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Spring 2024 

Research Student Spotlights and Awards


Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards

Pierce and Kalista speaking at UVU with a their presentation on a slideshow behind them.

Kalista Leggitt and Pierce Christoffersen presenting their research at UVU. 

Pierce Christoffersen (philosophy and political science) and Kalista Leggitt (international studies, health society and policy, and biology) were selected as the 2024 Humanities Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers. They were presented with the award from the Office of Undergraduate Research in a ceremony on April 1, 2024. Pierce and Kalista collaborated on two research projects: the first one explores pediatric autonomy, with a special focus on the ethical dilemmas healthcare professionals face when adolescents and their caregivers disagree about the care adolescents might receive. The other project focuses on ethical issues arising from the use of AI in psychotherapy. 

The two students had their paper, “The Intersection of Pediatric Autonomy, Conscientious Objection, and Civil Disobedience in Healthcare,” selected for an international ethics conference last August, The Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, giving them the distinction of the only undergraduate student paper accepted. The American Journal of Bioethics published a paper they coauthored with Matt Haber, associate professor of philosophy, Bennet Knox, and Zeia Woodruff. Pierce and Kalista submitted this paper to the 2024 UVU Undergraduate Philosophy Conference and the committee was so impressed that they invited Pierce and Kalista to give the opening address as invited speakers.

Their talk, “Justice, Vulnerable Populations, and the Use of Conversational AI in Psychotherapy,” responded to a paper by Sedlakova and Trachsel (2023) on the ethics of using cAI to bridge mental health care access disparity in vulnerable populations. In that paper, Sedlakova and Trachsel argue that the way to frame the ethical issues is to first work out whether cAI is an agent or a tool. Pierce and Kalista, in contrast, argue that their framing of the problem space risks obscuring the central and most important ethical issues. Instead, they highlight three primary ethical issues: (i) How algorithmic biases might undermine the goal of bridging an accessibility gap; (ii) Questions of accountability in deploying cAI in mental health care; and (iii) Inadvertently increasing unjust stratifications of access to mental health care. They conclude with positive recommendations, including models for tracking moral responsibility regardless of whether cAI is regarded as an agent or tool and how to think creatively about ensuring issues of justice are kept front-and-center.

Haber, their faculty mentor, said that it was a true joy watching Pierce and Kalista take the lead on these projects, wonderfully embodying the unique way humanities undergraduates can truly own their research. “Their voices come through crisply and clearly, and they are making genuinely impactful contributions to an interdisciplinary field.”

Lex Putnam sitting in front of their researcg poster

Lex Putnam presenting their research.

2024 College of Humanities Research Awards

  • Callie Avondet, History and Sociology
  • Caitlin Bailey, Communication
  • Eliana Massey, Philosophy
  • Abigail Pace, Philosophy
  • Lex Putnam, Linguistics, History, and Gender Studies
  • Theadora Soter, English
  • Zachery Thiede, German and classics

2024 Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium Presentations Hosted by The Office of Undergraduate Research


Best in Humanities and Fine Arts: Lex Putnam (Mentor: Aniello De Santo), “Pre-Study Considerations:  Quantifying Novel Slur Formation Through Textual Media Analysis

Best Innovative Introduction: Savannah McDaniel, (Mentor: Lisa Swanstrom), “Creature Comforts: Domesticity and Domestication in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas



Pierce Christoffersen and Kalista Legitt (Mentor: Matt Haber, philosophy), “Recognizing the Emerging Ethical Agency of Adolescents”

Brandon Osgan (Mentor: Ed Rubin, linguistics), “An Analysis of Vowel Reduction in Bolognese”

Thea Soter (Mentor: Disa Gambera, English), “Coming Home: A Project of History, Heartache, and Heritage”

Lauren Wigod (Mentor: Melinda Fagan, philosophy), “Science or Pseudoscience? Theory Change Between Theories of Disease”

Milo Yates (Mentor, Matt Haber, philosophy), “Counterfactual Utilitarianism: A New Metaphysical Approach to Consequentialist Ethics”

Britta Bolander (Mentor: Aniello De Santo, linguistics), “Ethics Beyond the Training Process”

Sujata Gandhi (Mentor: Matt Basso, history), “East Idaho Ethnic Minorities Oral History Project”

John Bowden (Mentor: Dave Bresnahan, history), “Reconstructing Sensory Experiences of the Sawhili Coast”

Ryan Christenson (Mentor: Margaret Wan, world languages and cultures), “Portrayals of Women in Taiping Guangji: A Study of Female Roles and Archetypes in Medieval Chinese Narrative Literature” 

Krystan Morrison (Mentor: Brandon James Render, history), “Postmodern Influences on Women's Political Weaponization of Personal Style in the United States, 1960-1980” 

Z Chodos (Mentor: Aaron Kaplan, linguistics), “Context Specific Exceptions to Gemination in Japanese”

Brandon Osgan sitting in front of his research poster

Brandon Osgan presenting their research.

