Honors In The Spotlight

Spotlight on Honors Research 12.4.12

As the semester finishes up we get an update from Alexandra Bayles and Matthew Sinnott on their senior theses.

Alexandra Bayles: “Morphological Responsiveness of Anisotropic Partially Crystalline Emulsion Colloids”


The thing that I find most exciting about the research I'm doing for my thesis is that the work has relevant, practical implications outside of the academic world. I've been incredibly fortunate over the past 1.5 years to collaborate with researchers in industry throughout my work. Throughout the collaboration, we have drawn from one another's results to advance both the physical understanding of the PCE phenomena and ultimately utilize this understanding to engineer products.

The most challenging part about the research I'm doing is finding the time to go into lab and conduct experiments. The fall semester of senior year is particularly busy for many seniors--not only do we have difficult capstone classes within our major, but many of us are also applying for graduate fellowships and research programs. There are many days where I wish I could forgo doing coursework and writing applications and instead spend the entire day in lab. By writing a thesis, I expect to learn how to better communicate my experimental results to audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with my field of research.

After graduating, I intend to go to graduate school to complete a PhD. Writing this senior research thesis not only improves my chance at being accepted into top graduate programs, but has also given me a preview of the work that I will do while in graduate school.


Matthew Sinnott: "Damage sensing in composite structures for the development of a health monitoring system and sensing self-healing capabilities"

I am excited to continually learn more about my research by reading articles and discovering what is done as other universities. Because the field is emerging into an area where there are new projects being explored everyday the scope of my project is constantly changing. The most challenging part of the research that I am doing is organizing all of my data and information nicely. There is a lot of different data that I am collecting with every test that needs to be evaluated and interpreted.

I am hoping to have a better understanding of how a final report should look before submitting it for publication. Writing a thesis should help me improve my technical writing skills and be better prepared for graduate school After graduation I am hoping to get a job in industry and work towards my master's degree as a part time student. During interviews a lot of potential employers question me about my experience as an undergraduate researcher. After writing a thesis I have a better understanding of the small details of my project and feel comfortable explaining these details in a professional setting.

Spotlight on Honors Research 11.27.12

This week it's all about the numbers. Seth Rubin (Finance and Economics) talks baseball stats while Joe Servadio (Statistics, Math-Economics) discusses undergraduate sanitation habits in Spotlight on Honors Research.

Seth Rubin Market Efficiency of Major League Baseball Player Salaries: A Look at the Moneyball Hypothesis Ten Years Later"


What most excites me is the opportunity to combined a passion of mine in baseball statistics, and combine it with what I have learned and will continue to learn and get to write about it as a thesis. The most challenging part is finding the right statistics to use for my research and getting some of the pieces of data.

I am expecting to learn about Major League Baseball and how statistical analysis has and is still changing the way players are evaluated. My hopeful plans will be to work at either a financial services firm or with a major league sports team where I can use my data analysis tools to make a positive impact. And then eventually go back to school for either my MBA, Masters or even potentially a PHD. This will help me continue to grow my analysis skills that will help me wherever I end up.

Joe Servadio: "Comparative Risk of Undergraduate Sanitation Habits."


The intent is to determine whether or not any interactions exist among the Knowledge, Beliefs, and Practices of undergraduates concerning sanitation habits. The habits I am isolating are hand hygiene and food safety, which focuses on produce storage and preparation.

So far, what I have found to be the most exciting part of my research is being able to conduct my own research project that has a practical application. I also was really excited to be able to create and conduct a survey that was sent to a random sample of undergraduates. My response rate was better than expected, and I'm really glad that I was able to collect a lot of data, which will make my results more precise.

The biggest challenge I am facing so far is the step that I am currently working on: the data analysis. My survey closed last week, and I am now in the process of sorting through all of the raw data and making it more usable. Many of the questions on my survey were multi-part, meaning that while something looked like 1 question with 10 different categories, it now to me is like 10 different questions that must be addressed individually. It's definitely a challenge to take a huge Excel spreadsheet and find a way to make this data usable. What I hope to learn from this thesis is how to organize, plan, and conduct a research project. I hope that this will, even at the most rudimentary level, provide insight into a career in research. So far, I have found this to be a very positive experience.

