2013-2014 Honors Projects


Student Name: Michael Baribault

Academic Major: Art

Project Title: Unreal Realities

Advisor: Stephen Fisher

Student Name: Emily Sorlien

Academic Major: Art

Project Title: Fowl Play

Advisor: Stephen Fisher


Student Name: Cybele Collins

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Laboratory Work on a q-PCR Detection of Legionella Pneumophila

Advisor: Deborah Britt

Student Name: Sabrina Elgar

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Investigating the Role of BCP1 through the Effects of Doxaruicin on a Mutant Strain of S. Cerevisae

Advisor: Deborah Britt

Student Name: Masharee Hopkins-Jones

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Effect of Phleomycin on S. Cerevisae with a Temperature Sensitive Mutant of BCP1 Protein

Advisor: Deborah Britt

Student Name: Irina Maglysh

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: NMIIa May Be a Novel Substrate of Ubiquitin Ligase Ube4b

Advisor: Sarah Spinette

Summary: The Ubiquitin-dependent Proteasomal degradation System (UPS) is essential both for preventing cell stress resulting from the accumulation of misfolded or overabundant proteins as well as signaling events such as cell cycle progression or response to stimuli by regulating the abundance of specific proteins.  Ube4b is an E3 Ubiquitin-ligase that targets specific proteins for degradation by the Proteasome. Several observations have led to the hypothesis that it has a role in myogenesis, however its exact function is currently unknown.  The purpose of this study was to identify novel targets of this Ubiquitin ligase which are present in skeletal muscle.  This was done with an iCre-dependent conditional knock-out mouse model.  Muscle lysate from mutant mice expressing an inactive Ube4b was analyzed by western blot to compare protein expression levels of various protein substrates including p53, sarcolipin, UNC45B and NMIIa.  Results showed no observable difference for p53, sarcolipin and UNC45B levels between mutant and wild type mouse littermates.  NMIIa levels were shown to decrease in every specimen but at a later and more gradual rate in mutant mice than wild type.  Also, TUBE-agarose poly-ubiquitylation protein pull down successfully pulled down NMIIa only from the control muscle lysate.  These data suggest that NMIIa, a protein essential for myoblast fusion, may be a substrate of Ube4b.

Student Name: Sara Moore

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: The Role of Ribbed Mussel Gut Microbes in Salt Marsh Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

Advisor: Breea Govenar

Summary: Salt marshes have been considered sinks for greenhouse gas emissions, but under conditions of climate change and nutrient loading, may instead act as sources of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. As part of a larger project to understand the shifts in greenhouse gases fluxes as a result of elevated temperatures and nutrient levels in estuaries, this project investigated the composition of bacteria and archaea in the gut of the dominant benthic invertebrate, the ribbed mussel Geukensia demissa, in coastal marshes along the historic nitrogen loading gradient in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. In 2012 and 2013, mussels were collected from marshes with different levels of nitrogen-loading, DNA was extracted from the digestive tracts and then a hypervariable region of the 16s ribosomal RNA gene was amplified with PCR for sequencing on the Illumina MiSeq platform. More than 750 different genera of bacteria and archaea were classified in the mussel digestive tracts, including many that are capable of producing and consuming greenhouse gasses. Consistent with patterns of free-living microbes in marsh sediments, there were no significant differences in composition of gut microbes among mussels from marshes where nitrogen levels were dramatically different or where temperature varied. However, previous work has demonstrated a positive correlation between nitrogen loads and ribbed mussel density. Therefore, higher nutrient concentrations in coastal estuaries may have a significant indirect effect on greenhouse gas fluxes by increasing mussel density and subsequently the density of gut microbes in these dominant benthic invertebrates.

