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Current Research Projects

Applicant: Meghan Baruth

Title: Enhancing Diet and Physical Activity through Group Prenatal Care

Field of Study: Health Sciences

Period of Support: May 10, 2021 – April 30, 2022

Abstract: In collaboration with Central Michigan University Health (“CMU Health”) we propose to enhance the existing CenteringPregnancy framework (an accredited group prenatal care model) to include focused nutrition and physical activity education and support.  Through this pilot intervention, we aim to train healthcare providers and equip pregnant women with the knowledge, skills and strategies necessary to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. A student research assistant will work as a part of this interdisciplinary team to develop and refine skills integral to engaging in behavioral intervention research with human subjects.


Applicant: James Bowers

Title: Justice Research and Statistics Association Continuation with SVSU Students

Field of Study: Criminal Justice

Period of Support: September 1, 2021 – August 31, 2022

Abstract: The current Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) grant ends 9/1/2021. The current grant allowed for two student workers to be hired with the aim of understanding repeat victimization and feedback to the Saginaw Police Department Victim Services Unit. To continue the research, one student is needed for one additional year. This student will help by collecting data.


Applicant: Jennifer Chaytor

Title: Preparation of Glycosides as Potential Antihyperglycemic Agents and Carbohydrate Gelators

Field of Study: Chemistry

Period of Support: June 28, 2021 – April 30, 2022

Abstract: In the project "Preparation of Glycosides as Potential Anti-hyperglycemic Agents and Carbohydrate Gelators" carried out in Dr. Jennifer Chaytor's laboratory, glycosides will be synthesized by undergraduate student researchers via carbohydrate chemistry. The first part of this project will investigate the anti-hyperglycemic effect of aryl-C-glycosides in order to potentially use these compounds to treat Type II diabetes. The target compounds have a carbohydrate moiety linked to an aromatic portion via a short linker, and both the carbohydrate and aromatic portions can be varied to provide a small library of compounds. Their structures were designed based upon known anti-hyperglycemic agents which have therapeutic potential for the treatment of type II diabetes mellitus. The second part of this project will examine the ability of O-glycosides to form gels. Previous work in our laboratory has shown that galactose functionalized with an alcohol has gelforming properties. We will examine the optimal length of the carbon chain on the alcohol to maximize gelformation. These compounds will then be tested for their ability to remove phosphates from wastewater as well as water from the Saginaw Bay.                    


Applicant: Julie Commerford

Tile: Temperate Forest Response to Anomalous Wet Conditions

Field of Study: Geography

Period of Support: June 28, 2021 – June 24, 2022

Abstract: Trees, shrubs, grasses, and forbs all produce pollen as part of their annual reproductive cycle. Many of these pollen grains settle at the bottom of lakes within annual layers of sediment, and become a valuable proxy for reconstructing past landscapes. One undergraduate student and I will examine a new pollen record from Martin Lake, Indiana, to evaluate vegetation changes in forest composition over the last 2100 years. By examining this pollen record, we will target an important period of climate change: the Medieval Climate Anomaly (950-1250 CE), an anomalous wet period in this part of North America. It is important to understand how forest composition responded to this wet period in the past if we hope to predict how it might respond to future wet periods. 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.


Applicant: Sherrin Frances

Title: Interpretive Planning at Saginaw’s Roethke House Museum

Field of Study: English

Period of Support: May 10, 2021 – June 25, 2021

Abstract: This proposal seeks funding to pay up to three junior or senior level students to engage in preliminary interpretive planning activities at the Theodore Roethke museum in Saginaw. The team will build on prior archive and library work funded by a UGRP grant in Winter ’21, “Archive and Library Cataloging at Saginaw’s Roethke House Museum.” As part of the “Archive and Library Cataloging” grant, three students used PastPerfect Museum Software to create and populate a cataloging system for archival material including furniture and household objects, boxes full of additional artifacts, and various texts and photographs. The PastPerfect database provides the ability to curate virtual exhibits that will be freely available to the public through the website. Student researchers funded by this new “Interpretive Planning” UGRP grant will begin planning our first virtual exhibit. They will also work with Anne Ransford, the Director at Friends of Theodore Roethke, and other members of the FOTR Board to reimagine and update the existing “historical tour narrative” to reflect the depth of the Roethke collection. This tour narrative would be used by volunteer tour guides and docents later this year, and additional materials may be developed including a self-guided tour document and multimedia elements (audio and video) for use with the on-site tours.


