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Collaborative Research

At Linfield, students experience rich educational opportunities in the classroom and in a variety of other settings. For many of our students, research is central to a well-rounded education. Some students join together with faculty members in collaborative research projects, while others branch out to conduct research on their own or with other Linfield students.

Each year students have joined with faculty to apply for funding to develop projects, test hypothesis and report conclusions. Additional on-campus funding is available through the Linfield Center for the Northwest. Successful projects may be presented on campus at the Linfield College Student Scholarship Symposia (annually in May).  Students have also had the opportunity to present their work at regional and national conferences, providing greater exposure and experience.

Below is a list of projects from the 2015-16 academic year, spanning the sciences, social sciences and humanities.


Identifying and deciphering the molecular mechanisms of microRNA-mediated gene silencing

Faculty: Catherine Reinke
Student(s): Katherine Andersen, Sean Bowden, Hayden Rock, Cameron Soriano

In plants and animals, genes are routinely turned off or silenced by small, non-coding ribonucleic acids known as microRNAs. We have identified a gene that has a requirement for the CCR4-NOT complex subunit NOT2 in gene silencing. The precise role of this complex in silencing is currently debated; we propose to clarify the role of NOT2 in gene silencing through the biochemical analysis of silencing intermediates in mutants.

Fungal and Microbial Succession Across a Coarse Woody Debris Chronosequence

Faculty: John Syring
Student(s): Larissa Wolwend, Lewis Faller

This study examined the decomposition of fallen trees and how the nutrient pools that are released during this process behave and are maintained in the forest system.

Non-target effects of endangered species management strategies: Year 3 of 5

Faculty: Chad Tillberg
Student(s): Jackson O'Keefe, Kathy Trinh, Renee LaFountain

This study continued its third year of investigation on how conservation practices affect populations of non-target species; specifically, how changes in plant communities by grass-specific herbicides affect the mutualists and predators of the endangered Fender's Blue Butterly.

GABA Receptor Expression in Zebrafish

Faculty: Cecilia Toro
Student(s): Megan Schwehr, Tenzin Yangchen, Connell Crabtree

The study examined how GABA, a neurotransmitter, modulates mechanosensitive ear cells. The group used the zebrafish model organism because they have mechanosensitive cells on the outside of their body that respond to water movement, and that are closely related to inner ear cells.

Understanding impacts of viticultural practices on wine grape microbiomes

Faculty: Jeremy Weisz
Student(s): Tyler Griffin, Clara Prentiss, Carmen Hoffbeck, Riley Brown, Antoine Johnson, Shea Gischer

This project examined how different farming practices, such as using organic pesticides vs. traditional pesticides, impact the microbiome or bacteria of the grapes. The microbiome is the associated microbial community of grapes in vineyards in the Yamhill country.


Chemical sensors formed from novel sol-, xero- and aero-gel materials containing novel silver nanoparticles (NP) and organic dyes.

Faculty: Liz Atkinson
Student(s): David Mason, Brandyn Wyatt

Researchers investigated the development of sol-gel based materials containing silver nanoparticles as chemical detectors. The goals were to determine if new sol-gel materials can be synthesized from TiO2, what other molecules can be detected by fluorescence sensors, and to see if aerogel materials can be sealed to trap inert gases like helium.

The role of mitochondrial copper in yeast lifespan and the production of reactive oxygen species

Faculty: Liz Atkinson
Student(s): Matthew Walser, Amelia Keyes

This project was to better understand how a change in the amount of copper available in cells and mitochondria can play a role in yeast lifespan. The goals were to determine the connection between copper homeostasis in cells, reactive oxygen species, and yeast lifespan.

Regulation of mitochondrial DNA transcription by mitochondrial localized transcription factors

Faculty: Megan Bestwick
Student(s): Kelsey Bruce, Dylan Legrady, Adan Martinez

Synthesis and characterization of noble metal based nanoparticles for medical imaging and drug delivery.

Faculty: Brian Gilbert
Student(s): Madison Gladding, Christopher Munjar, Victoria Wood, Allison Smith

The goal of this research project was to build nanometer sized structures that can be used in biomedical imaging and/or drug delivery. Noble metal nanoparticles were coated with lipids, tagant molecules for imaging, and antibodies for specfic binding to different cell types. The resulting nanostructures were characterized optically with UV-vis spectrscopy, sized using laser light scattering techniques, and probed using surface-enhanced Raman scattering.


Assessing Student Learning in Principles of Economics

Faculty: Brittany Teahan
Student(s): Haley Oliver

This study assessed how student characteristics affect learning and overall performance in principles of economics. The findings will be used to better understand how a student's preparation affects learning in principles of economics, evaluate existing pre-requisites for the course, and gain insight into areas to pay particular focus to when teaching.


