A total of 11 academic departments have hosted 40 distinct undergraduate research projects and 26 faculty mentors as a part of the VCSU SOAR program since its inaugural year in 2014. Read about their projects below.
Select + to review abstracts for each student project.
Tarah Cleveland, with Dr. Iqbal, on Investigating a new approach to web visitor engagement measurement
Abstract: In the United States, Internet advertising revenues totaled nearly $42.8 billion in 2013 which is a 17% increase from the year 2012 (IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report 2014). As revenues from Internet advertising continue to grow, advertisers seek popular web pages for placing ads in an effort to maximize profits. An important measure of how well a website is doing or how attractive they are to advertisers is how engaged the web visitors are with that website. For example, Philly.com (home of two Philadelphia newspapers, Inquirer and Daily News) uses an “engagement index” which takes into consideration seven categories to measure web visitor engagement. These categories include duration index (visitors who spent at least five minutes on the site), click index (visitors who viewed at least six pages), recency index (rate at which visitors return to the site over a period of time), loyalty index (registered visitors or a minimum of three visits per week), brand index (website URL referral or visiting from a bookmark), interaction index (visitors that interact with the site’s comment pages or forums), and participation index (activity on the site by posting, sharing, and uploading contents) (Beckett, 2010). Now, our preliminary study has revealed that there are some fundamental problems with current measurements for web visitor engagement. For example, session duration which tracks visit time on a web page does not take into consideration the physical away time of the web visitor from the computer or when a visitor switches to a different tab or application. Therefore, while advertisers commonly rely on a visitor’s time spent looking at the website, traditional web analytics tools have some limitations to measure this accurately (Peterson and Carrabis 2008).
In order to address the need for an efficient web engagement tool, in this project we propose to investigate a method for accurately measuring session duration and web visitor engagement. Initial focus of this investigation will be on gathering and analyzing requirements to improve the measurement of “engagement index”. As a proof of concept, we shall attempt to build a tool or add a feature to the existing web analytics tools such as piwik.org. The long-term objective of this research initiative is to give guidance to the online advertisers on their selection of pages based on the actual degree of engagement of the web visitors with other similar webpages.
Logan Olesen, with Dr. Kilgore, on The use of sand fraction lithology analysis to differentiate sediment layers at an archeological sight in Grand Portage, Minnesota
Abstract: Grand Portage National Monument is a 710 acre unit of the National Park Service located in Grand Portage, Minnesota. The park is located on the reservation of the Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe, who have occupied this area for centuries. Grand Portage was an active fur trade post from the mid-1700’s to the early 1800’s (Birk, 1984; Birk, 2005). The Grand Portage area is rich in archeological sites, with many known sites located throughout the park. The site that is of interest for this project is located along the shore of Lake Superior.
This location is rapidly eroding into the lake, due to wave erosion, so a massive excavation took place in 2014 to retrieve artifacts. The excavation revealed two distinct sandy sediment layers, both of which contained artifacts. The apparent stark difference between the two layers has sparked arguments between researchers working in the area because some believe that the upper layer is fill dirt, rather than a natural deposit. However, the abundance of artifacts within this upper layer means that, if the sediment is fill dirt, it was obtained from another archaeological site.
The goal of this project is to investigate the lithological characteristics of both of the sandy layers at the shoreline site to determine whether or not they are related. Using a sand fraction analysis technique (Hallberg, 1978), we will identify the lithology of the sand grains from samples obtained from the upper and lower sand layers. We will statistically compare the results for each of the layers, to determine if they are similar. If the layers have comparable characteristics, we can infer that they have similar depositional histories, and that the upper layer is natural. If the results show that the sands are different, we will know that the units are not related, and researchers can investigate further in the future to determine the depositional history.
Maxwell Kollar, with Dr. van Gjissel, on Creating a Bacterial Mercury Sensor using Synthetic Biology
Abstract: The purpose of this research is to create a bacterium that will detect mercury. This will be accomplished through the process of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is “to make biology in to an engineering discipline” (Malley, Powell, Davies, & Calvert,2007). Biology is the study of life but not the process of trying to mimic or manipulate it. However, synthetic biology is a combination of ~traditional ~biology and engineering. It is a bold new science that holds endless possibilities (Osbourn, Paul, Rosser, & Lindsey,2012). For this research project, the DNA sequence will be modified by inserting a plasmid in a bacteria that will release a blue pigment when mercury is present. By attempting to do this both traditional biology and engineering principles will be used. The results of the project will be used in several labs for several courses at VCSU. Along with creating a learning opportunity for others it will allow me to gain skills I will use greatly in my future.
Eric Schauer, with Dr. Ketterling, on Engineering an Autonomous Ecosystem for Use in Science Classrooms
Abstract: This Project is focusing on engineering a complete autonomous ecosystem that can be integrated into a curriculum for a high school classroom. A complete ecosystem will include terrestrial plants, aquatic plants, carnivores and herbivores. Once the system is in place it can be used for many different types of experiments and inquiries for classes including Biology, Ichthyology, Botany, Genetics and Ecology.
