Undergraduate Student Research  

Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Symposium

A campus-wide colloquium of significant contributions to academia.
The goal of the symposium is to showcase the outstanding quality and diversity of research at AQ by providing students with the opportunity to put into practice and demonstrate the depth of their research skills with those outside of their disciplines. The symposium is also designed to demonstrate the importance of research and scholarship within our community via formal presentations, recitals, writings, poster sessions and art exhibits.
Symposium Events Held: April 24, 2013
Symposium Submissions: Academic Year 2012-2013
Department of Biology Department of English Department of Mathematics
Department of Business Department of Geography Department of Music
Department of Chemistry Department of History Department of Sociology
Department of Communication Department of Kinesiology  


Janine O'Donnell

Sex, Age and Quantitative Motor Unit Recruitment

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Thomas Bahl

The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a gender difference in the ability of individuals (ages 40 to 55) to quantitatively increase the intensity of grip strength in both their right and left hands. This age group was selected after findings from a previous study conducted at Aquinas College with younger individuals (ages 18-25) found that females were commonly more accurate at quantitatively increasing grip strength. In the current study, there were no significant differences found when comparing men and women who were asked to double or triple their initial grip strengths. Therefore, it was found that sex does not impact quantitative muscle control in fist clenching in 40- to 55-years old. However, since these findings were not consistent with the previous study, it would seem aging does have some influence on muscle control.



Rachel Bartels

Market Research for Blue Star Sportswear, Inc.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kristel Heinz-Ciullo

It is difficult is for a successful business to adapt to new consumer trends after years of profitable operation. Blue Star Sportswear, Inc., a small, family owned company, faces exactly this problem. In the last decade, the owners of Blue Star have witnessed a definite shift in the buying behavior of its customers and a revolutionized medium for businesses connecting with their customers. To study the company’s changed environment, internal data mining was performed, qualitative research (in the form of interviews) was conducted, and customer surveys were administered. The areas of interest surveyed were customers’ buying process and what influenced it, the best ways to connect with customers, and the most important criteria of choosing a product are. Although a low number of respondents meant the survey did not provide predictive results, the feedback provided did offer some prospective on the key issues and was valuable information for the owners.



Laura Cichon

Potential Binding Sites of Evans Blue Dye and Bovine Serum Albumin

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Chen

Evans Blue Dye and Bovine Serum Albumin have unique fluorescence spectra changes upon binding as well as with varying concentration. To analyze the physical properties of the dye-albumin complex, a computational study was done in which amino acid chains were conjugated to the dye and energy calculations were performed to determine a probable binding site.


Thomas Finn
Attempted Determination of a Colorimetric, Paper-Based Test for Determination of Deltamethrin and Permethrin
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Beth Jensen 
Insecticide treated bed-netting plays a key role in the defense of the spread of malaria. Such nets, however, only offer the user optimal protection if the incorporated insecticide is present in a large enough concentration to deter mosquitoes. While manufacturers of these nets often provide a range of years that a net may provide a user with effective protection, a range of any span is considerable when dealing with a disease as impactful as malaria. In this study we attempt to identify a qualitative test to detect the presence of two common insecticides incorporated into bed-netting, deltamethrin and permethrin. A paper analytical device based test, would allow for cheap and widespread distribution of a method to determine insecticide presence. While we were not able to identify a colorimetric reaction for both insecticides, our study examines over ten different tests that serve as a foundation for future study in this area.

Thomas Finn
Colorimetric, Paper-Based, Detection of Theobromine
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Beth Jensen
Theobromine, a xanthine based compound found in chocolate, if ingested by dogs or cats, can have potentially fatal effects. Such effects stem from an inability by these animals to metabolize theobromine quickly enough, and can lead to interference of regulation of heartbeat, causing an arrhythmia. It is important, then, to be to rapidly determine if a dog or cat has been exposed to theobromine. Unfortunately, these animals cannot tell an owner, or a veterinarian, just what they ate from a knocked over garbage can or bag. Thus, a simple, colorimetric, qualitative test to detect the presence of theobromine would not only aid in the identification of what toxin a dog or cat ingested, but could subsequently guide further treatment options. Such a test, if extended to a paper analytical device, has the potential to serve as a basic toxin-screening panel for various commonly ingested toxins of cats and dogs.


