Students Complete Summer Research Experience

SNU Summer Research StudentsPhoto courtesy of Dr. Nicholas Zoller and the Department of Mathematics

Over the summer, five students participated in the SNU Science and Math Summer Research Experience (SRE). From May to June of 2017, students completed projects under the supervision of several SNU faculty mentors within the Biology, Mathematics, and Education Departments at SNU. Funding for the Summer Research Experience was provided through The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium. 

Students Patrick Kitzel and Alexandria Shumard worked with Dr. Jeff Griffitts on a project to study liver cancer in mice. They identified specific lipid components of the mouse liver cell membranes using thin layer chromatography and gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS).

When asked about the research experience, student Patrick Kitzel said, “The SNU Summer Research Experience was an incredible program. I learned how to use many important laboratory equipment and proper ways of conducting experiments. I cannot express how beneficial this program was. My favorite parts were using the GC-MS machine and getting to know my professor and the people I worked with.”

Professor Jody Bowie and student Kaleb Dye worked together to research the relationship between computer coding and elementary school mathematics. Previous research has demonstrated that higher levels of math proficiency are related to greater computer programing skills. Over the summer, Professor Bowie and Dye explored whether increased computer programming skills can have a positive impact on students’ mathematics test scores.  Due to the results of their investigation, Professor  Bowie and Dye have begun to develop curriculum to allow elementary teachers to begin incorporating computer programming in the classroom. Professor Bowie and Kaleb Dye’s curriculum and research is available at

When asked about his summer research experience, Kaleb Dye said, “My favorite part was getting to learn a new language. Many people don't think of computer coding as its own language, but in many ways it truly is. It was very fun for me to indulge myself in learning new phrases and concepts, and how certain things worked together.”

The final projects completed during the Summer Research Experience were supervised by professors from the Mathematics Department at SNU. Dr. Nicholas Zoller and student Joshua Sain used principles of combinatorics to analyze the popular game Candy Crush. 

“Joshua Sain and I studied the digital game Candy Crush,” said Dr. Zoller. “We calculated an estimate of the number of opening boards which may be presented to a player when the player starts the game.  Previous work showed how to calculate the number of opening boards with basic game rules.  We updated this estimate for newer versions of the game.” 

The second mathematics project of the summer was completed by Joshua Lessner, under the supervision of Dr. Nathan Drake. Lessner and Dr. Drake used data-based partisan assumptions to to understanding voting behaviors within a partisan environment. 

When asked about his summer research experience, Joshua Lessner said, “My favorite part was being able to apply what we learned in class to real world problems. The most challenging part was thinking outside of the box enough to dig deeper into the field I was researching. I really enjoyed the experience and I hope SNU continues to give students similar opportunities in the future.”

The SNU SRE is made possible through a grant from The NASA Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium (OSGC). SNU is one of ten university institutional affiliates in Oklahoma.  The NASA Space Grant Program provides support for promising students, professors, and research in aerospace-related fields.

The OSGC is a partnership of Oklahoma universities, corporate, and government entities that provide aeronautics, STEM, and space-related opportunities for participation in NASA’s mission directorates. SNU is the only private university participating in the OSGC. The partnership provides students opportunities to join internships with NASA and to visit NASA facilities around the country. SNU has been a member of the OSGC since 2002, with more than 120 financial awards made to students totaling more than $150,000.  

Many SNU students have benefited from the SRE, a six-week research program for SNU freshman or sophomore students who have declared an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science/Network Engineering, Mathematics or Physics Departments. The SRE helps promote STEM careers by training students in how to conduct scientific research which can lead to applications for graduate school. SNU students participating in the OSGC are also able to attend NASA workforce development trips, which makes them eligible for NASA internships.

Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university located in Bethany, Oklahoma and serving students in Tulsa as well as other locations throughout the state. SNU offers courses for both traditional students and working adults, including multiple master’s degree programs. 

For more information about the SNU Science and Math Summer Research Experience, contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller, Chair and Associate Professor of the Mathematics Department at 405-491-6651, or e-mail For more information on Southern Nazarene University, visit or call 1-800-648-9899.