Gift to USF Funds Summer Research Program Grants

Joliet, Ill. – The Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program at the University of St. Francis (USF) takes place annually from June through the start of the fall semester and offers grant funding that provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to collaborate with faculty members on research projects. Now, thanks to a generous gift from USF Professor Emeritus William Bromer, Ph.D., and his wife, Linda, twelve additional grants will allow one to two more students each summer to participate in valuable learning opportunities that take place outside the traditional classroom setting.

The Bromers’ gift will specifically fund twelve Laudito Si’ (the second encyclical of Pope Francis) grants through the SURE program. Proposals will be considered for the Laudito Si’ SURE Grant if they meet the regular SURE Program guidelines and make an explicit connection to Pope Francis’ challenge to humanity to identify an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature. Proposals should clearly demonstrate how the proposed research makes connections with some of the topics discussed in the encyclical, such as: concern for nature, justice for the poor, non-violence, ethical economy, fair health care, environmental activism, educational challenges, and sustainability.

Bill Bromer, who taught in USF’s College of Arts and Sciences from 1992 to 2020 and still serves on the USF Sustainability Committee while also serving as the first Director of the Charlotte Codo Prairie in Frankfort, Ill., believes that the opportunities presented through the SURE program are one of a kind.

“What the students and faculty teams experience through the SURE program are high impact practices. This authentic learning makes a difference in a way that is unique while taking place outside the walls of the traditional classroom setting,” he said.

Proposals for SURE Program grants are due in mid-March.

About the SURE Program at USF

The SURE Program at USF offers valuable benefits to both students and faculty who participate in it. Students have the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research that adds significantly to their learning, retention, and post-graduate opportunities. For faculty, the opportunity encourages them to carve out time to work with students during the summer while furthering their own scholarship.

In addition to stipend amounts for both the student and the faculty collaborator, funds may be requested for minimal miscellaneous expenses. Students are also able to earn a tuition waiver for up to two credit hours of directed study and can also live on campus during the summer months at a reduced rate for the duration of the project. One or more student/faculty teams may also be selected to attend the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in spring 2022 (dependent upon funding availability).

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Sophomore Evelyn Odum Creating “Book Publishing from Beginning to End” Podcast

A SURE (Summer Undergraduate Experience) Program Feature

“Book Publishing from Beginning to End”

Firm in the belief that one of the best ways to learn is by others’ examples, sophomore Elementary Education major Evelyn Odum is creating a podcast featuring interviews with published authors to hear their experiences getting published. The project is part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program, and the hope is that the podcast series will help aspiring writers gain knowledge about the publishing process.

Explaining why she picked this topic, Evelyn noted, “I chose this so that people who are in the same boat as me—those who desire to get published but aren’t really sure how—can get inside information from authors who have gone through the whole process.”

Evelyn Odum - book publishing podcast - SURE feature

Making Connections with Chicago-based Writers

Working with English professor Beth McDermott, Ph.D., who will serve as the podcast’s co-host, Odum is making connections with Chicago-based writers, specifically those who have written children’s books. Odum attended Young Authors Celebration conference, hosted by the Starved Rock Reading Council, where she networked with authors. Additionally, she and McDermott began contacting local bookstores in the Chicago area that invite authors for signing and other events, and also relied on sending email to authors whose work they admire. Luckily, some authors replied back and have been open to speaking with Odum and McDermott. Interviews are being conducted in person, and the podcast so far includes authors Peter Kujawinski, Ruth Goring, Kate Hannigan and Barb Rosenstock.

Evelyn Odum - Book Publishing Podcast
Evelyn Odum (right) interviewed Barb Rosenstock (left), a children's book author who specializes in historical fiction.

Working with the DARA Department

While Odum and McDermott are handling the interviews and the majority of the editing process, the Digital Audio Recording Arts (DARA) department is also involved. The DARA professors helped Evelyn set up the podcast and are assisting throughout the editing process. Odum’s project is truly interdisciplinary!

Evelyn Odum - Book Publishing Podcast

Listen Now: “Book Publishing from Beginning to End”

“Book Publishing from Beginning to End” is available on Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music. Listen here!

