Undergraduate Research Program
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SURF Awards 2015


Amanda AndersonAlexis Seitz


Mentor: Juk Bhhatcharyya and Ozgur Yavuzcetin
Research: Kinesthetic Learning in Science

Our research is on the comparison of kinesthetic and traditional, oral-based lesson plans for a fourth grade classroom. We will be using 3D models to create a kinesthetic lesson plan that will show the water cycle in action, as well as a textbook-style reading to describe terminology and give more in depth information on the processes. One group will be given the model and the reading, while another group will be given only the reading. The comprehension of both groups will be measured through a questionnaire and accompanying rubric, and the scores of the groups will be analyzed. We expect that the kinesthetic group will have higher comprehension scores than the traditional group will have, based on the research that has been conducted in the past on kinesthetic learning in classrooms. The significance of our research is to support project-based learning for science education and to help young students understand and get excited about science.

Nicole Burke


Mentor: Brett Woods
Research: Effects of Hibernation on Hemostasis in Woodchucks (Marmota monax)

The objective of our project is to compare the production of blood platelets between summer active and hibernating woodchucks (Marmota monax). Hibernation is a series of torpor bouts during which body temperature drops to 4-8°C and heart rate is from 3-5 beats/min. Despite the decrease in temperature and blood flow, ground squirrels can store their platelets in their spleen and avoid clearance by the liver at temperatures below 4 degrees Celsius, avoiding lethal blood clots and are cold resistant (Cooper et al. 2012). In collaboration with Dr. Scott Cooper at UW LaCrosse, we plan to determine if the mechanisms for cold resistance to lethal hemostasis (blood clotting) is similar to that of the 13-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus), a much smaller hibernating species. We predict to see a dramatic decrease in platelet populations in hibernating woodchucks with quick recovery of platelet formation similar to 13-lined ground squirrels. Unlike ground squirrels, human blood cannot be stored for long periods due to platelet damage at low temperatures and 15% of platelet donations expire before it can be used. Our understanding of cold resistant platelets in hibernating ground squirrels could prove useful in cold storage of human blood.

Rebecca Carvalho


Mentor: Dr. Joshua Kapfer 
Research: Vocal Jazz Improvisation Instruction for High School Singers

The ultimate goal of our research is to find effective methods of teaching vocal jazz improvisation to high school singers. Jazz is an all-American art form which has been part of American schools in a largely instrumental capacity with far fewer vocal jazz offerings available for students. Many students in choir programs get very little, if any, experience with vocal jazz in their high school careers. Any of these students who continue on into choral music education might gain some experience in college if there is a vocal jazz ensemble, but there are only a select few universities with classes on vocal jazz pedagogy. Consequently, when choral education majors graduate and begin teaching, they continue the cycle of vocal jazz ignorance. By finding methods that can be effectively incorporated in the classroom, we hope to encourage the teaching of vocal jazz in the public schools and begin a new initiative in vocal jazz education.

Kwun Chan


Mentor: Jalal Nawash 
Research: Surface Modification of Medical Implants Using Corona Plasma

We are using corona plasma reactor to coat a metallic coupon to give the coupon hydrophobic property for biomedical field. A specific metal, 316L SS, is commonly used for body implantation for its strength after mending. However, metal traps bacteria and hence it causes inflammation that leads to implantation failure. Research suggests that hydrophobic property would prevent inflammation, and corona plasma could coat a thin layer of the coupon to give it hydrophobic property without changing its physical strength. Two coating will be performed to give a secure hydrophobic property on the metallic coupon. After successfully troubleshoot the plasma reactor, I expect to perform two coating process to confirm hydrophobic result. After that, I will find the best condition for producing the best and economical product by changing one variable at a time. Successful result will benefit biomedical field, especially human body implantation.

Nehemiah Chinavare


Mentor: Jonah Ralston 
Research: Do Political Beliefs Influence Relationship Formation Among Young Adults?

Does politics influence who you will date and eventually marry? Previous research has shown that the answer is yes. However, these studies have focused exclusively on political agreement between married couples and have ignored the role of political preferences in the relationship formation processes of young adults. By collecting and analyzing data from over 2,000 online dating profiles, I will seek to determine whether or not young adults are less likely than older adults to consider political preferences when choosing a partner. Based on differences in priorities and political engagement I expect to discover that political preferences are less important to young adults in choosing a partner than to their older counterparts. This research will fill a gap in the current literature and has the potential to impact other areas of study including political polarization and genopolitics.

