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Inquiry Ohio University

Provost’s Undergrad

RESEARCH Fund 2012-13

Meet the Inquiry Staff Editor-in-Chief, Writer Maggie Krueger, HTC journalism ‘14 Creative Director Bridget Mallon, HTC journalism ‘13 Illustrator Paula Welling, HTC studio art ‘14 Photographer Rob Hardin, HTC telecommunications ‘08 Fact Checkers Danielle Keeton-Olsen, HTC journalism ‘16 Ben Postlethwait, HTC journalism ‘16 Design Assistant April Laissle, HTC journalism ‘15 Publisher Cary Frith, HTC journalism ‘92

Meet the PURF Selection Committees Science, Health, Math, Engineering and Technology Committee Mark McMills, College of Arts & Sciences, Committee Chair Robert Brannan, College of Health Sciences & Professions Janet Duerr, College of Arts & Sciences Deborah McAvoy, Russ College of Engineering

Arts and Humanities Committee Jennie Klein, College of Fine Arts, Committee Chair Zelma Badu-Younge, College of Fine Arts Andre Gribou, College of Fine Arts Annie Howell, College of Fine Arts Kjersten Lester-Moratzka, College of Fine Arts Carolyn Bailey Lewis, College of Communication Robert Peppers, College of Fine Arts Education, Social Sciences, Journalism, and Business Committee John Hitchcock, Patton College of Education, Committee Chair Marilyn Greenwald, College of Communication Jay Ryu, College of Arts & Sciences Myra Waterbury, College of Arts & Sciences

Meet the PURF Administrator Jan Hodson, Honors Tutorial College

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE fine arts 6 A Penny for Your Thoughts 8 Fairy Tale Femininity 10 The Puppeteer & the Carpenter 12 Fine Arts at a Glance

health/environment 14 Get Your Head in the Game 16 Health/Environment at a Glance

humanities/social sciences 20 From Server to Service 22 Comparing Colonial Conquests 24 Humanities/Social Sciences at a Glance

science 28 Illuminating Parkinson’s Progress 32 Factoring in Flexibility 34 Enlightening Molecular Combinations 36 Science at a Glance

index 42 PURF Recipients 2012-2013 ON THE COVER: Lauren Loftus, a junior chemistry major, adjusts a mirror for a laser used to collect information about molecules in Dr. Jeff Rack’s lab. Her goal is to determine possible applications of the molecules, such as holographic storage. Photo by Rob Hardin, HTC Telecommunications ’08

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FROM THE PROVOST Dear Readers, In his essay “Of Experience,” the great 16th century essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote that “a spirited mind never stops within itself; it is always aspiring and going beyond its strength.” Montaigne’s observation is useful in reflecting on the importance of undergraduate research and creative activity. It eloquently captures why students should be encouraged to engage in directed work in their fields of study. Working with faculty on a project that aims to advance knowledge or provide deeper insights into the human condition encourages students to test their skills and the depth of their understanding. They must select the motiving idea/question/issue, determine how they will approach it, establish a means of calibrating the contributions of their project, and develop a strategy for communicating their work. The Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund (PURF) has given hundreds of undergraduates the

opportunity to apply their spirited minds to projects that test their creativity and intellectual mettle. Applying for a PURF grant also gives students an introduction to subjects such as how to write an effective proposal, how to establish a good working relationship with a faculty mentor, how to effectively organize a project, and how to cope with the unexpected. All of these experiences are invaluable and have application far beyond the scope of a single project. I encounter the work of PURF recipients during the university’s annual Student Research and Creative Activity Expo. Year after year, I come away from my conversations with students deeply impressed by their enthusiasm, their professionalism, and by the degree to which they can communicate what they uncovered during the course of their project. I also emerge from each Expo with renewed gratitude for the willingness of our faculty to serve as

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undergraduate research and creative activity mentors. Their passion for their disciplines and their dedication to students are evident in every project. One of the chief characteristics of Montaigne’s essays is a continual call to reexamine things that were typically taken for granted. He urges his readers to look anew at friendship, at education, at custom, at science, and at liberty. Everything that mattered should be questioned with the benefit that we might “become better and wiser” as a result of our study. Undergraduate research and creative activity gives students the opportunity to take up Montaigne’s challenge, and, in his words, “to rub and polish our brains by contact with those of others.” Sincerely, Pam Benoit Executive Vice President and Provost

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FROM THE EDITOR Dear Readers, From puppets to petri dishes, the projects funded by the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund (PURF) in 2012-2013 are very diverse. In total, 46 students representing 7 colleges and more than 20 majors received a PURF grant to pursue in-depth research or creative projects beyond the classroom. This issue of Inquiry highlights each of these scholars’ innovation. The PURF tradition began in 2000 under then–Provost Dr. Sharon Brehm. Since 2001, Assistant Dean Jan Hodson of the Honors Tutorial College (HTC) has administered the program. Each year, $50,000 is distributed through a rigorous application and selection process in which students submit proposals that are reviewed by one of three academic committees. While I wrote the text of each article, I drew upon information from the detailed proposals of numerous PURF recipients to complete the short briefs. This issue of Inquiry would not have been possible without the hard work of our fact-checkers and the dedication and guidance of Cary Frith, the HTC Communications Manager. Moreover, I would like to thank the incredibly talented graphic designer and illustrator Paula Welling, our masterful photographer Rob Har-

din, and our expert creative director Bridget Mallon. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future issues, please email us at Thank you for your interest and support of undergraduate scholarship at Ohio University. With peace and gratitude, Maggie Krueger HTC Journalism ‘14 Editor-in-Chief

