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Week 2 Written Abstracts

This year, all First-year Monroe Scholars wrote an abstract describing their research project.

An abstract is a short, paragraph-long description of a research project, providing information about the research questions/objectives; the context for the work; research methods; and major findings.

Abstracts are often included on the first page of published papers or book chapters. They are usually the first thing people read when they encounter a research paper - and sometimes the only thing they read! An abstract is also often required if you apply for research grants, or to give a talk or poster at a conference. Although it can be challenging, writing a succinct and engaging abstract is a critical skill for all researchers.

Computer Sciences
Katrin Michaelsen '24: Customizable Headache Tracking Application with Smart Watch Connectivity (Computer Science)


According to the WHO, up to 5% of adults have a headache every day, and about 12% suffer from migraines. As of the start of this project there were thirty free migraine tracking applications available on the Apple App Store. However, having analyzed these applications, the current selection does not achieve the level of user-friendly customizability required for such a varied disability. Furthermore, there was no application with a meaningful smart watch component. Consequently, the goal of this project was to create a prototype application for headache tracking that allows the user to personalize their experience, while taking advantage of modern technology to accommodate their busy lives. The first portion of this project was spent on carefully designing each aspect of the application, often drawing on personal experiences with migraine tracking applications for inspiration, both positive and negative. Next, each page of the application was created for the phone application. Basic functionality such as navigation bars and back buttons were added to each page. More complicated functions, such as the settings page and data storage, were added as a proof of concept. Next, a watch application was designed and implemented, including connectivity with the phone application. A general function - logging pain level - was added for proof of concept. While there are popular migraine tracking applications, the market is ripe for expansion and improvement. Taking advantage of modern technology and creating a more customizable and easy-to-use experience are two features that will significantly improve headache tracking.

Faculty advisor: ProfessorJim Deverick

Grace Nelson '24: Getting a Read on the Health of French in Quebec Through Children's Books (French & Francophone Studies)


Studying popular Quebecian children's books can provide a good view of the material used to nurture the next generation of francophone Canadians and thus informs a prediction for Quebec's linguistic fate and thus our preservation of linguistic diversity. Much of the research surrounding my project discusses the various benefits of bilingualism in children and the benefits of early introduction to reading in a foreign language for developing bilingualism, but this is based on individuals. In light of this, I wanted to study the linguistic resources available in a bilingual culture. I observed lists of popular French children's books from several Quebecian bookstores. I selected the 10 books that appeared the most. These books were then studied for content. My research revealed an abundance of books available for young French-learning Quebecians, the most popular of which were overwhelmingly translations of English books. These results indicate that bilingualism is alive and well in Quebec and will be for the foreseeable future, however, the lack of works from francophone culture in these results suggest the market itself might need a checkup next.

Faculty advisor: Professor Angela Leruth

Natural Sciences
Balin Armstrong '24: Simulating Particle Detection for the DUNE Experiment (Physics)


The DUNE experiment studies the behavior of neutrinos, a type of fundamental particle. DUNE specifically studies processes of one type of neutrino transforming into another type when sent over long distances in a process called neutrino oscillation. My research involved making a simulation of a detector (“KLOE”) for the DUNE experiment. KLOE is a calorimeter detector at Fermilab near Chicago, Illinois; and is part of a group of detectors called the “Near Detector.” The Near Detector acts as a control for data gathered in the DUNE experiment. Additionally, I coded a program to analyze the data of these simulations. I compared the results from the simulations to the data from the physical detector to see how accurately the simulation represented the physical detector. The data from the physical detector was measured using a test beam to check the performance of the detector for detecting different levels of energy. I simulated this test beam with neutrons, electrons, and muons (particles that act as heavier electrons) at different energies and recorded where energy was detected and how much energy was detected. The results of my research were that expected values for electrons and neutrons in my simulation matched the data collected from the physical detector, meaning that the simulation can represent data gathered from the detector with the test beam. Since summer 2020, I have been modifying the simulated detectors by changing the types and amounts of materials used in the detector to optimize the detector for the DUNE experiment.

