College of Arts + SciencesQuest Program Projects

Current Projects

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Dana Vulaj (Psychology Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. Hamad Al-Azary

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Maliea May (Psychology Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. Franco Delogu

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Athena Chapman (Technological Humanities Major)
Quest Mentor: Dr. Paul Jaussen

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Ellen Forsgren (Technological Humanities Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. Daniel Shargel

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Guillermo Garcia de Celis Rodriguez (Computer Science Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. Wisam Bukaita

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: David Pace (Computer Science Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. Paula Lauren

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Kaushik Mehta (Embedded Software Engineering Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. Guang-Chong Zhu

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Samantha Seifert (Chemistry Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. Irfana Muqbil

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Chantol Aspinall (Nursing Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. Suzanne Cleere

Quest Undergraduate Student Researcher: Luke Hudy (Physics Major)
Quest Mentor:
Dr. George Moschelli

Completed Projects

Quest Guide:  Dr. Shannon Timmons, Department of Natural Sciences
Compounds derived from living organisms, called natural products, have long served as an important source of inspiration in the quest to discover new therapeutic agents. Carbohydrates are integral constituents of many natural products and are particularly useful in the development of novel anticancer and antibacterial drugs. Warfarin, a commonly used anticoagulant, is an interesting drug that was discovered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Recent research has shown that significant therapeutic benefit is derived from adding a carbohydrate group to warfarin. In this project, LTU students  Ashley Croft  and  Joshua Wells  prepared new warfarin analogs for medicinal testing. The students learned practical laboratory skills, such as how to setup a synthetic reaction, characterize products, and write scientific publications.

Quest Guide: Dr. Phil Vogt, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Communication
LTU students Yasser Alwan and Christina Minta created a new student organization called the Al Farabi Café. The group was inspired by the 10th century Persian philosopher Muhammad Al Farabi and draws on the principals of the Socrates Café. The Al Farabi Café aims to stimulate critical thinking in the areas of history, philosophy, theology, religion, current events, and other such social regards; perhaps advocating social change. As an individual, Al Farabi's perceptions were shaped through his many travels and interactions with diverse people from different lands. In many ways that is the aim of this group, to bring together people of varying backgrounds under one umbrella, encouraging reason and social change. Globalization played a role in organizing this group, hence the international student body is significantly evident in Al Farabi Café members. The students gather in a friendly, casual environment, without the pressures of a formalized classroom. They may share their ideas and apply what they choose to their personal philosophies. This experience indirectly facilitates the learning process and introduce ideas that they may not encounter in their specialized field of study or general social environment.

Quest Guide: Dr. Nicole Villeneuve, Department of Natural Sciences
Daptomycin and tobramycin are antibiotics mixed into PMMA bone cement to kill bone infections. In this project, LTU student Tyson DeLandsheer studied the amounts of antibiotics eluted from the bone cement over time and under different amounts of strain using high performance liquid chromatography. This information was analyzed to identify trends related to the elution of different antibiotics.

Quest Guide: Dr. CJ Chung, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
LTU graduate student Emily Trudell developed and maintained methodologies, procedures, and web-based database tools to assess the impact of autonomous robotics competitions in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. Competitions can drive students to work harder, resulting in better acquired skills that they would not have gained outside a competition. To prove this assertion, measurable data was collected to quantify students’ experiences, highlight successes, and determine areas for improvement. The students were assessed before and after a competition to see if their skills changed. Another group of students who did not participate in the competition served as a control group. To accomplish these tasks, a set of web-based database tools were developed to allow for easy test creation, as well as data collection and analysis.

Quest Guide: Dr. Lior Shamir, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Modern observational astronomy is based on robotic telescopes that generate some of the world’s largest public databases. Due to their size, the manual analysis of these databases is not practical, highlighting the need for the automation of data analysis. By using images and a machine learning algorithm, LTU student Evan Kuminski attempted to obtain basic morphological classifications of galaxies automatically. He tested this method using citizen science based classifications through Galaxy Zoo 2 (GZ2), and of the eleven questions asked of the volunteers, the algorithm was able to accurately classify galaxies more than 85% of the time, with many questions being answered with over 95% accuracy. If a similar method can be successfully applied to a much larger database, the resulting product would be the first reliable computer-generated catalog.

