Past Awards - 2023

Below are abstracts of KU BEARS grant awards from 2023. Click on the titles to read each abstract.

  • Mastering Type: Image Research and Curation

    Denise Bosler  

    College of Visual and Performing Arts | Art & Design 

    Karleigh Patton  

    Major: Communication Design  

    Overview: Dr. Denise Bosler, alongside student Karleigh Patton, embarked on a curatorial research project to source over 450 images for the 2nd Edition of Mastering Type, an academic book that educates readers on typography in both print and interactive design. Contracted by Bloomsbury Publishing, this new edition aims to reinvigorate the book’s visual content, aligning it with a comprehensive rewrite of key chapters. 

    The project’s summer goals were multifaceted. Dr. Bosler and Karleigh collaborated to identify specific visuals that complement the book's historical and contemporary textual content fostering a connection between modern design practice and academic instruction. Karleigh extensively searched public and private image databases to compile a rich digital archive of potential visuals, which encompassed historical artifacts, such as early writing systems, illustrated manuscripts and Art Nouveau posters, as well as contemporary graphic design works including logos, packaging, and advertising. A central task was the development of a database system, designed to meticulously track and organize the curated images. In addition to image curation, the project involved careful negotiation of copyright and image permissions, ensuring that selected images could be legally and ethically licensed.  

    This project not only facilitated the production of a visually dynamic and updated edition of Mastering Type but also served as a significant educational experience for Karleigh, complementing and enhancing her coursework in the Communication Design program. 

  • Refining/Editing the OEM Textbook Entitled, Layout Format Concepts & Vocab Research

    Kate Clair  

    College of Visual and Performing Arts | Art & Design 

    Alyssa Markiewicz  

    Major: Communication Design  

    Overview: Undergraduate KUCD student Alyssa Markiewicz assisted Professor Kate Clair in completing a book to be used as a digital Open Resource Textbook for students of Design. Professor Clair had used the draft of the book to teach from in past semesters but was well aware that the captions needed to be written and placed in the text. She knew images needed to have their copyrights added in and some visuals needed to be improved and simplified. In short, the final version of the book needed to be fine-tuned. Rising KU junior, Alyssa Markiewicz, agreed to take on the challenge of assisting in refining the textbook through a KU BEARS Grant because she knew that she could work from home, on her own computer to complete the work around her summer schedule of family trips and outings. Working via phone and conferring over pages on Zoom the two got through half of the textbook and Clair plans to try to finish the rest between semesters this winter. “Without the help of Alyssa, I’d be starting from square one. She was able to create illustrations and refine visual examples to make my work much less daunting.” 

  • Ctb9 Yeast Two-hybrid Screen

    Cristina Cummings  

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Biological Sciences 

    Therese Coleman  

    Major: Biology  

    Overview: Ctb9 was originally identified in a screen for proteins that interact with Cul3, a protein that is used to control cell division and other processes by targeting specific proteins for destruction.

    Although Ctb9 was found to assist Cul3 in identifying target proteins, it likely has additional biological functions in the cell. As the first step in investigating the function of Ctb9, we have begun a yeast two-hybrid screen to identify other proteins with which it interacts in the cell. For our KU Bears summer research project, we cloned the Ctb9 bait gene used for the screen. We additionally prepared the "prey" library, a collection of thousands of genes to produce the proteins that will be assessed in the screen. In future experiments, we will determine which of these proteins interact with Ctb9.

  • Quantum Analysis of Sensors and Simulators with Ultracold Atoms in Rings

    Kunal Das 

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Physical Sciences  

    Kathryn Gabriel  

    Major: Physics  

    Michael Lafferty  

    Major: Physics 

    Overview: Kathryn Gabriel and Michael Laferty studied the dynamical behavior of quantum systems in the context of ultracold atoms. The system of interest was a Bose Einstein condensate (BEC) comprising of atoms cooled to almost absolute zero whereby they collectively act like a single quantum entity. Kathyrn and Michael simulated the scattering of wavepackets of such BEC by quantum potentials and thereby examined the intricate nonlinear dynamics that arises from the interactions among the atoms and determined how the scattering impacts those correlations. The research continued beyond the summer, as both students worked to finalize and consolidate the results generated during the summer. Some of the results were presented in regional conferences. The experience with this research has helped Michael get accepted in several Ph.D. programs in physics and related fields; and has helped Kathryn secure multiple offers from REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) for the following summer, as she plans to also apply to enroll in a Ph.D. program in physics on graduation. 

