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Bruning Award

In May 2007, James and Marlene Bruning established an endowment to fund a student award to support undergraduate research and scholarly projects at Capital University. The intent of this award is to support high-quality undergraduate student research and scholarly presentations at professional academic conferences. Supported expenses may include conference registration and associated fees, travel, and the preparation and enhancement of research or scholarly activity materials. The Capital University Symposium on Undergraduate Scholarship planning committee will select the recipient(s) based on eligibility requirements and selection criteria. The planning committee also will approve all travel and budget expenditures by the recipient.

How to apply

Student Eligibility Requirements

  • Student(s) must be enrolled as full time student(s) in good academic standing at Capital University.
  • Student(s) must be planning to present their project at the Capital University Symposium on Undergraduate Scholarship.
  • Student(s) must be planning to present or has presented undergraduate research or scholarly project at an academic conference.
  • Student(s) must be willing to share their undergraduate research or scholarship experiences with the campus community. 
  • Student(s) must be willing to have the University publicize their name(s), photograph(s) and research project information.

Nomination Procedure

The Symposium planning committee identifies candidates for the Bruning Award based on abstracts submitted to the Symposium on Undergraduate Scholarship each spring. Faculty mentors of the identified candidates are then asked to officially nominate the student for the Bruning Award.

Selection Procedure:Nominated and eligible students for this award give their Symposium presentations to the Symposium planning committee prior to the Symposium. Presentations should follow the format of Symposium oral presentations (15 minutes long with 5 additional minutes for questions). Students who are planning to give poster presentations at the Symposium will be able to share their posters, but must also give an oral presentation. Nominated students must give their presentation to the Symposium committee prior to the Symposium in order to be considered for the award.

The Symposium committee evaluates presentations using the appropriate rating form linked below:

The winner(s) of the Bruning Award is announced at the Honors Convocation each spring.

Need more information? Contact Andrea M. Karkowski, Associate Provost at or ext. 6449, Renner 242.

2022 Bruning Award Winner

Learning in the Time of COVID-19: A Comparative Analysis of Adopted Educational Practices

Caitlyn Hoffman
Mentor: Olga Shonia, Education

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools around the state of Ohio and nationwide were forced to regroup to continue education of their students in online asynchronous or hybrid formats. This paradigm shift of the current zeitgeist has left many stakeholders (teachers, administrators, students, and their families) struggling to effectively adjust to this new reality, and emancipate traditional in-person practices and expectations (Ferdig et al., 2021). The purpose of this research case study is to examine challenges as well as opportunities of the hybrid/online models of learning that have become the alternative to traditional in-person delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020 - present). To achieve that, we distributed a survey instrument grounded in the framework of the Ohio Standards for Teaching Profession (2005) to the identified key stakeholders (teachers for this portion of the study) in various school districts in central Ohio—rural, urban, and suburban. Participants from other states were recruited via snowball sampling (Stake, 2010; Mills, 2018). Qualitative analysis of the collected data was performed, identifying major themes, and analyzing best practices and pitfalls to avoid to make recommendations for educators, administrators and policy makers as they embrace and navigate new instructional models and new learning environments.

2021 Bruning Award Winner

Assessment of Gluten Contamination: Reliability of Labeled "Gluten-free" Food Products in the US

Sydney Skeie, Alysa Durbin
Mentor: Kerry Cheesman, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Gluten is a protein complex found in wheat, barely, and rye, and even in foods that do not normally contain these grains. It is necessary for those with gluten intolerance, especially Celiac disease, to avoid gluten cross-contamination and be skeptical of the gluten levels in food products advertised as “gluten-free”. The current study was designed to determine the reliability of “gluten-free” food labels in the consumer marketplace. A total of 222 samples labeled “gluten-free” were obtained from restaurants, grocery stores, and health-food stores in the US. A Nima Gluten Sensor (antibody-based colorimetric assay) was used to determine if gluten content was <20 ppm, the maximum allowed by US law for a product labeled “gluten-free”. Of the samples tested, 98 were certified as “gluten-free” (<10 ppm) by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO); only 13 of these (13.2% of samples) were found to exceed 20 ppm of gluten. By comparison, 115 samples were labeled “gluten-free”, but did not indicate certification; of these, 33 (28.6%) contained more gluten than allowed by law. While results reveal that “certified gluten-free” products may be more trusted in their claim of being “gluten-free”, contamination can still occur for those who receive an inflammatory response by gluten grains.

