Projects for 2006-07

U.S. Farm Subsidies and Developing Countries

Description: This project will continue and expand on research done to examine the effect of U.S rice subsidies on the Costa Rican rice market from 1990 to present. It is not necessary to have previous experience to join in on this project during the coming academic year.

Faculty: Beckie Judge, Economics

Emotional (Dys)regulation and Psychopathology

Description: —

Faculty: Jumi Hayaki, Psychology

Statistics as a tool to further Tuberculosis Genome Research

Description: TB latently infects 1/3 of humanity, killing millions annually, especially in combination with HIV. The sequence of TB genome offers us the best opportunity in decades to understand and combat this ancient disease. St. Olaf currently runs the largest database in the world showing how TB uses its genes in real time to respond to its environment. This database is a fertile field for statistical discovery and analysis. I’d be delighted to speak with any statistics concentrators who might be interested in learning more about the types of projects available.

Faculty: Rob Rutherford, Biology

Helpful background: Statistics 212, interests in biology and/or computer science would all be helpful, but are not required.

Following the Money: An Analysis of Current Issues in Financial Aid

Description: The Admissions staff wishes to gain insight from data into several strategically important questions for St. Olaf. These questions include: How does the strength of an incoming student’s high school coursework impact his or her academic performance at St. Olaf? (and How can data confidentiality be assured when examining sensitive data from individual students?) How should St. Olaf use scores from the recently-created writing components to the SAT and ACT exams? How can St. Olaf identify new markets – clusters of students from across the country who might be likely to apply to St. Olaf if they knew more about the school? How should St. Olaf decide the number of students to admit in a given year to obtain the desired class size?

Staff: Kathy Ruby, Director of Financial Aid

Helpful background: Completion of Statistics 272 or current enrollment.

Moral Schemas Scale

Description: Psychological research suggests that there are at least four different cognitive schemas that people can use to evaluate moral claims: care, justice, self-interest, and sacredness. Care reference concern for group integrity, individual feelings, and situational rather than universal understandings. Justice refers to rights-based standards that are universally applicable rather than situationally varied. Sacredness references concern for sacred order or divine command, sinfulness or pollution, and relationship with a divine being. Self-interest considers short and long term benefits to one’s life goals. Huff and his students have devised a scale to measure the self-report of use of these schemas in response to various situations. The scale has so far been validated using factor analytic approaches. There is current data that will allow validation against other scales of life values (e.g. egalitarianism, intrinsic and extrinsic religiousity). This will require devising an index of consistency in responding across situations with one or more of the four schemas. Statistical work will involve constructing the index, validating it against other indicators, and thereby validating the moral schemas scale.

Faculty: Charles Huff, Psychology

Helpful background: Stat 272

Quantitative Issues in Cell Biology & Statistical Design for Island Biology

Description: Quantitative Issues in Cell Biology

We have two projects that lend themselves to statistical analysis. One involves labeling cell nuclei in a population of cells with a fluorescent probe, measuring the amount of fluorescence emitted using our FACS machine, and analyzing the data to determine how much DNA is present in each cell, and what is the complexity of the population.

A second method involves staining nuclei, measuring the amount of stain with a microscope coupled to a spectrometer, and determining the DNA content of a given cell’s nucleus. These two projects could be coupled to give two different measures of a cell’s DNA content.

Statistical Design for Island Biology

In my off-campus Island Biology series, students design research projects to explore the biology of marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats on an island environment. Typically these projects have been descriptive rather than quantitative. The opportunity here would be to serve as a resource person for biology students to help design statistical analyses into their experiments, and/or develop a project on their own that involves good statistical design.

Faculty: Eric Cole, Biology

Biostatistical Methods in Global Health

Description: —

Faculty: Julie Legler, Statistics and others

Helpful background: Going on the Geneva Interim.