Research & Creative Work Archive

A sample of research and creative work opportunities scholars have participated in the past two years.

Physical Science

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Building a new kind of atomic clock

 Project Description: We will be building a new kind of atomic clock called an optical lattice clock. While several optical lattice clocks have been built around the world, this one will have a number of special features that have never before been realized. We need to design and build the experiment, including the vacuum chamber, laser systems, optics, magnetic field coils, and electronics for control and measurement of the clock.

Tasks performed by students:

  • design and construction of basic electronic circuits.
  • Design alignment and use of basic optical systems
  • simulation and modeling of electric and magnetic fields
  • basic programming



Machine Learning for Science and Engineering

Project Description: The Informatics Skunkworks is a group dedicated to realizing the potential of informatics for science and engineering. Informatics algorithms are increasingly changing how we deal with data in science and engineering. The Skunkworks is a chance for undergraduates to engage in the development of informatics for science and engineering area together, learning advanced data science/ machine learning skills, expanding their domain specific knowledge, and growing their experience working with teams, faculty, and industry.

Tasks preformed by students:

  • Developing data sets for data mining
  • applying data mining/ informatics tools to analyze data sets
  • working with teams to solve problems
  • presenting results
  • writing up descriptions for website and other promotional materials

Interaction of land use and soil properties on soil carbon storage in Puerto Rico

Project Description: Human activities lead to many important changes in ecosystems worldwide. One important change is human land use. Soils store more carbon than the atmosphere and plants combined, and any changes in the amount of carbon stored in soils may have important implications for climate change. This project uses soils from re-growing forests in Puerto Rico to measure changes in soil carbon through forest succession. We are measuring a variety of soil properties to see if differences in these soil properties lead to a different response of soil carbon to changes in human land use.

Tasks preformed by students: Lab work including

  • seiving soil to remove rocks and roots
  • grinding of soil
  • measurement of soil bulk density
  • measurement of soil pH
  • measurement of soil particle size
  • assist with data entry

Biological Science

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Role of Collagen Density in Breast Cancer Progression

Project Description: The research project will involve aspects of cell migration and invasion in 3D collagen cells using mammary carcinoma cell lines. The project will involve microscopy and molecular biology techniques followed by quantification of the resulting data.

Tasks preformed by students:

  • 3D cell culture
  • western blotting
  • immunofluorescence
  • reading papers
  • data analysis

 Characterizing Aquatic Biodiversity 

Project Description: Characterize the local biodiversity of urban ponds around Madison and to understand the factors driving differences in aquatic community structure. In this study we will aim to examine the effects of land use, proximity to natural habitats, wetland characteristics, presence of nonnative specie, and water quality parameters on the species richness in urban wetlands of in and around Madison.

Tasks preformed by students:

  • collection of samples
  • processing in labs using microscopes and identification keys
  • background reading
  • communication of research findings

Immune Architecture of Maternal-Fetal Interface

Project Description: Discovery of immune cellular networks necessary for the organization of maternal-fetal interface, and understanding their role in preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, recurrent pregnancy loss, and implantation failure. Our lab employs both human and mouse models or reproductive physiology and disease. We use genetic targeting of immune cell development and function to dissect their role in reproductive tissue organization and disease. We collaborate closely with computer scientists and bio-statisticians to develop novel workflows for analysis of our high-dimensional flow cytometry data sets and model the reproductive immune cell networks.

Tasks preformed by students:

  • “wet lab” immune cells
  • computational analysis
  • data compilation and statistical analysis
Photo of Hawa Keita


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Mapping the Strange Tale of Ming China

Project Description: Exploring the grographical dimensions of Chinese tales of the strange using GIS software. Focus is on tale cllections from the sixteenth through the early seventeenth century. Among the questions addressed are the different geographic profiles of ghosts, gods, shape-changers, and other marvels, and the similarities or differences of the geographic profile of different collections.

