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2022 Honors Summer Fellows

The Honors Summer Fellowship allows students to spend the summer in Ann Arbor researching and writing their Honors theses. Each year, students are selected for the cohort on the basis of their applications and are granted a stipend from the HSF Endowment Fund for this purpose. Meet the 2022 Honors Summer Fellows.

Adrian Beyer | Women’s and Gender Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, and Sociology

How are individuals with gender and sexual minority identities portrayed in television, and how do those portrayals of marginalized identities impact conceptualizations of gender, sex, and sexuality? These are the broad questions Adrian hopes to explore within his senior thesis. Combining his interests of gender/sexuality and Thai language/culture, Adrian is pursuing a dual-department thesis in Women’s and Gender Studies and Southeast Asian Studies. Adrian’s main interest is the portrayal of kathoey (a gender and sexual identity unique to Thailand) within Boys Love television series, which focus almost solely on the romantic relationships between cisgender men. As Adrian pursues his thesis, he aims to explore the ways in which expressions of non-normative masculinity impact the storylines, romantic opportunities, and treatment of kathoey characters within Thai Boys Love television series, especially compared to cisgender gay male characters within the same series. 

Adrian Beyer is a rising senior at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with majors in Women’s and Gender Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, and Sociology. After spending a year as an exchange student in Mahasarakham, Thailand, Adrian became interested in queer masculinities, gender expression, and LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand. Outside his academic work, Adrian spends his time as the president of Not Even Really Drama Students, doing crossword puzzles, and cooking with his roommates.

 

Fiona Corcoran | Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity

Neonicotinoid pesticides are widely used pesticides that can impair the sensory processing, learning, and memory region of insect brains, particularly in wasps. Inability to perceive, learn, and remember can severely impact wasps’ ability to forage and pollinate, leading to widespread ecological and agricultural effects. For her thesis, Fiona plans to compare the learning abilities of wasps exposed to pesticides and wasps not exposed to pesticides to answer if neonicotinoid pesticides impair learning in paper wasps.

Fiona is a rising senior majoring in Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity. She first became interested in Ecology during her freshman year Biology lab and, at the advice of her GSI, joined the Tibbett’s Lab where her passion for behavioral ecology began. She became interested in pursuing an honors thesis after watching the developments of the many projects in Dr. Tibbett’s Lab and settled on pesticides’ impact on learning with hope to provide more insight into the negative effects different agricultural practices can have on pollinating insects.

 

Samantha Dell'Imperio | Biology, Health, and Society

Long COVID, a chronic illness that affects about 1 in 5 people who recover from acute COVID infection, is an emerging public health issue. The pandemic has exacerbated racial inequities, with the Black community bearing a disproportionate burden of increased infection rates, severe cases, and mortality, along with reduced health care access and low vaccination rates. Improving vaccine uptake is key in reducing the prevalence of COVID and subsequently long COVID. As part of a larger study on long COVID at Michigan Medicine, Samantha’s thesis aims to characterize perceptions of the COVID vaccine among Black patients with long COVID to identify opportunities for improving vaccine uptake within the Black community.

Samantha is a rising senior studying Biology, Health, and Society (BHS) who is passionate about epidemiology and health equity research. She has previously served as a Research Technician Associate in the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center (CPFRC) at Michigan Medicine, where she assisted on numerous projects related to long COVID. This summer, Samantha looks forward to preparing materials for an Honors course she will be teaching in the fall called, “What’s Next? Vaccines, Long COVID, and Health Care Reform”. 

 

Emma Dixon | Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Opioids cause tens of thousands of overdose deaths every year in the United States. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is a major contributor to most of these deaths. Many of the effects of fentanyl, such as euphoria or pain relief, are mediated through the mu opioid receptor. Some effects, such as a phenomenon known as wooden chest syndrome which contributes to fentanyl’s lethality, cannot be explained by the actions of the mu opioid receptor alone. Emma’s project focuses on exploring alternative receptors to understand if they interact with fentanyl.

Emma is a rising senior majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. She has worked in the Anand lab in the department of Pharmacology since she joined in her first year at Michigan. Emma became interested in wooden chest syndrome during her sophomore year when she worked on a literature project. She is excited to explore the topic at the bench.

 

Emilia Ferrante | English and Anthropology

Emilia is a double major in English and Anthropology with a sub-concentration in Creative Writing. Her thesis combines these interests, as she will be looking at how cultural knowledge of anthropogenic climate change (environmental change caused by human activity) has changed poetry about nature — particularly regarding themes like death, rebirth, renewal, and ephemerality. Ecological poetry has always been concerned with the environment and its interaction with humanity; but as general awareness of climate change has increased, the blossoming subgenre of ecopoetry has been understandably unable to ignore this elephant in the room. Emilia’s research will focus on comparing mid-20th century nature poetry to current ecopoetry. She will perform close reading analysis and anthropological research into cultural understanding of climate change to examine how poetry as a genre, specifically ecopoetry, is reacting to this existential threat. 

Emilia has always been passionate about poetry, reading, and writing in general. Her interest in this particular topic was piqued by her participation in U-M’s New England Literature Program, also known as NELP. Living without technology and immersed in nature at NELP while reading authors like Wallace Stevens allowed Emilia’s interest in ecopoetry and, more broadly, human interactions with the environment to grow. Through this project, she hopes to hone in on a better understanding of climate change through her passion for poetry.

 

Evan Hall | Biology, Health, & Society and Honors in the Engaged Liberal Arts

HIV after 40 years continues to highlight its syndemic nature, bringing out themes of healthcare infrastructure, poverty, and class. However, there is limited understanding of how climate change and sustainability are conceptualized in the context of HIV, especially in the domestic United States. Through his Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts project, Evan will be designing, leading, and evaluating a novel approach to incorporating HIV and the environment for people living with HIV (PLWH). Evan will incorporate a reformative and transformative justice lens to develop critical consciousness on how environmental changes impact PLWH. 

Evan’s breadth and depth of work in ending the HIV epidemic, including policy and community engagement, represent his tenacity to chart a new youth perspective that will revolutionize how people approach the epidemic. He currently conducts research under Professor Rogério Pinto of the School of Social Work through the Students Opportunities for AIDS/HIV Research Program, focusing on HIV service delivery and social justice. Evan is committed to uplifting voices of those impacted by HIV to remain relevant in community-based participatory research. Evan aspires to make population level impacts to advance current efforts in ending the HIV epidemic, while developing and evaluating novel interventions that support people impacted by HIV.

 

Caitlin Hoyng | Anthropology and Psychology

In 1980s East Berlin, many sex workers and LGBTQ+ individuals lived an uneasy existence under the rule of the DDR and between two worlds. Sex workers, often paid in Western currency by international clientele, lived in constant danger of exposing themselves and their work to the DDR; though, according to the state, sex workers didn’t (or rather, shouldn’t) exist in East Germany to begin with. Queer communities in East Berlin, too, had to risk outing a stigmatized identity to meet with lovers and friends from the West. Once the HIV/AIDS pandemic entered Germany, however, these communities faced the additional dangers of living in a world where the nature of their stigmatized work and identities put them at higher risk for becoming sick, yet hindered their access to compassionate and effective care, especially at the end of life. Using background research on German history, anthropological theory, and ethnographic interviews with caregivers among former East Berlin’s elder sex workers and LGBTQ+ communities, this thesis will create an oral history of social world in which end-of-life caregiving was put in the hands of the marginalized communities that needed it most.

Caitlin is a rising fifth year majoring in Anthropology and Psychology, with a minor in German. She came to be interested in her thesis topic through personal experiences as an in-home caregiver, in hospice and mutual aid work, and with Berlin’s sex work and LGBTQ+ communities. Outside of research, she hikes, spends time with friends, and does tarot with housemates.

 

Yueying Hu | Statistics and Psychology

Yueying is a rising senior majoring in Statistics and Psychology, with a minor in Computer Science. In taking courses from Psychology, she came to realize how she was previously trapped in gender stereotypes in STEM, and learned to reflect on her mindsets, strengths, and passion along the way of education. Another course in research methods ignited her spark in data analysis, and thus turning to Statistics with an Honors degree. Her research interests include statistical learning and survey methodology, as well as their application to other areas.

Yueying’s Honors project is about risk prediction of disease progression for patients with Hepatitis C virus, which is a critical public health problem with significant liver-related death. Powerful prediction methods such as deep neural networks typically require a large number of labeled training data to obtain good prediction performance. However, only less than 7% of patients in the Veterans Affairs nationwide dataset have accurate diagnostics of cirrhosis, a major risk factor for liver cancer, due to technical reasons and high cost. Semi-supervised learning takes advantage of unlabeled data to achieve better feature representation learning, and thus improves prediction accuracy compared to using labeled data alone. Given the longitudinal nature of healthcare records, following previous literature, Yueying will build a sequence generative model and a label prediction model in a joint manner, and illustrate the outperformance of such combination relative to traditional alternatives.

