Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers

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Duke migrated to an electronic-only system for theses between 2006 and 2010. As such, theses completed between 2006 and 2010 may not be part of this system, and those completed before 2006 are not hosted here except for a small number that have been digitized.


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  • ItemOpen Access
    Connecting Populations Across Ocean Basins: Genomics of Short-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) in the Western North Atlantic
    (2022-04-18) Hanson, Sophie
    Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) are widely-distributed throughout the Atlantic Ocean. These whales are capable of traveling large distances, yet their regional movement patterns and population structure are poorly defined, making stock identification and species management challenging. To understand the population structure of these whales, I analyzed genetic relatedness across 56 distinct individuals in three geographic locations: the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent & the Grenadines (n = 17), Florida, USA (n = 7), and North Carolina, USA (n = 36). I generated genetic sequences from tissue samples using double digest restriction site associated DNA sequencing (ddRAD-Seq). I then derived 3,227 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the Freebayes bioinformatics pipeline. To infer population structure, I used a Bayesian clustering analysis implemented in STRUCTURE software. The results indicate that individuals from all of the three sampling locations are genetically similar. This supports the hypothesis that there is substantial gene flow between the eastern Caribbean and southeast United States. It is likely that the Gulf Stream and extensive continental shelf facilitate long-ranging individual or group movement, and thus connectivity. Interestingly, results also indicate a second, genetically-distinct population comprised of three individuals (two from St. Vincent and one from North Carolina). While more sampling is needed to confirm this second population, it is possible that there is a larger oceanic stock in the western North Atlantic. Together, these findings can be used to better inform the management of short-finned pilot whales, which is imperative considering rising anthropogenic pressures, mass-strandings, and the species’ cultural importance in artisanal whaling.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Precedent and Originalism: Legal Interpretation on the Contemporary Supreme Court
    (2023-03-24) Gerges, Megan
    In 2022, the United States Supreme Court overruled some of its most contentious decisions, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which had been law for several decades. Four of the five votes in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to overturn Roe and Casey came from the self-described originalist Justices— Justice Thomas, Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh, and Justice Barrett. Originalism is one of the most prominent modes of judicial interpretation, but it often conflicts with stare decisis, also known as precedent. This paper explores how originalism and precedent can work together, how they worked together in the Dobbs decision, and the potential implications of the Dobbs stare decisis analysis on other substantive due process precedents.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Marginalized and Monitored: Analyzing Reproductive Health and Digital Surveillance in the United States
    (2023-04) Proudman, Rachel
    This thesis delves into the complex and intersectional issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights in the United States, with a specific focus on the impact of restrictive abortion legislation after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision. The research highlights the disproportionate effects of such restrictions on marginalized communities and exposes the systemic racism and classism embedded in abortion legislation. Furthermore, this thesis examines the intersection of data privacy and reproductive rights, exploring how recent changes in abortion laws have impacted the privacy of women seeking abortion-related services. The study focuses on the potential impact of post-Roe legislation on data privacy, specifically on the surveillance and targeting of women seeking reproductive health resources. The research was conducted using an online survey that targeted women, aged 18 to 40, in Florida, Texas, and Georgia, examining their attitudes towards data privacy, awareness of existing abortion legislation, and access to various reproductive health services. The survey results indicate a disconnect between participants’ expressed concern about data privacy and their actual behavior, which is particularly alarming given the risks women face with changing restrictive abortion laws. Furthermore, the study highlights the lack of awareness and understanding of abortion laws in their respective states. Ultimately, the research stresses the urgent need to address data privacy concerns and provides recommendations for policymakers and technology companies to safeguard the privacy and autonomy of women seeking abortion-related services. To address these findings, I recommend increased education and awareness campaigns to empower women with knowledge about their legal rights and resources for reproductive healthcare services, ensuring that they can make informed decisions about their bodies and their data.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Women, Infants, and Children Providers' Perceptions of Managing Obesity in Pregnancy: A Qualitative Study
    (2017-05-01) Carp, Julia E.
