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On June 6, the University of Pennsylvania Libraries announced the six winners of the 2013 Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards.

Last Thursday, the University of Pennsylvania Libraries announced the six winners of the 2013 Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards.

The awards were founded to support Penn undergraduate students’ academic research projects by encouraging creative use of technology. Each student will receive $1000 which can be used to purchase the technology they need for their research and at the end of the year, the equipment will be returned to the library for all students.

The awards were funded by alumnus 1978 Wharton graduate Jeff Seltzer, and his wife Annie, in 2008 with the realization that “digital media will have a significant impact on students’ research.” The awards are given out by the Penn Libraries and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Seltzer said that he was impressed by “the breadth and diversity” of the winners’ research.

Rising College senior Yessenia Gutierrez, who is also a Summer Pennsylvanian opinion columnist, plans to use the money to conduct a study about Latin American immigrant communities in Philadelphia. She also intends to conduct interviews and videotape public speeches.

This project will become her senior thesis. “There are different ways of presenting the information,” she explained, “it will be more interesting than a paper.”

Rising College junior Theodora Pajaczkowska, who is a digital media major, is going to use the award to learn how to use ZBrush — a digital sculpting and painting program — to create turn tables or animations.

“This software is incredibly powerful and an industry standard, but it’s not available for Penn students to use,” she said in a email. “Having this software could make a huge impact on quality of work produced by students in 3D modeling class.”

Rising College and Wharton junior Andrew Weis will explore economic and cultural changes in South America by creating his own version of “Do-deca-pentathon” by documenting on a motorcycle.

“The possibility of filming a documentary was always something that I had considered,” he explained in an email. “Seeing the Seltzer grant was like a push to do it.”

Weis hopes his research can create some impact in the community. “Communicating issues is always good,” he said. “It gives other, smarter people the opportunity to become aware of them and then solve them.”

Anu Vedantham, director of Weigle Information Commons, is on the Awards Committee and also coordinates the purchase of the technology. She said the award is a great opportunity, noting that “the new media part has been really helpful, in making the project easier for other people to understand.”

2009 College graduate Ian Seltzer, who is the son of Jeff Seltzer, is also on the Awards Committee. He is working in digital media industry in Los Angles.

Witnessing the growth of the program from an insider’s point of view, he said, “It is culturally reflective of what’s going on in the technology industry.”

“Media advancement is part of a larger generational shift,” he said. “By pushing research in that direction, projects are being formulated and really fleshed out and have that sort of digital DNA within them – it’s something that will forever be rooted within the academic grounding aspect of Penn, but will be able to shift over time.”

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