Faculty advisor: Professor Michael Kordosky

Kelcie Foss '24: Hyperthermophilic Enzymes Using Unnatural Amino Acids (Chemistry)


This research was interested in finding a viable enzyme to use for protein immobilization. Previous research demonstrated the efficacy of enzyme immobilization, and the Young Lab previously used an esterase, a protein capable of breaking bonds. The goal of my project was to expand upon the previous findings and find an enzyme that is stable at a variety of temperatures, commonly known as a hyperthermophilic enzyme. I completed a literature review for my project. I compiled articles that reviewed methods of immobilization, applications of immobilized enzymes, and the efficacy of different enzymes. There are many different immobilization methods, both consistent with what the Young Lab is doing and that vary, but they all have different advantages and difficulties that are important to take into consideration. The applications of immobilized enzymes are fairly consistent across the literature with large implications in biotechnological processes. Working to increase the stability of these enzymes has large ramifications on improvement of all applications. In the literature, there are a variety of enzymes that were identified, so further exploration of what would work best given the materials and accessibility of the Young Lab will be an important direction in moving forward with this research.

Faculty advisor: Professor Douglas Young

Wendy Stewart '24: Investigating The Functions of Two Sex-Maintenance Proteins: Chinmo And Chigno (Biology)


In many organisms, the determination and maintenance of sexual identity are vital for fertility and the proper function of tissues expressing sexually dimorphic genes, such as the gonads, intestine, and brain. Disruptions in the pathways responsible for these processes can thus lead to infertility and a myriad of diseases, including diabetes, obesity, and gonadal cancers. However, not much is known about the proteins that regulate sex maintenance at the cellular level. To expand on this knowledge base, I studied how two proteins, Chinmo and Chigno, may be involved in the maintenance of male sexual identity in fruit flies. This was done by conducting a literature review on the structure and function of Chinmo, Chigno, and PinX1, a notable homolog of Chigno. Studies selected for this review each presented unique information on the functions and mechanisms by which these proteins may be involved in sex maintenance. This meta-analysis ultimately synthesized information from a variety of sources to reveal two overlapping hypotheses by which Chinmo is thought to regulate sex maintenance. My research also uncovered the scope of Chigno's versatility as a potential sex maintenance and cell growth-regulating protein. The synthesis of this information is significant as it allows us to better understand how these proteins specifically fit into the complex pathways of sex determination and maintenance. Based on these findings, I am currently studying the mechanism of interaction between Chinmo and Chigno using sophisticated genetic interaction assays.

Faculty advisor: Professor Oliver Kerscher

Social Sciences
Annabel Chase '24: Progress as a Perspective: The Sustainability of Leading Businesses in Animal Nutrition (Environmental Studies)


In animal nutrition, where all aspects of the natural world coexist, the welfare of the animals, the consumers, and the environment form the multi-dimensional, ecological challenge of adequately feeding the growing global population. The specifics of these goals, however, remain unknown to the public eye, regardless of the intensifying pressure put on larger corporations by environmentalists and the increasingly environmentally-conscious public. I examined the details on the sustainability of Cargill and Tyson's animal nutrition businesses and assessed the similarities in their approaches to the growing movement of environmentalism. To obtain data, I collected personal statements and perspectives from seven employees within each business' animal nutrition department, with six coming from Cargill and one working at Tyson. Each interview consisted of similar questions, focusing on background, experience with the company and sustainability, essential aspects of each employee's job, and their biggest challenge regarding environmental focuses. Across interviews, the study emphasized Cargill's holistic approach to sustainability, with the employees incorporating environmentally friendly practices into every aspect of their job, with Tyson's more statistics-based approach, featuring set goals for quantifiable energy targets. Efficiency was uniformly prioritized for both companies, following the belief that the expanding population can be fed through animal products with more efficient technology and company communication. Finally, bigger sized companies can handle more money and likely act more sustainably than less mobile, local companies. My hypothesis was nullified, as the corporations viewed sustainability oppositely, in the context of a perspective, for Cargill, and a quantitative goal, for Tyson.

