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Master’s & Doctoral Defenses

upcoming defensesThe Public presentation portion of a defense is open to everyone and is an especially valuable opportunity for graduate students to experience the process firsthand.

Note: All information is provided by the academic units.

Gabrielle Boliou

Title: Explaining Destination Countries of Human Trafficking with Factors Relevant to Traffickers
Program: Master of Arts in Political Science
Advisor: Dr. Brian Wampler, Political Science
Committee: Dr. Ross Burkhart, School of Public Service and Dr. Michael Allen, School of Public Service
Date: February 28, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Location:  Education Building – Room 224

Read Gabrielle Boliou's Abstract Here

As awareness of human trafficking rises, more researchers attempt to explain it. Yet existing studies tend to neglect two elements when researching international human trafficking: factors that appeal to traffickers themselves and the significance of the country’s role in the international network as a destination country (rather than a source or transit country). I expect that drug trafficking flows, legalized prostitution, and higher levels of corruption will appeal to traffickers and make countries more likely to be destination countries. I test this using data on human trafficking flows for 83 countries from 2006 to 2010 and find evidence of drug trafficking’s impact, mixed support for my hypothesis concerning prostitution and no support for my hypothesis concerning corruption. These findings have important implications for those attempting to combat international human trafficking.

Sarah Lausch

Title: Inviting Mindful Silence into Pedagogy: Supporting Agency, Voice, and Critical Engagement through Silence
Program: Master of Arts in Communication
Advisor: Dr. Kelly Rossetto, Communication
Committee: Dr. erin d. mcclellan, Communication and Dr. Whitney Douglas, English
Date: February 26, 2018
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: Communication Building, Room 138

Read Sarah Lausch's Abstract Here

Across pedagogical approaches, silence and speech are rarely recognized as equal ways to demonstrate knowledge. Favoring speech in the classroom indicates a specific set of assumptions that shows what formal teaching and learning settings should look like. The current study approaches silence as an opportunity to create space for critical engagement, silent voices and agency. Through an exhaustive literature search and interpretive review of how contemporary pedagogical approaches assess silence, I aim to invite the concept of mindful silence into pedagogy. Invitational rhetoric is connected with the approach to conceptualize and invite mindful silence as an alternative path to teach and learn. It provides an opportunity to reconsider how silence can be understood as central to teaching, learning, and acknowledging the individual. The implications show that inviting mindful silence is a thoughtful contribution towards developing a critical and inclusive classroom. Acknowledging silence as an intentional choice enables new dimensions of self-reflection, active listening, and deep understanding of other’s perspectives. Furthermore, the concept has potential to not just change the educational environment but can have positive impact on developing a democratic citizenship.

Nicolas Diaz

Title: A Matter of Experience and Perception: Examining Corruption in Latin America
Program: Master of Arts in Political Science
Advisor: Dr. Nisha Mukherjee Bellinger, School of Public Service
Committee: Dr. Stephen M. Utych, Political Science and Dr. Julie VanDusky-Allen, School of Public Service
Date: February 28, 2018
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Norco Nursing and Health Science Building – Room 112

Read Nicolas Diaz's Abstract Here

The pervasive nature of corruption poses many challenges to nations. In particular, it can hamper progress and threaten stability. However, a citizen’s awareness of corruption is not exclusively based on encountering it personally. I claim that experience and perception of corruption are two distinct features, influencing an individual’s satisfaction with democracy. This study utilizes a mediation analysis to determine the impact of corruption, both experienced and perceived, on an individual’s satisfaction with democracy in Latin America. The statistical technique distinguishes the influence of experiencing corruption first-hand and having a high perception of it when determining a citizen’s support for democratic values, taking into consideration joint and distinct effects. I use the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) biannual survey from 2006-2014, using responses from 22 countries. This study underscores the ramifications of corruption as it determines perception is only partially influenced by experience and impacts citizens’ views on democracy negatively.

