Faculty Research Grant Awards

2012 Awardees

Lesley Putman, Ph.D.


Amount of the Award: $7,000

Title: Mechanism of Bisphenol A Degradation by Little Bluestem Seeds During Germination

Abstract: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a common component of plastics and can be found in landfill leachates and waste from plastic manufacturing. Although bacteria are known to degrade BPA, there are also some plants that can assist in removing BPA from the environment.

For example, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) seeds are able to breakdown BPA during germination. Preliminary experiments indicated that the seed exudates were responsible for this degradation process. In this project, seed exudates will be analyzed to determine what enzymes are present that may be involved in breaking down BPA. In addition, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) will be used to identify metabolites of BPA in an effort to understand the pathway by which BPA is broken down. The role of bacteria in the process will also be assessed by conducting experiments in both sterile and non-sterile conditions. Little bluestem may prove to be useful in remediating BPA from landfill leachate, therefore, its ability to degrade BPA that is present in soil will also be determined.


Eugene Wickenheiser, Ph.D.


Amount of the Award: $7,000

Title: Study of the absorption of components of smokeless powder by materials in disposable gloves.

Abstract: This project seeks to validate our theory that absorption of volatile compounds emitted from smokeless powders by disposable gloves has the potential to be used as forensic evidence.

Furthermore, this study will establish the equilibrium and kinetic parameters for the absorption and desorption of the volatile compounds by the glove polymers.

Jonathan M. Hanes, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor—Earth, Environmental, and Geographical Sciences

Amount of the Award: $5,329

Title: Investigating the Patterns and Dynamics of Leaf and Needle Growth During the

Spring in the Longyear Forest

Abstract: The overarching goal of this project is to improve our understanding of the patterns and dynamics of leaf and needle development during the spring in the Longyear Forest. To achieve this goal, the following objectives will be addressed: (1) Determine the effects of spatial variability in lower atmospheric air temperature and humidity on differences in the timing of leaf and needle growth within and between species, (2) Investigate how spring leaf and needle growth influence air temperature and humidity in the lower atmosphere, (3) Determine the relationship between field-based and satellite derived measures of spring forest growth in the established study area using field measurements of leaf area for the dominant tree species and satellite estimates of leaf area from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Through a detailed and methodical analysis of the patterns and dynamics of leaf and needle growth in the Longyear Forest, this project will address and answer pressing, unresolved questions that are necessary for improving models of plant-climate interactions and furthering our ability to monitor changes in vegetation growth from space. Furthermore, this project will produce the following: (1) At least three peer reviewed publications that document the findings of this project, (2) At least three conference presentations, (3) A defined, contiguously forested study area in the Longyear Forest that can be used for a variety of educational and research purposes, (4) Datasets that can be used in future research projects, (5) Findings that can be used to apply for external grants in the future.

Mounia Ziat, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor—Psychology

Amount of the Award: $7,000

Title: Behavioral and electrophysiological responses associated with the processing of touch in a driving simulator environment

Abstract: This primary goal of this project is to understand aspects of human perception other than vision, such as touch and proprioception during a driving simulation task and the way the multimodal information is integrated during driving. Driving a car is a complex task that requires coordination of several sensory modalities while the brain is processing and integrating the information. It also requires the coordination of physical skills such as controlling direction, acceleration, and deceleration. The pressure applied on the brake and the accelerator depends clearly on the shoes worn by the drivers affecting the haptic feedback during the process. Also, the pressure and the force applied on the steering wheel depend on the multimodal integration of visual, auditory and haptic information while driving. The drivers usually modulate these pressures to adjust and adapt to the situation. Measuring these feedbacks in a virtual environment will help to understand how human beings perceive haptic pressure on both hands and feet, but also understand the brain areas involved in the process while recording brain activity during a driving task. The results might help to advance research related to tactile human perception and thus suggest safety solutions.


Maria Arenillas, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor—Modern Languages and Literatures

Amount of the Award: $6,970

Title: Revolutionary Movements in Argentina Reconsidered: The Legacy of the 70s for a New Generation.

Abstract: The manner in which history is reconstructed becomes the memories of a new generation. Those who did not live it come to understand the past through the lens of those who narrate and reconstruct it. The proposed study examines film and recently inaugurated memory sites (e.g., museums) representations of the 70s revolutionary Argentina to a new generation. Particular attention will be given to the ways in which the revolutionary movements are/narrated, and their connections to current social concerns.


Shravan Rajagopal, M.F.A.

Assistant Professor—Art and Design

Amount of the Award: $7,000

Title: Sounds of Eternal Truth: The Vedic Way of Life and Mnemonic Rules of Pattern, Repetition and Tonal Accent in the Oral Tradition of The Vedas.

