The Collegian
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Students present Arts and Sciences Symposium projects

Senior Adrien Tyler’s Arts and Sciences Symposium project, "Contains Multitudes." Photo courtesy of Adrien Tyler.
Senior Adrien Tyler’s Arts and Sciences Symposium project, "Contains Multitudes." Photo courtesy of Adrien Tyler.

A woven, black basket adorned with a white cast face sat at the front of the all white room. Red, fabric textiles burst from the top and sides of the basket, creating a collage of colors in the otherwise colorless room. This scene took place during the University of Richmond’s 2024 Arts and Sciences Symposium, in Keller Hall’s art gallery. 

The basket, along with a tall, acrylic vase and a suitcase bursting with similar red textiles, were the centerpieces of senior Adrien Tyler’s 2024 A&S Symposium project Contains Multitudes”, which they said was an expression of their own internal dialogue told through a visually compelling depiction of “viscera” and “gore”.

“I saw someone doing some art, and it contained weird, rotten viscera and intestines,” Tyler said of their inspiration for the project. “Oh, I can handle this. So that’s where it lies. This actually looks visually compelling, so what can I do to do something like that?”

Tyler’s is one of 260 entries in the 2024 Symposium, which for A&S students is a product of months or even years of research and dedication. 

Presentations were given around campus, taking up half a day. Art presentations were held at Keller Hall and the Modlin Center for the Arts. Oral presentations were delivered at Booker Hall, the Brown-Alley Room in Weinstein Hall, and the Gottwald Center for the Sciences. A student recital was held at North Court.

Professor of biology and biochemistry Eugene Wu, this year's coordinator, said students start with an interest in a subject, then connect with a faculty mentor to learn more about the process behind it.

“Whether it’s a cell biology project or thinking about political science in Chile, they contact a faculty mentor to help them figure out how to study these things,” Wu said. 

Wu says after finding funding and continued interest in the subject, research could ultimately result in a symposium presentation.

Sometimes these interests can be found in unique ways. Senior Cameron Peterson, who presented his original video game and accompanying soundtrack at the symposium, said he fell into music after taking music theory classes, which prompted him to “take the plunge” into the music major. For Peterson, the symposium was a way to showcase the “vehicle for change” music can be. 

“Being able to display [music] at the symposium reaches a wider audience and shows the academic merits and rigor that can come with something like video games or music,” Peterson said. 

Sophomore Rafael Cruz gave an oral presentation on adolescent pregnancy in Argentina, and was one of many that did on the ground research abroad. 

Cruz said the passion behind the project was “the opportunity to go abroad as a first generation college student, and being able to drive that research and be surrounded by a group of people who are also very passionate about health and the situation going on abroad.”

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For others, inspiration can be found closer to home. Senior Henry Skalbeck presented on the themes present in the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean-French filmmaker known for his surrealist films. Skalbeck said that their inspiration came from free time, their notebook and personal movie tastes.

“I’m a weird person, and I watch strange films in my free time, and I have my notebook open and I’m jotting things down,” Skalbeck said. “I was really struck by these patterns I’ve seen in his films […] I was just really interested in exploring what was there. And [the Symposium] ended up being an avenue I could do that through.”

Senior Zac Zibaitis, a close friend of Skalbeck, said Skalbeck watched more than a thousand movies in preparation, speaking to the passion behind their work.

“For me, it was super inspiring and fulfilling to see Henry up there,” Zibaitis said. “So much of this friendship has been based on just watching movies together. They’ve definitely changed the trajectory of both the way I think and how I live because I’ve watched so many more movies now. You can really tell these are ideas that are core to their beliefs, and they’ve been thinking about this so much.”

Contact news writer Thomas Ham at

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