Villanova Match Research Program for First Year Students

**The Spring 2020 application period will open on Monday, October 21, 2019**


The Villanova Match Research Program for First Year Students provides opportunities for motivated first-year students to pursue undergraduate research in the spring semester. Applicants do not need substantial experience and will serve as research assistants to faculty mentors.

If selected for the Match program, students will conduct research for 10 hours per week for 10 weeks for which they will receive a $1000 stipend. In addition to conducting undergraduate research, Match grantees participate in professional development seminars on resumes, cover letters, oral presentations, and proposal writing during the Spring semester.  


Student Application Instructions

To apply for the Villanova Match Research Program for First Year Students, please complete the following steps:

  1. Review the research projects listed below and identify a project that interests you. Opportunities, arranged alphabetically by College and Department, are open to all students. You may apply for opportunities outside of your college and major. You may apply for multiple opportunities.

  2. Submit your application directly to the Faculty Research Mentor by Friday, November 8, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. A complete application consists of the following:
    • One-page resume
    • One-page cover letter
    • Email subject line should contain: Match Research Program Application, LastName
    • Combined into one PDF file
    • File should be named in the following manner: LastName_FirstName_Match Application
  3. The Faculty Research Mentor will review your application and will contact you to interview for the position during the month of November.

If you would like to discuss undergraduate research and formulate a plan for becoming involved in undergraduate research at Villanova, you are welcome, though not required, to make an appointment with the CRF team via Handshake.

Cover Letter & Resume Templates & Tips

* Match CRF Workshop 30 mins, 10-18-17.pptx
Presentation featuring information about preparing a cover letter
* Cover Letter Template.docx
This template outlines a cover letter
* Resume Template CRF Header.pdf
This resume template and action verb list is a good place to begin if you do not have a resume


Spring 2019 Projects

Summaries of the Spring 2019 projects are listed below the table

Professor Email Department Project Title
    Sociology & Criminology Connecting Social Policy and Medicalization: The  Case of World Trade Center Cough
  Romance Languages and Literatures Mapping Trash and Art in Latin America
    Romance Languages
& Literatures
Mapping Folklore in Valparaiso
    Romance Languages
& Literatures
Visualizing LatinX Philly
Dr. Xun Jiao Electrical and Computer Engineering Energy-efficient Neural Networks with Low-precision Parameters
Dr. Bo Li Mechanical Engineering Build Highly Sensitive Environmental Sensor from Polymer Nanocrystals Assembledon Crystalized 2D Materials
Dr. Eric Musselman &
Dr. David W. Dinehart; Civil & Environmental
Compressive Behavior of Wood Perpendicular to the Grain
Dr. Sherry A. Burrell Nursing Quality of Life in Caregivers of Veterans with Cancer
Dr. Mary Ann Cantrell Nursing A Clinical Simulation Program to Increase Graduate Nurses’ Clinical Competency and Clinical Judgment in the Practice Setting
Dr. Sunny Hallowell Nursing Virtual Reality Simulation for Teaching and Evaluation  of Medication Safety Adminisration 
Dr. Michelle Kelly Nursing Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Child with  Special Health Care Need
Dr. Meredith MacKenzie Greenle Nursing Hypertension Self-care among Indonesian-Americans 
Dr. James Mendez Nursing The Predictive Ability of the Stanford Integrated Psychosocial Assessment for Transplant (SIPAT) for Length of Stay and Survival up to Four Years after Lung Transplantation
Dr. Tracy L. Oliver Nursing Assessment of Weight-Related Bias among Undergraduate Nursing students beforeand after Curriculum Imbedded Sensitivity Training
Dr. Jennifer Ross Nursing The Effect of Curricular Integration of TeamSTEPPS Training on Baccalaureate Nursing Students’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Skills in Teamwork
Dr. Jennifer Yost Nursing Quantifying Redundancy in Research
Dr. Anil Bamezai Biology Investigate using a mouse tumor transplantation model, the role of immune checkpoint iinhibitor Ly-6A expressed on Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) in tumor immunity
Dr. Robert Beck Computing Sciences Persuasive Human Computer Interaction
Dr. David Chuss &
Dr. Javad Siah; Physics Exploring Interstellar Magnetic Fields from the Stratosphere 
Dr. Robert Curry Biology Effect of hybridization on problem-solving abilities of Pennsylvania Chickadees
Dr. Laura Getz Psychological  and  Brain Sciences Interactions are Essential: Audiovisual Integration  and Top-Down Influences in Perception 
Dr. Steven Goldsmith Geography and the Environment Evaluating the Relationship between Suburban Land Use Practices and Water Quality
Dr. Kaitlyn Muller Mathematics and Statistics The Effect of Physics-Based Modeling on Synthetic-Aperture Radar Target Detection  
Dr. Joey Neilsen Physics Mapping a Black Hole Wind: Determining the Orbital Period and Wind Geometry in GRO J1655-40  
Dr. Kabindra M. Shakya & Dr. Peleg Kramer; Geography and the Environment Air quality mapping at Villanova Campus
Dr. Troy Shirangi Biology How genes build neural circuits for animal instincts.
Dr. Aronte Bennett & Dr. Beth Vallen; Marketing and Business Law  Impact of Container Based Consumption Inferences
Dr. Yoon-Na Cho Marketing and Business Law  Effect of ambient lighting in consumer decision making
Dr. Xiaoxiao (Maya) Li Economics Gender Pay Gap in the C Suite 
Dr. Matthew Sarkees Marketing and Business Law  Generation Z and the Opioid Crisis: Marketing and Public Policy Implications  

Project Summaries




Dr. Meredith Bergey, Sociology & Criminology

Connecting Social Policy and Medicalization: The Case of World Trade Center Cough

This project seeks to examine the social meanings and framings that have emerged since September 11, 2001 with respect to the contested illness “World Trade Center Cough.”More specifically, this case will be used to better understand the medicalization process within the context of social policy – a factor that has thus far received little attention in the sociological literature.

