Senior Research Projects 2019

Each student in the Knowledge Integration Senior Research Project (two-term course, INTEG 420 A & B) works on a short research project under the dual direction of a member of the Department of Knowledge Integration and an advisor from a discipline related to the topic. The results of this project will be presented in thesis form, and will be critically examined by members of this and, where pertinent, other departments.

The students presented poster displays of their projects on Friday, April 5.

Also, check out: 2018 projects | 2017 projects | 2016 projects | 2015 projects | 2014 projects | 2013 projects | 2012 projects

Senior Research Projects 2019
Student Title (with link to Abstract) Supervisor
Kristopher Barber Making the Medical System a Little More Human: Prognosis Collin Roberts, Cheriton School of Computer Science
James Butler Dialogues Across Difference Nancy Worth, Geography and Enviromental Management
Keira Chadwick Understanding Data Privacy: A Resource to Help Canadians Take Control of their Online Personal Information Maura Grossman , Cheriton School of Computer Science
Claire DesRosiers The Story of Columbia Lake: An Exploration of Land and People Chad Wriglesworth, English Language and Literature
Deanna Di Vito Helping Demystify Knowledge Integration's (KI) Learning Experience by Matching Future Students with KI Students Neil Randall, The Games Institute, University of Waterloo
Alex Esser PSYCH 292 Tutorial TA Guidebook Paul Wehr, Psychology
Nathan Flach Conceptually Designing a Mobile Experience to Help Student-Athletes Develop Mental Resilience During Competition Wade Wilson, Kinesiology
Meagan Flus Findings on a designated project manager in student capstone project teams Ada Hurst, Management Sciences
Hannah Gardiner The Women in the Willows: Exploring the Willow Tree Cross-Culturally Huaping Cindy Zhuang, Chinese Language and Culture Studies
Kat Jacobs Leveling Up Our Mental Health Neil Randall, The Games Institute, University of Waterloo
Hannah James Implementation of Video Consultations: A Systematic Review of the Challenges to Scale-up, Spread, and Subsequent Sustainability Sara Shaw, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford
Saffiya Kherraji Out with the old and in with the new: Redefining the American Dream home Paul McKone, Knowledge Integration
Jordan Klassen There’s More To Life Than Being Right: Voice Assistants Need to Consider Delivery Nuances Jason Griffin , SnapPea Design
Jason Kurian Pocket Blues John McLevey, Knowledge Integration
Lexi Layne No Borders: A Revival of Toronto’s Underground Music Culture through a Business Lens Tina Blanchette, Business, Wilfrid Laurier University
Greg Litster Remembering Knowledge Integration (KI): An online resource for KI students Katie Plaisance, Knowledge Integration
Karissa Manning Realizing Potential: How integrative innovations can help optimize systems at Child Treatment Centres like KidsAbility Doug Biggs, Chief Operating Officer, KidsAbility Centre for Child Development
Christina McArthur Facilitating meaningful climate centred conversation: Lobby displays, priming audiences and systems of economy Andrew Houston, Communication Arts
Tarunima Mittal Bringing Restorative Justice into the Classroom: Exploring a Restorative Approach to Teaching and Curriculum Design Dennis Gingrich, Peace & Conflict Studies
Devaney Moraes Effects of academics on student well-being Bernie Hillar, Senior Exhibit Designer, Ontario Science Centre
Kaitlin Ollivier-Gooch Testing a New Method for Extracting DNA from Dental Calculus Alexis Dolphin, Anthropology
Samir Reynolds Curating Medieval Pilgrim Badges: Exploring Technological and Narrative Means of Display Rob Gorbet, Knowledge Integration; and Ann Marie Rasmussen, Germanic and Slavic Studies ,
Kyla Sedore Do gamers just want to have fun? How the study of gaming can reveal ways to motivate students experiencing symptoms of burnout Katie Plaisance, Knowledge Integration
Elli Seregelyi Neurodesign: Measuring the Impact of Social Proof in Landing Page Design Carolyn MacGregor, Systems Design Engineering
Kienna Shaw Dungeons & Dragons and Livestreaming: Audience as Narrative Collaborator Neil Randall, The Games Institute, University of Waterloo
Brendan Wigram Bringing Choice into Identity

