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Each year, students apply for and are granted a stipend from the HSF Endowment to spend the summer researching and writing their thesis. Though the summer of 2020 presented unique obstacles, a virtual experience allowed the fellows to attend workshops and small group meetings. Meet this year's Honors Summer Fellows.
Nour Ali|Middle Eastern and North African Studies
Nour’s title is “Modern Muslims in Spain” as she is looking at the Spanish Muslim population post-1975. Nour is interested in seeing how “secularist” policies have impacted both the indigenous and immigrant Spanish Muslim population through how they perceive their identities. The last two decades have seen a rise in fascism which led to the formation of the VOX party that has executed Islamophobic campaigns against Muslims in the state. Nour would like to see why and how this transpired. As a Muslim and Spanish speaker, Nour became interested in this topic as a member of the same faith that is being demonized. Muslims once held Al-Andalusia for 700 years and the rich history of Muslims in Spain is largely being disregarded. She hopes to discover more about Spanish Muslims through literature written extensively on this topic.
Basil AlSubee is a Syrian-American student at the University of Michigan studying history, anthropology, and media studies. He is endlessly passionate about studying 20th century anti-colonialism, Arab diaspora politics, and the intersections of religion and politics. Outside of these interests, Basil can often be found making and watching films, as well as discussing their potential for social change.
It’s no secret that women don’t get played on country music radio. For years, women’s share of the rotation on country airwaves has hovered around 10 percent. Several unfounded industry expressions have circulated to justify the problem, the most prominent being that “women don’t like to listen to women.” And, while streaming platforms have catapulted non-country artists to the top of their genres, country radio remains an important gatekeeper to new artists’ success in the country music world. Therefore, Katie’s research aims to qualitatively investigate women listeners’ interpretations of country radio’s gender gap. By conducting focus groups and exploring how women use country radio in their everyday lives, Katie seeks to better understand country radio as a specifically constructed, potentially gendered aesthetic environment. Katie is a rising senior studying Sociology and American Culture. She grew up listening to country radio and she has always particularly admired women in country music. Katie hopes that her research can help illuminate ties between taste and sexism in country music today.
Meghan Chou|Film, TV, and Media
Meghan Chou is an English and Film, TV, & Media double major with concentrations, respectively, in Creative Writing and Screenwriting. Her screenwriting thesis will culminate with the creation of an original television show in the form of a show bible (detailed manual with character descriptions, season arcs, etc.), outlines for additional episodes, and a pilot script. Her original show, American Dreamin’, explores the Asian-American immigrant experience through the characters of Lucille and Grace — a mother and daughter whose lives are rocked with an unexpected Alzheimer’s diagnosis. American Dreamin’ tells the story of inherited trauma, examining the existential question of what we owe our parents. Through her creative work, Meghan wants to push the boundaries of a Western story-telling form to tell a deeply personal, Eastern narrative. She will draw from her own experiences and in-depth research to write a unique show, one that values authenticity and responsible artistic expression. Through this thesis, Meghan will learn the process of long-form dramatic writing, ethical research, and practice a theory-based approach to creative pursuits.
Kirin’s honors thesis is focused on finding a novel, nontoxic, and effective treatment option for Glioblastoma Multiforme - the most common and aggressive form of central nervous system tumor. Kirin became interested in cancer when she was nine years old and met a boy of similar age battling leukemia. The encounter made her realize for the first time the severe hardships people deal with as a result of cancer and evoked an internal drive to help others. In an effort to help, she started an annual charity bake sale and donated all of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. As Kirin worked to grow the sale every year, she gained a deeper understanding of the cause and knew she wanted to take a more active role in the fight against cancer. As a result, following Kirin’s junior year of high school, she joined the Neamati Lab. The Neamati lab is a translational oncology lab focused on drug discovery for Pancreatic, Brain, and Ovarian Cancer. The Neamati lab discovered that a protein folding chaperone - Protein Disulfide Isomerase (PDI) - is upregulated in brain cancer cells. Kirin has spent the past four years determining the importance of this protein for cancer metastasis and validating its efficacy as a target for brain cancer therapy. She used the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to remove PDI from a patient-derived glioblastoma cell line and studied the cell’s morphology, phenotype, and efficacy in comparison and conjugation with standard treatment options. This summer Kirin is planning to implant this genetically modified cell line intracranially into mice to determine if the inhibition of PDI will halt cancer cell growth in vivo. In addition to Kirin’s passion for cancer research, she is studying Neuroscience and Spanish and is the co-founder of Victors FC Women’s Soccer Club at the University of Michigan.
