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A presentation on the new architectural studies minor and the honors thesis completed by Trustee Scholar Jay Amarillo ’05 (Haverhill, Pa.) will be given noon Thursday in Acopian Engineering Center room 315. Free lunch will be provided.

Lafayette’s A.B. engineering degree is designed to be a “liberal education for a technological age,” a rare opportunity for undergraduates to combine engineering with a liberal arts curriculum. Amarillo is a testament to that philosophy, undertaking a thesis that joined his majors in A.B. engineering and art: the design for a meditation space at Lafayette.

The area will include a sculpture, reflecting pool, and benches. Alastair Noble, assistant professor of art and Amarillo’s adviser for the artistic aspects of the project, will create the sculpture. David Veshosky, associate professor of civil and enviornmental engineering and director of the A.B. engineering program, guided Amarillo on the engineering side.

“The challenge is creating a design that is pleasing to many groups – a design that students can interact with and feel comfortable with and something that fits in with the landscape and campus,” says Amarillo.

The centerpiece of the space will be Noble’s sculpture. The garden will embrace some of the sculptural elements of Noble’s Zang Tumb Tumb installation, which was displayed in the Grossman Gallery at the Williams Visual Arts Building and inspired Gladstone Hutchinson, dean of studies, to suggest that Noble design a meditation sculpture garden for the campus.

Noble is considering a glass or stainless steel water sculpture up to 15 feet tall that would include his signature cut-out spaces to represent poetic text. A reflecting pool and granite benches would surround the central sculptural form. The benches would have a selection of poetic quotes sandblasted on their surface such as “Tis the wind and nothing more,” from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.”

“This would be a quiet place for students to contemplate nature and humanity,” he says.

Amarillo conducted extensive research on meditation gardens and memorial sculpture. He examined the philosophy behind Zen gardens in Japan, researching memorial sculpture and contemporary monuments in Washington, D.C., and reviewing what other campuses have done with similar areas.

His engineering research efforts included evaluating materials; identifying maintenance, construction, and operational issues; studying the elevation, terrain, and vegetation aspects of the landscape; preparing a cost estimate for construction, operation, and maintenance; and site modeling.

“This fits in with my dual major,” says Amarillo. “I wanted a very broad liberal arts education along with engineering. The A.B. engineering major has more flexibility than a B.S. I wanted the freedom to take a variety of courses but I also wanted technical courses.”

In addition to his engineering classes, Amarillo has taken courses in psychology, economics, computer science, and art, and spent a semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy. The A.B. engineering program is designed to give students a multi-disciplinary approach.

“Jay is getting the chance to use his engineering ability in an aesthetic way,” said Veshosky, chair of the A.B. engineering program, during the early stages of the project.. “He will propose a concept design and layout and develop a cost estimate. If he does go on to architecture graduate school, a significant part [of a student’s credentials] is the portfolio, so this project will be a tremendous asset to his application.”

Amarillo has praise for Noble and Veshosky, two professors who are not just teachers, but mentors who have stimulated his interest in engineering and art, “both of whom I have developed a great personal relationship with.”

In fact, Veshosky asked Amarillo to do research on graduate schools that was used to develop the curriculum for Lafayette’s architecture minor, which debuts this fall.

Amarillo won a $2,500 Haestad Methods Engineering Scholarship for a paper on his independent research to help a Native American nation bring its drinking-water system into compliance with EPA standards. Guided by Sharon Jones, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, Amarillo evaluated potential software solutions to interoperability issues.

Last summer he spent six weeks in Uganda examining issues related to the wetlands surrounding Lake Victoria with peers at Makerere University in Kampala in a program funded by the National Science Foundation. The trip was part of an initiative that includes research on campus over the next year and a second six-week collaboration in Uganda this summer.

He takes classical piano lessons and is a member of the student chapter of Engineers without Borders, which is developing a system to provide clean drinking water to a community in Honduras. He also was a member of Lafayette’s first water polo team. Amarillo is a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School.

Noble has displayed his sculptures and other works in solo and group exhibitions in numerous galleries in the United States and abroad. He has written reviews over the past several years for Sculpture and has produced other published articles as well, including a piece in Journal of Architecture.

A recipient of many grants and awards, Jones received a NASA Summer Faculty Fellowship to conduct research at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. She was chosen as a mentor and instructor for Washington Internships for Students of Engineering in the nation’s capital, a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation and several engineering organizations.

Honors thesis projects are among several major opportunities at Lafayette that make the College a national leader in undergraduate research. Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at last year’s annual conference.

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars like Amarillo have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 (totaling $30,000 over four years) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

Categorized in: Academic News