Christopher Lok, Psychology

Making the Medical System a Little More Human: Prognosis

Kristopher Barber

Supervisor: Collin Roberts, Cheriton School of Computer Science


Healthcare in much of the world is under an intense strain, as most systems rely on face to face communication with physicians, which is unscalable to current population levels. Patients feel ignored, rushed, or confused, and physicians feel callous and worn out. The introduction of the internet and the proliferation of online health resources has proven to alleviate some of this strain, however this information is decentralized, and current social media platforms were not built to deal with health issues. To that end this project attempts to build an app that can serve as the go-to platform for social media health discussion. The app will be organized into communities that connect patients, family, friends, and medical professionals. A number of features have been completed already, and more are planned.

Dialogues Across Difference

James Butler

Supervisor: Nancy Worth, Geography and Enviromental Management


In this project, Dialogues Across Difference, we ask “How might we have more and better dialogues across difference?” Knowing how to have good dialogue across our differences is a skill, one that is both increasingly and fundamentally necessary to solving complex problems, a skill that we are under aware of. We rely on our ability to grow shared understanding across differences between disciplines, between cultures, and between our experiences to address complex global problems, to share resources and to exist in community. The problem this project seeks to address is though we engage in dialogues across difference all the time we don’t think intentionally about how to do it well.

This project is aiming at growing our awareness of this problem by creating a handout and a podcast on how to have good dialogues across difference aimed at a general audience and based on an ongoing series of paired interviews with people who think and communicate differently. In each interview two participants from different communities, be they disciplines, professions or communities, meet to discuss how to communicate across their differences and difference in general. During the interview, they are guided by questions about their experience to discuss how dialogue exists in their communities, how their communities address different perspectives and how might we communicate across our differences. Ultimately we’re working with our participants towards asking “What makes for good dialogue across difference?”.

We aim to build an idea of what good dialogue across difference is, establish a set of practices for good dialogue across difference, and express these practices as a useful, accessible and interesting guide to begin having good dialogues across difference in the form of a handout and a podcast. This project is actively transdisciplinary, aiming to engage, with and above, the disciplinary or paradigmatic level. It is an applied epistemology project interested in how people communicate ideas across differences in methods of communication and understanding.

Understanding Data Privacy: A Resource to Help Canadians Take Control of their Online Personal Information

Keira Chadwick

Supervisor: Maura Grossman, Cheriton School of Computer Science


The Internet is a pivotal component of our lives today and will continue to be tomorrow. The purpose of this research is to explore how to balance a person’s right to privacy and the public’s right to access information in this data-driven age of social media. At the heart of the issue of data privacy, is an individual.

For this research project, data privacy policies, laws, and the academic literature were reviewed, and a gap in information was identified. Materials on how data privacy impacts the individual, on how to stay informed on different regulations, on the advantages of information, and on the landscape of data privacy from various perspectives are not readily available to the public. The intersection between social media, publicly available information, and data privacy is complicated and hard to navigate.

To address this, I have developed “Understanding Data Privacy: A Guide to Help Canadians Take Control of their Online Personal Information.” The goal of this project is to empower Canadians to understand the landscape of data privacy, and to encourage them to take control of their information.

The Story of Columbia Lake: An Exploration of Land and People

Claire DesRosiers

Supervisor: Chad Wriglesworth, English Language and Literature


Understanding the interdependencies between land and people is a vital step in educating the public in environmental practices. The goal of this project is to use a case study to explore how People and Land can impact each other both negatively and positively. Focusing on Columbia lake I hoped to create a work of historical fiction that shows the reader how Columbia Lake has changed from the first Mennonite settlements, to present day. Combining history, ecology and story the reader will learn about different ecological processes and facets of Columbia Lake and the human history of the area. The chapters build on each other showing how the ecological facets of Columbia lake impact the people and how the people in turn have shaped Columbia lake. My own interactions with the land have been included as a way to show how these past histories, decisions, and facets are still making an impact on current day people. The overall goal of this project is to make people consider deeply the important role land plays in our lives, and explore how everything from our homes, farms, and recreation depends upon it, and impacts it.

