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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.

Muhammad Latif

Title:  Hardware Realization of a Residential Static Var Compensator
Program:  Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Advisor:  Dr. Said Ahmed-Zaid, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Committee:  Dr. Nader Rafla, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Thad B. Welch, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Date:  February 24, 2017
Time:  10:30 a.m.
Location:  Micron Engineering Center – Room 114

Read Muhammad Latif's Abstract Here

The performance of a Residential Static Var Compensator (RSVC) is investigated with a PWM-based switching of the reactor. The theoretical findings were verified by testing a laboratory prototype of the RSVC. The proposed RSVC has several advantages compared to a conventional thyristor-fired SVC, such as an almost sinusoidal inductor current, sub-cycle reactive power controllability as opposed to half-cycle controllability, lower footprint for reactive components, and the feasibility of building a single-phase voltage regulation device. The RSVC has a wide range of applications for electric utilities and customers. One such application is Conversation by Voltage Reduction (CVR) which results in cost savings for both electric utilities and customers during peak-demand hours.

Devon Downey

Title: Top-Two Primary Reform and State Legislature Ideology
Program:  Master of Arts in Political Science
Advisor:  Dr. Jaclyn J. Kettler, Political Science
Committee:  Dr. Lori Hausegger, Political Science and Dr. Gary F. Moncrief, Political Science
Date:  February 24, 2017
Time:  2:00 p.m.
Location:  Interactive Learning Center – Room 304

Read Devon Downey's Abstract Here

Louisiana, Washington, and California have changed their primary election system to top-two primary systems. In this system, candidates are no longer nominated by voters in their own party. Instead, the two candidates receiving the most votes proceed to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Proponents for the reform argue that it will moderate their state legislatures, helping to reduce gridlock and polarization. The parties and politicians argue that it will not change anything, but rather harm those in office and those who are running for office. Little research had been done on the validity of reformers claims, and most has focused on what impact it had on specific states. This research evaluates the impact of top-two primaries on state legislature ideology in all three of the states that have implemented this reform, along with control states to account for outside variables. This comparative research demonstrates that the top-two primary only moderates legislatures in conservative states, and makes liberal states even more liberal.

James J. Nelson

Title:  Sexual Conflict and Resolution Amongst Contemporary Indonesian Couples
Program:  Master of Arts in Anthropology
Advisor:  Dr. Kristin Snopkowski, Anthropology
Committee:  Dr. John P. Ziker, Anthropology and Dr. Kathryn Demps, Anthropology
Date:  February 24, 2017
Time:  2:00 p.m.
Location:  Math Building – Room 127

Read James J. Nelson's Abstract Here

This thesis examines human sexual conflict over ideal family size (IFS) in Indonesian couples using an evolutionary framework. Disparate reproductive goals between the males and females of species, can lead to sexual conflict, coercion, and behavioral adaption intended to optimize reproductive success for the individual at the expense of their mating partner. From an evolutionary perspective, sexual conflict confounds a typical perspective that male and female childbearing is harmonious. Although there is a common interest to reproduce, optimum reproductive strategies between the male and female may be in conflict with one another. Sexual conflict occurs then, when there is disagreement over when and how often to reproduce. This thesis analyzed sexual conflict, as measured by reported preferences of IFS, between men and women in Indonesia. The Indonesian Family Life Survey was used to examine these topics using married men and women in contemporary Indonesia. In this thesis, three hypotheses were proposed to determine preferences over IFS and a person’s influence to achieve that preference. Specifically, what influences an individual’s choice in IFS? Within a couple, what factors influence preferences for future children and does this vary by sex? If there is a discrepancy between the husband and wife over the number of future children, who achieves their desired number of children? Three types of statistical analysis were used, a general linear model (GLM), a multinomial logistic regression (MLR), and a binomial logistic regression (BLR). It was predicted that men may have higher IFS or prefer to have more future children within a couple due to their reduced cost of producing offspring, but the results suggest that this is not the case. Sex is not a significant predictor of IFS. Men did want slightly more children when the couple disagreed on IFS, however, between 75% – 81% of the wives and husbands agreed on IFS. When examining the factors that influence IFS, it was predicted that postmarital residence, particularly patrilocal residence, would result in men’s desire for a larger IFS and women to have a smaller IFS. This was not supported, both men and women tended to want a greater IFS when living patrilocally and both males and females wanted less when living matrilocally. The best predictors of IFS were being Muslim, which had a positive effect on IFS; wealth, which had a negative effect on IFS and age, which had a positive effect on IFS. Finally, it was predicted men would be able to achieve their preference for future children (in couples where desired future children differed) due to the socioecological influences in Indonesia. This was not supported. Instead women achieved their desired number of future children more frequently than men – approximately 55% of the time. Further research is suggested to gain additional insight about sexual conflict in humans and how this influences IFS.

