Zoology Student Works on Honors Thesis About Scent and Predation

Alexandra Euwema Learns About Wildlife and Herself Through Her Honors Thesis

Alexandra Euwema with Al the tortoise during her 2020 summer internship at Binder Park Zoo.
Alexandra Euwema is a third-year honors student from Springfield, Virginia, majoring in zoology. From early in her college career, Alexandra has wanted to earn a master’s degree in wildlife conservation, and this goal was a major inspiration for her Senior Honors Thesis topic. Alexandra is in her first semester of her thesis hours, using the research she completed in her preparation semester to conduct her thesis experiment and answer her research question. Focused on predation and scents in wildlife, Alexandra will be testing whether “an animal actually recognizes a predator scent as a threat[,] or if it is just the presence of an unknown scent that triggers a . . . defensive response.” This unique focus of Alexandra’s thesis highlights one of Thesis Coordinator Lori Michael’s favorite aspects of the honors thesis program: “The variety of research topics, by far. Our students cover everything from A to Z, literally! (Alzheimer’s research to Zoology).”

Alexandra recalls becoming interested in the topic of scent when she interned at Michigan’s Binder Park Zoo in the summer of 2020. She explains, “I realized that [often,] the zookeepers use spices for enrichment . . . so that [animals] are exposed to new scents in their food.” Many of Alexandra’s zoology classes also discussed how scent affects animals in the wild, which piqued her interest. After discussing the topic of scent with her thesis advisor, Dr. Kershner, Alexandra decided to focus her research on the intersection between scent and predation.

Completing her own experiment and publishing her findings in an honors thesis will be an asset for Alexandra when she applies to graduate schools. However, though she notes how valuable this experience is for her future academic goals, Alexandra recalls that she did not always believe she could complete such a task. She says, “I was super nervous getting into it because I did not think that I was smart enough or capable of actually doing [a thesis].” Despite her doubts, Alexandra says that talking to various Kent State faculty members helped her realize her ability to complete an honors thesis. In meeting with Lori Michael, the Honors Thesis Coordinator, Alexandra had a chance to ask questions, and Michael’s explanations made the various steps of an honors thesis seem less daunting. From there, Alexandra reached out to one of her professors, Dr. Uma Krishnan, for advice. Dr. Krishnan’s mentorship and encouragement made Alexandra “much more confident in [her] abilities.” Though Michael and Dr. Krishnan helped Alexandra decide to enroll in the thesis program, Alexandra notes that her thesis advisor, Dr. Kershner, has also been supportive throughout her thesis work and helped her “understand how to approach formal research.”

Alexandra is grateful she decided to challenge herself to complete an honors thesis, in spite of her initial concerns. Not only will her thesis bolster her graduate school applications, but Alexandra also explains, “In working on my thesis I am definitely gaining a lot of confidence in myself and my ability to . . . research[.] I am also gaining valuable experience completing an actual experiment.” Alexandra knows first-hand how intimidating an honors thesis project can seem, and in response to any fellow honors students who are concerned about their ability to complete a thesis, Alexandra says, “Definitely just ask questions. It seems like a lot to handle at first but if you ask your advisors or professors questions and look into the research other students have done[, a thesis seems] much more reasonable.”

Alexandra is excited to complete her first semester of thesis hours and plans to orally defend her thesis in the fall of 2021. She is grateful to all the faculty who helped her realize her capabilities and is excited to continue her zoology studies in graduate school.

For more information about the Senior Honors Thesis/Project, please contact Thesis Coordinator Lori Michael


PHOTO CAPTION 1: Aerial view of Risman Plaza.

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Alexandra Euwema with Al the tortoise during her 2020 summer internship at Binder Park Zoo.

Media Contact: Stephanie Moskal, smoskal@kent.edu, 330-672-2312

POSTED: Friday, March 19, 2021 01:20 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 02:27 PM
Olivia Wachtel, Honors College Writing Intern