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Current Research Projects

Applicant:  Arra Ross

  1. Title:  Literary Publishing: Poetry
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  English
  4. Proposal Abstract:  The Faculty-led Research project titled "Literary Publishing: Poetry" will help a student gain extensive knowledge and experience pertaining to the discipline of creative writing in the specific realm of literary publishing. While the actual creation and revision of creative material (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) is certainly a huge bulk of the work in the creative writing field, the other part consists of the extensive research, work, and time that goes into creating and sustaining a publishing agenda. Understanding how to navigate the publishing realm is as essential for success in the field of creative writing as the writing itself.

    During this project, the student will help support the publishing of sections of poetry work created during Arra L. Ross's Braun Fellowship, "Poetry: Sacred Mythic Women," a research/creative writing project which fuses poetry with deep research into archeology, mythology, and place to ask questions about humanity's relationship to compassion, judgment, and acts of inhumanity.

    The student will create and engage in, under the mentorship of the professor, an extensive and sustained literary journal publishing agenda, which will include expansive research into literary journal and small-press publishing aesthetics, norms and procedures, and strategies. The most important thing a student will take away from this research is a use-able model of publishing strategies for their own future publishing endeavors.

Applicant:  Arundhati Bagchi Misra

  1. Title:  Student Loan and Euler Lagrange equation
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Math Science
  4. Proposal Abstract:  In mathematics we use derivatives to find maximum and minimum values of a function. First derivative of a function gives us the point where a function can be maximum or minimum. This method is particularly useful when we have functions of one or two variables. But when we deal with functionals that depend on multiple variables and also on other simpler functions and their derivatives, we need to use some advanced differentiation technique. This is where Euler Lagrange equation is relevant. The Euler-Lagrange equation allows us to find functions for which a given functional is stationary. When we are dealing with a differentiable function or functional we know it is stationary at its local maxima and minima. This enables us to use Euler-Lagrange equation for solving optimization problems in different fields. In this project, I will consider sample problems to find the optimum amount of student loans to improve graduation rates.

Applicant:  Curtis Grosse

  1. Title:  Modern Portfolio Theory Statistical Investment Model - Phase 2
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Math Science
  4. Proposal Abstract:  The purpose of this project is to research and test a refined “Phase 2” version of our statistical growth investment strategy model that generated superior risk-adjusted returns during “Phase 1”. Phase 1 was funded by UGRP in our March 2015 proposal and led to positive evidence-based outcomes; however, certain databases used then have led to sub-optimal results in more recent history. These lessons learned are incorporated into this Phase 2 proposal. We will make these adjustments during our Phase 2. For example, my two SVSU student researchers will use a more refined collection of criteria when selecting stocks. These sound techniques of selecting and analyzing data will be emphasized and taught to student researchers. Based on the success experienced so far, we continue to have a long-term goal of a possible application of the research to generate funds for underserved SVSU student scholarships. The overall value changes for the model portfolio are somewhat independent of the broader stock market movements. Specifically, the stock selection process uses a hedge fund long/short strategy. It is not based on the popular “day-trading” or “buy-and-hold” approaches. The student will learn how this model should theoretically generate at least half the return of the S&P 500 benchmark with less than half the risk. If this goal is realized, then standard statistical ratios will capture this success. Our Phase 2 model consists of buying about 10 stocks long and shorting about 5 other stocks. The students will help select these in a systematic way, such that overall portfolio risk is minimized. This research phase uses the refined list of sources and databases that were most successful from our updated Phase 1 historical data. These stocks are evaluated for both fundamental and quantitative factors. The former highlights accounting criteria while the latter captures price momentum and institutional demand for the stocks. The student will learn the differences and their respective pros and cons. We use sound statistical calculations and standard measures of risk (such as standard deviation) to assess the results. While the results for an individual year may vary, the goal is to generate relatively good returns over time.

Applicant:  Dennis Gray

  1. Title:  Assessing the Role of Genetic Constraints in Shaping the Evolution of MBO emission
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Biology
  4. Proposal Abstract:  Methylbutenol is a five carbon molecule produced in large amounts by many but not all species of Pine. Molecular evidence suggests that the MBO synthase enzyme evolved from a monoterpene synthase ancestor through a reduction in the enzyme active site volume allowing the switch from a 10 carbon substrate to a 5 carbon substrate. This project will investigate the idea that genetic constraints played a role in shaping the evolution and distribution of MBO emission within the pines by completing the work begun in summer 2018 as part of a faculty research grant. Specifically this proposal will perform the enzyme characterization needed to determine whether monoterpene synthases derived from both an MBO emitting species (Pinus contorta), a non-emitting species (Pinus banksiana), and a reconstructed ancestral enzyme were successfully converted into MBO synthases through the reduction of active site volume. This will determine whether the shift from monoterpene synthase to MBO synthase function is constrained in the non-emitting species. This project will provide training for three undergraduate students in molecular biology and biochemistry techniques. The students will receive one-on-one training and mentoring in the lab and learn to work as part of a research team towards a common goal.

