2011-2012 Honors Projects


Student Name: James Almo

Academic Major: Anthropology

Project Title: Food Inequality and Social Justice

Advisor: H. Dygert


Student Name: Samuel Kashuk

Academic Major: Art

Project Title: Controlled Surfaces—Uncontrollable Atmosphere

Advisor: B. Steinberg


Student Name: Bonnie Colantuono

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: The Functional Evolution of the Myogenic Regulatory Factor

Advisor: Thomas Meedel

Summary: Recent studies on the developmental basis of animal evolution indicate that changes in regulatory gene activities often occur without large-scale modification of the proteins they encode, instead occurring via changes in cis-regulatory elements. Previously we suggested that research on Myogenic Regulatory Factor (MRF) genes of vertebrates and invertebrates is compatible with this idea since the roles of MRFs in myogenesis seems to depend more on their regulatory environments than differences in the properties of their encoded proteins (Meedel, T et al. 2007). We examined the ability of select vertebrate and invertebrate MRFs to elicit myogenesis in the notochord of Ciona intestinalis. Initial studies showed that only Ciona savignyi MRF drove myogenesis in this assay. We reasoned that the failure of non-ascidian MRFs to elicit myogenesis might be due to the absence of critical domains in these MRFs that are present in ascidian MRFs. We tested whether chimeric proteins in which the Cys/His-Rich b-HLH domain of CiMRF was replaced with the corresponding domain of selected vertebrate and invertebrate MRFs could direct myogenesis in the Ciona notochord. We found that chimeric proteins can direct myogenesis in this system supporting the idea that the functional properties of MRF family genes are strongly conserved.
Student Name: Xenia Fernandez

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Bcp1 as a Possible Component of the DNA Damage Response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Advisor: Deborah Britt

Summary: In the presence of DNA damage, cells respond by arresting the cell cycle, activating or deactivating signaling proteins, and repairing the DNA itself. The overall response itself is important for maintaining the integrity of the genome, as instability is linked to mutation. In humans, the protein BCCIP is a tumor suppressor needed for maintaining genomic stability through its involvement in cytokinesis and homologous recombination. The fungal homolog of BCCIP is Bcp1, an essential protein in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Previous work found that a temperature-sensitive Bcp1 mutant strain exhibits a phenotype characteristic of G2/M arrest and shows resistance to the DNA damaging agent methyl methanesulfonate (MMS). The objective of this study was to examine the hypothesis that Bcp1 is part of the DNA damage response. It is found that the temperature-sensitive mutant is resistant to MMS, hydroxyurea (HU), and caffeine. Cells exhibiting G2/M arrest at the non-permissive temperature appear to have nuclei in mother and bud, suggesting failed cytokinesis. When Bcp1 is overexpressed in the knockout strains PPH3-KO, RAD9-KO, and SGS1-KO, there appears to be no effect from overexpression. It does have an effect on growth in MDT-KO cells, suggesting an interaction between these proteins.
Student Name: Cynthia Gaudet

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Effects of Hypoxia-Ischemia and Inter-Alpha-Inhibitor Treatment on Neuronal Cell Death in the Rat

Advisor: Steven Threlkeld

Summary: Reduced cerebral oxygenation (hypoxia) and blood circulation (ischemia) puts premature and very low weight babies at a high risk for cognitive deficits. Hypoxia ischemia (HI) is associated with rupturing blood vessels leading to an elaborate inflammatory response and a prolonged cascade of neuronal cell death extending days or even weeks. There are limited treatments available for HI insults. This study sought a novel treatment using Inter-alpha-inhibitor-proteins (IAIPs) as a neuroprotectant. Complete cauterization of the right common carotid artery and 90 minutes in a hypoxic chamber induced HI in two treatment groups, HI (n=5) and HI+IAIP (n=4). Sham served as the control. Treatments of 30 mg/kg of IAIP or saline were administered prior to the hypoxic chamber and 24 hours post-HI insult. An assessment of the number of dying neurons was quantified using fluorescent staining techniques brains. A one-way ANOVA did not reveal a significant difference in the number of labeled cells between treatment groups. A distinct trend of increased frequency of dying neurons was seen in HI subjects compared to Sham and HI+IAIP. Futures studies should utilize an increased sample size in order to determine if this trend is truly significant and seek further insight into IAIP as a neuroprotectant.
Student Name: Evelyn R. Hipolito

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Up-Regulation of Ci-Snail by Ci-MRF Misexpression in the Presumptive Notochord of C. intestinalis

Advisor: Thomas, Meedel, Biology Dept.