Amanda Dick


Mentor: Jennifer Thibodeaux
Research: The Role of Castles in the Urbanization and Social Structuring of Scottish Cities in the Early Modern Period

Castle City and Town Society in Scotland, 1750-1800
My mentor and I are looking at society's differences and similarities in the castle and areas around two Scottish Castles between the years 1750-1800 to see how the type of castle affected the growth of society in its area. Edinburgh Castle has been primarily a military castle since the 1600s while Glamis Castle has been a residential castle throughout its existence. The areas around these two castles have been affected by their function as one grew to the capital city and the other to be surrounded by smaller towns, more secluded. We are looking at how the development of society was affected during this time right before the age of industrialization. I am collecting primary documents from these areas such as personal letters and journals to court cases. These documents will piece together a picture of the societies, resulting in a better understanding of that era in Scotland. Scotland is often grouped together with England in history and historians have generally not looked at the social aspect of the areas around castles and how they were affected by them, other than the Lord-Commoner relationship. By looking at this topic, we can add to global historical discussion with a place and topic that is not usually talked about. This topic is also important because it gives us more information on how society grew into the world we know today.

Christian Eiler


Mentor: Matthew Winden 
Research: Disasters in Wisconsin: An Examination of Mitigation Investments’ Effect on Damages

Floods account for the most damage that come from natural disasters. And, with a changing climate, floods can be expected to get worse.  All of these damages comes with an explicit cost which can be quite high. The role of mitigation spending is to reduce future damage and, therefore, reduce future costs that arise from repairing said damages. The research I will be doing will examine the efficiency of flood mitigation spending in Wisconsin. It could be the case that reactive spending may be more efficient than proactive spending if the cost of flood prevent infrastructure is too high. I will do my research by collecting data then creating a regression model for mitigation spending on damages. After the model is built a comparison can be made and efficiency can be determined. My hypothesis is that mitigation spending will have a positive return for society when compared to the laisse faire response of reactive spending. This research will have policy implications for Wisconsin and hopefully provide a model for mitigation spending in regards to floods.

Connor Heinlein


Mentor: Dr. Dale Splinter 
Research: Diurnal changes in water quality in the Whitewater Creek Watershed

My research topic is on diurnal changes in water quality within the Whitewater Creek Watershed. Water quality variables (temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, nitrates, phosphates, and turbidity) are indicators of stream health. For almost a decade, citizen-based watershed monitoring groups have been collecting baseline data in Wisconsin streams. Citizen-based monitoring groups typically sample once a month, on a specific day and time, for 9 months out of the year. My research plans to show that this is not an adequate amount of sampling in order to show the actual changes seen in water quality through out the day. This research is important because knowing the water quality within one's watershed is crucial to ecosystem health and everyday human recreational activities. It will also be beneficial to others in the future when sampling water by showing that quality changes throughout the day and sampling just once may not be enough to get the whole picture.

Andrew Ibach


Mentor: Dr. Joshua Kapfer 
Research: Use of Herpetological Specimens to Investigate Geographic and Temporal Patterns in Morphology

The goal of this study is to investigate whether body size of reptiles and amphibians varies by latitude or over time within Wisconsin. It is often reported that body size varies across both space and time; for example, the long-held "Bergmann's Rule" states that organism body size increases with increasing latitude and decreasing temperature, as found in birds in past studies. While this trend is often listed among the classic ecological rules in textbooks, it is relatively unexplored in amphibians and reptiles. We hypothesize that we will see variation in body size by location and time, but the specifics will vary by taxa. We further predict that if our hypothesis is correct, species susceptible to climate change (such as amphibians) will increase with increasing latitude (in support of Bergmann's Rule) and over time. Our research is very important in that it could help immensely in establishing correlations between morphometric characteristics and climate change, as well as other anthropogenic effects, and may also act as an important baseline study for additional future research.

