Sam Richmond

Every year, Macalester seniors conduct a stunning array of original academic and creative work. We browsed this year’s list of honors theses, picked out a few highlights, and asked their authors to explain more.

“Ink and Blood: American Military Tattooing from the Civil War to the Global War on Terror”
Sam Richmond (Bedford, N.H.)

“There are a lot of tattoos in the military, but I wanted to look at how that’s evolved over time. I also saw how much continuity there’s been. During the Civil War, there was a lot of superstitious or religious imagery. For example, there was a superstition among sailors that crucifixes would stop shark attacks, so they would get crucifixes tattooed on all four limbs in case they went overboard. You still see a lot of that kind of thing today. For example, one of the soldiers I talked to has a Celtic armor symbol that he got tattooed on his forearm before his second tour in Iraq. He acknowledged that it wouldn’t stop bullets or an IED, but he said it still gave him peace of mind while he was there—maybe it would help bring him home.”

“Understanding the Construction of Accessibility and Mobility: Non-car Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri”
Hannah Shumway (Baraboo, Wis.)
Political science and geography

“We often talk about transportation in terms of scarcity—there’s never enough money, or enough space for bike lanes, for example. But if you flip that thinking, and instead look at transportation as a common governance issue, you start to see that creating better mobility options can truly benefit everyone in that society, especially the people who already depend on them.”

“New Places”
Jake Parsky (Bethesda, Md.)

“All music majors do a senior recital for their capstone, but I also wanted to do something that would allow me to focus on the musical direction I want to go for my career, which is in composition. I’d done some composing before, but this project was pretty different. I spent a lot of last summer doing research, studying other composers and their scores, and learning how to write for some instruments I don’t play. It also took more vulnerability than I expected, having to show my music to other musicians. That really affected me, and I think it made me more courageous.”

Michael Murphy

“Rooting Around Beneath an Arc: Zircon U-Pb Geochronologic and Hf Isotopic Constraints on the Evolution of the Base of the Sierra Nevada Batholith”
Michael Murphy (Osceola, Wis.)

“We were essentially using a machine to shoot laser beams at individual zircon crystals to turn them into gas, and then passing that through a mass spectrometer to see what isotopes they were producing. That allowed us to date the particles, and look at how much continental crust was melted in the system that produced the rocks, which helps us estimate where they originated—we think somewhere in the lower crust. There’s only a handful of places on earth where we can get pieces of rock originating that far beneath the surface. So these analyses are really important to understand this part of the earth miles below our feet, and how it’s changed over time.”

“Understanding the Influence of Curcumin on Amyloid-β Aggregation at the Molecular Scale”
Angelina Malagodi (Albuquerque, N.M.)

“Amyloid-β is a protein in our brains—I have it, you have it, we all have it. Sometimes, however, that protein can end up misfolding into a different shape. When that happens, it basically becomes sticky. It attracts other misfolded proteins, and they can start to form masses. This is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. If you look at the brains of people who had Alzheimer’s, there will be all these masses clumped throughout. So, although we still don’t understand exactly why some people get the disease—that’s part of the reason we don’t have a cure, either—this research could lead to new therapeutic tools.”

July 29 2019

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