March 31, 2004

20 students honored for scholarly, creative work

by K.C. Jaehnig

(Editors: Note hometown names)

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Twenty Southern Illinois University Carbondale students will receive a total of $28,559 in research awards, the largest sum ever granted in the University's annual Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity Awards competition.

SIUC officials announced the names of the winners March 29 during the University's annual Undergraduate Research Forum, an event that showcases students' scholarly and creative work.

In addition, for the first time since the program started six years ago, all winners who apply for undergraduate assistantships -- positions that will carry a salary for the work they do on their projects -- will receive them.

"It's pretty exciting," said Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Prudence M. Rice, who oversees SIUC's Office of Research and Development Administration. ORDA and the University provost's office underwrite the awards program.

"We've been able to combine two programs that encourage student learning activities into a wonderful package for some of our best students. It's a win-win situation."

Promoting excellence in undergraduate academics is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Award winners, who will conduct studies of everything from the presidential State of the Union address to the effects of American ginseng root on prostate cancer cell growth, hail from all parts of Illinois, four other states and a foreign country. Their grants will pay for materials and services related to their yearlong projects. Here are brief cameos of the students (by hometown), their faculty mentors and their work.


  • Michael A. Lencioni, a senior in biology and secondary education mentored by Assistant Professor Frank M. Wilhelm, will study Campus Lake larvae of phantom midges (non-biting flies that live in lakes) to see what and how often they eat. Because he will focus on late-stage larvae that overwinter in the lake, his results, when combined with a similar study of young larvae in the spring, will show the overall impact of these midges on the lake's microscopic animal population. Lencioni's grant totals $770.
Arlington Heights
  • Christopher G. Krantz, a senior in physiology mentored by Associate Professor Laura L. Murphy, will investigate the potential of a popular herbal supplement, American ginseng, in treating, and perhaps preventing, prostate cancer, a disease that affects one of every six American men. He hopes to publish his results in a scientific journal and perhaps present the findings at a national convention. His grant totals $1,500.


  • Shane C. Hassler, a senior in art and design mentored by Associate Professor Richard E. Smith, will construct the type of tools traditionally used by Japanese artisans in producing and finishing metal hollowware of gold, copper and silver alloys, and then will use these tools to make such metalware himself. Once he masters the techniques, he plans to try using modern means to work with different alloys and experiment with different finishing techniques. Hassler's grant totals $1,500.


  • DeAnn L. Harley, a senior in physics mentored by Assistant Professor Shane Stadler, will study the effects of temperature and other deposition parameters on the magnetic and structural properties of thin films made of Heusler-alloys. These alloys have many potential uses in spin-electronics, a new technology that uses the spin of electrons to construct extremely small and fast devices. Harley hopes to identify a way of synthesizing these films to take maximum advantage of the alloys' spin-polarization properties. Her grant totals $1,500.


  • Kelly A. Ming, a senior in physiology mentored by Visiting Assistant Professor Piroska Huvos, will study the genetic development of ciliated protozoa, singled-celled organisms with tiny, hairlike cell organs that help them move about. She will focus on the rearrangement of chromosomes (a common feature of both normal development and disease in many organisms including humans), comparing the process in different forms of ciliated protozoa in order to see how subtle changes in chromosomal structure influence rearrangement. Ming's grant totals $1,465.


  • Andrew J. Blackwell, a junior in biological sciences and graphic art mentored by Research Professor Karen Renzaglia, will use an electron microscope to "photograph" sperm cells of two of the world's oldest species of land plants. He will then transform these two-dimensional pictures into three-dimensional computer images, producing digital models that researchers from many fields can easily understand and use. Blackwell's grant totals $1,500.


  • Joshua C. Hunt, a senior in psychology mentored by Professor David G. Gilbert, will work with 24 smokers to see if nicotine reduces stress and anxiety by helping them pay less attention to negative or mixed social signals and by making them less likely to read mixed signals as unpleasant. If this turns out to be so, stop-smoking programs could work on helping people deal more effectively with negative moods, lessening the chances that they would fall back on smoking to relieve stress. Hunt's grant totals $1,500.


  • Raphi K. Rechitsky, a senior in sociology and philosophy mentored by Assistant Professor Jennifer L. Dunn, will analyze how U.S. mass media have portrayed anarchists over the last century, paying particular attention to changes that have taken place since September 11. He will present his findings both in paper and video form. Rechitsky's grant totals $1,420.

