Laura Olson ‘20, John Kelly ’21, Samuel Moyer ‘20

Exploring Paths:  Parker's Conjecture on Square Sums

Given all the numbers from 1 to some arbitrary n, there are certain ways to order the numbers that have interesting properties.  One such ordering is 8, 1, 15, 10, 6, 3, 13, 12, 4, 5, 11, 14, 2, 7, 9, which has an interesting property. Each pair of adjacent numbers in this ordering sums to a perfect square number.  There is a conjecture that it is always possible to construct such an ordering when n (the largest number in the ordering) is 25 or greater. We used methods from graph theory and the mathematics oriented computer software SageMath to investigate this conjecture.  We believe we have made progress towards proving that it is always possible to construct such an arrangement for every number greater than or equal to 25. We also prove that we can construct an ordering with the desired property for a certain infinite subset of the positive integers, specifically for numbers of the form 8(k2+k).

Faculty Advisor:  Thomas Occhipinti

Rachel Penningroth ‘19, Shau Khadka ’20, Rebecca Mullenbach ’19

Pathogens in Northeast Iowa Ground and Surface Water:  New Technology Allows for Potential Source Identification

Shau Khadka, Rebecca Mullenbach, Rachel Penningroth, Jorge Chavez, Claire Hamilton, Mitchell Kaleso, Josh Tank, Fadzai Teramayi, Mark Borchardt, 1 Aaron Firnstahl,2 Eric Baack, and Jodi Enos-Berlage.  Biology Department, Luther College, Decorah, IA

The springs, streams, and rivers of northeast Iowa are widely used for recreation, but prior research has shown that they can contain high levels of fecal bacteria following spring groundwater recharge and summer rain events.  This may be connected to the above average rates of waterborne diseases, including those caused by hemorrhagic E. coli and Campylobacter jejuni, in Winneshiek county.  We sampled the surface and well water of Winneshiek county in the summer of 2018 by pumping samples through dialysis filters to trap pathogens and microbes which could indicate the sources of bacterial contamination.  Two-thirds of the surface water samples contained at least one pathogen, with Cryptosporidium spp. being present most frequently.  Pathogen levels varied dramatically between sites and sample dates.  Source markers revealed the presence of human and bovine fecal matter as potential sources of contamination, but swine fecal matter was not detected.  Further research will allow for the development of human disease risk assessments for recreational activities within the studied surface waters.

Faculty Advisor:  Eric Baack

Allison Peters ‘19

Plastics, Posts, and Politics:  How Environmental Organizations Use Facebook to Mobilize the Public Around Ocean Pollution, Sparking Contemporary Policy Shifts

Since the modern environmental movement in the 1960s and 70s, visual texts have been recognized for their ability to mobilize the public around environmental issues and to promote broader political change.  Images of burning rivers had their moment, but ocean plastics are now in the middle of theirs. This leads us to ask: how do visual media (specifically, those that we encounter on social media) shape our perceptions of the ocean plastics problem in the United States?  Consequently, how do those perceptions shape how we as a grassroots community organize around this issue and, further, how our representatives construct policy on our behalf? My research of the plastics problem includes two different methods of inquiry: published scholarship regarding historical examples of visual media informing social movements and public policy, and my own analysis of Facebook posts from environmental organizations about the plastics problem.  Like my research, my presentation will include a brief background of visual media as it informs environmental movements and public policy, an overview of my analysis of the methods various organizations employ to gain public attention and awareness (like appeals to human and animal health), and lastly an outline of contemporary instances in which social movements informed by visual media have led to eventual policies like single-use plastics bans.

Faculty Advisor:  Rachel Brummel

Chi Pham ‘19

The Influence of Personal Characteristics and Sense of Belonging Over Academic Motivation

Motivating students to become invested in their course work has always been challenging.  This study examined the relationship between personality, a sense of belonging, and academic motivation. We were interested in examining the personality aspects of resilience, grit, and self-concept clarity as measured with the Brief Resilience Scale, the Short Grit Scale (GRIT-S), and the Self-concept Clarity Scale, respectively. Specifically, we hoped to identify those personal characteristics related to academic motivation, as measured with the Academic Motivation Scale (ASM-C 28).  In addition, we also examined demographic information such as age, year in school and other-group orientation (that is, one’s attitudes toward other people from different ethnic backgrounds) using the Other-group Orientation Scale to determine whether these were important factors in establishing a sense of belonging, as measured with the Perceived Cohesion Scale. We predicted that both personal characteristics and a sense of belonging would influence academic motivation. Of particular interest was the passion component of Grit.  While the resilience aspect of Grit is widely known to influence academic motivation, we predicted that Passion, the lesser known component of Grit, would be strongly related to self-concept and in turn, to academic motivation. Along these lines, we expected to find that other-group orientation would be related to a sense of belonging, which in turn may affect motivation for academic success. With higher education’s recent focus on student success, two points have become clear. First, igniting a student’s passion is central to academic motivation.  Second, promoting an environment where students feel welcome contributes to students’ interest in academic pursuits. It is our hope that our findings may provide some insight on how to develop students’ interests and passions, and build a strong sense of community in order to help students gain the most from their college experience.

