2021-2022 Senior Honors Theses

Permanent URI for this collectionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10657/10473

This collection contains theses produced by Class of 2022 Honors students


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Now showing 1 - 20 of 48
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    Content and Context: The Relationship Between Texts Assigned in First-Year Composition, Student Perception, and Self-Efficacy
    (2022-07-07) Cornelius, Joshua
    In the field of rhetoric and composition, a lot of attention is rightfully paid to how First- Year Composition (FYC) impacts a writer's development. While rhetoric and composition does not use the same terminology or methods as education, this thesis argues that the two fields do in fact overlap in their thinking of student self-efficacy and student perception. Thus, self-efficacy toward writing would be a useful recontextualization for measuring FYC success. Focusing specifically on the under-researched topic of texts assigned in FYC, this thesis seeks to highlight the relationship between texts, student perception, and self-efficacy toward writing. Rather than draw distinct correlations at this time, three literature reviews on the topics of text modality, student perception, and self-efficacy were used to provide a foundation for how these subjects relate to student success and are worthy of further empirical research. A strong relationship between student perception of texts and self-efficacy was found through the course of these literature reviews, but a significant gap in research on the texts students are asked to write about in FYC was also found. The lack of empirical-driven research into student perception and self-efficacy in FYC classrooms and the lack of theoretical research on self-efficacy toward writing represent a limitation of the current body of rhetoric and composition research that needs to be addressed and expanded upon. Some potential ways in which this future research could be conducted were briefly explored. Overall, it is imperative that any empirical research done on the topic pull from the methodology of both education and rhetoric and composition, as the concepts of self-efficacy toward writing and student perception of text exist in that unique intersection of fields.
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    (2022-06-29) Paquet, Ethan
    Originally published in 1955, and replicated so frequently it established two laws (Lotka Law and Price Law), Wayne Dennis wrote that it is not uncommon in the field of science for the upper 10% in total output to contribute about 50% of all of the work (Dennis, 1955; Simonton, 2010). What about these researchers has separated them in such great disparity from their peers? This research aims to explore the relation between certain undergraduate and early career experiences and the role they play in research innovation and output. I hypothesize that: researchers with undergraduate degrees outside their area of research, that attend larger universities and university programs, and have extracurriculars and work experience outside of academia produce more innovative research. I tested these hypotheses with two different approaches. Study 1 involved exploratory interviews of four distinguished faculty across four different fields. Study 2 used archival data to analyze the backgrounds of I/O psychologists at 37 different tier one research universities. This research showed mixed results about how a wide range of unique background experiences influenced researcher’s ability to creatively think. Overall, there was evidence that researchers with a wider breadth of experiences, degrees outside of their area of research, various jobs and extracurriculars in undergrad, were able to synthesize these experiences into their research, which enabled them to be more creative. They were able to be more creative for two main reasons. One, the researchers were able to generate unique problem definitions, which in turn, expanded the possible solutions that the person generated. Second, they were able to generate more unique solutions to problems. To use an analogy, because of the researcher’s background, they both expanded the size of the metaphorical pond they were fishing from and looked in different spots than the other fisherman. This manifested in consistently innovative research ideas over their career.
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    (2022-08-11) Mohamad, Hana
    Introduction: The Syrian War led to millions of displaced families all around the world. A large portion of those refugees were children, who had to grow up abroad. The United States opened its doors to Syrian refugees, many of which resettled in Texas. As a result, many of these families, including the children, suffer challenges that may include depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. This study focuses on differences in regulation of emotions in these refugee children, whether they have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and if they show resilience. Methods: Using a multi-method approach, the study consisted of the Emotion Regulation Task that measures event-related potentials (ERP) from an electroencephalograph (EEG) reading, and two surveys. The Emotion Regulation Task consists of three trial conditions (while measuring the ERP): look-neutral, look-negative, and decrease-negative. One survey is the Children’s Impact of Event Scale 13 measure (CRIES-13), which assesses the children for symptoms of PTSD, and the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM-R) which measures resiliency. Results: Age has a significant correlation with condition for the area under the curve (F (2,22) =4.02, p=.03). Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) with ERP trials conditions within-subject factors and max value as the outcome approached significance (F (2,24) = 2.80, p=.08). No other variables were significant. Discussion: The main significant effect was between age and condition, which indicated that the participants reacted differently, or had different abilities in regulating emotion when interacting with the various tasks due to age. Further research is to be conducted with a larger sample, language modifications, and stricter age classifications among others.
