Take your passion beyond the classroom

Offered by the College of Arts, Sciences, and Education (CASE), the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) is an opportunity for first year and transfer students to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor on a specific research project.

FYRE students can ask questions, check data, and create knowledge. This program helps students improve critical thinking, communication, presentation, and leadership skills, while fully engaging in their education.

Interested in applying? Check back soon!

Selecting a Project

You do not have to major in the discipline that matches the FYRE project. In fact, many extraordinarily successful partnerships have resulted from FYRE students and mentors from different disciplines. Students may apply for up to three projects. See below for a full list of available projects.

The FYRE program emphasizes one-on-one mentorship, so only one FYRE student will be selected to work on each project.

About the program

The goal of FYRE is that motivated students will learn to execute solid research methods.

Faculty mentors and students work together throughout the spring semester for an apprentice-style research partnership.

Additional research opportunities

It's not expected that a comprehensive research project will be completed in a single semester. FYRE students are encouraged to continue more advanced research, including S&T’s Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Experiences (OURE) projects. Mentors and students may also choose to continue their working relationship beyond the term of the program.

FYRE Project Options

Arts, Languages, & Philosophy

Faculty Name: Dr. David Samson
Department: Arts, Languages, & Philosophy
Title of Research Project: Gender and the Weekly Billboard Hot 100 Chart

Description of Research Project:
At the time that this description was written, the latest Billboard Hot 100 music chart (dated September 24, 2022) listed in its top 40 songs by 28 male artists/groups, 8 female artists/groups, and four songs with a mix of male and female artists. Ten years ago, the songs in the top 40 (dated September 22, 2012) contained 20 male artists, 14 female-only acts, and six songs that featured both male and female performers. Is there a bias towards male artists in the Billboard charts? Does the data suggest any trends over time? Previous studies have looked at this in terms of the year end Billboard Hot 100, but no one has examined the charts on a week-by-week basis. In this project, we will be taking a look at every weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart from its inception on October 2, 1958, until the end of 2022 to see the gender makeup of the artists that appear in the Top 40. Or goal is to analyze the data, compare it to previous studies, and see if there are any observable patterns that form.

Brief description of FYRE student's responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student will be gathering information from the Billboard Hot 100 (available online) for each week beginning with the magazine’s first chart on August 4, 1958, through the final list of 2022 which will be published on December 31, 2022. They will compile a database of the top 40 songs from each week, which will include vital information including the gender of the artist(s) if known. The student will then assist in synthesizing the database into reportable findings. Before the beginning of the spring semester, the student will meet with to discuss the project and be given articles to read that report the findings of previous studies in this area. At the start of the spring semester, we’ll discuss what data should be collected, how we’ll be able to access it, and devise a way to organize it. We will meet weekly to discuss our progress. By mid-March, the database should be completed and the student and I will move on to analyzing the data. A report on our findings will be completed by the end of April in time for the FYRE Research Showcase.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The FYRE student will learn how to access historical data and organize it in a way that is easily searchable. The student will also learn how to synthesize the raw data into results that can be reported to the public.

Biological Sciences

Faculty Name: Dr. Andrea Scharf
Department: Biological Sciences
Title of Research Project: How can a worm live longer in a population?

Description of Research Project:
Aging can easily be observed in captive animals that are sheltered from extrinsic stresses such as starvation. The age-related changes described in these animals are very similar to age-related changes in humans such as the decline of mobility. However, it is much harder to find old animals in the wild. In contrast to the favorable conditions in captivity, wild environments fluctuate, and many animals die young due to starvation or other extrinsic stressors. One example are Caenorhabditis elegans - tiny worms that live on rotten plant material. Adult C. elegans sacrifice themselves for their progeny during starvation and, as a result, worms die young. In this project, we will explore the relationship between aging, lifespan, and reproduction of C. elegans in laboratory and simulated populations. In more detail, we will compare the populations of wild type worms to mutants that (1) lay their eggs faster and therefore have a higher chance to survive to old age or (2) lay their eggs slower and therefore have a lower chance to survive to old age. It will be important to analyze how the egg-laying behavior influences the overall reproductive success, progeny survival, and whether adult worms will die of old age.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student will be part of a larger population dynamic experiment in the laboratory. The responsibility of the FYRE student will be handling and feeding worm populations, tracking the changes in the populations, analyzing and visualizing the respective data. In addition, the FYRE student is expected to run computational simulation with the wormPOP software to predict the effects of embryo age during egg-laying on parental lifespan and population stability.

Expected outcomes for this project are two laboratory population experiments with respective triplicates and complementary computational simulations. The prediction is that faster egg-laying with younger birth age will increase the chance of individuals to reach old age in the populations with the consequence of a decrease in overall population stability.

Rough timeline:

  1. month: learning phase with introductions in worm handling, the computer simulation wormPOP, and data analysis.
  2. month: starting the laboratory worm populations, collecting data, running and analyzing computational simulations.
  3. month: running the laboratory populations, collecting laboratory data, analyzing laboratory and computational data, learning and conducting data visualization.
  4. month: Finishing the laboratory population experiment including data collection, analyzing and visualizing laboratory and computational data, learning “story telling” tools and using them to prepare a report/talk.