Applicant: Aneesha Gogineni

Title: Design 3D Models for Virtual Reality Lessons

Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering

Period of Support: August 30, 2021 – April 30, 2022

Abstract: Virtual reality (VR) is becoming a popular educational tool which has interactive tools like animations, videos, quizzes etc. in an online platform. These features create the need to use this didactic tool to demonstrate mechanical engineering concepts via three-dimensional (3D) models. Virtual reality lessons will be prepared and implemented using Braun Fellowship fund for thermodynamics and heat transfer courses. To prepare virtual reality lessons, application-based mechanical engineering 3D models should be developed in SolidWorks and then exported to virtual reality platform where animations, videos and quizzes will be prepared by Instructor. The objective of the present study is to develop mechanical engineering application-based 3D models in SolidWorks.


Applicant: Mohammad Khan

Title: Design and implementation of an electronic system for a controlled heat source

Field of Study: Electrical & Computer Engineering

Period of Support: May 10, 2021 – April 30, 2022

Abstract: A large change in temperature because of an accident can cause structural damage and loss of life. The probable temperature distribution, gradient and peak values around a heat source can be utilized to design a system to provide a prompt response. In an accident, the regular temperature distribution will be disrupted which can be used to trigger a circuit to control the energy supply to the source. In normal condition, the temperature around the heat source compared to that at the source itself is small, as found from studies, due to the insulating property of air. However, in the case of an accident, the differential values of temperatures at points of interest with respect to the ambient temperature will be significant. Traditional detector systems can work in most cases; however, the energy delivered to the source may not be stopped that would exacerbate the situation. The distribution of temperature around the source can dictate the possible location of the detectors that can ensure safety. The optimum locations for detectors will reduce the number of detectors which will monitor a catastrophic change in temperature. An array of detectors can be utilized to generate signals, for which an electronic circuit needs to be designed to control the heat sources. As a result of the detection of temperature deviation and control, a safer heat energy source can potentially be ensured. The detection system should work on realistic model of temperature distribution. Based on the model, the control circuit can operate with the signals from optimum number of sensors. The final target is to design and implement an electronic control system that can operate on the energy supply for the heat source.


Applicant: A K M Monayem Mazumder

Title: Emitting Electrodes Effect on a Two-Stage EHD Gas Pump with Uneven Applied Voltages

Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering

Period of Support: May 10, 2021 – April 30, 2022

Abstract: Fluid flow driven by a two-stage electrohydrodynamic (EHD) gas pump will be critically examined by experiments and numerical simulations. The flow will be induced by pump with 24 emitting electrodes in twostage charged at a combination of three different operating voltages (20 kV, 24 kV, and 28 kV). A numerical model will be developed based on the experimental study. The three-dimensional governing equations for the electric and flow fields will solve using the finite volume method. The EHD-induced flow will calculate first, and its results will be compared with the experimental data to validate the computational code. The numerical results enable vivid flow visualizations inside the channel, providing a great understanding of the development of the induced flow. The two-stage EHD gas pump, which can be produced and sustained air flows with a maximum volume flow rate will be considered more efficient when it is operated with uneven applied voltages.


