Student Research Selected for 11th Annual Academic Symposium

Although the end of the 2020 academic year isn’t marked with the traditional celebratory events, students are still achieving great academic successes. Each year, the John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences Academic Symposium recognizes outstanding undergraduate work. While the symposium itself could not be held this year due to the current safety measures, six exceptional submissions were still selected from all of the impressive work that was considered. Although the awardees come from multiple colleges, all of their work was completed in courses within the College of Arts & Sciences.

Alexis HarleAlexis Harle ’20, Biology
Women's Ice Hockey, Inaugural Captain
Honors thesis: "The Psychological and Cellular Impacts of Traumatic Brain Injury"

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a debilitating condition that results in mental, physical, and psychological deficits. An injury to the brain can cause a cascade of cellular effects, leading to the development of many incapacitating symptoms. This thesis will analyze and connect the molecular, cellular, and psychological impacts of traumatic brain injuries. Two primary case studies will be analyzed in order to understand the real-life implications traumatic brain injuries have on an individual. Rehabilitation methods for all aspects of traumatic brain injuries will be discussed, as well as current and future treatment methods for the regulation of this disorder.

“While playing in one of the final season games of my sophomore year, I sustained a career-ending concussion; I was forced to hang up my skates,” Harle says. “I had difficulty with many aspects of life after this, including academics. I became fascinated with how the injury affected me both physically and mentally, and thus decided to write my thesis about the effects of TBI.”

Carissa BrandCarissa Brand ’20, Dietetics & Applied Nutrition / Biology
Cooking Asia club (President, two terms); Nutrition Society
"Genetic Intelligence: Myth Busted"

The goal of this piece is to elaborate on the main functions of the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) family. This genetic family is one of the main contributors to IQ level in infants due to changing the fatty acid concentrations throughout the body. It is also another reason why breast feeding is encouraged throughout infancy. Certain alleles contribute significantly to the change in IQ level. Whereas, others could have detrimental effects on IQ.

“I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could between the two fields (Biology and Dietetics) because they really are interconnected,” Brand says. “I think this has helped me significantly in my future career. Dr. Rosler, Professor Cuccinotta, and Professor Robinson really helped me find this topic and work through it.”

Dominique HarrisDominique Harris ’20, Counseling Psychology
"Blackfishing: Wanting Ethnic Features without Ethnic Struggles"

The goal behind this project was to bring awareness to the current issue that has becoming known as a modern-day blackface. By definition, blackfishing is a term used to describe someone accused of pretending to be Black/African American or any other ethnicity not of their own. These individuals use platforms like social media, modeling agencies and some advertisements to perpetuate the physical appearance of being something other than their true selves. With the advancements in the beauty industry, many are able to create this new identity and generate an environment that nurtures cultural appropriation.

“I would like to give recognition to Dr. Carla White Ellis, who was my ILS 4070: Nostalgia professor during the winter trimester,” Harris says. “She nominated my work and was very instrumental in editing and perfecting the topic and information.”

Hannah SylvestreHannah Sylvestre ’22, Graphic Design / Media & Communication Studies
"A Narrative Critique and Ideological Analysis of Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer is a 2013 sci-fi action thriller directed by Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho. The film takes place during a near distant future when the Earth has frozen over to an inhabitable wasteland due to the government’s attempts to combat global warming….Many, if not all of Joon-ho’s films comment on class and/or capitalism in some shape or form. However, what is unique to Snowpiercer is how Joon-Ho critiques capitalism through the Marxist lens.

“It is always incredibly fulfilling to be able to relate media that I love to my coursework,” Sylvestre says. “Snowpiercer is a movie that has a lot to say, reimagined by a director who has a lot to say. If I can learn anything from my journey in the field of media communications, I hope to continue to observe and enjoy media with a more refined, and critical eye.” 

Alexandra WellsAlexandra Wells ’21, Culinary Arts / Restaurant, Food & Beverage Management
Honors thesis: "A Research Synthesis: The Effects of Atmospheric Design Elements on Customer Emotions, Behaviors & Overall Satisfaction"

A restaurant’s atmospheric elements have been formally classified as the restaurant’s servicescape. Extensive, individual research has been conducted on various atmospheric elements that make up this servicescape, including music, lighting, color, types of seating, table spacing, and ambient scents. It has been shown that a restaurant’s servicescape has significant effects on the customers’ mood, behavior, and overall satisfaction and evaluation of the restaurant itself. This paper brings together over 40 years of scholarly research surrounding the topic of restaurant environments and their effects on customers.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my honor's thesis advisor, Dr. Paul Bagdan, for his tremendous guidance and steadfast enthusiasm throughout this project,” Wells says. “I would also like to thank my family and friends for their constant support throughout my academic and culinary endeavors. Although slightly daunting at first, writing my honors thesis has been one of the most rewarding academic experiences I have had so far in my career. I was able to find a topic I was truly passionate about and one that would bring value to my future in the restaurant industry as well as current industry professionals.”

Katherine van RijswijckKatherine van Rijswijck ’19, Food Service Management
Student Activists Supporting Sustainability club (S.A.S.S); Green Collaborative club
Student assistant at the Energy Conservation Office
Food Security Site Project: Hope’s Harvest

Humans struggle to balance the social, economic, ethical and environmental impact of an inefficient, modern food system. Tons of produce are left to rot in fields and landfills each year, and yet many Americans are food insecure. This research paper assess the safety, viability and efficacy of a gleaning project, Hope’s Harvest Rhode Island (HHRI), that recruits volunteers to collect produce left in fields after harvest.

“Dr. Stamm is a force to be reckoned with and her class is immeasurably important to the next generation of food service workers; it has changed my whole perception of the world around me and the issues surrounding food production and distribution,” van Rijswijck says. “Writing this piece was incredibly eye-opening to me and while writing it, I was immersed in an organization that does so much good with so few resources which really shows the importance and impact of community activism.”