    Obesity is exceedingly common among low-income pregnant mothers, a primary target population of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). While protocols at WIC address this nutritional problem, WIC nutritionists’ perceptions of the challenges of managing obesity in pregnancy are unknown. A qualitative study was conducted using data transcribed from audiotapes of focus groups among 27 Philadelphia WIC nutritionists to identify barriers and facilitators of counseling pregnant clients with obesity. Transcripts were coded for most common themes. Findings revealed 11 major themes clustered into three categories. The first category focused on barriers to counseling that WIC providers perceived were client driven. They perceived that mothers with obesity 1) were burdened by competing demands in their lives; 2) lacked interest in changing their nutrition behaviors; 3) misperceived their weight and healthfulness of diet; and 4) had difficulty prioritizing WIC input due to conflicting advice from others. The second category addressed barriers WIC providers perceived were WIC driven. They felt that 5) they were constrained by structural barriers at WIC; 6) counseling was protocol driven; and 7) they feared they would offend mothers. The last category described facilitators to creating more effective counseling sessions. Providers’ strategies were to 8) meet mothers where they are; 9) set small behavioral goals; 10) frame messages around baby’s development; and 11) build rapport early to establish trust. WIC nutritionists reported numerous barriers to counseling pregnant clients with obesity. Yet several potential solutions were uncovered, including: training WIC staff to use a patient-centered counseling approach; incorporating technology to overcome issues of time-management and follow-up; developing collaborations with family and other healthcare providers; and message framing around baby to help WIC clients adhere to nutrition goals.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Impact of Medicare Advantage Supplemental Benefit Expansion on Startup Funding
    (2023-08-05) Zhong, Judy
    In 2018, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they would expand the supplemental benefits that can be included in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. The goal was to encourage insurers to innovate and test new benefit offerings that could improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare spending. A key player in this transformation is the MA vendor that provides supplemental benefit offerings to insurance plans, but this market is rather underdeveloped. To assess the implementation of this supplemental benefit expansion, this study examines the flow of funding into the emerging market of MA vendors. This paper uses a longitudinal approach and Crunchbase data on funding for 79,004 firms from 2014 to 2018 to determine whether there is a significant jump in funding toward MA vendors with supplemental benefit services following the policy change. The results show that both the average amount of funding per deal and the number of deals a MA vendor firm receives significantly increased following the expansion when compared with all other firms. This suggests that the policy may have been successful in promoting the development of the MA vendors market and the innovation of benefit offerings as more funding goes towards these companies.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Bias in Fact Checking?: An Analysis of Partisan Trends Using PolitiFact Data
    (2023-04-15) Colicchio, Thomas
    Fact checking is one of many tools that journalists use to combat the spread of fake news in American politics. Like much of the mainstream media, fact checkers have been criticized as having a left-wing bias. The efficacy of fact checking as a tool for promoting honesty in public discourse is dependent upon the American public’s belief that fact checkers are in fact objective arbiters. In this way, discovering whether this partisan bias is real or simply perceived is essential to directing how fact checkers, and perhaps the mainstream media at large, can work to regain the trust of many on the right. This paper uses data from PolitiFact, one of the most prominent fact checking websites, to analyze whether or not this bias exists. Prior research has shown that there is a selection bias toward fact checking Republicans more often and that they on average receive worse ratings. However, few have examined whether this differential treatment can be attributed to partisan bias. While it is not readily apparent how partisan bias can be objectively measured, this paper develops and tests some novel strategies that seek to answer this question. I find that among PolitiFact’s most prolific fact checkers there is a heterogeneity in their relative ratings of Democrats and Republicans that may suggest the presence of partisanship.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Illuminating the Economic Costs of Conflict: A Night Light Analysis of the Sri Lankan Civil War
    (2023-07-29) Wijesekera, Nicholas
    This paper investigates the economic consequences of the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009) by using event-based data on civilian and combatant fatalities in addition to night light imagery as a proxy for economic activity. By looking at regional economic activity across the island of Sri Lanka, this paper seeks to identify how violence led to declines or undershoots of economic activity in the areas in which it was most prevalent. The use of night light data gives a hyper-localized proxy measurement of this activity for each year of the war. The investigation finds that government and rebel deaths have strong, negative effects on economic activity, and that these effects spill over across time and space. Additionally, the manner in which civilian deaths occur is an important determinant of their subsequent economic impact. The paper offers new findings on the economic legacy of the Sri Lankan Civil War and extends existing work on the use of night light data to measure economic activity during conflict.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Effect of Algae Blooms on Property Values located on Florida's Indian River Lagoon