Summary: Myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs) are transcription factors that are expressed only in muscle and muscle precursors and play crucial roles in invertebrate and vertebrate myogenesis. Ciona intestinalis MRF (Ci-MRF) misexpression in the presumptive notochord of embryos downregulates notochord development (Izzi, 2010). The present study tests whether the suppression of notochord fate by Ci-MRF misexpression involves the activation of the Ci-Snail gene in the presumptive notochord. Ci-Snail gene expression was assayed by in situ hybridization. This required the design and creation of a labeled probe that could detect Ci-Snail mRNA in experiments where Ci-MRF was misexpressed in the presumptive notochord of fertilized eggs of C. intestinalis. The experiments conducted in the present study suggest that Ci-MRF misexpression in the presumptive notochord upregulates Ci-Snail expression.
Student Name: Llian Mabardi

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: The Effects of Hypoxia-Ischemia and Anti-Inflammatory Prophylactic Treatment on Cortical and Hippocampal Volumes in the Developing Rat Brain

Advisor: Steven, Threlkeld, Psychology

Summary: My project looked at the effects of inter-alpha-inhibitor protein on neonatal hypoxia ischemia. Hypoxia ischemia is a lack of blood flow and oxygen that can occur in human infants as a result of premature birth and can cause many problems with health and development. Inter-alpha-inhibitor proteins are proteins found in serum that have been shown to mitigate inflammatory response in different pathologies. We hypothesized that these proteins would help protect a reduction in brain volume and to check this we measure volume of the cortex and hippocampus in subjects that received either a sham surgery, hypoxia ischemia, or hypoxia ischemia with the protein treatment.


Student Name: Michaela Del Gallo

Academic Major: Communication

Project Title: The Way We Talk: Production of Vowels before /r/ in Rhode Island Dialect

Advisor: H. Magen
Student Name: Cody O'Rourke

Academic Major: Communication-Speech and Hearing Science

Project Title: The McGurk Effect in Toddlers

Advisor: Harriet, Magen, Communication

Summary: Research was conducted on the perception abilities of toddlers, adults, and children in speech. A literature review was compiled along with a summary of results that was applied and analyzed according to previous theories and research.

Computer Science

Student Name: Jason Gaudreau

Academic Major: Computer Science

Project Title: Designing and Developing a Text Editor for the Visually Impaired

Advisor: Kathryn, Sanders, Mathematics and Computer Science

Summary: This project encompasses the design, implementation, and user testing of a text editor with controls and features that are designed for visually impaired users.

Educational Studies

Student Name: Kristina Drocic

Academic Major: Educational Studies

Project Title: Examining Engagement in Student Writing and Motivating the Reluctant Writer

Advisor: G. August

Summary: Writing, thinking and communicating are intricately intertwined; however, most high school students are not made aware of these connections or given the appropriate opportunities to associate the three. This study examined various elements involved in the writing process that lead to engagement and motivation. Through the collection of student surveys and daily observations, the project moved from a focus on reluctant and resistant student writers to all student writers and their engagement in writing. I was able to identify what it was that I felt necessary to foster a certain level of engagement and intrinsic motivation within a wide range of learners; students will become invested as writers only when the assignment is one they can enjoy and when they are provided with an interesting and authentic topic but allowed choice. Along with these factors, students need to be given explicit direction and a variety of high-stakes and low-stakes writing, as well as continuously being nurtured within a classroom environment that fosters creativity and hard work. The careful combination of these elements results in a higher effort and level of engagement with writing, thinking and communication, allowing our students to become more productive and involved members of their communities.According to the racial phenotype theory, the extent to which members resemble or depart from the physical prototype of a particular race will determine how strongly the perceiver associates them with preconceived racial stereotypes. For Blacks, skin color was predicted to be a primary feature attended to and those with dark skin were more negatively stereotyped. The current study aimed to explicitly measure visual attention during judgment of faces through the use of eye-tracking. Past methodologies measuring the attention to skin tone and its relationship to stereotype judgment were not directly measured. Twenty-eight White participants were instructed to find a crime target (perpetrator or victim) from a fictitious crime scene by selecting a face from an array of three faces ranging in skin tone. Visual attention and selection of faces were recorded. Results showed an interaction between tone and label. Dark and medium faces were attended to more often than light faces in the perpetrator condition. In the victim condition, they are attended to less than light faces. A tone effect was also seen, dark faces were frequently looked at first. Despite biased visual attention, preference for a particular tone was not found.
Student Name: Brittany Richer

