A description of the research topics in each area is given below along with the respective research adviser(s).
Chemistry – Dr. Shawna York
Project Title: Investigation of Spectroscopic Methods of Caffeine Determination
The ubiquitous presence of caffeine in popular foods and beverages, such as chocolate, coffee, colas, and energy drinks, has spawned a surge of published experimental procedures for the quantitative and qualitative determination of caffeine in these, under the assumption that students may find more to pique their interest in a laboratory experiment involving substances which they encounter in daily life. While methods relying on HPLC have long been standard and shown to be reliable, this instrumentation is both expensive and the procedure relatively time-consuming, making it less available for the typical lower-division chemistry lab. Spectroscopy, especially UV-VIS spectroscopy, is more commonly available, and while caffeine can be determined quantitatively in a pure sample from the UV absorption peak at 273 nm using a simple application of Beer’s Law, the overlapping UV absorbance of other substances in the beverages leads to large errors when utilizing this method. The aim of this project is to investigate sample preparation or coupled techniques to allow for the quantitative spectroscopic determination of caffeine in a general chemistry or first analytical chemistry course.
Mathematics – Dr. Nicholas Zoller
Project Title: Generalized Parabolas
A parabola is defined as the set of all points that are equidistant from a given point (called the focus) and a given line (called the directrix). The properties of parabolas are well studied, and they have applications in the study of the motion of projectiles and the design of mirrors and satellite dishes. In this research project we will explore the properties of generalized parabolas. A generalized parabola is the set of all points that are equidistant from a focus and directrix, but we allow the directrix to be any curve in the plane. It is known that the reflective property of parabolas also holds for generalized parabolas. Several famous families of curves can be produced by identifying an appropriate directrix. We will study examples of these constructions and ask several questions about generalized parabolas, including: What happens when we iterate the construction process and use a generalized parabola as the directrix for a second generalized parabola? Is there a directrix such that the set of all iteratively generated parabolas is finite? Is the construction process reversible, i.e. given a curve C in the plane, is it possible to find a focus and directrix that produce C as a generalized parabola?
Microbiology – Dr. Carrie Bentley
Project Title: A Comparison of Antibiotic Resistance and Other Characteristics in Bacteria Isolated from Food Sources
Antimicrobial resistance is a worldwide problem, which is due in part to overprescribing on the part of physicians, misuse by patients, as well as overuse in the US livestock industry. In the case of livestock, they are not only used to treat and prevent infections but also to promote growth. This increased usage leads to a greater amount of these chemicals being added to the environment, which in turn leads to a higher incidence of antibiotic resistance. In this project, we will isolate bacteria from various lettuce samples, which are a leading cause of food borne illness, as well as from various types of meats purchased from a local grocery store in order to compare the levels of bacteria, the types of bacteria, and the levels of antibiotic resistance in these bacterial isolates. We will also compare samples that are labeled as “organic” versus conventional products to see if foods that are labeled as “organic” have lower levels of bacteria and/or less antibiotic resistance.
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 2013-2014 academic year:
- During the weekly Math and Science research colloquia
- At an off-campus academic conference or at the annual SNU Undergraduate Research Symposium (in April 2014)
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 freshman or sophomore year in Spring 2013. 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 13 to June 21). 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 Sherri Stipes, administrative assistant for the Math and Science Division, at sstipes AT snu DOT edu.
Applicants must complete their online application forms and have all required documentation (recommendations, etc.) completed by Thursday, March 14, 2013; note that this is the Thursday before spring break. If the applicant must submit paper copies of application materials, then they should be given to Sherri Stipes (office location provided below). Successful applicants will be notified by Friday, April 5 of their acceptance into the program. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller at nzoller AT snu DOT edu. You are also encouraged to discuss your interests with any of the research advisors listed above.
- Application: Log in to your SNU Gmail account and apply online at this GoogleDocs application form.
- Recommendations: Recommendations can be completed in two ways:
- If the person providing your recommendation is on campus and has an SNU Gmail account, go to the GoogleDocs recommendation form, and copy and paste the URL address into your email requests to professors, staff persons, etc.
- If the person providing your recommendation is off campus, please click here to download the recommendation form (pdf), and email the form to that person.
Sherri Stipes can be found in the Chemistry Office (Science 203) MWF mornings and TTh afternoons and is in the Biology Office (Science 315) on MWF afternoons and TTh mornings. Contact her by e-mail at sstipes AT snu DOT edu.