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46 13

students received a PURF grant in 2012

dollars of PURF funding awarded this year

5 28

juniors received funding



sophomores received funding

women received PURF funding

seniors received funding


17 16 7

Arts and Sciences students received funding

Honors Tutorial College students received funding

projects worked with mice

7 students will research abroad from Japan to Ghana

men received PURF funding

16 faculty members served on PURF committees

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Penny for your



he principles of economics suggest that everything has its price. PURF recipient Sarah Shanks, a junior HTC studio art major, is testing this notion in a creative way. She is offering to buy elements of the human experience, and she is willing to pay one penny for them. Using the online site Amazon Mechanical Turk, Shanks is purchasing the copyright to people’s ideas, memories and thoughts. “What I am looking at is commoditizing the human experience,” she said. Shanks plans to compile the human experiences she buys into a database, where she can re-sell them to potential companies such as advertising firms, film studios, or research groups. “As the middleman, I have the ability to sell [the content] for as much or as little as I want,” Shanks said, acting intentionally as a puppeteer. “I am just pulling the strings.” According to the Amazon Mechan-

ical Turk Participation Agreement, not only are requesting buyers like Shanks able to reject the unsatisfactory work of sellers in a “work-madefor-hire” arrangement, but also “all ownership rights, including worldwide intellectual property rights, are given with the Requester immediately upon [the] performance of the Service.” Simply put, the sellers give up all rights to and any future profit from their work. Since the most recent presidential election, Shanks has been fascinated with the way money is moved around in the economy to create wealth without an actual product required. She will use her PURF grant to pay for the Amazon Mechanical Turk transactions. “When we just have this economy based on selling people’s ideas, is that sustainable?” she asked. “Is that ethical? Does that provide any life for the worker?” When Shanks first began formulating her project, she considered

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fine arts

offering a fair wage for the content that users submitted. However, in the spirit of critiquing people’s reluctance to think through the consequences of buying and selling, she said she decided not to. “People don’t take the time to really delve into what is happening with their money right now,” she said. Shanks’ project may not seem like art. However, as she explained, art is about exploring the technology of the time and seeing what one can do with it. “Art has always been really technical,” she said. “Paintings by the old masters were always so interesting because people couldn’t believe what they could do with pigments. So really it involves this technical finesse.” Shanks sometimes finds herself frustrated with traditional forms of art because there is so much technology around her that she can utilize. Her goal, she said, is to provoke thought in society. “The great part about contemporary art is that the whole

process can be the end piece,” she said. “It doesn’t need to be shown in a gallery. It’s kind of like some sort of performance.” The Kennedy Museum of Art displayed a concept map that Shanks created in fall 2012 to depict her project when the buying and selling process began. Based on the concept maps of artist Mark Lombardi, Shanks’ work is intentionally difficult to follow, she said. “I kind of wanted it to be confusing,” Shanks explained. “I wanted you to have to sit down and study it for hours and then still think, wait what?” While all the information is present in her map to understand the marketplace she has created, Shanks said she thinks people do not take the time to realize what can happen both to their money and their livelihood. “I want to critique what people are willing to do, especially if I am willing to only pay them a cent,” she said.

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Fairy Tale Femininity

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Senior HTC studio art major Madeleine Valley


nce upon a time, many fairy tales depicted girls as the victims of tragic fantasies. But in senior HTC studio art major Madeleine Valley’s modern rendition of fairy tale illustrations, women will play a more dominant role. Valley will use her PURF grant to create large-scale banners and potentially a series of short stories illustrating traditional Grimm fairy tales, but drawing from re-tellings of author and feminist Angela Carter. Valley explained that she plans to use textile and handicraft-related imagery in her illustrations not only to tie her project to femininity, but also to create a feeling of literary nostalgia that fantasy evokes. Valley said she hopes the banners can be used for eventual display in a library or as part of a literacy campaign.


Puppeteer &the Carpenter Senior HTC theater major Corinne Zachry


enior HTC theater major Corinne Zachry will use her PURF grant to bring a large object to life, specifically a life-sized elephant. After researching the anatomy of several mammals, Zachry said several old Ohio University theater circus pedestals inspired her to create an elephant puppet. She said she hopes the full-scale puppet will be used in a circus-themed stage production. Her project draws on the work of Handspring Puppet Company, which developed the puppets, renowned for their realistic movements, used in the stage production of “War Horse.� Zachry said such realistic puppets are a significant advance for theatrical production because they open the door to new characters on stage once limited by the unpredictability of live animals.

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Fine Arts at a Glance Dance Within Sacredness Israel’s holy, sacred lands influence its newer cultural traditions, including dance. Sophomore dance major Rebecca Sebo said she will use her PURF grant to explore how dance is influenced by Israel’s climate, landscape, culture, religious views, laws, language, and history. With unique programs, such as “Army for Dancers” – a partial alternative to Israeli mandatory military service for teenagers – and dance companies composed entirely of Jewish Orthodox women, Israel is making distinct contributions to the dance culture of the world. Sebo said she will attend Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and use her time to observe all-female companies and the alteration of dance movements due to the environment or cultural circumstance.

Stations of Art A country’s heritage, expressed through art, can be observed in the most unexpected places. Sophomore HTC art history major Henry Kessler is conducting observations in the train stations of Florence. Using his PURF grant to travel to Italy, Kessler will study the juxtaposition of train stations’ designs, which were commissioned by fascist and nationalist Benito Mussolini, and a modern innovation – the locomotive. Kessler hypothesizes that this mixture of Mussolini’s classic tastes and current technology will illuminate reverberations of fascist rule in modern Italy’s culture today.

Sophomore HTC art history major Henry Kessler outside of the Stazione Santa Maria Novella. Photo provided.

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Administering Performance Every performance has a backstage that includes physical props and/or the advertising, financial, and production planning to make the show a success. Junior dance major Danielle Doell will be using her PURF grant to participate in a unique internship experience in Basel, Switzerland, that combines her study of performance and administration. Working alongside a Swiss dance company’s manager and director, Doell will gain vital perspective not only on international dance culture, but also on her interest in business administration.

