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UMD students with Capstone Projects
UMD students in the University Honors Program presented their Capstone Projects in April 2016. Far right-front row: Joelle McGovern, University Honors program coordinator, and Associate Professor Ryan Goei, director, University Honors program.

University Honors Program Capstone Projects - Spring 2016

Committed to the liberal arts mission of UMD, University Honors provides some of our most motivated students the opportunity to push themselves academically and personally. University Honors students graduate by achieving the highest academic standards and by engaging deeply in a broad array of honors-level academic courses, cultural and leadership experiences, research and creative expression projects, and meaningful work within the Duluth community. University Honors students commit hundreds of hours of work to expand their undergraduate experience.

Visit the University Honors Program website to learn more about the program.

2016 University Honors Capstone Presenters

Garet Anderson-Lind
To Kill a King: The Assassination of Philip II of Macedon
Before Alexander the Great came into his own, there was his father, King Philip II of Macedon. Progenitor of both the ancient Macedonian State and Alexander himself, Philip created a state which would come to control huge swaths of people and land. Before Philip's total vision could be realized, however, he was brutally cut down by an assassin. While the man who wielded the knife is well known by history, many believe he was not alone in his convictions. The hidden adversaries are altogether unknown, if they existed at all. This capstone aims to shed further light on the controversy by examining the relationships between the primary sources and the secondary sources that rely on them to make their arguments, while asserting its own position given the evidence gained therein. The project examines suspected conspirators such as prominent Greek leaders, Macedonian princes, wives of Philip, and even Alexander himself, while also entertaining the idea that the assassin was alone in his actions.

Kyle Bernier
Changes in the Fluidity of Coordination with Curling Experience.
It is believed that expert curlers display better mastery and coordination of their joint angles than novice curlers by, for example, making small adjustments to throwing mechanics in real time. For my project, I will be recording curlers' movements as they throw the rock down the sheet of ice via a hyper accurate motion recording device that emits signals real-time from the curler to the motion detecting device. We predict that curlers with more experience will demonstrate more fluidity or independent control of their joint angles than novices. Experts should also be more accurate than novices on their hit and draw shots (two common curling shots). This research could help us understand basic differences in the movements that experts and novices make during curling shots. This could result in additional information that athletes and coaches could use to help improve performance.

Jamie Dobosenski
Biology and Environmental Science
Effects of whole-lake mixing on the diet of rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax)
Rainbow smelt, an invasive coldwater fish species native to the eastern coastal US, were intentionally introduced into the Laurentian Great Lakes Region in the early 1900s to serve as forage for predatory fishes. Rainbow smelt reduce populations of native fish in the systems they invade. To eradicate invasive cold-water rainbow smelt in Crystal Lake, the lake underwent whole-lake mixing. The manipulation successfully created isothermic conditions and removed all coldwater habitat required by rainbow smelt. Although the induced mortality rate was significant (90%), the mixing did not eradicate rainbow smelt from Crystal Lake. For my research I hypothesized that a shift in diet may have helped the rainbow smelt population persist during the thermal manipulation. The mixing event removed the coldwater habitat, thereby inducing a spatial shift of rainbow smelt in an attempt to find new habitat. This movement could have changed the prey availability and prey selection, and those that were able to adapt to that change survived. There was evidence that rainbow smelt diet was effected by whole-lake mixing. Overall, the proportion of general zooplankton decreased during mixing and returned to a high proportion after mixing.The proportion of larger diet items increased during mixing. These finding may have future implications for management strategies.

Anna Frink
Processing Rape Cases: Media versus Reality
This project is comparing how media ("Law and Order SVU") portrays how rape cases are handled versus how they are handled in reality (PAVSA and Police).

James Geisler
Applying Persuasion Theories to a Community-Based Fundraiser
This project focuses on applying various persuasion theories and tactics in setting up a fundraiser for a local non-profit program. In setting this event up, multiple persuasion theories and tactics have been tested to see how they work in this particular context. The goal of this project has been to raise awareness and support for the Music Resource Center in Duluth.

Katelin Goebel
Food Availability for Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) in Managed and Natural Woodlands.
Wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) are listed as threatened by the state of Minnesota, and are a species of management concern. These animals are largely terrestrial during the summer months, and use forested areas for foraging. University of Minnesota Duluth scientists and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources started a study on wood turtles in the spring of 2015 to assess habitat use and responses to management actions. This project compared food availability between known wood turtle locations from VHF telemetry and adjacent clear-cut jack pine (Pinus banksiana) regeneration areas. Data collection occurred during the summer and early fall of 2015. The results indicate that environmental factors, not food availability, may be driving wood turtle habitat use patterns.

