Past Awards - 2020

Below are abstracts of KU BEARS grant awards from 2020. Click on the titles to read each abstract.

  • Enumerating Subgraphs in Algebraically Defined Graphs

    Wing Hong Tony Wong

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Mathematics

    Peter Kanjorski

    Major: Mathematics

    Overview: This project studies algebraically defined graphs and their properties. Algebraically defined graphs are motivated by finite incidence geometries. Common finite incidence geometries include projective planes, affine planes, and generalized quadrangles. Algebraically defined graphs and finite incidence geometries are related to many different areas of mathematics, such as graph theory, combinatorics, design theory, abstract algebra, linear algebra, and mathematical games.

    The definition of an algebraically defined graph is quite involved. Simply put, it contains two sets of points, and every point represents a coordinate. A point from one set is connected to another point in the opposite set if the corresponding two coordinates satisfy some predefined equations. One of the major questions in this area of mathematics is to classify algebraically defined graphs up to isomorphism. Two graphs are said to be isomorphic if they are identical after rearranging their points.

    There are a number of different strategies for determining whether two graphs are isomorphic. One of them is to compare their intrinsic properties, such as the girth of the graphs. Other techniques include counting the number of certain subgraphs. This summer, we determined a formula to enumerate the number of complete bipartite graphs of any given size that are embedded in certain algebraically defined graphs over finite fields, thus providing a necessary condition for these algebraically defined graphs to be isomorphic. This project is within the realm of proof-based theoretical mathematics, but we also utilized computer programs as a major aid to formulate conjectures and verify answers.

  • Quantum Sensing with Ultracold Atoms in Ring-Shaped Lattices

    Kunal Das

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Michael Collins

    Major: Physics

    Overview: Harnessing quantum mechanics for new applications and devices is now generally accepted as critical for the development of future technology. Success in that quest relies intrinsically on finding suitable platforms. Ultracold atoms trapped in ring-shaped lattices offer the full spectrum of quantum effects relevant for such technology, yet it is a system that has barely been explored in practice. The purpose of this project was to examine and develop this system as a novel platform for high precision sensor mechanisms and quantum technologies. The research was computational and theoretical in nature, but the outcomes are aimed to motivate and develop experiments in extramural collaborations.

    Michael Collins has focused on the effects of inter-atomic interactions that usually degrade sensitivity, but which instead can be turned around to enhance sensor response via quantum effects like spin-squeezing. He learned how to model and simulate quantum spectra and dynamics using the nonlinear Schrodinger equation, which describes the effects of such inter-atomic interactions. The summer program has created a strong interest in him to do theoretical physics research, and he has continued to actively participate in related research with Prof. Kunal Das beyond the summer.

  • Seasonal Wind Climatology of the Great Lakes Region of the United States

    Michael Davis

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Geography

    Anna Grayek

    Major: Environmental Science/Geography

    Overview: Wind climatology in the Great Lakes region of the United States has accumulated a lengthy research archive. However, most of these past research endeavors have focused on mesoscale to synoptic scale features (i.e., lake effect snow during the winter season) and the production of wind energy. Seasonal variations in the wind speed have been less studied and those studies that have been conducted have not encompassed the entire Great Lakes region. This paper aims to address those deficiencies and to strengthen the overall understanding of wind patterns within the Great Lakes region. 

    By gathering wind data from Environmental Science Research Laboratory and coupling it with GFDL climate model future projections of wind and sea level pressure assuming a 1% increase in carbon dioxide, information can be obtained as to the future of wind in this economically important region. Rotational principal component analysis was conducted to assess the regionality of the wind and to establish spatial regimes regarding wind patterns. Shifting circulation patterns can affect shipping, agriculture, and energy production/consumption rates. Identification of seasonal variations and year-to-year variations can provide a more robust understanding of the climatology of the region as well as how the climate may change over time.

  • An Examination of Fontan Circulation Using Differential Equation Models and Numerical Analysis

    Brooks Emerick

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Mathematics

    Vanessa Maybruck

    Major: Secondary Education: Mathematics

    Overview: Certain congenital heart defects can lead to the development of only a single pumping chamber, or ventricle, in the heart instead of the usual two ventricles. Individuals with this defect undergo a three-part corrective surgery, the third step of which is the Fontan procedure, but as the patients age, their cardiovascular health will likely deteriorate. Using computational fluid dynamics and differential equations, Fontan circulation can be modeled to investigate why the procedure fails and how Fontan failure can be maximally prevented. Borrowing from well-established literature on RC circuits, the differential equation models simulate systemic blood flow in a piecewise, switch-like fashion. Here, we develop numerical solvers for both ordinary and partial differential equations to model Fontan circulation, with a special focus on system stability and parameter analysis. Overall, our goal is to accurately model blood flow and determine parameters of interest to decrease the diagnosis time of Fontan failure and/or improve the surgical technique to prevent the failure from occurring.