The research assistant for this project would assist in literature searches, source organizing (e.g. through RefWorks or a similar program), and some qualitative content analysis. Additionally, if an abstract or paper is submitted and accepted for a conference, the student will have an opportunity to co-present the material with the faculty member.



Dr. Agnese Codebo, Romance Languages & Literatures

Mapping Trash and Art in Latin America

The relationship between trash and art has its roots in the 1960s when artists filled canvas with poor materials, to confer them with artistic value. Such practices inform today’s artistic use of trash, which reveal not only the aesthetic value of waste, but also point to its political, social, economical, and environmental dimensions. This is particularly true in Latin America where the disposal of trash depends heavily upon the work of informal recyclers, known as cartoneros, recolectores, recuperadores, and recicladores, who collect recyclables in order to survive. These ways of trash disposal have met in the last years the growing interest of the art world. Hence contemporary Latin American artists such as Alejandro Mármol, Alejandro Zacarías, Ingrid Hernández, Vik Muniz y Francis Alÿs are creating works that employ waste to reflect upon the intersections between informality, work, poverty, migrations, and climate change. This project aims at mapping the encounters between trash and art in Latin America to track the presence of a common aesthetic trend, which reveals waste as a necessary vehicle to think the continent’s social and cultural issues.



Dr. Adriano Duque, Romance Languages and Literatures

Mapping Folklore in Valparaiso

This project builds on previous scholarship on the relation between Folklore and Collective Memory. Drawing from the material gathered during a trip to Valparaíso (Chile), the project aims to consider how Folksongs are often used not only to normalize social behavior, but also to draw social boundaries inside the city. In an initial stage, students were asked to record the sex, origin, age, profession and residence location of the different informants. The information was then used to compose a folklore map of the city which was later superimposed on a map of the danger zones of the city. The project now aims to generate a presentation poster explaining the importance of folklore traditions in shaping and expressing anxieties over social and racial difference in the city of Valparaíso. 



Dr. Laura V. Sández, Romance Languages & Literatures  

Visualizing LatinX Philly

This project is focused onthe diversity of the Latinx community in Philadelphia. Its purpose is twofold. On the one hand to bring to the attention of the Villanovan community the multiplicity of cultural sources related to Latin Americans living in thearea. On the other, to develop a catalog of sources present in one or more archives located in the city of Philadelphia.

The research assistant will explorethe archive of one or more selected institutions. The research assistant will make an inventory of sources, classify them in different categories and share a selection of the most interesting findings in a website.The candidates will be able to pursue avenues of their own interest while gaining knowledge on the Latinx community in Philadelphia.





Dr. Xun Jiao, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Energy-efficient Neural Networks with Low-precision Parameters

Neural networks achieve success in various application domains such as image processing, speech recognition, and medical diagnostics. However, the intensive computation workload of neural networks incurs high energy consumption, limiting its deployment in low-power devices. In this project, we are trying to reduce the computation workload of neural networks by lowering the parameter precision. For example, we can transform a floating-point multiplication into a fixed-point multiplication. The challenge here is how to assign proper precision to different parameters to maximize the energy savings while keeping the accuracy of neural networks. To solve this, we will explore different optimization algorithm and neural network implementation to validate the approach.



Dr. Bo Li, Mechanical Engineering

Build Highly Sensitive Environmental Sensor from Polymer Nanocrystals Assembledon Crystalized 2D Materials

Highly sensitive, miniaturized, and affordable environmental sensors are meaningful for air pollution monitoring, water quality control, and toxic gas detection. In this research, we will create a new type of environmental sensor using a unique hybrid architecture from polymer and two dimensional (2D) nanomaterial. The hybrid architecture is made by epitaxially growing polymer nanocrystals on highly crystallized 2D material surface. The epitaxial polymer-2D materials interface has strong interfacial interaction leading to better strain-stress transfer between polymer and 2D materials. The interface interaction will be strongly influenced when exposing to organic vapors which then leads to a change in 2D material’s electrical properties. In this Match Research Program, we will utilize the optimized polymer-2D material interface and the sensitive electrical properties of 2D materials to study the sensing mechanism of this new architecture and develop gases sensor for water, alcohol and several organic vapors. This research may lead to sensitive and affordable humidity sensor, breath detector, and toxic environment monitoring.



