2015/16 Academic Year Research
Kaitlynn Bortz is one of the two Freshman Fellows doing research in NMU’s fish lab, under Dr. Jill Leonard of the Biology Department. Kaitlynn is a Fisheries and Wildlife Management major, and the project she is working on involves measuring different landmarks on individual fish in a population of sturgeon. “Usually,” she says, “researchers will take pictures of the fish’s sides to measure their growth, but when measuring sturgeon and other similar fish, they take pictures of the fish from the top down”. Kaitlynn is taking pictures and measuring the fish both from the side and from the top, to see whether the two different procedures net similar results or if one of the methods skews the data.
Kaitlynn is from Monroe, Michigan, and she said she chose Northern Michigan for several reasons, the biggest one being the Freshman Fellows Program. She said she was excited that the program would give her the opportunity to begin doing real research right away, an opportunity which was not offered at any other university.
She says the Freshman Fellows Program has helped her undergraduate experience by getting her more and more involved in a lab, helping her learn about scientific writing as well as reading scientific papers, and helping her make professional connections early on in her education. “I’m learning a lot and gaining a lot of experience”, she said, “which is going to be really valuable to me through my educational career”.
Emma Schroeder came to NMU from Appleton, Wisconsin. She is triple-majoring in Secondary Education, French, and Industrial Technology. However, her major was originally Neuroscience, so for her project she is working in the neuroscience lab under her mentor Dr. Erich Ottem. She also works closely with Luke Van Osdol, who is a graduate student and the head of the lab, and other graduate and undergraduate students in the neuroscience program.
She does not have one project which is definitively “hers”, as she helps other students with their research projects. Currently she’s taking images of neurons, cleaning them up, and tracing the dendrites, but in the past she has done work genotyping, as well as doing animal care about one a week for the laboratory mice.
Emma originally chose Northern because it has one of the only neuroscience programs in the area, but after that initial draw there were many other factors which solidified her decision, such as the university’s closeness and connection with the environment and the individual attention the students here receive. Even though she is not continuing with the Neuroscience major, she doesn’t regret her decision to attend NMU or the time she’s spent working in the Freshman Fellows program. “I know now that coming to northern was a good choice,” she says, “because I didn’t know I could make connections that fast. Working with grad students and Dr. Ottom has been really valuable for me, and even though I’m not continuing in this department, I can still use those connections in the future.”
Nate Martineau is a Freshman Fellow who is majoring in Ecology and is working under Alec Lindsay, a professor in the Biology Department. Nate’s project is interesting, because he is identifying eggs in an old chest that someone found in the university. No one knows where the chest came from, when or where the eggs were collected, or the identity of the original collector or any previous owners. The collection dates back to the 1840’s or before, which is evidenced from the thick arsenic soot present on some of the eggs.
To identify the eggs, Nate measures each egg, and then records its shape, color and markings. Then he uses a field guide to determine what kind of egg it is. At the time of the interview, he was on the second to last drawer. After he finishes identifying all of the eggs in the collection, he plans on using his experience with the field guide he’s currently using to write a review for a different guide, which he says “has a lot of issues”.
Nate Martineau is from Lansing, MI. He said that a major factor in his decision to enroll in Northern Michigan University was its location on Lake Superior. The quality of the natural science programs at Northern and the financial aid the school offered him ensured he would be attending NMU for his education.
Abigail Zeman is an English Writing major with a minor in TESOL from Okinawa, Wisconsin. Her mentor is Dr. Caroline Krzakowski. For her project, she is going to be writing a research paper focusing on the surrealist movement in Europe. The thesis is yet to be solidified, she says, but she has narrowed it down to either the western European influences on the surrealist movement, focusing on places such as Poland or the Czech Republic, or of the origins of the surrealist movement, which would be focusing more on 1920’s France.
Abigail is helping her mentor Dr. Krzakowski with her own project as well. Abigail is helping to compile a bibliography of around 300 sources for the book which her mentor is writing.
Abigail says that her Freshman Fellows project is giving her the ability to form her own ideas and find a place for them. She says it is also helping her personal development in writing, quality of work, and expanding her knowledge in areas not typically covered in the classroom.
“I decided to come to Northern primarily because of the Freshman Fellows program and that opportunity to work so closely with a staff member during my earlier years as an undergraduate student,” Abigail said. She said that that the quality of education was a major factor in her decison as well, and that after researching different English programs, she found that Northern’s was the best in the area.
Abigail Zeman is pictured on the left, and Dr. Caroline Krzakowski is on the right.
Reagan McKay is a Freshman Fellow from Wittenberg, Wisconsin. She is double majoring in Theatre Performance and English with a minor in Dance at Northern Michigan University. Her mentor for her Freshman Fellows project is the director of Northern’s theatre department, Professor Ansley Valentine. She is working on the Panowski Playwriting Competition, where playwrights from all over the United States send in scripts for their original plays, and the winning play is produced the following year at NMU. Reagan is currently reading and organizing the scripts, among other coordination responsibilities, and next year her project will continue as she will be the dramaturg for the play which is selected.
Reagan chose to visit Northern Michigan University after she met a recruiter at her high school, and once she visited the campus and learned about the programs the school had to offer her decision was made. “I knew this was the school for me”, she says, “and the Freshman Fellowship was definitely an added plus”. Reagan said that the Freshman Fellows program has not only helped her make connections in the theatre department, but it has helped her to explore new areas of theatre and dramaturgy.
Caleb is a freshman fellow from Alpena Michigan. He is doing his fellowship work with Associate Professor Michael Martin in the Engineering Technology department. Caleb is a mechanical engineering technology major with an alternative energies minor: a perfect fit for his research project.
