2017-2018 Research Rookies

Research Rookies do exciting work! Check out this past year's Research Rookies and learn about the interesting research they have done. We hope you are inspired to apply to be a Research Rookie too. 

Nour AlkarzonBenefits of De-stress Oil as a Natural Remedy

Essential oil is considered to be a type of eastern medication, in which oil is extracted from a plant and used as natural remedies for certain chronic illnesses, such as stress. This type of medication is called aromatherapy. Although this can be a controversial topic, essential oils have proved to act as a strong agent in the reduction of anxiety. Using the essential oils as a natural remedy is crucial, since our dependence on over-the-counter medicines represents how out of touch we are with nature. Integrating the essential oil usage in comparison to prescription medication to our lifestyle is vital, since it is examined to be a lifesaver to many health problems, not only stress. The results for the experimental study for this project would be after some participants use the de-stress oil while performing a provided task, compared to other participants performing the same task without the usage of the de-stress oil.

Mikaela AppleberryX-Ray Studies of Cholesterol in Biomimetic Membranes

I will be creating and comparing artificial cells to biological cells using biomimetic membranes to predict if they function the same way. I will be making theoretical calculations to estimate amounts of cholesterol and silicon to input into a cell membrane. Many people, mostly children won’t completely understand why real and fake cells wont “act” the same. In Cameron Johnson and Julie Luft’s article, they inform populations about cells, stating,” By learning about the history of science, students develop an understanding of the human aspect of science—how it changes overtime and occurs within a social environment.” I plan to discover how artificial cells relate to a real biological cell by adding fatty fluids. I conduct x-ray scattering to check and proceed to inline how both cells relate by function due to the structure of the lipid membrane. Due to phospholipids membranes having hydrophilic and hydrophobic, I calculate inputs of how much silicon and/or cholesterol to put into a cell to check if an artificial cell type reacts in and out of their natural environment. An example of this is in Mark Bretscher’s article, in which it states, “The primary function of all membranes, then, is to separate what is inside the membrane compartment, from the environment outside of it”. Utilizing this information, x-ray scattering is essential in attaining a cells structure. Using the lipid membranes, I predict that artificial cells and biological cells will not have similar functions due to the false structure that an artificial cell has.

Jennifer BernalImpact on Nonprofit Organizations Internal Control Problems on Subsequent Donations

Internal controls are necessary for every company, organization or firm to run properly. The focus of this study is to observe whether donors react or not to internal control weaknesses disclosed by an organization’s auditors report, as well as their reactions after an organization corrects the weakness. We expect that donations will decrease after having knowledge of an internal control weakness and increase after that weakness has been resolved.

Alexa BlairCode-switching among English- and Spanish-speaking Individuals

The topics to be covered in this project will be how personal identity and language proficiency interact with each other, and how this affects instances of code-switching among English- and Spanish-speaking individuals. This review expects to find that older generations will code-switch more, out of lack of proficiency, than their younger counterparts. Differences in the frequency, such as how often in one sentence or over the course of 15 minutes, of code-switching between genders will also be more present in the first generation than in the second. However, code-switching will be just as prevalent in both generations, due to occasions of code-switching presenting themselves very commonly in conversations between individuals that speak at least two similar languages with each other.

Eli BrottmanA Computational Approach to Bring Lettuce to Food Insecure Communities

Leafy green vegetables are an essential component of a healthy diet. Hunger and food insecurity have a significant impact on our nation. To bring more fresh produce to food insecure individuals, we need to figure out how such produce items can be distributed to their communities in a cost-effective manner. While there are food pantries and other sites distributing food to in-need individuals, those resources are limited. To work toward better meeting the needs of particularly needy communities, a mathematical model encompassing the national supply of lettuce, along with their demand in U.S. counties with the highest food insecurity rates, can be used. That multi-commodity model, which analyzes the amounts of various greens being supplied in each location, can be solved for an optimal solution. To create this solution, mathematical optimization software solves two related problems with the constraints of the problem, one minimizing the cost and one dealing with other factors. Those problems are repeatedly solved, based on the previous results, until the same solution is reached. In the output of that solution is other information, such as the marginal, a number which explains the changes in the cost when one of the independent variables is modified. In this research, that data is analyzed, to determine where growth of lettuce should be augmented, such that its cost is minimized most.