Review of Creative Writing program Web- and Interdisciplinary Options

Faculty: Anna Keesey
Student(s): Trang (Alex) Dinh

A group of small projects involving review of English and creative writing website presence and imagery, investigation of possible fine-arts collaborations across disciplines at Linfield, and exploration of process needed to establish an English/Creative Writing "home room" in T.J. Day Hall.

High Desert Journal Assistant Editorship

Faculty: Joe Wilkins
Student(s): Katie Higinbotham

This project helped foster collaboration between a Linfield College creative writing major and a Professor, who is also the editor of High Desert Journal.The student and professor each read submissions seperately, and by the end of the summer, came together to select three to five essays, three to five poetry features, and one to three stories for publication in High Desert Journal.

Environmental Studies

Effect of Urbanization on Soil: Structure, Chemistry and Mycorrhizael Fungi

Faculty: Nancy Broshot
Student(s): Hayden Cooksey, Tatiana Taylor

The purpose of this study was to determine why there has been a high mortality in tree species and low recruitment of young trees in urban forests around Portland and Estacada, Oregon. The study examined the soil structure, texture, pH, moisture, electroconductivity, and nutrients from differeent study sites.

Health, Human Performance, and Athletics

The effects of physical activity on stress-induced cardiac fibrosis

Faculty: Sarah Coste
Student(s): Erin Kinney

The researchers examined whether routine physical activity can limit stress-induced tissue remodeling processes that can lead to cardiac fibrosis.

Physical Activity in Online Learners and Instructors

Faculty: Janet Peterson
Student(s): Riley Graham

The group examined the physical activity levels in online learners and instructors since decreased physical activity is associated with increased health risks. The project also looked at appropriate mobile device applications that can improve physical activity in online learners and instructors, developed a physical activity para-curricultar course for Linfield College Online Continuing Education program, and evaluated the physical activity levels in participants periodically.

Mass Communication

Waiting for Peace (interactive multimedia discovery)

Faculty: Michael Huntsberger
Student(s): Kailyn Nelson, Michaela Fujita-Conrads

The group gathered information for an interactive multimedia documentary based on World War II experiences of Richard Berkey. The story will include a narrative on family, military, mass media history, and an account of cultural and humanitarian transformation.


Analyzing mechanisms for decreased mobility within graphene biosensors

Faculty: Michael Crosser
Student(s): Agatha Ulibarri, Troy Taylor

Examined how graphene's thinness, a form of carbon in which each carbon atom is aligned within a two dimensional sheet, is affected within liquid environments.

HfC electron emitter shape change due to preferential evaporation

Faculty: Bill Mackie
Student(s): Geoffrey Rath

This study found that shape change appears to be due to preferential evaporation which exposes the (100) and (111) crystallographic planes. The effect of simultaneous electron emission was also studied where we found that combined temperature and field tends to sharpen features and bring out the (110) as a persistent point formed at the juncture of two (100) and two (111) planes. Temperature alone tended to round the planar intersections.

Evaporation rate study of HfC, LaB6, and CeB6

Faculty: Bill Mackie
Student(s): Thomas Shearer

This study found the evaporation rate as a function of temperature primarily for HfC. We found some preferential evaporation but measured the bulk shape change to determine the rate. The (100) plane has the lowest surface free energy and hence is primarily exposed. We noted also that the rates measured were in extrapolated agreement to that deduced from measurements of electron emitter shape changes.

Fly Swarms and Complexity

Faculty: Joelle Murray
Student(s): Alleta Maier, Kuzivakwashe Rusere

This project sought to provide an explanation on how order can be created from disorder. The research examined the behavior of fly swarms and sought to develop a simple lattice fly swarm model, explored and characterized the complexity exhibited by the models, and compared it to already existing experimental data on real fly swarms.

Solar energy powered robot vehicle

Faculty: Tianbao Xie
Student(s): John Adam, Mason Adams

Students worked on building a new solar power robot vehicle that is only powered by solar panels. It included a much lighter frame and motors with less electric power than the previous robot.

Political Science

The Radical & the Conservative: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., & the American Dream

Faculty: Nick Buccola
Student(s): Maggie Hawkins

This researchers examined the civil rights debate between conservative William F. Buckley Jr. and the radical James Baldwin at Cambridge Union in 1965.

Sociology and Anthropology

"God is in the Gluten": Adapting when Medical Diagnosis and Catholic Dogma Conflict

Faculty: Hillary Crane
Student(s): Cruz Morey, Elizabeth Stoeger

This research examined people with Celiac Disease and the ways the disease manifests in unusual areas of life. For example, we examined the conflicts Celiacs face when medical advice (to not ingest communion wafers) contradicts religious practice in the Catholic church. Students conducted open-ended interviews with people with Celiac Disease to examine this question.

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