2020 Senior Showcase

Check out the amazing work that has been done by the Class of 2020 throughout their time at the University of Iowa. Many of these students have been part of the Honors Program since they first step foot on campus, and we couldn't be prouder of the amazing things they've accomplished over the years. Take some time to acknowledge the Class of 2020!

Due to no video submissions, we decided to still have a drawing. The randomly selected winners of a $10 gift card from Amazon for the 2020 Senior Showcase are: Jessica Landy, Tobias Garcia Vega, and Emily Lefeber. Congratulations!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Senior Showcase!

Graduating Seniors

Major: Accounting

Research Mentor: Kay Hegarty

How did you get involved in this research?: I realized I had an interest in taxation by participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program through the Accounting program as well as competing in a tax case competition with Deloitte and a team of University of Iowa students sophomore year. I took Introduction to Taxation with Professor Hegarty soon after the 2017 tax cut was passed which really sparked my interest in the effects it had on the economy. I developed a strong relationship with Professor Hegarty and reached out to her when the time came for me to conduct research my senior year.

Research Description: I analyzed the economic effects the reduction of the corporate tax rate had and how many companies responded to the additional tax savings. I found that many did not respond as intended through additional capital investment or employee benefits like President Trump wanted. I read through companies' notes of their financial statements and traced what they did with their additional tax savings. Additionally, I analyzed the top Democratic Candidates' tax proposals to revise the tax cut and how they would affect individuals as well as corporations.

Post-Graduation Plans: I will be returning to the University of Iowa to obtain my Masters in Accounting with a specialization in tax. This summer I will be interning with Deloitte in their business tax services. Deloitte is one of the Big 4 public accounting firms.

Major: Philosophy

Research Mentor: Asha Bhandary

How did you get involved in this research?: I was already interested in political philosophy generally, especially about the literature regarding the idea of the social contract. I took a class on the history of philosophical debates about multiculturalism from the 1980's and saw how certain themes continued into newer work in feminism and social philosophy. From there, I took a course on John Rawls' political philosophy and was excited to see how all these debates seemed at least in part to relate to his foundational work "A Theory of Justice". I did well in both courses and was encouraged by Professor Bhandary to write an honors thesis about some themes which arise in these discussions.

Research Description: My research focuses on how to leave behind some of the "bad" while retaining the "good" in Rawls' account of selfhood. The highly interconnected nature of his overall theory means that some fundamental assumptions work their way into the claims made in the further reaches of the program "A Theory of Justice" set out. Specifically, I try to give an account of selves that countenances the fact that in many ways we see ourselves as located within a historical, social, and economic context. Our identities are in part based on where we are and where we came from. This is in stark contrast with the traditional understanding in Rawls' work that is arguably classically individualist and downplays the many ways in which we are social beings. I offer this account not in opposition to Rawlsian liberalism but as someone who is sympathetic to Rawls and who wants to show that abandoning classical individualism and adopting this sociohistorical view of selfhood (one which recognizes the importance of historical oppression and privilege, socially and economically) does not mean we need to give up on the most ambitious work in North American political philosophy.

Post-Graduation Plans: Enrolling in a graduate program in philosophy to further my interests in political/moral philosophy and Immanuel Kant after taking an academic gap year.

Majors: International Relations and Russian

Research Mentor: Nicholas Martini

How did you get involved with this research?: Interest in why/what causes states to go to war.

Research Description: Using a psychological theory on killing to explain why/what causes states to go to war.

Post-Graduation Plans: Raise a family with my wife.

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Research Mentor: Laura Frey-Law

How did you get involved with this research?: I searched around campus in departments that I was interested in and emailed my now mentor.

Research Description: I help predict muscle fatigue using a three compartment computerized model. This in turn can help us to understand the process by which muscles fatigue and what situational factors aid in both increasing and decreasing endurance time.

Post-Graduation Plans: My plan is to continue my education and research into graduate school. I have been accepted into the Biomedical Engineering Department's Master's Program.

Major: Speech and Hearing Sciences

Research Mentor: Elizabeth Walker

How did you get involved in this resarch?: I began working in the Pediatric Audiology lab my 2nd year at Iowa. Dr. Walker had proposed a few undergraduate research projects she'd like to pursue and I jumped at the chance to get more involved.

Research Description: Memory and language support speech perception in complex listening tasks for children who are hard of hearing. This study used sentence predictability in a gating speech perception task. There were differences in speech perception abilities between the children with normal hearing and the children with hearing loss, as well as differences in the strategies they may have used in the degraded listening situation.

Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to stay at the University of Iowa to pursue my Master's in Speech-Language Pathology in the fall.

Major: History

Research Mentor: Landon Storrs

How did you get involved in this research?: I enrolled in the History honors in the major process while I was interning in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Thanks to my location, I was able to take advantage of not only the Smithsonian's research collection, but also the Library of Congress. I ended up choosing this research topic while researching another question and it evolved into what eventually became my thesis.

Research Description: My research looks into the activities of the League of Women Voters of Iowa and how they continued the fight against gender inequality in several areas after the Nineteenth Amendment. In addition to lobbying for gender equality under the law, the LWV of Iowa also conducted many educational initiatives. My research focuses not only on the benefits of these initiatives but also on the nativist undertones present. In all, my research demonstrates that the LWV of Iowa sought to better their nation by educating the masses and lobbying for rights that women deserved. The LWV of Iowa is just one example of many organizations that continued the fight for gender equality after the 19th Amendment, a time some historians have viewed as a silent period for women's activism.

Post-Graduation Plans: I am attending American University starting in the fall semester for my MA in Public History.

Major: Political Science

Research Mentor: Douglas Dion

How did you get involved in this research?: I first encountered the question during my Political Analysis class during a discussion on literacy rates during the various stages of the French Revolution.

Research Description: For this paper, I analyzed historical and contemporary societies to test whether majority literacy was necessary and sufficient for democratization in said society.

Post-Graduation Plans: I will be attending the University of Georgia as a PhD. student in Political Science.

Major: Psychology

Research Mentor: Leyre Castro and Edward Wasserman

How did you get involved in this research?: In the third year at the University of Iowa, I got a chance to get involved in Edward Wasserman's Comparative Cognitive Lab. In my second year in the lab, I wanted to pursue Honors in Major in Psychology, so I asked Dr. Leyre Castro that I wanted to participate more actively in the projects. Therefore, I got a chance to participate in a project to test pigeon's categorization ability.

Research Description: This research tested if pigeons were able to distinguish different types of exceptions: crossover and oddball exceptions. Crossover exceptions share most features from its competing category, while oddball exceptions do not share any feature from any category. In the previous literature with humans, it has been revealed that there are different learning and memory advantages for different types of exceptions. Therefore, it was assumed that the same effect would apply to pigeon categorization ability as well. In the results, it showed that pigeons learned oddball items better than crossover items.

Post-Graduation Plans: I'm pursuing a Master's degree in Forensic Psychology at John Jay Collge of Criminal Justice. During Summer, I'm planning to participate in various volunteer jobs, which include supporting crime victims.

Major: Finance

Research Mentor: Amrita Nain

How did you get involved in this research?: I got involved in research by first taking the seminar class that introduces you to the thesis process. I then reached out to Amrita Nain with an idea and she helped me throughout the process of designing and writing the thesis.

Research Description: My research focuses on a certain type of corporate entity called a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). SPACs are designed to raise money through an IPO and then acquire a private company within two years, thus generating a return for investors. I am analyzing the management characteristics of a SPAC which includes variables such as: management team age, type of schooling, industry experience, etc. I will then compare this data to stock price returns in two distinct stages of a SPAC's lifecycle and see which management characteristics have the greatest affect on value creation.

Post-Graduation Plans: My plan is to move to Chicago and work for Deutsche Bank in their investment banking division.

Major: Nursing

Research Mentor: Melissa Lehan Mackin

How did you get involved in this research?: I first became involved in this research when Dr. Lehan Mackin presented in my Health Assessment course as a guest lecturer on the topic of communicating about sexual health. During the lecture, Dr. Lehan Mackin discussed her research examining the impacts of social context on sexual and reproductive health and sexual health for special needs populations. I reached out to her after the class expressing my interest in her research focus and she kindly invited me to join her research team the following semester.

