Honors Summer Fellowship

  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
Honors Summer Fellowships provide a summer's focus on your thesis. Within the HSF community, there is opportunity for research, faculty connections, student gatherings, and public scholarship. 

Follow the 3 Minute Vid links below each fellow's name to view the thesis summaries on LSAHonorsProgram YouTube.

Meet Our 2015 Honors Summer Fellows

Tiffany Brocke
3 Minute Vid

Heart failure is the leading cause of death in the United States, yet no effective therapy exists to treat this dysfunction. There exists a family of peptides that signals through a receptor in human heart tissue to modulate cardiac contractility. My thesis focuses on elucidating these ligand-receptor contacts that produce changes in heart function. In particular, I am investigating the way these peptides interact with known so-called "molecular switches" within the receptor to yield differential responses from cardiac muscle cells. The long-term goal is to use this information for developing pharmaceuticals to impact human health.

 

Brennan McMichael

Amyloids are stable protein polymers that can form when proteins misfold and aggregate in ordered fibers. Over twenty human diseases are associated with protein aggregation and amyloid formation. Despite its sinister reputation, amyloid formation is not always malevolent, and recently several ‘functional’ amyloids have been described that contribute positively to cellular physiology. Unlike disease-associated amyloids, functional amyloids are assembled by dedicated biogenesis pathways and do not exhibit host toxicity. It is imperative that we better understand how functional and disease-associated amyloids might interact and influence each other’s fate. For the last year, my research has explored and characterized the interaction between amyloid fibrils of two different origins; a functional bacterial amyloid and a disease-associated human amyloid. The bacterial protein, called CsgA, is normally secreted across the cell membrane where it self-polymerizes to form stable amyloid fibers that protect the bacteria during biofilm formation. The second protein that I will use in my studies is alpha-synuclein, which is an intrinsically disordered protein found in the human brain whose polymerization into amyloid is intimately linked to the onset of Parkinson's disease. I plan explore what is occurring at the molecular level during the initiation of protein aggregation as well as the effects of cross seeding on this initiation by harnessing the power of new visualization techniques and experimental models. My work will provide a foundation to understand the complex interactions between amyloidogenic proteins that might contribute to disease progression.

 

 

Amy Carroll
3 Minute Vid

Eating disorders are common and potentially life threatening conditions. In fact, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate among mental disorders. In addition, eating disorders face an immense amount of stigma by both the public and health care providers. My research explores the relationship between stigma and practice patterns when treating patients with eating disorders. Specifically, for my thesis I created a national survey of dietitians and analyzed their practice patterns, experiences, and perceptions involved with people with anorexia nervosa. Through this research I hope to explore ways to improve treatment for patients with eating disorders..

Jennifer Allen
3 Minute Vid

"Whenever I try to speak in class, 
one of my male classmates usually interrupts me."
"I feel like I'm always relegated to secretarial roles 
during group assignments."
"One time I presented an idea to my group, 
but no one took it seriously. When my male classmate presented the same idea, however, everyone thought it was brilliant."
These sentences are paraphrased but very real examples of the subtle discrimination–also referred to as microaggressions–that women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) face during their academic careers. It has been demonstrated that the stereotypes and microaggressions faced by women in these fields lead to underperformance, but less research has focused on the intersections between gendered microaggressions and mental health. My Psychology honors thesis examines the negative effects of gendered microaggressions on the psychological and physical well-being of women in STEM. Additionally, I will be writing a collection of interconnected short stories for my Creative Writing honors thesis that explores the concept of gender in modern society, the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the potentially antiquated notion 
of the "American Dream."

 

 

Lea Bart
3 Minute Vid

Having a child as a teenager can severely limit a woman’s opportunities to further her education and increase her future earnings. To date, most studies that examine the effects of social programs on fertility treat teens and older women identically. I am interested in how changes to social programs and policies specifically affect the lives and decisions of young women. My economics honors thesis examines the effect of the 1990 Medicaid expansion to teenagers on teen birth rates. I hope my research will expand our understanding of the effects of increasing access to health insurance for young people.

 

 

Kate Topham

For my honors thesis in Latin, I am analyzing witches in ancient Roman literature. Despite the dominance of physical evidence of magic performed by Roman men, women make up an overwhelming majority of witches and magicians. There are also many disparities between actual magic practices and those of the literary witch: Roman witches rarely practice divination, astrology, or medicine, all of which are branches of ancient magic. Indeed, the abilities and practices of witches featured in Ovid, Apuleius, and Tibullus more closely resemble those of semi-divine figures like Circe and Medea than those of real magicians. My thesis seeks to investigate the Roman attitudes about magic, women, and divinity in order to discover the source of these inconsistencies.

