Honors Research Projects


Bailey Anderson
For her first project, Bailey collected data on the fireflies on High Knob.  She and Wally Smith were particularly interested in documenting the local mating patterns of Photinus carolinus, famed for its synchronous mating “light shows.”  Her second project, under the direction of Cody Sanders, examined the lower-than-average support for physical education in Southwest Virginia public schools, and identified administrative strategies that could improve these programs.

Morgan Blair
Morgan’s first project probed the collaborative roles of XPC proteins and XPA sensors in the body’s repair of DNA.  Her second project examined the bone-setting and massage methods of traditional Tongan healers and evaluated them in relation to modern medical practices.  Under the direction of Mike Shell and Ryan Huish, respectively.

Zoe Crihfield
For her first project, Zoe researched three early twentieth century lynchings in Wise County and worked with community leaders to document and commemorate these events.  Her second project chronicled the life and career of Miriam Delois Morris Fuller, the first African American student to attend UVA Wise (in 1960).  Both projects were mentored by Tom Costa.

Georgia Horne
Georgia’s capstone project conducted a historical analysis of the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey in 1966.  Unlike theistic Satanism or “devil worship,” LaVey’s rationalistic philosophy sees Satan as an archetype—rather than a literal figure—who is associated with pride, individual empowerment, vital existence, and undefiled wisdom.  Georgia’s paper explored how theistic and rational Satanism became conflated by mainstream culture and media and attempted to untangle the two in order to provide a critical analysis of the history and religious philosophy of LaVey’s church.  Co-directed by Cindy Wilkey and Anthony Cashio.

Madelyn Lawrence
Madelyn’s first project explored the potential use of carbon monoxide releasing molecules (CORMs) in cancer treatments.  Working with Floyd Beckford, she synthesized and characterized CORM complexes and then attempted to determine their anti-bacterial and cytotoxicity functions.  Her second project, under the direction of Ryan Huish, examined the efficacy of medicinal plants used by traditional healers in Tonga for treatments of common dental ailments.

Mackenzie Mason
For her first project, Mackenzie studied historical caricatures of African Americans and demonstrated the ways in which many of them—including the infamous cartoon of Serena Williams following the 2018 U.S. Open—persist in American culture.  For her second project, Mackenzie interviewed teachers and students in local high schools in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of virtual education during the pandemic (with an eye towards possible improvements for the future).  Under the direction of Tom Costa and Elizabeth Dotson-Shupe, respectively.

Autumn Stover-Bailey
Autumn’s first project examined the nature of Fortune in Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and then showed how the medieval Pearl poet both used the classical tradition and also combined it with providence in order to Christianize the convention.  For her second project, Autumn wrote an essay in which she analyzed the tension that Chaucer creates between religious and secular themes in Troilus and Criseyde.  Both projects were directed by Ken Tiller.

Rachel Ward
For her capstone project, Rachel examined the effects of the pandemic on the friendship relationship.  She worked with Anthony Cashio to identify the philosophical underpinnings of friendship as well as the ways in which these relationships are traditionally maintained.  Rachel then looked at the particular challenges posed by COVID-19, including the effects of prolonged social distancing.  Finally, under the direction of Kristina Feeser, she used the principles of social psychology to identify strategies—communication, listening, nonverbal expression, empathy, etc.—for maintaining meaningful connections.


Dylan Dockery
Mr. Dockery’s first project, under the guidance of Michael Potter, was a paper that examined European mathematical developments in the 15th and 16th centuries and sought to answer the question: was there a mathematical Renaissance?  For his second project, Mr. Dockery researched the tableware and diet of medieval peasants.  He then tried his hand at carving traditional wooden vessels (bowl, spoon, trencher) and baking the dark rye bread that peasants typically ate.  Under the direction of John Mark Adrian.

Dylan Mabe
For his first project, Mr. Mabe collaborated with other UVA Wise history students to research and document three early 20th Century lynchings in Wise County.  The project, under the direction of Tom Costa, resulted in a campus presentation and an online article published through James Madison University.  Mr. Mabe’s second project—the creation of a polished script for a half-hour comic performance—required him to work closely with Michael McNulty on the nuances of comic subject matter, writing, style, and delivery.  It will be performed in the fall. 