Faculty Advisor:  Stephanie Travers

Emily Reasoner ‘19

Examining the Effect of Functional Groups on Ligand Substitution Dynamics

With the growing popularity of semiconductor nanocrystals, it has become increasingly important to understand how their surface chemistry can be altered to control the ways in which nanocrystals interact with their environment.  In this study, in order to substitute insulating, native ligands for shorter ligands, a series of bifunctional molecules with a consistent thiol anchoring group and changing terminal functional group were introduced into as-synthesized nanocrystal solutions.  The optical properties of the nanocrystals were measured as the new ligands were added to observe fluorescence quenching, which is characteristic of thiol ligand binding. The extent of ligand exchange was quantitatively analyzed using 1H NMR.  The 1H NMR peaks of free ligands and nanocrystal-bound ligands were monitored and used to calculate the equilibrium constant of ligand exchange.  These data were used to gain insight into the possible ligand exchange mechanisms and to understand how the affinity of binding is influenced by ligand functional groups and the availability of protons in solution.

Faculty Advisor:  Molly Wilker

Annika Rotto ‘19

Hogarth’s Marriage à-la-Mode:  Public Perception of syphilis in the 18th century

In the 18th century, syphilis was rampant throughout Europe and would remain a major health issue until the invention of antibiotics in the early 1900s. While working class women and prostitutes were often blamed for the transmission of syphilis, William Hogarth’s Marriage à-la-Mode series reveals that men were often the ones to carry the disease to their wives and families. From an epidemiologic perspective, prostitutes may have been the reservoir hosts, but men were the vectors of syphilis. Hogarth’s series has a heavily moralistic tone, and holds men and women as equally responsible for their actions. Marriage à-la-Mode can be seen as an 18th century feminist print. By disseminating Marriage à-la-Mode as a print series, Hogarth influenced public perception of syphilis.

Faculty Advisor:  Kate Elliott  

Lucas Ruge-Jones ‘19

Measuring Material Properties on the Nanoscale Using a Multifrequency Lockin Amplifier

Scientists and engineers quantify the physical properties of materials to optimize the design of various technologies.  We can determine the crucial material properties of stiffness and damping at the nanoscale using the method of contact resonance on an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM).  With the goal of obtaining accurate results through cost effective means, our collaborative team has designed an eight lockin amplifier system. This system processes signals from the AFM and reconstructs the resonance curve for the material being tested. Through optimizing resonance curve fits, we can determine material stiffness and damping. To characterize the multi-lockin system, we started with a basic simulator that could fit eight frequency points centered about the resonant frequency with amplitudes unaffected by noise.  To process large amounts of data, we created a master simulator to run hundreds of trials across the expected ranges of AFM-relevant parameters. We added real-world factors into the simulator, such as noise and allowing the frequency data points not to be centered around the resonant frequency.  We limited the number of frequency data points down to four to see if we still could get accurate curve-fits. We found that scaling particular fit parameters significantly helped our curvefitter to find accurate fits.

Faculty Advisor:  Erin Flater 

Gavin Schaeferle ‘19

Predicting Stock Changes With Natural Language Processing

Twitter has been around for over a decade as a source of information about your friends, finding funny cat videos, and keeping in touch with the internet.  But what if all these tweets could be used for something? Tweets happen to be one of the best type of documents for Natural Language Processing (NLP) due do their ease of access, the quantity of tweets that happen daily, and the relatively small text size.  Using these tweets and NLP, it is very easy to create a model that will predict almost anything, for example the stock market. By using multiple algorithms, including Linear Regression, Support Vector Machines, and Bag of Words to analyze thousands of stock market tweets it is possible to predict how a company’s stock price will change over time.