I currently am applying to doctoral programs in Statistics with a research focus in health sciences. I think that writing a thesis in this topic is a good way to show graduate schools that I am currently involved in this form of research, and that I am capable of being involved in research.

Spotlight on Honors Research 11.20.12

This week, we caught up with seniors Ron Lewis (Chemical Engineering), Michael Rowley (Exercise Science and Biological Sciences) and Allison McCague (Cell and Molecular Biology & Genetics) as they work on their thesis projects!

K. Michael Rowley: "The Effect of Plantarflexion Angle on Landing Mechanics Using a Within-Subjects Real-TimeFeedback Protocol"


UDHP: What most excites you about the research that you are doing?

KMR: Actually the most exciting part just happened three hours ago! I am currently in Singapore and just presented my research at the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science conference. It has been really awesome to see the differences in landing mechanics between a group of controls and a group of dancers. There are some interesting differences in using the hip and ankle when landing with very pointed feet between the two populations. The presentation was received very well and other researchers had some great feedback for future directions and more variables to look at.

UDHP: What is the most challenging part of the research that you are doing?

KMR: The most challenging part is figuring out which variables are meaningful and which aren't. There are SO many variables to look at between groups, between individuals, and between ankle angles of landing. Just some that we are considering are the peak force and the peak loading rate with which the subjects are hitting the ground, the joint moments in the hip, knee, and ankle at landing, and rotations at the hip, knee, and ankle both at initial contact and throughout the entire landing.

UDHP: What are you hoping to learn from writing a thesis?

KMR: I have already learned so much about how a research project gets from just an idea, to a specific question, to an actual method, through data analysis, and then drawn into some conclusions that give some information about that initial idea. It's amazing how the data I collected and the questions I answered only led to more questions, which is why data analysis is still an evolving process as we think of more and more things to investigate.

UDHP: What are your plans for after graduation?

KMR: I plan to attend graduate school for biomechanics research in dance science, not sure where yet. Writing this thesis will give me a huge leg up when it comes to my first semester in graduate school. I will be able to jump right into research questions and thesis development.

Allison McCague: “The Role of N-Linked Glycosylation During Drosophila Development”


UDHP: What most excites you about the research that you are doing?

AM: Probably the challenging genetics excite me the most. My project is stimulating intellectually, which I like. I like the fact that I'm applying what I've learned in the classroom to a project that has applications in the real world.

UDHP: What is the most challenging part of the research that you are doing?

AM: The most challenging part of the research I'm doing is probably all the roadblocks I've run into (especially in the past year). When things just don't work right, it can be frustrating.

UDHP: What are you hoping to learn from writing a thesis?

AM: I'm primarily hoping to learn how to write scientifically. I've read many scientific publications in my college career, but I've never had to write anything more complicated than a lab report. A senior thesis will be the thing I write in my undergraduate career that will most resemble a bionafied scientific publication. And if I end up in the field I'm thinking I will end up in, that is a skill that will be absolutely essential.

UDHP:What are your plans for after graduation?

AM: I plan to attend graduate school and obtain a PhD in genetics. Undergraduate research and writing a thesis provide absolutely vital experiences that give me an idea of what it will be like to be a grad student. 

Ron Lewis: “The Effect of Block Copolymer Thin Film Morphology on Stem Cell Differentiation”

UDHP: What most excites you about the research that you are doing?

RL: I am most excited by the idea that this is something that has never been done, and also by the fact that we are essentially going to try to use artificially generated materials to mimic the structures of the human body. 

UDHP:  What is the most challenging part of the research that you are doing?

RL: The most challenging part of my research is that there seem to be so many factors that go into it. For my project, it's nothing at all like putting an object into a machine and pressing a button. There's quite a few things going on, and it is important to be extra careful at every step along the way.

UDHP: What are you hoping to learn from writing a thesis?

RL: I am expecting and certainly hoping that writing a thesis will increase my skill and knowledge of technical writing, research procedures, and the material I am studying, in general. 

UDHP:What are your plans for after graduation?

RL: My plans after graduation are to attend graduate school. Since this path is a research intensive one, I expect that writing a thesis and performing research for it will help me prepare for what is ahead!

