Research and Puppies: Why not put them together?

Last year, students in the SAU summer research institute did a pilot study that examined the impact therapy dogs have on stress levels of family members in hospital waiting rooms. PolarThey were able to collect data from 20 participants at Genesis East. Participants were family members of individuals having surgery or a procedure. Participants took the State Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Pet Attitude Scale, and interacted with a therapy dog. Their pulse and oxygen levels were also taken.

This year our goal was to continue on with the study and collect more data. During the past few weeks our team was able to obtain IRB approval to collect additional data at Genesis. Learning about the IRB process became a major part of our research—it is a tedious process!USRI Therapy Dog - 2

During this time we also examined different ways to measure levels of stress using iworx and pulse oximetry.DSC_0651

We also visited different places to observe and better understand the roles of therapy, service, and facility dogs! We visited QCCAN (Quad Cities Canine Assistance Network) and Arrowhead Ranch. Visiting with the dogs and handlers was a fun and informative experience!

USRI Therapy Dog - 1

We also collected normative data for the Pet Attitude Scale from SAU faculty, staff, and students. We had over 600 responses! Our results showed a positive feeling towards pets, with more positive attitudes in women and in younger people.

This data can help assist us in the therapy dog study because it gives us a norm to compare the participants in our therapy dog study to. The Pet Attitude Scale is used in the therapy dog study to examine the correlation between liking pets and the effect therapy dogs have in lowering stress levels. 440px-Service_Dog_Waiting

We hope to collect more data and continue on with this research!

Law and Liberty


From Left to Right: Joe Dillon, Dr. Joe Hebert, Alexandria Curry, Natividad Hirsch Bautista


Sir Thomas More

The Political Science Undergraduate Research Group has been having a great time working with Dr. Joseph Hebert on the topic of “Law and Liberty.” Four students—Joseph Dillon, Christopher Hollis, Alexandria Curry, and Natividad Hirsch Bautista—have been brought together by their love of political science and political philosophy. Together they are reading and analyzing works by and about Sir Thomas More, the Renaissance poet, historian, philosopher, statesman, and martyr. Primary themes include the purpose and limits of political authority, and the interrelation of law, liberty, virtue, reason, faith, and conscience.

Alexandria is a majoring in political science, and her individual project is on the importance of More’s argument for the education of women in light of his understanding of the nature of liberal education and its importance for the promotion of personal excellence and a free and just society.

Natividad is majoring in political science, international studies, and Spanish. Her research project compares the imaginary and allegorical regime described in Thomas More’s Utopia to that of Plato’s Republic, one of More’s main sourcesShe is focusing on what these works tell us about the virtues required of political leaders as well as the economic, political, and social structures most conducive to justice and human flourishing.

Joe is majoring in political science with a pre-law concentration and is pursuing an English minor. His topic is centered around the legitimacy Sir Thomas More’s trial. Through evaluation of More’s political and philosophical beliefs we can gain a deeper understanding of the significance of his resistance to the consolidation of absolute power on the part of the English monarchy. More’s own understanding of the relation of law to fundamental principles of ethics and reason and the consequent need for checks and balances in government can help us to rebut recent scholarly claims that his trial was procedurally fair by the standards of his day.

Chris is majoring in International Studies and Spanish. His research focuses on the problem that Plato’s “Euthyphro dilemma” poses to the harmony of faith and reason underlying the personal integrity More lived and died for, and the importance of Thomas Aquinas’s solution of this dilemma to understanding More’s confidence in proclaiming that his resistance to tyranny was just and that a just man can suffer pain but not harm.

Augustana and SAU Minds Meet

Earlier this week students and faculty from the Augustana undergraduate research program came to the St. Ambrose campus to meet the SAU undergraduate researchers and faculty mentors. Students prepared a two slide Power Point presentation to illustrate the projects they were completing this summer.


In round robin style research groups moved around the room, until each group had heard about every other group’s research. Project topics included robots, breast cancer, hormones in waste water, wisdom and more.


As you can see from the pictures, the students and faculty really got into their discussions, and everyone got a taste of how diverse research can be. It was a fantastic experience and we agree this will need to be repeated next year. DSC_0156 DSC_0141 DSC_0147 DSC_0166 DSC_0169 DSC_0180 DSC_0182 DSC_0185 DSC_0188 DSC_0191

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

On Tuesday July 7th, the St. Ambrose Undergraduate Research Institute attended a double header River Bandits Game. USRI 2015 River Bandit group - 1 DSC05055

Game one started at 6:00pm, with the River Bandits edging Clinton 1-0.  Students enjoyed sunshine and over-priced ballpark food.  There was much anticipation for game two.


Several students were asked to come down on to the field to compete in various events displaying their athletic prowess.  Molly Rowell and Savannah Hill went head-to-head in the bungee tug-of-war.  The two traded blows until finally Molly came out on top. DSC05100


Next up was Katlyn Nathem and Rachel Neece in the bat-spin crutch-walk race.  This game is best known for being the most ridiculous competition ever created.  The race started close, but Rachel was able to push ahead and hobble her way across the finish line to win the contest.

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The final clash of the night was a traditional event that requires both speed and precision.  Of course I’m talking about musical chairs.  Nathan Budde, Ryan Golden, and Kristen Upah walked in circles waiting for the music to stop.  Three athletes and only two chairs, something had to give.  Ryan was the first athlete eliminated.  The music resumed and Nathan and Kristen began to walk in circles again.


Suddenly the music cut out and silence filled the stadium.  A collective gasp could be heard from the crowd as Nathan planted his bum in the lone chair that remained.  The crowd went wild.  A champion had been crowned.  A big thanks to Forrest Stonedahl for providing photos.  Go Bees!

