Undergraduate Research @ UMKC

Archives          Clinics          Community Organizations

Taking Your Education to New Places

Labs          Studios          Galleries    

URD@C 2015 Student Participants


Sandra Ahmadi

Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Major/Department:  Political Science
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. Rebecca Best, Political Science
Funding Source: UMKC SUROP & SEARCH

Sandra Ahmadi is a senior pursuing a B.A. in political science with a minor in Economics at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. In addition to serving as an undergraduate research ambassador, she is a member of the political science honor society (Pi Sigma Alpha). After graduation, Sandra plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in political science in order to continue her research in political economy.

Changes in Federal Reserve Strategy in Times of Economic Downturn

What motivates the Federal Reserve Bank to implement specific policies? Historically, the decision making body of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), has based its policies primarily on the most recent economic data available at the time of its meetings. I argue that the global financial crisis changed the FOMC's strategy for determining monetary policy. I test this claim by examining FOMC voting behavior, primarily evaluating patterns of easing and tightening, throughout two periods. Tight money policies refer to monetary policies that, through the money multiplier, contract the money supply; whereas, easy money policies refer to policies that expand the money supply. For the first period, I compile information on FOMC voting behavior from 2007-2014. The second period is used to demonstrate the change in the way in which the FOMC determines what policies to implement in response to the global financial crisis and uses FOMC voting information from 1966-197. The 1973-1975 recession was a period in which the United States experienced economic downturn similar to that of the Great Recession; unemployment and inflation rates for these two periods are comparable. Additionally, I explore this shift in voting behavior as a potential indicator of future FOMC policy decisions.

Monetary policies are responsible for generating business cycles on both the national and local levels. Therefore, such policies have important implications for business and state and local policymakers as they seek to foster economic conditions that create price stability (stable inflation rates) and low levels of unemployment. Understanding how and why specific monetary policies are implemented is an important part of determining the growth rate of the economy, which can help businesses avoid harmful boom and bust cycles, guide policymakers in their implementation of stimulus and tax policies, and alert consumers of impending inflationary pressures.

Gillen Brown

Hometown: Platte City, MO
Major/Department: Physics, with Astronomy Emphasis
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. Mark Brodwin, Physics and Astronomy
Funding Source: NASA Astrophysics Data Analysis Program--A WISE Search for the Most
Massive, High Red-shift Galaxy Clusters

Gillen Brown is currently a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in physics (astronomy emphasis) with minors in math and computer science. In addition to doing research with the UMKC Galaxy Evolution Group, he is the Vice President of the UMKC chapter of the Society of Physics Students. Through SPS, he does volunteer work with organizations encouraging an interest in science among kids. After graduation Gillen plans to get a Ph.D. in astrophysics.

An Easy and Accurate Method for Measuring Distances to Galaxy Clusters

Galaxy clusters are collections of hundreds or thousands of galaxies. As the first large-scale structures to form in the early universe, clusters are important probes of both the process of galaxy formation and of the early history of the universe. Modern surveys can routinely find clusters at distances of more than eight billion light years, but require costly spectroscopic observations to determine their precise distance (or equivalently, a quantity called redshift). Over the last few years, astronomers have developed a method capable of estimating the redshifts of these very distant clusters based on simple (and cheap) images of the clusters taken by some of the world’s largest telescopes. A large fraction of the galaxies in clusters formed at the same time and evolved in the same way, giving them the same color. Galaxy synthesis models are capable of describing the color of evolving galaxies as a function of age, and comparing modeled colors with those measured in images yields distance estimates within 10% of the correct value.

Logan Ellis

Hometown: Independence, MO
Major/Department: Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. Travis Fields, Civil and Mechanical Engineering
Funding Source: UMKC SUROP and SEARCH

Logan Ellis is from Kansas City. He attended Englewood Christian Academy in Independence, MO. He spent five years in the United States Marine Corps as an Aircraft Electrician. He is currently a junior at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, studying mechanical Engineering. He enjoys training and completing marathons and triathlons when he’s not performing research with unmanned aircraft systems.

