News & Media

May 4, 2017

2017 Senior Distinction Day Spotlights Emmanuel Students’ Achievements

On April 27, 53 members of the Emmanuel College Class of 2017 presented the culmination of their senior research projects to faculty, classmates and others during the annual Candidates for Distinction in the Field Presentation Day.

On April 27, 53 members of the Emmanuel College Class of 2017 presented the culmination of their senior research projects to faculty, classmates and others during the annual Candidates for Distinction in the Field Presentation Day. Projects spanned a wide range of academic areas, including graphic design, mathematics, political science, elementary education, psychology and modern languages. The presentations represented the highest achievements for Emmanuel students, as only those with a 3.5 grade point average in their major course were allowed to present senior research projects on distinction day.

"Each year on this day, our senior distinction candidates demonstrate their hard work, their enthusiasm for learning and their commitment to academic excellence," said Dr. William C. Leonard, vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of Arts and Sciences at Emmanuel College. "It's a proud day for the College, and that pride is shared by everyone in the Emmanuel community, from faculty and staff to parents and students."

Here is a look at a few of the presentations:

Noor ul Ann, Economics: A Review of Mobile Banking in Cash Based Developing Economies

Ann's senior distinction project looked at the state of mobile banking in Kenya, the Philippines and India and evaluated the impact of using mobile phone technology to perform financial functions in the developing world. "In developing countries, where the majority of the world's poor and low-income people live, a household has a higher chance of having access to a cellular device than to finance," she said. As a result, she explained, many experts believe that mobile banking is the key to helping these people start businesses, accumulate savings and plan for the future. Her research showed that this is happening in many areas, as mobile banking is serving more and more previously "unbanked" people, and it is helping reduce poverty and improve the financial positions of women in many low-income areas.

Ann said that her primary inspiration for pursuing this research came from an Econometrics course she took through the Colleges of the Fenway consortium. Through her coursework, she found that participation in the digital economy had a greater impact on growth in developed countries than in developing countries. These findings led her to her senior distinction project in which she concluded that "mobile banking is a way developing countries can catch up with developed economies."

"Mobile banking is a tool for financial inclusion," she emphasized. "When used effectively, mobile banking can have a huge impact."

Joseph Maspo, History:  Transcendental Environmentalism: John Muir and the American West

Maspo's research focused on the life and work of Sierra Club founder John Muir. Calling Muir a "radical outsider," Maspo explained how the naturalist's writings and actions "set him apart from his largely utilitarian and conservationist-minded peers, while still allowing him to achieve political success," primarily the establishment of Yosemite National Park. In his research, Maspo examined connections between Muir and the 19th century transcendental movement, championed by writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Maspo also explored the sense of "individuality and authenticity" found in Muir's writings, a sense that led to the acceptance of his preservationist views by a broad audience of Americans.

"This project really served as a culmination of my papers throughout my college experience," said Maspo, "I really love to do research because it allows me the unique opportunity of examining primary sources and to offer my own take on the past. A project of this caliber was important in introducing me to the type of research that I'll soon be doing in graduate school. It's a long and demanding process, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end is definitely worth the effort!" A first-semester senior, Maspo will graduate from Emmanuel in December 2017. He plans to continue his history studies in graduate school.

Adam Pinheiro, Graphic Design: Heaven in a Wild Flower

Pinheiro's senior distinction project was a response to the 2016 presidential election, an event that he says has created a crisis by bringing "hatred of the gay community to the surface." His book, Heaven in a Wild Flower, contains illustrations, rendered in arresting black and red, paired with text taken from his journals that "navigate the process of coming of age as a gay man." In addition, the book documents hate speech from elected officials holding political office in 2017. Through his work, Pinheiro hopes to allow "those not directly affected to feel this crisis."

In his presentation, Pinheiro explained the long process that led to the creation of the book, from his initial research into the AIDS crisis of the '80s, through his investigations into the Emmanuel College gay community, to the inspiration he drew from leading graphic designers, local Boston artists and activist/artist David Wojnarowicz. Pinheiro also explained the book's title, Heaven in a Wild Flower, which comes from a line in William Blake's poem "Auguries of Innocence" Blake, he said, "speaks of seeing 'heaven in a wild flower,' or seeing beauty in something that traditionally is not. I found great comfort in this poem's line because, for me, this book allows its viewers to see heaven in a wild flower, to see beauty in the gay man."

A double major in graphic design major and art history, Pinheiro plans to pursue work in graphic design after graduation and eventually take on graduate studies in America art.  

Lindsay Cathcart, Biology: CRISPR-Cas gene editing: utilizing bacterial immunity to enhance the human immune system for the development of next generation therapeutics

In her senior distinction day presentation, Cathcart discussed gene editing and how it could potentially be used to re-engineer the human immune system as a next generation therapeutic. During her senior year, Cathcart worked with Christopher Borges '10, a scientist in the T cell group at Editas Medicine, a biotech company in Cambridge's Kendall Square, and a trustee of the College. The approach Cathcart worked with at Editas was gene editing, wherein a specific region of the genome can be altered through the insertion or deletion of nucleotides. Cathcart likened gene editing to the find and replace function in a word processor; site-specific nucleases can "find" a specific region of genomic DNA and edit, or replace, the bases in that location. During her presentation, Cathcart also explained how gene editing could be used to improve upon the intrinsic ability of a T cell to respond to pathologies that could treat a variety of diseases more effectively."

Our research is important to our field as we are increasing the understanding of how T cells can be engineered to serve as treatments for a variety of diseases," Cathcart said. "Working with Chris on the T cell team enabled me to partake in the cutting edge research at Editas. I am confident that my experience at Editas prepared me better for future scientific challenges."

For the full list of project titles and abstracts, click here.