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Current Research Projects

Applicant: Martin Arford

Tile: Soil Conservation and Water Quality in the Saginaw Valley 

Period of Support: May 1, 2020 – May 1, 2021

Abstract: The Saginaw Bay has been designated as an Area of Concern (AOC) by the Environmental Protection Agency due to poor water conditions resulting significantly from soil and fertilizer washing from agricultural land, the dominant land use in the watershed. Fertilizer nutrients, including nitrates and phosphates, result in excessive algal and cyanobacterial growth during summer. Algal blooms can create low dissolved oxygen conditions which form dead zones in the Bay, or they may result in harmful algal blooms (HABs) when Microcystis species proliferate and release toxins into the water. It was similar HABs that caused municipal water system closures in Toledo, OH, in 2014. Newer conservation practices aim to reduce or eliminate the leaching of nitrate and 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, agribusinesses, and local farmers. It will also provide a test site for other farmers to visit and may help encourage the adoption of WSCs by more area farmers, thus improving water quality in the Saginaw Bay.


Applicant: Julie Commerford

Title: Contextualizing human-induced landscape changes with natural landscape changes

Period of Support: May 11, 2020 – May 1, 2021

Abstract: Pollen grains trapped within annual layers of lake sediment are a valuable proxy for reconstructing past landscapes. With the help of two undergraduate students, I have been examining pollen from a Midwestern lake to assess vegetation change and human impacts on the landscape. By examining part of this pollen record, we confirmed that humans were impacting the landscape through forest clearing and agricultural activity during 300 BCE – 300 CE, and again during 1150-1450 CE. We also analyzed general plant ecosystem composition change during those two periods of time. Yet, in order to give context to the changes that occurred, it is necessary to examine the remainder of the pollen record from this lake. The students who accept 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: Mohammad Khan 

Title: Thermoelectric and Thermomechanical Study of Interconnect Materials Reliability

Period of Support: August 1, 2020 – May 1, 2021

Abstract: The electrical interconnects remain as bottlenecks to the speed of the multi-module systems for the length of a transmission line. One solution to it is to fabricate chips and combine them by interconnects, contacts, that apparently operates as a single chip. The solder paste can be used to fabricate contacts of smaller size, as in pin transfer method, compared to traditional soldering. The circuits with contacts –solder contacts—go through temperature cycling during its operation. The model to investigate the contacts for reliability has been developed by the faculty and has been used to predict reliability. The electric-thermal and thermo-mechanical interaction for interconnects will be studied through simulation by the developed model with novel solder pastes with nano-composites: leaded and lead free. Students will be instructed for each step of research work. They will be provided articles to study, and given instruction on how to setup the simulator, to model the structures, to simulate them and to analyze results. They will also be trained on how to write manuscript for scientific results dissemination. With the available parameters, the structure—interconnects— will be simulated to explore the elastic and inelastic deformation, the critical areas for failure and reliability. Moreover, the simulation can indicate structures or materials with ductile and fatigue properties that improve reliability and lifetime with constraints such as elastic limit, ultimate strength of the novel solder pastes. The project will finally enhance the knowledge of reliability of interconnect in electronic systems.


Applicant: Merrick Lincoln

Title: Comparative One-Repetition Maximum Strength in Landmine and Free-weight Exercises

Period of Support: August 25, 2020 – May 1, 2021

Abstract: Resistance training exercises intentionally apply external loads to the body to improve strength and related athletic qualities. To apply load to trainees, practitioners employ various resistance training tools and methods (“modalities”). Although free-weights and machines are most common, “landmine barbell training” is a novel modality that affords unique opportunities. Landmine barbell training utilizes common free-weight equipment-- a barbell and weight plates—as a lever, which is a feature of many resistance training machines. Many resistance training exercises can be modified for use with the landmine barbell modality. The application of external load to the exerciser is essential for improvement in strength and related qualities. Within physiological ranges, the magnitude of external load during resistance training is positively related to the degree of improvement in muscular strength. Therefore, a resistance training modality that allows successful performance with more external load may be desirable. Resistance training load is assessed via a dynamic maximal strength test, commonly 1 Repetition Max (1RM). It is not known whether exercises can be performed with higher 1RM during traditional free-weight or landmine barbell exercises. To directly compare 1RM among landmine and free-weight exercises, the investigative team will recruit experienced trainees, familiarize them with free-weight and landmine-barbell versions of common exercises, then assess the 1RM of each exercise for each modality. The second aim of the research is to develop an equation to allow conversion between 1RM landmine barbell and free-weight exercises. The findings will help to inform practices for selecting resistance training modalities and assigning training loads in athletics, fitness, and rehabilitation.


