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From Writing a Musical to the Evolution of Minnows: 15 Complete Honors Projects at Knox

Knox College students re-enact ancient Greek warfare.

The last scene of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, was the inspiration behind Aidan Murphy's Honors project, a full-length musical sequel to the play.

Murphy read the play his first year at Knox as part of the class Foundations of Theater and Drama. A friend later mentioned how the last scene might be a bit more lively if it were a musical number.

"It was then that the idea clicked into place," said Murphy, a creative writing and theatre major. "Rather than this scene being the conclusion, I thought it would make an exciting introduction."

Murphy's Honors project, the play Torvald, involved writing around 100 pages of dialogue, composing music and lyrics to 13 songs, and directing a performance of the musical (Watch a recording from the performance or listen to the album).

At Knox, 15 members of the Class of 2018 completed Honors projects. To complete College Honors, students must obtain an endorsement from their academic department and complete advanced study under the guidance of an interdisciplinary faculty committee. The project is completed over the course of an academic year, and once complete, students defend their thesis or creative project before a qualified outside examiner, modeled after the dissertation defense of many graduate school programs.

Murphy received support from many resources to complete his project, from the feedback he received from his professor and classmates in the course Playwriting/Screenwriting Workshop as he developed and revised drafts, to being given space where he could workshop the music. He was also chosen as an ASSET Fellow, which financially supported the opportunity for him to spend the summer before his senior year on campus researching musical and 19th Century theatre as well as writing dialogue and songs. He was further supported by the Vovis Center for Research & Advanced Study, which purchased notation software that he used to write and share the musical numbers. Finally, Murphy says that "declaring this an Honors Project gave me structural support. Since I was able to earn academic credit for my work on Torvald, I had the time I needed to finish writing the script and the music throughout the year."

Kelsie Pos, like Murphy, began preparing an Honors project well before her senior year. The biology major worked with Assistant Professor of Biology Nick Gidmark and two other students to write an 80-page book chapter (currently in review) on fish feeding anatomy. That initial project evolved into her Honors project, an in-depth, comparative study on minnow jaw anatomy. Pos traveled to Friday Harbor Laboratories at the University of Washington, where she microCT-scanned specimens representing almost 98% of species in the North American minnow biological group. She then spent the summer at Knox processing the scans and analyzing her findings with Gidmark and other scientists. The team found recent evolution (within the past 20 million years) as well as statistically significant anatomical variation throughout the specimens.

Pos was able to travel to Washington and spend the summer before her senior year on campus doing research through support from the Richter Memorial Fund. The fund also paid for her travel to San Francisco to present her research at the annual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology.

"The skills I've learned throughout my time [at Knox] were extremely helpful in my getting accepted to graduate school," says Pos, who this fall will begin studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where she has been accepted in the doctoral program in Marine Science and Technology. "I'll use everything I learned through my research and from my mentors at Knox for the rest of my academic career (which will hopefully be a long one!)," says Pos, whose ultimate goal is to become a professor at a liberal arts college like Knox.

Pictured above: Kelsie Pos examines a fish in the class Biology of Fishes. Below: Aidan Murphy, at left, reviews notes with actors rehearsing the production of Torvald: The Musical. 

2018 Honors Projects

  • "A Lion of the Law: Associate Justice Antonin Scalia's Thoughts on Originalism, Textualism and Tradition," Neil Banerji, Political Science.
  • "Live Terrains: Cultivating Empathy by Moving Bodies," Jayel Lynette Gant, Interdisciplinary Studies.
  • "Progress Towards the Synthesis and Characterization of Liquid Crystals Based on μ4-Oxo-Copper(II)Tetramers," Aimee Marie Iradukunda, Chemistry. 
  • The Trumpeters, Andrea Rae Jindracek, Creative Writing. 
  • "Utilizing Copper(II) Dimers to Explore Liquid Crystalline Properties: Axial Adducts of Caprolactam, Heteroleptic Substitution, and Heterobimetallic Carboxylates," Rebecca Julia Katz, Chemistry.
  • "Imperfect Machines: Einstein on the Beach and Its Use of the Body in the Context of Minimalism," Mara Peters Lane, Art History and Music.
  • Torvald: The Musical (A Sequel to Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House), Aidan G. Murphy, Creative Writing and Theatre.
  • "Navigating the Encyclopedic: Infinite Jest and the Information Age," Nicholas Aloys Nurre, English Literature.
  • "A Comparative Investigation of Evolutionary History Versus Dietary Niche in Shaping Pharyngeal Jaw Skeletal Structure in Cyprinid Fishes," Kelsie Marie Pos, Biology.
  • "Deletion Mutational Analysis of the GBH1 protein Hydrogel Biopolymer," Muhammad Muneeb Rehman, Biochemistry.
  • "Impairment of Glutamate Clearance Prevents Acute Long-Term Potentiation in Hippocampal Neurons," Theodore William Ruffins, Neuroscience.
  • "Drought Effects on Riparian Vegetation in the Santa Clara River Basin Using Airborne Imaging Spectroscopy," Elizabeth Claire Schmidt, Earth Science and Biology.
  • "The Impact of Worker Cooperative Characteristics on Institutional Activism: Enabling Co-ops to be Agents of Social Change," Sofia Tagkaloglou, Economics.
  • "Learning to Use WhatsApp in India: An Ethnographic Study of lnstant Messaging in Pune," Soumitra Prakash Thorat, Anthropology and Sociology.
  • "For Women, By Men, About Time: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Abe's Womenomics," Monica Teagan Weller, Political Science.

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#I'll use everything I learned through my research and from my mentors at Knox for the rest of my academic career (which will hopefully be a long one!)—Kelsie Pos '18

Sofia Tagkaloglou addresses an audience at Knox College.

#At Knox, 89% of students conduct research, independent study, or creative work. A small percentage of those—15 in 2018—go on to complete College Honors.

Knox College

Printed on Friday, June 5, 2020