2007-2008 Honors Projects

Student Name: Christine Arthur

Academic Major: Sociology

Project Title: A Cross-National Investigation of Causes of Domestic Violence

Advisor: Roger Clark, Sociology

Summary: This paper examines the determinants of variation in domestic violence at the national level. Most research on domestic violence has been at the individual or household level. Levinson (1989) studied domestic violence at the societal level using anthropological data from the Human Relations Are File. This paper examines what determines the variation of domestic violence at the national level using data we gathered from the State Department (2005) Country Reports on Human Rights (2005). Through a content analysis of these data we derived a two-category measure of cross-national variation in such violence (countries that had relatively low levels of domestic violence and countries with relatively high levels). We then collected data at the national level to test theories that Levinson had tested at the societal level, as well as two other theories: an economic dependency theory and a modernization theory. All six of the theories employed were supported to some degree by our analysis. However through our complete examination we did find some reason to believe that economic dependency and modernization may be the underlying factors for all the determinants we identified.
Student Name: Dennis Bennett

Academic Major: Chemistry

Project Title: Correlation of HPLC Retention Times to Calculated LogP Values of Triarylphosphonium Salts

Advisor: John Williams, Physical Sciences

Summary: Triarylphosphonium salts are a class of cytotoxic compunds that have an affinity for ovarian cancer cells. They have potential use as anti-cancer drugs or tumor imaging agents, but to be successful clinically, they must be able to enter the cells of interest. Traditionally, bioavailability has been determined experimentally by conducting a partitioning experiment in which the compounds’ affinities for aqueous and organic phases are measured. The problem with this experiment is that it is very time consuming. High-Performance Liquid Chromatography was investigated as an alternative experiment to determine the compounds’ bioavailabilities. Solutions of various triarylphosphonium salts were prepared and injected into the instrument, giving results in under ten minutes. The molecules were then constructed in a computer program, and the bioavailability for each was calculated theoretically, and plotted against each compound’s retention time. Results were thus obtained after only a half hour, a large improvement on the 24+ hours required for traditional partitioning experiments. Our data show that while there appears to be a correlation between bioavailability and HPLC retention time, more work must be done to optimize the instrument parameters to get more refined estimates of bioavailability.
Student Name: Danielle Bouchard

Academic Major: Film Studies

Project Title: "You're Tearing Me Apart!" An Ideological Investigation of Teens in 1950s Film and Television

Advisor: Kathryn Kalinak, English/Film Studies

Summary: Appearances can often be deceiving. I wondered what an analysis of teens on film and television might offer under the surface, specifically what kinds of ideological frameworks support these texts? In terms of the dominant culture, what values or beliefs were being transmitted to audiences through these films and television programs? What did they have to say about the nuclear family, gender, gender roles, and sexuality in the 1950s? What were they saying about the relationship of teens to the dominant adult culture? This issue is further complicated by the introduction in the late 1950s and early 1960s of the “clean teen pics,” that presented the clean cut and well behaved image of teens distinctly different from earlier films of the period dealing with juvenile delinquency. How did the introduction of these films affect issues of gender, sexuality, and the relationship of teens to the dominant adult culture? Ultimately, to what extent do films and television programs aimed at or featuring teens reaffirm or challenge the dominant culture and its values?In a study such as this, it is necessary to limit the number of films and television programs. I will focus on the quintessential juvenile delinquent film from this period, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), as well as the quintessential clean teen film, Gidget (1959).For television, I will focus on the Leave it to Beaver series(1957-1963), a program that has received little scholarly attention over the years. The 1950s was a time of instability regarding gender, gender roles, sexuality, and the nuclear family, resulting in a need to reaffirm conventional models of these issues and promote conformity. It is therefore not surprising that these issues made their way into film and television texts of the time, if not on the surface level than clearly on the ideological level. Using cultural studies as my critical paradigm and ideological analysis as my methodology, I hope to argue that gender, sexuality, and the nuclear family are core values around which these texts’ ideology circulates.
Student Name: Melissa Brown