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    American Cap and Trade: How a Years-Long Environmental Effort Fell Into Political Oblivion
    (2022-08-07) Mayzenberg, Anna
    The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 is the closest that Congress has come to establishing a national carbon market, and it only passed the House of Representatives. Cap and trade, which was successfully implemented once in the bipartisan 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, would have allowed high emitters of carbon to choose their own solutions to the problem of high carbon emissions, leaving room for innovation without mandating it. While reflections on the political climate around the bill and economic analyses of its policies abound, little research exists on the speech of the representatives who passed it, and those who voted against it. Using corpus analysis methods such as collocate evaluation and KWIC, this research analyzes the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Energy and Environment’s discussion of the bill. By separating Republican and Democratic speech, this research narrows down three major ideological frameworks on which the parties disagree: belief in anthropogenic climate change, the impact of climate progress on the economy, and the influence of carbon emissions reductions on America’s status as a leader. These three frameworks serve as major points of contention between the parties and indicate that the time has come to develop new, compelling approaches to discussing carbon emissions solutions.
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    Maya identity through food ways in Mérida and surrounding regions in Mexico
    (2021-12-03) Pruden, Zoe G.
    The Yucatán state of México has had a rich history of indigenous peoples, colonialists, and global influence; this is especially visible through the food of the region. Mérida, in particular, has developed a society that romanticizes the region, yet leaves the Maya descendant population stranded. This paper aims to reveal the effects of food ways on Maya descendants in Mérida, México, in terms of social factors, including poverty, health, and obesity. Few studies have been conducted on identity through diet, although the diet is recognized as a large cultural aspect. Specifically, this paper will focus on the various classic Maya diets and how they interact with both locals and visitors in and around Mérida. Through analyzing elements including both modern and historical lifestyles, agricultural practices, and globalization, the effects of the globalization of food on Maya descendant lifestyles will be clear. With numerous factors contributing to the decline of local cultural practices within a more globalized society, the maintenance of Maya identities is reliant on food ways. Maintaining dietary practices results in a continuation of ethnic heritage, although it is often practiced in personal settings. On this basis, modern food ways in Mexico both aids and hinders Maya descendants, depending on the viewpoint.
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    Throw Me
    (2022-04-29) Lee, Allison G. Y.
    This thesis contains poems written by Allison Lee during her undergraduate education.
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    Scaffold Design for Photogrowable Nanonetworks and Pre-Evaluation for Orthogonal Nanoparticle Expansion
    (2021-12-03) De Vita Sifontes, Giovanna V.
    A substantial part of polymer chemistry focuses on the formation of block copolymers for functionalization. These polymers possess a wide range of characteristics based on how they are constructed and polymerized. Recently, the focus in this field has shifted to the formation of nanoparticles. Harth’s research group has led the way in creating photogrowable nanonetworks (PGNNs). There is an inherent difficulty in conducting orthogonal expansion polymerizations once a PGNN is formed. The challenge of PGNN is to conduct controlled polymerizations that expand either from the scaffold or crosslinker without affecting each other or any end groups. This project covers the formation of various scaffolds for PGNNs with varying properties, and pre-evaluation polymerization reactions involving symmetrical trithiocarbonate crosslinkers to conduct orthogonal polymerizations on nanoparticles involving these scaffolds and crosslinkers. Scaffolds were constructed using reversible-addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization, or atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). The preliminary reactions that tested the crosslinkers were performed with catalyst ZnTPP under green light and with methyl acrylate as the monomer. Several control reactions were performed to examine the orthogonality of the nanonetwork polymerizations. The construction of the scaffolds provided three different designs for expansion methods and different attachment methods for the crosslinkers. Evaluation tests performed on the crosslinkers demonstrated that orthogonal polymerization can be achieved on a PGNN. This project contributed to the formation of three different design scaffolds for future PGNNs and controlled reactions that demonstrate orthogonal expansion of the individual components of photogrowable networks.
