Honors Project Summaries, 2020-2021

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Biochemistry

Writer: Chau Q. Le
Faculty Advisor: Kimberly A. Dickson
Topic: Tracking the Internalization of Angiogenin With Split-Green Fluorescent Protein Tags
Summary:

Angiogenin (ANG) is a secreted protein that holds important implications in cell growth and survival, particularly in tumor environments in cancer cells. Currently, ANG’s mechanistic activity remains unclear, particularly in its translocation to the cell’s nucleus. Our work aims to develop a functional fluorescence-based assay to study ANG’s internalization activity in cancer cells. Specifically, we utilize a split green fluorescent protein (split-GFP) system, in which the 11th strand of the GFP molecule, herein referred to as GFP11, is conjugated to ANG, while the remaining GFP1-10 fragment is lentivirally expressed in our target HeLa cell line. The reassembly of GFP1-10 and GFP11 will restore bright fluorescence signal, indicating ANG’s successful cellular entry. The workflow of this project is two-fold: first, to design, express and purify six different ANG-GFP11 variants of different directionality and size, and second, to measure their kinetics and internalization activity in HeLa cells. With key biochemistry tools in place, we are now assessing the system’s efficiency in monitoring ANG’s entry in the target cell line. If successful, this split fluorescence system offers a powerful to study ANG’s activity, shedding more light on its role in cancer and other disease-related pathways.

 

Biology

Writer: Ceara Larson
Faculty Advisor: Bart De Stasio
Topic: The Biomechanics of a Softball Swing in Seven Swing Stages
Summary:

Using data collected from my independent research this summer, I am conducting a biomechanical analysis of the softball swing. In my thesis, I use correlational data to examine the importance of lower half power, point of contact data to examine the importance of arm path, and body point data to examine the importance of displacement between the torso and pelvis in optimizing exit velocity. Although there have been many studies released on swing path and exit velocity with baseball athletes, this will be one of the few comprehensive analyses of the swing in softball athletes. Data was collected from over 50 participants who compete at the high school or college level, and all data analysis was conducted in Rstudio.

 

Biology

Writer: Amanda Marsh
Faculty Advisor: Judith Humphries
Topic: Identification and localization of NF-κΒ during the embryonic development of the schistosome-transmitting snail Biomphalaria glabrata.
Summary:

The freshwater snail Biomphalaria glabrata is best known as the intermediate host to Schistosoma mansoni, a parasitic worm that causes neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis. Because this schistosome infects both B. glabrata and humans, the snail can be used as a model organism to study conserved, immune-related pathways and proteins that may be involved in defense of parasite infection. One complex of proteins under investigation is nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer (NF-κΒ), an evolutionarily conserved family of transcription factors that are primarily known for their function in vertebrate immunity and, more recently, processes related to the nervous system. While NF-κΒ has been identified in adult B. glabrata, there are no studies examining NF-κΒ activity during the snail’s embryonic development. In invertebrates, studies suggest that NF-κΒ is a key component in developmental processes, making it plausible that B. glabrata utilizes the transcription factor early in its lifespan. The combination of NF-κΒ characterization in adult B. glabrata and evidence of this transcription factor’s involvement in the developmental phases of several species of invertebrates lead me to hypothesize that NF-κΒ is present and playing an active role during the embryonic stages of B. glabrata. In confirmation of this hypothesis, this study presents the first evidence NF-κΒ activity during B. glabrata embryonic development using indirect immunofluorescence and western blotting.

 

Biology

Writer: Bennett McAfee
Faculty Advisor: Bart De Stasio
Topic: Programming simulations of diel vertical migration behavior of zooplankton
Summary:

Diel vertical migration is a well-studied predator avoidance strategy carried out by zooplankton, including the water flea Daphnia. In Daphnia, migration behavior is known to change in response to environmental factors such as light intensity, predator abundance, and food availability. While changes in migration behavior have been observed in numerous field studies, attempts to predict vertical distribution of zooplankton mathematically have been too cumbersome to use and yield results too abstract to be practical. We have begun development of a package for the programming language R that uses the physical properties of a lake to predict a probable vertical distribution of Daphnia. The package does this via dynamic programming, wherein the position of Daphnia is predicted through simulating a series of choices that lead a Daphnia to optimal fitness. Initial results of the program have shown promise in predicting the depth for optimal Daphnia fitness which we have found to often correlate with the depth of greatest abundance in field data.

