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Natural Sciences Symposium at McPherson College Presents Senior Research

posted Apr 23, 2012 in CAMPUS EVENTS

Drunken fish, relaxing music and alternative fuels are just a few of the topics McPherson College seniors in natural science studied for their final research projects.

These 13 graduating students will present their results on Friday, April 27 at the annual Natural Science Research Forum, held from 1:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. in Mingenback Theatre. The presentations are free and open to the public.

Dr. Allan Ayella, assistant professor of biology, said this research at the undergraduate level is a unique and valuable aspect of a natural sciences education at McPherson College. Every natural sciences student at McPherson College must conduct two years of research to graduate.

“Most undergraduate colleges don’t require original research of their undergraduates to receive their degrees,” Dr. Ayella said. “This unique aspect of our program gives McPherson College graduates a substantial head-start advantage in their career aspirations.”

The results of the students’ research is as follows:

Daniel Barba, Waxahachie, Texas, worked with zebrafish to investigate the effects ethanol intoxication had on their ability to consistently make a given decision. Barba discovered that ethanol intoxication resulted in inconsistent decision making between given choices.

Kati Beam, McPherson, Kan., investigated whether the agricultural product Agrotain Plus helps corn to retain its levels of nitrogen, as the product claims, as well as other elements. The experiment did not show significant evidence that the product affected levels of nitrogen, but did find that soil levels of calcium, sulfur, manganese and copper were affected in fields supplemented with Agrotain.

Catherine Bettles, Kearney, Neb., researched the effect of whether no music, classical music or hard rock music had an effect on the relaxation levels of 14 college students by measuring their brain waves. The study found no statistically significant difference in the measurements among the chosen relaxation techniques.

Shelly Brandt, Divide, Colo., studied the DNA of humpback whales, looking for levels of genetic diversity as a means to measure the health of the whale population.

Cody Compton, Colorado Springs, Colo., traveled to La Palma, Costa Rica, to observe the behavior of squirrel monkeys along with three other researchers in a pilot research program. Compton observed the monkeys traveling, resting and eating in both the morning and afternoon. The results showed significant differences in the behavior of males and females and different activity between morning and afternoon.

John Davidson, Broken Arrow, Okla., studied whether the audio and visual reaction times of 34 football players at McPherson College were affected by their levels of sleep and whether that level of sleep affected offensive or defensive players differently. The study showed that sleep had no significant effect on the players’ reaction times.

Jorge Gomez, McPherson, Kan., investigated the effect of creatine supplements on body weight and composition. Working with mice, Gomez found that those who were given creatine and exercised had a significant increase in body weight.

Ashley Huizar, LaPuente, Calif., looked at how both temperature and availability of food affected the weight gain and wing area of fruit flies. Huizar found that at 64 degrees Fahrenheit, fruit flies had significantly larger body mass and larger wings than those at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The excess availability of food did not make a significant difference on weight gain or wing area.

Anneliese Rotering, Colorado Springs, Colo., researched the intake levels of vitamin B12 in McPherson College students. The vitamin is important in the production of healthy red blood cells, support of the nervous system, the production of DNA and the prevention of heart disease. Working off of food journals of 13 McPherson College students, Rotering found that most students meet their recommended dietary intake based on averages from the duration of the study. However, there was significant day-to-day variation in intake levels of vitamin B12.

Brelynn Schloo, Salina, Kan., worked at The Land Institute studying a perennial crop called intermediate wheatgrass, which is used for hay and forage. The crop has the advantage of not requiring annual replanting. Schloo studied 70 different genetic types of intermediate wheatgrass for levels of seed production. Schloo didn’t find a significant different among the different types, as she had expected.

Savannah Sievers, Arlington, Kan., also worked with intermediate wheatgrass, looking at ways to make the crop produce enough seeds to make it competitive with other crops. Sievers discovered that the environments didn’t play a role in seed production, but the different genetic types did have a significant difference, with one in particular outperforming the others in seed production.

Andrew Skinner, Montezuma, Kan., investigated the effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on corn plants. He found that increased levels of carbon dioxide will increase the rate of photosynthesis in corn plants and therefor affect food production of corn plants. He speculated that this may be counterbalanced by the higher temperatures created through global warming.

Seth Williams, Davenport, Neb., studied a particular common bacteria called bacillus stearothermophilus as a method to turn otherwise wasted plant matter into sugars that can be converted into biofuel in the form of ethanol. The bacteria, commonly found in soil and ocean sediments, is known as a cause for food spoilage. Williams found that the bacteria would break down the plant matter into sugars over time.

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