Faculty advisor: Professor Kurt Williamson

Rini Gupta '24: The Effect of Racial Capitalism on Lung Conditions Among African Americans and its Relation to Covid-19 Mortality Rates (Government)


This paper examines racial capitalism's role in creating the lung conditions that cause a disproportionate number of Black deaths from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Prior research has exposed the deep racial disparities in coronavirus deaths as well as indicated that Black people are at higher risk for several comorbidities that increase the likelihood of developing a severe infection from COVID-19. Previous knowledge of disparities in lung comorbidities resulting from structural racism rather than genetics, as well as new knowledge about disproportionate deaths from coronavirus, have been collected. This study analyzes several factors that influence lung conditions: exposure to residential segregation, air pollutants, smoking, and healthcare inequities. Methods used for this analysis involved compiling datasets with statistics found in the literature to understand the connection between increased incidence of lung conditions and COVID-19 among Black Americans. This research illuminated a relationship between factors related to environmental racism that increased the incidence of lung conditions that put Black people at higher risk of severe illness progression with the coronavirus. Furthermore, a connection is drawn between how the same forces of racism lead to diminished ability to prevent infections in Black communities because of a lack of basic resources, fear of wearing masks, mass incarceration, and homelessness. The common theme found behind all these diverse factors is racial capitalism, i.e., augmenting capital through the oppression of Black people.

Faculty advisor: Professor Jackson Sasser

Sarah Larimer '24: Fast Versus Sustainable Fashion and Solutions to Sustainability in the Clothing Industry (Economics)


Since the rise of the fast fashion movement in the late 20th century, there has been a continuous push to create a more sustainable industry. Fast fashion has incredibly costly repercussions for the environment, for the economy, and for living conditions across the world. I studied why efforts at sustainability in the clothing industry have not been as successful as one would hope, and also took a deep dive into less common places in the clothing industry where sustainability could be applied. I compared statements of sustainability that were published by different brands ranging from 100% sustainable to household names. I also evaluated my own closet for patterns. I found that there is a big disconnect between the mission statements of big brand names and actual sustainable practices at the factory level. I found that fast fashion isn't the only source hampering sustainability in the clothing industry. Things like prom dress culture, t-shirt giveaways, and thrifting all had more detrimental effects than they would seem. This was a surprising result compared to my original hypothesis. Although it still remains true that fast fashion brands account for a lot of damage to the earth, the economy, and worker livelihood, other factors play a huge part; dresses that are never re-worn and t-shirts that are used as a promotion can have an equally large impact on our earth as fast fashion.

Faculty advisor: Professor Keith Johnson

Kendall Lych '24: "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast": The Social Psychology of “Survivor" (Psychology)


The reality television show Survivor has been a staple of pop culture since its first season premiered over 20 years ago. This study explores the usage of six social psychological techniques, including deception, self-presentation, persuasion, social influence, social exchange, and theory of mind, by five winners of Survivor in order to gain insight into what makes a successful player of the game. Much research has been dedicated to the six techniques listed above, and overall, it has been shown that people use these techniques in everyday life in order to accomplish goals, maintain relationships, and wield social power. To conduct this project, five winners of Survivor were chosen based on their varying styles of gameplay and influence on future players. The social psychological techniques that the winners would be evaluated on were then chosen and defined in terms of how they may appear on Survivor. The data collection process began next; the researcher watched five seasons of Survivor and documented each time a winner utilized one of the six specified techniques, as well as any other information pertinent to their win. The results showed that social exchange was utilized most often by all of the winners, while persuasion and deception were used least often. The winners varied their usage of psychological techniques according to their style of play, but all were powerful, likeable, and influential in their seasons. This research provides insight into what makes a successful Survivor winner, supplying future players with guidance on how to emulate their wins.

Faculty advisor: Professor Brandy Burkett

Kathryn O'Connell '24: Hetero-Romantic Love, Heterosexiness, And Female Representation In Disney-Pixar Animated Films Since 2006 (Sociology)


Media and entertainment are important vehicles of socialization, especially for young children. Disney (Pixar) is arguably one of the most influential producers of children's films, making important the cultural messages implicated in their movies, particularly those regarding gender and sexuality. Previous research investigated Disney's representation of female characters as well as the use of hetero-romantic storylines. This previous research examined popular animated films made between the years of 1990 and 2005, made primarily by Disney or Disney Pixar. To update this analysis of children's films and their representation of gender and sexuality, I analyzed the ten highest-grossing animated Disney (Pixar) films made since the year 2006 based on criteria of previous research, hypothesizing the lesser prevalence of major hetero-romantic plotlines, the objectification of female characters' bodies, and the assignment traditionally feminine roles to female characters. I noted that there were fewer hetero-romantic storylines in top-grossing Disney (Pixar) films made after 2006 than those made before, and I found that there were no significant instances of sexualization or ogling of female characters' bodies in the films made after 2006, compared to a moderate number of these instances in films made between 1990 and 2005. My data supported the hypothesis that female representation would have generally improved, judged by the criteria used in my research. These findings allow a better understanding of misogyny in films intended for children and families, which in turn allows a better understanding of the broader narrative of implicit misogyny in our society at large.

