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Ocean Adventurer

Emma Shipley Hiking Seven Sister near Dover, UK

Emma Shipley Hiking Seven Sisters near Dover, UKEmma Shipley, a senior Biochemistry major, is near the end of her education at the University of Northern Iowa.  She has had many challenges and adventures at UNI and will soon be on a new adventure.  The question of what do you want to be when you grow up is one of the most common questions asked.  The answer to this question impacts the decision of where a student wants to go to college.   Emma made the decision to come to UNI because she wanted to be a social studies/history teacher.

Emma decided to change her major after three semesters because her dream job, she decided, would need to allow her to travel and to collect samples or analyze data outside or someplace other than behind a desk.  She had always thought “science was really cool.” Once she realized that she really enjoyed science and wanted to do more, she made the leap to pursue an education in Biochemistry.

Challenges, adventure, excitement, and opportunities have all been a part of her experience at UNI.  Emma has always liked a challenge as it gives “you the opportunity to stretch yourself to see how much you can learn.”  Physical chemistry, biochemistry, and organic chemistry have all been courses that have challenged her but she has found them to be valuable to her education.   Through taking these courses, she was able to find out which ones she clicked with and what area of science she truly enjoys. Some of the best courses she has taken at UNI have taught her how to problem solve.

Another course that challenged Emma was Evolution, Ecology, and the Nature of Science taught by Dr. O’Kane in the Biology Department.  This course was outside Emma’s comfort zone as it was based on class discussion of topics.  This had Emma terrified. She does not like to speak publically and really does not like being wrong, especially in front of others!  Dr. O’Kane helped Emma change her perspective and approach to failure. Unexpected answers are important too. Dr. O’Kane gives high-fives for wrong answers because that shows the student is trying.  In science, wrong answers teach the researcher more about the right answer. Bad results or data are also ok because this is part of the learning process. Success is ruling out wrong answers and discovering what will not work, lead to new ideas and discoveries.  Emma now appreciates when she is wrong and see this as one step closer to being right.

Adventure and excitement were rolled into one when Emma made the decision to spend a semester abroad.  This is something that she had wanted to do since Kindergarten, when someone came to her classroom and told of her own adventures in another country.  Emma’s mother encouraged her to wait until college to pursue this 6-year old’s dream so that she did not miss out on any of her childhood .  Her mother also reasoned that it would be easier because many college students do this.  

In the fall of her junior year, Emma boarded a plane and headed to the southern coast of the United Kingdom to the town of Chichester.  During this semester she traveled and made new friends, in addition to her studies. Inside the classroom, Emma went back to studying history.  It is often difficult to study science abroad due to the different order and the way concepts are taught.  Each class was held once a week, so she only went to 4 classes a week.  Students are expected to do more outside of class.

Studying was not the only thing Emma did outside the classroom.  She traveled  as much as she could.  She is thankful for the weekly blog assignment she had to complete for her honors course because she can go back, read, and relive her adventures and funny stories.  Her favorite day in the UK was hiking the white cliffs of Seven Sisters near Dover. She had perfect weather for a perfect day on the southern coast.  Emma felt that this was a very valuable experience learning about herself and obtaining a deeper understanding of her own culture as well as other cultures, places, people, etc.

Emma Shipley Presenting her Undergraduate ResearchBack on the UNI campus, Emma had to buckle down with her coursework and got involved with some undergraduate research on campus.  She had the opportunity to work on the BioGeoChecmical Evolution of the Atmosphere (BETA) project. The three mentors on the project are Dr. Sebree of the Chemistry & Biochemistry department, Dr. Sedlacek and Dr. Shen, both of the Earth and Environmental Sciences department.  Together they are researching what compounds and elements were in the atmosphere at different time periods; early earth (4 billion years ago), the Devonian period (400 million years ago) and the present day. Other questions include: What kind of compounds could have been food for early life? What kind of plants were available? The method in which they are using to answer these questions has never been done used before, which made the research that much more exciting for Emma to be a part.  

