Modeling Polarization in Mass Populations using Agent-Based Modeling & Novel Opinion Dynamics

By Justin Mittereder, Robert Carroll, Brandon Frulla

Faculty Mentor: Professor Stephen Davies

The 21st century has opened doors for large-scale simulations that were previously impossible due to computing power restrictions. Now, we are able to create large simulations of heterogeneous “agents”. These simulations allow researchers to discover what set of simple rules (behavioral rules of each agent) are sufficient to produce a particular phenomenon on the societal level. The particular phenomenon we hope to observe is political polarization. The results of this research will provide insights into how polarization arises, and how it may be prevented from escalating further. In our simulation, agents will have a predetermined number of different opinions that are assigned randomly from 0-1. At each step of the simulation, agents will choose another neighboring agent at random for an interaction. Then, they will look to see if they agree closely on a random issue. If the opinions of both agents are within a predetermined comparison threshold, then we will take the average of the neighbor and the agent’s opinion on another different issue and set that as the agent’s new opinion on that given issue. Throughout the life of the simulation, we will measure a number of different variables such as the average assortativity across all issues, the average opinion variance, the average persuasions per agent, and the number of opinion clusters for each issue. We will examine the data from many simulation runs to look for emergent behavior across all agents in the simulation. Our goal is to manipulate the parameters of the model in such a way that sheds light on how polarization develops in a society. Some of the tools used in this project are Mesa, Networkx, Python and Dash.


The Great Narrative: The Evolution of State Censorship in Soviet Era Museums

By Emily Harvey

Faculty Mentor: Professor Steven Harris

Before the Revolution of 1917, Russian museums were created by and for the ruling elite. Strict limitations on attendance and what objects could be viewed by what persons defined Russia’s imperial era. After the Revolution, the Soviet Union began to open its museum doors and create more museums by and for the working-class people and their struggle. Starting in the 1920s, a “Great Narrative,” as I call it, came into being that shaped the themes and missions of each museum in the Soviet Union. The Great Narrative was developed by Soviet leaders and the censorship bureau and often changed regularly, requiring frequent museum renovations. While museum attendance flourished and millions of objects went on display, the Great Narrative of the Soviet Union was constantly changing, therefore the museum network was under revision at all times from the beginning to the end of the Soviet Union. The revision of the Great Narrative led to large amounts of censorship in Soviet era museums, however this censorship was also not stagnant. Starting in 1917 and through the 1980s, Soviet museums were subjected to comprehensive state censorship, whether about the overall narrative being told or the objects themselves. However, the censorship was not stagnant and increased or decreased depending on the Soviet leader of the time and what policies and narratives were being developed under their leadership.

Using BLAST to Detect Horizontal Gene Transfer in Pathogenic Fungi

By Christopher Good

Faculty Mentor: Professor Theresa Grana

Similarly to antibiotic resistance, antifungal resistance is a growing challenge for clinicians. Mechanistically, one method of antibiotic resistance acquisition is through horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Although associated more with prokaryotes, past studies show limited evidence of HGT in Candida yeast, warranting additional comparative, genomic and proteomic research on the evolutionary forces behind fungal virulence. This honors capstone project used the NCBI’s Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) to quickly and statistically compare existing biological sequence data in conjunction with EMBL Multiple Sequence Comparison by Log-Expectation (MUSCLE) alignment and Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis (MEGA) to visualize likely evolutionary relationships. Thus, the objective of this project was to use bioinformatics tools to identify potential instances of Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) between pathogenic yeast and viruses, specifically HGT as an evolutionary mechanism for antifungal resistance gene (ARG) acquisition. Of the subset of ARGs searched, BLAST showed more support for ERG3 (C-5 sterol desaturase) HGT between edafosvirus and C. glabrata and between orpheovirus and C. albicans and C. californica, respectively. However, the ML phylogeny contradicts these BLAST results and shows more support for ERG3 HGT between both viruses and Hypopichia burtonii. Thus, while BLAST showed limited evidence for ERG3 HGT between three Candida species and two viruses, the ML phylogeny fails to support these evolutionary events. For the purposes of HGT, BLAST might be better suited to certain organisms (i.e., prokaryotes) and its use should be reinforced as a non-definitive predictor of such evolutionary events. Furthermore, increased understanding of the numerous uncharacterized Candida genes could reveal new evidence of fungal HGT and guide treatment options. Word Count: 261

