2024 Franke Honors Pinnacle Awardees

May 2, 2024
Franke Honors Pinnacle Graphic
Last week, the W.A. Franke Honors College hosted its annual research presentation symposium, Franke Honors Pinnacle. Nearly 100 Franke Honors students presented their work in the Bear Down Gym, showcasing diverse research projects that they have been working on throughout the semester. Each year, students are judged on their poster presentations in a variety of categories. Outstanding research is acknowledged with financial awards for Quest projects, senior thesis work, Exploratory Mini-Grants, and creative video representations of senior research. 
Check out the 2024 Franke Honors Pinnacle Awardees below: 

Senior Thesis Presentation Awardees

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Zoie Strickling - Poster Presentation Winner

Music Unchained: An Exploration of Black Expression

Zoie Strickling is a senior at the W.A. Franke Honors College, graduating with degrees in Law and Africana Studies. Zoie's Honors Thesis, Music Unchained: An Exploration of Black Expression, gauges the level of freedom that Black musicians have in the American music industry and seeks to increase the general public's awareness of a diverse range of Black experiences and forms of expression. Zoie analyzed the erasure of Blackness, Afrocentric mechanisms combating erasure, definitions of Black music, and the racial context of the American music industry. The podcast portion of her thesis, Music Unchained, can be found on Spotify.

View Zoie's Project

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Catherine Broski - Poster Presentation Runner Up

Catherine is a graduating senior studying Sociology and Geography, with a Spanish minor and a Cognitive Science & Philosophy Thematic Minor. Through her honors thesis she studied the opportunities and obstacles to matching low-income renters with the savings benefits of energy efficiency and clean energy. Low-income renters often receive the least amount of energy per dollar spent due to the lack of weatherization and energy efficiency investments in the units they can afford to rent. As the United States transitions to clean energy, policies such as the Inflation Reduction Act offer funding for energy efficiency and clean energy upgrades. However, renters and landlords face obstacles in qualifying for the incentive programs. Catherine conducted interviews with employees of municipal governments, non-profit organizations, and a utility company, as well as small scale landlords, to explore the gaps, barriers, and opportunities to navigate the “split-incentive” between renters and landlords when it comes to energy use.

View Catherine's Project

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Andrew Prouty - Poster Presentation Runner Up

Navigating Healthcare Inequities: An Examination of Barriers Faced by Transgender Individuals and the Integration of Standardized Patient Cases in Medical Education

 Andrew Prouty is a senior studying Physiology and Medical Sciences with a minor in Community Health. His thesis focuses on the obstacles that transgender individuals experience when seeking adequate healthcare. Andrew concentrated on the significant lack of time medical schools spend on healthcare topics related to the LGBTQ+ community in their curriculum and how this contributes to the systemic marginalization of transgender individuals. In an effort for the UA College of Medicine – Tucson to be more inclusive when training future physicians, Andrew created two trans standardized patient cases to address this barrier. Upon graduation, Andrew will attend medical school through the Honors Early Assurance Program, where he will continue to advocate for equitable healthcare access.

View Andrew's Project

Quest Project Presentation Awardees

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Taylor Raney - Quest Winner

Beyond Words: Conversations about Mental Illness Through Poetry and Collage

Taylor Raney is a first-year student at the W.A. Franke Honors College majoring in Physiology & Medical Sciences and Molecular & Cellular Biology. While she hopes to pursue a career in clinical genetics, she also has a love for art that was further fostered through poetry and creative writing courses at the University of Arizona. Through her Quest Project, funded by an Exploratory Mini-Grant and supported by her faculty mentor Professor Claire McLane, Taylor was able to further explore her interests in creative fields. In her project titled “Beyond Words: Conversations about Mental Illness Through Poetry and Collage,” she created an art exhibition featuring a discussion of mental health and illness through the lens of poetry and collage art. She also had the opportunity to develop an art workshop curriculum to teach at Tucson middle schools. Taylor is thankful for the guidance and support of her faculty mentor and W.A. Franke Honors College.