 

Raymond Jiang | Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Raymond is a rising senior majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology with a focus in immunology. He first developed this interest while working as an immunizer during the Covid-19 pandemic. His research with Dr. Daniel Schneider focuses on intracellular communication within the pulmonary immune system. When he is not culturing cells, Raymond enjoys going to the gym, performing with the dynamic Chinese yoyo club “Team Revolution”, and volunteering at World Medical Relief.

Alveolar macrophages (AMs) and alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) are essential players in orchestrating the innate immune response of the lungs. Raymond’s lab has previously demonstrated that these cells secrete extracellular vesicles (EVs) as a vector of intercellular communication during host defense against inhaled pathogens. While EVs have been shown to inhibit viral replication during influenza infection, their role in antibacterial processes remains to be elucidated. Raymond’s thesis explores the activity of AEC-derived EVs within the context of bacterial phagocytosis and aims to shed light on the responsible mediators of this crucial intracellular communication pathway.

 

Arianne Kok | Environmental Studies and English

In the age of climate change, the future is increasingly unknown and unpredictable. As a global anthropogenic phenomenon—that is, a phenomenon accelerated by human behavior—climate change is a unique problem that requires an innovative human solution. For young people, climate anxiety—the pessimistic feelings associated with climate change—will increase as time goes on and environmental conditions worsen. 

How do individuals—with a scientific background and without—consider a solution to this complicated problem? What do young people picture when they think about the year 2050, 2100, or even 3000? Is it worth investing hope in the future, given how climate change is worsening? At what scales and levels should we be enacting climate action for the most powerful positive impact? These questions are crucial as educators, scientists, activists, and others design future climate action plans.

Arianne Kok is a rising senior pursuing an honors degree in Environmental Studies and English, with a focus in Environmental Communications & Behavior Change. Over the past few years, Ari has seen and personally felt the effects of climate anxiety and doom, especially as they relate to an uncertain future. Her thesis will take an Environmental Psychology approach—she aims to determine how undergraduate students at the University of Michigan view and imagine the future under several frames relating to climate change. Using a survey and one-on-one envisioning exercises, Ari hopes to explore students’ perceptions of the future and their level of hope and investment in environmental solutions. She hopes to provide insights and potential directions for ecological education, climate anxiety relief, and steps toward a future where all can thrive.

 

Kaylee Muirhead | Environment

Due to longstanding agricultural policy and market systems that favor large corporate farms, agriculture in the United States is currently dominated by highly mechanized monocultures using practices that ignore ecological principles. Despite initiatives aimed at supporting smaller farms and new farmers, we have continued to see a steady decline in the number of small and local farms around the country. This trend is mirrored in Washtenaw County, where 90% of local farms have disappeared since 1950. To correct the current decline, it is imperative that we find better ways to support beginning farmers who tend to small, local farms. To this end, Kaylee will use Ann Arbor as a case study, conducting surveys and interviews with farmers as well as the businesses and organizations that maintain relationships with them to investigate alternative support systems in farming communities. She hopes to learn what barriers to farming these community-led support systems can address and what barriers we still need to overcome.

Kaylee is a rising senior in the Program in the Environment. After taking an Ecological Agriculture course at the University of Michigan’s Campus Farm, she discovered a particular passion for building a more equitable and sustainable food system, driving her interest in this thesis topic. When she is not working on her thesis, you can find her working at the Argus Farm Stop, drinking a cup of coffee while reading a good fantasy novel, or exploring nature with friends. 

 

Grant Mullins | History

American soldiers who were captured during the Korean War faced an experience never before seen in American military history. Instead of just being captives of the enemy, American POWs faced a concerted effort by their Chinese captors to indoctrinate them into the framework of communist ideology. Although the hysterical claims of “brainwashing” in Chinese-run prison camps proved to be largely unfounded, the American POW experience during the Korean War is unique in that the very violent realities of their captivity were overshadowed by questions about if they collaborated or if they knew anything about those who did collaborate. None of those who served in Korea returned home to jubilant, WWII-esque homecoming celebrations. Instead, repatriated POWs were met with an anti-communist machinery that subjected them to continued interrogations, surveillance, and recriminations.