Faculty Advisor:  Kent Lee

Jacob Schulz ‘19

Microwave Attenuation in Electrolyte Solutions

Fundamental interactions of electromagnetic microwave radiation through fluid mediums have been studied in order to analyze the conductive properties of various electrolyte-containing solutions. General electromagnetic theory demonstrates that the intensity of a propagating electromagnetic wave drops off exponentially with distance traveled in a medium.  This electromagnetic attenuation through a medium is dependent upon several factors, the most notable being conductivity. Conductivity through a medium relies on several components: the density of charge carrier electrons in the volume, the charge of each carrier, the mass of each carrier, and the temperature of the medium that is being conducted. Conductivity can also be modeled by studying skin depth, the distance necessary for the amplitude of a conducting wave to decrease by roughly a third. Results of this model use the dependency of conductivity to skin depth to report the significance that molecular medium properties have in effecting the overall conductivity of a solution. In this study, we investigated the conductivity of electromagnetic microwave radiation through a variety of progressively concentrated electrolyte solutions. 8 total electrolyte solutions were used (6 salts and 2 acids), each studied by measuring the attenuation of microwave radiation over a variety of concentrations ranging between 0.025M and 0.6M. Our goal was to study and determine the degree that conductivity factors such as charge carrier mass, medium temperature, carrier charge, and carrier charge density have in altering the conductivity of a given electrolyte solution.

Faculty Advisor:  Todd Pedlar

Anna Seboldt ‘19

Slippin' up and Whippin' up:  An Ideological Critical Analysis of Childish Gambino's "This is America"

In awareness of the many mass shootings and police violence in the US over the past few years, musician Childish Gambino released a music video called “This is America” on May 5, 2018. Gambino uses symbolic imagery and layered choreography containing significant historical context to showcase the state of America in relation to the political and social issues.  Through completing an ideological analysis of this topic, I have focused on the theme of two elements that Gambino upholds throughout the video: the value of guns over human lives, and the ways that social media, etc. distracts us from the chaos surrounding us. Using the ideological method, this paper identifies multiple themes found throughout the video, as well as how they are displayed and how they connect to deeper political, racial, and social issues that Gambino is addressing.  Gambino’s ideology shows the themes of many corrupt political and social issues, as well as violence and power both against and within the black community. Along with his video and his other major platforms, Gambino is helping those in society today be more aware of and speak up against gun violence.

Faculty Advisor:  Thomas Johnson

Mareda Smith ‘19

Shaping Equitable School Finance Policy:  Comparative Analysis of American and Finnish Cultural Values and Education Policy

As visitors flock to Finland to determine the small nation’s secret to world-class education, they do not necessarily find extraordinary teaching methods, but rather a central and comprehensive commitment to equal opportunity. This key ingredient to success seems familiar to the United States’ long-held promise of upward mobility but contrasts with research showing increasing disparities in American school funding leading to detrimental consequences for student success. Through an examination of government documents and independent research, as well as first- hand interviews with Finnish education officials, this study seeks to determine how American and Finnish cultural views on equity are reflected in their respective education finance policies and the degree to which Finnish methods could be translated into American policy.  This analysis will demonstrate that the ethos behind Finland’s school finance policy is key to its success in equity, while the United States lacks the political consensus and centralized policy to provide such equity for its students. These findings demonstrate the limitations of imitating Finland’s utopian system, while illuminating areas for potential improvement in American policy.

Faculty Advisor:  Carly Foster

Forrest Stewart ‘19

A Green New Deal:  An Intersection of the Environmental and Social

Recently, the concept of a Green New Deal (GND) has become the center of heated debate in the US.  Its marriage of radical environmental policy with extensive social welfare policy is, for many, the most provocative (positively or negatively) aspect of the GND.  Its advocates argue that this combination is necessary given the crises society currently faces while many critics believe the dual approach weakens the proposal by making it more complicated and politically contentious.  This project seeks to analyze the relationship between these two major policy areas and to identify whether their combination is mutually beneficial or self-defeating in regards to their a) political viability and b) ability to adequately achieve the goals of each policy type. In order to answer this question I have selected a wide range of resources related to social and environmental policy and will delve into this literature.  After analyzing historical comparisons (e.g. the original New Deal), scholarly literature, and contemporary sources from politicians and commentators, I will argue that these types of policies are mutually beneficial both in terms of political feasibility and the comprehensive achievement of policy goals. This conclusion indicates that a GND—or something like it—should be considered a prominent and viable policy solution to both the environmental and socio-economic crises facing the United States.

