In his introduction to the 2018-2019 volume of Clark’s Scholarly Undergraduate Research Journal (SURJ), outgoing editor-in-chief Ram Sharma ’19 notes some significant achievements that have taken place over the last year:
As a result, he writes, “We can boast of a community that is beginning to more accurately resemble Clark’s vibrant research populace.”
Sharma, a philosophy and physics double major, says each SURJ editor has an opportunity to put their own stamp on the journal. In his case, as the son of two graphic designers, he wanted to “tweak the design so that it still resembles a journal, but is a little more risky in its look.” He and the editorial board chose to align this year’s issue of SURJ with the 50th anniversary of Clark’s Robert Hutchings Goddard Library by including a two-page history of the library along with several photographs of the building.
A member of Clark’s honor society Gryphon & Pleiades, Sharma has worked to lay the foundation for several additional initiatives that would “make SURJ central to undergraduate research on campus.”
To that end, he envisions a seminar series that would allow each of the seven faculty members of SURJ’s advisory board to speak about their own research and address questions about the life of a researcher.
“There are things about research that we don’t talk about,” Sharma says. “If I decide to do research, what am I looking at in life? What is the path? How does one deal with success and failure? How does one judge these things?”
Sharma would like to see SURJ sponsor an annual academic conference in which student and faculty research presentations are curated and arranged in a way that encourages small-group discussion.
“That’s the dialog I want to get into the guts of,” he explains. “I think the journal is the first step, but how do you build on it?”
Sharma, who also served as president of the International Students Association, envisions more journal articles that reflect the diversity of Clark’s undergraduate researchers and the breadth of their research.
“Submissions to SURJ are not equally spread through all disciplines; the number of STEM submissions, for example, is not representative of the incredible ongoing research on campus,” he notes.
Sharma found his way to Clark from Pune, India, a city of more than three million people located about three hours southeast of Mumbai. Despite that region’s international reputation as a center of education and research, Sharma wanted to go somewhere “radically different” for his college education.
“At my age,” says Sharma, “you want to learn everything.”
In pursuit of that goal, he completed two honors theses, one in each of his majors. The first was based on research he’s been conducting in soft-matter physics in the research lab of Professor Arshad Kudrolli. The second thesis, produced under the mentorship of associate professor of philosophy Ravi Sharma (no relation), examined the “Encomium of Helen,” an attempt by the pre-Socratic sophist Gorgias to exonerate Helen of Troy from responsibility for the Trojan War. Sharma is intrigued by how the “Encomium” prompts larger questions about moral responsibility for one’s actions, and the kind of knowledge needed before taking action.
Sharma became involved with SURJ during his junior year, after meeting Alex Grayson ’18 in a philosophy of science course. Grayson, a SURJ editor, encouraged Sharma to apply to be on the editorial board.
Sharma has passed the editor-in-chief baton to SURJ’s current executive editor Shelby Spohn ’20. He’s excited to see how Spohn puts her own stamp on SURJ. Since he’s sticking around campus for another year to continue his physics studies through Clark’s Accelerated B.A./Master’s Program, he’ll be able to witness that progress firsthand.