Exemplary Southwestern Michigan College students displayed their work at the third Honors Showcase Dec. 12 in the art gallery of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus. Fifteen students in SMC’s Honors Program presented posters and answered questions, simulating a professional conference experience unheard of for most college freshmen and sophomores.
Their work represented research done as Honors students in SMC classes including physics, chemistry, genetics, biology, mathematics applied to art history, engineering, nursing, human growth and development, literature and graphic design. Presenters worked closely with distinguished faculty members in their respective departments, along with Gary Franchy and Mark Pelfrey, the faculty members who coordinate the Honors Program.
The unifying theme of the projects was the natural curiosity of the students.
Sometimes the curiosity arose simply out of personal annoyances. “I wanted to learn how to make wearables and smartphone power sources last longer because I hate charging my phone,” Cassopolis pre-engineering major Jacob Clark said about his poster discussing “The Physics of Batteries.” Clark’s project emerged from the work he did in Andrew Dohm’s Physics class. At the 2018 Honors NoTed Talks, an April annual event at SMC, Clark examined social media effects on politics. He intends to obtain a Western Michigan University mechanical engineering degree and, eventually, master’s and doctoral degrees.
A similar curiosity rooted in the annoyances of technological frustrations fed Tanner Bohan’s “The Physics of Computer Processors.” A Marcellus software engineering major, Bohan concluded in his project also for Dohm that Graphene “is the most promising solution” to increase computer processing speeds. A second-year Honors student also, in 2017 he explored “Calculus’ Effect on Digital Media.” Ultimately, Bohan “wants to use animation to create TV shows” at Ferris State University or Liberty University.
A trio of Honors students working with Dr. Doug Schauer, Chemistry faculty member, expanded their interests in combating environmental pollutants. In the case of Natalie Adams, Edwardsburg horticulture major, the project focused on more effective methods of a “Cilantro Filtration System” to determine how well cilantro can be used to help purify drinking water. It’s a research study true to Adams’ heart. “Eventually, I’d like my own farm market in a low-income area,” Adams said, “so poor people have access to fresh vegetables.”
This idea of using a natural material to help manage pollutants formed the basis for Anaya Roschyk’s “Analysis of Local Leaf Samples as Biosorbents.” The Granger native hopes research will eventually show that some trees can remove toxic metals from materials, a finding that would be “extraordinary” in that such removal could be done “using environmentally-friendly, inexpensive and easily-accessible materials.”
Niles dual-enrolled student Audrey Bakerson also investigated how a natural product could serve in such a capacity, but with a twist: mutation. In her project “Using Rye Grass Seed and Ultraviolet C Radiation to Mutate a Plant to Collect Sufficient Amounts of Lead: A New Way to Collect Pollutants,” Bakerson proposed that such a “super plant” might be usable for “chemical spills and waste sites.” Roschyk and Bakerson, both 16, are the first dual-enrolled secondary students admitted to the ever-growing SMC Honors Program.
Several of the projects reflected students’ curiosity in applying knowledge to their future careers. Aspiring pediatric nurse Melanie Becker of Edwardsburg took her interest in Natalie Anagnos’ Spanish class to investigate “Providing Health Care Internationally.” Becker researched the Aymara in Bolivia, which ranks nearly last in health care among Western Hemisphere countries. Any health care professional traveling to Bolivia would do well to review her summation of the Aymara’s diet, health care practices, religion and language. This was Becker’s second poster presentation; in 2017 she was featured with “Biosorption of Lead from Aqueous Solution Using a Hydrolyzed Protein Extract.”
Aspiring surgeon Justine Grisham of Edwardsburg took the opportunity to explore health care practices with her poster “Treatment Options for Herpes Simplex Virus.” She brainstormed with her Honors faculty member Thomas Beaven about various sexually transmitted diseases to research. “I chose herpes because it’s so common,” said Grisham, a statement reinforced by her research that showed “1 in 8 people in the U.S. aged 14-49 have genital herpes.”
Kaitlin Ingold’s project, “How Societal and Economic Factors Impact Fertility Rates in North America and Africa,” reflected a global perspective of her social work degree. The Portage native worked with faculty member Deirdre Kurtis to show the economical and societal factors that cause high fertility rates in Africa and the speculated strategies to lower those rates. If those rates aren’t reversed, Ingold’s research indicated the world’s population could increase from 7.5 billion to a potentially unsustainable 9.7 billion in the next quarter century.
