Millikin University undergraduates and faculty are spending the summer engaging in research projects as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. The program pairs a student with a faculty member to perform in-depth research throughout the summer months. An example of Performance Learning, the signature of a Millikin education, the research is one of the "graduate level" opportunities undergraduates experience at Millikin.
The 2014 SURF program features Millikin students and faculty across multiple disciplines conducting research and collaboratively building new academic ground. This summer, three SURF fellowships were granted.
Dr. Timothy Guasco, assistant professor of chemistry, and Christopher Potter, a junior chemistry major with a philosophy minor from Decatur, Ill., are performing research on the significant rise in the average global temperature, and the development of energy technologies that will help maintain a fossil fuel energy economy.
"Most of the world knows that global warming is a huge problem, and one of the main contributors is carbon dioxide," said Dr. Guasco. "We are trying to convert carbon dioxide, that is being produced right now, into something that won't reach our atmosphere and continue to cause a global warming issue. We are looking at the heart of the chemical processes at the molecular-level to see exactly what is going on."
Dr. Guasco and Potter are exploring the carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) methodology, and characterizing the interactions between carbon dioxide, a catalyst, and solvent molecules relevant to the chemical conversion of carbon dioxide. As part of the research, Chris and Dr. Guasco have spent significant time this summer at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., using the institution's VMI-PES instrument for experimental purposes.
"This is a very worthwhile experience and something I feel very privileged to have," said Potter. "Not many undergraduates nationwide have an opportunity like this. In terms of Millikin, the SURF program only allows so many research opportunities so having the honor of receiving one is very encouraging. This experience has helped me fulfill my dream of one day becoming a Ph.D. graduate student."
Dr. Guasco added, "I look at science research as a perfect example of Performance Learning, and for Chris, this has been his first opportunity of performing the exact work of scientists."
Dr. Kenneth Laundra, assistant professor of sociology, Keyria Rodgers, Millikin adjunct instructor, and Maizee Lamb, a junior sociology major from Greenfield, Ill., are once again working on an ongoing research project between Millikin's sociology program and the State's Attorney's Office/Macon County Juvenile Justice Council (MCJJC) in Decatur.
Last summer, Maizee spent time creating databases in Microsoft Access for the purpose of helping Macon County develop data reports for the Macon County Juvenile Justice Council. These reports are created to give each council member a visual of data collection and analysis. This summer, her duties include updating the 2013 Juvenile Delinquency Database, gathering all information about each individual case, and creating a final data report for the 2013 year. She is also creating the 2014 Juvenile Delinquency Database.
"I've enjoyed the opportunity of collecting data and creating something important for the Juvenile Justice Council," said Lamb. "It's certainly a learning experience, and it helps because I'm interested in pursuing a career in restorative justice and sociology."
Lamb also helped coordinate the first Juvenile Justice Forum for Macon County on June 25. The purpose of the forum was to raise awareness about truths and myths behind juvenile crime. The forum featured keynote speakers and allowed participants to create action plans to reduce juvenile crime.
"The chance to work in this type of field has been very eye-opening," said Lamb. "By working on current projects and initiatives, I feel that I've made a difference in the State's Attorney's Office and that's the best part of the entire experience."
Dr. Sangeetha Srinivasan, assistant professor of biology, and Jenna Farquhar, a junior double major in philosophy and biology on the pre-medicine track from Ledyard, Conn., are researching antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance in bacteria has grown in the past few decades and is becoming one of the serious problems in public health microbiology. Farquhar's goal is to study antibiotic resistance in the local community using microbiological and molecular tools.
"There hasn't been too much research conducted on this particular case so we are trying to compile all the preliminary aspects of the research," said Farquhar. "When I started at Millikin, I was interested in studying pathology and microorganisms, and to work on this type of research with Dr. Srinivasan is very exciting."
As part of her research, Farquhar is studying the prevalence of Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) bacteria, and Carbapenem Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) in raw sewage, creek/stream waters, and lake waters. She is also studying the effect of waste water treatment in these bacteria as well as in the genes that code antibiotic resistance.
As an undergraduate on the pre-medicine track, Farquhar says this research helps her see another side of medicine. "This opportunity helps broaden my horizons in terms of medicine, research, and viruses. There's a lot of hands-on work with this type of experience, and I'm glad I'm able to learn the techniques now as an undergrad."
Dr. Srinivasan added, "This is graduate-level experience for Jenna and she's developing the tools that will help her with further research after Millikin – it's a great example of Performance Learning. The goal for Jenna will be to present her research on a regional and national level, which puts Millikin's name out there in terms of the SURF program."