Oak Forest

  • Jason R. Inczauskis, a junior in plant biology mentored by Assistant Professor Loretta Battaglia, will try to nail down what helps the Chinese tallow tree, a highly invasive species in southeastern states, out-compete native plants. Learning more about this plant may help slow its progress. Inczauskis' grant totals $1,500.


  • Joseph R. Stringer, a junior in chemistry mentored by Assistant Scientist Yuqing Hou, will use chemical reactions to modify a particular kind of molecule often used as a binding agent so that it can penetrate and damage bacterial cells. If successful, this work could lead to the production of a broadly effective, biodegradable, low-cost disinfectant.


  • Randall K. Oitker, a senior in chemistry mentored by Assistant Professor Ling Zang, will fabricate organic semiconductor nanocrystals, characterize their optical properties and analyze their structure. The work will advance the long-term research goal of Zang's group, which focuses on using organic semiconductors in making nanoscale opto-electronic materials. Oitker's grant totals $1,200.


  • Waleed A. Abbasi, a junior in zoology mentored by Assistant Professor Frank E. Anderson, will try to determine whether tentacled creatures now classified as the Indian squid and the pharaoh cuttlefish are genetically uniform or whether each classification actually consists of several similar but genetically different species. If small, yet-unknown species have been lumped together as one, commercial overfishing could spell their extinction because the broad classifications do not truly represent their numbers. In that case, data provided by this study could demonstrate the need for conservation efforts. Abbasi's grant totals $1,494.


  • Sean P. Coombe, a junior in political science mentored by Assistant Professor Jason Barabas, will look at how U.S. presidents' highly publicized State of the Union speeches jibe with the public's knowledge of and opinions about the programs, policies and issues the speeches describe. His grant totals $1,495.
  • Temitope A. Oshodi, a senior in biological sciences mentored by Assistant Professor Frank E. Anderson, will produce an evolutionary family tree for a group of very large, very common snails that serve as an important food source for small woodland animals. Such a tree could help other researchers studying the snails' reproductive behavior and shell development and serve as a foundation for conservation decisions. Oshodi's grant totals$1,290.


  • Naarah L. Lindsay, a junior in physiology mentored by Assistant Professor Jena J. Steinle, will use rats to study the role of nerve growth factor, which can promote blood vessel growth, in causing blood vessels to grow in the eye. Results, combined with those from other studies done in Steinle's lab showing that sympathetic nerves (the "fight or flight" system) can cause eye disease,
  • may lead to new treatments for age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that blurs the "straight-ahead" vision needed for activities such as reading and driving. Lindsay's grant totals $1,425.

St. Joseph

  • Joshua A. Buursma, a junior in cinema and photography mentored by Assistant Professor Michael D. Covell, will produce a 10- to 15-minute, 16 mm film from his original screenplay, "A Family Evening" dealing with a young boy's coming of age, death and dying, and inter-generational relationships. His grant totals $1,500.



  • Margaret M. Kramer, a senior in art mentored by Professor Richard W. Mawdsley, will study and report upon body decorations created by pre-Columbian South American goldsmiths, then use lost-wax casting to create original ornaments that reflect both this heritage and contemporary influences. Her grant totals $1,500.



  • Eric E. Johnson, a junior in plant biology mentored by Research Professor Karen Renzaglia, will describe and document how the spore cell walls of a primitive, moss-like liverwort develop, a process that no one completely understands as previous accounts differ with each other. Because this particular plant descends from one of the oldest lines of land plants, information on its spore structure and how it develops could help other researchers better understand the evolution of ancient land plants. Johnson's grant totals $1,500.



  • Maja V. Wright-Phillips, a senior in psychology mentored by Associate Professor Lisabeth A. DiLalla, will draw on material gathered in earlier studies as well as newly collected information to look for long-term connections between childhood anxiety, solitary play and later difficulties with schoolmates. Results could help those who work with children intervene before problems become entrenched. Wright-Phillips' grant totals $1,500.


Pulau Pinang

  • Ven Ney Wong, a junior in chemistry mentored by Associate Professor Daniel J. Dyer, will use ultra-thin polymer films to modify silicon wafers in an attempt to create "smart" materials that can respond to environmental factors such as changes in temperature or pH levels. Someday, engineers may be able to use these materials to create tiny chemical "laboratories" on a computer chip. Wong's grant totals $1,500.