Grant’s thesis contends that the relationship and connection between McCarthyism (anti-communist hysteria that emerged in American politics during the early 1950s) and American POWs returning from the Korean War is territory that has largely been left unexplored by historians. Therefore, an exploration of the social and cultural dynamics that this relationship consisted of proves to be fertile ground for original research.

Grant is a rising senior studying History, whose current research interests place him firmly within the domestic United States during the early Cold War. Alongside being an Honors student and Honors Summer Fellow, Grant was an Assistant in Research for the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program in the 2021-22 academic year. Although currently doing research in American history, Grant is deeply drawn to international histories that stretch to diverse parts of the globe in the wider Cold War. After attaining his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, Grant intends to pursue a PhD in history.

 

Xiaolin "Lynn" Rong | Biophysics and Physics

Cells and vesicles in living organisms are often enclosed by plasma membranes composed mainly of phospholipid bilayers. These plasma membranes exhibit different ‘phases’ under different temperatures, some in which lipids spread out randomly throughout the membrane and some in which certain lipids cluster. The cell's threshold temperature at which the membrane changes from one phase to another is called the phase transition temperature, and can be altered by placing them in different alcoholic environments. Preliminary research has found that different phase transition temperatures may be correlated with a cell’s growth rate, therefore Lynn wants to try to use flow cytometry to investigate how cell vesicles’ transition temperature affects the speed of the cell cycle.

Lynn is a Biophysics and Physics major who became interested in biophysics through working on membrane phase transition with her amazing professor, Dr. Sarah Veatch. Lynn is originally from Beijing, China, but she hasn’t been home since the pandemic began. You will see Lynn in summer 2022 dancing in the diag with her group Moli, or struggling with MATLAB in the Chemistry building. 

 

Naomi "Nomi" Rosen | History and International Studies

Nomi is evaluating the effectiveness of the Israeli response to the terrorist attack during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Seeking to gain international recognition and secure the release of over 200 Palestinian prisoners, Black September, a Palestinian terrorist group, took eleven Israeli athletes hostage in the Olympic Village. The West German and Bavarian governments attempted to rescue the hostages, but miserably failed, resulting in the death of all the hostages and one German policeman. Following this attack, the Israeli secret intelligence agency began a series of targeted assassinations against Black September members involved in the attack largely known as “Operation Wrath of God.” While initially focused only on those directly connected to the Munich attack, this operation expanded to include anyone involved in the leadership and planning of attacks within Black September. Nomi is researching the effectiveness of this counterterrorism strategy in actually deterring, lessening, and preventing future terrorist attacks. 

Nomi is a rising senior studying History and International Studies with a focus on the security norms in the Middle East. She is highly interested in modern German politics and Arab-Israeli issues. She chose this topic because it combines these two areas of interest, includes the thrill of spy missions and covert operations, and allows her to use her fluency in Hebrew to read documents and conduct interviews. As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, the murder of Jews on German soil is a topic that evokes a strong personal significance for her. 

 

Drake Rosenberg | Cellular and Molecular Biomedical Science

The placenta is an organ that regulates the exchange of oxygen, nutrients, and waste between the mother and fetus during pregnancy. This exchange is controlled by the diffusion of molecules across the chorionic villi membranes. There is evidence that certain pathologies could stiffen these chorionic villi membranes resulting in problems like preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). There is also evidence that ultrasound waveforms of umbilical veins can identify pathological pregnancies. These findings prompted the creation of a custom flow phantom that mimics circulation during pregnancy. This phantom imitates fetal and maternal flow dynamics along with placental stiffness, which can be observed using ultrasound. The methodological findings from the flow phantom will then be applied to a small sample of clinical data. Results from this project will help to provide a better understanding of the link between placental stiffness and the conditions preeclampsia and IUGR. Ultimately conclusions could inform a potentially clinically viable solution to identifying pregnancies with complications.

Drake is a rising senior majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biomedical Science. He became interested in ultrasound after helping in a study utilizing ultrasound in high school and volunteering for a clinical study. He thinks ultrasound is interesting because it does not use radiation and is not as invasive as other imaging technologies. He hopes to continue research with imaging in the future. Outside of research, Drake enjoys tennis, kayaking, and reading history books.

 

Joshua Strauss | Microbiology

Josh’s honors thesis is focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a deadly and incurable lung disease with a median survival of 3 years. The aim of his honors thesis is to determine the impact of the gut microbiome on IPF pathogenesis. The gut microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live within the gastrointestinal tract, and its health and composition is believed to have widespread effects on the body, including modulating inflammation and the immune system. Josh’s hypothesis is that the gut microbiome – its composition and health – has a significant effect on the pathogenesis and outcome of IPF. Josh uses a mouse model where he looks at hydroxyproline assays and 16s sequencing data from the mouse samples to get fibrosis measurements and gut microbiome information respectively. Understanding the underlying causes of IPF is an important step in defeating the disease.