  • Island Biogeography Theory Applied to Plant Populations on Tree Stumps at Promised Land Lake

    Christopher Habeck

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Biological Sciences

    Eric Daugherty

    Major: Environmental Science | Biology

    Overview:  A central goal of conservation biology is to understand the processes that govern the distribution and abundance of species in time and space. A leading theory that predicts how many species exist in a patch of land is the Theory of Island Biogeography. This theory states that an equilibrium number of species occupying a patch can be predicted based on just two geographical attributes: patch size, and distance from a source of potential immigrants. Eric tested the Theory of Island Biogeography by counting the number of plant species on tree stumps surrounded by Promised Land State Park. He found that the size of the stumps strongly predicted the number of plant species found, but distance from the lake shore had no effect. Eric learned important organizational and practical skills that will serve him well regardless of whether he chooses to pursue graduate school or careers in environmental science and ecology.


  • The Access to Mental Health Services in Rural Pennsylvania

    Christopher Harris

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Social Work

    Sara Garman

    Major: Social Work

    Overview:  The purpose of this study is to explore factors affecting access to mental health services along the continuum of care (promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention, and recovery) and across the five domains that influence health equity and health disparity: availability, accessibility, affordability, appropriateness, and acceptability of care (Jackson, 2010).

    Sara and Dr. Harris collaborated on a statewide study exploring how parents of children and older adults experience access to mental health services in their communities. Sara focused on recruiting insurance companies and mental health service providers to participate in focus groups. She also assisted with focus group facilitation, development of coding schemes for narrative data, data cleaning of narrative records, and thematic analysis of focus group narratives.

  • Where do We Go from Here?

    Jonathan Joy

    College of Visual and Performing Arts | Cinema, Television and Media Production

    Isidra Garcia

    Major: Cinema, Television and Media Production

    Overview: Isidra and I collaborated as screenwriters, directors, editors, and performance designers (COVID-19 restrictions). The screenplay executes experimentation in the cinematic language and considers the performance workflow — how will it engage a spectator and push them to become an active participant in the performance. In our approach, we want the experimental short film to deconstruct the syntax of cinema to better serve the engagement of the spectator. Isidra researched and catalogued a repository of work of those performing and writing in the area of live cinema. We learned how a live cinema performance design can quantify the proprioceptive nature of a spectatorial experience, research and apply cinematic techniques of live cinema performers, research and apply new cinema tools like cameras and lenses, as well as editing applications like Adobe Premiere Pro CC and DaVinci Resolve, and exhibit the completed work at international film festivals with a focus on performance art gallery spaces.

  • Industrialization in Eastern Pennsylvania as Viewed through 19th Century General Stores

    Khori Newlander

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Anthropology & Sociology

    Mikala Hardie

    Major: Anthropology

    Overview: The rise of industry during the late-18th and 19th centuries dramatically transformed America. Towns across eastern Pennsylvania changed substantially as new technologies and new populations were thrust together to gain American economic independence from Europe. The changing socioeconomic focus of these early industrial towns can be viewed through the artifacts recovered from their general stores. General stores were the hubs of early industrial towns in America, providing access for local residents to goods that, in turn, linked these towns with the larger world. During the summer of 2020, Mikala Hardie worked with me to analyze artifacts recovered from the general stores at Stoddartsville and Joanna Furnace, two 19th-century industrial towns in eastern Pennsylvania. Our analysis demonstrates the significant role general stores played on the changing American industrial landscape and articulates these industrial communities with the burgeoning capitalist economy of the region.

  • Literacy Experiences and Reading Motivation Among Preservice Candidates: How Our Selection and Implementation of Literacy Practices Impact Candidates Motivation to Read

    Meganlyn Norris

    College of Education | Elementary, Middle Level, Library and Technologies Education

    Colleen Bungarz

    Major: Elementary Education Pre-K-4

    Overview:  This project reviews literature to determine how motivation relates to reading and impacts a reader in terms of their willingness to read. The data collection occurred through a qualitative approach to examine the Motivation to Read levels of preservice candidates using the Motivation to Read Profile survey, a valid and reliable instrument developed by Pitcher et al. (2007). The data are to be analyzed, synthesized, and evaluated to identify trends and themes in relation to the literature reviewed regarding implications for teacher educators as to instructional practices to utilize in order to increase or maintain reading motivation levels. Consequently, the project discusses how teacher educators can adjust their pedagogy to better meet the needs of their preservice candidates who will one day be the literacy teachers of tomorrow.

