Dissertation Sampler: 2013

Laney Graduate School

Doctoral education at Emory, a top national research university, provides the creation and transmission of new knowledge to the next generation of intellectual leaders. Students at Emory's Laney Graduate School are future intellectual leaders who will affect society.

Emory encourages scholarship about solutions to pressing and complex public issues -- scholarship that takes risks, challenges conventions and crosses the boundaries of academic disciplines to reach outside the university and make a difference in the world.

Browse this page to read how selected 2013 PhD recipients describe their research and its impact. For more topics, review the full Doctor of Philosophy list and refer to the Electronic Theses and Dissertations database.

Amanda RogersAmanda E. Rogers

Dissertation: Politics, Gender, and the Art of Religious Authority in North Africa: Moroccan Women's Henna Practice

Adviser: Sidney L. Kasfir, Professor Emerita of Art History

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
In the wake of the 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca and the 2011 Arab Uprisings, Moroccan protests centered upon an image from "folk" art to contest the legitimacy of social, political and religious authority: a woman's hennaed hand. How can a temporary tattoo have the power to serve as an equally resonant emblem for social protest and governmental propaganda? My dissertation explores the significant power of everyday art and practice through a grounded analysis of henna's cultural importance, from religious ritual to monarchical legitimacy.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
Through bridging political activism and intellectual inquiry, I aim to push the boundaries of disciplinary orthodoxies. From drone wars and Abu Ghraib to the Arab Spring, art history can serve as a crucial methodology to unlock pressing political issues in a media-saturated world. As technology continues to erode national boundaries, fostering visual literacy becomes increasingly urgent. Cultivating critical analytic skills involves far more than learning to read -- it also involves learning to see.

What I'm doing after graduation:
2013-2015 Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Democracy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (Institute for Research in the Humanities); Staff writer for Muftah.org; Contributor to Aslan Media, Kifah Libya and the Free Arabs Collective

Sara HeadSara K. Head

Dissertation: Pathways to Women's Empowerment in Contemporary Bangladesh: Fertility, Resources, and Intimate Partner Violence

Adviser: Kathryn Yount, Associate Professor of Global Health and of Sociology

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
My research examined the effects of fertility and other resources (e.g. education, employment) on women's empowerment within the household and family in Bangladesh. Historically in classic patriarchal settings such as Bangladesh, proof of fertility and the birth of sons have been critical for a woman's social standing and economic security according to women's financial dependence on male relatives, constrained sexuality and confinement to the domestic sphere. Throughout Bangladesh and elsewhere in South Asia, however, social and economic changes are transforming patriarchal systems and have various impacts on women's societal role and pathways to empowerment.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
This research contributes to our understanding of the complex interplay between the demands of patriarchal structures and women's empowerment. In Bangladesh's rapidly changing society, fertility remains influential, but contemporary resources for empowerment such as women's economic participation and household structure are more strongly associated with empowerment. Efforts to enhance women's empowerment should consider the changing economic landscape and the significance of women's economic participation. Findings also support empowerment efforts engaged in fertility control. Although I did not find a link between intimate partner violence (IPV) and empowerment, I would recommend further research examine fertility and IPV's association with additional dimensions of empowerment and within societies undergoing demographic transition.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Technical Director at MEASURE DHS, ICF International, Inc.

Chase BourkeChase Bourke

Dissertation: The Long-Term Effects of Prenatal Stress and/or Antidepressant Exposure in Rats

Advisers: Michael J. Owens, Vice-Chair of Research and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine; Charles B. Nemeroff, Chair and Miller Professor of Psychiatry and Behaviorial Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
The purpose of my dissertation was to develop a model of clinically relevant prenatal exposure to an antidepressant and maternal depression during pregnancy with the ultimate goal of evaluating the long-term effects of these prenatal exposures on the offspring.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
Pregnancy expands a woman's health considerations beyond herself to include her unborn child. Approximately 10-20 percent of all pregnant women experience depression during pregnancy and pharmacological intervention may be indicated in a substantial proportion of these women.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Setup Manager of Clinical Trials at Quintiles Inc.