Dr. Eric Musselman and David W. Dinehart, Civil & Environmental Engineering  

Compressive Behavior of Wood Perpendicular to the Grain

In many instances with deep and narrow wood beams, crushing of the wood at the bearing points is the controlling failure mode. The objective of the study is to perform compression tests on wood perpendicular to the grain for four or five different species of wood and document the load deflection to gain a better understanding of this failure mode. The moisture content of the wood has been shown to have a large impact on this failure mode and therefore tests will also be conducted at different moisture contents. Design professionals are interested in learning about what happens beyond code limit “failure”and if additional compression can be allowed.This would allow for more efficient use of the materials by utilizing the full capacity of the wood beam.

The research would be conducted at the Structural Engineering Teaching and Research Lab (SETRL). There is one master’s student and one PhD student that is currently working in the wood research group at SETRL, and these students along with the faculty advisors would be available to provide guidance in establishing the testing program and assistance in using the required testing equipment and data acquisition.Additionally, the faculty advisors have a research agreement with Mulhern and Kulp (a local structural engineering firm specializing in wood structures) who will provide input and guidance through the course of the project.

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Dr. Sherry A. Burrell, College of Nursing

Quality of Life in Caregivers of Veterans with Cancer

Cancer not only affects the patient, but also the informal caregivers who assist the patient throughout the cancer journey. Improved cancer survival rates and a shift in the delivery of cancer treatments to the outpatient setting, have resulted in an increased need for informal caregivers (Kent et al., 2016). An informal cancer caregiver is defined as relative, friend or neighbor who provides a broad range of assistance to an individual with cancer, which often includes: monitoring for side effects of treatment; managing symptoms; assisting with activities of daily living; and providing emotional, financial and spiritual support. Informal caregivers often take on the role without adequate knowledge, skills and resources, and experience negative emotional, physical, social and spiritual consequences, which can result in a poor quality of life (QoL) (Northouse et al., 2012; Kim & Given, 2008).

It is estimated that there 5.5 million informal caregivers of Veterans in the United States (Ramchand et al., 2014). Informal caregivers of military service men and women with cancer are faced with unique challenges due to the complex underlying health conditions prevalent in this population, including: depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injuries (National Alliance of Caregiving [NAC], 2010). In a recent survey, caregivers of Veterans (N=462) reported experiencing a high level of physical strain (66%), stress and anxiety (88%) and participating in unhealthy behaviors, such as having poor eating habits (56%), spending less time exercising (69%), and skipping their own medical appointments (58%) (NAC, 2010). Despite these negative health-related consequences; QoL in those caring for Veterans with cancer have not been widely reported. The purpose of this project is to use the integrative review methodology to explore the literature pertaining to QoL outcomes and factors related to QoL in caregivers of Veterans with or surviving cancer.



Dr. Mary Ann Cantrell, College of Nursing

A Clinical Simulation Program to Increase Graduate Nurses’ Clinical Competency and Clinical Judgment in the Practice Setting

The primary aim of this National League for Nursing (NLN) funded project is to assess the extent to which graduate nurses, who participate in a program of safety-focused clinical SBLE can increase their clinical competency and clinical judgment and transfer these demonstrated skills from a simulated environment to a practice setting. A secondary aim of this study is to compare those graduate nurses who participated in this safety-focused simulation program with a control group of graduate nurses, enrolled in the same nurse residency program, who did not participate in these safety-focused simulation-based learning experiences (SBLE), on the outcomes of clinical competency and clinical judgment in the practice setting. This study will use an experimental interrupted time-series design. The Integrative Model of Clinical Judgment guides this study.The sample of 122 graduate nurses will be drawn from a nurse residency program from the Main Line Health System. The intervention will be comprised of four SBLE that incorporate the 2017 Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goals. Study participants in the intervention arm of the study will have their clinical competency measured with the Creighton Competency Evaluation Instrument(CCEI®) and their clinical judgement measured with the Lasater Clinical Judgment Rubric (LCJR©) following each SBLE. The clinical simulation will occur in the simulation lab in the College of Nursing. Study participants, in both the intervention and control group, will have these outcomes measured in the practice setting.



Dr. Sunny Hallowell, College of Nursing

Virtual Reality Simulation for Teaching and Evaluation of Medication Safety Adminisration 

Medication errors have been identified as the third leading cause of death after cancer and respiratory disease in the United States. Prevention of medical error is paramount to ensuring patient safety. In nursing education, limited availability of clinical sites, scarce clinical faculty and inhibitory institutional policies, reduce the opportunities for nursing students to acquire training and experience with medication administration. In the pediatric setting many nursing students graduate with limited experiences in medication administration of age and weight based doses. This project aims to bridge this critical patient safety gap in the preparation of nursing student with the use of novel technology in nursing simulation.

We propose to test the development, implementation and application of a virtual reality simulator (VRS) by utilizing commercially accessible virtual reality technology to create an immersive clinical environment that simulates the experience of medication administration. We are partnering with Dr. Edward Kim in Computer Science who has designed a VRS for use in Anesthesiology. We will adapt this and test this technology for use in simulation of medication administration for nursing students in the Pediatric clinical rotation.We have also partnered with the Learning Resource Center (LRC) at the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing. We hope to support development of VRS learning experiences to augment the high-fidelity patient simulation learning tools in the LRC.



