Fall 2020 Honors Colloquium

This event occurred in the past

Fall 2020 Honors Colloquium

This event occurred in the past

Fall 2020 Honors Colloquium

This event occurred in the past

Date and Time

  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020 from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 4, 2020 from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.



5998 Alcala Park San Diego, CA 92110




The Honors Colloquium celebrates the outstanding scholarship of our graduating seniors in the University of San Diego Program.

This year we have two different ways you can watch Honors Thesis Presentations:

1. Live! Students will present their projects live on Zoom starting at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4. Live Q&A after each presentation! Come for the whole event or just part of it.

2. Recorded: All individual presentations will be recorded and archived in a Shared google drive for viewing between Nov. 9 and 20 only. Viewers must have a Gmail account to access the shared drive. (It is free and easy to set up a Gmail account.)

  • Schedule of Presentations

    Honors Colloquium Fall 2020
    Schedule of Live Thesis Presentations

    Wednesday, Oct. 24
    Block A, 2:30- 3:50 p.m. (PST)

    Adeline Hardten (Business Administration)
    Sara Badrani (Philosophy)
    Delaney Tax (Ethnic Studies)
    Stephanie Maeda (Biology)
    Block B, 4:10-5:20 p.m. (PST)
    Sebastien Quach (English)
    Hannah Kautz (English)
    Sarah Tilford (Psychology)


    Wednesday, Nov. 4

    Block A, 2:30- 3:50 p.m. (PST)

    Sydney Wong (Biology)
    Sneha Thomas (Political Science)
    Jordan Hagness (English)
    Allyson Rahlwes (Behavioral Neuroscience)
    Block B, 4:10-5:20 p.m. (PST)
    Tara Rodrigues (Behavioral Neuroscience)
    Kate O’Connor (Marketing)

  • Program of Thesis Project Abstracts


    Thesis Advisor: Veronica Galvan, Department of Psychological Sciences
    Dark Triad Personality Traits predispose for Short Term Mating Strategy

    The Dark Triad personality traits are three socially negative personality traits: Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. These traits are associated with selfish, aggressive, and exploitative interpersonal strategies. Studies have shown how people that have these Dark Triad traits are able to exhibit them in a favorable manner. If someone believes they are more intelligent, attractive, and sociable than those around them, then they will likely portray that to others. Human mating strategies tend to fall under two categories: short term mating and long-term mating. In my literature review, I will be focusing on short-term mating, which is defined as a casual, low commitment sexual relationship typically with many partners for a short period of time. There are studies that have pointed out that the Dark Triad facilitates an exploitative, short-term mating strategy. This literature review aims to assess the relationship between a person exhibiting the Dark Triad personality traits and a preference for a short-term mating strategy. I will be looking at past studies focusing on the Dark Triad personality traits, short term mating strategies, and how these individual traits impact the relationship. I think that the dark triad personality trait narcissism is the most influential predictor for a short-term
    mating strategy. By better understanding the effects of the Dark Triad personality traits on relationships, we can understand the trajectory of personal relationships and the outcomes/implications.

    Thesis Advisor: Laura Getz, Department of Psychological Sciences
    Top-Down Influences on Speech Perception: A Comparative Analysis of Multiple Lexical Factors

    Within psycholinguistics, interactive models look at the degree to which higher-level processes of thebrain, such as motivations, emotions, and contextual knowledge, influence the way that we perceive and process speech. Top-down influences on speech perception, including knowledge about which speech sound sequences form words, semantic knowledge for sentence context, and grammatical knowledge, have been widely established. To further investigate evidence for an interactive model, we compared how multiple lexical factors influenced perception of phonemes that had ambiguous voicing within a cross-modal sequential-semantic priming task (e.g., visual “marching” primes auditory “band”). These factors included lexical status, word frequency, neighborhood density, and noun type (proper vs. common). Participants reported the first sound of the target word following either associated primes (marching BAND) or neutral primes (evening BAND) in a four-alternative forced-choice task (B, D, P, T). Overall, responses were most affected by lexical status, with participants much more likely to perceive ambiguous stimuli as words compared to non-words. For associated primes, responses also differed based on the expected voicing (an ambiguous VOT between b/p was heard as B in the context of marching BAND, but as P in the context of amusement PARK). Differences in the remaining lexical factors had little impact on responses. We are currently replicating this experiment where the prime and target are both spoken to increase similarity to everyday speech perception. Ultimately, understanding speech perception in this context may showcase important approaches for developing and implementing intervention tools for those with hearing difficulties or language delays.