Quest Guide: Dr. Franco Delogu, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication
LTU student Phillip McMurray designed and completed an experimental psychology study in the field of sensation and perception. It was an investigation into whether spatial representation in working memory is modality independent. The nature of spatial representation of auditory stimuli in working memory has yet to be fully understood. Because there are no brain regions specifically devoted to the spatial representation of sounds as there are for images, it is still a matter of debate how human beings are able to recall the position of sounds from memory. Subjects were placed in the multisensory laboratory in the center of the circular lab chamber surrounded by speakers. They listened for a static sound (white noise) while blindfolded. The sounds emited randomly, one at a time from one speaker, and the subjects’ accuracy of spatial representations of sounds was determined under differing conditions.

Quest Guide: Prof. Karen Evans, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication
Four LTU students from Sichuan University, Cheng Ze, Hua Taojie, Jiao Weiyi, and Yang Xu, completed a project aimed at introducing traditional Chinese culture to students at LTU. Their project included activities related to Chinese kung fu, Chinese food, Chinese heritage, and some simple Chinese language. Weekly meetings were held on campus that provided free Chinese food, together with a short lecture covering the topic of the week. Following the lectures, participants discussed the differences between Chinese culture and the culture of his or her country. In this way, cultural differences were learned and appreciated. Meetings concluded with the teaching of some simple Chinese dialogue.

Quest Guide: Dr. Melinda Weinstein, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication
LTU student Haley Smith coached fellow student Stephen Muigai in the fundamentals of reading, writing about, and discussing the course content in World Masterpieces I. Since English was Stephen's second language, Haley's consistent review of class discussion and reading assignments helped to improve Stephen's English and his comprehension and enjoyment of the texts. In twice-weekly one hour sessions over fifteen weeks, Haley coached Stephen specifically in 1) reading comprehension, 2) expanding vocabulary, 3) sounding out words aloud, improving articulation, 4) reviewing class assignments, 5) reviewing the components of successful papers, and 6) reviewing class discussions. These twice-weekly sessions also allowed Stephen to ask questions about course-related issues outside of class. In the spirit of LTU’s motto, "theory and practice", Haley also reviewed the scholarly literature on peer coaching and wrote a final paper gauging the effects of different coaching practices.

Quest Guide: Dr. Melinda Weinstein, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication
LTU student Brandon See coached fellow student Saimir Prenga in the fundamentals of reading, writing about, and discussing the course content in World Masterpieces I. Since English was Saimir's second language, Brandon's consistent review of class discussion and reading assignments helped to improve Saimir's English and their comprehension and enjoyment of the texts. In weekly two-hour sessions over fifteen weeks, Brandon coached Saimir specifically in 1) reading comprehension, 2) expanding vocabulary, 3) sounding out words aloud, improving articulation, 4) reviewing class assignments, 5) reviewing the components of successful papers, and 6) reviewing class discussions. The weekly sessions also allowed time for Saimir to ask questions about course-related issues outside of class. In the spirit of LTU’s motto, "theory and practice", Brandon also reviewed the scholarly literature on peer coaching and wrote a final paper gauging the effects of different coaching practices.

Quest Guide: Dr. CJ Chung, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
The Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition is the premiere university-level unmanned ground vehicle competition in the world. As part of this competition, the navigation challenge requires vehicles to maneuver using GPS coordinates to target destinations while avoiding obstacles. The LTU Viper Team recently won 2nd place in the autonomous challenge and completed the JAUS level 3 challenge; however, LTU’s performance in the navigation challenge needed improvement. In this Quest project, LTU student Ze Cheng , with the help of Brian Koroncey and last year's team member Shawn Ellison, worked on improving LTU’s performance in the navigation portion of the IGVC competition. Improvements included: 1) vision detection to help in avoiding obstacles, which means the implementation of the camera, 2) the implementation of Dijkstra's algorithm to decide the order of visiting the destinations, 3) the transfer of the current path-finding algorithm A* to a dynamical algorithm B*, and 4) the development of a fuzzy logic control module to navigate the vehicle.

Quest Guide: Dr. CJ Chung, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
LTU student John Marnon participated in a team competition aimed at developing a robot to represent the United States for the first time at the World Robot Olympiad in Sochi, Russia. The college category game was named Mars Colony. The competition was based on the development of a Lego/Textrix/Metrix-based robot platform capable of navigating through a set of waypoint structures to stimulate colonies on Mars. The robot collected balls from these waypoints using different trigger mechanisms and “sold” them to different colonies to try to earn as many points as possible.