Dr. Michelle Kelly, College of Nursing

Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Child with Special Health Care Need

Nearly 1 in 5 families in the United States have a child with a special health care need. Children with special health care needs arethoseat increased risk for chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional conditions andrequire health related services beyond what is generally required for children of the same age. Children’s healthis affected by many extrinsic factors such as exposure to adverse childhood experiences(ACE). Exposureto one or more ACE results in a physiologic conditionknown as toxic stress which alters brain structure and function andnegatively affects future health.

The first step in this project will include exploration of the ACEliterature related to children with special health care needs. The goal of step one will be to identify if existing literature highlights childrenwith special health care needs as being particularly vulnerable to ACE. Thesecond step of this project willbe to query the NSCH 2016 dataset to analyze the prevalence of ACE in children with special health care needs. The National Survey of Children’s Health(NSCH)is designed to estimate national and state level prevalence of child and family health measures, with the goal to inform child advocates, policymakers and researchers. The aim of this project will be to inform health care providers and families regarding the additive risks of ACE to children with special health care needs. The project will culminate in thedevelopment of manuscript exploring state or national levels of ACE in children with special health care needs. It is intended that the project will also result in presentations at local parentorganizations for childrenwith special health care needs.



Dr. Meredith MacKenzie Greenle, College of Nursing

Hypertension Self-care among Indonesian-Americans

This will be a prospective study in 2 phases: the first phase will translate and test the psychometrics of the Self-Care of Hypertension Inventory (SC-HI) in a sample of Indonesian-Americans attending a free clinic in South Philadelphia. The second phase will test the effectiveness of an educational intervention to improve hypertension self-care in this population.

A third of adults in the United States have hypertension, which significantly increases the risk for cardiac disease, blindness, renal failure and stroke. Self-care, which includes blood pressure monitoring and adherence to dietary, exercise and medication guidelines, is essential to achieve optimal levels of blood pressure and reduce the risk for adverse outcomes. The goal of this research study is to extend what is known about hypertension self-care into the Indonesian-American community and to test the effectiveness of an intervention in the context of a resource-poor environment.



Dr. James Mendez, College of Nursing

The Predictive Ability of the Stanford Integrated Psychosocial Assessment for Transplant (SIPAT) for Length of Stay and Survival up to Four Years after Lung Transplantation

Prospective candidates for lung transplantation undergo an extensive evaluation to assess their medical, financial and psychosocial suitability to undergo a rigorous transplant surgery. Once surgery has been performed, patients must actively participate with the transplant team in managing a complex treatment regimen for the rest of their lives. Adherence to this regimen requires continued medical, financial and psychosocial stability. The effects of medical and financial factors on post-transplant outcomes are generally known. The effect of psychosocial factors has not been studied as extensively.

The Stanford Integrated Psychosocial Assessment Tool (SIPAT) is a validated instrument that is sometimes used to assess the psychosocial suitability of candidates seeking access to the transplant waiting list. It has several subscales: 1) patient’s readiness level, 2) social support system, 3) psychological stability and psychopathology, and 4) lifestyle and effect of substance use. This project has two specific aims. It will compare the SIPAT scores of patients who have been placed on the waiting list for lung transplantation to those patients who were not suitable candidates for the waiting list, and it will analyze the predictive ability of total SIPAT score and SIPAT subscale scores for hospital length of stay and survival after lung transplantation.

Social workers have already completed the SIPAT instrument for lung transplant candidates at a large, academic medical center on the east coast of the United States. The research mentor has an existing database of approximately 400 lung transplant recipients who have undergone surgery since 2014. The database contains de-identified records with demographic information for each recipient, total SIPAT scores, and clinical outcomes data including hospital length of stay and survival days. SIPAT subscales will need to be added to the database before the statistical analysis can proceed.  



Dr. Tracy L. Oliver, College of Nursing

Assessment of Weight-Related Bias among Undergraduate Nursing students beforeand after Curriculum Imbedded Sensitivity Training

Obesity is one of the leading public health concerns in America today with more than 66% of the US adult population reported as being overweight or obese (Ogden et al., 2006). Discrimination and weight stigmatization are unfortunate experiencesobese individuals encounter in the healthcare setting (Puhl & Brownell, 2001). Healthcare providers such as physicians and nurses may harbor biased attitudes about weight, which can contribute to discrimination (Budd, Mariotti, Graff & Falkenstein, 2009). Weight bias may directly affecta patient’s involvement in healthcare therefore, it is essential to identify and to alleviate weight stigma among future healthcare professionals. Since nursing professionals are often the frontline of care, they must first identify if they are unknowingly harboring any personal stigma or bias against overweight or obese patients. Thereby, targeting nursing students to receive weight sensitivity training may be imperative to not only teach students about the complexities of obesity, but to provide a skill-set to combat stigma in their future nursing practice.

Overall, the goal of this project is to utilize the expertise of Registered Dietitians who work either as faculty within the Villanova University College of Nursing or staff at the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education to implement a weight sensitivity training program during the fall semester 2017. This project is presently underway and is developing, implementing, and evaluating a teaching strategy to promote sensitivity training and prepare undergraduatenursing students to provide nondiscriminatory patient care to the overweight and obese patients during their NUR 3115 Practicum in Nursing Care of Adults and Older Adults course.It is expected thatsensitivity training will increase the nursing students’ awareness of personal biases and provide a foundation to alleviate weight bias. The development and cultivation of non-biased attitudes has the potential to influence their future conduct as nurses.



