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Trustee Scholar Samuel Hetzel ’06 (Metuchen, N.J.) arrived at Lafayette planning to study medicine, but after some soul searching and scheduling conflicts, he “discovered” art history.

Now double-majoring in art and biology, he is working on a senior honors thesis that explores how Western influences affected Japanese art in the 15th through 19th centuries. He chose the topic after completing an independent study in Japanese art and culture, in which he compared Kabuki Theater and anime.

“I have been reading a lot about Japanese styles, and what really interests me is how they compare to Italian painting,” he says, explaining that he’s exploring the introduction of Prussian blue [the first modern, artificially manufactured color] to Japan from the Germanic regions, as well as the Western influences on bronze plates and painting methods. A course in Italian Renaissance art is helping him make the comparisons, he adds.

Hetzel’s thesis adviser, Nicole Fabricand-Person, assistant professor of art, “is amazingly knowledgeable in this field, and a wonderful person. We meet weekly, and she knows exactly what to say to help me continue in the right direction so the project will be done properly and on time,” he says. “I have a professor who will sit down with me for hours to answer any questions I have and will spend her own time outside those meetings helping me find what I need.

“I feel that Lafayette is a fantastic environment for my thesis,” he continues. “The research facilities here are superb. The art research opportunities alone in the library are more than I could ask for. The library services in the art field alone would make Lafayette a great place to study art history, but it’s the professors that make it amazing.”

Hetzel would like to continue studying art history in graduate school and, eventually, work as an art conservationist and restorer.

He’s still turned on by biology, too. With the guidance of Wayne Leibel, associate professor and head of biology, he did independent research on the sexual dimorphisms in dwarf cichlid fishes last semester.

“I am using a new computer program” written by artist Ira Greenberg, a former visiting faculty member in the art department, Hetzel says, “which allows me to trace the outline of an area – in the case of my research the braincases of the fishes – and I receive data on the perimeter and the area in real time. It is an invaluable tool, and one day, hopefully, it will become a main staple in research. The program saves the data in an HTML format so it is very easy to load data onto the internet. Down the road this software and programs like it will help create large data pools on the internet for scientists to research.”

A member of a new student arts group, WORDS (Writing Organization Reaching Dynamic Students), and QUEST (QUestioning Established Sexual Taboos), Hetzel is also captain and vice president of Ultimate Frisbee Club.

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars like Hetzel have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 ($8,000 effective with the Class of 2009) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

Honors theses are among several major programs that have made Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. The College sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year; 39 students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News