Applicant: Jennifer McCullough

Title: Examining Children’s Comforting Communication Skill Development

Field of Study: Communications

Period of Support: May 10, 2021 – April 30, 2022

Abstract: Emotional support is a form of communication that is both consequential and ubiquitous. However, relatively little is known about how individuals develop competence in this type of communication. Thus, this project will essentially ask, what factors are associated with children’s emotional support skill development? Based on the constructivist theory of communication, the researcher predicts family interaction patterns will, indeed, influence children’s willingness and ability to produce effective emotional support messages. Family interaction variables (e.g., Baumrinds’ parenting typology) as well as motivation and cognitive variables (e.g., perspectivetaking skill) will be examined.


Applicant: Joshua Mike

Title: Exploring complex data sets through topological data analysis, continued

Field of Study: Mathematical Sciences

Period of Support: May 20, 2021 – August 13, 2021

Abstract: Topological data analysis (TDA) has grown drastically over the past 15 years since the advent of persistent homology, but this new discipline still has many open avenues for new methods, potential applications, and new modes of analysis. This research will investigate datasets with a geometric lens by applying non-parametric or data reduction techniques to a complex real-world data set.

My primary aim is to continue the UGRP which I started this winter semester. Over the course of this project, I will work with up to three student researchers to elucidate datasets with general data science and TDA techniques in multiple domain applications, including chemistry, biology, com- puter science, or mathematics itself. All students will learn how to approach high-dimensional or large datasets and improve their skills in reading, writing, and communicating mathematical and statistical results. Depending on their discipline and focus, students may additionally learn non- linear methods for visualizing high-dimensional data, gain a better intuitive understanding of how geometry informs analysis, and/or learn to code methodology in python.


Applicant: Rhett Mohler

Title: Tracking the spread of the invasive plant species Phragmites australis with UAV imagery on the Crow Island State Game Area

Field of Study: Geography

Period of Support: June 28, 2021 – August 13, 2021

Abstract: Phragmites australis is a highly invasive plant species in wet and semi-wet environments, such as marshes and shorelines.  If not treated properly, P. australis can quickly spread to take over large areas of suitable habitat, often forming dense monocultures.  Consequently, managers of wetland ecosystems are interested in tracking the spread of this plant in order to better prioritize their control efforts, which typically involve spraying the plant with herbicide.  Imagery from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is an ideal tool for studying the distribution and spread of P. australis in wetland environments that are difficult to access on the ground.  This study will use UAV imagery from the summer of 2021 to track the spread of P. australis patches on the Crow Island State Game Area.  Specifically, imagery gathered in summer 2021 will be compared to similar imagery gathered in summer 2020 to measure the rate of spread, and also to identify key factors that may be responsible for faster or slower rates of spread in some areas.  Because the phenology (life cycle) of the plant changes throughout the year, weekly imagery will be taken to replicate the imagery taken in summer 2020.  Sampling will begin in July and continue through August.  Each image will be processed to locate any P. australis, and the accuracy of this process will be calculated.  Patches of this invasive plant will be compared to those from summer 2020 and conclusions will be drawn about the rate of spread.  A student will be involved with every step of this process, from conducting background research, to gathering data in the field with a UAV, to processing the imagery in the laboratory, to disseminating the results of the research.


Applicant: Aos Mulahuwaish

Title: Epidemic Model Guided Machine Learning for COVID-19 Forecasts in the United States

Field of Study: Computer Science and Information Systems

Period of Support: May 10, 2021 – April 30, 2022

Abstract: Since the initial reports of the Coronavirus surfacing in Wuhan, China, the novel virus currently without a cure has spread like wildfire worldwide, the virus spread exponentially across all inhabited continent, catching local governments by surprise in many cases and bringing the world economy to a standstill. As local authorities work on a response to deal with the virus, the scientific community has stepped in to help analyze and predict the pattern and conditions that would influence the spread of this unforgiving virus. Using existing statistical modeling tools to the latest artificial intelligence technology, the scientific community has used public and privately available data to help with predictions. Much of this data research has enabled local authorities to plan their response – whether to deploy tightly available medical resources like ventilators or how and when to enforce policies to social distance, including lockdowns. This project aims to develop a new machine learning model and/or deep learning model for predicting the spreading progression of COVID-19 with consideration of intercity travel and the difference between the number of confirmed cases and actual infected cases and to apply the model to provide a realistic prediction for some cities in the United States under different scenarios of active intervention.


