Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium

Thursday, October 15
4:00-6:00 p.m.

We are excited to welcome you to this year’s virtual Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium. In spite of all the disruptions campus has experienced over the past 6 months, our students completed some phenomenal research and creative projects over the summer. Review the student’s abstracts below and join us for a live symposium on October 15th to hear from the students about their work.

 

Schedule

Time Session Location
4:00 p.m. Welcome and Overview Main Room
4:15 p.m. Samuel Dettle – Building and Characterizing a Spectrometer Main Room
Ines Benkhelfallah – From Cultural Appropriation to Cultural Appreciation in a Globalized World Room A
Jonathon Bartczak – Is There a Correlation Between School Enrollment Size and Student Academic Achievement Data? Room B
4:30 p.m. Hung Cao – Quadruped Robot Main Room
Kayless Chalmers  – Finding Freedom on the Seven Seas: A Gender Studies Analysis of Portraits of Female Pirates, 1600-1900 Room A
Sudarshan Choudhury – Renewable Energy Investments in the Twin Ports Area: Are Superior and Duluth Prepared for a Sustainable Energy Future? Room B
4:45 p.m. Karsyn Doughty – Historical Concentrations of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Persistent Organic Pollutants in Superior, Wisconsin Main Room
Sonia Fields – What Makes a Home: The Importance of Architectural Preservation Illustrated Through Children’s Literature Room A
Sajid Chowdhury – The Influence of COVID-19 on Small Businesses in the Twin Ports Room B
5:00 p.m. Staci Reynolds – Investigating the Practical Use of in situ Chlorophyll-a Sensors to Monitor Algae in the St. Louis River Main Room
Amy Hightshoe – Ash Glazes Room A
Sameena Knopik – Exploring the Perceptions of Foster Parents about Mental & Emotional Well-Being Room B
5:15 p.m. Sara Rybak  – Documenting the Impact of Changing Water Levels on Lake Superior to Support Community Response Main Room
Liam Strong – Likeness: An Exploration of Gender Dysphoria and Non-Binary Identity in Poetry Room A
Brandon Olson – Vaping & Stigma at UW-Superior Room B
5:30 p.m. Mingma Sherpa Hoel  – Comparative study of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 virus Main Room
Eliza Wilson  – The Improvised Concerto Cadenza: Historical Context for Contemporary Performers Room A
Elliana Waring  – Evaluating the Efficacy of Restorative Justice Practices in St. Louis County’s Zero to Three Safe Babies Court Initiative Room B
5:45 p.m. Conversation with Student Presenters All Rooms

Summer Undergraduate Research Program Award Recipients

Jonathon Bartczak

jbartcz1@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Jodie Riek

Title

Is There a Correlation Between School Enrollment Size and Student Academic Achievement Data?

Abstract

Is there a correlation between school enrollment size and student reading achievement data in the state of Minnesota? This study randomly selected reading achievement data from urban and rural schools in Minnesota to examine this topic. Data from the state website for the academic years 2017, 2018, and 2019 was used to compare reading achievement with enrollment size for overall school district achievement, elementary achievement, and secondary achievement. Initial findings from the data collected from the five urban and five rural schools showed a definite drop in reading achievement from elementary to secondary in both rural and urban schools. The urban schools start out much lower in reading achievement and this hinders their overall performance. Rural schools perform higher in every distribution, overall school district, elementary, and secondary groupings. Further research is needed to better understand the decline in achievement that both the rural and urban schools have in reading from elementary to secondary schools.

Ines Benkhelfallah

ibenkhel@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Ephraim Kotey Nikoi

Title

From Cultural Appropriation to Cultural Appreciation in a Globalized World

Abstract

This project looked at how cultural appropriation is influenced by social media. A literature review was conducted to gain understanding of cultural appropriation, social media, and the way social media affects cultural appropriation practices. A content analysis on different social media platforms analyzed the different ways social media promotes cultural appropriation. The research showed there is a thin line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. Social media promotes cultural appropriation in many different ways depending on the platform it’s being practiced on. The results of this project show that although social media is a strong factor in promoting cultural appropriation, it has also become a way for minorities to express themselves, providing platforms on which they can educate others and have constructive debates.

