Student Research at Aquinas College

Research Archives

May 2017 - May 2018

Immigrants and Active Engagement in Community Organizing
Mary Wernet

My research explores the motivations, barriers, and goals immigrants experience when fighting for social change within their communities in the United States.

Faculty Advisor: Susan Haworth-Hoeppner
Funded by: Student Senate Research Fund


Educational Support Staff’s Perspective on Undocumented Immigrants’ Experiences with the Educational System
Stephanie Mellstead

This study reveals the experiences of undocumented immigrant families and their children in relation to the public school system in elementary school, uncovering exterior barriers, language barriers, lack of parental involvement with schools due to fear of deportation or being miss-understood, and impacts on the student related to the undocumented parental status. Educational support staff were interviewed in relation to undocumented immigrant families within a Public school district in the Midwest.

Faculty Advisor: Susan Haworth-Hoeppner
Funded by: Student Senate Research Fund


A Sociological Analysis of the Many Facets of Immigration Policy in the Midwest
Kelsey Feutz & Katharine Reed

This was qualitative research done regarding the topic of immigration policy, and more specifically regarding DACA recipients. We interviewed 20 participants and this data was compiled to create a theory. Through our research, we had found the effects of the immigration process, how the person's status affected the individual, how the status impacted their identity, and the implications of recent policy changes.

Faculty Advisor: Susan Haworth-Hoepnner


Quality of Life and Experience of Home: A comparison of American elderly with elderly in the Dominican Republic
Kacie Gee

In America's youth-oriented culture, elderly persons often age in isolation and tend to permanently relocate into nursing home facilities. Past studies suggest that psychological wellbeing is essential for these older adults as it provides various health benefits and may contribute to successful aging. With nursing home occupancies rising, we found it important to discover what factors promote happiness in older adults and did so by comparing American elders to those who live in a country with drastically different methods of elder care. Quality of life and experience of home was measured among one hundred elderly participants in total: fifty from rural Dominican Republic and fifty from a nursing home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Despite dramatically different living conditions, analyses revealed no statistically significant differences in quality of life or experience of home between the two populations. Despite their unfortunate living conditions and inadequate healthcare, Dominican Republic elders were equally content with both their lives and their living arrangements as the American population. These results suggest that the typical Dominican tradition of elder care within multi-generational family homes provides a kind of social connectivity that mitigates their harsh living conditions. These results help to shape our understanding of quality of life among the elderly and may help to guide improvements in the eldercare system.

Faculty Advisor: Daniel R. Crukshanks, Ph.D.


Light from the East: Implications of Orthodox and Greco-Roman Tradition on Belief, Ritual and Morality
Jillian Langford

This project sought to explore the implications of the Orthodox and Greco-Roman Tradition in the lives of Greek Catholics in Ukraine. From a linguistic point of view of how the word "orthodoxy" is used for just right teaching while in Ukrainian two different words describe Orthodoxy --- правовірний (right belief) and православний (right praise or right glory). In short, there is no separation of belief orthodoxy, and spirituality or right praise in this tradition. Because of the lack of separation between belief and practice, this experience sought to explore how this affected the lives and culture of people in Ukraine.

Faculty Advisor: Robert Marko
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


student researchers Utilizing the Gateway cloning technique for creation of Tol2 transposons containing wild type and mutant zebrafish NOD1 alleles.
Benjamin Arnson

NOD1 is an innate immune receptor involved in detecting cytosolic bacteria. We plan to subclone wild type (wt) and mutant (K202R) zebrafish NOD1 alleles into the plasmid pENTR1ADS. This will allow use of a Gateway cloning technique to make three different Tol2 transposons encoding the wt, K202R and L36Q NOD1 alleles, respectively. These transposons will allow our collaborators to make transgenic zebrafish in which NOD1 function can be controlled in a tissue-specific manner. The transgenic zebrafish will then be used to study the role of NOD1 in hematopoiesis (i.e., the development of blood cells).

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rob Peters
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


student researchers Efficient Mancala Movement
Holly Ensley

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.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joseph Spencer
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


student researchers Design of the Riparian Buffer along Coldbrook Creek at Brookby Estate
Amanda Roth

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.

