Summer 2021 ACRE Abstracts | Albright College

Summer 2021 ACRE Abstracts

This summer 15 students worked with faculty mentors on ACRE projects. Read through their abstracts below and click the titles to view their final presentations.

Examining the Structure of the Gear Ball

Vanessa Baker

Professor Brittany Shelton

The gear ball is a mechanical puzzle with six faces each comprised of smaller pieces identified by color, much like Rubik’s cube. However, the gear ball contains a 6-toothed gear in place of each edge cubie, changing the inherited group structure. The gear structure causes a 90 degree clockwise turn of one face to turn the opposite face 90 degrees clockwise. Research on the structure resulted in findings on the permutation group, subgroups including the sliced squared group, and the maximum number of moves required to solve the puzzle from any of the 6,144 possible positions (also known as God’s number).


Counting Variations of Knights and Knaves Puzzles

Taisha Charles

Professor Brittany Shelton

Our project focused on the enumeration of Knights and Knaves Puzzles, which are logic-based puzzles where knights only tell the truth and knaves only lie. We determined how many classic puzzles have no solution and how many have a unique solution when the number of trolls is less than seven. We considered two variations on the classic version of the puzzle; a disjunction variation in which trolls can make “or” statements and a Neutral variation in which a troll is either a Knight, Knave, or Neutral. We determined the number of puzzles and the number of solutions for each variation.


Assessing Exercise and Health Behavior Changes Associated with the Covid-19 Pandemic

Elyse Eckert

Professor Bridget Hearon

Despite the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, less than half of adults in America meet the minimum physical activity recommendations and the reasons why are complex and multifaceted. The current study examined different factors that influence exercise behavior, including but not limited to personality, exercise outcome expectancy, anxiety sensitivity/interoceptive avoidance, as well questions relating to changes in exercise behavior since the Covid-19 pandemic. A total of 256 participants completed our anonymous online survey. In general, participants reported relatively stable or increased exercise patterns since the onset of the pandemic, yet also noted increases in weight, suggesting likely changes in eating behaviors.


The Impact of Perceived Physical Resemblance on the Perception of Close Relationships

Cecelia Ensell

Professor Susan Hughes

The aim of this project was to experimentally determine the impact of perceived physical resemblance on the perception of close relationships. Participants were shown pairs of facial photos of two individuals varying in physical resemblance to one another who were labeled as being either friends, siblings, or romantic partners and were asked to rate their relationship closeness. Another set of raters were also shown the same pairs of photos without relationship labels and were asked to evaluate how likely they thought the pairs were siblings, friends, or romantic partners. Our analysis revealed that across all relationships conditions, pairs with higher levels of physical resemblance were rated as having closer relationships. Pairs with greater physical resemblance were also rated as more likely to be siblings or friends whereas those with low levels of physical resemblance were seen as more likely to be romantic partners.  Similar patterns were found when examining respondents’ own personal relations with their partners, friends, and siblings.


Romantic or Stigmatizing?: How the Media Affects Teenagers’ and Young Adults’ Perceptipons of Mental Illness

Christina Farris

Professor Bridget Hearon

Mental illnesses are frequently portrayed in film and television; however, these depictions are not always accurate. The current study examined the influence of television portrayals on young adult’s perceptions of mental illness, specifically depression. We recruited a sample of 208 participants who were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a romanticized portrayal of depression, a factual video about depression, or a video unrelated to mental health. We explored moderators including demographics, having the depicted diagnosis, and pre-existing depression and anxiety symptoms. The initial findings showed that the romanticized portrayal group had a significant reduction in their positive affect over time but there were no main effects of condition on knowledge, perception of depression, or negative affect. Further analysis of moderators will be conducted in the future.


Effect of the Non-native Microstegium Vimineum on Small Mammal Populations and Insect Communities

Emily Lenkevich

Professor Stephen Mech

Non-native species impact the forest understory in several ways, and the effects of one such, invasive, Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), are poorly understood in Pennsylvania. During the summer of 2021, in Nolde Forest near Reading, Pa, we examined the impact of M. vimineum on Peromyscus leucopus and the insect community. Of particular interest this year, the periodical cicada (Magicicada spp.) emerged and may have influenced mouse populations. P. leucopus were sampled at two sites: one with a high stiltgrass density and one with low stiltgrass density. We found P. leucopus survivorship remains relatively the same across both sites, while birth rates and population sizes vary. When compared to historic data (before M. vimineum invasion, but including years with and without cicada emergence), these data suggest that the presence of M. vimineum may interact with Magicicada emergence to have a varying impact upon small mammal populations.


