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2023 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 2023 Honors Summer Fellows.

Sepsis is the body’s organ-damaging reaction resulting from a dysregulated reaction to infection. It is one of the highest causes of deaths in hospitals and can result in many long-term complications. Even after recovery, patients are at an increased risk of rehospitalization and enhanced injury from further infections. Brett’s thesis is exploring the role of monocytes, a cell involved in fighting infections, in enhancing lung injury in a post-sepsis mouse model. He hypothesizes that post-sepsis monocytes enhance lung injury by activating neutrophils to cause a damaging immune response. Understanding how sepsis can cause these long-term effects is critical in developing treatment to ease the burden.

Brett is a rising senior studying biochemistry and hopes to go to medical school after graduation to become a physician scientist. He has been with the Singer-Standiford lab for four years, studying the long-term effects of sepsis, and is excited to take a more independent role in discovery and develop his skills as a researcher.

When you get ready in the morning, do you put on a button up or opt for a dress? Do you shave or let your facial and body hair grow out? Maybe you make an effort to hide your chest or accentuate your waist? How much space do you take up when you sit? Do you hold the door for a coworker? These are just some examples of how each individual, through everyday choices of clothing, accessories, tone of voice, body language, and physique chooses to communicate their gender to others. Olivia is interested in how culture shapes and constrains how gender and sexual minorities express their gender. Her thesis uses in depth interviews to learn how LGBTQ+ students’ degree of feminine gender expression affects the social expectations placed on them as well as how they are perceived by others through everyday social encounters. Olivia hopes that this research will work to address how homophobia and transphobia are perpetuated through the scrutinization of feminine gender expression and what barriers LGBTQ+ individuals face in expressing themselves the way they wish to.

Olivia is a double major in Sociology and Philosophy with a sub-major in Law, Justice and Social Change. Olivia is interested in using qualitative research to explore the social construction of gender, sexuality and systems of inequality. Ultimately, Olivia’s goal is to go onto a PhD program in Sociology and continue pursuing research that illuminates the subtle ways oppression is perpetuated through social institutions, meanings, and interactions. In her free time, Olivia sings in The University of Michigan Women’s Glee Club, enjoys knitting and spending time in nature with family and friends.

Disgust is not an emotion we feel positively about, but it is actually an adaptation that has played a crucial role in the evolutionary success of humans by preventing us from engaging in activities that could be harmful to our genetic success. Unfortunately, some of the evolved behaviors that once helped us to avoid pathogens and keep social cohesion are maladaptive in the modern era. In a world facing climate change and a scarcity of natural resources, disgust often plays a deleterious role in preventing us from switching to more sustainable behaviors. Ginger is researching the role disgust plays in preventing the widespread adoption of sustainable food alternatives like insects and cultured meat. She hopes to identify the root causes for the disgust and rejection of these foods so that she can craft an intervention that will help people overcome their disgust to make more sustainable food choices.

Ginger is a rising senior double majoring in Psychology and Program in the Environment. A love for both of her majors led Ginger to focus on their overlap; particularly how an understanding of psychology can help promote more sustainable behaviors. She works in the Evolutionary Social Psychology lab and as an undergraduate coordinator in the English Language Institute. After graduation, Ginger hopes to enroll in a PhD program for social psychology where she will continue to conduct research.

Approximately 39 million people live with Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV) worldwide, many from minority and socioeconomically deprived populations. Unlike most viral infections, HIV can overcome the host’s innate and adaptive immune response to establish a lifelong infection in nearly every infected person, primarily through the use of several viral accessory proteins. One of these accessory proteins, Vpr, is highly conserved among HIV variants as well as evolutionarily related viruses including Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). Vpr is necessary for optimal viral spread in macrophages, which are critical components of the host immune system and important initial targets of HIV infection, but the mechanism of action is poorly understood. Thomas’ honors thesis focuses on understanding how Vpr can suppress the human immune system and selectively enhance HIV spread in macrophages, leading to greater viral spread within the human host.

Thomas is a rising senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Honors Microbiology. Thomas plans to pursue an MD/PhD in immunology with a research focus on host-microbe interactions. Thomas aspires to become a physician-scientist pursuing novel translational research and advocating for equitable patient care. Thomas enjoys being a first responder, pilot, SACNISTA, and CPR instructor in his free time.

Amphibians are the most threatened class of vertebrate animals on the planet, battling a slew of human-facilitated challenges such as changing climates, habitat loss, pollution, and the enhanced spread of devastating diseases that together wreak havoc on regional and global biodiversity. Two of the most formidable pathogens in worldwide circulation are the fungus Bd (agent of the disease chytridiomycosis) and the viruses known as Ranaviruses (agents of the disease ranavirosis). Although they interact in complex multi-host, multi-pathogen systems, Bd and Ranavirus disease dynamics are most often discussed separately: moreover, co-infection by these pathogens is rarely studied despite shared host species, geographic overlap, and co-infected animals observed in nature.

With the goal of spurring research that better informs wild frog disease mitigation efforts, Evelyn’s thesis project will use a live model to investigate the disease outcomes of Bd/Ranavirus co-infection. Because interactions between co-infecting pathogens and immune defenses may impact the duration and intensity of infection and spreading potential, Evelyn hopes that elucidating individual-level responses to co-infection will help improve disease models for predicting downstream community-level changes to transmission levels (spread), seasonal mortality (death rates), and environmental persistence (future risk).

Evelyn is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and soon a master’s degree in Bioinformatics. She designed this project after spending a year alongside fellow frog-lovers and passionate fungal biologists in the Tim James Mycology Lab group, who have been nothing but supportive and inspiring. With broad career goals surrounding wildlife conservation, she hopes the skills gained from her thesis project and degree programs will support future work in environmental risk management.

Early in the twentieth century, two ideological forces of radical socialism and Zionism converged in Ottoman Palestine with the establishment of the first kibbutz (meaning “a gathering” in Hebrew) in 1910. Kibbutzim were collective agricultural settlements where residents lived, ate, worked, and shared property. The members of kibbutzim described themselves as chalutzim, the Hebrew word for pioneers, because they saw themselves as pioneers of the social structure that would emancipate Jews from antisemitism broadly, as well as liberate individuals from the capitalist structures of Europe. Kibbutzim, with their political and economic egalitarianism as well as discouragement of the patriarchal structure often linked to capitalism, presented a unique and often empowering environment for women. However, there was wide variation in the experiences and ideologies of kibbutz women, and many private writings express frustration and disappointment with kibbutz life. Maya’s thesis investigates the lives and political ideologies of the women who lived and worked on kibbutzim from 1910-1948 by understanding them through a historical approach, rather than evaluating their adherence to ideals of socialism or Zionism. Through primary resources and historical conversation, her thesis seeks to paint a more complete and considered picture of womanhood in 1910-1948 kibbutzim.

Maya is a rising senior studying History, and is especially curious about the intersections of gender, sex, and economics over the course of human history. In her free time she enjoys cooking in-season produce from the Ann Arbor farmers market, going for walks around the Big House and Crisler Center, and co-hosting a podcast about media and pop culture.

Jordan’s study aims to investigate the experiences of women of color who are active members of historically white social sororities, colloquially known as “Greek Life,” at a highly-selective public institution such as the University of Michigan. Grounded in Hamilton et. al’s analytical framework of hegemonic femininity, her study seeks to examine how these women make sense of dynamics of power, oppression and marginalization as they occur within their chapter and in wider Panhellenic and Greek Life systems, as well as dynamics arising from their status as “dually marginalized” on account of their racial and gender identities. Jordan intends to utilize in-depth interviews that include activities that ask participants to explore their many social and personal identities, and hopes to explore Greek Life as a space for the critical intersections of race, class and gender.