Academic Major: Educational Studies

Project Title: Adolescent Literature in Teacher Education

Advisor: J. Johnson

Summary: Summary: Reading young adult literature is a typical requirement for English education majors. As a secondary education teacher candidate myself, I noticed that my classmates and I also read young adult literature in other education courses. I became curious about what connections the other teacher candidates (from not only English, but math, science, social studies, and foreign language as well) made between young adult literature and their content areas. Also, I wondered about how reading YAL affects the development of teacher identity. Early on, I recognized that research related to young adult literature maintains a strategy-driven, short-term focus, leading to a division between theory and practice. Using the structure of narrative inquiry, my observations and interviews, however, revealed that reading young adult literature allowed teacher candidates and current teachers to explore their conceptions and become critical evaluators of the "what," "how," and "why" of students, classrooms, and theoretical beliefs about education. This research raises thought-provoking questions about the place of young adult literature in teacher education programs, questions that are relevant to teacher candidates, teacher educators, and those interested in exploring the competing claims in the field of education.

Elementary Education

Student Name: Samuel Henry

Academic Major: Elementary Education

Project Title: Experience of Male Teachers in the Elementary Grades

Advisor: Dr. MacGregor Kniseley, Professor, Department of Elementary Education

Summary: Teaching in the elementary grades is a profession generally seen more suited for women. However, an increasing number of elementary schools are recruiting more males to apply to teach grades K-6. The purpose of this study was to listen to the stories of males in the elementary grades and to understand the experiences, advantages or disadvantages of being a male teacher in the elementary grades. Ethnographic methods, such as interviews, field notes, observations, were used. Eight male teachers with varying backgrounds from six elementary schools were interviewed. In conclusion, the domination of females in the field is still present. A large majority of the male teachers noted that they were hired purely based on gender. Physical contact with the students was a major concern with these teachers; however the response to male teachers by students and their families was positive towards having a male teacher.


Student Name: Julianne Smith

Academic Major: English

Project Title: Repression and the Subversive Body in the Works of Alasdair Gray

Advisor: R. Potter
Student Name: Robert Ursini

Academic Major: English

Project Title: The Heroic Satan: Defiance and the English Value System in Milton’s Paradise Lost

Advisor: A. Rodgers

Justice Studies

Student Name: Malinda Bridges

Academic Major: Justice Studies

Project Title: Differing Responses to Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

Advisor: Mikaila Arthur

Summary: This research analyzes legal approaches to prostitution on a cross-national level in order to determine if legal methods that regulate prostitution have an effect on prostitution. In order to examine these concepts we first identify the legal approaches in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Following this analysis, the effects of these legal approaches are reported. Instead of working from a strictly sociological standpoint, this project focused greatly on the legal aspects that affect prostitution.


Student Name: Danielle Trial

Academic Major: Music

Project Title: The Effect of Adaptive Instruction on the Developmental Rhythm Aptitude and Rhythm Achievement of Preschool Students with Hearing Impairment

Advisor: D. Guilbault
Student Name: Julie Van Gyzen

Academic Major: Music Performance

Project Title: The Clarinet: Historical and Cultural Perspectives

Advisor: Dr. Samuel Breene

Summary: The clarinet is unique in that depending on what setting it is performed in determines the character it can assume. Generally these styles all sound completely different from another despite that the clarinet physically remains the same. However, is any one of these types of music so different from one another, or are they all related in some way? This paper determines how the genres of Dixieland and Swing Jazz, Jewish Klezmer, avant-garde, and Western European classical music are connected to each other through the use of the clarinet. Using twentieth century America as a backdrop, the clarinet's pedagogy, techniques, music, and prominent figures are all explored to support this thesis.


