Photo by Moonie Sohn/The Gazelle
Starting on May 4, seniors at NYU Abu Dhabi began presenting their capstone projects as part of the inaugural capstone festival. The capstone
is a research project students work on during their final year and is meant to explore a certain aspect of their major.
Biology Capstone Festival
On May 7, Biology majors presented their capstone projects to the NYUAD community. The projects ranged from genomics to public health and included research on topics such as cancer treatment, marine environments and neuroscience.
Seniors Leena Asfour and Zachary Stanley’s project focused on health education in the UAE. With it, they hope to spark a larger conversation about youth health in the country. Stanley explained the project to The Gazelle:
“We created and implemented a peer-mediated health education workshop which we taught in five schools to over 440 ninth grade students. We surveyed the students before and after and found that we were able to improve knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of tobacco use with our model,” he said.
Physics Capstone Festival
On May 8, five seniors presented their capstone projects covering various areas in the discipline from biophysics to particle physics.
“It was really great to see where our seniors went in their past year of research,” said freshman Hassan Nahas.
“I was impressed with how unique each capstone was in the issue it addressed and the ways of arriving closer to a solution. I didn't even know people could write a methods paper. I also definitely loved how the projects took from other disciplines to help arrive at a better picture, which I feel is particularly necessary in this day and age,” Nahas added.
Other projects included research related to the Higgs Boson and to causes of the upwelling of warm fresh water around glaciers in Greenland. The session was interactive, with several opportunities for questions, and it was well-attended by both faculty and students.
Social Science Capstone Festival
On May 10, the Social Science Division showcased 22 research projects at the Sofitel Hotel.
The day was structured around four themes: behavior and institutions, health and demography, migration and globalization and the UAE. Each 15-minute presentation covered the student’s motivation for the research as well as their methodology and conclusions.
The capstones ranged from new election methods and adolescent sexual identity formation to labor in the region.
Senior Meike Radler described the Social Science capstones as different from any others because they tend to be more report-oriented as opposed to the Arts and Humanities capstones, which are more project-based.
“I'm pretty positive about the whole capstone experience,” said Radler. “I think a lot of people have some legitimate complaints, but if you start early enough and plan well, it is a very enjoyable experience,” she added.
Arts and Humanities Capstone
From May 5 to May 10, the Arts and Humanities capstones were showcased in the Downtown Campus. The Gazelle highlighted some of these.
“between 7 and eight,” a theater performance, was directed by senior Yannick Trapman-O’Brien, who also played a lead role. The play was centered on the idea of missing. Each of the actors on stage told stories about missing and being missed. Trapman-O’Brien found much of the material by going out into the city of Abu Dhabi and asking people to either write letters or call someone they missed. Trapman-O’Brien then sent these letters to the person specified. The project continues, and after the play the audience was able to send their own letters in exchange for a five-minute conversation with a facilitator.
Assistant Director and actor, freshman Lucas Olscamp, said, “The thing I like the most is how it’s blurring the lines between personal and universal narratives, in the way that all the monologues on stage are all truthful but not truthful to the person who is saying it, the stories are melded stories from the individuals and the letters.”
The Farewell Experiment, a play by senior Jordan Schulze, focused on goodbyes. The dialogue for the play came from a number of sources, including stand-up comedy, movie, documentary and radio shows as well as the collaborators’ own work.
Actor Alex Bagot said, “It was interesting for me to work on this as it came at a time in my life when goodbyes are very important ... but I think the coolest aspect of the play itself was that we saw the funny, sad, scary — an array of different things, and that was what we were trying to show.”
Beso Turazashvili’s film, “Lost in Escapade,” was shot in Georgian, Turazashvili’s native language. It was filmed in the UAE desert and depicted a couple who had met up in Abu Dhabi after having been in a long-distance relationship.
Turazashivili also has plans for the film’s future: “I’m having a closed screening on May 30 in Georgia in the national cinema, so it will only be open to people who work in film and actors and celebrities, and after that I want to send it to film festivals. We’ll see how it goes … It’s a real story and it is my story and I just wanted it to be in the language which it happened, which is Georgian.”
“This Place,” a theatre/film piece by Adam Pivirotto, dealt with issues of sexuality and belonging through theater, using short bites of a storyline arranged in reverse chronological order, and film, using large projections of interviewees silhouetted against a dark background.
Sophomore Clara Correia said, “It's hard to find open discussions about what it means to be a homosexual in this country. ‘This Place’ was a beautiful performance that dealt very creatively with this question while it also addressed very universal themes of impermanence, distance and love relationships. The mix of theater and documentary made the piece all the more personal and engaging.”
Freshman Natalie Hilaire, who assisted with production, commented on the process.
“It was a lot of work with an amazing team but the end product was worth it. Adam is an amazing person to work with,” she said.
“Two Strangers in A Bar,” an interactive film piece by seniors Máté Bede-Fazekas and Nolan Funk, invited viewers to participate in the shaping of their film’s plot. Viewers were invited at the beginning of the film to connect their smartphone or tablet to a dedicated website. The connected device would then display different options at certain points in the film, allowing the viewer to select one of two pathways for the characters. The majority vote for each decision determined the characters’ fate. Junior Emily Burlinghaus said that she enjoyed the experience.
“I admired the professionalism of the film and the directors' ability to make [eight] versions in such a short period of time. There was a great mix of sensuality, humor and excitement, especially as a result of the audience's ability to influence the direction of the film.”