Utah Tech University


We interview students and faculty about their research.
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Fall 2019

Student Highlight:  DSU Stanford Interns Challenge Cancer through their Research

Thanks to a collaborative effort between Stanford University and DSU, Makae Rose, Jordan Dockstader and Ryan Gibb spent this past summer at Stanford’s Cancer Research Center conducting research on the biology of cancer.  Each summer DSU sends some of its top students to Stanford University work with Stanford faculty on cutting edge research projects.  “These summer internships provide an amazing opportunity for our students,” says Doug Sainsbury, Biological Sciences Advisor.  “Past recipients have gone on to top graduate and medical schools because their research experience at Stanford.”

Ryan Gibb

English Major

Ryan Gibb is a Pre-Med student pursuing an English degree. Prior to applying for the Stanford Internship, Ryan already had some research experience. During his junior year, he was part of the Best-In-Class Internship at IHC where he worked with Dr. Scott Allem MD, an anesthesiologist to research the effects of binaural beats on patients with pre-operative anxiety. At Stanford, Ryan was part of a research team examining the bacteria found in the gut microbiome of patients with colorectal cancer to help determine if patients would respond well to certain cancer immunotherapies. Upon returning from Stanford, Ryan plans to finish his English degree and apply to medical school.

Makae Rose

Biological Sciences Major

Makae Rose is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences. Before applying for the Stanford Research Internship, Makae had already worked on more than one research project with Professors Martina Gaspari and Jerry Harris, where she gained valuable experience in genetic research. At Stanford, Makae worked in Dr. James Ford’s oncology lab studying the effects of a drug called Iniparib on breast cancer.
Following graduation, Makae hopes to attend Stanford and seek a graduate degree in genetic engineering.

Jordan Dockstader

Bioinformatics & Math Major

Jordan Dockstader, first heard about the Stanford Research Internship during his sophomore year and was immediately interested. At Stanford, Jordan tested a new clustering algorithm using data from Stanford’s Human Genome Diversity Project to examine Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) from people from indigenous populations from around the world. A bioinformatics and math double major from St. George, he looks forward to Graduation in 2020 and plans to pursue a graduate degree in bioinformatics or physics.

Student Highlight: Solving the Mystery of the Canyon Tree Frog

Liz Bento

When biology major Liz Bento enrolled in Professor Curt Walker’s Independent Study 4000 level field research course, she became interested in the mystery of the canyon tree frog. Dr. Walker had discovered that the local population of these particular frogs seemed to be immune from a fungus that causes deformities in other populations of these frogs but not in the species located in Zion National Park. Together with Professor Walker and peer students, Liz examined pH levels in the Zion National Park Virgin River area to see what effect pH might have on the fungus, possibly making the local fungus less toxic to the canyon tree frog.

Liz was able to present the results of her research at the West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of San Diego in April, 2019. “Once I printed my poster and presented at WCBSUR,” Liz said, “I felt not only such a feeling of accomplishment, but also such a deep feeling of gratitude for those who have helped me through this research.” After graduating this fall, Liz plans to apply to graduate school and pursue a career in genetics research. For more information contact Curt Walker at walker@utahtech.edu.

Student Highlight: Pursuing his Interest in the Sports World through Math

Craig Peterson

From his knowledge of the sports world, applied mathematics major Craig Peterson knew that there was a lot to learn from sports statistics and a lot of interest in how statistics are used to recruit and predict the performance of draft picks. With the help and encouragement of math professor Dr. Vinodh Chellamuthu, Craig developed an improved method of forecasting a National Hockey League team’s performance and the performance of NHL individual players.

Craig was able to present the result of his research at several national and regional conferences including the International Hockey Conference in Alberta, Canada, the Joint Mathematics Meeting of the American Mathematics Society in Baltimore, Maryland, the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research at Ogden, Utah and the Spring Meeting of the Intermountain Section of the Mathematics Association of America in Cedar City, Utah. “I’d like to reach out to other Dixie State students who might not be interested in a degree in mathematics and tell them that they can bring their own questions and problem,” Craig said. “It’s really exciting to transfer classroom knowledge to research and to life.” After graduation, Craig hopes to attend Northwestern University and major in Sports Management Analytics. For more information, contact Vinodh Chellamuthu at Vinodh.Chellamuthu@utahtech.edu.