Helping Demystify Knowledge Integration's (KI) Learning Experience by Matching Future Students with KI Students

Deanna Di Vito

Supervisor: Neil Randall, The Games Institute, University of Waterloo


Knowledge Integration’s (KI) unique program offering is attractive to many people – students, parents, and employers. However, it struggles with communicating its value and the benefit of having diverse experiences to parents and high school students. I propose the creation of a new tool that would help to demystify the Knowledge Integration learning experience for these groups of users by providing a way for future students and their parents to view the current life paths of students from KI. The term ‘life path’ describes the path that KI students took throughout their degree, including various jobs or volunteer experiences they’ve had, their degree specialization, words of wisdom, and the answer to the famous question, ‘What happens after KI?’ Through a web application, future students fill in details about their favourite subjects and hobbies and are matched with three students from KI. When matched, future students will be able to view the life paths of the students already enrolled in the KI program. This application enables students and their parents to see that KI students can take different paths through post-secondary education based on their diverse interests. In doing so, they create a unique degree that will serve them well in the future. The application helps to decrease that ambiguity of the program and helps future students articulate what their life in KI might look like.

PSYCH 292 Tutorial TA Guidebook

Alex Esser

Supervisor: Paul Wehr, Psychology


In the past, TAs that led the PSYCH 292 (Introduction to Statistics for Psychology Students) tutorials were not given much direction about how to run it. The lack of a standardized plan led to TAs running tutorials run inconsistently between sections. This inconsistency was problematic for students, especially those who struggled with statistics, because tutorials are designed to be a built-in, easily accessible, useful resource for students to better understand course material. However, the PSYCH 292 tutorial’s inconsistency between sections and overall lack of organization rendered it significantly less useful for students than it was intended to be.

To address this problem, Dr. Wehr suggested that I create a guidebook for the TAs. The guidebook contains 10 detailed lesson plans designed to be easy to follow during tutorials and include a section for notes to the TAs indicating important information to point out to students. The guidebook was designed to make it significantly easier for TAs to prepare for and lead future tutorials, and to make them standardized across sections. The TAs’ use of the guidebook should make the tutorial are more useful resource for future students.

Conceptually Designing a Mobile Experience to Help Student-Athletes Develop Mental Resilience During Competition

Nathan Flach

Supervisor: Wade Wilson, Kinesiology


The purpose of this 4th year Knowledge Integration senior design project was to use existing research in the field of sport psychology to create a mobile application. Currently, there is a lack of free and simple resources for student-athletes to use that will help prepare them for competition. As opposed to traditional text, mobile apps are accessible, easy to use, and engaging. This application (which includes daily/monthly habit tracking aids and tools such as imagery techniques) serves as a one-stop training tool to help student-athletes continuously improve positive mental habits in order to succeed in competition. There are few apps offered that have simple consistent mental training for student-athletes; this application will provide an easy-to-use interface where athletes can form habits to help their training. It’s important to note that this app is not fully coded - it is a detailed prototype with mock data that users can still interact with. The creation of the app started with ideation by means of the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework to establish core mental resilience techniques such as weekly journals, imagery, and goal setting. Through an iterative process with user needs at its focus, hand-drawn wireframes were transformed into digital mockups using prototyping software Figma and Invision. To further improve the simplicity and ease of use, several usability sessions were conducted. Participants would walk-through the app with prompting questions and the feedback given would be used to iteratively revise the app. New sessions with additional participants are still ongoing.

Findings on a designated project manager in student capstone project teams

Meagan Flus

Supervisor: Ada Hurst, Management Sciences


The University of Waterloo is encouraging more collaborative projects. Upper year students, specifically those in engineering, are tasked with working on 8 month capstone projects that involve conceptualizing and designing a project in their discipline. Students often face challenges and may struggle to succeed. Research has shown that educating students on project management techniques prior to beginning their capstone projects helps students succeed. While the Faculty of Engineering does lecture students on project management, the student groups decide if and how they wish to designate a peer project manager. This research attempts to analyze how a designated peer project manager emerges, why the group designated a project manager, and the overall effects of a project manager on the success of the student teams. Areas of research include management processes, student collaborative patterns, and student perceptions of group success.

