Claire Hamilton ‘19

The Role of Place and Environmental Values in Northeastern Farmers' Land Management Decisions

Water pollution in Iowa is primarily driven by sediment runoff and chemical inputs from agriculture.  Once a state covered in prairies, Iowa’s landscape has been transformed into a patchwork of conventional monocultures.  Yet, alternative practices such as organic farming and the implementation of best management practices (BMPs) are growing, especially in Northeast Iowa where the limestone bluffs, hills, and rivers encourage more sustainable practices.  This study investigates how farmers’ relationship and understanding of place contributes to their land management decisions. It will specifically address: how sense of place and environmental attitudes of Northeast Iowa farmers impact their land management practices?  Through qualitative analysis of interviews with 8-10 farmers, this study will try to understand how specific elements of place and farmers’ environmental attitudes influences their decisions to implement alternative farming such as the BMPs, organic farming, and other conservation programs.  Ultimately, I explore how farmers who are forward thinking, closely connected to land, and actively engaged with acquiring knowledge are most likely to risk transitioning to agriculture practices that sustain and regenerate the earth for long-term use. With these findings, Iowa policy makers and communities can develop strategies to support sustainable agriculture practices that will benefit Iowa’s water bodies.

Faculty Advisor:  Rachel Brummel

Claire Hamilton ‘19, Joshua Tank ‘20

Herbivory Damage on Cultivated, Wild, and Hybrid Varieties of Helianthus annuus

Crop plants have been selected over time in order to increase anthropocentrically valuable qualities such as increased yields.  Meanwhile, the same genetic and phenotypic selection may make crop varieties more vulnerable to herbivores than their wild counterparts and so requires pesticide application. We studied Helianthus annuus , a cultivated sunflower, which has been bred over centuries to produce more seeds at faster and more efficient rates.  Hybrid sunflowers have also been bred in attempts to integrate beneficial phenotypes from two different sunflower populations.  We quantified the difference of insect damage on cultivated, wild, and hybrid populations of H. annuus.  Our results showed the wild, hybrid, and cultivated populations of H. annuus experienced different levels of damage.  Specifically, the cultivated populations had more damage compared to the hybrid and wild populations, thus leaving cultivated populations more vulnerable to insect herbivory. This research is consistent with other studies done across types of crops. It is important to recognize beneficial traits (seen through compared cultivated, hybrid, and wild populations) and to maintain genetic diversity especially during domestication in order to create more resilient populations such as H. annuus

Faculty Advisor:  Eric Baack

Isaac Highum ‘19

Determining the Functional Requirement for the C. Elegans Matrix Metalloproteinases ZMP-4 and ZMP-6

In multicellular organisms the ability of cells to manipulate their extracellular environment is a critical aspect of development, and is regulated through proteolytic degradation of the extracellular matrix (ECM) that surrounds cells. Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs) are the main secreted ECM remodeling enzymes in multicellular organisms, and their dysregulation is a primary contributing factor in a wide range of diseases including cancer and neurodegeneration. Despite this, the mechanisms underlying how aberrant MMP activity contributes to disease remain unclear. The purpose of this study is to identify new roles for MMPs using the model multicellular organism Caenorhabditis elegans. Specifically, our goal is to reduce expression of two uncharacterized MMP genes in C. elegans, zmp-4 and zmp-6. Briefly, we used restriction-enzyme based cloning to insert the coding regions for zmp-4 and zmp-6 into the C. elegans RNA-interference (RNAi) feeding vector L4440. Next, we will treat wild type and RNAi-sensitive strains of C. elegans with these RNAi reagents. Using morphological, developmental and behavioral analysis, we will characterize phenotypes induced by reducing the expression of either zmp-4 or zmp-6. Ultimately, this phenotypic observation will serve as a basis for further studies to investigate the cellular and developmental roles of zmp-4 and zmp-6.