A Granddaughter’s Preservation of World War II Every U.S. student learns about World War II, but for senior graphic design major Kathryn Donaldson, this chapter of military history is much more personal. Roy U. Donaldson Jr., her paternal grandfather, was a flight engineer for the Army Air Force, taking part in the Normandy and Rhineland bombing campaigns. He is a member, Donaldson said, of what is called the “The Greatest Generation,” and she explained that she does not want to see this generation’s individual, humanizing stories go unrecorded. Unlike previous books that have dealt with facets of the war on a broader scope, she said her book will utilize graphic design to record history at a personal level. Her PURF grant will be used to help explore how design can help share history in a clear and compelling way.

Sphere’s Design of Influence Published for more than 40 years, Sphere is a literary and art magazine produced by undergraduate English students who accept submissions of creative writing and visual art from their peers. Junior HTC studio art major Paula Welling wants to give the publication a new visual identity. Channeling her interest in publication design, Welling will apply her PURF grant to improve the creative use of color, the quality of paper, and the quality of binding in Sphere’s printed publication. Moreover, adding the PURF grant to Sphere’s budget will allow additional copies of the magazine to be printed, which editors hope can be distributed at other universities.

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Get Your


ithout working out in the gym, running around a track, or stepping onto a field, athletes in more than sixteen countries on four continents have received athletic training that has improved their performance. Their unusual regimen begins with opening an email and an evaluation of their mental toughness. “I challenge anyone to watch a sporting event and not have mental toughness mentioned or attributed to the lack or success of an athlete’s game,” said Dr. Brian Ragan, assistant professor in the School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness. He is one of four co-founders of Measuremental, a company that creates assessments and training programs for improving mental toughness that are administered through an online program. Senior athletic training major Kaitlyn Warner, an advisee of Dr. Ragan’s, likens the term “mental toughness” to her high school cross country

in the

experience. “You are out there and just thinking when you are running,” she reflected. “And if you don’t think your physical training has prepared you to be there then in your head you’re going to think I am not going to do good in this race.” Using her PURF grant, Warner hopes to find, as Dr. Ragan’s previous research has, that mental toughness translates into physical success in competition. Dr. Ragan explained that mental toughness can be broken down into nine different components – from being well prepared and acting tough to emotional flexibility and emotional responsiveness. An athlete’s mental toughness is assessed at three levels, physical, mental, and emotional, through a computer-based assessment provided through Dr. Ragan’s MeBTough program. Warner’s goal is to take this model and apply it to Ohio University’s women’s track and field team, exploring the program’s capacity for indi-

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vidual athletes, as opposed to players in team sports, in which MeBTough has its origins. Dr. Ragan became involved with mental training while working alongside a sports physiologist whose background was in mental toughness and motivation. The two hoped to find a way to quantify mental toughness. By 2008 the team had completed a study funded by the National Athletic Trainers Association that illustrated correlations between high mental toughness and competitive success, athlete rehabilitation recovery, and even injury reduction. The findings also provided an assessment, Dr. Ragan said, which has athletes answer a questionnaire describing their reaction to particular practice or game situations. From this assessment, Dr. Ragan is able to compare an athlete’s mental toughness components to Measuremental’s database, containing thousands of other assessments, in order to tease out the weaknesses and strengths. Within a six-week online training process, MeBTough then

provides daily activities from self-reflection to correctional behavior goals to help meet athlete’s specific needs. “Instead of just giving you a book and telling you to start at chapter one like a cookie cutter, I look at your file,” Dr. Ragan said. Participants then receive daily emails with tips to help them get stronger in their designated areas of weakness, and they are able to create a performance journal where they can record their current times and set goals. As Measuremental continues to expand its applications, it is research such as Warner’s that allows MeBTough to be tested in a diverse range of athletic competitions. For Warner, this will offer her a lens into physical training that she said is too often neglected. “As an athletic training student, it seems like a lot of my profession focuses more on the physical aspects of an athlete like preventing injuries or evaluating injuries,” Warner said. “A lot of people don’t see the importance of taking care of the athlete emotionally as well as physically.”

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Health/Environment Finding the Right Violets Every flower has its own identity influenced by its petal design, fragrance, color, and other attributes. However, junior environmental and plant biology major Richard Janssen is finding that some flowers may have more of a hidden identity than botanists previously thought. The prairie violet, Janssen explained, may actually be a hybrid in at least two of the three prairie violet populations still remaining in western Ohio. Janssen said that as the climate has become cooler and moister over the last few thousand years, prairie violet populations have gone extinct in the Appalachians and eastern Ohio. Janssen will use his PURF grant to extract DNA from the remaining western Ohio populations of what are thought to be pure prairie violets to identify whether they may actually contain genetic material from other violet species. Such insight, Janssen said, will provide the Ohio Bureau of Natural Areas and Preserves with valuable genetic information regarding the relative purity of the state-endangered violet population.

Getting More from Child’s Play Most school-aged children look forward to play time at recess. But as a researcher, senior exercise physiology major Kimberly Clevenger views recess as more than fun and games. She explained that because rates of obesity and diabetes are rapidly increasing in children, particularly in rural Appalachia, receiving 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is now even more important. Recruiting third- to fifth-graders, Clevenger will use her PURF grant to determine the amount of time they spend engaged in MVPA during recess. Clevenger’s goal is to use low-cost pedometry data (steps per minute) in addition to existing data to develop efficient methods of analyzing the health benefits of children’s free-play time.

Sports Concussions Test Memory Quality A concussion often affects an athlete’s memory, said junior athletic training major Amanda Homady. Researchers have found that the memory used to temporarily store information and multi-task, or working memory, is frequently impaired in concussion patients. However, a standard method

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at a Glance to evaluate memory quality in such patients has not been developed. Using her PURF grant, Homady plans to use the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT), originally used on victims of traumatic brain injuries and multiple-sclerosis patients, to assess the working memory of athletes with concussions. Understanding the effectiveness of the PASAT, she said, will help athletic trainers diagnose concussions more accurately.