Title:  The Failure of the Dayton Accords: Assessing Ethnic Group Grievances Twenty Years Later
Program:  Master of Arts in Political Science
Advisor:  Dr. Justin S. Vaughn, Political Science
Committee:  Dr. Isaac M. Castellano, Political Science and Dr. David M. Walker, History
Date:  February 27, 2017
Time:  12:00 p.m.
Location:  Interactive Learning Center – Room 201

Read Abstract Here

This project examines contemporary Bosnia-Herzegovina so as to determine the continued viability and stability of the consociational regime left in place by the Dayton Accords, a multi-national agreement reached in 1995 to end the Bosnian War. With public opinion data suggesting that Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three main ethnic groups – Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs – are all dissatisfied with the regime left behind by the Accords, the project seeks to determine each group’s specified grievances with the Accords. Overall, the analysis demonstrates that these grievances resemble each other across ethnic groups. Indeed, all three of the ethnic groups wish for greater representation and decision-making independence within the political structure that was formulated by the Dayton Accords. However, the specific nature of each group’s request contradicts the preferences of the other groups, making successful reform of the Accords an unlikely solution to rising tensions in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Brett Ward

Title:  Thermodynamics and Kinetics of DNA Origami Cross-tile Array Formation
Program:  Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering
Advisor:  Dr. Elton Graugnard, Materials Science and Engineering
Committee:  Dr. William L. Hughes, Materials Science and Engineering,  Dr. Bernard Yurke, Materials Science and Engineering and  Dr. Wan Kuang, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Date:  February 28, 2017
Time:  9:00 a.m.
Location:  Micron Engineering Center – Room 201

Read Brett Ward's Abstract Here

As the cost to continue scaling photolithography to pattern smaller semiconducting devices appears to be increasing exponentially, new materials and fabrication approaches are being sought to extend and enhance current capabilities. DNA nanostructures have been repeatedly identified as a promising material for patterning nanoscale devices. Several studies have demonstrated the ability to program DNA nanostructures to self-assemble into large scale arrays. These DNA arrays can be designed to create the patterns necessary for fabricating semiconductor device features. However, these structures are far from ideal and contain a number of defects that limit the adoption of this approach for manufacturing. In order to create large defect-free DNA arrays, further study is needed into the fundamental mechanisms governing array formation. Toward this goal, the thermodynamics and kinetics of DNA array formation were investigated using a DNA origami cross-tile that assembles into arrays through DNA hybridization. The assembly of dimers, quadramers, and unbound arrays from monomers with complementary dye and quencher labeled hybridization interfaces was monitored by observing the change in fluorescence of the solution as a function of temperature and over time under varying buffer conditions and temperatures. The melting temperature of each structure was measured and generally increased with an increasing number of active sticky-ends per monomer. Values for 〖∆H°〗_VH, ∆S°, and 〖∆G°〗_T where determined for each array design. The reaction kinetics data were fit with a second order reaction model, and the effective reaction rate increased with increasing buffer magnesium concentrations and increasing temperatures. Finally, it was determined that large, unbounded 2D DNA origami cross-tile arrays sediment out of solution in only a few hours. The findings of this study provide insight into the mechanisms of DNA array formation and establish practical ranges for key processing parameters.

