Recent Award Winners 2013-2015

Navigation: 2014-152013-14


Eric Cole (Biology) and Sasha Dmytrenko ’16: Let’s Make It Glow: Designing a Hands-On Inquiry Driven Course on Genomics at St. Olaf

Our project will focus on modern techniques used in molecular biology to study gene expression. This question is pivotal in modern biology since it reveals the roles of proteins of interest in the life of a cell and consequently – the whole organism, which has been a question of interest in multiple areas varying from studying components of intracellular transport to anatomy of the cells and the control of cell growth and division. The model organism chosen for our project is  Tetrahymena thermophila, a free-living ciliate protozoan. Tetrahymena is easy and fast to grow in cultures, while each organism represents a well-organized complicated system with distinct metabolic activities, which undergoes mating and division, as well as intercellular communication. Results from the resulting research will be presented at the Midwest Protozoology Society Conference in the spring of 2015.

Jeremy Loebach (Psychology) and Katie Berg ’15: Using Aural Skills Training to Improve Speech Intelligibility in Cochlear Implant Users

This study is a spin off of a larger project in Professor Loebach’s Speech and Cognition Research Laboratory that aims to create a training program to help CI users learn how to use their implants to their fullest potential. A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted medical device designed for persons with severe-to-profound hearing loss who receive marginal to no benefit from conventional hearing aids. In the proposed study, to be conducted over the summer and into next year, we will examine the effectiveness of pitch training for both pediatric and adult CI users as well as normal-hearing control group listening to cochlear implant simulations. By focusing on increasing pitch perception, discrimination and direction identification in training, we expect to see benefits in speech intelligibility, as well as in other related areas like environmental sound identification, talker voice identification and speech perception.

Reinaldo Moya (Music Theory and Composition), Sophia Butler ’15, and Adrian Rossing ’15: New Opera Collective: A Website for Everything Related to the World of Contemporary Opera

Our project is to build a website devoted exclusively to the world of contemporary operas in the United States for the New Opera Collective. The working title for the site is The vision of the site is to be a kind of hub of information and features related to this burgeoning field. The site will include a calendar section where people can see all of the new operas being performed in the United States, as well as reviews, interviews, essays, and features. We hope to include a section containing a database of the new operas in the repertoire for easy reference. We envision this site as a place to build community and bring people together. We hope it can serve as a tool to aid scholars of opera, and show the world that it is still a thriving and vibrant art form.


Optogenetic investigation of neural circuits underlying reward seeking Jay Demas, Physics and Biology; Shelly Dickinson, Psychology; Stefan Lemke ’14

The neural underpinnings of complex psychiatric disorders, such as drug and alcohol addiction, are thought to involve maladaptive circuits in regions of the brain that mediate reward-seeking behaviors. While a basic anatomical understanding of these areas exists, what is less understood is exactly how excitement or inhibition of a specific neuron population in turn excites or inhibits other populations of neurons, and ultimately affects behavior. Investigating these relationships may provide insights into how current treatments of addiction function, as well as motivate the production of new treatments. Lemke, Dickinson, and Demas propose to use a new approach based on optogenetics, a recently developed suite of molecular tools that enables neuroscientists to turn activity on or off in specific neurons using only light, to probe the functional connectivity of the brain’s reward circuitry.

Am I From Mars? International Relations for an Afghan Child Tony Lott, Political Science; Mirwais Wakil ’15

International relations texts are written from a perspective that allows for a comprehensive understanding of international law, institutions, and organizations, and an analytic framework based on power, the distribution of power, and constraints on power.  However, these texts never speak to international relations through the eyes of individuals.  Wakil and Lott ask whether it is possible to re-examine international relations through the eyes of individuals affected by war, power, statecraft, and international law.  They will present the results of their investigation at a professional conference in the summer of 2014 and seek to publish the findings of this study as a book manuscript.

Multicultural LGBT Youth: An ebook Anthology Nancy Aarsvold, Instructional Technology; Maria Kelly, Education; Josiah Mosqueda ’15

This project aims to produce an ebook anthology based on submissions from and interviews of multicultural LGBT students aged 18-25. This anthology continues the work of an Interim independent study project that identified the need for the development and/or collection of resources for Twin Cities area schools to share with students and families, especially at the middle school level. The primary work of this project is to create a resource that will help foster greater awareness of the unique multicultural experience of the LGBT community around the Twin Cities.

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