Successful science breakthroughs occur during SURE

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Success and innovative science breakthroughs shared by Lewis University students in SURE program

Published: August 20, 2012.

(Left to right) Elie Shmayel, Brian Wilhelm,
Russell Johnson, Stephanie Tribo,
Victoria Colclasure, Thomas Campbell and
Samantha Rinehart participate in the
2012 SURE program.

Seven Lewis University student researchers recently shared their success after completing the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). The 10-week SURE program offers students the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research under the mentorship of a faculty member in their discipline. Students presented their work including lab experiments and results at a concluding symposium held on Aug. 9.

“This interdisciplinary science, technology, engineering and math program provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in faculty-led research. The concluding symposium showcases the dedication and innovation of the SURE students,” said Dr. Jason Keleher, assistant professor of chemistry and director of the SURE program.

Student presentations included:

  • Stephanie Tribo of Manhattan presented, “Gender Differences and the Effects of Salient Attractiveness Norms on Skin-Cancer-Risk Behavior in College Students.” Dr. Susan Sheffer, associate professor of psychology, was her faculty mentor. Tribo explored the behavior of college students and their perceived susceptibility of developing skin cancer. Tribo’s study found that while college students were aware of the risk factor for skin cancer on an intellectual level, they still engaged in behavior that put them at high risk for the disease. Most importantly, study results showed that there were significant gender differences in risk behavior, knowledge level and emotional responses to tanning and future behavioral intentions.

  • Thomas Campbell of St. Louis, Mo., presented, “Modulating the Properties of Ag-Coated/TiO2 Nanoparticles for Antimicrobial Application.” Dr. James Rago, associate professor of biology was his faculty mentor. Campbell’s study explored the effects of buffering the synthesis of Ag-TiO2 nanoparticles on pH, zeta potential and particle size distribution of photo-reduced nanoparticles. Campbell characterized the nanoparticle properties using dynamic lighting scattering and evaluated the resulting antimicrobial efficiency of Ag-TiO2 nanocomposites. Initial results of the bacteria surface binding mechanism were explored.

  • Victoria Colclasure of Bolingbrook presented, “I Brought Home a Coliform?” Dr. Jerry Kavouras, associate professor of biology, was her faculty mentor. The purpose of Colclasure’s research was to determine the length of time coliform bacteria survive on fabrics and the number of bacteria present. Coliform bacteria inhabit the intestinal tracts of animals and are indicators of contamination and pathogens in the environment. Colclasure exposed cotton, blended cotton, and silk to a mixture of coliform bacteria isolated from recreational sites. The results indicate that the number of total coliforms is still very high after 22 days, which suggests that exposure to these fabrics can lead to infectious disease.

  • Russell Johnson of Lemont presented, “Comparison of Two Methods of Characterizing Quantum Dot Size.” Dr. Joseph Kozminski associate professor of physics was his faculty mentor. Johnson’s study investigated two methods used for size measurement of quantum dots to attain a better understanding of the affect quantum dot size and surface functionalization have on their photonic properties and therefore lead to advances in solar cell technology. Results showed that Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS), one of the methods used to measure quantum dots, provides a much more detailed picture of the quantum dot particle size distribution and therefore can provide insight into absorbance and emission efficiency of next generation solar cell technology.

  • Samantha Rinehart of Marion, Iowa presented “Ag-coated TiO2 Nanoparticle Incorporated Hydrogels for Application in Effective Antimicrobial Wound Management.” Dr. Jason Keleher, assistant professor of chemistry, was her faculty mentor. Rinehart incorporated Ag+ coated TiO2 nanoparticles into chitosan/PVA hydrogels through freeze-dry dehydration followed by UV photo-reduction of Ag+ onto TiO2 nanoparticles dispersed in the gel. Rinehart incorporated Ag+ coated TiO2 nanoparticles to see if the particles combined with chitosan hydrogel could inhibit bacterial growth as well as serve a suitable scaffold for tissue regeneration. Results showed that the particles reduced bacteria growth, but also created a matrix that absorbs water and swells to twice the size of the original gel that can aid in effective wound management.

  • Elie Shmayel of Darien presented “Using Facial Expression to Identify User Frustration on Mobile Devices.” Dr. Cindy Kersey, assistant professor of math and computer science was his faculty mentor. The goal of Shmayel’s research was to design an application that uses device sensors and facial expression to identify when a user becomes frustrated on a mobile device. Using FrustDroid, an application that attempts to frustrate a user while logging onto a device, Shmayel was able to derive a model of user frustration. However, FrustDroid was unable to accurately capture frustration. Using another application called JavaCV, Shmayel continues to perform research and use picture-analyzing methods to determine user frustration.

  • Brian Wilhelm of New Lenox presented, “Design of a Distributed Intrusion Detection System Model for the Electric Power Grid.” Dr. Ray Klump, associate professor of math and computer science, was his faculty mentor. Wilhelm’s research focused on designing a federated technique for communicating potential cyber attacks among electric utilities so that people can become aware of potential problems as quickly as possible. The aim of Wilhelm’s study was to illustrate how threats could be communicated and categorized efficiently and in a distributed manner. Future research can then build upon these ideas to implement an actual inner-utility intrusion detection and communication system.

For more information, contact Dr. Jason Keleher, assistant professor of chemistry and SURE program director, at (815) 836-5978 or

Lewis University is a Catholic university offering distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 6,500 traditional and adult students. Lewis offers multiple campus locations, online degree programs, and a variety of formats that provide accessibility and convenience to a growing student population. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis prepares intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally aware, and socially responsible graduates. The ninth largest private not-for-profit university in Illinois, Lewis has been nationally recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.

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