Honors Projects of Excellence (PoE)

Permanent URI for this collectionhttps://hdl.handle.net/1969.6/94438

The summative learning experience in the Honors Program is the completion of an original undergraduate research project known as the Project of Excellence (POE).


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 32
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    Determining the effects environmental pollution have on the colonization of arbuscular mycorrhizae fungi (AMF) in coastal dune grass species, Spartina spartinae.
    (2024-05-25) Garcia, Breanna
    Almost all plants form a symbiotic association with mycorrhiza, which is a special type of fungi that can colonize the root cells of plants. Mycorrhiza provides benefits for the host plants by aiding in nutrient acquisition while plants provide carbon sources to the fungi. Environmental disturbances, like metal contaminations, have the potential to alter these plant-mycorrhizal symbioses. Leveraging on a site with long history of heavy metal and oil pollution in the coastal prairie dune ecosystems in Mustang Island, we assessed how long-term exposure to contaminants impact the rate of AMF (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) colonization into the plant roots. We collected roots from fourteen Spartina spartinae (Gulf cordgrass) plants, a dominant gulf dune grass in Mustang Island, from an area with known previous oil and metal contaminations and a nearby uncontaminated or healthy area. We quantified AMF colonization by staining the roots with trypan blue solution and employing the grid-line intersection method. Comparisons were made between plants growing in contaminated versus uncontaminated soils. Analyses revealed that there is more AMF presence in contaminated plants, including more numbers of hyphae, vacuoles, arbuscules and even DSE (dark septate endophytes) compared to plants in the uncontaminated site. These findings suggest that plant-mycorrhizal symbiotic associations are strengthened under long-term exposure to environmental disturbance, potentially due to reciprocal benefits they provide to each other. Our results provide new insights into how environmental pollution can alter plant-mycorrhizal symbioses, and the potential to harness plant-AMF symbioses for coastal restoration. For example, fungal symbionts that can aid in plant recovery and establishment can be used to inform and guide efforts to protect and restore coastal ecosystems under shifting environmental conditions or as a bioremediation tool.
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    Muffled Sound
    (2024-05-10) Labonte, Lauren
    Clay is a medium for sculpture and that has been used since the beginning of mankind. Historically, it was used for idols and vessels for religion and everyday use. In the body of work which I call Muffled Sound, I utilized the method of wheel-throwing, which uses centripetal force, to create cylindrical vessels and slip-casting to cast molds of baby doll arms. Also, I incorporate the process of slip-casting since it allows me to use molds and utilize the idea of multiples in order to bring about a sense of anxiety in the repetition of forms. The process of wheel-throwing allows me to use a traditional technique with a traditional medium to connect with the origins of humanity as well as my very human anxieties. Both of these techniques as well as the imagery allows me to explore the effects of taking on the stresses that come with life as the arms slowly begin to take over the vessel. This type of work is important in allowing us to rethink how women’s roles are represented in society and it helps me deal with anxieties over family and identity.
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    Young adults retirement study survey
    (2024-05-08) Mitchell, Luke
    Understanding young adults financial behavior can provide financial service companies and advisors with the tools to find suitable marketing communication to specific customers. The purpose of this study is to better understand which type of retirement communication strategy works best for increasing young adults' participation and investment amounts.
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    Synthesis of symmetric bifurcated amino acid surfactants
    (2024-05-05) Harris, Jonah
    My project focuses on how structure-based predictive tools can investigate and explain the features responsible for self-assembly, function, supramolecular structure, and molecular recognition in bifurcated amino acid-based surfactants (AABSs). Bifurcated amino acid-based surfactants are branched compounds synthesized from natural amino acids and fatty acids. The overall goal of my project is to synthesize bifurcated amino acid-based surfactants and to use proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR) spectroscopy to verify the synthesis of these compounds. This project paves way for future studies in critical micelle concentration (CMC), aggregate morphology, and applied studies in pharmaceuticals. This project relates to my degree in biomedical sciences because amino acid-based surfactants increase the bioavailability of pharmaceuticals and can act as drug-delivery agents.