  • Northeastern United States Wildfire Vulnerability Trends

    Michael Davis 

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Geography 

    Megan Grim  

    Major: Geography  

    Overview: Wildfires in the United States have been widely regarded as a climatic issue in the western United States due to massive wildfires in the recent history in places like California and the Pacific Northwest.  However, wildfire risk is not confined to this region of the United States.  The northeastern United States has observed numerous wildfires within the past several decades.  While these fires are not as large in scope as those in the west, they have the capacity to be quite disruptive due to the densely populated regions of the northeastern United States.  As our climate undergoes additional changes due primarily to the release of carbon through anthropogenic practices, this phenomenon may escalate in their impact in the future. 

    This study examines the climatology of such wildfire events in the northeastern United States for the spatial distribution of these fires.  Examination into soil moisture and pressure system locations will be conducted to assess the vulnerability of the region to wildfires.  Further analysis into climate modeling can yield additional information as to areas at enhanced risk of future wildfires. 

  • Selective Competition in Host-Parasitoid Dynamic Models

    Brooks Emerick 

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Mathematics  

    Jared Guhl  

    Major: Secondary Education  

    Overview: Early mathematical models of the host-parasitoid interaction include the discrete-time Nicholson-Bailey model, which is known to be unstable, i.e. coexistence is impossible. In this research, we explore the stability of the system using both numerical and analytical methods to investigate the response of the host larvae to multiple parasitoid populations. The model under consideration involves three types of parasitoids: two specialist species and one generalist species. The generalist can oviposit in any type of host, while the specialists can only infect on their respective host. Such selective competition among parasitoid species is common in natural systems. We demonstrate how stability in the system is achieved through selective competition with various forms of parasitic attack. 

  • Impacting the Attitudes of Middle School Students to Consider Higher Education after HS

    Carol Haney-Watson 

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

    Shelby Jurasits  

    Major: Elementary Education (4-8) 

    Kristin Lipkus 

    Major: Elementary Education (4-8) 

    Overview: We know that various student populations are more or less likely to attend institutions of higher education after high school. Some factors influencing this include socio-economic status, ethnicity, and family history in higher education. As future middle level teachers, we wondered if there is anything we can do to even the playing field between culturally and economically underserved populations as applied to considering and/or choosing opportunities in higher education.    

    We know that many factors influence how likely a student is to pursue higher education after high school. Ozyyonum (2017) identified these factors as gender, socio-economic status, parent influence, and peer/school influence. Zion and Hollmann (2018) reported that students begin to consider which institution (if at all) to attend beginning in middle school and continuing through high school.   

    Among low-income students specifically and historically, the primary factors in determining if students attended higher education are rigorous HS courses, high expectations of all students, and quality counseling and information (King, 1996). These services are less likely to be available to lower income students. Finally, America (2022) found that the top five reasons students don’t want to attend college are  as follows: no one in their family has gone before, they think college will be too hard, they don’t  know how to choose the right college, they’re worried they won’t fit in, and they’re not sure they can afford the cost. Given these issues, we surveyed middle level students before and after a campus visit to determine what impact it might have on wondered students choosing higher education opportunities. 

  • Marimba Documentary

    Michael Johnston 

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

    Kristy Jo Mahoney  

    Major: Cinema, Television & Media Production  

    Overview: Prof. Johnston wrote a short comedic film, Mattress-cide. Prof. Johnston worked with CTM student, Kristy Jo Mahoney, on the pre-production design, budgeting, and scheduling of the film. The film was postponed due to the SAG strike (which is still ongoing). Prof. Johnston secured SAG actor, Thomas Jay Ryan, but was unable to continue due to the strike. The plan is to film the movie in the summer of 2024. All the pre-production materials have been completed and the movie is ready to be cast and filmed.   