The research includes two studies to gain qualitative and quantitative insights. The first study was a cohort study in the Department of Knowledge Integration. Third year students completing their capstone design project were interviewed five times over the course of the 7 months they were working on their projects. The second study was an attempt to confirm the interview findings and determine if they hold in the Faculty of Engineering. Fourth year engineering students were surveyed upon the completion of their capstone design projects. The research will contribute to the literature on student capstone group dynamics. Ultimately, the results are another insight into how groups may be more likely to succeed if they designate a peer project manager.

The Women in the Willows: Exploring the Willow Tree Cross-Culturally

Hannah Gardiner

Supervisor: Huaping Cindy Zhuang, Chinese Language and Culture Studies


Traditional Chinese idioms (chengyu) are a rich historical source of cultural and social knowledge. While there is research that illustrates that women in the patriarchal and patrilineal society of the idioms’ conception were depicted in a constrained and negative way, there has been little research exploring how. In my paper, I ask the question: how can a better understanding of the symbol of the willow tree – as seen in traditional Chinese idioms – deepen a (Western) reader’s knowledge about the representation and history of women in ancient China? To respond to this question, I have taken a comparative approach. In order to prevent readers from assuming their stock of knowledge of symbolic meaning and applying this meaning to a different cultural paradigm, I begin by examining what the willow tree means in its respective Chinese and Western cultural contexts. My paper then looks at the sub-set of Chinese idioms – idioms with reference to the willow tree – used to depict women. Through linguistic and historical analysis of these idioms, it was found that there is a deeper social reality of women encoded in the idioms.

Leveling Up Our Mental Health

Kat Jacobs

Supervisor: Neil Randall, The Games Institute, University of Waterloo


The focus of this project was to test the effectiveness of using positive psychology techniques in tandem with gamification techniques. The goal was to encourage potential users to complete short tasks supported by positive psychology research to improve an individual’s mental health or overall approach to the world.First, relevant gamification, human-computer interaction, and positive psychology literature was reviewed to determine which techniques would be most effective in this format, which forms of gamification lend themselves best to this mode of play, and how the experience can be most effectively implemented. Based on the preliminary research the prototype was coded in a visual novel software called Ren’Py using the Cython coding language. The Live2D animation software was used to create emotive character sprites. This was done to help users connect with the characters and become more invested in completing the relevant tasks. The user is taught these positive psychology techniques, and then takes on the role of teaching these techniques to a child character in the visual novel. The techniques used were focused around being able to calm oneself down using slow breathing exercises, or using acts of kindness to encourage individuals to develop a more positive outlook on their current life situation. These were presented through a gamification format to help motivate individuals to help themselves and counteract the effects of learned helplessness and executive dysfunctions. This format helps provide additional extrinsic motivation to begin engaging in these techniques. The hope is to then support these individuals in making the use of such techniques more intrinsically motivated. Overall, this project shows ways in which people can engage in positive psychology techniques to benefit their wellbeing, even without initial motivation to change or improve.

Out with the old and in with the new: Redefining the American Dream home

Saffiya Kherraji

Supervisor: Paul McKone, Knowledge Integration


Redefining the American Dream home as a whole concentrates on examining the modern North American housing landscape, addressing its impact on class divisions and mental health, as well as housing stigmas, and exploring the opportunities presented by modular and adaptive communities. This portion in this work explores particularly the shift if definition of the American Dream. It considers how the changing definition might be more attainable through the trimming the fat in housing gluttony. After providing background to the redefining and the emphasis on personal prosperity instead of monetary prosperity, this portion of Redefining the American Dream home examines the median size home in the United States, its elements that are useful and necessary as well as those that are wasteful. This aids in gaining an understanding of what exists at the core of a home. These elements are then reassembled in a contrasting tiny home, an extreme to show what is possible without compromising lifestyle. The extreme case presented in this work acts as a base piece in the modular and adaptive communities that bend, flex, and morph to the needs of its current inhabitants through propagation of the same units as well as the manipulation of components to enlarge or shrink a unit.

