Theses - Honors College

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    Asteroseismology of the Pulsating White Dwarf Stars in the Cataclysmic Variables GW Lib and V386 Ser
    (2024) Afreen, Fizza; Castanheira Endl, Barbara; Astrophysics.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    White dwarf stars (WDs) are the final stage of evolution for approximately 98 % of all stars in the universe in which they are cooling. As WDs cool, they cross instability strips where they are observed to pulsate. WDs are found both in isolation and in binary systems. Cataclysmic Variables (CVs) are interacting binary systems in which the WD accretes matter from a companion star, resulting in an accretion disk around the WD. To date, there are 18 CVs with pulsating WDs. Pulsations were first detected in the WDs in the CVs GW Lib and V386 Ser in 1997 and 2004, respectively, making these the most well-studied systems. I used the published pulsation periods of these WDs to determine their independent modes to probe the internal structure of these stars through asteroseismology. I compared these observed modes to theoretical modes calculated using the White Dwarf Evolution Code (WDEC). I used external mass determinations to guide my searches for the most likely structure of these two stars. My study provides insights on the masses of hydrogen and helium for the WDs in GW Lib and V386 Ser, showing that they are most likely thin. As of the publication of this thesis, our study is one of the first attempts at asteroseismology of WDs in CVs.
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    Trends in Size Selectivity of Gastropod Prey by Naticid Predators: A Case Study from the Stone City Bluff Member
    (2024-01-10) Holman, Victoria; Petsios, Elizabeth; Geology.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    Predator-prey interactions often provide data on the health and complexity of an ecosystem. Looking back into the past allows us to understand how the trophic web changes over time. Naticids are a family of extant gastropods that prey upon other mollusks and exhibit size selectivity of prey. They create diagnostically shaped drill holes when attacking their prey to reach the soft-bodied organism inside the shell. We have gathered samples from the Whiskey Bridge and Little Brazos localities of the Stone City Bluff Member (Crockett Formation, Claiborne Group, Middle Eocene, central/southeast Texas) to study trends in size selectivity among naticids using drill holes. In this study, we examine the use of naticid drill holes on other gastropods as a proxy for predator size, calculate frequency of predation between the two locales, and determine what statistically significant differences in prey and predator size there are, if any, between the two locales. We used the Wilcox sum-rank test to determine if there are any statistically significant differences between the distribution of sizes of drilled specimens and undrilled specimens. Then, we used a linear correlation model to examine trends between prey size and predator size. There appears to be size selectivity of slightly larger prey present in the Whiskey Bridge locality and in the combined data from both localities. However, this trend is not present as apparently in the Little Brazos locality. Both localities appear to show a statistically significant correlation between drill hole size and drilled gastropod size indicating that larger naticids tend to target larger gastropod prey and smaller naticids tend to target smaller gastropod prey. To verify these findings, more work should be done by others to repeat this study and contextualize other biotic and abiotic factors influencing these observed trends.
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    Investigating the production of antimicrobial peptides using the SUMO protein expression system in E. coli
    (2024) Mersereau, Mary deLissa; Kearney, Christopher; Science Research Fellows.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    In an age of increasing antibiotic resistance, antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are a promising alternative to antibiotics. While numerous publications have documented AMP expression, few have used the same production system to express a variety of different AMPs. In this study, eight AMPs were expressed in Escherichia coli using the SUMO carrier protein. Six of the eight AMPs were designed to target Helicobacter pylori, a gram-negative bacterium known for causing chronic gastritis and gastric cancer. The goal was to identify a universal AMP production system, assess the capabilities of the SUMO carrier protein, and identify AMPs likely to eliminate H. pylori. The two metrics used to assess expression success were yield and activity against the target bacteria. The remaining two AMPs targeted a gram-positive bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus, and showed excellent yield and activity. However, yield was poor for all six AMPs targeting H. pylori. Five of these had enough yield to conduct activity tests, but activity was low for all. Thus, we demonstrated that SUMO is an unreliable carrier protein for AMPs toxic to gram-negative bacteria. These results led the Kearney Lab to identify a superior production method, the Inclusion Body Method. Five of the AMPs targeting H. pylori were transferred to inclusion body vectors and have now been produced in good quantity. AMPs remain a promising and exciting alternative treatment to antibiotics and further exploration is needed.