Faculty advisor: Professor Judith Hand

Charles Pritz '24: Tweeting Your ‘Thoughts And Prayers’ – American Political and Public Responses to Mass Shootings (Sociology)


Mass shootings have dominated headlines throughout the decade with little federal policy enacted to address them. This research sought to determine if divergent partisan responses to mass shootings existed as characterized by the media by asking if trends exist among politicians’ responses to mass shootings based on their religious affiliation, religiosity, or political affiliation, as well as if trends exist among reactions to such responses based on the same qualities of members of the public. Although there has been little research done on responses to mass shootings on Twitter, existing studies have examined the role of social media platforms as spaces for grief and investigated links between gun policy and factors such as politics and religion. To address this project’s research questions, I conducted a content analysis of tweets by U.S. Senators following mass shootings and conducted a survey to determine public reactions to such political responses to mass shootings. This study did not find evidence to support the claim that Republicans overwhelmingly offer their thoughts and prayers on Twitter in response to mass shootings. Further, the survey results illuminated that political party was the most important variable in determining how the public will react to political responses to mass shootings on Twitter. Religion did not play as significant of a role as expected in either political or public responses. As this research found that the common media narrative generally does not hold, politics should move past partisan bickering following mass shootings. 

Faculty advisor: Professor Judith Hand

Isabelle Ripin '24: Portrayal of Judaism in Children's Literature: A Content Analysis and Location Comparison


When children fail to see themselves represented in the books they are reading they tend to feel devalued in their society, making it critical that children's literature accurately and fully represents all children. This project analyzed how Judaism is portrayed in children's picture books across two library collections (Williamsburg Regional Library and Ardsley Public Library). Specifically, both catalogs were searched for children's picture books categorized as “Jewish” or “Judaism” and then content analysis was conducted on the resulting books. Each book was read and coded for the categories of holidays, life cycle events, and cultural and religious Judaism. Across both collections, holiday books were the most commonly seen and in both libraries' collections life cycle events were the least commonly depicted. The majority of books in both collections depicted cultural and religious Judaism, with food being an especially prominent subject matter. From this research, it is seen that while holidays are often written about, not all features of Judaism are fully represented in these collections. Future research should investigate Jewish literature published with subject matter other than holidays (i.e. life cycle events, cultural experiences, history) to determine if adequate and accurate portrayal of all sects and aspects of Judaism exists.

Faculty advisor: Professor Kristin Conradi Smith

Qimo Wu '24: Michel Foucault’S Influence in China: Comparing Foucault’S and Li Yinhe’S Theories on Sexuality (Government)


Michel Foucault is one of the most influential post-war philosophers in the world. His works on sexuality, in particular, have profound influence in promoting social changes in the western world. However, his writings focused primarily on the Western context, yet at the same time, few scholars have studied how his theories are understood and adapted outside of the West. Thus, my study focused on how his ideas on sexuality traveled overseas to China and directly shaped the ideas of Li Yinhe, the most influential sexologist in China. For this research, I did a comparative analysis of Foucault’s three-volume History of Sexuality and related interviews alongside Li’s work On Sexuality and some of her essays. My research found that Li borrows but also adapts Foucault’s methodology and theoretical framework to study and critique sexual norms in China. On the methodological side, Li uses Foucault’s method called genealogy to study the history of ideas and norms about sexuality in China, extending Foucault’s analysis of the history of sexuality outside the West. On the theoretical side, she adapts and localizes Foucauldian frameworks to argue that there are aspects of Chinese traditional culture that can help promote sexual freedom. This comparative analysis has drawn attention to how different religious and cultural contexts can play distinct roles in shaping sexual norms, and how bio-power and sovereign power intertwine to institutionalize sexual norms. Future studies might explore how these two powers have dynamically shaped and changed sexual norms in China.

Faculty advisor: Professor Rebekah Sterling