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


student researchers Hyperbolic versions of Euclidean theorems
Paul Gass

Napoleon, Pascal, Brianchon, Miquel and many other geometers have theorems bearing their names. Some of these theorems hold in hyperbolic geometry, some fail and some require further investigation. We hope to add a few new hyperbolic versions of these named theorems.

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


student researchers Kinetic Studies of OXA-207
Jacob Mackinder

Beta-lactamases are enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of beta-lactam antibiotics (e.g. penicillin) and confer antibiotic resistance to the bacteria that produce them.  We are studying an example of a Class D beta-lactamase, OXA-207, which differs from its parent enzyme by only one amino acid, but exhibits distinctly different substrate preferences.  We hope to fully characterize the substrate profile of OXA-207 and possibly investigate the structural reasons for the differences.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tim Henshaw
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


student researchers Mechanics of metamaterial involving 3-D printer
Levi Milan

Metamaterials are bulk objects with special mechanism properties defined by their repetitive inner structures, rather than the materials they are made of. One of the special mechanisms is “auxetic behavior”: when the materials are stretched in one direction, unlike conventional materials, they will also expand in the lateral direction. In this project we studied the dependence of Poisson’s Ratio on the geometric parameters of auxetic structures. We used 3-D printer to efficiently design and produce honeycomb auxetic structures. With an innovative experimental setup and image analysis techniques, we are able to study the pulling force and the corresponding lateral expansion of auxetic structures with various geometric parameters. Also, we found a linear relationship between the Poisson’s Ratio and the geometric parameter of the honeycomb auxetic structure. Our result is consistent with theoretical analysis.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Xin Du
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


student researchers Attitudes Towards Sexual Assault: Influences & Implications
Lena Peak

Our project will explore the relationships among childhood discipline, pornography use, attitudes about women, body satisfaction, sex education, and ideas about sexual assault. Ultimately, it is expected that this research will identify key areas for future sexual assault prevention programming to build from and contribute to a greater understanding of how bystander attitudes are developed in emerging adulthood.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Julie Schatz-Stevens
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


student researchers The Correlation Between Political Knowledge and Efficacy
Zachary Isaacs

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 correlation has ever been studied between it and political knowledge. This study is being conducted with a survey to a broad range of people in different locations in the Kalamazoo area to see whether there is a relationship between being knowledgeable about politics and feeling able to be effective in the political arena. 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.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Molly Patterson
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


student researchers The Plague in 16th Century France
Beatice Sherwood

A collaborative research project investigating the plague epidemic of the 1560s that was active from the British Isles to the Ottoman Empire with specific attention to the French urban center of Lyon. This project seeks to illuminate the complex relationship between the plague and inter confessional tensions amidst the French Wars of Religion.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Chad Gunnoe
Funded by Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


The Effect of Political Affiliation and Microaggression on the Mental Health of Minorities
Natasha Centeno

The purpose of this study was to research how political affiliation and microaggressions affect the mental health of African Americans and Latino/Hispanics. 50 males and 104 females were used in the study, with a total of 154 participants (N=154). Participants were of African American and/or Latino/Hispanic descent. There was no significance between mixed race and mental illness. There was no correlation between socioeconomic level and mental health and no correlation between education and mental health. We found a significant positive correlation (0.602) 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.

Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel


Sport in the GDR: A Structural Analysis of the Communist Development Program. Lessons Beyond Doping.
Paul Sommerville

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. This research examines the financial and administrative structure of East German sport. The goal is to identify aspects from the system, such as advancements in sport science and coaching education programs, that could positively influence intercollegiate athletics today.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Hojnacki

May 2016 - May 2017

student researchers The Past and Future of Agricultural Land in Kent County
Jacob Towne  

This project aims to quantify the changes in the area, distribution, and spatial structure of agricultural land in Kent County from 1967 to 2007, as well as to identify any impacts which the Purchase of Developmental Rights program may have had. We are also interested in finding the rate in which these changes are taking place in addition to seeing if there is a spatial pattern to the change. With these findings we hope to be able to predict future trends in agricultural land use in Kent County.

