Freshman Fellows Research Projects

Freshman Fellows work closely with NMU faculty and staff to gain hands-on experience in research and scholarship. The projects fellows undertake vary widely. Since projects are based on research currently undertaken by NMU faculty, students interested in the program should find out about faculty research interests at NMU by downloading our faculty research interests directory

2019/20 Academic Year Research

Fellows conduct research all across campus in all departments. When asked to describe their project, how it has affected their undergraduate experience, and why they chose NMU, the current cohort responded with the following:

Grace Schumann

Hey there! My name is Grace Schumann (Left) and this is my mentor Dr. Amy Hamilton (Right)!
I hail from West Chicago / Carol Stream IL (I live on the border of the two towns, 20 min outside of Chicago) and my major is History! I currently have a double minor in Gender and Sexualities and Native American studies. I came to NMU because of the unique Indigenous people’s studies, the beauty, and because it is a 6-hour drive from home. 
I am conducting a research project in the form of a zine (mini magazine) titled “Climate Apartheid and the End of the World.” Y’know, light reading material. :) I am currently trying to find a sustainable way to transform society, by taking close looks at the indigenous perspective as well as the anarcho-commune idea. Very folk-punk. I hope when I finish to distribute these zines amongst folks, so if you are interested shoot me an email at! I have absolutely loved this mentorship! Amy and I have become incredibly close, and I feel very lucky to have her choose me. We exchange reading lists, music tastes, speak about local and worldwide politics, and she helps me so much with the creation of this zine. Plus, I helped research some of her soon to be published work, so I get a credit in an actual Book!!

Brady Rudh

I am a student from a town in Minnesota located about fifteen minutes south of St. Paul called Woodbury. I chose NMU for several reasons, including its proximity to Lake Superior, the uniqueness of it’s Fisheries Sciences program, and the relatively small size of the university. My major is currently Fisheries and Wildlife Management with an emphasis on Fisheries Science. I enjoyed learning about fish throughout my childhood, and I look forward to continue pursuing that interest at NMU and beyond. I am also considering following the path of a minor in German.

My current research project involves the use of mass spectrometry to analyze stable isotopes of sulfur, carbon, and nitrogen that are found in juvenile lake trout liver and muscle tissues. By viewing the concentration of these isotopes in the samples, we are able to determine the diets of juvenile fish and compare them to the adult fish. This study will help in the overall pursuit of knowledge regarding the effects of recent changes within the ecosystem of Lake Superior and its tributaries. From this information, management agencies can take steps to alleviate or reverse the negative effects of invasive species and other stress factors in the ecosystem. I am currently working with a graduate student named Will Otte under the guidance of Dr. Brandon Gerig.

I think one of the most surprising things that I have discovered while working as a Freshman Fellow is the great variety of fisheries science research that must be performed in order to properly preserve aquatic and marine environments. Between my junior and senior years of high school, I was a Hutton scholar which gave me the opportunity to perform fisheries research with my local DNR as well as a nearby university for the entire summer. That experience coupled with my current work as a Freshman Fellow has opened my eyes to the wide scope of fisheries research opportunities and has helped to secure my interest in the topic.

Raquel Green

My name is Raquel and I am an Environmental Science major with an Outdoor Recreation minor. I grew up in Marquette, MI, where my passion for science and the outdoors stems form. NMU was the perfect combination of hands on experience, small class size, and outdoor immersion. 

This semester I have been working in the Center for Student Enrichment (CSE) with Rachel Harris and another Freshman Fellow. We are working to improve the Superior Edge Program and to get students more involved in logging their hours/staying active during their enrollment in the program. 

I was surprised how easy planning an event at Northern was and how many tasks the CSE is responsible for. Rachel Harris has been an excellent resource and has a wealth of information to share. She has provided me with the tools I needed to complete my work and has instilled a confidence in me, actively promoting my ability to work independently and succeed. 

Amber Essenmacher

Hi! I’m Amber and I am from Ubly, Michigan. I am an English-Writing major with a focus in journalism and poetry. My mom likes to joke that I chose Northern to “get as far from home as possible but still stay in Michigan, but if that was the case I would’ve went to Michigan Tech! I am here for the adventure Northern offers. 

