University Honors Scholars Program

University Honors Summer Scholars 2014

The University Honors Program is pleased to announce the third year of the University Honors Scholars Program. The program began in the summer of 2012; In spring 2014, the Honors Committee selected four exceptional students as NIU’s third annual University Honors Scholars. The Honors Scholars’ profiles listed below not only introduces our distinguished Honors Scholars, but also allows us to showcase the impressive work and passion they have for their research.  

Make sure to follow the University Summer Scholars’ research on the University Honors Scholar blog!

                                                                                                                                                


Natalie Cincotta

Natalie Cincotta

Title of Project: A Study of German Photographs from World War II in relation to pre-war European Visual Culture

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Emma Kuby

Abstract: Of the 1.5 million German troops that invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, it is estimated that 100,000 brought cameras with them to the front. Some of these men were members of specialized propaganda units; others were unofficial, many times amateur photographers who took pictures for their own personal use. Many scholars charge that these images embody Nazi ideology and are therefore tainted by it. This project will challenge this idea by investigating the extent to which German wartime photographs shared characteristics with wider European visual culture in the pre-war period, and how this might be reflected during wartime. Drawing on the collections of the German Federal Archives, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin State Library, Leo Baeck Institute, and USHMM (to name a few), I seek to situate these images in terms of their continuities (and discontinuities) with pre-1933 German and broader European photographic trends, some of which were already highly ideological and troubling in nature. Contemplating German photographs from this period within this broader context will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of visual culture in the mid-twentieth century.

Program of Study: History (Minor German)

Year of Graduation: Spring 2015

Future Plans: I aspire to earn a Ph.D. in history to become a faculty member and historian. I also hope to research and publish on modern German visual culture, particularly the uses of photography and film in conflict.

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Fun Fact: Contrary to popular belief, I cannot surf and do not own a kangaroo. I can, however, play the piano and I have been to six European countries.

Joeal Dennison

Joel Dennison

Title of Project: The Influence of Glutamine Uptake in Human Liver Cancer

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Barrie Bode

Abstract: My work in Dr. Bode’s lab will focus on understanding liver cancer and its possible treatments. Cancerous transformation of cells involves changes in nutrient consumption and metabolism. Among nutrients, changes in glucose and glutamine uptake and use are particularly profound and collectively drive the metabolic engine of tumor growth and progression. To date, human cells have been used as a model to study these nutrient transporters, but mouse models of human cancer are needed to assess therapies. The goal of this project is to examine glutamine transporter expression in mouse liver cells and tissue, both normal and cancerous, and catalog the changes in glutamine transporter expression for comparison to cognate changes in human liver.

Program of Study: Biology/Pre-med (Minor Chemistry)

Year of Graduation: Fall 2014

Future Plans: After I complete my undergraduate degree, I plan to attend medical school with the goal of specializing in surgical oncology, which is the removal of tumors through surgery. Cancer treatment is a passion of mine, and I hope to integrate the knowledge from my cancer research into my work with patients. I am also interested in practicing medicine in a rural, underserved community in the future.

Hometown: South Elgin, IL

Fun Fact: I am a welder, and I also enjoy woodcarving 3-dimensional fish sculptures.

Juliana Leprich

Juliana Leprich

Title of Project: Spotlight on DeKalb: The creation of a College TV Program in Principle and Practice

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Randy Caspersen

Abstract: While television programs are often perceived solely as entertainment, there are educational and promotional benefits to a television show, especially one that is produced in a university-centered community like DeKalb and nearby Northern Illinois University (NIU). The final product of this research and artistry experience will be to create a fundamental structure for a recurring NIU-focused television show, Spotlight on DeKalb (title subject to change), and a pilot episode of the program. This research project will do two things: provide an opportunity for interested NIU Communications students to get real world, hands-on experience in a professional studio television environment and to showcase the rich, diverse resources and opportunities that NIU’s programs, faculty and community offer. The research component of this project will look at talk shows or other sustainable, community-centric media programming from other universities, as well as identify media content that attracts a college-age demographic and audience. This research will ultimately become a model for Spotlight on DeKalb, a television program giving local audiences insight into the rich culture of the NIU community and providing university media students with a curricular professional production experience.

Program of Study: Communications and Political Science

Year of Graduation: Spring 2015

Future Plans: I plan to pursue graduate studies in a field that incorporates my two majors; likely intercultural communication, political communication, or advocacy media. While I am currently undecided on which area I will pursue, it is important for me to have a career where I can work in a role that promotes the betterment of a community/society.

Hometown: Antioch, IL

Fun Fact: I served as an Election Judge for DeKalb County in the 2012 Election.

Luke Martin

Luke Martin

Title of Project: Volumetric and Support Structure Optimization for the Beam Stop in the Muons-to-Electrons Experiment

Faculty Mentors: Dr. Nicholas Pohlman

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to complete the development and structural analysis of the rail system to be used in the experiment Muons-to-Electrons (mu2e) planned at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Various components in the particle physics experiment (i.e. tracker, calorimeter, beam stop and proton absorber) are to be transported, aligned, and installed inside a vacuum chamber called the Detector Solenoid Cryostat. To accomplish these tasks simultaneously, a rail system will be utilized. While the final geometric location of these different components has been specified, the detailed rail system design is to be completed. Developing a successful design requires consideration for manufacturability as well as the cost of production. To satisfy the design, the project is broken into four phases. The first phase is to define all known constraints and parameters of the components at their current conceptual design. The second phase is to develop a preliminary design that designates rail sizes and support stand locations. Once this is completed, the rail system and its components are simulated to ensure adequate structural support and safety factor. Additionally, member deflection is also analyzed to ensure it is within the required experimental accuracy. The third phase is to present the design to my faculty mentor, Fermilab management, and project engineers for technical review. The final phase is to make the required modifications and document the design for fabrication. The detailed design documents are uploaded to the project database for other project members to review and reference. These documents are also utilized for determining the feasibility, risk factors, and financial cost of the mu2e experiment during Department of Energy Technical Design Reviews.

Program of Study: Mechanical Engineering

Year of Graduation: Summer 2015

Future Plans: I plan to attend graduate school and attain a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Upon graduation I would like to work industry designing engines.

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Fun Fact: While my primary focus is academics, I also enjoy pursuing numerous music, athletic, and entrepreneurial endeavors.