Plan II Honors Theses - Openly Available

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    Corporate Cannibal: A Fashion Accessories Collection
    (2022-01) Zhang, Caleb
    In the flesh. Corporate Cannibal is a fashion accessories collection exploring the tensions and dynamics that permeate the corporate world. The collection is comprised of four pieces: the Vice Bag, Control Ring, Incision Tie, and Cavity Tie. Each piece is meticulously designed to challenge the conventions of traditional corporate attire by incorporating subversive and provocative elements. By merging graphic imagery, tactile materials, and latent symbolism, Corporate Cannibal illuminates the complexities of our contemporary corporate landscape. It is an artistic exploration of the interplay between power, control, and agency in the corporate world, sparking conversation and dismantling traditional notions of corporate attire. The collection serves as a powerful example of the potential of fashion accessories transcending their mere functional and aesthetic purposes to become as evocative as any other art form.
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    America the Dreadful: Politics of Oppression in Trump Era Horror Films
    (2023-05) Yanez, Anthony D.
    American horror films have reflected the state of politics and socio-political issues of each particular generation since the creation of horror films in cinema. In this thesis, I explore how horror films in the Trump era continue reflecting socio-political issues of their time and how oppressive politics influence each films’ final product. The films that I analyze are The Forever Purge (2021), Candyman (1992) and Candyman (2021), Us (2019), Hereditary (2018), and Midsommar (2019). Most of the films that I discuss are produced by major Hollywood studio production companies and only two are produced by independent film studios. Each film discusses issues of oppression that affect minorities and other disadvantaged groups. Additionally, each film critiques the policies and issues that allow systematic oppression to persist. Because of each film's critique of systematic oppression, each film released in the contemporary era feature a protagonist that is a minority or is a member of a disadvantaged group in America. The questions I answer in my thesis are have American horror filmmakers continued the trope of including socio-political commentary in the contemporary era and how do American oppressive politics during the Trump-era of politics influence an American horror filmmakers' decision to include socio-political commentary when creating a film?
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    The Asian American Misinformation Machine: Investigating the Impacts of the Changing Media Ecosystem
    (2023-05) Xu, Hannah
    In the aftermath of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen many changes to the ways in which we communicate, and these new developments have caused integral shifts in the media landscape. This has given rise to new ways of processing news, and there has specifically been a shift towards increasing usage of social media and multipurpose social platforms. With this, comes the many dangers of misinformation, and one question this thesis will attempt to answer is how misinformation can be propagated through an everchanging media ecosystem, and how this can be investigated specifically through social media research. Many minority communities tend to become echo chambers of ideas that are proliferated by social media, and the lack of accountability for information put forth on these platforms allows small instances of misinformation to become widespread. My thesis will cover the phenomenon of misinformation within the Asian American community, as we’ve seen this community uniquely affected by the consequences of misinformation post-COVID, and will aim to prove why this community presents a unique lens through which to investigate this phenomenon. The first task is to understand what about this community makes it so important to social media research and to investigate what factors make this community more susceptible to misinformation, and more likely to propagate it. Not only is this community historically underrepresented, social media research itself is a relatively new field that is constantly evolving with new media forms and platforms. The next task is to investigate the means by which misinformation might be propagated within the Asian American community by analyzing existing research and primary sources, in order to discover how this misinformation machine works. Finally, I will attempt to identify what might be missing from current research that could help shed light on the propagation of misinformation and the ensuing consequences.
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    The Gender Paradox: Sex-Based Differences in Adolescent Suicidal Behavior
    (2023-05) Whittlesey, Claudia
    This thesis aims to investigate the contributing factors behind the gender paradox in suicidal behavior, specifically in adolescents. This global paradox explains that across all age groups, more cisgender males die by suicide, but cisgender females attempt suicide far more. A literature review was conducted on over one-hundred pieces of scientific literature including systematic reviews, meta-analyses, specific case studies, and more clinical research. Literature was considered that focused on suicide mortality rates, suicide attempt rates, different methods used in suicide attempts and suicides, suicide method accessibility compared to suicide mortality rates, rates of various psychiatric disorders (with potential evidence for underreporting in males), help seeking behaviors, non-suicidal self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (NSSI), and other potential external factors for suicidality and depression. This thesis concluded that although the most widely acknowledged reason behind the gender paradox is the difference in method choice with males choosing more lethal methods, there are many other factors that contribute, and it may be harmfully ignorant to solely account this problem to boys being more likely to pick up guns. These other factors include differences in coping methods and external responses to these behaviors, differences in mental health diagnoses and their symptoms, and differences in impulsivity and help seeking behaviors. Gender-specific help-seeking behavior interventions are ultimately suggested as the most probable way to decrease both male suicide rates and female suicide attempt rates.