Faculty Advisor: Mary Clinthorne
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


student researchers Hyperbolic Quadratures
Tristen Spencer

Previous M-T researchers have squared the circle in non-Euclidean spaces. This opens the door to explore other hyperbolic cases of areas of circular regions which match areas of polygonal regions. We hope to show the five Euclidean quadratures fail and discover new hyperbolic quadratures which would be impossible in Euclidean space.

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


student researchers The Characterization of Bacteria Contaminants in Vitamins and Supplements 
Avery Wagner

A previous Mohler Thompson student found that a particular brand of garlic capsule was contaminated while testing its antimicrobial effects against a common bacteria found in dental plaque. We will attempt to characterize this contaminant through various staining techniques, selective and differential media tests, and some molecular biology. We will also test other vitamins and supplements for contaminants, including a new batch of the same brand of garlic capsule that had contaminants four years ago. 

Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Hess
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


student researchers The Impact of Theatre on Social Change and Community Engagement Through The Lens of Privilege 
Zoe Gipson

This project will be conducted in two main types of research, traditional research and interviews, and praxis—the exploration of theory through practice—both types will focus on the impacts of theatre on social change, while looking at different privileges. Our praxis will focus on different scripts at every level, leading to several productions, as well as workshops, seminars, day camps, talkbacks, through community initiatives such as Ebony Road Players, Mixed Roots Collective, and GR Civic Theater. Both modes of research will look at different privileges in traditional and nontraditional lenses, with cross over, but mainly focusing on race, gender, age, sexuality, and economic status and background. 

Faculty Advisor: Randy Wyatt
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


student researchers Diverse Reactions to the Great Recession and their Global Implications: A Comparative Study of French and American Economic Histories
Chloe Benzer

One of the most influential and consequential events of the past century arguably was the financial crash and subsequent Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 – this catastrophe impacted the entire world on an economic, social, and political level. I would like to study the differing reactions to this event in the United States and in Europe, mainly France. By comparing the economic and political histories of these countries, outlining the events leading up to the financial crisis and the following meltdown, detailing the recovery efforts, and presenting the differences, I will draw conclusions about the near future in these countries and the ensuing impacts that may be seen in the rest of the world. After analyzing these aspects in English, I would like to translate my research into French.

Faculty Advisor: Todd Yarbrough
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


student researchers

Cultural Anthropology of Romantic Love and Jealousy
Emma Wonsil

Anthropologists contend that romantic love and jealousy are universal phenomena and they found evidence of their occurrences in many cultures. However, cultural values and traditional behaviors can influence the expressions and experiences of love and jealousy. The purpose of this Summer Scholar project is to complete a comprehensive review and analysis of the studies published in anthropological journals on romantic love and jealousy. The goal is to explore the nature of romantic jealousy across modern cultures and present cutting-edge research that has advanced anthropological knowledge on cultural factors affecting the experience, expressions, and customs of romantic jealousy.

Faculty Advisor: Victor Karandashev
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


student researchers Structural Effects of Buchwald Ligands in Direct Arylation Reactions
John McAfee

Buchwald ligands are a common choice for direct arylation reactions because of their poor electron density. I will be researching the effects of the structures of these ligands in direct arylation in order to better understand which ligand should be used. Direct arylation could promote advances in the pharmaceutical and solar industries.

Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Fritz
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


student researchers Investigating Movement in Mancala
Maria Maguire

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 pattern of most efficient movement.

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


student researchers

Understanding the Endosymbiotic Relationship of Corals
Bridgette Degenhardt

This summer we will be studying the different genes involved in the endosymbiotic relationship between the anemone Aiptasia and the algae that live within it. Variables such as temperature, bleaching, and pH can be manipulated so that we may attempt to explore the different genetic responses within Aiptasia using qPCR. We hope to clone certain genes of interest into bacterial plasmids and eventually characterize their proteins to better understand the molecular and chemical relationship between corals and their endosymbionts. 

Faculty Advisor: LR Peters
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant