Northwestern faculty awarded grants for summer scholarship

Eleven Northwestern College professors will conduct research and pursue further study this summer with funding from the Northwestern College Scholarship Grants program. The awards, ranging from $1,600 to $5,300, are designed to encourage the production of scholarly work for publication and distribution beyond Northwestern’s campus.

Four faculty will collaborate with students on their research projects.

Business and economics professor Dr. Fan Fei is embarking on an exploratory research project to determine whether there are location-specific factors that impact cancer incidence and mortality. From 2015 to 2019, Iowa ranked seventh in cancer incidence rates among people aged 50 and below. Fei will investigate whether Sioux County and similar nearby counties exhibit unusual patterns of cancer. Isaiah Gritters, a senior biology–health professions major from Pella, Iowa, will serve as Fei’s student research assistant.

Dr. Rajat Emanuel Singh, kinesiology, will research the correlation between human metabolic rate and muscle activity at various speeds. Singh will focus on the frequency of the EMG signal to discover how human locomotion can be optimized for rehabilitation purposes in order to help individuals suffering from gait-related disorders. Grace Van Namen, a senior exercise science major from Grandville, Michigan, will serve as Singh’s student research assistant.

Two students—Princess Bola-Lawal, a junior medical laboratory science major from Gambia, and Kleyton DeGroot, a senior biology–ecological science major from Orange City, will conduct research with Dr. Todd Tracy, professor of biology. Together they will study the structure of ant communities in relict and restored prairies in northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota. Along with collecting information on ants, they will also perform vegetative surveys and collect soil samples.

Dr. Kali Jo Wacker of the English department will work on creating an active-learning textbook on multimodal composition—one that draws on linguistic, visual, auditory, gestural, spatial and material modes of communication. The text will be a model for teaching practices and activity-based writing. Jessica McCubbin, a senior art therapy major from Broomfield, Colorado, will provide illustrations for Wacker’s book.

Another seven Northwestern professors round out the list of award winners.

Dr. Heather Hayes, a Northwestern education professor with expertise in special education, will continue an analysis of international peer-reviewed research into literacy instruction for students with extensive support needs. She is conducting these studies as part of a team of special education professors and teachers from throughout the U.S.

Another continuing research project is that of Dr. Cambria Kaltwasser, an associate professor of biblical and theological studies. Kaltwasser is working on a book about the Christian life as friendship with God in the theology of Karl Barth.

Music professor Dr. Juyeon Kang, meanwhile, will prepare for a piano-voice duo recital titled “The Beauty of Colors.” A pianist originally from South Korea, she will accompany Melody Wilson, a Black American opera singer from Vienna, Austria. Their performance is scheduled for Oct. 19 in conjunction with the Orange City Arts Council.

Piet Koene, professor of Spanish, translation and interpreting, will compile both quantitative and qualitative data to better understand how Northwestern can attract, retain and contribute to the success of Hispanic students. He plans to present his findings in a user-friendly format that can be made available more widely to contribute to this quickly growing body of research.

Dr. Jason Lief, biblical and theological studies, plans to begin work on a book about St. Francis of Assisi. Lief has led a number of Northwestern summer study abroad trips that trace the saint’s journey from Assisi to Rome. His book will explore how Francis can be a model for American Christianity, which is experiencing the increasing polarization of communities around political and cultural issues. Francis, Lief believes, is an example of someone who remained part of his cultural world yet refused to be defined by its ideological labels, living a life conformed to the image of the crucified and risen Christ.

In the sciences, Dr. Cody Rozeveld and Dr. Sara Sybesma Tolsma, both biology professors, will use their grants to conduct lab research. Rozeveld plans to grow and preserve several pancreatic cancer cell lines in order to study how plasmids impact the breakdown of lipid droplets, which store fat in cells. In some cancers, like breast and pancreatic, lipid droplets are broken down to help fuel the uncontrolled growth and spread of cancer cells, so understanding that process could lead to promising new therapeutic treatments.

Tolsma is continuing her work analyzing the genomes of bacteriophages discovered by Northwestern students through the college’s partnership with the international SEA-PHAGES research program. She will also finalize the data set her SEA-GENES students created as they performed a genetic screen on bacteriophage Island3 and will write a paper reporting those results for publication. Her Northwestern Scholarship Grant will cover the publication costs of these research reports.