Honors Theses

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This is a collection of undergraduate honors theses completed by UT Austin students. There is not a requirement for students to submit their thesis to Texas ScholarWorks, so the collection only includes those students who have opted in. If you are interested in submitting your honors thesis to this collection, please complete this form and send it along with the file for your thesis to tsw@utlists.utexas.edu. Please make sure to remove any signatures from your document before sending it.

If you are looking for a Plan II honors thesis, please see the Plan II Honors Theses collection.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 608
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    Effects of Parental Diet on Nutritional Composition of Yolk and Metabolic Programming in Southern Flounder
    (2023-12) Li, Yu Ting; Fuiman, Lee A.
    Fatty acids play a critical role in cellular functions and are vital to the growth and development of fish during early stages of life. The nutrients available to fish embryos and early larvae are dependent on recent maternal diet in certain fish species, including Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma). Variations in maternal diet can result in subsequent changes to metabolic functioning of offspring, such as capacity for nutrient absorption, which is indicative of metabolic programming. The aim of this study was to (1) investigate the effects of the maternal diet on the fatty acid profiles of eggs, and (2) determine whether Southern Flounder exhibit metabolic programming in the form of measured differences in larval fatty acid composition between spawns from two maternal diet treatment groups (shrimp or sardine). Results demonstrated direct diet-egg relationships for 11 fatty acids, with the majority of these fatty acids being higher in the shrimp diet and corresponding eggs. Analyses of larval fatty acid composition, however, did not reveal significant differences in any of the 27 fatty acids measured for any of the three larval stages sampled. Therefore, there was no evidence of metabolic programming in Southern Flounder based on comparisons of larval fatty acid composition among parental diet treatments. This contrasts with prior studies that provided evidence for metabolic programming in marine teleosts.
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    The Coral Triangle: A Hotspot for Submarine Groundwater Discharge
    (2023) Nguyen, Amber; Cardenas, M. Bayani
    Coral reefs are some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world. They provide economic value to many coastal communities through fisheries and tourism. Coral reef ecosystems are especially valuable in the Coral Triangle (CT), an area in the western Pacific Ocean. Several local and regional studies have focused on geochemical and ecological research in the CT. Studies focusing on hydrologic connections and inputs from land to sea are much less common, although these have implications for coastal water quality and ecosystem health. This research explores the global patterns of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) and investigates the spatial connection between SGD rates and coral reefs. We hypothesized that SGD rates are higher in the CT versus the rest of the world. To test this hypothesis, global SGD data from two previous studies (Luijendijk et al., 2020; Zhou et al., 2019) were analyzed. The analysis included the use of GIS software and statistical methods. Student T-tests and Mann-Whitney U-tests were performed on the data to determine statistical differences between SGD values in the CT versus those outside. Results from both the Zhou et al. and Luijendijk et al. data demonstrate that SGD values are higher in the Coral Triangle than in the rest of the globe. Future work will explore the spatial relationship between volcanoes and coral reefs to determine whether volcanic activity correlates with SGD. The findings will help establish the environmental context under which the coral reefs of the CT thrive and identify potential threats to these crucial ecosystems.
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    PLGA Copolymerization Kinetic Parameter Estimation with Stochastic Modeling
    (2023-12) Dai, Jingyi; Lynd, Nathaniel
    Kinetic parameters for the reversible copolymerization of poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) provide insight into the resulting sequence, which can affect the performance of PLGA in some pharmaceutical applications such as long-acting implants. The effects of synthesis conditions on kinetic parameters and resulting sequences for PLGA have not yet been fully studied. Because existing reactivity ratio models such as Meyer-Lowry or Beckingham-Sanoja-Lynd are insufficient for copolymerization reactions which include reversibility and transesterification, and complete deterministic descriptions of reversible copolymerization are impractical, a stochastic model was used to determine kinetic parameters from experimental data collected using Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. The effect of temperature and reaction volume on rate constants and reactivity ratios were investigated. Preliminary results reveal that individual rate constants increase with increasing temperature. No clear trend was observed for reaction volume. Neither temperature nor reaction volume clearly impacted reactivity ratios. Average reactivity ratios across all experiments were r_G=3.93, r_L=0.23. More iterations of fitting need to be carried out, and experiments need to be repeated for better accuracy. These results are significant because it allows a better understanding of the various reactions during PLGA copolymerization, and the method itself can be modified to determine kinetic parameters for other complex copolymers.