  • Empowered Voice Pedagogy Research Project

    Amy Pfeiler-Wunder

    College of Visual and Performing Arts | Art Education 

    Shani Trebatoski

    Major: Art Education

    Overview: All educators come to art education settings with their own collections of lived experiences and sets of cultural assumptions, as do our learners. This research investigates how examining one’s personal and professional identity unpacks biases and stereotypes in order to become change agents in developing socially engaged curriculum giving voice to those who have been marginalized (Adams, et. al 2007 in Acuff, 2013, p. 221-222). This research project is supported by the National Art Education Foundation and the KU BEARS Grant Program.

  • Towards the Use of Literary Genre to Game Genre Classification: A Comparative Study

    Thiep N. Pham

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Computer Science & Information Technology

    Bohdan Jacklitsch

    Major: Computer Science

    Overview: Video game entertainment has rapidly made its way from the game room to the classroom. The surge of video game popularity with the mobile phone generation has provided colleges an opportunity to create a game development curriculum to convert gamers into game developers. However, the emerging game development field still needs a solid foundation of knowledge, one of the foundations being the classification of its game genres. Unlike literary genre studies, game genre study is still in its infancy and requires a more in-depth exploration. This research will review existing game genre studies, contrasting with literary genre studies in the arts and literature, establish potential methods to structure game genre and apply the methods to a specific game genre.

  • The Performance of Silicon Photovoltaic Cells Under Steady-State Simulated Solar Illumination Subjected to Temperatures from 190℃ to 210℃

    Paul V. Quinn Sr.

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Hunter Davis

    Major: Physics – Engineering Physics

    Overview: With the rise of awareness for climate change and environmental protection, research into alternative energy sources has become increasingly important. One of the most popular forms of renewable energy is solar power. The most common type of solar panels that are built consist of a collection of monocrystalline, silicon cells that are utilized to generate electricity. Our research specifically looks into the efficiency characteristics of these monocrystalline, silicon, photovoltaic, cells after they are exposed to intense heat for a predetermined amount of time. The cells used in this project were heated at temperatures of 190℃, 200℃, and 210℃, for times ranging from 10 minutes to 110 minutes. The IV curves were fit with a theoretical model, allowing the parameters of the photovoltaic cells, such as the gap energy and the ideality factor, to be determined and compared to results available in the literature. An analysis of this data shows an average increase in fill fraction or efficiency with time for all three temperatures. These results seem to indicate a permanent overall increase in efficiency of the cells compared to baseline values. This process may be due to hydrogen passivation and Boron-Oxygen regeneration, but further research is needed to confirm this. Either way, this outcome proves that we do not need to significantly change the process of production of the cells in order to increase the efficiency.

  • Family Before Gender: Bantu African Concepts of Gender, 3000 CE to 1800 CE

    Christine Saidi

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | History

    Kaitlin McElroy

    Major: English

    Aviv Tumbleson

    Major: Liberal Sciences

    Overview: This research project is based on the African fieldwork for a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Grant.  Dr. Saidi has gathered linguistic, video, oral tradition, life history, ethnographic, art, and archival evidence for NEH research. Dr. Saidi and colleagues also collected evidence in Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. When she returned to KU, she had a great deal of research data. From previous fieldwork, both for the NEH grant and other research trips to Africa, Dr. Saidi has been able to construct a linguistic data base that covers over 72 Bantu languages and has vocabulary relating to gender and gender dynamics. The student researchers worked on historical research and organized, analyzed and collated massive amounts of research data.

  • Long Term Map Maintenance for Mobile Robots

    Dylan Schwesinger

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Computer Science & Information Technology

    Anthony Dellinger

    Major: Computer Science & Mathematics

    Overview: Mobile robot applications typically use a representation of the real-world environment (a map) for navigation tasks. The first step for many mobile robot applications is to create a map of the environment. That map is then used for future navigation tasks. This method assumes that the environment does not change over time; for some navigation tasks, this assumption is valid. The goal of this project is to handle mobile robot navigation tasks where the environment is expected to change over time. For example, monitoring crop growth. The main aspect of this project is to investigate map representations that can be easily updated (repaired) when discrepancies are detected between the initial map representation and the sensor measurements of the real-world environment acquired during a navigation task.

  • Application of the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) in Search of Preserved Microbes in the Early Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation

    Edward L. Simpson

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Grace Hetrick

    Major: Geology

    Overview: The egg shell fragments of modern birds and dinosaurs, collected as float from the Upper Jurassic Brushy Basin Member, Morrison Formation, were observed under the SEM. Analysis of the dinosaur egg shells demonstrate remarkable preservation of the interior membrane.

