Author: Isabella Mariani '21

Isabella Mariani is a student writer in the LU Office of Communications.

2 Minutes With … Nick Vaporciyan: Exploring history via quantum physics

Nick Vaporciyan ’21 poses for a photo in the Mudd Library.
Nick Vaporciyan ’21 took his physics education in an unexpected direction when he began doing research for a book project with Associate Professor of Physics Megan Pickett.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Nick Vaporciyan ’21 spent a memorable 10 weeks on campus over the summer. The Lawrence junior did physics research assisting Associate Professor of Physics Megan Pickett with her forthcoming book, which will tell the history of quantum physics through largely forgotten, old or overlooked narratives.

“It’s very easy to find these giants of modern science that everyone knows about who are in every physics textbook,” Vaporciyan says. “Their stories have been told countless times. But it’s very neat and difficult to find these smaller stories that are no less interesting, and even no less significant in some cases.”

He references a particular story he found about Sir George Gabriel Stokes, the man who first investigated fluorescents and learned they’re caused by ultraviolet light. This work is the foundation for a technique called laser pulling that led to our ability to build quantum computers today.

“It’s a pretty obscure connection,” he says. “Most people who have taken quantum physics know how laser pulling works, but the history underlying when we first began to investigate that is not well known. So, it was very cool for me to find that out.”

The process

While most other students were doing hands-on physics research in a lab, Vaporciyan found himself happily hunkered down in the library.

“It was actually a lot of fun for me because I hadn’t done book research in quite a while,” he says. “It renewed my interest in more historical aspects of science that sort of get pushed by the wayside when you’re doing all the technical work in your classes.”

Vaporciyan had to turn away from physics textbooks for this research. The vast history of physics reaches far back in time and includes a multitude of cultures; much of this knowledge doesn’t enter into the mainstream physics consciousness.

What lies ahead

Vaporciyan’s travels through physics history rekindled his love for the subject.

“You just sort of get swept away,” he says. “It’s really fascinating to see how interconnected some of these things really are historically, not only on a technical level.”

Underlying the science and history, it was also the pedagogical aspect at the core of Pickett’s book that had him hooked. Though he’s not planning on a career in teaching, he’s very interested in education. Participating in the making of a resource for physics — especially one that takes such a different approach — combined his interests.

There’s still much to be discovered. Though the summer research has ended, Vaporciyan will continue investigating the topic for his Chandler Senior Experience.

He’s earning his physics degree through the 3-2 cooperative degree program, which will transfer him after three years to an accredited engineering school for two years to also obtain an electrical engineering degree.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Jasaad Graves: Artwork to inspire in a space where bonds are built

Jasaad Graves ’20 stands next to the artwork he created for the Diversity and Intercultural Center, located in Memorial Hall. The artwork features portraits of inspiring figures, including Maya Angelou.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

The Diversity and Intercultural Center (DIC) is a favorite space on the Lawrence University campus for Jasaad Graves ’20.

 “The space is usually where I come to do my art,” said Graves, a studio art major from Columbus, Georgia.

Thus, it was an ideal connection when the DIC received a grant to revamp the space to better represent and connect with the students who regularly spend time there. 

Graves created a series of portraits featuring people of color who have been important to the students of color who use the DIC space in Memorial Hall — Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela, among others.

“I felt like it was needed,” said Graves. “I felt like we needed something, even if it wasn’t done by me, I felt like we needed something done by the students, just to help represent the people who are constantly in the space and value the space.” 

For the love of art

The DIC project is a continuation of the creative journey Graves started long before he got to Lawrence.

“I started drawing from a very young age,” said Graves. “I probably decided I like drawing around first grade, maybe.  But I decided to start taking it serious around fifth grade.”  

Graves has been featured in various galleries on campus including the Black Student Union’s Cultural Expressions Art Show and exhibitions in the Wriston Art Center.

With Graves always being in the DIC creating art, the staff didn’t have to look far to select the student they wanted to create art for the space.  

“We were looking for a Lawrence student of color to help make the DIC an inclusive and empowering space by creating art of people who students of color feel inspired by,” said Adona Lauriano ’21, student resource coordinator at the DIC. “Out of all the people we interviewed, Jasaad’s portfolio revealed he had what it took to pull off an amazing job.”

