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Summer 2015 Student Research Projects

Brandon Moretti

Brandon Moretti - Biology

"My project, a continuation of research started by past Albion College students, involves testing the efficacy and the possible mechanisms by which vanadium complexes inhibit cell growth and induce cell death in colon cancer and breast cancer cells."


Danielle Nelson 

Danielle Nelson - Ford Institute

"I’m creating a user-friendly guide for local municipalities to complete their sections of the Great Lake-to-Lake and the Iron Belle trails.” Read the full story


Melanie Fodera

Melanie Fodera - English

"My project was going over my years of personal journals about my life with my autistic brother and turning them into a novel-length work. During this project, I was able to work on my editing, interviewing, and writing skills."


Kevin Claucherty 

Kevin Claucherty - Physics

"To reduce the size and cost of PET machines (cancer and tumor scanner machines), we are attempting to replace the metal shields that protect the detectors of these machines with a thin layer of metal coated directly onto the detectors. Since the detectors are made of glass, the best way to do this is through vapor deposition, which is accomplished by evaporating metal inside of a vacuum chamber while under vacuum. Since I want to become an engineer, the problem solving, laboratory work, and experimental research work I am doing here will give me valuable experience for my future in this career field."


Audrey DeGroot

Audrey DeGroot - Photography

"My FURSCA project involved an overview of Albion's history, learning the use of a large format film camera, and familiarizing myself with a professional lighting studio, all of which led up to creating glass plate collodion negatives, a process invented in the mid 1840s. Mastering this process allows to me focus my photography major, creating a niche for myself in the photographic world, as well as providing the basis for a senior thesis."


Lauren Rasmussen 

Lauren Rasmussen - Biology

 "Growing up in Ann Arbor, an ecologically-minded community, has conditioned me to focus on the preservation of a healthy environment and I would like to help continue finding useful information to protect it."


Jessica McKindles

Jessica McKindles - Psychology

“My project examines why family cohesiveness is related to prejudice toward others seeking counseling. Specifically, I found that locus of control and self-stigma are two reasons why family cohesiveness predicts prejudice toward others seeking counseling.

“The research I have done this summer has given me a strong basis to start building my thesis. FURSCA has been extremely beneficial in giving me extensive research experience that will help me immensely in graduate school. I now feel more confident about achieving my academic goals.”

Alex Kuligowski

Alex Kuligowski - Economics and Management

"Through FURSCA, I was able to continue a cross-course research project on the  Albion Makerspace in a one-on-one setting, with a mentor that had my professional development and best interest in mind. Together, in Albion, we were able to assess community need, identify community partners and potential programming to fill that need, and construct methods to gather data that will be useful for funding strategies in the near future."


Emily Ebaugh 

Emily Ebaugh - Geology and Paleontology

"For my FURSCA project, I am preparing and describing fossil turtles of the Family Dermatemydidae from the Eocene of Wyoming, a group that has been around since the late Cretaceous. My main objective is to determine how many dermatemydid species were present in North America during the Eocene. As a geology major and paleontology minor, this research will provide me with experience that will be beneficial for my future career path."


Alena Farooq

Alena Farooq - Ford Institute

Albion is a small town, but visiting each city park twice a day is no small task. "There are 17 city parks, which per capita might be the most in the United States,” says Alena Farooq, '18, who found herself charmed by a lot of Albion while completing a summer public policy research project on the city’s recreation plan. Read the full story


Taylor Shell

Taylor Shell - Art

"I explored sculptural forms based on my own personal vulnerability. Through this exploration I was able to hone in on my artistic signature for future works and opportunities."


Laura Yurgalite

Laura Yurgalite

"This project, An Examination of Relationship Development Using Tinder, explores the motivations for using the mobile dating app, Tinder, and the communication strategies employed while using it. It expanded my understanding of the Communication Studies field which will benefit me in graduate school."


FURSCA Feature: Sarah McDaniel, '16

Sarah McDaniel, '16, working on her musical arrangement with Prof. James Ball.
Sarah McDaniel, '16, working on her musical arrangement with Prof. James Ball.

Your Major:

Music and anthropology/sociology.

Your Adviser:

James Ball

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

For my project, I am arranging jazz music for small ensembles. I'm taking already existing tunes (for example, "At the End of the Day" from Les Misérables) and I'm creating new versions of them, kind of like covering a song. In order to do this, I've been reading extensively about arranging and listening to music analytically. I use the music notation software Finale to create scores and parts for my arrangements).

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I've learned a lot about harmony, melody, form and various other essential aspects of music that are involved in the arranging process. I've really deepened my understanding and appreciation of jazz and music theory as well.

Why did you pick this particular project?

I've always wanted to try arranging as a way of utilizing my music theory knowledge in a different and more intensive way than I have before. This project gives me the perfect chance to really delve into arranging as a form of creative musical expression.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

My project is helping me to become a better, more experienced and versatile musician, which will help me greatly after Albion. It's also helping me to further develop my self-discipline and creativity, which will help me throughout my life.

What's next for your project?