What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The FYRE student will learn

  • to plan and execute laboratory and simulation experiments
  • to handle and work with the genetic model organism elegans
  • to analyze aging phenotypes in populations
  • to run computational simulations
  • to analyze data including statistics
  • to visualize data
  • to report and communicate results using “story telling” techniques

Faculty Name: Dr. Katie Shannon
Department: Biological Sciences
Title of Research Project: Regulation of a protein kinase that functions in cytokinesis

Description of Research Project:
Cytokinesis is the physical process of cell division, which divides the cytoplasm between two cells. To study cytokinetic defects, budding yeast is used a model organism. One important pathway that regulates cytokinesis is called the Mitotic Exit Network or MEN for short. The MEN is a signaling pathway that allows a dividing cell to complete cytokinesis and exit mitosis. Of interest is the regulation of Dbf2, a MEN protein kinase, by phosphorylation. Mutant alleles of the dbf2 gene that prevent phosphorylation or dephosphorylation have been created. In this research project, the student will introduce the mutant dbf2 alleles into yeast cells. The student will observe the cells during mitosis through use of fluorescence microscopy to determine the effects of the mutations on cytokinesis. The student will also examine the effects of the Dbf2 mutations on the interaction of the kinase with other proteins. This research has implications for human health, because Dbf2 is a member of the Ndr kinase family, and human homologs of Dbf2 have been implicated in cancer.

Brief description of FYRE student's responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student is expected to spend 6-9 hours per week in the lab. Dr. Shannon will provide training in experimental techniques, no previous experience is necessary. Student’s responsibilities include tasks such as making media and solutions required for experiments. The student will be expected to read background papers, attend lab meetings, and present at the Undergraduate Research Conference in addition to performing experiments. Expected outcomes include generation of new yeast strains and analysis of cytokinesis phenotypes in the first two months of the project. Microscopy will begin mid semester, and immunoprecipitation experiments to examine protein-protein interactions will be undertaken if time allows.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The FYRE student will learn molecular biology techniques such as plasmid purification, yeast transformation, and PCR. Student will gain microscopy experience, which may include examination of both fixed and live cells, and may involve training on the new confocal microscope located in Schrenk Hall. Student will be mentored and will have an authentic basic science research experience.


Faculty Name: Dr. David Westenberg
Department: Biological Sciences
Title of Research Project: Eavesdropping on the Microbial World

Description of Research Project:
Many bacteria communicate with each other through the use of chemical signals. These chemical signals generally indicate cell density and are referred to as “quorum sensing”. In other words, bacteria do not turn on certain genes until they have achieved a high enough cell density to produce a meaningful outcome – i.e. until they have achieved a “quorum.” This project will investigate the quorum sensing signal molecules used by bacteria that form a symbiotic relationship with soybeans. We hypothesize that these signal molecules play an important role in the formation of the symbiosis. Students will use special “indicator” bacteria to “listen” to the chemical signals produced by the bacteria.

Brief description of FYRE student's responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student working on this project will learn to extract quorum sensing molecules from the symbiotic bacterium – Bradyrhizobium japonicum. They will analyze their structure using thin-layer chromatography by comparing them to known quorum sensing molecules. They will also measure the production of quorum sensing molecules over time, relative to cell density. The first two weeks students will prepare media and bacterial cultures. Weeks 3 and 4, students will learn to do thin-layer chromatography using chemical standards. Weeks 5 and 6 they will extract quorum sensing molecules and compare them to the chemical standards. Weeks 7 and 8 they will extract quorum sensing molecules at different times during the growth of the bacteria and analyze the quantity of molecules produced over time. Weeks 9 and 10 students will prepare a poster to present their results at the FYRE symposium while also continuing investigating the signal molecules.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
FYRE students will learn how to read the current literature and design experiments to test hypothesis. They will learn standard microbiology techniques such as preparing bacterial culture media, grow bacteria, do chemical extractions, run thin-layer chromatography, and quantify quorum sensing molecules.






Faculty Name: Dr. Amitava Choudhury
Department: Chemistry
Title of Research Project: Developing electrode materials for Li- and Na-ion Batteries 

Description of Research Project:
In this project we aim to synthesize new materials or modify well-known electrode materials for enhanced efficiency for lithium and sodium ion batteries. Several synthesis routes including hydrothermal and high temperature ceramic methods are employed to synthesize new materials. The materials are then characterized by employing X-ray diffraction techniques. Lithium or sodium ion cells are then fabricated with the synthesized materials and then tested for their performances. The goal of this project is to understand what structural features of the materials make it a good lithium or sodium ion battery electrode and how we can improve the performance by modifying the chemistry/structure of the materials.  

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student will be trained by a graduate student of Dr. Choudhury on how to carry out a synthesis of material. After that the student will be given a problem where he/she would try to synthesize a target compound by employing different synthesis routes. As the student makes progress in the project, the different characterization techniques will be introduced slowly as and when it is needed. The students can come at any time in the laboratory as permitted by their course work schedule. In one semester nothing much can be expected but the students can at least learn how scientific research is carried out in a laboratory and with some luck they may get some interesting results. If the students are interested in continuing the research beyond the FYRE period, they have the option to apply for OURE fellowship.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project? 