Carey Mayhew
Hydroxyapatite Composites for Bone Tissue Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Jensen

Due to injury or illness whole sections of bone have to be removed from a patient at times. Bone grafts are the conventional solution to this type of problem, but synthetic bone fillers are emerging as a better solution. Many bone fillers are based on hydroxyapatite due to the compounds high biocompatibility. However the brittleness of hydroxyapatite makes it mechanically unsuited to be used exclusively as synthetic bone filler. Researchers are using two different techniques to improve the properties of hydroxyapatite; combining it with polymers, and incorporating ions into the hydroxyapatite structure. This research combines both techniques in a two part synthesis.

George Van Den Driessche

Methodological Development of Direct Arylation Product Identification Using HPLC

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Johnathon Fritz

Bi-aryl compounds form a critical backbone structure to many pharmaceutical compounds (i.e. Lipitor). These compounds have traditionally been synthesized from Suzuki Coupling reactions, however Suzuki couplings are an expensive procedure and produce high amounts of waste. Direct arylation reactions offer a more green synthesis technique. However, two of the challenges of direct arylations is limited regioselectivity of binding sites and the use of expensive palladium catalysts. The scope of this project is the development of an identification technique using HPLC analysis for the identification and quantification of m-methoxybiphenyl in relation to p-methoxybiphenyl and o-methoxybiphenyl final products.


Nicholas Wheeler

Ionic Liquid Crystals based on Samarium(III) and Tetrafluoroborate with Isoquinoline and N-methylpyrrolidine Moieties

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Jensen

Liquid crystals are a fourth state of matter which is considered to be intermediate between a crystalline solid and an isotropic liquid. There is a specific branch of liquid crystals which we are interested in known as ionic liquid crystals; these are liquid crystals that contain both anions and cations. Characteristics (magnetism, redoxactivity, luminescence) can be added via either ion, thus giving ILCs many possible applications. Current uses for these types of crystals include digital displays, nanomaterials and optical displays. Ionic liquid crystals of the proposed structure: [C18Pyr]*[BF4]-, [C18Iq]+[BF4]-, [C18Pyr]3+[SmCl3Br3]3-, and [C18Iq]3+[SmCl3Br3]3- are theorized and synthesized. C18 is an alkyl chain consisting of 18 carbon atoms; Pry is N-methyl pyrrodlidine; and Iq is isoquinoline. Characterization was conducted by infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, mel-temp and differential scanning calorimetry. Results are expected to show that all four proposed ILCs are in fact liquid crystalline. The ILCs are expected to show photoluminescence, with the exception of [C18Iq]+[BF4]-.



Courtney DeSpelder
Communication Empathy and Perception of Socio-Economic Status
Faculty Advisors:  Dr. Penny Avery and Dr. David Weinandy
Through this study I have gained insight on perceived communication within new dating relationships. I began my study by asking, “What impact does a person’s perceived socio-economic status have on a potential relationship?” This question was the basis of my hypothesis: within new dating relationships (one to three dates) of college students ages 18-24, the more similar subjects report perceiving the socio-economic status of their dating partners to be to themselves, the more empathetic they will perceive the communication of their respective dating partners. In other words, the hypothesis predicted that perception of a similar socio-economic status by the dating partners will lead the individual dating partners to believe that the other uses empathetic communication. The goal of the research was to asses if there is a connection between the perception of similar socio-economic status and the potential formation of a relationship.
Leslie Heinz & Elizabeth Waligorski
The Correlation Between Age and Self Disclosure when Communicating via Text Messaging
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Penny Avery
My partner, Liz Waligorski and myself, are researching individuals between the ages of 18-30 and 45-57 is to gain insight as to whether or not there is a correlation between age and self-disclosure when communicating via text messaging. In our study, we used a survey as our method of research; which consisted of twenty-two questions that were evaluated using a Likert-type scale. The questions consisted of four different categories of self-disclosure (general/personal, feelings and emotions, personal constructs, and sexually explicit). The research hypothesis states, “Subjects in the age group of 18-30 will report a higher likelihood to utilize the various categories of self-disclosure in romantic, dating relationships through the medium of text messaging than will the subjects in the 45-57 age group.” In order to discover whether or not there is a relationship between age and self-disclosure, we will be collecting a minimum of 100 surveys and analyzing the data to either accept of reject the null hypothesis.


Marah Klose
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Penny Avery and Dr. David Weinandy
Relationship between Self-Esteem and Self-Monitoring   Students age 18-24 will be surveyed using validated measures of the variables self-esteem and self-monitoring. Quantitative data will be evaluated with a correlational analysis to assess the relationship between the variables. Results will be presented at the Insignis Senior Project presentations, the poster session of the Student Research Symposium, and the Communication Capstone presentations.