Telena Turner
Along with classmate Montana Hill, Ms. Turner worked with Jenn Murray to conduct historical research on World War II era battleships.  The students then put these insights into practice by writing their own murder mystery “script” (plot, characters, rules, etc.) that was enacted by 17 Honors students.  For her second project, Ms. Turner explored Paradise Lost’s epic appropriations of the traditional Great Chain of Being.  Her resulting paper argued that Milton significantly modified received notions in order to emphasize Satan’s physical and spiritual degeneration.  Under the direction of John Mark Adrian.


Lillian Bright
One of Ms. Bright’s projects involved compiling an oral history of the topography of the UVA Wise campus—including the ways in which it has changed over the decades due to mining, runoff, pond formation, and other deliberate development.  Working closely with Phil Shelton (whose expertise she also tapped), she preserved this valuable information for future generations.  Her second project, a graphic novella written and illustrated by Ms. Bright, was completed under the direction of Suzanne Adams-Ramsey.

Jordan Kern
For his first project, Mr. Kern researched the condition of women in Appalachia.  The resulting paper probed economic, cultural, educational, and environmental factors that have created particular challenges for Appalachian women.  Under the direction of Cindy Wilkey.  Mr. Kern’s second project, directed by Tom Costa, involved visiting historical sites on a study abroad trip to London and writing critical and personal reflections in a daily journal.

Kara Dotten
Ms. Dotten created, directed, and performed in the one-woman show Mock and Mummery.  Performed in the fall of 2016, the show combined puppetry, dance, pantomime, and clowning in the style of the Swiss mask theater troupe Mummenschanz.  Under the direction of Michael McNulty.  Her second project involved writing a series of lyrical essays that explore mental health disorders (e.g. bipolar, OCD, depression) as they manifest themselves in daily life.  In doing so, Ms. Dotten sought to creatively cultivate a broader understanding of mental illness.  Under the direction of Kate Kremer.

Montana Hill
Along with classmate Telena Turner, Ms. Hill worked with Jenn Murray to conduct historical research on World War II era battleships.  The students then put these insights into practice by writing their own murder mystery “script” (plot, characters, rules, etc.) that was  played/performed by 17 people earlier this year.  Ms. Hill’s second project involved gathering data on light pollution in America’s national parks.  Last summer, she travelled to Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Natural Bridges, and other parks to take sky-glow measurements; afterwards, her findings were added to a national database and shared with the College (via scientific poster) at Research Day.  Under the direction of Bob VanGundy.

Isaac Murray
For one project, Isaac worked on a study that measured differences in science anxiety between men and women and among students in different academic majors.  The results—that women generally had higher levels of science anxiety but that exposure to science classes lessened anxiety for both genders—were presented via poster at the Undergraduate Research Symposium.  Mr. Murray’s second project was a philosophy paper that analyzed the 1990s anime show Neon Genesis Evangelion in terms of the very different interpretations constructed by Western and non-Western viewers.  The two projects were under the direction of Alexandra Reynolds and Anthony Cashio, respectively.

Robert Powers
During the semester that Mr. Powers spent studying abroad in Dortmund, Germany, he kept a detailed journal in which he recorded and reflected on his experiences.  For the second project, he wrote a paper on Fred Wander’s Der Siebente Brunn and analyzed the different translation strategies involved in two English versions of the work.  Mr. Powers subsequently returned to Germany, where he presented his findings at an academic conference.  Both projects were directed by Amelia Harris.


Alex Cantrell
Mr. Cantrell completed two capstone alternative independent research projects.  For the first, he worked with mentor Madelynn Shell to study the causes of depression among freshmen college students (including academic performance and academic stress) as well as the extent to which academic support services might mitigate these effects.  He wrote a paper and publicly presented the results.  For the second project, Mr. Cantrell researched ongoing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s Disease.  Though treatments have been typically limited to treating the symptoms or halting disease progression, current research is beginning to focus on regenerative medicine.  Mr. Cantrell’s paper, under the direction of Margie Tucker, sought to understand this cutting edge research and make the case for its continuance.