Lupus is one of the most common autoimmune diseases and is characterized by the body’s production of antibodies against host tissue. Dead cells and immune complexes often deposit and accumulate in different parts of the patient, causing a range of symptoms that are most severe when the disease is systemic. Since lupus pathogenesis is antibody-mediated, we believe that patients with the disease have increased somatic hypermutation that results in higher chances of autoantibody production. Due to the key role of a specific protein in limiting somatic hypermutation, we predict that particular mutations in the gene that encodes for the protein may be linked to lupus.
Beverly is studying microbiology with a minor in music. She became fascinated with immunology—specifically autoimmune diseases—during her freshman year while taking Dr. Tom Moore’s human immunology course. Beverly joined Dr. Marilia Cascalho’s lab in 2018, and her thesis project is in collaboration with the group of Dr. Emily Somers from the School of Public Health. The project utilizes Sanger sequencing to analyze the genes of hundreds of patients to determine if there is a correlation between certain mutations and characteristics of lupus patients. Outside of the lab, Beverly enjoys playing piano, competing in quizbowl, and watching various adaptations of Jane Austen novels.
Amytess Girgis|Political Science
Amytess Girgis is a rising senior in LSA with a major in Political Science and minors in Anthropology and Urban Studies. Throughout her undergraduate career, Amytess has been interested in how and why people choose to engage with their communities in “political” ways. She has explored this interest through many outlets, having worked in electoral politics, as a labor union organizer, and as an immigration advocate. Amytess’s research draws directly from this passion, as her thesis focuses on the emergence of mutual aid groups across America during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 has driven millions of Americans – those politically engaged, apolitical, and everywhere in between – to engage in a long-standing but little-known form of community organizing known as mutual aid. People are stepping up across the country to provide food, transit, supplies, childcare, and other support for one another in organized ways. But what drives such groups to form, and which communities are most likely to form them? Using a database of mutual aid groups that have formed in the wake of COVID-19, Amytess will be analyzing group formation in tandem with Census data to find common characteristics among places most likely to form mutual aid groups. She will also interview a sample of organizers from groups across the country to make observations on the political consciousness of those choosing to participate in this type of organization. In better understanding ways in which people collectively improve their lives outside the bounds of traditional political venues, Amytess hopes to contribute to a better understanding of why people engage with their (a)political institutions.
Hunter is a rising senior double majoring in BCN and Linguistics. Since high school, Hunter knew she wanted to be a clinical psychologist someday. Her interest in mental health and inequity led her to research. Her freshman year, she began research with Dr. Myles Durkee as part of the Michigan Research Community (MRC). Her thesis continues her previous work with Dr. Durkee, looking at the “acting white” accusation which is when a person of color is accused of acting white based on things like their style of speech, their clothes, or the music they listen too. Previous research focuses on the negative effects that this accusation can have, such as lowered mental health, so she wants to focus her research on why this invalidation is happening so future work can look for a solution. This is a small area of study so the work is generally exploratory. She will be asking college students what their relationship is to the people who accused them of acting white and those who they have accused, as well as why they were accused and why they accused others. These questions will be included in a large survey sent to all black students at the University of Michigan. In her free time, Hunter enjoys volunteering with animals, painting, and enjoying the great outdoors.