    (2023-04-14) DeChurch, Cameron
    Florida’s Indian River Lagoon has algae blooms that devastate ecosystems, water quality,and markets for seafood, recreation, and housing. This study estimates part of their economic impact by examining water quality’s relationship with prices of properties sold near the estuary from 2007 to 2016. Using water quality scores from 0 to 100, my regression analysis estimates that one-unit increases in water quality are associated with one-percent increases in sale price.Upon summing this relationship over all properties in the sample, my paper estimates that the sea algae blooms have cost the housing market between $756 million to $3.6 billion.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Measuring resistance to chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) and American chestnut (Castanea dentata) morphology of backcrossed hybrids in Lesesne State Forest
    (2023) Heverly, Caragh
    The American Chestnut (Castane dentata) was a pivotal species in Eastern hardwood forests before populations declined to near extinction across their entire range following the introduction of Cryphonectria parasitica, the fungus responsible for the chestnut blight. Backcross breeding is one mechanism used to introduce blight resistance to C. dentata specimens following hybridization with resistant Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) specimens. This study focused on measuring blight resistance and C. dentata morphology of backcrossed C. dentata specimens in Lesesne State Forest, Virginia (LSF). Observations of blight resistance and C. dentata morphology were recorded for a subset of trees in LSF from May 2022 to October 2022 to calculate a phenotypic blight resistance index and C. dentata morphology index in the field. Analysis compared the phenotypic blight resistance index and expression of C. dentata morphology to genetic-based indices and genotyping-by-sequencing data to identify correlation between field and lab-calculated indices used in selecting specimens for further backcrossing. Results showed a strong positive correlation between estimated C. mollissima genotypic content and both phenotypic (R = 0.88, p = 0.0044) and genetic-based blight resistance indices (R = 0.95, p = 2.2𝑒-16). Strong positive correlation was found between phenotypic and genetic-based blight resistance indices (R= 0.66, p = 2.2𝑒-16). Moderate negative correlation was found between the phenotypic blight resistance index and the C. dentata morphological index (R = -0.41, p = 2.9𝑒-16). Weak negative correlation was found between the C. dentata morphological index and the genetic-based blight resistance index (R = -0.34, p = 1.4𝑒-11). The C. dentata morphological index was not found to correlate significantly with C. dentata genotypic content (p = 0.25) in a small sample. These results identify strengths and weaknesses in relying on field-based indices to make selections for backcross breeding, which will have implications for progress and success in restoring the American chestnut.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Impact of Language Access Laws on LEP Infant Mortality Rates
    (2023-04) Griffin, Andrew
    Starting with Executive Order 13166 in 2000, the United States federal government began to address the language disparity issues in health care. Around the same time, several states have begun to pass language access (LA) legislation mandating translation and interpretation services at hospitals for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals. This study uses these multiple discontinuities to evaluate the effect of language access laws on infant mortality rates, adequacy of care, Apgar scores, and the number of prenatal visits from the years 1995 to 2004 for limited English proficient families. I find ambiguous results of language access laws positively impacting infant mortality rates or Apgar scores, but I find clear positive impacts on the adequacy of care and the number of prenatal visits. These findings suggest that language access laws have a clear effect on reducing barriers for limited English proficient mothers, and improving the care mothers receive. Furthermore, there is limited evidence that it improves infant health or outcomes, but the increase of prenatal visits and adequacy of care likely indirectly leads to improving infant mortality rates and Apgar scores. More research is needed into discovering how those mechanisms work and the costs of language services.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Student Effort and Parent Attitude on Education Attainment: Evidence from Multi-year Survey in Gansu, China
    (2023-04) Ridge, Ren
    This paper explores whether student effort and parent attitudes have varying effects at different stages of a student’s life in terms of educational attainment and job outcomes. With survey data in Gansu, China, a largely rural province in Northwest China that lags behind the rest of China in education, this paper employs a multivariate regression model. This method allows me to measure the achievement or outcome of the child between each successive wave of surveys and estimate which factors held the strongest effect on the next wave. Student achievement in early waves is measured by the student’s score on assessments in math and Chinese, and the later outcome is measured by the student’s income and the highest level of education achieved. This paper finds that effort in Math and math achievement have a positive association with better education attainment and career outcomes later in life. In addition, I find that parental education levels also have a positive association with child outcomes.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Securing the Right to Work: The History and Future of Job Guarantees