Abstract: The project "Sounds of Eternal Truth: The Vedic Way of Life and Mnemonic Rules of Pattern, Repetition and Tonal Accent in the Oral Tradition of the Vedas" proposes to document on film, various Vedic recitation techniques that have helped preserve the oral tradition of the Vedas for three millennia. I plan to travel to two southern states in India to document specific recitation techniques like pada paatha, karma paatha, jalaa paatha and ghana paatha that make use of different styles of repetition and tonal accent as an aid to memory. I will interview several Vedic scholars who will also elaborate on the meaning behind some of the verses in the Vedas that deal with Vedic mathematics, astrology, astronomy and other moral and scientific observations. It can take up to 20 years to master various Vedic recitation techniques and due to modernization, there are fewer people learning the Vedas. The Vedas are transmitted orally from teacher-to- disciple and this relationship is vital to learning the Vedas. Hence, the film will examine the ancient teacher-student dynamic within the Indian context by documenting the everyday life of young Vedic aspirants. A website will be used to promote the film and make this research accessible to a large audience. The project includes a book that will provide a basic introduction to concepts that are necessary to understand the 3000 year-old Vedic tradition.


Ronald Johnson, Ph.D.


Amount of the Award: $3,890

Title: “Three Stories for “Newlyweds” Section of A Second Marriage: The Ben and Geri Stories.

Abstract: I will draft three short stories for the “Newlyweds” Section of A second Marriage: The Ben and Geri Stories, a collection of interrelated stories which explores the challenges of a middle-aged couple in a second marriage, and then I will submit the individual stories for publication in literary magazines. Funding from this grant will allow me a four credit course release and thus allow me time for the drafting process. The specific focus in this section of the volume of stories, “Newlyweds,” is on a couple in their mid-fifties attempting to build a foundation for their recent marriage.


Bitsy Wedin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor—Nursing

Amount of the Award: $7,000

Title: Men in Nursing: The Experience of Being a Male Nursing Student

Abstract: This project will explore the experience of being a male nursing student. Historically, the profession of nursing has been dominated by females yet with a looming economic recession; males have increasingly enrolled in US nursing schools. In 2000 6% of nursing programs were comprised of males. Currently at NMU, 15-20% of incoming nursing cohorts are male. As educators, we know little about meeting the specific needs of these male students since nursing curriculums are typically created, implemented and evaluated by mostly female faculty. Research suggests that male students may experience sexism from floor nurses, faculty, female students and even patients. Additionally national male attrition rates far exceed those of females. We must meet the specific needs of male nursing students to ultimately graduate well-prepared individuals. Predictions are that nationally 400,000 new nurses will be necessary by 2014 just to offset planned nurse retirements. This project is a longitudinal, qualitative inquiry into the behaviors, concerns, and experiences of male nursing students. Students will journal every fortnight for a period of five semesters, the typical length of time to complete the nursing program at NMU. Journal entries will be sent to a secure online data tracking system, Typhon, which the School of Nursing utilizes to track confidential patient information. Following five semesters, a thorough account of the experience of being a male nursing student will be better known.


Yan Liu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor—Chemistry

Amount of the Award: $7,000

Title: Characterization of Electroosmotic Flow at High Temperature

Abstract: Capillary electrophoresis is a powerful separation technique that was introduced in 1980s. Compared to conventional separation techniques, capillary electrophoresis provides higher separation efficiency while shortens analysis time. It has been reported that conventional separation techniques applied to analysis at high temperature dramatically increase separation efficiency over room temperature analysis. However, majority of capillary electrophoretic separations are carried out at room temperature. To date, very few research groups investigated capillary electrophoretic separations at elevated temperature. Capillary electrophoretic behaviors at high temperature are not thoroughly understood by scientists in the field at all. As known, the driven force for electrophoretic separation is the electroosmotic flow inside the capillary. This project will characterize electroosmotic flow at different temperatures and investigate how separation efficiency is affected by electroosmosis at high temperature. The proposed research will be performed on the microchip platform which reduces consumption of reagents without losing separation efficiency. Upon collected data, this proposal will provide a comprehensive answer to the question of capillary electrophoretic behaviors at elevated temperature. The proposed project will generate research opportunities for undergraduate students, produce a manuscript submission to a peer-reviewed journal, and will be presented at national scientific conferences.


Martin Reinhardt, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor—Center for Native American Studies

Amount of the Award: $7,000

Title: Decolonizing Diet Project

Abstract: The Decolonizing Diet Project (DDP) will document and share the experiences of a group of voluntary research subjects as they experience what it’s like to follow a diet that consists of pre-colonial indigenous foods over the course of one year, and follow an exercise regimen consisting of pre-colonial activities, or their modern day equivalents. Research subject participation will occur at multiple levels from 25 to 100 percent. It is hypothesized that research subjects will experience a positive change in health, but will experience significantly more social barriers in accessing food.

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