together with the Attitudes Towards Women Survey (AWS) and the Acceptance of Modern Myths about Sexual Aggression. Religiosity and education overall seemed to be respectively positively and negatively associated with sexism and rape myth acceptance. SES did not seem to play a consistent significant role. Findings stress the importance of an individual’s background in terms of sexism and rape myth beliefs, and in particular the importance of education and the role of religiosity.

Adriana Sigafoose & Samantha Roberts
Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel
The Effects of Sociocultural Factors on Depression in Athletes vs Nonathletes

The current study compared the effects of depressive symptoms and sociocultural factors between college athletes and nonathletes using a sample of 101 college students (53 females, 48 males). Of the participants, 55 were involved in collegiate athletics. Participants were asked to fill out the Beck’s Depression Inventory and the Sociocultural Attitudes Toward Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ-4). Independent t-tests revealed that collegiate student-athletes suffered from more depressive symptoms than non-athletes (t=-2.12, p=.036), and female students internalized pressures from the media more than males (t=2.82, p=.006). This study furthers research being done on mental health of college students and confirms that college athletes are susceptible to depression and females are vulnerable to media messages.

Morgan Terbovich, Alexis Brock & Avery Tafelsky
Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel
Mental Health Stigma Between Generations

The following study addresses the societal issue of stigmatizing the mental health field. Survey results from 109 participants separated into four age groups, or generations, were gathered and analyzed to determine the generation’s relative level of stigma towards the mental health field. Two scales, the OMI and CAMI, were used to collect the participants’ thoughts on the mental health field. Responses were self-reported using a Five Point Likert Scale. Upon analysis of the collected data, there was no significant findings to show that one generation holds more stigma towards the mental health field over another.

Fiona Theodoroff
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Heitzer, Wayne State University
Expressive and Receptive Language Delay in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Delays in language comprehension and production are often found in children diagnosed with autism. In children without autism, receptive language typically lags behind expressive language. Our objective was to see if this trend of a greater receptive language delay extended to children diagnosed with autism. Ninety-nine children ranging from 18-82 months of age were included in our study. Receptive and expressive language ability were tested using the MSEL (n=61), DAS-2 (n=17), and Vineland-3 (n=98). Due to a floor effect on the MSEL, scores were calculated using normative means and standard deviations. We used repeated measures t-tests to compare receptive and expressive language measures among individuals. There was a significant difference in Mullen Receptive and Expressive scores; t(60) = -2.63, p = .011. There was also a significant difference in DAS Verbal Comprehension [receptive] and Naming Vocabulary [expressive] scores; t(16) = - 4.61, p less than .001. However, there was not a significant difference in Vineland receptive and expressive scores; t(97) = - 1.09, p = .279.

Arianna Velazquez, Natasha Centeno & Danielle Smith
Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel
The Effect of Political Attitudes on the Education Level and Mental Health of Minorities

This study examined the effect of political attitudes and education level on the mental health of African Americans and Latinos/ Hispanics. A combined 24 item questionnaire was used to measure the mental health of African Americans and Latinos/ Hispanics in relation to their socioeconomic level, education level, political affiliation, and microaggressions they faced. The first seven items of the combined scale were demographic questions that were taken from the political compass. For questions 8-24, a five point Likert scale was used in which respondents were offered responses from strongly disagree to strongly agree to questions such as “first-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated within their new country” and “ I am experiencing more stress since the recent 2016 election”. This set of questions were taken from the Social and Economic Conservatism Scale (SECS) and the Racial and Ethnic Microaggression Scale (REMS). A significant positive correlation (0.602) was found between the mental health of participants and the microaggressions that they experienced. This means that greater experiences of microaggressions negatively impacted African Americans and Latinos/ Hispanics mental health.

Alyssa White, Julia Glynn & Elizabeth Ptaszynski,
Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel
Differences in Gender Relating to Empathy and Forgiveness

The present research examined the gender differences with empathy and forgiveness. Aquinas College students (55) were given a survey to score their total level of forgiveness and empathetic concern. Based on past research, the researchers hypothesized that females would score higher on empathetic concern, while there would be no significant gender differences in the level of forgiveness (Toussaint & Webb, 2005). The Heartland Forgiveness Scale was used to measure total levels of forgiveness in the participants (HFS; Thompson, Snyderm, Hoffman, 2005). Interpersonal Reactivity Index was used to measure empathetic concern (IRI; Davis, 1980). The results indicated that there is a significant difference between males and females in regards to empathetic concern. This suggests females show more sympathy towards others than males. There is no significant difference regarding the total levels of forgiveness. This suggests that even though females are more empathetic, it does not necessarily mean they are more willing to forgive than men. The results also indicated that low levels of empathy do not automatically indicate a person’s willingness to forgive others, since the male students showed equal amounts of total forgiveness as female student despite having lower empathetic concern.