Unmanned Quadcopter Test Stand: Creating and Testing Flight Functionality Without Leaving the Ground

Over the past decade, unmanned quadcopters have seen tremendous growth in research and commercial applications. Much research has been done on developing complex control systems and autopilot programs; however, due to current Federal Aviation Administration limitations, many systems cannot be flown legally outdoors. As an alternative approach to flight testing, this project created a cheap stationary test stand that allowed the quadcopters to be tested indoors, without the use of expensive motion capture laboratories. The quadcopter is mounted to a sensor that detects the forces applied by the quadcopter’s motors. A computer program uses the inputs to simulate, in real-time, how the quadcopter would be flying. The quadcopter uses this simulated information to adjust its position and attitude. Students will be developing flight controls and autopilot systems for a Mechatronics course and utilizing the test stand to test their programs.

Ellen Gregory

Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Major/Department: Psychology
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. Diane Filion, Psychology
Funding Source: UMKC SUROP

Ellen Gregory is currently a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in History and Economics at the University of Missouri Kansas City. After graduation this May, Ellen plans to attend graduate school to seek a Master’s degree in Economics. At UMKC, Ellen is a member of the Honors Program and the Cognitive Psychophysiology Research Group.

The Relationship between College Students’ Sleep (Quantity and Quality) and Emotional Responses during Stress Inducing Situations

The present study investigates potential relationships between college students' sleep (quantity and quality) and the ability to regulate emotions during a stress-inducing math task. Emotion Regulation is an important ability. Emotion regulation is the ability to modulate the valence (positivity or negativity), intensity or duration of an emotional experience. The importance of emotion regulation is based in its positive contribution to physical and psychological well-being. Sleep deprivation has been shown to impair emotion regulation. One such explanation for this impairment is that poor sleep reduces the cognitive energy resources needed to reach daily goals which in turn evokes negative emotions. Alternatively, adequate sleep improves the regulation of daily emotional experiences as well as responses to emotional stress. While low sleep quantity and poor sleep quality can exist among any age group, college students are known to experience significant chronic sleep deprivation. In a large sample of college students, Hannah Lund and her colleagues (2010) found that twenty-five percent of students reported less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night, and only 29.4% of students reported 8 or more hours of total sleep time per night. Eight or more hours of sleep is required for optimal health for young adults. Little research to date has specifically examined the relationship between chronic sleep deprivation and emotion regulation in college students. Therefore, there is a need for more research in this area. As adolescents adjust to college routines, getting consistent sleep can be difficult. At a time when long study hours and decision making that will affect future careers are the norm, consistent quality sleep is of great importance. The current study could provide additional evidence for the importance of adequate sleep in college students by demonstrating a direct link to the quality of their emotion regulation and emotional responses to stress. Data collection is still underway.

William Leverette

Hometown: Lee’s Summit, MO
Major/Department: Electrical & Computer Engineering/Physics
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. Paul Rulis, Physics
Funding Source: UMKC SUROP

William Leverette is a junior pursuing a B.S majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is also pursuing his B.S in Physics. He is a current resident of Lee’s Summit, MO in Jackson County, and is a graduate of Lee’s Summit High School. William is the chapter President of the National Society of Black Engineers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and as a treasurer for the Society of Physic students. He was also awarded a $2,000.00 scholarship for his work in the SEARCH program. After Graduation William plans to explore a career in either signal processing, radio engineering, energy development, software engineering, condensed matter physics, or power engineering. William’s long term goal is to head his own research group or his own engineering firm.

An Optimized Method for Assembly of 3D Printed Models of Complex Atomic Scale Structures

The advent of 3D printing has dramatically shifted the traditional view of the manufacturing process. The laborious and expensive process of prototyping parts for devices has been substantially reduced because 3D printers can create highly customized components from simple software tools. Earlier prototyping was often only possible with a large quantity of wasted expensive physical resources. 3D printers have substantially eliminated the issues of wasted materials and time. Additionally, in the foreseeable future it is even possible that more powerful 3D printers will become the primary engines for manufacturing.

Over a period of the summer months I made a series of improvements to a 3D printer based off of the Prusa Mendel printer kit. Most of my improvements could be categorized as fine-tuning. For example, I smoothed the motion of the x, y, and z-axis stepper motors, metal threads, and belts that control the motion of the printer along each axis. I also used the time to understand how to properly maintain the printer during printing for long print runs. On the software side, I assisted Prof. Paul Rulis in improving the computer program to take the definition of a crystal structure and turn it into a 3D computer model. The program was originally designed to create models of balls and sticks that are organized into sheets. While printing spheres with holes and cylinders allowed for easy printing there were no labels on the components to guide the assembly process. Thus, assembly of complex structures would be quite difficult, time consuming, and error prone. In this project the program was extended to include numbered labels on each cylinder and sphere. The program that was written for this project is released under the Educational Community License v2 open source license. Physical improvements and precision was done with resources and research from the “Hammerspace” building space located in Kansas City, MO.

