Undergraduate research is a hallmark of a Richmond education, and building a community of learners that creates and shares new knowledge is an integral part of the work we do together in the School of Arts & Sciences. On the afternoon of April 20th, A&S hosted its 33rd Annual Student Symposium featuring 389 student presenters and presentations in 29 disciplines, making it the largest Symposium the School has ever held, by far.

Each year, A&S honors students who have written an outstanding research paper or engaged in outstanding creative work that is presented at the Symposium. The awards were presented at the Honors Convocation.

The Symposium Paper Competition Award was presented to Jibran Haider, ’19, and Tom Francis, ’18.

Jibran Haider was recognized for his outstanding research under Physics Professor Jack Singal. Jibran explored the use of Pearson Correlations and Pearson Partial Correlations between brightness in different wavebands of light for astronomical objects binned in redshift. He hoped to determine whether the correlations are intrinsic.

As Dr. Singal described, the work that Jibran did helps solve an ongoing problem in the astrophysical community, as new automated data sets are becoming available with hundreds of thousands of a given class of celestial objects. He went on to praise Jibran for making a subject that is detailed and highly accessible to a reader even outside the field. 

Jibran has already published this work in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and presented it at the American Astronomical Society national meeting earlier this year. His work will also be part of a larger article to be submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, the leading research journal in astrophysics.

The second Symposium Paper Award was given to Tom Francis, who conducted original research with Classical Studies Professor Dean Simpson. Tom’s paper looked at the subject of aspect, a counterpart to tense, as applied to Greek verbs.

After reading widely in the dense and deeply interconnected specialist literature on this topic, Tom made a database of all the verbs in the Gospel of Mark and the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which he then studied to identify a number of anomalies that have not been noted in existing literature. He also identified the Greek participle as a verb form that had not been thoroughly studied in connection with tense and aspect and that could provide a test for competing theories.

In nominating him for the award, Classical Studies Chair Julie Laskaris noted that Tom’s research was original, thorough, and precise, and that it raised intriguing questions for scholars in the field.

The Symposium Arts Competition Award, was presented to Cristina Peters for her original choreography, Sonambula.

Cristina’s piece is a trio inspired by the strangeness and power of dreams, set to music by Max Richter. In nominating her for the Arts Competition Award, her faculty mentor Alicia Diaz stated that “Cristina crafted a movement language and aesthetic that is highly personal and at the same time accessible to the dancers who perform her piece.” Diaz went on to describe how Cristina was actively involved in all aspects of the performance of her piece including designing and constructing costumes, and working with a student designer on lighting that captured her vision. 

Sonambula was selected to be performed at the 2018 Mid-Atlantic South Regional Conference of the American College Dance Association, and was presented with full production elements at the University Dancers annual concert CONVERGE, in March. Both performances were received with great admiration from the audience.

Congratulations to our award winning students, and to all of the students who participated in the Student Symposium.

Photo: Jibran Haider, Tom Francis, and Cristina Peters at the Student Symposium