Abstract: Immigrants are often portrayed and defined in mass media as people who move to the United States for a specific gain: escape from danger to gain peace, escape from poverty to gain stability, the receiving of a Green Card, pursuit of the American Dream. Gains or benefits which polarize the American public oscillate between the scrutiny against an immigrant and the generosity towards a newcomer. By writing a performance piece about my own experience in the United States, I would like to explore a different kind of alien: the transnational woman. An ambiguous type of immigrant emerging from the complex influx of foreigners into the American society, the transnational woman is an immigrant who cannot be fully described within the confines of traditional immigration vocabulary because she does not enter the American society in order to gain something. A transnational woman leaves home in order to follow her employment, her family, or her partner. In that sense, her entry into another culture is the result of a free choice, an exciting opportunity, sense of adventure, or a sense of duty. A one-woman show where the protagonist examines her journey from one culture into another, and reevaluates, in the process, her perception of being a woman, will be the result of research into my family history and the deeper understanding of womanhood during the past 10 years of my life in the United States.
Kaylee Johnson and Cassy Gilbertson, with Professor Karri Dieken, on 3D Printing K-12 Project Curriculum
Objective: The purpose of this project is to educate, create, innovate and collaborate the use of art and technology with the Makerbot 3D printer. The development of interdisciplinary curriculum within Math and Art are exceedingly vital measure of a learner’s critical thinking process. The focus of this project is to generate specific and beneficial understanding in learners via new lessons and hands on activities. These activities will include problem solving, cognitive process, communication, aesthetic engagement, collaboration, elements of design, and technology literacy. Combined curriculum lesson plans will be distributed to the appropriate grade levels and parallel with the ND State Education Standards.
Goals: Our ambition is to educate K-12 students on the importance of intergrading Arts into the STEM program to create STEAM. In addition to, the collaboration of art and technology, we also aim for the students to achieve the ability to link a connection between various areas of study throughout their educational experiences. We will create lessons/curriculum for grade 3, 7 and 12 connecting Technology, Math and Art through the use of ND State Education Standards, Makerbot, basic Math skills, and drawing sketches. We will develop the curriculum, educate our selves on the programs and equipment, then teach the programs to various school groups with CSA.
Niklas Ernst, with Dr. Luis da Vinha, on: The Unfinished Presidencies Why Incumbent Presidents Lose Their Re-Election Campaigns
Abstract: Throughout the history of the United States, 20 presidents won two consecutive terms in the White House, while only 10 lost their second presidential election. While the likelihood for an incumbent president to be re-elected is not as high as in the House or Senate races, data demonstrates that incumbent presidents are usually likely to win their bid for a second term (Phillips, 2012). Political Science has demonstrated that incumbent presidents have several advantages which they can use in order to gain re-election – i.e., party nomination, recognition, access to campaign funding and government resources, campaign machines. The “incumbent advantage” has been thoroughly studied and tis theoretical assumptions are well developed.
However, despite these advantages, some incumbent presidents are unable to guarantee electoral victories. In the post-war years Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush did not win their re-election bid despite having access to all the advantages every other incumbent president had. The individual electoral processes have been studied by several presidential scholars and political commentators. Nevertheless, the explanation of these anomalies has yet to process a theoretical framework which allows us to develop a sound understanding of the conditions under which the incumbent advantage is inadequate.
In this research project I will analyze what factors that contributed to falsifying the incumbent advantage in the cases of Presidents Ford, Cart, and Bush. More precisely, I will analyze the factors and dynamics at work in each of these candidacies in order to try to identify a discernible pattern which may subvert the advantages characteristic of incumbents. The development of a theoretical framework explaining the different dynamics involving presidential re-elections will allow us to generalize about the relationships between variables and, to the extend possible, construct a general proposition about the success or failure of the incumbency advantage.
Justin Tangen, with Dr. Andre Delorme, on: Using Side Scanning Sonar to Detect Mussel Beds in North Dakota Rivers
Abstract: Freshwater mussels (also known as clams) are classified by some as keystone species due to their disproportional large impact on the ecosystems structure and function (Geist, 2010). Freshwater mussel populations over the past 75 years have dropped to record lows due to changes in the nature patterns of the river (Williams, 1993). Since mussels are sedentary feeders and remain in the same location for many years, small changes in their environment can have devastating effects. This project will utilize side scanning sonar to map river beds and use the images produced to possibly detect mussel beds in three area rivers. To gather the data for the research we will be taking a small boat down the center of the river equipped with side scanning sonar and GPS; images and positions are recorded onto the sonar. Compared to traditional means of locating freshwater mussels, side scanning sonar is not only more efficient but can be used in areas that are too dangerous to be done by traditional means. The three local waterways that will be sampled are Baldhill Creek, the Sheyenne River, and the Red River. The rational for choosing these locations is they have been have been sampled in past years and have data established. Since we know where the highest density of mussels are, we hope to use side scanning sonar to set up base line imagery for possible mussel beds. Using GIS techniques we will map the bottoms of these three rivers. With that baseline image we will compare it to incoming and/or saved imagery for similarities potentially finding new mussel beds and populations. In this proposal we are asking for funding primarily for data analysis I will do next fall using data we collect this summer.
Tanner Hovland, with Dr. Hilde van Gijssel, on: Are the Multigenerational Effects of Chlorophenoxy Herbicides on Development and Growth of Drosophila melanogaster Inherited Through the Male or Female Germ Line
Abstract: The purpose of this research project is to determine which germ line in Drosophila melanogaster is effected by chlorophenoxy herbicides. This will be accomplished by exposing Drosophila to two different chlorophenoxy herbicides, 2,4–D and MCPA. They will be exposed by contaminating their food with different concentrations of chlorophenoxy herbicides for at least 4 generations. At each generation, exposed males and females will then be mated with unexposed males and females. Effects of exposure will be determined by examining the offspring by counting the number of offspring produced and determining the rate of mutations using the SMART test.
