Senior Research Projects 2020

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.

(this year, we had to cancel the in-person symposium)

Also, check out: 2019 projects | 2018 projects | 2017 projects | 2016 projects | 2015 projects | 2014 projects | 2013 projects | 2012 projects

Senior Research Projects 2020
Student Title (with link to Abstract)
Jonathan Aronowitz Grid Information Data Access Platform (GIDAP)
Clair Baleshta A relational approach to understanding autonomy for socially isolated patients
Gillian Belcher FemCogSci: Why Cognitive Science Needs Feminist Philosophy
Jessica Clark Degree Planning Website for University of Waterloo Students
Haley Down

Personal Thrifting: Discovering best practices for a conscious wardrobe creation business

Findley Dunn Addressing Climate Anxiety in Youth: Encouraging Sense of Place and Pluralistic Knowledge as Responses to Climate Change
Ted Haag War for Aldor: A Dive into the World of Game Design
Erin Hogan Storytelling as a Tool for Children’s Climate Education
Solène Jollivet Mind Games & Puzzles: Building a Portable Escape Room Using Different Cognitive Processes
Melanie Lim The Goose Family: Korean Goose Mothers and Their Goslings’ Education
David Monteyne Lastborn
Emily Nordemann Reduce, Reuse, Refinish: An Exploration of Furniture Waste in the Waterloo Region
Meredith Poirier Pop of Post-Feminism: A podcast for pop culture junkies and the (post) feminist in all of us
Aidan Power An Analysis of Integrating Ethics Into Computer Science Curricula: Implications for the Cheriton School of Computer Science
Claire Quong The Brutally Late Club
Ethan Sabourin Weinreich in the Land of Israel: A Diasporist Yiddishist visits the Hebrew settlement
Kuil Schoneveld Virtue-Guided Machines and Virtuous Machinations
Chloé St Amand Is my birth control killing fish? How contraceptive resources present environmental impact information
Tristan Vander Hoef Designing a Family-Centred Affordable Housing Condominium

Grid Information Data Access Platform (GIDAP)

Jonathan Aronowitz


The national electric grid is a vast and complex system consisting of thousands of generation facilities, and millions of kilometres of transmission cables. Electricity is a crucial resource in our modern lives, that enables us to heat and cool buildings, run transportation services, and provide power to critical facilities like hospitals and water filtration sites. The grid is a marvel of engineering achievement, and its upkeep is critical to the functioning of our society. Part of its upkeep is understanding where new facilities need to be built and where transmission cables need to be upgraded, or built. In 2016, Mexico adopted the American and Canadian model for electric grid management. This model known as the 'Spot Market' in which each substation is seen as a node in a network. The price of electricity is determined every hour, at every node, and is composed of a variety of factors. As you might imagine, this produces a lot of data, and being able to manipulate it is crucial for analysis. Many Mexican companies are yet to fully develop the tools for in-depth analysis of network trends, and therefore rely on external help. The GIPAP is a web application developed for the purpose of easily querying and manipulating this large and growing data set. Being able to do so is a first important step in a much later and complex network analysis problem.

A relational approach to understanding autonomy for socially isolated patients

Clair Baleshta


The current approach to autonomy employed in clinical settings is focused on the right of competent patients to make uncoerced decisions with respect to their own healthcare. This view, which understands autonomous patients as being self-sufficient rational agents, underlies the informed consent practice central to current western medicine. Recently, the individualistic nature of this framework has come under scrutiny from feminist philosophers due to its lack of consideration for relevant social contexts surrounding medical decision making. In particular, the approach overlooks many of the benefits that strong social relationships can have for patient autonomy. As such, several alternative relational accounts have been proposed in efforts to address the role of social factors in understanding autonomy. This paper focuses on cases of socially isolated patients as one area where the current view fails to accurately classify autonomous decision making due to its individualist grounding. In appealing to an externalist relational account, I will demonstrate how inclusion of social barriers in our medical notion of autonomy can better identify constraints on patient choice as well as how this alternative model may introduce a new way of framing social isolation’s designation as a determinant of health.

FemCogSci: Why Cognitive Science Needs Feminist Philosophy

Gillian Belcher


In the project FemCogSci I ask, “Why Does Cognitive Science Need Feminist Philosophy?” or in other words, “Why is Diversity Important to Scientific Research on Human Cognition?”. This initiative understands our moral obligation to provide individuals with equal opportunities in accessing knowledge and contributing to knowledge acquisition. However, FemCogSci also explores the epistemic importance of diversity across a variety of social locations in producing accurate and representative research findings in Cognitive Science.

FemCogSci is an online magazine where individuals within or wanting to enter the field of Cognitive Science can do the following: learn about theories grounded in Feminist Philosophy (specifically, Feminist Social Epistemology) regarding diversity and inequity, read examples of how Feminist theories can improve and provide epistemically valuable perspectives to past and current research, and present their own concerns and ideas to an academic community largely composed of those interested, or in the field of Cognitive Science. FemCogSci includes a series of academic articles that are promoted through social media platforms in attempts to encourage conversation and give voice to marginalized groups that have been largely excluded from research discourse. Each post identifies issues with both current and past research practices in Cognitive Science. These examples highlight the necessity for collaborative research across and within all Cognitive Science sub-disciplines (Anthropology, Psychology, Linguistics, Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience). Individuals can read weekly articles, subscribe and discuss current and future problems that stem from inequities in Cognitive Science. FemCogSci aims to vocalize the importance of diversity in research while also promoting it.

Degree Planning Website for University of Waterloo Students

Jessica Clark

Supervisor: John McLevey, Knowledge Integration


Going through undergrad, and even through high school, planning has been essential to success. There has always been an element of, at the end of x years, what do I need to graduate and move on the next great thing. Waterloo does not have a tool the is conductive to planning is an easy concise manner where you can truly design your education, plan which classes to take when, try various versions to ensure maximum success, happiness or whatever metric you use to measure success. This app will help to fill that gap; it will assist in planning classes to take and measure graduation requirements from the number of courses taken, to if a specific requirement has been met.

Personal Thrifting: Discovering best practices for a conscious wardrobe creation business

Haley Down


It began with a lofty question: “How can I promote conscious, sustainable clothes shopping practices while helping people feel empowered in what they wear?" The answer was to develop a personal shopping business which purchased only second-hand clothing items. The average American wears approximately only 20% of the clothing they own. Most of their unworn 80% ends up in landfills, either in their own country or after being shipped across oceans into someone else’s, where it contributes great amounts of methane emissions1. The solution to this staggering problem? First buy less, then buy more consciously. My job became figuring out how to guide people along this transition.

I worked with three clients to identify gaps in their wardrobe that would be filled with three to four pieces purchased from second-hand retail sources. The specific clothing choices were determined by interviewing each client about their preferred style and then creating a mood board which approximated the looks we were hoping to achieve. After setting parameters on fabric content and budget, and being very specific about what the client wanted, I set out to learn the best practices of personal thrifting. The final result is a website displaying each client’s portfolio, accompanied by blog posts that may help answer questions and provide motivation for anyone hoping to get on the path of curating a unique, purposeful, and sustainable wardrobe.

Addressing Climate Anxiety in Youth: Encouraging Sense of Place and Pluralistic Knowledge as Responses to Climate Change

Findley Dunn


A UK survey found that 40% of 16-24-year-olds feel “overwhelmed” by climate change. Youth cannot help but hear about all the environmental damage and doomsday predictions for the fate of the environment and human society; these depressing announcements and statistics cause varying degrees of climate anxiety. Climate anxiety is not a mental disorder - it is a reasonable response to what is happening in the world right now, and one that we can work with and aim to decrease through concrete action. This research project involves the development of a two-hour session for high school students that addresses climate anxiety, how a strong sense of place can mitigate the negative mental impacts of the massive challenge posed by climate change, how connected humans are to nature, and how we can find and use our gifts and responsibilities to take care of the Earth while maintaining our mental health and motivation when possible. All of these concepts are expressed through the lenses of Western scientific and Indigenous ways of knowing, aiming to increase students’ understanding and respect for pluralistic approaches to climate change issues and the communities behind those approaches and bodies of knowledge.

War for Aldor: A Dive into the World of Game Design

Ted Haag


Ever since I was little, I was captivated by games. The playing of games and the imagining of games consumed me for much of my youth. Having grown up a little more, the intricacies of play and the elements of game design became more apparent and real to me. The course of my academic career has taken me through sociology, philosophy, peace and conflict studies, language studies, as well as game studies. As this career is coming to a close I thought it only natural that I begin to realise one of my oldest and most dearly held desires with the tools this program has given me; the fabrication of a game of my own. Dubbed War for Aldor, the game is a tactical fixed deck fantasy card game. I used the principles of project design taught in KI to inform my project work decisions and the principles I’ve learned through my own studies to inform my design choices alongside my imagination and intuition. My goals with this project were to learn about the experiences of designing a game and to create a product that people could happily enjoy.