View Taylor's Project

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Coltton Kirkpatrick - Quest Runner Up

Chicken Gene Identification and Characterization of Scavenger Receptors

Coltton Kirkpatrick is a freshman majoring in Veterinary science with a minor in Animal Science. He started his research with Dr. McCarthy who sparked his interest in animal genetics. Coltton's research, with Dr. McCarthy, involves evaluating current chicken gene nomenclature for scavenger receptors (SCAR), which are tiny molecules important in immunity. Chickens are important to  biomedical research. A key component of biomedical research is standardized gene nomenclature which includes a gene’s full name, symbol, and synonyms found in literature that create a uniformal understanding for genes of interest when discussed in literature. Providing standardized gene nomenclature for chicken SCAR genes supports biomedical research about gene function involved in immunity. These chicken SCAR genes would not have been easily identified and assigned gene nomenclature without extensive investigation. Coltton hopes to continue his research studies and advance his knowledge in animal genetics. He would like to acknowledge Tori Nardinelli for her support and guidance in finding a research mentor and starting my research journey at the University of Arizona.

View Coltton's Project

People's Choice Awardees

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Genesis Benedith - People's Choice Winner

Decoding the Sims: Analyzing Game Design and User Experience through Gamification Frameworks

Genesis Benedith is a junior majoring in Computer Science with minors in Professional & Technical Writing and Game Design & Development. As an Honors Contract for GAME 251: Intro to Game Design, Genesis wrote an academic paper about the gamification frameworks that game designers use to build video games and the principalities for user experience (UX) within game theory. She applied these frameworks to The Sims video game series by Electronic Arts (EA) with a focus on the central themes of roleplaying, randomness, and player agency, analyzed various literary scholarly articles and even interviewed a UX designer from EA. By examining The Sims series through the lens of UX and gamification frameworks, her research honed in on how these principles foster player engagement, narrative development, and immersive gameplay experiences within simulated environments. The academic paper will be published in the Arizona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in May 2024.

View Genesis's Project

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Kaylee Kovacs - People's Choice Winner

The Montgomery Experience: The Racial Divide in Mass Incarceration and Solitary Confinement

Kaylee Kovacs is currently a Freshman majoring in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science. Her project examines the racial disparities in the US criminal justice system with a particular focus on mass incarceration and solitary confinement. This semester, Kaylee took a class with Dr. Cheree Meeks called Enslavement to Mass Incarceration: The Montgomery, AL Experience. As part of this course, they had the opportunity to go to Montgomery, Alabama over spring break and see several historical sites as well as witness some of the lasting effects of slavery.

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Paloma Valencia - People's Choice Winner

Paloma is a fourth year majoring in Nursing with a minor in Spanish. Her thesis explores the impact of patients’ health narratives on patient outcomes, and provides evidence-based recommendations for their integration into practice. A health narrative is defined as an individual’s personal story describing their experience with health, illness, and medical treatment. Health narratives are powerful tools that patients may use to communicate their preferences and needs to healthcare professionals. Paloma's thesis seeks to assist healthcare providers to understand the significance of patients’ health narratives. The best practice recommendations for integrating patients’ health narratives into practice include providing supportive and encouraging environments, documenting them into patient records and care plans, and remaining critical awareness of sociocultural contexts in which the narratives are created and shared. She will be working as a New Graduate Nurse in the Cardiovascular ICU at Banner UMC in the fall.

View Paloma's Project

Video Pitch Awardee

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Nic Owen - Video Fast Pitch Winner

Make Straight in the Desert

Nic Owen is a senior graduating with a major in Sociology and a minor in Studio Art with a Photo/Video/Imaging emphasis. His project, titled Make Straight in the Desert, is a poetry film that relates the queer masculine experience to the violence and beauty of the Sonoran Desert. The poetry is a culmination of his sociological understanding of gender, sexuality, and performance, and the video art aspects encapsulate his artistic practices. The film as a whole is a combination of everything that he has learned to be passionate about throughout his undergraduate career at the University of Arizona. Make Straight in the Desert will be screening for free at the Marroney Theater May 7th at 1:40 p.m., everyone is welcome!

Special Projects Awardee

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Audrey Sweten - Special Projects Winner


Exploratory Mini Grant Awardee

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Catherine Jezerc, Kaitlyn Lai, Gavin Arnold - EMG Team Winner

View their project