Differentiating between the Psychopath and the Sociopath

Sociopathy and psychopathy are two commonly utilized terms within the science of criminology that are often viewed as interchangeable labels for the same types of criminal behavior. Yet, sociopathy and psychopathy are actually intrinsically different concepts. In basic terms, the sociopath’s deviant behavior is attributed to external explanations, generally social and environmental, while the psycopath’s deviant behavior is commonly attributed to both biological/neurological and environmental explanations.


Dr. Tietjen reviewing the characteristics of sociopathy and psychopathy

Mass media and courts randomly assign the labels of sociopath and psychopath to those convicted of heinous crimes.   This research project will examine and attempt to establish substantial differences between the commonly used concepts of sociopathy and psychopathy through a qualitative multiple-case study of mass shooters, terrorists, and serial killers (those who perpetrate genocide included). Students have some latitude in the cases focused on people convicted of crimes/perpetrators of crime that they choose to examine. The outcome of this qualitative research will be to determine if a typology of sociopathic and psychopathic explanations for heinous criminal behavior can be established by student researchers.


Dana, Sarah, Savannah and Elizabeth are finding their research really interesting!

Four St. Ambrose University Undergraduate Summer Research Institute (USRI) Scholars are working with Dr. Grant Tietjen from the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice on this collaborative research project. Their efforts will result in individual research papers for each student, and a collaborative formal presentation at the end of the Research Institute, to be presented to fellow USRI students, family of students, respected visitors, and faculty.

Individual Student Projects:
Student researcher Elizabeth Finerty is examining sociopaths and psychopaths on a spectrum. She is determining if individuals are just a sociopath/psychopath or if a person can be both. Looking at the factors from the individuals life, she has found that some individuals do fall under both categories. She is also looking at some individuals who are not first thought of when the terms sociopath or psychopath are used such as white collar criminals or cult leaders.

The project focus for Dana Hall is the history of serial killers with a military background.  She currently is looking at multiple case studies looking into their childhood up bringing and adult lifestyles and seeing if there are any commonalities between them.  She is also researching what it means to be living in a “militarized” society and looking into Object Relations Theorists to try and figure out what factors might play a role in the behaviors of these serial killers.

Sarah Johanson is researching the different traits and backgrounds of individuals that hold some of the careers listed as the top ten for psychopaths. The article, “10 Careers with the most psychopaths per capita” provides titles such as CEO, Journalist, Chef, etc. Sarah will also be looking at some sports professionals that she believes may have chosen their profession because of their possibility of being a psychopath made it a good fit for them, for example, boxing. Sarah believes that some psychopaths may have certain careers they can enter and be successful.

Savannah Hill is researching the biological attributes and triggers of psychopaths.  The three individuals she is focusing on are James Fallon, Brian Dugan, and Jeffrey Dahmer.  By looking at the brain scans available to the public, she will compare the scans with typically developed brain scans in order to identify pathological brains.  The second part of her project will be to identify how the psychopathic genes, if activated, were triggered.  Her prediction is that the activation will occur due to a childhood trauma and that the low areas of activity in the brain will be in the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Stay tuned for results!

Dr. Grant Tietjen

Dana Hall

Savanah Hill

Sarah Johanson

Elizabeth Finerty

The Effect of Abrasive Toothpastes and Common Acidic Solutions on Teeth

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Figure 1 Determining the Effect of Phosphate and Lanthanum on the Determination of Calcium. The red boxes represent calcium levels at different concentrations with no phosphate in solution. Phosphate has a suppressing effect on calcium when measuring with the AA, which poses a problem for us because calcium and phosphate are both found in teeth, and will both be in our solutions. This is shown by the green triangles, which represent a solution with both calcium and phosphate. We hope to solve this problem by adding lanthanum to the solutions; lanthanum counteracts the suppressive effect of phosphate and will allow us to take a better reading of the calcium concentrations of our solutions.

We (Dr. Stratton along with Clarissa Hunzeker and Malik Thalji) have been researching the effect of abrasive toothpaste on teeth. Specifically, we are measuring the amount of calcium and phosphate (the main components of tooth enamel) eroded away by the extended use of abrasive toothpaste. We will accomplish this by obtaining pig teeth, brushing them with different abrasive toothpastes, placing them in a synthetic saliva solution, and measuring the calcium and phosphate concentrations of the solution over time.

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Malik measuring calcium concentrations using the AAS

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Figure 2 This graph shows the concentration of phosphate compared to the response peak areas in standard solutions. One of the sets of standards contained calcium (green), in order to mimic the solutions with dissolved teeth. The calcium may suppress the phosphate calibration slightly, so this will have to be accounted for when we test our solutions

Additionally, we will test the effect of common acidic solutions, such as coffee, soda and wine on teeth. We will measure the calcium and phosphate concentrations to determine the effect of each acidic solution. We will use atomic absorbance spectroscopy (AAS), and ion chromatography (IC) to measure calcium and phosphate concentrations. Results coming soon!

Developing a Prosthetic Arm that is Affordable and Controlled by the Brain

We have been researching neural control of hand movements using electroencephalography to determine what information is already present that can be used to further our work and provide proper background for it.Lab-Jodis - 1 (1) We are also currently working on cleaning up and analyzing the data taken last summer.

Subject1_071514_Ch1_Trial1This is an image of the EEG readings that are being analyzed. This data will be used in the article we are currently working on to be published in the near future.

This is a picture of Dr. Jodi Prosise and Mr. Milton on a recent trip to Brazil. 3

She and some engineering students gave him the new arm that she and the students designed for him.

This is the the reason this research and project is so important!