The Division III Summer Symposium is an opportunity for summer research students to share their research with students, faculty, and staff within the Science and Mathematics Division. The symposium is held during lunch hour on Wednesdays throughout the summer (see calendar). For 1-2 hours, you will listen to research occurring presently on campus while eating pizza. Be on the look-out for emails regarding upcoming presentations and be sure to RSVP so that we can make sure there is enough pizza to go around! 

June 16th

Mentors: Drs. Ellen Swanson, Kristen Fulfer, Sarah Murray

Presenters: Katie Barnes, Sharon Mega, Natalie Cha Olguin, Rachel Stowe, & Abby Wheelis

Title: Cultivating Inclusive Environments in STEM

Abstract: As part of the new general education curriculum, all incoming students will take at least one Division III course. Not all students will begin these classes at the same confidence level. This project analyzes trends in student experiences taking introductory STEM courses. The data being gathered is from students of different backgrounds. Based on these trends, the goal is to compile, create, and curate resources to support students. Using surveys and interviews of STEM alumni, the project is gathering data about overall experiences in STEM courses and obtaining more detailed accounts of alumni’s experiences and what could be improved. As more data is gathered, resources are being collected to increase confidence in introductory STEM courses, beginning with math, chemistry, and physics courses.

Mentor: Dr. Drew Morris
Presenter: Cameron Coulter (Kennedy Cline is also working on the project but unable to present) 
Title: Eye-Tracking: Cognitive Applications of Human Attention
Abstract: Our Applied Cognition Lab is continuing a four-part experiment on the underlying cognitive processes that lead to the judgement of value in art. Previous findings showed that individual knowledge of art and time spent looking at art predict perceived value. Current questions are being asked to better understand how gaze informs judgment processing. Eye-movements, guided by nonconscious processes, can help quantify human behavior. Eye-tracking technology was therefore used to help visualize cognition. Pupil Labs Invisible eye-tracking glasses were used along with iMotions software. Analyzes include both qualitative and quantitative visual data using heat maps and area of interest (AOI) statistics. Fixations and saccades (eye movement) can be further used to research spatial attention, reading, language, memory, and complex tasks. Our personal experience has shown eye-tracking to be a complex technology that requires much trial and error. The data obtained, however, is uniquely advantageous and has great potential.

Mentor: Dr. Amanda Falk

Presenters: Summer Allahham, Bart Frasier, & Zachary Gregory

Title: Devonian Fossils from along KY-89 and US-127 in Central and Eastern Kentucky

Abstract: Kentucky is unique in that it straddles two distinct geologic basins, the Appalachian Basin in the east, and the Illinois basin in the west. The Middle Devonian Boyle Formation is found in both these basins and represents a time period where the world is approaching a major mass extinction event. We have sampled two distinct  and unique beds within the Boyle Formation (one along KY-89 that contains visible vertebrate remains and one along US-127 that is primarily a pebble conglomerate that does not seem to have visible vertebrate remains) and compare the fauna to determine if there are distinct differences between the two basins. If so, this may indicate that environments were changing more rapidly in one basin than the other.


June 30

Mentor: Dr. Jeff Heath

Presenters: Ellie Dunham, Eric Merdian, & Shelby Young

Title: Centre Sports Analytics Data Management

Abstract: Obtaining play-by-play data is essential to calculate many advanced sports analytics. Many sports, including our own teams at Centre, have publicly available play-by-play data available on the web. In this initial phase of the project, we are extracting play-by-play data for several Centre sports, as well as parsing the data and preparing it for analysis.


Mentor: Dr. Jeff Heath

Presenter: Audrey Becker

Title: Ideal Pacing for Cross Country and Swimming

Abstract: We analyze pacing data for NCAA Division III cross country and swimming events, and discover strong correlations between pacing and finish time. We deduce that many competitors often employ suboptimal pacing, and in general the pacing is increasingly poor for the slower finishers.


Mentor: Dr. Jeff Heath

Presenters: Kevin Sivakumar & Noah Stewart

Title: Centre Baseball Analytics

Abstract: Centre Baseball has begun recording pitch-by-pitch data of its games. In this project we use this data to calculate many situation specific statistics. These statistics will allow the coaches to make in-game decisions as a function of the ball-strike count in the evolution of a single at-bat. Further, we use this data to calculate RE24, a measurement of run expectancy value added/lost for a single at bat, for our Centre players.


