2023-2024 Senior Honors Theses

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This collection contains theses produced by Class of 2024 Honors students

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    Reading Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Interpreter of Maladies" as a Work of Existentialist Fiction
    (2023-11-30) Jardina, Angela L.
    Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize winning collection The Interpreter of Maladies is most often discussed in scholarly conversations about immigrant or feminist narratives. This paper reads Jhumpa Lahiri's stories “The Treatment of Bibi Haldar” and “The Interpreter of Maladies” (from The Interpreter of Maladies) as works of existentialist fiction. Existentialist fiction, a genre of fiction that takes off from existential philosophy, is often characterized as a work of literature in which the main characters' central conflict is a confrontation with existential grief. This existential grief is defined in the various works of existential philosophy. This paper uses Jean Paul Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism as the central philosophical texts and the basis for understanding feelings of anguish, despair, and abandonment. Analyses of these stories will demonstrate that reading Lahiri's work as existentialist fiction illuminates a stories' deeper meaning.
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    The Price of Perfection: Exploring The Gifted Kid Burnout Phenomenon
    (2023-11-20) Huhn, Kayla A.
    This study is a critical examination of gifted kid burnout and the effects of the gifted label on students in early adulthood as depicted in online communities and through interviews with those identifying with the gifted label. The data collected includes gifted-coded social media posts and the semi-structured interviews of four current college students and two high school seniors, all of whom have some degree of experience in U.S. gifted education programs. This research is not meant to represent all gifted experiences or explore how gifted labels are used within current U.S. or Texas educational programs; rather, my study centers on inquiry into specific discourses that occur regarding the experiences of gifted-identifying individuals, specifically the experience of 'gifted kid burnout,' a term used by online communities to describe the lack of motivation and subsequent negative behaviors and emotions experienced by formerly gifted-labeled students. The research questions this study seeks to answer are: (1) How is giftedness defined by gifted-identifying individuals? (2) What discourses occur regarding gifted kid burnout? and (3) How do these definitions and discourses reflect and reinforce wider educational structures?
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    Computer Modeling Potential Future Increases In Human Mutation Load Due To Family Size Restriction Laws
    (2023-12-12) Hanby, Nathan E.
    Natural selection, which includes mate-choice sexual selection and other non-violent competition between people, is necessary to counterbalance the accumulation of deleterious mutations produced by damage or copying errors in our DNA. Variance in reproductive success is necessary for natural selection to occur, and if family size is restricted by law, then this variance can only be so high. In modern industrialized people, variance in reproductive success is lower than it has been historically and may now be lower than the variance for any other animal. Modern humans have therefore entered uncharted genetic territory. Using a computer model, I investigated which unknown parameters of human genetics are most important in determining the trajectory of future human mutation load and how long-term caps on family size would affect this. Simulated populations, under a combination of hard and soft selection, were allowed 25,000 generations to reach an approximate equilibrium between mutations and selection and then tracked for 25 further generations with or without family size restrictions, under relaxed death rates to simulate the invention of modern medicine. The simulations indicate that the deleterious mutation rate is the most important parameter of human genetics that needs further research, as it not only determines the speed of mutation accumulation, but also constrains the hard and soft selection coefficients and affects the variance in reproductive success that is necessary for fitness to be maintained. The average strength of selection of a heterozygous de novo deleterious mutation also needs to be clarified, and so does the correlation between a mutation's fitness effects for different types of genetic death. Assuming a deleterious mutation rate of 2.2 and an average strength of selection of 8.5%, the simulations suggest a relative decline in competitive fitness of about 39.4% and a 1.10 factor increase in child mortality might be expected in human populations after 25 generations if the number of children per person is capped at three when compared to the same population after 25 generations if family size is uncapped. These estimates are uncertain due to simplifying assumptions built into the model.
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    Perceived Language Proficiency, Reading Performances, and Language Use Behaviors of Middle School Newcomers in Texas
    (2023-12-14) Dinh, Linh N.
    Background: In the current literature, research about perceived language proficiency (PLP) is very limited among newcomer English language learners (newcomer ELLs), although it was much conducted among bilinguals. As PLP is a significant factor in the language learning process and the United States is currently experiencing many immigrations from all over the world, research investigating PLP and its influences among newcomer ELLs is highly in need. To address this gap of knowledge, the present study will investigate PLP and how it relates to reading performances and language use behaviors among Hispanic middle school newcomers in Texas. Method: The current study includes 151 Hispanic newcomer students from nine different middle schools across Texas (sixth-eighth grade). Students who participated in this study were asked to complete self-rated language surveys and then administered standardized reading tests. Collected data were analyzed using R Studio and SPSS. Results: Hispanic middle school newcomers were more confident about their Spanish proficiency than about their English proficiency. Their performance on standardized reading assessments was also better for Spanish than English. Positive significant correlations were found between PLP and reading proficiency as well as between PLP and the frequency of language use. The current study also found that perceived English proficiency is a significant predictor of the frequency of language switching. Conclusion: The present study provided insight into PLP and reading performances among Hispanic middle school newcomers. Also, it showed initial empirical evidence that PLP is related to reading proficiency and the frequency of language use/switching.
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    Evaluating the Impact of Selective Seam Weld Corrosion on Pipeline Integrity
    (2023-12-15) Goldberg, Harry L.
