Steinmetz Symposium 2017


steinmetzThe 27th Annual Steinmetz Symposium was held on Friday, May 12, 2017. Almost 500 students participated in the symposium. The event is named after Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923), who was a professor at Union College starting in 1902 until he stopped lecturing after World War I. He taught electrical engineering and applied physics at Union. Steinmetz was born in what is now Wroclaw, Poland. He studied in a few cities and received his Ph.D. in 1888. After fleeing Germany in 1888 due to a paper he wrote that was critical of the German government, Steinmetz settled in New York City. In New York City, he made his first major contribution to electrical engineering when he developed the law of hysteresis, enabling engineers to design better electric motors for use in the industry. Steinmetz relocated to Schenectady, NY when he was employed by the General Electric Company in 1892 as a chief consulting engineer. The Steinmetz Symposium is a part of Union’s Recognition Weekend, which also includes Prize Day, which occurred on Saturday, May 13. The annual Steinmetz Visual Arts Student Exhibition in the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts took place from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. There was also a dance performance in the Nott Memorial at 4 p.m. Additionally, the Steinmetz Concert – the Union College Choir and Union College and Community Orchestra – took place in Memorial Chapel at 8 p.m. All day on Steinmetz Day, oral presentations, posters, performances and exhibits were held as classes for the day were cancelled. In the evening, a reception in Schaffer Library and musical performances occurred. Presentations began at 9 a.m. and ran until 5:10 p.m. There was also a poster session in the Wold Center and Schaffer Library from 12:20 p.m.-1:50 p.m. Individual oral presentations were 15 minutes in length, with five minutes allotted for questions after the presentation. English Critical and Creative Honors Theses oral presentation sections began at 9 a.m. in Karp Hall 008. Kicking off the presentations was Jamaluddin Aram ’17, with his thesis titled, “The Children Who Became Men Overnight: Memories of Love and War in Afghanistan.” Aram discussed his creative process and inspiration in writing his creative thesis based on his childhood in Afghanistan. Following Aram was Justin Zorn ’17 who presented his thesis, “Writing a Modern Cinematic Road Epic.” Zorn walked attendees through his process in outlining and completing a fifty-page screenplay about uprooting Indian burial sites. Next to present was Kimberly Bolduc ’17, who discussed her collection of historical narratives in her home region of the Berkshires entitled, “A Monumental History: Stories of the Berkshires.” Another Steinmetz Day presenter was Arielle Singer ’18, who gave two oral presentations. Her first presentation was titled “South by Southwest 2017.” Singer attended South by Southwest 2017, an annual gathering of business, film and music in Austin, Texas from March 10-16, 2017. Singer presented on her experiences there. She participated in the interactive (business focused) track. Her experience consisted primarily of design, brand development and technology focused seminars. Singer looked “forward to further sharing this experience with the Union community.” Singer’s second presentation was called “Brilliant Blues & Smooth Circles: The Makings of a Brand.” She presented her research based upon the lessons learned from General Electric and a startup company called STC. Singer noted how a company’s brand is its identity. Her research examines the creation of an effective brand, focusing on logo color, logo shape, tagline and slogan. The research is applied in two case studies: a large, well-established corporation (General Electric) and STC. Color, shape and tagline were analyzed to explain the brand changes made over the last century for General Electric, and the early decisions made by STC. Justine Monthony ’17 also gave an oral presentation as part of the Steinmetz Symposium. Her presentation was titled “Fitness and Exercise as Linked to Overall Stress.” In the past, exercise has been shown to decrease stress hormone levels. Monthony replicated an experiment that studied that regular exercisers recover from stress faster than those that do not exercise regularly. She measured blood pressure, heart rate and saliva. From the saliva, she gathered information about the person’s amylase levels, which go up and down as norepinephrine levels increase and decrease. Monthony studied amylase rather than cortisol because amylase reacts to stress faster than cortisol and can be measured in saliva. Additionally, John Costa ’17, Connor Hurley ’17, Akshay Kashyap ’18 and Chris Porat ’17, who form the Quantitative Finance Club on campus, presented on a five-month competition they competed in called the Chicago Quantitative Alliance Investment Challenge. The group’s investment strategy was entirely data-driven, using models combining different factors to measure total return and volatility on the stock. The only human element was choosing which factors to use in a model. These decisions were heavily influenced by various economic indicators. Book to market ratio, 20-day simple moving average and beta neutral were the three factors determined to be the biggest by the group. Sharpe ratio and the information coefficient were used as predictive values for model effectiveness. The group came up with hundreds of different models, ultimately relying on just a few during the competition. Union’s team placed 24th out of 50 schools, reaching as high as second place at one point during the competition. Senior political science major, Edward Orazem ’17, presented as well. Orazem delivered a political theory presentation called, “The Case for Natural Political and Moral Evolution” for Steinmetz Day. The objective of his research was to determine a legitimizing principle that defines the political appetite of humanity. To determine this answer Edward compared and contrasted the political philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Thomas Hobbes. The Hobbesian model advocates for a world of non-progress that is defined by elements of self-interest in a violent state of nature. The Kantian model, on the other hand, advocates for a world of progress through the evolution of political and social ideas through the development of knowledge and reason over time. Orazem supported the latter idea in coming to the conclusion that, “the goal of politics is in fact a species-wide unity, and our inclination to participate is our naturally endowed desire for this to happen.” Presentations such as these continued throughout the day. After Steinmetz Day came to an end, President Stephen C. Ainlay described the symposium as “one of the most wonderful Steinmetz events” in the time of his presidency.


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