2020 Bruning Award Winners

The Relationship between Video Games and Personality Traits

Lexi Armstrong, Megan Miller, and Kylie Grant
Mentor: Nicholas M. Van Horn, Psychology

As video games become more prevalent in today’s society, their usage can impact behavior and personality. Previous research has emphasized the association between the amount of time spent playing video games and personality. However, there is a gap in literature on the classification of video game genres relating to personality. The current study investigated the relationship between video game usage and genre preferences to personality traits of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Undergraduates completed an online survey using a modified version of the Gaming Preferences Questionnaire and the Big Five Inventory. We suspect that conscientiousness is positively associated with strategy gamers, openness is positively associated with adventure and role-playing gamers, and extraversion is positively associated with sports gamers. It is also anticipated that agreeableness is negatively associated with adventure and role-playing gamers, and neuroticism is positively associated with strategy and action gamers. Finally, higher video game usage is associated with lower levels of extraversion, agreeableness, and openness and higher levels of neuroticism and conscientiousness. This research allows for further exploration of how video game genre and the amount of time spent playing correlates with personalities.

The Effects of Polychlorinated Biphenyls on Reproductive Health

Holly Barlage, Torie Cochran, and Caroline Cramblit
Mentor: Kerry Cheesman, Biological & Environmental Sciences

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic organic chemicals used in various industrial and commercial settings, including electrical equipment. Over many decades PCBs have found their way into the environment and have been shown to cause severe health defects in both animals and humans. Previous research indicates that PCBs have had adverse effects on the reproductive health of many organisms. This study is designed to examine correlations between PCBs and the reproductive health of women. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is designed to assess the health and nutritional status of Americans. It combines interviews and physical examinations of millions of participants on a two year cycle, beginning in 1999. This study used the NHANES database to statistically analyze the PCB levels in human blood samples over 20 years and compare them to reproductive health of women, particularly menstrual patterns and rate of conception. This study increases understanding of the impacts of PCBs on public health and help design further research.

Witchcraft in Words: Poetry Inspired by the Mother of Modern Witchcraft

Sydney Dudley
Mentor: Kevin Griffith, English

My research delves into the witchcraft and Wiccan movement that occurred in Britain in the 1960s and one of the most influential figures of the movement, Doreen Valiente. The purpose of my research was to create a chapbook of 20 poems which promote interfaith relations and challenge stereotypes surrounding the Wiccan faith and practice of Witchcraft. To accomplish this purpose, I studied the culture of the 1960s, asking two specific questions: What was it that made this time the perfect environment for the rise of witchcraft and Wicca? And, why was Doreen Valiente such an important person to the movement? I recorded my findings through poetry, findings of the tumultuous nature of the war and drug-riddled 1960s and the strength and individuality of Doreen Valiente. My work benefits both the religious and English disciplines in that it works to break down religious prejudice and to use poetry to record history.

Campus Outbreak: The Spread of Contagious Viruses within the Capital University Community

Daniel Kuder, Caitlin Carpenter, Eva Peterson-Smith, and Kennedy Harden
Mentor: Kerry Cheesman, Biological & Environmental Sciences

Spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 has now caused a global pandemic, and widespread fear of the virus can be found in many communities. When in concentrated areas, such as college campuses and sporting events the virus is more effectively spread from person to person. This particular virus has many similarities to the influenza (flu) virus which plagues nations worldwide each year, but little is known about how rapidly these viruses might spread within a university population. To seek an answer to that question this study used the SEIR computational model to simulate the spread of a virus through the Capital University community. The computer model was being coupled with a survey of Capital University’s students, faculty, and staff; information collected included individual vaccination practices and factors that either inhibit or encourage vaccination. With the completed survey data, additional simulations were run that project the effectiveness of potential vaccines under varying parameters, including vaccination rates, campus activities, and population size. The results of this study may be useful in updating current educational practices to encourage greater vaccination rates, community health, and virus awareness among the general population.