Emma’s undergraduate honors thesis branched off the BETA Project and was titled Pre-Biotic Potential of Aerosols.  Another research project in which Emma was involved looked at the lead content in a Mastodon Tusk found in Iowa. She found that lead was present, however, the source was unable to be determined.  She said “that may be a project for a future student.”

Conducting research will continue after she graduates in May because Emma is headed for Connecticut.  She will be joining the PhD program at the University of Connecticut Avery Point Oceanography Department. She is very excited to be near the ocean and to learn and do research about something she loves.  She believes that important and small contributions are made to science everyday, impacting all of us, even if we do not realize it. She is looking forward to being apart of the scientific world and making her own contributions.


Ginger L'Heureux, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 05-03-18

Continuous Improvement of Education

Dr. Hylton helping a student in the Academic Learning Center

Key IdeasThinking of how to improve the future of higher education institutions and the future of our society is what Dr. Latricia Hylton does on a daily basis.  Dr. Hylton is a mathematics educator and the Mathematics Coordinator at the Academic Learning Center at the University of Northern Iowa.  

Dr. Hylton began her post-secondary education as a McNair scholar at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee.  She graduated with her undergraduate degree and decided to attend graduate school.  At this point her plans changed from becoming a teacher in the K-12 system to teaching at the collegiate level. After obtaining her Master of Arts in Mathematics at UNI she taught mathematics at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo.  Though content in her position, helping students get excited about Math, Dr. Hylton returned to the UNI campus 5 years later to become the Director of the Upward Bound Math & Science Program.  Later, she moved to her current position as Mathematics Coordinator at the Academic Learning Center and sought her Doctorate of Industrial Technology (DIT) from the Technology Department.  One of the reasons for pursuing the DIT was that she wanted a program where she could apply her mathematics background and continue to help students learn.

Dr. Hylton presenting her  Doctoral Dissertation Research.Dr. Hylton structured her DIT electives around the idea of Six-Sigma to get a better understanding of this process.  Being able to choose her electives to focus on her research interest gave her the opportunity to build her own degree.  This is what she feels many people are looking for in a graduate program, the flexibility to focus on their interests.  She expressed her appreciation for all the faculty of the Technology Department saying, “A strength of the department is that no matter your path or focus, all the faculty work together to help you succeed.  They keep track of their students.  They want you to be successful.”

It was through the process of obtaining her doctorate that she became more focused on teaching and learning mathematics.  Because of the diversity of the DIT program, she was able to collaborate with people from various fields and backgrounds.  She believes UNI’s DIT program makes better graduates by encouraging them to interact with students in other departments.  Real-world problem solving requires people to work with professionals in other fields of study and collaborate with them.  These kind of partnerships help open everyone’s mind, rethink problems and develop better solutions.

Dr. Hylton’s interest in process improvement (making things better) led her to focus her dissertation on the Six-Sigma methodology.  Six-Sigma is a tool used to evaluate the effectiveness of a process.  This is done by giving employees opportunities to provide input and develop solutions, in turn creating a sense of ownership, buy-in, and trust for all those involved.  Six-Sigma is normally used in the industrial sector.  Many within education feel that tools used in industry should not be used in education.  Dr. Hylton wanted to see how this tool would apply to education.  She sees a connection between industry and education.   She wanted to show these improvement efforts are necessary for the viability of educational institutions and the students they serve. 

Six-Sigma ideas have been implemented on a small scale with the tutors Dr. Hylton supervises at the Academic Learning Center.  For UNI tutoring, Dr. Hylton asks the staff to share ideas and take ownership.  The process to help students become better learners is constantly being improved with new ideas being implemented.

Dr. Hylton helping a student in the Academic Learning Center.Dr. Hylton’s other passion is helping students learn and understand mathematics, not just memorize theorems.  She believes that any student can learn.  It is a matter of how the student approaches the course and the information.  Once a student shifts his/her approach from learning by memorization to understanding why and how concepts are connected, then true learning can begin.

