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Developing a Community of Scholars

Join us at the 2020 Honors Conference!

We invite all members of the Honors Program community, students and faculty alike, to join us on March 7th for the 2020 Honors Conference. The theme for our conference this year is “Developing a Community of Scholars” aimed toward sharing academic research and celebrating the learning process together. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about your fellow students’ work, get tips and ideas for your own research, and share in the Honors experience!

Students and faculty can register HERE on Eventbrite where you’ll find the full schedule, information on meals, and ticket pricing. You must register by March 4th, so don’t delay! If friends or family wish to attend a single session to support a presenter, they may select the “Single Session Attendee” option at checkout.

We are pleased to announce the presenters for our 2020 Honors Conference. These students were chosen from a competitive pool of applicants and represent excellent academic scholarship in the Honors Program. To help you plan your schedule for the conference, we have included an explanation of each type of academic work, and then the names, titles, and shortened abstracts of each presentation below. See you at the conference!

Completed in HONRS 320, the Great Question Essay is an interdisciplinary work exploring a “great question” through a creative, non-fiction essay. In addition to the title, author, and shortened abstract for each presentation, we have also included the three main fields each student used to analyze their great question.

The BYU Honors experience culminates with each student writing an undergraduate thesis. Students work with a faculty mentor and thesis committee to generate new knowledge in their field.


Great Questions Essay Breakout 1 (MSRB 250):

Murdering Jahseh: On the Making of Legacy by Bryan Samuelsen
Public Relations | Astrophysics | Narrative
“The murder of rap icon XXXTentacion divided the musical community. When the dust settles, what will his legacy be?”

On Crossroads and Controllers of the Universe by Esther Johnson
Mathematics | Street Art | Pedagogy
“I had noticed something about myself that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with – my ambition and need for control. So I set out to understand my behavior and found some surprises along the way.”

Poverty, Privilege, and Responsibility by Brian Allen
Theology | Economics | Film | Ecology
“My face-to-face experiences with the economic ‘other’ have made me recognize the vast inequality in the world. This essay is a culmination of five years of wrestling with these questions and led me to some uncomfortable, yet, somehow liberating conclusions about my privilege and responsibility to the ‘other’.”

The Secrets I Keep by Brennon Brimhall
Cryptography | Political Science | Theater
“Why do we keep secrets? Is it critical to our society?”

As a Thousand Years by Barret Burgin
Technology | Philosophy | Ethics
“With new technology becoming readily available, is it unethical to try and live forever?”

Honors Thesis Breakout 1 (MSRB 150)
Who Owns the Bard: Barnum, Dickens, and Humbuggery in the Shakespeare Birthplace Showdown by Abby Clayton | English
“In 1844, P.T. Barnum, the American showman of circus fame, was touring England when he went to visit Shakespeare’s home. Three years later, as he was always on the lookout for more “oddities” to add to his menagerie, the public auction of the Birthplace caught his interest, and he could not resist making an offer. This attempt by a foreign invader to “steal Shakespeare” inflamed the British public and sparked debates regarding the cultural ownership of the great playwright.”

An Integrated Model of Ethical Capital and Relational Wealth of the Firm by Bradley Goronson | Economics
“We argue that stakeholder perceptions of the morality of a firm can have substantive positive or negative effects on that firm’s relational wealth. Ethical capital is the collection of stakeholder perceptions relating to a firm’s underlying moral character which can be converted into relational wealth. We propose an integrative, general model of ethical capital of the firm in which positive stakeholder perceptions of the moral character of a firm lead to high value behaviors while negative perceptions lead to value reducing behaviors.”

The Legacy Harlem in Hip-hop: From Langston Hughes to Kendrick Lamar by Madison Brasher | English
“I identify through literature, how hip-hop is connected to jazz poetry through rhetorical and formalist analysis. To do this, I focus on major writers/artists in the three major periods of growth in black culture, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights movement, and today: Langston Hughes, Gil Scott-Heron, and Kendrick Lamar. By doing this, we can understand what rap music means within the context of black art–what legacies it retains and what innovations it has brought.”

Honors Thesis Breakout 2 (MSRB 321)

The Graphic Novel: An Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet by Candice Boren | English
“Adaptations have begun to play a huge role in society today and can be seen everywhere. I examine two graphic novel adaptations of Hamlet to determine what value they bring to the story and why it is important to recognize their own merits rather than simply compare it to Shakespeare's original play.”

Extending the Bandwidth of Intensity-Based Sound Power Estimates by Michael Mortenson | Mechanical Engineering
“Sound power is an important way acoustical engineers measure the safety of products. This thesis validates a new way to estimate sound power that extends the frequency range of the engineering-grade method accurately, and is tested on a blender, a vacuum cleaner, and a calibrated noise source.”

Novel Methods for Composites Recycling Via Pyrolysis by Matt Jacobs | Manufacturing Engineering
“The purpose of this research is to further the field of composites processing through a study of the process parameters of pyrolysis and sizing application, and subsequent formulation of an optimized fairing compound utilizing reclaimed carbon fibers and epoxy resin.”


