Below are abstracts of KU BEARS grant awards from 2021. Click on the titles to read each abstract.

  • Nonlinear Dynamics with Ultracold Atoms in Ring Lattices

    Kunal Das

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Nicholas Brown

    Major: Physics | Physics Engineering

    Overview: The real world is defined by nonlinear dynamics, because the constituents of physical systems inherently have mutual interactions, and the net behavior is often influenced by the state of the system itself. In quantum systems, modeling such dynamics demands enormous computational resources because of exponential scaling with system size, and typically unphysical approximations need to be made. Ultra-cold atoms trapped in ring-shaped lattice were studied as a closed self-contained system without boundaries, where such approximations are not necessary. The insights gained into nonlinear dynamics had utility in quantum technologies. The specific research was computational and theoretical in nature, but was applied to motivate and develop experiments in continuing extramural collaborations.


  • Examining Increased Hospitalization from Heat-Related Illnesses in Urban Heat Islands: A Case Study of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Michael Davis

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Geography

    Macy Turner

    Major: Geography

    Overview: Urban heat islands are increasingly becoming more prevalent in modern day society as the effects of global warming have devastated urban communities across the world. Global warming has caused these heat islands to warm over time to temperatures warmer than the surrounding areas. Heat waves caused by global warming can be detrimental to one’s own health if not taken seriously. Previously, climate change was thought to only have environmental impacts, but now are also being seen as a direct human health impact. Studies have shown how incremental temperature increases have led to an uptick in health issues in various populations, and in particular affecting those who may be disadvantaged (socially/physically/economically). By using LANDSAT 8 imagery, we incorporate the overarching notion of climate change onto what future trajectories may hold if change is not made, and the consequences that the urban heat island effect may have if temperatures begin to rise higher anthropogenically in the future.


  • Cataloguing and Digitalizing Collections from The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center

    William Donner

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Anthropology and Sociology

    Sarah Edris

    Major: Elementary Education | PA German Studies Minor

    Overview: Sarah Edris, an anthropology major and Pennsylvania German Studies minor, and Dr. William Donner organized and catalogued 9 boxes of material given to the Heritage Center. These materials were primarily oriented to community events, especially the events where the Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch language is spoken. These included 3 boxes of Groundhog Lodge materials from Lodge #1 covering activities form the Lodge’s first meeting in 1934 until the early 21st century. Lodge #1 provided the impetus for 18 other Groundhog Lodges and scores of Fersommlinge. These organizations hold events where only the Deitsch language can be spoken. William Donner has written a book about them: Serious Nonsense: Groundhog Lodges, Versammlinge and Pennsylvania German Heritage (2016, Penn State Press). The materials also included one box of materials relating to the activities of the Berks County Fersommling, the oldest and presently most active Fersommling (Fersommlinge include both men and women; Groundhog Lodges are for men only and center on a ceremonial tribute to the groundhog’s legendary ability to predict the arrival of Spring). We organized and catalogued one box of materials from the Tulpehocken Sanger Chor, a group that sings in the Deitsch language at community events. We organized and catalogued 5 boxes of materials from the Don Yoder collection. Don Yoder (1921-2015) was the pre-eminent scholar of Pennsylvania German Studies during his lifetime. He gave several hundred boxes of material to the Heritage Center that hold a wealth of material. The project included sorting the contents of these boxes into separate categories which were placed in acid free folders, and then entering each item in these categories with descriptors into the Heritage Center’s digital system. There were about 300 entries into the Heritage Center’s database.

  • An Examination of Fontan Circulation Using Differential Equation Models and Numerical Analysis

    Brooks Emerick

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Mathematics

    Paul Barton

    Major: Mathematics & Philosophy

    An Examination of Fontan Circulation Using Differential Equation Models and Numerical Analysis

    Overview: Inflow and infiltration (I&I) consists of groundwater and rainwater that enters the sanitary sewer system via direct or indirect connections to the sewer line (i.e. through illegal connections or damaged pipes). I&I is a major financial and environmental issue for wastewater treatment plants because it increases costs by processing non-wastewater and increases overflow risks, which pose a public health hazard. This project focuses on the Borough of Kutztown Wastewater Treatment Plant and its efforts to reduce I&I in the Kutztown area.  In November of 2020, a rehabilitation of the piping system was performed within two pump station service areas.  To determine the effectiveness of this rehabilitation, we analyzed pump discharge data before and after the rehabilitation took place.  We found, using statistical inference, that the average yearly discharge was significantly smaller after rehab, which provides evidence that the rehab helped reduce I&I.  We also created a regression tree, built from extensive climate data in the area, that can hypothetically be used to predict pump discharge. This allows us to take climate conditions into account when comparing pump discharge amounts from different periods of time.


