COMMENCEMENT 2014 >>

College honors theses showcase original research

Emory Report | May 2, 2014

At Emory, the high caliber of resources of a national research university adds depth and rigor to the undergraduate liberal arts education.

To graduate with honors from the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, 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. The result is a final paper and an oral defense of their thesis to a faculty committee.  

Here is a sample of the work of students from the humanities, natural and social sciences, describing their research, its impact and their post-graduation plans:

James Zainaldin

James Zainaldin

James Zainaldin, classics

Honors Thesis: "Education and Politics in Plato and Cicero"

Adviser: Garth Tissol, professor of classics

Research: My thesis explores the relationship between education and its political context in the works of Plato and Cicero. Specifically, I am concerned with the question: Does the educated individual have an obligation to participate in politics? I argue that Platonic education actually drives the educated person away from political service. I find that Cicero, in contrast, recommends an educational plan with the goals of political service firmly in mind.

Impact: The process of writing this thesis has provided an excellent opportunity to acquaint myself with the primary and secondary literature of a very specific topic. More important, I think, are the lessons I learned on how to choose a topic and manage the extended presentation of a research project.

After graduation: Harvard University for PhD in classics


Zhuxiang (Emerson) Qin

Zhuxiang (Emerson) Qin

Zhuxiang (Emerson) Qin, economics

Honors Thesis: "What Happens to Marriage in China When Housing Prices Increase"

Adviser: Andrew Francis, associate professor of economics

Research: In China, the relation between a male's desirability in the marriage market and his possession of private residential assets has long existed. By examining annual data of 30 provinces in China from 1998 to 2011, I apply three models and discover that rising housing prices overall deter people from getting married. I also attempt to explain the complexity in analyzing the empirical relationship between marital dynamics and housing prices.

Impact: Participating in honors research allowed me to incorporate knowledge and skills from different classes and to develop an ability to apply economic theory in practical settings. In addition, the quantitative analysis training will help me make better decisions when I start up my own business in future.

After graduation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a master's degree program in finance


Fiona O'Carroll

Fiona O'Carroll

Fiona O'Carroll, history

Honors Thesis: " 'The Instinct of Every Real Woman': The Ideas of the Anti-Suffrage Movement in the U.S., 1868-1920"

Adviser: Patrick Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History

Research: Between 1868 and 1920, the most active, organized opposition to the American woman suffrage movement came from women, known as anti-suffragists. Defenders of the status quo, anti-suffragists drew on widely accepted religious, cultural and scientific ideas about gender and gender roles. Understanding the anti-suffragists' views can help us understand why the struggle for woman suffrage was such a long and arduous one.

Impact: By conducting independent research, I have learned how to ask questions and I have become more resourceful, self-reliant, disciplined and creative in answering them.

After graduation: Bobby Jones Scholar studying history at the University of St Andrews, followed by either law school or graduate school in history


Maglyn Bertrand

Maglyn Bertrand

Maglyn Bertrand, music

Honors Thesis: "The Development and Revitalization of the Chilean and Argentine New Song Movement"

Adviser: Stephen Crist, associate professor of music history

Research: During the 1960s, certain Chilean and Argentine musicians and lyricists articulated the need for two new music genres. My thesis focuses on how various musicians helped each genre develop particular apolitical and political identities during the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s. My work focused on the genres as cultural manifestations, accompaniments to political voices, and as national and international genres in attempt to understand their development.

Impact: My music history thesis has enabled me to draw upon information I have learned from my two majors, music and Latin American studies, as well as from other courses. I will continue to study music that allows me to focus on connections between music and politics, music and social/cultural movements, and various kinds of Latin American music.

After graduation: Internship at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Washington D.C.; graduate school applications in ethnomusicology / musicology


Jeffeline Ermilus

Jeffeline Ermilus

Jeffeline Ermilus, sociology

Honors Thesis: "Voter Suppression in a 'Post-Racial' Society: Examining Allegations of Voter Disenfranchisement"

Adviser: Alexander Hicks, Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Sociology

Research: In light of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision to repeal part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, some observers claim the opportunity for voter disenfranchisement has grown. Using data from provisional ballots from the elections from 2004-2012 that were rejected due to insufficient identification, I examine the idea that voter identification statutes have a deterrent effect on turnout among minority populations, particularly African Americans.

Impact: My research centers around issues that have disparate effects on minority populations. In the future, when I'm a lawyer, I plan to work on policies that mitigate these inequities.

After graduation: Georgetown University Law Center


Jason Kim, neuroscience and behavioral biology, biology

Honors Thesis: "Motor Control of Heartbeat Coordination in the Medicinal Leech"

Adviser: Ronald Calabrese, Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Biology

Research: Medicinal leeches have been important model organisms, particularly in motor systems research. Three different preparations with varying degrees of dissection were designed to investigate previously established paradigms of leech heartbeat motor patterns. The major findings include an analysis of differing heartbeat patterns in previously unexplored segments as well as the preservation of motor-to-muscular performance across preparations.

Impact: I was part of the Calabrese Laboratory for most of my undergraduate career and participated in several projects and research programs. My experiences there allowed me to fully contemplate a career in research and have prepared me for my graduate studies.

After graduation: Northwestern University PhD program in neuroscience