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Monday, August 8th, 2011 - 11:32 am

Undergraduate Research

She values interest and interaction of her faculty mentors

For 21-year-old Joann Holmen, undergraduate student research at Purdue Calumet extends beyond academics and analysis into the personal level of friendship.

Holmen, a French major and resident of Elk Grove Village, Ill., collaborated with faculty mentors and other students from spring 2010 through spring 2011 on an interdisciplinary project. Project mentors included Professor of French Jin Lu, Professor and Director of Purdue Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) Chenn Zhou and John Moreland, CIVS senior research scientist. Engineering student peers Nan Yan and Fan Zhang also contributed.

Using technology to visualize poem

The goal of the project was to visualize a French symbolist poem, Baudelaire’s “Correspondances,” using virtual reality technology available in Purdue Calumet’s CIVS facility. The project consisted of three stages.

The first involved literary analysis of the poem in its original French and its translation into English. This required research in French literary movements along with the nature and techniques of translation.

The second stage required transforming the written poem into visual images. The students discussed what the poem would look and feel like through virtual reality. Holmen explained the significance of the poems. Yan and Zang showcased the virtual reality technology and its ability to create a series of visual images that reflected the poem.

The final stage consisted of creating a virtual reality video, “Correspondances: Translating Senses from Poetry to Virtual Reality.” This was accomplished through the use of CIVS virtual reality visualization technology to create images that reflect relationships between human senses and those of the physical and spiritual worlds portrayed in the poem. The virtual reality video, created by Yan and Zang, implemented graphical techniques of three-dimensional modeling, particle systems and lighting effects to create the images.

The result of this project was the virtual portrayal of the poem’s message in a format accessible by non-French speakers or those unfamiliar with French literary styles. The 3-D images were projected in a CIVS 3-D virtual reality visualization lab.

Confidence & responsibility

Holmen, who first learned of the project opportunity through Professor Lu, described the relationship with her faculty member as both professional and personal.

Undergraduate Research - Joann Holmen (left) with Professor Lu
Holmen (left) credits much of her research success to the involvement of Professor Lu and other faculty mentors.

PHOTO BY TOM HOCKER

“I deeply respect Professor Lu and her knowledge about the subject area and the process of research in general,” Holmen said. “I have learned a lot from working with her. I definitely see her as my mentor, knowing that she expects a lot from me, but that she is willing to help if I ever need it. This kind of relationship helps to create confidence and responsibility.”

Through her research, Holmen was able to explore career opportunities pertaining to her major in various literary areas such as translation. She also noted that an especially valuable aspect of the project was working with students outside her area of expertise.

Collaborative research taught ‘cooperation’

“The way we research and present ideas in the liberal arts is very different from the way that ideas are presented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields,” Holmen said. “Through having to work together and make one, coherent presentation, I learned a lot about cooperation.”

Zhou agreed, stating that such projects provide learning experiences to students and prepare them for advanced studies and careers. Zhou met Holmen, then a high school senior, as both attended a conference at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill. After Holmen learned of scholarship opportunities available at Purdue Calumet, she decided to enroll.

Holmen said she hopes other students will become aware and take advantage of the research and collaboration opportunities available at Purdue Calumet. She said she appreciated all of her professors taking time in class to discuss the importance of undergraduate research.

Without faculty members’ intimate involvement and willingness to mentor students in each step of her project, Holmen said she never would have been able to succeed in her research.

“I am very grateful that we have faculty who care so much about students,” she said. “From my very first semester at Purdue Calumet, I’ve had the opportunity to work with faculty on research projects. You can’t find that at other universities.”


— Lane Lareau