Students Present Research on SCHOLAR Day

April 29, 2014

ALLIANCE, Ohio – On April 22, Mount Union students presented their research to fellow students, faculty and the community for the University’s seventh annual Scholar Day event. SCHOLAR Day is a campus-wide event filled with presentations showcasing academic excellence and scholarly research conducted by Mount Union students.

The following is a sampling of presentations given during the event:

Well Pad Design
Students from a senior civil engineering class were asked to determine the feasibility of a drilling site in Carroll County, OH.

Senior civil engineering majors John Laux of Pittsburgh, PA; Jeremy Walker of Salem, OH; Mitchel Phillips of Galion, OH; Amanda Turner of Wooster, OH and Matthew Zalaiskalns of Massillon, OH worked together to determine the best design, while being cost effective as that was a large concern of their client, Utica Oil and Gas Co.

The project consisted of five parts: a sediment and erosion control plan, a haul route, a well pad access drive, the well pad and an alternative haul route. The students designed all of these according to engineering standards using the computer program AutoCAD Civil 3D.

Designing Fairings
A group of three Mount Union students, sponsored by MAC Trailer, worked to create a fairing design to improve the fuel efficiency and stability of flatbed trailers.

Students working on this project were Kristen Gromes, art and mechanical engineering major of Navarre, OH; Alina Selby, mechanical engineering major of Finleyville, PA and Shannon Guernsey of Houston, PA.

The three students researched current fairing designs and used computer simulations to analyze them. A “fairing” is an attachment to a trailer that serves the purpose of reducing drag force in order to improve the fuel economy and stability on the highway. Then the students used 3D printing and experimental testing of the model in a wind tunnel.

Once the students fully analyzed the current designs, they created design plans of their own that would fulfill the customer’s needs and the design requirements. Their final design project will lower carbon dioxide emissions and reduce the use of diesel fuel, thus creating both environmental and economic benefits.

Drinking During Pregnancy
It is common knowledge that it is harmful to drink alcoholic beverages while pregnant, yet approximately 50% of women still do it. Jamie Hodes of Miami, FL, a graduate student in Mount Union’s Physician Assistant Studies program, conducted research to determine whether or not a safe threshold for drinking exists.

“Many women will drink alcohol before they realize they are pregnant,” said Hodes. “This study focuses on the effects of a moderate level of alcohol consumption during the first trimester.”

Hodes did a literature review of many case studies, and came to the conclusion that there are no adverse effects on fetal development and childhood cognitive functioning with low to moderate alcohol consumption.

This is not saying that it is safe to drink during pregnancy. There are many barriers to research on this topic. Most of the studies were conducted in other countries. The United States has very little literature about this. The genetic differences based on nationality could have an effect on the results. Also, the quantity of alcohol per drink unit varies from country to country, and makes consistent research difficult. Finally, in survey research, many women can be dishonest about their behavior. For these reasons, no safe threshold has been determined.

Relaxation Technique and Test Anxiety
Four senior psychology majors conducted a study on Mount Union’s campus to determine the effects of relaxation techniques on test anxiety.

The students, Shelby Mitchell of Stow, OH; Andrew David Budendorf of Powell, OH; Krista Leighty of Wooster, OH and Jessica DeWater of Chagrin Falls, OH, developed a study, which they conducted on 60 Mount Union students between the ages of 18 and 22. They gave the students a math anxiety survey, administered math tests to the participants, administered the relaxation technique and then gave them a second similar test.

The relaxation methods used were deep breathing, humor and classical music. The results determined that no one method worked better than another, but in general, the techniques improved scores. There was no reduction in general anxiety, just an improvement in the test scores.

Research in Storytelling
Amanda Cameron, a senior writing major of Canton, OH, discussed research she compiled for a creative nonfiction essay, “The Last Year for Fishing.” The essay explores the life of Cameron’s grandfather, a U.S. Navy veteran who fell victim to lung cancer despite being a non-smoker.

