College Honors Sampler: 2014

Emory College of Arts and Sciences

At Emory, the high caliber of resources of a national research university adds depth and rigor to the undergraduate liberal arts education.

Participants in the Honors Program of the Emory College of Arts and Sciences conduct original research, write a thesis and defend their work in front of a committee. Graduates are recognized with the distinctions of Honors (cum laude), High Honors (magna cum laude) and Highest Honors (summa cum laude).

Browse this page to read how select 2014 honors recipients describe their research and how they anticipate it will affect their future careers and graduate studies. For more topics, review the full college honors list and refer to the Electronic Theses and Dissertations database.

Hilary Aviela Lerner

Hilary LernerHonors Thesis: Burmese Refugees in the United States: Resettlement Barriers, Access to Healthcare, and Adjusting to Life in Atlanta, Georgia

Adviser: Peter Brown, Professor of Anthropology

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

My thesis is about the barriers that Burmese refugees face upon resettlement in Atlanta, particularly to accessing health care. I explored the refugee experience from fleeing Burma to living in refugee camps in Thailand to ultimate resettlement in the United States. I interviewed a total of 12 refugees and resettlement caseworkers in Atlanta to learn about the obstacles that refugees face to getting health care services and through their general process of resettlement.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

I chose my thesis topic because I plan to become a nurse practitioner in global health. I intend to work within the community setting to provide health care in Thailand. I am also interested in working with Burmese refugees living there.

What I'm doing after graduation

Yale (University) School of Nursing

Sandy Jiang

Sandy JiangHonors Thesis: An Ethnobotanical Study of 3 Generations of Chinese and Taiwanese Immigrants and Their Health Perspectives

Adviser: Michelle Lampl, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology | Cassandra Quave, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dermatology, School of Medicine

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

It is important to study not only cultural differences in medicinal usage between two ethnic groups but also between generations. I compare the Taiwanese and Chinese immigrants across three generations on their perspectives in Chinese and Western medicine.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

Cultural competency is an important field in the public health realm, and studying immigrant health helps me better integrate policies and better practices to serve these communities. The Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine has published a paper about this work.

What I'm doing after graduation

MD/MPH dual degree at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine

 

Carolyn Cohen

Carolyn CohenHonors Thesis: Impact of Silyl Ethyl Esters on the Rhodium(II)-Catalyzed Transformations of Donor/Acceptor Carbenes

Adviser: Huw Davies, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

One major area of organic chemistry research is the development of new reactions that can be applied to larger problems, such as the synthesis of pharmaceutical drugs. My research involves the investigation of new methods to create new carbon-carbon bonds from existing carbon-hydrogen bonds. Because of the strength of C-H bonds, this requires a catalyst. I use rhodium-based complexes to facilitate my transformations, focusing on substrates that include a silicon-containing group, and investigating the effect of this silicon group on the reactivity of the substrate.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

My undergraduate research allowed me to solidify my career goals of working in the pharmaceutical industry. Participating in this cutting-edge research made me excited about chemistry and gave me laboratory experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.

What I'm doing after graduation

Stanford University PhD program in organic chemistry

James Zainaldin

James ZainaldinHonors Thesis: Education and Politics in Plato and Cicero

Adviser: Garth Tissol, Professor of Classics

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

My thesis explores the relationship between education and its political context in the works of Plato and Cicero. Specifically, I am concerned with the question: Does the educated individual have an obligation to participate in politics? I argue that Platonic education, though ostensibly directed towards the education of the ideal statesman, actually drives the educated person away from political service. I find that Cicero, in contrast, supposes no such tension between politics and education and recommends an educational plan with the goals of political service firmly in mind.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

The process of writing this thesis has been invaluable for my academic development. It provided an excellent opportunity in itself to acquaint myself with the primary and secondary literature of a very specific topic. More important, I think, are the lessons I learned on how to choose a topic and manage the extended presentation of a research project.

