Redefining the Classroom

Ongoing grant continues to foster undergraduate research

Posted: June 1st, 2012

HEAVY LIFTING FOR SCIENCEStudents and staff with Lake Superior State University's Aquatic Research Laboratory haul a 100-pound sturgeon out of the St. Mary's River. Stefan Tucker, a senior in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from Belmont, Mich., used an undergraduate research grant to study the St. Mary's small population of threatened Lake Sturgeon. An anonymous donor provides funding for the grants via LSSU's Foundation Office. Five other students received grants for research in geology, psychology, forensic chemistry, electrical engineering, and fisheries and wildlife management. (LSSU/ John Shibley)

A print-resolution photo that runs with the caption above can be found by clicking here.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. Six students received cash awards this past semester to support their undergraduate research work at Lake Superior State University. An anonymous donor underwrites the Undergraduate Research Grant effort through LSSU's Foundation Office.

Undergraduate research has always been a vital part of the student experience at LSSU. In fact, the University mission and vision statements emphasize its role in helping students develop their full potential, as well as contributing to the growth, dissemination, and application of knowledge beyond campus.

"An area of pride for our university is the incorporation of student research into the academic programs," says Dr. Barb Keller, Dean of the College of Natural, Mathematical and Health Sciences and also the Chair of the Undergraduate Research Committee that awards these grants. "The availability of the undergraduate research funding has given students access to funding for research projects that otherwise may not have been possible."

The grant application process has students define their project's timeline and submit a detailed accounting for materials and supplies, printing costs, software, project-related travel, and other related expenses excluding student wages. Each line item also requires a formal justification as to how it relates to the project's final outcome. Students must also disclose other potential funding sources, be they departmental, state, or local; even expenses covered out of pocket.

Finally, if animal or human test subjects are part of the study, a full research plan must be submitted to faculty oversight committees that verify certain standards of laboratory care and research ethics.

This past semester's grant topics range from evaluating genetic analysis to detect toxic cyanobacteria blooms, to developing an atlas of microfossils that can be used to date rocks from different geological eras.

Brian Parkham, an electrical engineering senior from Spruce, Mich., worked with members of LSSU's Engineering House to develop a data-logging device that incorporates a microcontroller chip card. The device tracks the performance of a Baja car made by LSSU's chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers. It works collects information on the Baja's speed, engine RPM, and oil temperature and records it to an SD card. The team hopes to incorporate an accelerometer and GPS receiver into the device next year.
Brian Parkham
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Garrett Aderman
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Garrett Aderman, a senior in forensic chemistry from Kingsford, Mich., focused on detecting microcystin, the most prevalent toxin found in harmful cyanobacterial algal blooms. Cyanobacterial algal blooms have been experienced in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron and southwestern basin of Lake Erie. Humans are exposed to cyanotoxins through drinking water and accidental water ingestion during recreation. It is impossible to distinguish between toxic and non-toxic strains of cyanobacteria. Current tracking methods do not relate the toxicity of the blooms. Aderman is developing a method to measure microcystin toxin by looking for a genetic tracer in Lake Erie drinking water. His research will develop an early detection warning system to protect human health.
Alex Zimmerman, a sophomore in geology from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., developed an atlas of conodont, the fossilized remains of a microscopic marine creature that lived 200 to 500 million years ago. He focused on one conodont genus, Neognathodus, to date and to correlate rock ages with relative accuracy. Neognathodus exhibits many distinct features because it evolved rapidly. Zimmerman developed his Neognathodus index to assign a specific number to each distinct conodont feature. Rock layers containing these distinct features in their condont fossils are of about the same geologic age. Zimmerman used his Neognathodus index to correlate rocks in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Missouri, and will continue to utilize it in future research.
Alex Zimmerman
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Stefan Tucker
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Stefan Tucker, a senior in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from Belmont, Mich., is researching a small population of threatened Lake Sturgeon within the St. Mary's River. Lake Sturgeon considered to be the "dinosaurs" of the Great Lakes, are at about 1% their historical abundance. Little information is known about the small resident population within the St. Mary's River, and the numbers that are very vulnerable to future threats. His project is a first attempt to capture larval Lake Sturgeon and document their natural reproduction. Findings will not only be used to protect and rehabilitate this threatened species in the St. Mary's River, but throughout the Great Lakes.
Billie Ennes, a senior in Psychology from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., compared snack food intake between participants playing a video game versus those completing a non-video puzzle. She found that overall caloric intake was greater in the video game condition. Compared with the non-video puzzle group, video game players exhibited a distinct preference for M & Ms and popcorn.
Billie Ennes
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John Ransom
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John Ransom, a senior in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from Traverse City, Mich., is assessing the effects of non-native trout and salmon on native fish communities in northern Great Lakes tributaries after dams are removed. More dams are being removed in the Great Lakes region due to the high cost of maintain old dams and the ecological benefits of restoring flow for aquatic organisms. However, dam removal also opens new territory for introduced species that may out-compete native brook trout for resources and habitat. His project examines the rate at which non-native trout and salmon change fish communities upstream of a removed dam.

Students who want to apply for the next round of grants should run a Web search on "LSSU Undergraduate Research Committee."

Anyone who wishes to support the undergraduate research fund can contact the LSSU Foundation office at (906) 635-2665 or make a contribution through the LSSU Foundation online giving form.


CONTACTS: John Shibley, e-mail, 906-635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2315; Dr. Barb Keller e-mail, 635-2185 ; Sharon Dorrity, LSSU Foundation, e-mail, 635-2665.