Dr. Jennifer Ross, College of Nursing

The Effect of Curricular Integration of TeamSTEPPS Training on Baccalaureate Nursing Students’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Skills in Teamwork

Communication breakdowns are the leading cause of medical errors which can lead to negative patient outcomes, including death. To prevent communication breakdowns and promote safe patient care, healthcare professionals must work collaboratively with members of the interprofessional healthcare team to deliver the safest and highest quality of patient care. Each member of the interprofessional healthcare team must understand the other team members’ roles and engage in effective communication to plan and deliver coordinated care for each patient.

Despite the importance of pre-licensure interprofessional education, currently there is no agreement about the framework, timing, or teaching and evaluation strategies for pre-licensure interprofessional healthcare provider teamwork education. The Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety (TeamSTEPPS) program, developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), focuses on specific teamwork communication strategies to support the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with team leadership, situation monitoring, mutual support, and communication. TeamSTEPPS offers one specific curriculum to integrate interprofessional education into pre-licensure healthcare provider training. Literature supporting interprofessional education, specifically using the TeamSTEPPS curriculum, in pre-licensure healthcare professionals’ education remains scarce and does not provide evidence for best practice for educational modalities.

This project explores the curricular integration of the TeamSTEPPS program into a baccalaureate nursing program. Specifically, the purposes of this research are to: 1) determine the effect of curricular integration of TeamSTEPPS training on baccalaureate nursing students’ knowledge, attitudes, and competence related to teamwork; and 2) determine baccalaureate nursing students’ perceptions of curricular integration of TeamSTEPPS teamwork training. We are currently in the data collection phase of this study.



Dr. Jennifer Yost, College of Nursing

Quantifying Redundancy in Research

A new phenomenon has recently been discovered. Researchers are conducting, organizations are funding, and journals are publishing research that redundant. What is most concerning is that people are participating in this unnecessary research. This is unethical, limits available funding for important and relevant research, and diminishes the public’s trust in research.To begin to address this problem, the purpose of this project is to identify the degree to which this problem occurs across a range of disciplines.

The international research team, to which the faculty contributes, is seeking a freshman student to be involved in this project which is a systematic review of the literature. The student should be intrinsically motivated and detail-oriented, as well as be able to work independently and within a team, to engage in the following activities associated with the research study:

  • Participate in research team meetings
  • Read literature relevant to the study question
  • Identify whether literature is relevant to the study question
  • Record/enter data from the relevant literature
  • Assist in the dissemination of study results which may include, but are not limited to, contributing to the preparation of a manuscript for publication, conference abstract submissions, PowerPoint slides for oral presentations, and poster.





Dr. Anil Bamezai, Chemistry  

Investigate using a mouse tumor transplantation model, the role of immune checkpoint iinhibitor Ly-6A expressed on Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) in tumor immunity

T lymphocytes play a vital role in immunity to pathogens and cancer. These cells recognize foreign proteins through their antigen receptor (also called as T cell receptor),and mount an immune response for body’s defense. While pathogens trigger robust immune response, tumor cells, which are mostly self-tissues do not. Aiding helper and cytotoxic T lymphocytes to generate strong adaptive response against all types of tumors will aid in cure for cancer. Lymphocytes, after sensing a foreign protein, undergo cell division and expand in numbers to generate billions of clones for immune defense. Many of these lymphocytes travel inside the tumor (tumor infiltrating lymphocytes-TILs) to fight the tumor. The tumor microenvironment incapacitates these TILs resulting in their exhaustion and inactivity. Our laboratory is currently studying the role of Ly-6A protein and its contribution to T cell activity/inactivity. We are using mouse tumor transplantation model, where mouse melanoma cancer cells are transplanted to the skin of genetically defined mouse strains to induce tumors. TILs from the tumors generated in Ly-6A deficient and sufficient mice are being analyzed for their capacity to respond to the tumor tissues. These studies will provide insights into the role of Ly-6A protein expressed on TILs to fight and eliminate the transplanted tumor.



Dr. Robert Beck, Computing Sciences  

Persuasive Human Computer Interaction

Persuasive Human Computer Interaction is a subarea of HCI research focused on changing human behavior. Investigators conduct experiments and make observations to discover effective strategies. For example, does winning virtual badges at ever increasing levels of involvement promote lasting behavior changes?

This project is investigating ways to use persuasive HCI to promote the use of the bottle-filling water fountains installed on campus. These fountains are a good source of sustainability data because they have built-in counters that record the use of the fountains. The project is part of a larger study of computing and sustainability, where in this context sustainability means making the planet safe for life into the foreseeable future.

The literature suggests a number of strategies involving aspects of computing and HCI including:

  • Informative and normative social influences: the desire to be right and the desire to be liked and socially accepted.
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: appealing to one’s sense of public good or providing rewards for acceptable behavior.
  • Extrinsic motivation and group coherence: promoting team success and social reward for actions.

