Congrats, Grads!

The Buzz wishes all the members of the Class of 2014 the best of luck as they head into the world!

With three days of ceremonies, activities, and special events marking commencement season, the University recognized graduating students and their families, honored faculty for their teaching, and celebrated the achievements of alumni and other honorees.

Catch all the commencement fun by visiting http://www.rochester.edu/commencement/2014/!

 

Rochester Undergrad Named ‘Outstanding Employee’

By Michael Dedes
Wilson Commons Student Activities

Emi Hitomi, a University of Rochester senior, won the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Employee Award at the Association of College Unions International Region 2 Awards of which the University of Rochester is a proud member.

Hitomi has worked in Wilson Commons starting her freshman year as a Hive Game Room Student Employee for a year before moving up the ranks and becoming a building manager for two years. It wasn’t long until she earned the role of building manager supervisor in which she currently supervises the Building Manager Team that upholds the rules and policies of the student union.

“In her time as a student employee in Wilson Commons, Emi has consistently shown a hard work ethic where she has always gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide the best support to her team as well as the best customer service to the patrons of Wilson Commons,” says Michael Dedes, Wilson Commons Services Coordinator.

Dedes says that Hitomi is always eager to try something new to provide better programming and better customer services to everyone who visits Wilson Commons. While she has had to handle very stressful situations as a building manager, she has continuously shown calmness under pressure and the ability to think on her feet to get the job done.

“Emi’s peers respect her for the job she does and the leader she has become,” he explains. “We are very proud of Emi and are happy to be able to celebrate in her achievement!”

Rochester Students Compete in Engineering Competition

By Leonor Sierra
Press Officer for Engineering and Science, Univ. Communications

Two groups of Rochester students were among the 30 design teams from 18 institutions that showed off creations at the Intel Cornell Cup on May 3-4, 2013 at Walt Disney World.

One of the groups won an honorable mention for their work on the URead Braille project. Their concept was a refreshable braille display that acts as a computer screen for the blind. The braille display would be able to read in text and .pdf files and output the result on the screen through a tactile display.

The UV Swarm team modified some robots, similar to a Roomba hoover robot, incorporating a UV light that could sanitize large surfaces quicker than is currently possible.  These could be used in medical or sport facilities. They also programmed a central hub that would automatically oversee the operation so that these ‘bots’ are all synchronized with each other, ensuring the full floor is covered and limiting overlaps.

The teams worked for months on their projects, with the support of their advisers Randal Nelson, Ted Pawlicki and Chris Brown all from the Computer Science department. The teams were comprised of students from different majors, including computer science, electrical and computing engineering, and biomedical engineering, and from different years, from freshmen to seniors.

The goal of the Cornell Cup is to challenge engineering college student design teams to create embedded technology devices that address real-world needs and that might just catch an investor’s eye.

Senior Design Day Video Features UV Swarm:

The members of the teams were: Doug Miller (CSC ’15), Christina Kayastha (CSC/ECE ’14), Nate Book (CSC ’14), Ben Ouattara (CSC/ECE ’16), Samantha Piccone (CSC ’14), Erick Frank (CSC ’13), Morgan Sinko (ME ’16), Alex Kurland (CSC ’13/T5), Ben Vespone (BME ’14) and Andy Hevey (ECE ’14).

For more info about the Cornell Cup, visit http://www.systemseng.cornell.edu/engineering2/se/intel/

In the Photo: University of Rochester student design teams, UV Swarm and URead Braille, pose for a group portrait. From left to right: Doug Miller, Christina Kayastha, Nate Book, Ben Ouattara, Samantha Piccone, Eric Frank, Morgan Sinko, Ted Pawlicki, Alex Kurland, Ben Vespone, Randal Nelson, and Andy Hevey.

Student Filmmakers Recognized at 8th Annual Gollin Film Festival

By Caitlin Mack ’12(T5)
Univ. Communications

A diverse group of 12 student films were presented at the 8th annual Gollin Film Festival at the University of Rochester on Wednesday, May 1, with the top three films winning $1,000 in cash prizes. The festival, which is open to all undergraduate students at the University, is sponsored by the university’s Film and Media Studies Program with generous support from Studio Art.