Extraction and Analysis of Caffeine in Various Coffee Brands

Matthew Tyler and Molly Frey
Mentor: Nyenty Arrey, Chemistry

Many people across the world consume caffeine daily from coffee. Caffeine is described as a cardiac, respiratory, and psychic stimulant, as well as a diuretic. The goals of this study were to analyze caffeine amounts in six brands of coffee via extraction, to compare the amounts of caffeine in each brand to see if they vary, and to compare these amounts to that seen in different brands of tea to see which has more caffeine. Specifically, the amount of caffeine in an average two cup serving of coffee was analyzed for this study. Average caffeine amounts varying between 0.1580 grams and 0.2775 grams were observed in the different brands of coffee analyzed. When compared to the amounts of caffeine in different brands of tea, it was observed that the coffee exhibited lower amounts of caffeine than the tea brands. This caffeine was analyzed using FT-IR and H-NMR spectral analyses and its identity was confirmed. With the role that coffee plays in the lives of many individuals, the findings from this study help determine number of cups of coffee that are beneficial and which option, between coffee and tea, is better for one’s health and teeth.

2019 Bruning Award Winner

Medieval and Modern Manifestations of Near-Death Experience

Moriah Reichert 
Mentor: Dr. Joy Schroeder, Religion

Moriah Reichert (’19) is the 2019 recipient of the James L. and Marlene Bruning Undergraduate Research Award. Her project, “Medieval and Modern Manifestations of Near-Death Experience,” was conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Joy Schroeder (religion). Moriah’s Honors Capstone Project examined ancient and modern accounts of near-death experiences (NDEs). Her project’s comparative analysis between modern NDE accounts and the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich reveals parallels in contemporary modern accounts and one of the most studied mystics. This project suggests that the influence NDEs effect on personal religion requires a response from religious studies. Moriah is a senior religion major and will begin graduate study in religion with a theology focus in fall 2019.

2018 Bruning Award Winner

Authentic Imagery Between Cultures: Portraits from the Classroom

Hannah Westhoven, Education
Mentor: Olga Shonia

Ohio K-12 visual art content standards require that students understand how artistic decisions and interpretations are influenced by social, environmental, and political views. Teachers must engage in authentic praxis to meet these standards effectively. Art educators can use authentic imagery to enhance students’ perceptions of culture by considering perspectives of artists and fellow students around the world. This project examined the effectiveness of an overseas exchange as an instructional technique to combat stereotypical imagery and increase cultural awareness. In this case study, two elementary school classes in the U.S. and Ireland participated in a self-portrait exchange, which included three phases: (1) an entrance questionnaire asking students to describe themselves and a member of the other culture, (2) the creation of a self-portrait, and (3) an exit questionnaire that recorded their reactions to the self-portraits from the other culture. By engaging with authentic imagery from peers, students were able to find similarities/differences, and gain appreciation for members of the other culture. This exploration of student identity and culture is an important step toward engagement with social action, and it further supports the argument for K-12 art educators to use authentic imagery and cultural exchange projects in their praxis.