I currently work at the Center for Student Enrichment under Rachel Harris. I am specifically involved in Superior Edge as a sort of events coordinator. My goal is to get people involved and interested. The critical thinking and time management skills I have acquired will assist me in whatever career I choose! 

My job is fun so I don’t have too many complaints. It has opened my eyes, though, to the lack of involvement from a lot of students. There are tons of events on campus  to participate in and people aren’t taking advantage of them. Also, I have learned that our servitude towards others is more appreciated than we could ever know. We recently planned a card making party for the elderly and my partner, Raquel, and I hand-delivered them to the residents of a local senior citizens center. It is rewarding to do work that is unnecessary but loved. 

Amber Essenmacher and Raquel Green with Rachel Harris

Photo: From left to right, Amber Essenmacher, Rachel Harris - Director of Center for Student Enrichment, and Raquel Green

Lily VandenLangenberg

"My name is Lily VandenLangenberg, and I am a freshman at NMU from Green Bay, WI. I am a Secondary English Education major with a Secondary History Education minor. I chose NMU because of the incredible opportunities the school offers. NMU transferred my AP credits with ease, and the Education program works at getting students into schools as soon as possible, which I love. I also got the opportunity to be a part of the Freshman Fellows Research program, and that was the deciding factor in me choosing NMU.

I am working with Kim Smith and Renee Jewett form the Seaborg Center on a research project focusing on the new methods of teaching math and science in the classroom. I am focusing on how Next Generation Science and Common Core Math standards affects student equity during classroom discussion. I am going to be comparing teacher perceptions of their students during discussion to my own observations of classroom discussion. This knowledge will help the Seaborg Center on campus learn how the practices they are promoting are affecting classrooms, and it could help the general public gain a better understanding of the standards that are expected from students and teachers.

I think the most interesting part of this experience for me was getting to choose my own topic, and having my mentors completely support my ideas, while also asking critical questions and keeping me on track. When I walked into our first meeting, they asked me what I wanted to research, and they had told me about what they had already done in the field. This allowed me to come up with a few general ideas, and from there we worked together to narrow it down. I was most surprised about how they treated me as an equal, and not as a subordinate. In the relationship I have with my mentors, it feels more like a friendship or work relationship than anything else, and I think that environment has allowed me to put myself out there and freely express my ideas and ask questions without feeling criticized."

Photo: From left to right, Renee Jewett, Lily VandenLangenberg, and Kim Smith

Dana Rinkel

"I am from Royal Oak Michigan which is about 20 minutes from downtown Detroit. I am majoring in biology with an ecology concentration to hopefully be working with marine wildlife for my career. I chose to come to Northern for school because I love the area and all there is to do here, but mostly because Marquette feels like a second home to me.

My research project is about fish behavior. This is somewhat important because there is not much known about it. I will be testing guppies to see how long it takes them to emerge/risk leaving a safer environment to venture into unknown territory to find shelter and food. While I am testing this and seeing the outcomes, it could be correlated with the size of the fish, their age, and when they swim up from hatching.

One think that has been a little difficult this semester is that for the first few weeks, I didn’t really know what my project was going to be and then learning how to write a project proposal quickly after was a bit stressful."

Brianne Cochill

"My name is Brianne Cochill. I am from Warren, Michigan which is right outside of the city of Detroit. I am currently a Biology major with a concentration in physiology, and I am also working towards a Spanish minor and in the pre-med program. I had a lot of reasons that I chose NMU, a few of the main ones being the smaller campus, the research opportunities I was able to pursue, and the band/marching band programs. 

So this semester I have been working with Dr. Josh Sharp, he is one of the microbiology professors on campus. In his lab, I have been helping him conduct research detecting E. coli in water samples. It is a very cool opportunity, we are working with different departments with the state of Michigan to test water samples to see beaches are too dangerous to be in using PCR technology. This is really beneficial to the community, especially here in Marquette. It is important to keep people off of beaches when there are contaminants in the water so no one gets sick. 

