Four CSB and SJU students show undergraduate research at State Capitol
March 19, 2020
By Mike Killeen
Every day, there’s a fair amount of research done at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.
But on March 11, 48 undergraduate students from 16 Minnesota private colleges – including four from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University – presented their research at the annual Scholars at the Capitol event, sponsored by the Minnesota Private College Council.
Proud parents, academic advisers and government officials mingled in the majestic Capitol Rotunda and observed posters highlighting research in a variety of academic disciplines – everything from physics to biology to history and creative writing.
“I think it’s really important to show that even at our small liberal arts colleges, we still do have research happening,” said CSB senior Allison Grodnick. “It’s exciting research, things are being produced and there’s a lot of opportunity for it.
“It’s important for other perspective students and people to know that research is available and we can share our findings, which is obviously the end goal of research,” she continued.
“It’s really interesting just taking a walk around before everything got started and seeing the wide breadth of research in the building right now,” SJU senior John Colleran added. “I think the interesting part is that it shows that research just isn’t scientific, it’s everything.
“They all have important implications for how we act, and how we interact on a daily basis,” he continued.
“This opportunity has for me led to potential graduate school and career opportunities, and this is just a way to showcase it to all the stakeholders in our state,” SJU senior Dane Kuhr said. “We really have a lot of career opportunities thanks to them.”
“It gives you an opportunity to do research outside of big university research (schools) and shows that it still matters and you can accomplish something,” CSB senior Nicole Newman said. “You can show that you have the ability and tools to do it once and go on to something else.
“Yeah, I’m a big fan of research at Saint Ben’s,” Newman concluded.
Here’s a look at the four research topics the Bennies and Johnnies tackled:
Newman’s project, “Partisanship and Perceptions of Sexual Misconduct,” contrasted the 1991 and 2018 Supreme Court nomination hearings of Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, respectively. She researched if political partisanship played a pivotal factor in perceptions of sexual misconduct against the two nominees.
Although Newman wasn’t alive during the Thomas confirmation, she impressively watched the entire hearings for her project.
“I wanted to look at whether or not peoples’ perceptions of what happened and who they believed are affected by their partisan orientation,” said Newman, a political science and biochemistry double-major from St. Paul.
Colleran’s project, “The Effects of Acute Mental Imagery Training on Force Production in College-Age Students,” stems from his background as a power lifter. “People used these obscene methods of trying to lift more,” said Colleran, an integrative science major who grew-up in Excelsior, Minnesota.
“Virtually nobody has done mental imagery training studies on force production, and that’s what my research is doing with mental imagery,” Colleran said.
Using a hand dynamometer, he measured the results between not using mental imagery, then returned two days later and gave them 10 minutes of mental imagery training before using the dynamometer again. “We saw that there were improvements across the board that were all statistically significant with the exception of maximal force production in females,” he said.
Kuhr, an applied physics major from Prior Lake, Minnesota, had an internship with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, over the summer. That led to his project, “Concentrating Solar Power Systems at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.”
“The model I was building was a software model where I was analyzing the atmosphere between the mirrors (which reflect the sunlight) and the central receiver (which gathers the collective sunlight),” said Kuhr, adding that this is the next generation of solar farms.
“These systems are very expensive, and they’re still somewhat in the research and development (phase), trying to get them to be where their cost is competitive with photovoltaic (cells),” Kuhr said. “In the coming decades, they should be more prominent, especially in locations where there is high solar resource.”
Grodnick, a senior biochemistry major from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, investigated “The Overuse of Antibiotics” beginning in the summer of 2019.
If a bacteria strain acquires resistance to three or more antibiotics, it is deemed multidrug resistant (MDR). Her study aims to evaluate the acquisition by an initially susceptible isolated Pseudomonas bacterium from the Saint John’s Abbey Arboretum. Three antibiotics, each from a different drug class, and the strain developed MDR through a series of sequential exposures to increasing concentrations of each drug.
“This provides insight into – we’re hoping – how this happens,” Grodnick said. “We’re currently in the process of getting data of this exact genome of each isolet.”