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    The House of Healing for the Soul: Bibliotherapy and Book Clubs Within Geriatric Care
    (2024) Pursley, Ella; Weaver, William; Great Texts of the Western Tradition.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    In a culture where healthcare and the humanities are increasingly alienated from one another, there is a great need to build bridges between hospitals and libraries. Bibliotherapy, defined in this thesis as the process of reading and discussing literature for the purpose of personal and communal development, acknowledges the potential of literature and poetry to heal personal and communal hurts. Inspired by past and current research concerning bibliotherapy, I led a book club for aging adults at a local independent living facility during the spring of 2023. Using the analytic strategy of humanistic inquiry to review the transcripts of our thirteen book club meetings, I argue that reading together has intra-personal, inter-personal, and communal benefits for those who participated. This case study shows that bibliotherapy within this small group was effective and proposes areas for future research into book club-style bibliotherapy groups among the elderly population.
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    The Journey to Physician: French and American Medical Education through a Comparative Lens
    (2024) Grunkemeyer, Graciela; Collins, Holly; University Scholars.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    Medical school is notoriously challenging both academically and physically, and media sources often portray an inaccurate version of the journey a physician takes to become a doctor. This thesis is a bicultural examination of medical students’ experience achieved through analysis of existing research and personal interviews. Following an overview of the medical education systems in France and the United States, the personal accounts of current medical trainees add a nuanced perspective to the reality of medical school. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected medical training due to quarantine and virtual education—noteworthy to the medical student experience. Finally, the thesis investigates an aspect of the American medical school curriculum, osteopathy versus allopathy, revealing a distinguishing element that the French medical education system lacks.
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    Pathogenesis of cancer-induced cachexia in aged mice
    (2024) Dao, Allen; Law, Michelle; University Scholars.; Michael Wiggs, Cory Dungan, Rebecca Rodriguez, Kim Phan, Linda Salinas, Lauren Boone, Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    Cancer cachexia is a progressive weight loss and functional impairment syndrome that 30-90% of cancer patients experience. Although most cancers associated with cachexia occur in older individuals, mouse models of cachexia primarily rely on young male mice. Limited studies compare cachexia inclusive of age and sex. Even fewer studies also investigate heart muscle. Older individuals have higher heart disease risk, and cachexia weakens heart function. Therefore, this study compared cancer cachexia progression in eight groups of young and old mice of both sexes with colon-26 adenocarcinoma or sham injections. Cachectic atrophy of muscle and adipose tissue occurred in both sexes and ages, however, old mice and females had reduced losses compared to young mice and males. Tumors induced significant cardiac tissue atrophy, but there was a differential effect that sex had on atrophy with females having some protection. Preliminary cardiac PCR analysis revealed an increased inflammatory environment with decreased GDF-15 and increased IL-6 expression in tumor-bearing mice, giving insight into cardiac pathology. Older mice also had greater GDF-15 expression than young mice. In conclusion, preclinical models produced a similar wasting phenotype between sexes and ages, however, young mice have a more exacerbated and consistent phenotype. Utilizing cachexia mouse models that are representative of the human condition is important in future research and clinical care for patients with cancer cachexia.
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    Are Anxiety Symptoms Better Predicted by Cardiorespiratory Fitness or Self-Reported Physical Activity?: Correlations with General Anxiety and Anxiety Sensitivity
    (2024) Kondratieff, Andrew; Ginty, Annie; Biology.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    In recent years, anxiety disorders have increased among all demographic groups (Goodwin et al, 2020), yet only a small percentage of individuals seek treatment (Lépine, 2002). Symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder can be debilitating, demanding solutions that decrease symptoms. One popular coping mechanism for anxiety is exercise. However, the best forms and frequencies of exercise to lower anxiety levels are unclear. Of particular interest to researchers is the ability of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) versus self-reported physical activity (SRPA) to predict anxiety symptoms. In this experiment, 168 healthy young adults were administered a submaximal graded exercise test to determine CRF. Anxiety, anxiety sensitivity, and SRPA were measured via standardized questionnaires. Multiple regression analyses were performed. Independent variables (CRF and SRPA) were compared with one another and with each dependent variable (anxiety and anxiety sensitivity) to determine which independent variable effectively predicted anxiety symptoms over and above the other. The CRF raw data was found to be significantly, negatively correlated with anxiety data, anxiety sensitivity data, and anxiety sensitivity data when controlling for biological sex. The relationship between CRF raw data and anxiety data when controlling for biological sex was not statistically significant. Raw SRPA data was not significantly correlated with anxiety data or anxiety sensitivity data, regardless of controlling for biological sex. Thus, the data contributes to the conclusion that CRF is a better predictor of anxiety symptoms than SRPA.