Future Ferris State University Early Childhood Education major, Rebekah F. Ashley, Decatur resident, applied what she was learning about genetics in Kurtis’ class by creating a lesson plan about the subject for middle school students. Ingeniously using Legos, Ashley’s future students will learn how to “explore the statistical probability of . . . receiving certain genes from their students.” The project will clearly fulfill the title of her poster, “Fun With Genetics Lesson Plans.”
Constantine social work major Jessica Garcia also sees future career applicability in her “Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory,” an Honors project completed for Dr. Don Ludman’s “Human Growth and Development” class. The Swiss psychologist posited humans’ progress through four developmental stages, the first from birth to language acquisition, and Garcia’s project concluded by stressing how Piaget’s theory “had a great impact on education,” as “educational programs are built around the idea that children should be at the level for which they are developmentally prepared for.”
Applying content knowledge to their future careers also applied to two Honors Students in Bill Rothwell’s Graphic Design classes. Madeline Collins displayed the specific design elements she promoted through model half-page ads, full-page ads and brochures for a veterinary hospital, as well as business card and logo designs for the Friend of the Court. Collins hails from Cassopolis.
Similarly, Julia Tyson’s poster reflected the concepts of unity and balance so integral to graphic design through sample public service fliers for organizations such as Destiny Rescue, the organization determined to end child trafficking and sexual exploitation. Tyson, from Elkhart, even produced recruitment fliers for SMC’s Honors Program. Her poster, like Collins’, embodied the notion of design to “draw the viewer’s eyes to the important information.”
“My dream job would be to do more hands-on photography and graphic design work for a missions or non-profit organization that does work overseas. Possibly an orphanage or human trafficking non-profit,” Tyson said. “I have traveled and done many extended missions trips and overseas trips ranging from three weeks to five months.”
Some student projects reflected the curiosity that is at the heart of a college education, expanding beyond their specific career plans. Diana Salto, of Coldwater, interested in becoming a school nurse, focused on “Censorship in Public Schools,” a topic that she will inevitably encounter in that future career. Her research, done for Dr. Maria DeRose, discovered that the standard for banning books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird (1995), the Harry Potter series (2000) and John Green’s “Looking for Alaska” (2015) was set in 1982 in the Board of Education vs. Steven Pico case.
Mendon accounting major Angela Smith, who in 2017 presented “How Frequency Analysis Can Detect Fraud,” this year explored, in conjunction with Dr. DeRose, “American Ethnic Literature.” Smith compared and contrasted African American and Native American literary motifs and themes at a depth that reveals her future goal of working for a library. Smith also helped coordinate SMC’s recent Diversity Week celebrations.
Abigail Craft of Niles had two posters in the Showcase, reflecting her broad intellectual interests. Craft, recipient of SMC’s 2018 Math/Science Department Appreciation Award, presented “Physics of Hurricane Rapid Intensification” and “Speculative Mathematics and Sacred Geometries: An Analysis of Intuitive Associations in Works of Art.” In working with Andrew Dohm, she found two solutions for diminishing the rapid, often instantaneous, intensification of hurricanes stand out: creating wind shear and ozone protection programs.
Craft, who wants to major in applied mathematics at Western Michigan University for her bachelor’s degree, used Marc Dombrosky’s art history class to chart patterns through 5,000 years of artistic production, including architecture, back to Raphael’s The School of Athens fresco. Venn diagrams illustrated potential connections that might otherwise be overlooked. She enumerated overlaps of the Power of Three, Golden Ratio/Fibonacci Sequence, sacred shapes, linear perspective, angular construction, domes and positioning to align with the sun.
The annual SMC Honors Showcase celebrates how Honors students participate in graduate-style research early in their academic careers, ensuring they are at the front of the line for transfer scholarships, internships and job opportunities.
To learn more about the Honors Program, check out eligibility requirements and benefits and learn about full-ride scholarships available to incoming students at swmich.edu/honors.
The art gallery is now closed for the holiday season. It reopens Jan. 7 with “Holding Space,” a dance video installation featuring Hannah Fischer.
See The Southwester (https://southwester.swmich.edu) for pictures of all of the projects.