Minds @ Work: Undergraduates’ creativity and research on display at year-end celebration

As the spring 2017 semester wound to a close, students and faculty set aside the afternoon and evening of Friday, May 5, for “Minds @ Work,” a series of events devoted to students’ creative and scholarly output, including the 23rd annual Student Research Symposium.

More than 120 undergraduate students presented original research at this year’s Symposium, in fields ranging from biology, chemistry and engineering; to psychology and sociology; to music and theatre; and to literature, language and education.

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Each project represents a high-impact learning experience, proof of a student’s ability to think creatively, work alongside more experienced mentors and stake out new ground for the benefit of a larger community of learners.

“Student research and scholarly endeavors are not just for students heading to graduate school,” said President Donald P. Christian. “Employers see the successful completion of a research project as one of the most useful indicators of student learning and capability that they seek in new employees.”

Steven Roberts ’17 (History, Contemporary Music) served up one example of the Symposium’s inclusive approach to interdisciplinary scholarship, with his historical analysis and original arrangement of music by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Just don’t tell him it’s not “research.”

“For this project I had to really dive deep into classical composition, to understand how that history influenced Stockhausen and the avant-garde of the ’60s,” Roberts said. “I also needed to collaborate with the performers and the videographer, to take the abstract idea, get it on paper and get it recorded.

“I think this work will be invaluable to me as I start my career in music, because it functions as a very visible portfolio – something I can show people and say, ‘look what I can do,’ when I’m applying for grants or for grad school.”

As a celebration of undergraduate research, the Symposium also celebrates the dozens of faculty mentors who work to create and support research opportunities for New Paltz students, including 2016-17 Faculty Mentor Award recipient and Assistant Professor of mathematics, Anca Radulescu.

“A key ingredient to a successful program like ours is a faculty who are willing to guide and support students, and who value this work as one of the most important forms of teaching we can undertake,” President Christian said. “This is a labor of love, but it still takes time, energy and effort above and beyond everything else that we ask you to do. Dr. Radulescu has supervised close to a dozen research projects in the last three years, and like many other New Paltz faculty she has demonstrated enthusiasm and commitment to mentoring undergraduates.”

Minds @ Work is coordinated by the Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (RSCA) program, which is directed by Professor of biology Maureen Morrow and served by a board of students and faculty members from diverse academic backgrounds.