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Hope College December 2012 : Page 10

Campus Profile Collaborative, Research with a By Chris Lewis ’09 Hope Focus Charles Cusack, and Matthew DeJongh, worked directly with students on projects that are having a direct impact on the Hope community, allowing students to witness the value of their research first-hand. Since 2009, Dr. McFall has been developing a general-purpose online survey system, which is used primarily for teaching evaluations. During the last two summers, he has collaborated with students to finalize the system and test its capabilities. This past summer, he partnered with junior Matthew Johnson of White Lake, Mich., junior Michael Henley of Grand Haven, Mich., and sophomore Nicholas DeJongh of Holland, working side-by-side with them full-time for 10 weeks, in order to design, implement, test and debug the system. To further test the system, the team created an online survey specifically for Homecoming, allowing students to select 10 seniors for Homecoming Court; once the Homecoming Court was chosen, students used the system to elect senior Justin Makowski of Detroit, Mich., as Homecoming King and senior April Johnson of Zeeland, Mich., as Homecoming Queen. “The generality of the system has also allowed it to be used for tasks such as gathering registration information for conferences and competitions on Hope’s campus, finding times for meetings to be held, and signing up for online advising appointments,” said Dr. McFall. “I also hope it will be a useful tool for people on campus to conduct online surveys.” “It is exciting to know that just about every Hope student will interact with this project,” Johnson said. “When everything works and I see it really helping the Hope community, it makes me proud.” Prior to the end of spring semester 2012, Dr. Jipping and seniors John Stathakis, of Shelby Township, Mich., and Timothy Cooke of Berrien Springs, Mich., initiated a pilot project in software development, an Android app known as Hope FIT. The app was created for two specific purposes: to record students’ workouts during their enrollment in Hope’s Health Dynamics class, and document faculty and staff members’ workouts as they participate in the college’s wellness program, H2O. Becky Schmidt, assistant professor of kinesiology, and Sue Beckman, director of H2O, had been searching for a software system to track workouts and biometric indicators, such as weight and blood pressure, for quite some time. “One of the primary ways people become self-motivated to exercise is through a sense of accomplishment that they get from reaching goals and seeing what they have done,” Professor Schmidt said. “This app will allow students to track their progress, report the work they have done, and set goals that will keep them working hard.” From May to June, Dr. Jipping, Stathakis, and Cooke created four separate versions of the app and presented them to Beckman and Professor Schmidt. “Each delivery brought new ideas and many design changes. The design that was completed at the end of the summer is not the final version,” Dr. Jipping said. “We are still working on that version and will be completing and testing it until the end of the fall semester so that it can be used in Health Dynamics classes next spring.” long-standing and nationally recognized Hope tradition, collaborative student-faculty research helps students gain real-world experience, teaching them skills that serve them throughout their lives while allowing them to contribute to tangible projects that offer solutions to unsolved problems. Such work has literally taken students around the globe, but sometimes it also focuses a bit closer to home. This summer, for example, four computer science faculty members, Drs. Ryan McFall, Michael Jipping, A Dr. ryan mcFall ’93 and student researchers mike Henley and matt Johnson work on their survey software in Vanderwerf Hall. 10 News News From From Hope Hope College College