Hung Cao

hcao@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Sergei Bezroukov

Title

Quadruped Robot

Abstract

For decades people have used wheel or track systems in cars, tanks, and other vehicles to cross many different types of difficult terrain. Over the years, 4-legged or quadruped robots have been researched and developed to improve the performance of off-road systems. Research showed that quadruped robots are very versatile. Their ability to overcome slippery, rocky, or muddy terrain is superior to conventional vehicles. The objective of this project was to construct a quadruped robot. This involved using trigonometry and mechanics to study how 4-legged robots work, printing robot parts on a 3-D printer, and then programming a microcontroller to synchronize the leg movement and to control the robot’s moving direction with a smartphone over Bluetooth. This research provided an opportunity to apply math and programming techniques learned in school to a real-life problem by finding a working solution for quadruped robots.

Kayless Chalmers

kchalme1@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Hilary Fezzey

Title

Finding Freedom on the Seven Seas: A Gender Studies Analysis of Portraits of Female Pirates, 1600-1900

Abstract

This research used existing records, poetry, and novels to examine how female pirates were freed from restrictive gender and sexual norms of society by seeking a life of piracy during the Golden Age of Piracy. Notable female pirates of this era were Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Grace O’Malley. Sources included A General History of the Pyrates (1724), by Captain Charles Johnson, and the novels Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe,  and Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson, which depict stereotypical pirates and interactions between characters that help illustrate cultural and social norms of their eras. While early pirate literature depicts pirates as traditionally masculine, representations of female pirates undermine these images. In their success and deviation from society, female pirates grasped freedom and attained more than average women would have in the patriarchal society of their age.

Sudarshan Choudhury

schoudhu@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Sakib Mahmud

Title

Renewable Energy Investments in the Twin Ports Area: Are Superior and Duluth Prepared for a Sustainable Energy Future?

Abstract

This project explored renewable energy investment in the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior. A comprehensive literature review focused on renewable energy investment status and potential barriers, and four interviews were conducted with people knowledgeable about renewable energy investment planning in the area. The findings revealed the increasing growth of solar energy in the region, a trend attributed to the reduced cost of solar panels and implementation of public transportation fueled by renewable energy. However, potential barriers, such as the monopoly of the energy utility industry, unpredictable weather patterns, lack of suitable land, and fewer capital investment initiatives outweigh the greater danger of climate change-induced negative socioeconomic and environmental impacts on the community. There is immense potential for renewable energy in the region and progressive steps must be taken to transform and prepare the Twin Ports to deal with increasing energy demand and evolving climate change developments.

Sajid Chowdhury

schowdhu@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Praopan Pratoomchat

Title

The Influence of COVID-19 on Small Businesses in the Twin Ports

Abstract

Data was collected from multiple secondary sources and collated to draw a better understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 recession on small businesses in the Twin Ports. The primary indicator used was the distribution of Paycheck Protection Program loans designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. By measuring the number of loans provided to each sector, it was approximated that the Leisure and Hospitality industry was affected the most. Retail businesses, along with Accommodation and Food Services, account for 42 percent of vulnerable jobs, most of which shut down or operated with restrictions. As restrictions were lifted, businesses began to re-open and unemployment rates slowly began to decrease. These findings are supported by multiple studies that exhibit similar results. With further time, research can provide a more in-depth breakdown of the Coronavirus recession in the Twin Ports.

Samuel Dettle

sdettle1@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Peter Cook

Title

Building and Characterizing a Spectrometer

Abstract

A spectrometer was created using cheap and common materials. A spectrometer is a machine that separates light by color (i.e. wavelength) and reports the brightness of each color. The spectrometer was constructed from a diffraction grating, webcam, fluorescent light, cardboard box, and an overhead projector. Slits in the cardboard constricted light to a small region of the diffraction grating. The diffraction grating split the light into a rainbow and the camera reported an image of the rainbow to a computer. The wavelength was calibrated to ±(3nm) by using Hydrogen and Helium gas emissions. The light intensity (i.e. brightness) was calibrated by always using a fluorescent lightbulb as a reference. After the image was captured, computer code was written to analyze the data. The ultimate purpose for this machine is to continue an ongoing research project at UW-Superior on the effect of corn syrup on polarized light.

Karsyn Doughty

kdoughty@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza

Title

Historical Concentrations of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Persistent Organic Pollutants in Superior, Wisconsin

Abstract

Incidents like the Husky Oil Refinery explosion in Superior, WI in 2018, where fossil fuels and other oils make it into the environment, cause Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations to increase rapidly. The explosion introduced many PAHs into the air, water, and sediments. A hypothesis was established that water, sediments and debris were concentrating these PAH compounds after the explosion. Data was collected to look at the historical concentrations of PAHs in the Superior area using databases such as the American Chemical Society, Science Direct, EcoTox (an Environmental Protection Agency database), International Association for Great Lakes Research, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and other sources. Most results came from the DNR databases and were compiled for analysis. This background information on identification and concentrations of PAHs will be used for comparison when samples from the Husky incident are analyzed.