Academic Major: Studio Art - Painting

Project Title: Emerging Edges: Paintings, Drawings, Prints

Advisor: Lisa Russell, Art

Summary: The body of work produced for this project traces the evolutionary process of a painting's development, from representational source material to abstraction. Densely clustered, organic forms found in nature--such as twisted vines or tangled branches-- suggest a gestural response on the canvas. From this starting point, the completion of a piece is a matter of "anticipating the unexpected"-- allowing new possibilities to constantly emerge from the previous attempt at articulation. The layers of erasure and accumulation create a rich history within the piece. The process is one of seeing order in the midst of chaos, and it reflects the ways that we look for hope and meaning in times of loss, uncertainty and instability.
Student Name: Veronica E. Bruscini

Academic Major: English

Project Title: "So I Shall Tell You a Story:" The Subversive Voice in Beatrix Potter's Picture Books

Advisor: Joseph Zornado, English

Summary: Beatrix Potter authored her celebrated picture books during the Victorian “Golden Age” of Children’s Literature, and since their creation, the books have garnered high praise for their sharp, precise wording and for their meticulously detailed illustrations. Yet the 1966 publication of Potter’s secret journal opened new avenues for interpreting the picture books, even as it revealed previously undiscovered complexities in Potter’s own personality. No longer was she viewed as a typical Victorian spinster writing moral tales for little hands; her unconventional, adventurous spirit, scientific mind, and keen cultural observations caused biographers and scholars alike to reexamine over two decades of established scholarship. However, only recently has serious scholarship begun to read the books as a continuation of the Journal’s code-language; many of the same themes and topics Potter recorded in her journal recur within the picture book stories and address her maturing perspectives on the issues she wrestled with all through her life. From The Tale of Peter Rabbit to The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, Potter critiques the peculiarities of her own society, coding her subversive reactions to the excesses and hypocrisies of Victorian culture through the benign, unquestioningly moral, and socially acceptable format of the child’s picture book.
Student Name: Alyssa Costa

Academic Major: Film Studies and English

Project Title: "What it Takes to Be a Man": A Comparison of Masculinity and Sexuality in Rebel Without a Cause and River's Edge

Advisor: Dr. Kathryn Kalinak, Film Studies Dept

Summary: In this paper, I compare the films Rebel Without a Cause and River's Edge, using cultural studies to analyze what these films reveal about the complexities of masculinity and sexuality. Revealing the contradictions that are present in the portrayals of the male characters, I believe that the films offer multiple models of masculinity, various forms of homosocial bonds, and veiled messages about homosexuality. While the cultural ideologies of the 1950s and the 1980s promote a tough-guy hyper-masculinity and more traditional forms of masculinity, the films would seem to state otherwise.
Student Name: Stephanie DaSilva

Academic Major: Secondary Education - History

Project Title: Soccer in the Spindle City: Labor, Immigration and Sport in Fall River, Massachusetts, 1860-1960

Advisor: Dr. Quenby Hughes, History

Summary: Fall River, Massachusetts produced some of the best soccer teams in the United States from the 1920s through the 1940s. Their players were predominantly from the working-class community: semi- and unskilled mill workers and laborers. This thesis examines the formation and decline of a working-class identity and how that identity was reflected on the soccer field. The success of Fall River teams from the 1920s through the 1940s could be attributed to the increased collegiality among the working-class. This cohesion was not apparent in previous decades when factors (labor unrest, immigration, and the dispersal of laborers across the city) prevented a common class identity from forming. The working-class identity forms as a result of the economic and social conditions of a 1920 recession and the Great Depression. Following World War II, increased Portuguese immigration to the area in the late 1950s brought the dissolution of a working-class identity. This thesis suggests that working-class collegiality did not disintegrate in the 1960s but reformed to include the new blue collar members, the Portuguese. In this case, soccer no longer reflects the working-class but represents this class of society.
Student Name: Sofia Edlund

Academic Major: Psychology & Chemical Dependency Addiction Studies

Project Title: Observations of Children's Responses to Different Types of Adult Authority Figures

