Student Research at Aquinas College

Current Research

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

May 2018 - May 2019

Nature, Philosophy, and Latin in St. Thomas Aquinas’ De principiis naturae
Annie Newton

The primary goal of this project is twofold. First, the student will acquire basic understanding and habits of Latin forms, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary necessary for producing philosophical translations of the work of St. Thomas Aquinas. Second, the student and faculty mentor will collaborate to produce a philosophical translation of an important text from St. Thomas Aquinas’ De principiis naturae, which contributes to the living tradition of treating the thought of the Angelic Doctor.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Wagner
Funding Source: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


Bringing Biodiversity to Restored Grasslands
Dana VanHuis

Our project focuses on grassland management. We are looking at five different grasslands (four at PCCI and one in Grand Rapids). Each grassland is either being burned, mowed, or left un-managed. We are then studying the biodiversity indexes of birds, insects, and vegetation in each of these fields to determine which management technique fosters the greatest levels of biodiversity. Hopefully through this study, a model can be made for other organizations and landowners that can be used to move restored grasslands from tallgrass monocultures to diverse and thriving grasslands.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rob Keys, Cornerstone University
Funded by: Pierce Cedar Creek Institute


Study on Polydispersed Emulsion Systems Using Microfluidic Techniques
Kenny Nguyen

An emulsion is a mixture of two immiscible liquids, where one liquid is dispersed in the form of small drops in another liquid that forms a continuous phase. The property of emulsions, especially polydispersed systems, are widely applied in pharmacy, drug delivery and food industry.

We will fabricate and study the fluid dynamics of polydispersed emulsion system using microfluidic techniques.

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


Abiotic factors affecting prevalence of Rosa multiflora in Southwest Michigan
Alyssa Wilson and Stephanie Clark

Rosa multiflora, or multiflora rose, is an invasive plant species in the northeast and midwest United States. We are interested in quantifying the abiotic factors--such as soil pH and moisture, distance from trail, and sunlight availability--that contribute to the ability of multiflora rose to proliferate in some areas over others.

The goal of this research is to provide land managers with information regarding which areas are most susceptible to multiflora rose invasion and establishment, specifically in Southwest Michigan.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Humphrey
Funded by: Pierce Cedar Creek Institute


Acyclic orderings in citation networks
Aimee Judd

Citation networks are large collections of objects, some of which refer to others. For example, one might consider a collection of Supreme Court decisions, some of which cite others as precedents. In this project, we will develop a method to

 count all possible orderings of the objects in a citation network that preserve the citation structure.

Faculity Advisor: Dr. Joe Fox
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


Investigating the Antibacterial Properties of Natural Substances
Gina Nowland

We will research natural antimicrobial substances and previously isolated soil bacteria. Previous research on natural antimicrobial substances indicated that allicin, a compound created from garlic when it is crushed, and eugenol, a compound from clove oil, are highly effective against bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans. An oral bacterium, S. mutans, is an organism that contributes to the formation of plaque and tooth decay. The growth and growth inhibition of S. mutans on mitis salivarius (MS) agar is being studied under aerobic and anaerobic conditions.

These conditions were put in place to replicate the growth of oral bacteria at night. The mouth, being closed, may decrease the amount of oxygen present to the bacteria making anaerobic conditions ideal to test how the growth of bacteria such as S. mutans could be affected. Individual bacteria isolated from soil samples collected during September 2017 will continue to be characterized and tested against ESKAPE pathogen safe relatives in the search for new antibiotics. Many of these bacterial isolates were previously found to be highly effective in inhibiting the growth of the ESKAPE pathogens.

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


The Role of Gender on the Pronunciation of “ch” in Andalusian Spanish: A Study of Social and Linguistic Factors
Bridget Gibley

The study of the Spanish language includes the study of many different dialects and variations. For example, Andalusian Spanish contains a variable pronunciation of the consonant “ch.” The standard pronunciation in Spanish is an affricate sound [tʃ] (as in the “ch” in “choose”). However, the consonant “ch” can also be pronounced in a weakened, fricative sound [ʃ] (as in the “sh” in “shoe”). This dialectal variation is widespread among speakers of different ages, gender, and education. Previous studies (Quilis-María Vaquero, 1973; Melguizo Moreno, 2007; Alberto Méndez, 2017) have found correlations between these sociolinguistic factors and the weakened pronunciation of “ch.” However, even though all the studies agree that the fricative pronunciation is more common among speakers from lower socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, the patterns found for age and gender are contradicting.

This study explores the dialectal variation of the consonant “ch” in Andalusian Spanish, in particular the role of gender, by analyzing audio interviews with speakers of Andalusian Spanish in Alcala de Guadaira in Southern Spain. Each speaker is analyzed based on the dependent variable of the pronunciation of “ch” and independent variables of gender, education, and phonological context for the consonant. Since the fricative pronunciation of “ch” seems to have low prestige in Spanish, we expect female speakers to favor the standard affricate pronunciation of this consonant.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Carmen Ruiz-Sanchez
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


Kinetic Studies of OXA-207
Avery Cheap

We are studying the enzyme kinetics of OXA-207, a Class D beta-lactamase. Beta-lactamases catalyze the hydrolysis of beta-lactam antibiotics, a broad class of widely used antibiotics. By doing so, the beta-lactamase can confer antibiotic resistance to the microbe that expresses it.

OXA-207 differs from its parent enzyme by just one amino acid. We are measuring the kinetics using a bevy of different beta-lactam substrates.

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


Monsky's Theorem and Pedal Triangles in Non-Euclidean Geometry
Kelsey Hall

We will calculate examples to show how Monsky's Theorem fails to be true in non-Euclidean geometry.We will seek theorems for pedal triangles in non-Euclidean geometry.

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


Restorative Justice Program Inquiry
Madeleine Lince

This project seeks to understand the perceptions of American restorative justice practitioners. Research is conducted via narrative interviews and archival document analysis. Results will be used to generate a practitioner/facilitator follow-up survey.

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


Spirituality and Justice: The Life and Witness of Françis-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận
Sr. Kayla Nguyen

An examination of the life and writing of Françis-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận and his spirituality borne out of suffering as a prisoner for 13 years in Vietnam and then exile in Rome as Head of the Pontifical Council of Peace and Justice. In the tradition of Catholic social teaching he provides an alternative vision for Vietnam to classical liberalism with its radical individualism and atheistic Communism with its history of religious oppression.

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


Stopping “Traffic” from the Inside Out: A teacher approach
Sarah Stayman

The goal of this project is to prepare and support secondary teachers when identifying exploitation of a student in their classroom. The research delved into and the products created from this project will help teachers support students who might already be victims of human trafficking and those who are at-risk for being exploited. We aim to intersect the knowledge of first responders and the adolescent connections of secondary teachers to support, educate and prevent further exploitation with the creation of an online resource for secondary teachers.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Stefani Boutelier
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program