Jordan has always had a keen interest in higher education research, stemming from their time facilitating intergroup dialogue workshops for student organizations both in and out of Greek Life. With her research she hopes to add further knowledge to the rising discourse surrounding Greek Life as an institution. She is a rising senior in Sociology with three minors in Intergroup Relations Education, American Culture and The Environment. When not working on her thesis, Jordan can often be found around Central Campus giving tours to prospective students or taking “photosynthesis naps” in the Law Quad.

Fast fashion—clothing produced inexpensively and rapidly in response to ever-changing trends—is immensely popular for its style and affordability, especially among teenagers and young adults. However, the fast fashion industry negatively impacts the environment by producing large amounts of waste, creating carbon emissions, and contributing to water pollution. Why do we continue to purchase from stores and brands that produce fast fashion, even when we know about the negative effects of fast fashion on the environment? Ilana aims to explore this question from a cognitive and economic perspective, investigating the role of delay discounting—an economic phenomenon that refers to peoples’ bias toward the present and disregard for the future—in the decision to participate in fast fashion. Through experimental and survey research with economic discounting tasks, she hopes to first discover the extent of peoples’ discounting in regard to the environment when purchasing clothing items, and she later intends to investigate the effectiveness of a designed intervention on diminishing this discounting. 

Ilana is a rising senior majoring in Cognitive Science and Economics with a minor in Moral and Political Philosophy. She is broadly interested in the study of decision-making, and she chose to apply this interest to the environment for her thesis because, in the midst of climate change, it is important that we learn more about how people make decisions involving the environment; the more we know, the more easily we can create tools to improve environmental decision-making. In her free time, Ilana can be found hammocking in the Diag, petting dogs, or sipping iced coffee.

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, currently 74 years old, was a member of the Manson family, a cult led by the infamous Charles Manson. After his arrest in 1969, she continued to support him and his ideologies, leading to her attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford on September 5, 1975. She served 34 years in prison under a life sentence and was released in 2009. Maya’s thesis aims to dissect how Squeaky Fromme’s treatment in the media during and after her trial reflects the culture of the 1970s, addressing themes of gender-based discrimination, anti-cult hysteria, and media sensationalism. The 70s present a myriad of opportunities for historical inquiry, but Maya will be focusing on how Squeaky’s narrative fits into the greater context of the second wave feminism movement.

Maya is a rising senior studying History with a minor in Law, Justice, and Social Change. She is particularly interested in the intersection of these two disciplines and taking a deeper look at infamous criminal trials, which led to her choice of topic. Her interest in legal history was further cultivated during her study abroad term at King’s College in London, England. Outside of academic work, she is the Treasurer of the Delta Gamma Phi Pre-Law Sorority, Cellist in the Campus Philharmonic Orchestra, and an avid lover of true-crime documentaries.

In March 2022, to the shock of many, American fantasy author Brandon Sanderson launched a Kickstarter campaign to help print and ship four new novels that garnered over $41 million of support, more than double the next most funded campaign on the platform. Though Sanderson is well-known in fantasy literature communities for his large, interconnected universe of books, the Cosmere, and for finishing the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, he does not have the same level of name-recognition as author-celebrities like George R.R. Martin. What Sanderson lacks in widespread popularity, however, he makes up with fervency from the fanbase he does have. While the Kickstarter campaign was actively accepting pledges, Sanderson released only minimal information on what the four novels associated with it would cover, but his fans still trusted him enough to forward the campaign to record-breaking success. For her honors thesis, Anna Nachazel intends to look at the connection Sanderson’s fans feel to his work and to the author himself, how Sanderson’s books and the online forums built around them encourage reader engagement, and Sanderson’s self-presentation in digital spaces.

Anna Nachazel is a rising senior studying English and Creative Writing & Literature. Her interest in authorship and fan communities stem from her personal experiences as both a fan and an aspiring author. She was introduced to Brandon Sanderson through his Mistborn series and recommends its first book, The Final Empire, to anyone looking to enter Sanderson’s Cosmere.