What I'm doing after graduation

Harvard University PhD in classics

Zhuxiang (Emerson) Qin

Zhuxiang (Emerson) QinHonors Thesis: What Happens To Marriage In China When Housing Prices Increase

Adviser: Andrew Francis, Associate Professor of Economics

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

In China, the relation between a male's desirability in the marriage market and his possession of private residential assets has long existed. By examining annual data of 30 provinces in China from 1998 to 2011, I apply three models and discover that rising housing prices overall deter people from getting married. I also attempt to explain the complexity in analyzing the empirical relationship between marital dynamics and housing prices, given the special conditions and history of housing markets in China.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

Participating in honors research allowed me to incorporate knowledge and skills from different classes and to develop an ability to apply economic theory in practical settings. In addition, the quantitative analysis training will help me make better decisions when I start up my own business in future.

What I'm doing after graduation

Massachusetts Institute of Technology master's degree program in finance

Rachel Cawkwell

Rachel CawkwellHonors Thesis: Representations of Charitable Relationships in Jane Eyre and Middlemarch

Adviser: Laura Otis, Professor of English

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

At the beginning of the 19th century, individuals thought about charity as an interaction between two people, while by the end of the century, people were generally involved in vast charitable networks. I examined how this shift in focus occurs within literature of the time period. I looked at two novels set in the 1830s: Jane Eyre and Middlemarch. Despite being set in a similar time, these novels are concerned with different philanthropic issues, based on the years they were written: Jane Eyre (1847) focuses on reciprocity in relationships while Middlemarch (1872) worries about how people are ignorant of their social networks.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

In addition to developing valuable research skills, I learned how to link together my extracurricular and academic interests. I found that my community building and nonprofit work complemented my love of English literature, and it opened new doors for meaningful intellectual exploration.

What I'm doing after graduation

Bobby Jones Scholar, pursuing an M.Litt in Women, Writing and Gender at the University of St Andrews

Matthew Niebes

Honors Thesis: Beyond Space and Time: the Revelation of Impoverishing Control Systems in the Literature of William S. Burroughs

Adviser: John Johnston, Professor of English

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

My thesis is about how the themes and ideals of 1960s counterculture are expressed in the literature of William S. Burroughs. Primarily by using three philosophers, Marcuse, Mills and McLuhan, I explain how these philosophies relate to the history of 1960s counterculture. I make connections between these philosophies and the narratological intricacies of Burroughs' Nova Trilogy. Ultimately, I assert that, as an artistic media form, Burroughs' writing serves a polemical, countercultural purpose.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

The work I have put into this project over the past year has validated my desire to pursue a career in university-level scholarship and education.

What I'm doing after graduation

A graduate program in American studies or environmental advocacy work in Germany

Ben Leiner

Ben LeinerHonors Thesis: Rebelling Against the King: Opposition to the Confederate Cotton Embargo in 1861

Adviser: James Roark, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of American History

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

When the Civil War began, Jefferson Davis sought to encourage European recognition of the Confederacy through a transatlantic cotton embargo. He reasoned that such a policy would force Britain and France -- countries he believed to be economically dependent on Southern cotton -- to intervene on the Confederacy's behalf to obtain their precious supply. Historians have argued that Davis's embargo was the South's inevitable foreign policy given antebellum notions of the international supremacy of Southern cotton. My thesis, however, reveals a fervent public debate regarding the viability of an embargo-based foreign policy that stretched from Richmond to New Orleans and into Davis's cabinet.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

The process of writing a thesis has revealed an academic passion -- Anglo-American relations during the Civil War -- that I will continue to pursue. Regardless of where I end up long-term, I want to continue expanding my mind and conducting historical research.

What I'm doing after graduation

Working for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California)

Fiona O'Carroll

Fiona O'CarrollHonors Thesis: "The Instinct of Every Real Woman": The Ideas of the Anti-Suffrage Movement in the U.S., 1868-1920

Adviser: Patrick Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

Between 1868 and 1920, the most active, organized opposition to the American woman suffrage movement came from women, known as anti-suffragists or "antis." My thesis explores the arguments anti-suffragists made against votes for women in pamphlets, speeches and journals such as "The True Woman." Defenders of the status quo, anti-suffragists drew on widely accepted religious, cultural and scientific ideas about gender and gender roles. Because men and women were inherently more different than similar, antis argued, they should perform different functions in society. Understanding the anti-suffragists' views can help us understand why the struggle for woman suffrage was such a long and arduous one.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

By conducting independent research, I have learned how to ask questions and I have become more resourceful, self-reliant, disciplined and creative in answering them.