Diameter Discrepancies Remains found on the Earth’s surface can help scientists visualize what the planet looked like more than 300 million years ago. Serpent Mound, an impact crater in southern Ohio, is one such remain that junior geology major Paul Trygstad believes can reveal important information about the past. Recent studies of the crater’s diameter, Trygstad said, have shown that original diameter estimates were off by more than four kilometers. Using his PURF grant to utilize Global Position System (GPS) technology, Trygstad plans to construct the true diameter of the Serpent Mound crater using a mixture of geological referencing techniques. Understanding its true diameter and structure of impact, he said, will provide insight into how craters experience erosion or are preserved throughout the Midwest.

Junior geology major Paul Trygstad. Photo provided.

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Health/Environment Breaking Down Obesity To better understand obesity, senior nutrition major Abigail Thaxton is dissecting one tissue: white adipose. In excess, white adipose tissue (WAT) is a factor in obesity. Using her PURF grant, Thaxton plans to examine the tissue in both its normal and obese states. She will specifically observe the presence of the protein fiber collagen, which surrounds the cells found in WAT, and growth hormone (GH) in the tissue. Fibrosis, or the excess of collagen fibers, she explained, can contribute to inflammation or other abnormalities observed in people suffering from obesity. GH, Thaxton said, has the potential to increase fibrosis in the tissue. Therefore, in studying samples of WAT in a population of mice, Thaxton’s goal is to better understand the connection between GH and fibrosis and make strides in combating obesity.

Resourceful Rocks Improving energy resource extraction literally begins at the ground level, explained senior geological sciences major Richard Bell. The more that is known about the composition of rocks within the Earth’s surface, the better researchers understand where oil and gas reserves accumulate. Using his PURF grant, Bell plans to identify a currently uncharacterized succession of rocks in southeastern Ohio near Macksburg. By measuring the vertical succession of rock types in the area, Bell said, he will be able to gain insight on the area’s original paleoenvironment. His research will help determine the resource potential of these rocks, and the geochemical analysis may serve as a correlation tool for other rock formations.

Photo provided.

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at a Glance Growth in Understanding Growth hormone (GH) is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, but its effects are far reaching. According to senior nutrition major Aubree Ziegler, studies in mice have shown that not only does GH stimulate the normal growth of muscles, cartilage and bone, but also it decreases fat. Despite a favorable impact on body composition, GH can increase susceptibility to diabetes. Ziegler will use her PURF grant to determine how irisin, a hormone whose physiological effects are just recently being recognized, is impacted by GH. Irisin is of interest because it is induced by exercise (some consider it an exercise mimetic) and favorably modifies fat. Ziegler said she hopes that her study can offer possible beneficial insight in the treatment of obesity, diabetes and other related diseases.

Behind Blood Pressure Senior exercise physiology and nutrition major Chance Benner is finding that some factors influencing high blood pressure may be beyond our control. Using his PURF grant, Benner is analyzing the mechanisms behind blood pressure differences among mice with varying growth hormone (GH) levels. Preliminary data indicated that increased blood pressure cannot be attributed entirely to overall increased body mass in mice with excess GH, as was previously thought. Benner plans to explore GH’s effect on a hormone called brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), which acts to decrease blood pressure in the body. Elevated levels of BNP are a clinically significant marker in diagnosing cardiovascular disease, so Benner said understanding GH’s role in BNP secretion can help in human blood pressure maintenance.

Satisfying the Hunger to Diet Sophomore applied health sciences and wellness major Justine Reichley is observing the science of dieting. She explained that while individuals who do not consume enough calories for energy can experience problems, studies have also shown that reductions in long-term energy availability can increase life span and decrease disease risk. Using her PURF grant, Reichley is researching the effects of short-term calorie reduction on blood glucose, insulin and feelings of hunger and satiety. Reichley hopes to provide insight not only on useful treatments for metabolic diseases but also on creating a more lasting healthy diet.

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Athens residents at United Campus Ministry

From Server to


Innovative Website Promotes Local Outreach


ltruism can appear in many forms. In winter 2010, two Ohio University interactive multimedia students created a website to raise awareness of local nonprofit organizations that are chosen democratically. Each fall, students and community members are able to nominate and vote for the nonprofits that they want to see featured on the site, Project C: Clicking Creates Change. The organizations that receive the most votes are then pro-

filed through documentary videos, photography, feature articles, and interactive graphics. Project C also raises money for the organizations and distributes it proportionately based on a second round of user voting. The site has now raised more $4,900 for eight local nonprofits. Interactive multimedia alumni Tony Guglielmi and Annette Drapac founded the innovative site. “We want students to be able to give back to the community through ways that they know,� Guglielmi said.

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humanities/social sciences Project C closes voting in February and then contacts the top four nonprofits to begin filming. Guglielmi said that reaching out to the nonprofits can be the hardest part, as Project C staff members must earn their trust “We had to show them that we weren’t just students who wanted to bring cameras in and tell a sad story,” Guglielmi said. “We want to tell uplifting stories about the community around us.” Instead of using the project to simply practice video and multimedia skills learned in the classroom, senior media management major and current Project C president Amanda Olszewski said that the goal is more heavily rooted in spreading awareness and community support. “The point of media and film is to inform,” she said. “Our goal is not to use these [stories] as portfolio pieces, or write these on our resumes, but to connect the community with the students.” In the past, Project C has covered local organizations such as the Gathering Place and Rural Action, as well as more widely recognized

nonprofits such as the OU student chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The profile created for Athens’ Good Works, Inc. was complete with a 12-minute documentary, a photo gallery, an article, and an interactive map that displayed the nonprofit’s presence in different areas of the community. Project C became an official OU student organization in 2013. When Olszewski became president, she applied for and received a PURF grant, which will be used for transportation and campus promotion, all with the community in mind. “We need to get ourselves out there so that we can get the nonprofits out there,” Olszewski said. Olszewski said she wanted to become involved with Project C to continue its legacy and because she felt like she owed something to the community she loves so much. “It’s an intimate way to do community service,” she said. Using her media management degree, Olszewski looks forward to serving as the middleman between nonprofits and Project C.