 

Chemistry

Writer: Kelly X. Vences
Faculty Advisor: Graham Sazama
Topic: Synthesis and Characterization of a Luminescent Radical
Summary:

Since the development of the first isolated radical triphenylmethyl (TPM) in 1900 by Moses Gomberg, progress in the synthesis of stable radicals made possible the emergence of radicals with luminescent properties. The Ballester group showed an improved stability of triarylmethyl (TAM) radicals with their work on polychlorinated triphenylmethyl (PTM) radicals known as the PTM series. The continued research into TAM radicals gave rise to tris(2,4,6- trichlorophenyl)methyl (TTM) radicals, a new class of radicals which beget several derivative compounds modelling the TTM radical skeleton. Moving away from this framework, we investigate allyl radical compounds, most notably C. F. Koelsch’s free radical bis(diphenylene)- 9’-phenylallyl (BDPA). BDPA does not fluoresce, but we believe the substitution of a fluorene group with the chromophore 1-azaxanthone will produce luminescent properties and create a BDPA derivative bis(azaxanthylene)-9’-phenylallyl (BAxPA). A convergent synthetic path was conducted in the development of BAxPA. The synthesis of 1-azaxanthone via a Friedel crafts reaction and a subsequent condensation produced the chromophore. The BDPA framework was created via varying Pudovik reactions that gave precursor molecules that will be used for the Horner-Wadsworth-Emmons reaction which combines azaxanthone with the BDPA framework. Several synthetic issues are explored in this investigation and a proposal for a new HWE route ensues. NMR and EPR spectroscopy are used to identify and characterize the compounds.

 

 

 

East Asian Studies

Writer: Sheldon (Yaodong) Xie
Faculty Advisor: Brigid E. Vance
Topic: Lushun Russo-Japanese Prison Museum: Nationalist Narrative throughout Historical Memory of the Humiliating Past in Modern China
Summary:

This paper explores the contemporary historical narrative since the 2000s of the Lushun Russo-Japanese Prison Museum in Dalian, China, as a case study through the dual lens of a site visit and historical source analysis of the museum exhibitions. This prison museum vividly reflects a construction of historical memory of modern China's humiliating and traumatic past, specifically of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) against the historical backdrop of the so-called "century of national humiliation" (1840-1945). Through this formation of historical memory, the Chinese municipal government politically utilizes a victim-centric nationalist narrative in order to inculcate and fortify a nationalistic and patriotic consciousness in museum visitors.

 

English

Writer: Louric Q. Rankine
Faculty Advisor: Karen Hoffman
Topic: Mary Seacole: Docudama and Autobiography
Summary:

This honors thesis will explore the thematic relationship between Jamaican-British pioneer Mary Seacole’s autobiography, The Adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands (1853) and the BBC docudrama Mary Seacole: The Real Angel of Crimea (2005) directed by Sonali Fernando. In this paper, critical conversations around race, gender, class, and citizenship in both literature and cinema will contextually add to the dynamic between literature and film adaptations, while contextually contributing to the lack thereof for intersectional experiences in narrative media. Moreover, the paper will consult both literary and film theorists such as Homi Bhabha and bell hooks to understand postcolonial voices framed through the perspective of a black woman, through text and screen. By looking at this adaptation through a literary and cinematic lens, this paper intends to uncover the film’s veracity in honoring the legacy and tenacity of the woman who has been called England’s best black Briton.

 

Ethnomusicology

Writer: Alex Miguel Medina
Faculty Advisor: Sonja Lynn Downing
Topic: Listening to the Internet: Cultural Discourses, Vicente Fernández, and Looking at YouTube Comments
Summary:

My project focuses on public discourse, specifically YouTube comments, surrounding the music video to Vicente Fernandez’s song “Por Tu Maldito Amor”. Part of this project explores the unique characteristics and complications that come with listening to the internet and engaging with it as a site (literally as a website and metaphorically as a place of interaction) of cultural discourse. While this project is situated around a music video by the famous ranchera singer, I am more interested in the quotidian interactions in the comment section and the scholarly potential of thinking about listening to the internet. I use music as a point of departure more than an object of analysis, in a way to understand how people interact and engage in cultural politics. I focus on the comments on his music video to be able to center the agents who make his music culture.

 


Government

Writer: Cristina Sada Segovia
Faculty Advisor: William Hixon
Topic: Ultra Fans, Ultra Rich: Fan Identity Crisis in Reaction to Massive Foreign Investment in Premier League Clubs
Summary:

From Tuesday to Sunday, the avid football fan’s life revolves around their club’s schedule, with questions like “how can I watch both my sister’s wedding and the champions league final?” or “what beer can I buy to show the most support for my club?” dictating decisions. For a casual fan, choosing to break windows, make shrines, tattoo the whole body, support a certain political party, or even commit suicide for a sports club is puzzling; for an ultra-fan, these things can be perfectly rational. Among modern football fans, however, there is an increasing feeling of unease when supporting their club, and it is all to do with how hyper-monetized the ‘Beautiful Game’ has become. This project seeks to explore the identity crisis that a football fan may go through when they feel like their club — which they have poured their soul, love, and personal identity to — seemingly ‘betrays’ its core values for money. What kind of mental gymnastics must a fan go through to justify the billions in foreign investment that have suddenly made their hometown, working-class clubs these strange monoliths? And would they, unthinkably, prefer even to sacrifice sporting success to regain this connection to their club?

