News - Summer STEM Adventures

Summer STEM Adventures

by Rachel Heston-Davis

Greenville University recently completed its eighth successful summer of student research in the sciences. Each year, students apply to join research projects in math, biology, chemistry or physics that last six to eight weeks during the summer months. Professors from the science division oversee the students’ work, and students make a full report on their findings in late July.

This Year’s Topics

Student ResearcherQuantum Entanglement: Physics Department Chair Hyung Choi directed student researchers Dustin Swarm and Draven Houser in developing a new approach to the quantum eraser with hyper-entanglement.

Drinking Water Analysis: Hannah Frerker and Jonathon Adams worked with Chemistry Department Chair Darrell Iler to analyze water from 35 sources in southern Illinois for signs of contaminants. The project alerted several well owners to trace amounts of harmful substances in their water supply.

Robotics: Assistant Professor of Engineering Dongxue Zhao guided Rachel Stutzman, Xueying Chen and Cameron Tanzyus in building an autonomous car and coding software to make it run.

Kavalactones: Jayda Fowler, Marjory Coates and Jessie Chappel teamed up with Associate Professor of Biology Eugene Dunkley to investigate kavalactones, an extract from a plant in the south Pacific.

Mathematics: Senior math student Sean Douglas worked through tricky theorems involving Cantor sets and hyperbolic geometry, with the help of Mathematics Department Chair George Peters. Douglas will craft his findings into a paper to submit for publication.

Overseas Adventures

While some professors and students worked hard on campus, others took their explorations further afield for the summer.

Assistant Professor of Biology Bwarenaba Kautu undertook research at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom to advance research that was initiated at Greenville University last year. The research investigated the potential of kava, a sedative derived from a plant root in the South Pacific, to help patients suffering from neurological disorders. Bwarenaba and his team of student researchers drew interest from the international scientific community and saw their work published in The Journal of Experimental Neuroscience. The University of Cambridge Corpus Christi College Visiting Fellowship funded Bwarenaba’s summer research.

Meanwhile, husband/wife team of biology professors Eric and Andrea Nord traveled to AuSable’s Pacific Rim Campus on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound this summer to teach forest ecology. Eric Nord also taught a three-week tropical agriculture and missions course in Costa Rica for Au Sable.

Poised For A Successful Year

“These and other Greenville University research projects from past summers are wonderful educational experiences for our students and make meaningful contributions to the advancement of science,” says Darrell Iler. 

With new faculty hired in STEM departments at the University, and an autumn of robust enrollment in science courses, it looks like the science division is set for a school year as successful as its summer.


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Science and math programs are thriving at Greenville University thanks to the generosity of donors. Make your gift today to open doors for more students to have experiences and make contributions in the world of STEM.

This story was published on September 19, 2017

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