Student Name: Rachael Johnsen

Academic Major: Nursing

Project Title: A Student's Perspective of Clinical Learning in a Dedicated Educational Unit

Advisor: Michele Siskind

Summary: It is the intent of this honors project to give a student's perspective of learning in the Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) on Bridge 7 at Rhode Island Hospital. Bridge 7 is a 38-bed unit specializing in general medical surgical patient care services. A student's perspective is illustrated by journal entries written from each clinical experience over the course of one semester, during the course Adult Health II. In addition to a student's perspective, it is the intention to compare the learning experience on the DEU, to the traditional model of clinical learning. This project will include current nursing research that focuses on different areas of dedicated education unit learning. Findings from these nursing research articles will be compared and contrasted to a student's perspective of the same outcomes. Prior to each clinical day, students set personal goals. These personal goals will be addressed, with a focus on how learning on a DEU enhanced goal attainment. Lastly, well-known nursing theorist Pat Benner's conceptual model of how nurses evolve from novice to expert will be utilized and directly incorporated into the student's perspective.
Student Name: Samantha Norris

Academic Major: Nursing

Project Title: Intravenous Therapy: Creating Confidence in Nursing Students and Graduate Nurses

Advisor: Marie Wilks

Summary: This project is aimed to create confidence and increase exposure to intravenous therapy for nursing students in all aspects of the nursing curriculum and clinical settings. IV Therapy is an essential piece of the nursing profession and this research would build upon the current IV experiences that are available, preparing our nursing students to master this skill upon graduation.


Student Name: Sathiarith Chau

Academic Major: Psychology

Project Title: Biased Visual Attention to Out-Group Members' Skin Tone Does Not Lead to Discriminatory Behavior

Advisor: Thomas Malloy

Summary: According to the racial phenotype theory, the extent to which members resemble or depart from the physical prototype of a particular race will determine how strongly the perceiver associates them with preconceived racial stereotypes. For Blacks, skin color was predicted to be a primary feature attended to and those with dark skin were more negatively stereotyped. The current study aimed to explicitly measure visual attention during judgment of faces through the use of eye-tracking. Past methodologies measuring the attention to skin tone and its relationship to stereotype judgment were not directly measured. Twenty-eight White participants were instructed to find a crime target (perpetrator or victim) from a fictitious crime scene by selecting a face from an array of three faces ranging in skin tone. Visual attention and selection of faces were recorded. Results showed an interaction between tone and label. Dark and medium faces were attended to more often than light faces in the perpetrator condition. In the victim condition, they are attended to less than light faces. A tone effect was also seen, dark faces were frequently looked at first. Despite biased visual attention, preference for a particular tone was not found.
Student Name: Lauren Chaunt

Academic Major: Psychology

Project Title: Explicit Weight Biases Are Curvilinear: Testing Pathogen Avoidance, Intergroup Relations and Socialization Theories

Advisor: Thomas, Malloy

Summary: The present study builds on research (Malloy et al. 2011) that weight bias is best fit by a curvilinear function, that is; trait judgments should vary significantly as a function of weight. More weight bias should be elicited by those body types at extreme weights (i.e., skeletally thin and morbidly obese). Targets at such extreme weights were included to adequately test a new theoretical model of weight bias termed the Pathogen Avoidance Theory. Other theories of weight bias were also considered; Socialization and Intergroup Relations. The results were best explained by the Pathogen Avoidance Theory which emphasizes the importance of evolution in regard to weight bias. Skeletally thin and morbidly obese bodies vastly deviate from the average body type, as a result, social rejection and avoidance of these targets is exhibited. As the target's weight increased, judgments were profoundly more negative; correspondingly, as the target's weight decreased, the perceiver's judgments were just as negative as well. Thus, the data confirm the hypothesis that weight bias is indeed curvilinear. This study offers important insight on social behavior displayed towards body types that strongly deviate from the average.
Student Name: Jessica Hunter

Academic Major: Psychology

Project Title: Intergroup Trait Judgments as a Function of Facial Pheotypicality: Whites’ Judgments of Blacks

Advisor: T. Malloy
Student Name: Jason Lennox

Academic Major: Psychology

Project Title: Stereological Assessment of the Thalmus in a Rat Model of Periventricular Nodular Heterotopia

Advisor: S. Threlkeld
Student Name: Katelyn Paquin

Academic Major: Psychology

Project Title: Students' Personality and Behavior in Lecture and Hybrid/Online Finance and Psychology Courses

Advisor: Joan Rollins

Summary: The purpose of this research is to investigate relationships between online college courses and in-person courses with regard to student course completion rate and cumulative GPA. The personality characteristics of introversion, conscientiousness and self-regulation were also examined in relation to registration performance in online and in-person classes. This study was based on an integrative theory of self- and social regulation in learning contexts, that self-regulation and co-regulation systems operate as collaborative learning.