Esophageal Adenocarcinoma (EAC) is a highly aggressive disease and is one of several prevalent conditions characterized by misregulation of dividing cells in the esophagus. Max works with the Spence lab in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology where he studies the patterns of organ development and maintenance in order to grow realistic miniature organ models to examine the esophagus. The analysis of these models has revealed a unique pattern in the expression of the cell surface protein caveolin in the rapidly dividing stem cells of the esophagus, prompting Max to investigate what function this protein could be serving in these important cells. To identify the role of caveolins in stem cell maintenance Max is planning on using genetic engineering technology to remove or overexpress caveolin in his esophagus models and then analyze the impact on several protein pathways and cell type distributions via westernblot, qPCR, and immunostaining. He suspects that caveolins are serving to suppress a class of surface proteins important to the transition from stem cells to differentiated cells called TGF-Beta receptors, so the manipulation of caveolins should alter the levels of this pathway as well as the proportion of stem cells to differentiated cells.
Max has been interested in biology and medicine since high school and began working in the Spence lab back when he was 16. This dual passion has led him to pursue a joint MD PhD degree to work as a physician scientist, and he is particularly interested in studying developmental biology in order to inform his care of pediatric disease. These goals have been reinforced by Max’s love for working as an EMT and contributing to a range of interesting projects studying intestinal and esophageal development.
Given the current pandemic, the efficacy of intensive care units (ICUs) has become more important than ever to the medical community. In a typical year in the US, intensive care accounts for over a quarter of hospital stays and costs over half a billion dollars. However, an aspect of critical care that is often overlooked is the period after discharge, when a patient is thought to have “recovered” in the traditional sense. Survivors of critical illness are at significantly elevated risk of developing lasting cognitive and psychiatric disorders, such as learning impairment, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These poor brain outcomes are often closely linked to changes in memory formation and storage. An important candidate for mediating this memory alteration and ultimately influencing long-term brain function is glucocorticoids. These are hormones that are naturally released when the body encounters stress and they are often administered therapeutically in ICUs.
Long fascinated by the invisible inner workings of the brain, Alice joined the Spencer-Segal Lab during her sophomore year to gain insight into the field of neuroendocrinology, the study of how hormones in the central nervous system guide mood and behavior. For her thesis project, she will use a mouse model of sepsis (an extreme reaction to infection) to investigate how manipulating glucocorticoid levels might affect memory after critical illness and how this might result in behaviors indicative of anxiety and depression. She hopes that her findings will illuminate some of the factors contributing to cognitive and psychiatric impairment after illness and that these insights can be used to improve the quality of life for critical illness survivors.
Are we morally obligated to pursue our own cognitive and physical self-perfection, even if that means using biomedical methods, such as performance-enhancing drugs, to do so? In answering this question, most bioethicists focus on the utilitarian benefit of a more talented and productive society; investigating this topic from a different perspective could thus offer valuable insight. Specifically, Zuzanna aims to answer this question through the application of Kantian ethics—a moral theory that explicitly argues for a duty to self-perfect the mind and body out of respect for oneself. She also plans to account for other interesting details, including the role of effort in determining the moral value of using such enhancements, how competition affects this moral duty, and whether there is a morally-relevant difference between cognitive and physical enhancement. She is analyzing the relevant works of the Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant as well as arguments from a variety of other moral philosophers and bioethicists in constructing her argument.
Zuzanna is a rising senior in the Honors Program, double-majoring in Philosophy and Cellular and Molecular Biology. Her interest in this thesis topic is a product of her work in a neurobiology laboratory studying degenerative retinal diseases and participating in a philosophy discussion group about Kantian ethics; she was curious about the ethics of refusing low-risk treatments and how the Kantian duty to strive for self-perfection can contribute to this discussion. She is pursuing a career in medicine and hopes to continue research in bioethics and medical ethics in the future.