Connections beyond art

Graves is a defensive end and captain on the Lawrence University football team, and he’s an active member of the Black Student Union (BSU) and Brother to Brother, both student organizations.

He said he puts an emphasis on showing leadership when fostering important connections with students of color across campus.  

“In everything I listed, they all kind of serve as a safe haven for members of the color community on campus here at Lawrence,” said Graves. “Even on the football team, a majority of our players come from all kinds of different backgrounds.”  

What’s next?

The senior would like to continue creating art in some form after he leaves Lawrence. 

“I’ve always wanted to go into product design,” said Graves. “I know since I’ve been here, I’ve focused a lot more on portraiture and graphite and marker drawings. So hopefully I’ll be making more of a push toward digital art and things like that.” 

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Phoebe Eisenbeis: Proudly connected to the earth

Phoebe Eisenbeis works in the SLUG garden and orchard on campus.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Phoebe Eisenbeis ’21 is an advocate for the natural world both in and out of the classroom. As an environmental science major and a gardener in SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens), her life at Lawrence University is deeply rooted in the earth.

Phoebe has always been intrigued by gardening and the environment. She recalls visiting farms on school field trips and going to farm camp in her home state of Minnesota, where she got to experience typical farm chores.

A new hobby blooms

It all came together at the outset of her freshman year at Lawrence when she learned about SLUG. The campus organization’s beliefs in inclusivity and sustainability were a good fit for her.

“I felt a really immediate connection to it.” says Phoebe. “Like, this is so cool that this is on campus and that it’s kind of open to everyone.”

SLUG encourages all Lawrence students to come to garden hours to help out regardless of their gardening experience. It’s all about the community effort to sustainably and interactively grow food and learn more about the earth in the process.

Phoebe started going to SLUG meetings and soon signed up for garden hours. It wasn’t long before her academics in environmental science began to nourish her gardening interest.

“The thing I feel almost drawn to about environmental studies in general is the aspect of sustainability and self-reliance, and a tight-knit understanding and relationship with the natural world,” Phoebe explains. “I feel like they’re really correlated for me to go deeper into my understanding of how the garden works.”

SLUG is also a place for personal growth. The garden supports Phoebe’s personal beliefs in sustainability and living connected to nature.

“As it is right now, the garden embodies a lot of my beliefs of getting people outside and interacting with the food, and how the food they eat grows and how to harvest it.”

Growing her passion

For Phoebe, the key is to strengthen her understanding of gardening with her knowledge of environmental science.

“I feel like if you just want to garden and be outside and do all those things, that’s wonderful and great in its own way, but I also want to supplement it with academics.”

As Phoebe continues to work with SLUG, she hopes to ensure the garden’s future with more students getting involved and in touch with their food and their world.

“I feel really passionately about making sure the garden continues for generations,” she says. “Something I want to bring out about it more in my time, as I maybe will get to be a leader in the garden, or just as I get older and know the garden more, is to make it more accessible and more widely known. Just that anybody can do it and be a part of it.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Patrick Adu: Reviving the arts in his Sierra Leone homeland

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Sierra Leone was marred by an 11-year civil war from 1991 to 2002. In its wake, the war wiped out the country’s once-thriving theater culture. Seventeen years later, Lawrence University student Patrick Adu ’19 is leading the way to revive his country’s performing arts scene.

He’s starting Target Theatre, a nonprofit organization that aims to put public performances back on stages and reintroduce arts education in Sierra Leone’s schools.

A vibrant past

Prior to the civil war in Sierra Leone, theater was an essential medium for expressing views on a range of issues. No matter what the topic was, Patrick says theater was an integral part of people’s lives.

“(The impact) was very strong,” he says. “People loved it. People went to see it and get some information to take back home to create and start working on change.”

But the damage in the aftermath of the war was so immense that people forgot about plays. It was necessary to prioritize rebuilding roads, schools and hospitals. The performing arts were mostly pushed aside.

Now Patrick is bringing the former glory of Sierra Leone’s theater culture to the government’s attention with his plans for Target Theatre. He has communicated with some government officials who are ready to work with him. Other people back home are ready for the change, too, Patrick says. He receives encouraging social media engagement in response to his efforts.