“The film festival is an event of great importance because it highlights student artistic and academic work,” said Jason Middleton, assistant professor of English. “It also gives students (and their friends and family) a chance to see their films on the big screen, which makes for a thrilling experience.”

In Skyline, first place winner Sheldon Agbayani ’15 coded a program in Processing, a programming language built for creating visual art such as colorful 2-D buildings. The program produced buildings of varying heights and textures against natural horizons to construct a randomly generated geometric skyline.

“For my film, I tried to convey my own idea and perception of what city skylines look like, how they rise and how they fall,” said Agbayani, who won $500. “It’s somewhat a simulation of city growth as I see it.” Agayani, an optical engineering major from Aiea, Hawaii, explained, “What makes my film unique is the fact that I didn’t ‘choose’ exactly how the film played out; I let the program do most of the thinking.”

Brynn Wilkins ’14 received second place and $300 for her film Contemporary Ballet, a performance art piece which features a lone ballet dancer encircled by women riding horses. “Contemporary Ballet focuses on the performer’s ability to carry out actions in atypical and distracting environments,” said Wilkins, a film and media studies major from Fairport, N.Y. “In a stable, the dancer is taken out of her element when she must perform with horses trotting around her, dust flying in the air, and even while sitting on horseback.”

Hayle Cho ’13 placed third for My Flow Story, a documentary about a man who tries his hand at b-boying to find meaning and happiness in life. “Through b-boying, a dance of hip-hop culture, the young man finds purpose,” said Cho, a film and media studies major from Fort Lee, N.J, who won $200.

Students were allowed to submit a maximum of two film submissions created using a variety of media including cell phones, .gif animation, video, 16mm film, Hi-8, or Flash. The winners were determined by a panel of university professors including Jason Middleton, Cary Peppermint, and Evelyne LeBlanc-Roberge.

The festival was established in 2005 in honor of Professor Emeritus of English Richard Gollin, who founded the film studies program at the University in 1976 with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Gollin, who retired in 1989, authored A Viewer’s Guide to Film: Art, Artifices, and Issues, and received recognition for his research and writings on Romantic poetry and the Victorian novel. For additional information about the Gollin Film Festival visit http://www.rochester.edu/College/FMS/.

Computer Science Undergrads Embark on Weekend of “Extreme Programming”

By Blake Silberberg ’13
Univ. Communications

Over the weekend of March 15th, “Hacklemore”, a team of 10 undergraduate Computer Science students from the University of Rochester traveled to Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada to participate in the CS Games. The team, led by captains Julian Lunger ’14 and Emily Danchik ’13, took 7th place out of 22 teams, thanks to strong showings by the team of Charlie Lehner ’15 and  David Bang ’14 who took 2nd place in Web Development,  and the team of Dan Hassin ’16 and Joe Brunner  ’14 who took 3rd place in Extreme Programming.

CSUG-3The CS Games, an annual competition held by Canadian universities, is attended by over 300 students. Although most of the student participants are Canadian, both the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology have sent teams in recent years. In 2011, the University of Rochester team won the competition. This year, the University of Rochester was the only American university to send a team to the event.

Teams consist of a maximum of 10 people, and compete in 15 to 20 different competitions from Friday to Sunday. These competitions are in different programming areas which range from programming theory, which deals with designing algorithms,  to embedded programming, which deals with writing programs which run on small devices. In addition to the programming competitions, there also are competitions in a few unrelated areas, such as sporting competitions and even a campus-wide scavenger hunt.

Throughout the games, teams must also be on the lookout for “Puzzle Hero” challenges, which are timed “mini-games” that cover a variety of topics and are emailed to the teams at random times. During this year’s games, Team “Hacklemore” had to do everything from solving chess puzzles to identifying pictures and diagrams of obscure plugs and wires. “One challenge even had us listen to a highly modified soundfile and figure out what it meant. The file sounded like a short, high-pitched blip–but we eventually figured out that it was three consecutive Iron Maiden song outtakes,” says Captain Julian Lunger. The team also had the opportunity to participate in “Hacking Questions,” where team members were given a limited amount of time to access websites designed for the competition.