    This thesis examines the impact of Selective Seam Weld Corrosion (SSWC) on the burst pressure of pipelines. This process is caused by factors like galvanic reactions, weld defects, and chemicals like sulfur becoming trapped in the weld material, and results in the longitudinal weld seams being corroded faster than the surrounding pipe material, creating a sharp v-shaped groove that creates a higher concentration of stress. This impact is worsened by the fact that this higher stress is experienced in the Heat Affected Zone, a relatively weak section of material compared to the base metal of the pipe. SSWC is relatively uncommon, seen primarily in ERW and EFW pipes manufactured before 1985, and thus warrants further study this thesis aims to contribute to. This thesis investigates the change in burst pressure when the same pipe sees a varying series of defects, investigating the relationship between this burst pressure and defect dimensions. These results were then compared to values from the Recalibrated PCORRC model, a mathematical model created to predict burst pressure with crack defects. Through this study, it was determined that defect has the largest impact on weakening a pipe's pressure-containing ability, with radius having a smaller but still significant impact. It was also determined that the Recalibrated PCORRC model was most accurate for cracks with a tip radius between approximately 0.7 to 1 mm. For larger radii, these results were further from the FEA results, however, this difference was conservative and predictable. Meanwhile, for radii smaller than 0.7 mm, burst pressures were overstated and inconsistent.
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    Stem Cells in Pancreatic Cancers: Unveiling Clonal Diversity, Treatment, and Interactions with Microenvironment
    (2023-12-15) Caballero Montes, Raul
    Pancreatic cancer remains a formidable challenge in oncology, with a pressing need to comprehend the intricate interplay between pancreatic cancer stem cells (CSCs) and the tumor microenvironment. This study delves into the cloning, molecular profiling, and therapeutic targeting of patient-derived pancreatic cancer stem cells (PCSCs). Additionally, we explore the crosstalk between PCSCs and human fibroblasts, shedding light on the mechanisms driving fibrotic transformation, and on partly therapy resistance. Patient-derived PCSCs were successfully cloned using the Xian-McKeon culture system, revealing self-renewal, clonogenic, multipotency, and tumorigenic properties. RNA sequencing uncovered distinct molecular signatures, emphasizing the heterogeneity within pancreatic tumors. Single-cell cloning identified two morphologically and molecularly different PCSC clones, underscoring the diversity of this critical cancer cell subpopulation. Novel treatment combinations, particularly TP-101, demonstrated selective elimination of PCSCs in vitro and in vivo. In-depth exploration of PCSC-fibroblast interactions involved co-culture experiments and conditioned media treatments. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) exhibited increased proliferation when co-cultured with PCSCs and myofibroblast transformation, suggesting a symbiotic relationship. Surprisingly, CAFs require PCSC-secreted factors to drive fibrosis. Normal fibroblasts showed opposition to this transformation, indicating the nuanced nature of fibroblast activation. Our findings underscore the pivotal role of PCSCs in driving pancreatic cancer progression and therapy resistance. The identification of distinct PCSC subtypes opens avenues for personalized therapies, with TP-101 showing remarkable efficacy. The symbiosis between PCSCs and fibroblasts underscores the importance of understanding the tumor microenvironment for effective therapeutic interventions to overcome therapy resistance. These insights provide a foundation for future studies and hold promise for advancing pancreatic cancer treatment strategies.
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    How do Indian Americans Make Financial Decisions? A look at Debt and Risk Aversion among Indian American Immigrants
    (2023-12-14) Arutla, Anika
    Indian immigrants are the second largest and second wealthiest immigration group in the United States (Hoffman and Batalova, 2022). Understanding how they make financial decisions can provide insight on a range of topics from personal well-being to economic stability. This paper seeks to understand if the year Indian Americans/their families immigrated to the United States affects how debt-averse and risk-averse they are. I collected a randomized data sample from Indian immigrants across the United States in a survey I created on Qualtrics with over 500 responses. I ran three regressions, first with the immigration year group, second with age added as a control, and third with age, household income, and the number of people in the household added as controls. This paper finds there is no significant relationship between what year participants immigrated to the United States and how debt-averse and risk-averse they are. However, it finds that age is significant regarding debt aversion and as age increases, the tendency to avoid debt increases. Similarly, household income is significant regarding risk aversion and as household income increases, the tendency to be more aggressive with investments increases.
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    How do Natural Disasters Impact the Climate Change and Global Warming Discourse on Twitter? A Study of the 2021 Texas Winter Freeze, and the 2021 California Dixie Fires
    (2023-12-05) Bulhak, Zofia H.
    Media coverage, specifically on social media, is the primary way many stakeholders come across information on climate change, global warming, and natural disasters. This study examines how the occurrence of natural disasters impacts this discourse on Twitter in two American states; California and Texas, with a focus on data from the 2021 Texas winter freeze, and the 2021 California Dixie wildfires to include a republican and a democratic state, as well as a heat-intense and cold-intense natural disaster. The data is scraped from Twitter through the Social Network Scraping algorithm, snscrape. The results indicate that climate change and global warming are more popular discourses in California, as opposed to Texas. Additionally, the discourse around climate change is more sensitive to natural disasters than the global warming discourse. However, the SiEBERT sentiment analysis highlights that the emotional intensity of tweets mentioning global warming is more variable than that of climate change tweets. The Dixie forest fires in California appear as a significant breakpoint in both California datasets along with the Texas climate change dataset but are not present in the global warming data for Texas. Conversely, the Texas winter freeze appears as a significant breakpoint in all datasets, including those from California. This suggests the interconnectivity of the climate dialogue on Twitter, with natural disasters in other states substantially impacting the discourse, regardless of the state's politics.