This is a creative development project and so the main results are the printer itself; the program that was written; and the final printed models of complex crystal structures. The models that were printed can be used to illustrate details of the atomic structure of various systems for educational purposes. Beyond the immediate project, the printer can be used for various creative purposes; projects by other students and faculty and as a shared resource.

Emily McMichael

Hometown: St. Charles, MO
Major/Department: Biology
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. Theodore White, School of Biological Sciences
Funding Source: UMKC SEARCH

Emily McMichael is currently a senior majoring in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is a resident of Saint Charles, Missouri and graduated from Francis Howell North in 2012. Emily is a member of the Honors Program, the Biological Sciences Students Government, and is the current co-president of HSAC (Honors Student Advisory Council). After graduation, Emily is planning on attending graduate school to obtain a PhD in biology.

The Effect of Artificial Sugars as Carbon Sources on Pathogenic Fungi

Candida albicans and Candida glabrata are fungal pathogens that infect humans. They are commonly found in the oral cavity in healthy individuals. However, these Candida species can cause oral diseases, mainly in patients who are immunocompromised, elderly, infants, HIV positive, or denture wearers. These fungi obtain nutrients from their environment. If these nutrients change, the characteristics of the fungi will change. Artificial sweeteners are a common diet substitute for common table sugar, but their structures vary drastically. In this study we analyze the effect of artificial sweeteners on fungal growth, morphology, cellular behavior, competition, and particularly drug sensitivity. These fungi and controls were grown in a variety of artificial sweeteners such as Equal, Stevia, Splenda, and Sweet and Low. To date, this study has shown that specific fungal pathogens grow in artificial sweeteners, while others don’t. The fungi’s drug sensitivity is also altered when grown in these artificial sweeteners. That means that artificial sweeteners affect the amount of drug required to inhibit growth of the fungi. In addition, we are determining which pathogen dominates when grown in a mixture in a particular artificial sugar. These results have important implications for patients who regularly use artificial sweeteners in their diets, and may have important implications in the field of dentistry, and infectious diseases.

Autumn Rae Neal

Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Major/Department: History
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. Christopher Cantwell, History
Funding Source: Edgar Snow Foundation

Autumn Neal, a history major and classics minor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, is pursuing a Master’s in public history. Her career goals are aimed toward museums and archives. In her spare time she enjoys practicing photography, cooking, volunteering, and traveling.

The Global Life of Edgar Snow

Edgar Snow was at the pinnacle of his journalistic career in 1971. That May, Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong invited Snow to stand with him at the observation deck for the country’s annual May Day Parade. He was the first westerner Mao had ever invited to the event and his presence would later signal to Washington DC, China's willingness to reestablish diplomatic relationships with the United States. This trip also laid the groundwork for President Nixon's arrival the following year. It was a fitting triumph for Snow who had been writing about China for nearly half a century. But Snow’s long standing journalistic career was not without its challenges or its controversies. The Global Life of Edgar Snow documents Snow’s life and career by presenting his travels on an interactive map. The website showcases photos, letters, and articles from Snow. These documents give us a glimpse into the past as well as into the life of this groundbreaking journalist. The Edgar Snow Project, which was completed in partnership with the University of Missouri - Kansas City and the Edgar Snow Foundation, demonstrates the importance of local research and the attention it can bring to Kansas City’s often overlooked history. It allows the audience a chance to experience the history of Missouri on a global scale in the areas of international relations and politics. The project also highlights the variety of opportunities and resources available for undergraduate research such as university archives.

Anniya Preisberga

Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Major/Department: Environmental Science
Faculty Mentor
:  Dr. John Fleeger, Geosciences
Funding Source: UMKC SEARCH

While this research was conducted during the senior year of the Bachelor of Science Degree program, Anniya is currently enrolled in her first semester of a Masters in Urban and Environmental Geosciences degree at UMKC. Having graduated Cum Laude, she enjoys the challenges of being a Graduate Teaching Assistant, and is pursuing further research interests in Environmental Geology and remote sensing.