The game is played as factions that vie for control over the fictional land of Aldor. Players take turns dedicating their resources to select endeavours in order to spread their influence. These endeavours can include slaying monsters, engaging in courtly intrigue, or fighting for territory and other resources against their opponents. Once a player has acquired enough influence over the land lands of Aldor the game ends and they are declared the dominant and newest ruling faction. My intents were to create the game with hints of real world principles related to rulership, wartime, and social-economic conventions.

At the end of the day, my ultimate goal is to create something that people enjoy.

Storytelling as a Tool for Children’s Climate Education

Erin Hogan


Climate change is a topic that can be difficult to understand for even the most educated adult; for children, it can be even more perplexing. On a daily basis, children are being bombarded with information and stories about the climate crisis without the necessary resources to make sense of what it means and how it affects them. One way to address this problem is to use children’s literature as a method of science communication. Storytelling is an incredibly valuable tool for helping children understand their world, organize their experiences, and process their emotions. Using information from environmental studies, science communication, and storytelling I have created a book to help children understand one climate-related concept – carbon footprints. In this fictional tale, readers are introduced to Franny, a young girl whose feet will not stop growing. Readers will join Franny as she discovers why her feet keep getting bigger and what she can do to shrink them. Following the narrative section, children will be introduced to the concept of carbon footprints, learn how carbon footprints are related to climate change, and understand how they can take action to reduce their personal impacts.

Mind Games & Puzzles: Building a Portable Escape Room Using Different Cognitive Processes

Solène Jollivet


For this thesis project, I wanted to breach the gap between my passion for Psychology and Design Thinking. As such, I designed an escape room based on puzzles, mind games and other fun activities that would challenge the player to use an array of different cognitive processes for each task.

Through preliminary research on different cognitive processes, I started researching different mind games and activities that could be suitable for a single independent player. Over time, different iterations of each activity came to life as I prototyped, tested and further refined each game. In order to make the experience more immersive, I created a theme around the tasks and selected an array of different material to give some diversity, from a camera and wood cut-outs to letters and playing cards.

By creating a portable layout, this miniature escape room can be played in any environment and depends less on the room’s requirements than on the player’s ability to think critically. In order to make things even more interesting and develop the player’s problem solving and pattern recollection skills, each activity is linked non-linearly to another to unlock the next game, much like the logic of an actual escape room. Through this thesis project, I’ve created a platform for players to both enjoy and challenge themselves cognitively.

The Goose Family: Korean Goose Mothers and Their Goslings’ Education

Melanie Lim


A ‘goose mother’ and her ‘goslings’ fly across the ocean from Korea to Canada in hopes of gaining a better quality of life and an English education for her children. The father of the family, known as the ‘goose’, migrates between their home in Korea, where he lives and works, to his wife and children in a foreign country. Together, they are participating in a phenomenon known as a “Goose Family”.

This analogy is commonly used while referring to the experience of the modern Korean family due to recent and rapid national growth. South Korean society has undergone a seemingly overnight change from a developing country to a member of the G20. The nation is one of few countries that has gone through such a rapid transformation on an economic level. With this immense change, came an increase in competition to climb the social ladder, putting particular pressure on education. As a result, it has become popular to migrate from Korea with one’s children to learn English abroad in the hopes of a less stressful life and an advantageous international experience.

This project, through interview-style social research, aims to understand the sacrifices made by many Korean women who leave their homes, careers, and husbands, with their young children to English speaking countries such as Canada, the United States, or Australia. The lived experiences of five Korean goose mothers in the Kitchener-Waterloo area are presented in this study in order to provide insight into the common misconceptions. These Korean women are intelligent, strong, and resilient, but most importantly they are mothers with a story to tell.


David Monteyne


A middle grade portal fantasy novel, targeting audiences aged roughly 8-12, Lastborn aims to push the boundaries of the fantasy genre, and of young readers’ fantasy in particular, by expanding upon the legacy of classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland.

Jennavieve has prepared all her life for her Event — and has watched her older siblings vanish one by one to theirs, never to return. When she is chosen at thirteen, she discovers that this challenge is nothing like what she was led to believe. If she is ever to find her siblings and escape back into our world, Jenna must unravel the dark secrets of this place before time runs out and she forgets who she is.

Reduce, Reuse, Refinish: An Exploration of Furniture Waste in the Waterloo Region

Emily Nordemann


This project aims to explore furniture waste in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, determine the magnitude of the problem, and what ways it can be addressed at the end of the furniture’s lifecycle. Furniture waste is a particularly relevant issue in this region as the high university student population has contributed to large amounts of furniture waste, visible on the curbs at the change of university terms. The methods to analyze the problem include contacting stakeholders in the Region of Waterloo’s Waste Management Department and local donation centers, online research into methods of recycling furniture, and investigating the requirements for consumers to fix furniture items themselves through recording the time, money, and tools necessary to repair and refinish a variety of wooden furniture pieces.

Pop of Post-Feminism: A podcast for pop culture junkies and the (post) feminist in all of us

Meredith Poirier


Women are living in a world where they have more rights than ever before. The rights that our grandmothers and mothers fought for appear to be things of the past and almost irrelevant. Right? Well, not necessarily. There are still many areas in which women do not have equal rights, and as a society we are still far from gender equity. Feminism is still needed, but this contradicts the theory of post-feminism. Post-feminism is the idea that there is no longer a need for feminism; it assumes that feminist issues are no longer relevant and it addresses the seemingly “pastness” of feminism. It is not universally believed that we are living in a post-feminist era, and there is much debate about what wave of feminism we are living in. But there are many people who believe that we are currently in the post-feminist wave.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the values and beliefs of third wave feminism were generally recognized. However, the popular culture that was being produced during the late 90’s and early 2000’s often displayed themes of post-feminism. This interested me, so I decided take a deeper dive into post-feminism and popular culture. I read literature on post-feminism and the intersection of post-feminism and popular culture. From this research I was able to build my own definition of post-feminism and understand how post-feminism is often manifested in popular culture.

Pop of Post-Feminism, a post-feminism popular culture podcast explores this research in depth and discusses post-feminism through the lens of pop culture, as displayed in movies and television shows. A variety of movies and television shows were watched and the nature in which post-feminism was reflected in these movies and television shows was explored. These findings were discussed in the podcast. Each podcast episode discusses a specific movie or episode. This podcast aims to discuss fun pop culture while incorporating engaging discussions and insights into post-feminism and post-feminism.

An Analysis of Integrating Ethics Into Computer Science Curricula: Implications for the Cheriton School of Computer Science

Aidan Power

Supervisor: John McLevey, Knowledge Integration


The teaching of tech ethics in Computer Science has become a larger discussion point in the last several years with privacy scandals and significant socio-political changes brought about by the proliferation of technology. I perform an environmental scan and compare emerging ways of teaching tech ethics with the Waterloo CS curriculum, specifically the way that the social sciences & humanities can play a role in providing an interdisciplinary education for students to fully grasp the socio-political implications of their work.

While a majority of CS university programs cover tech ethics, it often only taught as a singular course without addressing the wide range of ways technology impacts society. CS students should receive an interdisciplinary education that covers both the technical and societal aspects of the technologies they work on, through embedding ethics and the humanities throughout their curriculum, which ensures that future technologies are designed with all users in mind and promote justice, as well as innovation.

The Brutally Late Club

Claire Quong


A common and poignant criticism of museums is that they constantly teeter on the edge of innovation and obsolescence. The westernized idea of museums is monolithic buildings, sterilized history and this overwhelming feeling of needing to be as quiet as possible. Tradition would have us contemplate art and culture in silence as though its creation is not one of the loudest things that we as humans do. We make music, we yell, we cry, we laugh, we make art: we communicate with one another constantly.

Visual culture holds that museums are able to control populations by encouraging us to internalize the gaze of others thereby acting the way we believe others think we should. It is my belief that museums should be more than silently crowded buildings and machines of dominant culture.

The Brutally Late Club (The BLC) poses a new way to exhibit culture. The BLC uses an existing Internet forum (Instagram) to create an online art gallery for anyone who wishes to see it. The BLC is a portable and public space where people can see, learn about and talk about art. Art and visual culture can be a tool for shaping conversation surrounding history, race, gender, socioeconomics and more. The goal of The BLC is to allow people to engage with imagery in a way which is productive and stimulates conversation about different ways of seeing and creating meaning in our world. To quote writer-director Adong Judith, “[c]onversations are important because they inform and challenge our minds to think, and change starts with thinking”.

Weinreich in the Land of Israel: A Diasporist Yiddishist visits the Hebrew settlement

Ethan Sabourin

Supervisor: Keith I. Weiser, Humanities, York University


In 1935, the Diasporist Yiddishist Max Weinreich visited the Land of Israel and wrote a series of reportages for the American Yiddish daily The Forverts (Jewish Daily Forward). In his short time there, he examined the relationship between Jewish settlers and Palestinians, investigated the state of the Jewish labour movement, and questioned the situation of the Yiddish language amongst Hebraists. His conclusions bring to light a rich picture of society in the Land of Israel — irreducible to stereotypes or conventional wisdom. In this translation project, I bring his idiosyncratic observations from their native Yiddish into English, making them accessible to those who want to peek into the complex relationships between people and ideologies during this generative period in Jewish and global history.

Virtue-Guided Machines and Virtuous Machinations

Kuil Schoneveld

Supervisor: Nicholas Ray, Philosophy


Artificially intelligent systems are predicted to be overwhelmingly disruptive to many aspects of human society. This thesis aims to discuss solutions to two potential problems that can arise alongside the development of such systems. We have reason to be fearful of both the futuristic existential threats of intelligent machines as well as their more immediate impact on the economy. I combat each of these problems in each of my two main goals. First, I pursue an account of artificial moral agency grounded in virtue ethics. This requires (i) an examination of the central philosophical problems concerned with the suitability of moral virtue for guiding artificial agents, (ii) a review of some attempts to formalize a calculus of virtuous mental events for computational use, and (iii) a discussion of the socioeconomic implications of creating such machines. Second, I aim to establish a methodology for evaluating autonomous systems through the perspective of virtue ethics. This involves a subtle shift in how we determine whether an autonomous system is functioning in alignment with our expectations. Rather than seeing the decision of an intelligent system as an independent unit of analysis, I argue for a more holistic interpretation of the decision’s constituent parts and overall trajectory. Rather than simply argue for an account of artificial agency that requires strong AI to be true, I discuss the types of virtue we can expect depending on the type of computational ceilings we might encounter. I conclude that an artificial mind based in a virtue-ethics avoids many of the problems of traditional approaches. Moreover, a virtuous approach to development helps to ensure that both the technology itself and the process that created it are motivated by good faith.

Is my birth control killing fish? How contraceptive resources present environmental impact information

Chloé St Amand

Supervisor: Susan J. Elliott, Geography and Environmental Management


The global population discharges approximately 700kg of estrogen per year from hormonal contraception into waste water treatment systems. The effects of this discharge on freshwater environments is well documented with respect to the inhibition of proper development of male sex organs and lowering of reproductive fitness. This can lead to decreased populations and altered food chains. Sources of estrogen pollution have the potential to be mitigated in several ways, including changes to consumer behaviour. Research indicates that the environmental impacts of a product are taken into consideration by consumers when making purchasing decisions. It follows that giving consumers more complete information about the environmental impacts of their choices may affect purchasing behavior, and in turn affect freshwater fish and amphibian populations.

How potential environmental effects are presented to consumers, and how this information is considered in the decision-making process is not well known. This project identified the three most common sources of information on contraceptives used by Canadian women of reproductive age, and examined how these resources presented the potential environmental effects of these various contraceptive methods. It was found that the vast majority of resources did not discuss the environmental impacts of contraceptives at all, prompting discussion on whose responsibility is it to mitigate the potential adverse environmental effects of estrogen discharge.

Designing a Family-Centred Affordable Housing Condominium

Tristan Vander Hoef


The goal of this project is to design an affordable housing complex that is tailored to the needs of families. I designed a 24 unit condominium with three to four bedrooms and two bathrooms per unit to meet space needs of families of varying sizes as the majority of condominiums, especially lower end ones, typically only offer one or two bedroom units. Common areas have been added to meet the condominium owner’s desires and can be configured to optimally benefit families and encourage a supportive environment between residents.

I have created a 48:1 scale 3D model with sections cut away to display two of the units and some of the underlying structure. I have also created a set of drawings including suite layouts, floorplans, and a 3D rendering. At the close of this project I will be sending my drawings through to Indwell, with whom I discussed the needs in the area of affordable housing at the start of my project. Indwell is a Christian charity that builds affordable housing.