    (2022-12-09) Hoffman, Alex
    For over a century, politicians, economists, and activists have struggled to sustainably reduce unemployment. Several policymakers have begun to advocate for a bold solution that has only recently returned to the mainstream of American politics: a federal job guarantee where the government eliminates unemployment through direct job creation for workers excluded from the labor market. Discussions surrounding the program’s practical details, including how it would be structured and how central tradeoffs would be mitigated, have significantly lagged conversations about the guarantee’s macroeconomic principles. This thesis will examine five case studies to identify variables that influence operational success and tradeoffs that must be addressed. These variables and tradeoffs will inform the design of a job guarantee optimized for the United States. Three of the case studies have been implemented: the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the United States, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in India, and Jefes y Jefas de Hogar Desocupados (Jefes) in Argentina. The other two are recent proposals for the United States by Paul et al. (2018) and Tcherneva (2018). Each implemented program was shielded from addressing the difficulties associated with universal coverage because variables specific to its national political-economic environment limited the program’s scope. Furthermore, current proposals neglect significant details like training and rehabilitation and ignore potentially compromising tradeoffs. An optimal guarantee would strike a balance between decentralized and centralized models, empowering local communities to design projects best suited to meet their needs while providing uniform oversight and resources to address disparities and combat discrimination.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Toward Understanding the Causes of Rapid Clearance of Staphylococcus aureus During Peritoneal Infection
    (2023-04-21) Dudley, Carson
    It has been recently shown that fibrinogen, a key component in the blood clotting process, can induce rapid clearance of S. aureus infections in the case of peritoneal infections in mice [1]. Clearance of these bacteria require the interplay of the innate immune response and the presence of fibrinogen, but the relative importance of these mechanisms is poorly understood. In this thesis, we propose several mathe- matical models of S. aureus growth with immune cell interactions and a model of fibrin polymerization to better understand how each individual component contributes to the clearance of bacteria. With each model iteration, we include a new mechanism and parameterize the submodels with experimental data. We find that the full model with all mechanisms in place qualitatively matches experimental findings, and explore parameter identifiability in the model.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Discipline décadente et stylistique de l'existence dans la littérature française, 1884-1922
    (2023-04-24) Atkinson, Stephen
    Decadence, a loosely defined literary movement in France and England at the fin de siècle, has proved popular for its paradoxes and transvaluations that, according to some critics, destabilize modern binarisms. In this thesis, I survey four works of French Decadent literature and its 20th-century afterlives: J.K. Huysmans’s A Rebours (1884), Jean Lorrain’s Monsieur de Phocas (1901), André Gide’s L’Immoraliste (1902), and Marcel Proust’s Sodome et Gomorrhe (1922). As a guiding analytic, “decadent discipline” points to several governing paradoxes in Decadent literature: the stylistic discipline involved in producing Decadent literature; the ascetic discipline of decadent styles of existence; and the recursivity of decadence-attribution, whereby rejections of decadence, in favor of discipline, are themselves deemed decadent. The writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick guide my analysis, which narrows its scope to the intersection of male homosexuality and religious devotion, while highlighting the centrality of racialized, gendered, and colonial violence to the subject formations depicted in this body of literature. In my conclusion, I engage with recent trends in queer theory and culture. I propose that the recursive attribution typified by decadence applies not only to all the foundational binarisms of modernity, but also to queer identity politics: linguistic rejections of binarisms tend to reify and reproduce the binarisms they purport to oppose. Alternatively, an attention to styles—in our own existences and in art—reveals the singularity of individual experience that eludes binarizing language.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Evaluating risk for adolescent anxiety: The role of preschool sensory over-responsivity and differential volume of subcortical regions
    (2023-04-20) Haughey, Connor