Derrick Hill

Title:  Personal Economics and Political Ideology
Program:  Master of Arts in Political Science
Advisor:  Dr. Stephen M. Utych, Political Science
Committee:  Dr. Michael Allen, Political Science Jeffrey Lyons, Political Science
Date:  March 1, 2017
Time:  9:00 a.m.
Location:  Simplot Micron Advising and Success Hub – Room 116

Read Derrick Hill's Abstract Here

While plenty of evidence suggests prospective and retrospective sociotropic economic voting happens in the electorate, it is hard to find evidence that supports prospective economic voting based on personal economic forecasts. Furthermore, it has been argued that the Republican Party is able to attract poor and working class individuals because of their conservative position on social issues. This research looks at the relationship between pocketbook prospective economic beliefs and ideological sentiments. What I find is that individuals who are optimistic about their personal economic future are more likely to be conservative. This finding suggests that personal economic perspectives influence an individual’s ideological position, and that poor and working class individuals may support the Republican Party for economic reasons.

Colin Johnson

Title: “Mercy”
Program:  Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
Advisor:  Dr. Martin Corless-Smith, English
Committee:  Janet Holmes, English and Kerri Webster, English
Date:  March 1, 2017
Time:  2:00 p.m.
Location:  Liberal Arts – Room 208

Read Colin Johnson's Abstract Here

“Mercy” is a two-player game in which opponents lace fingers & grapple, twisting hands and bending back wrists until one submits to the pain inflicted by the other. It was a popular recess-activity for boys in my elementary school, and though my size made me a popular target for kids to test their strength against, I didn’t play this game more than a few times. I hated the idea that hurting someone was fun, or worth winning for, or how this exacerbated the already immense division I felt between my imposing physicality and neurotic, hyper-sensitive interior.

But I would watch. Perhaps it’s unnecessary to point out that very little about me has changed, and the blurriness between disinterested intake and traumatic experience is central to this collection of poems. More succinctly, how much of a thing can one take or tolerate before the negative effects become irreparable or insurmountable?

“Mercy” asks questions about submission and control across a variety of scales––familial, sub-cultural, geophysical––through the most immediate and intimate lens of the self––one’s appetites, friendships, weight, hygiene. Importantly, these broader themes are shot through conflicting histories, the social reality that contradicts the anecdotal, or micro-personal tragedy, for example. To be clear, however, the quotation marks in the title are intended as neither cheeky postmodernism, nor are they incidental. Readers might interpret “Mercy” being uttered by the speaker(s) of these poems––begging to be spared, or an explicit nod at the unrelenting, maybe even inconsiderate pace and intensity of the writing. Either works.

Kym Couch

Title:  The Impact Of American Sign Language Interpreter Licensure Laws On D/Deaf Defendants In Criminal Cases
Program:  Master of Arts in Political Science
Advisor:  Dr. Ross Burkhart, Political Science
Committee:  Dr. Lori Hausegger, Political Science and Dr. Jaclyn J. Kettler, Political Science
Date:  March 1, 2017
Time:  6:00 p.m.
Location:  Micron Engineering Center – Room 114

Read Kym Couch's Abstract Here

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law which, among many other regulations, requires that d/Deaf individuals involved in criminal cases be provided with a qualified interpreter of their language, usually American Sign Language (ASL). A qualified interpreter is not defined within the law and states are left to determine what does or does not constitute qualified. This study takes a look at the various ways in which d/Deaf individuals should be treated differently within the justice system due to their differences in communication, as well as how statutes defining the qualification of interpreters may be most inclusive. A qualitative approach is used to analyze specific cases in which d/Deaf defendants claimed their rights were infringed upon to present ways in which the laws may be improved going forward. Included is an Idaho case of Alan Wilding, who claims improper interpretation led to him pleading guilty to a felony grand theft charge when he believed he was pleading to a misdemeanor. Another is a Maine case in which Dean Green argued that not being provided with an interpreter infringed upon his rights, though he had consented to his friend interpreting during the proceedings. I conclude that the quality of interpreters for d/Deaf individuals can have a significant impact on the outcomes of criminal cases. I further conclude that laws which look to define “qualified interpreter” can be quite varied, which has both benefits and downfalls. We as a society must constantly look to analyze the impact of our laws and ensure the protection of marginalized groups such as members of the d/Deaf community.