Amanda Workman
Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel
Measuring the Correlation Between Self-Esteem and Social Media Use

Social Media is something that is so prevalent within current society, especially with young adults. With the widespread use of social media, the current study examines the idea that individuals who spend more time on social media will have a lower self-esteem. The study uses the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) and the Social Networking Time Use Scale (SONTUS) to look for a correlation between the level of self-esteem that participants had and the amount of time using social media. The self-reported data of 30 undergraduate students was analyzed using a Pearson’s Correlation and a negative correlation of -.154 was found. Due to a small sample size, this does not give enough evidence to support the relationship between the subjects self-esteem and the amount of time spent on social media.

Department of Sociology

Jayme Brizzolara
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Haworth-Hoeppner
Sociological Analysis of the Emigration Process and Experiences of Refugees and Immigrants in West Michigan and the U.S

This research explores the topic of the emigration processes and experiences of refugees and immigrants in the Unites States and furthermore serves as an outlet for refugees and immigrants to tell their stories. Through the use of snowball sampling amongst groups of refugees and immigrants and those who provide them services, a group of individuals ages 18 and older participated in this on-going study that looks into the challenges many refugees and immigrants face throughout the process of traveling into the U.S. and being submerged into American culture. This research will also explore the experiences of case managers and other individuals who have served the needs of many refugees.

Stephanie Mellstead
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Haworth-Hoeppner
Educational Support Staff’s Perspective on Undocumented Immigrants’ Experiences with the Educational System

The Effect of Undocumented Immigration on Public Education. This paper examines the syndemic effects of biological and social consequences on immigrants and their relationship to public education. Operating ethnographic methods, I interviewed support staff experiencing the impact of undocumented immigrants within a midwestern school district. Using the Grounded Theory, categories emerged of, outcomes of deportation, familial issues, and attendance in elementary school. Developing concepts, categories, and properties arose through observance and interviews to build a model how being an undocumented immigrant effects public education.

Katharine Reed & Kelsey Feutz
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Haworth-Hoeppner
A Sociological Analysis of the Many Facets of Immigration Policy in the Midwest

This paper explores the topic of immigration, specifically on immigration policy, as understood from or reflected in a multitude of viewpoints: Immigration officers, farm labors, DACA recipients and lawyers. Research findings draw upon interviews with individuals connected to immigration, in the Midwest in 2017. Through the use of snowball sampling, 10 individuals, ranging in age and legal status, agreed to participate in this on-going study on their experiences with immigration policy and the agriculture industry in the United States. Using grounded theory methods, four initial categories emerged Access to resources, gaps in immigration policy and in workers’ rights, within the agriculture industry, as well as the everyday uncertainty of living undocumented in the United States. This paper discusses those categories, their properties, and their relationship to one another; serving as a preliminary foundation for a model of how these individuals navigate their statuses and roles within society.

Mary Wernet
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Haworth-Hoeppner
Immigrants and Active Engagement in Community Organizing

This paper explores the motivating factors for immigrants to the Midwest of the United States to actively engage in community organizing. The research is based in ground theory and based on a series of interviews with men and women who actively engage in social change efforts within their communities.

Department of World Languages

Karissa Lantz
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Hojnacki
Putin, Merkel, and Crimea: The Effects of a Cross-Cultural Diplomatic Relationship Following the Annexation of Crimea

This capstone thesis project brings together the two academic fields of International Studies and German Studies. The research seeks to provide a possible understanding of events that occurred between Russia and Germany following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in eastern Ukraine. Based on the Social Constructivist approach to International Relations and Germany’s reluctance to be involved in foreign conflicts after World War II, the project focuses on the actions and reactions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The thesis concluded that the relationship between a German woman, who grew up in East Germany, and a Russian man, who was a KGB officer stationed in East Germany, affected the outcome of events after the annexation of Crimea.

Paul Sommerville
Faculty Advisors: Francine Paolini, Dr. Susan Hojnacki and Dr. Duane Ambrose
Sport in the GDR: A Structural Analysis of the Communist Development Program. Lessons Beyond Doping.

The German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, was able to build a world-class, state-endorsed sport program with minimal resources and a limited population. National teams were not just able to compete, but rather defeat the world’s best including the United States and Soviet Union at the Olympic level. Speculations of performance enhancing doping clouded the success and were finally exposed after the wall fell. My research examines the financial and administrative structure of GDR sport. Where did the money come from and who made the decisions? What unique processes were in place that set them apart? How did the rigorous training affect the athlete experience? Where did they go wrong and what influenced those decisions? I will use my research to identify processes from the system that could positively influence current sport organizations such as national governing bodies and intercollegiate athletic departments.