Research Description: The goal of my project is to describe similarities and differences in youth and parent reports of known sexual health information and compare reports of youth performance on the Test of Adolescent Sexual Knowledge (TASK). The research questions my project sets out to answer are 1) How do reports of sexual health knowledge differ between parents and their children age 12-17? 2) How do reports compare to measures of sexual health knowledge? Clinical providers may be in an ideal position to assist, encourage, and support parent-child communication about sexual health issues, and should be aware of potential gaps in sexual health knowledge of youth in their care. I accomplished this goal through a literature review and analysis of research data. The clinical population was youth ages 12-17 and their parents. The data was previously collected via Qualtrics Survey Software, and asked children and parents to mark perceived knowledge among 36 topics included in National Sexual Education Standards (NSES). This was followed by the Test of Adolescent Sexual Knowledge (TASK), which includes 69 multiple choice items developed from NSES to measure actual knowledge. The end product of my honors project was a poster presentation that I presented virtually at the Midwest Nursing Research Society (MNRS) Annual Research Conference in April 2020. The goal of this poster presentation was for attendees to learn about similarities and differences of youth and parent reports of known sexual health information and compare reports to youth performance on the Test of Adolescent Sexual Knowledge (TASK).

Post-Graduation Plans: After graduation, I plan to take the NCLEX exam and begin working as a Registered Nurse. In addition to working as a nurse, I would like to further my education. I plan to work full time for several years without going to school to enhance my critical thinking and understanding of the nursing profession. After these first years, I would like to apply to a graduate program to attend part time while still working as a Registered Nurse. My long-term goal is to attain my Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) to become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and continue to contribute to nursing research as an advanced practice nurse.

Major: Global Health Studies

Research Mentor: Dr. Jeanine Abrons

How did you get involved in this research?: I have always been interested in refugees and migrants, as well as different community responses to influxes of these populations. During my junior year, I was awarded a Stanley Award for International Research, and traveled to Spain to study migration responses there.

Research Description: This research questions how migration policies differ between autonomous communities and the cities within them. Additionally, it focuses on possible implications from the different regions’ responses, impacted by the increasing influx of migrants into Spain. This was analyzed through a literature review as well as thematically coded qualitative interviews of individuals working at migrant agencies in Barcelona.

Post-Graduation Plans: I intend to work in nonprofit and research roles to gain real world experience, and eventually return to school for some form of upper level education.

Major: Computer Science & Engineering

Research Mentor: Weiyu Xu & Raghuraman Mudumbai

How did you get involved in this research?: With the widespread adoption of machine learning solutions to human tasks, I grew interested in exploring the decision boundaries machines make and how we can learn more about them. I contacted my now mentors once I read that they were working on a project related to machine learning decision making via influencing the outputs of machine learning neural networks.

Research Description: Suppose you have an image classification machine learning neural network. It takes as input an image and it returns a label corresponding to what was in the image (e.g. a picture of cat as input and it returns the word "cat"). Now suppose that you have multiple networks that are effectively identical; that is to say, they use the same learning data, they train on that data for the same amount of time, and use the same network architecture. All but the random initialization of weights and biases in the neural network when they are created is the same. The goal of the research was to ask if these machine minds think alike. To attempt to answer this question, "adversarial attacks" were utilized. Adversarial attacks refer to adding in specific, often imperceptible, perturbations to a particular signal to achieve a different output result from a machine learning model (e.g. adding selective image perturbations, or noise, to an image of a cat and having the output label become "dog"). If creating such an "attack" (i.e. perturbed input image) could selectively target some machine learning networks and not others, it would indicate that these networks take different image features into consideration. As it turns out, it is trivial to construct an "attack" that arbitrary maps machine learning networks to a predefined set of output labels. Testing with five identical networks, having certain networks out of the five produce an incorrect output label while leaving the remaining ones unaffected for various combinations of "attack" and "unaffected" sets was simple.

Post-Graduation Plans: Combining my engineering background and my medical oriented interests, I will continue research as a PhD candidate studying Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University.

Major: Microbiology (Global health studies minor, Writing certificate)

Research Mentor: Dr. Noah Butler

How did you get involved in this research?: I emailed Dr. Butler my freshman year asking to join his lab.

Research Description: Malaria is a disease caused by an infection with Plasmodium parasites. Immune responses to this infection are often delayed and low-quality, leaving individuals living in countries with malaria susceptible to repeated bouts of the disease. Dr. Noah Butler’s lab works to identify factors that lead to this poor immune response and how these deficiencies could be overcome through therapies. My thesis project looks into using a biologic that 'hits the gas pedal' on a certain immune cell population in hopes of improving acute or memory anti-Plasmodium immune responses.

Post-Graduation Plans: I will be joining the graduate program of the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences at WashU in St. Louis to study immunology.