DaveMarth Nagbe, with Dr. Samuel Keasler, on: Analyzing mercury biosensors using computational modeling techniques
Abstract: It’s no secret that mercury is extremely harmful for humans and wildlife. The U.S Geological Survey states that, “Mercury is a highly toxic element that is found both naturally and as an introduced contaminant in the environment. Research has shown that mercury can be a threat to the health of people and wildlife in many environments that are not obviously polluted.”1 To look into solutions for discovering the presence of mercury, we propose to apply computational modeling techniques to characterize the bacterial biosensor for mercury that is currently under development at VCSU. In particular, this research will provide an improved understanding of the specificity of the mercury sensitive promoter. Simulations will be performed to measure the binding strength of mercury and other ions to the sensor in order to relate the binding strength of the ions to the way they interact with the sensor. Having an understanding of why this sensor is only activated by the presence of mercury could lead to the creation of similar devices modified for the detection of other specified ions.
Abstract: The term Internet of Things (IoT) has become a buzzword in recent headlines. According to Daniel Burrus, founder and CEO of Burrus Research, “The Internet of Things revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication…they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports ‘smart.’” (Wired). This allows creating smart technology that make autonomous decisions and accomplish tasks that simplify people’s day-to- day activities. In this project, I would like to research new ways to enter into the realm of home automation with a personal Internet of Things. I will use a Raspberry Pi, which is a “small, barebones computer developed by The Raspberry Pi Foundation” (ExtremeTech) to create my own version of home automation, an example of an IoT. I will specifically experiment with creating a time management system using Amazon Dash buttons. The first button press would log my start time, and the second would log my finish times. If this research goes well, I will attempt to transmit the data over the Internet to a Google Docs spreadsheet to add even more functionality to the system. I intend to use this system for both homework and TA work, in both of which hours must be accurately tracked. As a second sub-project, I will use another Amazon Dash button to experiment with connecting my system with existing devices. For this part of the project, I will create a task that upon pressing the Dash button, a customized text message with the weather report will be sent to my phone.
Abstract: Music is reshaping the landscape of online collegiate education. While most degree programs in virtual education center on testable book work, music has an element of education and performance that require in person interaction. This creates a new challenge for teachers and students to overcome. Upon close examination of the history of recorded sound, its use in performance, the legal standards of industry, and the recent rise of virtual ensembles, a new medium for performance can be created; one that conventionally requires musicians to be in the same space and time.
This research project aims to mimic current virtual ensembles that are being performed on YouTube daily; examples include Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir (Whitacre) and Steve Park’s Horn Quartet (Park). The idea is to use a small group of VCSU music students to create a virtual ensemble that will perform three pieces that have diverse technical challenges: following a conductor, improvisation, and an original composition. Through the preparation of these pieces and its subsequent programmed performance, conclusions about their use in the classroom and their academic integrity can be discussed.
Baylee Swenson and Jordan Bushaw with Professor Susan Pfeifer, on: The Effects of Motion Sickness in Virtual Reality Environments
Abstract: Motion sickness is caused by conflicting stimulus sent to the brain from various senses (Boggs, 2001). In the world of virtual reality this can be an issue, especially within environments that require the user to move at a rapid pace. In addition to this, studies have found that men and women handle motion sickness differently. In a recent study done by Thomas Stoffregen, women were found to be four times as likely to experience motion sickness within virtual reality environments as men (Schumaker, 2015). In this study, Stoffregen found that this is likely due to the different distribution of body mass and the different ways that each gender carry themselves when in motion (Schumaker, 2015). For example, if a user were to lean into a turn in a racing game they would destabilize themselves, causing motion sickness.
In order to address the issue of motion sickness within virtual reality environments, this project will create a method to further investigate the problem. This will be done by a series of tests done using a virtual reality headset on a group of subjects. We will first create two levels for a virtual environment. The first level will have cartoon graphics, while the second level will have realistic graphics. Using the motion sickness test, we will primarily document the differences in motion sickness between men and women by having the subject play in both levels. We will also notice the differences between motion sickness in realistic environments as opposed to cartoon environments in order to see if the different graphics make a noticeable difference in the final symptoms as charted on the motion sickness test.
Abstract: The advance of technology has greatly influenced how students learn, helping them explore areas around the globe in their own classroom. However, many students are losing their sense of connection with the natural world around them. Outside of the classroom, many of today’s youth live in the technological universe, and hardly ever venture outdoors to play (Nelson 2008). To help maintain this connection, the Pickled Fish Project is interested in combining hands-on learning with native fish species from North Dakota. I hope to help spark curiosity and passion for the natural world and produce better scientists. I also hope to improve social interactions both in and outside the classroom. The Pickled Fish Project has already been implemented at events, such as the Winter Show and STEMtastic at the Jamestown Middle School, and has shown success and potential. The timing will take place in the fall of 2016 and then continue into the spring of 2017. It will involve making lesson plans and kits that teachers will then be able to implement in their classroom. Travel to different conferences, classrooms, and events will also be scheduled throughout the project.
Mackenzie Bruce with Dr. Hilde van Gijssel, on: Does the herbicide 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid induce epigenetic changes in G12-Chinese Hamster Ovary cells?