In the last weeks of FURSCA, I'm finishing up my last few arrangements. Hopefully, in the upcoming year(s), the Albion College Jazz Ensemble will find an opportunity to play some of my arrangements.

FURSCA Feature: Emily Morlock, '15

Emily Morlock
Emily Morlock, '15, with her earthworm rigs.

Your Major:

Biology and psychology, with a neuroscience concentration.

Your Adviser:

Jeffrey Wilson

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

I am exploring the effects of Valerian (an herbal antianxiety drug) on escape and avoidance learning in the earthworm. Earthworms are capable of learning about their responses through a process called instrumental conditioning. If a response prevents an unpleasant stimulus from occurring, it is considered avoidance. If a worm makes a response while an unpleasant stimulus is still occurring, then it is considered escape. Little research has been done with earthworms and the administration of Valerian and the presentation of an unpleasant stimulus -- more specifically, a bright light.

I expose earthworms to a solution of Valerian root, place them in running wheels, and present an unpleasant stimulus in order to record the effects on behavior. I expect to find that worms exposed to Valerian would be less likely to make avoidance and escape responses than are the worms given no drug.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

There is a lot of preparatory work required for running experiments. Before I administered the drug to the earthworms, I had to make sure all programs that recorded data were working, create a schedule for running the worms, calibrate running wheels, and do background research for my drug. Planning ahead and creating outlines for the summer was definitely a key to my success.

Why did you pick this particular project?

My interest in research was sparked in Neuroscience I with Dr. Wilson. Last fall, I asked him if I could help his research student collect data for her thesis. I fell in love with the subject matter and helping with experiments. I found that I was particularly interested in the effects of drugs on behavior, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to come up with my own FURSCA project. I chose Valerian because I am interested in anxiety disorders and this drug is a newly-considered alternative for those with anxiety.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

I intend to present my findings at a national meeting (the Pavlovian Society or the Society for Neuroscience) and at the Elkin Isaac Research Symposium. After my senior year, I plan on attending graduate school in order to pursue my interest in research. Doing summer research, attending conferences, and writing a thesis will be an excellent way to prepare for graduate school.

What's next for your project?

I am currently working on the process of data collection. I run a total of 12 worms a day for four hours at a time. Once all data is collected, I will conduct an analysis to determine if Valerian has an effect on the earthworms' behavior. I wish to continue research into my senior year, and perhaps use my findings as a basis for my senior thesis.

FURSCA Feature: Matthew Kleinow, '17

Matthew Kleinow, '17
Matthew Kleinow, '17, works in the Albion College herbarium.

Your Major:

Biology and music.

Your Adviser:

Dan Skean

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

I am updating and digitizing the information contained in the Albion College Herbarium. A herbarium is a reference library of plant specimens.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I have learned that plant names aren't as stable as I thought, and I have learned much about different plant families.

Why did you pick this particular project?

I mentioned to Dr. Dan Skean that I wanted to do an internship elsewhere, he suggested looking into FURSCA and this project. It will reorganize and update the herbarium, while at the same time uploading the information contained within the herbarium to the Internet. That will make the info easier to access.

What's next for your project?

I'm currently working on tagging the specimens in preparation for digitizing them.I expect that I'll be done digitizing ahead of schedule.

FURSCA Feature: Wally Kacher, '14

Wally Kacher, '14

Your Major:

English with a Creative Writing emphasis. Minors in Psychology and Anthropology & Sociology.

Your Adviser:

Lynn Verduzco-Baker

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

My project is titled "How Hip Hop Is Reviving Detroit," and through a sociological lens, I'm researching the ways Detroit hip-hop artists think about their role in the city as well in the world of hip-hop. In the broadest sense, I'm interviewing rappers at shows, observing producers in the studio, and writing about what I've learned.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I've learned that Detroit as a city is not as important to these artists as much as Michigan as a whole is. These artists aren't trying to separate themselves from the rest of the state. They preach "Michigan versus everybody" and an "everybody eats" attitude. "If one of us makes it big, we all make it," one of them said. Their sense of community trumps any of the artists' individual egos, which is rather surprising considering how self-centered rappers are often portrayed.

Why did you pick this particular project?

Because hip-hop is my passion! I only recently discovered sociology last year and after working my advisor, Dr. Lynn Verduzco-Baker, we were able to find a project that engaged my interests and the field of sociology. It's been a perfect match.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

It has thrown me into an environment far different than our small Albion campus. I assumed myself to be a pretty confident and outgoing dude already, but this project has just tripled that. I've learned not to be so scared to ask questions and open up to people. Most of the time all anyone wants to do is share their story with someone else.

What's next for your project?

Well, my project will be ongoing and exist past this summer. I had one artist tell me that my research was "very special," which has motivated me much more than FURSCA or sociology ever could. I still have much more to learn though. I don't want to make any premature conclusions.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

I've always been the kind of the student that thrives when given the freedom to explore my studies in my own way, and FURSCA provides exactly the kind of the avenue for that kind of studying. I've met so many cool people from my research and I've grown as a sociologist so much. I completely expected this project to be awesome, yet it still exceeded everything I could have ever wanted.

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