A Complete Analysis of Thomas Reid and Common Sense Realism

By Adam Kritz

Faculty Mentor: Professor Michael Reno

History is often unkind to great thinkers. Often those with brilliant minds are misunderstood in later years by others. This may be the case with the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid. Reid is the founder of Scottish common sense realism, a school of thought that aims to counter Enlightenment skepticism. However, Reid’s common sense realism was the subject of philosophical debate for years after his death. Many philosophers struggled to understand Reid’s arguments, and others discredited him altogether. While there has been an increase in research on Reid since the 1990s, the contemporary research on Reid is still lacking. Since critical research on Reid’s work is lacking, it is hard to understand the true meaning of his philosophical work. This paper will serve as a complete synthesis of Reid and common sense realism The analysis of Reid will be broken into four sections. The first section sets the stage for Reid’s work by discussing Enlightenment empiricism and rationalism, which Reid’s work was a direct reaction to. The second section will analyze Reid’s major work, An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, which contains the bulk of his philosophical theory. The third section will discuss the initial reaction to this work from Kant and Hume, two philosophers more famous than Reid that dismissed his work entirely. The fourth section will analyze four Scottish philosophers who lived after Reid and will use their commentaries on Reid to better understand his work, as well as the development of common sense realism as a whole. The goal of this research will be to create a better understanding of Reid’s work and common sense realism.

Assessing the Presence and Concentrations of Nutrient Pollution In Freshwater Environments In Fredericksburg, Virginia

By Reagan Nierman

Faculty Mentor: Professor Tyler Frankel

Aquatic environments require nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to function properly and form the base of complex food webs. However, excess inputs of these nutrients through anthropogenic pollution commonly results in algal blooms, hypoxia, and dead zones. In this study, surface water samples were taken from five sites located around the city of Fredericksburg (City Dock, Old Mill, Ficklen Island, Motts Run Reservoir, and Little Falls). Samples were collected weekly between February 17th – March 24h in 1000mL bottles and analyzed for the presence and concentrations of total phosphorus, nitrate, nitrite, copper, and chlorine using colorimetric assays. During the six weeks of sampling no concentrations of nitrite, copper, or chlorine were detected at any location. Nitrate levels fluctuated at each site with levels ranging from 1.0mg/L to 5.0mg/L. Phosphate was observed to be a cause for concern as concentrations were consistently found at 0.4mg/L to 1.0mg/L in all streams. While the sources of these excess nutrients are unclear, possibilities include excess wastewater treatment facility effluent discharge during heavy precipitation events, construction over waterways that loosens sediment and increases runoff events, and proximity to more heavily populated areas. These results suggest the need for a long-term study to assess what influence seasonal temperatures and precipitation have on nutrient pollution and how these excess nutrient levels impact aquatic organisms in these locations.

Carpe Diem and Consolation Horace’s Imitation and Manipulation of Greek Lyric Models

By Ruth Wilmot

Faculty Mentor: Professor Angela Pitts

This thesis examines the influence of Greek lyric, namely Sappho and Alcaeus, on Horace’s carpe diem poems. Horace imitates Greek lyric in themes and meter. He also imitates the structure of alternation scenes and injunction passed down in the lyric tradition from the poet Archilochus. However, Horace distinguishes himself by adding uniquely Roman elements and varying the tones of his speaker. He utilizes the variety of tones or perspectives in order to highlight the proper response to death, enjoying the symposium.


Department of Psychological Science Spring Virtual Showcase of Student Research

The following student projects, listed by courses from spring semester 2021, are featured on the above linked virtual showcase site.