Abhishek KathuriaAbhishek Kathuria

Dissertation: Janus Rising: Information Technology Role in Facilitation of Organizational Ambidexterity and Identity

Advisers: Benn Konsynski, George S. Craft Distinguished University Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management; Michael J. Prietula, Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
Janus, the two-headed Roman God of auspicious beginnings and transitions was able to simultaneously face the future, while facing the past. My dissertation, consisting of two empirical studies of information technology (IT) and innovation in manufacturing firms from India and two computational simulations, shows that IT facilitates organizations to gain an advantage over their competitors through the concurrent pursuit of conflicting strategies or identities. Or in other words, in the 21st century, IT enables firms to be like Janus.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
My research will contribute towards my field by advancing the literature on the role of IT in enhancing organizational innovation and by showcasing the intangible business value of IT in the context of developing world enterprises. The findings of my research will impact people's lives by assisting organizations to determine which IT investments and practices lead to superior business performance by enhancing the organizational ability to meet the needs of existing as well as new customers through innovation.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Assistant Professor of Innovation and Information Management, School of Business, The University of Hong Kong

Kelly KlugeKelly A. Kluge

Dissertation: Ligand Design Strategies for Regulating Small Molecule Binding and Reactivity at Transition Metal Centers

Adviser: Cora E. MacBeth, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at Laney Graduate School

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
My research in chemistry focused on the design and synthesis of new molecules that incorporate transition metal ions. I manipulated molecular structure by fine-tuning the 3D shape of these molecules. During the course of my studies, I found that a newly discovered non-bonding interaction, called the anion-pi interaction, could affect the ability of a transition metal complex to bind small molecule anions, like cyanide. We also found that iron complexes of these ligands had the ability to catalyze oxidation of C-H bonds, and the complexes of the most electron-rich ligands did this with higher turnover numbers than those with electron-poor ligands.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
Our research has the potential to change paradigms in chemistry. For instance, when ligands are designed, the importance of the bulk of the ligand and the electronic character that it confers upon the metal ion are considered. However, we've shown that, when using aromatic substituents on the ligand, it is also important to consider the attractive or repulsive nature of that substituent for anion binding. Additionally, C-H bond activation is a significant area of research in chemistry. Typically, this is accomplished using expensive transition metal catalysts and/or forceful conditions. We showed that C-H bonds can be selectively activated under mild conditions using earth-abundant iron catalysts.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Research chemist, Evonik Jayhawk Fine Chemicals

Sarah SteinSarah B. Stein

Dissertation: A Hebraic Modernity: Poetry, Prayer, and Translation in the Long Eighteenth Century

Adviser: Deborah Elise White, Associate Professor of English

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
My dissertation explores the central role played by translations of the Hebrew Psalms in British literature of the long eighteenth century. Through readings of the psalm translations of John Dennis, Samuel Richardson, Christopher Smart, and William Blake, I examine how each author's use of biblical translation reveals an understanding of Hebrew poetry as the origin of the English language and English literature. As each translation turns what was originally a Hebrew text into a Christian, English poem, it claims the Hebrew tradition as an English inheritance.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
The significant contribution of my work to the field of literary studies is twofold: first, it reveals the importance of psalm translation in the eighteenth-century literary struggle to incorporate sublime Hebrew poetry into English literature, and second, it situates psalm translation more broadly in the development of eighteenth-century translation theory.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Visiting Assistant Professor of English, St. Olaf College

Kelli LanierKelli Floyd Lanier

Dissertation: Trust and Cooperation: In the Lab and in the Field

Adviser: C. Monica Capra, Associate Professor of Economics

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
Because successful social and economic interactions often rely on trust and cooperation, social scientists seek to better understand these attitudes and behaviors. Economists have found that surveys and experimental economic games designed to measure trust do not yield consistent results. My research suggests a way to reconcile these differences. I also find that people who trust tend to cooperate. Additionally, by conducting experiments with Georgia Tech science and engineering PhD students, Emory JD students, and Georgia Tech MBA students participating in a cross-disciplinary team-based academic program (TI:GER®), I explore the relationship between social identity, teamwork and pro-social behaviors.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
My findings suggest that researchers should "homogenize" their experiments and consider including attitudinal questions in their studies. By doing so, they will enable a more accurate comparison of trusting attitudes and behaviors across demographic groups. Since trusting individuals also tend to cooperate, researchers may use some economic games interchangeably to measure pro-social behavior, which would be especially beneficial when attempting to study a single population over time. My study using participants in the TI:GER® program is the first to explore the interaction of social identity, teamwork and pro-social behaviors. It also provides further insight into the effects of business training.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Emory University