 

Zoë Miller
3 Minute Vid 

Whether we notice or not, our actions are influenced by factors that are out of our control. Factors before and after an action such as our temperaments, our experiences and the situations in which we find ourselves create what has been termed "moral luck." In my thesis, I will be investigating the ways in which negative moral luck plays into juvenile violent crimes. After making an argument for moral luck's existence in these cases, I will make recommendations to America's juvenile detention facilities of ways in which they can better counteract negative moral luck and improve the lives of juveniles. By addressing the route of these crimes rather than focusing energy on punishment, we can better rehabilitate offenders, improving our society in the process.

 

 

Sarah Boutom
3 Minute Vid

One of the great challenges in pharmacology is ensuring that a drug specifically interacts with its intended target, often as an inhibitor of a certain disease process. In the case of chemotherapeutic drug methotrexate, targeting to cancer cells is essential in preventing adverse side effects resulting from non-specific interactions. By taking advantage of the fact that certain cancers upregulate a receptor for folic acid and folic acid-like molecules on the surface of cells, a polymer-based targeted drug delivery system can be used which also considers a unique aggregation mechanism of the receptor-folic acid complex, which prevents exclusion of the drug from the bloodstream by virtue of size. My thesis investigates this aggregation mechanism, using various biophysical techniques to characterize the kinetics, thermodynamics, and biochemical properties of the system in different conditions, especially those mimicking physiologically relevant parameters.

 

Alec Josaitis

Understanding the origin of the Universe is a quest that has long motivated humanity, and the field of cosmology seeks to resolve this mystery in a scientifically-sound manner. The cosmic microwave background (CMB) provides unparalleled support for the hot big bang theory, our most accurate cosmological theory, and predicts the state of our Universe until fractions of a second after its inception. Recent experiments have suggested evidence of gravitational waves through unique signatures in the CMB. Unfortunately, these experiments could not fully account for polarized foreground signals from our galaxy, leaving the undeniable detection of primordial gravitational waves for a future research team. My current and future work is to design, fabricate, and test key components for a novel foreground detector of polarized CMB signals, an essential step towards the detection of primordial gravitational waves, which are vital tracers of the origin of the Universe.

Kate Coppess
3 Minute Vid

A prominent theory in the physics community is the multiverse theory, which postulates that there is an infinite set of universes other than our own. Among these hypothetical universes, the laws of physics could potentially vary. To explore the potential characteristics of these universes, fundamental parameters – which we know from our universe – can be varied to see what structures form or what dynamics arise. My thesis will investigate the question of habitability in the systems that could arise in alternate universes. I will consider two basic criteria for determining habitability: the rate of disruption to the planet must be at a frequency lower than 1 Gyr-1, in order for life to evolve, and the temperature of the planet must allow for liquid water. Once the disruption rates and the radiation field for a given galaxy have been determined, I can determine the Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ) – the region of a galaxy where a planet can sustain life – and then investigate the orbits of stars in the galaxy within the GHZ and the probability of a star leaving or entering the GHZ.

 

Ben Moss
3 Minute Vid

In my thesis, I am working with the Western tradition of fables, beginning with the pseudo-mythical figure of Aesop in classical Greece, through collections published in the present day. The advantage to studying fable--as opposed to more standardized literary genres--is that through fable societies are able to discuss topics candidly which would otherwise be subject to censorship. I hope to use this quality to look at popular feeling towards power dynamics between social elites and those less privileged, by considering fable collections from different times and places, and within those collections fables dealing with lions and eagles (symbols of royalty, traditional and post-monarchial) and lesser creatures (mice, deer, sparrows, and so forth). I plan to start from the earliest extant collections, those of Babrius and Phaedrus, then to work with the famous La Fontaine fables from France in the 17th century, Ivan Krylov's Russian fables from the 18th, Victorian Latin primers from Britain, and a collection to be named later from the United States in the 20th or 21st century. Through working closely with these texts, I hope to demonstrate the ongoing significance of fable as more than just children's literature and to establish a new vein of cross-cultural social comparisons by means of fable collections.

 

Kayla Dinshaw
3 Minute Vid

Anillin is a protein that has been well characterized to be important for cytokinesis, the process that separates a single cell into two daughter cells. We have recently found an additional role for Anillin in regulating cell-cell junctions, structures that couple cells together within a tissue. Anillin interacts with many binding partners, and my thesis project aims to characterize these binding interactions of Anillin in relation to proper cell-cell junction structure and function. It is important to study Anillin’s function at junctions because Anillin is overexpressed in many human cancers, and Anillin expression correlates with increased tumor cell metastasis, a process that requires the loss of cell-cell junctions.