  • Social Isolation in Rural Pennsylvania

    Christopher Harris

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Social Work

    Jesse Wilkinson

    Major: Social Work

    Overview: Social isolation and loneliness are problems affecting the aging populations in rural America. This study analyzes the extent of social isolation among rural Pennsylvanians 65 years of age or older, evaluates the determinants of social isolation among residents 65 years of age or older, identifies evidence-based programs and services that minimize social isolation, and evaluates programs and services that currently exist in other states in the contiguous United States to determine replicability in Pennsylvania and make policy recommendations.   

    To assess the extent and social determinants of health related to social isolation, 4000 surveys measuring social isolation, social connection, use of technology, transportation, physical and mental health, along with demographic information were mailed to rural older adults in 5 rural counties.  A systematic review of available literature, State aging websites, and grey material were collected and analyzed to identify interventions targeting social isolation among older rural residents.  Focus groups with case managers and administrators from the Area Agency on Aging, Mental health providers, and county Mental Health and Intellectual disabilities offices were conducted to identify current programs in Pennsylvania that address social isolation among rural elderly as well as assess whether or not unique programs in other states could be implemented in Pennsylvania.  

  • Generative Data Visualization of Environmental and Demographic Stochasticity Effects on Endangered Species

    Joshua Miller

    College of Visual and Performing Arts | Communication Design

    Hunter Young

    Major: Communication Design

    Frank Pizzuta

    Major: Communication Design

    Overview: The students tested materials that would generate unique mark-making with the goal of creating work that couldn’t be produced on a conventional printer. Students worked with different types of papers, different markers, paint, ink, etc. Also, the students explored different ways to create the vector graphics they plotted from illustration to graphics programmed using Processing and p5.js. A pen plotter literally draws like a human hand, lifting and lowering the “pen” on a piece of paper, so all images are composed of lines, so it takes some effort to draw a filled shape. Through their research, Hunter and Frank were able to use this new tool to create unique artwork and were able to document the process in a way that is accessible to future students.

  • Socially Engaged Pedagogy: The Impact of Teacher Identity on Views of the Learner and Curriculum Development

    Amy Pfeiler-Wunder

    College of Visual and Performing Arts | Art Education

    Shani Trebatoski

    Major: Art Education

    Overview: This research employs poststructuralism and narrative inquiry (Clandinin, 2013) to examine how educators' reflections on professional identities inform views of their learners and curriculum choices. Narrative Inquiry focused on understanding our stories as White Educators by living and telling our stories as critical colleagues. Through ongoing, sustained conversations over time, the telling of our professional stories as white educators, interrogates the impact of Whiteness on views of the learner and curriculum development. Through the layering of narrative vignettes and interpretation of layered stories over time using the story types of stock, concealed, resistance, and emerging/transforming (Bell, 2020), this research invites White Educators to engage in crucial consciousness for the purpose of creating more socially just educational spaces.


  • A reevaluation of Parten's stages of play: A grown-up play classification of Steam video games

    Thiep Pham

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Computer Science & Information Technology

    Matthew Cruz

    Major: Information Technology | Game Development

    Somar Hanna

    Major: Information Technology | Game Development

    Overview: Play is an important factor for brain development and encourages healthy living.  It is not just for children.  Grownup needs to play too!  However, somewhere along the way of growing up, we have lost our passion for playing and having fun.  Video games help to restore playing in adults.  The numerous types of video games, platforms, and challenges provide playing options for many adults to transition back into play. 

    This research aimed to design a new play classification for video gamers, and then apply the classification to a large dataset of games to learn how young and older adults play video games.  The researchers utilized data from Steam, a popular video game distribution service by Valve with over 26 million members worldwide, over 106,800 video games, and 423 types of games (Steam, 2021, September).  The researchers mapped an existing play framework developed by Dr. Milfred Parten Newhall (1902-1970) to generate a parallel classification system of play for video gamers.  The 423 types of games on Steam were then applied to the video game classification based on the top ten most popular games per type.

    The findings included that video gamers preferred playing alone, and their most common types of games are action-adventure games developed by indie companies.  The researchers are thrilled with the findings and the development of the classification system and plan to publish the study.

  • Health Acculturation of Asian Immigrants in the U.S.

    Yuxia Qian

    College of Liberal Visual and Performing Arts | Communication Studies

    Thi Van Ann Nguyen

    Major: Political Science | Communication Studies

    Overview: Asians have become the largest group of new immigrants to the U.S. in the past decade (pew research center, 2020). They face many challenges in their acculturation to the host culture. One of the major acculturative challenges lies in the domain of healthcare. Previous studies on acculturation have investigated such dimensions as language proficiency, cultural participation, social relations, food consumption, and so on (Salant & Lauderdale, 2003). However, healthcare, as an essential aspect of people’s life, is written out of the picture of the acculturation process in the literature. This study fills the gap by examining the acculturation process in terms of healthcare among Asian immigrants. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 16 Asian immigrants in the U.S., who came from five Asian countries. The results identified several cultural barriers that Asian immigrants faced in accessing and utilizing healthcare. Accordingly, they developed various coping strategies, such as postponing seeing doctors, using alternative medicines, developing health literacy, and soliciting social support, which reflected their different stages of the acculturation process. This study also explored the acculturation strategies (assimilation, separation, integration, and marginalization) adopted by the Asian immigrants as they negotiate the cultural differences in health beliefs, practices, and systems.