  • Untitled Comedy Short Film

    Jonathan Joy 

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

    Kaitlyn Todd  

    Major: Cinema, Television & Media Production 

    Overview: Kaitlyn and I collaborated in a manner that built exploration and continuous growth in the field of cinematography. I am proud of the faculty/student research conducted throughout the summer. It was an opportunity to work with a supportive, receptive and driven student. In our approach, we found camera testing, specifically, to be laborious but not without reward. That explorative period produced two results: 1. We discovered (and came to definitive conclusions) which lenses best suited a particular camera, which camera + lens combination produced the best dynamic range, skin tones, color accuracy and those that best performed in low light or dark environments (artificial lighting or natural lighting). 2. Kaitlyn has developed and formed a skill set in the area of cinematography that has her prepared to work in the camera department specifically as a camera assistant (1st or 2nd AC) or camera operator. This foundational research has set in motion opportunities to excel in camera departments of any genre of film production. Her long-term goal is to become a director of photography. This summer began that process. 

  • Exploring the Potential of VR Technology to Enhance Fan Engagement in Sports

    Yongjae Kim 

    College of Business | Sport Management 

    Soojin Kim 

    College of Business | Sport Management 

    Tyler Monahan  

    Major: Sport Management  

     Overview: With the rapid advancement of technology, virtual sports have gained increasing popularity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when many people turned to virtual sport experiences as a substitute for traditional sport events. As a result, it is essential to explore the impact of virtual sport experiences on consumer attitudes and behavior, in comparison to sport experiences on TV. However, limited knowledge exists regarding the underlying mechanisms that inform such user experiences in the context of virtual reality spectatorship (VRS). Therefore, the purpose of this study is four-fold: 1) to identify the factors that enhance user experiences in VRS; 2) to examine when and how VRS enhances user experiences and satisfaction; and 3) to compare sport experiences across different media platforms (TV and VR). To achieve these goals, an experimental research design was used to monitor and record users' physiological arousal, cognitive and affective responses to the rendered 3D sport events, including facial expression and galvanic skin response. The study identified specific factors that significantly contribute to enhancing user experiences in virtual reality spectatorship. These factors included immersive visuals, interactivity, sense of presence, audio-visual quality, and user interface design within the virtual environment. In comparison of sport experiences across different media platforms, the findings showed differences in user engagement, emotional responses, and overall satisfaction between these mediums, highlighting the unique advantages and drawbacks of each. These findings are valuable for various stakeholders, including sports entertainment companies, technology developers, marketers, and researchers interested in enhancing user experiences in virtual environments.   

  • Girth of Finite Algebraically Defined Graphs

    Brian Kronenthal 

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Mathematics  

    Alexa Fisher 

    Major: Computer Science 

    Jayna Penn  

    Major: Mathematics 

    Overview: In Combinatorics, graphs are objects commonly used to represent networks, communicate information, and solve problems. In this project, the students investigated special graphs which are called algebraically defined.  

    Make a row of vertices (imagine them as dots). Label each vertex with a different (x,y) coordinate pair, for instance (1,4), (3,1), or (2,5). Make a copy of the row so that you have two identical rows, one above the other. Pick a vertex in the top row and a vertex in the bottom row; draw an edge (picture a line segment) connecting them based on whether their (x,y) - coordinates satisfy a pre-determined algebraic equation. This is why these graphs are called algebraically defined. Continue picking pairs of vertices (one from the top row and one from the bottom row) and deciding whether or not to draw an edge based on whether their (x,y) - coordinates satisfy the equation; repeat this process until every vertex in the top row has been considered with every vertex in the bottom row. The resulting object is an algebraically defined graph. 

    These special graphs are interesting in their own right, and problems in pure mathematics do not require a direct application; however, these graphs can be used to solve real-world problems, and have application to coding theory, incidence geometry, and other areas of mathematics. In this project, the students and I collaborated to prove brand new results about graphs that had never been studied. 