Project C’s work with Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action. Photos provided.

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Comparing Colonial


Sophomore HTC Spanish major Hannah Abrahamson in Merida, Mexico. Photos provided.

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uring the Age of Exploration in the 16th century, territories were won and lost throughout Latin America. Sophomore HTC Spanish major Hannah Abrahamson believes that the process of colonization can aid our understanding of modern cultural identities in the region. In her studies, Abrahamson has been exposed to a distinct cultural breach between modern Brazil and Spanish-speaking America. Using her PURF grant, Abrahamson will travel to Merida, Mexico, where she plans to research the effects of linguistic influences, gender roles, and religious brotherhoods on the process of Mayan colonization under Spanish rule. Following her travels, she will compare her findings to her knowledge of the colonization of indigenous groups in Brazil under Portuguese rule, culminating in a better understanding of both cultures today. She hypothesizes that her research abroad interviewing and working with post-colonial experts will help show that the effects of African influence are much more present in the colonization of coastal Brazil than in Mexico.

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Humanities/Social Punny Poetry Reborn Senior HTC English major Allison Hight is studying the Japanese poetry style tanka. A traditional art form, tanka has found renewed interest among Japanese college students who use it to express new sentiments about their culture, Hight said. Tanka has become a symbolic gesture of the youth entering into the modern era, she added. With its 5-7-5-7-7 syllable lines, the poetry has allowed Hight to delve into Japan’s rich puns and history. Using her PURF grant, she has presented at the West Virginia University “Humor in Literature and Film” conference, explaining how one particular poet’s use of puns departs from past uses and contributes to the genre in new ways.

Shopping for Effectiveness What determines a successful shopping experience? Senior retail merchandising and fashion product development major Allison Goble said satisfaction can be affected by anything from merchandise display to customer enjoyment. Goble will use her PURF grant to determine the role that visual merchandising and merchandise assortment play in the level of customer satisfaction at Bobcat Essentials, Ohio University’s campus store in Baker Center. She will observe shopping behaviors of approximately 25 participants and then interview them about what triggered their entry into the store. She seeks to determine whether their visit or purchase was intentional or spontaneous. By better understanding the customers’ experience in Bobcat Essentials, Goble’s goal is to enhance visual merchandising and merchandise assortment strategies for many kinds of businesses.

Photo provided.

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Sciences at a Glance A Disciple of Mentorship Like friendships or familial ties, mentors and mentees create formative relationships. However, different forms of mentoring exist, said senior HTC communication studies major Hiram Foster, who will use his PURF grant to study Christian discipleship within the definition of mentorship. He views discipleship as Christians’ brand of mentoring, a process by which people receive both psychosocial support, such as counseling, and instrumental support, such as coaching or skills training. Foster hypothesizes that the mentor/mentee relationship found in Christian discipleship is much more complex than these categories convey. He will observe the process of discipleship within the international Christian student movement called Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru). By distributing questionnaires to Cru ministries throughout the Great Lakes Region and conducting follow-up interviews, he seeks to add new functions within discipleship — hierarchy, mutuality, and development ­­­— to the traditional concept of mentoring.

The Art of Dictatorship History can be influenced by the way it is preserved. Junior HTC Spanish major Brittany Frodge will use her PURF grant to visit two museums in Madrid, Spain, and compare how they express the republican and Francoist — a typically neoclassical form subjected to strict conservative control under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship — ideologies of art. The monarchy founded the Spanish Archeological Museum in the 19th century, and political leftists founded the Museum of the Spanish People in the 20th century. Frodge hypothesizes that the founders’ competing ideologies may also be expressed within the museums’ displayed art and exhibits. Her goal ­is to shed new light on the role of institutions in shaping cultural history through the perspective of art.

Assaulting Labels Most studies on rape focus on its effects on victims. Senior psychology major Alexander Bill is focusing on perpetrators. Specifically, his research asks how aggressors, particularly men, interpret and describe their acts of sexual assault. His study will examine how men — perpetrators and non-perpetrators — label sexual assaults, and he will use his PURF grant to conduct surveys of 30 to 50 adult males from Ohio University. While studies have been conducted to assess an aggressor’s history of assault, Bill said that a larger framework describing how men actually view rape will be a new addition to this area of research.

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Humanities/Social The Japanese Classroom Learning a language abroad comes with its share of classroom complications, as junior HTC anthropology major Camille Scott’s research highlights. Using her PURF grant, Scott will travel to Kanazawa, Japan, where she will experience and observe what it is like to be a nonnative learning Japanese. By observing language classrooms at the Hokuriku Language Institute, conducting one-onone interviews with students and instructors, and keeping personal participation records, she said her goal is to make language instructors more aware of their biases. Through her field study of language instruction, Scott plans to answer broader questions about Japan’s treatment of foreigners and the present state of cultural nationalism as it can be observed in the classroom.

The Ghanian Language of Dance The concept of “dance” encompasses many forms and expressions. However, as senior communication studies major DesJaVae Conway explained, no word for “music” exists in the Ghanaian language because the notion of dance is so all encompassing. Using her PURF grant, Conway said she plans to travel to Accra, Ghana, to explore the communicative purposes the arts, specifically dance, provide the Ghanaian people. By examining both recreational and professional uses of art, Conway hopes to discover firsthand how the communicative arts have influenced the community and affected the Ghanaian view of themselves, their peers and their personal lives.