This approach to learning is passed along to the tutors at the Academic Learning Center.  Dr. Hylton is changing the way students and tutors work together and think about learning.  All students learn differently and at different speeds.  This is key to understanding how tutors help students become better learners.  Tutors must try to find what is preventing the student from learning the subject and develop a relationship with the student.  In the end, the students come away from the experience with the tools and knowledge they need to continue to learn effectively.   Tutors find this experience rewarding as well.

Dr. Hylton is a passionate educator on the UNI campus.  She is here to help students.  She  strives to make UNI a better higher learning institution and the students better learners through change and continuous improvement.


Ginger L'Heureux, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 04-24-18

The Heart of the Athletic Training Program

UNI Athletic Training Students

Hydroworx AreaFew know about the south area the University of Northern Iowa’s Wellness and Recreation Center (WRC), close to the landmark UNI-Dome.  This area is home to UNI’s Athletic Training Program.  This space is unique from other Athletic Training programs.  The facilities athletes use are also where the students learn, have classes and clinical experiences.   The aquatic therapy area boas5 a Hydroworx underwater treadmill complete with underwater cameras so that a patient’s gait and walking patterns can be viewed and analyzed.  Jets can be turned on to increase the resistance underwater as well.  Other pools in the room include a cold plunge and hot plunge which are mainly used by athletes post workout.

From the first day of entering the Athletic Training program, students are learning through hands-on experiences in the classroom, labs, and clinical assignments.  This is completed under the supervision of faculty and preceptors. Preceptors are professionals who provide teach and evaluate students in the clinical setting using an actual patient base.  There are many opportunities within the Cedar Valley for students to gain experiences such as working with athletic trainers in various settings along with physical therapists, medical physicians, and occupational therapists.   Throughout the program, students engage in patient care, figuring out diagnosis, and ultimately providing treatments.  These opportunities and experiences set UNI apart from other programs.  

Athletic Training Students Cassandra, Courtney, Eric and Payton (clockwise).Payton Stock came to UNI as an Athletic Training student.  He said, “UNI felt right.  It’s not really something you can explain.”   Cassandra Adamson and Eric Pimentel transferred into the Athletic Training program after a course peaked their interest and they were drawn to the hands-on training.  “You really have to be motivated.  You cannot just skirt by in your classes, it does not work like that.  It will take a lot of your time,” Cassandra said.  Courtney Kamman is getting her degree in Athletic Training with minors in Biology and Chemistry.  She intends to attend medical school. 

Each of these four students have their own driving force for to majoring in Athletic Training and each are passionate about it.  Some were athletes themselves and all have an interest in helping others.  The hands-on aspect of their education is the by far their favorite.  The students’ favorite courses include Therapeutic Interventions, Clinical Integration, and Anatomy and Physiology.  All the coursework helps develop a deeper understanding of the body and how it functions.  The students agree that everything they learn in the classroom can be applied right away in their clinicals with patients and UNI athletes.  This helps them get a feel for what they will be doing and how to connect with their future patients.  Seeing the results in the outcomes for their clinical patients right away is rewarding.

Dr. Tricia Schrage giving Athletic Training students hands on experience and education.All of these students agree that UNI is the perfect home for them.  Eric tells others “Don’t go to UNI because you were told to.  Go because this is where you feel you belong.” 

“Go where you love the campus and love the school.  Where you go, you should love it, no matter what major you are or if the school has your specialty,” Cassandra said.  The size of campus and classes, the sense of community and how everyone is so friendly were all characteristics that drew these students to call UNI home.     

The creating of a new family among fellow students and faculty has been the biggest surprise for the four students.  These friendships are made in the classroom, in student activities, and during clinical training.  Each student has his/her own experiences outside the classroom in their clinical assignments and undergraduate research.  Payton works at a physical therapy clinic but makes time to go to $5 Movie Tuesdays with friends. 

UNI's Athletic Training ProgramEric works at the Gallagher-Bluedorn, is a member of the UNI Men’s Rugby Team and is part of the campus organization International Student Promoters.  This group is made up of primarily international students who promote UNI and lead campus tours.  He has enjoyed making connections with  people from all over the world and may have the opportunity visit a friend’s home country of El Salvador in the future.  “To have this opportunity at UNI is phenomenal,” he said.