  • A Study of Insect Galls of Eastern Pennsylvania

    Carol Mapes  

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Biological Sciences  

    Joshua Lawrence  

    Major: Secondary Education, Biology  

    Overview: Insect galls are growths of distinctive morphologies on plants caused by a variety of insect species. Most insect galls that can be found in North America do not harm the plant as they are typically caused by native species on native plants, however there are some galls caused by non-native species that can result in major damage. Our research provided an assessment of the numbers of species of non-native gall formers in selected insect families within North America. We also assessed the impacts of representative non-native gall formers that are considered invasive and/or pests or have been intentionally introduced for biological control purposes. Additionally, we did field research to determine the effectiveness of Torymus sinensis as a biocontrol agent for the globally invasive Chestnut Gall Wasp Dryocosmus kuriphilus on Chinese chestnuts and American chestnuts and found evidence that the biocontrol agent is quite effective. We presented our findings at the 8th International Plant Gall Symposium in Chico, CA in July 2023. We also studied gall formation of a novel gall on a non-native plant species in an effort to determine what insect is responsible for gall initiation on the plant. We introduced insects to plants grown in “bugdorms” in the Nancy Jean Stump Seiger Botanical Research Greenhouse and were able to determine that the insect we had hypothesized was responsible for gall formation was indeed the gall former, as successful gall formation ensued. 

  • Are Trail Cameras Biased? Estimating Occupancy Using Alternative Designs at Hawk Mountain

    Andrew Mashintonio  

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Biological Sciences  

    Alexis Broggi  

    Major: Environmental Science, Biology  

    Overview: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (HMS) is an important raptor conservation site; however, the protected area also provides habitat for a wide variety of other vertebrate animals, including medium and large mammals. Estimating occupancy, or the proportion of sites occupied by a species during a given time period, can improve habitat management for these mammal species. We estimated occupancy using camera traps placed at 15 random and 15 targeted sites throughout HMS. We compared occupancy estimated by both placement strategies to determine whether there were any differences. Cameras placed at targeted sites detected a total of 14 different species, compared to 12 species detected by random cameras. There were also more detections overall at targeted sites, resulting in higher occupancy estimates for most species. Factors affecting the occupancy estimates, such as distance from the nearest roads, trails, and streams, and elevation, were not consistent between the different placement strategies. This study demonstrates that the camera placement strategy can drastically affect the detection of species in a given area, resulting in different estimates of species richness and occupancy. Possible reasons for lower detections in random areas include poorer habitat and fewer resources, as well as potentially more difficult terrain to transverse compared to targeted sites, which were often placed along trails.

  • Compositional Analysis in Historical Archaeology

    Khori Newlander  

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences| Anthropology and Sociology  

    Linda Zuniga  

    Major: Art History  

    Overview: The rise of American industry during the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries dramatically transformed the United States. Researchers who study early industrial communities wish to understand how physical, economic, demographic, and social factors intersected in the unfolding of industrialization. Archaeology is particularly well placed to provide relevant insight because it can trace trajectories of cultural change over extended periods of time. Archaeology can also recover material evidence of the countless men and women who, though lost to the history books, helped America become an industrial and economic power. In this study, Linda Zuniga and I examined the changes wrought by industrialization through the archaeological study of Stoddartsville, a nineteenth-century milling village in northeast Pennsylvania. Our analysis of the nails, specifically, aids in developing the site chronology; documents variability in the consumption of commodities in different domestic contexts, reflective of differences in socioeconomic status; and draws attention to specific individuals who, though often absent in historic texts, played fundamental roles in building an industrial America. Thus, our analyses provide new data for understanding the contexts and consequences of industrialization in the past and how industrialization continues to transform the world in the present.   

  • Inclusion, Power-Sharing and Student Well-Being in Higher Education & Mental Health Stigma

    Meghan Owenz 

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Psychology  

    Megan Tewksbury  

    Major: Psychology  

    Overview: Megan Tewksbury was a KU BEARS summer psychology research assistant in Summer 2023. Megan worked on two research projects, allowing her to diversify her learning with regards to topic and methodology.    

