May 26, 2005

Undergraduates win research awards

by K.C. Jaehnig

(Editors: Note hometown names)

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Nineteen Southern Illinois University Carbondale students each will receive a $1,500 research grant and an undergraduate assistantship through the University's annual Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity Awards competition.

Grants pay for materials and services related to yearlong research projects set up and run by the students with support from faculty mentors. Assistantships carry a salary for the work students do on these projects, where topics this year range from Antarctic sea sediments to the genetics of cancer to recycling plastics as living room furniture.

The provost's office and the Office of Research and Development Administration underwrite the awards program, now in its seventh year. It exemplifies SIUC's commitment to promoting excellence in undergraduate academics as part of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, an ambitious plan to reshape the University by its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Here are brief cameos of the students (by hometown), their faculty mentors and their work.

Alto Pass: Joshua D. Boone, a junior in mathematics, will use software developed by a former SIUC student and software he himself has been working on for more than a year to create a set of high-resolution, 35-millimeter slides that can teach students the mathematics that determine how light bends to create certain patterns. This, in turn, can help them understand crystallography, the study of the structure of atoms and molecules. David W. Kammler, professor of mathematics, will serve as his mentor. Boone is the son of Daniel W. and Glenda E. Boone (3860 Milligan Hill Road).

Antioch: Frederick W. McLevich, a senior in biological studies, will try to find out if Alaskan devil's club root, a popular herbal remedy for both high and low blood sugar, actually can lower the body's production of insulin and if so, whether it does it by cutting back on insulin secretion or by reducing the number of insulin-producing cells. His will be the first laboratory study of this particular plant root. Laura L. Murphy, associate professor of physiology, will serve as his mentor. McLevich is the son of Fred S. and Mary K. McLevich (26621 W. Grass Lake Road).

Bolingbrook: Adria L. Pilsits, a senior in zoology, will attempt to determine evolutionary relationships in a common family of North American land snails by sequencing and studying mitochondrial DNA because mutations there can help reveal such relationships. She hopes to use that information to construct a genetic "family tree" that could assist both scientists studying the evolution of the snails' reproductive behaviors and shell shape, and wildlife experts attempting to set conservation priorities. Frank E. Anderson, assistant professor of zoology, will serve as her mentor. Pilsits is the daughter of John P. and Linda M. Pilsits (20 Yukon Court).

Champaign: Paul J. Dixon, a junior in geology, has already spent more than a month in Antarctica with mentor Scott E. Ishman, associate professor of geology. Dixon will study a group of organisms called ostracods (commonly known as seed shrimp) living in Antarctic waters near the Larsen Ice Shelf, which is rapidly melting. He hopes to establish how numerous they are in different areas and, by studying fossilized ostracods collected on the sea floor, determine how climate change over the last 10,000 years affected those distribution patterns. Dixon is the son of John C. and Pat M. Dixon (909 S. Lynn St.).

Chicago: Caitlin C. Cusack, (9600 S. Seeley) a senior in art and design who specializes in sculpture, will make molds of her works using different types of rubber in order to determine the advantages and disadvantages of each in creating reproductions. She plans to exhibit the results in the thesis show required of students earning bachelor of fine arts degrees. She also hopes to produce a report detailing procedures and other technical data, problems she encountered and their solutions, and listing distributors to help other sculpture students. James R. Weiler, visiting assistant professor, will serve as her mentor.

• Jami N. Jackson (1506 E. 71st Place), a junior in psychology, will use two new measurement tools to survey 100 high school members of a Carbondale youth center in order to identify factors that influence their decisions about continuing their educations. She hopes results will help parents, teachers and counselors come up with new, more effective approaches in dealing with this generation of teen-agers. David L. DiLalla, associate professor of psychology, will serve as her mentor. She is the daughter of Staci E. Bass and Jeffrey L. Jackson.

Des Plaines: Jonathan M. Cohen, a senior in forestry, will examine the relationship between people's attitudes about beautiful landscapes in general and their attitudes about what constitutes acceptable management of landscapes they've come to love. The nearby Shawnee National Forest will serve as his laboratory as he surveys and interviews some 50 people chosen to represent both the general public and local interest groups. He hopes results will give federal land managers a tool they can use as they try to comply with a mandate to involve the public more in plans to manage public land. Jean C. Mangun, associate professor of forestry, will serve as his mentor. Cohen is the son of Robert L. and Patricia S. Cohen (551 S. Fifth Ave.).

Du Quoin: Jennifer D. Dilliner (337 N. Linden), a senior in special education, will assess the impact that intensive supplemental reading instruction has in improving the reading and writing skills of six to eight middle-school students enrolled in an alternative education program in nearby Anna. She also will try to determine whether improvements, if any, are permanent. She hopes results will help teachers and administrators of such programs provide effective instruction, which in turn could lead to better performance on standardized tests demanded by the No Child Left Behind Act. Regina M. Foley, professor of educational psychology and special education, will serve as her mentor.

Kansas: Ashley L. Webb, a sophomore in fashion design and merchandising, will try to get a fix on what junior and senior high school students think constitutes an offensive or threatening message when it appears on a T-shirt. She will buy 30 shirts, use the reactions of a small group to narrow the number to 10, devise a questionnaire to pin down reactions and then survey 200 boys, 200 girls and 50 teachers. She hopes results will help school officials better understand the climate such shirts create and assist them in formulating dress code policies. Jane E. Workman, professor of architecture and interior design, will serve as her mentor. Webb is the daughter of James G. and Cynthia A. Webb (3716 E. 700th Road).

