The din inside Detchon Center’s International Hall never seems to fade as Wabash celebrates the excellence of student-generated research over the past year.
Few things bring together the entirety of the campus like the three hours of the Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Work, an event that featured 80 students presenting 27 talks or performances and 33 posters or exhibits.
The feelings of respect and accomplishment are mutual inside the room and appreciated as easily as a thoughtful question or well-earned compliment.
“The fact that my work is useful and telling people about it is very fulfilling as a student,” said Arman Luthra ’26. “That people are going to give me feedback on ways I can improve or insights that I hadn't thought of, to hear people’s opinions, I’m so appreciative of that opportunity.”
Luthra’s presentation, Exploring the Dynamics of Transnational Financial Flows Through Computational Linguistics Forecasting Remittance Patterns Among the Indian Diaspora in Canada, used both qualitative and quantitative methods to predict remittance payments.
He used available data and analysis, as well as news articles and policy documents to better predict these patterns. Many nations’ economies depend on remittance – the money expatriates send to relatives back home, so an accurate estimate of that monetary flow can help inform budget projections and policy.
Luthra found that by using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the error rate in predictors dropped from 63% to 6.2%. With support from the Dill Fund, he was able to travel last year to Toronto, Ontario, to gather research within the Indian community that included face-to-face interviews.
“Originally, this was computer science research,” he said. “While I love coding, the aspect of talking to people and getting to know what motivates them to send money back home, just to hear people’s stories was really fruitful.”
For Carson Wirtz ’26, the inspiration for his oral presentation, Ghostbusters: The Strange Thing in Your Neighborhood is Political, came while on a theater immersion trip to New York City last spring. The assignment was a paper on something creative that took place in New York. Wirtz liked the movie Ghostbusters, and upon researching themes he realized that the film contained references to the politics of the 1980s, and he was off and running.
“I was a fan of the first Ghostbusters film as a kid; I adored it,” he said. “I had not seen it a few years, so I just dug into it. That was a lot of fun.”
Wirtz says he learned to dig deeper into art, literature, and film. As an aspiring writer, he’s grown to appreciate the subtle underlying messages.
“I was one of those people who watched Ghostbusters and thought it was a campy, fun, paranormal comedy,” he said. “If you actually look into the deeper messages, there's always something there. I’ll remember these creative aspects. When I'm writing, I can ask myself, ‘what messages do I want to put out there and how transparent do I want them to be?’”
Bernardo Morales ’24 is a mathematics and physics double major with designs on being an engineer. The inspiration for his presentation, Rocketry: Designing and Testing a Rocket, came during a classical mechanics class discussion.
He had an appreciation for aerodynamics and felt like the next step to being an engineer was to develop a rocket. He went out and built one using his own telemetry, aerodynamics, design, and engine construction.
“I enjoyed working on this project,” he said. “There’s a lot of improvement to make and I would love to continue working on projects like these, where I'm able to expand my knowledge in a specific area.”
Morales belief in himself and support from his professors, especially Nate Tompkins, assistant professor of physics, helped move him from inspiration to insight.
Now, he hopes to pursue graduate school or a position in the mechanical engineering or aerodynamics field
“I love working with systems and maximizing their performance,” he said. “I’ve learned that it takes a lot of hours with pen and paper to design an ideal rocket. How are you going to put your components together? How are you going to manage your weight ratio? The creativity comes from particularly thinking how you piece everything together like a puzzle.”
Since 1999, the College has paused afternoon classes and hosted this marquee academic event, and the students always rise to the occasion.
“Artfully communicating complex results to a general audience in a limited amount of time is a skill that will serve these students well in their professional careers,” said Lon Porter, professor of chemistry and chair of the Undergraduate Research and Celebration Committee. “The Celebration elevates the stakes beyond a typical classroom project. Presenting to your fellow students, coaches, faculty, alumni, and other community members is intimidating. However, most of our students come across as professional, confident, and sincere, which is very impressive.”
The opportunity to share work with the campus community and the impact of the experience immediately affected Wirtz.
“It means the world to me,” he said. “I never thought I'd be in front of some of the finest academics I've ever known talking about Ghostbusters. I'm over the moon!”
The Celebration Research, Scholarship, and Creativity awards are given to the students who most effectively articulated gains in professional development and personal growth as a result of their research, scholarship, or creative work. This year’s recipients were:
Andrew Sinkovics and Phenix Carney – Léanme: Spanish Children's Literature
Jackson Hoover – Food for Thought: Finding New Solutions for Food Insecurity and Promoting Impactful Internship Experiences
Nhan Huynh – Drug-Resistant Melanoma is Mediated by DNA Damage
The Robert Wedgeworth ’59 Library Research, Scholarship, and Creativity Awards are given to recognize effective use of library resources in the preparation of Celebration work. This year’s awardees were:
Carson Wirtz – Ghostbusters: The Strange Thing in Your Neighborhood is Political
Christan Zimmerman and Luke Davis – Photoredox Catalysis with Organic Photocatalysts
Christan Zimmerman, Zephaniah Johnson, and Jackson Bohrer – Impact of Awe Induction on Creativity