Elm Staff Writer
It’s that time of year again: the leaves are falling, the birds are heading south, and the graduating class of 2019 is in the midst of completing their Senior Capstone experiences in preparation for the spring.
While theatre majors have been directing their capstone productions in the spotlight, students of all disciplines have been hard at work too, according to senior Joshua Samuels, who is a double major in biology and psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience.
Samuels’ thesis examines the long-term effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for depression on a neurological level.
“Undertaking a research project of this level will expose me to the scientific process at the highest level and test my research and scientific abilities,” he said.
Senior Dylan Grimes is tackling how to change the public perspective on vital environmental issues through her project entitled “what a WASTE,” in which she conveys the harmful effects of plastic on the endangered turtle population.
“I am taking vinyl cut out letters to break down the sense of the word ‘WASTE.’ It will make the viewer think [about] what waste actually is,” said Grimes, a double major in biology and art with a concentration in studio art.
“I believe that my thesis will help me understand more deeply what conservation is needed in the animal world and how I might be able to connect my two interests of biology and art someday,” Grimes said.
Other students, such as senior Caroline Cox, are using new developments within their desired career fields as a basis for their capstone experience.
“My thesis project is using Machine Learning, specifically Neural Networks, to recognize ballet pliés and categorize them according to type, [such as] 1st position demi or grande, or 2nd position demi or grande,” said Cox, a double major in math and computer science with double minors in dance and German.
“Machine Learning and Data Science are two fields in computer science and mathematics that are growing rapidly, so having a solid background in machine learning and neural nets will position me well to remain competitive in the field,” Cox said.
Like Cox, senior Julia Portmann, a double major in biology and environmental science, sees her research as essential to obtaining a job after college. Portmann’s thesis examines chytrid fungus on salamanders along the Maryland coast.
“Using eDNA is a really cool technique, so having the opportunity to conduct an experiment along those lines is [an] amazing experience. All of the skills that I am using will be relevant to my future career and will give me a leg up going into graduate school and the workforce, so I’m lucky to be able to do this project,” she said.
Seniors with majors in the humanities and social sciences, such as English major Emily Holt and history major Patrick Jackson, have been delving deep into literary and historical research for their projects.
“My thesis project relates to how Virginia Woolf crafts consciousness and perspective in her novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” focusing on how trauma interplays with narrative form. This project is making me a much better writer and researcher, it additionally is acting as a sort of academic catharsis as my undergraduate career ends,” Holt said.
Jackson is focusing on exploring the influence of Gilded Age literary traditions on “McClure’s” magazine, a prominent progressive era publication.
“I wish to continue studying the literary and visual culture of this period in American history, so in that way I suppose it will help me,” Jackson said.
For some seniors, completing a capstone finalizes the transition from college student to a member of the adult workforce.
“I am terrified to move on from WC,” said Holt, “But I have built a strong network of peers and mentors through my time here that give me great confidence in the opportunities adult life holds in store.”
Samuels and Cox echoed Holt’s assertion redarding their skill set post-graduation.
“Post-graduation is always a nervous time, but I feel confident that the skills I have learned and will gain through my thesis research will put me in a position to succeed,” Samuels said.
“I feel very excited,” said Cox, “I already have a job offer accepted, so being able to focus all of my efforts on my SCE instead of a job search is really allowing me to dive deep into the problem and make the most out of this year.”