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    Queering Reality Dating Television
    (2023-05) Vanden Bout, Marianna
    This thesis explores the ways that the reality dating television genre reinforces heteronormativity, with a focus on the role of format in constructing circumstances in which participants must perform heterosexuality in order to succeed. Beginning with a discussion of the conventions of the 2000s and continuing through the 2020s reveals the role that borrowing from established formats has played in the emergence of the reality dating genre, creating representations that continue to reproduce heteronormativity because they are reliant on what has come before. Despite this, reality television has presented unique affordances in terms of queer visibility, because of its internal commitment to authenticity as well as its unscpripted nature. As a result, the relaity dating genre makes for an interesting case to examine the ways relevision has represented queer people and relationships.
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    Edison to AI: Intellectual Property in AI-Driven Drug R&D
    (2023-05) Turner, Zak
    In 2019, the inventor Stephen Thaler filed a patent on two inventions in which he listed his AI program, Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience (DABUS), as the inventor. The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected Thaler’s applications and, in 2022, a US Federal Court of Appeals upheld this decision on the grounds that an inventor must be a human being. Although this decision is perhaps consistent with the law, a refusal to patent AI-inventions could have negative consequences for innovation. This thesis examines the question of IP policy toward AI-inventions through the prism of pharmaceutical drugs. The question is: how should AI-designed drugs be treated by US IP law? There are two smaller questions involved here. First, who, if anyone, should be recognized as the inventors for inventions created by AI. Second, is there a justification for IP rights in AI inventions? In attempting to answer these questions, this paper focuses on two AI- driven pharmaceutical companies, Insilico and Recursion. I then compare the data and models from the two firms against the arguments made regarding patent policy for AI-inventions in three scholarly works. My conclusion is that extending FDA market exclusivity privileges to AI-produced drugs is preferable to extending patent protections.
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    A Second Home: Reimagining Chinatown
    (2023-05) Tin-U, Sara
    Chinatowns have long held various meanings for the Chinese diaspora, from connecting with heritage to finding a safe space. Initially, Chinatowns formed in response to anti-Asian policies and discrimination that left many with little resources and support. With increasing anti-Asian sentiment attributed to SARS-COV-2 (Covid-19) and a fast growing Asian population, Austin’s lack of an enclave has become more apparent. Thus, a Second Home aims to investigate the meaning of Chinatowns for the Chinese diaspora as well as expand the typology and idea of a Chinatown by exploring the spectrum of Chinese architecture and hybridizing traditional and modern aspects in the context of Austin, Texas.
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    Cost Benefit Analysis of Popular Diets
    (2023-05) Steele, Quincy
    The increase in obesity in recent years has led to the creation of numerous diets claiming to induce weight loss and improve overall health. While all diets claim to be the best, it is difficult to determine which diet provides the most utility given the costs of participation. These diets have varying scientific evidence to support the claims made and participants have mental, temporal, and financial costs associated with each. This thesis examines each diet and the costs and benefits associated with each. The benefits of the diet were researched, and scientific evidence was recorded. The mental and temporal costs were determined by a one-week personal trial. The financial costs were calculated using the HEB website and meal plans provided by the text. The scientific evidence, personal data, and financial data were compared for each diet to determine which diet provides the most utility for the lowest cost. The Volumetrics diet was found to have the most scientific evidence to support the benefits, the lowest mental and temporal costs, and the lowest cost to participate in long-term.
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    A Comparative Analysis of Recent Financial Crashes and Contagions
    (2023-04) Srinivasan, Rohit
    This thesis examines the 2022 Crypto Crash in the context of financial contagions and asset crashes, aiming to understand the presence or absence of contagion and identify the factors that differentiate the crypto crash from other financial crashes. We address the research question: Was there a financial contagion present in the 2022 Crypto Crash, and if not, what factors prevented a contagion from occurring?
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    Food Deserts: A Review of Studies to Address Food Deserts in the U.S. & Proposed Directions for Research
    (2023) Shokar, Kareena
    Food deserts (FDs) are classified as low-income or low-access areas where individuals lack consistent access to nutritious foods. Redlining and gentrification have assisted in forming these areas, where individuals are more likely to be obese and have nutrient deficiencies. Researchers focus their efforts on the availability of healthy foods in local retailers, assess the impacts of new food retailers in a neighborhood, and seek to understand unique contextual factors that affect particular communities’ access to food. A literature review was conducted on 43 papers to assess current trends in FD research, determine gaps in methodologies, and propose directions for future inquiry. Inclusion of community members in the study design phase, incorporation of more thorough evaluations during and after the study, and further investigation into the dynamics of food distribution is needed to facilitate food access across the United States.
