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My husband, Manmeet has been one of the truest companion anyone could hope to have on such a quest. His resolute belief in my dreams and abilities has been an endless source of strength. For his daily presence in my life, I am truly thankful. It is with deep love and gratitude that I acknowledge the ongoing support and encouragement of my parents, Jagir Singh and Jagdeep Kaur Sidhu, throughout my life. They have been the parents of a student for nearly 30 years and during that time their confidence in my ability to do the work never waned. I thank my dad for teaching me the benefits of determination, solid work ethic, sound judgment, and to be a strong and an independent thinker. For my dad who never stopped asking the question: “Is your thesis done yet?” Yes, dad, it is finished! iv