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Junior Emily Siegler Researching a Possible Solution to Invasive Species of Crayfish

A SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) Program Feature

“The effect of carbon dioxide concentration on the invasive species of crayfish faxonius rusticus and procambarus clarkii in relation to the degree of dependence on length of exposure and size of crayfish”

As part of USF’s SURE program, junior biology major Emily Siegler, under the guidance of Bill Bromer, Ph.D., is studying the effects of varying carbon dioxide concentrations on the movement of invasive species of crayfish.

Invasive Species of Crayfish

Though crayfish are native to many areas, oftentimes they enter an environment as an invasive species. An invasive species is a non-native species of plants or animals introduced to a new ecosystem where it has significant negative economic or ecological impacts on the new environments. Both P. clarkii and F. rusticus are considered invasive species in Illinois and Michigan due to their disruption of ecosystems in the states’ waterways. In addition, due to their abundance, they have begun to displace and reduce the native populations of crayfish and game fish, and their feeding habits reduce available habitats for amphibians.

Siegler’s research projects is centered upon the hypothesis that increasing the levels of dissolved CO2 in a body of water will induce movement in F. rusticus (rusty crayfish) and P. clarkii away from the source of CO2. The amount of movement will in turn be dependent on the volume of water present and the size and overall weight of the species tested.

Explaining why she chose this experiment for the SURE  program, Siegler said, “I was interested in this project because in past semesters I have done crayfish research for class assignments and I really enjoyed it! I especially liked being able to go out into the field and conduct hands-on research.”

Emily Siegler - Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at USF

Carrying Out the Experiment

F. rusticus and P. clarkii are kept in separate tanks, and each tank contains roughly the same size crayfish. In the holding tanks, there is no excess CO introduced into the water. Along with weekly water quality measurements, weekly CO2 readings are conducted. In addition, the CO2 level of the holding tank are taken before each testing period.

For testing, the crayfish are moved to a trough that allows a gradient effect to be seen in the concentration of carbon dioxide, if a gradient effect does occur. The gradient will be measured by pH, which corresponds to a carbon dioxide level. For each trial, one crayfish is placed into the testing trough and allowed to acclimate for one minute before CO2 is introduced. After the acclimation period has passed, CO2 is introduced via the airstone at increasing levels until the crayfish begins to move away from the airstone.

A Possible Solution to Combating Invasive Species of Crayfish

From the data collected from this research, a better understanding of crayfish CO2 tolerance will be understood. This knowledge can be implemented in order to help reduce and remove invasive species without invasive or harmful measures. In effect, native species can begin to flourish again. It is not a small task, but one that Siegler’s summer research will be instrumental in helping accomplish.

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Seniors Lidia Montoya and Yessenia Garza Research Illinois’ Civil Commitment of Sexually Dangerous Persons

A SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) Program Feature

“Illinois’ Civil Commitment of Sexually Dangerous Persons: An Analysis of Appellate Court Documents”

Seniors Lidia Montoya and Yessenia Garza, both of whom are double majoring in Psychology and Criminal & Social Justice, are spending their summer researching how Illinois courts and court-appointed psychiatrists determine someone to be a “sexually dangerous person.” The research is part of USF’s SURE program.

“This topic interested me because I believe that not a lot of people are aware of policies and laws that affect the community in which they live. As part of the education process as both a psychology and criminal & social justice major here at USF, I get to explore the criminal justice system as well as the psychological implications and ethics involved with some of the policies, which is why when I heard of civil commitment, it intrigued both of my educational backgrounds and it immediately raised one important question: How is a person in civil commitment deemed recovered? That main question is something that is important in our research endeavors because it will provide an explanation for the implementation of civil commitment for sex offenders,” said Montoya.

The Research Process

As part of the SURE project, Garza and Montoya, together with their faculty member Stacy Dewald, Ph.D., are analyzing data from Lexis Uni, a legal document database of sexually dangerous persons cases that have been appealed, which can be filtered to review the cases in Illinois. That has resulted in 365 cases, which the group is coding for characteristics such as gender and age of victim and offender, jurisdiction, if a mental disorder is present, etc.

“Essentially, we are trying to see if there are any significant similarities or differences and if there are any similarities that lead to a specific decision on the appeal,” Montoya explained.

Undergraduate research feature: Lidia Montoya and Yessenia Garza

Relevant Research for Illinois

Sexually dangerous persons can appeal the decisions of the circuit court regarding their civil commitment hearings. This study seeks to research these appellate court cases and examine the relationship between outcomes of the cases and certain variables (e.g., evidence presented, number of disorders, number of victims).