Coping with Sexual Assault Victims of sexual assault rely on a variety of coping mechanisms. Senior psychology and sociology major Courtney Wineland has observed two common pathways for sexually assaulted victims – involvement in risky sexual behavior or avoidance of sexual contact. Using her PURF grant, Wineland will conduct in-depth surveys with 200 female undergraduate students at Ohio University. Her goal is to better understand which frequent effects of sexual assault, such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), correlate with which pathway – sexual promiscuity or sexual aversion. She said that her research will attempt to understand the nature of each pathway to improve the treatment of its victims.

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Sciences at a Glance Altered Perception Sight helps the body orient itself to daily activities. However, senior philosophy majors David Pence and Joshua Downing wonder what might happen if people experienced vision differently. For example, how might having eyes at the level of shoulders or knees affect a person’s sense of body and self? Their larger research goal is to explore whether the way people think about how their body is arranged is as set in stone as is believed. Using their PURF grant, Pence and Downing plan to change the visual input of participants using high-resolution cameras placed on different parts of the body. Because of technological advances, Pence said, this equipment will allow a more realistic experience of altered vision.

Photo by Paula Welling.

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Illuminating Parkinson’s Progress

Senior HTC neuroscience major Scott Varga


reakthroughs rarely appear right before scientists’ eyes in the lab. However, the sight of stunted, unmoving fruit fly larvae after light exposure meant senior HTC biological sciences major Scott Varga’s research was a delightful exception. He had moved one step closer to developing more effective treatments for Parkinson’s disease (PD). “In most cases you are analyzing data, and you have to put it all

together,” said Dr. Daewoo Lee, an Ohio University associate professor of biological sciences and Varga’s thesis adviser. “But in this case, in 5 seconds [we] knew.” PD is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease, Varga said. PD attacks the neurons in the brain used for communication and leads to tremors, rigidity, and impaired muscle control. Scientists are still unsure about PD’s cause, and no cure exists.

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Varga is using his PURF grant to attempt two new methods in PD research. The first, he said, is the use of fruit fly larvae — instead of adult fruit flies — to test the effects of gene therapy, the alteration of genes to correct genetic disorders in cells. “Right now we are looking at the very basic pathways that are involved in Parkinson’s,” Varga said, and larvae develop quickly, won’t fly away, and do not yet have an exoskeleton around the brain. The lack of an exoskeleton is also significant for Varga’s second goal – a new treatment for symptoms of PD using light. Because larvae have no thick barrier around their brain, light can more easily be transmitted to light sensitive proteins within neurons in the brain. This process is known as optogenetics. Varga will insert a gene for a light sensitive protein into a group of neurons to change their behavior when exposed to light. This protein is similar to those found in the eye, Varga explained, so that when a light photon hits it, it changes shape. “When [the proteins] get hit by light, a channel will open so that ions can flow into the neurons,” Varga said. “These ions will end up activating the neurons, causing them to fire and lead to different behaviors.” One such behavior the lab hopes to stimulate is motor function, which

quickly deteriorates in PD patients. Through the use of optogenetics, Varga’s research will target stimulation of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is vital to the neurons affecting motor control. While the fruits of Varga’s new optogenetic research – the immediate stunting of moving fly larvae when exposed to light in a petri dish – were largely effective, he said that they took time and ingenuity. Essentially, Dr. Lee and Varga were beginning from scratch. “We didn’t have anyone to talk to who had actually done [optogenetics],” Varga said. “So we actually had to throw stuff together and see if it worked.” Collaborating with biological sciences faculty member Dr. Ralph DiCaprio for electronics expertise throughout the project, Varga typically spent 12-hour days in the lab. By Varga’s first test trial, he had designed and built the equipment he used to insert and test the effects of a light sensitive protein within the fruit fly larvae. “It made me feel very narrow focused because I had really never done anything like that before,” Varga reflected. “It kind of made me wish I had taken more engineering courses.” After two months of work, Dr. Lee said that it took only about two seconds to recognize whether the technology was working or not.

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ABOVE: Fruit fly larvae

While stunting the larvae’s movement seems contradictory to the lab’s ultimate goal of improve motor function in PD patients, Dr. Lee explained that this is the important first step to proving the technique is working. “It is a really important addition to this lab,” Dr. Lee said. “We are not only seeing changes at the gene level and cell level, but [now] at the behavioral level, too.” While clinical uses of optogenetics for sustaining motor function in PD patients are a long way off, the progress with this new technique has gone better than expected. In humans, this treatment will be potentially tricky because gene therapy is difficult, Varga said. However, the implantation of an electrode –

the needed source of light – within someone’s brain is already on the horizons, he added. “It is already a surgical technique that exists; we would just be replacing electricity with light,” Varga said. The treatment would use a similar mechanism as a pacemaker, except using light to release dopamine for motor function. In the present, Varga hopes that someone will continue this project as he moves on to medical school. However, the feeling of accomplishment from Varga’s first dabbling in optogenetics is not something he, or Dr. Lee, will leave behind. “That was one of the most excited moments that I had witnessed in my science career,” Dr. Lee said.

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Factoring in Flexibility

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or junior chemistry major Lauren Loftus, the potential of electromagnetic radiation – better known as light – is expanding. By absorbing light, she explained, some chemical compounds called photochromes can undergo reversible transformation and are used in a variety of applications. For instance, photochromic compounds are found within some solar panels and in the vision process of some mammals’ eyes. Her research seeks to show that the abilities of such compounds are still undeveloped. Using her PURF grant, Loftus will manipulate the chemical structure of a photochrome to respond to light. The transformation will give the molecules the capacity, when put into a polymer such as plastic, to have the flexibility to bend. She said that such a synthesized compound could offer exciting opportunities for photoactive technology, such as the screens of electronics or holographic information storage systems.