During the early months of 2011 and beyond, what are now known as the “Arab Spring” protests against corruption and inequity spread across the Middle East and North Africa. An oft-neglected story of these movements, however, takes place in the Gulf States, specifically in Bahrain. While Bahrain’s 2011 uprising against King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was unsuccessful, civil disobedience and protest in the country—and brutal torture of rights advocates and demonstrators—shared a simultaneous uptick. Torture of many kinds in Bahraini prisons has become increasingly rampant since 2011, but research, especially on sexual and gender-based torture, is lacking.

Nina’s thesis intends to understand the realities on the ground—conditions of protest and detention, gender, age, religion, and other factors—that lead to gender-based and sexual violence against detainees. Using non-governmental organization data and the Bahraini government’s own data on torture, Nina hopes to elucidate how and for whom the Bahraini security forces elect to utilize sexual or gender-based torture in lieu of other methods.

Nina is a double major in International and Comparative Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies, and has a minor in Middle East Studies. As a Donia Human Rights Fellow with interest in state-led gender-based violence, Nina’s thesis combines her interests and develops insight into a remarkably under-studied country in a remarkably well-studied region. With 141 countries still practicing torture today, including gender-based and sexual torture, this work is more important than ever. Outside of putting in countless hours on EBSCO databases, Nina likes taking walks in her neighborhood, reading, and watching Youtube with her roommates.

There is no doubt: bilingualism is rising in the United States with Spanish being the most prevalent language to acquire. In linguistics, prosody is an umbrella term for how stress, phrasal organization, and rhythm comprise the pattern of a language. Rhythm is an important feature of how a speaker’s fluency in a language is perceived. Prior studies have demonstrated a proven relationship between rhythm and musicality; specifically, individuals who are more musically inclined tend to have a greater understanding of the rhythmic properties of a language.

Additionally, rhythm varies between languages. Languages are typically categorized as stress-timed or syllable-timed (or mora-timed for Japanese, Hawaiian, and a few ancientlanguages), but this is also flexible depending on regional dialect and other individual factors. Languages are also characterized into tonal or non-tonal languages. Tonal languages use different pitch contours on the same syllable or word in order to convey different meanings of the word (e.g., ‘ma’ in Mandarin). Non-tonal languages only use different pitch contours within an entire phrase to convey different semantic meanings. The combination of these ideas has rarely been studied but should be significant to the fields of linguistics and language acquisition and warrant further study.

Elisabeth is a rising senior pursuing a double major in Linguistics and Spanish with a minor in Judaic Studies. She aspires to be a Speech-Language Pathologist for Spanish-English bilingual children. Elisabeth is a musically-inclined person (she played piano for about 10 years); however, throughout her acquisition of Spanish in an educational setting, she has felt that her fluency issues in speaking Spanish stem from a lack of basic understanding for the rhythm of the language (Spanish is typically considered a non-tonal, syllable-timed language). While learning about the relationship between prosody and musicality as well as that of prosody and bilingualism, Elisabeth was inspired to examine the different relationships between these variables and the potential implications for how language speaking skills are generally taught in the United States.

Over 11 million people in both the United States and Canada depend on Lake Erie for their water supply, which can be negatively affected by harmful blooms of algae during summer. Nitrogen-rich agricultural runoff is thought to play a role in algal bloom growth rates and toxicity levels. Differing sources of nitrogen may impact the way that nitrogen is incorporated into organic chemical compounds by different strains of algae, influencing their competitiveness in their environment and therefore the strain makeup of the bloom. Caroline’s project will investigate the differences in nitrogen metabolism across strains of the cyanobacteria Microcystis under differing nitrogen source conditions. This will lead to a more thorough characterization of environmental influences on algal bloom makeup going forward, informing decisions on what nitrogen sources to limit during which stages of a bloom in order to minimize its negative environmental impact.