Advisor: Marta Laupa, Psychology Department

Summary: The present study examined children’s responses to directives from teachers and student teachers in the classroom. According to previous interview data, children should demonstrate greater obedience to a teacher than to a student teacher due to her higher social position and greater knowledge. Seventeen second grade children were observed in their classroom as they interacted with the different authority figures. The authority figures’ directives and the children’s responses were categorized using coding systems developed for the study. Results show an interaction between gender and response to teacher directives. Children in general were less compliant with the student teachers and this was more so for the boys. It was also found that student teachers use more requests as directives than teachers, which is a softer way of communicating.
Student Name: Sean Hersey

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Cellular Localization of Squalus Acanthias Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor 2 (AHR2)

Advisor: Rebeka Merson, Biology

Summary: The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), a member of the basic helix-loop-helix Per-ARNT-Sim family of transcriptional regulators involved in development and environmental sensing, is a ligand-activated transcription factor that regulates genes in response to environmental pollutants including halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. AHR also has multiple roles in cell physiology. The multiple functions of the one mammalian AHR may be partitioned among multiple AHRs in non-mammalian vertebrates. Squalus acanthias (spiny dogfish), an early diverging vertebrate, expresses three distinct AHR genes (SaAHR1, SaAHR2, SaAHR3). To test the hypothesis that AHR function is partitioned among shark AHRs, we evaluated the subcellular localization and reponse to 3,3’,4’4’,5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB126) of SaAHR1- and SaAHR2−GFP fusion proteins expressed in cells. SaAHR2 rapidly localizes to the nucleus in the presence of PCB126, and induces expression of a luciferase reporter gene under the control of aryl hydrocarbon receptor response elements. In contrast, SaAHR1 does not localize to the nucleus or induce reporter activation in the presence of PCB126. This functional divergence between SaAHR1 and SaAHR2 suggests SaAHR1 functions outside of the typical toxic response pathway. Our data support the hypothesis that multiple roles of AHR are partitioned among non-mammalian vertebrate AHR paralogs.
Student Name: Sunny Intwala

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Proteomic Analyses of HERG Associated Proteins From Hearts of Transgenic Rabbits

Advisor: Eric Hall, Biology

Summary: The most common form of congenital long QT syndrome (LQTS) is a heterogeneous, autosomal dominant disease caused by mutations of ion channel genes involving the cellular membranes of cardiac myocytes. This syndrome is associated with delayed ventricular repolarization, syncope and sudden death from ventricular arrhythmias. Clinically, LQTS is identified by abnormal QT interval prolongation on the ECG (Figure 1). Seven LQTS genes have been identified, and the most common form of LQTS results from mutations in KvLQT1 (KCNQ1), and the syndrome is referred as LQT1. The second common form, LQT2 is due to mutations on HERG (KCNH2). Together, LQT1 and LQT2 account for more than 90% of the cases. Both KvLQT1 and HERG belong to the family of voltage-gated potassium channels. At RIH the human KvLQT1-Y315S (for LQT1) and HERG-G628S (for LQT2) were selected to create transgenic rabbits model for LQT syndrome. Both mutations, are located in the ‘pore’ region, which is highly conserved signature sequence of the voltage-gated potassium channels across species, and both have a dominant negative effect when co-expressed with the wild-type channels. These mutations have been described in families afflicted with LQT1 and LQT2, respectively. The objective of this project was to purify and search for binding partners associated with the HERG potassium channel.
Student Name: Diana Lizarazo

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: The Use of PCR Technology to Identify Bacteria Containing Genes for PHA Synthesis and the Antibiotic Sensitivity Profile of Vibrio Species B-18

Advisor: Dana Kolibachuk, Biology

Summary: Polyhydroxyalkanoic acid or PHA is a bacterial storage material with application as a biodegradable plastic. The enzyme that produces this polymer from alkanoic acid monomers is called PHA synthase, which is encoded by the phaC gene. The composition of PHA is determined by the substrate specificity of the enzyme as well as the substrates available in the cell. A bioluminescent Vibrio species, named B-18, has been shown to produce PHA of an unusual composition and may contain a novel PHA synthase. The goal of the first phase of this project was to determine if PCR technology could be employed to find other bacteria that produce PHA of a similar composition to that of B-18. The goal of the second phase of the project was to determine if it is possible to introduce Escherichia coli plasmids into B-18. If successful, this would allow for mutational analyses of B-18 and other studies in the future.
Student Name: Vincenzo Lucciola

