Senior Merges Study of Art and Dentistry in Unique Magellan Experience

Created: February 22, 2016  |  Last Updated: July 17, 2020  |  Category:   |  Tagged:

WASHINGTON, PA (Feb. 22, 2016) – Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) senior Abigail DeIuliis had reservations about applying for a Magellan Project. She had never been outside of the United States, and she worried about the possible complications of navigating a foreign country on her own.

As it turned out, she didn’t need to worry. Her Magellan Project had a much larger and more positive impact on her personal life, as well as in her studies, than she ever expected.

DeIuliis, from Upper Saint Clair, Pa., is a Chemistry and Mathematics major and plans to attend dental school post-graduation. During the summer of 2015, she traveled abroad to Italy to study art as it applies to her study in this particular area of medicine.

Although she spent the majority of her three weeks in Rome, she spent a few days in Florence and a day in Venice. During her trip, DeIuliis explored various museums in each city studying paintings from the 16th to the 20th century.

“In the museums I studied paintings from the 16th to the 20th century to find a trend in facial expressions in portraits over the centuries,” DeIuliis said. “As a pre-dental student, the project gave me a better understanding about the prevalence of smiles in different cultures, social classes, ages, and genders.”

Within the first few days, DeIuliis made an interesting discovery about the trend of facial expressions in the 16th century. During her visit to the Musei Capitolini, she noted that only two of the twenty-five portraits contained individuals smiling or showing their teeth, a very unexpected quality in the art of this era. She also discovered that younger individuals were more likely to smile or show happiness, whereas older individuals and men were more likely to frown.

Despite initial reservations about travelling outside of the United States for the first time, DeIuliis was able to shake off her homesickness and fully immerse herself in the lifestyles and cultures of Italy. After experiencing life in Europe, she realized how much of a personal impact her trip had had on her.

“On a personal level, the trip helped me grow as a more independent individual. It also allowed me to push myself to lengths that I never thought possible,” she said. “While completing my project, the most important lesson I learned was that I am capable of more than I ever imagined.”

Not only will DeIuliis use her time studying in Italy to help her in the classroom, but she will also use her experiences to help her pursue her career goals. After graduation, DeIuliis plans to attend dental school, and she believes completing a Magellan Project has set her apart from other applicants.

“Going on this Magellan has helped me gain knowledge about expressions across different cultures, social classes, ages, and genders throughout the centuries. This information has not only helped me learn more about a project of interest to me, it has also stood out in my dental school applications and interviews as a unique, memorable, and impressive experience,” she said.

After completing her Magellan Project, DeIuliis strongly encourages other students at W&J to challenge themselves to complete a Magellan, apply for internships, take difficult courses, and pursue independent projects they might not have previously thought possible.

About the Magellan Project

Established in 2008, Washington & Jefferson College’s unique Magellan Project extends liberal arts learning outside the classroom by providing scholarship funding for students to spend the summer pursuing independent projects and internships in the United States and abroad. Learn more about the Magellan Project on the W&J website.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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