What I'm doing after graduation

Bobby Jones Scholar studying history at the University of St Andrews, followed by either law school or graduate school for history

Mary Claire Kelly

Mary Claire KellyHonors Thesis: "An Atmosphere of Fear": One Man's Death in the Civil Rights Struggle in Terrell County, Georgia

Adviser: Hank Klibanoff, James M. Cox Jr. Professor and Director of the Journalism Program

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

My thesis tells the little-known story of the civil rights movement in Terrell County, a rural county in southwest Georgia. In the midst of an atmosphere of police brutality, voter intimidation and racially motivated oppression, one widow sued Dawson and Terrell County law enforcement officials for depriving her husband of the most basic civil right: the right to life.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

My research has molded my perspective on everything from the way we learn and tell history, social justice issues, and investigative journalism. While I'm not currently sure what I want to do after graduation, I now know that I want to work to promote the freedoms of expression, speech and opportunity.

What I'm doing after graduation

Studying abroad in Spain, then embarking on the employment hunt

Sarah Pitman

Sarah PitmanHonors Thesis: 3F2-Hypergeometric Functions and Supersingular Elliptic Curves

Adviser: Ken Ono, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

Elliptic curves are functions that play a major role in mathematics, especially in relation to cryptography. I analyzed equations of families of supersingular elliptic curves, and developed a theorem and method that offers a straight-forward way to identify and calculate certain key properties of these curves. I did this by relating these supersingular elliptic curves to equivalent hypergeometric functions.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

I have learned how to think analytically at an entirely different level. This will help me both professionally and personally. Most people are not aware of current research in theoretical mathematics, so I hope that the work that I have done will help to encourage others to pursue careers in math.

What I'm doing after graduation

Working for a software company

Maglyn Bertrand

Maglyn BertrandHonors Thesis: The Development and Revitalization of the Chilean and Argentine New Song Movement

Adviser: Stephen Crist, Associate Professor of Music History

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

Inspired by folk revivals, during the 1960s certain Chilean and Argentine musicians and lyricists articulated the need for two new music genres, nueva canción (new song) in Chile and nuevo cancionero (new songbook) in Argentina. My thesis focuses on how various New Song musicians helped each genre develop particular apolitical and political identities during the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s. By focusing on nueva canción and nuevo cancionero as cultural manifestations, accompaniments to political voices, and as national and international genres, I attempt to understand how the genres' broad definitions affected their development and thus their revitalization.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

My music history thesis has enabled me to draw upon information I have learned from my two majors, Music and Latin American Studies, as well as from other courses. This study intersects broadly with cultural studies, history and politics. I will continue to study music that allows me to focus on connections between music and politics, music and social/cultural movements, and various kinds of Latin American music.

What I'm doing after graduation

Internship at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Washington D.C.; Graduate school applications in ethnomusicology / musicology

Jason Kim

Jason KimHonors Thesis: Motor Control of Heartbeat Coordination in the Medicinal Leech

Adviser: Ronald Calabrese, Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Biology

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

Medicinal leeches have been important model organisms, particularly in motor systems research. These segmented worms offer many technical advantages in research as invertebrates, allowing greater understanding of muscular performance and their underlying neural networks. Our laboratory studies all aspects of the leech heartbeat coordination system -- from the heart motor neurons to the actual constrictions. Three different preparations with varying degrees of dissection were designed to investigate previously established paradigms of leech heartbeat motor patterns. The major findings include an analysis of differing heartbeat patterns in previously unexplored segments as well as the preservation of motor-to-muscular performance across preparations.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

I was part of the Calabrese Laboratory for most of my undergraduate career and participated in several projects and research programs. My experiences there allowed me to fully contemplate a career in research and have prepared me for my graduate studies.