  • The students learn different materials synthesis techniques
  • They get training on how to handle and interpret X-ray diffraction data
  • They learn how to fabricate a lithium- or sodium ion cells/batteries
  • They learn electrochemistry and how lithium/sodium ion batteries work
  • They learn about solid state/materials chemistry being involved in this research
  • They develop skills to analyze and present scientific data


Faculty Name: Dr. Garry Grubbs II

Department: Chemistry

Title of Research Project: Determining the Molecular Structure of Heavy Metal and Actinide-Containing Diatomics from Laser Ablation-Equipped CP-FTMW Spectroscopy

Description of Research Project:

Much of what we understand about chemistry revolves around the idea that valence electrons - electrons existing in the outer orbitals - are the primary drivers of chemical bonding. While this is a very important concept and premise, bonding schemes at the bottom of the periodic table, particularly actinide elements, do not necessarily follow traditional periodic trends. This is due to a variety of reasons, but the one common thread is that the differences in electronic structure are due to f-electrons, which are not part of the valence. These types of molecules, however, are also typically the primary source of nuclear fuels. These two aspects of these molecules provide a huge need to understand and reliably predict their chemistry. This project, funded by the Department of Energy, therefore, will investigate f-electron contribution to bonding by observing and analyzing, for the first time, the rotational spectra of multiple diatomic salts in the gas phase. Our targets will include tungsten sulfide (WS) and will then move to uranium chloride (UCl) if time allows.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:

The student will be responsible for participating in the setup and utilization of the laser ablation setup on a chirped pulse, Fourier Transform microwave (CP-FTMW) experiment. They will take an active role in the collection and analysis of the data along with presenting updates to the group with their undergraduate, graduate and postdoc peers during group meetings. Finally, they will be asked to write up their results and present their findings as part of the FYRE program. There will also be opportunity to go to conference to present findings in the summer of 2023 if they so wish.

Timeline: February – Learn and utilize the CP-FTMW instrument with laser ablation source; start with collection of potential WS spectra

March – First Two Weeks- finish WS collection of spectra; Begin UCl target (if time)

March - Final 2.5 weeks – Analyze spectra

April – Analyze and Write up results 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

To achieve our desired result, we will utilize laser ablation-equipped, CP-FTMW spectroscopy, where we will hit a target metal with a high-power laser, entrain the gas in a mixture of carrier and a reactive component gas undergoing supersonic expansion, and shine microwave light on the resultant system which will be subsequently analyzed. Students will enhance or acquire skills in the principles of chemical bonding, pattern recognition, electrical engineering, programming, and scientific communication (writing and presentations).





Faculty Name: Dr. Manashi Nath
Department: Chemistry
Title of Research Project: Designing Non-enzymatic Multifunctional Biosensors

Description of Research Project:
Dopamine and glucose are two biomolecules that have gained attention in biomedical field especially with respect to pre-diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorder and diabetes, respectively. Dopamine is a neurochemical that has recently surfaced as an appropriate biomarker for neurodegenerative disorders including PTSD, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia, where fluctuating and/or extremely low levels of dopamine are indicative of rapid progression of the disorder in an otherwise asymptomatic individual. Diabetes has long been recognized as one of the leading causes of death in the United States and worldwide second only to cancer and heart-related ailments. Diabetes is a silent killer and early stage diagnosis and controlling blood glucose level is the key to maintain and control the disease. In this project we are investigating detection of dopamine and blood glucose levels in physiological fluids through direct electrochemical oxidation using nanostructured electrocatalysts comprising transition metal chalcogenides (selenides and tellurides) which can offer direct electron transfer pathways over a wide potential range leading to much higher sensor efficiency. Nanostructuring of the electrocatalysts on the other hand, can increase catalytic efficiency manifold by increasing the functional surface area for catalytic activity. We propose to develop this idea further and investigate transition metal selenide nanotube and nanorod arrays for electrochemical glucose or dopamine sensing.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
While working in this project, undergraduate researchers will be involved in designing catalyst composition through combinatorial electrodeposition, as well as designing patterns for E-beam lithography. The combinatorial electrodeposition has been designed specifically with undergraduate researchers in mind, and involves preparation of the electrolytic bath by systematic variation of the relative precursor concentration followed by electrodeposition. Electrodeposition is a simple synthesis method to grow films and the student will be required to follow a general protocol for electrodeposition. This method produces a library of product composition and the FYRE student will be expected to build this library by choosing different transition elements from the periodic table. The student is also expected to study the catalytic activity of these electrodeposited films through detailed electrochemical measurements, and confirm their composition and morphology through bulk characterization techniques such as SEM, TEM, and powder X-ray diffraction. Once the catalyst has been deposited and characterized, the students will carry out the glucose detection tests from various samples including chemical solution with added glucose, varieties of beverages including fruit juice, soda etc., and blood samples that will be acquired from PCRMC. Other job responsibilities include designing pattern files for E-beam lithography using a lithography-based software installed in MRC.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

  • Proficiency in nanostructure synthesis.
  • Learn sensor calibration, estimating sensitivity, limit of detection and other sensor performance metrics from electrochemical characterization data.
  • Learn about the basics of electrochemistry including electrodeposition, electrochemical measurement and experiments, and how to interpret electrochemical data, starting from basic such as current-voltage profile, to advanced concepts like capacitance, Faradaic efficiency, and electrochemically active surface area.
  • Learn about material characterization through electron microscopy including SEM and TEM, as well as compositional analysis from other techniques such as powder X-ray diffraction, EDS, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The student will learn the basics of data interpretation for each of these techniques.
  • Since, this project is part of a bigger NSF-funded project, the student will also acquire skills related to collaborative teamwork.
  • Acquire skills related to oral scientific presentation of the research work.

Faculty Name: Dr. Chariklia Sotiriou-Leventis
Department: Chemistry
Title of Research Project: Correlation of nanomorphology with drug uptake and release profiles using polyurea aerogels as the model system

Description of Research Project:
Aerogels are light porous materials with high surface areas, which can be used in different applications such as thermal and acoustic insulation, as catalysts supports, for CO2 capture and drug delivery to name a few. In this project, drug uptake and release kinetics of eight polyurea biocompatible aerogels with different nano-morphologies will be investigated in order to probe the possibility of enhancing morphology-adaptive controlled drug release. Polyurea aerogels with the same chemical composition will be prepared with several different nano-morphologies, including caterpillar-like and short worm-like assemblies of nanoparticles, entangled thin nanofibers, cocoon like objects, microspheres with hair, and bald microspheres, by just changing the monomer concentration and the solvent. 5-Fluorouracil and paracetamol will be used as drugs. This study will reveal whether there is a correlation between nanomorphology, materials properties, drug uptake capacity and release. This study can potentially lead in the development of drug carriers for achieving the needed therapeutic efficacy.