    Thesis Advisor: Terry Bird, Department of Biology
    Diverse community of arsenic resistant bacteria display arsenate reducing capabilities

    Naturally found in soil and water environments arsenic is toxic to many organisms, carcinogenic to humans, and poses a significant public health risk. Yet communities of bacteria found thriving in arsenic ridden environments have evolved mechanisms to tolerate and exploit both oxidation states of this heavy metal (arsenite and arsenate). As the site of an old arsenic mine, Black Mountain Open Space Park in San Diego, California has yielded concentrations of arsenic in the soil between 111-14800 ppm. Exceeding average arsenic soil concentrations and levels considered safe in the environment by the World Health Organization, we sought to characterize the phylogenetic diversity and mechanisms of arsenic resistance within the bacterial community living in the soils of the old mine sight. Twenty-eight unique species of bacteria were isolated and characterized through a minimum inhibitory concentration experiment that assessed the level of arsenic resistance bacteria could grow and a silver nitrate assay that examined the ability for the bacterial species to transform arsenic between its two naturally occurring oxidation states. Based on the results of the experiments, we found a highly diverse community of bacteria with eight unique species that also had arsenate reducing capabilities.

    Thesis Advisor: Curtis Loer, Department of Biology

    Two Sides of the Same Coin: An Interdisciplinary Examination of the Genotype-Phenotype Distinction

    The central dogma of molecular biology serves as a foundation for living processes, and explains the flow of genetic information from DNA to RNA to functional proteins that carry out essential functions. Genetic material, DNA, is transcribed into mRNA, which is then translated into proteins through the processes of transcription and translation, respectively. The central dogma explains the importance of DNA and its significance regarding gene expression. The theory has important implications regarding biological processes: errors within different steps of the central dogma result in mutations that can lead to disease, while changes in gene expression can explain evolutionary history of species. The central dogma consists of multiple processes each with their own intricacies and complexities. Examining this genotype-phenotype distinction through the perspectives of behavioral neuroscience and biology illuminates the two sides of the central dogma: the genetic mechanisms and the phenotypic outcomes. Using specific genes and systems provide a structural framework for the central dogma to be traced and studied in order to understand individual parts of the whole theory. Through studying the unc-86 gene in nematode relatives, the molecular mechanisms underlying serotonergic neuronal specification give insight into the processes of transcription and translation, and the many components involved in executing the flow of such genetic information. Through manipulating subsets of output neurons in fruit flies, the effects of genotype on phenotype can be studied. By examining the central dogma theory at the molecular level, the broader implications and applications of the theory can be better understood.



    Thesis Advisor: Eileen Daspro, University of San Diego School of Business
    A Cross National Comparison of Family Friendly Work Policies: The Influence of Cultural Values

    Around the world people must work for a living, but also must raise their families. To balance these obligations, parents need high levels of support. But the existence of family friendly work policies, defined as paid parental leave and affordable, high-quality childcare, vary significantly across nations, making it difficult for many to obtain the necessary support. Research indicates that countries providing supportive family friendly policies see economic benefits, increases in profitability, and stronger overall youth development. Even though research reveals strong positive outcomes, there is a deficiency of exploration into why more countries still lack comprehensive policies that support working parents, specifically women. Most existing research focuses on how economic barriers, like high financial costs, impact mandating national family friendly work policies. This study is unique in that it instead explores the relation between national cultural values, defined by the Hofstede model of national culture, and the presence of family friendly policies across nations. The study examines the relationship between individualism and the amount of federal paid leave provided to mothers and fathers, and the relationship between masculinity and the amount of federal paid leave provided to mothers and fathers. The study hypothesizes that countries with higher individualism scores will provide less paid leave to parents, and countries with higher masculinity scores will provide less paid leave to parents. These will be tested using a Pearson correlation. The results of the study will help identify whether cultural values may play a role in the existence of family friendly policies globally.