    Our first research project was an analysis of an intervention study to reduce mental health stigma among college students. Mental health stigma negatively affects self-esteem, self-efficacy, and willingness to seek treatment (Downs, & Eisenberg, 2012). The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a single-day inquiry-based learning assignment in reducing mental stigma attitudes. Undergraduate psychology students (n = 79) completed a stigma scale during the first course period, participated in an inquiry-based learning lab, and then completed the scale a second time. The mean score of mental health stigma at semester start (m = 2.45;   
    SD = 0.23) was significantly higher than the post-intervention mean score (m = 2.27; SD = 0.32)   
    (t (78) = 5.17, p  < .05, d = 0.65). Subscale decreases ranged from low to moderate effect sizes (0.30 – 0.93). To reduce mental health stigma with minimal time investment, instructors may consider the use of inquiry-based learning.  

    The second project was a multi-site study of faculty and university students to understand classroom power-sharing practices and their relationship to faculty and student success and well-being. In phase 1 of the study, faculty and students participated in focus groups to discuss their experiences and perceptions of power-sharing practices in the classroom. The data was analyzed using thematic analysis and major themes of instructor mindset, instructional practices, motivation, and benefits to students emerged. These results will be further analyzed and prepared for publication in Fall 2023.   

  • Examining the Cultural Competence of BIPOC Youth and Educators

    Amber Pabon  

    College of Education | Secondary Education  

    Laquan Drago 

    Major: Marketing  

    Overview: The purpose of this study is to examine understandings of cultural competency among Black and Latinx students and educators at an urban high school. Cultural competency refers to the capacity to understand how one’s own cultural identity, biases, prejudices, and experiences with privilege and marginalization are operationalized in everyday life and within institutions. Cultural competence in education has recently received significant attention in Pennsylvania via the Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Competency framework that will be required among educators in K-12 schools. Furthermore, schools across the country are requiring this skill set so that educators are better equipped to respond to the needs of an increasingly diverse student body population. The need for this study is evidenced by the abundance of research examining white educator’s perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion, relative to the limited research on community members who self-identify as Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). BIPOC are frequently left out of these discussions, are viewed as anonymized and monolithic receivers, and are simultaneously called upon to teach their peers about cultural competence. These approaches further marginalize BIPOC educational stakeholders and is in misalignment with a holistic approach toward honoring individual agency and refraining from over-burdening already disenfranchised collectives with the labor of teaching others how to treat them. The goal of this study is to identify a group of Black and Latinx educators and students’ sense-making of cultural competence. We seek to gain knowledge of their subjective understandings of their educational and/or professional experiences with silencing, marginalization, and labor intensification related to the formal and informal teaching of cultural competence in a public-school institution.   

  • Chisungu: Female Initiation or Motherhood Preparation?

    Christine Saidi  

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | History  

    Jarline Herrera  

    Major: Political Science  

    Overview: This research is based on the hypothesis that Bantu-speaking peoples have not historically recognized binary gender as a way to organize their families or communities. The evidence gathered and analyzed this summer has shown that during the period from 1450 to 1800, many Bantu matrilineal societies had lived in communities without binary gender concepts or institutions, instead, these communities determined influence and authority based upon life stages, seniority, and ability. Linguistic evidence indicates that Bantu-speaking people did not conceptualize categories for ‘woman’ or ‘man’ as separate biological or social entities and that the community understood that gender was relational. A person assumed to be a ‘woman’ in the Western sense would rarely be identified based strictly on anatomy but, rather, recognized by a life stage, family role, or specialized knowledge.  

    Summer 2023, I specifically collected data on female initiation schools as the beginning of a micro-study of the role of non-binary gender in cultural ceremonies of matrilineal Zambian societies.  To non-Africans, female initiation appears to be gendered female, but in fact it is preparation for a life stage of motherhood and within Bantu societies any gender can be a mother.  I was able to collect oral traditions, oral histories and oral traditions.  Jarline Herera and I spent part of the summer analyzing this historical evidence and using it to further expand our knowledge of non-binary social institutions in the social history of Bantu Africa.   