Brief description of FYRE student's responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The student will work closely with a graduate student in the synthesis of carbon aerogels (~ 1.5 mo) and materials characterization (~ 1.5 mo). During this process, the student will be involved in communicating his/her results via scientific writing and presentation in group meetings led by the PI.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
Wet chemistry synthetic skills, Characterization of materials using different techniques: NMR, FTIR, SEM, TGA, UV-Vis, Scientific writing, Power point presentation

Faculty Name: Dr. Risheng Wang
Department: Chemistry
Title of Research Project: Exploring DNA origami properties for Biomedical applications

Description of Research Project:
As a natural hereditary carrier, DNA shows favorable biocompatibility and super programmable capability, therefore the nanostructures fabricated from DNA perform less cytotoxicity in biological systems. Among these, the significant DNA nanostructure is DNA origami, a long virus DNA scaffold folded into arbitrary two- and three-dimensional shapes at the nanoscale by hundreds of staple strands, which showed great potential as a delicate component in multi-functional nanoplatforms that are performing in biosensing, bioimaging, and therapeutic applications. In our lab, we have demonstrated the chemotherapy drugs’ delivery with different shapes of DNA origami structures. However, the stability of those DNA nanostructures and their half-life in circulation system is not clear, as well as the interaction of DNA origami with other biomolecules. The objective of this study is to investigate the stability of DNA origami nanostructures at various buffer conditions by using AFM and gel electrophoresis, which will provide insight for the design of DNA origami for different purposes of applications.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The student will first review the relevant references to know the current state of DNA origami development by focusing on biomedical fields. (2-3 weeks). Familiar the basic instrument operation and working principle in biochemistry lab, such as UV-vis, centrifuge, thermal cycler, bio-sample preparation et al. (2 weeks). Preparing DNA origami samples, learning the sample purification process, and gel electrophoresis. (2 weeks). Learning the AFM technique and characterizing the origami structures. (3-4 weeks). Performing the stability study of DNA origami with specific buffers and biomolecules via UV-vis, gel electrophoresis, and AFM (4-6 weeks).

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The student will learn the literature searching with defined areas. Familiar the general biochemistry or biology lab operational process and usage of basic instrument. Know how to handle biomolecular samples, especially the purification and characterization of nucleic acids. Learn the gel electrophoresis technique and use it to identify DNA structures. Learn Atomic Force Microscopy and characterize different shapes of DNA origami and related nanomaterials. After the study of this project, the student is ready to perform higher level of research in bio-related fields.

Faculty Name: Dr. Jeffrey Winiarz
Department: Chemistry
Title of Research Project: Synthesis and characterization of semiconductor nanocrystals for use as photosensitizers in polymeric composites

Description of Research Project:
In this project students will become familiar with wet-chemistry techniques used in the synthesis of semiconductor nanocrystals and the subsequent ligand exchange process necessary to enhance the charge-transfer process between the nanocrystal and the photoconductive polymer matrix in which the nanocrystals are suspended. Semiconductor nanocrystals such as CdS, CdSe, PbS, etc. will be synthesized using techniques that afford control over nanocrystal morphology and surface characteristics. Although these characteristics can be controlled, the resulting nanocrystals are passivated with organic molecules during the synthetic process. Most common among these capping molecules is trioctylphosphine (TOP). Unfortunately, due to their aliphatic nature, these passivating molecules also tend to act as an insulator to the charge-transfer process and thus drastically reduce the efficiency of the photosensitizer. In order to increase the efficiency, the nanocrystals need to passivated with a molecule which is more conducive to the charge-transfer process. In this project the student will attempt to exchange these insulative passivating molecules which are already well known for its charge-transporting properties, such as N,N′-Bis(3-methylphenyl)-N,N′-diphenylbenzidine (TPD). The efficacy of this approach will be gauged using standard photoconductivity characterizations.


Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The student involved with this project will be expected to become familiar with the current literature involving semiconductor nanocrystal synthesis as well as the literature pertaining to photoconductive polymeric composites. The student will be expected to become proficient in the techniques used in the synthesis of semiconductor nanocrystals and their characterization including uv-vis spectroscopy, x-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy. It is anticipated that these techniques will be mastered in Jan-Feb. Upon successful synthesis of nanocrystals, the student will spend Mar-Apr performing the ligand exchange and any additional characterizations which may be required. It is anticipated that preliminary data may be obtained in May which will provide an indication as the efficacy of this approach.


What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
Students engaged in this project will have the opportunity to learn the techniques needed to synthesize, manipulate, purify, and characterize inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals. This will include significant experience with Schlenk-line chemistry. In the course of this project students will 1) become familiar with the use of binary solvent systems and centrifugation commonly employed in the purification of these materials, 2) learn to perform optical spectroscopy and to interpret the results, 3) learn how to perform surface chemistry on the synthesized nanocrystals, 4) become familiar with the intricacies of hybrid organic/inorganic systems, and 5) become familiar with techniques associated with solvent-casting thin films.