Grace Craddock
For her first capstone alternative project, Ms. Craddock kept a reflective journal during her month-long experience as a Summer Bridge teaching assistant. In reflecting on her experience with the application of teaching theory to teaching practice, she evaluated student responsiveness, weighed the effectiveness of various pedagogies, considered possible improvements, and charted her own personal growth and development as a teacher.  Under the direction of Marla Weitzman.  For her second project, Ms. Craddock explored differences in advertising depictions of white women and African American women across several decades.  She concentrated on visual depictions in Betty Crocker and Aunt Jemima, and eventually produced an academic poster that was presented at UVA Wise Research Day.  Under the direction of Gretchen Martin.

Ahliyah Gavin
For her capstone project, Ms. Gavin brought together the disciplines of psychology, religion, and cultural studies.  Her project started with two questions:  what happens in the brain when we see religious image/symbols, and does that differ in any measurable way from the brain’s reaction to other stimuli?  Under the direction of Jim Horton and Witold Wolny, she then developed a study that analyzed the neural responses of student participants toward both religious and pop culture images.  She used Neuroscan lab equipment to measure and record participants’ EEG activity; she then compared the nature and intensity of responses on both the precognitive and cognitive levels.  The study found, among other things, that highly religious subjects had strong precognitive reactions to pop culture images, while less religious subjects had strong cognitive reactions to religious images.

Madison Niece
Ms. Niece’s research focused on investigating the potential of different metal complexes in inhibiting cancer and microbial growth.  She began by synthesizing different ruthenium-based metal complexes (featuring varying organic and metallic components arranged in different structures).  She then examined the interactions of these different complexes with DNA and proteins.  In doing so, she helped determine the possible biological effects of these metal complexes and evaluate their potential usefulness in medicinal chemistry.  Ms. Niece has pursued these projects over a number of years with Floyd Beckford, and they have borne fruit in academic posters and conference presentations.  More recently, they have co-authored an academic paper that has been submitted for publication.

Logan Patrick
Mr. Patrick’s Honors research explores how and why individuals assign different meanings to the same work of art.  Starting with John Dewey and engaging the work of other philosophers like Arthur Danto, Hegel, Plato, and Aristotle, he wrote a paper in which he synthesized these philosophical voices into a cohesive theory.  Then, Mr. Patrick applied these ideas to the performing arts via a case study.  He created a survey to analyze the reactions of audience members towards a given show and probe the possible factors influencing these reactions.  He also explored the more general perceptions that both students and community members have of the UVA Wise theater department.  Under the direction of Anthony Casio and Michael McNulty.


Kody Gardner
Mr. Gardner completed two capstone alternative independent research projects. The first took a critical approach to the popular murder mystery dinner genre.  By blending literary and game theory approaches, he analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of various models; he then put these insights into practice by writing his own murder mystery “script” (plot, characters, rules, etc.) that was then played/performed by 18 people in February of 2017.  For his second project, Mr. Gardner studied the 2011 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus (c. 1608).  This play is now rarely performed—in part because its seemingly elitist and condescending tragic hero is less sympathetic to modern, democratic audiences.  Mr. Gardner’s paper analyzed how the film adapts the story and modifies Coriolanus’s character in order to rehabilitate the play.  Both projects were directed by John Mark Adrian.

Julia Maggard
For her Honors senior capstone project, Ms. Maggard undertook a study of Appalachian moonshining. Because her particular interest was in local people who participated in the making, transporting, and consuming of moonshine, she interviewed people with firsthand experience of the trade and recorded their personal narratives.  The resulting paper summarized her findings, including the perception that moonshining has long served as a crucial economic supplement for families in the region.  While working on project, Ms. Maggard served as a research fellow for the Center for Appalachian Studies.  Under the direction of Brian McKnight and Amy Clark.

Katelyn Sutherland
Ms. Sutherland, a computer science major, used her senior capstone project to explore the development of Intelligent Tutoring Systems. She began by conducting research in the field to understand how such systems are able to intelligently target an individual’s skill level and problem areas and then adapt accordingly.  She then attempted to develop a small-scale prototype to see if she could implement some of these technologies on her own.  Ms. Sutherland chose to focus on foreign language acquisition since there is less existing research on tutoring systems in this field.  After creating a student questionnaire and collaborating with a Spanish instructor to identify common problem areas in language acquisition, she designed a prototype to address these issues in a practical way.  Under the direction of Robert Hatch and Donald Trivett.

Ethan Samerdyke
For his senior capstone project, Mr. Samerdyke studied Geoffrey Chaucer’s verse romance Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385).  He focused particularly on Chaucer’s varied portrayals of romantic love, which range from “conquest” to courtly love to spiritual connection.  In the resulting paper, Mr. Samerdyke explored how Chaucer’s conceptions are influenced by the Roman philosopher Boethius, whose Consolation of Philosophy (c. 524) carefully distinguishes between spiritual and worldly love and discusses the role of fate or fortune in love.  Ultimately, the paper confirms Boethian influence, though on a part of the poem that is not typically acknowledged.  Under the direction of Ken Tiller and Anthony Cashio.


Forrest Duncan
Mr. Duncan’s first project, directed by Mark Clark, was a historical investigation into the status and treatment of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.  He then brought this knowledge to bear on a second project, an adaptation and performance of Doug Wright’s one-man play, I Am My Own Wife.  In doing so, Mr. Duncan vividly dramatized the life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite who endured and survived the Nazi regime.  Under the direction of Michael Hunt.

Nathan McGlone
For one of his projects, Mr. McGlone kept a reflective journal during the 4 weeks he spent in rural South Africa as a member of a UVA Global Health Team.  Under the direction of Robin Woodard.  For his second project, he worked with Anthony Cashio to examine issues of local water quality through the lens of environmental ethics. In the resulting paper, Mr. McGlone  wrestled with questions like who should bear responsibility, on what philosophical grounds, and what courses of action might be followed in addressing this complex but crucial issue.


Megan Hilliard
Ms. Hilliard completed two capstone alternative independent research projects.  The first, under the direction of Gillian Huang-Tiller, was a paper that investigated different versions of the Cinderella story from around the world (and what those versions say about the cultures that produced them).  Ms. Hilliard’s second project was a reflective journal that compared the teaching preparation that she received in the college classroom with the practical realities of her teaching internship experience.  Under the direction of Jeff Cantrell.

Amanda Neese
For one of her capstone alternative projects, Ms. Neese designed and created costumes for a Seven Deadly Sins processional performance at the UVA Wise Medieval/Renaissance Conference.  Under the direction of John Mark Adrian and Kenneth Tiller.  Ms. Neese’s second project focused on the philosophy of liberal arts education and the current societal debate regarding its worth.  She then produced a paper that reflected on her own liberal arts experience  at UVA Wise and evaluated the extent to which practice matched up with theory.  Under the direction of John Mark Adrian.

Rebekah Sigman
Ms. Sigman’s first capstone alternative project comprised a reflective journal completed in association with her work as dramaturg on the theatrical production The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.  Under the direction of Michael McNulty.  Her second project explored the life and works of the Renaissance sculptor Donatello.  After thoroughly researching her subject, Ms. Sigman composed an original monologue that elucidated Donatello’s unique approach to his art. Directed by John Mark Adrian.


Mandy Blankenship
Ms. Blankenship completed two capstone alternative independent research projects.  The first, under the direction of Kevin Jones, was a paper that investigated the nature and extent of discrimination against female scientists throughout history.  She then examined the extent to which gender biases can still be found in the scientific world today.  Ms. Blankenship’s second project explored William Golding’s classic novel The Lord of the Flies as a conscious response to philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s educational principles.  Under the direction of Roman Zylawy.

Taylor Bryan
For his Honors senior capstone project, Mr. Bryan undertook a study of the American heavy metal subculture.  Although this musical genre is frequently associated with violence and unrest and devalued as a legitimate form of musical expression, Mr. Bryan’s research suggests that heavy metal has long served its practitioners (and their followers) as an important outlet for creativity, socialization, and political commentary.  His resulting paper provided a history of heavy metal and carefully examined song lyrics as sites of reaction, commentary, and negotiation in relation to contemporary events.  Under the direction of Eric Smith and Cindy Wilkey.

Tiffany Carter
For one of her capstone alternative projects, Ms. Carter designed and created costumes for a Seven Deadly Sins processional performance at the UVA Wise Medieval/Renaissance Conference.  Under the direction of John Mark Adrian and Kenneth Tiller.  Ms. Carter’s second project focused on developing curriculum for teaching Italian Renaissance architecture to elementary school children.  Under the co-direction of Jeff Cantrell and John Mark Adrian, she created innovative lesson plans on the classical elements, mathematical basis, and modern impact of Renaissance buildings.