There’s More To Life Than Being Right: Voice Assistants Need to Consider Delivery Nuances

Jordan Klassen

Supervisor: Jason Griffin , SnapPea Design


Modern voice assistants are bringing reality and sci-fi closer together. Products like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri that enable us to interact with technology using our voices are improving very quickly, and becoming a staple in many lives. Now, more than ever, companies are competing to make sure that their product gets as many users as possible -- because the quality of their product depends on the amount of data they can accumulate, and because people are unlikely to switch once they’ve gotten used to one. Right now, the competitors focus on the technical aspects of voice assistants. Metrics like accuracy of results and percentage of questions answered drive the development of these products. There is a blatant lack of progress towards the less measurable, and more human, improvements that these products need. Being right isn’t worth much if you’re not understood. Social nuances like changing your speed or volume to match the person you’re speaking to, recognizing the context of a question, and adapting the complexity of a response to suit a question are things humans do instinctively. These features of human conversation are important to feeling like your question has been understood and valued. My project focuses on the ways these basic conversational concepts can improve comfort when conversing with an AI, and how humans will better receive information if it’s communicated well. People know not to respond to a whisper with a shout, so why should a machine do any differently?

The Creative Processes behind “Pocket Blues”

Jason Kurian

Supervisor: John McLevey, Knowledge Integration


After a major pivot from the original plan for my Knowledge Integration Senior Research project that was leveraging my software and data science interests, I decided to tap my love of music and 20 years of experience piano and over 10 years of performance to seriously enter the world of music production. This meant that the last part of the term would be spent writing and producing an original song. At this point in the production process, the song will be purely instrumental and potentially some interactive elements where those visiting who are inclined may be able to contribute to it and make it entirely unique.

The theories of creativity involved in my production include: creativity as a primary process & as an output of work, creativity made possible by tool chains, creativity as a product of incubation (subconscious process), and as a product of intuition (conscious process).

I also leveraged techniques that included writing “morning pages” / music memos and embracing mistakes from initiating work. These techniques and theories as they apply to creative thinking and the process for my music production were based on Kevin Ashton’s How to Fly a Horse. In this book he describes his understanding of creative thinking and the process behind creativity that makes it accessible rather than a mystic art. With these tools and the resources at my disposal (on a very modest budget), I set about writing a song and this paper
outlines the processes behind it.

No Borders: A Revival of Toronto’s Underground Music Culture through a Business Lens

Lexi Layne

Supervisor: Tina Blanchette, Business, Wilfrid Laurier University


Underground music culture - a diminishing aspect of Toronto’s culture- which in the past has enabled individuals to experience different music types because of two primary motivations: inability to access mainstream music, due to financial limitations; or mere preference to niche music genres. The introduction of technology has made underground music in particular, more accessible. However, it has simultaneously removed the motivations for most underground event attendees. Technology, combined with Toronto’s noise by-laws and condo developments have enabled the mainstream nightlife industry in Toronto to thrive. Leaving underground music venues and events failing. As a result, there is less variety in the events offered. A segment of Toronto’s residents and visitors recognize that Toronto’s nightlife music scene has become redundant. The city council of Toronto has discussed that more resources will be provided to the culture sector to help ensure Toronto remains rich in culture and diversity. The potential changes in politics surrounding Toronto music culture have created less barrier to entry for businesses. There is now an opportunity and a need to introduce a new nightlife experience. This is explored through a business venture, called No Borders. It offers events, where consumers attend to celebrate niche music genres, dance, and human interaction.

Remembering Knowledge Integration (KI): An online resource for KI students

Greg Litster

Supervisor: Katie Plaisance, Knowledge Integration


Knowledge Integration (KI) instructors have observed that upper year KI students often forget critical information from their early KI courses. This is problematic for KI students because many of their projects build on the best practices and methods learned in their introductory courses (INTEG 120/121/220/221). Students are engaged with the material initially but may lose sight of where this knowledge can be applied in future projects.

To address this problem, I developed the question: how might we help students remember the core concepts from introductory KI courses so they can use them to solve complex problems presented in upper year KI courses and beyond their Bachelor of Knowledge Integration? As a solution to this problem I have designed an online resource for students that will be hosted on the KI website. Students wishing to engage with the material will now have the access to easily interact with foundational concepts. This will help them remember key information and further develop their skills, as they take on new projects.