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    Mental Health Implications of Adolescent Scoliosis: Analysis of Current Practices and Proposal of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention
    (2023-04-26) Villarreal, Ingrid; Young, Cara
    Scoliosis is a disease most often diagnosed during adolescence (normally between the ages of 12-17). The most common type of scoliosis diagnosed in this age range is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). This type of scoliosis is idiopathic due to its manifestation without a known cause. During the adolescent stage of life, patients are dealing with normal pubescent stresses. A diagnosis of scoliosis adds another layer of burden as it requires managing the stigma of the physical scoliosis deformity and, oftentimes, treatment that includes a bulky orthotic back brace or corrective spine surgery. Patients experience scoliosis stigma that can affect self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, stress, anxiety, and social friendships. As such, patients may experience additional challenges to their mental well-being which can continue into their adult life even once the treatment has concluded. Current standards for scoliosis do not consider the negative mental health implications of the disease. An adjunctive intervention, specifically based on mindfulness, could teach patients with scoliosis to process these negative feelings and thoughts in a more positive way from the start of the treatment and aid the patients in their journey with scoliosis. Mindfulness skills could give them the tools to successfully overcome and/or experience the stressors in a less stressful way. Moreover, mindfulness-based interventions may also help to increase a patient's orthotic bracing treatment compliance which could aid in the overall improved progression of scoliosis.
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    The Importance of Multi-Dimensional Intersectionality in Algorithmic Fairness and AI Model Development
    (2023-05) Mickel, Jennifer; De-Arteaga, Maria; Peterson, Tina
    People are increasingly interacting with artificial intelligence (AI) systems and algorithms, but oftentimes, these models are embedded with unfair biases. These biases can lead to harm when an AI system’s output is implicitly or explicitly racist, sexist, or derogatory. If the output is offensive to a person interacting with it, it can cause the person emotional harm that may manifest physically. Alternatively, if a person agrees with the model’s output, the person’s negative biases may be reinforced, inciting the person to engage in discriminatory behavior. Researchers have recognized the harm AI systems can lead to, and they have worked to develop fairness definitions and methodologies for mitigating unfair biases in machine learning models. Unfortunately, these definitions (typically binary) and methodologies are insufficient for preventing AI models from learning unfair biases. To address this, fairness definitions and methodologies must account for intersectional identities in multicultural contexts. The limited scope of fairness definitions allows for models to develop biases against people with intersectional identities that are unaccounted for in the fairness definition. Existing frameworks and methodologies for model development are based in the US cultural context, which may be insufficient for fair model development in different cultural contexts. To assist machine learning practitioners in understanding the intersectional groups affected by their models, a database should be constructed detailing the intersectional identities, cultural contexts, and relevant model domains in which people may be affected. This can lead to fairer model development, for machine learning practitioners will be better adept at testing their model's performance on intersectional groups.
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    Machine-Learning Aided Diagnosis Of Alzheimer's Disease
    (2023) Helfman, Hazel; Keitz, B.K.
    Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the accumulation of amyloid-beta proteins in the brain, leading to loss of neuronal function and eventual death. Though the incidence of Alzheimer’s has risen in recent years, in no small part due to increasing lifespans, there has been little progress in the diagnosis and prevention of the disease. Diagnosis premortem is possible, but mainly through costly imaging or invasive brain biopsies, the latter of which is not recommended due to the possibility of further brain damage in the AD patient. Furthermore, AD treatments are difficult to study due to the difficulty of identifying patients as well as the diseases’ stubborn progression. Thus, there is an area of opportunity in accurately identifying these patients for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. There are many biomarkers correlated with the presence of AD, whether that be noticeable brain damage via scanning, the biomarkers of neuron cell death, or latent biomarkers which may cooccur in the progression of the disease. Given that these are non-linear relationships, computer-aided diagnosis may help in elucidating the diagnosis of AD. Random Forest models, given their ability to generate human-understandable trees and decision surfaces, are primed to assist medical professionals with the diagnosis of AD. This thesis analyzes several such models and evaluates their accuracies, as well as providing an overview of the state of the computer-aided medical diagnostics field.
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    Efficiency and design optimization in healthcare facilities
    (2020-05) Gandhi, Annika; Anderson, Edward
    Maximizing operational efficiency in both hospitals and clinics has become increasingly important in the last decade as elements of the healthcare industry continue to evolve. As care becomes more expensive and there is a shift towards consumerism and higher competition in the market, more efficient and satisfactory care is paramount to the success of providers. Aside from the quality of practitioners and facilities, one way that clinics and hospitals in the U.S. can increase efficiency of patient care and improve patient experience is to implement principles of operations management that can optimize how a patient flows through a healthcare system. This paper aims to ascertain the most successful aspects of facility design in both outpatient and inpatient settings that allow for optimal efficiency using principles of operations management. The main concepts applied to healthcare from operations management are the utilization of lean methodology, which focuses on reducing wasted time and materials, and minimizing flow time of patients through the system. This paper will review existing literature and highlight common successful designs and techniques through analysis of case studies from clinics and hospitals in the United States. A gap exists in the literature as to whether there are direct patient benefits to a lean-focused clinic and hospital design. The findings of this paper demonstrate that design layouts that prioritize patient and practitioner flow through the system are likely to have a positive effect on a patient’s satisfaction with their visit and ultimately better patient outcomes. Highlighting the direct impact on patients will elucidate to administrators and physicians alike the benefits of implementing these methodologies to reduce frustrations of inefficiencies felt by both patients and practitioners.
