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Current Research Projects

Applicant:  Meghan Baruth

  1. Title: Midland County Needs Assessment
  2. Department of Study: Health Science
  3. Proposal Abstract: A Midland County community needs assessment will be conducted in 2019 to help inform health concerns in the county, address equity in access and preventative care, and create common “themes” based on data to help address countywide health issues and perceptions. These data will be used for, and are integral to, the creation of a community health improvement plan. The survey will be administered to ~500 Midland county residents via an online survey link and/or a survey administered face-to-face at various organizations and events within the community. Students will assist in survey development and administration, and in analyzing data gathered from the survey. A comprehensive report will be created and presented to the Health and Human Services Council of Midland County.

Applicant:  Kyle Cissell

  1. Title: Evaluating Silver Nanoparticles and Essential Oils as Antibacterial Agents for Staphylococcus epidermidis Using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry
  2. Department of Study: Chemistry
  3. Proposal Abstract: Our skin is a host to many harmless microorganisms. Among these is Staphylococcus epidermidis. This bacterium, although harmless to our epithelia, is an opportunistic pathogen when entering the bloodstream. Upon infection,  epidermidis can be difficult to eradicate, especially when the host has other bacterial or viral infections. It is thus important to identify effective antibacterial agents for S. epidermidis. Both silver nanoparticles and essential oils have been identified as antibacterial agents; however, direct comparisons for their antibacterial effects on S. epidermidis warrants attention. In the proposed research, silver nanoparticles and essential oils including lavender, lemongrass, cinnamon, and clove will be evaluated as antibacterial agents of S. epidermidis both qualitatively and quantitatively. Qualitative antibacterial evaluation will be performed by assessing inhibition of growth on nutrient-containing agar plates. For quantitative antibacterial evaluation, cultured S. epidermidis will be mixed with leucine and extracted. Since S. epidermidis metabolizes leucine to produce isovaleric acid, we will evaluate inhibition of bacterial growth through measuring an inhibition of isovaleric acid production with a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer. To this end, silver nanoparticles which we have readily synthesized, along with essential oils purchased through a health food store, will be added to cultured bacteria to determine an optimal treatment for S. epidermidis infection. Through a prior faculty-led UGRP project, we successfully developed a method to quantitate active ingredients in essential oils. We will implement that method in this work to relate the concentration of active ingredients to the growth inhibition of S. epidermidis bacteria.

Applicant:  Julie Commerford

  1. Title: Evaluating temperate forest resilience following concurrent flooding and human disturbance
  2. Department of Study: Geography
  3. Proposal Abstract: Ecosystem resilience is assessed as an ecosystem’s ability to recover from a disturbance event such as a fire or land clearing by humans. However, re-establishment of an ecosystem sometimes takes longer than can be measured over a human lifetime. In addition, post-disturbance ecosystems can be different in composition than pre-disturbance, which makes it impossible to assess resilience over the span of a few years because it is not obvious whether an ecosystem has recovered. For these reasons, a long-term perspective over several decades to centuries is necessary to fully evaluate ecosystem resilience. I am currently examining pollen from a lake sediment core to reconstruct vegetation composition in the temperate forest ecosystem following land clearing by early groups of Native Americans in the lower Ohio River Valley between 300 BCE-300 CE, and 1000-1300 CE. The student who accepts this position will learn multiple new skills, including how to identify pollen under a microscope, how to analyze quantitative data, and how to report research results. The student’s contribution will be part of a larger collaborative project focused on assessing how early Native Americans impacted the landscape in comparison to present-day land use.

Applicant:  Samantha Deere

  1. Title: Exercise is Medicine Implementation: Assessment of phsyical activity knowledge and development of healthcare provider education
  2. Department of Study: Kinesiology
  3. Proposal Abstract: Participation in physical activity (PA) is a well-known prevention tool and treatment for many diseases (e.g. Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes). However, less than half of all Americans meet the current PA recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous aerobic activity per week. It is well known that patients highly value the opinions/recommendations of their healthcare providers. In an effort of increasing PA participation, the American College of Sports Medicine developed the ‘Exercise Is MedicineTM’ (EIM) initiative, which encourages healthcare providers to assess PA as a vital sign, prescribe PA, and refer patients to PA professionals. Despite global initiative growth (43 countries), many healthcare providers are unfamiliar with PA guidelines and choose not to discuss PA with their patients. The level of EIM participation in the Great Lakes Bay Region is unknown. Therefore, this project aims to 1) determine and publish the results of a recent survey of regional healthcare providers, 2) develop relationships with healthcare providers in the region, and 3) develop and execute healthcare provider educational opportunities. The developed partnerships and educational opportunities created through this project will help inform the future of EIM in the Great Lakes Bay Region, which may positively impact the overall health of community members. To complete this project, a student researcher will meet with the investigator weekly and will participate in many facets of the research process, including: data analysis, manuscript development, scholarly presentations, partnership and educational programming development.

