30th annual Steinmetz Symposium to be a virtual affair

Publication Date

Shortly after the College was forced to close in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was some concern about the fate of the annual Steinmetz Symposium.

For 29 years, the all-day event dedicated to student research and creativity—featuring oral and poster presentations, engineering displays, dance, music and art exhibits—has been a highlight of the academic calendar.

Organizers were determined to keep some semblance of the event intact during these challenging times. Hands-on, faculty-mentored undergraduate research is a staple of the Union experience.

The result is a virtual Steinmetz Symposium. Hosted by Schaffer Library, the symposium will feature more than 200 students across disciplines highlighting their research with electronic posters and recorded videos of individual and group presentations. Viewers will be able to post written questions to presenters.

The site goes live on Friday, May 22.

“We were really disappointed to not be able to offer the usual Steinmetz Symposium,” said Chad Orzel, the R. Gordon Gould Associate Professor of Physics and director of undergraduate research.

“There was clearly no way we could assemble in person, and given the challenges of students being scattered around the globe, the prospect of trying to run a live event online with the huge number of presentations we usually get was too daunting. At the same time, though, our students have been working extremely hard, doing amazing things, and we needed to find a way to showcase and celebrate that.”

Orzel said he is impressed by how students and faculty have stepped up to the virtual Steinmetz. Roughly two-thirds of the originally submitted presentations will be going virtual, including a video version of the dance performance, “which is always a highlight of Steinmetz Day, and one of the things I thought we'd miss the most. I am really excited to see that.”

The Theater and Dance Department will give three presentations: “A Tale of Black Resilience” by Felika Poblah '20, the Steinmetz Backstage Dance Documentary by China Campaguolo '20 and a joyful Steinmetz Dance Collective virtual performance.

In addition, Isabella Demyan ’21 and May Melo ’22 are the recipients of this year’s Edward Villella Fellowship, designed to help students expand their study of dance beyond the campus. Both laureates plan to pursue their dreams of aerial dance.

The award was created from the gifts of Charles D. Lothridge ’44 to honor internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Edward Villella.

Orzel credited a number of people who helped pivot to a virtual program this year: Christine Angley, administrative assistant (Geology); Charlie Casey, senior editor of strategic communications (Communications); Ruth Cotter, assistant to the dean of studies (Academic Affairs); Joanna DiPasquale, director of content and digital library systems, and Rebecca Fried, metadata and digital services specialist (Schaffer Library); and Mina Evtimova-Rios, senior web developer (Information Technology Services).

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.