    Thesis Advisor: Halina Duraj, Department of English
    Empathy, Interiority, and Narrative: My Personal Participation In The Legacy of Fiction

    Whether we are recounting past events from the weekend to friends or writing a series of fantastical epics, humans are intrinsic storytellers. Our myths, religions, and diverse cultures originate in tales, both oral and written, that have passed from person-to-person throughout human history. To write fiction is to participate in this everlasting tradition of storytelling. In place of formal research, this project aims to utilize the techniques and concepts of the craft of fiction writing through the creation and execution of an original narrative. In a sense, the research is experiential in nature, involving the direct application of concepts such as inner/outer-story, unity of effect, and narrative theory in order to produce a character-driven narrative that stimulates the empathetic nature of reading and, of course, human experience. One of the methods this project will use in early drafts will be outlining. For each scene or section of exposition outlined in an act, the primary concern will be for the interiority of the protagonist. That is to say, each outlined scene will be heavily dedicated to internal conflict rather than plot with the intention of capitalizing on potential avenues of narrative empathy through choices in craft (i.e. direct-interior monologue, voice, character identification, etc.). In addition to this goal, the project aims to demonstrate the value of utilizing elements of the fantasy genre to aid character development and dissuade the belief that genre fiction cannot be literary.


    Hannah Kautz
    Thesis Advisor: Maura Giles-Watson, Department of English
    Amelia Bassano and the Shakespeare Authorship Debate

    Shakespeare’s works are foundational for the Western Literary Canon, but academics largely dismiss questions about the identity of the man who allegedly wrote these masterpieces. Shakespeare’s plays demonstrate extensive knowledge of courtly life, musical instruments, and life in Italy--including that of the Jews of Venice. However, evidence from Shakespeare’s life and circumstances suggests that he would not have possessed the knowledge necessary to have authored these plays. This project analyzes some of the rhetorically gifted female characters and subversive gender roles represented in the plays, and in doing so explores the possibility that the works attributed to Shakespeare may have been written by a woman. This thesis will synthesize the debate surrounding the authorship of the works attributed to Shakespeare and analyze Amelia Bassano as a potential candidate for authorship. As the first woman in England to publish an original collection of poetry, Bassano was a revolutionary literary force. Her education, her musical family, and her association with courtly life provided her with the knowledge needed to have authored the works attributed to Shakespeare. This thesis will analyze Bassano’s literary contributions and reveal the implications of the relationship between authorship and gender in English society and theatrical culture. Considering the possibility of a woman of Italian Jewish descent having authored “Shakespeare’s” works reads against the grain, challenges the literary patriarchy, and illuminates female authorship.


    Sebastien Quach
    Thesis Advisor: Carlton Floyd, Department of English
    The Problem With Being God’s Chosen People: Hypocrisy in the Kingdom of God

    We know that Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States, with nearly 70% of Americans identifying with some form of Christianity. What we have yet to recognize, however, is how both the historic and present prevalence of this religion contributes to the divides that permeate and define American society—divides that are hierarchically based on aspects of identity such as race, gender, and sexuality. Recognizing that religion is not the only factor contributing to these divides, this project consequently seeks to identify how Christianity influences the identity-based hierarchies that categorize Americans separate them form one another. In order to accomplish this, this project will examine how the specific contradiction between hierarchy and equality in the Bible has been translated into American society. This project ultimately pursues an understanding of how the American identity—the diversity of values and ideas in the United States—has been and continues to be formed and informed by the oppositional biblical these of equality and inequality. In doing so, this project hopes to illuminate both the ways in which the American appropriation of this biblical contradiction shapes the polarized nature of American politics and how this appropriation prevents Americans from truly connecting and engaging with one another.



    Thesis Advisor: Josen Diaz
    To Build a Space: Bodies, Temporality, and Urban Colonization

    Historical and modern urban planning theory often focuses on an idealized body and subject, shaped byrace, gender, and sexuality, that exists within the city. This passively and actively divides space into thresholds impenetrable by bodies othered by social and political ideologies. This project looks at the realities of urban planning, specifically instances of colonial urban planning in India and Algeria that were historically occupied by western economic and militaristic forces, and the gendered, racialized, and queered implications forced onto bodies and communities through the built environment. Thisinvestigation examines the frameworks present in colonial urban theory that engender meaning and knowledges onto bodies as they move through the cityscape. Exploring modes of in/access and power along built and invisible divides, these frameworks are applied to the urban planning of Downtown San Diego. The specific implications of individual bodies and communities interacting with the built environment are thus illuminated to be wrought with colonial implications and physical manifestations of white supremacy.



