2021 Honors Thesis Prize Recipients

The Honors Thesis Project is an outstanding piece of scholarly work. The threshold for receiving a prize is extraordinarily high, and the selection process is quite challenging. Faculty committees evaluated many outstanding projects, and determined prize recipients in five categories: creative, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences & engineering, and professional. Prize recipients received an award of $1,000 and the Honorable mentions received $500.

A faculty committee further evaluated the five best thesis projects to determine the 2021 Overall Outstanding Thesis project that is the recipient of the $2,000 David Orlin Prize.

Natural Sciences & Engineering Category – Best Thesis and Orlin Prize Recipient

Alec Thompson

Major: Civil Engineering (College of Engineering & Computer Science)

Thesis Title: The Surge in Slenderness and its Impact on Urban Socioeconomics

Thesis Advisor: Prof. Sinead Mac Namara

Thesis Showcase: https://honors.syr.edu/showcase/thesis/alec-thompson/

Alec’s project examines the construction of very slender skyscrapers that have become a trend in large metropolitan cities, particularly New York City. These buildings, which are expensive to build due to their technical constraints, are typically marketed to millionaire clientele based on their slender aesthetics and fashionable exclusivity. The innovative and meticulous engineering required to design these structures is impressive, but in a city with a lack of affordable housing and limited green space, it is worth examining the wider impact of these engineering innovations. Alec argues that the new slender skyscrapers are an entirely impractical form of housing that are disproportionately producing massive volume of greenhouse gas emissions and wasting limited air rights and land that could be used to develop more affordable housing.

Alec’s project was selected as the recipient of the David Orlin Prize for the Overall Outstanding Thesis Project of 2021.

Natural Sciences & Engineering Category – Honorable Mention

Yasmine Chahine

Major: Biology, College of Arts & Sciences

Thesis Title: Investigating the Role of hmx3a in Danio rerio dI2 Spinal Interneuron Specification and Ear Development

Thesis Advisor: Prof. Katharine Lewis

Thesis Showcase: https://honors.syr.edu/showcase/thesis/yasmine-chahine/

Yasmine’s research project investigates the role of hmx3a in zebrafish spinal cord development. hmx3a is a transcription factor gene, meaning it encodes a transcription factor protein that is able to bind to specific regions of DNA and promote or inhibit expression by facilitating or preventing transcription of DNA into mRNA by RNA polymerase.

Humanities Category – Best Thesis

Katelyn Bajorek

Majors: History/Anthropology, Maxwell School

Thesis Title: “In the Process of Becoming”: Constructing and Re-constructing Gender in Twelfth-century Women’s Texts

Thesis Advisor: Prof. Samantha Herrick

Thesis Showcase: https://honors.syr.edu/showcase/thesis/katelyn-bajorek/

In this project Katelyn set out to study medieval women’s texts and the practice of gender by both women and men. She studied texts from the European twelfth century and addressed the question of medieval women’s perspectives: how did they conceptualize their gender and their place in the social hierarchy of the Middle Ages? What do their experiences reveal about how men thought about gender? How did they resist the expectations put upon them, and at the same time, how did they participate in the perpetuation of gender inequality? What can women writers of the Middle Ages tell us about how to study gender in a time and culture very different from our own? To answer these questions, she closely examined the writings of two twelfth-century woman writers and read secondary literature about their biographies, social milieux, and lasting legacies.

Creative Category – Best Thesis

Vasundhra Aggarwal

Major: Architecture, School of Architecture

Thesis Title: Latent Territories: A Manifesto for Design Thinking

Thesis Advisor: Britt Eversole

Thesis Showcase: https://honors.syr.edu/showcase/thesis/vasundhra-aggarwal/

In this project, Vasundhra uses processes of LiDAR-scanning and 3D-prototyping, and HEX-editing and animating, to create a series of material studies exhibited both physically and virtually through a web-based interface. The results of the experiments showcase how information behaves as an evolutionary feedback process and suggest the possibility for design to do the same. By reimagining the architectural operations manifesto, this thesis proposes Latent Territories as the nascent sites of architectural innovation with machinic misbehaviors, delirious inefficiencies, and spectacular blunders.

Social Sciences Category – Best Thesis

Alex Tsemberis

Majors: Information Management & Technology (School of Information Studies) and History (Maxwell School)

Thesis Title: Protest, Reaction, and Remedy: Analyzing the Syracuse Eight’s Boycott in the Civil Rights Era

Thesis Advisor: Prof. Jeffrey Gonda

Thesis Showcase: https://honors.syr.edu/showcase/thesis/alexander-tsemberis/

Alex’s thesis examines an under studied sports history event at Syracuse University known as “The Syracuse Eight.” He examines the efforts of nine Black football players to combat racist practices existing in the legendary football program and the entire athletic department. He further analyzes over a hundred letters sent to the Chancellor in the fall of 1970 to spring of 1971 sent by alumni across the country, current students, faculty, and a variety of civil rights agencies including the United States Commission on Civil Rights. These letters, along with Syracuse University’s response to the Eight’s allegations (the focus of the final chapter), are explored under the broader national climate during a heightened civil rights era at the end of the 1960s.

Social Sciences Category – Honorable Mention

Andres Trejo

Major: International Relations, Maxwell School

Thesis Title: A Century of Conflict: A History, Visualization, and Assessment of International Intervention in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria

Thesis Advisor: Prof. Robert Murrett

In this thesis, Andres assesses US international intervention and begins with a historical analysis of intervention in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, taking note of pivotal events in these countries’ pasts. US engagement in these countries in the 21st century is examined, specifically with regards to its effects on democracy promotion. The thesis aims to highlight the experiences of the people living in the three countries, in the hopes that it will provide a fresh point of view on such a heavily studied topic.

Professional Category – Best Thesis

Brittney Loper

Majors: Television, Radio & Film (Newhouse School of Public Communications)/Marketing Management (Whitman School of Management)

Thesis Title: Stream On: The Impact of Streaming Services’ Different Release Models on Social Media Engagement

Thesis Advisor: Prof. Fiona Chew

Brittney’s thesis project examines “streaming wars” in order to determine the most impactful way streaming services can release original content to get the best social media engagement. She investigated how release patterns relate to the conversation on social media in an effort to determine what genres are best suited for binge releases, and which are the best to be released closer to a traditional linear schedule. The research demonstrates the importance of connecting social media with content to promote the show to new viewers and engage the existing audience.

Professional Category – Honorable Mention

Ellie Bodker

Major: Information Management & Technology, School of Information Studies

Thesis Title: Measuring Public Opinion Using Social Media Engagement and Polls

Thesis Advisor: Prof.  Jennifer Stromer-Galley

Ellie’s project examines social media as a measure of public opinion and whether it can produce comparable measures to the traditional method of public opinion polls. Based on public opinion polls collected by Monmouth University throughout the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary and Twitter and Facebook data, she analyzes the accuracy of social media engagement data and the impact it has on voters.

Congratulations to all the prize recipients for their outstanding work!

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