Abstract: In 2000, Schreinemachers published a paper showing an increased risk for certain types of cancers such as reticulum cell sarcoma, prostate, and pancreatic cancers in areas with high usage of the herbicide 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). However, she did not suggest a mechanism of action. Based on data from traditional mutagenesis and carcinogenesis experiments, 2,4-D is not considered mutagenic or weakly mutagenic and its carcinogenic potential is unclear. The purpose of this research project is to elucidate the mechanism by which the herbicide 2,4-D is involved in carcinogenesis. We hypothesize that epigenetic changes may be responsible. Klein et al developed a method to study epigenetic changes due to chemical exposure. It uses Chinese hamster ovary cells as a model. Chinese hamster ovary cells will be exposed to 2,4-D and the growth rate and mutation rate will be determined. Subsequently polymerase chain reaction (PCR) will be used to determine the specific epigenetic changes in the cells.
Miles Libak with Dr. Anthony Dutton, on: Unintended and Intended Consequences: U.S. Government Policy towards Native Americans
Abstract: The United States Government has failed to respect their agreements made with the Native Americans of North Dakota in the last 165 years since the signing of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851 that first provided protected reservations for the Sioux, Cheyenne, Assiniboine, Mandan, Arikara, and Shoshone Nations (NPS, 1965). Just 17 years later, the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 was signed, which diminished their protected reservations down to about 50% of their former size. In 1887 the Dawes Act was signed, which negatively impacted protected reservations and the basic social safety net of communal living that was to be imperative in the continued success of Native American Nations. In 1947, the U.S. Government, while facing protest by the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations, started construction on the Garrison Dam that would eventually flood 94% of their farmable land (Lawson, 1982). These injustices towards Native Americans in North Dakota, and elsewhere, leads me to some basic questions that I would like to explore: What events led up to the signing of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851, are the recent protests and debates over the Dakota Access Pipeline in some way a byproduct of the injustices that have faced Native American Nations in North Dakota, how has the notion of a reservation changed over time in the minds of Native Americans, and what does the notion of a reservation mean to Native Americans in a 21st century world?
Madeline Bennett with Dr. Luis da Vinha, on: (Re)Drawing Borders of Peace and War: A Political Geography of State Partition
Abstract: War and conflict are a constant reality of human history. Traditionally conflicts would be terminated when one of the warring parties would defeat its adversary or adversaries. However, the 21st century has witnessed the increasing use of conflict resolution strategies to try to manage contemporary warfare, particularly intrastate conflicts. Several strategies have received significant emphasis such as power-sharing schemes, third-party intervention, mediation and negotiations, and reconciliation (Ramsbotham, Miall, and Woodhouse, 2011). When all other options have been exhausted, a solution of last-resort has been to promote the territorial partition of states – i.e., the transforming a single state into two or more states (Waterman, 1996). Partition – sponsored by the international community – has been employed in multiple situations in recent history in order to separate the belligerent factions and try to secure a peaceful settlement to the dispute – e.g., partitions of India (1947), Palestine (1947), Korea (1954), Vietnam (1954), Pakistan (1971), Cyprus (1974), Yugoslavia (1990s), Serbia (2008). With the exceptions of Ethiopia (creation of Eritrea in 1993) and Sudan (creation of South Sudan in 2011) partition has not been an option for addressing the conflicts which have scoured the continent for over half a century. This fact solicits perplexity taking into consideration the number of intrastate conflicts that have ravaged African countries and contributed to millions of deaths. This is particularly relevant considering the fact that the borders of Africa are still predominantly the arbitrary borders established by the colonial powers (Fisher, 2012). Accordingly, the current research proposal seeks answer the question of why the international community has hesitated to endorse partition as a conflict resolution strategy in Africa? The research project will analyze what factors have led the international community to sponsor territorial re-arrangements in numerous other regions, yet be silent regarding Africa, and consequently try to establish a framework for understanding under what conditions is partition entertained by the international community.
Abstract: It is a trend for college students to experience different identity shifts and personal development throughout their time attending university (Uecker, Regnerus, Vaaler, 2007). This study’s three foci hope to better understand changes in college students’ identities related to religiosity and spirituality. This study is broken down into three sections. The first section focuses on the definitions of religiosity and spirituality. The two very different terms are often used interchangeably (Zinnbauer et al., 1997). It is wondered if there is the potential of having a self-identity shift once the two terms are clearly defined to college students. And from this, which of the two terms college students are more likely to identify with. The second section of this study is to better understand the reasoning on why there is a decline in religious participation and expression in college students. The trend for not participating in religious activities is not a new trend—being present since at least the 1980’s (Uecker, Regnerus, & Vaaler, 2007). This decline has become so prominent that it has almost become an expectation. In the third section, a difference in identity and decline rates between students enrolled in public and private universities is investigated. Private colleges tend to have a religious stance. It is wondered if that stance would carry on throughout the students’ identification status.