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    The Nonprofit Heart of Waco: A Series of Documentary Photographs
    (2024) Fitzgerald, Jenna; Baker, Clark; University Scholars.; Baylor University; Honors College - Honors Program
    This collection of documentary photographs explores the everyday practices, events, and reach of three local nonprofits: Urban REAP, Creative Waco, and Caritas of Waco. With inspiration from both widely renowned and lesser-known documentary photographers like Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, and Fred Gildersleeve, I seek to go beyond the “Baylor bubble” and immerse myself in a side of the city that is unknown to the majority of the student population. In these ways, this series serves not only as an account of the select nonprofits but also as an encouragement to members of the Baylor community to be more intentional about taking part in their city and its initiatives. Documentary photographs, when captured with care, offer a window into the soul of their subject, and this project takes advantage of that medium to demonstrate how nonprofits are the heart of the Waco community.
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    Be Intelligent About AI: Should We Create Artificially Intelligent Machines?
    (2024) Burrus, Warren; Sneed, Richard; Computer Science.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    “Artificial intelligence” has become a popular term to describe an ever-growing array of technology, but what makes it intelligent? Philosopher John Searle analyzed artificial intelligence (AI) with his famous distinction between “weak” and “strong” AI, the former being data-driven tools we use daily while the latter has a mind and cognitive states of its own. However, this distinction does not fully address the equally pressing, moral question of whether we should develop or use such AI in the first place. By applying a range of both technical and fictional sources, we can define a new pair of categories, Algorithmic AI and Fictional AI, that answer not only what makes such AI intelligent, but whether we should even pursue it. Algorithmic AI is our present computer programs that merely follow advanced algorithms (Siri, Alexa, ChatGPT); creating Algorithmic AI as a tool is not itself immoral—but how we use it can be. Fictional AI, however, exhibits its own form of intelligence and, so far, only exists in fiction (Blade Runner, I, Robot); creating Fictional AI would be immoral altogether.
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    The Global Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study of Six Countries
    (2024-04-25) D'Souza, Diya; Levin , Jeff; Health Science Studies.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    The purpose of this thesis project is to examine the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in six countries, in order to determine the best approach for the next pandemic. The first chapter reviews several key communicable diseases of the last century and summarizes the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The second chapter consists of six national case studies, one from each continent, that showcase a variety of approaches to managing the pandemic. The third chapter analyzes the lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and synthesizes the case studies in order to determine key factors crucial to a successful pandemic response in the future.
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    Stare Decisis and Originalism: A Comparative Analysis of Two Legal Appeals
    (2024) Schreiner, Matthew; Winslow, Luke; Economics.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    This paper analyzes and compares two primary interpretational methods for constitutional cases in the United States Supreme Court: stare decisis and originalism. Researchers have examined the practical value of these methods individually by their ability to effectively develop jurisprudence. However, authors rarely discuss the potency of their legitimizing force and seldom tie stare decisis and originalism together in their analysis. This gap in the conversation, along with developments to rhetorical attitudes of Justices epitomized in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, ultimately inspired the direction of this research– an attempt to define the relationship between the terms’ historical significance and their use as a persuasive appeal. Though a concrete solution to blurring the line between law and opinion is perpetually evasive, recognizing the substantial similarities between applications to stare decisis and originalism is fundamental to de-politicizing the court’s analysis of precedents and the Constitution.
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    Duty-Bound: A Case for Free Exercise Exemptionism's Broad Protections of Religious Liberty
    (2024) Minkey, Sara; Corey, Elizabeth; Political Science.; Baylor University; Honors College - Honors Program
    In 1990, the United States Supreme Court revolutionized its interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution. For the nearly three and a half decades since, legal scholars have debated whether Employment Division v. Smith holds true to the Constitution. In 303 Creative v. Elenis (2023), the Court had the opportunity to reconsider Smith. Lorie Smith solely owns and operates 303 Creative, a Colorado-based website design business. Although she does not discriminate against customers based on their sexual orientation, she cannot create a website for a same-sex wedding in accordance with her deeply held religious beliefs. Ms. Smith challenged the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act under the Free Exercise Clause and Free Speech Clause. The US Supreme Court only granted certiorari on the free speech question. The Court should have also heard the free exercise issue to answer unresolved questions from the Tenth Circuit’s decision, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. 303 Creative could have been a ripe vessel for the overrule of Smith. Smith is inconsistent with all major constitutional interpretations and does not pass stare decisis review. It must be overruled. This thesis proposes a clear constitutional standard to evaluate free exercise claims that more appropriately reflects the Court’s free exercise precedent.