The quest is to find which computing based strategies are best for promoting sustainability. These strategies change as the technology changes: smart water bottles, Wi-Fi enabled watches, ubiquitous computing approaches are some possibilities. The project blends sophisticated technology with common actions of humans to help them tread more lightly on their environment.

Previous project results show that increasing use is difficult without active rewards or prompts. The next step is to experiment with the design of “smart” water bottles and “smart” water fountains.



Dr. David Chuss & Dr. Javad Siah, Physics

Exploring Interstellar Magnetic Fields from the Stratosphere

Our group at Villanova was part of the instrument team for the HAWC+ camera that operates on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a 2.5 meter telescope mounted inside a Boeing 747 that observes the infrared sky at an altitude of 45,000 feet. HAWC+ is now collecting data from regions of our Galaxy where stars are forming, and we are working to use these data to understand why stars are formed at such an unexpectedly low rate in the Milky way. HAWC+ uses the polarization of infrared light to trace the pattern of magnetic fields in the large clouds of gas and dust from which stars form. We can use this information to determine whether magnetic fields are responsible for slowing the rate of star formation.



Dr. Robert Curry, Biology

Effect of hybridization on problem-solving abilities of Pennsylvania Chickadees

When two species interbreed, evolutionary consequences depend on the relative fitness of hybrid offspring. Often, hybrids have reduced fitness, which tends to reinforce separation of the parent species, but the mechanisms involved are often unknown. Recently, scientists at Lehigh University demonstrated that hybrids between black-capped and Carolina chickadees have impaired ability to solve simple puzzle tasks, relative to individuals of each of the parental species, when studied in captivity. We now aim to test whether the same result obtains in free-living chickadees. This work will take advantage of our existing mixed population of chickadees at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary that are already marked and blood-sampled. Tests in 2018-19 will involve presenting marked birds with “puzzle” tasks similar to those used in the captive studies; to solve the puzzle, the chickadee must push a transparent Plexiglas cover to the side to obtain access to a mealworm (a highly desirable food item). The independent variable in the study will be each chickadee’s species-level genotype. We characterize this using DNA extracted from blood samples obtained during banding (following capture in a trap or a net, at a nest or at a feeder); amplification of particular segments of DNA followed by digestion with restriction enzymes; and then visualization of the number and size of DNA fragments using electrophoresis. We have already used these methods (developed specifically for chickadees by the Lehigh group) to yield species-level genotype at eight species-diagnostic single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for > 50 Hawk Mountain individuals; our sample includes black-capped, Carolina, and hybrid chickadees. (We will add new birds to this sample during Fall 2018 and Winter 2019.) Dependent variables will include the time it takes each bird to solve the puzzle (latency) after its arrival on the baited test platform, and the number of attempts each bird requires before achieving success.



Dr. Laura Getz, Psychological and Brain Sciences

Interactions are Essential: Audiovisual Integration and Top-Down Influences in Perception

Organizing complex perceptual inputs in real time is crucial for our ability to interact with the world around us. Classic views of perception hold that we absorb environmental information from our senses and translate these inputs into signals that the brain identifies, structures, and interprets in a bottom-up fashion. However, there is a long-standing debate in cognitive science as to the degree to which top-down effects from higher-level processes such as emotions, actions, motivation, and linguistic representations directly influence perceptual processing. The purpose of the current research projects is to better understand perceptual interactions, including the interaction of bottom-up and top-down processing and interactions across auditory and visual input modalities.

In one set of experiments, we will look at cross-modal correspondences (i.e., the consistent matching between sensory features across two modalities) between pitch and height and pitch and size to investigate how understanding of pitch metaphors influences the strength of these audiovisual mappings. Listeners will be asked to rapidly classify pitches (as low or high) while presented with simultaneous visual size (large vs. small objects) and height (low vs. high objects) information. This will allow us to determine whether adult listeners prioritize height or size information in making their pitch classifications based on their top-down familiarity of the dominant height metaphor for pitch (among English speakers). We will compare these results to results from four-month-old infants who lack language/metaphor knowledge in order to determine the bottom-up nature of such audiovisual correspondences.

In another set of experiments, we will look how humans develop the ability to integrate auditory and visual information in speech perception. Participants of different ages will be asked to identify speech sounds under varying task (forced-choice vs. open-ended), stimuli (synthetic vs. naturally-produced), and collection location (lab vs. MTurk) conditions, which will allow us to determine how top-down task demands interact with automatic speech recognition mechanisms.

Together, these projects will inform longstanding debates in cognitive science regarding the extent to which cognitive processes are encapsulated from one another and more broadly speak to how perception is influenced by individual and cross-cultural differences, previous knowledge, expertise, and task demands.



Dr. Steven Goldsmith, Geography and the Environment

Evaluating the Relationship between Suburban Land Use Practices and Water Quality

Although water quality studies have linked agricultural and urban land use practices to aquatic system degradation, the impacts of suburbia have often been overlooked. Yet these same suburban streams can receive substantial nutrient inputs similar to agricultural areas, and face additional threats including inputs of road salts and streambank erosion due to excess stormwater runoff. This study involves both the manual collection of water samples and stream discharge data, and the evaluation of historical datasets, for watersheds in the Villanova campus area that cover a range of land use development. Comparison of water quality data to potential controlling factors, such upstream land use practices (i.e., single-family homes, golf courses, office parks, etc.), number of storm drain outlets within a watershed, and extent of stream vegetation buffers is expected to not only delineate contamination delivery pathways but also provide regulatory guidance for future development practices.