“Finding more information will be beneficial in understanding this topic, especially because it is such a sensitive topic, ethically and for social policy,” said Montoya.

It will be interesting to hear the final findings, which will be presented at the SURE Scholars Day (TBD) and ACCA Undergraduate Research Symposium in April 2020.

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Junior Calvin Hartsfield Building Computer-based Musical Synthesizer

A Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program Feature

“Study of Max Programming, Synthesis and Instrument Compilation”

What is junior Digital Audio Recording Arts (DARA) major Calvin Hartsfield up to this summer? He is programming a computer-based musical synthesizer from scratch. The project is part of the SURE program at USF.

Hartsfield explained why he chose this project, stating, “I’ve always had a knack for designing my own sounds from prebuilt synthesizers, but I’ve always been curious about how I could utilize tools I built myself. Plus, I think it’s just great knowledge to have to pass on to others.”

Calvin Hartsfield - Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE)

Creating Virtual Instruments and Audio Effects

Using virtual synths is becoming one of the most popular ways to make music today. Many producers will buy a synth, find a preset they like, and begin creating, but there are few producers who create their own sounds from scratch, let alone create a synthesizer that drives those sounds.

Hartsfield will be using Max, an object-oriented computer language, to create playable virtual instruments and functional audio effects. To do this, he will use additive synthesis and the harmonic series. Additive synthesis is the use of multiple sinusoidal waveforms, or sine waves, to create intricate sounds. A sine wave is the simplest, purest form of sound. When multiple sine waves of varying frequencies are stacked on top of each other, they create a more complex waveform. When the harmonic series, an equation that leads to the next partial of a current frequency in the air, is followed, specific waveforms can be created for use within a synthesizer. Using the harmonic series, Hartsfield can build a new additive synthesizer from the ground up using Max.

Pushing the DARA Program to the Next Level

Hartsfield believes his research will open new doors within the DARA program.

“Creating a synth from nothing and learning the programming language and formulas along the way could be a substantial next step into pushing the DARA program to an even higher level of technical excellence,” Hartsfield explained.

Upon completion of his program, Hartsfield should have functional, easy-to-use, playable instruments stored in a DARA database for all DARA students to use. He will also leave the code for the Max patches that make up these usable tools for current and future students to download, learn from and modify for their own purposes.

It will be exciting to hear what Hartsfield creates!

Junior Donovan Summers Creating Resource Database for Aspiring DARA Musicians

A Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program Feature

“Creating a Record Label to Promote the Success of Artists at St. Francis”

Junior Digital Audio Recording Arts (DARA) major Donovan Summers hopes to make a name for himself on the business side of the music industry one day, and he is spending his summer conducting undergraduate research on the modern record label, creating a comprehensive database of resources for aspiring DARA musicians to use to make it big in the industry.

“By researching this topic, I believe that the information I find could help the artists of DARA be more successful in today’s internet-driven music world,” Summers wrote.

The Modern Music Industry

Up until the early 2010s, traditional record labels were the only way for artists to get their music distributed. Today, artists can self-publish without going through a record label. Music is mainly streamed, and there are more than a dozen internet-based distributors. However, according to Summers, having a manager and label has proven to be the most successful way for an artist to break through the scene. By creating a database of tools and resources, Summers is helping make it easier for musicians to publish and promote their music on their own.

“Personally, as someone who wishes to enter the business side of the industry, I would like to not only gain information for myself, but also leave something behind for the other music entrepreneurs,” Summers noted.

Donovan Summers - DARA undergraduate research (SURE)

The Research

The bulk of the project includes gathering information on self-distribution sites and performing a cost versus benefit analysis. Summers, under the guidance of faculty supervisor Alby Odum, looks for every available service to create a comprehensive list. Factors for analysis include price, time of distribution, amount of platforms distributed to, and other available services. Additionally, Summers is researching music bloggers, who are instrumental in helping up-and-coming artists get recognized, to create a database of contacts focusing on rising artists, as well as streaming service curators.

Upon completion of the project, information will be organized in a single database.

A possible DARA record label?

Summers hopes that if his experiment is successful, a DARA record label could be put in place for all artists pursuing music.

“The DARA program would benefit from a record label, but it needs the resources to get there. One day, I hope for a class where students…get to manage an artist for one to two semesters. This means that even after the research project is finished, there is more work to be done,” he said.

Summers’ research will certainly help the record label get a head start.