Jodi Hoalst

Title:  Particularism vs. Entrepreneurialism: President Obama and Race to the Top
Program:  Master of Arts in Political Science
Advisor:  Dr. Justin S. Vaughn, Political Science
Committee:  Dr. Jaclyn J. Kettler, Political Science and Dr. David Gabbard, Curriculum, Instruction and Foundational Studies
Date:  March 2, 2017
Time:  3:00 p.m.
Location:  Interactive Learning Center, Room 402

Read Jodi Hoalst's Abstract Here

This thesis compares two contending political science theories about why presidents use their unilateral authority. Most specifically, I investigate whether President Obama was acting as an entrepreneurial president or a particularistic president when awarding grants through the Race to the Top competition. I evaluate the 12 winning states in two areas. First, I analyze how each of the states was ranked nationally in the Editorial Projects in Education Quality Counts Report 2009 and then determined whether each of the winning states needed education reform policies. If so, then it is likely the Obama Administration was acting entrepreneurial to advance their education policy agenda. Then I examine how each of the winning states voted in the 2008 election to determine which of those states would be the most competitive in the 2012 election. If I found that the winning state was also a swing state, then it is likely the Obama Administration was acting particularistic to gain electoral support through grant allocation. My results conclude that it most likely that President Obama was acting entrepreneurial when awarding grants in the RTTT competition, thereby advancing his education policy agenda outside of legislative action.

Ashley Barr

Title: The Piano Music
Program: Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
Advisor: Dr. Martin Corless-Smith, English
Committee: Janet Holmes, English and Dr. Jeffrey W. Westover, English
Date: March 3, 2017
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Liberal Arts Building – Room 208A

Read Ashley Barr's Abstract Here

In October 2015, the streaming service Twitch launched its Twitch Creative channel with a marathon of The Joy of Painting. I watched as Bob Ross followed a simple procedure to create an endless succession of paintings. Users in the comments section completed the stream through a parallel engagement with form and repetition. In January 2016, I switched from watching the stream to watching one of my cats who had become suddenly and terrifyingly sick to the point where he would not eat. I searched online for a form or a bank of words to help me process my anxiety and found, among other things, a passing reference to Erysichthon from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

More generally, I’m constantly reading (into) the cats I keep in my house and looking for a useful identification. I’m participating locally in a larger structure of the internet that makes cats into stable memes (grumpy cat, keyboard cat, long cat), which is a way to pretend that stability exists. Part of this identification is in the cat performing for others the character I interpret in it. I stream my interactions with the cat for their approval. The stream is the event and the objective. It’s not a confession (where the confessional box is made for disclosing), but a space where I promise you that you can watch me being. The event thrives on repetition: the streamer predictably fills the form of the stream and watchers participate through the timely repetitions of memes and phrases in the comments section.

In the past, I have not been terribly interested in poems that are the result of process or programs. They were easy to dismiss because all they demonstrated was that whatever arbitrary-seeming system that was created to make poems functioned as a poem-making machine. If there’s just a poem-making machine behind the poem, there’s no subjecthood to invest meaning in, which makes it more difficult to approach the poem as a significant site. In the process of writing these poems, the systematized process of form and repetition has become a comfort in the face of the infinite. If there are infinite potential poems, even just in English, then I have to pick from the infinite hoping to find something good when I am writing. As I approach this writing process, each poem still has the same likelihood of being (at all). Without any parameters, I find myself crippled by both choice and my desire to bring all things into the poem. In response to this, I set a system to allow the poem to appear in, just as the form of the stream creates the event of the stream. I gather the materials that I’ll make the poem from, which means a welcomed narrowing of the field in the assumption that some materials won’t work in the poem-making machine. These assumptions about the adequate materials create the system — they pick the poem — and create the possibilities for observing the system. So, I create the system (the poem), observe it, and then imagine that I have power over it. If the poems have knowledge of their creation, then they also have power over their creation.

The system is going. We notice that it’s going. Then we have to find a way to figure out why it’s going. All we have access to explain it is how we perceive the system to be working.