Applicant:  Garry Johns

  1. Title:  Using Derived Graphs to Investigate Discrete Mathematical Models
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Math Science
  4. Proposal Abstract:  A graph is a mathematical model used in discrete mathematics to study networks, computer architecture and organizational charts. The graph can be redrawn as a second graph that emphasizes patterns or symmetries in the initial graph. This new graph is called a derived graph. This summer, I plan to work on two types of derived graphs – compression graphs and 3-line graphs. Both topics would be accessible to an upper-level mathematics student and would provide them with a valuable research experience.

    The student will participate in a literature review and report on their findings in order to deepen their background understanding and see the proof methods used. They will review existing results, and make generalizations and conjectures. The student will view selected TED Talk videos to observe what research presentations look and sound like. Finally, the student researcher will write formal proofs for the conjectures we show to be true. This research problem includes several parts, so I am confident that we will be successful in accomplishing at least partial results. These results will be included in a paper that we will co-author and present at a professional meeting during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Applicant:  Gary Lange

  1. Title:  A Proposal to Examine the Effects of Ambiguous Gravitational Cues on Development and Behavior of the Fruit Fly (Drosophila melanogaster)
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Biology
  4. Proposal Abstract:  This research will examine the effects of ambiguous gravitational forces on the development and behavior of the fruit fly. Fruit fly eggs will be oviposited into standard food media and held within standard vials. These vials will slowly rotate three dimensionally. This rotation will cause the environment that the eggs hatch and develop in to experience continuously changing (ambiguous) gravitational forces of normal Earth gravity. This approach to the study of gravity on development is novel on several levels and complements existing and planned work. Prior Earth-based studies on the effects of gravity tend to focus on exposure to hypergravity, whereas work being undertaken at the NASA Space Station Laboratory for Fruit Flies focuses on research related to the effects of microgravity. This research complements and expands upon both strands of gravity research. This work will involve significant faculty/student collaboration to mentor students to design and conduct experimental research.

    Students will be mentored in ethics and practice of research in biology, animal use, methods of biology research, guided in analysis of research data, and mentored in professional practices related to presentation of research at scientific meetings.

Applicant:  Jennifer Chaytor

  1. Title:  Investigating the Impact of Writing Ability and Study Skills on Organic Chemistry Performance
  2. Co-Applicant:  Stephanie Brouet and M. Patricia Cavanaugh
  3. Department of Study:  Chemistry
  4. Proposal Abstract:  A study plan and writing assignment has been given to all CHEM 230 students for several years. The instructors have noticed large differences in writing ability and study plan quality across the many submissions. In this project, the CHEM 230 study plan and narrative assignment will be assessed for study plan quality and writing quality in an attempt to correlate study skills and/or writing ability to success in organic chemistry. Undergraduate students will develop rubrics to assess writing quality and study plan quality, evaluate de-identified submitted assignments, and analyze the results to observe whether a correlation between writing quality, study plan quality, and organic chemistry success can be identified. The undergraduate students will meet frequently with their faculty mentors to discuss their progress. The results of this project will be presented by the undergraduate students and their faculty mentors at conferences and in workshops.

Applicant:  Mari MacFarland

  1. Title:  SVSU Autism Research Lab
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Teacher Education-Elementary/Early Childhood/Special Education
  4. Proposal Abstract:  Social issues are one of the most common symptoms for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD; American Psychological Association, 2013). Some individuals with ASD are sensitive to being touched and may not wish to shake hands or hug others (American Psychological Association, 2013). Others experience challenges with turn taking and sharing, showing or talking about their emotions, and perspective-taking (Baron-Cohen, 1992; Dennis, Lazenby, & Lockyear, 2001). Individuals with ASD may demonstrate self-stimulatory behaviors (e.g., moving fingers in front of eyes) and difficulty with voice modulation (e.g., intonation, volume; Happe, 1993; Shriberg et al, 2001). People with ASD may also experience anxiety and depression (Bellini, 2006). These symptoms can compromise social competence, potentially leading to isolation. Numerous social skills interventions target individuals with ASD, but only those shown to be effective through scientific analysis are considered evidenced-based (Horner et al., 2005). The current application proposes the formation of the SVSU Autism Research Lab dedicated to the analysis of evidence-based interventions for the benefit of individuals with ASD.