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    Next In Line: Vaccine Hesitancy of Parents and Children in the Philippines, Findings from a Survey Experiment
    (2022-05-23) Rivera, Beatriz
    The Philippines’ Covid-19 vaccination efforts are hampered by a population with high levels of vaccine hesitancy, low levels of generalized trust, and a pre-pandemic national health scare from a previous mass vaccination effort towards children. This paper examines messaging campaigns implemented in a survey experiment focused on reducing cognitive demands of processing information and evaluating benefits in the Philippines on a sample of 1,859 unvaccinated Filipinos. Treatment arms include: reverse endorsement to improve credibility of information sources, simplified messaging around vaccine information and effectiveness, and emphasizing the personal and social benefits of vaccination. Experiment results show the interventions, especially the ones emphasizing benefits to the individual and their friends and families, are highly effective in increasing willingness to be vaccinated. The interventions were also highly effective in groups where communication efforts should be concentrated: those who are uncertain about their plans to vaccinate and parents with children enrolled in school. With eligibility recently expanded to minors at least 5 years of age and a growing public desire to get students back in the classroom, these findings support how more personalized interventions such as leveraging pandemic effects on children and the resulting increased demand for caregiving could improve vaccine acceptance among adults and the children they are responsible for in the country’s pursuit to inoculate the youth and the rest of the population.
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    An Unbiased Approach on The Conformational Dynamics of In-Solution Fibrinogen and Its Physiological Implications.
    (2022-04-29) Esparza Pinelo, Jose E.
    By itself, Fibrinogen (Fng) stands out as one of the most complex hematopoietic proteins in the cardiovascular system for multiple species in nature. Upon its activation and further cascade mechanisms, Fng can polymerize into fibrin and contribute to blood clot formation and substantial growth. Fng’s interactions with fibrinolytic proteins aggregate into a conglomerate of different fragments in blood bodily mechanisms. Any form of dysregulation in any of these pathways can lead to several complications not only within the cardiovascular system but throughout the entirety of the body. Understanding the crux of Fng’s functions and interactions with itself along with other proteins ultimately can be traced back to its inherent dynamic structure. In this study, I aim to probe the intrinsic flexibility that is beset on Fng by way of its multi-domain composition, allowing it to withstand incredible mechanical forces as well as being highly dynamic in its physiological form. Thus, extending the key biological concept that structure and flexibility that comes with it determine functions. Through an unbiased approach by implementing protein structural studies as well as computational dynamic simulations, in-solution Fng dynamics were studied in their totality.
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    En Route to the Ahlul Bayt: Shia Narrative and Symbolism Through Pilgrimage, Imagery, and Politics
    (2021-12-08) Hasta, Ambarina Z.
    This thesis analyzes major components and stories from the Shia narrative while connecting tropes and themes from this heritage back to forms of modern day expression of identity. In particular, these forms explored are: visual imagery, pilgrimage and shrine visitation, and politics. Furthermore, this thesis connects the dots between the expression of identity and the interconnectedness between Shia spaces, images, and political ideology. This thesis focuses particularly on the regions of Lebanon and Iraq. The body of work includes a written component on background and relevant analyses. Furthermore, the thesis includes a photographic series taken by me from my own visits to Iraq and Lebanon, to fully exemplify the topic through a personal and visual lens. The photo series includes descriptive and analytical captions that aim to give context and connect back to the elements addressed in the written segment of this thesis.