Student Name: Leah Smith

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Investigating the Microbial Diets of Hydrothermal Vent Gastropods

Advisor: Breea Govenor

Student Name: Jose Solares

Academic Major: Biology

Project Title: Determining Cell Size and Satellite Cell Number in UBE4B Mutant Mice

Advisor: Sarah Spinette

Computer Science

Student Name: James E Torres

Academic Major: Computer Science

Project Title: GRAPH-ENE: A Web-Based Graphing Program

Advisor: Robert Ravenscroft

Summary: GRAPH-ENE is a web browser based program for building and manipulating graphs. It is intended for use as a classroom teaching aid, plus as a tool for students to interactively manipulate graphs for assignments. Being web based it can run anywhere a browser is available. Since it is interactive, it provides problem solving capabilities that are not available using pencil and paper. Graphs are built using the mouse. Edges and vertices can be labeled. Graphs are manipulated by dragging vertices with a mouse. A highlighting tool allows for paths and sub-graphs to marked, as well as for graphs to be colored. An animation feature allows a sequence of interactions to be recorded and played back. GRAPH-ENE is built using JavaScript and features available in HTML5. The interface includes the ability to print, open and download the graph data, generate and download an image file, and other functionalities pertaining to graph manipulation. GRAPH-ENE is being tested in a Math general education course. Graph problems it is being used with include modeling relationships with graphs, paths and circuits, trees, and spanning trees. In the future, we hope to evaluate GRAPH-ENE in Computer Science courses.


Student Name: Ben Blachly

Academic Major: Economics

Project Title: The Impact of Unemployment, Indebtedness, and Inequality on the Level of Crime in Rhode Island

Advisor: Sanae Tashiro


Student Name: Alex Lupica

Academic Major: English

Project Title: National and Personal Identity in the Work of Luigi Pirandello

Advisor: Alison Shonkwiler

Summary: In this thesis, I discuss the conflict of Identity in the work of Luigi Pirandello, an Italian author and playwright. Identity is a primary concern in Pirandello’s work, and the views expressed in his work seem to mirror his life experience. Pirandello, born just years after the unification efforts of the Italian Risorgimento and dying deep into the years of Mussolini’s fascist regime, was positioned uniquely to view and comment on the major changes taking place in Italy during this period. With this in mind, and using two of the author’s best-known texts, I suggest that the conflicts of identity expressed by the author are parallel to the conflicts of identity going on in Italy itself during this period.

Student Name: Gabriel Morrison

Academic Major: English (Creative Writing)

Project Title: The Empty Gallery

Advisor: Robert Foreman, Creative Writing

Summary: “The Empty Gallery” is a work of illustrated fiction that is written for an intended audience of children aged eight through twelve. It centers on the adventures of Tess, a girl growing up in early twentieth-century France, who spends much of her time at the Louvre art gallery where her father is employed. The story, told through both words and pictures, follows Tess's experience regarding a fictionalized account of the Mona Lisa's theft in 1911. The story explores themes of art history, childhood imagination, and fantasy versus reality.


Student Name: Syeda Menebhi

Academic Major: History

Project Title: Foreign Policy During the Vietnam War: The Attempted Modernization of Vietnam

Advisor: Dufour, Ronald, History AND Benziger, Karl, History

Summary: The United States became deeply involved in Vietnam during the 1960s largely due to America’s desire to assure that developing countries modernize as capitalist and democratic. Thus, American involvement began with economic and social support in South Vietnam. Yet slowly, throughout the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, the goal of modernizing South Vietnamese society and containing communism became increasingly implemented by military means. Further, it seems clear that, regardless of how much effort the United States geared towards Vietnam, American defeat was inevitable. By Richard Nixon’s presidency, the initial modernization goals in Vietnam mattered only in so far as they could preserve American credibility. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all failed to realize that while U.S. time was limited in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese had all the time they needed to fight for the independence of their country. The South Vietnamese forces could not defend themselves and the United States had to withdraw eventually.

Management and Marketing

Student Name: Byron Delmonico

Academic Major: Management and Marketing

Project Title: Hershey's Take-5, The Greatest Combination on Earth

Advisor: Steve Ramocki

Summary: The purpose of this project was to conduct research and formulate an integrated marketing communications plan for a product re-launch of the Hershey’s Take-5 candy bar.  This research began with a situational analysis and an internet/retail analysis which helped develop a 9 question survey that was distributed nationally to which over 300 subjects responded.  This survey structured the marketing tactics that were used in the body of the report.  Also a forecast and detailed plan was developed based on the implications of these tactics.  This project was also entered into the American Marketing Association’s annual case competition receiving an Honorable Mentioning and landing in the top 20 of 86 reports, however this entry was an individual submission to this team competition.