Rose Gracza
Prevention of Type II Diabetes in Honduras: El Cacao as a Case Study
Honduras is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the Western Hemisphere. Poverty affects access to quality healthcare and education, making it hard to manage chronic illness, specifically diabetes. Type II diabetes is on the rise in Honduras; it is estimated that currently up to 10% of adults are affected. This project will focus on reducing the prevalence of type II diabetes in Honduras, highlighting strategies for the prevention of the disease with a strong focus on education. I spent two months as a medical volunteer last summer in El Cacao, a small village on the northern coast of Honduras, and I will use much of my exposure to healthcare and the management of diabetes there as evidence to support some proposed strategies for diabetes prevention.

Gretchen Klinkner  
Athletic Training
Incidence of Lower Extremity injuries in Correlation with Limb Dominance in University of Minnesota Duluth Varsity Athletes
Research thus far has struggled to determine a relationship between limb dominance and injury incidence because there are many risk factors that may contribute to the injury of an athlete. This study aims to investigate the relationship between lower limb dominance and the incidence of lower extremity injury among NCAA Division I and II collegiate athletes of the University at Minnesota Duluth. In order to conduct this study, a survey was administered to the sample population via the use of the online survey software and insight platform, Qualtrics. Participants were selected through convenience and purposeful-criterion sampling of NCAA Division I and II collegiate athletes at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Emily LaCount
The Gender Gap In Study Abroad
Studying abroad is defined by the Forum on Education Abroad as "education that occurs in a foreign country outside the participant's home country." About 289,408 United States students participated in studying abroad from 2012 to 2013, a steadying increase from previous years. But studying abroad doesn't seem to encompass or encourage all groups of university students to venture and learn equally, especially in terms of gender. About 65% of United States students that studied abroad were females, yet only about 35% of students that studied abroad were males. Why is there a surplus of females studying abroad and such a shortage of males studying abroad? This project reviews current theories concerning why males study abroad at lower rates, as well as proposes and presents a hypothesis and subsequent research regarding the potential influence of marketing materials, particularly advertisements, on decreased male intent to be educated in another country.

Brittany Leeson
Integrated Elementary and Special Education
Positive Behavior Modifications and Data Representation
When working in the classroom there are bound to be some undesired behaviors occurring that need to be addressed. When there is an undesired behavior being performed you must use best practice and replace the undesired behavior with a desired behavior in the most positive way possible. For my capstone I conducted two behavior modification plans for two students with similar undesired behaviors. With the behavior modification plans I was able to successfully modify the student's’ behavior so that they were able to perform in the classroom to the best of their ability and in an appropriate way. Within the education system, the data you collect is crucial. In meeting with parents or faculty members, having data is what is going to back you up as an educator. When collecting and presenting your data you want to portray it in the most as positive way possible, while still illustrating the downfalls. You want the validity of your intervention to show in your data, and you do not want your data to be questioned. Through my capstone project I have collected my data, modified student behaviors, and compared the best possible ways to portray student behavior data in a positive light.

Katherine McMahon
Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, Chemistry and Spanish
Development and Synthesis of ABD1 Gene
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by the absence or malfunction of the muscle protein Dystrophin. Dystrophin is responsible for dissipating the mechanical stress placed on muscles. However, in DMD patients, during the absence of Dystrophin, there is an upregulation of the fetal homolog Utrophin that does not function as an efficient force dissipator. In order to characterize the differences between Utrophin ABD1 and Dystrophin ABD1, the gene for Utrophin ABD1 needs to be created and characterized using simulations and thermodynamics. Development of this gene will include: finding the nucleotide sequence for the gene of interest, inserting this sequence into a plasmid so E. coli can synthesize the protein, and adding specific components to the gene so that it can be purified in a high yield manner. This protein has never been created by our lab so its development is central to further analysis of the protein so potential therapeutics for DMD can be discussed.

Katie Moret
From Deinstitutionalization to Today: The History of the Modern Mental Health Crisis
Mental health treatments have been in constant flux throughout history. While we have come a long way in how we view and treat those with mental illnesses, we still have a long way to go. My project focuses on the history of mental health treatment from the time of the deinstitutionalization movement to the present and how the radical change in treatment during the 1950's has led us to the mental health crisis we are in today. The impact of these changes on St. Louis County and the homeless population is the focus of this project, and the current services in place are outlined.