Junior chemistry major Lauren Loftus in Dr. Jeff Rack’s lab

Enlightening Molecular Combinations


ome sunglass lenses change their tint when exposed to ultraviolet rays or indoor light. They provide an example of the usefulness of photochromic compounds, which undergo a reversible chemical change when exposed to UV radiation in sunlight. Senior chemistry major Emily Bilas said that the full potential of these compounds has not yet been reached. One characteristic determining the properties of photochromic compounds is a functional group called a ligand. Bilas plans to use her PURF grant to combine the two main classes of ligands into one functional group that exhibits the best characteristics of each class. Bilas said that this newly engineered functional group may allow photochromic compounds to react to UV radiation quicker and undergo chemical changes more efficiently.

Senior chemistry major Emily Bilas in Dr. Jeff Rack’s lab

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Science at a Glance Sick of Obesity The effects of obesity are far reaching, not only in terms of the number of people affected, but also in the havoc it can wreak on the body. Junior biological sciences major Ross Comisford said that clinical studies show that obesity increases the likelihood of secondary infections, wound complications, and respiratory infections. Using his PURF grant, Comisford will observe the immune cell content in particular areas of obese mice, lean mice, and mice that are experiencing weight fluctuation due to a cycled diet. By better understanding the correlation between weight and the immune system, Comisford said his goal is to help understand how short term weight gain and loss affect the function of immune cells.

The Obesity Matrix “Too much of a good thing” even applies to the workings of the body and a supportive cell tissue called the extracellular matrix (ECM). The overproduction of ECM in the muscles, heart and lungs can have irreparable and damaging effects on their functioning, said senior biotechnology major Katie Troike. Using her PURF grant, Troike will examine the effect of growth hormone (GH) on the protein collagen VI found in ECM of fat tissues. GH can cause both increased muscle and bone growth and also promote excessive tissue formation, so it is not well understood whether GH is detrimental or beneficial. Troike said studying the composition of these obesityaffected tissues may lead to therapeutic treatments for diet-related illnesses.

Weighing the Effects of Fluctuating Diets Preliminary studies have indicated that weight cycling – the repeated gaining and losing of weight – is more beneficial to lifespan than remaining obese. In fact, mice living with cycling weight appeared to live nearly as long as healthy dieting mice, said senior chemistry major Bryan Tysl. He will use his PURF grant to understand the causes of this occurrence, specifically focusing on weight’s effect on senescent cells, which are involved in promoting aging. Tysl hopes that his research can help to answer the question: “Is it better to keep trying to lose weight even if it continually fails?”

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Got Strong Bones? The process of accurately testing the strength of human bones is not easy. As junior biological sciences major Emily Ellerbrock explained, effectively measuring bone strength is essential so practitioners can identify people at risk of bone fractures or suffering from early onset of a growth disorder. Current methods, said Ellerbrock, not only expose patients to radiation but also do not account for all points of bone weakness. As a result, Ellerbrock plans to use her PURF grant to utilize mechanical response tissue analysis (MRTA) as an alternative for measuring bone strength. Originally developed in the 1980s to study the effects of zero gravity on astronauts’ bone integrity, MRTA is a non-invasive, radiation-free technique, which Ellerbrock believes has the potential to be an effective diagnostic tool.

The Dimensions of Anatomy As technology improves, understanding the human anatomy may become easier. By using iodine, which helps to outline human tissues, junior HTC biological science major Alexandra Spaw will stain and scan a human embryo. Her research will allow her to evaluate iodine staining, which is a new method for scanning and studying tissues. Using her PURF grant, Spaw will apply these scans to the creation of 3D movies about human embryonic development as well as possibly neurological development. This anatomical catalog will not only serve as an open-access resource, she said, but also will create a useful protocol for using iodine staining in the field.

Breaking Bacteria Barriers A harmless bacterium for some can prove to be a lethal pathogen for others. Such is the case for Pseudomonas aeruginosa. As junior HTC biological studies major Elizabeth Mathias explained, research shows that about 80 percent of cystic fibrosis patients have a chronic P. aeruginosa infection by age 20, and it often causes a more severe decline in lung function. The bacterium is largely protected by its biofilm, a thin layer that encases bacterial communities and makes them extremely resistant to antibiotics. Using her PURF grant, Mathias plans to target particular genes within the bacterium to observe their effect on the biofilm. She said that research in this area could have large implications in the treatment of infections.

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Science at a Glance An Eye on Cancer Two proteins may have significant implications not only for eye structure but also for cancer development, according to senior biological science major Megan Ensinger. Moesin and Clic are two important proteins involved in the development of cell structure in the eyes of fruit flies, she explained. A lack of integrity and maintenance of this complex cellular architecture induced by a loss of either moesin or Clic may cause cell migration, a definitive marker in the progression of cancer growth. Using her PURF grant, Ensinger plans to use genetic tools — breeding schemes in the flies — and high power magnification to better understand the interaction of moesin and Clic in maintenance of tissue integrity in the fruit fly eye. By clarifying the protein interaction within this system, she hopes her work can contribute to scientists’ understanding of cancer and tumor growth.

Food for Thought Tiny micro-level changes can have huge biological implications. Cells that become senescent, for example, are associated with aging, tumor suppression, tumor promotion, and tissue repair. According to sophomore HTC biological studies major Wenjuan Zhang, different types of stresses can induce mitotic cells found in all parts of our body to undergo cellular senescence and begin to age. Moreover, an increase of senescent cells in the brain is believed to be linked to an increase risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, said Zhang. She will use her PURF grant to observe the effects of diet changes on cellular senescence in the brains of mice, specifically in regard to fat content. Her goal is to better understand the effects of diet on the aging process of the brain.