  • White Horse Tavern and Douglas House Geophysics Project

    Laura Sherrod  

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Physical Sciences  

    Rebekah Underwood  

    Major: Environmental Science, Geology 

    Overview: The Mouns Jones archaeological site in Douglasville, PA is believed to be the first permanent settlement in Berks County. Excavations at the site over the last decade have led to the discovery of a cold cellar, the ruins, a 1700s log cabin, and a well. Archaeologists seek to expand the area of investigation to include two adjacent properties: White Horse Tavern and Douglas House. While archaeological investigations are time consuming and require significant manpower, geophysical investigations allow the rapid characterization of physical characteristics of the subsurface in a non-invasive manner. This project undertook the geophysical surveying of the White Horse Tavern and Douglas House properties to guide future archaeological excavations. The targets at these sites are the foundation of a barn known to have been on those properties and the suspected ruins of a stable and potentially other buildings on the properties. Ground penetrating radar and magnetometer surveys were performed at both properties.  These investigations led to the identification of numerous utilities of recent installation as well as several zones of potential archaeological interest, including possible buried foundations and a possible graveyard.     

  • The Influence of Climate Change on Reproductive Success in Songbirds

    Todd Underwood  

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences| Biological Sciences  

    Margaret Friedman  

    Major: Environmental Science: Biology  

    Overview: There is clear evidence that climate change has impacted bird reproductive success. Much of this work has focused on large scale changes across North America. However, there has been little work at sites in the Mid-Atlantic Region. In this study, we examined the long-term trends in reproductive success of Tree Swallows breeding on the Kutztown University campus from 2009-2023. We found that the day at which they laid their first eggs was significantly related to the average monthly temperature of May. In warmer springs, Tree Swallows laid their eggs earlier. However, we found that their average first egg-laying date increased significantly over time from 2009-2023. This may have occurred because there was a slight, non-significant trend toward lower average May temperatures over time. We found no significant trend in hatching success or overall nest success with the timing of the first egg date. Finally, we found that the number of nestlings fledged from Tree Swallow nests was significantly related to their first egg-laying date, which indicates that birds laying eggs later produced more offspring. Overall, we found evidence that temperature is related to the timing of breeding in Tree Swallows, but some trends were not in the direction predicted by climate change over time. Trees Swallows that lay their egg later produce more offspring, possibly because of cold snaps or adverse weather in early May. Our study reveals that the influence of climate change on bird reproductive success may not be straightforward and simple at every location. 

  • Local Color: Grown and Foraged Natural Dyes and Pigments

    Gwendolyn Yoppolo 

    College of Visual and Performing Arts | Art & Design 

    Hannah Westerman 

    Major: Studio Art  

    Overview: The mission of the KU Dye Gardens project is to explore the cultural histories of various dye plants; engage community members in the cultivation of dye gardens; and educate people to create dyes and pigments using materials from their local ecosystems. Our vision is to enhance a sense of stewardship towards our campus environment and to empower people to create art from materials they grow and harvest themselves. We have partnered with the Rodale Institute to ensure that we use organic, regenerative growing practices that will increase soil health for seasons to come. We have two sites: one at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center and one outside the Sharadin Arts Building. We are growing plants that are linked to the traditions of indigenous peoples of North America as well as those of Pennsylvania German culture. We hope that community members will get involved in this project and enjoy the process of growing their own art media. This summer, KU BEARS assistant Hannah Westerman helped plant, care for, and harvest 24 different dye plants. We experimented with different studio processes, including solar dyeing, immersion dyebaths, mason jar dyebaths, indigo vat dyeing, various mordants, changing the pH, and printing with mordant pastes. Our work culminated in an Art Education Summer Institute, where Hannah assisted participants and shared her favorite dye plant. Her work will continue into the fall semester, when she will engage other students in using these plant-based dyes and will present natural dyeing to the Textiles and Weaving Club.