    Anxiety disorders represent one of the most prevalent groups of mental health disorders and can cause immense problems in psychosocial functioning and overall well-being. Sensory over-responsivity, which is typically only evaluated as a symptom of autism spectrum disorder, represents when an individual experiences an abnormally heightened reaction to at least one sensory stimulus. Recent studies have found that sensory over-responsivity at preschool age is associated with many forms of psychopathology at school age, including anxiety disorders. At present, no studies have examined if this relationship continues later in life nor how sensory over-responsivity manifests structurally in the brain. The primary aim of the present study was to evaluate whether preschool sensory over-responsivity is associated with adolescent anxiety, and whether the volumes of the amygdala, hippocampus, and caudate nucleus at school age might moderate this relationship. We conducted a longitudinal follow-up study that has a sample of 210 adolescents ages 15 to 22 who underwent psychiatric assessment at the preschool age, which included a diagnostic screening for anxiety disorders and sensory over-responsivity. A subset of these 210 adolescents also underwent magnetic resonance brain imaging at school age. At the most recent follow-up, they completed an assessment of anxiety, allowing us to investigate mental health changes across their lifespan. First, we found no significant relationship between preschool sensory over-responsivity and adolescent anxiety. Second, we did not find any significant moderation effect of bilateral amygdala, hippocampus, and caudate nucleus volumes on the relationship between preschool sensory over-responsivity and adolescent anxiety. However, we found a significant interaction between left hippocampus volume at school-age and preschool sensory over-responsivity on total externalizing and internalizing problems. These findings add to the growing literature seeking to understand early life risk factors for anxiety during adolescence. Furthermore, these findings emphasize the role of brain structure, particularly the hippocampus, during early life development in a model of risk for adolescent anxiety.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Cajun, Créole, et CODOFIL : La politique et la planification linguistique en Louisiane
    (2023-04-08) Costley, Audrey
    Today, linguists consider there to be two varieties of French in Louisiana: Louisiana French (Cajun) and Louisiana Creole. Both of these languages are classified as endangered, with a continually declining population of speakers. Language change occurs naturally, however, there are policies that impact the nature and rate of change. Through the lens of Critical Language Policy (CLP), the research examines how the decline of the French language in Louisiana has been impacted by policy decisions, while considering the structural and ideological factors that influenced these policies. Further, the project examines more recent policies, institutions, and grassroots movements aimed at revitalizing and maintaining the role of French in Louisiana. The project takes a critical lens in analyzing the successes and shortcomings of current language policy in Louisiana with a focus on education.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Potential consequences of adverse lifestyle factors on decision-making as modeled by the Drosophila melanogaster egg-laying process
    (2023-04-14) Camacho, Sabrina
    Studies have shown that lifestyle factors including impaired gut microbiome health, advanced maternal age, and a diet high in sugar may negatively impact cognitive functioning, but their effects on decision-making have not been thoroughly examined. This study aimed to describe the effects of these three factors on decision-making as well as to determine whether the mechanism behind these effects is metabolic or sensory. This was assessed using Drosophila melanogaster egg-laying chamber assays in which Drosophila were given two choices of substrate on which to lay their eggs: sucrose vs. plain or sucrose vs. sucrose. It was found that neither a reduced gut microbiome nor advanced maternal age influenced decision-making. A high-sugar diet resulted in increased sucrose preference. Neither a metabolic nor a peripheral sensory mechanism explained this phenotype, for ingesting just the nutritious element of sucrose nor just peripheral sensing of the sweet element of sucrose was sufficient to increase sucrose preference. An internal sensory mechanism using Gr43A neurons partially accounted for this phenotype, for the lack of internal sensor activity prevented the unfavorable assessment of sweetness, increasing the perceived value of sucrose. It can be concluded that a diet surpassing healthy sugar levels caused adverse changes in decision-making through a combination of metabolic and sensory mechanisms. This study fills the gap in research about whether lifestyle factors affect decision-making in humans and in Drosophila. The results of this study can be a motivator for people to adopt healthier diets and monitor their sugar intake.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Why Designers Should Study Semiotics: Applications of Semiotics to User Interface Design
    (2023-04-10) Carroll, Sophia
    Adopting a semiotic perspective greatly benefits user interface designers, however its potential has remained largely untapped in the field of human computer interaction and user interface design. In this essay I explain the most pertinent theories of semiotics for designers, including Peirce’s nonstructuralism and sign complex model, Eco’s theory of sign production, critique of iconicity, and theory of interpretation, Jakobson’s speech act model, Bolinger’s rejection of the sign as arbitrary, and Lotman’s semiosphere. I base my analysis in relevant theories of user interface design and human computer interaction (HCI) including Norman’s cognitive engineering and user centered systems design models, as well as Kammersgaard’s four perspectives on HCI. I synthesize these theories by analyzing existing applications of semiotics to HCI by Andersen, Nadin, and de Souza. The major themes that emerge from this analysis are frequent misinterpretations of Peirce rooted in structural semiotics, the usefulness of Eco and Lotman’s semiosphere level view, the significance of viewing the interface as a mediating non-physical sign system, and the importance of using consistent logic and code within interface languages.