 

 

Crystal Cole
3 Minute Vid

Amyloids are stable protein polymers that can form when proteins misfold and aggregate in ordered fibers. Over twenty human diseases are associated with protein aggregation and amyloid formation. Despite its sinister reputation, amyloid formation is not always malevolent, and recently several ‘functional’ amyloids have been described that contribute positively to cellular physiology. Unlike disease-associated amyloids, functional amyloids are assembled by dedicated biogenesis pathways and do not exhibit host toxicity. It is imperative that we better understand how functional and disease-associated amyloids might interact and influence each other’s fate. For the last year, my research has explored and characterized the interaction between amyloid fibrils of two different origins; a functional bacterial amyloid and a disease-associated human amyloid. The bacterial protein, called CsgA, is normally secreted across the cell membrane where it self-polymerizes to form stable amyloid fibers that protect the bacteria during biofilm formation. The second protein that I will use in my studies is alpha-synuclein, which is an intrinsically disordered protein found in the human brain whose polymerization into amyloid is intimately linked to the onset of Parkinson's disease. I plan explore what is occurring at the molecular level during the initiation of protein aggregation as well as the effects of cross seeding on this initiation by harnessing the power of new visualization techniques and experimental models. My work will provide a foundation to understand the complex interactions between amyloidogenic proteins that might contribute to disease progression.

Lynn Daboul
3 Minute Vid

Did you forget to set your alarm clock? No problem—you’ll still wake up eventually, though perhaps late for work, thanks to the “clock neurons” in your brain. My thesis aims to improve a chemogenetic tool used to map the Drosophila melanogaster brain, and I will be focusing mostly on the clock neuron networks in my exploration. The current tool utilizes the Gal4-UAS system to express P2X2 in neurons of interest, which can then be activated by ATP administration. This allows for neural connections to be elucidated, but it has some limitations that my work will attempt to address. My project will use a mutant form of P2X2 that is predicted to provide greater sensitivity and kinetics to this analytical technique. I will also explore the utilization of a P2X2-dendritic targeting signal fusion protein to enhance spatial sensitivity. It is my hope that my work will help obtain valuable information on neural circuits and behavior.

 

Anika Huq
3 Minute Vid

Childbirth exists in a biosocial framework- the action is biological, but the organization is cultural. Everyday, women give birth, but follow different traditions, concerning the location of birthing, the medications used, and the type of people present. With development and globalization, hospitals are becoming more commonplace, and the culture of childbirth is becoming increasingly technology-oriented, like that of the West. Through interviews with mothers and health care professionals, I hope to illuminate the traditions surrounding pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum care that have remained and the ones that have been replaced in the northeastern region of Thailand. Using this information, I will analyze how women’s perceptions of themselves and their bodies have been changing. I will then relate these findings to the broader context of Thai society as well as the implications they have in an increasingly developing world.

 

 

Cosmo Pappas

Many thinkers sought to define and respond to the massive changes in the political and economic landscape of twentieth-century capitalism. In particular, my thesis will investigate the writings of Russian-born French philosopher Alexandre Kojève in order to get a picture of the development of neoliberal capitalism and its central ideological categories. Popular both for his influential series of lectures on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in the 1930s and for right-wing philosopher Francis Fukuyama’s use of Kojève’s idea of the “end of history,” Kojève has left subsequent readers a complicated body of material. My research will examine Kojève’s philosophical background and output, his interaction with other French intellectuals, and his career in the French Ministry of Economic Affairs. I will supplement Kojève’s body of work with subsequent theory and commentary on human rights, animality, desire, utopia, and historical process. I hope to understand how he contributed to the vision of a globalized, neoliberal form of capitalist organization, the realization of an “end state” of human history, and the individual’s place within this history.

Neha Bokil
3 Minute Vid

DNA is the blueprint of cells; therefore, ensuring genome stability via repair pathways for DNA is extremely important. Defects in DNA repair can lead to increased mutation rates and higher susceptibility to diseases such as cancer. My thesis focuses on Human DNA Ligase I, an essential enzyme in multiple DNA repair pathways. This enzyme utilizes ATP and magnesium ions to catalyze the formation of a phosphodiester bond in DNA to seal nicks. There are various conserved active-site amino acid residues in this enzyme that could potentially play important roles in metal binding or catalysis. I am making mutations at these sites and performing kinetic assays to determine the roles of these residues during the various steps of the ligation reaction. Hopefully, this research will provide a better understanding of the chemical mechanism for ligation as well as the nature of the enzyme's active site.