Faculty Name:  Dr. Klaus Woelk
Department:  Chemistry
Title of Research Project:  Materials properties evaluated by magnetic resonance relaxation

 Description of Research Project:
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a most well-known analytical technique that uses the excitation of nuclear spins for solving chemical structures and conformations. Relaxometry is an emerging field of NMR spectroscopy where information is gained about interactions of nuclear spins with their surroundings. In relaxometry investigations, the time it takes for excited spins to return to equilibrium (i.e., relaxation time) is observed providing insight into viscosity, local mobility, or other properties based on molecular motion and intermolecular forces. In this project, an NMR relaxation technique will be implemented on a high-resolution NMR spectrometer and tested for its reliability, reproducibility, and robustness. With this newly implemented relaxation technique, NMR experiments will be conducted to test new, aged, and rejuvenated asphalt samples. The investigation of asphalt samples is part of a graduate student research project. Deterioration of asphalt is a major infrastructure problem and its rejuvenation an important field of research and development. The use of oil derived from the pyrolysis of car tires promises to be a rejuvenator material that not only improves the quality of asphalt but also helps providing an end-of-life solution for used car tires. 

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The student will be responsible to implement, test, and modify (as needed) an NMR relaxometry sequence on a high-resolution NMR spectrometer in Dr. Woelk’s research lab. The student is expected to prepare standard NMR samples and collect data that can be analyzed with an existing mathematical routine for extracting one or more relaxation times. The student will learn the basics of NMR spectroscopy and relaxometry, and is expected to independently run an NMR spectrometer after only a short period of training. The student will collaborate with a graduate student to select and test different asphalt and pyrolysis oil samples. The student is expected to participate in weekly research group meetings, keep a good record of the experimentation procedure and results, communicate frequently with the graduate student, and prepare presentations to the research group and a broader audience, such as the audience at an undergraduate or regional research conference.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The student is not expected to have prior knowledge of NMR spectroscopy or NMR relaxometry. During the FYRE project, the student will enhance their general laboratory practice as well as lab hygiene and safety. The student will become familiar with operating complex chemical instrumental, learn to modify essential parameters of NMR spectroscopy, and design basic pulse programs for conducting NMR relaxation experiments. The student will also learn to present scientific results to a scientifically interested, critical, and inquisitive audience.

English and Technical Communication

Faculty Name: Dr. Ryan Cheek
Department: English & Technical Communication
Title of Research Project: "Dark patterns" of politics: constituent engineering through the deceptive design of e-newsletters

Description of Research Project:
Drawing on a corpus of e-newsletters sent by members of Congress to their constituencies (Cormack, 2017), this project examines the role that deceptive design plays in constituent communications. Although constituent newsletters often contain many persuasive themes such as position taking and credit claiming (Yiannakis, 1982), advancements in political technology (Kreiss, 2017) and big data informed neuromarketing techniques (Hegazy, 2019) have enabled even more insidious uses of persuasion in e-newsletters sent to constituents. The use of “dark patterns” in political communication is of particular concern to policymakers (Jellins, 2022) after the Trump campaign and WinRed triggered multiple state attorneys general investigations for deploying manipulative design elements such as pre-checked recurring donation boxes (Goldmacher, 2022). “Dark patterns” (Brignull, 2011) are elements of communication design that leverage behavioral and psychological insights to deceive users into taking actions against their interests (Gray et al., 2018). A sample of the corpus will be coded using twelve known categories of “dark patterns” (e.g. misdirection, privacy zuckering, confirmshaming, disguising ads, asking trick questions, etc.) with the aim of investigating differences in the types and uses of dark patterns in constituent communications along partisan affiliation, gender identity, and geographic location of a district.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2022, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student for this project will have several responsibilities. First, the student will be responsible for learning about political communication technology and the user experience design phenomena of “dark patterns.” Second, the student will work with the faculty mentor to determine sample parameters including size, balance, and selection criteria. Third, the student will help write a code book starting with twelve recognized deceptive design practices. Fourth, the student will use qualitative analysis software to code the sample of e-newsletters. Fifth, the student will identify insights from their content analysis of “dark patterns” as well as aberrant artifacts in the sample that may indicate new types of deceptive design practices. Sixth, the student will design and present a poster displaying their early findings of “dark patterns” in constituent communications. Each step will take 2-3 weeks of semester time to complete.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
As a result of working on this project, the FYRE student will *acquire knowledge of political communication theory. *acquire knowledge of user experience design concepts. *learn how to create a code-book. *learn how to use qualitative analysis software. apply a methodological approach to the analysis of research artifacts. articulate research insights developed from qualitative data analysis.

Faculty Name: Dr. Kathryn Dolan
Department: English & Technical Communication
Title of Research Project: Imagining Tomorrow’s Bread: Climate Fiction and Hope in Images

Description of Research Project:
I am looking for a FYRE student to find 20 speculative fiction-based images related agriculture and food that will be included in my upcoming book project. These can be historical and modern images. They will include films, games, photographs, charts, maps, and other images around the world. The student will learn about rights and permissions regarding images, the issue of copyright in the United States and in other countries, and how to do appropriate research using available online resources. The student will develop critical thinking skills—especially as regards the use of images online—a skill that will be transferrable to future research in other fields more broadly. The student will help create a database of images that will be published in a printed book, resulting in a credit in the acknowledgments page of that book. Students do not have to be in a literary or historical department to qualify—food and stories are universal!