Professor Laura Wilson – PSYCH 362-01
The Association Between Virtual Interactions and Well-being
How Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Affect Participants’ Intentions to be a Primary Caregiver and Anticipated Parenting Styles
Instagram Influencer Content and Body Image
A Quantitative Study of the Association Between Self-Efficacy and Public Speaking Anxiety in Students
Social Buffering as a Moderator of the Relationship Between Anxiety and Attention
Anne Franklin
Camila Rodriguez
Carrie Van Orden
Colleen Cragun
Elizabeth Jones
Iliana Loaiza
Jenna Stewart
Katy Rose Price
Kendall McCracken
Kyle Cassidy
Laura String
Linda Dick
Monica Thompson
Nicole Segura
Paula Dorca
Sydney Dilick
Sydney Hassell

Professor Hillary Stebbins – PSYCH 362-02
The Effect of Social Anxiety and Approachability on Motivation in Online Classrooms
The Effects of Conservatism on Hesitancy Towards Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine
Inherent Curiosity and the Effect of Error Generation on the Ability to Learn German Words
The Relationship Between Social Media Self-Presentation, Self-Efficacy, Academic Anxiety, Motivation to Learn, and Camera Usage in Synchronous Virtual College Classes
Amira Akam
Amy Rouse
Annie Del Zingaro
Chloe Billy
Kianna Simien
Kiara Toler
Kira Flinn
Lauren Johnson
Leonie Steele
Lexi Vukmanic
Mariana Haugh
Marie Bright
Rachel Remer
Sarah Dietz
Sydney Thompson
Tenyia Smith
Victoria Rulapaugh

Professor Hilliary Stebbins – PSYCH 362-03
The Effect of Affirming Scientific Belief on Existential Anxiety
How Divorce Conflict Relates to an Adult’s Capacity to Build and Maintain Friendships
Mental Well-Being of Varsity Athletes During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Parenting Style’s Influence on Sleep Quality and Sleep Hygiene as an Adult
The Relationship Between Extroversion, Social Media, In-person Interaction, and Well-being Late in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Self Affirmations and the Perception of Micro-aggressions
Aidan Finegan
Ally Jones
Courtney Haines
Courtney Hooker
Hannah Hoffman
Jackson Kirschner
Jasselyn Gallardo-Garcia
Madeline Berning
Madison Groves
Maggie Millar
Preston Boxley
Shelby A. Russell
Siena De Steno
Sydney Keating
Trimby Magarity
Valentina Leon-Ledezma
Walker Chilton

Professor Dave Kolar – PSYCH 411-01
Educational Influences on Sustainable Fashion Purchasing Behavior
Impact of Sustainable Advertising on Individual Behavior
Initial Environmental Knowledge and Pro-environmental Advertisements Effects on Purchasing Behavior of Electric Vehicles

Antonio Herold
Chelsie Valencia
Ishini Karanda
Jenna Whearty
Jesse Boles
Kevin Bach
Malhar Meeran
Mekayla Thompson
Rachel Beatty
Riley Gildea
Samia Hajjaoui

Professor Mindy Erchull – PSYCH 411-02
The Effect of Parental Division of Labor and Gender/Sex-Based Bullying on Women’s Gender Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors
The Investigation of Authenticity as a Moderator in the Relationship Between Conformity to Feminine Gender Norms and Relationship Satisfaction
Perceptions of Social Media Influencers Based on Race, Gender, and Interest
Perceptions of Women Violating Gender Norms in the Gym
Alyssa Titzer
Caroline Hieber
Christina Buchanan
Corrianna Calloway
Dalton Charron
Destiny Kay
Em Converse
Eva Aloezos
Gabby Roughan
Gina-Marie An
Hannah McCarthy
Lindsay Fedder
Maya Vera
Nancy Martin

Professor Dave Rettinger – PSYCH 413
Direct and Indirect Peer Pressure and Its Effects on Students’ Opinions about Cheating
Effect of Instructor Effort on Students’ Academic Motivation
The Effect of Responsibility to Report Cheating on Honor Codes
Social Norms Messaging Influence on Student Perception of Cheating
Alexander Lee
Alexis Thompson
Ashley Stewart
Charlene Parker
Courtney King
Derek DelGross
Gretel Kreider
Magaly Delgado
Mariah Bright
Nicholas Graves
Olayemi Fadahunsi
Rachel Thibodeau
Robert Ashworth
Teresa Siburn
Waverly Atkinson