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    Votes, not vows: Do ideological labels predict electoral performance? A look between electorally safe and marginal members
    (2024-05-01) Perez-Torres, Joselin
    Does a House member need to worry about electoral ramifications for being too ideologically? This research will investigate the relationship between an incumbent’s electoral performance and ideological extremism (roll call support for their party) — controlling for electoral security, challenger quality, presidential vote, campaign spending, partisan affiliation, and seniority, analyzing results for the 116th Congress. The study produces unexpected findings. Not all incumbents receive a lower vote share for casting more ideologically extreme rollcall votes. In particular, for electorally vulnerable members of Congress, they receive an electoral penalty for being more ideologically extreme. Conversely, ideological extremism has no impact for electorally secure members of Congress. Consequently, this study contributes to the understanding of ideology and electoral accountability today.
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    The effect of optic flow changes in a virtual reality environment on gait in healthy young adults
    (2024-02-20) Colburn, Katherine
    The use of virtual reality (VR) for rehabilitation and biomechanical gait analysis has been researched in a small capacity. However, there is a lack of information regarding the effect that unmatched VR optic flow conditions and treadmill speeds have on gait kinematics. Investigating optic flow changes is important because we can understand how visual impairments affect an individual’s gait. The purpose of this study was to investigate joint range of motion (ROM) during gait with disconnected optic flow speed and gait speed in a virtual reality environment in healthy young adults. A 180° VR system with a park scene displayed on the screen was used along with a motion capture system and instrumented fixed-speed treadmill. 37 reflective markers were placed on the lower extremity and trunk to collect motion capture data during each trial. 11 participants completed 3 4-minute randomized walking trials at a self-selected pace on the treadmill. Trials included matched VR and treadmill speed, the VR at +/- 20% of their self-selected walking speed. A repeated measures ANOVA was used to determine any interaction between variables with LSD post hoc analysis conducted if necessary. There were no significant effects from VR speed changes for ankle plantar flexion/ dorsiflexion ROM (P > .05), knee flexion and extension ROM (P > .05), or hip flexion and extension ROM (P > .05). In addition, there were no significant effects for ankle plantar flexion/ dorsiflexion peak velocity (P > .05), knee flexion and extension peak velocity (P > .05), or hip flexion and extension peak velocity (P > .05). Manipulating optic flow speed relative to walking speed does not change ankle, knee, and hip ROM or peak velocity. This indicates that optic flow does not have as much of an effect on joint kinematic variables as previously thought. It is possible that analyzing simple gait measures are not affected by manipulating the sensory system during walking in the VR environment, but that the organization and coordination of the movements may be affected. Future research should investigate the influence of optic flow manipulation on gait variability and the organization of movements.
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    Achieving health equity through accessibility: An examination of FQHC placements and patient populations
    (2023-12) McCoy, Charity
    Despite being the world’s wealthiest nation, many Americans have little to no access to healthcare, a disproportionate amount being Black and Hispanic. Though a 2019 study reveals that Blacks and Hispanics compose a small segment of the US population, they conversely lead the nation in poverty rates. This contrast that we see can be attributed to systemic barriers, negatively affecting these major racial groups. The debilitating effects of poverty extend to all aspects of one’s life, including healthcare. In an effort to combat the negative health outcomes experienced by communities in poverty, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) were introduced to alleviate the burden of paying for healthcare. The following study explores the strategic placement of FQHCs in Harris and Nueces counties, and whether they are located in their intended communities. This analysis also seeks to identify additional areas of research, related to the five As of access to care. The results of this study reveal that though Harris and Nueces counties have strategically placed FQHCs, other matters warranting examination have emerged. Though the answers to the fresh inquiries are beyond the scope of this study, it is with great hope that future studies will explore these queries.
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    Planting the Seed: The process of directing and producing a new ensemble-driven adaptation of a classical work, The Pliant Girls
    (2023-12) Lee, Harper Caroline
    After half a year of work, this Project of Excellence showcases the process and product of producing and directing a new adaptation of a classical play that examines current political and social issues in our society. Through the annual TAMU-CC Department of Theatre and Dance Seed Project, Harper Caroline Lee has created a fully student-directed and designed production of The Pliant Girls. Written by Meghan Brown, The Pliant Girls is a modern feminist retelling of The Supplicants, the story of fifty bloodstained brides seeking refuge after murdering their husbands on their wedding night. Utilizing The Pliant Girls, Harper Caroline Lee examines the importance of productions highlighting social and political issues to enact change, while promoting the effort to create spaces where underrepresented voices can be heard.
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    Computational thinking in 5th grade social studies
    (2023-12) Cook, Margaret
    The literature review and associated unit of curriculum explores the integration of computational thinking (CT) into 5th-grade social studies education, addressing the decline in social studies education and test scores. It analyzes diverse perspectives on CT, its components, challenges in implementation, and its potential impact on critical thinking. Implementing the CT strategies into curriculum unveils insights into CT's ability to offer a structured approach through the PRADA framework and problem-based learning as ways to bridge CT concepts with social studies topics. Overall, the curriculum advocates for a balanced approach to effectively integrate CT in elementary education, highlighting how CT can enhance student engagement and critical thinking skills in the social studies classroom.
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    Joy beyond the binary: Experiences and constructions of joy in nonbinary lives
    (2023-12) Otter, Bailey
    In recent years, sociologists have begun exploring the experiences of gender-expansive populations. However, these studies are oversaturated with negative experiences of prejudice and discrimination and do not accurately portray the joy which accompanies identifying outside of the gender binary. To address what shuster and Westbrook (2022) coined as the joy deficit in sociology and trans studies, I conducted in-depth interviews with 28 nonbinary participants, in which they discussed their experiences of joy. These interviews unveiled three primary themes relating to nonbinary joy. First, participants experienced joy through exploring and constructing their gender identities. Second, participants described how expressing their gender in their desired ways and having their gender affirmed creates joy. Third, participants experienced joy through being in safe spaces and being connected with queer and nonbinary communities. Through examining these dimensions of joy within nonbinary lives, this research contributes to a deeper understanding of the positive aspects of gender diversity and informs discussions surrounding identity, community, resilience, and well-being for gender-expansive populations.
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    Barriers to early diagnosis and management of diabetes in Asian Americans
    (2023-08-09) Torre, Marielle Dela
    Type 2 diabetes mellitus is endemic to the United States and poses a serious threat to its citizens. Diabetes affects approximately 10% of the Asian American population despite their lower body weight, with most cases being type 2 diabetes mellitus (Hung et al., 2013). Early detection of diabetes is imperative to prevent serious lifelong complications such as neuropathy, Coronary Artery Disease, and nephropathy. However, there is a disparity in the time it takes for America’s Asian population to be diagnosed with diabetes for a multitude of reasons. For example, Asian Americans typically present with a lower or normal BMI and with a younger onset of disease (Hsu et al., 2011). Further, the rate of undiagnosed diabetes amongst Asian Americans is nearly three times as high as in non-Hispanic whites, which suggests that diabetes screening among this population is insufficient (Tung et al., 2016). An integrative review was conducted to try to explain the cause of the time lag in diagnosis of diabetes for Asian Americans and attempt to find new parameters to implement in the diagnosis process so that earlier diagnoses can be made, allowing for more effective diabetes management and lessening the long term complications.
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    Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Texas Coastal Bend: Population abundance estimation using photo-identification
    (2023-05-15) Wilkins, Allison
    Common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are the only species of marine mammal residing in the inshore Texas Coastal Bend (TCB). There has not been published research on their population abundance in several decades despite their exposure to a variety of natural and anthropogenic threats. The population abundances of dolphins inhabiting Corpus Christi Bay (CCB), Aransas/Redfish Bay (AB), and Laguna Madre (LM) were calculated. Vessel-based photo-identification surveys were conducted each quarter of the year in 2018 through 2022 using a closed population model to sample and resample dolphins (n = 72 surveys). Individual dolphins were distinguished by unique markings on their dorsal fins captured in photographs. Photographs were quality control checked, matched, and cataloged with metadata for population modeling. The Cormack-Jolly-Seber mark-recapture model estimated a population abundance of 1,280 dolphins in CCB, 1,105 dolphins in AB, and 1,356 dolphins in both areas. The population size estimate for LM was 408 individuals. The population of dolphins in TCB appears to have grown compared to reports from the 1980’s and 1990’s, although different survey approaches were used. Baseline population abundance data provide insights into the size and stability of the stocks of dolphins inhabiting the TCB of utility for future research and conservation efforts.
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    The Price of Negligence
    (2023-05-14) Owens, Brian
    Having seen multiple socio-informational trends appear and disappear since 2000, there have been incredible changes in data transmission and media. Particularly, the frequency of data distribution and reception on social media has skyrocketed. According to Dr. Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, an economist at the University of Oxford, the total number of Facebook users has risen from 100 million in 2008, to 2.26 billion in 2018 (Ortiz-Ospina, 2019). The same can be said for other platforms, such as YouTube. Due to this change, citizens across the world have the power to voice their opinions and express themselves. Although this expansion of free speech connects people and nations, the covert impact of social media algorithms grows everyday. But, what are algorithms? And, what are they responsible for? Algorithms are “the building blocks for programming, and they allow things like computers, smartphones, and websites to function and make decisions” (GCF Global, 2022). Algorithms are responsible for Google search results, You-Tube suggestions, and Tik-Tok For-You pages. They manage the data most-people consume daily, which is why algorithmic awareness and equity is gradually becoming a greater issue. Safiya Umoja Noble, a scholar of critical internet inquiry and the author of Algorithms of Oppression, supports this claim. According to Safiya, “on the Internet and in our everyday uses of technology, discrimination is…embedded in computer code and, increasingly, in artificial intelligence technologies that we are reliant on” (Noble, 2018). Now, more than ever, it is important to question algorithmic bias.
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    Phaeodactylum tricornutum as a Food Source for Texas Oysters
    (2023-05-12) Barrada, Elena
    Over the course of approximately two months, the algae Phaeodactylum tricornutum, a diatom that is more resilient in colder weather, was used in the determination of its viability as an adequate form of nutrition for seed oysters of the species Crassostrea virginica, that inhabit water sheds along the Texas coastal bend. The two water sheds of interest are the hypersaline Laguna Madre in which the “southern Oysters” of this experiment originate and the Copano Bay area, where the “northern Oysters” originate. In this study there will be 5 tanks (Tank 1 - Tank 5), each of which containing 100 southern seed oysters and 20 northern seed oysters of the same size, respectively, filled to 25.4 centimeters with water from the Laguna Madre. Each tank is provided calculated amounts of algae based on size as described by the Food and Agriculture Organization manual (Helm et al., 2004). When comparing the recorded size data in correlation to each of the treatments (Treatments A - B), it was found that for treatment B there was a significance in percent change in size (northern oysters: P-value of 1.01E-05, and in the southern oysters: P-value of 3.64E-08) with the incorporation of P. tricornutum as 25% of the diet composition in combination with Chaetocerous muelleri as 37.5% of diet the composition, and Tetraselmis chui as 35.7% of diet the composition. This information is important in that it could provide a more cost effective and less labor-intensive solution for nutrition sources in cooler weather, in turn leading to a potentially more productive year for oyster farming.
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    A look into the diversity of culturable bacterial root endophytes in Batis maritima
    (2023-05-05) Rush, Grace
    Plants are known to associate and interact with diverse microbes, including those that colonize and live within their root tissues (endophytes), that perform key functional roles for the plants, such as salinity and drought tolerance. A variety of biotic (e.g., plant host abundance) and abiotic factors (e.g., soil pH) can influence to a varying degree, the rates and patterns of endophyte colonization on roots of plants; however, current knowledge is still limited, especially for coastal marsh plants. We investigated the relative influences of biotic and abiotic factors that shape the fine-scale diversity patterns of bacterial root endophyte colonization communities associated with the coastal marsh succulent plant Batis maritima (saltwort) using a culture-based approach. We set up five experimental blocks, each containing four plots: 90% B. maritima, 50% B. maritima with woody plants, i.e., mangrove, 50% B. maritima without woody plants, and 10% B. maritima dominated. For each plot, we collected three plant samples and measured environmental factors such as pH, salinity, and light availability. For each sample, we cultured bacterial endophytes, then extracted, amplified, and sequenced their DNA for identification. We expect that salinity and host plant abundance will influence the diversity of bacterial root endophyte communities. Additionally, the presence of woody plants and plant communities with a higher diversity will harbor a high endophytic diversity. In contrast to our expectations, our preliminary results indicate that the plots without woody plants yield the highest number of culturable bacterial growth (72.67%). Plots with low B. maritima abundance (10%) has the smallest number of growing bacterial cultures (53.33%). Our project gives insight into what host plant diversity, abundance, and local environmental processes influence plant-microbe colonization and distribution in coastal marshes.
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    Impact of ocean acidification on Montipora capitata
    (2023-05-05) Tenbrink, Eleanor
    In Kāne‘ohe Bay Hawai‘i, the second most dominant coral species, Montipora capitata is an ecologically important reef-building coral that has shown resilience to environmental changes. However, ocean acidification (OA) may compromise the structural integrity of the coral's skeleton, threatening the species’ resiliency. Therefore, this project analyzed multiple biological response variables of M. capitata under ocean acidification conditions. OA is a change in ocean water chemistry due to an increase in the absorption of atmospheric carbon, which decreases seawater pH and aragonite saturation state. This also increases the concentration of hydrogen ions in the water, which will impact the total alkalinity, or the ability of the water to neutralize ions. Previous research has stated that a lower concentration of carbonate impacts the coral’s ability to calcify under OA conditions. Contrarily, the Proton Flux Hypothesis states that the increase in hydrogen ions limits coral calcification under OA. To better understand coral growth under OA conditions, corals were exposed to a control and three experimental treatments varying in pH and total alkalinity levels, over a month-long experiment. Following experimentation, biological response variables from each coral were measured. These variables include the density and chlorophyll concentrations of the symbiotic algae and changes in skeletal density. It is hypothesized that the combination of low pH and total alkalinity will have a synergistic effect on the coral's skeletal density. The result of this work aims to further our understanding of OA and its impacts on coral calcification.
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    Analysis of Seasonal Changes in Community Composition of Seagrass Epiphytes in Aransas Pass, Texas
    (2023-05-04) Maupin, Samantha
    Generally, the type, and number of epiphytes found on seagrasses varies based on the time of year and the nutrient load of water, including man-made nutrient sources such as wastewater effluent. This study will examine the changes in community composition of epiphytes found on T. testudinum as a function of porewater nutrients and other environmental factors. Epiphytes will be removed from seagrasses collected seasonally from the ICW RV Park in Aransas Pass, Texas. Sites within the study area were chosen based on their proximity to the release point of wastewater effluent from the Aransas Pass Wastewater Treatment Plant. Comparative analysis of fluorescence was done using four wavelengths: 415nm and 680nm were used to determine the amount of green pigments in the sample associated with green algae and 530nm and 576nm were used to determine the amount of red pigments in the sample associated with red algae. These measurements were then compared to determine the ratio of red to green pigments within the samples. Samples will also be run through a full pigment analysis. This will be done using acetone to extract the color from the samples and then analyzing the solution produced in a spectrophotometer. Preliminary results show that both summer and winter samples had higher levels of red algae than green algae when comparing fluorescence analysis. However, individual sites differ, with some showing decreases in red pigment domination and others showing increases from summer to winter. However, further analysis and sampling needs to be done before any final patterns can be suggested. This project will allow for a better picture of the seasonal changes in epiphyte composition on T. testudinum and provide some comparisons between sites with differing nutrient inputs, especially those influenced by wastewater effluent.
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    Critical Windows in the Development of the Innate Immune System of the Medaka Fish
    (2023-05-04) Harder-Neely, Desirea
    The Marine Medaka Oryzias melastigma is increasingly becoming the model of choice for the study of immunotoxicology, especially in regard to pathogen-induced abnormalities in the immune system that may manifest from challenges occurring during the critical stages of immune development. This study aimed to further outline the innate immune system of the Marine Medaka fish by finding the ideal bacterial challenger. The pathogens needed to produce a measurable immune response, without inducing morbidity, during the critical windows outlined by other papers. This research has implications for further studying the critical windows of the innate immune system and how pathogens may affect it.
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    Documentary Activism Updated: How awareness is made in media today
    (2023-05-04) Salazar, Emily
    This study investigates how activism has changed in documentary film, particularly in environmental activism. This allows for an updated look into documentary activism as explained by media scholar Daniel Marcus in 2016, who showed that raising awareness for important issues went beyond explaining them through the course of a documentary film but by creating opportunities for the audience to interact with the subject matter after they watched the film. What different models of documentary activism have evolved in documentary film? What emerging practices are being used specifically for environmental awareness? Documentary films 2040, I am Greta, The Story of Plastic, and Anthropocene: The Human Epoch are investigated as recent, relevant examples of environmental activist documentaries. This study finds that interactivity that started as a fleeting link to websites with additional resources in the end credits of a documentary has turned into dynamic online communities who advocate across media. Understanding the actions of environmental activists today will allow for a better understanding of other kinds of activism in the media.
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    Incentivizing Self-Care Activities with Students in the TAMU-CC Nursing Program to Impact Self-Care Habits: A Quality Improvement Project
    (2023-05-04) McKeen, Meagan
    Nurses and other medical professionals have historically faced many challenges to their physical and mental health. With the fast-paced and demanding nature of the medical field, it can be incredibly difficult for nurses to implement self-care tools that would help them deal with the challenges of their jobs (Green & Kinchen, 2021; Lin et al., 2019; Sarazine et al., 2021). Despite a relationship between fatigue and safety being recognized by The American Nurses Association (ANA) and The Joint Commission, there is still a disconnect between the research and policies, workplace cultures, and nurse preferences (Brown et al., 2020). Nursing is a caring profession which is taxing and requires that the patient remain the priority. However, after the shift, the nurse needs to ensure that their own health needs are met. After experiencing the intense and serious nature of the medical field, the nurse will often find themselves drained and overwhelmed. This concept is called burnout and it is a serious issue that is the result of overwork, stress, and generally the sapping of energy from the nurse (Green & Kinchen, 2021). The World Health Organization (WHO) classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon that is the result of unmanaged chronic workplace stress (2019). The WHO continues to expand upon burnout as feelings of exhaustion, increased feelings of negativism or mental detachment from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. Burnout can lead to a multitude of poor outcomes for the nurse and their work like reduced job satisfaction, performance, quality of patient care, and increase things like sickness rates and nurse turnover (Ameli et al., 2020; Anderson, 2020; Blackburn et al., 2020; Brown, 2020; Ghawadra et al., 2019, 2020; Green & Kinchen, 2021; Kelly et al., 2021; Lin et al., 2019; Monroe et al., 2021; Sarazine et al., 2021; Tolouian et al., 2022; Yilmazer et al., 2020). However, implementation of concepts to increase well-being and reduce stressors that lead to burnout has been shown to be closely associated with greater patient outcomes and reduced nurse turnover (Bogue, 2019; Parchment, 2022). Nurses have an ever-expanding need for physical and mental support that should be addressed to prevent burnout.The ethics of self-care and the discussion about how it relates to nurses has stretched far through the history of nurses. The ANA made a notable addition to the Nursing Code of Ethics with the addition of Provision 5 that states, “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence, and continue personal and professional growth” (2015, Provision 5). The ANA related this provision to the COVID-19 pandemic because it highlighted how important it is to take care of those that are providing care during such an unprecedented event (2020). Fowler (2018) explored the discussion of ethics in nursing that stretched through literature from the 1880’s up to the 2010’s. It was found that even in the 1880’s, nursing was thought to be encompassed by three core tenants of duty, being to the nurse themself, the physician they work under, and the patient. Zolinerek (2022) continued this discussion through an expert tip that punctuates the importance of self-care being a key aspect of the responsibility of the nurse. An evidence table (see Appendix A), using current research and expert’s observations, was constructed to address the PICO question: In nursing students from the Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) nursing program, will the implementation of incentivized self-care activities have an impact on the frequency of self-care over the course of four weeks? The data from the table were analyzed and synthesized, then the findings were used to inform the proposed quality improvement project.