Spotlight on Honors Research 11.13.12

Leanne Keller (Psychology and Cognitive Science) and Liz Hetterly (Biology and Dean's Scholar in Global Health and Social Justice) tell us about their senior thesis projects in this week's Spotlight on Honors Researchers!

Leanne Keller: "The Effects of International Adoption on Children's Abilities to Sustain Attention: An Assessment of Group Differences and Long Term Sequelae"


"I think I am most excited about actually looking at my results, as I've been collecting and analyzing data since the beginning of the summer so I'm really looking forward to seeing what's there. The most challenging part of my research has probably been how different what I'm doing is from the interests of most other people in my lab. My research focuses on cognitive development, but the lab that I work in usually looks more into emotional development and attachment. In a lot of ways, I'm on my own with what I'm doing, especially with reviewing the existing literature, because I'm one of the few people in my lab who have really looked into it. That really ties into what I'm hoping to learn from this process, as I want to more fully understand the research process at all stages.

Participating in undergraduate research can give you a good clue into how things usually go, but I really think the independence of a senior thesis and the control of a project from the very starting stages of coming up with a proposal to putting the finishing touches on the final paper is beneficial beyond other available research opportunities. After graduation I hope to go to graduate school for a Ph.D. in either a Clinical or Developmental Psychology, where I'll be involved in projects like this thesis for many years to come!"

Liz Hetterly: “Unintended pregnancy and need for family planning services among the urban adolescent poor in Bangladesh”


"What most excites me is the idea that this is "real" research...this is not just a lab or a class exercise, but real-life research that there is a genuine need for, that will have a real impact on people's lives. That's exciting to me. It's exciting to think that this is the type of work I might be doing in the future. For me, the most challenging part is communicating with the other people who are working on this project...this may be specific to me, because I'm doing an international research project. But being halfway across the world and staying in the loop on how the study is going has been a challenge. I was able to accomplish a lot more when I was there in Bangladesh over the summer, and that is why I'm planning on returning for winter session. Being there in person makes an enormous difference.

I'm expecting to gain a better understanding of the barriers adolescents in urban slums of Bangladesh face in accessing family planning services, and in what ways we can reduce those barriers. On a broader scale, I'm hoping to learn about the context of reproductive health around the world - to learn about the lives of young girls in Bangladesh, the context that they live in, and how that influences their ability to make choices concerning their reproductive health.

My plans for after graduation are to work in South Asia doing research on maternal and reproductive health, in order to gain some more experience and research skills before going on to medical and graduate school. To this end, doing a senior thesis has been INVALUABLE. I wouldn't be qualified to continue working in this area if I didn't have the experience of going to Bangladesh this past summer and completing a thesis. My senior thesis has given me the skills, experiences, and connections needed to further my academic and professional career. Most of all, my senior thesis has helped me see exactly what I want to do in the world! After my experience in Bangladesh, I knew that I was interested in the social determinants of health and health issues affecting girls and women, and that is what I plan to study in the future.”

Spotlight on Honors Research 11.8.12

AJ Reitter talks movie music and Ashley Lavery learns legalese in this week's edition of Honors in the Lab.

AJ Reitter: Wagner to Williams: The Evolution of the Leitmotiv


It is very exciting to learn about why the film music we know and love today is so popular and successful; it all stems from the musical successes of 19th century operatic and symphonic techniques. The most challenging part of this research is my analysis of contemporary film music. Most film composers will not release their full scores to the public, so my analysis is done almost entirely through listening to a soundtrack. This is a major challenge with a score as dense as Star Wars, with several themes layered throughout, and it is difficult to listen in such a broad manner. It is also challenging to remember how all of the themes interact without being able to see it on a page in front of you, and so sometimes I have to musically dictate what I hear onto a piece of paper to keep everything straight.

From this experience, I am hoping to learn if I want to study film music for the rest of my life. After graduation, I hope to be attending either a Master's or Doctoral program in Musicology, with the intent to be a music history professor someday. Writing my thesis has been very helpful in that it has taught me to synthesize varied sources and use what information already existed to find support for my opinions. This process has also been beneficial in helping me decide on a topic of a possible dissertation down the road."