Kristen ErnstPostural Control Characteristics of Dance Majors

This study examines postural control characteristics of dance majors of students at Northern Illinois University. The characteristics include vision, the vestibular system – the inner part of the ear, and the somatosensory system – specifically muscle tension in the legs and feet. Measurements will be taken from dance majors using a balance system through four different tests. The dance majors will be given a Sensory Organization Test (SOT), Motor Control Test (MCT), an Adaptation Test (ADT), and Limits of Stability Test. In the SOT, participants will stand on a platform with their eyes opened and closed. In the MCT, the platform will move forward and backward in small, medium, and large bursts. In the ADT, the platform will push the toes up and let them go down in random intervals five times. Lastly, in the Limits of Stability Test, it measures the reaction time and the accuracy and control in shifting the body in each direction. From this study, it attempts to prove that dancers rely heavily or prefer visual information for balance rather than the vestibular system or somatics, while still having strong usage of the other two characteristics, especially during the case of moving without losing stability. This study can go on to prove that dancers have better balance than non-dancers. It can go on to do further research and how it can help people with postural issues.

Daniel FieldErgonomic Evaluation of Classical Guitar Footstools and Supports

This research project will result in the ergonomic evaluation of the two main styles of classical guitar ergonomic implement. This will be achieved by measuring the angles of the torso and the subjective ratings of comfort of guitarists who use these implements. The data will be collected by 3d motion capture software with body markers and post-trial questionnaires. The data from these trials will be analyzed to see if there are statistically significant differences in posture and comfort achieved by these ergonomic implements.

Oriana FloresExploring Academic and Learning Outcomes for Students Engaged in Themed Learning Communities

This study explores the impact of themed learning communities on student learning and the connection to career choice. Learning communities provide students with unique opportunities to connect with faculty and peers and to engage in hands-on learning experiences. At Northern Illinois University, themed learning communities include a cluster of courses that are linked by a particular theme and include integrative assignments. In addition, students participate in out-of-classroom experiences and, in some cases, career preparation workshops. This research will explore the literature on themed learning communities and the factors that make them successful. The outcomes of this literature review, will provide a baseline for program improvement and training faculty teams assigned to Themed Learning Communities at NIU.

Wendy GoesDisability in the Workplace

This research project is focused on understanding the factors associated with individuals’ decisions to disclose invisible disabilities in the workplace and other social situations. Often times those who have invisible disabilities face the risk of social stigma with disclosure. This could make going to work more stressful than it would have been for them to just manage their invisible disability. The positive side of disclosing their disability could result in them receiving accommodations that could help lower the amount of stress they experience during work tasks. It is expected that the benefits of disclosing the invisible disability will generally outweigh the negative consequences, but only after controlling for social stigma. I will analyze qualitative data from semi-structured interviews to address the key research questions.

Holly HensenDo Endangered Species Matter?

This research proposal addresses the question “do endangered species matter?” This question requires us to examine whether endangered species should be saved and why. Many different philosophers have different opinions on the matter. These differences stem from the philosophers’ point of view on the value that these species have. Through analyzing these different values, I will give an example of an endangered species and apply these different views to find the value of this species. Finally, I will give my opinion on the value of species.

Alexandra Hill Computing Lattice Points Solutions to Certain Diophantine Equations

This project focuses on studying solutions to certain equations. The solutions sought are whole numbers. The equations considered in the project are certain Diophantine equations. The equations are created with two variables and set equal to a whole number in varying forms. The solutions to these equations are supposed to be positive whole numbers if solutions exist. The moniker “Diophantine Equations” is homage to later Greek mathematician Diophantos who worked on many mathematical concepts in Alexandria around A.D. 250. During the time of Diophantos and ancient Greece, all of the problem solving had to be done by hand. This project, however, will be working with modern computer programs to find solutions.

Cassandra Krusac

This project discusses the differences between natural and synthetic Ruby and Moissanite gemstones. In this project we will be using a variety of different methods, along with looking at past research, to discover if there are any differences between natural and synthetic versions of ruby and moissanite. We will be looking at the crystal form, chemical structure, and chemistry of the gems, along with any impurities in them. We will then be looking to gather data on differences optically, chemically, and in the crystal form, as well as in basic properties.

Theresa Li Temporal Extension to Geospatial Quadtrees

This research’s purpose is to investigate a temporal extension to the geospatial data structure, region quadtrees. Specifically, we want to create a data structure to represent shapes that change over time. The importance of time-changing shapes is seen in people’s memories of maps and how the level of detail is dependent on the observer’s level of exposure. These maps in our mind change when we move to different places and have different experiences. In this research, we are utilizing past and present shapes of Illinois county boundary lines as a representative case. Our expected results include creating software that makes a data structure that can encapsulate time and be flexible to modifications.

Grace Louis Quality of Life of Patients with Heart Disease

The purpose of this research is to assess the methods in which doctors treat patients with heart problems and the point at which they determine that surgery is needed. The major focus of the research is it to compare and contrast the quality of life between patients who have had open- heart surgery and patients who have pursued other treatment options. This research is necessary to help cardiac patients maximize their quality of life by being given the best possible treatment. Majority of the research will be done through interviews. The goal is to find a population of cardiac patients of all ages, ethnicities, and genders, some of whom have had open-heart surgery and some who have pursued other treatment options. In the interview, quality of life will be assessed using the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) validated questionnaire, and subjects will also respond to a Depression Scale.