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    Decrypting NTRU: An Introductory Mathematical Exploration of the NTRU Public Key Cryptosystem
    (2023-04) Shaw, Hayden
    Provides an introductory analysis of the NTRU public key cryptosystem, including the mathematical background in which the system takes place, the specific workings of the system and how to break it, and a comparison to other relevant systems.
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    Enviornmental Effects on the Intergenerational Transmission of Depression in Children
    (2023-05) Shah, Dilan
    Depression in children and adolescents is complex and can be attributed to multiple factors. While it has been established that maternal depression at home can be an important predictor of child depression, the impact of children's social lives outside the home on the transmission of depression has not been evaluated. The present study used behavioral data from 164 children and their mothers in Austin, TX to assess the relation between maternal depression, child social competence with peers, and child depression. Data were analyzed using main effects and interaction regression models to determine if maternal depression and child sociability predicted child depression either alone or in interaction with one another. Exploratory analyses also examined relations across these factors. While regression results were non-significant, exploratory analyses showed that maternal depression was significantly correlated with increased social problems in children and tended to be associated with fewer close friends and less social time. Child depression was also associated with a better ability to work alone. These results have important implications for how future depression treatments might target specific aspects of children's sociability to potentially counterbalance the effects of maternal depression at home.
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    Miracles in March: A breakdown of the peripheral effects created by Cinderella teams in Men’s Division I College Basketball
    (2023-05) Schweizer, William Anton
    The NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, also known as March Madness, is a collegiate sporting event that occurs for three weeks every March and April and is used to determine the men’s college basketball champion in the United States. Throughout the three weeks, teams who unexpectedly make deep runs into the tournament, arise and are dubbed Cinderella teams by the public. Through the unexpected nature of these runs, curiosity from outsiders of these schools arises and generates buzz around the school’s name and image. This buzz can be used in positive ways to leverage the schools and their basketball program’s shareholders into a healthier position financially and socially. The paths to these healthier positions created through Cinderella runs can come through changes in admissions and academic standings of the schools, financials, conference affiliation, media exposure, career paths of team personnel, and name-image-likeness rules among many other effects. Through these, a potential for recklessness and poor decisions by school executives is spotted in the false belief that sports and their effects are inherently good for all involved. As this is not true, these executives need to monitor how changes to their institutions are implemented after Cinderella runs whether that’s in regards to the allocation of funding or the overall image of the school among other things. Effects through these runs are something that is constantly evolving and have the potential to create additional impacts in the coming years in the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments through the NCAA Transformation Committee’s recommended changes.
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    Congressional Insider Trading: A Legislative Analysis and Covid-19 Case Study
    (2023-05) Sarvadi, Katherine
    Due to their political positions, members of Congress often find themselves privy to information that has not yet been revealed to the public, some of which has the potential to impact the value of publicly-traded companies. Due to legislation such as the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 and the STOCK Act of 2012, Congressional members are prohibited from trading on this information and are required to file public disclosures no more than 30 days after trading securities. In the past, however, these regulations have proven unsuccessful in stopping this behavior–including during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
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    Complicating the Narrative of Hispanic Migration Through a Healthcare Lens
    (2023-05) Sanchez-Garcia, Ezequiel
    Hispanic migration and the southern border that concerns it pervade the political sphere as a point of controversy. Spurred on by recent presidential races, the narrative of Hispanic migrants and their role in the country has increased border tensions and attitudes. This honors thesis attempts to shift the standard view of migration, beginning with the 2016 election and continuing through to the present. Instead of just focusing on migration to the United States, the movement and narratives of individuals to Mexico are analyzed for access to alternative healthcare. In addition to personal experience, photojournalism pieces from a recent trip to Nuevo Progreso, secondary and archival data analysis from both countries contribute to understanding medical tourism along the southern U.S. border. Migration across the U.S.-Mexico border is not as simple as saying that movement is a one-way street ending in the theft of American jobs. It is a more complex dynamic that flows in both directions and encompasses an ethnically and geographically unique community.
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    Táyshas and Enemies: The Caddo and the Atlantic World, 800-1859
    (2023-05) Ross, Brian
    In 1542, the first Europeans entered the territory of the Caddo, the indigenous peoples of northeastern Texas and adjacent areas. Over the next few centuries, the Caddo would be drawn into new economic, social, and cultural connections with both European and indigenous newcomers, connecting them to the growing “Atlantic world”. At the same time as they were drawn into the Atlantic world, the Caddo maintained much older and deeper connections with indigenous communities surrounding them. Despite the dramatic changes European colonialism brought to their homeland, the Caddo retained sovereignty, continuing to govern themselves and their lands. This paper seeks to explore how the Caddo were connected to the world around them, both before and after colonization, and to determine how the Caddo responded to and navigated the changes brought by the European invasion. To do so, I examine a variety of historical sources, including written European sources, modern-day archaeological data, and Caddo oral history, all of which document the era through different lenses and offer insight into Caddo connections and changes across time.
