Student wins big at honors event

Lilly Montero,

After months of preparation, Los Medanos College Honors students had the opportunity to present their research at the Honors Research Symposium at University of California Berkeley Saturday, May 5. The symposium is a biannual opportunity for Honors students to flex their intellectual muscles and present research on topics in science, history, mathematics, art and other academic subjects.

Five Los Medanos students presented their work at the symposium, with one honors student winning big. Lucian Baxter won the Heslet Scholar Award and $200 for best overall presentation.

Baxter presented a multimedia presentation entitled “Dead Inside: The Macabre, The Terrifying, and the Pursuit of Wholeness in Liszt and Rachmaninoff”. The presentation was a “comparative analysis of Liszt’s ‘Totentantz: Paraphrase of the Dies Ire’ and Rachmaninoff’s ‘Isle of the Dead’” through the lense of the philosopher Heidegger’s existential theory. What made the presentation so impressive was Baxter’s independent research on the topic. Little research had been done on the topic beforehand, which freed Baxter to her build own foundation for her analysis.

Baxter’s mentors, philosophy professor Edward Haven and music professor Dr. Luis Zuniga, were impressed with her dedication and focus.

“A lot really falls on the student to try to not just present information… but to really try to find something new that contributes to a discourse that hasn’t been given yet,” said Haven. “The work that she’s doing is original. There are no essays already laying out how these texts are Heideggerian… [there’s] nothing like this.”

Zuniga, who has been a mentor to honors students before, expressed similar sentiments.

“This one was a little bit different because a student took the initiative to do a lot of the work… I served as a guide, not as a tutor,” Zuniga said. “It was pretty self-motivated… She went way beyond.”

According to Baxter, she spent approximately 30 hours analyzing “Isle of the Dead” alone. She even listened to the pieces while she slept. Baxter was shocked nonetheless when she received the award.

“Why the hell didn’t I prepare something to say,” Baxter said about her speechlessness. She managed to thank her mentors, though she admitted she did forget to thank her boyfriend.

Four other LMC students presented their research as well. John Villanueva presented his research on the Free Basics Initiative and censorship; Michaela Vanier presented a comparative analysis of 5th grade math implementation of Common Core Standards and how it affects students in different settings; Anthony Fabbro presented a statistical analysis on whether there is a success advantage in having minority coaches in the National Football League; and Jacob Neel did a historical presentation tracing Alt-Right ideologies back to the philosopher John Locke.

Like other students, the symposium was a novel experience for Jacob Neel.

“It was the first time I’d ever presented my own personal research,” Neel said.

Neel spent hours watching alt-right leaders, reading Locke’s work and other peer analysis on it. Balancing the historical with the present was a challenge.

“[Jen] helped me make my research as contemporary as possible,” he said about his mentor Jen Saito.

Students interested in doing their own research like Baxter and Neel should be sure to apply for honors and can check out the website or contact Honors Jen Saito for more information.