Silver nanoparticle and UVB Interactions: Aquatic Toxicity

Silver nanoparticles are currently mass produced for use in various products and industries ranging from medical implants to paints and pesticides. However, little is known about the emergent size dependent properties of nano technology and their environmental implications. This study determined the concentration of 2nm silver nanoparticles lethal to 50% of a population of the aquatic indicator species Daphnia magna under environmentally relevant UVA and UVB exposures. Since antiquity, silver has been regarded as a precious metal and has been used in jewelry, currency, and for the treatment of wounds and infections. While the historic use of silver has demonstrated mild negative impacts on human health, this does not indicate lack of toxicity. As applications of silver nanoparticles grow exponentially, their toxicity to a host of bacteria and aquatic species raises new and valid questions on both environmental and human health impacts. Current dogma in setting environmentally protective standards for metals is based on the biotic ligand model, a tool used to assess bioavailability of metals in aquatic environments. This EPA standard however may not account for the emergent properties of nanosilver nor the little understood influence of UV exposure on silver speciation and subsequent aquatic toxicity. This study provides evidence of nanosilver toxicity as generally influenced by silver speciation and supports the use of the biotic ligand model in establishing environmentally protective thresholds. However, while the current EPA standard of 0.002 ppm is protective, it does not take into account that many waste water treatment plants cannot remove nano particles and actually use UV light in the process of treatment prior to release into streams and rivers. The Missouri River drains and supplies over one sixth of North America and yet does not see populations of more than a million people until it reaches the state of Missouri. With Kansas City and St. Louis built directly on the river; Missouri residents and policy makers are uniquely capable of, and responsible for, influencing human and environmental health for a vast number of people locally, nationally, and globally.

Keith Robinson

Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Major/Department: Mathematics
Faculty Mentor
:  Majid Bani-Yaghoub, Mathematics
Funding Source: UMKC SEARCH

Keith is currently a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Keith is a current member and founding president of UMKC’s Math Club, a member of the Mathematical Association of America and also a member of the Financial Management Association. After graduation he plans on working as an investment analyst, he hopes to one day become a managing director. Keith eventually wants to obtain a Master of Science in Finance. He plans to graduate in May 2015 and looks forward to a promising career.

Kansas City Gang Violence: Mathematical Solutions to a Troubling Issue

This multidisciplinary research project employs the theory of mathematical epidemiology to unpack the hidden relationships between gang membership, individuals with the tendencies of becoming active gang members, and violent gang crime. A mathematical model is developed to investigate the dynamics of gang violence and gang membership in Kansas City. Numerical simulations and analysis of the model can reveal the impacts and the relative effectiveness of the preventative and control measures such as social services, reform programs, and police efforts. Further study of the model determines the minimum efforts required for gang suppression and it quantifies the possible variations of gang membership and violent gang crimes due to the control efforts. This project initiates a creative type of research with potential outcomes that will benefit both fields of applied mathematics and theoretical criminology. The practical outcomes of this project might be of particular interest to the Kansas City Police Department, Missouri Department of Corrections, and communities interested in reducing gang violence.

Alicia Fries

Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Major/Department: Geology
Faculty Mentor
:  Tina Niemi, Geosciences
Funding Source: UMKC SUROP & SEARCH

Alicia Fries is currently a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Geology. Alicia is an active member of the Missouri Master Naturalist's Osage Chapter, and is currently serving a two-year term as a Board Member At-Large. Along with her degree program and her Master Naturalist volunteer work, she is able to educate others about our state's natural resources and the importance of environmental stewardship in Missouri.

Examining the Quality of Foraminiferal and Ostracodal Microfossil Assemblage as an Indicator of a Tsunami Deposit in the Bahamas on San Salvador Island

In the Bahamas, French Pond is one of many brackish to hypersaline, interdunal lakes located on San Salvador Island. In March 2014, three soft sediment cores were removed along a transect near the southern shoreline of the lake. Depositional environments within the core were determined by describing composition, color, geochemical analysis, and grain size. Of these, three separate units within the core were characterized as being predominately of a marine influence. The youngest unit shows a distinctive erosional boundary with the underlying peat, suggesting that the above sand was deposited rapidly, exhibiting characteristics of a catastrophe such as a tsunami. Through further studies of the core, microfossils were extracted and the condition of the fossils was determined to identify if there is relationship between depositional environment and microfossil quality. Missouri’s bedrock is what the Bahamas surface rock is today. Its present helps us to unlock our past.