Social Work

Student Name: Amy Audet

Academic Major: Social Work

Project Title: Perceived Employmnet Readiness among the Previously Incarcerated

Advisor: Diane Martell

Summary: My study aims to determine the primary factors in employment readiness for previously incarcerated individuals. I surveyed ex-offenders for job readiness using a scale developed from my literature review. This scale encompasses factors such as skills, knowledge, confidence and goals. I also surveyed participants for age, age of first incarceration, incarceration history and job training history. Because this population in marginalized, this study may bring new awareness about the effects of employer discrimination and the need for future programs to increase job readiness among previously incarcerated individuals.


Student Name: Kelley Conti

Academic Major: Sociology

Project Title: Sex Education in Our Schools

Advisor: Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur

Summary: The purpose of this research is to determine how parents own experiences with sex education may have shaped their views about sex education in schools. Parents of one or more teens (aged 12 to 18) were asked to reflect on their own sex education experiences as well as describe their opinions about the ideal sex education for their own children and today's youth. Every parent agreed they wanted a comprehensive, more informative, and better sex education for their children then what they were exposed to, this included those with formal sex education as well as those that learned from peers, siblings or in the neighborhood. Thirty-eight parents thought abstinence should be included as an option in sex education classes but not the only method. Four parents did not believe abstinence is realistic in today's world so it should not even be an option taught in class. While each state holds its own mandates for sex and STI/HIV education, parents still have the responsibility in their own child's sex education. If they live in a state that does not educate in the manner they feel is acceptable, they can discuss their own family's beliefs and values.
Student Name: Kayla Quadros

Academic Major: Sociology

Project Title: The Role of Reproductive Technology and the Media on Attitudes towards Genetic Engineering and Eugenics

Advisor: Desiree Ciambrone

Summary: This study examines attitudes about prevalent issues in genetics and reproduction among the college population. Eighteen interviews were conducted with students at Rhode Island College. Respondents were asked questions about their moral standpoints concerning utilizing genetic engineering for disease control and aesthetic purposes, employing assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), regulation of such procedures, and also about media sources for which they have heard of these topics. Findings suggest that, generally, participants felt that genetic engineering for health issues is permissible, yet reprehensible for the purpose of aesthetically “designing” a baby, though four students (three of which were female) found the enhancement of physical traits enticing. There was overwhelming support, among all respondents, for the usage of ARTs for infertile couples, single women and gay couples. Also, utilizing ARTs to conceive was thought to be acceptable if an individual is a responsible caretaker, and the government should only go as far as to regulate for safety precautions. The most dominant sources of media responsible for the dissemination of information among this population were television and the internet. Results were interpreted in terms of Bourdieu's theory of capital and Weber's value-rational action theory.


Student Name: Kevin Gravier

Academic Major: Spanish

Project Title: Nazarenos Y Ateos: Perspectivas De La Semana Santa Andaluza

Advisor: M. Margenot

Special Education

Student Name: Cassandra Braley

Academic Major: Special Education

Project Title: Investigating the Parent-Teacher Connection in Special Education

Advisor: Cara McDermott-Fasy

Summary: Research shows that a parent-teacher partnership needs to be developed in order to help students with special needs to learn and develop. Despite an increasing emphasis on parent-teacher partnerships at the federal level, the gulf between teachers and families is widening as teachers. Since there has been some complications developing these partnerships, this research paper looks into the miscommunications between parents and special education teachers. Almost all of the scholarly resources and literature on how to improve parent-teacher partnerships are written from the point of view of teachers. There needs to be more resources about how parents view the partnerships and what are their ideas about what will help more successfully develop the relationship. Parents are the people who should know their children best, and for a teacher to have the opportunity to work with them and to gain their insight would be an indispensable resource. This paper focuses on finding out more about the parents' point of view, their experiences and feelings, how they would want to improve the partnerships with their child's special education teacher.

Page last updated: Friday, April 18, 2014