Ashley Lavery: The Depiction of Rape Victims in Legal Opinions: A Textual Analysis of Appellate Opinions


"I can name two parts of my research that have been the most exciting: the very beginning, and more recently. The beginning was exciting because the entire endeavor was entirely unknown to me. I was first came up with the idea/question while doing my reading for my Criminal Law class with Dr. Fichtelberg in the fall of 2011. We were reading rape cases and kept coming across vivid detail of the victim's sexual history and descriptions of her appearance, etc. in the opinions and background of the case. I approached Dr. Fichtelberg originally about how prevalent this was and pitched it as a research idea. I knew I wanted to do a thesis all along, but finding something interesting, relevant to my field, and having such an outstanding response from an esteemed professor was incredibly exciting to me. He jumped right on board, and I began working on project that few other students undertake. I loved the idea of such a challenge, and through my undergrad career I learned that research is my niche.

More recently, the most exciting part has been piecing it all together. I read well over a thousand of pages of literature and case law on rape reform, rape law, and legal opinions, and now that I have completed my first draft, it has been an incredible sense of accomplishment. In addition, I have noticed a significant change in my analytical skills; thus even though I'm not finished yet, I can already tell I've already gained something from the experience and have recognized more areas of research into which I can dive. The entire experience has made me incredibly excited for the opportunities that lie ahead.

The biggest challenge I found was narrowing the research and providing a fresh outlook on the topic. There is loads of literature on rape and judicial opinions; there was no way I could ever read all of it, so I had to find and focus on a group of articles. The articles lead me to the cases, and then I was set. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I couldn't cover every aspect of rape cases. I couldn't wrap my head around being as focused as possible. Dr. Fichtelberg helped me to understand this, and it has been full steam ahead ever since.

My most recently developed aspiration is to obtain my Masters and Ph.D. in Criminology, so I really sought to learn how to conduct major scholarly research. Dr. Fichtelberg and the entire experience has exposed me to such methods. I have learned that good initial research raises more questions than it answers, and I may be able to expand on this research in my post graduate studies. It has been a tremendous capstone to my education at UD.

After my time at UD, I hope to enroll in a criminology masters and/or doctoral program, and this thesis will hopefully be a key to admission into those programs. I originally had this idea of just focusing on judicial opinions, but my analysis and literature research has shown me that there are various opportunities for research expansion, such as the role juries play in rape cases, what they look for in trials, and how they view the victim and defendant if the victim's sexual history is admitted into evidence. Writing a senior thesis in my last semesters at UD has taught me how to perform extensive research on a topic; however, it has also shown me how much I have to learn. That is invaluable, and I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to start something during my undergraduate career that I can take to new heights in my future studies.”

Honors at the Elections

As we are quickly approaching the big day, we asked Honors students Alex Minore and Kevin Sun about their experiences working on a local campaign—for former Honors student and Truman scholar Bryan Townsend.

1. What are your responsibilities and what is the time commitment?

KS: I did A LOT of canvassing (going to our targeted voters doors) and doorknocking with Bryan himself. My main responsibility was coordinating Get-out-the-vote or GOTV on primary day which was back on Sept. 11. I made the schedules of 50+ volunteers for that day. People had to be assigned to all the polling places as challengers and I had to coordinate when other volunteers could come pick up their voter lists/relieve them. The two weeks leading up to primary day I probably worked anywhere between 4-10 hours a day.

AM: I am an adviser when it comes to campaign strategy. Most of the time on the campaign I am knocking on doors and meeting voters.

2. Why did you feel like it was important to be involved in a campaign?

KS: It may be that I am from around the Newark-area so I feel that I have more at stake, but a lot of people do not realize how much local government e.g. state representatives/senators have an effect over their lives. Of course it is important to be informed of who you are voting for at a state or federal level but your state-representative or senator is someone who is much much more accessible. Individuals have much more of a voice with these public officials so I think it is definitely important to be putting good, qualified people into these positions.

AM: This has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life because I am helping the Newark community get better representation. I am involved in democracy first hand through this campaign.

Honors student Alex Minore (second from right) worked with Bryan Townsend's (center back) campaign team this fall.

