Borine Award - Spring 2022

Each year, graduating psychology undergraduates are tasked with completing a  project to explore an area of interest. The Sharon Borine Top Capstone Award and Sharon Borine Top Honors Thesis Award were created to acknowledge students whose senior projects were of the highest quality. The award process consists of nomination by section leaders or faculty mentors followed by a review and ranking by an ad hoc panel of faculty members. You can learn more about all 2021-2022 nominees and graduates on the Graduation Celebration website.

Congratulations to the Spring 2022 recipients: Emma Estrella (Top Honors Thesis), Julia Schultz (Top Capstone), Kunbo Lu (Top Capstone), and Jesse Wolk (Top Capstone)!

Headshot of Emma Estrella

Emma Estrella was awarded the Top Honors Thesis for her paper “Healthcare Experiences Among Adults with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder in the US '' Estrella received $250 and was mentored by Dr. Pat Frazier. The paper centered around health quality of life, symptom management self-efficacy, healthcare experiences, and ways to improve the healthcare of adults in the US with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) and hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD), connective tissue disorders that are misunderstood, and often stigmatized in the field of healthcare. More than 2,000 respondents diagnosed with or having suspected hEDS and HSD completed an online survey. Their findings indicated that US adults with joint hypermobility reported negative healthcare experiences and poor health quality of life. Lower satisfaction with healthcare was associated with lower health-related quality of life and lower symptom management self-efficacy. Future research should explore ways to improve the healthcare experiences and quality of care for these individuals.

Graduating this past spring, Estrella has worked in Dr. Pat Frazier’s Stress and Trauma lab, worked as an undergraduate research assistant, and was a McNair Scholar. Additionally, she worked with Dr. Mark Stellmack as a teaching assistant and an undergraduate section leader for PSY3001W: Introduction to Research Methods and as a reviewer and the Associate Editor for Sentience, the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Journal of Psychology. Estrella is currently taking a gap year before applying to Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology. She hopes to continue pursuing research related to her honors thesis.

Headshot of Julia Schultz

Julia Schultz received the first-place capstone award ($250) for the paper titled “Fluctuations in Early Life Experiences Impacting Young Adult Aggression via Adolescent Peer Competence.” Schultz graduated this Spring with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minors in Family Social Science and Anthropology. She had been working as a research assistant and lab manager for Dr. Jeffry A. Simpson in the Social Interaction Lab since January 2021. The research she had done over the past two years has stimulated her interest in relationships and family work. Schultz has begun her master’s degree in counseling psychology with a focus in family psychology this Fall at the University of St. Thomas; she hopes to become a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT).  

Headshot of Kunbo Lu

Kunbo Lu received the second place capstone award ($150) for the paper titled “Machine-Learning and Human Creativity: Applying a Computational Semantic Distance Measure to Assess Perceptually-Prompted Divergent Thinking.” Lu graduated this spring with majors in Economics and Psychology. Lu plans to continue his psychology studies in graduate school.

Lu is fascinated by the study of human cognition, and his great passion motivated him to apply and join Dr. Koutstaal’s Thinking lab. After joining the lab, he started to study the topics of semantic distance and creativity. Specifically, Lu examined how human creativity could be assessed by computational semantic distance in two perceptually-prompted divergent thinking tasks. During the working process of the capstone project, he explored several interdisciplinary topics of psychology and computer science (e.g., natural language processing), and he was attracted by the potential of combining machine learning with the study of the human mind. Finally, the guidance provided by Dr. Koutstaal and the coding contributions received from Lucy Brown and Keelin Posson were greatly appreciated.

Headshot of Jesse Wolk

Jesse Wolk received the 3rd place capstone award and $75 for the paper titled “Correlation of volumetric MRI data with visit and development quotient in children with MPS IIIA.” Wolk was mentored by Dr. Monica Bondy and served as a research assistant for Dr. Igor Nestrasil’s Pediatric neurology lab. Over the course of the past year and a half, he has analyzed 36 brain scans to make sure that they are segmented accurately and then performed this research paper on his findings. 

Graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology with minors in Spanish Studies and Biology, Wolk planned on being a Wilderness Guide for Wilderness Inquiry this past summer and hopes to join Americorps following the experience. His long term goal? To become a rural physician in the Upper Midwest to care for the rural population that he identifies with.

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