Saundra DeltacSaundra Deltac

Dissertation: Teachers of America's Immigrant Students: Citizenship Instruction For English Language Learners

Adviser: Carole Hahn, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Educational Studies

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
This study investigated eight teachers who integrate social studies course content with English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) methodology. They taught U.S. History or American Government courses to 10th-12th English language learners who came from a variety of countries and spoke varied languages. Teacher interviews, classroom observations and document analysis informed how the teachers' background, experience and training enlightened their beliefs about citizenship education; how they used their disciplinary content to teach towards English proficiency and civic-mindedness; and how they recognized and incorporated cultural and linguistic diversity into their pedagogy.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
According to the U.S. Department of Education, approximately one in nine students in the United States is an English learner; by 2025, that is conservatively estimated to be one in four. The federal government and accreditation institutions are mandating sheltered content instructional approaches and universities are responding. This study addresses the scarcity of scholarship at the intersection of citizenship education, multicultural education and English language learning.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Assistant Professor in Elementary Education, Towson University

Maureen McCarthyMaureen Terese McCarthy

Dissertation: Nuclear Alternatives: Interracial and Queer Families in American Literature, 1840-1905

Adviser: Benjamin Reiss, Professor of English

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
My dissertation explores different ways white authors in the United States imagined black-white interracial and non-traditional families before and after the American Civil War. In the literature I chose, characters not easily identified as either black or white represent opportunities for exploring the formation of personal and familial identity. In these novels and plays, I find that families are more fully formed through stories and repeated actions of care than through biological connections, and I determine that families need not assume a traditional form in order to be considered a family.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
My project challenges the nuclear family structure as the best way to think about family in the U.S. My dissertation demonstrates that different familial forms existed and were imagined in the 19th century. By advancing family as an identity category that is constructed through language, I hope this dissertation provides part of the theoretical framework for reconsidering the value of nontraditional family structures.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Council of Graduate Schools

Jacob RumpJacob Rump

Dissertation: The Phenomenological Dimension of the Theory of Meaning: A Critical Inquiry through Husserl and Wittgenstein

Adviser: David Carr, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
My dissertation examines the way meaning (usually understood in terms of words and sentences or concepts) is related to the structure of our immediate perceptual experience of the world. I argue that there is a non-conceptual and inexact dimension to what phenomenologists call "lived experience" that is a precondition for the establishment of exact systems of meaning via language or concepts. This view is supported by an historical study of the theories of meaning of early 20th century philosophers Edmund Husserl and Ludwig Wittgenstein, culminating in an analysis of their conceptions, respectively, of the "lifeworld" and "form(s) of life."

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
My research challenges prevailing theories of meaning in contemporary philosophy which tend to focus exclusively on the semantic (word meaning), pragmatic (language use), or conceptual, while at the same time resisting natural-scientific reductionist positions that cannot account for the first-person character of consciousness. My work helps to rehabilitate phenomenological and transcendental conceptions of meaning and experience that challenge the exclusivity of scientism (the view that everything that counts as real is in principle explainable through the paradigms of natural science) and quantitative or analytic methodologies in contemporary academic and popular discourse, making room for alternative forms of explanation and theorization.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Continuing to study and teach philosophy

Erin JonesErin M. Jones

Dissertation: Electronic Apps for Food and Appetite Monitoring: Acceptability and Reactive Effects in Women with Eating and Weight Concerns