Academic Major: English

Project Title: Fontana Hall and Other Stories

Advisor: Thomas Cobb, English

Summary: This project is a collection of short stories that includes three pieces of flash fiction, three short stories and one longer story. The intention of the project was to develop a wider grasp of the crafts of fiction. The flash fictions and short stories are each experimental in some way, either through structure, language, point of view, or a combination of those elements. The longer story, titled Fontana Hall, was an attempt to write something more straight-forward, with no intentions other than to tell a good story. Regardless of the forms, there are a few underlying themes which connect them to each other. They explore the ways we treat each other and how this develops or perpetuates the patterns that rule our lives. Another other basic theme is the way one is forced to cope with the imperfect situations that we find ourselves in, often through our own design, and the way one chooses negotiate those situations.
Student Name: Olulade Majofodun

Academic Major: Nursing

Project Title: Development of an Instrument to Measure Knowledge and Attitudes of Prenatal Alcohol Use

Advisor: Dr Colette Matarese, School of Nursing

Summary: The purpose of my project is to develop a valid and reliable instrument to measure knowledge and attitudes regarding alcohol use in pregnancy. The latent variables included in this instrument are attitudes toward substance abuse in pregnancy and knowledge of the effects of alcohol intake during pregnancy on the fetus. This research project will make tool available which is specific to alcohol use during the prenatal study which can be used to explore relationships between attitude, knowledge, alcohol use, and selected demographics.
Student Name: Elizabeth Mason

Academic Major: Film Studies

Project Title: A Question Mark Over the Mediterranean: Crises of National Identity in Hiroshima mon Amour and Pierrot le fou

Advisor: Robert Albanese, Film Studies

Summary: This project traces the correlation between Erich Fromm’s theory of “symbiosis” with the cultural climate of France as reflected by Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour and Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou. In particular, the project focuses on the aspects of the films that reflect the national experience. These films are thematically characterized by an identity crisis which reflects the cultural context of France’s Fifth Republic. The forces of liberation, Americanization, and the Nationalism of de Gaulle’s militaristic Fifth Republic all caused a fragmentation of identity within France that is reflected within the films of the period. Both Hiroshima mon amour and Pierrot le fou portray the struggles of individuals who have lost all sense of self. For the protagonists of both films the solution to their identity crisis is to find a relationship which strips them of their individuality in exchange for a sense of unity.
Student Name: Joshua Medeiros

Academic Major: Communications

Project Title: Homegrown Hero

Advisor: Susan Zuckerman, Communications

Summary: Homegrown Hero is documentary about Fran Kelly of Swansea, Massachusetts, who is on the volunteer fire department. He is a family man, a team player, and a hero to those he works with and cares for. The documentary follows his life at work, at home, and at the fire station. We see him supervising his employees, mentoring younger volunteer firefighters, and playing with his grandchildren. Those who know Kelly say he’s always professional, always caring, a real Homegrown Hero. The documentary is a ten minute film, shot over the course of one school year using a video camera on loan from the RIC audio visual department.
Student Name: Lindsay Wells

Academic Major: English, Philosophy

Project Title: Happy Ever After In The Marketplace: Short Stories

Advisor: Mark Anderson, English

Summary: This collection of short stories presents a connected series, through similar themes as well as the surface thread of British rock band The Beatles. Mention of The Beatles throughout these pieces occurs in various forms: through the use of song lyrics, an actual Beatle himself, or just the mention of the band. Thematically, this collection focuses on the sad aspects of human life – not an extraneous sadness, but the sort of rich sadness that most people endure at some point in their lives: be it through the loss of a loved one, the sickness of a loved one, a break-up, etc. In other words, the pieces deal with typical situations that most people have to face in their lives at one point or another which break them down. The intention was to explore how these characters deal with that sad situation, or, don’t deal with it.

Page last updated: Jan. 28, 2013