Josh is a rising senior with a major in Microbiology and a minor in Philosophy. He wants to spend his life doing research because he believes it is the best way to help the maximum number of people possible. Josh started in his current lab as a freshman after cold-emailing all the labs he thought looked cool, and after working there for a few months, he fell in love with the research and the people in his lab. He plans to continue immunology research in graduate school.

 

Ayush Trivedi | Biology, Health, and Society

Pancreatic cancer is currently the third leading cause of cancer-related mortality and has a survival rate of around 10%. Due to a harsh tumor microenvironment, cancer cells metabolically rewire themselves in order to survive and proliferate. Thus, further understanding metabolic rewiring in cancer cells can reveal metabolic vulnerabilities that can be leveraged for more effective therapies. One potential metabolic vulnerability Ayush is interested in studying is the hexosamine biosynthesis pathway (HBP). The HBP is an evolutionarily-conserved metabolic pathway, and the first and rate-limiting enzyme is called glutamine fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase 1, or GFAT1. The goal of the HBP is to generate the metabolite UDP-GlcNAc, which is a crucial precursor for an essential post-translational modification called glycosylation. Previous studies have found that DON, a drug that targets GFAT1, sensitized cancer cells to anti-PD1 therapy. Anti-PD1 therapy is a type of immunotherapy which prevents PD-1 and PD-L1 binding, keeping T cells active to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Because DON targets other glutamine-utilizing enzymes and not just GFAT1, Ayush’s thesis will investigate if targeting the HBP is sufficient to cause anti-tumor effects and sensitization to anti-PD1 therapy.

Ayush is a rising senior majoring in Biology, Health, and Society with a minor in Music. He began working in the Lyssiotis lab his freshman year through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Over the years, he has become fascinated with studying the biochemical pathways of cancer cells and hopes that his research will help contribute to a broader understanding of cancer cell metabolism. In his free time, Ayush enjoys DJing, producing electronic music, spending time outdoors, and hanging out with friends. 

 

Shuchen Wen | Cognitive Science

What happens in the human mind when we read? As psychologist Edmund Huey put it, to understand the mental processes of reading really would be “to describe very many of the most intricate workings of the human mind”. In an effort to account for such convoluted processes, a generation of cognitive psychologists proposed several theoretical models over the past decades, as behavioral data was being collected for a substantial body of research. With an avid interest in language and reading, rising senior Shuchen Wen plans to explore how additional cross-linguistic data could be used to evaluate and improve the current theoretical cognitive models of reading.

Shuchen is pursuing an honors degree in Cognitive Science and a minor in Translation Studies. To approach the multifaceted mental processes of reading, Shuchen plans to focus on statistical learning, a human process of detecting and internalizing recurring patterns from complex environment input. Statistical learning holds an important role in reading acquisition; yet the process takes on various forms in different writing systems. By carefully parsing through the cross-linguistic differences and integrating additional behavioral data with an informed theoretical model, we will be one step closer to understanding the universal mechanism of reading acquisition and statistical learning.

 

Elizabeth Yoon | History

For her Honors thesis, Elizabeth is researching Korean New Women (신여성). New Women is a term used to refer to women in the 1920s-1940s who received education in East Asia, often studying abroad in Japan. With their newfound education, they published writing, taught in schools, and some advocated for radical feminism. Elizabeth's research examines the ideological landscape surrounding these women — Japanese Imperialism, Korean nationalism, and Chinese Confucianism — and uses them to inform her survey of Western perceptions of elite Korean womanhood. Elizabeth's research pulls from diary entries and published reports from Western missionaries living in Korea. Her objective this summer is to keep the women's agency at the forefront of her mind as she conducts research.

Elizabeth is a rising senior majoring in History and minoring in Classical Civilizations. Elizabeth first became interested in her thesis topic while studying abroad at Yonsei University in South Korea. During the academic term, She can be found in the stacks of the Undergraduate Library or in the newsroom of the Michigan Daily where she served as the 2021 Managing Editor of the Arts section. Beyond her interest in modern Korean History, Elizabeth enjoys studying Post-Reconstructionism U.S.A and epic Greek and Roman poetry.