Claire Miller Recognizing Causes of Congressional Incivility

Our research reveals characteristics and background information about congressmen that directly and indirectly relate to implications of incivility. We seek to uncover the similarities between some of our country’s most notoriously uncivil legislatures in order to reveal patterns in the variables that may lead to these occurrences. In other words, our research attempts to explain exactly what makes certain people uncivil, and, opposingly, what makes others more agreeable. Our recorded data applies to those from the 45th (1877-78) Congress through the 113th (2013-14). Each congressional member implicated for incivility within this time range was randomly matched with an unimplicated member from their same Congress, their same chamber, and their same political party. By controlling these variables, we were able to discount them as possible causes of incivility. Our independent variables then became the fuel of our research; we measured all matched pairs for the following characteristics: legal education, legal practice, ivy league education, judicial experience, military experience, congressional leadership, military leadership, ideological affiliation, being a chair of a standing congressional committee, gender, and having an interrupted term, among others. We hypothesized that leadership roles and state legislature experience would decrease the likelihood of being implicated for incivility. Our results, however, expelled varied patterns, meaning that some variables displayed positive, negative, or neutral relationships with incivility depending on the year of the data, the congressional party division during that year, and other factors.

Cayli Mitchell Nahua Women: The complimentary life of women in the 16th century before and after Spanish conquest

My research examines Nahua women, gender, and sexuality in pre-columbian and post-colonial Mexico. The study delineates women's role, hierarchical position, and efforts of negotiation in work, religion, and the politics of daily life. It also investigates as much as the sources allow women's sexuality within Nahua culture.

Alyssa Mohr Synthesis, Properties, and Applications of Functional Materials

Current energy sources are inefficient, expensive, and running out quickly. The emittance of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants by fossil fuels, such as coal, is destroying the environment and the atmosphere. Our goal is to explore other alternative energy sources by synthesizing multicomponent functional materials in the laboratory. I will first explore the photoelectric properties of these materials to determine the efficiency of various transition metal compounds to convert photo energy to electric energy. In addition, I will also synthesize a lanthanide compound with a metal organic framework (MOF) and investigate this material’s physical properties in hopes to discover a useful application.

Priya Patel Music Memory

Dementia is a disorder caused by damage to the brain. Dementia patients have a hard time remembering things, which can range from family members names to forgetting a childhood memory. Many people use music to get away from their problems and to think. While music has said to help dementia patients remember childhood memories and helps them get through their daily activities by changing their outlook on their day. Listening to music helps them be happier and recall old memories, which can change their day. The goal of this research is to record the changes in a dementia patient after they listen to music. This research measures the impacts of personalized music and the Music and Memory program provides and measures the impacts of music on mood, pain medication needs, and level of engagement for two individuals enrolled in the larger Music & Memory study. The music is chosen for them based on a thorough assessment of their age, past experience, and preferences. Although, music does not fix dementia, it does help the Alzheimer patients remember old memories and helps change their mood.

Joseph Petsinger Effects of Travel Speed and Powder Flow Rate on Bead Quality in Direct Energy Deposition Additive Manufacturing

This research project involves analyzing the quality of deposited metal beads and how they are affected by powder flow rate and travel speed in Direct Energy Deposition (DED). This will be done by depositing beads using a Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) machine while varying the travel speed of the head. Each bead will then be analyzed in order to observe the quality of desirable outcomes in terms of height-to-depth ratio, amount of porosity, microstructure, and hardness. The data collected from these measurements will be analyzed in order to see where the ideal bead can be developed as the powder flow is increased from one side to the other, while maintaining proportional travel speed and consistent input energy. The objective of these experiments is to develop a dynamic test that can provide an acceptable range of values for powder flow rate to travel speed ratio that deliver consistent and desirable properties for deposited metal bead.

Dhakshenan Pushparajan Dynamic paper Based Diagnostics

Diagnostics is a vital yet, expensive component in the medical field. Due to the cost, medical diagnosis becomes unavailable to many people. Hence, they are not able to receive the medical attention that they may require. This project is aimed to developing a new method of microfluidic diagnostics using capillary actions of paper to create a new method of paper-based diagnostics. This will be achieved by creating a circuit using hydrophobic areas on paper and mechanical switches designed out of Mylar, double sided tape, and laminate sheets. The end goal is to reduce diagnostics costs in the medical field.

