Past Projects‎ > ‎


Darius Bieganski 
- Computer Science

Darius worked at Medtronic Inc. under the supervision of Dr. Timothy Denison. Darius developed a low-cost, easy-to-use, remote access system to monitor and track minute tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease. He used a C++ software development kit by Microsoft to program Xbox Kinect, which employs infrared light to record positions of a Parkinson’s patient’s joints. He then developed a MATLAB program to link to Kinect to identify tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease. Finally, he programmed an automated warning system that instantaneously tweets caregivers when gross movements are detected that indicate a large fall or major tremor, both of which can be debilitating for a Parkinson’s patient. Finally, Darius “trained” Kinect to distinguish small twitches from constant tremors. His device is patent pending.

Greer Bingham 
- Medicine and Health

Greer worked in the Hepatology Research Laboratory at Hennepin County Medical Center under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Albrecht. Greer looked at cancer-cells lines that are dependent on glutamine for proliferation to determine if glutamine dependency might be exploited in targeting and treating cancer cells. Greer used cell culturing, viability and protein assays, and Western blots to compare cancerous cell lines and a non-cancerous cell line with and without glutamine and with and without cyclin D1, which is a protein that promotes cell proliferation. Her results showed presence of cyclin D1 in cells that were deprived of glutamine caused cells to survive longer—a relationship that may be exploited to kill cancer cell lines that are addicted to glutamine.

Paige Dempsey
 - Environmental Science

Paige worked at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve under the supervision of Dr. James Howitz. Paige studied Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) whose numbers have declined significantly over the past 40 years. She examined nest-tree characteristics and land features surrounding nests of breeding pairs of Red-headed Woodpeckers with the goal of identifying key characteristics that contribute to a successful nesting season. Her results will be used to help guide land management and land restoration.

Zachary Donahue

Zachary worked in the Physics Department at Augsburg College under the supervision of Dr. David Murr. Zach engineer a hub that can be lunched on a weather balloon to track atmospheric pollutants. He engineered the hub to simultaneously control four sensors and a Grove dust sensor that he modified to function properly under high-wind conditions. To control the sensors, Zach programmed an Arduino Mini Pro microcontroller powered by a 9-V battery. Zach successfully launched his device on a high-altitude balloon. His design will be replicated in high school physics classes and then launched into the atmosphere to study atmospheric pollutants.

Abby Erdmann
 - Behavioral Science

Abby worked at City of Golden Valley Department of Public Works under the supervision of Mr. Mark Ray. She initiated her study because of complaints about distracted driving and speeding in the neighborhood surrounding Breck. In an attempt to gather information and educate drivers in the Breck community about problems associated with distracted driving, Abby developed a driving survey that was completed by over 450 parents, students, faculty, and staff in the Breck community. To diagnose driving behaviors, she observed Breck traffic for a period of two weeks at peak traffic periods to record distracted driving activities. She also worked with the Breck School Parents’ Association to change driving behaviors on and around the school campus. Her study shows that drivers in the vicinity of Breck do not generally speed, but there is a problem with distracted driving among students and adults who drive to and from the school

Kira Hinz

Kira worked in the Division of Neonatology at the University of Minnesota under the supervision of Dr. Raghavendra Rao. Kira investigated effects of currently administered glucose treatments on brains of newborns who are diagnosed with hypoglycemia. She used PAR staining to analyze protein expression and tissue damage in brain tissue of P21 rats that had been treated with 10% and 50% doses of glucose after hypoglycemia was induced. She also performed Western blots to quantitatively measure protein expression of PAR and AIF, which are indicators of cell death, in brain tissue that received glucose treatments compared to controls. Kira’s work may change ways in which infants are treated when diagnosed with hypoglycemia.

Caleb Kumar
 - Computer Science 

Caleb worked at the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute under the guidance of Dr. Lars Oddsson. Caleb developed an inexpensive, user-friendly iPhone application (iPhone app) to measure functionality in limbs of stroke patients and provide vibrotactile feedback while patients perform therapy exercises. He used Objective C to program code to trigger an iPhone to vibrate when a stroke patient exhibits spasticity. He also used SolidEdge ST4 computer-assisted design and a CAD driven three-dimensional printer to engineer a user-friendly device to attach the iPhone to an affected limb. His application incorporates a calendar that initiates compliance techniques for patients who are forgetful. Since insurance companies limit numbers of therapy sessions that stroke patients may receive, Caleb’s software provides an inexpensive alterative to on-site therapy. Additionally, his device can be used as a tele-rehabilitation tool to serve patients with mobility problems and those who live in isolated communities or remote areas.

