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MVNU’s summer research program spurs scientific exploration

Through Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s new Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) program, 12 MVNU students conducted eight weeks of faculty-mentored scientific research during the summer of 2022. This was the first year for the program.

“Undergraduate research is a high-impact practice,” said Dr. LeeAnn Couts, School of Natural and Social Sciences School Dean. “Undergraduate research is one of the top 10 high-impact practices recognized by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, because it involves close interactions between faculty and students, collaborative student projects, and hands-on learning. Given this, it is not surprising that engagement in undergraduate research improves students’ critical thinking abilities, capacity to conduct research, communication skills, motivation to learn, confidence in their skills, understanding of the research process, and the ability to work independently.”

Students who participated were Austin Brown, Daniel Daly, Hannah Crouse, Alyssa Fraley, Chase Hall, Cole Lape, Daisy Latham, Owen Paulus, Cassandra Petrey, Sam Riffle, Colton Sisler and Caleb Syler. 

Faculty members included Dr. Jon Bossley, Biology; Dr. Zachary Graber, Chemistry; Dr. Binyang Hou, Physics; Dr. Yuan (Edward) Meng, Engineering; Dr. Luiz Oliveira, Chemistry; and Dr. Michael Robbeloth, Computer Science. 

“By participating in this research, I have learned the value that running multiple tests and perfecting techniques can have on the overall data collected for a specific experiment,” said Alyssa Fraley who participated in “The Impact of Cations on Membrane Permeability and Structure” and “Electrochemical Study of the Phospholipid Monolayers at 1,2-Dichloroethane- Water Interfaces.” “These techniques will allow me to be better equipped when entering graduate school in the near future. It has also shown me the value of collaborating with other members of the research team.”

“This experience has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to work in a lab,” said Colton Sisler who was also researched “The Impact of Cations on Membrane Permeability and Structure.” “I have greatly enjoyed conducting experiments for the purpose of testing a hypothesis and increasing scientific knowledge rather than for the purpose of earning a grade. It was rewarding to see various experiments come to fruition as the summary spreadsheets filled with data. I feel that this experience has prepared me well for future research endeavors and has made me a more competent scientist.”

Projects included investigations of: 

  1. A design of a sensor for assessing human brain motion during concussive events; 
  2. Freshwater aquatic insects; 
  3. Factors affecting membrane permeability; 
  4. Degradation and corrosion processes of zirconia; 
  5. Automatic generation of reaction networks on metal nanoparticles; and
  6. Improvement in computer-based identification of obstructed images.

“My experience this summer caused me to have more confidence moving on to graduate school, along with being able to see that I could lead my own research lab in the future,” said Hannah Crouse who worked on “The Impact of Cations on Membrane Permeability and Structure” and “Assessing the Knotting and Unknotting Mechanism of Proteins.” “It also caused me to think outside of the box more than I would in a regular chemistry course or lab. This experience will not be forgotten and will help me with my future career.” 

At the end of the eight weeks, students submitted a summary report highlighting their findings. They also presented a poster during MVNU’s homecoming activities and will present orally during MVNU’s spring Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creative Works.

“If a student will be entering a career in research, this experience will obviously prepare them for that, but it will also benefit students going into other professions,” said Couts. “Participation in undergraduate research helps students understand the scientific process. This will enable them to think critically about the validity of information that they encounter. In addition, engagement in the research process requires students hone their oral and written communication skills. Such abilities are useful in any occupation.”

To learn more about MVNU’s science majors, visit

Those interested in providing funding assistance for the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) can do so by visiting and designating “SPUR.”  

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education both in-seat and online to more than 2,100 students from 42 states and nine foreign countries. 

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