CSUG-2In addition to the challenges, the event also featured large social gatherings for all of the participants.”The social aspect is an important and sometimes surprising one at the Games. Some people typically think of CS majors as unsocial; however, the exact opposite is true at the CS Games,” says Captain Julian Lunger. “The teams of computer geeks there are fun, they are wild, and they stay up til 2, 3, 4 a.m. every night.” The Rochester team also had the opportunity to interact with Computer Science students from different backgrounds. “Meeting French-Canadian students was really cool because they have a different culture and think about things in a different way– it’s almost like they are Europeans in North America,” says Lunger.

This years roster included Emily Danchik (leader) ’13, Julian Lunger (leader, captain) ’14, Thomas Swift ’13, Emily Ansley ’14, Joe Brunner ’14, Nate Book ’14, Shuopeng Deng ’14, Dan Hassin ’16, Charlie Lehner ’15, and David Bang ’14.

The Rochester team already has next year’s competition in mind. Captain Julian Lunger encourages any interested students to contact him through email at JLunger@u.rochester.edu.

Undergrad Research Recognized at National Conference

By Dan Wang ’14
Univ. Communications

In the last week of January, four Rochester undergraduates traveled to Harvard University to give a presentation at the National College Research Conference. The four participants created posters of their research and presented to panels of judges. Student Anaise Williams ’13 took home an Award of Excellence, the second place prize awarded to five out of 250 student presenters and is the top prize for the social sciences.

“I examined how rural low-income pregnant women in Northeastern Thailand negotiate traditional beliefs of prenatal precaution and biomedical prenatal recommendation. I really wanted to figure out how pregnancy is culturally scripted. How do people decide between listening to their moms and doctors?” says Williams, winner of the Award of Excellence.

This is a natural topic for someone who majors in anthropology with a focus on public health and has an interest in Asian culture. Williams conducted her research as she studied abroad in Thailand last spring. By taking part in the CIEE Development and Globalization Program arranged through Rochester’s Center for Study Abroad and Interdepartmental Programs, Williams conducted interviews with Thai women to determine how they reconciled traditional and modern views of pregnancy.

“This is an interesting way to investigate how global forms of information are understood at the local level,” Williams explains. “The project adds to the anthropological discussion of how to make biomedical globalization more culturally conscious.” She concludes that the women have a Western and traditional hybrid view of pregnancy in which they have autonomy over their bodies and incorporate traditional Thai views of pregnancy. Her extensive fieldwork interviewing pregnant women through translators gave her a nuanced view of the topic.

Alisa-Johnson-'14-and-URMC-Research-Mentor-Dr.-S-VijayakumarAlong with fellow undergraduates Alisa Johnson ‘14, Siddhi Shah ‘14, and Shilpa Topudurti ‘14, Williams attended the three-day conference with 250 students from around the country. Through funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research and various academic departments, the students were able to present their research to peers and students. They also were able to listen to professors discuss their own work; lecturers this year included development economist Jeffrey Sachs and psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker.

“I learned a lot from the keynote speakers and was exposed to a variety of topics from fellow presenters from all over the country,” says Alisa Johnson. “It was a great opportunity to connect and network with other students who share a similar interest in research at the undergraduate level.”

Johnson, Shah, and Topudurti are biology majors who presented on topics ranging from kidney disease to melanoma progression.

Shilpa-Topudurti-'14These four participants condensed their findings into 15-minute presentations and a poster board. Each gave a presentation to panels of judges that included professors and their fellow peers. A second, more formal presentation determined the prizes.

The Award of Excellence prize comes as a capstone for an already accomplished academic career. Outside of her major in anthropology Williams is president of the Undergraduate Anthropology Council; a coordinator at GlobeMed; and a tutor for 5th grade students at School 29, an elementary school in the 19th Ward. And she sees her project going still further; Williams is working on fellowships that will allow her to study maternal health in Asia next year.