Callie Smith with Dr. Kathryn Woehl, on: The Impact of Personal Experience in the Effects of an Empathy-Building Simulation
Abstract: This study will be focusing on empathy levels of students towards dementia and how having a personal experience may affect the amount empathy they feel and for how long it lasts. The VDT simulation that is used in Dr. Woehl’s Psych 370 class will be used to provide an empathy building simulation which has always had anecdotal feedback that it does increase empathy but the length of the increase is unknown. This study would be focusing on testing the actual increase that the simulation has and if a student has a personal experience will the increase be higher and last longer. The study will have 3 different control groups so that there is a wide range of input to help enhance the accuracy of the results. After students go through the simulations I will be doing follow-ups weeks and months later at certain points in the study to investigate the sustained change in their levels of empathy. My expectation of the outcome is that there will be a significant difference between students who have a personal experience with dementia and students who don’t. I believe that students who have a personal experience will have higher increases of empathy and it will be sustained for a longer period of time.
Deborah Haley with Dr. J. Gregory Brister, on: The Study of Social Class in Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Hard Times
Literature provides a view into the world which would otherwise pass by the general population. The novels Dracula, by Bram Stoker, The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, and Hard Times, by Charles Dickens all show different views of social class around the end of nineteenth century England. With the rise of social criticism in the literary world, the application of such theories provides a view into the world and thoughts of society in that time period. Questions arise from a study of this literature, such as “How are separate social classes described?” “What do the texts reveal about the historical movements during that time?” “What formal qualities of the texts are potentially inscribed with the social conditions of the period?” and “How can critical theories relating to social criticism be applied?” Through this project, I plan on researching these questions and the others which will arise as I re-read the novels and apply the critical theories. The application of this research will be seen in correlating the critical approaches of social class in literature from other periods in history. The literature appeared to correspond with the social issues of those time periods, and understanding this can provide a view into the social issues of other time periods through a study of the literature produced. Based off previous research I have completed, I would hypothesis that a direct correlation between the literature and social issues will be found. I also think I will find information which warns about future social problems. Information about the prevailing ideologies about that time may also come to light through the project. However, this are simply theories until the research is complete.
Abstract: On 5 September 2017, the Trump Administration ordered an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was implemented by the Obama Administration in June 2012 and sought to temporarily defer the deportation from the United States of an estimated 1.9 million eligible undocumented youth and young adults and provide these individuals temporary Social Security numbers and 2-year work permits (Gonzales, Terriquez, and Ruszczyk, 2014). DACA was created as an opportunity for immigrant children to gain legal status in the United States since, according to former president, Barak Obama (2017), they weren’t the ones who came illegally and “are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper”. The repeal of DACA can framed within the wider debate in the United States (US) concerning immigration, particularly undocumented Mexican immigration. More precisely, over two-thirds of those who have received a temporary work permit through DACA are Mexican (Lopez and Krogstad, 2014). As a result, the termination of the program can contribute to the potential removal of over six hundred thousand undocumented Mexicans (Figure 1). However, despite the intense debate in the US regarding immigration, polls demonstrate that there is a wide consensus regarding DACA. As Figure 2 illustrates, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 86% of Americans support deportation protections for younger undocumented immigrants (Clement and Nakamura, 2017). Data reveals, however, significant demographic, regional, and ideological differences in the support for DACA and for immigration more generally (see Frankovic, 2017).
Niklas Ernst with Mentor Dr. Luis da Vinha, on: Government and Academia - A Comparative Analysis of Academics' Political Participation Through the Electoral Process
Abstract: Government and academia have had a turbulent relationship throughout recent history. In particular, in the United States of America (US), university scholars and academics have maintained their distance from elected public office. The last time the US had a scholar president was Woodrow Wilson and academics are largely absent from Congress. This is a stark contrast with other democratic nations. For instance, in Europe, academics regularly engage in the political process by running for public office – e.g., government leadership and members of parliament. The current research analyzes the participation of academics in government in three democracies – US, Germany, and Portugal. The study seeks, not only to assess the involvement of academics in national public office, but to try to understand the reasons underlying the contrast between participation in America and Europe.
Jayme Menard with Mentor Dr. Andre Delorme, on: Evaluation of Mussel Age and Growth Rate Post-Devils Lake Outlets
Abstract: Mussels are considered crucial organisms in aquatic ecosystems. My intention is to evaluate the effects of the Devils Lake outlets releasing large amounts of water laden with high levels of dissolved ions into the Sheyenne River since 2012 on mussels in the river. I will focus on the Three Ridge mussel, Amblema plicata. I would be evaluating the growth rate and age of the mussels using a thin-sectioning technique previously used by Haag and Commens-Carson in 2008. I will be evaluating mussels harvested near Kathryn, North Dakota from pre-outlet in 2012 to mussels harvested summer 2017 to look at the difference in the deposition of mussel growth rings.
Ryan Schaner with Mentor Dr. Lauren Dennhardt, on: Climate Change Model Analyses on North Dakota's Shifting Prairie Ecosystems
Abstract: The present text explores future shifts to North Dakota’s prairie ecosystems. Shifts are based on future climate change scenarios from low, medium, and high emission models created by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). By analyzing the impact of precipitation and temperature differences from emission levels, we can anticipate the prairie ecosystems’ possible shifts. Recent studies on tallgrass prairie ecosystems have resulted in range changes. Changes in flowering times and the length of the growing season have been documented. Two of three North Dakota’s prairie types will be analyzed based on future climate change prediction models. Models are based on CO2 emission scenarios. The tallgrass prairie and mixed grass prairie boundary will be the primary focus of our study. Using ArcGIS, we can map out these prairie ecosystem shifts based off the emission scenarios. Scenario maps will be created from the results of our study.
