Student research shines nationally

Published 3:17 pm Thursday, May 10, 2018

From algorithmic composition of music to Russian culture, students recently showed the breadth of research opportunities available at Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) during their visit to the 2018 National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Oklahoma, officials noted in an H-SC press release.

The release noted that NCUR is the largest conference in the world dedicated to undergraduate research, with more than 4,000 students making presentations each year. With the development of the Office of Undergraduate Research at Hampden-Sydney, the college has begun sending regular delegations to this event.

This year, four students presented their work at NCUR, H-SC officials cited. They highlighted seniors Carlo Anselmo and Joshua Elliott for capping off their undergraduate experience by presenting their math and Russian research, respectively. Anselmo showed how music can be generated through the predictive power of mathematical algorithms.

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“I initially began my research as part of Hampden-Sydney’s new Honors Program,” Anselmo said. “As the pioneers of this new program, students like myself were encouraged to engage in interdisciplinary research. I wanted to find a novel way to apply what I was learning as an applied math major to something that didn’t appear very mathematical at first, and I eventually had the idea to explore the relationship between math and music.

“Being a musician, I was only vaguely aware of this relationship at first,” he continued, “but I soon met Dr. Marcus Pendergrass who had also been interested in this idea — and that’s where my research on the algorithmic composition of music began.”

Meanwhile, Elliott analyzed the banya, a Russian version of a sauna, and associated drinks in Russian culture, H-SC officials stated in the release.

Junior Travis Stackow analyzed the role of baseball in the lives of the main characters in the novel “Fences” with “There Ought Not Never Been No Time Called Too Early: The Double Meaning of ‘Past Time’ in August Wilson’s ‘Fences.’”

“My English professor, Dr. (Leah) Toth, inspired me to write about August Wilson’s play ‘Fences’ and encouraged me to submit my essay to the National Conference of Undergraduate Research,” Stackow said. “I conducted a historical analysis of Major League Baseball and the Negro Leagues to support my interpretation of Wilson’s play. I grew up playing baseball and have a deep love for America’s Pastime to this day; however, as my essay discusses, the historical documentation of Major League Baseball and the Negro Leagues, before and during the setting of Wilson’s play, is a misunderstood collection of events that continues to push the voices, souls and struggles of African-American ball players to the shadows. Along with my professor, my primary inspiration for this research was Wilson’s rewriting of American history for those that are neglected by history.”

The release noted that sophomore Shelby Hanna presented an analysis of President Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy.

“By presenting in front of a national audience, these students are gaining invaluable experience in public speaking and defending of their ideas,” H-SC Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research Dr. Michael Wolyniak said in the release. “It is a crucial capstone experience for those students who have dedicated themselves to pursuing independent research with their professors.”

Stackow said being at NCUR was a great experience.

“I was able to listen to many other student research presentations including three of my fellow Hampden-Sydney classmates,” he said. “I would like to thank HS-C for allowing me to go to NCUR in Oklahoma.”
Anselmo said, “I think that presenting at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research was a great experience academically, and it was a lot of fun. As Hampden-Sydney students, we pride ourselves in our great rhetoric program, so I wanted to show off as much as possible. I think that just having this belief as I went into the conference helped negate any anxiety I had about such an intimidating event. Additionally, it was interesting to be in a position where I was now the expert presenting research instead of it being the other way around. I am grateful for this opportunity.”

H-SC’s release concluded by citing that after several years of memorable presentations at NCUR, Hampden-Sydney College has established itself as a source for unique research opportunities at the undergraduate level.