The Keystone Program

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Keystone January Term Course

The KEYSTONE January Term course, KEY 115, is a perfect time to begin to explore the scientific method and research process in more depth. The course has a small-group learning emphasis as student teams perform experiments or attack different modeling problems and projects. Through these hands-on learning opportunities, students develop group skills and interdisciplinary approaches and lay an early foundation for fostering intellectual curiosity.

For those in the experimental sciences, the course emphasizes the preparation for doing real research in the summer, or later as an Elmhurst College capstone experience. Students consider questions and hypotheses, design experiments and analyze data while establishing a learning community of peer colleagues.

Below are four sample abstracts of experiments conducted in the 2013 January Term KEYSTONE course.

The Effectiveness of Toothpaste in Killing Staphylococcus Aureus

The purpose of this experiment was to compare the inhibitory and antibacterial properties of Colgate toothpaste against Tom’s of Maine toothpaste with the ultimate goal of concluding which brand was more successful.

In order to determine the optimal antibacterial solution between the two toothpastes, two separate experiments were conducted. In experiment one, three different solutions were made. The toothpastes were mixed with water to liquefy them. 3.12 grams of Colgate and Tom’s were mixed in separate beakers with 10ml of distilled water. Then the solutions were put into three tests tubes containing the bacterium. Finally, the new solutions were placed onto agar plates using sterile cotton swabs. Nine total plates were made (three of each solution) and were put into a 37 degrees Celsius incubator for 24 hours and then into a fridge at 5 degrees Celsius for four days.

For the second experiment, which tested the inhibitory abilities of these toothpastes, 9 agar plates were laid out on the table and the S. aureus was put on the plates using cotton swab. They were then placed into an incubator at 37 degrees Celsius for 24 hours and then into a fridge at 5 degree Celsius for four days.

For experiment one, it was hypothesized that Colgate would have fewer bacterial colonies growing; in experiment two, the hypothesis was that Colgate would have the highest amount of inhibition. According to the results gathered in experiment one, the average number of bacterial colonies grown for Tom’s was 42.5 compared to 0 in Colgate. The results for experiment 2, showed that the inhibition of Colgate was 4.7 cm compared to only 0.8 cm in Tom’s. After analyzing the data, both hypotheses were supported. It was concluded that Colgate had the least amount of bacterial colony growth in experiment one and the most inhibition in experiment two.

The Effect of Different Color Lights on Melanoides tuberculata

The movements of Melannoides tuberculatus in response to preference between different colors of light and darkness were observed and recorded to determine whether this species of snail favors a light or dark environment.

50 snails were obtained from a pet store and placed into a tank. Half of the tank was covered with aluminum foil to create a dark area. A control group, along with a white light, red light, green light, purple light, and yellow light group were each used separately on the other half of the tank to test the hypothesis that Melannoides tuberculatus prefer to be in dark conditions.

The snails were allowed to move about the tank for 20 minutes while being exposed to the different colored light treatments. Two trials were conducted for each different color of light. After each trial, the number of snails present on each side of the tank, light and dark, were counted and recorded. Upon analysis of the results, it was found that Melannoides tuberculatus prefer to be in the light. Overall, 337 snails were counted on the light side of the tank and 263 snails were counted on the dark side of the tank. Further analysis of the results revealed that when warm colors (white, red, and yellow) were used, the snails preferred to be on the light side of the tank. When cool colors (green and purple) were used, the snails preferred to be on the dark side of the tank.

These results show that Melannoides tuberculatus prefer to be in lighter, warmer areas rather than cool, dark areas which is reasonable considering their natural habitat is in Africa, India, South-East Asia, and Northern Australia.

Comparing Short Term Memory of Males and Females

This study was aimed at determining if males or females have a better short term memory regarding a list of words.

The experiment was done by testing 30 individuals, 15 male and 15 female, between the ages of 18 and 20. The test subjects were individually taken into a private room and given a consent form that explained the experiment and were asked to sign it if they wished to participate. 

Each test subject would look at a list of words for 45 seconds, followed immediately by participating in a problem solving game for 1 minute. After playing the game, the subject had 1 minute to recall as many words from the original list as possible. All tests were recorded and the data was then compared between males and females. The expected outcome from this experiment is that females will demonstrate a better short term memory than males. 

On average, a non-gender-specific person could remember 7.33 words per trial. Males, on average, could remember 6.93 words per trial, while females could remember 8.07 words per trial. As a result, although there was a difference between females and males, it was not statistically significant (T test: t=1.53).

Self-Determined Theory Examination of Exercise Motivation Student-Athletes vs. Recreationally Active Students

This study set out to determine the relationship between psychological need satisfaction and self-determined motivation to exercise in student-athletes and recreationally active students.

34 individuals were recruited and given questionnaires (BREQ and PNSE) to determine the psychological need satisfaction and the self-determination of each group. This study predicted that student-athletes would be more intrinsically motivated and the recreationally active students will be more extrinsically motivated due to the athlete’s drive for competition. Also, it was predicted that athletes would have more competence as well as a relatedness mindset regarding exercise.

A one-factor, between-subjects MANOVA was conducted to interpret the results of the questionnaires. Results from the MANOVA were statistically significant according to Wilks’ Λ (.01), F(370.95) = 26.00, p < .000. The results of the univariate analyses found three significant differences in external regulation (.034), introjected regulation (.012) and perceived autonomy (.001) subscales in the questionnaires.

The hypothesis was not supported by the results. The motivations of student-athletes and recreationally active students are too similar to determine which group is more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.

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