What I'm doing after graduation

Northwestern University PhD program in neuroscience

Hayley McCausland

Hayley McCauslandHonors Thesis: The Effect of FMRP Deficiency on Expression and mRNA Tranlsation of the Potassium Channel Kv4.2 in Human Cells

Adviser: Christina Gross, Research Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, School of Medicine

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is an intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder, caused by a genetic mutation on the X chromosome. FXS is characterized by hyperactivity. About 25 percent of patients have epilepsy. The mutation results in the loss of a protein called FMRP, which is found in nerve cells. FMRP regulates the expression of Kv4.2, a protein that regulates the activity of brain cells. Abnormal levels of Kv4.2 in FXS patients may contribute to the cause of epilepsy. My thesis project was to determine how Kv4.2 is regulated by FMRP.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

I will continue to study fragile X syndrome next year as a lab technician. In the future, I will be able to use the research skills I have learned to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. I would like to study synaptic plasticity, which I learned about while conducting my thesis project.

What I'm doing after graduation

Working as a lab technician at the University of Toronto before pursuing a PhD in neuroscience

Abhinav Sharma

Abhinav SharmaHonors Thesis: Ultrasensitive Detection of Glioblastoma Brain Tumor Cells Using 5-ALA and SpectroPen for Fluorescence-guided Resection

Adviser: Shuming Nie, Wallace H. Coulter Distinguished Faculty Chair and Professor in Biomedical Engineering

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

My research involves testing a metabolic contrast agent, 5-ALA, that can be used in conjunction with a handheld spectrometer, SpectroPen, to help surgeons visualize brain tumor margins intraoperatively. 5-ALA is converted to protoporphyrin-ix (Pp-IX), a fluorescent compound that preferentially accumulates in tumor cells due to an enzymatic defect. Pp-IX is excited by 405 nm light via SpectroPen, which subsequently detects the fluorescence emission from Pp-IX within tumor cells. This enables surgeons to delineate tumor boundaries, thus maximizing the tumor cells removed during resection. Using such fluorescence-guided surgery increases tumor cell removal, which corresponds with greater survivability and longer symptom-free progression.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

Because of the wonderful experiences and the support I have had in Dr. Nie's lab at Emory, I have been afforded the opportunity to work at the hub of biomedical research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), following graduation. Beyond this position, I am looking forward to continuing a career in scientific research and medicine, as I hope to combine basic science research with clinical experiences and patient interactions. My long-term goal is to attend medical school and to work as a physician-scientist, where I would be able to make an impact from bench to bedside.

What I'm doing after graduation

Working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, before applying to medical schools

Nikhil Raghuveera

Nikhil RaghuveeraHonors Thesis: Democratic Change: Normative Guidance to Political Actors on the Use of Violence

Adviser: Melvin Rogers, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

Very little literature exists on how violence should be used for achieving democratic aims. This is despite the fact that many people around the world have turned to and continue to take up violent means to overthrow a government. My thesis explains how people, if they have genuine democratic aims, should use violence to create a democratic state. I propose an organized and inclusive violence that creates conditions for democracy, and a reconciliation process driven by power-sharing and truth and reconciliation commissions.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

This thesis helped me explore the process of political change and the problems societies face as they transition to democracy. In the future I would like to pursue a career in either the government or private sector related to international development and democratization.

What I'm doing after graduation

Analyst at Cornerstone Research

Rui Wu

Rui WuHonors Thesis: Jamming of Static Quasi-2D Emulsions at Various Surfactant Concentrations

Adviser: Eric Weeks, Chair and Professor of Physics

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

Think of baking. Think of adding flour to water to make a bread dough. As you add more and more flour, the mixture turns from a fluid to a solid -- that is, the dough can hold its own weight and does not collapse. This transition from fluid-like to solid-like behavior is called jamming: it is different from water freezing into ice, and it is proposed to be universal across many seemingly different types of materials, including sand, glass, shaving cream and ketchup. My thesis focuses on jamming of two-dimensional oil droplets in water, with the main variable being how "sticky" these oil droplets are.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

Working on my thesis has given me an invaluable lesson in how to conduct independent scientific research. More importantly, it has taught me how to put my research in context of the related field of study, and how to digest and build upon previous works done in a relatively new domain. Reading on the topics related to my thesis has also highly motivated me to continue working in this field. In general, my thesis opens the door to academia for me, and prepared me well for entering it.