Great Questions Essay Breakout 2 (MSRB 250):

A Personal Impersonation by Victoria Beecroft
Physics | Performance Theory | Economics
“Are there repercussions to having a ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ mentality? If we do not know whether acting is intentional or circumstantial, will my roles every become reality? Will I ever play myself?”

The Tragic Muse: Humanity’s Obsession with Telling Sad Stories by Allison Duffin
“When it comes to English classes, nobody reads anything humorous or light-hearted. It’s always Macbeth, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Wuthering Heights, instead of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tom Sawyer, or a Jane Austen novel. When we’re children, all our stories end with ‘happily ever after’. Why does this change for adults?”

Seeing Souls by Rio Turnbull
Psychology | Mathematics | Musical Theater
“How can we see each other for who we really are?”

{This} is Meaningless by Ethan McGinty
Mathematics | Linguistics | Literature“
How effective is language in transmitting meaning from one person to another?”

I Believe in the Perfect by Charity Monroe
Geology | Music | Sports Psychology
“Does ‘perfect’ exist, and is it possible to attain?”

Honors Thesis Breakout 3 (MSRB 150):
Gender Roles and Archetypes in the Early Mongol Empire by Aspen Greaves | Anthropology
“Despite current gender oppression, primary sources of the Mongol Empire support a more feminist approach. I helped excavate burials from the same period in the Darkhad region of Mongolia and compared the materials in female graves with the historical model in the primary sources. Overall, this research helps to understand who a Mongolian woman was expected to be in the Mongol Empire in order to inform humanitarian interventions in the present.”

Mmel: A Type IIL Restriction-Modification Endonuclease Capable of Digestion Across Cohesive Overhangs by Jake Selph | PD Biology
“This project aims to optimize the behavior of the MmeI restriction-modification enzyme in the presence of double-stranded breaks (DSBs) for use in laboratory DNA digestion. This behavior, if characterized, could streamline DNA digestion procedures by eliminating the necessity of ligation between target and recognition strands.”

Using Formal Logic to Specify Behaviors for Reinforcement Learning Agents by Kolby Nottingham | Computer Science
“This work explores the use of a language based on propositional logic with quantitative semantics--in place of weight vectors--for specifying non-linear behaviors in an interpretable way. Our research created a pre-trained agent that can adapt to novel logical combinations of competing objectives without any additional training.”

Honors Thesis Breakout 4 (MSRB 220)
Preserving the Trauma Narrative of The Hunger Games: As Based in Novels, Films, and Morality by Rio Turnbull | English
“This thesis discusses both the technical aspects and the moral aspects of preserving trauma when adapting a trauma novel to film, in specific relation to Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. The thesis begins by arguing the Hunger Games story as a trauma narrative in its original form, but not so in its film adaptations. The conclusion then draws upon the questions of filmmaker obligation, the impact of the removal of a trauma narrative on a story, what purpose can be found in representing the trauma narrative in its entirety, and what can be gained by those who engage with it.”

Father of Man: An Exploration of the Afterlife in Cinema by Barrett Burgin | Media Arts Studies
“This thesis investigates five films about the afterlife from various cultural perspectives and seeks to glean cultural insights based on their methods of portrayal. Apart from the visual choices of these films, which reveal interesting insights as to their culture’s imaginings of an afterlife, they also reflect implicit ideologies found in their respective communities. I hope that after studying filmic interpretations of the afterlife, the reader may better understand what others value in this life, leading to a richer connection between other cultures and perspectives.”

The Man in the Tree: Death, Fantasy, and The Healing found in Grief by Weber Griffiths | Media Arts Studies
“The Man in the Tree as a creative project seeks to explore the topic of grief and death, especially as it is portrayed in fantasy. This project hopes to explore death, with a specific focus on grief as a crucial path towards healing in both a short film and academic written portion.”

Honors Thesis Breakout 5 (MSRB 321)

Contradictory Selves: An Investigation of Identity Performance in a Dance Leisure Space by Bayleigh Cragun | Sociology
“Group identity is especially strong among step dancers, where strong ties to blackness remain. My ethnographic research specifically investigates how non-black step performers conceptualize themselves in their reflexive performance.”

Voices in Our Heads: The Psychosis of Literature by Joshua Jorgensen | English
“My project examines the ways in which the reading and writing of literature mirrors the experience of psychosis. Through textual and contextual analysis of British texts I examine the meaning of madness and explore the ways in which an understanding of mental illness can enhance a reader’s relationships with the authors and works of the English literary canon.”

Leveraging Disparate Datasets for Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis by Brennon Brimhall | Computer Science
“My thesis focuses on analyzing Parkinson's patient data with machine learning models. The motivation for the research is to develop diagnostic procedures so that Parkinson's disease patients can be diagnosed more conclusively and more quickly, as patients who are diagnosed sooner can benefit from treatments that slow the progression of the disease. My thesis will also identify which of the tests considered best distinguish between healthy patients and patients at different stages of the disease.”