Student Name: Paola Reyes

Academic Major: Mathematics

Project Title: The Mathematics of the Card Game SET

Advisor: Stephanie Costa

Summary: In this project we construct an algebraic formulation of the card game SET. Using this we are able to study interesting mathematical properties of the game.

Student Name: Cameron Richer

Academic Major: Mathematics

Project Title: On the Intersection of Loops Embedded in the Torus

Advisor: John Burke


Student Name: Luke Nicholas Rock

Academic Major: Music

Project Title: “The Unshackled Art of Music”: Martin Luther’s Theology of Music and the Life and Work of Heinrich Schutz

Advisor: Samuel Breene

Summary: The Protestant Reformation, though a theological revolution brought about cultural changes.  This is exemplified clearly by the various attitudes towards music, both in the church and the world, held by the different reformers.  Whereas Calvin and Zwingli viewed the aesthetically pleasing aspects of music as something to be avoided, Luther placed the cultivation of the art next to the study of the scriptures.  High quality sacred music would become a trademark of Lutheran Germany as a result of Luther’s liberal views in allowing composers to explore virtual all avenues of inspiration for their craft, even if it meant crossing theological borders.  As exemplified by the life and work of Heinrich Schütz, the first major Lutheran composer, Luther’s belief in “The unshackled art of music” paved the way for the importation of the Venetian polychoral style and Monteverdi’s philosophy of the seconda pratica from Catholic Italy, giving rise to the rich German-Baroque musical heritage.


Student Name: Alicia Harris

Academic Major: Nursing

Project Title:Student Nurses Experiences and Beliefs Regarding Normal Physiologic Birth

Advisor: Sylvia Ross

Summary: Lamaze International identifies six care practices used to promote, protect, and support the normal physiologic process of birth (Lamaze, 2007; Lamaze, 2014). These practices include: allowing labor to begin on its own; allowing freedom of movement throughout labor; providing continuous labor support; avoiding routine interventions; promoting spontaneous pushing in upright or gravity-neutral positions; and not separating mother and baby with unlimited breastfeeding opportunities. These care practices were adopted for nurses (Romano & Lothian, 2008) to support the normal physiologic birth (NPB.) The disparity between this recognized standard of care and the reality of nursing student education in the maternity clinical setting is explored through a survey of 59  nursing students. The survey elicited responses regarding: 1) educational experiences with NPB in the maternity clinical practicum; 2) experiences with each of the care practices in the maternity clinical practicum; and 3) beliefs about NBP in the clinical setting. The findings indicated a gap between evidence-based practice taught in the classroom and the experience of student nurses in the maternity clinical setting. Implications for nursing practice, research, education, and policy are identified.

Student Name: Kathryn Lavall

Academic Major: Nursing

Project Title: Increasing Public Awareness of Venous Thromboembolism Through Social Media

Advisor: Joanne Costello, Nursing

Summary: This paper investigates the problem of public awareness of venous thromboembolism (VTE) from a nursing perspective. VTE encompasses deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). It is a major public health problem as 600,000 people suffer from VTE annually and 100,000 deaths are attributed to it. The aim of this research study was to investigate and attempt to quantify the general public's knowledge level of VTE. The research study included a survey in which 325 people participated. Of the 242 participants who identified themselves occupationally as nonmedical, less than 30% were familiar with both DVT and PE. Participants who identified as having medical careers had much higher levels of knowledge. The findings suggest the need for health professionals to educate patients and the public about VTE in order to decrease its incidence. A website (www.dvtaware.net) and public education campaign employing social media tools were launched to increase awareness of VTE.

Student Name: Ericka Samoorian

Academic Major: Nursing

Project Title: Bridging the Gap in Domestic Violence Victims’ Access to Healthcare

Advisor: Karen Hetzel, Nursing

Summary: The purpose of this study was to assess health disparities of domestic violence victims such as their access to healthcare. The study was conducted to determine if the women could benefit from an intervention of a population specific telehealth nursing service.

Political Science

Student Name: Gary Pascoa

Academic Major: Political Science

Project Title: “Fire Alarms” in the Court: Congress, Interest Groups, and the Strategic Drafting of Judicial Review

Advisor: Thomas Schmeling

Summary: Prior research suggests that political actors use judicial review for politically strategic purposes in order to achieve policy goals. Depending upon institutional considerations, members of Congress and interest groups will either seek to allow or preclude judicial review of agency actions. This study seeks to test these claims using the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and focuses on the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The findings provide some support for the claims, but show less than expected concern over judicial review, particularly among interest groups. The study then provides four explanations for these findings.