Faculty Advisor:  Brian Hiester

Catelyn Janda ‘19

In-Service and Pre-Service Teacher Views on Addressing Social Justice in the Music Classroom

Social justice is becoming a topic of increasing importance in the field of music education.  Many music teacher education programs and music education scholars are calling on teachers to address social justice in their music classrooms.  This study compared the perceptions of pre-service and in-service music educators regarding inequities in the music classroom. An electronic questionnaire was sent to in-service music educators who are alumni of Luther College and current Luther Music Education students.  The survey included demographic information and inquiries about addressing social justice in the music classroom. From this research, I hope to discover strategies for addressing social justice in the music classroom, as well as how their Luther education prepared them to do so.  These findings will bring attention to important issues often not considered by professionals in a field steeped in Western European traditions. I will also provide insight into strategies for addressing social justice in the music classroom.

Faculty Advisor:  Jill Wilson

Catelyn Janda ‘19

The Luther College Community Music School

Throughout much recent literature and professional development, educators of all disciplines agree that teaching experience is essential for a pre-service teacher’s growth as an educator.  Luther Music Education students receive teaching opportunities in their coursework but do not have extended experience teaching individual students. This study explored the feasibility of implementing a community music school that would provide educational opportunities for both the community and Luther students.  Using feedback given from local music teachers and research from similar institutions, a community music school was set up to run in the fall of 2018, successfully enrolling students in private lessons and classes taught by qualified Luther Music Education students. The program was successful and opened again in the spring of 2019, expanding to give more Luther music students teaching opportunities.  These findings demonstrate that there is a growing need for music teachers in the local community, allowing Luther music education students to increase their learning with hands-on experience teaching students.

Faculty Advisor:  Jill Wilson

Allen Junge ‘19, Eros Casas ‘19, Kevin Cobble ‘19, Jason Hu ‘19

WebIDE - An Online IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for Budding Developers

There are many different types of IDEs in existence. The team developed one such IDE for any and all budding developers for the most common programming languages to date. Currently, it is difficult to compile a program for multiple platforms from one place. Our application allows the user to write their code once, and compile it for all major operating systems.  To accomplish this task, we used a combination of Python, TOML, JSON, HTML 5, CSS 3, PyTorch, GCC, Clang, JavaScript, Bash, TCC, Docker, NodeJS, and AJAX. This combination allows the user to compile in several programming languages, including, C, Rust, and all major interpreted languages.  When the user writes their code, they select a language to write in, an operating system to compile on, and the specific compiler they wish to use. All of this information is then fed to the back-end, where it securely compiles and executes the code the user submits. The output, whether an error or not, will then be displayed on the site.  This IDE can be used for small to medium sized projects. It will make development quicker, as there is less setup involved. It is also ideal for people who want to experiment, or don't want take a risk of code found online.  Overall, this IDE promotes the Java style, "write once, run everywhere", mentality.

Faculty Advisor:  Roman Yasinovskyy

Morgan King ‘19

Storytellers and Listeners:  How Ear Hustle Bridges the Life Inside and Outside of Prison

The podcast Ear Hustle, recorded and produced inside the infamous San Quentin State Prison, illustrates how two vastly different worlds can be united through storytelling.  The podcast is hosted by two people, an incarcerated man and an outside volunteer, who represent the life inside and the life outside of prison. I argue that the podcast’s lead pair pose the optimal partnership needed to create a storytelling relationship.  This relationship, enriched by curiosity, vibrant memories, and deep emotions, allows the listener and the storyteller to create a bridge between their lives. Because the listener and the storyteller must surrender their own perspective to enter the world of the story together, the stories reveal the vulnerability of human connection.  The two contrasting roles in a storytelling relationship depend on each other for the success of the story. By examining the way Ear Hustle portrays the relationship between the listener and the storyteller, and by exploring how literary critics understand the ethics of storytelling, my research suggests that storytelling has a special power:  a power to bring two differing partners together; the power to unite two perspectives; the power to bridge different realities; and the power to liberate two people through human connection.

Faculty Advisor:  Lise Kildegaard

Bradley Kovacovich ‘19, Rafael Broseghini ’19, Tristan Shaffer ‘19


Treffe is a campus-specific social network for events and activities, designed to connect individuals with similar interests. This application allows users to create a profile that lists their interest areas. Users are then able to create and join events around campus and the surrounding area that correspond to these areas. Treffe makes it easy for new students at a college to connect with like-minded individuals who have similar hobbies. In this presentation, an overview of the application will be given, including general useability, page layout, and key features. Furthermore, utilized technologies and important design decisions during the implementation process will be highlighted. An overview of the software cycle for this application including planning, analysis, design, implementation, and testing will be given. The agile scrum workflow method utilized throughout this process will also be described.