Applicant: Arthur Martin      

Title: Effects of Population Structure on Crayfish Behavior

Period of Support: May 11, 2020 – December 19, 2020

Abstract: Animals compete for resources by engaging in agonistic interactions. The size of conspecifics plays an important role in determining the outcomes of interactions. This study attempts to empirically address the influence of population structure on aggression by examining the duration and frequency of interactions. Variably sized populations of four crayfish each are provided with four identical shelters and are recorded for 24-hour trials to determine fight duration, frequency, and outcome. This project is a component of a broader study to provide empirical evidence to better understand the relationship and dynamics between self and mutual assessment in populations, and to develop a better understanding of how population structure affects the intricacies of aggressive behavior in animal contests.

This experience is an intense research experience that trains students for graduate and professional school. Students work independently and carry-out experimental trials, statistically analyze data, and develop presentations from their work. Weekly meetings are held between myself and the researchers to develop the skills listed above as well as expand their knowledge by reading the literature related to this study. This type of training coupled with presentation building will enhance each student’s ability to disseminate a scientific study. This unique training will give them an edge over other graduates as they apply for graduate programs and jobs.


Applicant: Aos Mulahuwaish

Title: Analysis Effect of Different Image Compression Techniques on Rate of Detection of GAN Generated Fake Images

Period of Support: May 11, 2020 – December 19, 2020

Abstract: In this research proposal, we plan to compare the performance of generative adversarial network (GAN) using deep learning methods on detection of fake images after the tampered images are processed through most commonly used image compression techniques in the social media platforms. This research aims to lay a foundation to proposing a universal detector that can accurately detect if the image that is found in social media platform are doctored or real.


Applicant: Avishek Mukherjee 

Title: Estimation of the Wireless Signal Field using LTE Log Data

Period of Support: August 1, 2020 – May 1, 2021

Abstract: The evolution of wireless technology has revolutionized telecommunication and become a key area for economic development. However, the speed and latency of current or next generation network standards may not be enough to meet rapidly growing user data traffic. For example, cellular ser- vice providers are forced to impose data limits that reduce user satisfaction. In this proposal, I plan to find solutions to a key problem in wireless networks, which in turn will improve their performance and enable new applications. Specifically, I will investigate the problem of accurately estimating the wireless signal field using Long Term Evolution (LTE) log data. An accurate estimation allows optimal allocation of network resources and set system parameters like azimuth and tilt angles of antennas to meet the demand. While this study is conducted on cellular networks, the findings would apply to any wireless standard that uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) modulation.


Applicant: Travis Pashak

Title: Mental Health Assessment Methodologies – Development & Dissemination

Period of Study: May 11, 2020 – May 1, 2021

Proposal Abstract: This grant application seeks funding for three undergraduate students in psychology or related fields to conduct a mentored research experience together in the topic area of clinical psychological assessment. The request is for funding for three students, for one academic year, totaling a cost of $6,500. The goals are to write, present, and publish three studies which are related in their focus upon mental health assessment methods. The first project addresses the measurement of trauma resilience in college students; the second project addresses the structure and scoring of a distress screener for young adults; and the third project addresses the design of an implicit assessment tool for psychoanalytic variables. Each student would be responsible for taking a leading role on one of the three projects, and each would serve as supporting coauthors for one another on the other two projects. The anticipated outcomes of this grant proposal hence include six research presentations conducted by students both locally and nationally, as well as three published articles in professional peer-reviewed psychology journals. The mentorship method is student-focused and team-based, centering around weekly meetings and delegation of various research tasks including literature review, drafting, and data analysis. The grant applicant is committed to student success and aims to have this experience be a valuable source of career development for students.