Professor Virginia Mackintosh – PSYCH 414
The Association Between Sexual Orientation and Media on Identity Development
Importance of Parenting: Exploring Effects of Parenting Style on Identity Status, Risk Behaviors, and Self-Esteem in College Students
Social Media Social Comparison and Identity Development in College Students
Alex Sharpe
Anne Spady
Carmen Nichols
Emma Snyder
Grace Gartman
Hannah Schmidt
Haylee Beish
Kennedy King
Kourtney Chiles
Lucy Bondje
Rylie Cole
Simone Levendosky

Professor Mindy Erchull – 201-01
Infographic presentations
All About Blended Emotions
The “Athlete’s” Selves
The Confirmation Bias During Covid
Detecting Deception
Impression Management
Virtual Self-Presentation
Alise Thaler
Ann Camp
Elizabeth VanSumeren
Fabian Rosales
Kennedy King
Martin Eykamp
Tiya Jeffreys
Veronica Moore

Ignite talk presentations
Elizabeth VanSumeren

Professor Mindy Erchull – PSYCH 201-02
Infographic presentations
Automatic Processing
Belief Perseverance
Caution: Self-Handicapping
Confirmation Bias in Social Media
Counterfactual Thinking
Heuristics, Biases, and Police Activity
Non-Verbal Communication
Ally Holden
Andrea McGrath
Harper Cowan
Krista Rodgers
Lovetta Rogers
Tyler Clift
Veronica Ahmed

Ignite talk presentations
Commitment and Consistency
Lovetta Rogers 
WGST 485
A Crumpled Flower: Sexual Assault’s Moderating Effect on the Relationships between Purity Culture, Rape Myth Acceptance, and Mental Health

  • Christine Wehner

    491/492 Teams (combined list across instructors)
    Color Cues and Consumption: Who Falls Victim to Menu Design?
    COVID on the Brain: Anxiety Sensitivity and Mindful Awareness Mediate the Relationship Between COVID-19 Obsession and Anxiety
    The Effects of Shaping on Verbal Behavior in a Simulated Alien Invasion
    The Influence of Knowledge and Personal Norms on Pro-Environmental Behavior
    Mindfulness as a Mediator and Moderator in the Relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Depression
    Mindfulness as a Mediator in the Relationship between Social Media Engagement and Depression
    Mindfulness in 1st Grade at Riverview Elementary School
    Allie Wills
    Amelia Jones
    Angeline S. Gnanasekaran
    Carly Kingston
    Elsa Baumgartner
    Emily Beitzell
    George Stifel
    Haley McKeen
    Hannah J. Checkeye
    Hope Rivers
    Jenna M. Holland
    Jennifer Abrahamson
    Kaitlyn R. Ownbey
    Kathleen E. Daley
    Lily Goldberg
    Madison Schifflet
    Megan Hook
    Paige Arnau
    Purnaja Podduturi
    Sydney Dahl

Phage Hunting at the University of Mary Washington: Genome Annotation of Hari and JackRabbit

By Hannah Lee, Sabine Krall, John Tan, Raesa Zia, Charlotte Russell, Jayme Boudreau, Hannah Stottlemyer, Andrew Cooper, Elizabeth Sullivan, Madison DeWitt, Mitchell Freitag, Jacob Cantor, Arianna Chase, Vallarie Burge

Faculty Mentor: Professor Swati Agrawal

Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies Kurstaki (BTK) is often used as a microbial insecticide for pest control and as a simulant for Bacillus anthracis in biowarfare and bioterrorism studies. Students in 2021 Phage Hunters class at University of Mary Washington isolated nine bacteriophages using the host Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies Kurstaki. Two phages, Hari and Jackrabbit, were sent to SEAPHAGES for sequencing are currently being annotated in the lab during the Spring semester. Hari was found in a soil sample obtained from King George, VA while JackRabbit was isolated from Linton, VA. Both samples were isolated from enriched cultures. Hari has a genome length of 161,978 bp, which auto-annotated with 286 features, and a direct terminal repeat of 2,633 bp. Hari is most similar to DIGNKC, SBP8a and PPIsBest by BLAST. JackRabbit has a genome length of 161,552 bp, which auto-annotated with 288 features, and a direct terminal repeat of 2,821 bp.