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

The 2017 SNU Summer Research Experience (SRE) will take place from May 17 to June 27, 2017.  The SRE is sponsored jointly by SNU and the Oklahoma NASA Space Grant Consortium (OSGC).  You can read more about OSGC activities here

Current SNU students may apply for the 2017 SRE if they have completed their first one or two years of study in an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science/Network Engineering, Mathematics, or Physics Department.

Project Descriptions

A description of the 2017 research topics in each area is given below along with the respective research adviser(s).

Biology – Dr. David Hoekman
Project Title: Insect studies at QERC

Two students will work with Dr. Hoekman on this research project at SNU’s field station, the Quetzal Education Research Center (QERC) in Costa Rica. We will be investigating arthropod communities in three different habitats: the forest floor, stream benthos and rain-filled bromeliad leaf axils.  I have specific aims for each habitat but there is quite a bit of flexibility in terms of ecological questions to pursue.  More details are available upon request.  Preference will be given to applicants who have had an insect class, which may be taken at Au Sable between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the summer research program.  In general, we’ll all work together in each habitat, cataloging the species present, developing methods for further study and designing experiments. 

* Travel and lodging costs are included but the student stipend is reduced from $3,000 to $2,000 to help cover these costs.

Biology – Dr. Jeff Griffitts
Project Title: Composition of Fatty Acyl Species in Livers of Transgenic Mouse Models

My research focuses on elucidating the composition of fatty acyl species in the livers of a transgenic mouse model.  This mouse model is unique in that it has an altered genome that contains mutations in TGF-α and c-myc that normally induce hepatocarcinogenesis in mice.  These mutations are combined with another mutation that introduces a gene coding for an endogenous non-mammalian omega-3 desaturase.  What we found in previous research was the protective effect for the mice when the desaturase gene was introduced.  The next step in the research is to determine what specific fatty acyl species were produced and altered in this triple mutant mouse model.  

This research project will allow the undergraduate student to learn how to perform lipid extractions from tissue in addition to the use and application of high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and potentially gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS).

*There may be an alternative project developed should the opportunity arise.

Math – Dr. Nicholas Zoller
Project Title: Candy Crush Combinatorics

The video game Candy Crush Saga, published by King, is one of the more popular video games for mobile devices.  When the game begins, players are presented with a grid of candies.  Players may swap the positions of any two adjacent candies.  When three or more candies of the same type appear in a row or column, the grouping of candies disappears from the grid, the player scores points, and the remaining candies fill in the space.  When all candies are cleared from the grid, the player advances to the next level.

In 2015 Rowland studied the number of possible starting configurations available to the game designers.  She showed that when the game begins, there are over 1,000,000 starting configurations for each row or column and over 5,000 ways to populate a 2 x 3 portion of the grid.  She also showed that for all 3 x 3 portions of the grid contain a move that results in some candies disappearing.  Rowland’s tools included standard counting techniques and recursive sequences.  

Rowland’s results apply to the basic game with as few rules as possible.  However, the newest releases of the game include more ways to score points.  For example, it is now possible to score points by aligning candies of the same type in a 2 x 2 grid, a T shape, or an L shape.  How many ways can a player score using these configurations?  We hope to find the answers to these and similar questions.

Statistics – Dr. Nathan Drake
Project Title: An Analysis of SNU Learning Communities

The professional world is full of decision making. Every day decisions are made in the realm of marketing, business, and engineering among others. One aspect of decision making relies on obtaining good data. Along with that data, there is a need to analyze, summarize, and interpret the data in order to draw justifiable conclusions.

In this project, we will study the learning communities for students at Southern Nazarene University. We will begin by summarizing the data and then searching for the answers to a variety of questions. For example, does a student’s GPA for their learning community courses differ from their GPA in the courses that they are taking outside of that community? Within a student’s learning community, is there a tendency for students to perform better in the course taught by their faculty mentor? How do student absences compare in their learning community courses to those outside that community? The goal of this project is to analyze a couple of aspects of the learning communities in order to gauge their effectiveness by finding answers to these kinds of questions.

STEM Education – Prof. Jody Bowie
Project Title: Coding to Learn for Elementary Students

While it is certainly a benefit, having a generation of students with the ability to write code is not the goal of the recent push in STEM education in which students learn to code (see Fostering skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and computational thinking, while also developing attitudes of resilience, perseverance, and tenacity, are all skills which could contribute to academic improvement, while giving students skills for other areas of life. These skills and attitudes happen to converge in the ISTE Standards for Students and the Oklahoma Academic Standards (OAS) for both Science and Mathematics.

In this project, we will adapt existing curricula, e.g. CS-First and Creative Computing, to develop skills from OAS for Science, OAS for Mathematics, and ISTE Standards for Students. These curricula will be used in subsequent years for the continued development of a computer science club at the SNU School for Children (with the possible addition of other schools). Additionally, we will search for an instrument to assess the skills and/or attitudes listed previously.

* Science education, math education, and elementary education majors are preferred for this project.

Summer Support and Stipend

Participants are eligible for free room in a SNU dorm facility. Each participant will receive $3,000 as a stipend for research. Payments will be made throughout the summer program; a final installment will be paid at the conclusion of the program. Participants are expected to commit to 40 hours of research a week as scheduled by the research adviser, generally from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. If participants anticipate being gone for any reason during the program, they should make alternate arrangements with their research adviser for making up research. Participants are required to present the results of their research at a symposium at the end of the summer program. Additionally, participants must present the results of their research in two different settings during the 2017-2018 academic year:

  • ** During the weekly Math and Science research seminar
  • ** At an off-campus academic conference or at the annual SNU Undergraduate Research Symposium (in March or April 2018)

Application Requirements

Applicants must be SNU freshman or sophomore students who have declared an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science/Network Engineering, Mathematics, or Physics Department.  Applicants should expect to complete their first one or two years of study in their major by the end of the Spring 2017 semester.  U.S. citizenship is required.  Participants are expected to be available Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, for the entire six-week period (from May 17 to June 27). If applicants anticipate being absent for any reason, they should report the duration and reason for absence on the application form.

Each applicant must submit three recommendations – two of which must come from SNU professors. Applicants should email the recommenders and provide the URL (see below) for the online recommendation form. If a paper recommendation (rather than the online form) is needed, please contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller at


Applicants must complete their online application forms and have all required documentation (recommendations, etc.) completed by Friday, March 3, 2017.  If the applicant must submit paper copies of application materials, then they should be delivered to Dr. Nicholas Zoller in Beaver Science 202D. Successful applicants will be notified by Friday, March 31 of their acceptance into the program. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller at  You are also encouraged to discuss your interests with any of the research advisers listed above.


  • Application: Log in to your SNU Gmail account and apply online at this Google Docs application form.
  • Recommendations: Go to the GoogleDocs recommendation form, and copy and paste the URL address into your e-mail requests to your recommenders.  Recommenders must submit their recommendations by the application deadline of March 3 in order for your application to be considered complete.
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Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university - a service of the Church of the Nazarene. Located on a 40-acre campus just west of Oklahoma City, SNU grew out of several small colleges committed to training people for service to God and their fellow man. More than 32,000 alumni work and serve throughout the United States and the world. Read About Our Heritage