 


Government

Writer: Sheldon (Yaodong) Xie
Faculty Advisor: Claudena Skran
Topic: China's Peaceful Rise in the Post-Pandemic Era: A Neo-realist and Neo-liberal Examination
Summary:

In this research paper, I will explore the possibilities of China's rise and evaluate emerging China in the post-pandemic period. Mainly, I will pursue the examination using two theories—neo-realism and neo-liberalism—and argue that China's peaceful rise is inevitable as China employs a soft power strategy to respond to the US's containment, especially during the post-pandemic period through a specific focus on the integration of primary sources and second-level analyses. This research looks closely at China's survival competition and security dilemma with the US and its surrounding countries through a neo-realist perspective and elaborates China's exertion of cultural attractions, the applicability of economic interdependence and temptation, and China's management of the global pandemic via a neo-liberal approach in comparison with the US, which suggests a high likelihood of China's peaceful rise in international politics in the future path.

 


History

Writer: Sheldon (Yaodong) Xie
Faculty Advisor: Brigid E. Vance
Topic: Lushun Russo-Japanese Prison Museum: Nationalist Narrative throughout Historical Memory of the Humiliating Past in Modern China
Summary:

This paper explores the contemporary historical narrative since the 2000s of the Lushun Russo-Japanese Prison Museum in Dalian, China, as a case study through the dual lens of a site visit and historical source analysis of the museum exhibitions. This prison museum vividly reflects a construction of historical memory of modern China's humiliating and traumatic past, specifically of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) against the historical backdrop of the so-called "century of national humiliation" (1840-1945). Through this formation of historical memory, the Chinese municipal government politically utilizes a victim-centric nationalist narrative in order to inculcate and fortify a nationalistic and patriotic consciousness in museum visitors.

 

Musicology

Writer: Alex Miguel Medina
Faculty Advisor: Sonja Lynn Downing
Topic: Listening to the Internet: Cultural Discourses, Vicente Fernández, and Looking at YouTube Comments
Summary:

My project focuses on public discourse, specifically YouTube comments, surrounding the music video to Vicente Fernandez’s song “Por Tu Maldito Amor”. Part of this project explores the unique characteristics and complications that come with listening to the internet and engaging with it as a site (literally as a website and metaphorically as a place of interaction) of cultural discourse. While this project is situated around a music video by the famous ranchera singer, I am more interested in the quotidian interactions in the comment section and the scholarly potential of thinking about listening to the internet. I use music as a point of departure more than an object of analysis, in a way to understand how people interact and engage in cultural politics. I focus on the comments on his music video to be able to center the agents who make his music culture.

 

 

Physics

Writer: Ceara Larson
Faculty Advisor: Margaret Koker
Topic: The Biomechanics of a Softball Swing in Seven Swing Stages
Summary:

Using data collected from my independent research this summer, I am conducting a biomechanical analysis of the softball swing. In my thesis, I use correlational data to examine the importance of lower half power, point of contact data to examine the importance of arm path, and body point data to examine the importance of displacement between the torso and pelvis in optimizing exit velocity. Although there have been many studies released on swing path and exit velocity with baseball athletes, this will be one of the few comprehensive analyses of the swing in softball athletes. Data was collected from over 50 participants who compete at the high school or college level, and all data analysis was conducted in Rstudio.

 

 

 

Voice

Writer: Emily Austin
Faculty Advisor: Estelí Gomez
Topic: UnPenned
Summary:

Unpenned is the story of a female singer discovering her voice in a world defined by the male composer’s quill. The story is told from the perspective of a vocal performance student preparing for her senior recital during a pandemic. Unpenned begins by exploring baroque styles, romantic art song and opera and moves into contemporary art song, alt rock, and R&B as the student realizes the expanse of narrative and musical forms through which she can express herself. The visuals for each piece enhance the stages of loss, abuse, anger, enlightenment and finally the reclamation of her power as she peels back the layers of constraints she faces to be a female singer. Ultimately, she finds her voice in each manifestation of herself, mirrored in the characters she represents, and finally in her own original music.