Tasks preformed by students:

  • determining the coordinates of places mentioned in strange stories, and generating maps based on that data
  • Students are encouraged to develop their own projects based on stories, maps, and data

Media, Trust, and Citizenship

Project Description: In this multi-phase project, I will be exploring the concept of trust as it is practiced by professional journalists of different races. Included in this will be how digital technologies and social media platforms are being used to build trust especially among communities of color. A major inquiry will be the ethical question of objectivity as it is being practiced during these acts of building trust.


Tasks preformed by students:

  • literature review
  • assist in creating a sample of professional journalists to interview across the nation
  • finding cases to analyze for media trust projects
  • assist in interviews

Wisconsin State Capitol Historical Techniques in Stone Masonry

Project Description: An assistant for this project will do archival research in search of documentation of masonry techniques used in the construction and decoration of the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Tasks preformed by students: Conduct research in Wisconsin State Historical Society Library and Archives and record written and photographic evidence of documentation of masonry techniques.


Social Science

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Learning with Visuals in Chemistry

Project Description: My lab is recruiting research assistants to help conduct an experiment on learning with visualization in undergraduate chemistry. We are testing different versions of an educational technology that helps students understand visualizations such as Lewis structures and ball-and-stick models

Tasks performed by students: You will gain experience in

  • research in education
  • independently leading lab and classroom experiments
  • interviewing study participants
  • collecting and analyzing data
  • constructing physical models
  • computer programming and design tasks
  • analysis of qualitative interview or survey data or with quantitative performance data

Exploring Race and Educational Opportunity within Community-based Spaces

Project Description: While educational research has explored the racial meanings people make within their school contexts and how it shapes their academic performance and engagement with their school environment, few studies highlight how racial narratives about Black youth inform the practices of you workers within community based spaces or how social issues stemming from schools and neighborhoods are mitigated within community-based spaces. This qualitative study employs a critical ethnographic approach and will consist of multiple data sources, including historiccal mapping and narrative collection of the ways racial discourse has shifted over time via media archives and interviews with longtime community members regarding how Black youth are and have been engaged around issues of race in community-based spaces.

Tasks performed by students:

  • Transcription of interviews
  • Note taking (field work) at various events related to race in Dane County (panels, conferences, meetings related to youth, race and education in Madison)

The Development of Social Attitudes

Project Description: How do children navigate the world and make sense of of the various ways people can be categorized. And how do children use this information to make judgements about others (e.g. to decide who is likeable or trustworthy)? Examples of current research questions include:

  1. When and how do children come to understand social hierarchy, and how does this influence their evaluations of individuals and groups?
  2. Why is gender such and important distinction for children early in development, and how do other categories (e.g. race) become meaningful over development?
  3. What strategies are effective for preventing or ameliorating children’s social biases?

Tasks performed by students:

  • literature searches
  • read and interpreted scholarly articles
  • interacted with families and research participants
  • assisted with experiments
  • coded study videos
  • entered and analyzed data
  • participant recruitment


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Wellbeing in Medicine

Project Description: The student would support ongoing work on projects that aim to identify factors in well-being and burnout for students and practitioners of healthcare. Ongoing work includes resiliency curriculum development for health professional students, MD-PhD students, and residents, as well as work in narrative medicine and medical humanities.

Tasks preformed by students:

  • course planning and material organization
  • participant outreach
  • survey development and administration
  • data entry and summarization
  • grant searches

Are Some Languages More Efficient than Others

Project Description: Are some languages more efficient at conveying certain kinds of information than other languages? To find out we will be conducting quantitative analysis of translation to and from a variety of languages. This interdisciplinary project is a good fit for someone whose interests span language, cognitive science, and statistics.

Tasks preformed by students:

  • attend weekly lab meetings
  • assist in putting together a database of translations from a variety of sources

Barriers and Facilitators to Medical Adherence in Type 2 Diabetics

Project Description:The purpose of this study is to understand the barriers and facilitatos of medication adherence among patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DB), accross different health literature levels, using a convergent mixed methods design. A survey and an interview will be administered via a face-to face approach to people with T2DB.

Tasks preformed by students:

  • work one-on-one with the graduate student
  • spend two half days/ one full day weekly going to the clinic for data collection
  • participate in data collection and data entry