Quest Guide: Dr. CJ Chung, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Competitions improve students' science, technology, engineering, and math skills. To prove the unique benefit of interdisciplinary robotic competitions, measurable data that quantifies the students’ experiences is required. This data was acquired through short assessments given to student participants before and after a robotics competition. Another group of students who did not participate in the competition served as a control group by also taking the same pre- and post-assessments. Methodologies included assessment questions, procedures, and web-based database tools, which were developed to aid in this research project. User friendliness was a key requirement. Robofest ( www.robofest.net ), an annual autonomous robotics competition for 5th to 12th grade students, was used to complete this research endeavor. Robofest challenges teams of students to design, build, and program robots. In this Quest project, LTU student Emily Trudell developed a web-based assessment tool, which included functions for contacting competition coaches using the Robofest database, posting online assessments, gathering data, and analyzing results.

Quest Guide: Dr. Adam Timmons, General Motors Company
LTU students John Camardese and Alexander Prescott used the principles and practices of materials science to develop a better understanding of electrode materials for advanced lithium-ion batteries. Since the preparation of materials for the Li-ion batteries and the conditions under which the batteries work affect both the durability and the performance of the battery, electrochemical, structural/compositional, physical, and surface characterizations were used to study different battery electrode materials.

Quest Guide: Prof. Holly Helterhoff, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication
Students Alex Zarembo (LTU) and Matt Antrobius (U of M) combined their passion for automotive technology with their interests in computer science and electrical engineering to produce an engine tuning guide. They successfully composed technical instructions to properly setup, tune, and calibrate an aftermarket engine system for maximum performance. A variety of skills were required for this project, including fabrication, time management, collaboration, research, and technical writing. The compiled information and resulting guide were then used by the Quest students to tune their own vehicles using LTU's chassis dynamometer. Hondata, ECM Tuning, and RC Engineering served as industry sponsors of this innovative project.

Quest Guide: Dr. Yawen Li, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Shannon Timmons, Department of Natural Sciences
This collaborative project involving Daniel Boorstein, a local entrepreneur and sponsor, aimed to solve key technical problems associated with a novel oral hygiene-related invention. LTU students Joshua Wells and Erik DeVito successfully developed a methodology to manipulate, form, and infuse a sponge material into a specific three-dimensional shape for use as a disposable anti-bacterial sleeve for toothbrushes. The students also worked in the organic chemistry laboratory to solve a problem related to the dissolution of cellulose for this application through the use of 1-allyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride as an ionic liquid and non-derivatizing solvent for cellulose.

Quest Guide : Dr. Melinda Weinstein, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication
LTU student Mohammed Alobaid created two innovative literary works. The Falcons is a long poem based on The Lais of Marie de France. It is about an orphan who becomes king of the land with the help of his friends. This book not only tells a story, but also teaches lessons about success. How to Be My Favorite Professor is a non-fiction book that makes teaching recommendations to professors from an international student’s point of view. This book includes analyses of successful and unsuccessful teaching styles, as well as personal examples, from numerous educational institutions.

Quest Guide: Dr. Maryam Roshanei, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
LTU students Christopher Thompson and Alexander Prescott helped researchers study diseases like Huntington's and various cancers through the donation of processing power on their LTU student laptops. This was accomplished through the installation of a small program called Folding@Home and is part of a larger research effort by Stanford University, along with other companies like Google, Intel, Apple and others. This project was completed through the installation and maintenance of the program on the students’ laptops. Christopher and Alexander also worked to have to program placed on the default LTU laptop image to allow future students to easily donate processing power by default. A final presentation detailing the overall project and the number of work units completed gave an estimate of the effort that was contributed to the fight against disease.

Quest Guide: Dr. CJ Chung, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science LTU students Nicholas Paul, Nick Virag, and Jacob Crane participated in a civic-focused, nationwide software competition called GlobalHack ( globalhack.org ). This 48-hour “hackathon” involved thousands of students and professional competing to create a software product that will benefit the homeless community for a chance to win cash prizes. This team of students represented LTU very well in the competition and developed a software product related to the problem of intake management in homeless shelters.