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    Education as Intervention: A Critical Examination of Drug Prevention Programs in U.S. Schools
    (2024) Hardin, Lauren; Eckert , Jon; Biology.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    This thesis explores the effectiveness of drug prevention programs in US schools, analyzing their outcomes and identifying successful and unsuccessful elements. Through a thorough examination of existing literature and empirical studies, this research consolidates our current knowledge of drug prevention efforts in educational settings. It looks at different types of programs and how they're delivered, focusing on their impact on reducing substance use. Additionally, it considers contextual factors like socio-economic status, cultural diversity, and community support that affect program effectiveness. The findings stress the importance of evidence-based approaches, integrating prevention into the curriculum, and maintaining consistency in program implementation for success. Furthermore, it highlights the drawbacks of certain strategies, such as scare tactics and short-term interventions, and advocates for tailored, age-appropriate interventions. By identifying effective practices and areas for improvement, this study aims to enhance drug prevention efforts in US schools.
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    War Under the Microscope: Biological Weapons and the Just War Tradition
    (2024) Sexton, Bridget; Matthews, Walter; University Scholars.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    Though biological weapons have been used for thousands of years, advancements in science and technology have revolutionized the biological threat landscape. Scientists can manipulate and engineer pathogens in ways that were previously unimaginable, making bioweapons an attractive option for both state and non-state bad actors. Despite the legal and ethical prohibitions against biological weapons, state-sponsored bioweapons programs have continued to proliferate, and the threat from lone-wolf bioterrorists continues to rise. In this thesis, I point to three primary reasons why the current prohibitions have failed to deter the development and use of bioweapons. First, I argue that the ethical and legal prohibitions against bioweapons are outdated because of recent technological and scientific advances. Second, there are virtually no means of verification which makes catching violations nearly impossible. Finally, there are no mechanisms to facilitate the enforcement of the prohibitions or to hold violators accountable. In light of the claim that the current frameworks are insufficient, I propose to turn to the just war tradition to guide future regulations and policies.
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    Ethical Considerations For Pediatric Genetic Testing: Evaluating the Perspectives of Patients, Families, and Medical Professionals for Predisposition vs. Predictive Diagnosis
    (2024) Helm, Emily; Marcum, James; University Scholars.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    The field of genetics erupted after the completion of the Human Genome Project, resulting in the advent and spread of genetic testing for numerous conditions. Alongside this new technology comes a host of ethical considerations, including access to testing, clinical utility of results, and psychosocial implications of this knowledge. Huntington’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disorder with no cure, and Lynch Syndrome, a cancer predisposition syndrome, are genetic conditions caused by a mutation in a single gene with onset in adulthood. Neither condition possesses clinical intervention or preventive measures during childhood, so is it ethical to test children at risk for these conditions before they can participate in the decision-making process? Utilizing a framework of principlism, I assess the perspectives of medical professionals, families, and pediatric patients to determine whether or not it is ethical to test children for Huntington’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease in childhood. Based on the principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice, barring extenuating circumstances in which clinical utility may arise, it is recommended that genetic testing ought to be delayed until the adolescent can participate fully in discussions about testing to minimize psychosocial burdens and preserve the child’s future autonomy.