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    Taiwan’s Foreign Policy Transformation: Tsai Ing-wen and the New Southbound Policy
    (2023-05-04) Waltz, Cameron; Maclachlan, Patricia
    This thesis investigates the introduction of the New Southbound Policy and the evolution of Taiwan’s foreign policy more broadly. It asks why President Tsai Ing-wen introduced the New Southbound Policy, and how the NSP makes her foreign policy distinct from her predecessors. This thesis introduces an analytical framework for explaining how international forces, domestic forces, leadership, and constraints collectively shape Taiwan’s foreign policy. It then applies this framework to ROC Presidents Lee, Chen, Ma, and Tsai to explain their foreign policy choices. My argument is that Tsai Ing-wen introduced the New Southbound Policy as a response to both international and domestic concerns. The NSP was designed not only to further Tsai’s foreign policy interests by reducing economic dependence on China but also to serve her domestic agenda by delivering economic growth. At the same time, this thesis argues that the NSP was chosen over more aggressive options due to domestic political constraints and institutional constraints. The NSP sets Tsai’s foreign policy apart because it introduces new methods of economic and soft-power engagement that innovatively uses Taiwan’s limited set of foreign policy tools. Importantly, this thesis contributes to the existing literature by emphasizing the significant role that domestic politics and constraints play in motivating and shaping the foreign policy choices of Taiwan’s leaders.
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    Cartesian Closed Categories and Typed Lambda Calculi
    (2016) Menezes, Dean; Blumberg, Andrew
    Typed lambda categories and Cartesian closed categories are both means of formalizing the process of substitution; we demonstrate that these views are essentially the same; specifically that there is an equivalence between the category of small Cartesian closed categories and the category of typed lambda calculi. First we introduce the basic notions of category, functor, monad, comonad and equivalence of categories; then we use these notions to define the category of small Cartesian closed categories and describe how additional arrows may be adjoined to a Cartesian closed category. Next we provide a definition of a typed lambda calculus and describe the structure-preserving maps or translations between typed lambda calculi. Next we provide a definition of a typed lambda calculus and describe the structure-preserving maps or translations between typed lambda calculi. Having defined the two categories we provide descriptions of functors L : Cart_N to lambda-calc and C: lambda-calc to Cart_N and then show that the functors give an equivalence of categories.
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    Inducing TCF3-PBX1B (t1;13)(q23;p13.3) Fusion Protein Influences Metabolism of Methotrexate in Human Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Cell Lines
    (2020-05) Rong, Jarrett; Buskirk, Ruth E.
    Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most widespread form of childhood cancer, and methotrexate (MTX) is one of the most commonly used chemotherapeutic agents used to treat pediatric ALL. The antileukemic effects of MTX is partially determined by intracellular concentrations of MTX polyglutamate (MTXPG), the active form of the drug. MTXPG inhibits the folate pathway, leading to cytotoxicity towards leukemic cells. It has been observed that MTXPG concentrations are lower in the Transcription Factor 3 - PBX Homeobox 1B (TCF3-PBX1B) subtype of leukemia patients as compared to other subtypes, but the mechanism through which this occurs is largely unknown. This study aims to establish the REH human ALL cell line as a viable cell line that accurately depicts pediatric ALL patients to allow for future studies to be performed to elucidate the mechanism of action of the TCF3-PBX1B fusion protein. Preliminary patient data has shown that folate pathway genes, folylpolyglutamate synthetase (FPGS) and reduced folate carrier (SLC19A1 or RFC) are positively correlated with MTXPG concentration. Further analysis has shown that transcription factors Notch Receptor 2 (NOTCH2) and SRY-Box Transcription Factor 11 (SOX11) have strong negative correlation with FPGS and SLC19A1. In our experiment, REH human ALL cells were transduced with either doxycycline-inducible LacZ (as control) or TCF3-PBX1, to determine whether the same trends seen in patients hold true in human leukemia cell lines. Data shows similar trends between patients and cell line and that the presence of TCF3-PBX1B fusion protein in REH cell line ultimately decreases intracellular MTXPG concentration. This establishes the REH human ALL cell line as a viable method of studying MTX metabolism in pediatric ALL patients, and future studies performed on the cell line can be incorporated into clinical care to create a personalized MTX treatment.