Recent Theses and Project Topics (IS Majors)

Yenna Chu (2023)
Through my interdisciplinary studies major in biology, public health, and entrepreneurship, I had the opportunity to explore various disciplines and pursue diverse coursework. As a part of my academic journey, I interned at Orbita, a Boston-based startup developing conversational AI technology in the healthcare field. My thesis project aimed to bridge the gap that dental phobia and anxiety creates in the dental field through an AI dental chatbot. Through this year-long project, I attained a multidimensional understanding of complex set of cultural and social factors that affect dental phobia, anxiety, and I explored the role of AI in dentistry. I collaborated with Orbita to develop an AI dental chatbot, which serves as a starting point for addressing psychological barriers in dentistry. Ultimately, the goal of this project was to inspire innovative and interdisciplinary solutions for tackling dental fears and anxiety in the future!

Imaya Jeffries (2023)
Before I even applied to colleges, I emailed the CIS Director about the Interdisciplinary program at Tufts. I didn’t fully know what I wanted to major in, but the idea of being able to self-craft my studies and not being confined by one discipline intrigued me. My major combined environmental studies, child development and anthropology. My Senior Thesis ended up being a children’s book I wrote and illustrated, titled: Cultivating Youth Environmental Stewardship through the Environmental Humanities and investigated how children’s literature could inform, educate, and entertain children about anthropological approaches to environmental issues.

Shayna Wagner (2023)
My interdisciplinary major, Applied Food Sciences, was comprised of Biology, Anthropology, and Environmental Studies. My thesis dives into artisan cheese and more specifically, Harbison, a surface-ripened bloomy rind cheese from Jasper Hill in Vermont. Harbison has a particularly robust composition of aromas and an appreciation for the unique cheese requires an acquired and often refined taste. I studied the microbiology, chemistry, and sensory properties of Harbison and analyzed how these many traits come together in the finished product.

The rind and paste of Harbison are populated by a wide variety of bacteria and fungi that have been added via cultures by the cheesemakers and that have developed naturally from the surrounding environment. These bacteria and fungi act as the functional microorganisms that contribute to the cheese’s complex profile of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and thus the cheese’s flavor and aroma. Harbison rind samples across one year of production were plated to measure colony-forming units (CFUs) of each microbe, and DNA was extracted and processed via metagenomic analyses to further assess the samples’ microbial compositions

Audrey Carver (2022)
My thesis was a way of understanding the impact of climate change in my hometown. I used interviews, research, and paintings to explore the social and emotional aspects of drought and wildfire on the residents of my small community. Besides learning more about the wildfire regime and its impacts on the ecosystem, I also learned a lot about indigenous stewardship, anthropological frameworks of person/place relationships, and the psychological impacts of changing landscapes.

Serena Laing (2022)
My experience with beer began in a hop field in Yakima, Washington. I worked as a Field and Lab Intern for Yakima Chief Ranches that summer. Yakima Chief Ranches cultivates some of the top grown hops in the country including Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe. My research consisted of an investigation into Citra and their usage in NEIPAs. In recent years, NEIPAs have emerged as a new style of craft beer that frequently uses Citra hops. NEIPAs follow the emergence of West Coast IPAs, both of which harnesses the recent desire for locality in food and drink. For my research into NEIPAs, I delved into the biochemical makeup of NEIPAs with Citra hops while also investigating the social drive behind increases in local craft beer consumption with an anthropologic lens. My research aimed to uncover whether NEIPAs that are hoped with Citra and just Citra have compounds that make Citra unique and are not present in the same quantities in NEIPAs without Citra. Essentially, I asked what makes the Citra hop so desirable and what has driven the rise in popularity.

Jacob Shaw (2022)
Jacob fused passions in language, brain science, and human development to craft his interdisciplinary major in Cognitive Science & Applied Linguistics, and as his capstone project he launched and marketed a global startup with an original iOS app. The app, which enables users to remember, rate, and share specific dishes they’ve ordered at restaurants, was designed initially as a piece of assistive technology leveraging language to solve for a cognitive deficit among elderly users—until it caught on across all age groups in over 30 countries.
His honors thesis takes the form of a research paper, supplementing original research and reflection with cross-disciplinary reviews of literature. He reviews the technical capabilities of the application and its underlying data structure through a psychological lens, followed by opportunities for further growth in (a) how new dish-rating technology can best adapt to meet the expectations of diverse age demographics; (b) how keyword extraction can facilitate data mining and the dish review pipeline; and (c) how a brand identity  then can be linguistically optimized for expansion into international markets—reflecting work in the fields of human development, linguistics, and modern languages respectively.

Trevor Spence (2022)
Special Purpose Acquisition Companies: How the SPAC Structure Misaligns Sponsors and Investors
My honors thesis combines economics, history, and civic studies to analyze how special purpose acquisition companies operate in the financial markets and how stakeholders are affected. SPACs are financial entities used to take a company public; however, the fundamental structure of SPACs misaligns the interests of sponsors (the individuals and groups that organize the entity) and investors. In turn, sponsors reap handsome returns while investors witness declining share prices and economic losses. The paper addresses the history of SPACs, the recent rise in SPAC activity, the structural issues that lead to major discrepancies in returns, and the changes needed to ensure SPACs survive as efficient financial entities that provide value to all stakeholders.

Over two semesters, I gathered academic literature, financial market data, and journalistic publications to develop an opinion on SPACs and a supporting thesis: "The structural features of special purpose acquisition companies misalign sponsors and investors, further enhanced by a lack of regulation and the rise of retail investing; as a result, sponsors realize substantial returns while retail investors suffer acute losses."

Clare Walker (2022)
George Jackson’s Book of Life

“There will be a special page in the book of life for the men who have crawled back from the grave. This page will tell of utter defeat, ruin, passivity, and subjection in one breath, and in the next, overwhelming victory and fulfillment.” - George Jackson, Soledad Brother

My thesis combined Africana Studies, Sociology, and Studio Art to carry out a multidimensional analysis of George Jackson’s work, life, and afterlife. George Jackson, the dragon revolutionary, political prisoner, and black prison writer, authored two books in his 11 1/2 years in prison before his assassination in 1971. My thesis was based primarily in these two texts, Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye and the insights they offer into the carceral system and what it means to resist it from within. It also brought in a selection of the books taken from Jackson’s cell after his death, his “counter-library” of sorts, to speak to the way in which Jackson lived and worked in conversation with revolutionaries worldwide. And then it utilized protest art, poem, song, and film to analyze the way in which Jackson and his praxis has been able to live on. Lastly, I painted a portrait of Jackson and collaged in books from his counter-library along with images of his loved ones and fellow Black Panther Party members to illustrate his core belief that the revolution would be forged with the pamphlet in one hand, the gun in the other.