May 24, 2010

Bucknell student researchers at work.

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University students will pursue nearly 60 research projects this summer covering a variety of academic disciplines in the sciences, the humanities and engineering.

The projects, which are part of the University's undergraduate research program, include an evaluation of balance training in older adults through electronic entertainment, the relationship between women and weapons in revolutionary America, the preservation process for historic bridges, and the design of an autonomous unmanned robotic vehicle.

Topics of local interest include a summary of hydraulic conditions at bridges within the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, an investigation of the levels of phthalates — additives widely used in plastics to soften them — in drinking water from treatment plants in the Susquehanna River Valley region, and an examination of the Marcellus Shale natural gas discovery and Pennsylvania's new energy boon.

"Integrating research and student learning is a hallmark of Bucknell's success in undergraduate education, and summer internships complement the year-round campus activities," Bucknell Provost Mick Smyer said. "Each summer, many students spend time sharpening their research skills alongside the faculty, becoming better prepared for the challenges they will face during their careers."

Sampling of research projects
Kyle Boline, a junior majoring in civil engineering from Rochester, N.Y, is exploring the effects of corrosion on guardrail performance to help maintenance personnel determine if a damaged guardrail can be repaired or must be replaced. He will test five 4-inch w-beam guardrail sections with differing levels of corrosion against a control beam with no corrosion. "The main object is to quantify the level of corrosion which results in a non-functioning guardrail," Boline said. "A second result is to provide insight on whether slightly corroded w-beam rail can be used on secondary highways in an effort to save money and material."

Neil Dold, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering from Attleboro Falls, Mass., will examine whether using a Wii Fit balance board can be used to improve balance training with adults who are 65 or older. "If the balance training routine proves effective, professionals and families may consider purchasing Wii Fit and instituting a routine to reduce the potential of a fall," Dold said.

David Manthos, a junior majoring in geography from McHenry, Md., will research, map and write a creative nonfiction account of an area of the Susquehanna Valley undergoing change due to the Marcellus Shale natural gas boon. "This will be an effort to tell a story with the landscape as its central character, to give the Marcellus Shale controversy a face," Manthos said. "The final narrative, perhaps with photography and videography to illustrate the writing, will be posted on a Bucknell website to be designed this summer on the Marcellus Shale," he said.

Robyn Roogow, a junior majoring in education and psychology from Ellicott City, Md., will study whether infants at certain stages of locomotion development comprehend the meanings of verbs. "As infants mature, they start to change their perspective of the world as they progress through sitting, crawling, standing and walking," Roogow said. Research has shown that infants show no fear of height before they begin to crawl. "However, children who can crawl will not cross a glass floor with a simulation below of descending stairs, illustrating a link between motor experience and thought," she said.

Molly Shoener, a junior majoring in early childhood education from Scranton, Pa., will investigate still-image military photojournalism during World War II and how this photography influenced the way in which Americans on the home front viewed the war. "Censorship was not uncommon prior to World War II but as the war continued, previously censored photos were released. This summer research will be continued in an honors thesis that will compare the wartime photography of World War II to that of more recent wars," Shoener said.

Sarah Suchoff, a sophomore majoring in international relations and Spanish from Norwalk, Conn., will focus on the use and construction of huipiles, the traditional dress of indigenous Mayan women, to discover how constructing, wearing and selling the traditional dress helps to promote Mayan identity. "This project will be conducted in the village of Tabi in the Yucatan," Suchoff said. "I also will investigate the reasons why some women choose not to wear huipiles, which are cotton dresses with a heavily embroidered bodice, and whether those who wear them do so to achieve a sense of Mayan-ness."

Study abroad bloggers
Emilie Kozol, who has been studying in South Africa during the spring semester, will remain in the Cape Town area through July as she volunteers in a service-learning project in one of the local elementary schools.

The fall bloggers are expected to begin posting over the summer months as they prepare and pack for their fall study destinations. Visit the Study Abroad Blog and learn more about our fall study abroad bloggers.

Contact: Division of Communications