Faculty Advisor:  Jon Jensen

Emily Stifter ‘20

The Arts as Propaganda:  A Look into the Reign of Louis XIV

Louis XIV was one of the most successful monarchs and his reign ushered in a goal of unification in France in order for Louis to achieve absolute monarch status (Mansfield 2015).  Jean-Baptiste Lully and Philippe Quinault, who wrote Louis’ court operas, used music and the arts to depict Louis using allusions to Apollo that were clearly referencing Louis, further perpetuating his nickname “the Sun King.”  Because Lully and Quinault had complete composition rights for the court and because the King approved all performance material, Louis was thus able to glorify himself and further establish his grandeur through these court performances.  By using Greek and Roman mythology to compare Louis to Apollo, Lully and Quinault were able to craft an image of the King that aided in Louis’ objectives of unifying his state. My research seeks to find similarities within court-permitted performances that aided in the glorification of Louis XIV.  This will help me discover how impactful the use of ancient mythology was in Louis’ objectives of unification of France. I will look specifically into two court operas, Atys (1676) and Cadmus et Hermione (1673), in order to find common themes and characters that were allowed and helped glorify Louis XIV.  I expect to find a relationship between historical events during Louis’ reign and operas written shortly after them and specific references to Apollo in a positive light that clearly alludes to the King.

Faculty Advisor:  Anne-Marine Feat

Brandon Trueblood ‘19

An Analysis on the Motives Behind Emperor Hadrian's Hellenization of Rome

In this presentation, we will discuss the effects of Emperor Hadrian’s Hellenization of Rome on the Classical world and whether his plan was done in self-interest or not. We will list the different ways that Hadrian Hellenized Rome and attempt to list plausible reasons for his actions. We will specifically look at the social, political, and economic decisions made within his Hellenization plan and the effects they had on the empire as a whole while analyzing any firsthand accounts of his actions and their repercussions. Finally, we will conclude with our findings. There are a variety of reasons that Hadrian may have chosen to Hellenize Rome, from his own self-interest, to an attempt to better Rome in some way, to just because he liked the Greek people and their culture. We may never be sure exactly why he chose to do it, however we are able to make educated guesses and are able to look at the problem from a variety of angles.

Faculty Advisor:  Mark Thorne

Adam Ulring ‘19

NYC Ride Times Analysis

The purpose of the project is to devise an algorithm to predict ride times.  Every year, New York City releases a huge data set of Yellow Taxi trip data. This data set in particular poses many challenges due to its size and structure.  The presentation will revolve around a general exploration of the data, as well as an explanation of the model created to predict ride times.

Faculty Advisors:  Kent Lee, Shafqat Shad

Victoria Vivtcharenko ‘19

Dopamine Quantification in Caenorhabditis Elegans with High-Performance Liquid Chromatography

The loss of dopamine, a significant neurotransmitter, is a hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, however the etiology is unclear.  Evidence has shown that the insulin signaling pathway, a central regulator of metabolism and oxidative stress response, may be dysregulated in the disease state.  In order to determine the influence of this pathway on dopamine, we quantified dopamine in wild type and insulin signaling mutant strains of the nematode model system Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans).  Due to the molecular complexity of the cellular mixture, it is difficult to quantify dopamine in multicellular organisms.  Standard absorption spectroscopy is not effective because many compounds in the cellular mixture absorb in the same wavelength range as dopamine.  We have developed a protocol to quantify dopamine in C. elegans using HPLC with fluorescence detection.  HPLC is an effective method because of its high sensitivity and selectivity, as well the possibility to detect several analytes at once.  In this study, we correlated dopamine levels in C. elegans with activity of the insulin signaling pathway.  Both the development of our HPLC protocol for dopamine detection and our results from analysis of C. elegans mutant strains will be presented.

Faculty Advisor:  Molly Wilker

Jacob Wessels ‘19

Analysis of Turnover Intentions among Food Service Workers

Turnover can negatively impact organizational performance through the loss of experienced employees and the additional costs to replace these employees.  The food service industry is a profession with especially high turnover rates, thereby motivating researchers to identify predictors of intentions to quit among workers within this occupational realm.  The primary goal of this research was to explore both established (e.g., job satisfaction, stress) and novel predictors (e.g., coworker competence, support, satisfaction) of intentions to quit among food service workers.  Specifically, we examined whether food service workers’ intentions to quit were related to perceived competence, support, and satisfaction of their coworkers. A second goal of this study was to compare food service workers to non food service workers with regard to their intentions to quit, job satisfaction, and perceived coworker competence, support, and satisfaction.  Our analyses demonstrated significant correlations between intentions to quit and job satisfaction, perceived coworker competence, and coworker satisfaction. Other analysis revealed that food service workers reported lower levels of job satisfaction than non food service workers. These results suggest that a greater emphasis should be placed on the training and socialization process within the food service industry.