NCRC-2013-participants

In the Photos: First: Anaise Williams ’13 and Siddhi Shah ’14 at the National College Research Conference.  Second: Alisa Johnson ’14 and URMC Research Mentor Dr. S. Vijayakumar discuss Johnson’s research with conference participants. Third: Shilpa Topudurti ’14 presents her research during the conference. Fourth: Held at Harvard, nearly 250 students from around the country attended the National College Research Conference.  All photos courtesy of Alisa Johnson.

Fellowship Prepares Rochester Student for Career in International Affairs

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

University of Rochester undergraduate Jonathan Johnson ’14 has been selected as a 2013 Public Policy & International Affairs Fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s Junior Summer Institute. He is the second Rochester student to be named a PPIA Fellow in the last two years and is among the 20 recipients selected from a national pool of candidates to participate in the program at Carnegie Mellon.

As a PPIA Fellow, Johnson will spend seven weeks at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College—their graduate school focusing on public policy—in this highly selective summer program designed to prepare students from diverse social and economic backgrounds for graduate study and careers in public policy and international affairs. As a political science and anthropology major, Johnson has studied refugee populations and policy effects on war and genocide. His interest in the intersection of identity and policy, specifically how disadvantaged populations overcome obstacles, led him to apply for the PPIA Fellowship, which will help hone the skills required to conduct policy analysis.

“The fellowship looks at how policy affects individuals, states, and countries in nuanced ways—both on micro and macro levels,” Johnson said, “and understanding these complex relationships will help me gain the intellectual background needed to further my goals in affecting real-world change in the future.”

At Rochester, Johnson has been an active member of the campus community. He has served as a resident advisor for three years and as a Meridian, an ambassador for the Admissions Office. A perennial member of the Dean’s List, he participated in the Compass to Personal Success and Urban Fellows programs, two leadership and civic engagement initiatives through the University’s Rochester Center for Community Leadership. Johnson also is president of the men’s volleyball club.

While in Pennsylvania, Johnson will study economics, statistics, policy analysis and management, writing, and public speaking. The Junior Summer Institute is a blend of classroom coursework and workshops that address a variety of domestic and international issues. Carnegie Mellon’s program provides career-planning workshops that include GRE prep and one-on-one meetings with admissions and program staff members from graduate school. Fellows also will have opportunities to meet with public affairs practitioners and take a networking trip to Washington, D.C.

Johnson, a native of Crystal River, Fla., is a graduate of Lecanto High School in Lecanto, Fla. After graduation, he hopes to spend a year teaching English as a second language in Malaysia before pursuing both a juris doctorate and master’s degree in public policy.

The Carnegie Mellon Junior Summer Institute is part of the 30-year-old Public Policy & International Affairs Fellowship Program. A national consortium of top public policy and international affairs graduate schools, PPIA seeks to prepare college juniors for advanced degrees and careers serving the public good. In addition to Carnegie Mellon, there are four other schools that host a summer institute, including the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and Princeton University. For additional information, visit PPIA Program’s website.

Students in Rome Experience History in the Making

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

Over Spring break, five undergrads studying religion and classics under Professor Nick Gresens headed to Rome for a week full of visits to the ancient sites of Cicero and Caesar, where the group would read inscriptions and study the geography and history of locations where Rome’s leaders once convened and shaped the classical world. And, in the surprise of a lifetime, the group also experienced history in the making, as cardinals from around the world gathered in Vatican City to elect the next leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

At around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, Gresens, along with Peter Carlile ’13, Dan Gorman ’14, and Ryan Vogt ’13, made their way to St. Peter’s Square to see the results of the fifth rounding of voting. None of them expected to see white smoke billow from the Basilica.

“At first we weren’t sure if it was white or black smoke. The first puff was grey and then turned to white,” said Carlile, who was among more than 10,000 visitors awaiting the results. “The visceral, emotional response on the square was palpable.”

As the smoke signaled the selection of a new pope, Carlile and Gorman rushed to get as close to the steps of the Basilica as they could. “It was awe-inspiring,” says Gorman, a history and religion major, who took the opportunity to take as many photos as possible.

