25 Apr Library Bestows Two Honors Students with Thesis Awards
Every spring, the Marriott Library offers two awards, one for an outstanding senior thesis effort in a humanities-related discipline and one for a submission in the general category of sciences. Each student-recipient is honored at the Honors College luncheon event, and given a $1000 award from the library.
Jasmine will be graduating with a double major – Peace and Conflicts Studies (with an emphasis in social justice) and Psychology. She will also have earned a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. The title of Jasmine’s Honors Thesis is “The Black Perspective: Historical and Structural Violence to the Black Community.”
Jasmine came to Utah from Scottsdale, Arizona, where she grew up. She selected the U because she was awarded a full scholarship for all four years. She was admitted into the Honors Program as a freshman.
For her honors thesis, Jasmine chose to design a praxis lab – a special class taught in the Honors Program and that lasts an entire academic year.
“For my project, I wanted to design a class that would actually help highlight some of the difficult challenges Black students face on this campus,” explains Jasmine. “And I wanted to create something that would last in perpetuity.”
Jasmine conducted over 200 hours of research related to the history of violence against Black people in America – from slavery, to mass incarceration, and police brutality. She then went about creating an entire class syllabus. Her class will be taught to Honors students starting in 2020.
It’s not surprising that Jasmine has aspirations to help make the world a better place. She plans to take the LSAT exam this summer, so that she can pursue a combined degree in Law and Social Work. She envisions contributing ultimately to public policy change, towards the goal of legal justice for those in society who need it most.
“As a Black student at The U, I have come to see and experience just how hostile the racial climate is still in this country today. I want the opportunity to help enact social change not only for racial and ethnic minorities, but for other marginalized groups in the nation today. I believe we all need to take the opportunity to do what we can to enact systemic change and bring about greater equity for all people in the United States.”
Heather will be graduating from the Honors College with a degree in chemistry, with a biology emphasis. After graduating from Park City High School, she chose the U because, as Heather puts it, “The U is a legacy school for my family.” Nearly all of her relatives graduated from the U. Plus, her grandfather taught in the David Eccles School of Business and her mother is a genetics lab specialist at the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics.
Heather entered the Honors Program as a freshman. The title of her honors thesis is “Analysis of Eyes Shut (EYS) Function During Intestinal Regeneration in Drosophila Melanogaster.” Heather translates: “We’re working on signaling pathways in the gut that influence repair and renewal for patients with gastrointestinal diseases. We’re using flies as model organisms and hope that one day we’ll have treatments for people suffering debilitating diseases.
Working with Dr. Bruce Edgar at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Heather has learned a good deal about the intricacies of conducting research. “You have to be really organized and practice perseverance every day, because research fails often. You have to be willing to start up again with renewed hope.”
In addition to working in Dr. Edgar’s lab and pursuing her degree, Heather is also interning with the lab supply company, VWR, which supplies lab products to units across campus. “It’s a great job because I get to see what is happening in research across campus and also get to know people conducting the research.” She also is a tutor for students prepping for the MCAT.
Volunteer work at the Fourth Street Clinic for the homeless was an especially formative experience for Heather. As part of the Connect2Health program, Heather worked one-on-one with the patients, talking with them and helping to connect them with the resources they need.
Plans for the future? Heather will be applying to medical schools this coming year, with the intent to start med school – preferably at the U – in the fall of 2020. “I want to practice in obstetrics and gynecology and I want to work with women who come from low-income or at-risk backgrounds.” In the meantime, Heather has initiated a campus project to recycle used gloves, one of the largest contributors to laboratory waste.
“The experiences I’ve had in the University of Utah’s Honors College have been a formative part of my journey. Working with the exceptional and diverse faculty, staff, and students on this campus has provided me with valuable critical thinking, problem solving, and empathetic skills required for success. As a future doctor, I hope to use these skills to enact social change for women, the LGBTQ+ population, and minorities. I will fight hard for the equality and rights of all.”