Sonia Fields

sfields4@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Anne Dugan

Title

What Makes a Home: The Importance of Architectural Preservation Illustrated Through Children’s Literature

Abstract

The purpose of this project was to introduce the idea of historic preservation to younger generations through an accessible and expressive illustrated children’s book. The book is directed towards both children and adults, which allows for the core moral of preserving history to be introduced to a widespread audience. It has been written in rhyming couplets to promote early literacy. The illustrations were done in watercolor to add a soft and dreamy addition to the corresponding text. The project was inspired by the work of illustrators such as Tove Jansson and Ludwig Bemelmans, both of whom were big influences on the scholar, who plans to publish the book in the future.

Amy Hightshoe

ahightsh@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Mike Maguire

Title

Ash Glazes

Abstract

Ceramic glazes made from ashes create a variety of colors depending on the minerals present, materials burned to create the ash, and the interaction of ash glaze with shino (types of clay-based) glazes. Synthetic glaze results can vary depending on temperature changes during firing. This project explored the consistency of color results from ash glazes compared to commercial synthetic glazes. Ash was collected from seven different sources and combined with feldspar, ball clay, and water to create a glaze. Ceramic pieces created for the project were layered with either a shino, then the ash glaze to observe how the minerals interacted, or lined with an ash glaze on the inside surface only. Expected results are that each of the ash glazes will produce two colors as a direct result of the application process. This study will provide a better understanding of mineral content in different woods, and how it can be used for unique glazing.

Sameena Knopik

sknopik@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Allison Willingham

Title

Exploring the Perceptions of Foster Parents about Mental & Emotional Well-Being

Abstract

Mental and emotional health play a strong role in the relationships built between foster children and foster parents. This study explored the perceptions of foster parents and their understanding of how mental and emotional health affects the parent/child relationship within the foster system. Foster parents from Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin were interviewed via telephone. Snowball sampling and literature review were used to acquire more information about mental and emotional health within foster children and foster parents. Analysis of responses indicated that foster parents knew the importance of mental and emotional health to building relationships with foster children, many of whom have mental health issues. Parental perceptions showed a gap between the parents’ discernment of emotions and the child’s true emotions. Strengthening communication between foster parents and service providers will ensure that parents gain a stronger understanding of children’s emotions and how to best support the child in improving their mental and emotional health.

Brandon Olson

bolson69@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Deborah Augsburger

Title

Vaping & Stigma at UW-Superior

Abstract

Wrapped in studies and current events, the topic of “vaping” as a cultural phenomenon has been at the forefront of media, academics, and nationwide campaigns. The purpose of this project is to shine light on vaping as a social practice amongst college students, specifically at UW-Superior. For this project, a set of interviews were conducted in addition to interviews for the Medical Anthropology course from the Spring Semester of 2020. The data of these interviews were analyzed for stigma in relation to the stigma(s) surrounding smoking. As a result of the interview questions, the data was separated into four major settings, the first being the workplace, the second being “alone” or semi-isolation (this is relevant because of the social distancing protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic), around family members, and then at parties. The settings offered by the data all show different ideas and different reactions on a case-by-case basis, meaning that the primary driving factor behind the stigma(s) regarding vaping on the college campus of UW-Superior is completely attached and dependent on setting, location and group.

Staci Reynolds

sreynol8@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Hannah Ramage

Title

Investigating the Practical Use of in situ Chlorophyll-a Sensors to Monitor Algae in the St. Louis River

Abstract

This project investigated the efficacy of Xylem’s EXO Total Algae Sensor as a reliable predictor of chlorophyll a concentrations in the St. Louis River. Chlorophyll a fluorescence data logged from a water quality station on Barker’s Island from 2017 to 2019 was compared to corresponding water samples collected at the same location and analyzed for chlorophyll a concentrations (g/L). When in situ fluorescence data was compared directly with chlorophyll a concentrations, there was no correlation. The data showed strong Pearson’s correlations during single 24-hour sampling events, indicating short-term efficacy in the sensor’s performance. Even stronger correlations were observed when florescence data were averaged over sixty-minute time intervals (r= 0.68). Biofouling, temperature, calibration frequency, and turbidity all contribute to inconsistencies in the sensor’s performance in the field. Testing the sensor in a controlled laboratory setting will help identify how parameters like temperature impact the sensor fluorescence data and may help create a more robust model for predicting chlorophyll a concentration.