Over the past decade, the national conversation surrounding education has been dominated by discussions involving charter schools and, more recently, private school vouchers. One policy that has been largely missing from the debate is public school choice, otherwise known as inter-district open enrollment. Equally as widespread and consequential a policy as other traditional public school reforms, interdistrict open enrollment programs allow some students to transfer between different public school districts, oftentimes involving a significant transfer of funding between districts. For his thesis, Sam will investigate the impact of public school choice participation on the educational experiences of Michigan high school students transferring from urban to suburban school settings. The current literature shows that this pattern of enrollment and funding flow from urban, low-income districts to suburban, high-income districts is characteristic of public school choice generally. While the conventional justification for inter-district transfer programs is that they give families agency to choose the best academic experience for their child, on average transfer students—who are disproportionately Black and low-income statewide—tend not to benefit academically as a result of their participation. Through the use of semi-structured interviews of students from two high schools in the Lansing, Michigan region, Sam will seek to develop a critical analysis of the holistic experience of attending school outside of one’s resident district and make sense of the program’s impact on a student level.
A native of Lansing, Sam grew up commuting across school district lines after transferring districts halfway through his education. Through his own academic experience, the intersections between public school choice, school segregation, funding inequities, and the corporatization of public education were made clear and serve as inspirations for his thesis. Now a rising senior pursuing degrees in Sociology and Biology, Sam is motivated by an interest in understanding and critiquing institutional inequities in education, law, and health.
Clare Murray|Russian, Slavic Languages and Literatures
Communication across language divides has never been easier than it is now. As social media connects teens across the world, boundaries that might have previously hindered rapid linguistic spread have been removed. Now, young people frequently adopt slang they see on the Internet into their own real-life communities, greatly increasing the speed of language change. As a student of Linguistics and Russian, Clare is combining her experience with both fields to examine how English slang words are being incorporated into Russian. Clare’s project aims to look deeper at how and why these loanwords are used by Russians, as well as how the use of English slang is viewed culturally. Clare will analyse the different attitudes that different generations of Russians have towards English slang, and how these attitudes might reflect the changing relationship between Russia and the West.
Clare is a senior double majoring in Linguistics and Russian with a particular love for syntax. She is currently a Research Assistant for the Department of Linguistics, collecting primary sources that document languages before the 19th century. Her interest in linguistics stems from a lifelong passion for language and communication. She became interested in the relationship between English slang and Russians after a visit to Russia in 2018, where she heard some surprisingly identical slang used by Russian teens and herself.
Matthew Nelson|Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
ALS is a fatal neurological disease that causes gradual paralysis; frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a related brain disease which causes behavior abnormalities and impairs patients’ ability to process and use language. Matthew Nelson’s experiments ask whether local translation is impaired in ALS and FTD.
Local translation is a product of neurons’ unique structure. To send electrical impulses, brain cells have a long, wire-like axon to transmit signals from one end of the neuron to the other. Axons are incredibly demanding: they consume almost one-fifth of all the calories you eat, and they need a steady supply of proteins to make this energy. Yet because axons are so long, it is ridiculously expensive for the neuron to make proteins in the main part of the cell and ship them to the axon. Instead, neurons make proteins in the axon—a process called local translation. There are hints that local translation may break down in ALS/FTD, and Nelson is searching for proof.
Nelson conducts his thesis research in Sami Barmada’s lab, and was named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar in 2020. He majors in molecular, cell, and developmental biology, and intends to pursue a MD/PhD. Outside the lab, Nelson enjoys midnight runs, cooking, neo-Dadaism, and feeding Diag squirrels. His favorite book from the last year was “Midnight in Chernobyl.”
In 1986, the International Court of Justice ruled in the case The Republic of Nicaragua V. The United States of America that the United States had violated international humanitarian law regarding use of force against another state by supporting Contras during the Nicaraguan Revolution. The United States promptly ignored the ruling, refused to comply with the Court’s order to pay Nicaragua $17 billion in reparations, and continued to unlawfully support the Contras—willfully disregarding the treaties of international law that they had signed and recklessly undermining the authority of the very Court that they created. What will become of international law if powerful nations like the US continue to manipulate and circumvent international treaties with impunity whenever it suits their immediate national interests? The goal of this philosophy thesis is to argue that the United States has both moral and prudential reasons to cooperate with the treaties of international law they have created and signed on to.
