Student Story

Undergraduate Recipients of 2023 Senior Scholar Award

Photos of the six award winners

Six seniors across the University have been selected as recipients of the 2023 Senior Scholar Award, in recognition of outstanding scholarship and contribution to a field of study. Sponsored by the Provost's Office and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, an Awards Showcase will be held on April 19, for students to present their research.

Photo of Anna BurtPsychology, Women's and Gender Studies major Anna Burt '23, "The Impacts of Inspiration Porn"

With their mentor, Assistant Professor Megan McCarty, Burt explored the impacts of inspiration porn, defined as "images of visibly disabled people performing physical activities similar to those of able-bodied people with minimal accommodations accompanied by short motivational captions that are meant to encourage viewers" (Hadley, 2016). "Since inspiration porn depicts disabled people achieving athletic goals with minimal assistance, it may undermine understanding of, and support for, necessary disability accommodations," says Burt. Using an online survey of 296 participants, Burt noted "a significant effect on dehumanization [of disabled people]," and cited the need for further research on this topic.

Photo of Catherine CoxInternational Relations major Catherine Cox '23, "A Comparative Study on the Impact of Political Regimes in Mitigating the Gendered Impacts of Conflict"

Mentored by Associate Professor Benjamin Cole, Cox sought to explore the influence of political regimes on the gendered consequences of conflict. She focused on six major global conflicts (from 1996-2022) in democratic, anocratic, and autocratic regimes. "In an attempt to measure the gendered impact of each case-study, we then coded for three common gendered consequences of war (sexual violence, displacement, and economic disenfranchisement) for each conflict – aiming to determine if we could quantify a measurable difference in these variables between each of the three political regimes," says Cox. "Not only do the findings of this report contribute to our understanding of the impacts of conflict on women and girls and how the political regime of the nation may influence their experiences, but lessons from this report can be used to help implement effective programs to support women and girls living through conflict as well as help humanitarian efforts best target and prioritize aid."

Photo of Kiani JacobsExercise Science major Kiani Jacobs '23, "Development of Glabrous and Hairy Skin Innervating TrkB+ and Ret+ Neurons"

With the guidance of her mentor, Dr. Charalampia Koutsioumpa (PhD at Harvard Medical School), Jacobs studied Low threshold mechanoreceptors (LTMRs), which are "sensory neurons responsible for transmitting signals between the spinal cord and the skin," with the aim of investigating "the anatomical characteristics of LTMR subtypes and how their functions change based on their cutaneous targets in glabrous and hairy skin," says Jacobs. "Through our research, we aim to understand the sensory neuron development and its functions under normal conditions. This will contribute to the development of treatments for disorders associated with dysfunctions of the peripheral nervous system."

Photo of Kaycee JacksonPolitical Science/Africana Studies major Kaycee Jackson '23, "Understanding the Outlawing of 'Critical Race Theory' in Mississippi"

With her mentors, Assistant Professors Abel Djassi Amado and Tatiana Cruz, Jackson's study "critically examines how the notion of 'critical race theory' (CRT) has been weaponized by politicians in order to limit the amount that public educators can teach about the history of race in this country." Her analysis of speeches, interviews, and congressional hearings of politicians uncovered patterns in how CRT has been misconstrued in contemporary discourse, noting common themes (including patriotism, red-baiting, and the protection of children) used by legislators to justify their anti-CRT policy choices. Says Jackson, "this analysis explores how values and beliefs are communicated to constituents, especially considering these same themes have been utilized by politicians across the country."

Photo of Dan NguyenPhysics major Dan Nguyen '23, "Experimental Detection of Skull-based Ultrasonic Lamb Waves as an Intracranial Pressure Monitoring Method"

With the guidance of research advisor Professor Jason White, Nguyen explored a method to monitor intracranial pressure (ICP) non-invasively. She remarked,"Severely high ICP can damage the central nervous system so its monitoring is crucial for patients deemed to be at high risk of elevated ICP, such as those with traumatic brain injuries or undergoing neurosurgery." Nguyen investigated the potential use of ultrasound as a noninvasive alternative to this procedure. "Lamb waves were generated in a submerged acrylic plate with various amounts of pressure loading on one side and their leaky components were detected and analyzed," says Nguyen.

Photo of Miranda LeclercHistory major Miranda Leclerc '23, "'The worthy friend of housekeepers': An Archaeological Reading of Scientific Cooking, 1878 to 1922"

With Associate Professor Stephen Berry as a mentor, Leclerc researched the relationship between the Boston Cooking School (which published one of the most successful cookbooks in the United States) and Simmons College, which purchased the school in 1902 and "adopted the Boston Cooking School's curriculum to prioritize financial savviness and efficiency in the kitchen." For her research, Leclerc frames The Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1896) and Simmons College's Experiments and Recipes (1915) as archaeological sites. "I argue that by merging domestic labor with chemistry, health sciences, and economics, scientific cooking staked a gendered claim to political equality," says Leclerc. "Furthermore, the study reveals how industrialization and increased women's education transitioned scientific cooking from an intellectual movement to today's standard of American home cooking."

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