Senior Thesis Profiles

Daniel Kim

Calvin Atkins and Haley McLeod

Calvin Atkins '12. Photos by Devika Doowa.
Calvin Atkins ’13. Photos by Devika Doowa.

Thesis Title: Insulin Signaling in the Ketogenic Diet: An Exploration of the Role of Insulin in the Anticonvulsant Effects of the Ketogenic Diet

[Our thesis deals with] the influence of a high-fat diet on insulin receptor expression in key output regions of the hippocampus. [We] researched with Professor Leena Knight for two years analyzing the effect of the Ketogenic diet on insulin receptor expression with the brain. The Ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has been used to treat difficult cases of epilepsy for almost 100 years. Although the diet has been around for so long, no one knows how it works. We hypothesized that the diet’s efficacy is linked to insulin signaling. [We] decided to focus [our] analysis of insulin receptor expression on one particular brain region that is heavily implicated with seizure generation. If insulin is the link between the Ketogenic diet and its use as an anti-epileptic treatment, then we would expect some change in the expression of the insulin receptor in that brain region. We administered the Ketogenic diet to rats, then harvested and sectioned their brains … [we] found that administration of the Ketogenic diet results in decreased expression of the insulin receptor in the brain.

Rebecca Helgeson and Jazzmyne Ross

Rebecca Helgeson '12
Rebecca Helgeson ’13

Thesis Title: Colorblind Racial Ideology and Responses to Racism in Public and Private Contexts: Type of Colorblind Ideology Matters

We partially replicated a previous study that looked at students’ public responses to race-themed parties. This study found that people who scored higher on colorblind ideology were more likely to not respond to the racism that they saw. We hypothesized that while this was likely, other factors led into it such as in what context you were asking them and what type of colorblind ideology people endorsed … a type that believes that racism doesn’t exist, and therefore doesn’t respond to the racism [or] a type that believes racism exists, but can’t talk about race. We thought that the first type wouldn’t respond to racism in private or public, but the second type would respond in private. We found a significant effect of context (so people were more likely to respond more positively in public than in private) and a marginally significant interaction between category of colorblindness and context (so people scored differently in public and private based on which category they were in).

It was pretty eye-opening seeing these results even at Whitman. I’m not sure if I will continue doing research about racial issues, but I hope that it both inspires me and maybe anyone else who reads it to keep in mind that speaking out about issues of inequality is really important. If we are teaching kids not to talk about race, this study kind of indicates that kids won’t speak up about racism when it really matters and with people that they should be able to talk to about it.

Eric Niehaus

Eric Niehaus '12
Eric Niehaus ’13

Thesis Title:  A Twang and a Pluck: Southern Folk Music and American Identity

Folk music of the South, specifically old-time music in the Appalachian Mountains and slave songs in the cotton states, is a literature of place, a self-identification of southerners with the South as a region. It is the music of a defiant people. There has been a lot of research done on slave music, which comes from styles that originated in Africa, about how it is a social commentary on slavery. And so using that, I’m looking more at white backcountry music, which is derived from British styles, to see how that is also a form of self-identification, especially in response to Northern aggression during the Civil War and industrialization. Even though what I found was that the music is a base for everything that came afterwards, especially blues and jazz, all this distinctly American music came out of this coming together of British and African influences in America that had never happened before. Out of that came the first truly American art forms. Looking at that, you can see how in the South with slaves and poor white people together, they went on to influence everything after them. The music reflects the way we respond to government, our political and social philosophies, and our values. I did a lot of research into historical records of the old antebellum South by people like Frederick Law Olmstead and other travelers. The cornerstone was Alan Lomax, who was a folklorist working in the South. In addition to huge archives of music that are recorded, he also wrote several books and many books have been written about him. He definitely did the bulk of the work in terms of recording and documenting American folk music. So, everything that came after was largely thanks to him; he was where I started. I plan to take [what I learned] and keep playing the music and try to learn more and hopefully go spend more time in the South.