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Liberal Arts Honors

Junior Fellows Projects

About the Director

Elizabeth Scala

Elizabeth Scala teaches in the English Department and currently runs its Honors Program. She is the Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English Literature. Before arriving at UT, she attended Wellesley College (BA) and Harvard University (MA, PhD) and held a post-doc at the University of Chicago, where she taught in the Freshman Humanities program. Her primary area of research concerns the works of medieval poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the textual environments in which his works survive—both manuscripts and early prints. She regularly teaches a course on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales each year. She has also been known to teach classes on Shakespeare, Harry Potter, Food Writing, and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. This is her third year directing the Junior Fellows Program, which she thoroughly enjoys.

 

Current Students

Anna Bardenhagen

Anna Bardenhagen is a third-year biology major in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program. She is broadly interested in developmental biology and is currently finishing up a project studying limb regeneration in Texas cave salamanders. She will continue her research in developmental biology by studying the role of the Hedgehog gene pathway throughout development. Anna is also pursuing a minor in cultural anthropology, and she writes for a women’s health blog and volunteers at a student-run food pantry. She loves to cook, read, and crochet.

Mary Margaret Burniston

Mary Margaret Burniston is a senior in the Liberal Arts Honors program studying Government and Humanities Honors. Her thesis examines patterns of bipartisanship in crime and law legislation in the Senate. She is drawn to exploring unexpected connections between disciplines, which has drawn her to a variety of research topics including the influence of oil wealth on immigration policy and the crafting of a "communist threat" narrative in the 1965 U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic. Mary Margaret works as a research affiliate for the Innovations for Peace and Development Lab, and as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Center for Media Engagement. A Forty Acres Scholar and an Archer Fellow, she interned for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. In her free time, Mary Margaret enjoys writing short stories, curating her pets' Instagram (@burnistonzoo) and stalking her favorite NPR reporters on Twitter.

Cody Chang

Cody Chang is a senior physics and Classical languages major. He currently works at the Center of High Energy Density Physics researching plasma phenomena in a large magnetic field. The results have implications for understanding natural phenomena (solar wind, aurora) as well as industrial applications (tokamaks, z-pinches, magnetized plasma sources, magnetized plasma thrusters). His interests in Classics include ancient history, philosophy, and science. His other hobbies include reading, watching basketball and TV, and listening to music.

Zoe de Beurs

Zoe de Beurs is a senior physics, math and astronomy student, and her research focuses on combining AI with astrophysical problems. During her time at UT, she has held internships at the University of Chicago and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Currently, she works as a research assistant in Dr. Andrew Vanderburg's exoplanet lab, which uses machine learning to enhance our sensitivity to habitable zone earth-mass exoplanets. Her other research interests include using artificial intelligence for understanding neutron stars, ultra-high energy cosmic rays, and black holes. Last year, she was president of Natural Sciences Council (NSC), and she is now serving on the UT President’s Students Advisory Council (PSAC). Through these roles, she has directed events and initiatives to promote equity and inclusion in science, as well as diversity in STEM events. This is her 3rd year in the Junior Fellows Program, which has provided her with a great community.

Milena Djordjevic-Kisacanin

Milena Djordjevic-Kisacanin is a senior majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures. Her studies of ethnic conflict, nationalism, and the Persian language have taken her everywhere from Turkey to Tajikistan. When she isn't travelling, Milena can usually be found sipping boba tea, getting sushi with friends, or jamming to Uzbek tunes on Spotify. She is currently working on a research project about Bosniack migrants in Turkey and the construction of the Bosniack identity within the Turkish nation-state.

Brett Dolotina

Brett Dolotina is a fourth-year Public Health and Biochemistry major in the Health Science Scholars Honors Program. In addition to Junior Fellows, Brett is also involved in Texas Blazers, Texas Roundtable, and the Health Careers Mentorship Program. Their research interests lie at the intersection of health policy and community-level public health intervention programs, specifically for the queer youth population. Their honors thesis aims to examine the predictors and mental health benefits of family support for transgender youth of color. In their free time, they like to improvise on their alto saxophone, explore (novice-level) hiking trails, and partake in Austin’s food scene.