Faculty Advisor:  Roman Yasinovskyy

Madeline Kroeger ‘20, Jam Riyan Hamza ’21, Michaela Lindemann ‘20

Synthesis and Characterization of a New Unsymmetrical Diglycolamide Ligand for Fare Earth Metal Extraction

Dioctylpiperidinyl diglycolamide (DOpipDGA) is an unsymmetrical diglycolamide (UDGA) ligand that can extract rare earth metals.  Unsymmetrical DGA ligands are designed to improve the kinetics of metal partitioning from the aqueous phase to the organic phase in the solvent extraction process.  Synthesis that utilizes dimethylsulfate, rather than N,N'-dicyclohexyl carbodiimide (DCC), is favorable because when in contact with water, dimethylsulfate reacts to form sulfate and methanol, which are relatively non-toxic byproducts compared to the larger organic molecule DCC.  Our research was comprised of the synthesis and purification of the new ligand, DOpipDGA, as well as the determination of the metal-ligand complex ratios. Synthesis reactions were monitored using infrared (IR) spectroscopy and product identity was confirmed with proton and carbon nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.  Silica column chromatography was used as the purification method for removing impurities, byproducts, and side reactions from crude DOpipDGA. Ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) spectrophotometry was used to determine that the metal-ligand complex ratio for DOpipDGA and Nd was 3:1, which is standard throughout DGA literature. A fitting method was also used to solve for conditional stability constants for the three metal-ligand complexes for future comparison with other UDGAs.  UDGA ligands have potential application in removing rare earth metals from consumer electronics for recycling.

Faculty Advisor:  Benjamin Tokheim

John Kuntz ‘19, Matthew Espey ’19, Andrew Tiede ’19

Matchgirl:  A New Musical Theater Work

Through our studies, we aspired to answer the question of how to collaboratively write a culturally and socially aware piece of musical theatre:  a form of performative art which has historically been steeped in heavy racism, sexism, and ableism. In our research leading up to the crafting of our show, we studied the music of some of the most loved pieces from the American musical theatre canon, drawing from My Fair Lady, Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd and the productions of Chicago, West Side Story, Love Never Dies, and Cabaret.  Additionally, we studied the texts of My Childhood, The Bear and the Nightingale, Lizzie:  The Musical, Hans Christian Andersen’s Complete Fairy Tales, Blithe Spirit, The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, and Stephen King’s On Writing, amongst others.  The scores and texts we studied provided us a groundwork in which to begin writing our musical, inspiration for dramatics within our story, as well as techniques to employ in the writing process.  Through this process, we discovered that synthesizing the content and techniques employed by these works while simultaneously collaborating amongst each other in this complex project proved challenging, yet rewarding.  This project revealed to us that working with others so closely on a creative project as massive as this posed innumerable challenges artistically and interpersonally, but ultimately presented an invaluable opportunity to grow as artists, both collaboratively and otherwise.

Faculty Advisor:  Jeff Dintaman

Matt Lagus ‘19

Bee Diversity and Comparison of Trapping Methods along an Elevational Gradient in an Ecuadorian Cloud Forest

Bees are among the Earth’s most important pollinators, making them crucial to both ecosystem function and human food production. However, in the midst of observations of worldwide declines in bee populations, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the status of many species in the tropics. Consequently, the goals of this study were to assess bee abundance and species richness along an elevational gradient in an Ecuadorian cloud forest and to compare the effectiveness of five bee trapping methods (Van Somer traps, Malaise traps, essence traps, entomological hand nets, and bee trays). Bees were collected using these methods at four different elevations (1400 m, 1600 m, 1800 m, and 2000 m) and then identified to morphospecies in a lab in Quito, Ecuador. We collected 104 bees representing 33 morphospecies and three families. Elevation did not have a significant effect on species richness and abundance. Hand nets and Van Somer traps were the most effective trapping methods with respect to bee abundance and species richness. The factor that had the highest correlation with bee abundance and species richness was the amount of sunlight during sampling periods. These results may ultimately play a role in informing conservation and monitoring strategies for bees in neotropical cloud forests.