Jarrod Irwin

Psalm of the Piano Key: Religion and Notes from Underground

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Brooks

Although Fyodor Dostoevsky is well-known for dealing with religious themes in his novels, one of his best-known works, Notes from Underground, contains almost no religious content. It differs from many of Dostoevsky other works. The Brothers Karamazov deals extensively with issues of faith and doubt, and in The Idiot and Crime and Punishment, religion is highly visible. This raises the question of why this novel treats religion so differently from other representative examples of Dostoevsky's work. An important reason is that the Underground Man is incapable of following the path to conversion that many of Dostoevsky's other characters follow. For Dostoevsky, reconnecting with God is tied to reconnecting with humanity, which the Underground Man's individualist beliefs, self-imposed isolation, and inability to take meaningful action make impossible. This means that Notes from Underground, which is narrated by the Underground Man himself, cannot grapple with religion as Dostoevsky's other characters do.



Megan Arndt

Effects of Anthropogenic Land Use on Wetland Water Quality

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Rasmussen

Wetland quality is an increasing concern among environmentalists in several countries but the relationship between land use and wetland water quality is inconclusive. There is even more uncertainty as to what the critical distance should be for the environmental buffer zone surrounding the wetland. This study addresses wetland eutrophication by analyzing water chemistry of seven wetlands in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Examination between water nutrient concentrations (including nitrogen and phosphorous), the land use cover type, slope, and environmental buffer width provides key information on the eutrophication process. Anthropogenic land uses rapidly increase this natural eutrophication process of wetlands. Over the past 30 years, 25% of wetlands have moved toward the hyper-eutrophic end of the spectrum. [Key words: wetland quality, water chemistry, environmental buffer, eutrophication, anthropogenic land use]


Brooke DeCou

Climatic Effects on West Michigan Flea Population

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Rasmussen

Abstract: This study focuses on the effects of climate on the flea population
in West Michigan. Data from Lifetime Veterinary Care, located in Nunica,
Michigan was collected and examined along with climate data. The data consisted of counts of the observed fleas on dogs each month from January 2008 though December 2012. These flea counts were compared to average monthly temperatures and average monthly minimum temperatures in Muskegon, Michigan. The study indicated that flea count begins to increase in the spring months when the average monthly low temperatures are between 7.7 C and 11.5 C. Further analysis indicated that there is a positive correlation between temperature range and flea count in the West Michigan area.


Michael Erdmans

A Study of Infiltration Rates on Park Trails at Aman Park in Grand Rapids Michigan

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rich McCluskey

This study examines soil infiltration rates at Aman Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The park is located in a a stream valley with upland and floodplain areas. We look at infiltration rates at the top and bottom of the forested slopes above the creek. Along with these measurements, we also collected data on and off the trail to determine how soil compaction along the trails affected infiltration. All of our measurements were collected using a double ring infiltrometer to time the rate at which the water infiltrates the soil. We took two samples at each of 11 locations for a total of 22 separate readings. The results from these suggest that the infiltration rates were much lower on trails than those measured off of the trail. Also, surprisingly the rates were slightly lower on top of the slope than at the bottom.


Bradley Farley

Historical Erosion and Sedimentation Rates: A Pilot Study in Southwest Michigan

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Rasmussen

This project was a paleolimnology pilot study on Brewster Lake in Barry County, Michigan. After an analysis of a two meter (2m) long lake sediment core we learned that there has been quite a bit of erosion into the lake with 1.8 meters of sediment deposited in the past four thousand years (4kya). Through particle size analysis, we determined that a sizable amount of the more recent sediments in the upper third of the core were silt and larger clasts, and probably a result of 19th and 20th century agriculture. Episodes of earlier sedimentation of finer textured sediments were evident in the lower part of the core as well. These were marked by the periodic burial of terrestrial freshwater snails Planorbidae that reside and then die on the shores around the lake and are only washed into the deep water of the lake by erosion events.