Brianna Jicha


Mentor: Nicholas Tippery 
Research: Fassett's Locoweed Population Dynamics and Seed Germination

Fassett's Locoweed (Oxytropis campestris var. chartacea) is a state endangered and federally threatened species that is endemic to Wisconsin. It is only found on sandy lake shores, with fluctuating water levels. My research consisted of a demographic assessment of Fassett's Locoweed in central Wisconsin, which included population estimates, measuring plant sizes, and reproductive status. Since it is endangered in Wisconsin, I am working with the DNR to see how certain populations are doing, how water levels are affecting these populations, and to study the seed germination process. In order to look at seed germination we will be running some experimental trials damaging the seed coats of previously collected seeds and seeing which process produces the most seedlings. Although previous studies have not found very good results from seed germination trials, we did a test run with 90 seeds (30 scratched with sandpaper, 30 poked with a needle to make a hole, and 30 scraped with a razor blade) and we found promising results so far. We are expecting to see that the populations are fairly consistent from year to year, however that they fluctuate with the water levels. Also, we hope to be able to better predict what conditions the seeds prefer to germinate. Since not much is known about the germination process, it will be nice to get some clearer data, hopefully. This research is relevant because this plant is endangered in the state and some of the populations are not doing as well as we would hope, so it is important to watch them and possibly form a plan to manage them.

Nyia Lor


Mentor: Cheng Thao 
Research: Interactive Web-Based Hmong Learning Tool

The purpose of this research is to develop an efficient web-based interactive teaching tool to teach the initial basic sounds and letters of the Hmong language for beginning learners. The initial research reveals several websites intended to teach individuals how to learn and speak the Hmong language, however, many of the web links lead to a site that no longer exists. The majority of the working websites have tables displaying consonants, vowels, and tone markers of the Hmong language with only a few giving the learner the option to hear what each one sounds like. From the limited and reliable resources online along with books, I was inspired to add my own piece to help motivate the Hmong language learner. After going through the teaching tool I have created, I expect that the learner will be able to pronounce, write, and understand basic words in the Hmong language. It comes as no surprise that American-born Hmong are speaking less and less Hmong in their daily lives and communication with the elders becomes harder and harder. For those who can speak the language, many are unable to make the connection with the letters used for spelling out terms. This research will allow Hmong language learners a starting point in learning, reading, and writing the necessary basics of the language.

Jessica Maiers


Mentor: Christina Jones 
Research: Social Support & Supportive Communication at the Fort Atkinson Food Pantry

Food insecurity is a significant problem for over 600,000 Wisconsin citizens each year, who rely primarily on emergency food aid from food pantries (Hunger in Wisconsin, 2010). However, pantry users have reported experiences of stigmatization, discrimination, and stress based upon their receiving of aid, which is connected to a variety of health outcomes. Additionally, many food pantries report lessened community interest in donating their time, money, and goods amidst the economic downturn. This summer fellowship will engage with food pantry users and volunteers to better understand the experience of receiving emergency food aid. Through a partnership with a local food pantry in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, this project will assess the viability of a client-driven intervention, where the perspectives of pantry users and volunteers, revealed through interviews, will be used as a message tool in communication materials to educate volunteers and the broader public of the impact of their communication on food pantry user experiences. We will re-visit the community and pantry during the fall term to see if our communication materials have had an impact on awareness and use of the pantry and its services, as well as to see if the quality of supportive communication has improved the user experience.

Deonti Norris


Mentor: Catherine Chan
Research: The Combination effects of multiple personal care products on terrestrial plants

I am studying the effects of Personal Care Products and Pharmaceuticals on the terrestrial plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We are testing three different PCPPS including Caffeine, Acetaminophen and Salicylic Acid and how they affect the growth of Arabidopsis. This research focuses on the growth parameters of Arabidopsis including Germination, Root growth, and Photosynthetic Rate. Expected results can vary depending on the interaction of the PCPPS inside the plant which have rarely been studied before now. Any results would give greater insights to the effect of human waste and consumption of PPCPS and how the effect terrestrial plants. This is significant because it provides the opportunity to explore our output of PCPPS and how these could impact the land with which we live on. It will also bring up the relevance of developing waste water treatment plants that more vastly restrict the output of PCPPS into the environment.