Nick is a double major in philosophy and French language / literature with a minor in translation studies. He first became interested in the topic of international law when he studied international humanitarian law and international refugee law at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. There, Nick had the opportunity to take a week-long class trip to the war-torn nation of Kosovo, where he witnessed first-hand the beneficial and valuable role that international law plays in creating and maintaining a peaceful, humane world. Nick hopes that his thesis will be a first-step in uplifting international law as a respected, crucially vital platform for nations to peacefully negotiate and establish a harmonious world.
Puberty is a time in which adolescents must reconcile their own bodily changes with gendered societal ideals and expectations. Research shows that there is a relationship between puberty and mental health outcomes; for example, girls who experience puberty earlier than their peers tend to have worse body image. Because puberty is marked by an increase in sexual interest, adolescence also becomes a time in which some individuals must make sense of their queer identities. This study aims to explore how sexual identity milestones, such as recognizing attractions that deviate from the heterosexual norm or “coming out” to others, may influence the relationship between puberty and mental health.
Abigail Richburg is a rising senior double majoring in Psychology and Cognitive Science, in the Philosophy Track, and minoring in Gender and Health. She came to be interested in this topic through her work on meta-analyses related to puberty and mental health, as well as her personal academic interest in LGBTQ+ development. Abigail has worked as a research assistant in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods Lab and the Sripada Lab. After graduation, she plans to pursue graduate school in order to continue developmental psychological research.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex brain disorder affecting 1 out of every 68 children in the United States. Research has identified many genes as the genetic basis of ASD. It is believed that pathogenic variants in these genes lead to a disruption in the growth and organization of the cerebral cortex. How a diverse set of genes lead to a similar neurodevelopmental disorder and what common biology is affected remains unclear. For her honors thesis, Shachi is investigating the underlying neuropathology by focusing on a single high-confidence ASD gene called ASXL3.
With a deep interest in neuroscience and human genetics, Shachi joined the Bielas lab during her freshman year. She was attracted to his project due to its substantial translational value. It has allowed her to investigate mechanisms of developmental disorders and associated neurobiology. Shachi’s early work has uncovered a critical role for Asxl3 during the generation of neurons in the cortex. Using an Asxl3 mouse model, she will continue to use a broad set of biochemical and histological assays to characterize the ASD neuropathology. Shachi hopes her work can help uncover common pathological mechanisms in ASD that can be targeted for new therapies.
Jordan Schuler|Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
Jordan is researching three of the common narratives surrounding how the average American votes on redistricting reform. He will be using Michigan’s Proposition 2 from 2018 as a case study, which replaced the state legislature with a nonpartisan commission as the institution responsible for drawing districts. He will first determine if partisan identification played a role in how people voted on the measure by comparing the expected and actual Proposition 2 vote to the gubernatorial vote in each precinct. Then, he will examine if electoral self-interest (the perceived ability to maximize a person’s party’s chance of winning future elections) played a role as well by comparing the Proposition 2 results to the margin of victory for House elections in that district. Finally, he will look at how true it is that gerrymandering causes people to become disillusioned and disengaged with politics by seeing if Proposition 2 being on the ballot caused an increase in voter turnout and political donations through a comparison between 2018’s figures with those from past election years.
With an interest in eventually practicing Constitutional law, and particularly in election law, Jordan is studying Philosophy, Politics, & Economics and Organizational Studies with a focus on Constitutional law and social reform. His thesis topic is an extension of his curiosity about what makes for effective social reform efforts. Understanding the factors that shape people’s opinion will help him in the long-term to understand what makes for effective, persuasive advocacy. While he is not sure the exact career he wants to pursue with a law degree, he knows that he will want to further pursue his passion for civil rights and voting rights reform through education and advocacy. The questions he will explore in his thesis provide a strong foundation for doing so.