Brian Folkers

Brian Folkers is a fourth-year Government major with a minor in Applied Statistical Modeling. After transferring to UT in 2019, he shifted his focus from administration to international relations. His honors thesis and Junior Fellows project concerns how investment in special economic zones influences the domestic politics of developing countries. Over the past two years, he has been involved in various government research projects including an ongoing role in the research lab on Innovations for Peace and Development, where he works as an assistant for the Law for Development team. In addition to his research, he is also a fellow in the J.J. Pickle Undergraduate Research Program, where he studies the role of foreign aid in US Public Policy.

Natalie Folli

Natalie Folli is currently a senior at the University of Texas at Austin. She is double majoring in International Relations and Global Studies and Italian Language and Culture. Within global studies, Natalie has a focus on Culture, Media and the Arts. She is interested in how these elements differ and interact on an international scale. Her research interests focus on the intersection of Italian Linguistics with Italy's culture and how they compare with American culture. Natalie keeps busy as a Resident Assistant in the Honors Quad dormitories on campus and works as the Joynes Readers and Writers Living Learning Community leader in the Joynes Reading Room. Outside her academic life, she loves to paint, watch movies, and write poetry/short stories. She is also a member of Texas Lassos, a spirit organization that volunteers for numerous charitable organizations around Austin and central Texas.

Brett Glasscock

Brett Glasscock is a third-year student pursuing a B.A. in Anthropology and Rhetoric & Writing along with a minor in LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies. He is in the Liberal Arts Honors Program, working as an undergraduate Teaching Assistant for incoming LAH freshmen and serving on Liberal Arts Honors Student Council. In Fall 2020, he will also begin working as a consultant at the University Writing Center. In the past, he volunteered at the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory and worked as a research assistant on an oral history of black queer community leaders in Atlanta, Georgia led by Dr. Ashley Coleman-Taylor. Currently, he is conducting his own research project at the intersection of Rhetoric and Queer Studies, by studying the literary form of the AIDS memoir as a tool of both queer worldbuilding and grave marking. He spends his free time getting coffee with friends, working on his creative writing, and reading as much as he can.

Prajwal Gowda

Prajwal Gowda is a fourth-year biochemistry major in the Dean’s Scholars Program with experience in secondary education teaching. He currently works as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Livia Eberlin’s lab where they are developing clinical applications of mass spectrometry for cancer diagnosis. His project specifically involves developing models that can diagnose different types of brain cancers using the MasSpec Pen. On campus, he is heavily involved in Natural Sciences Council and the Dean’s Scholars Council, in which he’s been working on improving and developing programs that make STEM education more accessible to many different communities in Austin. When he’s not in lab, he likes to spend time playing and watching any sports. In his free time, he loves trying new restaurants, playing board games, and watching movies.

Rabia Husain

Rabia Husain is a fourth-year astronomy and physics major in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program. She currently researches the superconductivity of iron-based materials with Dr. John Markert in the Physics Department. She also researches, with Dr .Volker Bromm in the Astronomy Department, dark matter halos in the early universe. Rabia is interested in learning languages and has taken German in her time at UT. In her free time, she likes drawing, reading, watching tennis, and wheel-throwing ceramics.

Tanvi Ingle

Tanvi Ingle is a junior biochemistry major in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program. Her interest in infectious diseases led her to join Dr. Wilke’s lab, where she is currently developing weighted gene co-expression networks to analyze gene functions in ten clinically relevant bacteria. Also, as a member of Dr. Meyers’ lab, she is working on modelling the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable populations to provide data-driven, decision-support to local hospitals and governments. Tanvi currently serves as Council Chair for the Dean’s Scholars Student Association and as the Undergraduate Education Coordinator for the C.D. Doyle Student-Run Free Clinic. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, ink wash painting, and exploring new coffee shops.