This solution was designed with the students in mind. I recognized that as a KI student myself, I could not just design a resource that was helpful for me but something that would be beneficial to the students, alumni, faculty, and staff of the department. In order to take their insights into consideration, I investigated what students and alumni were able to remember and what they found valuable from their introductory courses using a series of focus groups. Key concepts, best practices and skills became the emphasise of our conversations, which informed design decisions when shaping the project. Students now have the opportunity to reconnect with the design thinking process, tips on collaboration and key concepts in an efficient way.

Realizing Potential: How integrative innovations can help optimize systems at Child Treatment Centres like KidsAbility

Karissa Manning

Supervisor: Doug Biggs, Chief Operating Officer, KidsAbility Centre for Child Development


Child Treatment Centres, like KidsAbility Centre for Child Development, provide therapeutic and support services to children and youth with a wide range of complex needs all across Ontario. Over the last eight months I have been the resident Knowledge Integrator on a team working with KidsAbility to get to know the systems they interact with every day, gather needs and insights through user experience research, and work through the design process to identify how integrative innovation solutions that could maximize the organization’s impact. The outcome has been the design and ongoing development of an end-to-end software solution called RocketCare. This system will work with KidsAbility’s service model and the staff to maximize efficiency that is currently being limited by unintuitive and impractical software. Our pilot application is currently being prepared for training, implementation, and further testing. This first phase of RocketCare aims to optimize scheduling and appointment booking practices. By introducing custom search algorithms, we will drastically increase efficiency of finding, saving and sharing available times in Clinician schedules. This is one of three user interfaces we hope to introduce. Each of these three phases will come together to ultimately enable more care, contribute to better care, and ultimately increase access to care. We were recently awarded a grant from the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility to assist in our continued development.

Facilitating meaningful climate centred conversation: Lobby displays, priming audiences and systems of economy

Christina McArthur

Supervisor: Andrew Houston, Communication Arts


A lobby display is designed to provide dramaturgically relevant context to a play, and teach audiences about a theme or concept from the performance, in an immersive way. The goal of this design project was to create a lobby display for the University of Waterloo’s Theatre and Performance Program’s production of, welcome to the tree museum, written by Robert Plowman. This immersive piece of political theatre explores themes surrounding our global climate crisis. While there is ample data to support the lecture of rhetoric surrounding the effects of climate change, however the current approach to disseminating this knowledge hinders rational discourse and has turned many people away from entering into conversation surrounding the issue. My lobby display narrowed this enormous topic to focus on one particular aspect of the issue; the need to adopt a circular economy as a means to mitigate anthropogenic forces on climate change. What resulted was a space that facilitated a deeper and more meaningful conversation about climate change.

Bringing Restorative Justice into the Classroom: Exploring a Restorative Approach to Teaching and Curriculum Design

Tarunima Mittal

Supervisor: Dennis Gingrich, Peace & Conflict Studies


With its focus on relationality and interconnectedness of all human beings, Restorative Justice (rj) provides a people-first, relationships-first, lens through which to view the world. What might it mean for educators to look at education with a relationships-first approach? This project aims to explore what the rj framework has to offer the field of education, especially the process of curriculum design. I explore this question in terms of: (1) approaches to designing curriculum that authentically engages students, and (2) outlining good teaching practices that implement curriculum in a restorative way at the level of the classroom. I will consolidate what experts suggest about effectively adopting a restorative lens for education based on background research, anecdotal evidence and reflections from personal experience. I will also try to address possible challenges and barriers that might hinder restorative practice in the context of curriculum design. By providing explanations and justifications of restorative practices in various contexts, this could be a step towards guiding current educators to adopt rj as a proactive ‘way of being’ instead of a reduced, reactive measure for student compliance. To carry on the efforts of this project, I will also propose further research to validate my recommendations about how curriculum might be developed and implemented restoratively.

