La Salle News

La Salle University Faculty-Student Research Projects Bring Together a Wide Array of Topics, Collaborations

August 4, 2013

Nutrition. Chemistry. Rainbows.

These are three of several topics being explored by La Salle University faculty and students as part of an annual program sponsored by the Dean’s Office of the University’s School of Arts and Sciences.

Nine faculty members and 14 students are involved with the program.

“There are great benefits to both faculty and students who combine for research projects. Professors get to expand their knowledge base and have more to offer in their classrooms, and students gain a deeper theoretical and practical understanding of their subject, whether biology, sociology, literature, etc.,” said Thomas Keagy, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Jon Matos, a digital arts and multimedia design and English double major, teamed up with associate professor of English John Beatty on a video project that had its origin after a dramatic change in his life.

“I lost 25 pounds with diet and exercise, and I’m a writer, so I like telling stories, and video is just another way of doing that,” Matos said. He and Beatty are collaborating on a project titled “Creating Effective Video for Teaching about Health and Nutrition.”

Beatty said, “I found myself in a similar situation to that of my students—how to transition from a writer with some design skills to a full-fledged multimedia journalist, the current norm in the profession.”

“I wanted to learn more about video, what makes for effective video, and how video techniques and post-production can influence the final outcome, the issues that we are addressing in our summer project,” Beatty said.

Matos and Beatty’s video also grew out of a course Beatty taught that included reporting and writing on “Exploring Nutrition,” a project started by Marjorie Allen, Chair of the University’s Department of Integrative Studies, to help improve eating habits in the community surrounding La Salle.

Biology professor Gerald Ballough likens an undergraduate not doing research to “the sad plight of a music student unable to obtain an instrument. The same is true of a science student whose coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and other subjects is never interwoven, tested, and challenged in real-life applications.”

Ballough is working with biology majors Andrea Moffa and Gavin McLaughlin this summer. (Three other students, psychology majors Hao Phan, Taylor Dunn and Denny Ballough, are also working with Ballough as part of the University’s Palopoli Professorship, which provides research opportunities for undergraduates.)

Chemistry majors Emily Fenton and Kristen Kelly are working with Michael Prushan, associate professor of chemistry, on “Small Molecule Structural and Functional Mimics of the Active Site of Nickel Superoxide Dismutase

“I hope to learn techniques that will sharpen my etiquette in the laboratory,” Fenton said.” I am excited to learn the research process and, of course, anxious to learn about the topic. As a student-athlete (women’s soccer), it’s natural to accept a challenge, which is why I originally chose the major. I think I have learned a great deal by being a chemistry/biochemistry major, not necessarily just science-based knowledge, but also how to manage and excel as both a student and an athlete.”

Janet Fierson, assistant professor of mathematics, and Katherine Boligitz, a junior double major in mathematics and economics, are examining rainbows, but not the type that appear in the sky; they are studying those found in graphs. Their topic is “Variations and Applications of an Extension of the Rainbow Connection Number of a Graph.”

Fierson said that graphs consist of “vertices”—points that can represent things such as locations or people—and “edges” —lines denoting connections between points. She said the concept of rainbow connection in the field of graph theory could have applications for the secure transfer of classified information between government agencies. In theory, an agency can be represented by a vertex, and each line of communication between two agencies can be represented by an edge.

“To ensure secure exchange of information, we need to assign a password to each line of communication in such a way that each pair of agencies can communicate with each other along a path with no repeated passwords,” Fierson said. “If we use colors to represent the passwords, the rainbow connection number of the graph is the minimum number of colors necessary in order accomplish this.”

Through a School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s faculty-student summer research project last summer, Fierson and another math major, Kristen Heaney, introduced a new concept in rainbow connection. They presented their findings at national conferences and are preparing a journal article for submission. This summer, Fierson and Boligitz are working on further variations and applications.

Mathematics professor Timothy Highley and Howard Stickey, a senior mathematics major, are studying “Synergy in Games,” which can have applications in game programming.

“The ‘game’ we are actually studying is just a toy example in that genre. The project ties together the theoretical side—optimization, knapsack problems, and a bit of game theory—with the more applied side of computing, such as programming, simulation, and, if time permits, the development of the game into something someone could play online,” Highley said.

Stickley said, “In regard to math and computer science, I like that any problem that may present itself can be treated as puzzle with multiple ways to get a desired answer. This is why I hope to enter the game industry as a game programmer.”

Here is a list of all SAS faculty and students participating in the program:

2013 Summer Faculty/Student Summer Grant





Janet Fierson Katherine Boligitz MATH Variations and Applications of an Extension of the Rainbow Connection Number of a Graph
Gerald Ballough Andrea Moffa, Gavin McLaughlin, Hao Pham, Taylor Dunn, Denny Ballough BIO Brain Damage in Rodent Models of Binge Drinking:  Continued Assessments of Acute Ethanol – Induced Neuropathy in Rats
John Beatty Jon Matos ENG Creating Effective Video for Teaching about Health and Nutrition
Michael Boyle Matthew Howell POL SCI The Use and Effectiveness of Terrorist Bombings in Warfare 1970-2010
William Price Loreski Collado CHM Synthesis of N-Ethylmaleimide-d5: A Molecular Probe for Mass Spectral Analysis of Protein Folding
Michael Prushan Kristen Kelly, Emily Fenton CHM Small Molecule Structural and Functional Mimics of the Active Site of Nickel Superoxide Dismutase (Ni-SOD)
Davis Zuzga Robert Duffy BIO Role of the Vasodilator- Stimulated Phosphoprotein (VASP) in Entero Pathogenic E.Coli Induced Actin Pedestal Formation
Timothy Highley Howard Stickley MATH Synergy in Games
William Weaver Carmelo Gaudite, Shanice James ISBT Algorithmic Perception Expedition (APEX):  The Application of Application of Electrodermal Response Sensors to Collect Data





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