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    An Evaluation of Dobzhansky-Muller Incompatibilities in Protein Evolution
    (2022-05-05) Esopenko, Hannah
    This study is focused on the evolution of Dobzhansky-Muller Incompatibilities (DMIs) and Compensated Pathogenic Deviations (CPDs) in protein evolution. DMIs are genetic differences that occur by post zygotic isolation to reduce the overall fitness of an organism. Meanwhile, CPDs are pathogenic mutations that show no adverse effects to the organism as there is an additional mutation somewhere in the sequence that compensates for the deleterious nature of the mutation. Therefore, studying the nature of DMIs and CPDs provides a deeper understanding as to how deleterious events arise throughout the evolution of species. A study conducted by Kondrashov et al. (2002) addressed DMIs in protein evolution by identifying the occurrence of CPDs when the nonhuman orthologs deviated from the reference human ortholog sequence. Kondrashov et al.’s (2002) study was clever in construction, but the methodology was unclear, and the results appeared to be over simplified. To analyze the validity of the Kondrashov et al. (2002) paper, a similar study using restricted parameters and modern bioinformatic databases was conducted for this senior thesis project. To do so, 24 primate orthologs of 32 genes responsible for Mendelian diseases were collected and compared to the pathogenic missense data of humans to identify CPDs. Through computational analysis and the visual representation of protein alignments, 26 valid CPD hits were found. The 26 CPD hits presented in four general patterns: single species CPD, single clade CPD with two or more species, convergent evolution of a CPD, and ancestral CPDs. A statistical analysis was performed to determine whether factors such as the length of the protein, the evolutionary distance between sequences, or the number of pathogenic variants played a role in the number of CPDs found. The relationship between the number of CPDs found and the evolutionary distance between sequences and the amount of pathogenic variant data were found to be statistically significantly correlated. More data and research into primate genomes and the nature of CPDs is required to accurately determine their occurrence. This will help predict how CPDs arise in species and better evaluate the claims made in the Kondrashov et al. (2002) paper.
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    Pathways to Vassalage in Tierra Firme: Conflict, Negotiation, and Rebellion in Early Colonial Panamá
    (2022-05-08) Georgeson, Tara M.
    Vassalage in the context of this paper is defined as a position of subordination or submission and the homage, fealty, or services du from being a vassal of a political power, in this case the Spanish Church and monarchy. The agenda was to make Christians and vassals of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. As vassals they would be expected to give up what the Spanish viewed as “evil” or “barbarous” ways to labor in mines, cultivation, and building processes. In exchange they would be indoctrinated into the Christian faith, provided food and shelter, and allowed to remain in their own lands. Those who did not comply were forced to labor. In this thesis, I argue that Spanish explorers and settlers were not diplomats and had little interest in the effort and expense of evangelizing, feeding, or sheltering the Indigenous peoples. As long as they prospered off the subjugation of the Indigenous peoples and, later, Africans, they did not uphold the laws as they had expected to be followed. I argue that vassalage, at this time, was used as an ultimatum or an opportunity to exploit. Those who did not agree were enslaved and those who did agree had often been intimidated to do so. Enslaved Africans had arrived with the Spaniards in their first voyages. However, it wasn’t until the cheaper Indigenous labor declined, and the laws protecting them began to be enforced in earnest, that the Spaniards began to lean more heavily on enslaved Africans as a labor resource. The African path to vassalage was very different from the Indigenous. It was not as readily offered until self-emancipated Africans, or cimarrones, soon dominated the region, crowned their own king, collaborated with Spanish enemies, and began raiding Spanish mule trains along the Camino Real, the vital trade route that transported Peruvian gold along the isthmus between Panama City on the Pacific side to Nombre de Dios on the Atlantic side. As conflict escalated vassalage would become a bargaining tool to establish peace.
