Undergraduate Forum Showcases Research of SNC Students


On Tuesday, March 31 the 2015 Undergraduate Research Forum was held in the Mulva Library from 1 to 4 p.m. St. Norbert Collaborative: Center for Undergraduate Research and Dr. John Pennington, Director of the Collaborative, organized and sponsored the event. Per their mission statement, the goal of the Center for Undergraduate Research is to provide support for students, faculty and staff at all levels of undergraduate research collaboration. The center provides opportunities for St. Norbert undergraduate students that they would have little chance of doing elsewhere, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work one-on-one with professors.

Students presenting at the forum were given a time slot to give an oral presentation of their research for attendees, in which they could describe in depth the purpose of their research and answer questions from audience members. To go along with their oral presentations, many students also had poster presentations in accompaniment to provide a visual representation of the work that they had done. The following is a highlighted selection of some of these posters and oral presentations.

First-years Alex Gruber and Luke Manderle, Research Fellows with the Center for Norbertine Studies, partnered with Father Andrew Ciferni to continue the process of cataloging and digitizing documents relating to Norbertine missionary activity from 1870 to the present, especially up to the Second Vatican Council. The three traveled to Grimbergen Abbey in Belgium in order to research and catalog information and documents in order to understand why the Norbertine mission in Alberta and British Columbia in Canada failed.

Adam Potopa ’14, with the help of Dr. Sarah Jones, researched the social learning in captive wolves. When asked why he chose to research this topic, Potopa answered that he has always been interested in wolves and is currently volunteering at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary so he and Dr. Jones would have captive wolves to study. Potopa also stated that an earlier study intending to research the same topic used a wolf and dog as their test subjects, resulting in skewed results. The test consisted of two wolves placed in cages next to one another, one wolf given ten chances to choose the correctly baited cup while the second wolf watched. The second wolf was given the same test and their research shows that the second wolf had a better success rate after watching the first wolf. Potopa and Dr. Jones hypothesize that this technique could be possible in the wild. For example, if an alpha wolf is baited and trained to avoid an area, say a farmer’s land, they suspect that the remaining wolf pack will also learn from the first wolf’s training.

The students in Dr. Hunnicutt’’s BIOL 365: Immunology course tested the flavobacterium columnare vaccine on zebrafish to research its sustainability in protecting against a disease which commonly affects and kills industrial fish such as bass, salmon, trout and perch. At the time of the forum, they were halfway through the 42-day inoculation period and, while they lost quite a few zebrafish in the first seven days, the students stated that the remaining fish are taking to the vaccine well. The students believed that if the vaccine was successful in the zebrafish, it can be given to fish in commercial fisheries, saving the companies millions, if not billions, of dollars annually.

The opportunities for undergraduate research provided by the St. Norbert Collaborative are like no other. Students are given the chance to work with professors one-on-one, something that is almost unheard of at the undergraduate level. If you are interested in conducting undergraduate research and would like more information, you can visit the St. Norbert Collaborative website at http://www.snc.edu/collaborative/ or email Dr. John Pennington, Director of the Collaborative at john.pennington@snc.edu.


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