Julia Stavreva|Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
Although Roma communities are present throughout Eastern Europe, the minority is most concentrated in terms of percentages in Bulgaria. However, despite being a significant portion of the total legal citizens of Bulgaria, the Roma people are plagued by an unofficial status as second-class citizens. Roma are systematically excluded from access to opportunities and macro-society.
As a citizen of Bulgaria herself, Julia’s thesis focuses around the topic of Bulgaria’s Roma community. The themes of her research are especially relevant as the population of Roma is steadily increasing, and along with it the risk for poverty and marginalization of this group rise as well. Through her thesis, she plans to explore the roles that social closure and Bulgarian ethno-nationalism play in determining the quality of life and prospective barriers to opportunities for the integration of this minority.
Julia is a rising senior majoring in PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) with a minor in History. On campus, she is most involved with leading the PPE club, serving in her pre-law and public policy fraternity KOA, advising on the UMMA student engagement council, and tutoring through PALMA. She also expects to teach an Honors 135 seminar in Fall of 2020, guiding freshmen through discussions about ethnicity and its impact over time in various parts of the world. In the future, Julia hopes to engage in either policy work or law.
Thomas Vance|Political Science
Thomas Vance is a senior double-majoring in Political Science and Afroamerican and African Studies. As the Speaker of the Black Student Union and a member of Michigan Debate, Thomas is interested in Black Americans’ political participation. Specifically, he seeks to know why Black Americans participate in hopes of identifying key mobilizing factors. This summer, Thomas decided to explore one of those factors: the gender of a victim of police brutality. As George Floyd protests entered their second month, Thomas wanted to know why Floyd’s death sparked nationwide unrest, but Breonna Taylor’s death did not. Understanding that Black Americans internally justify their decision to mobilize, Thomas wants to know if Black Americans believe that all Black lives matter. That is, will Black Americans mobilize for Black men, women, and trans folks at equal rates? Will they mobilize to the same degree? These are the questions that Thomas’ research grapples with, and he intends to explore these through experimental design. Thomas believes this research is important because it can provide quantitative and causal evidence in support or negation of the claim that the broader Black Lives Matter movement prioritizes Black men.
Martina Villalobos|Germanic Languages and Literatures
Martina Villalobos is a senior double majoring in German Languages and Literatures and French and Francophone Studies with a minor in history. Her research examines the evolution of fascism by focusing on its current manifestation in extreme right-wing parties in Europe. For her thesis, she is looking at the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a German right-wing party, because of Germany’s infamous history and its current strong position within the European Union. Martina will establish a strong theoretical foundation with a qualitative analysis of political rhetoric. She hopes that this work will provide insight into the conversation of fascism pushing back on a static and exceptionalist view. Martina was born in Chile and her connection with the country has led her to study political developments in general, focusing strongly on threats to democracy. This interest was further bolstered during her college years after spending a year abroad in Munich, the German city where the Nazi party first arose to prominence. Recent political developments, in the United States and abroad, have reaffirmed the significance of understanding fascism and its abilities to morph under new conditions of possibility. Her research interests include migration studies, climate activism, and cosmopolitan theories of democracy.
Emily Wang|Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Much like the organ systems of the human body, organelles within living cells carry out specified tasks but must ultimately communicate and cooperate with each other in order to maintain homeostasis. One area of interest in intracellular communication is the role organelles play in mitigating various kinds of stress; the Chang lab is focused on communication between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the mitochondria during ER stress. Using flow cytometry and microscopy, Emily has been working on characterizing the contact sites between the mitochondria and ER, focusing on how they change during ER stress events. While she is working in a yeast model, the mechanisms for such communication will likely shed light on the cellular pathways involved in ER stress response across all organisms.
Emily first became interested in cell biology in high school, when she started studying the cellular mechanisms behind cancer progression and prognosis. As she ventured into wet lab work, she realized that her fascination with cell biology extended to all facets of cell function, particularly those related to disease. She is currently hoping her major in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology will allow her to pursue a career as a physician-scientist. Additionally, she has a fascination with the social nature of health and hopes to be involved in advocacy so that the systemic oppression that is the source of many negative pathologies can be dismantled.
