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CSB and SJU students present research at Minnesota State Capitol

One student from the College of Saint Benedict and another from Saint John’s University recently showcased their undergraduate research as part of the annual Scholars Showcase, an event sponsored by the Minnesota Private College Council. The event was Feb. 15 at the Minnesota State Capitol and included more than two dozen students from 16 schools around the state who presented research posters in the capitol rotunda in St. Paul.

Savannah Supan, a senior nutrition and pre-physician’s assistant major from Rice, Minnesota, represented Saint Ben’s, and Brody Beskar, a senior physics and pre-engineering major from Mahtomedi, Minnesota, represented Saint John’s.

Supan’s research, under the mentorship of Ted Gordon, visiting assistant professor of anthropology, was titled Tribal and State Government Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic. During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many governors issued executive orders forcing bars and restaurants to close. Because tribal governments are independent of state governments, state executive orders do not apply to them. Policy makers and pundits often critique tribal sovereignty as granting tribal governments free reign to make decisions that benefit Native communities at the expense of non-Natives. The first wave of the pandemic provided the opportunity to compare tribal and state government responses to determine which was more likely to make economic sacrifices to address a public health emergency. The research team collected data on 498 casino closure and reopening dates and compared them to the responses of their state government. Researchers found tribal governments, on average, acted faster to close casinos and waited longer to reopen. The research team concluded that, contrary to the concerns of some critics, tribal governments made swifter and stronger economic sacrifices to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Beskar’s research, under the mentorship of Adam Whitten, visiting assistant professor of physics, was titled Seasonal Variability in Atmospheric Aerosols. Atmospheric aerosols play a significant role in our climate by scattering and absorbing sunlight as it travels to earth. In this project, atmospheric aerosol number density and particle radii were studied to find patterns. Previously collected irradiance values from the year 2018 were used and converted into aerosol optical depth (AOD) values. These AOD values were then further analyzed to find particle number size distribution fit parameters and then graphed using a bimodal distribution for each month. These graphs were then compared and studied to find patterns among seasons and weather events. It was shown that variability changed throughout the seasons but, due to large amounts of variability in the atmosphere, more data would need to be analyzed to establish a trend in particle radius or number density. This research provided a unique look into rural Minnesota’s atmospheric processes, whereas most aerosol research is conducted in populated cities or coastal regions.

Project disciplines included in the Scholars Showcase included biology, communications studies, environmental science, history, physics, political science, psychology, public health and urban studies.

Savannah Supan

Savannah Supan discusses her research on a poster on Feb. 15 at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Brody Beskar

Brody Beskar unveiled his research on a poster Feb. 15 at the Minnesota State Capitol.