Exercise Physiology Student Pursues Research on America’s National Pastime

Kyle Lindsay

Baseball may not still be America’s most popular national pastime but for exercise physiology student Kyle Lindsley, it’s a rich area for research. For example, how the overhand pitching motion used in baseball transfers motion to the ball and the factors affecting ball velocity is an interesting question from an exercise physiology standpoint. Kyle was exited to do research on this topic and discovered that vectors separating shoulder alignment, hip alignment, and pitching direction all influence ball velocity. As a result of his research, he was able to suggest ways pitchers might train in light of this. “My professional colleagues all do research and I knew I needed to do it too. It’s part of my profession. Fortunately, I had great support from my professors and fellow team members,” Kyle observed. “If you’re scared of doing research, just try it,” Kyle suggests. “Don’t be afraid to get started early.” Kyle is currently studying for his Doctor of Physical Therapy at Northern Arizona University and plans to become a physical therapist or teach at a university. For more information contact exercise science professor Travis Ficklin at Travis.Ficklin@utahtech.edu.

Student Highlight: Advancing the Field of Abstract Algebra

Cailin Foster

When Mathematics Education major Cailin Foster found that she liked abstract algebra, she was excited by the possibility of contributing to the field. With the help of DSU math professor Jesse Hicks, Cailin conducted research that resulted in a database of representations of Lie (pronounced “lee”) algebras, a type of algebra used in modern quantum computing, nonlinear network problems, robotics, radar design spectroscopy and many other areas. Cailin presented the database she created at the Mathematical Association of America Intermountain Section Spring Meeting in April 2019.

The database allows researchers to more easily access representation of Lie algebras and use them in their work. “One of the most rewarding things about doing original research,” Cailin says, “is being the expert on that particular subject.” Cailin feels that she benefited greatly from doing research. “I know now that I am capable of coming up with solutions to problems that don’t currently have an answer.” After graduation, Cailin plans to move to Colorado and teach math and establish a STEM program there. For more information contact professor Jesse Hicks at Jesse.Hicks@utahtech.edu.

Faculty Highlight: Improving Freshmen Retention by Connecting Students to Mentors

Dr. Shandon Gubler

Business professor Shandon Gubler has a passion for integrating “Active Learning. Active Life.” into the classroom. One of the ways he does this is by linking individual students with real-world practitioners and monitoring what happens. For the past eight years, Dr. Gubler has collected data on 8,318 interactions between students and employers. “Research studies verify that relevant job-related experiences increase student retention, timely degree completion, and help students identify their interests; which leads to placement into purposeful work,” Gubler says. Through his research, Gubler hopes to show that providing such interactions has positive effects both on student retention in college and also on hiring and turnover costs of new employees.

Gubler started teaching at DSU eight years ago. From the beginning, he wanted to find a way to connect students with potential employers. Aware that many students start college but do not finish their degree, Gubler felt strongly that such connections would motivate them to stay in school, obtain their degree and go on to a successful job. Students in his strategic management courses became his research subjects. The course pairs students with a mentor and students teach the mentor what they are learning in the course, with the mentors reciprocally teaching the students how textbook theory is applied in the real world. Gubler’s model is being applied in the Trailblazer course and in a BUS 1050 course this fall to see if it can have the same positive effect on freshman in a variety of majors. For more information, contact gubler@utahtech.edu.

Program Highlight: Announcing DSU’s new Undergraduate Research Journal

Olga Pilkington

The DSU Symposium for Research, Innovation and Creativity, held last April, highlighted the large number of DSU students engaged in research and innovation. Starting next year, DSU students will have an opportunity to highlight their research and innovative practices in a scholarly journal published collaboratively by the English Department and the Undergraduate Research Office. The journal, to be titled Curiosity: Journal of Research and Innovation will be produced and edited by students and overseen by English Professor Olga Pilkington. The first issue will come out in May 2020 in digital form. “This is a great opportunity for students who presented at the Dixie Research Symposium to get a publication under their belt,” says Pilkington. “Having a journal like this enhances the status of the university and furthers the culture of research, promotes opportunities for active learning, and shows the community what is coming out of the university. This is a small step to establish the university as a place of serious research,” she adds. Submission guidelines have already gone out and are posted on the Undergraduate Research Offices website: https://academics.utahtech.edu/trailblazer-journal-of-research-and-innovation/.

Students from all disciplines are invited to submit.  Faculty can also submit papers and it is hoped that each issue will contain at least one faculty paper, although these may be a research status article or a republication.  “Our goal is to establish a track record and then to be included in online indexing services such as ERIC and LexisNexis so that our research will be available to scholars worldwide,” commented Pilkington.  For more information, contact Olga Pilkington at opilkington@utahtech.edu.