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Sasha Tharani ’14 Says Trip a ‘Defining Experience’

Amanda Budreau ’14, a studio arts major studying in Rome for the spring semester, also was able to witness Pope Benedict’s last papal audience. While the excitement was high, with members of the crowd chanting “Viva, Viva, Papa” to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” Budreau said comparing it to the selection of the new pope was akin to “comparing an elementary school’s talent show to a Beyonce concert.”

Like Carlile and Gorman, Budreau pushed through the crowd to get a closer glimpse of the new pope. All three were able to view members of the Swiss Guard and hear a formal announcement that Argentinean cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been selected the 266th pontiff.

Budreau also noted the reverence amid the celebration of the occasion. “When the Pope asked us to bow our heads, the entire square (which was completely full) was silent, you could hear the sound of the water splashing in the fountains,” she explained. “At the end of his speech, he said goodnight and told us that we could all relax now.”

On Thursday, Meredith Doubleday ’13, along with the other students in Gresens’ course, headed to the Vatican Museums, where they picked up copies of the souvenir newspaper. “It was nice to be in this quiet space,” she said, “reading the paper on the first day after the announcement.”

About the Photos: Pictures 1, 3, 4, 6, and 8 are courtesy of Amanda Budreau, who in addition to witnessing the election of new pope, saw CNN corespondent Anderson Cooper cover the story. Pictures 2, 5, and 7 are courtesy of Dan Gorman. Picture 9, a photo of Nick Gresens and students Meredith Doubleday ’13, Kate Hughes ’13, Ryan Vogt ’13, Peter Carlile ’13, and Dan Gorman ’14, is courtesy of Meredith Doubleday.

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Oladoyin Oladeru ’13 Leads Nonviolence Program for Middle Schoolers

By Caitlin Mack ’12 (T5)
Univ. Communications

Last year, Oladoyin Oladeru ’13 mentored middle school students about the benefits of nonviolence during in-school suspension hours and decided he wanted to create an after school program of a similar nature.  With help from the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and fellow University of Rochester undergraduates, Oladeru established the Young Men at Peace program last fall.  The program allows 6th, 7th, and 8th grade male students at Dr. Charles Lunsford School #19 the unique opportunity to explore a wide range of important issues related to nonviolence.

Oladeru is one of five students chosen to be a 2012-20130 Meliora Leader, a new community service initiative through the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL). Meliora Leaders create individualized service projects, allowing them to exercise intensive leadership in the Rochester community for an extended period of time. The program benefits organizations and individuals in need while providing a substantial learning experience for the students involved.

The topics addressed in Young Men at Peace are meant to inform the middle schoolers about the power of nonviolent self-transformation to overcome physical and mental obstacles. This includes awareness of positive lifestyle choices and social interactions, how to become better advocates against community and school violence, and learning about social justice heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi.

In addition to Oladeru, other Young Men at Peace undergraduate mentors include Milan Byrdwell ’14, Reginald Hooks ’15, Shaquill McCullers ’14, Michael Mobarak ’15, Carl Parker ’13, and Taurean Parker ’13. All six undergraduates, whom Oladeru gathered before the start of the program last fall, serve as a source of inspiration for the students.

“We want to make the dream of obtaining a college education more attainable by showing them young men from the U of R who are living proof,” says Oladeru.

George Payne, who works at the Gandhi Institute as a Peace and Justice Educator and helps oversee the program, applauds Oladeru’s “vision and dedication,” for allowing the students involved to form “meaningful bonds with mentors in college who know about their challenges and believe in their potential.”  Echoing Payne’s praise is Principal Eva Thomas, who has called the Young Men at Peace program a “blessing” to her school.

Oladeru exercises his own life experiences while serving as a nonviolence ambassador to the young males of School # 19.  Oladeru moved from Lagos, Nigeria to the United States when he was nine years old and lived in the Bronx until college.  Around the age of the students he now mentors, Oladeru was bullied for being foreign, African, and studious. A personal “turning point” that alerted him to the importance of nonviolence occurred in 6th grade when his friend got shot on his way home after school.

“Mentorship is really important, especially at a young age,” says Oladeru. “I remember giving into peer pressure when I came to this country and I think this is an issue most prevalent with young males at that age.  It’s not enough to have two parents at home because they can’t relate and there’s only so much they can understand.”

