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Liberal Arts Honors

Junior Fellows Projects 2015 - 2016

Project Title: Pubertal Timing and the Development of Eating Disorder in Adolescent Girls
Description: Given the social value attached to the female body, many contexts come together to shape how girls negotiate adolescence and the transition into adulthood. This premise, along with pubertal timing can influence the way young girls view themselves and their body. My research will study the influence of pubertal timing on the development of eating disorders in adolescent girls, and how practitioners can use this information to design target interventions for this age group. 
Faculty Adviser:  Dr. Shannon Cavenagh
Parisa Fallah
Project Title: A Framework for Action: The Next Steps for Global Medical/Surgical Teaching Collaborations
Description: Global health is filled with inequalities, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Many LMICs don't have the adequate equipment, facilities, and conditions to care for their many patients. However, an even larger problem is the lack of specialized physicians to address the needs of large populations. Academic institutions in many LMICs are not equipped to train enough physicians to address the health issues in their countries. In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of teaching collaborations between academic medical institutions in developed countries and those in LMICs. The focus has shifted away from simply giving resources and providing healthcare to actually developing infrastructure and medical/surgical training programs abroad. Unfortunately, many of the efforts are disconnected and difficult to maintain, due to a lack of communication and lack of metrics. My research will analyze the current state of global medical and surgical collaborations, including the current successes and where improvement is needed. My hope is to identify what is necessary to improve upon current global medical/surgical teaching efforts and how these efforts can be unified and systematized to encourage more involvement and more opportunities. The long-term aim for this project is to improve medical/surgical education worldwide so that physicians are available to provide patients the care they need.
Faculty Adviser(s): Dr. Ana Todd and Dr. Sholanda Horton

Lauren Ferguson 
Project Title: From Jane Eyre to Jane Slayre: Popular Culture's Modification of the Brontë Sisters
Description: Since the turn of the century and society's obsession with media, humans have been especially enamored with popular culture. Entangled in the trend are the Brontë Sisters, and our culture's obsession with the trio has yet to fade. However, the Brontë's work seems to be misunderstood; as the history and works of the Brontës are recycled in popular culture, the meaning of their writing is manipulated and misconceived. My research focuses understanding how our culture comprehends the Brontë sisters, and, on a wider scale, how and why classic literature can become misconstrued through its appropriation in popular culture.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Carol MacKay

Emily Finkelstine
Project Title: An Examination of Ethnic Minority Cultures in Western China and their Relationship with the Chinese Government
Description: Just beneath the surface of China’s dominant cultural narrative, there are 55 minority groups with their own distinct customs and values. A number of these groups, most notably in China’s western provinces, have launched separatist movements due to a sense of alienation and oppression at the hands of the Chinese government. A small number of separatists have begun engaging in terrorist activities, triggering an unrelenting cycle of violent attacks and increased government scrutiny toward both the guilty and the innocent. My research will focus on the consequences of the Chinese government's contentious relationship with these minority groups, particularly in the realm of international security.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Michael Anderson

Project Title: The Application of International Laws in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Description: In 2001, the Cambodian National Assembly passed legislation to create the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) whose purpose is to try senior members of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. My research will explore the views of the Cambodian people and whether or not they believe justice has been achieved and how the application of international laws, especially the genocide convention, have shaped the outcomes of the ECCC trials.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Pascale Bos

Patrick Haley
Project Title:  A Computational Study of the Evolution of Cooperative Behavior
Description:  Communal living is one of the most important and readily-observed behaviors in nature. However, the costs and benefits associated with the decision to live, forage, and reproduce in groups are diverse and often poorly understood. In part, this ignorance results from the difficulty of studying natural systems in a controlled, isolated manner; and this difficulty becomes impossibility for studies on evolutionary timescales. Therefore, my research uses computer simulations to model predator-prey interactions and study the behaviors that evolve within this context. In the past, I have studied the emergence of vigilance strategies in groups of prey under predation, as well as the evolution of optional group sizes among such prey. Now, my work focuses on the development of communication and language among predators performing complex tasks like prey capture and mate selection.
Faculty Adviser: Risto Miikkulainen

William Hoenig
Project Title: Microeconomic Discrete Event Simulator (somewhat tentative)
Description: I will build simulation software for economics events. This software will treat individuals as nodes on a graph, who can be interconnected as a user sees fit, and who will form a macroeconomy based on their interactions. Instead of assuming that the world will converge towards equilibrium and solving for that equilibrium, this software will allow its simulated agents to converge towards equilibrium, or not. The project will consist of two phases. Phase A will be largely concerned with building the software, a discrete-event simulator. Phase B will consist of building up macroeconomic scenarios on the software and testing them.
Faculty Advisers: Dr. Craig Chase and Dr. Thomas Wiseman

Shruti Khandekar
Project Title: The Emerging Beijing Consensus
Description: China’s role in the world economy has risen to prominence in the late 20th century and the 21st century – including in the area of outward foreign direct investment. Yet, unlike the Western nations, China does not appear to have made any political or social ties with other economies. Thus, Chinese outward FDI, coined the ‘Beijing Consensus,’ lacks the obvious structure that the ‘Washington Consensus’ maintains. Therefore, the aim of my research will be to explore the patterns of Chinese outward FDI and the development of the Beijing Consensus.
Faculty Advisor: Dr Michael Anderson

Daniel Liaou
Project Title: From the Eye of the Beholder: Defining Religion in the 21st Century

Defining the idea of religion lies at the foundation of numerous scholastic studies and debates in the field of religious studies. In the 21st Century and especially our generation of Millennials, the religious landscape has shifted dramatically between religions and even within the faiths themselves. This begs the question of how religion as an idea is conceived in the minds of its adherents and consequently how it is practiced. My research will investigate the perspectives of various secular and religious communities across the UT Austin campus to identify the essential elements of religion in our social consciousness, as well as how these have shaped the experiences of individuals from different faiths.