Adam Rivas Audit Committee, Gender Diversity, and Audit Partner Choice

This paper examines characteristics that factor into the selection and assignment process of audit partners in the United States. I will examine whether audit partner gender is associated with audit committee member and audit chair gender. The results may indicate that clients with more gender-diverse audit committees and audit chair are more likely to have a female partner leading the audit of their company. My results clarify the important role that partner characteristics, specifically gender, play in the selection process of audit partners. My results also has significance for future research on the assignment process in the U.S., notably due to the new availability of audit partner identities on the PCAOB’s website by the cause of the new adopted auditor transparency rules in 2017.

Kaylee Rosenberger Design and Synthesis of Sulfonamide IspF Inhibitions

The goal of this project is to design a sulfonamide molecule that inhibits the function of the IspF enzyme in the MEP pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis in disease-causing organisms. The molecule will bind to the enzyme’s active site rather than the natural substrate inhibiting its function. Inhibiting this enzyme will cause cell death. The sulfonamide molecule will be designed through the software ChemSketch and docking experiments will be run on the software AutoDock to test the binding affinity of the molecule to the IspF enzyme. Molecules with a high binding affinity will then theoretically be successful in inhibiting the IspF enzyme.

Emma Ruiz Student Recruiting; Marketing to the Hispanic Population

The primary purpose of the current study is to build upon previous research by exploring the primary influences on Latino student’s colleges decisions. As there is an underrepresentation of Latino students in Northern Illinois University and higher education as a whole, the purpose of this study is to determine the connection between Latino high school student’s influences and how it determines the pragmatic decision of choosing a college to attend. The study will involve current Northern Illinois University college students ranging from incoming freshman to graduating seniors, in which they will be surveyed using a program called “Qualtrics” in order to collect data. The results will be evaluated and then examined to determine the primary factors that are influencing Latino student’s college decisions. In efforts to assist Northern Illinois University in recruiting and marketing to Latinos, the study will allow for the university to increase the enrollment rates and diversity on campus.

Ivan Snachez Exploration of Virtual Reality in Modern Teaching

The purpose of this research is to explore the potential of virtual reality. In this project, the research will discover the impact virtual reality can have preparing future teachers. This research will specifically look to prepare Kinesiology students and provide a new approach to teaching that can greatly immerse the student and provide a more efficient way to learn. We expect the research to yield a new approach to learning with virtual reality as an immersion tool.

Olsi Shehu Attention Span of an Article

This research will be investigating three ideas. For the first idea, we will investigate why there are some scientific publications that receive a lot of attention in policy documents, news articles and on social media. We will also investigate how long those articles have a social impact. The second idea will investigate how well the public will understand the scientific outcomes described in online news articles and shared on other online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook etc. This research will also be focusing on making a new approach to measure the general public’s understanding of scientific outcomes in order to make more accurate measurements of scientific literacy. Our expected outcome is to develop models, that explain and predict the popularity of research across online platforms and documents. Another goal is to analyze and figure out what are the factors that influence the public’s interest in the understanding of the scientific outcomes. In this project we will be using new data and a sum of non-traditional features that also apply statistical methods, machine learning, network science and natural language processing techniques to analyze coverage, diffusion and understanding of scholarly works by the press in any online platforms.

Julianna Waugh Fraud in Charities

Whilst living among events such as Hurricane Harvey, the earthquake in Central Mexico, and the Las Vegas shooting, it is easy to feel inclined to donate to charities. As noble as that cause is, it is easy to fall victim to terrorist financing instead of donating to what they think is relief efforts. Over the past decade, charity fraud has developed to make it easier for both everyday people and big companies to unknowingly be financing programs that are either terrorist organizations or simply not what they claim to be. The internet has made it far easier to donate to these causes through both false websites that advertise their ‘causes’ and websites created specifically to fund someone directly, such as GoFundMe and Patron. While the ways to commit charity fraud has increased, as has the ways to prevent it. The topic of fraud in charities is a broad one, but this research will be focusing mainly on past instances of it and how it can be prevented.

Kylie Zawisza Determining the pH Dependency of Maltose-MBP Interaction

Proteins are some of the most diverse molecules in biology. Their roles in the human body are very specific and depend on the three-dimensional structure resulting from interactions between the side chains of their amino acids. Alterations in the protein's environment, such as changes in pH, temperature, or salt concentration, can result in the denaturation of the protein, which makes it biologically inactive. This project will study the binding affinity of the maltose binding protein and its biological ligand, maltodextrin, using isothermal titration calorimetry in order to determine if the interaction is pH dependent. Due to the presence of the amino acid histidine in the binding interface of the maltose binding protein, it is expected that the interaction will be dependent on pH. Understanding the interaction of this protein with its ligand would allow it to be used in other research focused on antibodies. It would also allow for the function of the maltose binding protein in the human body to be better understood.