Matt McMillan 
- Bioengineering

Matt worked in the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department at Yale University under the supervision of Dr. Paul Van Tassel. Matt engineered polymer-based thin films for use in delivery systems of growth factors to restore damaged tissue. Matt successfully engineered the films using charged polymers coated on carbon-nanotube substrates that he believes will be able to penetrate human cell membranes. Matt’s research is novel because carbon nanotubes have not been employed in polyelectrolyte thin films prior to his study.

Peter Metzger 
- Energy

Peter worked at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota under the supervision of Dr. Russell Holmes. Peter studied the problem of short exciton diffusion lengths in donor materials used to develop organic photovoltaic devices used in lighting displays. He grew thin films with different dilutions of a donor material called platinum octaethyl-porphyrin (PtOEP) that has rare energetic and optical properties. His results showed that in the undiluted state, PtOEP is inefficient at transferring light energy but it is better at diffusing excitons. By lowering PtOEP concentration, his results showed that light absorption and emission are significantly increased while, strangely, PtOEP’s ability to diffuse excitons diminishes. Peter successfully characterized optical and energetic properties of PtOEP and showed how these properties change during dilution.

Achinth Murali 
- Psychology

Achinth worked at the Center for Child Development at the University of Minnesota under the guidance of Dr. Kathleen Thomas. Achinth studied Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by mining data from psychological tests given to 96 identical twins between the ages of 14-17, who exhibited symptoms of ADHD. He looked at correlations between ADHD and family, education, and parenting as well as executive function, memory, and attention. He also mined the data to determine if the twins were more motivated by rewards than adolescents without ADHD. Additionally, Achinth analyzed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans done on brains of the twins tested in the study to evaluate if brain structure is correlated with ADHD symptoms.

Tiffany Ravelomanantsoa and
Elisa Villafana - Environmental Science

Tiffany and Elisa worked in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota under the supervision of Dr. Karen Oberhauser. Tiffany and Elisa looked at effects of milkweed gardens on health and development of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). They exposed swamp milkweed (Asclepius incarnata) and tropical milkweed (A. currassavica) to freezing temperatures experienced in southern milkweed gardens and then monitored mortality of monarch eggs and development of larvae raised on exposed and control milkweed leaves. Their results showed that after 24 hours of freezing temperatures, both tropical and swamp milkweed plants were notably damaged and numbers of eggs laid significantly decreased. However, there was not a significant decrease for either species in mortality rates of larvae that hatched from eggs laid on leaves that had been exposed to freezing temperatures. This suggests that 24-hour freezes in Texas may significantly decrease populations of non-migratory monarchs but may not affect development of larvae that do hatch. Their results will be used to help homeowners better understand the consequences of planting milkweed gardens.

Jessica Ryvlin 
- Medicine and Health

Jessica worked at the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics under the supervision of Dr. Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari. Jessica used stem-cell technology to develop an artificial lung that may replace donor lung transplants. To do this, she grew pluripotent stem cells on a lung matrix and then determined ideal oxygen concentrations in which the pluripotent stem cells differentiated most efficiently. Her study established ideal conditions for growing human stem cells in a lung matrix that may provide a solution to the problem of rejection and long wait times for lung transplants.

Claire Simpson

Claire worked in the Chemistry Department at the University of Minnesota under the supervision of Dr. J. Ilja Siepmann. Claire studied the role of upper atmospheric nucleation in climate change. To do this, she first devised new mathematical derivations for the Kelvin Equation on nucleation and the Classical Nucleation Theory and then developed computer simulations using Monte Carlo methods to illustrate relationships between vapor pressure and size of aerosol particles involved in nucleation. Claire’s work provides important insights into the role of nucleation in climate change.

Elliott Weiler 
- Bioengineering

Elliott worked in Physics Department at Augsburg College under the supervision of Dr. Ben Stottrup. Elliott designed and then engineered a device that can be used to determine the roles cycles of dehydration and rehydration played in formation of cellular membranes billions of years ago. To hydrate and rehydrate samples, Elliott combined peltiers with thermocouples and programmed Arduino microcontrollers to collect evaporation temperatures, evaporation times, condensation temperatures as well as times and numbers of dehydration and rehydration cycles. Using his device, he successfully viewed lipid self-assembly under an electron microscope, showing that his device is viable for future studies on lipid bilayer formation