Sara Irvine

Sara Irvine is a third-year physics and Plan II student and is also in the Dean's Scholars Honors Program. She grew up in Athens, Georgia. Sara enjoys experimental physics and the grease stains that come along with it. Currently, she is working on synthesizing superconductors, which are materials when at low temperatures have interesting properties. She is also very passionate about making physics a welcoming environment and currently serves as an officer for the organization Gender Minorities in Physics.

Dhruva Karkada

Dhruva Karkada is a fourth-year Dean’s Scholar and Turing Scholar studying physics, astronomy, and computer science. He has recently been interested in the intersection of astrophysics and computational methods, quantum information, non-linear dynamics, machine perception, and STEM education. In addition, he tries to keep up with US politics, climate activism, and LGBT+ activism. In his free time, he likes to hang out with friends, listen to electronic music, work out, scroll through Twitter, or think about anything other than whatever pressing deadline is approaching.

Harika Kollipara

Harika Kollipara is a third-year student majoring in International Relations and Global Studies with a minor in English and a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas. Her academic interests tend to focus on the various conceptions of human rights and ethics and their relationship with religion and statecraft, specifically in the Middle East. Her honors thesis is a comparative study of human rights groups based in the Middle East. She studies how different definitions of human rights impact the level of support received. Harika is the president of the Austin Performing Arts Project and the social chair for the International Relations and Global Studies Council. She is also an avid member of the Jefferson Scholars Program and Arabic Flagship Program at UT.

Grace Leake

Grace Leake is a Plan II and Business Honors major. She is interested in management, literature, creative writing, and botany. Her extracurricular activities include beekeeping and leveraging design thinking to aid local organizations through UT’s Design for America chapter. Her past research has focused on inter-source conflicts in biblical texts and the depictions of love in Gabriel García Márquez's novels. Moving forward, she is interested in studying how insights from psychology and behavioral economics can better inform ethical and effective business practices.

Catherine Li

Catherine Li is a third-year mathematics major in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program who is also interested in medicine. She is a research assistant in Dr. John Kuo’s lab where she studies improving glioblastoma tumor response to immunotherapies through epigenetic modifications. She also volunteers at Dell Children’s Medical Center and is involved with the Dean’s Scholars Student Association. In her free time, Catherine enjoys photography, swimming, and drawing.

Meghan Mallya

Meghan Mallya is a senior majoring in Neuroscience and pursuing a pre-health professions certificate. She is in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program, where she serves as a member of Dean’s Scholars Council and as an undergraduate teaching assistant for incoming freshmen in the College of Natural Sciences honors programs. Fascinated by how emotions affect our memory of past experiences, she is completing a thesis on how people experiencing depressive symptoms remove emotional experiences from their working memory. In the future, she plans to pursue medical school in hopes of becoming a psychiatrist. In her free time, she loves spending time with her friends and family, playing with her cat Moo, reading articles and pop psychology books, and enjoying music. This is her second year in Junior Fellows, and she looks forward to learning more about the research questions that make the other fellows tick.

Dylan McKibban

Dylan McKibban is a fourth-year Classical Languages and Ancient History major. He is the current chapter president of the Classics Honor Society Eta Sigma Phi and Editor-in-Chief of the undergraduate Classics research journal Hapax Legomena. His primary research focus concerns the poetics of the Hellenistic poet Callimachus, his interactions with gender, and the role of mimesis in his hymnic poetry. Aside from Classics, he is interested in archival practices, digital humanities, and scholarship oriented towards a non-academic audience. This will be his first year as a member of the Junior Fellows Program.

Daniel Mock

Daniel Mock is a senior studying Physics and Astronomy. In the future he hopes to become a professional astronomer. Currently he is working on the HETDEX project which aims to explore theories of dark energy. He is also interested in music theory, philosophy, anthropology, neuroscience, history, urban planning, all forms of art, and the mystery of consciousness, among other things. In his free time, he enjoys reading, listening to music, working out, meditating, writing, and listening to podcasts.

