Research

Researching Life’s Most Fundamental Questions through the Humanities & Arts

Throughout history, people have attempted to answer life’s central questions by studying the arts, literature, philosophy, and religion. That same quest for knowledge flourishes in the Humanities & Arts (HUA) department at WPI today, where faculty members and students explore human history through an extensive range of subjects.

HUA faculty members are leaders in their field – as educators, researchers, and performers. They challenge students to explore the humanities and arts through classroom work and hands-on research projects. Students are encouraged to partner with faculty on an existing research project, or to develop their own research niche by proposing a novel topic and working with a faculty mentor.

Here are just a few of the areas HUA faculty members and students are investigating in their continuing quest for answers:

The Arts

Students interested in completing original works in the arts may choose to specialize in performance or in technological approaches. Our faculty members are not only teachers and researchers, but also artists and performers. They are playwrights, composers, musical performers, and visual artists, and they regularly perform, adjudicate musical competitions, and create art that is exhibited internationally.

Performing Arts: Students interested in performing may take courses in musical performances, dramatic productions, and digital and traditional art. Courses in production and performance include art (including animation, 3-D modeling, digital imaging, and concept art), creative writing, music composition, arranging and orchestration, various musical ensembles, vocal performance lab, and drama/theatre performances. Students wishing to complete their HUA Requirement with creative work may take an Inquiry Practicum in playwriting, musical performances and productions, animation, theatre technology, or digital art. They may design their own creative projects or work on a larger production under the guidance of a faculty mentor.


The Way I Breathe: An Actor’s Portfolio

Anika Blodgett, a Humanities & Arts major with a concentration in Drama/Theatre, shed light on her intense love for acting through her Major Qualifying Project.

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Technological Approaches to the Arts: Not surprisingly, WPI faculty members are breaking ground while researching the intersection of technology and art. Professor Bianchi’s Virtual Orchestra, John Delorey’s  Virtual Choir, and Rich Falco’s Jazz History Database are just a few of the cutting-edge research projects in which WPI students may participate. Students interested in technological approaches to the arts may take courses in digital and computer art, theatre technology, computers and music, digital sound design, music and robotics. They may complete projects with a research team or on team or individual projects supervised by a faculty advisor.


Music Composition Using a Real-Time MRI Biofeedback System

Through his Interactive Qualifying Project, Sinan Asaad ’11 studied the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain and its reaction to jazz improvisation.

American Studies

Humanities & Arts faculty members have extensive research expertise in American literature, history, philosophy, music, and architectural history. Examining America from these multiple perspectives helps students gain a more complete understanding of the richness and diversity of American culture. Our location in central Massachusetts, rich in colonial and revolutionary history and a center of creative literary and artistic achievement from colonial days to the twentieth century, offers resources to students wishing to study these traditions, conduct original research in archives or in seminars, or take part in symposia devoted to Massachusetts writers.

Our close proximity to the Worcester Art Museum and the American Antiquarian Society, both walking distance from WPI, affords many opportunities for students conducting original research.

Course study is available in American architecture, history, literature, drama, and music. In recent years, HUA classes have taken architectural field trips through Worcester and field trips to the Lowell mills at Lowell National Historic Park and to Concord, Massachusetts to see revolutionary battle sites and landmarks of literary interest.


Digitizing Thoreau: Thoreau Collection Preservation Project

The Henley Library of the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods has a collection of audio/visual media that are becoming technologically obsolete and in some cases physically deteriorating. WPI students developed an IQP aimed at digitizing these files.

Global Studies

Understanding different cultures is imperative in today’s globalized world. To truly comprehend the beliefs and values of other countries, it’s important to understand political, economic, social, and cultural histories, and the relationships between nations. At WPI we offer course study in global history, world drama/theatre, foreign policy, world music, and world religions. Language courses are offered in Chinese and Arabic, and courses in German and Spanish include language, culture, and literature. Available Inquiry Seminars in the field include the study of humanitarian organizations, empires in history, geography, literature, and global conflicts. Students also have the opportunity to complete their HUA Requirement at our Project Centers in London or Morocco, or they may choose to intensify their linguistic competency by studying in Germany or take part in a summer language immersion program in Buenos Aires. As with all WPI research, students can design their own projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor.


Two Sides to Every Story: A Case of Environmental Communication in Mae Moh, Thailand

WPI students won the Forum on Education Abroad’s prestigious Undergraduate Research Award for their Interactive Qualifying Project that addressed health communication techniques in Thailand.

Environmental Studies

Research is vital to the field of environmental studies. Only by studying how the environment reacts to outside influences can we understand how to best protect and preserve it for future generations.

At WPI, faculty members and students alike are passionate about studying the environment. We offer coursework in environmental literature, philosophy, and history, as well as a series of courses in the history of science that closely relate to environmental issues. Available Inquiry Seminars in the field include nature writing, US and international environmental history, environmental philosophy, and literature and the environment. Students also have the opportunity to design their own research projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor.


Life in the Ledges: an Environmental History

Charlie Mezak ’09 studied the environmental history of Lake in the Ledges, Bedford, New York and the land surrounding the lake for his award-winning Major Qualifying Project.

 
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