Adjusting Reactive Intermediate Lifetimes through Steric Congestion

Ethan Ortiz

Professor Nicholas Piro

Metal complexes play important roles in catalysis and the functionalization of organic molecules including in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals. One potentially valuable chemical reaction is the introduction of nitrogen-containing groups into relatively unreactive molecules via nitrene transfer. Copper nitrene complexes are hypothesized intermediates in these catalytic reactions, but they are rarely well studied. Our work here builds on previous studies of a putative copper nitrene by attempting to design a ligand that would stabilize such a reactive complex by the introduction of atomic “fencing” around the reactive portions of the molecule. We unfortunately faced many synthetic challenges, and our goal remains outstanding.


Deaccession for Diversity Within the Freedman Gallery

Abigail Platero

Professor David Tanner

The deaccessioning process, or the removal of items from a museum’s collection, has long been a controversial topic. In examining prominent institutions’ collections, it was evident that a lack of diversity runs rampant through them. In turning the critical lens onto the Freedman Gallery’s collection, data collected made it clear that the like many institutions, it is dominated by white male artists. With the findings yielding such sobering results and clarifying the state of the collection, the proper steps can now be taken to address the lack of inclusivity and begin the deaccessioning process.


Do Ferrocene-to-Copper Interactions Exist, and Can They Stabilize a Copper Nitrene?

Mikhayla Reilly

Professor Nicholas Piro

A bis(guanidinyl)ferrocene ligand was utilized as a potential stabilizer for a copper-nitrene complex. The ligand was synthesized in three steps from ferrocene by modified literature procedures. Introduction of copper(I) triflate to the ligand afforded a novel copper complex stabilized by electron donation from the guanidine ligands and potentially from the ferrocene center. It was found when the copper complex was treated with the nitrene source using PhINTs*at -70 ºC, a new complex was formed, as monitored by UV-visible spectroscopy. Further analysis will be needed to confirm the identity of this intermediate and to determine its stability.


The Doors That Shut: Finding Japan through Theatre

Katsuto Sakogashira

Professor Marian Wolbers

Professor Marian Wolbers and her student Katsuto Sakogashira had worked on developing each other’s stage play set in Japan. Professor Wolbers had developed a play, Return of the Sun God, in which a Japanese aspiring female Sushi chef struggles to find a success in the patriarchal Sushi industry. Sakogashira had developed a play, Falling Language, in which a male high school graduate fails to get into a prestigious university and murders a woman blaming his failure. Professor Wolbers and I tried to depict people suffering from the social problems: sexism and competitive education system, through the lens of Japanese culture and language.


The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Anthropogenic Habitat Disturbance on the Geographic Range Distribution of the Eastern Box Turtle

Abigail Shoemaker

Professor Stephen Mech

Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) are threatened mainly due to anthropogenic factors that disrupt their habitat. We studied a box turtle population in an area where recent powerline replacement and human activities have disturbed their habitat. We analyzed the effects these disturbances have on the distribution and home range of four turtles using radio tracking and examined small-scale movements using thread tracking. We located turtles twice a week from May to the end of July. Our results will contribute to the understanding of habitat use by turtles and potentially aid in their conservation.


Synthesis and Characterization of Alkali Borate Glasses

Etsub Tolossa

Professor Matthew Sonntag

This ACRE project is centered on the understanding of alkali metals have on the structure and reactivity of borate glasses. Alkali metals are inserted into the glass network and Raman spectroscopy and exposure to corrosive solutions are used to monitor their impact on the structural changes of the borate glass based on their size and mass. The alkali metals served as modifiers to change the structural units present in the glasses. The modifiers’ type and the amount were changed in the making of the borate glass ranging from 5-25 mol %. Raman spectroscopy was used to monitor the structural changes that occurred in the glass. The data collected from Raman spectroscopy demonstrated the dissolution of the glass by monitoring the structural component react in an acid, base and DI water environment.