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    Reproductive Rights Through the Lens of Causal Stories: A Policy Analysis
    (2023-05) Rodman, Sheyla
    Reproductive Rights Through the Lens of Causal Stories: A Policy Analysis seeks to draw a connection between reproductive rights policy, causal stories, and public opinion. The causal stories theory explains that the way we define a problem–specifically, how we attribute blame and responsibility to that problem and whether or not we view it as amenable to change by human intervention–influences the government’s response to them. Thus, causal stories often translate into public policy responses. By marking out important punctuations in reproductive rights policy, this thesis traces the historical evolution of reproductive rights, uses the events of the time to gauge the causal stories influencing policy, evaluates the role that political actors have played in promoting those causal stories, and measures how public opinion has responded to certain policy decisions. A core argument in this thesis is that, for a causal story to effect policy change, the causal story must have majority public support because the U.S. government is designed to be responsive to public opinion. To assess this claim, I compare reproductive rights policy and the causal stories implicated in it with public opinion, mainly gathered through public opinion polling results throughout the last few decades. I find that, for the most part, this claim holds up relatively well; however, in 2022, reproductive rights experienced a significant shift that ran contrary to public opinion. The thesis ends with a discussion of what the overturn of Roe v. Wade signals for the democraticness of the Supreme Court, the causal stories involved in the decision, and what this means for the future of American democracy.
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    Migrant Caravans: An Analysis of Mass Migration in Global Media
    (2023-05) Rocha, Valeria Yamilth
    The media coverage of migration has changed in significant ways to include a distinct narrative of mass migration. In this report, I conducted a comparative cross-national content analysis of national media within the United States and Mexico that focuses on the depiction of migrant caravans in news articles from October of 2018 to December of 2019. These newspaper articles were derived based on the word search of, “Migrant Caravan”, or its equivalent in Spanish, “Caravana Migrante”, from The New York Times and El Universal respectively.  This analysis of national media across two countries and within fifteen months will follow the development of the 2018 Honduran Migrant Caravan within news articles both printed and available online. With this, I hope to demonstrate key differences in the depiction of mass migration in the form of migrant caravans and the implications of media coverage as a medium for the representation of migrants.
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    Women in the Workforce: How COVID-19 Erased 50 Years of Progress
    (2023-05) Reford, Saskia
    Women in the Workforce: How COVID-19 Erased 50 Years of Progress seeks to provide a holistic understanding of the impact COVID-19 had on women’s labor force participation rate. COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our lives for the last three years; however, one of the most surprising and devastating consequences was its effect on female employment. During the pandemic, women in the United States were participating in the labor force at the lowest rate since the 1970s. This thesis attempts to understand the causes, effects, significance, and solution of this issue. It will act as a “one-stop” shop for anyone trying to explore this problem. Equal attention is given to academic papers and opinion articles, explaining the numbers, and giving a voice to the women behind the numbers. While much of the data focuses on the United States, attention is given to other countries as this problem is a worldwide phenomenon. This paper aims to illuminate a problem unknown to most people and provide concrete, tangible solutions. As we transition away from a world consumed by COVID-19, we must not leave women behind.
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    Examining the Efficacy and Importance of Social-Emotional Learning in Early Childhood Education: Case Study of Austin ISD Kindergarten SEL Curriculum and Outcomes
    (2023-05) Ratliff, Caroline
    This research explores the efficacy and importance of social emotional learning (SEL) in early childhood education, particularly at the kindergarten grade level. There exists a substantiated and ever-growing body of evidence demonstrating that instruction of SEL skills in schools produces positive short and long-term outcomes for young students. Based on this knowledge, this research addresses the question of how educators and administrators can best tailor SEL curriculum to be both highly effective and developmentally appropriate at the kindergarten grade level. Research was conducted in two phases–first, extensive review and synthesis of existing literature in the field of early childhood SEL, and second, a case study of student and educator experience and outcomes with system-wide SEL implementation at Russell Lee Elementary School in the Austin Independent School District. Ultimate research results affirmed initial findings about the imperative nature of SEL to early childhood education and, more broadly, early childhood development, with student outcomes demonstrating the necessity of SEL-related skills for success in academic contexts and beyond.