College honors theses, dissertations showcase original research

Emory Report | May 2, 2013

To graduate with honors from Emory College, students must complete an honors thesis — a comprehensive project that involves months of original research and analysis on a topic of their choice under the guidance of a faculty adviser, a final paper and an oral defense of their thesis to a faculty committee.

This past academic year, 160 brave souls took on the challenge, producing new and original research and knowledge across multiple liberal arts disciplines in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.




A sampling of students describe their work:

Rebecca Levitan

Rebecca Levitan, art history


Honors Thesis: "Visibility and Impact: The Role of Color on the Parthenon's Ionic Frieze"


Adviser: Bonna Wescoat, professor of art history

Research: My thesis examines issues of visibility on the Parthenon, especially that of the architectural sculpture displaced from the original building in Athens. A large factor in that visibility was color: virtually all ancient Greek white marble sculptures were originally painted. An Emory team created colored canvas mock-up panels of the Parthenon's Ionic frieze, and installed them on the Nashville Parthenon, a life-sized replica in Tennessee. This allowed us to gauge how visible the Parthenon frieze would have been in its original viewing conditions with color.

Impact: My adviser and I hope to publish the findings in 2014. We also hope that our experiment will spur some changes and improvements to the Nashville Parthenon to complete the building by installing a permanent Ionic frieze.

After graduation: Pursuing a master's degree as a Bobby Jones Scholar at St. Andrews University in Scotland

Victoria Reines

Victoria Reines, biology


Honors Thesis: "Targeted Clinical Drug Trials for Intellectual Disabilities: The Decision-Making Process"


Adviser: Stephanie Sherman, professor of human genetics

Research: This study explores decision-making about clinical drug trial participation and medication for individuals with intellectual disabilities. By interviewing parents of individuals with Fragile X Syndrome or Down Syndrome, we assessed the factors that influence parental decision-making about potential clinical drug trial involvement for their children…Because targeted clinical drug trials for intellectual disabilities are so new, research has not yet explored how decisions are made for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Impact:I will pursue a specialty in health-related law, and I am specifically interested in health policy and bioethics. As a lawyer, I plan to continue working with bioethical issues and advocating for health care-related policies.

After graduation: Boston University School of Law

Preston Carter Hogue

Preston Carter Hogue, history and religion


Honors Thesis: "The Tie that Binds": White Church Flight in Atlanta, 1955-1985

Adviser: Joseph Crespino, professor of history

Research: As residential neighborhoods in Atlanta transitioned from being predominately white to predominately black in the 1960s and 1970s, white churches in those communities had the opportunity to integrate. Although a few stayed in the changing communities, many immediately fled, but most congregations lingered in the transitioning neighborhoods as they disputed the proper response to the changes. All of them faced deep moral and spiritual struggles throughout the process. My thesis uncovers and explores those struggles.

Impact:  My research helped me to understand how the evangelical church in the United States became deeply racially divided...I plan to work with low-income urban communities to overcome the social, economic and spiritual barriers to growth and development often created by white flight in the period I researched.

After graduation: Mission year

Perrinh Savang

Perrinh Savang, interdisciplinary studies


Honors Thesis: "Making Spaces: Gay and Lesbian Student Activism at Emory University (1972-1998)"


Adviser: Leslie Harris, associate professor of history and Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities

Research: My research examines how gay and lesbian activism at Emory University changed from the 1970s to the 1980s, particularly with respect to the gay and lesbian movement occurring nationally at the time. Using archival material and interviews, I have constructed a historical narrative that traces how gay and lesbian activists fought for recognition and inclusion within the university and the challenges they faced while doing so.

Impact: After exploring the struggles and accomplishments of past activists, I have come to realize the importance of history in defining not only how far a community has come regarding human rights and equality, but also how far it may still need to go. I want to incorporate historical research within activist work in hopes of motivating communities to appreciate and advocate for social change.

After graduation: Humanity in Action Fellowship

Charles L. Evavold

Charles L. Evavold, physics

Honors Thesis: "Defined Orbital Elements and Solution Parameters for Binary Star System ET Tau"

Adviser: Richard Williamon, senior lecturer in physics and director of the Emory Planetarium

Research: One of the only ways observers on Earth can determine the mass and related properties of a star system is by looking at the orbit of eclipsing binary stars. My research centered on the binary system ET Tau. We were able to combine data taken at Fernbank Science Center with novel data taken at Emory's observatory. This project was originally started by my adviser 27 years ago. With updated data and advances in modeling techniques, we reached a meaningful solution for this star system. We intend to publish these findings soon.

Impact: My research in astronomy has helped me develop laboratory methods and gain computational experience. My time here working for the observatory has helped reaffirm my love of the stars and of investigation. My research work has also been a great experience to prepare for graduate school.

After graduation: Working for a health care software company, and eventually graduate school in physics.