Zachary Holcomb
Mr. Holcomb completed two capstone alternative independent research projects.  The first was a reflective journal that he kept during a short-term study abroad trip to the United Kingdom.  For the second project, Mr. Holcomb used a Science and Religion honors course as a springboard for investigating the relationship between these two modes of thinking in the minds of UVA Wise students.  Along with classmate Ashley Blaylock (and under the guidance of Witold Wolny), they developed a survey, collected data, and then analyzed and interpreted the different models (and their prevalence) here on campus.

Jessica Shartouny
For one of her capstone alternative projects, Ms. Shartouny conducted a scientific analysis of an algae bloom in an on-campus lake.  She studied the algae, ran a range of water quality tests, discovered factors contributing to the algae’s proliferation, and made treatment recommendations.  Under the direction of Kristine Hoffman.  Ms. Shartouny’s second project, completed under the guidance of Patrick Withen, investigated the views and attitudes of UVA Wise students and local residents towards the Middle East.  After designing a survey and conducting extensive interviews in the area, Ms. Shartouny created a video presentation that synthesized and sought to explain her results.

Laura Stamper
Ms. Stamper’s first capstone alternative project examined how the University of Padua became one of the world’s leading scientific and medical universities during the Renaissance.  Her resulting paper looked closely at Padua’s curriculum, pedagogy, and groundbreaking anatomy theatre.  She also gave an oral presentation to her classmates just prior to their touring the University on a  study abroad trip to Italy.  Under the direction of John Mark Adrian.  For her second project, Ms. Stamper investigated the sophisticated camouflage systems of the cephalopod family.  Under the guidance of Robin Woodard, Ms. Stamper studied the latest discoveries in sensory biology and behavioral ecology, synthesizing these results into a paper that set forth the physiological “secrets” of these remarkably adaptive creatures.

Dakota Thomas
For his Honors senior capstone project, Mr. Thomas tested part of the Liberal Peace Theses to see if there is a correlation between the amount that a country spends on domestic social welfare programs and the likelihood that that country will engage in military action.  His methodology involved a statistical analysis (of states capable of international military action) of three main categories:  military actions since 1980, percent of GDP used for social welfare, and percent of GDP used on military expenses (with control variables).  Ultimately, Mr. Thomas found evidence for an inverse relationship between social welfare spending and military action and was able to suggest reasons as to why this might be the case.  Under the direction of Eric Smith and Patrick Withen.


Stephanie Cooperstein
Ms. Cooperstein explored the emerging field of gamification (the application of video game techniques to non-gaming contexts).  In particular, she examined the ways in which video game technology might be deployed in educational settings to motivate students and increase academic performance.  Ms. Cooperstein first identified the factors that draw people to particular games, sustain their interest, and “reward” their efforts.  She then tried to connect these dynamics to known patterns of student behavior and motivation in the classroom.  In doing so, she fruitfully combined cutting edge research from the fields of both computer science and education.  Under the direction of Daniel Ray and Jewell Askins.

Barklie Estes
Mr. Estes investigated the recent furor over SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act)—two of the most popularly debated legislative movements in recent U.S. history.  Using his academic training in economics and political science, Mr. Estes sought to cut through the impassioned rhetoric of the bills’ supporters and opponents.  Instead, he carefully read and studied the bills in their entirety, and then attempted to analyze their real legislative consequences and economic implications. Finally, Mr. Estes used these insights to make his own recommendations regarding these bills (and future bills like them).  Under the direction of Zafar Khan and Eric Smith.


Jordan Begley
Ms. Begley brought the critical tools of Communication Studies to bear on Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.  By looking at everything from characters’ interpersonal communications to parenting styles, Ms. Begley forged new insights into the dynamics of the Bennet family.  Ultimately, she argues that the parenting styles of both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have a profound effect on the personalities—and marriage prospects—of each of the four Bennet daughters.  Completed under the direction of Rachel Tighe and Christopher Scalia.

Joshua Fleenor
For one of his capstone alternative projects, Mr. Fleenor developed an alter-ego, Miss Joshua Patricia Ray, a self-described “unapproachable, loquacious, and foul-mouthed hillbilly” who is also the lead singer of a rock band.  Then, using a combination of theatre and music, Miss Joshua performed her amazing life story in front of a campus audience.  Mr. Fleenor’s second project focused on homosexual identity in American culture and looked closely at how the creation of identity categories “normalize” and assimilate some gay individuals but further marginalize others.  He was assisted by Michael Hunt in conducting a forum to further explore these issues.