Sarah Zacher with Mentor Dr. Steven King, on: Uncovering the Silent Voices of the Past: A History of the Fort Totten Boarding School
Abstract: For well over two hundred years, United States policy towards Native Americans have appeared to be a battle of lies, deceit and broken promises. Amidst many attempted decrees towards Native Americans came the issue of assimilation and the effort to forcibly remove and extinguish Native American culture, language, and religion. Based on the prominent and ongoing mid-19th century Protestant ideology, the only way to civilize Native American people was to make them accept the beliefs and value systems of white men. Rather quickly, those calling for assimilation realized that boarding schools could serve as an ideal instrument for orchestrating the absorption of people and their ideologies in the mainstream culture, where Native American children could be individualized and taught the true American way. Through the use of boarding schools to initiate the process of stripping away the “red man” mentality, Native American youths lost their traditional cultural values and were forced to become part of the Euro-American world. One such boarding school used to assimilate young Native Americans into the mold that mid-1800 American’s wanted was located in Fort Totten, North Dakota. Built in 1867 as a military post and then revamped as an Indian school in 1890, Fort Totten Indian School held the voices of many Native American youths who struggled with their identity and the need to remain loyal to their traditional roots. This proposal seeks to uncover the hidden voices and viewpoints of the Native Americans who attended this boarding school, and unlock the secrets that have ultimately been hidden for over one hundred years. Through combing the history of the Fort Totten Indian School, examining the education and various issues within other Native American schools across North Dakota, and analyzing key primary sources that reveal accounts of those who were forced into this establishment, the aim is to copiously highlight the emotions of our history’s past, straight from the mouths of those who lived it.
Benjamin Kietzman with Mentor Dr. Hilde van Gijseel, on: Developing and testing lead and mercury biosensors; a synthetic biology approach
Abstract: The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan showed the importance of the ability to measure lead and other heavy metals accurately. Heavy metals in general but Lead and mercury in particular are very toxic to humans. It can cause problems with pregnancies and cause memory problems in children. The current methods of detecting lead and mercury in water are outdated and can produce false positives. Therefore, I would like to finish the work on developing and testing a biological mercury sensor. Subsequently, I want to use the knowledge gained from developing the mercury sensor to create a lead-specific biosensor. I will be utilizing synthetic biology or biological engineering. This methodology uses engineering practices to create biological organisms for a specific task. A large benefit of using biosensors is the specificity that can be created using organisms. This project provides me with an opportunity to combine my interest in science, human health, and computer science. Lastly, this project provides me with an opportunity to explore variety of career opportunities.
Ethan Rasset with Mentor Dr. Casey Williams, on: Feeding Habits of Smallmouth Bass in the Sheyenne River
Abstract: According to Mike Johnson of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, “The smallmouth bass fishery in the Sheyenne River is definitely a one of a kind in North Dakota.” Johnson further states, “Bass interest is increasing in North Dakota,” and “Information gained from a smallmouth bass diet study will also provide valuable data on other fish species in the river.” In the Sheyenne River, little is known about what types of forage native fish species utilize for their survival. We will answer the question, “What do smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) use as food sources in the Sheyenne River?” We will delve into greater depths, however, attempting to determine ontogenetic changes in prey species, what these bass eat at varying points throughout the year, and if fish consume prey differently in separate regions of the Sheyenne River. To determine stomach contents, smallmouth bass will be taken monthly via hook and line sampling, and receive a gastric lavage (Foster 1977). Stomach contents will then be preserved and examined. The main purpose of this project is to provide information about the little-known diet of Sheyenne River smallmouth bass.
Ellen Anderson with Mentor Dr. Casey Williams, on: Percent Occurrence of Historical Sample Size of Select Stream Fishes of North Dakota
Abstract: Currently there are 96 extant species of fish in North Dakota. Of these species, 22 are currently listed by the Game and Fish Department as species of concern (Dyke et al., 2015). Many of these species have been historically documented in the state but have not been documented in sampling efforts in recent years (Williams et al., 2016). The goal of this project is to analyze past data to determine if these historical sightings were accurate. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has sample records dating back to 1953 and every year more streams are sampled (Williams et al., 2016). Many of these species are undergoing potential population decline and it is important to know if there is an actual decline occurring or if the original sighting was falsely reported. Species presence/absence data will be analyzed using percent occurrence and mapped in ArcGIS to represent species distributions more reliably. These species distributions can be used to create management and/or monitoring plans. I will be analyzing 13 listed species of concern and two rare species that are not currently listed but are found in very low numbers in the state.
Cooper Folmer with Mentor Dr. Casey Williams, on: Evaluation of Age and Growth Rates of Smallmouth Bass, Pre and Post Construction of East End Devils Lake Outlet
Abstract: Devils Lake began flowing into the Sheyenne River in 2005 when the first of two Devils Lake outlets, the west outlet, became operational. It wasn’t until 2012 that the second outlet, the east outlet, was constructed and began to flow into the Sheyenne (North Dakota State Water Commission n.d.). Large amounts of water are released from these outlets for long periods of time. With increased discharge from Devils Lake comes sulfates and other ions found throughout the Devils Lake basin. Sheyenne River mussel populations have been studied extensively by Dr. Andre Delorme, director of Prairie Waters Education and Research Center, and detrimental impacts that the Devils Lake outlets have on their populations were described (A.W. DeLorme, 2017 presentation to Dakota Chapter of the American Fisheries Society). No studies on other biota have been completed on the Sheyenne River to examine possible impacts. Size structure of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui) over the past eight years has changed noticeably, according to Dr. Casey Williams, an assistant professor at Valley City State University since 2011. The goal of this study will be to evaluate growth rates of smallmouth bass in the Sheyenne River, downstream of Faust Park to Valley City, ND. Growth rates of young smallmouth bass (Age 1-3) hatched before the operation of the east end outlet will be compared to the growth rates of young smallmouth bass hatched after 2012 to determine if changes in water quality correlates with changes in growth.