Brandon Holstine

Unearthing the All-American Gold Mine: Space and Place Regarding Geographic Locations of NCAA Division I Football Consensus All-Americans

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Rasmussen

While the spatiality of college football athletes has been examined in the past, less attention has been paid toward finding the supreme difference makers. These difference makers, Consensus All-Americans, can have an impact in the millions of dollars for a modern-day athletic department. This article investigates the space and place of these athletes, with regard to their proportionate production from a given locale. Population data for athletes from the past 40 years (1973-2012) was compared to overall population data of individual US states. This produced a location quotient to compare relative local athlete production to the overall state population. This comparison resulted in findings that supported earlier theories on athlete dispersion, where there is not a 1:1 correlation between the two variables. The results raise both points and questions regarding the overall population of football athletes in the United States. [Key words: Sports geography, college football, recruiting, location quotient]


Heath Somers

Streambank Erosion Rates in Southwest Michigan

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Rasmussen

This study measures stream bank erosion within four different types of stream systems over a one month long time period. We utilized a precise technique to measure the amount of erosion. First a metal hanger 300 mm long was inserted 150 mm into the side of the stream bank and then spray painted to mark the portion of the metal hanger sticking out of the bank. Five hangers were placed in different locations throughout each stream to assess the variation along the banks. We returned to measure the erosion rates once per week for one month. The field collected data suggests that stream bank erosion varies drastically from stream to stream and even with location within each stream.


Kaytlin Speaks

Localization of Food Sourcing in Grand Rapids Area Restaurants

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Rasmussen

This study examines the trend of localizing food sourcing. We observe the existing elements of this trend on a local scale by comparing the distances from which locally owned, Grand Rapids-based, restaurants sourced their ingredients to the US average distance for sourcing. We found the location of ingredient sourcing through surveys of restaurant experts and then computed the distances involved. We also calculated the average location of ingredient sources through nationwide agricultural statistics and then computed the distances. These distances in the two data sets were then compared and used as a way to project the effects of the trend in local food sourcing.



Breanne Stockall
Karl Marx's Historiographical Impact
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Bethany Kilcrease
Every historian's philosophy on history has been influenced in some way by previous historians.  Karl Marx, founder of the Marxist historiographical school of history, believed in historical materialism and that history progresses teleologically toward communism through class conflict.  Marx explains these ideas in The German Ideology(1844) and puts them to practice in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte(1852).  By mixing historical Idealism and Empiricism, Marx changed how future historians would look at and write about history.  His contribution to the field of historiography continues to impact modern historians.



Benjamin Hagge
Assessing Special Knee Tests for Diagnosing a Meniscal Injury: A Literature Review
Faculty Advisor: Dr. JoAnne Gorant
The main focus of this review research was to analyze literature and determine which physical knee test is the most diagnostically accurate in detecting a torn meniscus.
Objective: The purpose of this study is to summarize the available literature on the diagnostic accuracy of physical examination tests to detect a torn meniscus and to pool the data from original articles and determine the most accurate diagnostic special test’s for a meniscal injury.



Noah Davis

Squaring the Circle in Hyperbolic Geometry

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Michael McDaniel

Constructing a square and circle with equal area is a problem from antiquity which was proved impossible, in Euclidean geometry, in 1881. In 1850, Bolyai explained a strategy for performing this construction in hyperbolic geometry but he could not demonstrate an example because he had no hyperbolic space and no way to measure hyperbolic distance. We found Euclidean constructions for what Bolyai proposed in the model of hyperbolic space called the Poincare disk. One of our surprising results is that, while we have infinite ways to square the circle, we cannot construct the circle from the square, nor the square from the circle: they must be constructed separately. This is unusual because the nature of constructions is to build on the given.



Michael Adams

Michael Adams

Junior Recital (pdf)

Faculty Advisor: Larry Biser

Michael B. Adams went above and beyond the requirements for his major and prepared a Junior Recital. He performed nine organ works and composed scholarly concert notes to put in the program, informing the audience about the various pieces they were hearing. Rhema LaMontagne, a fellow music student, also provided three flute pieces to add to the program.

Michael performed at the Aquinas College Art & Music Center in the Rehearsal Hall on April 6th, 2013.



Molly Cook
The Self-Identified Needs of the Urban Homeless
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kathy Kremer
This research focuses on determining the self-identified needs of the service-using homeless in the Heartside Neighborhood of Grand Rapids, Michigan and determining if Park Congregational Church is meeting needs. Twenty-one homeless men and women were asked questions regarding basic demographic information, services they use, ways they find out about available services, gaps in services, and perceptions of treatment by service providers.  Based on interviews with administrators and the interviews conducted, three service philosophies were identified; the “help your neighbor approach,” the self-help and dignity building approach, and the housing first approach. Findings suggest that the homeless in the Heartside Neighborhood prefer the “help your neighbor approach,” which Park Church utilizes, and finds volunteers and employees to be helpful and friendly.  Men focus on the usefulness of services they receive while women focus on the relationships they develop with volunteers and employees.