Lois Owolabi

Lois Owolabi is a senior Biochemistry (BSA) student in the Polymathic Scholars Honors Program. She is chair, member, and leader of many campus committees and initiatives focused on increasing diversity, inclusion, and engagement in all areas of the College of Natural Sciences. Although much of her research experience is focused on synthetic biology and the transfer and expression of genes to other organisms, she has shifted her senior research focus to humanities and the arts. Lois is exploring the effects of interactive digital media in STEM education. She is developing her own science-based video game using game development software, Unity. Her research mentors are industry professional, Mr. David (S) Cohen of the UT Game Design Program and Dr. Shelley Payne of Molecular Biosciences. This is Lois’ first year in the Junior Fellows Program, and she is beyond excited to learn and grow in her independent research adventure.

Ishani Pandya

Ishani Pandya is a third-year student who is pursuing a major in Government with a minor in Business. Her Junior Fellows project focuses on how modern disinformation campaigns used by the Russian government after state-sponsored assassination attempts can influence domestic and international responses. She is a researcher for the Innovations for Peace and Development (IPD) and a member of Student Government. She hopes to attend either law school or graduate school, focusing on national security work. In her free time, she enjoys reading, learning how to cook, and finding new hiking trails around Austin.

Nicholas Romanow

Nicholas Romanow is a fourth-year International Relations and Global Studies student and an undergraduate fellow at the Clements Center for National Security. He is also pursuing a minor in Chinese as well as certificates in Applied Statistical Modeling, Core Texts and Ideas, and Security Studies. His academic interests include American grand strategy, China studies, democracy, human rights, and alliances. He is writing his senior honors thesis on the post-Cold War evolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In the summer of 2020, Nicholas interned in the Foreign and Defense Policy department of the American Enterprise Institute. Upon graduation, he plans to enter public service as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Armed Forces or as a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department.

Faiza Sarwar

Faiza Sarwar is a third-year Biochemistry Honors major in the Health Science Scholars Program. She is currently pursuing an Ethics and Leadership in Healthcare Certificate. Her research interests revolve around medical ethics in relation to interpersonal health communication and the importance of developing trust in science and medicine when addressing healthcare disparities. She hopes to implement her findings into her practice as a future healthcare professional. Faiza’s personal goals include learning from and growing with her peers and supporting others’ journeys through University and beyond. She thoroughly enjoys reading, dancing, and playing volleyball. She loves volunteering at the Arc, writing for a women’s health/policy blog, and having deep discussions over coffee!

Julieta Suárez Calderón

Julieta Suárez Calderón is a third-year Liberal Arts Honors student majoring in Latin American Studies and pursuing a BA/MA in Women and Gender Studies and minors in French and Portuguese. She completed a research practicum for Project SEED, a large-scale research project on language-brokering by Mexican and Mexican-Americans and worked as a research assistant coding Texas municipal misdemeanor court data for the past year. Their Junior Fellows project investigates the impact of COVID on carceral institutions in border towns, and they are passionate about abolition of carceral logics and systems. She finds joy and peace in doing yoga, cooking, reading, singing, dancing, and walking her dog.

Zoe Roden

Zoe Roden is a third-year student pursuing degrees in both Art History and Humanities Honors, with a minor in French. Currently, Zoe is the director of CenterSpace, a student-run curatorial collective, and a peer consultant at the University Writing Center. Her research relies heavily on the Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler collections at the Harry Ransom Center and explores ephemerality, artifice, and politics in View magazine. Zoe’s research focuses on the early 20th- century avant-garde, in which she is interested in identifying and exploring pre-stonewall queer networks. She has also previously worked with institutions like the Blanton Museum, the Contemporary Austin, the Neill-Cochran House Museum, and the Modern Museum of Fort Worth.

Alison Villasana

Alison Villasana (she/they) is pursuing majors in Urban Studies, Black Studies and Mexican American & Latina/o Studies. Their research interests focus on issues relating to urban spaces and social justice, more specifically, the nuances of gentrification and the displacement of marginalized individuals. With the mentorship of Dr. Miriam Solis, Alison is currently studying the role of policing within gentrification in Austin. She intends to attain her PhD in Urban Studies and Planning and to produce scholarship based on the racial legacies embedded within urban development. Ultimately Alison hopes that her work will reform modern planning practices and lay the foundation for creating equitable urban spaces.