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New Journal Highlights Villanova Student Research

VVRJ Cover Image

In conjunction with the 2019 Student Research Symposium, Villanova is launching its first peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal, Veritas: Villanova Research Journal (VVRJ). Both the Symposium and the Journal are sponsored by the University’s Center for Research and Fellowships.

Launched in May 2019, the VVRJ publishes student research authored by Villanova undergraduates or recent graduates. This open-source journal promotes scholarly investigation and discovery; introduces student researchers to the peer review process as contributors and student editors; and highlights the work of Villanova students and their faculty mentors across all fields of study.

The inaugural issue of VVRJ, which is available online and in print, contains eight submissions from students and recent alumni in the disciplines including Astrophysics, Economics, Computer Science, and Civil and Environmental Engineering.

VVRJ Contributors


Jadyn Anczarski ’21 CLAS

X-Ray Imaging of the Jet From the Supermassive Black Hole M87

Joseph Nielsen, Assistant Professor, Physics (Mentor)


The elliptical galaxy M87 has long been a target of interest for the study of black hole physics and relativistic jets across the electromagnetic spectrum. In April 2017, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) undertook a campaign to study nearby supermassive black holes, including M87, at many wavelengths. As part of this campaign, we observed M87 with the Chandra X-ray Observatory to study both the supermassive black hole and relativistic jet at high energy. We created images of M87 with spectra of the inner jet, and a deconvolved image to explore the relative intensity of the core and the first knot, HST-1. The deconvolved image suggests that HST-1 was significantly fainter than the core. We found no evidence of strong variability in the X-ray brightness during our observation, but we discovered a photon index < 2.25, the previously recorded value. M87 was also fainter than recent observations (Lx ≈ 1.25 × 1041 erg s-1, and we found hints of extra hydrogen in the core region. Given HST-1's history of variations and recent trends indicating a fading HST-1, we suggest that the lower photon index may be due to a fainter HST-1 knot.


Matthew Fagerstrom ’19 CLAS (2019 Falvey Scholar)

Who Abandoned Whom: Consistency of Constitutional Interpretations of Madison and Hamilton

Political Science
Colleen Sheehan, Professor of Political Science, Director, The Matthew J. Ryan Center (Mentor)


Both Hamilton and Madison claim to have been abandoned by the other when it comes to their interpretation of the constitution as written in the Federalist Papers. Until now, no author has attempted to answer whether their constitutional positions on economic questions is consistent with their interpretation of the constitution in the Federalist Papers. To answer this question, I examine claims of constitutionality related to trade policy and central banking made by both Hamilton and Madison and compare such positions to Federalist Papers written by each author. Both authors are broadly consistent over time and therefore cannot justly claim to have been abandoned by the other.


Bridget Gile ’19 COE (2019 Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford University)

Assessing the Influence of Operational Controls on Flow Behavior in a Constructed Stormwater Wetland through Residence Time Analysis

Civil/Environmental Engineering
Virginia Smith, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering (Mentor)
Bridget Wadzuk, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering (Mentor)


Constructed wetlands are designed to slow and treat stormwater runoff in developed watersheds, but static operation can limit efficiency across a broad range of hydrologic conditions.  This study utilized dye tracer testing to assess existing and proposed control devices’ influence on a stormwater wetland’s performance under varying weather conditions.  At Villanova’s Constructed Stormwater Wetland, dynamic operation of an adjustable sluice gate increased upstream retention time from 2.4 hr to 4.1 hr during stormflow conditions, though flow behavior remained responsive to storm characteristics.  Under baseflow, a mean residence time of 7.0 hr within a selected analysis segment (M3) constrains water quality reaction times in this zone.


Rachael Huegerich ’20 CLAS

The Invisible Black Body

Bryan Crable, Professor of Communication/Rhetorical Studies, Founding Director, Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society (Mentor)


The fashion industry sets the tone for what is to be culturally tolerated both domestically and around the world. Yet efforts to increase black representation in fashion have focused almost exclusively on diversity in modeling. I argue for the rhetorical significance of black representation behindthe camera, and in other positions not visible to the public eye, through an analysis of Vogue magazine’s decision to hire a black artist to photograph Beyoncé for their September 2018 cover for the first time. Drawing from the conceptual arguments of both pop cultural commentators and rhetorical theory, I make three conclusions: first, black artistic eyes are better suited to depict of black subjects; second, representation efforts focused exclusively in modeling indicate an ongoing prioritization of the black body over the black mind; third, a more richly integrated society would normalize the unconscious assumption that even those creatives and leaders working behind the scenes might be black. As we seek equality and inclusion, the invisible intellectual black figure—such as the black photographer—and its existence in the imagination are absolutely vital for both the immediate, tangible implications as well as the effects upon the unconscious but widely held conception of black Americans.


Mackenzie Jorgensen ’20 CLAS

Abusive Language Detection Using Auto-Machine Learning for Multiple Languages

Computer Science
Marco Niemann (external) (Mentor)


News outlets and social media platforms struggle to find efficient and effective methods of moderating abusive online comments and posts. These comments can be extremely harmful to both users and businesses. Thus, abusive comment moderation is vital for the online comment section. Many companies do not have enough people to moderate comments manually; therefore, they need semi-automated comment moderation tools. Through this research, we explore the answer to the question of how Auto-Machine Learning can categorize and detect abusive English and German tweets. To begin, we will select data sets with multiple class labels, and we will develop different Auto-Machine Learning algorithms to see if a particular model fits the data sets well. To our knowledge, the use of Auto-Machine Learning in comment moderation remains untouched. Moreover, we will explore the approach of Auto-Machine Learning in comment moderation to assist the steps of processing the data sets, selecting the models, and efficiently detecting abusive language.


Simran Kripalani ’18 CLAS (2018 Falvey Scholar)

Death and Dying: the Literature, Philosophy, and Practices of Adult and Pediatric End-of-Life Care

Michael Tomko, Associate Professor, Literature (Mentor)
Angela DiBenedetto, Associate Professor, Biology (Mentor)


At Villanova, we often ask ourselves the question: how do you “live a good life?” While it is good to explore what it takes for us to live fulfilling lives, it is equally as important to understand how we can wrestle with the concept of death. In society in general, little to no emphasis has been put on death, let alone dying a “good death.” We are immersed in a death-avoidant culture, and we only give it attention when it impacts us in some way. Due to this phenomenon, I decided to grapple with the issues of death and dying. Was dying a good death possible? If so, what factors play a role in dying a good death? Does all of this change when we are dealing with the death of a child—an untimely death? This thesis is comprised of three parts: a general account of dying a good death and the factors it takes to die a good death, pediatric end-of-life care and dying an early death, and the issues that good health care professionals have to consider in such a situation. After conducting a literature review on the subject and utilizing additional fictional literature to illustrate examples of issues involved in the dying process, I argue that both adults and children are able to die a “good death,” and there are certain factors that can help with this process. Because the death of a child is more nuanced, there are additional things we must consider, such as establishing a legacy and upholding the role of family and loved ones in a child’s death. In the last part of my thesis, I take the help of renown and invested healthcare professionals in understanding how to work with patients in the end-of-life stage, and how we, as healthcare professionals and human beings, can aid in the dying process. I hope to shed light on this important matter in the hopes that the topics of death and dying can, one day, be viewed as more than just a taboo.


Isabel Langas ’22 CLAS

Con la Puerta Abierta: A Wastescape of the Future

Art History
Agnese Codebo, Assistant Professor, Latin American and Southern Cone Studies (Mentor)


Tomás Sánchez is one of the most well known contemporary Cuban artists. Following his first recognition in 1980 with the XIX Joan Miró International Drawing Prize, Sánchez took his place in the international art scene. Although he followed the traditional medium of landscape artists using acrylic and oil on canvas, Sánchez made a name for himself by creating paintings that commented on ecological awareness and humans’ hurtful relationship with nature. Sánchez, a long time practicer of Siddha Yoga, claims that his artistic inspiration comes from meditative sessions where he contemplates nature and how humans interact with it. One of his most known pieces influenced by his meditations is Con la Puerta Abierta (2015), which depicts an expansive waste landscape referred to by Francisco J. Hernández Adrián as a “wastescape.” In this short research article, I argue that in Con la Puerta Abierta, Sánchez invites the viewer to become a tourist of a dystopia with no indication of human or natural life. Moreover, this plunging of the audience into the environment forces them to consider their responsibility for the current disastrous ecological state of the world and its immediate consequences.


Patrick Monagle ’18 CLAS (2018 Falvey Scholar)

Progressive Leadership and Economic Development in China

David Ratigan, Instructor, Economics (Mentor)


The death of Mao gives economists and other social scientists a rare chance to study the effects of economic reforms in a communist country. In order to test the hypothesis that individual political leaders are significant for economic development, this paper provides both quantitative and qualitative data. The qualitative data supports the notion that provinces with progressive leaders with connections to the central government experienced higher levels of economic development compared to provinces with more conservative leaders. A two-way fixed effects model is used to analyze data from every province. Data was provided All China Marketing Research. In this analysis, economic development is measured, in yuan, through GDP per capita. This paper defines progressive leadership as the percentage share of State Owned Enterprises in relation to Gross Industrial Output Value. Lower percentage share was interpreted as progressive leadership. The data show that not only did private industrial output increase, but also that State Owned Enterprise output decreased during the same time period. Holding all else equal, this study found that if a province were to increase state involvement from 0-100%, that province would experience a reduction of GDP per capita by 9.1%. The progressive economic reforms that were established after Mao’s death resulted in incredible economic growth and has helped establish China’s position in the world economy.