John C. Young Scholars: How does the research program prepare students for postgraduate opportunities?

by Matt Overing

John C. Young committee chair Thomas Allen opens the 2023 symposium.

The John C. Young program uniquely ties together many of the key aspects of the liberal arts and sciences education at Centre College — from mentored research opportunities to real-world application of skills.   

John C. Young scholars are “highly motivated seniors” who engage in independent work in an area of their choosing — and in the program’s 33rd year, student projects again impressed during a recent public symposium.

“The breadth of the projects is staggering,” said Thomas Allen, associate professor of computer and data science. “And many of those projects are interdisciplinary. They draw on multiple fields of study, which is one of the hallmarks of a liberal arts and sciences education.”

Allen chairs the John C. Young (JCY) committee and said the program prepares students for challenges they’ll see later in life.

“The John C. Young program opens up many opportunities for highly motivated seniors at Centre,” Allen said of the intensive research being conducted. “Students have presented their work at national conferences and discussed it with prospective employers. The resulting paper is archived in our library and available to access. Our students are proud of their work and want it to be visible.”

Allen added that the independent work that students complete in their yearlong research project helps to develop tools needed “wherever life takes them.”

“It's about learning new skills, finding motivation within, reaching out for help, discovering resilience, doing something that hasn't been done,” he said.

For many of the students, JCY research is the culmination of their work across their four years at Centre.

“Students usually come to us with an interest already well-formed when they apply for the program,” Allen said. “What the John C. Young program offers is the opportunity to devote considerably more effort to that interest than they would otherwise, and in the process, develop a more sophisticated level of understanding.”

Another intriguing aspect of the program is just how diverse the research topics can be. Allen noted that this year the seven participating scholars —along with their faculty advisors — conducted cutting-edge scientific experiments, developed complex mathematical models, studied historical, economic and political problems, composed screenplays, and more.

After the research is complete, presentation preparation begins — another real-world experience gained through the JCY program.

“Students have to communicate their findings to a general audience. To do that, they need to make their work accessible to everyone, not just experts,” Allen said. “That prepares them to communicate complex results to a broader audience later in life.”

It's through these opportunities that the JCY program allows students to thrive in their chosen fields of study. Allen said that the JCY committee is overwhelmed each year by the impressive applicants of rising seniors at Centre.

“The students who apply are all generally excellent,” he said. “As we read through their well-crafted proposals and conduct interviews, it's clear what truly outstanding students we have here at Centre. For the committee, it's tough knowing we can only select such a small number of students as John C. Young Scholars. I only wish we could offer it to more candidates.”


About the John C. Young Scholars program

The John C. Young Scholars program, named for the fourth president of Centre College, is designed to encourage highly motivated seniors to engage in independent study, research, or artistic work in their major discipline or an interdisciplinary area of their choosing. Every year approximately seven seniors are chosen as John C. Young Scholars. Guided by a Centre professor, these academically outstanding students choose any topic of interest, and present their work at a symposium. The program offers students a stipend to cover expenses related to his/her project, and their research results are subsequently published.


John C. Young Scholars, 2022-23

Kristen Bryant
Research: Caffeine Cosmopolitanism: Cultural Evolution and Beverage-Consumption in China
Major: Chinese and International Studies
Hometown: Kalispell, Montana
Advisor: Meili Inouye, 
assistant professor of Chinese

Chris Hammond
Research: Reflecting on COVID-19 and Higher Education: A Case Study of Ghanaian and U.S. Students’ Schooling Before, During, and After the Height of the Pandemic
Major: History and Chinese; education minor
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Advisor: Sarah Murray, 
Professor of Education

Lam Le
Research: Music Composition with Machine Learning: Can Language Models Generate Music?
Major: Computer Science, Data Science
Hometown: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Advisor: Thomas Allen, 
Associate Professor of Computer Science and Data Science

Hoàng M Lê
Research: Developing More Stable, Robust, and Efficient Organic Semiconducting Materials for Solar Energy Applications
Major: Chemistry and Physics 
Hometown: Hà Nội, Việt Nam
Advisor: Vanessa Song, 
Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Kevin Sivakumar
Research: Centreball: The Analytics of an Unfair Game
Major: Math and Data Science
Hometown: Pune, India
Advisor: Jeff Heath, 
Professor of Mathematics and Data Science

Joshua Daniel Sto. Domingo
Research: On Gender(ed) Empire: Diffusion and Translation of Male Supremacist Ideologies in the Philippines
Major: History and Politics, minor in Religion
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Advisor: Chelsea Ebin, 
Assistant Professor of Politics

Ethan Tarpley
Research: Visual Storytelling in a Written Medium
Major: political science
Hometown: New York, New York
Advisor: Azita Osanloo, 
Associate Professor of English