Quest Guide: Dr. Shannon Timmons, Department of Natural Sciences
LTU students Anna Vantsevich and Ryan Hollingsworth developed accessible laboratory experiments for implementation in a classroom environment to showcase green chemistry. This was accomplished by performing a series of experiments exploring the concepts of molecular modeling, solventless reactions, chemical kinetics, recrystallization, crystal engineering, and photochemistry. These experiments were evaluated and compared using the twelve principles of green chemistry, which were first composed by Paul Anastas and John Warner in 1998. These experiments are beneficial for students because the field of green chemistry provides an alternative career pathway to those who want to preserve the environment and improve chemical practices. This project provided students with practical knowledge and hands-on experience in the emerging field of green chemistry.

Quest Guide: Dr. Jeff Morrissette and Dr. Julie Zwiesler-Vollick, Department of Natural Sciences
Since the publication of Darwin’s Insectivorous Plants in 1875, carnivorous plants have held the fascination of not only expert horticulturists, but the general public as well. Despite the promise of the bioactive compounds produced by canivorous pitcher plants (CPP), our knowledge of CPP fluid is limited. In this Quest project, LTU students David Stroshein and Sarah Fewkes investigated the fluid of the pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea since this species is commonly found in Michigan and other Midwestern states. In the starting phase of this project, Sarracenia purpurea was grown under ideal conditions in LTU’s environmental growth chambers. The pitcher plant fluid was subsequently screened for compounds possessing bactericidal or fungicidal activity.

Quest Guide: Dr. Kevin Baker, Orthopaedic Research Laboratories at Beaumont Health System
LTU student Meagan Richardson-Frazzitta worked on a variety of projects within the field of orthopaedics at Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak. She first cleaned, classified, and analyzed failed orthopedic implants and devices to become acquainted with the laboratory. Following this, she participated in studies designed to improve orthopedic devices by discovering and repairing their flaws. Once she was well acquainted with the study and design process, she became a main contact for orthopedic design studies with support from the staff in the laboratory. She gained valuable experience in public relations, analytical skills, the engineering design processes, and orthopedic research.

Quest Guide: Prof. Ben Sweet, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
LTU student Alex Kuhn designed and developed apps for iOS, Android, and Windows platforms for both LTU and industrial sponsor Panasonic Automotive. His project goals included learning how to design apps, making apps that people want to use, and earning money for tuition and future licenses with Apple and Xamarin. Alex used the Parallels application on his MacBook Pro to facilitate the bridging of Mac OS X and Windows 8 and used the Xamarin application to facilitate the simple cross-platforming of his different software app builds. He gained beneficial hands-on experience using C# to code for apps and produced functional products that users enjoyed.

Quest Guide: Dr. Changgong Zhou, Department of Natural Sciences
LTU student Ryan Rodriguez studied nanoparticles of different sizes and specifically measured the optical forces experienced by these particles. Materials included in the study were gold, CuCl2, carbon nanotubes, and graphene nano flakes. An ultrasonic generator was first used to produce nanoparticles of study materials from aqueous or colloidal solutions. The resulting nanoparticles were then carried by helium gas into a customized glass chamber where they were illuminated by a focused laser beam and monitored by CCD cameras. The cameras will record the terminal speed of the particles moving in helium environment.

Quest Guide: Dr. Jeff Morrissette, Department of Natural Sciences
LTU student Andrew Miller used the library and other resources to research the history, science, and legal aspects of polygraph testing. He then developed and tested a polygraph laboratory module for use in an LTU summer camp for high school students. At the summer camp, Andrew presented his polygraph research and led the students through his laboratory exercise with each student receiving the opportunity to record and analyze their own polygraph data. Through this project, Andrew gained valuable insights into literature searches, experimental design, data analysis, and research dissemination.

Quest Guide: Dr. Robert Fletcher, Department of Mechanical Engineering
LTU student Lindsey Mitchell collected measurements of voltage and current supplied to various photovoltaic panels. The data was recorded many times at different angles and temperatures, both indoors and outdoors. Lindsey also reviewed data that was recorded by other students over multiple years to investigate possible trends.