“In visiting NMU there were several things that stuck out to me that separated it from other colleges. For starters just the area of Marquette is a huge draw for me. Being big into the outdoors I saw it very easy to make the transition from high school to college. Another thing that I noticed about the school was how welcoming the faculty and students were. Walking on NMU campus for the first time was very comforting and welcoming. I didn't feel a part of any other school on my first day on campus. Being a mechanical engineering tech. major I knew that a big portion of my time would be spent in the labs. After touring the engineering facilities I was very impressed by the cleanliness of the labs and the technology and systems that were available to work on and with were above and beyond many other schools I had shown interested in. Overall my first impressions of NMU are what sealed the deal for me. The biggest concern of any student making the transition from high school to college is fitting in and feeling at home. It didn't take but a day and I knew I had made the right choice in choosing NMU.”
Caleb has been working on bringing the wind turbine online to generate green energy to power laptops in the Jacobetti Center commons. The system has been in various stages of completion for the last three years, and after rewiring and repairing the turbine, and checking every piece of equipment involved, they’re just about ready to bring it online.
The wind turbine is located on the roof of the Jacobetti Center. On the day we visited, there wasn’t enough wind to turn it but there is no doubt that will change. The turbine generates electricity that goes back to the board shown in the picture where it is converted to AC current. When the system is set up the electricity will power four wall outlets in the commons of the Jacobetti Center. When that electricity isn’t being used, it is stored in batteries. The next step will be to monitor usage of the outlets and compare that to power production. Caleb plans to write the project up in a paper he hopes to publish.
“This experience has been extremely beneficial” says Caleb. The work he’s doing with Professor Martin is stuff they cover in courses for his minor and he finds that the information sticks a lot better since he’s been involved in this project. He also appreciates the fact that faculty in his department all know him as a result of his work in their labs and general presence in the building.
Brooke Immel, Sarah Vertel, and Carly Tuominen
Brooke Immel, Sarah Vertel, and Carly Tuominen are all working with Professor Cathy Bammert from the Department of Clinical Lab Sciences on her research. They are looking at the correlations between Staphaureus, Strep-Pneumo, and MRSA. They are researching the vaccine for Staphaureus, and how it may increase the chances for Strep-Pneumo, and also how Strep-Pneumo can lead to MRSA.
Brooke Immel chose to attend Northern Michigan University because of the Clinical Lab Science program and the Freshman Fellowship Program. “There are no opportunities like this anywhere else,” Immel Says, “at other universities you have to wait until you’re a junior or senior, and even then it’s super competitive.” She says the Fellowship is giving her lots of good hands on experience that is confirming that she really enjoys doing research in this field.
Sarah Vertel says she chose NMU because she loves the outdoors and Northern has a great atmosphere with lots of educational opportunities that will help her to succeed both during and after her undergraduate studies. She says that the Freshman Fellows program is not only helping her to do research right away, but it is also “boosting her confidence” by affirming that she can do real research that can make a difference in how diseases are treated.
Carly Tuominen lived in Marquette her whole life, but she actually had her mind set on the University of Minnesota. She was at the point where she was looking for her roommate when her high school Health Occupation class took a tour of West Science and the Clinical Lab Science facility. While she was on the trip, she met her now mentor Cathy Bammert, and she learned about the Freshman Fellowship Program. “I completely turned around and applied to NMU and I applied for the Fellowship,” she says, “I’m so happy I went on that trip because otherwise I would have never considered Northern and it’s such a great school.” Tuominen says the Freshman Fellowship program is helping her make professional connections early in her educational career who will be helpful to her for the rest of her life. She says that she feels like if she has a question, there are people who care and will help her with the answer.
Pictured from left to right are Carly Tuominen, Brooke Immel, and Sarah Vertel.
Tristan Ruiz is a biochemistry major and he is researching thimbleberry plants under his mentor Dr. Brandon Canfield from the Department of Chemistry. The research focuses on the phenolic content of the leaves and berries, which determines the plants antioxidant activity. According to Ruiz, Dr. Canfield began this project because although there is a lot of similar research in plants such as blueberries or raspberries, there is not much information about this research done on thimbleberries.
“I’m very happy with the work I’ve been doing here,” Ruiz says of his Freshman Fellows research, “and it’s very cool, being able to work in a chemistry research lab as a freshman.” Ruiz is grateful for the opportunity the Freshman Fellowship program has given him, as he believes that it will help him in his more advanced classes here at NMU and when he begins applying to graduate schools.
Although Tristan Ruiz had never been to Michigan before attending NMU, he says that the school was an easy choice for him. While he was living in Germany he was researching colleges all over the United States, and found that not only did Northern have great facilities and a relatively small population, but he would receive in-state tuition because he was a dependent of a member of the military. Ruiz says he is very happy with his choice of school and with the research he is doing here because of the Freshman Fellows program.
Chloe Rinkel, a chemistry and forensic biochemistry major from Royal Oak, MI, is assisting Dr. Lee Roecker from the Department of Chemistry in his professional research through the Freshman Fellows program. Chloe Rinkel and Dr. Roecker are currently studying the element cobalt, which typically bonds to six chlorides, and they are seeing if they can “knock off” the chlorides by having the chemical react with an organic molecule. This is replicating what other scientists have done, but they hope to move on to original experimentation with cobalt later in the year.
Chloe is enjoying her research and she appreciates the experience that the program is granting her. “Even though I have a chem lab, this is just sort of another real-world aspect that the lecture can’t tell you about,” she says, “A lot more can go wrong [in the lab] than you hear about in the lecture.”
Although she was originally drawn to Northern Michigan University because of all of the outdoor opportunities, Chloe said she chose to attend NMU because of its academic programs and its opportunities for undergraduate research, such as the Freshman Fellows program.