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Bethel College students research various topics for summer undergraduate projects

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. - From cutting out geometric shapes to interacting with villagers in India, research at Bethel College is alive and well, as indicated by reports from four students who were awarded the 2002 Summer Undergraduate Study and Research Grants. The students were granted the awards at the end of spring semester and did most of the research during the summer months, supervised by their professors. Under the guidance of mathematics professor Richard Rempel, senior mathematics major Amy Kaufman from Marion, S.D., studied a geometry topic pertaining to the area of shapes. Kaufman worked to find original shapes of maximal area which would satisfy the conditions imposed on them when moving through a particular corridor.

"Amy did an excellent job of finding the relevant literature on our problem," said Rempel. "We were able to use ideas from a number of areas of mathematics together with mathematical software to develop new results."

Ashis Sahu, a junior from Darjeeling, West Bengal, India, traveled to a village in northeast India to conduct participatory rural appraisals (PRAs). Bruce Bradshaw, assistant professor of business administration, served as Sahu's supervisor. PRAs, which are sets of exercises used in community assessments, use oral communication to identify capabilities and vulnerabilities of a community as well as its local resources. This information can then be used to determine how to utilize existing local resources in the development of the community.

"Ashis' project revealed that political advocacy is a central issue in the development of the community. This village, like many throughout the world, is not poor because the people are lazy or ignorant. It is poor because people do not have the political power that is necessary to benefit from government services," Bradshaw said.

Senior psychology majors Mike Klein from Durham and Kristine Thimm from Beatrice, Neb., assisted professor of psychology Dwight Krehbiel in continuing his ongoing study of music and emotion. Thimm looked at which features of music elicit changes in emotion. She analyzed existing data and looked at correlations between change in emotion and change in musical features such as dissonance, sharpness and volume.

"Kristine was able to show clear relationships of emotional change with changes in dissonance, for example. But she also found, as one would expect, that dissonance explains little in pieces that don't have much of it," Krehbiel said.

Klein studied the psychophysiological changes that accompany changes in emotions. He measured skin conductance which, in studies of responses to pictures, has correlated positively with emotional activation. He also looked at corrugator EMG (electrical activity in a muscle in the forehead) which, for pictures, has correlated negatively with the pleasantness of emotion.

"Mike found a number of interesting patterns. In particular, he has found evidence that in some musical excerpts, forehead muscle electrical activity increases as music is judged to be less pleasant," Krehbiel said.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.