Faculty Advisor:  Kirk Larsen

Alexander Lapinski ‘19

Shifting the Musical Landscape:  Dynamism in the Game Soundtrack of FEZ

The video game puzzle platformer FEZ was released by Polytron Corporation in 2012 to great fanfare, beginning a wave of successful games by independent developers that continues to this day.  Though the game’s success came not least because of its soundtrack by Rich Vreeland, better known as Disasterpeace, there is little understanding of why the game’s music is so impactful.  In this study, I will examine FEZ’s soundtrack to analyze how its dynamism—the music’s ability to change on the fly—affects and is affected by the game’s mechanical design, aesthetics, and narrative.  I achieve this through discussion of the music in the context of gameplay and examination of the game’s audio files and source code. I will demonstrate how the music’s implementation rewards players for exploring the world of FEZ slowly and thoroughly by offering players reorganizations of the music for deliberately slowing their pace of play, serving as a timing mechanic for certain puzzles solved by understanding the music’s structure, and utilizing thematic material to guide the player to make narrative connections between disparate areas.  I provide insight into the ways that a game’s soundtrack can guide player behavior and contribute to the overall experience a game can provide.

Faculty Advisor:  Engelsdorfer, Amy

Ana Itzel Lopez Romero ‘19

La Pachamama Está Viva:  Non-human Rights and Personhood in the Andes

Can non-humans have human rights?  Do all persons have human rights? Personhood is a notion that is used to define the members of moral communities.  Personhood is essential to human rights discourse because some accounts rest on its definition to describe duty bearers.  Philosopher James Griffin defines human rights as protection of personhood for right-bearers. As the term “human” rights indicates, personhood has traditionally been assigned to members of the human species.  However, ethnographic studies across cultures provide evidence that this is not necessarily the case. In this paper, I use examples from ethnographic studies of indigenous communities in the Andean region of Latin America to critique Griffin’s account of personhood as grounds for human rights.  I use the Andean cosmovision and their category of La Pacha Mama to show that non-humans can display the characteristics of persons and act as full members of moral societies, and in some cases, be right-bearers.

Faculty Advisor:  Jon Jensen

Shannon Lunn ‘20

Men's Experience with Fibromyalgia:  A Comparison Across Cultures

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder, characterized by fatigue and pain across the body.  Of people affected by fibromyalgia, almost 75-90% of cases are women, and research exploring men’s experience with this disease is limited.  Working with a sample of men across Spain and the United States, this presentation will portray their experience of pain and fatigue. Ten men in Spain and seven men in the United States provided information about their symptoms through individual and focus group interviews, in addition to quantitative questionnaires.  The presentation will examine men’s experiences with pain patterns, intensity, triggers, as well as patterns of fatigue. Results indicate that men experience pain and fatigue in ways that are unique compared to women. Additionally, comparisons across US and Spanish men shed light on the significance of cultural and societal contexts to their experiences.  These findings will be compared to national and international diagnostic and assessment criteria. This presentation brings forth considerations for diagnosing and assessing men with fibromyalgia that will hopefully assist providers in recognizing the signs and symptoms to support earlier treatment and patient-centered care in diverse populations.

Faculty Advisor:  Angela Kueny

Linh Luong ‘20

Geophysical Investigations at the Lane Enclosure Site

Geophysical remote sensing is a technique that uses the earth’s physical properties to detect various sublayers of human activities that have accumulated throughout thousands of years without physically digging.  The site focused on in this project, the Lane Enclosure, is located along the Upper Iowa River in Allamakee County. It is defined by a circular ditch and embankment that is known to contain the remains of a ca. 1500 AD village within the boundaries of the ditch.  Using a dual fluxgate gradiometer, a soil resistivity meter, and ground penetrating radar, we were able to find evidence of the shape/structure of the enclosure and the previous excavations. Each imaging modality allowed us to view different geophysical properties of the site, revealing evidence of an entryway into the enclosure as well as traces of previous trenches from excavations over the last 100 years.