Applicant:  Sherrin Frances

  1. Title: Military Student Affairs “Special Collection”
  2. Co Applicant: Bethany Alford, Military Student Affairs
  3. Department of Study: English
  4. Proposal Abstract: In Winter ‘19, SVSU will be hosting its third annual Human Library during which a dozen or so community members will volunteer as "books.” As a book, each volunteer will share a personal story in which they have experienced prejudice related to sexuality, religion, lifestyle, health, occupation, ethnicity, social status or political conviction. Readers can “check them out” for a one-on-one conversation. This year at the suggestion of Bethany Alford, Director of Military Student Affairs, we are piloting a “VA Special Collection” event. The Special Collection event will include books with military-themed stories, and it will be held during the reception after the Memorial Day Ceremony on May 23, 2019. The student researcher we are seeking will conduct genealogical research on the 22 names listed on the Marshall Fredericks "Eaton War Memorial" sculpture located on the SVSU campus. The goals of the genealogical research include locating family members living in the Saginaw area, extending an invitation to attend or participate in the event, and interviewing them as part of an oral history project. The student will also collect books’ stories as part of an oral history project. Finally, the student will write, at a minimum, a response to a relevant CFP based on this work, though we hope to have enough hours available to begin drafting an article.

Applicant:  Mark Giesler

  1. Title: “I Have Served to Tell”: A Qualitative Study of Veterans’ Experiences in the Living Library Project
  2. Department of Study: Social Work/Youth Services
  3. Proposal Abstract: Founded in 2000 in Denmark, the Human Library phenomenon has spread worldwide. At Human Library events, “readers” (visitors) check out “books” (individuals who have experienced oppression and/or marginalization) through engaging in direct conversation with them. When specific populations are featured as books, the events are re-dubbed “Living Libraries.” This faculty-led, student-assisted qualitative research project will assess the experiences of military veteran “books” who participate in SVSU’s “Special Collections” Living Library, slated to be held on campus in May 2019 as part of a Memorial Day commemoration sponsored by SVSU’s Military Student Affairs Office. Given the popularity of Human Libraries, it is incumbent upon researchers to explore the intended and unintended benefits and possible challenges of individuals who share their stories in such events, a gap in the literature that this study purports to address.

Applicant:  Dennis Gray

  1. Title: 5’ RACE amplification of two candidate isoprene synthase genes in Abies sp.
  2. Department of Study: Biology
  3. Proposal Abstract: The goal of this faculty led undergraduate research project is to provide training undergraduate students in molecular biology techniques through the identification of a novel gene encoding the isoprene synthase enzyme in Fir trees native the Mediterranean region of Europe (Genus Abies). Through this project the student will learn a variety of skills including RNA extraction, cDNA synthesis, PCR, gel electrophoresis, cloning genes into Plasmid vectors, and to expressing recombinant proteins in  coli bacterial hosts. 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. The project will result in the identification of two new full length gene sequences, provide data the students can use in poster presentations, and may lead to a publication.

Applicant:  Dennis Gray

  1. Title: Recapitulating the evolution of MBO synthase
  2. Department of Study: Biology
  3. 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 extending 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 reconstructed ancestral genes possess constraints on the evolutionary potential to give rise to MBO synthases.

    This project will provide training for one undergraduate student in molecular biology and biochemistry techniques. The student 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:  Rene Hernandez

  1. Title: Development of an Emergency Shelter Plan for a Rural Village in Nepal
  2. Department of Study: Health Sciences
  3. Proposal Abstract: Using ethnographic (cultural-focused inquiry) and phenomenologic (event/phenomenon-focused inquiry) qualitative research methods, students and faculty will develop an emergency shelter field guide designed to facilitate opening, maintaining, and closing the established emergency shelter will be developed for a rural village in Nepal. Utilizing existing U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) templates and models, community visits, and historical accounts of previous disasters and literature reviews, our team will create a shelter field guide booklet culturally appropriate for the English-speaking Nepali village that is ready for distribution to the community.