Applicant: Christopher Nakamura

Title: Development and Validation of Reaction Time Forced-Choice Response Instrumentation Using a Physics Context

Field of Study: Physics

Period of Support: May 10, 2021 – August 30, 2021

Abstract: We propose research to develop and test forced-choice (participants must chose an answer) response questions for assessing student understanding of physics ideas that have both theoretical and experimental importance.  Response correctness and reaction time are the primary measurable quantities of interest.  This project is part of a larger on-going program of research conducted by the PIs looking at how experimental activities can impact student understanding/learning of physics.  The goal is to develop questions that can serve as an indicator of understanding or change in understanding when students participate in various educational interventions, particularly those involving hands-on experimental equipment.  This research program is targeted at the broader physics education research (PER) question of how experimental laboratory exercises can affect student understanding of physics and/or student experimental/critical thinking skills. 


Applicant: Kavindya Senanayake

Title: Diffusion of Fluorophores in Polymers and Biopolymeric liquids

Field of Study: Physics

Period of Support: May 10, 2021 – April 30, 2022

 Abstract: Poly Vinyl Alcohol (PVA) is a biocompatible water-soluble polymer. PVA is widely used in industrial applications, such as thickeners, films, fibers, and membranes. As a model protein conjugates, bovine serum albumin (BSA) fluorescence conjugates will be used in this project. The project proposal has presented to study the dynamical properties and the interaction of bovine serum albumin (BSA) fluorescence conjugates in Poly Vinyl Alcohol (PVA). Translational diffusion coefficients of the conjugates will be determined using the Fluorescence microscopy and MATLAB image analysis package. The change of the hydrodynamic size of the particle due to the interactions with the liquid/gel is expected to be determined by comparing the experimental diffusion coefficient with the theoretical model relevant to the system. The final objective of the proposed research will be achieved in a three-phase method by undergraduate students by performing the experiment in a simple liquid (buffer solution), then in a viscous liquid (Glycerin), and finally using viscoelastic liquid (PVA).


Applicant: Sylvia Fromherz Sharp

Title: Is Interference by Microplastics with Phagocytosis Strictly Size-Dependent or Dependent on Particle Composition?

Field of Study: Biology

Period of Study: May 10, 2021 – April 30, 2022

Proposal Abstract: Microplastics are small (<5 mm) spheres of malleable organic polymers such as polystyrene that are not biodegradable and are a growing environmental concern as they accumulate in environments. Microplastics are taken up by phagocytosis in the unicellular aquatic ciliate, Tetrahymena pyriformis. In recent studies, we have monitored uptake of blue-dyed microplastics of various size including 1 µm and 6µm diameter microplastics and have compared such uptake to that of India Ink particles (average diameter 200 nm). We find that uptake of both India Ink and microplastics of any size is linear over at least a 30 min time course; however, uptake of 6 µm beads surprisingly interferes with subsequent uptake of India Ink while small (1 µm) beads cause no such interference. The goal of the proposed research is to better understand the mechanism underlying this size-dependent interference. We hypothesize that both 5 µm yeast and 5 µm microplastics particles will interfere with subsequent phagocytosis, suggesting size and not particle composition is the primary determinant of interference.

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

Dr. Brian Thomas
Office Hours: Wednesdays & Thursdays
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm or by appointment


Mailing Address:
Saginaw Valley State University
Undergraduate Research Program
7400 Bay Road, Wickes Hall 334
University Center, MI 48710
Visit Office:
Wickes Hall 314
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