Student Research at Aquinas College

Current Research

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May 2019 - May 2020

Synthesis and Characterization of Ionic Liquid Crystal Compounds
Aaron Batke

Thermotropic liquid crystals are compounds with an intermediate phase between crystalline solids and isotropic liquids. They can be induced into phase transitions by altering their temperature. One category of liquid crystals are ionic compounds composed of metal halide ions that are attached to alkylammonium cations with positively-charged nitrogen atoms connected to a hydrophobic hydrocarbon tail. Interest in these compounds has existed for the past 45 years. Studies have involved a range of alkyl chain lengths and different transition metal halides. However, the lanthanide metals have not been sufficiently explored. We will synthesize one or more ionic liquid crystal compounds containing alkylammonium cations with samarium chloride anions. Characterization of the resulting compounds may include elemental analysis, differential scanning calorimetry, melting point analysis via Mel Temp apparatus, polarizing optical microscopy, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. We hope the new compounds will exhibit thermotropic liquid crystal phases. The presence of the lanthanide element may also cause fluorescence. This work will contribute to a previously unexplored region of chemistry.

Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth Jensen
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


Scope of an Under Air Direct Arylation Reaction with Respect to Aryl Halides
Gabby Brandonisio

Direct Arylation is a type of reaction used by organic chemists to cleave C-H bonds on aromatic compounds and form C-C bonds with other aromatic compounds. Typically these reactions are done under an inert atmosphere, but previous Aquinas students that have studied this reaction using air and obtained yields just as good. The previous students have found optimal conditions for the reaction to take place. Building off of their research, our goal is to explore the scope of the reaction with respect to the aryl halides.

Faculty Advivor: Dr. Jonathan Fritz
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant


Sexism, Marital Status, Parenthood, and Alcoholism: Examining the Effects of the Single Motherhood Penalty on Socio-Cognitive Perceptions
Julia Cooke

Even though gender equality has increased over the decades, gender disparity persists. Women are still paid less than men and are also subject to discrimination in the workplace based solely on the fact that they may become mothers. Further, there is some evidence indicating that mothers suffering from alcoholism face stigmatization that does not extend to fathers suffering from alcoholism. The goal of this research is to elucidate unique prejudices that mothers, specifically single mothers, face. Although there is research on gender disparity, the motherhood penalty, and alcoholism, there are no experiments combining all of them and specifically examining what we term “the single motherhood penalty”. Therefore, we are conducting a series of experiments that will test the effects that variables such as gender, parental status, marital status, ethnicity, addiction status race/ethnicity, etc., may have on socio-cognitive judgements. Based on the results of this research, we hope to shed light on the plight of single mothers and offer empirical evidence that may be used for policy change for single mothers suffering from alcoholism.

Faculty Advisor: Joyce Oates
Funded by: Summer Scholars Research Grant


Constructing tools to study the role of an innate immune receptor (Nod1) in hematopoietic stem cell development
Svetlana Djirackor and Lucas Topie

We will subclone zebrafish dominant negative Nod1 alleles our group formerly designed. These subcloned alleles will be used by our collaborators to advance hematopoietic stem cell research. The zebrafish model was chosen due to its ease of use in large-scale applications, chemical screens and in vivo imaging.

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


The Legal Arguments for United States’ Intervention in the Vietnam War: A Reappraisal
Gannon Foley

This investigation seeks to explore the various legal arguments in favor of and against US involvement in the Vietnam War. Valuable primary and secondary sources will indicate which arguments carry the greatest influence when examining this era of history. At the conclusion of this exploration, the author will compile all his research and present a document that ties together the evidence for and against the Vietnam War.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jason Duncan
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


Relationship between pollen aperture number and germination in Thalictrum
Spencer Graham

Pollen heteromorphism is a characteristic belonging to certain species of plants in which an individual produces multiple types of fertile pollen grains. It is possible that certain pollen morphs are inherently more viable than others. We would like to observe pollen germination in vitro in order to measure morphological variation and efficiency of germination within and among individuals of multiple populations and species of Thalictrum. This study will provide insight into the evolution of pollen heteromorphism.

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


Nature, Philosophy, and Latin in St. Thomas Aquinas' De Principiis Naturae
Noah Hall

The primary goal of this project was twofold. First, the student acquired 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 collaborated to produce a philosophical translation of the second chapter of St. Thomas Aquinas’ De principiis naturae, which contributed to the living tradition of treating the thought of the Angelic Doctor. This project is a continuation of a previous study done with another student on the opening chapter of the De principiis naturae.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Daniel Wagner
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program


Monsky's Theorem and the Wallace-Simson Line in Non-Euclidean Geometry
Morgan Nissen

We will seek other counter-examples to Monsky's Theorem in hyperbolic geometry and we will seek the set of points from which an elliptic triangle has Wallace-Simson lines.

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


The Mathematics of Machine Learning Algorithms
Anna Putnam

We are creating, from scratch, an image recognition program using neural networks, basic programming, and calculus concepts. Our goal is to have a working program that can label images of oak leaves and maple leaves accurately, through exploring the mathematics of machine learning.

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


The Dessication Tolerance of Craterostigma plantagineum
Michael Kalinowski

We studied the genetic basis of the dehydration tolerance of Craterostigma plantagineum, a small plant from South Africa. We utilized RNA-seq to trace RNA expression of the leaf and root tissues as the plant went through the desiccation cycle, and rehydrated. This work was mainly exploratory in nature, as this plant has never before been examined in this way.

Faculty Advisor: Robert VanBuren, Michigan State University
Funded by: NSF-funded