Each year, the Westover Honors College recognizes fellows who have achieved excellence in their senior research projects. This year was no exception.
“Seniors this year faced many unprecedented challenges because of the current pandemic, but they persevered and demonstrated resilience,” Dr. Ed DeClair, outgoing dean of the Westover Honors College, said.
Overall, 45 graduating fellows “successfully navigated the many challenges faced in the spring semester,” DeClair said, adding that many “engaged in significant and timely research projects that provide an excellent window into the Westover thesis process.”
In the end, however, the work of five fellows stood out. “This was not an easy decision,” DeClair said. “There were many excellent senior theses, but these five individuals truly achieved excellence as they completed their senior research projects.”
The following students and their research were recognized:
Haden Bragg, “Efficiency Analysis of Harvesting Solar Energy to Perform Mechanical Work.” Dr. Jennifer Styrsky, assistant professor of environmental science, served on Bragg’s thesis committee. “Haden demonstrated a high degree of motivation, resourcefulness, and perseverance throughout his project,” she said. “His thesis included well-thought-out mathematical models of the motor’s efficiency, grounded in theoretical physics.
“He designed and installed a solar power station on campus, converted a standard bicycle to the electronic bicycle prototype, and created a makeshift efficiency testing station out of a neighborhood culvert when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from accessing the controlled physics lab environment. This research is timely and important, as it contributes to further development of transportation alternatives that do not rely on fossil fuels.”
Teresa Gunter, “An American Story: Catalan Artist Pierre Daura as Exile, Refugee, Naturalized Citizen.” In discussing Gunter’s thesis, longtime history professor Dr. Mike Santos said, “[It] is one of the best I have read in all my years at the University of Lynchburg. Her work demonstrated a level of painstaking research and solid analysis that were up to professional standards, and I believe merit publication at some time in the near future.”
Dr. Adam Dean, associate professor of history, added that Gunter’s thesis emphasizes “the links between his service in the Spanish Civil War and immigrant experience to his art” and “presents a clear cohesive argument and compelling narrative.”
John Jaminet, “Visualization of Musical Instruments through Midi Interface.” Styrsky, who served on Jaminet’s thesis committee, described his work as “an innovative and multidisciplinary research project, combining music and computer science to develop an immersive light display generated in response to real-time music played on a keyboard.
“John designed, built, and programmed the system that converted the musical notes to a visual display. He succeeded in getting the different software components to work together, which was a complex and challenging task. This project integrated art and science to create an accessible, enjoyable, and multisensory performance.”
Hiatt O’Connor, “A Search for Aristotelian Political Friendship in Thomas Jefferson’s Ideal American Regime.” Political science professor Dr. Timothy Meinke described O’Connor’s thesis as an “excellent … examination of both ancient and modern political philosophy. His work started with a careful analysis of two of Aristotle’s political texts, ‘The Politics’ and ‘The Nicomachean Ethics,’ on the role of civic friendship in the political order.
“Hiatt used that study of Aristotle for a comparison with the American founders, particularly Thomas Jefferson, and their ideas on republican political philosophy. Hiatt’s work is also incredibly important because he found that political friendship is a truth that is natural and true across different times and cultures, a true component of any good regime, which is a direct attack on the relativism of our modern times.”
Cassandra Robertson, “Dose response effect of Mycobacterium smegmatis-derived lipomannan in RAW 264.7 murine macrophages.” Dr. David Freier, professor of biology and biomedical science, worked closely with Robertson over the past year and a half. “She was consistently proactive in her work on this project and showed distinct acumen in balancing her commitment to the thesis project with her many other commitments,” Freier said.
“Understanding the basic interaction between the cell wall components of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the response of macrophages builds a level of basic knowledge allowing for future investigation of the bacterium’s ability to evade immune responses. This may in turn lead to better treatments or a possible vaccine against the pathogenic organism. In all of them she reached a level of excellence not often found.”