See updates on our COVID-19 plans at aquinas.edu/saintstogether.

Student Research at Aquinas College

Current Research

Share your research, scholarship, or creative activity. Submit your research.


May 2021 - May 2022

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on AQ undergraduates?

Gillian Carver

This research project will consist of a survey that will be sent out to all Aquinas College undergraduates. This survey will be a modified version of the Higher Education Research Institution (HERI) of UCLA 2020 survey with added question to address Covid-19. With using this survey we will also compare the HERI survey to our results to see how the AQ students differ especially in these difficult times. Our purpose of doing this project is to investigate the severity of the impact of Covid-19 on AQ undergraduates with the goal of identifying factors that have been helpful. With that in mind, we hope that our results of this study will assist the college in determining ongoing (and possibly new) supports for the student body as we move forward into AY2021-2022.

Faculty Advisor: Daniel Cruikshanks
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


Responsibility to Protect: 15 Years of Patterns of Behavior
Mathew Maloney

Of many competing trends in international relations, two stand out - and are at the heart of this research. The first is ongoing warfare and conflict, disintegration, nationalism, violations of international law, unilateralism, and crimes against humanity. Recent examples of this include “Balkanization,” Brexit, the on-going war in Syria, Russian invasion of Crimea and Donbass, and the more recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. The second - and diametrically opposed trend - is often seen as a reaction to the first. It includes the increasing movement toward cooperation, integration, trans-nationalism, international law, multilateralism, and support for the human condition. Examples of this dynamic include all of the cooperative movements of the United Nations (including an increasing use of Peace-Keeping Operations), integrative efforts such as the European Union (where even the French and Germans share a currency), agreed upon Laws of War, War Crimes Tribunals, and efforts to end human rights violations. This study deals with the tensions between these two contending international dynamics. The tension between these two trends generates patterns of behavior between states. Using these patterns we hope to establish findings that can predict future state behavior.

Faculty Advisor: Roger Durham
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


Cultivating Creative Talent Through Journaling
Beth Mateskon

Beth Mateskon will be developing a community project that encourages participants to release creativity and overcome "art scars" through journaling, drawing, collage, and other art practices. The project intends to remedy past deficits in individual creative experiences due to lack of resources in art education or lack of encouragement. In partnership with Dr. Wierich, Beth will be exploring the art historical context of participatory art and social sculpture. The readings include works and writings by leading artists in the field of social sculpture, including Joseph Beuys and Susan Lacy. One of the outcomes will be a better understanding of how creativity, contemporary art practices, and art education can stimulate creative growth.

Faculty Advisor: Jochen Wierich
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


An Assessment of the Impacts of Fine Sediment Pollution on Stream Habitat and Water Quality in West Michigan Streams
Zoe VanderBrug

This project will work in conjunction with local watershed partners and governmental units. It is designed to assess the effects of sedimentation on stream habitat and water quality. This issue has been tied to land use and topsoil erosion and it is one of the focal points in the mission of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. One of the limitations in this mission is the lack of temporally recent and spatially fine monitoring programs. Our goal for this season will be to establish such a program within the context of other monitors.

Faculty Advisor: Jim Rasmussen
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


Computing Group Representation Using SAGE
Shekira Edgar

A group is a mathematical structure that encodes symmetry, and a representation of a group is a way to realize what those symmetries are using the language and techniques of linear algebra. This project will analyze the representations of certain groups known as the classical groups, which are groups of matrices. Our problem can be approached from an elementary point of view, and most of our work will be devoted to automating the necessary calculations by writing short computer scripts.

Faculty Advisor: Joseph Fox
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


Queer Approaches to #MeToo through Young Adult Literature
Laney Debrabander

Students are exposed at a young age to binary and one-dimensional narratives about sexuality and gender that quickly become normative, including perspectives that are exclusionary, negative, or harmful to queer and non-binary folx. Through the use of literature, English Language Arts (ELA) teachers are uniquely positioned to help students challenge stereotypes and form complex, intersectional, and multilayered perspectives. By engaging students with Young Adult Literature (YAL), teacher's can address the developmental needs of readers by “recogniz[ing] that young adults are beings in evolution, in search of self and identity; beings who are constantly growing and changing, morphing from the condition of childhood to that of adulthood” (Cart, 2008). In addition, queer YAL, in particular YAL that features queer characters and whose subject matter deals with sexual and/or gender-based violence, can offer nuanced ways of understanding how violence can occur, as well as provide healthy, alternative models of relationships and intimacy. From a community perspective, teaching from this lens has much to offer in terms of prevention, reporting, and anti-violence initiatives.