 

Jason Colella

In the late 19th century, lumber was king of Michigan’s economy; as a result, many made millions in all parts of the process of lumbering. This, however, would not last as by the mid-1890s White Pine was a virtually extinct species in Michigan. This meant these lumbermen needed to do something new – they needed new channels to invest, maintain, and grow their money. For those who stayed, this was primarily by encouraging economic development and business diversification or through philanthropy. My thesis will explore how the lumbermen’s effort at building a new economy in Michigan worked and how it has created much of the foundation of the boom in manufacturing and business in Michigan that lasted all the way until the1980s. For example, Muskegon lumber baron Charles Hackley helped form a Board of Trade to bring businesses to town -- many of which became extraordinarily successful; he also was a prolific philanthropist donating the equivalent of 200 million dollars over his lifetime to the city. The work will focus on Michigan’s big three lumbertowns of Muskegon, Saginaw, and Bay City; however, other cities such as Detroit, Ludington, and Manistee will be included.

Joe Biglin
3 Minute Vid

February 14, 1992 is a series of interconnected short films. Utilizing a multi-media format and dissociative editing, I aim to synesthetically inspire ugly emotions—i.e. regret—while contrapuntally mixing in elements of incongruity and humor to develop an intellectual concept—that perspective assuages these feelings, life moves on. The process of creation is completely iterative and features an academic component which includes phenomenologically testing viewer’s reactions to the film, wherein I respond and remake the material to facilitate greater synesthesia. The final project with annotated comments will be available on a website, offering an experimental form of exhibition and providing a newfound transparency within the artistic process and product.

 

Charli Spier

 In 9 A. D. in the depths of the Teutoburger Forest, a battle was fought between the Roman legions of Quinctilius Varus and a coalition of Germanic tribes led by a Cheruscan Prince, Arminius. Traditionally underestimated to be uncivilized barbarians incapable of defeating the military might of Rome, the Germans were nevertheless victorious and sent shockwaves of both awe and terror throughout the Empire. The affects of this battle would be key in halting Roman expansion across the Rhine, and the story of the improbable victory of the Germans would be recorded in multiple histories. Ancient authors such as Tacitus focused on the German commander in particular in their retellings, and Arminius would be subsequently remembered as a revolutionary and “the liberator of Germany.” Nevertheless, Arminius and his story would be largely forgotten in the passage of time. With the resurgence of classicism in the 16th Century, however, and Martin Luther’s ambitions for religious reformation, the figure was revived and transformed into a relevant symbol of German nationalism. This was done in the face of Roman Catholic imperialism, and transforming classical figures to inspire nationalistic sentiments, especially in times of political or social revolution, would become a recurrent trend in Germany after this initial resurgence. The Arminius motif would subsequently evolve throughout different periods in response to particular contemporary needs. Even after World War II and the common stigma that associated national symbolism of any sort with Nazism in Germany, Arminius, even as a military figure, was able to be transformed into a symbol for peace and pride in later years. By analyzing textual and material sources featuring Arminius from the 16th Century onward and placing them into the historical context of their production and consumption, I will argue that the purely historical figure of Arminius has been used as a unifying character that Germans look to for ethnographic identification and has developed into a symbol of nationalism with significant impact on contemporary German culture.

Jess Hasper

I am fascinated by the relationship between community ideology and the structures and principles by which legitimate authority is expressed and maintained. My thesis applies theories of authority to two religious communities in a study of the appearance of charismatic power. Unlike other sources of authority, expressions of charisma are deeply embedded in shared theology and group symbolism, and have a unique capacity to promote creative change. Drawing from two communities- the First Church of Boston and a modern megachurch- I consider the development of charismatic authority. Throughout the 1600s, the First Church Puritan community, bound together by an experience of shared grace, was transformed into a bureaucratic system marked by ritual and moral code. My second case involves a corporate megachurch, established by an exceptionally powerful leader. In 2014, this community disbanded into independent communities under local leadership. Within these contexts I examine the appearance of community charisma and leader-focused charisma within ideological constructs and political forms, and consider the relationship between charisma and the existence of shared spaces for performative action.

   

Charles Sorge
3 Minute Vid

My thesis examines loyalist women following the American Revolutionary War. During the 1970’s two historians, Mary Beth Norton and Linda Kerber, researched the war’s effects on the lives, beliefs, and roles of patriot women in the years following the conflict. Their works argued that the growth of republican ideology facilitated the continuation of women’s heightened role in society and altered their perceptions of themselves within the household and civil society. However, can their arguments and findings be applied to all women in Revolutionary America? Particularly, can it be applied to loyalist women? My thesis will examine and research loyalist women from New York and Massachusetts following the Revolutionary War, and argue that the effects of the war, particularly the enhanced self-perception and societal role of women, were dependent on political affiliation and is not applicable to loyalist women. Norton and Kerber’s arguments will be countered by showing how the postwar realities for loyalist women contrast significantly to the subjects researched by Norton and Kerber. I will accomplish this by researching four previously unstudied loyalist women from New York or Massachusetts, and examining if their letters and diaries from the postwar period show any signs of an improved or diminished sense of agency.