What I'm doing after graduation

Working as a researcher in Emory's physics department and applying to graduate school

Matthew Pesce

Matthew PesceHonors Thesis: Institutions as a Cause of Upgrading: The Case of the Chinese Rubber Industry

Adviser: Richard Doner, Goodrich C. White Professor of Political Science

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

My thesis examines the role of universities, business associations, and state farms in the development of the Chinese rubber industry. It explores the political motivations that led to their creation and change over time. It also examines the impact they have on the innovation that takes place within the industry.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

The two years of research, which culminated in my thesis, have played a role in my desire to eventually work in a field related to economic development. The process has also taught me how to conduct interviews, structure an approach to answer a highly specific question, and focus on one topic in great depth, useful skills in virtually any context.

What I'm doing after graduation

Business analyst at Deloitte

Bonus info

Matthew received the McMullan Award, one of Emory's highest student honors which also comes with $25,000. The award is given to a graduating senior who exhibits "outstanding citizenship, exceptional leadership and rare potential for service to his or her community, the nation and the world."

Hadar Naftalovich

Hadar NaftalovichHonors Thesis: Do You Believe in Magic? The Use of Forces in Our Perception of the Occult

Adviser: Phillip Wolff, Associate Professor of Psychology

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

A causal illusion exists when a person believes something caused an event, when there is no known mechanism that would validate such a relationship. This is in contrast to normal causation, such as using a key to unlock a door. We found that people infer causal illusions using the same cognitive mechanisms used for inferring normal causation.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

My thesis gave me a preview of the type of work I plan to pursue after graduation. I hope to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology, focusing on anxiety disorders. Completing my thesis has given me invaluable insight into the research process and instilled in me a strong desire to take my scholarship to the next level.

What I'm doing after graduation

Clinical Coordinator at the Center for Anxiety in Brooklyn

Jeffeline Ermilus

Jeffeline ErmilusHonors Thesis: Voter Suppression in a "Post-Racial" Society: Examining Allegations of Voter Disenfranchisement

Adviser: Alexander Hicks, Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Sociology

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

In light of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision to repeal part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, some observers claim the opportunity for voter disenfranchisement has grown. The idea is that past forms of discrimination have not been prohibited; they have merely changed forms to fit into the context of a color-blind, post-racial society. Using data from provisional ballots from the elections from 2004-2012 that were rejected due to insufficient identification, I examine the idea that voter identification statutes have a deterrent effect on turnout among minority populations, particularly African Americans.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

My research centers around issues that have disparate effects on minority populations. In the future, when I'm a lawyer, I plan to work on policies that mitigate these inequities.

What I'm doing after graduation

Georgetown University Law Center

Emma Calabrese

Emma CalabreseHonors Thesis: The Mother of a Nation: A Historical and Theatrical Exploration of the Devolution of Mother Ireland

Adviser: Tim McDonough, Chair and Professor of Theater Studies

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends

Irish national identity manifests throughout Irish history as a female figure known as Mother Ireland. She has come to represent the zealous nationalism that is prevalent in Ireland, as well as the violence and destruction such nationalism can cause. My thesis proposes that Mother Ireland is corrupted by the introduction of Christianity and the colonization of Ireland by England. She becomes a tool of the male dominated Irish political tradition and a symbol of Irish violence and terrorism. Through a theatrical exploration of Mother Ireland's various literary incarnations, my thesis investigates the problematic nature of her existence and suggests that the death of the Mother Ireland tradition is inevitable.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact

My thesis centered on the development of a play, tilted Máthair (Ma-HER), which I performed for my peers and professors. In the future, I hope to further pursue this theatrical piece and mount a full production.

What I'm doing after graduation

Marketing internship with The CW Television Network

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