Alzheimer’s Origins Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and late-onset, or sporadic, AD are not equally affected by gene mutations, according to senior pre-physical therapy major Sarah Sivinski. In early-onset AD, there appears to be a relationship between disease occurrence and gene mutations. However in sporadic AD, there appears to be no correlation. As a result, the causes of AD are still a mystery. Using her PURF grant, Sivinski plans to explore research that indicates an interesting relationship between patients with type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of developing sporadic AD. Through

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a better understanding of the role of insulin in type 2 diabetes, Sivinski said her research can help supplement previous experiments that have shown that increased insulin improves memory in early-onset AD. She hopes her research can help in the development of new treatment strategies.

Temperature Tempers Disease In developing countries, bacteria-based diseases can take a heavy toll on the intestinal system. Bacterium species such a S. dysenteriae can cause symptoms of a fever, abdominal cramps, and bloody diarrhea, possibly leading to death, said senior biological sciences major Kevin Gross. The gene ompA is important for the S. dysenteriae bacterium because it detects the temperature of the bacterium environment. This temperature allows S. dysenteriae to determine how much protein to produce — a vital function for its survival. Using his PURF grant, Gross plans to determine how the ompA gene is controlled in response to changes in environmental temperature. He said that such knowledge may ultimately reveal ways of shutting down bacterium protein production in the human body, leading to a new way of controlling S. dysenteriae infections.

Disrupting Growth A promising new area for studies on growth hormone (GH) focuses on the process of its disruption, said senior biological sciences major Nicholas Lozier. Using his PURF grant, Lozier plans to cultivate mice, not deficient in the receptor for the GH hormone – as is typical – but in mice lacking the hormone itself. GH knockout mice, as they are called, may allow researchers to better understand other roles of GH receptors. The goal of Lozier’s research is to use these mice to determine the interaction of hormones, such as insulin, leptin and ghrelin, and the absence of GH on human processes like metabolism. This project involves studying the body composition, weight, length, and breeding patterns of the mice. He said that gaining a better understanding of the role of GH many have long-term health ramifications for GH replacement therapy.

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Science at a Glance

Long-term Effects of Shortness Treatments Since the 1980s, growth hormone (GH) treatment has been used to help short or GH-deficient children reach their adult heights. Long-term effects of treatment, however, may have serious side effects, said senior chemistry major Laura Kutz. Using her PURF grant, Kutz plans to replicate in mice the GH treatment children receive to observe its effects on the body’s insulin sensitivity. Preliminary research has found that GH treatment in children reduces the body’s response to insulin. Kutz’s research attempts to assess the long-term effect, after GH treatment has ceased in these adult patients. Because insulin sensitivity directly correlates to the development of diabetes, Kutz explained, her research has important implications for a growing health concern.

Plotting Cancer’s Pathways About half of American men and a third of American women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society. In normal cells, growth and division are strictly controlled. Cancer cells are dangerous because they often proliferate without needing a control signal, said senior biological sciences major Craig Rush. Cancer can begin in the mutation of important signaling pathways that alert a cell to grow and divide, he explained. Using his PURF grant, Rush plans to study two particular pathways – the Jak-Stat and Wingless pathways – that are believed to relay signals to one another within the blood cells of flies. These pathways are not only prominent in human cancer, but also the mutation of the Jak-Stat pathway is known to play a role in leukemia and lymphoma. Rush said that understanding the interactive relationship of these pathways is vital in learning about human diseases such as cancer and potentially the proteins that could be targeted for treatment.

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60 Cancer Cell Lines, 2 Hormone Instigators For junior biological sciences major James Herpy, growth hormone (GH) and insulin may provide an immense window for his research on more than 60 cancer cell lines. These cell lines, provided by the National Cancer Institute, have a uniform genetic makeup and include cells derived from melanoma, breast cancer, colon cancer, and leukemia, said Herpy. He explained that for many years, evidence has suggested that endocrine hormones – such as GH and insulin – may be involved in the initiation of cancer formation, though few studies have examined GH cell signaling, the process of coordinating the mechanism of the cell. Using his PURF grant, Herpy plans to identify trends of these hormones’ expression within cancer cells. He said he is hopeful that the results can provide valuable insight into the causation and abnormal hormone regulation in different types of cancer.

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Inquiry Index PURF recipients 2012-2013

Abrahamson, Hannah Bell, Richard Benner, Chance Bilas, Emily Bill, Alexander Clevenger, Kimberly Comisford, Ross Conway, DesJaVae Doell, Danielle Donaldson, Kathryn Downing, Joshua Ellerbrock, Emily Ensinger, Megan Foster, Hiram Frodge, Brittany Goble, Allison Gross, Kevin Herpy, James Hight, Allison Homady, Amanda Janssen, Richard Kessler, Henry Kutz, Laura Loftus, Lauren

page 22 page 18 page 19 page 34 page 25 page 16 page 36 page 26 page 13 page 13 page 27 page 37 page 38 page 25 page 25 page 24 page 39 page 41 page 24 page 16 page 16 page 12 page 40 page 32

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Lozier, Nicholas Mathias, Elizabeth Olszewski, Amanda Pence, David Reichley, Justine Rush, Craig Scott, Camille Sebo, Rebecca Shanks, Sarah Sivinski, Sarah Spaw, Alexandra Thaxton, Abigail Troike, Katie Trygstad, Paul Tysl, Bryan Valley, Madeleine Varga, Scott Warner, Kaitlyn Welling, Paula Wineland, Courtney Zachry, Corinne Zhang, Wenjuan Ziegler, Aubree

page 39 page 37 page 20 page 27 page 19 page 40 page 26 page 12 page 6 page 38 page 37 page 18 page 36 page 17 page 36 page 8 page 28 page 14 page 13 page 26 page 10 page 38 page 19



Corinne Zachry, an HTC theater student, builds a life-size elephant puppet.

PURF Inquiry 2013  
PURF Inquiry 2013  

Ohio University's Provost's Undergraduate Research Fund