Arynne Wegryn-Jones|Honors in the Engaged Liberal Arts
Arynne is a rising senior studying Microbiology with a minor in Food and the Environment. She is passionate about sustainable food systems, particularly food waste streams. As a student manager at South Quad dining hall, Arynne has witnessed countless plastic garbage bags full of compostable materials and food scraps go to the landfill. In the 2019-20 academic year, compost bins were rolled out in residential hall closets for the first time, allowing students living in the dorms to have a compost bin down the hall. Arynne’s thesis intends to gauge whether students are actually utilizing the compost bins and if there are effective strategies in place to educate dorm residents on composting. Last year, she created a two-part survey that assessed over 350 South Quad residents’ knowledge of composting in general, their awareness of composting initiatives on campus, and the extent to which they compost on their own. In the fall, she hopes to conduct an audit of the waste generated in South Quad to get a closer look at levels of contamination. She has also been conducting an assessment of the compost awareness materials that are provided to students living on campus, such as signage, bin placement, and product labeling. Over the course of the academic year, Arynne expects to see a shift towards correctly identifying where to dispose of different types of trash will be seen in the students living in the residence halls. She also predicts that the type and extent of introduction to the compost bins that is given to the students will have an impact on how correctly they differentiate their waste. By drawing from past and current projects, recruiting the help of invested parties, and using her knowledge of and passion for sustainability, Arynne hopes to create a lasting resource for the U-M community to use in future efforts of waste reduction across campus.
Eric (Jack) Wroldsen|History
For his thesis, Jack is researching the 18th century merchant firm Dutilh and Wachsmuth as a case-study to understand how international security and legal systems impact global trade. After taking classes in the American War of Independence and Corporate History, Jack was fascinated with the rise of transatlantic trade and the influence of security issues on international trade networks and business activities.
The 1790s served as a tough time for American business; the post-Revolution depression had set in, no central currency existed, and the Quasi War with France and England’s seizing of American commercial vessels made transatlantic trade riskier than normal. Dutilh and Wachsmuth, an abnormally-successful firm prior to the 1790s, suffered numerous ship and cargo seizures and a decline in trade with their business partners in the final decade of the 18th century. Jack is researching how the firm might have mitigated their struggles to better understand how firms react to heightened risk in international trade. Although Jack is conducting his thesis through the History Department, it represents a multi-dimensional approach to history that utilizes methodologies from his other areas of study: economics and political science.
Outside of school, Jack staffs a Model United Nations conference for high school students, is a competitor for the University’s traveling Model UN team, and writes for the Michigan Journal of International Affairs.
Vivian Yan|Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Originally from New York City, Vivian finds herself at home in the West Coast exploring its natural areas. Hiking is her favorite hobby and her most challenging hike yet was climbing Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in California. Her interest in nature really solidified during an extensive camping trip at Olympic National Park in Washington. While filtering water from the beautiful alpine lakes of the Pacific Northwest, there were fascinating, barely visible eukaryotic microbes and invisible prokaryotic microbes squirming in her Platypus reservoir.
The world of microbes is indeed an enigma as many microbial samples can be collected from nature but cannot be reproduced successfully in the lab. However, an abundance of discoveries has been made possible thanks to advancements in sequencing technology. Her interest in the microbial world is what lead to her involvement in research now.
Currently, Vivian is researching how beneficial mutations drive adaptation with her mentors, Postdoctoral Fellow Piaopiao Chen and Principal Investigator Jianzhi George Zhang in the EEB Department. The model organism of study: yeast, single-celled eukaryotic microbes. Three different questions in particular are being explored under the potential diversity of beneficial mutations: If identical populations adapted to a fixed
environment, would adaptation occur via identical convergent mutations? How might pathways be shaped by interactions among beneficial mutations? And lastly, what about identical populations adapted to different environments — would adaptation occur via similar genes or pathways? Along with wet lab experimental evolution, Vivian is learning techniques for computational evolutionary genomics like genome mapping to address these questions.