Collaborative, Research with a Hope Focus

Chris Lewis

<br /> A long-standing and nationally recognized Hope tradition, collaborative student-faculty research helps students gain real-world experience, teaching them skills that serve them throughout their lives while allowing them to contribute to tangible projects that offer solutions to unsolved problems.<br /> <br /> Such work has literally taken students around the globe, but sometimes it also focuses a bit closer to home. This summer, for example, four computer science faculty members, Drs. Ryan McFall, Michael Jipping, Charles Cusack, and Matthew DeJongh, worked directly with students on projects that are having a direct impact on the Hope community, allowing students to witness the value of their research first-hand.<br /> <br /> Since 2009, Dr. McFall has been developing a general-purpose online survey system, which is used primarily for teaching evaluations. During the last two summers, he has collaborated with students to finalize the system and test its capabilities. This past summer, he partnered with junior Matthew Johnson of White Lake, Mich., junior Michael Henley of Grand Haven, Mich., and sophomore Nicholas DeJongh of Holland, working side-by-side with them full-time for 10 weeks, in order to design, implement, test and debug the system.<br /> <br /> To further test the system, the team created an online survey specifically for Homecoming, allowing students to select 10 seniors for Homecoming Court; once the Homecoming Court was chosen, students used the system to elect senior Justin Makowski of Detroit, Mich., as Homecoming King and senior April Johnson of Zeeland, Mich., as Homecoming Queen.<br /> <br /> “The generality of the system has also allowed it to be used for tasks such as gathering registration information for conferences and competitions on Hope’s campus, finding times for meetings to be held, and signing up for online advising appointments,” said Dr. McFall. “I also hope it will be a useful tool for people on campus to conduct online surveys.”<br /> <br /> “It is exciting to know that just about every Hope student will interact with this project,” Johnson said. “When everything works and I see it really helping the Hope community, it makes me proud.”<br /> <br /> Prior to the end of spring semester 2012, Dr. Jipping and seniors John Stathakis, of Shelby Township, Mich., and Timothy Cooke of Berrien Springs, Mich., initiated a pilot project in software development, an Android app known as Hope FIT. The app was created for two specific purposes: to record students’ workouts during their enrollment in Hope’s Health Dynamics class, and document faculty and staff members’ workouts as they participate in the college’s wellness program, H2O.<br /> <br /> Becky Schmidt, assistant professor of kinesiology, and Sue Beckman, director of H2O, had been searching for a software system to track workouts and biometric indicators, such as weight and blood pressure, for quite some time.<br /> <br /> “One of the primary ways people become self-motivated to exercise is through a sense of accomplishment that they get from reaching goals and seeing what they have done,” Professor Schmidt said. “This app will allow students to track their progress, report the work they have done, and set goals that will keep them working hard.”<br /> <br /> From May to June, Dr. Jipping, Stathakis, and Cooke created four separate versions of the app and presented them to Beckman and Professor Schmidt.<br /> <br /> “Each delivery brought new ideas and many design changes. The design that was completed at the end of the summer is not the final version,” Dr. Jipping said. “We are still working on that version and will be completing and testing it until the end of the fall semester so that it can be used in Health Dynamics classes next spring.”<br /> <br /> Dr. Jipping continued, “The H2O program has several recording opportunities that allow incentives and encouragement to be given to faculty and staff who record their physical activity. Our app will record workouts, goals, and biometrics, which will be fed into the program’s database.”<br /> <br /> “There are many different fitness tracking apps on the market, but none were specific enough to what we are trying to do in Health Dynamics or had the opportunity to record the kind of information needed by H2O wellness for faculty and staff,” Professor Schmidt said. “This project created the opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to come together under a common technology to positively influence exercise and health behavior for all.”<br /> <br /> Cooke and Stathakis are so enthused by the outcome of the project that they plan to develop new apps after they graduate – as business partners.<br /> <br /> “We enjoyed working together so much this summer that we decided to go into business with each other,” Stathakis said. “We have since recruited two other students to partner with us. We’re very excited about it.”<br /> <br /> In the meantime, Dr. Cusack’s research has been focused on a problem known as graph pebbling, a mathematical game in which pebbles can be moved between vertices on a graph according to a strict set of rules. Originally, Dr. Cusack was determined to implement mechanisms to learn algorithms for playing the game by recoding and analyzing skilled players’ moves. But, he has realized that software he recently designed with computer science majors can actually be used to visualize graphs and verify whether or not algorithms are correct.<br /> <br /> Various Hope mathematics professors, including Dr. Darin Stephenson, have begun to use Dr. Cusack’s software to solve puzzles.<br /> <br /> “The software has allowed my research group to develop visual models for specific cases of the abstract mathematical questions we have been studying,” said Dr. Stephenson. “Basically, we’re studying a puzzle that can be set up on any graph or network. The software lets us create graphs through point-and-click editing, set initial values as a starting point for the puzzle, put the puzzle online for others to solve, or tell the computer to solve the puzzle and output the result.”<br /> <br /> Dr. Stephenson believes the partnership between computer scientists and mathematicians is quite practical.<br /> <br /> “While computer scientists and mathematicians are often interested in similar questions, they tend to approach these questions in different ways,” he said. “The two approaches often complement one another nicely and lead to work that either group would have trouble completing alone.”<br /> <br /> This summer, Dr. DeJongh and several Hope student researchers continued to improve a software program that is currently being used by scientists throughout the world. The program, known as CytoSEED, allows scientists to view, manipulate, and analyze models of an organism’s metabolism. Dr. DeJongh and his team have spent more than three years on the project and have even published their findings in the journal Bioinformatics. CytoSEED serves as a resource for users of the Model SEED genomic-analysis software, which is based at Argonne National Laboratory and which Dr. DeJongh and Hope biologist Dr. Aaron Best, along with Hope students, had previously helped develop.<br /> <br /> “The software helps scientists understand how a bacterium of interest converts nutrients into biomass and energy. If they’re studying bacteria that cause disease, they can use this software to investigate ways of killing the bacteria,” Dr. DeJongh said. “If scientists are interested in energy and environmental issues, they can also use this software to study bacteria useful for energy production, toxic waste cleanup, and carbon sequestration.”<br /> <br /> Through such collaborative projects, computer science students have a rare opportunity to gain real-world experience, contribute to projects that will be used by thousands of people, and receive the gratification of knowing their assistance directly influenced their projects’ feasibility.<br /> <br /> “Research students learn almost in an ‘apprentice’ role rather than as a student,” Dr. McFall said. “This type of learning – and the experiences students gain – will help them succeed once they leave Hope.”

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