A Christian College of the Liberal Arts & Sciences

2012 Research

Spam detection on Twitter

Wei Hu, professor of math and computer science, will be researching with two computer science students, Zachary Miller and Brian Dickinson, and Dr. Alex Wang from Penn State, on the popular social networking site, Twitter, which has become a target for unwanted and malicious spammers. Several Twitter spam detection methods have been proposed, some of which rely on account features and user behavior, such as the age of user account, number of followers and friends, and number of replies and retweets. The goal of this summer research is to find spam text messages as they occur in sequence on Twitter rather than spammers on Twitter, although these two issues are related.

Properties of thin metal films

Brandon Hoffman, professor of physics, and four students, including Josh Mertzlufft and Mark Spencer, will be collaborating with Shefford Baker at the Center for Materials Research at Cornell University. Not much is known about the properties of materials with thicknesses of only a few hundred nanometers or less. Thin silver films will be produced in a high vacuum deposition chamber and studied with x-ray diffractometry and various electron microscopes in order to characterize the microstructures and associated stress states of the films. The goal of these experiments will be to improve the general model that describes similar thin metal films.

Dark matter halo formation

Christopher Wells, professor of physics, and two students, Ian Love and Garrett Hartshaw, will continue their study of dark matter halo formation. It is now known, through indirect observations, that 80 percent of the mass in the universe is an exotic substance known as “dark matter.” A computer cluster is being assembled in the Forsyth Learning Commons, and computer simulations will be undertaken to compare the formation of dark matter halos with and without non-gravitational long-range forces.

Synthesis of biodegradable glycopolymers

John Rowley, professor of chemistry, and two students, Gabriel Browning and Deanna Montgomery, will explore these biodegradable plastic materials, which contain both chemical structures that can be degraded by living systems (aliphatic polyesters) and covalently bound sugar molecules. Their goal is to chemically synthesize and characterize new types of biodegradable glycopolymers.

Insect Development

Kurt Vandock, Moreland Research professor of biology and 1st Lieutenant US Army Reserve, and two students, Brianna Consiglio and Emily Perregaux, will be working on an innovative project related to development in Manduca sexta organisms. Preliminary evidence suggests a relationship between the presence of ecdysone and 20-hydroxyecdysone on the overall activity of M. sexta midgut mitochondrial transhydrogenations. This work is supported by the Moreland Fund (Houghton College) and a Department of Defense Grant (Dr. Vandock).

Inertial Confinement Fusion

Mark Yuly, chair and professor of physics, and two students, Keith Mann and Tyler Reynolds, will be working with scientists from SUNY-Geneseo and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Rochester N.Y. In ICF a large amount of energy is deposited, usually with high-powered lasers, to a small pellet of nuclear fuel in order to initiate a fusion reaction. This summer, researchers will measure a certain cross section, crucial to the implementation of this diagnostic technique, in an experiment using the tandem accelerator at the John E. Edwards Accelerator Laboratory at Ohio University.

Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Matt Pelletier, associate professor of biology, will work with Jonathan Figueroa and Shannon Hritz on human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow and how they grow and differentiate on specialty surfaces being developed by Corning Inc. Specifically, they will explore the ability of these cells to differentiate into chondrocytes, adipocytes, and osteoblasts, both in the presence and absence of growth factors normally required for differentiation.