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University Honors Program

Reflections from the 2022 Honors Student Symposium

By Kaitlin Lewis

Since 2007, the Honors Student Symposium has provided senior thesis writers with the chance to share their research to fellow peers, faculty and friends. The Symposium is modeled after a professional conference and includes time for each presenter to have a formal presentation, a question-and answer-period, as well as informal times to mingle with their attendees. 

In 2021, Symposium presentations were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making this year’s Symposium on April 1 even more special. Office Coordinator for the University Honors Program Gina Lloyd said that while the virtual presentations last year were a wonderful way for students to share their research, bringing people together in the same venue adds another dimension to the event.

“For both presenters and the audience members I feel it was a more personalized experience,” Lloyd said regarding this year’s in-person symposium.  “It was exciting to be in the company of thesis researchers and to witness the many friends, mentors, professors and even family who attended in support of the students' tremendous effort and hard work over the past 12 to 18 months.”

The 2022 Symposium also marked the first year that Dr. Samuel Dorf, associate professor of musicology, attended the event as the associate director of research for the UHP. As associate director of research, Dorf has a close hand in guiding Honors thesis writers from the start of their research journey to the end. 

“I loved getting to hear so many amazing Honors student presentations from across campus, but maybe the best part was taking in the intellectual excitement of the ‘question and answer’ period after each paper,” Dorf said. “It was amazing to witness faculty, students, family members, and deans and the President of the University deeply engaged in the Honors Program students' research and creative work.”

The Honors Program had the chance to speak with a few presenters from the day to ask how their presentations went, as well as any advice they might give to students considering pursuing a thesis while at UD.

Katherine Kohnen: Pre-medicine and Psychology

Thesis Title: “Challenging Genetic Dogma: Testing Whether Modularity is a General Feature of the Switches that Control Animal Gene Use”

  • “My presentation at the Honors Student Symposium was an incredible culmination of three years of research in the Williams Lab. Several of my friends and family members, who had not previously heard about my research, were able to attend the symposium and learn about not only my project but also the projects of other Honors students.”
  • “I'd recommend doing an Honors Thesis to any Honors student who has considered the idea. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive and has prepared me for graduate school, improved my critical thinking and communication skills, and provided me the opportunity to form relationships that will last beyond graduation.”

Brigid Morgan: Biology

Thesis Title: “Ain't No Sunshine When They're Gone: Pollinators in a Solar Prairie”

  •  “I thought the day overall was amazing. I love seeing presentations within biology because I'm always learning something new that's happening in the field. But since I love music and theater so much and I'm a member of a lot of music groups, seeing those presentations made me so happy to see my friends working on things they love.”
  • “To anyone who's looking to do an honors thesis: it's worth all of the hard work. The hardest step for me was having the courage to reach out to a professor to be my advisor, but after that I felt like it was achievable. It's a lot of work with times when you won't feel motivated or don't want to finish, but it's so worth it in the end. Keep going, you've got this!”

Grace DiPierro: Psychology

Thesis Title: “Investigating the Relationship between Identity Salience and Attitudes about Groups”

  • “ It was really rewarding to share my project with fellow Honors students and the UD community, especially since I've been working on this project for over a year now. I loved learning about the work that my peers were doing, too. There was a huge variety of topics that kept the presentations interesting and taught me a lot that I didn't know before!
  • “I would definitely recommend completing an Honors Thesis. I learned a lot about how to budget time, manage a large workload, and conduct my own research project. Doing this kind of project as an undergrad helped me make decisions about what I wanted to do post-grad, too.”

Ryan Maguire: Chemistry

Thesis Title: “Development of Melamine Derivatives as Potential Reactive Flame Retardants for Thermoplastic and Thermoset Polymers”

  • “I'd say that the presentation went quite well. It was fantastic to be able to present to individuals both in as well as outside my field of study.”
  • “To someone interested in doing an Honors Thesis, I'd say that it's certainly a lot of work to complete it, but that it's truly an important experience to gain research, presentation, and writing skills in one's field that will be useful in a future career.”

Mackenzie Martin: Pre-Medicine

Thesis Title: “The Kinetics and Mechanisms Regulating the Impact of Anaerobic Exposure on Listeria monocytogenes Pathogenesis” 

  • “ I was a little nervous to squeeze so many years of work into one presentation, but I was also incredibly excited to feel like my hard work was finally wrapping up. It felt good to stand up there because I really felt like I understood what I was explaining and felt like I could explain it to the audience in an understandable way.”
  • If someone was wanting to do an Honors Thesis, I would 100% advocate for it! This process has made me very comfortable with speaking about my research as well as the pertinent background information. I would say to pick a great faculty mentor and they will help make all the work exciting and manageable.”

Aileen Hull: Sociology

Thesis Title: “College Students’ Opinions on Climate Change: Do Political Views Matter?”

  • “My presentation went well! I most enjoyed the questions after my presentation because I was able to discuss more of my research and have a dialogue about my topic with all those there. I overall felt so empowered from the day because I got to see so many of my friends share their hard work and passions that I have seen them work on for almost two years.” 
  • “I would recommend doing an honors thesis because it is such a fulfilling process to pick a research topic, work on it long term, and see what it turns into.”
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