by Jenni Hodges
What makes a great summer break? At Central, 23 students spent the summer doing full-time research with professors and staff. They investigated bats, bees, polymers, criminal sentencing and more — and received research grants to do it!
Students and faculty were supported by a combination of funds from Arthur J. Bosch Endowment, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Monticello College Foundation, David and Linda Wesselink, Moore Family Foundation, American Chemical Society and Central College dean’s office.
Read on to discover a few original projects that filled students’ summers.
Cheyenne Selby built research about criminal sentencing for her honors thesis. She has been investigating how people perceive seriousness of crimes and working with assistant professor of psychology Ashley Scolaro.
“I want to be a forensic scientist when I become a big kid,” said Selby, a senior psychology major from Corydon. “I’ll be a counselor in a men’s prison, eventually, I hope. I’ve always had an interest in that.”
Selby will submit her research for the 2016 Midwestern Psychological Association conference, where she presented this spring. When Central students travel to Chicago for the conference, she’ll already be there, completing a spring internship.
Erich Thalacker worked in the lab, investigating possibilities for biorenewable plastics with visiting assistant professor of chemistry James Dunne. Every week this summer, Dunne said Thalacker accomplished a semester’s work in the lab.
Another highlight of Thalacker’s summer on campus: “Dr. Wackerly put biodegradable packing peanuts down the drain, and that smelled for three weeks.”
Collin Strickland analyzed Central’s food sources, using sustainability criteria and connecting with local vendors to improve food usage on campus. He worked on research with Brian Campbell, director of sustainability education, and also tended Central’s organic garden.
Brandie Heims evaluated Central’s theatre lighting for better, sustainable solutions with assistant professor of theatre Vandy Scoates.
“I’m a biology major, but I spend a lot of time in the theatre,” said Heims, junior biology major from Monticello. “They both give me different kinds of stress and different ways to relieve my stress. They balance me out.”
Josh Curtis studied Central’s history of sustainable practices, working with director of sustainability education Brian Campbell and mining Central’s archives for information.
“If you have allergies you might want to stay away. You have to be really careful with the pages because they’re so old,” said Curtis, senior history and French major from Chariton. “I’ve found some interesting articles — a lot of architectural feats they did.”
Abby Fyfe studied the genetic diversity of Iowa bees with assistant professor of biology Paulina Mena.
“We’re trying to study the population genetics of bees to find out why they’re dying and if there’s anything we can do,” said Fyfe, sophomore biochemistry major from Pella. “Everything is connected, so if the bees die off, then all the plants that use them to pollinate them are going to die too.”
Zane Peters studied the invasive plant purple loosestrife with associate professor of biology Paul Weihe. Peters wants to pursue graduate studies in environmental science after finishing at Central.
Not a lot of undergrad schools offer a program like this,” said Peters, senior biology major from Winterset. “Doing independent research in undergrad is at this point unheard of, so when grad schools see that I’ve applied for — and received — a grant to do research as an undergrad, that looks really good.”
Casey Link also worked with assistant professor of biology Paulina Mena to study bees’ genetic diversity. “I would do this even if I didn’t get paid,” said Link, junior biology major from Dubuque. “As a bonus, we got grants to do this.”
At Central’s field station, the team captured bees to study in the lab. “There are so many flies that mimic bees for protection,” Link said. “When we’re out here, it looks like there are hundreds of bees around, but there really might be only two. None of us has gotten stung once.”
Link plans to study biology in graduate school. “I’d like to do research and be a college professor — essentially being Dr. Mena to us,” he said. “I think that would be a blast.”
Other summer research projects included prairie and bat research with professor of biology Russ Benedict, chemistry research with Cathy Haustein and Jay Wackerly, history research with associate professor Lori Witt and intensive Greek study with professor of religion Terry Kleven.