Tamara Haack
Ms. Haack completed two capstone alternative independent research projects.  The first was a paper, completed under the guidance of Roman Zylawy, that analyzes Ender Wiggin as a redeemer figure in Ender’s Game.  For the second project, Ms. Haack explored the different mediums—play, novel, film—used to present the story of Peter Pan.  Working with Marla Weitzman, Ms. Haack was particularly interesting in assessing which themes get modified (and why) as this classic story is adapted to different audiences and different purposes.

Chelsea Ratliff
Ms. Ratliff graduated in May 2011 and completed two capstone alternative independent projects over the summer.  The first was a  short story that blended historical fact and fictional embellishment to dramatize the role that the aging statesmen Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun played in the Compromise of 1850.  Under the direction of Brian McKnight.  Her second project, guided by Matt Harvey, was a paper tracing the evolving relationship between astrology and geometry throughout various stages of Western civilization.  Ms. Ratliff ultimately argued that astrology’s decline from legitimate academic discipline to disreputable pseudoscience first occurred as a function of the changing nature of this relationship.

Allie Robinson
Ms. Robinson’s first capstone alternative project focused on the many extant ghost stories associated with the UVA Wise campus.  After writing down these largely oral tales, she worked with anthropologist Wendy Welch to assess the cultural meaning of such stories (i.e. what these particular stories suggest about us as a campus community).  For her second project, Ms. Robinson kept a reflective journal during the first few weeks of her current job as a reporter with the Bristol Herald Courier—a rare opportunity to compare the theory of the journalistic classroom with the practice of actual reporting.  Under the direction of Michael McGill.

Joel Sprinkle
Working alongside classmate Chris Stamper, Mr. Sprinkle conducted a movie riffing project in the vein of Mystery Science Theatre.  This project, focusing on the movie Cherry 2000, blended together such disparate disciplines as theatre, filmmaking, creative writing, and social satire and culminated in a public viewing of the final product.  The second project, a graphic novella written and illustrated by Mr. Sprinkle, was completed under the direction of David Constable.

Chris Stamper
Working alongside classmate Joel Sprinkle, Mr. Stamper conducted a movie riffing project in the vein of Mystery Science Theatre.  This project, focusing on the movie Cherry 2000, blended together such disparate disciplines as theatre, filmmaking, creative writing, and social satire and culminated in a public viewing of the final product.  For his second capstone alternative project, Mr. Stamper sought to elucidate the complex interworkings of the human immune system by writing a nautically-themed allegory.  The two projects were assisted by John Mark Adrian and Robin Woodard, respectively.


Bruce Blansett
Mr. Blansett applies a scientific lens to Charles Chesnutt’s well-known literary work, The Conjure Woman and Other Tales (1899).  In particular, he shows how the stories use magic and the supernatural to first invoke but ultimately to satirize the widely-accepted 19th Century belief in the scientifically-rationalized inferiority of African Americans.  In doing so, he adds immeasurably to our understanding of this surprisingly subversive text.

Jade Bolling
Ms. Bolling completed two capstone alternative independent research projects.  The first was a reflective journal that she maintained during a study abroad experience at Oxford University.  For the second project, Ms. Bolling sought to facilitate her own growth as a poet.  Working independently with UVA Wise professors, she explored the sources of her poetic inspiration, learned how to rigorously revise her verses, and eventually produced a body of original poems.

Kevin Fowler
Mr. Fowler’s project traces the impact of Ergot—a plant pathogen that affects agricultural grasses such as rye, wheat, and barley—on the development of Western civilization.  The severe neurological and vascular effects produced by Ergot have impacted historical developments as diverse as the geopolitics of medieval Europe, LSD and 1960s counter culture, and the French Revolution.  Mr. Fowler’s careful blending of science and history reveals the interconnectedness of knowledge and the necessity of understanding the smallest details that can affect human progress.

Marissa Jones
Ms. Jones explores antebellum black spirituals and the various meanings that they had for those who sung them.  By examining the music, lyrics, and particular biblical stories that the spirituals were based on, she uncovers a covert rhetoric of independence that functioned to provide strength and guidance to the enslaved.