Sami Wurm ’22 stands at a computer in a digital recording lab

Sami Wurm ’22, Computer Science and Music Composition

October 1, 2020

Sami Wurm '22 uses skills from her computer science courses to further her passion for performance. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

"I came into college wanting to pursue all of these different things — like fully — because I'm so passionate about them all, and I’ve figured out how to do that here."

Sami Wurm '22 has always been one to dive into her interests.

She's nurtured a lifelong passion for performing that began when she first took the stage at age 4 and continues in her work as a vocal artist today. In high school, she discovered another passion in an Advanced Placement science course, where she fell in love with the power of coding and the subject's focus on problem-solving.

In choosing a college, Wurm was looking for a place where the professors and students would be as passionate about their fields as she was about hers — "who will explore different interests and get excited to dive deep into different subjects with you."

She also wanted a school where she'd be able to fully explore her own diverse interests, and Wurm says that seeing "how I could pursue my passions for the arts, do performance and also be in an incredible academic program," put Bucknell high on her college list.

Her decision was solidified when she was offered admittance into the Presidential Fellows Program as well as an Arts Merit award for theatre, both of which offer significant scholarships. These programs would also enable Wurm to access immersive learning experiences tailored to her interests from her first year on campus, allowing her to jump into her college experience from day one. It was perfect for someone like Wurm, who was excited by her interests and eager to get started.

She began her first year working alongside Professor Christopher Dancy, computer science, and research partner Beatrice Casey '22, on an artificial intelligence project that uses a coding environment based on the video game Minecraft to program a robot to find its way around Bucknell's real-life Dana Engineering Building. Wurm savored the opportunity to engage with "questions that nobody has the answers to," one she's also found in weekly meetings with other students in the Presidential Fellows Program. The program invites students from across the University's three colleges and more than 60 majors, and Wurm says conversations with the other fellows have broadened her perspective and unlocked new insights into her own work.

"We talk about all these huge topics, and I get to hear perspectives from chemical engineers and philosophy majors in the same room, which I think is so special," Wurm says. "It changes the way you think about things when you realize how different of a place we're all coming at the same issues from."

Bringing Her Passions Together

Wurm has simultaneously nurtured her love of performance in theatre classes, by acting and directing plays in the Tustin Studio and Harvey M. Powers theatres, and as a member of Bucknell's Cap and Dagger drama club. She's also performed as a singer with the Bucknell Opera Company, at voice recitals and with the University's jazz band. In fact, Wurm's long-term goal is to be a recording artist (she released her first EP, Feels Like Yesterday, in September 2020), and she's already using her study of computer science and her Presidential Fellows experience to further her career ambitions. Along the way, she's found more mentors to help her pursue her goals.

Wurm's latest project is to develop computer-based instruments to enhance and augment her voice during live performance. Professor Paul Botelho, music, an electro-acoustic composer, introduced her to online communities where users program new electronic instruments, and together with her adviser Professor Evan Peck, computer science, Wurm set out to start building her own. One of her first uses a web camera and a motion-sensing device to patch effects onto and harmonize with Wurm's voice. Eventually she's aiming to create wearable technology she can use during live performances, and she's working with Professor Joseph Tranquilo, biomedical engineering, on the hardware side of her project in an independent study course.

Sami Wurm ’22 stands behind a brick wall on campus

Sami Wurm '22. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

Bucknell has made it easy for Wurm to take classes across the University's three colleges that suit her interests (which also include a fascination with Italian), and even to design an interdepartmental major in computer science and musical composition that's sharply focused on her long-term goals. She's been happy to find that she really can do it all here.

"Before I made my major I was a triple major with a minor — I was looking for a million things at once," Wurm says. "I thought that was my problem, but it turned out not to be one, because I'm glad that it's brought me to where I am.

"I came into college wanting to pursue all of these different things — like fully — because I'm so passionate about them all, and I've figured out how to do that here. Plus I've gotten to meet so many different professors and students who are so passionate about their different fields. My favorite part of being here is how they combine academics with what you're interested in."

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