From Timpani Heads to Gamma Spectrometry Detectors to Teen Health Clinics: McNair Summer Research

Ten McNair Scholars will be conducting research under the supervision of faculty mentors this summer.  Two students are completing research this semester.  Read about their plans:


Jose Aburto – Most people, outside of scientists and policymakers, do not understand the term ecosystem services; yet it is used to communicate important issues concerning the health of our local environment.  The research I am doing is to see who do people trust when communicating about conservation issues, like ecosystem services.  We are also researching what the public already knows about ecosystem services and how can scientists communicate more effectively to the general public.   Mentor:  Dr. Jessica Thompson, Communications and Performance Studies

Josh Nickels – My project will consist of the creation of a program that models gamma spectrometry detectors in such a way that it will enable future experimenters to optimise their detectors before they build them, allowing them to design the most efficient detectors possible for their experiment, including efficiency calculations for detector geometries, so that expensive real world test processes, such as the use of calibration sources, will be rendered unnecessary.  Mentor:  Dr. Will Tireman, Physics

Troy Morris – My research this summer is looking to be an investigation of the impact on an individual’s locus of control and relevant leadership ability by use of visual and audio intervention. This would be done through a controlled baseline evaluation of a participant’s locus of control, followed by instituting an intervention as a condition of either strictly visual, strictly verbal, a visual read to them, or a visual read out loud by the participant. This research aims to provide data-based evidence of varying techniques in motivation or self-motivation.  Mentor:  Dr. Sheila Burns, Psychology

Amanda Fliflet – I will be researching the acoustical properties of timpani heads and mallets. Different timpani heads and mallets produce various tonal colors and timbres of sound. Musicians often describe these sounds as “dark, bright, wet, dry,” etc. It is a difficult process for music educators and performers to purchase timpani heads and mallets without first hearing the desired sound. For my research, I will measure the frequencies and overtones of the timpani head, graphing these sounds so people can “see” the sound and timbre of a timpani or mallet prior to purchase.  Mentor:  Dr. James Strain, Music

Tiaira Porter – This summer, I will be conducting research on the transport of neuromuscular junction proteins in the absence of brain-derived neurotrophic factor(BDNF). Certain proteins will be targeted for their movement (or lack thereof) with the protein. BDNF is an important factor for muscle growth, and cell signaling.  Mentor:  Dr. Erich Ottem, Biology

Julio Diaz – I will be doing a case study on the teen health clinic in Gwinn. We will be analyzing the health care policies in place before the clinic was implemented and now what is in place. We will also be observing the clinic’s practices and how it has influenced the lives of the community.  Mentor:  Dr. Kristi Robinia, Nursing

Emily Mydlowski – This summer I will be working with Dr. Alan Rebertus on a project about plant community dynamics in response to disturbance in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. In October 2000 lightening struck and caused a surface and ground fire to burn for 14 days unnoticed. Surface fires are those that burn low vegetation and leaf litter whereas a ground fire burns in organic layers in the soil and beneath the surface. These fires affected different forest types in lowlands and highlands of the forest which poses the opportunity to observe changes in vegetation regeneration between the forest types. Fire disturbances have numerous impacts on the landscape, soil processes, and seed bank. The area has not been assessed since one of Dr. Rebertus’ graduate students, Josh VanDerMark, studied the area in 2002 and 2005 for his Master’s thesis. My work in the summer will be a follow-up on Josh’s thesis to see how the forest has changed in the past 13 years.  Mentor:  Dr. Alan Rebertus, Biology

Nicole Shoup – My research consists of developing a method to rapidly identify Staphylococcus aureus. S. aureus infections cause skin infections, UTIs, meningitis, toxic shock syndrome, amongst others. Current testing methods require a minimum of 24 hours. Using immunomagetic beads and light scattering technology, we hope to shorten testing time to 3-5 hours.  Mentor:  Dr. Josh Sharp, Biology

Nathan Crane – During spring break of the Winter 2015 semester, I spent my time in Brazil, learning about the natural resources cultured and used by the people of Brazil, specifically those living near the mouth of the Amazon River. The field station that our group was housed in has an impressive number of species found in very close proximity. While in Brazil, the students photographed and identified as many species as possible, and coordinated with Brazilian students to determine the native name for said species. Dr. Leonard and I are developing a wiki-style webpage that can be used by English-language speakers visiting the station to identify some of the local species. The site will have lists of species divided by general taxonomic groups, and each species will have its scientific name, English name, and Portuguese name listed on the page, as well as a photograph and the location that it was found on/near the station.  Mentor:  Dr. Jill Leonard, Biology

Alex Steinline – For my project I will be working with the Michigan DNR to analyze changes in walleye diet since 1988. Specifically, I am looking to see if the fish have changed their feeding habits as a result of competition from invasive species. The study area is Big and Little Bay de Noc in northern Lake Michigan.  Mentor:  Troy Zorn, Department of Natural Resources

Alex Schlee – Mentor:  Dr. Paul Andronis

Sara Sutherland – Mentor:  Dr. Erich Ottem