Steinmetz Symposium turns 25

Event showcases the type of hands-on, faculty-mentored undergraduate research that is a staple of the Union experience.
Nott Memorial
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Steinmetz Symposium turns 25


  • Students participate in one of the early Steinmetz Symposiums in the mid-1990'sStudents participate in one of the early Steinmetz Symposiums in the mid-1990's
  • Poster sessions like this one from last year's Symposium are a staple of the Steinmetz experience.Poster sessions like this one from last year's Symposium are a staple of the Steinmetz experience.

In the fall of 1990, Tom Werner of Chemistry and Dave Peak of Physics met with new College President Roger Hull.

The two professors oversaw Union’s active participation with NCUR, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. The College had hosted the conference earlier that year.

The three men imagined Union holding its own version of NCUR. As Margaret Schadler, associate dean for undergraduate programs told The Chronicle then, “President Hull thought it would be a good chance to give students exposure for their academic efforts and experience in making effective presentations.”

So on a spring afternoon in April 1991, the Steinmetz Symposium was born. Featuring presentations from 130 students, the symposium was held on Admitted Students Day to showcase the type of hands-on, faculty-mentored undergraduate research that is a staple of the Union experience.

As the 25th anniversary of the symposium approaches May 8, the number of students involved has swelled to beyond 500 – including more than 280 oral presentations and over 70 poster presentations. Nearly 200 additional students are involved in a dance performance, two musical concerts and an art exhibit.

And the symposium is no longer squeezed into a few hours in the afternoon. Instead, classes are canceled for the day to allow faculty, staff, students and visiting parents to sample projects in all fields – in the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences and engineering.

One can shuffle between academic buildings to sample presentations on topics as diverse as “The Slimy Yet Satisfying Potential of Edible Insects” (Ram Batta '15) to “The Art Looting Investigation Unit: Finding Their Place in World War II History” (MaryKate Farber '15) to “Investigation of Boat Hull Performance with Superhydrophobic Coating” (Nolan Sayre '15).

“For 25 years, students, faculty, staff and family members have looked forward to the symposium,” said Becky Cortez, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of undergraduate research. “And it’s only grown in popularity, as evidenced by the incredible level of participation in this year’s presentations, exhibits and performances."

At 4 p.m. in the Nott Memorial, more than 70 students will perform as part of the Lothridge Festival of Dance. Representing a variety of styles, including ballet, ballroom, contemporary lyrical, hip hop, jazz and tap, dancers will perform highlights from the Winter Dance Concert, ACTION, and pieces inspired by movies such as The Hunger Games, Twilight and Crouching Tiger.

Student choreographers include Maryssa Brogis ’15, Giorgia Comeau ’16, Olivia Cipriani ’17, Lily Herout ’17 and Fadeelah Islam-Ziyad ’15. The performance also showcases the work of Dance Program Director Miryam Moutillet and instructors Marcus Rogers and Laurie Cawley.

Following the dance performance, the 2015 Edward Villella Fellowship will be presented. The award allows exceptional students in dance to expand their studies beyond the campus studios, stages and classrooms.

Also, the annual Visual Arts Student Art Exhibit, on view in the Burns Arts Atrium Gallery, features the most accomplished student works completed during the 2014-15 academic year.

Curated by Visual Arts faculty members, the exhibit includes works from classes in photography, sculpture, digital art and video, painting, drawing and printmaking.

The Steinmetz Symposium Banquet, for presenters, their parents, guests and faculty sponsors, takes place in College Park Hall at 6 p.m. (Pre-registration is required by May 1)

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, is set for 8 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

Steinmetz Symposium coincides with Prize Day, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 9, in Memorial Chapel, followed by a reception on the Reamer Campus Center patio at 12:30 p.m. Students are honored for achievement in academics, research, service and governance.

Among the top awards given are the Josephine Daggett Prize to the senior for conduct and character and the Frank Bailey (1885) Prize to the senior who has rendered the greatest service to the College in any field.

Check back later for a list of winners.

The Union College Jazz Ensemble, led by Professor Tim Olsen, will perform at 2 p.m. in Emerson Auditorium.

The 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.

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