Ethan Rasset with Mentor Dr. Bob Anderson, on: Determination of Age and Growth Rates of Northern Pike in Devils Lake, North Dakota via Sectioned Cleithra
Abstract: Devils Lake is a tremendous fishery in North Dakota, boasting strong populations of walleye (Sander vitreus), yellow perch (Perca flavescens), white bass (Morone chrysops), and northern pike (Esox lucius) (Todd Caspers, North Dakota Game and Fish Dept., personal communication). It is one of the most consistent northern pike fisheries in the midwestern United States and receives out-of-state fishing pressure all year (Todd Caspers, North Dakota Game and Fish Dept., personal communication). Meanwhile, no information exists regarding the age and growth rates of northern pike in Devils Lake (Todd Caspers, North Dakota Game and Fish Dept., personal communication). Through the aging of 142 pike collected from 17 regions at Devils Lake, I will determine the ages of these fish, their growth rates, condition factors, and proportional stock densities of the population. This study will answer the question(s), “Do ages and growth rates of northern pike vary by region on Devils Lake?” and “Is there a correlation between age, growth rate, length, condition factor, and region pertaining to northern pike in Devils Lake?” Acquisition of this knowledge could vastly improve an agencies’ ability to manage a fishery (Quist et al. 2012). Cleithra (a bony structure) were obtained from each fish and will be sectioned to find the corresponding age and growth rate (Quist et al. 2012; Blackwell et al. 2016). This will be the first documented attempt of determining growth rates of northern pike through back calculation of cleithra. The main purpose of this study is to generate never-before seen information on northern pike of Devils Lake.
Ryan Wharry with Mentor Dr. Luis da Vihna, on: Sustaining Elite Narratives of National Identify in a Time of Growing Diversification of American Society
Abstract: The capacity to define and sustain a national identity is critical to modern statehood. There are two distinct ways of framing national identity (Muller, 2008). The first is to understand it as a form of civic nationalism. In this view, regardless of ethnic, racial, or religious differences, all the individuals living within a country’s borders are members of the nation. The second is an ethno- nationalist perspective which views nations as being defined by a shared heritage, including a common language, faith, and ethnic ancestry. Therefore, ethno-nationalism divides societies into friendly, cooperative, trustworthy, and safe “in-groups” and unfriendly, uncooperative, unworthy of trust, and dangerous “out-groups” (Kinder & Kam, 2010). Throughout history, American national identity has been defined using both frameworks. The ethno-nationalistic definition has deep historical roots which may be traced back to the founding of the republic. Central to this conception of Americanism is a belief in a shared ethnic, religious, and historical legacy dating back to the British settlement of the American colonies. However, profound sociodemographic changes of the American population are increasingly challenging the ethno-nationalistic view of American identity. The growing social and cultural diversity in the US makes it increasingly difficult to hold on to narratives of American identity that are forged upon particular racial, ethnic, religious, and historical elements. This trend has generated a phenomenon of cultural displacement amongst the traditionally dominant social and cultural groups which has significant political implications (Abramowitz, 2018; Cox, Lienesch, & Jones, 2017). Accordingly, this research project seeks to understand the how the growing diversification of American society is affecting political dynamics and public policies. In particular, it seeks to assess the political instruments and policies used by national elites to sustain the traditional ethno-nationalist narratives of national identity in a time of growing diversification of American society.
Spencer Dorsey with Mentor Dr. Casey Williams, on: Seasonal Migrations for Smallmouth Bass in the Sheyenne River
Abstract: The Sheyenne River near Valley City, North Dakota has long been an angling hotspot for bass fishermen around the area. Anecdotal evidence from local anglers point to annual migrations of Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu due to their seasonal appearances and disappearances throughout the river. During a 2018 diet study on the Sheyenne River, different reaches of the river appeared to have higher fish concentrations depending on the season (Ethan Rasset, personal communication). Langhurst & Schoenike (1990) found significant migration patterns of smallmouth bass in the Embarrass and Wolf Rivers, Wisconsin due to seasonal habitat preference and individual size. The Sheyenne River between Baldhill Dam and Valley City has a variety of habitat types ranging from rocky lotic habitat near Baldhill Dam to silty lentic habitat near Valley City. A tagging study on the smallmouth bass in this system would allow a clearer picture of smallmouth bass life cycles. Smallmouth Bass will be caught via hook and line sampling and fitted with a jaw tag. The study will also examine various methods of reporting for marked fish collected by the fishing public. Sheyenne River game fish information is limited to a few research projects. With a better understanding of the waterbody, the system could be managed efficiently to produce more and better-quality fish. This project would not only give short term data on Smallmouth Bass migration patterns, but also allow for long term research to be conducted.