Brief description of FYRE student's responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes:
In January 2023, I will meet with the student to introduce the topic, show a model text as an example, and set up future meetings. We will meet weekly. The student will bring roughly 2-3 images and / or reports per meeting. Deliverables include an annotated bibliography of 20 images by March, 2023, as well as a poster presentation ready by the 18th annual Undergraduate Research Conference in spring 2023 and the FYRE Research Showcase in May 2023.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
Research, database, and data management, critical thinking skills

Faculty Name: Dr. Elizabeth Roberson
Department: English and Technical Communication
Title of Research Project: Video Design for Science and Technology

Description of Research Project:
The purpose of this project is to teach the FYRE student the basics and theories of video design/editing. I would guide the student in creating videos that showcase various aspects of their home department’s research or regarding science/technology research of the student’s own choosing. The student may also choose to create an infovideo about either science misconceptions or complex ideas made easy.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
This student would be expected to conduct both primary and secondary research of a commonly misunderstood topic/perception about the student’s field of study/major. This student would pair with an advisor within their field of study who could serve as a subject matter expert (SME). This SME would evaluate the student’s findings to ensure accuracy. The student would then work with me to create and present their findings within an infovideo created in Camtasia. This video would be a combination of written, visual, and verbal communication. The timeline for this project would be as follows:

  • January
    • Propose a research topic (within an informal proposal)
    • Propose a faculty member for content advising
  • February
    • Confirm and meet with the content advisor
    • Conduct secondary research § Use the library resources to locate and synthesize articles
    • Conduct primary research § Interview both students and faculty
  • March
    • Present research in a final lab report
  • April
    • Build infovideo in Camtasia
  • May
    • Present findings at the FYRE Research Showcase

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
This student will acquire a number of skills and insights that will serve them well as they advance through their studies. These skills include the following:

  • Become familiar with the faculty members within their department
  • Learn to communicate effectively with these members through both written communication (e.g., emails) and verbal communication (e.g., in-person interviews)
  • Build a network they can be part of as a member of the Missouri S&T community
  • Learn about and work with the following genres:
    • Emails
    • Informal proposals
    • Surveys/interview questions
    • Lab reports
    • Infovideos
    • Learn about and apply the scientific method to secondary research
    • Determine the difference between popular and scholarly sources
    • Navigate successfully through the Missouri S&T Library’s databases
    • Analyze and synthesize scholarly articles
    • Learn about and apply the scientific method to primary research
    • Create and ask interview questions for the purpose of research
    • Learn how to use Camtasia
    • Incorporate text, images, audio, and video to communicate a message
    • Apply the basic principles of design to create an effective video.


Faculty name: Dr. Aleksandr Chernatynskiy
Department: Physics
Title of Research Project: Magnetic Properties of Materials via Classical Molecular Dynamics

Description of Research Project:
Magnetism of the bulk materials has a well developed theory which explains the origins and their properties from first principles. However, in the case of nano-materials situation is lot less clear. Recently, community code for classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations "LAMMPS" had implemented spin dynamics, a technique to include magnetic properties into MD. In this project, we will explore the feasibility of applying this method to the magnetism of small atomic clusters. We will investigate temperature- and size-dependence of the magnetization in the nanoclusters of chromium and iron, prototypical magnetic materials.

Brief description of FYRE student's responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
Student’s responsibilities include learning a High-Performance Computing environment at Missouri S&T, reading and understanding research papers pertinent to the projects, setting-up, performing and analyzing calculations of the magnetic properties.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
Experience in parsing scientific literature, familiarity with the High-Performance Computing and scientific codes, basic ideas about the crystal structure of materials.


Faculty Name: Dr. Halyna Hodovanets
Department: Physics
Title of Research Project: Anisotropic properties of rare earth metal germanides

Description of Research Project:
Intermetallic compounds provide a rich playground to study the relationship between chemical composition, crystal structure, electronic structure, and physical properties. Intermetallic compounds containing the rare earth ion are especially interesting because the rare earth ion can be substituted by one of the other 14 rare earth elements (plus Sc and Y). This results in a family of compounds where the ground state can be tuned, i.e., from paramagnet to ferromagnet or a superconductor, and the anisotropy and physical properties’ evolution with the rare-earth ion can be studied. RG2, where R= rare earth, is a poorly studied intermetallic family of compounds. We propose to grow single crystals of RGe2 and study their physical properties.

Brief description of FYRE student's responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The student will learn how to assemble chemical elements for the single crystal growth. The student will polish single crystals, and prepare them for different physical properties measurements. Expected outcomes: single crystals of RGe2 grown, x-ray diffraction performed in order to validate the stoichiometric formula and crystal structure, samples for resistivity measurements also prepared. Timeline: single crystal growth: January-March, sample preparation for different measurements: January-early April.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The student acquire: high-temperature single crystal growth skills, sample preparation for different physical properties measurements skills, scientific writing skills, written and oral presentation skills, and data analysis skills.



Faculty Name: Dr. Yew San Hor
Department: Physics
Title of Research Project: Elimination of airborne contaminants by applied electric field

Description of Research Project:
Airborne contaminants such as chemicals, odors, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and pathogens are small molecules with size ranged from 0.4 to 200 nm, which are difficult to be eliminated by using air filters or devices composed of fibrous or porous materials. These airborne contaminants can be effectively eliminated by using electromagnetic force. The airborne contaminants can be ionized by intensified electric field and then trapped in high voltage biased conducting plates. In addition, the charge transfer during the process can kill pathogens. For the FYRE project, we will build high voltage power supply to generate strong electric field for ionizing the airborne contaminants. Ionization is depending on how easy those molecules are gaining or losing electrons. Therefore, oscillating electric field may be necessary in the ionization process in order to eliminate the contaminants effectively. Water mist (generated by ultrasonic mist maker) will be also used to trap some contaminants in air before the electric-field elimination process. Water molecules are good absorbers especially for odors. We will construct a prototype device and conduct experiment to test the functionality of the device with smoke and fragrances in a closed chamber.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The project will give the FYRE student an experience of how research is conducted. The student will learn how to do soldering and simple circuit making. Basic knowledge in electromagnetism and electrical circuit will be gained throughout the program. He/she will learn to construct high voltage power supply, build prototype device and set up experiment for testing. The student will also learn to write scientific report and give poster/oral presentation to small group of students or public. It needs about 2 months to build a prototype device and another 2 months for testing and improvement.