3. What did you learn from working on the campaign?

KS: Taking the time to go to the doors of individual voters and giving them time to hear their concerns really does resonate. I'm sure there were very few, if any, other campaigns in this state that so meticulously identified voters to canvass. By the end, there were many people whom we had been to their homes two, even three times before Sept. 11; and even on primary day there were voters in the district who came up to me and said that they remembered me from coming to their doorstep. In short, careful and driven grassroots campaigning really does work.

AM: I have learned so much from this experience but the most important lessons are that voters are very responsive to concerned candidates and organization, in politics, is the key to success.

4. What was most surprising for you?

KS: I should be surprised that we actually won the primary (and will likely win the general election) given that almost everyone in the Democratic Party supported our opponent including the Governor and Lt. Governor; but I knew from the way our team campaigned that winning was a definite possibility. However, I will say that I was surprised, in this instance that money could not buy an election. Our opponent outspent out by about 6 to 1. But, people really do not respond well to a candidate just sending them a whole bunch of mail and blowing up their phones.

AM: I was very surprised by how much organization actually goes into a small grassroots campaign like Bryan's.

5. Does working on the campaign intersect at all with any of your other academic/personal goals?

KS: I have always been involved and passionate about politics but I have been pretty set on working in the international development field. While this does not directly relate to that type of work, it has certainly helped me in gaining experience in how to organize and coordinate a big group of volunteers. And just in general, it was important for me to have this ability to gain the experience and have the responsibility of leading a group of volunteers because that will likely be something I will be doing in the future.

AM: I actually want to become involved with politics and public service as a career so this is a great opportunity for me. I would just like to thank Bryan and the rest of the campaign team for making this such an enriching experience.

Spotlight on Honors Research

For our first edition of Honors in the Lab, we interviewed three of our Honors Degree with Distinction candidates about their senior theses. This week, Jock Gilchrist, Chris Hartung and Patrick Byrd talk about how their investigations into human thought and behavior.

Jock Gilchrist: "Sustainable Progress: Human Behavior and Methods of Social Change"

"I'm hoping to learn how we can achieve the most effective social change that betters society in a permanent, sustainable way so that we can continue to subsist on earth without facing major environmental, governmental, or economic meltdowns--even, dare I say--not just avoid catastrophe, but inspire a healthful and beneficial way of existing.

For me, the thing most exciting about doing research for a senior thesis is being able to pursue a topic I'm personally interested in without the fetters of a typical academic course. The most challenging part of my research is compiling the important ideas from different sources and synthesizing them into something coherent.

I want my career to be based around spreading the concepts of real sustainability to the wider public, whether that means through environmental organizing, journalism, or teaching. If I go for a Masters or PhD I want it to be in Climate Science, Religious Studies, or Sustainable Development. My thesis is providing a solid basis to pursue one of those fields"

Chris Hartung: "Thomas Aquinas on Free Will"

"The most exciting thing [about writing a thesis] is finding elements of Aquinas's thought which no one else seems to have noticed before. The most challenging part is finding all of the relevant secondary sources, especially since some of them have never been translated from the original Latin/French/Italian. I'm hoping to learn more about the philosophy of St. Thomas, since he is probably the greatest Christian philosopher of all time. I'm planning to go into seminary next year. Writing this thesis will give me a head start on the philosophy courses, since they put so much emphasis on St. Thomas."

Patrick Byrd: "How Do We Talk About Vagueness"

"The most enjoyable thing about research, particularly with philosophy, is seeing the myriad of viewpoints that others have. Some are common ones, while others can be really off the wall at times. Over time, though, one begins to see a conversation form with individuals responding in articles and referencing one another.

I guess the most challenging part of the research is trying to find support for my view. At times I have been a staunch supporter of one stance, but am forced to change my mind based upon a very good argument, even if I don't like it. But I guess that's the goal in research.

In doing this research I set out one goal to maintain. I wanted my "solution" about vagueness to reflect how the "folk" feel about the issue. Basically I wanted to understand why do we have the normal opinions one could have on vagueness, and try to support that. My inclination is that the way we commonly use our language is done so for a reason, and that reasoning needs to be taken into consideration. However, I need to find support for that inclination, which has always been important to the way I think about philosophy.

I plan on entering a doctoral program in philosophy. These can be quite competitive, thus having the senior thesis project would be an asset in such."

Honors Enrichment Award Reports

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