Courtney works at the WRC, enjoys Hot Yoga and when she has time, loves to binge watch shows on Netflix.  Eric, Payton and Courtney assist Dr. Mark Hecimovich on his research understanding concussions.

Cassandra’s senior clinical assignment is with the Waterloo Black Hawks Hockey team.  She said, “No skates are required but I have to walk very carefully on the ice.”  She is studying for her board exams and works with Assistant Professor of Athletic Training Dr. Tricia Schrage and Dr. Kelli Snyder, Athletic Training & Program Director on their research on Manual Therapy Strain / Counter Strain. 

Hands on education in UNI’s Athletic Training Program.Courtney came to UNI thinking that she would be going home all the time.  She expressed that “Each person I have a connection with.  Each person I can see a friend in.  The professors love you.  You are a person to them.  They connect with you on a personal level.  They will take the homework questions along with the life questions.  This program is a family.”  Tricia agreed, not only within the program but UNI as a whole.  She stated, “At UNI, students come first.  Ensuring that they receive a quality education, along with abundant hands-on training is our priority.”

Like some of her students, Tricia transferred into UNI’s Athletic Training program after a fellow classmate mentioned it in chemistry class.  Since then she has obtained all three of her degrees from UNI.  She feels that she got a well rounded education from phenomenal instructors.  Tricia worked as an athletic trainer in the before becoming the Clinical Education Coordinator here at UNI.  While in this position she pursued a doctorate in education because it felt like it was the right fit.  She is currently supervising research with undergraduate and graduate students, teaching classes and conducting her own research.  Tricia is interested in identifying meaningful patient outcomes and how to assess them.

Courtney sums it all up, “Find your place.  Find your people.  Find what you love.  I fell in love with Athletic Training.  I love what I do.  I love going to clinicals everyday.  Being at UNI, you can choose what you want to do.  Go where your heart takes you."

For more information, please visit the Athletic Training Website to learn about the program, faculty and curriculum.


Ginger L'Heureux, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 04-13-18

Drones: Geography from a Different Perspective

Dr. James Dietrich with his largest drone

Thermal imaging of the UNI-Dome area by a drone.If you see a drone overhead while walking on the University of Northern Iowa campus, there is a good chance that it is one of the Geography Department’s.  Dr. James Dietrich joined the faculty of UNI last summer to continue his research with drones.  Dietrich stated that, “Dr. Pease, was on the forefront” of implementing this technology into the Geography curriculum when he posted the position.  “I’m very excited to be a part of this department and university,” he continued while standing in the Geography Department’s Drone Lab.   

Birds-eye view of UNI Campus by a Geography Department drone.With drones, Dietrich is able to blend his love of technology with the beauty of being outside in nature.  Technology has allowed geography researchers to look at landscapes through the medium of photography.  Dr. Dietrich and other researchers are able to use historical aerial and ground photographs and compare them to recent drone photographs noting the changes that have taken place.

Having grown up in Colorado, Dietrich was encouraged and pushed by his parents and his professors to go out and try different things and to find his passion.  He has since traveled the United States for his education.  The University of Kansas, Texas State University, University of Oregon, and a post-doc at Dartmouth College have all been a part of Dr. Dietrich’s path toward his position as professor at UNI.Dietrich prepares a small drone for flight on UNI Campus.

UNI’s Geography department has a long standing history of strength in graphical information systems (GIS).  It has a reputation for being on the forefront of computer-based mapping, remote sensing, and satellite imagery. 

Dr. Dietrich is looking forward to working on landscape, terrain, and ecosystem restoration projects.  Interacting with the UNI students has been great.  Colleagues in the department and across campus have been wonderful in supporting Dr. Dietrich in his first year on campus.

As a doctoral student, Dr. Dietrich worked with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to do a long term physical monitoring of a salmon spawn habitat restoration of the Middle Fork of the John Day River.  It was a challenging project. The river had been altered for a mining operation and in later years over grazed by cattle.     Cattle destroy the banks of the river and change the landscape. The changes destroy habitat, increase water temperature, and affect the fish and other life in the river.  The restoration process included removing the cattle, rebuilding the banks, and planting vegetation to help maintain and increase the available habitat. 