NOTE: Hannah also won the Diversity & Inclusion Award for this project

2017 Bruning Award Winner

Examining the Effects of IPA-3 on Protein Expression, Cell Proliferation, and Cell Migration in MDA-MB-231 and T47D Breast Cancer Cell Lines

Rachel Bender, Chemistry and Biochemistry  
Mentors: Tracey Murray and Alexandra Fajardo from the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Institute

One type of prevalent cancer in the United States is breast cancer which accounts for 29% of all new cancers among women, and 15% of cancer deaths in women. The PAKs are a family of proteins found in a variety of breast cancers and were the main focus of this research. In completing literature research, I found that many scientists had examined various aspects of PAK 1, but few had looked at PAK 2. Additionally, while research had been completed examining the effect of IPA-3 on PAKs, little research had been done with breast cancer. Using Western blotting, Trypan blue exclusion assays, and migration assays, I examined the effect of IPA-3, a PAK inhibitor, on the proliferation and expression of PAK 1 and PAK 2 in MDA-MB-231 and T47D breast cancer cell lines. The results of this research showed that IPA-3 has a greater effect on the viability, migratory abilities, and protein expression in T47D cells than on MDA-MB-231 cells. This provides evidence that IPA-3 may have a greater effect on ER positive cells that express the receptor for estrogen than on triple negative breast cancer cells that do not express the estrogen, progesterone, or the HER2 receptors.

2016 Bruning Award Winner

Absolute Lymphocyte Count and Bone Marrow Transplant Abstract

Becca Mowad, Nursing  
Mentor: Heather Janiszewski Goodin

Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is a curative therapy for several diseases, however it brings complications such as graft versus host disease, increased infection risk, and transplant related mortality (TRM). Early identification of these complications represents the best hope of improving patient outcomes. There is evidence that absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) may represent a non-invasive method to predict both complications and outcomes for BMT, however it has yet to be studied in the pediatric population. This study retrospectively examines the correlation between ALC and outcomes of BMT, such as relapse rates of hematologic malignancy and TRM. ALC values were calculated at 30 and 100 days post BMT of 88 pediatric BMT patients. An analysis of ALC may be useful to predict the acquiring of infections or graft versus host disease; however, it did not show to be statistically significant as a predicator of transplant related death in the pediatric population in this trial. By knowing the impact of ALC recovery on outcomes, it can allow for enhanced treatment by identifying the patients at risk before proceeding with an invasive procedure and can determine how to best care for an immune-compromised patient. The study allowed a more consistent BMT protocol to be established across the ages.

2015 Bruning Award Winner

The Impacts of U.S. Factory Farming

Sirrus Lawson, Economics and Political Science  
Mentor: Stephen Koch

In this study my goal was to find an answer to the question, “How does the system of livestock factory farming in the United States impact food supplies, human health, and the ecosystem?” and to shape the answer in the form of a persuasive speech. My research methodology was a two part process. In order to garner the facts and statistics relevant to my research question I consulted a multitude of online articles dealing with the three subjects, read (and analyzed the sources of) Meatonomics by David Simon, and worked with agriculture professor Mike Hogan of the Ohio State University, to determine whether cropland that grows feed crops for livestock is suitable to grow grains for human consumption. To shape the style of my speech I analyzed and combined two rhetorical methods, Cicero’s dispositio and Gustave Le Bon’s theory of “Affirmation, Repetition, Contagion” in his book The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind to gain access to a new style of public speaking that would have the careful organization of the former and the concise crowd appeal of the latter. The conclusions I drew from the research were that livestock factory farming in the United States is a very resource intensive system (through usage of crop land and feed grains specifically), that facilitates the spread of food-borne diseases (E.coli and Salmonella most frequently) and is a major cause of both water pollution nationally and deforestation internationally (predominantly in the Amazon rain forest where forests are converted to feed crop land for raising beef cattle). The nature of my research is not only topical (for example factory farming runoff was one of the main causes massive algal blooms in Lake Erie in the summer of 2014) but also unique in contextualizing how we as humans directly and daily impact others and our ecosystem. To conclude I will explain how the system of factory farming is tied to and heavily promoted by federal government policy and what citizens as consumers and voters can do to curb its negative impacts.