Adviser: Linda Craighead, Professor of Psychology

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
Although food-monitoring and calorie-counting applications are widely available to the general public, there are no known apps for recording appetite levels. My dissertation research focused on evaluating the feasibility and acceptability of a novel appetite-monitoring app that was designed to help people learn how to eat healthier by tracking their hunger and fullness sensations before and after eating. Another focal part of my research involved comparing relative acceptability and relative reactive effects of electronic appetite-monitoring and electronic food-monitoring on levels of general eating pathology in a sample of young women with heightened eating and weight concerns.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
My research was motivated by the desire to improve upon self-monitoring methods that are often used in eating disorders treatment and research, as well as an interest in determining the relative acceptability and relative reactive effects of different types of self-monitoring in this field. Apps offer a logical, convenient, more methodologically sound alternative to traditional paper-and-pencil methods for self-recording food intake and appetite sensations. My dissertation research represents the first known attempt to evaluate the feasibility, relative acceptability, and relative reactive effects of apps for food- and appetite-monitoring. In addition to increasing our understanding of the relative effects of these two types of self-monitoring on general eating pathology, this research offers unique insight into the extent to which individuals consider these self-monitoring techniques acceptable and useful.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Post-doctoral fellowship at a private practice in Decatur, Georgia

Gilberto RuizGilberto Ruiz

Dissertation: Temple Commerce and John 2:13-22

Adviser: Gail R. O'Day, Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching, Wake Forest School of Divinity

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
My dissertation uses literary and historical analytical methods to examine Jesus' disruption of the commercial activity in the Jerusalem temple in John's Gospel with close attention to the economic realities that affect its interpretation.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
Scholarship has generally overlooked studying the Gospel of John in light of the economic realities that beset Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire, but this dissertation shows that doing so is crucial for a more complete understanding of the Fourth Gospel.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Assistant Professor of Scripture and Ministry, The Loyola Institute for Ministry, Loyola University New Orleans

Kevin Mortimer Greene

Dissertation: The Complex Relationship between Race, Gender, and Smoking Behavior

Adviser: Cathryn Johnson, Senior Associate Dean of Laney Graduate School and Professor of Sociology

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
My research examines factors affecting the discrepancy in the rates of smoking behavior between black men and women. I assess how perceived discrimination, social support and locus of control affect psychological distress (measured as depression), which in turn potentially influences smoking behavior of black men and women. My analysis allows for the disentangling of the complex interplay of social factors, individual interpretive processes, and their relationship to negative health behaviors as they contribute to health disparities.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
Although results fail to demonstrate that psychological distress mediates between perceived discrimination, social support and locus of control on smoking, these factors nonetheless affect depression and smoking, and do so in gendered ways. Black men and women attribute their psychological distress to fairly similar factors, but for the most part perceived discrimination is positively related to the likelihood of smoking for black men, and social support is negatively related to the likelihood of smoking for black women. Knowledge of these patterns contributes the development and improved efficacy of race- and gender-specific public health interventions to reduce negative health behaviors and minimize the disparity in health outcomes of vulnerable populations.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Public health-based researcher in a behavioral science and/or program evaluation capacity with a focus on health disparities

Aimi Hamraie

Dissertation: What Can Universal Design Know?: Bodies as Evidence in Disability-Accessible Design

Advisers: Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Deboleena Roy, Associate Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology

Simplifying the abstract: How I'd explain my research to friends
My dissertation focuses on the way that architects and designers produce and use scientific research about human size, proportion and cognition when they are designing for people with disabilities. I focus on a movement called Universal Design, which goes beyond the scope of the Americans With Disabilities Act. I consider the history and theory of this movement in terms of broader 19th and 20th century developments in science and architecture. I show that while Universal Design relies upon scientific research practices that were first used for eugenics and the military, it actually transforms those practices into a tool for disability inclusion.

Making a difference: How my research is having an impact
My dissertation shows the activist contributions of research and design to producing a more accessible world. It demonstrates the way that research has resulted in shifts in disability access law and policy, and also provides scientists a set of ethical and philosophical questions to consider in designing research that includes the perspectives and bodies of people with disabilities. I also hope for this research to continue to build conversations between the humanities and designers about the underlying values of design and architecture.

What I'm doing after graduation:
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University

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