Student Name: Patrick Pride

Academic Major: Political Science

Project Title: Thoroughly Under the Skin: Raymond Williams, Structures of Feeling, and Affect Theory

Advisor: Richard Weiner

Summary: My project studies Raymond Williams an author who never lost his connection to his Welsch working class origins.  Raymond Williams focused on class consciousness how and why the working class either achieves or fails to achieve class consciousness.  He realized in the 1950s that the working class was more interested in possessing things that made them feel middle class.  As a founding editor of New Left Review he studied Marxist thinkers such as Georg Lukács, Antonio Gramsci, and Lucien Goldmann who studied the same feeling.  Like them, Williams rejected mechanical Marxist base/superstructure explanations of consciousness.  He focused on cultural materialism, not economic determinism.  However, Williams did not see class consciousness as cognitive.  He did not even see it as consciousness.  He saw it as an inherited, internalized pre-configured pre-reflective configuration of predisposition---what he refers to as “structure of feelings”.  He does so because he is a critic of literature.  He understands characters as types.  But the substance of the character is not just cognition it is feelings----what Pierre Bourdieu in the 1970s called structured dispositions.  My paper argues that Raymond Williams deserves credit for anticipating Bourdieu, and the literary criticsm school at Duke University calling itself Affect Theory.


Student Name: Kevin Fornari

Academic Major: Psychology

Project Title: Forgiveness, Patience, and Well-Being

Advisor: Marta Laupa

Student Name: Kristen Wilkinson

Academic Major: Psychology

Project Title: Stress Response and Emotional Security in the Intergenerational Transmission of Depressive Symptoms 

Advisor: Emily Cook

Summary: Few studies have examined possible explanations (i.e., examining mediators) as to why depressive symptoms are transmitted from mothers to adolescents, as well as neglected to consider  which adolescents are most vulnerable to this transmission (i.e., examining moderators).  Thus, the aim of this study is to focus on stress reactivity as a moderator of the transmission of depression from mothers to adolescents through emotional insecurity. Ninety-three mother-adolescent dyads were examined, with adolescents between the ages of 13 to 17. Data was collected in the home through surveys, a mother-adolescent interaction task and physiological measures from the adolescent to examine stress response. Results suggested that emotional insecurity mediated the relationship between maternal and adolescent depressive symptoms. Findings also provided some support that higher baseline stress response acted as a partial moderator such that adolescents who evidenced a higher stress response at baseline appeared more vulnerable to the transmission of depression.

Secondary Education in English

Student Name: Jessica L. Aspeel

Academic Major: Secondary Education in English

Project Title: Adolescent Literature and the Power of Student Perception and Voice in Gay-Straight Alliances and Beyond

Advisor: Dr. Julie Horwitz, Educational Studies

Summary: This research was conducted so that I could learn more about how students interact with texts, specifically focusing on how students who are members of their high school Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) interact with and respond to works of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) adolescent literature. The research was conducted during the spring and fall of 2013 at two local high schools, with Garden High reading “Perfect” by Jennifer Diemer and Donovan High reading “Am I Blue?” by Bruce Coville. The research questions I pose are: 1. What common themes or issues do students in GSA groups discuss when presented with different works of LGBTQ literature?, 2. How do students’ perceptions of LGBTQ issues align or delineate from academic research conducted on LGBTQ issues?, and 3. How can the knowledge gained through this research help me as an English educator? I venture to answer these questions by using pieces of conversation about themes that were common during my time with both schools: the differences between boys and girls, adults and families, and generalizations made about certain populations. I also reflect on how engaging in this research has changed me as a student, researcher, and educator. I hope that my research will be useful for people who work with youth and are interested in incorporating LGBTQ literature into their own instruction.


Student Name: Greg Kowalski

Academic Major: Sociology

Project Title: The Black Guerrilla in Sociology’s Room: Insurgent Epistemology and Black Studies as Sociological Antidote

Advisor: Khalil Saucier

Page last updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014