Faculty Research Forum held at Mount Union College

March 28, 2008

“What each faculty member has in common is their brilliance and enthusiasm for learning,” President Richard F. Giese said at the Faculty Research Forum held last evening at Mount Union College.

Presenting their research were faculty members Dr. Leonard Epp, Dr. John Kirchmeyer and his research assistant, senior computer science major Jason Prodonovich, and Dr. Ann Ritchey.

Epp, professor of biology, presented his research on limb regeneration. Epp spent his sabbatical at the University of Kentucky studying axalotls, a type of lizard, to see exactly how they are able to regenerate an amputated limb. While mammals cannot regenerate limbs, it is beneficial to study the amphibians’ ability to regenerate to learn more about how to treat human amputation.

“If we can figure how what is going on in amphibians, we will be able to figure out what’s going on in humans,” Epp said.

For his research, Epp mixed the DNA in regenerating limbs and non-regenerating limbs to see which genes were found in both regenerating and non-regenerating limbs.

“There are 33 genes with healing and regeneration capabilities we really want to know about and explore further,” Epp said.

Kirchmeyer, professor of computer science and information systems along with Prodonovich, presented ISETLJ: A Java-based interpreter for Interactive Set Language.

ISETLJ is used in teaching and learning upper level mathematics. Students use ISETLJ to discover patterns and prove theorems.

“Students teach math to ISETLJ rather than the other way around,” Kirchmeyer said.

Their goal was to rewrite ISETLJ from scratch in Java so it would be able to work on all different platforms including Macintosh, PC and Windows Vista.

“ISETLJ is supported across all platforms and compatible with all new versions and the latest PC operating systems,” Prodonovich said. “This takes off the burden of having to update the program every few years.”

ISETLJ looks like any normal Windows program with the ability to open a new tab, copy, paste, undo and save. Future developments include adding graphing capabilities, testing for Mac OS X and updating Web documentation.

Ritchey, associate professor of mathematics, presented her research on the mathematics behind the elementary schools games “24” and “Set.”

With the game 24, there are four digits with the numbers one through nine on every card. One must then subtract, add, multiply or divide those numbers to equal 24.

Ritchey asked herself, “Are some cards more difficult than others and if so, what makes one card more difficult?” One-dot cards are considered easy, two-dot cards are medium and three-dot cards are hard. Three-dot cards are especially challenging because there are more non-divisors and one has to do more subtracting and dividing rather adding or multiplying.

She discovered there are seven cards that can only be solved by using functions and there are a few impossible cards where no combination equals 24.

Ritchey also explored the game “Set” which has a unique history. Geneticist Marsha Jean Falco wanted to see if German Shepherds who get epilepsy inherit it. She drew symbols with different properties to indicate different gene combinations. This is how the game Set was created. Given two cards, the player must find a unique third card to complete the set.

Sets have four different categories which include number, shading, color and shape. When giving sets a number, Ritchey discovered sets can only occur if they add up to be a multiple of three. She also figured out players can have 20 cards and not have a set.

Although she encountered some frustrations with her research, she enjoyed the process.

“I like learning and I like being challenged,” Ritchey said.

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