The goal was to utilize pre-mining photos to design and complete a restoration project to bring the land as close as possible to the original landscape.  Once completed, the salmon will now have the proper conditions to swim upriver and spawn.  Dr. Dietrich’s contribution was to determine what the area originally looked like using photographs from the 1800’s and historic maps.   One photo from about 1930 showed how the mining operation had altered the landscape, destroying much of the valley river system. 

Teaching and working with students to help them understand drone technology.Next the team determined what a healthy and productive river should look like by finding a snapshot of the river in an area that was unaltered.  The objective was to mirror this healthy part of the river in the damaged portions.  As a geomorphologist, Dr. Dietrich’s task was to look at the physical parts of the river: banks, sandbars, and bed material.  Through this, he could get a sense of how the river has changed. These changes include its shape, composition, and overall structure of the river. 

River restorations can be small (a couple hundred yards) to large (a couple miles in length).  The size of a restoration adds to the challenge. This restoration would be considered a large project.  The outcome of the restoration thus far has been a success.

As a professor with a drone pilot’s license, Dr. Dietrich has six drones he utilizes for teaching and research.  Each drone has different characteristics so that different tasks can be completed.  One drone is a fixed wing, much like a traditional airplane, flying straight and level over large areas for big aerial mapping.  The fixed wing has limited maneuverability but can fly for about 30 minutes and cover a large area.  The other five drones are rotorcraft with multiple rotors.  These are great for tight spaces such as within trees and along shorelines. However they can only fly for about 20 minutes before needing to recharge. Dr. Dietrich with his largest rotocraft drone.

The drones have onboard cameras that can level themselves and compensate for movement so that the photos and videos are cleaner and stable.  The largest drone can lift up to 32 pounds.  This is necessary so that it can fly while carrying a large digital SLR camera for super high resolution photos.  It can also carry cameras that can take digital true color, thermal (or infra-red), and multi-spectral digital images, measuring both visible and invisible light at many wavelengths.  Because of its size, all of these cameras can be mounted on the drone at the same time.

Since coming to campus, Dr. Dietrich has worked on projects at the Washburn Prairie, a river restoration near Manchester, and mapping campus.  The campus mapping will allow future students to tour campus virtually.  His research will focus on how to improve accuracy of the maps created from drone footage.  The Geography Department and Dr. Dietrich can work with state and local agencies to complete mapping projects.  For example, flat maps can be made into three dimensional elevation maps.

Check out this drone video!


Ginger L'Heureux, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 04-05-18

Friction, Shear, Drape, Warp, & Weft

 Jordan Caruso demonstrates how she utilizes the MARK-10 for her Undergraduate Research

The MARK-10 tests fabrics at low-load

University of Northern Iowa’s Textile & Apparel Program (TAPP) has a National Science Foundation funded Product Development and Material Analysis laboratory. Under the direction of Dr. Mitchell Strauss, Professor in the School of Applied Human Sciences, equipment in this laboratory is used by faculty and undergraduates to investigate the properties of fabrics and fibers.  The equipment in the lab is used to test swatches (fabric samples) to discover under what conditions they will fade, rip, pill, stain, burn, and wear.  Common words heard in the textile laboratory to describe the properties of fabric are friction, shear, drape, warp, and weft.   

Jordan Caruso, UNI TAPP major, tests for shear, drape, and other properties using a new and unique machine to the lab, the MARK-10.  UNI owns one of the first MARK-10 instruments on the market.  Jordan is piloting its calibration as part of her undergraduate research with Dr. Strauss.  The MARK-10 allows Jordan to gain a deeper understanding of how different fabrics respond to various stresses.  The data provided by the MARK-10 will help designers and researchers determine if a specific fabric will work for a particular application and how a garment and fabric will lay when being utilized or worn by a person. 

