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Vivienne Felix ’03 of Hollis, N.Y. is researching a topic not usually visited in college curricula. Felix is assisting Andrew Fix, professor and head of history, in studying the interpretation of comets through history, particularly their role as harbingers of disaster.

“During the seventeenth century, a period described as the scientific revolution and the ensuing Age of Enlightenment, the European worldview was changing,” explains Fix. “Prior to these eras, comets were considered signs of disaster. With the invention of the telescope and the growth of astronomy, comets were viewed as atmospheric events, not heavenly bodies.”

According to Felix, a double major in international affairs and English, the research has offered her interesting surprises. “This is something I’d never study in a regular history course,” she says. “It’s great to be able to examine such an interesting topic in depth.”

Part of her work involves gathering material from a variety of sources. “A lot of the material on comets isn’t in English. Much is in Dutch, German, or Old English,” says Felix, “so that can be difficult at times.”

Fix is pleased with progress and cites the many positive qualities displayed by his student. “She is pleasant, hard-working, very independent, and self-motivated. I think she’s getting a lot out of this experience,” he says.

Felix, who plans to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and public policy, believes the project has afforded her the chance to hone skills she will use later in life.

“I think EXCEL is a great opportunity for students. I’ve improved my writing skills,” she says, “and I’ve become a more efficient reader and researcher.”

In addition to the positive experience of this project, she applauds what she terms the egalitarian spirit at Lafayette.

“At Lafayette, any student can get a chance to do a project outside of the day-to-day classroom experiences, not just the cream of the crop,” she says. “That’s a real advantage.”

Felix is a member of the International Affairs Club, the Association of Black Collegians, and runs the Kids in the Community Annex Program for the Landis Community Outreach Center. She also plays violin and piano.

Categorized in: Academic News