  • White precipitate in the middle of the glass. However, the white coat was formed inside the borate glass so there was no powder to remove on the exterior part of the glass.
  • We applied the same procedure as the acid bath
  • Placed Na x=.05 in 3M DI water for 1 hr and 10 min leading to an 1 hr
  • The borate glass in the 3M DI water for an 1hr had less mass loss then the glass weighted every 10 min
  • The data for 1hr and 10min leading to an 1hr are very close
  • The borate glass in the DI water bath had similar mass loss as the base bath than the mass loss observed in acidic bath

Using Music to Heal: Mental Health in Choral Music

Olivia Trace

Professor Jordan Shomper

Mental illness permeates modern American society.  By creating a choral composition designed for those struggling with mental illness, we hope that our piece will be a source of healing.  Our research comprised of three parts: first, analyzing choral literature surrounding mental illness and interviewing living composers to reveal compositional tools and process; second, composing the text, and third composing the music.  We plan to complete the work and premiere it at an Albright College choral concert in Spring 2022.  We also plan to submit it for professional publication and have it remain an everlasting piece in the Albright choral library.


New Undergraduate Research Targets Repurposed from Organic Laboratory Waste Abstract

Sidney Walker

Professor Christian Hamann

We ran electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions this summer with hopes of creating a new molecule that could improve the performance of rechargeable batteries. The new molecule was made and hopefully one day we can implement them into our devices with lithium-ion batteries such as our phones and computers. There is still work we have to complete but we did in fact make the molecule into a radical which is what would happen inside of the battery and it is stable.


Entangled Histories: Indigeneity and Blackness in the US Southeast and Oklahoma

McKinley Williams

Professor Alan Shane Dillingham

Today, it is common to separate Native American and Black studies. Here, the intersection of these fields is explored as it pertains to the United States Southeast and Oklahoma. This is done through a reliance on primary and secondary sources, as well as post-colonial theory. It is brought down to a personal level through the analysis of the experience of an Afro-Indigenous student of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School in Carlisle, Pa.


Summer 2020 Student Presentations

This summer 16 students worked with faculty mentors on ACRE projects. Read through their abstracts below and click the titles to view their final presentations.

Natalie Buck
Professor Denise Meister

Examining the Algebra I Keystone Exam

This study’s purpose, five-year results, and remediation efforts were threefold: examine the algebraic concepts on the exam, analyze results of the exam to determine if the scores have increased or decreased in proficiency based on the school district between 2015-2019, and determine the success of the school districts’ remediation plans. Results show a trend of schools that maintain their success rate over the years. Administrators concurred the Algebra I Keystone content aligns with the PA Standards Aligned System. However, there were mixed beliefs regarding the effectiveness of the remediation programs.


Dana Fielding
Dr. Justin Couchman

Effects of Virtual Reality and Resilience on the Misinformation Effect

The purpose of this study was to identify the effects of a virtual reality environment and resilience on the misinformation effect. There were two conditions for the viewing of a stressful video, which were virtual reality (moving the screen) and computer screen (not moving the screen). The two conditions for resilience were high and low resilience. The current study used the PANAS and GRIT tests to measure resilience and stress. Participants would first fill out a demographic questionnaire and the GRIT assessment and then would listen to the researcher read a list of words to them from the DRM task. Then participants would watch the video, recall the list of words, read a misleading paragraph about the video, and finally answer questions about the video. The first hypothesis was that participants who watched the video in virtual reality would be more stressed which would lead to better recall, but also higher susceptibility to the Misinformation Effect. The second hypothesis was that participants who scored higher on the resilience assessment would be less stressed and therefore less susceptible to the misinformation effect. The study had limitations, which will be changed for future studies to improve the reliability of the study.


Jacob Gragg
Dr. Heidi Mau

Logos International: A Look into the Design Philosophies of Eight Different Countries

This project is an analysis of pivotal graphic design movements in Russia, Japan, China, France and Germany over the course of the 1900s and early 2000s. These movements ran parallel with, or in response to, shifts in social structure, economic climate or ongoing wartime. The literary canon also asserts that each country drew inspiration from one another, asserting a narrative of interlinked design histories. This research culminated in a design project in which a set of five iOS app icons were developed for international businesses, inspired by the host country’s design history.


Jaquan Harley
Dr. Amy Greene

The Contractile Vacuole: A Historical Literature Review

Jaquan Harley studied the contractile vacuole (CV), a membrane-bound organelle found in micro-organisms which helps them adapt to different aqueous environments. He reanalyzed data concerning CV and temperature from literature dating back to 1920, using Excel. The CVs contracted more often at higher temperature and slower a lower temperatures in all organisms. The slope of the Arrhenius graph, representing an activation energy, was similar between diverse organisms. Harley also participated in collaborative parasitology research meetings with Swati Agrawal’s students at University of Mary Washington. Students engaged with professors and graduate students from University of Georgia (Edwin Louis, Emma Troth, Alona Botnar, Karla Ma ́rquez Nogueras, and Abigail Calixto), Villanova University (Dr. Megan Povelones, Dr. Jennifer Palenchar), and Clemson University (Dr. Jim Morris, Dr. Meredith Morris).