Faculty Highlight: On the Cutting Edge of Energy Harvesting

Dr. Russell Reid

Russell Reid is one of Dixie State University’s newest faculty members and he comes to DSU with a strong background and interest in research.  Professor Reid received his M.E. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah.  As a researcher, Dr. Reid has published numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and has also presented papers at professional conferences around the U.S. and internationally.  In his previous position as Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of North Texas, Professor Reid received a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore the potential of liquid-based kinetic energy harvesting for biomedical applications.  Devices based on this concept would use human body motion as a means to produce low amounts of energy.  These devices could potentially send data about the patient back to a monitoring physician.

At DSU, Professor Reid will continue to work on his grant and will be able to involve DSU students in his research.  One of the reasons Dr. Reid chose to move to DSU is because of its strong emphasis on undergraduate teaching.  “Students here have opportunities that they don’t get in many other places,” he notes and adds, “I’m looking forward to working with the wonderful students here both as a teacher and as a researcher.”

Faculty Highlight: Investigating the Most Important Lizard in America

Geoff Smith

DSU biology professor Geoff Smith was a graduate student at Utah State University when he first started doing field work in St. George.  As a result of his visits here, he fell in love with the desert and with the side-blotched lizard.  “I told myself I would find a way to live down here, and here I am,” he says about his move to DSU.

For the past several years, Smith’s interest has been on the Side-Blotched Lizard, common around St. George.  “Because these particular lizards inhabit an area extending from central Washington State to southern Baja California they are one of the most important lizards in America,” he observes.   Although the same species, lizards living in the north have longer life spans than those living in the southern part of the US and Mexico. Professor Smith has been on a quest to find out why and he has been able to involve many of his students in his research, taking them on field activities, catching lizards, taking blood samples, and doing lab work.  To date, he has published several articles on the issue in scientific journals including his most recent 2019 article “Life-History Differences across Latitude in Common Side-Blotched Lizards” published in Ecology and Evolution.  “Part of science is understanding the scientific process and students can’t really know science without participating in the research process,” observes Smith.  Dr. Smith loves seeing his students get excited about a project.  That’s how I know they are really becoming scientists,” he says.

Faculty Highlight: Exploring the History of Mormon Feminism

Dr. Nancy Ross

Dr. Nancy Ross received her Ph.D. from Cambridge University and is currently Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Department where she teaches courses on interdisciplinary writing, feminism and whiteness.  Dr. Ross recently published a book, Where We Must Stand: Ten Years of Feminist Mormon Housewives https://www.amazon.com/Where-We-Must-Stand-Housewives/dp/1717433529.

For the past six years, Ross has studied the history and sociology of the Mormon feminist movement and has published several academic papers on the subject.  The book showcases the variety that exists in Mormon womenhood.  In the introduction to the book, Ross and co-editor Sara Hanks say that they hope that people from a variety of backgrounds will be drawn to the book and find useful things in it.  Research for the book was conducted over the course of two years during 2016 and 2017.

The book, which is a collection of and commentary on blog posts on the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog from August 2004 to August 2014, gives what is hopefully an accurate portrayal of the Mormon feminist community during those years.  Included are more than 130 blog posts, historical introductions, reflective essays from bloggers and readers and extensive notes.  For more information contact Nancy Ross at nross@utahtech.edu.

Program Highlight: Annual Research Symposium Showcases Undergraduate Research on Campus

Regional Symposium

Dixie State University’s Third Regional Symposium for Research, Innovation and Creativity was even bigger and better than last year. Held on April 18, 2019 at the Atwood Innovation Plaza, DSU students from a wide variety of disciplines presented their research through panels, oral presentations, and poster displays.

“This is original research that actually contributes to expanding current knowledge about a topic or problem,” said DSU’s director of undergraduate research Rico Del Sesto. “In many cases, these students are the experts on the problem they researched and much of their research has direct real-world application.” Jake Skinner’s research, for example, on a math model to analyze the effect of fire damage, shows how fire spreads based on various factors and which areas are more at risk for fire damage. The model is useful to government and insurance companies. Aron Terracciano’s research showed how the food, beverage and textile industries could remove, recover and recycle much of the dyes used in these industries by extracting them with new ionic liquid technologies to reduce the negative impact of discharging these into the environment.

Other presentations dealt with a recent discovery of dinosaur tracks and fossils, the process involved in composing a tympani concerto, and drugs that can help treat Alzheimer’s disease. “The research crosses all sort of disciplines and shows the breadth and depth of research going on at DSU,” Del Sesto said. For information on next year’s symposium, contact Rico Del Sesto at delsesto@utahtech.edu or go to research.utahtech.edu.


Research office

Email: research@utahtech.edu

Phone: 435-879-4488

Office: HCC 488