Kinmundy: Matthew G. Wegener, a sophomore in zoology, will determine ages and growth and death rates of silver and bighead carp, two Asian species living in the Illinois River. One of these species grows faster than both native and other non-native fish, which could give them an advantage in the competition for food. Wegener hopes his results will aid fisheries biologists in developing management strategies to reduce the impact of these carp. James E. Garvey, assistant professor in the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center, will serve as his mentor. Wegener is the son of Glenn W. and Mary J. Wegener (6920 Omega Road).

Marion: Christopher M. Jenkins, a junior in electrical and computer engineering, will select some common circuit designs, settle on a built-in testing technique to check for errors of a certain type, then choose at random some of those errors, insert them and use a simulator to see if the technique actually catches and reports the errors. He hopes to identify a testing technique that will work on all circuits, but even if he only figures out which tests work best for a particular type, those results could help future designers of built-in tests refine their work. Dimitrios Kagaris, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will serve as his mentor. Jenkins is the son of Donald R. and Kristi J. Jenkins (14255 Orient Mine Road).

Mt. Carmel: Stephanie E. Dulgar (514 N. Mulberry), a senior in geology, has already spent more than a month in Antarctica with mentor Scott E. Ishman, associate professor of geology, collecting sediment and core samples from the seafloor near the Larsen Ice Shelf, which is rapidly melting. She hopes her laboratory analyses of these samples will reveal how different parts of the shelf changed over time and at what rate those changes took place. Her results will help determine whether natural forces or global warming have played a part in melting the shelf. She is the daughter of Stephen W. Dulgar and Karen M. Waterbury.

• Patrick D. McGill, a senior in chemistry, will work at producing a super-small, inexpensive mechanism that can help microprocessors and other such devices function at top speed without overheating. He estimates that his device, which manufacturers could incorporate into their microelectronics packages using existing technology, will prove between 10 and 20 times more effective than other such devices currently on the market. Punit Kohli, assistant professor of chemistry, will serve as his mentor. He is the son of Tracy L. and Barbara S. McGill (931 Cherry St.).

• Emily B. Wallace (1001 Oak St.), a senior in physiology, will examine the role that two particular genes play in the development of prostate cancer. She will compare tumor growth in mice having two copies of each gene with tumor growth in mice that have only one copy of each and also with tumors in mice that have no copies at all. She is especially interested in what happens to the mice with only one copy of each gene as humans often inherit a single copy of a working gene. Because few scientists have looked at these particular genes at the same time, no one knows whether they work together or influence each other, so Wallace hopes her results will assist future research. Michael W. Collard, associate professor of physiology, will serve as her mentor.

Murphysboro: Jeremy H. Griffin, a junior in art and design, will experiment with combining two glassblowing techniques, one that involves glass heated by a torch during the glassblowing process and one that uses pre-melted glass. Each technique offers the artist unique benefits, but artists previously have not combined the two because of limitations in available glass. A new type of glass makes a mix of techniques possible. Griffin will experiment with form and color to see what works best, complete at least three finished artworks to showcase the possibilities and produce an instructional manual and lesson plan so that other glassblowers can learn how to work in this medium. Jason D. Roberts, visiting assistant professor in art and design, will serve as his mentor. He is the son of John C. Griffith of West Frankfort and Murphysboro resident Marilyn H. Haworth (9166 Highway 127).

Niles: Mario A. Romano (7338 W. Greenleaf), a senior in psychology, will work with rats in a study designed to test an economic principle called substitutability, which says that as the price of something rises, consumers begin purchasing similar but cheaper items — for example, renting videos instead of going to the movies. Romano will train rats to deposit marbles in a chute; when they do so, they'll get a food reward. He will then train them to press a lever to earn the marbles. When they deposit one marble in the chute, they'll get a food pellet, but "buying" sweetened condensed milk will require one, three or nine marbles. Romano thinks the rats will buy milk when they have to push the lever only once to get it, but as the cost goes up, they'll switch to pellets. Because this study combines the methods of experimental psychology with the concepts of microeconomics, Romano hopes it will further other such cross-disciplinary work. Eric A. Jacobs, assistant professor of psychology, will serve as his faculty mentor. He is the son of Anthony K. Romano and Sandra L. Romano.

Orangeville: Danielle K. Estes, a senior in sociology, will conduct in-depth interviews of between 12 and 20 SIUC students who have children in childcare, seeking to discover the factors that led to their decisions to place their children in care and those that influenced the type of childcare they chose. She hopes results will help caregivers better understand the needs and concerns of student parents. Robert D. Benford, professor of sociology, will serve as her mentor. She is the daughter of James E. and Diann M. Estes (10078 N. Bellview Road).

Springfield: Sara N. Reardon, a sophomore in microbiology, will breed a strain of mice that lack in their skin and mammary glands a particular gene thought to suppress tumors. Once she has at least 20 such mice, she will monitor their health for four months to see whether they develop tumors — something she expects to happen. If it does, it will provide compelling evidence that this gene does in fact play a crucial role in the development of breast cancer. Michael W. Collard, associate professor of physiology, will serve as her mentor. Reardon is the daughter of former Springfield residents David C. and Kimberly M. Reardon.


Renton: Brandi Honnen Frey, a senior in art and design, will experiment with seven types of recyclable plastics, looking for ways to use them in creating an entire living space — furniture, rugs, window treatments and such — which she plans to exhibit in a local gallery to demonstrate the potential of such material in creating sculptural objects. Frey hopes her work will inspire in its viewers increased awareness of waste and a greater interest in recycling. Carole L. Loeffler, assistant professor in art and design, will serve as her mentor. She is the daughter of David J. and Tammy J. Honnen (19223 135th Ave. S.E.).