Sara Rybak

srybak1@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Karina Heim

Title

Documenting the Impact of Changing Water Levels on Lake Superior to Support Community Response

Abstract

This project initiated a long-term effort to collect photo data of high-water level impacts along the Lake Superior coast within the immediate vicinity of Superior, WI and Duluth, MN. Water level imagery from 40 sites was captured and georeferenced in the field using GIS Data Collector to establish a baseline Year 1 collection of images in anticipation of a long-term visual monitoring project. A protocol was created for the documentation process that can be replicated by others through a formal research, volunteer, or citizen science effort. Baseline information from the selected sites comprises visible impacts based on site observations and photo-derived findings. A database was established for photos and associated site characteristic data that can be referenced and built out in the future. This database will serve as a visual reminder of how varying water levels can impact shorelines and aid in planning future infrastructure and restoration projects along the coast.

Mingma Sherpa Hoel

msherpa2@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Shanna Nifoussi

Title

Comparative study of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 virus

Abstract

A comparative study was performed between the two coronaviruses SARS- CoV-1, which causes the SARS disease, and SARS-CoV-2, which is responsible for the current pandemic. The study looked at the how the viruses are related in terms of their general shape and structure of the spike proteins, and attachment to target cells in the human lungs via Angiotensin Converting Enzyme II (ACE2) receptors. The study compared transmission methods of the viruses, symptoms in the human body, clinical drug trials, and the vaccine trials of SARS-CoV-2 to determine the possibility of vaccine development in the near future. Significant structural differences were found between the two viruses in the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein, which results in separate binding capacities to human ACE2 cells. The higher affinity of the SARS-CoV-2 virus shows why COVID-19 is more transmissible than SARS disease. The different affinity presents distinction in infectivity as well and offers hope for a potential vaccine despite the fact that one was never developed for SARS-CoV-1.

Liam Strong

lstrong1@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Julie Gard

Title

Likeness: An Exploration of Gender Dysphoria and Non-Binary Identity in Poetry

Abstract

Many people under the transgender spectrum identify as agender, gender non-conforming, or genderfluid, though broadly grouped as non-binary identities. Members of the non-binary gender community are largely underrepresented in literature. The objective of this research and writing was to draft a poetry chapbook manuscript that captures and celebrates the experience of a non-binary individual, as well as to create a narrative to which other members of the non-binary community can relate. The author read collections of poetry from authors of various gender identities, writing and revising their own poems in reflection of their work. After completing several workshops, they crafted a fully realized manuscript to send to independent presses for publication and submitted individual poems from the manuscript for publication in literary journals and magazines. This manuscript is an autobiographical account of life in the Midwest as a person of gender-diverse background, and offers literary kinship for non-binary individuals.

Elliana Waring

ewaring@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Nathan LaCoursiere

Title

Evaluating the Efficacy of Restorative Justice Practices in St. Louis County’s Zero to Three Safe Babies Court Initiative

Abstract

The Zero to Three Safe Babies Court Initiative is a national program working to transform a child welfare system that has historically harmed the development of young children. The program creates a network of community stakeholders who provide support and guidance for children and families experiencing substance abuse, economic instability, mental illness, and domestic violence. This research evaluated the effectiveness of the Safe Babies Court Program compared to the conventional CHIPS (Child in Need of Protection) program, and examined rates of caretaker attachment, family permanency, and reunification. A literature review of current research and interviews with St. Louis County stakeholders, coordinators, and the judge presiding over the local Safe Babies Program offered insight to the program’s successes and challenges. Results showed that the Safe Babies Court Program is more successful in achieving high rates of caretaker attachment and family permanency when compared to the CHIPS program.

Eliza Wilson

Ewilso12@uwsuper.edu
Mentor: Dr. Erin Aldridge

Title

The Improvised Concerto Cadenza: Historical Context for Contemporary Performers

Abstract

The Classical period concerto is an essential part of the repertoire for many instruments in the Western fine art music tradition. Many such concerti contain at least one substantial cadenza, a virtuosic and rhythmically loose feature for the soloist, where the accompaniment stops or plays sparsely. Cadenze are intended to sound improvisatory, whether they are played with genuine extemporaneity, or composed beforehand, but in modern times improvisation is uncommon relative to the prevalence of the concerto. This research aimed to explore the historical context and modern performance practices behind the improvised cadenza, by synthesizing the available literature on the history of cadenzas with the approach from modern performers. The research found that the philosophical differences between the modern separation of composer and performer, and the Classical period’s attitudes explain the change in how cadenzas are performed today. This research might encourage listeners and performers to reexamine their relationship with the concerto.