Applicant: Evelyn Ravuri 

Title: Measuring Changes in the Population and Built Environment of Saginaw County Before, During, and After the Great Recession of 2008

Period of Support: August 1, 2020 – May 1, 2021

Abstract: This project examines changes in the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of census tracts within Saginaw County between 2000 and 2018 to determine the effect that the Great Recession of 2008 had on the population and the built environment of Saginaw. Urban revitalization efforts have been underway in the City of Saginaw as well as the suburbs since 2012. These revitalizations include repurposing of building stock in downtown Saginaw, revitalization along the Saginaw Riverfront, commercial revitalization along the Bay Road corridor as well as the building of biking, jogging, and walking trails throughout the city and county. However, not all sections of the City/County have benefited from revitalization. This study is also interested in tracking the downgrading of areas within the City or County that were prior to 2008 in relatively good condition. The data used in this study goes beyond usage of census data to explore a new database that lends itself to the analysis of urban change; that is Google Street View.


Applicant: Elizabeth Rich

Title: E-Rich-UGR-2020-Literature and Historiography

Period of Study: May 11, 2020 – August 30, 2020

Proposal Abstract: A trend since the modernist period of literary study has been to engage historical events and figures in imaginative literary forms, such as fiction, poetry, and drama. This trend strengthens after 1945 in postmodern literature, and produces a subgenre, called by Linda Hutcheon, “historiographic metafiction.” This is fiction that is self-aware of its formal engagement with historical narratives. That is to say that this fiction calls out the narrativity of historical record. Over the last several years, this study has developed another interest, biofiction.

My project will update work that I had done in a subset of historiographic metafiction that engages the historical document. The novels and collections of poetry in my study embed historical documents into the text so as to imagine with an ethical impulse the stories of human lives that are left out of the historical record, only gestured toward in the historical record, or else expunged from the historical record. Specifically, this book will sample six texts, four novels and two collections of poetry, to examine a trend in late 20th century literature in which imaginative writers perform the work of critical historiography. What brings these texts together is their unique treatment of historical documents that they embed in or reference in the text and use a critical narrative construction to examine the possibilities of historical experience that the documents fail to represent. This faculty-led research project will update my study that was my dissertation and prepare it for publication as a monograph, which is currently under review by Lexington Books.


Applicant: Sylvia Fromherz Sharp    

Title: How Does Uptake of Polystyrene Microplastics Impact Phagocytosis in a Model Eukaryote, Tetrahymena pyriformis?

Period of Support: May 11, 2020 – May 1, 2021

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 sizes ranging from 1-6 μm in diameter 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. The goal of the proposed research is to better understand the mechanism underlying this interference. We hypothesize that 200 nm microplastics particles, similar in size to India Ink, will not interfere with subsequent India Ink uptake and will test this hypothesis. We will also test the hypothesis that uptake of India Ink will have no effect on subsequent uptake of either 200 nm or 6 μm microplastics. The suite of experimental results will help us determine if size is a determining factor in the negative impact of microplastics on phagocytosis.


Applicant: Izabela Szymanska

Title: Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices (STEP) Project

Period of Study: June 1, 2020 – May 31, 2021

Abstract: Founded in 2005 by Babson College in collaboration with six academic affiliates in Europe, the STEP (Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices) Project is a global applied research initiative that explores the entrepreneurial process within business families and generates solutions with immediate applications for family business leaders. With people living longer, increasing demographic and societal changes, family businesses in different parts of the world are exposed to new challenges that make traditional methods of succession and governance no longer appropriate. Looking at the demographic cohorts of global family business leaders helps shed light on differences in generational outlook and how family businesses are dealing with the challenges associated with succession and governance in the modern era. Student assisting in this project will hone their quantitative and qualitative research skills, as well as learn hands-on the craft of academic writing. Student participation in STEP Project creates opportunities for research and project management skills development and networking with local business community lead

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Interim Director Undergraduate Research

Brian Thomas


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