Britta Bolander standing in front of poster

Britta Bolander presenting their research.

Lauren Wigod standing in front of research poster

Lauren Wigod presenting their research.

Sujata Gandhi standing in front of their researcg poster

Sujata Gandhi presenting their research.

College of Humanities 2nd Annual Poster Session

Z Chodos sitting in front of their research poster

Z Chodos presenting their research.

Ashley Townsend (Mentor: Rachel Hayes-Harb, linguistics), “Encouraging Accent Adaptation with Infographics”

Ben Bigcraft (Mentor: Michael Christopher Low, history), “Water Rights in the Jordan River Valley Around the Establishment of the State of Israel”

Beverly Cheung & Vanessa Patzner (Mentors:Joyce Havstad, philosophy, and Lepa Marinkovski, English), “Social Media and the Effects on Youth”

Brandon Osgan (Mentors: Edward Rubin, linguistics, and Aaron Kaplan, linguistics), “An Analysis of Vowel Reduction in Bolognese”

Bri Clegg (Mentors: Maile Arvin, history, and Lepa Marinkovski, English), “Concepts of Indigenous Land Stewardship in Film”

Chalee Yates (Mentors: Rachel Hayes-Harb, linguistics, and Shannon Barrios, linguistics), “An investigation of the relationship between perceptual sensitivity and word learning performance for the Hindi voiced unaspirated dental-retroflex contrast by English speakers”

Ellie Lubin & Nasir Stephens (Mentors: Romeo Garcia, writing and rhetoric studies, and Lepa Marinkovski, English), “Does gender have an effect on how we experience social media?”

Eunjin Lee (Mentors: Shannon Barrios, linguistics, and Rachel Hayes-Harb, linguistics), “English listeners' Perception of Korean Word-initial Stop Contrasts”

Jamie Faux (Mentor: Anne Jamison, English), “What it means to be a woman”

Lauren Wigod (Mentor: Melinda Fagan, philosophy), “Changing Theories of Disease as Indicators of Shifting Epistemic Values in Science”

Lex Putnam (Mentor: Aaron Kaplan, linguistics), “OT Analysis of Initial Lenition in Scots Gaelic”

Lucy Christensen & Dayna Policarpio (Mentors: Tara Quinn, communication, and Lepa Marinkovski, English), “International Students Educational Experience”

Sophia Warnas & Izzy Caro (Mentors: Lindsay Drager, English, and Lepa Marinkovski, English), “The Role of Women in World Mythology”

Tan Jones (Mentors, Aaron Kaplan, linguistics, and Ed Rubin, linguistics), “Stress Patterns in Bolognese”

Z Chodos (Mentor: Aaron Kaplan, linguistics), “Context-Specific Exceptions to Gemination in Japanese”

Zachary Mickelsen & Kason Opdyke (Mentors: Aniello DeSanto, linguistics, and Lepa Marinkovski, English), “An Analysis of the History of Argumentative Linguistics”

Research on Capitol Hill

Humanities students presented their research via poster to Utah State Legislators in the annual Research on Capitol Hill held in January, 2024.


Pierce Christoffersen and Kalista Leggitt (Mentor: Matt Haber, philosophy), “The Intersection of Pediatric Autonomy, Conscientious Objection, and Civil Disobedience in Healthcare”

Addison Hedges (Mentor: Moriel Zelikowsky, medicine), “Behavioral Effects of Trauma Recruit Separate Populations of Ventral Hippocampal Neurons”

Catherine Petersen (Mentor: Ramkiran Gouripeddi, medicine), “Understanding the Relationship Between Environmental Exposures and the Risk of Pediatric Obesity using Unsupervised Machine Learning”

Spring 2024 Early Exploration Scholars College of Humanities Awardees

Early Exploration Scholars about research opportunities at the University of Utah and receive a $500 scholarship while growing research interests and connecting with prospective faculty mentors. Fall 2024 deadline is August 1, 2024


Lucy Christensen, international studies HBS

Lexie Durfee, communication BS

Alison Galindo, communication BS

Amelia Robinson, criminology HBA Russian minor

Beau Jackson, German BA

Franklin Ernesto Huerta Salazar, world languages and cultures BA and French BA

Last Updated: 5/8/24