Faculty Adviser: Dr. Chad Seales

Project Title:  The Parian Case: Colonization in the Archaic Greek World

Description: The Archaic Period of Greece is specifically characterized by massive movements of people out of mainland and Cycladic Greece. While there were significant migrations throughout Greek history, those in the Archaic Period are unique, prompting many to characterize this time as the era of “colonization”. However, it is uncertain if these migrations should be presented as colonization as they may not have been as systematic nor as purposeful as one would expect. I hope to explore the term "colonization" in the context of Archaic Greece by using the ancient Parians as my case study. By studying their interests in the North and analyzing the pottery, coinage, and settlers they left behind, I hope to better understand if and maybe even how the Greeks "colonized" the ancient Mediterranean.

Faculty Adviser:  Professor Paula Perlman
Blair Mockler
Project Title: Investigating the Bacterial Differences of Gut Microbiomes of Captive and Wild Bumblebee Colonies

Description: Bumblebees are one of the most common and important non-managed pollinators of agricultural crops, and as such they are vital to society’s ecological and agricultural health. Recent declines in bumblebee populations, and has led to research on pathogen vulnerability and resistance in bumblebees. The gut microbial community of bumblebees has been associated with pathogen resistance. While both captive bred and wild bumblebees have been used in research, the inherent microbiomes of the two categories of bumblebees have not been directly compared. My research aims to determine if there is a significant difference between the microbiomes of captive bred bumblebees and wild bumblebees by comparing the DNA of bacteria found within the gut of the bumblebees.

Faculty Adviser: Dr. Nancy Moran

Zoraima Pelaez
Project Title: Abortion Legislation: Identifying the National Trend and Measuring the Local Impact

Description: In 2013 the Texas legislature passed HB 2, one of the most restrictive pieces of abortion legislation in the nation, soon after many conservative legislatures were quick to follow suit.  In the past two years there has been more legislation concerning abortion and reproductive rights than in the previous ten combined.  My research will track national legislative trends among states that have recently passed abortion restrictions, while also measuring the local impact HB 2 has had on a woman’s access to an abortion in rural Texas.

Faculty Adviser: Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson 
Shruthi Prabhu
Project Title: Washington, D.C.: Operations of a Nation Within a Nation

Description:  Our nation's capital is generally noted for its undertakings of politics and government, the aspects that make up the gilded layer of this city. However, in order for it to work, one must look beneath this layer to its fundamental skeleton, comprised of advocacy, interpersonal interactions, and networking. My proposed project would answer the following question: how does Washington, D.C. function as a nation within a nation, in terms of its advocacy, politics, and emphasis of networking and 'working the system?’  The entire process will be examined by the usage of a single policy acting as the backbone: immigration—specifically of the deteriorated conditions of detention centers for those seeking asylum in the United States and possible alternatives.

Faculty Adviser:  Dr. John Daly

Emily Robinson
Project title: Invitation Rhetoric and Writing Center Pedagogy: The Non-Directive, Non-Evaluative Method of Tutoring

Consultants at Writings Centers are often trained in the non-directive, non-evaluative (NDNE) method of tutoring, a philosophy that is rooted in the belief that a student, in order to become a better writer, must do the writing himself instead of having a tutor “fix” it for him. Invitational Rhetoric is a non-persuasive theory of rhetoric developed by Sonja Foss and Cathy Griffin. Its core tenets—safety, value, and freedom—contain the defining elements of the NDNE method. My research will demonstrate how the NDNE method is a form of Invitational Rhetoric.  

Faculty Adviser: Dr. John  Ruszkiewicz
Project Title: Bringing Drama to Medicine: Using Theatrical Techniques to Improve Doctor-Patient Communication

Description:  It has been shown that good doctor-patient relationships have significant positive effects on patient outcome. However, it is difficult to train doctors in the skills necessary to establish these relationships. Most doctors in training actually become increasingly ignorant of the cues that hide beneath a patient's acquiescence or recalcitrance as they progress through medical school. I will address this problem through a two-pronged analysis that will focus on modern drama treatments of medical illnesses and liberal programs in medical schools that implement art-related studies.   

Faculty Adviser:  Dr. Paul Woodruff 

Project Title: Context dependent changes in single-sex communication dynamics

Description: It has been shown that paired zebra finches undergo drastic changes in their vocal patterns when appropriate conditions for breeding are provided. Both the type and number of vocalizations change in each sex. The goal of my project is to gain insight on the causes of these changes through the implementation of a novel technique using ultra-light, telemetric microphone transmitters that allow us to record several birds in a group independently and individually identify every vocalization.