Quest Guide: Dr. David Huntsperger, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication
LTU students Ashley Croft, Timothy Bond, Andrew Yarborough and Rachel Yarborough organized, produced, and performed in the LTU SODA (Society of the Dramatic Arts) production of Arsenic and Old Lace. The production timeframe was approximately four months, beginning with auditions mid-January and culminating in three performances in mid-April. To complete the experience, students composed a reflective paper regarding their interpretation of the play through acting, directing, and set designs.

Quest Guide: Dr. David Bindschadler, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
LTU students Richard Geyer and John Buckenmeyer developed a video game and then sold it by creating their own business called Minus Forty Games. The game the students developed was named Operation: Fire Rescue. This game was originally conceptualized in a game design class at LTU. Following the completion of this class, Richard and John transformed their class-based design into a fully functional video game.

Quest Guide: Dr. Jason Barrett, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication
Everyone has a talent! LTU Student Demetrius Johnson coordinated multiple venues for students, faculty and staff to showcase their acting, musical, poetic and other talents through the LTU Open Mic Night Quest project. Demetrius worked closely with his Quest guide to plan, promote and execute these events.

Quest Guide:  Dr. Anthony Sky, Department of Natural Sciences 
LTU student  Johanna Dolch  focused on reducing pollution and finding low cost alternative energy solutions to expensive foreign petroleum.  Excessive growth of Cladophora in the Great Lakes has become a cause for concern that threatens to upset the delicate ecosystem of Michigan's Great Lakes.  Because the Midwest is heavily polluted and also reliant on fossil fuels, Johanna studied the effects of pollution on algal growth. She hypothesized that algal growth may be affected by the absorption of pollutants produced by the combustion of fossil fuels. The lipid content of harvested algae was also investigated to determine whether or not macroalgae are a viable alternative fuel that can be converted to biodiesel.

Quest Guide: Dr. Julie Zwiesler-Vollick, Department of Natural Sciences
Plant pathogens are microbes that cause diseases in plants. They are an important economic and environmental problem. Study of the basic biology of plant pathogens should help us to predict and possibly prevent large infections of crop plants. It could also reveal new targets for pesticides. Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato strain DC3000 (Pst DC3000) is a bacterial plant pathogen. It can infect both the economically important crop plant tomato as well as the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. Although other factors may be involved, it is known that Pst DC3000 virulence is dependent upon both the phytotoxin coronatine and the proteins secreted by the type III secretion system. Neither coronatine production nor the secretion of proteins by the type III system is constitutively active. While we are beginning to understand the regulation of these important processes, many factors remain unknown. Previous work has suggested that the SOS response may be involved in regulation of virulence. In this project, LTU student Derek Waterstradt generated additional mutants that lack components of the SOS pathway. The virulence, UV tolerance, and general stress response of these mutants was evaluated.

Quest Guide: Dr. Shannon Timmons, Department of Natural Sciences
LTU student Nathan Delaney completed a four-step synthetic route to prepare a cationic contrast agent for use by collaborators in the Orthopaedic Research Laboratories at Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak. The synthesized cationic contrast agent was successfully used to study degenerative disc disease using microcomputed tomography. A collaborative manuscript describing the study was composed and published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.

Quest Guide: Ms. Melissa Grunow, Director of Leadership Programs
LTU students Alexander Prescott and Christopher Harris travelled to two cities in the Zhejiang province of China to teach English and American culture to school-age students through a collaboration with the Council on China Exchange in Claremont, CA. To prepare, they developed lesson plans, activities, and vocabulary presentations centered on a particular topic of American culture (e.g., family, food and restaurants, movies and music, etc). This project aimed to give LTU students international exposure and develop teamwork and communication skills among themselves and people of different languages.

Quest Guide: Dr. Shannon Timmons, Department of Natural Sciences
LTU student Tristan Maerz successfully prepared an injectable, environmentally-responsive hydrogel for the localized and sustained delivery of proteins aimed at encouraging the regeneration of fibrocartilagenous tissues. This work was performed in close collaboration with the Orthopaedic Research Laboratories at Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak. The long-term goal of this research project is the repair of soft tissues such as cartilage. This project entailed the submission of a research proposal, extensive research on the use of hydrogels as drug delivery vehicles, project management skills, the synthesis of the hydrogel polymer, and the analysis of its effectiveness in both a cell culture experiment and an animal model.