Faculty Advisor:  Colin Betts

Zach Martin ‘19

Charm Meson Production from Radiative Bottomonium Decays

Centered in Tsukuba, Japan, the Belle experiment collected a great deal of data using the KEKB particle accelerator.  With access to this data, a great many interesting studies of bottomonium, wherein a bottom quark is bound by the strong force to an anti-bottom quark, may be conducted.  We have examined official continuum Monte Carlo samples at the Υ(2S) energy level to characterize the production of various charm mesons, or D mesons, as a function of the particle’s reduced momentum.  Through additional analysis of Monte Carlo associated with the decay chain Υ(2S)→γχbj(1P)→D+X, with X as any other particle, we have characterized the yield of these D mesons from the various decays of the χbj(1P) states as a function of the energy of the photon emitted by the Υ(2S).  These results will be used in future analyses as we carry out an identical analysis on the true data collected by the Belle detector in an effort to better understand the strong force.

Faculty Advisor:  Todd Pedlar

Jake Mester ‘19, Meghan McGinnis ’19, Hannah Reuss ‘19

ITS Dashboard

A team of students created a dashboard for Luther College's Technology Help Desk. The managers of the Help Desk were looking for a way to help oversee and keep up with their workers and tickets in a quick and easy way, as well as having an application that future help desk employees could further develop. They brought on a team of students who came up with the solution of a Dashboard that would show information, in an easy-to-read format, from the many different organizational structures the Help Desk employs. They worked through the struggles of working with a third party and accessing their pre-built databases, as well as learning that not all programming languages work well together. However, in the end they have created a well-built application and framework for ITS to use and continue to develop.

Faculty Advisor:  Roman Yasinovskyy

Nkosi Mngomezulu ‘20

The Role of Fundamental Analysis in Forex Trading:  An Analysis of Scalping Strategy in the EUR/USD Pair

Any forex (foreign exchange) trade strategy is essential in trading currencies profitably. The trade strategy should include key aspects of the market such as fundamental and technical analysis.  This study focuses on the scalping strategy, examining its effectiveness as a trading strategy in a trading environment characterized by continuous cycles of news releases, among other influencing factors. The supposition is that fundamental analysis should be a prominent feature of an effective scalping strategy. This analysis takes into account the influence of news releases on forex market volatility.  The investigative model proposes a mediating role played by other factors, namely international trade and the level of technology adoption by forex traders. The study focuses on testing the model using a one month observation of data. Preliminary outcomes indicate that high impact news releases are relatively more relevant for effective scalping strategy. Based on the outcomes, the implication for forex traders is that an effective scalping strategy should feature a fundamental analysis approach that properly identifies high impact news releases.

Faculty Advisor:  Tony Mutsune

Fezile Mnisi ‘20

Music Composition

This session summarizes experiences from the 2018 student/faculty collaborative summer research project conducted by Fezile Mnisi and Professor Tim Schweizer.  The project focused on both the artistic and technical scope of creating music and included the entire process of music production from the beginning of a song idea to the final recording.  During the research symposium session, I will highlight different stages of the collaborative research project and include samples of music produced at different stages. I will also share different views of the project, looking through the lenses of the artist, the songwriter, the vocalist, the engineer, and the producer.  Finally, I will discuss how the research experience and what she learned about composition, arranging, recording and mixing has led to new opportunities.

Faculty Advisor:  Timothy Schweizer

Robert Muller ‘20

The God Who Suffers:  An Exegetical and Theological Exploration of Pain and Suffering

In the midst of experiences filled with violence, pain, and suffering, theists often find themselves attempting to reconcile their views of a Good God with their reality of a broken world.  When facing these questions, some turn away from their traditions, but some delve deeper into their faith and religious communities. This study attempts to uncover a Christian response to the Problem of Pain and Evil in the world (often referred to as Theodicy) that does not minimize suffering but produces real hope and healing out of real suffering.  Research is conducted through an exegetical analysis of the Christian scriptures in their original languages alongside multiple historical, diverse, and contextual approaches to the Theology of the Cross. This information is then informed by and applied to a youth-camp context. The outcome of this study is to create a curriculum for leaders in Christian communities in how they teach and approach suffering regarding youth and young adults.  My presentation is two-fold in purpose: (1) to share findings on the role of God and Community within the midst of suffering and (2) to start conversations and gain input on how suffering is approached in the Church.