I think the most surprising thing for me was how open Dr. Sharp was to having such young people in his lab helping and working with him. I find that when younger students want to volunteer or work with people that are high in their field it’s very difficult. I don’t understand why but people dont seem to want to deal with you if you arent experienced and know what you’re talking about. With that being said I really appreciate working with Dr. Sharp because he was so welcoming into his lab and allowed me to have the hands-on experience of working with everything. He is very patient with me and happy to explain things that I dont understand, especially because most of the people working in his lab are graduate students or are about to graduate. "

Breanna Cochill
Photo: Brianne filtering some of the sample water and putting it into test tubes to be tested for E. coli

Erin Matula

"As it always has been and always will be, I am the nature or winter girl. Always going on random expeditions in the woods or a bog and coming back with rocks or lichen in my pockets, even mistakenly and illegally on a plane back from New Zealand. I hail from a collection of small towns in northern Wisconsin including Boulder Junction, Saxon, and Washburn. Northern Michigan University turned out to be the most logical choice for at least the first few years of college because of its proximity to family, the Mother Lake, access to snow and lovely ski teams, as well as options for Bachelor’s programs I am interested in.

Currently, I am working with Matt Van Grinsven in water quality research particularly pertaining to macroinvertebrates in the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. The organization does have a database of water quality information that goes back to the early 2000’s, but it is always helpful to add to in the fieldwork seasons like I did this fall. During the winter months I will be helping to organize their information for their use and my own in hopes to present at any number of conferences and continue research even into my future keystone project. It has been surprising how much fun working actually is, I was already a fan of working in a stream rain or shine even in leaky waders, but even with the data manipulation it is relaxing to put on a classic rock or cringy 2000’s playlist and make it entertaining. Because of our busy schedules and coordination, Matt and I do the most work together over xcel and R data sheets (pictured below) and I branch off to work in the field with a crew and dog Sergie for the majority of the time."

Photo: Erin Matula and Dr. Matt VanGrinsven

Joelle Gallagher

"I chose NMU because of the environment. I wanted to be able to experience life and Marquette is the perfect place to do that. I’ve always had a deep connection with the forest, since I grew up on a tree farm, so I love the fact that I am surrounded by trees here in the UP. Also, more specifically about NMU, I like that I am able to research as a freshman and that the school is focused on undergrads. It is large enough to have plenty of opportunities, but small enough to be personable.

I am researching bdelliod rotifers, microscopic animals that live within a frullania liverwort, with Dr. Alan Rebertus. I am looking at the population densities of the rotifers and hypothesizing a symbiosis between the two organisms. There is little to no research done on this particular species of rotifers, so I will be able to publish my work at the end of the school year about my findings. This research is helping me understand protocols, entering data, analysis, and working with laboratory instruments.

The most surprising thing I have found about working with my mentor is that I am able to do most of my research on my own. I collect my specimens each week and work in the lab. I go to Dr. Rebertus to check up, give updates, and ask questions, but he trusts me to do the work on my own. This has been nice because it has held me responsible for my own work. I am very lucky to have Dr. Rebertus as my mentor. "


Picture: There are three rotifers inside of the red circle. They look slightly translucent.

Maddie Voltz

Maddie Voltz

Photo: Maddie Voltz

"I'm Maddie Voltz and I am from Alpena, Michigan. I am double majoring in Psychology with a concentration in Social Psychology and Communications studies. I chose NMU because the faculty really gets to know and care for the students. There are also so many opportunities to get involved and further yourself within your program. 

Currently, I am working as a Freshman Fellows Program lab assistant in the CABIN lab that is headed by Dr. Josh Carlson. I'm assisting in a study that looks at attentional bias and how it can be linked to anxiety.

It was really nice, yet intimidating to be welcomed into the lab. I was one of only a few new people to the lab and most of the members are upperclassmen or graduate students so the first few lab meetings were pretty intimidating. It has been a great experience so far and I have learned a lot. Overall, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work in the CABIN lab."

Photo: CABIN lab researchers and Dr. Josh Carlson at far right

2018/2019 Research

2017/2018 Research

2016/2017 Research

2015/2016 Research

2014/2015 Research

2013/2014 Research 

2012/2013 Research 

2011/2012 Research