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    Rock the Vote or Block the Vote
    (2024) Berthelot, Shea; Flavin, Patrick; American Studies.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    This thesis extends over seven chapters discussing the landscape of different kinds of election and voting laws that may result in election security/ integrity concerns, voter suppression effects, both, or neither. The introduction lays out the historical landscape of modern voting rights legislation and recent rulings and changes. This background echoed and expanded at the beginning of each substantive chapter focusing on a specific type of law. The chapters of research will include the topics of voter identification laws, voter purges or voter roll cleaning laws, voter registration laws, and laws that pertain to casting your physical ballot. There are many specifics in each topic. These specifics are defined, discussed, given examples, and evaluated to see if there are suppressive or integrity concerns. These research chapters and the conclusions drawn from the findings are followed by a conclusion summing up each chapter. Finally, chapter seven lays out a few policy recommendations that target the most glaring issues or politically feasible policy options
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    Toward the Electrical Characterization of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) Composites
    (2024-04-30) Lowe, Seamus; Gravagne, Ian; Mechanical Engineering.; Baylor University; Honors College - Honors Program
    In pursuit of greater energy and cost efficiencies, industrial demand for lightweight, high performance, and multifunctional materials is continuing to rise. In recent years, carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites have appeared in countless applications and have become a fundamental building block of a more sustainable society. Although the mechanical properties of CFRP composites have been extensively characterized, the electrical behavior of CFRP composites has been largely unexplored in existing literature. The electrical behavior of CFRP determines whether it will be effective for grounding or electromagnetic shielding. The electrical characteristics of CFRP also make it possible to utilize electromagnetic propagation or induction as non-destructive evaluation methods. However, in addition to the unusual electrical properties of carbon fiber itself, carbon fiber composites feature complex and anisotropic electrical conductivity. Toward more fully understanding the electrical behavior of CFRP composites, this study presents two independent experiments. The first of these develops techniques toward a standardized method of establishing electrical contact with CFRP composites and proposes two novel procedures. The second experiment seeks to characterize the complex impedance response of unidirectional CFRP composites. Specifically, a bulk equivalent circuit model is proposed for single laminate composites and an equivalent capacitance model is proposed for multi-laminate composites.
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    The Representation of Women in Architecture: Shedding a Light on the Contributions of Isabel Roberts and Marion Mahony Griffin
    (2024) Kraeger, Jill; King, Elise; Interior Design.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    Historically, the information needed to accurately tell the stories and contributions of women within the field of architecture and design, is lacking. Women practiced architecture around the turn of the 20th century, despite numerous obstacles, however, their stories and contributions are often buried under those of their male counterparts or simply lost and forgotten. As a result, this study highlights two critical women in the field of architecture—Isabel Roberts and Marion Mahony Griffin—both employees of Frank Lloyd Wright, and two of the founding women in American architecture during the early 1900s. Wright is one of America’s best-known architects, and for the past century, has largely been described as a lone genius. Therefore, the primary aim of this study is to form a better understanding of two prominent women working for Wright during this formative period and acknowledge the inherent gaps and contradictions in their historical narratives. Additionally, by gaining a better understanding of Mahony and Roberts, a more complete view of Wright is achieved. In addition to the written portion of this thesis, there will also be a creative component that is intended to be an impactful visual representation of much of the information collected. Through the process of critical making, a rather novel methodology that emphasizes creating as a way to engage in fruitful research and analysis, the information surrounding these two women’s contributions and the inevitable gaps in information, will be told. Ultimately, readers will learn more about the stories of Roberts and Mahony, and the completed project will bring attention to the inherent gaps in their historical narratives and seek methods to bring their contributions to light.
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    Constitution as a Bill of Rights and a Bill of Rights as a Constitution: Popular Sovereignty and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
    (2024) Goley, Audree; Block, Steve; Political Science.; Baylor University.; Honors College - Honors Program
    While the Canadian and American governments have many similarities in their origins and development, the government systems that resulted differ significantly in nature and practice. An interesting development in Canada is the remarkably activist judiciary that has become a major player in constitutional politics and development of a “Court Party” in the past forty years since the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. This politicization of the court system in Canada is recognized by many, but the question as to why it arose seems to vary greatly. This thesis introduces and explains the phenomenon of the “Charter Revolution” as being caused by the Charter itself in establishing a bill of rights as its constitution instead of creating a structure and declared powers for government institutions. By providing an understanding of the origins of government and analyzing foundational documents of both the United States and Canada, I will explain how the text of the Charter, while seemingly representative of the people, has provided positive empowerment for political activity by the judiciary and in doing so, has allowed for the rejection of popular sovereignty.
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    Loving Well: Understanding Human Relationships Through the Language of the Enneagram
    (2024-04-30) Crawford, Elise; Singletary, Jon; University Scholars.; Baylor University; Honors College - Honors Program
    The Enneagram is a valuable framework for understanding human relationships. Every personality type experiences the world differently, and the language of the Enneagram offers a helpful tool for those who want to better understand and love the people around them. In this thesis, I focus on types Five, Seven, and Nine, drawing on the dynamics between myself and my two younger sisters. Using this example, I show how to practically apply the Enneagram toward improving self-awareness and developing healthier relationships. This thesis also includes a creative component in a series of six digital photographs, in which I visually represent types Five, Seven, and Nine and the dynamics between them.