July 7th

Mentor: Dr. Kari Young

Presenter: Max Gordinier

Title: Understanding electronic properties of platinum-aluminum complexes

Abstract: The electronic properties of platinum-aluminum complexes are largely unknown. A better understanding of how platinum and aluminum atoms communicate in a molecule has potential to improve a known ethylene polymerization catalyst. This research project is partnered with the Brewster group at the University of Memphis. The Brewster group has focused on synthesizing aluminum complexes and an aromatic linker. At Centre, the focus has been on synthesizing complexes with platinum bound to a phosphine and a phosphine oxide. In this presentation, progress towards making platinum complexes with platinum bound to a phosphine and a phosphine oxide will be presented.


Mentor: Dr. Kristen Fulfer

Presenter: Sheridan Wagner

Title: The Effects of the Hofmeister Series Salts on Hydrogen Bonding

Abstract: A protein’s characteristics can be varied through different interactions with cations and anions. The ability of salts to have such influences also vary across certain series of salts, which are called the Hofmeister series of cations and anions. A protein’s characteristics and functions are dependent on the geometric shape of the protein. Their shapes are reworked through intermolecular interactions, specifically hydrogen bonding, between water and functional groups of these biological systems. In this project the carbonyl functional group is utilized as a probe of the hydrogen bonding network of water. This functional group is specifically present in methyl acetate. Methyl acetate is then combined in aqueous solutions containing different salts from the series. Using FTIR spectroscopy at varying temperatures, changes to the hydrogen bonding network due to the presence of cations and anions are detected.


July 14th

Mentor: Dr. David Toth

Presenters: Nicholas Alicea, Selam Van Voorhis, & Hayata Suenaga

Title: Automating a Virtual Screen for Drug Discovery

Abstract: We created programs to automate the process of virtual screening for drug discovery.  Programs were written to unzip thousands of files, separate those files into individual compounds for the screen, create a single file to enable the screen to be run with a single command, restart the screen with just a couple commands after power outages, and collect the results.


Mentor: Dr. David Toth

Presenters: Aken Chani & Lam Le

Title: Creating a GUI to Make Heatmaps for Non-Programmers

Abstract: We created a program with a graphical user interface to allow non-programmers to create heatmaps to visualize their data with just a few mouse clicks.  The program allows the user to easily customize their heatmaps and export them as .png or .pdf files to use in their publications.


Mentor: Dr. Michael Bradshaw

Presenters: Muhammad Mujtaba, Becky Song, Christian Fronk, Gus Crow, & Josh West

Title: Visualizing Rich Data Models in Video Games

Abstract:  Arcane Architect is a 3D video game built on the Unreal engine.  AA is a base simulation game, where the user designs and runs a "School for Wizards".  We will present how underlying information in the game( student schedules, energy dispersion, and character actions) can be visualized for the player to interact with.



July 21st

Mentor: Dr. Mark Galatowitsch

Presenter: Will Baughman

Title: Ant Foraging: Collective Decision-Making

Abstract: Foraging is a vital activity for ants so they can provide the food resources necessary to sustain the colony “superorganism.” Because it is readily observed, ant foraging activity has been an area of great scientific interest. I investigated the rate at which Lasius ant colonies discover food sources and exploit them. Colonies were excavated on the Centre Campus to establish artificial nests. In the lab these nests were connected to bifurcated tubing leading to two smaller foraging arenas. At three-day intervals workers from each colony were given a choice between two arenas containing food and water, respectively. The number of ants accessing each arena over a 30 minute period following food discovery was recorded. The majority of colonies favored arenas containing food, but no statistically significant preference was observed. These results suggest significant limitations on resource identification exist, complicating efforts to utilize food sources. Future research will consider the influence of threat stimuli on foraging behavior.


Mentor: Dr. Mark Galatowitsch

Presenter: Xavier Ovalle

Title: Between a Rock and a Hard Place | Drying Effects on Psephenus herricki

Abstract: Climate change is altering temperature and precipitation regimes which causes water availability in aquatic habitats like streams to become increasingly irregular, with frequent strong floods and prolonged dry periods. These changes could be a serious threat to aquatic invertebrates if they are not adapted to these stresses. Waterpennies are beetle larvae are common in Kentucky streams with evidence of resistance to stream drying. This research explores the strategies waterpennies employ to endure drying stress. Laboratory experiments tested whether waterpennies diapause and/or seek moist substrate environments to resist desiccation. We observed that they do not go into diapause, but remain active and likely seek moist microhabitat refuges. Although survivorship and moisture level are unrelated, there was evidence that rocks promote their ability to resist drying. Our research provides insight for how invertebrates may handle irregular drying conditions. It may be more beneficial to search for moist microhabitats than to enter diapause so they can more quickly exploit their environment when the water returns.