    The presence of a variety of oogenera in the deposit and fragmented nature indicate a transported assemblage. The internal membrane was partially preserved on the tips of the mammillary bodies, initial points of egg shell development. Features that record the preservation of the internal membrane in the dinosaur egg mammillary fragments include: 1) irregular-shaped calcium carbonate bodies “floating” in fibrous organic matrix, 2) external calcium carbonate tubes of fibers in the mammillary bodies that formed the foundation for building the egg shell, 3) three-dimensional organic fiber matrix, and 4) fibrous organic matrix with oval to circular pore structure. Unlike modern birds’ eggs, the dinosaur eggs’ calcium carbonate tubes were observed to have rigid organic fibers inside that are traced into a delta-like fluidized/gel deposit.

    The recognition of well-preserved internal membrane fragments of dinosaur eggs from the Morrison Formation indicates newfound opportunities to explore the preservation taphonomy of organic compounds associated with fragmental dinosaur eggs. 

  • Sub-micron Laser Characterization and Spot Size Extraction using a Knife Edge Technique

    Justin L. Smoyer

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Ali Cataggio

    Major: Physics | Physics Engineering

    OverviewThe ability to create faster and more reliable computers is limited by the ability to manage thermal energy generated during operation. This challenge has become more prevalent as fabrication technology has led to device structures with nanoscale dimensions. The characterization of thermal properties at this scale is a complex task that often relies on tightly focused lasers to measure thermal parameters such as in the FDTR experiment in the Nanoscale Thermal Sciences Laboratory. The resolution of this system relies on the ability to accurately determine the size of the focused laser spots. In the proposed research, the student researcher, guided by the faculty member, will design, fabricate, and benchmark a knife-edge system to characterize the spot size of a focused laser with sub-micron resolution. The system will be integrated into the existing FDTR system and benchmarked against a commercially available system at lower magnification. The student’s system will surpass the resolution of the commercial system and enhance the capabilities of the FDTR system while providing the student with a valuable array of skills in multiple techniques and programming languages. 

  • Understanding the Impact of MUSO Microfinance Groups on Individuals and Community Well-being in Rural Haiti

    Juliana Svistova

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Social Work

    Carolyn Rene

    Major: Social Work & Political Science

    Overview: In Haiti, the government’s failure to adequately meet the needs of its citizens has fueled grassroots community organizing and the growth of the solidarity economy. This mixed-methods research project investigates group processes and social impact of community-driven, solidarity-based microfinance groups in rural communities in Petit Goave, Haiti. Proposed outcomes of the project include evaluating the processes utilized by seven mutual solidarity groups in order to improve their programmatic effectiveness and identifying evidence-based best-practices in poverty alleviation efforts in the Haitian context. More generally, this research will contribute to the knowledge base on operations and social impacts of microfinance organizations on the well-being of participants and their communities. 

  • The Influence of Climate Change on the Timing of Egg Laying in Three Species of Cavity-Nesting Songbirds in Kutztown, PA

    Todd Underwood

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Biological Sciences

    Andrew Bosche

    Major: Biology | Organismal & Ecology

    Overview: Several species of birds have been found to lay their eggs earlier in spring due to rising temperatures. These trends have been documented on a large geographic scale across North America and at select local sites. We determined whether temperature and any changes in temperature over 2008-2019 have influenced egg laying dates of three species of cavity-nesting songbirds, Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon), and Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialia), on a local scale in Kutztown, Berks County, Pennsylvania. We found that average first egg laying dates of Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds were significantly related to the average monthly temperature of the month they begin nesting with eggs laid earlier in years with warmer average temperatures. However, we found no significant trends in temperature or egg laying dates of these three species over the 12 years of this study. These results suggest that two common songbirds have the potential to be influenced by climate change because their egg laying dates are directly related to average spring temperature. Further years of nest monitoring are needed to fully evaluate the potential effects of climate change on the breeding biology of these cavity-nesting birds in Berks County, PA because climate-related trends are difficult to detect over such a relatively short time period.

  • Documenting the Cave Wall Licking Behaviors of the Common Rousette Fruit Bat (Rousettus amplexicaudatus)

    David L. Waldien

    Gregory Setliff

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Biological Sciences

    Julianna Gill

    Major: Biology | Organismal & Ecology

    Overview: The Common Rousette Fruit Bat (Rousettus amplexicaudatus) is a frugivorous cave-roosting species found throughout Southeast Asia and Oceania. A broader understanding of species’ full dietary needs and diverse roosting behaviors is required to strengthen conservation efforts for the species. The goal of our project was to describe a cave-licking behavior that was observed in R. amplexicaudatus. Video (n = 14) previously collected for other behavioral research on cave bats was reviewed for this behavior. The duration of the activity was recorded and other characteristics of each incidence. Twenty-seven bats were observed licking the caves on 28 occasions in 8 of the 14 videos. The median duration was 10 seconds (SD = 0.03 seconds; range 1-111 seconds). Further research is needed to fully characterize this cave-licking behavior and to determine if the behavior provides specific micronutrients to the bats or if it is instead related to mating behaviors specific to male bats.