Faculty Advisor:  Todd Green

Natalie Nelson ‘19, John Kuntz ‘19

Virago:  A Study in Writing for Song

The creation of modern art song, a musical setting of a poem for solo voice, requires effective collaboration between composer, poet, and performers.  This study addresses the aspects of libretti (musical texts) which make them desirable material for musical settings and the compositional aspects which lend themselves to vocal art song.  Many people assume that the performance of the solo voice is paramount in art song. However, effective art song involves an interplay between all performers and writers. We researched libretti and poetry which is frequently set to music (i.e. Keats, Shelley), searching for qualities which lend to their musical settings. We then collaborated to write a song cycle of twelve poems, experimenting with different techniques of musical setting. We collaborated on the development and performance of these pieces. We conclude that the structural components of repetition, rhyme, and evocative sound and association, as well as the textual components of contrasting emotion, audience consideration, and imagery, are the six main elements which lend themselves to effective modern art song.  These findings illustrate the desired character of the collaboration between all influencers of the art song creation and performance.

Faculty Advisor:  Carla Hanson

Jacob Noble ‘19

The Effect of Prior Encouragement by Owners and Strangers When Dogs Attempt to Solve the Unsolvable task:  Gazing for Permission or Gazing for Help?

When pet dogs are tested with a difficult but solvable task along with wolves and shelter dogs, pet dogs’ problem-solving behavior is inhibited, they gaze at humans more often and show less persistence in solving the task than both wolves and shelter dogs. In our experiment, we tested two alternative hypotheses: the dog looks at the human 1) for permission to attempt to solve a task or 2) for help with the task. Dogs were given either encouragement or no encouragement during prior training with a solvable task and then tested on an unsolvable task. If dogs are gazing for permission during an unsolvable task, then dogs given prior encouragement during training should gaze less and be more persistent at attempting to solve the task than dogs not encouraged, because they know that they have permission. However, if dogs are gazing for help, then dogs in both training conditions should gaze for a similarly high duration. We found that dogs that received encouragement during training gazed less than dogs that were not encouraged, supporting the permission hypothesis. Dogs were also much more persistent at trying to solve the task when the handler was their owner, as opposed to a stranger.

Faculty Advisor:  Kristy Gould

Benjamin Nottleson ‘19, Benjamin Nelson ‘21

Influence of CdSe Nanocrystal Shape on Optical and Vibrational Spectra

Semiconductor nanocrystals are useful for a wide range of applications, but their efficient use depends on an improved understanding of their properties.  To characterize nanocrystals of different shapes, we investigated whether crystal shape influences spectral peak features, such as position or width. In this study, previously determined synthesis procedures were followed in order to create CdSe nanocrystals with shapes such as spheres, cubes, rods, and pyramids of various sizes and crystal structures.  The shape and size of these nanocrystals were analyzed using TEM. Critical analysis of absorption, emission, and Raman spectra was used to correlate electronic spectral broadening mechanisms and crystal vibrations with nanocrystal shape and dimensionality. This work illustrates the potential use of optical and vibrational spectroscopy for the characterization of CdSe nanocrystals beyond the well-established studies of spherical CdSe nanocrystals.

Faculty Advisor:  Molly Wilker

Hawi Nyiera ‘20, Serena Rolland ‘20

Analyzing the Binding Relationship between Curcuminiods and Human Serum Albumin through Steady State Fluorescence Spectroscopy

Curcuminoids are a class of photoactive organic compounds that have practical applications as photosensitizers in photodynamic drug therapy (PDT).  PDT is an alternative cancer therapy that targets a specific treatment region using a photosensitizer to create reactive oxygen species, which cause cellular apoptosis of cancer cells.  This research focuses on the binding relationship between human serum albumin (HSA), a common drug-carrying protein in the human blood, and various curcumin derivatives. The derivatives used in this study were differentiated by the substituent groups (-OCH3, -OH, -H) on the aromatic rings, which resulted in varied molecular polarity.  Observations from homogeneous, binding, and quenching studies show that all curcuminiods bind to HSA.  However, the more polar curcuminoids such as didemethyl curcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin are observed to have a greater binding affinity toward the tryptophan site found in subdomain IIA in HSA, while the non-polar curcuminoiods have a lower binding affinity for HSA.  These results indicate that the curcumin derivatives show great potential for use as photosensitizers in PDT.

Faculty Advisor:  Olga Michels