Caroline is a rising senior majoring in Earth and Environmental Science and minoring in Biochemistry. Her work in Dr. Kharbush’s Microbial Biogeochemistry Lab combines these two fields of study. Caroline is passionate about applying small-scale science to large-scale environmental issues, and she hopes to continue researching biogeochemistry topics in graduate school. In her free time, she enjoys studying foreign languages, writing original fiction, and listening to metal music.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition characterized by high blood glucose and has developed into a major public health issue. Diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) can cause high-risk pregnancies, and these mothers have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Pancreatic islets are mini-organs that produce glucose-regulating hormones, insulin and glucagon, that protect from diabetes. These protein hormones come from prohormone precursors (proinsulin from islet beta cells and proglucagon from islet alpha cells) and rely on protein quality control mechanisms for production. Previous studies found that mice with cell-specific inactivation of key protein quality control pathways had a dramatic loss of islet alpha cells along with a significant reduction in glucagon production. Rohit’s thesis will explore the role of glucagon-producing islet alpha cells in supporting normal glucose metabolism during pregnancy.

Rohit is a rising senior majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB). He began working in the Reinert lab during his freshman year through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Over the years, he has become fascinated with studying protein quality control pathways in alpha cells and hopes that his research will help contribute to a broader understanding of how alpha cells influence islet function in diabetes. This summer, Rohit looks forward to preparing materials for an Honors course he will be teaching in the fall called “Diabetes & Health Disparities.”

“Be afraid, be very afraid,” the iconic tagline of David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) instructs us. But, be afraid of what? Whether it’s a hulking psycho-killer with a knife and a mask, a vengeful spirit with dibs on a just-moved-into house, or a gross-looking Jeff Goldblum, horror touches each of us in highly specific and even intimate ways. One of the genre’s greatest powers is its ability to project our fears back at us through the screen — fears informed by the social, political, and cultural conditions of the time in which a horror film emerges. Through both their adherence to and intentional subversion of generic conventions, horror offers us a guidebook to popular attitudes about a range of taboo subjects. Among these are sex and gender, epitomized in the Final Girl of the slasher subgenre. However, much time has passed since this was first recognized as a trope and much has changed regarding our conversations on these topics. This project, titled Psycho at Large, will investigate the state of Final Girl-hood in modern slashers for evidence of our current anxieties, especially considering our post-MeToo world and ongoing trans moral panic.

Atticus Spicer is a rising senior studying Film, Television, and Media with minors in Writing and Digital Studies. They have worked with queer advocacy groups for almost a decade, and now serve as the Graphic Design Editor for The Michigan Gayly, Graphic Artist for the Political Inqueery podcast, and contributes to and designs the Trans and Gender Nonconforming Arts Review. A lifelong horror fanatic, Atticus has spent years trying to — mostly successfully — turn every project he works on into something at least horror-adjacent. Their love of film studies, writing, visual art, and research have combined forces for this project, and he looks forward to exploring slashers, gender, and sex with a transmasculine protagonist in his forthcoming webcomic. Outside of these, they love flipping knives, crocheting, painting, fixating on Gordon Ramsay, and reading.

As humans’ closest living relatives, chimpanzees provide a unique opportunity to investigate and understand the evolutionary origins of traits we often consider “human,” including sociality and social flexibility. Chimpanzee communities are extremely dynamic, with group compositions that can change several times in one day. This requires young chimpanzees to learn to effectively interact with a wide variety of individuals. Recent research has shown that play is an important avenue of social development, so Mahima’s thesis project will investigate how social factors—such as kin relationship, sex, and age—affect gestural communication behaviors during chimpanzee play. In other words, do chimpanzees change how they play depending on their relationship to their play partner? Her research will focus on subadult (<15 years of age) chimpanzees in the Ngogo and Kanyawara communities in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Based on previous research, she expects younger chimpanzees to use more tactile gestures, which involve physical contact between play partners. She also expects to see older chimpanzees employ self-handicapping behaviors, which inhibit the signaller’s ability to achieve their goal, when playing with younger chimpanzees.