Applicant:  Martin Arford

  1. Title:  Tile Water Nutrient Monitoring from Agricultural Fields using a Water Control Structure
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Geography
  4. Proposal Abstract:  Water quality in the Saginaw Bay region is largely determined by the types of agricultural practices in use here, since crop farming is the dominant land use in the watershed. Nutrients leaching from farm fields into waterways is a key component of poor water quality, resulting in excessive algal and cyanobacterial growth; this can manifest as harmful algal blooms (HABs) and the formation of dead zones in the Saginaw Bay, which both have serious safety and economic consequences. Newer conservation practices aim to reduce or eliminate the leaching of nitrate and, especially, phosphorus from entering the waterways, but it is often difficult to get buy-in from farmers to implement these practices. This research project aims to quantify the amount of nitrate and phosphate entering waterways from local farm fields, and to evaluate the effectiveness of using Water Control Structures (WCS) to reduce nitrate and phosphate loss from farm fields. Our results will be useful to conservation officers and local farmers, and may help encourage the adoption of WSCs by more area farmers, thus improving water quality in the Saginaw Bay.

Applicant:  Matthew Vannette

  1. Title:  Growth of Transparent Ferroelectric Crystals
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Physics
  4. Proposal Abstract:  The study of transparent crystals with interesting optical and thermodynamic properties provides fertile ground for student research opportunities. In order to prepare suitable samples appropriate growth equipment must exist and procedures must be established. Through the course of this project we intend to construct an apparatus to facilitate the growth of high quality single crystals from aqueous solution. Once the equipment is constructed, growth protocols for several systems will be determined. Quality of samples will be assessed by optical clarity.

Applicant:  Sandun Kuruppu

  1. Title:  Mechatronic System Development and Motor Control Algorithm Development
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Electrical & Computer Engineering
  4. Proposal Abstract:  Mechatronic applications are proliferating due to automation in industrial, residential and transportation sectors. Such applications involve the integration of electric machines, electronics, microprocessors and software in a seamless manner. Therefore, skills associated with development of such systems are essential for engineering students. The proposed faculty-led research project entails the development of a motor control algorithm in an embedded system and fabrication of a mechanical assembly for the mechatronic system under faculty supervision. The electric motors considered are brushed DC and permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM). Synchronous machine will be controlled with a control strategy known as field oriented control. This strategy requires a position sensing and current measurements on a three-phase inverter stage. Three phase voltages applied to the electric motor will be calculated based on the position of the motor magnets so that the electromagnetic field generated by the motor windings are positioned to obtain optimal torque output. The mechanical assembly fabrication is for a linear actuator system for the Cardinal racing team. An example design is shown in the figure below. The assembly need to be machined, welded, and integrated to the race car for testing.

Applicant:  Sylvia Fromherz

  1. Title:  Applying a rapid antibody-based assay to quantify levels of the critical neuron-survival factor, neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) in mid-stage chicken embryos
  2. Co-Applicant:  NA
  3. Department of Study:  Biology
  4. Proposal Abstract:  Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) is a protein in chickens and humans that is required for survival of target neurons. During embryogenesis, NT-3 secreted from select muscle cells interacts with receptor proteins on the cell surface of nearby “spatial sensing” (proprioceptive) neurons, where NT-3 sends a positive survival signal. Only those proprioceptive neurons that interact with NT-3 survive and treatments that interfere with NT-3 production or block the interaction with proprioceptive neuron targets result in inappropriate neuron cell death. Several neurodegenerative diseases are associated with improper levels of NT-3. To profile NT-3 levels in disease states, my laboratory is developing methods to quantify NT-3 in the embryonic chicken. Western blotting, which we are currently developing, has the advantage of being very specific for the mature, secreted form of NT-3 but is laborious, technically difficult and costly. Recently, an antibody-based approach (chicken NT-3 Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay, ELISA) to rapidly screen for levels of NT-3 protein in chicken has been developed (MyBiosource, 2018). The proposed research will support the training and research efforts of two students to help determine if the NT-3 ELISA approach is an improvement with respect to time, cost and/or efficacy over Western blotting to monitor the NT-3 protein profile.