Faculty Advisor: Briana Asmus
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


Elliptic Geometry Applied to Biochemistry and Geospatial Analysis
Noelle Kaminski

We are building on the last three years of Mohler-Thompson summer research. We have new math results which could have consequences beyond geometry. For instance, the icosahedral viral capsid has projection lines with collinear feet in important places. Also, satellite orbits fit elliptic geometry very nicely. Can we say anything new? We're going to try.

Faculty Advisor: Michael McDaniel
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


Understanding the Role of the PI3K-Akt Pathway in the Macrophage Response to Group B Streptococcus (GBS)
Yadira DeLeon-Lopez

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) can be part of a healthy individuals' microbial flora. However, problems may arise when a mother, who is colonized with GBS, becomes pregnant. As the fetus develops within the colonized mother, severe GBS infections may occur due to the limited capabilities of the developing fetal immune response. This may lead to the fetus becoming ill with meningitis, pneumonia, or sepsis, which may lead to death. The goal of this project is to understand how GBS manipulates cell signaling within macrophages in order to survive and cause disease. Specifically, we will investigate whether the PI3K/Akt pathway plays a role in three key aspects of the macrophage response to GBS infection. Our first aim will investigate why certain strains of GBS are engulfed by macrophages more rapidly than others. Next, we will evaluate how certain GBS strains survive more successfully within macrophages following phagocytosis. Lastly, we will compare the rate of survival of the macrophages themselves following infection with the different GBS strains. Our primary methods of analysis will include Western Blotting, fluorescence microscopy, and colony counting assays. This research may provide new insights for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools to combat GBS.

Faculty Advisor: Rebecca Flaherty
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


Influence of aperture number on pollen grain viability and germination in Thalictrum dasycarpum
Flore Bouyac

Pollen heteromorphism, the presence of multiple types of fertile pollen grains within all individuals of a population, is ubiquitous in the flowering-plant genus Thalictrum. Our aim is to investigate the selective regime influencing pollen-grain aperture number and whether this pattern differs among species/modes of pollination. We will observe pollen germination in vitro to measure aperture-number variation and timing and likelihood of germination within and among individuals of a wind-pollinated species, Thalictrum dasycarpum. Comparing our results to previous work on the insect-pollinated T. thalictroides, will bring us closer to both a universal understanding of the influence of aperture number on pollen grain fitness as well as how that relationship is altered by evolution in the mode of pollen transmission. Further, this study will provide insight into the evolution and maintenance of pollen heteromorphism.

Faculty Advisor: Rebecca Humphrey
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


Assessing the Efficacy of A Gamified Interpersonal Communication Course
Lindsay Hillstrom

The purpose of this research is to code, organize and analyze the collected data, test hypotheses regarding student outcomes, and determine if a gamified course is significantly different from a standard course with regard to specific interpersonal communication measures. The context of this study will be an archival data analysis of extant self-report survey measures.

Faculty Advisor: Ian M. Borton
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


""Feed the Saints"" - On Campus Dining Preferences of Gen Z Students
Lauren Kovach

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 in 2020, the consumer behavior process associated with dining has been transformed and a range of new 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, the current generational cohort on campus. For this Summer Scholar 2021 project, Lauren Kovach (a junior at Aquinas College) and Kerri Orders (Assistant Professor, Business Department), will focus their research activities to gain insights about Gen Z’s consumer behavior and shifting preferences related to dining services 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.

Faculty Advisor: Kerri Orders
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


Growth of Mixed-Metal Oxide Thin Films and their Optical, Electrical, and Photochemical Properties
Bryce Platte

A growth chamber will be constructed to allow for the creation of mixed-metal oxide films consisting of Titanium (IV) and another transition metal. From these films, the optical, electrical and photochemical effects will be measured. The photochemical effects of these films should have a wider absorption spectra compared to films made with only Titanium (IV) and therefore provide better absorption of energy from light. The growth chamber will be designed to allow for trials at varying temperatures to measure the structural changes at these different temperatures. The metals used for synthesis will be created in the laboratory while the chamber is being constructed.

Faculty Advisor: Kevin Boyd
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant