Union 365: Undergraduate research on display at Steinmetz Symposium

Publication Date

Faraz Khan '13 faced a simple challenge as he stood in front of a crowded classroom in the Wold Center Friday morning: how to keep the audience engaged during his Steinmetz Symposium presentation.

When the topic is "Synthesis of Cell-permeable Analogs of Trehalose for the Protection of Mammalian Cells," Khan knew he could lose the audience in a hurry.

Armed with a command of the subject, and thanks to an impressive array of charts and graphs with a dose of humor sprinkled in, Khan delivered.

"My advisor (Margot Paulick, assistant professor of chemistry) kept telling me if you stick to the basics and bring it back to what people know, it will be easier for them to follow," said the chemistry and economics major from Scotch Plains, N.J. "And to keep it on the light side. So that's what I tried to do."

Khan was among nearly 450 students taking part in the 23rd annual symposium that showcases undergraduate research at Union. Classes were canceled to allow parents, faculty, staff and students to sample projects from every discipline, including 215 oral presentations and 45 poster presentations. Nearly 200 additional students were involved in a dance performance, two musical concerts, an art exhibit and other activities.

"Once again, Union students have produced a wonderful variety of work as a result of senior theses and projects in addition to in-class work," said Kristin Fox, associate professor of chemistry and director of undergraduate research.

Visitors shuffled between academic buildings to sample presentations on such diverse topics as "The Economics of Violent Crime: A Study of Chicago's High Crime Rate" (Richard Csaplar ' 13), "Loving Love, Loving Life: Anne Sexton's Positive Poems" (Rachel Cohen '13), "Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst and the Rise of Modern Media: Through the Lens of Theodore Roosevelt" (Hilary Drabkin '13) and "Design and Feasibility Testing of an Alternative Valve System for Internal Combustion Engines" (Christopher Mulford '13).

A number of students, including Khan, presented twice. Following his morning talk, Khan switched his focus from chemistry to economics in the afternoon for "Moving Forward from the Arab Spring: Predicting the Level of Democracy in a Nation after a Revolution" in Lippman Hall.

Perhaps the most unusual setting for a presentation began on the steps of Memorial Chapel, where Amy Golinker '13 provided listeners with an authoritative talk on "Union 365: Surprising Architectural Connections." With her parents, Joy and Lew, in attendance, along with her advisor, President Stephen Ainlay, Golinker led a mini-walking tour of campus, sharing anecdotes about the College's rich history during abbreviated stops in front of the Nott Memorial and within sight of the President's House.

Her talk was part of an ongoing project spearheaded by Ainlay and Ben Engle '12, which will evolve into a book featuring daily facts highlighting Union's extraordinary connections to historical events and people. The book will be given to first-year students.

Asked to assess Ainlay's role as her advisor, the neuroscience major from Ithaca, N.Y., smiled.

"A-plus," she said.

Other highlights Friday included demonstrations by the Mechanical Engineering teams that built a Baja car, an airplane and a human-powered vehicle. Students in the Film Studies program presented their works: BENZO by Emma Freter '13 and Jeffrey Moreno '13 and Home Front by Andrew McLain '13.

For a complete list of presentations, visit the Steinmetz website.

Late in the afternoon in the Nott Memorial, more than 60 students performed excerpts from "Circling Beginnings," this year's Winter Dance Concert. Also, an original piece, "Sleep," a collaboration with Choral Director John Cox, featured members of Miryam Moutillet’s class, Dance Experience, embodying the act of sleeping being serenaded by the Camerata singers.

In addition, there were performances by Jenna Langhans ’13 and Dance Instructor Marcus Rogers as well as by Union Bhangra, the Ballroom Club and the Dance Team. Singers Connor Barrett ’14 and Meaghan Melley ’16 were accompanied by guest artists Harry Pellegrin and Andy Iorio on classical guitar and piano.

The 2013 Edward Villella Fellowship in dance was awarded to Jenna Langhans ’13 at the end of the show. She will pursue a summer internship with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Also, the annual Visual Arts Student Art Exhibit, on view through May 11 in the Burns Art Atrium Gallery, featured 129 pieces by more than 100 students.

Curated by faculty members, the exhibit included works from classes taught by Martin Benjamin (photography), Chris Duncan (sculpture), Walter Hatke (painting and drawing), Fernando Orellana (digital art and video) and Sandy Wimer (drawing, printmaking, etching and design).

Friday night, the Steinmetz Symposium Banquet, for presenters, their parents, guests and faculty sponsors, was held in Upper Class Dining Hall.

That was followed with a concert by the Union College and Community Orchestra and the Union College and Community Chorale, under the direction of John Cox, director of performance and lecturer in choral and orchestral music, in Memorial Chapel.

Steinmetz Symposium coincided with Prize Day on Saturday in Memorial Chapel, followed by a reception on the Reamer Campus Center patio. Students were honored for achievement in academics, research, service and governance. Among the top awards given were the Josephine Daggett Prize to the senior for conduct and character (Victoria Chee) and the Frank Bailey (1885) Prize, to the senior who has rendered the greatest service to the College in any field (Najiba Keshwani).

For a complete list of winners, click here.

Also, the Union College Jazz Ensemble, with Professor Tim Olsen conducting a program of vocal and instrumental jazz, performed at 2 p.m. in Emerson Auditorium.

The Steinmetz Symposium is named for Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923), who taught electrical engineering and applied physics at Union. Also chief consulting engineer for the General Electric Company, he was widely regarded as America’s leading electrical engineer.