Michelle Olson
Does Emotion Overthrow Knowledge for the Students at the University of Minnesota, Duluth when dealing with Genetically Modified Organisms?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have become prevalent in recent years due to their many agricultural uses. Recently, there also seems to be a general trend toward society supporting anti-GMO campaigns. This lead me to wonder what factors influence a person’s opinions towards GMOs. I conducted an online survey to test whether hometown size, major (field of study), or baseline genetic knowledge influences a person’s opinions of GMOs. Results showed there was a statistically significant trend that Swenson College of Science and Engineering students have, on average, higher favorability of genetically modified organisms when compared to the rest of the students at UMD. There were general trends between baseline genetic knowledge and favorability, as well as, hometown size and favorability of GMOs, but neither were statistically significant. Thus showing other factors, such as emotions, must influence a person’s opinions of GMOs more than his/her hometown size, field of study, and baseline genetic knowledge.

Meghan Osterbauer
Intimate Relationships and Alcohol Consumption
In the present study, we sought to examine the relationship between three aspects of intimate relationships (status, length, and satisfaction) and alcohol consumption in college students. However, because we were unable to recruit many participants (n=35), there was low variance in satisfaction scores and we were unable to analyze that variable. We ran independent groups t-tests to analyze connections between status (committed and not committed) and drinking measures. Both the Short Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (S-MAST) and Quantity X Frequency of drinking trended (though not significant) so that those who were not committed drank more than those who were. There was also a trend (measured with Kendal’s Tau to account for skewed data) for those who were in their relationship for longer to drink less than those who hadn’t been committed for as long. Because of the low number of participants, we are unable to draw any solid conclusions from our results.

Caitlin Pederson
Computer simulations of the coupling mechanism of dystrophin’s spectrin repeats
Dystrophin is a cytoplasmic protein and is an integral part of the protein complex that connects the cytoskeleton of a muscle fiber to the surrounding  xtracellular matrix.  Mutations in dystrophin are responsible for muscular dystrophy.  Twenty four spectrin repeat (SR) domains constitute the bulk of dystrophin, and the goal of this research was to test whether or not these spectrin repeats are coupled through the connecting linker. To this end, we investigated with molecular dynamics simulations the structure, dynamics, and response to mechanical stress of one repeat (Sr-17) and of a dimer, repeats (SR-17:18).  The results shows that the linker between the two repeats is flexible and allows to transition between conformations where the two repeats are in contact with each other to stretched conformations where the two repeats are uncoupled.

Kathryn Peterson
Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Chemistry
The Dual Dependency of Available αS Conformers on Varying Liposomes and Peptides
α-Synuclein (αS) is a protein commonly found in protein aggregates associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD).  This intrinsically disordered protein is known to regulate synaptic vesicle (SV) trafficking in the pre-synaptic clefts of most neurons.  Improper trafficking of SVs results in miscommunication between neurons, which could lead to symptoms of PD such as muscular tremors.  Despite the prevalence of PD, much is still left unknown about the mechanism that causes protein aggregation due to αS binding to SVs.  SVs are unique membranes as a result of their high cholesterol content (45%) and large curvature due to its small diameter (0.03 microns).  Both factors induce strain in the membrane leading to high fusion potential of the SV membrane. For this research two SV mimics (simple and complex) were designed, both utilizing a mass spectrometry study on SV membrane composition.  The simple SV mimic measured the effects of interacting head groups and cholesterol on membrane annealing in the presence of αS using a Carboxyfluorescein (CF) release assay .To further probe the question of conformational changes of αS in the presence of membrane Circular Dichroism (CD) monitored the secondary structure character.  Both membrane annealing and a change in secondary structure were observed making it necessary to further investigate the relationship between protein and membrane with other methods.  Using Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) to monitor a lipid transition we hypothesized that αS has specificity for high curvature and complex composition of membrane. We tested this by varying liposome sizes and cholesterol content of the liposomes.  On the other hand the membranes impact on αS conformers also utilized DSC, instead monitoring a protein transition, to see its effects on possible conformations.  A shift was found in the presence of complex SV mimic but not in the presence of the simple SV mimic, showing αS’s conformational specificity for this highly complex mimic.  Due to this high preference, a binding mechanism using the complex SV mimic needs to be studied. The mechanism of αS binding to membrane has the potential to shed light on the pathogenesis of αS in amyloid formation.  I propose that αS binds with high affinity to the SV mimic and any variation in length or structure of αS will decrease the affinity and binding capabilities of the protein as a result of limiting the conformers the protein can achieve. Through Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) we will predict a simulated binding model for αS that will give more information about possible reasons for protein aggregation and benefit future studies on PD.