Dr. Kaitlyn Muller, Mathematics and Statistics

 The Effect of Physics-Based Modeling on Synthetic-Aperture Radar Target Detection

A synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) is a radar system that is mounted on a moving platform, such as an aircraft or satellite. This sensor transmits and receives electromagnetic waves. The movement of the platform allows one to synthesize a much larger aperture, or viewing angle, than those provided by fixed sensors. This allows one to improve scene coverage and resolution of resulting images of the scene. The collected SAR data may be processed to produce an image of a scene of interest and also to detect and classify objects present in the scene. The performance of the detection and classification algorithms is dependent on the mathematical model assumed to represent a scene. In this work, we will test detection algorithms on various mathematical models, which incorporate varying levels of expected physical scattering behavior of man-made objects. It is the goal to determine what level of modeling provides the best detection probability while keeping computational cost low. We will start with testing simple canonical scatterers like dipoles and corners, and advance to wires and eventually more complex targets like automobiles. We will begin working with simulated data from our own simple models, as well as data generated by an advanced electromagnetic software, and finally real-world data collected at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.



Dr. Joey Neilsen, Physics

Mapping a Black Hole Wind: Determining the Orbital Period and Wind Geometry in GRO J1655-40

Despite the popular misconception, black holes are not cosmic vacuum cleaners. In fact, even as they consume neighboring stars, their deep gravitational potentials heat the infalling gas to temperatures of millions of degrees. The immense energies involved can then eject the gas before it ever reaches the event horizon (the point of no return), producing relativistic jets or massive outflows called “winds.” But given the vast distances to these objects, opportunities to determine the geometry of the inflows and outflows—what they look like—are somewhat rare. The purpose of this project is to take advantage of one such opportunity. In 2006, a strong wind was discovered around the well-known stellar-mass black hole GRO J1655-40. Our analysis suggests that this wind may have been large enough and hot enough to outshine and possibly even partially eclipse the black hole’s companion star. However, our ability to constrain the size and location of this wind is limited by uncertainties on the orbital period of this binary system. With optical and infrared data from the 1.3-m SMARTS telescope in Chile, we will use a technique called phase dispersion minimization to determine the orbital period. By revealing the precise orbital phases most associated with this optical/infrared emission, this will enable us to create a “map” of the wind and its relation to the black hole and companion star.



Dr. Kabindra M. Shakya & Dr. Peleg Kramer, Geography and the Environment

Air quality mapping at Villanova Campus

This project create an air quality map for Philadelphia using data that was collected during a summer research project and collect new data to assess air quality in and around Villanova campus at several locations. The student will measure air quality (mainly ozone and PM2.5) and noise levels during different periods of the day. The study will be continuation of a 2017 data collection campaign. Comparison of air quality at Villanova will be made and air quality will also be analyzed for temporal variations from the measurements made during spring 2017. Air quality maps will be created based on the measurements using Geographic Information System (GIS).



Dr. Troy Shirangi, Biology

How genes build neural circuits for animal instincts.

Animals are born with instincts. Where these instincts come from, and how they arise during development has baffled naturalists for centuries. My laboratory studies this problem using fruit flies. Flies show an amazing variety of elaborate instinctual behaviors especially during social interactions like courtship and mating. A male fly, for instance, will court a female by chasing her and singing a ‘song’ to her with his wing, while female flies decide whether or to mate. Remarkably, these behaviors are ‘wired up’ in the fly’s nervous system during development by the actions of genes. This project investigates how one of these genes—a gene that encodes a particular hormone receptor—builds the neural circuits that underlie the fly’s courtship behaviors. Where this gene is expressed in the fly’s nervous system, which neurons are important for behavior, and how the gene influences neuronal development or function is not known. This project will get us on our way to addressing these issues by elucidating the expression of the gene in the fly brain. In the end, we hope that this work will shed light on the genetic and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie innate, instinctual behaviors.





Dr. Aronte Bennett & Dr. Beth Vallen, Marketing and Business Law

Impact of Container Based Consumption Inferences

Increasingly, food products are packaged in containers that do not match their product category (e.g., gummy bears in juice bottles or containers that one would expect to hold vitamins). This research project endeavors to understand the inferences consumers make about appropriate serving sizes based on the containers in which food stuffs are stored. Building on a robust stream of research around food choices and consumption, this work contributes to the field with the application of affordance theory. Affordance theory suggests that the world is perceived not only in terms of object shapes but also in terms of object possibilities for actions.We hypothesize that consumers infer possibilities of consumption from containers such that food stuffs stored in containers that are associated with restricted consumption (i.e., vitamin bottles) will be consumed at a lesser rater than when those same foodstuffs are stored in containers free from these associations (e.g., mason jars). This difference in consumption is expected to be driven by differences in understanding of the object possibilities associated with container types. Currently working on an IRB application, Drs. Bennett and Vallen hope to have stimuli pretests as well as an initial study completed by the end of Fall semester.