2014 Bruning Award Winner

The Genetic Modification Analysis of Popcorn (Zea mays) Around the World

Jessica DeBelly, Kashmere PearsonMentor: Kerry Cheesman

Advances have been made in agricultural biotechnology, and the prevalence of genetically modified food has increased substantially in the 21st century. A variety of crops are being modified to increase nutritional value and decrease damage from pests. Popcorn (Zea mays variant) is one of the top snack foods in the US, and one of the crops that has been targeted for genetic modification. The current experiment was designed to see whether or not common brands of popcorn in the US have been genetically modified (no previously published studies were found). Using modifications of standard procedures, published by Bio-Rad Inc., DNA was extracted from regular, organic, whole kernel, and pre-popped popcorn. The samples were crushed into a fine powder for DNA extraction before being amplified through PCR, run on 3% agarose gels (along with positive and negative GM controls). Results were visualized with ultraviolet light following ethidium bromide staining. Preliminary results (N = 60) show that nearly 75% of popcorn samples have been genetically modified. We compared genetic modification of popcorn companies within the United States to popcorn companies around the world. The results of this experiment allow consumers to know which brands and products of popcorn are genetically modified.

2013 Bruning Award Winner

Modeling the Spread of White-Nose Syndrome in Hibernating North American Bat Populations

Sarah Bogen, Isaac ResslerMentor: Paula Federico 

North American bat populations are currently being threatened by an emergent infectious fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) which causes mass mortality in hibernating colonies. Since it was first detected in New York in 2006, WNS has spread rapidly in the United States and Canada and killed over 5.5 million bats. Control of WNS is of major concern to both the scientific and caving communities, and the disease and mechanisms of transmission are still not well understood. We developed an individual-based model at the county level to gain insight into the spatial and temporal spread of the disease. We assume the probability of infection for each county in a given year is a function of the density of caves, the estimated cave temperature, and relative proximity to other infected counties. Model parameters were estimated by means of maximum likelihood. We compared model predictions with known infection data from 2006 until 2011. The model imitates the overall spatial and temporal patterns of the data and may be improved by decreasing the number of “false alarm” predictions in future extensions of the study.   

2012 Bruning Award Winner

Optimal Pricing Decisions for a Start-Up Company in the Car Rental Industry 

Alexander MazeMentor: M. Ali Ülkü   

The car rental industry is worth more than $20 billion, accounting for 1.4% of the total GDP in the U.S., where car is the main mode of transportation. It is thus crucial to have a deeper look into the pricing decisions of the car-rental agencies (CRAs). This research aims to shed light on and to provide an analytical framework that can aid management of CRAs in making optimal pricing decisions while achieving the service expectations of the customers. Under the case of private information, and given the pricing scheme of the competitor, this research investigates and compares various multi-part pricing schemes, such as “fixed plus per-mileage,” to determine which one yields the maximum target profit for the sustainability of a start-up CRA. Regarding the value of transparency in service pricing to the customer, this research also studies the impact of the variability of probability distributions of mileage on the optimal prices and the resulting revenues. The determination of and the conditions under which a pricing scheme is superior to the others are attained by the theory of optimization and various operations management techniques.

The Hopelessness of Traditional Eschatological Hope: A Broken World’s Cry for Active Hope in Suffering

Sarah McIlvried 
Mentors: Monica Mueller, Joy Schroeder 

Eschatology, the study of the end of things, is often pointed to as the source of hope within the Christian faith. Such theology, which focuses on a new future without suffering, has sometimes been interpreted to ask humans to patiently endure their suffering and wait for it to pass, without providing anything substantial to help them cope. In the face of injustice this is often insufficient. Liberation Theology presents an alternative, more active, form of hope which exists in the midst of suffering and leads to change. I examine the movement of the Arpilleristas in Chile during the dictatorship of Pinochet to better understand how justice movements embrace a more active hope. By applying the beliefs of liberation theologians such as Dorothee Soelle, Jurgen Moltmann, and Vaclav Havel, I find that in a time when success seemed impossible and suffering dominated their lives, these women were able to cultivate hope through solidarity, a redefining of meaning in their lives, and action. For the sake of justice movements everywhere, such an understanding of hope is essential and must be adopted if we are to engage with this world rather than accept its injustices and suffering.