Mentor: Dr. Daniel Scott





Mentor: Dr. Bruce Rodenborn


Title: Tracking energy sinks when internal waves reflect from boundaries

Abstract: Many geophysical fluid systems have a density that varies as a function of height. For example, both the Earth’s ocean and atmosphere are such stratified fluids. The density variation allows for a special type of wave, called internal waves, to propagate within the fluid. In the ocean, these waves are hidden, but in the atmosphere, we often see clouds that appear in bands, which is evidence of internal waves propagating in the atmosphere. The Rodenborn lab studies these systems using laboratory experiments where the density is varied using a salt solution and measure the motion of the fluid using cameras and laser illumination. We present interesting results that may help explain why continental slopes are eroded to a particular angle throughout the world. We recently discovered that there is a wave reflected back toward the source when internal waves reflect from a solid boundary in our numerical simulations, which has not been reported in the literature. We seek to reproduce this result in our laboratory experiments and report on our progress in characterizing this phenomenon.


Mentor: Dr. Bruce Rodenborn

Presenters: Asha Ari and Alexandra Boardman

Title: Boundaries Affect Bacterial Swimming

Abstract: The world of microorganisms is dominated by viscous dissipation, which is known as a low Reynolds number environment. As a free swimming bacterium  approaches a boundary, both the propulsive force and torque on its helical flagellum increase rapidly and bacteria spend the majority of their life cycle near boundaries. We use scaled macroscopic experiments to measure this functional dependence of the the force and torque as a constrained rotating helical flagellum approaches a boundary. We keep the Reynolds number in the experiments much less than unity to model bacterial fluid dynamics. These Reynolds-number-scaled experiments are compared with numerical simulations made by Hoa Nguyen and Nicholas Coltharp at Trinity University. The computations find a similar functional dependence of force and torque on boundary distance. We also compare the results to biological measurements conducted by Orrin Shindell at Trinity that use total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to simultaneously measure the distance to the boundary and the dynamics of the bacteria in an effort to understand how bacterial morphology is affected by swimming near a boundary.


Mentor: Dr. Bruce Rodenborn

Presenters: Zaid Ahmen and RJ Smith

Title: The Three-Link Swimmer at Low Reynolds number

Abstract: E.M. Purcell postulated in 1976 that simplest geometry that can result in locomotion in a low Reynolds number environment consists of three links connected by two joints. This simple conceptual model has led to a broad field of study in physics and mechanical engineering because it may provide insights into why microorganisms use particular gaits to move, where a gait is defined as a repeating sequence of motions. For the three-link swimmer, a gait consists of the motion of the two angles that join the three segments of its body. Hatton and Chosett (2013) developed an abstract theory to predict the motion of a three-link swimmer, which has only been tested using numerical simulations and using robots swimming in sand. We seek to test their theory using a macroscopic robot placed into highly viscous silicone oil so that the robot is swimming at low Reynolds number for the first time.


July 28th

Mentor: Dr. Karin Gill

Presenters: Lauren Chatfield & Elsie Mead




Mentor: Dr. Claire O'Quinn

Presenters: Hanna Montalvo

Title: Redesigning for Student Success: Updating the Bio 110 Labs

Abstract: Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is an instructional method that helps to promote critical thinking and reasoning skills in the classroom. Implementing this method in Biology 110 labs allows students to better understand and engage with the material. Our research focused on restructuring labs in the IBL approach to achieve more student-directed learning. To restructure the Bacteria & Natural Selection lab, we tested a large selection of both natural and manufactured compounds for their ability to inhibit growth across 4 different bacterial species. An additional 9 antimicrobial compounds were added to the existing list of compounds that students can now choose from to carry out this experiment. 


Mentor: Dr. Prayat Poudel

Presenters: Colby Kinser & Seoyoung Hu

Title: Untangling the Mess: Modeling Knotted Proteins

Abstract: Proteins are an essential building block for all life. They play many critical roles in the body - they are responsible for the structure, function and regulation of organs. Even though they are linear molecular chains, they often fold to function. Furthermore, the topology of folded proteins is widely considered to define their properties and functions.

In this talk we will discuss how we can use knot theory to study the structure of proteins. We will begin with the basics of knot theory, the basics of protein structure, and then discuss our work in analyzing the structures of knotted proteins.


Mentor: Dr. Vanessa Song

Presenters: Hoang Le & Madeline Presley

Title: Synthesis of Organic Semiconductors

Abstract: Organic semiconductors containing extended aromatic systems are growing in interest due to their application towards solar panels, organic light emitting diodes (OLED), and other flexible electronic devices. Over the summer, two 6,13-disubstitued pentacenes containing functionalized tetramethyl cycloalkane ethyne units are attempted to be synthesized and studied computationally for their stability and application towards thin-film transistors (TFTs).


Dr. Erin M. Wachter                                             Dr. Karin E. Gill

Olin                                                                   Young 218

Phone: 859-238-5938                                         Phone: 859-238-6513

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