    Thesis Advisor: Robin McCoy
    The Challenges and Opportunities Created by a Global Pandemic’s Effects on Consumer Shopping Behavior within the Fashion Retail Industry

    The fashion retail industry has already been undergoing a massive transformation since the rise of e-commerce. However, changes in consumer shopping behavior caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have fundamentally altered the industry in a matter of months. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is relatively recent, there is a lack of literature regarding the challenges and opportunities for fashion retailers in light of these changes in consumer behavior. This project will illuminate the challenges and opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic for the different distribution modes in the fashion retail industry: brick and mortar stores, e-commerce, and omnichannel retailing. By synthesizing existing literature on the prior e-commerce disruption, pre-pandemic situation, and the COVID-19 situation, I will provide context to explain the fashion retail industry’s current state of flux. This project will also reveal valuable insights about consumer shopping behavior in a pandemic and the role consumers play in industry transformation. Based on these insights, I will provide research-based recommendations for fashion retailers to thrive in the current landscape and a post-pandemic world.



    Thesis Advisor: Tyler Hower
    “Why Bother?" A Philosophical and Historical Analysis of Motivation
    While there are several competing theories of motivation, the exact nature of motivation and how it has been used to make impactful changes in history has not been well studied. It is apparent there have been various attempts to determine the exact nature of motivation; however, upon further analysis, there seems to be inapplicable flaws in these arguments. As a result, this leads to various dissatisfying theories of motivation that are unable to clearly answer the exact nature of motivation. Looking at both Humean and anti- Humean theories, my research hypothesis will essentially identify the inaccuracy of both arguments. As a result, I will offer my own definition of motivation and illustrate why it’s the most accurate. Furthermore, in order to clearly establish the accuracy of my theory of motivation, I will look at historical moments in time. I will then apply all three theories (my own, Humean, and anti- Humean) and provide further analysis as to why my theory reigns supreme. Due to history’s repetitive nature, determining the motivational role in historical events will allow us to apply that same reasoning to current and future events. If we are able to understand the nature and function of motivation in the past, we can then determine how best to influence individuals to act in a manner that promotes the greater good.



    Thesis Advisor: Randy Willoughby, Department of Political Science and International Relations
    India’s Nuclear Conundrum: An Assessment of the Country’s Energy Futures

    This thesis will assess the practicality of implementing nuclear energy into India’s power system by considering different security risks, political factors, and COVID-19 complications. Access to energy is essential to modern survival because it contributes to the safety, success, and overall well-being of individuals; allowing for a better acquisition of food, education, and industry necessities. A big concern for India has been the inability to give energy access to millions of citizens that live in no proximity to a power grid, and this has shown to correlate with a lower quality of life. Another concern for India is the search for a cleaner energy source that could serve as a suitable replacement for these environmentally unfriendly sources. Thus, nuclear power is on the forefront of these alternative energy discourses because of its classification as a zero-emission energy source. However, nuclear proliferation is seen as an extremely controversial topic because of its potential to be materialized as a means to disrupt the global order and India’s relationship with nuclear power is extremely complex due to its influence on national security. This assessment will include the most recent data found on India’s current relationship with nuclear power sourced from a number of scientific journals, government agencies, energy commissions, and academic databases. The ultimate goal is to analyze both the benefits and the potential risks that come with promoting nuclear proliferation and whether the potential of nuclear energy outweigh the hazards.



    Thesis Advisor: Dr. Rebekah Wanic, Department of Psychological Sciences
    The Life Saving Drug That No One Knows About: Naloxone Education and the Health Belief Model

    Naloxone hydrochloride, popularly known by the brand name Narcan, is an emergency treatment that has been successfully used to reverse an overdose on opioid drugs for decades. Despite its high success rate, those outside of the medical field largely remain unaware of what naloxone is or how they can use it in an emergency. The current study aims to dissect the potential motivations and deterrents to accessing and acquiring naloxone. Participants were asked to complete a survey to study their previous exposure to naloxone, general attitudes regarding anti-opioid medications, and their intent to access and further educate themselves about the drug. My thesis utilizes a psychological framework, the Health Belief Model, to better understand the important issue of access to anti-opioid drugs. Based on the findings of the aforementioned survey, I generated a hypothetical public health initiative to promote
    ownership and knowledge of naloxone. This portion of the thesis involves an investigation into the history of health initiatives in the United States and using their strengths and weaknesses to craft my own public health campaign.

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