Oladeru, who is set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in epidemiology this May, is a McNair Scholar, a Ronald McDonald scholar, a Gilman Scholar, and a Gates Millennium Scholar.  In addition to being a Meliora Leader, he works at Carlson Library and is a Resident Advisor.  He hopes to get a master’s and doctoral degree in epidemiology and conduct population-based research in cardiovascular disease.

Oladeru has high hopes for the future of the program because the young male participants have noticeably progressed as a result of the efforts of Oladeru, his fellow UR mentors, and the Gandhi Institute.  The number of attendees has been steadily increasing and Oladeru aims for a total of 15 boys that come on a regular basis. He also hopes to plan field trips to the U of R campus, Foodlink, and Darien Lake to teach them about rules in different social settings and inspire them to be respectful no matter where you are.

“To see someone with a similar background having made it goes a long way,” says Oladeru. “The greatest joy for me is that I got people interested in volunteering who really care. We go back every week and it makes a difference.”

This article is part two of a series that features the Meliora Leaders of 2012-2013. Undergraduates interested in participating in the program should look for information on the RCCL page in the coming months. Information about the program can be found on the RCCL page at http://rochester.edu/college/rccl/meliora.html.

In the photos: Photo 1: Oladoyin Oladeru with one of the young men in his program. Photo 2: Oladoyin Oladeru and a group of University of Rochester undergraduate mentors teach male students from Dr. Charles Lunsford School #19 about the benefits of nonviolence.

The Elusive Geomechanics Major

By Dan Wang ’14
Univ. Communications

Out of the more than 4,500 full-time undergrads at the University of Rochester, exactly three are pursuing a major in geomechanics. Just who are these brave few?

The trio is made up of very different students: a freshman from Kingston, Jamaica who emphasizes her environmentalism; a junior who went to high school in Rochester and would like to work on an oil platform or for an oilfield services company; and a Take 5 scholar from outside of New York City who would like to do fieldwork to study seismology and geothermal energy.

But first, what kind of degree are they pursuing? The bachelor of science degree in geomechanics is a program run jointly between the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. An interdisciplinary major, completing geomechanics also means taking classes in math, physics, and chemistry.  Lisa Norwood ’86, ’95, assistant dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and a former geomechenics major, describes the program this way, “The curriculum emphasizes the application of the principles of mechanics to problems associated with the atmosphere, the oceans, and the solid earth.”

Kayon Ellis ’16 has not yet declared her geomechanics (geomech) major, but she’s quite set on pursuing it. Ellis comes by way of Jamaica, and this is her first year living in the United States. A commitment to environmentalism and an analysis of basin sediments in streams prior to coming to Rochester propelled her to study geomechanics. “I find the study of the earth fascinating,” says Ellis. “You just can’t study anything in isolation; you have to analyze the whole system.”

Two years ahead, Michael Grotke ’14 has different goals in mind. Grotke grew up in Tucson, Arizona and attended high school in Rochester. On campus, he works part-time for the Earth and Environmental Science Lab, and is a member of the SA Appropriations Committee. What does he see himself doing? “I hope to use this degree towards a career in the oil and natural gas industry, most likely shale-gas and crude oil exploration.” The companies he’d like to apply his geomech training to include Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Shell, and Halliburton.

Skipping two more years ahead, the final geomech major is Brian Castro ’12 (T5). Though he had a hard time deciding between studying physics and mechanical engineering, he has embraced the geomech major with vigor. Castro also has extensive experience in fieldwork. Research on geothermal energy took him to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and, as part of an NSF-sponsored program, to work at a geosciences research company in New Zealand. He also conducted seismic research at the University, in Professor Cynthia Ebinger’s lab. Castro’s interests are more academic, and he’d like to further study seismology, geothermal energy, and planetary science.

The major is robust enough to accommodate all of these interests. Dean Norwood sees no shortage of ways to use the geomech major. “Career opportunities include work with the U.S. Geological Survey and with departments of natural resources or environmental protection at the federal, state, and county levels; with the oil and mineral resources industries; and in multidisciplinary private consulting firms engaged in geological engineering.”