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    Towards a Gamified Therapeutic Brain-Computer Interface for Children with Gait Impairment
    (2022-06-13) Desabhotla, Krishna Sarvani
    Central nervous system (CNS) disorders cause over 1 billion people to live with a life-altering handicap. Some CNS disorders, such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida, affect one-four per 1000 and one per 2758 children respectively, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These pediatric CNS disorders leave patients with many years of living with partial or complete motor impairment. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have been researched as tools for rehabilitation for adults with disabilities due to neurological disease, brain injury or amputation; however, research on the design of BCI systems for children has not received the same level of attention by the scientific community. This is unfortunate as the developing brain is very plastic, thus, children may be the best candidates for BCIs for neurorehabilitation. The primary aim of this project was to adapt a system, developed in the Laboratory for Non-Invasive Brain-Machine Interface Systems at the University of Houston, that can be used for BCI system development for children. Such a system will provide real-time data capture from two types of sensors (scalp electroencephalography or EEG, and joint angle data from the lower limbs) during treadmill walking while providing real-time visual feedback of the child’s gait pattern via a digital avatar. To achieve this aim, a system was created in the MATLAB programming environment that initializes, acquires and synchronizes EEG and joint angles, and then, filters and sends joint angles to control the digital avatar and in parallel, stores time-locked unprocessed EEG and joint angle data for offline processing - the first step in designing a BCI system. Applications of the system include, but are not limited to, investigating the neural representations for motor control in children, and extracting neural and kinematic features for diagnostic purposes and for the design of closed-loop BCI systems for children.
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    How Cis Women Objectify Trans Women
    (2022-05-13) Bullock, Carla G.
    In our patriarchal society, the relationship between men and women can historically be recognized as the dominant and the submissive. In Simone de Beavoir's terms, the relationship between men and women can be understood as the Absolute and the Other. Men have been respected and recognized in their role of the Absolute, their existence unquestioned and primarily served within society. Through the analysis of Martha Nussbaum's essay, "Objectification", I philosophize the "othering" of trans women, similarly to how the historical othering of cis women is written by Nussbaum and Beavoir. I argue that cis women specifically objectify trans women through denial of subjectivity, that is, trans women are treated as something whose experiences and feelings need not be taken into account. Often, cis women deny trans women’s identity and fail to recognize their transition. Although this denial of recognition comes from both men and cis women, I focus specifically on cis women because they experience, to a certain degree, the same objectification trans women face. The objectification cis and trans women both face from men may possibly be rooted in different factors, however due to the shared identity of presenting oneself as a woman in society, both groups are being othered by men.
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    DUE-STR: A Heuristic Extension Of The Selfless Traffic Routing Model Utilizing Dynamic User Equilibrium
    (2022-05-05) Carroll, Thomas
    Routing vehicles through a traffic network such as a modern-day city has been a much- studied topic, with routing algorithms such as Dynamic User Equilibrium (DUE) having been well documented. The focus of many such works has been on the optimization of average travel time through traffic networks aiming for the more efficient routing of vehicles. In this thesis, we outline our plans for routing to satisfy arrival deadlines, where vehicles are routed with the primary objective of getting somewhere on time. We consider vehicle routing through a smaller section of a city, known as a traffic sub-network, using a centralized scheme as a guiding traffic assignment agent. We introduce our preliminary implementation of a routing algorithm built on the Selfless Traffic Routing (STR) model and Dynamic User Equilibrium (DUE) to show the viability of such a scheme on a traffic network. We present our experimental results from running this scheme on a real-world traffic network. We consider a pre-vehicle movement rerouting scheme capable of being competitive against more informative real-time models. We evaluate DUE-STR and these models using the number of arrival-deadline misses and the average travel time performance metrics for vehicles. We find mixed results between DUE-STR and other models, with our DUE- STR model mostly having better results when considering deadline misses and mostly having worse results when considering average vehicle travel time. We explore reasons why the results may not be quite as good as well as potential solutions to solve these issues.
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    A Synergistic Forensic Approach to Population Affinity Estimation
    (2021-12-07) Buck, Reece A.