Cord Reno
Moose Use of Aquatic Resources for Cooling and Sodium Needs
It is thought that moose use open water for cooling when temperatures are hot. Moose  also feed on aquatic macrophytes to increase sodium intake. We deployed GPS collars on moose in northeastern Minnesota. The collars collected locations at 20 minute intervals, which essentially gave us a linear record of how moose moved through the landscape. We digitized all open water within the MCP home range of each moose and then estimated the distance of moose locations from open water. Each moose had over 14,000 locations in this 4.5 month period (April 15 to October 31). Two female moose had MCP home ranges of about 35 km2 and one male moose had an MCP home range of 113 km2. All three moose had about 1% open water (0.90±0.07 SEM) in their MCP home range, and had 1.3±1.0% of locations in water.  About 38±11% were within 300 m of open water, 16±10% were within 100 m, and 5±4% were within 25 m of open water. Seasonal use of open water varied. 64% of locations within 300 m of water and 90% of locations within 100 m of open water occurred during June and July. 90% of locations within 25 m of open water were in June. At least in Minnesota, it appears that moose use open water less than expected, and use open water very little in May and after August.

Mitchell Rysavy
Computer Science
An Open-source Genealogy Website
Familiar is an open-source genealogical data manager written in Ruby-on-Rails. Similar to services such as, Familiar is different because it is self-hosted and allows users to have greater control of their data. It presents a number of useful features, such as data import, social network login, and a flexible media organization system. I have been working on Familiar since July 2015.

Megan Strehlke
Biochemistry/Molecular Biology
Regulators of Complement System Activation Change with Placental Ischemia-induced Hypertension
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy specific condition that results in reduced placental perfusion, increased activation of complement, part of the innate immune system, and new onset hypertension. In the rat model of placental ischemia-induced hypertension, studies in Dr. Jean Regal's lab were the first to demonstrate the importance of complement activation. In this model, circulating C3a increases, suggesting either increased activation of complement through C3 and/or insufficient changes in endogenous regulators to limit complement activation. In preeclampsia, excessive complement activation in kidney and placenta has been demonstrated. Thus, we hypothesized that increased complement activation following placental ischemia in rat leads to an increase in complement regulators in placenta and kidney. This study used quantitative RT-PCR to measure message for these regulators in placenta and kidney cortex.

Abigail Whitney
Biology and Hispanic Studies
Academic and social acclimation of medical students following a pre-matriculation program
Transitioning to medical school is challenging. Pre-matriculation programs offer the unique opportunity to acclimate students to the academic rigor and culture of medical school. The University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth Campus offers a summer pre-matriculation program to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented populations in medicine. The program coincides with the school’s mission to train students who are committed to practicing family medicine that serves rural Minnesota and American Indian communities. Through this program, students gain academic knowledge, study-skills, and a support-network of faculty and peers. Evaluation of scores on a microbiology concept inventory exam of participants before and after the pre-matriculation program compared to their peers showed academic gains of the participants. Focus groups with pre-matriculation participants and peer mentors were conducted over three years to help evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the program. To assess the program’s impact on social and studying networks, social network analysis was conducted over two years to evaluate the impacts and longevity of connections made during the pre-matriculation program. The social network analysis also identified the unique studying and social networks of medical students. Evaluating the social networks, academic gains, and participant perception of the program will help the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth Campus improve the pre-matriculation program and further support underrepresented students.

See the 2015 Capstone projects.


UMD Honors student Garret Anderson-Lind UMD Honors student Anna Frink UMD Honors student James Geisler
Garret Anderson-Lind (right) Anna Frink (left) James Geisler
UMD Honors studen Emily LaCount UMD Honors student Kathryn Peterson UMD Honors student Cord Reno
Emily LaCount (left) Kathryn Peterson Cord Reno (right)























April 2016.
UMD News Articles | News Releases
Cheryl Reitan,

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