Research reverberates on campus at Steinmetz Symposium

Publication Date

For centuries, hair has been an integral part of the African-American culture, often serving as a racial marker for black identity.

Beginning with the first African slaves being brought to the “New World” in 1441, that unique identity has been methodically stripped from the culture.

In a classroom in Karp Friday morning, Olivia Britton ’18 tried to untangle the roots of black hair, its styles and its role today in shaping one’s identity.

“Hair is now being used as a vehicle to promote self-love and dignity, and to reclaim and adopt the black identity once again,” said Britton.

A double major in political science and anthropology, the New Hempstead, N.Y., student was among hundreds of students, faculty and parents who fanned out across campus Friday to celebrate undergraduate research as part of the annual Steinmetz Symposium.

The Steinmetz Symposium featured more than 65 poster presentations in the Wold Atrium.

The Steinmetz Symposium featured more than 65 poster presentations in the Wold Atrium.

Now in its 26th year, the symposium has grown from its debut in April 1991, when 130 students presented, to one that now features more than 500 students – with nearly 300 oral presentations and more than 65 poster presentations. Some 200 students are involved in a dance performance, musical concerts, an art exhibit and other activities.

Overseen by Becky Cortez, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of undergraduate research, the symposium showcases the type of hands-on, faculty-mentored research that is a staple of the Union experience.

“I love Steinmetz,” said Britton. She also presented as a first-year student. “It’s a great opportunity to show your peers the work you have been doing.”

Following tradition, classes were canceled for the day to allow faculty, staff, students and visiting parents to sample projects in all fields – the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences and engineering.

Visitors spent the day shuttling between various academic buildings to take in an array of presentations.

One could listen as Stephen Hoerprich ‘16 explained tempo-sensing feedback system for student conductors or Andrew Fellows ’16 expound on the economics of edible insects.

Eliza Burbano ‘16 discussed the persistence of patriarchy in Latin America, while Cara Peterhansel ‘16 gave a poetic response to the life and work of Virginia Woolf.

Yuki Shimano ‘17 examined the art of specimen reconstruction through biological illustrations. And Andrew Laugharn ‘16 deconstructed the development of single photon experiments using Type-1 and Type-II spontaneous parametric downconversion.

The day began with a corporate breakfast featuring remarks by Thomas Caulfield, senior vice president and general manager of GlobalFoundries, and father of Matthew Caulfield ‘19.

Thomas Caulfield discussed how collaboration drives innovation and growth. Joining invited faculty, students and staff were a host of local government and business leaders, representing General Electric, KeyBank, Capital Region Chamber and others.

In the afternoon, more than 90 performers took to the stage in the Nott Memorial for the Lothridge Festival of Dance. The hour-long show included highlights from this year’s Winter Dance Concert, “Minds of Interest,” inspired by artists, scientists and activists of the 20th century.

Featured were faculty choreographies by Dance Program Director Miryam Moutillet and Dance Program Assistant Marcus Rogers, as well as original pieces by Jillian Callanan ’16, Avery Novitch ’16, Laura Schad ’16 and Megan Wells ’18.

In addition, students from the Ballroom, Bhangra, U-Break, Hip-Hop and Step clubs, Terra Dance, the Dance Team and the Queens of Dancehall performed.

At the end of the show, the Edward Villella Fellowship, which allows exceptional students to expand their dance studies beyond the campus, was awarded to Giorgia Comeau ’16 and Grace Kernohan ’17. Both will study in New York City this summer. Comeau will pursue a three-week internship with the Joffrey Ballet School of Jazz and Contemporary Dance, and she also will audition to dance professionally. Kernohan will attend a range of classes at the American Ballet Theatre and Broadway Dance Center.

Also at the end of the performance, Will Balta ’16 received the College’s Hedda Hainebach award, given bi-annually to the best actor or actress in a play or to a playwright who has written the best short play.

The annual Visual Arts Student Art Exhibit, on view in the Nott Memorial, features the most accomplished student works completed during the 2015-16 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 day wrapped up with a concert in Memorial Chapel 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.

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 (Kaitlyn Suarez) and the Frank Bailey (1885) Prize to the senior who has rendered the greatest service to the College in any field (Ilan Levine).

Later in the day, the Union College Jazz Ensemble, led by Professor Tim Olsen, performed 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.