  • How's Timothy

    Jennifer Suwak

    College of Liberal Visual and Performing Arts | Cinema, Television and Media Production

    Jenny Wallace

    Major: Cinema, Television and Media Production

    Overview: In filmmaking and associated fields, hands-on experience doing professional work with the guidance of the CTM professor is a unique opportunity for students. It gives students the opportunity to work in the industry and to realize course content that they have learned in class in a practical context. This prepares students for situations that they will encounter in their internship or in the job market or both. This program is a great opportunity for students to contribute to a larger professional level project and to obtain real work experience in a cooperative situation. These opportunities work very well with the major in-class coursework by expanding the scope and experiences of KU students.

  • The Effects of Intensive Virtual Instruction on Middle Level Students: The Student Voices

    Carol Watson

    College of Education | Elementary, Middle Level, Library and Technologies Education

    Madison Stanton

    Major: Middle Level Education Science & Social Studies

    Overview: The practice of online learning has been increasingly implemented in schools over the past several decades. As teachers become more familiar with the medium including tools and strategies that get students more engaged through technology, online learning has become a standard component in the overall instructional plan in many schools and classrooms (Poehner & Brown, 2019). As this phenomenon has developed, concerns about the impact of increasing technology use have also arisen. Research indicates a variety of negative effects on students when spending significant amounts of time interacting with electronic devices (Poehner & Brown, 2019).

    As these concerns were beginning to be identified, documented, and discussed, the COVID-19 pandemic hit suddenly and unexpectedly. Within a week in March of 2020, in-person learning was completely shut down for the foreseeable future leaving schools few options except to utilize technology to teach students online. The challenges were many and varied including lack of student access to devices, limited teacher knowledge and skill to teach virtually, low student motivation and engagement, inconsistent support from home and community contexts, and unreliable access to internet connectivity (Richards, 2020). Learning more about the specific impact of this sudden and intense switch to fully online instruction due to the pandemic may offer us further insight into the effects on students so we may better manage them moving forward. The primary witnesses to how students have been affected by the sudden and complete switch to virtual learning platforms are teachers. It is their perspective we seek to document. With this background in evidence, our guiding question for this research study is as follows:

    What are teachers’ perceptions of the effects of 100% virtual learning modality on middle level students as a result of a pandemic?

  • Environmental and Cognitive Psychology in Video Games and Popular Music

    Todd William

    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | English

    Madison Brozusky

    Major: English

    Overview: Maddy Brozusky and I collaborated on two projects. First, Maddy helped with some research on Environmental Psychology for a conference paper on how the video game Horizon Zero Dawn might influence pro-environmental behavior. This was for the ASLE conference, which is the major conference on literary eco-criticism. The conference was held in a virtual format this year where presenters created video presentations of the paper. Once the paper was completed, Maddy took the lead and essentially created the conference video—and did an excellent job of it. She was also present for the conference Q&A session. 

    The second project we worked on was a journal article on how the song lyrics of Kacey Musgraves use structures and strategies found in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Maddy researched depression and cognitive distortions and created the reference citations for the paper in APA style. She was also present for the final submission of the essay.

    Maddy was also encouraged to pursue her own research project during the program. She created a multi-model project based on local folklore in the area, which promises to be fascinating.

  • Research in Teacher Education: Mathematics teaching and learning for social justice

    Mark Wolfmeyer

    College of Education | Secondary Education

    Michael Mistler

    Major: Secondary Education: Mathematics

    Overview: As it turns out, mathematics education is nothing but neutral. As a topic worthy of coverage on national news networks like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, this project collocated and analyzed coverage of mathematics education topics taking place within the last five years on these networks to reveal answers to the following research questions. “What topics within mathematics education are deemed worthy to be covered by national news networks?” and “How does the coverage of mathematics education relate to power and ideology in US society?” Using frame and content analysis as method, we demonstrate how mathematics education is used as a vehicle in national news media to fuel other pertinent discourses at play in US society. For example, data from our study was coded to demonstrate that mathematics education discussions present an auxiliary ideology: specifically a white supremacist perspective on the concept of meritocracy. This perspective exists more recently in legislative documents within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well as many other states. Therefore, mathematics education in the news is at least one structural space for news media to present arguments that enact real policy shifts in social life. Mathematics educators can consider our findings, the purported linkages between mathematics teaching and learning and societal concepts of power and ideology, as they continue work in mathematics classrooms that reject harmful ideologies like white supremacy.