Mahima is a rising senior studying Evolutionary Anthropology and Neuroscience. Her interest in chimpanzee play behavior and social relationships and dynamics began during her work in Dr. Laura MacLatchy’s lab her freshman year. She hopes to integrate her understanding of evolution and social behavior into her future career in medicine. Outside of academics, she enjoys baking, knitting, and crocheting.

Marriage is often cited as one of the most important factors contributing to an individual's happiness, and marriage patterns and preferences have major implications for many societal issues. As the role of women has shifted in the past century, with higher female wages, increased female labor force participation, and more women graduating with college degrees than men, so too have the payoffs and interests that motivate marriage. Therefore, to contextualize the aforementioned social issues in a modern light, it is important to examine the factors and preferences that make up marriage behavior through the increasingly common emergence of men who hold the identity of “working mothers’ sons.”

Jiayang (Joy) Tang is a rising senior majoring in Economics and International Studies, with a minor in Business Administration. Her love for research has largely stemmed from her time as a lead research assistant in ODESI Lab, a lab in Management and Organizations at the Ross School of Business that examines workplace behavior with her mentor Elizabeth Trinh, as well as her role as President of the Michigan Economics Society. In particular, she has always found research involving individuals’ preferences and decision-making within the Economics discipline to be fascinating, and is interested in examining the intersection between men’s marriage decision-making behavior and changes in female labor force participation in recent years. Outside of research, Joy enjoys spending time with her two younger sisters, teaching art, and inline skating.

While humans might be able to recognize people by part of their faces, we typically need to see someone’s entire face when we meet them initially, which is why it might be difficult to recognize someone wearing sunglasses or a mask. This phenomenon, known as holistic processing, is a cognitive strategy where recognition is based on the sum of features as a whole face as opposed to a patchwork of eyes, nose, and mouth.

 Similarly, paper wasps rely on their intelligence to establish order and assign tasks amongst their nest members. While some populations of paper wasps use facial recognition and demonstrate holistic processing within their own species, other populations of the same species lack this recognition ability. When these two populations are raised together, however, non-recognition wasps become more proficient at facial recognition. For their thesis, Anna is studying how holistic processing may be involved in this shift. Does the experience of growing up with wasps who use holistic processing activate this skill in wasps who don’t? Or do they simply get better at memorizing patterns? Understanding both links and differences between these two populations’ recognition abilities gives us insight into cognitive evolution amongst not only wasps, but also other animals.

Anna is a rising senior studying Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity (EEB). Since joining the Tibbetts Lab freshman year, they have become increasingly interested in bridging the gap between ecological research and community engagement. Through this thesis project, they hope to practice advocating for understudied and over-hated organisms––like wasps. Aside from their laboratory endeavors, Anna enjoys reading, writing, drawing, and participating in community events.

Snakebite is a neglected tropical disease that affects up to 2.7 million people annually, resulting in hundreds of thousands of permanent disabilities and 81,000-138,000 deaths each year. Treatment efforts are often hampered by the diversity of venom composition across snake species. Two proteins implicated as inhibitors of snake venom components, serpina1 and serpina3, show massive variation in the number of gene copies between rodent species. Increasing the copy number of a gene can increase the effective dose of the protein it encodes, while also allowing for functional diversification of the copies through an increased tolerance for mutation. In this way, the myriad copies of rodents’ innate anti-venom compounds might have specialized in their targets to more effectively inhibit the venom of snakes that predate them. Meilyn’s thesis explores how the co-localization of certain snakes and rodents affects the evolution of gene duplications and functional variation between the rodents’ serpina1 and serpina3, potentially assisting pharmacological efforts to reduce snakebite casualties.

Meilyn is a rising senior majoring in Biology, Health, and Society with minors in Creative Writing and LGBTQ+ Studies. Meilyn began their research pursuits by studying the behavior of snakes, one of their favorite animals, and later merged that work with their interest in protein biology to create the foundation of this thesis. She hopes to obtain an MD degree and work toward making medical treatment more accessible. Outside work, Meilyn loves to read fantasy and mystery novels, make traditional and digital art, discuss queer theory, and play with her cat, Momo.