2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Institute

June 15 - July 24

Participants spend six weeks working closely with faculty mentors and other undergraduate research students.

Students and faculty meet weekly for lunch and discussion about their projects.

Stipends of up to $1,000 are available for some students, and on-campus housing is available to students who perform 10 hours/week of additional work for an on-campus department.

For more information, contact Dr. Kathleen Trujillo or 563-333-6197.

Apply online

Past Topics Include:

Dr. Yunye Shi: Waste-to-Energy through Gasification. Energy use continues to increase as the world population grows and more countries industrialize which brings great interest in alternative energy resources which are cost-effective, renewable, and environmentally friendly. Biomass, a carbon neutral resource, is both renewable and produces minimal pollution when used to generate electricity, fuel vehicles, and provide heat for industry.

There are two main conversion routes for biomass utilization - thermochemical conversion and biochemical conversion. The study look into the technical and economic feasibility of biogas and biofuel production based on the thermochemical conversion route which includes direct combustion, pyrolysis and gasification. Currently with mathematical modeling and a parametric study, the project compares all the variables that influence gasification process to achieve optimal operation condition. The current project also reviews the up-to-date research on gasification economic analysis. Ultimately, the methodology will be utilized to study the feasibility of biomass usage and municipal solid waste (MSW) energy recovery in the quad city area.

Dr. Katie Trujillo: Therapy Dogs and Stress. This is an ongoing study designed to determine whether therapy dogs can reduce the stress levels of family members of surgical or cardiac patients (they share a waiting room at Genesis East) while they are waiting for him/her. The hypothesis is that immediate family members of patients who are waiting for their loved ones to be done with surgery or a cardiac procedure will experience lowered stress levels as a result of interacting with a therapy dog.

Dr. Robert Mitchell: Comparing Spectroscopic Distance Calculations of Different Supernova Types. This project uses the Expanding Photosphere Method (EPM) to compute the distances to supernovae from the temperature and ejection speed of the supernova debris. Temperature is calculated from the color photometry, while speed is determined from the Doppler shift in the spectrum.
EPM assumes the supernova is a perfect blackbody radiator; therefore, a flux dilution factor must be determined to account for the supernova not being a true blackbody. Currently, this can be empirically determined only for Type II-P supernovae. This project tests EPM and the existing dilution factor calculations for other types of supernovae to see if the existing calculations work as well for them or if new calculations are needed.

Dr. Joseph Hebert: Utopian Ethics: Classical and Modern Views. In his 1516 masterwork Utopia, Thomas More reports a fictional traveler's account of a perfect commonwealth. Though sounding like "Good Place," Utopia means "No Place," and More, speaking as a citizen and statesman of England, declares many of its purported institutions "absurd." Holding the Socratic views that the common good of society depends on personal and civic virtue, and that virtue must be freely chosen, More doubts that institutional constraints (which depend upon coercion) can produce a perfect society. Modern political philosophers, rejecting this Socratic understanding of virtue, have deemed themselves more "realistic" about human nature; yet this rejection of virtue and the limits it places on institutional power has led many of them to embrace visions of a seemingly "utopian" society brought about by systems of technological and bureaucratic control. In this project, we considered More's Utopia in light of its classical predecessors and modern successors. Students read, wrote, and presented on common readings while completing a paper on a relevant research question.

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