Undergrad research in focus

Student researchers present their work at annual conference

Roughly 60 research projects were on display in Old Main on Friday as part of the Undergraduate Research and Innovation Conference. Students stood beside their posters and shared their months of research to onlookers. Topics ranged from the impacts of the recession on students’ labour market outcomes to the dominance behaviour of the mountain chickadee during winter. Students followed their poster presentations with in-depth presentations on March 28.

Determination of Thymol in Mouthwash Using Capillary Electrophoresis

Kelsie Sallis, fourth-year chemical biology student, wanted to look at the compound Thymol, a strong antiseptic found in different brands of mouthwash.


Mouthwash samples used for detecting Thymol concentrate. (Kelsie Sallis/Submitted)

“It’s an antimicrobial agent, so it’s one of the important [compounds] because that’s what’s going to fight tooth decay or gum disease,” Sallis said.

Advised by Kingsley Donkor, associate professor in the chemistry department, Sallis used capillary electrophoresis, a separation method used to detect the concentration of Thymol in mouthwash samples.

“It separates molecules based on their charge, size and viscosity. It detects [the molecules] through absorbance, different molecules absorb at different wavelengths,” Sallis said.

She found that the concentrations of Thymol were “super high,” actually higher than listed.

“It’s probably because I need to purify my samples a bit more before running them [again],” Sallis said.

Her choice of topic comes from her interest in pursuing dentistry, as well as her familiarity with analytical chemistry, the focus of her undergrad. Sallis noted that her research could go further but she has no intention of pursuing the concentration of Thymol in mouthwash beyond the conference.

The Womanish-Man and The Man-Woman: Cross-Dressing in Early Modern England

Megan Fenkhuber, third-year history student, began her research on female cross-dressing for a paper she wrote in her second year. Advised by Annie St. John-Stark, chair of the philosophy, history and politics department, Fenkhuber’s research derived from two pamphlets, “Hic Mulier” or The ManWoman and “Hæc-Vir” or The Womanish-Man, both published in 1620.

The front cover of the book "Haec Vir," or The Woman-ish Man.

The front cover of the book “Haec Vir,” or The Woman-ish Man.

“Hic Mulier,” discussed women adopting men’s clothing and the detriment this had to society.

“The second one was an argument essentially between the narrator of the first pamphlet and one of these women where she defends her position. Because men’s fashion has become so much more feminized in the recent years, women are less. In order to differentiate themselves from men, their only option is to wear men’s clothing.”

Fenkhuber was struck by the importance clothing had on determining gender during this time period.

“Women were seen as underdeveloped versions of men,” Fenkhuber said. “There was only one true being and that was man,” Sallis said.

Fenkhuber is currently working on a series of papers on cross-dressing, explaining “I’m working on one now on Victorian England and sort of a sub-group called husband wives.”

Moult Strategies in Western North American Passerines: Molt Migration

Jackson Kusack, fourth-year animal science student, decided to focus on the variation of moult strategies between 139 different North American migratory birds. Kusack explained that moults are the replacement of feathers.

Yellow Warbler, one of the 139 North American birds researched for moult strategy. (Rodney Campbell/ Flickr Commons)

Yellow Warbler, one of the 139 North American birds researched for moult strategy. (Rodney Campbell/ Flickr Commons)

Advised by Matt Reudink, assistant professor in the biological sciences department, Kusack focused on four different strategies: winter moult, breeding moult, migration moult and stopover.

“What we wanted to look at is what determines which strategy is favoured in those birds,” Kusack said.

Kusack looked at life history traits of birds and then looked to see which trait proved as a predictor for the different birds’ moult strategy.

Kusack chose this topic of research as there’s little published research on moult strategy, specifically stopover moult. He plans to publish his findings and potentially pursue a career in academia.

Full results have not been concluded, and research is ongoing until summer, according to Kusack’s prediction.

“We have to use relatedness as a variable and it’s a lot more complex of a model,” Kusack said. “We did find that in stopover moulting birds, they do have higher plumage, which means they are brighter.”