Jordan Caruso, TAPP major, demonstrates how to use the MARK-10The MARK-10 is a low-load testing machine.  This means it only needs a small sample of fabric in order to obtain measurements and the fabrics are not damaged in the testing process.  It is used to measure friction, shear, warp, weft, and bend of a swatch sample when exposed to stress.  Friction, the resistance of the fabric when it is dragged across a surface, can affect fabrics in different ways such as how they fall and move when worn.  Shear, the tensile strength or how much force is required to rip the fabric, is tested at a diagonal to the weave.  Warp and weft tests evaluate the tensile strength of the fabric in the horizontal and vertical directions.  The bend test is a simple test of how far a fabric can be pushed over an edge before it falls to a 45° angle.  Some fabrics bend right away while others do not.    Each test is completed in with 5 swatch samples, and the scores are averaged to ensure accuracy.  

These tests are also completed at different levels of humidity.  Fabrics, such as cotton, can get stronger with humidity while others, such as rayon, become weaker.  The tests for the fabrics are completed at 90% humidity and 0% humidity.  The room is at a constant temperature of 70° Fahrenheit (±2) and humidity of 62° (±2).  Fabrics to be tested at a 90% humidity are placed in a machine to increase the humidity, placed in a Ziploc bag or an air-tight plastic container, and stored until tested.  The 0% humidity test requires that fabrics be placed in an oven at 65° Fahrenheit for 4 hours, so that the fabric is at equilibrium and has time to dry.  It is then transported to the lab in a special container, to maintain the lack of moisture, until testing. 

Computer Generated Skirt ModelSewn SkirtThese measurements of how individual fabric types react are valuable to help fashion designers select the best fabric for a new design or pattern.  Jordan uses a program called Optitext to combine the fabric data with the garment pattern.  The pattern data will include pieces such as the front, back, sleeve, leg, pockets, etc.  A 3D model of a figure wearing the garment allows Jordan to test out different fabrics virtually.  One of Jordan's tasks is to calibrate the machine/program so that it will be easier to use and more valuable to designers in the future.  She tests the accuracy by making a sample garment to compare to the virtual one.  The goal is to have an accurate computer generated model identical to one in real life so that researchers, like Jordan, may imagine, or predict, how a fabric will look, act, and wear as a skirt, shirt, or some other garment or as a home good such as a curtain.

Using the Optitext to model how different fabrics respond differently to the same pattern will help designers streamline getting clothing to the stores by eliminating some steps.  Currently, fashion designers design a product, make a sample, and have a model try it on.  Much time is spent waiting for the sample to be made and shipped, typically from overseas.  If the garment does not look or wear as it was intended then there is a redesign, a new sample made, and tried on again.  This process continues until the garment is what the design intended.  Optitext, once calibrated, will provide a  designer with virtual garments.  Without the need for a sample, initial adjustments can be made and only one or possibly no samples will need to be sewn prior to production.  So a process that once took months could be completed  in a much less time.

MARK-10 Friction TestJordan’s work demonstrates that fabric can be very complex in its composition.  How often do we put on clothing and not even give the fabric, the yarn or even how the individual threads are twisted a single thought?  The textile industry depends on material science to select the right fabric for the right purpose. 

The tiny details that affect how a fabric is worn and acts are interesting to Jordan.  She is more interested in the fabric and testing of the fabrics than she is in the designing of apparel.  Her first semester in college was at a school in New York City.  She wanted to be a part of the apparel industry.  It was here that she realized that she preferred the textiles over design.  One of her professors, who was an expert in fabrics, enjoyed and made textiles fun.  He was one of the reasons she decided to pursue this area.  After one semester in NYC, Jordan returned to her home of Cedar Falls and began her education at UNI continuing to learn more and test fabrics under the direction of Dr. Strauss. 

Jordan will graduate in May of 2018.  One of her goals of her undergraduate research project, is to figure out how to properly calibrate the Optitiext program so that it can mimic fabrics accurately.  Knowing about these kinds of tests and the MARK-10 in particular, is a skill that Jordan hopes to continue to develop in her future career.


Ginger L'Heureux, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 03-07-18


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