Tate Meehan

Title: Traversed Multi-Channel Radar for the Continuous Quantification of Snow and Firn Density, Depth, and Accumulation
Program: Master of Science in Geophysics
Advisor: Dr. John Bradford, Geosciences
Committee: Dr. Hans-Peter Marshall, Geosciences and  Dr. Dylan Mikesell, Geosciences
Date: February 16, 2018
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Location:  Engineering Building, Room 313

Read Tate Meehan's Abstract

A priority of ice sheet surface mass balance (SMB) prediction is ascertaining the surface density and annual snow accumulation. These forcing data are supplied into firn density models and can be used to inform remotely sensed ice sheet surface processes and assess Regional Climate Model (RCM) skill. Greenland Traverse for Accumulation and Climate Studies (GreenTrACS) retrieved 16 shallow firn cores and dug 42 snow pits along the western percolation zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) during May and June of 2016 and 2017. I deployed and maintained a multi-channel 500 MHz ground-penetrating radar in a multi-offset configuration throughout the two traverse campaigns. The multi-channel radar technique accurately and independently estimates density, depth, and annual snow accumulation — between the firn core and snow pit sites — by horizon velocity analysis of high resolution radar returns from the snow and shallow firn. I analyze a 45 km traverse in a high accumulation zone, known as the GreenTrACS Core 15 Western Spur. Deviations in surface density up to +- 15 kg/m3 from the transect mean correlate with surface elevation and slope angle. Spatial variation in mean annual accumulation of ~0.175 mw.e.a-1 occurs across a surface topography driven snow catchment ~5 km wide. Accumulation and density variability reported demonstrate that RCMs must be down scaled to resolutions within 5 km to assess subtle yet significant contributions to the GrIS SMB.

Chaney Hill

Title: The Nonhuman Write Back: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Short Stories
Program: Master of Arts in English, Literature
Advisor: Dr. Cheryl Hindrichs, English
Committee: Dr. Tara Penry, English and Dr. Jacqueline O’Connor, English
Date: February 16, 2018
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Location: Liberal Arts Building, Room 208A

Read Chaney Hill's Abstract Here

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s treatment of the nonhuman in her short stories reveals the importance objects and things held for people in the nineteenth century. I am specifically interested in the ways that Charlotte Perkins Gilman engages with the nonhuman in three of her short stories, “The Giant Wisteria” (1891), “The Yellow Wall-paper” (1892) and “The Rocking-Chair” (1893). All three titles are named after objects; consequently, focusing on the nonhuman in these stories is vital in understanding the texts. Focusing on the nonhuman, specifically the way that the actual objects (the wallpaper, the rocking chair, and the wisteria) allow for or inhibits freedom for women, creates an avenue for a feminist nonhuman reading. The nonhuman in these three short stories authorize and allow women to experience a selfhood and reality that is outside of the typical experience for women during the nineteenth century while also threatening our current understanding of what it means to be human and by extension, what it means to be a woman.

Brittany Cannon

Title: Optically Active Dye-Based Systems Templated by DNA Exhibiting Excitonic Delocalization
Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering
Advisor: Dr. William B. Knowlton, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering
Committee: Dr. Bernard Yurke, Materials Science and Engineering, Dr. Paul H. Davis, Materials Science and Engineering, and Dr. Paul W.K. Rothemund, Materials Science and Engineering
Date: February 22, 2018
Time: 8:00 a.m.
Location: Multipurpose Classroom Building, Room 118

Read Brittany Cannon's Abstract Here

Inspired by the recent evidence of coherent exciton delocalization at ambient temperatures within a protein-based naturally-occurring photosynthetic system, this dissertation explores the viability of DNA as a method for fabricating coherent dye aggregates and aims at identifying the fundamental mechanisms that promote or inhibit excitonic delocalization within the dye-DNA constructs. By creating design specifications and metrics that can be scaled into larger, more complex dye-DNA constructs, we provide a potential path towards fabricating large networks of dye aggregates that can be used for light-harvesting, colorimetric detection, and quantum computation.

Shannon Doak

Title: Social Media as A Plan for Professional Development: Teachers in International Schools Use and Perspectives
Program: Doctor of Education in Educational Technology
Advisor: Dr. Kerry Lynn Rice, Educational Technology
Committee: Dr. Chareen Lee Snelson, Educational Technology and Dr. Young Kyun Baek, Educational Technology
Date: February 26, 2018
Time: 11:00 p.m.
Location: Education Building, Wallace Conference Room

Read Shannon Doak's Abstract Here

Traditional professional development methods are not optimal for international school educators because of isolation, lack of funds and time to attend, disconnected content and inability to make a difference in the pedagogical approaches teachers use. The creation of online PLNs has been suggested as an augment to or a replacement for traditional approaches. The purpose of this mixed methods study was three-fold: (a) to discover if international school educators are using social media for professional learning and if so, what tools they are choosing to use, (b) to discover if a relationship exists between the use of social media tools for informal professional learning and change in the pedagogical practices used by the teachers in international schools; and finally, (c) to describe how the use of social media may lead to a change in pedagogical practice. An explanatory sequential mixed method design was used to achieve this purpose, including 270 participants in the first phase and five in the second phase.  Data collection included a quantitative online survey instrument and qualitative online interviews.  Revealed in the findings was that international school teachers use various social media tools that meet specific needs, to build a PLN. Through intentional action international school educators supplemented professional development and changed their teaching practice creating an expanded and more authentic, constructivist learning environment. The PLNs in this study were able to reduce or remove the major concerns regarding professional development in international schools such as cost, contextual relevance, unvaried approaches and limited time.

Shohei Kotani

Title: Selectivity Improvement and Leakage Reduction of DNA Strand Displacement Systems
Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering
Advisor: Dr. William L. Hughes, Materials Science and Engineering
Committee: Dr. Bernard Yurke, Materials Science and Engineering,  Dr. Jeunghoon Lee, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and Dr. Peter B. Allen, Materials Science and Engineering
Date: February 28, 2018
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Location:  Engineering Building, Room 314

Read Shohei Kotani's Abstract Here

DNA is a great material for fabricating nanoscale structures and programming their motions because of simple Watson-Crick base pairing, commercial availability with low cost, and known structural and thermodynamic properties. Taking advantages of those features for DNA, a simple mechanism, called toehold-mediated strand displacement, was developed at 2000. By controlling the competitive binding of DNA strands, toehold-mediated strand displacement allows to engineer molecular machines and chemical reaction networks. Those systems have a potential to transform medical diagnosis by enabling the production of a powerful chemical regent, which can detect a variety of nucleic acids sequences from a person and also perform computation based on the detected nucleic acids to decide whether the person has a disease or not. However, there are several key issues to be overcome in order to realize the vision, and this dissertation address two of the issues. The first issue is the selectivity, the ability to distinguish an on-target sequence from off-target sequences with sequence differences as small as a single-nucleotide mutation. We explored the use of locked nucleic acid (LNA), which is a synthetic nucleic acid having a higher thermo-mechanical stability than DNA. The second issue is the leakage. In principle, a catalytic system operated via strand displacement can achieve a large signal amplification to detect a small concentration of on-target sequence. However, actual catalytic systems are all hindered by network leakage – the initiation of the reaction in the absence of the on-target sequence as a catalyst. To address this challenge, a novel design of catalytic substrates was created in order to increases the energy barrier of leakage while maintaining a smooth catalytic reaction. The experimental results showed that LNA can improve selectivity over 2 orders of magnitude, and the novel catalytic substrates can reduce leakage over 2 orders of magnitudes. We hope our works can contribute to the application of DNA strand displacement systems for medical diagnostics.