Dr. Yoon-Na Cho, Marketing and Business Law

Effect of ambient lighting in consumer decision making

The current research focus on sensory marketing, specifically on the role of lighting ambience on product evaluations. The lighting ambience has been found to be associated with structure of valence – bright (dark) ideographs are associated with positive (negative) words (Lakens, Semin, and Foroni 2012). Prior findings suggest that the lighting shapes social cognition and influence consumer responses. For example, in dark (vs. bright) lighting conditions, taboo-themed ads were found to be more humorous (Lee et al. 2017), possibly due to dark and negative moral values association (Sherman and Clore 2010).

In dark (vs. bright) lighting condition, I propose that there is a greater need to touch to evaluate products due to limited sensory capacity. That is, I expect the lighting ambience to be related to sense of touch, enhancing consumers’ need to feel connected to others when impaired with lack of sight. The findings will provide researchers and practitioners with new insight on how consumers make purchasing decisions based on the specific context, illuminance of ambient lighting.

Lakens, Daniel, Gun R. Semin, and Francesco Foroni (2012), "But For the Bad, There Would Not Be Good: Grounding Valence in Brightness Through Shared Relational Structures," Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 584–94.

Lee, Seung Hwan (Mark), Alan Brandt Jr., Yuni Groff, Alyssa Lopez, and Tyler Neavin (2017), "I’ll Laugh, But I Won’t Share: The Role of Darkness on Evaluation and Sharing of Humorous Online Taboo Ads," Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, 11(1), 75–90.

Sherman, Gary D. and Gerald L. Clore (2010), "The Color of Sin: White and Black are Perceptual Symbols of Moral Purity and Pollution," Psychological Science, 20(8), 1019–25



Dr. Xiaoxiao (Maya) Li, Economics

Gender Pay Gap in the C Suite

Does having female CEO closes the gender pay gap in the C suite? In this project, we attempt to infer the direction of causality that CEO gender having an exogenous impact on the pay gap in the C-suite.

We could do either a) treat female CEO as the endogenous variable and/or b) do an event study with the naming of the female CEO as the event and looking at the executive pay gap around the event. 

The project is at a very early stage. I welcome and encourage those of you who are interested in the topic of gender differences, discrimination, education and career choices, and/or who are interested in learning data management and analytics to join me to develop and work on this idea.



Dr. Matthew Sarkees, Marketing and Business Law

Generation Z and the Opioid Crisis: Marketing and Public Policy Implications

The Generation Z segment (b. 1995-2010) is about to become the largest group in the U.S., bypassing Millennials. “Gen Z” is markedly different from Millennials in terms of beliefs and attitudes. They are also more tech and media savvy, preferring to share their lives over social media. They tend to be loyal, compassionate and socially responsible. As the first of the U.S. Gen Zers enter the workorce, they are poised to make a great contribution to society. Yet, Gen Z is facing a social crisis that may derail their potential for future success. Study results presented in Forbes and the New York Times suggest that opioid addiction for Americans under the age of twenty-five has dramatically increased in the last decade. According to the New York Times, opioid-related deaths among Americans under the age of twenty-four almost doubled from 2005 to 2015 and opioid-related emergency room visits doubled from 2009 to 2014. A recent survey reported that 1 in 5 college students have social ties to people with opioid addiction. A higher percentage of young adults have abused opioids. This research project explores factors that may limit opioid seeking/usage behaviors among the Gen Z segment.  From a marketing perspective, this research examines consumer healthcare and public policy implications designed to communicate positive lifestyle options among the Gen Z segment.  We will draw on interviews, surveys and social media listening to examine the key relationships.


Past Freshman Match Participants

Past Freshman Match Participants

Student Department     Mentor         Project Title
Models for improving the energy efficiency of data centers
Psychology Michael
Exploring the Animal Mind
Psychology Michael
Exploring the Animal Mind
Personality-Oriented Work Analysis Assessment Validation
Cross-linking earthworm hemoglobin with glutaraldehyde to produce an ultra-stable blood substitute
Graphene synthesis for graphene polymer nanocomposite of increased thermal conductivity
Developing nanostructured energy storage materials
“Trauma Normalization” in a population of children living in homeless or domestic violence shelters
Nursing Elizabeth
“Trauma Normalization” in a population of children living in homeless or domestic violence shelters
Nursing Meredith
Pilot testing the COPE intervention with family caregivers of frail older adults
Chemistry Dan
Determining the Fate of Ubiquitin During Proteasomal Degradation
Chemistry Dan
Determining the Fate of Ubiquitin During Proteasomal Degradation
Biology Matt
Flipping the switch: Identifying molecules that activate the DAF-16 transcription factor during aging in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans   
Biology Matt
Flipping the switch: Identifying molecules that activate the DAF-16 transcription factor during aging in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans   
Persuasive human computer interaction in support of sustainability
Persuasive human computer interaction in support of sustainability
Physics David Chuss/
Javad Siah
Exploring galactic magnetic fields with planck data
Economics Sutirtha
The liability of being foreign: do regulators treat foreign firms differently
The liability of being foreign: do regulators treat foreign firms differently
Economics David
Creative destruction in the music industry
Finance Are female executive teams targeted differently in corporate takeover battles?