Through a series of scholarly articles, Cameron made connections between lung-related diseases caused by asbestos and the Navy’s persistent use of the material throughout the 20th century. She presented this data, along with her grandfather’s experience as a former sailor, in her essay. In order to intertwine personal information in her essay, Cameron interviewed several family members about her grandfather’s life and interacted with sailors who served with her grandfather on an online forum.

“Research often leads to unexpected places,” Cameron noted during her presentation. “Research guided this story.”

Publishing on the Web
Senior writing and computer science major Kyle Dreger of Kent, OH presented, “Publishing My Own Web Column and Podcast.” For 30 weeks, Dreger experimented with publishing his own online web column and podcast at

During his SCHOLAR Day presentation, Dreger shared that his site had 1,066 unique visitors from 36 countries during his 30-week experiment. He strategically chose articles for the site by reading hundreds of articles each day and choosing content he felt readers would find of interest.

Dreger has plans to continue posting content to his site with hopes of turning it into a for-profit endeavor through advertising and sponsorships. He also plans to begin charging for memberships to the site. He said he will run the site full-time if he reaches 2,500 memberships.

Antibiotic Screening
Emily Loosli, a senior biochemistry major of Amherst, OH, presented “Designing More Effective Antibiotic Screening.” The presentation highlighted her yearlong research project and the techniques and skills she used to analyze the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Throughout the 1930s-1960s, much research was conducted on antibiotic resistance, but during the 1960s – 2000s, there was a huge gap of inactivity. Since then, research has been on the rise in this area. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 70% of bacteria that cause infections are resistant to at least one antibiotic. With antibiotic-resistance on the rise, Loosli explained that new potential targets are currently being investigated.

“Different antibiotics work in different ways,” she said. “In order to determine the effectiveness of the antibiotic, we used a 10-step synthesizing process.”

Loosli said this year-long project was a team effort. She, along with two other classmates and Dr. Robert Woodward, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Mount Union, spent a great deal of time in the labs in Bracy Hall working on this research study.

“How this research will be used in the future is my favorite part about the project, “ she said. “Even though I won’t be here to see the project come to a close, I’m still excited to see where this research is headed.”

Math Anxiety
Senior psychology majors Jeffrey Yoza of Brooklyn, OH, Brett Stoll of Salem, OH and Diony Jasmin of Spring Valley, NY presented “The Effects of Math Anxiety, Math Self-efficacy and the Testing of Math.”

The research study investigated how students at Mount Union report their intrinsic confidence in handling mathematics as well as their perceived anxiety levels in every day situations that necessitate mathematics and what effects it had when they were asked to complete an elementary level math exam.

“Most research we looked at focused on younger students such as elementary students,” said Stoll. “We wanted to push our research forward by looking at college students.”

Nearly 50 students were given a math test, which was developed by the three students. Half of the sample size took the test in a timed environment and the other took the test in a free condition. The trio looked at three variables in this study – test/math anxiety, math self-efficacy and stressful testing environments.

“We wanted to figure out if they (students) would crash and burn if they had a time limit or if they would rise to the occasion and perform better,” said Jasmin.

According the team, their research did not fall in line with previous studies. There were some limitations in terms of sample size, and they didn’t look at gender, age, sex or demographics. In addition, there was no true motivation for students to perform well on these tests.

“It’s important for teachers to recognize the way you word and hand out a test will drastically effect how students will perform on the test,” added Yoza.

The test included elementary mathematics problems, and the trio all agreed that the results would have drastically changed if it included another type of math such as geometry or algebra.

SCHOLAR Day, which began in 2008, highlights the research projects of Mount Union’s undergraduate students. The continued success of this academic tradition is made possible through the generous support of George ’58 and Sally (Shrake ’59) Stradley of Hartville, OH and the Donald and Alice Noble Foundation of Wooster, OH.

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