Instead of finding a summer job at a gas station or sun tanning on the beach, sophomore Joe Gosnell, and seniors Molly Hotle and Jamie Walker spent their days in the research lab at Olivet Nazarene University.
Every year, research grants are awarded to students by the Pence- Boyce Committee, an alumni group that funds research in the fields of mathematics, science, or engineering. The committee was named after Elbert Pence and Fanny Boyce, former professors who aspired to excellence and inspired their students, according to a press release.
Students who take part in summer research design a problem and work on solving that problem with full-time, professor-guided research, according to Dr. Larry Ferren, chemistry professor.
Engineering major with a concentration in chemical engineering, Gosnell studied the effect of glycation end products in bovine or cow eyes. Glycation end products occur when a protein crosses with a sugar.
“The brown stuff on the bread, those are advanced glycation end products,” Gosnell said, “In diabetic patients, glucose can get into the eye and form these end products that block light from reaching the retina.”
Working with Ferren, research showed that glycation end products can form in roughly a week and a half and glow in the visible spectrum – enough for patients to see false images, Gosnell said.
Ferren said that Gosnell’s research on this difficult problem went well. “It was frought with a lot of potential for difficulty. [We kept our] fingers crossed and hoped for something to work,” he said.
Molly Hotle, chemistry major, spent her hours in the lab researching a better way for general chemistry classes to determine titrations of calcium in hard water. Professors teaching general chemistry and quantitative analysis found the results their students were getting were too varied between students.
Ferren guided Hotle’s research, although she worked very independently. “We solved the problem we intended to solve,” Ferren said.
The results of this experiment will be implemented into chemistry classes this year to test it with students doing the experiment themselves.
Planning a career in pharmacy, Hotle’s summer research will give her an advantage when it comes to applying to graduate school.
“This was practical application for the lab scene,” Hotle said.
Walker knew she needed to work on a research project to graduate, but a commuter student with a young family, she needed something close to home. That’s when she happened across the Pence-Boyce research grant program.
“I am so thankful for the alumni who provide this,” said Walker, a math education major.
Walker worked with mathematics professor Dr. Lei Cheng on a three- class model of the impact of the student-teacher ration and interactions on student-teacher performance. Her hypothesis played off of the previously done two-class model that showed 19 students per teacher is the “golden number” for peak performance.
In her research, Walker found that 19 held true in the three-class model, but hopes to continue her research on the three-class model in graduate school. “There was some of it that was mathematically beyond me. I would love to come back [to this research] when I have more of the skills.”
“This is a very rewarding program for our students,” said Dr. Willa Harper, professor in Olivet’s Department of Chemistry and Geosciences, in a press release. “And it’s rewarding for their professors who have the opportunity to work one on one with them and mentor them.”
Gosnell, Hotle and Walker are finishing up their research with extensive reports that will be sent to different magazines across the country and have the opportunity to be published.
The Pence-Boyce Committee gives students the opportunity to learn what tools they need in terms of science and research experience, especially as it’s becoming more common for students to need research experience to graduate or get into graduate school, Ferren said.
“One of my professors said it’s graduate school gold,” Gosnell said.
The donors of the Pence-Boyce Committee want to remain anonymous to honor the professors whose names they bear.
“All they want in return is to be notified about what’s going on with the research. I’m extremely grateful to the generous donors who make this possible,” Ferren said.