Melanie Sorman


Mentor: Rex Hanger 
Research: Oceanic Anoxic Events (OAE) in Paleoecology

Oceanic Anoxic Events (OAE) are time periods when oxygen levels of ancient oceans dropped to levels that were lethal to marine organisms. Occurring throughout the fossil record, OAE are recognized by distinctive geochemical signatures (high ratios of Th/U, Ni/Co, Ce anomaly), and their effects on ancient organisms (size reduction, decreased relative abundance, unique preservation types, and extirpation or complete extinction.) My research will focus on regional scale OAE from two time periods at two localities, the Upper Carboniferous (~307-304 million years ago) in southeastern Nebraska and the Middle Cretaceous (~113-100 million years ago) in central Texas, studying and comparing the geochemistry and paleoecology as indicators of oxygen levels during pre-, during-, and post-OAE. I have already started this project as a 2014-2015 RAP student, studying fossils which have been collected previously by myself and other students at UW-W. With this data, a simple model can be created for a regional OAE and expand this to a larger model. This model would be useful because it will be able to predict what these Oceanic Anoxic Events can do during global mass extinction events during other geologic time periods.

Michael SmithKarl Brandstaetter


Mentor: Eric Compas 
Research: Wisconsin Water for all? Correlation of water quality with socioeconomic status in SE WI

This is important because currently water quality samples are only point samples and while there may be a different between two points, there could be further changes between points. We are using an innovative technique that hasn't really been attempted before and if it works, could help the Rock River Coalition employ new techniques in water sampling.

Liza Thies


Mentor: Lynn Gilbertson 
Research: Amusement Ride Operator Noise Exposure

Because of the lack of data in peer reviewed literature, the purpose of this research is to conduct a descriptive study investigating amusement ride operators' occupational noise exposure. One of the leading causes of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is occupational noise exposure. There are over 600,000 individuals who work at amusement parks in the US, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), and that is a substantial number of employees that might be at risk for NIHL. It is expected that levels of exposure will be in excess of 85 dBA, which according to OSHA would warrant the implementation of a hearing conservation program. This prediction is based on data on mechanical noise that has shown levels of 95-120 dBA (Neitzel et al., 1999; Nielsen, 1995). The data collected has the potential to inform employees, employers, and regulators on best practices for hearing health protection in the amusement ride industry.

Katherine Yetter


Mentor: Dr. Giuliana Miolo 
Research: Strengthening Engagement Between Generations through Storytelling

For my research project my mentor and I are researching intergenerational relationships through different types of storytelling, and compare engagement levels between the two generations. Through the Research Apprenticeship Program I assisted four senior undergraduate researchers on their project under the advisement of Dr. Giuliana Miolo. While assisting on their project, I learned the importance of intergenerational relationships and saw there was need for improvement within existing programs. My project deals with finding the best form of interaction between preschool aged children and older adults. I will be comparing the presentation of personal narratives from the older adult's lives, and the reading of children's books to test my hypothesis that there will be increased levels of engagement from the personal narratives. Through this research project I hope to diminish stereotypes against the older adults, and find a more effective pathway for communication between the two generations.

Alissa Zawacki


Mentor: Sarah Hessenauer 
Research: Coping Strategies in the Helping Profession

The goal of this research is to determine what coping strategies social workers and psychologists use in the workplace and what strategies are provided to them by their administrators. Stress and burnout are something that affects those working in the helping profession, social workers and psychologists, on a daily basis (Cole, Craigen, & Cowan, 2014; Thomas, Kohli & Jong, 2014). Research has been done to evaluate the impact of stress on the body (Davis, 2000), however, very little research has been done to evaluate the strategies used to cope with this stress, particularly the coping strategies used in human service agencies. We will begin by holding individual interviews with administrators, and focus groups with employees, of human resource agencies in order to examine both individual coping methods and provided organizational coping methods. From that information we will build questionnaires to be sent out to the two different groups, searching for the methods effectively being used to cope with stress in the workplace. Interestingly, despite the vast amount of research proving those in the helping profession are experiencing stress, minimal literature and research on coping exists. Therefore, this research is very important. It will help social workers, psychologists, and other helping professionals learn effective ways to cope with stress in order to prevent burnout.

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