Faculty Advisor:  Justin Sprung

Marta Williams ‘19

PI3K/Akt Signaling Influences Iron Metabolism in Caenorhabditis elegans

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, plague numerous people around the globe. While it is known that these diseases are multifactorial, their precise etiology remains unclear. Disruption of insulin-like signaling pathways and iron accumulation have both been observed in association with many neurodegenerative diseases, but whether these observations are linked is unknown. In this study, we investigated the hypothesis that disruption of the PI3K/Akt pathway, an insulin-like signaling pathway, directly affects iron regulation. In order to investigate this, our study assessed expression of genes related to iron homeostasis and iron content in wild type (WT) C. elegans, and C. elegans in which a component of the PI3K/Akt pathway was suppressed by either null mutation or RNAi. C. elegans is a small nematode model system with a well-characterized nervous system and PI3K/Akt pathway, and homologs to many iron regulatory genes present in humans. In this study, PI3K/Akt mutants demonstrated altered mRNA expression of four iron regulatory genes, and altered endogenous levels of iron compared to wild-type worms. The RNAi did not appear to effectively knock down the targeted gene, and accordingly did not show altered expression of the iron regulatory genes or altered iron levels. Overall, these results indicate that the PI3K/Akt pathway and mechanisms of iron homeostasis influence one another. Specifically, they suggest that increased pathway activity may lead to iron dysregulation and iron accumulation, potentially contributing to the neurotoxicity observed in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Faculty Advisor:  Stephanie Fretham

Savannah Wilson ‘19

Forest Communities of Finch Memorial Hardwoods, Winneshiek County, IA

Finch Memorial Hardwoods is a 70-ha preserve located in Winneshiek County, IA that contains several rare plant communities, including algific talus slope, balsam fir forest, and a white pine stand.  Surrounding these rare communities is deciduous forest. The objective of this research was to identify and classify deciduous forest communities. We recorded canopy species and diameter, understory abundance, and understory species for 20 10x10 m plots to understand the composition and structure in the hardwood forest.  We also measured slope, aspect, soil depth and soil organic matter. A NMS ordination was used to group plots sharing similar species composition. The resulting groups were compared with previously described native forest communities of southern MN. We identified three community types in the preserve: mesic maple-basswood forest, dry-mesic oak forest, mesic oak-basswood forest.  We recorded 17 tree, 103 forb, 10 shrub, 8 sedge, 6 fern, and 3 grass species for a total of 147 different plant species. These findings provide important baseline data for assessing conservation priorities and can be used by future researchers in understanding changing communities as they shift north in response to climate change.

Faculty Advisor:  Beth Lynch

FCUL / POLS 261 class

  1. Annika Dome ‘22, Peter Kochevar ’21, Anthony Perez Soto ‘20
  2. Mina Barsness ‘22, Tintin Phongsavath ‘22, Katilynn Swanson ‘22
  3. Andrew Schmidt ‘19, Marcos Vila Valdivieso ’22, Hunter Weaver ‘20
  4. Juhl Kuhlemeier ‘22, Samantha Schroeder ‘21, Lindelwa Gama ‘19
  5. Jose Simon Duran ‘21, Kim Chham ’21, Soren Gloege Torp ‘21

Moving To and From Germany:  Immigrants, Refugees, and Guest Workers

It is at the core of human history:  people leaving their homes in search of a better life.  This course has explored the role of immigration and emigration for the German-speaking countries over the last 250 years. We have studied the immigration of Germans to the US and South America in the 19th and 20th century, the mass displacement of Germans after WWII, the guest worker program in the 1950s and 1960s (which brought many foreigners to Germany), as well as the so-called European refugee crisis since 2015.  We have researched the different reasons for people traveling to and leaving Germany, the reactions of the population, and the consequences migration has had for German history and society. As part of the course, students created five posters, each covering one example of migration to and from Germany:

  1. Germans going to Africa during the German empire (1871-1918)
  2. The expulsion and migration of Jews from the Third Reich (1932-1945)
  3. The flight and expulsion of Germans from the East (1944-1949)
  4. The Guest Worker program in Germany (1955-1974)
  5. The European Refugee Crisis in Germany (since 2015)

Faculty Advisor:  Soeren Steding