Gabriel Myers with Mentor Dr. Luis da Vihna, on: Rejecting Environmental Science and Evidenced-Based Policy-Making
Abstract: There is a long-standing acceptance that using scientific evidence in the formation of public policy is useful and beneficial. The use of evidence would seem to be the logical choice of policy makers because it would allow policy-makers to make informed decisions. However, over the past few years the use of scientific evidence in policy formation has increasingly come under attack (Wagner, Fischer, and Pascual, 2018). More precisely, certain reforms proposed in Congress would hinder the use of scientific studies and data – e.g., H.R. 1430 and H.R. 1431. By limiting the access to and the use of certain scientific research, policy-makers have increasingly calling into question the data and information underlying environmental policy for decades. In particular, several regulations aimed at curbing climate change and limiting environmental pollution have been rolled back as policy-makers question the scientific evidence used (see Greshko et al., 2019). The current study seeks to understand the political drivers underscoring the increased regulation and decreased use of scientific evidence in environmental policy- making.
Matthew Lein with Mentor Dr. David DeMuth, on: Construction Management System Prototype for Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment
Abstract: Researchers at Fermilab are in the process of building large particle detectors to study the intricate properties of neutrinos (Close 2010). The research being coordinated at Chicago’s Fermilab is for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) may be “a key to a deeper understanding of our universe.” Neutrinos are “nearly massless, neutral fundamental particles that interact so rarely with other matter that trillions of them pass through our bodies each second without leaving a trace” (Fermilab 2018). In building these detectors, tracking an asundry of components and inventorying parts is essential, as is tracking the testing and construction of the detectors. We propose to contribute to the development of a base prototype for tracking the testing and construction of the DUNE detectors being built at 4850 feet underground in Lead, SD starting in 2022, and outlined in the three volumes of the technical proposal (Abi 2018).
Charlotte Huschka with Mentor Ms. Tammy Katuin, on: A Student Approach to Retention on a Micro Level: Why Do Students Stay
Abstract: Student retention rates have continued to decrease in higher education institutions across the United States for the last eight years (Fain, 2018). Universities with low student retention rates experience loss, of fees, tuition, and potential loss of alumni contributions (3). Because of continual downward trend and being a smaller regional institution, it is important that here at Valley City State University, we maximize our assets to sustain the highest retention rate possible and improve as much as we can. During our preliminary study we have found that there was an overabundance of information showing what information institutions use about their students to try to understand whether they are at risk of transferring or dropping out. Although all this information is important and can tell us a lot about our students, what is missing from these studies are actual student thoughts and opinions. Through this study we aim to gain a better understanding of what really keeps students at a higher education institution, specifically here at Valley City State University.
Rose Gaffner with Mentor Dr. Emily Fenster, on: An Examination Throughout the Years: Societal Trends and Billboard Top 5 Charts 2006-2016
Abstract: In this project a discussion is taking place on if lyrics from the top 5 songs coming from Billboard top 100 chart list from the years of 2006-2016 have any correlation to what was happening in society at that moment. In this project, I plan to use a qualitative comparative analysis approach to create themes based on the lyrics of the song. After completing this portion of the project, I will examine whether societal trends occurring in each year connect to the themes in the lyrics. In this project I will be examining, postmodernism as well as Simmel in relation to his look on fashion.
Abstract: Throughout the history of artistic development, there have been numerous works of art expanding from the first cave paintings to contemporary art. Along the way there were art movements that summarized change in art technique and methods. In particular, the Pop Art movement, which started in New York during the mid 1950’s and ended in the late 1970’s. Artists like: Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and James Rosenquist who made art from popular imagery. Popular imagery from Campbells Soup cans, candy wrappers, comic books, and name brand companies. Alternatively, “American Indian” art is viewed as being primitive and only created in a one style. American Indian art as a whole can be incarnated as: horses, leatherworks, wounded warriors, stoic men, old chiefs, beautiful long-haired women, dream catchers, and even pottery. The preset idea makes them all have an American Southwest aesthetic. All contemporary Native American Pop Artists such as Steven Paul Judd, Ryan Singer, and Bunky Echo-Hawk have tested the lively idea that all Native American art is Southwest art by portraying modern Native American culture through a Pop Art lens. One of Pop Art’s Key ideas was to blur the boundaries of “high” art and “low” art culture. This concept tested that there is no scale of high and low culture arts. Accordingly, the goal of this research proposal is to study and create artworks that revolve around the ideas of Navajo Pop Art. Navajo Pop Art is an art movement created by the Navajo people to engage viewers about Navajo contemporary life, struggles, popular culture, and language through many mediums of art. The research project will analyze and produce artworks of how Navajo culture has grown with American culture and will make an effort to obscure any boundaries between mainstream Indian Art and Original Native American Art.
Abstract: Canine Parvovirus-2 is a highly contagious viral gastrointestinal disease that has a fatality rate of greater than 90%. Past research of canine parvovirus-2 (CPV-2) shows that the implementation of at least one prevention measure can be successful in preventing parvovirus infection. However, very little research has focused on approaching prevention measures from a holistic perspective where multiple variables are employed. Therefore, the present study will examine what combination of best practices is the most successful at preventing canine parvovirus infection in puppies ages 4-12 weeks. This study focuses on three breeds of livestock guardian dogs: Kangal, Boz, and Anatolian Shepherd that currently reside at Blackleaf Livestock Company in Montana. The study will take place in the summer of 2021, where approximately 6 batches of puppies will be evaluated using a combination of different preventative protocols.
See also the: SOAR Project Database