What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The student will acquire research experience in physics and electrical engineering. He/she will gain knowledge in electronics and electromagnetism. Besides, he/she will also gain experience in electronic circuit design and construction. 




Faculty Name: Dr. Hyunsoo Kim
Department: Physics
Title of Research Project: Development of a self-oscillator for the investigation of quantum materials

Description of Research Project:
The electrical self-oscillator consisting of an inductor-capacitor circuit offers exceptional precision for the measurement of magnetic properties of matter. The application of a low-power self-oscillator allows the investigation of quantum materials at ultra-low temperatures down to sub-kelvin. While the existing techniques offer 0.001 ppm stability, their applications are limited in the frequency range typically around 10 MHz. In this project, we aim to develop a novel self-oscillator technique based on the Colpitts oscillator powered by a modern transistor. The developed self-oscillator will be implemented in a research refrigerator to investigate various physical properties of exotic quantum materials including topological superconductors and magnetic topological semimetals. The successful completion will result in a publication in a scientific instrumentation journal such as the Review of Scientific Instruments of the American Institute of Physics.

Brief description of FYRE student's responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student will be responsible for the development of the Colpitts oscillator with various operating frequencies ranging from 1 kHz to 500 MHz. The development mainly involves the fine-tuning of circuit components to achieve a nearly sinusoidal functional form of the oscillation signal for 3-4 weeks. This goal can be readily achieved by finding the right combination of capacitor and resistor in the circuit. The student will also design and simulate the proposed circuit by using KiCad which is supported by the university IT department. The final circuit components will be soldered onto the printable circuit board (PCB) before implementing into the research refrigeration system. The PCB oscillator can be built in 2-3 weeks. The student is expected to participate in the final stage of development, the test of the oscillator circuits in a low-temperature environment. The oscillators will be implemented into the research refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. The student will investigate the magnetic properties of quantum materials for the rest of the semester. The student will understand the principles of the self-oscillator technique and the measurement of physical properties at low-temperature.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The FYRE student will work at the forefront of current quantum materials research. The student will acquire extensive knowledge not only of quantum materials but also of various passive components including resistors, capacitors, and inductors. The testing of the circuit requires the use of standard lab equipment such as power supply and radio-frequency devices, and therefore the proposed research project will provide excellent hands-on experience to students with modern electronic devices. The student will be involved in writing a research journal article, and the student will understand the detailed procedure of how a scientific journal is published.

Faculty Name: Dr. Shun Saito
Department: Physics
Title of Research Project: Understanding the evolution of dust attenuation for emission line galaxies in a cosmological hydrodynamical simulation

 Description of Research Project:
All ongoing and future galaxy surveys targeting Dark Energy science observe galaxies with string emission lines originating from their star-forming regions, giving excellent opportunities to understand how these galaxies are formed and evolved. One key ingredient is dust, because any dust particles in a galaxy attenuates the emission lines. Recent observations show that the dust attenuation evolves over cosmic time, but theoretical grounds to explain the observational results are not yet well established (see e.g., Saito. et al. 2020, https://arxiv.org/abs/2003.06394). The goal of this project is to understand the physics governing the evolution of dust attenuation by analyzing a state-of-the-art cosmological galaxy formation simulation, the Illustris TNG simulation. This project will provide a prediction of the dust attenuation that will be compared with available observational dataset. The expected outcome not only promotes our understanding of physics in galaxy formation and evolution, but also plays an important role in predicting the number of galaxies detectable in the Dark Energy surveys.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
Student’s responsibilities: A FYRE student is responsible for statistically analyzing the catalog dataset from the Illustris TNG simulation. Since the simulation dataset is already produced by Saito’s collaborator (see https://arxiv.org/abs/2206.08678), the FYRE student is going to measure summary statistics from the big catalog dataset, and to compare with available observational results. Throughout the program, the student is asked to have a weekly one-hour meeting with Saito (note: Saito regularly has a one-hour face-to-face meeting with all group members every Friday.)

The rough timeline:
- [Jan-Feb] Learn the basic statistics and how to handle the huge catalogs in Python (using a practical textbook, “Statistics, Data Mining, & Machine Learning in Astronomy”)
- [Mar] Develop an analysis pipeline and code to analyze the dust attenuation in the Illustris TNG catalog.
- [Apr-May] Compare with observations to interpret the statistical data and the physics driving the evolution/non-evolution in the simulation.

The expected outcome:
The project will provide the first-ever prediction of the dust attenuation for emission line fluxes and its evolution across the cosmic time from a start-of-the-art simulation. If the results look promising, they will be summarized in form of a scientific paper towards a publication after the program.


What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
A FYRE student will:
- learn basic knowledge of physics in cosmology and galaxy formation,
- learn basic knowledge of statistical analysis,
- acquire basic computational skillset to statistically analyze a big dataset in Python, and
- be exposed to international collaborations for galaxy surveys which Saito is involved in, such as Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment, Subaru Prime Focus Spectrograph, and Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope.