“There are people who are very, very interested in reviving the arts there. They said, ‘We will work together and we’re happy you want to revive this stuff.’ So, I think I will have a good relationship and support from people back home.”

Beyond the stage

By reviving Sierra Leone’s theater culture, Target Theatre will create jobs and support the rising creative talents of the country’s youth.

Patrick explains the two primary steps that will guide his efforts: “Those performances, scripts, plays, should go back on stage. We want to revive the art of watching plays, actors acting in the entire country. And the second, to revive arts education. By that we can help youths. This is an ambitious project that has all these components, but we want to roll them out one step at a time.”

Equipped with his studies at Lawrence in theater arts and a passion for keeping theater alive around the world, Patrick plans on one day teaching theater arts at a university. But for now, Target Theatre has his full attention.

“It’s very important for arts education to come back to life,” he says.

If you’d like to support Patrick’s cause or find out more information, visit this link: www.gofundme.com/help-revive-theatre-in-sierra-leone

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Mads Layton: Fashion, theater passions merge backstage

Mads Layton works on a dress in the theater costume shop at Lawrence.
Mads Layton ’22 combines interests in fashion and live theater in the Lawrence costume shop. Here she works on a costume for “She Ventures and He Wins,” showing Thursday through Saturday at Stansbury Theater.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Have you enjoyed recent Lawrence theater productions such as Mass and Pippin? Perhaps you’ve wondered how those amazing costumes are created.

Mads Layton ’22 works in the costume shop; she’s here to take us inside and raise the curtain on the work she does to prepare for the shows we love.

The English major’s two greatest passions are fashion and live theater, so she’s a great fit for the costume shop. She started working there after Pippin ran its last show in the fall, sorting old costumes for washing and getting ready for an upcoming play on the bill, She Ventures and He Wins.

More on the Theatre Arts program at Lawrence here.

Initial decisions

Costuming normally begins after the cast has been determined and characters are developed. Before anything new is made, students pull what they can from a stock of costumes in storage. However, some productions like She Ventures and He Wins require large builds of new costumes. This calls for early preparations, such as a tailoring tutorial for waistcoats in winter term. Mads began work on the play shortly after she started working at the costume shop.

“Actually, the first thing I made was in preparation for this show because we knew it would be a really big build,” she says. “We didn’t have a lot of stuff from that time period, so they had us starting early.”

She made a skirt with box pleats, and 10 feet of box trim for one of the lead’s dresses.

She Ventures and He Wins, a Restoration-era comedy, will be presented this week. The show — and its spectacular costumes — will be on stage in Stansbury Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Mads Layton works on the trim of a costume in the theater costume shop.
Mads Layton on putting her skills to work in the theater costume shop at Lawrence University: “I really enjoy doing detail work and hand-sewing, so I get a lot of hand-stitching of hems, as well as trims.”

Team effort

Students in the costume shop don’t tackle full garments alone. Instead they’re assigned tasks based on their skill level, and the garment is pieced together in the end.

Mads, who came to Lawrence from Mesa, Arizona, may be new to costume-making but she’s confident in the sewing abilities she learned from her mom, who taught her and her sisters at a young age.

“I really enjoy doing detail work and hand-sewing, so I get a lot of hand-stitching of hems, as well as trims,” she says. “Other than that, I’ve made a lot of skirts this year.”

For Mads, learning new ways to create garments is a perk of the job. She had never worked with pleats before, and now that dress is her favorite costume she’s worked on.

“I did seven or eight hours of just doing box pleats, and then I had to sew them on,” she says. “It’s just a beautiful dress. I have a little bit of an attachment to that one because I spent so much time on it.”

When the director delivers final notes on the costumes, and last alterations are made, it’s showtime. Mads has always supported the art form she loves, and working in the costume shop allows her to see her creative work in action onstage.

“I make sure to go to all the shows because I love live theater,” she says. “I think it’s important and wonderful.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes with … Sebastian Roman: Solving the math and music equation

Sebastian Roman holds his saxophone as he stands in front of a chalkboard full of math equations.
Sebastian Roman is studying math and music. They go together better than you might think.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

We like to think of math and music as insular communities of study. It’s easy to draw a hard line between what we see as “creative” and “not creative” and assume no interrelation. Math major and music minor Sebastian Roman ’19 embraces the unexpected harmony of studying these seemingly adverse fields.