Applicant: Mari MacFarland

  1. Title: SVSU BRAIN Center
  2. Department of Study: Teacher Education-Elementary/Early Childhood/Special Education
  3. Proposal Abstract: The current application is a continuation project that evolved from the previously funded SVSU Autism Research Lab application. Since Spring 2018, in addition to changing the name of the project to the BRAIN (Bay-area, Midland, Saginaw Research in Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Neurological Disorders) Center, we have implemented new programs (i.e., Cardinal-to-Cardinal), supported growing programs (i.e., Think Cardinal), engaged community partners (i.e., Saginaw ISD) and partnered with registered student organizations (i.e., Cardinals for Special Olympics). We are also providing intensive training and hands-on experience to research assistants employed by the BRAIN Center, with the generous support of the UGRP grant. As such, the current application proposes the continued development and growth of the SVSU BRAIN Center, which is dedicated to the analysis of evidence-based interventions for the benefit of individuals with ASD, intellectual disability, and neurological disorders.

    Service providers require specialized preparation to effectively support students with high intensity needs (Adera & Bullock, 2009; Conley & You, 2016). Of primary concern are those who support students with emotional and behavioral challenges, particularly those diagnosed with ASD, intellectual, and other developmental disabilities (Boe et al., 1997; George et al., 1995; Billingsley, 2004b; Kaff, 2004). Social issues are one of the most common symptoms for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD; American Psychological Association, 2013), intellectual, and developmental disabilities. Some individuals with disabilities 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). People with ASD and other disabilities 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 disabilities, but only those shown to be effective through scientific analysis are considered evidenced-based (Horner et al., 2005).

Applicant:  Kevin Meyer

  1. Title: Does Virtual Reality Affect Non-Market Valuation of Clean Lake Water?
  2. Department of Study: Economics
  3. Proposal Abstract: This proposal is to fund an additional semester for an existing faculty led research grant. As detailed below, the project involves two students administering a survey to respondents in a public setting (campus, farmer's markets, etc.). Half of the respondents view a virtual reality video that displays a lake before and after pollution, while the other half views pictures of the lake. Our original goal was to collect 200 surveys during the Fall semester, however at the time of this writing we only have about 90. There are various reasons for the underestimate, including 1) difficulty in convincing people to take the survey (most notably, off-campus), and 2) an average time of 10 minutes per person per survey. With an additional semester of funding I believe we could get a total of 200-300 surveys for the project, which would provide enough statistical power to detect modest size effects in the data. Finally, I am requesting funds for the two students to travel to an academic conference to discuss the project and present our findings.

Applicant:  Rebecca Schlaff

  1. Title: Evaluation of a postpartum physical and mental health survey
  2. Department of Study: Kinesiology
  3. Proposal Abstract: Postpartum depression, a clinically diagnosable mental health disease, is a significant mental health disorder that impacts women, their children, and families. Depressive symptoms are common after childbirth, and due in part to the significant body changes occurring during pregnancy and postpartum. Previously published behavioral interventions during pregnancy (promoting physical activity and/or nutrition) have neglected to include targeted mental health components/assessments, and consider the impact of physical health behaviors (i.e. physical activity and dietary behaviors) on postpartum mental health. An internet-based survey was recently implemented, which assessed the aforementioned factors in a sample of postpartum women. Data are ready to be downloaded, cleaned and analyzed so that presentations and publications may be prepared. As a result, the student funded by this grant will have the opportunity to 1) learn how to locate, interpret and synthesize peer-reviewed literature and formulate testable hypotheses, 2) understand basic principles in data management and analysis, and 3) learn to communicate findings scientifically by publishing a (undergraduate student first author) paper in a peer-reviewed journal and present at a conference.

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(989) 964-4295(989) 964-4295
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Director Undergraduate Research

Jennifer McCullough


Mail Address:
Undergraduate Research Program
Saginaw Valley State University
Wickes Hall 314
University Center, MI 48710
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