Psychological Science

Faculty Name: Dr. Jessica Cundiff
Department: Psychological Science
Title of Research Project: Experiences of bias among STEM students

Description of Research Project:
This project will develop a survey to assess undergraduate STEM students’ experiences with bias at the intersection of gender, race, sexual orientation, and class. Whereas most surveys have focused on single identities when examining experiences of bias, this survey will focus on intersecting identities. The survey will also assess students’ sense of belonging in STEM, to assess whether biased experiences predict changes in sense of belonging over time. This FYRE project will focus on developing the survey (as opposed to conducting the survey, which will take place later).

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student will work with Dr. Cundiff to conduct a literature review of existing survey measures related to biased experiences at the intersection of identities. We will examine literature related to everyday experiences of bias, microaggressions, and stereotype threat. Then, the student will help draft survey items based on the literature review. Finally, the student will work with Dr. Cundiff to conduct a pilot-test of the survey items to gather feedback and test reliability and validity.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The FYRE student will gain knowledge about intersectionality theory, the psychological science of bias and, more broadly, how psychological science can be used to study important social issues. The FYRE student will also learn how to develop valid and reliable survey measures and how to conduct ethical research with human participants. The student will gain insight into correlational research design and, depending on student interest, basic statistical analysis including reliability coefficients and factor analysis.


Faculty Name: Dr. Jossalyn G. Larson
Department: English and Technical Communication
Title of Research Project: The Divergent Writer: Outcome-based Writing Instruction for Neurodivergent and Marginalized Students

Description of Research Project:
In this project, we will explore the experiences of students who identify as part of a neurodivergent or marginalized group in writing-intensive college courses. Concepts like audience awareness, argumentative reasoning, appeals to emotion and credibility, and other foundations of academic writing have traditionally been taught within the framework of a neurotypical student with a “conventional” educational upbringing. As educators continue to evaluate our approaches, however, we are finding that students who self-identify as neurodivergent or otherwise marginalized often struggle achieve levels of self-confidence and skill mastery that are exhibited by neurotypical, conventionally educated students. This often leads to an inability to submit assignments on time and a reluctance to attend class, which poses challenges to a student’s progress toward their degree. In this study, we will examine writing instruction through the lenses of neurodiversity and marginality to identify educational practices which support divergent writers, as well as those practices which may be deleterious to a student’s success in writing-intensive college courses.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student will work with me to identify patterns in data gathered on students in English and Technical Communication courses. Data will be derived from surveys, diagnostics, and analytics gathered on students in foundational writing classes from the SS22, FS22, and SP23 semesters. The student will generate charts and highlight important findings from surveys that will be deployed during Weeks 3, 9, and 12 of the semester, as well as from Canvas analytics during midterm and final grade entry. Some source gathering from scholarly databases may also be requested.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
The FYRE student will learn to use Microsoft Word and Excel to create visual representations of patterns in big data. Additionally, the student will learn to develop research strategies using human subjects with careful consideration of the ethical approach to those subjects and the data they provide. The student will also gain experience in coding qualitative data, as well as in articulating limitations of the study and in drawing holistic conclusions from the patterns we identify.

Faculty Name: Dr. Daniel B. Shank

Department: Psychological Science

Title of Research Project: How do people perceive and treat Siri differently based on Siri’s accent?

Description of Research Project:
The smart home assistant Siri can be set to speak in many different voices and accents. My research team is currently running a study on how people interact with Siri with an American, an Irish, or a South African accented voice (all female voices). Participants work with Siri through an Apple Home Hub set up in a smart home living room located in a psychology laboratory room. They engage in (1) a get-to-know-you task where they talk to Siri, (2) an origami paper folding task where they can ask Siri for help, and (3) a smart home routine task where they have to follow Siri’s instructions. These interactions are all video recorded. After that they fill out a number of measures on a survey. As part of this larger research project, the FYRE student will get to analyze this video and survey data to see if there are differences between how people interact with Siri based on Siri’s accent and whether this mirrors or differs from behavioral prejudice people display toward other humans with those accents.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2023, including expected outcomes and rough timeline:
The FYRE student will (1) read academic literature on (a) bias and prejudice, (b) voices and accents, (c) smart home technology and AI agents, and (d) especially the overlap in these literatures (Jan-March), (2) come up with research questions or hypotheses about the differences that would be expected between conditions (Feb), (3) watch and code the video data (March), (4) analyze the differences in the conditions in the coded video data and/or survey responses (March-April), and (5) create the poster for the FYRE showcase (April). This will be accomplished by weekly meetings with Dr. Shank and specific goals set for each week. Additionally, the FYRE student will have to do IRB (ethics) training before accessing the data. Because this project is connected to a larger research project, the FYRE student may be asked to attend the larger project meetings. It is also possible that some of the video data will be coded already or that some of the survey or video data will be analyzed already. There should be plenty of research questions to explore even if that is the case, and this may prompt other questions.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?
Based on this project and skills gained by Dr. Shank’s former four FYRE students, the 2023 FYRE student will gain a number of basic skills including (1) searching for specific arguments within research articles, (2) how to read and write brief summaries of important papers, (3) learning about theories, (4) coding video, (5) interpreting survey and behavioral data, (6) using simple statistics and visuals to present data, (7) creating output in a poster format, (8) working with multiple types of data, (9) understanding the relationship between projects, (10) organization skills, and (11) communication and potentially team project skills. Additionally, the student will get an on-the-ground perspective of a cutting-edge research area in the social sciences. Dr. Shank has multiple grants and works with a lot of student researchers. This means an interested and capable FYRE student could continue research on this project or another project with Dr. Shank after the FYRE project ends.


Students on FYRE

Want more information?

For questions, contact Yue-wern Huang, associate dean of research and external relations in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Education and professor of Biological Sciences

Contact: huangy@mst.edu or call 573-341-6589.