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For Kurt Hukriede, it involves summarizing his research work involving biofuel.
For Katie Juntunen, it means examining the interaction between the cultures of East and West in one of the world's great cities.
For Saroj Dhital, it's all about using mathematics to prove a point in economics.
Mastering key skills
For these UW-Superior seniors and others, the end of spring semester is time for presenting their Senior Year Experience -- a creative or intellectual activity which demonstrates that he or she has mastered key skills learned during their years of university study. As students discover, their projects reinforce many skills and offer even more opportunities to learn as they complete one of the biggest academic achievements in their lives.
Hukriede, a chemistry major from Brainerd, Minn., spent two years working with university scientists on a project to use plants from northern climates to lower the freezing point of biodiesel. His SYE presentation, "Studying and Improving Low Temperature Properties of Biodiesel," summarizes work he did using two instruments to test the freezing point of samples of different types of biodiesel fuel.
He expects his research work and his presentation will help him in his goal of pursuing a master's degree in chemistry after graduating.
Juntunen, a history and English major from Esko, Minn., used her SYE project to focus on the construction of identity of Venice, Italy, in the 1500s and 1600s. The city was a mercantile crossroads that mingled the Christian West and the largely Muslim East. Juntunen examined how the Venetians understood themselves and how it affected their relationships with people from other cultures.
Doing the research was hard work, but rewarding. "It's been overwhelming at times but once you make those little breakthroughs, it keeps you going," she said.
Her biggest challenge was finding primary sources that have been translated into English. She found most of the information she needs through Jim Dan Hill Library's online resources and through interlibrary loans.
Worth the effort
Despite the time and work involved, Juntunen said she's enjoying the Senior Year Experience.
"It's really great," she said. "You spend all this time taking courses to develop your knowledge and skills, and then you get to practice it during your last year."
Proving a theory
Dhital, from Kathmandu, Nepal, is working on his second SYE. He did one last year for his economic major and he's doing another this year for his major in mathematics.
His presentation is "Equilibrium points in n-person games." Game theory is a mathematical application with links to economics. It's a math equation of how people behave when they have certain choices and how they behave when they know the choices facing other people. He's presenting a proof that an equilibrium point exists regardless of the type of game.
Preparing for the future
Dhital said the SYE is "a really good idea" for graduating students. "We do independent work and learn on our own," he said, "which will be useful to our careers because beyond this point, we have to do that more and more."
SYE projects require a substantial investment of time. Depending on the subject, a student may dedicate several hundred hours of work to a project, particularly if it involves an internship, student teaching or a performance. Faculty members work closely with seniors throughout their projects, offering advice and guidance. Their dedication also requires a large investment of time, often equaling the teaching of an additional class.
The benefits of the Senior Year Experience include:
The biggest benefit is that students find themselves drawing on many skills they've learned at UW-Superior as well as learning new ones to complete their projects.
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