Ryan Kelly
Dr. Nathan Henceroth

Getting Ready To Run: How Congressional Floor Speeches Precede Campaigns for Higher Office

In American political society, media technology is an extremely prevalent and influential tool used by politicians and constituents alike. For politicians however, media platforms can be an important way to spread messages to the public and gain support, such as with congressional floor speeches. Here, we examined the effects that congressional floor speeches have on electoral success. Despite previous literature and conventional thought suggesting the use floor speeches are important tools for electoral success, the results of our statistical analysis argue that floor speeches may not matter that much at all in determining whether a representative will win an election.


Emily Lenkevich
Dr. Steve Mech

The Effect of the Non-native Microstegium Vimineum on Small Mammal and Insects

Although non-native species impact communities in several ways, the effects of invasive Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) is poorly understood in Pennsylvania. Over the 2020 summer in Nolde Forest near Reading, Pa., we examined the effect of M. vimineum on Peromyscus leucopus and the insect community. P. leucopus were trapped and released at two sites: one with high stiltgrass density and one with very low stiltgrass density. Insects were captured using glue and pitfall traps. We found no difference in insect communities, but P. leucopus differed in survivorship, population and birth rates between the sites. This suggests small mammals are more impacted by the invasive grass than insects.


Faith Miravich
Professor Kristen Woodward

Dance of the Devils: Art Inspired by the Boruka

Student Faith Anne Miravich and Albright College Professor Kristen T. Woodward created a body of artwork inspired by the artistic traditions of the Boruka people of Costa Rica, and designed studio art projects for a future Synthesis travel course that Woodward will co-teach with David Osgood of the Biology Department. Although the breadth of their artistic production resulted in individual paintings, Miravich and Woodward also collaborated on a mini-mural commissioned by the Berks Arts Council in partnership with the Reading Parking Authority as part of their new public art initiative. In August of 2020, the mini-mural was installed and is now on public display on the exterior west wall of the Fourth and Cherry Street Garage, in Reading, Pa.,


Matthew Ortiz
Dr. Matt Fotis

“Yes, And …”: Creating an Improv Curriculum to Help Children with ASD Increase their Social and Behavioral Communication Skills

This study focuses on the created curriculums of improvisational exercises that can be used as a form of Drama Therapy to assist individuals with ASD to increase their social and behavioral skills. Over the summer, Fotis and Ortiz conducted research to create two curriculums to achieve this goal. The curriculums were created out of the team’s research into specific cognitive effects of ASD, the cataloging of exercises and categorization of the cognitive functions used in the exercise.


Krystal Perez
Dr. Joycelyn Burdett

Charles James Study

Perez and Burdett have researched and recreated James’s “Infanta” gown. The “Infanta” was made to fit Perez and was mostly constructed by her with the help of her mentor. In order to produce an accurate copy of the ‘Infanta’ the pair needed lots more information, so they contacted the curator at The Ohio State University and got images and exact measurements of the gown. During the second session of fall, the pair will complete the “Four Leaf Clover” gown.


Daniel Petersheim
Dr. Nick Piro

Ambiphilic Ferrocene-Bridged Ligands for Metals with Expanded Coordination Spheres

One common motif of natural enzymes is the presence of bimetallic structures in their active sites, inducing unique catalytic activity. Petersheim and Piro explored the synthesis of compounds inspired by these bimetallic structures. First, the team conducted a search of the literature to find geometric and synthetic information on related structures. Then they utilized computational chemistry to determine the geometry of their hypothetical molecules, find energetic characteristics, and compare different versions of basic structure. Finally, Petersheim and Piro were able to develop a synthesis pathway to create new molecules, carry out and refine several steps in this pathway, and synthesize a bimetallic complex with two different ligand environments bridged by a ferrocene linker.