    Through analyzing the 20 skulls from the South Texas Applied Forensic Science center I aim to ascertain a better picture of the demography of our donors and what that means regarding the issue of ancestry estimation in Forensic Anthropology. I will also be analyzing genetic methods of ancestry estimation and how both forensic anthropology and forensic genetics can work synergistically to create new statistical software with greater accuracy. With our globalized society it is becoming more and more unlikely that we can fit ourselves neatly into the racial categories that the offices of jurisprudence would like us to fill, thus we should be tailoring our methods and practices to more reflect ourselves as biological populations of the species Homo sapiens rather than placing ourselves within antiquated racial typologies such as: Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic.
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    Design Practice in Support of Capitalism: Industrial Design and Cold War Consumer Politics
    (2021-12-18) Bhattacharya, Karina L.
    The United States and the Soviet Union were political rivals in a battle between U.S. capitalism and Soviet communism known as the Cold War. In the 1950s, international exhibitions such as the Marshall Plan Exhibits, the Brussels World’s Fair, and the American National Exhibition in Moscow were critical opportunities for the U.S. to show audiences in Europe and the Soviet Union that capitalism, as opposed to communism, offered a better standard of living for people living under its economic system. This thesis examines the role of the U.S. industrial designers who designed and curated exhibits at these international exhibitions to demonstrate their support of capitalism during the Cold War.
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    Mississippi River Plug-In
    (2022-05-11) Zhu, Christopher J.
    The Mississippi River Plug-In is a project that addresses coastal urbanism and resiliency beyond physical matter. The vitality of the Mississippi River is threatened by climate change; a problem compounded by population loss and soft ground recession. While this issue is seen in various water-adjacent cities, the Mississippi River Plug-In focuses on the New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) region - a uniquely fascinating space. New Orleans is dominated by the existence of the French Quarter, a district heavily popularized by tourism, media, social studies, and history; it is the first image of New Orleans to many. The city and river are currently disjointed, and there have been several efforts to introduce pedestrian-oriented spaces between the two, but have been largely unsuccessful due to necessary seawalls and levees. Taking advantage of this situation, the Plug-In project attaches itself and expands the footprint of the French Quarter through floating architecture onto the surface of the river. As an adaptable and flexible platform, the Plug-In project is intended to revitalize the city in congruence with current development plans to transform the historic riverfront. It is a unique opportunity for the various user-groups of New Orleans, from start-up creatives to satellites of well-established New Orleans businesses, to engage with the riverfront, overturn the declining urbanism, and introduce a new life along the Mississippi. The opportunity is provided by the meeting of coastal urbanism to climate change.
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    Redesigning the Work-Live Space of 2040
    (2022-05-12) Yeh, Bethany G.
    This thesis is meant to show a rethinking of our work-live spaces and how it could positively affect our normal living routines to become more sustainable, spatially efficient, and conform to the future development of technology by 2040.
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    A Simplified Balloon Payload For Stratospheric Conductivity Measurements
    (2021-12-17) Ulinski, Alexandra R. B.
    There are still many open questions about the Earth's atmosphere, and to answer them scientists need data from experimental observations. Stratospheric conductivity measurements are a vital component of global electric circuit research; however, in the twenty-first century there have been very few experiments designed to advance this area of research or investigate puzzling observations made in the decades before. To address this deficiency, this thesis aimed to design a lightweight, low-cost, balloon instrument that could measure stratospheric conductivity. The goal was to create a design that could be shared and replicated by other student groups, adding fresh experimental observations to the available data; thus, allowing scientists to improve models, explain anomalies, and explore new applications of this knowledge. To design an effective, yet simple instrument, previous balloon payloads were analyzed and modified to reduce complexity, weight, and cost. The design, consisting of two spherical conducting probes separated horizontally by a high resistivity boom was shared via ConductivityResearch.com. A prototype was constructed, weighing only 2.72 kg (not including flight train and telemetry devices), and costing just under $2000 (including balloon, helium, and flight train). Initial tests suggest that the design will be capable of measuring atmospheric conductivity and can be replicated with relative ease. The prototype will soon be fully tested during a balloon campaign in Alaska.