The Keystone Program

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Summer Research Experience

2013

Fourteen paid positions were available for student researchers in math and the sciences as part of Elmhurst College’s 2013 Keystone Summer Research Experience. Each of these positions involved a six-week commitment of approximately 20 hours per week during June through August.

Biology Projects
Project 1
Dr. Tamara Marsh, faculty mentor

Genomic sequencing has revealed that several of the methanogenic Archaea carry heavy metal reductases, yet no methanogens have been shown to transform heavy metals. Biochemically and thermodynamically, it is reasonable to assume that the metal, rather than CO2, might serve as the terminal electron acceptor during anaerobic respiration. Work in summer of 2013 will attempt to establish consortia (mixed cultures) of methanogenic Archaebacteria obtained from Yellowstone National Park in order to determine heavy metal reducing capabilities under methanogenic conditions. Sediment, water, and soil samples will be incubated under methanogenic conditions in the presence and absence of heavy metals oxyanions (ex: chromate). Successfully established and maintained hydrogenotrophic, metal-transforming mixed cultures will be further purified to establish co-cultures and pure cultures to determine the mechanisms by which the heavy metal is transformed. A second aspect of this project will involve cultivation of a methanogenic Archaebacteria pure culture, Methanobacterium formicicum, to evaluate the ability of this pure culture to transform heavy metals much the same as hypothesized to occur in mixed cultures.

Project 2
Dr. Kyle Bennett, faculty mentor
Mitochondria, the cellular organelles in which respiration takes place, have their own maternally inherited circular genome. Many bivalve mollusks have a unique mitochondrial inheritance system where males have a second mitochondrial genome present only in sperm cells. This summer’s project in Dr. Bennett’s lab is to sequence and compare the mitochondrial genomes found in the somatic and male gamete cells of a pair of marine mussel species from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida. We hope to better understand the nature of this bizarre inheritance system.

Chemistry Projects
Project 1
Dr. Colleen Munro-Leighton, faculty mentor

For this project, one student will serve as a research assistant for a project in the area of carbon dioxide sequestration. The student will learn synthetic laboratory skills as well as characterization methods for identifying reaction products. The ideal candidate will have an interest in green chemistry, have a strong desire to obtain experimental research experience, and be able to work well in a collaborative setting.

Project 2
Dr. Kimberly Lawler-Sagarin, faculty mentor

In this project, the research assistant will contribute to ongoing experimental and computational studies of natural indigoid dyes. The student will undertake synthetic laboratory work and computational chemistry experiments. The ideal candidate will possess good mathematical skills and a have a strong desire to obtain research experience. The candidate should be comfortable approaching and learning how to use new software and be able to work well in a collaborative setting.

Computer Science Projects
Dr. John Jeffrey, faculty mentor
The students will be working on implementing algorithms in three models of computation each using concurrent threads of execution and each expressed in different languages or libraries. One will involve using C++11 built-in concurrency constructs and translated to Intel/AMD multi-core microprocessors. Another will use the CUDA programming utilizing the NVidea Graphics Processor Units (GPUs). Another will use the map-reduce abstraction across a distributed set or computer clusters.

Exercise Science Projects
Dr. Raymond Kraus, faculty mentor
The research assistant for this project will learn how to use Dartfish, a recently acquired motion analysis software package. The objective will be to develop and optimize the experimental procedures involved with the video analysis of movements and trajectories and/or the calculation of speed, distance and velocity from a mutually agreed upon sport specific movement (e.g., a golf swing, a volleyball serve, etc.). The ideal candidate will possess a strong interest in exercise science and in obtaining research experience.

Mathematics Projects
Dr. Allen Rogers, faculty mentor
The project will explore instances of chaotic behavior in the application of Newton's Method to roots of functions. Investigations will be carried out using software such as Maple and The Geometer's Sketchpad. A particular focus will be the extension of the techniques to the setting of hyperbolic geometry. Priority will be given to candidates who will have completed at least two mathematics courses at Elmhurst College at or above the level of calculus. No previous knowledge of Maple or The Geometer's Sketchpad is required.

Physics Projects
Dr. Venkatesh Gopal, faculty mentor
Development of a Camera Trap to Monitor Wildlife
The primary aim of this project is to develop a low-cost “camera trap” to be used to map the movements of elephants in the Nilgiri Hills in India. The Nilgiri Hills and Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) is the home to the single largest population of Asian elephants in the world. The NBR is also bordered by regions with high human population density, leading to a number of incidents of human-elephant conflict. The project aims to develop a low-cost remote camera trap that will be placed in a number of locations in the forest. An infra-red motion detector will be used to trigger the camera when a large object such as an elephant is close to the camera. These images will be stored on an onboard SD card whose contents will be periodically transferred to a computer for analysis. The image data will be geo-spatially tagged using GIS software and used to build up a map of elephant population density. This information will be used to inform strategies on minimizing human-elephant conflict.

Psychology Projects
Dr. Katherine Moore, faculty mentor
A summer research opportunity is available for a current first-year student in the Attention, Memory and Cognition Laboratory led by Dr. Katherine Moore. The research assistant will contribute to ongoing experiments on visual attention, color perception and/or music cognition. Potential duties will include recruiting and testing participants, aiding in data analysis and stimulus preparation, reading scientific literature, and attending weekly lab meetings.

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