Brooke Schlott
Dr. Gwen Seidman

Narcissism and Attribution of Blame Following Romantic Relationship Break-Up

This research examined how narcissists react to romantic break-ups, including their emotional responses and the attribution of blame. The study surveyed 126 adults who had experienced a break-up within the past five years. The survey measured narcissistic admiration and narcissistic rivalry, blame for the break-up and the problems leading to the breaking, negative ex attitudes, and the extent to which they experienced three emotions following break-up: anger, sadness, anxiety. Multiple regression analyses found narcissistic rivalry was associated with greater likelihood of blaming the ex for relationship problems and more negative ex attitudes and emotions, unlike narcissistic admiration.


Julie Schrey
Dr. Adam Hersperger

Understanding the Nature and Function of the Epidermal Growth Factor Ortholog Expressed by Ectromelia Virus

Previous research has shown that poxviruses possess proteins with sequence similarities to epidermal growth factor (EGF) of mammals. EGF is a hormone that plays a key role in cellular pathways including cell cycle progression, cell survival and proliferation. Upon analyzing the genome of ectromelia virus (ECTV), a gene with high sequence homology to EGF was previously identified. We have named this protein ectromelia growth factor (ECGF). ECGF has not been previously studied, therefore, this study seeks to analyze and characterize this EGF homolog and investigate its possible mitogenic role in active ECTV infection and virus replication.


Abigail Shoemaker
Dr. Steve Mech

The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Anthropogenic Habitat Disturbance on the Geographic Range Distribution of the Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtles are threatened mainly due to anthropogenic factors that disrupt their habitat. We studied a box turtle population in an area where recent power line construction disturbed their habitat. We are analyzing the effects these disturbances have on the distribution and home range of 12 turtles tracked with radio transmitters. We located turtles each week starting at the end of April 2020. We found females have a larger home range than males, suggesting females travel father for high quality nesting sites. Our results will contribute to the understanding of habitat use by turtles and potentially aid in their conservation.


Suzanne Spriggs
Dr. Ian Cost

A Comparative Analysis of the Remote Touch Mechanism in Birds

Touch is an integral sense in the development of all animals. Birds and crocodiles have similar anatomical plans and thus should have similar facial innervation. Crocodilians are covered with dome pressure receptors (DPRs) that send signals to the brain via the trigeminal nerve. Bird remote touch sensation affected through Grandry and Herbst corpuscles, is also transmitted to the brain via the trigeminal nerve. In remote touch sensitive birds, mechanoreceptor abundance is highest in the bill tip organ. Here we review current literature and known trigeminal nerve mas for birds and crocodilians to expand our knowledge on the development of touch.


Stephanie Vargas Hemmings
Prof. MeeAe Oh-Ranck

Sustainable Fashion: Upcycling, Reusing and Sustainability

The fashion and textile industry is the second-largest polluter of clean water and the second-largest contributor to overall environmental pollution due to harmful chemicals — behind the oil industry. According to United Nations Environment Protection Programme, it takes around 5,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans and a t-shirt. The fashion and textile industry uses billions of liters of water per day through the treatment, processing and decorating of fabrics. Forever 21, H&M, Primark, Topshop and Zara are trendy fast fashion companies that share one particular characteristic: to sell garments with a short life cycle at an affordable price. These fast fashion companies utilize trend replication, rapid production and low-quality materials in order to bring inexpensive styles to the public. Unfortunately, this results in harmful impacts on the environment, human well-being and ultimately our wallets. The life cycle of clothing is highly concerning and consumers need to be aware of how the fast fashion industry is affecting the environment. Much of donated clothing to places like Goodwill and Salvation Army end up in landfills. As stated in Fashion Industry Waste Statistics “about 85% of waste goes to landfills.” This research project “Sustainable Fashion: Upcycling and Reusing” will investigate innovative ways to create a design collection by utilizing upcycling and reusing fabric, including denim, for the visual aspect of the project.


Jennifer Vasquez
Dr. Beth Kiester

Status, Detention and Deportation: Uncertainty Among Immigrant Communities in the United States

Dr. Kiester and Jennifer Vasquez conducted 19 interviews via Zoom with immigrant service providers including lawyers, case workers, clergy/religious leaders, advocates and politicians to better understand the impact that COVID-19, detention, deportation and immigrant legal status uncertainty have on immigrant communities. In reviewing the interviews, three key themes emerged: the emotional and psychological effects on mixed status families, the financial burden on the family members who are not detained, and the impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities and the immigrant service providers’ ability to provide adequate services. Findings suggest that communities bear the cost of the way we treat immigrants.