The logical solution

For Sebastian, a saxophone player, it all comes down to logic. He works with math that is not computation, as math is commonly perceived, but the translation of very abstract concepts into simple, logical notations, called proofs. He believes the journey from problem to solution is the connection between math and music.

“When you write out a proof, just like how you write out a piece of music, there’s a story, there’s a development, there’s a conclusion,” he says. “You feel good afterwards. In the same way a proof is almost like a melody. There’s little aspects of it that work together.”

Channels for expression

It’s not just logic and hard lines. Sebastian values math and music together as important outlets of expression in his life.

“They’re both languages. You can learn that language with improvisation, logical resolutions and musical ideas, and express something within you that you couldn’t with words. In the same way with math, you can internalize all these logical methods of getting to an argument and express something that you can’t express with words.”

Math and music go hand in hand as outlets of creative expression. Math offers new experiences and insight that Sebastian says he expresses through his music. Being able to study both is one of the great draws of a Lawrence education, where the Conservatory of Music is part of the university.

“(Doing math) makes me a better musician in the sense that I’m learning more about myself and how to express myself and be a better person,” Sebastian says. “I’m gaining life experiences. And then when I go play the horn, I can express that stuff.”

More on Lawrence’s Mathematics offerings here and Conservatory of Music here

Balancing act

Sebastian is taking linear algebra, foundations of analysis and jazz improvisation II this term. Outside of class, he plays in Combo I and Latin Jazz Ensemble, takes jazz lessons with Jose Encarnacion, and tries to practice saxophone two to three hours a day. Yet he rarely feels overwhelmed.

“Sometimes I’d like to have more time doing music and sometimes I’d like to have more time doing math,” he says. “There’s not enough time. But I’m also a very social person and I like to hang out with people. Thankfully, math allows me to hang out with people and do homework.”

The two disciplines combine to make his learning journey whole, he says.

“If I’m doing math and not practicing, I’m getting better at music. If I’m playing music and not doing math as much, I’m getting better at math, in a weird kind of way. They help each other and they work together very well.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Awa Badiane: Embracing leadership, celebrating diversity

Portrait of Awa Badiane
Awa Badiane

Two student writers, Awa Badiane and Isabella Mariani, have joined the Communications staff and will begin writing a series of stories — 2 Minutes With … — to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. To get it started, we asked Awa to write about Isabella and Isabella to write about Awa.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

“I like making connections throughout campus,” says Awa Badiane ’21. “You get to meet a lot of different people.”

It’s true. The sophomore is a familiar face on the Lawrence campus. And it didn’t take her long to get involved.

She was elected president of the Black Student Union, or BSU, before she finished her freshman year. The student organization works to promote cultural diversity and unity through education and social activism.

“Black students and other students of color on campus need a space where they can fully be themselves and be around people who can connect with certain aspects of their experience,” she says of the need for BSU to be active and accessible on campus.

Did you know?

Awa, a government major from Harlem, came to Lawrence via the Posse Foundation, a scholarship program that looks to identify future leaders among students of diverse backgrounds. High school students who show leadership potential are recruited from 10 participating U.S. cities. Lawrence partners with the Posse Foundation.

Awa remains tight with the nine other Posse students from her class.

“Not only do I get to be part of a very large group of leaders nationwide, I get to be part of the larger Posse community on campus,” Awa says. “It’s also nice to be recognized for my leadership skills.”

A passion to connect

She joined BSU early in her freshman year. Then, when it came time to elect a new club president, Awa stepped up and was elected. 

 “I was honestly very surprised because I was only a freshman, but at the same time I was excited because of having the opportunity to implement all the ideas I had,” she says.

Awa proposed the creation of a safe space complete with arts and crafts, a fashion show, a day of service and the first Excellence Ball, which launched during winter term as a lead-in to the annual People of Color Empowerment Week.

“We try to implement the encouragement of diversity in all of our events,” Awa said.

For Awa, BSU is a great avenue to share her ideas and follow her passions. But, like involvement in other campus activities, it’s also a great way to meet people and develop meaningful relationships.

“It’s important that it forces me to get out and talk to people,” Awa says.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.