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Student research projects accepted into National Conference on Undergraduate Research


December 14, 2020

Several students from Drexel’s Digital Media Department had research projects completed in Drexel’s new Digital Media Undergraduate Research Lab accepted into the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), set to take place virtually from April 12-14, 2021. The NCUR is a gathering of student scholars that welcomes presenters from all institutions of higher learning and from all academic disciplines. Through this annual conference, NCUR creates a unique environment for the celebration and promotion of undergraduate student achievement; provides models of exemplary research, scholarship, and creative activity; and helps to improve the state of undergraduate education. 


Student projects accepted into the NCUR from the Digital Media Undergraduate Research Lab include:

The Dawn of Real-Time Rendering Solutions: An Exploration into the Integration of Real-Time Rendering Solutions in the Pipeline for Production

Stephen Abraham, Animation & Visual Effects


A Concept for Procedurally Generated Narrative based on User Engagement and its Practical Applications

Anjelikal Rogers, Animation & Visual Effects

Practical Applications of Strange Attractors in Generative Design
Elliot Dickman, Animation & Visual Effects

Study of the Industry Potential of Real-Time Virtual LED Sets as Compared to Traditional Film Sets for Future VFX Professionals
Alexus Aiken, Animation & Visual Effects

Drexel Digital Media Undergraduate Research Lab

The Digital Media Undergraduate Research Lab, created by Assistant Professor Emil Polyak, began as an opportunity to offer students research-focused work during the 2020 summer term in lieu of co-op assignments impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As word spread about the research lab, more undergraduate students became interested, including those who had summer co-op positions. The lab was entirely remote, and the cross-disciplinary aspect became immediately apparent as students recognized that deep engagement with topics many times required a holistic approach. Students enjoyed finding and reading material that was connected to their previous learning experiences in the classroom. “I think it was key that I did not do this as a traditional class. Instead, I shared the progress of my own research so at the end of the day everyone was inspired to generate original output,” said Polyak. “If we continue, I can definitely see the possibility to collaborate.” 


Due to the current health crisis, one of the difficulties that some students faced at the beginning of summer term was with co-op arrangements. After brainstorming with Program Director for Animation & Visual Effects Milady Bridges and Co-op Advisor Laura Scherder, Polyak came up with a plan to offer an opportunity for students to join the Digital Media Undergraduate Research Lab as Principal Investigators. “Working with undergraduate research groups is always exciting because academic research is an activity that is typically not part of their curriculum, and they get the chance to dive deep into a topic of their interest,” said Polyak. “The summer 2020 term gave us the chance to start this lab and hopefully we will continue.”


Polyak’s initial vision for the lab was for it not to be modeled like another class with assignments, but instead to be driven by the curiosity of the researchers. “I firmly believe that research can be fun, and I also knew that there will be no meaningful results if pressure is involved,” stated Polyak. “I wanted to use this lab as an opportunity for an intellectual discourse and allow students to get a basic understanding of why research is important. The fact is that the world desperately needs people who can think and reason critically and base their decisions on cross-disciplinary viewpoints. Knowing how to do something needs to be paired with also knowing and constantly questioning the ‘why.’” 


It is critically important to invite students to utilize specialized skills and previously acquired knowledge for the analysis of issues, and then solve problems related to innovation in the field of animation and visual effects. The ability to adapt existing methods in novel situations and to develop new approaches is one of the central competencies in careers where innovation crosses production practices. The lab’s mission is to support the understanding and practice of research and to help students to adapt research methods into their own work. With the inception of the Digital Media Undergraduate research lab, it has become evident that Animation & Visual Effects students are very interested in various serious questions related to the field from ethics to design, to artistic innovation and technology usability.