The Yale Digital Humanities Laboratory and Yale Steam, an undergraduate organization that aims to foster increased interaction between the arts and sciences, on Friday hosted the third-ever Beyond Boundaries symposium.

The symposium featured work by Yale faculty members and students to bridge the gap between the humanities and STEM fields, through short presentations and a poster session. The featured works ranged from the development of a cloud platform to allow New Haven traffic officials to update signs with parking availability information on the internet, to the use of computer graphics to reassemble ancient frescoes, to a project using musical techniques such as rhythm to increase nurses’ abilities to identify abnormalities in patients’ heartbeats and breathing.

“We wanted an event that would help bring together different scholarship that is happening on campus and bring together undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral associates, faculty and staff,” said Catherine DeRose, manager for the Digital Humanities Lab. There have been 83 presenters over the past three conferences, and they are evenly divided among the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences, she added.

Jessica Trinh ’20, president of Yale Steam, said that although Yale has some of the best students in the arts and in the sciences, there is not much collaboration among them. Yale Steam attempts to bridge that, she said.

Founded in 2015, the Digital Humanities Lab provides resources and support for faculty members and students working in the field of digital humanities, which is the use of computers or digital methods to analyze textual and visual materials in the humanities.

“Using computers to ask humanistic questions opens up new avenues of research and allows us to break the canon,” DeRose said. Digital methods could allow researchers to study textual and visual materials on a scale that would have been impossible before, she explained. For instance, instead of reading a hundred texts, researchers can now analyze patterns across thousands of texts just as quickly by using computational methods.

The day began with a series of “lightning talks” given by undergraduate and graduate students, highlighting digital humanities projects in under 10 minutes each. Next, faculty members presented on their own work and answered questions. The event concluded with a poster session featuring 10 teams’ interdisciplinary research.

The symposium, especially the poster session, often encourages collaboration, within and across departments, according to DeRose. For example, members of the English Department have worked closely with members of the Computer Science Department on a joint presentation.

“I love seeing the connections that happen during this conference, and especially during the poster session,” DeRose said. “Every year, we have people emailing us saying they had met someone from another department they hadn’t talked to before and now they are planning a workshop together or co-teaching a course together.”

DeRose noted that this year’s symposium featured work involving virtual reality technology, in particular virtual reality educational tours of cultural heritage sites.

Amy Giuliano DIV ’18, a professor at Sacred Heart University who presented on virtual reality educational tours of Rome, said she was motivated by the frustration that she could not physically take her students on tours through sites of historical and cultural significance.

“As an art history student, it’s really nice to have a sense of scale and context and get different angles of the architecture and sculpture,” Giuliano said. “I’ve written 30-page research papers about sites I’ve never been to.”

Over her spring break, Giuliano went to Rome, where she took photographs and made 3D models of major sites, eventually turning them into a virtual reality tour.

Such tours are more engaging and interactive than videos or 2D photographs because it feels like you are walking through these places and exploring them in the third dimension, Giuliano said. This could be a way to attract more students to the humanities, she added.

The Digital Humanities Laboratory will move from the third floor to the first floor of the Sterling Memorial Library over the summer.

Le Vi Pham | levi.pham@yale.edu