Effects of academics on student well-being

Devaney Moraes

Supervisor: Bernie Hillar, Senior Exhibit Designer, Ontario Science Centre


Almost 60% of University Students have found academics traumatic or extremely difficult to handle, yet so many students feel they are alone when facing the mental repercussions of post-secondary academics. Over the past 5 years of my time as a student at UW, I have developed a negative perception of student well-being on campus. Majority of the student population experiences the pressures and anxieties of student life, either first or second-hand; however, not enough people acknowledge them out loud even though they are becoming a normal part of the average University student’s lifestyle. This shouldn't be the case. Through the use of museum design techniques, and research gathered from the NCHA student survey results, I have explored different methods of presenting and sharing the various factors of academic culture that affect student well being at the University of Waterloo. I will be compiling the information I have gathered and the designs I have created into a proposal and delivering it to multiple offices on campus that prioritize campus mental health and strive to improve student well-being at the University of Waterloo.

Testing a New Method for Extracting DNA from Dental Calculus

Kaitlin Ollivier-Gooch

Supervisor: Alexis Dolphin, Anthropology


In the past decade or so, dental calculus (dental plaque that has mineralized) has been used as an important source of ancient DNA (aDNA) for biological anthropologists wishing to gain insight into the lives of individuals who lived thousands of years ago. This technique has been used to reconstruct ancient diet, identify pathologies, and recover mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) from individuals as far back as the Neandertals. As this is still an emerging field, this project provided the opportunity for collaboration between anthropology and microbiology in utilizing a new method for DNA extraction that Dr. Josh Neufeld pioneered on ancient dental calculus. Using protocols adapted from existing literature, this paper provides a proof of concept for using Dr. Neufeld’s method on human aDNA. Sixteen samples of dental calculus were taken from thirteen individuals from four different sites from ancient Nubia in Sudan and Medieval France. With six samples from the same three individuals, the aim of this study was to test the method and our protocol for removal and preparation for extraction along with extraction and analysis itself. The results of this paper will inform the use of this method in the future on dental calculus and will hopefully lead to further work on aDNA at the University of Waterloo. The DNA will also be sequenced though this is out of the scope of the timeframe of this project.

Curating Medieval Pilgrim Badges: Exploring Technological and Narrative Means of Display

Samir Reynolds

Supervisors: Rob Gorbet, Knowledge Integration; and Ann Marie Rasmussen, Germanic and Slavic Studies


This project explores medieval pilgrim badges and their display in museum exhibits. Badges are historically and culturally important objects, but because they are small and often corroded, tarnished, and damaged, they can be difficult to exhibit in ways that are engaging. This project explores and proposes innovative means of displaying these badges in museum exhibits, aiming to make them more interesting and accessible to visitors. First, it explores technological means of display such as contemporary 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies. The scanning technologies explored are photomapping and optical scanning, as used in additive manufacturing. The printing technology explored was stereolithography, with different layer thicknesses and sizes of objects being looked at. The conclusions from this section are that the optical scanners used in additive manufacturing are more powerful than necessary for the project and the data produced requires considerable knowledge of point cloud datafiles to be useful. Although promising, photomapping is equally complex technologically and requires a great deal of expertise to be used for these purposes. Second, the project explores the use of narratives and interactive storytelling in communicating information to and engaging the visitor. A text-based story app called Twine was used to communicate information about badges through the story of a medieval German pilgrim. Based on anecdotal evidence from individuals who played the game, this section concludes that creating a narrative around the badges makes them more interesting, potentially because it contextualises their role in medieval life, suggesting that badges can provide a potentially engaging gateway for educating modern museum visitors about the complexities and challenges of life in the late Middle Ages and for challenging modern preconceptions and stereotypes about life in the Middle Ages.

Do gamers just want to have fun? How the study of gaming can reveal ways to motivate students experiencing symptoms of burnout.

Kyla Sedore

Supervisor: Katie Plaisance, Knowledge Integration


The ongoing rise of the gaming entertainment industry has made many educators question how gaming relates to the classroom, especially with dropout rates in post-secondary institutions as high as 50% in Canada. This project considers how students who are suffering from burnout, but who spend a lot of time gaming, are overlooking the hard work and cognitive effort they put into gaming when trying to determine why they are struggling so much with their education. In this project, I provide an overview of research on burnout, including more recent work on burnout in education. I then consider why students who suffer from burnout, and subsequently drop out of school, remain engaged in gaming despite needing a break from the cognitive effort required for their studies. As I discuss, many people see gaming as “fun”; however, as Jane McGonigal argues in her book, Reality is Broken, gaming can also require serious cognitive effort, making games “hard fun.” Building on McGonigal’s work, I argue that one of the key aspects of gaming that makes it so engaging for students is the element of choice. Many educators have already started to incorporate gaming into the classroom in an attempt to engage students; however, those educators often focus on the “fun” aspect of gaming, while neglecting the important element of choice. By paying closer attention to what makes gaming so appealing to students, and shifting their focus to choice, educators can more effectively gamify their classroom. In this project, I lay out the research on choice, burnout, and engagement of students, how educators can use choice in the structure of their classrooms, and how to develop efficient resources for students in post-secondary education who are struggling with burnout.

Neurodesign: Measuring the Impact of Social Proof in Landing Page Design

Elli Seregelyi

Supervisor: Carolyn MacGregor, Systems Design Engineering


Studies in social psychology have been demonstrating for many years that an individual’s judgements and behaviours can be influenced by those of their peers. The term “social proof” is used to denote this phenomenon, and it is leveraged often by digital designers to captivate potential customers. The conclusions of studies surrounding social proof, however, are commonly adopted into mainstream design heuristics – coined “neurodesign” principles – with the assumption that social proof used in new contexts, such as website and landing page design, will mimic the behavioural influence documented in controlled, laboratory studies. The goal of my research is to challenge this assumption and offer more direct substantiation for the impact of social proof in landing page design. A review of the neurodesign field reveals that nearly all discussion of neurodesign exists in industry-driven blogs and articles. In this environment, practitioners advocate for the use of social proof and other neurodesign principles to attract potential customers, however, provide little or no evidence of this effect. Moreover, when evidence is provided, it is extrapolated from studies far removed from the context of real-world design. This project also offers a method of experimentation using eye tracking designed to determine whether the application of social proof in landing page design truly influences an individual’s behaviour.

Dungeons & Dragons and Livestreaming: Audience as Narrative Collaborator

Kienna Shaw

Supervisor: Neil Randall, The Games Institute, University of Waterloo


Over the past 5 years, tabletop games have transitioned from basements and kitchen tables to the “Wild West” of online livestreaming platforms. Where before you would play tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) solely with your friends, you can now share the collaborative stories in real-time with an audience on platforms like Twitch. Furthermore, the structure of Twitch facilitates real-time audience interaction with the livestream through a live text-based chat and donations. But how exactly does audience interaction impact the story being created, and what role does audience play in the collaborative narration process? My project explores how real-time interactions between D&D livestreamers and their audiences on Twitch profoundly impact both the game narrative and the storytelling relationship. Considering the great extent and variety of D&D Twitch livestreams available, I approached a selection of 5 different shows, each with their own approach of audience interaction. I conducted a series of interviews with people involved in these livestreams, ranging from producers to cast members to audience, and observed the games to see how the audience impacted the narrative and the collaboration process. Through the lens of interactive performance and narrative, social rules within collaborative storytelling games, and participatory culture, I have found that audience profoundly impacts the narrative in both direct and indirect ways. While there is no singular way to designate the role that the audience plays in the collaborative narration process, it is key to purposefully design that role and what capacity they have to influence the story in a way that facilitates collaboration.

Bringing Choice into Identity

Brendan Wigram

Supervisor: Christopher Lok, Psychology

Human beings take on social roles in the social systems we inhabit. Social identity evolved in human groups during our early evolution and serve to specialise individuals in different roles in the group. As a result, each member of the group gains access to the benefits that role provides without having to fill that role themselves. In human ancestors, it was efficient to break those roles down by sex, with females taking care of children and males gathering resources and defending the group. While those sex based roles are no longer helpful or necessary in modern society, we have not evolved past them, and the expectations based on those roles can still be felt today in gender inequality and gender norms. Evolutionary pressures that formed those roles have since been replaced by social pressures, and the roles that they support can be harmful to those who are forced to fill them. Despite this outward conformity, however, people do not always conform internally, and research has shown that even simple interventions can allow people to adjust their behaviour to be more in line with how they actually feel. In my literature review of social identity and gender roles, I am seeking to explore what has continued to push these types of roles, as well as develop a framework for designing interventions to help break people out of the roles that they have been assigned.